Media News

 

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

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

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

    • Andrew Kreig / Justice Integrity Project editor

       

      andrew kreig c span

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

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

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

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

 2020

April

April 4

#MeToo Claims

Medium via OpEd News, Deep Reporting / Commentary: Evidence Casts Doubt on Tara Reade's Sexual Assault Allegations of Joe Biden, Brian Krassenstein and Eddie Krassenstein, April 4, 2020. Alexandra Tara Reade’s accusations of sexual assault against Joe Biden appear very questionable once the story is fully investigated. We reached out to Ms. Reade for comment but she refused.

(For more Justice Integrity Project coverage, see March 31 and March 30 excerpts in #MeToo coverage here.)

April 2

washington post logoWashington Post, Pakistan court overturns convictions in killing of journalist Daniel Pearl, Shaiq Hussain, April 2, 2020. Omar Saeed Sheikh’s sentence was reduced to life in prison, and three co-conspirators were freed. The decision by the Sindh High Court can still be appealed to Pakistan’s Supreme Court.

A regional Pakistani court on Thursday overturned the convictions of the men involved in the killing of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002.

The ruling by two judges on the High Court of Sindh province can still be appealed to Pakistan’s Supreme Court.

“As per the court’s judgment, Omar Saeed Sheikh has been found guilty of kidnapping and not of murder. The accused was in jail for 20 years,” the defendants’ lawyer Khawaja Naveed told The Washington Post.

Saeed had been sentenced to death for Pearl’s murder, but now with just a seven-year sentence for kidnapping, he could be released, given the 18 years he has already served.

The three other men convicted with Saeed — Fahad Naseem, a computer expert; Salman Saqib, a religious activist; and Sheikh Adil, a police officer — were ordered released by the court.

  •  Washington Post, Shivering, hallucinating, beaten ‘like a piñata’: Chris Cuomo’s ‘haunted’ night with coronavirus, Allyson Chiu, April 2, 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, OANN gets booted from White House press room after making unauthorized appearance, Paul Farhi, April 2, 2020. Despite social distancing in the crowded briefing room, the White House made an exception for conservative One America News Network (OANN). White House correspondents pushed back.

This time, it was a fairly routine question that Chanel Rion, a correspondent for One America News Network, posed to President Trump during Tuesday’s White House news briefing: How many clinical trials would it take before a potential coronavirus drug he has touted could be approved? Trump wasn’t sure and turned the question over to Anthony S. Fauci, his infectious-diseases expert.

But the brief Q&A raised its own question: What was Rion doing there in the first place?

Under strict new guidelines jointly imposed last month by White House officials and the White House Correspondents' Association, which represents journalists, access to the cramped briefing room is now restricted to about 15 reporters each day, to enforce social-distancing measures amid the coronavirus crisis, and several smaller news organizations can rotate in only once every several days.

And it wasn’t OANN’s turn on Tuesday. Nor on Wednesday, when Rion showed up in the room again — prompting the correspondents’ association to vote to remove OANN from the rotation.

“We did this because a reporter for this outlet twice attended press briefings in contravention of this policy,” the board of the WHCA said in a statement late Wednesday. “We do not take this action lightly. This is a matter of public safety.”

Rion and her employer, a tiny conservative cable outlet known as OANN, appear to have gotten special permission from the White House, in violation of the guidelines. The reasons, and the source of the approval, are unclear, but OANN and Rion have a history of reporting favorably about Trump. Rion herself has pushed conspiracy theories that advance his political interests, such as the unfounded allegation that officials in Ukraine secretly manipulated the 2016 election to help Hillary Clinton. Trump, in turn, has tweeted praise of OANN’s reporting dozens of times.

The White House, in effect, on Tuesday bent the rules — which were designed to ensure the health of journalists, the president and the nation’s top public-health officials — in granting access and a national spotlight to a correspondent from an obscure but Trump-friendly news outlet.

OANN was founded 2013 by Robert Herring Sr., a millionaire Republican donor from San Diego who made his fortune in the circuit-board business before starting over in media. His son, Charles Herring, president of One America’s parent company Herring Broadcasting, told The Post last week that the channel “is designed to report just the news” and that “we would not describe our news reporting as right-leaning.”

March

March 31

Palmer Report, Opinion: CNN refused to start airing Donald Trump’s press conference today until he was done speaking, Bill Palmer, March 31, 2020. It looks like Donald Trump has finally pushed CNN to the point where it’s no longer willing to air him while he’s dishonestly rambling during his press conferences.

bill palmer report logo headerWhen Trump began speaking this evening, MSNBC started airing it immediately. But CNN didn’t start airing it until Trump was done babbling and Dr. Birx began speaking.

No TV network should be airing these press conferences at all. But we’ve reached a fascinating point here, where CNN is refusing to put the President of the United States on the air because of the dangerous misinformation that he likes to spew. This cnn logocan’t simply be a ratings decision, or CNN wouldn’t be airing the press briefing at all. Instead, this is specifically about keeping Trump from harming people.

This comes after Donald Trump used his last few press conferences to spread deadly false information about coronavirus drugs, to make random false accusations about hospital workers stealing medical equipment, and to give the My Pillow guy a

#MeToo Claim Against Biden

Democracy Now! Opinion: “It Shattered My Life”: Former Joe Biden Staffer Tara Reade Says He Sexually Assaulted Her in 1993, Amy Goodman, March 31, 2020. In an exclusive Democracy Now! TV/radio broadcast, we speak with Tara Reade, the former staffer in Joe Biden’s Senate office who has come forward with allegations that Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993.

Last week, The Intercept reported that the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, set up to help survivors of rape and sexual assault, refused to fund a #MeToo investigation into allegations against Biden. Reade told journalist Katie Halper in an interview published Tuesday that Biden repeatedly touched her without her consent and sexually assaulted her.

Reade approached the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund in January looking for assistance, but was reportedly told the fund could not help her because Biden is a candidate for federal office, and pursuing a case could jeopardize the fund’s nonprofit status. Reade says she learned from The Intercept report that the public relations firm representing Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund is SKDKnickerbocker, whose managing director, Anita Dunn, is top adviser to Biden’s presidential campaign.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you give us the circumstances, how you ended up — what was the day, how you ended up alone with Joe Biden? Explain what happened that day.

TARA READE: I was approached by my supervisor. She handed me a gym bag and said, “Hurry, Joe wants this, so get it to him. He’ll meet you down towards the Capitol.” And I went down the stairs, and I don’t remember exactly where I was, because there’s connections between the Russell Building and all of that and the corridors, but we were in a semi-private location. It wasn’t a room. It wasn’t, you know, the Russell Office Building — I mean, in his office. It was down in the corridors. And I handed him the gym bag.

And then he — it was one, as I described, fluid moment. He was talking to me, and he said some things that I don’t recall. And I was up against the wall. And he — I remember the coldness of the wall. And I remember his hands underneath my blouse and underneath my skirt, and his fingers penetrating me as he was trying to kiss me and I was pulling away. And he pulled back, and he said, “Come on, man. I heard you liked me.” But he was angry. It was like a tight voice. And he tended to smile when he was angry. And he isn’t like the Uncle Joe like everybody talks about now. He was younger. He was my dad’s age at that time and very strong. And he looked insulted and angry. And I remember feeling like I had done something wrong when he said that statement. And then I was standing there when he said — he was still near me. He said — pointed his finger and said, “You’re nothing to me. You’re nothing.” And he walked away.

The next thing I remember was that night and talking to my mom, and she was like, “You need to file a police report. It’s a sexual assault.” And I didn’t think of it as sexual assault, and I didn’t really understand. And I was trying to just get over the shock of it, because I looked up to him. He was supposed to be a champion of women. And I was so thrilled to be at that office and so honored, and it shattered my life and changed the trajectory of my whole career and life. And I lost my job after I complained, and I was fired.

AMY GOODMAN: And how exactly did you complain, Tara? You filed a complaint of sexual harassment against Senator Biden at the time? Now, let’s be clear, this is 1993, two years after he led the Senate Judiciary Committee around the Anita Hill charges against Clarence Thomas. So this is soon after that. You filed a complaint. Did you talk about this happening?

TARA READE: No, I didn’t talk about the sexual assault. What I did was I went through office protocol, which would be to go to your supervisor. And if you’re not happy, you go to the next supervisor, and then the next one would be the chief of staff. And I did go up the chain verbally. And there were a couple of meetings — more than a couple, actually. And there were people taking notes. I mean, I know they took notes. And some were more informal in the hallway, with Marianne. And I was basically — after I had not served the drinks, that whole, you know, episode, I was immediately told, like within a few days, by Marianne’s assistant that I dressed too provocatively, that I was too — that I needed to be less noticeable. And then Marianne got me in the hallway, because I was annoyed by that, and she said, you know, “You want to just keep your head down and do as you’re told, if you want to last here.”

And I went to them and told them I was uncomfortable. So I couched it in those terms. We didn’t use the term “sexual harassment” a lot back then. And I remember saying I was uncomfortable and why. But nothing happened. And in fact, I was put in a windowless office, and I had my duties taken away from me. I was given a desk audit. I was told to call one of my upper-level supervisors even if I went to the restroom. I was not to call or talk to other staffers or go to legislative hearings. I was told that I was given a month to find another job. And I sent out my résumés. And before I did that, because of this retaliation, I told my mother, who gave me the term “retaliation” and explained to me what was happening, and said to march in there and file a sexual harassment claim. And I said — and she used the word. And I said, “Well, you don’t just march into their office. Like, that’s not how this is done.”

March 30

U.S. Media / Propaganda

#MeToo Claim Against Biden

tara reade joe biden Custom

U.S. Media / Propaganda

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook, Google and Twitter Struggle to Prepare for Election, Kevin Roose, Sheera Frenkel and Nicole Perlroth, Updated March 30, 2020. After spending billions to avoid a repeat of 2016, the tech giants are careening from crisis to crisis as their foes change tactics.

The day after the New Hampshire primary last month, Facebook’s security team removed a network of fake accounts that originated in facebook logoIran, which had posted divisive partisan messages about the U.S. election inside private Facebook groups.

Hours later, the social network learned the campaign of Michael R. Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York mayor, had sidestepped its political ad process by directly paying Instagram meme accounts to post in support of his presidential bid.

google logo customThat same day, a pro-Trump group called the Committee to Defend the President, which had previously run misleading Facebook ads, was found to be promoting a photo that falsely claimed to show Bernie Sanders supporters holding signs with divisive slogans such as “Illegal Aliens Deserve the Same as Our Veterans.”

twitter bird CustomFacebook, Twitter, Google and other big tech companies have spent the past three years working to avoid a repeat of 2016, when their platforms were overrun by Russian trolls and used to amplify America’s partisan divide. The internet giants have since collectively spent billions of dollars hiring staff, fortifying their systems and developing new policies to prevent election meddling.

But as the events of just one day — Feb. 12 — at Facebook showed, although the companies are better equipped to deal with the types of interference they faced in 2016, they are struggling to handle the new challenges of 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Gannett will furlough workers at more than 100 newspapers over next three months, Jacob Bogage, March 30, 2020.  gannett logo CustomSome employees paid more than $38,000 a year by one of the company’s newspapers, including USA Today, will be required to take one week of unpaid leave in April, May and June.

  • Washington Post, Trump berates PBS NewsHour reporter for ‘threatening’ question, hits ‘nice’ question out of park, Katie Shepherd, March 30, 2020.

washington post logoej dionne w open neckWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s quarantine con should be the breaking point, E.J. Dionne Jr., March 30, 2020. If you doubted that President Trump’s approach to the coronavirus crisis is all about him — about getting a few hours or a few days of blaring headlines and then manically moving on to some other empty gesture that he can claim is “strong” — his threat on Saturday to quarantine the New York region tells you all you need to know.

The man who fleeced innocent souls through what the conservative National Review called the “massive scam” of Trump University is applying the same hucksterism to a situation where thousands of lives are at stake.

The quarantine caper ought to be the straw that breaks the hustler’s back.

There was Trump telling reporters in the early afternoon: “There is a possibility that sometime today we’ll do a quarantine, short term, two weeks, on New York, probably New Jersey, certain parts of Connecticut,” he said, expressing worry that “a lot of New Yorkers are going down” to Florida.

Media-wise, all hell broke loose.

Of course he had never spoken to the governors of the affected states beforehand. Of course this was a way of shifting blame for his own incompetence to the stricken people of three Democratic states that would never vote for him. Of course he never considered whether he even had the power to do what he claimed he might do.

And of course it was all fake.

Having milked the “possibility” for a long news cycle, he informed the world on Twitter at 8:19 p.m. Saturday: “A quarantine will not be necessary.”

There are two lessons here. The first is that the media must treat Trump the way they treat anyone else who regularly offers lies along with idle but explosive conjecture. His daily journey before the White House cameras is no different from any of his other swindles, and his “briefings” should be treated with the contempt they deserve.

The second lesson is more important for the long run. We are learning, in both good ways and bad, about the importance of competent, energetic and empathetic government. For the past week, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has been offering a running seminar on this subject for all who will listen, both in a floor speech and in a phone interview from his home in Brooklyn.

In voting — unanimously in the Senate — for a $2.2 trillion economic rescue bill, Schumer told me, Republicans acknowledged what they regularly deny: that government is indispensable, especially “when there’s an emergency, when lives are at stake, and when you need quick action.” Also: when “the private sector cannot do the job.”

  • Washington Post, Trump berates PBS NewsHour reporter for ‘threatening’ question, hits ‘nice’ question out of park, Katie Shepherd, March 30, 2020.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Is Hurting His Own Re-Election Chances, David Leonhardt, right, david leonhardt thumbMarch 30, 2020 (print ed.). Don’t be fooled by snapshot polls. The president backed off of his hope that the country will be “opened up and raring to go” by Easter. A top medical adviser and governors had said they could not envision easing the measures anytime soon.

The strangest part of President Trump’s coronavirus response is that it’s almost certainly damaging his chances of re-election.

I realize that may sound surprising, given that his approval rating has been rising. But when you look beyond day-to-day events — which Trump often struggles to do — you see that he is creating the conditions for a miserable summer and fall, with extended virus outbreaks and a deeper recession. The summer and fall, of course, are the crux of the presidential campaign.

Trump’s virus strategy revolves around trying to make the present seem as good as possible, without much concern for the future. He spent almost two months denying that the virus was a serious problem and falsely claiming that the number of cases was falling. He has spent the last two weeks alternately taking aggressive measures and refusing to do so, often against the advice of public-health experts. Some Republican governors, following Trump’s lead, are also rejecting those experts’ pleas: There are beaches open in Florida, restaurants open in Georgia and Missouri and many people out and about in Oklahoma and Texas.

Altogether, the United States seems to have engaged in the least aggressive response of any affected country. Sure enough, it also now has the world’s largest number of confirmed cases. The American caseload was initially following a similar path as the Chinese and Italian caseloads. But the number of American infections is now rising uniquely fast, with 96,000 new cases in the last week — more than twice as many as in any seven-day period in any other country.

This surge doesn’t cause only more short-term deaths and overwhelmed hospitals. It also leads to more cases in later months, by creating a larger group of infected people who can spread the virus to others. As Tom Frieden, a former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told me, “The higher the peak, the longer it lasts.”

And the longer that the country is gripped by the virus, the deeper that the economic downturn will be. Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago professor, refers to this as the first rule of “virus economics”: The only way to resuscitate the economy is to stop the virus. Premature attempts to restart business activity will lead to further outbreaks, which will cause more fear and new shutdowns.

 wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary, No evidence of bio-warfare involved with COVID-19, Wayne Madsen (author of 18 wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallbooks, investigative reporter and former Navy Intelligence officer and NSA analyst), March 30, 2020. Contrary to ruminations from far right-wing Republicans -- including Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Marco Rubio of Florida, as well as fundamentalist crackpot Jerry Falwell, Jr. -- that COVID-19 involves either a willful or accidental biological warfare operation set in motion by China or North Korea, the facts are that the deadly virus involves no military or intelligence service.

The fact that every military and intelligence service on the planet has been negatively impacted and severely hobbled by the virus is evidence that there are no strategic military winners and only losers with respect to the pandemic. It is Donald Trump's senior Republican officials and evangelical supporters who are pushing such nonsense that COVID-19 is a biological warfare attack. It is proof of the paucity of any level of military or intelligence expertise in the Republican Party and the Trump administration.

#MeToo Claim Against Biden

tara reade screenshot via the hill Custom

Tara Reade (screenshot via The Hill newspaper).

Reason.com, Opinion: Why Are the Mainstream Media Ignoring Tara Reade's Sexual Assault Accusation Against Joe Biden? Robby Soave, March 30, 2020. So far, it's been silence from The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and others.

On September 14, 2018, The New York Times reported the existence of an unverified sexual misconduct allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The story cited three people who had read a letter sent by the accuser—Christine Blasey Ford—to Sen. Diane Feinstein (D–Calif.). Ford was not interviewed for the story; indeed, she wasn't named.

Unconfirmed reports of a teenaged Kavanaugh assaulting a teenaged Ford evidently merited coverage from The Times. This prompts an obvious question: Why is the paper of record now declining to publicize a very troubling allegation against former Vice President Joe Biden?

The Times is hardly alone in this regard. The mainstream media have remained bafflingly silent about Tara Reade, a former member of then-Senator Biden's staff who claims that he sexually assaulted her in 1993. Reade's name has only appeared twice in The Washington Post, and both were quick asides: A news roundup from April of last year briefly acknowledged an earlier, milder version of Reade's accusation, and a recent rapid-fire Q&A asked a Post political reporter to weigh-in on the political ramifications "of the Tara Reade bombshell." (The nature of the bombshell is not described.)

And while the coronavirus pandemic is obviously dominating news coverage, CNN has made plenty of time for Biden. Chris Cillizza is still ranking Biden's potential veep choices, and the network conducted a virtual townhall event with the candidate last Friday. Reade's name didn't come up, and it has never appeared at CNN.com. At NBC, it's the same story: Chuck Todd interviewed Biden but didn't ask about the allegation.

tara reade joe biden Custom

Medium, Investigative Commentary: Evidence Casts Doubt on Tara Reade’s Sexual Assault Allegations of Joe Biden, Brian Krassenstein and Eddie Krassenstein, March 30, 2020. Alexandra Tara Reade’s accusations of sexual assault against Joe Biden (both shown above) appear very questionable once the story is fully investigated.

We were able to contact a longtime friend of Reade’s who wished to remain anonymous, but they said they “do not believe her allegations,” claiming she has always been one to seek attention. Note: We reached out to Ms. Reade for comment but she refused.

Every allegation of sexual assault must be taken seriously, and the #metoo movement has certainly given the victims of sexual harassment and assault a greater shield of confidence in coming forward with less fear of being attacked themselves. With this said, however, it is the media’s responsibility to thoroughly investigate accusations before jumping into a story and allowing those allegations to potentially destroy another human being, or, in this case, a political campaign. Every woman deserves to be heard, but every media outlet still has the responsibility of investigating and then relaying to the public all of the facts at face value.

joe biden 2020 button CustomAlexandra Tara Reade came forward last week with quite disturbing allegations against former Vice President and current 2020 Presidential candidate Joe Biden. In April of 2019, Reade originally said that Joe Biden’s handsiness made her feel uncomfortable when she worked as a Senate aide in 1993. At the time, however, she said that she did not consider Biden’s actions to be sexualization, instead comparing her experience to that of being a beautiful lamp.

This story suddenly changed last week when Reade took part in an interview with podcast host Katie Halper. In the interview, Reade claimed that then-Senator Joe Biden “penetrated” her, against her will, with his finger, in an encounter that took place in ‘93.

While the allegations made by Reade are impossible to prove or disprove, examining Reade’s actions over the years and other evidence Vladimir Putin Il Corrierethat has been archived on the internet, brings her honesty and integrity into question.

Below we will cover many of the inconsistencies in her story, the endless contradictions she has made over the years, and the evidence that paints a picture of someone who went from seemingly adoring Joe Biden and disliking Vladimir Putin, right, in 2017, to someone who showed compassion and love for Vladimir Putin in 2018, to someone who accused Biden of doing horrific things to her in 2019 and 2020.

Who is Alexandra Tara Reade?

Alexandra Tara Reade has gone by many names and aliases over the years. According to our research, she was born as Tara Reade Moulton, before changing her name in her early 20s to Tara Reade, then changing it back to Tara Moulton again, and then changing it once again later in life (through marriage) to Alexandra Tara McCabe.

It appears as though sometime between 2017 and early 2018 she began calling herself Alexandra Tara Reade.

According to a website that she recently deleted, Reade is the founder of Gracie’s Pet Food Pantry, graduated from Seattle University School of Law, and was the co-host, creator and producer of a soul music radio show called “Soul Vibes” on KNRY — an AM radio station that serves the Santa Cruz and Monterey areas in California.

At one point in her life Reade worked on the domestic violence unit for the King County Prosecutor, in Seattle, WA, as a ‘Victim’s Advocate,” and on at least one occasion testified as an expert witness on domestic violence.

Reade also worked for former Congressman Leon Panetta, former Senator Joe Biden, and former California State Senator Jack O’Connell.

In 2017 Alexandra Tara Reade Praised Joe Biden for Helping End Sexual Assault.

In 2017 Alexandra Tara Reade praised Joe Biden for his action in helping stop sexual assault, not just once, but on multiple occasions.

Alexandra Tara Reade’s other Twitter account under her legal name Alexandra (Tara) McCabe.

Between September of 2016 and May of 2017, Alexander Tara Reade used a Twitter account, under the name Tara McCabe, to spread praise of Joe Biden via tweeting, retweeting and liking various Tweets.

There are multiple examples of this, as seen below:

  • In the below instance, Reade retweeted a tweet by Margaret Cho that appears to commend Joe Biden for working with Lady Gaga to end sexual assault.
  • In 2017 Joe Biden worked with Lady Gaga to help end sexual assault. In February of 2017, Tara Reade retweeted this tweet apparently commending Biden for his work in doing so.
  • Then again in April of 2017, Reade liked a tweet by the Huffington post that praised the former Vice President for helping men realize how important they are in the fight against sexual assault. The article commends Biden for the steps he has taken to encourage men to take responsibility in stopping assaults against women.

 ...

Conclusion

No, no one will be able to say with certainty whether Tara Reade’s latest allegations are legitimate or not, but the very least we can do is ensure that the public has as much information as possible to make an informed decision. That’s the purpose of this article.

With that, we leave you with two things to think about

#1) A tweet response made by Reade just weeks before coming forward with new allegations seemingly contradicting her original story, and just days before The Daily Beast reported on the Russian media becoming concerned with Joe Biden’s resurgence. As you can see, it seems as though Reade is admitting that she’s waiting for the perfect time to release her new allegations in order to hurt Joe Biden’s campaign:

And #2) A tweet response that Reade made to the parents of accused rapist Julian Assange. She called the man “a hero.”

Note: UPDATE 4/2/20: We were able to contact a longtime friend of Reade’s who wished to remain anonymous, but they said they “do not believe her allegations,” claiming she has always been one to seek attention.

We went out of our way to get Reade on the record to defend herself and also spoke to individuals close to her for years in an effort to get someone to tell us that Reade was telling the truth. Those we spoke to could not do so and in fact left us even more convinced that things don’t add up.

Background on Krassentein Brothers

brian krassenstein ed krassenstein left facebook

Heavy.com, Krassenstein Brothers: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know, Erin Laviola, Updated May 24, 2019. Ed (above at left) and Brian Krassenstein (above right in the Facebook photo), the Florida brothers who became famous on Twitter for their outspoken opposition of President Trump, have been permanently banned from the social platform.

The Krassensteins were accused of creating fake Twitter accounts and purchasing automated “bots” that could share and “like” their tweets in order to boost their own profiles. They shared the official statement that Twitter sent out on their website, the Hill Reporter:

“The Twitter Rules to apply to everyone. Operating multiple fake accounts and purchasing account interactions are strictly prohibited. Engaging in these behaviors will result in permanent suspension from the service.”

Ed and Brian Krassenstein have denied the accusations. They wrote in an op-ed on May 24, 2019 “We NEVER, and we want to make twitter bird Customthis as clear as day, ever bought or sold ANY Twitter accounts or interactions. We swear on our graves that this is 100% true.”

The Krassenstein brothers had more than 1.6 million followers between them before Twitter banned them from the site. Ed and Brian Krassenstein have been tweeting about Donald Trump and his administration since late 2016. Many of their tweets have called for his impeachment and accused him of being corrupt. They often were seen responding to the president’s tweets. They are also credited with helping to promote the hashtag “Resistance” on social media.

Here’s what you need to know.

1. Ed & Brian Krassenstein Began Tweeting About Donald Trump in Late 2016; The Brothers Say They Started Posting About the President Out of Sincere Concerns About the Administration

2. The Krassenstein Brothers Deny Paying For Bots & Have Asked Twitter to Review The Suspension

3. Federal Investigators Searched Ed & Brian Krassenstein’s Homes in 2016 After They Were Accused of Helping to Promote Scams Run By a Russian Crime Organization; The Brothers Were Never Charged With a Crime

4. Ed & Brian Krassenstein Have Operated Dozens of Websites Since the Early 2000s

5. Brian & Ed Krassenstein Are Both Married Fathers & Live in the Same Neighborhood in Fort Myers, Florida

Daily Beast, Twitter Bans #Resistance-Famous Krassenstein Brothers for Allegedly Operating Fake Accounts: GONE, Will Sommer, May 23, daily beast logo2019. Ed and Brian Krassenstein are banned for life after ‘operating multiple fake accounts and purchasing account interactions,’ a Twitter spokesman said.

Twitter has permanently banned prominent anti-Trump brothers Brian and Ed Krassenstein, alleging that two of the biggest stars of #Resistance Twitter had broken the site’s rules about operating fake accounts and purchasing fake interactions with their accounts.

“The Twitter Rules apply to everyone,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement. “Operating multiple fake accounts and purchasing account interactions are strictly prohibited. Engaging in these behaviors will result in permanent suspension from the service.”

The suspensions are a major loss for the Krassensteins, who had used their massive Twitter followers and ability to quickly respond to tweets from Donald Trump to make themselves internet celebrities. Ed Krassenstein had roughly 925,000 followers before he was banned, while Brian Krassenstein had more than 697,000.

twitter bird CustomThe brothers appeared to be unusually good at getting attention on Twitter. While the Twitter statement doesn’t explain what the Krassensteins allegedly did to illicitly promote their accounts, “fake interactions” could engage buying bots to retweet their posts, or buying fake followers to inflate their profiles on the site.

In a statement to The Daily Beast, the Krassensteins denied breaking Twitter rules.

“Twitter claims that we manipulated our interactions through the purchase of fake accounts and fake interactions,” the Krassenstein brothers said. “We have never once acquired anything for the purpose of increasing our Twitter presence.”

The Krassensteins say they only operated secondary accounts on Twitter to monitor death threats, as well as accounts for their businesses.

“None of those accounts were ever used for manipulative purposes as Twitter claims,” the Krassensteins said in the statement.

March 27

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Daily Beast, Fox Business Ditches Trish Regan After Coronavirus ‘Impeachment Scam’ Rant, Matt Wilstein, March 27, 2020. The Fox daily beast logoBusiness host was officially let go on Friday more than two weeks after she ranted against the “coronavirus impeachment scam.”

Fox Business Network announced on Friday that it has officially “parted ways” with anchor Trish Regan following her controversial rant against what she called the “coronavirus impeachment scam” earlier this month.

fox news logo Small“We thank her for her contributions to the network over the years and wish her continued success in her future endeavors,” the network said in a statement. “We will continue our reduced live primetime schedule for the foreseeable future in an effort to allocate staff resources to continuous breaking news coverage on the Coronavirus crisis.”

“I have enjoyed my time at FOX and now intend to focus on my family during these troubled times,” Regan said in her own statement.

Regan was previously placed on an indefinite hiatus after she delivered a surreal monologue on Monday, March 9th in which she accused Democrats and the media of perpetuating a coronavirus hoax.

With the words “Coronavirus Impeachment Scam” on the screen next to her, Regan told viewers, “We've reached a tipping point. The chorus of hate being leveled at the president is nearing a crescendo as Democrats blame him and only him for a virus that originated halfway around the world. This is yet another attempt to impeach the president.”

“Many in the liberal media using, and I mean using, coronavirus in an attempt to demonize and destroy the president,” she added.

Following what amounted to a suspension, Regan tried to pass off her situation as part of larger safety measures at Fox, tweeting, “FBN has taken prudent steps to limit staffing levels and is prioritizing its coverage during market hours. I fully support this decision — we all must to do our part to keep our colleagues safe.”

Since then she has mostly used her Twitter account to encourage private companies to help fight the pandemic and cheer on the stock market during its rare rallies.

 Major 9/11 Report Analyzed

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AE911Truth "Free Fall" radio show: In the Name of Engineering, Science, and Truth: Leroy Hulsey and Roland Angle on the Final WTC 7 Report, Host Andy Steele, ae for 9 11 truth logoMarch 27, 2020 (30 mins.). On this week's episode of 9/11 Free Fall, Dr. Leroy Hulsey of the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Roland Angle of AE911Truth join host Andy Steele to discuss the release of the final report on World Trade Center Building 7 and the importance of everyone helping in their own way to share it.

Andrew Steele:

So we are all collectively at the end of a very long journey, maybe not long in the span of all of humankind, but for all of us who have been eagerly awaiting the publishing of the final report on World Trade Center 7, we are here now this week. We're going to be talking about that. For people who may be new — we always want to take them into account — Roland, can you briefly describe for our audience what this report is about.

Roland Angle:

Professor Hulsey and his team at the University of Alaska Fairbanks conducted this study of the collapse of World Trade Center 7, the 47-story building that collapsed in New York City on 9/11, because there had been significant questions raised about the government-issued report on that collapse, which was authored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

And there was just a lot of research that indicated that the conclusions that NIST came to — that the building was brought down by normal office fires — was highly suspect. And so Professor Hulsey and the University of Alaska agreed at our request, to conduct a full, thorough engineering study of the collapse and determine just how valid the NIST report was. And if not, what other mechanism might have caused the collapse of the building.

So that's the purpose of the study. And I would like to say that I've worked with Professor Hulsey and other engineers as this report has been developed, and I can say that it is a very thorough and exact study of what happened that day.

Dr. Hulsey, I know you have taped presentations out there that go into a lot of detail about this. But just briefly for our audience, as we maneuver into talking about the report overall, can you tell us about some of the many years' processes that were involved in putting this report together?

Leroy Hulsey:

So if it's going to come down through some form of natural phenomenon, it's likely not to come straight down. That was looked at very carefully at the beginning. We established the methodology to look at every little detail that might impact what might have occurred to this building as it might be coming down.

And so we looked at, in detail, floors 12 and 13, as NIST did, and we examined numbers of things about that. We also, at the same time, were looking at, without consideration from NIST, what might have happened under a heated-up floor system, walls, columns, etc., etc. And we determined that the modeling was essential in determining how this building is going to respond.

What we did is put together a virtual model of the building to virtually simulate a failure and then [analyze] what kind of failures needed to happen to get what you see in the videos that actually occurred. That's kind of a snapshot overview.

Andrew Steele:

Now again, because our time is brief, can you just talk about some of the conclusions that you had reached that you talked about last September.

Leroy Hulsey:

Yeah, well the first one was that it became very clear early on that fire did not bring this building down. So that's the first thing. And when I took this on, I said, "I might not be able to come up with the reason it came down, but I could certainly tell you what didn't happen." And, well, that didn't happen.

The second thing we began to look at is how the building actually deformed if it was subjected to all this heat. And it became pretty clear pretty quickly that the exterior part of this building was not that stiff. So when you heat up something, imagine that it's going to elongate with respect to some point. And that point is where it's the stiffest. That's not on the outside of the building; it's closer to the inner core, where the elevator shafts were.

That being said, the response going around, the big controversy, which was column 79, and the bearing plates, and the A2001 girder coming into it led to a whole different set of findings than they used as an argument that brought this building down. And furthermore, when you go up and take a look at the system, the other conclusion we came to was that the system up near the top, near the penthouse, that series of columns didn't fail down below, they failed up around Floor 45 — in that neighborhood, which there was no fires up there.

So that was a further finding that led us to be sure that what we were saying is true. Anyway, that's kind of a snapshot....

Andrew Steele:

Absolutely. And I love the fact that you point that out — the fact that we have NIST telling us one thing, Dr. Hulsey and the University of Alaska Fairbanks telling us another. You have two very different outcomes of this analysis. I will step back further and say for myself that from one side, you have the input data hidden away under this guise of public safety: We have to preserve public safety by not making the input data available to the general public, even though engineers like yourselves need that input data — if you believe the official story — to make the general public more safe. Because if buildings can just collapse from random office fires, good God, we're all in danger — anybody who works in a major city.

But this is only phase one of our getting the word out. Again, the corporate media have never been the best friend of 9/11 Truth. Any progress we've made has been because of ourselves. So the next step is to be doing the work to get this out in front of as many people — especially engineering professionals —as possible.

Our volunteers are getting ready for the long fight. They're going to be doing their work. They're fighting those professors on one team. They're going to be calling those professors on another team. And we're going to be having Project Due Diligence doing the proper outreach to those people as well, to carry on those discussions, to get presentations.

This is going to be a full-on assault against the official story of Building 7. And this report is going to be the big Sherman Tank driving through the resistance. Because, again, it's very hard to challenge. I mean, common sense, when you first look at the building coming down, is a very big weapon. But when you actually have the science and everything laid out in this volume, it's very hard to get around it.

Roland, I want to hear from you though. I know what our supporters can do. I've got my own views. But as a board member, what in your view, can our supporters do to help us out in promoting the results of the study?

Roland Angle:

I think if people will look at the results of the study. It's a 115-page document, and I think it's very well laid out. It's very clearly stated. I think that most people can actually follow it. Now, I know it's asking a lot for people to look through 115-page technical report, but this is an issue that is part of a story that has defined the whole era that we're living in.

People have asked in the past, "What good does it do to go back and study this?" And I think we need to understand that the study points out the fact that the evidence that was examined and the conclusion that we came to as a result of that study, was seriously flawed. Therefore, we have been off on a deviant trip. And we need to go back to that information and restudy it and come to different conclusions about what was the cause of that event.

And that event is so important from a professional standpoint alone, for us as engineers. We cannot allow information that is not correct to circulate throughout our profession. It will undermine the foundation of our profession, and we will lose all credibility—and we should lose all credibility if we can't explain why a failure like this actually occurred.

So, what people can do is spread this information as best they can. Point to it, talk about it, research it, look at the different aspects of it, and encourage, especially their engineering friends and colleagues, to do the same.

We will reach a tipping point. And I'm convinced that, from my experience—and our experience as engineers who have been taking this information out into the engineering community—that engineers, like it or not, are playing a very central role in this whole event, because we are the experts.

The public is relying upon us to tell them what we know to be true about what happened. What I'm finding is that, wherever we go, when we present our information to the engineering community, they stand behind us 100% and agree that the NIST report is flawed and we need a new investigation.

Andrew Steele:

As a layman sitting on the outside—I mean, I work here at AE, but I'm not a scientist or engineer like you guys are—it just seems to me that so much work has been done in this report and in all of the work previous on World Trade Center Seven. Now that this report is out, what else can be done to make the case? I think I asked Richard Gage one time this on the show, but I want to hear it from you guys as the engineers here, starting with Roland, is there anything further that could be done on World Trade Center 7 to point to the fact that we're not getting the full story of what happened that day?

Roland Angle:

That's a very good question. I think the information is clear now. I'm satisfied that the information that we have produced, including this report, over the last 15 years, proves without a doubt that the buildings were brought down by controlled demolition. That information is presented to the public most often as some kind of a conspiracy theory [Emphasis added].

However, we're progressing from an engineering standpoint of, in this case, constructing a virtual model, subjecting it to the fires, looking at the observed collapse, and coming to a reasoned, scientific conclusion about what caused that collapse. So we've got to take that information now out to the universities. We're going to encourage the universities to study both reports. They have students who are routinely assigned to solve forensic problems that are presented to them in this field. And we're going to ask that the universities take up such studies.

They can come down only in three ways. They can say that the NIST report is valid and they stand behind it. They can say that the University of Alaska study is valid and they stand behind it. Or they might come up with some third hypothesis or some theory as to why the building came down.

But I think it's very important that this discussion take place in the engineering community, that the public be aware that this discussion is going on, that the public encourage the engineering community in every way possible to take up this study, and that people continue to assist us by funding us to go out to the engineering community.

So far we've made 22 presentations to chapters of professional organizations like the American Society of Civil Engineers and the National Society of Professional Engineers, and to various universities. We've gone to conferences. We're getting a great response and a lot of interest.

And that all takes money. Money is a very important aspect of this, and we have only been able to accomplish this with the support of our many supporters who have contributed the money that has been necessary for us to pay for this study and to pay for our efforts with due diligence, and our other efforts to publicize this issue.

We are a grassroots organization. We're a nonprofit. We don't get any money from any special interest. We are not endorsing any products. We are simply in it for the benefit of the reputation of the engineering community and the responsibility that we have to the general public.

So, everybody has a role to play. Wherever they fit into that model, they should play their part. We encourage everyone to take this up as a matter of great, overwhelming importance to our society.

March 26

washington post logofox news logo SmallWashington Post, Fact checker: Trump’s faux facts on Fox News, Glenn Kessler and Salvador Rizzo, March 26, 2020. The president was all over the network, but he often got his facts about the pandemic wrong. Here's a guide to his spin.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump spent 25 percent of his time at Wednesday’s briefing on self-congratulation and placing blame, Aaron Blake, March 26, 2020. He often devotes considerable time to playing up his alleged successes and the obstacles that stand in his way. That was particularly the case Wednesday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Local journalism needs a coronavirus stimulus plan, too, Margaret Sullivan, right,March 26, 2020. In an margaret sullivan 2015 photoapocalyptic advertising downturn, ideas that would have been unthinkable weeks ago deserve immediate consideration.

Media readership and viewership is soaring as citizens seek life-or-death information about the coronavirus: Where to get tested? Does my hospital have enough ventilators? Is it safe to go outside?

But the accompanying economic decline is killing off advertising — for restaurants, cars, travel, entertainment — and other support that has kept many news organizations going.

For some, the events of the past few weeks have already proved too much for their fragile existence. Alternative weeklies have stopped printing. Local dailies are laying off staff at already decimated newsrooms. Many others, including digital-only newsrooms, are hanging on by a thread.

It’s happening around the world: Newspapers in Australia and Britain announced in the past few days that they were going out of business or suspending print publication.

HuffPost, Alex Jones Loses Sandy Hook Court Appeal, Must Now Pay Nearly $150,000 In Legal Fees, Sebastian Murdock, March 26, 2020. huff post logoThe Infowars host is being sued by nine people whose family members were killed in the shooting at the Connecticut elementary school.

Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist and repeated loser of court battles, was ordered Wednesday to pay more than $20,000 in attorney fees after losing another appeal in a defamation case related to the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He now owes nearly $150,000 in legal fees before he even faces a jury.

The Texas Court of Appeals sided with Sandy Hook father Neil Heslin, who for years has been attacked by conspiracy theorists who alex jones radio logofalsely claim the school shooting in which 20 children and six adults were killed never happened.

Heslin’s lawsuit accuses Jones and his website, Infowars, of defamation after Jones claimed the parents of the dead children were “crisis actors” who helped stage the shooting. Jones is now being sued by nine family members of people who died in the shooting.

Jones’ most recent appeal to dismiss Heslin’s lawsuit was found to be “frivolous,” the court ruled Wednesday. Jones was ordered to pay $22,250 in attorney fees.

Jones was also ordered to pay approximately $25,000 in October after a court sanctioned him. And in December, he was ordered to pay $100,000 in legal fees after a Texas judge ruled his defense team “intentionally disregarded” an earlier order to produce witnesses.

Attorney Mark Bankston, who is representing Heslin and other families suing Jones, told HuffPost in a statement that the latest victory for his client spells the end for Jones.

“It is rare to see a legal defense so incompetent and disrespectful to the rule of law that it causes a defendant to rack up $150,000 in fines during preliminary motions before even reaching trial,” Bankston said. “These fines are only the beginning. A far greater reckoning awaits Mr. Jones.”

Former allies have turned against Jones during his legal battle. Rob Jacobson, a former Infowars editor, testified in a deposition that staff laughed at him when he warned them against spreading lies about Sandy Hook.

“I told [Jones] straight to his face: ‘They’re going to come after you for Sandy Hook. This is really bad,’” Jacobson said. “He just stared at me like a deer in the headlights, he had nothing to say. And we just went on our way.”

Paul Watson, Jones’ longtime friend and a contributor to Infowars, testified in December that he also warned Jones to leave the parents alone, but was largely ignored.

Jones was most recently in the news after he was caught peddling a toothpaste he falsely claimed could kill the deadly coronavirus.

March 25leroy hulsey report final march 25 2020 Custom 2

Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, WTC 7 Not Destroyed by Fire, Concludes Final University of Alaska Fairbanks Report, AE911 Truth, ae for 9 11 truth logoMarch 25, 2020. The destruction of the 47-story World Trade Center Building 7 in New York City late in the afternoon of September 11, 2001, was not a result of fires, according to the much-anticipated final report issued today by researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF).

The UAF team’s findings, which were the result of a four-year computer modeling study of the tower’s collapse, contradict those of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which concluded in a 2008 report that WTC 7 was the first tall building ever to collapse primarily due to fire.

“Our study found that the fires in WTC 7 could not have caused the observed collapse,” said Professor Leroy Hulsey, right, the study’s principal investigator. “The only way it could have fallen in the observed manner is by the near-simultaneous failure of every column.”
leroy hulseyIMG 2188 Small“The only way it could have fallen in the observed manner is by the near-simultaneous failure of every column.” — Professor Leroy Hulsey

The four-year study was funded by Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911Truth), a nonprofit organization representing more than 3,000 architects and engineers who have signed the organization’s petition calling for a new investigation into the destruction of the three World Trade Center towers on 9/11.

“We are proud to have supported the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Professor Leroy Hulsey in conducting a genuinely scientific study into the reasons for this building’s collapse,” said Richard Gage, president and founder of AE911Truth. “It is now incumbent upon the building community, the media, and government officials to reckon with the implications of these findings and launch a new full-scale investigation.”

AE911Truth and its allies among the 9/11 victims’ families will now use the findings in the report as part of a formal “request for correction” that the group plans to submit to NIST in the coming days. “The indisputable errors documented in our request for correction will give NIST no way out of correcting its deeply flawed report and reversing its conclusion that fires were the cause of the collapse,” said Gage.

“It is now incumbent upon the building community, the media, and government officials to reckon with the implications of these findings and launch a new full-scale investigation.” — Richard Gage, AIA

The final report, entitled A Structural Reevaluation of the Collapse of World Trade Center 7 – Final Report, includes clarifications and supplemental text based on public comments submitted in response to a draft report released by UAF and AE911Truth on September 3, 2019.

The UAF team’s final report is the result of an extensive four-year computer modeling effort that was followed by a robust peer review process. The peer review included dozens of public comments as well as external review by two independent experts, Dr. Gregory Szuladzinski of Analytical Service Company, a leading expert in structural mechanics and finite element modeling, and Dr. Robert Korol, a professor emeritus of civil engineering at McMaster University and a fellow of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering.

richard gage cspan interview“I am grateful to everyone who supported or participated in this study in any way,” said Professor Hulsey. “We hope that our findings will be carefully looked at by the building community and spur further investigation into how this building came down on that tragic day.”

The Hulsey report and supporting materials can be found on UAF’s Institute of Northern Engineering website and on the AE911Truth website.

Richard Gage (shown at left on one of the most downloaded C-SPAN program in its history) and civil engineer Roland Angle held a live virtual presentation on March 26, 2020 to outline the findings contained in the final report. Please tune in or watch the archived presentation here.

ae 911 truth building 7 graphic hulsey study Custom

March 24

ny times logoNew York Times, Local News Outlets Dealt a Crippling Blow by Biggest of Stories, Tiffany Hsu and Marc Tracy, March 24, 2020 (print ed.). Weekly papers and small dailies across America are facing peril as the coronavirus cuts off ads and live events.

Alternative weeklies and daily papers in small and midsize cities across the United States were already suffering because of the recession last decade, the migration of readers from print to online and the decline of the advertising business. Since 2004, roughly one-fourth of American newspapers — more than 2,000 — have been lost to mergers or shutdowns, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina. Most were weeklies.

The arrival of the coronavirus shook the industry’s already weakened economic foundation. As ad revenue and the money generated by events sponsored by small publications started to evaporate, many papers have canceled print editions, laid off workers or asked readers for donations.

Among those affected: Metro Weekly, a magazine about gay issues in Washington, D.C.; First Touch, a soccer publication in New York; and Gaming Today, a gambling newspaper in Las Vegas.

Charleston City Paper, in South Carolina, described the outbreak as a “storm of a disease.” Pittsburgh City Paper, using a local insult, referred to the crisis as a “jagoff.” Submerge Magazine in Sacramento wrote that the coronavirus “is poised to decimate” the publication. Indy Week in Durham, N.C., likened it to an earthquake that has forced the paper to face “the prospect of weeks or months deep in the red.”

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. news publishers band together to urge China not to expel their journalists, Paul Farhi, March 24, 2020. An unusual full-page ad in The Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal called for the need of “probing, accurate, on-the-ground reporting” during the coronavirus crisis.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. combats martial law conspiracy theories as the National Guard assists in coronavirus response, Dan Lamothe, March 24, 2020. With the expected deployment of tens of thousands of National Guardsmen to help with the coronavirus outbreak, the Defense Department finds itself trying to stamp out conspiracy theories that the United States will adopt martial law.

washington post logoamazon logo smallWashington Post, Prime members first: Amazon is ranking customers and ramping up hiring to address coronavirus demand, Jay Greene, March 24, 2020. The retailer's inability to deliver household staples such as toilet paper and bleach to many customers has led the company to reduce sales of nonessential items and prioritize shipping to members of its $119 a year Prime service.

Amazon has added a new measure to try to triage its flood of orders and shortage of goods during the coronavirus pandemic: prioritizing its $119-a-year Prime members.

Now, the company is offering delayed delivery times for non-members of Prime on many nonessential items that are available — such as hair dryers, Tic Tac candies and pill pockets to help dogs take medicine.

The move follows weeks of inability to stock and ship household staples — ranging from toilet paper to hand sanitizer to bleach — at a time when shoppers are more and more reliant on Amazon while they are staying at home to prevent the spread of the virus.

Amazon has said it will hire 100,000 workers, limit shipments to its warehouses from its third-party sellers, and restrict orders of “lower-priority shipments” to customers in France and Italy, where the outbreak is particularly acute.

March 21

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Have we finally reached the breaking point? Bill Palmer, March 21, 2020. CNN host John King used his show yesterday to curse at Donald Trump for his dishonest and embarrassing performance during his latest coronavirus press briefing. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow used her show last night to call on her own network to stop airing Trump’s press briefings live, due to the harm they’re doing. Former FBI Assistant Director and frequent MSNBC contributor Frank Figliuzzi also called for an end to live airings of Trump’s briefings.

bill palmer report logo headerFor the major media outlets, there are few things more sacred than White House press briefings. They get to send people to ask the President of the United States, or the President’s representatives, direct questions on live national television. These briefings are a farce in the Trump era. But back when we had real Presidents, the briefings were an institution. Certain questions could make or break presidential administrations.

For some of the biggest faces on cable news to now be calling for their own networks to pull the plug on White House briefings, it’s a big deal. More specifically, pulling the plug on live Presidential press briefings, during a time of crisis, is nothing short of surreal.

Yet there’s a decent chance that when Donald Trump holds his next coronavirus press briefing, whether it be today or on Monday, MSNBC and CNN won’t carry it. These networks face a lot of pressure to air Presidential press briefings. Now they’re publicly facing pressure from within their own upper ranks to pull the plug. Have we finally reached the breaking point where cable news is fully saying no to broadcasting Trump live?

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Call Trump’s News Conferences What They Are: Propaganda, Jennifer Senior, March 21, 2020. Then contrast them with the leadership shown by Andrew Cuomo, Justin Trudeau and Angela Merkel.

In a time of global emergency, we need calm, directness and, above all, hard facts. Only the opposite is on offer from the Trump White House. It is therefore time to call the president’s news conferences for what they are: propaganda.

We may as well be watching newsreels approved by the Soviet Politburo. We’re witnessing the falsification of history in real time. When Donald Trump, under the guise of social distancing, told the White House press corps on Thursday that he ought to get rid of 75 to 80 percent of them — reserving the privilege only for those he liked — it may have been chilling, but it wasn’t surprising. He wants to thin out their ranks until there’s only Pravda in the room.

March 20

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump somehow managed to have his worst press conference yet today, Bill Palmer, March 20, 2020. Remember all those terrible, embarrassing, disinformational, utterly pathetic press conferences that Donald Trump has put on over the past week?

We can now look back on those as the good old days. Today, Trump decided to show us how he really feels about being stuck as President of the United States during a crisis of his own making, and let’s just say that… well, we’re not even sure what to say.

bill palmer report logo headerAt one point Trump was handed an opportunity to score the easiest of points, when NBC News reporter Peter Alexander asked him what he would say to Americans who are afraid about the coronavirus crisis. All Trump had to do was say something like “You’ll be fine if you follow the precautions” or even just “Don’t be scared.” No one was expecting him to bust out an FDR-level “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

But even with the bar set so low for Donald Trump, he still couldn’t clear it. In fact he didn’t want to.

When asked what he would say to Americans who are afraid, Trump’s response was “I’d say you’re a terrible reporter.” No really, the President of the United States said that. To a reporter. During a televised press conference. In the midst of a pandemic that’s already killed hundreds of Americans.

This isn’t a guy who’s trying to win reelection. This isn’t a guy who’s even focused on trying to survive this crisis. This is a guy who doesn’t think he has any chance of a good outcome for himself, so he’s taking out his frustrations on anyone he can.

With his answer today, he didn’t just tell a respected reporter to go screw himself. He told all Americans to go screw themselves. It’s as if he now expects to lose in November, and he’s taking out his frustrations on the American people because they’re going to vote him out.

March 19

Media News

Donald Trump speech with change from

Donald Trump speech with change from "Corona" to "Chinese (Jabin Botsford photo for Washington Post, March 19, 2020).

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump caught changing his press conference notes to make them more racist, Bill Palmer, March 19, 2020. Donald Trump didn’t start referring to the coronavirus as the “Chinese Virus” until everyone figured out that he was wrong bill palmer report logo headerabout it being a hoax, and he needed a racist stunt in order to keep his base in line. It turns out Trump is going to even greater lengths to push this racist trope than we thought.

