Media News 2021-23




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

  • breaking news imgaeGovernment censorship, falsehoods, restrictions of access or covert manipulation;
  • Financial cutbacks in newsrooms eroding professional standards;
  • Slanted or otherwise manipulative "news" techniques;
  • Heavy-handed political control, increasingly with partisan agendas, over schools, colleges, textbooks
  • Outright "fake news" that makes scant pretense of honest coverage.

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

    • Andrew Kreig / Justice Integrity Project editor


      andrew kreig c span

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

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

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

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


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


Sept. 23


President Ronald Reagan is shown in a 1980s White House meeting with key right wing media and political influencers Rupert Murdoch, Roy Cohn and Charles Wick (Photo via Reagan Presidential Library).

President Ronald Reagan is shown in a 1980s White House meeting with key right wing media and political influencers Rupert Murdoch, Roy Cohn (standing) and Charles Wick (Photo via Reagan Presidential Library).

ny times logoNew York Times, The Fox Titan Turned Passion and Grievance Into Money and Power, James Poniewozik, Sept. 23, 2023 (print ed.). Rupert Murdoch built a noise-and-propaganda machine by giving his people what they wanted — and sometimes by teaching them what to want, our critic writes.

The polite way to describe the legacy of a man like Rupert Murdoch is to leave aside whether his accomplishments were good or bad and simply focus on how big they were. It is to eulogize him like Kendall Roy memorializing his father, Logan, in “Succession,” the HBO corporate drama none too slightly based on the Murdochs, among other dynasties. Maybe he had “a terrible force,” as Kendall put it, but fox news logo Small“he built, and he acted. … He made life happen.”

But the polite way is exactly the wrong way to assess Mr. Murdoch, who on Thursday announced his retirement from the boards of Fox and News Corporation. Mr. Murdoch (whose biographers included Michael Wolff in a book whose rupert murdoch michael wolff covercover is shown at left) achieved nothing the polite way. His style and his work were direct and blunt. Let us take his measure his way.

Rupert Murdoch’s empire used passion and grievance as fuel and turned it into money and power.

His tabloids ran on the idea of publishing for readers as they were, not according to some platonic ideal of how one wished them to be. That meant pinups and prize giveaways and blaring scandal headlines.

Over years and decades, Mr. Murdoch’s properties shifted their definition of “elite” away from people with more money than you and toward people with more perceived cultural capital than you, something that would be essential to nationalist politics in the 21st century and Fox’s dominance. (He did all this while living the life of a jet-setting billionaire.)

 washington post logoWashington Post, Lachlan Murdoch will be fully in charge of Fox. Will viewers notice? Jeremy Barr, Sept. 22, 2023. When Rupert Murdoch hands over the reins of the family media empire to his son Lachlan, it’s unlikely that viewers of Fox News will notice much difference.

lachlan murdoch 2013When Rupert Murdoch formally hands over the reins of his media empire to his 52-year-old son Lachlan in November, die-hard Fox News viewers will hardly notice any difference.

Conservative-leaning Lachlan, shown in a 2013 photo, has controlled the cable-news giant’s parent company since 2019, when he was picked to serve as chief executive and his more liberal brother James left the family business, seemingly ending speculation that a new sensibility would arrive with the next generation of Murdochs.

“I’ve had a sense that Lachlan is at least as conservative as his father,” said Preston Padden, a former Fox executive who has since became a critic of the network (but described Lachlan as “a very nice guy” in their interactions back in the 1990s).


washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Even $500 million isn’t enough to save local journalism, Editorial Board, Sept. 22, 2023. Books, op-eds, think pieces and conferences — many, many conferences: The plight of local journalism in the United States has received its share of attention. At a 2022 summit on this topic, an industry veteran said that there’s “probably more people trying to help the newspaper business than in the newspaper business.”

A large pile of cash is now sidling up to all the chatter. In an initiative announced this month, 22 donor organizations, including the Knight Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, are teaming up to provide more than $500 million to boost local news over five years — an undertaking called Press Forward.

Journalists and publishers on the local scene in markets across the country have worked nonstop to bring their neighbors important stories and experiment with ways of paying for the service. The injection of more than a half-billion dollars is sure to help the quest for a durable and replicable business model.

The even bigger imperative, however, is to elevate local news on the philanthropic food chain so that national and hometown funders prioritize this pivotal American institution. Failure on this front places more pressure on public policy solutions, and government activism mixes poorly with independent journalism.

There’s no shortage of need. According to 2022 research by Penny Abernathy, a visiting professor at Medill and a former executive at the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, newspapers are closing at an average rate of more than two per week; since 2005, more than one-quarter of U.S. newspapers have vanished. Digital-only start-ups haven’t plugged the gap, leaving too many communities without pressing information about themselves. The contraction has led to the proliferation of “news deserts”; there are 200 counties, home to 70 million people, with no newspaper.

No surprise: It turns out that areas with thin and declining news coverage also have lower voter turnout, less robust political competition and declining civic engagement. Into the void have seeped misinformation and disinformation.

What’s more, local news stands as the industry’s front line against the erosion of public trust. News consumers, after all, needn’t venture far to judge the veracity of a report on a three-alarm blaze up on Main Street; nothing dispels “fake news” quite like a freshly charred facade.

Who’s to blame? The internet, mostly. Whereas deep-pocketed advertisers formerly relied on newspapers to reach their customers, they took to the audience-targeting capabilities of Facebook or Google. Web-based marketplaces also siphoned newspapers’ once-robust revenue from classified ads. Local news entrepreneurs these days attempt to get by with a mix of advertising (or “sponsorship,” in the case of nonprofit news organizations), subscriber revenue and grants from philanthropic institutions. “If you’re going to do a big mission, you’ve got to have multiple sources of revenue,” says Eric Barnes, CEO of the Daily Memphian.

washington post logoWashington Post, Misinformation research is buckling under GOP legal attacks, Naomi Nix, Cat Zakrzewski and Joseph Menn, Sept. 23, 2023. The escalating campaign — led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and other Republicans — has cast a pall over programs that study not just political disinformation but also the quality of medical information online.

Academics, universities and government agencies are overhauling or ending research programs designed to counter the spread of online misinformation amid a legal campaign from conservative politicians and activists who accuse them of colluding with tech companies to censor right-wing views.

The escalating campaign — led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and other Republicans in Congress and state government — has cast a pall over programs that study not just political falsehoods but also the quality of medical information online.

Facing litigation, Stanford University officials are discussing how they can continue tracking election-related misinformation through the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP), a prominent consortium that flagged social media conspiracies about voting in 2020 and 2022, several participants told The Washington Post. The coalition of disinformation researchers may shrink and also may stop communicating with X and Facebook about their findings.

The National Institutes of Health froze a $150 million program intended to advance the communication of medical information, citing regulatory and legal threats. Physicians told The Post that they had planned to use the grants to fund projects on noncontroversial topics such as nutritional guidelines and not just politically charged issues such as vaccinations that have been the focus of the conservative allegations.

NIH officials sent a memo in July to some employees, warning them not to flag misleading social media posts to tech companies and to limit their communication with the public to answering medical questions.

Sept. 22

ny times logoNew York Times, Rupert Murdoch to Retire From Fox and News Corporation Boards, Jim Rutenberg, Sept. 22, 2023 (print ed.). The move leaves his son Lachlan as the sole executive in charge of the global media empire.

rupert murdoch 2011 shankbone Rupert Murdoch, left, is retiring from the Fox and News Corporation boards, the company announced Thursday morning, making his son Lachlan the sole executive in charge of the global media empire he built from a small local newspaper concern in Australia starting 70 years ago.

fox news logo SmallThe elder Mr. Murdoch will become chairman emeritus of the two companies, the company said in a release.

Mr. Murdoch, 92, had shown no intention to step down or even slow down — even after he named Lachlan as the heir to his business empire in 2019, when he sold his vast entertainment holdings to the Walt Disney Company.

Even now, in his emeritus status, he will continue to offer counsel, Lachlan Murdoch said in a statement.

“We thank him for his vision, his pioneering spirit, his steadfast determination, and the enduring legacy he leaves to the companies he founded and countless people he has impacted,” Lachlan Murdoch, 52, said in a release the company put out Thursday morning.

Sept. 21


james okeefeMediaite, Project Veritas Suspends All Operations Amid Devastating Layoffs and Fundraising Struggles, Diana Falzone and Aidan McLaughlin, Sept. 20, 2023. Project Veritas, the conservative organization founded by James O’Keefe (shown above in a screenshot), suspended all operations on Wednesday after another round of layoffs, Mediaite has learned.

mediaite square logoAccording to a letter titled “Reduction in Force” that was sent to Project Veritas staffers by HR director Jennifer Kiyak on Wednesday, the organization is putting all operations on pause amidst severe financial woes.

“In the interest of preserving the possible future existence of Project Veritas we need to put operations on pause and, as communicated since the Spring, another Reduction in Force (“RIF”) is necessary,” Kiyak wrote.

Six staffers were laid off from the embattled organization this week, sources said, including all remaining journalists and one development associate. One former Project Veritas staffer said just 11 people remain on the non-profit’s payroll, including CEO Hannah Giles.

Kiyak wrote in the letter that the group cannot “carry the present staff count any longer” and reminded those being laid off of their nondisclosure agreements.

O’Keefe, a right-wing activist who gained fame and notoriety for his sting operations against liberal groups, launched Project Veritas in 2010. He left the organization earlier this year amid allegations of improper spending of funds on personal luxuries. He was replaced by Giles as CEO, who has overseen the rapid decline of the once well-funded group that has in recent months struggled with layoffs, the resignations of board members, and fundraising struggles.

Earlier this month, Mediaite reported on an internal meeting during which Giles said the organization was “bankrupt.”

One of the journalists let go in the bloodletting on Wednesday is Bobby Harr, a former lead investigative reporter with Project Veritas. Harr told Mediaite he was “confused” when he was officially laid off on a phone call with Giles and Kiyak Wednesday afternoon – because he had already been let go from the organization last month.

“I was confused by this as my job was actually cut during the first round of layoffs while I was on medical leave,” he said. “I was locked out of my work phone and laptop as of that day and my paychecks stopped.”

Christian Hartsock, the former chief investigative journalist at Project Veritas who was laid off in August, said he was shocked to learn the organization was still running.

“I have no idea what ‘operations’ there are to suspend,” Hartsock told Mediaite.

Giles, he said, “canned the entire production staff of a production company, and the entire journalist leadership staff of a journalism company over a month ago. So what exact ‘operations’ has she been continuing with remaining donor money — given for the sole purpose of journalism production — for the past month?”

Harr said the collapse of Project Veritas has not come as a surprise given the events of recent weeks.

“Suspending operations is one of those things that we all knew was coming after the mass layoffs occurred, but still cut like a knife when it officially happened,” Harr said. “Lack of funding and poor management amplified the damage that James O’Keefe already did to the organization prior to the days of Hannah Giles, who then delivered the final blow.”

O’Keefe’s attorney Jeffrey Lichtman told Mediaite in a statement: “It appears that in the few months since Project Veritas ousted James, it continued to spend money at the same rate, blowing through the many millions of dollars James had previously raised for it — despite PV having no new sources of fundraising. This is highly suspect and we would welcome a full audit of PV’s finances to learn where that money was actually spent.”

Harr expressed disappointment with the mismanagement of the organization he spent more than three years working for.

“I was provided no severance pay,” he said. “The organization used to thrive and prosper. It’s truly sad to see what can happen to great opportunities with a surplus of resources when the wrong people are in power.”

Sept. 20

mike freedman kalb report

Former National Press Club President Michael Freedman's leadership in 2020 helped the Club survive the pandemic.

National Press Club, In Memorium: Freedman led Club through Covid, created 'The Kalb Report,' Gil Klein, Sept. 19-20, 2023. Michael Freedman, who led the National Press Club during the tumultuous opening months of the Covid pandemic and who for 28 years was the driving force and executive producer of the Club’s "The Kalb Report," died national  press club logoSept. 18. He was 71.

The cause was pancreatic cancer, which he had been battling for more than a year.

Even after being diagnosed with cancer, Freedman maintained his work with the Club. During the reception to mark the end of the 28-year-run of "The Kalb Report" with 103 programs on April 22, which Freedman had organized, Club President Eileen O’Reilly presented him with the John Cosgrove Award, given to past presidents who keep serving the Club.

While O'Reilly lauded Freedman for all he had done while president and since, she said that even more important, “you served as an essential mentor, advisor and friend to the three Club presidents who succeeded you – Lisa Matthews, Jen Judson and myself – as well as to (Club Executive Director) Bill McCarren and the Club staff.”

As one of the last things he accomplished for the Club, he worked with Beth Francesco, executive director of the Club’s Journalism Institute, to secure a $25,000 grant from the Inasmuch Foundation to produce a series of programs on journalism ethics called “Why Murrow Matters” that will begin this fall.

At the time of his passing, Freedman was Journalist in Residence and senior vice president of the University of Maryland Global Campus. At the same time, he had been teaching journalism history at the George Washington University, bringing his students weekly to the Club.

Freedman was born on April 29, 1952, in Detroit. His father died when he was six years old. As a gift, he got a small transistor radio, which he said he kept under his pillow listening to the Detroit Tigers games. As a result, he said he developed a lifelong passion for baseball and for radio. One of the highlights of his term, he said, was getting the Washington Nationals to lend the Club its 2019 World Series trophy.

His work with GW, both as a professor and an administrator, brought him to the National Press Club in 1994 with Marvin Kalb, a former CBS News correspondent. They proposed to do a series of programs in partnership with the Club to examine the junction of journalism and democracy that became known as “The Kalb Report.”

When the series ended after the first year, Freedman pushed to keep it alive, finding financial backers and putting together a network of public broadcasting stations as well as radio outlets that made the series the marquee of the Club’s professional forums.

“Mike Freedman represented the highest standards of American journalism,” Kalb said. “He was a model for young journalists. Whenever I needed help on an issue regarding American journalism, I turned to Mike. He was one of the most honorable, decent human beings I have ever met.”

As a devotee of radio news history, he became a close friend of Edward R. Murrow’s son, Casey. He enticed Casey to donate artifacts of the legendary Murrow to the Club and to lend the microphone that Murrow used to broadcast from London during World War II. Freedman called it “the Holy Grail” of broadcast journalism. When Casey wanted to sell it, Mike purchased it and lent it to the Club.

Just three months into his term of office, Covid forced the Club to close for in-person activities. Freedman used all of his skills as a broadcast journalist, educator and high-level administrator to work with McCarren to create online events that maintained the Club’s public image.

At the same time, he and McCarren had to deal with the daunting work of reducing Club staff, applying for federal relief programs and doing everything they could to support staff members and their families through the emergency.

Coupled with the challenges of the pandemic were protests in Lafayette Square that threatened the Press Building, the presidential campaign, the failed Trump insurrection, the presidential inaugural and the launch of vaccinations. The Club not only proved journalists with work space when their newsrooms were closed, but kept up with its mission of speaking out on behalf of global press freedom.

“Mike Freedman was essential to the survival of the Club during the opening months of the pandemic,” McCarren said. “His commitment to the Club was unshakable, and his management and communications skills allowed us to pivot quickly to keep Club programs alive on Zoom. He was often the only member in the Club.”

washington post logoWashington Post, The teens fighting to keep Youngkin’s trans policies out of their schools, Karina Elwood, Sept. 20, 2023. Virginia Beach high schoolers have spoken at every school board meeting for a year, begging members to protect their LGBTQ peers.

It started in the cafeteria. LaBar and friends Jacob Cruz and Alex Elstrodt, all now 18, sat around the lunch table at First Colonial and discussed the state’s plan for trans students in September 2022.

They had watched the year before as Youngkin ran for governor on a platform of “parental rights.” They heard his vow to end mask mandates and critical race theory, a framework for discussing racism that was not taught in Virginia’s schools. They saw the governor take office and ban “inherently divisive” contents from the classroom.

And then in September came the model policies, prioritizing a parent’s involvement in deciding what names, pronouns and facilities that transgender students should use in school. Youngkin supporters saw it as fulfilling a campaign promise: Parents should control their children’s education.

But the students around the lunch table at First Colonial saw it as a threat to their nonbinary and transgender friends. They worried that those kids wouldn’t feel accepted or safe at school with the new policies in place. They needed to do something.

Then they thought about their school board, and they decided to attend the next meeting. One by one, they stepped up to the microphone.

Sept. 19

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: I Was Attacked by Trump and Musk. It Was a Strategy to Change What You See Online, Yoel Roth, Sept. 19, 2023 (print ed.). Yoel Roth argues that his experiences being attacked by Trump and Musk (above) were part of a greater strategy — one that is changing what all of us see online.

twitter bird CustomWhen I worked at Twitter, I led the team that placed a fact-checking label on one of Donald Trump’s tweets for the first time. Following the violence of Jan. 6, I helped make the call to ban his account from Twitter altogether. Nothing prepared me for what would happen next.

Backed by fans on social media, Mr. Trump publicly attacked me. Two years later, following his acquisition of Twitter and after I resigned my role as the company’s head of trust and safety, Elon Musk added fuel to the fire. I’ve lived with armed guards outside my home and have had to upend my family, go into hiding for months and repeatedly move.

This isn’t a story I relish revisiting. But I’ve learned that what happened to me wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t just personal vindictiveness or “cancel culture.” It was a strategy — one that affects not just targeted individuals like me, but all of us, as it is rapidly changing what we see online.

Private individuals — from academic researchers to employees of tech companies — are increasingly the targets of lawsuits, congressional hearings and vicious online attacks. These efforts, staged largely by the right, are having their desired effect: Universities are cutting back on efforts to quantify abusive and misleading information spreading online. Social media companies are shying away from making the kind of difficult decisions my team did when we intervened against Mr. Trump’s lies about the 2020 election. Platforms had finally begun taking these risks seriously only after the 2016 election. Now, faced with the prospect of disproportionate attacks on their employees, companies seem increasingly reluctant to make controversial decisions, letting misinformation and abuse fester in order to avoid provoking public retaliation.

x logo twitterThese attacks on internet safety and security come at a moment when the stakes for democracy could not be higher. More than 40 major elections are scheduled to take place in 2024, including in the United States, the European Union, India, Ghana and Mexico. These democracies will most likely face the same risks of government-backed disinformation campaigns and online incitement of violence that have plagued social media for years. We should be worried about what happens next.

The broader challenge here — and perhaps, the inescapable one — is the essential humanness of online trust and safety efforts. It isn’t machine learning models and faceless algorithms behind key content moderation decisions: it’s people. And people can be pressured, intimidated, threatened and extorted. Standing up to injustice, authoritarianism and online harms requires employees who are willing to do that work.

Few people could be expected to take a job doing so if the cost is their life or liberty. We all need to recognize this new reality, and to plan accordingly.

Yoel Roth is a visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the former head of trust and safety at Twitter.

Sept. 18

The New Republic, Opinion: The Freed Press: We Have Two Medias in This Country, and They’re Going to Elect Donald Trump, Michael Tomasky (New Republic Editor), Sept. 18, 2023. If the press doesn’t get involved in the civic health of the nation, there may not be a nation in which a free press might reside.

It’s often asked in my circles: Why isn’t Joe Biden getting more credit for his accomplishments? As with anything, there’s no single reason. Inflation is a factor. His age is as well. Ditto the fact that people aren’t quite yet seeing the infrastructure improvements or the lower prescription drug costs.

joe biden twitterThere is no one reason. But there is one overwhelming factor in play: the media. Or rather, the two medias. It’s very important that people understand this: We reside in a media environment that promotes—whether it intends to or not—right-wing authoritarian spectacle.

At the same time, as a culture, it’s consistently obsessed with who “won the day,” while placing far less value on the fact that the civic and democratic health of the country is nurtured through practices such as deliberation, compromise, and sober governance. The result is bad for Joe Biden. But it’s potentially tragic for democracy.

Let me begin by discussing these two medias. The first, of course, is what we call the mainstream media: The New York Times, The Washington Post, the major (non-Fox) news networks, a handful of other newspapers and magazines. This has also been known as the “agenda-setting media,” because historically, that’s what they did: Whatever was the lead story in The New York Times that day filtered down, through the wire services and other delivery systems, to every newspaper and television and radio station in the United States.

Then there’s an avowedly right-wing propaganda network. This got cranked up in the 1970s, when conservatives, irate over what they (not incorrectly) saw as a strong liberal bias in the mainstream media, decided to build their own. Rupert Murdoch bought the New York Post. In the 1980s, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon started The Washington Times. In the 1990s, right-wing talk radio exploded (enabled, in part, by a 2–1 decision by a judicial panel of the D.C. Court of Appeals making the Fairness Doctrine discretionary; those judges were Antonin Scalia and Robert Bork). Then the Fox News Channel was launched.

Remember that we are not just in the “news” business. We’re in the information business. We’re in the preservation of the civic fabric business. And we’re in the business of people: Wherever people need the intervention of journalists, we don’t check to see how they voted first. It’s our responsibility to try to build an informed public. This means for example reminding voters of the lies Trump told as president and the norm-crushing actions he took. That’s not “news” per se, but it’s information the electorate tends to forget and will need in order to make an informed decision.

The right-wing media will be out there promoting Trump’s lies and telling their own lies about Biden. The mainstream media shouldn’t cover for Biden—if the law ends up having Hunter Biden dead to rights, it should of course be covered truthfully.

But in addition to telling the literal, factual truth on any given issue, the mainstream media must remember that it can’t shirk the larger truth, that American democracy is under grave threat.

If that’s taking sides, well, it’s the side Abraham Lincoln took against a racist, authoritarian regime, and the side Franklin Roosevelt took against fascism. That strikes me as the side a free press, if it hopes to stay free, should want to join.


elon musk sideview

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: I Was Attacked by Trump and Musk. It Was a Strategy to Change What You See Online, Yoel Roth, Sept. 18, 2023. Yoel Roth argues that his experiences being attacked by Trump and Musk (above) were part of a greater strategy — one that is changing what all of us see online.

twitter bird CustomWhen I worked at Twitter, I led the team that placed a fact-checking label on one of Donald Trump’s tweets for the first time. Following the violence of Jan. 6, I helped make the call to ban his account from Twitter altogether. Nothing prepared me for what would happen next.

Backed by fans on social media, Mr. Trump publicly attacked me. Two years later, following his acquisition of Twitter and after I resigned my role as the company’s head of trust and safety, Elon Musk added fuel to the fire. I’ve lived with armed guards outside my home and have had to upend my family, go into hiding for months and repeatedly move.

This isn’t a story I relish revisiting. But I’ve learned that what happened to me wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t just personal vindictiveness or “cancel culture.” It was a strategy — one that affects not just targeted individuals like me, but all of us, as it is rapidly changing what we see online.

Private individuals — from academic researchers to employees of tech companies — are increasingly the targets of lawsuits, congressional hearings and vicious online attacks. These efforts, staged largely by the right, are having their desired effect: Universities are cutting back on efforts to quantify abusive and misleading information spreading online. Social media companies are shying away from making the kind of difficult decisions my team did when we intervened against Mr. Trump’s lies about the 2020 election. Platforms had finally begun taking these risks seriously only after the 2016 election. Now, faced with the prospect of disproportionate attacks on their employees, companies seem increasingly reluctant to make controversial decisions, letting misinformation and abuse fester in order to avoid provoking public retaliation.

x logo twitterThese attacks on internet safety and security come at a moment when the stakes for democracy could not be higher. More than 40 major elections are scheduled to take place in 2024, including in the United States, the European Union, India, Ghana and Mexico. These democracies will most likely face the same risks of government-backed disinformation campaigns and online incitement of violence that have plagued social media for years. We should be worried about what happens next.

The broader challenge here — and perhaps, the inescapable one — is the essential humanness of online trust and safety efforts. It isn’t machine learning models and faceless algorithms behind key content moderation decisions: it’s people. And people can be pressured, intimidated, threatened and extorted. Standing up to injustice, authoritarianism and online harms requires employees who are willing to do that work.

Few people could be expected to take a job doing so if the cost is their life or liberty. We all need to recognize this new reality, and to plan accordingly.

Yoel Roth is a visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the former head of trust and safety at Twitter.

Sept. 17


kristen welker chuck todd meet the press january nbc william plowmanKristen Welker, above right, assumed host duties on NBC's

Kristen Welker, above right, assumed host duties on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday morning show on Sept. 17, 2023, succeeding Chuck Todd, shown above with her in a file photo.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Evil Donald Trump has insane meltdown attacking “liberal Jews” as it all falls apart for him, Bill Palmer, right, bill palmerSept. 17, 2023. This morning Kristen Welker decided to begin her tenure hosting NBC Meet The Press by putting Donald Trump on the air.

bill palmer report logo headerShe did very little to push back against Trump, but it set off a firestorm of pushback against her. Even as Welker and other mainstream media figures attempted to justify the decision to give airtime to such a psychotic criminal, Trump has now quickly demonstrated why no one should ever be putting him on the air.

NBC News logoTonight Donald Trump used his Truth Social platform to launch a completely insane attack on “liberal Jews,” accusing them of trying to “destroy America.” This is over the top evil even for Trump. The fact that he’s only attacking “liberal” Jews doesn’t make his post any less antisemitic. For that matter, given that about 70% of Jewish people in America tend to vote Democrat, Trump is seemingly attacking the vast majority of Jews.

rolling stone logoAs Donald Trump continues to get further bogged down by his indictments and criminal trials, and it becomes more clear to him (and everyone else) that he’s going to prison, Trump is becoming more psychotically unhinged than ever. We’d love to see Kristen Welker and NBC News come out and defend their decision to put Trump on the air now, in light of Trump’s anti-Jew meltdown tonight.

Sept. 14

National Press Club, Club press freedom honoree Emilio Gutiérrez Soto wins asylum after 15-year wait, Bill McCarren, Sept. 14, 2023. A national  press club logoNational Press Club press freedom honoree who has been battling attempts to deport him to a country where he was threatened with death finally has won asylum in the United States.

Fifteen years after coming to the U.S. legally and seeking refuge, Mexican journalist Emilio Gutiérrez Soto this week received word that the Board of Immigration Appeals has ruled him eligible for asylum.

In a five-page opinion sent to Gutiérrez’s lawyer, Eduardo Beckett, the BIA ruled that an El Paso immigration judge’s two decisions against Gutiérrez were “clearly erroneous.”

emilio gutiérrez sotoThe three-judge panel ruled that Gutiérrez, left, whose home was ransacked by members of the Mexican military before he fled Mexico, “has a well-founded fear of persecution in Mexico.” The judges cited Gutiérrez’s “journalistic work that was critical of the military” and the “numerous letters and extensive declarations in support” of Gutiérrez’s asylum bid.

“It has been a long journey, and these past 15 years have been difficult. But today, justice has won,” Gutiérrez, 60, said from Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he now resides. He was 45 when he fled Ascensión, Chihuahua, Mexico, after a confidential source told him that his reporting on the military’s efforts to shake down locals had made him a marked man. In Mexico, journalists are routinely targeted by drug cartels and corrupt government officials. Since 1992, more than 150 journalists have been killed in Mexico, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, making it the most dangerous place to work for reporters outside a war zone.

The ruling is a victory for the National Press Club and numerous press freedom organizations. The Press Club became involved in the Gutiérrez case six years ago, after inviting him to accept the John Aubuchon Press Freedom award on behalf of journalists in Mexico.

On December 07, 2017, two months after Gutiérrez’s speech in Washington, D.C., criticizing U.S. immigration policies, Department of Homeland Security officials abruptly handcuffed him during a routine check-in at the El Paso office and drove him toward the nearby border for deportation. When the Board of Immigration Appeals ordered DHS not to deport him, the officials put him in detention instead. Despite the appeals of the Press Club, the bishop of El Paso and numerous other advocates, Gutiérrez remained behind bars for nine months. He was released only after a class of students at Rutgers University Law School International Human Rights Clinic, headed by Professor Penny Venetis, brought a habeas corpus case at the behest of the National Press Club.

“As Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ We saw this with Emilio,” said National Press Club President Eileen O’Reilly. “On behalf of the many past presidents, press freedom team and members of the Press Club who continued the fight during Emilio’s long ordeal, I praise the Board of Immigration Appeals for its decision and urge immigration officials to expedite asylum requests for the many journalists who are forced to leave their homes to continue their very important work.”

Gil Klein, president of the Club’s nonprofit affiliate National Press Club Journalism Institute, added: “As frustrating as this long ordeal has been, we can also find inspiration from the remarkable team of lawyers, human rights advocates and press freedom organizations that it brought together. It sends a powerful message that the work of journalists is critically important, and efforts to dismiss their safety or deny their work will rally - not quiet - the people behind them.”

Gutiérrez thanked the Press Club and the more than 20 other journalism organizations who joined his legal fight, including the Knight-Wallace Fellowships, a prestigious journalism fellowship program that accepted him while he was still in detention.

“I extend eternal gratitude and solidarity to the National Press Club, to the Knight-Wallace Fellowships and the University of Michigan and to the many journalism and press freedom organizations that have been steadfast in their support of me,” Gutiérrez said. “I hope that my case will shine a light on the need to protect those journalists in Mexico and around the world who are working and risking their lives to tell the truth.”

The National Press Club plans to host a roundtable on the Gutiérrez case in the near future to discuss lessons learned and how we can do a better job for journalists at risk going forward. The National Press Club Institute, represented by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, continues to press its Freedom of Information Act case seeking release of Department of Homeland Security documents and communications related to Gutiérrez.

Sept. 12

ny times logoNew York Times, Microsoft, Google and Antitrust: Similar Legal Theories in a Different Era, Steve Lohr, Sept. 12, 2023 (print ed.). The U.S. case against Google, in court this week, borrows heavily from the lawsuit against Microsoft 25 years ago. But it lacks the same cultural impact.

Google is a dominant tech company that has abused its market power to bully industry partners, protect its monopoly and thwart competition.

microsoft logo CustomThat has a familiar ring. As U.S. et al. v. Google goes to trial this week, the echoes of the landmark federal suit against Microsoft, a quarter-century ago, are unmistakable. In the Google case, as with Microsoft then, a tech giant is accused of using its overwhelming market power to unfairly cut competitors off from potential customers.

google logo customBut on the eve of the Google trial, it seems unimaginable that the case could command the widespread attention that the Microsoft proceedings did. Microsoft in the late 1990s was a singular tech titan and its leader, Bill Gates, was a national icon.

The Microsoft trial, which began in October 1998, spanned 76 days of testimony over more than eight months. Every major news organization covered it. The New York Times eported on the proceedings daily.

It was a trial that often dealt with cerebral concepts like “network effects” and “switching costs.” Yet The Times gave it the kind of day-to-day coverage ordinarily reserved for very few courtroom dramas over the years, like the O.J. Simpson trial and the Lindbergh kidnapping trial.

Many days, there were spin sessions on the courthouse steps. Microsoft representatives would say the government had presented isolated snippets of text, taken out of context, certainly not proof of anti-competitive conduct. Lawyers for the Justice Department and states who joined the lawsuit would mostly say the damning testimony spoke for itself.

Microsoft was found by a federal judge to have repeatedly violated the nation’s antitrust laws. An appeals court upheld most of that decision but was skeptical of the government’s preferred remedy — breaking up the company.

In its lawsuit against Google, the Justice Department points to the Microsoft case and that company’s tactics in the 1990s. “Google deploys the same playbook,” the government declares, by illegally wielding its might in online search much as Microsoft did with its personal computer operating system, Windows.

But Kent Walker, Google’s president of global affairs, said there were big differences between the Microsoft of the dot-com boom and today’s Google. Back then, Mr. Walker was deputy general counsel of Netscape, the commercial pioneer of internet browsing software, which was the main target of Microsoft’s campaign to hobble competition.

Inside the World of Big Tech

  • Google: The Justice Department’s antitrust case against the tech giant is the greatest legal threat the company has ever faced. Google hopes the stolid approach of its top lawyer will once again prevail.
  • X: The social media service formerly known as Twitter “throttled” access to rival sites such as Substack and Facebook, according to a New York Times analysis, but began reversing the slow access to news outlets.
  • The Power of Algorithms: New studies on how social media algorithms influence people’s beliefs generated results that complicate common narratives on how to control the spread of harmful content online.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Smartphone Industry Sputters, the iPhone Expands Its Dominance, Tripp Mickle, Sept. 12, 2023 (print ed.). Apple, which is set to release a new iPhone on Tuesday, has increased its share of the market by converting Android customers and adding teenagers.

There’s a general rule about consumer electronics: The older a device becomes, the more competitors appear and prices fall. This was true for televisions, personal computers and portable music players.

It was supposed to happen with smartphones. But the iPhone has defied gravity.

apple logo rainbowOn Tuesday, Apple will unveil the 17th iteration of its flagship product. Remarkably, at an age in which most consumer devices have lost some of their appeal to users, Apple has increased its share of smartphone sales over less expensive rivals.

Over the past five years, the iPhone has increased its percentage of total smartphones sold around the world while expanding its share of sales in four of the world’s largest regions: China, Japan, Europe and India.

In the United States, the iPhone’s largest market, the device now accounts for more than 50 percent of smartphones sold, up from 41 percent in 2018, according to Counterpoint Research, a technology firm. The gains have helped it claim about a fifth of the world’s smartphone sales, up from a low of 13 percent in 2019.

Apple has expanded its smartphone empire as the broader industry has faltered. Over the past two years, sales of Android smartphones have plummeted, but the iPhone has suffered only modest declines because it’s been winning new customers. It has done so despite being the industry’s priciest device.

Apple has overcome price sensitivity by creating a business that is reminiscent of U.S. car sales. Like a car, iPhones last for years and can be resold to offset the purchase of a new one. Wireless providers, much like auto dealers, offer discounts and monthly payment plans that make it more affordable to buy the latest model. And customers, like brand-loyal car buyers, are more likely to buy another iPhone than switch to Google’s Android operating system.

Apple has also been lucky. Two of its biggest challengers, Samsung and Huawei, have stumbled in recent years. Samsung faltered in 2016 when the batteries in its flagship smartphone spontaneously combusted. Huawei, which was popular in China, floundered in 2020 after the Trump administration blocked it from buying U.S. technology.

The iPhone has avoided wobbles with a reliable blueprint: Apple annually updates the iPhone’s spare but sleek design and reliable software, and brings it to the masses with an operations machine that assembles 200 million flawless iPhones a year with military precision.

In the United States, the iPhone’s popularity is expected to widen in the years ahead. Nearly 90 percent of teenagers own an iPhone, according to Piper Sandler, an investment bank.


owen shroyer

Politico, Owen Shroyer, InfoWars host and colleague of Alex Jones, gets 60 days for Jan. 6 misdemeanor, Kyle Cheney, Sept. 12, 2023. A judge on Tuesday sentenced InfoWars broadcaster Owen Shroyer — who shadowed his boss and ally Alex Jones onto Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, 2021 — to 60 days in prison for breaching the restricted area.

politico CustomU.S. District Judge Tim Kelly, right, handed down the sentence after contending that Shroyer, who never entered the Capitol building, played a role in “amping up” the mob at a timothy kellysensitive moment during the riot. Shroyer’s foray onto Capitol grounds came even though Shroyer had been ordered to stay away from the area under a court-sanctioned agreement for disrupting a House impeachment hearing in 2019.

The sentence — half of the Justice Department’s call for 120 days in prison — closes a chapter in what all sides agreed was a “unique” prosecution stemming from the mob attack on the Capitol. Shroyer was facing only misdemeanor charges for his conduct that day and pleaded guilty to breaching restricted Capitol grounds earlier this year.

Prosecutors say Shroyer shadowed Jones from the Ellipse, where former President Donald Trump addressed supporters before urging them to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, to the Capitol. When they arrived, they witnessed the chaos that had begun unfolding at the building. Jones, who was trailed by a large throng of supporters, a security detail and other leaders of “Stop the Steal” groups, circled the Capitol and asked police for permission to exhort the crowd to deescalate the violence.

Jones has not been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, but prosecutors said Shroyer, using a megaphone, delivered chants that further fueled the riot after breaching the protected perimeter of Capitol grounds. They also noted in court filings that Jones and his large cohort continued to traverse the perimeter of the Capitol despite police signaling they wanted people to leave the area.

Shroyer is seeking to frame his criminal case as a national flashpoint for First Amendment speech. He addressed InfoWars viewers and reporters for an hour after his sentence, saying he intends to appeal his case — to the Supreme Court if necessary — and that he has become a “martyr for free speech.”

Shroyer pointed out that prosecutors, in seeking his 120-day jail term, focused heavily on his comments in the lead-up to Jan. 6 and his chants of “1776” on the day of the riot. He contended that he was in Washington in his capacity as an opinion journalist for InfoWars. In remarks to Kelly, Shroyer also argued that when he exhorted the crowd that day, he was trying to capture their attention so he could assist Jones in trying to redirect the mob away from the Capitol.

Kelly rejected that contention, saying his review of the video of Shroyer’s actions did not appear to show Shroyer making an attempt to play a deescalating role. After leaving the courthouse, Shroyer said their disagreement over that episode stemmed from Kelly’s lack of familiarity with managing large crowds.

Kelly also said he paid minimal attention to prosecutors’ arguments about Shroyer’s speech in the lead-up to Jan. 6. “There’s nothing wrong with the phrase ‘1776,’” Kelly said, adding that his main concern was Shroyer “amping up the crowd with a bullhorn.”

Kelly also said Shroyer’s role as a journalist — which he noted the Justice Department challenged — played no role in his ultimate sentence, saying the conduct Shroyer was charged with had nothing to do with his media role.

The case against Shroyer has been pending for more than two years and raised questions about whether Jones was under scrutiny as well. Shroyer and his attorney Norm Pattis — who also represents Jones — noted that Shroyer agreed to turn over his phone to prosecutors and sit for a proffer session after he was charged. They also noted that he agreed to plead guilty to the misdemeanor and be cooperative with the government after being assured it would result in a lenient recommendation from prosecutors.

Sept. 10

ny times logoNew York Times, The Technology Facebook and Google Didn’t Dare Release, Kashmir Hill, Sept. 10, 2023. Engineers at the tech giants built tools years ago that could put a name to any face. For once, Silicon Valley did not want to move fast and break things.

The person-identifying hat-phone would be a godsend for someone with vision problems or face blindness, but it google logo customwas risky. Facebook’s previous deployment of facial recognition technology, to help people tag friends in photos, had caused an outcry from privacy advocates and led to a class-action lawsuit in Illinois in 2015 that ultimately cost the company $650 million.

facebook logoWith technology like that on Mr. Leyvand’s head, Facebook could prevent users from ever forgetting a colleague’s name, give a reminder at a cocktail party that an acquaintance had kids to ask about or help find someone at a crowded conference. However, six years later, the company now known as Meta has not released a version of that product and Mr. Leyvand has departed for Apple to work on its Vision Pro augmented reality glasses.

In recent years, the start-ups Clearview AI and PimEyes have pushed the boundaries of what the public thought was possible by releasing face search engines paired with millions of photos from the public web (PimEyes) or even billions (Clearview). With these tools, available to the police in the case of Clearview AI and the public at large in the case of PimEyes, a snapshot of someone can be used to find other online photos where that face appears, potentially revealing a name, social media profiles or information a person would never want to be linked to publicly, such as risqué photos.

What these start-ups had done wasn’t a technological breakthrough; it was an ethical one. Tech giants had developed the ability to recognize unknown people’s faces years earlier, but had chosen to hold the technology back, deciding that the most extreme version — putting a name to a stranger’s face — was too dangerous to make widely available.

Sept. 6

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Targets Google in Its First Monopoly Trial of the Modern Internet Era, David McCabe and Cecilia Kang, Sept. 6, 2023. The trial, set to begin Tuesday, amps up efforts to rein in Big Tech by zeroing in on the search business that turned Google into a $1.7 trillion behemoth.

The Justice Department has spent three years over two presidential administrations building the case that Google illegally abused its power over online search to throttle competition. To defend itself, Google has enlisted hundreds of employees and three powerful law firms and spent millions of dollars on legal fees and lobbyists.

google logo customOn Tuesday, a judge in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia will begin considering their arguments at a trial that cuts to the heart of a long-simmering question: Did today’s tech giants become dominant by breaking the law?

The case — U.S. et al v. Google — is the federal government’s first monopoly trial of the modern internet era, as a generation of tech companies has come to wield immense influence over commerce, information, public discourse, entertainment and labor. The trial moves the antitrust battle against those companies to a new phase, shifting from challenging their mergers and acquisitions to more deeply examining the businesses that thrust them into power.

Such a consequential case over tech power has not unfolded since the Justice Department took Microsoft to court in 1998 for antitrust violations. But since then, companies like Google, Apple, Amazon and Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, have woven themselves into people’s lives to an even greater degree. Any ruling from the trial could have broad ripple effects, slowing down or potentially dismantling the largest internet companies after decades of unbridled growth.

The stakes are particularly high for Google, the Silicon Valley company founded in 1998, which grew into a $1.7 trillion giant by becoming the first place people turned to online to search the web. The government has said in its complaint that it wants Google to change its monopolistic business practices, potentially pay damages and restructure itself.

“This is a pivotal case and a moment to create precedents for these new platforms that lend themselves to real and durable market power,” said Laura Phillips-Sawyer, who teaches antitrust law at the University of Georgia School of Law.
ImageA corner of the Justice Department building.

The case centers on whether Google illegally cemented its dominance and squashed competition by paying Apple and other companies to make its internet search engine the default on the iPhone as well as on other devices and platforms.

In legal filings, the Justice Department has argued that Google maintained a monopoly through such agreements, making it harder for consumers to use other search engines. Google has said that its deals with Apple and others were not exclusive and that

Google has amassed 90 percent of the search engine market in the United States and 91 percent globally, according to Similarweb, a data analysis firm.

Fireworks are expected at the trial, which is scheduled to last 10 weeks. Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, as well as executives from Apple and other tech companies will probably be called as witnesses.

Judge Amit P. Mehta, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2014, is presiding over the trial, which will not have a jury, and he will issue the final ruling. Kenneth Dintzer, a 30-year veteran litigator for the Justice Department, will lead the government’s arguments in the courtroom, while John E. Schmidtlein, a partner at the law firm Williams & Connolly, will do the same for Google.

ny times logoNew York Times, Florida Expected to Approve ‘Classical Curriculum’ Exam as SAT Competitor, Dana Goldstein, Sept. 6, 2023. The Classic Learning Test emphasizes the Western canon and Christian thought. It’s the latest move by Gov. Ron DeSantis to shake up education in the state.

The Classic Learning Test is the college admissions exam that most students have never heard of. An alternative to the SAT and ACT for only a small number of mostly religious colleges, the test is known for its emphasis on the Western canon, with a big dose of Christian thought.

But on Friday, Florida’s public university system, which includes the University of Florida and Florida State University, is expected to become the first state system to approve the Classic Learning Test, or CLT, for use in admissions.

“We are always seeking ways to improve,” said Ray Rodrigues, the chancellor of the State University System of Florida, noting that the system, which serves a quarter million undergraduates, was the largest in the country to still require an entrance exam.

It’s the latest move by Gov. Ron DeSantis to shake up the education establishment, especially the College Board, the nonprofit behemoth that runs the SAT program.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tech Dependence Caused ‘Staggering’ Education Inequality, U.N. Agency Says, Natasha Singer, Sept. 6, 2023.  Heavy reliance on online learning during the pandemic drew attention away from more equitable ways of teaching children at home, a UNESCO report says.

In early 2020, as the coronavirus spread, schools around the world abruptly halted in-person education. To many governments and parents, moving classes online seemed the obvious stopgap solution.

In the United States, school districts scrambled to secure digital devices for students. Almost overnight, videoconferencing software like Zoom became the main platform teachers used to deliver real-time instruction to students at home.

Now a report from UNESCO, the United Nations’ educational and cultural organization, says that overreliance on remote learning technology during the pandemic led to “staggering” education inequality around the world. It was, according to a 655-page report that UNESCO released on Wednesday, a worldwide “ed-tech tragedy.”

The report, from UNESCO’s Future of Education division, is likely to add fuel to the debate over how governments and local school districts handled pandemic restrictions, and whether it would have been better for some countries to reopen schools for in-person instruction sooner.

Sept. 5

ny times logoNew York Times Magazine, Americans Are Losing Faith in the Value of Higher Education. Why? Paul Tough, Sept. 5, 2023. For most people, the new economics of a university education make attending a risky bet.

A decade or so ago, Americans were feeling pretty positive about higher education. Public-opinion polls in the early 2010s all told the same story. In one survey, 86 percent of college graduates said that college had been a good investment; in another, 74 percent of young adults said a college education was “very important”; in a third, 60 percent of Americans said that colleges and universities were having a positive impact on the country. Ninety-six percent of parents who identified as Democrats said they expected their kids to attend college — only to be outdone by Republican parents, 99 percent of whom said they expected their kids to go to college.
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In the fall of 2009, 70 percent of that year’s crop of high school graduates did in fact go straight to college. That was the highest percentage ever, and the collegegoing rate stayed near that elevated level for the next few years. The motivation of these students was largely financial. The 2008 recession devastated many of the industries that for decades provided good jobs for less-educated workers, and a college degree had become a particularly valuable commodity in the American labor market. The typical American with a bachelor’s degree (and no further credential) was earning about two-thirds more than the typical high school grad, a financial advantage about twice as large as the one a college degree produced a generation earlier. College seemed like a reliable runway to a life of comfort and affluence.

A decade later, Americans’ feelings about higher education have turned sharply negative. The percentage of young adults who said that a college degree is very important fell to 41 percent from 74 percent. Only about a third of Americans now say they have a lot of confidence in higher education. Among young Americans in Generation Z, 45 percent say that a high school diploma is all you need today to “ensure financial security.” And in contrast to the college-focused parents of a decade ago, now almost half of American parents say they’d prefer that their children not enroll in a four-year college.

  • New York Times, The New Reality for College Dining Halls: Dozens of Dietary Restrictions, Sept. 5, 2023. A surge of students with allergies and special diets is challenging meal services and changing the shape of the campus cafeteria.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Naomi Klein, Naomi Wolf and the Political Upside Down, Michelle Goldberg, right, Sept. 5, 2023 (print ed.). I’ve been raving about Naomi michelle goldberg thumbKlein’s Doppelganger since I read an advance copy this summer, and when I tell people about it, some of them are baffled: You mean Klein wrote a whole book about being confused with the writer Naomi Wolf?

The central conceit of Doppelganger sounds more like the premise for a surreal Charlie Kaufman film than a work by an earnest lefty who usually writes about overweening corporate power. Klein herself is apologetic about it. “In my defense, it was never my intent to write this book,” she says in its first line.

We should all be glad she did, because I can’t think of another text that better captures the berserk period we’re living through. Only in a superficial sense is Doppelganger really about Wolf, the liberal feminist icon turned anti-vax Steve Bannon sidekick. Instead, it’s about the instability of identity in the virtual world and the forces pulling people away from constructive politics into a shadow realm where clout chasing and conspiracy theorizing intertwine.

naomi klein portrait Custom 2Klein, left, and Wolf, below left, both brown-haired middle-aged Jewish women writers, are often mistaken for each other. That became a growing problem for Klein as her reputation was tainted by Wolf’s escalating lunacy. Trapped at home by the pandemic, Klein became increasingly obsessed by Wolf’s transformation into a heroine of Covid truthers.

naomi wolf wikipedia 2That obsession, in turn, guides Klein into an examination of what she calls “the Mirror World,” the vertigo-inducing inversion of reality common to contemporary far-right movements. Think, for example, of Vladimir Putin claiming that he’s liberating Ukraine from fascism or Donald Trump howling that his multiple prosecutions are a racist plot to subvert a presidential election. When I spoke to Klein recently, she described how jarring it was to watch protests against Covid measures appropriating left-wing language — common slogans were “I can’t breathe” and “My body, my choice” — making them “this weird doppelganger of the movements that I had been a part of and supported.”

This idea of the doppelganger gave me a new way to think about the mix of malicious parody and projection that now dominates our public life. Sometime soon, for example, the House is likely to impeach President Biden on the pretext that he was involved in corruption in Ukraine — the same conspiracy theory Trump was trying to breathe life into when he got himself impeached for corruption in Ukraine. This coming doppelganger impeachment is hard to even discuss without getting pulled down innumerable rabbit holes, which is surely part of the point.

“How comforting it would be if Wolf were a fake we could unmask — and not a symptom of a mass unraveling of meaning afflicting, well, everything,” writes Klein. This unraveling, of course, was well underway before Covid, but the pandemic accelerated it by forcing people to live online, communicating on platforms seemingly algorithmically designed to reward rage and paranoia.

Wolf’s story is instructive. The Beauty Myth, her 1990 blockbuster about the toll taken on women by the upward ratchet of unreasonable beauty standards, made her famous. In retrospect, the seeds of her intellectual decline were already present in that book, which contained both major statistical errors and a conspiratorial subtext that painted the influence of patriarchy as a deliberate plot. In the ensuing years, her work grew increasingly sloppy and absurd, until her reputation collapsed altogether in 2019 with the publication of Outrages.

Wolf faced the singular mortification of being confronted, live on the radio, with evidence that her book’s central contention — that several dozen men in Victorian England were executed for having same-sex relationships — was based on a misreading of historical records. That October, her U.S. publisher canceled the release of Outrages.

truth social logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Truth Social investment partner extends deadline, avoiding liquidation, Drew Harwell, Sept. 5, 2023. The extension will give Digital World Acquisition another year to merge with Donald Trump’s start-up.

Shareholders in Digital World Acquisition, the investment partner of former president Donald Trump’s media start-up, approved an extension of the company’s merger deadline, giving it more time to complete the deal, Digital World said Tuesday.

The extension will give the special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, another year to finalize its long-stalled merger with the parent company of the pro-Trump social network Truth Social.

The approval follows an intense get-out-the-vote campaign and comes just three days before Truth Social’s Sept. 8 liquidation deadline. A failure of the vote would have required the SPAC to dissolve and return $300 million to shareholders, depriving Trump Media & Technology Group of funds from the deal.

Trump’s Truth Social facing a key funding deadline

The company must still meet closing conditions before the merger can be officially recognized. The Securities and Exchange Commission said in July that Digital World had misled investors in official documents filed for the merger process. The SPAC will need to correct those inaccuracies and resubmit the filings before the merger process can resume. The SPAC also has not filed required quarterly financial statements with the SEC covering its operations during the first half of 2023.

Sept. 4

A Labor Day parade on Main Street in Buffalo in 1900. President Grover Cleveland made Labor Day a national holiday in June 1894, as he faced a crisis of railway workers striking in Chicago (Library of Congress photo).

A Labor Day parade on Main Street in Buffalo in 1900. President Grover Cleveland made Labor Day a national holiday in June 1894, as he faced a crisis of railway workers striking in Chicago (Library of Congress photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, What Is Labor Day? Here’s a History, Karen Zraick, Sept. 4, 2023. President Grover Cleveland made it a national holiday in 1894, during a crisis over federal efforts to end a strike by railroad workers.

labor department logoIn the late 1800s, many Americans toiled 12 hours a day, seven days a week, often in physically demanding, low-paying jobs. Children worked too, on farms and in factories and mines. Conditions were often harsh and unsafe.

It was in this context that American workers held the first Labor Day parade, marching from New York’s City Hall to a giant picnic at an uptown park on Sept. 5, 1882.

“Working Men on Parade,” read The New York Times’s headline. The article, which appeared on the last page, reported that 10,000 people marched “in an orderly and pleasant manner,” far fewer than the organizers had predicted would attend. The workers included cigarmakers, dressmakers, printers, shoemakers, bricklayers and other tradespeople.

ny times logoNew York Times, Anderson Cooper Is Still Learning to Live With Loss, David Marchese Photograph by Mamadi Doumbouya, Sept. 4, 2023. “The fact that I’m 56 and still realizing I never grieved when I was 11? That’s ridiculous,” says the CNN anchor.

anderson cooper tulane wFor decades, Anderson Cooper, 56, right, has been a steady, humane and comparatively calm presence on TV news.

cnn logoBut the longtime host of CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360°” has recently entered an interesting and, in its way, fruitful period of emotional and professional flux.

It started last year with “All There Is With Anderson Cooper,” his podcast about grief. (When Cooper was 10, his father, Wyatt, died from a heart attack; his older brother, Carter, died from suicide when they were both in their early 20s; his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, died at 95 in 2019.)

In doing so, he realized how little he had allowed himself to feel the losses and how much more feeling he still had to do. (Accordingly, a second season will air this fall.)

He also spent time writing Astor, an upcoming nonfiction book about the storied, dynastic American family, which is a thematic follow-up to his best-selling 2021 book about his mother’s storied, dynastic American family, Vanderbilt. (The two books were written with Katherine Howe.)

On top of all that, he and his colleagues at CNN underwent the brief and tumultuous tenure of its chairman and chief executive Chris Licht, who was fired in June after only 13 months on the job. “It all makes sense in my head,” Cooper says, about the twists and turns of his career. “Though it may not make much sense on paper.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Affirmative Action Is Over. Should  [College] Applicants Still Mention Their Race? Jessica Cheung, Sept. 4, 2023. The first high school seniors to apply to college since the Supreme Court’s landmark decision are trying to sort through a morass of conflicting guidance.

Colleges and universities across the country are scrambling to find legal means of maintaining the levels of diversity they would like to see. Though barred from actively using race as a factor, they will still “see” race in signifiers such as name, ZIP code and, perhaps most notable, what students say about themselves in their essays.

But this also means that this year’s class of high school seniors — the first to apply under the affirmative-action ban — must read the signals sent by colleges about how to articulate their case for admission correctly and effectively. They are living in a swirl of uncertainty, confusion and misinformation about an admissions process that has suddenly been made more opaque and bewildering. Rather than clarifying the role of race in the application process, the court has instead created a new burden for students: They must now decide whether, and how, to make race a part of their pitch for admission.

Sept. 2

Politico, Russia declares Nobel Prize-winning journalist ‘foreign agent,’ Gabriel Gavin, Sept. 2, 2023. Putin’s own spokesman had previously admitted Dmitry Muratov ‘works according to his own values.’

politico CustomDmitry Muratov, one of Russia’s best-known journalists, has been added to the country’s list of foreign agents, less than two years after the Kremlin praised the principled reporting that saw him awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.

dmitry muratovMuratov, right, the former editor of now-shuttered liberal newspaper Novaya Gazeta, was included in an update Friday evening to the Russian Ministry of Justice’s register of journalists, politicians and activists that Moscow claims are acting on behalf of hostile states.

The designation of foreign agent, which has been repeatedly used on critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin and opponents of his war in Ukraine, means that Muratov will have to adhere to strict rules on political activity. It also bars him from engaging in public life. Any mention of him in Russian media or social networks must reference his status.

According to Human Rights Watch, “in Russia, the term foreign agent is tantamount [to] spy or traitor,” and has been used “to smear and punish independent voices.”


elon musk sideview

washington post logoWashington Post, Musk’s new Twitter policies helped spread Russian propaganda, E.U. says, Joseph Menn, Sept. 2, 2023 (print ed.). X’s failure to slow the spread of disinformation on the Internet would have violated E.U. social media law, had it been in effect

Elon Musk’s X (formerly Twitter) has played a major role in allowing Russian propaganda about Ukraine to reach more people than before the war european union logo rectanglebegan, according to a study released this week by the European Commission, the governing body of the European Union.

The research found that, despite voluntary commitments to take action against Russian propaganda by the largest social media companies, including Meta, Russian disinformation against Ukraine, thrived. Allowing the disinformation and hate speech to spread without limits would have violated the Digital Services Act, the E.U.’s social media law, had it been in force last year, the year-long commission study concluded.

x logo twitter“Over the course of 2022, the audience and reach of Kremlin-aligned social media accounts increased substantially all over Europe,” the study found. “Preliminary analysis suggests that the reach and influence of Kremlin-backed accounts has grown further in the first half of 2023, driven in particular by the dismantling of Twitter’s safety standards.” The social media platform was recently renamed X.

The E.U. has taken a far more aggressive regulatory approach to government-backed disinformation than the United States has. The twitter bird CustomDigital Services Act, which went into effect for the biggest social media companies Aug. 25, requires them to assess the risk of false information, stop the worst from being boosted by algorithms and subject their performance to auditing. Separately, European sanctions on Russian state media have prompted YouTube and other platforms to ban the likes of RT, the Russian news outlet formerly known as Russia Today that was once one of the most-followed channels.

The study is the starkest indication yet that the legal and voluntary measures are not getting the job done, following June warnings from E.U. Commissioner Thierry Breton that X had work to do to avoid potentially massive fines under the DSA. The research was conducted by nonprofit analysis group Reset, which advocates for greater oversight of digital platforms.

Without full access to data held by the companies — data that must be made more available under the new law — Reset relied on public information, such as the number of interactions that problematic content drew from people who had not been following the account that posted it.


truth social logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s Truth Social facing a key funding deadline, Drew Harwell, Sept. 2, 2023. The ‘blank check’ ally of former president Donald Trump’s media start-up was once a stock-market star. It’s now days away from potential liquidation.

When former president Donald Trump’s media start-up announced in October 2021 that it planned to merge with a Miami-based company called Digital World Acquisition, the deal was an instant stock-market hit.

With the $300 million Digital World had already raised from investors, Trump Media & Technology Group, creator of the pro-Trump social network Truth Social, pledged then that the merger would create a tech titan worth $875 million at the start and, depending on the stock’s performance, up to $1.7 billion later.

All they needed was for the merger to close — a process that Digital World, in a July 2021 preliminary prospectus, estimated would happen within 12 to 18 months.

“Everyone asks me why doesn’t someone stand up to Big Tech? Well, we will be soon!” Trump said in a Trump Media statement that month.

Now, almost two years later, the deal faces what could be a catastrophic threat. With the merger stalled for months, Digital World is fast approaching a Sept. 8 deadline for the merger to close and has scheduled a shareholder vote for Tuesday to extend the deadline another year.

If the vote fails, Digital World will be required by law to liquidate and return $300 million to its shareholders, leaving Trump’s company with nothing from the transaction.

For Digital World, it would signal the ultimate financial fall from grace for a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, that turned its proximity to the former president into what was once one of the stock market’s hottest trades. Its share price, which peaked in its first hours at $175, has since fallen to about $14.

Digital World’s efforts to merge with Trump Media have been troubled almost from the start, beset by allegations that it began its conversations with the former president’s company before they were permitted under SPAC rules.


jimmy buffett

washington post logoWashington Post, Jimmy Buffett, musical ‘mayor of Margaritaville,’ dies at 76, Glenn Rifkin, Sept. 2, 2023. The singer-songwriter sold 20 million records from his greatest hit, “Margaritaville,” created a lifestyle brand of tropical breezes, frozen cocktails and laid-back escapism.

Mr. Buffett, a frustrated Nashville country artist, found his muse when he moved to Key West, Fla., in spring 1972, leaving behind a failed marriage and stalled career. Surrounded by blue water, he donned Hawaiian shirts, cutoff shorts and flip-flops, grabbed an old blender, and embraced the quirky beach community with his musical soul.

“It was a scene,” he told Playboy magazine. “Everyone went out and applauded the sunset every night. Bales of marijuana washed up on the shore. There were great cheap Cuban restaurants … Key West seemed like the End: East Coast Division — a common reason people wind up there, especially writers, artists, musicians and other interesting derelicts, drawn by the idea that Key West is the final stroke of a great comma in the map of North America, suggesting more to come but maybe not.”

Steady, Commentary: Margaritaville -- A Reason To Smile, Dan Rather,dan rather 2017 right, former CBS Evening News Anchor and Managing Editor, and Elliott Kirschner, Sept. 2, 2023. There was something quintessentially dan rather steady logoAmerican about the singer/songwriter/entrepreneur Jimmy Buffett, who passed away yesterday at the age of 76.

He was a showman, selling a laid-back vision of life: beaches, cocktails, sunbaked days, and parties after dark. The allure of letting loose and having fun has been a part of our national identity.

But so have hard work and seizing opportunities to monetize an idea, which Buffett did with such skill that Forbes estimated his net worth this year at $1 billion.Buffett’s life followed an arc that exemplified the American Dream.

Originally a reporter working for Billboard, he struggled as a young musician to find his voice and make his mark. That changed when he moved to Key West, Florida. He would later say that there “I found a lifestyle, and I knew that whatever I did would have to work around my lifestyle.”

And it was this lifestyle — a blend of love for the open sea and the camaraderie of a seaside bar, all infused with music — that drew legions of loyal fans over decades of success.

ny times logoNew York Times, 2018 Profile: Jimmy Buffett Does Not Live the Jimmy Buffett Lifestyle, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Feb. 8, 2018. Jimmy Buffett awoke one morning last year in one of his many homes — he can’t remember which one, there are a lot of them — and a panic gripped him in his throat. His new Broadway musical, “Escape to Margaritaville,” was coming along nicely, but something was off.

It wasn’t the music — they’d been careful to include a finely titrated playlist of crowd pleasers. It wasn’t the book — the TV writers Greg Garcia (“My Name Is Earl,” “Raising Hope”) and Mike O’Malley (“Shameless”) managed to strike a balance of goofy, accessible romantic comedy and some deep cuts for the Parrotheads, as his fans are called. It wasn’t the casting, either; Paul Alexander Nolan is a compelling early-Buffett avatar as Tully Mars, a dreamy bar singer at a rundown Caribbean hotel called Margaritaville. And he was happy with the direction of Christopher Ashley, off a best direction Tony for “Come From Away.”

So what could it be? It hit him like a thunderbolt. It was Mr. Nolan. Mr. Nolan had just the right vibe. He could do the laid-back thing well; his singing is strong and contemporary. But there is a fatal flaw about him: He wasn’t tan.

Mr. Buffett hasn’t stopped touring in his nearly half-century as a performer, but it had been a long time since he did a last-minute set at a bar. He had to get on a stage with a pickup band like in the old days and really get back into the original iteration of Jimmy Buffett. That night, he went to the original Margaritaville bar in Key West, which he opened in the mid-1980s, unannounced, and played a three-and-a-half-hour set. He told stories between songs. He kept the audience active. It felt good to be back there, remembering who he once was.

Because that, in a coconut shell, was the problem. Jimmy Buffett is not really Jimmy Buffett anymore. He hasn’t been for a while. Jimmy Buffett — the nibbling on sponge cake, watching the sun bake, getting drunk and screwing, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere Jimmy Buffett — has been replaced with a well-preserved businessman who is leveraging the Jimmy Buffett of yore in order to keep the Jimmy Buffett of now in the manner to which the old Jimmy Buffett never dreamed he could become accustomed. And therein lies the Margaritaville® Mesquite BBQ Rub: The more successful you become at selling the Jimmy Buffett lifestyle, the less you are seen as believably living the Jimmy Buffett lifestyle.

IN 1979, Mr. Buffett showed up literally years late to a Rolling Stone interview, barefoot, in St. Barts, where he was living off a boat. On the first day we met, back in October, in New Orleans, the morning after opening night of the musical, he showed up on time at 9 a.m. Now he is surrounded by publicists and producers and a bodyguard. Now he has a boat but also another boat and some airplanes. Now he wears shoes just about whenever you’re supposed to.






mark thompson headshot

washington post logoWashington Post, CNN hires Mark Thompson as new chief executive, replacing Chris Licht, Aug. 30, 2023. Mark Thompson, above, the former chief executive of the New York Times, has been selected as the next leader of CNN, parent company Warner Bros. Discovery announced Wednesday.

CNNHe will replace Chris Licht, below left, who was ousted in June after a short and tumultuous run as the network’s leader.

chris licht w“I couldn’t be more excited about the chance to join CNN after years of watching it and competing against it with a mixture of admiration and envy,” Thompson said in a statement. “I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and get down to work with my new colleagues to build a successful future for CNN.”

Thompson, who begins in the role on Oct. 9, comes to CNN after a lengthy career in media. He spent eight years as chief executive of the New York Times Company, where he oversaw significant growth in digital subscription revenue, helping to offset losses in print circulation and advertising. He stepped down from that role in 2020, after he said that he “achieved everything I set out to do.”

Thompson had come to the Times after spending nearly his entire career at the BBC, where he served as director general.

In addition to overseeing CNN’s strategy, operations and business units, he will serve as the network’s editor in chief, the company announced on Wednesday.

“There isn’t a more experienced, respected or capable executive in the news business today than Mark, and we are thrilled to have him join our team and lead CNN Worldwide into the future,” Warner Bros. Discovery chief executive David Zaslav said.

Zaslav called Thompson “a true innovator who has transformed for the digital age two of the world’s most respected news organizations” and said that “his strategic vision, track record in transformational leadership and sheer passion for news make him a formidable force for CNN and journalism at this pivotal time.”

Aug. 30

washington post logoWashington Post, More schools that forced American Indian children to assimilate revealed, Dana Hedgpeth and Emmanuel Martinez, Aug. 30, 2023. A nonprofit Native American group has found details about 115 more Indian boarding schools in the United States.

A nonprofit group has identified 115 more Indian boarding schools than has been previously reported, offering new insight into the role of religious institutions in the long-standing federal policy to eradicate Native Americans’ culture through their children.

For more than a century, generations of American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian children were forced or coerced from their homes and communities and sent to live at schools where they were beaten, starved and made to abandon their Native languages and culture. The U.S. Department of the Interior announced last year that the federal government ran or supported 408 such schools in 37 states, including 21 schools in Alaska and seven in Hawaii, from 1819 to 1969.

The new list released Wednesday by the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition uses a different criteria, bringing the number of known Indian boarding schools in the country to 523 in 38 states. In addition to the federally supported schools tallied by the Interior Department, the coalition identified 115 more institutions that operated beginning in 1801, most of them run by religious groups and churches.

Aug. 29

Readers of new Winsted Citizen newspaper in Connecticut (Associated Press photo by Jessica Hill).

Readers of new Winsted Citizen newspaper in Connecticut (Associated Press photo by Jessica Hill).

Next Avenue:Extra! Extra! Man Starts Newspaper, Alix Boyle, Aug. 29, 2023. Meeting the needs and unleashing the potential of older Americans through media: A retired editor, with the help of a famous neighbor, aims to fill the void of local news in his hometown.

andy thibault new mug SmallLike many people turning 70, veteran journalist Andy Thibault, right, was still working, but on his own terms, teaching college journalism classes at the University of New Haven and freelancing. Then came a call from a colleague who knew someone interested in the newspaper business.

Consumer activist and four-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader was looking for someone to start a local newspaper in his hometown, Winsted, Connecticut. Did Andy know of anyone who might be interested?

"I liked that it was a ludicrous if not impossible challenge."

Thibault said he did know of one guy who would be interested in starting a newspaper when so many publications were writing their own obituaries. That guy was Thibault himself. "I liked that it was a ludicrous if not impossible challenge," he recalls.

Why would someone entering his eighth decade choose to roll the dice on a shrinking business with an uncertain future, at best?

"I like the work and I can't sing or dance," he said with a shrug.

So, the Winsted Citizen debuted in February 2023 and is growing and expanding. After six months as a print-only publication, it recently went online and the September issue will be published soon.

The Ralph Nader Angle

Ralph Nader Huffington PostThe paper was created as a nonprofit enterprise with Nader, left, aged 89, giving $15,000 as the founding donor. He later contributed another $16,000 in grants for a total stake of $31,000, He also provided free logistical support in establishing the newspaper's nonprofit status.

In a radio interview, Nader that he wanted to found a print publication because he is convinced that his neighbors in Winsted, where he lives part time, miss feeling newsprint in their hands and are sick of electronics.

The Citizen covers news in Winsted, 25 miles northwest of the state capital, Hartford, and surrounding towns. It has spiced up its pages by also publishing items like a quirky poem titled "I Wish I Was My Wife So I Could Be Married to Me" and a story about taking psychedelic mushrooms for depression (it had a front-page teaser reading "Don't Shroom and Drive").

The paper strives to live up to its reader-focused motto: "If it's important to you, it's important to us."

Thibault is something of a legend in Connecticut journalism. Highlights of his long career include working as a research consultant to the HBO series "Allen V. Farrow" and covering the Boston Marathon bombing trial for the NBC News Investigative Unit.

He is also a licensed private investigator and the author of books such as "You Thought It Was More," about Louis "the Coin" Colavecchio, a notorious Rhode Island counterfeiter.

A Life of Reporting on Crime

But Thibault is proudest of writing stories that led the authorities to release Bonnie Foreshaw, a woman sentenced to 45 years in prison for committing a murder that many legal experts argued was the lesser crime of manslaughter.

He unearthed a 24-year-old document from a public defender, Jon C. Blue. In the memo, Blue, who later became a judge, criticized the lawyers who represented Foreshaw for "shocking malpractice." Based on Thibault's reporting, Foreshaw was granted a clemency hearing and released. She is shown below at an event with Thibault and one of his books following her release.

andy thibault gateway

"Andy played a pivotal role in that case," said newspaper columnist Susan Campbell, who writes for Hearst Newspapers and and also works with Thibault at the University of New Haven. "Unlike the rest of us, he kept on that story like a dog with a bone, like a yard dog on a short chain. Without him, I don't think there would have been the same outcome."

At the Winsted Citizen, Thibault sells ads, commissions stories, edits, works with the art director and even picks up copies from the printer to deliver them around town. Thibault tapped his Rolodex to put together a team that's as eclectic as the newspaper.

"I'm very excited about the people I work with," Thibault said. "We have a 16-year-old whiz kid reporter and an office manager who's a retired executive from Adobe who is training me to be an organized person."

Paying those contributors is a struggle.

"Pay has been erratic because we were grossly undercapitalized," Thibault said. "We are steadily building up revenue and have been operating since the July edition under an austerity budget."

Disclosure: Justice Integrity Project Editor Andrew Kreig, a longtime reporter in Connecticut for the Hartford Courant, is a founding member of the Winsted Citizen's board of advisors.

Aug. 27

climate change photo

 washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: As fires and floods rage, Facebook and Twitter are missing in action, Will Oremus, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have decided they don’t need the news industry. That’s causing problems when natural disasters strike.

As wildfires ravage western Canada, Canadians can’t read the news about them on Facebook or Instagram. This month, Facebook parent company Meta blocked links to news organizations on its major social networks in Canada to protest a law that would require it to pay publishers for distributing their content.

As a freak tropical storm flooded swaths of Southern California over the weekend, residents and government agencies who turned to X, formerly known as Twitter, for real-time updates struggled to discern fact from fiction. That has gotten far more difficult, officials say, since Elon Musk jumbled the site’s verification policies, removing the blue check marks from verified journalists and media outlets — instead granting them to anyone who pays a monthly fee.

Facebook and Twitter spent years making themselves essential conduits for news. Now that government agencies, the media and hundreds of millions of people have come to rely on them for critical information in times of crisis, the social media giants have decided they’re not so invested in the news mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wafter all.

elon musk safe image time thumbTech titans Mark Zuckerberg, left, and Musk, right, may not agree on much. But both have pulled back, in different ways, from what their companies once saw as a responsibility, to both their users and society, to connect people with reliable sources of information. A drumbeat of natural disasters, probably intensified by climate change, is highlighting the consequences of that retrenchment.

“Just a few years ago, Twitter was a really valuable way for us to communicate with the public,” said Brian Ferguson, deputy director of crisis communications for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. “It’s much more challenging now because of some of the changes that have happened.”

x logo twitterOn Monday, after Tropical Storm Hilary soaked Los Angeles and inundated Palm Springs, Calif., Ferguson said his agency “spent a good portion of the day as part of our emergency response combating mis- and disinformation.” Widely shared posts on X showed doctored images of Los Angeles landmarks underwater and claimed the Federal Emergency Management Agency was out of money and unable to respond — none of which were true, he said.

Such hoaxes have been common on social media for years. But pre-Musk Twitter had been stepping up efforts to moderate misinformation, including hiding posts that featured misleading claims and employing a team of journalists to fact-check viral trends. The site also highlighted breaking news stories from accounts and media outlets it deemed reliable. The moves were in keeping with the pride Twitter had long taken in its role as a global hub for real-time information during emergencies, dating back to the 2010 Haiti earthquake and 2011 Fukushima disaster.

washington post logoWashington Post, A small-town feud in Kansas that sent a shock through American journalism, Jonathan O'Connell, Paul Farhi and Sofia Andrade, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The inside story of the events leading to the police raid on the Marion County Record, according to Editor Eric Meyer, Chief Gideon Cody and others.

The phone conversation between the journalist and the town’s newly hired police chief quickly turned contentious.

Tipsters had been telling Deb Gruver that Gideon Cody left the police department in Kansas City, Mo., under a cloud, supposedly threatened with kansas mapdemotion. So now she was asking him difficult questions on behalf of the weekly Marion County Record about the career change that had brought him to this prairie community of 1,900 people.

The chief bristled.

“If you’re going to be writing bad things about me,” they both recall him telling the reporter, “I might just not take the job.”

He also advised Gruver that he had hired a lawyer.

Cody later said he had been on guard during the conversation, having been warned by longtime residents that the Record could be overly aggressive in its reporting.

“If you live in Marion, you understand,” he told The Washington Post. “If you don’t live in Marion, you don’t understand.”

Gruver wouldn’t publish any of her reporting on Cody for months to come. But their confrontation in April marked an escalation in long-running tensions between a group of local journalists and the officials and community members they cover that would boil over through the summer.

The small-town intrigue might have stayed in a small town, though, had Cody not initiated a dramatic step earlier this month. Responding to a local businesswoman’s allegation that the paper had illegally accessed her driving record, Cody obtained search warrants from a magistrate judge and led half a dozen officers on an Aug. 11 raid of the Record’s offices and the home of its editor and publisher — seizing computers, servers, cellphones and other files.

The raid was so unusual, and so alarming in its implications for the news media, that it quickly exploded into an international story. Press-advocacy organizations universally condemned the raid as a breach of state and federal laws that protect the media from government intrusion. Within days, a caravan of TV news trucks was rumbling through Marion’s business district, a modest collection of low-slung brick buildings.

The emotional response to the raid was heightened by the sudden death of the editor’s 98-year-old mother, who had railed furiously at the officers sorting through her belongings at their home and collapsed a day later. The Record blamed her death on her agitation over the raid.

