Media News

 

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

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

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

    • Andrew Kreig / Justice Integrity Project editor

       

      andrew kreig c span

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

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

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

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

 2019

July

July 16

Consortium News, First Person Commentary: Consortium News Target of a Malware Attack as Twitter Takes Down Assange Support Group’s Account, Elizabeth Vos (Consortium News contributor), July 16, 2019. The simultaneous escalation of censorship of Julian Assange’s support base, alongside the latest wave of fact-free attacks on Assange and WikiLeaks‘, raises concern about a coordinated effort to smear Assange while silencing those who counter such dubious reporting.

julian assange cropped with un headerConsortium News was under attack on Monday, days after the premiere episode of the outlet’s live-streamed show, CN Live! The malicious attempt to shut down the website, according to the site’s web host, followed on the heels of the suspension of pro-Assange account Unity4J from Twitter.

Consortium News wrote via Twitter on Monday regarding the cyberattack: “Our website is completely down. Our media host said we have been attacked by malware. They actually tried to blame ‘the Russians’! Every article published since 2011 now gets a 404 Not Found. They are working on it. Problem started slowly on Friday first day of CN Live!”

The hack of Consortium News sparked concern regarding what appears to be an escalating wave of attacks on the independent press, as well as censorship of activists who support independent journalists, including WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Consortium News was restored by 10:44 pm EDT on Monday, but issues related to publishing new material persist.

As news of the attack on Consortium News spread, some Assange supporters connected the event with Twitter’s suspension of the Unity4J movement’s Twitter account. Christine Assange, Julian Assange’s mother and an activist in her own right, Christine Assange tweeted: Christine Assange also wrote on Sunday that she had lost “over 8,000 followers overnight.”

CNLive!‘s inaugural live-stream included an interview with Nils Melzer, the UN rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, who “discussed his work on the condition of imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.“

Consortium News had previously conducted the Unity4J online vigils over a period of months. The Unity4J Twitter account was suspended last Thursday for no known reason. The ban sparked a backlash including independent media coverage from a number of outlets, as well as an impassioned statement from Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, who called Twitter “Big Brother” for permanently removing the account. To date, no explanation for Unity4J’s suspension has been made public.

Caitlin Johnstone wrote of the suspension via Medium: "Speaking for myself as a vocal Assange supporter on Twitter, I can say that I’ve been following the @Unity4J account closely since its earliest days and I’ve never once seen it post anything other than highly professional-looking advocacy for Julian Assange. I’ve certainly never seen it post anything that could be construed as abusive, misleading, or otherwise in violation of any of Twitter’s posted rules."

Unity4J was far from the only account targeted recently. Additional Unity4J activists, including many of those associated with running the Unity4J Twitter profile, were also either suspended or locked out of their accounts. One Unity4J admin, Aaron Kesel, who also writes as an independent journalist, said in an interview that they were locked out of their accounts within minutes of publishing an article covering the Catalonian public’s celebration of Assange’s birthday. Activist Post, the site on which the article was published, was likewise reportedly hacked in recent weeks.

On the same day that Consortium News fell under attack, CNN published a conspiracy-theory-laden article accusing Assange of having conspired with “the Russians” to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election from within the Ecuadorian embassy, which CNN described breathlessly as a “command post.” (Little irony that Consortium News was also told that their website being attacked had had something to do with “The Russians.”)

Palmer Report, Commentary: Kellyanne Conway has total meltdown on White House lawn, Bill Palmer, July 16, 2019. Kellyanne Conway is kellyanne conway talkingcurrently facing a couple big problems, beyond the fact that she’s Kellyanne Conway. First, her boss Donald Trump is in the midst of a racist tantrum that’s so unhinged and so far over the top, it seems to finally be at risk of hurting him. Second, her husband George Conway has emerged as one of Trump’s top critics, and last night George flat out stated that Trump is a racist.

This all added up to Kellyanne Conway addressing a group of reporters on the White House lawn today, and let’s just say that it didn’t go well for her. Donald Trump insisted that four freshman Democratic Congresswomen should “go back” to bill palmer report logo headerwhere they came from, which is both racist and bizarre, considering that three out of the four of them were born in the United States to begin with.

When a reporter [broadcast correspondent Andrew Feinberg] asked Kellyanne which countries they were supposed to “go back” to, according to NBC News, Kellyanne fired back at the reporter with “What’s your ethnicity?”

That’s right, she took the horrible thing that Trump said, and she managed to somehow make it even worse. As her exchange with the reporter went on, it became clear that Kellyanne was suggesting that the Congresswomen should go to whatever country their ancestors came from, or that they should go to a country where the population predominantly matches their ethnicity. Instead of acknowledging that Trump incorrectly assumed the four Congresswomen were all immigrants, Kellyanne took Trump’s racist words to an even more over-the-top place.

Kellyanne Conway’s lone skill in politics has always been to respond to every question with so many wall-to-wall lies that no one could get a word in edgewise, and no one could remember what the question was to begin with, leaving the waters fully muddied. But she didn’t do that today. Instead she staked Donald Trump to a more racist position than even he appeared to have been aiming for.

July 15

washington post logoWashington Post, Glenn Greenwald has faced pushback for his reporting before. But not like this, Terrence McCoy, July 15, 2019 (print ed.). For weeks, from a house transformed into a bunker, Greenwald, right, had published allegations casting doubt on the impartiality of the glenn greenwaldcorruption investigation that led to the imprisonment of former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and contributed to the rise of President Jair Bolsonaro, below left.

In two days, he [Greenwald] would publish another story alleging that the judge who’d overseen Lula’s case, Sérgio jair bolsonaro brazilMoro, a national hero in Brazil for his role taking on corruption, had colluded with prosecutors to convict him.Greenwald, the polarizing American journalist who came to prominence reporting on the U.S. government surveillance programs exposed by Edward Snowden, had promised months of stories — a steady drip of leaks that could imperil the Bolsonaro agenda. Some members of Brazil's National Congress had called for his deportation. Others accused him of committing a crime. Death threats were rolling in.

Most recently, the federal police, commanded by Moro, now Bolsonaro’s justice minister, reportedly began investigating Greenwald’s finances in a probe that press advocates here see as an attempt to silence him. The public threats against Greenwald represent an early test for Brazil under Bolsonaro, the right-wing former military officer who won the presidency last year with appeals to nationalism, homophobia and nostalgia for the country’s two-decade military dictatorship.

Intrepid Report, Accusing Adam Schiff of ‘criminalizing routine reporting,’ groups call for stripping CIA-backed provision from intelligence legislation, Eoin Higgins, July 15, 2019. ‘Schiff is clearly the resistance to the resistance, and he should drop this provision from his bill.’ A adam schiff officialCIA-backed provision for a bill that could have dire effects on the freedom of the press is quietly making its way through Congress, despite the protestations of civil rights groups to Rep. Adam Schiff, right, the powerful California Democrat who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, to strip the rule.

“Adam Schiff is once again putting the interests of the intelligence agencies in concealing their misdeeds ahead of protecting the rights of ordinary Americans,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director for Demand Progress, in a statement Thursday.

In the statement, Schuman also accused Schiff of “criminalizing routine reporting by the press on national security issues and undermining congressional oversight in his Intelligence Authorization bill.” Demand Progress was one of 30 groups that signed an open letter (pdf) on July 8 to congressional leaders of both parties calling for the provision to be stripped from the bill.

“This provision is an extremely broad expansion of felony criminal penalties, and delegates authority as to when those penalties apply to the executive branch,” reads the letter. “It would be significantly damaging to transparency, oversight, and accountability, and should be removed from the Intelligence Authorization Act.”

cia logoSection 305 of the Intelligence Authorization Act (pdf), which prohibits disclosure of the identity of agents currently in the field or who have been in the field in the last five years, would be tweaked under the new law to encompass the identities of a far larger number of agents, contractors, and sources—many of whom live and work domestically.

The effect of the law could be massive, Emily Manna, a policy analyst for Open the Government, told Yahoo News in an email.

“This language is almost unbelievably broad, drastically expanding felony criminal penalties for the disclosure of [many categories] of information about the intelligence agencies, even if those disclosures might be in the best interest of the government and the country,” wrote Manna. “There would likely be a significant chilling effect on journalists and government whistleblowers.”

Supporters of the law’s expansion cite WikiLeaks, the online clearinghouse for secure information, as the reason for needing further protections. It’s an argument that’s likely to have an effect on Schiff, who has spent much of the past two years railing against the site for its perceived involvement in the election of President Donald Trump.

Schiff, one of the favorite guests of MSNBC‘s “Rachel Maddow Show,” has cultivated an image of a hero to the so-called liberal “resistance” to Trump since 2017, something that Demand Progress’ Schuman took aim at in his statement.

July 12

Media / Trade Wars

ny times logoNew York Times, As Europe Moves to Tax Tech Companies, U.S. Scrambles to Broker a Deal, Jim Tankersley and Alan Rappeport, July facebook logo12, 2019. Washington is trying to head off efforts by France, Britain and the European Union to impose taxes on companies like Google and Facebook. The digital revenue grab is threatening to set off a cascade of retaliatory measures unless an agreement can be made.

google logo customFor most of the 21st century, wealthy nations have engaged in a race to the bottom on corporate taxes, cutting rates in an effort to poach business activity across borders. Very quickly, that script has flipped.

Developed countries are now moving to impose new taxes on technology companies, like Facebook and Google, that have large presences in their citizens’ daily lives but pay those countries little tax on the profits they earn there.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Congress should show Trump that the Saudi crown prince is no ‘friend’ of America, Editorial Board, July 12, 2019 (print ed.). Though there has been no accountability for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and women who were tortured for seeking mohammed bin salman al saudgreater rights are still in prison, President Trump has returned to calling Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (shown at right) a “friend” who is doing “a spectacular job.”

Fortunately, there remains a bipartisan majority in Congress that rejects this indefensible judgment and the president’s strings-free steps to supply the kingdom with more weapons and nuclear technology. The question is whether a coalition can come together to pass legislation that will reshape U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia and its brutal and reckless ruler over Mr. Trump’s objections.

July 11

washington post logoWashington Post, Jeffrey Epstein’s case was covered in the media. But one Miami reporter made it big news again, Sarah Ellison and Paul Farhi, July 11, 2019 (print ed). An investigation, entitled "Perversion of Justice," began with a simple question: “I wonder what the women think about this?”

As Julie Brown watched the Senate hearings on Alexander Acosta’s nomination to become secretary of labor in 2017, she couldn’t help but talk to the television.

“Why aren’t they asking him this?” she asked. “Why aren’t they asking him that?”

perversion of justice miami herald logoBrown was frustrated by the limited questioning from senators about Acosta’s role in an unusual secret plea deal that, as a U.S. attorney in Florida, he had struck with Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire financier who had pleaded guilty in 2008 to charges of soliciting prostitution from a minor, serving a mere 13-month sentence that allowed him to leave jail for 12 hours a day.

“It seemed like the lawmakers didn’t know the whole story,” Brown said in an interview.

So, after the Senate confirmed Acosta, Brown, an investigative reporter for the Miami Herald, went to her editor with a simple query: “I wonder what the women think about this.”

jeffrey epstein julie brown cnn screenshot CustomBrown (shown with Epstein in a CNN screenshots) then set out to tell the full story — not from Acosta’s or Epstein’s point of view but from the perspective of the scores of women who were girls when they were allegedly raped and trafficked by Epstein. They were identified in court filings as Jane Doe 1 or Jane Doe 2 or, as Brown darkly joked, “Jane Doe 102.”

Her search resulted in a blockbuster three-part investigation, published in November, in which she and video journalist Emily Michot were able to identify about 80 of Epstein’s accusers. The stories were a slow-burning fuse that led to an explosion: On Saturday, Epstein was arrested on new sex-crimes charges, leading to calls from leading Democrats for Acosta’s resignation over his handling of the case 11 years ago.

Though there have been surges of media attention about Epstein over more than a decade, no journalist had interviewed the women — now nurses and real estate agents and mothers and professionals — until Brown dove into the story last year.

Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), Alexander Acosta’s past—and present—under the spotlight, Jon Allsop, July 11, 2019. Yesterday, Alexander Acosta, President Trump’s embattled labor secretary, hauled himself before reporters to finally answer some big questions. Acosta finds himself under siege following the weekend arrest of Jeffrey Epstein on sex-trafficking charges.

In 2007, Acosta, then the top US prosecutor in Miami, signed off on a lenient sweetheart plea deal for Epstein and failed to tell Epstein’s victims about it—an illegal move, per a recent court ruling. Acosta gently (for a Trump official, at least) chided the press for overlooking facts about his handling of the Epstein case: the plea deal ensured Epstein did jail time, whereas going to court would have been “the roll of a dice,” Acosta said. He also said, repeatedly, that times have changed, as if he was talking about the 1940s, not the late 2000s.

Trump 'Social Media Summit Today'

Raw Story, Top official explains why some Trump superfans were left out of White House summit: ‘We aren’t that stupid,’ Travis Gettys, July 11, 2019. The White House is hosting a summit for pro-Trump social media personalities, but some of the president’s boosters are wondering why they weren’t invited to the event.

Social media director Dan Scavino, a longtime aide to President Donald Trump, is taking the lead in organizing the summit and forming its agenda, two sources told The Daily Beast.

donald trump twitterBut White House staffers told the website they made the easy choice to exclude some of the president’s more controversial supporters — such as InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, anti-Muslim activist Laura Loomer and Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes — who have been banned from Twitter and other social media platforms.

“What benefit would it be to anyone if Laura Loomer were in the same room with the president?” one senior Trump administration official told The Daily Beast. “Why on earth would we do that? We aren’t that stupid. Come on.”

Loomer and other pro-Trump figures have been ranting about their exclusion on Telegram, a Russian messaging app that is one of the only platforms they have left after getting banned from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for various infractions.

“It’s just absolutely disgusting how poorly this summit was planned and how blatant the act was to keep banned individuals out,” Loomer blared on Telegram. “I cannot believe that every single banned person was out of the summit.”

However, the invite list also features a number of controversial, sketchy or fringe characters. At least two Trump superfans — online video personality Bill Mitchell and singer Joy Villa — who buy in to the QAnon conspiracy theory say they have been invited to the White House summit.

QAnon believers are fixated on asking Trump to confirm their conspiracy in person, the website reported, but Mitchell insisted he would resist the urge. “Of course not,” Mitchell told The Daily Beast. “This is about social media bias, not Q.”

Trump-loving cartoonist Ben Garrison — whose drawings feature a svelte, pompadoured president vanquishing various enemies — was disinvited to the event after critics pointed out several plainly anti-Semitic comics he’d done in the past.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump posts deranged “stable genius” meltdown involving random people and bad math, deletes it, Bill Palmer, July 11, 2019. As a general rule, if you have to declare yourself a “stable genius,” it means you’re neither one of those things.

Because so many of Donald Trump’s biggest supporters are openly bigoted, and so many of them tend to express their horrid views in bill palmer report logo headerthreatening or slur-filled ways, some of Trump’s more prominent surrogates have been banned from various social networks. Some of the others have simply made up a laugh-out-loud conspiracy theory about how they’re not more popular because the social networks are conspiring to bury their incoherent rants. Trump is playing up this nonsense by inviting this collection of lunatics to the White House for a closed-door meeting today. Accordingly, Trump posted this maniacal meltdown on Twitter:

"A big subject today at the White House Social Media Summit will be the tremendous dishonesty, bias, discrimination and suppression practiced by certain companies. We will not let them get away with it much longer. The Fake News Media will also be there, but for a limited period.

The Fake News is not as important, or as powerful, as Social Media. They have lost tremendous credibility since that day in November, 2016, that I came down the escalator with the person who was to become your future First Lady. When I ultimately leave office in six years, or maybe 10 or 14 (just kidding), they will quickly go out of business for lack of credibility, or approval, from the public. That’s why they will all be Endorsing me at some point, one way or the other. Could you imagine having Sleepy Joe Biden, or Alfred E. Newman or a very nervous and skinny version of Pocahontas (1/1024th), as your President, rather than what you have now, so great looking and smart, a true Stable Genius! Sorry to say that even Social Media would be driven out of business along with, and finally, the Fake News Media!"

YouTube, Dr. Gorka Tells Triggered Reporter At Rose Garden, "You’re A Punk! July 11, 2019 (2 min. video). Former White House aide Dr. Sebastian Gorka tells Playboy Magazine reporter Brian Karem, the same triggered reporter who later had an exchange with Joy Villa at the White House Rose Garden on July 11, 2019. Note: Conservative provocateur James O'Keefe, who identifies himself as an "investigative journalist," also confronts Karem.

Other coverage:

  • Bloomberg, Sebastian Gorka Clashes with Journalist After Trump Refuses Media Questions, July 11, 2019 (1:09 min. video).  Conservative commentator Sebastian Gorka appeared to threaten a journalist from the White House press corps after Trump finished remarks on the 2020 census without taking questions from the media. Earlier, Trump hosted a social media summit at the White House, attended by only conservative news media, including Gorka.
  • WLTX, July 11, 2019. Singer Joy Villa confronted several members of the media over fake news moments after a Rose Garden news conference by President Donald Trump on July 11, 2019. It began when Sebastian Gorka had an exchange of words with one of the reporters, who Gorka said made a threat against him.

July 10

washington post logomohammed bin salman al saudWashington Post, After grisly killing of a journalist, lobbyists and lawyers have reaped millions assisting Saudi Arabia, Beth Reinhard, Jonathan O'Connell and Tom Hamburger, July 10, 2019.  After the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a handful of lobbying firms and think tanks made a move rare in Washington: They publicly severed ties with Saudi Arabia. But months later, some have resumed their relationships with the kingdom. Its crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, suspected of ordering the tortture murder, is shown at right.

Trash Talk Radio

Mediaite, WATCH: Caller Informs Seb Gorka That He Has Been Awarded Journalist of the Year By ‘Dipsh*t Magazine,’ Connor Mannion, July 10, 2019.  Sebastian Gorka got duped by a prank call to his radio show and proceeded to blast the jokester as “a little girl.” The caller, “Jason,” began with effusive praise of Gorka, saying he “loved” the sound of Gorka’s voice. “Radio is meant for you, sir,” Jason said.

July 9

Media / Trump Watch

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump cannot block his critics on Twitter, appeals court rules, Ann E. Marimow​, July 9, 2019. The case has twitter bird Customimplications for how elected officials nationwide interact with constituents on social media.

President Trump cannot block his critics from the Twitter feed he regularly uses to communicate with the public, a federal appeals court donald trump twittersaid Tuesday, in a case with implications for how elected officials nationwide interact with constituents on social media.

The decision from the New York-based appeals court upholds an earlier ruling that Trump violated the First Amendment when he blocked individual users who were critical of the president or his policies.

Public officials who take to social media for official government business, the court said Tuesday, are prohibited from excluding people “from an otherwise open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees,” wrote Judge Barrington D. Parker in the unanimous decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

July 8

ny times logoNew York Times, New Scandals Rock Government’s Foreign Broadcasting Service, Elizabeth Williamson, July 8, 2019.  The United States Agency for Global Media is facing intensified scrutiny after two new cases raised questions about journalistic and financial management. The United States Agency for Global Media, the government’s foreign broadcast service, already struggling to clean house after voice of america logoa series of scandals last year at flagship operations like Voice of America and TV Martí, is now being rocked by two new cases that have raised further questions about its journalistic and financial management.

In one, Tomás Regalado Jr., a reporter for TV Martí, which broadcasts into Cuba, and a cameraman for the network, Rodolfo Hernandez, were suspended amid allegations that they faked a mortar attack on Mr. Regalado during a broadcast from Managua, Nicaragua, last year.

That incident surfaced only days after Haroon Ullah, the former chief strategy officer at the global media agency, which operates Martí and foreign-language networks around the world, pleaded guilty on June 27 in federal court in Alexandria, Va., to stealing government property.

A former deputy to the agency’s chief executive, John Lansing, Mr. Ullah admitted to fleecing the government of $37,000 between February and October last year by claiming reimbursements for expensive hotels he did not book, double-billing the government for official travel and forging a doctor’s note to allow him to fly business class. He faces up to 10 years in prison.

The new problems are unrelated to each other; in the case of Mr. Ullah, the agency said its internal controls flagged the expense fraud. But along with many others over the past two years, the scandals have brought intensified scrutiny and criticism to the agency, formerly known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Created during World War II to be an objective, trusted source of information in nations where freedom of the press is under attack, the agency has 3,500 journalists who reach more than 345 million people in 100 countries each week.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump goes off the deep end after Fox News sells him out, Bill Palmer, July 8, 2019. The marriage between fox news logo SmallDonald Trump and Fox News has always been one of convenience. Fox viewers initially wanted to believe in Trump, so Fox played him up at every turn. Trump then rewarded Fox by giving it special access and influence over his administration. The trouble is that Trump has veered so far into Hell, even a growing number of Fox viewers are on the verge of turning on him – and so Fox has had to begin incrementally turning against him in order to preserve its own base. Suffice it to say that Trump isn’t taking the news well.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump launched into not one but two separate rants about Fox News last night, hours apart, giving away just how much it’s eating at him that Fox has begun selling him out. During his ranting, Trump attacked Shep Smith, the Fox weekend anchors (whose names he still doesn’t seem to know), and new Fox personality Donna Brazile. This comes after Trump’s recent attacks on Chris Wallace, Andrew Napolitano, and other Fox faces.

Of course Trump is still reliably getting loyalty from the most craven and extremist of the Fox News personalities, such as Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. But even that’s merely based on the fact that their respective audiences are still largely aligned with a pro-Trump agenda. The bottom line is that Trump has lost the support of far too many Fox News pundits when it comes to his fragile grip on the least enthusiastic members of his base.

The Trump-Fox marriage was only ever going to work out for both sides if Donald Trump was popular enough that it was in Fox News’ best interest to support him across the board. Fox continues to incrementally sell Trump out – not because his popularity is dropping off, but because Fox expects his popularity to drop off, and it wants to get ahead of it. Fox can survive without Trump, but Trump may not survive without Fox, which is probably why he’s taking it so poorly that Fox is selling him out.

July 7

Media News

RT, Trump invites cartoonist who penned ‘anti-Semitic’ Soros sketch to White House, liberals furious, July 7, 2019. Progressives and liberals took to Twitter to vent, after President Donald Trump invited right-wing cartoonist Ben Garrison to an upcoming White House social media summit. Garrison has been accused of anti-Semitism.

The guest list for Trump’s social media summit, due to take place this Thursday, looks tailor-made to trigger and enrage his opponents. Trump cheerleader Bill Mitchell will be in attendance, as will pro-Trump memesmith ‘Carpe Donktum,’ and now self-described “renegade cartoonist” Ben Garrison.

New York Daily News, Crowd at bar breaks into ‘F--k Trump’ chant during live Fox News report about women’s World Cup (WARNING: GRAPHIC LANGUAGE), David Matthews, July 7, 2019. A live Fox News broadcast was interrupted by soccer fans scream "F*** Trump." The U.S. Women’s National Team defeated the Netherlands in the final of the World Cup in France and one cable channel’s attempt to capture fan reactions went a bit sideways. Fox News did a live report from Wallace Bar, a sports bar in Lyon, where the crowd started chanting an obscene phrase that drowned out correspondent Greg Palkot.

July 5

U.S. Media News

Associated Press, Storied African-American newspaper becoming digital only, Staff report, July 5, 2019. he publisher of the storied African American newspaper Chicago Defender has announced it will no longer publish a print version.

In announcing the move to digital-only beginning July 11, Real Times Media CEO Hiram E. Jackson said Friday the newspaper has made significant investment in digital media because of changes in the publishing landscape.

Jackson noted the Defender currently prints 16,000 newspapers. He says the newspaper reaches at least ten times more people on its digital platform. Jackson says Real Times’ other newspapers, the Michigan Chronicle and the New Pittsburgh Courier, will continue to offer a print version.

July 3

Press Crackdown: Brazil

The Guardian, Outcry after reports Brazil plans to investigate Glenn Greenwald, Dom Phillip, July 3, 2019. Federal police reportedly asked glenn greenwald hsmoney laundering unit to investigate the ‘financial activities’ of the US journalist.

Brazil’s Bar Association, journalists and opposition lawmakers have reacted with outrage to reports that the country’s federal police plan to investigate the bank accounts of an American journalist who published leaked conversations between prosecutors and the graft-busting judge who is now Jair Bolsonaro’s justice minister.

The rightwing site the Antagonist (O Antagonista) reported on Tuesday that federal police had asked a money-laundering unit at Brazil’s finance ministry to investigate the “financial activities” of Glenn Greenwald.

brazil flag wavingPolice declined to comment on the allegation but confirmed an investigation had been launched into the hacking of cellphones that led to the leaks.

“This seems to me like an attempt to intimidate the journalist,” said Kennedy Alencar, a leading political commentator on CBN Radio.
Brazil reels at claims judge who jailed Lula collaborated with prosecutors
Read more

“If there is an investigation for doing journalism it is illegal and it is an attempt at intimidation,” said Pierpaolo Bottini, a professor of penal law at the University of São Paulo who heads the press freedom unit at the Brazilian Bar Association.

Greenwald, who lives in Rio de Janeiro, won a Pulitzer prize for leading the Guardian’s reporting on National Security Agency (NSA) spying revealed by Edward Snowden before co-founding the Intercept website in 2014.

Last month, the publication’s Brazilian edition launched the first in a string of bombshell articles which appeared to show prosecutors in the sweeping Operation Car Wash corruption inquiry colluding with Sérgio Moro, the judge who became a hero in Brazil for jailing powerful businessmen, middlemen and politicians.

The leaked records – which the Intercept said it received from an anonymous source – have had an explosive impact on Brazilian politics and dominated headlines for weeks.

The Blaze, ABC, CBS, and NBC announce they will snub President Trump's 'Salute to America' celebration, Breck Dumas, July 3, 2019. Major networks opting to run shows like 'Jeopardy!' in lieu of live coverage of the Fourth of July event. Major U.S. media networks ABC, CBS, and NBC announced Wednesday that they are all snubbing President Donald Trump's "Salute to America" celebration on the Fourth of July and plan to stick with regularly scheduled shows rather than provide live television coverage of the event.

The Daily Mail reported that the networks will stick with planned nightly newscasts and shows, such as "Jeopardy!" and "Inside Edition," cbs news logoin lieu of airing the Independence Day event featuring a speech from the president. However, the three networks will offer live footage over its respective online and streaming platforms.

In reporting details of President Trump's planned show honoring America's armed forces, CBS News noted the president was carrying forward with the event "despite widespread criticism over the distracting from the holiday."

July 1

OpEdNews, Opinion: The Torture of Julian Assange, Paul Craig Roberts, July 1, 2019. In a few days July 4th will be upon us. We will hear paul craig roberts head sternendless nonsense from insouciant speakers and editorialists about what a great democracy we are, having won our freedom from being a British colony.

One thing the United States most certainly is not is a democracy. A democracy requires an informed electorate, and the United States most certainly does not have an informed electorate. The American media, indeed, the entirety of the Western print and TV media, functions as a Propaganda Ministry for Washington and the ruling oligarchies. The explanations are controlled to serve the agendas of the ruling elites. The persecution and torture of Julian Assange proves conclusively that the First Amendment is a dead-letter Amendment.

Without an honest Fourth Estate it is impossible to prevent a democracy from becoming a tyranny. In America tyranny is far advanced. Suppose that Americans somehow became aware of the truth about Julian Assange's total innocence that has been disclosed by Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. What could they do about it, short of violent revolution and complete elimination of the ruling elites?

Formerly, the US Constitution was revered, but today even law faculties and judges see the Constitution as something to find a way around. The vast majority of Americans themselves have no idea that the Constitution is the bulwark of their independence and liberty.

nils melzer un photoNils Melzer (shown in a United Nations photo) describes how his investigation of Assange's treatment liberated him from the totally false picture that has been created in order to establish the legal precedent that government crimes against humanity cannot be revealed. In the "American Democracy," the people are not permitted to know.

"In the end it finally dawned on me that I had been blinded by propaganda, and that Assange (shown at right) had been systematically julian assange indicter imageslandered to divert attention from the crimes he exposed. Once he had been dehumanized through isolation, ridicule and shame, just like the witches we used to burn at the stake, it was easy to deprive him of his most fundamental rights without provoking public outrage worldwide. And thus, a legal precedent is being set, through the backdoor of our own complacency, which in the future can and will be applied just as well to disclosures by The Guardian, the New York Times and ABC News.

"Even so, you may say, why spend so much breath on Assange, when countless others are tortured worldwide? Because this is not only about protecting Assange, but about preventing a precedent likely to seal the fate of Western democracy. For once telling the truth has become a crime, while the powerful enjoy impunity, it will be too late to correct the course. We will have surrendered our voice to censorship and our fate to unrestrained tyranny.

"This Op-Ed has been offered for publication to the Guardian, The Times, the Financial Times, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian, the Canberra Times, the Telegraph, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Thomson Reuters Foundation, and Newsweek.

None responded positively."

Nils Melzer is a Swiss academic, author and practitioner in the field of international law. Since 1 November 2016, Melzer has been serving as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

June

June 30

Media: Moguls Cancel Cartoonist

djt michael de adder play through june 2019

BoingBoing, Billionaire newspaper monopolist family cancels editorial cartoonist after anti-Trump drawing, Cory Doctorow, ed., June 30, 2019.  Canada's Irving family is one of the richest in the world, owning more land than anyone except the British royals and the Catholic church; they also own virtually all the media in New Brunswick, as well as the industries that those newspapers cover, and they augment their media control over the public discourse with a ruthless approach to their critics.

The Irvings are in the news today due to their role in a massive Canadian scandal that many believe could cost Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party its chance at re-election in October.

Now, the Irvings' newspapers have all canceled Micheal de Adder's editorial strip, after the New Brunswick native drew a comic (shown above) featuring Donald Trump playing golf over the corpses of Salvadoran asylum-seekers Oscar Alberto Martinez and his two year old daughter, Angie Valeria M, whose bodies were photographed after they washed up on the shores of the Rio Grande.

According to de Adder, none of the Irvings' Brunswick News Inc outlets ran the strip.

De Adder is Canada's most-read cartoonist.

De Adder wrote that despite his sorrow at being cut from the papers in his home province, "I’m not a victim. I just finished a book, that will be out in September and I still freelance for some amazing newspapers. It’s a setback not a deathblow."

In a statement, President Wes Tyrell of the Association of Canadian Cartoonists wrote, "The Irvings have considerable corporate interests in the United States, but why would they care about cartoons potentially offending the American president? ...It’s simple really, J.D. Irving, Limited is not only a privately owned conglomerate headquartered in New Brunswick, its also an international behemoth with global reach. Trade has been an issue since Trump took office, trade that affects the Irvings directly, not to mention a host of other issues. And the President himself is an unknown quantity who punishes those who appear to oppose him...A solid reason why an oil company has no business owning newspapers."

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s press secretary bruised after jostling with North Korea security over media, report says, Hannah Knowles, June 30, 2019. New White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham was bruised Sunday in a scuffle between North Korean security and members of the U.S. press pool covering President Trump’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the Associated Press reported.

The incident, which was partially caught on video, occurred after Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to visit North Korea and days after Grisham took on the job.

The Secret Service intervened as North Korean guards pushed and shoved American reporters to block them from entering the Inter-Korean House of Freedom south of the border, where Trump and Kim were meeting, according to the AP. “The North Korean security was a little overzealous, at times trying to block US reporters’ view,” wrote Jennifer Jacobs, a senior White House reporter at Bloomberg, adding that the clash “came to body blows.”

Religion / Media

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Mormon’ No More: Reflecting on Church’s Move to Scrap a Moniker, Elizabeth Dias, June 29, 2019. For the Latter-day Saints faithful, a shift away from a longtime name has meant lighthearted screw-ups, logistical complications and reflections on identity.

Last August, leaders of her faith announced a game-changing divine revelation. Russell M. Nelson, the church’s president, said that God had “impressed upon my mind the importance of the name he has revealed for his church.” Church members should no longer call themselves Mormons, or even use the shorthand L.D.S., the church announced.

Instead, they should use the church’s full name and refer to themselves as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Or, if they wanted a shorter version, Latter-day Saints was preferred. As he is revered as a living prophet, the announcement had divine weight.

For the church’s 16 million adherents, the shift has meant lighthearted screw-ups, logistical complications and reflections on an unexpected question: What do you do when a name that has been core to your identity suddenly changes?

The word Mormon has been with the church from the beginning. It comes from the Book of Mormon, the church’s signature text (the main thing associated with the church that is keeping its name), which adherents believe was recorded on gold plates by the prophet Mormon and his son, Moroni.

June 29

WFMJ-TV (Youngstown, OH), Vindicator announces it will stop production, J. Breen Mitchell, June 29, 2019. After more than a century, The Vindicator will permanently cease production. 144 employees and about 250 carriers will lose their jobs on August 31, 2019, after the papers last publication.

According to the Vindicator's General Manager, Mark Brown, he has been trying to find a buyer for the paper since December 2017. "We never thought we would be in this position, being that it was in the family you didn't want to shut it down or lose it but the only way we could see this continue is if we found another buyer," said Brown. Brown adds that most of the revenue comes from the print product. The Vindicator will not be able to keep their website due to Google and Facebook driving down rates for advertising.

The announcement came Friday afternoon, just days after the newspaper marked its 150th anniversary. On Saturday, a letter to readers will be published by Vindicator publisher Betty J.H. Brown Jagnow and general manager Mark Brown explaining the decision. WFMJ is also owned by the same family that owns The Vindicator. In a letter to WFMJ employees dated June 28, Brown said the decision to shut down the newspaper will not affect the television station.

"We have no plans, no intentions, no desire, no thoughts and no interest in selling WFMJ. Period," Brown said. The closing comes at a time when newspapers across the country are struggling for their survival as news consumers increasingly turn to digital options for news and information.

The Vindicator's editorial page editor and Sunday columnists, Bertram de Souza, reflects on his 40-year career and how influential The Vindicator has been within the community.

"I'm losing a part of what has been my life," says Souza. "Politically the Sunday before an election, when we were printing at midnight politicians and their campaign people, would line outside the old building to get the first newspaper off the press and see who we would endorse."

Souza says that the papers General Manager, Mark Brown, supported his column no matter who it may have upset or offended.

Souza says that the papers General Manager, Mark Brown, supported his column no matter who it may have upset or offended.

tim ryan president buttonValley Congressman Tim Ryan [shown in his 2020 presidential campaign button] recently sent out a tweet about the closing of the Vindicator saying this is a heartbreaking announcement. "This is heartbreaking. The Vindicator has been a pillar in our community, and its reporters and staff have always been unwavering in their commitment to truth and transparency. Local newspapers are critical to our democracy. We need to support them."

The paper has been a fixture in the Mahoning Valley since its first issue was published on June 25, 1869. It would eventually become the only daily newspaper in Mahoning County.

June 27

538.com, Analysis: What Went Down On Night One Of The First Democratic Debates Filed under 2020 Election, Staff reports, June 27, 2019. Micah Cohen: What a night! If you missed it and want to relive all the glory chronologically, just start at the bottom of this live blog and scroll up. If you’re not inclined to do that, though, I’ve got two options for you. First, check back here tomorrow — we’re partnering with Morning Consult to measure how the debates change voters’ views of the race. Second, I asked the live blog team to sum up the night’s events in a newspapery headline.

Laura Bronner: Speaking time — measured here by words spoken by each candidate — wasn’t equally distributed across the candidates. It was moderately correlated with candidates’ polling averages (R=0.55), though candidates like Booker, O’Rourke, Klobuchar and Castro spoke a lot relative to their standing in the polls. Warren, who was the polling leader on stage Wednesday night, got fewer words in than her standing would imply.

Who held the floor in night one? Number of words spoken by each candidate during night one of the first Democratic debate

Cory Booker 2181
Beto O’Rourke 1932
Eliz. Warren 1637
Chuck Todd (mod) 1633
Amy Klobuchar 1614
Julián Castro 1588
Tim Ryan 1383
Tulsi Gabbard 1243
Rachel Maddow (mod.) 1163
John Delaney 1060
Lester Holt (mod.) 1001
Bill de Blasio 881
Jay Inslee 875
Savannah Guthrie (mod.) 748
Jose Diaz-Balart (mod.) 377

Word counts exclude words spoken in Spanish

Nate Silver: Looks like Gabbard edged out Booker in search traffic at the end there.

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Media And Public Disagree On Tulsi Gabbard's Debate Performance, B, June 27, 2019. The mainstream media tulsi gabbardseem to judge the Democratic primary debate last night quite differently than the general public.

Quartz cites multiple polls which show that Tulsi Gabbard won the debate: "[T]wo candidates seemed to pique a lot of interest among US voters, at least when judged by who Americans searched for on Google: New Jersey senator Cory Booker and Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. A poll by the right-leaning Drudge Report also found Gabbard to be the breakout of the debate with 38% of the vote, well ahead of Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren in second place. Gabbard also topped polls by local news sites including NJ.com and the Washington Examiner."

Now contrast that with the mainstream media.

The Washington Post discusses winners and losers of the debate and puts Gabbard in the second category: "Gabbard was lost for much of the debate. That may not have been her fault — she wasn’t asked many questions — ...."

Duh!

The New York Times main piece about the debate mentions Gabbard only once - in paragraph 32 of the 45 paragraphs long piece. It does not reveal anything about her actual political position: "There was little discussion of foreign policy until near the end of the debate when two little-known House lawmakers, Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Tim Ryan of Ohio, clashed over how aggressively to target the Taliban."

The New York Times also has some 'experts' discussing winners and losers. Gabbard is only mentioned at the very end, and by a Republican pollster, as a potential candidate for Secretary of Defense.

CNN also discusses winners and losers. Gabbard is not mentioned at all. NBC News ranks the candidates' performance. It puts Gabbard on place 8 and inserts a snide:
"Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii: Seized an opportunity to highlight her military experience in Afghanistan and her signature anti-intervention foreign policy views, without being tainted by her past sympathetic comments on Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad."

Most of the above media have long avoided to mention Gabbard and to discuss her political positions. It is quite evident that the mainstream media do not like her anti-regime-change views and are afraid of even writing about them.

June 26

Fallen Journalists

Fallen Journalists Memorial, Fallen Journalists Memorial Act of 2019 Introduced, Staff report, June 26, 2019. New Foundation to Embark on Planning, Private Fundraising Campaign for Memorial. Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House and Senate to establish a permanent Fallen Journalists Memorial in Washington, D.C. The legislation and the announcement of the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation comes ahead of the one-year anniversary of the shooting at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, that took the lives of five people on June 28, 2018.

The Fallen Journalists Memorial Act of 2019 (H.R. 3465 and S. 1969) authorizes the newly-established Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation (FJM Foundation) to raise funds and work with appropriate entities to site and build a memorial to pay tribute to the journalists who have died while performing their jobs.

In the House, the legislation is sponsored by Reps. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) and Tom Cole (R-OK). In the Senate, the legislation is sponsored by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH). No federal funds will be used to plan or build the memorial.

david dreier ben cardin june 26 2019 img 6423“Today marks the beginning of what will be a long and collaborative process,” said David Dreier (shown in a Justice Integrity Project photo clapping his hands as Cardin speaks), Chairman of the Tribune Publishing Company, at an event announcing the FJM Foundation today. “The work of our legislative sponsors to date has been superb. The broad support we have received from the journalistic community and their readers, viewers and listeners from across the country is very inspiring. Journalism is a cornerstone of our democracy. It is important to honor those who have died in pursuit of the truth.”

Also present for today’s event were Senators Cardin and Portman; Congressman Cole; Donald Graham, former publisher of The Washington Post; and Rick Hutzell, Editor, Capital Gazette Communications.

Watch the full press conference.

The Fallen Journalists Memorial Act follows the legal framework established by the Commemorative Works Act (CWA) of 1986 for the placement of commemorative works on federal land in the District of Columbia. It prohibits the use of federal funds and requires the Foundation to follow a process to ensure that the memorial is appropriately designed, constructed and located, and that sufficient funds are provided to the National Park Service (NPS) to maintain the memorial.

The National Press Club Journalism Institute (NPCJI), which is the non-profit affiliate of the National Press Club, will host the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation. The Foundation will build support and plan for the design, construction, operation, maintenance, and preservation of the memorial. Initial funding will be provided by the Annenberg Foundation and the Michael and Jacky Ferro Foundation. Barbara Cochran, who has a storied career in journalism and is a professor and director of the Washington program of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and president of NPCJI, will serve as President of the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation. Dreier will serve as Chairman of the Foundation’s board.

ABOUT THE FALLEN JOURNALISTS MEMORIAL FOUNDATION: The Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation (FJM Foundation) will work to enact legislation, raise funds and build a Fallen Journalists Memorial on federal land in Washington, D.C., that will pay tribute to journalists who have died while performing their jobs. The FJM Foundation will operate under the auspices of the National Press Club Journalism Institute (NPCJI), which is the non-profit affiliate of the National Press Club. Learn more at www.fallenjournalists.org and follow on Twitter @FJMemorial.

ABOUT THE NATIONAL PRESS CLUB JOURNALISM INSTITUTE: The National Press Club Journalism Institute promotes an engaged global citizenry through an independent and free press, and equips journalists with skills and standards to inform the public in ways that inspire civic engagement. Learn more at www.pressclubinstitute.org.

Frederick News Post (MD), Opinion: Waking up to Empire, Barry Kissin, June 26, 2019. In the June 18 Frederick News-Post, page A1, from The Associated Press: “It appears as if Iran has begun its own maximum pressure campaign on the world. … The development follows apparent attacks last week in the Strait of Hormuz on [two] oil tankers, assaults that Washington has blamed on Iran. While Iran has denied being involved, it laid mines in the 1980s targeting oil tankers around the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a fifth of the world’s crude oil passes.”

This is pro-war propaganda — once again part of a campaign to justify American aggression, echoing Pompeo’s determination within hours of the attacks that Iran was responsible. Evidence ignored by the AP (and still by Pompeo) includes the statement by the Japanese owner of one of the tankers that the U.S. is wrong about the way the attack was carried out, that his ship was attacked on the starboard side by a flying object, not by a mine or torpedo. David Stockman, former director of management and budget under Reagan, posts at antiwar.com: “You can virtually bet when the dust settles [these tanker assaults] are false flags … manufactured pretexts for war.”

Until now, most Americans have been insulated from the ramifications of our Global War on Terror. That drastically changes in the event of a war with Iran. We are running out of places to blow up short of igniting global collapse — from which none are insulated except perhaps members of our ruling class of warmongers.

There is a ray of hope that Americans are finally wising up. A few elements in mainstream media are picking up on it. I have demonstrated in many previous letters and op-eds that both of our mainstream political parties are fully supportive of our militarism and our empire. There are very few exceptions, such as Republican Sen. Rand Paul and his father, Ron Paul, who have consistently opposed our Global War on Terror and confronted the litany of lies (pretexts).

In general, though, it is the Republican Party and its supporters who most consistently appear to approve on mindless patriotic grounds our every aggression and war crime. (You know, the “pro-life” crowd.) And so I am choosing a Fox News broadcast to illustrate how the run-up to war with Iran is being questioned even in the mainstream.

On June 13, Tucker Carlson interviewed a pollster from the Eurasia Group Foundation who reported that 80 percent of Americans want a “diplomatic solution” to our conflict with Iran, and that of the remaining 20 percent, a majority believed “Iran had a right to have nuclear weapons” as a ”deterrent,” leaving a mere 8 percent who favored “launching some sort of preventive war on Iran.” Tucker then comments that “this is one of those topics, foreign policy more broadly, war in the Middle East specifically, that proceeds really with no reference at all to what the American public wants. That’s not how a democracy is supposed to operate, is it?”

No — that’s how an empire operates, based not on what the public wants but on what its ruling class wants, which includes the owners of mainstream media and the principals in our military-industrial-intelligence complex.

Everybody knows that Congress has been complicit in all of this.

The loudest people in Congress righteously demand more interventions, more war, greater military and black ops budgets. We have no visible champions of peace, the only way out of the swirling whirlpool we are in.

It will not do to rely on the patriotic myth that American soldiers and special operatives fight for freedom and democracy all across the world. Quite the opposite. They fight for a corrupt, power-mad and cruel empire.

The Grayzone via Global Research, NY Times Admits It Sends Stories to US Government for Approval Before Publication, Ben Norton, June 26, 2019. The New York Times casually acknowledged that it sends major scoops to the US government before publication, to make sure “national security officials” have “no concerns.”

The New York Times has publicly acknowledged that it sends some of its stories to the US government for approval from “national security officials” before publication.

This confirms what veteran New York Times correspondents like James Risen have said: The American newspaper of record regularly collaborates with the US government, suppressing reporting that top officials don’t want made public.

On June 15, the Times reported that the US government is escalating its cyber attacks on Russia’s power grid. According to the article, “the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively,” as part of a larger “digital Cold War between Washington and Moscow.”

In response to the report, Donald Trump attacked the Times on Twitter, calling the article “a virtual act of Treason.”

The New York Times PR office replied to Trump from its official Twitter account, defending the story and noting that it had, in fact, been cleared with the US government before being printed.

“Accusing the press of treason is dangerous,” the Times communications team said. “We described the article to the government before publication.”