Washington Post photographer Jabin Botsford captured this remarkable photo of Donald Trump’s press conference notes today, which reveals that Trump’s handlers told him to say “Corona Virus” but he crossed out “Corona” and replaced it with “Chinese.”

Moon of Alabama, False Claims About The Novel Coronavirus And How To Debunk Them, b, March 19, 2020. Today China reported zero new domestic cases of novel coronavirus infections. It has beaten the epidemic just as we predicted early on. Other countries with still expanding epidemics will have to adopt all the measures China has taken to also win the fight.

Our extensive reporting about the novel cornonavirus has attracted many new commentators to this site. Unfortunately some of these, as well as some of the regulars, continue to spread disinformation and myths about the current pandemic and its causes.

To keep some level of quality at this site requires an aggressive countering of such comments. But our capacity to do so is limited. We do delete comments that are nonsensical or have been debunked and we do block people who insist to post or repost nonsense. But there are now many more comments per day than we can read. We therefore have to ask other commentators to counter the bad false ones.

March 18

Washington Examiner, Trump pleads with Syria to free American journalist Austin Tice amid coronavirus pandemic, Caitlin Yilek, March 19, 2020. President Trump urged Syria to release American journalist and veteran U.S. Marine Corps officer, Austin Tice, right, who is believed to be held hostage in the country.

austin tice Custom“Syria, please work with us. We would appreciate you letting him out,” the president said at the White House coronavirus task force’s daily briefing on Thursday.

Trump later clarified that he was not confirming that Tice is still alive.

"We’re trying to find that out," he said. “If he is alive, we would like very much to get him back.”

Tice, 38, disappeared in Syria in 2012 while he was working as a freelance journalist. He illegally entered Syria to report on the civil war, which was then in its second year.

He intended to leave in August 2012 but was detained at a checkpoint. Five weeks later, a short video titled “Austin Tice still alive” was posted on a Syrian pro-government website. The video showed him blindfolded in a rocky mountainside being forced to recite a prayer Muslims say before dying. He then said in English, “Oh, Jesus. Oh, Jesus.”

The State Department said after his capture that it believed Tice was in the custody of the Syrian government, which has not admitted to imprisoning him.

Trump also announced Lebanese-American Amer Fakhoury, who has been detained in Lebanon since September, had been released.

Fakhoury, who has stage 4 cancer, was arrested after a Hezbollah-linked publication alleged that he tortured people imprisoned by the South Lebanon Army, a majority-Christian militia group backed by Israel in its fight against Hezbollah and Palestinian militias during the 1980s and 1990s. He was charged with murder, kidnapping, and the torture of prisoners at Khiam detention center.

Fakhoury’s lawyer said the charges were bogus.

“Amer’s only crime is that he is a United States citizen, which is making the Lebanese government hold him hostage to gain leverage over the United States," Celine Atallah, Fakhoury’s lawyer said. "This is an egregious act of criminality by them.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Fakhoury will receive urgent medical treatment.

“His return comes as a relief to those who have followed the case with grave concern,” Pompeo said in a statement. “We are relieved to be able to welcome him back home.”

New York Magazine, Playboy Magazine Is Closing Down, Probably for Good, Christopher Bonanos, March 18, 2020. No more print edition. Playboy has announced that it’s closing down its flagship magazine for the rest of 2020.

It seems unlikely, given the wording of the announcement and the state of print magazine-making, that it will ever return. It’s not a surprise, exactly — its circulation and advertising drooped long ago, accelerating as the nudie pictures for which it was celebrated became available everywhere for free.

Hugh Marston Hefner, its founder/editor/latter-day reality-show star/loungewear enthusiast, died in 2017, as his faded empire contracted around him, and one got the sense that the magazine was kept going partly because nobody wanted Hef to outlive it.

Hard to imagine it now, but Playboy once felt forward-thinking and modern. Founded in 1953, it was a significant force in the loosening of anti-obscenity laws regarding the press.

By the early 1960s, it was a huge success, soon expanding to open its namesake clubs all over the world. It also moved into TV with Playboy’s Penthouse (later Playboy After Dark), a late-night talk show of sorts starring Hefner and an array of celebrity guests. The magazine peaked in the early 1970s at a circulation, breathtaking to see now, of 5.6 million copies a month. The magazine’s licensing operation since then has put the signature rabbit logo on cocktail glasses, clothes, car accessories, and far more. Plus, of course, online porn.

March 17

ny times logoNew York Times, The World of Books Braces for a Newly Ominous Future, Alexandra Alter, March 16, 2020. Publishers, bookstores and authors are struggling to confront and limit the financial fallout from the unfolding coronavirus crisis.

In these isolated times, many people are inside reading, but the book business, like others, is bracing for catastrophe. Major literary festivals and fairs around the world have been canceled. Public libraries have closed. Author tours, signings and bookstore appearances have been scrapped.

As the severity of the coronavirus outbreak continues to intensify, authors, publishers and booksellers are struggling to confront and limit the financial fallout. Many fear the worst is yet to come, including more store closures and potential disruptions to warehouse and distribution centers, as well as possible paper shortages and a decline in printing capacity.

“There’s no question we’re going to see a drop in sales,” said Dennis Johnson, co-publisher of the Brooklyn-based independent press Melville House, who has directed staff to work from home. “It’s unprecedented. Nobody knows what to do except hoard Purell.”

The Sydney Writers’ Festival, which typically draws an audience of 80,000 and was scheduled to begin on April 27, was called off this week, following cancellations of major book fairs in England, France, Germany and Italy. In the United States, The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Tucson Festival of Books, the Virginia Festival of the Book and The Believer Festival in Las Vegas were among the many shuttered events, which draw tens of thousands of readers and can be a critical sales venue for authors and publishers.

On Monday, PEN America announced that it was calling off its World Voices Festival, which was set to take place in early May in New York, with planned appearances by Margaret Atwood, Zadie Smith, Jenny Slate, Elif Shafak and others.

BookExpo, a pivotal annual trade show for publishers, booksellers and librarians, is currently still scheduled to take place at the end of May at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York, according to the event’s organizer, Reed Exhibitions. “We remain optimistic that we can take the appropriate measures to see ourselves on the other side of this by the end of May and carry on as planned,” BookExpo’s director said in a statement on its website. “That being said, we will continue to follow guidelines and precautions suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

The potential long-term effects for book retailers are sobering. Many in the industry are worried that independent bookstores will be devastated as local and state officials mandate social distancing and order some businesses to temporarily close.

March 16

ny times logoNew York Times, Andrew Cuomo Is the Control Freak We Need Right Now, Ben Smith, March 16, 2020. Mr. Cuomo has emerged as the executive best suited for the coronavirus crisis, our columnist writes.

andrew cuomo“A crisis shows you a person’s soul,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, right, mused during a conference call with reporters on Sunday. “It shows you what they’re made of. The weaknesses explode and the strengths are, uh, emboldened.”

He paused. He’d forgotten, perhaps, whom he was talking about and seemed to have strayed to talking about himself. Then, he returned to the subject at hand, introducing the Westchester County executive: “And, uh, George Latimer has really stepped up.”

Mr. Cuomo has governed New York for more than nine years without inspiring much love. He wins elections by grinding opponents into dust before they can make it to the ballot box. He governs by transaction, not inspiration, as a dispenser of favors and destroyer of insurgents’ dreams, the purest master of the machine since Lyndon Johnson in his prime.

He has passed marriage equality, cut deals with Republicans, meddled incessantly in the running of the subway system. The people most passionate about politics these days — the New Left and the Trump-led right — dislike him because he governs as both a social liberal and a friend of business. Many moderate and liberal politicians, who ought in theory to like Mr. Cuomo, simply fear him.

And yet Mr. Cuomo has emerged as the executive best suited for the coronavirus crisis, as President Trump flails and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wrestles haltingly with a crucial decision and then heads to the gym.

The governor has been the clearest and most decisive of the three, relentless behind the scenes and open about the risks. He has publicly worried over his daughters and his 88-year-old mother, and put state prisoners to work making hand sanitizer. He’s alternated between sweetness and confrontation with Mr. Trump, as he would with a wayward upstate legislator.

Even many of his critics say the very qualities that make him abrasive in ordinary interactions are serving him well now.

The hallmarks of crisis management are clear communication and utter decisiveness. And Mr. Cuomo seems to be one of handful of governors, including Mike DeWine of Ohio, a Republican, and Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, a Democrat, who have stepped into a vacuum to demonstrate those qualities.

washington post logoWashington Post, Coronavirus exposes Internet inequality among U.S. students as schools close their doors, Tony Romm, March 16, 2020. Millions of Americans lack Web access, a digital divide that complicates educators’ efforts to continue instruction during a health crisis.

Every year, Anthony Angelini surveys his seventh-grade students at New Oxford Middle School in rural Pennsylvania, asking whether they have access to a computer and a reliable way to get online.

And every year, some portion of them say they don't. “That number is significant when you're talking about kids,” Angelini said.

But his annual query has taken on new urgency in recent days, as schools around the country shut their doors in response to the fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak. While some are migrating their daily lessons and homework assignments onto the Web, many administrators and teachers lack that digital luxury — illustrating how a public health crisis has brought to light a technological one.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s rage at the media takes a dangerous new turn, Greg Sargent, March 16, 2020. It’s bad enough that President Trump has relentlessly minimized the coronavirus threat for nakedly political reasons, disastrously hampering the federal government response to the President Donald Trump officialcrisis, with untold consequences to come.

Determined not to be outdone by his own malice and depravity, Trump is taking new steps that threaten to make all of it worse. He’s telling millions of Americans to entirely shut out any and all correctives to his falsehoods. He’s insisting they must plug their ears to any criticism designed to hold his government accountable for the failures we’re seeing, even though such criticism could nudge the response in a more constructive direction.

Trump is now raging at the media for reporting on his botched claims about Google’s plans for a new website to steer people to testing options. Trump dramatically overpromised in this regard, forcing Google to scale down the expectations he had created.

washington post logoWashington Post, On Fox News, suddenly a very different tune about the coronavirus, Paul Farhi and Sarah Ellison, March 16, 2020.  'This is impeachment all over again': How Fox is reacting to the coronavirus outbreak.

For weeks, some of Fox News’s most popular hosts downplayed the threat of the coronavirus, characterizing it as a conspiracy by media organizations and Democrats to undermine President Trump.

fox news logo SmallFox News personalities such as Sean Hannity and Laura In­graham accused the news media of whipping up “mass hysteria” and being “panic pushers.” Fox Business host Trish Regan called the alleged media-Democratic alliance “yet another attempt to impeach the president.”

But that was then.

With Trump’s declaration on Friday that the virus constitutes a national emergency, the tone on Fox News has quickly shifted.

On his program on Friday, Hannity — the most watched figure on cable news — lauded the president’s handling of what the host is now, belatedly, referring to as a “crisis.”

“Tonight, we are witnessing what will be a massive paradigm shift in the future of disease control and prevention,” he said. “A bold, new precedent is being set, the world will once again benefit greatly from America’s leadership. . . . The federal government, state governments, private businesses, top hospitals all coming together, under the president’s leadership, to stem the tide of the coronavirus.”

In all, it has been a complicated dance for a network whose hosts are among Trump’s most ardent boosters and defenders — an increasingly challenging position to take as the crisis grew in magnitude. Trump, meanwhile, has long looked to Fox News and its personalities for guidance and approval, a dynamic that may have been pivotal this week after host Tucker Carlson reportedly visited with the president in person to urge him to take the coronavirus seriously.

Until then, Trump’s allies on Fox News were inclined to take the same stance that the president himself promoted for several weeks — that this coronavirus that had sickened and killed thousands of people in China was no worse a threat than the seasonal flu.

Just a week ago, Hannity shrugged at the pandemic. “So far in the United States, there’s been around 30 deaths, most of which came from one nursing home in the state of Washington,” he said last Tuesday. “Healthy people, generally, 99 percent recover very fast, even if they contract it.”

By way of comparison, he added: “Twenty-six people were shot in Chicago alone over the weekend. I doubt you heard about it. You notice there’s no widespread hysteria about violence in Chicago. And this has gone on for years and years. By the way, Democratic-run cities, we see a lot of that.”

From February: Conservative pundits blame a grab bag of supposed villains amid the coronavirus outbreak

Ingraham, whose program follows Hannity’s, also seems to have had a fast-dawning recognition that the social and economic dislocation of the virus was more than just a Democratic talking point wielded against the president.

In late February, Ingraham called Democrats the “pandemic party” and displayed photos of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) alongside enlarged images of coronavirus molecules. “How sick that these people seem almost happiest when Americans are hurting,” she said.

March 13

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Media Matters, Opinion: Fox puts Trish Regan’s Fox Business show on hiatus after deranged coronavirus monologue, John Whitehouse, March 13, 2020. Days after Regan called coronavirus a scam, Fox said that her show is going on hiatus to make room for more coverage of the pandemic.

On Monday, March 9, Trish Regan opened her Fox Business show by complaining of the “Coronavirus impeachment scam.” Her deranged monologue received widespread ridicule after a tweet by Media Matters’ Andrew Lawrence that has been viewed millions of times.

On Friday, March 13, Bloomberg News reported that Regan’s 8 p.m. show, Trish Regan Primetime, was being put on hiatus.

fox news logo Small“Fox Business’s prime-time programs Trish Regan Primetime and Kennedy will both be on hiatus until further notice,” Fox said a statement. “Due to the demands of the evolving pandemic crisis coverage, we are deploying all resources from both shows for staffing needs during critical market hours. Fox Business will run long form programming in prime time for the foreseeable future.”

I want to let everyone know that Trish Regan Primetime is now on hiatus. FBN has taken prudent steps to limit staffing levels and is prioritizing its coverage during market hours. I fully support this decision — we all must to do our part to keep our colleagues safe. #TrishRegan

Fox Business’s Kennedy, hosted by Lisa “Kennedy” Montgomery, was also put on hiatus.

Before this monologue calling a deadly global pandemic a “scam,” Regan was known for over-the-top pro-Trump rhetoric and for being the first interview that top Trump adviser Stephen Miller gave after his emails revealed an affinity for racist rhetoric and white nationalist conspiracy theories.

Lest anyone get the wrong idea here, there is plenty of awful coronavirus coverage on Fox that has not led to any consequences.

March 12

Media / Civil Rights News

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washington post logoWashington Post, Chelsea Manning is released from jail, Rachel Weiner​, March 12, 2020. A federal judge ruled that the testimony of the former Army private was no longer needed in the investigation of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Chelsea Manning, shown in a 2018 file photo, was released from jail Thursday after a federal judge announced that the grand jury investigating WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had been disbanded. “Ms. Manning’s appearance before the grand jury is no longer needed,” federal judge Anthony J. Trenga of the Eastern District of Virginia wrote. “Her detention no longer serves any coercive purpose.”

Manning had been detained in the Alexandria Detention Center for 11 months in civil contempt for her refusal to testify. The judge’s order comes a day after the former Army private attempted suicide in jail. Authorities said they stepped in before serious harm occurred.

In 2010, while serving as an Army intelligence analyst in Iraq, Manning shared with WikiLeaks thousands of classified State and Defense Department cables. She was sentenced to 35 years in a military prison but was released by President Barack Obama after seven years.

Manning is still liable for $256,000 in fines levied by the judge for her refusal to testify.

Assange is now facing charges in Alexandria under the Espionage Act. Prosecutors contend that by soliciting the information from julian assange facts wikileaks CustomManning and helping her crack a password, he went beyond the role of a journalist or publisher in disseminating the classified information.

Assange is fighting extradition from the United Kingdom to Alexandria, arguing the case against him is politically motivated.

Hacker Jeremy Hammond, who was also being held in civil contempt for refusing to testify before the WikiLeaks grand jury, was also ordered released by Trenga after five months of civil contempt. But he is still serving a 10-year prison sentence for cyberattacks on various government agencies and businesses.

Trenga’s order rendered moot the arguments by Hammond and Manning that they could never be coerced into testifying. In Alexandria, grand jurors generally serve six to 18 months. The judge did not explain his reasons for ending this grand jury now beyond saying its “business” has “concluded.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook, Twitter suspend Russian-linked operation targeting African Americans on social media, Tony Romm and Craig Timberg, March 12, 2020. Facebook and Twitter have disabled a sophisticated Russian-linked operation designed to stoke racial tensions among African Americans in the United States, the companies announced Thursday, raising fresh alarms about Kremlin interference ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

facebook logoThe malicious campaign relied on a mix of fake accounts and real people, who lived in Ghana and Nigeria, some of whom appear to have been duped into thinking they were aiding a nongovernmental organization. Instead, they helped amplify a network of inauthentic accounts, pages and groups on Facebook and Twitter that shared polarizing content around social issues including race and civil rights, twitter bird Customthe tech giants said.

None of the so-called coordinated, inauthentic activity focused on the 2020 election or sought to “promote or denigrate political candidates,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, the head of security policy at Facebook. But Facebook and Twitter linked the operation to some of the same Russian actors that employed similar tactics four years ago to spread falsehoods during the 2016 presidential race.

March 10

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Palmer Report, Opinion: What are Donald Trump and Jill Stein plotting now? Bill Palmer, March 10, 2020. You remember Jill Stein. She ran for president in 2016 as a supposed far left candidate, but all she did was help hand the election to Donald Trump. She was also photographed having dinner with

Vladimir Putin in Moscow just before she entered the 2016 race, so go figure.

Anyway, Jill Stein posted a lie-filled tweet about Joe Biden yesterday, and guess who retweeted it this morning?

That’s right, Donald Trump is now retweeting Jill Stein’s lies (below) about Joe Biden. Everything she’s said here can be easily disproven. Joe Biden did an interview on Lawrence O’Donnell’s MSNBC show just last night, and Biden has done rallies in multiple states over the past few days.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis, Unraveling three manipulated videos about Joe Biden, Glenn Kessler, March 10, 2020. For the first time, Twitter applied its new “manipulated media” label — and the Trump campaign is not happy about it.

twitter bird CustomWhite House social media director Dan Scavino posted the video, and it was later retweeted by President Trump. (He also quote tweeted the video and retweeted Scavino’s complaint that the video was not manipulated.) The video suggested that Biden had said in a rally, “Excuse me. We can only reelect President Trump.”

But despite the protests of the Trump campaign, this clearly is manipulated video. Last year, the Fact Checker unveiled our guide to manipulated video, which includes three broad categories: Some video is taken out of context; other content is deceptively edited; or, in the worst instances, deliberately altered.

The Trump tweet is an example of “Missing Context”: The video is unaltered, but the way it is presented to the viewer lacks or misstates the context in which events occurred. In this specific case, this is an example of what we labeled as “isolation” — a brief clip from a longer video to create a false narrative that does not reflect the event as it occurred.

The Trump campaign ended the clip before Biden completed his full sentence: “Excuse me. We can only reelect Donald Trump if in fact we get engaged in this circular firing squad here. It’s gotta be a positive campaign.”

In other words, Biden was calling for Democratic Party unity, not the reelection of Trump. But the video — eagerly shared by supporters of both Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — does not let viewers know that. Instead, it appears to be part of an ongoing effort to suggest that Biden, who stutters, is too old or feebleminded to assume the presidency.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Trying to Stoke U.S. Racial Tensions Before Election, Officials Say, Julian E. Barnes and Adam Goldman, March 10, 2020 (print ed.). Russian intelligence services are trying to incite violence by white supremacist groups to sow chaos in the United States, American intelligence officials said.

The Russian government has stepped up efforts to inflame racial tensions in the United States as part of its bid to influence November’s presidential election, including trying to incite violence by white supremacist groups and to stoke anger among African-Americans, according to seven American officials briefed on recent intelligence.

Russian FlagRussia’s lead intelligence agency, the S.V.R., has apparently gone beyond 2016 methods of interference, when operatives tried to stoke racial animosity by creating fake Black Lives Matter groups and spreading disinformation to depress black voter turnout. Now, Russia is also trying to influence white supremacist groups, the officials said; they gave few details, but one official said federal investigators are examining how at least one neo-Nazi organization with ties to Russia is funded.

Other Russian efforts, which American intelligence agencies have tracked, involve simply prodding white nationalists to more aggressively spread hate messages and amplifying their invective. Russian operatives are also trying to push black extremist groups toward violence, according to multiple officials, though they did not detail how.

Russia’s more public influence operations, like state-backed news organizations, have continued to push divisive racial narratives, including stories emphasizing allegations of police abuse in the United States and highlighting racism against African-Americans within the military.

Austin American-Statesman, Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones charged with DWI near Austin, authorities say, Kelsey Bradshaw, March 10, 2020. Austin-alex jones headshotbased conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was booked into the Travis County Jail on a charge of driving while intoxicated just after midnight Tuesday, the Travis County sheriff’s office said.

Jones, 46, was booked at 12:37 a.m., said Kristen Dark, spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office. The driving while intoxicated charge is a class B misdemeanor, she said.

An arrest affidavit for Jones says a sheriff’s deputy responded at 10:10 p.m. Monday to a western Travis County residence for a disturbance reported by Jones’ wife.

His wife had told the dispatcher they were in a verbal fight that had been physical earlier in the day, the affidavit says. She said Jones left the residence in a black Dodge Charger and that he was possibly drinking, the affidavit says.

While en route to the residence, a deputy saw a dark Dodge leaving the neighborhood. The vehicle was traveling 45 mph in a 40 mph zone.

Miami Herald, Journalists from around the world alerted after conference attendee has coronavirus, Carli Teproff, March 10, 2020. More than a thousand journalists from around the world have been put on notice after an attendee of a major computer-assisted reporting conference held over the weekend in New Orleans has tested presumptive positive for the novel coronavirus.

Several reporters from across McClatchy — including two from the Miami Herald — were among those who attended the 2020 NICAR conference, which was held March 5-8 at the New Orleans Marriott on Canal Street.

March 8

ny times logoNew York Times, Erik Prince Recruits Ex-Spies to Help Infiltrate Liberal Groups, Mark Mazzetti and Adam Goldman, March 8, 2020 (print ed.). Mr. Prince, a contractor close to the Trump administration, contacted veteran spies for operations by Project Veritas, the conservative group known for conducting stings on news organizations and other groups.

erik princeErik Prince, left, the security contractor with close ties to the Trump administration, has in recent years helped recruit former American and British spies for secretive intelligence-gathering operations that included infiltrating Democratic congressional campaigns, labor organizations and other groups considered hostile to the Trump agenda, according to interviews and documents.

One of the former spies, an ex-MI6 officer named Richard Seddon, helped run a 2017 operation to copy files and record conversations in a Michigan office of the American Federation of Teachers, one of the largest teachers’ unions in the nation. Mr. Seddon directed an undercover operative to secretly tape the union’s local leaders and try to gather information that could be made public to damage the organization, documents show.

abigail spanberger twitterUsing a different alias the next year, the same undercover operative infiltrated the congressional campaign of Abigail Spanberger, then a former C.I.A. officer who went on to win an important House seat in Virginia as a Democrat. The campaign discovered the operative and fired her.

Both operations were run by Project Veritas, a conservative group that has gained attention using hidden cameras and microphones for sting operations on news organizations, Democratic politicians and liberal advocacy groups. Mr. Seddon’s role in the teachers’ union operation — detailed in internal Project Veritas emails that have emerged from the discovery process of a court battle between the group and the union — has not previously been reported, nor has Mr. Prince’s role in recruiting Mr. Seddon for the group’s activities.

Both Project Veritas and Mr. Prince have ties to President Trump’s aides and family. Whether any Trump administration officials or advisers to the president were involved in the operations, even tacitly, is unclear. But the effort is a glimpse of a vigorous private campaign to try to undermine political groups or individuals perceived to be in opposition to Mr. Trump’s agenda.

betsy devos oMr. Prince, the former head of Blackwater Worldwide and the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, left, has at times served as an informal adviser to Trump administration officials. He worked with the former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn during the presidential transition. In 2017, he met with White House and Pentagon officials to pitch a plan to privatize the Afghan war using contractors in lieu of American troops. Jim Mattis, then the defense secretary, rejected the idea.

Mr. Prince appears to have become interested in using former spies to train Project Veritas operatives in espionage tactics sometime during the 2016 presidential campaign. Reaching out to several intelligence veterans — and occasionally using Mr. Seddon to make the pitch — Mr. Prince said he wanted the Project Veritas employees to learn skills like how to recruit sources and how to conduct clandestine recordings, among other surveillance techniques.

James O’Keefe, the head of Project Veritas, declined to answer detailed questions about Mr. Prince, Mr. Seddon and other topics, but he called his group a “proud independent news organization” that is involved in dozens of investigations. He said that numerous sources were coming to the group “providing confidential documents, insights into internal processes and wearing hidden cameras to expose corruption and misconduct.”

March 7

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside the Sanders campaign’s quest to win the Internet, Isaac Stanley-Becker, March 7, 2020. Bernie Sanders’s critique of the “corporate media” is inseparable from his effort to reach people in new ways — and on a whole different scale than his rivals.

As Sanders seeks to reinvigorate his presidential campaign against a largely unified Democratic establishment, he will tap a political resource bernie sanders 2020 button croppedunlike any other in Democratic politics — a far-reaching universe of podcasts, YouTube channels, subreddits, Facebook groups and digital newsletters.

This unfiltered online megaphone, which channels distrust of the political mainstream, gives Sanders an edge as he seeks another rebound moment for his campaign. It offers a chance to encourage new voters to turn out in upcoming primaries and to amplify his attacks on former vice president Joe Biden.

Bernie Sanders’s political movement faces a reckoning after Super Tuesday setbacks

facebook logoNo other Democrat exercises the same kind of power online. The candidates who competed in the nominating contest’s four early states collectively garnered about 57 million views on Facebook live streams over the past year. Sanders is responsible for 54 million of them, according to an analysis conducted by his campaign using CrowdTangle, a social media tracking tool.

The online machinery, designed by a staff filled with veterans of liberal news sites and experts in online messaging, has helped Sanders cultivate a mass following — including in California, which accounts for an outsize share of the online views tracked by his campaign and delivered him an important primary win this week.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Amazon ‘likely to succeed’ on key point in Pentagon cloud lawsuit, judge says, Aaron Gregg, March 7, 2020 (print ed.). A Court of Federal Claims judge sided with Amazon on several points in its protest of the military’s award of a massive cloud computing contract to Microsoft. halts the work for now while Amazon’s case proceeds.

amazon logo smallA federal judge has concluded that a bid protest lawsuit brought by Amazon over President Trump’s intervention in an important Pentagon cloud computing contract “is likely to succeed on the merits” of one of its central arguments, according to a court document made public Friday.

The document provides the first indication of how Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims might rule in a high-stakes bid protest over the Pentagon’s JEDI cloud computing contract, which was awarded to Microsoft in October following intervention from the White House and members of Congress.

microsoft logo CustomIn a blow to Microsoft and the Defense Department, Campbell-Smith recently ordered the Pentagon to halt work on JEDI. In a lengthy opinion explaining her reasoning, she sided with Amazon’s contention that the Pentagon had made a mistake in how it evaluated prices for competing proposals from Amazon and Microsoft. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

She also concluded that the mistake is likely to materially harm Amazon, an important qualifier for government contract bid protests. And she rejected arguments raised earlier by Microsoft and the Defense Department that Amazon should have raised its concerns sooner.

March 6

bbc news logo2BBC, Woody Allen book pulped after walkout at publisher, Staff report, March 6, 2020. Hachette Book Group (HBG) has cancelled plans to woody allen tribeca festival 2009 david shankbonepublish a memoir by Woody Allen, the award-winning film director who has been accused of sexual abuse. Allen is , shown at right in a 2009 photo by David Shankbone.

The decision on Friday came one day after Hachette employees staged an office walkout in protest at the plan to publish the book.

It also came after Allen's son, Ronan Farrow, spoke out against the decision.

ronan farrowMr Farrow, left, a journalist, wrote a book for HBG last year about how powerful men avoid punishment for misconduct. Mr Farrow is Allen's son with actress Mia Farrow.

His adopted sister, Dylan Farrow, has accused Allen of sexually abusing her in 1992 when she was seven years old. He has denies the claim.

A statement by HBG spokeswoman Sophie Cottrell called the decision to pulp Allen's autobiography -- Apropos of Nothing -- "a difficult one".

"At HBG we take our relationships with authors very seriously, and do not cancel books lightly. We have published and will continue to publish many challenging books," she added.

She said that listening sessions had been held with staff members, which led the publisher to come "to the conclusion that moving forward with publication would not be feasible".

The publishing house also plans to return the rights to Allen, the statement added. The book seems to have been acquired by HBG last year, but the announcement that it would be released in April only came this week.

ronan farrow catch and kill CustomDylan Farrow had released a scathing statement on Monday, accusing Hachette of betraying one of their authors, her brother Ronan Farrow, whose book, Catch and Kill, was published by HBG in October 2019.

"Hachette's publishing of Woody Allen's memoir is deeply upsetting to me personally and an utter betrayal of my brother whose brave reporting, capitalised on by Hachette, gave voice to numerous survivors of sexual assault by powerful men," she wrote.

"This provides yet another example of the profound privilege that power, money and notoriety affords. Hachette's complicity in this should be called out for what it is and they should have to answer for it."

Mr Farrow also released a statement, saying that HBG had "concealed the decision from me and its own employees while we were working on Catch and Kill -- a book about how powerful men, including Woody Allen, avoid accountability for sexual abuse".

Catch and Kill tells the story of disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, who was jailed for rape last month.

March 5

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washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump campaign lawsuits against NYT, WaPo present a juicy opportunity, Erik Wemple, March 5, 2020. Former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III sought for more than a year to interview President Trump for his investigation into possible collaboration between his 2016 presidential campaign and Russia. The two sides negotiated “accommodations” allowing Trump to answer questions in writing. The eventual answers, noted the Mueller report, “demonstrate the inadequacy of the written format,” prompting Mueller to push for a personal interview. “The President declined,” reads the report.

Thus was lost the opportunity to press Trump, under oath, about all the Russia stuff.

But wait! A fresh chance may be lurking in recent libel suits filed by the Trump campaign against the New York Times and The Washington Post for opinion pieces relating to Trump-Russia, as well as to North Korea. As noted here and here, the complaints are shoddy frivolities that seek to curtail fair and crucial discussion of matters of public consequence. Accordingly, they’re sure to disappear after a couple of righteous motions to dismiss. (Disclosure: I work for The Post’s Opinions section.)

A more investigative option beckons, however. Instead of seeking a quick dismissal of the lawsuits, the newspapers — or either one of them individually — could choose to dig in and proceed straight to the discovery stage of the litigation. Such a move would require the newspapers to turn over emails and submit to depositions about how they commissioned and edited the columns in question. Since discovery is a two-way street, it would also require the Trump campaign to do likewise: to open its aides, past and present, to scrutiny regarding the topics at hand.

Call the campaign’s bluff, in other words.

We’re talking about a fantasy scenario here. The legal arms of newspapers exist to secure the dismissal, not the prolongation, of libel claims. Though they assist their newsrooms with Freedom of Information Act litigation and other efforts to secure documents, they are not captives of the news operations. And what sane news organization invites plaintiffs’ lawyers to muck around in their deliberations? When Times editorial page editor James Bennet, for example, answered questions in a preliminary stage of Sarah Palin’s libel suit, he exposed a rickety editing process.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Jurors find Tavis Smiley violated contract with PBS after testimony about dating and sexually harassing employees, Keith L. Alexander, March 5, 2020 (print ed.). A jury in the District on Wednesday found former PBS talk-show host Tavis Smiley, above, violated his contract with the TV network after hearing accounts of six women who said he had sexually harassed them when they worked for him.

After about 1½ days of deliberations, the jury of seven men and two women determined Smiley, 55, had acted counter to the network’s morals clause, which prohibited on-air talent from participating in any public behavior that would negatively affect the employee or the network.

The women testified through video deposition that during their tenure with Smiley’s company, TS Media, Smiley had pressured them for sex or told lewd jokes. The trial, which lasted about three weeks, was held at D.C. Superior Court because TS Media, while based in Los Angeles, is incorporated in the District.

Smiley admitted to having intimate relationships with two of the women, but testified he never used his position as their boss to pressure or threaten them. And he said any jokes were innocent and not intended to offend.

For 14 years, PBS distributed Smiley’s late-night talk show to 238 PBS stations nationwide, about 72 percent of its network.

The court case began when Smiley claimed the network terminated his contract without proof of the allegations and sued PBS for nearly $1 million. The network countersued for about $1.7 million that it said Smiley owes in money it provided to him for a season that never aired.

PBS attorneys said Smiley could be ordered to pay the network as much as $1.9 million, including penalties and fees. Judge Yvonne Williams, who oversaw the trial, scheduled another hearing to finalize Smiley’s financial penalties.

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook takes down Trump campaign ads it deemed deceptive after first allowing them, Craig Timberg and Tara Bahrampour, March 5, 2020. After complaints from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the company removed the ads for violating its policy against misleading references to the U.S. census.

facebook logoFacebook removed Trump campaign ads on Thursday for violating its policy against misleading references to the U.S. census amid criticism that it has given politicians too much leeway to misinform users on its platform.

The Trump ads urged Facebook users to “take the official 2020 Congressional District Census today,” but despite the look and language of the ad, they were not related to the once-a-decade national count of U.S. citizens happening this year. Instead, the ads linked to a survey on the “Certified Website of President Donald J. Trump,” which collected information and requested a donation.

Facebook initially said it would permit the ads, ruling that they were clearly not a part of the U.S. census, according to Popular Information, a politically themed online newsletter that first reported on the ads and the company’s refusal to remove them. Facebook announced its policy against misleading references to the census in December.

March 2

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nbc news logoNBC News, Chris Matthews announces retirement, mutually parts ways with MSNBC, Jason Abbruzzese, March 2, 2020. Matthews was due to retire in the near future with the events of the past week playing a factor in the timing of the move, an MSNBC spokesperson said.

Chris Matthews, one of the longest-tenured voices at MSNBC, announced his retirement during Monday’s night’s airing of his talk show, “Hardball.”

chris matthews 2011 david shankbone CustomMatthews, 74 (shown in a 2011 photo by David Shankbone), said he and MSNBC had mutually agreed to part ways. The decision followed a series of events that resulted in criticism of the host’s statements about Bernie Sanders, African-American lawmakers, and comments he had made to female journalists and coworkers.

“I’m retiring,” Matthews said. “This is the last ‘Hardball’ on MSNBC.”

Matthews was due to retire in the near future with the events of the past week playing a factor in the timing of the move, an MSNBC spokesperson said.

msnbc logo CustomAfter MSNBC aired a commercial following the announcement, Matthews did not return to the program. Steve Kornacki, a political reporter for the network, took over the rest of the hour, and seemed shocked by the news. “That was a lot to take in,” he said, saying it had been an honor to work with Matthews, and then beginning a discussion about the coronavirus response.

Matthews, a former speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter, has hosted “Hardball” on MSNBC since 1999 and remained a centrist voice on the cable news channel’s prime-time programming, which often features commentary that is further to the left.

NBCUniversal is the parent company of MSNBC and NBC News. Matthews said he was not retiring due to a lack of interest in politics, but nodded to changes taking place.

March 1

Assange Prosecution: Implications

julian assange clean cut library screenshot 2007 Custom 2Consortium News via Zero Hedge, Opinion: Assange Extradition: Can A French Touch Pierce A Neo-Orwellian Farce? Pepe Escobar, March 1, 2020.
 It’s quite fitting that the – imperially pre-determined – judicial fate of Julian Assange (shown above in a 2007 screenshot) is being played out in Britain, the home of George Orwell.

As chronicled by the painful, searing reports of Ambassador Craig Murray, what’s taking place in Woolwich Crown Court is a sub-Orwellian farce with Conradian overtones: the horror…the horror…, remixed for the Raging Twenties. The heart of our moral darkness is not in the Congo: it’s in a dingy courtroom attached to a prison, presided by a lowly imperial lackey.

In one of Michel Onfray’s books published last year, Theorie de la Dictature (Robert Laffont) – the top dissident, politically incorrect French philosopher starts exactly from Orwell to examine the key features of a new-look dictatorship. He tracks seven paths of destruction: to destroy freedom, impoverish language, abolish truth, suppress history, deny nature, propagate hate, and aspire to empire.

To destroy freedom, Onfray stresses, power needs to assure perpetual surveillance; ruin personal life; suppress solitude; make opinion uniform and denounce thought crimes. That sounds like the road map for the United States government’s persecution of Assange.

Other paths, as in impoverishing language, include practicing newspeak; using double language; destroying words; oralizing language; speaking a single language; and suppressing the classics. That sounds like the modus operandi of the ruling classes in the Hegemon.

To abolish truth, power must teach ideology; instrumentalize the press; propagate fake news; and produce reality. To propagate hate, power, among other instruments, must create an enemy; foment wars; and psychiatrize critical thinking.

There’s no question we are already mired deep inside this neo-Orwellian dystopia.

John Paradise Lost Milton, in 1642, could not have been more prophetic, when he wrote “Those that hurt the eyes of the people blame them for being blind.” How not to identify a direct parallel with Le Petit Roi Emmanuel Macron’s army, month after month, willfully blinding protesting Gilets Jaunes/Yellow Vests in the streets of France.

Orwell was more straightforward than Milton, saying that to talk about freedom is meaningless unless it refers to the freedom to tell people what they don’t want to hear. And he put it in context by quoting a line from Milton: “By the known rules of ancient liberty.”

No “known rules of ancient liberty” are allowed to penetrate the heart of darkness of Woolwich Crown Court.
A Spy at the Service of the People

Juan Branco is arguably the most brilliant young French intellectual – heir to a fine Sartre/Foucault/Deleuze tradition. The French establishment detests him, especially because of his best-seller Crepuscule, where he dissected Macronism – branded as a thuggish regime – from the inside, and the French president as a creature and instrument of a tiny oligarchy.

Julian Assange. (YouTube still)

He has just published Assange: L’Antisouverain (Les Editions du Cerf), an absorbing, erudite study that he defines as “a philosophy book about the figure of the Anti-Sovereign.” The Sovereign is of course the state apparatus.

Here (in French) is an excellent interview with Branco about the book. There’s nothing even remotely comparable to it in the Anglosphere, which has treated Assange essentially as an unpleasant freak, oozing pedestrian slander and piling up sub-ideology tirades disguised as facts.

The book is essentially structured as a seminary for the hyper-selective Ecole Normale Superieure, the august school in the Latin Quarter here that shapes French elites, a privileged nest of power institutions and reproduction of privileges. Branco takes the reader to the heart of this universe just to make him or her discover Assange from the point of view of one of those students.

Branco was privileged to profit from the interaction between the Ecole Normale Superieure and Yale. He met Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in January 2014, “in a state of radical confinement,” and then followed him as a juridical consultant, then lawyer, “day after day,” until meeting him again in September 2016, “getting ready to no less than change the course of the American presidential election and engineer the fall of the one who had sworn to crush him, one Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

Branco is fascinated by Assange’s “scientific journalism,” and his capacity to “intervene in the political space without occupying a determined place.” Assange is painted as a contemporary oracle, a maniac for free access to information, someone who “never looked for a reward, or insertion, or juridical protection,” which is a totally different modus operandi from any media.

February

Feb. 27

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The moderators let the Democratic debate spiral into chaos and crosstalk. There must be a better way, Margaret Sullivan, right, margaret sullivan 2015 photoFeb. 27, 2020 (print ed.). I can think of two possible reforms, neither of which I like very much. The first is simple enough: Moderators should have the ability to shut off the microphones of candidates whenever they refuse to respect the time limits.

There was one particularly cringe-inducing moment at the end of the Democratic debate Tuesday night that summed up all the embarrassments of the previous two hours.

“CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell, with a palpable sense of relief, announced that the debate was over. But her co-moderator, Gayle King, immediately jumped in to correct her: “Time for one more break, Norah. Time flies when you’re having fun!”

O’Donnell looked surprised and none too happy. Then the commercial break took place and the moderators reappeared — only to say that, yes, the show really was over.

And while the two-hour debate in Charleston, S.C., had its enlightening moments, a viewer couldn’t help but feel that the whole thing had careened, more than slightly, out of control.

Media News

Consortium News, Live Updates and Commentary: Assange extradition hearing adjourned until May 18, Staff report, Feb. 27, 2020. The judge has adjourned the hearings a day earlier than planned. It will resume in Woolwich Crown Court on May 18.

The defense this week seriously undermined the prosecutors’ case that Assange had endangered lives of informants, had “solicited” classified material from Chelsea Manning, and had helped Manning crack a password to enter a government computer. The defense showed Manning had legal access to the database and did not need a user name or password. Assange was helping her download video games and movies forbidden to U.S. soldiers.

The defense also laid out its evidence that Assange actually worked to protect informants; and that Manning had not responded to WikiLeaks‘ solicitations, a charge that ignores that asking sources for classified information is a routine journalistic practice.

julian assange cropped with un headerThe last two days of the hearings were consumed by the question of whether Assange (shown in a file photo while being given political prisoner protection in Ecuador's London embassy) was being accused of political offenses, and whether the British-U.S. extradition treaty or British domestic law on extraditions would apply. The question of whether Assange was being given a fair trial also arose, given that he is cut off from communication with his attorneys during the proceedings, while being locked in a glass cage behind them.

Assange is back in his glass cage at the back of the courtroom. The court gave him headphones to help him hear what is going on, but he soon after took them off. The spectacle on Wednesday, in which Assange said he was no more a participant in his own hearing that “a spectator at Wimbledon,” underscored the pettiness and even sadism of the governor of Belmarsh prison.

What other reason to separate Assange from his attorneys in the courtroom, when murder suspects routinely sit with their lawyers, what other reason to strip search him, handcuff him 11 times, put him five different cells and take away his legal papers on Monday than to simply humiliate him and show that his life is in their abusive hands?

Before the hearing began Tuesday a court officer instructed Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, that he had been instructed to bar the “head of WikiLeaks” from entering the public gallery, a glassed-in room with two rows of seats high above the small courtroom.

John Shipton, Assange’s father, and Assange’s brother Gabriel and Hrafnsson protested and left the cramped area where 18 people lined up to get into the gallery. A few minutes later they returned. Hrafnsson said sending out a few tweets got the court authorities to change their mind. He said no explanation for why the court wanted him barred was given.

The family sat down to hear Assange’s lawyers complaining that on Monday Assange had been intimidated by prison authorities, being strip searched, handcuffed 11 times, made to stay in five different cells and had legal documents he was studying taken away from him. Judge Vanessa Baraister told the court she had no jurisdiction over how Assange is being mistreated.

During the hearing Assange is separated from his lawyers in room at the back of the court behind bullet-proof glass. He wore a gray jumper and blazer and looked to have aged well beyond his 48 years. He appeared mostly able to focus on the proceedings, at times intensely. He sent word to the judge through one of his lawyers that he wished to sit among his attorneys in the courtroom.

Feb. 26

washington post logoWashington Post, Five arrested, accused of targeting journalists as part of neo-Nazi Atomwaffen group, Rachel Weiner and Matt Zapotosky, Feb. 26, 2020. Federal officials on Wednesday arrested several alleged members of a white-supremacist group called Atomwaffen Division, including its two leaders, accusing them of plotting to intimidate journalists by calling police to their homes and offices and dropping off threatening fliers.

John Cameron Denton, of Montgomery, Tex., is charged in U.S. District Court in Alexandria with conspiring to call in fake threats targeting a ProPublica reporter and his office. Police arrived in force at both locations, at one point briefly detaining the reporter.

In federal court in Seattle, prosecutors say Kaleb Cole and three others hatched a different intimidation plan: finding out where journalists live and leaving posters at their homes with messages featuring swastikas, weapons and the vague threat that they were being watched. After Atomwaffen founder Brandon Russell was arrested in Florida in 2017, according to prosecutors, Denton and Cole, of Arlington, Wash., took leadership of the group. As news organizations began to expose their members, authorities said they discussed how to strike back.

“We must simply approach them with nothing but pure aggression,” Cole said in a recorded message in 2018, according to court records. “We cannot let them think they are safe.”

Denton, according to prosecutors, directed a group of neo-Nazis who harassed ProPublica and a reporter there by calling in fake threats to law enforcement in hopes of provoking an overwhelming response — a practice known as “swatting.” While the reporter is not named in court papers, the description is of A.C. Thompson, who has written extensively about Denton and Atomwaffen.

The group called New York police to ProPublica’s office in December 2018, according to the criminal complaint, claiming that there was a pipe bomb, a hostage and a dead body inside.

A dozen officers responded and cleared the floor in question; one employee was there and “visibly shaken,” according to the complaint.

Two months later, prosecutors say the group called police to Thompson’s home in California, claiming that he was armed and had just killed his wife. He and his wife were briefly detained by police.

According to the complaint, Denton acknowledged his role in an interview with an undercover agent last month.

In Seattle, prosecutors say Cole and a high-ranking recruiter named Cameron Brandon Shea came up with “Operation Erste Saule,” a German term they used to refer to the news media. One person involved recommended using the Society of Professional Journalists website to pick targets, according to court papers.

Employees of the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish organization that tracks anti-Semitism and has investigated Atomwaffen, reported receiving threatening messages. Prosecutors say an Atomwaffen member named Johnny Roman Garza participated in the intimidation by leaving fliers at the homes of black and Jewish journalists in Arizona, while Taylor Ashley Park-Dipeppe is accused of attempting to threaten a reporter in Florida. However, prosecutors say he left the poster at the wrong address.

Feb. 24

U.S. Justice System

washington post logoWashington Post, Weinstein guilty on two charges in sexual assault case, acquitted on others, Shayna Jacobs​, Feb. 24, 2020. The jury in the New harvey weinsteinYork trial determined that Harvey Weinstein, right, forced a sex act on a former production assistant in 2006 and raped a former aspiring actress in 2013. He was found not guilty of the most severe charge, predatory sexual assault.

• Washington Post, Advocates for victims of sexual assault hail Weinstein’s conviction as a breakthrough.
• Washington Post, Perspective: Weinstein’s conviction allowed victims to have messy stories. That’s revolutionary.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: The Lessons of #MeToo’s Monster, Editorial Board, Feb. 24, 2020. After decades of abuse allegations, Harvey Weinstein is found guilty. What does the hard-won, long-overdue conviction of Harvey Weinstein demonstrate?

It shows how difficult it can be to bring abusers to justice, particularly when they are wealthy and powerful. It shows how much the #MeToo movement has changed American life. And it shows how far society still has to go.

Mr. Weinstein was convicted on Monday of a felony sex crime and rape in the third degree but was acquitted of the most serious counts against him, predatory sexual assault. He is headed for at least five years in prison. That’s a victory for Mr. Weinstein’s victims.

But the Weinstein case shows the obstacles presented by the American legal system to successfully prosecuting abusers. The case, tried in a Manhattan courtroom, rested on testimony from just six women out of the more than 90 who have accused Mr. Weinstein of sexual misconduct. (He also faces charges in Los Angeles of raping one woman and groping and masturbating in front of another.)

It took decades of persistence by survivors, advocates, journalists and law enforcement to call Mr. Weinstein to account before the law. In 2015, Cyrus Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, declined to prosecute credible allegations against Mr. Weinstein. Mr. Vance acted years later only after dozens of women went public with their allegations.

UK Assange Hearing Starts

julian assange screenshot arrest (Ruptly)

London police arresting the bearded WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on April 11, 2019. (Ruptly/YouTube)

The Guardian, Julian Assange hearing: sources 'disappeared' after WikiLeaks release, Ben Quinn, Feb. 24, 2020. Lawyers for US government deliver opening arguments as extradition case begins.

Secret sources who had supplied information to the US government “disappeared” after they were put at risk from death or torture by the release of classified documents by WikiLeaks, the first day of Julian Assange’s extradition hearing has been told.

The US case for the extradition of the WikiLeaks founder was opened at Woolwich crown court by James Lewis QC, who referred to a range of sources in states including Iraq, Afghanistan and China.

“The US is aware of sources, whose redacted names and other identifying information was contained in classified documents published by WikiLeaks, who subsequently disappeared, although the US can’t prove at this point that their disappearance was the result of being outed by WikiLeaks,” he told the court in south-east London.

By disseminating material in an unredacted form, Lewis said Assange knowingly put human rights activists, dissidents, journalists and their families at risk of serious harm in states operated by oppressive regimes.

julian assange cropped with un headerAssange, 48, shown in a file photo, is wanted in the US to face 18 charges of attempted hacking and breaches of the Espionage Act. They relate to the publication a decade ago of hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and files covering areas including US activities in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Australian, who could face a 175-year prison sentence if found guilty, is accused of working with the former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to leak classified documents.

Sitting at the back of the court and dressed in a grey blazer, grey sweater and white shirt with reading glasses perched on his head, Assange listened impassively as the US case was laid out while the sound of chants from hundreds of his supporters outside could be clearly heard throughout the first morning of evidence.

Earlier, Lewis said that reporting for journalism was not an excuse for breaking laws, lawyers acting for the US government have said on the first day of a legal battle over whether the WikiLeaks founder can be extradited from the UK.

“The defence seek to suggest that the risk to these individuals who, by having the individuals revealed as informants, is somehow overstated. I would remind the court that these were individuals who were passing on information on regimes such as Iran and organisations such as al-Qaida.”

He took the court through a number of details about documents relating to sources which the US alleges were put at risk. They included one who had supplied information about an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attack in Iraq and who had been mentioned in a report classified as “secret.”

Earlier, Lewis said he wanted to emphasise that Assange essentially faced two areas relating to his conduct in the indictment – theft and computer hacking of the information published and identifying informants in Iraq and Afghanistan knowing that they would be at risk of harm.

“He is not charged with disclosure of embarrassing or awkward information that the government would rather not have have disclosed,” he added. “The disclosures charges are solely where there was a risk of risk.”

Earlier, Lewis referred to a report in the Guardian from September 2011, which reported that WikiLeaks had published its full archive of 251,000 secret US diplomatic cables, without redactions, potentially exposing thousands of individuals named in the documents to detention, harm or putting their lives in danger.

He went on to describe how the move had been strongly condemned by WikiLeaks’ five previous media partners – the Guardian, New York Times, El País, Der Spiegel and Le Monde – who have worked with the site publishing carefully selected and redacted documents.

“We deplore the decision of WikiLeaks to publish the unredacted state department cables, which may put sources at risk,” the organisations said in a joint statement, which Lewis read out.

Assange’s case has drawn widespread support, including from the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, who said last week that he should not be extradited because of the potential impact on press freedom and concerns about “the real risk of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment.”