Aug. 25

elon musk sideview

washington post logoWashington Post, Following Elon Musk’s lead, Big Tech is surrendering to disinformation, Naomi Nix and Sarah Ellison, Aug. 25, 2023. Social media companies are receding from their role as watchdogs against conspiracy theories ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

Social media companies are receding from their role as watchdogs against political misinformation, abandoning their most aggressive efforts to police online falsehoods in a trend expected to profoundly affect the 2024 presidential election.

meta logoAn array of circumstances is fueling the retreat: Mass layoffs at Meta and other major tech companies have gutted teams dedicated to promoting accurate information online. An aggressive legal battle over claims that the Biden administration pressured social media platforms to silence certain speech has blocked a key path to detecting election interference.

x logo twitterAnd X CEO Elon Musk, shown above, has reset industry standards, rolling back strict rules against misinformation on the site formerly known as Twitter. In a sign of Musk’s influence, Meta briefly considered a plan last year to ban all political advertising on Facebook. The company shelved it after Musk announced plans to transform rival Twitter into a haven for free speech, according to two people familiar with the plans who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive matters.

The retrenchment comes just months ahead of the 2024 primaries, as GOP front-runner Donald Trump continues to rally supporters with false claims that election fraud drove his 2020 loss to Joe Biden. Multiple investigations into the election have revealed no evidence of fraud, and Trump now faces federal criminal charges connected to his efforts to overturn the election. Still, YouTube, X and Meta have stopped labeling or removing posts that repeat Trump’s claims, even as voters increasingly get their news on social media.

Trump capitalized on those relaxed standards in his recent interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, hosted by X. The former president punctuated the conversation, which streamed Wednesday night during the first Republican primary debate of the 2024 campaign, with false claims that the 2020 election was “rigged” and that the Democrats had “cheated” to elect Biden.

On Thursday night, Trump posted on X for the first time since he was kicked off the site, then known as Twitter, following the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol. Musk reinstated his account in November. The former president posted his mug shot from Fulton County, Ga., where he was booked Thursday on charges connected to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. “NEVER SURRENDER!” read the caption.

Aug. 24

Politico, Judge denies RFK Jr.’s request for restraining order against Google in censorship suit, Andrew Zhang, Aug. 24, 2023. The Democratic presidential candidate argued that his First Amendment rights were being violated.

A federal judge on Wednesday denied a request from Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to temporarily restrain Google from removing two videos of the presidential candidate as he seeks to sue the company for censorship.

google logo customU.S. District Judge Trina Thompson, an appointee of President Joe Biden, wrote that Kennedy’s claim that the company violated his First Amendment rights is unlikely to succeed because Google is a private entity. Thompson also wrote that a restraining order was not necessary because he would not be irreparably harmed if the order was not granted.

“Plaintiff has not shown circumstances warranting the extraordinary remedy of a temporary restraining order,” Thompson said in her 11-page decision, issued following a hearing on Monday. “The Court finds that the First Amendment claim is unlikely to succeed on the merits because Google and YouTube are not state actors.”

In his suit, Kennedy claimed Google has engaged in censorship under the coercion of federal government officials. YouTube, which is owned by Google, had removed videos of Kennedy making what the company said were medical misinformation claims. The firm contends that the content violated YouTube’s policy against discussing the Covid-19 vaccines.

While it wasn’t essential to Thompson’s ruling, she also suggested that if the popular video-hosting site were somehow subject to the First Amendment, Kennedy might still have no case because inaccurate information about medical issues lacks free speech protections.
RFK Jr. testifies: I never said anything 'racist or antisemitic'

“The coronavirus still poses a health risk to certain individuals, and it would not serve the public interest to let medical misinformation proliferate on YouTube,” the judge wrote, arguing that there is a “public interest of preventing the spread of illness and medical misinformation.”

Kennedy, who is running a long-shot campaign to usurp Biden as the Democratic presidential nominee next year, has broken into media headlines by going against mainstream liberal viewpoints on Covid-19 policies and vaccines. He has been adamant that big technology companies have gone too far in their role moderating content, leaning into the conservative viewpoint that removal of content deemed misinformation equates to censorship.

He testified before Rep. Jim Jordan’s (R-Ohio) subcommittee examining the weaponization of the federal government in July as part of a monthslong investigation Jordan has been conducting into the alleged collusion between the White House and tech companies to censor individuals online.

For years, major social media platforms have kept open an avenue that allows government officials to submit requests for content moderation. That pathway is currently under legal dispute. A U.S. District Court judge in early July constrained several federal agencies and officials from contacting any social media companies to remove any constitutionally protected free speech, but an appeals court later blocked that order temporarily while it is under dispute.

The Kennedy campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In its original response to his lawsuit, Google called Kennedy’s censorship lawsuit against the company viewpoints “meritless,” pushing back against the claim that it maliciously removed content that featured his viewpoints on Covid-19 and other medical matters.

Aug. 22

washington post logoWashington Post, After Dominion case, GOP debate gives Fox News chance to burnish image, Jeremy Barr, Aug. 22, 2023. Anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum’s performance in Trump-free GOP debate could bolster Fox’s credibility after its defamation lawsuit, observers say.

fox news logo SmallMonths after a blockbuster defamation lawsuit raised questions about Fox News’s dedication to accuracy and fraught relationship with Donald Trump, two of its star anchors will have a chance to bolster the network’s image Wednesday night when they moderate the first Republican debate of the 2024 presidential cycle.

dominion voting systemsAnchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum spoke of the debate as business as usual for them in interviews with The Washington Post, citing their lengthy careers in Fox’s news division — rather than the conservative-leaning opinion wing, some of whose hosts were cited in the case that Fox settled with an election technology company for $787.5 million in April.

“I think that Fox has fantastic political reporters,” MacCallum said. “We have great war correspondents. We have a very strong news division, and I’m proud to be part of it, and I’m proud to be co-moderating this debate with Bret, and I’ve always felt really good about what we do.”

Last fall, Baier was forced to explain a leaked email showing that he had lobbied Fox colleagues to revoke an election-night decision to award Arizona to Joe Biden and to “put it back in [Trump’s] column.”

He told The Post last week that his email exchange was misread and mistyped — that he meant to say that Arizona, which most other media outlets had not yet called, should be put back in the up-for-grabs column — and quibbled with how reporters interpreted his words. “There is this obsession that, ‘Oh, we got ’em, the news division is conspiring as well,’” he said. “It really wasn’t the case. So I think we’re past all of that. I think our work speaks for itself. The people who watch know that, and hopefully after the debate, they’ll know it even more.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Spain Holds On for a 1-0 Win, Claiming Its First Women’s World Cup, Rory Smith, Aug. 21, 2023 (print ed.). Though England showed signs of life in the second half, including a penalty save, Spain was much more aggressive in earning the championship.

spain flag CustomSpain should not have been in contention to win the World Cup. It did not make any sense. Its finest players spent most of the last year on strike. A dozen of them were not invited to the tournament as a consequence. Those that are here are part of a squad held together by an uneasy truce, working under a coach who can count on the loyalty — at best — of a relatively small fraction of his team. These are not the circumstances in which success is forged.

And yet, and yet: Spain is champion of the world, testament to an enduring truth of soccer, of sports. Talent can conquer absolutely anything. It can even take a team, one that had prepared for this World Cup in arguably the worst possible way, to the biggest game of all, the grandest stage, and then sweep it past England, the European champion, the favorite, the game’s new heavyweight, by a single goal, 1-0.

Aug. 20

ny times logoNew York Times, A Kansas Newspaper Is the Talk of the Town, and Not Just for Getting Raided, Kevin Draper, Aug. 20, 2023 (print ed.). The rare search of a newsroom has uncorked a debate in Marion, Kan.: What is a newspaper’s role, anyway?

One person said The Marion County Record covered two recent deaths insensitively. Another said a handful of articles focused needlessly on a simple paperwork error that led to tax credits getting rejected. A third thought an opinion column harped too harshly on the poor quality of children’s letters to Santa Claus.

kansas mapThe Marion County Record, a newspaper that reports on a small town of less than 2,000 people on the western edge of the Flint Hills in Kansas, turned into a First Amendment cause célèbre in the past week, after police officers and sheriff’s deputies raided its newsroom, an incredibly rare occurrence in American journalism. The authorities seized computers and phones, in what they said was an investigation into identity theft and computer crimes.

Reporters and television cameras have descended upon the town to cover the raids, which were roundly condemned by news organizations and free press advocates. On Wednesday, the local prosecutor returned the electronic devices, saying he had determined there wasn’t a “legally sufficient nexus” to justify the searches.

Marion residents, however, are having far different conversations about the over 150-year-old paper and its owner and editor, Eric Meyer, who has been running day-to-day operations for the past two years. At the center of the discussions: What is the appropriate relationship between a community and a local news organization, and what duty, if any, does it have to be a booster for the places it covers?

Aug. 19


djt handwave file

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Plans to Skip G.O.P. Debate for Interview With Tucker Carlson, Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Swan, Aug. 19, 2023 (print ed.). The former president’s apparent decision to skip the first debate is a major affront both to the Republican National Committee and to Fox News, which is hosting the event.

fox news logo SmallFormer President Donald J. Trump,  shown above in a file photo, plans to upstage the first Republican primary debate on Wednesday by sitting for an online interview with the former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, according to multiple people briefed on the matter.

In the past 24 hours, Mr. Trump has told people close to him that he has made up his mind and will skip the debate in Milwaukee, according to two of the people briefed on the matter.

Mr. Trump is notoriously mercurial, and left himself something of an out to change his mind with an ambiguous post on his website, Truth Social, on Thursday. He wrote that he’s polling well ahead of his rivals and added, “Reagan didn’t do it, and neither did others. People know my Record, one of the BEST EVER, so why would I Debate?”

For weeks, the former president has been quizzing aides, associates and rally crowds about what he should do. Until earlier this week, Mr. Trump had been giving people the impression he was considering a last-minute surprise appearance on Wednesday.

rnc logoStill, people close to him had said for months that he was unlikely to take part in the first two Republican debates, both of which are sponsored by the Republican National Committee. And Mr. Trump’s apparent decision to skip the first debate of the presidential nominating contest is a major affront to both the R.N.C. and Fox News, which is hosting the event.

The exact timing and platform of the interview with Mr. Carlson remain unclear, but if it goes ahead as currently planned, the debate-night counterprogramming would serve as an act of open hostility.

ronna mcdaniel djt CustomThe chairwoman of the R.N.C., Ronna McDaniel, shown above, has privately urged Mr. Trump to attend the debate, even traveling to his private club in Bedminster, N.J., last month to make her pitch in person.

And Fox News has been drawn into a public battle not only with Mr. Trump but with Mr. Carlson, who is still on contract and being paid by Fox despite having his show taken off the air. Fox sent Mr. Carlson a cease-and-desist letter after he aired a series of videos on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. The Trump campaign’s conversations with Mr. Carlson — and the possibility of counterprogramming — have previously been reported by multiple news organizations.

Spokesmen for the Trump campaign, the R.N.C. and Fox News did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Mr. Carlson also did not respond to requests for comment.

Fox News executives and personalities have been lobbying the former president, both publicly and privately, to participate in the debate. But Mr. Trump has been openly attacking Fox and has privately vented his animosity for the chairman of Fox Corporation, Rupert Murdoch.

Even so, Mr. Trump has privately also given top executives and anchors at Fox the impression that he was open to and even seriously considering their entreaties.


Independent podcaster Tucker Carlson is shown above in a screen shot from him work as the top-rated host at Fox News before his termination.

Independent podcaster Tucker Carlson is shown above in a screen shot from him work as the top-rated host at Fox News before his termination.

ny times logoNew York Times, Inside Trump’s Decision to Skip the G.O.P. Debate, Jonathan Swan, Jeremy W. Peters and Maggie Haberman, Aug. 19, 2023. Fox News leaned on former President Trump privately and publicly to join the debate. But all the while he had his own plan for counterprogramming.

On a cool August night on the crowded patio of his private club in New Jersey, former President Donald J. Trump held up his phone to his dinner companions.

fox news logo SmallThe Republican front-runner was having dinner with a Fox News contributor and columnist, Charlie Hurt, when a call came in from another member of the Fox team. The man on the other end of the line, Mr. Trump was delighted to show his guests, was Bret Baier, one of the two moderators of the first Republican debate on Wednesday, according to two people with knowledge of the call.

It was Mr. Trump’s second Fox dinner that week. The night before, he had hosted the Fox News president, Jay Wallace, and the network’s chief executive, Suzanne Scott, who had gone to Bedminster, N.J., hoping to persuade Mr. Trump to attend the debate. Mr. Baier was calling to get a feel for the former president’s latest thinking.

For months, Fox had been working Mr. Trump privately and publicly. He was keeping them guessing, in his patented petulant way. But even as he behaved as if he was listening to entreaties, Mr. Trump was proceeding with a plan for his own counterprogramming to the debate.

The former president has told aides that he has made up his mind not to participate in the debate and has decided to post an online interview with Tucker Carlson that night instead, according to people briefed on the matter.

Upstaging Fox’s biggest event of the year would be provocation enough. But an interview with Mr. Carlson — who was Fox’s top-rated host and is at war with the network, which is still paying out his contract — amounts to a slap in the network’s face by Mr. Trump. The decision is a potential source of aggravation for the Republican National Committee chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, who privately urged him to attend, including in her own visit to Bedminster last month.

But Mr. Trump’s primary motive in skipping the debate is not personal animosity toward Ms. McDaniel but a crass political calculation: He doesn’t want to risk his giant lead in a Republican race that some close to him believe he must win to stay out of prison.

But that’s not the only reason.

Aug. 18


spj logo horizontal

Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), SPJ hails lawsuit to challenge gag rules in public agency, SPJ National President Claire Regan, SPJ Freedom kathryn foxhallof Information Advocate Kathryn Foxhall, right, and SPJ Communications Specialist Zoë Berg, Aug. 18, 2023. The lawsuit is believed to be the first brought by a journalist on this issue.

The Society of Professional Journalists congratulates investigative journalist Brittany Hailer for her efforts challenging the Allegheny County Jail in Pennsylvania for its policies prohibiting staff and contractors from speaking to the media or others about the jail without approval.

As part of these efforts, Hailer filed on Thursday what is believed to be the first such lawsuit brought by a journalist. Such restrictions have been found to be unconstitutional in past cases brought by employees or their unions. Journalism groups have been actively decrying such gag rules for at least a decade.

pennsylvania map major cities“These speech bans, which journalists have seen grow more pervasive and controlling, are among the most damaging threats to free speech and public welfare today,” said SPJ National President Claire Regan. “SPJ has repeatedly led in opposing these restrictions which it has called censorship and authoritarian. Hailer’s suit shows journalists themselves can fight back in court against people in power silencing subordinates in terms of talking to reporters or forcing them to report conversations to authorities.”

The Yale Law School Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed the suit on behalf of Hailer, director of the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, whose work is funded in part by The Pulitzer Center.

The complaint says, “The Gag Rules prevent reporting that is urgently needed to inform the public about conditions and events at the Jail and unconstitutionally impede news coverage of the Jail needed for meaningful public oversight and accountability.”

Hailer has reported extensively on problems at the Allegheny County Jail. For example, the suit claims, since April 2020, at least 20 men have died after entering the jail, with circumstances of many of the deaths being unclear and, “in several cases, the Jail has never provided medical records to family members to confirm a cause of death.”

“This case presents an important issue for reporters at a time when agencies at every level of government are barring their employees from talking with the press,” said David Schulz, director of the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic. “The issue at the heart of this case goes directly to the ability of the press to ferret out the news the public needs for democracy to function.”

These restrictions are sometimes referred to as “censorship by PIO,” because many agencies force employees to refer any reporter to their public information office rather than speak with them. SPJ surveys have shown the controls to be common in federal, state and local government, in science, education and police departments. Last year Glen Nowak, a former media relations head at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that from the 1980s forward each presidential administration tightened what that agency could say until every contact with a reporter had to be vetted through the political layers of government.

In 2019 Frank LoMonte, then head of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information and SPJ Foundation board member, published a legal analysis and road map for this kind of action by journalists, saying, “media plaintiffs should be able to establish that their interests have been injured, whether directly or indirectly, to sustain a First Amendment challenge to government restraints on employees’ speech to the media. The only question is whether the restraint will be treated as a presumptively unconstitutional prior restraint, or whether a less rigorous level of scrutiny will apply.”

Kathryn Foxhall, who was awarded the 2021 SPJ Wells Memorial Key for her extensive work opposing gag rules, said, “Information control is one of the most abusive, deadliest things in all human history, even when leaders believe in what they are doing. Journalists take pride in the notion that, ‘Good reporters get the story anyway.’ But we don’t know what remains hidden. We need to fight these bans as if many lives depend upon it. They do.”

SPJ hopes Hailer’s lawsuit will bring about similar challenges and reduce restrictive gag orders placed on public agencies that impede journalists’ important work.

Aug. 17

ny times logoNew York Times, What Alex Jones, Woody Allen and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Share, Elizabeth A. Harris, Aug. 17, 2023. Skyhorse Publishing has built a reputation for taking on authors that other houses avoid. And its founder has helped Kennedy mount a bid for president.

Skyhorse Publishing is not a large company, but it has an outsize reputation for taking on authors that others avoid. Its list includes figures on the left, the right and those outside the mainstream altogether, like Alex Jones, the conspiracy broadcaster whose recent book examines “the global elite’s international conspiracy to enslave humanity and all life on the planet.”

What has garnered significantly less attention is the way in which the publisher’s founder, Tony Lyons, has supported the political ambitions of one of his authors: Robert F. Kennedy Jr., whose campaign for president has been rife with misinformation, including false theories about coronavirus vaccines. Mr. Lyons is a chairman of a super PAC supporting Mr. Kennedy. Under his direction, Skyhorse has donated $150,000 to the group.

Mr. Lyons casts his support for Mr. Kennedy as an extension of his mission as publisher: to defend against what he considers censorship. “Bobby Kennedy says this line now and then,” Mr. Lyons said. “Name a time in history where the people advocating for censorship were the good guys.”

At a moment when the country is deeply polarized, Mr. Lyons stands out among publishers for being more willing — and, because of the structure of the private company he controls, more able — to take risks. Skyhorse’s titles range from anodyne cooking and gardening books to works that court controversy or promote theories that have been debunked.

Its best-selling book ever was Mr. Kennedy’s The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health, which was released in 2021 and makes baseless claims against Dr. Fauci, accusing him of having “truly a dark agenda.” Mr. Lyons said it has sold more than 1.1 million copies across all formats.

“He is unique in the way he questions and challenges industry norms,” David Steinberger, a longtime publishing executive, said of Lyons. “Nothing Tony does surprises me.”

In recent years, publishing decisions that might not have seemed controversial in the past have incited a backlash. After Simon & Schuster signed a two-book deal with former Vice President Mike Pence in 2021, more than 200 employees, joined by thousands of writers and other publishing professionals, signed a petition demanding the deal be canceled. Simon & Schuster published the first book in the deal, a memoir, anyway.

In instances where other publishers decided to drop a book, Skyhorse has sometimes stepped in. Hachette canceled the publication of a memoir in 2020 by Woody Allen, called “Apropos of Nothing,” in the face of allegations that Allen molested his adopted daughter when she was a child. Allen has denied the allegations and was not charged after two investigations. Skyhorse picked up the memoir and published it weeks later. The book became a New York Times best seller.

Mr. Lyons takes pride in publishing across the political spectrum, and beyond.

Last year, as several publishers rushed out their own version of the Jan. 6 report, Skyhorse put out two versions: one with a foreword by Elizabeth Holtzman, a Democrat and former United States representative from New York, and another with a foreword by Darren Beattie, who was a speechwriter for former President Donald J. Trump.

This year, Skyhorse published The War on Ivermectin, by Dr. Pierre Kory, which argues the anti-parasitic drug could have ended the Covid-19 pandemic. (Clinical trials have found that ivermectin is not effective against Covid-19.)

Mr. Lyons said he believes the pharmaceutical industry has too much power over scientific research and federal regulators, and so he approaches established science with suspicion. This wariness, even in the face of widespread agreement and convincing evidence, informs his approach to publishing.

“Time after time, people have generally agreed about things that turned out to be demonstrably untrue,” Mr. Lyons said, citing as an example the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a claim that served a basis for justifying the U.S. invasion, and which turned out to be false. “That’s a much bigger danger than the danger of people being wrong.”

But there is at least one line Mr. Lyons said he would not cross. Though Skyhorse publishes Alex Jones, he said it would not publish a book by him about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which Mr. Jones has falsely argued was a government hoax.

Aug. 16

lina khan resized ftc

ny times logoNew York Times, Authors and Booksellers Urge Justice Dept. to Investigate Amazon, Alexandra Alter, Aug. 16, 2023. With mounting signs that the Federal Trade Commission is preparing to file a lawsuit against Amazon for violating antitrust laws, a group of booksellers, authors and antitrust activists are urging the government to investigate the company’s domination of the book market.

ftc logoOn Wednesday, the Open Markets Institute, an antitrust think tank, along with the Authors Guild and the American Booksellers Association, sent a letter to the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission, calling on the government to curb Amazon’s “monopoly in its role as a seller of books to the public.”

The groups are pressing the Justice Department to investigate not only Amazon’s size as a bookseller, but also its sway over the book market — especially its ability to promote certain titles on its site and bury others, said Barry Lynn, the executive director of the Open Markets Institute, a research and advocacy group focused on strengthening antimonopoly policies.

amazon logo small“What we have is a situation in which the power of a single dominant corporation is warping, in the aggregate, the type of books that we’re reading,” Lynn said in an interview. “This kind of power concentrated in a democracy is not acceptable.”

The letter, addressed to Lina Khan (shown above), the chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, and Jonathan Kanter, who leads the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, comes as the F.T.C. appears to be closing in on its decision to bring an antitrust case against Amazon. Amazon representatives are expected to meet this week with members of the commission to discuss the possible suit, a sign that legal action may be imminent.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It’s still unclear whether the government’s case will scrutinize Amazon’s role as a bookseller as part of its investigation of the company. While Amazon got its start nearly 30 years ago as a scrappy online bookstore, it has since mushroomed into a retail giant that has gained a foothold in other industries, with its expansion into cloud computing and its purchase of the grocery chain Whole Foods and the movie studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Even as books have become a smaller slice of the company, Amazon has become an overwhelming force in the book market. It accounts for at least 40 percent of physical books sold in the U.S., and more than 80 percent of e-books sold, according to an analysis released by WordsRated, a research data and analytics group. With its purchase of Audible in 2008, Amazon has also become one of the largest audiobook producers and retailers.

The effects of the site’s rise have been profound, Open Markets Institute and the other groups argued, contributing to a steep decline in the number of physical bookstores across the United States, and leaving publishers and authors beholden to the site.

Amazon also has influenced which books readers are exposed to and buy, and has made it more challenging for lesser-known authors to gain exposure on the site, while blockbuster authors and celebrities whose books are likely to sell well are prominently featured.
A side-by-side of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (left) and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (right). McCarthy is wearing a blue suit with a purple tie and Schumer is wearing a blue suit with a red tie and an American flag pin.

  • New York Times, X Slows Down Access to Some Rival Sites, Aug. 16, 2023.

Aug. 11


kansas mapKansas Reflector, Police stage ‘chilling’ raid on Marion County newspaper, seizing computers, records and cellphones, Sherman Smith, Sam Bailey, Rachel Mipro and Tim Carpenter, Aug. 11, 2023. In an unprecedented raid Friday, local law enforcement seized computers, cellphones and reporting materials from the Marion County Record office, the newspaper’s reporters, and the publisher’s home.

Eric Meyer, owner and publisher of the newspaper, said police were motivated by a confidential source who leaked sensitive documents to the newspaper, and the message was clear: “Mind your own business or we’re going to step on you.”

kansas map in usThe city’s entire five-officer police force and two sheriff’s deputies took “everything we have,” Meyer said, and it wasn’t clear how the newspaper staff would take the weekly publication to press Tuesday night.

The raid followed news stories about a restaurant owner who kicked reporters out of a meeting last week with U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner, and revelations about the restaurant owner’s lack of a driver’s license and conviction for drunken driving.

Meyer said he had never heard of police raiding a newspaper office during his 20 years at the Milwaukee Journal or 26 years teaching journalism at the University of Illinois.

“It’s going to have a chilling effect on us even tackling issues,” Meyer said, as well as “a chilling effect on people giving us information.”

The search warrant, signed by Marion County District Court Magistrate Judge Laura Viar, appears to violate federal law that provides protections against searching and seizing materials from journalists. The law requires law enforcement to subpoena materials instead. Viar didn’t respond to a request to comment for this story or explain why she would authorize a potentially illegal raid.

Emily Bradbury, executive director of the Kansas Press Association, said the police raid is unprecedented in Kansas.

“An attack on a newspaper office through an illegal search is not just an infringement on the rights of journalists but an assault on the very foundation of democracy and the public’s right to know,” Bradbury said. “This cannot be allowed to stand.”

Meyer reported last week that Marion restaurant owner Kari Newell had kicked newspaper staff out of a public forum with LaTurner, whose staff was apologetic. Newell responded to Meyer’s reporting with hostile comments on her personal Facebook page.

A confidential source contacted the newspaper, Meyer said, and provided evidence that Newell had been convicted of drunken driving and continued to use her vehicle without a driver’s license. The criminal record could jeopardize her efforts to obtain a liquor license for her catering business.

A reporter with the Marion Record used a state website to verify the information provided by the source. But Meyer suspected the source was relaying information from Newell’s husband, who had filed for divorce. Meyer decided not to publish a story about the information, and he alerted police to the situation.

“We thought we were being set up,” Meyer said.

Police notified Newell, who then complained at a city council meeting that the newspaper had illegally obtained and disseminated sensitive documents, which isn’t true. Her public comments prompted the newspaper to set the record straight in a story published Thursday.

washington post logoWashington Post, What happened when an Ohio school district rushed to integrate classrooms, Laura Meckler, Aug. 16, 2023. Shaker Heights sorted students by ability level, and the top classes always had more White students. In the pandemic, it unraveled this “tracking.” This story is adapted from the author’s forthcoming book, “Dream Town: Shaker Heights and the Quest for Racial Equity."

Laura Meckler is national education writer for the Washington Post, where she covers education across the country as well as federal education policy and politics. She is writing a book about her hometown of Shaker Heights, Ohio, and its long-term relationship with issues of race.

Aug. 10


fox upside down news

washington post logoWashington Post, An architect of Fox’s success picks a new target: Fox, Paul Farhi, Aug. 10, 2023 (print ed.). Preston Padden, who once worked for Rupert Murdoch, argues that Fox News ‘undermined democracy.’

Rupert Murdoch never had a more loyal ally in Washington than Preston Padden.

rupert murdoch 2011 shankbone When Murdoch, left, was building his Fox broadcast network in the early 1990s, Padden served as both his chief lobbyist and the organizer of Fox’s affiliated stations. As an executive, Padden helped secure the regulatory waivers that enabled Fox to grow into a full-fledged competitor to ABC, CBS and NBC. He was also instrumental in saving the network itself, by beating back an effort by Democrats to strip Murdoch of control of Fox’s largest stations.

Those victories helped build Fox and set the stage for Murdoch’s next start-up: the Fox News Channel.

Long after he left Fox in 1997, Padden, right, and Murdoch remained friends, and regularly exchanged emails.

“I’ve always admired Rupert’s vision and guts,” Padden said in an interview, describing the 92-year-old mogul as “a father figure.”

preston paddenSo Padden’s latest project comes freighted with irony: He hopes to persuade federal regulators to pull Fox Corp.’s licenses to operate its TV stations — the very ones he helped Murdoch maintain nearly 30 years ago.

Last month Padden, now 74 and retired, joined with a nonprofit group called the Media and Democracy Project (MAD) to urge the Federal Communications Commission to deny Fox’s renewal of its license to operate one of its largest stations, WTXF in Philadelphia, known as Fox29. Padden and MAD argue that Fox lacks the “character” required by the FCC to be a license holder, because of post-election misinformation spread by another company entity: Fox News.

“Fox has undermined our democracy and has radicalized a segment of our population by presenting knowingly false narratives about the legitimacy of the 2020 election,” Padden wrote in a statement supporting MAD’s petition, which accuses Fox of “intentional, knowing news distortion.”

Padden has also gone public, writing anti-Fox commentaries for the Daily Beast, a publication owned by a company founded and run by Barry Diller, the co-founder of the Fox broadcast network. “Is It Time for the FCC to Take a Close Look at Rupert Murdoch’s Licenses?” asked the headline on one of Padden’s columns in June.

Fox Corp. called MAD’s petition “frivolous” and “completely without merit,” in a statement last month. It said MAD’s petition “asks the FCC to upend the First Amendment and long-standing FCC precedent” by tying the station’s license to the behavior of a cable network. A company spokesman declined to comment further to The Washington Post about the petition and about Padden.

Padden has no particular beef with WXTF itself; it was merely the first Fox station to come up for renewal since Fox News settled a defamation lawsuit with Dominion Voting Systems in April. Padden thinks the cable network’s conduct following the 2020 election was so egregious that the government should, at minimum, hold public hearings on Fox29’s renewal and consider sanctions against its parent company.

Proof, Investigative Report: DOJ and the NYT Say the First January 6 Coup Memo Was Written in November 2020. They’re Wrong, Seth Abramson, Aug. 10-11, 2023. The seth abramson graphicfirst coup memo appeared in October 2020—and this “October Memo” informed the November and December 2020 Chesebro memos and John Eastman’s December memos. How do we know? From the men themselves.

On November 18, 2020, the New York Times reports, attorney Kenneth Chesebro wrote a memo about the possible use of alternate electors by the 2020 Trump presidential campaign in Wisconsin. On December 6, 2020, Attorney Chesebro wrote a far broader memo about such electors potentially being a key to Donald Trump remaining in the Oval Office.

seth abramson proof logoThree days later—on December 9, 2020—Chesebro wrote yet another such memo. By the end of the month, Chesebro’s fellow Trump legal adviser, John Eastman, had spilled an enormous amount of words both in writing and in in-person discussions pushing precisely the same ideas that Chesebro had earlier articulated. Both Chesebro (Co-Conspirator 5 in the Trump January 6 indictment) and Eastman (Co-Conspirator 2 in that indictment) now face the prospect of significant legal jeopardy for their various “coup memos,” even as the authors of other documents deemed coup memos appear not the be on Department of Justice Special Counsel Jack Smith’s radar at all.

The New York Times Wades In

In a series of recent reports by Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter and now book-published Trump biographer Maggie Haberman, the Times tells readers that the three Chesebro memos mentioned atop this Proof report were the “earliest” indications from within Trumpworld that a so-called “fake elector” plot was afoot.

That is untrue.

Moreover, this inaccuracy could be damaging to the current prosecution of Trump by the Department of Justice’s Office of the Special Counsel, as these Times reports, so lauded and repeated by other major-media outlets, have had the following key effects:

  • Cementing the false idea, among not just American voters but also apparently Jack Smith and his attorneys and investigators, that the “fake elector” plot was wholly a post-election one;
  • cementing the false idea, among not just American voters but also apparently Jack Smith and his attorneys and investigators, that the plot emerged from the fringes of Trumpworld and slowly moved toward its center; and
  • cementing the false idea, among not just American voters but also apparently Jack Smith and his attorneys and investigators, that individuals with enormous power and cultural capital within Trumpworld were in no way involved in the plot when they may well have been.

And more broadly—given that Attorney Smith and his team have so far, at least in public filings, focused almost exclusively on the “fake elector” plot and (in more recent days) Trump’s possible fundraising crimes while ignoring the extension of his conspiracy to the civilian leadership at the Pentagon and the use of Sidney Powell and her agents to advance (via false federal affidavits regarding supposed foreign election interference that Jason Funes told Congress resulted from “blackmail” and “force[d]” testimony) the pro-martial-law plot known as the Waldron Plot—the recent New York Times reporting gives federal investigators no foothold whatsoever to understand this video of one of the architects of January 6, top Trump adviser and convicted criminal Steve Bannon.

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy in print: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

Aug. 9

Politico, Special counsel obtained search warrant for Donald Trump’s Twitter account, Kyle Cheney, Aug. 9, 2023. Twitter’s initial resistance to complying with the warrant resulted in a federal judge holding the company in contempt and levying a $350,000 fine.

Special Counsel Jack Smith obtained a search warrant for Donald Trump’s Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, earlier this year, according to newly revealed court documents.

politico CustomTwitter’s initial resistance to complying with the Jan. 17 warrant resulted in a federal judge holding the company, now called X, in contempt and levying a $350,000 fine. A federal court of appeals upheld that fine last month in a sealed opinion. On Wednesday, the court unsealed a redacted version of that opinion, revealing details of the secret court battle for the first time.

twitter bird Custom“Although Twitter ultimately complied with the warrant, the company did not fully produce the requested information until three days after a court-ordered deadline,” according to the 34-page opinion by a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. “The district court thus held Twitter in contempt and imposed a $350,000 sanction for its delay.”

x logo twitterIt’s unclear what Smith was seeking from Trump’s account. Trump used the account actively in the run-up to the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, promoting false claims of election fraud, calling his supporters to Washington to “stop the steal” and mounting attacks on his rivals. Obtaining data from Twitter might have revealed patterns about Trump’s use of the account, whether others had access to it and whether there were any draft statements that were unsent.

elon musk 2015The existence of the warrant shows that prosecutors acquired access to the inner workings of what was once the most powerful megaphone in American politics and perhaps on the world stage. Trump was banned from Twitter just days after Jan. 6, after the company found his tweets to be in violation of its terms. Elon Musk, right, who took over Twitter last year, restored Trump’s access, but the former president has not yet tweeted from the account since his return.

Twitter’s fight with Smith’s team was rooted in prosecutors’ decision to serve the warrant along with a “nondisclosure order” that prohibited Twitter from notifying Trump — or anyone else — about the warrant’s existence.



July 29

 elon musk sideview

ny times logoNew York Times, With Starlink, Elon Musk’s Satellite Dominance Is Raising Global Alarms, Adam Satariano, Scott Reinhard, Cade Metz, Sheera Frenkel and Malika Khurana, July 29, 2023. The billionaire’s influence on satellite internet technology has increasingly worried militaries and political leaders in Ukraine and beyond. The tech billionaire has become the dominant power in satellite internet technology. The ways he is wielding that influence are raising global alarms.

In March 17, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, the leader of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, dialed into a call to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Over the secure line, the two military leaders conferred on air defense systems, real-time battlefield assessments and shared intelligence on Russia’s military losses.

space x logoThey also talked about Elon Musk (shown above in a file photo).

General Zaluzhnyi raised the topic of Starlink, the satellite internet technology made by Mr. Musk’s rocket company, SpaceX, three people with knowledge of the conversation said. Ukraine’s battlefield decisions depended on the continued use of Starlink for communications, General Zaluzhnyi said, and his country wanted to ensure access and discuss how to cover the cost of the service.

General Zaluzhnyi also asked if the United States had an assessment of Mr. Musk, who has sprawling business interests and murky politics — to which American officials gave no answer.

Mr. Musk, who leads SpaceX, Tesla and Twitter, has become the most dominant player in space as he has steadily amassed power over the strategically significant twitter bird Customfield of satellite internet. Yet faced with little regulation and oversight, his erratic and personality-driven style has increasingly worried militaries and political leaders around the world, with the tech billionaire sometimes wielding his authority in unpredictable ways.

x logo twitterSince 2019, Mr. Musk has sent SpaceX rockets into space nearly every week that deliver dozens of sofa-size satellites into orbit. The satellites communicate with terminals on Earth, so they can beam high-speed internet to nearly every corner of the planet. Today, more than 4,500 Starlink satellites are in the skies, accounting for more than 50 percent of all active satellites. They have already started changing the complexion of the night sky, even before accounting for Mr. Musk’s plans to have as many as 42,000 satellites in orbit in the coming years.

There are over 4,500 Starlink satellites orbiting Earth. What appear to be long lines here are recently launched satellites approaching their place in orbit.

The power of the technology, which has helped push the value of closely held SpaceX to nearly $140 billion, is just beginning to be felt.

Starlink is often the only way to get internet access in war zones, remote areas and places hit by natural disasters. It is used in Ukraine for coordinating drone strikes and intelligence gathering. Activists in Iran and Turkey have sought to use the service as a hedge against government controls. The U.S. Defense Department is a big Starlink customer, while other militaries, such as in Japan, are testing the technology.

But Mr. Musk’s near total control of satellite internet has raised alarms.

elon musk 2015A combustible personality, the 52-year-old’s allegiances are fuzzy. While Mr. Musk is hailed as a genius innovator, he alone can decide to shut down Starlink internet access for a customer or country, and he has the ability to leverage sensitive information that the service gathers. Such concerns have been heightened because no companies or governments have come close to matching what he has built.

In Ukraine, some fears have been realized. Mr. Musk has restricted Starlink access multiple times during the war, people familiar with the situation said.tesla logo At one point, he denied the Ukrainian military’s request to turn on Starlink near Crimea, the Russian-controlled territory, affecting battlefield strategy. Last year, he publicly floated a “peace plan” for the war that seemed aligned with Russian interests.

At times, Mr. Musk has openly flaunted Starlink’s capabilities. “Between, Tesla, Starlink & Twitter, I may have more real-time global economic data in one head than anyone ever,” he tweeted in April.

washington post logoWashington Post, Move fast and beat Musk: The inside story of how Meta built Threads, Naomi Nix and Will Oremus, July 29, 2023. A company in crisis went back to basics to deliver a viral hit. But can Adam Mosseri’s bare-bones Twitter clone reinvigorate an aging tech giant? Adam Mosseri was on a family vacation in Italy last November when he learned he’d have to go toe-to-toe with Elon Musk. The mercurial Musk had just taken over Twitter. Amid the ensuing chaos, Mosseri’s boss at rival Meta smelled opportunity.

meta logoCEO Mark Zuckerberg and other Meta executives wanted to woo creators from Twitter to their social networks. Mosseri, who runs Instagram, paused his holiday to take Zuckerberg’s call.

It was nighttime in Italy, and Mosseri spoke softly to avoid waking his sleeping wife. The group discussed Twitter-like features they could add to existing apps, including Instagram.

Zuckerberg, however, had a different idea: “What if we went bigger?”

By the time the call ended well after midnight, Mosseri had a mandate to build a stand-alone app to compete with Twitter — and a knot in his stomach.

July 28

x logo twitter

 ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: What’s in a Name? Musk/Twitter Edition, Paul Krugman, July 28, 2023 (print ed.). I have (well-managed) arthritis and take pain reducers every day. I normally buy generic acetaminophen; but many people still buy brand-name Tylenol, even though it costs much more.

There’s a long-running debate among economists about why people are willing to pay a premium for name brands. Some emphasize ignorance — one influential study found that health professionals are more likely than the public at large to buy generic painkillers, because they realize that they’re just as effective as name brands. Others suggest that there may be a rational calculation involved: The quality of name brands may be more reliable, because the owners of these brands have a reputation to preserve. It doesn’t have to be either-or; the story behind the brand premium may depend on the product.

What’s clear is that brand names that for whatever reason inspire customer loyalty have real value to the company that owns them and shouldn’t be changed casually.

So what the heck does Elon Musk, the owner of TAFKAT — the app formerly known as Twitter — think he’s doing, changing the platform’s name to X, with a new logo many people, myself included, find troubling?

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why did Elon rebrand Twitter as ‘X’? The mystery, Johanna Drucker, July 28, 2023 (print ed.). The letter X is versatile. It can mean kisses or be a sign of faith. What attracts Elon Musk?

“I like the letter X,” Elon Musk posted, shortly after he renamed and rebranded Twitter. “X will become the most valuable brand on Earth.” X? Can you imagine Musk picking J for the job? Or H? There would be puzzlement, as there is now, and not much else. But X also creates a certain frisson. Why?

The letter X carries so many connotations — many more than almost any other letter — though it was not among the original alphabetic signs in the Proto-Canaanite script that stabilized around 1700 B.C. Long before then, however, human sign systems consisted of very basic marks — stick figures for humans and animals, straight lines for tallies, circles, crosses and X signs. They show up on prehistoric masonry in Crete; they show up in prehistoric Byblos in Syria; they show up on stones marked between 20,000 and 10,000 years ago in the French area of Mas d’Azil.

Johanna Drucker is Breslauer professor and distinguished professor emerita in information studies at UCLA. She is the author of “Inventing the Alphabet: The Origins of Letters from Antiquity to the Present.”

July 27

U.S. Higher Education Policy

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Biden’s Fight With Harvard Is a Political Winner but a Policy ‘Band-Aid,’ Reid J. Epstein, July 27, 2023. A Supreme Court ruling made legacy admissions a ripe target for President Biden, but Americans see tuition costs and student debt as bigger issues.

In the final month of his 2020 presidential campaign, Joe Biden stood before a drive-in crowd in Toledo, Ohio, and announced he had “a chip on my shoulder” about people with fancy college degrees.

He would, Mr. Biden said, be the first president in “80 or 90 years” without an Ivy League degree — an exaggerated biographical detail that spoke to the image he sought to convey as the blue-collar, workingman’s candidate.

“I went to the University of Delaware, I was proud of it,” Mr. Biden said. “Hard to get there, hard to get through in terms of money. But folks, since when can someone who went to a state university not be qualified to be president?”

harvard logoMr. Biden — the first president without an Ivy League degree since Ronald Reagan, a Eureka College alumnus who left the White House 32 years before Mr. Biden entered it — has now set his administration on a collision course with Harvard, one of the Ivy League’s flagship universities.

His administration’s fight, in the form of a civil rights investigation into Harvard’s legacy admissions process by the Education Department, gives Mr. Biden an opportunity to show himself opposed to the country’s elites as he ramps up a presidential campaign in which he will need support from working-class voters culturally far afield from the Ivy League.

The inquiry serves as an early bank shot for Mr. Biden to show voters that his administration is trying to do something to respond to the Supreme Court’s ruling last month gutting affirmative action in higher education — a decision that led Mr. Biden to declare, “This is not a normal court.” The department’s Office of Civil Rights has significant enforcement authority and Mr. Biden, should he choose to use it, has the White House bully pulpit to negotiate a settlement with Harvard.

This week, the Education Department is hosting a “national summit on equal opportunity” in Washington. Mr. Biden has asked the department to produce a report by September with proposals of what the government should do in response to the court’s decision and singled out legacy admissions as an issue of concern.

But while the Biden administration’s investigation into legacy admissions will surely grab attention among a political and media class overrepresented by Ivy League alumni, it is far less likely to address enduring roadblocks to higher education like skyrocketing tuition costs and mountains of debt incurred by students.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Big Is the Legacy Boost at Elite Colleges? Claire Cain Miller and Aatish Bhatia, July 27, 2023. In the same week as an inquiry into Harvard, new data shows legacy students are slightly more qualified yet are four times as likely to get into top schools.

harvard logoIn the same week as a civil rights inquiry into Harvard, new data shows legacies are slightly more qualified yet are four times as likely to get into top schools.

The Education Department’s civil rights investigation into Harvard’s preference for admitting the children of alumni and donors is based on a complaint that it gives less-qualified applicants an edge over those who are more deserving, including students of color.

New data shows that at elite private colleges, the children of alumni, known as legacies, are in fact slightly more qualified than typical applicants, as judged by admissions offices. Even if their legacy status weren’t considered, they would still be about 33 percent more likely to be admitted than applicants with the same test scores, based on all their other qualifications, demographic characteristics and parents’ income and education, according to an analysis conducted by Opportunity Insights, a research group at Harvard.

Researchers said that was unsurprising, given that these students grow up in more educated families. Their parents may be more able to invest in their educations, pay for things like private schools or exclusive sports, and offer insight into what the college is looking for.

ny times logoNew York Times, What Happened When 15 of Twitter’s Top Celebrities Joined Threads, Yiwen Lu, July 27, 2023. What does the daily activity of Ellen DeGeneres, Wiz Khalifa, Selena Gomez and others say about the staying power of the new platform?

Threads, the new social app from Meta, had a fast start this month when it racked up 100 million downloads in less than a week. With so much momentum, the app seemed well on its way to dethroning Twitter.

But rapid downloads do not necessarily translate to long-term success. Now the question is whether Threads has staying power.

meta logoSo we embarked on an experiment. We compiled a list of 15 of some of the most-followed celebrities and high-profile figures on Twitter who joined Threads, including Katy Perry, Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Gates, Britney Spears, Shakira and Oprah Winfrey. Then we compared their activity on Twitter with their activity on Threads every day since July 5, when Threads was released. We also looked at what they did on Instagram, which is owned by Meta and developed Threads.

The idea was to see which social platform kept the celebrities — who either declined to comment or didn’t respond to requests for comment — the most active. What we found is just an early snapshot, but it may provide some clues to where Threads is headed.

chat gpt logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Researchers See Flaws in Safety Controls of ChatGPT and Other Chatbots, Cade Metz, July 27, 2023. A new report indicates that the guardrails for widely used chatbots can be thwarted, leading to an increasingly unpredictable environment for the technology.

When artificial intelligence companies build online chatbots, like ChatGPT, Claude and Google Bard, they spend months adding guardrails that are supposed to apple logo rainbowprevent their systems from generating hate speech, disinformation and other toxic material.

Now there is a way to easily poke holes in those safety systems.

In a report released on Thursday, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and the Center for A.I. Safety in San Francisco showed how anyone could circumvent A.I. safety measures and use any of the leading chatbots to generate nearly unlimited amounts of harmful information.

Their research underscored increasing concern that the new chatbots could flood the internet with false and dangerous information despite attempts by their creators to ensure that would not happen. It also showed how disagreements among leading A.I. companies were creating an increasingly unpredictable environment for the technology.

The researchers found that they could use a method gleaned from open source A.I. systems — systems whose underlying computer code has been released for anyone to use — to target the more tightly controlled and more widely used systems from Google, OpenAI and Anthropic.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sinead O’Connor, the outspoken Irish singer-songwriter known for her powerful, evocative voice, died at 56, Ben Sisario and Joe Coscarelli, Updated July 27, 2023. She broke out with the single “Nothing Compares 2 U,” then caused an uproar a few years later by ripping up a photo of Pope John Paul II on “S.N.L.”

Sinead O’Connor, the outspoken Irish singer-songwriter known for her powerful, evocative voice, as showcased on her biggest hit, a breathtaking rendition of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” and for her political provocations onstage and off, has died. She was 56.

“The death is not being treated as suspicious,” the police said in a statement.

Recognizable by her shaved head and by wide eyes that could appear pained or full of rage, Ms. O’Connor released 10 studio albums, beginning with the alternative hit “The Lion and the Cobra” in 1987. She went on to sell millions of albums worldwide, breaking out with “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got” in 1990.

That album, featuring “Nothing Compares 2 U,” a No. 1 hit around the world and an MTV staple, won a Grammy Award in 1991 for best alternative music performance — although Ms. O’Connor boycotted the ceremony over what she called the show’s excessive commercialism.

Ms. O’Connor rarely shrank from controversy, but it often came with consequences for her career.

 kevin spacey house

ny times logoNew York Times, Kevin Spacey Found Not Guilty of Sexual Assault, Alex Marshall, July 27, 2023 (print ed.). Kevin Spacey, the two-time Oscar-winning actor known for his movie and TV roles including “House of Cards” (shown above in a promotional photo from the show) was on Wednesday found not guilty by a jury in Britain of nine counts of sexual assault.

Almost six years after allegations of inappropriate behavior began to emerge against Mr. Spacey on both sides of the Atlantic, a jury at Southwark Crown Court in London took just over 12 hours to reach its decision.

As the verdicts were announced, Mr. Spacey, 64, stood in a transparent box in the middle of the courtroom, wearing a dark blue suit and looking unemotional as he faced the jury.

kevin spaceyBut when the final “not guilty” was read out, the actor, right, whose birthday falls on Wednesday, began to cry and sighed heavily with relief.

During the almost monthlong trial in London, the court heard from four men who said that Mr. Spacey assaulted them between 2001 and 2013. For most of that time, the actor was the artistic director of the Old Vic theater, a major London playhouse.

One complainant told the British police that Mr. Spacey touched him multiple times without his consent. The complainant described incidents included once in either 2004 or 2005 when he said the actor grabbed his genitals so hard that he almost veered off the road as they were heading to Elton John’s White Tie and Tiara Ball.

During the trial, Mr. Spacey — who appeared under his full name, Kevin Spacey Fowler — said that the pair had a consensual “naughty relationship.” The actor added that he felt “crushed” by the complainant’s characterization of their encounters. Elton John, giving evidence for Mr. Spacey’s defense, said that Mr. Spacey only attended his ball once, in 2001, several years before the complainant said he was groped.

Another complainant said that he wrote to Mr. Spacey hoping that the actor would mentor him, and eventually went for a drink at Mr. Spacey’s London home. That complainant said that he fell asleep in the apartment, and later woke up to discover Mr. Spacey on his knees, performing oral sex on him. Mr. Spacey said during the trial that the pair had consensual oral sex, then the man “hurriedly left,” as if he regretted the encounter.

On Jul. 20, Patrick Gibbs, Mr. Spacey’s legal representative, claimed that three of the complainants were lying and only made their accusations in the hope of financial gain. Mr. Spacey’s promiscuous lifestyle made him “quite an easy target” for false allegations, Mr. Gibbs added.

July 26


Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and others testify on censorship and free speech before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Weaponization of the Federal Government. Photo credit: C-SPAN

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and others testify on censorship and free speech before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Weaponization of the Federal Government. Photo credit: C-SPAN

WhoWhatWhy, Going Deep Investigative Commentary: RFK Jr.’s Panel of Health Hoaxers, Hucksters & Hustlers, Russ Baker, right, July 26, 2023. The russ baker cropped david welkerquestion is, what are they really selling?

Although he subsequently sought to deny it, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. really did say that wacky stuff suggesting that COVID-19 was bioengineered — targeted at specific ethnicities and races, while sparing others (those supposedly being spared were Chinese and Ashkenazi Jews.)

whowhatwhy logoHe tried to squirm out of it, claiming he never said it, but those words will not go away. To wit, they have already settled into the fertile soil of a neo-Nazi website.

So where does he get such material? Who are his sources? And how well is he able to evaluate them? That, we don’t know. What we do know is that a pretty strange group of self-anointed experts harboring extreme views on COVID-19, and more broadly on public health, are part of his brain trust.

One such person is Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, an early promoter of the theory that COVID-19 is a bioweapon designed to spare Chinese and Jewish people — almost exactly what Kennedy later claimed publicly, although she may have only confirmed ideas he already had.

Tenpenny is quite the character. She has shared numerous antisemitic claims on social media, including Holocaust denial and praise for the notorious forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,

In early 2022, she claimed Jews were using the Ukraine conflict to distract the world from a meeting in Europe about pandemic preparedness.

Kennedy will have a hard time disassociating himself from Tenpenny and her beliefs, given that she is right next to him in the image below for Kennedy’s June 27 “Health Policy Roundtable.”

Virtual Health Policy Roundtable tweet. Photo credit: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. / Twitter

Let’s take a closer look at Tenpenny, who Kennedy says is “leading this movement against vaccines,” and a brief look at the others.

Kennedy’s Brain Trust

Tenpenny has claimed that vaccines leave people magnetized. This was her proof:

They can put a key on their forehead. It sticks. They can put spoons and forks all over them and they can stick, because now we think that there’s a metal piece to that.

She explained this — as an “expert witness” — to lawmakers in the Ohio House at a hearing in favor of a bill that would prevent businesses and government from requiring proof of vaccination. A nurse tried to demonstrate the phenomenon, with embarrassing results.

Tenpenny also claimed that vaccines interface with 5G cellular towers, and that “we’re trying to figure out what it is that’s being transmitted to these unvaccinated [sic] people that is causing health problems.” She also spread the idea that vaccinated people “shed” — leading at least one private school to instruct immunized teachers to stay away from unvaccinated students, claiming they could develop menstrual irregularities and other reproductive harm, merely from interacting with them.

Tenpenny, author of the book Saying No to Vaccines, is an osteopath, a type of doctor deploying a holistic approach to disease — but with no expertise in magnetism, epidemiology, virology, immunology, or infectious disease. The Center for Countering Digital Hate said she is one of the top 12 spreaders of COVID-19 misinformation.


x logo twitter

washington post logoWashington Post, Why did Elon Musk change Twitter to X? Marketers are asking, too, Joseph Menn, July 26, 2023 (print ed.). In changing Twitter’s iconic blue logo, owner Elon Musk is trading a bird in the hand for the promise of a wide-ranging “everything app” analysts say may never materialize.

Twitter began removing its name from its corporate headquarters Monday, blocking two lanes of traffic as a large crane plucked letters off the sign. The crane departed by midafternoon leaving the task half-finished — only the blue bird logo and the “er” remained, next to a ghostly outline reading “@twitt.”
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Some will see that as an apt metaphor for state of business at the social media platform. In changing Twitter’s famous blue logo to a black-and-white “X,” part of a sweeping rebrand that has alienated longtime users and left marketing experts perplexed, owner Elon Musk is trading a bird in the hand for the promise of a wide-ranging “everything app,” one analysts say may never materialize.

He is leaving behind a symbol of silliness, outrage and celebrity that meant something to hundreds of millions, even earworming its way into the dictionary.

“It has become a verb. That’s the holy grail,” said Forrester research director Mike Proulx. “This is a brand that has secured a place in our cultural lexicon. Musk has wiped out over 15 years of brand equity in the Twitter name.”

Twitter begins rebrand to ‘X,’ removing bird from company logo

Twitter’s chief executive, Linda Yaccarino, said on the platform that the logo swap heralded larger shifts at the company as it transforms into a sweeping venture, encompassing commerce and an online payment system like the one Musk helped pioneer two decades ago at PayPal and a predecessor,

Yet marketing experts said that the move was an unnecessary gamble on a hazy future, coming from a platform with wide brand recognition. Though Twitter has weathered a year’s worth of bad news — its ad revenue is down 50 percent, alternatives are springing up, and regulators are circling — they said it would not make sense for the company to dodge by changing its handle, as some saw Facebook’s rebrand into Meta after the release of a trove of internal documents from whistleblower Frances Haugen.

“For most users and advertisers and folk in the tech world, the product itself is the problem,” said Boston College communications professor and branding expert Michael Serazio. “Putting a new name on it doesn’t change that in any material way.”

While striking, the letter X is hardly original when it comes to branding. Google has dubbed its start-up lab “X,” and Meta has trademarked a stylized version of the letter for its own social media.

The best argument, according to the marketers and many of Musk’s fans, is that what he is building will eclipse Twitter and the name change will force people to consider it as an entirely new venture, perhaps even one that deserves new investment and a shot at going public on the stock market.

Yaccarino declared that “X is the future state of unlimited interactivity,” including payments and the buying and selling of “goods, services, and opportunities” that will be “powered by AI.”

But that lofty vision is also an uphill climb.

“How many times has that worked in the past, where there is a big rebrand based on an original product failing? Where they rebranded to a larger strategy and pulled it off?” Serazio asked. “None come to mind.”

As Musk has welcomed back users banned from Twitter for breaking the platform’s rules against hate speech, the freewheeling discourse has sent some to new and unwieldy places, such as Mastodon and Meta’s Threads.

That atmosphere is an awkward fit for a company that hopes to persuade users to send money back and forth for unseen goods and services.

Then there are the security challenges that go with protecting such payments. Twitter’s security is so suspect that whistleblowers have said half the employees could make changes to the code without being detected or tweet as any user.
The Federal Trade Commission is investigating the company for lapses that may have put it in violation of prior agreements to protect user data.

U.S. and global finance regulators have more people and more power than the FTC, and they will be watching Musk closely.

“What the name change does is signal a new direction‚” said Forrester’s Proulx. “But to wipe the slate clean and start over, it takes time, money and people — three things that the company does not have right now.”

The identity switch follows other radical shifts Musk has pushed through since buying the global conversation platform for $44 billion in October.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jill Biden Takes the 2024 Campaign to Paris in Another Overseas Appeal, Katie Rogers, July 26, 2023 (print ed.). As the U.S. officially rejoined UNESCO, the first lady delivered what sounded like a campaign message, saying the president had rebuilt bonds.

At first glance, Jill Biden’s work on her trips overseas appears to be rooted in the traditional duties of first ladies: She has cheered on American Olympians in Tokyo, made a secret trip to Ukraine to meet with the country’s first lady and attended the royal wedding of the crown prince of Jordan.

But in a host of speeches delivered overseas, including in Namibia and France, she has also used her platform for more political purposes, including making her case that President Biden has promoted democracy and revitalized global relationships strained by former President Donald J. Trump.

In Paris on Tuesday, the first lady’s presence was a reminder, as the 2024 presidential campaign heats up, that Americans may again be choosing between the two men. Dr. Biden was there to deliver remarks for the official return of the United States to UNESCO, several years after the Trump administration pulled the country — and its funding — from the group.

She was also there to deliver a White House message that Mr. Biden had united allies against what she called “Putin’s unjust war” in Ukraine.

ny times logoNew York Times, Booksellers Move to the Front Lines of the Fight Against Book Bans in Texas, Alexandra Alter and Elizabeth A. Harris, July 26, 2023 (print ed.). With a book-rating law set to take effect in September, a group of booksellers, along with publishers and authors, filed suit to argue that it is unconstitutional.

Tuesday to stop a new law in Texas that would require stores to rate books based on sexual content, arguing the measure would violate their First Amendment rights and be all but impossible to implement.

The law, set to take effect in September, would force booksellers to evaluate and rate each title they sell to schools, as well as books they sold in the past. If they fail to comply, stores would be barred from doing business with schools.

“It will be a huge burden,” Valerie Koehler, the owner of Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, said of the law. She estimates that schools account for some 20 percent of her store’s sales. “It’s unfathomable to think that we would need to rate every book, not only ones that we’d sell in the future to schools, but also any books we’ve sold in the past.”

The Texas law, and the legal battle to block it, reflect a new front in an ongoing culture war over book banning and what constitutes appropriate reading material for children.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Hunger Fed by ‘Barbie’ and Taylor Swift, Michelle Goldberg, right, July 26, 2023 (print ed.). This summer’s two biggest entertainment michelle goldberg thumbphenomena, the movie “Barbie” and Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour, have a lot in common.

Both feature conventionally gorgeous blond women who alternately revel in mainstream femininity and chafe at its limitations, enacting an ambivalence shared by many of their fans. Both, beneath their slick, exuberant pop surfaces, tell female coming-of-age stories marked by existential crises and bitter confrontations with sexism. (The third song on Swift’s set list is “The Man,” whose refrain is, “I’m so sick of running as fast as I can/wondering if I’d get there quicker/if I was a man.”) And both have become juggernauts.

“Barbie” has just had the biggest opening weekend of any movie this summer, surpassing already high expectations to earn $162 million. More than just a movie, it’s become a major cultural event, with fans showing up in carefully curated outfits and then making TikToks of themselves crying, emotionally overcome. The film’s blunt feminism — its villain is, literally, patriarchy — has prompted an enjoyably impotent right-wing backlash. The conservative media figure Ben Shapiro opened a 43-minute monologue about how “viscerally angry” the movie made him by setting two Barbie dolls on fire.

The “Barbie” headlines echo the news about the Taylor Swift tour (which, full disclosure, I haven’t seen, since resale tickets are going for thousands of dollars). Eras is set to become the highest-grossing musical tour in history, boosting the economy of the cities in which Swift alights. More than just a series of concerts, it’s become, like Barbie, a major cultural event, with fans also showing up in carefully curated outfits and then making TikToks of their ecstatic tears. And though Swift hasn’t triggered the right the way Barbie has, she did make Shapiro really mad with a speech she made about Pride Month during a Chicago stop.

An obvious lesson from the gargantuan success of both “Barbie” and the Eras Tour is that there is a huge, underserved market for entertainment that takes the feelings of girls and women seriously. After years of Covid isolation, reactionary politics and a mental health crisis that has hit girls and young women particularly hard, there’s a palpable longing for both communal delight and catharsis.
“What happens in the crowd is messy, wild, benevolent and beautiful,” Amanda Petrusich wrote in The New Yorker about a Swift concert. A woman attending one of the first “Barbie” showings told The Guardian she’d been waiting for it for two years: “I’ve been dying to go to a movie theater and have something that feels like a monoculture event.”

Part of what has made “Barbie” so resonant — beyond the campy pleasures of its fantastic costumes and sets — is that it treats becoming a woman as a hero’s journey. (This is also what has made its critics on the right so furious.) A pivotal moment in the movie comes when America Ferrera’s character, Gloria, gives an impromptu speech about the impossible demands made of women: “You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line,” she cries. “It’s too hard! It’s too contradictory!”

The important part of this monologue — spoilers ahead — is not only what it articulates, but what it accomplishes. Gloria’s words wake up Barbies whom the Kens have brainwashed into submission. “By giving voice to the cognitive dissonance required to be a woman under the patriarchy you robbed it of its power!” exclaims the film’s heroine, Stereotypical Barbie, played by Margot Robbie. It’s consciousness-raising as magic. And, ultimately, as difficult as being an adult woman is, Robbie’s Barbie chooses it over remaining in the sexless girlhood idyll of Barbieland, as we learn in the film’s perfect last line.

Given the evident hunger out there for entertainment that channels female angst, it would make sense for Hollywood, once the writers’ and actors’ strikes are over, to do more to cultivate female writers and directors. Women are still rarely given the chance to direct high-budget films; as the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film found, women helmed only 11 percent of the 100 highest-grossing films of 2022. And looking at a list of last year’s major films, I was struck by how few of them seem to have been made with a female audience in mind, part of the reason there was so much pent-up demand for “Barbie.”

Searchlight Pictures is probably feeling good about signing Swift, who cites the “Barbie” director Greta Gerwig as an influence, to direct her feature film debut. But for the most part, unfortunately, it appears as if the lesson Hollywood is going to take from the success of “Barbie” is not to make more stories for women, but to make more movies about toys.

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Sentenced to 30 Months in Death of ‘The Wire’ Actor, Maria Cramer, July 26, 2023 (print ed.). Carlos Macci, 72, was part of a crew that sold Michael K. Williams fentanyl-laced heroin that killed him in 2021.

Carlos Macci spent decades struggling with addiction, selling heroin and fentanyl not to make money but to ease his own cravings, according to court records.

He was part of a four-man crew selling drugs out of an apartment in Williamsburg, and on Sept. 5, 2021, he was with a man who sold a bag of fentanyl-laced heroin to the actor Michael K. Williams.

Mr. Williams, who became famous for playing a charismatic stickup man named Omar Little on the HBO series “The Wire,” took the drugs back to his Brooklyn apartment and was found dead the following day, still wearing the same clothes he had on the day before.

On Tuesday, Mr. Macci, now 72, walked into Federal District Court in Manhattan, his shoulders stooped, and apologized for his role in Mr. Williams’ death. The judge sentenced him to 30 months in prison.

Over the past several weeks, Judge Ronnie Abrams had received letters from friends of Mr. Williams, including from David Simon, the co-creator of “The Wire,” who asked the judge to sentence Mr. Macci to time served. Federal prosecutors sought at least a four-year sentence.

July 25

ny times logoNew York Times, A Decade Ago, Jeff Bezos Bought a Newspaper. Now He’s Paying Attention to It Again, Benjamin Mullin and Katie Robertson, July 25, 2023 (print ed.)). The Amazon founder, who purchased The Washington Post for $250 million in 2013, has taken a more active role in the paper’s operations this year.

During his tenure as executive editor at The Washington Post, Martin Baron ran into a persistent problem.

jeffrey bezos washington postJeff Bezos, left, had purchased The Post for $250 million in 2013, less than a year after Mr. Baron had taken over. Mr. Bezos, who arrived at media ownership after founding Amazon and remaking online shopping, wanted his top editor to transform the newspaper from a regional news organization into a truly global one.

But Mr. Bezos, whose representatives kept an eye on the budget, didn’t believe the Post needed to add many new editors to accomplish that task. Reporters were classified as “direct” employees and editors as “indirect” — and his preference was to keep the “indirect” numbers down.

So, Mr. Baron came up with a workaround, according to his coming memoir.

“To avoid setting off alarms up the line, my deputies and I would strip the word ‘editor’ from proposed new positions whenever possible,” Mr. Baron writes. “‘Analyst’ or ‘strategist’ were among the limited set of workarounds.”

washington post logoThese days, Mr. Bezos knows more about the news business. And in recent months, he has become more involved with The Post’s operations, stepping in as staff morale cratered and the business struggled.

Mr. Bezos has said he wants The Post to be profitable, but it is unlikely to reach that target this year.

The Post is on a pace to lose about $100 million in 2023, according to two people with knowledge of the company’s finances; two other people briefed on the situation said the company was expecting to miss its forecasts for ad revenue this year. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal financial matters. The Post has struggled to increase the number of its paying customers since the 2020 election, when its digital subscriptions peaked at three million. It now has around 2.5 million.

Mr. Bezos’ purchase of The Washington Post ended decades of ownership by the Graham family — which had steered the paper through its legendary coverage of Watergate and the Pentagon Papers — and signified a new era of expansion under one of the world’s most famous entrepreneurs. In a meeting with staff shortly after his purchase, Mr. Bezos encouraged Post employees to experiment digitally, taking advantage of the “gifts of the internet,” such as global reach, that had made Amazon a stunning success. He provided ample financial support to expand the newsroom.

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter begins rebrand to ‘X,’ removing bird from company logo, Joseph Menn and Marianna Sotomayor, July 25, 2023 (print ed.). Elon Musk said the company would replace the blue bird with an ‘X,’ which started showing up on the site overnight.

Twitter began its rebrand to “X” early Monday, replacing the widely recognized blue bird on its official account and site and replacing it with the letter in a black and white design.

The changes came after billionaire owner Elon Musk said his social media platform will retire the blue bird logo — and eventually the Twitter name — as part of his effort to overhaul the company.
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The “X,” was featured on Twitter’s own account, along with some branding on the site, though the blue bird logo and other references to the Twitter name could still be found in certain places. Musk’s account also took on an X logo. Twitter chief executive Linda Yaccarino tweeted, “X is here! Let’s do this.”

July 24

washington post logoWashington Post, Fox News hosts are pushing Trump to join the Fox News GOP debate, Jeremy Barr and Josh Dawsey, July 24, 2023 (print ed.). The former president’s refusal to commit to the first debate of the 2024 cycle could make it a ratings wash-out. Aides say he’s unlikely to change his mind.

Fox News personalities Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade, John Roberts and Piers Morgan have all come out in agreement: In their opinion, Donald Trump should absolutely participate in the first Republican presidential candidates debate of the 2024 cycle, which will be held next month in Milwaukee — and broadcast on their very own Fox News.

The former president has refused to commit to the Aug. 23 debate, and he indicated as recently as Sunday that he’s leaning against it. (“When you have a big lead, you don’t do it,” he told interviewer Maria Bartiromo.) So in the meantime, various hosts on Fox have taken it upon themselves to use the network’s airwaves to try to make the case to the man himself.

“If you’re watching, Donald, come on!” Morgan, who hosts a show on the Fox Nation streaming platform, said in an appearance on Fox News last week. “Get on that stage and show us what you’re made of. If you want to be president again, you’ve got to come out and face the debate music. … You know you want to secretly.”

While Morgan and other Fox personalities have argued that Trump’s participation is an essential part of the democratic process, it also seems clear that a Republican debate without Trump is much less likely to attract a significant viewing audience, given his standing in the party and massive lead in the polls.

“He’s worth somewhere between 2 and 4 million viewers, so of course Fox wants him to participate,” said longtime GOP pollster Frank Luntz.

Fox News management has not encouraged on-air talent to lobby Trump to appear at the debate, according to a network official familiar with the situation who was not authorized to comment.

On Monday morning, the co-hosts of “Fox & Friends” pitched Trump on the event. “It would be great to see President Trump and Ron DeSantis and Chris Christie just duke it out,” Doocy said. “That’s why they call it a debate. … Show up, debate, and shine. This is his big chance.”

July 22


tony bennett

ny times logoNew York Times, Tony Bennett, Champion of the Great American Songbook, Is Dead at 96, Bruce Weber, July 22, 2023 (print ed.). From his initial success as a jazzy crooner through his generation-spanning duets, his career was remarkable for its longevity and its consistency.

Tony Bennett, above, a singer whose melodic clarity, jazz-influenced phrasing, audience-embracing persona and warm, deceptively simple interpretations of musical standards helped spread the American songbook around the world and won him generations of fans, died on Friday in New York City. He was 96.

His publicist, Sylvia Weiner, announced his death.

In February 2021, his wife, Susan Bennett, told AARP The Magazine that Mr. Bennett learned he had Alzheimer’s disease in 2016. He continued to perform and record despite his illness; his last public performance was in August of that year, when he appeared with Lady Gaga at Radio City Music Hall in a show titled “One Last Time.”

Mr. Bennett’s career of more than 70 years was remarkable not only for its longevity, but also for its consistency. In hundreds of concerts and club dates and more than 150 recordings, he devoted himself to preserving the classic American popular song, as written by Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Duke Ellington, Rodgers and Hammerstein and others.


tony bennett portrait

washington post logoWashington Post, Drugs nearly killed Bennett in 1979. He recovered — and revived his career, Timothy Bella, July 22, 2023 (print ed.). Tony Bennett’s career was in the toilet and his life was spinning out of control.

It was 1979, and Bennett was without a recording contract or manager, not performing much outside of Las Vegas, and his marriage was falling apart. When the IRS sought to seize his Los Angeles home after he failed to pay $2 million in taxes, Bennett said he “overindulged” on cocaine and marijuana to the point that he almost overdosed. If not for Sandra Grant, his wife at the time, saving him from drowning in the bathroom when he was high on cocaine, Bennett could have died in his 50s.

Washington Post, How Bennett helped a bandmate during a family crisis, July 22, 2023 (print ed.). .

washington post logoWashington Post, Top tech firms sign White House pledge to identify AI-generated images, Cat Zakrzewski, July 22, 2023 (print ed.). Google and ChatGPT-maker OpenAI agreed to the voluntary safety commitments, part of an escalation in the Biden administration’s interest in the area as it readies an AI-focused executive order

chat gpt logoThe White House on Friday announced that seven of the most influential companies building artificial intelligence have agreed to a voluntary pledge to mitigate the risks of the emerging technology, escalating the Biden administration’s involvement in the growing debate over AI regulation.
meta logo

The companies — which include Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Meta and Chat GPT-maker OpenAI — vowed to allow independent security experts to test their systems before they are released to the public and committed to sharing data about the safety of their systems with the government and academics.

The firms also pledged to develop systems to alert the public when an image, video or text is created by artificial intelligence, a method known as “watermarking.”

ny times logoNew York Times, With Hollywood on Strike, a Bright Spot in New York’s Economy Goes Dark, Stefanos Chen, July 22, 2023 (print ed.). Tens of thousands of behind-the-scenes workers, in solidarity with striking actors and writers, are bracing for what could be a long standoff with studios.

While Los Angeles is the epicenter for film and TV in the United States, New York has long staked its claim as Hollywood East, and the standoff is already taking a toll on tens of thousands of workers in one of the city’s fastest-growing industries.

But it’s not just actors and writers who are out of work. With both the studios and unions expecting a drawn-out battle, everyone from makeup artists and costume designers to carpet dealers and foam sculptors is preparing to perhaps go for months without working, at a time when many are still recovering from the pandemic.

ny times logoNew York Times, Searching for Someone to Deliver a Hollywood Ending, Brooks Barnes, July 22, 2023 (print ed.). Thanks to a changing culture and differing business models, Lew Wasserman reigned as Hollywood’s major power broker for decades, starting in the 1960s (New York Times photo by Chester Higgins Jr.).the entertainment industry lacks power brokers with the stature to bring on labor peace. Lew Wasserman, right, reigned as Hollywood’s major power broker for decades, starting in the 1960s (New York Times photo by Chester Higgins Jr.).

At the moment, no talks between union leaders and the involved companies are happening and none have been scheduled, with each side insisting the other has to make the first move.

Two federal mediators have been studying the issues that led to the breakdown in negotiations. Agents and lawyers are engaged in a flurry of back-channel phone conversations, encouraging union leaders and studio executives to soften their unmovable positions; Bryan Lourd, the Creative Artists Agency heavyweight, asked the Biden administration and Gov. Gavin Newsom of California to get involved, according to three people briefed on the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the labor situation. A spokesman for Mr. Lourd declined to comment.

Emotions must cool before talks restart, said one entertainment lawyer who has been working in the background to bring the sides together again. When does that happen? He said it could be next week or it could be-mid August.

Starting in 1960, the last time both actors and writers were on strike, and continuing into the 1990s, the person who could break an impasse was the feared Lew Wasserman, head of MCA. He commanded the respect of both labor and management and could push beyond the colorful personalities in each camp.

Washington Post, Artifacts meant for a White House party ended up at Mar-a-Lago. Awkwardness ensued, July 22, 2023 (print ed.). Israeli officials sent some ancient oil lamps and coins to display at a 2019 Hanukkah party. A Trump spokesperson said the former president would expedite their return.

Earlier this week, a minor — but still majorly awkward — diplomatic kerfuffle surfaced when Israeli media reported that officials there were struggling to get back some ancient artifacts from Mar-a-Lago.

Details remain murky of how Israeli officials lost track of the centuries-old oil lamps and coins at former president Donald Trump’s club in Palm Beach, Fla. But cultural heritage experts say the episode shows what can go wrong when ancient artifacts are not handled properly.

News of the items’ journey first became public Tuesday, when Israeli news site Haaretz reported that the government had been trying for several months “unsuccessfully” to get the artifacts returned from Mar-a-Lago. It said the items were “stranded.”

The outbreak of the pandemic nixed their prompt return, Hasson told Haaretz, and he asked California businessman Saul Fox to hold on to them. Fox, the CEO of a private equity firm, is a donor to the Republican Party and to archaeological causes in Israel.