“As our story notes, President Trump’s own national security officials said there were no concerns,” the Times added.

Indeed, the Times report on the escalating American cyber attacks against Russia is attributed to “current and former [US] government officials.” The scoop in fact came from these apparatchiks, not from a leak or the dogged investigation of an intrepid reporter.

The neoliberal self-declared “Resistance” jumped on Trump’s reckless accusation of treason (the Democratic Coalition, which boasts, “We help run #TheResistance,” responded by calling Trump “Putin’s puppet”). The rest of the corporate media went wild.

But what was entirely overlooked was the most revealing thing in the New York Times’ statement: The newspaper of record was essentially admitting that it has a symbiotic relationship with the US government.

In fact, some prominent American pundits have gone so far as to insist that this symbiotic relationship is precisely what makes someone a journalist.

In May, neoconservative Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen — a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush — declared that WikiLeaks publisher and political prisoner Julian Assange is “not a journalist”; rather, he is a “spy” who “deserves prison.” (Thiessen also once called Assange “the devil.”)

What was the Post columnist’s rationale for revoking Assange’s journalistic credentials?

Unlike “reputable news organizations, Assange did not give the U.S. government an opportunity to review the classified information WikiLeaks was planning to release so they could raise national security objections,” Thiessen wrote. “So responsible journalists have nothing to fear.”

In other words, this former US government speechwriter turned corporate media pundit insists that collaborating with the government, and censoring your reporting to protect so-called “national security,” is definitionally what makes you a journalist.

June 25

Esquire, Opinion: Sarah Huckabee Sanders Was an Arrogant Liar on Behalf of a Corrupt Administration, Charles P. Pierce, June 25, 2019. With "farewell drinks" on her behalf, the elite political media once again shows it will not stop pretending everything is normal in a time of larval tyranny.

Remember Richard Clarke, in his appearance before the 9/11 Commission, when he prefaced his testimony with an apology? "Your government failed you," he said. Well, in my capacity as spokesman for my entire profession, let me apologize for the following item. Your media has failed you.

From the Washington Post: "Anita Kumar, a Politico White House correspondent who helped put together the farewell drinks, told the Erik Wemple Blog, “I’m actually really happy with the turnout — it’s huge." She added: “And it taught me two things: One, we did the right thing, the thing that we always knew was right that I kind of second-guessed for a minute with all the criticism, which is, we’re meeting with the people that we cover. And it’s important — you have to talk to the people you cover. That’s it.”

The relentless desire of the elite political media to pretend that what we're experiencing is just politics as usual, that it conforms to the usual forms and fashions, and that, you know, the pendulum always swings the other way, (insert mandatory extraneous platitude here) is almost charming in its hopeful and child-like simplicity.

sarah huckabee sanders screenshotFirst of all, this is not a normal administration.* It is a larval tyranny.

Secondly, Sarah Huckabee Sanders (shown in a file photo) was not a normal White House spokesperson. She was an embarrassingly bad liar and an embarrassingly arrogant countrified know-nothing running cover for a criminal gang, and everyone who attended this nightmare with canapes should be fired forthwith and replaced with someone who has covered organized crime for a living.

U.S Courts, Crime

June 24

Vox, Analysis: Chuck Todd’s Trump interview, and the backlash to it, explained, Aaron Rupar, June 24, djt chuck todd june 23 2019 nbc Small2019. President Donald Trump’s pretaped interview on Sunday’s Meet the Press is blowing up — but not for reasons that host Chuck Todd nor NBC News would like. Todd is shown at right in an NBC screengrab at the White House on June 23.

At numerous points throughout the interview, Todd let Trump get away with blatant falsehoods and gaslighting. Todd also teed up a number of softball questions for the president, like “Do you think you’ve been more successful in business or the presidency?” and “Do you speak to any of the former presidents?”

Trump’s interview with Todd comes at the end of a week that began with George Stephanopoulos’s occasionally hard-hitting hour-long interview with Trump and also featured an episode of Sean Hannity’s Fox News show that was devoted almost entirely to a fawning phone call.

While there were a number of newsworthy moments during the Meet the Press interview, Todd was widely criticized for how he dealt with an NBC star turned president who has made a bit of a cottage industry out of bashing his former business partner.

NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen said the interview “was not public discourse” and compared the proceedings to “feeding English sentences into a wood chipper,” while University College London political scientist Brian Klaas criticized Todd for appearing to be unprepared for Trump’s lies.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s lies need to be exposed in real time, Jennifer Rubin, June 24, 2019. President Trump has made more than 10,700 false or misleading claims: Washington Post Fact Checker.

Allowing Trump and his ilk to bluster and flat-out lie their way through interviews might be the path of least resistance when trying to cover a lot of ground. However, if Trump and his teammates are not stopped dead in their tracks, the media become a platform for deceiving voters.

Headlines that echo the president — “Trump says Obama did it first” — are equally reprehensible. (It should be “Trump falsely blames Obama for his own policy.”)

We’re at risk of losing not only a shared set of facts but also a uniform belief that there are such things as facts. That’s straight out of the autocratic playbook — one that the media cannot facilitate.

jacob hornberger newFuture of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: The Solution to Trump’s Iran Mayhem, Jacob G. Hornberger, right, June 24, 2019. Undoubtedly, President Trump is fantasizing about the possibility of being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for deciding at the last minute to not bomb Iran in retaliation for Iran’s shoot-down of a Pentagon drone. Apparently experiencing a crisis of conscience, Trump called off the strike when he learned that it would kill an estimated 150 people, which he decided would be disproportionate to the downing of an unmanned drone.

USA Today, Supreme Court limits access to government records in loss for Argus Leader, part of the USA TODAY Network, Jonathan Ellis and Richard Wolf, June 24, 2019. The Supreme Court limited public and media access to government records Monday by expanding a federal law's definition of what can be deemed confidential.

At issue was whether confidentiality, as used in a section of the Freedom of Information Act, means anything intended to be kept secret or only information likely to cause harm if publicized. The high court adopted the broader definition.

Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the 6-3 decision, with Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissenting.

A retailers trade group, the Food Marketing Institute, and the federal government had argued for a broad definition that would leave ample room to keep data from the public. Media organizations and public interest groups favored a more narrow definition requiring harm, which would make confidentiality apply to fewer FOIA requests. In 2011, the case began with a request that the Argus Leader newspaper made under the Freedom of Information Act. The Sioux Falls, S.D., newsroom is part of the USA TODAY Network.

Explosion In Book Counterfeiting?

ny times logoNew York Times, What Happens After Amazon’s Domination Is Complete? Its Bookstore Offers Clues, David Streitfeld, June 24, 2019 (print ed.). The Sanford Guide to Antimicrobial Therapy is a medical handbook that recommends the right amount of the right drug for treating ailments from bacterial pneumonia to infected wounds. Lives depend on it.

It is not the sort of book a doctor should puzzle over, wondering, “Is that a ‘1’ or a ‘7’ in the recommended dosage?” But that is exactly the possibility that has haunted the guide’s publisher, Antimicrobial Therapy, for the past two years as it confronted a flood of counterfeits — many of which were poorly printed and hard to read — in Amazon’s vast bookstore.

“This threatens a bunch of patients — and our whole business,” said Scott Kelly, the publisher’s vice president.

amazon logo smallMr. Kelly’s problems arise directly from Amazon’s domination of the book business. The company sells substantially more than half of the books in the United States, including new and used physical volumes as well as digital and audio formats. Amazon is also a platform for third-party sellers, a publisher, a printer, a self-publisher, a review hub, a textbook supplier and a distributor that now runs its own chain of brick-and-mortar stores.

But Amazon takes a hands-off approach to what goes on in its bookstore, never checking the authenticity, much less the quality, of what it sells. It does not oversee the sellers who have flocked to its site in any organized way.

That has resulted in a kind of lawlessness. Publishers, writers and groups such as the Authors Guild said counterfeiting of books on Amazon had surged. The company has been reactive rather than proactive in dealing with the issue, they said, often taking action only when a buyer complains. Many times, they added, there is nowhere to appeal and their only recourse is to integrate even more closely with Amazon.

The scope of counterfeiting across Amazon goes far beyond books. E-commerce has taken counterfeit goods from flea markets to the mainstream, and Amazon is by far the e-commerce heavyweight. But books offer a way to see the depths of the issue.

“Being a tech monopoly means you don’t have to care about quality,” said Bill Pollock, a San Francisco publisher who has dealt with fake versions of his firm’s computer books on Amazon.

An Amazon spokeswoman denied that counterfeiting of books was a problem, saying, “This report cites a handful of complaints, but even a handful is too many and we will keep working until it’s zero.” The company said it strictly prohibited counterfeit products and last year denied accounts to more than one million suspected “bad actors.”

President's Media Counselor

Palmer Report, Opinion: Kellyanne Conway has a whole new problem, Bill Palmer, June 24, 2019. When the U.S. Office of Special Counsel kellyanne conway djtannounced earlier this month that Kellyanne Conway, right, had violated the Hatch Act, Palmer Report pointed out that this alone wasn’t going to directly cause any problems for her. It was a criminal act, but not the kind you go to prison for – and Donald Trump obviously wasn’t going to fire her for breaking the law. But now the game has changed for Kellyanne.

When the House Oversight Committee initially announced that it would hold an investigative hearing into Kellyanne Conway’s Hatch Act violations, the committee implied that it would be up to her whether or not she wanted to show up and defend herself. But now the committee has announced that Kellyanne must show up and answer for her crimes after all – and if she doesn’t agree to show up, the committee will vote on whether to subpoena her. Democrats make up the majority of the committee, so if they decide to subpoena her, it’ll happen.

bill palmer report logo headerThat’ll leave Kellyanne with only two bad options. The first would be to show up and testify before the committee, meaning that she’ll be humiliating herself on live national television at a time when the Trump regime doesn’t need any more humiliating scandals. Her second option would be to try to fight the subpoena in court. That might buy her a bit of time, but in the end the courts would order her to show up to Congress and testify under threat of arrest – and in the meantime, it would simply drag out her scandal out longer in the media.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Ex-Fox Newser Carl Cameron takes his ‘unfinished business’ to progressive startup, Erik Wemple, June 24, 2019. When folks leave Fox News, they quite often pursue projects that align with the worldview of their former employer. They might launch a conservative talk show airing on Sinclair stations, assist with President Trump’s reelection campaign or throw their time into a Trump-sycophancy website.

Carl Cameron, who covered politics for Fox News over two decades, is veering from that path. “I have a little bit of unfinished business,” says Cameron. He is teaming up with Joseph Romm, an author and reporter on climate science and climate policy at ThinkProgress, an “editorially independent” arm of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Their collaboration is FrontPageLive.com, a news site where progressives can find stories that feed their sensibilities. A news release calls the site “the go-to liberal antidote” to the Drudge Report, the aggregator that for more than two decades has been amplifying news reports with a conservative spin. Romm sees FrontPageLive.com as a “viralizing engine” for the other side. It will populate frequently with audience-tested headlines, while pairing stories with links to action campaigns working on the issue at hand.

fox news logo SmallThe concept stems from Romm’s love of Internet metrics. Over 13 years of blogging at ThinkProgress, Romm has tracked the Web prints for his thousands of postings, with a particular focus on traffic sources. Over the years, he has watched as referral engines for his stuff have gone poof. Years ago, the Huffington Post drove good numbers; the modern, rebranded HuffPost doesn’t. Years ago, Yahoo provided helpful aggregation; no more, he says. And when Facebook changed its algorithm in 2018, says Romm, ThinkProgress traffic took a “big hit.”

June 23

Trump Team, Allies

jamal khashoggi entering consulate

Saudi national Jamal Khashoggi, a Virginia resident and Washington Post columnist, enters the Saudi Arabian embassy in Turkey last year to process paperwork for his forthcoming marriage as his fiance waited on the street. Saudis chopped him to pieces inside, as documented by a gruesome report by the United Nations last week based in part on audio records of the murder-torture (Surveillance photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Shrugs Off Khashoggi Killing by Ally Saudi Arabia, Michael D. Shear, June 23, 2019.  President Trump on Sunday shrugged off the brutal dismembering of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, just days after a United Nations report described how a team of Saudi assassins called Mr. Khashoggi a “sacrificial animal” before his murder.

donald trump monster abananapeeledcom dcmaThe U.N. report urged an F.B.I. investigation into the slaying. But in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mr. Trump said the episode had already been thoroughly investigated. He said the Middle East is “a vicious, hostile place” and noted that Saudi Arabia is an important trading partner with the United States.

“I only say they spend $400 to $450 billion over a period of time, all money, all jobs, buying equipment,” the president told Chuck Todd, the show’s moderator. “I’m not like a fool that says, ‘We don’t want to do business with them.’ And by the way, if they don’t do business with us, you know what they do? They’ll do business with the Russians or with the Chinese.”

Just days after pulling back from striking Iran for its downing of an American surveillance drone, Mr. Trump also said he was “not looking for war,” but added that if the United States went to war with Iran, “it’ll be obliteration like you’ve never seen before.”

Memorial To Slain U.S. Journalists

Capital Gazette, A year after Capital Gazette shooting, new foundation aims to build memorial to fallen journalists in D.C., Jennifer Badie, June 23, 2019. Tribune Publishing Chairman David Dreier announced Sunday the creation of a foundation that plans to build a memorial to fallen journalists in Washington, D.C.

The announcement comes the week of the anniversary of one of the deadliest attacks on journalists in U.S. history. Last June 28, a gunman entered the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, killing Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters. Tribune owns Baltimore Sun Media, the Capital’s parent company.

Dreier, who wrote a column that was published Sunday in the Capital, The Baltimore Sun and other Tribune news sites and papers, said Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, will be among those who will introduce legislation this week to establish the Fallen Journalists Memorial, which “will pay tribute to the journalists who have sacrificed their lives in the name of a free press.”

The Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation, Dreier wrote, “will build support and plan for the design, construction, operation, maintenance and preservation of the memorial. …
A snow globe, a poem, a home: Capital Gazette victims revealed, recalled in the things they left behind

“This is a call to action. We must honor the memories of the journalists who have perished so that they can serve as a reminder of the essential value of journalism to our democracy.”

Cardin’s spokeswoman confirmed Sunday that the senator will be introducing legislation, along with Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, this week that would authorize the foundation to build a memorial on federal land.

“We are privileged to have monuments and memorials to honor those who have helped make our nation and our democracy stronger since its founding days. Missing currently from that honor roll are reporters who have sacrificed everything ... in the spirit of the free, open, and transparent societies and governments that Americans — and all people — deserve,” Cardin said in a statement. “This new memorial will honor the brave souls lost in the shooting at the Capital Gazette and others who lost their lives doing their job in defense of our freedoms.”

He added, “This memorial will be a visible symbol of what is at stake.”

The foundation has been founded under the auspices of the nonprofit National Press Club Journalism Institute. Dreier said the Annenberg Foundation and the Ferro Foundation are providing initial funding.

Dreier will serve as chairman of the foundation. The Capital’s editor, Rick Hutzell, will serve on the board’s advisory panel.

This month, the Newseum added the names of journalists Fischman, Hiaasen, Winters and McNamara to its Journalists Memorial. The Newseum announced it would close at the end of this year; the Johns Hopkins University bought the location. The fate of the memorial wall is unknown.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump compares himself to Kavanaugh in latest sexual assault allegation, Colby Itkowitz, Beth Reinhard, David Weigel, June 23, 2019 (print ed.). “You can’t do that for the sake of publicity,” the president says of such accusations, in general. resident brett kavanaughTrump compared himself to Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, right, on Saturday morning, following a fresh allegation that Trump sexually assaulted a woman in the mid-1990s.

Trump vehemently denied the accusation and said it was akin to the claims of sexual assault that roiled Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the high court in 2018.

“People have to be careful because they are playing with very dangerous territory,” Trump told reporters outside the White House before departing to Camp David. “When they do that, and it’s happening more and more, when you look at what happened to Justice Kavanaugh and you look at what happened to others, you can’t do that for the sake of publicity.”

e jean carrollE. Jean Carroll, left, a magazine writer and advice columnist, alleges that in 1995 or 1996, she encountered Trump at a high-end department store in Manhattan and agreed to help him shop for a gift for a woman. It was there, she says, that Trump attacked her in a dressing room.

She is telling her story for the first time in a new book, excerpts of which were published in New York magazine.

World News

washington post logoPresident Donald Trump officialWashington Post, ‘Let’s make Iran great again’: Trump reaches out to Tehran, still threatens more sanctions, John Hudson and Anne Gearan, June 23, 2019 (print ed.). Iran has shown no interest in renegotiating a new agreement with a Trump administration that has worked to strangle its economy and prevent it from selling oil on the international market.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. launched cyber-strikes against Iran’s missile systems, Ellen Nakashima, June 23, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump approved an offensive cyberstrike that disabled Iranian computer systems used to control rocket and missile launches, even as he backed away from a conventional military attack in response to its downing Thursday of an unmanned U.S. surveillance drone, according to people familiar with the matter.

The cyberstrikes, launched Thursday night by personnel with U.S. Cyber Command, were in the works for weeks if not months, according to two of these people, who said the Pentagon proposed launching them after Iran’s alleged attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman earlier this month.

June 21

djt fake time covers composite

President Trump created fake Time Magazine covers to enhance his image, as shown above and as reported by David Farthenhold in the Washington Post. Time's actual cover featuring actress Kate Winslow on March 1, 2009 is shown at left, with Trump's fake cover for that date displayed in his golf clubs. But Trump shows scant affection for the magazine's staff in an interview this week for a cover story, as indicted below.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump threatens reporter with prison time during interview, Colby Itkowitz, June 21, 2019. In answer to a question about the Mueller report, President Trump lashed out over a photographer's attempt to take a photo of a letter that Trump showed reporters. President Trump, in an interview this week and on Twitter on Friday morning, again suggested criminal action against American journalists.

During a sit-down interview with Time magazine, Trump showed the reporters a letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. When a photographer tried to snap a photograph of the letter, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told him he couldn’t.

time logo ogLater in the interview, the subject turned to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, and a reporter asked about sworn testimony that Trump tried to limit the investigation to only “future election meddling.”

Rather than answer, Trump lashed out about the photographer’s attempt to take a shot of the letter from Kim, according to a transcript of the interview that Time released Thursday night.

“Well, you can go to prison, instead, because if you use, if you use the photograph you took of the letter that I gave you . . . ” Trump started.

When the Time reporter interjected to continue his line of questioning, Trump went on, “confidentially, I didn’t give it to you to take photographs of it — so don’t play that game with me.”

Trump has been so enamored with his own appearance in the national publication that he had a fake Time cover with his portrait and the headline: “Donald Trump: The ‘Apprentice’ is a television smash!” framed and hung in several of his golf clubs.

washington post logoWashington Post, Product Review: Chrome has become surveillance software. It’s time to switch, Geoffrey A. Fowler, June 21, 2019.Our latest privacy experiment found Google Chrome ushered more than 11,000 tracker cookies into our browser — in a single week. Our latest privacy experiment found Chrome ushered more than 11,000 tracker cookies into our browser — in a single week. Here’s why Firefox is better.

google logo customYou open your browser to look at the Web. Do you know who is looking back at you?

Over a recent week of Web surfing, I peered under the hood of Google Chrome and found it brought along a few thousand friends. Shopping, news and even government sites quietly tagged my browser to let ad and data companies ride shotgun while I clicked around the Web.

This was made possible by the Web’s biggest snoop of all: Google. Seen from the inside, its Chrome browser looks a lot like surveillance software.

Lately I’ve been investigating the secret life of my data, running experiments to see what technology really gets up to under the cover of privacy policies that nobody reads. It turns out, having the world’s biggest advertising company make the most popular Web browser was about as smart as letting kids run a candy shop.

It made me decide to ditch Chrome for a new version of nonprofit Mozilla’s Firefox, which has default privacy protections. Switching involved less inconvenience than you might imagine.

My tests of Chrome vs. Firefox unearthed a personal data caper of absurd proportions. In a week of Web surfing on my desktop, I discovered 11,189 requests for tracker “cookies” that Chrome would have ushered right onto my computer but were automatically blocked by Firefox. These little files are the hooks that data firms, including Google itself, use to follow what websites you visit so they can build profiles of your interests, income and personality.

New York Magazine, E. Jean Carroll: “Trump attacked me in the dressing room of Bergdorf Goodman,” Sarah Jones, June 21, 2019 (excerpted). The cover story New York published today details an encounter the writer E. Jean Carroll had over two decades ago with Donald J. Trump, in which the then–real-estate mogul allegedly assaulted her in a dressing room of the Bergdorf Goodman department store in midtown Manhattan. Trump is shown in a graphic by A Banana Peeled.

donald trump monster abananapeeledcom dcmaThe episode is one of six incidents Carroll details in the article of attacks on her by men over the course of her life. Another episode involves the disgraced former CEO of CBS, Les Moonves. The cover story is an excerpt from her newest book, What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal, which will be published on July 2 by St. Martin’s Press.

When Carroll meets Donald Trump in Bergdorf Goodman, the encounter starts as a friendly one. Trump recognizes her as “that advice lady”; Carroll recognizes him as “that real-estate tycoon.” Trump tells Carroll that he’s there to buy a gift for “a girl,” and though we don’t learn the identity of this mystery woman, Carroll places the ensuing incident in late 1995 or early 1996, during which time Trump was married to Marla Maples. When Trump asks Carroll to advise him on what to buy, she agrees, and the two eventually make their way to the lingerie section. Trump suggests a lace bodysuit and encourages Carroll to try it on; she, deflecting, jokingly suggests that he try it on instead. After they reach the dressing rooms, events turn violent. In Carroll’s account, Trump shoves her against a wall inside a dressing room, pulls down her tights, and, “forcing his fingers around my private area, thrusts his penis halfway — or completely, I’m not certain — inside me.”

Carroll, 75, is a venerated Elle advice columnist. At the time of the attack, she was well known in her own right. A frequent feature writer for magazines like Playboy and Esquire, she had her own television show on America’s Talking, the precursor to MSNBC.

Carroll is now at least the 16th woman to accuse Donald Trump of sexual misconduct and the 14th to accuse Moonves of similar offenses. The incidents, which date from the 1990s, are highly specific and related with dark humor.

Carroll says that she disclosed the Trump incident to two friends at the time. New York has verified that Carroll did disclose the attack to these friends at the time, and has confirmed that Bergdorf Goodman kept no security footage that would prove or disprove Carroll’s story. New York has also sought comment from Moonves and Trump. Through his representative, Moonves told New York that he “emphatically denies” the incident occurred. A senior White House official said in a statement, “This is a completely false and unrealistic story surfacing 25 years after allegedly taking place and was created simply to make the President look bad.”

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Judge in InfoWars Case Says She’s Been Notified of Death Threats by The FBI, Will Sommer, June 21, 2019. The Connecticut judge presiding over Sandy Hook families’ lawsuit against InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones said on Friday that she had been targeted by death threats posted on the InfoWars website.

Judge Barbara N. Bellis revealed in a court filing that she had been notified by the FBI and the Connecticut State Police that people had posted “threats” about her on InfoWars. Bellis is presiding over the case involving the Sandy Hook families lawsuit against Jones for claiming that the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in which their children were killed was an elaborate hoax.

In a statement, InfoWars attorney Norm Pattis suggested the threats weren’t serious.

“The fact that no law enforcement agent has contacted us for further information suggests the threats are not serious,” Pattis said. “Even so, we are now searching Infowars website to see what all the fuss is about.”

alex jones headshotJones, right, attacked Bellis on-air on Tuesday, describing the judge as “ignorant” and suggesting that she was part of an organized effort to destroy him.

The death threat revelation comes just days after Sandy Hook attorneys in the case asked the court to take action to protect them from Jones’s on-air rants. Last week, Jones, without evidence, accused the Sandy Hook attorneys of planting child pornography on the InfoWars servers after his own lawyers accidentally sent the plaintiffs’ attorneys child pornography during the discovery process. The plaintiffs’ attorneys said they received so many death threats after Jones’s broadcast that they had to hire security.

Mediaite, April Ryan Kicks Sarah Sanders on the Way Out: I’m Not Coming to Your Party, ‘Girl, Bye!’ Caleb Ecarma, June 21, 2019. CNN analyst and White House correspondent April Ryan dismissed outgoing White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ sendoff party hosted by members of the media, as she instead took to Instagram on Friday to tell Sanders, “Girl, bye.”

“I’m on a cross country flight and very disturbed that in the midst of these serious issues, of possible strikes against Iran, there was no briefing by Sarah Huckabee Sanders in over a 100 plus days,” Ryan began in her video condemning Sanders as she leaves. “The day she should of had a briefing she didn’t. Serious issues of life and death, serious issues of war, and this administration chooses not to brief the American public. Shame.”

“There was potential war, and no stood at the podium to explain to the American public what was going on but we see it in a tweet we deserve better,” she added. “Sarah Huckabee, have your party. I won’t be there. Girl, bye!”

The Atlantic, AOC’s Generation Doesn’t Presume America’s Innocence, Peter Beinart (Professor of journalism at the City University of New York), June 21, 2019. Ocasio-Cortez’s “concentration camps” comment questions an old orthodoxy: that only other countries—and not the U.S. — are capable of evil.

alexandria ocasio cortez officialOn Monday night, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez declared in an Instagram video that “the United States is running concentration camps on our southern border.” The following morning, Liz Cheney tweeted, “Please @AOC do us all a favor and spend just a few minutes learning some actual history. 6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust. You demean their memory and disgrace yourself with comments like this.” After that, the fight was on.

On its face, the fight was about using concentration camp outside the context of the Holocaust. In a subsequent tweet, Ocasio-Cortez linked to an Esquire article noting that the term pre-dates World War II. It quoted the historian Andrea Pitzer, who defines concentration camp as the “mass detention of civilians without trial.” To Ocasio-Cortez’s critics, this was too cute by half. Whatever the term’s historical origins or technical meaning, in American popular discourse concentration camp evokes the Holocaust. By using the term, they argued, the representative from New York was equating Donald Trump’s immigration policies with Nazi genocide, whether she admitted it or not.

But whether you believe Ocasio-Cortez’s terminology was appropriate or offensive, the deeper question is why it provoked such a ferocious debate. The answer: Because for the first time in decades, the left is mounting a serious challenge to American exceptionalism.

 June 20

Media / 9//11 Evidence

ae911 truth continuing education photo AIA

Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911Truth), Opinion: American Institute of Architects Terminates AE911Truth’s Continuing Education Provider Status, Staff report, June 20, 2019. On May 31, 2019, Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911Truth) was notified by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) that it was terminating our status as an AIA continuing education provider. (A previous seminar is shown above, led by AE911Truth President Richard Gage, at the screen in front.)

AE911Truth was first approved as an AIA continuing education provider in June 2016. This enabled architects to take our courses and receive the continuing education credits they needed to maintain their AIA membership and architecture license.

During our nearly three years as a provider, we offered six live and on-demand courses, each of which was approved by the AIA prior to being introduced. Between September 2017 and April 2018, the AIA conducted an audit of one of our six courses, during which we made a number of minor revisions that brought the course into full compliance with AIA guidelines. The AIA was planning to audit our remaining courses after completing the audit of the first course, but the auditor never contacted us again.

According to the AIA’s managing director of professional development and resources, Stephen Martin, the AIA conducted a more recent review of our courses and, based on the results of that review as well as “past audit concerns,” determined that the “content of the courses and mission of [our] organization [were] incompatible with the mission and intent of the AIA’s continuing education program.” The AIA provided no explanation for its determination and did not respond when asked to provide the results of its review.

In the wake of the AIA’s silent refusal to provide any basis for its determination, we are left to conclude that the abrupt termination of our provider status was motivated not by any incurable deficiencies in our courses but by the AIA’s apparent bias against our mission and against the fundamentally sound analysis contained in our courses. If the mission of AE911Truth and the content of our courses are incompatible with the mission and intent of the AIA’s continuing education program, then something is clearly wrong with the AIA’s continuing education program.

Paradoxically, the AIA’s termination of our provider status comes at the same time as our relatively new outreach program to the engineering profession, known as Project Due Diligence, is beginning to take off. Of the hundreds of engineers we have presented to at local chapter meetings and at state and national conferences, not one has expressed confidence in the official reports issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology after hearing our critique of them. Indeed, the response to our presentation has been overwhelmingly positive.

In our decade of outreach to the AIA and its membership, we have done the very job that the AIA has neglected to do: educate thousands of AIA members about the three worst structural failures in modern history. That the AIA is now making it even harder for us to educate architects — after barring us in 2017 from exhibiting at its national conventions, which we had done from 2009 to 2016 — and will no longer award continuing education credits to architects who take our courses, marks a sad day for the profession.

Nevertheless, we are confident in our ability to disseminate knowledge of the WTC evidence to the architecture and engineering professions. And we know that, in time, organizations like the AIA will be forced to face the truth of the World Trade Center’s explosive demolition and reckon with the fact that they did nothing — or worse — when given the opportunity to be on the right side of history.

For further discussion of this development, we invite you to tune in to this week’s episode of 9/11 Free Fall with AIA members Richard Gage and Henry MacLean and civil engineer Roland Angle, who is the leader of AE911Truth’s Project Due Diligence.

Media News

chuck todd djtPalmer Report, Opinion: Now we know why Chuck Todd made those asinine remarks about Trump’s concentration camps, Bill Palmer, June 20, 2019. This week, Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez somehow managed to create a controversy in the media by merely stating a fact that most of the mainstream media has been afraid to say in exact words: Donald Trump is running “concentration camps” full of immigrant children.

bill palmer report logo headerMeet The Press host Chuck Todd, who routinely tries to make himself look “balanced” by hitting strong Democrats harder than he hits weak Republicans so they’ll look equally bad, acknowledged on-air this week that Ocasio-Cortez was correct. But Todd insisted that she was somehow doing a great disservice to the kids in Trump’s concentration camps by accurately calling them “concentration camps.”

sarah huckabee sanders screenshot

HuffPost, Some White House Reporters Are Throwing Sarah Huckabee Sanders A Goodbye Party, Maxwell Strachan, June 20, 2019. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (shown in a file shot) and the reporters who cover the White House haven’t always had the smoothest relationship. But that isn’t stopping some of those journalists from organizing a goodbye party for the outgoing White House press secretary next week.

On Wednesday, two White House correspondents, Politico’s Anita Kumar and DailyMail.com’s Francesca Chambers, invited fellow reporters and some Trump staffers to “farewell drinks” for Sanders at an upscale D.C. restaurant on June 24, according to a copy of the email invitation obtained by HuffPost.

President Donald Trump announced via Twitter last week that Sanders plans to step down at the end of the month after more than three years with the Trump administration.

“She is a very special person with extraordinary talents, who has done an incredible job!” the president tweeted. “I hope she decides to run for Governor of Arkansas ― she would be fantastic.”

The decision to plan the casual shindig is notable, considering Sanders’ often adversarial relationship with the press. During Sanders’ tenure as press secretary, the once-regular White House briefings became increasingly rare. In April, the Trump administration set a White House record when it went 43 days without hosting a press briefing. Olivier Knox, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said then that he had been pushing Sanders for more regular briefings to little avail.

That same month, the long-awaited report from special counsel Robert Mueller provided hard evidence that Sanders lied at a White House press conference in 2017 when she claimed the administration had “heard from countless members of the FBI” who’d lost faith in former FBI Director James Comey.

Sanders later told Mueller’s office that the comment had been a “slip of the tongue” and that the assertion, which she’d supposedly heard from “rank-and-file FBI agents,” was “not founded on anything,” according to the special counsel’s report.

Kumar is a member of the WHCA’s board, and Chambers is the organization’s treasurer. But Knox told HuffPost the WHCA had “nothing to do” with the upcoming event.

June 18

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook Plans Global Financial System Based on Cryptocurrency, Mike Isaac and Nathaniel Popper, June 18, 2019. Facebook unveiled an ambitious plan on Tuesday to create an alternative financial system that relies on a cryptocurrency that the company has been secretly working on for more than a year.

facebook logoThe effort, announced with 27 partners as diverse as Mastercard and Uber, could face immediate skepticism from people who question the usefulness of cryptocurrencies and others who are wary of the power already accumulated by the social media company.

The cryptocurrency, called Libra, will also have to overcome concern that Facebook does not effectively protect the private information of its users — a fundamental task for a bank or anyone handling financial transactions.

Associated Press via CBS News, "Nobody Died at Sandy Hook" publisher apologizes to dad of murdered boy, Staff report, June 18, 2019. "Nobody Died at Sandy Hook" publisher apologizes to dad of murdered boy. A judge in Wisconsin on Monday issued a summary judgment against authors James Fetzer and Mike Palacek.

The father of a victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre has won a defamation lawsuit against the authors of a book that claimed the shooting never happened — the latest victory for victims' relatives who have been taking a more aggressive stance against conspiracy theorists.

The book, "Nobody Died at Sandy Hook," has also been pulled to settle claims against its publisher filed by Lenny Pozner, whose 6-year-old son Noah was killed in the shooting.

"My face-to-face interactions with Mr. Pozner have led me to believe that Mr. Pozner is telling the truth about the death of his son," Dave Gahary, the principal officer at publisher Moon Rock Books, said Monday. "I extend my most heartfelt and sincere apology to the Pozner family."

 Pozner has been pushing back for years against hoaxers who have harassed him, subjected him to death threats and claimed that he was an actor and his son never existed. He has spent years getting Facebook and others to remove conspiracy videos and set up a website to debunk conspiracy theories.

Lately, the fight has been joined by others who lost relatives in the Dec. 14, 2012, school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. After quietly enduring harassment and ridiculous assertions for years, some have changed their approach, deciding the only way to stop it is to confront it. Their efforts have turned the tables on the hoaxers, including Alex Jones, host of the conspiracy-driven Infowars website.

Robbie Parker, whose 6-year-old daughter Emilie was among 20 first-graders and six educators killed at Sandy Hook, spent years ignoring people who called him a crisis actor. His family moved to the West Coast, but still the harassment didn't stop. He would get letters from people who found his address. He was once stopped in a parking garage by a man who berated him and said the shooting never happened.

"You are taught when you are young that you ignore bullies and eventually they will leave you alone," Parker said. "But as time went on, and my other girls were getting older, I realized they weren't stopping and some of this was getting worse and getting more personal."

Parker is now part of a lawsuit against Jones, has testified before Congress and pushed for changes on social media platforms, such as YouTube, which announced this month it will prohibit videos that deny the Sandy Hook shooting and other "well-documented events."

"It wasn't until the lawsuits and until it became a mainstream news story that people realized they were being complicit in this and started to moderate the content," Parker said.

Pozner is the lead plaintiff in several of at least nine cases filed against Sandy Hook deniers in federal and state courts in Connecticut, Florida, Texas and Wisconsin.

In the case against Jones, the families of eight victims and a first responder say they've been subjected to harassment and death threats from his followers. A Connecticut judge ruled in the defamation case that Jones must undergo a sworn deposition, which is scheduled for July in Texas.

Wisconsin's Dane County Circuit Court Judge Frank Remington ruled Monday that Pozner had been defamed by Fetzer and Palacek, whose book claimed, among other things, that Noah's death certificate had been faked, according to Pozner's lawyer, Jake Zimmerman. A trial to decide damages has been set for October.

"If Mr. Fetzer wants to believe that Sandy Hook never happened and that we are all crisis actors, even that my son never existed, he has the right to be wrong. But he doesn't have the right to broadcast those beliefs if they defame me or harass me," Pozner said. "He doesn't have the right to use my baby's image or our name as a marketing ploy to raise donations or sell his products. He doesn't have the right to convince others to hunt my family."

Before the case went to a judge, Fetzer had said "evidence clearly shows this wasn't a massacre, it was a FEMA drill."

"If you believe otherwise, then you are being played," Fetzer said at the time.

A redacted copy of the actual death certificate is attached to Pozner's lawsuit. Additionally, Pozner has had DNA samples taken and compared with those provided by the Connecticut medical examiner to prove that Noah was his son. He has put Noah's birth certificate, report cards and medical records into the public file in his legal actions.

His goal, he says, is to make sure that "normal people" have access to the truth and aren't persuaded by the hoaxers.

 June 17

alex jones radio logo

Connecticut Post, Lawyers: Alex Jones sent child porn to Sandy Hook families, Daniel Tepfer, June 17, 2019. Conspiracy theorist and InfoWars host Alex Jones sent child pornography to the lawyers for the families of the Sandy Hook tragedy, their lawyers said.

The law firm representing the families of the 2012 mass shooting, stated in court documents filed Monday they have contacted the FBI after discovering child porn in electronic files Jones recently turned over to the Sandy Hook families as a result of their lawsuit against him for calling the tragedy a hoax.

Jones publicly responded on a broadcast of his show that he is being framed by Chris Mattei, the lawyer for the Sandy Hook families and went on making what Mattei and his law firm, Koskoff, Koskoff and Bieder claim are threats against them.

You’re trying to set me up with child porn, I’ll get your ass,” Jones states on the broadcast. “One million dollars, you little gang members. One million dollars to put your head on a pike.” Jones then pounds a photograph of Mattei and goes into a rant at one point stating, “I’m gonna kill…”

Jones’ lawyer, Norman Pattis, denied his client was threatening Mattei or the Sandy Hook families and urged people to watch the broadcast for themselves.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has berserk meltdown after Fox News reports bad news about him, Bill Palmer, June 17, 2019. For years, Donald Trump and Fox News have had a mutually beneficial relationship. Fox airs misleading and disingenuous stories that benefit Trump, because it’s what Fox’s audience wants to hear. Trump returns the favor by propping up Fox. The trouble is that as Trump becomes more toxic, a growing number of Fox viewers have become sick of him – so Fox has had to go incrementally more negative about him.

bill palmer report logo headerAs Fox News has reported more and more bad news and negative commentary about Donald Trump, we’ve seen Trump increasingly criticize the network – even as he’s sought solace in obscure competing networks like OANN that are still willing to air wall to wall pro-Trump propaganda. Things came to a head this evening when Fox reported its own in-house poll numbers for the 2020 election, and let’s just say they’re not pretty for Trump.

fox news logo SmallTrump posted this tweet: “Fox News Polls are always bad for me. They were against Crooked Hillary also. Something weird going on at Fox. Our polls show us leading in all 17 Swing States. For the record, I didn’t spend 30 hours with @abcnews, but rather a tiny fraction of that. More Fake News.” This came after Fox reported that Trump is behind Joe Biden by ten points, and is also behind every other viable 2020 Democratic nominee.

For the record, all major public polls are showing numbers similar to what Fox News is reporting. Donald Trump’s own leaked internal poll numbers also have him losing badly. Trump is lost in a haze of delusion, and now that even Fox News is reporting how screwed he is, he’s decided that Fox is “fake news” as well.

June 16

Palmer Report, Opinion: New York Times drops the hammer on Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, June 16, 2019. Last night the New York Times published a bombshell story revealing that the United States government has been preemptively hacking Russia as a way of fending off potential 2020 election interference, and that the U.S. military and U.S. intelligence community have been hesitant to discuss it with Donald Trump due to his loyalty to Russia. See: U.S. Escalates Online Attacks on Russia’s Power Grid, David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth. This naturally sent Trump into a rage.

bill palmer report logo headerThe New York Times fired back by posting this reply directly under Donald Trump’s tweet, thus ensuring that those in his timeline saw it: “Accusing the press of treason is dangerous. We described the article to the government before publication. As our story notes, President Trump’s own national security officials said there were no concerns.”

To be clear, Donald Trump has still provided no evidence to support his claim that the New York Times story is “not true.” Nor has he even tried to explain why an American newspaper would be committing “treason” by offending Russia – though it does explain quite a bit about Trump’s own allegiances.

June 15

How Young Trump Bullied

djt 1980s screenshot oprah winfrey show

Donald Trump shown in a 1980s screenshot from an Oprah Winfrey show.

Raw Story, New documents reveal how a young Trump bullied the press for years as he hid his actual wealth, Matthew Chapman, June 15, 2019. On Friday, journalist Jonathan Greenberg published a stunning exposé of how Donald Trump, in his younger years, managed to maintain his brand of success and fortune — and keep attracting investors to his projects — even in the face of devastating business losses and incompetence.

The short answer: he threatened, intimidated, and bullied reporters out of telling the truth about his business empire.

“I turned up three never-before-published letters from Trump to Forbes from 1989, in which he claimed to be worth $3.7 billion,” wrote Greenberg. “We now know that he reported losses of about $100 million that year and that he was treading near insolvency. Then I started to contact other people who had collided with Trump in those years. Journalists told me how he’d tried to block their reporting on his empire — by making up ethical scandals about them, furnishing fake documents and, in one case, threatening to expose the private life of a closeted media executive. Wall Street analysts witnessed a campaign of intimidation that began when Trump got one of them fired for (correctly) doubting his casinos’ ability to pay off their debts.”

In the late 1980s, Trump reportedly put out inflated estimates of his business assets and profitability that were perfectly timed to get him onto the coveted “Forbes 400” list of richest people in America — even though, behind the scenes, his real estate empire was bleeding money and floating junk bonds. But in 1990, when Forbes Senior Editor Richard Stern and writer John Connolly prepared a story on this, Trump bullied them into gutting the story.

“On the Monday of the week the story was to be published, Stern met with Trump to seek a comment he could include in the article,” wrote Greenberg.

“The mogul exploded, threatening to sue Forbes. On Tuesday, ‘orders came from on high’ to change the story’s estimate of Trump’s net worth to $500 million, Stern recalls. ‘I got into a shouting match with [Jim] Michaels,’ Forbes’s powerful top editor, Stern says. ‘Forbes bent. We had to jigger the numbers to give Trump a positive net worth.’ (Michaels died in 2007.) Connolly says the cover line was also changed, from ‘Is Trump Broke?’ to ‘How Much Is Donald Really Worth Now?,’ which is how it appeared on May 14, 1990.”

June 13

Media Matters, Opinion: Sidney Powell, Michael Flynn’s new attorney, is an anti-Mueller conspiracy theorist and Fox regular, Staff report, June 13, 2019. President Donald Trump sidney powellpraised former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s decision to replace his legal team with Sidney Powell, right, a conservative attorney, conspiracy theorist, and harsh critic of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe who has made dozens of appearances on Fox News and Fox Business in recent years.

“General Michael Flynn, the 33 year war hero who has served with distinction, has not retained a good lawyer, he has retained a GREAT LAWYER, Sidney Powell,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning. “Best Wishes and Good Luck to them both!”

After pleading guilty to charges of lying to the FBI in December 2017, Flynn began cooperating with Mueller’s team. Last week, he fired his legal team, a move that “triggered speculation in legal and political circles that he’s considering backing out of his plea deal with the government in a play for a presidential pardon,” according to Politico.

Powell’s hiring should bolster that conjecture. She is a former federal prosecutor who specializes in federal appeals in commercial litigation, but has carved out a sideline as a fox news logo SmallFox pundit. According to her website, “Sidney the Media Figure is highly sought to comment on current legal issues and government investigations—especially the special investigation lead by Robert Mueller and his chief lieutenant Andrew Weissmann,” who the site describes as the “true villain” of her 2014 book, Licensed to Lie: Exposing Corruption in the Department of Justice.

Indeed, Powell is one of a handful of lawyers that Fox’s pro-Trump hosts have relied upon to put a legal gloss on their alternative narrative that Mueller’s investigation was the result of an illegal anti-Trump conspiracy by the “deep state.” She has used Fox’s platform to claim the probe “was set up, basically, to impugn this presidency and to make it as hard as possible for Mr. Trump to carry out his duties” and to describe investigators as “creeps on a mission to destabilize and destroy this president.”

While Powell has a lower profile than more regular legal commentators like Alan Dershowitz or Victoria Toensing, the former federal prosecutor has still made more than two dozen appearances on Lou Dobbs’ Fox Business show, and at least nine additional weekday interviews on Fox News, since January 2018.

Powell has an extremely active presence on Twitter, where she has argued that Flynn’s prosecution is a “horrific injustice” and that Mueller’s team engaged in “obstruction” by “hiding evidence that exonerates him.” As part of a pattern of frequently amplifying conspiratorial rants about the Mueller probe, Powell has also repeatedly retweeted major accounts that promote the QAnon conspiracy theory and shared articles from Alex Jones’ conspiracy theory website, Infowars (in October 2017, Powell was also interviewed by then-Infowars Washington bureau chief Jerome Corsi.).

Powell’s conspiratorial Twitter musings are not limited to the Mueller probe. She has repeatedly tweeted about George Soros, the Jewish billionaire philanthropist who is regularly targeted with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. In December, she accused the Federal Reserve of deliberately trying to “#crash the market” as part of a deliberate plot to destroy Trump “and enrich #Soros & themselves. #Soros has done it before.”

June 12

Big Tech U.S. Regulation

ny times logoNew York Times, House Opens Tech Antitrust Inquiry With Look at Threat to News Media, Cecilia Kang, June 12, 2019 (print ed.). Local journalism has been pushed “to the verge of extinction,” said a member of a committee that plans 18 months of hearings and other scrutiny of the big technology platforms. A congressional investigation into the power of big tech companies began on Tuesday with bipartisan concern from lawmakers that the government’s lax oversight of the industry may be doing more harm than good.

google logo customIn its first hearing about the power held by Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple, lawmakers focused on the decline of the news industry. They said they were troubled that the online digital advertising market, which is dominated by Google and Facebook, had siphoned off too much revenue from news organizations.