Feb. 22

washington post logoWashington Post, Wall Street Journal reporters protest ‘sick man’ headline in Wall Street Journal, Paul Farhi, Feb. 22, 2020. The Wall Street Journal’s China staff is urging the newspaper to apologize for a headline that prompted the Chinese government to expel three of its journalists this week.

Feb. 21

washington post logoWashington Post, How conservatives learned to wield power inside Facebook, Craig Timberg, Feb. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Facebook created “Project P” — for propaganda — in the hectic weeks after the 2016 presidential election and quickly found dozens of pages that had peddled false news reports facebook logoahead of Donald Trump’s surprise victory. Nearly all were based overseas, had financial motives and displayed a clear rightward bent.

In a world of perfect neutrality, which Facebook espouses as its goal, the political tilt of the pages shouldn’t have mattered. But in a videoconference between Facebook’s Washington office and its Silicon Valley headquarters in December 2016, the company’s most senior Republican, Joel Kaplan, voiced concerns that would become familiar to those within the company.

“We can’t remove all of it because it will disproportionately affect conservatives,” said Kaplan, a former George W. Bush White House official and now the head of Facebook’s Washington office, according to people familiar with the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect professional relationships.

When another Facebook staff member pushed for the entire list to be taken down on the grounds that the accounts fueled the “fake news” that had roiled the election, Kaplan warned of the backlash from conservatives.

“They don’t believe it to be fake news,” he said, arguing for time to develop guidelines that could be defended to the company’s critics, including on the right.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThe debate over “Project P,” which resulted in a few of the worst pages quickly being removed while most others remained on the platform, exemplified the political dynamics that have reigned within Facebook since Trump emerged as the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee to the White House in 2016. A company led mainly by Democrats in the liberal bastion of Northern California repeatedly has tilted rightward to deliver policies, hiring decisions and public gestures sought by Republicans, according to current and former employees and others who have worked closely with the company.

Trump and other party leaders have pressured Facebook by making unproven claims of bias against conservatives amid rising signs of government action on the issue, including investigations by Congress and the Justice Department. Republicans also have leveraged Facebook’s fears of alienating conservative Americans to win concessions from a company whose most widely shared news content typically includes stories from Fox News and other right-leaning sources.

These sensitivities — in conjunction with the company’s long-standing resistance to acting as “an arbiter of truth” — have affected Facebook’s responses to a range of major issues, from how to address fake news and Russian manipulation of American voters on the platform to, more recently, the advertising policies that have set the political ground rules for the 2020 election, say people privy to internal debates.

Such factors have helped shape a platform that gives politicians license to lie and that remains awash in misinformation, vulnerable to a repeat of twitter bird Custommany of the problems that marred the 2016 presidential election.

Facebook, unlike Google and Twitter, also has refused calls to restrict politicians’ access to powerful ad-targeting tools — which Trump used with particular relish four years ago — that allow messages to be tailored to individual voters, based on characteristics Facebook has gleaned over years of tracking user behavior.

ny times logoNew York Times, A $1 Billion Literary Scandal and the ‘Madoff of France,’ David Segal, Feb. 21, 2020. Accused of orchestrating a literary Ponzi scheme, Gérard Lhéritier prepares his defense as his breathtaking collection is auctioned off.

A letter from Frida Kahlo, signed and twice kissed with red lipstick, fetched just over $8,800. A page of scribbled calculations by Isaac Newton sold for about $21,000. A 1953 handwritten speech by John F. Kennedy took in $10,000.

All of the items came from a now-defunct company, Aristophil, which starting in 2002 built one of the largest collections of rare books, autographs and manuscripts in history — some 136,000 pieces in all.

The buying spree turned the company’s founder and president, a stout 71-year-old named Gérard Lhéritier, into a celebrity. He opened the stately Museum of Letters and Manuscripts in a pricey neighborhood in Paris, and surrounded himself with French luminaries. They included former presidents, authors and journalists, who crowned him the “king of manuscripts.”

Six years ago, the French authorities shut down Aristophil and arrested Mr. Lhéritier, charging him with fraud and accusing him of orchestrating what amounts to a highbrow Ponzi scheme. As he bought all those rare manuscripts and letters, he had them appraised, divided their putative value into shares and sold them as if they were stock in a corporation. Those shares were bought by 18,000 people, many of them elderly and of modest means, who collectively invested about $1 billion.

The problem has nothing to do with quality. Everything in the collection is authentic, and a large part of it is highly coveted. But the authorities say that with the help of pliant experts, Mr. Lhéritier grossly inflated the value of pieces before he sold shares in them.

ny times logoNew York Times, What Happened Between E. Jean Carroll and Elle Magazine? Katherine Rosman and Jessica Bennett, Feb. 21, 2020. Her contract was terminated early, but the fashion magazine maintains it wasn’t because of her allegations against President Trump.

Media / Propaganda

jimmy wales facing tomorrow conference israel 2009 AP photo 09102109924 1 Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales speaks at the ‘Facing Tomorrow’ conference in Israel in 2009 (Tara Todras-Whitehill | Associated Press)

Wired, Opinion: Wikipedia Is the Last Best Place on the Internet, Richard Cooke, Feb. 17, 2020. People used to think the crowdsourced encyclopedia represented all that was wrong with the web. Now it's a beacon of so much that's right.

In its first decade of life, the website appeared in as many punch lines as headlines. The Office's Michael Scott called it “the best thing ever,” because “anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject — so you know you are getting the best possible information.” Praising Wikipedia, by restating its mission, meant self-identifying as an idiot.

wikipedia logoThat was in 2007. Today, Wikipedia is the eighth-most-visited site in the world. The English-language version recently surpassed 6 million articles and 3.5 billion words; edits materialize at a rate of 1.8 per second. But perhaps more remarkable than Wikipedia's success is how little its reputation has changed. It was criticized as it rose, and now makes its final ascent to … muted criticism. To confess that you've just repeated a fact you learned on Wikipedia is still to admit something mildly shameful. It's as though all those questions that used to pepper think pieces in the mid-2000s — Will it work? Can it be trusted? Is it better than Encyclopedia Britannica? — are still rhetorical, when they have already been answered, time and again, in the affirmative.

Of course, muted criticism is far better than what the other giants at the top of the internet are getting these days. Pick any inflection point you like from the past several years — the Trump election, Brexit, any one of a number of data breaches, alt-right feeding frenzies, or standoffish statements to Congress — and you'll see the malign hand of platform monopolies.

Not too long ago, techno-utopianism was the ambient vibe of the elite ideas industry; now it has become the ethos that dare not speak its name. Hardly anyone can talk abstractly about freedom and connection and collaboration, the blithe watchwords of the mid-2000s, without making a mental list of the internet's more concrete negative externalities.

Yet in an era when Silicon Valley's promises look less gilded than before, Wikipedia shines by comparison. It is the only not-for-profit site in the top 10, and one of only a handful in the top 100. It does not plaster itself with advertising, intrude on privacy, or provide a breeding ground for neo-Nazi trolling. Like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, it broadcasts user-generated content. Unlike them, it makes its product de-personified, collaborative, and for the general good. More than an encyclopedia, Wikipedia has become a community, a library, a constitution, an experiment, a political manifesto—the closest thing there is to an online public square. It is one of the few remaining places that retains the faintly utopian glow of the early World Wide Web. A free encyclopedia encompassing the whole of human knowledge, written almost entirely by unpaid volunteers: Can you believe that was the one that worked?

Wikipedia is not perfect. The problems that it does have—and there are plenty of them—are discussed in great detail on Wikipedia itself, often in dedicated forums for self-critique with titles like “Why Wikipedia is not so great.” One contributor observes that “many of the articles are of poor quality.” Another worries that “consensus on Wikipedia may be a problematic form of knowledge production.” A third notes that “someone can just come and edit this very page and put in ‘pens are for cats only.’” Like the rest of the tech world, the site suffers from a gender imbalance; by recent estimates, 90 percent of its volunteer editors are men. Women and nonbinary contributors report frequent harassment from their fellow Wikipedians—trolling, doxing, hacking, death threats. The site's parent organization has repeatedly owned up to the situation and taken halting steps to redress it; several years ago, it allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars to a “community health initiative.” But in a way, the means to fix Wikipedia's shortcomings, in terms of both culture and coverage, are already in place: Witness the rise of feminist edit-athons.

Feb. 20

Inside DC

John Solomon, Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing

John Solomon, longtime DC-based journalist, shown at left, with his lawyers and souces Joseph DiGenova and the latter's wife Victoria Toensing.

washington post logoWashington Post, John Solomon columns on Ukraine ripped in newspaper’s internal investigation for conflicts and distortions, Paul Farhi, Feb. 20, 2020 (print ed.). In a lengthy and damning review of former columnist John Solomon, the Hill newspaper ripped Solomon — and itself — for publishing misleading and poorly attributed articles last year that asserted corruption by Joe Biden in his dealings with Ukraine during his time as vice president.

The columns, published in early 2019, set in motion President Trump’s demand that Ukrainian officials announce an investigation of Biden and his son, Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company. Trump’s demand, and his withholding of military aid to Ukraine, led to the House’s impeachment of Trump and his subsequent acquittal in the Senate.

Trump and his allies, including his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and his son Donald Trump Jr., promoted Solomon’s Hill columns via Twitter, and Solomon made several appearances on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program to promote his conclusions, which were that Biden, then considered Trump’s top 2020 challenger, had ousted Ukraine’s top prosecutor to head off an investigation into the company that had hired his son.

That allegation has never been proved; indeed, the former Ukrainian prosecutor has recanted it.

In effect, the Hill said Solomon amplified an inaccurate and one-sided narrative about the Bidens and Ukraine that was fed to him by Giuliani, “facilitated” by businessman Lev Parnas, who was working with Giuliani at the time, and reinforced by Solomon’s own attorneys, who also represented clients embroiled in U.S.-Ukraine politics.

Igor Fruman, top left, and Lev Parnas, two Soviet-born associates of Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney at bottom of a Wall Street Journal graphic above by Laura Kammermann, appear to be deeply involved in the Ukraine scandal.Igor Fruman, top left, and Lev Parnas, two Soviet-born associates of Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney at bottom of a Wall Street Journal graphic above by Laura Kammermann, appear to be deeply involved in the Ukraine scandal.

But the Hill stopped short of retracting or apologizing for Solomon’s articles, nor did it say it shouldn’t have published them. It also didn’t characterize Solomon’s motives in presenting what appears to be a largely debunked conspiracy theory about Ukraine.

The columns were roundly criticized as distorted and inaccurate by U.S. diplomats during their testimony before the House’s impeachment hearings.

The Hill, in its review of 14 Solomon columns and related videos about Ukraine, found multiple flaws in his reporting and in the Hill’s own presentation of his work. It said it has attached editor’s notes to the columns to provide “context and/or disclosure that should have been included at the time of his writings” or to “highlight what has been learned” since Solomon’s columns were published.

“In certain columns, Solomon failed to identify important details about key Ukrainian sources, including the fact that they had been indicted or were under investigation,” said the internal investigation, which was overseen by the newspaper’s editor, Bob Cusack. “In other cases, the sources were [Solomon’s] own attorneys” — Victoria Toensing and Joseph DiGenova, who have also represented President Trump and Giuliani, who was also a key source for Solomon’s columns.

Solomon didn’t disclose this connection in his columns nor did he disclose to his editors that he shared drafts of his stories with Toensing, DiGenova and Parnas, the review noted. \

  • facebook logoWashington Post, How the right learned to wield power inside Facebook, Craig Timberg, Feb. 20, 2020. The social media giant balked at removing misinformation after the 2016 election out of concern it would alienate conservatives.

USA Today, Intelligence employee pleads guilty to leaking classified info to journalists, Savannah Behrmann, Feb. 20, 2020. Henry Kyle Frese pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to illegally transmitting national defense information to journalists.

Frese, 31, was employed as a counterterrorism analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency from February 2018 to October 2019, and held a top-secret clearance.

“Frese violated the trust placed in him by the American people when he disclosed sensitive national security information for personal gain,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers in a statement. “He alerted our country’s adversaries to sensitive national defense information, putting the nation’s security at risk."

Federal prosecutors say he researched multiple classified intelligence reports – some of which were unrelated to his job duties – and leaked information about a foreign country's weapons systems to two journalists.

Prosecutors said that Frese, who worked as both a contractor and a full-time employee for DIA, was in a relationship with one of the journalists and sought to advance the reporter's career.

The journalist linked romantically to Frese published at least eight articles containing classified information provided by the analyst, authorities say. Prosecutors asserted that Frese compromised the contents of at least five intelligence reports.

The unauthorized disclosures happened in 2018 and 2019. Prior to that, from August 2017 to August 2018, Frese and the reporter lived together, authorities say.

Feb. 19

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Syria - Turkey's Bluff Is Called - Media Opposition Sources Run By British Intelligence, b, Feb. 19, 2020. Russia has called Turkey's bluff of a wide ranging attack on Syrian government forces. The Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan will now have to find a way out of the Idleb trap he set himself in. His excellent Syria adventure is coming to an end.

Russian FlagMeanwhile we learn that the British military intelligence ran another large dis-information campaign that brought 'Syrian voices' into the 'western' press.

Erdogan continues with his wild rhetoric over Syria.

The 'Western' media is again practicing tear jerking about these refugees in Idleb. But its reports forget to mention that al-Qaeda rules Idleb and that it prevents the people from crossing the line into Syrian government held areas:

In yet another lengthy, expensive, lavishly illustrated story about Idlib, the NYT once again failed to make any mention of the politics of what is happening in that enclave of northwestern Syria – namely, the fact that well-armed jihadist/takfiri fighters from all around the world have controlled it for the past several years, while Syria’s government forces have been battling to regain control.

In that latest article, as in all of the lengthy, one-sided tearjerkers it has published about Idlib over the past year, the NYT has no actual journalists or photographers on the ground reporting the story. It is wholly reliant instead on “stories” and footage it gathers from unverifiable sources inside the enclave – sources who notably never include any mention of the jihadi armed groups that control all aspects of life there.

Today we learn [Middle East Eye (MEE), [The British government’s covert propaganda campaign in Syria] that many of these unverifiable sources have been on the British government payroll since at least 2012.

Middle East Eye (MEE), Investigation: The British government’s covert propaganda campaign in Syria, Ian Cobain and Alice Ross, Feb. 19, 2020. Documents obtained by MEE reveal how British contractors recruited Syrian citizen journalists -- often without their knowledge -- to promote 'moderate opposition.'

united kingdom flagThe British government covertly established a network of citizen journalists across Syria during the early years of the country’s civil war in an attempt to shape perceptions of the conflict, frequently recruiting people who were unaware that they were being directed from London.

A number of leaked documents seen by Middle East Eye show how the propaganda initiative began in 2012 and gathered pace the following year, shortly after the UK parliament refused to authorise British military action in Syria.

Drawing upon British, American and Canadian funding, UK government contractors set up offices in Istanbul and Amman, where they hired members of the Syrian diaspora, who in turn recruited citizen journalists inside Syria.

These journalists, many of them young, were commissioned to produce TV footage, radio programmes, social media, posters, magazines and even children’s comics.

While many Syrians turned spontaneously to media activism from the start of the war, the documents describe the way in which the British government sought to guide some of their output, seeing citizen journalism as a way of covertly influencing Syrian audiences.

The papers also make clear that those people who were recruited were often unaware that they were part of a British propaganda initiative.
Some of those who were recruited have defended their involvement, however, saying that they were reliant on western support in their efforts to counter pro-government reporting in Syrian state media, and in Iranian and Russian-backed media.

At a time when the last opposition-held enclave in Idlib province is under assault by pro-government forces, they questioned whether western countries could have contributed more material support to moderate rebels.

Some Syrian journalists complained that western support for their work was decreasing even as it was most needed after Russia's entry into the war in 2015 tipped the balance in favour of President Bashar al-Assad.

The documents were drawn up as blueprints for the initiative by an anthropologist working in counter-terrorism at the foreign office in London. They were issued in late 2014 to a small number of communications companies that were invited to bid for three contracts to deliver the work.

One says: “The objective of the project is contribute [sic] towards positive attitudinal and behavioural change.”

This was further defined as: “Reinforcement of popular rejection of the Assad regime and extremist alternatives; promotion of the moderate values of the revolution; promotion of Syrian national identity.”

'Reinforcement of popular rejection of the Assad regime and extremist alternatives; promotion of the moderate values of the revolution; promotion of Syrian national identity'

The documents show that the over-arching aim of the citizen journalism project – and a series of interlinked British propaganda initiatives – was to promote the UK’s strategic interests in Syria and the Middle East.

These are defined in the leaked papers as “a more stable and democratic Syria that better meets the needs and aspirations of its people”, support for a political solution to the conflict, the alleviation of humanitarian suffering, and enhanced UK security.

As well as developing grassroots journalism aligned with British government values, the UK and other western governments were at the same time attempting to build civil society in areas controlled by some of Assad’s opponents, financing and training police forces and civil defence teams.

The anthropologist’s blueprint makes clear that this was being done not just to help maintain law and order and provide humanitarian assistance, but “to build confidence in a future Syria free from extremist rule”.

However, the documents acknowledge the risks to the young journalists who had unwittingly been co-opted by the British government.

“Media coverage of the project will be distinctly unwelcome due to the risks to Syrian employees and to project effectiveness that it would generate,” says one.

“The implementer is not permitted to speak publicly (to the media or at academic conferences) about their work without the explicit permission of HMG [Her Majesty’s Government]. This will be enforced by a Non Disclosure Agreement.”

A number of young Syrian citizen journalists were detained and murdered by the Islamic State (IS) group after it began capturing territory in the country in 2015.

The group frequently denounced its victims as western “spies” and some Syrian citizen journalists were pursued across the border to Turkey and killed.

Whilst many of the victims were not thought to be involved in British-sponsored projects, MEE is aware of two who were.

Feb. 18

Ultra-Right Media Hoax?

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Right-Wing Activists Discussed Wiretapping Seth Rich’s Family, Three People in the Room Say, Will Sommer, Updated Feb. 18, 2020. Involved in the talks about murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich: a Fox reporter, a former intelligence contractor, and a pair of provocateurs looking to sow “targeted chaos” online.

A strange set of characters from some of the highest and lowest positions in the American right gathered one morning in September 2017 at an affluent neighborhood outside of Dallas.

One of their topics was responding to online critics of wealthy Texas businessman Ed Butowsky, who had recently been outed as a driving seth richforce behind a retracted Fox News story about murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, right.

The group that gathered at Butowsky’s home included a conspiracy theorist, a Fox reporter fighting for her career, a former private intelligence contractor married to star journalist Lara Logan, and a Democratic PR operative who lost his business in the face of sexual assault allegations. The group also included Thomas Schoenberger and Manuel “Defango” Chavez, two notorious internet provocateurs who had recently launched a self-proclaimed “elite” company that promised to use bots and sow “targeted chaos” to defend its clients online.

According to some attendees, the solutions discussed at the September get-together went to extremes. Three people who attended the gathering said the group even discussed the possibility of wiretapping and surveilling Rich’s grieving parents.

In a sworn deposition last year, Schoenberger claims Butowsky wanted to “hear a pin drop” in the Rich’s Omaha, Nebraska, kitchen.

“They wanted it to the point where they can listen to every room and hear discussions,” Schoenberger said in a sworn deposition last year about the gathering. “They literally wanted ears in every room.”

Butowsky strongly disputes Schoenberger’s wiretapping claims and The Daily Beast could find no evidence that anyone in the group actually carried out surveillance on Rich’s family. Butowsky points to Schoenberger’s criminal history—a 2011 felony stalking charge and a 2014 misdemeanor DUI—to argue that his allegations about what occurred at Butowsky’s house can’t be trusted.

“Nobody wiretapped anybody, nobody attempted to wiretap anybody, nobody discussed wiretapping anybody, and quite frankly, I don’t know what wiretapping is,” Butowsky said.

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Butowsky confirmed the list of guests at his house, although he disputed the characterization of it as a “meeting.”

“It was just like a sit-down and chat,” said Butowsky. “Nothing happened. There wasn’t like some meeting where we left with plans. It was a bunch of people explaining how reputation management worked on Twitter.”

The varied group, according to Butowsky, included Schoenberger, Chavez, outspoken Rich conspiracy theorist Matt Couch and an associate, Logan’s husband Joe Burkett, as well as Fox News reporter Malia Zimmerman, who was the author of the retracted Fox story.

“Nobody wiretapped anybody, nobody attempted to wiretap anybody, nobody discussed wiretapping anybody, and quite frankly, I don’t know what wiretapping is.”

— Ed Butowsky

They were joined by Trevor FitzGibbon, a former Democratic PR bigwig whose firm once worked with groups like MoveOn and NARAL, but collapsed in 2015 in the face of sexual harassment and assault allegations against him (FitzGibbon denied those allegations and never faced criminal charges). According to Schoenberger and Chavez, FitzGibbon teamed up with them in August 2017 to launch “Shadowbox,” their “elite” online reputation firm. Butowsky was their first client.

Media, Privacy

washington post logoWashington Post, How Ring and Nest helped normalize American surveillance — and turned us into a nation of voyeurs, Drew Harwell, Feb. 18, 2020. People who own Web-connected cameras say they’ve reshaped their awareness around what’s going on at home. But all that added vigilance has come at a surprising cost.

Margaret Cudia thought her Ring doorbell camera was “the best thing since sliced bread.” She loved watching the world pass by through her suburban New Jersey neighborhood, guarding vigilantly for suspicious strangers and porch pirates from the comfort of her phone.

She hadn’t expected the camera also might capture awkward moments closer to home, like the time it caught her daughter grabbing a beer and talking about how controlling her mother was. “I never told her about that one,” she said with a laugh.

Amazon’s Ring, Google’s Nest and other Internet-connected cameras — some selling for as little as $59 — have given Americans the tools they need to become a personal security force, and millions of people now seeing what’s happening around their home every second — what Ring calls the “new neighborhood watch.” (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

But the allure of monitoring people silently from afar has also proved more tempting than many expected. Customers who bought the cameras in hopes of not becoming victims joke that instead they’ve become voyeurs.

The Washington Post surveyed more than 50 owners of in-home and outdoor camera systems across the United States about how the recording devices had reshaped their daily lives. Most of those who responded to online solicitations about their camera use said they had bought the cameras to check on package deliveries and their pets, and many talked glowingly about what they got in return: security, entertainment, peace of mind. Some said they worried about hackers, snoops or spies.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. designates 5 major Chinese media outlets as government entities, Anna Fifield, Carol Morello and Emily Rauhala, Feb. 18, 2020. The designation means they will be treated as though they are diplomatic outposts of the Chinese government and subject to the same constraints. The move is the latest in a series of U.S. efforts to tackle China’s influence in the United States.

The State Department on Tuesday designated five Chinese media outlets as official government entities under the Foreign Missions Act, meaning they will treated as though they are diplomatic outposts of the Chinese government and subject to the same constraints.

The move is the latest in a series of U.S. efforts to tackle China’s influence in the United States. It will be sure to anger Beijing, which generally views U.S. government’s actions — from the trade war and the accusations against Huawei to criticism of its human rights record — as an effort to thwart China’s global rise.

The media outlets are the official Xinhua News Agency; China Global Television Network, known as CGTN, the international arm of state broadcaster CCTV; China Radio International; the China Daily newspaper; and Hai Tian Development, a U.S. company linked to the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China.

Feb. 16

Media News

elise stefanik hearing

Glens Falls Post-Star, Opinion: Stefanik letter does nothing to address the threats, Ken Tingley (Editor of The Post-Star in Glens Falls, N.Y.), Feb. 16, 2020. On Oct. 10, I sent a message to Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY, shown above in a screenshot from December's House impeachment hearings). It wasn’t a formal letter, but it was a direct message to her after she showed support for a local man who shouted threats against the newspaper at a public rally in Glens Falls.

I explained to her in the message that the threats against the newspaper had made many of the men and women who work at our newspaper – from the receptionist and obituary clerks to those in our advertising department – nervous about their safety.

I asked her to denounce the actions of this man, who was a vocal supporter of hers, and I urged her to visit the newspaper to explain to the regular workers with families why she had put them in danger.

republican elephant logoShe held a town hall meeting in Kingsbury that day, but she did not stop by the newspaper.

She did not respond to my message at all.

Until Friday of this week – Valentine’s Day—when I opened my mailbox to find a letter personally addressed to me from Elise.

“Dear Mr. Tingley” it started, but “Mr. Tingley” was crossed out and “Kenneth” was written in what appeared to be blue sharpie.

We were back on a first-name basis.

I wanted to yell out, “Call me Ken.”

Finally, Elise – I can assume I can her Elise now, right? — had seen the light. I hoped she was responding to my concerns about the safety of our newspaper staff and her ill-advised support of people who threaten us.

Those hopes were quickly dashed.

Elise wanted me to help her fight back against the radical left. She wanted me to help her save the country from Adam Schiff. And she wanted to me to pledge $50, $100, $250, $500, or even $1,000. Didn’t she just finish raising $3 million in the last three months of the year?

She wrote about taking on Nancy Pelosi and Jerry Nadler for citizens in the 21st Congressional District. I don’t recall seeing either of them at the Civic Center or walking around Lake George, but Elise says they are our enemies in upstate New York.

As I continued to read the letter, I wondered if the congresswoman was a little star struck after all the attention she had gotten from President Trump.

She explained that the Democrats fear “dedicated, articulate Republican leaders like me.”

Sounded like, she was a little full of herself.

I was hoping she might mention something about bringing us together, condemning violence and telling the truth.

At the very least, some of her most important accomplishments as our representative.

Instead, Elise sounded like she was going to war.

Then – after hitting me up for a donation to her campaign – she said this:

“Of course, we cannot count on the biased media to expose the Democrats’ horrible abuses of power, their flawed accusations, or their partisan motivations. The smug media elitists have become little more than the PR division of the Democratic Party.”

Feb. 15

mcclatchy logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The future of local newspapers just got bleaker. Here’s why we can’t let them die, Margaret Sullivan, right, Feb. 15, margaret sullivan 2015 photo2020. With McClatchy filing for bankruptcy, the business is gasping for air. But, against the odds, local newsrooms keep doing vital work.

It’s been a particularly rough couple of months for those who care about local journalism — which should be every American citizen.

Warren Buffett sold his 31 newspapers in January, a powerful vote of no confidence in their financial future. A rapacious hedge fund got its claws deeper into the Chicago Tribune chain in December, which includes the New York Daily News and the Baltimore Sun. Gannett and GateHouse, the two biggest newspaper chains, continued merging — a development almost certain to mean more staff cutbacks in already shrunken newsrooms.

And then on Thursday came more devastating news. Weighed down under enormous debt, the McClatchy newspaper chain — one of the nation’s largest newspaper publishers and owner of the Miami Herald among many others — was filing for bankruptcy protection.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hedge fund behind McClatchy bankruptcy set to take over, Jonathan O'Connell, Feb. 15, 2020 (print ed.). Chatham Asset Management will take over newspaper chain if court approves reorganization plan. Bankruptcy may have been inevitable for the newspaper chain McClatchy ever since its ill-fated decision to borrow heavily in 2006 to buy another chain, Knight Ridder, for $4.5 billion.

Shortly afterward both the national economy and the print news industry collapsed, and the latter has never recovered.

A decade of cost-cutting and efforts at growing new digital revenue wasn’t enough to change the company’s fortunes. More recent, behind-the-scenes transactions on Wall Street shaped a new path for the 163-year-old owner of the Miami Herald, the Charlotte Observer and 28 other newspapers across the country.

McClatchy’s announcement does not name who its new controlling owner would be, the hedge fund Chatham Asset Management, referring instead to Chatham as its largest secured creditor.

But details in hundreds of pages of documents associated with the filing show how Chatham used several financial transactions to exert increasing control over the company, to the point where it partnered with McClatchy on a bankruptcy plan that, if finalized and approved by the court, would hand control of the company to the hedge fund.

In a sign of possible complications to come, the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. raised concerns in a bankruptcy filing Friday about a 2018 financial transaction between Chatham and McClatchy and asked the court to investigate. The filing was first reported by McClatchy’s Washington bureau.

Chatham, which reported $4.4 billion in assets in 2019, isn’t a stranger to the news business but its reputation has not won accolades among McClatchy supporters and employees.

Chatham founder Anthony Melchiorre has been referred to as a “bare-knuckled fighter in business dealings” who “has waded deeper into contrarian bets over the years and stuck by them,” according to industry publication Pensions & Investments.

Chatham is also the controlling owner of American Media Inc., parent of the racy tabloid the National Enquirer. AMI’s chairman, David Pecker, worked with President Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen, to bury allegations of Trump’s extramarital affairs, and the publication threatened to publish intimate photos of Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos.

Feb. 14

washington post logoWashington Post, Crimea, Kashmir, Korea: Google redraws borders on maps depending on who’s looking, Greg Bensinger​, Feb. 14, 2020. ​ Google alters maps under political pressure and the whims of tech executives. Contract employees say a “disputed region team” addresses more prickly matters.

For more than 70 years, India and Pakistan have waged sporadic and deadly skirmishes over control of the mountainous region of Kashmir. Tens of thousands have died in the conflict, including three just this month.

google logo customBoth sides claim the Himalayan outpost as their own, but web surfers in India could be forgiven for thinking the dispute is all but settled: The borders on Google’s online maps there display Kashmir as fully under Indian control. Elsewhere, users see the region’s snaking outlines as a dotted line, acknowledging the dispute.

Google’s corporate mission is “to organize the world’s information,” but it also bends it to its will. From Argentina to the U.K. to Iran, the world’s borders look different depending on where you’re viewing them from. That’s because Google — and other online mapmakers — simply change them.

Feb. 13

mcclatchy logo

washington post logoWashington Post, McClatchy, one of the nation’s largest newspaper publishers, files for bankruptcy, Taylor Telford and Thomas Heath, Feb. 13, 2020. McClatchy Co., one of the nation’s largest newspaper publishers, filed for bankruptcy protection Thursday, another harbinger of America’s deepening local news crisis.

The Chapter 11 filing will allow the Sacramento-based company to keep its 30 newspapers afloat while it reorganizes more than $700 million in debt, 60 percent of which would be eliminated under the plan. If the court approves, it would also hand control of the 163-year-old family publisher to a hedge fund, Chatham Asset Management, its largest creditor.

The filing foreshadows further cost-cutting and retrenchment for one of the biggest players in local journalism at a time when most American newsrooms already are straining to cover their communities. About 20 percent of all U.S. newspapers have closed since 2004, according to a recent report from PEN America, and the sector has shed 47 percent of its jobs.

miami herald logoThe publisher of the Miami Herald, Kansas City Star and other regional dailies has been saddled with debt since its $4.5 billion takeover of a much bigger rival, Knight Ridder, in 2006. The combination coincided with a digital boom that disrupted the prevailing business model and changed the way news is consumed.

“In 2010, the total revenue for print ads fell below 1950 levels, and it has continued to decrease,” said Penny Abernathy, Knight chair of journalism and digital media economics at the University of North Carolina. “Everyone assumed if you could just make the transition over to digital that things would be okay. But the problem is that as of 2015, Google and Facebook make up about 75 percent of the digital ad dollar in U.S. markets. That’s not enough to sustain the newsrooms McClatchy inherited from Knight Ridder.”

Feb. 12

National Public Radio, Major Smartphone Trade Show Canceled In Barcelona Amid Coronavirus Concerns, Shannon Bond, Feb. 12, 2020.  Organziers of the Mobile World Congress had resisted calls to cancel the event, but reversed course after major companies pulled out over coronavirus fears.

One of the world's biggest trade shows has been cancelled as mounting concerns over the coronavirus outbreak ripple across the business world.

Organizers called off the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, after big-name participants pulled out.

The annual conference, scheduled to kick off on Feb. 24, is a marquee event for the city of Barcelona and for the mobile phone industry. It typically attracts more than 100,000 attendees each year who come to check out the latest in smartphone technology.

facebook logoBut in recent days, companies from Sony and Intel to Amazon and Facebook said they would stay away because of worries about the safety of their employees.

The conference organizer, GSMA, initially resisted calls to cancel. It said it would put in place health precautions including scanning body temperatures, and advised attendees against shaking hands.

Still, companies kept pulling out, and on Wednesday, GSMA reversed course. "The global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event," the group's CEO, John Hoffman, said in a statement.

Other trade shows and business events have also been affected by the outbreak. More than two dozen industry conferences in Asia have been postponed, Reuters reported. Watchmaker Swatch canceled an event in Zurich planned for late February.

WKRN-TV (ABC affiliate in Nashville), TN lawmakers introduce joint resolution to recognize CNN and Washington Post as “fake news,” Staff report, Feb. 11, 2020. An amendment to a house joint resolution was announced Tuesday at the Tennessee State Capitol, announcing that the state of Tennessee recognizes CNN and The Washington Post “as fake news and part of the media wing of the Democratic party.”

cnn logoAccording to the resolution, lawmakers say that an editor of The Washington Post wrote on October 3, 2019 that President Trump “cast a spell on the Republican Party and suggested that Trumpism is cult-like.” The resolution also says that a CNN host suggested that Trump supporters “belong to a cult and that our president is using mind control” on November 24, 2019.

“We recognize that fake news outlets suggest ideas without directly making accusations so that they can claim innocence from their ivory towers,” the resolution reads.

The joint resolution introduced in the state House with the Senate reportedly concurring says that CNN and The Washington Post are condemned “for denigrating our citizens and implying that they are weak-minded followers instead of people exercising their rights that our veterans paid for with their blood.”

Read the full resolution here.

gabriel matzneff infographic

ny times logoNew York Times, Gabriel Matzneff, Who Wrote for Years About Pedophilia, Is Charged, Norimitsu Onishi, Feb. 12, 2020. Gabriel Matzneff  (shown above), the French writer who talked openly for decades about engaging in pedophilia, was charged on Wednesday in a Paris court with promoting the sexual abuse of children.

Mr. Matzneff, who has been in hiding in the Italian Riviera and did not appear in court, was accused of defending and justifying pedophilia through his many books and public appearances, according to the case filed by l’Ange Bleu, an anti-pedophilia organization.

The court set September 2021 as the start of the trial, which will scrutinize not only the author’s actions but also those of the French elite who published his books, promoted his career and even helped him evade justice.

“Everyone will have to take responsibility,” l’Ange Bleu’s lawyer, Méhana Mouhou, said after the hearing.

L’Ange Bleu is using a special legal procedure to force Mr. Matzneff to stand trial, arguing that its interests as an organization devoted to fighting pedophilia were damaged by Mr. Matzneff’s longstanding promotion of pedophilia. If convicted in that case, Mr. Matzneff, 83, could face up to five years in prison.

Although Mr. Matzneff is not scheduled to appear in court until next year in the case brought by the anti-pedophilia organization, he could face legal challenges sooner if prosecutors decide to charge him in specific cases of abuse.

Prosecutors, who have been criticized in recent weeks for their long inaction despite Mr. Matzneff’s avowed pedophilia, are moving on a separate track that could lead to more criminal charges.

They said on Tuesday that they would actively seek other victims of the author, and on Wednesday they raided for the second time the headquarters of Gallimard, one of Mr. Matzneff’s publishers, to seize more of his books and manuscripts, according to the French news media.

Mr. Matzneff openly talked and wrote about pedophilia, but the dynamic changed after the publication last month of Le Consentement (“Consent”) by Vanessa Springora, the first testimony by one of the writer’s underage victims.

Fueling an abrupt cultural shift in France, the book touched off the sudden downfall of Mr. Matzneff, who was dropped by his three publishers, stripped of a rare benefit from the French government and abandoned by longtime supporters.

Until just a few weeks ago, Mr. Matzneff was recognized as a celebrated writer.

In many books, Mr. Matzneff writes about his relations with teenage girls in France and sex tourism in the Philippines with boys as young as 8. His breakthrough book as an author, from 1974, had the title Les Moins de Seize Ans (“Under 16 Years Old”).

Feb. 11

tribune publishing logo

Hartford Business Journal, Another round of buyouts hits the Hartford Courant’s newsroom, Joe Cooper, Feb. 11, 2020. For the second time in two years, The Hartford Courant’s newsroom has shrunk from buyouts, as daily print newspapers face a challenging and changing media landscape.

Four reporters and two editors recently accepted voluntary separation packages that parent Tribune Publishing recently offered to employees, according to Rebecca Lurye, a Courant reporter and chair of the Hartford Courant Guild.

The buyouts -- terms of which were not disclosed -- came one year after the Courant’s newsroom agreed to form a union and months after New York alden global capital logohedge fund Alden Global Capital LLC became the largest shareholder of Chicago-based Tribune.

Lurye said the 60 or so Courant reporters and editors were concerned about Alden’s reputation of slashing newspaper jobs and sucking up short-term profits at other media organizations it controls through its MediaNews Group subsidiary, including The Denver Post, St. Paul Pioneer Press and Boston Herald.

Their concerns were realized a month ago when Tribune sent an email to staffers announcing its latest round of buyouts citing “industry-wide revenue challenges.”

“They are not receptive to our message, which is buyouts are incredibly damaging to a newsroom,” Lurye said of recent collective bargaining negotiations. “There has been a lot of mixed messaging from the company saying we are a leading media company, or that we are doing really well financially.” (Tribune reported revenue of $236 million in the third-quarter last year, down from $255.8 million in the year prior.)

In recent days, town reporter Michael Walsh, environmental and agricultural reporter Gregory B. Hladky and nature columnist Peter Marteka have all publicly announced their departures from the Courant.

Lurye said the 256-year-old paper’s newsroom has shrunk by 30 staffers since she joined it in early 2017, either through buyouts or positions being left unfilled. That includes the 10 newsroom veterans that left the newspaper during the last round of buyouts in Nov. 2018, she said.

In 2014, Hartford Business Journal reported the Courant’s newsroom peaked in 1994 at 400 employees and fell to 135 employees in 2009. There are well under 100 newsroom employees today.

“That's an incredible loss for a newspaper,” Lurye said.

Cross-state rival Hearst Newspapers in recent years has hired away some big-name Courant talent, including economic and political columnist Dan Haar, sports columnist Jeff Jacobs and columnist and radio personality Colin McEnroe, who is now at Connecticut Public.

The cost-cutting moves have occurred as average weekday print circulation at the Hartford paper has dropped 43% since the fourth quarter of 2015 from 90,057 to 51,416 in the fourth quarter of 2019, according to Alliance for Audited Media (AAM) figures. The average Sunday print circulation in that period fell 40% from 160,563 in 2015, to 96,541 in 2019, AAM said.

In a statement, Andrew Julien, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Hartford Courant Media Group, said “The structural changes in reader habits that have affected print operations at the Courant and newspapers across the nation are well documented and well known. At the same time, we continue to see strong engagement from readers on both the print and digital fronts, with impressive growth particularly on the digital side."

Julien added that during the recent New England Newspaper & Press Association annual awards ceremony the Courant was awarded first place in digital engagement, "a testament to the creative and innovative approaches to storytelling that are keeping the Courant relevant to a new generation of news readers."

He also said the Courant's mission remains the same, to produce "high quality, hard-hitting journalism.”

Feb. 10 julian assange and swedens politically appointed judges indicter graphic

WikiLeaks Editor Julian Assange (graphic by The Indicter Magazine and Swedish Doctors for Human Rights).

OpEdNews, Opinion: What Is Happening to Assange Will Happen to the Rest of Us, Chris Hedges, Feb. 10, 2020. David Morales, the indicted owner of the Spanish private security firm Undercover Global, is being investigated by Spain's high court for allegedly providing the CIA with audio and video recordings of the meetings WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had with his attorneys and other visitors when the publisher was in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

The security firm also reportedly photographed the passports of all of Assange's visitors. It is accused of taking visitors' phones, which were not permitted in the embassy, and opening them, presumably in an effort to intercept calls. It reportedly stole data from laptops, electronic tablets and USB sticks, all required to be left at the embassy reception area. It allegedly compiled detailed reports on all of Assange's meetings and conversations with visitors. The firm even is said to have planned to steal the diaper of a baby brought to visit Assange to perform a DNA test to establish whether the infant was a secret son of Assange. UC Global, apparently at the behest of the CIA, also allegedly spied on Ecuadorian diplomats who worked in the London embassy.

The probe by the court, the Audiencia Nacional, into the activities of UC Global, along with leaked videos, statements, documents and reports published by the Spanish newspaper El País as well as the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, offers a window into the new global security state. Here the rule of law is irrelevant. Here privacy and attorney-client privilege do not exist. Here people live under 24-hour-a-day surveillance. Here all who attempt to expose the crimes of tyrannical power will be hunted down, kidnapped, imprisoned and broken. This global security state is a terrifying melding of the corporate and the public. And what it has done to Assange it will soon do to the rest of us.

The publication of classified documents is not yet a crime in the United States. If Assange is extradited and convicted, it will become one. Assange is not an American citizen. WikiLeaks, which he founded, is not a U.S.-based publication. The extradition of Assange would mean the end of journalistic investigations into the inner workings of power. It would cement into place a terrifying global, corporate tyranny under which borders, nationality and law mean nothing. Once such a legal precedent is set, any publication that publishes classified material, from The New York Times to an alternative website, will be prosecuted and silenced.

The flagrant defiance of law and international protocols in the persecution of Assange is legion. In April 2019, Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno capriciously terminated Assange's right of asylum at the London embassy, where he spent seven years, despite Assange's status as a political refugee. Moreno authorized British police to enter the embassy diplomatically sanctioned sovereign territory to arrest a naturalized citizen of Ecuador. (Assange retains his Australian citizenship.) The British police seized Assange, who has never committed a crime, and the British government keeps him imprisoned, ostensibly for a bail violation.

Assange is being held in the notorious high-security HM Prison Belmarsh. He has spent much of his time in isolation, is often heavily sedated and has been denied medical treatment for a variety of physical ailments. His lawyers say they are routinely denied access to their client. Nils Melzer, the United Nations' special rapporteur on torture who examined Assange with two physicians, said Assange has undergone prolonged psychological torture. Melzer has criticized what he calls the "judicial persecution" of Assange by Britain, the United States, Ecuador and Sweden, which prolonged an investigation into a sexual assault case in an effort to extradite Assange to Sweden. Assange said the case was a pretext to extradite him to the United States. Once Assange was arrested by British police the sexual assault case was dropped.

Melzer says Assange would face a politicized show trial in the United States if he were extradited to face 17 charges under the Espionage Act for his role in publishing classified military and diplomatic cables, documents and videos that exposed U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each of the counts carries a potential sentence of 10 years, and an additional charge that Assange conspired to hack into a government computer has a maximum sentence of five years. A hearing to determine whether he will be extradited to the United States starts Feb. 24 at London's Woolwich Crown Court. It is scheduled to last about a week and then resume May 18, for three weeks more.

WikiLeaks released U.S. military war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq, a cache of 250,000 diplomatic cables and 800 Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs along with the 2007 "Collateral Murder" video, in which U.S. helicopter pilots banter as they gun down civilians, including children and two Reuters journalists, in a Baghdad street. The material was given to WikiLeaks in 2010 by Chelsea Manning, then Bradley Manning, a low-ranking intelligence specialist in the U.S. Army. Assange has been accused by an enraged U.S. intelligence community of causing "one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States." Manning was convicted of espionage charges in August 2013 and sentenced to 35 years in a military prison. She was granted clemency in January 2017 by President Barack Obama. Manning was ordered back to prison last year after refusing to testify before a grand jury in the WikiLeaks case, and she remains behind bars. No one was ever charged for the war crimes WikiLeaks documented.

Assange earned the enmity of the Democratic Party establishment by publishing 70,000 hacked emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee and senior Democratic officials. The emails were copied from the accounts of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman. The Podesta emails exposed the donation of millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two of the major funders of Islamic State. It exposed the $657,000 that Goldman Sachs paid to Hillary Clinton to give talks, a sum so large it can only be considered a bribe. It exposed Clinton's repeated mendacity. She was caught in the emails, for example, telling the financial elites that she wanted "open trade and open borders" and believed Wall Street executives were best positioned to manage the economy, a statement that contradicted her campaign statements. It exposed the Clinton campaign's efforts to influence the Republican primaries to ensure that Donald Trump was the Republican nominee. It exposed Clinton's advance knowledge of questions in a primary debate. It exposed Clinton as the principal architect of the war in Libya, a war she believed would burnish her credentials as a presidential candidate.

Journalists can argue that this information, like the war logs, should have remained hidden, but they can't then call themselves journalists.

The Democratic and Republican leaders are united in their crusade to extradite and sentence Assange. The Democratic Party, which has attempted to blame Russia for its election loss to Trump, charges that the Podesta emails were obtained by Russian government hackers. However, James Comey, the former FBI director, has conceded that the emails were probably delivered to WikiLeaks by an intermediary, and Assange has said the emails were not provided by "state actors."

WikiLeaks has done more than any other news organization to expose the abuses of power and crimes of the American empire. In addition to the war logs and the Podesta emails, it made public the hacking tools used by the CIA and the National Security Agency and their interference in foreign elections, including French elections. It disclosed the internal conspiracy against British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn by Labour members of Parliament. It intervened to save Edward Snowden, who made public the wholesale surveillance of the American public by our intelligence agencies, from extradition to the United States by helping him flee from Hong Kong to Moscow. (The Snowden leaks also revealed that Assange was on a U.S. "manhunt target list.")

The inquiry by the Spanish court is the result of a criminal complaint filed by Assange, who accuses Morales and UC Global of violating his privacy and client-attorney confidentiality rights. The WikiLeaks founder also says the firm is guilty of misappropriation, bribery and money laundering.

washington post logofacebook logoWashington Post, Democrats call for Facebook, Twitter to take down edited Nancy Pelosi video, Cat Zakrzewski, Feb. 10, 2020 (print ed.). It’s likely just the start of an ongoing battle between social media companies and politicians about altered media.\

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who represents Silicon Valley, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who helms the House antitrust investigation of Big Tech, and a longtime Pelosi staffer were among the prominent voices who called for Twitter and Facebook to twitter bird Customtake action against the Pelosi clip.

The video was edited to make it look like the House speaker was ripping up a copy of Trump’s State of the Union speech right after he paid tribute to various special guests --- including a Tuskegee airman and a military family being reunited. (Pelosi did tear up the speech, but at the conclusion of the president’s remarks, not in response to any individual guest.)

ny times logoNew York Times, He Combs the Web for Russian Bots. That Makes Him a Target, Adam Satariano, Feb. 10, 2020 (print ed.). Ben Nimmo, shown below right, in an Atlantic Council photo, helped pioneer disinformation investigations. His work is now more urgent as misleading internet tactics spread.

ben nimmo atlantic councilIn August 2017, Ben Nimmo was declared dead by 13,000 Russian bots on Twitter.

“Our beloved friend and colleague Ben Nimmo passed away this morning,” read the epitaph, which was manipulated to look as if it were from a co-worker’s Twitter account. “Ben, we will never forget you.”

The message was immediately shared thousands of times by the network of automated accounts. Notes began pouring in from worried friends and colleagues — even though Mr. Nimmo was very much alive.

It didn’t take long for Mr. Nimmo, who helped pioneer investigations into online disinformation, to figure out what was going on: He had been targeted by a shadowy group after reporting, along with others, that American far-right groups had adopted pro-Kremlin messages on social media about Ukraine. His fake death notice was a sinister attempt at disinformation, which is the spreading of falsehoods with the deliberate intent to mislead.

“That made it personal,” said Mr. Nimmo, 47, whose home address in a town near Edinburgh and other personal data, like bank details, have also been posted online.

For the last five years, Mr. Nimmo, a founder of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, has been a leader of a small but growing community of online sleuths. These researchers serve as an informal internet police force that combats malicious attempts to use false information to sway public opinion, sow political discord and foment distrust in traditional institutions like the news media and the government.

Mr. Nimmo’s work came to the fore after the 2016 American presidential election, when intelligence agencies concluded that Russia had used Facebook and other internet platforms to influence voters. His research has since caused Facebook and other companies to ban thousands of disinformation-related accounts; he has also been tapped as an expert by governments studying foreign interference.

Now his skills are needed more than ever, as the 2020 presidential election approaches and the tactics of internet trickery have been adopted by governments, activist groups and clickbait farms in at least 70 countries. In tandem, a disinformation-for-hire industry has emerged. And domestic disinformation efforts in the United States are also on the rise.

“It doesn’t matter how much money you throw at the problem, or how many technological advances you have,” said Jenni Sargent, managing director of First Draft, a London group that tracks disinformation and trains journalists. “Without the human layer of someone like Ben dissecting the way that people use the internet, then we wouldn’t be as far ahead as we are in terms of understanding the problem and the scale.”

Mr. Nimmo works from his home atop a hill and next to a grain farm in the small Scottish town of Haddington. To ferret out disinformation networks, he relies on open-source digital tools: the Wayback Machine to find internet pages that have been deleted; Amnesty International’s Citizen Evidence Lab, which provides information about YouTube videos; and Sysomos for spotting social media trends.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ransomware Attacks Grow, Crippling Cities and Businesses, Nathaniel Popper, Feb. 10, 2020 (print ed.). Hackers are locking people out of their networks and demanding big payments to get back in. New data shows just how common and damaging the attacks have become.

The frequency of ransomware attacks — among the scariest and most costly online assaults — has been hard to pinpoint because many victims quietly pay off their attackers without notifying the authorities.

Now, an array of new data provides perhaps the best available picture of the problem. In 2019, 205,280 organizations submitted files that had been hacked in a ransomware attack — a 41 percent increase from the year before, according to information provided to The New York Times by Emsisoft, a security firm that helps companies hit by ransomware.

ny times logoNew York Times, Amazon Is Quietly Removing Books That Promote Nazis, David Streitfeld, Feb. 10, 2020 (print ed.). The retailer once said it would sell “the good, the bad and the ugly.” Now it is getting pulled into the free speech debates that have roiled social media sites.

george lincoln rockwellOver the past 18 months, the retailer has removed two books by David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, as well as several titles by George Lincoln Rockwell, left, the founder of the American Nazi Party. Amazon has also prohibited volumes like The Ruling Elite: The Zionist Seizure of World Power and A History of Central Banking and the Enslavement of Mankind.

While few may lament the disappearance of these hate-filled books, the increasing number of banished titles has set off concern among some of the third-party booksellers who stock Amazon’s vast virtual shelves. Amazon, they said, seems to operate under vague or nonexistent rules.

amazon logo small“Amazon reserves the right to determine whether content provides an acceptable experience,” said one recent removal notice that the company sent to a bookseller.