Haaretz quoted an anonymous Israeli official as saying the Antiquities Authority “woke up too late” to the challenge of getting the items back. It’s not clear whether the issue, after more than three years, suddenly became a higher priority under new leadership at the authority. By that time, there was confusion over whether the items now belonged to Trump.

A Trump spokesman Friday said the items had been presented “with the full support of the [Antiquities Authority]. The items were on loan for permanent exhibition at the behest of the organization, to honor and celebrate American-Jewish heritage and the close friendship between Israel and President Trump. As the items were displayed as originally intended, the office will be expediting their return to the organization’s representative.”

The news site quoted Yisrael Hasson, who was the head of Israel’s Antiquities Authority in 2019, saying he had approved the items going to the White House to be displayed at a Hanukkah party, and then to be returned in a few weeks.

  • Washington Post, Kemp, Ga. governor, contacted by Trump special counsel in 2020 probe, Josh Dawsey, July 22, 2023.

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas A&M president retires after hiring controversy of journalism director, Nicole Asbury and Susan Svrluga, July 22, 2023 (print ed.). The president of Texas A&M University is retiring after a deal to hire a director of its journalism program fell apart and drew complaints of political interference.

Earlier this week, the university’s faculty senate passed a resolution to create a committee to investigate “the failed appointment” of the hiring of Kathleen McElroy, a tenured professor at the University of Texas at Austin and a former editor at the New York Times.

texas mapAt a three-hour-long faculty meeting on Wednesday, the university president, M. Katherine Banks, took responsibility for a “flawed hiring process,” but denied knowing about changes in the job offered to McElroy, according to the Texas A&M University System. Banks submitted a resignation letter on Thursday.

“The recent challenges regarding Dr. McElroy have made it clear to me that I must retire immediately,” Banks, who had led Texas A&M since 2021, said in a statement. “The negative press is a distraction from the wonderful work being done here.”

Hart Blanton, who heads Texas A&M’s department of communications and journalism, on Friday accused Banks of misleading faculty by representing that the decision-making was botched at the department level. “To the contrary, President Banks injected herself into the process atypically and early on,” he said in a statement released by an attorney.

Faculty at the university, which has nearly 75,000 students, were stunned by news of Banks’s retirement. “We are still trying to wrap our heads around that,” said Tracy Hammond, speaker of the faculty senate. “It’s certainly a very unexpected event.”

The controversy at Texas A&M came at an inflection point for higher education nationally, weeks after the Supreme Court rejected affirmative action in college admissions and also as some state lawmakers have sought to exert more control over public universities. It also echoed the high-profile implosion at another state university a couple of years ago: the effort to hire Nikole Hannah-Jones, lead author of the New York Times Magazine’s 1619 project, for a job at the journalism school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: The right-wing fixation with Hunter Biden’s nudes, explained, Monica Hesse, July 22, 2023 (print ed.). Why have Marjorie Taylor monica hesseGreene, Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson tried calling attention to pictures of the president’s naked son?

A years-long fixation reached its predictable apotheosis on Wednesday when Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) used her allotted time during a hearing of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee to publicly display some hardcore nudes of Hunter Biden.

“Before we begin, I would like to let the committee and everyone watching at home know that parental discretion is advised,” Greene said. She then proceeded to whip out a series of X-rated posters.

I would like to describe the content of these photos but I would also like to not be fired, so I’ll refer you to the New York Post’s retelling. The images included “a (mercifully) censored picture of a woman caressing the first son’s, well, first son.” Hats off, guys, truly.

What was the point of these photos? According to Greene, they were necessary supporting evidence in an alleged tax fraud coverup. (Last month Biden reached a tentative agreement with federal prosecutors to plead guilty to two minor tax crimes.) But people who are allegedly guilty of tax fraud can be just as guilty when they are wearing pants. Did the American public really need to see this?

Ever since 2019, when a computer repair guy in Delaware came into possession of a busted laptop allegedly belonging to the president’s son — a busted laptop containing a lot of naked selfies and homemade porn — the answer to that question in conservative circles had become a resounding yes. Show the citizenry the phallus of a middle-aged attorney-slash-cocaine addict, preferably from many angles! Leave no butt cheek behind!

“This is actually the evidence that I believe the American people deserve to see,” Greene explained to a Newsmax host the evening after her stunt.

Tucker Carlson mined similar territory on his prime time show in 2021, showing viewers what appeared to be an image of Hunter Biden being straddled by two women (“There is a dog there with him, as well,” Carlson’s guest remarked, in case casual viewers had missed the white poodle minding its own business in the corner of the frame).

Sean Hannity had gone there, too: “Hunter Biden’s latest video: Nude water slide riding,” he tweeted last fall. The video link wasn’t working when I clicked on it earlier this week, but I found a number of still images online that fit the description. I fail to see their political relevance, though they make a compelling case for why one should always wear clothes when skidding down any kind of slide.

Republicans on the House Oversight Committee earlier this year held a hearing investigating why Twitter had muffled New York Post reporting on the laptop, and whether the site had allowed the Biden campaign to inappropriately censor content Twitter related to the president’s son. A Twitter employee repeatedly explained that the content was not removed because Twitter was in cahoots with the Bidens, the content was removed because it was a bunch of naked pictures of Hunter Biden, posted without his consent, which violated Twitters terms of service.

What’s going on here? The most serious accusations against Hunter Biden revolve around the idea that he used his positions with foreign companies to sell access to his politician father (no evidence has yet been produced that the elder Biden was influenced by his son’s role with these companies). What does Hunter’s hunter have to do with the integrity of his father’s administration?

The goal appears to be shaming him in general and, by extension, the entire Biden family.

There is, after all, something oddly clarifying about a picture of a 50-ish man strolling around in unflattering lighting wearing sunglasses, a hot pink scarf, a jock strap and nothing else. Images like this present, in a single frame, a compelling narrative of debauchery and dirt. A narrative that no amount of depositions, leaked emails or lengthy confessional memoirs could begin to approach. Naked Hunter Biden is a joke, a degenerate, a walking embodiment of squick. He is lecherous and louche, sloppy and sleazy. God, Hunter, put on some shorts.

But there’s also this.

In the course of reporting this column I came upon a website — linked to by a Fox News article — that purports to be a photo dump of nearly every picture salvaged from Hunter Biden’s laptop. Almost 10,000 images in total, presented as endless pages of clickable thumbnails.

There are a lot of naked pictures. There are a lot of pictures that make Hunter Biden look exactly as high, inebriated, irresponsible and all around disastrous as he has described himself to be for a period of time in the late 2010s.

But there are also pictures of his kids’ sporting events. Birthday parties. Family trips to the beach. Assuming these photos are all real, there are excruciating pictures of Hunter’s brother, Beau, in his hospital bed, timestamped just weeks before he died in 2015. By all accounts, the death unraveled the family. It brought Hunter to his lowest places of lonely motels and decaying teeth, to benders where he has said he’d go days subsisting on nothing but crack and vodka.

These images tell a different kind of story. One in which the degenerate man keeps trying to claw his way out of the hell he’s made for himself, one in which he keeps being sucked back in. He’s a proud dad, he’s a struggling son, he’s a wasted addict. In many selfies he is fully clothed when he stares down the camera, the expression on his face belonging to a man who appears haunted and emptied by what he has become.

These were the ones that felt like the biggest intrusion of privacy. These weren’t the types of Hunter Biden images that end up on a poster board in Marjorie Taylor Greene’s congressional clown show. But in those images, he has never looked more naked.

The Hill, Hunter Biden demands ethics probe into Marjorie Taylor Greene, Julia Mueller, April 24, 2023. A lawyer for Hunter Biden, the son of President Biden, on Monday called for the Office of Congressional Ethics to review Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) for “unhinged rhetoric,” possible violations of House ethics rules and official conduct standards following a number of statements and accusations made by the Georgia lawmaker.

“Representative Greene’s unethical conduct arises from her continuous verbal attacks, defamatory statements, publication of personal photos and data, and promotion of conspiracy theories about and against Robert Hunter Biden,” attorney Abbe David Lowell wrote in a letter to Ethics chairmen, obtained by Politico.

“None of these could possibly be deemed to be part of any legitimate legislative activity, as is clear from both the content of her statements and actions, and the forums she uses to spew her often unhinged rhetoric,” Lowell said.

The letter argues that Greene’s online statements and public talk of Biden and his family are “a spray of shotgun pellets of personal vitriol” from her official position as a congresswoman.

Lowell identifies several of Greene’s social media posts, including one in which she accused Biden of being “linked to an eastern European prostitution or human trafficking ring.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Google, Meta fight with Canada over law forcing them to pay for news, Amanda Coletta, July 22, 2023. When Google opened a new office in Kitchener, Ontario, in 2016, it welcomed a special guest.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who months earlier swept to power in a campaign that leveraged digital tools, praised the tech giant for “always” working “very, very hard not just to be a good corporate citizen, but to be a strong and active player in Canada.”

But now, Trudeau appears to have a dimmer view of the company. His government is in a high-stakes showdown with Google and Meta, accusing them of unfairly profiting at the expense of Canadian news outlets and of using “bullying tactics” to intimidate officials.

Canada’s fight echoes frustrations in places around the world, from Indonesia to California, about power imbalances resulting from the tech giants’ dominance. And so how the dispute plays out here — who, if anyone, blinks first — is being closely watched.

Meta says it will block news from Facebook, Instagram in Canada

At issue is Bill C-18, passed last month as Canada’s Online News Act, which aims to shore up a struggling media industry by requiring tech firms to compensate domestic news publishers for the content shared on their platforms.

The tech companies have responded with threats and retaliatory moves. Meta reiterated a commitment to block news on Facebook and Instagram for users in Canada before the law goes into effect, and the company canceled a $4-million fellowship program for emerging journalists.

“The Online News Act is fundamentally flawed legislation that ignores the realities of how our platforms work, the preferences of the people who use them, and the value we provide news publishers,” Meta said in a statement. “As the Minister of Canadian Heritage has said, how we choose to comply with the legislation is a business decision we must make, and we have made our choice.”

July 21nfl logo croppedny times logoNew York Times, N.F.L. Fines Snyder $60 Million for Sexual Harassment and Withholding Revenue, Ken Belson and Jenny Vrentas, July 21, 2023 (print ed.).  Daniel Snyder will pay $60 million in restitution after a league investigation found that he sexually harassed a female employee and improperly withheld revenue when he owned the Washington Commanders.

A league-sponsored investigation released Thursday found credible claims made by Tiffani Johnston, the former team employee, who said that Snyder put his hand on her thigh without her consent at a work dinner in 2005 or 2006, and that he later attempted to push her toward the back seat of his car after the event. According to the report, her account was supported by evidence and contemporaneous witnesses.

The findings were reported by Mary Jo White, a former federal prosecutor and chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who spent 17 months looking into allegations of widespread sexual harassment against executives at the team, including Snyder, as well as claims of financial improprieties.

The N.F.L. released White’s report immediately after the 31 other clubs unanimously approved the sale of the Commanders to an investment group led by Josh Harris for $6.05 billion, a record for an American pro sports team.

“The conduct substantiated in Ms. White’s findings has no place in the N.F.L.,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “We strive for workplaces that are safe, respectful and professional. What Ms. Johnston experienced is inappropriate and contrary to the N.F.L.’s values.”

White’s report also substantiated claims made by a former Washington ticket executive, Jason Friedman, who said the team had intentionally shielded and withheld revenues that were intended to be shared among the league’s 32 teams. According to the report, about $11 million in shareable revenues were confirmed to have been improperly withheld.

The investigators wrote that they could neither conclude nor rule out that Snyder had directed or participated in this revenue-shielding, but that “at a minimum, he was aware of certain efforts to minimize revenue sharing.”

Johnston and Friedman made those allegations in early 2022 as part of a congressional inquiry prompted by the league’s refusal to release the details of its first investigation into workplace harassment claims at the team in 2021.

washington post logoWashington Post, NFL owners approve sale of Commanders from Daniel Snyder to Josh Harris, Mark Maske and Nicki Jhabvala, July 21, 2023 (print ed.) The Washington Commanders and their fans ushered out more than two decades of turmoil and disappointment Thursday and began what they hope will be a cleansing and prosperous new era after NFL teams owners unanimously approved Josh Harris’s $6.05 billion purchase of the franchise from Daniel Snyder.

The owners met at a Minneapolis-area hotel and voted, 32-0, to ratify the record-setting deal. The sale could close as soon as Friday, officially completing the once-proud franchise’s first ownership change since Snyder bought the team and its stadium in Landover, Md., from the Jack Kent Cooke estate in 1999 for $800 million.

“Obviously it was a long process,” Harris said at a news conference following the approval vote. “Sometimes that’s what happens. We’re very excited to get to work and to start the new era of Washington football. And, I mean, we are humbled and awed by the level of responsibility that we have to take care of the city and to win championships and to really excite the fans again.”


robert oppenheimer

washington post logoWashington Post, Retropolis, The Past, Rediscovered: The atomic bombings left Oppenheimer shattered: ‘I have blood on my hands,’ Timothy Bella, July 21, 2023. While President Harry Truman assured J. Robert Oppenheimer he should not carry the burden of the bombs, the president was privately infuriated by the “crybaby scientist.”

Politico, ‘It makes them all look silly': Dems prepare to scorch RFK Jr. testimony, Nicholas Wu and Jordain Carney, July 21, 2023 (print ed.). The longshot Democratic presidential candidate is testifying on alleged social media censorship, at the invitation of House Republicans.

politico CustomHouse Republicans are openly goading their Democratic colleagues by handing a megaphone to Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Democrats are determined to make sure it backfires.

GOP leaders invited Kennedy to testify at a Thursday hearing on alleged social media censorship, sticking by the plan even after the long-shot presidential contender’s recent false claims that the coronavirus pandemic was designed to spare Jews and Chinese people.

The move essentially gave Democrats two choices.

They could either ignore what they see as a blatant attempt to embarrass Biden by elevating an opponent or they could embrace a chance to directly rebut the unfounded claims Kennedy has spread, particularly on vaccines. They’re going with the latter and, in the process, taking Republicans to task for elevating him.

“He is spouting baseless, unfactual, unscientific conspiracy theories,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.). “You shine a white-hot spotlight on someone like that and expose the Republicans for their hypocrisy.”

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) put it more simply, calling Kennedy’s appearance another example of Republicans having “crackpots for witnesses.”

The strategy will force Democrats to go head-to-head with a member of one of their most famous dynasties amid broader jitters about a third-party spoiler in the presidential race. But they’re hoping to turn Republicans’ attempted trolling to their advantage, driving home one of their core arguments against the House GOP’s investigative onslaught this year: that it’s a politically motivated sideshow for the Republican base, not the policymaking swing voters crave.

“It makes them all look silly. … His own family has said: ‘We don’t support any of that.’ So you’re going to put a discredited witness at the table that is going to embarrass himself, embarrass the family and embarrass [Republicans]. That is your witness?” Connolly asked.
‘False’ and ‘vile’: White house slams RFK Jr.’s Covid comments

In addition to Kennedy — who has billed himself as the “prime witness” — Republicans have also called in an editor from the ultra-right publication Breitbart and D. John Sauer, the special assistant attorney general from the Louisiana Department of Justice.

A Democratic committee aide described calling Kennedy Jr. as the “ultimate troll job” but added that the party’s bigger point will be highlighting that “there are real problems and real issues in this country, and this isn’t one of them.” Democrats have invited Maya Wiley, the president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, as their witness.

“This hearing is about Big Government’s censorship of Americans and nothing else,” said a GOP spokesperson for the Judiciary Committee.

Kennedy’s presidential campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

As odious as they find Kennedy’s rhetoric, top Democrats aren’t ready to let him speak unchecked on Thursday. Totally ignoring him was never on the table — they’d seen first firsthand how declining to participate in the Jan. 6 select committee had disadvantaged Republicans.

“I don’t want to leave the hearing room for the Republicans to have a free-for-all without being checked on inaccuracies and spreading more hate,” said Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-V.I.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary subcommittee that investigates GOP claims of bias within the federal government.

Not all Democratic members of the panel wanted to spend energy rebutting Kennedy during the hearing. Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) said experts had already “refuted all of his crazy theories.”

“They’re just digging themselves into a hole, deeper and deeper,” she said of the panel’s Republicans.

 July 20

washington post logoWashington Post, The outrage over Jason Aldean’s ‘Try That in a Small Town,’ explained, Herb Scribner, July 20, 2023. CMT pulled the video for Jason Aldean's "Try That in a Small Town," which is set at the Maury County Courthouse where a lynching and race riot took place.

Country music star Jason Aldean is facing immense backlash over his new music video “Try That in a Small Town,” which combines news footage of Black Lives

“Try that in a small town/ See how far ya make it down the road/ Around here, we take care of our own.”

“Got a gun that my granddad gave me/ They say one day they’re gonna round up/ Well that s--- might fly in the city/ Good luck.”

A channel devoted to country music videos has pulled the video out of rotation after accusations that it promotes racism and violence. But “Try That in a Small Town” has also leaped to the top of many streaming charts, and top Republicans are defending Aldean, who insists the song has nothing to do with race.

Aldean released the song in May but started facing widespread criticism after the music video hit YouTube last Friday.

The video is made up largely of news clips showing protests, riots and police confrontations in cities — at least some of which took place during Black Lives Matter demonstrations prompted by police killings. Other clips show an attempted convenience store robbery and other apparent crimes.

These alternate with shots of Aldean and his band performing in the public square of Columbia, Tenn. — population about 45,000.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: American Theater Is Imploding Before Our Eyes, Isaac Butler, July 20, 2023 (print ed.). The American theater is on the verge of collapse.

Here’s just a sampling of recent dire developments: The Public Theater announced this year that the Under the Radar festival, the most exciting of New York’s experimental performance incubators, would be postponed indefinitely and later announced it was laying off 19 percent of its staff. The Humana Festival of New American Plays, a vital launching pad for such great playwrights as Lynn Nottage and Will Eno over the past four decades, was canceled this year.

Theater has always been a risky endeavor. Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Dangling Conversation” asked “Is the theater really dead?” back in 1966. The current situation, however, risks building to an unprecedented crisis: the shuttering of theaters across the country and a permanent shrinking of the possibilities of the American stage. For those of us in New York, it might be easy to look at Broadway’s return to pre-Covid audience numbers and think it signals something like normal. But Broadway in its current form depends on nonprofit theaters to develop material and support artists. Nonprofit theaters are where many recent hits — including “A Strange Loop” and “Hamilton,” both of which won Pulitzer Prizes — started out.

ny times logoNew York Times, Wesleyan University Ends Legacy Admissions, Vimal Patel, July 20, 2023 (print ed.). With the Supreme Court’s decision to ban race-conscious admissions, the pressure is on selective colleges to end preferences for children of alumni.

Wesleyan University, a liberal arts college in Connecticut, is ending legacy admissions, which give a leg up to the children of alumni, just weeks after the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action.

July 19

washington post logoWashington Post, L.A. investigating after Universal trims trees near writers’ picket line, Daniel Wu, July 19, 2023. L.A. City Controller Kenneth Mejia said in a tweet Tuesday evening that his office is investigating the trimmings. The pruned trees are managed by the city, though businesses can obtain permits to trim trees from the city’s Bureau of Street Services, Mejia said. He added that they should be trimmed every five years.

July 18

Emptywheel, Analysis: WaPo Is Suppressing Information that Might Debunk Devlin Barrett's Latest Spin, Emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler), July 18, 2023. / The two reports WaPo had done last year, assessing the "Hunter Biden" drive forensically, are two of the only available reports that might explain anomalies disclosed by IRS agents in testimony to Congress. But unlike the Washington Examiner, WaPo won't release those reports.

washington post logoWashington Post, A North Korean defector captivated U.S. media. Some question her story, Will Sommer, July 18, 2023 (print ed.). Yeonmi Park, a North Korean defector, has become an “anti-woke” star in American conservative media. But critics say her life story doesn’t add up.

North Korean flagMegyn Kelly introduced a guest on a February episode of her podcast with an unusual caveat: “People have been coming for” Yeonmi Park, she said, by accusing the North Korean defector turned American conservative activist of telling false stories about her home country.

The host acknowledged some shifting aspects of Park’s accounts — but “whatever!” she concluded. Kelly assured listeners that she had fact-checked Park’s story, and “as incredible as they were, her descriptions of North Korea checked out.” Later, she urged Park to run for office.

Sixteen years after fleeing the brutal regime, Park has become a multiplatform star in America, appearing on “The Joe Rogan Experience” and other popular podcasts, amassing a YouTube following of more than 1 million subscribers and selling more than 100,000 copies of “In Order to Live,” her 2015 memoir about the cruelties and deprivations of life under the communist dictatorship.

Now, though, Park is making the media rounds to raise alarms about another nation: the United States.

Citing her experiences as a student at Columbia University, Park styles herself as “the enemy of the woke,” warning that America is on the verge of liberal dictatorship and that “cancel culture” at U.S. colleges is the first step toward North Korean-style firing squads. It’s the theme of her new book, “While Time Remains,” published in February by a conservative imprint of Simon & Schuster. As of early July, the book, which features a foreword from Canadian professor and conservative lifestyle guru Jordan Peterson, had sold at least 35,000 copies, according to sales-tracking service NPD BookScan.

July 16

National Press Club, Statement on Murder of Mexican Journalist Nelson Matus, Staff Report, July 16, 2023. Following is a statement from Eileen O’Reilly, president of the National Press Club, and Gil Klein, president of the National Press Club Journalism Institute, on the murder of Nelson Matus, right, director of Lo Real de Guerrero, in Mexico yesterday.

nelson matus twitter“Our hearts go out to the family and colleagues of Nelson Matus who was shot and killed while in a parked car in a shopping center in Acapulco last night. Matus was a long-time journalist for Lo Real de Guerrero. This was the 3rd known attempt on his life since 2017.

national  press club logo“We are exceedingly concerned at what is happening to journalists in Mexico who are simply doing their very important jobs to investigate and inform citizens. Matus is the 5th journalist killed in Mexico in 2023 and follows the murder discovered last week of journalist Luis Martin Sanchez. Last year 13 journalists were killed in Mexico – the highest number since records have been kept. Few of these cases are properly investigated.

“The National Press Club and The National Press Club Journalism Institute call on Mexican authorities to redouble their efforts to prosecute those responsible for these murders and to send a signal to criminals that the murder of journalists will not be tolerated.”

ny times logoNew York Times, In Hollywood, the Strikes Are Just Part of the Problem, Brooks Barnes, July 16, 2023 (print ed.). The entertainment industry is trying to figure out the economics of streaming. It’s also facing angst over a tech-powered future and fighting to stay culturally dominant.

Existential hand-wringing has always been part of Hollywood’s personality. But the crisis in which the entertainment capital now finds itself is different.

Instead of one unwelcome disruption to face — the VCR boom of the 1980s, for instance — or even overlapping ones (streaming, the pandemic), the movie and television business is being buffeted on a dizzying number of fronts. And no one seems to have any solutions.

On Friday, roughly 160,000 unionized actors went on strike for the first time in 43 years, saying they were fed up with exorbitant pay for entertainment moguls and worried about not receiving a fair share of the spoils of a streaming-dominated future. They joined 11,500 already striking screenwriters, who walked out in May over similar concerns, including the threat of artificial intelligence. Actors and writers had not been on strike at the same time since 1960.

“The industry that we once knew — when I did ‘The Nanny’ — everybody was part of the gravy train,” Fran Drescher, the former sitcom star and the president of the actors’ union, said while announcing the walkout. “Now it’s a walled-in vacuum.”

At the same time, Hollywood’s two traditional businesses, the box office and television channels, are both badly broken.

This was the year when moviegoing was finally supposed to bounce back from the pandemic, which closed many theaters for months on end. At last, cinemas would reclaim a position of cultural urgency.

But ticket sales in the United States and Canada for the year to date (about $4.9 billion) are down 21 percent from the same period in 2019, according to Comscore, which compiles box office data. Blips of hope, including strong sales for “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” have been blotted out by disappointing results for expensive films like “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” “Elemental,” “The Flash,” “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” and, to a lesser extent, “The Little Mermaid” and “Fast X.”

The number of movie tickets sold globally may reach 7.2 billion in 2027, according to a recent report from the accounting firm PwC. Attendance totaled 7.9 billion in 2019.

It’s a slowly dying business, but it’s at least better than a quickly dying one. Fewer than 50 million homes will pay for cable or satellite television by 2027, down from 64 million today and 100 million seven years ago, according to PwC. When it comes to traditional television, “the world has forever changed for the worse,” Michael Nathanson, an analyst at SVB MoffettNathanson, wrote in a note to clients on Thursday.

July 14

washington post logoWashington Post, Far-right Twitter influencers are first on Elon Musk’s monetization scheme, Taylor Lorenz, July 14, 2023 (print ed.). The platform is paying high-profile creators, including Andrew Tate, thousands of dollars for posting to the app.

On Thursday, Twitter announced that it would begin sharing ad revenue with content creators on its platform for the first time. But the offer won’t apply to all creators.

twitter bird CustomThe first beneficiaries appear to be high-profile far-right influencers who tweeted before the announcement how much they’ve earned as part of the program. Ian Miles Cheong, Benny Johnson and Ashley St. Claire all touted their earnings.
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“Wow. Elon Musk wasn’t kidding. Content monetization is real,” tweeted an anonymous account called End Wokeness, with 1.4 million followers, accompanied by a screenshot showing earnings of over $10,400.

So far, the influencers who have publicly revealed that they’re part of the program are prominent figures on the right. Andrew Tate, for example, who was recently released from jail on rape and human trafficking charges, posted that he’d been paid over $20,000 by Twitter.

“This is a nice turnaround from being banned by Twitter 1.0 for almost 2 years to now being paid to post Thank you @elonmusk,” tweeted far-right influencer Rogan O’Handley, known as DC Draino.

But not all prominent right-wing Twitter contributors appeared to be part of the program. When asked if she was part of the program, Chaya Raichik, the creator of @libsoftiktok, offered a tongue-in-cheek response claiming that her relationship with Musk was thriving. She did not respond to a question about whether she was receiving payments under the program.

Musk did not respond immediately to a request for comment emailed to him at Twitter and at SpaceX, another company he owns.

“I think that there are some conservative content creators who are unhappy,” said Kris Ruby, a conservative influencer and president of Ruby Media Group. “It doesn’t seem even across the board. I don’t think the playing field is level.”

washington post logoWashington Post, SAG-AFTRA actors strike begins, joining Hollywood writers, Staff Reports, July 14, 2023. TV and film actors will join picket lines in New York and Los Angeles Friday as their union begins its first day of strikes, effectively shutting down the industry amid an ongoing walkout by Hollywood writers.

SAG-AFTRA has said that programs produced under the Network Television Code will not be affected by the strike.

The code is a separate contract that covers nearly all non-primetime and all nondramatic prime time television — including morning news shows, talk shows, soap operas, reality and game shows, and documentaries.

According to SAG-AFTRA, performers hired under the code should continue to work during the strikes.

ny times logoNew York Times, F.T.C. Opens Investigation Into ChatGPT Maker Over Technology’s Potential Harms, Cecilia Kang and Cade Metz, July 14, 2023 (print ed.). The agency sent OpenAI, which makes ChatGPT, a letter this week over consumer harms and the company’s security practices.

ftc logoThe Federal Trade Commission has opened an investigation into OpenAI, the artificial intelligence start-up that makes ChatGPT, over whether the chatbot has harmed consumers through its collection of data and its publication of false information on individuals.

In a 20-page letter sent to the San Francisco company this week, the agency said it was also looking into OpenAI’s security practices. The F.T.C. asked OpenAI dozens of questions in its letter, including how the start-up trains its A.I. models and treats personal data, and said the company should provide the agency with documents and details.

The F.T.C. is examining whether OpenAI “engaged in unfair or deceptive privacy or data security practices or engaged in unfair or deceptive practices relating to risks of harm to consumers,” the letter said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Twitter Shows, Again, the Failure of the New Right’s Theory of Power, David French, July 14, 2023. If you spend much time online, you witnessed something remarkable last week. Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, introduced a competitor to Twitter called Threads, and the public response was astonishing.

As my colleague Mike Isaac detailed in The Times, Threads had two million users in its first two hours. Two hours later, it had five million users. The next day, meta logoMark Zuckerberg, Meta’s chief executive, said it had 30 million. Isaac wrote that Threads “appears to have taken the crown as the most rapidly downloaded app ever.” An independent tracker purports to show that the app is still adding about a million users per day.

Threads’ early success is remarkable. It not only caught the attention of Twitter’s owner, Elon Musk (after Threads’ introduction, he hurled a series of childishly obscene taunts at Zuckerberg); its debut coincided with an apparent decline in Twitter’s internet traffic. So it’s worth exploring why — beyond Meta’s market power — Threads has grown so quickly.

twitter bird CustomI have a theory: Threads exploded in part because Elon Musk did to Twitter what Donald Trump did to America. The new right’s theory of culture and power is fundamentally flawed, and both Trump and Musk are now cautionary tales for any conservatives who are willing to learn.

For all of Twitter’s many flaws, it was still by far the best social media app for following breaking news, especially if you knew which accounts to follow. It was also the best app for seeing the thoughts of journalists, politicians and scholars in real time, sometimes to our detriment. It wasn’t the American town square — there are still many places where we talk to one another — but it was one of our town squares. Twitter mattered.

Then Musk bought it. He restored several banned accounts while stripping thousands of journalists, politicians and others of the blue verification badges that confirmed their identities. Instead, he allowed anyone to buy a blue check mark by subscribing to a premium service, Twitter Blue, that also boosted the visibility of some subscribers’ posts. He claimed he was ending a “lords & peasants system” and granting “power to the people.”

Instead, he created a lords and peasants system, in which the lords were Twitter Blue subscribers — often Musk fans and right-wing trolls — and the peasants were the journalists and politicians whose tweets had previously given the site its value. Twitter without those political and cultural leaders is little more than Gab or Parler, smaller competitors that are the near-exclusive domain of bigots and bullies.

But this is a free society with a free market, and though that free market can move slowly and imperfectly, move it shall.


washington post logoWashington Post, Biden says he’s ‘serious’ about prisoner swap for WSJ reporter held in Russia, July 14, 2023 (print ed.). Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich has been detained in Russia for more than 100 days.

President Biden said Thursday that he’s serious about pursuing a prisoner exchange for Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter who has now been detained in Russia for more than 100 days.

“I’m serious about a prisoner exchange,” Biden told reporters during a news conference in Helsinki. “I’m serious about doing what we can to free Americans being illegally held in Russia or anywhere else, for that matter. And that process is underway.”

The comments came at the tail end of a five-day swing through Europe, which also included attending this year’s NATO summit in Lithuania and a visit to Britain.

Gershkovich was arrested on espionage charges in Russia while on a reporting trip. In April, the State Department officially designated the reporter as wrongfully detained.

The Kremlin and the White House have confirmed that officials have discussed a potential prisoner swap that could include Gershkovich. The Kremlin has emphasized that those discussions remain out of the public eye.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan met with representatives for the Wall Street Journal and Gershkovich’s family last week to discuss the status of his case — a meeting coinciding with the 100-day mark since the start of the reporter’s detention.

Despite the president’s emphasized commitment to a prisoner exchange, last week Sullivan underscored that he did not want to “give false hope” about getting the reporter home.

“We have … made clear for months now — even before Evan was detained, as we were dealing with Paul Whelan — that we are prepared to do hard things in order to get our citizens home, including getting Evan home,” Sullivan said. Whelan, a former Marine, was arrested in Moscow in 2018 over espionage charges the U.S. government has denied.

Steady, Commentary: Texas Shame: Journalism Under Threat, Dan Rather, right, and Elliot Kirschner, July 13, 2023. Some stories hit close to home. Literally. And dan rather 2017figuratively.

When I saw news that a newly appointed head of the Texas A&M journalism school had essentially been run out of town because of back-room political pressure swirling around issues of race, gender, and intellectual freedom, I was deeply disappointed and had to fight back feelings of anger. That has not abated. I am also ashamed of my home state and the toxic politics that have engulfed it. And I am disgusted that a good, eminently qualified journalist and decent, hardworking person has been so thoroughly mistreated.

texas mapIn full disclosure, I know Dr. Kathleen McElroy through her current position as a tenured professor at the University of Texas-Austin. Her resume and reputation speak for themselves, or at least they should. She herself graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in broadcast journalism and worked for a number of newspapers, including the Austin American-Statesman, and eventually spent 20 years at a little paper up north called The New York Times. She has a masters from NYU and a PhD from UT in journalism. Heck, she even has a background in sports reporting, which should have been a nice bonus at sport-obsessed A&M.

Indeed, all the qualifications listed above led to a lot of pomp when the university announced Dr. McElroy would be coming to College Station

Then, suddenly, everything changed, except of course Dr. McElroy’s qualifications. She said the university’s interim dean of liberal arts, José Luis Bermúdez, let her know that reactionary political forces were challenging her appointment. “I said, ‘What’s wrong?’” Dr. McElroy stated in an interview with the New York Times. “He said, ‘You’re a Black woman who was at The New York Times and, to these folks, that’s like working for Pravda.’”

A conservative Texas publication with the tagline “Real News for Real Texans” jumped on Dr. McElroy’s appointment with a post titled “Aggies Hire NY Times ‘Diversity’ Advocate To Head Journalism Program.” At the time, A&M issued a statement standing by its choice:

“Texas A&M kicks off its expanded journalism program in the fall. We hired Dr. Kathleen McElroy, who is a superb professor, veteran journalist and proven leader, as well as an Aggie. She has worked for newsrooms for 30 years, and has led journalism programs at two Tier 1 research institutions. Her track record of building a successful curriculum — coupled with her deep understanding of the media landscape — positions her uniquely to lead the new program.”

But behind the scenes, the ground was shifting. Within a few weeks, a heralded position leading a journalism school into the future had become a one-year non-tenured contract. In other words, an insult meant to make sure Dr. McElroy didn’t come to A&M. It worked — she’s staying at her job at the University of Texas-Austin. “This offer letter on Sunday really makes it clear that they don’t want me there,” she told the Texas Tribune. “I feel damaged by this entire process,” she added. “I’m being judged by race, maybe gender. And I don’t think other folks would face the same bars or challenges. And it seems that my being an Aggie, wanting to lead an Aggie program to what I thought would be prosperity, wasn’t enough.”

Unfortunately, this is Texas today, and too much of America. Texas Governor Greg Abbott and other red state governments have made laws targeting diversity, equity, and inclusion instruction and programs at state universities and public schools. It’s all under the banner of “anti-woke,” nevermind few can explain what that even means with any semblance of intellectual coherence.

One of the critics of Dr. McElroy’s appointment was Dr. Matthew Poling, who heads a conservative A&M alumni group. “We felt she wasn’t a good fit,” he told the Times. “I think identity politics have done a lot of damage to our country, and the manifestation of that on campus, the D.E.I. ideology, has done damage to our culture at A&M.”

Identity politics???? What could be more identity politics than forcing out a qualified candidate because of her race and gender and the fact she worked for one of the most prestigious news organizations in the world? This is brazen hypocrisy fortified by shameless privilege. And that’s the entire point. You hear a lot about free speech on the right, but it is a cynical smokescreen for just this type of abuse.

Journalism is about getting as close to the truth as is humanly possible. And a core truth about our beloved country, its history and its current incarnation, is injustice around race. It is an undercurrent of many issues on which journalists are called to report, from the economy, to education, to our criminal justice system, to health care, to voting rights. We need reporters who understand that. That is part of what needs to be taught.

Dr. McElroy was hired to revive a defunct program. She was celebrated by her new employer and her peers as a passionate and effective leader. She is just the type of person we need inspiring young journalists to enter a fraught industry. She has the experience. And the credentials. But in the end, they weren’t enough. Or perhaps more accurately, they were too much.

Shame on all who have behaved so egregiously.

I am an optimist by nature and experience, and I believe this incident can be a warning to everyone in journalism about the dangerous forces of bias and discrimination permeating society. We can learn. We can fight for the truth. And we cannot, must not, back down.

This story needs to be amplified and widely spread. The world needs to know and reckon with what has happened.

Note: For those who are wondering: Yes, I live in Austin, but I have never attended the University of Texas or Texas A&M. Born and raised in Texas, I graduated from small Sam Houston State Teachers College in Huntsville (now a much larger Sam Houston State University). Over the years I have supported in various ways both UT and A&M. I cheer for both and am proud of their world-class standing. Each is a national as well as world treasure. All among the reasons I am so disappointed that A&M has been damaged by this case — and by the damage done to Dr. McElroy.

July 13

ny times logoNew York Times, Hollywood Shutdown Looms as Actors Say Contract Talks Have Collapsed, Brooks Barnes,John Koblin and Nicole Sperling, July 13, 2023. , Unions representing 160,000 television and movie actors could strike as soon as Thursday, joining screenwriters who have been picketing for over 70 days.

Hollywood’s first industrywide shutdown in 63 years neared certainty, with the union representing 160,000 television and movie actors poised to call a strike as soon as Thursday and join screenwriters who walked off the job in May.

SAG-AFTRA, as the union is known, said at nearly 1 a.m. Pacific time on Thursday that negotiations with Hollywood studios over a new contract had collapsed and that its negotiating board had voted unanimously to recommend a strike. The previous three-year contract expired at 11:59 p.m., after an extension from June 30 to allow for continued talks.

The union’s national board was scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Pacific for a final strike vote. Pickets could start later on Thursday.

Fran Drescher, SAG-AFTRA’s president, called studio responses at the bargaining table “insulting and disrespectful.”


djt as chosen oneIlene Proctor International Public Relations, Commentary: Donald Trump: A Life Spent Failing Upwards, Ilene Proctor, right, July 13, 2023. Or, How Americans learned to ilene iproctorLive and Love/Hate Trump’s Suck-cesspool Policies.

How does this bloviating whale of a male always seem to fail upwards?

Trump has an amazing capacity for not only evading responsibility but then surviving and triumphing. Despite decades of various crimes, how does he not succumb to the mountain-high criminal indictments, arrests, and investigations that would mess with any mere mortal but ironically only makes Trump more popular among his followers?

Perhaps it is his mind over anything that matters that shelters the man from what should be the inevitable payoff for all his crimes. The power of his narcissism and sociopathy only strengthens him. His charisma intoxicates his cult and elected enablers to maintain the lie that it's all just political mumbo jumbo toward the Republicans' leading presidential candidate and likely nominee. Helping not hurting his resolve to win the presidency again is his belief that the GOP-led legislatures will continue to pass laws undermining voting rights, giving impetus to a proven loser that he doesn't have to actually win to regain power.

Trump’s a gifted grifter that plays a kind of a crypto spiritualism scheme. He figured out in 2016 that he could mish mash his political doomsday kibble of sex/marriage/white/male/Christian theocracy, guns, Obama/racial animus, hysteria, paranoia, and COVID fears that his grass route supporters need mixed with some well-chosen hate groups that would meld together and respond with resound every time he took to his political pulpit, where he would proclaim that all protesters were orchestrated by RINOS and liberal devils to destroy him.

July 12

ny times logoNew York Times, Nonprofit Buys 22 Newspapers in Maine, Katie Robertson, July 12, 2023 (print ed.). The National Trust for Local News will take over five of the six daily papers in the state and 17 weeklies.

A nonprofit that aims to maintain local ownership for newspapers will buy 22 papers in Maine, including The Portland Press Herald and The Sun Journal of Lewiston.

The National Trust for Local News, a nonprofit that was started in 2021, will buy the papers from Masthead Maine, a private company that owns most of the independent media outlets in the state, including five of its six daily papers. Masthead Maine’s owner, Reade Brower, had signaled this year that he was exploring a sale.

The deal includes the five daily papers and 17 weekly papers, Elizabeth Hansen Shapiro, the chief executive of the National Trust for Local News, said on Tuesday.

Ms. Hansen Shapiro said Maine residents had told her organization that there was an opportunity for nonprofit ownership after Bill Nemitz, a longtime Portland Press Herald columnist, asked readers in April to donate to help a nonprofit organization preserve local journalism in the state.

“We firmly believe in the power of independent, nonpartisan local journalism to strengthen communities and forge meaningful connections,” Ms. Hansen Shapiro said. “We understand the pivotal role that Masthead Maine and its esteemed publications play in serving the communities of Maine with reliable, high-quality news.”

The deal is expected to be completed by the end of July, she said. She declined to specify the sale price.

In addition to the Portland and Lewiston papers, the sale includes The Kennebec Journal in Augusta, The Morning Sentinel in Waterville and The Times Record in Brunswick. The state’s sixth daily paper, The Bangor Daily News, remains owned by the Bangor Publishing Company.

“This could be the most important moment in the history of Maine journalism,” Steve Greenlee, the executive editor of The Portland Press Herald and The Maine Sunday Telegram, said in an email. “Our news report has always strived to serve the public good, and now our business model will align with that mission.”

Many local newspapers have shut down in the past 20 years, as declining print circulation and slowing advertising revenue hollowed them out. Private equity firms and hedge funds in recent years have snapped up the distressed assets, often cutting the shrinking newsrooms even further. The investment firm Alden Global Capital has become the country’s second-biggest newspaper operator.

  • New York Times, Student Reporters Busted Open What an Athletic Department Tried to Bury, July 12, 2023 (print ed.).

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Rejects F.T.C. Delay of $70 Billion Microsoft-Activision Deal, Kellen Browning, David McCabe and Karen Weise, July 12, 2023 (print ed.). A federal judge on Tuesday ruled against the Federal Trade Commission’s attempt to delay Microsoft’s $70 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard, setting the stage for the tech giant and the video game publisher to merge as soon as this month.

In a 53-page decision, Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California said the F.T.C. had failed to show it was likely to prove the merger would result in a substantial reduction in competition that would harm consumers.

She denied the F.T.C.’s request for a preliminary injunction, which would have delayed the deal’s closing until after the agency could fight it in an internal court.

The ruling is a significant blow to the F.T.C.’s efforts to police blockbuster tech mergers more aggressively. That strategy is spearheaded by the agency’s chair, Lina Khan, who has argued that Big Tech’s vast influence over commerce and communications has led to anticompetitive behavior. The F.T.C. has sued Microsoft, Meta and Amazon, but it walked away from one of its cases against Meta and has had little to show for its efforts so far.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why the Early Success of Threads May Crash Into Reality, Mike Isaac, July 12, 2023 (print ed.). Mark Zuckerberg has used Meta’s might to push Threads to a fast start — but that may only work up to a point.

A big tech company with billions of users introduces a new social network. Leveraging the popularity and scale of its existing products, the company intends to make the new social platform a success. In doing so, it also plans to squash a leading competitor’s app.

If this sounds like Instagram’s new Threads app and its push against its rival Twitter, think again. The year was 2011 and Google had just rolled out a social network called Google+, which was aimed as its “Facebook killer.” Google thrust the new site in front of many of its users who relied on its search and other products, expanding Google+ to more than 90 million users within the first year.

But by 2018, Google+ was relegated to the ash heap of history. Despite the internet search giant’s enormous audience, its social network failed to catch on as people continued flocking to Facebook — and later to Instagram and other social apps.

In the history of Silicon Valley, big tech companies have often become even bigger tech companies by using their scale as a built-in advantage. But as Google+ shows, bigness alone is no guarantee of winning the fickle and faddish social media market.

What comes next is much harder. Mr. Zuckerberg needs people to be able to find friends and influencers on Threads in the serendipitous and sometimes weird ways that Twitter managed to accomplish. He needs to make sure Threads isn’t filled with spam and grifters. He needs people to be patient about app updates that are in the works.

ny times logoNew York Times, Saudi Arabia Is Buying Up Sports: Why? July 12, 2023 (print ed.). Soccer, golf, cycling, F1 and now tennis? But what are the reasons for the deals and what is next?


supreme court 2022 o

ap logoAssociated Press via New York Post, Investigation: SCOTUS judges likely would break ethics rules that cover officials in other branches of gov, Staff Report, July 12, 2023. The Associated Press submitted over 100 public records requests to public schools and institutions that the Supreme Court has visited over the years.

new york post logoIn a monthslong inquiry, which included reviewing tens of thousands of pages of documents from more than 100 public records requests, the Associated Press has examined what happens behind the scenes when Supreme Court justices travel to colleges and universities for lectures and other events.

The AP learned the identities of donors and politicians invited to events with justices, details about the perks that have accompanied the school visits and information about how school trips have helped advance books sales.

Some of the key takeaways:

Book sales

sonya sotamayor saul loeb afp via getty imagesThe documents reveal how university visits are a convenient way for justices to sell their own books. That’s especially true in the case of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, above, a prolific author who has kept the court’s most active travel schedule over the past decade, according to the records reviewed by the AP.

Emails and other documents show that Supreme Court staff members have been directly engaged in facilitating book sales by asking schools how many copies they want to buy and by helping to arrange the purchase of mass quantities.

At a 2019 event jointly hosted by the Multnomah County Library in Oregon and Portland Community College, a Sotomayor aide told organizers that “250 books is definitely not enough” for a program with an expected 1,000 guests in which people would be required to have a copy to meet the justice for a signing after the event.

michigan state logoMichigan State University purchased 11,000 copies to be distributed to incoming first-year students. When Clemson University in South Carolina worried that 60 copies might be too many for Sotomayor to sign, a staffer reassured the school that “most institutions order in the ranges of 400 and up.”

And before a scheduled visit to the law school at the University of California, Davis, for the 2018 commencement, the court staff pitched the school on signed copies of her books in connection with the event.

In a statement, a Supreme Court spokesperson said that staff members work to follow judicial ethics guidance and that “at no time have attendees been required to buy a book in order to attend an event.”

“Schools have occasionally invited Justice Sotomayor to take part in a program in which they select a book for an entire school or a freshman class, and the Justice gives a book talk,” the statement said. “When she is invited to participate in a book program, Chambers staff recommends the number of books based on the size of the audience so as not to disappoint attendees who may anticipate books being available at an event, and they will put colleges or universities in touch with the Justice’s publisher when asked to do so.”

A lure for money

Supreme Court justices insist that they cannot and do not participate in fundraising events. But the emails obtained by the AP show that the court’s definition of a fundraiser — an event that raises more than it costs or where guests are asked for contributions — excludes much of the work that typically goes into persuading a wealthy donor to cut a check.

That’s given schools wide latitude to court rich patrons.

clarence thomas official scotus portraitFor instance, ahead of a 2017 event with Justice Clarence Thomas, right, officials at McLennan Community College in Texas worked with the prominent conservative lawyer Ken Starr and his wife, Alice, to craft a guest list designed to reward school patrons and incentivize future contributions. In an interview, Starr’s widow called it “friendraising.”

In an email planning the event, the executive director of the college’s foundation wrote that she had thoughts about whom to invite “mainly because they are wealthy conservative Catholics who would align with Clarence Thomas and who have not previously given.”

Thomas isn’t the only one whose status as a justice has been leveraged by schools eager to capitalize with donors. Before Justice Elena Kagan, below left, visited the University of Colorado’s law school, one official suggested a “larger donor to staff ratio” for a 2019 dinner with her, emails show. Another event Elena Kagan O HRorganizer said the organizer was “open to suggestions about which VIP donors to cultivate relationships with.” A school spokesperson said the attendees weren’t asked for any donations connected to the event.

One official said it was hoped the events, which included donors, would “ultimately generate resources” for the university’s Humanities Advancement Board, which played a lead organizing role. As university officials devised a guest list, an alumni relations official wrote: “When you say $1M donors, please be sure to include our corporate donors at that level, too.”

In a statement, a court spokesperson said it “routinely asks event organizers to confirm that an event at which a Justice will speak is not a fundraiser, and it provides a definition of ‘fundraiser’ in order to avoid misunderstandings.” The spokesperson said justices have occasionally declined to attend events even after being told expressly that they were not fundraisers.

Political commingling

Visits to universities are promoted as academic in nature, but they also have facilitated encounters between justices and elected officials.

neil gorsuch headshotMonths after he was seated on the Supreme Court, Justice Neil Gorsuch, left, attended an event at the University of Kentucky with then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, right, hosted by a center to study the judiciary named after one of McConnell’s closest friends, a former mitch mcconnell2federal judge.

In 2020, after teaching a weeklong course at the University of Florida’s law school, Thomas extended his stay in the state to attend a gathering of the regional branch of the Federalist Society, where he was introduced with effusive praise by Gov. Ron DeSantis, with whom he also had a private dinner.

Thomas also attended a private dinner during a visit to the University of Texas at Tyler that was sponsored by a group of donors to then-Rep. Louie Gohmert. Six years later, Gohmert would spearhead a lawsuit that sought to empower Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election that Donald Trump lost.

A court spokesperson said: “Justices exercise caution in attending events that might be described as political in nature, following guidance in the Code of Conduct which cautions judges against engaging in political activity. Merely attending an event where an elected official might also be in attendance — such as several of the events described in your email — does not necessarily render the event impermissibly political in nature.”

No ethics code

Some of the conduct revealed by the AP likely would run afoul of ethics rules that cover officials in other branches of government as well as lower federal court judges.

Political Flare, Troublemaking WH Reporter Throws Hissy Fit After Karine Jean-Pierre Threatens to Kick Him of Our Briefing Room FOR GOOD, Megan Hamilton, simon ateba twitterJuly 12, 2023. The letter also cites other incidents involving Simon Ateba, right, from May 13, March 20, and Dec. 8, 2022.

During the March 20 briefing, Ateba didn’t even give Jean-Pierre the chance to introduce the cast of “Ted Lasso,” before he began shouting. The cast was on hand to speak about mental health. Other reporters in the room tried to get Ateba to shut up and the White House Correspondents Association lamented the “breakdown of decorum.”

In December, Jean-Pierre brought the press briefing to an abrupt stop after she called on a reporter from The Hill, which Ateba interrupted yet again, by shouting and asking why he was not being called on.

If Ateba continues this behavior, he may well lose his press pass to the White House, but he would still be able to enter the facility through a more complicated procedure that requires those in the media to apply for access on a daily basis. I’m guessing in his case his requests will be continually turned down.

I’m going to also add if Jean-Pierre is avoiding his questions, she may be doing this to avoid his continued belligerence. One can hardly blame her for this. So if Ateba does lose his press pass he has no one to blame but himself.

But he’ll probably continue the blame game, claiming Jean-Pierre and those other journalists for discriminating against him.

July 11

 threads meta logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Meta’s Threads tops 100 million users in just 5 days, Zuckerberg says, Eli Tan, July 11, 2023 (print ed.). Meta’s Threads tops 100 million users in just 5 days, Zuckerberg says.

meta logoMeta’s new text-based social network Threads has eclipsed 100 million users in its first five days.

The app is now among the most used social media platforms in the United States, rivaling even TikTok, which had 102.3 million active U.S. users in May, according to data from Insider Intelligence.

mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wIn a Monday post on Threads announcing the milestone, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, left, said the user base was “mostly organic demand” and Meta has not “turned on many promotions yet.”

But Threads has benefited from its integration with Instagram, Meta’s photo-sharing social network that had an estimated 135 million active U.S. users in May. Users are able to sign up for a Threads account by linking their Instagram account.

Despite not being available in Europe yet because of European Union data privacy regulations, Threads has reached 100 million users faster than any other app. The speed of its growth handily beat artificial intelligence app ChatGPT, which took two months to reach that mark, according to a UBS study.

ny times logoNew York Times, The New York Times Will Disband Its Sports Department, Katie Robertson and John Koblin, July 11, 2023 (print ed.). Coverage of games, players and leagues will now primarily come from The Athletic, the sports website that the company bought last year.

The New York Times said on Monday that it would disband its sports department and rely on coverage of teams and games from its website The Athletic, both online and in print.

Joe Kahn, The Times’s executive editor, and Monica Drake, a deputy managing editor, announced the change to the newsroom as “an evolution in how we cover sports.”

“We plan to focus even more directly on distinctive, high-impact news and enterprise journalism about how sports intersect with money, power, culture, politics and society at large,” the editors wrote in an email to The Times’s newsroom on Monday morning. “At the same time, we will scale back the newsroom’s coverage of games, players, teams and leagues.”

The shuttering of the sports desk, which has more than 35 journalists and editors, is a major shift for The Times. The department’s coverage of games, athletes and team owners, and its Sports of the Times column in particular, were once a pillar of American sports journalism. The section covered the major moments and personalities of the last century of American sports, including Muhammad Ali, the birth of free agency, George Steinbrenner, the Williams sisters, Tiger Woods, steroids in baseball and the deadly effects of concussions in the National Football League.

The move represents a further integration into the newsroom of The Athletic, which The Times bought in January 2022 for $550 million, adding a publication which had some 400 journalists covering more than 200 professional sports teams.

The staff of The Athletic will now provide the bulk of the coverage of sporting events, athletes and leagues for Times readers and, for the first time, articles from The Athletic will appear in The Times’s print newspaper. Online access to The Athletic, which is operated separately from The Times newsroom, is included for those who subscribe to

Journalists on the sports desk will move to other roles in the newsroom and there were no planned layoffs, Mr. Kahn and Ms. Drake said. A group on the business desk will cover money and power in sports, while new beats covering sports will be added to other sections. The moves are expected to be completed by the fall.

July 9

Reuters, Missing Mexican journalist's body found, Anna-Catherine Brigida, July 9, 2023. The body of missing 59-year-old Mexican journalist Luis Martín Sanchez Iniguez was found in the Mexican state of Nayarit with signs of violence, the state public prosecutor's office confirmed Saturday.

Sanchez Iniguez worked for the newspaper La Jornada. He had been missing since Wednesday and his wife filed a missing persons report with Mexican authorities on Friday.

His body was found on the outskirts of the city of Tepic. It was not immediately clear how he died, but authorities estimated the time of his death occurred 24 to 48 hours prior to the finding of his body.
The discovery comes as authorities are investigating two other potential crimes against media workers in Nayarit. Another media worker was reported missing on July 4. He has not been seen since he left for work at a school the prior morning, authorities said.

Mexican media has identified him as Osiris Maldonado, who previously worked with La Jornada.

On July 7, two hooded armed men broke into the apartment of journalist Jonathan Lora Ramirez and forced him into a car. Lora Ramirez has been found alive and "in a good state of health." Authorities are investigating the crime of illegal detention.

July 7

 threads meta logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Threads, designed to lure people from Twitter, is live. Here’s what you need to know, Geoffrey A. Fowler and Naomi Nix, July 7, 2023 (print ed.). Meta’s Threads may be the first Twitter alternative that really matters because it’s built on top of Instagram’s existing base of billions of users.

meta logoMark Zuckerberg’s Threads, a clone of Twitter designed to lure people turned off by the social network’s changes under owner Elon Musk, has 30 million signups as of this morning.

mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wThe billionaire social media smackdown is about to get real.

Before Meta’s free text conversation-focused app launched late Wednesday, we had a chance to try it and quiz its makers. We found Meta has some advantages over rivals to turn Threads into a major new hub for online conversations.

Most of all, it arrives with a potential audience of billions who already use Meta’s photo and video-oriented Instagram, which Threads is built on top of. Would-be Twitter rivals Mastodon and Bluesky have yet to grow beyond single-digit millions of users.

But Threads also comes with Meta baggage, including privacy, moderation and algorithmic feed practices that have turned many people off Zuckerberg’s other twitter bird Customsocial networks such as Facebook. For example: From the moment you first log in to Threads, it starts showing you recommended posts from instagram logoaccounts and brands you don’t necessarily follow — or necessarily even care to see.

What’s novel — and predictable — about Threads? And how do you give it a try? Answers below, which we’ll keep updating as we learn more. Send us an email about what you would like to know.

ap logoAssociated Press, Twitter threatens legal action against Meta over its new rival app Threads, July 6, 2023. Twitter has threatened legal action against Meta over its new text-based app called Threads, which has drawn tens of millions of users since launching this week as a rival to Elon Musk’s social media platform.

In a letter Wednesday to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Alex Spiro, an attorney representing Twitter, accused Meta of unlawfully using Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property by hiring former Twitter employees to create a “copycat” app.

The move ramps up the tensions between the social media giants after Threads debuted Wednesday, targeting those who are seeking out alternatives to Twitter amid unpopular changes Musk has made to the platform since buying it last year for $44 billion.

  • New York Times, Threads Becomes Most Rapidly Downloaded App, Raising Twitter’s Ire, July 7, 2023.

 washington post logoWashington Post, With Threads signups surging past 30M, Zuckerberg notches a win, Naomi Nix and Leo Sands, July 7, 2023 (print ed.). Meta is seizing on Elon Musk’s rocky tenure overseeing Twitter to expand its digital footprint in a big way.

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter Sues Law Firm Over $90 Million Payment in Elon Musk Deal, Ryan Mac and Lauren Hirsch, July 7, 2023. The lawsuit targeted Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, a well-known Wall Street firm, for “unjust enrichment” related to Mr. Musk’s purchase of Twitter.

twitter bird CustomTwitter’s parent company sued a leading corporate law firm on Friday for what it said were unjust payments related to Elon Musk’s $44 billion acquisition of the social media company last year.

A $90 million payment that Twitter made to Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, a top mergers and acquisitions firm, amounted to “unjust enrichment” and should be paid back, according to the lawsuit, which the parent company, X Corp., filed in San Francisco Superior Court.

The lawsuit said Wachtell Lipton took “funds from the company cash register while the keys were being handed over” to Mr. Musk, who owns X Corp.

Twitter’s previous management hired Wachtell Lipton after Mr. Musk tried to terminate his agreement to acquire the company last year. He was unsuccessful, and the purchase closed in October.

Twitter has disputed other fees related to Mr. Musk’s purchase of the company. An advisory firm, Innisfree M&A, sued Twitter for $1.9 million in February over what it said were unpaid bills. Joele Frank, a public relations firm, sued Twitter in May, arguing that it wasn’t paid about $830,498 for services rendered in the deal.New York Times, Wisconsin Judge Allows Challenge to Abortion Law to Proceed, July 7, 2023. The preliminary ruling on the law, passed long before Roe v. Wade, gave hope to abortion-rights supporters who want to restore access to the procedure.

Wachtell Lipton is one of the best-known law firms on Wall Street, having advised high-profile deals including Mr. Musk’s failed effort to take Tesla, his electric car company, private in 2018. The firm commands high fees, cementing its perch among the law firms with the highest profits per partner.

The firm has been sued before. In 2018, the activist investor Carl Icahn sued Wachtell Lipton over its work on his hostile 2012 attempt to take over CVR Energy. The suit was dismissed.

According to documents submitted with Friday’s lawsuit, Twitter’s board and executives approved the $90 million payment because Wachtell Lipton and one of its lawyers, William Savitt, had succeeded in making Mr. Musk abide by his agreement to buy the company.

By approving the payment, Twitter’s former executives and board breached their fiduciary duty, the lawsuit said. Twitter’s board rushed to close the deal with Mr. Musk and did not act “prudently” or “on an informed basis,” the lawsuit said.

Wachtell Lipton was wired the bulk of the $90 million fee a mere 10 minutes before the deal closed in October, the lawsuit said. Within minutes of Wachtell Lipton’s receiving that transfer, Mr. Musk fired some of Twitter’s top executives, including its chief legal officer and general counsel, according to the suit.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Russia hasn’t stopped maneuvering for a role in internet oversight, David Ignatius, July 7, 2023 (print ed.). Russia might be reeling from an “armed mutiny” at home and a botched invasion of Ukraine, but that hasn’t stopped it from pushing a plan for centralized United Nations oversight of the internet. An unfortunate new wrinkle is that Moscow’s approach appears to be getting some support from U.N. Secretary General António Guterres.

“We’re concerned about the Russians … pushing their authoritarian digital agenda in every forum around the world,” explained a senior Biden administration official in an email. “It’s global and relentless, and when we step back even a little bit, they fill that void.” He said the State Department has conveyed its “legitimate concern” about a U.N. “takeover” of internet governance to U.N. officials in New York.

Russia’s latest bid for top-down internet control came in a resolution submitted for next week’s meeting in Geneva of the ruling council of the U.N.’s International Telecommunication Union. Moscow’s proposal seeks changes in governance “to prevent fragmentation of the Internet,” according to a document posted on the ITU website.

What “fragmentation” is Russia talking about? The internet has been functioning pretty smoothly for decades. If there are any blockages, they’re the ones introduced by authoritarian governments such as Russia and China. But as you read Moscow’s proposal, it becomes clear that Russia is doubling down on its past demands for global political regulation as an alternative to what it claims is U.S. control of cyberspace.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What it takes to rupture Fox News’s wall of silence, Erik Wemple, July 7, 2023 (print ed.). Fox News relies on a battalion of anchors, reporters, producers and assistants to generate its ratings-topping programming. Trouble is, some those employees double as walking, talking, text-happy corporate risk centers, privy as they are to the making of the network’s rancid sausage.

That dynamic contextualizes a recent headline: Fox News paid former producer Abby Grossberg $12 million to settle a complaint about her experiences working at the network, including on the now-defunct program “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

Fox News settles suit by Tucker Carlson’s former booker for $12 million

The substance of Grossberg’s allegations is horrific: misogyny, disrespect, sexist language and more. But how Grossberg came to file her complaint matters, too — and speaks to how Fox News has kept a lid on its inner workings for most of its nearly 27-year history.

Before February, Grossberg had a minimal public profile. She had worked at CBS News, CNN, NBC Universal and ABC News before arriving at Fox News in 2019 to be a senior booking producer for “Sunday Morning Futures With Maria Bartiromo.” Which is to say, she was among the Fox News worker bees who recruit commentators, polish scripts and otherwise toil at all hours to assemble a smooth and compelling television product.

washington post logoWashington Post, Theater is in freefall, and the pandemic isn’t the only thing to blame, Peter Marks, July 7, 2023 (print ed.). Companies are closing, seasons have been truncated and in New Haven, a revered company is pivoting after giving up its own stage.

For more than 55 years, the highly regarded Long Wharf Theatre made its home in a converted warehouse in an old food terminal near New Haven Harbor. Then one day last year, with rent payments an escalating burden, the company became homeless.

Is a legacy theater company without its theater still a company? It’s a proposition that Long Wharf’s artistic director, Jacob G. Padrón, has been testing — an “itinerant” theater model — and the rest of the anxiety-ridden theater world is watching closely. Still reeling from the pandemic, many of the country’s nonprofit theaters of various sizes are in deep financial trouble, in what is rapidly turning into the most severe crisis in the 70-year history of the regional theater movement.

“It’s happening more and more and more, and it’s going to be an epidemic,” said Michael M. Kaiser, former president of the Kennedy Center and now chairman of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland. “I’ve always believed that we were heading for a time that we were going to lose a whole lot of midsized cultural organizations. And I still believe that’s true.”

Evidence of the turmoil mounts day by day, as companies from California to New York announce major cutbacks in their offerings — or shut down altogether. The theater world was further rocked recently when one of the nation’s largest companies, the Los Angeles-based Center Theatre Group, said it would “pause” programming in one of its theaters, the Mark Taper Forum. That followed the upheaval at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, another industry mainstay, which said last month it needed an emergency infusion of $7.5 million or its 2023 season could not go on. The urgent effort came after a similar plea, in April, for which OSF raised $2.5 million.

The cutbacks and closings have been so regular of late that a document circulates among leaders of the field, listing recent “permanent closures” — such as Triad Stage in North Carolina, Southern Repertory Theatre in New Orleans, New Ohio Theatre in New York — and staff and program downsizings. In June, off-Broadway’s Public Theater eliminated its Under the Radar Festival, which set an industry standard for avant-garde and international plays. To save money, even august companies such as Arena Stage — working with what its leaders call “deficit planning” — are reducing the number of plays they produce.

And just last week, Chicago’s 35-year-old Lookingglass Theatre Company, debut theater for Tony-winning director Mary Zimmerman’s “Metamorphoses,” declared that it was ceasing operations until late next spring. As regional theaters often are the seeding ground for both new-play development and work that eventually goes to Broadway, every “pause” can have consequences down the road.

  • Washington Post, GQ pulls article slamming Warner Bros. Discovery CEO Zaslav after complaint, Will Sommer, July 6, 2023.

National Press Club, Club leaders condemn brutal assault on Russian journalist Elena Milashina and attorney Alexander Nemov, Staff report, July 6, 2023. Following is a statement from Eileen O’Reilly, president of the National Press Club, and Gil Klein, president of the National Press Club Journalism Institute, on the brutal assault by masked assailants on Russian investigative journalist Elena Milashina and attorney Alexander Nemov as they were traveling in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya:

“We are outraged by this repulsive attack on Elena Milashina and Alexander Nemov on July 4. Both were in Grozny for the trial of Zarema Musayeva, the mother of exiled opposition activists, according to Elena's employer, the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta. Elena was there to cover the trial, and Alexander is Musayeva's attorney.

“This odious attack, which left Elena with brain injuries and broken fingers and Alexander suffering a stab wound, was the action of those who are afraid of exposure to the reality of life under the oppressive rule of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his key ally, Chechnya's autocratic leader, Ramzan Kadyrov.

“Our hearts are with Elena and Alexander, and we wish them a full recovery. The whole world should condemn the barbaric treatment they received at the hands of masked thugs. The perpetrators of this egregious act must be held accountable, else we fear more violent attacks like this - and not contained to Chechnya and Russia.”

July 6



southern baptist convention logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Southern Baptists lose another megachurch: Elevation quits the SBC, Bob Smietana, July 6, 2023 (print ed.). A North Carolina megachurch, known for its popular music and charismatic pastor, has left the Southern Baptist Convention.

southern baptist convention logo 2In a letter sent to the SBC’s executive committee in Nashville and to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, Charlotte-based Elevation Church said it was “withdrawing its affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention effective immediately.”

The letter was published by Baptist Press, an official SBC publication. A spokesman for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina confirmed receiving the letter.

“We have no plans to make a public announcement on this decision — we have too much to do in reaching a world that needs the love of Jesus,” the letter reads. “Should your Credentials Committee decide to make this decision by Elevation public, we will only respond with a copy of this letter to anyone inquiring about the notification.”

The SBC’s Credentials Committee is charged with determining if churches are in “friendly cooperation” with the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. That cooperation includes giving to SBC causes and closely following the SBC’s doctrine.

Earlier this year, five congregations — including Saddleback Church, which was one of the largest SBC churches in the country — were expelled from the SBC for having female pastors. During their recent annual meeting, Southern Baptists passed a proposed constitutional amendment that would bar churches that have female pastors of any kind. That amendment must be ratified in 2024.

By some estimates, about 2,000 SBC churches have women serving in pastoral roles — including supporting roles such as associate pastors, children’s pastors and music ministers.

Elevation’s letter gives no reason for the church’s departure after more than two decades in the SBC. However, Holly Furtick, wife of Elevation pastor Steven Furtick, is described as a church co-founder and preaches on a regular basis. A number of SBC leaders, including prominent seminary President Albert “Al” Mohler, believe the Bible bars women from preaching in worship services.

According to data submitted by the church to the SBC, Elevation averaged 10,185 attendees each week and had $103 million in donations for 2021. The church gave $10,000 to the SBC’s Cooperative Program.

A recent study found that Elevation is one of four megachurches whose songs dominate the market for contemporary worship music.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Demand for Workplace A.I. Rises, Tech Companies Rush to Provide It, Yiwen Lu, July 6, 2023 (print ed.). Amazon, Box, Salesforce, Oracle and others have recently rolled out A.I.-related products to help workplaces become more efficient and productive.

att logoEarlier this year, Mark Austin, the vice president of data science at AT&T, noticed that some of the company’s developers had started using the ChatGPT chatbot at work. When the developers got stuck, they asked ChatGPT to explain, fix or hone their code.

It seemed to be a game-changer, Mr. Austin said. But since ChatGPT is a publicly available tool, he wondered if it was secure for businesses to use.

So in January, AT&T tried a product from Microsoft called Azure OpenAI Services that lets businesses build their own A.I.-powered chatbots. AT&T used it to create a proprietary A.I. assistant, Ask AT&T, which helps its developers automate their coding process. AT&T’s customer service representatives also began using the chatbot to help summarize their calls, among other tasks.

“Once they realize what it can do, they love it,” Mr. Austin said. Forms that once took hours to complete needed only two minutes with Ask AT&T so employees could focus on more complicated tasks, he said, and developers who used the chatbot increased their productivity by 20 to 50 percent.


Keith Raniere, the leader of the NXIVM sex trafficking cult.

Keith Raniere, the leader of the NXIVM sex trafficking cult.

washington post logoWashington Post, Allison Mack released from prison early in NXIVM case, Samantha Chery, July 6, 2023 (print ed.).  The former ‘Smallville’ actress was sentenced to three years in prison for her role in recruiting women for the cultlike sex-trafficking group.

allison mackAllison Mack, right, the “Smallville” actress who was in prison for racketeering and racketeering conspiracy for the cultlike group NXIVM, was released from prison a year early on Monday, according to Federal Bureau of Prisons records.

Mack, 40, was sentenced to three years in prison, a $20,000 fine and 1,000 hours of community service in June 2021 for her role as a high-ranking leader in the Albany, N.Y.-based organization NXIVM.

NXIVM, founded by former businessman Keith Raniere and former nurse Nancy Salzman in 1998, became popular among Hollywood stars. Members paid thousands of dollars to participate in self-improvement workshops known as “Executive Success Programs” and invited others to the group to rise in NXIVM’s ranks.

Behind the scenes, prosecutors say, Raniere and the organization’s leaders used the group as a cover for criminal activity, including sexually exploiting a 15-year-old girl and taking photos of the abuse, and enslaving another victim for about two years.

Prosecutors say Mack helped recruit women and forced them to provide “collateral,” such as nude photographs for NXIVM’s women subgroup, DOS. Mack also benefited financially from forcing two women to have sex with Raniere, the group’s leader also known as “Vanguard” who portrayed himself as a genius.

DOS was short for Dominus Obsequious Sororium, broken Latin that roughly translates to “master of the obedient female companions.” New women in the group, called “slaves” within NXIVM, were recruited by “masters” and blackmailed to ensure their compliance as they were subject to low-calorie diets and sleep deprivation, court filings said.

NXIVM’s dealings were first publicly revealed in a 2017 report in the New York Times and were further detailed in “The Vow,” the HBO documentary series of the experiences of NXIVM’s key players that brought more attention to the case.

NXIVM operated under the guise of a self-help group, and when Mack joined the group in 2007 and DOS when it began in 2015, she “(wrongly) understood DOS to be an organization designed to empower women,” her sentencing memo states. She faced between 14 and 17½ years in prison, but her cooperation allowed her sentence to be lowered.

“In the language of DOS, you were a slave as well as a master, and the harms that you inflicted as a master were, to some extent, demanded of you in your capacity as Mr. Raniere’s slave,” U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis wrote in the sentencing memo.

Raniere, who prosecutors say used the women in DOS for labor and sex and had them branded with his initials in private ceremonies, was sentenced to 120 years in prison and fined $1.75 million in October 2020.

July 5

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: A Georgia teacher’s plight exposes the essence of anti-woke MAGA fury, Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman, July 5, 2023. At first glance, the plight of Katherine Rinderle, a fifth-grade teacher in Georgia, might seem confusing. Rinderle faces likely termination by the Cobb County School District for reading aloud a children’s book that touches on gender identity. Yet she is charged in part with violating policy related to a state law banning “divisive concepts” about race, not gender.

In short, when it comes to all these anti-woke laws and the MAGA-fied frenzy they’ve unleashed, the vagueness is the point.

As CNN reported, the district sent Rinderle a letter in May signaling its intent to fire her for a lesson using “My Shadow Is Purple.” The book is written from the perspective of a child who likes both traditionally “boy” things like trains and “girl” things like glitter. Its conclusion is essentially that sometimes blue and pink don’t really capture kids’ full interests and personalities — and that everyone is unique and should just be themselves.

This disconnect captures something essential about state laws and directives restricting classroom discussion across the country: They seem to be imprecisely drafted to encourage censorship. That invites parents and administrators to seek to apply bans to teachers haphazardly, forcing teachers to err on the side of muzzling themselves rather than risk unintentionally crossing fuzzy lines into illegality.

The district’s letter, which we have obtained, criticized Rinderle for teaching the “controversial subject” of “gender identity” without giving parents a chance to opt out. She was charged with violating standards of professional ethics, safeguards for parents’ rights and a policy governing treatment of “controversial issues.”

“Teachers are fearful,” Rinderle told us in an interview. “These vague laws are chilling and result in teachers self-censoring."

After all, in that law, those “divisive concepts” are all about race. Among them are the ideas that the United States is “fundamentally racist" and that people should feel “guilt” or bear “responsibility” for past actions on account of their race. It’s not clear how this policy applies to Rinderle’s alleged transgression.

What’s more, we have learned that this action was initiated by a parent’s troubling email to the district, provided to us by Rinderle and her lawyer, in which the parent notes that teachers were told to avoid “divisive” concepts. The parent then writes, “I would consider anything in the genre of ‘LGBT’ and ‘Queer’ divisive.”

ny times logoNew York Times, At the University of Chicago, a Debate Over Free Speech and Cyber Bullying, Vimal Patel, July 5, 2023 (print ed.). A student objected to a class and tweeted the lecturer’s photo and email address. Hate mail poured in. What should the school do?

Rebecca Journey, a lecturer at the University of Chicago, thought little of calling her new undergraduate seminar “The Problem of Whiteness.” Though provocatively titled, the anthropology course covered familiar academic territory: how the racial category “white” has changed over time.

She was surprised, then, when her inbox exploded in November with vitriolic messages from dozens of strangers. One wrote that she was “deeply evil.” Another: “Blow your head clean off.”

The instigator was Daniel Schmidt, a sophomore and conservative activist with tens of thousands of social media followers. He tweeted, “Anti-white hatred is now mainstream academic inquiry,” along with the course description and Dr. Journey’s photo and university email address.

Spooked, Dr. Journey, a newly minted Ph.D. preparing to hit the academic job market, postponed her class to the spring. Then she filed complaints with the university, accusing Mr. Schmidt of doxxing and harassing her.