“Concentration in the digital advertising market has pushed local journalism to the verge of extinction,” said Representative David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island.

us house logoThe hearing was the start of the House Judiciary Committee’s inquiry into possible anticompetitive behavior by big tech companies, part of a rising wave of federal scrutiny of the industry.

amazon logo smallThe House committee plans several hearings, depositions and interviews with competitors over the next 18 months. In addition, the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission, the two top antitrust agencies, recently divided antitrust oversight over Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google.

The close reviews could lead to years of troubles for the companies, through lawsuits or new laws. European regulators have already taken a tough stance against the companies, investigating how they handle user data, police speech and limit competition.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Fake Zuckerberg Video Challenges Facebook’s Rules, Cade Metz, June 12, 2019 (print ed.). Last month, the social media company would not remove a doctored video of Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Facebook said the video of Mr. Zuckerberg will get the same treatment. Two weeks ago, Facebook declined to remove a doctored video in which the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, seemed to drunkenly slur her speech. Over the weekend, two British artists released a doctored video of Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, as a sly comment on the spread of false information online.

facebook logoPosted to the Facebook-owned social network Instagram, the video shows Mr. Zuckerberg speaking directly into the camera, boasting of nefarious motives behind his online empire.

“Imagine this for a second: one man, with total control of billions of people’s stolen data, all their secrets, their lives, their futures,” he appears to say. “I owe it all to Spectre. Spectre showed me that whoever controls the data controls the future.”

The video is easily recognizable as a fake, in part because the voice paired with the image sounds only marginally like Mr. Zuckerberg. And Spectre is a reference to a fictional, evil organization in James Bond lore. But it serves both as a piece of digital commentary and as a test of the way Facebook handles the spread of false information on its social network.

June 11

Critique of Dean-Woodward 'Watergate' Story

The Hard Question Show via WCGO 1590 AM / 95.9 FM (Chicago) and Soundcloud, Remember John Dean?, host Blanquita Cullum (former Republican-appointed member of the len colodny croppedBroadcasting Board of Governors, parent of Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, etc.), June 11, 2019 (36:40 mins). Silent Coup author Len Colodny, right, challenges the credibility of June 10 House Judiciary Committee expert witness John Dean regarding the Watergate scandal. The challenge is based on Colodny's decades of research, two co-authored books (Silent Coup and The Forty years War). Colodny's scores of tape-recorded interviews with key Watergate figures, including with Dean and former President Gerald Ford, are now housed at The Colodny Collection at Texas A & M University.

Colodny praises the new book Haig's Coup authored by former USA Today investigations editor Ray Locker, published in May by the University of ray locker haigs coupNebraska Press and Potomac Press.

Colodny tells Cullum: "I plead with the American people. Don't be fooled. What you saw yesterday was 'Fools Gold' -- and the Democrats should know better....Somebody needs to tell the president [Trump] to stop what's going on in the sense that we're in this fictitious war between the president and the media. I don't support this president. I wouldn't vote for this president. I have real problems with him. But I don't have probelms with telling the American people the truth."

Background: The "Colodny Collection" has in it the often-suppressed Nixon/Dean tape (March 16,1973), available for listening remotely by clicking len colodny silent coup coverhere. Anyone can hear Nixon and Dean as they lay out a plot to cover up White House involvement (via White House aide Gordon Strachan) in the Watergate break in. Dean would suggest to Nixon a number of ways to cover up the crime, including blaming the campaign's dirty trickster Don Segretti for the crime. Nixon quickly agrees.

At the very end of the tape, Dean assured Nixon that "We will win." The tapes were produced in 1996 under a lawsuit protective order. "What is intriguing," Colodny has said, "is that the mainstream media has no interest in playing or reporting the contents of this tape, with one exception at the New York TImes."

"John Dean's book Nixon's Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It," Colodny has written, "deliberately leaves out this tape and others in this series. Dean made sure we would not know everything Nixon knew, especially everything that Dean told him. The Nixon on this tape is saying things that are so incriminating that the Nixon Library's 'Watergate' exhibit does not contain it. The one place that it is featured is in The Colodny Collection, donated to Texas A & M University."

Media: Fake News, Pelosi, Facebook

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Deepfakes Are Coming. We Can No Longer Believe What We See, Regina Rini (Dr. Rini teaches philosophy at York University in Toronto), June 11, 2019 (print ed.). It will soon be as easy to produce convincing fake video as it is to lie. We need to be prepared.  On June 1, 2019, the Daily Beast published a story exposing the creator of a now infamous fake video that appeared to show House Speaker Nancy Pelosi drunkenly slurring her words. The video was created by taking a genuine clip, slowing it down, and then adjusting the pitch of her voice to disguise the manipulation.

nancy pelosi twitterJudging by social media comments, many people initially fell for the fake, believing that Ms. Pelosi really was drunk while speaking to the media. (If that seems an absurd thing to believe, remember Pizzagate; people are happy to believe absurd things about politicians they don’t like.)

The video was made by a private citizen named Shawn Brooks, who seems to have been a freelance political operative producing a wealth of pro-Trump web content. (Mr. Brooks denies creating the video, though according to the Daily Beast, Facebook confirmed he was the first to upload it.)

We live in a time when knowing the origin of an internet video is just as important as knowing what it shows.

Digital technology is making it much easier to fabricate convincing fakes. The video that Mr. Brooks created is pretty simple; you could probably do it yourself after watching a few YouTube clips about video editing. But more complicated fabrications, sometimes called “deepfakes,” use algorithmic techniques to depict people doing things they’ve never done — not just slowing them down or changing the pitch of their voice, but making them appear to say things that they’ve never said at all.

Facebook Attack On Pelosi

washington post logofacebook logoWashington Post, Facebook’s Zuckerberg reached out to Pelosi after distorted video. She hasn’t called him back, Robert Costa and Elizabeth Dwoskin​, June 11, 2019. The impasse highlights broader tensions within the Democratic Party about the social media company.

June 10

Media: Celebrity Profiles

washington post logoWashington Post, Madonna's furious response to her New York Times profile raises questions about what stars expect from journalists, Sonia Rao, June 10, 2019 (print ed.).  With celebrity journalism, negotiating access can be akin to playing tug of war. The profile might be pegged to a celebrity’s new project, whether a film, album or some sort of charitable undertaking. In such a case, his or her team might grant access on the basis of that project being the article’s central focus. The journalist, however, might prefer to use the project as a jumping-off point to examine the celebrity’s contributions to society. As when writing about any subject wielding a great deal of power — social influence, in this case — the journalist’s ultimate goal is to paint a fair and accurate portrait.

Sometimes that means including details the celebrity might consider unflattering or too personal, but which the journalist deems vital to a truthful and meaningful story. That last bit is where there can be a disconnect between the two points of view, most recently highlighted by one of the most influential pop stars in American history.

In a lengthy Instagram post Thursday morning, Madonna expressed how upset she was by a New York Times Magazine cover story titled “Madonna at Sixty,” published days before the release of her upcoming album, “Madame X.” She wrote that the piece, which centers on how she has navigated the pop-music world she helped shape years ago, fixates on her age and “makes me feel raped.” (She also uses this analogy in the story, after which writer Vanessa Grigoriadis wonders whether to tell her that “women these days were trying not to use that word metaphorically.” On Instagram, Madonna stated that, as a rape survivor, she is “allowed to use that analogy.”)

News Media / Propaganda

SouthFront, Witness Testimonies Reveal Gorgon Face Of White Helmets ‘Humanitarian Activities,’ Staff report, June 10, 2019. It seems that Russia has started apparently late, but still important efforts to counter the White Helmets propaganda narrative in Syria.

syrian white helmetsThe Director of the Foundation for the Study of Democracy, Maxim Grigoriev, presented the 250-page study “White Helmets: Terrorist Accomplices and a Source of Disinformation,” on April 25th, 2019. He initially presented his research at event held by the Russian Mission to the UN on the sidelines of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 12th.

According to the aurthor, the research is primarily based on witness testimonies and concludes that the White Helmets NGO is in no way a group of volunteers upholding human rights. He did so by travelling to Syria and interviewing residents and former White Helmets members in Aleppo, Eastern Ghouta and other locations

Grigoriev said that nearly everyone on the staff of the White Helmets were salaried personnel with monthly food rations. Organizationally, the White Helmets is a centrally managed paramilitary organization with a system of punishment for personnel if they fail to comply with the orders of their group leaders.

He said that researchers from his foundation spent over three months in Syria interviewing Syrians, who “talked with them openly, giving names and indicating the sites where the footage of the White Helmets’ staged rescue operations was made.”

The research says that many known members of militant groups were working for the White Helmets and were even chairing some of the group’s local centers in Syria.

June 7

ny times logoNew York Times, Barnes & Noble was sold to a hedge fund after a tumultuous year, Alexandra Alter and Tiffany Hsu, June 7, 2019. Barnes & Noble has been acquired by the paul singerhedge fund Elliott Advisors for $638 million. JIP editor's note: Elliott Advisors is the UK-based affiliated of Elliott Management Corp., whose New York-based parent company was founded by Paul Singer, right, a financially successful investor sometimes described as a ruther "vulture fund" tycoon dealing in distressed properties.

The sale was announced Friday morning following months of speculation over the future of Barnes & Noble, the largest bookstore chain in the United barnes nobleStates and a critical retail outlet for publishers and authors.

Elliott’s acquisition of Barnes & Noble follows its purchase of the British bookstore chain Waterstones in June 2018. James Daunt, the chief executive of Waterstones, will also act as Barnes & Noble’s C.E.O. and will be based in New York. Waterstones has pursued a strategy that many analysts say is the only way to compete in a marketplace dominated by online sales, by allowing individual Waterstones booksellers to tailor each store to acommunity’s needs and interests. Mr. Daunt, who took over in 2011, has said that Waterstones operates more like a constellation of independent stores, rather than a homogeneous chain.

June 6

U.S. Media News: Local Outlets

KCUR, These KU Students Are Helping Revive Journalism In Eudora, Kansas, Elle Moxley, June 5, 2019. For more than 100 years, Eudora had a weekly newspaper. “We were able to have a sports reporter, somebody that would come out when we had a structure fire and report on it,” said Mayor Tim Reazin, who moved to Eudora in 1997. “We had somebody that sat through the city commission meetings with us.” But since 2004, more than 1,800 newspapers have folded, a third of them in rural communities. Eudora residents lost their paper in 2008. Reazin says the result is citizens are less informed – and starved for coverage.

“Every once in a while we get a mention in the Lawrence Journal-World,” Reazin said. “One of my sons was a starting quarterback this year, and you know, you get this little blurb, a few sentences that say what they did. It’d be great to have those newspaper clippings you don’t get.” That’s why city officials were so enthusiastic when a journalism professor at the University of Kansas approached them about having student reporters cover the town.

It was Teri Finneman’s first year teaching at KU [Kansas University], and she wanted to make sure her students were graduating with the clips and hands-on practice employers want.  “I’m a really big proponent of my students having real-world experience. I do not like doing canned exercises,” Finneman said.

She said a city as large as Eudora – population 6,500 – should have someone covering it. Her students started small, sharing photo galleries on Facebook. When they immediately got likes and shares, Finneman decided her students could do more. She created a website called the Eudora Times and started assigning stories to her reporting. students.

June 5

Media News Roundup

washington post logoWashington Post, YouTube to remove thousands of videos in new fight against hate speech, hoaxes, Elizabeth Dwoskin​, June 5, 2019. The Google-owned video site, along youtube logo Customwith its Silicon Valley peers, is starting to take a broader view of hate speech in the face of criticism that it has failed to prevent the spread of harmful videos that distort world events, hurt children or promote discriminatory ideologies. On Tuesday, for instance, Vox Media called out YouTube for failing to remove homophobic and racist videos attacking one of its reporters.

While YouTube, which has over 1.8 billion daily users, has long prohibited videos that promote violence or hatred against people based on their age, religious beliefs, gender, religion, immigration status, sexual orientation and other protected categories, the new hate speech policy will go further. The policies will specifically ban videos “alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation, or exclusion,” based on those categories. That would include groups that “glorify Nazi ideology,” the company said in its announcement, because such beliefs were “inherently discriminatory.”

washington post logoyoutube logo CustomWashington Post, A right-wing YouTuber hurled racist, homophobic taunts at a gay reporter. The company did nothing, Eli Rosenberg​​, June 5, 2019. YouTube said the videos didn’t violate its policies, and that it would leave them on the site. The decision drew a torrent of criticism as concerns grow about YouTube’s resolve to moderate its content.

washington post logofacebook logoWashington Post, Opinion: Google and Facebook sucked profits from newspapers. Publishers are finally resisting, Margaret Sullivan, June 5, 2019. Bipartisan support in the House and Senate may allow papers — most of them local — to band together as they bargain with the tech giants.

BBC, ABC raid: Outcry as Australian police search public broadcaster, Staff report, June 5, 2019. A police raid on Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) has drawn fire from bbc news logo2broadcasters and rights groups. Officers arrived at the public broadcaster's Sydney headquarters with search warrants naming two reporters and the news director. The ABC has protested over the raid.

australian flag wavingPolice searched the home of a News Corp journalist on Tuesday, sparking alarm. The BBC said it was "deeply troubling" for a broadcaster to be searched.

The leading journalists' union in the country said the two raids represented a "disturbing pattern of assaults on Australian press freedom". Other unions and human rights groups also condemned the actions.

In a statement ABC Managing Director David Anderson said the police raid "raises legitimate concerns over freedom of the press".

sweden flag"The ABC stands by its journalists, will protect its sources and continue to report without fear or favour on national security and intelligence issues when there is a clear public interest." ABC News director Gaven Morris defended the two journalists who were named along with him in the search warrant.

The police action is related to articles about alleged misconduct by Australian forces in Afghanistan. According to the ABC, Wednesday's search is about the 2017 investigative series known as The Afghan Files which "revealed allegations of unlawful killings and misconduct by Australian special forces in Afghanistan".

The broadcaster said the series was "based off hundreds of pages of secret defence documents leaked to the ABC." The Australian Federal Police said the warrant was in relation to "allegations of publishing classified material" and that it "relates to a referral received on 11 July 2017 from the Chief of the Defence Force and the then-Acting Secretary for Defence."

washington post logoWashington Post, Meet the GOP operatives who aim to smear the 2020 Democrats — but keep bungling it, Manuel Roig-Franzia and Beth Reinhard, June 5, 2019. It matters little whether Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl's claims are proved — they hardly ever are. But in an era when notions about truth and fiction have been upended, it's now a more dangerous game.

Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl — a pair of boundlessly eager, profoundly unrepentant aspirants to the dankest depths of political chicanery — were watching television together the other day when something caught Burkman’s eye.

There on the screen was Don McGahn, President Trump’s former White House counsel.

It was at that very moment when Burkman remembered that McGahn had connected the unlikely duo — Burkman, the 53-year-old Washington lobbyist, and Wohl, a 21-year-old robert mueller full face fileCalifornian trailed by investment scandals.

Yes, it was McGahn, they agreed, who had put them together a year ago by sharing Wohl’s cellphone number with Burkman. That was before their spree of bungled smears — including a disappearing sexual assault accuser against special counsel Robert Mueller (announced at a news conference that Burkman conducted with his pants zipper down) and a botched attempt last month to paint Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg as a sexual predator.

FBI Sex Claims Against Dr. King

david garrow thomas burr npc 5 11 17

Historian David Garrow, left, discusses his 2017 biographry "Rising Star" of Barack Obama with National Press Club President Thomas Burr on May 11, 2017 (Justice Integrity Project photo by Andrew Kreig)

ny times logoNew York Times, His Martin Luther King Biography Was a Classic. His Latest King Piece Is Causing a Furor, Jennifer Schuessler, June 5, 2019 (print ed.). David Garrow found F.B.I. documents alleging King stood by during a rape. But some scholars question whether to trust records created as part of a smear campaign.

When David J. Garrow, a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., sat down last spring to dig through a trove of previously unreleased martin luther king injustice quotegovernment records, it was business as usual for a researcher known for prodigious reporting and doorstop books.

“There’s this weird ability I have of complete recall with regard to what I already know and don’t know,” Mr. Garrow said, describing the experience of wrestling with some 54,000 separate web links posted by the National Archives and Records Administration. “I was just scrolling through the PDFs, looking for new little factoids.”

Mr. Garrow found factoids aplenty, about the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s infamous surveillance of Dr. King — and, most controversially, about alleged sexual misconduct by the civil rights leader.

In a 7,800-word article published last week by the British monthly magazine Standpoint, which teased the piece on its cover as “Martin Luther King and #MeToo,” Mr. Garrow nara logoprovides new details about the F.B.I.’s tactics alongside graphic descriptions from documents recounting alleged group sex in bugged hotel rooms. He also names some of Dr. King’s purported lovers, including fellow activists who have never been publicly identified as such.

While Dr. King’s infidelities have long been known in broad outline, Mr. Garrow concludes by saying that the new material — including an explosive allegation that he witnessed, and even encouraged, a rape committed by a fellow minister — “poses so fundamental a challenge to his historical stature as to require the most complete and extensive historical review possible.”

fbi logoThe revelations have sparked a heated reaction. But so far, it has been as much about the ethics and evidentiary standards of Mr. Garrow’s article as it is about Dr. King.

Some fellow historians credit Mr. Garrow with finding potentially important new information about both Dr. King and the F.B.I. attempts to discredit him. But others are denouncing him for publishing incendiary claims generated as part of an F.B.I. smear campaign, without offering any corroborating evidence. And some are accusing him of running roughshod over the privacy of the women with whom Dr. King was allegedly involved.

Columbia Journalism Review, A disastrous conference call for SPJ, followed by a call for impeachment, Andrew McCormick, June 5, 2019. On Saturday, the board of directors for the Society of Professional Journalists met in a video conference call. The organization’s executive director, Alison Bethel McKenzie, had resigned from her paid position in April, and the 18-member board of directors, which is elected and serves on a voluntary, part-time basis, was set to discuss the search for a new one. What should have been a fairly dry, procedural discussion instead devolved into the Zoom meeting equivalent of a reality-show fight, with shouting, veiled personal attacks, and bickering over board bylaws. It was enough to prompt one board member to launch a campaign to impeach SPJ’s president, J. Alex Tarquinio.

society of professional journalists logoEarly in the call, Tarquinio, who is also a freelance journalist, sparred with Patti Newberry, the organization’s president-elect and Tarquinio’s current number-two, who teaches journalism at Miami University in Ohio. The rub, essentially, was that Newberry wanted to lead the committee that will search for a new executive director—a desire which she had shared with fellow board members prior to the meeting as well as Tarquinio—but Tarquinio had appointed someone else, without consulting board members on the decision. During the meeting, Tarquinio accused Newberry of going behind her back.

“It’s very disappointing, and I hope nobody does it in your term,” she told Newberry, giving an exasperated laugh. Newberry, who will replace Tarquinio as president in September at SPJ’s annual conference, visibly scoffed. “Do not chastise me publicly,” she said in response. Newberry attempted to go on, but Tarquinio spoke over her interjection.

Board members attempted several times to raise Tarquinio’s decision and her lack of consultation for discussion. Tarquinio repeatedly dismissed those motions as “out of order.” (Per SPJ’s bylaws, it is the prerogative of the president to appoint the head of the committee.) As the meeting continued, other board members were unable to get a word in edgewise. Tarquinio often failed to recognize members who kept their hands raised. Of those who did manage to speak, many were swiftly shut down. Circumscribed in their tiny video boxes—set against far-flung backgrounds that included home offices and one backyard porch—the board members shook their heads, threw up their arms, and laughed, seemingly in spite of the situation. Tarquinio remained by turns defiant and condemnatory.

“This board is a problem,” Tarquinio said at one point. She repeated herself: “This board is a problem.” And later: “I’m telling you, this board needs to start being supportive, not only of this president but of this [SPJ] staff. You’ve done several things recently that have upset the staff.”

“So have you!” Michael Koretzky, SPJ’s longest serving board member and the editor of Debt.com, answered.

During his decade on the board of SPJ, Koretzky has accrued a reputation as a troublemaker, which he mostly embraces. This is not the first time he has openly called out an SPJ president, and the name of his blog—Journoterrorist.com—is a reference to one former SPJ leader’s description of him. (“I thought it was funny,” he says.) It might easily be said that Monday’s move to impeach Tarquinio is more of the same from Koretzky. But additional members of the SPJ board who spoke with CJR agree that Saturday’s meeting was a low point and reflective of what they see as a tendency by Tarquinio to lead by dictum and to shut down dissent. (At one moment in the video, Tarquinio tells the board, “Let me just say, this entire plan is going to fall apart if I’m not allowed to lead it.”)

To Koretzky, who piped into the call from his home in southern Florida, the shouting was indicative of broader frustration at the direction of the country’s oldest journalist trade organization. According to SPJ figures, membership has declined more than 10 percent over the past year, to about 6,000 people, and journalism in general seems beset on all sides. “I can imagine being a laid-off journalist watching that video and thinking, ‘What a bunch of assholes,’” Koretzky says. “Like, ‘Stop arguing amongst yourselves and help me.’” The conference, as usual, had been recorded; over the remainder of the weekend, Koretzky compiled a supercut from the recording of what he viewed as the meeting’s worst moments—the final result, a rapid-fire barrage of bureaucratic squabbling—which he uploaded to his blog on Monday morning, along with a call to impeach Tarquinio.

Who Killed Bobby? Book Review: A Lie Too Big to Fail, Shane O'Sullivan, right, shane osullivan headshotJune 5, 2019. Lisa Pease’s recently-published book, A Lie Too Big to Fail: The Real History of the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy (Feral House) is well-researched and digs up plenty of interesting new leads, but is undermined by implausible theories and conclusions based on a very selective interpretation of the evidence.

Lisa recently endorsed my book Who Killed Bobby? The Unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kennedy (2008) on Black Op Radio but said it “didn’t go far enough” and inspired her to write her own. While she conducts an exhaustive survey of the witness testimony, some of her theories go too far, in my opinion, and may be damaging to our hopes of getting the case reopened. I feel obliged to point out the shortcomings of these theories, so that readers new to the case can get a more balanced view of the evidence and make up their own minds.

lisa pease rfk coverAs two of the handful of surviving authors on the case, we share some common ground. We agree that convicted Palestinian assassin Sirhan Sirhan did not kill Robert Kennedy; that Sirhan was a hypnotically programmed patsy; and that a second gunman fired the fatal shot which killed the senator. But Lisa’s book goes well beyond the second gun theory espoused by other authors on the case. Where Phil Van Praag’s analysis of the Pruszynski recording (the only known recording of the shooting) suggests thirteen shots were fired in the pantry, Lisa suggests there may have been seventeen. Where most authors believe there were two shooters in the pantry. Lisa believes there may have been four or five. While it’s generally accepted that Sirhan fired eight shots from his .22-caliber revolver, injuring Paul Schrade and four other bystanders, Lisa argues Sirhan didn’t shoot anybody as he was firing blanks.

The firearms examiners concluded that the bullet which lodged in Kennedy’s neck and the bullets recovered from victims Ira Goldstein and William Weisel were fired from the same gun. The panel also agreed that the bullet recovered from shooting victim Irwin Stroll was a CCI Mini-Mag with the same rifling characteristics as the Sirhan weapon and all four of these victim bullets were consistent with the .22-caliber CCI long rifle ammunition used by Sirhan.

sirhan sirhan 2016The leaded condition of Sirhan’s barrel prevented a positive identification but, as Bradford concluded, a second gun needed to have the same rifling characteristics as Sirhan’s weapon. Phil Van Praag’s tests are based on this. Lisa seemingly ignores it....

Sirhan (shown in a 2016 mug shot) is still in prison, in the desert just outside San Diego, having served more than fifty years for a crime he cannot remember committing and which the evidence shows he did not commit. While I agree with Lisa that he has served his time and should be freed, these implausible theories will not help that cause.

While I disagree with Lisa’s conclusions, the new research in her book is a welcome addition to the small library on the case and I hope we can work together through the new Truth and Reconciliation Committee to seek justice for Sirhan and Bobby Kennedy with the best and most credible evidence available.

Shane O'Sullivan is an Irish writer and filmmaker based in London and best known for his work on the assassination of Robert Kennedy. His works include the feature documentary "RFK Must Die." His book on the case, "Who Killed Bobby?," was published in 2008. This essay is adapted from a presentation that he gave at the “Political Assassinations of the 1960s” conference at Olney Central College, IL on April 7, 2019.

June 3

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: A Black Feminist’s Response to Attacks on Martin Luther King Jr.’s Legacy, Barbara Ransby (history professor, June 3, 2019. We should not become historical peeping Toms by trafficking in what amounts to rumor and innuendo.

As a black feminist and a civil rights historian, I do not need to be persuaded that many black male ministers during the civil rights era were morally duplicitous, felt sexually entitled and slept around. So did many Catholic priests, politicians, Hollywood celebrities and some award-winning male academics.

Many historians have already argued that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. may have been no different. However, David Garrow’s essay published last week in Standpoint, a conservative British magazine — goes much further, making the serious allegation that Dr. King may have witnessed and encouraged a rape. Absolutely any allegation of rape has to be taken seriously. However, this irresponsible account, drawn from questionable documents, has serious shortcomings and risks turning readers into historical peeping Toms by trafficking in what amounts to little more than rumor and innuendo from F. B.I. files.

fbi logoRape, sexual harassment and other forms of sexual assault are very serious accusations in our own time, and all too often women making those charges are doubted, dismissed or simply not believed as in the cases of Anita Hill and Christine Blasey Ford, who bravely came forward with credible stories, and the R. Kelly accusers who for many years told of their own nightmarish ordeals. The voices of these survivors must be heard and taken seriously, and the perpetrators must be held accountable. The F.B.I. allegations, funneled through Mr. Garrow’s essay, have nothing to do with this effort. It is not a woman’s voice we are being asked to believe here, but the F.B.I.’s — a source with blatantly ulterior motives.

Let me underscore a critical line to draw in our assessment of this new reporting. It is a point that feminist scholars and L.G.B.T.Q. activists have insisted upon for some time. Consenting sexual activity, even activity that mainstream public opinion might not condone, is the prerogative of the adults involved. Rape, on the other hand, is a violent crime. A major problem with Mr. Garrow’s essay, questionable evidence aside, is that he fails to adequately distinguish between the two.

Where is the evidence? And whose story is this? Mr. Garrow has not seen a transcript or listened to the tape of this alleged incident himself. Both are sealed until 2027. The documents he has reviewed were made available inadvertently through the release of the John Kennedy assassination papers by the National Archives. The mention of Dr. King’s having been in the room during an alleged rape “appears only as an annotation,” one handwritten sentence added to the typed summary. Mr. Garrow ascribes the scribble to either William Sullivan, head of the Domestic Intelligence Division, whose personal file was the source of the document containing the rape allegation, or one of his associates. In other words, we don’t even know who the author is.

Mr. Garrow goes on to speculate that the prudish Mr. Sullivan, who may or may not have written the damning sentence, and his aides were unlikely to have embellished this account and had no “apparent motive” to do so. Really? Who knows what motivated them, but the motives of their boss, the notorious F.B.I. director J. Edgar Hoover, are well known: to destroy and discredit Dr. King and later other black freedom movement leaders. Cointelpro, the counterintelligence program of the F.B.I. that later spied on and subverted the work of groups like the Black Panther Party, was even implicated in an assassination.

Barbara Ransby (@BarbaraRansby), a professor of history, gender and women’s studies and African-American studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is the author of Ella Baker and the Black Freedom MovementEslanda and Making All Black Lives Matter.

Perception Managementwilliam barr cbs jan crawford 60 minutes may 31 2019

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What was William Barr’s fleece vest trying to tell us? Monica Hesse,June 3, 2019 (print ed.). He could have worn a suit for his TV interview. But the attorney general picked a folksier vibe for floating conspiracy theories.

William Barr showed up to his CBS This Morning interview looking like he was prepared to discuss not the investigation into possible Russian coordination with the 2016 Trump campaign but rather how to bait a fishing hook. The attorney general was working a distinctly “River Runs Through It” cosplay vibe: a tan half-zipped fleece vest over a checked button-down shirt, and in the background, a roaring fire.

To be fair, the interview, which aired Friday, did take place in Alaska, where Barr was traveling. But there are business suits available in Alaska; Barr had worn one earlier on the cub scout webelos badgetrip, during a meeting about rural law enforcement issues. his decision to skip a suit as he held forth on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation seemed like an attempt to communicate a message.

And that message was: I am a man of the people, and I am here to speak truths and help you earn a [Cub Scout] Webelos badge.

May

May 30

Vanity Fair, “Inconsistent, Incoherent, and Poorly Conceived”: As the Times Clamps Down on Reporters Going on MSNBC, Is This a Liberal-Media War? Joe Pompeo, May 30, 2019. The Times recently yanked one of its journalists from Rachel Maddow amid concerns about cable-news “bias.” Dean Baquet “thinks it’s a real issue.” But didn’t MSNBC help rebuild the Times’s business? And aren’t they in the same Trump-era boat?

ny times logoOn Sunday, May 19, New York Times finance editor David Enrich got a request from a producer at MSNBC to appear on Rachel Maddow’s show the following night. Enrich had a red-hot front-page story for Monday’s paper, about anti-money-laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank flagging suspicious transactions involving Donald Trump and Jared Kushner, and Maddow wanted to bring him on air to talk about it.

rachel maddow headshotMaddow is MSNBC’s ratings queen, jostling with Sean Hannity every night for the crown of most-watched time slot in cable news. That’s why reporters tend to relish the exposure they get from doing her show. Enrich said yes, but after mentioning the planned appearance to the Times’s communications department, he was told he would have to retroactively decline. The reason? The Times was wary of how viewers might perceive a down-the-middle journalist like Enrich talking politics with a mega-ideological host like Maddow.

It’s not just Maddow. The Times has come to “prefer,” as sources put it, that its reporters steer clear of any cable-news shows that the masthead perceives as too partisan, and managers have lately been advising people not to go on what they see as highly opinionated programs. It's not clear how many shows fall under that umbrella in the eyes of Times brass, but two others that definitely do are Lawrence O’Donnell’s and Don Lemon’s, according to people familiar with management’s thinking.

May 29

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Pelosi: Facebook’s refusal to remove doctored video proves it wittingly enabled Russian interference, Drew Harwell, May 29, 2019. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that Facebook’s refusal to take down an altered video of her shows that the company’s leaders were active contributors to online disinformation and “willing enablers” of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

facebook logoPelosi’s comments to KQED News, her first public response to the video since The Washington Post first reported its spread online last week, revealed a dramatic escalation of tensions between the Democratic leader and the world’s most popular social network.

“We have said all along, ‘Poor Facebook, they were unwittingly exploited by the Russians.’ I think wittingly, because right now they are putting up something that they know is false. I think it’s wrong,” she said, according to a transcript of the conversation provided by Pelosi’s office. “They’re lying to the public. . . . I think they have proven — by not taking down something they know is false — that they were willing enablers of the Russian interference in our election."

“For me, I’m in the arena, I’ve been the target all along,” Pelosi added. But “I wonder what they would do if [Facebook chief executive] Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t portrayed, you know, slowed down, made to look” drunk, she said. If it was “one of their own, would this be — is this their policy? Or is it just a woman?”

Facebook, which declined to comment, has acknowledged the video is false but declined to remove it.

Medium, Assange Is Reportedly Gravely Ill, And Hardly Anyone’s Talking About It, Caitlin Johnstone, May 29, 2019. Julian Assange’s Swedish lawyer Per Samuelson has told the press that “Assange’s health situation on Friday was such that it was not possible to conduct a normal conversation with him.”

This jarring revelation has been reported by a small handful of outlets, but only as an aside in relation to Sweden refusing Samuelson’s request for a postponement of a scheduled hearing regarding Assange’s detention en absentia for a preliminary investigation of rape allegations. The fact that the imprisoned WikiLeaks founder is so ill that he can’t converse lucidly is itself far more significant than the postponement refusal, yet headlines mentioning Samuelson’s statement focus on the Swedish case, de-emphasizing the startling news from his lawyer.

julian assange indicter imageAs of this writing I’ve been able to find very few news outlets reporting on this at all, the most mainstream being a Reuters article with the very tame headline “Swedish court rejects delay of Assange hearing over ill-health: lawyer”. The Sydney Morning Herald also covered the story without even mentioning illness in headline, instead going with “Swedish court rejects effort to delay Assange hearing”. The much smaller alternative media outlet World Socialist Website has been the only outlet I’ve found so far which reports on Samuelson’s statement in anything resembling its proper scale, publishing a good article titled “Despite Assange’s ill-health, Swedish court rejects delay to hearing” a few hours ago.

This news has been so under-discussed and under-appreciated as of this writing that I didn’t find out about it until hours after the story broke, and I’m very plugged in to both alternative media commentary and WikiLeaks-related news. A report that Julian Assange was so sick he could barely speak all the way back on Friday and we still have no news about how he’s doing now should be hugely significant for everyone who cares about Assange, press freedom, government transparency or peace activism.

May 27

washington post logojennifer rubin new headshotWashington Post, Opinion: The press must do better, Jennifer Rubin, right, May 27, 2019. The New York Times gives prominent placement on its home page to list all of President Trump’s juvenile nicknames for the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, including the racist Native American slur directed at Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). This serves no purpose other than to highlight his name-calling and reinforce his abusive conduct. Meanwhile, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders goes on “Meet the Press” to repeatedly accuse former FBI director James B. Comey of treason.

The mainstream media must pick up its game. Its role is not to act as Trump’s megaphone for childish insults, which directly aids his efforts to defame presidential opponents. It’s one thing to explain that Trump uses insults and to debunk them; it’s another to reinforce and popularize them.

More important, Republicans who repeat blatantly untrue talking points should not go unchallenged. To do so merely assists Trump in his war on the truth and his efforts to smear national security officials. The courts are doing their part. House Democrats are doing their part. Now, the media need to exercise the same diligence in calling out Trump’s lies. Instead of learning from the mistakes of 2016 — when Trump was allowed to spew his racism and falsehoods at length on live TV coverage of rallies — the media risk a repeat by simply recycling his slurs and lies.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The outsize influence of Fox, CNN and MSNBC, Margaret Sullivan, right, May 27, 2019 (print ed.). Despite limited audience size, cable TV news is, more margaret sullivan 2015 photothan ever, at the center of political controversy. With their limited, aging viewership, you might think cable TV news would be a political afterthought and a business washout. Instead, revenue is astronomical — $5 billion in 2017, according to Pew Research, for the big three: Fox News, CNN and MSNBC.

And the cable networks, undeniably, develop the kind of engagement that marketers call “mindshare” — especially in the political realm.

“Cable TV news has an influence today that is outsized to the literal audience that is watching it,” said Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute.

fox news logo SmallThey often spawn political controversy or are at the center of things themselves: whether Democratic presidential candidates go on Fox News town halls, the fallout of a CNN reporter having his press pass revoked, and MSNBC’s months-long obsession with the Mueller report.

viewership is a fraction of the audience still flocking to the three nightly news half hours on CBS, NBC and ABC: There are more than 9 million viewers for David Muir’s top-rated ABC show, “World News Tonight,” compared with cable’s top-rated competitors, Sean Hannity and Rachel Maddow, who each draw about a third of that number.

Nor is it at technology’s cutting edge. By the end of this year, mobile devices will surpass television as the medium attracting the most viewership, according to eMarketer research.

May 25

Facebook: Shameless Fake News Propagandists

monika bickert anderson cooper

CNN Anchor Anderson Cooper challenged Monika Bickert, a high-ranking Republican at Facebook, on why she was defending Facebook's continued distribution of a faked video making Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sound and look drunk by slowing the video's speed. President Trump also promoted the faked video.

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook defends decision to leave up fake Pelosi video, saying users should make up their own minds, Alex Horton, May 25, 2019. There is no dispute that the Facebook video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) viewed by millions is a fake, deliberately altered to make her appear drunk. YouTube acted fast and removed duplicates. Other social media outlets have not made the same call.

facebook logoFacebook acknowledged the video is “false” but said the videos would remain on the platform.

Amid fierce calls across the public and government for Facebook to remove the video — which has been viewed 2.6 million times — and others like it, a Facebook official took to CNN on Friday to defend its decision.

Monika Bickert, a company vice president for product policy and counterterrorism, said the video was reviewed by fact-checking organizations, and after it deemed the video a hoax, the company “dramatically” reduced its distribution. But Facebook did not remove the video, Bickert said.

The question has vexed lawmakers and Silicon Valley for years, particularly after massive disinformation campaigns were harnessed in the 2016 election: Should we consider platforms like Facebook “news publishers,” and should they handle information like one?

CNN host Anderson Cooper believes the answer is yes and pressed Bickert on her company’s responsibilities.

“You’re making money by being in the news business,” he said. “If you can’t do it well, shouldn’t you just get out of the news business?”

Bickert rejected the premise in a tense back-and-forth. “We aren’t in the news business. We’re in the social media business,” she said, adding the company removes content deemed a threat to public safety and from fake accounts.

Fair Elections: U.S. Gerrymandering

washington post logoWashington Post, New electoral maps for Ohio and Michigan can wait, Supreme Court says, Robert Barnes, May 25, 2019 (print ed.). While they consider the question of partisan gerrymandering, the justices put lower-court decisions finding those states’ maps unconstitutional on hold. The Supreme Court on Friday put on hold lower-court decisions that said Ohio and Michigan had to come up with new electoral maps because of unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering.

supreme court graphicThe decision was not surprising, because the justices are currently considering whether judges should even have a role in policing partisan gerrymandering. There were no noted dissents in the orders for either state.

The Supreme Court in March heard arguments in similar cases from North Carolina, where judges found that Republicans had manipulated congressional maps to their advantage, and from Maryland, where Democratic lawmakers redrew a district that resulted in a loss for a longtime Republican congressman.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosWhile the Supreme Court regularly examines redistricting plans for signs of racial gerrymandering, it has never found a state’s plan so infected with partisan politics that it violates the rights of voters. The decision in the North Carolina and Maryland cases are expected before the end of June.

With the decisions from Ohio and Michigan, federal courts in five states have struck down maps as partisan gerrymanders. The courts in the Ohio and Michigan decisions ordered the states to come up with new maps that could be used in the 2020 elections.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Barr could politicize intelligence with review of Russia probe, officials fear, Shane Harris, May 25, 2019 (print ed.). An executive order gave the the attorney general broad authority to disclose classified intelligence.

It appeared unprecedented to give an official who is not in charge of an intelligence agency the power to reveal its secrets. Current and former intelligence officials said they were concerned that Barr could selectively declassify information that paints the intelligence agencies and the FBI in a bad light without giving a complete picture of their effort. in 2016.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutors worried about constitutional rights disagreed with charging Assange, Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky and Rachel Weiner, May 25, 2019 (print ed.). The Department of Justice officials feared the Espionage Act charges posed serious risks for First Amendment protections and had other concerns, according to people familiar with the matter.

washington post logoWashington Post, 50 years after Apollo, conspiracy theorists are still howling at the ‘moon hoax,’ Joel Achenbach, May 25, 2019 (print ed.). A growing science of conspiracism seeks to understand who these people are, why they embrace such ideas, and whether there is anything that can dislodge a really magnetic conspiracy theory from the mind of a true believer.

May 24

Assange Charges Prompt Freedom Fears

julian assange screenshot arrest (Ruptly)

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

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Frightening’: Charges Against Julian Assange Alarm Press Advocates, Michael M. Grynbaum and Marc Tracy, May 24, 2019 (print ed.). A new indictment against the WikiLeaks leader was denounced as a dangerous precedent that could lead to future prosecutions of journalists. While past cases involved government employees who ljulian assange indicter imageeaked information to journalists, the Assange case could lead to the pursuit of a publisher.

Journalists and press freedom groups reacted with alarm on Thursday after the Trump administration announced new charges against Julian Assange, right, the WikiLeaks leader, for publishing classified information, in a case that legal experts say takes direct aim at previously sacrosanct protections for the news media.

wikileaks logo2In indicting Mr. Assange for obtaining, accepting and disseminating classified materials, the Department of Justice opened a new front in its campaign against illegal leaks. While past cases involved government employees who provided material to journalists, the Assange indictment could amount to the pursuit of a publisher for making that material available to the public.

“It’s not criminal to encourage someone to leak classified information to you as a journalist — that’s called news gathering, and there are First Amendment protections for news gathering,” said Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., a lawyer who frequently represents media organizations like CNN. “The ramifications of this are so potentially dangerous and serious for the ability of journalists to gather and disseminate information that the American people have a right to know.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Julian Assange Is No Hero. But This Case Is a Threat to Free Speech, Editorial Board, May 24, 2019 (print ed.). The Trump administration seeks to use the Espionage Act to redefine what journalists can and cannot publish.

The new charges focus on receiving and publishing classified material from a government source. That is something journalists do all the time. They did it with the Pentagon Papers and in countless other cases where the public benefited from learning what was going on behind closed doors, even though the sources may have acted illegally. This is what the First Amendment is designed to protect: the ability of publishers to provide the public with the truth.

President Trump has waged a relentless campaign against the news media, going so far as to repeatedly label it the “enemy of the people.” But with this indictment his administration has moved well beyond dangerous insults to strike at the very foundation of the free press in the United States. The Espionage Act has been used against those who disclose classified information only rarely, for good reason. It has never before been used against a journalist.

Media News / Fake News

washington post logoWashington Post, Faked Pelosi videos, slowed to make her appear drunk, spread across social media, Drew Harwell, May 24, 2019 (print ed.). Distorted videos of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), altered to make her sound as if she’s drunkenly slurring her words, are spreading rapidly across social media, highlighting how political disinformation that clouds public understanding can now grow at the speed of the Web.

The video of Pelosi’s onstage speech Wednesday at a Center for American Progress event, in which she said President Trump’s refusal to cooperate with congressional investigations was tantamount to a “coverup," was subtly edited to make her voice sound garbled and warped. It was then circulated widely across Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

One version, posted by the conservative Facebook page Politics WatchDog, had been viewed more than 2 million times by Thursday night, been shared more than 45,000 times, and garnered 23,000 comments with users calling her “drunk” and “a babbling mess.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why it’s so alarming that Trump shared an edited video of Pelosi, Editorial Board, May 24, 2019. Did President Trump share a fake clip of Nancy Pelosi? The seemingly simple question is a vexing one to answer. Passing judgment on his behavior is less challenging.

Conservative accounts on social media circulated a clip this week deliberately distorted to make it seem as if the speaker of the House was slurring her speech: “Drunk as a skunk,” commentators declared. The video, which some declared a “deepfake,” employed much too simple technology to merit that term. Deepfakes use artificial intelligence to synthesize human images into a reality that is entirely fabricated; the smear of Ms. Pelosi merely slowed down parts of an existing interview and modified her pitch.

The clip Mr. Trump tweeted alongside the words “PELOSI STAMMERS THROUGH NEWS CONFERENCE” was part of the same narrative, but it was not distorted, or even doctored, so much as it was edited. The clip splices together short segments of Ms. Pelosi (D-Calif.) stuttering in a lowlight reel that offered a misleading impression of a perfectly coherent 21-minute news conference. Mr. Trump did not make this video, or pull it from the right-wing fever swamps of social media. He took it instead from the fever swamp of Fox Business Network.

The clamor for firms such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to remove or limit the distribution of these clips as misinformation invites a vexing debate about what counts as fake in the first place. The “slurring” video, accompanied by manufactured accusations of drunkenness, may fall on one side of the line. The stammering video may fall on the other. But drawing that line at all has far-reaching implications. People edit videos all the time, sometimes for fun and sometimes to prove a political point. When does editing become doctoring, and when does doctoring become distorting? Is distorting always impermissible, or does it depend on intent, effect or something else altogether?

May 23

ny times logoNew York Times, Julian Assange Indicted Under Espionage Act, Raising 1st Amendment Issues, Charlie Savage and Adam Goldman, May 23, 2019. The WikiLeaks founder faces 17 counts in a superseding indictment over his role in publishing classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010. The Justice Department’s move signals a dramatic escalation of a crackdown on leaks and aims squarely at First Amendment protections for journalists.

julian assange indicter imageJulian Assange, right, the WikiLeaks leader, has been indicted on 17 new counts of violating the Espionage Act for his role in publishing classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010, the Justice Department announced on Thursday — a novel case that raises profound First Amendment issues.

The new charges were part of a superseding indictment obtained by the Trump administration that significantly expanded the legal case against Mr. Assange, who is already fighting extradition proceedings in London based on an earlier hacking-related count brought by federal prosecutors in Northern Virginia.

wikileaks logo2The secret documents that Mr. Assange published were provided by the former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who was convicted at a court-martial trial in 2013 of leaking the records.

“Assange, WikiLeaks affiliates and Manning shared the common objective to subvert lawful restrictions on classified information and to publicly disseminate it,” the indictment said.

The Justice Department’s decision to pursue Espionage Act charges signals a dramatic escalation under President Trump to crack down on leaks of classified information and aims squarely at First Amendment protections for journalists. Most recently, law enforcement officials charged a former intelligence analyst with giving classified documents to The Intercept, a national security news website.