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have been roiled in recent years by controversies that pit freedom of speech against offensive content. Amazon has largely escaped this debate. But with millions of third-party merchants supplying much of what Amazon sells to tens of millions of customers, that ability to maintain a low profile may be reaching its end.

Amazon began as a bookstore and, even as it has moved on to many more lucrative projects, now controls at least two-thirds of the market for new, used and digital volumes in the United States. With its profusion of reader reviews, ability to cut prices without worrying about profitability and its control of the electronic book landscape, to name only three advantages, Amazon has immense power to shape what information people are consuming.

Yet the retailer declines to provide a list of prohibited books, say how they were chosen or even discuss the topic. “Booksellers make decisions every day about what selection of books they choose to offer,” it said in a statement.

Gregory Delzer is a Tennessee bookseller whose Amazon listings account for about a third of his sales. “They don’t tell us the rules and don’t let us have a say,” he said. “But they squeeze us for every penny.”

Nazi-themed items regularly crop up on Amazon, where they are removed under its policy on “offensive and controversial materials.” Those rules pointedly do not apply to books. Amazon merely says that books for sale on its site “should provide a positive customer experience.”

Now Amazon is becoming increasingly proactive in removing Nazi material. It even allowed its own Nazi-themed show, “The Man in the High Castle,” to be cleaned up for a tribute book. The series, which began in 2015 and concluded in November, is set in a parallel United States where the Germans and the Japanese won World War II.

Feb. 9

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, What Happens When QAnon Seeps From the Web to the Offline World, Mike McIntire and Kevin Roose, Feb. 9, 2020. A city council member in California took the dais and quoted from QAnon, a pro-Trump conspiracy theory about “deep state” traitors plotting against the president, concluding her remarks, “God bless Q.”

What began online more than two years ago as an intricate, if baseless, conspiracy theory that quickly attracted thousands of followers has since found footholds in the offline world. QAnon has surfaced in political campaigns, criminal cases, merchandising and at least one college class.

Last month, hundreds of QAnon enthusiasts gathered in a Tampa, Fla., park to listen to speakers and pick up literature, and in England, a supporter of President Trump and the Brexit leader Nigel Farage raised a “Q” flag over a Cornish castle.

The seepage of conspiracy theorizing from the digital fever swamps into life offline is one of the more unsettling developments of the Trump era, in which the president has relentlessly pushed groundless conspiracies to reshape political narratives to his liking.

In promoting fringe ideas about deep state schemes, Mr. Trump has at times elevated and encouraged QAnon followers — recirculating their posts on Twitter, posing with one for a photograph in the Oval Office, inviting some to a White House “social media summit.” Recently, during a daylong Twitter binge, Mr. Trump retweeted more than 20 posts from accounts that had trafficked in QAnon material.

QAnon began in October 2017, when a pseudonymous user of the online message board 4chan started writing cryptic posts under the name Q Clearance Patriot. The person claimed to be a high-ranking official privy to top-secret information from Mr. Trump’s inner circle. Over two years and more than 3,500 posts, Q — whose identity has never been determined — has unspooled a sprawling conspiracy narrative that claims, among other things, that Mr. Trump was recruited by the military to run for office in order to break up a global cabal of pedophiles, and that Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation would end with prominent Democrats’ being imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay.

The anonymous posts subsequently moved to 8chan, where they remained until August, when that site was taken offline after the El Paso mass shooting. They now live on 8kun, a new website built by 8chan’s owner.

Most recently, the botched Iowa Democratic caucuses and the coronavirus outbreak have provided fodder for conspiracy mongering: QAnon fans shared groundless theories online linking the liberal billionaire George Soros to technological problems that hobbled the caucuses, and passed around bogus and potentially dangerous “treatments” for the virus.

About a dozen candidates for public office in the United States have promoted or dabbled in QAnon, and its adherents have been arrested in at least seven episodes, including a murder in New York and an armed standoff with the police near the Hoover Dam. The F.B.I. cited QAnon in an intelligence bulletin last May about the potential for violence motivated by “fringe political conspiracy theories.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Joan Cusack and other performance pros weigh in on the Democratic debate, James Warren, Feb. 9, 2020. James james warren CustomWarren, right, a former managing editor of the Chicago Tribune, is executive editor of NewsGuard, which rates the credibility of news and information sites.

What did professional observers of performance think of Friday night’s debate in New Hampshire, an impressively sober, 2½-hour exchange?

It’s not an academic question. Just a few days before in his State of the Union address, President Trump demonstrated just how much of politics is theater — and how powerful it can sometimes be.

So it seemed like a good moment to change the lens and assess the Democrats as performers.

We asked a handful of experts who perform, teach performance or judge performers professionally, to give us their reactions. Our group included: Joan Cusack, two-time Academy Award-nominee; Chris Jones, theater critic of the Chicago Tribune; Kelly Leonard, executive vice president of the Second City improvisational comedy troupe; Anne Libera, director of comedy studies at Chicago’s Columbia College; Jon Maas, a Hollywood writer-producer; and Harvey Young, dean of the college of fine arts at Boston University.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. radio’s top player blames AI for layoffs. DJs say that’s spin, Drew Harwell, Feb. 9, 2020 (print ed.).The company that owns iHeartRadio and more than 850 local stations across the country has called AI the muscle it needs to fend off rivals.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Harvey Weinstein accuser Jessica Mann’s dramatic testimony is a new kind of test in sex-crime trials, Shayna Jacobs, Feb. 9, 2020. The actress's admitted consensual sexual relationship with Weinstein, both before and after the alleged assaults, makes her a traditionally imperfect witness.

Feb. 7

ny times logoNew York Times, Data Reveals Which Platforms Reported Surge in Child Pornography, Gabriel J.X. Dance and Michael H. Keller, Feb. 7, 2020. In a first, videos outnumbered photos in reports to the authorities last year. Facebook found the most imagery, the bulk of it on its Messenger app.Facebook found the bulk on its Messenger app, but while companies are getting better at finding such content, predators remain adept at exploiting their services.

facebook logoThe number of online photos and videos of child sexual abuse reported to the authorities grew by more than 50 percent last year, an indication that many of the world’s biggest technology platforms remain infested with the illegal material.

Nearly 70 million of the images and videos were reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a federally designated clearinghouse for the imagery that works with law enforcement agencies.

The record number was driven by a surge in illegal videos, which have always been popular among sexual predators but are now more readily detected by some companies. Over 41 million videos were reported; the number five years ago was under 350,000. The companies flagged many of the same images and videos multiple times as they were shared among users.

Miami Herald, Police report: Top aide to Miami’s mayor sent sexually graphic photo to teen’s phone, Charles Rabin, Joey Flechas and
David Ovalle, Feb. 5, 2020. On Feb. 7, Rene Pedrosa was arrested and charged with battery and transmitting pornography to a minor after police said he groped a teen in City Hall and later sent the teen a sexually explicit picture.

The report says Rene Pedrosa, 48, solicited some type of picture from the teen, who was familiar with Pedrosa. What exactly he solicited was redacted.

Pedrosa, the mayor’s spokesman and a former television reporter, resigned Tuesday after Mayor Francis Suarez said Pedrosa admitted he was being investigated for “personal misconduct.”

The list of offenses, according to the report, are sexual performance by a child, possession of pornography and soliciting a child via computer and transmission of material harmful to minors.

Pedrosa spent years as a television news reporter at América TeVé-Channel 41, a Spanish-language television station that covers news across Miami-Dade County. Pedrosa often covered stories in local government and the court system.

He joined the mayor’s staff in January 2019 as Suarez’s communications director. Pedrosa became a top adviser and spokesman for the mayor, known for pushing the mayor’s views in local media, especially on Spanish-language radio.

Feb. 6

glenn greenwald ap photo leo correa

In this July 10, 2019 file photo, U.S. journalist Glenn Greenwald checks his news website at his home in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A judge in Brasilia dismissed accusations that Glenn Greenwald was involved in hacking phones of Brazilian officials, following weeks of criticism that his prosecution would infringe on constitutional protections for journalists. (AP Photo / Leo Correa, File)

Associated Press, Brazil judge rejects hacking accusation against Greenwald, Mauricio Savarese and David Biller, Feb. 6, 2020. A judge in ap logoBrazil’s capital on Thursday dismissed accusations that journalist Glenn Greenwald was involved in hacking phones of officials, following weeks of criticism that his prosecution would infringe on constitutional protections for the press.

Prosecutors last month leveled accusations that Greenwald helped a group of six people hack into phones of hundreds of local authorities, saying his actions amounted to criminal association and illegal interception of communications.

Since last year, Greenwald’s online media outlet The Intercept Brasil has published a series of excerpts from private conversations on a messaging app involving current Justice Minister Sérgio Moro.

The attempt by prosecutors to criminalize Greenwald’s work had prompted swift backlash from national and foreign journalist associations, freedom of expression advocates and Brazil’s national bar association.

brazil flag wavingThose groups said prosecutors were abusing their power to persecute Greenwald, an attorney-turned-journalist who lives with his husband and children in Rio de Janeiro. Greenwald’s lawyers called the allegations “bizarre” and said they challenged a previous ruling in the case by the Brazilian Supreme Court protecting freedom of the press.

Thursday’s decision by the Brasilia-based judge, Ricardo Leite, invoked that earlier ruling by Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes, who barred investigations of Greenwald and The Intercept Brasil in relation to the alleged hacking.

“My feeling is that the decision of Justice Gilmar Mendes adopted a wide and extensive sense and it does include the interpretation of blocking any action of investigation by the state, both in the investigation phase and in the judicial one,” Leite wrote in his decision.

While rejecting the claims regarding Greenwald, Leite accepted those against the six alleged hackers, who will now face charges as defendants.

The journalist said in a statement that he welcomes “the fact that this investigation will not move forward,” but adds that he believes “this decision is insufficient to guarantee the rights of a free press.”

“We seek a decisive rejection from the Supreme Court of this abusive prosecution on the grounds that it is a clear and grave assault on core press freedoms. Anything less would leave open the possibility of further erosion of the fundamental freedom of the press against other journalists,” Greenwald said.

He said his news outlet would continue to publish reports based on material obtained from the source.

The Intercept also welcomed the ruling, with reservations.

“As federal police investigators affirmed last year, he did nothing wrong,” said Betsy Reed, The Intercept’s editor-in-chief. “However, the ruling is narrow and procedural, based on the injunction issued by a Supreme Court minister last year.”

The leaked excerpts published by The Intercept Brasil purport to show that Moro, then a judge, was improperly coordinating with prosecutors he was overseeing in a vast corruption investigation.

Feb. 5

Transitions

bob woodward carl bernstein npc noel 10 20 14

Authors Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein at the National Press Club remember their iconic Watergate books (2014 file photo by Noel St. John.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Alice Mayhew, Who Edited a Who’s Who of Writers, Dies at 87, Anita Gates, Feb. 5, 2020 (print ed.). At Simon & Schuster, best sellers were her stock in trade. She popularized the nonfiction political page turner, starting with All the President’s Men.

Alice Mayhew, a widely admired editor who shepherded into print best sellers by a veritable who’s who of writers — along the way popularizing the Washington political narrative, beginning with All the President’s Men in 1974 — died on Tuesday at her home in Manhattan. alice mayhew 2007 david jacobs.jpgShe was 87.

The death was confirmed by Simon & Schuster, where she had been a vice president and editorial director.

All the President’s Men, the Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s account of how they uncovered the truth about the Watergate burglary and the subsequent White House effort to cover it up, became an immediate best seller and had a decided impact on American history. Published on June 15, 1974 (no advance copies had been provided, even for reviewers), it accelerated a growing public disapproval of President Richard M. Nixon’s actions and helped fuel a congressional drive toward impeachment that led to Nixon’s resignation 55 days later.

Ms. Mayhew (shown in a 2007 photo at right by David Jacobs) also worked with notable public figures, including President Jimmy Carter (A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety, 2015) and the Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (My Own Words, 2017).

The countless best sellers that Ms. Mayhew edited include John Dean’s Blind Ambition: The White House Years (1976); Taylor Branch’s Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years (1998); Walter Isaacson’s books, including Steve Jobs (2011) and Leonardo da Vinci (2017); David Brooks’s On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (and Always Have) in the Future Tense (2004), an examination of contemporary American society; Diane McWhorter’s Pulitzer Prize-winning civil rights history, Carry Me Home (2001); and the first volumes of Sidney Blumenthal’s political biography of Abraham Lincoln, beginning with A Self-Made Man (2016).

In 2014, when Simon & Schuster celebrated its 90th anniversary by having staff members vote for their 90 favorite titles over those years, almost one-third of the books (29) had been edited by Ms. Mayhew.

Mr. Woodward’s Fear: Trump in the White House (2018) was, as he noted in the acknowledgments, his 19th book with her.

Ms. Mayhew’s books occasionally dealt with the lighter side of political or popular culture. She edited Kitty Kelley’s gossipy biography Nancy Reagan (1991) and two memoirs by the fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg.

While Ms. Mayhew firmly avoided talking about herself, she was considerably more straightforward when discussing others.

In an interview with Len Colodny, co-author of Silent Coup: The Removal of a President, about Mr. Dean’s claim that his editors had told him to include false information in Blind Ambition (reissued in 2009), Ms. Mayhew said: “That’s a lie. L-I-E. That is spelled L-I-E.”

Feb. 4

Press Freedom

boris johnson hand up unsourced

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (file photo)

Reporters Without Borders USA (RSF USA), UK: Banning of journalists from Downing Street press briefing latest worrying move by Boris Johnson’s new government, Staff report, Feb. 4, 2020. Today’s attempt by Downing Street to ban select journalists from a press briefing is the latest of a number of worrying steps taken by Boris Johnson’s new government that restrict press freedom.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for an immediate reversal of this alarming trend before the UK follows the US further down the World Press Freedom Index.

united kingdom flagOn February 3, political journalists walked out of a Downing Street press briefing en masse after an aide attempted to ban selected reporters from attending. The Prime Minister’s Director of Communications, Lee Cain, reportedly tried to prevent journalists from the Independent, the i, the Mirror, HuffPost, PoliticsHome, and others from covering the briefing, on the grounds that they had not been specifically invited. A handful of media had received invitations to a “No10 technical background briefing on the UK’s future relationship with the EU;” however, the journalists who had been invited walked out in protest to the barring of access for their colleagues.

Political journalists had recently complained about the change in location of daily press briefings from Parliament to Downing Street. Many feared this measure could be used to impose restrictions on which media were permitted access, and as highlighted in a letter signed by every national newspaper editor, otherwise “create barriers to covering democracy and impede the work of a free press.”

bbc news logo2In December, it was confirmed that the government was considering decriminalising non-payment of the licence fee that provides the majority of the BBC’s funding -- a step that could effectively defund the country’s foremost public service broadcaster. Reports also emerged that ministers have been banned from appearing on BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs programme, the Today Programme -- a move criticized as an attempt to “delegitimize” the broadcaster.

“Restrictions on journalists’ access and threats against public service media are nothing short of alarming, and are disturbingly reminiscent of early Trump administration moves in the US - practices that should be reversed, not replicated. We call on the Prime Minister to ensure that such steps are immediately ceased, and that this government is acting in line with the country’s obligations to protect and respect press freedom,” said RSF UK Bureau Director Rebecca Vincent.

The UK is ranked 33rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Social media was a cesspool of toxic Iowa conspiracy theories last night. It’s only going to get worse, Margaret margaret sullivan 2015 photoSullivan, Feb. 4, 2020. Dubious but noisy allegations of caucus-rigging could undermine faith in our democracy.

All credible reporting seemed to confirm the explanation that a technical snag, not a dirty trick, was to blame. But it didn’t matter. Iowa conspiracy theorists were already working overtime long before voters headed to their caucus sites Monday evening, thanks to another technical glitch that prompted the Des Moines Register to cancel the release of its vaunted Iowa Poll on Saturday night.

Supporters of Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang circulated the hashtag “#ReleaseThePoll,” claiming without evidence that it had been killed because their respective candidates did better than expected.

Feb. 3

washington post logoWashington Post, Rush Limbaugh says he has advanced lung cancer, will continue radio program while he undergoes treatment, Paul Farhi, Feb. 3, 2020. Rush Limbaugh, for decades the leading figure in conservative talk radio, said during his program on Monday that he has advanced lung cancer and will soon begin treatment.

Limbaugh, 69, gave few details about his condition other than a diagnosis from two doctors.

The radio icon said he sought a doctor’s opinion after experiencing shortness of breath on Jan. 12, his birthday.

“I thought about not telling anybody,” he said on the air from his home studio in West Palm Beach, Fla. “It is what it is. You know me, I’m the mayor of Realville. This has happened, and my intention is to come here every day I can and do this program as normally and competently and expertly as I do each and every day because that is the source of my greatest satisfaction professionally, personally.”

He added: “I’ve had so much support from family and friends during this that it’s been tremendous. I told the staff today that I have a deeply personal relationship with God that I do not proselytize about. But I do, and I have been working that relationship tremendously, which I do regularly anyway, but I’ve been focused on it intensely for the past couple of weeks.”

washington post logoWashington Post, The end comes for another local newspaper, 165 years after it began, Paul Farhi, Feb. 3, 2020 (print ed.). They’re closing up the office now, with its musty odor of moldering newsprint and decrepit bound copies stacked neck-high. On Thursday, the last Montgomery Sentinel rolled off a press, 165 years after its birth.

The newspaper once carried ads for slaves and chronicled the news from both the Civil War and the civil rights movement. It survived the Great Depression and muddled through the Great Recession. But the paper, with editions serving Maryland’s two largest counties, Montgomery and Prince George’s, couldn’t survive Facebook and Google and Instagram. And so now it is gone, the latest to fall in America’s vast newspaper famine.

The story has become humdrum, so routine that newspapers barely stir themselves to report on all the deaths in their family. The civic commemorations are brief, too, if they happen at all. The numbers are dry: More than 1 in 5 newspapers, mostly weeklies like the Sentinel, have dropped dead over the past 15 years.

Like all those papers, the Sentinel covered the local stuff, news of the community, just over the border from the nation’s capital. It wrote about county government (“Bike registration, stipends and zoning dominate meeting,” read last week’s headline), and once staffed all the other meaty beats: schools, politics, cops, courts.

The politicians and bureaucrats knew someone was watching — accountability journalism. Does Facebook do anything like that?

It wrote about people — the teachers, doctors, librarians and artists who lived down the street. When those people died, the obituaries helped everyone remember. Does Instagram do obits?

Feb. 2

U.S. TV / Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: For Better or Worse, Trump Will Get His Favorite Things on Super Bowl Sunday, Will Leitch, His pregame interview with Sean Hannity offers unfettered airtime in front of a huge national audience. This Sunday afternoon, before the San Francisco 49ers take on the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV, President Trump will speak with Sean Hannity on Fox, the network airing the Super Bowl. As you might suspect, this interview will be a much more insular enterprise. Mr. Trump speaks regularly with Mr. Hannity, who is seen as an informal but influential adviser, and Mr. Hannity has been in return a staunch, unyielding defender of the president.

It will mark the third time Mr. Trump will do the traditional interview before America’s annual television holiday; he spoke to Mr. O’Reilly in 2017, took 2018 off because the game was aired on NBC, and famously told Margaret Brennan of CBS that he wouldn’t allow his son Barron to play football because it’s “really tough” and “a dangerous sport.”

This year’s Super Bowl comes at an amazing moment, a confluence of political circumstances and events that give this particular bully pulpit a power and a spotlight it hasn’t had in years. With impeachment, the Iowa caucuses and the State of the Union all on deck, Mr. Trump will have a stage, and a famously pliant interviewer, that is unparalleled in American culture. He couldn’t ask for a more ideal year for it to be Fox’s turn to air the game.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘S.N.L.’ Imagines the Impeachment Trial That Could Have Been, Dave Itzkoff, Feb. 2, 2020. On Super Bowl weekend, Alec Baldwin returned to play President Trump in an episode that also featured several football-themed sketches. If you ended the week hoping that President Trump’s impeachment trial would go on longer, this weekend’s opening “Saturday Night Live” sketch imagined just such a scenario: a parade of self-serving witnesses that wasn’t necessarily an improvement.

This week’s episode, hosted by J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans and featuring the musical guest Luke Combs, began with a voice-over lamenting that the president’s trial “wound up consisting of two weeks of dry debate and posturing, and will conclude without any witness testimony or new evidence.” Instead, the sketch promised “the trial you wish had happened.”

#MeToo Scandals

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Angels’ in Hell: The Culture of Misogyny Inside Victoria’s Secret, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Katherine Rosman, Sapna Maheshwari and James B. Stewart, Feb. 2, 2020 (print ed.). Victoria’s Secret defined femininity for millions of women. Its catalog and fashion shows were popular touchstones. For models, landing a spot as an “Angel” all but guaranteed international stardom.

But inside the company, two powerful men presided over an entrenched culture of misogyny, bullying and harassment, according to interviews with more than 30 current and former executives, employees, contractors and models, as well as court filings and other documents.

edward razekEd Razek, right, for decades one of the top executives at L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, was the subject of repeated complaints about inappropriate conduct. He tried to kiss models. He asked them to sit on his lap. He touched one’s crotch ahead of the 2018 Victoria’s Secret fashion show.

Executives said they had alerted Leslie Wexner, the billionaire founder and chief executive of L Brands, about his deputy’s pattern of behavior. Some women who complained faced retaliation. One model, Andi Muise, said Victoria’s Secret had stopped hiring her victorias secret logofor its fashion shows after she rebuffed Mr. Razek’s advances.

A number of the brand’s models agreed to pose nude, often without being paid, for a prominent Victoria’s Secret photographer who later used some pictures in an expensive coffee-table book — an arrangement that made L Brands executives uncomfortable about women feeling pressured to take their clothes off.

The atmosphere was set at the top. Mr. Razek, the chief marketing officer, was perceived as Mr. Wexner’s proxy, leaving many employees with the impression he was invincible, according to current and former employees. On multiple occasions, Mr. Wexner himself was heard demeaning women.

Feb. 1

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter bans Zero Hedge account after it doxxed a Chinese researcher over coronavirus, Derek Hawkins, Feb. 1, 2020. Twitter on Friday permanently suspended the right-leaning finance blog Zero Hedge after it published a conspiracy theory suggesting that a Chinese scientist might be responsible for the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

twitter bird CustomA Twitter spokesperson did not comment on what specifically prompted the suspension, saying only that Zero Hedge was removed for violating the social media giant’s platform manipulation policy. Twitter defines platform manipulation as “using Twitter to engage in bulk, aggressive, or deceptive activity that misleads others and/or disrupts their experience.”

But Zero Hedge’s founder, who uses the pseudonym Tyler Durden, wrote in a Friday afternoon post that he received a notice from Twitter saying he violated the platform’s rules against abuse and targeted harassment.

“It is news to us that this website has (ever) ‘engaged in the targeted harassment of someone,' ” Durden wrote.

January

Jan. 31

Associated Press, Anne Cox Chambers, wealthy newspaper heiress, dies at 100, Jeff Martin, Jan. 31, 2020. Anne Cox Chambers, a newspaper heiress, diplomat and philanthropist who was one of the country’s richest women, has died at the age of 100.

Her nephew James Cox Kennedy announced her death to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, her company’s flagship newspaper.

Chambers, a director of Cox Enterprises Inc., promoted Jimmy Carter’s political career and served as U.S. ambassador to Belgium during his presidency. Forbes estimated her net worth several years ago at nearly $17 billion. She was well known for her charitable giving, and served on the boards of the Atlanta Arts Alliance and the High Museum of Art among other institutions.

She was the daughter of James Middleton Cox, the 1920 Democratic presidential candidate and founder of Cox Enterprises Inc. The privately held company has included The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other newspapers, radio and TV stations, cable TV systems and other businesses.

Chambers and her mother and siblings inherited the company when the senior Cox died in 1957.

While most of her wealthy friends were Republicans, she remained a staunch Democrat. At 89, she even knocked on doors for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, the newspaper reported.

“I just don’t discuss politics with my friends. No use having fights,” she once told Vanity Fair magazine.

“Both of my parents were extremely caring people, so that I think growing up, well, there was the fact of feeling responsible,” she said. “My father’s rich friends would complain about paying taxes, but he used to say it was a privilege to pay taxes. In Russia, you’d never make enough money to pay those taxes.”

Jan. 30

Media News

julian assange npc event jan 30 2020 Custom

@Action_4Assange, an advocacy group for the civil rights of imprisoned WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange, sponosored a panel discussion on Jan. 30, 2020 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The discussion is available via YouTube here. In related news, see a news report below based on a United Nations finding.

 

Courage Foundation video YouTube, The Prosecution of Julian Assange and Its Impact on the Freedom of the Press, expert panel appearing at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, Jan. 30, 2020, published on Jan. 31 and filmed by Taylor Hudak‏ of @Action_4Assange (70:04 mins).

WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange has been indicted on 17 counts of Espionage and 1 count of conspiracy to commit computer crime for WikiLeaks' 2010 publications of the Iraq War Logs, the Afghan War Diary, and State Department cables leaked to WikiLeaks by US Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

On Jan. 30, 2020, these legal and academic experts discussed the impact of Assange's prosecution on the freedom of the press, at the National Press Club's First Amendment Lounge in Washington DC.

Speakers:

  • Jameel Jaffer, Director, Knight First Amendment Institute
  • Amy Jeffress, Attorney, former US Department of Justice
  • Ben Wizner, Director, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project

Moderator: Mary-Rose Papandrea, Constitutional Law Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The Courage Foundation supports whistleblowers and the public's right to know. Courage hosts Julian Assange's defense site at defend.wikileaks.org

SwissInfo.org, UN rapporteur: Assange being set up to be ‘burnt at the stake,’ Nils Melzer, Jan. 31, 2020. The detention and potential extradition to the US of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is an attack on democratic principles and the freedom of the press, says the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture.

In an interview with news outlet Republikexternal link, Melzer delivered a damning indictment of the legal and political systems in the United States, Britain, Sweden and Ecuador.

“It is obvious that what we are dealing with here is political persecution,” he said. “The case is a huge scandal and represents the failure of Western rule of law.”

Assange is currently in a high-security prison in Britain fighting extradition to the US. In 2010 the whistleblowing website Wikileaks published material from former intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning of alleged US war crimes in Iraq.

Melzer got involved in the case last year but was dissatisfied with answers to his enquiries to the Swedish and British authorities. He has visited Assange in jail and says that the 48-year-old is being denied legal rights and is being subject to psychological torture that could cost him his life.

Melzer, who has previously criticised the Swiss government’s stance towards Assange, tells Republik that he has documentary evidence that Swedish police made up evidence to accuse Assange with rape, an investigation that was subsequently dropped.

“Four democratic countries joined forces – the US, Ecuador, Sweden and the UK – to leverage their power to portray one man as a monster so that he could later be burnt at the stake without any outcry. If Julian Assange is convicted, it will be a death sentence for freedom of the press,” Melzer said.

Assange is wanted for trial in the US to face several charges, including breaches of the Espionage Act. He continues to divide public opinion, with some accusing him of being a dangerous narcissist who endangers lives and others believing him to be a defender of democratic freedoms.

Jan. 29

mary louise kelly john bolton cnn files

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Pompeo Called Me a ‘Liar.’ That’s Not What Bothers Me, Mary Louise Kelly (co-host of NPR’s “All Things Considered”), Jan. 29, 2020. Journalists are supposed to ask tough questions, then share the answers — or lack thereof — with the world.

I write about all this now to refocus attention on the substance of the interviews, which has been overshadowed by Mr. Pompeo’s subsequently swearing at me, calling me a liar and challenging me to find Ukraine on an unmarked map.

For the record, I did. That’s not the point. The point is that recently the risk of miscalculation — of two old adversaries misreading each other and accidentally escalating into armed confrontation — has felt very real. It occurs to me that swapping insults through interviews with journalists such as me might, terrifyingly, be as close as the top diplomats of the United States and Iran came to communicating this month.

Rolling Stone, QAnon YouTubers Are Telling People to Drink Bleach to Ward Off Coronavirus, EJ Dickson, Jan. 29, 2020. Dangerous advice is spreading on YouTube and Twitter, despite efforts to stop it. 

As coronavirus spreads across the globe — with Chinese authorities confirming nearly 6,000 cases and 132 people dead as of Wednesday — the reaction on social media in particular has largely been marked by fear and panic. For some conspiracy theorists, however, it has also served as a prime opportunity to spread misinformation and baseless rumors about the disease — some of which are potentially extremely dangerous.

One terrifying example? QAnon supporters are encouraging people to drink MMS — or Miracle Mineral Solution, a bleaching agent that has been touted as a “miracle cure” by anti-vaxxers and other fringe groups — to ward off coronavirus. And despite restrictions on such content on platforms like YouTube, it is nonetheless fairly easy to find.

According to the Daily Beast, proponents of QAnon — the elaborate conspiracy theory purporting that President Donald Trump is waging a secret war against a ring of Democratic child sexual abusers — have been promoting MMS as a “cure” for coronavirus on Twitter, particularly the MMS-branded “20-20-20 spray,” with one account alleging it “kills viruses instantly.” Another prominent conspiracy theorist tweeted, “#coronavirus is a depopulation program,” recommending colloidal silver (a supplement that, if taken in large amounts, can result in discoloration of the skin and nails, or kidney damage) and MMS to ward off the disease.

Jan. 27

Reporters Facing Threats julian assange and swedens politically appointed judges indicter graphic

WikiLeaks Editor Julian Assange (graphic by The Indicter Magazine and Swedish Doctors for Human Rights).

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Reporters Face New Threats From the Governments They Cover, James Risen (right, a former reporter for The Times and james risen h ssenior national security correspondent for The Intercept), Jan. 27, 2020 (print ed.). The cases against Julian Assange and Glenn Greenwald may be models for a crackdown.

When Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, was charged last year by the Trump administration in connection with the publication of secret United States government documents nearly a decade earlier, many journalists expressed deep concern about the dangerous precedent the case could set for investigative reporting in America.

But few seemed to consider that the case might also serve as a model for other nations eager to clamp down on press freedom.

glenn greenwald hsOn Tuesday, Glenn Greenwald, left, an American journalist living and working in Brazil, was charged, in a criminal complaint brought by Brazilian prosecutors, with cybercrimes in connection with his stories on private messages among Brazilian officials that revealed corruption and abuses at the highest levels of the government. Brazilian prosecutors asserted that Mr. Greenwald was part of a criminal organization that hacked the cellphones of government officials. He has denied the charges. (Full disclosure: Mr. Greenwald is a co-founder of The Intercept, where I work as a reporter; I also run the First Look Press Freedom Defense Fund, part of the nonprofit organization that includes The Intercept.)

The case against Mr. Greenwald is eerily similar to the Trump administration’s case against Mr. Assange. Last April, the Justice Department charged Mr. Assange with aiding a source, the former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, to gain access to a United States military computer database. In May 2019, the charges against him were broadened, and he was indicted under the Espionage Act in connection with the publication of American military and diplomatic documents by WikiLeaks.

Both cases are based in part on a new prosecutorial concept — that journalism can be proved to be a crime through a focus on interactions between reporters and their sources. Prosecutors are now scrutinizing the processes by which sources obtain classified or private information and then provide it to journalists. Since those interactions today are largely electronic, prosecutors are seeking to criminalize journalism by turning to anti-hacking laws to implicate reporters in the purported criminal activity of their sources in gaining access to data on computers or cellphones without authorization.

This blunt approach gives the government enormous leverage over journalists and, in the United States, provides them with a detour around First Amendment concerns. If these cases become templates that prosecutors in the United States and other nations follow, virtually every investigative reporter will become vulnerable to criminal charges and imprisonment.

jair bolsonaro brazilBoth the Trump administration and the right-wing Brazilian government of President Jair Bolsonaro, right, seem to have decided to experiment with such draconian anti-press tactics by trying them out first on aggressive and disagreeable figures.

In fact, by the time of his indictment last year, there was still an ongoing debate within the media about whether Mr. Assange should even be considered a journalist at all.

Mr. Assange was both a publisher and an intermediary between sources and reporters, which made it difficult to define his journalistic role. His later involvement in the Trump-Russia case — in 2016, WikiLeaks obtained and released emails and other documents from the Clinton presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee from a hacker believed to be a front for Russian intelligence — transformed Mr. Assange into an even more incendiary character with little public support. (The federal charges against Mr. Assange are not related to his involvement in the 2016 campaign.)

It will be tragic if journalists shrug off the attack on the contrarian Mr. Greenwald and don’t see his case for what it truly signifies — that Trump-like attacks on the press are spreading like a virus around the globe.

mary louise kelly john bolton cnn files

washington post logoWashington Post, Emails support NPR host after Mike Pompeo calls her a liar in setting up contentious interview, Paul Farhi, Jan. 27, 2020 (print ed.). They indicate that the secretary of state’s press aide was aware that Mary Louise Kelly intended to ask him about several topics and the aide raised no objections, contrary to Pompeo’s characterization.

Pompeo’s statement implied that Kelly (shown above with Pompeo via separate file photos via CNN) had agreed before the interview to confine her questions to developments in Iran and that he would not be asked about other subjects. He made the same claim during the interview but Kelly pushed back, telling him she’d worked out a different arrangement with his staff.

But emails between Kelly and Pompeo’s press aide, Katie Martin, a day before the interview show that there was no such agreement and that Kelly made clear her intention to question Pompeo about other topics.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Post’s misguided suspension of Felicia Sonmez over Kobe Bryant tweets, Erik Wemple, Jan. 27, 2020.
The Post has suspended reporter Felicia Sonmez following her social-media activity over the death of NBA great Kobe Bryant. Here’s the explanation from Managing Editor Tracy Grant: “National political reporter Felicia Sonmez was placed on administrative leave while The Post reviews whether tweets about the death of Kobe Bryant violated The Post newsroom’s social media policy. The tweets displayed poor judgment that undermined the work of her colleagues.”

What did Sonmez do to deserve this brushback? She tweeted out a very good story from the Daily Beast.

News of Bryant’s death on Sunday prompted an immediate and overwhelming expression of grief on Twitter, with fans and followers praising an NBA icon. The perennial all-star perished in a helicopter crash along with eight other people, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. Sonmez wished to remind everyone of one incident in Bryant’s life.

An immediate and overwhelming expression of anger piled on Sonmez from Twitter users. Sonmez had directed her followers to this April 2016 story in the Daily Beast by Marlow Stern. Written at the time of Bryant’s farewell tour through NBA cities, the story takes a deep look at the sexual-assault allegation against Bryant stemming from his 2003 visit to Colorado’s Lodge & Spa at Cordillera. The case never made it to trial because the 19-year-old accuser — “who had been dragged through the mud for months by the media and Bryant’s defense team,” wrote Stern — declined to testify. She did, however, file a separate civil complaint, which Bryant settled.

Jan. 26

Reporters Facing Threats julian assange and swedens politically appointed judges indicter graphic

WikiLeaks Editor Julian Assange (graphic by The Indicter Magazine and Swedish Doctors for Human Rights).

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Reporters Face New Threats From the Governments They Cover, James Risen (right, a former reporter for The Times and james risen h ssenior national security correspondent for The Intercept), Jan. 26, 2020. The cases against Julian Assange and Glenn Greenwald may be models for a crackdown.

When Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, was charged last year by the Trump administration in connection with the publication of secret United States government documents nearly a decade earlier, many journalists expressed deep concern about the dangerous precedent the case could set for investigative reporting in America.

But few seemed to consider that the case might also serve as a model for other nations eager to clamp down on press freedom.

glenn greenwald hsOn Tuesday, Glenn Greenwald, left, an American journalist living and working in Brazil, was charged, in a criminal complaint brought by Brazilian prosecutors, with cybercrimes in connection with his stories on private messages among Brazilian officials that revealed corruption and abuses at the highest levels of the government. Brazilian prosecutors asserted that Mr. Greenwald was part of a criminal organization that hacked the cellphones of government officials. He has denied the charges. (Full disclosure: Mr. Greenwald is a co-founder of The Intercept, where I work as a reporter; I also run the First Look Press Freedom Defense Fund, part of the nonprofit organization that includes The Intercept.)

The case against Mr. Greenwald is eerily similar to the Trump administration’s case against Mr. Assange. Last April, the Justice Department charged Mr. Assange with aiding a source, the former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, to gain access to a United States military computer database. In May 2019, the charges against him were broadened, and he was indicted under the Espionage Act in connection with the publication of American military and diplomatic documents by WikiLeaks.

Both cases are based in part on a new prosecutorial concept — that journalism can be proved to be a crime through a focus on interactions between reporters and their sources. Prosecutors are now scrutinizing the processes by which sources obtain classified or private information and then provide it to journalists. Since those interactions today are largely electronic, prosecutors are seeking to criminalize journalism by turning to anti-hacking laws to implicate reporters in the purported criminal activity of their sources in gaining access to data on computers or cellphones without authorization.

This blunt approach gives the government enormous leverage over journalists and, in the United States, provides them with a detour around First Amendment concerns. If these cases become templates that prosecutors in the United States and other nations follow, virtually every investigative reporter will become vulnerable to criminal charges and imprisonment.

jair bolsonaro brazilBoth the Trump administration and the right-wing Brazilian government of President Jair Bolsonaro, right, seem to have decided to experiment with such draconian anti-press tactics by trying them out first on aggressive and disagreeable figures.

In fact, by the time of his indictment last year, there was still an ongoing debate within the media about whether Mr. Assange should even be considered a journalist at all.

Mr. Assange was both a publisher and an intermediary between sources and reporters, which made it difficult to define his journalistic role. His later involvement in the Trump-Russia case — in 2016, WikiLeaks obtained and released emails and other documents from the Clinton presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee from a hacker believed to be a front for Russian intelligence — transformed Mr. Assange into an even more incendiary character with little public support. (The federal charges against Mr. Assange are not related to his involvement in the 2016 campaign.)

It will be tragic if journalists shrug off the attack on the contrarian Mr. Greenwald and don’t see his case for what it truly signifies — that Trump-like attacks on the press are spreading like a virus around the globe.

glenn greenwald david miranda

Glenn Greenwald is show at right with his partner David Miranda.

Jan. 25

washington post logoWashington Post, Sanders supporters have weaponized Facebook to spread angry memes about his Democratic rivals, Craig Timberg and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Jan. 25, 2020 (print ed.). Users are using mass-posting technologies to flood Facebook with attacks on Elizabeth Warren and others.

A Democrat in Michigan scrolled through a surge of nasty Facebook memes about Sen. Elizabeth Warren last week before fixing on one that captured his growing dislike of the candidate. It depicted her smiling face as a mask. Behind it was Hillary Clinton.

facebook logoMatt Walters, 64, a retired factory worker and supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), shared the image onward to eight Facebook groups and tens of thousands of potential eyeballs with a few taps on his smartphone — using a popular new mass-posting technique that allows ordinary Americans to operate with rapid-fire speed reminiscent of Russian bots and trolls in 2016.

In that small way, Walters contributed to a massive wave of hostile memes about Sanders’s Democratic rivals that both reflects the rising divisiveness in the party’s nominating contest and, in the view of social media experts, exacerbates it.

The volume and viciousness of the memes — portraying Warren (D-Mass.) as a snake, a backstabber and a liar — reflect how Facebook identifies and rewards emotionally charged content to generate reactions from its billions of users. That serves the company’s ad-driven business model, which equates engagement with profit. But it also, in the view of experts who study Facebook’s effect on political speech, distorts democratic debate by confirming biases, sharpening divisions and elevating the glib visual logic of memes over reasoned discussion.

Facebook’s “algorithm not only aggregates people, it activates people in a way that accentuates extremism,” said George Washington University professor Steven Livingston, director of the university’s Institute for Data, Democracy and Politics. “It inflames passions. It inflames the nature of the discourse.”

Jan. 24

Press Freedom

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Open Letter to Brazilian Authorities on the Charges Against Journalist Glenn Greenwald, Jan. 24, 2020. A coalition of around 40 human rights and free speech NGOs have signed an open letter, organized by Freedom of the Press Foundation and Reporters Without Borders, addressed to the Brazilian authorities condemning the charges that the Brazilian federal prosecutor’s office has brought against US journalist Glenn Greenwald (shown below in a file screenshot).

glenn greenwald cnnThe charges must be now be examined by a federal judge, who could dismiss them and thereby preserve press freedom in Brazil. The NGOs firmly condemn the intimidatory nature of such judicial procedures, which are designed to intimidate other journalists. The letter to Brazilian authorities:

We, the undersigned press freedom and civil liberties organizations, emphatically condemn the Brazilian authorities’ criminal charges against the award-winning investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald.

These charges represent a straightforward attempt to intimidate and retaliate against Greenwald and The Intercept for their critical reporting on messages that appeared to show a judge advising federal prosecutors how to prosecute cases he was presiding over in the “Operation Car Wash” investigation. Further, by charging Greenwald with a cybercrime the government has essentially criminalized engaging in legitimate journalistic practices, which threatens to have a chilling effect on journalists and sources alike.

brazil flag wavingThe recently disclosed charges are only the most recent development in a campaign of harassment against journalists covering the scandal. Threats against them have been documented since last June, when The Intercept began publishing a series of important public interest stories based on a cache of leaked Telegram messages between public officials.

A coalition of 29 free speech and human rights organizations penned a letter in July 2019 to denounce these threats.1 Then, as now, the implications affect not just Greenwald and his colleagues, but the broader free press in Brazil, including both domestic and international media.

The attacks on Greenwald and The Intercept have included specific death threats, public disinformation, and a criminal prosecution. Notably, in August 2019, in a remarkable opinion by a member of Brazil’s highest court ordered any police investigation into Greenwald halted and condemned any such efforts as “an unambiguous act of censorship” in violation of the country’s constitution.

The right of journalists to report on primary source materials documenting official malfeasance is a critically important press freedom issue. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office has abused its power by charging Greenwald for doing just that — despite a federal police conclusion just last month that there was no evidence that Greenwald committed any crime in relation to the leaked messages.

Given the Supreme Court injunction and that federal police conclusion, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office’s position that Greenwald conspired to commit a crime with his anonymous source is unjustifiable.

These charges await approval from a federal judge, giving the courts the opportunity to reject them and protect freedom of the press. Even so, the chilling effect of such legal intimidation remains. If these tactics are allowed to stand, it would jeopardize all Brazilians’ freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom to participate in democracy.

Media / People / Privacy

ny times logoNew York Times, Jeff Bezos, Tabloid Man, Karen Weise, Jan. 24, 2020 (print ed.). Just a year ago, the world’s richest man seemed to have a pretty low-key life. Times sure have changed.

At the beginning of 2019, Mr. Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, was widely regarded as a low-key guy — or at least about as low-key as the world’s richest man, and one of the country’s top executives, could be. He’d geek out over “Star Trek” and he publicly joked that washing dishes every night was “the sexiest thing I do.”

That image exploded by the end of January, when The National Enquirer reported about his affair with Lauren Sanchez, a former TV personality, including contents of intimate text messages between the two. After the Enquirer reporting, Mr. Bezos said he had opened up an investigation into how the paper acquired the messages, hinting that Saudi Arabia may have been involved because of his ownership of The Washington Post.

This week, the United Nations released a statement, based largely on a forensic report commissioned by Mr. Bezos’ investigators, that essentially accused Saudi Arabia’s crown prince of hacking Mr. Bezos’ phone to spy on him. The Saudi government called the claims “absurd.”

The report did not provide evidence that hacked material ended up in The Enquirer. But it did provide a potent reminder of how much has changed in a year. Mr. Bezos had become a tabloid fixture, with yacht appearances, evening strolls and romantic dinners captured in detail.

  • New York Times, Opinion: Jeff Bezos’s Phone Hack Should Terrify Everyone, Charlie Warzel, Jan. 24, 2020 (print ed.).

Jan. 23

ny times logoNew York Times, Jim Lehrer, Longtime PBS News Anchor, Is Dead at 85, Robert D. McFadden, Jan. 23, 2020. For 36 years, mostly teaming with Robert MacNeil, he offered an alternative to network evening news programs with in-depth reporting, interviews and news analysis.

jim lehrer 2007Jim Lehrer, the retired PBS anchorman who for 36 years gave public television viewers a substantive alternative to network evening news programs with in-depth reporting, interviews and analysis of world and national affairs, died on Thursday at his home in Washington. He was 85.

While best known for his anchor work, which he shared for two decades with his colleague Robert MacNeil, Mr. Lehrer (shown at right in a 2007 file photo) moderated a dozen presidential debates and was the author of more than a score of novels, which often drew on his reporting experiences. He also wrote four plays and three memoirs.

A low-key, courtly Texan who worked on Dallas newspapers in the 1960s and began his PBS career in the 1970s, Mr. Lehrer saw himself as “a print/word person at heart” and his program as a kind of newspaper for television, with high regard for balanced and objective reporting. He was an oasis of civility in a news media that thrived on excited headlines, gotcha questions and noisy confrontations.

Mr. Lehrer co-anchored a single-topic, half-hour PBS news program with Mr. MacNeil from its inception in 1975 to 1983, when it was expanded into the multitopic “MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.” It ran until Mr. MacNeil retired in 1995. The renamed “NewsHour With Jim Lehrer” continued until 2009, when he reduced his appearances to two and then to one a week until his own retirement in 2011

Jan. 21

Press Freedom: Brazil

glenn greenwald cnn

Axios, Brazil charges American journalist Glenn Greenwald with cybercrimes, Rashaan Ayesh, Jan. 21, 2020.  Brazilian prosecutors charged American journalist Glenn Greenwald (shown above in a file screenshot) with cybercrimes on Tuesday for allegedly spreading cellphone messages "that have embarrassed prosecutors and tarnished the image of an anti-corruption task force," the New York Times reports.

The big picture: Greenwald, who is best known for publishing leaked documents from Edward Snowden about U.S. domestic surveillance, is a co-founder of The Intercept Brazil. The publication has faced attacks from far-right President Jair Bolsonaro after publishing leaked messages about a task force that prosecuted high-profile political figures, including former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Prosecutors allege that Greenwald did more than just receive the leaked messages and played a “clear role in facilitating the commission of a crime," per the Times.

brazil flag wavingGreenwald lives in Brazil and is married to Brazilian politician David Miranda, who lost a bid for a Brazilian congressional seat and has labeled himself as the "antithesis of Bolsonaro."

What he's saying: In a statement to The Daily Beast, Greenwald said: "The Bolsonaro government and the movement that supports it has made repeatedly clear that it does not believe in basic press freedoms—from Bolsonaro's threats against Folha to his attacks on journalists that have incited violence to Sergio Moro’s threats from the start to classify us as ‘allies of the hackers’ for revealing his corruption."

“Less than two months ago, the Federal Police, examining all the same evidence cited by the Public Ministry, stated explicitly that not only have I never committed any crime but that I exercised extreme caution as a journalist never even to get close to any participation,” he continued. “Even the Federal Police under Minister Moro's command said what is clear to any rational person: I did nothing more than do my job as a journalist—ethically and within the law.”

“This denunciation — brought by the same prosecutor who just tried and failed to criminally prosecute the head of the Brazilian Bar Association for criticizing Minister Moro — is an obvious attempt to attack a free press in retaliation for the revelations we reported about Minister Moro and the Bolsonaro government."

Press Freedom: Canada

Consortium News, Commentary: Consortium News has sent libel notices to a Canadian spy agency and major broadcaster after their reports said CN is part of a Russian-directed propaganda campaign targeting Canadian leaders, Joe Lauria, Jan. 21, 2020. Consortium News has sent libel notices to the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Canada’s version of the U.S. National Security Agency, and to a major Canadian television network, Global News, for a report that said Consortium News was “part of a cyber-influence campaign directed by Russia.”

canadian flagBased on a CSE leak of a secret document, Global News’ website said in a Dec. 10, 2019 article entitled, “‘Canadian eyes only’ intelligence reports say Canadian leaders attacked in cyber campaigns,” that Consortium News led this campaign. “The first attack was a February 2017 report in the ‘online Consortium News’ followed ‘in quick succession’ by pro-Russian English language and Russian-language online media, the CSE report says,” according to Global News.

A caption on the Global News site under a screenshot of the Feb. 27, 2017 Consortium News article reads: “A CSE report says Consortium News was part of an attack from Russia on Chrystia Freeland’s reputation.” Freeland was the then Canadian foreign minister and is now deputy prime minister.

The libel notices were sent by a Toronto law firm on behalf of Consortium News, which seeks a retraction of all mention of Consortium News and an apology. CN is making a formal Access to Information Act request (Canada’s Freedom of Information Act) to obtain a copy of the CSE report. Part of the CSE report, classified “SECRET CEO,” CEO meaning Canadian Eyes Only, was broadcast by Global News.

The Feb. 27, 2017 Consortium News article, written by journalist Arina Tuskanova exclusively for CN, was titled “A Nazi Skeleton in the Family Closet.” It reveals that Freeland had lied about her grandfather’s past as an editor of a Nazi newspaper in occupied Poland during the war.

Jan. 19

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, The Senate put limits on impeachment trial coverage. Even C-SPAN is annoyed, Michael M. Grynbaum, Jan. 19, 2020. The Senate will control the cameras during the impeachment trial, limiting what viewers see, and reporters will be confined to roped-off areas.

Journalists are up in arms about new restrictions on their movement inside the Capitol, which they say will prevent them from easily interviewing lawmakers about the proceedings. The rules, negotiated by Republican Senate leadership, have yet to be written down, causing confusion among reporters and the Capitol Police expected to enforce them.

Even sedate C-SPAN is aggrieved, calling on the Senate to allow its television crews to document the trial, instead of the government-controlled cameras that — as was the case during Bill Clinton’s trial 21 years ago — will limit what viewers see and hear inside the Senate chamber.

Hurling insults at journalists is standard fare for officials at the White House. But Congress, with its protocols and rituals, was considered a relatively safe space for reporters, where cordiality was prized.

The pretrial tensions suggest that the bash-the-press mentality that led the White House to kill off the daily briefing and strip reporters of their credentials has now crept into what senators like to call “the world’s greatest deliberative body.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: Will The Chicago Tribune Be the Next Newspaper Picked to the Bone? David Jackson and Gary Marx (investigative reporters at the Chicago Tribune), Jan. 19, 2020. Journalists worry that a New York hedge fund with a big stake in the paper will impose draconian cuts, as it has elsewhere.

We are investigative reporters in a great American city infamous for its corruption and murders.

chicago tribune hqIn recent years, we and our colleagues have exposed rapes and assaults inside nursing homes, deadly hazards in children’s toys, the staggering prevalence of sexual violence in Chicago’s public schools, grievous failure in America’s extradition system, mercury in store-bought tuna fish, prostitution schemes in residential treatment centers for foster children and rampant corruption at the highest levels of Illinois government.