Mr. Schmidt, 19, denied encouraging anyone to harass her. And university officials dismissed her claims. As far as they knew, they said, Mr. Schmidt did not personally send her any abusive emails. And under the university’s longstanding, much-hailed commitment to academic freedom, speech was restricted only when it “constitutes a genuine threat or harassment.”

The university’s declaration of free speech principles, developed in 2014 and known as the Chicago statement, has become a touchstone and guide for colleges across the country that have struggled to manage campus controversies, particularly when liberal students shout down conservative speakers. Scores of schools have adopted it.

But what followed for the rest of the academic year at the University of Chicago has tested whether its principles address a new, rapidly changing environment where a single tweet can rain down vitriol and threats.

The Chicago statement assumes that what takes place on campuses is “in good faith and that people have an interest in engaging the ideas,” said Isaac A. Kamola, of Faculty First Responders, which monitors conservative attacks on academics. But, he added, “the ecosystem that Daniel Schmidt is part of has no interest in having a conversation.”

Geoffrey R. Stone, a law professor, led the faculty committee that drafted the Chicago statement. He said that back then, the group was not thinking about how online threats could harm free expression — never mind this situation, where Mr. Schmidt simply posted a tweet with publicly available information.

Posting repeatedly, while knowing the response, might be harassment, said Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional law scholar at the University of California, Berkeley.

But, he said, “The hard question is, where is that line crossed?”

Mr. Schmidt seemed to understand that he stood right at the divide.

July 4

ny times logoNew York Times, Meta’s ‘Twitter Killer’ App Is Coming, Mike Isaac, July 4, 2023 (print ed.). Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, teased a new app called Threads that is set to take on Twitter for real-time digital conversations.

mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wMark Zuckerberg, left, has long wanted to dislodge Twitter and provide the central place for public conversation online. Yet Twitter has remained meta logostubbornly irreplaceable.

That hasn’t stopped Mr. Zuckerberg.

On Monday, his company, Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, teased a new app aimed squarely at Twitter’s territory.

The app, which is called Threads and is connected to Instagram, appeared in Apple’s App Store for users to sign up to download on Thursday, when it will be released. The app appears to function much like Twitter, emphasizing public conversations, with users able to follow people they already do on Instagram. Some techies have referred to the coming app as a “Twitter killer.”

twitter bird CustomMr. Zuckerberg is striking while Twitter undergoes fresh turmoil. Since Elon Musk bought the social platform last year, he has changed the service by tinkering with Twitter’s algorithm that decides which posts are most visible, thrown out content moderation rules that ban certain kinds of tweets and overhauled a verification process that confirms the identities of users.

Then over the weekend, Mr. Musk imposed limits on how many tweets its users would be able to read when using the app. He said the move was in response to other companies taking Twitter’s data in a process called “scraping.” Twitter’s users were soon met with messages that they had exceeded their “rate limit,” effectively making the app unusable after a short amount of time viewing posts. Many Twitter users became frustrated.

“If there’s ever been a more self-destructive owner of a multibillion-dollar enterprise who resents the very customers who determine the success of that enterprise, I am unaware of it,” Lou Paskalis, founder and chief executive of AJL Advisory, a marketing and advertising technology strategy firm, said of Mr. Musk and Twitter.

The latest turbulence at Twitter appears to have given Mr. Zuckerberg an opening for Threads.

Meta’s executives have discussed how to capitalize on the chaos at Twitter since last year, including by building a rival service. “Twitter is in crisis and Meta needs its mojo back,” one Meta employee wrote in an internal post last year, according to a report in December by The New York Times. “LET’S GO FOR THEIR BREAD AND BUTTER.”

instagram logoThat has resulted in Threads, a crash project spun out of Instagram and internally code-named Project 92. Users will be able to log into Threads using their Instagram account, according to photo previews of the app displayed in Apple’s App Store.

Meta executives previously characterized the app as a “sanely run” version of a public-facing social network, in a not-so-subtle jab at Mr. Musk’s erratic behavior.

July 2

ny times logoNew York Times, The N.F.L.’s Betting Penalties Put ‘Integrity’ to the Test, Santul Nerkar and Emmanuel Morgan, July 2, 2023 (print ed.). The punishments for players caught breaking the N.F.L.’s gambling rules are harsh. The league wants no insinuation that games might be rigged.

When the N.F.L. on Thursday announced that three players had been found to have bet on football, the penalties came down with characteristic harshness: indefinite suspensions that can only be appealed after a full season.

It was the second such set of gambling penalties levied this off-season, after the league in April invoked the same suspension against three players who had bet on N.F.L. games.

The suspensions, punitive by nature, were also a warning to other pros tempted by the pervasive opportunities to bet on football. But, critics say, the harsh punishment is dissonant with the league’s business partnerships with betting companies, which brought the league more than $1 billion in 2022.

On Thursday, the N.F.L. suspended Isaiah Rodgers and Rashod Berry of the Indianapolis Colts and free agent Demetrius Taylor through at least the 2023 season for betting on N.F.L. games. Shortly after the announcement, the Colts released Rodgers and Berry.

whistleblower summit logoOpEd News, Whistleblower Summit & Film Festival Announces Slate of Films and Screenplays for 11th Annual Film & Writing Competition, Michael McCray, left, Update July 1, 2023. Pentagon Papers Whistleblower to be Remembered During 11th Annual Event Featuring Film Screenings, Screenplay Contest, and a Tribute to Famed michael mccrayWhistleblower Daniel Ellsberg at the National Press Club.

ACORN 8, in collaboration with the Justice Integrity Project, announced feature, documentary, short film, and screenplay selections premiering virtually at the Whistleblower Summit & Film Festival ( The hybrid event, set for July 22-33 in Washington, DC, will include live events and virtual screenings of featured films and panels. The theme for the annual conference is "Unraveling the Truth: 60 Years after the Assassination of JFK." The annual festival is a globally recognized platform amplifying free speech, social justice, and civil & human rights advocacy. Festival passes, and single tickets are on sale now.

For more information about the summit hosts and film festival, click here

The National Whistleblower Day (July 30) feature screenings include The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. Additional screenings include District Insiders: Former JFK Secret Service Protector Describes Shocking JFK Assassination and other industry panels (filmmaker and screenwriter). This year's programming illuminates a wide array of storytelling that showcases the talent of writers and filmmakers alike.

"We are proud to be back live for the 11th year to bring audiences, both in-person and virtually, an inspiring selection of events celebrating free speech in all its forms "film, books, journalism, and advocacy," said Michael McCray, Managing Director. "We're thrilled to spotlight transformative storytelling that demonstrates the power of equity in entertainment media."

"We are honored to recognize Abraham Bolden (African American) an important JFK Secret Service Agent turned whistleblower at this year's summit," said Andrew Kreig, Executive Director for the Justice Integrity Project.

"We're excited to come together for the 11th year running to share unique and untold stories, showcasing diverse and inclusive content to the masses. This year's filmmakers are unmatched in their refreshing narratives," Marcel Reid, Festival Director.

ny times logoNew York Times, Elon Musk Says Twitter Is Limiting Number of Posts Users Can Read, Eduardo Medina and Ryan Mac, July 2, 2023 (print ed.). The change on Saturday came as thousands of users complained about getting an error message that they had “exceeded” their “rate limit.”

Elon Musk said on Saturday that Twitter will temporarily limit the number of posts users can read per day to address concerns over data scraping, just hours after thousands of users reported widespread problems using the site.

twitter bird CustomMany of those users reported that they were getting an error message that they had “exceeded” their “rate limit,” suggesting that they had violated Twitter’s rules and downloaded and viewed too many tweets.

Mr. Musk, who said on Friday that “several hundred organizations” were taking Twitter’s data in a process called scraping and that “it was affecting the real user experience,” did not say how long the limits would last or what could prompt him to lift the restriction.

He originally said that verified accounts would be limited to reading 6,000 posts per day, unverified accounts to 600 posts and new unverified accounts to 300 posts.

ny times logoNew York Times, Authors and Students Sue Over Florida Law Driving Book Bans, Elizabeth A. Harris and Alexandra Alter, June 21, 2023 (print ed.). The authors of a picture book about a penguin family with two fathers sued the state and a school district that removed the book from libraries.

July 1

ny times logoNew York Times, Fox News Agrees to Pay $12 Million to Settle Hostile Workplace Suit, Katie Robertson, July 1, 2023 (print ed.). The settlement with a former producer, Abby Grossberg, shown in a file photo, is the latest development in a series of legal battles involving Fox.

abby grossberg johns hopkinsFox News has agreed to pay $12 million to Abby Grossberg, a former Fox News producer who had accused the network of operating a hostile and discriminatory fox news logo Smallworkplace and of coercing her into providing false testimony in a deposition.

Parisis G. Filippatos, a lawyer for Ms. Grossberg, said that the settlement concluded all of Ms. Grossberg’s claims against Fox and the people she had named in her complaints, which included the former host Tucker Carlson and some of his producers.

Ms. Grossberg’s legal team filed a request in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Friday to dismiss a remaining lawsuit against Fox in light of the settlement.

Ms. Grossberg said in a statement on Friday that she stood by her allegations, but she was “heartened that Fox News has taken me and my legal claims seriously.”

“I am hopeful, based on our discussions with Fox News today, that this resolution represents a positive step by the network regarding its treatment of women and minorities in the workplace,” she said.
Inside the Media Industry

A spokeswoman for Fox said in a statement on Friday: “We are pleased that we have been able to resolve this matter without further litigation.”

Justin Wells, a former senior executive producer for Mr. Carlson, who was named in a complaint, said in a post on Twitter: “We deny Ms. Grossberg’s claims and allegations against Tucker Carlson and his team. Nevertheless, we are glad that Fox has settled this matter and that all sides can move forward.”

The settlement with Ms. Grossberg is the latest development in a series of legal battles involving Fox. In April, the company paid Dominion Voting Systems $787.5 million, in what is believed to be the biggest settlement figure in a defamation case. Days later, Fox took Tucker Carlson, its most popular host, off the air after the company’s leadership concluded he was more of a problem than an asset and had to go.

Fox faces a second defamation case by another voting technology company. Smartmatic, like Dominion, says Fox knowingly spread false information about its products, baselessly claiming that they contributed to election fraud in 2020.



June 29


The five most radical right Republican justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are shown above, with the sixth Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, omitted in this view.

The five most radical right Republican justices on the Supreme Court are shown above, with the sixth Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, omitted in this photo array.

ny times logo New York Times, Supreme Court Curtails Affirmative Action at U.S. Colleges, Adam Liptak, June 29, 2023. Strikes Down Race-Conscious Admissions at 2 Universities. The court rejected programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina. The vote was 6 to 3, with the court’s liberal members in dissent.
The decision was expected to set off a scramble as schools revisit their admissions practices. In disavowing race as a factor in achieving educational diversity, the court all but ensured that the student population at the campuses of elite institutions will become whiter and more Asian and less Black and Latino.

The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the race-conscious admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina were unlawful, curtailing affirmative action at colleges and universities around the nation, a policy that has long been a pillar of higher education.

john roberts oThe vote was 6 to 3, with the court’s liberal members in dissent. In a footnote, Chief Justice Roberts, right, exempted military academies from the ruling in light of “the potentially distinct interests” they present. There had been discussion of whether the military needed to maintain affirmative action in training its future officer corps based on a judgment that it would be bad for military discipline and cohesiveness if the leadership cadre did not reflect the diversity of the rank-and-file troops who do the bulk of fighting and dying in wars.

Justices Sotomayor and Jackson both criticized the majority for making an exception for military academies. Justice Sotomayor called it ketanji brown jackson robearbitrary, while Justice Jackson, left, wrote, “The court has come to rest on the bottom-line conclusion that racial diversity in higher education is only worth potentially preserving insofar as it might be needed to prepare Black Americans and other underrepresented minorities for success in the bunker, not the boardroom (a particularly awkward place to land, in light of the history the majority opts to ignore).”

Justin Driver, a professor at Yale Law School and an expert on the Supreme Court’s education rulings, predicted that the affirmative action decision could cause some state universities to move to race-neutral strategies for increasing diversity, such as the “top percent” model used in Texas.

In that state, students with the highest grade point averages at each high school are guaranteed admission to a public university, including the system’s flagship, the University of Texas at Austin.

In a statement celebrating the decision, Edward Blum, the conservative activist behind the lawsuits against Harvard and U.N.C., said: “Ending racial preferences in college admissions is an outcome that the vast majority of all races and ethnicities will celebrate. A university doesn’t have real diversity when it simply assembles students who look different but come from similar backgrounds and act, talk and think alike.”

In Justice Jackson’s dissent in the U.N.C. case, she wrote: “It would be deeply unfortunate if the Equal Protection Clause actually demanded this perverse, ahistorical and counterproductive outcome. To impose this result in that clause’s name when it requires no such thing, and to thereby obstruct our collective progress toward the full realization of the clause’s promise, is truly a tragedy for us all.”

washington post logoWashington Post, State affirmative action bans helped White, Asian students, hurt others, Janice Kai Chen and Daniel Wolfe, Updated June 29, 2023. While highly selective schools saw diversity decline, data shows other schools saw growth

The Supreme Court has ruled to restrict affirmative action and eliminate race-conscious admissions in higher education, overturning more than four decades of court precedent.

A Washington Post review of 30 years of race and ethnicity data from the eight states that currently ban race-based admission policies in higher education shows how a federal ban on affirmative action might harm minority students across the United States.

Where race-based admission policies were banned in 2021, already underrepresented racial groups had even lower representation when compared to states harvard logowithout bans. Banned states in 2021 include Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Washington.

Two lawsuits, against the University of North Carolina and Harvard University, are behind the high court’s decision to federally restrict affirmative action. Plaintiffs in both cases contend that race-conscious admissions favor some students — Black, Hispanic and Native Americans — over others.

How is affirmative action used in college admissions?

north carolina map

At the University of North Carolina, White students have been overrepresented for the past 30 years, with the White freshman class approaching racial parity only in 2020, when compared to state demographics. Black students have remained underrepresented by around 10 points.


washington post logoWashington Post, National Geographic lays off its last remaining staff writers, Paul Farhi, June 29, 2023 (print ed.). The magazine, which remains among the most read in the U.S., has struggled in the digital era to command the kind of resources that fueled the deep reporting it became known for.

Like one of the endangered species whose impending extinction it has chronicled, National Geographic magazine has been on a relentlessly downward path, struggling for vibrancy in an increasingly unforgiving ecosystem.

On Wednesday, the Washington-based magazine that has surveyed science and the natural world for 135 years reached another difficult passage when it laid off all of its last remaining staff writers.

The cutback — the latest in a series under owner Walt Disney Co. — involves some 19 editorial staffers in all, who were notified in April that these terminations were coming. Article assignments will henceforth be contracted out to freelancers or pieced together by editors. The cuts also eliminated the magazine’s small audio department.

The layoffs were the second over the past nine months, and the fourth since a series of ownership changes began in 2015. In September, Disney removed six top editors in an extraordinary reorganization of the magazine’s editorial operations.

Departing staffers said Wednesday the magazine has curtailed photo contracts that enabled photographers to spend months in the field producing the publication’s iconic images.

In a further cost-cutting move, copies of the famous bright-yellow-bordered print publication will no longer be sold on newsstands in the United States starting next year.

June 28

 philadelphia skyline w

ny times logoNew York Times, Historians Criticize Moms for Liberty Event at Museum in Philadelphia, Jennifer Schuessler, June 28, 2023. Several leading scholarly groups have criticized the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia (shown above in a file of the city skyline) for renting space to the group, which has pushed for book bans.

A half-dozen scholarly groups, including the nation’s two largest associations of professional historians, have criticized the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia for renting space to Moms for Liberty, calling it a dangerous normalization of an organization that supports book bans and restrictions on teaching about race and gender.

In a letter to the museum on Monday, the American Historical Association called on the museum to find a legal way to cancel the rental.

“Moms for Liberty is an organization that has vigorously advocated censorship and harassment of history teachers, banning history books from libraries and classrooms, and legislation that renders it impossible for historians to teach with professional integrity without risking job loss and other penalties,” the letter said.

The letter recognized the group’s right to argue for its preferred approach to history education. “However, Moms for Liberty has crossed a boundary in its attempts to silence and harass teachers, rather than participate in legitimate controversy,” it said.

The controversy became public in early June, when it was reported that dozens of museum employees were calling on the museum to cancel the rental to Moms for Liberty, on the grounds that it undermined the museum’s reputation and mission.

The rental was for a reception during its four-day “Joyful Warriors National Summit,” which begins on Thursday. The summit will feature several dozen prominent speakers, including former President Donald J. Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, both of whom have championed the teaching of “patriotic history” and opposition to “wokeness.”

In a statement, the museum, a private nonprofit, acknowledged the legitimacy of the employees’ concerns, but said it could not discriminate on the basis of a group’s political beliefs, which it called “antithetical to our purpose.”

Moms for Liberty has objected to negative characterizations of the group, which the Southern Poverty Law Center recently labeled “extremist.”

In a statement to The New York Times, the organization’s co-founders, Tiffany Justice and Tina Descovich, said: “We expect our national summit in Philadelphia to be a time of training and empowerment for parents to be more active in their child’s school system. We stand for the rights of parents and against anyone trying to silent parents who want to speak up on behalf of their child’s needs.”

Moms for Liberty, founded in 2021, originally focused on opposition to pandemic-era restrictions in schools, but has since expanded to supporting parents’ rights to ban books they deem inappropriate from classrooms and school libraries. The group has also become a force in Republican politics — the scheduled speakers at the summit include several presidential candidates.

The controversy over the Moms for Liberty event also highlights the complexities of free speech, and the line between opposing censorship and engaging in it. In their statements, the historical groups did not speak entirely with one voice.

ny times logoNew York Times, Remains Found in California Wilderness Are Identified as Those of Julian Sands, Derrick Bryson Taylor, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). The British actor was reported missing in January after he went hiking alone on a trail on Mount Baldy. Last weekend, after months of intense searches, hikers found human remains in the area.

Human remains that were found on Saturday in the Southern California wilderness have been identified as those of the British actor Julian Sands, who had been missing since January after he went hiking in the area, the authorities said on Tuesday.

Mr. Sands, 65, of North Hollywood, was an avid hiker and was best known for his role in the critically acclaimed 1986 film “A Room With a View.” The film, an adaptation of the novel by E.M. Forster, regularly makes lists as one of the best British films of all time. He also appeared in dozens of other films and television shows, including “Arachnophobia,” “Naked Lunch,” “Warlock” and “Ocean’s Thirteen.”

ny times logoNew York Times, PGA Tour’s Pact With Saudi Wealth Fund Shows Many Details Left to Settle, Alan Blinder, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). The five-page agreement provoked a furor but included only a handful of binding provisions.

The PGA Tour’s tentative deal with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund to form an alliance with the rival LIV Golf series includes only a handful of binding commitments — such as a nondisparagement agreement and a pledge to dismiss acrimonious litigation — and leaves many of the most consequential details about the future of men’s professional golf to be negotiated by the end of the year.

The five-page framework agreement was obtained by The New York Times on Monday, the day the tour shared a copy of it with a Senate subcommittee that plans to hold a July hearing about the deal.

The proposed deal, announced on June 6 by the tour and the wealth fund, the financial force behind the renegade LIV Golf circuit, has caused an uproar throughout the golf industry. But a review of the agreement points to the rushed nature of the secret, seven-week talks that led to the deal and the complex path that remains ahead for the new venture, a potential triumph for Saudi Arabia’s quest to gain power and influence in sports and, its critics say, to distract from its reputation as a human rights abuser.

Most crucially, the tour and the wealth fund must still come to terms on the values of the assets that each will contribute to their planned partnership. Bankers and lawyers have spent recent weeks beginning the valuation process, but the framework agreement includes no substantive details of projected figures or even the size of an anticipated cash investment from the wealth fund.

June 27

washington post logoWashington Post, The Biden administration announces $42 billion in federal aid to expand high-speed internet access, Tony Romm, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). About 7 percent of the country still doesn’t have broadband access that meets minimum standards, according to federal estimates. The funding — a centerpiece of the recent bipartisan infrastructure law — marks the largest-ever federal push to help an estimated 8.5 million families and businesses.

joe biden resized oThe Biden administration on Monday announced more than $42 billion in new federal funding to expand high-speed internet access nationwide, commencing the largest-ever campaign to help an estimated 8.5 million families and small businesses finally take advantage of modern-day connectivity.

The money, which the government plans to parcel out to states over the next two years, is the centerpiece of a vast and ambitious effort to deliver reliable broadband to the entire country by 2030 — ensuring that even the most far-flung parts of the United States can reap the economic benefits of the digital age.

In a preview of Biden’s planned remarks, White House officials likened the new infrastructure project to the government’s work to electrify the nation’s darkened heartland in the late 1930s, when more than 90 percent of farms had no electric power in the face of high costs and prohibitive terrain.

  • Washington Post, The real reason people in the Northeast are most likely to still have landlines, Andrew Van Dam, June 26, 2023.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Review-Bombing Can Tank a Book Before It’s Published, Alexandra Alter and Elizabeth A. Harris, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). The website Goodreads has become an essential avenue for building readership, but the same features that help generate excitement can also backfire.

Cecilia Rabess figured her debut novel, “Everything’s Fine,” would spark criticism: The story centers on a young Black woman working at Goldman Sachs who falls in love with a conservative white co-worker with bigoted views.

But she didn’t expect a backlash to strike six months before the book was published.

In January, after a Goodreads user who had received an advanced copy posted a plot summary that went viral on Twitter, the review site was flooded with negative comments and one-star reviews, with many calling the book anti-Black and racist. Some of the comments were left by users who said they had never read the book, but objected to its premise.

“It may look like a bunch of one-star reviews on Goodreads, but these are broader campaigns of harassment,” Rabess said. “People were very keen not just to attack the work, but to attack me as well.”

In an era when reaching readers online has become a near-existential problem for publishers, Goodreads has become an essential avenue for building an audience. As a cross between a social media platform and a review site like Yelp, the site has been a boon for publishers hoping to generate excitement for books.

But the same features that get users talking about books and authors can also backfire. Reviews can be weaponized, in some cases derailing a book’s publication long before its release.

“It can be incredibly hurtful, and it’s frustrating that people are allowed to review books this way if they haven’t read them,” said Roxane Gay, an author and editor who also posts reviews on Goodreads. “Worse, they’re allowed to review books that haven’t even been written. I have books on there being reviewed that I’m not finished with yet.”

Rabess, who quit her job as a data scientist at Google to focus on writing after selling her novel to Simon & Schuster, worried that the online ambush might turn people against her book.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jesse Watters will take over Tucker Carlson’s former slot in Fox News prime-time shakeup, Jeremy Barr, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). Laura Ingraham’s show will move to 7 p.m. and Greg Gutfeld will shift to 10 p.m.

Fox News picked Jesse Watters to serve as permanent host of its 8 p.m. show as part of a broader shake-up of the network’s prime-time lineup.

Laura Ingraham will also move from 10 p.m. to 7 p.m., and comedian Greg Gutfeld will move from 11 p.m. to 10 p.m.

fox news logo SmallIn moving from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., Watters will fill an hour that has been helmed by rotating hosts since Fox fired top-rated host Tucker Carlson in late April.

Sean Hannity will remain at 9 p.m., while news anchor Trace Gallagher will move up an hour from midnight to 11 p.m.

The changes come amid a significant decline in viewers since the network’s decision to oust Carlson. In the month after Carlson’s departure, Fox’s overall prime-time ratings declined by 38 percent — from an average of 2.6 million viewers to 1.6 million.

For the week of June 5, MSNBC’s prime-time lineup attracted more viewers than Fox’s prime-time block for the first time in several years. The following week, Fox regained its edge over MSNBC in total viewers but lost among the 25-to-54 age demographic prized by advertisers.

June 26

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Legal Foundation of Women’s Sports Is Under Fire, David French, right, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). What is the legal foundation for women’s david french croppedsports? It’s a simple question with a surprisingly complex answer.

After all, the most potent federal statute supporting parallel men’s and women’s sports leagues would appear — on its face — to also prohibit separate leagues. Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

The act contains explicit exceptions — such as permitting fraternities and sororities and beauty pageants and protecting the liberty of religious educational institutions — but its language tracks that of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI prohibits race discrimination in federally funded educational programs using virtually identical language, declaring, “No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

In the realm of athletics, however, these two statutes have traditionally worked in remarkably different ways. Race segregation in athletic programs is a legal and cultural taboo. There are no legally segregated white and Black football leagues, for example, and if a school decided to create a Black league and a white league, it would face an immediate civil rights complaint. Excluding a football player from a team simply because of his race is unlawful discrimination.

But this is not the case when it comes to sex. The result of Title IX was not the large-scale creation of coed sports leagues, where men and women have an equal opportunity to compete in the same events, where the best man or woman makes the team, and the best man or woman wins the race. Instead, Title IX has resulted in the expansion of women’s sports into an enormous, separate and parallel apparatus, where women by the millions compete against one another, winning women’s titles in women’s leagues.

Why this difference? Why have two statutes with such similar language created such different realities? Because sex is substantially different from race, and treating sex the same as race would be a profound injustice for women in sports.

Let’s go back to the language of the statute itself, which speaks in terms of both “participation” and “benefits.” If you treat people of different races the same, people of all races can both participate and receive the benefits of participation in athletics. If you treat people of different sexes the same, the reality is very different.

This month, an en banc panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit heard arguments in a prominent case about whether Title IX prohibits transgender girls from participating in women’s sports. The case involves claims by four former Connecticut female high school track athletes who lost races to two transgender (natal male) athletes, including state championships.

The plaintiffs in the case sought a declaration that the state sports league’s policy permitting transgender girls to compete in women’s athletics violated Title IX by “failing to provide competitive opportunities that effectively accommodate the abilities of girls” and failing to provide “equal treatment, benefits and opportunities for girls in athletic competition.” The plaintiffs argued that Title IX was intended to grant women and girls the “chance to be champions,” not just a right to compete.

Last year, a three-judge panel of the appellate court rejected the plaintiffs’ claims. The panel didn’t reject the “chance to be champions” theory entirely, but Judge Denny Chin, writing for the court, said that the plaintiffs had not claimed “an injury in fact” (and thus lacked standing to bring their claims) because “all four plaintiffs regularly competed at state track championships as high school athletes, where plaintiffs had the opportunity to compete for state titles in different events.” Indeed, as the court notes, one of the plaintiffs even beat the transgender athletes in a 100-meter race in 2019. Under the court’s reasoning, the chance to compete was a “chance to be a champion.”

But then something unusual happened. The entire appeals court asked to hear the case. This month, the court heard oral arguments, and a decision is expected soon. The oral arguments were dominated by questions of standing — whether a loss of a championship should be considered a legally recognizable injury, an injury that courts should or could address.

To be clear, the question was not whether the transgender girls did anything wrong — casting any aspersions on their participation in the races would be profoundly unjust. They ran the race in accordance with the rules of the race. The question was whether the rules were wrong.

The transgender athletes intervened in the case, with the aid of the A.C.L.U., and argued that “Title IX does not require sex-separated teams or an equal number of trophies for male and female athletes.” They emphasized that the plaintiffs “repeatedly outperformed” the transgender athletes “in direct competition.”

But the argument is not that transgender athletes will always win, but rather that if schools replace sex with gender identity as the relevant criterion for participation, then the statutory sex-based promises of participation and benefits in educational programs will be undermined. (Gender identity, as the A.C.L.U. defined it, is a “medical term for a person’s ‘deeply felt, inherent sense’ of belonging to a particular sex.”)

After all, when we survey the performance gap between male and female athletes, is that gap best explained by the differences in gender identity between the competitors or the differences that are inherent in biological sex? And if those differences are best explained by biological sex rather than gender identity, then any rule that wipes out biological sex as the determining factor in eligibility will undermine both the practical and legal basis for women’s sports.

I’m not a catastrophist. I hate rhetoric that declares that women’s sports will be “destroyed” by the inclusion of a small number of trans women in athletic competition. I hate even more any demonization or disparagement of the trans athletes themselves. When they compete according to the rules of the sport, they are doing nothing wrong. But legal definitions do matter, especially when they are rooted in hard facts, such as the systematic, documented performance gap between the sexes.

All people are created equal, and possess equal moral worth, but we are not all created the same. To protect equal opportunity, there are times when the law should recognize differences. And in the realm of athletics, if we want to both secure and continue the remarkable advances women have made in the 51 years since Congress passed Title IX, it’s important to remember that sex still matters, and sex distinctions in the law should remain.

June 25


dominion voting systemsRollingstone, Newsmax Staffers Hit With Subpoenas in 2020 Election Defamation Suit, Staff Report, June 25, 2023. Court filings rife with internal communications exposed Fox News’ post-election misinformation push. Newsmax could be next.

rolling stone logoDominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit against Fox News laid bare how the network communicated behind the scenes about broadcasting 2020 election misinformation, ultimately leading the network to fork over a massive settlement. Newsmax could be next, as voting-technology company Smartmatic has subpoenaed several of the right-wing cable network’s current and former employees for work and personal correspondence.

Several Newsmax insiders, who spoke with Rolling Stone under a condition of anonymity due to a fear of reprisal, said that roughly three weeks ago they were told to hand over “mirror images of their personal cellphone, personal email, and iCloud,” as Smartmatic’s lawsuit against the network moves forward.

Smartmaric’s attorney J. Erik Connolly, managing chair of the litigation practice group at Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan, & Aronoff, LLC, tells Rolling Stone: “Smartmatic intends to pursue discovery from the current and former Newsmax employees who participated in the egregious disinformation campaign against the company. Some of the discovery has come, and will come, from the company. Smartmatic is pursuing these individuals to get the rest. Our complaint does not numerically specify the amount of damages we have suffered.”

Smartmatic claims in its lawsuit that Newsmax knowingly pushed falsehoods about the company following the 2020 presidential election. “Newsmax published and/or republished false statements and implications during news broadcasts, in online reports, and on social media that ‘Smartmatic participated in a criminal conspiracy’ to fix, rig, and steal the Election,” the defamation suit alleges.

Newsmax, which did not return Rolling Stone’s request for comment, initially pushed back on the Smartmatic defamation suit with a countersuit claiming it was an intimidation tactic. However, in February 2023, Smartmatic’s case was permitted to proceed, and Newsmax staffers are now being asked to hand over pertinent material.

June 22

 lina khan resized ftc

ny times logoNew York Times, F.T.C. Sues Amazon for Tricking Users Into Subscribing to Prime, David McCabe, June 22, 2023 (print ed.). The lawsuit is the first time that the Federal Trade Commission under its chair, Lina Khan, has taken Amazon to court.

The Federal Trade Commission sued Amazon on Wednesday, accusing it of illegally inducing consumers to sign up for its Prime service and then hindering them from canceling the subscription, in the most aggressive action against the company to date by the agency’s chair, Lina Khan (shown above in a file photo).

amazon logo smallIn its lawsuit, the F.T.C. argued that Amazon had “duped millions of consumers” into enrolling in Prime by using “manipulative, coercive or deceptive” design tactics on its website known as “dark patterns.” And when consumers wanted to cancel, Amazon “knowingly complicated” the process with byzantine procedures.

“Amazon tricked and trapped people into recurring subscriptions without their consent, not only frustrating users but also costing them significant money,” Ms. Khan said in a statement.

Amazon said in a statement that the F.T.C.’s “claims are false on the facts and the law” and that “by design we make it clear and simple for customers to both sign up for or cancel their Prime membership.” The company accused the F.T.C. of filing the lawsuit without advance notice, while the two sides were still in conversation about the case.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, takes aim at a key Amazon program that has become ubiquitous in the lives of more than 200 million customers. Prime members pay $139 a year to get packages shipped faster from Amazon’s retail store, to stream movies and series from its in-house studio and to receive discounts when they check out at Amazon’s Whole Foods grocery chain. The company has added more perks to Prime over time, including live sports, and has raised the annual subscription fee.

The F.T.C.’s action was the first time that the agency took Amazon to court under Ms. Khan, who rose to fame with a viral critique of the company and who is ramping up scrutiny of the e-commerce giant. Ms. Khan has said the power that big tech companies exert over online commerce requires regulators to be far more aggressive, and she has taken actions against them.

ny times logoNew York Times, China’s Cloud Computing Firms Raise Concern for U.S., David McCabe, June 22, 2023. The Biden administration is exploring whether it can counter Chinese tech giants like Alibaba and Huawei, potentially fueling tensions with Beijing.

washington post logoWashington Post, Andrew Tate, brother indicted on charges of rape, human trafficking, Victoria Bisset and Loveday Morris, June 21, 2023 (print ed.). Romanian prosecutors announced Tuesday they had indicted internet personality and self-described misogynist Andrew Tate, right, and his brother on charges of human trafficking, rape and forming an organized crime group.

andrew tate 2021The indictment marks the end of the criminal investigation into Tate and two Romanian associates, and prosecutors will now send the case to trial. The prosecutors’ statement said the injured parties were “sexually exploited by group members” and forced to produce online pornography through acts of “violence and mental coercion.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Samuel Alito’s reply in The Wall Street Journal took ProPublica by surprise, Katie Robertson, June 22, 2023. The Wall Street Journal made the unusual decision to let Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. pre-empt ProPublica’s article about him in its opinion pages.

The Wall Street Journal faced criticism on Wednesday after its highly unusual decision to let Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. pre-empt another media organization’s article about him by publishing his response in its opinion pages.

The essay by Justice Alito in The Journal’s opinion section, which operates independently of its newsroom, ran online on Tuesday evening with the headline “Justice Samuel Alito: ProPublica Misleads Its Readers.”

An editor’s note at the top of the essay said two ProPublica reporters, Justin Elliott and Josh Kaplan, had emailed questions to Justice Alito on Friday and had asked him to respond by noon Tuesday. “Here is Justice Alito’s response,” the editor’s note said.

ProPublica published its investigation into Justice Alito several hours later on Tuesday, revealing that he took a luxury fishing trip in 2008 as the guest of Paul Singer, a billionaire Republican donor, and had not disclosed the trip nor recused himself from cases since then that involved Mr. Singer’s hedge fund.

Stephen Engelberg, the editor in chief of ProPublica, said in a statement on Wednesday that ProPublica always invited people mentioned in articles to offer a response before publication. ProPublica has run several articles in recent months about possible conflicts of interests among some Supreme Court justices.

“We were surprised to see Justice Alito’s answers appear to our questions in an opinion essay in The Wall Street Journal, but we’re happy to get a response in any form,” he said.

“We’re curious to know whether The Journal fact-checked the essay before publication,” he added. “We strongly reject the headline’s assertion that ‘ProPublica Misleads Its Readers,’ which the piece declared without anyone having read the article and without asking for our comment.”

A spokeswoman for The Journal did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In an editorial published Wednesday evening, The Journal’s editorial board wrote that it had seen ProPublica’s questions for Justice Alito and that he “clearly wanted his defense to receive public disclosure in full, not edited piecemeal.”

Bill Grueskin, a professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, said that while essays on opinion pages usually got some form of fact-checking, The Journal would have been unable to do so in this case because the ProPublica investigation had not yet been published.

“Justice Alito could have issued this as a statement on the SCOTUS website,” Mr. Grueskin, a former top news editor at The Journal, said in an email. “But the fact that he chose The Journal — and that the editorial page was willing to serve as his loyal factotum — says a great deal about the relationship between the two parties.”

In the article, Justice Alito argued that ProPublica’s claims that he should have recused himself from certain cases and should have disclosed certain items in a 2008 financial disclosure report were not valid.

Rod Hicks, the director of ethics and diversity for the Society of Professional Journalists, said that “it’s quite uncommon for a news outlet to allow an official to use its platform to respond to questions from a different outlet.”

“And it’s totally unheard-of to post that response before the other outlet even publishes its story,” he added. “If not ethics, professional courtesy should have restrained The Journal.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Bookforum is Returning, Months After the Literary World Mourned its Closure, Kate Dwyer, June 22, 2023. The literary magazine will be back in print in August, with a new publishing partner: The Nation.

Bookforum’s relaunch, announced on Thursday, marks a return to form, said Bhaskar Sunkara, president of The Nation, who initiated talks in the spring. Bookforum will remain a quarterly print publication with the same branding and aesthetic, helmed by the staff at the time of its closure, he added. Longtime contributors have signed on to write for the relaunch issue.

June 21

samuel alito frowing uncreditedwashington post logoWashington Post, ProPublica asked about Alito’s travel. He replied in the Wall Street Journal, Paul Farhi, June 21, 2023. Questioned about an undisclosed fishing trip hosted by a GOP billionaire, the Supreme Court justice instead shared his rebuttal in a rival media outlet — before the investigative journalists could publish their scoop.

pro publica logoSupreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., shown above in a file photo, took issue with questions raised by the investigative journalism outlet ProPublica about his travel with a politically active billionaire, and on Tuesday evening, he outlined his defense in an op-ed published by the Wall Street Journal.

Yet Alito was responding to a news story that ProPublica hadn’t yet published.

Alito’s Journal column, bluntly headlined “ProPublica Misleads Its Readers,” was an unusual public venture by a Supreme Court justice into the highly opinionated realm of a newspaper editorial page. And it drew criticism late Tuesday for effectively leaking elements of ProPublica’s still-in-progress journalism — with the assistance of the Journal’s editorial-page editors.

An editor’s note at the top of Alito’s column said that ProPublica reporters Justin Elliott and Josh Kaplan had sent a series of questions to Alito last week and asked for a response by Tuesday at noon. The editor’s note doesn’t mention that ProPublica hadn’t yet published its story — nor that Alito did not provide his answers directly to ProPublica.

June 20

ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Targets Researchers Who Study Disinformation Ahead of 2024 Election, Steven Lee Myers and Sheera Frenkel, June 20, 2023 (print ed.). A legal campaign against universities and think tanks seeks to undermine the fight against false claims about elections, vaccines and other topics.

On Capitol Hill and in the courts, Republican lawmakers and activists are mounting a sweeping legal campaign against universities, think tanks and private companies that study the spread of disinformation, accusing them of colluding with the government to suppress conservative speech online.

djt maga hatThe effort has encumbered its targets with expansive requests for information and, in some cases, subpoenas — demanding notes, emails and other information related to social media companies and the government dating back to 2015. Complying has consumed time and resources and already affected the groups’ ability to do research and raise money, according to several people involved.

They and others warned that the campaign undermined the fight against disinformation in American society when the problem is, by most accounts, on the rise — and when another presidential election is around the corner. Many of those behind the Republican effort had also joined former President Donald J. Trump in falsely challenging the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

“I think it’s quite obviously a cynical — and I would say wildly partisan — attempt to chill research,” said Jameel Jaffer, the executive director of Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute, an organization that works to safeguard freedom of speech and the press.

The House Judiciary Committee, which in January came under Republican majority control, has sent scores of letters and subpoenas to the researchers — only some of which have been made public. It has threatened legal action against those who have not responded quickly or fully enough.

A conservative advocacy group led by Stephen Miller, the former adviser to Mr. Trump, filed a class-action lawsuit last month in U.S. District Court in Louisiana that echoes many of the committee’s accusations and focuses on some of the same defendants.

Targets include Stanford, Clemson and New York Universities and the University of Washington; the Atlantic Council, the German Marshall Fund and the National Conference on Citizenship, all nonpartisan, nongovernmental organizations in Washington; the Wikimedia Foundation in San Francisco; and Graphika, a company that researches disinformation online.

In a related line of inquiry, the committee has also issued a subpoena to the World Federation of Advertisers, a trade association, and the Global Alliance for Responsible Media it created. The committee’s Republican leaders have accused the groups of violating antitrust laws by conspiring to cut off advertising revenue for content researchers and tech companies found to be harmful.

The committee’s chairman, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, a close ally of Mr. Trump, has accused the organizations of “censorship of disfavored speech” involving issues that have galvanized the Republican Party: the policies around the Covid-19 pandemic and the integrity of the American political system, including the outcome of the 2020 election.

Much of the disinformation surrounding both issues has come from the right. Many Republicans are convinced that researchers who study disinformation have pressed social media platforms to discriminate against conservative voices.

Those complaints have been fueled by Twitter’s decision under its new owner, Elon Musk, to release selected internal communications between government officials and Twitter employees. The communications show government officials urging Twitter to take action against accounts spreading disinformation but stopping short of ordering them to do, as some critics claimed.

June 17

ny times logoNew York Times, Meta to Lower Age for Users of Virtual Reality Headset to 10 From 13, Mike Isaac, Adam Satariano and Natasha Singer, June 17, 2023 (print ed.). The company has reached out to regulators about its plans, which could set off privacy and safety concerns for parents and watchdogs.

meta logoMeta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, plans to lower the recommended age for using its Quest headset to 10 from 13, the company said in a blog post on Friday, a move that could set off new privacy and safety concerns with parents and global watchdogs.

facebook logoThe company is discussing its plans with regulators, two people with knowledge of Meta’s conversations said, and is trying to assuage immediate concerns over whether younger children using the headset could be subject to greater risk.

Meta said it would require a preteen’s parental approval to set up an account, and that young users would only see apps and content rated for the preteen age group. The Quest headset allows people to enter the so-called metaverse, an immersive online world, and to play virtual reality games and do other tasks.

Over the past year, Meta has slowly moved the age restrictions for its virtual reality apps lower to reach younger audiences. In April, the company said it would allow people under 18 to use Horizon Worlds, its virtual reality-based social network, which appears to have many young users. Horizon Worlds will remain restricted to users 13 and older, as reported earlier by The Verge.

June 15



southern baptist convention logo

ny times logoNew York Times, What’s at Stake as Southern Baptists Move to Bar Women Pastors, Colbi Edmonds, June 15, 2023 (print ed.). The influential Southern Baptist Convention is grappling with divisions over the role of women in leadership.

The Southern Baptist Convention, a denomination that is often a bellwether for evangelical America, has expelled five churches from the convention this year over their appointment of women as pastors.

southern baptist convention logo 2The move to enforce a strict ban against women in church leadership comes as some evangelicals fear a liberal drift in their congregations and a departure from Scripture.

On Tuesday, two of those churches, Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., and Saddleback Church in Southern California, appealed their expulsions before thousands of delegates at the annual convention in New Orleans.

At the same time, ultraconservatives were moving to amend the S.B.C. constitution to further restrict the role of women in leadership, by stating that a church could be Southern Baptist only if it “does not affirm, appoint or employ a woman as a pastor of any kind.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Southern Baptists Move to Purge Churches With Female Pastors, Elizabeth Dias and Ruth Graham, June 14, 2023 (print ed.). Some conservatives in the evangelical denomination fear a liberal drift and are set to vote on a strict ban against women in church leadership.

southern baptist convention logo 2The letter in October came as a shock to Linda Barnes Popham, who had been the pastor of Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., for 30 years, the first woman to lead her congregation. She had served in ministry even longer, since she started as a pianist at age 16.

But now, she read in the letter, officials of the Southern Baptist Convention had received a complaint about her church being led by a woman. The denomination was investigating, it said.

She replied at length, listing her qualifications and her church’s interpretation of the Bible that affirmed her eligibility to lead. Church deacons, including men, rallied to her defense.

Convention officials decided to expel her church anyway, along with four other congregations that have female pastors, including one of the most prominent in the country, Saddleback Church, based in Southern California.

“I never believed this would happen,” Ms. Barnes Popham said of the move to expel her church, as she prepared to appeal the expulsion on Tuesday afternoon before thousands of delegates at the annual S.B.C. convention in New Orleans. “Why would you want to silence the voices of the faithful churches? Why?”

However the delegates vote on her appeal, the larger message is clear: There is a movement in the Southern Baptist Convention, a denomination that is often a bellwether for evangelical America, to purge women from its leadership.

The right wing of the Southern Baptists, the largest Protestant denomination in America, is now — like conservatives more broadly — cracking down on what it sees as dangerous liberal drift. Most people in the denomination have long believed that the office of head pastor should be reserved for men. But an ultraconservative faction with a loud online presence is going further, pressing for ideological purity and arguing that female pastors are a precursor to acceptance of homosexuality and sexual immorality.

Some ultraconservatives are now pushing for investigations and expulsions of the churches whose practices differ, like Fern Creek.

The fight over the place of women in the church, long contentious, has been escalating as American evangelicalism increasingly fuses with Republican politics and a vocal ultraconservative minority pushes for power.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Twitter Carlson is trying to turn Trump’s fanbase into his own, Philip Bump, June 15, 2023 (print ed.). Earlier this year, Fox News’s prime-time lineup featured a host named Tucker Carlson. For unclear reasons, Carlson was fired by the network, and ever since he’s been trying to find his footing.

His current play is to host a sporadic “show” on Twitter which, in practice, means lengthy diatribes offered directly to the camera and then tweeted out. Whether this constitutes a violation of his severance agreement with Fox News as competing product will be adjudicated in court, though it seems very fair to assume that the extent of the “competition” is limited. His first “show” got tens of millions of views under Twitter’s extraordinarily generous and self-serving metrics, but the impact on the national conversation was minimal, to again be generous.

This is undoubtedly frustrating for Carlson. His goal was to use his platform at Fox to reshape right-wing politics, and he was having some success. Now he’s spending the 17 months before the 2024 election trying to recreate that power however he can.

As you are likely unaware, that effort included his most recent “show,” a 13-minute speech posted on Twitter on Tuesday evening. The ostensible predicate for the program was the arraignment of former president Donald Trump in a federal courthouse in Miami on criminal charges. But Carlson’s polemic instead went a different direction: trying to center his own foreign-policy philosophy as the true target of the federal government’s anger.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fox News Tells Tucker Carlson to Stop Posting Videos on Twitter, Jeremy W. Peters and Benjamin Mullin, June 13, 2023 (print ed.). The network and its former star have been engaged in an increasingly bitter dispute over Mr. Carlson’s Twitter videos, which Fox says violate his contract.

Fox News has demanded that Tucker Carlson stop posting videos to Twitter, escalating the dispute between the network and its former star host over how — and if — he can continue to speak publicly now that his prime-time show is off the air.

In a letter sent to Mr. Carlson from Fox lawyers, the network accused him of violating the terms of his contract, which runs until early 2025 and limits his ability to appear in media other than Fox. The letter is labeled “not for publication,” in all caps.

Since Mr. Carlson was ousted by Fox News, he has begun producing a bare-bones version of his Fox program, “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” and posting it directly to Twitter. The new show, called “Tucker on Twitter,” bears some of the hallmarks of his prime-time show on Fox, including a monologue focused on current affairs and cultural issues.

Harmeet K. Dhillon, a lawyer representing Mr. Carlson, said in a statement that Fox News’s legal threat was not in the interest of the network’s audience.

ny times logoNew York Times, Senate Opens Inquiry Into PGA Tour Deal with Saudi-Funded LIV Golf, Kevin Draper and Alan Blinder, June 13, 2023 (print ed.). The PGA Tour and LIV have been asked to provide documents and communications tied to the agreement announced last week.

liv golf logoThe PGA Tour and LIV Golf have not yet closed a stunning partnership agreement announced only last week, but vows from Washington to slow or stop the deal — or at least make it uncomfortable for golf executives — crystallized on Monday, when the Senate opened an inquiry into the arrangement.

richard blumenthal portraitSenator Richard Blumenthal, right, Democrat of Connecticut and the chairman of the chamber’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said Monday that he had demanded that both the PGA Tour and the Saudi Arabian-funded LIV give up a wide array of documents and communications tied to the agreement. Blumenthal also asked for records related to the PGA Tour’s nonprofit status, suggesting an appetite to challenge the tour’s tax-exempt standing.

In a statement issued three days before the start of the U.S. Open in Los Angeles, Blumenthal decried Saudi Arabia’s “deeply disturbing human rights record at home and abroad” and said the agreement raised concerns “about the Saudi government’s role in influencing this effort and the risks posed by a foreign government entity assuming control over a cherished American institution.”

ny times logoNew York Times, PGA Tour Commissioner Steps Back After ‘Medical Situation,’ Alan Blinder, June 14, 2023 (print ed.). The tour did not elaborate on Jay Monahan’s condition but said two other executives would oversee operations during his absence.

The PGA Tour said Tuesday night that Jay Monahan, right, its commissioner, was “recuperating from a medical situation” and that two of its other executives would jay monahan 2019oversee the tour’s day-to-day operations for the time being.

The tour’s four-sentence statement came one week after Monahan, 53, announced that the tour had reached a partnership deal with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, which bankrolled the LIV Golf league that has clashed with Monahan’s circuit for more than a year.

Monahan, the tour’s commissioner since 2017, was one of the lead negotiators during the secret talks, which led to a deal that has stirred a furor among players, outrage on Capitol Hill and the prospect that the Justice Department will seek to block the arrangement. He has spent recent days crafting a response to a crush of opposition to the deal, including a session with players he called “heated,” a contentious news conference, a town-hall meeting with tour employees in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and a pointed letter to lawmakers in Washington.

The tour did not elaborate on Monahan’s condition but said that its board “fully supports Jay and appreciates everyone respecting his privacy.”

The tour did not give a timeline for Monahan’s return and said that Ron Price, the circuit’s chief operating officer, and Tyler Dennis, the president of the PGA Tour, would take charge in the interim.

“Our thoughts are with Jay and his family during his absence, and we wish him a speedy recovery,” Price and Dennis said in a statement. “We have a strong and experienced leadership team in place, and our priority is to support our players and continue the work underway to further lead the PGA Tour and golf’s future.”

Monahan has worked for the tour since 2008, with stints as its chief operating officer, its chief marketing officer and as executive director of the Players Championship. Under the deal that Monahan helped broker this spring after he spent months condemning the rush of Saudi cash into men’s professional golf, the moneymaking components of the PGA Tour, LIV Golf and the DP World Tour are to be housed in a new company.

Monahan is expected to be its chief executive, and Yasir al-Rumayyan, the governor of the Saudi wealth fund, is in line for its chairmanship. Monahan and his lieutenants have insisted that the company’s structure, which allows for extensive Saudi investment, will give the PGA Tour ultimate authority over the most elite tiers of professional golf. But al-Rumayyan’s role and the potential for significant infusions of Saudi cash have helped stir doubts about the extent of Monahan’s authority.

It is not clear when the deal will close, but the agreement has been the subject of intense discussion and skepticism among players at the U.S. Open, where competition is scheduled to begin Thursday at the Los Angeles Country Club.

ny times logoNew York Times, Cormac McCarthy, Novelist of a Darker America, Is Dead at 89, Dwight Garner, June 14, 2023 (print ed.). “All the Pretty Horses,” “The Road” and “No Country for Old Men” were among his acclaimed books that explore a bleak world of violence and outsiders.

Cormac McCarthy, the formidable and reclusive writer of Appalachia and the American Southwest, whose raggedly ornate early novels about misfits and grotesques gave way to the lush taciturnity of “All the Pretty Horses” and the apocalyptic minimalism of “The Road,” died on Tuesday at his home in Santa Fe, N.M. He was 89.

Knopf, his publisher, said in a statement that his son John had confirmed the death.

Mr. McCarthy’s fiction took a dark view of the human condition and was often macabre. He decorated his novels with scalpings, beheadings, arson, rape, incest, necrophilia and cannibalism. “There’s no such thing as life without bloodshed,” he told The New York Times magazine in 1992 in a rare interview. “I think the notion that the species can be improved in some way, that everyone could live in harmony, is a really dangerous idea.”

His characters were outsiders, like him. He lived quietly and determinately outside the literary mainstream. While not quite as reclusive as Thomas Pynchon, Mr. McCarthy gave no readings and no blurbs for the jackets of other writers’ books. He never committed journalism or taught writing. He granted only a handful of interviews.

The mainstream, however, eventually came to him. “All the Pretty Horses,” a reflective western that cut against the grain of his previous work, won a National Book Award in 1992, and “The Road” won a Pulitzer Prize in 2007. Both were made into films, as was Mr. McCarthy’s “No Country for Old Men,” which won the Academy Award for best picture in 2008.

That film, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, gave the world the indelible image of Javier Bardem as Mr. McCarthy’s nihilistic hit man Anton Chigurh, dispatching his victims with a pneumatic bolt gun meant for cattle.

Mr. McCarthy had in recent years been discussed as a potential winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. The critic Harold Bloom named him one of the four major American novelists of his time, alongside Philip Roth, Don DeLillo and Thomas Pynchon, and called Mr. McCarthy’s novel “Blood Meridian” (1985), a bad dream of a Western, “the greatest single book since Faulkner’s ‘As I Lay Dying.’”

Saul Bellow noted Mr. McCarthy’s “absolutely overpowering use of language, his life-giving and death-dealing sentences.”

Acclaim for Mr. McCarthy’s work was not universal, however. Some critics found his novels portentous and self-consciously masculine. There are few notable women in his work.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: It’s Not a Good Sign When People Who Don’t Pay for News Have So Little to Choose From, Lydia Polgreen, June 13, 2023. In a recently published profile of the former CNN executive Jeff Zucker, a tidbit of news caught my eye. Zucker, who has a venture fund with $1 billion to invest, is one of at least three suitors seeking to buy a controlling stake in Air Mail, a glossy media company catering to the jet set elite, founded by the former Vanity Fair editor in chief Graydon Carter.

A recent weekly edition includes a profile of the caterer turned mercenary magnate who is a close ally (and possible competitor) of Vladimir Putin, an excoriation of new diversity rules for the Oscars and an article on Adele’s go-to rosé. It’s a frothy mix of European royals, luxurious fashion and salacious true crime, redolent of the Vanity Fair of yore. Air Mail has made quite a splash: It threw a star-studded bash with Warner Brothers in Cap d’Antibes that was the toast of the Cannes Film Festival last month. It is generally a fun read. I have been a subscriber for a while.

Still, it was jarring to see that this confection has so many suitors, checkbooks at the ready, at a time when the butcher’s bill in American journalism grows longer and longer. Last week, The Los Angeles Times announced it will reduce its newsroom staff by 13 percent, a month after the paper celebrated winning two Pulitzer Prizes. Last month, Vice, a company that once seemed like the invincible future of media, sought bankruptcy protection. BuzzFeed shuttered its Pulitzer Prize-winning news division. Insider slashed its staff by 10 percent earlier this year; its journalists are currently on strike. Hundreds of journalists from Gannett, the once mighty local news company, also staged a short strike last week after years of staffing and budget reductions. We’ve seen deep cuts at the major TV and cable news networks. MTV News closed its doors.

And last week, the pain hit close to home for me: Many of my former colleagues at Gimlet, the ambitious podcast studio where I worked from 2020 to 2022, lost their jobs. The pink slips landed shortly after the team won a Pulitzer Prize for an investigative podcast.

The loss of jobs in any industry, particularly one as central to protecting our democracy as journalism, is always worrying. But what makes these losses particularly troubling is what many of these news organizations have in common: They sought to make quality news for the masses that cost little to nothing to consume.

n an ever more unequal world, it is perhaps not surprising that we are splitting into news haves and have-nots. Those who can afford and are motivated to pay for subscriptions to access high-quality news have a wealth of choices: newspapers such as The Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times compete for their business, along with magazines such as The New Yorker and The Atlantic. Niche subscription news products serving elite audiences are also thriving and attracting investment — publications like Punchbowl News, Puck and Air Mail. The people who subscribe to these publications tend to be affluent and educated.

It bodes ill for our democracy that those who cannot pay — or choose not to — are left with whatever our broken information ecosystem manages to serve up, a crazy quilt that includes television news of diminishing ambition, social media, aggregation sites, partisan news and talk radio. Yes, a few ambitious nonprofit journalism outlets and quality digital news organizations remain, but they are hanging on by their fingernails. Some news organizations are experimenting with A.I.-generated news, which could make articles reported and written by actual human beings another bauble for the Air Mail set, along with Loro Piana loafers and silk coats from the Row.

I’ve been thinking about the problem of news for people who don’t pay for news since the last months of the 2016 presidential campaign, when I was offered a job as editor in chief at The Huffington Post, succeeding its namesake, Arianna Huffington.

Before that, I really hadn’t seriously considered leaving The Times, where I had worked for almost 15 years, mostly as a foreign correspondent. I had experienced firsthand the lengths The Times would go to report in some of the most far-flung and dangerous places in the world. My editors had sent me from the Himalayan peaks of Kashmir to the dense jungle of eastern Congo, from the desert scrub of Darfur to the sodden deltas of Bangladesh. They literally sent me to Timbuktu. Twice!

Still, I took the meeting. I knew that something had gone wrong with American journalism. Local journalism was in free-fall. Trust in the news media was reaching new depths. And most worryingly, the news organizations that were thriving were the ones that people paid for directly.

Then Donald Trump won the presidential election, and I felt that maybe in that moment there was work to do elsewhere. Maybe HuffPost, with its huge home-page audience, could be a vessel for testing this question that had been nagging at me: How can you make a quality news product for people who were never going to pay for news? What would it mean to create a news organization that saw itself not as writing about people who feel left out of the political, economic and social power arrangements, but for them? I took the job.

With its clever, large-format headlines and populist sensibility, HuffPost had the feel of a left-of-center tabloid, like The New York Daily News in its heyday. We would make news for everyone on the internet, for free. Corporate America, via digital advertising, would foot the bill. If this all sounds overly optimistic, if not downright naïve, well, it was. But what else could one do in those desperate postelection days but fuse dreams and work and hope for the best?

In a way, this plan represented a very old model of paying for quality journalism, one that began in 1833, when a young businessman named Benjamin Day had an idea. As Tim Wu wrote in his book “The Attention Merchants,” most of New York City’s newspapers at that time were priced at 6 cents — the equivalent of more than $2 today — a luxury good aimed at a tiny, wealthy audience. Day realized that he could make more money if he charged readers just a penny for his newspaper, and then sold their eyeballs to businesses who wanted to sell them stuff. His newspaper, The New York Sun, set the template for the news business in the United States for most of the next two centuries, even as new technologies such as radio and television transformed how news was distributed.

Capturing mass attention required access to expensive means of distribution: either a press and delivery trucks for print, or access to the public airwaves — which were licensed by the government — for broadcast. These costs allowed the news organizations that could afford them to corner the market on mass audiences, whose attention they then sold to advertisers. The handsome profits they reaped enabled investments in high-quality journalism, including high-risk and expensive endeavors such as investigative reporting and international coverage.

We all know what happened next. The internet, which initially promised to propel this old model even further by reducing distribution costs to near zero and creating the tools to sell ever more sophisticated kinds of advertising, instead created an economic crisis for journalism. Newspapers still had to produce their expensive print products even as the advertisements that paid for them gave way to much cheaper and more highly targeted digital ones. Paid classified advertising evaporated. Local news cratered, and even titans like The New York Times faced existential threats.

Meanwhile, the digital revolution brought a new crop of news organizations roaring to life, unburdened by physical production costs and powered by new forms of information distribution. HuffPost figured out how to reverse-engineer news articles that matched information people were searching for on the internet. Then social media arrived, and with it the opportunity to build huge audiences across people’s social networks, an art perfected by BuzzFeed. Sensing the opportunity for hypergrowth, venture capitalists piled into the media business, sending the valuations of these digital upstarts into the stratosphere. On paper, at least.

Powered by those dollars, some companies invested in quality journalism, just like the old-school newspaper publishers had when the market buoyed them. HuffPost won a Pulitzer in 2012. Vice News produced groundbreaking television coverage of the far right. BuzzFeed News invested deeply in investigative journalism and international reporting, and also won a Pulitzer. It seemed, for a time, that a new form of quality mass media was emerging on the back of new technology.

And then it all fell apart. Advertisers began cutting out the middlemen — publishers — and buying advertising directly from social media platforms, which offered what was sold as laser-sharp targeting of a company’s most desirable customers. And after Trump, who augured a new era of misinformation online and a ton of new headaches for social media companies, digital platforms largely fell out of love with news. The spigots that had gushed money-spinning traffic to new sites ran dry.

It turned out that I had arrived at the digital media party just as it started to wind down. It was almost impossible to sustain quality journalism with advertising alone. At HuffPost, we went through several rounds of layoffs in three years. Ultimately, I encouraged Verizon Media, which was then HuffPost’s owner, to sell the site to a company more focused on news. When it didn’t sell, I decided to leave. Less than a year later, Verizon all but paid BuzzFeed to take HuffPost off its hands.

HuffPost, with its big home-page audience, is less reliant on social media networks and has survived. It is smaller and less global than it once was, but it continues to employ talented and enterprising journalists who break news. But with all the layoffs, closures and bankruptcies it is hard not to feel that the old dream of digital news — lots of free, quality and diverse news from lots of different places — is mostly dead.

Instead, there are a few very successful media companies that charge people money for high-quality journalism. The best news organizations take their public service mission seriously, and do create news products that are free to all, like podcasts and email newsletters. Some have relatively porous paywalls, and even drop their paywalls entirely for coverage of major events involving public safety. But many surviving free consumer sites are cutting staff and focusing on aggregation — which is an important service, but not the same as investing in original journalism. Television news is dominated by talking heads as budgets for real news-gathering shrink. Cable news is in terminal decline in the age of cord cutting.

The current landscape means the mass audience that never paid for news and never will pay remains underserved, and that has big implications for the future of our country. Creating a shared reality was always the work of mass media. But our present and future look much more like the 1830s, with one class of people getting tips on summering in the South of France from Air Mail and everyone else reading whatever A.I.-generated aggregation the internet spits up.

For the better part of two centuries, news that was free — or at least felt free, owing to its reliance on advertising — was good business. But the advertising dollars that once underwrote ambitious mass journalism are now stuffing the pockets of technology billionaires. We’re all — even those of us willing and able to pay for quality journalism — the poorer for it.
Lydia Polgreen has been a New York Times Opinion columnist since 2022. She spent a decade as a correspondent for The Times in Africa and Asia, winning Polk and Livingston Awards for her coverage of ethnic cleansing in Darfur and resource conflicts in West Africa. She also served as editor in chief of HuffPost. @lpolgreen

washington post logoWashington Post, 9 shot in downtown Denver as fans celebrate Nuggets’ NBA title, police say, Leo Sands, June 13, 2023. At least nine people were shot in downtown Denver as people celebrated the Denver Nuggets’ NBA Finals victory early Tuesday, police said. Three of the victims are in critical condition, and a suspect is in custody, police said.

All nine of the gunshot victims, as well as the suspect, were transported to a hospital, Denver police spokesman Doug Schepman said early Tuesday.

The shooting took place around 12:30 a.m. on Market Street, where crowds had gathered to celebrate the Nuggets’ first NBA title, police said. “It did occur in the area in which we saw our largest crowd gather earlier in the night,” Schepman said when asked whether the shooting was connected to the celebrations.

Schepman said that a “smaller crowd” was in the area when the shooting took place and that authorities were able to take a suspect into custody “pretty quickly” because of the police presence downtown.

  • Washington Post, As Congress probes PGA Tour-Saudi deal, golfers ‘know literally nothing,’ Rick Maese, June 13, 2023.

Relevant Recent Headlines

June 14

ny times logoNew York Times, Google’s Online Advertising Practices Violate Antitrust Laws, E.U. Says, Adam Satariano, June 14, 2023. Regulators filed new antitrust charges against Google, which could lead to fines and orders for the company to change its business practices.

google logo customGoogle on Wednesday was charged with violating European Union antitrust laws by using its dominance in online advertising to undercut rivals, the latest in a string of cases around the world that strike at the core of the internet giant’s business model.

The case was brought by the European Commission, the executive branch of the 27-nation European Union, and marks the fourth european union logo rectangletime Google has been charged with violating European antitrust laws in recent years. In this instance, the E.U. accused Google of abusing its control of the market for buying and selling online advertising.

The European Union announcement follows similar charges brought against Google in January by the U.S. Justice Department, which accused the company of illegally abusing a monopoly over the technology that powers online advertising. Britain’s antitrust authority has also been investigating Google’s advertising practices.

The outcomes of the cases could have significant implications for Google’s parent company, Alphabet, which reaped most of its $60 billion in profit last year from advertising. Advertising underpins nearly all of Google’s most popular services, including search, email, maps and Android, and allows the company to offer them for free.

ny times logoNew York Times, Europeans Take a Major Step Toward Regulating A.I., Adam Satariano, June 14, 2023. A draft law in the European Parliament has become the world’s most far-reaching attempt to address potentially harmful effects of A.I. The European Union took an important step on Wednesday toward passing what would be one of the first major laws to regulate artificial intelligence, a potential model for policymakers around the world as they grapple with how to put guardrails on the rapidly developing technology.

european union logo rectangleThe European Parliament, a main legislative branch of the E.U., passed a draft law known as the A.I. Act, which would put new restrictions on what are seen as the technology’s riskiest uses. It would severely curtail uses of facial recognition software, while requiring makers of A.I. systems like the ChatGPT chatbot to disclose more about the data used to create their programs.

The vote is one step in a longer process. A final version of the law is not expected to be passed until later this year.

The European Union is further along than the United States and other large Western governments in regulating A.I. The 27-nation bloc has debated the topic for more than two years, and the issue took on new urgency after last year’s release of ChatGPT, which intensified concerns about the technology’s potential effects on employment and society.

June 13

washington post logoWashington Post, FTC asks federal judge to block Microsoft’s $69 billion Activision deal, Cat Zakrzewski, June 13, 2023 (print ed.). The request brings a global regulatory battle over the future of gaming to a Northern California court.

ftc logoThe Federal Trade Commission sought a restraining order Monday to block Microsoft from closing its $69 billion purchase of the gaming company Activision Blizzard, the latest regulatory hurdle for the largest deal in the tech company’s history.

The agency filed the request in Northern California District Court. The move brought the federal government and Microsoft’s months-long battle over the deal to federal court; the FTC last year filed a lawsuit challenging the deal through its own internal administrative process.

The FTC argues that the deal needs to be blocked to “maintain the status quo and prevent interim harm to competition” while its administrative process proceeds. Microsoft and the FTC are currently conducting depositions. Hearings are expected to begin in August.

The filing is a gamble for antitrust enforcers, who have recently suffered a series of setbacks in the courts to their efforts to restrain the power of large technology companies. If a judge denies the FTC’s request to block the deal, it would be a blow to its arguments in the parallel administrative proceedings.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fred Ryan to leave Washington Post after nine years as publisher, Elahe Izadi and Will Sommer, June 13, 2023 (print ed.). Ryan, chief executive of The Post for most of the decade since Jeff Bezos bought it, will lead the new Center on Public Civility at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation.

At the time, the majority of The Post’s revenue came from its print business, and it had about 35,000 digital subscribers. Now, Ryan said, the majority of The Post’s revenue comes from its digital business, and it has about 2 million digital subscribers.

Ryan presided over The Post during a period of rapid expansion, growing from around 600 newsroom employees to nearly double that size today.

One of his biggest responsibilities was to hire a new executive editor to replace Martin Baron, who retired in 2021. Ryan selected Sally Buzbee, the former top executive for the Associated Press, who became the first woman to serve as The Post’s executive editor.

His tenure also coincided with the chaotic years of the Trump presidency, when The Post and other media companies saw record levels of digital traffic and a boom in subscriptions. In the final weeks of the Trump administration in January 2021, The Post counted 3 million digital subscribers.

But those figures leveled off after Trump left office and the coronavirus pandemic ebbed. The Post ended the past year in the red after what Ryan called six years of “significant growth and profit.” (The Post is a private company that does not disclose its financials.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Why Patty Stonesifer said ‘yes’ to becoming the Post’s interim CEO, Herb Scribner and Elahe Izadi, June 13, 2023 (print ed.). Stonesifer ran the Gates Foundation for many years after several successful years at Microsoft. In meeting newsroom staffers, she emphasized that her role is temporary.

The Washington Post’s new interim CEO is a former Microsoft executive who helped Bill and Melinda Gates start their global nonprofit foundation. She has served on the Smithsonian Institution’s Board of Regents, headed a local Washington charity organization and has been on Amazon’s board of directors for nearly three decades. But what Patty Stonesifer emphasized most Monday while meeting The Post’s staff was that her job with the news organization is temporary.

“We have a couple really important jobs to fill [at The Post], starting with the publisher and CEO, and a couple of other big roles,” Stonesifer said in an interview Monday afternoon, noting that she will help Post owner Jeff Bezos, a longtime friend, pick his next publisher and CEO. “There are changes across the organization the last couple of years, and just ensuring the team and the culture are in place for the decade ahead is really the number one goal.”

Fred Ryan to leave Washington Post after nine years as publisher

Stonesifer’s appointment Monday came with the news that Post Publisher Fred Ryan will step down from the helm after nine years. Ryan will depart in August, but Stonesifer will begin work immediately.

Addressing The Post’s newsroom staff with Ryan soon after the announcements, Stonesifer said Bezos asked her to oversee a smooth transition for the company. (Neither Ryan nor Stonesifer would comment on when those conversations began.)

“I had no reason to say yes,” she told the newsroom, noting her age, 67. “But this place makes me say yes.”

In an interview earlier in the day, noting that she had been on the job for “41/2 minutes,” Stonesifer spoke of Bezos’s commitment and interest in The Post. “For the past 10 years, he has talked about it all the time,” she said. “He is very dedicated to the mission and the quality.”

Stonesifer, who lives in Washington’s Cleveland Park neighborhood with her husband, the journalist Michael Kinsley, told the staff that she is an avid, longtime reader of The Post on all its platforms, digital and print. She praised its journalism, including recent coverage of the Supreme Court, the indictment of former president Donald Trump and restaurants.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House press secretary violated Hatch Act, watchdog agency finds, Mariana Alfaro, Amy B Wang and Matt Viser, June 13, 2023. At issue was the use of the phrase ‘mega MAGA Republicans’ during briefings to reporters.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre violated the Hatch Act, a law that bars federal employees from promoting partisan politics while in their official capacity, for how she spoke about Republicans during official White House press briefings, a government watchdog agency found. But the agency also did not recommend any reprimand.

The Office of Special Counsel, an independent agency that enforces the act, cited Jean-Pierre’s use of the phrase “mega MAGA Republicans” during news briefings leading up to the 2022 midterms as being in violation of the 1939 law, according to the letter dated June 7.

“Because Ms. Jean‐Pierre made the statements while acting in her official capacity, she violated the Hatch Act prohibition against using her official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election,” Ana Galindo‐Marrone, who leads the agency’s Hatch Act Unit, wrote in the letter.

The office, however, did not recommend any reprimand, saying that Jean-Pierre may not have been told such phrasing was a violation.

“The White House Counsel’s Office did not at the time believe that Ms. Jean‐Pierre’s remarks were prohibited by the Hatch Act, and it is unclear whether OSC’s contrary analysis regarding the use of ‘MAGA Republicans’ was ever conveyed to Ms. Jean‐Pierre,” the letter stated.

Jean-Pierre has frequently cited the Hatch Act during press briefings, often using it as a reason she cannot answer reporters’ questions. White House spokesman Andrew Bates said Monday that the administration is reviewing the OSC’s opinion.

“As has been made clear throughout the administration, we take the law seriously and uphold the Hatch Act,” Bates said.

In the leadup to the midterm elections, President Biden began using the term “MAGA Republicans” last summer to refer to Republicans who are tied to former president Donald Trump, who announced last fall his campaign to again seek the GOP nomination for the presidency. Presidents are not subject to the Hatch Act, even though their political appointees are.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: The NBA has gone global, with Nikola Jokic as its all-world center, Jerry Brewer, June 13, 2023 (print ed.). At 2:30 a.m. in Serbia, the dream appeared on live television. Nikola Jokic lumbered onto the NBA Finals court one last, victorious time and proceeded to transcend imagination. With a Finals MVP performance to clinch his adopted city’s first championship, Jokic stands now as a phenomenon that many in his hoops-crazed country once thought impossible: the best player in the world.

The screen didn’t lie. His unorthodox greatness was as striking on the Arena Sport broadcast in Serbia as it was on ABC in the United States. Or on networks in China, Finland, France, Italy, Latin America and Spain, all of which were on-site covering a sport whose global popularity keeps multiplying.

As the Denver Nuggets celebrate their confetti-triggering 94-89 win over the Miami Heat in Game 5, the world sees the superstar Jokic has become. The world sees the diversifying virtue of the entire NBA. This is no longer a league that one team, rivalry or nation can own.

washington post logoWashington Post, 9 shot in downtown Denver as fans celebrate Nuggets’ NBA title, police say, Leo Sands, June 13, 2023. At least nine people were shot in downtown Denver as people celebrated the Denver Nuggets’ NBA Finals victory early Tuesday, police said. Three of the victims are in critical condition, and a suspect is in custody, police said.

All nine of the gunshot victims, as well as the suspect, were transported to a hospital, Denver police spokesman Doug Schepman said early Tuesday.

The shooting took place around 12:30 a.m. on Market Street, where crowds had gathered to celebrate the Nuggets’ first NBA title, police said. “It did occur in the area in which we saw our largest crowd gather earlier in the night,” Schepman said when asked whether the shooting was connected to the celebrations.

Schepman said that a “smaller crowd” was in the area when the shooting took place and that authorities were able to take a suspect into custody “pretty quickly” because of the police presence downtown.

  • Washington Post, As Congress probes PGA Tour-Saudi deal, golfers ‘know literally nothing,’ Rick Maese, June 13, 2023.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Athletic announces layoffs and a new approach to its sports coverage, Ben Strauss, June 13, 2023 (print ed.). The Athletic, the subscription sports website owned by the New York Times, announced Monday that it was laying off nearly 20 reporters, or about 4 percent of its journalistic staff. The news was delivered in an email to staffers from The Athletic’s publisher David Perpich and editor in chief Steven Ginsberg.

The note said an additional 20 reporters would be moved from their current team beats to new ones, including regional coverage or general assignment roles.

ny times logoThat strategy marks a departure from the one-time mission of the outlet, which was to cover every team from every major league across the country with a dedicated reporter. The Athletic has been successful editorially, with millions of subscribers, but that coverage — and the travel and staffing associated with it — is expensive.

“The Athletic has generally viewed every league in a similar manner, with similar beats and offerings. But our growing body of research and our own understanding of the sports we cover compel a more nuanced approach,” the note said, adding, “There is no perfect formula for determining which teams to cover, but we are committing dedicated beat reporters to the ones that most consistently produce stories that appeal to both large and news-hungry fan bases, as well as leaguewide audiences.”