Legal scholars believe that prosecuting reporters over their work would violate the First Amendment, but the prospect has not yet been tested in court because the government had never charged a journalist under the Espionage Act.

Though he is not a conventional journalist, much of what Mr. Assange does at WikiLeaks is difficult to distinguish in a legally meaningful way from what traditional news organizations like The New York Times do: seek and publish information that officials want to be secret, including classified national security matters, and take steps to protect the confidentiality of sources.

ny times logoNew York Times, Can Paul Huntsman Save The Salt Lake Tribune? Katherine Rosman, May 23, 2019 (print ed.). Life was tranquil for Paul Huntsman, a scion of a rich and powerful Utah family, before he got into the news business. He spent his workdays managing much of the Huntsman family’s considerable portfolio at the Huntsman building on Huntsman Way. Sundays meant services at a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chapel with his wife, Cheryl Wirthlin Huntsman, and their eight children. There were also skiing excursions to Deer Valley and hiking trips to Snowbird, and the parents were regulars at their children’s ballet performances, cheerleading banquets and lacrosse games.

paul huntsman linked inThen Mr. Huntsman, a son of the billionaire industrialist Jon M. Huntsman Sr., bought The Salt Lake Tribune.

Since buying the struggling daily from its hedge-fund ownership group for an undisclosed sum in 2016, Mr. Huntsman (shown at right on his Linked In photo)  has sometimes found himself at odds with family members and the local establishment his ancestors helped shape. He has also been challenged by the task of keeping the paper alive at a time when small newspapers are dying out and big dailies with national followings are growing more dominant.

The Tribune’s weekday circulation has dropped to 32,000 from roughly 61,000 in 2014. Ad revenue plunged 40 percent during Mr. Huntsman’s first two years at the helm, and he has been paying employees out of his own pocket.

Last year, he cut 34 of the newsroom’s 90 journalists. The press watchdog site Poynter, which had cheered his arrival, noted that “the Salt Lake story is a sober reminder that deep pockets and community-spirited good intentions may not be enough.”

In May, Mr. Huntsman announced a strategy that, in his view, would give the paper its best chance at survival: turning it into a nonprofit operation. If the plan gains federal approval, The Tribune would be the first metropolitan daily in the United States to go the nonprofit route. (Other newspapers, including The Tampa Bay Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer, are owned by nonprofit corporations but are not themselves nonprofits.)

He started considering the idea a year ago, a few months after his father died. “I got word that some of our main advertisers were going to pull back on ad buys,” he said. “What I knew was going to be a loss was now going to be a monumental loss. Without having my father to address this with, to have him advise me and work through this, it was tough.”

sniper 3d assassin screenshot

A screenshot of the 'Breaking News' mission selection screen from "Sniper 3D Assassin."

National Press Club, How did killing journalists become a game? Julie Moos and Ricardo Sandoval Palos, May 23, 2019. Since at least 2015, the popular game Sniper 3D Assassin has featured a mission that requires players to kill a journalist who has just bribed a police officer. When that mission was made public over the weekend in a tweet by New York Times journalist Jamal Jordan, the gamemaker’s Chief Technology Officer Michael Mac-Vicar told HuffPost, “After listening to our community today, we have decided to remove the mission ‘Breaking News’ from the game.”

But the mission has not been removed from all versions of the game. The iOS version in the Apple App store no longer has the “Breaking News” mission, but the Microsoft version in Steam, a popular gaming platform, still included it to play as of Wednesday night, and the Google Play version still shows the mission, though it cannot be played.

Mac-Vicar confirmed this in a brief reply to a LinkedIn message. "Updates are being rolled out, iOS and Google Play are already updated (they represent more than 99.99 of the users), other minor platforms like Amazon and Steam might take some more time,” he said.

The company faced backlash over the weekend for including the mission, then faced backlash from players after removing it.

“I have been playing this game for about a year and loved it & spent real $$ because I will support a good mobile game,” said Skitzo23!!! in a one-star review in the App Store. “What I won’t do is support a company who will REMOVE A LEVEL because of B-----t Activists who call themselves ‘Journalists’ who never even played the game or spent a dime on it!!!”

“I came for the journalist level. Disappointed!” said another one-star review posted after the mission was pulled from the Apple version.

These reactions highlight the danger this mission represents, given the real violence and threats journalists increasingly face. A year ago, four Capital Gazette journalists and another staff member were killed in Maryland. This year, at least five journalists have been killed worldwide, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, and several have been attacked in the U.S. while covering a teacher strike in California and covering a political rally in Texas.

The “Breaking News” mission in the game “seems like pandering to the anti-journalist crowd,” said GamesBeat writer Dean Takahashi in a brief online conversation. “It creates the inaccurate impression that journalists pay sources for stories, and then suggests that anyone who does so deserves to die. It is, of course, horrifying for any non-combatants to be dragged into war, but this scene seems particularly gleeful about doing this with a journalist target. The developers should think about the real-world consequences of their decisions.”

And the platforms hosting the games should consider that as well, said National Press Club President Alison Fitzgerald Kodjak. “Apple, Google, and the other technology platforms that make this game available should think twice before hosting games like this that put journalists at risk,” Kodjak said.

“The fact that this escaped notice for so long demonstrates that violence against journalists is becoming normalized, and that is unacceptable,” said Barbara Cochran, president of the National Press Club Journalism Institute.

May 20

Columbia Journalism Review, Opinion: How to deal with obstructive public information officers? Challenge them, Cinnamon Janzer, May 20, 2019. On April 18, Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey announced his intention to make his city the first to ban its police officers from undertaking “warrior-style” training. After the police union announced that it would continue to offer the trainings anyway a few days later, I set out to interview Chief Medaria Arradondo.

Like many government organizations, the Minneapolis Police Department has a public information officer (PIO). In response to an email request, the PIO said that the chief was too busy for an interview, but that I could email him a list of questions as an alternative. I declined; email interviews preclude the dynamic qualities of an in-person interview, and can provide cover for story subjects to craft protective messages with their public relations advisers.

“I deal with dozens of reporters a week who provide written questions for answering,” the PIO replied. “No one has had journalistic issues with it.” I attempted to go around him, but, at every turn, I was informed that all communication had to go through the PIO. I didn’t fare much better with the mayor’s office: after multiple calls and email follow-ups with his press secretary and other members of his communication team, I was provided with a two-sentence statement on the police union’s defiance.

ICYMI: The story of Ernest Hemingway’s $187,000 magazine expenses claim

The resulting story—about the way that Minneapolis residents are policed, reported and written as a former Minneapolis cop was tried and ultimately convicted for a 2017 killing that has left residents “more concerned than ever over police conduct”—was written without the two major public officials at its center answering a single question.

“That’s a straight refusal to answer, and that’s what you need to call it,” Carolyn Carlson, a retired journalist, professor, and former president of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), says. Carlson, whose academic research focused on public information officers, adds, “They try to cloak it like they’re being cooperative when they’re not.”
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The Public Information Officer is a frequently obstructive mechanism thinly veiled by a helpful sounding title. PIO-approved comments shape the narratives of their news coverage across the country on matters that range from the mundane to the extremely consequential.

In a 2014 survey of political and general assignment reporters by Carlson and SPJ, most respondents said the amount of control exerted by PIOs had been increasing and was only getting worse. A 2015 survey uncovered that 74.2 percent of science writers were routinely required to get approval from PIOs to interview employees some, most, or all of the time. A 2016 survey of police reporters found that 54.8 percent of respondents, the majority of whom work as full-time reporters for small and mid-sized papers, were only allowed to interview police chiefs “some of the time” or “rarely.” Fifty-seven percent said that they were prevented by PIOs from interviewing officers or investigators in a timely manner “some of the time,” “most of the time,” or “all of the time.”

In Carlson’s survey of PIOs themselves, 65.9 percent felt some obligation to “supervise or otherwise monitor interviews with members of my agency’s staff.” Those PIOs, Carlson says, “were pretty open that one of their top priorities, if not their top priority, is to represent their agencies in a positive way, which is a fundamentally different objective to what reporters are trying to do.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Pete Buttigieg creates another media moment, Jennifer Rubin, May 20, 2019. Pundits arguing that South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg simply jennifer rubin twittercannot be president because his only civilian public service has been at the local level, or that he is heavy on values and persona but lighter on policy, seem not to have learned anything from 2016.

President Trump won the Republican primary by stringing together media moments, dominating the airwaves and intensifying his audience’s emotions (anger, resentment, etc.). Buttigieg is testing the proposition that Democrats desperate to take back the White House may admire Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s policy parade but what they long for is someone who can beat Trump and reflect their longing to reassert their values (respect for intellect, empathy, tolerance).

Buttigieg, in appearing on Fox News Sunday night, helped his cause tremendously. Projecting the same calm, incisiveness and wit that have impressed other audiences, he won enthusiastic applause and a standing ovation. He created some viral moments that will echo around the mainstream media for days:

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Make him famous in a different way’: In this popular mobile game, you kill a journalist, Angela Fritz, May 20, 2019 (print ed.). The mission is called Breaking News. It’s the seventh mission in the game, and it comes after you’ve upgraded your sniper rifle to shoot at a distance of nearly 1,000 feet with accuracy.

By now, you’ve already taken out, among others, a gunman who allegedly killed several people at a pizzeria last year, someone who stole a backpack from a tourist, a sniper who (without a trace of irony) is killing innocent people, and three men who were guarding a gang’s weapon arsenal.

Breaking News has a clear goal: kill a reporter.

“A journalist bribed a cop and will pick up a briefcase from the cop,” the mission says. “The briefcase is full of sensitive documents. Make him famous in a different way.” (In reality, journalists’ codes of ethics ban them from paying sources for information or material. There would certainly be no bribing.)

Sniper 3D Assassin is a mobile game available on iOS and Android. It has a rating of about 4½ stars, with a combined 12 million reviews on both platforms. The app launched in 2014 and reached 10 million downloads in the first month, according to the developer, TFG, which is based in Brazil. In 2016, the developer claims it was the most-downloaded game in the App Store.

JIP Editor's Note: The game "level" regarding journalists was removed after Huffington Post published a story about it. “Our game Sniper 3D Assassin is fictional and is intended for mature audiences,’ said Michael Mac-Vicar, the CTO of the developing company. ‘At TFG, we work to create games that bring fun and entertainment to users all around the world. As such, we take feedback from our players very seriously. After listening to our community today, we have decided to remove the mission ‘Breaking News’ from the game.”

paul craig roberts rob kall

OpEdNews, Opinion: The Assange/Manning Cases Discredit Humanity, Paul Craig Roberts (shown above at left in a radio interview with OpEdNews Publisher Rob Kall), May 20, 2019. Everyone who is aware of the US government's extraordinary criminal actions at home and abroad bears a heavy weight. The millions of peoples murdered, maimed, orphaned, widowed, and displaced by gratuitous American military aggression comprise a Holocaust of deaths based entirely on lies and false accusations in order to advance secret American and Israeli agendas.

I suspect that the heavy burden of responsibility for mass murder and destruction committed in our name is the reason most Americans prefer the fake news fed to them about how good and wonderful and exceptional we are and how hard our government works to protect us from the nasty folks elsewhere.

This story-line converts the illegal brutal war crimes of the US government against women, children, defenseless citizens, schools, wedding parties, funerals, and farmers in their fields into glorious and brave defenses of our liberty and virtue.

chelsea manning dan behrendt youtube screenshot dmcaIf you want the truth watch the video leaked by Chelsea Manning of US troops enjoying themselves while from the air they machine-gun reporters and innocent civilians walking along a street and follow up by machine-gunning a father and his two young children, babies, who stopped to help the wounded bleeding in the street. The leak of the video that showed the true picture of Washington's wars is the reason Manning (shown at right in a Dan Behrendt screenshot) was tortured and imprisoned.

It is the person who told the truth, not the criminals who committed the murders, who was punished.

I agree that the fake story of America's moral worthiness is much easier to live with than it is to bear the shame of the true story. But in the end the fake story destroys our liberty even more completely than would conquest by a foreign opponent. People are more suspicious of an occupying power than they are of their own government and are less likely to believe foreign occupiers when they lie to them. In contrast, a people's own government can trap them in a false consciousness and keep them there with fake news.

Washington's case against Julian Assange is so contrived and so weak, that the corrupt US attorney assigned to frame-up Assange has resorted to persecution of Manning in an effort to coerce false testimony against Assange from Manning. After being tortured and serving seven years in prison for revealing a US war crime, as Manning was required to do under the US military code, Manning was pardoned by President Obama.

Now Manning is back in prison for a second time after being pardoned, because Manning will not cooperate in the frame-up of Assange by giving false testimony to a grand jury. Without false testimony, the corrupt US attorney hasn't a case that could get a conviction from even the typical insouciant American jury, normally a collection of gullible people julian assange head bookeasily manipulated by the prosecutor.

When Manning (shown in a file photo at left) was imprisoned for 63 days for refusing to tell lies about Assange, Manning spent 28 of those days in solitary confinement. Why?

A week after Manning was released, the corrupt US attorney called Manning again before the grand jury that the corrupt US attorney is using to contrive a case against Assange. Again Manning refused to cooperate in the frame-up, and was again held in contempt and again remanded into federal prison. This time a corrupt US federal district judge, Anthony Trenga, added to Manning's jail time a daily fine of $500 rising to $1,000 daily after 60 days. In other words, the corrupt judge is helping the corrupt US attorney to coerce Manning into cooperating in a frame-up of Assange. Americans need to understand that their judges are not judges. They are operatives of the American police state.

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The Indicter, The Making of a “Rapist,” Pamela Anderson (the famed actress, shown below right), May 2019 issue (first published by the pamela anderson foundation portraitPamela Anderson Foundation on May 20, 2019). Today, I want to speak out as a woman. A woman who has survived rape and sexual abuse. A woman who knows how cruel men can be, and how deep the wounds in a woman’s soul. To this day, I remember the excruciating pain.

To this day, I can feel the agony. To this day, their faces keep haunting my sleep – a fate shared by countless women worldwide. No, I would never defend a rapist, there can never be an excuse for this crime, nor for offenders enjoying impunity. We owe it to ourselves, our sisters and girls to speak out and fight complacency.

But in our resolve to do the right thing, let us never forget the danger of error, and the power of false accusations. For the same factors that make allegations of rape so difficult to prove in a court of law, make them even more difficult to disprove in the court of public opinion. Therefore, false allegations of sexual misconduct have always been the tool of choice for any campaign of mobbing, blackmail or slander. Once someone has been stamped a “rapist”, whether convicted, charged or merely alleged, his reputation has not only been sentenced to death, but has already been executed in public.

And this is the reason I speak out today. I speak out in support of a friend. A friend whom I love dearly, but whose health is crumbling, whose hopes are fading and whose time is running out. A friend who has dared to speak truth to power, who has shone a light on their criminal deeds and who is now paying the price. A friend whose voice has been strangled, whose hands have been shackled and whose name has been slandered. His name is Julian Assange.

julian assange and swedens politically appointed judges indicter graphicLet us remember that Julian has never been convicted for a sexual offense, that he has never even been formally charged with one, and that there never has been any supporting evidence against him. In fact, when the rape allegations first emerged in 2010, Julian voluntarily cooperated with the police, responded to their questions and stayed in Sweden until permitted to leave. Even the chief prosecutor, having carefully considered all the evidence, closed the case, stating that “I don’t think there is reason to suspect that he has committed rape” and that the alleged conduct “disclosed no crime at all”. Only to be re-opened a few days later by a different prosecutor, and based on conveniently modified allegations of fact.

Let us also remember what both complainants have confirmed already years ago: namely that their sex with Julian had always been consensual, that they had never intended to report a crime, but that Swedish police had pressured them into doing so. And when Sweden finally wanted to drop the case in 2013, it was the British who urged them not to get “cold feet.” Sweden complied and, in the following years, went out of its way to ensure that Julian would not be able to defend himself against the rape allegations without at the same time exposing himself to extradition to the US.

On 13 May 2019, Sweden re-opened the very same grotesque investigation for a third time since August 2010. We all know that the rape allegations against Julian are bogus. We all know what is their real purpose. And we all know that Sweden acts in bad faith. As poignantly summarized by Women Against Rape: “The allegations against [Julian] are a smokescreen behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks for having audaciously revealed to the public their secret planning of wars and occupations with their attendant rape, murder and destruction… The authorities care so little about violence against women that they manipulate rape allegations at will”. I fully agree. This is not about justice for rape. This is about the rape of justice. A tragedy for Julian, a disgrace for Sweden and a serious betrayal of all of us believing in justice, democracy and the rule of law.

To me, Julian is a personal friend, a hero, a liberator. To you, he may be an enemy, a traitor, a sleazy snitch. You are entitled to your opinion and don’t have to change your mind. But before you draw your conclusions, please make sure you have really thought this through.

If, after all I said, you still believe Julian is a rapist, did you ever ask yourself whether the mere fact of a ripped condom can really amount to “rape”? A ripped condom which has revealed no trace of DNA? A ripped condom happening in the midst of repeated sexual encounters between consenting adults? A condom which Julian is accused of having ripped intentionally, but without the only other person in the room even noticing the deed? Just in case you didn’t know: that’s all he is being accused of. Pause and think. And then draw your own conclusions.

May 19

cbs news logoCBS 60 Minutes, How the Danske Bank money-laundering scheme involving $230 billion unraveled, Steve Kroft, May 19, 2019. It could be the biggest money-laundering scheme in history, with suspicious money flowing from Russia and former Soviet republics

Money laundering is the way clever crooks hide and eventually spend all of the money they have stolen. And this is a tale about what's believed to be the biggest money-laundering scheme in history.

It involves nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars of very suspicious money from Russia and the former Soviet Union that was funneled into the western banking system right under the noses of major banks and regulators in the United States and Europe, who either facilitated it or turned a blind eye. At the heart of it is a whistleblower, who found one loose thread and decided to pull on it.

howard wilkinson

Related story: National Whistleblowers Center: On Sunday, 60 Minutes featured the case of whistleblower Howard Wilkinson (shown above), the former banker who blew the whistle on the largest money-laundering scandal in world banking history, involving $234 billion. U.S. authorities are reportedly investigating transactions of major banks operating in the U.S., including $150 billion in suspicious transactions handled by Deutsche Bank. The Danske Bank scandal highlights the impact of whistleblowers and their role in holding corporations accountable for wrongdoing.

washington post logoWashington Post, Is revenge porn protected by the Constitution? Some states might say yes, Deanna Paul, May 19, 2019. Forty-five states have revenge-porn laws in place, and appeals courts are beginning to take up cases involving the constitutionality of these statutes.

May 18

Austrian Political / Media Scandal

ny times logoNew York Times, Highlights From the Video That Brought Down Austria’s Vice Chancellor, Christopher F. Schuetze, May 18, 2019. A secretly filmed video that led Heinz-Christian Strache, Austria’s far-right vice chancellor, to step down on Saturday is filled with eyebrow-raising moments, according to excerpts published by the German heinz christian strachenewsmagazine Der Spiegel and the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Mr. Strache, right, not only resigned from his post less than 24 hours after the release of the video footage, which was recorded in July 2017 in a rented villa in Ibiza, Spain. He also vowed to resign as leader of the Freedom Party. The scandal prompted Chancellor Sebastian Kurz later on Saturday to call for a snap election, saying at a news conference in Vienna, “After yesterday’s video, enough is enough.”

Here’s what we learned from the taped conversations, which lasted for hours and were accompanied by more than a little alcohol (as well as sushi, tuna tartar and energy drinks).

Five people took part in the meeting, according to the German news outlets, which examined the tapes but have not released the full recordings.

They included Mr. Strache; a woman who said she was the niece of a Russian oligarch; an interpreter; another Freedom Party official, Johann Gudenus, who seems to have set up the meeting; and Mr. Gudenus’s wife, Tajana.

In the footage, the woman says she wants to invest a quarter-billion euros in Austria, and Mr. Strache explores ways that such a giant investment would help his Freedom Party.

Mr. Strache tells the presumed investor that he’s been to Russia many times and that he has met with advisers of President Vladimir V. Putin to plan for “strategic collaboration,” according to Der Spiegel.

At one point, he suggests that the woman could help his party in the 2017 election. One other option discussed: taking state road contracts away from Austria’s largest construction company, Strabag, one of Europe’s biggest builders, and turning them over to a company she would found.

Since the Freedom Party came to power, it has had an antagonistic relationship with the news media. The crux of the conversation in 2017 was about the woman taking over the tabloid Kronen Zeitung.

In the recorded conversations, Mr. Strache suggests that with her in control, she could give his party favorable coverage and lift its poll numbers. “If she takes over the Krone newspaper three weeks before election and brings us to spot No. 1, then we can talk about anything,” Mr. Strache says.

While suggesting that some of the editorial staff of Kronen Zeitung should be fired, he said most would play along. Mr. Strache called journalists “the biggest” prostitutes on the planet, though he used a crasser term.

Besides his focus on Kronen Zeitung, Mr. Strache seemed to be particularly set on restructuring ORF, Austria’s public broadcaster — even mentioning privatization. “We want to build a media landscape like Orban did,” Mr. Strache says in the tape. Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary has turned his country’s public news media into a pro-government propaganda machine, and allies have gradually bought up whole sectors of the private news industry. During its short time as junior coalition partner, the Freedom Party has attacked Austrian journalists and suggested cutting public broadcast fees.

May 17

Mueller Probe

djt sergey lavrov sergey kislyak wh may 10 2017 tass

President Trump relaxes with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak at the White House on May 10, 2017. U.S. news media were barred from the secret meeting. Photos became available only from the Russian outlet TASS, which entrusted to attend.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge tells prosecutors to release transcript of Michael Flynn’s call to Russian envoy, Carol D. Leonnig and Rosalind S. Helderman, May 17, 2019. The michael flynn stephen miller jared kushner reince priebustranscripts of the call and a separate voice mail would reveal conversations at the center of two major avenues of the Mueller probe. A federal judge on Thursday ordered that prosecutors make public a transcript of a phone call that former national security adviser Michael Flynn (shown at center of file photo at right surrounded by Stephen Miller, Jared Kushner and Reince Priebus) tried hard to hide with a lie: his conversation with a Russian ambassador in late 2016.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan (below at left) in Washington ordered the government also to provide a public transcript of a November 2017 voice mail involving Flynn. In that sensitive call, President Trump’s attorney left a message for Flynn’s attorney reminding him of the president’s fondness for Flynn at a time when Flynn was considering cooperating with emmet sullivan 2012federal investigators.

The transcripts, which the judge ordered be posted on a court website by May 31, would reveal conversations at the center of two major avenues of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. So far they have been disclosed to the public only in fragments in court filings and the Mueller report.

Sullivan also ordered that still-redacted portions of the Mueller report that relate to Flynn be given to the court and made public. Sullivan’s orders came very shortly after government prosecutors agreed to release some sealed records in Flynn’s case. The release was in response to a motion filed with the court earlier this year by The Washington Post, which argued that the public deserved to know more about Flynn’s role in key events and cooperation with investigators.

The newly unsealed portions of court records showed Flynn was a deep source of useful information to the special counsel’s team in 2017 and 2018, helping it probe the Trump campaign’s effort to gain stolen emails and the question of whether Trump sought to criminally interfere in the investigation bearing down on him.

The records confirm the questions that Flynn, a retired lieutenant general and former military intelligence officer, helped federal prosecutors answer after his guilty plea. Flynn admitted in 2017 that he tried to conceal the nature of his conversations with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and then began cooperating with Mueller’s team to try to reduce and possibly avoid a prison sentence.

bill palmerPalmer Report, Opinion: No wonder Robert Mueller has been waiting to testify, Bill Palmer, right, May 17, 2019. Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee publicly stated that they thought Robert Mueller was going to publicly testify on May 15th – and when they learned it wasn’t going to happen, they didn’t seem too upset about it. Now we know why they were confident Mueller’s testimony would happen soon enough, and why Mueller was waiting.

bill palmer report logo headerLast night Robert Mueller’s prosecutorial team – which apparently still exists on some level – made a court filing in the Michael Flynn case, despite the fact that it wasn’t under obligation to do so, and it wasn’t even close to being up against any deadline. The filing revealed that Flynn witnessed Trump and his underlings commit several crimes. This in turn prompted the judge in the case to order that far more evidence of these crimes be publicly released soon. This, of course, wasn’t coincidence.

democratic donkey logoWith his filing yesterday, Mueller is essentially unredacting the most important pieces of his own report by force, in a way that Attorney General William Barr can’t stop. If Mueller had publicly testified on the 15th as originally planned, would he have been legally able to discuss the Trump crimes that Flynn witnessed? But now that Mueller has found a way to force the Flynn stuff into the public purview, there’s nothing that Trump and Barr can even try to do to stop Mueller from testifying about the Flynn stuff.

We’ll see if Robert Mueller makes other similar moves in the coming days in order to force the key findings of his probe into public view. But it’s now fairly obvious why he’s been waiting to testify. Why fight with Barr’s compromised DOJ about what you can testify about, when you can instead use the courts to change the entire playing field?

May 17

Trump Crony Defamation Suit Against Herald

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Mother Jones, In Defamation Lawsuit, a Trump Donor Acknowledges Providing Chinese Execs "Access" in US, David Corn and Dan Friedman, May 17, 2019. Last week, Li "Cindy" Yang (shown above), the Florida massage parlor entrepreneur and Trump donor who has been part of the recent controversy involving Donald Trump's private resort, Mar-a-Lago, filed a defamation lawsuit against the parent company of the Miami Herald. The suit focused on a Herald story that had placed Yang in the spotlight by reporting she had posed for a photo with Trump at his West Palm Beach golf club during a Super Bowl party in February and noting that Yang had founded the day spa where Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, had been busted for allegedly soliciting prostitution. (Yang sold that particular spa years earlier.)

The suit claims the newspaper published false statements about Yang and her business that suggested illegal conduct had occurred in her spas. But the suit also contained a surprising passage that acknowledged that Yang had also run a business that provided Chinese executives "access to American business and political culture," and this included entry to events at Mar-a-Lago.

After the Herald story appeared in March, Mother Jones reported that Yang owned a firm that had offered to sell Chinese clients access to Trump and his family via visits to Mar-a-Lago. The company, GY US Investments, noted on its website -- which has since been taken down -- that its business consulting services addressed clients looking to make high-level connections in the United States. On a page displaying a photo of Mar-a-Lago, the firm said its "activities for clients" included offering them "the opportunity to interact with the president, the [American] Minister of Commerce and other political figures." The company boasted it had "arranged taking photos with the President" and suggested it can provide clients with access to a "White House and Capitol Hill Dinner."

Weeks after that story was posted, Yang's attorney, Evan Turk, contacted Mother Jones and threatened a lawsuit, claiming the article defamed Yang. In a letter, Turk wrote that the Mother Jones article inaccurately reported that "Cindy Yang runs an investment business that has offerred [sic] to sell Chinese clients access to Trump and his family. This is nothing but false conjecture based on her company's website that offerred [sic] business assistance in America to potential Chinese clientele; a travel package." (No lawsuit has yet been filed.)

Yet in the lawsuit Turk dropped on the Herald, he stated that Yang was in the access business. A paragraph citing her entrepreneurial talents explained how GY US Investments was founded and operated:

"YANG came to the United States [from China] in search of a better life. She realized the American dream through her entrepreneurial acumen. She created GY US Investments which provided access to the American business and political culture through her understanding of opportunity. GY US Investments was a travel package for Chinese businessmen and philanthropists to travel to America. She realized the premium attached to a picture and story that her clients would cherish, while at the same time, supporting charitable causes. She had an opportunity to share her understanding of the Palm Beach charity scene and events publicly promoted at Mar-a-Lago (amongst others). YANG's business model relied upon her reputation and relationships she had painstakingly established during her time spent in the Palm Beach County area.

This complaint together with the GY US Investments website support the conclusion that Yang, who raised money for Trump, used her connections to bring Chinese executives into proximity of the president and Trump family members at his club and perhaps elsewhere.

Yang's lawsuit maintains that due to Herald article, she...

"is no longer able to maintain her current employment as a direct result of the defamatory statements, is no longer able to attend Mar-a-Lago [events], lost her role as an executive volunteer with the Republican Executive Committee, is undergoing psychiatric treatment to cope with the unconscionable fake allegations, suffers from significant headaches, cannot sleep and was forced to relocate as a direct result of the shame she has had to unnecessarily endure."

In the filing, Turk, a supporter of Roger Stone, the longtime Trump adviser who was indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and charged with lying to Congress, asserts the Herald story was a hit job that "paints a picture that President Trump is corrupt, and YANG is one of his cronies... The article reads as if it is the playbook for the anti-President Trump manifesto."

In response, the newspaper's managing editor, Rick Hirsch, said, "We stand behind our stories, which accurately reflect publicly available documents and investigations of spas run by Cindy Yang and her family." And a lawyer for the Herald noted that the lawsuit could entail taking depositions from Trump's family members who appeared in photos Yang posted online.

May 16

Hatiz Cengiz, Jamal Khashoggi's fiancee, testifies before a U.S. House Committee on May 16, 2019

Hatiz Cengiz, fiancee of murdered Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, testifies before a U.S. House Committee on May 16, 2019 (Aljazeera photo)

 washington post logoWashington Post, ‘I am asking for justice:’ Khashoggi’s fiancee urges Congress to put more pressure on Saudi Arabia in the wake of journalist’s killing, Felicia Sonmez, May 16, 2019. The fiancee of Jamal Khashoggi called Thursday for members of Congress to put greater pressure on Saudi Arabia to answer questions related to the Saudi journalist’s slaying, telling lawmakers, “I am asking for justice.”

jamal khashoggi western suit“This act — this murder — was a great brutality, and the last seven, eight months, nothing was done,” Hatice Cengiz said at a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing on the dangers of reporting on human rights. “We still do not know why he was killed. We don’t know where his corpse is.”

She urged lawmakers to press Saudi Arabia’s leaders and sanction the kingdom in response to the killing of Khashoggi, right, a contributing columnist for The Washington Post.

“In the early days, President Trump said that this would be solved,” Cengiz said. “And Ms. Pelosi talked about how unacceptable this was. But seven, eight months later, we see that nothing has been done, and that is why I’m here today.”

May 15

ny times logoamazon logo smallNew York Times, Amazon and Google on a Collision Course as They Expand, Daisuke Wakabayashi and Karen Weise, May 15, 2019 (print ed.). Amazon wants to sell ads. Google wants to woo shoppers. The two tech giants now have a range of competing interests.

google logo customFor years, Google and Amazon stuck to their strengths. Google’s search monopoly and universe of online services seemed to present little overlap with Amazon’s web commerce empire. But as the ambitions of each have expanded, it is becoming unavoidably, inescapably clear that the technology giants are heading for a collision.

 whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Commentary: Truth? WTF Is That? Milicent Cranor, May 15, 2019. At a time when the American public seems to be more ignorant than ever, the tools of deception have become more sophisticated.

We live in an age of scams that trick the senses. Photos can be altered, films and videos can be manipulated to an exquisite degree of realism. Malware can add images of nonexistent cancerous lymph nodes to CT scans. Artificial intelligence can generate photorealistic images of people who do not even exist. Videos appear to show someone saying things in a speech they never said. Voice simulators can fool your nearest relative into thinking that’s you on the phone asking for $500 to spring you from a Turkish prison.

And then there are the sophisticated tools of psychological manipulation. The human sock puppets. The trolls who control the internet. The CIA, with its department of perception management and its assets in the media. The unlimited supply of bribable witnesses who will swear to anything. And those who manufacture scandals, like the conservative activists who tried to frame presidential candidate Peter Buttigieg for sexual assault.

David Swanson, Book Review: Where Lyme Disease Came From and Why It Eludes Treatment, david swanson headDavid Swanson, May 15, 2019 (excerpted). A new book called Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons by Kris Newby adds significantly to our understanding of Lyme disease, while oddly seeming to avoid mention of what we already knew.

Newby claims (in 2019) that if a scientist named Willy Burgdorfer had not made a confession in 2013, the secret that Lyme disease came from a biological weapons program would have died with him. Yet, in 2004 Michael Christopher Carroll published a book called Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government’s Secret Germ Laboratory. He appeared on several television shows to discuss the book, including on NBC’s Today Show, where the book was made a Today Show Book Club selection. Lab 257 hit the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list soon after its publication.

Newby’s book reaches the same conclusion as Carroll’s, namely that the most likely source of diseased ticks is Plum Island. Newby reaches this conclusion on page 224 after mentioning Plum Island only once in passing in a list of facilities on page 47 and otherwise avoiding it throughout the book. This is bizarre, because Newby’s book otherwise goes into great depth, and even chronicles extensive research efforts that lead largely to dead ends, and because there is information available about Plum Island, and because Carroll’s best-selling book seems to demand comment, supportive or dismissive or otherwise.

In fact, I think that, despite the avoidance of any discussion of Plum Island, Newby’s research complements Carroll’s quite well, strengthens the same general conclusion, and then adds significant new understanding. So, let’s look at what Carroll told us, and then at what Newby adds.

Less than 2 miles off the east end of Long Island sits Plum Island, where the U.S. government makes or at least made biological weapons, including weapons consisting of diseased insects that can be dropped from airplanes on a (presumably foreign) population. One such insect is the deer tick, pursued as a germ weapon by the Nazis, the Japanese, the Soviets, and the Americans.

Deer swim to Plum Island. Birds fly to Plum Island. The island lies in the middle of the Atlantic migration route for numerous species. “Ticks,” Carroll writes, “find baby chicks irresistible.”

In July of 1975 a new or very rare disease appeared in Old Lyme, Connecticut, just north of Plum Island. And what was on Plum Island? A germ warfare lab to which the U.S. government had brought former Nazi germ warfare scientists in the 1940s to work on the same evil work for a different employer. These included the head of the Nazi germ warfare program who had worked directly for Heinrich Himmler. On Plum Island was a germ warfare lab that frequently conducted its experiments out of doors. After all, it was on an island. What could go wrong? Documents record outdoor experiments with diseased ticks in the 1950s (when we know that the United States was using such weaponized life forms in North Korea). Even Plum Island’s indoors, where participants admit to experiments with ticks, was not sealed tight.

And test animals mingled with wild deer, test birds with wild birds.

By the 1990s, the eastern end of Long Island had by far the greatest concentration of Lyme disease. If you drew a circle around the area of the world heavily impacted by Lyme disease, which happened to be in the Northeast United States, the center of that circle was Plum Island.

Plum Island experimented with the Lone Star tick, whose habitat at the time was confined to Texas. Yet it showed up in New York and Connecticut, infecting people with Lyme disease — and killing them. The Lone Star tick is now endemic in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey.

If Newby agrees or disagrees with any of the above, she does not inform us. But here’s what she adds to it.

The outbreak of unusual tick-borne disease around Long Island Sound actually started in 1968, and it involved three diseases: Lyme arthritis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and babesiosis. A U.S. bioweapons scientist, Willy Burgdorfer, credited in 1982 with discovering the cause of Lyme disease, may have put the diseases into ticks 30 years earlier. And his report on the cause of Lyme disease may have involved a significant omission that has made it harder to diagnose or cure. The public focus on only one of the three diseases has allowed a disaster that could have been contained to become widespread.

Newby, who has herself suffered from Lyme disease, blames the profit interests of companies and the corruption of government for the poor handling of Lyme disease. But her writing suggests to me a possibility she doesn’t raise, namely that those who know where Lyme disease came from have avoided properly addressing it because of where it came from.

Newby assumes throughout the book that there has to have been a particular major incident near Long Island Sound, either an accident or an experiment on the public or an attack by a foreign nation. Burgdorfer reportedly claimed to another researcher that Russia stole U.S. bioweapons. Based on that and nothing else, Newby speculates that perhaps Russia attacked the United States with diseased ticks, coincidentally right in the location where the U.S. government experimented with diseased ticks.

May 14

Media Matters, Opinion: How Fox News pushed a debunked conspiracy theory -- and then rewarded those involved, Matt Gertz, May 14, 2019. Two years ago, Fox News published seth richa story that promoted the conspiracy theory that murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich, right, and not the Russians, had provided DNC emails to Wikileaks. Fox would retract the story a week later, before promising an investigation. That investigation never actually happened -- so we did it for them.

There were five parts to the investigation -- and a comprehensive timeline as well:

• Part 1: Horrible sourcing led to the discredited report. The report that led to the entire event was sourced to a "federal investigator" from an unnamed government agency. The only corroboration was then-Fox contributor Rod Wheeler saying his investigation was "consistent" with that allegation. Based on this flimsy (at best) evidence, Fox published a story that Rich was a source for WikiLeaks, and that Democrats were engaged in a widespread effort to cover it up.

• Part 2: Fox's "news" side correspondent pushed the conspiracy theory on air. Fox News correspondent Griff Jenkins reported on this story for Fox & Friends, putting the credibility of Fox's news side behind it. Jenkins hyped "bombshell new evidence" and even vouched for Wheeler at one point.

fox news logo Small Part 3: Laura Ingraham's ghastly attack on Seth Rich's family. At one point during Fox & Friends's coverage of this conspiracy theory, Laura Ingraham suggested that Rich's parents were squelching efforts to find out the truth about their son’s death for partisan or monetary gain.

• Part 4: Jay Sekulow helped Hannity promote the conspiracy theory -- and then became Trump's lawyer. Just a few weeks before he became Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show to express support for the conspiracy theory about Seth Rich. Sekulow's motives were clear, saying “I think this whole Russian argument, Sean, is such subterfuge from reality.”

• Part 5: Everyone involved was rewarded . How did Fox News responded to this retracted report? As far as we know, no one was punished. In fact, several people involved were actually promoted. The person who edited the story was promoted to managing editor of FoxNews.com. Hannity's executive producer at the time was promoted to vice president and editor-in-chief of Fox News digital. Laura Ingraham was given her own show (where predictably enough she faced backlash for going after the family and friends of victims of gun violence). Newt Gingrich still appears regularly on the network. And, of course, Hannity has faced no negative consequences whatsoever. As one senior Fox employee told CNN at the time: "No one ever gets fired from Fox for publishing a story that isn't true."

• A complete timeline. We've put all the relevant information in one place, in an easy to download and easy to read PDF.

So, why do this? There are some powerful people even today who think that Fox News is like any other news organization, save for a few bigoted opinion hosts. Those people are wrong. Fox News takes conspiracy theories from the fever swamps, and injects them into mainstream GOP politics. It rewards people who participate in this farce, no matter what they got wrong. Fox News is rotten to the core, and sadly, too many people still don't realize it.

May 13

Officials Ramp Up WikiLeaks Crackdown

Consortium News, Sweden Reopens 9-Year Old Rape Investigation Against Julian Assange; Seeks His Extradition, Joe Lauria, May 13, 2019. Sweden’s deputy director of public prosecution, Eva-Marie Persson, said Monday that Sweden would seek the extradition of Julian Assange to face a nearly ten-year old allegation of rape.

julian assange head bookAssange (shown in a file photo) is serving a 50-week sentence at Belmarsh prison in London for skipping bail in the rape case in 2012. Assange had lived inside the Ecuadorian embassy from June 2012 to April 11 this year, when Ecuador lifted his asylum and allowed British police to enter the embassy and arrest him.

eva marie persson deputy public proecutorOn the same day the United States unveiled a sealed indictment accusing Assange of intrusion into a government computer. The U.S. also filed an extradition request for Assange.

Persson (shown at left) told a press conference in Stockholm on Monday that it would be up to British authorities to determine which extradition request — to Sweden or to the U.S. — would take precedence. She also said she wouldn’t speculate on an extradition request from the U.S. to Sweden since one had not yet been made. The BBC reported that “the decision as to which of the two requests take precedence will be made by UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid. He would make his decision primarily on the basis of which alleged offence was considered to be more serious. Rape is likely to be considered more serious than conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. That would mean ordering Assange’s extradition to Sweden.”

Britain may take the opportunity to wash its hands of the politically thorny case of extraditing a publisher to the United States by sending him to Sweden instead, though Persson said Assange could not then be extradited to the U.S. from Sweden without Britain’s consent.

julian assange screenshot arrest (Ruptly)

London police arresting the bearded WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (screenshot from Ruptly video).

RT, Ecuador will give US all documents & devices Assange left in London embassy – report, Staff and wire reporting, May 13, 2019.Ecuador's attorney general has informed Julian Assange's lawyer that the WikiLeaks co-founder's files, computer, mobile phones and other electronic devices will be seized during a search of the London embassy and sent to the US.

sweden flagWikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson tried unsuccessfully to retrieve Assange's personal belongings from Ecuador's UK embassy, where he had been holed up for almost seven years before his arrest and incarceration last month. However, the Ecuadorian government has reportedly greenlighted a US request to provide it with access to the documents and electronic devices left behind by the jailed WikiLeaks editor after he was hauled out of the embassy by the British police on April 11.

ecuador flagAlso on rt.com WikiLeaks editor denied entry to Ecuadorian Embassy to retrieve Assange’s belongings

The searches are set to be conducted by police on May 20, El Pais reported, citing a notice sent to Assange's Ecuadorian lawyer Carlos Poveda.

Personal files, Assange's computer, mobile phones, memory sticks, CDs and any other electronic devices uncovered during the searches will then be seized and sent to the US as a part of Ecuador's response to the Department of Justice's judicial request. The US is currently building a case to extradite Assange on hacking charges.

The files contain troves of sensitive information, include communication with lawyers and other legal documents – which, the lawyers argue, deprive him of the right to a proper defense. Having this data will potentially allow the US to "build and create new charges" to extradite Assange in violation of Ecuador's own asylum policies.

julian assange indicter imageNews of the looming handover came as a bolt out of the blue for Assange's defense team, Poveda told RT Spanish, adding that it's impossible to be sure that his things in the embassy haven't been tampered with already.

"Since Mr Assange left the embassy, we cannot know for sure what has been happening inside these rooms," he said. Lawyers have requested CCTV records for the period since Assange's arrest, Poveda said.

wikileaks logo2The US has until June 12 to build a case for extradition. Last week, Assange, who has been serving a 50-week sentence in a maximum-security Guantanamo Bay-style prison for skipping bail, faced an extradition judge for the first time. The WikiLeaks co-founder said he would not surrender himself to extradition for simply "doing journalism" that has earned his site many international awards.

Ecuador's attorney general has informed Julian Assange's lawyer that the WikiLeaks co-founder's files, computer, mobile phones and other electronic devices will be seized during a search of the London embassy and sent to the US.

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson tried unsuccessfully to retrieve Assange's personal belongings from Ecuador's UK embassy, where he had been holed up for almost seven years before his arrest and incarceration last month. However, the Ecuadorian government has reportedly greenlighted a US request to provide it with access to the documents and electronic devices left behind by the jailed WikiLeaks editor after he was hauled out of the embassy by the British police on April 11.

ny times logoNew York Times, Accused of ‘Terrorism’ for Putting Legal Materials Online, Adam Liptak, May 13, 2019. After Carl Malamud posted Georgia’s annotated laws, the state sued for copyright infringement. Both sides have asked the Supreme Court to step in. 

Carl Malamud believes in open access to government records, and he has spent more than a decade putting them online. You might think states would welcome the help.But when Mr. Malamud’s group posted the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, the state sued for copyright infringement. Providing public access to the state’s laws and related legal materials, Georgia’s lawyers said, was part of a “strategy of terrorism.”

A federal appeals court ruled against the state, which has asked the Supreme Court to step in. On Friday, in an unusual move, Mr. Malamud’s group, Public.Resource.Org, also urged the court to hear the dispute, saying that the question of who owns the law is an urgent one, as about 20 other states have claimed that parts of similar annotated codes are copyrighted.

The issue, the group said, is whether citizens can have access to “the raw materials of our democracy.”

The state, through a legal publisher, makes the statutes themselves available online, and it has said it does not object to Mr. Malamud doing the same thing. But people who want to see other materials in the books, the state says, must pay the publisher.

This is part of a disturbing trend, according to a new law review article, “Who Owns the Law? Why We Must Restore Public Ownership of Legal Publishing,” by Leslie Street, a law professor and librarian at Mercer University in Macon, Ga., and David Hansen, a librarian at Duke. It will be published in The Journal of Intellectual Property Law.

States have struck deals with legal publishers, the article said, that have effectively privatized the law.

Reporters Without Borders, Media Weekly Roundup: Connecticut reporter detained while covering protest, Staff and wire reports, May 13, 2019. Police detained reporter Tara O’Neill on May 9 while she covered a demonstration. O’Neill, who works for Hearst Connecticut Media, was covering a protest in Bridgeport, Connecticut, marking the second anniversary of a police shooting that killed a 15-year-old boy.

When officers ordered everyone off the street during the protest, O’Neill identified herself as a journalist, but was still handcuffed and taken to police headquarters. She was detained for about 30 minutes and eventually released without charge. “The fact that a local journalist was arrested for doing her job and reporting on the actions of police and protesters is extremely troubling,” said Matt DeRienzo, vice president of news and digital content for Hearst Connecticut Media. “The public deserves a full explanation of how it happened and what steps will be taken to make sure that the freedom of the press and the public’s right to know is not infringed upon like this in the future.” There was no comment from the police department.