Spurred by this reporting, federal, state and local legislators have changed laws in ways that have made people safer and our notoriously crooked government a little cleaner.

alden global capital logoBut now that type of journalism faces an urgent threat.

The hedge fund Alden Global Capital in November acquired 32 percent of Tribune Publishing Company shares, becoming the largest shareholder, and it is angling for control of the company. Tribune Publishing includes not only The Chicago Tribune — the largest daily newspaper in Illinois — but also The Daily News of New York, The Baltimore Sun, The Hartford Courant, The Orlando Sentinel, The Sun-Sentinel of South Florida, The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Va., and The Capital Gazette of Annapolis, Md.

Alden’s strategy of acquiring struggling local newsrooms and stripping them of assets has built the personal wealth of the hedge fund’s investors. But Alden has imposed draconian staff cuts that decimated The Denver Post and other once-proud newspapers that have been vital to their communities and to American democracy. Those newsrooms, which put a spotlight on local political corruption, have served as forums for community voices and have driven the coverage of regional television, radio and online outlets.

In a signal of what may happen in Chicago, on Jan. 13, we and other newsroom staff members were offered buyouts. Now, we are bracing for the sight of colleagues with decades of experience walking out with cardboard boxes in their arms and tears streaming down their faces.

The Chicago Tribune was founded in 1847, and ever since it has played an outsize role in the national conversation. It supported the presidential candidacy of Abraham Lincoln, a subscriber. Even its pratfalls, like the “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline of 1948, are the stuff of legend.

The Tribune has won 27 Pulitzer Prizes, and the other newspapers in our chain have claimed 37 more.

Among those awards was a special citation last year to The Capital Gazette, where a gunman in 2018 killed four journalists and another employee — the most deadly attack on journalists in United States history. The Pulitzer Prize Board cited the newspaper staff “for demonstrating unflagging commitment to covering the news and serving their community at a time of unspeakable grief.”

The courage displayed by the Capital Gazette symbolizes the importance of regional and local newsrooms as part of a vital free press.

Editor's note: The Justice Integrity Project's editor earned his first money in journalism as a stringer for the Chicago Tribune and worked 14 years as a reporter and editor for the chain's Hartford Courant, later authoring the book Spiked: How Chain Management Corrupted America's Oldest Newspaper, which served as a case study for how news outlets were being gutted by extreme profit-seeking by conglomerates acquiring media properties.

Jan. 18

Media / Propaganda

national archives womens march blurred Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, National Archives exhibit blurs signs in Women’s March image critical of Trump, Jan. 18, 2020 (print ed.). The large color photograph that greets visitors to a National Archives exhibit celebrating the centennial of women’s suffrage shows a massive crowd filling Pennsylvania Avenue NW for the Women’s March on Jan. 21, 2017, the day after President Trump’s inauguration.

The 49-by-69-inch photograph is a powerful display. Viewed from one perspective, it shows the 2017 march. Viewed from another angle, it shifts national archivesto show a 1913 black-and-white image of a women’s suffrage march also on Pennsylvania Avenue. The display links momentous demonstrations for women’s rights more than a century apart on the same stretch of pavement.

But a closer look reveals a different story.

The Archives, right, acknowledged in a statement this week that it made multiple alterations to the photo of the 2017 Women’s March showcased at the museum, blurring signs held by marchers that were critical of Trump. Words on signs that referenced women’s anatomy were also blurred.

Privacy, Civil Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, The Secretive Company That Might End Privacy as We Know It, Kashmir Hill, Jan. 18, 2020. A little-known start-up helps law enforcement match photos of unknown people to their online images. Its facial recognition tool “might lead to a dystopian future or something,” a backer says.

Hoan Ton-That — an Australian techie and onetime model — did something momentous: He invented a tool that could end your ability to walk down the street anonymously, and provided it to hundreds of law enforcement agencies, ranging from local cops in Florida to the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security.

His tiny company, Clearview AI, devised a groundbreaking facial recognition app. You take a picture of a person, upload it and get to see public photos of that person, along with links to where those photos appeared. The system — whose backbone is a database of more than three billion images that Clearview claims to have scraped from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo and millions of other websites — goes far beyond anything ever constructed by the United States government or Silicon Valley giants.

Federal and state law enforcement officers said that while they had only limited knowledge of how Clearview works and who is behind it, they had used its app to help solve shoplifting, identity theft, credit card fraud, murder and child sexual exploitation cases.

Jan. 17

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) at the U.S. Capitol (Photo by Saul Loeb / AFP)

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) at the U.S. Capitol (Photo by Saul Loeb / AFP)

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Advocacy: RSF USA calls on the Senate to reverse unprecedented restrictions on the press, Jan. 17, 2020. RSF strongly condemns the restrictions the Senate sergeant at arms and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration are imposing on Capitol Hill reporters during the impeachment trial for President Donald Trump. RSF calls on the Senate Majority Leader to reverse these rules immediately.

Members of the press covering the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump, which began January 16, are facing new “security measures” in the form of restrictions that are not typically imposed on Capitol Hill reporters. The full extent of these measures is unclear as the Senate Sergeant at Arms and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration have not provided a formal document outlining them. However, one rule prohibits reporters from walking through the halls of Congress to ask senators questions. Others prevent reporters from bringing electronic devices into the Senate Chamber, require journalists to pass through a second security screening inside the Senate, and force them into pens and roped-off lines so they cannot access senators as they normally would.

“Until he reverses these arbitrary new rules, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is violating Americans’ First Amendment rights during a monumental moment in US history: the trial for the impeachment of the President of the United States,” said Dokhi Fassihian, Executive Director of RSF USA. “By preventing the press from asking questions on behalf of the American people during this trial, the Senate is escaping public scrutiny and effectively undermining the very foundation of our democracy.”

The Standing Committee of Correspondents, an organization that represents and accredits daily reporters on Capitol Hill, sent a letter to Senate leaders on January 14 protesting the rules. And on January 16, RSF joined 57 other media outlets and journalism organizations in sending a letter to Senate leadership opposing the restrictions.

The United States is ranked 48th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

TeleSUR, Abby Martin Banned From Speaking at US University For Refusing to Sign Pro-Israel Pledge, Jan. 17, 2020. Since 2014, 28 states, among those Georgia, have adopted anti-boycott laws, including five executive orders issued by governors.

Former teleSUR presenter and creator of The Empire Files Abby Martin was blocked from delivering a keynote speech at Georgia Southern University for refusing to "sign a contractual pledge to not boycott Israel" to comply with the anti-Boycott, Divest and Sanctions state law.

"After I was scheduled to give a keynote speech at an upcoming Georgia Southern conference, organizers said I must comply with Georgia's anti-BDS law," Martin tweeted on Friday.

Since 2014, 28 states, among those Georgia, have adopted anti-boycott laws, including five executive orders issued by governors.

"I refused and my talk was canceled. The event fell apart after colleagues supported me." Martin is an outspoken critic of Israel’s apartheid government and anti-Palestinian policies.

As the nationwide crackdown on BDS continues, President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Dec. 11 that will effectively allow the government to interpret Judaism as both a race or nationality and religion under federal law so that the Education Department can take direct action against what he views as “anti-Semitism on college campuses.”

Trump stated clearly that the decision targets the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) calling it an “anti-Semitic campaign against Israel.”

The order will trigger Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that requires educational institutions receiving federal funding to not discriminate based on national origin; meaning the government can now withhold federal funding from any college or educational program that is deemed to allow or endorse “anti-Semitism.”

BDS has gained notoriety in college campuses across the U.S. with more people understanding and backing the Palestinian struggle.

The non-violent BDS movement, however, was founded in 2005 by 170 Palestinian unions, political parties, refugee networks, and women organizations, among others, has gained such renown that it was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Inspired by South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement, BDS calls for non-violent pressure on Israel through boycotting any organization linked to the state of Israel, withdrawing investment from Israeli companies, and sanctioning the county until Israel recognizes the right of Palestinian refugees to return, ends the illegal military occupation of Palestine, and ends the apartheid regime by recognizing Palestinian's equal rights and stops human rights abuses.

Jan. 16

washington post logodana milbank CustomWashington Post, Opinion: Impeachment descends into darkness, Dana Milbank, right, Jan. 16, 2020 (print ed.).  Under the glare of 61 floodlights, the House voted Wednesday to appoint managers to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate. Projectors beamed each lawmaker’s name and vote onto a wall for all to see.

And now comes the darkness.

As the long-delayed transfer of the impeachment articles finally got underway, President Trump’s allies in the Senate announced extraordinary new restrictions on press coverage of the upcoming trial, shielding senators in unprecedented ways from the prying eyes of the American public.

When House managers arrived with the impeachment articles in a ceremonial procession Tuesday evening, Senate Republican leadership had already decreed that their arrival would be filmed only by a single, shared TV camera (partially obstructed, it turned out) at the doors of the chamber in which the mostly empty desks of Republican senators also could not be seen.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his team — the Senate sergeant-at-arms and Rules Committee make the decisions, but McConnell (R-Ky.) is the driving force behind the restrictions, people involved tell me — further decreed that journalists would be confined during the entire trial to roped-off pens, forbidden from approaching senators in Capitol corridors.

The GOP leadership likewise rejected a request from the Standing Committee of Correspondents to allow journalists to bring laptops or silenced phones into the chamber so they could write (the House allows this) or to allow cameras in to capture the history of the moment (the House allowed this during the impeachment process).

It’s obvious what the restrictions are about, because they mirror McConnell’s general approach to the trial. He had signed on to a proposal to dismiss the House impeachment articles without a trial. He has resisted allowing documentary or testimonial evidence to surface during the trial. And now he’s doing everything in his power to shield senators from reporters — and from the public.

Because still and TV cameras aren’t allowed in the chamber, the only images will be C-SPAN-style footage from fixed TV cameras operated by government employees. The public won’t be able to see which senators are sleeping, talking or missing entirely.

McConnell’s team also decided to claw back seats typically reserved for the general public, to “augment” seating for their own friends and family; they’ll have at least 134 such seats. They offered no such augmentation for the media, which has 107 seats, only about 20 of which provide a full view of the Senate floor.

Nor can the senators be observed outside the chamber. At a private luncheon of Republican senators this week, Blunt showed where the media would be penned in and reportedly “joked” that the senators could now avoid reporters.

It’s a curious attempt at fortress-building after House Republicans noisily objected to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) taking depositions in his “basement bunker.” They can’t quash the trial itself, but McConnell’s restrictions will go a long way toward restricting what the American public sees of this historic moment.

The National Press Club Journalism Institute, Advocacy: National Press Club, Journalism Institute denounce press limits on Senate trial, Staff report, national  press club logoJan. 16, 2020. The National Press Club and its Journalism Institute strongly object to restrictions on press coverage during the Senate trial of President Donald Trump. The proposed limitations are onerous, unnecessary and serve only to limit the news media’s ability to properly report on this historic event to the American public.

We fully support the position taken by the Standing Committee of Correspondents, which tried to negotiate rules of coverage only to see its suggestions ignored.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has insisted that the Senate follow the same rules the Senate set for itself during the trial of President Bill Clinton 20 years ago. But when it comes to press coverage, the restrictions on news coverage planned by the Sergeant at Arms and the Capitol Police far exceed the access limits imposed during the Clinton trial. Indeed, the constraints are more restrictive than they are for State of the Union messages or Inauguration ceremonies.

“These constraints and security obstacles only impede the press from doing its job,” said National Press Club President Michael Freedman. “When the conduct of our elected officials is under the highest scrutiny, the government should not be restricting the ability of journalists to be eyes and ears for the American public.”

As spelled out by the Standing Committee of Correspondents, the proposed restrictions on the press for the upcoming trial include:

Security sweeps with magnetometer inside the Senate press gallery
Penning in reporters outside the Senate chamber to prohibit them from freely getting access to Senators as they enter or leave the chamber.
A single pool camera to record the transmission of Articles of Impeachment from the House to the Senate.
Restrictions on reporters’ ability to walk and interview Senators from the Senate subway to the Capitol elevators.

“These restrictions set a horrible precedent and reinforce the lie that the news media is dangerous and the ‘enemy of the people,’” said Angela Greiling Keane, the president of the National Press Club Journalism Institute. “Congress should be the most accessible institution in government. As the branch closest to the people, it is ironic that these limits only isolate those who are elected to serve.”

While penning reporters has become commonplace over the years to improve traffic flow outside the Senate chamber, reporters have had free access to approach senators to question them about issues of the day. Sweeping reporters with a magnetometer as they enter the Senate gallery is simply unnecessary overkill as they would have already gone through security entering the Capitol.

We especially fear that these restrictions will become the new standard for congressional coverage, a slippery slope that will reduce accountability and further erode an essential tenet of our democracy — the need for an informed electorate.

The National Press Club, the world’s leading professional organization for journalists, represents more than 3,000 reporters, editors and professional communicators worldwide. The Club’s nonprofit affiliate, the National Press Club Journalism Institute, promotes an engaged global citizenry through an independent and free press, and equips journalists with skills and standards to inform the public in ways that inspire civic engagement. JIP Editor's Note: JIP's editor is a member of the club's Press Freedom Committee.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: GOP senator’s vicious outburst shows the corruption of Trump’s defenders, Greg Sargent, Jan. 16, 2020. If you were martha mcsally oa United States senator who just snapped angrily at a reporter for politely asking whether compelling new information about a matter of great import to the nation was weighing on your understanding of that consequential matter, you probably wouldn’t see this as something to advertise.

But then again, you’re not Martha McSally of Arizona. McSally, right, just did exactly this — yet she is now treating it as a badge of honor; as something to boast about.

cnn logoIn a perverse way, it’s fitting that this episode is going viral at exactly the moment when President Trump’s impeachment trial is getting underway — that is, when Trump’s defenders in the Senate are set to put on a great show of pretending to give serious consideration to the case against Trump, before voting to acquit him.

McSally’s vile little performance puts the lie to that notion as effectively as anything possibly could.

DavidSwanson.org, Opinion: #CNNisTrash, David Swanson, Jan. 16, 2020. Why has the hash tag #CNNisTrash been popular since this week’s presidential primary debate? There was nothing new about the corporate, militarist, anti-progressive slant of the debate “moderation.”

What was new was the level of blatant bias so extreme that even viewers who knew nothing about the issues couldn’t miss it, plus the amount of time CNN focused on expressing its hostility toward a single candidate, Bernie Sanders.

cnn logoRemarkably, CNN began Tuesday’s debate with a focus on endless U.S. wars in the Middle East, and with questions aimed at criticizing those who had supported the launching of some of those wars many years ago — support that various politicians and even media outlets like the New York Times (but not CNN) have long since been compelled to apologize for.

Yet the CNN moderator began by noting how close the United States had just come to war with Iran and then asking Bernie Sanders why he would be the best commander in chief, not why he would be the best president for making peace.

Next, CNN falsely claimed that Sanders had only recently admitted that his vote for war on Afghanistan was wrong, and equated that vote with Joe Biden’s vote for and promotion of war on Iraq, as well as Biden’s blatant lying about his record.

With each new topic, the bias grew in Tuesday’s debate. What can be read in the debate transcript was compounded by the titles CNN displayed on the lower part of the television screen during each segment. For example: “Sanders’ proposals would double federal spending over a decade; how will he avoid bankrupting the country?”

CNN, which added right-wing journalists to its panels of questioners at all four of its Republican primary debates in 2016, has adamantly refused to add progressive journalists to its panels at Democratic debates.

Then CNN turned to a story that it had reported on just prior to the debate, alleging that Sanders had told Senator Elizabeth Warren that he did not believe a woman could be elected U.S. president. The CNN moderator ignored Sanders’ assertions that he had a public record going back decades of stating that a woman could be elected president, that he had stayed out of the race in 2015 until Warren decided not to run, and that in fact he had told Warren no such thing. Then came this exchange:

CNN: So Senator Sanders — Senator Sanders, I do want to be clear here, you’re saying that you never told Senator Warren that a woman could not win the election?

SANDERS: That is correct.

CNN: Senator Warren, what did you think when Senator Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?

Many viewers recognized the slant. Many even began to notice the strange double standard in never mentioning the cost of any of the wars, but pounding away on the misleading assertions that healthcare and other human needs cost too much.

Jan. 14

Media / Spy Agencies

washington post logoWashington Post, News networks use retired military brass as war analysts without disclosing their defense-industry ties, Paul Farhi, Jan. 14, 2020 (print ed.). During eight appearances on Fox News and Fox Business Network in early January, Jack Keane was introduced several ways: as “a retired four-star general,” as the former “vice chief of staff for the U.S. Army,” and as Fox News’s “senior strategic analyst.”

jack keaneAll of those are accurate descriptions. Keane (shown when he was on active duty) is a distinguished veteran, having commanded American troops in such places as Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia. Fox employs him to provide analysis of national security and military operations, such as the unfolding hostilities between the United States and Iran.

fox news logo SmallBut another part of Keane’s résumé wasn’t mentioned: the former general is also executive chairman of AM General, a leading defense contractor, best known as the manufacturer of the Humvee and other tactical military vehicles. He is also a partner at a venture-capital firm that specializes in the defense industry. In other words, viewers never learned that Keane has a direct financial interest in the war policies he was assessing on the air.

cnn logoFox News’s nondisclosure of Keane’s role in the military-industrial complex is standard operating procedure for network news shows. Many of the retired military leaders employed by the networks as paid contributors have secondary affiliations that are rarely, if ever, mentioned, leaving viewers in the dark about whose interests they’re promoting.

Like Fox News, none of the leading networks — ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and MSNBC — makes a regular practice of announcing its military analysts’ financial ties to the Pentagon, connections that could color their on-air comments.

washington post logoWashington Post, NSA found a dangerous Windows 10 flaw and alerted Microsoft — rather than weaponize it, Ellen Nakashima​, Jan. 14, 2020. The disclosure represents a major shift in the agency’s approach, choosing to put computer security ahead of building up its arsenal of hacking tools.

nsa logo 2The National Security Agency recently discovered a major flaw in Microsoft’s Windows operating system — one that could potentially expose computer users to significant breaches or surveillance — and alerted the firm of the problem rather than turn it into a hacking weapon, according to people familiar with the matter.

The disclosure represents a major shift in the NSA’s approach, choosing to put computer security ahead of building up its arsenal of hacking tools that allow the microsoft logo Customagency to spy on adversaries’ networks, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Microsoft plans to issue a patch for the flaw on Tuesday, the individuals said.

“Big kudos to NSA for voluntarily disclosing to Microsoft,” said computer security expert Dmitri Alperovitch in a tweet Tuesday morning. “This is the type of [vulnerability] I am sure the [NSA hackers] would have loved to use for years to come.”

Jan. 13

Media / Privacy / Spying

Julian Assange at Ecuador's Embassy (Photo Collage by The Indicter Magazine)

Julian Assange, center, at Ecuador's Embassy (Photo Collage by The Indicter Magazine)

The Hill, Opinion: Will Alleged CIA Misbehavior Set Julian Assange Free? James C. Goodale, Jan. 10, 2020. A few days before Christmas, Julian Assange testified to a Spanish court that a Spanish security company, UC Global S.L., acting in coordination with the CIA, illegally recorded all his actions and conversations, including with his lawyers, and streamed them back in real time to the CIA. He will, at the end of February, make a similar complaint to a British extradition court about the CIA’s alleged misbehavior.

Will such misbehavior, if proven, set Assange free?

The Daniel Ellsberg case may be instructive. You may recall that after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the “Pentagon Papers” case, Ellsberg was indicted under the Espionage Act for leaking Pentagon documents to The New York Times and The Washington Post.

julian assange facts wikileaks CustomAfter the trial commenced in San Francisco, it was brought to the judge’s attention that the “White House plumbers” broke into the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist. Based on that information and other complaints of government misbehavior, including the FBI’s interception of Ellsberg’s telephone conversations with a government official, Judge William Matthew Byrne decided that the case should be dismissed with prejudice because the government acted outrageously.

For similar reasons, the case against Assange should be dismissed, if it reaches the U.S. courts.

The “plumbers” were a covert group formed by the Nixon White House to stop leaks of information from the government, such as the Pentagon Papers. They are notorious for their burglary at the Watergate complex, which led to former President Nixon’s downfall. Approximately nine months before the Watergate break-in, the plumbers, led by former CIA agent E. Howard Hunt, burglarized a psychiatrist’s office to find information that could discredit Ellsberg.

The CIA also was involved with the break-in. It prepared a psychiatric profile of Ellsberg as well as an ID kit for the plumbers, including drivers’ licenses, Social Security cards, and disguises consisting of red wigs, glasses and speech alteration devices.

Additionally, the CIA allowed Hunt and his sidekick, G. Gordon Liddy, to use two CIA safe houses in the D.C. area for meetings and storage purposes. Clearly, the CIA knew the plumbers were up to no good. It is unclear whether the CIA knew Ellsberg was the target, but it would not have taken much to figure it out.

The Spanish newspaper El Pais broke the story that UC Global invaded Assange’s privacy at the Ecuadorian embassy and shared its surveillance with the CIA. It demonstrated step-by-step, document-by-document, UC Global’s actions and its contacts with the CIA. UC Global reportedly installed cameras throughout Assange’s space in the embassy — including his bathroom — and captured Assange’s every word and apparently livestreamed it, giving the CIA a free TV show of Assange’s daily life.

After reading El Pais’s series, you would have to be a dunce not to believe the CIA didn’t monitor Assange’s every move at the Ecuadorian embassy, including trips to the bathroom.

Ecuador granted Assange asylum in their embassy for seven years, after he jumped bail in London to avoid extradition to Sweden for allegedly raping two Swedish women. (Those charges are now dismissed.) If you can believe it, Ecuador had hired UC Global to protect the Ecuadorian embassy and Assange. Not surprisingly, the CIA later made UC Global its spy to surveil Assange.

When there was a change of administration in Ecuador, Assange’s asylum was withdrawn, and he was immediately arrested by British police at the request of U.S. officials. The United States subsequently indicted him for violating the Espionage Act, for publishing the very same information published roughly contemporaneously by The New York Times, The Guardian, El Pais, Le Monde and Der Spiegel. (Assange already was subject to a sealed indictment in the United States for computer hacking.)

The behavior of UC Global and the CIA seems indistinguishable from the government’s behavior in the Ellsberg case, which a federal judge found to have “offended a sense of justice” and “incurably infected the prosecution” of the case. Accordingly, he concluded that the only remedy to ensure due process and the fair administration of justice was to dismiss Ellsberg’s case “with prejudice,” meaning that Ellsberg could not be retried.

Can anything be more offensive to a “sense of justice” than an unlimited surveillance, particularly of lawyer-client conversations, livestreamed to the opposing party in a criminal case? The alleged streaming unmasked the strategy of Assange’s lawyers, giving the government an advantage that is impossible to remove. Short of dismissing Assange’s indictment with prejudice, the government will always have an advantage that can never be matched by the defense.

The usual remedy for warrantless surveillance is to exclude any illegally obtained information from the trial, but that remedy is inapplicable here. The government’s advantage in surveilling Assange is not the acquisition of tangible evidence but, rather, intangible insights into Assange’s legal strategy. There is no way, therefore, to give Assange a fair trial, since his opponents will know every move he will make.

When Assange begins his extradition hearing, this will be part of his argument — that the CIA’s misbehavior violates his human rights by depriving him of his right to a fair trial.

The CIA will no doubt attempt to trump this argument by defending the surveillance on grounds of national security. This may be easier said than done, however: It is one thing to say the CIA can engage in surveillance abroad for its own intelligence-gathering purposes, and another to say it can listen to the private lawyer-client communications of a person against whom the U.S. government has an open criminal investigation.

More to the point, it does not seem immediately clear why eavesdropping on conversations of legal strategy protects U.S. national security. In my experience in national security cases (I led The New York Times lawyers in the “Pentagon Papers” case), every time the government is backed into a corner in such cases, it will simply serve up a defense of “national security” because it is difficult to defend against such an assertion and the government, consequently, has the ability to trump every competing argument.

James C. Goodale was the vice chairman and general counsel of The New York Times and is the author of “Fighting for the Press: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers and other battles.”

ny times logoNew York Times, The Decimation of Local News Has Lawmakers Crossing the Aisle, Cecilia Kang, Jan. 13, 2020 (print ed.). Lawmakers from both parties blame companies like Facebook and Google for the struggles of local newspapers.

facebook logoWhen a sport utility vehicle swerved out of its lane several weeks ago, slamming into a pickup truck and killing a teenager, a reporter from The Northeast Georgian raced to the scene. Within hours, the paper had posted the news on Facebook and updated it twice. It was shared by hundreds of people on the social network.

The fatal wreck consumed the town of Cornelia, Ga., nestled near the Chattahoochee National Forest about 90 miles northeast of Atlanta. The Northeast Georgian was the first to report the news, but unless the people who shared its story on Facebook follow a link to its website, either to see an ad or to subscribe to its twice-weekly print edition, the paper won’t get paid.

As with many small papers across the country, that business strategy is not working for The Northeast Georgian. The paper’s five employees do not just report and write. They also edit the articles, take photographs and lay out the newspaper.

But the tough economics facing small newspapers like Mr. NeSmith’s has generated rare bipartisan agreement in Washington.

google logo customAnger toward big technology companies has led to multiple antitrust investigations, calls for a new federal data privacy law and criticism of the companies’ political ad policies. Perhaps no issue about the tech companies, though, has united lawmakers in the Capitol like the decimation of local news.

Lawmakers from both parties blame companies like Facebook and Google, which dominate the online ad industry. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, gave a big boost last week to a bill that may provide some papers a lifeboat. The proposal would give news organizations an exemption from antitrust laws, allowing them to band together to negotiate with Google and Facebook over how their articles and photos are used online, and what payments the newspapers get from the tech companies. (The bill is backed by the News Media Alliance, a trade group that represents news organizations including The New York Times Company.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Setting Up Clash, Barr Asks Apple to Unlock Pensacola Killer’s Phones, Katie Benner, Jan. 13, 2020. William Barr asked the company to provide access to two phones used by the gunman in last month’s shooting at a naval air station in Pensacola, Fla. The unusually high-profile request set up a confrontation between law enforcement and technology companies in the latest battle over privacy.

Attorney General William P. Barr declared on Monday that a deadly shooting last month at a naval air station in Pensacola, Fla., was an act of terrorism, and he asked Apple in an unusually high-profile request to provide access to two phones used by the gunman.

Mr. Barr’s appeal was an escalation of an ongoing fight between the Justice Department and Apple pitting personal privacy against public safety.

apple logo rainbow“This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that the public be able to get access to digital evidence,” Mr. Barr said, calling on technology companies to find a solution and complaining that Apple had provided no “substantive assistance.”

Detailing the results of the investigation into the Dec. 6 shooting that killed three sailors and wounded eight others, Mr. Barr said the gunman, Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani — a Saudi air force cadet training with the American military — had displayed extremist leanings.

The government has also removed from the country some 21 Saudi students who trained with the American military, Mr. Barr said. He stressed that investigators found no connection to the shooting among the cadets but that some had ties to extremist movements or possessed child pornography. Mr. Barr said the cases were too weak to prosecute but that Saudi Arabia kicked the trainees out of the program.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Russians Hacked Ukrainian Gas Company at Center of Impeachment, Nicole Perlroth and Matthew Rosenberg, Jan. 13, 2020. With President Trump facing an impeachment trial over his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., right, and his son Hunter Biden, Russian joe biden omilitary hackers have been boring into the Ukrainian gas company at the center of the affair, according to security experts.

The hacking attempts against Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company on whose board Hunter Biden served, began in early November, as talk of the Bidens, Ukraine and impeachment was dominating the news in the United States.

It is not yet clear what the hackers found, or precisely what they were searching for. But the experts say the timing and scale of the attacks suggest that the Russians could be searching for potentially embarrassing material on the Bidens — the same kind of information that Mr. Trump wanted from Ukraine when he pressed for an investigation of the Bidens and Burisma, setting off a chain of events that led to his impeachment.

The Russian tactics are strikingly similar to what American intelligence agencies say was Russia’s hacking of emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman and the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential campaign. In that case, once they had the emails, the Russians used trolls to spread and spin the material, and built an echo chamber to widen its effect.

Then, as now, the Russian hackers from a military intelligence unit known formerly as the G.R.U., and to private researchers by the alias “Fancy Bear,” used so-called phishing emails that appear designed to steal usernames and passwords, according to Area 1, the Silicon Valley security firm that detected the hacking. In this instance, the hackers set up fake websites that mimicked sign-in pages of Burisma subsidiaries, and have been blasting Burisma employees with emails meant to look like they are coming from inside the burisma logocompany.

The hackers fooled some of them into handing over their login credentials, and managed to get inside one of Burisma’s servers, Area 1 said.

“The attacks were successful,” said Oren Falkowitz, a co-founder of Area 1, who previously served at the National Security Agency. Mr. Falkowitz’s firm maintains a network of sensors on web servers around the globe — many known to be used by state-sponsored hackers — which gives the firm a front-row seat to phishing attacks, and allows them to block attacks on their customers.

“The timing of the Russian campaign mirrors the G.R.U. hacks we saw in 2016 against the D.N.C. and John Podesta,” the Clinton campaign chairman, Mr. Falkowitz said. “Once again, they are stealing email credentials, in what we can only assume is a repeat of Russian interference in the last election.”

The Justice Department indicted seven officers from the same military intelligence unit in 2018.

The Russian attacks on Burisma appear to be running parallel to an effort by Russian spies in Ukraine to dig up information in the analog world that could embarrass the Bidens, according to an American security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence. The spies, the official said, are trying to penetrate Burisma and working sources in the Ukrainian government in search of emails, financial records and legal documents.

The Hill, Opinion: Will Alleged CIA Misbehavior Set Julian Assange Free? James C. Goodale, Jan. 10, 2020. A few days before Christmas, Julian Assange testified to a Spanish court that a Spanish security company, UC Global S.L., acting in coordination with the CIA, illegally recorded all his actions and conversations, including with his lawyers, and streamed them back in real time to the CIA. He will, at the end of February, make a similar complaint to a British extradition court about the CIA’s alleged misbehavior.

Will such misbehavior, if proven, set Assange free?

The Daniel Ellsberg case may be instructive. You may recall that after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the “Pentagon Papers” case, Ellsberg was indicted under the Espionage Act for leaking Pentagon documents to The New York Times and The Washington Post.

After the trial commenced in San Francisco, it was brought to the judge’s attention that the “White House plumbers” broke into the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist. Based on that information and other complaints of government misbehavior, including the FBI’s interception of Ellsberg’s telephone conversations with a government official, Judge William Matthew Byrne decided that the case should be dismissed with prejudice because the government acted outrageously.

For similar reasons, the case against Assange should be dismissed, if it reaches the U.S. courts.

The “plumbers” were a covert group formed by the Nixon White House to stop leaks of information from the government, such as the Pentagon Papers. They are notorious for their burglary at the Watergate complex, which led to former President Nixon’s downfall. Approximately nine months before the Watergate break-in, the plumbers, led by former CIA agent E. Howard Hunt, burglarized a psychiatrist’s office to find information that could discredit Ellsberg.

The CIA also was involved with the break-in. It prepared a psychiatric profile of Ellsberg as well as an ID kit for the plumbers, including drivers’ licenses, Social Security cards, and disguises consisting of red wigs, glasses and speech alteration devices.

Additionally, the CIA allowed Hunt and his sidekick, G. Gordon Liddy, to use two CIA safe houses in the D.C. area for meetings and storage purposes. Clearly, the CIA knew the plumbers were up to no good. It is unclear whether the CIA knew Ellsberg was the target, but it would not have taken much to figure it out.

The Spanish newspaper El Pais broke the story that UC Global invaded Assange’s privacy at the Ecuadorian embassy and shared its surveillance with the CIA. It demonstrated step-by-step, document-by-document, UC Global’s actions and its contacts with the CIA. UC Global reportedly installed cameras throughout Assange’s space in the embassy — including his bathroom — and captured Assange’s every word and apparently livestreamed it, giving the CIA a free TV show of Assange’s daily life.

After reading El Pais’s series, you would have to be a dunce not to believe the CIA didn’t monitor Assange’s every move at the Ecuadorian embassy, including trips to the bathroom.

Ecuador granted Assange asylum in their embassy for seven years, after he jumped bail in London to avoid extradition to Sweden for allegedly raping two Swedish women. (Those charges are now dismissed.) If you can believe it, Ecuador had hired UC Global to protect the Ecuadorian embassy and Assange. Not surprisingly, the CIA later made UC Global its spy to surveil Assange.

When there was a change of administration in Ecuador, Assange’s asylum was withdrawn, and he was immediately arrested by British police at the request of U.S. officials. The United States subsequently indicted him for violating the Espionage Act, for publishing the very same information published roughly contemporaneously by The New York Times, The Guardian, El Pais, Le Monde and Der Spiegel. (Assange already was subject to a sealed indictment in the United States for computer hacking.)

The behavior of UC Global and the CIA seems indistinguishable from the government’s behavior in the Ellsberg case, which a federal judge found to have “offended a sense of justice” and “incurably infected the prosecution” of the case. Accordingly, he concluded that the only remedy to ensure due process and the fair administration of justice was to dismiss Ellsberg’s case “with prejudice,” meaning that Ellsberg could not be retried.

Can anything be more offensive to a “sense of justice” than an unlimited surveillance, particularly of lawyer-client conversations, livestreamed to the opposing party in a criminal case? The alleged streaming unmasked the strategy of Assange’s lawyers, giving the government an advantage that is impossible to remove. Short of dismissing Assange’s indictment with prejudice, the government will always have an advantage that can never be matched by the defense.

The usual remedy for warrantless surveillance is to exclude any illegally obtained information from the trial, but that remedy is inapplicable here. The government’s advantage in surveilling Assange is not the acquisition of tangible evidence but, rather, intangible insights into Assange’s legal strategy. There is no way, therefore, to give Assange a fair trial, since his opponents will know every move he will make.

When Assange begins his extradition hearing, this will be part of his argument — that the CIA’s misbehavior violates his human rights by depriving him of his right to a fair trial.

The CIA will no doubt attempt to trump this argument by defending the surveillance on grounds of national security. This may be easier said than done, however: It is one thing to say the CIA can engage in surveillance abroad for its own intelligence-gathering purposes, and another to say it can listen to the private lawyer-client communications of a person against whom the U.S. government has an open criminal investigation.

More to the point, it does not seem immediately clear why eavesdropping on conversations of legal strategy protects U.S. national security. In my experience in national security cases (I led The New York Times lawyers in the “Pentagon Papers” case), every time the government is backed into a corner in such cases, it will simply serve up a defense of “national security” because it is difficult to defend against such an assertion and the government, consequently, has the ability to trump every competing argument.

James C. Goodale was the vice chairman and general counsel of The New York Times and is the author of “Fighting for the Press: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers and other battles.”

Jan. 10

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Collage of Daily Mail and The Sun, photo illustration by Slate

Slate, The British Press Is Losing Its Mind Over Harry and Meghan, Heather Schwedel, Jan. 10, 2020. Exiled wax figures and asparagus prognostication have stormed the tabloids. For the United Kingdom’s tabloid press, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan’s decision to “step back” from their duties as royals is an all-hands-on-deck situation.

There have been no shortage of royal events that brought with them wall-to-wall press coverage over the past decade as this generation’s royals have come of age — engagements, weddings, babies — but never has there been a story quite like a princess quitting the entire institution and taking her prince with her. Apparently lost on the press is the irony that part of what prompted the move is its own racist coverage.

Harry and Meghan have had an understandably tense relationship with the tabs — they’re literally suing one of them. While they maintain a veneer of just-in-it-for-the-drama neutrality, it’s also clear that some of the papers’ sympathies lie with Queen Elizabeth II and the rest of the Windsors, evidenced especially by the Daily Mirror’s front page: “They Didn’t Even Tell the Queen.”

Elsewhere, journalists criticized the move as “selfish” and “an atrocious lapse of judgment.” The Daily Telegraph went with the headline “Harry and Meghan quit the firm,” invoking some vintage slang for the royal family. In addition to “Megxit,” further punnage was attempted, to middling success: The Sun offered “Meg It Work” and “Meg Your Mind Up,” while the Daily Star is trying to make “pass the duchy” happen.

washington post logoWashington Post, Meghan flies back to Canada; Prince Harry in ‘crisis’ talks with Prince Charles, Karla Adam, Jan. 10, 2020. Her departure renewed speculation that the couple will make Canada their part-time home.

united kingdom flagMeghan, Duchess of Sussex, has flown back to Canada following the bombshell announcement that she and her husband, Prince Harry, are "stepping back" from royal duties, prompting intensified speculation that the couple will make Canada their part-time home.

An official at Buckingham Palace confirmed reports that Meghan had returned to Canada — the latest act in a drama that the British press has dubbed “Megxit.”

Meanwhile, Harry remains in Britain, where he is reportedly in deep discussions with his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II; his father, Prince Charles; and his brother, Prince William, about the couple’s future role.

Media Matters, Opinion: The final, inevitable collapse of the right-wing media’s Uranium One conspiracy theory, Matt Gertz, Jan. 10, 2020. In 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed U.S. attorney John Huber to review the sale of the company known as Uranium One. Fox News and conservative media had spent years fixated on the case, portraying it as a scandal aimed at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Some mainstream outlets even played along.

Huber reportedly is now closing the two-year review without bringing any charges.

media matters logoThe Uranium One pseudoscandal has its roots in the work of the Government Accountability Institute, a nonprofit conservative investigative research organization founded by Steve Bannon and helmed by Peter Schweizer, a conservative author with a record of major factual errors and questionable sourcing. During the 2016 election, The New York Times and The Washington Post made “exclusive agreements” with Schweizer “for early access to his opposition research on Hillary Clinton.”
That's how this false, right-wing lie ended up on the front page of The New York Times:

From there, the story became a major part of the 2016 campaign, with it often mentioned by Trump. And rather than fade away after the election, it became a major Fox News talking point after special counsel Robert Mueller began reviewing ties between Trump’s associates and Russian interference in the 2016 election.

john solomonFox hosts like Hannity flogged the story repeatedly in 2017 thanks to a misleading report from John Solomon, right. (Solomon's "report" featured someone he called a whistleblower who was represented by Victoria Toensing; we know now that Toensing is also Solomon's own attorney. When the whistleblower was questioned by House investigators, he had no information.) The story was so prominent in right-wing media at this point that then-Fox host Shep Smith ran a segment reiterating that it was a false conspiracy theory.

Sessions appointed Huber at this point, after Fox host Jeanine Pirro reportedly criticized the Attorney General to Trump in the Oval Office. Now that investigation is ending with nothing having been turned up.

Not that this will break through to the Fox News audience. Shep has left the network, and Hannity furiously said on Friday that he still believes there is wrongdoing. Maybe in 2020, though, outlets like The New York Times will think a bit before teaming up with Steve Bannon.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Chaos Is the Point’: Russian Hackers and Trolls Grow Stealthier in 2020, Matthew Rosenberg, Nicole Perlroth and David E. Sanger, Jan. 10, 2020. While U.S. cyberdefenses have improved since 2016, many of the vulnerabilities remain. And attacks are getting more sophisticated. The Russians were sloppy in 2016 because they could be: They caught Americans off guard. Now hackers and trolls are working far harder to cover their tracks.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoThe National Security Agency and its British counterpart issued an unusual warning in October: The Russians were back and growing stealthier.

Groups linked to Russia’s intelligence agencies, they noted, had recently been uncovered boring into the network of an elite Iranian hacking unit and attacking governments and private companies in the Middle East and Britain — hoping Tehran would be blamed for the havoc.

For federal and state officials charged with readying defenses for the 2020 election, it was a clear message that the next cyberwar was not going to be like the last. The landscape is evolving, and the piggybacking on Iranian networks was an example of what America’s election-security officials and experts face as the United States enters what is shaping up to be an ugly campaign season marred by hacking and disinformation.

Fox #MeToo Scandals

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washington post logoWashington Post, ‘I do wish I had done more’: Megyn Kelly tearfully reacts to ‘Bombshell’ and the fallout of the Fox News sexual harassment scandal, Katie Shepherd, Jan. 10, 2020. Hot, dry and windy conditions caused two large blazes to merge into one the size of the state of Delaware — or about eight times larger than New York City. As the young woman excitedly pitched herself for a job to the company’s senior executive, a man dressed in an expensive suit, he appeared to be listening intently, nodding as she listed all of the skills she could bring to the position. Then, he gave her an order: “Do a little spin for me.”

fox news logo SmallThe uncomfortable scene comes from the recently released film “Bombshell” (shown above), but the story could have been told by many women at Fox News who said former chief roger ailes wexecutive Roger Ailes, right, asked them the same question in his office.

“Turn around let me see your ass,” Juliet Huddy, a former Fox News host, recalled Ailes telling her in a video shared Thursday by Megyn Kelly after the women watched the movie together. Two other victims of harassment at Fox, Rudi Bakhtiar and Julie Zann, joined them to share their thoughts on the fictionalized drama about the scandal that upended their careers.

All four of the women said Ailes had asked them to twirl for him. Only Bakhtiar, a former Fox News correspondent, said she refused. Kelly recalled the humiliation she felt after Ailes asked her to spin for him.

Jan. 9

Climate Change / Media / Economy

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Down With Tyranny! Opinion: Jane Fonda Is Pitching For Our Future. Lend an Ear, Skip Kaltenheuser, Jan. 9, 2020. Even for those already in the climate choir, Jane Fonda’s sermon last month at the National Press Club is well worth the time to read or watch and listen to. I’ve logged loads of press club luncheon speeches over the years. This was one of the finest I’ve heard. Fonda eloquently described how global warming has us up against the wall. Not just the heartfelt delivery one expects from Oscar winners, but the essential substance and slightly wicked wit woven throughout. Send it to those needing motivation to confront the stark realities before us and to act (59 min. video here via C-SPAN and YouTube).

Fonda’s many actions include Fire-drill Fridays, protests for which she temporarily moved to DC in September, at which she’s been arrested a half dozen times. If you’re around Washington, the last drill before her return to acting commitments in L.A. is Jan. 10. Guest speakers include Bill McKibben and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Fonda's speech took no prisoners, calling out a range of climate villains, including Exxon, which over forty years ago knew the truth about the effect of increasing CO2 gases and the short window to address it, and whose executives, when their scientists informed them of the global impacts, replied “This problem is not as significant to mankind as a nuclear holocaust or world famine.”

jane fonda dec.17 npc"And they continued to drill," said Fonda, right. "Exxon, Shell, Mobil, and others knew that their products wouldn’t stay profitable once the world understood the risks. So they used the same consultants that the tobacco companies had used to launch a huge communications effort, to develop strategies on how to fool us."

"The difference is that tobacco companies were primarily harming people who smoke. The fossil fuel companies are harming the entire planet and all its inhabitants. The companies not only hid what they knew, a coalition, together with the Koch brothers and other billionaires spent tens of millions of dollars on think tanks, like the Heartland Institute, that promote false science, sowing confusion about global warming, so that people won't try to stop them. Their line was, and continues to be, that the, “Science about climate change is not clear. And even if it were, the fault lies with governments and consumers, not with them.” You see, but the thing is, these oil companies have played a big role in actively stopping governments from enacting clean energy policies, with Exxon leading the way."

That includes Exxon’s undermining the 1998 International Treaty on Climate, the Kyoto Protocol. Fonda points to other bad actors, like the American Petroleum Institute, with its new video, America’s Energy Security: A Generation of Progress at Risk, equating fracking and drilling with patriotism, as Republicans including Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania introduce resolutions to prohibit a President from implementing a unilateral moratorium on fracking, and as the Manhattan Institute, with significant backing from fossil fuels concerns, warns of global recession if the US bans fracking. It won’t shock that Fonda advocates legal consequences for knowing deceptions and environmental damage.

To claims like Toomey’s that American oil and gas production is the only path to energy security, Fonda asks if it’s necessary for energy security, what are we doing shipping it overseas? She quoted Oil Change International that 45% of existing drilling wouldn’t be profitable without taxpayers subsidizing fossil fuels with over $16 billion dollars a year.

She didn’t mention it, but that’s dwarfed by military expenditures underpinning escapades with oil in mind. They arguably include backing Iraq in the Iraq-Iran war of 1980-88, the invasions of Iraq, and shoring up the Saudi regime and the UAE and pumping up their ally Israel. Now we’re doing that trio's bidding with a dance in the dark with Iran.

ny times logoNew York Times, White House Moves to Exempt Big Projects From Environmental Review, Lisa Friedman, Jan. 9, 2020. The Trump Administration, hoping to speed infrastructure projects like pipelines, will formally introduce changes to a landmark environmental law.

The White House on Thursday introduced major changes to the nation’s benchmark environmental protection law, moving to ease approval of major energy and infrastructure projects without detailed environmental assessment or consideration of climate change.

epa general logoMany of the changes to the law — the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act, a landmark measure that touches nearly every significant construction project in the country — had been long sought by the oil and gas industry as well as trade unions, which have argued that the review process is lengthy, cumbersome and used by environmental activists to drag out legal disputes and kill infrastructure projects.

Under the law, major federal projects like bridges, highways, pipelines or power plants that will have a significant impact on the environment require an review, or environmental impact statement, outlining potential consequences. The proposed new rules would narrow the range of projects that require such a study and impose strict new deadlines on completing assessments.

australian fires kangaroo nytimes Custom

Kangaroo rushes past a burning house Tuesday in Lake Conjola, New South Wales, Australia (Photo: Matthew Abbott for The New York Times).

washington post logoWashington Post, A billion animals have been caught in Australia’s fires. Some may go extinct, Karin Brulliard and Darryl Fears, Jan. 9, 2020.  Some of the rarest species on Earth are threatened by fires scorching their habitats, scientists warn. Expert says Australian habitats might take centuries to recover — if at all

The mouse-size dunnart is not as iconic as the koalas or platypuses that draw tourists, but it is arguably the most special mammal on Australia’s Kangaroo Island.

Now the Kangaroo Island dunnart’s days may be numbered. Before bush fires struck, it was already endangered, so rare that even researchers who studied them had never seen one. Now they fear they never will. One-third of the 1,700-square-mile island has burned, including the entire area where these dunnarts are known to live.

“One hundred percent — all of our records since 1990 are within the burned fire scar. The entire range of the species has been burned,” said Rosemary Hohnen, an ecologist who spent more than two years surveying the Kangaroo Island dunnart. “They’re in true peril, real peril of extinction.”

Jan. 7

Media Matters, Opinion: The myth of "Donald the Dove" shows the perils of a gullible press, Parker Molloy, Jan. 7, 2020. In the lead up to the 2016 election, opinion writers across several major outlets published articles that argued of the two major party candidates, Donald Trump was less inclined to enter a war. Infamously, Maureen Dowd published an opinion article titled, “Donald the Dove, Hillary the Hawk.”

media matters logoThis article and others cemented the simplistic idea in voters minds, all the while ignoring the many public statements Donald Trump had made previously that indicated otherwise.

While Trump’s statements on foreign policy were often conflicting, they should not have been too difficult for journalists to parse. On an August 11, 2015, episode of Fox & Friends, Trump declared that he was “the most militaristic person there is.” Further, Trump said that he would “take out” families of terrorists, a move widely considered a war crime, vowed to bring back waterboarding, and called for massive increases in military spending.

The notion that Trump was going to be an anti-militaristic candidate directly contradicted many of his own public comments, and is yet another example of how Trump was not judged on his own merits in the 2016 election. While “Donald the Dove, Hillary the Hawk,” made for a clever use of alliteration, it didn’t inform people on what to expect under a Trump presidency.

Jan. 7

Media News

daniel hopsickerMadcow News, Investigation & Commentary: Paint It Mint, Daniel Hopsicker, right, Jan. 7, 2020. On the eve of war, with breaking news advancing like an electrical storm across the horizon, I was outmaneuvered by an internet troll into promising to explain what I know about a bizarre little Minneapolis news site called MintPress News.

This is that story.

Who stands behind Mint Press, a small Minneapolis-based site with a progressive bent that hides its funding even from employees and has mysterious connections to the Middle East?

Their poking around also establishes the nature of the mystery. The background to the case.

In stories filed with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, MinnPost, and the Colombia Journalism Review, journalists on the ground in Minnesota provided most of the following details.

Interviews with former employees and people familiar with the inner workings of Mint Press, they wrote, paint a portrait of a dysfunctional outlet where employees are left in the dark about the site’s sources of funding and are alienated from the Muhawesh family that runs it:

odeh muhawesh CustomMnar Muhawesh, the editor-in-chief, her brother-in-law and managing editor Muhammad Muhawesh, and her father-in-law Odeh Muhawesh, 54, left, a Minneapolis businessman born in Jordan.

They also revealed an agenda that lines up, from its sympathy with the Syrian regime to its hostility to Sunni Saudi Arabia, with that of the Islamic Republic of Iran, where Odeh Muhawesh studied under an ayatollah for five years after the Islamic Revolution, and where he visited as recently as last summer.

A fellow researcher recently discovered information indicating Odeh Muhawesh was part of a government operation with the father of Peter Strzok, the recently-famous and controversial FBI Agent.

Before to the invasion of Iraq by the George W. Bush regime, Muhawesh opened an office as president of Middle East Trading Company, Inc. in Jordan to provide agricultural and developmental projects within Iraq with funding from federal agencies like U.S. AID and the United Nations World Food Progress.

Peter Strzok, Sr. was the former director of humanitarian and development programs throughout the Middle East. Strzok organized a program to send used tractors and other farm equipment to Iraq.

Both Muhawesh and Srtzok’s Dad, himself a former FBI Agent, are affiliated with the Minnesota-based American Refugee Committee, part of a USAID program to distribute relief supplies in Iraq.

If their USAID program wasn’t connected to the CIA, it would likely be the only one operating in country.

 daniel hopsicker barry boys coverJustice Integrity Project Editor's Note: The project has not independently verified the allegations in the investigation above made by Hopsicker, author of Barry and the Boys, whose cover is shown at right, and Welcome To Terrorland. Our project has excerpted columns also by MintPress News, most notably a series of cutting-edge reports by Whitney Webb during the summer of 2019 regarding context for the Jeffrey Epstein scandals. We are seeking reaction from MintPress News and Webb to Hopsicker's report.

Justice Integrity Project, MintPress News Denounces Hopsicker's Claims As Error-Filled 'Smear,' Andrew Kreig, Jan. 13, 2020 (updated). MintPress News Editor-in-Chief Mnar Muhawesh and correspondent Whitney Webb rebutted claims made Madcow News founder Daniel Hopsicker in the column above, describing it as a poorly researched, inaccurate and highly biased "dangerous smear."