 Alex Soros with his father, George, in February. Both lean left politically (Alex Soros photo on Twitter via Reuters).Alex Soros with his father, George, in February. Both lean left politically (Alex Soros photo on Twitter via Reuters).

ny times logoNew York Times, George Soros Gives Control of His $25 Billion Foundation to His Son, Michael J. de la Merced, June 13, 2023 (print ed.).  Alex Soros will take the reins of the grant-making network from his father, whose support of liberal causes has long made him a boogeyman of the right.

After decades running one of the most prominent and politically active financial empires, George Soros is handing the reins of his $25 billion Open Society Foundations to his son Alex, the grant-making network confirmed on Monday.

The move is another example of succession planning by Wall Street’s old guard. But the changeover is especially notable because it involves the elder Soros, whose unabashed support of liberal causes, to the tune of $1.5 billion a year, has long made him a boogeyman of the right.

Alex Soros, the second-youngest of George’s five children, was elected the foundation’s chairman in December. He also serves as president of the Soros super PAC and is the only family member on the investment committee for Soros Fund Management, a private investment management firm.

That will put him in charge of a philanthropic empire, funded from the billions that George Soros made from finance. Over five decades, George Soros cemented his reputation as one of the most successful investors in modern history, particularly when he made more than $1 billion by betting against the British pound in 1992.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fox News Tells Tucker Carlson to Stop Posting Videos on Twitter, Jeremy W. Peters and Benjamin Mullin, June 13, 2023 (print ed.). The network and its former star have been engaged in an increasingly bitter dispute over Mr. Carlson’s Twitter videos, which Fox says violate his contract.

Fox News has demanded that Tucker Carlson stop posting videos to Twitter, escalating the dispute between the network and its former star host over how — and if — he can continue to speak publicly now that his prime-time show is off the air.

In a letter sent to Mr. Carlson from Fox lawyers, the network accused him of violating the terms of his contract, which runs until early 2025 and limits his ability to appear in media other than Fox. The letter is labeled “not for publication,” in all caps.

Since Mr. Carlson was ousted by Fox News, he has begun producing a bare-bones version of his Fox program, “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” and posting it directly to Twitter. The new show, called “Tucker on Twitter,” bears some of the hallmarks of his prime-time show on Fox, including a monologue focused on current affairs and cultural issues.

Harmeet K. Dhillon, a lawyer representing Mr. Carlson, said in a statement that Fox News’s legal threat was not in the interest of the network’s audience.

ny times logoNew York Times, Senate Opens Inquiry Into PGA Tour Deal with Saudi-Funded LIV Golf, Kevin Draper and Alan Blinder, June 13, 2023 (print ed.). The PGA Tour and LIV have been asked to provide documents and communications tied to the agreement announced last week.

The PGA Tour and LIV Golf have not yet closed a stunning partnership agreement announced only last week, but vows from Washington to slow or stop the deal — or at least make it uncomfortable for golf executives — crystallized on Monday, when the Senate opened an inquiry into the arrangement.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut and the chairman of the chamber’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said Monday that he had demanded that both the PGA Tour and the Saudi Arabian-funded LIV give up a wide array of documents and communications tied to the agreement. Blumenthal also asked for records related to the PGA Tour’s nonprofit status, suggesting an appetite to challenge the tour’s tax-exempt standing.

In a statement issued three days before the start of the U.S. Open in Los Angeles, Blumenthal decried Saudi Arabia’s “deeply disturbing human rights record at home and abroad” and said the agreement raised concerns “about the Saudi government’s role in influencing this effort and the risks posed by a foreign government entity assuming control over a cherished American institution.”

June 12

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Kimberly Akimbo’ and ‘Leopoldstadt’ take top awards at the Tony Awards, Peter Marks, June 12, 2023 (print ed.). “Kimberly Akimbo,” the melodically bright, tenderhearted account of a New Jersey teen who ages at five times the normal rate, was the major winner at the 76th Tony Awards on Sunday night, earning the top honor of best musical and four other prizes, including best book, score, and leading and featured actress in a musical.

As widely expected, the Tony for best play went to “Leopoldstadt” by 85-year-old Tom Stoppard, a Holocaust drama inspired by the playwright’s discovery late in life of his own Jewish roots. It collected four trophies, including best director of a play, costumes and featured actor, winning over “Ain’t No Mo’,” “The Cost of Living,” “Between Riverside and Crazy” and “Fat Ham.”

June 8

washington post logoWashington Post, Pat Robertson, televangelist who mixed politics and religion, dies at 93, Matt Schudel, June 8, 2023.  The Rev. Pat Robertson, a Baptist preacher who attracted a worldwide following as a religious broadcaster, built a business empire from his headquarters in Virginia Beach and helped create a powerful political movement of religious conservatives as a founder of the Christian Coalition, died June 8 at his home in Virginia Beach. He was 93.

The Christian Broadcasting Network, which Rev. Robertson founded, announced the death but did not provide a cause.

Rev. Robertson, the son of a long-serving U.S. congressman and senator from Virginia, was among the first evangelists to take religion out of the realm of private belief and into the secular arena of politics. In large part through his influence, the Christian right became a potent force in American politics and culture.

His sole foray into electoral politics, a short-lived effort to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 1988, “signaled the modern melding of fundamentalist Christianity with the Republican Party — an association that has continued right up to the present day,” Larry J. Sabato, a politics professor at the University of Virginia, told The Washington Post.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pat Robertson, Who Gave Christian Conservatives Clout, Is Dead at 93, Douglas Martin, June 8, 2023. A Baptist minister and a broadcaster, he turned evangelicals into a powerful constituency that helped Republicans capture Congress in 1994.

Pat Robertson, a Baptist minister with a passion for politics who marshaled Christian conservatives into a powerful constituency that helped Republicans capture both houses of Congress in 1994, died on Thursday at his home in Virginia Beach, Va. He was 93.

His death was announced by the Christian Broadcasting Network, which Mr. Robertson founded in 1960.

Mr. Robertson built an entrepreneurial empire based on his Christian faith, encompassing a university, a law school, a cable channel with broad reach, and more. A product of a family with politics in its veins, he also waged a serious though unsuccessful campaign for the 1988 Republican presidential nomination, resigning as a Baptist minister as he began the run in the face of criticism about mixing church and state.

The loss did not dampen his political fervor; he went on to found the Christian Coalition, which stoked the conservative faith-based political resurgence of the 1990s and beyond.

Whether in the pulpit, on the stump or in front of a television camera, Mr. Robertson could exhibit the mild manner of a friendly local minister, chuckling softly and displaying an almost perpetual twinkle in his eye. But he was also given to statements that his detractors saw as outlandishly wrongheaded and dangerously incendiary.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden vetoes GOP-led effort to strike down student loan forgiveness program, Mariana Alfaro,June 8, 2023 (print ed.). President Biden on Wednesday vetoed a Republican-led resolution that would have struck down his controversial plan to forgive more than $400 billion in student loans.

In a statement on Wednesday, the president said the resolution — which the Senate approved on a 52-46 vote Thursday under the Congressional Review Act, a week after the House passed the measure — would have kept millions of Americans from receiving “the essential relief they need as they recover from the economic strains associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.” The resolution called for a restart of loan payments for millions of borrowers that have been on pause since early in the coronavirus pandemic. It also would have prevented the Education Department from pursuing similar policies in the future.

In his statement, the president said it is “a shame for working families across the country that lawmakers continue to pursue this unprecedented attempt to deny critical relief to millions of their own constituents, even as several of these same lawmakers have had tens of thousands of dollars of their own business loans forgiven by the Federal Government.”

 chris licht profile, CNN/Warner Brothers photo

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Does CNN’s Turmoil Mean There’s No Room on Cable for Independent News? Jim Rutenberg, June 8, 2023. Chris Licht’s brief tenure in charge of the network showed how increasingly hard it can be to find success in today’s splintered, on-demand media era.

cnn logoThe Warner Bros. Discovery chief, David Zaslav, was clear from the day he took control of CNN in 2022 about what he wanted for the cable news network. Publicly and privately he told associates, reporters and whoever else might care that he wanted to move the network away from what he viewed as left-leaning “advocacy” and toward more “balance.” His CNN would not be anti-Trump, and would be more welcoming for Republicans.

As Mr. Zaslav’s handpicked CNN leader, Chris Licht, shown above, appeared to struggle with that remit in the months that followed, Mr. Zaslav backed him with the ultimate carte blanche statement: “Ratings be damned.”

Indeed, the ratings would go on to be damned, as would be Mr. Licht’s tenure, which abruptly ended after little more than a year on Wednesday, when Mr. Zaslav hit his limit.

Mr. Licht’s dismissal immediately raised a defining question for the television news industry and beyond: Can an unaligned independent approach to news work in today’s splintered, on-demand media era, when audiences are primed for news on their own terms? And can it work in, of all places, the highly niche precincts of cable?

Inside the Media Industry

  • Tucker Carlson: The sidelined prime-time Fox News host released the first installment of what he said would be his new show on Twitter.
  • Reporting on Sexual Misconduct: After publishing an exposé, journalists in New Hampshire faced broken windows, vulgar graffiti and a legal brawl with important First Amendment implications.
  • Gannett: Hundreds of journalists at the country’s largest newspaper chain walked off the job on June 5, accusing the company’s chief executive of decimating its local newsrooms.
  • A Rare Win in China: Amid a crackdown on the news media in Hong Kong, the city’s top court overturned the conviction of a prominent reporter who had produced a documentary that was critical of the police.

June 7

chris licht profile, CNN/Warner Brothers photo

ny times logoNew York Times, Chris Licht Is Out at CNN, Ending a Brief and Chaotic Run, John Koblin and Benjamin Mullin, June 7, 2023. Mr. Licht’s 13-month tenure as the chairman of CNN was marked by one controversy after another, culminating in his exit.

Chris Licht (shown above in a CNN photo), the former television producer who oversaw a brief and chaotic run as the chairman of CNN, is out at the network.

cnn logoDavid Zaslav, the chief executive of CNN’s parent, Warner Bros. Discovery, informed staff on Wednesday morning that he had met with Mr. Licht and that he was leaving, effective immediately.

Mr. Licht’s 13-month run at CNN was marked by one controversy after another. He got off to a bumpy start even before he had officially started when he oversaw the shuttering of the costly CNN+ streaming service at the request of its network’s new owners, who were skeptical about a stand-alone digital product. The cuts resulted in scores of layoffs.

“For a number of reasons things didn’t work out, and that’s unfortunate,” Mr. Zaslav said, according to a recording of his remarks. “It’s really unfortunate, and ultimately that’s on me. And I take full responsibility for that.”

“This job was never going to be easy, especially at a time of great disruption and transformation,” he continued. “Chris poured his heart and soul into this job. Like all of you, he was in the line of fire and he’s taken a lot of hits. We appreciate his efforts, his passion, his love for journalism, and his love for this business.”

Mr. Zaslav said that an interim group of leaders — the CNN veterans Amy Entelis, Virginia Moseley and Eric Sherling, as well as the newly appointed chief operating officer, David Leavy — would take over before a permanent leader was installed. He said the process could take several months.

Inside the Media Industry

  • Tucker Carlson: The sidelined prime-time Fox News host released the first installment of what he said would be his new show on Twitter.
  • Reporting on Sexual Misconduct: After publishing an exposé, journalists in New Hampshire faced broken windows, vulgar graffiti and a legal brawl with important First Amendment implications.
  • Gannett: Hundreds of journalists at the country’s largest newspaper chain walked off the job on June 5, accusing the company’s chief executive of decimating its local newsrooms.
  • A Rare Win in China: Amid a crackdown on the news media in Hong Kong, the city’s top court overturned the conviction of a prominent reporter who had produced a documentary that was critical of the police.

washington post logoWashington Post, These academics studied falsehoods spread by Trump and others. Now the GOP is scrutinizing them, Naomi Nix and Joseph Menn, June 7, 2023 (print ed.). Republican House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan is demanding emails and meetings with the researchers, part of a flurry of records requests, subpoenas and lawsuits that academics say have become tools of harassment.

Republican House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan and his allies in Congress are demanding documents from and meetings with leading academics who study disinformation, increasing pressure on a group they accuse of colluding with government officials to suppress conservative speech.

Jordan’s colleagues and staffers met Tuesday on Capitol Hill with a frequent target of right-wing activists, University of Washington professor Kate Starbird, two weeks after they interviewed Clemson University professors who also track online propaganda, according to people familiar with the events.

Last week, Jordan (Ohio) threatened legal action against Stanford University, home to the Stanford Internet Observatory, for not complying fully with his records requests. The university turned over its scholars’ communications with government officials and big social media platforms but is holding back records of some disinformation complaints. Stanford told The Washington Post that it omitted internal records, some filed by students: The university is negotiating for limited interviews.

The push caps years of pressure from conservative activists who have harangued such academics online and in person and filed open-records requests to obtain the correspondence of those working at public universities. The targeted researchers study the online spread of disinformation, including falsehoods that have been accelerated by former president and candidate Donald Trump and other Republican politicians. Jordan has argued that content removals urged by some in the government has suppressed legitimate theories on vaccine risks and the covid-19 origins as well as news stories wrongly suspected of being part of foreign disinformation campaigns.

Last month, the founder of the conspiracy theory-prone outlet the Gateway Pundit and others sued Starbird and Stanford academics Alex Stamos and Renée DiResta, alleging that they are part of a “government-private censorship consortium” that tramples on free speech.

Although those pushing the inquiries have yet to score a major legal win or pass legislation, the campaign has kept alive the narrative that government officials violate the First Amendment’s free-speech guarantee by working with a variety of professors, Twitter and Facebook.

GOP lawmakers allege Big Tech conspiracy, even as ex-Twitter employees rebut them

The pressure has forced some researchers to change their approach or step back, even as disinformation is rising ahead of the 2024 election. As artificial intelligence makes deception easier and platforms relax their rules on political hoaxes, industry veterans say they fear that young scholars will avoid studying disinformation.

“The political part is intimidating — to have people with a lot of power in this world making false claims, false accusations about our work,” said Starbird, who has sharply cut back on public engagement. “We are putting that out of our minds and doubling down on the work, but we’re stepping a little bit away from the spotlight, because those tactics work.”

Starbird’s meeting Tuesday follows a letter from Jordan in March to the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public, which she co-founded to focus on online disinformation. The letter demanded years of her communications, saying the center may have supported a “censorship regime” backed by the federal government.

“Whether directly or indirectly, a government-approved or-facilitated censorship regime is a grave threat to the First Amendment and American civil liberties,” Jordan wrote.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Reporter Investigated Sexual Misconduct. Then the Attacks Began, David Enrich, June 7, 2023 (print ed.). After publishing an exposé, journalists in New Hampshire faced broken windows, vulgar graffiti and a legal brawl, with big First Amendment implications.

One drizzly Saturday in May last year, a slender man in a blue raincoat approached a house in the Boston suburb of Melrose. It was just before 6 a.m., and no one was around. The man took out a can of red spray paint and scrawled “JUST THE BEGINNING!” on the side of the white house. Then he hurled a brick through a large window and sprinted away.

The house belonged to Lauren Chooljian, a journalist at New Hampshire Public Radio. Hours earlier, her parents’ home in New Hampshire had been vandalized, too — for the second time in a month. Weeks earlier, her editor’s home had also been attacked.

The vandal’s three-word message in red would prove accurate. What started as a string of vandalism incidents has mushroomed over the past year into a bare-knuckle legal brawl with important implications for the First Amendment.

Attacks on journalists in the United States have become common. Last year, the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker identified 41 journalists who were physically assaulted. In one extreme case, a Nevada politician was charged with murdering a reporter investigating him.

Libel lawsuits have been on the rise, too, according to the latest data collected by the Media Law Resource Center. Many legal experts said such suits were often used to punish smaller news organizations for aggressive coverage and to deter others from speaking out.

And sometimes, as Ms. Chooljian and New Hampshire Public Radio have learned, the physical and legal threats converge. Their ordeal is a striking example of the perils facing news organizations in an era when politicians regularly demonize journalists and some judges want to curtail the First Amendment protections that the press has long enjoyed.

ny times logoNew York Times, Los Angeles Times to Cut More Than 10% of Newsroom, Katie Robertson, June 7, 2023. The restructuring stems from the same persistent economic headwinds facing news media across the country,” the executive editor said in an email to the staff.

los angeles times logoThe Los Angeles Times is cutting more than 10 percent of its newsroom jobs, its executive editor, Kevin Merida, said on Wednesday.

In an email to staff, Mr. Merida said the company was restructuring and would eliminate 74 roles as a result. A spokeswoman for the news organization, Hillary Manning, said about 500 people would remain.

“The restructuring stems from the same persistent economic headwinds facing news media across the country,” Mr. Merida said in the email, which was obtained by The New York Times. “Collectively, we have done a vast amount of work as a company to meet the budget and revenue challenges head-on. But that work will need acceleration, and we will need more radical transformation in the newsroom for us to become a self-sustaining enterprise.”

Mr. Merida also said that while “the weeks and months ahead will test us as a newsroom,” he remained “supremely confident” about the publication’s future.

“We are on the brink, I’m convinced, of doing something extraordinary,” he said, “transforming a 141-year-old newspaper into a truly next-generation digital powerhouse that serves the people of this city, and the world, in unparalleled ways.”

Mr. Merida was appointed two years ago to lead the newsroom and help it compete on a national scale. Last month, The Los Angeles Times won two Pulitzer Prizes: for breaking news reporting and for feature photography.

The Los Angeles Times is owned by Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, a billionaire biotech entrepreneur, and his wife, Michele B. Chan, who bought the paper and other publications in 2018 from Tribune for $500 million. Dr. Soon-Shiong invested in the newsroom, adding around 150 journalists.

Ms. Manning, the spokeswoman, said in a statement that the economics of operating a media had grown “increasingly challenging” since the pandemic started and that the company was positioning itself to navigate this year and beyond.

She declined to comment on which sections would be affected by the cuts. The people being laid off were to be informed on Wednesday.

Reed Johnson, the unit council chair for the L.A. Times Guild, said in a statement that the union was outraged by the decision, which would affect about 15 percent of unionized members of the newsroom.

“We were blindsided by this news,” he said. “Management did not consult us in advance about other options for cutting costs and saving money, short of layoffs. We have been bargaining a new contract since September, and this was never hinted at during bargaining.”

Other media organizations that have also made cuts in recent months include CNN, Gannett, The Washington Post and NPR.

June 6

ny times logoNew York Times, Françoise Gilot, Artist in the Shadow of Picasso, Is Dead at 101, Alan Riding, June 6, 2023. An accomplished painter (and memoirist) in her own right, she was long his lover until she did what no other mistress of his had ever done: She walked out.

Françoise Gilot, an accomplished painter whose art was eclipsed by her long and stormy romantic relationship with a much older Pablo Picasso, and who alone among his many mistresses walked out on him, died on Tuesday at a hospital in Manhattan. She was 101.

The death was confirmed by her daughter Aurelia Engel, who said Ms. Gilot had recently been dealing with heart and lung ailments.

“You imagine people will be interested in you?” Ms. Gilot quoted a surprised Picasso as saying after she told him that she was leaving him. “They won’t ever, really, just for yourself. Even if you think people like you, it will only be a kind of curiosity they will have about a person whose life touched mine so intimately.”

But unlike his two wives and other mistresses, Ms. Gilot rebuilt her life after she ended the relationship, in 1953, almost a decade after it had begun despite an age difference of 40 years. She continued painting and exhibiting her work and wrote books.

ny times logoNew York Times, Astrud Gilberto, 83, Dies; Shot to Fame With ‘The Girl From Ipanema,’ Jim Farber, June 6, 2023. Astrud Gilberto, whose soft and sexy vocal performance on “The Girl From Ipanema,” the first song she ever recorded, helped make the sway of Brazilian bossa nova a hit sound in the United States in the 1960s, died on Monday. She was 83.

June 5

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter’s U.S. Ad Sales Plunge 59% as Woes Continue, Ryan Mac and Tiffany Hsu, June 5, 2023. In internal forecasts, the company projected that ad sales would keep declining, handing a tough challenge to its new chief executive.

twitter bird CustomElon Musk, below left, recently said Twitter’s advertising business was on the upswing. “Almost all advertisers have come back,” he asserted, adding that the elon musk 2015social media company could soon become profitable.

But Twitter’s U.S. advertising revenue for the five weeks from April 1 to the first week of May was $88 million, down 59 percent from a year earlier, according to an internal presentation obtained by The New York Times. The company has regularly fallen short of its U.S. weekly sales projections, sometimes by as much as 30 percent, the document said.

That performance is unlikely to improve anytime soon, according to the documents and seven current and former Twitter employees.

Twitter’s ad sales staff is concerned that advertisers may be spooked by a rise in hate speech and pornography on the social network, as well as more ads featuring online gambling and marijuana products, the people said. The company has forecast that its U.S. ad revenue this month will be down at least 56 percent each week compared with a year ago, according to one internal document.

These issues will soon be inherited by Linda Yaccarino, the NBCUniversal executive whom Mr. Musk named Twitter’s chief executive last month. She is expected to start the job on Monday, four people familiar with the situation said.

The state of Twitter’s advertising is crucial because ads have long made up 90 percent of the company’s revenue. After Mr. Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion in October and took the company private, he vowed to build “the most respected ad platform.” But he quickly alienated advertisers by firing key sales executives, spreading a conspiracy theory on the site and welcoming back barred Twitter users.

In March, Mr. Musk said the company was worth $20 billion, down more than 50 percent from the $44 billion he paid for it. Last week, the mutual funds giant Fidelity, which owns shares in Twitter, valued the company at $15 billion.

June 4

 jeff zucker cnn

ny times logoNew York Times, Could Jeff Zucker Fix CNN? He Seems to Think So, Benjamin Mullin, June 4, 2023. It’s been more than a year since Jeff Zucker, shown above in a file photo,  was forced from the top job at the network. Since then, he has made no secret of his frustrations with his exit.

The seminar was to be on media leadership. Dozens of students filling a classroom at Yale University in April were there to learn about the business from a man who had commanded attention in TV control rooms and corporate boardrooms for decades before a stunning exit last year.

cnn logoWhat they got was remarkable candor about that exit.

Jeff Zucker, who had been president of CNN for nine years, told the group that he believed the network’s former owners used his relationship with Allison Gollust — who was also in attendance — as a pretext for removing him, three people familiar with his comments said.

In front of the students — where other high-profile media executives, including Bob Iger of Disney, were scheduled to speak the same day — Mr. Zucker compared his failure to disclose his relationship with Ms. Gollust, CNN’s former communications chief, to handing over a dangerous weapon.

“I gave them a gun, and they shot me with it,” Mr. Zucker said, according to the people.

That Mr. Zucker would compare his forced departure to a gunshot wound underscores the depth of his frustration with his last days at a network he controlled with exacting detail for years.

The complaint wasn’t unusual for Mr. Zucker, 58. He often compares notes on the media business with former colleagues and industry acquaintances, many of whom call him to grouse about the current state of CNN.

But his gripes have become more frequent of late, and he has made no secret of his unhappiness with the terms of his exit from CNN or his low regard for the performance of its current leader, Chris Licht. In a sense, he is now serving as a kind of grievance switchboard for current and former employees of the news network, many people who have spoken with him said.

Mr. Zucker’s criticism may be painful for executives running CNN to hear second- and thirdhand. But also painful are the numbers: The news division, which once regularly made more than $1 billion in profit annually, generated just $750 million in profit last year, in part because of what Warner Bros. Discovery said was $200 million in losses from the CNN+ streaming service. And its ratings were down more than 30 percent in the first quarter of this year compared with the same point in the 2020 presidential election cycle, when Donald J. Trump — a major driver of cable news viewership — was still in the White House, according to Nielsen data.

As it has geared up to cover the 2024 campaign, the network has committed some unforced errors. Last month, CNN hosted a town hall with Mr. Trump in New Hampshire that was criticized for airing false information. Mr. Licht’s leadership and problems at the helm of the network were dissected at length in a 15,000-word Atlantic article that was published Friday.


chuck todd meet the press logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Chuck Todd to Leave NBC’s ‘Meet the Press,’ Benjamin Mullin, June 4, 2023. He will be succeeded by Kristen Welker, NBC’s chief White House correspondent and the co-anchor of “Weekend Today.”

Chuck Todd said on Sunday that he was stepping down from NBC’s “Meet the Press” after nine years in the moderator’s chair and would be succeeded by the network’s chief White House correspondent, Kristen Welker (shown below with Todd in a file photo).

kristen welker chuck todd meet the press january nbc william plowman

In remarks at the conclusion of the show on Sunday, Mr. Todd, 50, said he was conscious that many leaders “overstay their welcome” and that he’d rather leave “a little bit too soon than stay a tad too long.”

“I’ve let work consume me for nearly 30 years,” Mr. Todd said, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. “I can’t remember the last time I didn’t wake up before 5 or 6 a.m., and as I’ve watched too many friends and family let work consume them before it was too late, I promised my family I wouldn’t do that.”

Mr. Todd, a longtime political journalist in Washington, started as moderator of “Meet the Press” in 2014. He has recently interviewed newsmakers including former Vice President Mike Pence, Vice President Kamala Harris, the Republican presidential aspirant Vivek Ramaswamy and Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the House minority leader.

Rebecca Blumenstein, the president of editorial for NBC News, and Carrie Budoff Brown, the network’s senior vice president of politics, thanked Mr. Todd in a memo and said Mr. Todd would continue at NBC as chief political analyst.

“Through his penetrating interviews with many of the most important newsmakers, the show has played an essential role in politics and policy, routinely made front-page news, and framed the thinking in Washington and beyond,” the memo said.

Ms. Welker, 46, is a longtime NBC stalwart. She was an intern for “Today” in 1997 and has been working for the network full time since 2010. She began covering the White House for NBC a year later and has covered presidents abroad in Belgium, England, Austria, Poland and Japan. In 2020, she was widely praised for her moderation of the final presidential debate between President Donald J. Trump and Joe Biden.

June 3

 rfk jr twitter

 Going Deep with Russ Baker, Investigative Commentary: More Indications RFK Jr’s Anti Vaccine Claims Have Little Basis, Russ Baker, right, June 3, 2023. Russ whowhatwhy logoruss bakerBaker, founder and publisher of the investigative site WhoWhatWhy, is a longtime media critic, investigative reporter and researcher on historical topics, including as author of the best-selling "Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America's Invisible Government and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years."

At a time when disinformation and narrow-mindedness are at an all-time high, the last thing we need is a purported “reform” candidate who contributes to the mess.

Although COVID-19 numbers are down in the US, they are soaring in China — and we know well enough from history that as goes China, so may go the rest of the world. Therefore, it’s not a good time to just thank our lucky stars and move on. And that means we still need to achieve consensus on the threat and what to do about it.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Most people believe that the medical and scientific establishment did the best they could with an unanticipated emergency, that they made mistakes but learned along the way.

And most people remember how it was. Not so long ago, hospitals were bursting at the seams with patients deathly ill with COVID-19. As soon as one died, another was brought in. Freezer trucks were parked outside the hospitals, containing piles of bodies with nowhere to go for burial. Victims of other emergencies — car accidents, heart attacks, strokes — were being sent away in ambulances driven by desperate EMT workers who didn’t know where to go next. The public was crying out for a vaccine.

rfk jr mouth openBut not everyone seems to remember why a COVID-19 vaccine became necessary. There’s a small but loud minority who seem to have forgotten.They’re the base for Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidential campaign, which drew 20 percent of Democratic voters in a recent CNN poll. He almost certainly can’t win, but he can be a potent factor, and maybe a distraction at an inflection point in what is shaping up as an epic battle for the future of America and the world.

As noted in previous columns, I find Kennedy (shown above and at left) a bit slippery in terms of what he says about COVID-19 and vaccines. That seems a glaring deficiency given that Kennedy is ostensibly running to mitigate a lack of forthrightness and honesty among politicians.

I’ve also noticed, based on comments from his supporters, that their skepticism about the trustworthiness of the US medical establishment often extends to the US establishment in general — which they accuse of nefarious meddling in almost everything, including the endless tragedy in Ukraine.

They are infatuated by the notion that Kennedy will “unwind the empire” — as if at this particular point in history, when US power is receding, that is nevertheless more urgent than solving climate change and ensuring that humanity survives.

They lecture me, they chastise me, they say I have lost my way, or perhaps am a traitor and covert operative for big pharma, and some explicitly grouse that I was never the critical-eyed investigative reporter and resolute truth-seeker they thought I was.

So for my own sanity I’ve had to hit the mute button quite a bit lately. To be totally frank, the more I look into their assertions the more I conclude these folks don’t actually know what they’re talking about.

I also am increasingly identifying a sort of core gene, an almost reptilian-brain instinct from being in the trenches so long against an admittedly flawed US system and “empire” — a perspective so calcified and lacking in open-mindedness that all situational discernment and fair-mindedness is out the window.

It’s the Left version of a disease sweeping the country. Mindset drives everything. As a result, like Fox and Newsmax viewers, these Bobby Kennedy Jr. acolytes trust a small set of “sources” that they actually know little about.

As noted, I’ve explored many of Kennedy’s claims on various subjects, and found them to be shoddy or downright incorrect. But his supporters — much like Trump’s — will forgive almost anything, due to some “larger principle.” I’ve actually seen some writing off gross mischaracterizations as, “Well, nobody’s perfect.”

Still, they continue to send links, and videos, and articles, dismissing the millions of scientific and healthcare professionals with whom they disagree. But I keep remembering the old saying: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” And they don’t present such evidence — not even solid ordinary evidence, let alone extraordinary. Before I put a pin in this topic, I will briefly discuss one final request, which comes from a friend of long standing.


Former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, anti-vax activists Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Charlene Bollinger, and longtime Trump ally and advisor Roger Stone, left to right, backstage at a July 2021 Reawaken America event. The photo was posted but later removed by Bollinger, who has appeared with Kennedy at multiple events. She and her husband sponsored an anti-vaccine, pro-Trump rally near the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Bollinger celebrated the attack and her husband tried to enter the Capitol. Kennedy later appeared in a video for their Super PAC. Kennedy has repeatedly invoked Nazis and the Holocaust when talking about measures aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19, such as mask requirements and vaccine mandates. Kennedy, who has announced a presidential campaign for 2024, has at times invoked his family’s legacy in his anti-vaccine work, including sometimes using images of President Kennedy.

Former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, anti-vax activists Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Charlene Bollinger, and longtime Trump ally and advisor Roger Stone, left to right, backstage at a July 2021 Reawaken America event. The photo was posted but later removed by Bollinger, who has appeared with Kennedy at multiple events. She and her husband sponsored an anti-vaccine, pro-Trump rally near the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Bollinger celebrated the attack and her husband tried to enter the Capitol. Kennedy later appeared in a video for their Super PAC. Kennedy has repeatedly invoked Nazis and the Holocaust when talking about measures aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19, such as mask requirements and vaccine mandates. Kennedy, who has announced a presidential campaign for 2024, has at times invoked his family’s legacy in his anti-vaccine work, including sometimes using images of President Kennedy.

 NOTE: This week RFK Jr. excitedly tweeted that Fox News had made a documentary about him, and Elon Musk has offered him a one-on-one discussion on Twitter. The Republicans cannot wait to inflict him on Biden. Those who care neither about the accuracy of his COVID-19 claims nor about the consequences of his candidacy as a lobbed grenade in a moment of great peril must bear some personal responsibility for where this all could go. As someone just wrote to me on Twitter, “I wonder when critical thinking died in this country.”

June 2

chris licht profile, CNN/Warner Brothers photo

The Atlantic, Inside the Meltdown at CNN, Tim Alberta, Photographs by Mark Peterson, June 2, 2023. CEO Chris Licht (shown above in a CNN/Warner Brothers cnn logophoto)) felt he was on a mission to restore the network’s reputation for serious journalism. How did it all go wrong?

atlantic logo horizontal“How are we gonna cover Trump? That’s not something I stay up at night thinking about,” Chris Licht told me. “It’s very simple.”

It was the fall of 2022. This was the first of many on-the-record interviews that Licht had agreed to give me, and I wanted to know how CNN’s new leader planned to deal with another Donald Trump candidacy. Until recently Licht had been producing a successful late-night comedy show. Now, just a few months into his job running one of the world’s preeminent news organizations, he claimed to have a “simple” answer to the question that might very well come to define his legacy.

“The media has absolutely, I believe, learned its lesson,” Licht said.


steve schmidt logo horizontalThe Warning with Steve Schmidt, Steve Schmidt explains why CNN has proven to be unfit to cover Donald Trump, June 2, 2023 (18:47 mins.). Steve Schmidt reacts to the profile of the Head of CNN, Chris Licht, in The Atlantic. Steve explains how Licht's lack of character led to the debacle at the Trump Town Hall and will continue to lead to a failure in covering the former President.

The Guardian, ‘Extra Trumpy’: Atlantic profile of CNN chief Licht details town hall disaster, Martin Pengelly, June 3, 2023. Network chief executive reportedly wanted New Hampshire event to be ‘extra Trumpy’ but broadcast prompted wide condemnation

cnn logoThe CNN chief executive, Chris Licht, wanted the network’s New Hampshire town hall with Donald Trump last month to be “extra Trumpy”, according to a report on Licht’s attempts to remodel the news giant and how controversy over the Trump event continues to reverberate through US politics and media.

In a lengthy profile published on Friday, Tim Alberta of the Atlantic wrote: “Licht wasn’t scared to bring a bunch of Maga enthusiasts onto his set – he had remarked to his deputies about the ‘extra Trumpy’ make-up of the crowd CNN was expecting – and he damn sure wasn’t scared of Trump.

‘Extra Trumpy’: Atlantic profile of CNN chief Licht details town hall disaster

chris licht wThe CNN chief executive, Chris Licht, right, wanted the network’s New Hampshire town hall with Donald Trump last month to be “extra Trumpy”, according to a report on Licht’s attempts to remodel the news giant and how controversy over the Trump event continues to reverberate through US politics and media.

In a lengthy profile published on Friday, Tim Alberta of the Atlantic wrote: “Licht wasn’t scared to bring a bunch of Maga enthusiasts onto his set – he had remarked to his deputies about the ‘extra Trumpy’ make-up of the crowd CNN was expecting – and he damn sure wasn’t scared of Trump.

“The way to deal with a bully like Trump, Licht told his journalists, was to confront him with facts.”

atlantic logo horizontalBut Trump, wholly unsurprisingly, threw facts out of the window.

The former president repeated his lies about the 2020 election being stolen; abused E Jean Carroll, the writer against whom he had just been found liable for sexual assault and defamation; insulted his host, Kaitlan Collins; and otherwise revved up a crowd which responded with glee.

Before the town hall, Alberta wrote, Licht’s wish for an “extra Trumpy” crowd caused internal concern. After the event, amid widespread condemnation, Licht told Alberta he did not regret the crowd because it represented the Republican base.

Trump does dominate the Republican primary for 2024, capitalising on unprecedented legal jeopardy to lead his closest challenger, the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, by about 30 points in most polling averages.

Alberta shadowed Licht for months for the Atlantic as the executive attempted to redirect a network that took an adversarial stance when Trump was in power.

Licht said: “The mission was to go after this guy … Right or wrong. I’m not saying he’s a good guy. He’s definitely not. But, like, that was the mission.”

Trump, Licht said, “changed the rules of the game, and the media was a little caught off guard and put a jersey on and got into the game as a way of dealing with it. And at least [at] my organisation, I think we understand that jersey cannot go back on. Because guess what? It didn’t work.”

CNN, Licht said, should simply do “journalism” and aim to be “trusted … There has to be a source of absolute truth. There’s good actors, there’s bad actors, there’s a lot of shit in the world. There has to be something that you’re able to look at and go, ‘They have no agenda other than the truth.’”

He also said such an approach did not make him “a fascist rightwinger who’s trying to steal Fox viewers.”

bill mccarren ballparkNational Press Club Executive Director Bill McCarren, right, who retires this month, strengthened the Club's financial foundation and bolstered its press freedom efforts. When he wasn't at the Club, you could find him at the ballpark. Photo: McCarren family

National Press Club, McCarren strengthened Club's finances, press freedom mission, Daniel Moore, June 2, 2023. When Bill McCarren, below right, founded a startup, U.S. Newswire, in 1986, he moved one floor below a lively social club he saw as a gathering ground for connecting Washington policy-making with the journalists who make the news happen.

He joined his upstairs neighbor, the National Press Club, as a member that year. More than three decades later, he will retire after serving the last 16 years as first the Club’s general manager and then as executive director, a tenure marked by the Club’s increasing financial strength and wider reach on press freedom issues.

national  press club logoThe Club will host a farewell for McCarren at 7 p.m. Friday, June 2, in the Reliable Source.

McCarren said he was first drawn to the Club as a place where he could build a professional network for U.S. Newswire, where he was CEO.

“I had to have some kind of relationship with the media all across town,” McCarren said while sitting in the Club’s library, as multiple events proceeded in the Club’s 13th-floor gathering spaces. “This was a super-easy place for me to do that.”

He went from taking part in Club activities to running them as its top executive when he was hired as general manager in 2007.

Past presidents said McCarren’s business acumen, combined with his deep understanding of journalism, helped to guide the Club through an economic recession, the rise of social media and disinformation, the gutting of local newsrooms, increasing threats to press freedom and democracy around the world, and, finally, a global pandemic.

The Club was vibrant, with a busy bar and headline-grabbing luncheons when McCarren took the helm. That year, the Club held about 70 luncheon speakers and even hosted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by video link, said Jerry Zremski, Club president in 2007 and a longtime Washington reporter for The Buffalo News.

But the Club had no cash reserves, carried a high debt, and operated on an unprofitable business model. The Club, forced to take out loans to pay its bills, was “one financial disaster away from being in terribly dire straits,” Zremski said.

The Club board appointed McCarren executive director in 2010. He oversaw a long-term financial overhaul that involved selling artwork and refocusing the Club on higher-margin activities.

He grew the Broadcast Operations Center, bolstered catering operations, smoothed out tax issues, and “made things more efficient and professional on the business side,” said Donna Leinwand Leger, who served as Club president in 2009 and is now president and founder of DC Media Strategies LLC.

“He really got our financial ship in order,” Leinwand Leger said. “Nothing ruffled Bill’s feathers.”

As of the end of May, the Club had about $18 million in cash and investment reserves and no debt, McCarren said. Membership rolls stood at about 2,700 people.

McCarren’s work to build up financial reserves paid dividends in bolstering its position as a leading voice for press freedom.

jason rezaianHe positioned the Club to successfully secure the 2016 release of Jason Rezaian, left, the Washington Post journalist held captive in Iran. Rezaian’s case bolstered the Club’s approach in other campaigns, such as the push to free Austin Tice, a journalist held in Syria since 2012, and Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter captured in Russia this year.

“Bill showed such great resolve on press freedom issues, but without his work to stabilize the financial operations, none of the Club’s great work is possible,” said John Hughes, a Bloomberg Law editor who spent a decade on the Club board and was president in 2015.

“Our strengths as journalists are writing and reporting–most of us didn’t go to business school,” Hughes said. “But by the time we ended our Press Club service we knew a lot, thanks to Bill.”

The Club was prepared to confront the final major test of his time as executive director: the COVID-19 pandemic.

McCarren helped to bring people back to the Club as soon as possible with masking and vaccination guidelines that closely followed public health guidelines, said Lisa Matthews, the Club’s president in 2021 and planning editor for The Associated Press.

“We really could not have made it through the pandemic without Bill, in terms of the health issues and the financial considerations we had to work through,” Matthews said. “We were reworking entire budgets and plans that included people’s livelihoods.”

Looking ahead, McCarren said he wanted to see the Club continue to evolve.

It should convene difficult conversations on a sustainable business model for news and how to report on the tenuous state of democracy, he said. The Club should also consider whether to relax some long-standing practices — perhaps adding more grab-and-go food options, allowing less dressy attire, improving its WiFi and technology — to attract a younger generation to the Club, he said.

“These are big issues that I’d like to see the Club figuring out how to use its resources to address,” he said. “I think there’s an awful lot of good we can do.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: A Peek Behind the MAGA Curtain, David French, right, June 2, 2023. Every now and then, it’s important to watch Fox News in prime time. david french croppedNo, not because the programs are particularly good or because the hosts tell their audience the truth. Fox is writing Dominion Voting Systems a $787.5 million check for very good reasons, and it still faces a multibillion-dollar lawsuit from Smartmatic over the channel’s election reporting.

But to watch Fox News is to begin to understand millions of your fellow Americans. And there was no better time to start understanding the 2024 Republican primary contest than Thursday night, during Donald Trump’s town hall in Iowa, hosted by Sean Hannity.

djt maga hatTo watch the town hall was to start learning the answer to a key question: After everything, how can Republicans still be so loyal to Trump? But that word, “everything,” is loaded with different meanings in different American communities.

When I look back on the Trump years, I see a dark time of division, corruption and social decay. After all, when he left office, the murder rate was higher, drug overdose deaths had increased, and the abortion rate had gone up for the first time in decades. America was more bitterly divided, and deficits increased each year of his presidency. His early Covid lies helped fuel an immense amount of confusion and almost certainly cost American lives. And his entire sorry term was capped by a violent insurrection fueled by an avalanche of lies.

fox news logo SmallIf you watched the town hall, however, you entered an entirely different world. According to Trump’s narrative, everything he did was good. His first term was a time of economic prosperity, energy independence, fiscal responsibility, a rejuvenated military, a locked-down border and fear and respect from foreign regimes. The only thing that marred his four years was a stolen election and his unjust persecution by the corrupt Democratic Party and its allies in the F.B.I.

In Trumpworld, the Trump past is golden, and the Trump future bright, but the present is a time of misery and darkness. It is President Biden, not Trump, who mishandles classified documents. It is Biden’s family, not Trump’s, that corruptly profits off foreign regimes. Trump would have prevented the Ukraine war. Trump would have withdrawn from Afghanistan more smoothly. As for Biden himself, he’s an object of derision and pity — far too physically and mentally impaired to be president of the United States.

False narratives are often sustained by a few kernels of truth, and so it is in MAGA America. The economy was strong before Covid, and there were fewer southern border crossings each year during Trump’s presidency than during Biden’s. The ISIS caliphate fell. And I don’t know a single Republican who isn’t pleased with Trump’s judicial nominees.

Moreover, not all of Trump’s opponents possess the cleanest of hands. There were, in fact, Department of Justice excesses during its investigation of his campaign’s possible ties to Russia. A special counsel is investigating Biden’s mishandling of classified documents. Hunter Biden is under criminal investigation, and his overseas business dealings are indeed unsavory, even if there is not yet proof of criminal wrongdoing. The withdrawal from Afghanistan turned into a chaotic and bloody rout of allied forces. Inflation remains too high.

In short, there is enough truthful criticism of the Biden administration to make it vulnerable to an election loss. And there remains sufficient false Trump administration nostalgia to make Trump the G.O.P. nominee. Put both realities together, and the nation is facing RealClearPolitics polling averages that show Trump to be the overwhelming favorite for the G.O.P. nomination and a slight leader in a potential general election matchup against Biden.

Given these facts — and Thursday night’s peek at MAGA America — my colleague Frank Bruni’s warning to Democrats yesterday was timely and important: Democrats should not hope to face Trump in 2024. Rooting for him isn’t just dangerous; it’s based on misunderstandings. All too many Trump opponents — in both parties — have spent so long building their voluminous cases against him that they’ve forgotten how he looks to the other side. They can’t conceive of a coherent case for his candidacy.

The two most telling moments on Thursday came from Trump’s audience. First, they booed Mike Pence at the very mention of his name. Second, they shouted derisively at Hannity at the mere thought that Trump should perhaps tone down his rhetoric. Both moments emphasized the ferocity of their support for Trump. When you see that public response, you can begin to see his opponents’ dilemma. Given the size of Trump’s base, a winning Republican rival will have to peel away at least some members of audiences like Thursday’s — the very people who see him as a persecuted hero.

That challenge is compounded by every event like Thursday’s town hall, in which a relaxed Trump was “questioned” by a supine host in front of an adoring crowd. Hannity’s performance was quite a contrast to Kaitlan Collins’s pointed challenges to Trump during last month’s CNN town hall. Yet both events advanced Trump’s narrative. CNN’s tough questions reminded MAGA of his alleged persecution. Hannity’s coddling reminded MAGA of Trump’s alleged triumphs. Both ultimately helped Trump deepen his bond with the people who love him the most.

June 1

washington post logoWashington Post, Project Veritas sues founder James O’Keefe over his messy departure, Will Sommer, June 1, 2023 (print ed.). The right-wing group, known for its undercover videos, also alleges its former chairman lavished donor money on his own expenses.

In February, conservative undercover-video activist James O’Keefe left the nonprofit he founded, Project Veritas, amid a dispute with his board over his spending and treatment of employees.

Then he launched his comeback media tour.

O’Keefe told Donald Trump adviser turned podcaster Stephen K. Bannon that he had been “removed,” and announced on radio host Mark Levin’s show that he had been “ousted.” In an appearance on comedian Russell Brand’s podcast, O’Keefe said he had been “thrown out.” Sometimes, O’Keefe implied he had been fired at the behest of Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant and coronavirus vaccine manufacturer that he had targeted in a sting.

All this came as a surprise to the Project Veritas board, according to a lawsuit it filed Wednesday against O’Keefe. Project Veritas insists that its founder remained an employee until barely two weeks ago — even as he set up a rival organization.

ny times logoNew York Times, James Beard Foundation, Whose Awards Honor Chefs, Is Now Investigating Them, Brett Anderson and Julia Moskin, June 1, 2023 (print ed.). The group behind “the Oscars of the food world” created a new process to weed out nominees with problematic pasts. But that process has troubles of its own.

The chef Sam Fore received an ominous voice mail message this month from an unknown number. The caller identified himself as a private investigator working for the James Beard Foundation. Later that day, Ms. Fore found herself on a Zoom call, answering questions from him and another man.

“They said to me, ‘We have an anonymous complaint we have to ask you about,’” she said.

Ms. Fore is a finalist in the James Beard awards, which for nearly three decades have been considered the most prestigious culinary honors in the United States, the so-called “Oscars of the food world.” As the #MeToo movement led to high-profile revelations of misbehavior and workplace abuse in the restaurant world in recent years, the Beard foundation overhauled its processes to make the awards more equitable and diverse, and to ensure that chefs with troubling histories are not honored.

Ms. Fore is among the first subjects of an investigatory process created in 2021 as part of that overhaul. But in many ways she is the kind of chef the retooled awards are meant to recognize more fully. Early indications suggest that the new process is vulnerable to failure in several ways.

While the awards have historically honored mostly white chefs serving European-derived food in expensive urban restaurants — in fact, the other four finalists in the Best Chef: Southeast category with Ms. Fore are white men — her business, Tuk Tuk, is a pop-up that serves cuisine inspired by what she grew up eating in Lexington, Ky., as the daughter of Sri Lankan immigrants.

In what she called “an interrogation,” the investigators asked her about social media posts she had made on both private and public accounts. Someone had sent them to the foundation through an anonymous tip line on its website. The men told Ms. Fore that the posts potentially violated the organization’s code of ethics — specifically that they amounted to “targeted harassment” and “bullying.”

They included an Instagram post, she said, that was part of a domestic-violence awareness campaign, and others related to her advocacy for victims of sexual violence, including “vague tweets” about people the posts did not name.

She said she told the investigators: “We’ve been talking for 90 minutes about these tweets, and you don’t know who I’m ‘targeting’ with them. How is that targeted harassment?”

Ms. Fore is still waiting to hear whether she has been disqualified from the awards, which will be given out at a ceremony in Chicago on June 5. But she now believes that what was supposed to be the honor of a lifetime could actually do her more harm than good.

“I realize that my presence is a good look for Beard, but I cooked my way across the country to get to this level,” she said. “Now all I’ve done can be dismissed because someone on the internet called me a bully?”

Started in 1985 to honor the food writer James Beard, the foundation established its chef and restaurant awards in 1991.

The foundation has identified itself more and more closely with chefs and restaurants over the years, riding the rise in popularity of chef culture starting in the 1990s. As the American public became increasingly fascinated by restaurants and the people who run them, the profile of the awards grew, the events became more glamorous, the brand partnerships more lucrative. (According to I.R.S. filings, the foundation’s revenues jumped from $5 million in 2010 to $18 million in 2020.)

To address those problems, the foundation established an ethics committee before the 2022 awards, along with the tip line and the pursuant investigations, to ensure that the awards would not celebrate chefs who failed to meet its standards. (Brett Anderson, who co-wrote this article, was on the restaurant awards committee from 2002 to 2012.)

“The James Beard awards are known as the standard bearers of excellence in the industry. We take that very seriously,” said Clare Reichenbach, the foundation’s chief executive. “We’ve built a process with great intentionality, that we think has rigor, that reflects our values and our mission, and we stand by it.”

But it is unclear whether the foundation is up to the task of vetting the finalists.

By making itself the chief arbiter of restaurant excellence, however, the foundation also made many of the restaurant world’s most pernicious problems — inequality, lack of diversity in leadership, workplace abuse of many kinds — its own.



May 31

Politico, Fox News, backed by Trump White House lawyer, fights subpoena in leak lawsuit, Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein, May 31, 2023 (print ed.). The network is trying to protect a source who disclosed details of an FBI probe into a Chinese American scientist.

politico CustomA former Fox News reporter is fighting in court to scuttle a subpoena demanding that she reveal the source behind a series of stories that aired confidential details of a counterintelligence probe into a Chinese American scientist.

That scientist, Yanping Chen, is suing the FBI for damages, claiming that the leaked information was part of a campaign to damage her after federal prosecutors ended their six-year investigation of her without bringing charges. Chen, who operated a graduate education program based in Arlington, Virginia, also subpoenaed Fox and Catherine Herridge, now of CBS — to force her to disclose the source of several 2017 stories.

Notably, Fox News and Herridge are being represented by Patrick Philbin, a former top lawyer from Donald Trump’s White House. Philbin, who decried media leaks during Trump’s first impeachment trial, appeared in court Tuesday to help Herridge fend off the effort to expose her source.

The FBI initially suspected that Chen had lied on immigration forms about her work on the Chinese space program, and she was the subject of two search warrants and seizures of her devices. But she was informed in 2016 that she would not be charged with any wrongdoing.

fox news logo SmallWithin a year, Herridge was reporting on key aspects of the probe, as well as on the divisions within the government about the decision not to charge Chen. Chen says the reports were followed by a sharp drop in enrollment and funding for her graduate program.

Herridge’s reporting included “snippets of her immigration forms, a summary of an FBI interview with her daughter, and personal photographs of her and her husband,” according to U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper.

Chen sued the FBI, DOJ, Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security in 2018 seeking damages, an admission of wrongdoing from the government and prosecutions of any violations of the Privacy Act that may apply to her case. But after dozens of depositions failed to unmask the potential leaker, Chen turned her sights to Fox News and Herridge, which Chen’s attorneys say is a last resort.

The lawsuit has steadily advanced for five years despite generating little attention. Yet it represents the collision of a wide range of Washington interests and issues, carrying implications for how journalists’ First Amendment protections are balanced against the need to prevent leaks of sensitive government information that implicates privacy rights. Cooper noted in court Tuesday that while Congress passed the Privacy Act almost five decades ago, lawmakers have “not seen fit to pass a reporters’ shield law.”

“For better or worse,” the judge added.

Philbin, who works in the Washington office of the firm helmed by former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, sought to conduct Tuesday’s proceedings under seal, a nod to the voluminous details about the case that have been redacted from public view and the potential implications for the FBI’s counterintelligence operations. But Cooper declined, at first, to close the hearing to the public, instead urging Philbin to make broader legal arguments without delving into the sensitive details of the case. Cooper later sealed the hearing to permit the parties to delve into the sensitive details of the case.

During the public portion of the hearing, Philbin contended that Chen had failed to pursue all possible leads about the source of the leak before turning to a subpoena for Herridge. Chen’s inquiry centers around the existence of a PowerPoint document that contained details of the FBI’s probe that later wound up on Fox. Philbin said that while Chen narrowed down potential sources of the leak who “possessed” the PowerPoint to a handful of officials, she omitted a much larger number of people who had “access” to the file. That includes a counterintelligence “squad” of eight to 12 people who worked in an office where the PowerPoint was stored on a CD, he said.

Philbin’s comments prompted Justice Department senior litigation counsel Carol Federighi to interject, warning that he appeared to be veering into subjects meant to be kept from public view. Federighi intervened a second time when Philbin began to describe some binders that included pictures similar to information contained in the PowerPoint.

While journalists have won considerable protection in state courts and enjoy near-immunity from subpoenas by prosecutors in federal criminal cases due to DOJ regulations adopted by Attorney General Merrick Garland, Privacy Act lawsuits remain treacherous for members of the press.

In 2008, a judge handling a Privacy Act lawsuit brought by former government scientist Steven Hatfill ordered former USA Today reporter Toni Locy to pay escalating fines of up to $5,000 a day and attorneys’ fees for defying an order to identify her sources for stories about a federal investigation into Hatfill’s potential ties to deadly anthrax attacks in 2001.

Locy said she could not recall which sources provided specific information about Hatfill, but a judge rejected that.

While Locy’s appeal of that contempt order was pending, the U.S. government settled with Hatfill for $5.8 million, mooting the contempt fight.

Shortly after the settlement, the Justice Department informed Hatfill’s attorneys that investigators had ultimately concluded that Hatfill was not involved in the anthrax mailings.

Chen’s effort to seek damages comes just three months after the Biden administration shut down a China-focused anti-espionage program, known as the China Initiative, claiming it had created a false perception about Chinese Americans and U.S. residents from China.

Philbin has been a figure of intense interest in recent years for his presence in the White House during the crucial chaotic weeks at the end of Trump’s term, when Trump attempted to subvert the 2020 election and rebuffed calls to calm his supporters for hours as violence raged at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Philbin has interviewed twice with prosecutors now working for special counsel Jack Smith. But he’s also been seen entering the federal courthouse for various civil matters that he and his firm are involved in.

Philbin had a harsh assessment about media leaks during Trump’s 2020 impeachment trial on charges that he abused his power and obstructed Congress over allegations that he pressured Ukraine’s president to launch a criminal probe of Joe Biden. At the time, Philbin assailed congressional Democrats for what he said was animus toward Trump, exemplified by leaks from closed-door depositions.

“The testimony that took place was selectively leaked to a compliant media to establish a false narrative about the president. If that sort of conduct had occurred in a real grand jury, that would have been a criminal violation.”

ny times logoNew York Times, A.I. Poses ‘Risk of Extinction,’ Industry Leaders Warn, Kevin Roose, May 31, 2023 (print ed.). Leaders from OpenAI, Google Deepmind and other A.I. labs are set to issue a warning that future systems could be as deadly as pandemics and nuclear weapons.

A group of industry leaders is planning to warn on Tuesday that the artificial intelligence technology they are building may one day pose an existential threat to humanity and should be considered a societal risk on par with pandemics and nuclear wars.

“Mitigating the risk of extinction from A.I. should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks, such as pandemics and nuclear war,” reads a one-sentence statement expected to be released by the Center for AI Safety, a nonprofit organization. The open letter has been signed by more than 350 executives, researchers and engineers working in A.I.

The signatories included top executives from three of the leading A.I. companies: Sam Altman, chief executive of OpenAI; Demis Hassabis, chief executive of Google DeepMind; and Dario Amodei, chief executive of Anthropic.

Geoffrey Hinton and Yoshua Bengio, two of the three researchers who won a Turing Award for their pioneering work on neural networks and are often considered “godfathers” of the modern A.I. movement, signed the statement, as did other prominent researchers in the field (The third Turing Award winner, Yann LeCun, who leads Meta’s A.I. research efforts, had not signed as of Tuesday.)

The statement comes at a time of growing concern about the potential harms of artificial intelligence. Recent advancements in so-called large language models — the type of A.I. system used by ChatGPT and other chatbots — have raised fears that A.I. could soon be used at scale to spread misinformation and propaganda, or that it could eliminate millions of white-collar jobs.

Eventually, some believe, A.I. could become powerful enough that it could create societal-scale disruptions within a few years if nothing is done to slow it down, though researchers sometimes stop short of explaining how that would happen.

These fears are shared by numerous industry leaders, putting them in the unusual position of arguing that a technology they are building — and, in many cases, are furiously racing to build faster than their competitors — poses grave risks and should be regulated more tightly.

This month, Mr. Altman, Mr. Hassabis and Mr. Amodei met with President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to talk about A.I. regulation. In a Senate testimony after the meeting, Mr. Altman warned that the risks of advanced A.I. systems were serious enough to warrant government intervention and called for regulation of A.I. for its potential harms.

Dan Hendrycks, the executive director of the Center for AI Safety, said in an interview that the open letter represented a “coming-out” for some industry leaders who had expressed concerns — but only in private — about the risks of the technology they were developing.

“There’s a very common misconception, even in the A.I. community, that there only are a handful of doomers,” Mr. Hendrycks said. “But, in fact, many people privately would express concerns about these things.”

Some skeptics argue that A.I. technology is still too immature to pose an existential threat. When it comes to today’s A.I. systems, they worry more about short-term problems, such as biased and incorrect responses, than longer-term dangers.

But others have argued that A.I. is improving so rapidly that it has already surpassed human-level performance in some areas, and it will soon surpass it in others. They say the technology has showed signs of advanced capabilities and understanding, giving rise to fears that “artificial general intelligence,” or A.G.I., a type of artificial intelligence that can match or exceed human-level performance at a wide variety of tasks, may not be far-off.

In a blog post last week, Mr. Altman and two other OpenAI executives proposed several ways that powerful A.I. systems could be responsibly managed. They called for cooperation among the leading A.I. makers, more technical research into large language models and the formation of an international A.I. safety organization, similar to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which seeks to control the use of nuclear weapons.

Mr. Altman has also expressed support for rules that would require makers of large, cutting-edge A.I. models to register for a government-issued license.

In March, more than 1,000 technologists and researchers signed another open letter calling for a six-month pause on the development of the largest A.I. models, citing concerns about “an out-of-control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Racing Regulators Hold Emergency Meeting to Investigate Horse Deaths, Joe Drape, May 31, 2023 (print ed.). The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority called a summit of veterinarians in response to the deaths of 12 horses at Churchill Downs.

Lisa Lazarus, the chief executive of the authority, called the “emergency veterinary summit” in Lexington, Ky., to review necropsies, toxicology reports and veterinarians’ and trainers’ notes on the deaths, seven of which preceded this month’s Kentucky Derby. The deaths have cast a pall over the Triple Crown season, the few weeks each spring when casual sports fans have heightened focus on horse racing.

In addition, the authority has asked a longtime California track superintendent, Dennis Moore, to examine the racing surfaces at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., and offer an independent analysis of the dirt and turf courses’ suitability for racing.

“I have not had a single jockey or trainer tell me that they believe the track is a factor in these fatalities,” Lazarus said. Most of the deaths occurred after horses broke down while racing.

May 30

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: A British Reporter Had a Big #MeToo Scoop. Her Editor Killed It, Jane Bradley, May 30, 2023 (print ed.). Seven women say that a star columnist groped them or made unwanted sexual advances. But Britain’s news media has a complicated relationship with outing its own.

Inside the Financial Times newsroom this winter, one of its star investigative reporters, Madison Marriage, had a potentially explosive scoop involving another newspaper.

A prominent left-wing columnist, Nick Cohen, had resigned from Guardian News & Media, and Ms. Marriage had evidence that his departure followed years of unwanted sexual advances and groping of female journalists.

Ms. Marriage specialized in such investigations. She won an award for exposing a handsy black-tie event for Britain’s business elite. A technology mogul got indicted on rape charges after another article.

But her investigation on Mr. Cohen, which she hoped would begin a broader look at sexual misconduct in the British news media, was never published. The Financial Times’ editor, Roula Khalaf, killed it, according to interviews with a dozen Financial Times journalists.

It was not spiked because of reporting problems. Two women were willing to speak openly, and Ms. Marriage had supporting documentation on others. Rather, Ms. Khalaf said that Mr. Cohen did not have a big enough business profile to make him an “F.T. story,” colleagues said.

Mr. Cohen’s departure and the death of Ms. Marriage’s article offer a window into the British news media’s complicated relationship with the #MeToo movement. Leading American newsrooms — Fox News, CNN, NBC, The New York Times and others — have confronted misconduct allegations. British journalism has seen no such reckoning.

For Lucy Siegle, the death of the Financial Times article hit especially hard. In 2018, she had reported Mr. Cohen to the Guardian for groping her in the newsroom, but nothing had happened. Now it seemed the whole industry was protecting itself.

“It just amplified this sense that #MeToo is nothing but a convenient hashtag for the British media,” Ms. Siegle said. “The silence on its own industry is just really conspicuous.”

The British news media is smaller and cozier than its American counterpart, with journalists often coming from the same elite schools. Stringent libel laws present another hurdle. And in a traditional newsroom culture of drinking and gender imbalances, many stories of misconduct go untold, or face a fight.

Jane Bradley, an investigative correspondent in Britain, interviewed more than 35 journalists at The Guardian and The Financial Times to examine sexual misconduct in the British news media, an industry she has worked in for 15 years.

May 23

ny times logoNew York Times, Spying in Mexico Strikes a New Victim: The President’s Ally, Natalie Kitroeff and Ronen Bergman, May 23, 2023 (print ed.). While looking into abuses by the armed forces, the country’s top human rights official was targeted with Pegasus, the world’s most notorious spyware.

He is a longtime friend of the president, a close political ally for decades who is now the government’s top human rights official.

And he has been spied on, repeatedly.

Alejandro Encinas, Mexico’s under secretary for human rights, was targeted with Pegasus, the world’s most notorious spyware, while investigating abuses by the nation’s military, according to four people who spoke with him about the hack and an independent forensic analysis that confirmed it.

Mexico has long been shaken by spying scandals. But this is the first confirmed case of such a senior member of an administration — let alone someone so close to the president — being surveilled by Pegasus in more than a decade of the spy tool’s use in the country.

The attacks on Mr. Encinas, which have not been reported previously, seriously undercut President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s pledge to end what he has called the “illegal” spying of the past. They’re also a clear sign of how freewheeling the surveillance in Mexico has become, when no one, not even the president’s allies, appears to be off limits.

Pegasus is licensed only to government agencies, and while there’s no definitive proof which one carried out the hack of Mr. Encinas’s phone, the military is the only entity in Mexico that has access to the spyware, according to five people familiar with the contracts. In fact, the Mexican military has targeted more cellphones with the technology than any government agency in the world.

Mr. Encinas has long been at odds with the armed forces. He and his team have accused them of being involved in the mass disappearance of 43 students, one of the worst human rights violations in the country’s recent history.

His cellphone has been infected multiple times — as recently as last year while he was leading a government truth commission into the abductions — giving the hackers unfettered access to his entire digital life, according to the four people who have discussed it with him.

Pegasus was wielded against some of Mexico’s most prominent journalists and democracy advocates several years ago, igniting an international scandal that stained the previous administration.

ny times logoNew York Times, Andrew Tate Thought He Was Above the Law. Romania Proved Him Wrong, Andrew Higgins, May 23, 2023 (print ed.). The online influencer is facing charges of human trafficking and rape, after seeking out a place where “corruption is accessible to everybody.”

andrew tate 2021Andrew Tate, right, a pugilistic online influencer and self-crowned “king of toxic masculinity,” never made any secret of why he had chosen Romania as his home and business base.

“I like living in a society where my money, my influence and my power mean that I’m not below or beholden” to any laws, Mr. Tate told his fans.

andrew tate graphicBut, like much of what the former kickboxer has told his millions of mostly young male followers on social media — including claims that he is a trillionaire and has 19 passports — Mr. Tate’s proclamation of faith in Romania as a risk-free haven for antisocial behavior reflected more fantasy than reality.

The Romanian authorities arrested Mr. Tate, a citizen of both the United States and Britain, and his younger brother, Tristan, in December on charges of human trafficking, rape and forming an organized criminal group. Held for three months in a jail in Bucharest, the capital, both men, who deny any wrongdoing, are now under house arrest, awaiting trial.

Their home is a sprawling compound down a dingy dead-end street in Voluntari, a town next to Bucharest that is dotted with shiny new office towers and derelict empty lots. It looks more like an industrial warehouse than the lair of a man who boasted of immense wealth and posted videos of himself hanging out in private jets with beautiful women and driving fast cars.

May 22

washington post logoWashington Post, E.U.’s record $1.3 billion fine for Meta could have broad effects on U.S. businesses, Naomi Nix, Annabelle Timsit and Cat Zakrzewski, May meta logo22, 2023. Facebook’s parent company was found to have broken the E.U.’s sweeping set of privacy laws by transferring user data from Europe to the United States. Critics say the ruling puts U.S. companies in limbo, threatening a common practice.

ny times logoNew York Times, Meta Fined $1.3 Billion for Violating E.U. Data Privacy Rules, Adam Satariano, May 22, 2023. The Facebook owner said it would appeal an order to stop sending data about European Union users to the United States.

Meta on Monday was fined a record 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion) and ordered to stop transferring data collected from Facebook users in Europe to the United facebook logoStates, in a major ruling against the social media company for violating European Union data protection rules.

The penalty, announced by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, is potentially one of the most consequential in the five years since the European Union enacted the landmark data privacy law known as the General Data Protection Regulation. Regulators said the company failed to comply with a 2020 decision by the E.U.’s highest court that data shipped across the Atlantic was not sufficiently protected from American spy agencies.

meta logoThe ruling announced on Monday applies only to Facebook and not Instagram and WhatsApp, which Meta also owns. Meta said it would appeal the european union logo rectangledecision and that there would be no immediate disruption to Facebook’s service in the Europe Union.

Several steps remain before the company must cordon off the data of Facebook users in Europe — information that could include photos, friend connections, direct messages and data collected for targeting advertising. The ruling comes with a grace period of at least five months for Meta to comply. And the company’s appeal will set up a potentially lengthy legal process.

 roman protasevich

ny times logoNew York Times, Belarus pardoned an opposition activist who was hauled off a Ryanair flight in 2021, state media said, Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Ivan Nechepurenko, May 22, 2023. Belarus has pardoned an opposition activist who was arrested in 2021 after the Belarusian government forced the landing of a commercial flight he had been on that was transiting its airspace, state media reported on Monday.

The activist, Roman Protasevich, 28, above, was the editor of Nexta, a channel on the Telegram messaging app that was instrumental in organizing mass protests alexander lukashenko resized 2019against President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, left, after his disputed election victory in 2020. The details of Mr. Protasevich’s arrest drew international attention.

A Belarusian court in May sentenced Mr. Protasevich to eight years in prison for crimes including acts of terrorism and insulting the president. But on Monday, Belta, the Belarusian state news agency, reported that Mr. Protasevich had told journalists he had been pardoned, calling it “great news.”

Such leniency for someone who had been an active member of the opposition is unusual in Belarus, where, during nearly three decades in power, Mr. Lukashenko has a longstanding pattern of silencing dissent and violently suppressing opponents.

washington post logoWashington Post, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO booed at Boston University commencement speech over writers strike, Herb Scribner, May 22, 2023 (print ed.). The Writers Guild of America said it planned to picket during the speech. Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav faced boos and jeers from audience members during his Boston University commencement speech on Sunday during the ongoing Hollywood writers strike.

Picketers and audience members broke out in chants, including, “pay your writers!” as Zaslav spoke about his career experience and how he rose up to become WBD’s president. Crowds yelled, “we don’t want you here!” and “shut up Zaslav!” as he spoke.

During his speech, Zaslav advised students that “some people will be looking for a fight, but don’t be the one they find it with,” which caused an eruption of boos and cheers from the crowd. He then told students to “focus on people’s good qualities,” which was a tip he said he received from the late General Electric CEO Jack Welch.

As he wrapped up his address — advising students to “figure out what you’re good at” and “show up for your friends” — audience members shouted expletives at him.

Zaslav, who wore sunglasses during the duration of speech, did not directly address the strike. But he may have been speaking to the picketers and protesters when he wrapped up, saying, “I hope to see all of you — and I mean all of you — along the way. The journey of life. There’s nothing better.”

Zaslav addressed the protests in a statement sent to The Washington Post Sunday afternoon.

“I am grateful to my alma mater, Boston University, for inviting me to be part of today’s commencement and for giving me an honorary degree, and, as I have often said, I am immensely supportive of writers and hope the strike is resolved soon and in a way that they feel recognizes their value,” he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House reporters stuck with $25,000 charges after Biden trip canceled, Paul Farhi, May 22, 2023 (print ed.). Some correspondents think it could prompt media bosses to pull back from covering the president on future overseas tours.

Every traveler dreads a sudden flight cancellation. But few travelers have been stuck with the kind of headache that White House reporters were left with this week.

In anticipation of covering President Biden’s trip to Japan and Australia, news organizations shelled out big bucks to charter a plane to carry journalists from Hiroshima to Sydney. But then Biden decided to skip the Australian leg of his trip to return to Washington for continuing negotiations with congressional Republicans over a debt ceiling increase.

The decision stuck media organizations with the tab for a trip that never happened. And some correspondents think it could prompt their bosses to pull back from covering the president on overseas trips, dooming future charter flights.

The now-canceled charter flight, organized by the White House Travel Office, cost $760,000, or about $14,000 for each of the 55 journalists who’d booked seats on it. Journalists will immediately lose their deposits, about $7,700 each, and may be on the hook for the rest, according to a memo sent to reporters on Wednesday by Tamara Keith, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association.

May 18

ny times logoNew York Times, In Battle Over A.I., Meta Decides to Give Away Its Crown Jewels, Cade Metz and Mike Isaac, May 18, 2023. The tech giant has publicly released its latest A.I. technology so people can build their own chatbots. Rivals say that approach can be dangerous.

In February, Meta made an unusual move in the rapidly evolving world of artificial intelligence: It decided to give away its A.I. crown jewels.

meta logoThe Silicon Valley giant, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, had created an A.I. technology, called LLaMA, that can power online chatbots. But instead of keeping the technology to itself, Meta released the system’s underlying computer code into the wild. Academics, government researchers and others who gave their email address to Meta could download the code once the company had vetted the individual.

Essentially, Meta was giving its A.I. technology away as open-source software — computer code that can be freely copied, modified and reused — providing outsiders with everything they needed to quickly build chatbots of their own.

“The platform that will win will be the open one,” Yann LeCun, Meta’s chief A.I. scientist, said in an interview.

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Rules Against Andy Warhol in Copyright Case, Adam Liptak, May 18, 2023. The question for the justices was whether the artist was free to use elements of a rock photographer’s portrait of the musician Prince.

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that Andy Warhol was not entitled to draw on a prominent photographer’s portrait of Prince for a series of images of the musician, limiting the scope of the fair-use defense to copyright infringement in the realm of visual art.

The vote was 7 to 2. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, writing for the majority, said the photographer’s “original works, like those of other photographers, are entitled to copyright protection, even against famous artists.”

In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan, joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., wrote that the decision “will stifle creativity of every sort.”

“It will impede new art and music and literature,” she wrote. “It will thwart the expression of new ideas and the attainment of new knowledge. It will make our world poorer.”

  • New York Times, Supreme Court Sidesteps Ruling on Scope of Internet Liability Shield, May 18, 2023.

washington post logoWashington Post, Montana becomes first state to ban TikTok, but court challenges are likely, Erica Werner, May 18, 2023 (print ed.). The move was denounced by the ACLU and a court challenge.

tiktok logo square CustomMontana on Wednesday became the first state to enact a total ban on sales and use of TikTok in the state, as Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed legislation he said would “protect Montanans’ private data and sensitive personal information from being harvested by the Chinese Communist Party.”
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A spokesperson for the popular Chinese-owned app responded by accusing Gianforte of signing a bill “that infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people of Montana by unlawfully banning TikTok, a platform that empowers hundreds of thousands of people across the state.”

A number of states and the federal government already have barred the Chinese-owned app from public agencies’ devices, citing national security concerns, but the legislation in Montana goes much further.

Biden’s TikTok plan echoes failed Trump bid China called a ‘smash and grab’

It imposes fines of $10,000 per day on any mobile store making the app available, and on TikTok itself if it operates the app within the state. Individual TikTok users are not subject to the fines. The law takes effect Jan. 1, 2024.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Musk says George Soros ‘hates humanity,’ compares him to Jewish supervillain, Avi Selk and Herb Scribner, May 18, 2023 (print ed.). The CEO of the Anti-Defamation League condemned Elon Musk’s comparison of Soros to Magneto — a Marvel villain who opposes humanity.

Elon Musk made a series of attacks on George Soros overnight, tweeting that the Jewish-born investor and liberal philanthropist, who often is subject to virulent antisemitic conspiracy theories, hates humanity and “wants to erode the very fabric of civilization.”

Musk, who has overseen an increase of antisemitism and other hate speech on Twitter since he bought the social media platform last year, did not give a reason for singling out Soros. But he made his comments three days after Soros’s investment fund reported that it had sold all its stock in Tesla, the electric carmaker that Musk also runs.

And Musk seemed to specifically reference the 92-year-old Holocaust survivor’s background by comparing Soros to Magneto — a Jewish supervillain who “fights to help mutants replace humans as the world’s dominant species,” as Marvel’s official character description puts it.

“Soros reminds me of Magneto,” Musk posted at 10 p.m. Monday, apropos of nothing. The tweet triggered a flood of replies comparing Soros to various symbols of evil, recalling long-standing conspiracy theories that paint him as a godlike billionaire Jew who uses his philanthropic foundations to flood Europe with refugees and corrupt American politics.

The left-wing commentator Brian Krassenstein replied to Musk, pointing out that Magneto is a Holocaust survivor in Marvel lore, where the character manipulates magnetic fields to oppose (and occasionally help) the heroes of X-Men films and comics. “[Soros], also a Holocaust survivor, get’s attacked nonstop for his good intentions which some Americans think are bad merely because they disagree with this political affiliations,” he wrote.