See also: FOIA restrictions would shield DC officials who use email for personal business: Lawmakers in Washington, DC, are proposing a change in the city’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) law that grant any person the right to request access to federal agency records or information. The proposed changes would restrict records requests for government emails to matters relating only to official business, excluding personal emails and conversations. The proposal would also allow DC government agencies to reject requests that don’t include specific details about the documents being requested. T

here are concerns that these proposals could prevent the general public and reporters from exposing ethical breaches in which government officials mix public and private business. The DC Council chairman, who proposed the legislation, said the change is aimed at lowering the number of FOIA requests received, which have put “an increasing burden on our general counsel.”

Assad 2018 Chemical Attack Was Faked: Report

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Syria -- OPCW Engineering Assessment: The Douma 'Chemical Weapon Attack' Was Staged, b, May 13, 2019. On April 7 2018 Syrian 'rebels' claimed that the Syrian government used chlorine gas and Sarin in an attack on the besieged Douma suburb near the Syrian capital Damascus. They published a series of videos which showed dead bodies of mainly women and children.

The claim of the 'chemical attack' was made shortly after U.S. President Trump had announced that he wanted U.S. troops to leave Syria. It was designed to "pull him back in" which it indeed did. In an illegal 'retaliation' the U.S., Britain and France launched a number of cruise missiles against Syria. Most of them failed to reach their targets.

Moon of Alabama published a number of pieces on the issue which are listed below.

It seemed obvious from the very first claims of the 'gas attack' that it did not happen at all. The Syrian government had no motive to use any chemical weapon or an irritant like chlorine in Douma. It had already won the battle. The incident was obviously staged, like others before it, to drag the U.S. into a new attack on Syria.

Shortly after the incident the NATO aligned propaganda group Bellingcat asserted that the cylinders were dropped from helicopters. In June 2018 the New York Times published a rather laughable virtual crime scene analysis of the Douma incident. Neither included an engineering assessment of the impact forces and the related damages on the cylinders and roofs. Neither had visited the scene. From observing superficial visual markings both falsely concluded that the gas cylinders were dropped from helicopters.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which sent a Fact Finding Mission to the scene to investigate the case, made a detailed engineering analysis of the impact and damage. But the results of the engineering assessment were left out of its mealy-mouthed and inconclusive final report (pdf).

Now the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media obtained a copy of the 15 pages long OPCW Engineering assessment of two cylinders observed at the Douma incident.

The engineering assessment confirms our earlier conclusion. The whole scene as depicted by 'rebels' and propaganda organs was staged. The more than 34 dead on the scene were murdered elsewhere under unknown circumstances.

In its discussion of the OPCW engineering assessment and its suppression by the OPCW management, the Working Group states:

The cover-up of evidence that the Douma incident was staged is not merely misconduct. As the staging of the Douma incident entailed mass murder of civilians, those in OPCW who have suppressed the evidence of staging are, unwittingly or otherwise, colluding with mass murder.

Earlier coverage of the Douma incident published by Moon of Alabama:

April 8 - Syria - Timelines Of 'Gas Attacks' Follow A Similar Scheme (Update II)
April 9 - Syria - Any U.S. Strike Will Lead to Escalation
April 11 - Syria - A U.S. Attack Would Be Futile - But Serve A Purpose - by M. K. Bhadrakumar
April 11 - Trump Asks Russia To Roll Over - It Won't
April 12 - Syria - Threat Of Large War Recedes But May Come Back
April 13 - Syria - Manipulated Videos Fail To Launch World War III - Updated
April 14 - F.U.K.U.S. Strikes Syria - Who Won?
April 16 - Syria - Pentagon Hides Attack Failure - 70+ Cruise Missiles Shot Down
April 19 - Syria - Who Is Stalling The OPCW Investigation In Douma?
April 20 - Syria Sitrep - Cleanup Around Damascus - WMD Rumors Prepare For New U.S. Attack
July 6 - Syria - OPCW Issues First Report Of 'Chemical Weapon Attack' in Douma
July 7 - Syria - Mainstream Media Lie About Watchdog Report On The 'Chemical Attack' In Douma

May 12

Los Angeles Times, When a reporter would not betray his source, police came to his home with guns and a sledgehammer, Matt Hamilton, May 12, 2019. Police raided freelance journalist Bryan Carmody’s San Francisco home on May 10 and seized his equipment after he refused to reveal to them a confidential source. Two weeks prior, police appeared at Carmody’s house asking for the identity of a source who had shown Carmody a confidential police report following the February death of the city’s public defender.

About ten police reportedly entered Carmody’s house on Friday morning with a sledgehammer and a warrant claiming they were investigating “stolen or embezzled” property. He refused to disclose the identity of his source to the police or to FBI agents who questioned him about the case. He was then handcuffed for six hours as police ransacked his home with guns drawn and seized his electronic devices, taking at least four tablets, seven computers, 10 hard drives, a dozen phones and two cameras, as well as notebooks Carmody used while reporting.

They eventually found the police report in a safe in Carmody’s home. While San Francisco Police Department defended its actions in a statement, calling the raid “one step in the process of investigating a potential case of obstruction of justice,” press freedom advocates have raised concerns that the raid was in violation of California’s Shield Law.

May 11

Trentonian, Trentonian reporter Isaac Avilucea sues state prosecutors for attacking his reputation, Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman, May 11, 2019. Award-winning Trentonian news reporter Isaac Avilucea is seeking damages and demanding a trial by jury in a lawsuit he filed against bigwigs from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.

His complaint against Deputy Attorneys General John Tolleris and Erin O’Leary accuses them of being “motivated by malice” when they falsely attempted to portray Avilucea as a lawbreaking journalist.

The complaint, filed May 7 in the Mercer County Superior Court Law Division, is centered upon the harrowing tale of 2016 and 2017 when representatives of the state AG’s office tried to prevent Avilucea and The Trentonian from publishing sensitive information about a boy who twice brought drugs to school.

Avilucea lawfully obtained a child custody report about a 5-year-old boy who was found with drugs at school on two separate occasions, but Tolleris accused the journalist of stealing the documents, and O’Leary falsely painted Avilucea as an unethical reporter who would do anything to get a story, according to the allegations in his lawsuit and courtroom testimony.

The state temporarily succeeded in silencing The Trentonian for five months, but Avilucea ultimately prevailed in March 2017 when a judge vindicated him and allowed the newspaper to publish articles containing information from the child custody report.

Although he prevailed, Avilucea says he emerged from the ordeal with “serious and irreparable physical and emotional harm” as a direct result of what Tolleris and O’Leary put him through. The journalist also accuses state AG representatives of “retaliation,” saying the authorities had a prior bias against him stemming from his coverage of a police-involved shooting.

On Oct. 26, 2016, Avilucea and The Trentonian were served with a prior restraint, which prevents a media outlet from publishing a story. Avilucea lawfully obtained a child custody report about a 5-year-old boy who was found with drugs at school on two occasions.

A teacher at the former International Charter School of Trenton found the student with 30 packets of heroin in his lunchbox in September 2016. About a month later, child welfare officials were again called out to the boy’s school after a teacher found crack cocaine in his folder, according to court documents lawfully obtained by Avilucea.

A Mercer County Civil Courthouse video feed showed Tashawn Ford, the boy’s mother, had handed over those documents to Avilucea in an open and voluntary fashion. The state, however, attempted to prevent The Trentonian from publishing information contained in the child custody report. DAG Tolleris “accosted” Avilucea and “demanded” him to turn over the documents. Avilucea refused, and Tolleris therefore “ordered” sheriff’s officers to “detain” Avilucea at the courthouse on allegations he possessed stolen property, Avilucea alleges in his complaint.

May 9

ny times logochris hughes wNew York Times, Opinion: It’s Time to Break Up Facebook, Chris Hughes (co-founder of Facebook, age 36, shown at right) May 9, 2019. Mark Zuckerberg (below at left) is a good guy. But the company I helped him build is a threat to our economy and democracy. The last time I saw Mark Zuckerberg was in the summer of 2017, several months before the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke. We met at Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif., office and drove to his house, in a quiet, leafy neighborhood. We spent an hour or two together while his toddler daughter cruised around. We talked politics mostly, a little about Facebook, a bit about our families. When the shadows grew long, I had to head out. I hugged his wife, Priscilla, and said goodbye to Mark.

mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wSince then, Mark’s personal reputation and the reputation of Facebook have taken a nose-dive. The company’s mistakes — the sloppy privacy practices that dropped tens of millions of users’ data into a political consulting firm’s lap; the slow response to Russian agents, violent rhetoric and fake news; and the unbounded drive to capture ever more of our time and attention — dominate the headlines. It’s been 15 years since I co-founded Facebook at Harvard, and I haven’t worked at the company in a decade. But I feel a sense of anger and responsibility.

Mark’s influence is staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government. He controls three core communications platforms — Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — that billions of people use every day. Facebook’s board works more like an advisory committee than an overseer, facebook logobecause Mark controls around 60 percent of voting shares. Mark alone can decide how to configure Facebook’s algorithms to determine what people see in their News Feeds, what privacy settings they can use and even which messages get delivered. He sets the rules for how to distinguish violent and incendiary speech from the merely offensive, and he can choose to shut down a competitor by acquiring, blocking or copying it.

Mark is a good, kind person. But I’m angry that his focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks. I’m disappointed in myself and the early Facebook team for not thinking more about how the News Feed algorithm could change our culture, influence elections and empower nationalist leaders. And I’m worried that Mark has surrounded himself with a team that reinforces his beliefs instead of challenging them.

Reuters via MSN, U.S. charges ex-intelligence analyst with leaking classified documents, Sarah N. Lynch and Susan Heavey, May 9, 2019. A former intelligence analyst was arrested on Thursday over allegations he illegally obtained and disclosed classified national defense information to a journalist, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

nsa official logoThe analyst, Daniel Everette Hale, 31, of Nashville, Tennessee, had worked at the National Security Agency (NSA) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), and began communicating with the reporter starting in 2013, the department said.

Classified documents were later published by the reporter's online news outlet, the government alleged, without naming the publication or the journalist.

Reuters could not immediately determine the lawyer representing Hale.

The charges unsealed against Hale on Thursday marked the latest in a broad crackdown on media leaks by the Justice Department that started when Jeff Sessions was Attorney General.

During the Trump administration, the government has filed several criminal cases against leakers, including former intelligence analyst Reality Winner who divulged a report about Russian interference in the 2016 election to the Intercept news website.

Hale, who had served in the U.S. Air Force, is charged with five criminal counts, each carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, the Justice Department said.

According to the indictment, Hale was assigned to work at the NSA while serving on Air Force active duty from December 2011 to May 2013, and later that year also worked as a defense contractor assigned to the NGA.

In April 2013 while he was still at the NSA, prosecutors say Hale met a reporter at a book tour event in Washington.

The next month, Hale confided to a friend that the reporter wanted him to "tell my story about working with drones at the opening screening of (the reporter's) documentary about the war and the use of drones," according to the indictment.

The next month, Hale confided to a friend that the reporter wanted him to "tell my story about working with drones ... and the use of drones," according to the indictment.

After multiple meetings with the reporter, the government said, in February 2014 Hale printed six documents from his classified computer related to his work at NGA and then texted the reporter to see if they could meet in Washington.

The documents were later published by the reporter's online news outlet, the indictment says. Hale is accused of printing a total of 36 top secret documents from his computer, nine of which were related to his NGA work. Of those, he allegedly provided 17 to the reporter or to the reporter's news outlet.

 daniel hale jeremy schahill 2013 cropped screenshot

Author Jeremy Scahill, left, with former intelligence analyst Daniel E. Hale in 2013 at Scahill's book lecture at the Busboys and Poets store in Washington, DC (screengrab).

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Whom Not To Trust - U.S. Government Indicts Another Intercept Source, b, May 9, 2019. Another source that provided government secrets to The Intercept has been uncovered and indicted by the U.S. government. The Intercept was created to privatize the National Security Agency documents leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The online magazine is financed by Pierre Omidyar, the founder of Ebay, who's is known for many shady connection to Obama administration and for promoting various regime change efforts.

In June 2017 we wrote about the first case in which an Intercept source got burned:

Yesterday The Intercept published a leaked five page NSA analysis about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. Its reporting outed the leaker of the NSA documents. That person, R.L. Winner, has now been arrested and is likely to be jailed for years if not for the rest of her life.

FBI search (pdf) and arrest warrant (pdf) applications unveil irresponsible behavior by the Intercept's reporters and editors which neglected all operational security trade-craft that might have prevented the revealing of the source. It leaves one scratching one's head if this was intentional or just sheer incompetence. Either way - the incident confirms what skeptics had long determined: The Intercept is not a trustworthy outlet for leaking state secrets of public interests.

Our mistrust towards The Intercept get reinforced by the arrest of another of The Intercept's sources.

Today the Justice Department arrested and charged a former U.S. Airforce soldier, Daniel Everette Hale, 31, of Nashville, Tennessee, who had worked at the National Security Agency (NSA), as an intelligence analyst in Afghanistan, and at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGIA). The Justice Department alleges that Hale leaked several secret and top secret powerpoint presentations and papers to an online outlet:

According to allegations in the indictment, beginning in April 2013, while enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and assigned to the NSA, Hale began communicating with a reporter. Hale met with the reporter in person on multiple occasions, and, at times, communicated with the reporter via an encrypted messaging platform. Then, in February 2014, while working as a cleared defense contractor at NGA, Hale printed six classified documents unrelated to his work at NGA and soon after exchanged a series of messages with the reporter. Each of the six documents printed were later published by the reporter’s news outlet.

According to allegations in the indictment, while employed as a cleared defense contractor for NGA, Hale printed from his Top Secret computer 36 documents, including 23 jeremy scahilldocuments unrelated to his work at NGA. Of the 23 documents unrelated to his work at NGA, Hale provided at least 17 to the reporter and/or the reporter’s online news outlet, which published the documents in whole or in part. Eleven of the published documents were classified as Top Secret or Secret and marked as such.

The indictment, filed on March 7 under seal, includes a list of the meetings and communications that Hale had with the reporter. The first one took place during the reporter's book tour in April 2013 in Washington DC. During that time frame Jeremy Scahill, left, one of the Intercept's founding editors, was on a national book tour promoting his book about Blackwater.

Several stories written by Scalhill based on secret documents were published in the time frames given in the indictment. There are more documents that Scahill published about that fit the time frame and the descriptions in the indictment. In July 23 2014 The Intercept published Blacklisted - The Secret Government Rulebook For Labeling You a Terrorist.

Consortium News, Opinion: The Revelations of WikiLeaks: No. 2 —The Leak That ‘Exposed the True Afghan War,’ Elizabeth Vos, May 9, 2019. The Afghan Diaries set off a firestorm when it julian assange head bookrevealed the suppression of civilian casualty figures, the existence of an elite U.S.-led death squad, and the covert role of Pakistan in the conflict.

This is the second article in a series that is looking back on the major works of the publication that has altered the world since its founding in 2006. The series is an effort to counter mainstream media coverage, which is ignoring WikiLeaks’ work, and is instead focusing on Julian Assange’s personality. It is WikiLeaks’ uncovering of governments’ crimes and corruption that set the U.S. after Assange, shown in a file photo, and which ultimately led to his arrest on April 11.

The Diaries revealed the suppression of civilian casualty figures, the existence of an elite U.S.-led death squad & the covert role of Pakistan & Iran in the conflict, and set off a firestorm.

Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake Tribune seeks to become a nonprofit ‘community asset,’ a first for a legacy newspaper, Tony Semerad, May 9, 2019. After years of heavy financial losses, The Salt Lake Tribune is pursuing federal approval to become a nonprofit operation sustained by donations large and small.

Owner Paul Huntsman, who bought Utah’s largest newspaper in 2016, confirmed his lawyers have approached the IRS about changing The Tribune from a privately owned business to a community asset.

The wealthy businessman said he sees the transformation as the best way to sustain the Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper and maintain its independence.
Though in its early stages, the move by the 148-year-old publication would mark the first attempt by a legacy U.S. daily to switch to nonprofit status and comes as hundreds of print outlets across the country are strained due to plunging advertising revenues.

In a twofold strategy, attorneys have already sought IRS approval to create an endowed nonprofit foundation to support independent journalism in Utah, with The Tribune as a major recipient of its largesse. The newspaper will also pursue its own nonprofit status as a 501(c)(3), in effect transferring its ownership from Huntsman to a public board. The newspaper currently cannot legally accept tax-deductible donations.

May 8

juan guaido puppet Custom

Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) via Salon, Failed Venezuela coup was fake news — designed to fool people in two nations, Dave Lindorff, May 8, 2019. CNN and the New York Times made major reporting errors in covering the failed coup. Was it laziness or propaganda?

After days of breathless reporting in the U.S. media about public and military support for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro collapsing, and about an April 30 coup by presidential poseur Juan Guaidó (shown above in a graphic), we now know the truth: The whole thing was a fraud, staged at the instigation of Washington in hopes that the Venezuelan people andrank-and-file troops would fall for the trick and think an actual coup was underway.

We also know, from an excellent May 2 report by Michael Fox in the Nation, that the U.S. mainstream media and its reporters in country were promoting that dangerous fraud.

CNN ran Juan Guaido’s video, in which he falsely claimed to be “in the La Carlota air force base.”

Take CNN. In its reporting on the “uprising” announced by Guaidó on Tuesday, April 30, it ran a video from social media depicting Guaidó, accompanied by opposition leader Leopoldo López, along with some armed men in uniform, said to be military defectors, standing behind them. The video claimed they were on the La Carlota military airfield in eastern Caracas, which Guaidó said had been “liberated.” According to CNN, he was addressing “thousands of supporters” on the scene, urging the rest of the Venezuelan military to join the coup and oust the “usurper” Maduro.

But as Michael Fox and other observers noted, CNN didn’t show those “thousands” of supporters — because there were none. Nor did the cable network explain in its report that Guaidó and López were not actually at the airbase, but rather were standing on a highway overpass outside the base — which was, in fact, never in rebel hands at all.
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Guaidó and his “deserting” soldiers quickly left the scene as government troops headed their way, with López later that day holing up in the Chilean and eventually the Spanish embassy, seeking asylum for himself and his family, and with some two dozen soldiers who had deserted in support of Guaidó asking for asylum in the Brazilian embassy.

There are two possibilities here: Either CNN’s U.S.-based editors were lied to by their reporters in Caracas, or they were well aware that their story of the takeover of a military airfield, along with reports of thousands of protesters on the scene in support of Guaidó, was a hoax. It’s not hard to imagine the latter being the truth, because CNN earlier was caught fraudulently reporting that Venezuelan troops had set aid trucks stopped at the Colombian border afire, when in fact the fires had been started by anti-Maduro protesters. Though this truth was proven by other reports and video, CNN never corrected its false story in that case, nor did it discipline its on-the-scene reporters.

Media / Press Freedom

washington post logodana milbank CustomWashington Post, Opinion, The White House revoked my press pass. It’s not just me — it’s curtailing access for all journalists, Dana Milbank, right, May 8, 2019. For the past 21 years, I have had the high privilege of holding a White House press pass, a magical ticket that gives the bearer a front-row seat to history.

I was in the White House the night Bill Clinton admitted his affair with Monica Lewinsky, and the day he was impeached. I was there on Sept. 11, 2001, and the fearful days thereafter, when we were trained to use escape hoods. I watched George W. Bush make the case for the Iraq War and Barack Obama pitch his remedies for the market crash. There, too, I have witnessed the carnival-like briefings and high histrionics of Donald Trump’s presidency.

But no more. The White House eliminated most briefings and severely restricted access to official events. And this week came the coup de grace: After covering four presidents, I received an email informing me that Trump’s press office had revoked my White House credential.

I’m not the only one. It was part of a mass purge of “hard pass” holders after the White House implemented a new standard that designated as unqualified almost the entire White House press corps, including all six of The Post’s White House correspondents. White House officials then chose which journalists would be granted “exceptions.” It did this over objections from news organizations and the White House Correspondents’ Association.

The Post requested exceptions for its six White House reporters and for me, saying that this access is essential to our work (in my case, I often write “sketches” describing the White House scene). The White House press office granted exceptions to the other six, but not to me. I strongly suspect it’s because I’m a Trump critic. The move is perfectly in line with Trump’s banning of certain news organizations, including The Post, from his campaign events, and his threats to revoke White House credentials of journalists he doesn’t like.

White House officials provided me no comment for the record.

I’m not looking for pity. Trump’s elimination of briefings and other changes have devalued White House coverage anyway. But there’s something wrong with a president having the power to decide which journalists can cover him.

Now, virtually the entire White House press corps is credentialed under “exceptions,” which means, in a sense, that they all serve at the pleasure of press secretary Sarah Sanders because they all fail to meet credentialing requirements — and therefore, in theory, can have their credentials revoked any time they annoy Trump or his aides, like CNN’s Jim Acosta did.

In response, it seems, the White House established a clear — if nearly impossible — standard: no credentials to any journalist who is not in the building on at least 90 out of the previous 180 days — in other words, seven of every 10 workdays. The White House wouldn’t provide numbers, but it appears most of the White House press corps didn’t qualify for credentials under the new standard, including regulars for The Post and the Associated Press. (Trump, who has spent more than 200 days at Trump properties and many more on travel, is barely in the White House this much himself.)

More important is that the White House is drastically curtailing access for all journalists. Briefings have been abolished in favor of unscheduled “gaggles” ( on the record, but impromptu and haphazard) in the White House driveway. The Pentagon and State Department have done similarly.

The White House has also restricted access by allowing only one journalist from a news organization at most events, and by admitting journalists to events only if they register days in advance. This has sharply reduced journalists’ attendance at the White House — just in time for the 90-day attendance purge.

Justice Integrity Project, Google Bans Iran's Press TV; What's Next? Guest columnists J. Michael Springmann and Edward C. Corrigan, May 8, 2019. What? On April 19, 2019 (the date of the original Patriots' Day in New England), American tech giant Google disabled the accounts of Press TV, an Iranian news service, and its sister channel HispanTV, an outlet in Spain.

Google denied their access to all its services, including its popular video streaming platform YouTube and its E-mail service Gmail. The company's move took place without prior notice or subsequent explanation.

May 7

Press Freedom / Human Rights

kyaw soe ooo left wa lone jorge silva reuters photo

ny times logoNew York Times, Myanmar Releases Reuters Journalists Jailed for Reporting on Rohingya Crackdown, Russell Goldman and Mike Ives, May 7, 2019 (print ed.). Two prizewinning Reuters journalists were released from prison in Myanmar on Tuesday after more than a year in detention for covering the country’s deadly crackdown on the Rohingya minority group, ending a drama that had brought global scrutiny upon the country’s de facto civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

myanmar mapThe two reporters, U Wa Lone, 33 (above rigth), and U Kyaw Soe Oo, 29 (above left, shown in file photos), were arrested in December 2017. They were sentenced in September to seven years in prison under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act for receiving documents from a police officer as part of their investigation into a 2017 massacre of 10 Rohingya villagers.

The men, along with their Reuters colleagues, were awarded in April the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting, one of journalism’s most coveted and prestigious honors.

On Tuesday morning, they were mobbed by reporters as they emerged from Insein Prison in Yangon, the country’s largest city. They were both smiling as they walked away from the prison’s gates in the sunshine.

Mr. Wa Lone flashed a thumbs-up sign. “I’m really happy and excited to see my family and my colleagues,” he told reporters. “I can’t wait to go to my newsroom.”


The Atlantic, Product Review: Fact-Checking the President in Real Time, Jonathan Rauch, May 7, 2019 (June 2019 Issue). It’s February 2019, and I’m waiting to see whether a robot will call the president of the United States a liar. I have tuned in to the State of the Union address, a speech that I haven’t missed more than a couple of times in my four decades of adulthood. Some addresses were soaring, some were slogs, and one, a magisterial performance by Ronald Reagan, was thrilling, because I watched it in the House chamber, from a press-gallery perch right behind the president.

But I have never had the sense of suspense I feel now, as I sit staring not at a TV, but at a password-protected website called FactStream. I log in and find myself facing a plain screen with a video player. It looks rudimentary, but it might be revolutionary.

May 6

ny times logoNew York Times, CBS Signals New Era, Naming Norah O’Donnell as Lead Anchor, John Koblin and Michael M. Grynbaum, May 6, 2019.  Ms. O’Donnell will become only the third woman ever to assume weekday solo anchoring duties for a network evening newscast.

cbs news logoVeterans like Bob Schieffer looked on as the news division’s first female president, Susan Zirinsky, stepped onto a makeshift stage for an announcement that would signal a new era for the network. Gayle King would be the centerpiece of “CBS This Morning.” Norah O’Donnell was the next anchor of the “CBS Evening News,” only the second woman to hold that role.

Ms. Zirinsky pitched the changes as a fresh start after a painful period for the House of Cronkite, whose hidebound culture had been rocked by declining ratings and workplace misconduct scandals involving Jeff Fager, the longtime leader of “60 Minutes,” and Charlie Rose, the former co-anchor of “CBS This Morning.”

Poynter, UnNews: An index of unreliable news websites, Barrett Golding, Barbara Allen and Daniel Funke (Undated). Misinformation is a thriving industry on the internet, supported by social media shares, advertising dollars and political donations. In the United States, scores of research reports try to measure how falsehoods spread online. These studies often require lists of untrustworthy “news” sources, but many of these lists have grown out-of-date and incomplete.

Better data means better results for researchers, reporters and readers. So the International Fact-Checking Network built a more complete dataset: UnNews, an index of unreliable news sites.

To create the index, we combined five major lists (see below), then eliminated the sites that were no longer active. We only used lists that were public and curated by established journalists or academics, contained original data (rather than information from other lists), stated their criteria for inclusion and defined how they graded different sites (see our methodology for more).

The index’s initial release relies on the five major lists’ determinations and definitions of “unreliable.” Our next release will include more sites and our the criteria we used for inclusion.

But for now, here are the databases of unreliable news sites that we pulled from to create our index:

  • FactCheck.org’s Misinformation Directory (FC), created by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Fake News Codex (FN), widely quoted by Snopes and others, maintained by web developer and data designer Chris Herbert.
  • OpenSources (OS), run by Merrimack University media studies professor Melissa Zimdars.
  • PolitiFact’s Fake News Almanac (PF), by PolitiFact, a joint project of the Tampa Bay Times and Poynter.
  • Snopes’ Field Guide to Fake News Sites and Hoax Purveyors (SN), created by Snopes, the oldest and largest online fact-checking organization.

May 5

Press Freedom / Repression: Myanmar

kyaw soe ooo left wa lone jorge silva reuters photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Security-tech companies once flocked to Myanmar. One firm’s tools were used against two journalists, Timothy McLaughlin, May 5, 2019 (print ed.). Myanmar police had two Reuters journalists behind bars, but they wanted more. The reporters, Wa Lone (above right) and  Soe Oo (above at left), were lured into a meeting with police in December 2017 and arrested on claims of violating state secrecy laws as they reported on atrocities against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority.

The journalists’ detention was quickly condemned by media-freedom groups and rights activists around the world. Myanmar authorities, meanwhile, were not swayed by international pressure. As a next step, they wanted to comb the reporters’ cellphones, according to court documents and an attorney for the journalists.

Authorities turned to a cellphone-breaching technology from an Israeli company, Cellebrite, according to the documents and a defense lawyer’s account.

Cellebrite — which has since left the Myanmar market — was one of numerous technology companies that rushed into Myanmar as the country opened to greater foreign investment in recent years.

ap logoAssociated Press via Washington Post, Sinclair to buy regional Fox Sports networks for $9.6B, Staff report, May 5, 2019 (print ed.). Media company Sinclair Broadcasting Group is buying Fox’s regional sports networks for $9.6 billion. The Walt Disney Co. agreed to sell the networks to get regulatory approval for its $71 billion acquisition of Fox’s sinclair broadcast logo customentertainment assets, which was completed in March.

The 21 networks include exclusive local rights to 42 professional teams, including 14 Major League Baseball teams, 16 National Basketball Association teams and 12 National Hockey League teams. Hunt Valley, Maryland-based Sinclair is also buying Fox College Sports. The New York Yankees’ YES Network is being sold separately by Disney.

May 4

Lawfare, The Cyberlaw Podcast: NewsGuard Takes on Fake News, Stewart Baker, March 4, 2019. Our interview is with two men who overcame careers as lawyers and journalists to become serial entrepreneurs now trying to solve the “fake news” problem. Gordon Crovitz and Steve Brill co-founded NewsGuard to rate news sites on nine journalistic criteria—using, of all things, real people instead of algorithms.

By the end of the interview, I’ve confessed myself a reluctant convert to the effort. This is despite NewsGuard’s treatment of Instapundit, which Gordon Crovitz and I both read regularly but which has not received a green check.

May 3

Vice News, “We’re drinking now”: The oldest newspaper in New Orleans just fired its entire staff, David Uberti, May 3, 2019. One of the nation’s last local newspaper wars is officially over. Owners of the New Orleans Advocate announced Thursday that they had bought The Times-Picayune, ending a six-year battle for media turf in a cultural capital grappling with inequality and the long-term fallout from Hurricane Katrina.

In the end, the upstart Advocate, a Baton Rouge-based organization that launched its New Orleans edition in late 2012, overtook the 182-year-old Times-Picayune, which wilted in recent years under wayward ownership of the national chain Advance Publications. The purchase announced Thursday promised to create a unified daily newspaper and website — publishing under both organizations’ flags — held in local hands.
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“This is a trophy,” John Georges, the New Orleans grocery wholesaler who now owns both publications, told VICE News. “We've been competing with the Times-Picayune for the past six years, and we were very successful. But despite that success, there is overlap.”

In an industry where companies are frantically consolidating to cut budgets and stay afloat, that’s code for job losses. “I bought the assets yesterday,” Georges added, as opposed to the newsroom.

ny times logowoody allen tribeca festival 2009 david shankboneNew York Times, Woody Allen Pitched a Memoir. Publishers Weren’t Interested, Alexandra Alter and Cara Buckley, May 3, 2019 (print ed.). Woody Allen has been largely shunned by Hollywood. Celebrities who once vied for roles in his films now say they regret working with him. Amazon has backed out of a multimovie distribution deal with him.

Now, Allen (shown at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival) appears to be losing stature in another quarter of the entertainment industry: publishing.

In the last year, Allen quietly tried to sell a memoir, according to executives at four major publishing houses, only to be met with indifference or hard passes. Before the #MeToo movement roared to life, Allen’s memoir would probably have set off a bidding war and commanded six or seven figures, given his cultural status. But with his career all but derailed by resurfaced allegations that he molested his daughter Dylan Farrow nearly three decades ago — allegations that Allen denies and that have left Americans unsure whom to believe — the prospect of publishing his memoir seems to hold little appeal.

Executives at multiple publishing houses said that an agent representing Allen approached their companies about the memoir late last year, but that they made no offers, largely because of the negative publicity that working with Allen may have generated.

World Press Freedom Day

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why The Times Is Taking Down Its Paywall for 3 Days, Michael Slackman, May 3, 2019 (print ed.). As we mark World Press Freedom Day, our international editor asks each of us to imagine what would happen around the world if journalists, and the public, were not watching.

I am now The New York Times’s international editor, overseeing correspondents covering the world. When I was asked to write about World Press Freedom Day — a United Nations invention that once seemed like a nice acknowledgment and now feels more important than ever — my thoughts returned to [an] afternoon when the gunfire broke out.

After the shooting was over, grieving families pulled me into a morgue. They wanted a witness. Three bodies riddled with buckshot were laid out on cold metal tables, and one young man, very much alive, was leaning over his dead brother, gently caressing his face, kissing his cheeks, crying.

The government tried to do what governments always try to do: change the narrative. It said its forces had been fighting terrorists. But I was there. I saw the police shooting at peaceful protesters. And I worked for a news organization that had sent me there to report what I saw.

We are living at a moment in history when democratic values are under threat by authoritarian leaders. The internet, which holds such promise as a democratizing force, has been co-opted by people peddling divisive, hateful ideologies. Citizens around the world who want to speak out are under siege from their own governments.

Every day, journalists at The Times and other mission-driven, independent news organizations around the world work hard to hold the powerful to account. To celebrate their work and press freedom, The Times is taking down its paywall from May 3 to 5 so everyone who registers can browse as many articles as they like.

As you read today’s news, or some of the remarkable stories I mention here, consider: What if no one were watching?

May 2

Media News: WaPo Caught In Fake News?

Moon of Alabama, Fact Checker Commentary: Venezuela - Coup Failure Necessitates A New Policy, b, May 2, 2019. U.S. media, especially cable TV, is clearly working in favor of venezuela flag waving custom'regime change' in Venezuela. They even avoid to call the intended coup a coup.

Many U.S. journalists who regularly write on South America are extremely biased and have no qualms to lie. Consider this by Anthony Faiola and Mariana Zuñiga in today's Washington Post: "A pro-government rally on Wednesday next to Miraflores, the presidential palace, drew about 500 people, far fewer than the multiple rallies of thousands of people supporting Guaidó."

Now watch this drone clip of the described rally:

 One can also compare the WaPo take to the (similar biased) NYT account which at least gets some facts straight: "Across town in central Caracas, thousands of Mr. Maduro’s supporters dressed in red marched along the main highway toward the presidential palace. Most appeared to be retirees or public sector workers. Many were brought in from across the country by public buses that stretched for miles on the side of the highway....It was one of the biggest pro-government demonstrations in Caracas in months, underlining the government’s desire to portray strength and tenacity after the failed uprising."

washington post logoTo get a good picture of the situation in Venezuela and the upcoming new policies one has to combine many sources. Some media and reporters are simply much better than others. A few point how embarrassingly Tuesday's coup attempt and the crazy White House plans failed.

The Associated Press' Matt Lee and Ben Fox have a similar fair take: "For the third time this year, the big moment in Venezuela has turned into a bust. Trump administration officials had expected that Wednesday might turn out to be the beginning of the end for President Nicolas Maduro with senior government figures withdrawing support and the opposition launching a mass uprising with military backing."

The administration is somewhat split about which direction to take. The neoconservative hawks -- Bolton, Pompeo, Abrams and Rubio -- are looking for war, while their boss and the Pentagon are against launching one. Trump wants the votes of the millions of Cuba hawks in Florida, but he has no interest in launching a long war. The Pentagon knows that an invasion of Venezuela would lead to another decades long struggle

May 1

washington post logoWashington Post, Assange sentenced to nearly a year in prison for jumping bail, William Booth and Karla Adam​, May 1, 2019. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was sentenced Wednesday to 50 weeks in a British prison for jumping bail. He apologized to the court, but the judge said he had used his “privileged position” to show disdain for British law.

julian assange head bookAssange (shown in a file photo) next faces an extradition hearing in London related to separate and more serious charges in the United States of conspiring to hack a government password.

Assange, 47, appeared at London’s Southwark Crown Court wearing a black jacket and gray sweater, the bushy white beard seen during his arrest last month now neatly trimmed. He offered a letter of apology and answered the judge in a quiet voice from behind a glass wall in a bland courtroom packed with journalists taking notes.

The Australian citizen had faced up to a year in a British prison for his bail violation — the maximum penalty for such an offense. He broke his bail conditions in 2012 when he fled to the Ecuadoran Embassy in London after Sweden requested his extradition in a case involving sexual assault allegations, including rape. Assange has denied those accusations.

 

April

April 30

ny times logoNew York Times, John Singleton, ‘Boyz N the Hood’ Director, Dies at 51, Richard Sandomir, April 30, 2019 (print ed.). John Singleton, whose powerful debut film, Boyz N the Hood, john singletonearned him an Oscar nomination for best director, the first for an African-American, died on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 51.

His death, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, was confirmed in a family statement after he was taken off life support. Mr. Singleton had been admitted to the hospital on April 17, reportedly after having a stroke. His family said he had a history of hypertension.

His mother, Shelia Ward, said last week that he was in a coma and filed court papers asking to be appointed his temporary conservator. Several of his children at the time opposed her trying to take control of his medical and financial decision making and publicly disputed her assessment of his medical state.

"Boyz N the Hood,” a bleakly realistic film about three teenagers growing up amid gang violence in South Central Los Angeles, established Mr. Singleton’s credentials and placed him in the conversation with more established African-American directors like Spike Lee, Bill Duke, Julie Dash, Robert Townsend and Reginald Hudlin.

“When I was 18, I saw ‘She’s Gotta Have It,’ ” Mr. Singleton said, referring to Mr. Lee’s 1986 breakthrough film, in a YouTube video in 2013. “The movie was so powerful to me, as a young black teen who grew up seeing movies with not a lot of people who looked like me.”

He was 22 when he began shooting “Boyz,” which follows Tre (played by Cuba Gooding Jr.) and his friends Ricky (Morris Chestnut) and Doughboy (Ice Cube) as they try to avoid gangs and drugs. When Ricky is shot and killed by a gang member, Doughboy, his half brother, seeks revenge, but Tre backs away from retribution.

Mr. Singleton had graduated from film school less than a year earlier. He later conceded that when he made “Boyz N the Hood” he did not yet know how to direct a film.

“As the movie was going along, I was learning how to direct,” he said after a 25th-anniversary screening of the film in Manhattan in 2016. “As it becomes more intense and comes on to the third act, the camerawork is more and more fluid, because I’m getting better and better — and taking more chances.”

April 29

avengers endgame poster square crop Small

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Shows Movie Theaters Can Still Be on Top of the World, Brooks Barnes, April 29, 2019 (print ed.). Audiences have splintered into a million personalized subsets. Streaming services are sprouting like mushrooms. Attention spans are now measured in seconds.

For those reasons and others — a decade of stagnant attendance, studios that only seem to make sequels of sequels (of sequels) — movie theaters are seen as a dying business. Why trudge to a theater when Netflix is available in your pocket anytime you want?

Yet almost every multiplex on the planet was gridlocked over the weekend. Avengers: Endgame”took in $1.2 billion worldwide, arriving as the No. 1 movie in at least 54 countries. The euphorically reviewed movie collected a record-breaking $350 million in the United States and Canada, zooming past Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), which had opening-weekend sales of $248 million, or about $270 million in today’s dollars.

“It shows the power of theaters — the ability, even in a hyper-fragmented culture, to deliver that wildly big communal experience,” Megan Colligan, president of Imax Filmed Entertainment, said in an interview.

It also shows that Hollywood is increasingly reliant on spectacle to jolt people away from Facebook, Fortnite, Hulu and Netflix and into movie theaters.

richard lugar lugar center

Former U.S. Senate Foreign Relataions Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) (Lugar Center photo).

National Press Club, Former Sen. Richard Lugar was a Reliable Source regular, Mark Schoeff Jr. and Andy Fisher, April 29, 2019. For many years during his career on Capitol Hill, former Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., had an apple and yogurt at his desk for lunch. When he joined the National Press Club in 2017, he became a lunchtime regular at the Reliable Source.

Lugar, the longest serving member of Congress from Indiana, died Sunday, April 28, at Inova Fairfax Heart and Vascular Institute in Virginia. The cause of death was complications from chronic inflammatory demylinating polyneuropathy. He was 87.

A former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Lugar was the co-author of legislation with former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., that rid former Soviet bloc countries of thousands of nuclear weapons. He also served as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee during his Senate tenure from 1977-2013.

A former mayor of Indianapolis, Lugar founded the Lugar Center in 2013, a think tank devoted to issues he spent his career pursuing, such as nuclear disarmament, food and energy security and governance. The photo is from the center.

Club member Maureen Groppe wrote a comprehensive Lugar obituary for USA Today .

Lugar became a Club member in March 2017 shortly after the Lugar Center moved to the Willard Office Building. Lugar would walk across the street three times a week to have lunch at the Reliable Source.

Over the course of his career, he appeared at the Club several times. One significant moment was an event promoting the Free Flow of Information Act, a national reporter shield law on which he partnered with then Indiana Rep. Mike Pence.

Lugar had a fondness for the press dating back to being co-editor of his high school newspaper. Throughout his career, he consumed at least six newspapers a day, clipping and filing stories for later reference.

He was drawn to the Club as a speaker and lunch regular because of the dynamic people he could meet and enriching conversations he could have there.

"He also admired the work of the Press Club over his many years as a senator and thought the venue was a great place for serious exchanges between policymakers and the press," said Dan Diller, policy director at the Lugar Center and a longtime top Lugar Senate aide.

April 29

Justice Integrity Project, What Would James Bond Think? How the CIA Relied on 007 for inspiration in its plot to assassinate Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, Thomas Maier, April 29, 2019. Introduction: Guest columnist Thomas Maier shares below an excerpt from his most recent book, Mafia Spies: The Inside Story of the CIA, Gangsters, JFK and Castro.

During America’s 1960 presidential campaign, Cuba’s leader Fidel Castro and his Russian-backed Communist regime loomed as one of the nation’s top issues. Rumors of a pending U.S. invasion were rampant. And talk about spying floated in the air, thanks to the popular novels about the adventures of the fictional British secret agent, James Bond.

But in real-life, only a few knew of the CIA’s top-secret plan for assassination of Castro by two mobsters, Sam Giancana and Johnny Roselli -- apparently not even the candidates

April 24

Politico Magazine, How the Intercept Is Fueling the Democratic Civil War, Steven Perlberg, April 24, 2019. The national security site has found fresh energy as a savvy, progressive attack dog in national politics. But is it undermining its own side?

Founded in 2014 by muckraking national security journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill, the Intercept is still best-known for its first incarnation as an obsessive anti-surveillance reporting enterprise, and an activist voice for privacy and civil liberties—more anti-government than partisan. It built its reputation by publishing stories based on top-secret National Security Agency documents leaked by Edward Snowden; it also exposed the controversial U.S. drone strike program and revealed how a British intelligence agency sought to digitally surveil every Internet user.

pierre omidyar twitterBut as it gears up for 2020, the Intercept faces some big questions. One is whether its owner supports the war it is waging. The Intercept is almost totally funded by a single billionaire backer, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar (right), who supports the site through parent organization First Look Media. Omidyar, who through a spokesperson declined to comment for this story, appears to live in a different political reality from his own publication. Intercept links are noticeably absent from his Twitter feed, which is filled with reflections on a supposed Trump-Russia conspiracy — pitting Omidyar against Intercept co-founding editor and columnist Greenwald, a deep skeptic of the media’s coverage of the Russia scandal.

And unlike the heroes of the Intercept’s political coverage, Omidyar isn’t some left-wing outsider; he’s a mainstream Democratic donor and was even a supporter of the conservative “Never Trump” super PAC. Several people I spoke to — sources inside the company and other media observers — are now asking: How much longer will the billionaire patron bankroll a news outlet so clearly at odds with his own politics?

ny times logoNew York Times, Julia Angwin Is Out as Editor of New Tech Watchdog Site The Markup, Sapna Maheshwari, April 24, 2019 (print ed.). For the last year, the investigative journalist Julia Angwin has been busy building The Markup, a nonprofit news site dedicated to scrutinizing technology and its effects on society.

The Markup raised more than $23 million in funding, a testament to the reputation that Ms. Angwin, the site’s editor in chief, and another of its founders, Jeff Larson, had established through their work at ProPublica, which they left last year. But on Monday evening, Ms. Angwin was fired from The Markup via email, just months before the site’s planned July start date. On Tuesday, five of the site’s seven editorial staff members resigned, citing her dismissal as the reason.

April 22

Mueller Probe / Media

washington post logomargaret sullivan 2015 photoWashington Post, Opinion: Mueller’s report proves why Trump loves Fox News — and why he needs it now more than ever, Margaret Sullivan, April 22, 2019 (print ed.). It’s no secret that Fox News and the Trump administration are deeply entwined: They are the conjoined twins of misinformation. 

So it hardly raised an eyebrow when the president took to Twitter on Thursday to urge everyone to tune in to Fox for Attorney General William P. Barr’s (misleading) prelude to the release of the report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. The results were predictable: Fox’s early news coverage was somewhat straight — kept so largely by the presence of Fox’s designated truth-teller, Chris Wallace.

fox news logo SmallThe follow-up coverage and commentary, though, was outlandishly one-sided, led by Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, who was allowed to spin frenetically for what seemed like endless minutes, offering such gems as “there’s not a single surprise” in the report. “Nothing to see here” was the clear message — nothing but the corrupt investigation itself.

I tuned in to Fox for a while Thursday morning, trying the experiment of using it as my only news source for an hour or two. When I emerged and started reading and watching elsewhere — and looked at the report for myself — I felt like I had returned from beyond the looking glass and was back in the real world.

April 21

Salon, Analysis: Reporter Sharmine Narwani on the secret history of America's defeat in Syria, Patrick Lawrence, April 21, 2019. After years covering the "main battlefield in World War III," Narwani says everything you think you know is wrong. When the war in Syria was recently declared decisively over, there were few correspondents or witnesses to turn to for a credible look at exactly what happened during eight years of conflict. The questions were many, but I could count on one hand those worth putting them to. Among these was Sharmine Narwani, whose work I have long counted distinctly thorough and honest amid coverage that — in her view as well as mine — hit a new low by way of collapsed professional standards and abandoned ethics. Narwani’s pieces, written for a variety of publications, consistently reflect her hard work on the ground — work nearly no one else did. She is eyes wide open and beholden to no national interest or media slant.