Webb, shown below in one of the photos she uses to illustrate her columns, wrote on Twitter on Jan. 8, "Dangerous smear about Mintpress sadly coming from D Hopsicker, who falsely claims that it has 'direct ties' to Iran and whitney webb twitterspecifically Soleimani at a time when the US is about to go to war w Iran and MSM calling Soleimani a 'terrorist'. Clear attempt to get MPN deplatformed."

She wrote also, using the Twitter name @whitneywebb, "Hopsicker also claiming, after looking up the names of my relatives, that my dad worked for the OSS, an agency that was liquidated years before my dad was even born. Hopsicker began to 'investigate"'me after he implied I was a Nazi for merely being an American living in Chile."

"Hopsicker's problem with me,"  Webb continued, "is because I wrote about the links between Epstein and Israeli intel (I also covered his links to US Intel btw). His smears now being promoted by other alt media ppl who think it's impossible that I wrote my Epstein series w/o special help fr a govt."

In another Tweet, she wrote, "Nearly [sic] smear since my Epstein series has come from old men in alt media who are clearly upset that a woman half their age (I'm 30) made connections in that case in a couple of months that they couldn't make for years."

MintPress editor Muhawesh wrote in a separate Tweet, "No mention of my response to BuzzFeed smear & Odeh's role as a tech & HR advisor when I first started MPN. Why didn't Hopsicker mention my actual editorial & other business advisors like Mickey Huff & Kate Madonna. Is it because they are not brown Muslims?"

The MintPress website describes its background and alliances in part as follows: "MintPress News is proud to partner with leading journalism venues and activist sites that work tirelessly to bring attention to social justice issues at home and abroad. These syndication partners include: Shadow Proof, TruthOut, CommonDreams, Media Roots, War Is A Crime, Occupy.com , and several others. Become a MintPress partner! If you’d like to become a syndication or news partner or are simply interested in collaborating on an investigation with MintPress, contact our editor Mnar Muhawesh."

Hopsicker replied with a Jan. 11 Tweet asserting in call capitals, "THE SECOND THING...WHITNEY WEBB DISSOCIATED HERSELF FROM MINT PRESS NEWS YESTERDAY."

Webb responded the same day as follows: "For those asking, this is not even remotely true. I have several reports coming out for Mintpress this week. An absurd smear campaign inventing its own victory lap. Can't make this stuff up."

Jan. 5

Weinstein Trial To Begin

ny times logoNew York Times, Weinstein Heads to Trial in a Case Seen as Larger Than One Man, Megan Twohey, Jodi Kantor and Jan Ransom, Jan. 5, 2020. The Hollywood producer (shown at right)  faces sexual assault charges in a case that has already been fraught both for prosecutors and his legal team.

harvey weinsteinSince the Harvey Weinstein story broke more than two years ago, everything about it has been outsized: the scope of the allegations of sexual harassment and assault, stretching back decades; the number of his accusers, who total more than 80; and the global scale of the reckoning their stories have inspired.

Many supporters of the #MeToo movement that Mr. Weinstein’s accusers helped ignite are looking to see whether the legal system can deliver justice for victims. Lawyers for Mr. Weinstein, who lost his company, his reputation and his marriage, are arguing that the case is proof that #MeToo has gone too far. At the courthouse, media from around the world, demonstrators outside and spectators in packed galleries will be watching.

Now, as the Hollywood producer’s criminal trial begins Monday in Manhattan, the outcome already is anticipated as a verdict on much more than one man’s alleged wrongdoing.

Media Trends

ny times logofacebook logoNew York Times, How Big Tech Is Turning New York Into a Silicon Valley Rival, Matthew Haag, Jan. 5, 2020. Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google will soon have 20,000 workers in the city, many in a cluster of offices on the West Side.

Facebook’s push to accommodate its booming operations is part of a rush by the West Coast technology giants to expand in New York City. The rapid growth is turning a broad swath of Manhattan into one of the world’s most vibrant tech corridors.

Jan. 2

Page Six, Chuck Todd’s ‘Meet the Press Daily’ may be sidelined to make room for Nicolle Wallace, Emily Smith, Jan. 2, 2020. Chuck Todd’s “Meet chuck todd nbc croppedthe Press Daily” could be sidelined at MSNBC as part of a dramatic anchor reshuffling at the cable network to promote rising star Nicolle Wallace.

While the “MTP” flagship, also under NBC political director Todd, right, remains the No. 1 rated Sunday political show, with over 3 million viewers, his weekday 5 p.m. spinoff show has seen a dip in the all-important 25-to-54 age demographic. It airs between more popular, opinionated shows: Wallace’s “Deadline: White House,” which peaked with 2 million viewers in 2019, and “The Beat With Ari Melber.”

msnbc logo CustomTV insiders say NBC News boss Andy Lack and MSNBC’s Phil Griffin had tried to persuade Todd to move “Daily” to 9 a.m., directly after the network’s politically influential “Morning Joe.” The plan would allow Wallace — a breakout cable star — to broadcast for two hours on weekdays, 4 to 6 p.m.

Plus, the 9 a.m. slot could soon be open, Page Six revealed. That hour’s host, Stephanie Ruhle, has just signed to become NBC’s senior business correspondent, appearing across all shows including “Today” and “NBC Nightly News.”

But a TV insider said, “Chuck doesn’t want to move to 9 a.m. He’d rather leave MSNBC completely and focus on ‘Meet the Press’ on Sunday, and continue to provide news and political analysis across all NBC News platforms including digital. He sees his show as news, not opinion.” Another insider mused it was “madness for NBC to upset the face of its political coverage ahead of 2020. They need Chuck on air every day.”

A third MSNBC source conceded that news chiefs had asked Todd to move “Daily” because “the show doesn’t fit in the 5 p.m. slot.” But the insider insisted, “There’s no way MSNBC wants to lose ‘MTP Daily’ and Chuck. He’s NBC’s biggest political star.” The move comes as Todd faces backlash for highlighting a letter to the editor of a small newspaper that stated voters who believe in “fairy tales” and Noah’s Ark were more likely to vote for Donald Trump.

Jan. 1

Project Censored, Top 25 stories of 2018-2019, Staff report, Jan. 1, 2019. The presentation of the Top 25 stories of 2018-2019 extends the tradition originated by Professor Carl Jensen and his Sonoma State University students in 1976, while reflecting how the expansion of the Project to include affiliate faculty and students from campuses across North America has made the Project even more diverse and robust.

During this year’s cycle, Project Censored reviewed over 300 Validated Independent News stories (VINs) representing the collective efforts of 283 college students and 24 professors from 15 college and university campuses that participated in the Project’s Campus Affiliates Program during the past year.

1. Justice Department’s Secret FISA Rules for Targeting Journalists. A pair of 2015 memos, from former attorney general Eric Holder to the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, show how the government could use court orders.

2. facebook logoThink Tank Partnerships Establish Facebook as Tool of US Foreign Policy.  Under the guise of fighting “fake news” and protecting US democracy from “foreign influence,” in 2018 social media giant Facebook established partnerships with the Atlantic Council, a NATO-sponsored think tank.

3. Indigenous Groups from Amazon Propose Creation of Largest Protected Area on Earth. Sweeping development throughout the Amazon rainforest is an abiding concern for indigenous groups. The Amazon’s extraordinary biodiversity is being destroyed for profits and political gain.

4. U.S. Oil and Gas Industry Set to Unleash 120 Billion Tons of New Carbon Emissions. The US oil and gas industry has the potential to “unleash the largest burst of new carbon emissions in the world” through 2050, according to a January 2019 report.

 

 2020

December

Dec. 29

robert parry new hs

The late Robert Parry, above: On New Year’s Eve 2017, less than a month before he would die, Consortium News founder Bob Parry wrote a manifesto on the remit of journalism and its threatened demise, a chilling forecast of what was to come.

Consortium News, Opinion: An Apology & Explanation, Two Years On, Robert Parry, Dec. 29, 2019 (Originally published on Dec. 31, 2017). For readers who have come to see Consortium News as a daily news source, I would like to extend my personal apology for our spotty production in recent days.

On Christmas Eve, I suffered a stroke that has affected my eyesight (especially my reading and thus my writing) although apparently not much else. The doctors have also been working to figure out exactly what happened since I have never had high blood pressure, I never smoked, and my recent physical found nothing out of the ordinary. Perhaps my personal slogan that “every day’s a work day” had something to do with this.

Perhaps, too, the unrelenting ugliness that has become Official Washington and national journalism was a factor.

It seems that since I arrived in Washington in 1977 as a correspondent for the Associated Press, the nastiness of American democracy and journalism has gone from bad to worse.

In some ways, the Republicans escalated the vicious propaganda warfare following Watergate, refusing to accept that Richard Nixon was guilty of some extraordinary malfeasance (including the 1968 sabotage of President Johnson’s Vietnam peace talks to gain an edge in the election and then the later political dirty tricks and cover-ups that came to include Watergate).

Rather than accept the reality of Nixon’s guilt, many Republicans simply built up their capability to wage information warfare, including the creation of ideological news organizations to protect the party and its leaders from “another Watergate.”

So, when Democrat Bill Clinton defeated President George H.W. Bush in the 1992 election, the Republicans used their news media and their control of the special prosecutor apparatus (through Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Appeals Court Judge David Sentelle) to unleash a wave of investigations to challenge Clinton’s legitimacy, eventually uncovering his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Though I don’t like the word “weaponized,” it began to apply to how “information” was used in America. The point of Consortium News, which I founded in 1995, was to use the new medium of the modern Internet to allow the old principles of journalism to have a new home, i.e., a place to pursue important facts and giving everyone a fair shake. But we were just a tiny pebble in the ocean.

The trend of using journalism as just another front in no-holds-barred political warfare continued – with Democrats and liberals adapting to the successful techniques pioneered mostly by Republicans and by well-heeled conservatives.

“The idea had developed that the way to defeat your political opponent was not just to make a better argument or rouse popular support but to dredge up some ‘crime’ that could be pinned on him or her.”

More and more I would encounter policymakers, activists and, yes, journalists who cared less about a careful evaluation of the facts and logic and more about achieving a pre-ordained geopolitical result – and this loss of objective standards reached deeply into the most prestigious halls of American media.

 donald trump jr gage skidmore Custom

Donald Trump Jr. has the audacity to assert that he is a victim of the “leftist” media, which he labels, like his father, “the enemy of the people” (Gage Skidmore Photo).

Buzzflash, Commentary: How the Trumps Weaponize “Grievance Porn,” Mark Karlin, Dec. 29, 2019. Donald Trump Jr.'s Snowflake Meltdown Over Home Alone 2 Cut is Latest Example of Trump Family White Privilege "Grievance" Whimpering. 

The daily testament to how Trump and his family attract the media to the entertainment spectacle that the Trumps create, particularly the patriarch of the family, is unending. It is like a reality TV show that starts over every day with an early morning Twitter storm by the corrupt grifter-in-chief and master media manipulator.

BuzzFlash Informs, Inspires and Exposes, but we can only amplify our powerful voice of resistance with your financial support. This holiday season, please donate now.

We accept no advertising and are only responsible to our readers.

This weekend’s media scrum about how the Trumps took umbrage over a seven-second cut by the CBC of a Trump cameo appearance in the years-old (released in 1992) “Home Alone 2” — although Donald later stated that he was just joking that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was responsible for the “slight” — is testament to how entertainment and “journalism” have merged, along with the Trumps asserting resentment and victimhood at the hands of liberals, and in this case the “leftist “Canadians.

Yes, Donald Trump did have a blink-of-the-eye cameo in Home Alone 2, but according to CBC spokesperson Chuck Thompson, it was edited out in 2014, long before Trump became president, to shorten the film to the length of its airing time on the Canadian TV network.

That the edit preceded Trujmp’s political ascendancy didn’t stop Trump Jr. from frothing into a tirade against the CBC, the media as “the enemy of the people,” and liberals as a group “oppressing” the “real” Americans. as explosively written in an Instagram entry by him:

Dec. 27

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Media Is Broken, And not for the reasons you think, David Brooks, Dec. 27, 2019 (print ed.). Those of us in journalism primarily do one thing: cover events. We report and opine about events like election campaigns, wars and crimes. A lot of the events we cover are decisions — a decision to reform health care or write a tweet — so we tend to congregate in the cities where decision makers live. The internet has sped up the news cycle. Now we put more emphasis on covering the last event that just happened. But it’s still mostly events.

But a funny thing has happened to events in this era. They have ceased to drive politics the way they used to. We’ve seen gigantic events like impeachment, the Kavanaugh hearings, the Mueller investigation and the “Access Hollywood” tapes. They come and go and barely leave a trace on the polls, the political landscape or evaluations of Donald Trump.

Events don’t seem to be driving politics. Increasingly, sociology is. We in the media will continue to cover events, which, of course, is absolutely necessary. But with some noble exceptions (I’m thinking of Thomas Edsall of The Times and Ronald Brownstein of The Atlantic), we underreport on how meaning is made in different subcultures.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ghost papers and news deserts: Will America ever get its local news back? Jonathan O'Connell, Dec. 27, 2019 (print ed.).  Since the Internet arrived in earnest 25 years ago, almost nobody — not the savviest investment bankers, the most well-meaning editors, local entrepreneurs or generous philanthropists — has figured out a sustainable way to continue producing local news.

America lost a quarter of its journalists from 2008 to 2018, the vast majority of them covering local issues, according to University of North Carolina professor Penny Muse Abernathy. Newsrooms lost at least 3,800 jobs in 2019 alone.

She estimates the country has lost 2,100 newspapers since 2004, 70 of them dailies. She has begun referring to about 1,000 surviving titles as “ghost papers” because of their painfully thin staffs and reporting. She has dubbed places with few or no reporters as “news deserts.” “There is a dearth of local news at all levels,” she said.

The top newspaper chains are fighting for their lives, attempting to produce enough news that readers will subscribe online but at a low-enough cost to keep investors — including a vulture hedge fund that continues to ravage newspaper companies — at bay.

Although people still trust local media sources more than national ones, only 14 percent of the public is paying for local news, according to the Pew Research Center. If that number doesn’t rise, many newspapers and digital publishers will be unable to maintain the reporting they are doing now.

Meanwhile, some advocates for local news — armed with new research — are working with community leaders, policymakers and philanthropists to create new ownership models.

Dec. 26

chuck todd nbc cropped

New York University's PressThink, Criticism: The Christmas Eve Confessions of Chuck Todd, Jay Rosen, right, director of the NYU's Arthur L. jay rosenCarter Journalism Institute, Dec. 26, 2019. That disinformation was going to overtake Republican politics was discoverable years before he says he discovered it.

‘Round midnight on Christmas eve, Rolling Stone posted a short interview with Chuck Todd, above, host of “the longest running show on television,” NBC’s Meet the Press. Its contents were explosive, embarrassing, enraging, and just plain weird.

Three years after Kellyanne Conway introduced the doctrine of “alternative facts” on his own program, a light went on for Chuck Todd. Republican strategy, he now realized, was to make stuff up, spread it on social media, repeat it in your answers to journalists — even when you know it’s a lie with crumbs of truth mixed in — and then convert whatever controversy arises into go-get-em points with the base, while pocketing for the party a juicy dividend: additional mistrust of the news media to help insulate President Trump among loyalists when his increasingly brazen actions are reported as news.

Todd repeatedly called himself naive for not recognizing the pattern, itself an astounding statement that cast doubt on his fitness for office as host of Meet the Press. While the theme of the interview was waking up to the truth of Republican actions in the information warfare space, Todd went to sleep on the implications of what he revealed. It took him three years to understand a fact about American politics that was there on the surface, unconcealed since the day after inauguration. Many, many interpreters had described it for him during those lost years when he could not bring himself to believe it. (I am one.)

You cannot call that an oversight. It’s a strategic blindness that he superintended. By “strategic blindness” I mean what people mean when they quote Upton Sinclair: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

nbc news logoThe ostensible purpose of the Rolling Stone interview was to promote a special edition of Meet the Press on December 29 that will focus on the weaponization of disinformation. But its effect is to bring MTP — and by extension similar shows — into epistemological crisis. With Todd’s confessions the mask has come off. It could have come off a long time ago, but the anchors, producers, guests, advertisers and to an unknown degree the remaining viewers colluded in an act of make believe that lurched along until now. One way to say it: They agreed to pretend that Conway’s threatening phrase, “alternative facts” was just hyberbole, the kind of inflammatory moment that makes for viral clips and partisan bickering. More silly than it was ominous.

In reality she had made a grave announcement. The nature of the Trump government would be propagandistic. And as Garry Kasparov observes for us, “The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.” This exhaustion, this annihilation were on their way to the Sunday shows, and to all interactions with journalists. That is what Kellyanne Conway was saying that day on Meet the Press. But the people who run the show chose not to believe it.

That’s malpractice. Chuck Todd called it naiveté in order to minimize the error. This we cannot allow. Now let’s look more closely at his Christmas Eve confessions….

Dec. 25

U.S. Politics / Media

washington post logoWashington Post, How the reporter who found Mitt Romney’s secret Twitter has turned online sleuthing into a beat, Hannah Knowles, Dec. 25, 2019 (print ed.). Ashley Feinberg was pretty sure she’d found Pete Buttigieg’s editor account on Wikipedia — the same way the journalist had been pretty sure she’d found Donald Trump Jr.’s profile on a hunting forum, and the Amazon Wish Lists of the president’s inner circle, and Mitt Romney’s secret Twitter account (‘C’est moi,” the senator said when asked to confirm).

pete buttigieg mayor south bend inWho else but the Democratic presidential contender himself, Feinberg thought, would have made sure Buttigieg, right, showed up under a list of notable Rhodes scholars just one day after he was elected mayor of a midsize city in Indiana? Who else would have gone on six minutes later to create the rising politician’s own page? Who else would have edited Wikipedia’s offerings on his favored Skagen watch, the friend and musician who played at his wedding, the 2010 race for Indiana State Treasurer?

But when Feinberg reached out to the Buttigieg team after a few days of her trademark Internet sleuthing, the mystery of years-ago activity from an account named “Streeling” only deepened.

Dec. 24

Media / #MeToo

bombshell poster

ny times logoNew York Times, The Sexual Predator’s TV Wife, Amanda Hess, Dec. 24, 2019 (print ed.). Harassment has long been a hurdle on the anchorwoman’s rise to the top. New projects, like “The Morning Show” and “Bombshell,” examine what she has to do to stay there.

Sexual harassment has long been a part of the anchorwoman’s pop-culture origin story. Occasionally we even see it play out on television, as we did last month, when a race runner assaulted a local television reporter on the air, and she glared after him for less than a second before resuming her coverage.

Mostly we see it in movies, romanticized in “Up Close and Personal” and skewered in “Anchorman,” both loosely inspired by the pioneering TV presenter Jessica Savitch. As our anchorwoman navigates the newsroom, she must brush off innuendo and swat away gropes in order to prove that she can cut it in an anchorman’s world. When she makes it to prime time, we know the credits are about to roll.

But lately we’ve caught a second look at this figure. “The Morning Show” (which is loosely inspired by Lauer’s fall at NBC) and the film “Bombshell” (which re-enacts Roger Ailes’s ouster from Fox News) train an eye on the veteran newswoman who has already fought her battles and secured her time slot. The dynamics of her workplace have not been totally reversed, but they have been scrambled. What does she do with her power? How does she maintain her position? What harassment does she endure, witness, abide?

Dec. 23

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Making the Front Page: How All the News Fits in Print, Suzanne Daley, Dec. 23, 2019. In an effort to shed more light on how we work, The Times is running a series of short posts explaining some of our journalistic practices. Read more from this series here.

When I started at The New York Times in 1978, the newsroom was a smoky, male dominion and the front-page meeting was held promptly at 5:30 p.m. around a small table in the executive editor’s office.

Only the most senior editors were allowed to attend and pitch their stories, and their fear as the hour approached was palpable.

By midafternoon, it was not unusual to hear the crash of the national editor kicking a desk or slamming his phone down in frustration. Invariably, the reporter out in the field couldn’t be found as the deadline neared, and the editor would have to go into the meeting far less prepared than he would have liked.

It would take me years to get into that room, at first just to watch the prodding and questioning that went on, often with humiliating consequences for the editor who offered a story that was not deemed ready for publication.

It was hard not to be impressed by the intellectual firepower in the room. But it was also daunting to see gray-haired adults literally hiding their hands under the table so no one could see that they were shaking as they talked.

A lot has changed since then. Today’s front page is the result of a far more democratic and organic process. For one thing, the newsroom’s energy is no longer focused solely on the deadlines of a press run. Stories and slide shows, videos and interactive graphics are among the features going up on the web all day long.

There are “news meetings” at 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., where often 40 to 50 people sit around on modular furniture inside a glass-box room visible to much of the newsroom.

Dec. 20

Media / Privacy

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Smartphones Are Spies. Here’s Whom They Report To, Stuart A. Thompson and Charlie Warzel, Dec. 20, 2019 (print ed.). Your smartphone is probably sending your precise location to companies right now. Their job is to turn your shopping trip or doctor’s visit into “Big Data” — another term for corporate intelligence. So far, the companies and individuals profiting from your everyday movements have mostly evaded scrutiny.

As Times Opinion continues reporting on a giant trove of mobile phone location data, the companies and people profiting from the privacy invasion are coming into focus.

So who, exactly, is watching, and why — and where is all that information going? Google Maps is possibly the most popular location-google logo custombased app in the world, with over one billion users active each month, most of whom are most likely enabling location tracking. Large tech companies like Google and Facebook are more likely to keep the invasive data they collect to themselves for their own internal use, repurposing it to improve their products, for marketing and other analyses.

But many other location data companies aren’t household names. Smaller players mostly operate behind the scenes on many of your favorite apps, using software designed to quietly collect location data from your phone’s sensors after you consent (more about that in a minute). Many have labyrinthian privacy policies vaguely explaining their permissions but they use technical and nuanced language that may be confusing to average smartphone users.

The industry has evolved to sprout even more companies, specializing in monitoring phones via Bluetooth signals or improving the technology that lets it all happen. In other cases, location data is funneled into marketing companies and used to create targeted advertising. (Companies can work with data derived from GPS sensors, Bluetooth signals and other sources. Not all companies in the location data business collect, buy, sell or work with granular location data.)

By design, it’s often nearly impossible to know which companies receive your location information or what they do with it. Some are startups with only a few dozen employees and modest funding. Others are established players with significant investment.

Because the collection of location data is largely unregulated, these companies can legally get access to phone location sensors and then buy and resell the information they gather in perpetuity. Not all companies do that, but some do. The business opportunities are vast. And investors have noticed. Many advertising executives have independently described the location data industry to us as “the Wild West.”

Dec. 18

U.S. Crime, Fake News

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Accused Pizzagate Arsonist Pleads Guilty to Setting Fire at D.C. Pizzeria, Will Sommer, Dec. 17, 2019. Ryan Jaselskis faces four years in prison after admitting to setting a fire at Comet Ping Pong. A 23-year-old California man pleaded guilty Tuesday to starting a fire earlier this year at a Washington pizzeria that lies at the heart of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, in a crime that appears to be linked to bizarre internet claims about the restaurant.

Ryan Jaselskis accepted a two-count deal from prosecutors that will send him to prison for four years, if it’s accepted by a judge at his sentencing in March. Under the conditions of his guilty plea, Jaselskis admitted to starting a fire on Jan. 23 at pizzeria Comet Ping Pong and assaulting a law enforcement officer near the Washington Monument days later.

Security footage taken the night of the arson showed Jaselskis lighting a curtain in the back of the pizzeria on fire before fleeing. An employee put out the fire before anyone in the restaurant could be hurt.

Prosecutors haven’t revealed Jaselskis’s motives for starting the fire, and his defense attorney declined to comment on Tuesday. But the arson appears to be related to Pizzagate, the baseless internet conspiracy theory that posits that Hillary Clinton and other top Democratic figures operate a cannibalistic, pedophile sex dungeon out of the restaurant’s nonexistent basement.

An hour before Jaselskis started the fire, someone posted a video to his parents’ YouTube account promoted Pizzagate-style claims. Jaselskis was eventually arrested in February after fighting National Park Police officers in an attempt to break into the Washington Monument.

Jaselskis wouldn’t be the first person motivated to commit violence by Pizzagate conspiracy theories, which proliferated online shortly before the 2016 presidential election. In Dec. 2016, a North Carolina man who believed in Pizzagate fired an AR-15 rifle inside the pizzeria. Welch was sentenced to four years in prison.

While no one was hurt in either incidents, the conspiracy theory has continued to bedevil the pizzeria and surrounding years after the claims first emerged.

Daily Kos via Alternet, Media fail: The press keeps covering impeachment through the eyes of the Republican Party, Eric Boehlert, Dec. 18, 2019. The political press corps may have hit peak impeachment failure on Sunday when Meet the Press host Chuck Todd introduced a segment in which voters from a toss-up district in Michigan were interviewed about the House proceedings against Donald Trump.

Touted as a way to take the temperature of everyday voters outside of the “Beltway,” the sit-down with six voters from Kent County, Michigan, offered a chance to hear from America’s heartland and if its denizens “care” about impeachment. Except there was a slight problem: Every voter interviewed was a Republican, and every voter interviewed opposed impeachment. (“I don’t even care. It’s just noise.”)

justin amash o2Even more stunning was the fact that the Michigan county highlighted by Meet the Press is represented in Congress by Justin Amash, left, who made headlines earlier this year when he left the Republican Party because of Trump’s corrupt behavior, and who has since come out in favor of impeachment. Yet network news producers looked at that backdrop, and the fact that 54% of Americans support impeachment according to the most recent Fox News poll, and thought the best approach would be to only ask Republican voters how they felt about impeachment?

If that doesn’t pull back the curtain on today’s coverage and how it’s being told literally through the eyes of the Republican Party, I don’t know what does. Wedded to the Republican narrative that impeachment has put Democrats back on their heels and is boosting Trump’s standing, the press in recent weeks increasingly resembled a soft landing spot for GOP spin.

Keep in mind Democrats just won 40 House seats last year in what many observers saw as voters rewarding the party for vowing to stand up to Trump. Additionally, Republicans under Trump have lost control of the Virginia legislature, lost 435 state legislative seats nationwide while losing control of chambers in Colorado, New York, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Washington, and Maine, and lost the governor mansions in Louisiana and Kentucky. Yet the media narrative today regarding impeachment is that Democrats standing up to Trump are in danger of … upsetting voters? It doesn’t make sense. But many journalists and news organizations have adopted that hollow “Democrats in Disarray” storyline.

Dec. 16

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The number of journalists imprisoned remains at record highs. Trump isn’t helping, Editorial Board​, Dec. 16, 2019 (print ed.). The latest study by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) shows that the number of journalists imprisoned for their work in 2019 remains at record highs. China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are the worst jailers, followed by Eritrea, Vietnam and Iran.

Overall, there are 250 journalists in jail for their work, compared with 255 a year earlier, not much below the peak of 273 in 2016. These are just the journalists incarcerated as of Dec. 1 and do not include many more, probably thousands, who were detained for shorter periods, violently assaulted, wiretapped, surveilled, harassed, smeared or intimidated by the authorities. Add to that the artists, writers, poets and activists who were victims of the same abuse by governments, and the numbers swell more. In this digital age, the old boundaries blur; for example, Raif Badawi, one of 26 journalists identified by CPJ in Saudi Arabia’s jails, was a blogger who created a discussion forum for liberal views about the kingdom. For that he has been sitting in a cell since 2012.

Sadly, “enemy of the people,” the vicious Stalin-era label that led to arbitrary arrest, followed by penal colony banishment or execution, appears to be used more and more often as a companion to “fake news.” President Trump set a bad example by throwing it about carelessly. Now other world leaders who have no use for democracy are copying this insidious tactic. Freedom House pointed out recently, in another study, how press freedom is receding even in nations that are democracies. “Elected leaders in many democracies, who should be press freedom’s staunchest defenders, have made explicit attempts to silence critical media voices and strengthen outlets that serve up favorable coverage,” Freedom House concluded.

The news media is a vital part of civil society, the tugging and pulling between people and their leaders, and the media’s health is absolutely critical to the health of democracy. The CPJ report is added evidence of a global retreat from democratic values and norms. Once upon a time, the United States attempted to be a beacon for those standards. A word to an ally such as Egypt, which receives billions in U.S. aid, might open the jail cell doors. But if the word isn’t spoken, then what? That’s where we are today.

Zero Hedge, New WikiLeaks Bombshell: 20 Inspectors Dissent From Syria Chemical Attack Narrative, Tyler Durden (pen name), Dec. 14, 2019. Late Saturday WikiLeaks released more documents https://wikileaks.org/opcw-douma/ which contradict the US narrative on Assad's use of chemical weapons, specifically related to the April 7, 2018 Douma incident, which resulted in a major US and allied tomahawk missile and air strike campaign on dozens of targets in Damascus.

wikileaks logo2The leaked documents, including internal emails of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) — which investigated the Douma site — reveal mass dissent within the UN-authorized chemical weapons watchdog organization's ranks over conclusions previously reached by the international body which pointed to Syrian government culpability. It's part of a growing avalanche of dissent memos and documents casting the West's push for war in Syria in doubt (which had resulted in two major US and allied attacks on Syria).

This newly released batch, WikiLeaks reports, includes a memo stating 20 inspectors feel that the officially released version of the OPCW's report on Douma “did not reflect the views of the team members that deployed to [Syria]”. This comes amid widespread allegations US officials brought immense pressure to bear on the organization.

ny times logoNew York Times, Black Women Now Hold Crowns in 5 Major Beauty Pageants, Mihir Zaveri, Dec. 16, 2019 (print ed.). Toni-Ann Singh of Jamaica was crowned Miss World on Saturday, marking the first time that black women have simultaneously held the titles of five of the world’s top beauty pageants. Her victory underscored what was already a watershed year in pageantry, which for decades struggled with racism, segregation and gender stereotyping.

ny times logoNew York Times, 2020 Campaigns Throw Their Hands Up on Disinformation, Davey Alba, Updated Dec. 16, 2019. Few politicians have teams to spot false statements about them online, or to fight back before it spreads.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosIn 2018, Lisa Kaplan assembled a small team inside the re-election campaign for Senator Angus King, an independent from Maine. Wary of how Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, it set out to find and respond to political disinformation online.

The team noticed some false statements shared by voters, and traced the language back to Facebook pages with names like “Boycott The NFL 2018.” It alerted Facebook, and some pages were removed. The people behind the posts, operating from places like Israel and Nigeria, had misled the company about their identity.

Today, Ms. Kaplan said, she knows of no campaigns, including among the 2020 presidential candidates, that have similar teams dedicated to spotting and pushing back on disinformation.

They may “wake up the day after the election and say, ‘Oh, no, the Russians stole another one,’” she said.

Dec. 15

U.S. Media  / Antitrust Trends

ny times logoNew York Times, Prime Leverage: How Amazon Wields Power in the Technology World, Daisuke Wakabayashi, Dec. 15, 2019. Software start-ups have a phrase for what Amazon is doing to them: “strip-mining” them of their innovations. This has fueled scrutiny of whether Amazon is abusing its market dominance and engaging in anticompetitive behavior.

Not since the mid-1990s, when Microsoft dominated the personal computer industry with Windows, has a technology platform instilled such fear in competitors as Amazon is now doing with its cloud computing arm. Its feud with Elastic illustrates how it brandishes power in that technical world.

amazon logo smallWhile cloud computing may appear obscure and wonky, it underlies much of the internet. It has grown into one of the technology industry’s largest and most lucrative businesses, offering computing power and software to companies. And Amazon is its single-biggest provider.

Amazon has used its cloud computing arm — called Amazon Web Services, or A.W.S. for short — to copy and integrate software that other tech companies pioneered. It has given an edge to its own services by making them more convenient to use, burying rival offerings and bundling discounts to make its products less expensive. The moves drive customers toward Amazon while those responsible for the software may not see a cent.

Even so, smaller rivals say they have little choice but to work with Amazon. Given the company’s broad reach with customers, start-ups often agree to its restrictions on promoting their own products and voluntarily share client and product information with it. For the privilege of selling through A.W.S., the start-ups pay a cut of their sales back to Amazon.

Dec. 13

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Fox News, I Want My Voice Back, Gretchen Carlson, right, Dec. 13, 2019. I still can’t talk about what happened to me because of a nondisclosure agreement. gretchen carlsonWhen my retaliation and sexual harassment complaint against Roger Ailes, the former Fox News chairman and C.E.O., went public in 2016, there were no #MeToo or Times Up movements to help rally support for my cause.

In the years that followed, many more women have found the courage to come forward, calling out Bill O’Reilly, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Harvey Weinstein, and other powerful men accused of abusing their power. When I sued, I could have never known that my story and the stories of other women at Fox would turn into fox news logo Smallboth a television mini-series and a film, and, more important, that I would be prohibited from speaking about these projects.

Three years ago, receiving a public apology from 21st Century Fox and retaining the right to speak about harassment generally felt like big wins. And they were. But had I known my complaint would help ignite such a profound cultural shift and that I would be depicted onscreen, I would have also fought against signing the nondisclosure agreement, or NDA, that prevented me from discussing my experiences while working at Fox News. At the time, I just wanted to bring closure to an ugly chapter in my life; I thought it would, at the most, lead to a week of press attention — not spawn a mini-series, a movie and become part of a global rallying cry.

ny times logorichard jewell posterNew York Times, Clint Eastwood’s ‘Richard Jewell’ Is at the Center of a Media Storm, Marc Tracy, Dec. 13, 2019 (print ed.). The strong showing is vindication for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who now has a chance to put his personal stamp on Britain, beginning with Brexit. As the The film shows the journalist Kathy Scruggs trading sex for a scoop, a depiction that’s been characterized as defamatory and incomplete.

Clint Eastwood received a standing ovation on Tuesday when he was introduced by the Georgia House speaker, David Ralston, for the red-carpet premiere of “Richard Jewell” at the Rialto Center for the Arts in downtown Atlanta. The audience broke into applause again at the climax of the fact-based film Mr. Eastwood directed about the security guard who was suspected by the F.B.I. of planting a bomb at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.

The reaction was a contrast to how the film was received Wednesday at a screening arranged by Cox Enterprises, the owner of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, at a theater near the newspaper’s headquarters. During a scene in which a Journal-Constitution reporter is shown offering sex to an F.B.I. agent in exchange for information — a scene the paper has called “false and defamatory” — an audience member hissed.

Dec. 12

Media Antitrust

ny times logoNew York Times, F.T.C. Is Said to Consider an Injunction Against Facebook, Mike Isaac and Cecilia Kang, Dec. 12, 2019. Such an action would seek to block a technical integration of WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram, people familiar with the matter said. The Federal Trade Commission is considering seeking a preliminary injunction against Facebook to prevent the social network from integrating several of its messaging services, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

facebook logoThe agency has discussed how the Silicon Valley company is stitching together the technical infrastructure underlying WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks are confidential.

The F.T.C. is weighing whether such an integration would make it harder to potentially break up Facebook, they said, especially if the agency determines that the company’s acquisitions of some of those apps reduced competition in social networking. The agency has not made a final decision about what to do, the people said.

Dec. 11

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NBC News, Sinclair drops Boris Epshteyn and other political analysts, Claire Atkinson, Dec. 11, 2019. Sinclair, which owns 193 stations in the U.S., said it wants to focus on local news nbc logoand investigative journalism. Sinclair Broadcast Group is axing the "must-run" segments of one of its biggest stars, Boris Epshteyn, right, the network's chief political analyst and a former special assistant to President Donald Trump. The move is part of a company-wide effort to move away from political commentary in favor of investigative journalism, the network said Wednesday.

boris ephsteyn cropped“We have to shine a light on our value proposition every quarter hour, in every newscast," the company said in a statement to its staff. "Therefore, we will be expanding our local investigative journalism footprint in our daily newscasts. We are excited to dedicate more time in our newscasts to report on critical and relevant issues.”

“To allot additional airtime for this storytelling, we will be ending the commentary segments this Friday, Dec. 13, featuring Ameshia Cross, and Boris Epshteyn,” the memo continued.

Epshteyn’s political commentary, which ran across all 193 stations as part of a Sinclair corporate mandate, has been widely criticized. In a piece last year about immigration on the Southern border, Epshteyn used the word "invasion" to describe the influx of migrants. Sinclair was forced to post a tweet that the viewpoint did not represent the company’s views and that it is "committed to fair, unbiased journalism across our stations nationwide."

"Boris will be moving into a sales-focused role with the company," a source familiar with the situation told NBC News on Wednesday. Cross, who worked on President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, was hired in January to provide balance on the airwaves.

Dec. 11

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WikiLeaks Editor Julian Assange (graphic by The Indicter Magazine and Swedish Doctors for Human Rights).

Medium, Opinion: Why Did Respected Press Freedom Organization Exclude Assange From Annual List Of Jailed Journalists? Kevin Gosztola, Dec. 11, 2019. A prominent press freedom organization in the United States declined to include WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in its annual list of journalists jailed throughout the world.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), based in New York City, anticipated a backlash to the exclusion, and CPJ deputy executive director Robert Mahoney wrote a post intended to head off criticism. But the post raises several questions and invites further scrutiny.

CPJ’s Board of Directors is composed of many journalists in the U.S. media establishment, an establishment which clings to the notion that Assange is not a journalist in order to maintain a supposed distinction between his work and their work. The decision to exclude Assange from the list is likely driven by their aversion to solidarity.

In Mahoney’s post, he declares, “After extensive research and consideration, CPJ chose not to list Assange as a journalist, in part because his role has just as often been as a source and because WikiLeaks does not generally perform as a news outlet with an editorial process,” Mahoney adds.

Assange has never acted as a source. He acted as a conduit and publisher of documents obtained from sources.

CPJ has consistently condemned indictments and even rumored indictments against Assange as threats to press freedom. Yet, it is possible that Trump prosecutors may relish the press freedom organization’s decision to exclude Assange. It provides a salient example for the U.S. government’s argument that Assange is not a journalist but a criminal. CPJ’s decision to exclude Assange undermines their credibility as advocates on this important case, and they should reconsider their decision.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘I am standing up for myself’: Host Britt McHenry sues Fox News, alleging sexual harassment and retaliation, Teo Armus Dec. 11, 2019. Add Britt McHenry to the long list of women who have spoken out about sexual harassment at Fox News.

fox news logo SmallIn a lawsuit filed Tuesday, the 33-year-old Fox Nation host charged that the network, a co-star and several top executives had discriminated, sexually harassed or retaliated against her, following explicit messages sent to her by her former co-host, George Murdoch, also known as “Tyrus.”

“I am standing up for myself, for women and for what’s right,” McHenry tweeted on Tuesday. “I have maintained the same allegations because the truth doesn’t change. I feel for any sexual harassment victim who has their story and evidence dismissed, doubted and not believed.”

Dec. 10

Business Insider, 7,800 people have lost their jobs so far this year in a media landslide, Benjamin Goggin, Dec. 10, 2019. In the past month, layoffs and cuts have hit Verizon Media, Gannett, the CBC, and Highsnobiety, bringing the total number of media layoffs, cuts, and buyouts in 2019 above 7,800, according to Business Insider's tally.

The latest cuts followed layoff and buyout announcements at BuzzFeed, Vice Media, and Disney. For comparison, it's estimated that some 5,000 media jobs were cut from the market from 2014 to 2017.

washington post logoWashington Post, Review: In ‘Richard Jewell,’ a hero is falsely implicated by the media. Sound familiar? Michael O'Sullivan, Dec. 10, richard jewell poster2019. The movie about the Centennial Park bombing features strong characters — and a couple of caricatures, too.

In “Richard Jewell,” a movie about the security guard who found what’s known as the Centennial Park bomb during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and was subsequently falsely implicated in planting it, the villains are more starkly delineated than the heroes. The bad guys are the government, represented by an overzealous, unscrupulous FBI agent (Jon Hamm), and the media, represented by a sleazy reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Olivia Wilde), who wrote a story identifying Jewell as the subject of the FBI’s investigation.

It’s the Trump-iest movie you’ve ever seen, set a full 20 years before the election of the famously press-bashing, Deep State-loathing president.

That’s perhaps no surprise, coming from director Clint Eastwood, who has professed his admiration for Trump. But it does seem a little weird from the pen of screenwriter Billy Bay, whose “Shattered Glass,” while detailing the journalistic malpractice of disgraced magazine reporter Stephen Glass, at least respected the standards of the newsgathering profession. Wilde’s Kathy Scruggs is implied to have slept with Hamm’s Tom Shaw for information, and she gleefully celebrates her paper’s scoop by fist-pumping her way around the AJC newsroom.

Dec. 9

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TheGrayzone via Consortium News, Commentary: US Government Drops Case Against Max Blumenthal, Ben Norton, Dec. 9, 2019. The arrest is part of a wider pattern of political persecution of those who resisted the seizure of the Venezuelan embassy (shown above) by a U.S.-backed coup administration.

The U.S. government has dropped its bogus charge of “simple assault” against journalist Max Blumenthal, right, after having him arrested on a 5-month-old warrant and jailed for nearly max blumenthal screenshot rt americatwo days.

The Grayzonehas learned that Secret Service call logs recorded during the alleged incident were either not kept or destroyed. The mysteriously missing evidence included print documents and radio recordings that may have exposed collusion between Secret Service officers operating under the auspices of the U.S. State Department and violent right-wing hooligans in an operation to besiege peace activists stationed inside Venezuela’s embassy in Washington, D.C.

Blumenthal, who is the editor of The Grayzone, was arrested at his home on Oct. 25 by a team of D.C. cops who had threatened to break down his door. He later learned that he was listed in his arrest warrant as “armed and dangerous,” a rare and completely unfounded designation that placed Blumenthal at risk of severe harm by the police.

The government’s case rested entirely on a false accusation by a right-wing Venezuelan opposition activist, Naylet Pacheco, that Blumenthal and Benjamin Rubinstein had assaulted her while they were delivering food to Venezuela’s embassy in Washington, D.C., in the early morning on May 8. (Rubinstein is the brother of journalist and Grayzone contributor Alexander Rubinstein, who was reporting from inside the embassy at the time.)

The Grayzone has reported extensively on the corruption of coup leader Juan Guaidó, whom Washington recognizes as “interim president” of Venezuela, as well as the scandals plaguing Guaidó’s “ambassador” to the United States, Carlos Vecchio.

Vecchio personally presided over the weeks-long siege of Venezuela’s embassy in Washington, D.C., stage-managing efforts by a mob of rabid right-wing activists to prevent peace activists from receiving deliveries of food and sanitary supplies.

As The Grayzone reported, the Donald Trump administration has diverted USAID funding originally intended to assist Central American migrants to pay the salaries of Vecchio and his team in Washington.

The U.S. Department of Justice dismissed its case against Blumenthal on Dec. 6. On the same day, it also dropped charges against Rubinstein, who had been arrested on May 8, hours after the food delivery.

“I’m relieved the government has finally decided to drop these phony charges against me. But I’m also disgusted,” Max Blumenthal said, “because I should never have been hauled out of my house and thrown in jail for an obviously politically motivated, false allegation that the police failed to investigate.”

Dec. 5

washington post logomargaret sullivan 2015 photoWashington Post, Perspective: Is this wall-to-wall media coverage pointless? Margaret Sullivan, right, Dec. 5, 2019. How should journalists respond to the stalemate, other than to keep doing exactly what they’ve been doing?

The hint of a possible solution appears in the tracking of public opinion on impeachment at Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com, under the headline, “Plenty Of People Are Persuadable On Impeachment.”

Dec. 3

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: A Journalist’s Murder in Malta Puts Democracy on Trial, Editorial Board, Dec. 4, 2019. But the arrest of a well-connected businessman is a sign that daphne caruana galizia croppedcourageous reporting can make a difference.

Journalists are sometimes accused of giving disproportionate attention to crimes against their own. The reason they do so is not self-aggrandizement; it is that the increasingly frequent murder or repression of reporters is rarely random, and most often it is the work of people in power seeking to extinguish an unwelcome light on their corruption. To report on the fate of silenced journalists is to continue their work.

Daphne Caruana Galizia, right, was such a reporter. When she was blown up by a car bomb in October 2017 in the tiny Mediterranean country of Malta, population roughly 450,000, the prime minister, Joseph Muscat, acknowledged that the list of potential suspects — people who had been scorched by her fearless reporting — was very long. At the time she was killed, Ms. Caruana Galizia was reporting on mysterious offshore companies that she said were linked to Maltese politicians.

Three men were soon arrested. But they were accused of being the contract killers, hired to kill the 53-year-old blogger for about $165,000, and with time it came to seem that the real masterminds of the murder would never be revealed.

That changed with the chance arrest of a suspected middleman who offered information about Ms. Caruana Galizia’s murder in exchange for immunity. Last week, one of Malta’s most prominent businessmen — and a prominent subject of Ms. Caruana Galizia’s reporting — was arrested as he was trying to leave on his yacht. He in turn offered to testify against two senior government officials and others “close to the prime minister” in exchange for a pardon.

Thousands of Maltese, led by members of Ms. Caruana Galizia’s family, turned up outside Castille, the ornate seat of the prime minister in the capital, Valletta, demanding his resignation. Finally, on Sunday, Mr. Muscat said he would resign — but not until his Labour Party selected a new leader on Jan. 12. Protesters may not accept that delay, though.

Dec. 2

ny times logoNew York Times, Who Are America's Undocumented Immigrants? Miriam Jordan, Dec. 2, 2019. Recordings have emerged of private conversations that Julian Assange  President Trump has focused on blocking unauthorized crossings on the Southern border. But nearly half of those who are in the country unlawfully actually entered with permission.... to tour, study, do business or attend a conference for an authorized period of time.

New York Times, Assange to Testify on Being Recorded in Embassy in London, Raphael Minder, Dec. 2, 2019. Recordings have emerged of private conversations that Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, had while living in the Ecuadorean Embassy. He and a Spanish prosecutor blame the United States.

This much has become clear in recent weeks: When Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, was living in Ecuador’s embassy in London, someone was spying on him, recording his private conversations. The question is: Who ordered the surveillance?

Julian Assange August Mr. Assange — in jail in Britain and facing prosecution in the United States — is scheduled to testify remotely later this month before a Spanish judge in a criminal case accusing a Spanish security company of eavesdropping on him illegally.

The Spanish court case has revealed a new set of secrets in the international saga of Mr. Assange, 48, right, showing that his claims of being spied on were not just paranoia or a publicity stunt. But as with all things related to someone who has been labeled a villain and a hero, a prophet and a crank, the revelations are subject to conflicting interpretations.

In Spain’s National Court, a public prosecutor and Mr. Assange’s lawyers have presented a raft of evidence that he was recorded while in the Ecuadorean Embassy, which they say violated his right to privacy. The material includes video recordings, reviewed by The New York Times, in which his conversations with visitors are audible.

The prosecutor and Mr. Assange’s allies argue that the C.I.A. was behind the spying. A spokesman for the agency declined to comment.

wikileaks logo2After President Trump took office in 2017, the C.I.A. began espionage aimed at Mr. Assange, WikiLeaks and their ties to Russian intelligence, and the Justice Department began building a criminal case against him. But it remains unclear whether it was the Americans who were behind bugging the embassy.

The case adds another layer of complexity to the legal travails of Mr. Assange, who has been indicted in the United States on charges of espionage and hacking that exposed classified national security secrets. The Justice Department has asked Britain to extradite him, and British courts have begun considering the request.

His lawyers plan to introduce evidence from the Spanish case into the extradition case, arguing that it should block the British government from turning him over to the Americans. They say that the surveillance includes recordings of privileged conversations Mr. Assange had with his lawyers and doctors, and proves that he cannot receive a fair trial in the United States.

Dec. 1

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial, Who Will Tell the Truth About the Free Press? Editorial Board, Dec. 1, 2019. Since Mr. Trump took office, more than 40 foreign governments have invoked the specter of “fake news” to discredit journalists in the United States and abroad.

“Concocting fake news to attract eyeballs is a habitual trick of America’s New York Times, and this newspaper suffered a crisis of credibility for its fakery,” the Chinese government declared after The Times broke the news this month of government documents detailing the internment of Uighurs, Kazaks and other Muslims in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

Who would have guessed that history had such a perverse development in store for us? As the historian Timothy Snyder has written in The Times, Adolf Hitler and the Nazis came up with the slogan “Lügenpresse” — translated as “lying press” — in order to discredit independent journalism. Now the tactic has been laundered through an American president, Donald Trump, who adopted the term “fake news” as a candidate and has used it hundreds of times in office.

That is how, barely a generation after the murder of millions of Jews in Nazi death camps, the term “fake news” has come to be deployed so brazenly by another repressive regime to act against another minority, to cover up the existence of prison camps for hundreds of thousands of Muslims.

November

Nov. 26

fox news logo SmallFox News via Media Matters, Fox News guest Micheal Blake: “Why the hell does Tucker Carlson still have a job here?” Staff report, Nov. 26, 2019. Fox News guest tees off on host. Michael Blake: “Why the hell does Tucker Carlson have a job here in the first place? The reality is this is someone who said white supremacy is a hoax and why does Fox allow him to still be here in the first place?”

New York Post, Three Ohio papers to be cut to clear $3.1B Apollo purchase, Keith J. Kelly, Nov. 26, 2019. The 121-year old Dayton Daily News and two other Ohio newspapers will shrink to three days a week from daily publication to appease regulators who on Monday approved a $3.1 billion acquisition of Cox TV stations and newspapers by private equity firm Apollo Global Management.

fcc logoThe Leon Black-led Apollo proposed cutting back the print editions of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Dayton Daily, among others, to get around Federal Communications Commission rules banning the same owner from having a TV station and daily newspaper in the same market.

The so-called duopoly rules were all but dead in recent years until a federal appeals court in Philadelphia reimposed them in September — throwing an unexpected wrench into Apollo’s acquisition plans for Cox Media Group.

To sidestep the rules, Apollo in late October proposed cutting the frequency of the three Ohio papers, arguing they would no longer be producing a print paper seven days a week and therefore would not draw FCC scrutiny.

The FCC okayed the plan, which media observers say will likely result in job cuts to an already battered industry.

The duopoly regs did not have an impact on their original owner, Cox, because the company had started the Dayton-based TV station WHIO Channel 7 in 1949 and the duopoly rules to restrict media concentration went into effect in 1975.

The other two papers facing the cuts in print frequency are the Journal-News in Hamilton, Ohio, and the Springfield News-Sun in Springfield, Ohio.