Musk replied to Krassenstein five minutes later: “You assume they are good intentions. They are not. He wants to erode the very fabric of civilization. Soros hates humanity.”

washington post logoWashington Post, High-schooler gets suspended after filming her teacher using the n-word, Jonathan Edwards, May 17, 2023 (print ed.). The geometry teacher said the n-word twice in a 55-second video captured by the 15-year-old.

Mary Walton thought her teacher repeatedly saying a racist slur in class last week was wrong, so the 15-year-old sophomore at Glendale High School in Springfield, Mo., pulled out her phone and started filming, the student’s lawyer said.

She recorded him saying the n-word twice before he appeared to notice what she was doing.

“Put your phone away,” he told her, according to video reviewed by The Washington Post.

“No,” Mary said.

“Then go to the office,” he responded.

Days later, she was suspended for making the 55-second video, according to her lawyer. Mary and her mother, Kate Welborn, 44, are challenging the punishment and demanding the district apologize. Mary’s lawyer, Natalie Hull, said that the sophomore was essentially acting as a whistleblower by collecting evidence of an authority figure’s wrongdoing and that punishing her will have a “chilling effect” on students inclined to do so in the future.

“​​This kid did what we want people to do — see something, say something,” Hull said, adding: “Now we’re telling students, ‘If you see something, don’t show it, because then you’ll get suspended.’”

Officials maintain that, although the teacher’s actions were inexcusable, students are prohibited from recording in class without prior approval.

California teacher placed on leave after video shows her mocking Native American dance in headdress

On Monday, Principal Josh Groves announced that the teacher, who was initially placed on administrative leave, is no longer employed by the district. He has not been publicly identified. Officials said that while federal law prevented them from talking about student discipline, the student handbook is clear about the consequences of inappropriately using cellphones and other electronic devices.

Officials are “confident that the district appropriately and promptly handled all matters related to what occurred at Glendale,” Groves said Monday in an email to parents. “We want our schools to be safe and welcoming learning environments. When students have concerns, they should follow the appropriate steps for reporting.”

May 17



Sam Altman, the chief executive of the San Francisco start-up OpenAI 5 16 2023

ny times logoNew York Times, OpenAI’s Sam Altman Urges A.I. Regulation in Senate Hearing, Cecilia Kang, May 17, 2023 (print ed.). The tech executive and lawmakers agreed that new A.I. systems must be regulated. Just how that would happen is not yet clear.

The tone of congressional hearings featuring tech industry executives in recent years can best be described as antagonistic. Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and other tech luminaries have all been dressed down on Capitol Hill by lawmakers upset with their companies.

But on Tuesday, Sam Altman, the chief executive of the San Francisco start-up OpenAI, testified before members of a Senate subcommittee and largely agreed with them on the need to regulate the increasingly powerful A.I. technology being created inside his company and others like Google and Microsoft.

In his first testimony before Congress, Mr. Altman implored lawmakers to regulate artificial intelligence as members of the committee displayed a budding understanding of the technology. The hearing underscored the deep unease felt by technologists and government over A.I.’s potential harms. But that unease did not extend to Mr. Altman, who had a friendly audience in the members of the subcommittee.

The appearance of Mr. Altman, a 38-year-old Stanford University dropout and tech entrepreneur, was his christening as the leading figure in A.I. The boyish-looking Mr. Altman traded in his usual pullover sweater and jeans for a blue suit and tie for the three-hour hearing.


djt kaitlin collins cnn 5 10 2023

 ny times logoNew York Times, Kaitlan Collins, Moderator of Trump Forum, Named CNN’s 9 P.M. Anchor, Michael M. Grynbaum, May 17, 2023. CNN has selected Kaitlan Collins to host a new weeknight show at 9 p.m., elevating her to one of the most coveted time slots in cable news a week after she moderated a contentious town hall with former President Donald J. Trump.

The new role for Ms. Collins was announced by CNN’s chairman, Chris Licht, on Wednesday, just ahead of a presentation to advertisers in Midtown Manhattan cnn logohosted by Warner Bros. Discovery, CNN’s parent company.

Her show, which does not yet have a title, is set to begin in June. “She is a smart and gifted journalist who we’ve all seen hold lawmakers and chris licht wnewsmakers accountable,” Mr. Licht, right, wrote in a newsroom memo. “Kaitlan will expose uncovered angles and challenge conventional wisdom to make sure viewers are seeing a story from every side.”

The promotion of Ms. Collins, 31, a co-host of the network’s morning show, amounts to a major bet by CNN leadership on a rising star who has impressed colleagues with her interviewing and reporting chops, but remains relatively untested as a solo anchor.

It is also Mr. Licht’s latest attempt to revive his network’s sagging ratings.

The 9 p.m. hour at CNN — once its highest-rated time slot — has effectively been vacant since Chris Cuomo was fired in December 2021. Mr. Licht’s recent attempt to fill the hour with a variety of interviews and news specials fizzled with viewers. On weeknights, CNN lags behind Fox News and MSNBC, and on Friday, two days after the Trump town hall, it even lost to Newsmax, a fledgling conservative network that is available in fewer homes.


Author and investigative reporter Seymour Hersh (photo via Tablet).

Author and investigative reporter Seymour Hersh (photo via Tablet).

Medium, Opinion: The Sad Downfall of Seymour Hersh, Jeremy Fassler, May 17, 2023. Note: I originally wrote this piece in June 2018 for The Daily Banter upon the publication of Sy Hersh’s memoir, "Reporter." In the wake of his unacceptable reporting about Ukraine, I am republishing it here with some slight revisions.

Throughout his career, Seymour Hersh has been a crusading investigative reporter, exposing such stories as the My Lai Massacre in the Vietnam War and the abuses at Abu Gharib. With his memoir Reporter being released today, he finds himself once again in the news as journalists sing his praises. However, as they appraise his life’s work, they must take into account how, over the past decade, Hersh has grown increasingly conspiratorial and untrustworthy in his reporting, adopting bizarre theories that threaten to seriously compromise his legacy.

The first major sign of trouble came in 2013, when Hersh wrote “Whose Sarin?,” an article absolving the government of Bashar al-Assad for that summer’s chemical weapons attack in Ghouta, near Damascus, killing hundreds of Syrians and nearly bringing the United States to military action. Although a UN report on the attack laid the blame at Assad, Heresh argued that the real perpetrators were an Al-Qaeda spinoff group called Jhabat-al Nusra, citing anonymous military officials as his sources. In a follow-up article in 2014, he cosigned blame for the attack to the government of Turkey, which experts quickly debunked.

Sadly, Hersh has not let go of his Syria trutherism. Last April, after the U.S. launched missiles in retaliation to Assad’s chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaykhun, he wrote in the German paper Die Welt that, according to anonymous military officials, the initial attack was a collaboration between the Syrian Air Force, the Russians, and Washington, and the targets were not innocent Syrians but Jihadist leaders. When Guardian reported George Monbiot asked him for the coordinates of the bombing site, Hersh dodged the question.

Hersh’s conspiratorial beliefs went mainstream in 2015 when he published “The Killing of Osama bin Laden” (later released as a book) in the London Review of Books. The 10,000-word article, which had been rejected by The New Yorker, argued that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) kidnapped bin Laden in 2006, locked him up with funding from the Saudis as leverage against Al-Qaeda, and sold him to the United States in exchange for increased military aid and a “freer hand” in Afghanistan. Instead of flying the Navy SEAls into the Abbottabad compound via helicopter, raiding the promises, and killing bin-Laden with a double tap, Hersh claimed a courier let the SEALs in and allowed them to shoot the world’s most famous terrorist multiple times.

As with any conspiracy theory, a number of variables contradict Hersh’s reporting. For example, assuming that Hersh is correct — and he claims he’s correct, despite offering no supporting documents — why would the U.S. drop Pakistani cooperation in Afghanistan in subsequent years? Why would the intelligence materials brought back from Abbottabad be made up, as he says they are, even though Al-Qaeda’s second highest-ranking member says they were real? And why would Pakistan even invite the U.S. to participate in a phony raid at all? Why not just kill him themselves? Hersh has never provided satisfactory answers to any of these questions, trusting his primary source, an anonymous retired senior intelligence official who supposedly had knowledge of the plan.

This is a large red flag with Hersh’s reporting. While anonymous sources are essential in journalism, Hersh over-relies on them, taking their word at face value without properly vetting them. In fact, ex-military and intelligence officials, or “cranks,” are often the worst kinds of anonymous sources, as Jamie Kirchik called them in this article responding to Hersh’s bin Laden reporting:

“Cranks are an archetype of the intelligence world…obsessive, frustrated idiot savants who perceive themselves as stymied by the paper pushers…who don’t have the courage to come out and tell it like it really is. Such people are naturally drawn to a reporter like Hersh, a crusading writer who ‘gets it,’ who sees the world in the same conspiratorial tones they do, where dark, shadowy forces manipulate global events.”

Hersh, a member of the Vietnam generation who learned the hard way not to take the government’s justifications for war at face value, may have good reason to identify with these sources. After all, identifying the crimes of the U.S. military brought him renown. But after nearly 50 years of exposing these illegalities, he can no longer tell the difference between a solid scoop and a conspiracy that has no business being in the news.

This leads us to the story of Seth Rich, a former DNC aide who, in the summer of 2016, was murdered in a botched robbery. Conspiracy theorists on both the far right and the far left argued that Rich, a disgruntled Sanders supporter, had been murdered by the DNC for leaking their emails to Julian Assange. The conspiracy when so far that Rich’s family sued Fox News for manipulating the investigation of their son’s murder into an unbelievable series of claims, one of which said that a suppressed FBI report proved he leaked the emails. Nobody apparently saw this report, except for an anonymous intelligence official who spoke to — you guessed it — Seymour Hersh.

In a conversation with Fox News reporter Ed Butowsky, Hersh said that his source told him Rich had shared the emails with Assange via Dropbox, and even shared them with friends “in case anything happens to me.” Hersh later denied having spoken to anyone at the FBI about the report, nor having seen it with his own eyes. But while believing that Seth Rich leaked the emails to Assange is bad enough, it’s this next quote from his talk with Butowsky that consigns Hersh to the loony bin:

“I have a narrative of how that whole fucking thing [the Russia investigation] began. It’s a Brennan operation, it was it was an American disinformation and fucking the fucking president, at one point when they, they even started telling the press, they were back briefing the press, the head of the NSA was going and telling the press, fucking cock-sucker Rogers, was telling the press that we even know who in the GRU, the Russian Military Intelligence Service, who leaked it. I mean all bullshit.”

One of America’s greatest investigative reporters doesn’t believe the Russian plot to interfere in the election was real. But why should he? Hersh not only ignored the Russia story in 2016, he actually abetted the enemy. That summer, at the Washington D.C. Newseum, he introduced a documentary by filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov attacking martyred Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, the namesake for the Magnitsky Act, as a liar. Hersh was still at it by the time Trump was inaugurated, when he attacked the media for taking the intelligence community’s word on the story at face value, and offered sentiments that would make Susan Sarandon blush:

“The idea of somebody breaking things away, and raising grave doubts about the viability of the [two] party system, particularly the Democratic Party, is not a bad idea.”

Well, the system is shook up now: 4600 dead in Puerto Rico, a Supreme Court that ruled in favor of small businesses discriminating against gays, and a “zero tolerance” policy at the border separating children from their families and locking them in cages, but at least Hersh got his wish. Whether or not he comes to his sense remains to be seen, but given how he’s entrenched himself on the fringes, it seems unlikely.

We need great investigative journalism now more than ever, and Reporter will make readers nostalgic for an age of journalism that no longer exists. Unfortunately, the book’s main character no longer exists either, as Hersh has devolved from a truth-teller into, like the anonymous sources he relies on, a crank.

Jimmy Fessler is freelance writer and journalist with bylines: in the New York Times, The Atlantic, Mother Jones, etc. Co-author of "The Deadwood Bible"with Matt Zoller Seitz.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Newspaper’s Closing Deals a Blow to Guatemala’s Democracy, Jody García and Elda Cantú, May 17, 2023. On Monday, elPeriodico, an investigative daily in Guatemala, published its final edition after more than 26 years. Its executive editor is in jail and some of its reporters are in exile.

When the newspaper elPeriodico was founded in Guatemala in 1996, the country was emerging from a brutal civil war, and there was a feeling that a small space for free thought might be opening.

That opening closed this week when elPeriodico, which made a name for itself and became a frequent target for trying to hold Guatemala’s governments to account, published its final digital edition.

The newspaper’s demise followed the jailing of its publisher after he was accused by the government of financial crimes and the freezing of its assets as part of the case, which dealt a financial blow and led to the suspension of the print edition in December.

The closing of elPeriodico is the latest setback for Guatemala’s increasingly brittle democracy, civil liberties groups say, as President Alejandro Giammattei steers the country toward greater repression, targeting critics, including the news media, opposition politicians and the judiciary.

ElPeriodico was founded during a more hopeful, if uncertain, time, not long before the signing of peace accords in December 1996. The agreement put an end to a civil war in the Central American country, which had lasted 36 years and left hundreds of thousands dead or disappeared.

The conflict, which is considered a genocide, decimated the nation’s Indigenous population and pitted neighbor against neighbor.

As elPeriodico got off the ground, there were no clear lines between what was publishable and what was still unspeakable. The country was recovering from a legacy of dictatorial military governments and the prosecution and targeted killings of intellectuals and dissidents.

“We wanted to be irreverent, not necessarily confrontational,” said Luis Aceituno, who was one of three dozen remaining staff members at elPeriodico, whose newsroom at its high point in 2012 had 400 employees. But over the years, elPeriodico has drawn the ire of the country’s ruling elite.


 florida map

washington post logoWashington Post, Teacher investigated for Disney movie says politics drove her to resign, Jonathan Edwards, May 17, 2023. A fifth-grade teacher in Florida is under investigation by state officials for showing students the film, the first Disney feature with an openly gay character.

Jenna Barbee said she wanted to give students a “brain break” during standardized testing earlier this month by showing them a movie. Barbee, a fifth-grade teacher at Winding Waters K-8 school in Brooksville, Fla., chose Disney’s “Strange World” because the film about journeying to a mysterious underground land related to recent science lessons about the environment.

But “Strange World” is also Disney’s first movie featuring an openly gay character, a fact that led a school board member to report Barbee to state officials, the teacher told the Hernando County School Board at its May 9 meeting. The Florida Department of Education is now investigating whether Barbee broke the state’s law forbidding public school teachers from talking about gender and sexual orientation with students, she said in a TikTok video, which has been viewed more than 5 million times in three days.

“This is the public education system, where students from all backgrounds, cultures and religions are welcomed and should be celebrated and represented. I am not and never would indoctrinate anyone to follow my beliefs,” she said at the start of the 6½-minute video. “I will, however, always be a safe person to come to that spreads the message of kindness, positivity and compassion for everyone.”

Barbee told CNN she had already submitted her resignation from the school a week before showing the movie. She said she did so because of “politics and the fear of not being able to be who you are” in Florida public schools.

Cassie Palelis, a Florida Department of Education spokesperson, said state law prohibits officials from talking about internal investigations or confirming whether they exist. Karen Jordan, a spokesperson for the Hernando County School District, said officials there are conducting their own investigation into what happened but declined to comment further.

washington post logoWashington Post, DeSantis might have met his match in Disney’s Iger as both sides dig in, Todd C. Frankel and Lori Rozsa, May 15, 2023.  ‘The mouse brought in the big guns,’ a former Democratic state senator said.

Bob Iger was getting restless.

It was late February 2022, and Iger was only a few weeks into his retirement after a storied career running the Walt Disney Co. He’d orchestrated deals to bring Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars to Disney. And he’d rarely shied away from fights on social issues he felt were important. In 2016, he was credited with helping persuade Georgia’s governor to veto an anti-LGBTQ bill when Disney threatened to stop filming in the state. A year later, he cited his concerns about climate change when he quit President Donald Trump’s business advisory council.

Now, Iger was sitting on the sidelines watching Florida lawmakers consider a new piece of legislation called the Parental Rights in Education bill. Critics had already labeled it “don’t say gay,” because the bill would prohibit classroom discussions involving sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades. The bill seemed to have little to do with Disney’s theme parks in Orlando. Still, Disney’s army of lobbyists in Florida kept an eye on the legislation.

The risk to Disney appeared so remote that top executives at Disney’s headquarters in Burbank, Calif., were still largely in the dark about the issue, according to a person familiar with the company’s thinking who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose corporate discussions.

Bob Iger rebuilt Disney. Fighting DeSantis could define his legacy.

“It was on no one’s radar,” said this person.

Then, on Feb. 24, 2022, Iger tweeted.

“If passed, this bill will put vulnerable, young LGBTQ people in jeopardy,” Iger wrote.

Iger’s tweet caught many in the Florida government and Disney’s headquarters by surprise. It suddenly set in motion an epic clash between two Florida powerhouses — Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and Disney World, an economic engine that employs 75,000 people and attracts 50 million visitors per year. This dispute began with a contentious education bill, but, like a Magic Kingdom roller coaster, has taken numerous twists and turns in the past 15 months, picking up speed and intensity along the way.

And what started as DeSantis vs. Disney is now seen by many as DeSantis vs. Iger.

washington post logoWashington Post, Musk says George Soros ‘hates humanity,’ compares him to Jewish supervillain, Avi Selk and Herb Scribner, May 17, 2023. The CEO of the Anti-Defamation League condemned Elon Musk’s comparison of Soros to Magneto — a Marvel villain who opposes humanity.

elon musk 2015Elon Musk, right, made a series of attacks on George Soros overnight, tweeting that the Jewish-born investor and liberal philanthropist, who often is subject to virulent antisemitic conspiracy theories, hates humanity and “wants to erode the very fabric of civilization.”

Musk, who has overseen an increase of antisemitism and other hate speech on Twitter since he bought the social media platform last year, did not give a reason for singling out Soros. But he made his comments three days after Soros’s investment fund reported that it had sold all its stock in Tesla, the electric carmaker that Musk also runs.

And Musk seemed to specifically reference the 92-year-old Holocaust survivor’s background by comparing Soros to Magneto — a Jewish supervillain who “fights to help mutants replace humans as the world’s dominant species,” as Marvel’s official character description puts it.

“Soros reminds me of Magneto,” Musk posted at 10 p.m. Monday, apropos of nothing. The tweet triggered a flood of replies comparing Soros to various symbols of evil, recalling long-standing conspiracy theories that paint him as a godlike billionaire Jew who uses his philanthropic foundations to flood Europe with refugees and corrupt American politics.

The left-wing commentator Brian Krassenstein replied to Musk, pointing out that Magneto is a Holocaust survivor in Marvel lore, where the character manipulates magnetic fields to oppose (and occasionally help) the heroes of X-Men films and comics. “[Soros], also a Holocaust survivor, get’s attacked nonstop for his good intentions which some Americans think are bad merely because they disagree with this political affiliations,” he wrote.

Musk replied to Krassenstein five minutes later: “You assume they are good intentions. They are not. He wants to erode the very fabric of civilization. Soros hates humanity.”

washington post logoWashington Post, High-schooler gets suspended after filming her teacher using the n-word, Jonathan Edwards, May 17, 2023 (print ed.). The geometry teacher said the n-word twice in a 55-second video captured by the 15-year-old.

Mary Walton thought her teacher repeatedly saying a racist slur in class last week was wrong, so the 15-year-old sophomore at Glendale High School in Springfield, Mo., pulled out her phone and started filming, the student’s lawyer said.

She recorded him saying the n-word twice before he appeared to notice what she was doing.

“Put your phone away,” he told her, according to video reviewed by The Washington Post.

“No,” Mary said.

“Then go to the office,” he responded.

Days later, she was suspended for making the 55-second video, according to her lawyer. Mary and her mother, Kate Welborn, 44, are challenging the punishment and demanding the district apologize. Mary’s lawyer, Natalie Hull, said that the sophomore was essentially acting as a whistleblower by collecting evidence of an authority figure’s wrongdoing and that punishing her will have a “chilling effect” on students inclined to do so in the future.

“​​This kid did what we want people to do — see something, say something,” Hull said, adding: “Now we’re telling students, ‘If you see something, don’t show it, because then you’ll get suspended.’”

Officials maintain that, although the teacher’s actions were inexcusable, students are prohibited from recording in class without prior approval.

California teacher placed on leave after video shows her mocking Native American dance in headdress

On Monday, Principal Josh Groves announced that the teacher, who was initially placed on administrative leave, is no longer employed by the district. He has not been publicly identified. Officials said that while federal law prevented them from talking about student discipline, the student handbook is clear about the consequences of inappropriately using cellphones and other electronic devices.

Officials are “confident that the district appropriately and promptly handled all matters related to what occurred at Glendale,” Groves said Monday in an email to parents. “We want our schools to be safe and welcoming learning environments. When students have concerns, they should follow the appropriate steps for reporting.”

May 16

Law & Crime Network, Fox’s law firm distances itself from Tucker Carlson as aftershocks of host’s firing ripple into bias suit, Adam Klasfeld, May 15, 2023.  Disavowing any conflict of interest, Fox Corporation’s powerhouse law firm distanced itself from ex-host Tucker Carlson as a client in a discrimination lawsuit brought by his former producer Abby Grossberg.

lawcrime logoShortly before Fox’s settlement with Dominion, Grossberg sued the network and Carlson in New York and Delaware, claiming pervasive religious abby grossberg johns hopkinsand gender bias. Grossberg, right, also accused Fox’s attorneys of coaching her into giving “coerced” and misleading testimony that would make her and host Maria Bartiromo the network’s “sacrificial female lambs.”

Fox later entered into a $787.5 million deal with Dominion on the eve of trial, but Grossberg’s litigation endured.

On Friday, Fox’s law firm Baker McKenzie — which has dozens of offices internationally and reported $3.1 billion in revenue in 2021 — affirmed in court that it had “not entered an appearance on behalf of Mr. Carlson on this Court’s docket.”

fox news logo Small“Mr. Carlson will be represented by separate counsel in this matter, who will enter an appearance reflecting as much,” the firm’s partner Paul Evans wrote.

Grossberg’s attorney Parisis G. Filippatos called that statement distancing the firm from Carlson “patently misleading and false.”

In an email on April 10, 2023, Evans told Filippatos that he could now “now confirm” that Baker McKenzie would “also be representing” Carlson and other individual defendants. Evans did not appear to file a notice of appearance indicating this to the court.

tucker carlson 2022An email from Fox’s attorney that Abby Grossberg’s legal team proves it also represented Tucker Carlson, right, despite asserting the contrary.

Some two days after that email, a Delaware judge sanctioned the network’s legal team for not telling him the full story about Rupert Murdoch’s role in Fox News, as opposed to the Fox Corporation.

“I need people to tell me the truth,” Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis scolded on April 12. “And by the way, omission is a lie.”

Grossberg’s legal team cited this exchange in a footnote.

“It is shocking that this is not the first litigation this year — involving both parties in some manner — where Fox, through its attorneys, has chosen to be less than fully honest and truthful with the Court,” Filippatos wrote in a footnote. “Thus, the evasive and deceptive conduct of Fox’s attorneys before your honor at the outset of this case is particularly troubling on the heels of Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis’s widely-reported stern rebuke of the Fox attorneys in the Dominion Voting Systems v. Fox matter for having made certain statements the veracity of which was very much in doubt.”

Grossberg’s legal team asked U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman to order Carlson to obtain new counsel before the next hearing scheduled for June 15, 2023, one month from today.

  • Fox News, Durham report shows Congress must leverage 'power of the purse' against FBI: Jordan, Sean Hannity, May 15, 2023. Rep. Jim Jordan tells 'Hannity' that agency appropriations are 'the only leverage we have' for reform. #foxnews #hannity

ny times logoNew York Times, Microsoft Says New A.I. Shows Signs of Human Reasoning, Cade Metz, May 16, 2023. A provocative paper from researchers at Microsoft claims A.I. technology is able to understand the way people do. Critics are skeptical.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tony Awards Broadcast Can Proceed After Striking Writers’ Union Agrees, Michael Paulson and John Koblin,May 16, 2023 (print ed.). The Tony Awards, a key marketing opportunity for Broadway, can go ahead in an altered form after the striking screenwriters’ union said it would not picket this year’s broadcast.

ny times logoNew York Times, Your DNA Can Now Be Pulled From Thin Air. Privacy Experts Are Worried, Elizabeth Anne Brown, May 16, 2023 (print ed.). Environmental DNA research has aided conservation, but scientists say its ability to glean information about human populations and individuals poses danger.

David Duffy, a wildlife geneticist at the University of Florida, just wanted a better way to track disease in sea turtles. Then he started finding human DNA everywhere he looked.

Over the last decade, wildlife researchers have refined techniques for recovering environmental DNA, or eDNA — trace amounts of genetic material that all living things leave behind. A powerful and inexpensive tool for ecologists, eDNA is all over — floating in the air, or lingering in water, snow, honey and even your cup of tea. Researchers have used the method to detect invasive species before they take over, to track vulnerable or secretive wildlife populations and even to rediscover species thought to be extinct. The eDNA technology is also used in wastewater surveillance systems to monitor Covid and other pathogens.

But all along, scientists using eDNA were quietly recovering gobs and gobs of human DNA. To them, it’s pollution, a sort of human genomic bycatch muddying their data. But what if someone set out to collect human eDNA on purpose?

New DNA collecting techniques are “like catnip” for law enforcement officials, says Erin Murphy, a law professor at the New York University School of Law who specializes in the use of new technologies in the criminal legal system. The police have been quick to embrace unproven tools, like using DNA to create probability-based sketches of a suspect.

That could pose dilemmas for the preservation of privacy and civil liberties, especially as technological advancement allows more information to be gathered from ever smaller eDNA samples. Dr. Duffy and his colleagues used a readily available and affordable technology to see how much information they could glean from human DNA gathered from the environment in a variety of circumstances, such as from outdoor waterways and the air inside a building.

The results of their research, published Monday in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, demonstrate that scientists can recover medical and ancestry information from minute fragments of human DNA lingering in the environment.

ny times logoNew York Times, Is It Last Call at New York’s Friars Club? Julia Jacobs, May 16, 2023 (print ed.). The headquarters of the legendary entertainment fraternity is facing the threat of foreclosure as its leaders look for a buyer to help keep the party going. 

One of the final episodes of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” released this month, captured the bawdy, profanity-laced ritual that was a celebrity roast at New York’s Friars Club — the kind of entertainment that helped make the club the buzzing epicenter of the comedy world.

But these days the landmark home of wisecracks and cigar smoke, and legends like Milton Berle and Jerry Lewis, is trying to fight off extinction.

A loan company has moved to foreclose on the club after it missed payments on a $13 million mortgage. And a federal judge is mulling whether to appoint an outside company to take over the Friars Club’s six-story townhouse on East 55th Street, which has been shuttered for months as the club’s financial problems have deepened.

An inspection in March by the loan company described a building marred by mounds of trash, signs of mice and roaches, mold damage and containers of “unidentifiable liquid waste,” according to court papers. The club said it has “improved the conditions of the property” since that inspection. Still, the Frank Sinatra Room, once a place of fine dining, remained a scene of unfinished renovations with light bulbs hanging from the ceiling during a recent visit.

Long a stomping ground for Manhattan’s showbiz elite, the club has seen its membership age and dwindle and its dues revenue diminish as it faced a series of crises. In 2017, federal agents raided its offices as part of an inquiry into its finances. The authorities later charged its executive director at the time for filing false personal tax returns. In 2020 came flooding that shut the club down, only to be followed by the pandemic. Last year there was enough financial strain that, after the club’s typical summer hiatus, it never resumed regular hours.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Football bonded them. Its violence tore them apart, Kent Babb, May 15, 2023 (print ed.). They were roommates and teammates at Harvard, bound by their love of football and each other. Then the game — and the debate over its safety — took its toll.

May 15


Rudy Giuliani speaks to the press about various lawsuits related to the 2020 election inside the Republican National Committee’s headquarters on Nov. 19, 2020. (Photo by Drew Angerer via Getty Images.)

Rudy Giuliani speaks to the press about various lawsuits related to the 2020 election inside the Republican National Committee’s headquarters on Nov. 19, 2020. (Photo by Drew Angerer via Getty Images.) Below is a scene from the documentary film featuring the character Borat where Giuliana flirts with what he was told was an underage teen shown in a hotel bedroom.

Law & Crime Network, ‘F— me like crazy’: Donald Trump crony Rudy Giuliani faces sexual abuse lawsuit using same law that scored E. Jean Carroll $5M against ex-president, Adam Klasfeld, May 15, 2023. Rudy Giuliani has been hit with salacious sexual battery claims by an ex-employee under the same law that produced a $5 million verdict against former President Donald Trump.

lawcrime logoThe former New York City mayor’s accuser, Noelle Dunphy, sued Giuliani and his business in Manhattan Supreme Court on Monday. She claims that what seemed like a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” role as Giuliani’s director of business development at $1 million per year quickly took a sordid turn.

“Giuliani began abusing Ms. Dunphy almost immediately after she started working for the Defendants,” her 70-page complaint states. “He made clear that satisfying his sexual demands—which came virtually anytime, anywhere—was an absolute requirement of her employment and of his legal representation. Giuliani began requiring Ms. Dunphy to work at his home and out of hotel rooms, so that she would be at his beck and call. He drank morning, noon, and night, and was frequently intoxicated, and therefore his behavior was always unpredictable.”

“Giuliani also took Viagra constantly,” the complaint continues. “While working with Ms. Dunphy, Giuliani would look to Ms. Dunphy, point to his erect penis, and tell her that he could not do any work until ‘you take care of this.'”

Dunphy claims to have copious evidence backing up her account, in the form of text messages and consensually recorded conversations. Her complaint screenshots several of these alleged text exchanges.

This text message exchange appears the sex-abuse complaint against Rudy Giuliani.

“I’m dreaming about you,” Giuliani says in one, according to the complaint.

Dunphy claims that she has a recording of Giuliani promising to give her $300,000 if she would “forgo her legal rights in connection with her pending case and ‘fuck me like crazy.'”

In another recorded chat from Feb. 23, 2019, Giuliani allegedly told Dunphy that he could “get in trouble with underage girls” if they were 16 but looked 20, according to the complaint.

Those are far from the only damaging statements Dunphy claims to have of the former mayor on tape.

“In addition to his sexual demands, Giuliani went on alcohol-drenched rants that included sexist, racist, and antisemitic remarks, which made the work environment unbearable,” her complaint states. “Many of these comments were recorded.”

rudi giuliani borat

In 2020, Giuliani was caught with his pants loosened, if not down, by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, who has a knack for catching political figures in compromising situations. In one of his “Borat” movies, a character playing the title character’s daughter took Giuliani to a hotel suite rigged with hidden cameras. In that footage, Giuliani can be seen lying on the bed and reaching into the crotch of his pants (as shown above). Borat then barges in and tells Giuliani: “She’s 15. She’s too old for you.”

Giuliani, who claimed he had been trying to take off his electronic equipment, is seen in the screenshot leading up to that moment in the complaint.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vice, Decayed Digital Colossus, Files for Bankruptcy, Lauren Hirsch and Benjamin Mullin, May 15, 2023. Vice, which had wooed media giants, has struggled to adjust to the punishing realities of digital publishing. A group of creditors could buy Vice for $225 million.

vice newsThe bankruptcy will not interrupt daily operations for Vice’s businesses, which in addition to its flagship website include the ad agency Virtue, the Pulse Films division and Refinery29, a women-focused site acquired by Vice in 2019.

A group of Vice’s lenders, including Fortress Investment Group and Soros Fund Management, is in the leading position to acquire the company out of bankruptcy. The group has submitted a bid of $225 million, which would be covered by its existing loans to the company. It would also take over “significant liabilities” from Vice after any deal closes.

A sale process follows next. The lenders have secured a $20 million loan to continue operating Vice and then, if a better bid does not emerge, the group that includes Fortress and Soros will acquire Vice.

Still, the dreams that Vice executives once had of a stock market debut or a sale at an eye-popping valuation have been wiped away. The company was considered to be worth $5.7 billion at one point.

Investments from media titans like Disney and shrewd financial investors like TPG, which spent hundreds of millions of dollars, will be rendered worthless by the bankruptcy, cementing Vice’s status among the most notable bad bets in the media industry.

May 14

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: We’re Asking the Wrong Questions About the Trump Town Hall, Bill Sammon, May 15, 2023 (print ed.). Mr. Sammon is the former managing editor of the Washington bureau of Fox News.

As a former executive of Fox News, I never expected to write this: CNN performed a valuable journalistic service this week by hosting a spirited town hall with Donald Trump.

May 13

ny times logo

New York Times, Ex-ByteDance Executive Accuses Company of ‘Lawlessness,’ Thomas Fuller and Sapna Maheshwari, May 13, 2023 (print ed.). The former executive sued ByteDance, which owns TikTok, for wrongful termination and accused the company of lifting content from rivals and “supreme access” by the Chinese Communist Party.

A former executive at ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, has accused the technology giant of a “culture of lawlessness,” including stealing content from rival platforms Snapchat and Instagram in its early years, and called the company a “useful propaganda tool for the Chinese Communist Party.”

The claims were part of a wrongful dismissal suit filed on Friday by Yintao Yu, who was the head of engineering for ByteDance’s U.S. operations from August 2017 to November 2018. The complaint, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, says Mr. Yu was fired because he raised concerns about a “worldwide scheme” to steal and profit from other companies’ intellectual property.

Among the most striking claims in Mr. Yu’s lawsuit is that ByteDance’s offices in Beijing had a special unit of Chinese Communist Party members sometimes referred to as the Committee, which monitored the company’s apps, “guided how the company advanced core Communist values” and possessed a “death switch” that could turn off the Chinese apps entirely.

“The Committee maintained supreme access to all the company data, even data stored in the United States,” the complaint said.


Tik Tok CEO Shou Zi  Chew (Reuters Photo by Evelyn Hockstein).

Tik Tok CEO Shou Zi Chew (Reuters Photo by Evelyn Hockstein during testimony, above, and in file photos below).

shou zi chew

ny times logoNew York Times, Striking Writers’ Union Denies Waiver, Imperiling Tony Awards, Michael Paulson and John Koblin, May 13, 2023 (print ed.). The Writers Guild of America indicated it would not grant a waiver to allow a live telecast of the Tonys on June 11.

The union representing thousands of striking television and movie writers denied a waiver that Broadway officials had sought that would have allowed the Tony Awards ceremony to proceed with a live televised broadcast on its scheduled date of June 11, two people briefed on the decision said on Friday night.

The denial by the union, the Writers Guild of America, described by people who were granted anonymity to disclose confidential discussions, is imperiling one of Broadway’s biggest nights — a key marketing opportunity that is even more crucial in the fragile post-shutdown theater economy. Industry leaders say that without the ability to reach the broad audience that tunes into a Tony Awards broadcast, several of the newest musicals are likely to close.

Broadway boosters are still hoping that over the weekend the writers’ guild might be persuaded to change its mind. But industry leaders are acknowledging that such a reversal seems unlikely. Without a waiver from the writers’ guild, a live broadcast ceremony is essentially impossible because much of Broadway, including nominees and presenters, would refuse to cross a picket line.

The management committee of the Tony Awards, which is the group charged with overseeing the broadcast, has scheduled an emergency meeting on Monday at which it will discuss how to proceed.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hodding Carter III, Crusading Editor and Jimmy Carter Aide, Dies at 88, Robert D. McFadden, May 13, 2023 (print ed.). As a journalist in Mississippi, he championed civil rights. He later became the face of the U.S. government during the Iranian hostage crisis.

In a career that paralleled the emergence of the New South as a region of rising racial tolerance and changing politics, Mr. Carter, a gregarious, ruddy-faced patrician with a magnolia drawl, was a journalist, author, Democratic Party reformer, national television commentator, press critic and university lecturer.

The son of the journalist Hodding Carter Jr., who won a Pulitzer Prize for editorials calling for racial moderation in the old segregated South, Hodding Carter III succeeded his father as editor and publisher of The Greenville Delta Democrat-Times, and as a voice of conscience in a state torn by violence and social change during the struggles of the civil rights era.


Music radio legend Bruce

Music radio legend Bruce "Cousin Brucie" Morrow, left, a star on Sirius/XM radio and author of the book "Doo Wop: The Mustic, The Times, The Era," his wife Jodie Morrow and Justice Integrity Project editor Andrew Kreig on the occasion of book launch at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on Dec. 12, 2009.

washington post logoWashington Post, End of a love affair: AM radio is being removed from many cars, Marc Fisher, May 13, 2023. Ford, BMW, Volkswagen, Tesla and other automakers are eliminating AM radio from some new vehicles, stirring protests against the loss of a medium that has shaped American life for a century.

ford logoAmerica’s love affair between the automobile and AM radio — a century-long romance that provided the soundtrack for lovers’ lanes, kept the lonely company with ballgames and chat shows, sparked family singalongs and defined road trips — is on the verge of collapse, a victim of galloping technological change and swiftly shifting consumer tastes.

tesla logoThe breakup is entirely one-sided, a move by major automakers to eliminate AM radios from new vehicles despite protests from station owners, listeners, first-responders and politicians from both major parties.

Automakers, such as BMW, Volkswagen, Mazda and Tesla, are removing AM radios from new electric vehicles because electric engines can interfere with the sound of AM stations. And Ford, one of the nation’s top-three auto sellers, is taking a bigger step, eliminating AM from all of its vehicles, electric or gas-operated.

Some station owners and advertisers contend that losing access to the car dashboard will indeed be a death blow to many of the nation’s 4,185 AM stations — the possible demise of a core element of the nation’s delivery system for news, political talk (especially on the right), coverage of weather emergencies and foreign language programming.

“This is a tone-deaf display of complete ignorance about what AM radio means to Americans,” said Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers, a trade journal covering the talk radio industry. “It’s not the end of the world for radio, but it is the loss of an iconic piece of American culture.”

For the first hundred years of mass media, AM radio shaped American life: It was where Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his fireside chats; where a young Ronald Reagan announced Chicago Cubs baseball games; where DJs such as Wolfman Jack along the U.S.-Mexico border, Larry Lujack in Chicago, Alan Freed in Cleveland, “Cousin Brucie” Morrow in New York City and Don Imus in California, Texas, Ohio and New York howled, growled and shouted out the latest pop hits.

Through the snap and crackle of distant lightning and the hum of overhead power lines, AM radio’s sometimes-staticky signal dominated the country’s soundscape. From the 1950s into the 1970s, Top 40 hit music stations in many big cities maintained astonishing shares of the audience, with 50 percent and more of listeners tuned to a single station, meaning that people could walk along a city sidewalk and hear one station continuously blasting out of transistor radios, boomboxes and, above all, car radios.

But technology moved on, and the silky smooth sound of FM radio and then the crystal digital clarity of streaming stations and podcasts narrowed AM’s hold on the American imagination.

May 12


djt kaitlin collins cnn 5 10 2023

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Second-Term Goal: Shattering the Norms He Didn’t Already Break, Shane Goldmacher, Jonathan Swan, Maggie Haberman and Stephanie Lai, May 12, 2023 (print ed.). Former President Trump’s appearance on CNN signaled an escalation of his bid to bend the government to his wishes as he runs again for the White House.

cnn logoIn little over an hour, Donald J. Trump suggested the United States should default on its debts for the first time in history, injected doubt over the country’s commitment to defending Ukraine from Russia’s invasion, dangled pardons for most of the Capitol rioters convicted of crimes, and refused to say he would abide by the results of the next presidential election.

The second-term vision Mr. Trump sketched out at a CNN town-hall event on Wednesday would represent a sharp departure from core American values that have been at the bedrock of the nation for decades: its creditworthiness, its credibility with international allies and its adherence to the rule of law at home.

Mr. Trump’s provocations were hardly shocking. His time in office was often defined by a the-rules-don’t-apply-to-me approach to governance and a lack of interest in upholding the post-World War II national security order, and at 76 he is not bound to change much.

But his performance nonetheless signaled an escalation of his bid to bend the government to his wishes as he runs again for the White House, only this time with a greater command of the Republican Party’s pressure points and a plan to demolish the federal bureaucracy.

steve schmidt logo horizontalThe Warning, Steve Schmidt explains why CNN’s Donald Trump Town hall was an affront to journalism, Steve Schmidt, May 12, 2023. This represents the lowest moment in the media company’s history.

He explains why CNN CEO Chris Licht’s decision to go forward with this put Kaitlan Collins in a very bad spot, and his response to the the blowback from the event demonstrated incredibly flawed thinking. Steve goes on to break down why this disaster stands in stark contrast to true journalism demonstrated by illustrious figures such as Edward R. Murrow.

The Guardian, CNN was lambasted by even its own media reporter for what was seen as an event pandering to Trump voters, Hugo Lowell, May 12, 2023. Trump’s team revels in town hall victory as CNN staff rages at ‘spectacle of lies’; Questions also linger over what the network offered the ex-president in exchange for what some called a Trump infomercial.

Donald Trump believes he got everything that he wanted from the controversial town hall hosted by CNN, according to multiple people close to him, even as it embarrassed the network and prompted a wave of outrage, including from many of its own staff who were upset that it gave Trump a platform to lie to a large audience.

cnn logoThe former president was interested in doing a town hall mainly because it would give the campaign material to clip for social media. He was interested in doing it on CNN because the campaign reached an understanding – which a spokesperson denied – that it would book more Trump surrogates.

Trump was not particularly concerned by whether the broadcast would get high ratings, though he told CNN’s chief executive, Chris Licht, right, backstage that he chris licht wwould boost their ratings, to which Licht nodded and said he should have “a good conversation and have fun,” two of the people said.

Trump’s advisers saw the town hall ultimately as a strategic win for the former president, who revelled in playing off the live audience of Republican and Republican-leaning voters in New Hampshire, which is hosting the first 2024 GOP presidential primary, and talked over the CNN moderator, Kaitlan Collins, as she tried to factcheck him in real time.

Afterwards, Trump allies joked that the event in their eyes amounted to an hour of Trump infomercials and should be recorded as an in-kind campaign contribution, and that Trump’s nearest rival for the nomination, Florida governor Ron DeSantis, would be crushed in a similar debate.

The event – which saw Trump mock the writer E Jean Carroll, whom he had just been found liable of sexually abusing – may not help him in a general election, especially among female voters.

Joe Biden later tweeted: “It’s simple, folks. Do you want four more years of that? If you don’t, pitch in to our campaign.”

In stark contrast to the Trump camp’s jubilation, the mood inside CNN was dour amid widespread reports of internal disgust. The network’s own media reporter Oliver Darcy wrote in his newsletter on Wednesday that it was “hard to see how America was served by the spectacle of lies that aired on CNN”.

But the Trump campaign appears to have got what it wanted out of the CNN town hall in part because it negotiated the terms of the event with an unusual degree of leverage, according to multiple people familiar with how the planning unfolded.

For starters, Trump’s team for months played hard to get with CNN – which first reached out to do a town hall almost as soon as Trump announced his 2024 candidacy. However, the campaign had always been more likely to go with CNN over NBC or Fox News, the other major networks in talks to host an event.

The campaign already had pro-Trump commentators and surrogates appearing on Fox News shows, and while MSNBC has recently had higher ratings than CNN, the liberal network was seen by advisers as being inhospitable ground compared with the Licht-era CNN that has tried to cater more to Republicans.

Trump’s team also figured that CNN worked for its needs because it could have Collins as the moderator, a rising star who co-hosts the network’s morning show but has also remained on the Trump beat and has taken care to preserve her relationship with the ex-president.

Pairing Collins with Republicans who mostly voted for Trump in 2020 was as close to home turf as the campaign could get. The team said it would have rejected Jake Tapper, after he threatened to ban Republicans who endorsed Trump’s 2020 election lies from his shows.

The campaign also made sure the pre- and post-town hall coverage featured Trump surrogates on air. Among the bookings: former Trump White House press aide Hogan Gidley, pro-Trump congressmen Brian Mast and Byron Donalds, as well as pro-Trump senator JD Vance.

A spokesperson for CNN denied that the network made any formal agreement to book surrogates as guests in order to host of the town hall.

Not every moment in the town hall was seen as a win for Trump, though, as his own missteps may have created more legal headaches for a man already surrounded by multiple investigations.

But Trump was personally jubilant on the flight back to Florida and played It’s a Man’s World by James Brown, people familiar with the matter said.

washington post logoWashington Post, CNN leadership under fire after ‘disastrous’ Trump town hall, Paul Farhi and Jeremy Barr, May 12, 2023. A furious backlash raised questions about the future of chief executive Chris Licht and the larger challenges facing the news media going into the 2024 election.

cnn logoCNN’s prime-time broadcast of a raucous town hall with Donald Trump propelled a tsunami of criticism from inside and outside the network Thursday — and renewed questions about how the news media will handle the challenge of covering the serial falsehoods of the Republican Party’s leading candidate going into the 2024 election.

The former president repeatedly dodged or sneered at questions from CNN’s moderator, Kaitlan Collins, during the live, 70-minute forum at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire on Wednesday night. He doubled down on false claims that “a rigged election” led to his 2020 ouster and referred to writer E. Jean Carroll, who just prevailed in her lawsuit against him for defamation and battery, as a “whack job,” to cheers and laughter from the audience, made up of local Republican voters.

And when Collins pressed him on why he removed classified documents from the White House, he replied: “You are a nasty person.”

“Predictably disastrous,” wrote former network TV news executive Mark Lukasiewicz, part of a chorus of media critics and political observers who bemoaned the on-air spectacle. “Live lying works. A friendly MAGA crowd consistently laughs, claps at Trump’s punchlines … and the moderator cannot begin to keep up with the AR-15 pace of lies.”

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: CNN shames itself by platforming one of the world's most despised individuals, Wayne Madsen, left, May 11-12, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2023. Trump in the eyes of other political leaders: fucking moron and corrupt motherfucker. 

wayne madesen report logoThe house that Ted Turner built, Cable News Network, completed its fall into irrelevancy by hosting a May 10 town hall meeting at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire featuring sex abuser Donald Trump.

The town hall audience was screened to include only Trump-supporting Republicans and Trump-leaning independents. Trump spent his free air time for his 2024 presidential campaign engaging in the same old tropes and bleated about a 2020 "rigged" election, January 6, 2021 being a "beautiful day," and demeaning E. Jean Carroll, a former magazine columnist he was judged by a New York jury of sexually abusing and defaming.

Trump has done more than any previous president to damage the image, perhaps irrevocably, of the United States in the eyes of the rest of the world. Trump's brand of fascism, a combination of P.T. Barnum-like sideshow performance art and Hitleresque calls to street violence, has been copied by demagogues from Brazil and Hungary to Russia and the Philippines.

As CNN and Fox News are in the process of rehabilitating the twice-impeached, indicted, and sexual abusing Trump, it's necessary to look back at what has been said or written about him by government leaders:

"[Trump's] divisive, stupid and wrong." -- British Prime Minister David Cameron, 2016.

"By saying 'our interests first and never mind the others' you stamp out the most precious thing a nation has - its moral values. -- French President Emmanuel Macron, 2018.


ron desantis hands out

washington post logoWashington Post, DeSantis wanted to rewrite press laws. Conservative media helped kill the effort, Lori Rozsa and Elahe Izadi, May 12, 2023 (print ed.). Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis got most of what he encouraged the state legislature to pass as he gears up for a likely presidential run. Lawmakers swiftly approved a six-week abortion ban, expanded restrictions on discussing sexual orientation and gender identity in school and more money to transport migrants to other states.

But there was one notable exception. His push to rewrite defamation law and challenge press rights failed to advance beyond a committee vote.

Opposition came from an unexpected sector: conservative media and lawmakers.

When it came to backing what First Amendment experts and journalists called a radical rewriting of press freedom laws, DeSantis-friendly outlets responded with a rare show of resistance from media companies that by and large support the governor’s agenda.

“He pushed his luck and he was doing so well, pushing everything and getting it,” said Javier Manjarres, publisher of the conservative news site the Floridian. “He got stung and a slap on the wrist from his supporters.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Elon Musk picks NBC’s Linda Yaccarino as new Twitter CEO, Faiz Siddiqui and Sarah Ellison, May 12, 2023. Yaccarino is set to depart NBC Friday morning and could start her new role within weeks, according to two people familiar with the matter.

elon musk 2015Elon Musk, left, has selected NBC Universal’s chairman of Global Advertising and Partnerships Linda Yaccarino to be the new CEO of Twitter, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal deliberations.

twitter bird CustomNBC plans to announce her departure from the company Friday morning, these people said. On Thursday Musk said that he would step aside from the CEO role in a matter of weeks after having chosen his own replacement.

The announcement could launch a new chapter for the troubled company, which has laid off roughly three quarters of its workers and has struggled in recent weeks with major changes to the platform and frequent outages. Adding to the pressure, Musk already runs several other companies, including Tesla, where investors have grown discontented with his distractions at Twitter.

Yaccarino in particular could serve to calm advertiser fears while balancing Musk’s demand for sweeping changes to Twitter’s policies on content moderation.

Musk provided little information about his pick but said the new CEO, a woman, would start in several weeks and that he would stay on as executive chairman and chief technology officer, running products, software and system operations — also prompting questions about whether his involvement there will significantly change. (Musk, who has adopted titles such a “Technoking” and “Chief Twit” responded with an eyes emoji to a tweet asking if the “T” in CTO stood for trolling, rather than technology.)

May 11


djt kaitlin collins cnn 5 10 2023

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Falsehoods and Bluster Overtake CNN Town Hall, Jonathan Weisman, May 11, 2023 (print ed.). Facing questions from the audience and the moderator, Donald Trump insisted, falsely, that the 2020 election was rigged. He also dodged questions on abortion, praised Jan. 6 rioters and mocked E. Jean Carroll.

Former President Donald J. Trump, shown above in a CNN photo with its moderator, used a raucous town hall meeting in New Hampshire — broadcast live on CNN — to resume the lies and name-calling that marked his presidency, signaling to voters that criminal investigations, a jury holding him liable for sexual abuse and ongoing struggles with swing voters have not changed him a bit.

cnn logoHe pressed his false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him, praised the rioters who violently attacked the Capitol and suggested that Congress allow the federal government to default on its debt, at the risk of a global economic crisis. A day after a Manhattan jury ordered him to pay $5 million in damages to E. Jean Carroll, who accused him of sexually abusing and defaming her, he called her a “wack job,” and then called CNN’s moderator, Kaitlan Collins, “a nasty person.”

President Donald Trump officialCNN had been criticized by some Democrats for giving Mr. Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, such a platform. And from the outset, the former president showed how difficult a live television interview can be, though his bluster did not seem calibrated to appeal to swing voters.

Mr. Trump had not appeared on a major television channel outside the conservative media bubble since 2020, and his prevarications, half truths, lies and name-calling on Wednesday showed he had not changed his politics ahead of his run for another presidential term.

Even after a New Hampshire Republican voter asked if he would drop his polarizing talk, he hedged, saying he would drop it if there is no election fraud. He then showed he was unrepentant about the deadly attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, praising the rioters.

“They were proud. They were there with love in their heart,” he said, adding, “That was a beautiful day.”

Among the subjects Mr. Trump addressed:

A day after a jury found Mr. Trump liable for sexual abuse and defamation, he viciously mocked his accuser, E. Jean Carroll. The audience laughed along. “I have no idea who this woman is,” he said. “This is a fake story.” He then called Ms. Carroll “a wack job.”

He lied continuously about the 2020 election, raising allegations on election fraud that have been repeatedly debunked. And he showed no contrition for behavior around the 2020 election that has sparked criminal investigations in Washington and the state of Georgia.

He counseled Congress to allow the federal government to default on its debt in June if President Biden did not come the Republicans’ way on deep spending cuts. A default could precipitate a global economic crisis. Mr. Trump shrugged: “Might as well do it now because we’re going to do it later,” he said.

In one of the few overtures to swing voters, Mr. Trump repeatedly dodged questions on whether he would sign a nationwide abortion ban or say at what stage of pregnancy abortion should be illegal. “What I will do is negotiate so that people are happy,” he said.

Mr. Trump hedged on the future of American military aid to Ukraine, saying Europe needed to spend more and that his emphasis would be ending the war, not ensuring Ukraine’s victory.

He also insisted that he now has no more classified documents at his Palm Beach, Fla., home at Mar-a-Lago, an answer that could impact the ongoing federal investigation of his handling of highly classified records after his presidency.

Mr. Trump also proudly defended his administration’s policy of separating young children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. When the policy was first exposed, he had denied it was happening. On Wednesday, he said such cruelty was necessary to deter families from illegally crossing the frontier.

The Warning, Steve Schmidt reacts to CNN’s “embarrassing” town hall with Donald Trump, Steve Schmidt, May 10, 2023. Steve Schmidt shares his reaction to the “appalling spectacle” that was the CNN town hall with Donald Trump. Steve breaks down how it was a mistake for CNN to host the town hall in the first place, as it is impossible to contain the former president’s lies. He also lays out the dangerous precedent this sets as we look ahead to 2024.

ny times logoNew York Times, The chairman of CNN issued a robust defense of his decision to host a town hall with former President Trump, Michael M. Grynbaum, May 11, 2023. “People woke up and they know what the stakes are in this election in a way that they didn’t the day before,” Chris Licht said in a morning call at the network.

cnn logoThe chairman of CNN, Chris Licht, issued a robust defense on Thursday of his decision to broadcast a live town hall with former President Donald J. Trump, an unruly and bracing event that has prompted criticism inside and outside of the network.

chris licht wOn a network-wide editorial call, Mr. Licht, right, congratulated the moderator, Kaitlan Collins, on “a masterful performance” before acknowledging the public backlash. “We all know covering Donald Trump is messy and tricky, and it will continue to be messy and tricky,” he said. “But it’s our job.”

“I absolutely, unequivocally believe America was served very well by what we did last night,” Mr. Licht added. “People woke up and they know what the stakes are in this election in a way that they didn’t the day before. And if someone was going to ask tough questions and have that messy conversation, it damn well should be on CNN.”

The town hall, which aired in prime-time on Wednesday, featured Mr. Trump deploying a fusillade of falsehoods, sometimes too quickly for the moderator to intercept.

Ms. Collins interrupted and corrected Mr. Trump again and again, calling out his lies about a rigged 2020 election and his depiction of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot as “a beautiful day.” Mr. Trump, however, often talked right over her. The live audience, a group of Republicans and Republican-leaning independent voters, often cheered him on, even when he derided Ms. Collins as a “nasty person.”

“While we all may have been uncomfortable hearing people clapping, that was also an important part of the story,” Mr. Licht said on Thursday, “because the people in that audience represent a large swath of America. And the mistake the media made in the past is ignoring that those people exist. Just like you cannot ignore that President Trump exists.”

Critics said it was reckless for the network to provide a live forum to Mr. Trump, given his track record of spreading disinformation. Even the network’s own commentators appeared taken aback by what had transpired on its airwaves. “We don’t have enough time to fact check every lie he told,” Jake Tapper told viewers on Wednesday night.

Mr. Licht, who took over CNN last year after the network was acquired by Warner Bros. Discovery, has had a rocky tenure, and some journalists there have bristled at his public comments that the network had veered too far into an anti-Trump stance when Mr. Trump was in the White House. Mr. Licht has said CNN must appeal to more centrists and conservative voters, a strategy that has support from his corporate superiors.

There were signs on Thursday that frustration inside CNN about the town hall were bubbling up. The network’s own media newsletter, “Reliable Sources,” published a tough assessment after the event, noting, “It’s hard to see how America was served by the spectacle of lies that aired on CNN Wednesday evening.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s dumpster fire of a town hall was a disaster for both him and CNN, Bill Palmer, May 10, 2023. It’s easy enough to understand why Donald Trump felt he needed to do a “town hall” with CNN. Trump can barely string two sentences together these days without going completely off script and humiliating himself – no doubt why his handlers have mostly kept him out of the public eye over the past year. But now he’s been criminally indicted, he’s about to be indicted again, he’s increasingly being seen as a criminal defendant and not a candidate in a future election, and he has to try to find a way to change that. This town hall was a bad idea, but it was the kind of low percentage play that a desperate and nearly finished Trump had to try.

bill palmer report logo headerIt’s far less clear why CNN felt it needed to do this town hall with Trump. New CNN boss Chris Licht has invoked a strategy of dumping the network’s most popular faces and shifting the content heavily in favor of right wing lies. It’s seemingly been an attempt at courting Fox News’ audience. But instead it’s saddled CNN with historically low ratings. This strategy has been a total failure, and Licht, right, is already on his last legs. Fully getting in bed with Trump for a “town hall” was precisely the kind of move that Licht couldn’t afford to make, because there was zero upside, and the real risk of permanently alienating what’s left of CNN’s audience.

chris licht wIn any case, Trump’s desperate desire to portray himself as a candidate, along with Licht’s desperate desire to fail, added up to one of the most hideously odious “town halls” in presidential electoral history. Host Kaitlan Collins (who conveniently used to work for right wing propaganda outlet Daily Caller) allowed Trump to walk all over her. And the audience appeared to consist entirely of die hard Trump supporters, meaning it wasn’t a town hall, it was a Trump rally.

Trump spent the entire time smirking, blowing off questions, making incoherent remarks, lying about the 2020 election, and – bizarrely yet predictably – attacking E. Jean Carroll. It was ugly enough that you half seriously wondered if Trump would end up owing Carroll another five million by the time the night was over. And now it’s fair to wonder if Chris Licht will still be employed at CNN by the end of the week. This is the kind of singular debacle that can get a failing newcomer fired much quicker than they otherwise would have.

The thing is, everyone knew this town hall was going to be a disaster. MSNBC scheduled Rachel Maddow to appear as an on-air guest, on her night off, while the CNN town hall was going on. MSNBC guessed that regular CNN viewers would be so disgusted by this town hall, they’d end up switching to MSNBC partway through it, and that guess was probably correct. By the end of the evening, nearly every trending topic on social media was some kind of condemnation of CNN. It was that kind of debacle.

And yet for all the ugly blows that CNN took for this town hall, there was never any possible upside. Even if ratings did end up being strong, an hour’s worth of ratings aren’t worth much. And for all the longtime viewers that this debacle chased away, there was no chance of gaining any new viewers. Everyone in the industry knows that you can only court right wing viewers by telling them the lies they want to hear 100% of the time, and not merely the 50% or 67% of the time that CNN’s new formula is based on.

Nor will this help Donald Trump any. Again, there’s a reason his handlers have spent the past two-plus years trying to keep him out of the public eye as much as possible. There’s a reason his handlers have convinced him not to go back onto Twitter, even with his account reinstated. They know that the more Trump puts himself out there, and the more voters in the middle see that he’s just as nasty ever and fairly senile on top of it, the more quickly Trump’s 2024 facade will fade. Of course it’ll all be over for Trump once the DOJ truly gets ahold of him. But Trump’s sudden desperation to put himself out there, after two years of hiding, is only going to help hasten his downfall before the DOJ can even finish him off.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Twitter’s new purge shows perils of public record-keeping online, Cristiano Lima and David DiMolfetta, May 11, 2023. Elon Musk said this week that Twitter will be “purging accounts that have had no activity at all for several years” to “free up abandoned handles,” his latest mass crackdown since taking over the platform.

twitter bird CustomBut the move alarmed some archivists and advocates who track public records and say it could shut down memorial and archival pages for former and deceased public leaders.

“My reaction was … ‘I hope every archive at every public agency that has a Twitter account is reading this,’” Nick Connizzo, a digital archivist at Norwich University, said of Musk’s tweets.

While Musk said Monday the removed accounts “will be archived,” it’s unclear whether they will remain accessible to the public, which could create complications for government officials looking to document their digital paper trail.

Twitter’s sudden shift underscores the obstacles government officials face in preserving records in the social media age, where private companies can shutter key channels policymakers use to communicate with the public on a whim.

A smattering of different standards govern the preservation of documents at the national level. Federal law largely requires members of the executive branch and federal agencies to preserve public records, including digital communications such as tweets.

But the standards for what activity constitutes a public record — posts, images, likes, messages — are not always clear, and much of the upkeep burden falls on individual offices.

washington post logoWashington Post, Historian and mystery novelist is first woman to head Archives, Michael E. Ruane, May 11, 2023. Colleen J. Shogan, educator and political scientist, was confirmed Wednesday by the Senate. Colleen J. Shogan, a former senior official at the Library of Congress and the White House Historical Association, and the author of a series of murder mysteries set in Washington, was confirmed Wednesday by the Senate to become the first woman to head the National Archives.

The National Archives and Records Administration said she will start work next week as the 11th archivist of the United States. She succeeds David S. Ferriero, who retired in April 2022, and Debra Steidel Wall, who has been acting archivist for the past 12 months.

Shogan, 47, was nominated by President Biden last year.

Ferriero has said that before he retired he told the White House: “Better not hire another White male. We’ve had 10 White males.”

In an email Thursday, he said he was “pleased to see that [Shogan] has finally been confirmed. Her experience on [Capitol Hill], the Library of Congress, and the White House Historical Association will serve her well.”

He said he was “particularly pleased that the White male … mold has been broken.”

Shogan said in a brief telephone interview Wednesday evening: “I’m very honored by the confirmation, and I look forward to getting to work.”

Regarding her role as the first female archivist of the United States, she said: “I almost can’t process it. I’m so proud.”

She told a Senate committee in February that her nomination was “the honor of a lifetime.”

“My passion for the American story started in the public high school I attended outside Pittsburgh,” she said.

“As a first-generation college student in my family, I was fortunate to receive a first-class education, which allowed me to explore the development and evolution of American ideas and institutions,” she said.

May 10

ny times logoNew York Times, Tucker Carlson, Still Under Contract at Fox, Announces Twitter Show, Jeremy W. Peters, Benjamin Mullin and Ryan Mac, May 10, 2023 (print ed.). Mr. Carlson’s declaration suggested that his negotiations to reach an amicable separation with the network had broken down.

tucker carlson 2022The former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, declaring, “We’re back,” said on Tuesday that he was starting a new show on Twitter, a sign that negotiations to reach an amicable separation with the network, where he is still under contract, had broken down.

Mr. Carlson, right, offered no details of when his new program would begin or what kind of content it would have. The many unanswered questions highlighted the uncertainties surrounding his future — a career in which he would be deprived of a prime-time platform on Fox News.

Among the possibilities: Fox could ultimately block any attempt by the host to return to a prominent role in conservative media.

A representative for the Fox Corporation, which has been engaged in negotiations over the details of Mr. Carlson’s exit from the network since he was taken off the air last month, had no comment.

On Monday, Mr. Carlson had a conversation with the Fox Corporation executive chairman, Lachlan Murdoch, to discuss a possible exit from the company, elon musk 2015according to a person with knowledge of the meeting.

Mr. Carlson’s remarks on Tuesday, posted on Twitter — a platform run by Elon Musk, left, a provocateur in a similar mold as the combative, contrarian host — consisted of a three-minute monologue delivered directly to the camera. The video could violate the terms of his contract twitter bird Customwith Fox, which prevent Mr. Carlson from hosting a show on an alternate network.

One way Fox could try to prevent Mr. Carlson from posting new videos would be to seek an injunction, said Andy Lee, an entertainment lawyer with Foley & Lardner. But the network would have to persuade a judge that Mr. Carlson was doing irreparable harm to the network, such as by damaging its reputation or disclosing sensitive information. It would also have to show a likelihood that it would win at trial, another hurdle.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lachlan Murdoch: Fox News is sticking with its programming strategy, Jeremy Barr, May 10, 2023 (print ed.). The network’s top corporate boss struck a unapologetic and unworried tone with economic analysts despite a costly lawsuit settlement and a ratings dip after the firing of Tucker Carlson.

In his first public remarks since Fox News settled a massive defamation lawsuit and parted ways with star host Tucker Carlson, the network’s top corporate boss signaled that the conservative-leaning cable channel has no plans for a course correction.

fox news logo Small“There’s no change to our programming strategy at Fox News,” Lachlan Murdoch said on Tuesday morning. “It’s obviously a successful strategy, and as always, we are adjusting our programming and our lineup and that’s what we continue to do.”

He made no direct reference to Carlson, an increasingly hard-right commentator who was until recently the network’s top-rated prime-time host. His firing last month, which remains officially unexplained, has led to a dip in Fox’s ratings.

Murdoch, chief executive of Fox Corp., made his comments during the question-and-answer portion of a conference call with economic analysts to discuss the company’s quarterly earnings report. In the second quarter of the year, Fox Corp. lost $50 million, which the company attributed “primarily” to the $787.5 million settlement forged to end the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems over a slew of on-air false claims alleging fraud in the 2020 presidential election.


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ny times logoNew York Times, CNBC Parts Ways With Anchor Who Made Accusations Against NBCUniversal C.E.O., Benjamin Mullin, May 10, 2023 (print ed.). Hadley Gamble, an anchor and senior correspondent for CNBC International, lodged a complaint in March that accused the former NBCUniversal C.E.O., Jeff Shell, of sexual harassment.

cnbc logoCNBC on Tuesday said it was parting ways with Hadley Gamble, an anchor and senior correspondent who accused the former chief executive of NBCUniversal, the network’s parent division, of sexual harassment.

In a brief and effusive statement, CNBC called Ms. Gamble, who worked at the business news network for more than a decade, “a distinguished journalist” who had developed “deep experience in the Middle East and beyond.”

“Her initiative and drive have secured valuable interviews with several world political leaders. We wish her every success in her future endeavors,” the statement said.

jeff shell 2013CNBC and Ms. Gamble have negotiated a financial settlement worth more than $1 million in connection with her exit, according to a person familiar with knowledge of the decision. In late March, Ms. Gamble lodged a complaint that accused Jeff Shell, right, who was the chief executive of NBCUniversal, of sexual harassment. It also raised allegations of bullying and discrimination at CNBC. The complaint, which ran more than a dozen pages, also named managers at CNBC’s international division.

That complaint kicked off an investigation that led to Mr. Shell’s firing last month, sending reverberations across NBCUniversal’s sprawling global enterprise. Michael Cavanagh, Comcast’s president, has stepped in to oversee NBCUniversal.


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ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Rip and Replace’: The Tech Cold War Is Upending Wireless Carriers, Cecilia Kang, May 10, 2023 (print ed.). As China and the United States jockey for tech primacy, wireless carriers in dozens of states are tearing out Chinese equipment. That has turned into a costly, difficult process.

Deep in a pine forest in Wilcox County, Ala., three workers dangled from the top of a 350-foot cellular tower. They were there to rip out and replace Chinese equipment from the local wireless network.

China FlagAs the United States and China battle for geopolitical and technological primacy, the fallout has reached rural Alabama and small wireless carriers in dozens of states. They are on the receiving end of the Biden administration’s sweeping policies to suppress China’s rise, which include trade restrictions, a $52 billion package to bolster domestic semiconductor manufacturing against China and the divestiture of the video app TikTok from its Chinese owner.

huawei square logoWhat the wireless carriers must do, under a program known as “rip and replace,” has become the starkest physical manifestation of the tech Cold War between the two superpowers. The program, which took effect in 2020, mandates that American companies tear out telecom equipment made by the Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE. U.S. officials have warned that gear from those companies could be used by Beijing for espionage and to steal commercial secrets.

Instead, U.S. carriers have to use equipment from non-Chinese companies. The Federal Communications Commission, which oversees the program, would then reimburse the carriers from a pot of $1.9 billion intended to cover their costs.

May 9


AFP journalist Arman Soldin snaps a selfie with a cat on his shoulder during an assignment for AFP in Ukraine.

AFP journalist Arman Soldin snaps a selfie with a cat on his shoulder during an assignment for AFP in Ukraine (AFP via Getty Images).

New York Daily News, AFP video journalist Arman Soldin killed by rocket fire in Ukraine, Staff Report, May 9, 2023. Soldin’s death was witnessed by colleagues on the war’s frontlines in the outskirts of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.

The AFP team was with a group of Ukrainian soldiers that came under heavy fire around 4:30 p.m. The rocket struck close to where Soldin was lying but the rest of the journalists were uninjured.

“We are devastated to learn of the death of AFP video journalist Arman Soldin in eastern Ukraine today,” the news agency said Tuesday. “All of our thoughts go out to his family and loved ones.”

Soldin, 32, had been photographed frequently while in Ukraine wearing a helmet and armor labeled “PRESS.”

“His death is a terrible reminder of the risks and dangers faced by journalists every day covering the conflict in Ukraine,” AFP chairman Fabrice Fries said.

According to the Committee for the Protection of Journalists, 11 reporters or local fixers for media have been killed while covering the war.
AFP journalist Arman Soldin, walks in a trench as he is covering the war in Ukraine on March 18, 2023.

AFP journalist Arman Soldin, walks in a trench as he is covering the war in Ukraine on March 18, 2023. (ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images)

“Arman’s brilliant work encapsulated everything that has made us so proud of AFP’s journalism in Ukraine,” the agency’s global news director Phil Chetwynd said in a statement. “Arman’s death is a terrible reminder of the risks and dangers of covering this war. Our thoughts tonight are with his family and friends, and with all our people on the ground in Ukraine.”

A French national, Soldin was born in Sarajevo. He started with AFP in 2015 and was part of the first AFP team to arrive in Ukraine after Russia’s invasion in February of last year. His last report was about a surgeon at a field hospital.

“He was a real on-the-ground reporter, always ready to work even in the most difficult places,” AFP’s Europe director Christine Buhagiar said. “He was totally devoted to his craft.”

 ny times logoNew York Times, New York Is Forcing Schools to Change How They Teach Children to Read, Troy Closson, May 9, 2023. Half of children in grades three to eight fail reading tests. The city’s schools chancellor will roll out new curriculums next year.

Hundreds of public schools have been teaching reading the wrong way for the last two decades, leaving an untold number of children struggling to acquire a crucial life skill, according to New York City’s schools chancellor.

Now, David C. Banks, the chancellor, wants to “sound the alarm” and is planning to force the nation’s largest school system to take a new approach.

On Tuesday, Mr. Banks will announce major changes to reading instruction in an aim to tackle a persistent problem: About half of city children in grades three through eight are not proficient in reading. Black, Latino and low-income children fare even worse.

In a recent interview, Mr. Banks said that the city’s approach had been “fundamentally flawed,” and had failed to follow the science of how students learn to read.

“It’s not your fault. It’s not your child’s fault. It was our fault,” Mr. Banks said. “This is the beginning of a massive turnaround.”

Over the next two years, the city’s 32 local school districts will adopt one of three curriculums selected by their superintendents. The curriculums use evidence-supported practices, including phonics — which teaches children how to decode letter sounds — and avoid strategies many reading experts say are flawed, like teaching children to use picture clues to guess words.

The move represents a sea change in a city where principals have historically retained authority over approaches to teaching at their individual schools.

Half of the districts will begin the program in September; the others will start in 2024. Waivers to opt out will only be considered for schools where more than 85 percent of students are proficient in reading, a threshold that only about 20 schools meet.

The move represents the most significant reading overhaul in New York City since the early 2000s, when some of the programs that the chancellor is now trying to uproot were first ushered in. It will immediately place the city at the forefront of a growing national movement to reform reading instruction.

 May 7

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ny times logoNew York Times, Newton N. Minow, F.C.C. Chief Who Deemed TV a ‘Vast Wasteland,’ Dies at 97, Robert D. McFadden, May 7, 2023 (print ed.). His stunning declaration caused an instant sensation when he made it in 1961 and ignited a national debate over Americans’ viewing habits.

newton minow wNewton N. Minow, right, who as President John F. Kennedy’s new F.C.C. chairman in 1961 sent shock waves through an industry and touched a nerve in a nation addicted to banality and mayhem by calling American television “a vast wasteland,” died on Saturday at his home in Chicago . He was 97.

His daughter Nell Minow said the cause was a heart attack.

On May 9, 1961, almost four months after President Kennedy called upon Americans to renew their commitment to freedom around the globe, Mr. Minow, a bespectacled bureaucrat who had recently been put in charge of the Federal Communications Commission, got up before 2,000 broadcast executives at a luncheon in Washington and invited them to watch television for a day.

“Stay there without a book, magazine, newspaper, profit-and-loss sheet or rating book to distract you, and keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off,” Mr. Minow said. “I can assure you that you will observe a vast wasteland.”

The audience sat aghast as he went on:

“You will see a procession of game shows, violence, audience participation shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, Western bad men, Western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence and cartoons. And endlessly, commercials — many screaming, cajoling and offending. And most of all, boredom.”

To broadcasters who for years had enjoyed a cozy relationship with the F.C.C., Mr. Minow’s scorching indictment opened a troubling new era of regulatory pressures that for the first time stressed program content and public service. While the F.C.C. had no authority to tell broadcasters what to air, Mr. Minow pointedly reminded them that it did periodically renew station licenses for the use of the public airwaves, and that it had the power to revoke them for irresponsible performance.

Mr. Minow’s characterization of TV as “a vast wasteland” — a phrase inspired by T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land” — was an instant sensation, entering the American lexicon and setting off an avalanche of headlines, editorials, cartoons and letters to the editor, and a national debate over the viewing habits of adults and children.

It also transformed Mr. Minow, a 35-year-old Chicago lawyer who had campaigned for Adlai E. Stevenson and President Kennedy, into an overnight celebrity — a household name that a poll of editors by The Associated Press found to be the “top newsmaker” of 1961, ahead of Jack Paar, Gary Cooper and Elizabeth Taylor.

Mr. Minow insisted that he had not meant his remarks to the National Association of Broadcasters as a frontal attack. But in the ensuing months, his public hearings and pronouncements kept up the pressure on networks to raise the quality and diversity of programming. And for a time it worked: TV violence appeared to recede, educational offerings for children expanded slightly, the stature of network news was reinforced.

But the networks — still reeling from the payola and quiz show scandals of the 1950s — contended that they were only giving the public what it wanted, and an NBC special about Mr. Minow’s hearings appeared to bear them out. The program attracted only a small audience and was swamped by ratings for the western “Maverick” on ABC and the talking-horse sitcom “Mister Ed” on CBS.

There was also a certain vengeance — perhaps lost on audiences — when the phrase “vast wasteland” was featured years later as an answer to questions on TV game shows, like “Jeopardy!” and “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”

Mr. Minow served with the F.C.C. for only about two years. And in retrospect, experts say, his most important contributions probably had less to do with his famous speech than with his efforts on behalf of two laws adopted during the Kennedy administration.