Having witnessed the Syrian war from start to finish, she now casts it in a usefully broad context. “The Syrian conflict constitutes the main battlefield in a kind of World War III,” she said during our lengthy exchange. “The world wars were, in essence, great-power wars, after which the global order reshuffled a bit and new global institutions were established.” This, in outline, is what Narwani sees out in front of us, now that the Western powers’ latest “regime change” operation has failed.

Narwani and I conducted our exchange via email, Skype and WhatsApp over a period of several weeks in late March and early April. In this, the first of two parts, Narwani dissects the role of various constituencies — radical jihadists and the nations that backed them, the Western press, the NGOs — in prolonging a war that, in her view, could have ended far sooner than it did. I have edited the transcript solely for length. Part 2 will follow.

You returned from Syria just last week — this after going in several times last year. The intervening months were important, given the war has just ended. What have you been seeing on the ground?

April 20

C-SPAN Founder Retires

wsj logobrian lambWall Street Journal, After 40 Years, C-Span’s Founder Signs Off, Kyle Peterson, April 20, 2019 (print ed.). Brian Lamb (shown at right), the man who put Congress on live television as , reflects on the results and explains why the Supreme Court ought to be next. (Lamb, 77, is the founder, executive chairman, and now retired CEO of C-SPAN; an American cable network which provides coverage of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate as well as other public affairs events). 

"Lying is the word that I was use to describe this town," says Brian Lamb, in his usual Midwestern deadpan. "I don't know if it will ever stop. It's gotten worse rather than getting better, and both sides do it. You've got to listen very carefully to what they're saying."

April 19

julian assange screenshot arrest (Ruptly)

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

Consortium News, Opinion: UK Blurring Two Very Different Extradition Claims, Jonathan Cook, April 19, 2019. The Swedish and U.S. claims are vastly different, writes Jonathan Cook. But the public conversation in the U.K. is simply about which has first dibs on Assange.

In a previous blog post, I warned that the media and political class would continue with their long-running deceptions about Julian Assange now that he has been dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy. They have wasted no time in proving me right.

Rather than focus on the gross violation of Assange’s fundamental human rights, the wider assault on press freedoms and the attack on Americans’ First Amendment Rights, U.K. politicians are “debating” whether the U.S. extradition claim on Assange should take priority over earlier Swedish extradition proceedings for a sexual-assault investigation that was publicly dropped back in 2017.

In other words, the public conversation in the U.K., sympathetically reported by The Guardian, supposedly Britain’s only major liberal news outlet, is going to be about who has first dibs on Assange.

What these U.K. MPs and The Guardian have done in this front-page story is muddy the waters yet further, with enthusiastic disregard for the damage it might do to Assange’s rights, to Corbyn’s leadership and to the future of truth-telling journalism.

April 18

Mueller Report 

robert mueller waving hands

Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III (file photo)

msnbc logo CustomMSNBC, Live Coverage & Analysis, Staff reporting, April 18, 2019. Redacted Mueller Report released here. Selected MSNBC print and videos on April 18 below:

Media on Mueller-Barr

Palmer Report, Opinion: William Barr comes out swinging, punches himself in the face, falls down, Bill Palmer, April 18, 2019.So much for whatever Donald Trump’s handpicked Attorney General William Barr thought he was trying to accomplish with his press conference this morning. Perhaps Barr thought he could get the media to do his bidding for him today. After all, most major media outlets initially went along with his “summary” of the Mueller report. But this time, to its immense credit, the media had zero interest in taking Barr at his word – and the whole thing quickly blew up in his face.

bill palmer report logo headerBarr may have accomplished one goal this morning, in the sense that he managed to go on television and convince Donald Trump that the Mueller report was somehow good for him. Sure enough, Trump tweeted “No obstruction, no collusion… Game Over.” But in the hour-plus since the redacted Mueller report was released, Trump hasn’t tweeted anything else about it – and with good reason.

The Mueller report is so profoundly ugly for Donald Trump, particularly on obstruction of justice, but also on collusion, the only prevailing headlines coming out of this day are focused on precisely that. Barr’s press conference didn’t even make a dent, unless you count the sidebar coverage about how dishonest Barr was during his press conference.

We don’t know precisely what House Democrats will do with this treasure trove of damning evidence against Donald Trump; as a first step they’re calling for Robert Mueller to publicly testify about his report, and he’ll surely oblige. But if House Democrats want to impeach William Barr for obstruction of justice, Barr just served himself up on a silver platter this morning. Barr was only performing for Trump’s benefit – but unfortunately for Barr, everyone else was watching too.

Corrupt Motives For Ecuador's Assange Delivery?

julian assange screenshot arrest (Ruptly)

London police arresting the bearded WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (screenshot from Ruptly video).

Grayzone via Consortium News, Opinion: How Ecuador’s President Gave Up Assange, Denis Rogatyuk, April 18, 2019. Lenin Moreno was desperate to ingratiate his government with Washington and distract the public from his mounting scandals, writes the Grayzone’s Denis Rogatyuk (Russian-Australian freelance writer, journalist and researcher).

The images of six Metropolitan police officers dragging Julian Assange out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London have enraged citizens around the world. Many have warned that if he is extradited to the U.S. for trial on conspiracy charges – and possibly much more if federal prosecutors have their way – it will lead to the criminalization of many standard journalistic practices. These scenes were only possible thanks to the transformation of Ecuador’s government under the watch of President Lenin Moreno.

Since at least December 2018, Moreno has been working towards expelling the Wikileaks publisher from the embassy. The Ecuadorian president’s behavior represents a stunning reversal of the policies of his predecessor, Rafael Correa, the defiantly progressive leader who authorized Assange’s asylum back in 2012, and who now lives in exile.

While Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Jose Valencia blamed his government’s expulsion of Assange on the Australian journalist’s “rudeness,” the sellout is clearly a byproduct of Moreno’s right-leaning agenda.

Political instability has swept across Ecuador since revelations of widespread corruption in Moreno’s inner circle emerged. The scandal coincided with Moreno’s turn towards neoliberal economic reforms, from implementing a massive IMF loan package to the gradual and total embrace and support for U.S. foreign policy in the region. In his bid to satisfy Washington and deflect from his own problems, Moreno was all too eager to sacrifice Assange.

WikiLeaks’s decision to re-publish the details of Moreno’s use of off-shore bank accounts in Panama, titled “INA Papers” after the name of the shell corporation at the center of the scandal (INA Investment Corporation), appear to be the main cause for the president’s decision to expel Assange from the embassy.

Ecuadorian Communications Minister Andrés Michelena went as far as claiming that the INA Papers were a conspiracy plot between Julian Assange, the former President Rafael Correa and the current Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

The INA Papers scandal has cast a long shadow on Moreno’s regime and shattered its pledge to fight against institutional corruption. The scandal reveals that a close associate of Moreno, Xavier Macias, lobbied for the contract of the Coca Codo Sinclair hydroelectric power plant (valued at $2.8 billion) as well as the ZAMORA 3000 MW plant to be awarded Sinohydro, a Chinese state-owned construction company.

The financial trail from the Chinese corporation passed through bank accounts in Panama belonging to INA Investment Corporation — a shell company originally founded in Belize, a notable tax haven, by Edwin Moreno Garcés, the brother of the current president. The most crucial pieces of evidence indicate that the INA Investment funds were used to purchase a large apartment in Alicante, Spain, and a number of luxury items for Moreno and his family in Geneva, during his time as a special envoy on disability rights for the United Nations.

National Enquirer Sold

ny times logoNew York Times, National Enquirer to Be Sold to James Cohen, Heir to Hudson News Founder, Edmund Lee, April 18, 2019. A new buyer for the tabloid swooped in after talks between its publisher, American Media, and the billionaire Ron Burkle fell apart. The National Enquirer, President Trump’s favorite supermarket tabloid, is about to have a new owner: James Cohen, a son of the founder of the Hudson News franchise. American Media Inc., The Enquirer’s publisher, announced the deal Thursday.

The money-losing title was put up for sale several weeks ago, after its principal owner decided it no longer wanted to be associated with the magazine, according to several people familiar with the matter. The publication attracted the scrutiny of federal investigators for its role in the 2016 presidential campaign.

American Media had been in talks with several potential buyers, including the California billionaire Ronald W. Burkle. After those talks fell apart last week, Mr. Cohen, whose father started the chain of Hudson News shops, swooped in to buy the troubled tabloid.

david pecker croppedAs part of the deal, American Media, led by David J. Pecker, left, a longtime friend of Mr. Trump’s, has also agreed to sell two of its other tabloids: the Globe and the National Examiner. The Washington Post first reported the sale, which it pegged at $100 million.

The principal owner of American Media, the hedge fund Chatham Asset Management, led by Anthony Melchiorre, pushed Mr. Pecker to sell The Enquirer after the publication found itself under federal investigation. Mr. Melchiorre no longer saw an upside in being associated with the tabloid, whose financial losses and falling circulation numbers provided further motivation for a sale.

Mr. Pecker is said to have helped Mr. Trump’s candidacy through a deal American Media struck with Karen McDougal, a Playboy model who said she had an affair with the president. The company acquired her story for $150,000 and never published it, a practice known in the tabloid business as catch-and-kill. Federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York gave Mr. Pecker an immunity deal in its investigation of the arrangement.

national enquirer jeff bezos croppedAmerican Media also signed a non-prosecution deal with federal prosecutors. As part of the agreement, the company affirmed that it had made the payment to Ms. McDougal to “influence the election.” The deal, signed in September, also stipulated that American Media “shall commit no crimes whatsoever” for three years and that, if it did, the company “shall thereafter be subject to prosecution for any federal criminal violation of which this office has knowledge.”

That agreement put American Media in a ticklish position, now that federal prosecutors have started investigating claims by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, that he was threatened by the company. Mr. Bezos was the subject of an 11-page Enquirer investigation headlined “Bezos’ Divorce! The Cheating Photos That Ended His Marriage.” In a lengthy blog post a month after the article appeared, Mr. Bezos accused American Media of extortion.

Hudson News, founded by Mr. Cohen’s father, Robert B. Cohen, was sold to the Swiss retail company Dufry in 2008. Mr. Cohen is no longer involved in the chain of newspaper and magazine shops but sits on the board of the new parent company.

Heavy, James Cohen: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know, Kate Prengel, April 19 2019. James Cohen is a magazine distributor and heir to Hudson News. Cohen is also set to become the new owner of the National Enquirer. The tabloid and its parent company, American Media International, have been embroiled in scandal ever since news broke that the National Enquirer had helped cover up rumors of Donald Trump’s reported affair with a woman named Karen McDougal.

karen mcdougalLast year, AMI admitted that it had payed McDougal (shown in a screeenshot) $150,000 as part of a “catch and kill” deal which prevented McDougal from going public with her story about her alleged relationship with Donald Trump. More recently, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos accused the National Enquirer of extortion after the tabloid published a series of texts between Bezos and his girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez. The National Enquirer reportedly payed $200,000 to Sanchez’s brother in return for those texts.

In early April, AMI announced that it had plans to sell the National Enquirer. On April 18, the company said it had reached a $100 million deal with James Cohen. Cohen will also receive the Globe and the National Examiner, which are also owned by AMI, as part of the deal.

April 17

Media News: Hedge Fund Pension Plunder?

washington post logoWashington Post, The hedge fund trying to buy Gannett faces federal probe after investing newspaper workers’ pensions in its own funds, Jonathan O'Connell, April 17, 2019. Alden Global Capital, a prominent hedge fund that controls more than 100 local newspapers, moved nearly $250 million of employee pension savings into its own accounts in alden global capital logorecent years, an unusual move that is triggering federal scrutiny.

The hedge fund, which is the controlling owner of such newspapers as the Denver Post and Boston Herald under the brand MediaNews Group, in some cases moved 90 percent of retirees’ savings into two funds it controlled, according to public records filed with the Labor Department. Most of the money has now been moved back out of the hedge funds. Note: It also owns the St. Paul Pioneer Press, The Mercury News of San Jose, the East Bay Times, and The Orange County Register.

gannett logo CustomFederal law generally requires that pension managers avoid conflicts of interest and avoid taking excessive risks with the assets they manage, experts said, though some exemptions are allowed.

Alden is being investigated by the Department of Labor for management of its pensions, a hedge fund spokesman confirmed. The specific nature of the investigation is unclear, but one person familiar with the agency’s inquiry, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is confidential, said the department issued subpoenas to Alden and its partners last year.

The inquiry could become a factor in Alden’s effort to acquire what is now the nation’s largest chain of daily newspapers, Gannett, including USA Today, as at least one prominent lawmaker raises questions about how it would manage the company’s pensions. Alden has faced criticism for its stewardship of local newspapers the company has purchased. Research shows it cuts jobs more rapidly than other owners.

[In depth: Washington Post, A hedge fund’s ‘mercenary’ strategy: Buy newspapers, slash jobs, sell the buildings]

Its subsidiary MediaNews Group, formerly known as Digital First Media, buys newspapers, often reduces jobs and sells off the buildings. For three months, MediaNews Group has been trying to acquire McLean, Va.-based Gannett and its more than 100 newspapers.

us labor department logoA spokesman for MediaNews Group, Hugh Burns, confirmed the Labor Department’s investigation and issued a statement denying any violations of the federal law protecting private pension holders, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

“MNG believes that Alden’s management of the pension plan assets for which it provided management services has at all times complied with all legal requirements, including ERISA,” he said in a statement.

He said that Alden routinely manages pension money for clients, that the funds performed well during the time they were invested with Alden and that less than 1 percent of money in MNG pensions remains with Alden funds.

“In 2017, consistent with its return of other outside capital, Alden began winding down its management of these pension plan assets, making regular cash distributions to the MNG pension plan investors,” he said.

FCC Bans China Mobile

ny times logoajit pai headshot customNew York Times, F.C.C. Chair Plans to Block China Mobile From U.S. Market, Cecilia Kang, April 17, 2019. Ajit Pai, right, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission said on Wednesday that he would oppose China Mobile’s application to provide cell service to Americans because of security concerns, sinking the company’s chances of entering the United States market.

April 15

The Real News Network, Opinion: The Prosecution Of Julian Assange Is A Threat To Journalists Everywhere, Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, April 15, 2019. The arrest of Julian Assange not only puts the free press in the United States at risk, it puts any reporters who expose US crimes anywhere in the world at risk. As Pepe Escobar wrote

“Let’s cut to the chase. Julian Assange is not a US citizen, he’s an Australian. WikiLeaks is not a US-based media organization. If the US government gets Assange extradited, prosecuted and incarcerated, it will legitimize its right to go after anyone, anyhow, anywhere, anytime.”

The Assange prosecution requires us to build a global movement to not only free Julian Assange, but to protect the world from the crimes and corruption of the United States and other governments. The reality is that Freedom of Press for the 21st Century is on trial.

There are many opportunities for a movement to impact the outcome of this process and to free Julian Assange. The extradition process includes political decisions by both the UK and US governments. Courts are impacted by public opinion. If courts are convinced this case is about political issues, extradition could be rejected.

Last week’s arrest begins the next phase of Assange’s defense as well as the defense of our right to know what governments do in our name. It may seem like this is now a matter only for the courts, but in fact, the prosecution of Assange is political. The extradition case is not a hacking case, as the US is trying to present it, it is a prosecution about exposing war crimes, corporate corruption of US foreign policy and other violations of law by the United States and its allies. The government is trying to change the subject to avoid the facts that Assange exposed.

In fact, the indictment does not even allege hacking. As Glenn Greenwald writes: “the indictment alleges no such thing. Rather, it simply accuses Assange of trying to help Manning log into the Defense Department’s computers using a different username so that she could maintain her anonymity.” Assange lawyer Barry Pollack described why journalists everywhere are threatened: “The factual allegations … boil down to encouraging a source to provide him information and taking efforts to protect the identity of that source. Journalists around the world should be deeply troubled by these unprecedented criminal charges.”

The extradition process is likely to last months, most likely more than a year. The Assange case could go into 2020 or beyond. Issues that could prevent extradition include Assange’s health conditions, human rights concerns, and whether there is a political motivation behind the US request. Not only can Assange appeal through the UK courts, but he may also appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

Someone cannot be extradited from the United Kingdom if the extradition is for “political purposes.” The US Department of Justice has tried to avoid the obvious politics of Assange’s case by alleging in the indictment that it is a hacking case. In reality, and everyone knows this reality, Assange is being prosecuted because he exposed war crimes including the wanton killing of journalists and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, the violation of human rights in Guantanamo Bay and the corruption of US foreign policy by transnational corporations. These are the big elephants in the room that the United States is trying to hide.

The US prison system is seen around the world as inhumane. The UN Committee against Torture issued a report strongly criticizing the US prisons on a number of issues, among them torture and the extensive use of solitary confinement. The US uses long-term solitary more than any other country in the world, on any given day, at least 80,000 people are held in solitary confinement in the US. Political prisoners have been held in long-term solitary confinement as demonstrated by the imprisonment of black liberation activists who were held in solitary for decades. And whistleblowers have been held in solitary as was Chelsea Manning during her prosecution, including her most recent incarceration for refusing to testify before the grand jury investigating Assange. The European Court of Human Rights has prevented extradition to the US from the UK in a case involving an alleged terrorist because of inhumane prison conditions.

The US put forward a flimsy indictment that even on its face did not prove the allegation of assisting Manning with the password to access secret documents. The US put forward this weak and relatively mild charge probably to make extradition easier. They sought to avoid the political issue, which could have stopped the extradition. But, they are skirting extradition law with this approach, and if they hit Assange with a superseding indictment when he is extradited, it would be a violation of the doctrine of specialty, which means a person can only face trial for offenses presented to justify that extradition.

CaitlinJohnstone.com, Opinion: The US Government Won’t Care About Your Definition Of Journalism After The Assange Precedent Is Set, Caitlin Johnstone, April 15, 2019. 
Since I published my last article about about the idiotic “Assange isn’t a journalist” smear, this talking point has become more and more commonplace in online discourse. It’s very important to defenders of the political status quo for us all to believe that Assange is not a journalist, because otherwise that would mean they’re cheering for a dangerous precedent which would allow for the prosecution of journalists who exposed the truth about US government malfeasance. And that would mean cognitive dissonance, which all defenders of the political status quo spend most of their day-to-day mental energy running away from.

julian assange cropped with un headerAll of these definitions ultimately boil down to the argument that because Assange doesn’t publish leaks in a way that they feel journalism ought to be practiced, it isn’t journalism and therefore sets no legal precedent for journalists around the world. As though the US government is going to be consulting their feelings about what specifically constitutes journalism the next time they decide to imprison a journalist for doing what Assange did.

It doesn’t work that way, sugar tits. Assange is being prosecuted by the Trump administration for standard journalistic practices, he stands no chance of receiving a fair trial, and it is very likely that he will be hit with far more serious charges for his activities once on US soil. The next time the US government, under Trump or someone else, sees another journalist anywhere in the world doing something similar to what Assange did, there will be nothing stopping them from saying, “We need to lock that person up like we did Assange; they’re doing the same sort of thing.”

It’s just so amazingly arrogant how people imagine that the way their feelings feel will factor into this in any way. You won’t get to define how the US government will interpret what constitutes journalism in the future. Only the US government will. It’s amazing that this isn’t more obvious to more people.

In reality, journalism has always been and will always be defined as an activity. It’s not like being a doctor. If you happen to witness a car crash and you give CPR on the scene, you are not a doctor in that moment, but if you take some photos and post them online with a summary of what you saw then you are engaging in the act of journalism and all the legalities and rules of journalism apply to you.

The particular journalistic activities that the US is currently trying to extradite Assange for is encouraging a source to give him more documents and conspiracy to help Manning hide her identity so that she would not be persecuted for her heroic act of whistleblowing. In other words, Assange was attempting to make sure Manning’s leaks had enough impact to justify the risk, and also to try and make sure she wasn’t caught and tortured for it.

April 12

Guardian, Julian Assange's charges are a direct assault on press freedom, experts warn, Ed Pilkington, April 12, 2019. Parts of the indictment go head-to-head with basic journalistic activities protected by the first amendment, academics say.

The charge sheet accusing Julian Assange of engaging in criminal theft of US state secrets contains a direct assault on fundamental press freedoms and could have a devastating effect on the basic acts of journalism, leading first amendment scholars and advocacy groups have warned.

Prosecutors in the eastern district of Virginia released on Thursday an indictment against the WikiLeaks founder that has been under seal since March 2018. It will now form the basis of the US government’s request for Assange to be extradited from the UK to Alexandria to face trial.

Academics and campaigners condemned large chunks of the indictment that they said went head-to-head with basic activities of journalism protected by the first amendment of the US constitution. They said these sections of the charges rang alarm bells that should reverberate around the world.

Yochai Benkler, a Harvard law professor who wrote the first major legal study of the legal implications of prosecuting WikiLeaks, said the charge sheet contained some “very dangerous elements that pose significant risk to national security reporting. Sections of the indictment are vastly overbroad and could have a significant chilling effect – they ought to be rejected.”

Carrie Decell, staff attorney with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, said the charges “risk having a chill on journalism”. She added that the tone of the indictment and the public release from the Department of Justice that went with it suggested that the US government desired precisely that effect.

“Many of the allegations fall absolutely within the first amendment’s protections of journalistic activity. That’s very troubling to us.”

Among the phrases contained in the indictment that have provoked an uproar are:

“It was part of the conspiracy that Assange encouraged Manning to provide information and records from departments and agencies of the United States.” It is a basic function of journalism to encourage sources to provide information in the public interest on the activities of government.

“It was part of the conspiracy that Assange and Manning took measures to conceal Manning as the source of the disclosure of classified records to WikiLeaks.” Protecting the anonymity of sources is the foundation stone of much investigative and national security reporting – without it sources would not be willing to divulge information, and the press would be unable to fulfill its role of holding power to account.

“It was part of the conspiracy that Assange and Manning used the ‘Jabber’ online chat service to collaborate on the acquisition and dissemination of the classified records.” The indictment simi

ny times logoNew York Times, Julian Assange: A Foe of Secrecy Who Inspires Admiration and Fury, Scott Shane and Steven Erlanger, April 12, 2019 (print ed.). From his beginnings as a teenage hacker in Australia to his arrest this week in London, the WikiLeaks founder has been a deeply divisive figure. He has helped empower whistle-blowers and disgruntled insiders, but has never been satisfied with the role of neutral provider of information.

The shaky video clips of Julian Assange’s arrest flashed around the world on Thursday, the white-bearded prophet of the age of leaks being hauled by unsmiling security officers to a gray van marked Police.

“We must resist!” he cried. “You can resist!” It was a scene that the very image-conscious Mr. Assange might appreciate: one man literally fighting the all-powerful state.

It was also the latest — and surely not the last — dramatic turn in a career marked by both brilliant achievement and dubious judgment. Mr. Assange has long had a knack for celebrity, and as a tech-savvy, global, almost stateless figure, he captured the new influence the internet could give to individual citizens.

His creation of WikiLeaks helped empower a generation of whistle-blowers and disgruntled insiders who could operate on an industrial scale, providing disclosures by the terabyte and enraging the powerful in many countries. WikiLeaks collaborated closely with major world publications, including The New York Times, in the release of secret records on the American-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and a quarter-million confidential State Department cables.

ny times logoNew York Times, Is Assange’s Arrest a Threat to the Free Press? Michelle Goldberg, right, April 12, 2019 (print ed.). Last michelle goldberg thumbNovember, federal prosecutors accidentally revealed, in an unrelated court document, that a sealed indictment had been filed against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Many people concerned with civil liberties, including some who despise Assange, were alarmed by the idea that he could be punished for his role in exposing American government secrets. “If Assange can be prosecuted merely for publishing leaked classified documents, every single media outlet is at risk of prosecution for doing the exact same thing,” the lawyer Bradley P. Moss wrote in The Atlantic.

At the time, the public didn’t know what the actual charges were. Now that Assange has been dragged from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he’s lived for almost seven years, and is facing extradition to the United States, we do. He’s been indicted for conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, a result of his alleged attempts nearly a decade ago to help former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning crack a password to a government computer.

These charges do not pose quite the threat to a free press that some feared, because hacking is not standard journalistic practice. “The indictment does not charge Assange for the act of publishing, which would have been a serious Rubicon crossed,” Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s project on speech, privacy and technology, told me. But, as Wizner emphasizes, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be worried about what Donald Trump’s Justice Department is up to. Elements of the Assange indictment could still set a dangerous precedent.

It’s a relief that they found a way to make the case without a frontal assault on journalistic prerogatives. Still, if you read the indictment, a lot of things that journalists do routinely are part of Assange’s alleged crime.

julian assange cropped with un header“It was part of the conspiracy that Assange (shown in a file photo) and Manning took measures to conceal Manning as the source of the disclosure of classified records to WikiLeaks,” says the indictment. Most if not all investigative journalists take such measures to protect their sources. The indictment says, “It was part of the conspiracy that Assange encouraged Manning to provide information and records from departments and agencies of the United States.” Journalists often do this when they urge whistle-blowers to come forward. “It was part of the conspiracy that Assange and Manning used a special folder on a cloud drop box of WikiLeaks” to transmit classified information, the indictment continues. Like many news organizations, The New York Times does something similar, soliciting tips through an encrypted submission system called SecureDrop.

For any of these actions to become part of a criminal conspiracy, there has to be a crime. But as Georgetown law professor David Super points out, “We have right now a criminal code that is bursting at the seams with offenses,” making it easy to break laws without realizing it.

A prosecutor, then, might be able to find a pretext for a similar conspiracy case if, for example, someone decides to leak the Mueller report, or Trump’s tax returns. “This pattern of behavior has already been turned against journalists in many parts of the world,” Super said. Journalists “get prosecuted for pretty mundane stuff, some of which they probably did, but they wouldn’t have been charged for if they didn’t make the regime unhappy.”

llewellyn king photo logo

White House Chronicle, Opinion: Information Technology and Democracy — a Light That Failed, Llewellyn King (shown above), April 12, 2019. When the age of communication started (pick your time, but I think it was when we started sending print by telephone in the form of a fax), it was thought that dictators would fall, and democracy would be reinvigorated.

The first big disappointment was Saudi Arabia. When the Saudis began to get uncensored news and information, it was believed that the grip of the royal family and its extreme religious allies would be loosened. It did not happen. Instead, Saudi Arabia was spurred to use its oil wealth to push conservative Islam around the globe, especially in places where it was present but could be radicalized, including Pakistan and Bangladesh. They poured their money into madrassas — religious schools — that preached the Wahhabism, a strict and puritanical interpretation of Sunni Islam.

People ask me why, when the mainstream media daily points up President Donald Trump’s failures and transgressions, his supporters are unmoved, disdaining what is being revealed in favor of what they want to believe. They believe in Trump and they believe in his courtiers at Fox News Channel and on talk radio.

People do not react to raw information but, rather, to information that sits well with them for other reasons: what they are predisposed to believe.

Rupert Murdoch, the boss of Fox News, has had a genius, a real genius, for corralling those who felt ignored by society. He did it in Britain with his hugely successful tabloid newspaper, The Sun, and he has done it here with Fox News. In Britain and in the United States, he found and exploited a nativism that both countries had forgotten they had.

Fox News did not invent Trump; instead, the shoe fit.

How we react to the news depends on our involvement with it in tertiary ways. If you were already convinced of British exceptionalism, you would move toward the hostility to Europe expressed in The Sun. If you think immigrants take jobs, speak strange languages and are usurping our Americanism, you will be gung-ho for Trump’s southern border wall.

In the 1990s you could find, and I did, from Nicaragua to Zimbabwe, old-line communists lamenting the fall of the Soviet Union. They argued that it had not been given a chance. These people really believed that all that was wanted was more of what did not work.

If you are a Trump supporter, you are genuinely amazed that the mainstream media cannot see that what he is doing is great. Democrats and renegade Republicans, like columnist George Will, can find nothing, absolutely nothing, good in the Trump presidency.

People, including AOL founder Steve Case, talked idealistically about the internet in the days when it was getting going as the great, new democratic tool; a boon to global democracy. Wrong. If anything, it stirred up a destructive nationalism.

Information, I have noticed as a journalist who has worked on three continents, does not necessarily shape political opinion.

Political opinion tends to find the media that agree with it, not the other way. But after the two have mated, media can inflame its public partner. Good for two-party rivalry, but not for elucidation.

April 11

Fresno Bee, Devin Nunes’ lawsuits put spotlight on his attorney’s suspension, GOP defamation lawsuits, Kate Irby, April 11, 2019. When Rep. Devin Nunes (a California Republican shown below right) appeared on Fox News to announce his defamation lawsuit against Twitter and a parody account, “Devin Nunes’ cow,” he declared the legal filing would be the first of many.

He followed through with another lawsuit this week against McClatchy, parent company of The Fresno Bee.

devin nunes file flagBoth lawsuits were filed by an attorney based in Charlottesville, Virginia, a solo-practitioner named Steven S. Biss who is making a name for himself suing media organizations for defamation.

With the Nunes lawsuits, Biss has thrust himself into the national spotlight and, like his client, opened himself up to criticism on Twitter and elsewhere.

The attention exposed a factual error in Biss’ initial filing against McClatchy. It also drove social media discussion this week about a similar case he filed that was dismissed without a judgment and his year-long suspension from practicing law a decade ago.

Biss, a graduate of University of Richmond School of Law, did not return a call requesting comment.

Nunes announced the lawsuit seeking $150 million from McClatchy on Monday night. It accuses the publisher and Republican political strategist Liz Mair of defamation and conspiracy against Nunes, citing stories by The Fresno Bee and McClatchy. The stories detailed Nunes’ investment in a winery that had been sued over a yacht party that allegedly included underage sex workers and cocaine, and Nunes’ use of Political Action Committee money to buy tickets to Celtics games.

Less than a day after filing, the lawsuit against McClatchy appeared to be amended Tuesday due to a factual inaccuracy that Biss was lambasted for online.

In the original version of the lawsuit, Nunes and Biss accuse a Fresno Bee reporter of emphasizing the words “woman,” “Devin,” and “cocaine” with a bold font in a tweet about the story on the winery lawsuit. While a screenshot of the tweet in the original lawsuit showed the words in bold font, the original tweet has text only in plain font.

Law blogs called it an “embarrassing mistake over how Twitter works,” and Twitter users started pointing out the discrepancy, noting that when users search certain words on Twitter the resulting tweets show the words searched for in bold.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ron Burkle, Billionaire Investor, Is Said to Be in Talks to Buy National Enquirer, Edmund Lee and Andrew Ross Sorkin, April 11, 2019.  The owners of The National Enquirer are in talks to sell the tabloid to the California billionaire Ronald W. Burkle, according to two people with direct knowledge of the negotiations.

An acquisition of The Enquirer by Mr. Burkle, a Democratic donor with close ties to President Bill Clinton, could raise eyebrows in Washington given President Trump’s fondness for the tabloid, which he has praised on Twitter.

While representatives of The Enquirer, which is owned by American Media Inc., are deep in their negotiations with Mr. Burkle, the deal could still fall apart, according to the two people with direct knowledge of the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private talks.

Representatives for Mr. Burkle did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Burkle specializes in buying distressed companies and selling them at a profit or rebuilding them to increase their value. He made his initial fortune buying and selling supermarkets in his home state. In 1999, he helped buy the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey franchise out of bankruptcy. The team has won three Stanley Cup championships since then.

April 10

david pecker cnn screenshot

Trump family friend David Pecker, chairman of American Media, Inc. (AMI), parent company of the National Enquirer (screenshot from CNN)

washington post logoWashington Post, National Enquirer expected to be sold imminently as parent company faces pressure, Sarah Ellison and Marc Fisher, April 10, 2019. American Media Inc. is actively seeking to sell off the National Enquirer, according to three people familiar with the process who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The decision to sell came after the hedge fund manager whose firm controls American Media became “disgusted” with the Enquirer’s reporting tactics, according to one of these people.

American Media has been under intense pressure because of the Enquirer’s efforts to tilt the 2016 presidential election in favor of Donald Trump, who is a longtime friend of American Media’s president and CEO, David Pecker. Pecker and his supermarket tabloid have also been embroiled in recent months in an unusually public feud with Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post.

In August, just as AMI and two of its top officers were finalizing a non-prosecution agreement with federal investigators, the company’s board of directors started looking for ways to unload the tabloid business “because they didn’t want to deal with hassles like this anymore,” another person said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Personal Technology: Lifting Journalism by Knowing What Readers Are Looking For, Claudio E. Cabrera, April 10, 2019. How do New York Times journalists use technology in their jobs and in their personal lives? Claudio E. Cabrera, a deputy off-platform director tasked with driving quality traffic from search engines to The Times, discussed the tech he’s using.

What are the contours of your job, exactly?

I work on S.E.O., which stands for search engine optimization. On a daily basis, my job is not just focused on helping to optimize our stories for greater visibility and increased traffic from search engines such as Google. It’s much more.

We have a large newsroom, and we are constantly educating editors, reporters and more on the best practices when it comes to search — whether it has to do with headlines, URLs, timing or story forms. Additionally, we are teaching them how to spot how well their story is doing on search.

I usually start my day around 6 or 7 a.m. and track everything that happened overnight to get an idea of what to focus on in the morning hours. After that, I start making my rounds on competitive websites and using our trends tools to find potential ideas I can pitch to desks or optimize something correctly that we’ve already published. I then start jumping into conversations with desk editors about what they have coming for the day that they want me to keep an eye on. I’m big on getting ahead of things, as it gives much more free time to work on strategic initiatives throughout the day.

On a tools front, I use Google Trends, Kaleida, NewsWhip, Reddit and CrowdTangle. I like these tools because they incorporate search, social and the conversations around them.

Outside of that, it’s important to look at whom we consider to be our competitors and what they are doing daily around general news and trending items. It allows me to see what stories we may be missing and what angles we may not be exploring.

April 9

Columbia Journalism Review, As election season heats up, two historic magazines get new faces, Jon Allsop, April 9, 2019. In recent months, with the 2020 election approaching fast, a bevy of major news organizations have made significant changes atop their mastheads. Adam Moss, the iconic, long-time editor of New York magazine, stepped down, and was replaced by David Haskell.

This week, John Harris, the founding editor in chief of Politico, made way; Matthew Kaminski, the site’s global editor, will replace him. Bill Keller, founding editor of The Marshall Project, is passing that site’s reins to Susan Chira. The LA Times, under new-ish owner Patrick Soon-Shiong, has staffed up impressively across the board; most recently, it added Shani Hilton, a top talent at BuzzFeed, as a deputy managing editor.

cbs news logoIn the world of TV, CBS News appointed Susan Zirinsky as its new president, while the morning shows of CBS, ABC, and NBC all now have female executive producers — a first. Nancy Barnes, formerly of The Houston Chronicle, is settling into her new role as editorial director at NPR. The list goes on.

 Katrina vanden Heuvel is stepping down as editor of The Nation after 25 years in the post. (She’ll stay on as publisher and editorial director, working on strategy and with “select writers.”) During her tenure, vanden Heuvel sought to style the progressive magazine as an “early journalistic alert system” — warning against the war in Iraq, corporate oligopolies, and the “Murdochization” of US media — and oversaw significant subscription growth during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Donald Trump. D.D. Guttenplan, a long-standing presence at The Nation, will soon take over as editor.

Another new editor with 2020 on his mind is Chris Lehmann, who yesterday was named editor of The New Republic. (He comes from The Baffler, where he’ll remain an editor-at-large.) CJR’s Andrew McCormick spoke with Lehmann yesterday. “I want to approach the coming election cycle as what I think it will be: a convergence of social movements as opposed to a top-down, party-driven spectacle,” Lehmann says. “The parties are increasingly hollowed-out institutions that are unable to contain the activist energies within them in the way parties would like. That’s all good for journalism, because journalism is about conflict.”

Editors come and go for all sorts of reasons, but it’s usually best to get changes out of the way before a critical election season gets in full swing. The new crop of editors across our industry must all urgently grapple with campaign coverage that failed, in 2016, to serve readers consistent, substantive information on candidates’ ideas.

April 7

Media News: Murder Motive

jamal khashoggi western suit

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: In a book proposal, Khashoggi outlined a U.S.-inspired vision for a new Saudi Arabia, David B. Ottaway, April 7, 2019 (print ed.). David Ottaway is a fellow in the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center. Jamal Khashoggi (right) was working on what he described as an “eye-opener” of a book challenging Saudi Arabia to draw inspiration for its reforms from American institutions and practices when he was savagely murdered inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October. His book proposal illustrates that he was as much a visionary of a new Saudi Arabia as Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, author of the highly ambitious “Vision 2030” and the person who the CIA concluded ordered Khashoggi’s assassination.

Khashoggi’s gruesome murder touched off the worst crisis in U.S.-Saudi relations since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, with Congress pressing President Trump to name the instigator and to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

mohammad bin salman cropped file smallThe crown prince (left) tried to convince the White House that Khashoggi was a dangerous Islamist threat to the United States, but his book project reveals just the opposite: He was a great admirer of U.S. democracy and society. He had belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood in his youth but had long since disassociated himself from what Saudi authorities have branded a terrorist organization.

Khashoggi’s book project was outlined in his application for a fellowship at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, submitted in June 2017. His daughter, Noha, recently agreed to allow me to disclose its content. His book was to be both a primer for Saudis coming to the United States, explaining how American institutions and practices function, and a plea for Saudi leaders to adopt many of them.

Its tentative title: United States for Saudis or U.S. Made Easy for Saudis.

“My plan is to explain American life to the Saudi reader and Arabs in general in a simple storytelling format,” he wrote, noting that at least 750,000 Saudis are graduates of American education institutions, and even more have come as tourists or family members of students. ”My focus will be on the schooling, educational reform [and] control of public funds,” he wrote.

 UK Consumer Protection From New Media?

washington post logoWashington Post, U.K. unveils sweeping plan to penalize Facebook and Google for harmful online content, Tony Romm​, April 7, 2019. The proposal marks a major new facebook logoregulatory threat for an industry that’s long dodged responsibility for what its users say or share.

British regulators on Sunday unveiled a landmark proposal to penalize Facebook, Google and other tech giants that fail to stop the spread of harmful content google logo customonline, marking a major new regulatory threat for an industry that’s long dodged responsibility for what its users say or share.

The aggressive, new plan — drafted by the United Kingdom’s leading consumer-protection authorities and blessed by Prime Minister Theresa May — targets a wide array of web content, including child exploitation, false news, terrorist activity and extreme violence. If approved by Parliament, U.K. watchdogs would gain unprecedented powers to issue fines and other punishments if social-media sites don’t swiftly remove the most egregious posts, photos and videos from public view.

April 5

 washington post logoWashington Post, Jeff Bezos, divorce settlement with Mackenzie Bezos, retains 75 percent of Amazon stock and all voting power, Craig Timberg and Greg Bensinger, April 5, 2019 (print ed.). MacKenzie Bezos also said that Jeff Bezos would retain his full stake in Blue Origin and the Washington Post. MacKenzie Bezos’s stake will be worth roughly $36 billion, making her one of the wealthiest women in the world.

jeffrey bezos washington postAmazon founder Jeff Bezos (shown in a file photo) and his ex-wife, MacKenzie Bezos, announced Thursday a divorce settlement that will leave him with 75 percent of their Amazon stock and all of their joint holdings in The Washington Post and a space-exploration company, Blue Origin. He will retain voting power over all of the Amazon voting shares the couple once owned together.

amazon logo smallThe announcement from the Bezoses -- coming in a tweet from MacKenzie that was retweeted by Jeff -- settled a closely watched matter of corporate governance affecting one of the world’s richest companies, with a market capitalization of $890 billion.

The divorce settlement is likely to remove uncertainty over the extent of Jeff Bezos’s continued control over a company he founded in 1994 and for which he remains chief executive and its largest shareholder. Their marriage lasted 25 years and produced four children.

April 5

fox news team banner

New York Magazine, Commentary: What I’ve Learned From Collecting Stories of People Whose Loved Ones Were Transformed by Fox News, Luke O'Neil, April 5, 2019. I asked a bunch of people how it felt watching their family members be stolen from them by Fox News over the years and it doesn't feel great it turns out. Last week, I devoted an installment of my newsletter Welcome to Hell World to a dozen stories from people who, like me, had close relationships that had been strained or ruined by family members who’d become obsessed with Fox News.

No matter where the stories came from they all featured a few familiar beats: A loved one seemed to have changed over time. Maybe that person was already somewhat fox news logo Smallconservative to start. Maybe they were apolitical. But at one point or another, they sat down in front of Fox News, found some kind of deep, addictive comfort in the anger and paranoia, and became a different person — someone difficult, if not impossible, to spend time with. The fallout led to failed marriages and estranged parental relationships. For at least one person, it marks the final memory he’ll ever have of his father: “When I found my dad dead in his armchair, fucking Fox News was on the TV,” this reader told me. “It’s likely the last thing he saw. I hate what that channel and conservative talk radio did to my funny, compassionate dad. He spent the last years of his life increasingly angry, bigoted, and paranoid.”

Something about the piece struck a chord. It had gone viral, and wave after wave of frustrated and saddened Fox News orphans began to commiserate with me and with each other on Twitter and in my messages. Others wrote of similar phenomenon in Australia with the television channel Sky or in the U.K. with the tabloid Daily Mail. I heard from more than a hundred people who felt like they could relate to what they all seemed to think of as a kind of ideological brain poisoning. They chose Fox News over their family, people told me. They chose Fox News over me.

April 4

Media News

St. Louis Public Radio, Missouri Student Journalists, Teachers Hope Bill Will Stop Censorship By School Admins, Andy Field, April 4, 2019. The Missouri Senate is expected to consider a bill to prevent public-university and high school administrators from censoring articles from student journalists. The Cronkite New Voices Act is part of a nationwide movement to give student journalists the same First Amendment rights as professionals. Currently, 14 states have passed New Voices laws, according to the Student Press Law Center. This year, advocates have or will be introducing versions of the bill in 11 states, including Missouri.

National Press Club, Journalists, political leaders agree on blueprint to rebuild public trust in institutions, Kathy Kiely, April 4, 2019. Journalists, elected officials and government communicators committed to concrete steps aimed at increasing trust and civility in public life during two days of intensive conversations at the National Press Club March 25-26.

Hosted by the Club’s nonprofit Journalism Institute and facilitated by the National Institute of Civil Discourse, the “Dialogue in a Divided Democracy” brought together more than 60 people — news media leaders and the people they cover — for face-to-face conversations about the challenges facing key American institutions. PEN America and the Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership partnered in the event.

April 3

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: How Rupert Murdoch’s Empire of Influence Remade the World, Jonathan Mahler and Jim Rutenberg, April 3, 2019 (print ed.). Part 1: Imperial rupert murdoch newReach: Murdoch, 86, right, and his children have toppled governments on two continents and destabilized the most important democracy on Earth. What do they want? Over the last six months, we spoke to more than 150 people about the most powerful media family on earth.

Rupert Murdoch was lying on the floor of his cabin, unable to move. It was January 2018, and Murdoch and his fourth wife, Jerry Hall, were spending the holidays cruising the Caribbean on his elder son Lachlan’s yacht. Murdoch tripped on his way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Few private citizens have ever been more central to the state of world affairs than the man lying in that hospital bed, awaiting his children’s arrival.

As the head of a sprawling global media empire, he commanded multiple television networks, a global news service, a major publishing house and a Hollywood movie studio. His newspapers and television networks had been instrumental in amplifying the nativist revolt that was reshaping governments not just in the United States but also across the planet.

New York Times, Here are six takeaways from The Times’s investigation.

More Investigative Reports

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: Mar-a-Lago: a center for Chinese espionage and prostitution? Wayne Madsen, April 3, 2019 (subscription required; excerpted with permission). WMR was the first to report the possible espionage connection between Cindy Yang, aka Li Yang -- the Mar-a-Lago club habitué and previous owner of the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida -- and the Chinese Ministry of State Security (Guójiā Ānquánbù) (国家安全部).

The spa/massage parlor was the scene of a law enforcement prostitution sting that nabbed New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and two other wealthy members of Mar-a-Lago, all three major political donors to the GOP and Trump campaign.

greg palast hsGreg Palast Investigative Journalism, Trump May Name Kris Kobach New Immigration Czar, Greg Palast (right), April 3, 2019. Their real agenda: 2020 vote suppression. When the young Kris Kobach created a computer system for the Department of Homeland Security that secretly tracked visiting Muslims, President George W. Bush was so offended that he personally ordered the racially offensive program shut down.

And now Kobach may have power over that Department and all others dealing with immigrants – including Justice and Defense, and the Census — if the AP report that President Donald Trump is considering making Kobach his “Immigration Czar” becomes reality.

kris kobach kansas SmallIt’s an especially cute move by Trump, as this newly crafted position, unlike an apointment to other cabinet level posts, will not require Senate approval, not even a hearing.

I’ve been investigating Kobach (left) for six years for Al Jazeera and Rolling Stone. Trying to get straight answers from Kobach about his racially poisoned vote-purging shenanigans has not been easy. After several refusals to speak with me about our findings, in 2016, I finally tracked him down in Wichita, with my crew pretending to be from a local TV station. (We were indeed with Channel 4 … Channel 4 of London.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Media Companies Take a Big Gamble on Apple, Edmund Lee, April 3, 2019 (print ed.).  Executives have been burned by their previous dealings with big tech apple logo rainbowcompanies. But Apple’s promise of a billion devices worldwide was too good to pass up. Even for Rupert Murdoch.