Nov. 25

glenn greenwald CNN

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Bolsonaro Wants to Silence Free Press in Brazil, Glenn Greenwald (shown in a file screenshot), Nov. 25, 2019. The president’s political movement regards journalists as obstacles and prefers intimidation and violence to civic discourse.

brazil flag wavingOn Nov. 7, I was physically assaulted by a far-right, pro-Bolsonaro pundit, Augusto Nunes, at a television and radio studio in São Paulo while we were live on the air. This is the latest, and perhaps most vivid, example of journalists and news organizations in Brazil being threatened, menaced and subjected to actual violence by the Bolsonaro movement, all for doing our jobs.

The episode illustrates how press freedoms and the democratic order in Brazil are endangered — not just with words, but violence — by this authoritarian movement that now wields power in the world’s fifth-most-populous country.

Consortium News, Opinion: The Lies About Assange Must Stop Now, John Pilger, right, Nov. 25, 2019. If Julian Assange were to succumb to the cruelties heaped upon him, week after week, month after month, year upon year, as doctors warn, newspapers like The Guardian will share the responsibility.

Newspapers and other media in the United States and Britain have recently declared a passion for freedom of speech, especially their right to publish freely. They are worried by the “Assange effect.” It is as if the struggle of truth-tellers like Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning is now a warning to them: that the thugs who dragged Assange out of the Ecuadorean embassy in April may one day come for them.

A common refrain was echoed by The Guardian last week. The extradition of Assange, said the paper, “is not a question of how wise Mr. Assange is, still less how likable. It’s not about his character, nor his judgement. It’s a matter of press freedom and the public’s right to know.”

What The Guardian is trying to do is separate Assange from his landmark achievements, which have both profited The Guardian and exposed its own vulnerability, along with its propensity to suck up to rapacious power and smear those who reveal its double standards.

wikileaks logo2The poison that has fueled the persecution of Julian Assange is not as obvious in this editorial as it usually is; there is no fiction about Assange smearing faeces on embassy walls or being awful to his cat.

Instead, the weasel references to “character” and “judgement” and “likeability” perpetuate an epic smear which is now almost a decade old. Nils Melzer, the United Nations Rapporteur on Torture, used a more apt description. “There has been,” he wrote, “a relentless and unrestrained campaign of public mobbing.” He explains mobbing as “an endless stream of humiliating, debasing and threatening statements in the press”. This “collection ridicule” amounts to torture and could lead to Assange’s death.

Having witnessed much of what Melzer describes, I can vouch for the truth of his words. If Julian Assange were to succumb to the cruelties heaped upon him, week after week, month after month, year upon year, as doctors warn, newspapers like The Guardian will share the responsibility.

A few days ago, The Sydney Morning Herald’s man in London, Nick Miller, wrote a lazy, specious piece headlined, “Assange has not been vindicated, he has merely out-waited justice.” He was referring to Sweden’s abandonment of the so-called Assange investigation.

Miller’s report is not untypical for its omissions and distortions while masquerading as a tribune of women’s rights. There is no original work, no real inquiry: just smear.

There is nothing on the documented behaviour of a clutch of Swedish zealots who hi jacked the “allegations” of sexual misconduct against Assange and made a mockery of Swedish law and that society’s vaunted decency.

He makes no mention that in 2013, the Swedish prosecutor tried to abandon the case and emailed the Crown Prosecution Service in London to say it would no longer pursue a European Arrest Warrant, to which she received the reply: “Don’t you dare!!!” (Thanks to Stefania Maurizi of La Repubblica)

Other emails show the CPS discouraging the Swedes from coming to London to interview Assange – which was common practice – thus blocking progress that might have set him free in 2011.

There was never an indictment. There were never charges. There was never a serious attempt to put “allegations” to Assange and question him – behaviour that the Swedish Court of Appeal ruled to be negligent and the General Secretary of the Swedish Bar Association has since condemned.  Anna Ardin and Sofia Wilen

Both the women involved (right) said there was no rape. Critical written evidence of their text messages was willfully withheld from Assange’s lawyers, clearly because it undermined the “allegations”.

One of the women was so shocked that Assange was arrested, she accused the police of railroading her and changing her witness statement. The chief prosecutor, Eva Finne, dismissed the “suspicion of any crime.”

The Sydney Morning Herald man omits how an ambitious and compromised politician, Claes Borgstrom, emerged from behind the liberal facade of Swedish politics and effectively seized and revived the case.

The silence was broken in 2016 when the United Nations Working Party on Arbitrary Detention, a body that decides whether governments are meeting their human rights obligations, ruled that Julian Assange was unlawfully detained by Britain and called on the British government to set him free.

The Swedish case was a fraud from the moment the police secretly and illegally contacted a Stockholm tabloid and ignited the hysteria that was to consume Assange. WikiLeaks’ revelations of America’s war crimes had shamed the hand-maidens of power and its vested interests, who called themselves journalists; and for this, the unclubbable Assange would never be forgiven.

It was now open season. Assange’s media tormenters cut and pasted each other’s lies and vituperative abuse. “He really is the most massive turd,” wrote Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore. The received wisdom was that he had been charged, which was never true. In my career, reporting from places of extreme upheaval and suffering and criminality, I have never known anything like it.

Nov. 22

Raw Story, Lame duck Trump-loving Kentucky governor pardons man convicted of sodomizing 6-year-old girl, Brad Reed, Nov. 25, 2019.  Matt Bevin, the outgoing Trump-loving governor of Kentucky who was voted out of office earlier this month, does not have much time left in his tenure. In the time he does have left, however, he has decided to pardon a man who is serving a life sentence after being convicted of sexually abusing and sodomizing his 6-year-old stepdaughter.

The Louisville Courier-Journal reports that Bevin has issued a full pardon to Paul Donel Hurt, who in 2001 was convicted of three counts of sodomy in the first degree and two counts of sexual abuse in the first degree.

Bevin justified the pardon by saying many observers, including the judge who oversaw Hurt’s sentencing, believe that he was wrongfully convicted.
Happy Holidays! As a special thanks for your support this year, you can get Raw ad-free for just $2 a week. Now until Dec. 31.

Although Hurt’s accuser recanted her testimony in 2015, courts have questioned the consistency of her new story and the influence of a retired judge in influencing her testimony.

“The trial court did not set aside the conviction, with the Jefferson Circuit Judge Audra Jean Eckerle ruling that her recantation was an inconsistent, ‘shifting account’ that was ‘no more likely to be true than false,'” reports the Courier-Journal. “The Kentucky Court of Appeals upheld that ruling in August 2018, noting that after the retirement of Jefferson Circuit Judge Stephen Mershon — the judge in the original conviction — he began corresponding with Hurt in prison and contacted the victim, after which time she recanted.

According to the Courier-Journal, Judge Eckerle “contended that Mershon ‘altered’ the victim’s memory, “and by using judicial coercion and intimidation, that he overcame her, causing her to claim falsely that she had lied (at) trial.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. watchdog finds political bias did not taint top officials running the FBI’s Russia, Ellen Nakashima, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, Nov. 22, 2019.  The Justice Department’s internal watchdog is expected to find in a forthcoming report that political bias did not taint top officials running the FBI investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign in 2016, while at the same time criticizing the bureau for systemic failures in its handling of surveillance applications, according to two U.S. officials.

The much-anticipated report due out Dec. 9 from Inspector General Michael Horowitz will allege that a low-level FBI lawyer inappropriately altered a document that was used during the process to renew a controversial warrant for electronic surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser, the officials said. The inspector general referred that finding to U.S. Attorney John Durham, and the lawyer involved is being investigated criminally for possibly making a false statement, they said.

But Horowitz will conclude that the application still had a proper legal and factual basis, and, more broadly, that FBI officials did not act improperly in opening the Russia investigation, according to the officials, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive report.

The report generally rebuts accusations of a political conspiracy among senior law enforcement officials against the Trump campaign to favor Democrat Hillary Clinton while also knocking the bureau for procedural shortcomings in the FBI, the officials said. On balance, they said, it provides a mixed assessment of the FBI and Justice Department’s undertaking of a probe that became highly politicized and divided the nation.

U.S. Politics / Media

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The death knell for local newspapers? It’s perilously close, Margaret Sullivan, right, Nov. 22, 2019. Given the tumult in the realm of government and politics, the margaret sullivan 2015 photodire state of the local newspaper industry may seem minor. But it’s of crucial importance to the future of the nation. Local watchdog journalism matters: Just check the front page of the Baltimore Sun, which on Thursday carried a huge headline about the former mayor’s indictment; the Sun — even in its diminished state — broke the story in March that set those wheels in motion.

I could give you dozens of other examples from this year alone. And consider that sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein might have gotten away with most of his misdeeds if not for local journalism, particularly at the Miami Herald.

But the recent news about the news could hardly be worse. What was terribly worrisome has tumbled into disaster.

“Will we point back to November 2019 as the day the music died for the news industry?” as University of Missouri journalism professor Tom Warhover put it.

There’s reason to think so, at least for local newspapers. Here’s some of what happened in the past few days.

gatehouse media logoGannett and GateHouse, two major newspaper chains, finished their planned merger, and the combined company intends to cut the combined budget by at least $300 million. That will come on top of unending job losses over the past decade in the affected newsrooms of more than 500 papers.

gannett logo CustomThe McClatchy newspaper group — parent of the Herald and the Charlotte Observer — is so weighed down by debt and pension obligations that analysts think it is teetering on bankruptcy.

And the storied Chicago Tribune on Tuesday fell under the influence of Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund that has strip-mined the other important papers it owns, including the Denver Post and the Mercury News in San Jose.

The Trib and its readers (and those served by other papers in the newspaper group, including Baltimore) have suffered under the ownership of Michael Ferro — and now he has provided a grim ending to what former Trib editor Ann Marie Lipinski aptly called his “cynical, avaricious” stewardship. (She is the curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard.)

Ferro’s move “ushers the vultures into Tribune,” said a Nieman Lab analysis by Ken Doctor. The implications of all these developments are stunning, he wrote: “The old world is over, and the new one — one of ghost newspapers, news deserts, and underinformed communities — is headed straight for us.”

Local newspapers — and, again, their readers — are already racked by what’s happened, ever since newspaper advertising revenue plummeted more than a decade ago.

Nov. 20

ny times logoNew York Times, How the Collapse of Local News Is Causing a ‘National Crisis,’ Julie Bosman, Nov. 20, 2019. The loss of local news coverage in much of the United States has frayed communities and left many Americans woefully uninformed, according to a new report. School board and city council meetings are going uncovered. Overstretched reporters receive promising tips about stories but have no time to follow up. Newspapers publish fewer pages or less frequently or, in hundreds of cases across the country, are shuttered completely.

All of this has added up to a crisis in local news coverage in the United States that has frayed communities and left many Americans woefully uninformed, according to a report by PEN America released on Wednesday.

“A vibrant, responsive democracy requires enlightened citizens, and without forceful local reporting they are kept in the dark,” the report said. “At a time when political polarization is increasing and fraudulent news is spreading, a shared fact-based discourse on the issues that most directly affect us is more essential and more elusive than ever.”

The report, “Losing the News: The Decimation of Local Journalism and the Search for Solutions,” paints a grim picture of the state of local news in every region of the country. The prelude is familiar to journalists: As print advertising revenue has plummeted, thousands of newspapers have been forced to cut costs, reduce their staffs or otherwise close.

And while the disruption has hampered the ability of newsrooms to fully cover communities, it also has damaged political and civic life in the United States, the report says, leaving many people without access to crucial information about where they live.

“That first draft of history is not being written — it has completely disappeared,” said Suzanne Nossel, the chief executive of PEN America, a nonprofit organization that celebrates literature and free expression. “That’s what is so chilling about this crisis.”

stephanie grisham unsourced Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump press secretary faces backlash after claiming without evidence that Obama aides left ‘you will fail’ notes, Toluse Olorunnipa and Josh Dawsey​, Nov. 20, 2019. Five former Trump administration officials said they did not recall any such messages, and Stephanie Grisham (shown above in a file screenshot) modified her assertions later in the day.

Nov. 16

ny times logofox news logo SmallNew York Times, Two Versions of Impeachment for a Divided Nation, in Prime Time, Michael M. Grynbaum, Nov. 16, 2019. At a historic moment, viewers turn to MSNBC and Fox News, reflecting a sharp political divide. For a glimpse at the country’s divided political reality, look no farther than a pair of television studios on opposite sides of the Avenue of the Americas in Midtown Manhattan.

washington post logoWashington Post, A New York Times reporter dug into Ukraine and the Democrats. Critics are still howling, Paul Farhi, Nov. 16, 2019. New York Times reporter Kenneth P. Vogel was on the Ukraine conspiracy story early and in depth. The question is, did his articles leave the wrong impression?

Vogel was the co-author of a disputed Times story in May that suggested that Joe Biden, right, intervened in Ukraine in 2016 to help a company that employed the former vice president’s son, Hunter. As a staff writer at Politico in early 2017, he co-authored another piece that suggested that the Democratic National Committee had cooperated with Ukrainian efforts to joe biden othwart Republican candidate Donald Trump in the 2016 campaign.

Both articles have been cited by President Trump’s allies as support for a broader conspiracy theory: that Ukrainian sources sought to influence the 2016 election in Democrat Hillary Clinton’s favor and that Biden acted corruptly as vice president, thus justifying an investigation.

These unproven claims are a crucial part of Trump’s defense in the House impeachment inquiry. In fact, American intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia’s intelligence services, not Ukraine, worked to sway the election toward Trump. There is also no credible evidence that Biden intervened with Ukrainian officials to remove the country’s top prosecutor to help his son, who sat on the board of a company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch.

Vogel’s articles have been called into question — the Times story most prominently by Biden’s presidential campaign, and the Politico story by Politico’s own recent reporting.

Both Politico and the Times defended the reporter’s work, and Vogel told The Washington Post on Friday: “Not a single fact in either story has been successfully challenged. Both stories were prescient, revealing information that has come to play a central role in the impeachment saga.”

He added, “The Politico story revealed the genesis of Trump’s grudge against Ukraine, and the Times story exposed the Trump team’s pressure campaign against Ukraine.”

The GOP theory that Ukraine ‘set up’ Trump

ukraine flagVogel’s January 2017 Politico article (co-written with David L. Stern, now a freelance contributor to The Washington Post) extensively detailed Ukrainian efforts to undermine Trump in 2016, such as publicly questioning his fitness for office, disseminating documents implicating Paul Manafort, his campaign chairman at the time, in corruption and helping a Clinton ally research damaging information about him.

The lead of the story implied an equivalence with Russian efforts to undermine Clinton: “Donald Trump wasn’t the only presidential candidate whose campaign was boosted by officials of a former Soviet bloc country,” Vogel and Stern wrote, although the story later states that there is “little evidence” of the type of hacking and disinformation campaign waged by the Russians in 2016.

devin nunes head oThe story came up repeatedly during Wednesday’s impeachment hearing. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), left, and Republican counsel Stephen R. Castor cited it several times in questioning diplomat William B. Taylor Jr., the acting ambassador to Ukraine. Both Nunes and Castor strongly suggested that the story validated Trump’s theory about Ukrainian officials during 2016.

The story “gives rise to some concern that there are elements of the Ukrainian establishment that were out to get the president,” Castor said during the hearing. “That’s a very reasonable belief of [Trump’s], correct?”

Taylor, right, said he didn’t know and was unfamiliar with the story until recently.

william taylor o CustomCastor again brought up Vogel’s articles in Friday’s hearing to suggest that “influential elements of the Ukrainian establishment” were out to get Trump.

But in testimony by Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, she dismissed these as “isolated incidents,” not a government-orchestrated initiative. She replied, “I would remind you again that our intelligence community has determined that those who interfered in the [U.S.] election” were Russians.

Top officials from Trump’s National Security Council have dismissed the notion of Ukrainian interference. In depositions given to congressional investigators earlier this month, former National Security Council staffers Fiona Hill and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testified that they saw no evidence of Ukrainian meddling in 2016. Hill called such a notion “a fiction.”

The suggestion that Joe Biden had acted improperly was driven home by the Web headline on the story: “Biden Faces Conflict of Interest Questions That Are Being Promoted by Trump and Allies.” The print headline on the front-page story raised an eyebrow, too: “For Biden, a Ukraine Matter That Won’t Go Away.”

It wasn’t until the 19th paragraph, however, that the story noted that the conflict-of-interest angle was dubious. “No evidence has surfaced that the former vice president intentionally tried to help his son by pressing for the prosecutor general’s dismissal,” it said.

Nov. 15

washington post logoWashington Post, Gannett, GateHouse approve merger, creating nation’s largest newspaper publisher, Jonathan O'Connell, Nov. 15, 2019 (print ed.). GateHouse Media parent New gannett logo CustomMedia Investment Group will purchase Gannett.  Shareholders of Gannett and GateHouse Media approved a deal Thursday to combine the companies, after management promised to find $300 million in annual savings that some critics warned would further squeeze already shrunken newsrooms but that some investors warned may not go far enough.

In the deal, GateHouse parent New Media Investment Group will purchase Gannett for a combination of cash and stock, creating a conglomerate that will own gatehouse media logomore than 250 daily newspapers including publications such as USA Today, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Indianapolis Star, plus hundreds of weekly and community papers.

“This combination will create the leading U.S. print and digital news organization with deep local roots and national scale,” said Michael Reed, chairman and chief executive of New Media, in a statement following the votes. “Together, we will be stronger, with a more viable path to growth for our shareholders and employees, while sustaining journalism in hundreds of markets across the country and enhancing the services we provide to small and midsized businesses nationally.”

Related story: Washington Post, America’s two largest newspaper chains, GateHouse and Gannett, announce merger, Jonathan O'Connell and Rachel Siegel​, Aug. 5, 2019. 

washington post logoamazon logo smallWashington Post, Amazon will challenge Pentagon’s award of $10 billion JEDI contract to Microsoft, citing ‘unmistakable bias,’ Jay Greene and Aaron Gregg, Nov. 15, 2019 (print ed.). The controversial and long-delayed contract had been widely expected to go to Amazon Wvices but was instead awarded to rival Microsoft last month.

microsoft logo CustomAmazon said Thursday that it will protest a Pentagon decision to award Microsoft a massive cloud-computing contract worth up to $10 billion, making clear it will fight hard against what it called “unmistakable bias” and “political influence” in the Defense Department process.

The protest, filed under seal in federal court on Nov. 8, comes after the Pentagon awarded the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract to Microsoft last month — a contract that had long been expected to go to Amazon because its Amazon Web Services (AWS) division has a formidable position and deep experience in cloud computing.

Nov. 14

MintPress News, Social Media Censorship Reaches New Heights as Twitter Permanently Bans Dissent, Mnar Muhawesh, Nov. 14, 2019. Mnar Muhawesh speaks with journalist Daniel McAdams about being permanently banned from Twitter, social media censorship and more.

It’s an open secret. The deep state is working hand in hand with Silicon Valley social media giants like Twitter, Facebook and Google to control the flow of information. That includes suppressing, censoring and sometimes outright purging dissenting voices – all under the guise of fighting fake news and Russian propaganda.

twitter bird CustomMost recently, it was revealed that Twitter’s senior editorial executive for Europe, the Middle East and Africa is an active officer in the British Army’s 77th Brigade, a unit dedicated to online warfare and psychological operations.

In other words: he specializes in disseminating propaganda.

The news left many wondering how a member of the British Armed Forces secured such an influential job in the media.

The bombshell that one of the world’s most influential social networks is controlled in part by an active psychological warfare officer was not covered at all in the New York Times, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC or Fox News, who appear to have found the news unremarkable.

facebook logoBut for those paying attention and for those who have been following ’MintPress News’ extensive coverage of social media censorship, this revelation was merely another example of the increasing closeness between the deep state and the fourth estate.

Amazon owner, and world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos was paid $600 million by the CIA to develop software and media for the agency, that’s more than twice as much as Bezos bought the Washington Post for, and a move media critics warn spells the end of journalistic independence for the Post.

Meanwhile, Google has a very close relationship with the State Department, its former CEO Eric Schmidt’s book on technological imperialism was heartily endorsed by deep state warmongers like Henry Kissinger, Hillary Clinton and Tony Blair.

In their book titled, The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business, Eric Schmidt and fellow Google executive Jared Cohen wrote:

“What Lockheed Martin was to the twentieth century…technology and cyber-security companies [like Google] will be to the twenty-first.”

Another social media giant partnering with the military-industrial complex is Facebook. The California-based company announced last year it was working closely with the neoconservative think tank, The Atlantic Council, which is largely funded by Saudi Arabia, Israel and weapons manufacturers to supposedly fight foreign “fake news.”

The Atlantic Council is a NATO offshoot and its board of directors reads like a rogue’s gallery of warmongers, including the notorious Henry Kissinger, Bush-era hawks like Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, James Baker, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security and author of the PATRIOT Act, Michael Chertoff, a number of former Army Generals including David Petraeus and Wesley Clark and former heads of the CIA Michael Hayden, Leon Panetta and Michael Morell.

39 percent of Americans, and similar numbers of people in other countries, get their news from Facebook, so when an organization like the Atlantic Council is controlling what the world sees in their Facebook news feeds, it can only be described as state censorship on a global level.

After working with the council, Facebook immediately began banning and removing accounts linked to media in official enemy states like Iran, Russia and Venezuela, ensuring the world would not be exposed to competing ideas and purging dissident voices under the guise of fighting “fake news” and “Russian bots.”

Meanwhile, the social media platform has been partnering with the U.S. and Israeli governments to silence Palestinian voices that show the reality of life under Israeli apartheid and occupation. The Israeli Justice Minister proudly revealed that Facebook complied with 95 percent of Israeli government requests to delete Palestinian pages. At the same time, Google deleted dozens of YouTube and blog accounts supposedly connected to the government of Iran.

In the last week alone, Twitter has purged several Palestinian news pages, including Quds News Network — without warning or explanation.

Nov. 11

Bolivian Coup Alleged

wayne madesen report logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nov. 10

Global Politics / Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nov. 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nov. 6

djt rudy giuliani vlodomyr zelensky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nov. 5

U.S. Media / Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nov. 3

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

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

Nov. 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then Mr. Trump tweeted the hashtag himself.

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

Nov. 1

stephanie grisham jeanne pirro fox screenshot Custom

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

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

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

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

Nov. 1

julian assange indicter image

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

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

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

Magistrate refuses to postpone Assange’s extradition hearing

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

October

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct. 30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct. 28

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Retaliation for The Grayzone’s reporting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct. 27

john solomon joseph digenova victoria toensing

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s how it went down.

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

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

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

Oct. 25

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

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

It started with a phone call.

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

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

Oct. 24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct. 22

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

Oct. 21

julian assange indicter image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct. 17

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

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

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

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

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

Oct. 16

james fetzer

James Fetzer, a retired professor (file photo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of them was Laurie Quinn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct. 15

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

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

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

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

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

Oct. 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct. 13

Media News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct. 11

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

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

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

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

Shep Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct. 9

matt lauer today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct. 9

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

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

Oct. 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct. 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct. 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct. 5

Media News

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct. 4

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

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

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

Trumper Creates 'Chaos' For AOC

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

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

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

It now seems likely that the scene was carefully planned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turns out the woman yelling was a Trump supporter

Oct. 3

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

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

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

Media News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct. 2

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

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

September

Sept. 29

djt mbs file

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sept. 27

Media / Supreme Court

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sept. 26

Media Criticism On Ukraine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media Criticism On Ukraine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

victoria nuland geoffrey pyatt petro poroshenko warsaw 6 4 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sept. 25greta thunberg un climate talk sept 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sept. 23

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

Sept. 22

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sept. 19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sept. 18

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

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

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

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

Sept. 17

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

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

Sept. 14

UK To Keep Assange Jailed

julian assange indicter image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sept. 13

Media Criticisim

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

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

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

william y chang columbia university Custom

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

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

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

Sept. 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sept. 9

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

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

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

Sept. 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sept. 6

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

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

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

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

Sept. 5

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

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

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

Sept. 3

Major 9/11 Causation Study Released

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

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

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

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

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

Download the Report | Read the Abstract

Project Information

Lead Researcher

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

Research Assistants

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

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

Project Dates

May 1, 2015 – September 30, 2019

Funding

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

Simulations and Videos

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

Public Comment Period

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

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

Sept. 2

Hong Kong Riots: Biased Coverage?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

August

Aug. 29

Media Criticism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press Club's Podcast Milestone

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

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

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

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

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

The 150th episode typified the programming.

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

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

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

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

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

All-volunteer effort

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

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

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

Update-1 was Hamrick’s idea.

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

Professional development opportunity

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

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

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

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

Aug. 26

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 25

Trump Allies On Attack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 23

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 22

Cyber Wars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Days passed. Mr. Reeves heard nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

jane silk kathleen antrim header2

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

Aug. 21

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

Aug. 20

wayne madesen report logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it isn’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

falun gong nazi symbol demonstration

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

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

Facebook, Twitter Ban China Ads

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Twitter Controls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 19

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

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

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

U.S. Politics / Media

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

It also provided a unique window on his activities.

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

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

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

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

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

Well-Funded Digital Sites Close

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 15

Dying Newspapers

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

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

We now have these spectral offerings in abundance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 14

'Conspiracy Theory' As Cover-Up Tool

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug.13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 8

U.S. Pro-War Media Advocates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter Reprisal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 7

Media #MeToo Tales

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

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

Abusive Treatment Of Assange, Manning

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

“I now fear for him,” Pilger wrote.

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

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

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

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

 Judge Imposes New Manning Fines, Denies Hearing

chelsea manning screen shot 2018 06 05 media convention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

rupert murdoch 2009 world economic forumw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 5

Major U.S. Newspaper Merger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Merger marks shift for troubled newspaper giant

Media Criticism: 2020 U.S. Debates

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

Media and 'Conspiracy Theory'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Kevin Ryan writes, and various analyses have shown: "In the 45 years before the CIA memo came out, the phrase ‘conspiracy theory’ appeared in the Washington Post and New York Times only 50 times, or about once per year. In the 45 years after the CIA memo, the phrase appeared 2,630 times, or about once per week.”

While it turns out that Parramore knows something about this hugely successful propaganda drive, she chose in her NBC piece to deploy the phrase as the government has come to define it, i.e., as “something that requires no consideration because it is obviously not true.” This embeds a fallacy in her argument which only spreads as she goes on.

Aug.1

ny times logoNew York Times, Final Edition: How One Small-Town Paper Said Goodbye, Richard Fausset, Photographs and Video by Tim Gruber
Aug. 1, 2019. With the distribution of its final issue on May 7, The Warroad Pioneer, which printed about 1,100 copies per week, joined roughly 2,000 newspapers that have closed in the United States over the last 15 years, according to a study by University of North Carolina researchers soberly titled “The Expanding News Desert.”

Today in many American communities, the researchers noted, “there is simply not enough digital or print revenue to pay for the public service journalism that local newspapers have historically provided.”

In Warroad, The Pioneer was full of soft-focus features on residents, reprinted news releases, photos of fishermen with their outsize catches, and news of awards won by children and Shriners. There were the occasional stories, too, about city officials, the school board and local sports.

This, then, was what the desert might look like: No hometown paper to print the obituaries from the Helgeson Funeral Home. No place to chronicle the exploits of the beloved high school hockey teams. No historical record for the little town museum, which had carefully kept the newspaper in boxes going back to 1897.

And what about the next government scandal, the next school funding crisis? Who would be there? Who would tell?

Others imagined the news moving from person to person, unedited and unchecked, on Facebook or other social media networks. “A lot of it is going to be word of mouth through kaffeeklatsches,” said Todd Miller, 57, a former member of the county commission. “And who knows what variant of BS gets passed around there.”

More Newspaper Economics

ny times logoNew York Times, A Paradox at the Heart of the Newspaper Crisis, Marc Tracy, Aug. 1, 2019. Hedge funds have found that they are able to wring profits out of an ailing product: the print newspaper. But for how long?Today, the business could hardly be more dismal. Phil Luciano, a columnist at The Peoria Journal Star, got a story tip recently about Caterpillar, the heavy equipment company that was based in Peoria, Ill., for 90 years before a recent relocation to Cook County.

The tip seemed promising enough. But as one of only seven full-time reporters at the paper, he felt stretched too thin to do much about it.

“Who’s our Caterpillar reporter?” Mr. Luciano asked. “We don’t have one right now.”

In recent years, The Journal Star has been hit with the kind of cutbacks that have become common for newspapers nationwide as they steer a bumpy course toward a digitally focused future. The newsroom had more than 80 guild employees in the 1990s, and now has about a dozen. The Journal Star is still the largest paper in downstate Illinois. But after covering more than 23 counties in its heyday, it now limits itself to three: Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford. And Woodford’s pretty small,” Mr. Luciano said.

The Peoria daily is representative of the newspaper industry as a whole in two other respects. It is owned by a company controlled by a hedge fund — GateHouse Media, which owns more papers than any other company, according to a University of North Carolina study. And even in its reduced state, the paper is profitable.

Around one in four papers in the country, most of them weeklies, have been shut down since 2004, the U.N.C. study found. In that same time span, roughly half of all newspaper jobs have been eliminated as the cumulative weekday circulation of print papers has fallen to 73 million from 122 million.

July

July 31

JFK Assassination Evidence, News Suppression

jfk baldwin indicter graphic

Photo-graphic by The Indicter Magazine, founded and edited by Dr. Marcello Ferrada de Noli, founder also of Swedish Doctors for Human Rights.

The Indicter: Monthly European review on geopolitical & human rights issues, New NBC Attack On Alec Baldwin, JFK Research Is Attack On indicter logo sloganTruth, Democracy, Andrew Kreig (J.D., M.S.L., attorney and journalist. Director of JIP. Member of the Editorial Board and Associate Editor at The Indicter Magazine), July 31, 2019 (August 2019 issue).

An NBC News column smearing actor and social critic Alec Baldwin as a “conspiracy theorist” this month because of his views on the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy constituted an attack, in effect, on NBC’s consumers, particularly those who care about truth and other democratic values.

That is because the July 19 column, "From Trump to Alec Baldwin, conspiracy theories, narcissism and celebrity culture go hand in hand," provided no evidence whatsoever that anything Baldwin had said was untrue or otherwise dubious.

2020 Democratic Debate

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Warren and Delaney had a good night. CNN had a terrible one, Jennifer Rubin, right, July 31, 2019. At the top of Tuesday’s Democratic debate, CNN wasted 25 minutes by, among other things, playing the national anthem, taking jennifer rubin new headshota commercial, reciting the rules and introducing the candidates. It was time that should have been spent questioning cnn logocandidates, and worse, pushed the debate into overtime beyond the 2½-hour mark.

Likewise, spending valuable minutes asking candidates to explain why they are electable does nothing to enlighten voters about the views of these candidates. One has to wonder who made these bizarre choices and why.

Let's Try Democracy, Opinion: Poor Wittle CNN, David Swanson, right, July 31, 2019. CNN gears its questions toward conflict which it imagines is david swanson headgood for ratings. But taking sides with the furthest right candidates is only one way to generate conflict, and not a very successful one. Here are some other ways:

• take sides with the furthest left candidates,
• take sides with nobody,
• ask questions nobody’s likely to have prepared for,
• include moderators who don’t all agree with a plutocratic militarist perspective,
• ask the candidates with 1% support why they don’t quit.

cnn logoWhen I worked for Dennis Kucinich, and it was the more progressive candidates who were lower in the polls and marginalized in the debates, the moderators of these debates actually did what people are now suggesting they could do, namely encouraged the lower polling candidates to get out of the race. They spent significant debate time on that.

Prior to this debate, FAIR and RootsAction.org proposed that CNN add a progressive journalist as a questioner for the Democratic debates. For Republican debates, CNN includes rightwing questioners not normally on CNN. For Democratic debates it does not include leftist questioners traditionally banned from U.S. airwaves. Why?

The fact is that CNN is biased. Aren’t you shocked to hear that? Why do we have to constantly point it out? CNN acts on behalf of its owners, its advertisers, and those it wants access to. There are exceptions. Sometimes it challenges certain entrenched interests, but not usually.

We should not be surprised. But we should never be complacent. We should never accept CNN as it is.

Associated Press via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Ex-Pa. AG Kathleen Kane released from jail, Staff Report, July 31, 2019. A former ap logoPennsylvania attorney general who was convicted of leaking grand jury material and lying about it is out of jail, walking free Wednesday after serving eight months behind bars.

kathleen kane oKathleen Kane (shown at right in a file photo while in office) left the Montgomery County Correctional Facility in the Philadelphia suburbs about 8:20 a.m. When asked by a reporter how she felt, Kane replied “grateful.”

Kane resigned after being convicted in 2016 of perjury, obstruction and other counts for leaking grand jury material to a Philadelphia newspaper and lying about it.

The Scranton native (shown below in a mug shot after arrest) was a little-known former assistant county prosecutor when she ran for attorney general with a campaign largely financed by her then-husband, who helped run a family-kathleen kane mugowned trucking and warehousing business. Kane won in a landslide in 2012, becoming the first woman and first Democrat to win the office.

Democrats embraced her as a rising star and her name began floating in political circles as a potential U.S. Senate candidate.

However, the state Supreme Court appointed a special counsel to investigate Kane’s office in 2014 after former prosecutors with the attorney general’s office complained that a Philadelphia Daily News story had contained information from a grand jury investigation that was protected by secrecy laws. She was charged in 2015.

Prosecutors contended that Kane had leaked the information to smear two former state prosecutors, who she believed had provided information for an earlier story in The Philadelphia Inquirer that revealed her decision not to pursue charges against Democratic state lawmakers in a separate corruption case.

Kane had argued that she had been the victim of selective and vindictive prosecution after clashing with some of the office’s former prosecutors. During her campaign for the attorney general’s office, she raised questions about how it had prosecuted the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case.

After the special counsel began investigating, Kane revealed the exchange of pornographic emails by members of the attorney general’s office and judges. She had also argued that she was wrongly turned down in an effort to keep all Montgomery County judges from handling her case and that evidence against her was illegally obtained.

After appeals failed, she turned herself in to the jail in the Philadelphia suburb of Eagleville at the end of November and began serving a 10- to 23-month term. She eventually had a couple months shaved off for good behavior.

Justice Integrity Project Editor's note: Some commentators have written that she was selectively prosecuted, as she unsuccessfully argued, for persistent efforts to investigative pedophile scandals in Pennsylvania involving powerless youths (as in the Penn State scandal) and powerful perpetators.

Political Claim Against Google

Politico, Tulsi Gabbard borrows from Trump's tech bashing playbook, Cristiano Limo, July 31, 2019. Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard is amping up her censorship allegations against the tech industry, adopting one of President Donald Trump’s favorite lines of attack before going on Wednesday night’s debate stage.

tulsi gabbard newGabbard, right, a Hawaii congresswoman running an unorthodox bid for the Democratic nomination, accused Google in court last week of violating her free speech by blocking her campaign’s ad account in the hours after the first Democratic presidential debate. During a prime-time appearance Monday on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” she said her lawsuit was “about taking action on behalf of the American people” against tech titans like Google.

"This is really about the unchecked power these big tech monopolies have over our public discourse and how this is a real google logo customthreat to our freedom of speech and to our fair elections," she told Carlson during an interview, one of several recent appearances she has made on the president’s favorite TV network.

Such attacks echo longstanding accusations by Trump and other Republicans that Silicon Valley giants suppress political viewpoints they don't like. But they set Gabbard apart from most other Democrats, who dismiss Republicans’ censorship claims while slamming tech companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter for their huge size, alleged anti-competitive behavior and failure to stop the spread of disinformation and hate speech.

Google has disputed the accusations. A spokesperson said in a statement last week that the Gabbard ad suspension was brief and triggered automatically, and that the company moderates content "without bias toward any party or political ideology."

July 30

Poynter Institute, Trouble at the Los Angeles Times: Memo says digital subscriptions way below goal, Tom Jones, July 30, 2019. Digital subscriptions at the Los Angeles Times are way below expectations, and leadership, in a memo to staff, said the future of the paper could depend on solving the issue rapidly.

Whether due to unrealistic expectations or editorial and business failures, the Times is nowhere close to meeting its digital subscription goal. The Times had hoped to double its digital subscriptions from just more than 150,000 to 300,000 this year — a number that would have to be doubled again, the memo said, to come close to covering editorial costs. But midway through the year, the Times is nowhere near that number, having netted only 13,000 digital subscriptions in 2019.

In a memo sent to staff on Monday afternoon and obtained by Poynter, Executive Editor Norman Pearlstine and Managing Editor Scott Kraft wrote, “Our future depends on rapid and substantial subscription revenue growth.”

They added, “Performance for the first half of the year … has been disappointing.”

The memo said that the Times added 52,000 digital subscriptions, but “significant cancellations during the same stretch” left the Times with a net increase of only 13,000. (A current online offer is 99 cents for the first month and $2 per week after that, or about $100 a year.)

Pearlstine will turn 77 in October. He took over as executive editor in June of 2018, not long after billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong paid $500 million to purchase the paper from the Tribune Publishing Company. One of Soon-Shiong’s mandates was to create content that readers would pay for.

On its website, the Times says it has 1.2 million print readers on weekdays and 2.1 million on Sundays.

wikipedia logo

lila tretikov benjamin netanyahu 2015 israel

Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu meets Wikimedia Foundation executive director Lila Tretikov in 2015. Photo | Israel GPO

MintPress News, Investigation / Commentary: The Spin War: How a Small Group of Pro-Israel Activists Blacklisted MintPress on Wikipedia, whitney webbWhitney Webb, right, July 30, 2019 [Investigation excerpted. Click link for full story]. For over ten years, Wikipedia has been a key focus of right-leaning, pro-Israel groups that have effectively weaponized the online encyclopedia as a means of controlling the narrative when it comes to the state of Israel’s more than 50-year-long military occupation of Palestine.

For over a decade, pro-Israel and ultra-nationalist Israeli settler groups have sought to weaponize the popular online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, through concerted covert editing campaigns, offering Wikipedia editing courses to West Bank settlers and even formal alliances between Israel and Wikipedia to allow Israelis to create and edit content in a variety of languages.

In recent years, this alliance between pro-Israel partisans and Wikipedia has stepped up, largely in response to the growth of the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks to pressure Israel to comply with international law with respect to occupied Palestine and the blockaded Gaza Strip. As a consequence, news outlets that consistently report on the success of BDS, such as MintPress News, have been targeted on Wikipedia by such partisans, who recently succeeded in blacklisting MintPress as a “reliable source” on the online encyclopedia.

jimmy wales wikipedia logo

Jimmy Wales, the self-described pro-Israel advocate and founder of Wikipedia, is shown at left.

In early June, a small number of partisan Wikipedia editors privately voted to blacklist MintPress News from use as a source on the online encyclopedia website at the behest of a Wikipedia editor who took issue with MintPress’ coverage of current events in Venezuela and Syria. At no point was MintPress ever asked to comment or allowed to respond to any of the allegations made and MintPress is unable to appeal the decision.

Of the Wikipedia editors who voted to discredit MintPress, several were self-listed as experts in video games, computer science and anime, not geopolitical events, while others had previously gained notoriety for partisan promotion of pro-Israel perspectives and/or the U.S.-funded Venezuelan Popular Will political party, of which the U.S.-backed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó is a member.

The involvement of pro-Israel partisans in the blacklisting of MintPress on Wikipedia is notable in light of the well-documented and unprecedented efforts of the Israeli government to promote the partisan editing of Wikipedia and to subsequently incorporate the online encyclopedia into its national educational curriculum.

The successful effort to blacklist MintPress News on Wikipedia began on June 1 and was initiated by Wikipedia user “Jamesz42,” a Wikipedia editor from Venezuela who has written several English-language Wikipedia articles on the wives of Popular Will politicians as well as on protest leaders and journalists who are aligned with Popular Will.

MintPress is one of several news organizations that have reported extensively on Popular Will’s U.S. government funding, its lack of popular support in Venezuela, and its history of engaging in violence. Yet MintPress is the only independent outlet that has been blacklisted on Wikipedia for reporting these facts. TeleSur, which is partially funded by the Venezuelan government, was also recently blacklisted by Wikipedia and some of the same users that targeted MintPress, including Jamesz42, were involved.

When his claims against MintPress were challenged by another editor, “R2”, Jamesz42 claimed his reason for starting the query as to MintPress’ credibility was that “MintPress News has been used several times as a source in articles about the Syrian Civil War and the Venezuelan crisis, among other controversial topics, which is the reason why I started this RfC [request for comment].”

However, apparently unable to find a factual inaccuracy in MintPress’ Venezuela or Syria coverage, Jamesz42 cited the accidental incorrect placement of a single hyperlink in a recent MintPress article about Microsoft’s Pentagon-funded election software, ElectionGuard, that was the result of a (now-fixed) copy-and-paste error made by the article’s author.

Jamesz42 stated:

The article accuses Microsoft of “price gouging for its OneCare security software,” and links that text to “Microsoft accused of predatory pricing of security software,” an article from The Guardian (RSP entry) that describes the exact opposite: “Incredibly, Microsoft has priced themselves almost 50% below the market leader.” (See Predatory pricing for a definition of the practice.)

The MintPress News article then uses its own false claim to assert that Microsoft’s ‘offering of ElectionGuard software free of charge is tellingly out of step for the tech giant and suggests an ulterior motive behind Microsoft’s recent philanthropic interest in “defending democracy.”'”

The sentence of the article from which Jamesz42 is quoting began by stating: “Considering that Microsoft has a long history of predatory practices, including price gouging …” The link that was originally attached to the text “price gouging” was the Guardian article referenced by Jamesz42, but was originally meant to link to the text reading “predatory practices.”

As noted, this was a copy-and-paste error on the part of the author and the article intended to link to the term “price gouging” — an article from The Verge titled “Apple, Microsoft, and Adobe attempt to justify ‘price gouging’ to Australian hearing” — was fixed when the error was brought to MintPress’ attention. Such corrections are common practice, undertaken by all reputable news organizations and indicative of high standards of integrity and accountability.

Notably, Jamesz42 claims that Microsoft’s predatory practices that include price gouging were invented by MintPress, even though the original version of the article with the copy-and-paste error based this on the claim that Microsoft was known to engage in predatory practices, with price gouging listed as an example, and citations we provided to back the claim, as even Jamesz42 noted.

wikipedia logoThis  copy-and-paste hyperlink error was the main justification for the blacklisting of MintPress on Wikipedia by Jamesz42, along with the fact that MintPress has previously republished content from the websites ZeroHedge and the Free Thought Project — notably in spite of the fact that all content republished on MintPress contains the following disclaimer:

Stories published in our Daily Digests section are chosen based on the interest of our readers. They are republished from a number of sources, and are not produced by MintPress News. The views expressed in these articles are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.”

Evidence-free name-calling and piling-on

After Jamesz42 made these initial claims, another user, “PaleoNeonate,” said that he confirmed his suspicion that MintPress’ reporting was “strange” with a “pro-Israel source” that referred to MintPress as “fringe.” PaleoNeonate then claimed that MintPress is unreliable for republishing “Russian state media” and reporting on “conspiracy theories” on chemical weapons attacks in the Syrian conflict. MintPress has been accused of promoting “conspiracy theories” about well-known, alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria on several occasions and MintPress reports on the subject were later corroborated by award-winning journalists like Seymour Hersh and Robert Fisk. Notably, this user, PaleoNeonate, is an expert in computer science, not geopolitics.

These caims were followed by user “Alsee,” who was also involved in the effort to blacklist TeleSur. This user stated: “It’s unclear whether MintPress is part of the Russian fake news engine or merely a bunch of ‘useful idiot’ nutters participating in the same content-sharing web of alternative ‘news’ sites,” and also claimed that MintPress “is widely considered unreliable.” Alsee’s evidence for the latter was that Google and Facebook’s censorship of MintPress was proof that the site is “fake news.” Alsee’s comment was responded to by the anonymous moderator account “Newslinger,” who stated that MintPress “clearly has no ambition to be a reliable source.”

Another user, “TheTimesAreAChanging,” without providing evidence, called MintPress “a cesspool of conspiracy theories and misinformation,” and is notably an editor of Wikipedia articles related to video games. The user “IceWhiz” stated that MintPress should be blacklisted “for propagating non-mainstream viewpoints (which are usually UNDUE),” but also provided no further explanation for this assertion.

An additional user, “Bobfrombrockley,” cited the fact-checking organization Newsguard and its rating of MintPress. That rating came several months after MintPress authored a viral exposè of Newsguard’s connections to neoconservatives and former government officials, including former CIA director Michael Hayden. MintPress later authored an in-depth response showing that Newsguard’s rating of MintPress was clearly biased and possibly influenced by our critical reporting on their operations.

“Unreliable” blacklisting seems to mean anti-Israel

Several of the Wikipedia users involved in blacklisting MintPress News have gained varying degrees of notoriety for their pro-Israel partisanship on the online encyclopedia.

The user Icewhiz, who stated that MintPress should be blacklisted for “propagating non-mainstream viewpoints,” has lobbied to delete the entire Wikipedia article on the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, which Icewhiz refers to as the “Israeli military administration in the West Bank.” Prior to lobbying for the article’s removal, Icewhiz had edited the article on the military occupation of the West Bank by removing the entire section about settler violence targeting Palestinians and most of the section about how the military occupation affects Palestinian children, among other pertinent information.

In addition to his efforts to remove information from Wikipedia articles that paint Israel’s military occupation of Palestine in a critical light, Icewhiz also attempted to alter the article on Palestinian nurse Razan al-Najjar, who was killed by an Israeli sniper during the Great Return March protests in the Gaza Strip last year, despite clearly wearing a vest marking her as a medic. Icewhiz added a video of al-Najjar that was later found to have been heavily edited and promoted by the Israel Defense Force as a means of justifying her death and subsequently re-edited the article to promote the IDF interpretation of the video after another editor included information critical of the IDF’s use of the doctored video. Icewhiz also edited the article on Razan al-Najjar to claim that she was “allegedly shot” by the IDF, despite the fact that there has been no disputing the IDF’s responsibility for her death, even from Israel’s government.

Per other threads of Wikipedia, two other users who voted to blacklist MintPress — users “Shrike” and “Stefka Bulgaria” — collaborate or have collaborated with Icewhiz and have defended Icewhiz from accusations of editing with an extreme pro-Israel bias. The user Shrike, who called MintPress “clearly unreliable,” has co-authored articles on historical leaders of the Zionist movement with Icewhiz and currently lives in Israel.

Notably, Shrike was involved in allowing the neoconservative pro-Israel think tank, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA), to edit Wikipedia articles with “protected status,” according to information posted by another user on his profile page. The current president of JCPA is Dore Gold, a former advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations during Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister, and the Center receives large amounts of funding from casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a major supporter of Netanyahu and a top donor of U.S. President Donald Trump.

jimmy wales facing tomorrow conference israel 2009 AP photo 09102109924 1 Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales speaks at the ‘Facing Tomorrow’ conference in Israel in 2009 (Tara Todras-Whitehill | Associated Press)

Wales has long made it no secret that he is pro-Israel, having visited the country more than ten times per his own count, leading The Times of Israel to note in 2015 that “While Wikipedia strives for objectivity on Israel, Wales is unabashedly pro.” Years prior, in 2011, when Wales attended the Israeli Presidential Conference, he told Israeli media that “I’m a strong supporter of Israel, so I don’t listen to those critics.”

whitney webbWhitney Webb, right, is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets, including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

July 28

Rolling Stone, The 24/7 Fight Against Fox News, Brian Hiatt, July 28, 2019. On the front lines with Media Matters — the conservative network’s worst nightmare If you believe former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, right, Media Matters for America is the nation’s “most dangerous bill oreilly 2010organization,” which would be quite a feat for a modestly funded nonprofit whose 80 employees spend a lot of their time quietly watching cable news at their desks.

The 15-year-old, left-leaning news-watchdog group’s mission of combating “conservative misinformation” extends to minute-by-minute scrutiny of right-wing media — Fox News, in particular — and its stars, who do not, as a rule, enjoy the attention. Sean Hannity accused MMFA of “liberal fascism,” and said it’s pressuring his advertisers to drop his show; the second part is entirely accurate.

fox news logo SmallIn addition to monitoring broadcasts in real time, Media Matters has a history of unearthing damning past comments by conservatives. Fox’s Tucker Carlson became the latest target in March, when MMFA published his early-2000s sexist and racist on-air banter with shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge (in one clip, Carlson called Iraqis “semiliterate primitive monkeys”). He’s been losing advertisers ever since, which was the goal.

Media Matters has been at war with Fox News since May 2004, when the watchdog was founded by David Brock — the singular D.C. fixture who went from right-wing anti-Clinton muckraker to left-wing Clinton insider. He envisioned MMFA as a fact-based, progressive counterweight to the Media Research Center, the conservative group that spent decades claiming to find liberal bias in the media.

Working the refs paid off for the right in credulous coverage of everything from the Iraq War to Paul Ryan’s purported policy prowess: “The right wing…has dominated the debate over liberal bias,” Brock said at the time. “They’ve moved the media itself to the right and therefore they’ve moved American politics to the right.”

Brock stepped back in the wake of the 2016 election and accusations that Media Matters had transformed itself into a Hillary Clinton fan site, to the point of bringing on James Carville as a guest columnist.

But the organization’s core battle is more urgent than ever, to say the least. The Trump presidency is arguably the end result of years of reality manipulation by Fox News and its ilk, with Trump’s supporters convinced he’s rescued them from migrant caravans, Obama’s assault on American values, and the war on Christmas, while any contrary information is, of course, fake. Trump, once a supposed Democrat, seems to have reshaped much of his worldview over the past decade to conform to Fox News’ opinion hosts, even as they now adapt some of their views to match his heterodox ideas. (Talking to dictators without preconditions, for instance, is now double-plus-good.)

July 26

Consumer Protection

sprint tmobile logos

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: If You Own a Cell Phone, You Should Worry About the T-Mobile-Sprint Deal, Editorial Board, July 26, 2019  In allowing the merger, the Justice Department is prioritizing corporate profits over the public interest.

The Justice Department apparently thinks that Americans will benefit from competition among at least four major mobile phone companies. That is the clear logic of its decision on Friday to bless the marriage of T-Mobile and Sprint, two of the four existing mobile phone giants, on the condition that they clear the way for the rise of a new competitor.

It’s a little hard to understand, however, why the government wants to pursue that goal by allowing Sprint to be swallowed and then hoping a new company emerges in its place. Surely it would be more sensible to preserve Sprint as an independent company.