One required TV sets sold in America to be equipped to receive ultra-high-frequency (UHF) signals as well as the very-high-frequency (VHF) broadcasts that predominated at the time. By the end of the 1960s, most Americans had reception on scores of channels, not just a dozen, with a wide diversity of programming, especially on independent and public stations.

Mr. Minow also pushed legislation that opened the era of satellite communications. It fostered the creation, by a consortium of interests, of the Communications Satellite Corporation (Comsat), and later the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (Intelsat), which allowed the United States to dominate satellite communications in the 1960s and ’70s, and it ultimately led to greater program diversity.

In an interview for this obituary in July 2019, Mr. Minow bemoaned the likelihood that he would be remembered for his assessment of America’s television culture rather than for his efforts on behalf of communications satellites, which he said led to the global information revolution, to digital communications and to the internet.

“I went to the White House and told President Kennedy that these communications satellites were more important than sending men into space, because they would send ideas into space and ideas last longer than people,” he said. “I testified 13 times in Congress for the legislation to create the corporations and the funding. I think this is more important than anything else I’ve ever done, for its impact on the future of the world.”


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ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Tucker Carlson’s Dark and Malign Influence Over the Christian Right, David French, right, May 7, 2023. On April 25, the far-right network david french croppedNewsmax hosted a fascinating and revealing conversation about Tucker Carlson with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, one of America’s leading Christian conservative advocacy organizations.

Perkins scorned Fox News’s decision to fire Carlson, and — incredibly — also attacked Fox’s decision to fire Bill O’Reilly. These terminations (along with the departures of Glenn Beck and Megyn Kelly) were deemed evidence that Fox was turning its back on its conservative viewers, including its Christian conservative viewers.

What was missing from the conversation? Any mention of the profound moral failings that cost O’Reilly his job, including at least six settlements — five for sexual harassment and one for verbal abuse — totaling approximately $45 million. Or any mention of Carlson’s own serious problems, including his serial dishonesty, his vile racism and his gross personal insult directed against a senior Fox executive. It’s a curious position for a Christian to take.

Similarly curious is the belief of other Christians, such as the popular evangelical “prophet” Lance Wallnau, that Carlson was a “casualty of war” with the left, and that his firing was a serious setback for Christian Republicans. To Wallnau, an author and a self-described “futurist,” Carlson was a “secular prophet,” somebody “used by God, more powerful than a lot of preachers.”

Other prominent Christian members of the American right applauded Carlson’s “courage” or declared — after The Times reported that Carlson condemned a group of Trump supporters for not fighting like “white men” after “jumping” an Antifa member — that Carlson did “nothing wrong.” Rod Dreher, editor-at-large at The American Conservative, said, “I hope Tucker Carlson runs for president,” and a “Tucker-DeSantis ticket would be the Generation X Saves The World team.”

I’m going to pause now and confess that I was once naïve. I was especially naïve about human nature. As a much younger Christian, I’d read stories of unholy violence and hatred unleashed in Jesus’ name in religious conflicts of even the recent past and think, “Thank God that’s over.” I felt comfortable in my Christian conservatism. My conservatism reflected my best effort to discern the policies that would contribute to justice and human flourishing, while my Christianity hovered over everything, hopefully (though not always, I must confess) infusing my public engagement with humility and kindness.

After all, isn’t “love your enemies” a core Christian command? The fruit of the spirit (the markers of God’s presence in our lives) are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control,” not Republicanism, conservatism and capitalism.

But the temptations — including the will to power and the quest for vengeance — that plagued the Christians of the past still plague the Christians of today. These temptations can plague people of any faith. If you infuse an issue or set of issues with religious intensity but drain a movement of religious virtue, then profound religious conflict — including violent conflict — is the inevitable result. Indeed, we saw religious violence on full display when a mob stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and it is no coincidence that one of Carlson’s most mendacious projects was his effort to recast the Jan. 6 insurrection and its aftermath as a “patriot purge.”

The great tragedy is that a moment of dangerous national polarization is exactly when a truly Christian message that combines the pursuit of justice with kindness and humility would be a balm to the national soul. A time of extraordinary social isolation, where people report less companionship, less time with friends, and less time with family, is exactly the time when a healthy church community can be a beacon of inclusion and hope.

May 4


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ny times logoNew York Times, Lina Khan: We Must Regulate A.I. Here’s How, Lina M. Khan (above, chair of the Federal Trade Commission), May 4, 2023 (print ed.). It’s both exciting and unsettling to have a realistic conversation with a computer. Thanks to the rapid advance of generative artificial intelligence, many of us have now experienced this potentially revolutionary technology with vast implications for how people live, work and communicate around the world. The full extent of generative A.I.’s potential is still up for debate, but there’s little doubt it will be highly disruptive.

The last time we found ourselves facing such widespread social change wrought by technology was the onset of the Web 2.0 era in the mid-2000s. New, innovative companies like Facebook and Google revolutionized communications and delivered popular services to a fast-growing user base.

Those innovative services, however, came at a steep cost. What we initially conceived of as free services were monetized through extensive surveillance of the people and businesses that used them. The result has been an online economy where access to increasingly essential services is conditioned on the widespread hoarding and sale of our personal data.

ftc logoThese business models drove companies to develop endlessly invasive ways to track us, and the Federal Trade Commission would later find reason to believe that several of these companies had broken the law. Coupled with aggressive strategies to acquire or lock out companies that threatened their position, these tactics solidified the dominance of a handful of companies. What began as a revolutionary set of technologies ended up concentrating enormous private power over key services and locking in business models that come at extraordinary cost to our privacy and security.

The trajectory of the Web 2.0 era was not inevitable — it was instead shaped by a broad range of policy choices. And we now face another moment of choice. As the use of A.I. becomes more widespread, public officials have a responsibility to ensure this hard-learned history doesn’t repeat itself.

As companies race to deploy and monetize A.I., the Federal Trade Commission is taking a close look at how we can best achieve our dual mandate to promote fair competition and to protect Americans from unfair or deceptive practices. As these technologies evolve, we are committed to doing our part to uphold America’s longstanding tradition of maintaining the open, fair and competitive markets that have underpinned both breakthrough innovations and our nation’s economic success — without tolerating business models or practices involving the mass exploitation of their users. Although these tools are novel, they are not exempt from existing rules, and the F.T.C. will vigorously enforce the laws we are charged with administering, even in this new market.

While the technology is moving swiftly, we already can see several risks. The expanding adoption of A.I. risks further locking in the market dominance of large incumbent technology firms. A handful of powerful businesses control the necessary raw materials that start-ups and other companies rely on to develop and deploy A.I. tools. This includes cloud services and computing power, as well as vast stores of data.

Enforcers and regulators must be vigilant. Dominant firms could use their control over these key inputs to exclude or discriminate against downstream rivals, picking winners and losers in ways that further entrench their dominance. Meanwhile, the A.I. tools that firms use to set prices for everything from laundry detergent to bowling lane reservations can facilitate collusive behavior that unfairly inflates prices — as well as forms of precisely targeted price discrimination. Enforcers have the dual responsibility of watching out for the dangers posed by new A.I. technologies while promoting the fair competition needed to ensure the market for these technologies develops lawfully. The F.T.C. is well equipped with legal jurisdiction to handle the issues brought to the fore by the rapidly developing A.I. sector, including collusion, monopolization, mergers, price discrimination and unfair methods of competition.

And generative A.I. risks turbocharging fraud. It may not be ready to replace professional writers, but it can already do a vastly better job of crafting a seemingly authentic message than your average con artist — equipping scammers to generate content quickly and cheaply. Chatbots are already being used to generate spear-phishing emails designed to scam people, fake websites and fake consumer reviews —bots are even being instructed to use words or phrases targeted at specific groups and communities. Scammers, for example, can draft highly targeted spear-phishing emails based on individual users’ social media posts. Alongside tools that create deep fake videos and voice clones, these technologies can be used to facilitate fraud and extortion on a massive scale.

When enforcing the law’s prohibition on deceptive practices, we will look not just at the fly-by-night scammers deploying these tools but also at the upstream firms that are enabling them.

Lastly, these A.I. tools are being trained on huge troves of data in ways that are largely unchecked. Because they may be fed information riddled with errors and bias, these technologies risk automating discrimination — unfairly locking out people from jobs, housing or key services. These tools can also be trained on private emails, chats and sensitive data, ultimately exposing personal details and violating user privacy. Existing laws prohibiting discrimination will apply, as will existing authorities proscribing exploitative collection or use of personal data.

The history of the growth of technology companies two decades ago serves as a cautionary tale for how we should think about the expansion of generative A.I. But history also has lessons for how to handle technological disruption for the benefit of all. Facing antitrust scrutiny in the late 1960s, the computing titan IBM unbundled software from its hardware systems, catalyzing the rise of the American software industry and creating trillions of dollars of growth. Government action required AT&T to open up its patent vault and similarly unleashed decades of innovation and spurred the expansion of countless young firms.

America’s longstanding national commitment to fostering fair and open competition has been an essential part of what has made this nation an economic powerhouse and a laboratory of innovation. We once again find ourselves at a key decision point. Can we continue to be the home of world-leading technology without accepting race-to-the-bottom business models and monopolistic control that locks out higher quality products or the next big idea? Yes — if we make the right policy choices.

ny times logoNew York Times, F.T.C. Seeks ‘Blanket’ Ban on Meta’s Use of Young Users’ Data, Natasha Singer, May 4, 2023 (print ed.). Citing privacy failings by the tech giant, regulators proposed to stop sites like Instagram and Facebook from profiting off the data of users under 18.

ftc logoThe Federal Trade Commission escalated its fight with the tech industry’s biggest companies on Wednesday as it moved to impose what it called a “blanket prohibition” on the collection of young people’s personal data by Meta, Facebook’s parent company.

meta logoThe commission wants to significantly expand a record $5 billion consent order with the company from 2020 and said that Meta had failed to fully meet the legal commitments it made to overhaul its privacy practices to better protect its users.

Regulators also said Meta had misled parents about their ability to control whom their children communicated with on its Messenger Kids app and misrepresented the access it gave some app developers to users’ private data.

The proposed changes mark the third time the agency has taken action against the social media giant over privacy issues.

ny times logoNew York Times, Four Horse Deaths Renew Safety Concerns on Eve of Kentucky Derby, Joe Drape and Melissa Hoppert, May 4, 2023. At Churchill Downs, two horses were euthanized after injuries and two died while training. The track called the deaths “unusual” and “unacceptable.”

Only days before horse racing’s signature event, the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs is looking into the recent deaths of four horses, including a colt who was scheduled to run in Saturday’s Derby.

Wild on Ice, a 3-year-old who had three wins in five career starts and was in the Derby field, was euthanized after he was injured while training on the dirt track on Thursday, Churchill Downs said in a statement. Take Charge Briana was put down after an injury during a turf race on Tuesday.

Two horses trained by Saffie Joseph Jr. died suddenly for unknown reasons, the track said. Parents Pride collapsed on Saturday, and Chasing Artie on Tuesday.

“This is something that doesn’t happen,” Joseph said on Wednesday morning at his Churchill Downs barn. “I’m shattered, basically, because I know it can’t happen. The odds of it happening twice is in the trillions. I run almost 4,000 horses and it’s never happened. It doesn’t make sense.”

ny times logoNew York Times, It’s Not Just Math and Reading: U.S. History Scores for 8th Graders Plunge, Sarah Mervosh, May 4, 2023 (print ed.). Latest test results continue a nearly decade-long decline. Try a sample quiz to test your knowledge.

National test scores released on Wednesday showed a marked drop in students’ knowledge of U.S. history and a modest decline in civics, a sign of the pandemic’s alarming reach, damaging student performance in nearly every academic area.

The pandemic plunge in U.S. history accelerated a downward trend that began nearly a decade ago, hitting this recent low at a time when the subject itself has become increasingly politically divisive.

A growing number of students are falling below even the basic standards set out on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a rigorous national exam administered by the Department of Education. About 40 percent of eighth graders scored “below basic” in U.S. history last year, compared with 34 percent in 2018 and 29 percent in 2014.

Just 13 percent of eighth graders were considered proficient — demonstrating competency over challenging subject matter — down from 18 percent nearly a decade ago.


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ny times logoNew York Times, In Blow to DeSantis, Florida Bills to Limit Press Protections Are Shelved, Ken Bensinger, May 4, 2023 (print ed.). Gov. Ron DeSantis, above, usually gets what he wants from the State Legislature. But on high-profile defamation bills, it was right-wing news media that flexed its muscle.

Legislation that would have sharply curbed press protections in Florida has stalled in the State Legislature and won’t face a vote this year — a rare example of forces on the right thwarting a piece of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s agenda.

The bills, introduced in February, proposed sweeping changes to laws that shield media outlets from liability in defamation cases and sought to make it easier for private citizens to file libel suits. Mr. DeSantis has been outspoken in pushing for laws he says would “hold these big media companies accountable.”

But Mr. DeSantis, a Republican typically known for having his finger on the pulse of the right, appears to have misjudged the issue. In addition to opposition from news outlets and free-speech groups, the legislation faced a wave of resistance from his allies, including right-wing media outlets, Christian organizations and business groups. They argued that the legislation would harm all news media, including conservative outlets, and lead to an increase in frivolous and costly lawsuits.

The Florida bills were part of a broader effort to revisit the First Amendment protections for the media. In recent years, a collection of judges, politicians and lawyers — most of them conservatives — have fiercely criticized The New York Times Company v. Sullivan, the landmark Supreme Court decision in 1964 that made it more difficult for public figures to win libel cases against publishers.

pursued its lawsuit against Fox News. A last-minute settlement of that case two weeks ago put off a high-profile test of the bounds of that precedent. The quiet demise of the closely watched Florida legislation, which would have been challenged in court, appears to have blocked another.


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ny times logoNew York Times, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. was “intensely engaged” in efforts to free Evan Gershkovich, Edward Wong and Daniel Victor, May 4, 2023 (print ed.). The Wall Street Journal reporter has been held for more than a month on espionage charges that the United States considers bogus.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on Wednesday that the U.S. government remained “intensely engaged” in efforts to get Moscow to free Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter who has been held for more than a month on espionage charges that his employer and American officials vehemently deny.

Speaking at a World Press Freedom Day event at The Washington Post, Mr. Blinken reiterated that President Biden and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia Russian Flaghad a “special channel” for discussing prisoners.

“I wish I could say in this moment there was a clear way forward,” he said. “I don’t have that in this moment.”

“We have a country in the case of Russia that like a handful of other countries around the world is wrongfully detaining people, using them as political pawns, using them as leverage in a practice that is absolutely unacceptable and that we’re working both broadly to try to deter — but also at the same time to try to secure the release of those who are being unjustly detained,” Mr. Blinken said.

May 2


capitol right full crowd uncreditedny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Carlson’s Text That Alarmed Fox Leaders: ‘It’s Not How White Men Fight, Jeremy W. Peters, Michael S. Schmidt and Jim Rutenberg, May 2, 2023. The discovery of the text message contributed to a chain of events that ultimately led to Tucker Carlson’s firing.

A text message sent by Tucker Carlson that set off a panic at the highest levels of Fox on the eve of its billion-dollar defamation trial showed its most popular tucker carlson 2022host sharing his private, inflammatory views about violence and race.

The discovery of the message contributed to a chain of events that ultimately led to Mr. Carlson’s firing.

fox news logo SmallIn the message, sent to one of his producers in the hours after violent Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Mr. Carlson described how he had recently watched a video of a group of men — Trump supporters, he said — violently attacking “an Antifa kid.”

It was “three against one, at least,” he wrote.

And then he expressed a sense of dismay that the attackers, like him, were white.

“Jumping a guy like that is dishonorable obviously,” he wrote.

“It’s not how white men fight,” he said. But he said he found himself for a moment wanting the group to kill the person he had described as the Antifa kid.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘The Godfather of A.I.’ Leaves Google and Warns of Danger Ahead, Cade Metz, May 2, 2023 (print ed.). “It is hard to see how you can prevent the bad actors from using it for bad things,” said Geoffrey Hinton, who has worked on A.I.-related technology for 50 years.

Geoffrey Hinton was an artificial intelligence pioneer. In 2012, Dr. Hinton and two of his graduate students at the University of Toronto created technology that became the intellectual foundation for the A.I. systems that the tech industry’s biggest companies believe is a key to their future.

google logo customOn Monday, however, he officially joined a growing chorus of critics who say those companies are racing toward danger with their aggressive campaign to create products based on generative artificial intelligence, the technology that powers popular chatbots like ChatGPT.

Dr. Hinton said he has quit his job at Google, where he has worked for more than a decade and became one of the most respected voices in the field, so he can freely speak out about the risks of A.I. A part of him, he said, now regrets his life’s work.

“I console myself with the normal excuse: If I hadn’t done it, somebody else would have,” Dr. Hinton said during a lengthy interview last week in the dining room of his home in Toronto, a short walk from where he and his students made their breakthrough.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vice Is Said to Be Headed for Bankruptcy, Lauren Hirsch and Benjamin Mullin, May 2, 2023 (print ed.). The company, which was once valued at $5.7 billion, has been struggling to find a buyer this year.

Vice, the brash digital-media disrupter that charmed giants like Disney and Fox into investing before a stunning crash-landing, is preparing to file for bankruptcy, according to two people with knowledge of its operations.

The filing could come in the coming weeks, according to three people familiar with the matter who weren’t authorized to discuss the potential bankruptcy on the record.

The company has been looking for a buyer, and still might find one, to avoid declaring bankruptcy. More than five companies have expressed interest in acquiring Vice, according to a person briefed on the discussions. The chances of that, however, are growing increasingly slim, said one of the people with knowledge of the potential bankruptcy.

A bankruptcy filing would be a bleak coda to the tumultuous story of Vice, a new-media interloper that sought to supplant the media establishment before persuading it to invest hundreds of millions of dollars. In 2017, after a funding round from the private-equity firm TPG, Vice was worth $5.7 billion. But today, by most accounts, it’s worth a tiny fraction of that.

In the event of a bankruptcy, Vice’s largest debtholder, Fortress Investment Group, could end up controlling the company, said one of the people. Vice would continue operating normally and run an auction to sell the company over a 45-day period, with Fortress in pole position as the most likely acquirer.

Unlike Vice’s other investors, which have included Disney and Fox, Fortress holds senior debt, which means it gets paid out first in the event of a sale. Disney, which has already written down its investments, is not getting a return, the person said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hollywood Writers Will Go on Strike, Halting Production, John Koblin and Brooks Barnes, May 2, 2023 (print ed.). The dispute, which pits 11,500 television and screenwriters against the major studios, has shattered 15 years of labor peace in the entertainment business.

Hollywood’s 15 years of labor peace was shattered Tuesday, as movie and television writers went on strike, bringing many productions to a halt and dealing a blow to an industry that has been rocked in recent years by the pandemic and sweeping technological shifts.

  • New York Times, In the book “Traffic,” the journalist Ben Smith chronicles how “going viral” became a thing, May 2, 2023 (print ed.).



April 30


President Joe Biden speaks during the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner at the Washington Hilton in Washington, Saturday, April 29, 2023. (Associated Press Photo by Carolyn Kaster).

President Joe Biden speaks during the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner at the Washington Hilton in Washington, Saturday, April 29, 2023. (Associated Press Photo by Carolyn Kaster).

ny times logoNew York Times, President Biden praised the “absolute courage” of Evan Gershkovich, the American journalist detained in Russia, Matthew Mpoke Bigg, April 30, 2023. At the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, the president said his administration was “working every day” to secure the release of Evan Gershkovich.

President Biden has called for the release of Evan Gershkovich, right, an American Wall Street Journal reporter imprisoned in Russia, praising his courage and saying the United States was working tirelessly to bring him home.

evan gershkovitzMr. Gershkovich was detained in Russia last month and accused of espionage, a charge that his employer and the United States emphatically reject. The State Department this month designated the journalist as “wrongfully detained,” signifying that the U.S. government sees him as the equivalent of a political hostage.

In a speech at the annual White House Association Correspondents’ dinner on Saturday, Mr. Biden spoke of Mr. Gershkovich’s “absolute courage” and said everyone at the event stood with the reporter.

“We’re working every day to secure his release, looking at opportunities and tools to bring him home. We keep the faith,” Mr. Biden said told the audience. “Our message is this: Journalism is not a crime.”

Mr. Gershkovich’s case represents the most significant attack on international journalists in Russia since the Kremlin launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year. It is also the first time that a Western journalist in Russia has been charged with espionage since the end of the Cold War.

In his speech on Saturday, Mr. Biden asserted the importance of a free press worldwide and also spoke of Austin Tice, a freelance journalist who disappeared in Syria in August 2012, soon after the country’s civil war began. It is believed that, since then, he has been held captive by the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

“Evan and Austin should be released immediately along with every other American held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad,” Mr. Biden said. Debra and Marc Tice, the parents of Mr. Tice, wrote an opinion article, published in The Washington Post last August, in which they urged Mr. Biden to step up diplomatic efforts to free him.


 U.S. President Joe Biden smiles during the White House Correspondents' Association dinner at the Washington Hilton in Washington, DC, April 29, 2023 (AFP photo by Saul Loeb via Getty Images).

 U.S. President Joe Biden smiles during the White House Correspondents' Association dinner at the Washington Hilton in Washington, DC, April 29, 2023 (AFP photo by Saul Loeb via Getty Images).

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Gets a Chance to Mock Fox News, and Gleefully Takes It, Peter Baker and Katie Robertson, April 30, 2023. At the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, President Biden also teased CNN and made light of his age.

Whatever news gods decided that the cable television stars Tucker Carlson and Don Lemon should be fired the same week that President Biden was scheduled to give a funny speech ribbing the news media certainly were generous in providing fresh material. And Mr. Biden took advantage on Saturday night as he gleefully mocked some of his favorite foils.

fox news logo SmallIn his annual appearance at the black-tie White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, the one night a year that a president is expected to play a stand-up comic, Mr. Biden made the most of the opportunity with some timely skewering of those who usually skewer him — most notably Fox News, which fired Mr. Carlson on Monday just days after settling a defamation lawsuit for $787.5 million.

“Last year, your favorite Fox News reporters were able to attend” the dinner “because they were fully vaccinated and boosted,” Mr. Biden said, in a nod to his coronavirus response strategy. “This year, with that $787 million settlement, they’re here because they couldn’t say no to a free meal.”

“And hell, I’d call Fox honest, fair and truthful,” he told the crowd gathered in a cavernous ballroom in Washington as well as a national television audience watching at home. “But then I could be sued for defamation.” When some groaned, he quipped, “It ain’t nothing compared to what they do to me.”


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ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: Fox News Gambled, but Tucker Can Still Take Down the House, Jason Zengerle, April 30, 2023 (print ed.). Mr. Zengerle, a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, is working on a book about Tucker Carlson.

The cable host has left Fox News. But his dark and outsize influence on the conservative movement — and on American politics — is hardly over.

For the quarter-century-plus that the Fox News Channel has been coming into America’s living rooms, it has operated according to a cardinal tenet: No one at the cable network is bigger than Fox News itself. It’s a lesson Glenn Beck, Megyn Kelly and Bill O’Reilly all learned the hard way after they left Fox and saw their fame and influence (if not their fortunes) evaporate. Once the biggest names in cable news, they now spend their days wandering in the wilderness of podcasts and third-tier streaming platforms. Even Roger Ailes, Fox News’s original architect and the man who devised — and then ruthlessly enforced — the no-one-bigger-than rule, discovered that he was expendable when Rupert Murdoch pushed him out as Fox’s chairman and chief executive in 2016 amid sexual harassment allegations. Mr. Ailes soon disappeared to a mansion in Florida and, less than a year later, died in exile from the media world he’d once commanded.

When Fox News abruptly fired Tucker Carlson, the network’s most popular prime-time host and the most powerful person in conservative media, many savvy press critics predicted the same fate for him: professional oblivion. Mr. Carlson had himself once replaced Ms. Kelly, and later Mr. O’Reilly, and each time he climbed to a new, better slot in the Fox News lineup he garnered bigger and bigger ratings. Now, according to the conventional wisdom, some new up-and-comer would inherit Mr. Carlson’s audience and replace him as the king (or queen) of conservative media. “The ‘talent’ at the Fox News Channel has never been the star,” Politico’s Jack Shafer wrote earlier this week. “Fox itself, which convenes the audience, is the star.”

But there’s good reason to believe Mr. Carlson will be the exception that proves the rule. For one thing, unlike previous stars who have left Fox News, Mr. Carlson departed when he was still at the height of his power, making his firing all the more sudden and shocking. Three days before his sacking, he gave the keynote address at the Heritage Foundation’s 50th anniversary gala. Two weeks before that, he browbeat Texas’ Republican governor to issue a pardon to a man who had been convicted of murdering a Black Lives Matter protester in Austin.

washington post logoWashington Post, Mark Zuckerberg survived years of scandal, but a pivot to VR might break things, Naomi Nix, April 30, 2023. The Facebook founder has shepherded Meta through public crisis, but amid layoffs, insiders say he has lost his vision and the trust of his workforce.

mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wMark Zuckerberg sounded nervous.

The Meta CEO, left, had just announced that his company would slash thousands of jobs last month, on top of 11,000 layoffs in November.

meta logoDuring an hour-long town hall meeting from the company’s Menlo Park headquarters in California, the decimated workforce peppered Zuckerberg with questions — including why they should have confidence in his leadership.

“That’s a completely fair question,” Zuckerberg responded without his usual bluster, according to a recording of the meeting obtained by The Washington Post.

It was a sobering admission for the CEO, who popularized the phrase “move fast and break things” to describe how he made a scrappy start-up into a towering $116 billion symbol of Silicon Valley success. Zuckerberg has shepherded Meta through years of public turbulence, offering employees confident defiance and facebook logothe security that, despite some missteps, their CEO always bet on the correct future.

But now, roiled by economic tumult, waves of layoffs that will slash some 21,000 workers and a costly investment in the virtual reality “metaverse” that shows no immediate signs of paying off, many inside Meta say Zuckerberg has lost his vision — and the trust of his workforce. Instead, he is steering the company into an unprecedented morale crisis, according to interviews with more than two dozen current and former employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Requiem for the Newsroom, Maureen Dowd, right, April 30, 2023 (print ed.). I don’t want this to be one of those pieces that bangs on about how maureen dowd thumbLarge Customthings used to be better, and they’ll never be as good again.

But, when it comes to newsrooms, it happens to be true.

As my friend Mark Leibovich, a writer at The Atlantic, noted: “I can’t think of a profession that relies more on osmosis, and just being around other people, than journalism. There’s a reason they made all those newspaper movies, ‘All the President’s Men,’ ‘Spotlight,’ ‘The Paper.’

“There’s a reason people get tours of newsrooms. You don’t want a tour of your local H&R Block office.”

Now, Leibovich said, he does most meetings from home. “At the end of a Zoom call, nobody says, ‘Hey, do you want to get a drink?’ There’s just a click at the end of the meetings. Nothing dribbles out afterward, and you can really learn things from the little meetings after the meetings.”

As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.

But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels.

I’m mystified when I hear that so many of our 20-something news assistants prefer to work from home. At that age, I would have had a hard time finding mentors or friends or boyfriends if I hadn’t been in the newsroom, and I never could have latched onto so many breaking stories if I hadn’t raised my hand and said, “I’ll go.”

April 29


nora roberts hideway

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Florida’s book-ban frenzy targets Nora Roberts, and she’s not happy, Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman, April 29, 2023. Tiffany Justice, co-founder of the right-wing book-purging organization Moms for Liberty, offered a righteous-sounding answer when asked this past weekend on “CBS Sunday Morning” what sort of book she wants to see remain in schools.

“Books that don’t have pornography in them,” she piously declared. “Let’s just put the bar really, really low. Books that don’t have incest, pedophilia, rape.”

That’s hard to square with what just happened in Martin County, Fla. The school district there recently decided to yank from its high school library circulation eight novels by Nora Roberts, shown above with the cover of one of her more than 220 books, that are not “pornography” at all — largely prompted by objections from a single woman who also happens to be a Moms for Liberty activist.

“All of it is shocking,” Roberts told us. “If you don’t want your teenager reading this book, that’s your right as a mom — and good luck with that. But you don’t have the right to say nobody’s kid can read this book.”

This signals a new trend: Book banners are increasingly going after a wide variety of titles, including romance novels, under the guise of targeting “pornography.” That term is a very flexible one — deliberately so, it appears — and it is sweeping ever more broadly to include books that can’t be described as such in any reasonable sense.

Martin County is where 20 Jodi Picoult novels were recently pulled from school library shelves. This, too, was largely because of objections from that same Moms for Liberty activist, Julie Marshall, head of the group’s local chapter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey says Musk wasn’t an ideal leader after all, Faiz Siddiqui and Will Oremus, April 29, 2023. The former CEO issued his strongest criticism yet of Musk’s takeover of the social media site.

jack dorsey small twitterFormer Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, right, issued his sharpest criticism yet of Elon Musk’s leadership of Twitter on Friday, saying Musk has not proved to be the platform’s ideal steward — and should have walked away from buying the site.

The criticisms and explanations came in a series of reply posts Friday night on the fledgling social network Bluesky, a potential Twitter rival that Dorsey helped to start. The remarks illustrate how Musk’s erratic leadership has disillusioned a one-time friend and powerful ally, reflecting a growing backlash against a tumultuous tenure that has sent advertisers fleeing and users searching for alternatives.

Dorsey said he thought Musk, the Tesla CEO who serves in the same role at Twitter today, should have paid $1 billion to back out of the deal to acquire the social media platform. The comments are a stark reversal from Dorsey’s strong endorsement of Musk’s takeover, when he wrote a year ago that if Twitter had to be a company at all, “Elon is the singular solution I trust.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Black Va. lawmakers, NAACP demand ouster of Youngkin’s diversity chief after VMI speech, Ian Shapira, April 29, 2023. Martin D. Brown generated outrage by declaring ‘DEI is dead’ at Virginia Military Institute last week.

virginia military institute logoBlack lawmakers in Virginia’s General Assembly joined the state’s NAACP Friday in calling for the resignation of Martin D. Brown, the state’s chief diversity officer, after he blasted diversity, equity and inclusion programs in a speech at Virginia Military Institute.

State Sen. Lamont Bagby (D-Richmond), the chairman of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, described Brown’s rhetoric as “appalling” and said that all 19 members of his group believe that he needs to leave his job at once.

The Virginia NAACP also issued a statement demanding that Brown step down immediately, citing his “erroneous assumptions” and “lack of fitness for the critically important position he occupies.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Some Colleges Offer Quotes of Competitors’ Prices. Be Wary, Ron Lieber, April 29, 2023. Schools may try to guess other campuses you’re considering and provide a list of their prices. They may not be accurate, our columnist writes.

Every year, a new crop of innocents arrive in the marketplace for an undergraduate degree. Very quickly, they get an education in some unwritten rules.

Families often don’t pay the listed rate. Schools offer website calculators that estimate what families may have to pay, but they make no guarantees. Aid seekers can’t get a real price quote until they’ve applied and been accepted.

And if a student is considering a school like Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y., something strange could happen when the student both seeks the estimated cost and gets the real one after being accepted: The college will quote the prices from five competitors, even though the student didn’t ask for them. Those quotes may all be higher than Manhattanville’s, too.

These estimates come with a big disclaimer: They may be wrong. As you can imagine, some of these other schools are not thrilled with this state of affairs. So why would an institution that offers instruction in mathematics and economics put out suspect figures?

ny times logoNew York Times, An Emotional Answer Shows the Power of Reporter-Player Relationships, Sam Amick, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). Giannis Antetokounmpo was asked a simple question after the Bucks were eliminated from the playoffs. What came next sparked a philosophical discussion.

April 29

truth social logo

 washington post logoWashington Post, He blew the whistle on Trump’s Truth Social. Now he works at Starbucks, Drew Harwell, April 29, 2023. “It’s an honest day’s work,” he says about the $16-an-hour job, the only work he’s found since he was fired from the Trump Media platform he helped found.

About six months ago, Will Wilkerson was the executive vice president of operations for former president Donald Trump’s media business, a co-founder of Trump’s Truth Social website and a holder of stock options that might have one day made him a millionaire.
Today, he is a certified barista trainer at a Starbucks inside a Harris Teeter grocery store, where he works 5:30 a.m. shifts in a green apron and slip-resistant shoes, making Frappuccinos for $16 an hour.

“It’s an honest day’s work,” he says, sitting near the flower kiosk of the supermarket in a North Carolina suburb, which he asked not be named due to fears of harassment. “I love what I do.”

Wilkerson, 38, has become one of the biggest threats to the Trump company’s future: a federally protected whistleblower whose attorneys say has provided 150,000 emails, contracts and other internal documents to the Securities and Exchange Commission and investigators in Florida and New York.

Wilkerson last year publicly accused Trump Media and Technology Group of violating securities laws, telling The Washington Post he could not stay silent while the company’s executives gave what he viewed as misleading information to investors, many of whom are small-time shareholders loyal to the Trump brand.

The company fired him shortly after, saying he had “concocted psychodramas” but not responding to the specifics of his claims. This month, the company’s chief executive, the former Republican congressman Devin Nunes, sued Wilkerson for defamation in a Florida circuit court, claiming he had been subjected to “anxiety,” “insecurity,” “mental anguish” and “emotional distress” as a result of Wilkerson’s comments.

April 28

ny times logoNew York Times, Hollywood, Both Frantic and Calm, Braces for Writers’ Strike, John Koblin, Brooks Barnes and Nicole Sperling, April 28, 2023. Studios have moved up deadlines for TV writers, and late-night shows are preparing to go dark. But for other parts of the industry, it’s business as usual.

With a Hollywood strike looming, there has been a frantic sprint throughout the entertainment world before 11,500 TV and movie writers potentially walk out as soon as next week.

The possibility of a television and movie writers’ strike — will they, won’t they, how could they? — has been the top conversation topic in the industry for weeks. And in recent days, there has been a notable shift: People have stopped asking one another whether a strike would take place and started to talk about duration. How long was the last one? (100 days in 2007-8.) How long was the longest one? (153 days in 1988.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Newsmax Ratings Climb After Tucker Carlson’s Exit at Fox, Michael M. Grynbaum, April 28, 2023. The niche conservative news channel is still small compared with Fox News, but its viewership has doubled and in some time slots even tripled since Tucker Carlson was dismissed.

Newsmax, the niche conservative news channel that has long played David to Fox News’s Goliath, has seized on Tucker Carlson’s shock dismissal from its rival network and declared itself the true TV home for right-wing Americans.

So far, the strategy is showing some promise.

Viewership of Newsmax remains far below that of Fox News. But its audience at certain hours has doubled, and in some time slots tripled, in the immediate aftermath of Mr. Carlson’s exit — an abrupt spike that has turned heads in conservative circles and the cable news industry.

On Monday evening, Eric Bolling’s 8 p.m. Newsmax program drew 531,000 viewers, according to Nielsen. One week earlier, it had 146,000. On Tuesday, Mr. Bolling’s audience grew to 562,000 viewers, equal to about 80 percent of Anderson Cooper’s CNN viewership that evening. Newsmax’s other prime-time shows also experienced big jumps.

The sharp rise in viewership can be timed almost to the minute of Fox News’s announcement on Monday that it was parting ways with Mr. Carlson, in part because of private messages sent by the anchor that included offensive and crude remarks.

April 27

ap logoAssociated Press, Tucker Carlson emerges on Twitter, doesn’t mention Fox News, David Bauder, April 27, 2023. Tucker Carlson emerged Wednesday, two days after Fox News fired him, with a two-minute, campaign-style monologue that didn’t address why he suddenly became unemployed.

He posted a video on Twitter shortly after 8 p.m. Eastern, the time his Fox show used to begin, that talked about a lack of honest political debate in the media.

Carlson said one of the things he noticed, “when you step away from the noise for a few days,” is how nice some people are, and how hilarious some are.

“The other thing you notice when you take a little time off is how unbelievably stupid most of the debates you see on television are,” he said. “They’re completely irrelevant. They mean nothing. In five years we won’t even remember we heard them. Trust me, as somebody who participated.”

Fox fired its most popular personality on Monday without explanation, less than a week after settling a lawsuit concerning the spread of lies about the 2020 presidential election.

fox upside down news

washington post logoWashington Post, For the Murdochs, Tucker Carlson became more trouble than he was worth, Sarah Ellison and Jeremy Barr, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). Precise reasons for the top-rated host’s dismissal remain clouded, but the move reflected a reversal for the exasperated family that once championed himTucker Carlson had dinner with his ultimate boss, Rupert Murdoch, two weeks ago in Los Angeles, and everything seemed just fine.

But according to people familiar with their conversation and Murdoch’s thinking, the 92-year-old billionaire founder of Fox News had grown weary of some of Carlson’s increasingly far-right commentary on his nightly prime-time show — as well as some of the swaggering host’s behind-the-scenes attitude.

At that particular moment, he was disturbed by Carlson’s stance on Ukraine. A graphic on Carlson’s show had referred to Volodymyr Zelensky, president of the besieged nation, as a “Ukrainian pimp,” and the host had repeatedly excoriated the U.S. government for providing aid to its defense against Russian attacks.

These stances had made Carlson a star on Russian state-controlled TV. But they had drawn furious blowback from powerful Republicans who see U.S. support for Ukraine as a bulwark in a fight for freedom and democracy — some of whom had Murdoch’s ear. After one such on-air segment in mid-March, Murdoch joined a Fox newsroom meeting to loudly challenge Carlson’s message, according to people familiar with the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of newsroom confidentiality policies.

Two days after Fox News abruptly fired its top-rated host, ambiguity still swirled around the question of how exactly Carlson, a major influencer in GOP politics, had fallen from grace so quickly within a network that soared to success by catering to conservative audiences.

But interviews with people inside Fox or close to the situation made it clear that the decision rested with the powerful family that controls the company, who finally determined that Carlson was more trouble than he was worth.

Where can Tucker Carlson and Don Lemon go now?

When Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott called Carlson on Monday morning to tell him he would be “parting ways” with the network, the host repeatedly asked why, according to people familiar with the conversation. Scott would only tell him that the decision came “from above” — meaning Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan, CEO of Fox Corp.

Scott and Lachlan Murdoch had made the decision to fire Carlson on Friday evening, and Lachlan spoke to his father about it on Saturday, according to two people familiar with the discussion. The decision also came after months of tension and complaints within Fox about Carlson’s lack of respect for Fox’s upper ranks.

Related Media News

April 25

ny times logoNew York Times, Updates: Fox News Parts Ways With Tucker Carlson Days After Dominion Settlement, Jeremy W. Peters, Katie Robertson and Michael M. Grynbaum, April 25, 2023 (print ed.). The announcement came less than a week after the network agreed to pay $787.5 million in a defamation lawsuit in which Mr. Carlson’s show, one of the highest rated on Fox, figured prominently. He was said to be surprised by the move.

Here is the latest on Tucker Carlson’s departure from Fox News.

April 24



fox upside down news

Axios, Tucker Carlson out at Fox News, Sara Fischer, April 24, 2023. Fox News on Monday said the network and its star primetime host Tucker Carlson "have agreed to part ways," after more than a decade, 

axios logoDriving the news: Carlson's last program was Friday April 21st, Fox News said, meaning Carlson did not get a chance to sign off to his viewers.

Why it matters: The news comes days after Fox News reached a historic 11th hour settlement with Dominion Voting Systems for over $787 million.

dominion voting systemsDetails: "Fox News Tonight will air live at 8 PM/ET starting this evening as an interim show helmed by rotating FOX News personalities until a new host is named," Fox News said in a statement.

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The Warning with Steve Schmidt, Steve Schmidt reacts to Tucker Carlson parting ways with Fox News, Steve Schmidt (former top GOP strategist, shown above), April 24, 2023. Steve Schmidt reacts to the news that Fox News Corp has parted ways with one of their biggest liars, Tucker Carlson.

Steve breaks down how Carlson’s eight o’clock hour has been an abomination filled with lies and hate for years, and is solely responsible for mainstreaming the fascist ideology of replacement theory. He goes on to say that while it is a good thing that Tucker is gone, this doesn’t change the fact that Fox News is an incredible danger to America and whoever fills Carlson’s slot, will continue to lie to the American people.


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ny times logoNew York Times, What Tucker Carlson Leaves Behind as He Is Shown the Door, Nicholas Confessore, April 24, 2023. In the days after the 2020 election, the Fox host Tucker Carlson sent an anxious text message to one of his producers. Fox viewers were furious about the network’s decision to call Arizona for Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The defeated president, Donald J. Trump, was eagerly stoking their anger. As Mr. Carlson and his producer batted around ideas for a new Carlson podcast — one that might help win back the audience most angry about Mr. Trump’s defeat — they saw both opportunity and peril in the moment.

“He could easily destroy us if we play it wrong,” Mr. Carlson warned, in a text released during Fox’s now-settled litigation with the voting software company Dominion.

Mr. Carlson proved prophetic, if not entirely in the way he had predicted. His nearly six-year reign in prime-time cable came to a sudden end on Monday, as Fox abruptly cut ties with the host, thanking him in a terse news release “for his service to the network.”

And while the exact circumstances of his departure remained hazy on Monday evening, the dismissal comes amid a series of high-stakes — and already high-priced — legal battles emanating from Fox’s postelection campaign to placate Mr. Trump’s base and win back viewers who believed that his defeat was a sham.

Mr. Carlson’s departure upended Fox’s lucrative prime-time lineup and shocked a media world far more accustomed to his remarkable staying power. Over his years at Fox, the host had proved capable of withstanding controversy after controversy.

The network stuck by him — as did Lachlan Murdoch, chief executive of the Fox Corporation — after Mr. Carlson claimed that immigration had made America “poor and dirtier.” He seemed to shrug off his on-air popularization of a racist conspiracy theory known as the “great replacement,” along with revelations that he was a prodigious airer of the company’s own dirty laundry. When Russia invaded Ukraine, Mr. Carlson’s show frequently promoted the Kremlin’s point of view, attacking U.S. sanctions and blaming the conflict on American designs for expanding NATO.

The drought of premium advertisers on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” — driven away by boycotts targeting his more racist and inflammatory segments — did not seem to dent his standing within the network, so long as the audience stuck around. Disdainful of the cable network’s top executives, Mr. Carlson cultivated the impression that he was close to the Murdoch family and, perhaps, untouchable.

Mr. Carlson’s rise as a populist pundit and media figure prefigured Mr. Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party: His own conversion from bow-tied libertarian to vengeful populist traced the nativist insurgency that fractured and remade the party during the Obama years. But he prospered in tandem with Mr. Trump’s presidency, as the New York real estate tycoon made frank nativism and seething cultural resentment the primary touchstones of conservative politics.

The host’s abrupt dismissal upends Fox News’s prime-time lineup — and the carefully honed impression that the ratings star was all but untouchable.

Politico, CNN ousts host Don Lemon, who responds with fiery tweet: “I was informed this morning by my agent that I have been terminated. I am stunned," Lemon politico Customwrote, Matt Berg, April 24, 2023. Host Don Lemon has been fired by CNN, he announced Monday afternoon.

“I was informed this morning by my agent that I have been terminated. I am stunned,” Lemon wrote in a statement posted to Twitter.

don lemon wHe had worked at the outlet for 17 years, and said he believed “that someone in management would have had the decency to tell me directly.”

“At no time was I ever given any indication that I would not be able to continue to do the work I have loved at the network. It is clear that there are some larger issues at play,” he wrote.

Shortly after Lemon’s announcement, CNN characterized the situation as the company having “parted ways” with the host.

cnn logo“Don will forever be a part of the CNN family, and we thank him for his contributions,” the company tweeted. “We wish him well and will be cheering him on in his future endeavors.”

CNN then pushed back on the host’s statement, calling his claims “inaccurate.” Instead of being fired without warning, the company tweeted that Lemon was “offered an opportunity to meet with management but instead released a statement on Twitter.”

The high-profile departure comes just after Fox News announced that host Tucker Carlson was leaving the outlet. It’s a major shift for both companies, as they lose two of the most popular hosts on cable television.

Politico, Russian propagandist says U.S. media ‘lost its last remaining voice of reason’ after Carlson exit, Kierra Frazier, April 24, 2023. “We’ll happily offer you a job if you wish to carry on as a presenter and host!” Russian state TV anchor Vladimir Solovyov said.

politico CustomA prominent anchor on Russian state TV said on Monday that the U.S. mainstream media had “lost its last remaining voice of reason” after Fox host Tucker Carlson abruptly left the network.

In an email to Carlson posted to Telegram, Vladimir Solovyov, an anchor on Russia-1, said he “wholeheartedly” supported Carlson’s decision.

Russian Flag“You have our admiration and support in any endeavor you choose for yourself next, be it running for president of the United States (which you probably should totally do, by the way) or making an independent media project,” Solovyov said. “We’ll happily offer you a job if you wish to carry on as a presenter and host!”

Solovyov is one of the most influential propagandists in Russia. He has been an anchor on the television show “Evening with Vladimir Solovyov” on Russia-1 since 2012. In March 2022, YouTube blocked Solovyov’s channels for violating the company’s “incitement to violence” rules.

Carlson has become a frequent reference for Russian media, along with other Fox News hosts, for defending Russia in its war on Ukraine.

Forbes Breaking News, Brian Stelter Reacts To Tucker Carlson, Don Lemon Departures, April 24, 2023. Vanity Fair columnist Brian Stelter joins "Forbes Newsroom" to respond to the departures of Tucker Carlson from Fox News and Don Lemon from CNN.

Related Media News


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washington post logoWashington Post, NBCUniversal CEO departs after ‘inappropriate relationship,’ Anumita Kaur, April 24, 2023 (print ed.). NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell will leave the company “effective immediately” following an investigation into a complaint of inappropriate conduct, Comcast announced Sunday.

“Today is my last day as CEO of NBCUniversal. I had an inappropriate relationship with a woman in the company, which I deeply regret,” Shell, shown in a 2013 photo, said in a jeff shell 2013statement Sunday. “I’m truly sorry I let my Comcast and NBCUniversal colleagues down, they are the most talented people in the business and the opportunity to work with them the last 19 years has been a privilege.”

An outside law firm conducted the investigation, and Shell’s departure was mutually agreed upon, the company stated. Comcast is NBCUniversal’s parent company.

comcast logoIn a memo to employees, Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts and Comcast President Mike Cavanagh stated that they were “disappointed to share this news.”

“We built this company on a culture of integrity. Nothing is more important than how we treat each other. You should count on your leaders to create a safe and respectful workplace,” Roberts and Cavanagh stated. “When our principles are violated, we will always move quickly to take appropriate action, as we have done here.”

nbc logoThey added that NBCUniversal “is performing extremely well operationally and financially.”

Comcast did not name Shell’s successor and did not immediately respond to The Washington Post for comment. Cavanagh will head Shell’s team — and NBCUniversal — in the interim, the company’s internal memo stated.

Shell was named NBCUniversal CEO in 2020, where he pushed forward the company’s streaming service Peacock and oversaw the media giant’s vast portfolio, including its news and entertainment TV networks, film studio and theme parks.

washington post logoWashington Post, Their voices are their livelihood. Now AI could take it away, Pranshu Verma, April 24, 2023. Advances in generative AI — technology that forms texts, images or sounds — has allowed software to recreate people’s voices with eerie precision.

Companies clamor to use Remie Michelle Clarke’s voice. An award-winning vocal artist, her smooth, Irish accent backs ads for Mazda and Mastercard and is the sound of Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, in Ireland.

But in January, her sound engineer told Michelle Clarke he’d found a voice that sounded uncannily like hers someplace unexpected: on, credited to a woman named “Olivia.” For a modest monthly fee, Revoicer customers can access hundreds of different voices and, through an artificial intelligence-backed tool, morph them to say anything — to voice commercials, recite corporate trainings or narrate books.

April 22

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Politico Magazine, Elon Musk Figured Out the Media’s Biggest Weakness, Jack Shafer. April 22, 2023.  Why do reporters and editors continue to treat Elon Musk's every gesture from the grandstand as worthy of coverage? 

politico CustomNobody says, “Hey, look at me!” with an authority and confidence to match that of Elon Musk, above. Not the Kardashians, not Donald Trump, and not even Marjorie Taylor Greene when she sees a camera following her. Like clockwork, Musk feeds a compulsion to work himself in the daily news cycle with a tweet, a threat, a product promise, a media interview or a stunt like smoking dope on Joe Rogan’s show.

This week alone, Musk earned headlines for vowing to sue Microsoft, for talking to the BBC about the “painful” part of running Twitter, for promising to compete with ChatGPT by creating his own AI platform, for attaching the “government-funded media” label to NPR, BBC and CBC’s accounts and then dropping it, for claiming Twitter is “roughly breaking even,” for telling Tucker Carlson birth control will lead to the “end of civilization,” for sharing his views on violent crime in San Francisco and for anointing his dog the CEO of Twitter.

As Elon Musk media weeks go, it was a light one. But it illustrates his strategy, almost certainly calculated, to hog our newsfeeds by quipping and provoking those around him, by making promises or predictions, and by lofting crude insults or weird theories. In a free country, there’s no law against being a dork or a fantasist of the Musk type, so we can’t ride him too hard for his incitements. And given his status as one of the world’s richest men, he probably deserves at twitter bird Customleast some of the outsize attention he draws from the press. But factoring all of that in, why do reporters and editors continue to treat his every gesture from the grandstand as worthy of paper and ink, airtime and Internet pixels? Why has the press become such a willing accomplice in his narcissism?

A vapor trail of broken Musk promises and failed predictions, all of which became news stories, have been documented by the website. tter.

This column suggested late last year that journalists wean themselves from the Musk habit. But instead of giving the once-over twice to his antics, the press corps has further devoted itself to his promotion. He offers reporters table scraps. They turn it into a banquet. He picks a petty fight. They report it as if it were a global war. He’s got the media machine’s number, and keeps pressing it.

Here’s how it works: Too many editors are eager to assign an easy-to-assemble story from the components of a Musk prediction, threat or stunt. And readers seem to love the copy. It’s Musk-press synergy all the way down.

tesla logoWhat’s in it for Musk? He has long disdained advertising, believing that the unearned media of a stunt (or the quality of a great product) is advertising enough. According to Ashley Vance’s book, Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, Musk ordered his Tesla staff to produce at least one barnburner of a public relations announcement a week to stimulate interest in the company’s cars. But in a 2021 court appearance, Musk made transparent how he keeps playing the press. “If we are entertaining, then people will write stories about us, and then we don’t have to spend money on advertising that would increase the price of our products,” he said.



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ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Has Held the Fewest News Conferences Since Reagan. Any Questions? Michael D. Shear, April 22, 2023. As President Biden prepares to announce his bid for a second term, his decision to keep the news media at arm’s length is part of a deliberate strategy.

In the 100 years since Calvin Coolidge took office, only Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan held as few news conferences each year as the current occupant of the Oval Office.

Traveling in Ireland last week, President Biden abandoned the decades-old tradition of holding a news conference while abroad. On Thursday, President Gustavo Petro of Colombia met with Mr. Biden, but the two did not hold a news conference together, another practice of his predecessors that Mr. Biden has frequently chosen to skip. After the meeting, Mr. Petro took questions from reporters — alone — at microphones in front of the West Wing.

And despite his press secretary pledging that Mr. Biden would “bring transparency and truth back to the government,” the president has granted the fewest interviews since Mr. Reagan was president: only 54. (Donald J. Trump gave 202 during the first two years of his presidency; Barack Obama gave 275.)

More than any president in recent memory, Mr. Biden, 80, has taken steps to reduce opportunities for journalists to question him in forums where he can offer unscripted answers and they can follow up. The result, critics say, is a president who has fewer moments of public accountability for his comments, decisions and actions.

Mr. Biden has not accused the news media of being “the enemy of the people,” as his predecessor did during four years in which news organizations documented thousands of lies by Mr. Trump.

But as Mr. Biden prepares to announce his bid for a second term as soon as Tuesday, he is accelerating the demise of traditions that have underpinned the relationship with the news media for decades. The president’s strategy of keeping the press at arm’s length is a bet that he can sidestep those traditions in a new media environment. And it is public evidence that Mr. Biden’s political strategists want to protect him from the unscripted exchanges that have often resulted in missteps and criticism.

White House officials do not dispute their different approach. They say it is part of a deliberate strategy to go around the traditional news media to connect with audiences “where they are,” without being subjected to the filter of political or investigative journalists.

“Our ultimate goal is to reach the American people wherever and however they consume media, and that’s not just through the briefing room or Washington-based news outlets,” said Ben LaBolt, the White House communications director. “The fracturing of the media and the changing nature of information consumption requires a communications strategy that adapts to reach Americans where they get the news.”


disney world mickey mouse facebook

washington post logoWashington Post, Disney parks ban costumes for adults. These fans have a way around it, Hannah Sampson, April 22, 2023 (print ed.). Disneybounding allows adult fans to channel their inner character with everyday clothes and accessories.

For a subset of Disney superfans, preparing for a day at the theme parks means asking, “what would Snow White wear?”

disney logoOr maybe Donald Duck. Or Tiana from “The Princess and the Frog.” Or the iconic Haunted Mansion ride. Or even a theme park garbage can.

Welcome to the creative, color-blocking, accessory-rich world of Disneybounding, a practice that allows Disney adults to channel their favorite characters, experiences or objects without running afoul of the company’s no-costume rules for grownups. Outfits are inspired by characters but use everyday clothes.

Disney parks don’t allow costumes or masks for anyone 14 or older, except at certain special events. Because the company has its own costumed characters that interact with guests, it doesn’t want those likenesses to be misrepresented.

“It’s a fun way to, as an adult, have a similar interaction to what a kid would have when they’re in their costumes,” said Leslie Kay, who coined the DisneyBound term, runs sites devoted to the practice and wrote a book on the topic that was published by Disney in 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Belgian customs destroy 2,352 Miller High Life cans over ‘Champagne’ label, Emily Heil, April 22, 2023. The organization tasked with protecting champagne is not pleased with the American brand’s claim of being the “Champagne of Beers.”

April 21


smithsonian view

washington post logoWashington Post, A new Smithsonian boss settled multiple employee retaliation lawsuits, Manuel Roig-Franzia and Thomas Floyd, April 21, 2023 (print ed.). When the Smithsonian Institution (shown above in a file photo) announced in March the selection of Nancy Yao to be the founding director of the new American Women’s History Museum planned for a prestige locale on the National Mall or alongside the Tidal Basin, the timing seemed apt: It was national Women’s History Month.

But, in some corners of the museum world, the choice of Yao has evoked uncomfortable echoes of a recent and traumatic period in the history of American women: the national reckoning over sexual harassment brought on by the #MeToo movement. In the year and a half before Yao’s selection, the history and culture institution where she served as president — the Museum of Chinese in America, commonly known as MOCA — has settled three wrongful termination lawsuits stemming from alleged incidents during her tenure.

The lawsuits were filed by former employees who said they were fired in retaliation for reporting alleged sexual harassment on behalf of young female staffers at the museum. The two men who were accused internally of harassment kept their jobs; one was later promoted by Yao.

Poynter, BuzzFeed shuts down Pulitzer Prize-winning newsroom, lays off 180 staff across the company, Angela Fu, April 21, 2023 (print ed.). BuzzFeed will concentrate its news efforts on HuffPost, CEO Jonah Peretti said.

After 11 years of high-profile scoops and multiple nods from the Pulitzer Prizes, BuzzFeed News will close, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti announced Thursday.

The company will also lay off roughly 15% of its total workforce, representing approximately 180 people. Peretti shared the news in a memo to staff, stating that the cuts will affect nearly every division of the company and are a consequence of recent financial challenges.

“We’ve faced more challenges than I can count in the past few years: a pandemic, a fading SPAC market that yielded less capital, a tech recession, a tough economy, a declining stock market, a decelerating digital advertising market and ongoing audience and platform shifts,” Peretti wrote.

BuzzFeed will concentrate its newsgathering efforts on HuffPost, Peretti wrote. (BuzzFeed acquired HuffPost from Verizon Media in 2020). Unlike BuzzFeed News, HuffPost is profitable, thanks to a “highly engaged, loyal audience” that is not as dependent on social platforms, he wrote. HuffPost and will open some roles to BuzzFeed News employees.Politico, Teachers union chief hires seasoned lawyer ahead of Hill testimony

Politico, Teachers union chief hires seasoned lawyer ahead of Hill testimony, Juan Perez Jr., April 21, 2023 (print ed.). The American Federation of Teachers president has retained a top white-collar defense attorney ahead of her scheduled testimony on school closures during the height of the Covid-19 crisis to the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic next week.

politico CustomWeingarten is taking a swipe at the panel’s Republicans ahead of an all-but-assured grilling from conservatives looking to probe the union’s alleged influence over federal disease-mitigation guidelines the GOP blames for closing schools.

She’s turned to Michael Bromwich, senior counsel at the white shoe Steptoe law firm, for help.

“It is undeniable that the pandemic resulted in tragic and continuing consequences for children,” Bromwich wrote on the union’s behalf Wednesday to subcommittee chair Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) and ranking member Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.).

U.S. House logo“We make no progress towards addressing those very real problems by engaging in the type of scapegoating built on false allegations that appear to be the basis for this Subcommittee’s ‘investigation,’” Bromwich wrote in his letter to lawmakers, which was obtained by POLITICO.

Bromwich is widely known in Washington for his work representing former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe during the Trump-Russia investigation and Christine Blasey Ford, the California professor who alleged she was sexually assaulted by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

A former Justice Department inspector general, Bromwich has garnered a reputation as a pugnacious defender. His message to congressional Republicans on Wednesday suggests he will deploy a similar strategy.

Earlier this month, Wenstrup asked Weingarten to testify at an April 26 hearing on the consequences of Covid-19’s school closures.

That request followed a March 28 letter from Wenstrup to Weingarten, which informed the teachers’ union chief that the select committee was investigating “potential political interference” with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on reopening schools issued in February 2021.

Wenstrup’s March 28 letter alleged the union was granted “uncommon” access to edit the guidance before its release, citing media reports at the time, which it said ultimately resulted in the CDC advising that schools should remain closed in much of the country.

  • The Legal Breakdown, Fox faces BOMBSHELL new threat, could leave network BANKRUPT, Brian Tyler Cohen, April 20, 2023. 

ny times logoNew York Times, Barbara Lynch, a Leading Boston Restaurateur, Is Accused of Workplace Abuse, Julia Moskin, April 21, 2023 (print ed.). The chef has spoken out against sexism and abuse, but many former cooks and staff members say she has verbally and physically harassed workers for decades.

During her 25 years as one of Boston’s most acclaimed chefs and one of the most renowned restaurateurs in the country, Barbara Lynch has told and retold her origin story: how she rose above her poor and violent childhood in South Boston, and fought sexism as a line cook to reach the top of her profession.

So on March 15, when she gathered two dozen employees of Menton, the most prestigious of her seven establishments, for a meeting after dinner service, they were hoping for support and inspiration.

But instead of support, Ms. Lynch — who several employees said had been drinking beforehand in the restaurant’s private dining room — delivered outrage and self-pity, in an expletive-laced confrontation that one employee recorded and shared with The New York Times.

April 20

ny times logoNew York Times, After Fox Settlement, Assault on Media Protections Is Likely to Continue, David Enrich, April 20, 2023 (print ed.). Those who argue that the news media should pay a steeper price for mistakes are pushing to have a landmark Supreme Court ruling overturned.

fox news cultThe last-minute settlement of Dominion Voting Systems’ lawsuit against Fox News defused a high-stakes test of the First Amendment protections afforded to the media. But more challenges are likely on the horizon.

Nearly 60 years after the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in New York Times v. Sullivan, which made it harder for public figures to win libel cases against the media, the landmark ruling is under sustained assault from judges, politicians and lawyers, most but not all of them conservatives.

The Dominion lawsuit, in which the voting machine company sought $1.6 billion in damages from Fox News for spreading falsehoods about Dominion’s role in the 2020 elections, had the potential to reshape the debate.

If Fox News lost, a powerful news organization faced the prospect of record-breaking damages. But a victory for the cable news network would have raised questions — even among lawyers who represent the news media — about whether federal courts’ interpretations of the First Amendment made it impossible to hold anyone accountable for reckless and damaging lies.

It’s not a coincidence that a founder of one of the law firms that represented Dominion is leading a campaign to get the Supreme Court to overturn its decision in Sullivan.

Elizabeth M. Locke, a founding partner at Clare Locke, a defamation law firm that represented Dominion in its lawsuit against Fox News, has emerged as one of the most vocal advocates for overturning the Sullivan ruling.

“It’s virtually impossible to bring and win one of these cases,” Ms. Locke said this year. The media “have complete immunity from liability.” (In fact, Ms. Locke’s law firm and others have recently secured multimillion-dollar jury verdicts for public figures suing the media for defamation.)

Ms. Locke was speaking at a televised event that Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida hosted to build support for reversing Sullivan.

Mr. DeSantis has pushed the State Legislature to curtail legal protections for the media, which some experts regard as an attempt to trigger litigation that would give the Supreme Court an opportunity to reconsider Sullivan.

April 19


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ny times logoNew York Times, Netflix Will End Its DVD Service, 5.2 Billion Discs Later, Nicole Sperling, April 19, 2023 (print ed.). Sending movies through the mail, in recognizable red-and-white envelopes, helped the company become a behemoth in Hollywood.

After 25 years, Netflix is ending its DVD-by-mail business.

Before it was upending the entertainment industry and ushering in the streaming era, Netflix was a company whose business model revolved around sending DVDs through the mail in easily recognizable red-and-white envelopes. At its peak, in 2010, roughly 20 million subscribed to the DVD service. But the practice has long felt anachronistic, and the company said on Tuesday that it will ship its final DVDs to customers on Sept. 29.

How many customers? Netflix doesn’t break out those numbers anymore. But whoever they are, it’s time for them to dust off any DVDs they might have lying around and send their red envelopes back to Los Gatos, Calif., where they can be retired to the landfills for good.

“Those iconic red envelopes changed the way people watched shows and movies at home — and they paved the way for the shift to streaming,” the company’s co-chief executive Ted Sarandos said in a letter. “To everyone who ever added a DVD to their queue or waited by the mailbox for a red envelope to arrive: thank you.”

April 18

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ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Fox News Is on Trial, and So Are Falsehoods About 2020, Jeremy W. Peters, April 17, 2023 (print ed.). A jury in Delaware will be asked to weigh the limits of the First Amendment. Another question is whether Fox will pay a financial penalty over election lies.

fox news logo SmallOn Monday, a judge in Delaware Superior Court (Judge Eric M. Davis, right) is expected to swear in the jury in a defamation trial that has little precedent in American law. Fox News, one of the most powerful and profitable media companies, will defend itself against extensive evidence suggesting it told its audience a story of conspiracy and fraud in the 2020 election it eric davisknew wasn’t true.

The jury will be asked to weigh lofty questions about the limits of the First Amendment and to consider imposing a huge financial penalty against Fox. Some of the most influential names in conservative media — Rupert Murdoch, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson — are expected to be called to testify. But there is another fundamental question the case raises: Will there be a price to pay for profiting from the spread of misinformation?

dominion voting systemsFew people have been held legally accountable for their roles in trying to delegitimize President Biden’s victory. Sidney Powell, a lawyer who was one of the biggest purveyors of conspiracy theories about Dominion Voting Systems, the company suing Fox for $1.6 billion, avoided disbarment in Texas after a judge dismissed a complaint against her in February.

jenna ellis cropped screenshotJenna Ellis, right, an attorney who worked with Ms. Powell and the Trump campaign, received a reprimand last month instead of losing her license with the Colorado bar. Donald J. Trump, whose false insistence that he was cheated of victory incited a violent mob on Jan. 6, 2021, is running for president a third time and remains the clear front-runner for the Republican nomination.

Political misinformation has become so pervasive in part because, there is little the government can do to stop it.

andrew weissmann cropped“Lying to American voters is not actually actionable,” said Andrew Weissmann, right, the former general counsel of the F.B.I. who was a senior member of the special counsel team under Robert S. Mueller that looked into Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign.

It’s a quirk of American law that most lies — even ones that destabilize the nation, told by people with enormous power and reach — can’t be prosecuted. Charges can be brought only in limited circumstances, such as if a business executive lies to shareholders or an individual lies to the F.B.I. Politicians can be charged if they lie about a campaign contribution, which is the essence of the criminal case against Mr. Trump by the Manhattan district attorney’s office.


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

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

washington post logoWashington Post, Dominion v. Fox trial delayed for settlement talks, people familiar with the matter say, Rosalind S. Helderman, Sarah Ellison and Jeremy Barr, April 17, 2023 (print ed.). Two people familiar with the case said the sides are scheduled to meet Monday to determine if a last-minute deal can be brokered.

dominion voting systemsThe beginning of the much-anticipated defamation case between Dominion Voting Systems and Fox News has been delayed by one day, until Tuesday, to allow both parties to hold conversations about the possibility of a settlement, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation.

No reason was officially given for the delay, which was announced Sunday evening by the judge overseeing the case. Jury selection had been scheduled to conclude on Monday and then both sides were expected to give opening statements, kicking off a weeks-long trial. Voting technology company Dominion filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against the network alleging that Fox guests and hosts defamed the company and severely damaged its business by connecting it to a plot to fraudulently steal the 2020 presidential election.

In a statement provided by a public information officer on Sunday night, Judge Eric M. Davis of Delaware Superior Court said only that he would make an announcement on Monday morning delaying proceedings by 24 hours. But two people familiar with the case said the two sides are scheduled to meet Monday to determine if a last-minute deal to avoid trial could be brokered. One of the people said the judge had asked the parties to make a final effort to settle the issue before proceeding with a trial.

The two people spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose sensitive information. Spokespeople for Dominion and for Fox News’s parent company, Fox Corp., declined to comment.

Big questions loom in the Dominion vs. Fox defamation case

Late settlement talks were first reported by the Wall Street Journal, which, like Fox News, is controlled by Rupert Murdoch’s family.

Fox and Dominion engaged in a round of mediation in December 2022 but were unable to reach a settlement agreement at that time, the court has previously said.

In the weeks leading up to the start of the trial, Davis issued adverse rulings for Fox, constraining its legal strategy. For one, Davis ruled that Fox cannot contest that the statements it aired about Dominion were false and harmful to the company. Instead, the trial will hinge on whether Fox aired the falsehoods with “actual malice” — that is, with knowledge the statements were false or without regard to their truth or falsehood. Plaintiffs must establish that a defendant acted with actual malice to prove a libel or defamation claim under a nearly 60-year-old standard established by the Supreme Court.

Fox also faces a potentially challenging jury pool. The trial is scheduled to be held in Delaware, where Dominion is incorporated. Therefore, jurors will be drawn from among the state’s electorate, which voted overwhelmingly in the 2020 presidential election for Joe Biden, one of the state’s most popular politicians.

A settlement could help Fox avoid several weeks of potentially embarrassing courtroom testimony from some of its biggest stars. Possible witnesses include popular Fox hosts Tucker Carlson, Maria Bartiromo and Sean Hannity as well as Rupert Murdoch, the 92-year-old chairman and chief executive of Fox Corp.

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Media Matters for America, Rep. Paul Gosar promotes pro-Hitler and Holocaust-denying site after it praised him for attacking “Jewish warmongers,” Eric Hananoki, April 17-18, 2023. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) used his newsletter to direct people to a story posted on a Holocaust-denier website that praised him for attacking “Jewish warmongers” for their support of Ukraine.

paul gosarGosar, right, was promoting Veterans Today, an antisemitic website that has called the Holocaust a “lie” and a “hoax” and praised Hitler as a “great man” and “a man of valor.”

Gosar’s promotion of Veterans Today is another chapter in his extensive book of antisemitic associations. He has embraced Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes; praised Holocaust denier Vincent James Foxx and promoted his work (including in his newsletter); and defended and praised social media platform Gab and its CEO, Andrew Torba.

Gosar releases a weekly newsletter which includes a section about “Gosar in the News and Other Must-Read Stories.” His April 16 newsletter included a link to a February 26 Veterans Today post by senior editor Jonas E. Alexis that has the headline “Congressman: Jewish warmongers Nuland & Blinken ‘Are Dangerous Fools Who Can Get Us All Killed.’” (Gosar’s newsletter omitted the word “Jewish" before warmongers from its link description.) The Veterans Today article is actually a repost of an article by the Kremlin-funded Sputnik that did not carry the “Jewish warmongers” descriptor.

Gosar is sending readers to an antisemitic site that frequently publishes content denying the Holocaust. For instance, Veterans Today posted an article titled “Who Really Wanted the Holocaust? (Not the Nazis!)” which claimed to “document why it was that the Nazis did not want the Holocaust and why, instead, Jewish Zionists did” and another piece -- since deleted -- which claimed that “the Holocaust was in fact a (Big Zionist) Jew on (Little non-Zionist) Jew False Flag operation.” It also reposted a piece by neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin with the headline “Malignant Jew Goofball Dennis Prager Says You’re Going to Hell If You Don’t Believe His Ridiculous Gas Chamber Hoax.”

Veterans Today has published pro-Hitler propaganda. One piece (“A Defense of Hitler as a Heroic War Veteran?”) called Hitler “a man of valor” and “a great man.” Another stated that while Hitler “intended to save humankind, instead, he has been vilified with the epithet of being the most hated man—and most evil ruler—in human history.“

Jonas E. Alexis, whose byline is on the post that Gosar promoted, has a history of antisemitism. His prior articles include:

  • “The six-million figure: another holocaust lie and the lying liars who enable it”;
  • “Why Not Question ‘the Holocaust’ in Schools?”t.”

In 2017, Politico reported that Veterans Today is connected to Kremlin propaganda and that “the site has consistently published articles that push the Kremlin party line.”

House Republicans reinstated Gosar to committee assignments after he was removed in the prior Congress for posting an anime video that depicted him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

ny times logoNew York Times, Hollywood Writers Approve of Strike as Shutdown Looms, John Koblin and Brooks Barnes, April 18, 2023 (print ed.). The writers have not gone on strike in 15 years, and the vote gives their unions the right to call for a walkout when their contract expires on May 1.

Hollywood is getting ever closer to a shutdown.

The unions representing thousands of television and movie writers said on Monday that they had overwhelming support for a strike, giving union leaders the right to call for a walkout when the writers’ contract with the major Hollywood studios expires on May 1.

The unions, which are affiliated East and West Coast branches of the Writers Guild of America, said more than 9,000 writers had approved a strike authorization, with 98 percent of the vote.

W.G.A. leaders have said this is an “existential” moment for writers, contending that compensation has stagnated over the last decade despite the explosion of television series in the streaming era. In an email last week to writers, the lead negotiators said that “the survival of writing as a profession is at stake in this negotiation.”

With two weeks to go before the contract expires, there has been little sign of progress in the talks. In the email, the negotiating committee said the studios “have failed to offer meaningful responses on the core economic issues” and offered only small concessions in a few areas.

April 17

washington post logoWashington Post, Exclusive: Russians boasted that just 1% of fake social profiles are caught, leak shows, Joseph Menn, April 17, 2023 (print ed.). An analysis of Russia’s effectiveness at boosting propaganda on social media platforms is part of a trove of documents recently leaked on the chat app Discord.

Russian FlagThe Russian government has become far more successful at manipulating social media and search engine rankings than previously known, boosting lies about Ukraine’s military and the side effects of vaccines with hundreds of thousands of fake online accounts, according to documents recently leaked on the chat app Discord.

The Russian operators of those accounts boast that they are detected by social networks only about 1 percent of the time, one document says.

meta logoThat claim, described here for the first time, drew alarm from former government officials and experts inside and outside social media companies contacted for this article.

“Google and Meta and others are trying to stop this, and Russia is trying to get better. The figure that you are citing suggests that Russia is winning,” said Thomas Rid, a disinformation scholar and professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.

The undated analysis of Russia’s effectiveness at boosting propaganda on Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, Telegram and other social media platforms cites activity in late 2022 and was apparently presented twitter bird Customto U.S. military leaders in recent months. It is part of a trove of documents circulated in a Discord chatroom and obtained by The Washington Post. Air National Guard technician Jack Teixeira was charged Friday with taking and transmitting the classified papers, charges for which he faces 15 years in prison.

elon musk 2015The revelations about Russia’s improved misinformation abilities come as Twitter owner Elon Musk, right, and some Republicans in Congress have accused the federal government of colluding with the tech companies to suppress right-wing and independent views by painting too many accounts as Russian attempts at foreign influence. A board set up to coordinate U.S. government policy on disinformation was disbanded last year after questions were raised about its purpose and a coordinated campaign aimed at the person who had been selected to lead it.

Twitter employees also say they worry that Musk’s cutbacks have hurt the platform’s ability to fight influence operations. Propaganda campaigns and hate speech have increased since Musk took over the site in October, according to employees and outside researchers. Russian misinformation promoters even bought Musk’s new blue-check verifications.

Many of the 10 current and former intelligence and tech safety specialists interviewed for this article cautioned that the Russian agency whose claims helped form the basis for the leaked document may have exaggerated its success rate.


Tik Tok CEO Shou Zi  Chew (Reuters Photo by Evelyn Hockstein).

Tik Tok CEO Shou Zi Chew (Reuters Photo by Evelyn Hockstein during testimony on March 23, 2023, above, and in file photos below).

shou zi chew

washington post logoWashington Post, The Discord Leaks Analysis: Discord leak suggests China doesn’t need TikTok to find U.S. secrets, Will Oremus, April 17, 2023 (print ed.). The leak of classified documents via U.S.-based app Discord is a reminder that social media is hard to control.

On March 23, lawmakers crowded into a packed Capitol hearing room to harangue the CEO of the social app TikTok about the company’s Chinese ownership and the risks it posed to U.S. national security. Months earlier, President Biden had signed a bill banning TikTok from federal employees’ devices, to prevent sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands.