The tech giant based the service on an app it acquired last year called Texture, which gave readers access to some 200 publications with a single subscription. The revamped and renamed version, introduced with much fanfare last week at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., charges subscribers $9.99 a month ($12.99 in Canada) for content from more than 300 titles, including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Time, The Atlantic and People, as well as The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal. (Also included: Airbnb Magazine, Birds & Blooms, Retro Gamer and Salt Water Sportsman, befitting the app’s conceit as an omnibus newsstand.)

washington post logo

Washington Post, Inside the spectacular fall of the granddaddy of right-wing conspiracy sites, Manuel Roig-Franzia, April 3, 2019 (print ed.). In the feverish heyday of the “birther movement,” conspiracy-hungry readers swarmed to a website called WorldNetDaily for the latest on the specious yet viral theory that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

The site’s founder, Joseph Farah — a former newspaperman with a dense, jet-black mustache and a cloak-and-dagger mystique — boasted in 2010 that he was well on the way to generating $10 million a year in revenue. His Northern Virginia-headquartered news site, known by the acronym WND, was having its moment by stoking rumors about Obama.

But Farah — a conservative Internet pioneer who’d once been labeled by the Clinton White House as part of a right-wing media conspiracy and was known to sport a pistol on his hip in the office—saw bigger things. Years earlier he’d launched one of the first large-scale digital newsgathering operations; now he wanted to be a player in Christian-themed movies and book publishing, churning out titles by big-name conservatives, such as anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly and future House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).

He was building an empire.

A decade later, that realm is being sucked into a tornado of unpaid bills, pink-slipped employees, chaotic accounting, declining revenue and diminishing readership, according to interviews with more than 25 former employees, shareholders, company insiders and authors associated with the firm's flailing publishing units, as well as a review of hundreds of internal documents, including emails and financial statements obtained by The Washington Post.

Even though Farah claimed in WND columns and emails to supporters last year to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations —including tax-deductible contributions — some former employees and contractors have been laid off or had their deals canceled without being paid money they say they were owed. Many authors who signed on with the site’s publishing arm, including former Republican senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, are fuming about allegedly not receiving royalties owed to them.

April 2

washington post logocia logoWashington Post, CIA long relied exclusively on Amazon for its cloud computing. Now it is seeking multiple providers, Aaron Gregg, April 2, 2019. The Central Intelligence Agency is taking early steps toward procuring a massive cloud computing infrastructure to support its national security mission, according to amazon logo smalldocuments reviewed by The Washington Post, with plans to award a contract worth “tens of billions” of dollars to more than one cloud provider by 2021.

The cloud effort, known as the C2E Commercial Cloud Enterprise, builds on an earlier $600 million cloud computing contract that was awarded to Amazon’s cloud computing division in 2013. And it runs parallel to a separate, $10 billion cloud effort being pursued by the Defense Department.

Both efforts are meant to outfit U.S. national security agencies with next-generation cloud computing innovations from Silicon Valley.

April 1

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Tucker Carlson is a white nationalist because he grew up around them, Wayne Madsen, April 1, 2019 (subscription required).  Fox News’s right-wing wunderkind Tucker Carlson draws quite a fan base. For Carlson, his fans include white supremacists, the white identity movement, and garden-variety neo-Nazis.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Most people think local journalism is financially healthy. Here’s the troubling reality, Margaret Sullivan (right), April 1, 2019 (print ed.). The business model margaret sullivan 2015 photofor local news has crumbled, but the public seems blissfully unaware. In the 1990s, 30 percent profit margins were common at regional newspapers and the chains that owned them. Then came some brutal blows. The main source of revenue — print advertising — fell off a cliff as advertisers moved to the Internet or found other ways of reaching their customers. Department stores, once a mainstay of advertising, withered away in the digital economy.

And a new generation of news consumers never developed the daily-newspaper habit that their parents and grandparents had.

Newspapers (and to a lesser extent local TV stations) were forced to cut costs. Often, they did so in a way that made them less valuable to their remaining customers: By eliminating journalists from their newsrooms.

Newspapers cut 45 percent of their newsroom employees between 2008 and 2017.

And some of them — including those owned by hedge funds — are down far more than that. (In Denver, for example, the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News boasted 600 journalists not much more than a decade ago; the latter paper has folded and the Post is down to well below 100 in its newsroom.)

But even in their shrunken state, many regional newspapers are producing important public-interest journalism. While this may seem encouraging, the ability to do so is fragile: the gutting of many local papers continues apace.

On Thursday, I will moderate a panel discussion featuring three journalists who exemplify this. (It’s one part of a morning-long event, devoted to saving local journalism, that will be live-streamed on The Washington Post’s website.)

'Reason' Advocate Arrested

Wichita Eagle / Kansas.com, Former candidate, talk radio host arrested on drug charges, Chance Swaim, April 1, 2019. A former candidate who recently launched his own talk radio jim price mugshot cropshow has been arrested and charged with multiple drug offenses.

Republican Jim Price of Wichita (shown in a mugshot) was arrested last month and charged in Sedgwick County. Prosecutors say that on May 17 he had 129.55 grams of dabs, a highly-concentrated hash oil, with intent to distribute, which is a felony in Kansas. He also faces misdemeanor charges of possession of steroids and marijuana, court records show.

He was initially arrested in May on suspicion of illegally possessing a gun and marijuana, but was not charged in court for that case until last week, court records show. The Wichita Eagle first reported that incident in September, when Price was running for a seat in the Kansas House. At that time, Price denied the arrest and charges had not been filed in the case.

Prosecutors filed charges against Price on March 25. That day, he bonded out of jail. The state is not pursuing gun-related charges, according to court filings.

republican elephant logoHis charging documents allege he had between 100 and 1,000 doses of THC dabs. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the the psychoactive compound in marijuana that makes a user feel “high.” A dab is a highly-concentrated THC-based substance that is typically made by extracting THC from marijuana plants with a solvent like alcohol or butane.

Price said in an email that he was recovering from surgery and would answer questions through email.

Between the time a warrant was issued and his arrest, Price launched his own AM talk radio show, “The Jim Price Show,” which airs Saturday nights from 7 to 8 p.m.

On March 12, Price appeared on the conservative talk show “The Voice of Reason” with host Andy Hooser, the treasurer of the Sedgwick County Republican Party. Hooser announced Price’s show as the latest local program on KQAM, a Steckline Communications station.

“It’s good stuff,” Price told Hooser. “I’m looking forward to going in and diving deep, just like you have, and make sure that we talk about the issues as they are real, not where we get this fluffed up stuff at the media level.”

Asked if he thought Price would be allowed to keep his show given the pending criminal court case, Hooser said, “the station itself really doesn’t have anything to do much with the show.”

Hooser said Price actually pays the station to have his show on the air. “It’s kind of like an infomercial of sorts, where he pays for the time on the air to broadcast the show, and there’s a disclaimer on the show as well that you know it’s not in any affiliation with KQAM or Steckline Communications,” Hooser said.

Media News / Political Threat

hope carpenter john gray aventa gray screenshot Custom

Pastor Hope Carpenter, co-founder of a church in South Carolina, with her successors, Pastors Aventer (left) and John Gray on March 31, 2019.

The Christian Post, Hope Carpenter defends Pastor John Gray and wife Aventer, tells critics ‘I cut people,’ Leonardo Blair, April 1, 2019. Pastor Hope Carpenter, co-founder of Redemption World Outreach Center in Greenville, South Carolina, which was rebranded Relentless Church last year, defended pastors John and Aventer Gray from critics Sunday with a public threat to critics that “I cut people.”

“I love you Pastor John and Pastor Aventer. I believe in you, I’m praying for you, I’m rooting for you. I cut people. I’ve got a knife right in that pocket book,” Carpenter declared after riling up the Relentless congregation with a message she said she got from God to “hold fast.”

hope carpenter crop relentless church greenville sc march 31 2019 facebookSpeaking at the 8:30 a.m. service where she was introduced by Aventer Gray as “one of the greatest women of God that has ever graced the earth,” Carpenter (shown at right in a photo via Facebook) expressed her support for the couple, who succeeded Ron and Hope Carpenter.

The support comes in the wake of a slew of controversies concerning allegations of marital infidelity, the Relentless Church's purchase of a $1.8 million home for the Grays, and John Gray gifting his wife a $200K Lamborghini. The Christian Post, the Greenville News and other media have reported on different aspects of the controversies but on Sunday, Carpenter took aim at the local news source.

“Greenville News, come on. We done went through this. Alright. I’m still here and guess who else still gon’ be here?” she said, pointing to the Grays.

“See, if I did not know what God had brought me through back here and what God brought me through 10 years ago and what God brought me through five years ago, I would not have a deep intertwined root system that would help me to be able to hold on,” Carpenter told the congregation.
Pastor Hope Carpenter (foreground) defends Pastors John and Aventer Gray at Relentless Church in Greenville, S.C., on March 31, 2019. | Screenshot: YouTube

In the nearly 30 years that Carpenter did ministry in Greenville with her husband, the couple faced controversies. It was in 2013 that Ron Carpenter revealed to their congregation that Hope had committed adultery multiple times over the previous 10 years and was under psychiatric observation.

"For the last 10 years, I have been masking a situation that has absolutely almost destroyed me. In 2004, the date we dedicated this facility, Easter Sunday 2004, I left here to find a very different woman than I had ever met," he told his church about the woman he courted in a “sex-free” relationship for three and a half years before they got married.

Describing his wife’s behavior at the time as "erratic, reckless, nonsensical, [and] destructive," he told his flock that he "sat through two years of grueling therapy with her to no avail."

The Carpenters moved to San Jose, California, last year and were officially installed as the new pastors of the 14,000-member Jubilee Christian Center, now rebranded as Redemption. They passed on the reins of their South Carolina church, which they founded in 1991, to the Grays.

Hope Carpenter insisted in her message on Sunday at Relentless Church that she survived by “holding fast” to her confession of faith and encouraged the church to do the same.

Related story: Washington Post, ‘I cut people,’ a megachurch pastor warned as she preached. Her target? The local newspaper, Michael Brice-Saddler​, April 2, 2019. The apparent threat toward the Greenville News came after the South Carolina newspaper published stories about the pastors of Relentless Church.

 

March

March 30

ny times logoNew York Times, How Alex Jones and Infowars Helped a Florida Man Stalk Sandy Hook Families, Elizabeth Williamson, March 29, 2019. Mr. Jones and Infowars gave Wolfgang Halbig airtime, a camera crew and help raising money to harass Sandy Hook shooting victims’ parents. In the world of conspiracy theorists, Alex Jones and Wolfgang Halbig fueled each other’s darkest tendencies.

alex jones headshotSoon after the Dec. 14, 2012, mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Mr. Jones, the right-wing provocateur, began spreading outlandish theories that the killing of 20 first graders and six educators was staged by the government and victims’ families as part of an elaborate plot to confiscate Americans’ firearms.

Many of the most noxious claims originated in the mind of Mr. Halbig, a retired Florida public school official who became fixated on what he called “this supposed tragedy” at Sandy Hook. Court records and a previously unreleased deposition given by Mr. Jones in one of a set of defamation lawsuits brought against him by the families of 10 Sandy Hook victims show how he and Mr. Halbig used each other to pursue their obsession and promote it across the internet.

Over several years, Mr. Jones gave Mr. Halbig’s views an audience by inviting him to be a guest on Infowars, his radio and online show. Infowars gave Mr. Halbig a camera crew and a platform for fund-raising, even as Mr. Halbig repeatedly visited Newtown, demanding thousands of pages of public records, including photos of the murder scene, the children’s bodies and receipts for the cleanup of “bodily fluids, brain matter, skull fragments and around 45 to 60 gallons of blood.”

Given practical support and visibility by Mr. Jones, Mr. Halbig hounded families of the victims and other residents of Newtown, and promoted a baseless tale that Avielle Richman, a first grader killed at Sandy Hook, was still alive.

The deposition and its details about Mr. Jones’s operation and his interactions with Mr. Halbig were made public on Friday, days after Avielle Richman’s father, Jeremy Richman, killed himself in Newtown’s Edmond Town Hall, where Avielle Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to brain science that the family established in their daughter’s name, had an office.

March 28

Media Self-Censorship On 9-11

9 11 courthouse news suppresses court filing march 27 2019

AE911Truth.org, Opinion: Courthouse News yanks article for its woefully fair and accurate coverage of 9/11 lawsuit, Ted Walter, March 28, 2019. If you had to pick one example to best encapsulate the mainstream media bias and censorship that have contributed significantly to suppressing the truth about 9/11 for nearly two decades, it would have to be the extraordinary actions of Courthouse News Service earlier this week.

The first extraordinary action came on March 26, 2019, when Courthouse News published the article “FBI Accused of Omitting Evidence From 9/11 Report,” which — to the astonishment of many — offered fair coverage of the lawsuit filed one day earlier by the Lawyers’ Committee for 9/11 Inquiry, Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, and 9/11 family member Bob McIlvaine.

March 27

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, ‘Tricky Dick’: Behind the Prevailing Myth, There’s Another Story, Staff Report, March 27, 2019. A new CNN four-part original series on the fall of President richard nixon portraitRichard M. Nixon — Tricky Dick — had its premiere March 17. Its makers promise “fresh insight into a riveting story of politics, power and scandal.”

Frankly, we doubt it. While we believe that most journalists do their level best to tell the truth as they understand it, major news organizations have tended to be corporations participating in the creation of a consensus narrative. It has been the case regardless of topic, and it was no different with the stories we are told about Richard Nixon and his downfall.

The story everyone heard was the one we all remember: Nixon (right) was a bad guy who committed a range of abuses, and paid the price. The heroes were the media and Congress. Russ Baker, founder of WhoWhatWhy, grew up believing that story. He believed it until his own research proved russ bakerotherwise: that Richard Nixon, for all his flaws, was not the architect of Watergate, but the victim of it.

And then Baker, left, stuck to his guns, telling a story that unsettled him deeply but was what he had uncovered. Because that is what an honest journalist does. It is what WhoWhatWhy does.

CNN will tell us a story that is entirely consistent with the prevailing myth, perhaps because its journalists only know the conventional story, but also perhaps in part because it is extremely risky — financially, professionally, in every respect — to break from the crowd.

To learn something with much more “fresh insight” than you will find in Tricky Dick, read on.

ken silversteinWashington Babylon, Investigative Commentary: Is The Intercept An Intelligence Operation? An Ongoing Inquiry, Ken Silverstein (right), March 28, 2019. Washington Babylon has been running a number of stories this week by Tim Shorrock and I which raise the possibility — mine did directly — that Pierre Omidyar’s The Intercept (TI) is an intelligence operation, working in collaboration with the U.S. and/or a foreign government. I understand why some readers might be skeptical of that charge, so let me lay out here some additional information and why I think everyone should be open-minded about the topic.

Let me also say that I don’t have 100 percent proof that TI was and is an intelligence operation, but the preponderance of evidence points that way. And I’m accumulating more evidence every day that makes the case even more compelling.

Before going further, here is a brief, lightly edited excerpt from the first story I ran on this topic. I urge all genuinely interested parties to read the entire story, before or after finishing this one.

Did Omidyar set up The Intercept on behalf of U.S. intelligence, in order to entrap, expose and prosecute whistleblowers? It’s curious: Greenwald was Omidyar’s first hire and he had pretty much exclusive access to Edward Snowden’s NSA treasure trove. When I worked at TI, the Snowden archive was locked in a safe. Omidyar and Greenwald long promised they would make it all available to the public but they never did, and last week, amid staff cuts that will inevitably lead to Omidyar killing the publication, TI announced that the Snowden archive will be sealed off from the public for an undetermined amount of time. So it looks like the most explosive leak in U.S. intelligence history will end up being buried by Omidyar and Greenwald.

I briefly noted in that story that I had previously worked at TI, being one of the first hires in 2014. I quit in disgust in early 2015 and wrote about my experience for Politico.

Back then, I didn’t suspect anything nefarious. I merely thought TI was experiencing a lot of the same problems any web start up would face. I remember joking with colleagues that by hiring so many left-leaning writers and paying them so much money to effectively not write — my two best stories for TI ended up in VICE — Omidyar had effectively decommissioned half of progressive journalism in the country. (Recall here Omidyar is a tech oligarch with rich ties to Silicon Valley, which in turn has deep links to U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies.)

But looking back, I have to wonder: was it merely incompetence and standard problems faced by start ups that kept TI from publishing much, or was it something worse?

March 21

Hypocrisy In High Places?

new yorker logoThe New Yorker, The Reckoning of Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center, Bob Moser, March 21, 2019. The firing of Morris Dees, the co-founder of the S.P.L.C., has flushed up uncomfortable questions that have surrounded the organization for years.

morris dees speaker bureauIn the days since the stunning dismissal of Morris Dees (shown in a file photo from his speaker's bureau), the co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, on March 14th, I’ve been thinking about the jokes my S.P.L.C. colleagues and I used to tell to keep ourselves sane. During my first few weeks, a friendly new co-worker couldn’t help laughing at my bewilderment. “Well, honey, welcome to the Poverty Palace,” she said. “I can guaran-damn-tee that you will never step foot in a more contradictory place as long as you live.”

“Everything feels so out of whack,” I said. “Where are the lawyers? Where’s the diversity? What in God’s name is going on here?”

“And you call yourself a journalist!” she said, laughing again. “Clearly you didn’t do your research.”

In the decade or so before I’d arrived, the center’s reputation as a beacon of justice had taken some hits from reporters who’d peered behind the façade. In 1995, the Montgomery Advertiser had been a Pulitzer finalist for a series that documented, among other things, staffers’ allegations of racial discrimination within the organization. In Harper’s, Ken Silverstein had revealed that the center had accumulated an endowment topping a hundred and twenty million dollars while paying lavish salaries to its highest-ranking staffers and spending far less than most nonprofit groups on the work that it claimed to do.

The work could be meaningful and gratifying. But it was hard, for many of us, not to feel like we’d become pawns in what was, in many respects, a highly profitable scam.

For the many former staffers who have come and gone through the center’s doors—I left in 2004—the queasy feelings came rushing back last week, when the news broke that Dees, now eighty-two, had been fired. The official statement sent by Cohen, who took control of the S.P.L.C. in 2003, didn’t specify why Dees had been dismissed, but it contained some broad hints. “We’re committed to ensuring that our workplace embodies the values we espouse—truth, justice, equity, and inclusion,” Cohen wrote. “When one of our own fails to meet those standards, no matter his or her role in the organization, we take it seriously and must take appropriate action.” Dees’s profile was immediately erased from the S.P.L.C.’s Web site—amazing, considering that he had remained, to the end, the main face and voice of the center, his signature on most of the direct-mail appeals that didn’t come from celebrity supporters, such as the author Toni Morrison.

david pecker cnn screenshot

Trump family friend David Pecker, chairman of American Media, Inc. (AMI), parent company of the National Enquirer (screenshot from CNN)

Palmer Report, Opinion: National Enquirer sells out Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, March 21, 2019. The National Enquirer, its parent company AMI, and its boss David Pecker just keep finding their way in and out of legal trouble in relation to Donald Trump’s scandals. Now the Enquirer gang has decided to sell Trump out in the hope of keeping itself out of even more legal trouble.

bill palmer report logo headerWe already saw Pecker and the National Enquirer sell Donald Trump and Michael Cohen out to the SDNY in return for immunity. But then Pecker blew his immunity when he got caught trying to blackmail Trump’s longtime nemesis Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and now Pecker is in real danger of facing serious criminal charges. So he’s selling Trump out yet again.

Pecker and AMI have agreed to turn over Trump-related documents to the House Judiciary Committee, according to CBS News. Based on the nature of the document request, these are ostensibly the same documents that they’ve already turned over to the SDNY. So this won’t necessarily further incriminate Trump, but it will serve to publicly incriminate Trump, as the committee will turn around and use these documents as part of its public hearings on Trump’s crimes.

twitter bird CustomConsortium News, After Pressure on Twitter, Christine Assange’s Account is Restored, Joe Lauria, March 21, 2019. The Twitter account of Julian Assange’s mother was restored on Wednesday night after her supporters sent a flood of messages to Twitter.

March 20

U.S. Restrictions On Press

Reporters Without Borders, US – State Department bars press corps from Pompeo briefing, Staff report, March 20, 2019. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is concerned that the US State Department only allowed “faith-based” media to attend a press briefing with state dept map logo Smallthe Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, excluding mainstream press and from the meeting in an unusual move. State Department activities are of immense public interest, and press corps access to those activities must not be restricted.

The State Department allowed only faith-based media to report on a March 18 press call with Pompeo, excluding the mainstream press and wire services. Ahead of Secretary Pompeo’s trip to the Middle East, the briefing call was planned to discuss international religious freedom. Only one member of the State Department’s press corps was invited to join the call, only to be uninvited after attempting to mike pompeo portraitRSVP. The State Department did not release the list of press attendees or publish a transcript of the briefing as it typically would.

“This denial of access is one of a number of moves by government officials that restrict the public’s right to know the actions of its government,” said Sabine Dolan, Interim Executive Director for RSF’s North America bureau. “Ensuring that faith-based media are present for such conversations should not come at the expense of traditional media. RSF calls on the State Department, and all government agencies, to ensure that a diverse range of media can cover their activities.”

The United States ranks 45th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

Other Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook agrees to overhaul targeted advertising system for job, housing and loan ads after discrimination complaints, Tracy Jan and Elizabeth Dwoskin, March 20, 2019 (print ed.). Facebook on Tuesday agreed to overhaul its facebook logolucrative targeted advertising system to settle accusations that landlords, lenders and employers use the platform to discriminate, a significant shift for a company that built a business empire on selling personal data.

The settlement compels Facebook to withhold a wide array of detailed demographic information — including gender, age and Zip codes, which are often used as indicators of race — from advertisers when they market housing, credit and job opportunities.

washington post logogoogle logo customWashington Post, Google fined nearly $1.7 billion for violating European antitrust laws, Tony Romm​, March 20, 2019. The fine marks the third time in as many years that European watchdogs have penalized the U.S. tech giant for harming competition and consumers.

Consortium News, Twitter Restricts Account of Julian Assange’s Mother, Joe Lauria, March 19, 2019. The social media giant has given no reason to Christine Assange who had turned to Twitter to campaign for the liberty of her son.

twitter bird CustomThe Twitter account of Christine Assange, the mother of the arbitrarily detained founder of WikiLeaks, has been restricted, she told Consortium News on Tuesday.

In the past ten days, Ms. Assange tweeted direct replies to Hillary Clinton and John Bolton, the U.S. national security adviser. Bolton had tweeted on March 9: “US military should use #Wikileaks for cyber warfare target practice. Take down their capabilities & prevent further harm to nat’l security.”

Twitter uses algorithms unknown to the public to remove, block, suspend or restrict accounts of its users. Like other social media companies, Twitter has come under intense U.S. congressional pressure to censor accounts deemed hostile to U.S. interests.

ny times logoNew York Times, Giant Military Contract Has a Hitch: A Little-Known Entrepreneur, Karen Weise and Thomas Kaplan, March 20, 2019. Deap Ubhi is a restless guy. At 26, he quit his job in private equity in Northern California, where he had grown up and gone to college, and then moved to India to found Burrp!, a local search site similar to Yelp. He sold the company in 2009 and along with other alums became what they called the Burrp! mafia, seeding and growing other start-ups in India.

amazon logo small

After returning to the West Coast, he joined Amazon in 2014 to encourage start-ups to adopt the company’s cloud-computing products. But in less than two years, Mr. Ubhi left to start a company that provided technology to restaurants, inspired by his family’s experience running an Indian-Jamaican-Mexican fusion joint.

He then shifted his career in a new direction, taking his Silicon Valley mentality to the heart of the Washington bureaucracy. .

But that circuitous career has landed Mr. Ubhi, now 39, in the center of a Washington drama. The question of what roles he played inside the Pentagon, and when, is holding up one of the largest federal information technology contracts in history. It is a scuffle with an unusual mixture of tech industry rivalries, national politics and the obscure world of government procurement.

dod sealThe project, a $10 billion deal to bring modern cloud computing to the Pentagon’s arsenal, drew the attention of the biggest tech companies from the moment it was announced in 2017. Amazon, Microsoft, Google, IBM and Oracle all wanted the prize.

But it had a hitch: The contract would go to only one cloud vendor, even though many big companies prefer to work with multiple cloud providers. Amazon, the runaway leader in cloud computing, appeared to be perhaps the only company capable of fulfilling the Pentagon’s huge demands. And that is where Mr. Ubhi’s connections to the company, where he now works again, have thrown a wrench into the process.

The software giant Oracle, which is widely considered ill equipped to land the deal, has aggressively criticized the one-vendor approach. As part of its opposition, the company is arguing in federal court that Mr. Ubhi’s ties to Amazon shaped the contract in the company’s favor.

Media / Politics / Defamation

washington post logodevin nunes grimacingWashington Post, Analysis: Devin Nunes is suing Twitter and a satirical cow over mean tweets. Does he have a case? Deanna Paul, March 20, 2019 (print ed.). At least one expert believes the California congressman, right, could be laying the groundwork for the Supreme Court to reconsider defamation of public officials and overturn a statute passed by Congress.

March 17

 washington post logoWashington Post, Trump lashes out after Fox News bumps ‘Judge Jeanine’ following remarks on Muslim congresswoman, Reis Thebault​, March 17, 2019. The network publicly condemned host Jeanine Pirro’s on-air suggestion that Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) did not support the U.S. Constitution because she is Muslim and wears a hijab.

jeanine pirro twitter photoTrump accused Pirro’s critics of waging “all out campaigns” against Pirro (shown in her Twitter photo) and fellow Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who was widely rebuked after decade-old racist, misogynistic and homophobic comments resurfaced last week. Both of their comments prompted some advertisers to boycott the shows.

“Stop working soooo hard on being politically correct, which will only bring you down,” Trump said in another tweet, before issuing a curiously dire warning to “Be strong & prosper, be weak & die!”

fcc logoIn yet another post, Trump urged his 59 million followers to “Keep fighting for Tucker, and fight hard for @JudgeJeanine."

Trump mounted his defense hours after he threatened “Saturday Night Live” and other late-night comedy shows that have made the president a frequent punchline. On Twitter, he asked whether the Federal Communications Commission and, for some reason, the Federal Election Commission should “look into” the programs for “knocking the same person (me), over & over, without so much of a mention of ‘the other side.’ ”

March 16

donald trump apprentice color nbc

Donald Trump from a publicity photo for his TV show "The Apprentice" (NBC TV).

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: ‘The President … Is Not Above the Law,’ Editorial Board, March 16, 2019. A New York court rules that the Constitution does not shield President Trump from allegations of misconduct before he took office. The legal travails of President Bill Clinton may soon haunt President Trump. A New York appeals court on Thursday ruled that Mr. Trump, like Mr. Clinton before him, is not protected by the presidency from answering civil charges.

The five-judge panel in Manhattan said that the Constitution’s supremacy clause does not bar state courts from hearing claims over “alleged unofficial misconduct” — that is, claims of improper or illegal action before a president took office.

The decision expands on the precedent set in Clinton v. Jones, in which a unanimous Supreme Court in 1997 ruled that a federal court had jurisdiction over a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Paula Jones, a former low-level Arkansas state employee, against Mr. Clinton.

Yes, the presidency is important and its occupant may have important duties to attend to other than to produce documents or sit for depositions in a civil suit alleging sexual misconduct and defamation, the court explained, but “the President is still a person, and he is not summer zervosabove the law.”

Two judges dissented, observing that the threat of contempt, should Mr. Trump resist the legal process, would put a state court in “direct control” over the president.

A former contestant on Mr. Trump’s reality TV show “The Apprentice,” Summer Zervos (shown at right) went public during the 2016 campaign with accusations that Mr. Trump kissed and groped her without her consent. She is suing the president for defaming her shortly after she came forward, calling her charges a “hoax.” She filed her suit days before Mr. Trump took the oath of office.

fox news logo SmallPalmer Report, Opinion: Fox News pulls Judge Jeanine Pirro off the air after racist tirade, Bill Palmer, March 16, 2019. Last week “Judge” Jeanine Pirro launched into such a stunningly racist attack against Congresswoman Ilhan Omar in particular, and against Muslim Americans in bill palmer report logo headergeneral, it was jarring even by Fox News standards. Fox quickly released a statement distancing itself from Pirro’s tirade. Now she’s gone missing from the air altogether.

Jeanine Pirro’s show has been pulled off the air tonight, in favor of a rerun of some other Fox News program. The decision was apparently made at the last minute, as Variety managed to suss out that Fox had been running advertisements for a new Pirro episode as recently as a few days ago. So what’s really going on here?

March 15

Los Angeles Times, Congress requests former Fox News reporter’s notebooks regarding Trump’s hush money, Stacy Perman, March 15, 2019 fox news logo Small(print ed.). Congress requests former Fox News reporter’s notebooks regarding Trump’s hush money.Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, chairman of the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Reform, on Wednesday requested former Fox News reporter Diana Falzone turn over all documents relating to her reporting on President Trump’s “debts and payments to silence women alleging extramarital affairs with him prior to the 2016 presidential election.”

djt stormy daniels 2006The request comes a week after the New Yorker published an investigation on Fox News that disclosed Falzone had reported an article about Trump making hush payments to porn star Stormy Daniels (shown with Trump) prior to the 2016 presidential election in order to keep her quiet about their alleged affair. According to the New Yorker, Fox killed the story because Rupert Murdoch, chairman of Twenty-First Century Fox, wanted Trump to win the election.

Ken LaCorte, Falzone’s editor at Fox, published a response in Mediate disputing her version of events, saying the piece didn’t meet journalistic standards and was not killed because of any political agenda.

Falzone, who has since left Fox, sued the company for gender and disability discrimination in May 2017. However, as part of her settlement, she signed a nondisclosure agreement and has not been able to rebut LaCorte’s claims or any matter arising out of her time at Fox.

March 14

washington post logoWashington Post, Tucker Carlson says he’s the victim of a powerful bully. Meet the 24-year-old who found the tapes, Eli Rosenberg​, March 14, 2019. In reality, credit goes to Madeline Peltz, a 20-something in her first adult job who lives in the basement of a D.C. house she rents fox news logo Smallwith five other people, a few cats and a dog named Noodles.

Madeline Peltz works the night shift at the liberal media watchdog group Media Matters for America. Given the timing of that particular shift, one of her main responsibilities is watching Tucker Carlson’s 8 p.m. show on Fox News.

And she’s watched a lot of Tucker Carlson (shown at left in file photos with President Trump).

tucker carlson djtCarlson has been in the public eye for some 20 years — first as a print journalist, then a television commentator, founder of the conservative site the Daily Caller, and now, Fox News host, with a prime-time slot and a salary in the millions. But people have been confused by Carlson’s tone on Fox since he took over for Bill O’Reilly in 2018, noting concern about diversity and demographics in his show.

After many Carlson-watching hours, the 24-year-old researcher developed a working theory, which she outlined on the nonprofit’s website: that Carlson is using his platform on Fox News to introduce white-nationalist ideas to the mainstream, making him a uniquely prominent “mouthpiece for white supremacy.”

Critics Of Mueller, Defenders of Assange

Consortium News, Opinion: VIPS: Mueller’s Forensics-Free Findings, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), March 13, 2019. The final Mueller report should be graded “incomplete,” says VIPS, whose forensic work proves the speciousness of the story that DNC emails published by WikiLeaks came from Russian hacking.

We veteran intelligence professionals have done enough detailed forensic work to prove the speciousness of the prevailing story that the DNC emails published by WikiLeaks came from Russian hacking. Given the paucity of evidence to support that story, we believe Mueller may choose to finesse this key issue and leave everyone hanging. That would help sustain the widespread belief that Trump owes his victory to President Vladimir Putin, and strengthen the hand of those who pay little heed to the unpredictable consequences of an increase in tensions with nuclear-armed Russia.

There is an overabundance of “assessments” but a lack of hard evidence to support that prevailing narrative. We believe that there are enough people of integrity in the Department of Justice to prevent the outright manufacture or distortion of “evidence,” particularly if they become aware that experienced scientists have completed independent forensic study that yield very different conclusions. We know only too well — and did our best to expose — how our former colleagues in the intelligence community manufactured fraudulent “evidence” of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

We have scrutinized publicly available physical data — the “trail” that every cyber operation leaves behind. And we have had support from highly experienced independent forensic investigators who, like us, have no axes to grind. We can prove that the conventional-wisdom story about Russian-hacking-DNC-emails-for-WikiLeaks is false. Drawing largely on the unique expertise of two VIPS scientists who worked for a combined total of 70 years at the National Security Agency and became Technical Directors there, we have regularly published our findings. But we have been deprived of a hearing in mainstream media — an experience painfully reminiscent of what we had to endure when we exposed the corruption of intelligence before the attack on Iraq 16 years ago.

This time, with the principles of physics and forensic science to rely on, we are able to adduce solid evidence exposing mistakes and distortions in the dominant story. We offer you below — as a kind of aide-memoire— a discussion of some of the key factors related to what has become known as “Russia-gate.” And we include our most recent findings drawn from forensic work on data associated with WikiLeaks’ publication of the DNC emails.

We do not claim our conclusions are “irrefutable and undeniable,” a la Colin Powell at the UN before the Iraq war. Our judgments, however, are based on the scientific method — not “assessments.” We decided to put this memorandum together in hopes of ensuring that you hear that directly from us.

If the Mueller team remains reluctant to review our work — or even to interview willing witnesses with direct knowledge, like WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange and former UK Ambassador Craig Murray, we fear that many of those yearning earnestly for the truth on Russia-gate will come to the corrosive conclusion that the Mueller investigation was a sham.

In sum, we are concerned that, at this point, an incomplete Mueller report will fall far short of the commitment made by then Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein “to ensure a full and thorough investigation,” when he appointed Mueller in May 2017. Again, we are at your disposal.

Discussion

The centerpiece accusation of Kremlin “interference” in the 2016 presidential election was the charge that Russia hacked Democratic National Committee emails and gave them to WikiLeaks to embarrass Secretary Hillary Clinton and help Mr. Trump win. The weeks following the election witnessed multiple leak-based media allegations to that effect. These culminated on January 6, 2017 in an evidence-light, rump report misleadingly labeled “Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA).” Prepared by “handpicked analysts” from only three of the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies (CIA, FBI, and NSA), the assessment expressed “high confidence” in the Russia-hacking-to-WikiLeaks story, but lacked so much as a hint that the authors had sought access to independent forensics to support their “assessment.”

Given the stakes involved in the Russia-gate investigation – including a possible impeachment battle and greatly increased tension between Russia and the U.S. — it is difficult to understand why Comey did not move quickly to seize the computer hardware so the FBI could perform an independent examination of what quickly became the major predicate for investigating election interference by Russia. Fortunately, enough data remain on the forensic “trail” to arrive at evidence-anchored conclusions. The work we have done shows the prevailing narrative to be false. We have been suggesting this for over two years. Recent forensic work significantly strengthens that conclusion.

March 12

ny times logofox news logo SmallNew York Times, Fox News, After Rebuking Jeanine Pirro, Faces Another Uproar Over Tucker Carlson, Michael M. Grynbaum, March 12, 2019 (print ed.). The network condemned Ms. Pirro for suggesting that a Muslim lawmaker’s religious beliefs were anti-American. Mr. Carlson, another Fox host, is also under fire after the surfacing of offensive comments.

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Deportation Looms for Mexican Journalist Seeking Asylum, Celia Wexler, March 12, 2019. Over the past 11 years, Emilio Gutierrez has been on a roller coaster — detained two times and threatened with deportation, then given reprieves.

Mueller Report

ny times logoNew York Times, Mueller Report Has Washington Spinning (and It’s Not Even Filed), Staff report, March 12, 2019 (print ed.). The capital is jittery and full of rumor as it awaits the report of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, on Russian interference and President Trump.  It may or may not be the report of the century, it may or may not be ready soon, and it may be only a few pages. But it is definitely highly anticipated.

March 10

Associated Press via OregonLive.com, Cutbacks in local news leave some communities in the dark, March 10, 2019. With the 2018 shutdown of ap logothe Daily Guide in St. Robert, Mo., the area in central Missouri's Ozark hills joined more than 1,400 other cities across the United States to lose a newspaper over the past 15 years, according to an Associated Press analysis of data compiled by the University North Carolina.

Waynesville, Mo. — Five minutes late, Darrell Todd Maurina sweeps into a meeting room and plugs in his laptop computer. He places a Wi-Fi hotspot on the table and turns on a digital recorder. The earplug in his left ear is attached to a police scanner in his pants pocket.

He wears a tie; Maurina insists upon professionalism. He is the press — in its entirety.

Maurina, who posts his work to Facebook, is the only person who has come to the Pulaski County courthouse to tell residents what their commissioners are up to, the only one who will report on their deliberations — specifically, their discussions about how to satisfy the Federal Emergency Management Agency so it will pay to repair a road inundated during a 2013 flood.

Last September, Waynesville became a statistic. With the shutdown of its newspaper, the Daily Guide, this town of 5,200 people in central Missouri's Ozark hills joined more than 1,400 other cities and towns across the U.S. to lose a newspaper over the past 15 years, according to an Associated Press analysis of data compiled by the University of North Carolina.

Blame revenue siphoned by online competition, cost-cutting ownership, a death spiral in quality, sheer disinterest among readers or reasons peculiar to given locales for that development. While national outlets worry about a president who calls the press an enemy of the people, many Americans no longer have someone watching the city council for them, chronicling the soccer exploits of their children or reporting on the kindly neighbor who died of cancer.

Local journalism is dying in plain sight.

ny times logoNew York Times, Footage Contradicts U.S. Claim That Maduro Burned Aid Convoy, Nicholas Casey, Christoph Koettl and Deborah Acosta, March 10, 2019. Unpublished footage obtained by The Times and previously released tapes allowed for a reconstruction of the incident. It suggests that a Molotov cocktail thrown by an antigovernment protester was the most likely trigger for the blaze.

nicolas maduro customThe narrative seemed to fit Venezuela’s authoritarian rule: Security forces, on the order of President Nicolás Maduro, right, had torched a convoy of humanitarian aid as millions in his country were suffering from illness and hunger.

Vice President Mike Pence wrote that “the tyrant in Caracas danced” as his henchmen “burned food & medicine.” The State Department released a video saying Mr. Maduro had ordered the trucks burned. And Venezuela’s opposition held up the images of the burning aid, reproduced on dozens of news sites and television screens throughout Latin America, as evidence of Mr. Maduro’s cruelty.

But there is a problem: The opposition itself, not Mr. Maduro’s men, appears to have set the cargo alight accidentally.

March 9

washington post logoWashington Post, sarah isgur graphicA controversial CNN hire has a change of heart; she’ll be an analyst, not a politics editor, Paul Farhi, March 9, 2019 (print ed.). Sarah Isgur, right, a prominent conservative with ties to the Trump administration, was all set to become one of the cable network’s political editors, a job in which she would help direct coverage of the Democratic primaries and Trump’s reelection campaign.

But CNN and Isgur appear to have had a slight change of plans. Isgur, until recently the chief spokeswoman for the Department of Justice, cnn logoannounced Friday on Twitter that she would still be joining CNN, but that she won’t be doing so as a political editor. She’ll be a political analyst only, offering commentary but having no direct role in coverage decisions.

Isgur’s hiring touched off criticism inside and outside CNN when it was announced three weeks ago. The decision was rnc logounusual for several reasons: Isgur has no journalism experience as well as none managing a TV news operation. She has instead spent much of her professional life as a Republican advocate; her résumé includes stints working on behalf of such candidates as Mitt Romney, Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina, and for the Republican National Committee.

She also reportedly pledged her loyalty to President Trump to land her job in his administration as a spokeswoman for attorney general Jeff Sessions, whom Trump forced to resign in November.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: It’s time — high time — to take Fox News’s destructive role in America seriously, Margaret Sullivan, March 9, margaret sullivan 2015 photo2019 (print ed.). Chris Wallace is an exceptional interviewer, and Shepard Smith and Bret Baier are reality-based news anchors.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the overall problem of Fox News, which started out with bad intentions in 1996 and has swiftly devolved into what often amounts to a propaganda network for a dishonest president and his allies.

fox news logo SmallThe network, which attracts more viewers than its two major competitors, specializes in fearmongering and unrelenting alarmism. Remember “the caravan”?

At crucial times, it does not observe basic standards of journalistic practice: as with its eventually retracted, false reporting in 2017 on Seth Rich, which fueled conspiracy theories that Hillary Clinton had the former Democratic National Committee staffer killed because he was a source of campaign leaks.

ny times logoNew York Times, On CBS, R. Kelly Was Trapped in the Camera Eye, James Poniewozik, March 9, 2019 (print ed.). Gayle King’s explosive r kelly twitterinterview with the R&B singer (shown on his Twitter feed), accused of preying on women and girls, pitted fire against ice cool, our critic writes.

“Is this camera on me?” R. Kelly’s line, in the midst of his 80-minute interview with CBS’s Gayle King about his charges of sexual abuse, was the opening lyric of one of the most bizarre and unhinged performances of the R&B singer’s career.

He shrieked into the camera: “You’re killing me, man!” He smacked his fist into his palm. He beat his chest. He paced gayle king 2010 time 100 shankbone wand stabbed the air and seemed as if he might lose physical control. (Ms. King (shown in a file photo) later said that she didn’t worry that the singer would harm her, but she thought that “I might get accidentally clobbered.”)

The obvious question, after Mr. Kelly’s Tuesday meltdown replayed for days, finally becoming a CBS prime time special Friday night, was: Why would he agree to this? How could he imagine this might possibly help him?

Earlier this year, the Lifetime docu-series “Surviving R. Kelly,” which laid out an extensive case that Mr. Kelly preyed upon women and underage girls, showed how he used the intimate investment of fandom to escape consequences. (Mr. Kelly has denied all sexual abuse allegations.)

But a network-TV interview while you’re facing criminal charges is not the same as performing a tribute ballad at Whitney Houston’s funeral. (Last month in Chicago Mr. Kelly was charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse; he has pleaded not guilty.)

The raging, self-pitying R. Kelly on this stage only recalled the threatening, controlling R. Kelly described in “Surviving,” which CBS’s special drew heavily on (including an interview with its producer Dream Hampton).

Palmer Report, Fact Check: Why is Amazon already selling the Robert Mueller report? Bill Palmer, March 9, 2019. This month two different books amazon logo smallcalled “The Mueller Report” have become available for preorder on the Amazon.com website. One is being offered by the Washington Post, and the other claims to be from Robert Mueller while boasting of an introduction from Alan Dershowitz. Both books claim a release date of March 26th, 2019. Meanwhile, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has made no indication of when or how his report will be released. So what’s really going on here?

bill palmer report logo headerHere are the facts. No one, outside of Robert Mueller and his team, has any specific knowledge about when his report will be issued. These two “books” are merely empty templates that have been put up for preorder, with best guesses for release dates. They each plan to take the publicly available version of Mueller’s report that you’ll be able to get anywhere else for free, stuff it into a book, add some custom material, and charge you money.

The version being offered by the Washington Post says it’ll include “related materials” from the newspaper. Fair enough; you’re paying to get the Post’s analysis of the Mueller report, once the report surfaces. Considering the solid investigative research that the Post has done into Donald Trump’s various criminal scandals over the past few years, this analysis could prove to be useful.

alan dershowitz2The other version misleadingly lists “Robert S. Mueller III” as the author but is actually being offered by Skyhorse publishing, which has previously published pro-Trump books from Alan Dershowitz, including The Case Against Impeaching Trump. For this new book, the “introduction” from Dershowitz (right) will likely be something more akin to a rebuttal of the Mueller report. Unless you’re a Trump supporter and you want to read Dershowitz defending his ally Trump while attacking Mueller, ordering this version would be a complete waste of money.

In any case, neither of these books has any actual connection to Robert Mueller.

March 8

Daily Beast, Bill Shine Lasted Only 8 Months as Trump’s Comms Czar, Asawin Suebsaeng, Andrew Kirell and Audrey McNamara, March 8, 2019. Despite daily beast logoamicable statements, sources told The Daily Beast that Trump was unhappy with Shine’s work; and Shine was unhappy with the stress of trying to please Trump. White House communications chief Bill Shine resigned from his position Thursday, after only eight months, and will serve as a “senior adviser” on President Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign.

bill shine“Serving President Trump and this country has been the most rewarding experience of my entire life,” Shine said in a statement. “To be a small part of all this president has done for the American people has truly been an honor. I’m looking forward to working on President Trump’s re-election campaign and spending more time with my family.” Trump echoed Shine’s comments in his own statement.

But behind the amicable statements, sources said, there lies the usual discontent between both parties.

One former Fox executive told The Daily Beast that Trump had complained in recent months about Shine’s seeming inability to get more positive press coverage for his administration. “Trump loves a yes-man,” the source said, “but he loves good press more.”

The former exec added: “He feels he was sold a bill of goods by Hannity,” referring to how Shine was introduced to the president via the Fox News primetime star who has long acted as an unofficial Trump adviser. “But Trump needs Hannity and so he will never attack him publicly.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Senator Elizabeth Warren is set to announce a regulatory plan aimed at breaking up tech giants, Astead W. Herndon, March 8, 2019. Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat who is bidding to be the policy pacesetter in the Democratic presidential primary, announced elizabeth warren cfpbanother expansive idea on Friday: a regulatory plan aimed at breaking up some of America’s largest tech companies, including Amazon, Google Apple, and Facebook.