U.S. Political Messaging: Race

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump campaign sees advantage in divisive appeal to working-class whites, Toluse Olorunnipa and Ashley Parker, July 27, 2019 (print ed.). As condemnations have poured in over the past two weeks accusing President Trump of bigotry, his campaign has tried to turn his offensive remarks into a political plus with his base.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Unless Democrats wake up, history could repeat itself, Colbert I. King, July 27, 2019 (print ed.). “Repulsive though he is, nominee Trump’s character defects aren’t what makes him a threat. What does sicken and alarm, and what democratic donkey logoought to concentrate African American minds, is the thought of Trump with the powers of the presidency in his hands.”

Those words of desperation appeared in a column I wrote a few weeks before the polls opened in November 2016. I repeat them today in quiet despair. We seem, once again, to be concentrating on the wrong things.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoThree years ago, too few African Americans — no, make that too few Americans — in states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida and Wisconsin gave serious thought to what turned out to be one of the most consequential presidential elections in modern history.

They apathetically stayed at home, thus helping to hand the White House to a man whose monumental defects were staring them in the face — a danger they either refused or were too blind to see.

Wwashington post logoashington Post, Sweden caught in Trump crossfire over arrest of rapper A$AP Rocky, David Nakamura, July 27, 2019 (print ed.). Swedish Ambassador Karin Olofsdotter, on vacation in her hometown, had already been on the phone with a congressman from New York outraged about the treatment of jailed American rapper A$AP Rocky when her phone buzzed with a notification.

sweden flag was a new tweet from the president of the United States declaring that he had spoken with another celebrity rapper, Kanye West, and would be calling Sweden’s prime minister to intervene in Rocky’s case.

donald trump twitter“So many people would like to see this quickly resolved!” Trump wrote on July 19.

For Olofsdotter, the implications of Trump’s social media missive were clear: A high-profile case involving a celebrity and two companions — arrested after a street fight in a case that already included sensitive issues of race, nationality and the rule of law — was now threatening to turn into a bilateral flash point with a leader who has made sowing divisions over those issues a centerpiece of his presidency.

July 26

InStyle.com, In Conversation with Julie K. Brown and Jane Mayer, Two Reporters Exposing Corruption All the Way to the Top, Sarah Cristobal, July 26, 2019. Jane Mayer and Julie K. Brown are two of the most influential investigative reporters in the country. As they continue to expose corruption and abuse at the highest levels, there’s no disputing the power of the press.

How does one define “determination”? It’s spending years chasing a story that you believe in when no one else does. It’s cold-calling leads, knocking on the doors of strangers, and traveling to obscure destinations to try to coax a witness or a victim who doesn’t want to talk to do just that. It’s spending your days poring over a decade’s worth of legal documents that are stacked in comically high piles in your guest room. It’s arranging clandestine meetings with federal marshals in a parking garage using code words like “Charlie” and “low-key.” It’s missing family vacations so you can write, without distraction, a story that attempts to balance the scales of justice.

Determination is in the DNA of Jane Mayer, the New Yorker’s chief Washington correspondent, and Julie K. Brown, a senior investigative reporter at the Miami Herald.

Mayer has written four best-selling books tackling the issues of money, corruption, and power in politics. She’s taken on influential big-donor billionaires (the Koch brothers), contributed to the reporting that led to the televised Senate testimony of Christine Blasey Ford and then–Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and established the through line from President Donald Trump’s office to Fox News HQ.

jeffrey epstein julie brown cnn screenshot CustomBrown  spent four years investigating and uncovering the abusive conditions in the Florida prison system, spurring a federal civil rights investigation by the Department of Justice. In November 2018 the Herald published “Perversion of Justice,” Brown’s staggering three-part article about financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein (with whom she is shown on CNN in separate screenshots).

For the piece, Brown tracked down around 80 alleged victims of Epstein’s abuse (eight of whom went on record). The story also detailed Epstein’s sweetheart plea deal arranged by Alexander Acosta, then the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, who went on to become Trump’s secretary of labor.

July 25

Epstein: The Big Picture

whitney webbMintPress News, Government by Blackmail: Jeffrey Epstein, Trump’s Mentor and the Dark Secrets of the Reagan Era (Part II), Whitney Webb, right, July 25, 2019 (Excerpted; Click link for full story]. Appalling for both the villainous abuse of children itself and the chilling implications of government by blackmail, this tangled web of unsavory alliances casts a lurid light on the political history of the U.S. from the Prohibition Era right up through the Age of Trump.

Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire who now sits in jail on federal charges for the sex trafficking of minors, has continued to draw media scrutiny in the weeks after his arrest on July 6. Part of the reason for this continued media interest is related to Epstein’s alleged relationship to the intelligence services and new information about the true extent of the sexual blackmail operation Epstein is believed to have run for decades.

As MintPress reported last week, Epstein was able to run this sordid operation for so long precisely because his was only the latest incarnation of a much older, more extensive operation that began in the 1950s and perhaps even earlier.

Starting first with mob-linked liquor baron Lewis Rosenstiel and later with Roy Cohn, Rosenstiel’s protege and future mentor to Donald Trump, Epstein’s is just one of the many sexual blackmail operations involving children that are all tied to the same network, which includes elements of organized crime, powerful Washington politicians, lobbyists and “fixers,” and clear links to intelligence as well as the FBI.

This report, Part II of this series titled “The Jeffrey Epstein Scandal: Too Big To Fail,” will delve into Cohn’s close ties to the Reagan administration, which was also closely tied to the same organized crime network led by the infamous mob figure Meyer Lansky, which was discussed in Part I. Of particular importance is the “Iran Contra” network, a group of Reagan officials and associates who played key roles in the Iran Contra scandal. Though it has remained relatively unknown for years, many key figures in that same network, and several fronts for the CIA that were involved in funneling money to the Central American Contra paramilitaries, were also trafficking minors for their sexual exploitation and use in sexual blackmail rings.

Several of these rings made headlines at one point or another over the years — from the “call boy ring” run by Washington lobbyist Craig Spence, to the Franklin child-sex and murder ring run by Republican operative Larry King, to the scandal that enveloped the Catholic charity Covenant House in the late 1980s.

Yet, as this report will show, all of these rings — and more — were connected to the same network that involved key figures linked to the Reagan White House and linked to Roy Cohn — revealing the true scope of the sordid sexual blackmail operations and sex rings that involved the trafficking of children within the U.S. and even in Central America for their exploitation by dangerous and powerful pedophiles in the United States.

Appalling for both the villainous abuse of children itself and the chilling implications of government by blackmail, this tangled web of unsavory alliances casts a lurid light on the political history of the United States from the Prohibition Era right up to the present day and the Age of Trump, a fact made increasingly clear as more and more information comes to light in relation to the Jeffrey Epstein case.

“Roy could fix anyone in the city”

Since Donald Trump burst onto the political scene in 2015, the legacy of his mentor, Roy Cohn – as well as Cohn’s influence on his most famous protege — have begun to garner renewed media attention. Many of the profiles on Cohn following Trump’s rise have focused solely on certain shadowy aspects of Cohn’s history, particularly his association with major figures in New York organized crime, his corrupt dealings, and his eventual disbarment. Some of these portrayals even went so far as to label Cohn as politically impotent. While Cohn was known to deal with a sizable amount of sleaze in his career, such depictions of the man fail to note that he had created an influence machine of unrivaled power that included some of the most prominent people in media and politics as well as a cadre of celebrities.

Cohn was closely associated with numerous celebrities, famous politicians and political operatives. Many of his birthday parties over the years attracted such famous figures such as artist Andy Warhol, fashion designer Calvin Klein, and comedian Joey Adams, as well as notable political figures including former Mayor of New York Abraham Beame and then-Assemblyman from Brooklyn and future Senator Chuck Schumer, among others. In 1979 Margaret Trudeau, mother of current Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, attended Cohn’s birthday party, where she famously toppled his custom birthday cake; and of course Donald Trump, who became Cohn’s protege in the mid-1970s, was a frequent fixture at social events held in Cohn’s honor.

The politicians, journalists and celebrities invited to Cohn’s exclusive parties were said to be those who “had open accounts in Cohn’s ‘favor bank,’” his nickname for his unofficial balance sheet of political favors and debts that was surely informed and influenced by his extensive involvement in sexual blackmail operations from the 1950s well into the 1980s.

Many of Cohn’s celebrity friendships were cultivated through his relationship with and frequent appearances at the famous and famously debaucherous New York nightclub Studio 54, which was described by Vanity Fair as “the giddy epicenter of 70s hedonism, a disco hothouse of beautiful people, endless cocaine, and every kind of sex.” Cohn was the long-time lawyer of the club’s owners, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager.

Among Cohn’s closest friends were Barbara Walters, to whom Cohn often referred as his “fiancee” in public, and whom he later introduced to the head of the U.S. Information Agency, Chad Wick, and other high rollers in the Reagan White House. Yet, Walters was just one of Cohn’s powerful friends in the media, a group that also included Abe Rosenthal, executive editor of the New York Times; William Safire, long-time New York Times columnist and New York Magazine contributor; and George Sokolsky of The New York Herald Tribune, NBC and ABC. Sokolsky was a particularly close friend of both Cohn and former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, whose involvement in Cohn’s sexual blackmail operation is described in Part I of this investigative series. Sokolsky ran the American Jewish League Against Communism with Cohn for several years and the organization later named its Medal of Honor after Sokolsky.

Cohn was also the attorney and friend of media mogul Rupert Murdoch and, according to New York Magazine, “Whenever Roy wanted a story stopped, item put in, or story exploited, Roy called Murdoch;” and, after Murdoch bought the New York Post, Cohn “wielded the paper as his personal shiv.” According to the late journalist Robert Parry, the friendship between Murdoch and Cohn first began thanks to their mutual support for Israel.

Cohn also leaned on his life-long friend since high school, Si Newhouse Jr., to exert media influence. Newhouse oversaw the media empire that now includes Vanity Fair, Vogue, GQ, The New Yorker, and numerous local newspapers throughout the United States, as well as major interests in cable television. New York Magazine also noted that “Cohn used his influence in the early ’80s to secure favors for himself and his Mob clients in Newhouse publications.” In addition to Newhouse, Cohn’s other high school pals, Generoso Pope Jr. and Richard Berlin, later became the owners of the National Enquirer and the Hearst Corporation, respectively. Cohn was also a close friend of another media mogul, Mort Zuckerman, who – along with Rupert Murdoch – would go on to befriend Jeffrey Epstein.

Cohn’s media confidants, like journalist William Buckley of The National Review and Firing Line, often attacked Cohn’s political enemies – particularly long-time Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau — in their columns, using Cohn as an anonymous source. Buckley, whom historian George Nash once called “the preeminent voice of American conservatism and its first great ecumenical figure,” received the George Sokolsky medal alongside Cohn’s mob-linked client and “Supreme Commander” Lewis Rosenstiel from the Cohn-run American Jewish League Against Communism in 1966. Buckley later got a heavily discounted $65,000 loan to buy a luxury boat from a bank where Cohn held influence and whose president Cohn had hand picked, according to a 1969 article in LIFE magazine.

Cohn, Murdoch and the Contras

Though Cohn’s influence in the Reagan administration and his friendship with the Reagan family and their inner circle has been acknowledged, less well-known is how Cohn aided the CIA’s covert propaganda efforts that were part of the larger scandal known as Iran-Contra.

Cohn, whose influence over the press has already been detailed, forged close ties with the director of the U.S. Information Agency, Chad Wick, even hosting a luncheon in Wick’s honor that was widely attended by influential figures in the conservative press, as well as senators and representatives. Soon after, then-CIA Director and Cohn friend William Casey was spearheading an extensive PR campaign aimed at shoring up public support for Reagan’s Latin American policies, including support of the Contra paramilitaries.

This domestic propaganda effort was technically illegal and required that the CIA outsource the job to the private sector to minimize the risk of fall-out. As Robert Parry reported in 2015, Wick took the lead in obtaining private funding for the effort and, just a few days after Wick promised to find private support, Cohn brought his close friend, the media mogul Rupert Murdoch, to the White House.

“The man in the black tuxedo”

Roy Cohn was not the only one close to the Reagan administration who was simultaneously running sexual blackmail operations that abused and exploited children. In fact, there were several figures, all of whom shared direct connections to CIA Director William Casey and other close friends and confidants of Cohn.

The downfall of “Washington’s Jay Gatsby”

After having left his job as an ABC News correspondent in the 1980s, Craig Spence found success as a prominent conservative Washington lobbyist. Spence would soon find his fortunes shift dramatically when, in June 1989, it was revealed that he had been pimping out children to the power elite in the nation’s capital throughout the 1980s in apartments that were bugged with video and audio recording equipment. Much like Jeffrey Epstein, who ran a similar operation, Spence was often likened to Jay Gatsby, the mysterious, wealthy figure from the well-known Fitzgerald novel The Great Gatsby.

A 1982 New York Times article written about Spence said that his “personal phone book and party guest lists constitute a ‘Who’s Who’ in Congress, Government and journalism” and stated that Spence was “hired by his clients as much for whom he knows as what he knows.” Spence was also known to throw lavish parties, which the Times described as “glitter[ed] with notables, from ambassadors to television stars, from senators to senior State Department officials.” Roy Cohn, William Casey and Roy Cohn’s journalist friend William Safire were just some of the other attendees at Spence’s festivities.

Spence later stated that his contacts within the White House, which allowed him and his “call boys” access, were “top level” officials and he specifically singled out George H.W. Bush’s then-National Security Advisor Donald Gregg. Gregg had worked at the CIA since 1951 before he resigned in 1982 to become National Security Advisor to Bush, who was then vice president. Prior to resigning from his post at the CIA, Gregg had worked directly under William Casey and, in the late 1970s, alongside a young William Barr (emphasis added) in stonewalling the congressional Pike Committee and Church Committee, which investigated the CIA beginning in 1975. Among the things that they were tasked with investigating were the CIA’s “love traps,” or sexual blackmail operations used to lure foreign diplomats to bugged apartments, complete with recording equipment and two-way mirrors.

Barr would later become Bush’s Attorney General, rising to that post yet again under Trump. Furthermore, Barr’s father worked for the precursor to the CIA, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and recruited a young Jeffrey Epstein, then a high school drop-out, to teach at the elite Dalton School, from which Epstein was later fired. A year prior to hiring Epstein, Donald Barr published a science fiction fantasy novel about sex slavery. Notably, the same year Donald Barr hired Epstein, his son was working for the CIA.

Bill Barr has refused calls to recuse himself from the Epstein case, even though he worked at the same law firm that has represented Epstein in the past.

whitney webbWhitney Webb, right, is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets, including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

July 22

Micro Wave News, A Fact-Free Hit on a 5G Critic, Staff report, July 22, 2019. Fabricating History on the New York Times Science Desk. Last Tuesday (July 16), the New York Times devoted most of the front page of its science section to Bill Broad’s latest attack on those who challenge the dogma that wireless radiation is absolutely safe.

“The 5G Health Hazard That Isn’t” is the catchy headline of the Web version of his article. It is followed by “How one scientist and his inaccurate chart led to unwarranted fears of wireless technology.”

Broad focuses on two letters* written about 20 years ago by Bill Curry, a consulting physicist, who openly disapproved of putting Wi-Fi in classrooms. Here’s the nub of Broad’s argument:

“Over the years, Dr. Curry’s warning spread far, resonating with educators, consumers and entire cities as the frequencies of cellphones, cell towers and wireless local networks rose. To no small degree, the blossoming anxiety over the professed health risks of 5G technology can be traced to a single scientist and a single chart.” [emphasis added]

Jeffrey Epstein's Image Rehab

Daily Mail, Jeffrey Epstein partied with Trump's closest advisers including Wilbur Ross, Rudy Giuliani, and Steve Mnunchin at dinner hosted by David Koch just TWO MONTHS after his release from prison, July 22, 2019 (updated from July 21).

  • Jeffrey Epstein, 66, attended a screening and dinner party back in August 2010 for the film Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps in Southampton.
  • The dinner was at the home of David and Julia Koch, and Epstein can be seen in photos chatting with attendees after Peggy Siegal put wilbur rosshim on the guest list
  • 'He was chatting to Jonathan Farklas, Leon Black and Wilbur Ross [right]. He was sitting right near Rudy Giuliani,' wrote Page Six at the time
    Steve Mnuchin was also present, as were designers Tory Burch and Tamara Mellon and billionaires Steven Schwarzman and Henry Kravis
  • Epstein should have been registered as a sex offender in New York at the time but it is unclear if he was as his hearing was not until 2011

Jeffrey Epstein hobnobbed with high-profile guests from the worlds of politics, banking, Hollywood and philanthropy at a Hamptons party just two months after his release by the state of Florida for soliciting a minor. Photos from a 2010 dinner party at the home of David and Julia Koch obtained by DailyMail.com show Epstein as he chats with guests after a screening of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

steven mnuchin wAmong those guests were two men who currently serve in President Trump's cabinet and his most trusted legal adviser.

Steve Mnuchin,left, and his then-wife Heather, Rudy Giuliani, right, and his then-wife Judith and Wilbur Ross all attended the rudy giuliani recentscreening and dinner that followed at the Koch's.

The Wall Street Journal wrote about those who attended the event a few days later, and in the piece noted that Giuliani 'walked out of the theater around the same time as Jeffrey Epstein, leading one observer to remark on the "beautifully done meeting of the prosecutor and the felon."'

Accused mass trafficking pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, left, is shown in a photo with Harvard Law School professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz, one of his defense jeffrey epstein alan dershowitzattorneys.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jeffrey Epstein Pitched a New Narrative. These Sites Published It, Tiffany Hsu. July 22, 2019 (print ed.). After Jeffrey Epstein got out of the Palm Beach County jail in 2009, having served 13 months of an 18-month sentence resulting from a plea deal that has been widely criticized, he began a media campaign to remake his public image.

The effort led to the publication of articles describing him as a selfless and forward-thinking philanthropist with an interest in science on websites like Forbes, National Review and HuffPost.

The Forbes.com article, posted in 2013, praised him as “one of the largest backers of forbes magazine l Customcutting-edge science around the world” while making no mention of his criminal past. The National Review piece, from the same year, called him “a smart businessman” with a “passion for cutting-edge science.”

The HuffPost article, from 2017, credited Mr. Epstein for “taking action to help a number of scientists thrive during the ‘Trump Era’,” a time of “anti-science policies and budget cuts.”

All three articles have been removed from their sites in recent days, after inquiries from The New York Times.

The articles in praise of Mr. Epstein came about partly because of an online publishing model adopted by some news organizations that relied on outside contributors who often wrote for little or no pay, with little or no input from editors.

The article on the Forbes website was attributed to Drew Hendricks, a contributing writer. As The Times revealed in an article last week, he was not the author of the piece. Instead, it was delivered to him by a public relations firm, and he said he was paid $600 to attach his byline and post it at Forbes.com.

A staff of roughly 200 employees produces Forbes’s in-house journalism, but most of the 100 articles the site publishes each day come from a group of nearly 3,000 outside writers. More content means more readers, and the number of unique visitors to Forbes.com has surged nearly 70 percent over the last four years, to 60.9 million last month, according to comScore.

While the number of views has gone up, the limited editing of contributors at Forbes has come in for criticism, with some noting huffington post logoproblematic posts like one in 2014 headlined “Drunk Female Guests are the Gravest Threat to Fraternities.”

Between 2005 and 2018, more than 100,000 contributors took advantage of HuffPost’s open-door model. At the time it was shut down, the HuffPost editor in chief Lydia Polgreen wrote, “Open platforms that once seemed radically democratizing now threaten, with the tsunami of false information we all face daily, to undermine democracy. When everyone has a megaphone, no one can be heard.”

The article on Mr. Epstein published by National Review, the conservative publication founded in 1955 by William F. Buckley Jr., was also national review logoremoved on Friday. It was credited to Christina Galbraith, who identified herself in her bio as a science writer who had published at Forbes and HuffPost.

Ms. Galbraith was also a publicist for Mr. Epstein, according to several news releases promoting Mr. Epstein’s foundations and initiatives in 2012, 2013 and 2014 that included her as a contact. Ms. Galbraith did not respond to requests for comment. In the article that appeared on the National Review site, she described him as having “given thoughtfully to countless organizations that help educate underprivileged children.”

Related Story From 2014

NewMediaWire, Hedge Funder Jeffrey Epstein Rewards Harvard's Legendary Hasty Pudding Institute, Christina Galbraith [emphasis added] March 4, 2014. Over the past year, the well-known science and Harvard philanthropist, Jeffrey Epstein [shown in a photo from the Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation], has put his substantial support behind Harvard’s famous and oldest theatrical troupe, the Hasty Pudding Institute of 1770.

jeffrey epstein hands handsUp to now, the Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation has put its funds behind strictly science endeavors at Harvard, notably the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics with a $35 million dollar gift. The foundation has been a growing admirer of the Hasty Pudding’s role in supporting public education and the arts in the Cambridge and Boston communities.

Founded in 1770, by an erudite group of Harvard students as a secret society, "to uphold friendship and patriotism," The Hasty Pudding Institute evolved into a theatrical troupe and Harvard’s oldest. Much is written about Hasty’s theatrical performances, its a cappella singers, the Harvard Krokodiloes, its wit, roast dinners, illustrious guests from Grace Kelly to Elizabeth Taylor and the fun and glamorous awards given to various actors of the year such as Dame Helen Mirren in January 2014.

For example, the Hasty Pudding gives thousands of dollars and support each year to the West End House Boys and Girls Club, which supports low income families with programs in leadership, life skills, academia, sports, nutrition, the arts and free hot meals. Page to Stage, another Hasty Institute program, supports low income children through the playmaking process from conception to performance. In addition to funds for sets, costumes and production, the Hasty Pudding also mentors young students through each aspect from dramatic coaching to light direction.

"The Hasty Pudding Institute had typical beginnings as a secret society in a dorm room," Jeffrey Epstein remarked. "But they have evolved into a theatrical company that uplifts the young community of Cambridge and Boston."

The Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation is known for supporting cutting edge science research around the world but it plays an active role in supporting education and youth programs for underprivileged youth across the country from Head Start programs to sports initiatives for juvenile offenders.

Christina Galbraith
Jeffrey Epstein Foundation
(917) 573-76XX

Remembering Muckraking Hoosier

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), WMR editor's email exchange with "suicided" Indiana political blogger Gary Welsh, Wayne Madsen, (right, author and syndicated columnist), July wayne madsen newer22, 2019 ($30 annual subscription required, excerpted here with permission). Indiana’s most well known political blogger, Gary Welsh, below left, who had uncovered scandal after scandal in Indianapolis, was said to have committed suicide on May 1, 2016.

It was very odd timing. The Indiana Republican primary, which was a last presidential gasp for Senator Ted Cruz’s campaign, was on May 3. Indianapolis was crawling with national media, which rarely ever treads in the capital of the Hoosier State.

gary r welshAlthough Welsh’s popular website, Advance Indiana, had a conservative bent, that did not dissuade Welsh, an attorney, from going after corruption wherever it was found, including the Republican-dominated state legislature and governor’s office. On April 29, two days before Welsh’s death, he posted the results of last-minute polling in Indiana on the campaigns of Donald Trump, Cruz, and Governor John Kasich from the neighboring state of Ohio.

WMR has recovered some of the emails the editor exchanged with Welsh. Our exchanges were similar to those I had with Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter Gary Webb, right, just prior to his “suicide” in California in 2004. For gary webb with articlethe first time the emails with Welsh are being revealed.

...

Muckraking reporters like Welsh were once the rule and not the exception in American journalism. Although nationally-syndicated investigators like Drew Pearson, Jack Anderson, and H. L. Mencken received all the kudos, it was the local and state reporters, those like Welsh and Webb, who actually helped clean up public and corporate corruption.

July 19

Trump Threatens $10b Amazon.com Bid

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Says He May Intervene in Huge Pentagon Contract Sought by Amazon, Scott Shane and Karen Weise, July 18, 2019. President Trump said on Thursday that he was looking “very seriously” at intervening in the hard-fought commercial battle for a $10 billion Pentagon cloud computing contract for which Amazon, a company he has frequently attacked, is seen as the leading contender.

amazon logo smallFor the president to weigh in on the award of a major government contract would be highly unusual, raising questions of improper political influence, but the stakes are high and Amazon’s competitors have been lobbying aggressively. Mr. Trump has long carried on a one-sided feud with Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, over some of the company’s business washington post logoactivities and also over what the president refers to as “The Amazon Washington Post,” though Mr. Bezos owns the newspaper personally, not as a corporate asset.

Asked by reporters about the contract known as JEDI, for Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, Mr. Trump said he was “getting tremendous complaints about the contract with the Pentagon and with Amazon.”

“They’re saying it wasn’t competitively bid,” he said.

In fact, the contract has not yet been awarded and has been the subject of a monthslong competition involving Amazon, Microsoft, Oracle and IBM. Pentagon officials decided in April that only Amazon and Microsoft had the capacity to meet the military’s requirements, and they have said they expect to choose the winner in late August.

jeffrey bezos washington postJeff Bezos, shown in a file photo and the founder of Amazon, which has been competing with Microsoft, Oracle and IBM for the Defense Department contract. Mr. Trump called JEDI “a very big contract, one of the biggest ever,” and noted that he had heard “complaining from different companies like Microsoft and Oracle and IBM.”

“Great companies are complaining about it,” he said, “so we’re going to take a look at it. We’ll take a very strong look at it.” He did not repeat his longstanding criticism of Amazon or Mr. Bezos.

As part of his regular attacks on the news media, Mr. Trump has often targeted The Post by lumping it with Amazon. He has also claimed that Amazon has unfairly exploited the United States Postal Service and has not paid its fair share of taxes.

Steve Kelman, a former federal procurement official now at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, said it would be improper for any president to influence the contracting process. “It’s not appropriate and it’s definitely not typical for a president to intervene on a contract,” he said. “That should be left to the Civil Service.”

Kaepernick, Nike Abetting Tea Party's Racism?

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Useful idiots and provocateurs, Wayne Madsen (synicated columnist, author, shown at left in a file photo), July 19, 2019 (subscription required, excerpted with permission). During a period when Donald Trump colin kaepernick nike ad Customwayne madsen may 29 2015 croppedis bringing back the old jingoistic and xenophobic “America: Love it or Leave It” mantra, it is awkward to criticize a person of color for besmirching American history, but trying times call for brutal honesty.

Former National Football League quarterback Colin Kaepernick (at right)...showed himself to either be a useful idiot or a willful tool for elements, not all of which are based in the United States, that are trying to blemish and stain the historical icons of the United States.

Racist President's Media Defenders?

 sebastian gorka twitter

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Defenders of a Racist President Use Jews as Human Shields, Michelle Goldberg, right, July 19, 2019. Trump’s michelle goldberg thumbbigoted attack on four congresswomen of color has nothing to do with fighting anti-Semitism.

Sebastian Gorka (shown above in a file photo), a onetime adviser to Donald Trump, wore a medal from the Vitezi Rend, a Hungarian group historically aligned with Nazism, to one of Trump’s inaugural balls. Gorka was reportedly a member of the group, whose founder, the Hungarian autocrat Miklos Horthy, once said, “For all my life, I have been an anti-Semite.”

Max Berger is a Jewish social justice activist who has long been deeply involved in Jewish communal life. It was Gorka who called Berger an anti-Semite, for having once joined in an internet in-joke about a nonexistent group called “Friends of Hamas.”

If this were just Gorka, you could dismiss it as trolling. But his tweets were only a particularly brazen example of how right-wing gentiles are wrapping themselves in a smarmy philo-Semitism to attack the left, even when that means attacking either individual Jews or the political interests of most Jewish Americans.

July 18

Essence of Epstein Scandal

MintPress News, Hidden in Plain Sight: The Shocking Origins of the Jeffrey Epstein Case, Whitney Webb (shown in her Twitter photo), July 18, 2019 (excerpted). Epstein whitney webb twitteris only the latest incarnation of a much older, more extensive and sophisticated operation that offers a frightening window into how deeply tied the U.S. government is to the modern-day equivalents of organized crime.

Despite his “sweetheart” deal and having seemingly evaded justice, billionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was arrested earlier this month on federal charges for sex trafficking minors. Epstein’s arrest has again brought increased media attention to many of his famous friends, the current president among them.

Media News / Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: A random group of ‘Republicans’? CNN doesn’t tell the whole story about a Trump-loving panel, Paul Farhi, July 18, 2019. Members of a Trump booster group have appeared on the network twice before, also without disclosure. There’s no question that the panel of women CNN interviewed about President Trump liked him a lot and don’t think he’s a racist, despite a congressional resolution to the contrary on Tuesday. And no question the women are, as CNN identified them, “Republicans.”

But the network missed telling its viewers a few other things about the women it put on the air Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon in a segment surveying their reaction to criticism of Trump.

cnn logoThe seemingly random group of eight women were, in fact, members of an organized group dedicated to promoting Trump. The group calls itself the Trumpettes of America 2019 Palm Beach Team, although CNN and correspondent Randi Kaye didn’t mention anything about such a group. Nor did the anchors, including Anderson Cooper, who introduced Kaye’s report.

The network also didn’t mention that the Trumpettes have been interviewed on CNN twice before, and that they came up reliably in support of Trump on those occasions, too.

As a result, the segment left the impression that CNN had assembled a panel reflecting a cross-section of opinion from Republican women about the crossfire between Trump and four freshmen Democratic congresswomen of color, whom Trump told to “go back” to their own countries in his Sunday tweets despite all four being American citizens.

Personal Privacy

washington post logoWashington Post, Up to 4 million people are leaking secrets through browser extensions. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, Geoffrey A. Fowler​, July 18, 2019. Your prescription. Your flight. Your tax return. An investigation shows that people have been unknowingly leaking personal and corporate information through Chrome and Firefox browser extensions that they may have installed themselves.

My latest investigation into the secret life of our data is not a fire drill. Working with an independent security researcher, I found as many as 4 million people have been leaking personal and corporate secrets through Chrome and Firefox. Even a colleague in The Washington Post’s newsroom got caught up. When we told browser makers Google and Mozilla, they shut these leaks immediately — but we probably identified only a fraction of the problem.

The root of this privacy train wreck is browser extensions. Also known as add-ons and plug-ins, they’re little programs used by nearly half of all desktop Web surfers to make browsing better, such as finding coupons or remembering passwords. People install them assuming that any software offered in a store run by Chrome or Firefox has got to be legit.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democratic leaders warn campaigns to delete FaceApp ‘immediately,’ Hannah Denham and Drew Harwell, July 18, 2019 (print ed.). Millions of users, including Drake, LeBron James and the Jonas Brothers, have posted photos of themselves altered by the app to make them look years older.

July 16

Consortium News, First Person Commentary: Consortium News Target of a Malware Attack as Twitter Takes Down Assange Support Group’s Account, Elizabeth Vos (Consortium News contributor), July 16, 2019. The simultaneous escalation of censorship of Julian Assange’s support base, alongside the latest wave of fact-free attacks on Assange and WikiLeaks‘, raises concern about a coordinated effort to smear Assange while silencing those who counter such dubious reporting.

julian assange cropped with un headerConsortium News was under attack on Monday, days after the premiere episode of the outlet’s live-streamed show, CN Live! The malicious attempt to shut down the website, according to the site’s web host, followed on the heels of the suspension of pro-Assange account Unity4J from Twitter.

Consortium News wrote via Twitter on Monday regarding the cyberattack: “Our website is completely down. Our media host said we have been attacked by malware. They actually tried to blame ‘the Russians’! Every article published since 2011 now gets a 404 Not Found. They are working on it. Problem started slowly on Friday first day of CN Live!”

The hack of Consortium News sparked concern regarding what appears to be an escalating wave of attacks on the independent press, as well as censorship of activists who support independent journalists, including WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Consortium News was restored by 10:44 pm EDT on Monday, but issues related to publishing new material persist.

As news of the attack on Consortium News spread, some Assange supporters connected the event with Twitter’s suspension of the Unity4J movement’s Twitter account. Christine Assange, Julian Assange’s mother and an activist in her own right, Christine Assange tweeted: Christine Assange also wrote on Sunday that she had lost “over 8,000 followers overnight.”

CNLive!‘s inaugural live-stream included an interview with Nils Melzer, the UN rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, who “discussed his work on the condition of imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.“

Consortium News had previously conducted the Unity4J online vigils over a period of months. The Unity4J Twitter account was suspended last Thursday for no known reason. The ban sparked a backlash including independent media coverage from a number of outlets, as well as an impassioned statement from Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, who called Twitter “Big Brother” for permanently removing the account. To date, no explanation for Unity4J’s suspension has been made public.

Caitlin Johnstone wrote of the suspension via Medium: "Speaking for myself as a vocal Assange supporter on Twitter, I can say that I’ve been following the @Unity4J account closely since its earliest days and I’ve never once seen it post anything other than highly professional-looking advocacy for Julian Assange. I’ve certainly never seen it post anything that could be construed as abusive, misleading, or otherwise in violation of any of Twitter’s posted rules."

Unity4J was far from the only account targeted recently. Additional Unity4J activists, including many of those associated with running the Unity4J Twitter profile, were also either suspended or locked out of their accounts. One Unity4J admin, Aaron Kesel, who also writes as an independent journalist, said in an interview that they were locked out of their accounts within minutes of publishing an article covering the Catalonian public’s celebration of Assange’s birthday. Activist Post, the site on which the article was published, was likewise reportedly hacked in recent weeks.

On the same day that Consortium News fell under attack, CNN published a conspiracy-theory-laden article accusing Assange of having conspired with “the Russians” to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election from within the Ecuadorian embassy, which CNN described breathlessly as a “command post.” (Little irony that Consortium News was also told that their website being attacked had had something to do with “The Russians.”)

Palmer Report, Commentary: Kellyanne Conway has total meltdown on White House lawn, Bill Palmer, July 16, 2019. Kellyanne Conway is kellyanne conway talkingcurrently facing a couple big problems, beyond the fact that she’s Kellyanne Conway. First, her boss Donald Trump is in the midst of a racist tantrum that’s so unhinged and so far over the top, it seems to finally be at risk of hurting him. Second, her husband George Conway has emerged as one of Trump’s top critics, and last night George flat out stated that Trump is a racist.

This all added up to Kellyanne Conway addressing a group of reporters on the White House lawn today, and let’s just say that it didn’t go well for her. Donald Trump insisted that four freshman Democratic Congresswomen should “go back” to bill palmer report logo headerwhere they came from, which is both racist and bizarre, considering that three out of the four of them were born in the United States to begin with.

When a reporter [broadcast correspondent Andrew Feinberg] asked Kellyanne which countries they were supposed to “go back” to, according to NBC News, Kellyanne fired back at the reporter with “What’s your ethnicity?”

That’s right, she took the horrible thing that Trump said, and she managed to somehow make it even worse. As her exchange with the reporter went on, it became clear that Kellyanne was suggesting that the Congresswomen should go to whatever country their ancestors came from, or that they should go to a country where the population predominantly matches their ethnicity. Instead of acknowledging that Trump incorrectly assumed the four Congresswomen were all immigrants, Kellyanne took Trump’s racist words to an even more over-the-top place.

Kellyanne Conway’s lone skill in politics has always been to respond to every question with so many wall-to-wall lies that no one could get a word in edgewise, and no one could remember what the question was to begin with, leaving the waters fully muddied. But she didn’t do that today. Instead she staked Donald Trump to a more racist position than even he appeared to have been aiming for.

July 15

washington post logoWashington Post, Glenn Greenwald has faced pushback for his reporting before. But not like this, Terrence McCoy, July 15, 2019 (print ed.). For weeks, from a house transformed into a bunker, Greenwald, right, had published allegations casting doubt on the impartiality of the glenn greenwaldcorruption investigation that led to the imprisonment of former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and contributed to the rise of President Jair Bolsonaro, below left.

In two days, he [Greenwald] would publish another story alleging that the judge who’d overseen Lula’s case, Sérgio jair bolsonaro brazilMoro, a national hero in Brazil for his role taking on corruption, had colluded with prosecutors to convict him.Greenwald, the polarizing American journalist who came to prominence reporting on the U.S. government surveillance programs exposed by Edward Snowden, had promised months of stories — a steady drip of leaks that could imperil the Bolsonaro agenda. Some members of Brazil's National Congress had called for his deportation. Others accused him of committing a crime. Death threats were rolling in.

Most recently, the federal police, commanded by Moro, now Bolsonaro’s justice minister, reportedly began investigating Greenwald’s finances in a probe that press advocates here see as an attempt to silence him. The public threats against Greenwald represent an early test for Brazil under Bolsonaro, the right-wing former military officer who won the presidency last year with appeals to nationalism, homophobia and nostalgia for the country’s two-decade military dictatorship.

Intrepid Report, Accusing Adam Schiff of ‘criminalizing routine reporting,’ groups call for stripping CIA-backed provision from intelligence legislation, Eoin Higgins, July 15, 2019. ‘Schiff is clearly the resistance to the resistance, and he should drop this provision from his bill.’ A adam schiff officialCIA-backed provision for a bill that could have dire effects on the freedom of the press is quietly making its way through Congress, despite the protestations of civil rights groups to Rep. Adam Schiff, right, the powerful California Democrat who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, to strip the rule.

“Adam Schiff is once again putting the interests of the intelligence agencies in concealing their misdeeds ahead of protecting the rights of ordinary Americans,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director for Demand Progress, in a statement Thursday.

In the statement, Schuman also accused Schiff of “criminalizing routine reporting by the press on national security issues and undermining congressional oversight in his Intelligence Authorization bill.” Demand Progress was one of 30 groups that signed an open letter (pdf) on July 8 to congressional leaders of both parties calling for the provision to be stripped from the bill.

“This provision is an extremely broad expansion of felony criminal penalties, and delegates authority as to when those penalties apply to the executive branch,” reads the letter. “It would be significantly damaging to transparency, oversight, and accountability, and should be removed from the Intelligence Authorization Act.”

cia logoSection 305 of the Intelligence Authorization Act (pdf), which prohibits disclosure of the identity of agents currently in the field or who have been in the field in the last five years, would be tweaked under the new law to encompass the identities of a far larger number of agents, contractors, and sources—many of whom live and work domestically.

The effect of the law could be massive, Emily Manna, a policy analyst for Open the Government, told Yahoo News in an email.

“This language is almost unbelievably broad, drastically expanding felony criminal penalties for the disclosure of [many categories] of information about the intelligence agencies, even if those disclosures might be in the best interest of the government and the country,” wrote Manna. “There would likely be a significant chilling effect on journalists and government whistleblowers.”

Supporters of the law’s expansion cite WikiLeaks, the online clearinghouse for secure information, as the reason for needing further protections. It’s an argument that’s likely to have an effect on Schiff, who has spent much of the past two years railing against the site for its perceived involvement in the election of President Donald Trump.

Schiff, one of the favorite guests of MSNBC‘s “Rachel Maddow Show,” has cultivated an image of a hero to the so-called liberal “resistance” to Trump since 2017, something that Demand Progress’ Schuman took aim at in his statement.

July 12

Media / Trade Wars

ny times logoNew York Times, As Europe Moves to Tax Tech Companies, U.S. Scrambles to Broker a Deal, Jim Tankersley and Alan Rappeport, July facebook logo12, 2019. Washington is trying to head off efforts by France, Britain and the European Union to impose taxes on companies like Google and Facebook. The digital revenue grab is threatening to set off a cascade of retaliatory measures unless an agreement can be made.

google logo customFor most of the 21st century, wealthy nations have engaged in a race to the bottom on corporate taxes, cutting rates in an effort to poach business activity across borders. Very quickly, that script has flipped.

Developed countries are now moving to impose new taxes on technology companies, like Facebook and Google, that have large presences in their citizens’ daily lives but pay those countries little tax on the profits they earn there.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Congress should show Trump that the Saudi crown prince is no ‘friend’ of America, Editorial Board, July 12, 2019 (print ed.). Though there has been no accountability for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and women who were tortured for seeking mohammed bin salman al saudgreater rights are still in prison, President Trump has returned to calling Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (shown at right) a “friend” who is doing “a spectacular job.”

Fortunately, there remains a bipartisan majority in Congress that rejects this indefensible judgment and the president’s strings-free steps to supply the kingdom with more weapons and nuclear technology. The question is whether a coalition can come together to pass legislation that will reshape U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia and its brutal and reckless ruler over Mr. Trump’s objections.

July 11

washington post logoWashington Post, Jeffrey Epstein’s case was covered in the media. But one Miami reporter made it big news again, Sarah Ellison and Paul Farhi, July 11, 2019 (print ed). An investigation, entitled "Perversion of Justice," began with a simple question: “I wonder what the women think about this?”

As Julie Brown watched the Senate hearings on Alexander Acosta’s nomination to become secretary of labor in 2017, she couldn’t help but talk to the television.

“Why aren’t they asking him this?” she asked. “Why aren’t they asking him that?”

perversion of justice miami herald logoBrown was frustrated by the limited questioning from senators about Acosta’s role in an unusual secret plea deal that, as a U.S. attorney in Florida, he had struck with Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire financier who had pleaded guilty in 2008 to charges of soliciting prostitution from a minor, serving a mere 13-month sentence that allowed him to leave jail for 12 hours a day.

“It seemed like the lawmakers didn’t know the whole story,” Brown said in an interview.

So, after the Senate confirmed Acosta, Brown, an investigative reporter for the Miami Herald, went to her editor with a simple query: “I wonder what the women think about this.”

jeffrey epstein julie brown cnn screenshot CustomBrown (shown with Epstein in a CNN screenshots) then set out to tell the full story — not from Acosta’s or Epstein’s point of view but from the perspective of the scores of women who were girls when they were allegedly raped and trafficked by Epstein. They were identified in court filings as Jane Doe 1 or Jane Doe 2 or, as Brown darkly joked, “Jane Doe 102.”

Her search resulted in a blockbuster three-part investigation, published in November, in which she and video journalist Emily Michot were able to identify about 80 of Epstein’s accusers. The stories were a slow-burning fuse that led to an explosion: On Saturday, Epstein was arrested on new sex-crimes charges, leading to calls from leading Democrats for Acosta’s resignation over his handling of the case 11 years ago.

Though there have been surges of media attention about Epstein over more than a decade, no journalist had interviewed the women — now nurses and real estate agents and mothers and professionals — until Brown dove into the story last year.

Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), Alexander Acosta’s past—and present—under the spotlight, Jon Allsop, July 11, 2019. Yesterday, Alexander Acosta, President Trump’s embattled labor secretary, hauled himself before reporters to finally answer some big questions. Acosta finds himself under siege following the weekend arrest of Jeffrey Epstein on sex-trafficking charges.

In 2007, Acosta, then the top US prosecutor in Miami, signed off on a lenient sweetheart plea deal for Epstein and failed to tell Epstein’s victims about it—an illegal move, per a recent court ruling. Acosta gently (for a Trump official, at least) chided the press for overlooking facts about his handling of the Epstein case: the plea deal ensured Epstein did jail time, whereas going to court would have been “the roll of a dice,” Acosta said. He also said, repeatedly, that times have changed, as if he was talking about the 1940s, not the late 2000s.

Trump 'Social Media Summit Today'

Raw Story, Top official explains why some Trump superfans were left out of White House summit: ‘We aren’t that stupid,’ Travis Gettys, July 11, 2019. The White House is hosting a summit for pro-Trump social media personalities, but some of the president’s boosters are wondering why they weren’t invited to the event.

Social media director Dan Scavino, a longtime aide to President Donald Trump, is taking the lead in organizing the summit and forming its agenda, two sources told The Daily Beast.

donald trump twitterBut White House staffers told the website they made the easy choice to exclude some of the president’s more controversial supporters — such as InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, anti-Muslim activist Laura Loomer and Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes — who have been banned from Twitter and other social media platforms.

“What benefit would it be to anyone if Laura Loomer were in the same room with the president?” one senior Trump administration official told The Daily Beast. “Why on earth would we do that? We aren’t that stupid. Come on.”

Loomer and other pro-Trump figures have been ranting about their exclusion on Telegram, a Russian messaging app that is one of the only platforms they have left after getting banned from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for various infractions.

“It’s just absolutely disgusting how poorly this summit was planned and how blatant the act was to keep banned individuals out,” Loomer blared on Telegram. “I cannot believe that every single banned person was out of the summit.”

However, the invite list also features a number of controversial, sketchy or fringe characters. At least two Trump superfans — online video personality Bill Mitchell and singer Joy Villa — who buy in to the QAnon conspiracy theory say they have been invited to the White House summit.

QAnon believers are fixated on asking Trump to confirm their conspiracy in person, the website reported, but Mitchell insisted he would resist the urge. “Of course not,” Mitchell told The Daily Beast. “This is about social media bias, not Q.”

Trump-loving cartoonist Ben Garrison — whose drawings feature a svelte, pompadoured president vanquishing various enemies — was disinvited to the event after critics pointed out several plainly anti-Semitic comics he’d done in the past.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump posts deranged “stable genius” meltdown involving random people and bad math, deletes it, Bill Palmer, July 11, 2019. As a general rule, if you have to declare yourself a “stable genius,” it means you’re neither one of those things.

Because so many of Donald Trump’s biggest supporters are openly bigoted, and so many of them tend to express their horrid views in bill palmer report logo headerthreatening or slur-filled ways, some of Trump’s more prominent surrogates have been banned from various social networks. Some of the others have simply made up a laugh-out-loud conspiracy theory about how they’re not more popular because the social networks are conspiring to bury their incoherent rants. Trump is playing up this nonsense by inviting this collection of lunatics to the White House for a closed-door meeting today. Accordingly, Trump posted this maniacal meltdown on Twitter:

"A big subject today at the White House Social Media Summit will be the tremendous dishonesty, bias, discrimination and suppression practiced by certain companies. We will not let them get away with it much longer. The Fake News Media will also be there, but for a limited period.

The Fake News is not as important, or as powerful, as Social Media. They have lost tremendous credibility since that day in November, 2016, that I came down the escalator with the person who was to become your future First Lady. When I ultimately leave office in six years, or maybe 10 or 14 (just kidding), they will quickly go out of business for lack of credibility, or approval, from the public. That’s why they will all be Endorsing me at some point, one way or the other. Could you imagine having Sleepy Joe Biden, or Alfred E. Newman or a very nervous and skinny version of Pocahontas (1/1024th), as your President, rather than what you have now, so great looking and smart, a true Stable Genius! Sorry to say that even Social Media would be driven out of business along with, and finally, the Fake News Media!"

YouTube, Dr. Gorka Tells Triggered Reporter At Rose Garden, "You’re A Punk! July 11, 2019 (2 min. video). Former White House aide Dr. Sebastian Gorka tells Playboy Magazine reporter Brian Karem, the same triggered reporter who later had an exchange with Joy Villa at the White House Rose Garden on July 11, 2019. Note: Conservative provocateur James O'Keefe, who identifies himself as an "investigative journalist," also confronts Karem.

Other coverage:

  • Bloomberg, Sebastian Gorka Clashes with Journalist After Trump Refuses Media Questions, July 11, 2019 (1:09 min. video).  Conservative commentator Sebastian Gorka appeared to threaten a journalist from the White House press corps after Trump finished remarks on the 2020 census without taking questions from the media. Earlier, Trump hosted a social media summit at the White House, attended by only conservative news media, including Gorka.
  • WLTX, July 11, 2019. Singer Joy Villa confronted several members of the media over fake news moments after a Rose Garden news conference by President Donald Trump on July 11, 2019. It began when Sebastian Gorka had an exchange of words with one of the reporters, who Gorka said made a threat against him.

July 10

washington post logomohammed bin salman al saudWashington Post, After grisly killing of a journalist, lobbyists and lawyers have reaped millions assisting Saudi Arabia, Beth Reinhard, Jonathan O'Connell and Tom Hamburger, July 10, 2019.  After the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a handful of lobbying firms and think tanks made a move rare in Washington: They publicly severed ties with Saudi Arabia. But months later, some have resumed their relationships with the kingdom. Its crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, suspected of ordering the tortture murder, is shown at right.

Trash Talk Radio

Mediaite, WATCH: Caller Informs Seb Gorka That He Has Been Awarded Journalist of the Year By ‘Dipsh*t Magazine,’ Connor Mannion, July 10, 2019.  Sebastian Gorka got duped by a prank call to his radio show and proceeded to blast the jokester as “a little girl.” The caller, “Jason,” began with effusive praise of Gorka, saying he “loved” the sound of Gorka’s voice. “Radio is meant for you, sir,” Jason said.

July 9

Media / Trump Watch

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump cannot block his critics on Twitter, appeals court rules, Ann E. Marimow​, July 9, 2019. The case has twitter bird Customimplications for how elected officials nationwide interact with constituents on social media.

President Trump cannot block his critics from the Twitter feed he regularly uses to communicate with the public, a federal appeals court donald trump twittersaid Tuesday, in a case with implications for how elected officials nationwide interact with constituents on social media.

The decision from the New York-based appeals court upholds an earlier ruling that Trump violated the First Amendment when he blocked individual users who were critical of the president or his policies.

Public officials who take to social media for official government business, the court said Tuesday, are prohibited from excluding people “from an otherwise open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees,” wrote Judge Barrington D. Parker in the unanimous decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

July 8

ny times logoNew York Times, New Scandals Rock Government’s Foreign Broadcasting Service, Elizabeth Williamson, July 8, 2019.  The United States Agency for Global Media is facing intensified scrutiny after two new cases raised questions about journalistic and financial management. The United States Agency for Global Media, the government’s foreign broadcast service, already struggling to clean house after voice of america logoa series of scandals last year at flagship operations like Voice of America and TV Martí, is now being rocked by two new cases that have raised further questions about its journalistic and financial management.

In one, Tomás Regalado Jr., a reporter for TV Martí, which broadcasts into Cuba, and a cameraman for the network, Rodolfo Hernandez, were suspended amid allegations that they faked a mortar attack on Mr. Regalado during a broadcast from Managua, Nicaragua, last year.

That incident surfaced only days after Haroon Ullah, the former chief strategy officer at the global media agency, which operates Martí and foreign-language networks around the world, pleaded guilty on June 27 in federal court in Alexandria, Va., to stealing government property.

A former deputy to the agency’s chief executive, John Lansing, Mr. Ullah admitted to fleecing the government of $37,000 between February and October last year by claiming reimbursements for expensive hotels he did not book, double-billing the government for official travel and forging a doctor’s note to allow him to fly business class. He faces up to 10 years in prison.

The new problems are unrelated to each other; in the case of Mr. Ullah, the agency said its internal controls flagged the expense fraud. But along with many others over the past two years, the scandals have brought intensified scrutiny and criticism to the agency, formerly known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Created during World War II to be an objective, trusted source of information in nations where freedom of the press is under attack, the agency has 3,500 journalists who reach more than 345 million people in 100 countries each week.

Palmer Report,