China FlagWhat the members of Congress didn’t know was that state secrets had been trickling out for months on social media and were beginning to circulate in ever-wider online forums — not on TikTok, but on U.S.-owned Discord. In the two weeks after the TikTok hearing, those classified documents would make their way into public view on U.S.-owned Twitter — and remain there for days, as owner Elon Musk mocked the idea that he ought to remove them.

The leaks, which included assessments of the Ukraine war and revelations of U.S. spying, didn’t stem from any foreign adversary’s sinister plot. Rather, they appear to have stemmed from a 21-year-old U.S. National Guard member’s desire to impress his online pals.

The Discord document dump is the latest in a colorful 21st-century tradition of secrets spilled online, from WikiLeaks’ earliest uploads to Russian operatives’ dnc square logohack of the Democratic National Committee. At a time when swaths of the U.S. government are fixated on Chinese spycraft, it serves as a reminder that information leaks in the internet age can come from just about anywhere — a risk the U.S. government has generally accepted as a price of free speech, said Anumpam Chander, a law professor at Georgetown University and an expert on technology regulations.

“The internet was never designed with national security at its heart,” Chander said. “It’s inherently vulnerable.”

The hypothetical threats posed by TikTok’s Chinese ownership aren’t about leaked classified documents. They include fears that China’s government might demand or covertly gain access to data on the app’s American users, or persuade the company to secretly manipulate its algorithms in ways that promote or suppress certain ideas. In particular, the ban of TikTok from government devices is meant to guard against the possibility that Chinese Communist Party members or officials could gain access to the personal data of U.S. officials.

There’s no hard evidence that any of those things have happened. Both the Chinese government and TikTok insist they never will, and TikTok has taken unusual steps to limit the exposure of Americans’ data, such as not tracking their precise location using GPS, as countless other mobile apps routinely do. And the Pentagon has official guidance for troops on how to use TikTok safely.

Still, the theoretical possibility has sparked bipartisan furor in Washington. Not content with the government devices ban, some congressional Republicans and Democrats, and the Biden administration, are scrambling for a legal basis on which to ban the app altogether. One approach would give the secretary of commerce special powers to crack down not just on TikTok, but also on whole categories of apps whose parent companies are based in countries designated as “foreign adversaries.”

The fears are understandable. China is known to spy. Barriers between Chinese companies and the Chinese government are flimsy. And President Xi Jinping has put the screws to tech firms in the past.

Russians boasted that just 1% of fake social profiles are caught, leak shows

Why a 21-year-old had a top-secret security clearance

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Kids Can’t Read’: The Revolt That Is Taking on the Education Establishment, Sarah Mervosh, April 17, 2023 (print ed.). Fed up parents, civil rights activists, newly awakened educators and lawmakers are crusading for “the science of reading.” Can they get results?

In suburban Houston, parents rose up against a top-rated school district, demanding an entirely new reading curriculum.

At an elementary school in Hutchinson, Minn., a veteran teacher is crusading for reform, haunted by the fear that, for 28 years, she failed children because she was not trained in the cognitive science behind reading.

And Ohio may become the latest state to overhaul reading instruction, under a plan by Gov. Mike DeWine.

“The evidence is clear,” Mr. DeWine said. “The verdict is in.”

A revolt over how children are taught to read, steadily building for years, is now sweeping school board meetings and statehouses around the country.

The movement, under the banner of “the science of reading,” is targeting the education establishment: school districts, literacy gurus, publishers and colleges of education, which critics say have failed to embrace the cognitive science of how children learn to read.

Research shows that most children need systematic, sound-it-out instruction — known as phonics — as well as other direct support, like building vocabulary and expanding students’ knowledge of the world.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Promising Signs for Free Speech on Campus, David French, right, April 17, 2023 (print ed.).The extremist attack on free speech (from right and left) degrades American david french croppeddemocracy, and that attack is especially acute on college campuses, whether it comes from angry left-wing students who shout down conservative speakers, vengeful right-wing legislators who pass laws restricting free expression in the academy or the online activism that often demands that universities discipline scholars for engaging in provocative (but constitutionally protected) speech.

This isn’t a column about doom, however, but rather about hope. I litigated free speech issues on college campuses for almost 20 years, and I’ve never seen such widespread, institutional academic support for free expression.

Let’s take Stanford University, for example. In the days and weeks since law students shouted down and disrupted a speech by a federal judge, the center has taken a stand. The dean of Stanford Law School, Jenny Martinez, penned a powerful, 10-page memorandum that mandated a half-day of instruction on free speech and legal norms, reaffirmed the school’s dedication to the Stanford Statement on Academic Freedom and declared: “Unless we recognize that student members of the Federalist Society and other conservatives have the same right to express their views free of coercion, we cannot live up to this commitment nor can we claim that we are fostering an inclusive environment for all students.”

Then there’s Cornell University. In March, the school’s undergraduate student assembly unanimously approved a resolution calling for trigger warnings in syllabuses to warn students of “graphic traumatic content” in course content. Cornell’s president, Martha E. Pollack, promptly vetoed it.

In a joint letter with Cornell’s provost, Michael I. Kotlikoff, she explained that the trigger warning policy “would violate our faculty’s fundamental right to determine what and how to teach, preventing them from adding, throughout the semester, any content that any student might find upsetting.” Moreover, the letter said, the policy would “have a chilling effect on faculty, who would naturally fear censure lest they bring a discussion spontaneously into new and challenging territory, or fail to accurately anticipate students’ reaction to a topic or idea.”

The faculty at Harvard University is also stepping up. In an opinion essay in The Boston Globe, Harvard’s Steven Pinker and Bertha Madras announced the creation of the Council on Academic Freedom, a coalition of 50 faculty members and several other Harvard employees “devoted to free inquiry, intellectual diversity and civil discourse.”

On Monday, Vanderbilt University will announce the expansion of its Future of Free Speech Project, run with Denmark’s Aarhus University and the think tank Justitia, which will include an international focus on free expression. I spoke to the project’s executive director, Jacob Mchangama, and he emphasized that American support for free speech can have a global impact in combating tyranny. He pointed to a piece he wrote in Foreign Policy noting that American legal standards have influenced foreign courts, specifically by enhancing press freedom. In our conversation, he made a point that’s critical in contemporary debates. “Free speech and equality,” he said, “are mutually reinforcing, not mutually exclusive.”

That’s four elite American academic institutions that have doubled down on free speech in just one month.

And we cannot forget the University of Chicago. Since 2014, it’s arguably been the single most influential academic institution in the United States supporting academic freedom. Its statement on free speech declares the “university’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the university community to be offensive, unwise, immoral or wrongheaded.” A version of the Chicago statement has been adopted by almost 100 colleges, universities and state university systems, including Princeton University, Johns Hopkins University and the North Carolina and Wisconsin state university systems.

I share this not to declare that the battle for free speech on campus is won. Far from it. The Stanford statement was in response to a student disruption. This month, the former N.C.A.A. swimmer Riley Gaines alleged she was assaulted after speaking at San Francisco State University in opposition to transgender women competing in women’s sports. There’s video evidence that Gaines was chased through the halls by angry protesters and that her event was disrupted by chanting, foot-stomping protests.

And disruptions like those we witnessed at Stanford and San Francisco State have occurred alongside hundreds of recent attempts to fire or punish scholars for speech that’s protected by the First Amendment or basic principles of academic freedom.

It’s important to emphasize that the fight over free speech on campus is not left versus right. Attempts to suppress ideas and stifle speech come from both ends of the political spectrum. The faculty and administrators at Stanford, Cornell, Harvard and Chicago who are making their stands aren’t a collection of conservatives taking on woke college students. Instead, they represent the moral and legal center of the American academy taking on the extremes.

Left and right tend to challenge free speech on campus in different ways. Left-leaning students have led shout-downs and disrupted events, while right-leaning legislators have passed or considered laws stifling the expression of controversial ideas about race and gender. Both sides have proved capable of mobilizing online outrage to punish professors who offend their constituencies.

The First Amendment cannot be tied to one side of our partisan divide. It’s not a Republican value or a Democratic value but rather an American value, and it’s a value that’s particularly important in the academy.

April 16

Washington Post, Elon Musk reinvented Twitter. Now people are leaving, Faiz Siddiqui, Rachel Lerman and Jeremy B. Merrill, April 16, 2023 (print ed.). Twitter has been dramatically transformed under Musk and few — even among some in the billionaire’s corner — say the changes have been for the better.

A year ago this month, Elon Musk turned to his favorite social media site with a question. “Is Twitter dying?” he asked.

On the anniversary of his hostile takeover bid to buy the social media company, he may have his answer.

Twitter has been dramatically transformed under Musk and few — even among some in the billionaire’s corner — say the changes have been for the better. In recent weeks, government agencies, news organizations and powerful social media influencers have questioned the usefulness of the platform, with some major players publicly abandoning their accounts or telling users they can’t rely on it for urgent information.

Advertisers have fled in droves over Musk’s policy changes and erratic behavior on the site, causing advertising revenue to recently drop by as much as 75 percent, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share sensitive internal information. Rounds of layoffs have left Twitter operating with a skeleton staff of 1,500 — an 80 percent reduction — and so riddled with bugs and glitches that the site goes down for hours at a time.

Meanwhile, the company’s valuation has cratered, Musk has said, to less than half the $44 billion he paid when he bought the company roughly six months ago.

The resulting changes have left a key venue for seeking critical information unreliable, hindering the flow of critical information.

“I’d say the pain level of Twitter has been extremely high,” Musk said in an interview this week with the BBC, assessing his first six months in charge. “It’s been really quite a stressful situation.” But he added that advertisers were returning and that he anticipates a roughly “break even” financial picture, adding: “Overall, I think the trend is very good.”

Even some Musk fans see things quite differently. Musk has garnered a reputation as a business genius with a Midas touch, but his erratic decision-making at Twitter has taken some of the sheen off his supposed brilliance.

“I am disappointed that he seems to have made as many mistakes as he’s made with Twitter. I don’t think the product’s gotten materially better,” said one person in Musk’s orbit who initially cheered the takeover, speaking on the condition of anonymity to offer a candid assessment of his tenure.

“He overpaid. He got a lot of bad press,” the person added. “It’s surprising.”

Musk and Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

Saturday morning, Musk tweeted that he’d deleted his list of blocked accounts on Twitter. “Negative feedback received on this platform is great for reducing ego-based errors,” he added.

washington post logoWashington Post, Exclusive: Russians boasted that just 1% of fake social profiles are caught, leak shows, Joseph Menn, April 16, 2023. An analysis of Russia’s effectiveness at boosting propaganda on social media platforms is part of a trove of documents recently leaked on the chat app Discord.

The Russian government has become far more successful at manipulating social media and search engine rankings than previously known, boosting lies about Ukraine’s military and the side effects of vaccines with hundreds of thousands of fake online accounts, according to documents recently leaked on the chat app Discord.

meta logoThe Russian operators of those accounts boast that they are detected by social networks only about 1 percent of the time, one document says.

That claim, described here for the first time, drew alarm from former government officials and experts inside and outside social media companies contacted for this article.

twitter bird Custom“Google and Meta and others are trying to stop this, and Russia is trying to get better. The figure that you are citing suggests that Russia is winning,” said Thomas Rid, a disinformation scholar and professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.

The undated analysis of Russia’s effectiveness at boosting propaganda on Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, Telegram and other social media platforms cites activity in late 2022 and was apparently presented to U.S. military leaders in recent months. It is part of a trove of documents circulated in a Discord chatroom and obtained by The Washington Post. Air National Guard technician Jack Teixeira was charged Friday with taking and transmitting the classified papers, charges for which he faces 15 years in prison.

elon musk 2015The revelations about Russia’s improved misinformation abilities come as Twitter owner Elon Musk, right, and some Republicans in Congress have accused the federal government of colluding with the tech companies to suppress right-wing and independent views by painting too many accounts as Russian attempts at foreign influence. A board set up to coordinate U.S. government policy on disinformation was disbanded last year after questions were raised about its purpose and a coordinated campaign aimed at the person who had been selected to lead it.

Twitter employees also say they worry that Musk’s cutbacks have hurt the platform’s ability to fight influence operations. Propaganda campaigns and hate speech have increased since Musk took over the site in October, according to employees and outside researchers. Russian misinformation promoters even bought Musk’s new blue-check verifications.

Many of the 10 current and former intelligence and tech safety specialists interviewed for this article cautioned that the Russian agency whose claims helped form the basis for the leaked document may have exaggerated its success rate.

April 15

truth social logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Six Takeaways From Trump’s New Financial Disclosure, Michael C. Bender, Eric Lipton, Matthew Goldstein and Ken Bensinger, April 15, 2023 (print ed.). In a 101-page filing, Donald Trump revealed lower-than-expected values on his social media company and sizable bank loans.

Former President Donald J. Trump provided the first look at his post-presidency business dealings on Friday with a new personal financial disclosure. Though light on specifics, the documents filed with the Federal Election Commission revealed lower-than-expected values on his social media company, two additional hefty bank loans and a new income stream for former first lady Melania Trump.

The former president filed his disclosure after requesting multiple extensions. He had been warned that he would face fines if he failed to file within 30 days of a March 16 deadline.

fec logo black background CustomThe financial disclosure shows cumulative income from January 2021 to Dec. 15, 2022, as required by the Federal Election Commission, and the value of assets as of December 2022, according to a person familiar with the documents.

Here are six takeaways from the 101-page filing.

Trump’s social media company takes a valuation hit. The disclosure valued the parent company of Truth Social, the former president’s social media platform and personal megaphone, at between $5 million and $25 million. That reported value for the parent company, Trump Media & Technology Group, was considerably less than the potential $9 billion valuation for the company when it announced a merger in October 2021 with a cash-rich special purpose acquisition company called Digital World Acquisition Company.

The estimate reflected the current value for Mr. Trump’s holding and was not an attempt to price the assets after a potential estimate, a person familiar with the filing said. Still, the intrinsic value of Trump Media is considerably less than he had hoped for when he launched the company in early 2021.

The merger deal has been held up by dual investigations by federal prosecutors and securities regulators, causing the stock of Digital World to tumble from a high of $97 a share to its current price of $13.10 a share. Still, if the deal is ever completed, it will bring at least $300 million in badly needed cash to Trump Media and potentially increase Mr. Trump’s paper wealth by a considerable amount. And Mr. Trump stands to get 70 million shares.

Trump’s online trading cards show underwhelming early sales. Late last year, Mr. Trump announced a foray into digital assets known as NFTs, or nonfungible tokens. Trump Cards, virtual trading cards illustrated with a variety of cartoonish images of the former president, first went up for sale on Dec. 15.

Expectations for the deal — orchestrated by Bill Zanker, a serial entrepreneur who had previously co-authored a book with Mr. Trump and paid him millions of dollars in speaking fees — were high: NFTs had commanded stunning prices in recent years, with one single token topping $22 million in early 2022.

Privately, Mr. Trump had been assured the venture could hit as much as $100 million in sales, but early returns suggested a less spectacular outcome, with analysts estimating less than $6 million in total revenue by early February.

Mr. Trump’s new financial disclosure states that the company he created for the NFT project, CIC Digital LLC, had between $100,001 and $1 million in income. But because the filing cuts off on Dec. 15 — the exact day that Trump Cards began trading — it was unclear how much of the early sales of the NFTs was included.

 ny times logoNew York Times, 35 Ways Real People Are Using A.I. Right Now, Francesca Paris and Larry Buchanan, April 15, 2023 (print ed.). Planning workouts. Creating cocktails. Designing spaceship parts. Here’s how A.I. models have found their way into work, life, play and procrastination.

The public release of ChatGPT last fall kicked off a wave of interest in artificial intelligence. A.I. models have since snaked their way into many people’s everyday lives. People are using ChatGPT and other A.I. tools to save time at work, to code without knowing how to code, to make daily life easier or just to have fun.

It goes beyond everyday fiddling: In the last few years, companies and scholars have started to use A.I. to supercharge work they could never have imagined, designing new molecules with the help of an algorithm or building alien-like spaceship parts.

April 14

ny times logoNew York Times, Misinformation Defense Worked in 2020, Up to a Point, a Study Finds, Tiffany Hsu, April 14, 2023 (print ed.). Nearly 68 million Americans still visited untrustworthy websites 1.5 billion times in a month, according to Stanford researchers, causing concerns for 2024.

Not long after misinformation plagued the 2016 election, journalists and content moderators scrambled to turn Americans away from untrustworthy websites before the 2020 vote.

stanford bannerA new study suggests that, to some extent, their efforts succeeded.

When Americans went to the polls in 2020, a far smaller portion had visited websites containing false and misleading narratives compared with four years earlier, according to researchers at Stanford. Although the number of such sites ballooned, the average visits among those people dropped, along with the time spent on each site.

Efforts to educate people about the risk of misinformation after 2016, including content labels and media literacy training, most likely contributed to the decline, the researchers found. Their study was published on Thursday in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.

“I am optimistic that the majority of the population is increasingly resilient to misinformation on the web,” said Jeff Hancock, the founding director of the Stanford Social Media Lab and the lead author of the report. “We’re getting better and better at distinguishing really problematic, bad, harmful information from what’s reliable or entertainment.”

Still, nearly 68 million people in the United States checked out websites that were not credible, visiting 1.5 billion times in a month in 2020, the researchers estimated. That included domains that are now defunct, such as and Some people in the study visited some of tiktok logo square Customthose sites hundreds of times.

As the 2024 election approaches, the researchers worry that misinformation is evolving and splintering. Beyond web browsers, many people are exposed to conspiracy theories and extremism simply by scrolling through mobile apps such as TikTok. More dangerous content has shifted onto encrypted messaging apps with difficult-to-trace private channels, such as Telegram or WhatsApp.

ny times logoNew York Times, Texas County Keeps Public Libraries Open Amid Book Ban Controversy, David Montgomery and Alexandra Alter, April 14, 2023 (print ed.). Officials in Llano County considered closing the entire library system in lieu of returning challenged titles to its shelves.

A small Texas county decided to keep its public libraries open amid a monthslong fight over keeping challenged material available to residents. During a heated public meeting on Thursday, county commissioners weighed whether to close the library system after a judge had ordered the county to restore 17 banned books to its shelves.

The decision was seen as a victory for a group of residents who had sued the county and library officials, arguing that the book removals were unconstitutional and violated citizens’ First Amendment rights.

The judge, Robert Pitman, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, ordered Llano County to return the books to their place while a lawsuit over the banned books, brought on by a group of county residents, proceeds. After the judge’s order was issued, county commissioners called a special meeting to decide whether to “continue or cease operations” at the library.

The ongoing fight has divided the community and made Llano, a rural county in central Texas about 80 miles northwest of Austin, a new testing ground for citizens invoking First Amendment protections in the face of rising book bans.

After impassioned statements from residents on both sides of the issue, including those who support removing books, Llano County commissioners voted unanimously to keep the library system open as the confrontation plays out in the courts.

They then adjourned without further comment.

Several of the books in question in Llano County have L.G.B.T.Q. themes or characters, or addressed racial inequality, but they also include goofy children’s titles, such as a series of picture books about flatulence.

Nationally, attempts to remove books nearly doubled last year over 2021, according to the American Library Association. There were 1,269 attempts to ban books and other resources in libraries and schools last year, the association found, the highest number since it began studying censorship efforts more than 20 years ago. The vast majority of the books are by or about L.G.B.T.Q. people or people of color, the association reported.

The battle over the contents of Llano County’s public libraries started in 2021, when library officials began removing specific books after members of the community complained that the titles were inappropriate for children — including Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen and Robie H. Harris’s It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health.


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

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Dan Snyder Agrees to Sell Washington Commanders for $6 Billion, Ken Belson and Katherine Rosman, April 14, 2023 (print ed.). The N.F.L. team is on track to be sold for a record figure to a group led by Josh Harris, as investigations into sexual harassment claims and the team’s finances continue.

Josh Harris, an owner of the N.B.A.’s Philadelphia 76ers and the N.H.L.’s New Jersey Devils, agreed in principle to buy the Washington Commanders for a record $6 billion from Dan Snyder, the longtime owner of the team plagued by scandals that drew investigations from the N.F.L., Congress and other government agencies.

With the end of Snyder’s tenure nearing, the N.F.L. can begin to distance itself from a painful chapter in its history and right the future of the popular franchise, which under Snyder had been tarnished by accusations of a toxic workplace and an inability to secure a new stadium.

The sale, first reported by Sportico, was confirmed by a person with knowledge of the agreement who was not authorized to speak publicly about the terms.

The agreement comes as the N.F.L. continues its second investigation into allegations of widespread sexual harassment made against executives at the team, including Snyder, as well as potential financial improprieties. Those allegations, coupled with Snyder’s inability to build a new stadium and a backlash from the team’s fans, had pushed many of the owners of the league’s other teams to consider voting to force him to sell the team, which he bought in 1999 for $800 million.

Harris’s group includes Mitchell Rales, a billionaire from the Washington, D.C., area, and a group of limited partners that includes Magic Johnson. Once they submit the deal, the sale would have to be approved by the league’s finance committee and by at least three-quarters of the 31 other team owners, who next meet in person on May 22 and 23 in Minneapolis.

Last June, the Walton family, founders of Walmart, bought the Denver Broncos for $4.65 billion, about twice as much as the previous record high for an N.F.L. team.

The Washington Commanders roll out their team name and logo at media reveal from FedExField, Landover, Maryland, February 2nd, 2022 (Joe Glorioso | All-Pro Reels) Snyder, 58, shown in a 2022 photo via Wikimedia, and his wife, Tanya, a co-owner of the team, formally began a search for a buyer in November 2022, when they hired Bank of America to seek offers for all or a portion of the Commanders. They began to field offers just weeks after the owner Jim Irsay of the Indianapolis Colts said that Snyder “needs to be removed,” confirming what owners had been saying privately for months.

April 13


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

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

 ny times logoNew York Times, Landmark Trial Against Fox News Could Affect the Future of Libel Law, Michael M. Grynbaum, April 13, 2023. Jury selection starts on fox news logo SmallThursday in Delaware Superior Court, where the proceedings will tackle misinformation and the limits of journalistic responsibility.Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation case against the network will tackle misinformation and the limits of journalistic responsibility.

dominion voting systemsDominion Voting Systems’ defamation case against Fox News, which goes to trial in Delaware next week, is expected to stoke hot-button debates over journalistic ethics, the unchecked flow of misinformation, and the ability of Americans to sort out facts and falsehoods in a polarized age.

For a particular subset of the legal and media communities, the trial is also shaping up as something else: the libel law equivalent of the Super Bowl.

“I’ve been involved in hundreds of libel cases, and there has never been a case like this,” said Martin Garbus, a veteran First Amendment lawyer. “It’s going to be a dramatic moment in American history.”

With jury selection set to begin on Thursday in Delaware Superior Court in Wilmington, the case has so far been notable for its unprecedented window into rupert murdoch pink shirtsleevesthe inner workings of Fox News. Emails and text messages introduced as evidence showed the Fox host Tucker Carlson insulting former President Donald J. Trump to his colleagues, and Rupert Murdoch, left, whose family controls the Fox media empire, aggressively weighing in on editorial decisions, among other revelations.

Now, after months of depositions and dueling motions, the lawyers will face off before a jury, and legal scholars and media lawyers say the arguments are likely to plumb some of the knottier questions of American libel law.

Dominion, an elections technology firm, is seeking $1.6 billion in damages after Fox News aired false claims that the company had engaged in an elaborate conspiracy to steal the 2020 presidential election for Joseph R. Biden Jr. The claims, repeated on Fox programs hosted by anchors like Maria Bartiromo and Lou Dobbs, were central to Mr. Trump’s effort to persuade Americans that he had not actually lost.

Lawyers for Fox have argued that the network is protected as a news-gathering organization, and that claims of election fraud, voiced by lawyers for a sitting president, were the epitome of newsworthiness. “Ultimately, this case is about the First Amendment protections of the media’s absolute right to cover the news,” the network has said.


fox upside down news

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Imposes Sanction on Fox for Withholding Evidence in Defamation Case, Katie Robertson and Jeremy W. Peters, April 13, 2023 (print ed.). Judge Eric Davis also said an investigation was likely into Fox’s handling of documents and whether it had withheld details about Rupert Murdoch’s corporate role.

dominion voting systemsThe judge overseeing Dominion Voting Systems’ lawsuit against Fox News said on Wednesday that he was imposing a sanction on the network and would very likely start an investigation into whether Fox’s legal team had deliberately withheld evidence, scolding the lawyers for not being “straightforward” with him.

The rebuke came after lawyers for Dominion, which is suing for defamation, revealed a number of instances in which Fox’s lawyers had not turned over evidence in a timely manner. That evidence included recordings of the Fox News host Maria Bartiromo talking with former President Donald J. Trump’s lawyers, Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, which Dominion said had been turned over only a week ago.

eric davisIn imposing the sanction on Fox, Judge Eric M. Davis, right, of the Delaware Superior Court ruled that if Dominion had to do additional depositions, or redo any, then Fox would have to “do everything they can to make the person available, and it will be at a cost to Fox.”

He also said he would very likely appoint a special master — an outside lawyer — to investigate Fox’s handling of discovery of documents and the question of whether Fox had inappropriately withheld details about the scope of Rupert Murdoch’s role. Since Dominion filed its suit in early 2021, Fox had argued that Mr. Murdoch and Fox Corporation, the parent company, should not be part of the case because Mr. Murdoch, the chair, and other senior executives had nothing to do with running Fox News. But in the past few days, Fox disclosed to Dominion that Mr. Murdoch was a corporate officer at Fox News.

Dominion, a voting technology company, accused Fox and some of the network’s executives and hosts of smearing its reputation by linking it to a nonexistent conspiracy to rig voting machines in the 2020 presidential election. Fox had said that it was just reporting on newsworthy allegations from Mr. Trump, who was then the president, as well as his lawyers and supporters, who told Fox’s hosts and producers that they would prove their allegations in court.

Jury selection starts on Thursday, and the trial is scheduled to begin on Monday. It wasn’t immediately clear whether Dominion would avail itself of the judge’s ruling allowing its lawyers to conduct additional depositions. But it was clear from Judge Davis’s stern reprimand of Fox’s lawyers on Wednesday — and similarly piqued remarks from him during another hearing on Tuesday — that he was losing patience.

The judge told Fox’s lawyers to retain all internal communications, starting from March 20 of this year, that related to Mr. Murdoch’s role at Fox News. That was the date the lawyers submitted a letter to Judge Davis asking that Mr. Murdoch and other Fox Corporation executives not be forced to testify at the trial in person, saying they had “limited knowledge of pertinent facts.” The letter did not mention that Mr. Murdoch was also a Fox News executive.

Judge Davis said he would weigh whether any additional sanctions should be placed on Fox.

He also said he was very concerned that there had been “misrepresentations to the court.”

“This is very serious,” Judge Davis said.

Davida Brook, a lawyer for Dominion, told the court that they were still receiving relevant documents from Fox, with the trial just days away.

“We keep on learning about more relevant information from individuals other than Fox,” she said. “And to be honest we don’t really know what to do about that, but that is the situation we find ourselves in.”

She pointed to one email that had recently been handed over, between Ms. Bartiromo and Ms. Powell on Nov. 7, 2020. In the email, Ms. Powell was forwarding evidence to Ms. Bartiromo that Dominion said was proof Fox had acted recklessly: an email from a woman Ms. Powell relied on as a source who exhibited signs of delusion, claiming, for instance, that she was aware of voter fraud because she had special powers, including the ability to time travel.

“I just spoke to Eric and told him you gave very imp info,” Ms. Bartiromo wrote back to Ms. Powell, most likely referring to Eric Trump, Mr. Trump’s son.

Ms. Brook also played two recordings for the court of pre-interviews, which are preliminary conversations before an on-air interview, conducted by Ms. Bartiromo that Ms. Brook said were received only after they were revealed in legal complaints filed by Abby Grossberg, a former Fox News producer who is suing the network.

In one of the recordings, on Nov. 8, 2020, Ms. Bartiromo asks Mr. Giuliani about Dominion’s software. In it, he admits that he doesn’t have hard evidence to back up the claim that the software could be manipulated, saying it was “being analyzed right now.” When Ms. Bartiromo asks about a conspiracy theory circulating at the time that claimed Dominion was connected to Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, Mr. Giuliani says: “Yeah, I’ve read that. I can’t prove that yet.”

A Fox News spokeswoman said in a statement on Wednesday: “As counsel explained to the court, Fox produced the supplemental information from Ms. Grossberg when we first learned it.”

Justin Nelson, another lawyer for Dominion, told Judge Davis that had Fox Corporation, the parent company, been quicker to share the information about Mr. Murdoch’s role as an officer of Fox News, the universe of documents Dominion could have obtained during discovery from him and other Fox Corporation executives would have been much larger. He also said that Fox might have failed to produce relevant documents.

“We have been litigating based upon this false premise that Rupert Murdoch wasn’t an officer of Fox News,” he said.

npr logoNational Public Radio (NPR), NPR announced it would cease posting to Twitter after the social media platform labeled the nonprofit "Government-funded Media," David Folkenflik, April 12-13, 2023. NPR will no longer post fresh content to its 52 official Twitter feeds, becoming the first major news organization to go silent on the social media platform. In explaining its decision, NPR cited Twitter's decision to first label the network "state-affiliated media," the same term it uses for propaganda outlets in Russia, China and other autocratic countries.

The decision by Twitter last week took the public radio network off guard. When queried by NPR tech reporter Bobby Allyn, Twitter owner Elon Musk asked how NPR functioned. Musk allowed that he might have gotten it wrong.

twitter bird CustomTwitter then revised its label on NPR's account to "government-funded media." The news organization says that is inaccurate and misleading, given that NPR is a private, nonprofit company with editorial independence. It receives less than 1 percent of its $300 million annual budget from the federally funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

By going silent on Twitter, NPR's chief executive says the network is protecting its credibility and its ability to produce journalism without "a shadow of negativity."

"The downside, whatever the downside, doesn't change that fact," NPR CEO John Lansing said in an interview. "I would never have our content go anywhere that would risk our credibility."

Elon Musk says NPR's 'state-affiliated media' label might not have been accurate

elon musk sideviewIn a BBC interview posted online Wednesday, Musk, shown above in a file photo, suggested he may further change the label to "publicly funded." His words did not sway NPR's decision makers. Even if Twitter were to drop the designation altogether, Lansing says the network will not immediately return to the platform.

"At this point I have lost my faith in the decision-making at Twitter," he says. "I would need some time to understand whether Twitter can be trusted again."

NPR's Allyn emailed Musk on Wednesday morning asking for "your reaction" to the news organization quitting Twitter.

Initially, Musk didn't respond, but a couple of hours later Musk tweeted out Allyn's email followed with a tweet saying "Defund @NPR." His followers quickly piled on.

NPR is instituting a "two-week grace period" so the staff who run the Twitter accounts can revise their social-media strategies. Lansing says individual NPR journalists and staffers can decide for themselves whether to continue using Twitter.

In an email to staff explaining the decision, Lansing wrote, "It would be a disservice to the serious work you all do here to continue to share it on a platform that is associating the federal charter for public media with an abandoning of editorial independence or standards."


pbs logoAxios, PBS stops tweeting after Musk adds "government-funded" label, Sara Fischer, April 12-13, 2023. PBS has not tweeted from its main Twitter handle since April 8, following Elon Musk's decision to label the outlet "government-funded news."

axios logoWhy it matters: PBS joins NPR, another major editorially independent outlet that receives some government funding, in halting its Twitter activity in light of the new label.

NPR said Wednesday it was suspending its use of Twitter after the platform labeled it "government-funded."

twitter bird CustomDetails: Twitter added a "government-funded" label to PBS' main Twitter account last weekend, a spokesperson confirmed.

“We did stop tweeting at that point as soon as we discovered it," a PBS spokesperson confirmed. "We have no plans to resume tweeting."

The label was placed only on PBS' main Twitter handle, not any of the accounts affiliated with PBS, like its local stations or individual shows.

State of play: NPR and PBS are the second and third major outlets to stop tweeting since Musk bought Twitter last fall. CBS news last year paused its use of Twitter temporarily after Musk purchased the platform.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jeff Bezos isn’t planning Commanders bid, clearing path for Josh Harris group, Mark Maske and Nicki Jhabvala, April 13, 2023 (print ed.). Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has no plans to enter the bidding for the Washington Commanders, a person familiar with the bidding process said Wednesday, potentially clearing the way for a group led by Josh Harris to complete a deal to purchase the franchise from Daniel Snyder.

amazon logo smallBezos, who owns The Washington Post, declined to comment through a spokesperson. But the person with knowledge of the process said Bezos does not intend to bid on the team, and others familiar with the sale process have said they believe Harris’s group would be the favorite to purchase the franchise from Snyder if Bezos does not bid.

It was not clear Wednesday whether an agreement between Harris’s group and Snyder might be close. The Commanders declined to comment through a spokesperson.

Snyder has not notified the NFL and its finance committee that he has reached a deal to sell the team, a person with direct knowledge of the league’s inner workings and the views of the owners said Wednesday. But hopes are growing that a sale could occur in the coming weeks, that person said.

Harris, the owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, is estimated by Forbes to have a net worth of $5.9 billion. His investment group includes Potomac, Md., businessman and philanthropist Mitchell Rales and Basketball Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. Rales, the co-founder of the Danaher Corporation, has an estimated net worth of $5.6 billion, according to Forbes.

Harris-Rales partnership gives Daniel Snyder a strong non-Bezos option

Harris’s group and another group led by Canadian commercial real estate developer and private equity executive Steve Apostolopoulos entered competing formal bids last month for the Commanders, people with direct knowledge of the sale process said then. The bid by Harris’s group was for about $6 billion, according to a person with direct knowledge of the process.

April 12

ny times logoNew York Times, Mass Layoffs and Absentee Bosses Create a Morale Crisis at Meta, Sheera Frenkel and Mike Isaac, April 12, 2023. Workers at Facebook’s parent have been increasingly alarmed by job cuts and the company’s direction.

mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wMark Zuckerberg, left, Meta’s chief executive, has declared that 2023 will be the “year of efficiency” at his company. So far, efficiency has translated into mass layoffs. He has conducted two rounds of cuts over the past six months, eliminating more than 26,000 people, or nearly 30 percent of his company’s work force.

meta logoAt the same time, some of Meta’s top executives have moved away and are managing large parts of the Silicon Valley company from their new homes in places like London and Tel Aviv.

The layoffs and absentee leadership, along with concerns that Mr. Zuckerberg is making a bad bet on the future, have devastated employee morale at Meta, according to nine current and former employees, as well as messages reviewed by The New York Times.

facebook logoEmployees at Meta, which not long ago was one of the most desirable workplaces in Silicon Valley, face an increasingly precarious future. The company’s stock price has dropped 43 percent from its peak 19 months ago. More layoffs, Mr. Zuckerberg has said on his Facebook page, are coming this month. And for the first time, some of those cuts could be in engineering groups, which would have been unthinkable before the trouble started last year, two employees said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Should College Come With Trigger Warnings? At Cornell, It’s a ‘Hard No,’ Katherine Rosman, April 12, 2023. When the student assembly voted to require faculty to alert students to potentially upsetting educational materials, administrators pushed back.

cornell bannerLast month, a Cornell University sophomore, Claire Ting, was studying with friends when one of them became visibly upset and was unable continue her work.

For a Korean American literature class, the woman was reading The Surrendered, a novel by Chang-rae Lee about a Korean girl orphaned by the Korean War that includes a graphic rape scene. Ms. Ting’s friend had recently testified at a campus hearing against a student who she said sexually assaulted her, the woman said in an interview. Reading the passage so soon afterward left her feeling unmoored.

Ms. Ting, a member of Cornell’s undergraduate student assembly, believed her friend deserved a heads-up about the upsetting material. That day, she drafted a resolution urging instructors to provide warnings on the syllabus about “traumatic content” that might be discussed in class, including sexual assault, self-harm and transphobic violence.

The resolution was unanimously approved by the assembly late last month. Less than a week after it was submitted to the administration for approval, Martha E. Pollack, the university president, vetoed it.

“We cannot accept this resolution as the actions it recommends would infringe on our core commitment to academic freedom and freedom of inquiry, and are at odds with the goals of a Cornell education,” Ms. Pollack wrote in a letter with the university provost, Michael I. Kotlikoff.

To some, the conflict illustrates a stark divide in how different generations define free speech and how much value they place on its absolute protection, especially at a time of increased sensitivity toward mental health concerns.

After decades of university battles over tinderbox issues of students’ rights, speech codes and how best to grapple with unpopular speakers and ideas, proponents of free speech are lauding Ms. Pollack’s quick and unequivocal action. They characterize it as part of a larger national shift, marked by university leadership more forcefully pushing back against efforts to shut down speakers and topics that might offend.

“What was unique about the Cornell situation is they rapidly turned in a response that was a ‘hard no,’” said Alex Morey, the director of campus rights advocacy for the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, a nonpartisan organization focused on issues of free speech. “There was no level of kowtowing. It was a very firm defense of what it means to get an education.”

The current free speech issue at Cornell is one that has been debated on campuses across the country. “Content warnings” or “trigger warnings” refer to verbal or written alerts that assigned material, including academic writing or artistic expression, may involve sensitive or upsetting themes or details that may cause a student to have an emotional response tied to a personal experience.

Professors on some campuses use such warnings, though mandates are rare.

April 9


matt taibbi elon musk

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter targets its rival Substack, forcing well-known journalists to choose, Taylor Lorenz, April 9, 2023 (print ed.). Matt Taibbi, above left, whom Elon Musk, above right, solicited to write the ‘Twitter Files,’ says he’ll start using Substack’s new Twitter clone.

twitter bird CustomMatt Taibbi, who was chosen by Twitter owner Elon Musk to write segments of the controversial “Twitter Files,” announced Friday that he’s quitting the platform to protest new restrictions on links to Substack, a rival newsletter and social media platform where Taibbi is one of the most popular contributors.

The split comes just days after Substack announced that it was starting a new service, Substack Notes, that appears to be a Twitter-like platform.

“It turns out Twitter is upset about the new Substack Notes feature, which they see as a hostile rival,” Taibbi wrote in a Substack post he titled “The Craziest Friday Ever,” adding: “I’m staying at Substack. You’ve all been great to me, as has the management of this company. Beginning early next week I’ll be using the new Substack Notes feature (to which you’ll all have access) instead of Twitter, a decision that apparently will come with a price as far as any future Twitter Files reports are concerned.”

In a tweet, Taibbi also announced his planned departure from Twitter. Earlier, @BigTechAlert, an account that monitors Twitter activity between Silicon Valley and media leaders, announced that Musk’s Twitter account had unfollowed Taibbi.

The split is an ironic development given Taibbi’s role in the “Twitter Files,” Musk’s attempt to expose alleged collusion between previous Twitter management and the federal government to censor conservatives.

Musk did not respond to a request for comment. Taibbi also did not respond to a request for comment. (Disclosure: This reporter has a free Substack newsletter.)

Friday’s events were the culmination of two days of turmoil between the two Silicon Valley platforms. On Wednesday, Substack announced that it would be releasing Notes, which looks like Twitter and functions almost identically to it. The platform had been testing it for weeks, wooing high-profile figures away from Twitter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Meta paid VR developers salaries of up to $1 million. Facebook’s owner is now in financial trouble, Naomi Nix, April 9, 2023 (print ed.). Programmers’ high pay is just a sliver of the company’s multibillion-dollar metaverse investment.

meta logoFor years, Meta has pushed a rosy vision about the future of human communication in which people — represented by a diverse slate of avatars — work, play and shop together in immersive digital worlds accessible through virtual reality-powered devices.

What the company hasn’t said is that it’s paying exorbitant salaries to programmers to turn that vision into a reality. Programmers capable of building out virtual reality-powered games, apps and technology can earn total compensation from $600,000 to packages approaching $1 million, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.

facebook logoThe Facebook parent company is “paying significantly more than a lot of gaming companies,” said Andiamo chief executive Patrick McAdams, whose firm recruits tech talent for big and small companies. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that their total compensation is double or more than double of what you’ll get at a large gaming company.”

“It’s not abnormal to be $500,000- plus,” said McAdams, who added that the highest packages were often awarded to highly skilled developers or technical team leaders.

The eye-popping compensation packages are just a sliver of the multibillion-dollar investment the company is making to build the metaverse, seemingly realistic computer-generated spaces in which users interact with one another. Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has theorized that virtual reality-powered headsets, augmented reality-powered glasses and a bevy of corresponding programs will become the next great computing platform, eventually replacing some in-person communication. The company changed its name from Facebook to Meta in 2021 to reflect these ambitions.

Meta doesn’t want to police the metaverse. Kids are paying the price.

But Meta’s high salaries and long-term investment in the metaverse also come amid a frenzied push to rein in costs across the sprawling company. Last month, it announced plans to lay off 10,000 workers as part of a months-long downsizing and restructuring effort at the social media giant. Those cuts follow the 13 percent workforce reduction the company made in November when it slashed 11,000 jobs in the first widespread layoffs in the company’s history.

chat gpt logo

washington post logoWashington Post, After inaction on Big Tech, Congress gears up to tackle artificial intelligence, Cat Zakrzewski, April 9, 2023 (print ed.). After years of inaction on Big Tech — and the explosive success of ChatGPT — lawmakers aim to avoid similar mistakes with artificial intelligence

April 8


evan gershkovitz

ny times logoNew York Times, Chilling Effect’: Journalist’s Arrest Makes Covering Russia Even Tougher, Michael M. Grynbaum, April 8, 2023 (print ed.). The detention of the Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, above, poses new obstacles for Western journalists seeking to report on Vladimir V. Putin’s rule.

The exodus began roughly a year ago, in the first days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Western news organizations, confronting a harsh crackdown on free speech by President Vladimir V. Putin, pulled correspondents from Moscow and suspended their news gathering in Russia. The risk to journalists, in a country where describing a war as a “war” was suddenly a crime, was too great.

Some outlets, like the BBC, quickly resumed their work in the country; others, like Bloomberg News, never returned. Newspapers that once maintained permanent Moscow bureaus began rotating correspondents in and out from safer posts like Berlin and Dubai. Still, even under challenging circumstances, Western correspondents were hopeful that their work could continue.

That hope was shattered last week by the arrest of Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter who is believed to be the first American reporter held on spying charges in Russia since the fall of Russian Flagthe Soviet Union. The Journal rejects the claims against Mr. Gershkovich, 31, a son of Soviet Jewish émigrés, and the Biden administration has lobbied for his release.

Mr. Gershkovich was formally charged with espionage on Friday, according to Russian state media. The Tass news agency, citing an unidentified law enforcement source, also said he had denied the accusations.

Regardless of the outcome of Mr. Gershkovich’s case, his arrest sent an indisputable signal that foreign reporters were newly vulnerable. Now, news organizations are re-examining how to chronicle one of the world’s most urgent geopolitical stories as their journalists face even greater peril.

“It has a chilling effect for everyone,” Polina Ivanova, a Russia correspondent for The Financial Times, said at a recent gathering of journalists in London, where attendees lined up to write letters of support to be delivered to Mr. Gershkovich inside the Lefortovo prison in Moscow.

“It’s very difficult to know what the security situation is like when you’re working in a place like Russia, especially when things are changing very, very quickly,” Ms. Ivanova said. “You have to constantly reassess, and try and make a wise calculus about the risks, based on signs and signals and things sometimes just in the tea leaves.”

wsj logoMr. Gershkovich had been accredited by the Russian Foreign Ministry, a process that had continued even after the invasion of Ukraine and was thought to grant a degree of protection for Western journalists. The move against him scrambled that assumption. Since his arrest, The Journal’s Moscow bureau chief has left the country. The New York Times moved most of its bureau out of the country, and currently has no reporters there, but it has been sending journalists into Russia regularly.

American journalists, in particular, had worried that the Russian authorities might detain them to instigate a prisoner exchange. Correspondents who are European citizens were perceived to be slightly less vulnerable. The Gershkovich episode shows that, now, all bets are off.

“It’s very clear that no foreign correspondents are going to be spared from this repression,” said Gulnoza Said, who monitors press freedoms in Russia for the Committee to Protect Journalists. “The world is losing that window into Russia, and the Russian people are losing one of the very few platforms where they can be heard.”

On Friday, Senators Chuck Schumer, the Democratic majority leader, and Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader, issued a rare joint statement calling on Russia to immediately release Mr. Gershkovich. “Journalism is not a crime,” the leaders wrote.

For a nation increasingly viewed as an avatar of repression and autocracy, Russia had, until recently, afforded Western correspondents a fair amount of leeway in reporting on its politics, society and culture. Reporters assumed their movements and communications were monitored. But starting in the mid-1980s, the reforms of Mikhail S. Gorbachev meant that Western journalists could interview civilians and cultivate sources in the bureaucracy.

vicky ward investigatesVicky Ward Investigates, The Craziest Friday EverFairly startling news from Matt Taibbi about Twitter blocking links to Substack newsletters, Vicky Ward, April 8, 2023. Next week, Substack is starting something called NOTES -- which Twitter views as competition. Even if we have no advertising, unlike Twitter. Sigh. Innovation is never easy. Stand by for NOTES from us Substack writers, I guess!

matt taibbi elon muskMatt Taibbi (above left paired in file photos with Twitter owner Elon Musk): On staying at Substack, and leaving Twitter, I guess, April 8, 2023: Earlier this afternoon, I learned Substack links were being blocked on Twitter. Since being able to share my articles is a primary reason I use Twitter, I was alarmed and asked what was going on.

twitter bird CustomIt turns out Twitter is upset about the new Substack Notes feature, which they see as a hostile rival. When I asked how I was supposed to market my work, I was given the option of posting my articles on Twitter instead of Substack.

Not much suspense there; I’m staying at Substack. You’ve all been great to me, as has the management of this company. Beginning early next week I’ll be using the new Substack Notes feature (to which you’ll all have access) instead of Twitter, a decision that apparently will come with a price as far as any future Twitter Files reports are concerned. It was absolutely worth it and I’ll always be grateful to those who gave me the chance to work on that story, but man is this a crazy planet.

Have a great weekend, everyone. I’m off on vacation with my kids next week, but I’ll check in. Best and take care, Matt

Emptywheel, Analysis: Elon Musk “Censors” Matt Taibbi’s Post about Twitter “Censoring” the “Hunter Biden” “Laptop” Story, Emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler), April 8, 2023. Yesterday, Elon Musk did to Matt Taibbi what Taibbi called an incredible scandal when Twitter throttled the NYPost story on a laptop claimed to be Hunter Biden's.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Plan for Transgender Title IX Rules Began on Inauguration Day, Katie Rogers, April 8, 2023 (print ed.). A plan to protect transgender athletes has been in the works since 2021. But officials recently raced to issue protections as states moved to revoke them.

As President Biden signed an executive order in his first hours in office to strengthen prohibitions against gender and sexual discrimination, a small team of officials in the Department of Education began assessing an unanswered but important question: How could the administration protect transgender athletes?

At the time, only a few states had enacted bans against transgender athletes seeking to compete in sports that matched their gender identity.

But as the education team worked — in the beginning, on pandemic-era Zoom calls — with officials on the White House Gender Policy Council, the trickle of states banning transgender athletes turned into a waterfall. By the time they had gone through multiple draft proposals to establish transgender students as protected under Title IX, the 1972 law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in federally funded schools, at least 20 states had enacted bans against them in sports.

The issue has divided activists who view barring transgender athletes as necessary to protecting fairness in sports, and others who ardently believe that blocking those athletes in any form is part of a larger assault on the civil liberties of transgender people.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here’s what the new rule will mean for school sports and transgender athletes, Remy Tumin, April 8, 2023 (print ed.). The Biden administration proposed a rule change that would allow schools to block some transgender athletes from competing on sports teams that match their gender identities.

The Biden administration on April 6 released long-awaited draft rules regarding the participation of transgender athletes in school sports, taking its first official stand on a matter that has become a contentious public debate. The rule would have broad implications for the ability of athletes from elementary school T-ball to the N.C.A.A. level to play.

And it is far from the last word on the matter given the limits of the U.S. government in global sports.

The U.S. Department of Education proposed a new rule that would allow schools to reject transgender athletes from competing on sports teams that align with their gender identity, when questions of physicality and fairness arise. The rule would prohibit schools from issuing blanket bans on transgender athletes in school sports, making such a policy a violation of Title IX.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: College Students Have Something to Say. It’s Just Not What You’d Expect, Jonathan Malesic (Mr. Malesic teaches writing at the University of Texas at Dallas), April 8, 2023. In the debate over free speech and social justice, commentators on the right and the “heterodox” left often claim that college students are all either stridently liberal or cowed into silence by those who are.

As someone who has spent two decades teaching at colleges large and small, public and private, I don’t recognize this description — and it’s not because I think that it’s conservative students who are dominating the discourse.

In my experience, college students are all too reluctant to express strong opinions about the world at large. I wish my students were so eager to voice their ideas in class. Ideally, they would address the topic of the course, but I’d take what I could get — the news perhaps, social media more likely, the weather if it came down to it. If they’re talking, then maybe I can steer the conversation toward what they need to learn.

But I’ve found one place where students’ ideas emerge into splendid view: the opinion pages of student newspapers. I recently immersed myself in student papers from across Texas, where I live and teach. It certainly wasn’t a scientific sample, but it gave me new insight into an otherwise reticent population.

ny times logoNew York Times, Can People No Longer Believe Anything They See? Tiffany Hsu and Steven Lee Myers, April 8, 2023. Human eyes often struggle to identify images created by A.I. Experts fear that may hasten an erosion of trust in the media, in government and in society.

Seeing has not been believing for a very long time. Photos have been faked and manipulated for nearly as long as photography has existed.

Now, not even reality is required for photographs to look authentic — just artificial intelligence responding to a prompt. Even experts sometimes struggle to tell if one is real or not. Can you?

April 6


rudy giuliani hair dye resized screenshot

ny times logoNew York Times, How Fox Chased Its Audience Down the Rabbit Hole, Jim Rutenberg, April 6, 2023. Rupert Murdoch built an empire by giving viewers exactly what they wanted. But what they wanted — election lies and insurrection — put that empire in peril.

On the evening of Nov. 19, 2020, Rupert Murdoch was watching TV and crawling the walls of his 18th-century mansion in the British countryside while under strict pandemic lockdown. The television hosts at Murdoch’s top cable network, Fox News, might have scoffed at such unyielding adherence to Covid protocols. But Jerry Hall, his soon-to-be fourth ex-wife and no fan of Fox or its conservative hosts, was insisting that Murdoch, approaching his 90th birthday, remain cautious.

The big story that day, as it had been every day in the two weeks since the election, was election theft, and now Rudolph W. Giuliani (shown above) was giving a news conference at the Republican National Committee. With Sidney Powell, the right-wing attorney and conspiracy theorist, at his side, Giuliani, sweating profusely, black hair dye dripping down the side of his face, spun a wild fantasy about Joe Biden’s stealing the election from President Donald J. Trump. Dizzying in its delusional complexity, it centered on a supposed plot by the Clinton Foundation, George Soros and associates of Hugo Chávez to convert Trump votes into Biden votes by way of software from Smartmatic and voting machines from Dominion Voting Systems.

Murdoch wasn’t pleased. He had built the most powerful media empire on the planet by understanding what his audience wanted and giving it to them without fear or judgment.

fox news logo SmallBut Trump now appeared to be making a serious bid to overturn a legitimate election, and his chaos agents — his personal lawyer Giuliani chief among them — were creating dangerous new appetites. Now Murdoch was faced with holding the line on reporting the facts or following his audience all the way into the land of conspiracy theories. Neither choice was necessarily good for business. At 5:01 p.m. London time, he sent an email to his friend Saad Mohseni — an Afghan Australian media mogul sometimes referred to as the Afghan Rupert Murdoch — from his iPhone.

“Just watched Giuliani press conference,” he wrote. “Stupid and damaging.” Shortly after, he sent another email, this one to his Fox News chief executive, Suzanne Scott: “Terrible stuff damaging everybody, I fear. Probably hurting us, too.”

Related News:

April 5

 evan gershkovitz

washington post logoWashington Post, Wall Street Journal reporter ‘wrongfully detained’ by Russia, Blinken says, Missy Ryan, Emily Rauhala and Francesca Ebel, April 5, 2023. A Wall Street Journal reporter whom Russia has accused of spying for the United States is “wrongfully detained,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday, as the Kremlin’s incarceration of another American further strains the two countries’ ties.

wsj logoBinken said the State Department was working “very deliberately but expeditiously” to conclude a formal assessment of whether Evan Gershkovich, shown above, a reporter assigned to the paper’s Moscow bureau, meets agency criteria to set in motion a broad government effort to secure his release.

“I’ll let that process play out,” Blinken told reporters following a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels. Nevertheless, he added, “In my own mind, there’s no doubt that he’s been wrongfully detained by Russia.”

Gershkovich, who was arrested in late March during a reporting trip to the city of Yekaterinburg, could face 20 years in prison if convicted on espionage charges. Russia’s security service has accused the journalist, 31, of gathering information about a Russian military enterprise, a claim the Wall Street Russian FlagJournal has rejected.

Inside Russia’s infamous Lefortovo prison where WSJ’s Evan Gershkovich is held (WSJ) / In Russian courts, espionage charges lead to secret trials and near-certain convictions (WSJ) / What the arrest of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich means for foreign reporting (Poynter)

elon musk safe image time

Mashable, Investigation: Twitter failed to scare legacy verified accounts into paying for Twitter Blue, Matt Binder on April 5, 2023. These bleak numbers might be why Twitter checkmarks were merged. Elon Musk said he would remove verification badges from legacy accounts unless they paid. Most simply did not care.

On April 1, Twitter owner Elon Musk, above, was supposed to strip all legacy verified accounts of their blue checkmark badges.

However, that didn't happen. It's unclear as to why Musk backtracked on this date. But, maybe this has something to do with it.

Only 12,305 of roughly 420,000 legacy verified accounts have subscribed to a paid Twitter Blue plan as of Tuesday. That's just above 3 percent of the celebrities, pro athletes, influencers, and media personalities who make up the platform's power users.

While Twitter Blue does provide some additional features such as being able to edit tweets and write longer posts, the major selling point promoted to users is the ability to simply get a checkmark next to your username by paying $8 per month (or $11 on mobile devices.)

The latest Twitter Blue data comes from independent researcher Travis Brown, who has been tracking(Opens in a new tab) Twitter data since January. Brown's data accounts for roughly 90 percent of all Twitter Blue subscribers. Previous internal Twitter Blue data leaks have matched(Opens in a new tab) with Brown's estimates.

If one adds government accounts with grey verified badges and business accounts which appear alongside a gold checkmark to the pool of legacy verified Twitter Blue subscribers, those numbers go up just slightly to around 15,000 users (or 3 and a half percent of these accounts in total).

Again, this is after Elon Musk threatened to take away approximately 420,000 users' verified blue checkmark badges. And this is also following Musk's announcement that only Twitter Blue subscribers would be promoted in Twitter's default "For You" feed.

With its biggest motivator yet to subscribe – the removal of the blue tick – Twitter was seemingly unable to even double its legacy verified Twitter Blue subscribers. One week before the April 1 date, Twitter had only converted 7,901 government, business, and legacy verified accounts into paying subscribers, so there was a slight uptick in subscribers as the April 1 date loomed. However, many celebrities – from LeBron James to Jack Black(Opens in a new tab) – have since gone public saying that they were not planning to pay for Twitter Blue.

And with that looming threat of verification removal gone at least for the time being, Twitter only saw around 67 of those legacy verified accounts subscribe to Twitter Blue in the days after April 1. If Musk's moves were meant to result in a big uptick of legacy verified Twitter Blue subscribers, it just didn't work.

In a since-deleted tweet(Opens in a new tab), Musk claimed that Twitter would give legacy verified accounts a "few weeks grace, unless they tell they won't pay now, in which we will remove it." However, the New York Times appears to have been the only legacy verified account that lost its checkmark badge. The news organization publicly stated it would not be paying for Twitter Blue last week.
How many Twitter Blue subscribers are there now?

twitter bird CustomMusk officially launched Twitter Blue in November of last year, but quickly suspended the service as users started paying for a verification badge to impersonate companies and brands. To combat this, Twitter rolled out a feature that showed who paid for Twitter Blue and who was a legacy verified account. Twitter Blue then relaunched in December.

This past weekend, amid the lackluster Blue signups, Musk reverted course and removed the note that distinguished the difference between a legacy verified user and a Twitter Blue subscriber with a checkmark. The Twitter Blue mark often resulted in mockery among Twitter's most influential users, who often point out when a user paid for Twitter on the website.

Over the course of the nearly 4 months the subscription service has been live, Twitter has just barely crossed the 500,000 Twitter Blue subscriber threshold, according to Twitter Blue data from Brown. This would put Twitter Blue's revenue at approximately $4 million per month.

And, it should be noted, that those numbers may very well be even lower. Multiple Twitter users have shared instances where the Twitter Blue checkmark continued to appear on their account even months after they canceled their paid subscription to the service. Brown explained that those accounts would be included in his data as Twitter continues to mark them as Blue subscribers.
Many Twitter Blue users have very few followers

As Mashable previously reported, half of Twitter Blue's paying subscribers don't even have four-figures worth of followers and this is still the case with the inclusion of the latest data. Per that data, 244,562 Twitter Blue subscribers have fewer than 1,000 followers. Of those, 88,085 accounts have fewer than 100 followers. And then there's the 2,585 Twitter Blue subscribers with no followers at all.

Axios, NPR CEO blasts Twitter for "US state-affiliated media" label, Sara Fischer, April 5, 2023. NPR CEO John Lansing condemned Twitter on Wednesday for npr logolabeling the radio giant as "US state-affiliated media."

axios logoThe big picture: Twitter's move appears to be part of a wider effort by Musk to go after specific news outlets.

Twitter removed the New York Times' "verified" blue check mark over the weekend after the outlet said it would not pay to remain verified.
Many news outlets have said that they won't pay for verification, but the Times was the only outlet to have its blue check mark removed immediately when the policy went into effect.

elon musk 2015Musk, right, made it clear shortly after how he personally feels about the Times, tweeting on Sunday: "The real tragedy of @NYTimes is that their propaganda isn’t even interesting."

What's happening: A new "US state-affiliated media" label appeared suddenly on NPR's main account Tuesday night. An NPR spokesperson said the outlet was given no warning and that it reached out to Twitter to have the label removed.

twitter bird CustomOn Wednesday morning, Lansing said in a statement that NPR was "disturbed" to see the label, given that NPR doesn't qualify as state-affiliated media by Twitter's own guidelines.

"NPR and our Member stations are supported by millions of listeners who depend on us for the independent, fact-based journalism we provide. NPR stands for freedom of speech and holding the powerful accountable," he said.
"It is unacceptable for Twitter to label us this way. A vigorous, vibrant free press is essential to the health of our democracy."

Between the lines: Only NPR's main handle had the label as of Wednesday afternoon, not affiliated accounts like NPR Politics.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: Trump payoff to a Trump doorman over a paternity issue should be no secret to WMR readers, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallWayne Madsen, left, author 22 books and former Navy intelligence officer, April 5, 2023. The Manhattan District Attorney's reference in his Statement of Fact to a Trump payoff to a Trump Organization doorman over information that Trump fathered a child out of wedlock should come wayne madesen report logoas no surprise to WMR readers.

Let's go to the archives. Note: according to ex-Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance, Jr., the SDNY -- Geoffrey Berman -- told Vance that they would be handling the Trump hush money case. However, Trump's corrupt Attorney General, William Barr, spiked the federal investigation:

Wayne Madsen Report, SPECIAL REPORT. FBI search and seizure targeting Cohen gathered evidence on Trump's past sex crimes, April 1, 2018.

There is an avalanche of evidence that suggests that the criminal referral by Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller to the U.S. Attorney wayne madesen report logofor the Southern District of New York (SDNY) -- which resulted in a "no-knock" search and seizure of President Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen's office, temporary hotel residence, and home -- was to gather evidence about Trump's past sex crimes and cash payments for silence from assault victims.

The search warrant, approved by a federal magistrate with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, was initiated with the approval of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. With the recusal of the interim U.S. Attorney for the SDNY, Geoffrey Berman, a Trump campaign donor and former law partner of former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Robert Khuzami -- a longtime federal prosecutor and chief of the enforcement division of the Securities and Exchange Commission -- is leading the investigation of Cohen's activities.

Although Trump, in a series of uninformed and juvenile tweets and comments, suggested that Mueller decided to "break into" his personal attorney's office, mounting evidence and news reports suggest that the new investigation surrounding Trump and Cohen involve Cohen's intimidation of women who accused Trump of sexual assault. In cases such as those involving porn actress Stephanie Clifford, who uses the stage name of "Stormy Daniels," and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal, the $130,000 and $150,000 cash payments received from Trump associates and friends in return for their silence during the latter stages of the 2016 presidential campaign, likely violated federal campaign finance laws.

There is new information that Pecker authorized the payment of a "catch and kill" $30,000 fee to Trump World Tower ex-doorman Dino Sajudin in return for his silence about Trump's 1980s affair with a Trump World Tower employee, said to be a housekeeper, and the resulting fathering of an illegitimate child with the woman, whose identity has not been disclosed. Trump World Tower [pictured right] is a residential complex near the United Nations.

The FBI is, according to recent reports, looking at the original sources of Cohen's payment to Clifford, arranged through a Delaware shell company called Essential Consultants LLC, and AMI's payments to McDougal and Sajudin. Federal investigators are, according to the Associated Press, examining communications between Cohen, Pecker, and National Enquirer chief editor Dylan Howard.

In the cases of Clifford, McDougal, and Sajudin, Trump's alleged sexual activities, in and of themselves, are not criminal in nature, and have no bearing on Mueller's investigation of the Trump campaign's links to Russian and other foreign entities. However, violations of federal campaign, wire fraud, and bank fraud statutes do constitute serious crimes and would normally attract the attention of Justice Department prosecutors and the FBI, even if there was not a Mueller probe.

In another development, federal investigators who searched Cohen's office and residential premises were also looking for documents regarding an un-aired Access Hollywood "out take" video [pictured left], in which Trump engages in a vulgar conversation by then co-host Billy Bush, a first cousin of George W. Bush. Trump is heard talking about sexually harassing women and states that, due to his fame, can "grab them by the pussy."

What federal investigators are looking at is whether Cohen used LLC artifices like Essential Consultants LLC and Resolution Consultants LLC, both Delaware corporations, to pay hush money to scores of women, including beauty pageant contestants -- including underage teens -- and women who appeared on Trump's The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice shows and guests at Mar-a-Lago, who came forward during the 2016 campaign to complain about past sexual assaults by Trump.

Any Cohen payments to these women, in return for their silence, would have potentially violated campaign finance and other federal laws. Documents dealing with the Access Hollywood tape are germane if Cohen threatened any current and past employees of NBC Universal, which airs the program, who had possession of and released the tape. It is known that Cohen negotiated a secret non-disclosure agreement with porn actress Jessica Drake, aka "Angel Ryan," to keep silent about Trump's desire to have a sexual ménage à trois with himself and Stormy Daniels during a Lake Tahoe golf tournament in 2006. It is not known whether Cohen used one of his LLC contrivances to pay off Drake, but these records would have been of interest to the FBI and the SDNY Attorney's Office.

CNN, Dominion can force Murdochs to testify at Fox News defamation trial, judge says, Marshall Cohen, April 5, 2023. Dominion Voting Systems can force Fox Corporation executives Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch to testify on the witness stand at this month’s scheduled defamation trial, a Delaware judge said Wednesday.

cnn logoDelaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis said at a hearing that if Dominion subpoenas the Murdochs to testify in-person, he would not quash those subpoenas, and the Murdochs would need to show up to the courthouse. Dominion has sued Fox News for defamation, and says it was defamed by the right-wing network when Fox hosts and guests claimed in 2020 that its voting systems illegally rigged the election.

“They are relevant to the case… if Dominion wants to bring them live, they need to issue a trial subpoena, and I would not quash it,” Davis said. He added that that “it would be my discretion that they come” to testify in-person at the trial, which is scheduled to begin later this month in Wilmington, Delaware.

“Both parties have made these witnesses very relevant,” Davis added.
fox news logo Small

This outcome is a blow to Fox, which tried to block Dominion from forcing the Murdochs onto the witness stand. The judge signaled at previous hearings that he was skeptical of Fox’s claims that their testimony wasn’t necessary. The judge’s comments Wednesday further raise the stakes for Fox in the closely watched case, which is set to go to trial this month, barring a last-minute settlement.

Fox News denies wrongdoing, maintains that it is “proud” of its 2020 election coverage, and says the lawsuit is a meritless assault against the First Amendment. The right-wing network has also said Dominion’s request for $1.6 billion in damages is a wildly overblown figure that was designed to get headlines.

Fox Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch and his son, CEO Lachlan Murdoch, previously gave lengthy depositions in the case, which revolves around Fox’s decision in late 2020 to repeatedly promote false claims that the election was rigged against then-President Donald Trump.

In his sworn deposition for the case, Rupert Murdoch conceded that several of his top hosts endorsed election lies on the air that he knew were false. This is a key point that gets to the question of “actual malice” and Fox’s potential legal liability.

Despite what appeared on air, Rupert Murdoch and other top Fox figures privately criticized the Trump camp in late 2020 for pushing claims of election fraud. It was “really bad” that Rudy Giuliani was advising Trump, Rupert Murdoch wrote in an email that was revealed in court filings.

Related News: Fox News says Carlson, Hannity, Bartiromo set to testify at defamation trial (Reuters); Judge in Fox vs. Dominion case says Jan. 6 ‘not relevant,’ should be avoided: ‘I know that shocks everyone’ (The Wrap)

Moscow Times, Russian journalists sign letter demanding U.S. reporter’s release, Staff Report, April 5, 2023. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) salutes the bravery of the nearly 200 members of Russian civil society and independent #media outlets who signed a petition calling for the release of #journalist Evan Gershkovich, and who dare to openly doubt the good faith of Russian authorities’ (RSF)

Axios, NPR CEO blasts Twitter for "US state-affiliated media" label, Sara Fischer, April 5, 2023. NPR CEO John Lansing condemned Twitter on Wednesday for labeling the radio giant as "US state-affiliated media."

axios logoThe big picture: Twitter's move appears to be part of a wider effort by Musk to go after specific news outlets.

Twitter removed the New York Times' "verified" blue check mark over the weekend after the outlet said it would not pay to remain verified.
Many news outlets have said that they won't pay for verification, but the Times was the only outlet to have its blue check mark removed immediately when the policy went into effect.

twitter bird CustomMusk made it clear shortly after how he personally feels about the Times, tweeting on Sunday: "The real tragedy of @NYTimes is that their propaganda isn’t even interesting."

Zoom in: Twitter's own policies currently state that state-financed media organizations with editorial independence "are not defined as state-affiliated media."

What's happening: A new "US state-affiliated media" label appeared suddenly on NPR's main account Tuesday night. An NPR spokesperson said the outlet was given no warning and that it reached out to Twitter to have the label removed.

On Wednesday morning, Lansing said in a statement that NPR was "disturbed" to see the label, given that NPR doesn't qualify as state-affiliated media by Twitter's own guidelines.
"NPR and our Member stations are supported by millions of listeners who depend on us for the independent, fact-based journalism we provide. NPR stands for freedom of speech and holding the powerful accountable," he said.
"It is unacceptable for Twitter to label us this way. A vigorous, vibrant free press is essential to the health of our democracy."

Between the lines: Only NPR's main handle had the label as of Wednesday afternoon, not affiliated accounts like NPR Politics.

CNN morning co-anchor Don Lemon with co-anchor colleagues Kaitlin Collins, left, and Poppy Harlow.

CNN morning co-anchor Don Lemon with co-anchor colleagues Kaitlin Collins, left, and Poppy Harlow.

Variety, Investigation: Don Lemon’s Misogyny at CNN, Exposed: Malicious Texts, Mocking Female Co-Workers and ‘Diva-Like Behavior,’ Tatiana Siegel, April 5, 2023. Back in 2008, Don Lemon was co-anchoring CNN’s “Live From” weekday show with Kyra Phillips, a gig that he landed after he arrived at the network two years prior from local news in Chicago.

For months, tensions between the pair kept mounting. On more than one occasion, a “Live From” producer and a newsroom supervisor had to pull Lemon off the air during a commercial break because of the anchor’s provocative antics, not unlike his recent declaration that the 51-year-old Nikki Haley isn’t a viable presidential candidate because she “isn’t in her prime.” Amid the charged atmosphere, sources say Lemon disrespected colleague Nancy Grace on the air and Soledad O’Brien during an editorial meeting attended by roughly 30 staffers.

cnn logoBut his antipathy toward Phillips was particularly concerning and had many members of the close-knit Atlanta news team on edge. While Phillips was on assignment in Iraq — a high-profile gig that Lemon coveted — he vented his disappointment at being passed over by tearing up pictures and notes on top of and inside Phillips’ desk in the news pod they shared, according to two sources who worked there at the time. When she returned from Iraq, things only got weirder. One night while dining with members of the news team, she received the first of two threatening text messages from an unknown number on her flip phone that warned, “Now you’ve crossed the line, and you’re going to pay for it.” Phillips was visibly rattled and quickly enlisted CNN’s higher ups to identify the sender.

Remarkably, the texts were traced back to Lemon, according to those same sources. A human resources investigation was launched, and while the findings were never disclosed to the growing pool of staffers who were aware of the situation, Lemon was abruptly pulled from his co-anchor duties with Phillips and moved to the weekends. It was a demotion by any objective measure and understood to be some kind of disciplinary action. It appears to be the last time he was paired with a female anchor until his most recent assignment on “CNN This Morning With Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins.”

Phillips, who joined ABC as a Washington-based correspondent in 2018, declined comment. A spokesperson for CNN said, “Don says the alleged incident never occurred and that he was never notified of any investigation. CNN cannot corroborate the alleged events from 15 years ago.”

chris licht wIn the wake of Lemon’s Feb. 16 Haley comments — derided as “unacceptable” and “sexist” by everyone from CNN chair Chris Licht, right, to Haley herself, and even referenced by Oscar-winner Michelle Yeoh during her best actress acceptance speech — his fate at CNN hung in the balance, with many colleagues privately calling for his ouster. Despite the outcry, he landed back on his feet after riding the bench for two days, posting a Twitter mea culpa in which he insisted that he is “committed to doing better” and ignoring the matter altogether during his Feb. 22 on-air return.

Still, the incident has spotlighted Lemon’s troubling treatment of women and unprofessional antics, dating back nearly two decades. Variety spoke with more than a dozen former and current colleagues who painted a picture of a journalist who flouted rules and cozied up to power all while displaying open hostility to many female co-workers. Each and every time, he appeared to charm his way out of facing any meaningful consequences.

washington post logoWashington Post, Cash App founder Bob Lee killed in San Francisco, Rachel Lerman, April 5, 2023. The tech investor was chief product officer at MobileCoin at the time of his death and a former CTO of Square.

Cash App creator Bob Lee was killed in a reported stabbing near downtown San Francisco, sparking an outpouring of grief within the tech community and beyond.

His death was confirmed Wednesday by MobileCoin, the cryptocurrency company where he served as chief product officer.

“Bob was a dynamo, a force of nature. Bob was the genuine article,” MobileCoin chief executive Joshua Goldbard said in a statement. “… He was made for the world that is being born right now, he was a child of dreams, and whatever he imagined, no matter how crazy, he made real.”

Lee, 43, worked at Google before serving as chief technology officer of Square, the company now known as Block, which developed the payment transfer app Cash App. He also invested in several tech companies including SpaceX, Clubhouse and Figma, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Cash App has become one of the most popular mobile payment apps, enabling people to directly send each other money. Lee was a technologist who believed in “the right to privacy,” Goldbard tweeted.

chat gpt logo

washington post logoWashington Post, ChatGPT invented a sexual harassment scandal and named a real law prof as the accused, Pranshu Verma and Will Oremus, April 5, 2023. The AI chatbot can misrepresent key facts with great flourish, even citing a fake Washington Post article as evidence.

jonathan turleyOne night last week, the law professor Jonathan Turley, right, got a troubling email. As part of a research study, a fellow lawyer in California had asked the AI chatbot ChatGPT to generate a list of legal scholars who had sexually harassed someone. Turley’s name was on the list.
Tech is not your friend. We are. Sign up for The Tech Friend newsletter.

The chatbot, created by OpenAI, said Turley had made sexually suggestive comments and attempted to touch a student while on a class trip to Alaska, citing a March 2018 article in The Washington Post as the source of the information. The problem: No such article existed. There had never been a class trip to Alaska. And Turley said he’d never been accused of harassing a student.

A regular commentator in the media, Turley had sometimes asked for corrections in news stories. But this time, there was no journalist or editor to call — and no way to correct the record.

“It was quite chilling,” he said in an interview with The Post. “An allegation of this kind is incredibly harmful.”

Turley’s experience is a case study in the pitfalls of the latest wave of language bots, which have captured mainstream attention with their ability to write computer code, craft poems and hold eerily humanlike conversations. But this creativity can also be an engine for erroneous claims; the models can misrepresent key facts with great flourish, even fabricating primary sources to back up their claims.

As largely unregulated artificial intelligence software such as ChatGPT, Microsoft’s Bing and Google’s Bard begins to be incorporated across the web, its propensity to generate potentially damaging falsehoods raises concerns about the spread of misinformation — and novel questions about who’s responsible when chatbots mislead.

April 4

ny times logoNew York Times, Noncompete Clauses Get Tighter, and TV Newsrooms Feel the Grip, Lydia DePillis, April 4, 2023 (print ed.). Job-switching barriers are routine at TV stations, even for workers not on the air. A proposed federal rule would curb the practice across all fields.

Of all the professions, perhaps none is more commonly bound by contracts that define where else an employee can go work than local television news.

ftc logoThe restrictions, known as noncompete clauses, have been a condition of the job for reporters, anchors, sportscasters and meteorologists for decades. More recently, they’ve spread to off-air roles like producers and editors — positions that often pay just barely above the poverty line — and they keep employees from moving to other stations in the same market for up to a year after their contract ends.

For that reason, there’s probably no industry that could chan