The proposal — which comes on the same day Ms. Warren (right) will hold a rally in Long Island City, the Queens neighborhood that was to be home to a major new Amazon campus — calls for the appointment of regulators who would “unwind tech mergers that illegally undermine competition,” as well as legislation that would prohibit platforms from both offering a marketplace for commerce and participating in that marketplace.

March 6

fox news logo Smallwashington post logoWashington Post, DNC rejects Fox News for debates, cites report suggesting network is ‘propaganda’ for Trump, Paul Farhi, March 6, 2019. The Democratic National Committee said an article in the New Yorker showed an “inappropriate relationship” between President Trump and the network.

washington post logoWashington Post, With public trust at record lows, Facebook seeks to shift to private communications, Elizabeth Dwoskin​, facebook logoMarch 6, 2019. The new focus on encryption could cause an upheaval in Facebook’s business model of mining people’s information to show them ads.

The firm’s focus will shift from a social network in which people broadcast information to large groups of people to one in which people communicate with smaller groups and their content disappears after a short period.

The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) DC is joining organizations across the country in marking Sunshine Week, an annual initiative to promote the importance of open government and access to public information. Sunshine Week 2019  is March 10-16 and we encourage you to participate in any of these free programs, to which our chapter has been invited:

-- Tuesday, March 12: Open Government Summit https://www.dcogc.org/content/dc-open-government-summit-march-12, led by the D.C. Open Government Coalition; 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. American Bar Association, 1050 Connecticut Ave. NW, 5th floor, Washington, D.C.

The summit will feature a panel of D.C. teachers who are leading the movement for access to records in charter schools, and a panel of Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners who will discuss the importance of using DC FOIA to uncover information valuable to their decision-making.

Please register by MARCH 7 for this free of charge event to be allowed in. Click to email Saideh Ezzatebaghani here

-- Tuesday, March 12: Assaults on Science in the Trump Era, co-sponsored by the Government Accountability Project, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Sunlight Foundation; 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., OpenGov Hub, 1100 Vermont Ave. NW., Suite 500, Washington, D.C.

Featured speakers include Lisa Friedman, climate change and energy reporter, The New York Times, and Emily Holden, environment reporter, The Guardian.

Dana Gold, senior counsel and director of education for the Government Accountability Project, will discuss the role of science whistleblowers in transparency and accountability efforts. Rachel Bergman, Web Integrity Project director at the Sunlight Foundation, will discuss a new Website Tracker Tool used to help track shifts in public information.

It's free of charge. To register for this event, click here.

** HURRY, this Sunshine Week preview event is Friday morning, March 8: **

Sunshine Week Preview this week:

-- Friday, March 8: National Freedom of Information Day Conference; 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.

Keynote speaker is Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who is chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

To register for the free event, click here. Registration is required.

OTHER EVENTS NEXT WEEK

-- Monday, March 11: Department of Justice Sunshine Week Kickoff Event from the Office of Information Policy. 10 a.m. to noon, Great Hall, 950 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. Keynote address by the Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General of the United States, as well as the Department’s annual Sunshine Week FOIA Awards Ceremony to honor and celebrate the work of dedicated FOIA professionals across the government.

-- Monday, March 11: National Press Club panel on How to Find and Use Climate Data That Readers Can Trust; 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., 529 14th Street NW (13th floor, Murrow Room). The event, sponsored by the NPC's Freedom of the Press Committee and the National Press Club Journalism Institute, features a panel of climate science journalists and climate policy researchers.
Learn:

• What quality government/academic/privately produced data sets are available to reporters and how to access the data
• How to interrogate scientific data sets, particularly what to look for and red flags if you don't have a data journalism background
• How to evaluate the independence of the scientists/experts they are interviewing and learn who provides their funding
To register, follow instructions after you click here.

March 5.

Justice Integrity Project, U.S. Mainstream Media Propagandize Venezuelan Rebellion, Andrew Kreig, March 5, 2019. News coverage of current political strife in Venezuela serves as a fresh reminder that U.S. mainstream newspapers and broadcasters too often deliver remarkably biased “news” reports on sensitive global topics.

The extreme bias in U.S. reports about Venezuela frequently appears also in coverage of such other topics as Syria, Palestine and Russia – regardless of repeated reassurances to audiences by the relevant outlets that they are committed to professional standards of fairness, accuracy and unbiased coverage.Clearly, that’s not the case on certain topics.

The corporate media — including the prestigious newspaper outlets like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post — consistently portray leaders of Venezuela, Syria and Russia as bloodthirsty dictators with no semblance of popular appeal. That's despite independent evidence that they have won elections (unlike some tyrants counted as strong U.S. allies) and probably could continue to do so in fair elections, according to independent popularity polls and other evidence.

Details here.

March 4

Politics / Media

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Trump has made 9,014 false or misleading claims in 773 days, Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly, March 4, 2019. In the first two months of 2019, the president averaged nearly 22 suspect claims a day. In his two-hour CPAC speech, he made more than 100.

jane mayer cspanThe New Yorker, Analysis: The Making of the Fox News White House, Jane Mayer (right), March 11, 2019. Fox News has always been partisan. But has it become propaganda?

As the President has been beset by scandals, congressional hearings, and even talk of impeachment, Fox has been both his shield and his sword. The White House and Fox interact so seamlessly that it can be hard to determine, during a particular news cycle, which one is following the other’s lead. All day long, Trump retweets claims made on the network; his press secretary, Sarah Sanders, has largely stopped holding press conferences, but she has made some thirty appearances on such fox news logo Smallshows as “Fox & Friends” and “Hannity.”

Bill Kristol, who was a paid contributor to Fox News until 2012 and is a prominent Never Trumper, said of the network, “It’s changed a lot. Before, it was conservative, but it wasn’t crazy. Now it’s just propaganda.”

Nothing has formalized the partnership between Fox and Trump more than the appointment, in July, 2018, of Bill Shine, the former co-president of Fox News, as director of communications and deputy chief of staff at the White House.

Shine led Fox News’ programming division for a dozen years, overseeing the morning and evening opinion shows, which collectively get the biggest ratings and define the network’s conservative brand. Straight news was not within his purview.

djt stormy daniels 2006The Daily Beast, Fox News Got Stormy Daniels Story Before Trump’s Election, Spiked It: Report, Barbie Latza Nadeau, Jared talks to Murdoch ‘like, every day.’ Trump may have had Megyn Kelly’s debate question early — and ordered a hit on AT&T’s merger. A fast look at the new New Yorker bombshell (excerpted above).

seth rich

Rolling Stone, Pro-Trump Conspiracy Peddler Jerome Corsi Apologizes to Seth Rich’s Family, Andy Kroll, March 4, 2019. Corsi retracted a column parroting the baseless conspiracy that Rich (shown above) and his brother hacked the DNC in 2016. The family of Seth Rich, the Democratic National Committee staffer whose unsolved murder in 2016 spawned a wave of conspiracy theories, has notched another legal victory against the proponents of baseless theories about Rich.

On Monday, pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi (left, in a screen grab) retracted a nearly year-old column published on the website Infowars, run by another notorious conspiracy peddler, Alex Jones, that promoted the unfounded claim that jerome corsi screenshot 2018 09 06Rich and his brother participated in the hack of the DNC and leaked documents to WikiLeaks. In addition to the retraction, Corsi apologized to the Rich family. Around midday Monday, Infowars formally retracted the column and published an apology that mirrored Corsi’s.

Corsi’s March 5th, 2018, story was an attempt to defend Roger Stone, the now-indicted former Trump adviser, against allegations that he had advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans to release thousands of emails stolen from the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta in the weeks before the 2016 presidential election. Last week, Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer, stoked the controversy around Stone’s ties to WikiLeaks after Cohen testified that Stone told Trump in the summer of 2016 that he had spoken to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange about an upcoming dump of thousands of hacked emails. (Stone and Wikileaks denied Cohen’s claim.)

In his column, Corsi promoted a theory that the DNC hack — a crime for which Special Counsel Robert Mueller later indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers — was an “inside job” by Rich. Corsi cited a Washington Times op-ed that said Seth Rich and his older brother, Aaron, had carried out the DNC hack, quoting one passage directly from the op-ed, which was written by a retired Navy admiral: “Interestingly, it is well known in the intelligence circles that Seth Rich and his brother, Aaron Rich, downloaded the DNC emails and was paid by Wikileaks for that information.”

In a statement posted Monday morning on corsination.com and on Twitter, Corsi now says his Infowars column was “not based upon any independent factual knowledge regarding Seth or Aaron Rich.” He says he relied “primarily” on the Washington Times op-ed, which was retracted last September after Aaron Rich sued the newspaper for defamation. Corsi’s apology and retraction came after a series of negotiations between lawyers for Corsi and Aaron Rich as the one-year statute of limitations for a potential defamation lawsuit approached, a source familiar with the talks tells Rolling Stone.

The Washington Times‘ apology was the first since the Rich family filed lawsuits against various individuals and media companies, including Fox, for spreading unfounded claims about the brothers. Fox has yet to apologize to the Rich family; some of the network’s hosts, such as Sean Hannity, are among the loudest proponents of the Seth Rich conspiracies.

Roger Stone Gag Order

TPM, Roger Stone’s Request About His Book That Ticked Off His Judge, Tierney Sneed, March 4, 2019. Roger Stone wants to know if a book he wrote, which has recently been retitled ““The Myth of Russian Collusion,” will get him in trouble under the gag order in his case, a court filing posted Monday revealed.

roger stone who framed roger stone coverThe filing is the redacted version of a request Stone previously made under seal in his case, in which he asked U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson how the book, which was re-published under the new title last month, squares with the gag order she imposed in the case.

In a new introduction to the book, Stone suggested that special counsel Robert Mueller was going to “frame” him on “bogus” charges in order to “silence me or induce me to testify against the president.” He also accuses the Obama administration of spying on and infiltrating the Trump campaign and then fabricating the “Russian collusion myth” to distract from their own misdeeds.

The judge has already signaled her annoyance at Stone for not raising this issue sooner. On Friday, while the original request was still under seal, she issued an order demanding that he explain why he didn’t bring the book to her attention at the hearing where she imposed the gag order banning him from commenting on his case or on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation more broadly.

According Stone’s filing, the book was re-released on Feb. 19, after Stone had the month prior apparently submitted an updated introduction to be included in the new edition. Mentions of the introduction appear to be redacted in Stone’s filing. However, prosecutors on Monday filed their own notice that said an “updated Introduction” was what was referenced in Stone’s request.

The explanation the judge demanded from Stone is expected to be filed on Monday as well.

The judge, as part of Stone’s conditions of release, banned him from commenting about his case after he posted an inflammatory photo and caption about her on his Instagram. The image included a cross-hairs sign over her shoulder.

When Berman Jackson announced the gag order she went through several examples of public commentary Stone would no longer be allowed make, carving out exceptions only for the promotion of his legal defense fund and for declarations of his innocence.

Minutes after the Stone filing was posted publicly to the docket Monday, prosecutors filed a notice of their own that included under seal screenshots of an online preview of the book that include the updated introduction. The prosecutors also filed under seal a screenshot from an image posted to Roger Stone’s Instagram account (and later taken down) with his photo under the banner “who framed Roger Stone.”

Variety, Prosecutors Alert Judge of Roger Stone Instagram Post Amid Gag Order, Ted Johnson, March 4, 2019. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s legal team alerted Judge Amy Berman Jackson of an image briefly posted to Roger Stone’s Instagram with the title “who framed Roger Stone.”

Under the terms of a gag order put in place last month, Stone and his associates are prohibited from talking about the case and Mueller’s Russia investigation.

In a filing on Monday, prosecutors cited a report from CNBC that was part of a multi-image post. The “who framed Roger Stone” title, a play on the movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” was then deleted. The posts were designed to help Stone raise money for his legal defense fund.

Jackson has yet to weigh in on the image. She imposed the gag order after Stone posted an image of her on his Instagram page. In the background was a symbol that looked like a rifle scope.

March 2

Love, Money & Scandal

lauren sanchez jeff bezos david pecker ap via fox news

Lauren Sanchez, Jeffrey Bezos and David Pecker (left to right, Associated Press via Fox News photos)

ny times logoNew York Times, How Jeff Bezos Went to Hollywood and Lost Control, Amy Chozick, March 2, 2019. The Amazon founder built the world’s largest fortune with an iron discipline. Now, a wild cast of only-in-L.A. characters have seized his narrative.

Jeff Bezos amassed the world’s greatest fortune by relying on what he has called a “regret minimization framework.” He built an $800 billion company with 14 codified principles and a brutally exacting culture. His annual salary of $81,840 has not budged since 1998.

But then Mr. Bezos went to Hollywood.

In the weeks since the Amazon founder tweeted that he and his wife of 25 years were divorcing, he has gone to war with a grocery store tabloid and escalated a conflict with the president of the United States.

Amazon executives were blindsided by a sequence of events that began in early January: the announcement by Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos of their divorce; the 11-page National Enquirer exposé that Mr. Bezos was romantically involved with Lauren Sanchez, a former Los Angeles TV anchor; a sensational blog post by Mr. Bezos accusing the head of the tabloid, an ally of President Trump, of attempting to extort him over a “below-the-belt selfie” and other sexts.

March 1

Reporting On Venezuela

juan guaido nicolas maduro

Washington Babylon, First Person Report: Caracas Chronicles, Part I of an Ongoing Series, Ken Silverstein, March 1, 2019. I just got back from Venezuela and I’ll be writing a lot about the country next week. Virtually everything you read or see about it in the U.S. media is a lie. And to be clear, I don’t mean skewed or misleading or incomplete, I mean a lie.

For example, people in Venezuela are not starving — at least very few are, if any — nor is the country a dictatorship. But that’s exactly what you would believe from reading the likes of the atrocious Hannah Dreier, who failed upward from the Associated Press to ProPublica, that beacon of investigative reporting, and who has been a chief propagandist for the rancid old oligarchy.

I was all over the barrios of Caracas, especially San Augustin.

In another, La Vega, I had a meal at the home of a resident. She cooked me blood sausage, Pasta Bolognese and rice and chicken liver.

People live humbly but they have food — especially because the government distributes a monthly food package, for the equivalent of a few pennies — to everyone who needs it and even some who don’t. Furthermore, food — fruits, vegetable, meat, bread, for example — is available everywhere. You have to be a blind liar like Dreier to miss it since street markets overflow with abundance. It’s not cheap but it’s available.

Furthermore, President Nicolas Maduro (above at right), who I personally dislike, is corrupt and repressive, but he is not a dictator. There are anti-government slogans painted all over Caracas and people spoke openly about wanting him gone, from the barrios to barbershops to markets. I had an intense argument with many people close to the government while I was in Venezuela, yet continued to wander the streets and dive bars of the city until the wee hours. No one, neither government security forces nor crack heads, of which there are a few, bothered me.

Maduro does not appear to be widely liked, but he is certainly more popular than the reviled and mocked Juan Guiado (above at left), President Donald Trump’s toy poodle. This clown was formerly an electronics trafficker, for Fuck’s sake. (Note: I got the picture below from a security guard who used to work in the area where Guiado street hustled, before he became the Trump administration’s full time brothel whore.)

Investigative Leads From Cohen

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Won the Cohen Hearing, Caroline Fredrickson (president of the American Constitution Society), March 1, 2019 (print edition). Too many representatives chose to bloviate instead of interrogate — except for one.

alexandria ocasio cortez officialConsider the line of questioning from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York (shown at left). She asked Mr. Cohen a series of specific questions about how Mr. Trump had handled insurance claims and whether he had provided accurate information to various companies. “To your knowledge,” she asked, “did Donald Trump ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?” He had.

These questions were not random, but, rather, well thought out. Like a good prosecutor, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was establishing the factual basis for further committee investigation. She asked one question at a time, avoided long-winded speeches on why she was asking the question, and listened carefully to his answer, which gave her the basis for a follow-up inquiry.

As a result, Mr. Cohen gave specific answers about Mr. Trump’s shady practices, along with a road map for how to find out more. Mr. Cohen began his testimony calling Mr. Trump a “con man and a cheat;” In just five minutes, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez actually helped him lay out the facts to substantiate those charges.

Unfortunately, too few of her colleagues followed suit. In his testimony, Mr. Cohen claimed numerous ethical breaches and criminal acts on the part of the president, many for which Mr. Cohen himself apparently served as main actor.

All of these areas offered fruitful avenues for exploration. But instead of asking probing questions and eliciting damning evidence from Mr. Cohen, too many committee members chose to make a speech.

 

February 2019

Feb. 27

ny times logoNew York Times, White House Bars 4 U.S. Journalists From Trump’s Dinner With Kim in Hanoi, Michael M. Grynbaum and Katie Rogers, Feb. 27, 2019. The White House on Wednesday barred four American journalists from covering President Trump’s dinner with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, in Hanoi, Vietnam, after two of the reporters called out questions to Mr. Trump at an earlier appearance.

It is highly unusual for a presidential administration to retaliate against reporters by restricting their access, particularly at a closely scrutinized foreign summit meeting. Given the backdrop — a United States president meeting with the totalitarian leader of a country with no independent media — the move sent a starkly different message from those delivered in such settings by Mr. Trump’s predecessors, who often sought to encourage expressions of press freedom when meeting with representatives of autocratic regimes.

Shortly before the dinner was to start, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, informed the group of journalists traveling with Mr. Trump that only photographers and television-camera operators would be allowed to attend the event, excluding reporters for several print and radio news outlets.

Ms. Sanders cited the “sensitivities” of the meeting and “shouting” by reporters at a previous appearance by Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim, during which a reporter for The Associated Press, Jonathan Lemire, asked the president to comment on the congressional testimony of Mr. Trump’s former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen.

 Feb. 26

 washington post logoNorth Korean flagWashington Post, In Hanoi, Kim Jong Un and a culture clash with the White House press corps, David Nakamura and John Hudson, Feb. 26, 2019. American reporters were forced to vacate a hotel work space after the authoritarian ruler of North Korea checked in ahead of his summit with President Trump.

Feb. 24

washington post logoWashington Post, Commentary: Five myths about journalism, Jeremy Littau, Feb. 24, 2019 (print edition). Jeremy Littau is an associate professor of journalism and communication at Lehigh University. These are tough times for journalism. Falling revenue for newspapers and magazines has led to layoffs since 2005, including four major announcements already this year. But the current crisis in the news business is also haunted by misconceptions about the industry and its history. Here are five of the most common.

Myth No. 1: Newspapers collapsed after they offered stories for free.

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Analysis: Monopolistic Internet Market Causing America to Fall Behind, Kirsty Vitarelli, Feb. 23, 2019. One of the promises then-candidate Trump made on the fcc logocampaign trail was a big infrastructure spending package. This initiative is something he is still pursuing, but it is uncertain what it may include, and whether an extremely important infrastructure puzzle-piece — a high-speed fiber optic internet for all — will be included.

This is one area where the US is not keeping up with the rest of the world. Unless this shortfall in internet access is remedied, it could seriously impede the nation’s ability to compete in the international marketplace.

Feb. 22

Palmer Report, Commentary: Yet another top Donald Trump adviser is in trouble, James Sullivan, Feb. 22, 2019. There is another unlikely character who may want to tread carefully: Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, who became a household name in 2017 after moving to repeal net neutrality protections.

bill palmer report logo headerShortly before the FCC announced it would roll back protections that treat all transmission of data equally, the FCC received a litany of suspicious user comments supporting Pai’s controversial decision, which caused the system to crash. Rather than the usual dissent you would find on an online forum, many of the comments repeated key phrases, and had email addresses that were fraudulent, thought to be obtained through identity theft.

ajit pai headshot customPai (right) blamed the attack on fans of comedian John Oliver, one of the few media personalities to talk about net neutrality at length, and said that the public comments were not credible. At about the same time, an anonymous robocall campaign targeted seniors – warning that cell phone rates would climb if net neutrality rules were not repealed.

Poring over the data, Dell Cameron at Gizmodo found connections to an anti-net neutrality campaign called Free Our Internet, run by Christie-Lee McNally, who ran Trump’s campaign in Maine, and was promoted by Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi. The New York Attorney General’s office identified more than two million fraudulent comments on the page, and pushed to delay the vote to repeal.

Since then, more than twenty states have joined a lawsuit against the FCC, and The New York Times sued the FCC last fall demanding that they turn over evidence that could indicate interference from Russian trolls during the comment period.

Feb. 20

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: CNN’s hiring of a GOP operative as political editor is even worse than it looks, Margaret Sullivan, right, Feb. 20, 2019.margaret sullivan 2015 photo  A few months before the 2016 presidential election, Sarah Isgur tweeted some advice to Donald Trump: “The only 3 words that should be coming out of Donald Trump’s mouth this week are: ‘Clinton’ ‘foundation’ ‘emails.’ ”

But that kind of helpful counsel wasn’t enough.

cnn logoIn early 2017, Isgur was summoned to meet with President Trump in the Oval Office, where she needed to pledge her loyalty to be named the Justice Department’s spokeswoman by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Now CNN has hired Isgur — who has no journalism experience and once slammed her new employer as the “Clinton News Network” — as a political editor.

The network, under heavy fire for the move, was insisting by Tuesday night that she wouldn’t be directing political coverage, although that surely is what a political editor might be expected to do.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Washington Post sued by family of Covington Catholic teenager, Paul Farhi, Feb. 20, 2019. The family of the Kentucky teen who was involved in an encounter with a Native American advocate at the Lincoln Memorial last month filed a defamation lawsuit against The Washington Post on Tuesday, seeking $250 million in damages for its coverage of the incident.

The suit alleges that The Post “targeted and bullied” 16-year-old Nicholas Sandmann in order to embarrass President Trump. Sandmann was one of a number of students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky who were wearing red “Make America Great Again” hats during a trip to the Mall when they encountered Nathan Phillips, a Native American activist.

News accounts, including in The Post, and videos of their encounter sparked a heated national debate over the behavior of the participants.

Feb. 19

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Clarence Thomas Calls for Reconsideration of Landmark Libel Ruling, Adam Liptak, Feb. 19, 2019. Justice Clarence Thomas on Tuesday called for the Supreme Court to reconsider New York Times v. Sullivan, the landmark 1964 ruling interpreting the First Amendment to make it hard for public officials to prevail in libel suits. He clarence thomas w new officialsaid the decision had no basis in the Constitution as it was understood by the people who drafted and ratified it.

New York Times and the court’s decisions extending it were policy-driven decisions masquerading as constitutional law,” Justice Thomas wrote.

Justice Thomas, writing only for himself, made his statement in a concurring opinion agreeing that the court had correctly turned down an appeal from Kathrine McKee, who has accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault. She sued Mr. Cosby for libel after his lawyer said she had been dishonest.

An appeals court ruled against Ms. McKee, saying that her activities had made her a public figure and that she could not prove, as required by the Sullivan decision, that the lawyer had knowingly or recklessly said something false. Ms. McKee asked the Supreme Court to review the appeals court’s determination that she was a public figure.

Vox, CNN hires GOP operative with no journalism experience to run its 2020 coverage, Aaron Rupar, Feb. 19, 2019. Sarah Isgur once referred to her new employer as the “Clinton News Network.” CNN announced on Tuesday it has hired longtime Republican operative Sarah Isgur as political editor, charged with shaping its 2020 campaign coverage.

cnn logoAccording to a CNN spokesperson, Isgur, who most recently worked as the Department of Justice’s main spokesperson under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, will coordinate the network’s political coverage for the 2020 election cycle on TV and on CNN’s website. Isgur starts work next month, and will not be involved in coverage of DOJ. She will occasionally appear on TV.

Isgur’s LinkedIn page indicates she has no journalism experience. She has, however, worked for a variety of right-wing organizations and campaigns, including the Carly Fiorina and Mitt Romney presidential bids, the Republican National Committee, and a Ted Cruz US Senate campaign.

Coming as it does in the wake of a presidential cycle in which the mainstream media’s fixation on Hillary Clinton’s emails (among other issues) was widely criticized, news of Isgur’s hiring sparked concerns about the direction CNN is taking heading into 2020.

AL.com, Who is Goodloe Sutton? Alabama newspaper publisher stripped of journalism honors over KKK editorial, Leada Gore, Feb. 19, 2019. Goodloe Sutton has been removed from the University of Southern Mississippi’s School of Mass Communication and Journalism’s Hall of Fame, the school confirmed in a statement. The move comes after Sutton, publisher of the Democrat-Reporter in Linden, Alabama, called for the return of the KKK to handle matters in Washington, D.C.

The following is a statement from USM:

"Within the last few hours, the School of Communication at the University of Southern Mississippi learned of Mr. Goodloe Sutton’s call for violence and the return of the Ku Klux Klan. Mr. Sutton’s subsequent rebuttals and attempts at clarification only reaffirm the misguided and dangerous nature of his comments.

The School of Communication strongly condemns Mr. Sutton’s remarks as they are antithetical to all that we value as scholars of journalism, the media, and human communication. Our University’s values of social responsibility and citizenship, inclusion and diversity, and integrity and civility are the foundation upon which we have built our School and its programs.

Mr. Sutton was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the School of Mass Communication & Journalism, the predecessor to the School of Communication, in 2007 based on his anti-corruption articles and editorials in the 1990s that earned him and his wife Jean numerous national and international journalism awards.

Alternative Media / Wacko Theories?

ny times logoNew York Times, YouTube Unleashed a Conspiracy Theory Boom. Can It Be Contained? Kevin Roose, Feb. 19, 2019. What if stemming the tide of misinformation on YouTube means punishing some of its biggest stars? Last month, the YouTube star Shane Dawson uploaded his new project: a 104-minute documentary, “Conspiracy Theories With Shane Dawson.”

In the video, set to a spooky instrumental soundtrack, Mr. Dawson unspooled a series of far-fetched hypotheses. Among them: that iPhones secretly record their owners’ every utterance; that popular children’s TV shows contain subliminal messages urging children to commit suicide; that the recent string of deadly wildfires in California was set on purpose, either by homeowners looking to collect insurance money or by the military using a type of high-powered laser called a “directed energy weapon.”

youtube logo CustomNone of this was fact-based, of course, and some of the theories seemed more like jokey urban legends than serious accusations. Still, his fans ate it up. The video has gotten more than 30 million views, a hit even by Mr. Dawson’s standards. A follow-up has drawn more than 20 million views and started a public feud with Chuck E. Cheese’s, the restaurant chain, which was forced to deny claims that it recycles customers’ uneaten pizza slices into new pizzas.

Mr. Dawson’s conspiracy series arrived at a particularly awkward moment for YouTube, which has been reckoning with the vast troves of misinformation and extreme content on its platform.

In late January, the company announced that it was changing its recommendations algorithm to reduce the spread of “borderline content and content that could misinform users in harmful ways.” It cited, as examples, “videos promoting a phony miracle cure for a serious illness, claiming the earth is flat or making blatantly false claims about historic events like 9/11.”

Mr. Dawson, whose real name is Shane Lee Yaw, has more than 20 million subscribers and a devoted teenage fan base. He has built his lucrative career by, among other talents, understanding what kinds of content plays well on YouTube.

Feb. 18

ISIS Propagandist Speaks

ny times logoNew York Times, The English Voice of ISIS Comes Out of the Shadows, Rukmini Callimachi, Feb. 18, 2019 (print edition). More than four years ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation appealed to the public to help identify the narrator in one of the Islamic State’s best-known videos, showing captured Syrian soldiers digging their own graves and then being shot in the head.

Speaking fluent English with a North American accent, the man would go on to narrate countless other videos and radio broadcasts by the Islamic State, serving as the terrorist group’s faceless evangelist to Americans and other English speakers seeking to learn about its toxic ideology.

Now a 35-year-old Canadian citizen, who studied at a college in Toronto and once worked in information technology at a company contracted by IBM, says he is the anonymous narrator.

That man, Mohammed Khalifa captured in Syria last month by an American-backed militia, spoke in his first interview about being the voice of the 2014 video, known as “Flames of War.” He described himself as a rank-and-file employee of the Islamic State’s Ministry of Media, the unit responsible for publicizing such brutal footage as the beheading of the American journalist James Foley and the burning of a Jordanian pilot.

Feb. 17

U.S. Politics / Pop Culture

alec baldwin snl feb 16 2019Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has berserk Alec Baldwin meltdown, Bill Palmer, Feb. 17, 2019.  Alec Baldwin returned to Saturday Night Live last night to lampoon Donald Trump’s increasingly absurd behavior. No one would expect Trump to like Baldwin’s savage send-up. But Trump seems to think he can find a way to prevent Baldwin from doing it at all – namely, by accusing him of collusion. No, really.

Trump posted this bizarre tweet this morning: “Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake News NBC! Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion!” Then he added “THE RIGGED AND CORRUPT MEDIA IS THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”

washington post logoWashington Post, Alec Baldwin’s Trump declares a national emergency in SNL’s cold open: ‘We need wall,’ Bethonie Butler, Feb. 17, 2019. “Saturday Night Live,” not surprisingly, took on President Trump’s meandering news conference declaring a national emergency at the southern border of the United States. “Wall works, wall makes safe,” Alec Baldwin’s Trump said. “You don’t have to be smart to understand that — in fact it’s even easier to understand if you’re not that smart.”

SNL kicked off its version of the news conference with Trump embellishing the results of his recent physical: “I’m still standing 6′7, 185 pounds — shredded,” Baldwin deadpanned before making the case for a wall along the southern border.

“We need wall, okay. We have a tremendous amount of drugs flowing into this country from the southern border — or the brown line, as many people have asked me not to call it."

“You all see why I gotta fake this emergency, right? I have to because I want to,” he added. “It’s really simple. We have a problem. Drugs are coming into this country through no wall.”

“I’m basically taking military money so I can has wall,” he explained before offering a breathless vision of what might happen as the result of his national emergency declaration:

“I’ll immediately be sued and the ruling will not go in my favor and then it will end up in the Supreme Court and then I’ll call my buddy [Brett] Kavanaugh and I’ll say ‘it’s time to repay the Donny,’ and he’ll say, ‘new phone, who dis?’ And by then the Mueller report will be released, crumbling my house of cards and I can plead insanity and do a few months in the puzzle factory and my personal hell of playing president will finally be over.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, At least 40 newspapers cancel 'Non Sequitur' comic strip over profane message, Maria Sciullo, Feb 17, 2019. One week after artist Wiley Miller slipped in a profane message to Donald A. Trump in “Non Sequitur,” many newspapers around the country have canceled the comic strip and others are still weighing what action to take. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is one of more than 700 media outlets carrying the strip, which runs daily as a single-panel and on Sundays in multiple panels. Because the Post-Gazette prints the Sunday comics two weeks in advance at its production facility in Clinton, “Non Sequitur” was distributed in Sunday’s editions. A decision will be forthcoming from editors on whether the newspaper will keep it.

In Mr. Miller’s strip published Feb. 10, a coloring book parody featuring a character named Leonardo BearVinci included tiny scribbles of text throughout the drawings. In one corner of the middle panel was the almost illegible “We fondly say … go [expletive] yourself.”

At least 40 newspapers — first was the family-owned Butler Eagle, followed by the Atlanta Constitution, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant, Orlando Sentinel, Dallas Morning News and others — have canceled “Non Sequitur.” They took this action not because the strip was aimed at a conservative target, but said it was due to a “lack of trust” that Mr. Wiley might do something like it again.

Feb. 16

jill abramsonNational Press Club, Former NYT editor Abramson describes effects of digital disruption to news media, Kristina Groennings, Feb. 16, 2019. Jill Abramson (right), former executive editor of The New York Times, addressed the opportunities and challenges faced by news organizations in the digital era and her book Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Facts, in a discussion with Press Club President Alison Fitzgerald Kodjak last Thursday.

Abramson focused on four news organizations; upstart digital companies, BuzzFeed and Vice Media, and legacy organizations, The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Feb. 14

washington post logoWashington Post, The U.S. government and Facebook are negotiating a record, multi-billion dollar fine for the company’s privacy lapses, Tony Romm​, Feb. 14, 2019. The facebook logoFederal Trade Commission and Facebook are negotiating over a multi-billion dollar fine that would settle the agency’s investigation into the social media giant’s privacy practices, according to two people familiar with the probe.

The fine would be the largest the agency has ever imposed on a technology company, but the two sides have not yet agreed on an exact amount. Facebook has expressed initial concern with the FTC’s demands, one of the people said. If talks break down, the FTC could take the matter to court in what would likely be a bruising legal fight.

washington post logomonica witt militaryWashington Post, Ex-Air Force specialist charged with conspiring to reveal classified information to Iran, Matt Zapotosky, Feb. 14, 2019 (print edition). ​Monica Elfriede Witt, 39,(shown in an Air Force file photo) spent more than a decade working in sensitive jobs for the U.S. government. She defected to Iran in 2013.

 washington post logoWashington Post, A potential witness in Monica Witt’s defection case grew up in New Orleans. Now she defends the Iranian Revolution, Antonia Noori Farzan, Feb. 14, 2019. On Jan. 23, protesters gathered outside the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to demand the release of Marzieh Hashemi, a longtime television anchor in Iran. The 59-year-old had been picked up by FBI agents at St. Louis Lambert International Airport and detained for 10 days without being charged with a crime. Outrage had mounted after unconfirmed reports from her employer, Press TV, alleged that she had been brutally shackled and had her hijab ripped off, and that she had been denied halal food in jail.

marzieh hashemi headshotLater that day, Hashemi (shown at left) was released from federal custody. Upon her return to Iran, she was greeted by cheering crowds who handed her flowers and held up their phones to snap photographs. But the reason for her confinement remained a mystery. Court documents indicated only that Hashemi, who was born in the United States, had been held on a rare material-witness warrant, indicating that prosecutors needed her testimony for a grand jury investigation and believed that she was likely to flee.

monica witt headscarfOne possible explanation emerged on Wednesday, when authorities revealed that a grand jury had brought espionage charges against Monica Elfriede Witt, a former Air Force counterintelligence specialist who defected to Iran in 2013. Witt, a native of Texas, had been trained in Farsi after joining the Air Force in 1997, and quickly rose to a position that gave her access to some of the military’s most tightly-guarded secrets. At some point, her loyalties shifted. The newly unsealed indictment alleges that the 39-year-old shared highly classified information with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and helped Iranian hackers to carry out spearfishing attacks that targeted her former colleagues.

The indictment details Witt’s frequent communications with Individual A, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen who allegedly was assisting Iranian intelligence services. Prosecutors allege that in June 2012, Individual A hired Witt to work as her assistant on an anti-American propaganda film that later aired in Iran.

Officials declined to say whether Hashemi was the dual national described in the indictment as Individual A, but the two women’s stories have a strikingly similar trajectory: Both grew up in the United States, then later made the unusual choice to shift their allegiances to Iran’s repressive government.

National Press Club, Club calls for charges against journalist Maria Ressa to be dropped, Kathy Kiely, Feb. 14, 2019. The National Press Club and its nonprofit Journalism Institute are calling on the Philippine government to end its intimidation campaign against Maria Ressa, a journalist targeted for her investigations of official corruption in her home country.

Ressa, whose work has been widely honored by fellow journalists and press freedom organizations, was arrested earlier this week in the newsroom of Rappler, the online news site that she founded. The site is known for its critical coverage of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Ressa reportedly spent the night in custody before her lawyers were able to post bail Thursday.

“This represents the latest escalation of Duterte’s efforts to stifle legitimate scrutiny of his government,” said NPC President Alison Fitzgerald Kodjak. “We stand with Maria Ressa and our Philippine colleagues.”

Feb. 12

washington post logoWashington Post, A hedge fund’s ‘mercenary’ strategy: Buy newspapers, slash jobs, sell the buildings, Jonathan O'Connell and Emma Brown, Feb. 12, 2019 (print edition). Alden Global Capital says it is saving newspapers. Records show its subsidiaries are profiting from the remnants of their demise.

gannett logo CustomWhen the building housing the downtown Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper sold last April, the name of the buyer — Twenty Lake Holdings LLC — seemed of little consequence. The paper would be moving from its longtime home amid declining circulation and a shrinking staff under its owner, Gannett. The old newsroom was little more than an afterthought.

But Twenty Lake Holdings is not just another commercial real estate investor. It is a subsidiary of Alden Global Capital, the New York City hedge fund that backed the purchase of and dramatic cost-cutting at more than 100 newspapers — causing more than 1,000 lost jobs.

For Alden and its subsidiary, the Gannett empire’s newspapers are clearly an attractive feature. But by purchasing the Memphis building and others like it, Alden has already begun coming for what it may consider a bigger prize: Gannett’s real estate.

The hedge fund’s newspaper business, Digital First Media, is bidding to buy Gannett, operator of the nation’s largest chain of daily newspapers by circulation, including USA Today — as well as its $900 million in remaining property and equipment — for more than $1.3 billion.

The tactics employed by Alden and Digital First Media are well-chronicled: They buy newspapers already in financial distress, including big-city dailies such as the San Jose Mercury News and the Denver Post, reap the cash flow and lay off editors, reporters and photographers to boost profits.

Media News

National Press Club, Panel calls sanctions an effective tool to protect press, but only if actually used, Justin Duckham, Feb. 12, 2019. The assassination of The Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi sparked outrage on Capitol Hill,prompting a bipartisan collection of Senators to trigger an investigation under the Global Magnitsky Act a panel of human rights experts told a National Press Club audience Monday. The Act is a 2016 law that sets the stage for levying sanctions against individuals responsible for human rights violations.

The threat of such sanctions could be an important tool to protect journalists across the globe, the panel said. That is, they emphasized, if the U.S. is actually willing to take action, something that has appeared increasingly unlikely in the Khashoggi case.

Media stories have reported that Khashoggi was murdered last October after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. As details continue to emerge, suspicions have grown that Saudi Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud played a key role in the journalist’s death.

“Could a future administration bolster the deterrent effect by making clear publicly and in advance that those responsible for gross violations of human rights targeting members of the press … could face consequences for their actions? Yes, that’s conceivable,” Rob Berschinski, the senior vice president for policy at Human Rights First, said.

Although, Berschinski noted, there is little reason to be optimistic.

The panel discussion, centered on the use of sanctions to protect reporters and moderated Congressional Quarterly foreign policy reporter Rachel Oswald, came just days after the White House signaled it is unwilling to confront Saudi leadership, members said.

Under the terms of the Senate-mandated investigation, the Trump administration had 120 days to compile a report on who was responsible for Khashoggi’s death, but the deadline arrived on Friday and the administration offered few answers, the panel noted.

The White House issued a statement that President Donald Trump “maintains his discretion to decline to act on congressional committee requests when appropriate.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a letter to the Senate detailing sanctions the administration had previously taken against 17 Saudi nationals implicated in the journalist’s murder, but declined to address Mohammad Bin Salman’s involvement.

The responses stand in stark contrast to an assessment from the U.S. intelligence community reportedly concluding that the Saudi prince likely ordered Khashoggi to be killed, the panel said. They do, however, echo Trump’s public warnings that harsh action against the Saudi government could hobble the U.S. economy,

Courtney Radsch, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ advocacy director, said the administration’s reaction poses immediate concerns, but leaves an opening for lawmakers to pick up the slack.

“The fact that the Trump administration decided not to reply with any meaningful information on Friday sends a very dangerous and negative signal,” Radsch said. “I think we’re going to hear from Congress and I’d be interested to know what the next steps from Congress are to hold Jamal Khashoggi’s murder and the mastermind accountable.”

tom malinowski oRep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), right, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, concurred, adding that it appears the White House may have broken the law by ignoring Congress’ request.

“This is, in my opinion as a member of Congress, an example of the executive branch defying the law. They would rather defy the law than offend Saudi Arabia,” Malinowski said.

Now, he added, Congress may be motivated to pass legislation that would require sanctions rather than leaving the decision in the hands of the president.

While the panel acknowledged that consistently enforced U.S. sanctions would be effective, they also agreed that more can certainly be done, especially on the world stage.

In some cases, Berschinski, said, that effort is already well underway, including related laws in Canada, the United Kingdom and some Baltic states.

Considering Europe’s proximity to dictatorial regimes, Radsch pointed out that the European Union passing a law similar to the Magnitsky Act could be particularly beneficial.

“If we’re talking about protecting journalists in countries that lack any sort of protection for journalists, lack due process and lack any sort of respect for press freedom, I think we’re going to have to look externally,” Radsch said.

Feb.11

WNPR, 'Hartford Courant' Journalists Petition To Unionize, Avie Schneider, Feb. 11, 2019. Members of the Hartford Courant newsroom are moving to form a union, NPR has learned. It's the latest Tribune Publishing newspaper where journalists have been pushing to organize. Journalists at the Hartford, Conn., paper said Monday they have filed a petition for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board while also asking Tribune Publishing to voluntarily recognize the union. Nearly 80 percent of eligible staffers signed union cards saying they want to be represented by the Providence Newspaper Guild, a local chapter of The NewsGuild-CWA, the organizers said.

The move at the Courant follows similar successful efforts at the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and the combined newsrooms of The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., and the Daily Press in Newport News, Va. (The parent company, previously named Tronc, subsequently sold the LA Times to a billionaire investor.)

The union would cover about 60 reporters, editors and photographers at the Courant.

"In my short time in the newsroom, I've seen our staff decimated and demoralized by buyouts and layoffs," said Kathleen McWilliams, who has been a Courant reporter since 2015. "I've watched our workloads increase without commensurate compensation and I've grown deeply concerned as my colleagues and I struggle to maintain the quality of our publication while corporate managers take home $5 million bonuses."

Dominic Amore, a Courant reporter for more than three decades, said: "We hope to move forward with a relationship based on mutual trust and respect and to secure the necessary tools to succeed."

The unionization drive comes amid continued turmoil at Tribune Publishing, which has been the focus of sale and merger talks. Last month, the newspaper chain announced the departures of its CEO and the two top officials of its digital arm.

Feb. 9

npc press freedom journalist sanctions header

National Press Club, Using Sanctions to Protect Journalists, Staff report, Feb. 9, 2019. Lawmakers, former senior State Department officials and journalists will gather at the National Press Club on Feb. 11 for a discussion about the growing use of human rights sanctions to protect journalists around the world. The panel discussion “Using Sanctions to Protect Journalists” will take place from 1:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. in the club's Murrow Room. The event is open to the public. Registration is required and can be completed below.

Confirmed panelists at the event, sponsored by the National Press Club Journalism Institute and Club's Freedom of the Press Committee, include:

tom malinowski oRep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J. (right), House Foreign Affairs member and former assistant secretary of State for human rights, democracy and labor
● Rob Berschinski, senior vice president for policy at Human Rights First and former deputy assistant secretary of State for democracy, human rights and labor
● Courtney Radsch, advocacy director at the Committee to Protect Journalists
● Rachel Oswald, CQ foreign policy reporter and Press Freedom vice chair (moderator)

Named after the deceased anti-corruption Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, the first human rights sanction laws were passed in 2012 and 2016. The U.S. has imposed sanctions for human rights violations before (such as on Saddam Hussein for his use of chemical weapons) but Magnitsky appears to be the first law to include journalists as a protected class of workers that human rights sanctions can be imposed upon if they are targeted for their work.

Since it passed, the law has gained popularity, with Canada, the United Kingdom, and Estonia passing similar laws. Last October, Congress explicitly invoked the press freedom component of the sanctions for the first time when it triggered a Magnitsky investigation into the assassination of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post. President Trump has until Feb. 8 to determine whether Khashoggi’s killing was a human rights violation

The panel will examine the use of Magnitsky sanctions, including:

● Next steps following the end of the U.S. government's mandatory four-month investigation into the Khashoggi murder
● Responses from foreign governments and individuals threatened with press freedom sanctions
● The strategy behind press freedom sanctions: punishment, deterrent, both?
● Lessons learned for other countries considering their own Magnitsky laws

Feb. 8

Bezos Claims Enquirer Extortion

david pecker cnn screenshot

Trump family friend David Pecker, chairman of American Media, Inc. (AMI), parent company of the National Enquirer (screenshot from CNN)

washington post logoWashington Post, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos accuses National Enquirer’s parent of ‘extortion’ over ‘intimate’ photos, Paul Farhi​, Feb. 8, 2019 (print edition). Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, said the blackmail threat was made after he began looking into how the Enquirer acquired text messages that revealed his relationship with a former TV anchor.

jeffrey bezos washington postAmazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos (left) said Thursday that he was the target of an extortion attempt by the National Enquirer, which he said threatened to publish embarrassing photos of him if he didn’t halt his investigation into how the tabloid obtained private texts and photos between him and his mistress.

Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, said the Enquirer made the blackmail threat after he began looking into how the tabloid acquired text messages that revealed his relationship with Lauren Sanchez, a former TV anchor.

In a rare and revealing statement posted to the online publishing platform Medium, Bezos said the National Enquirer wanted him to make a false public statement to the news media that he and his security consultant, Gavin de Becker, “have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage [of the affair] was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.” (AMI is American Media, the parent company of the National Enquirer.)

djt don jr ivanka pecker eric

 washington post logoWashington Post, National Enquirer’s parent says it will ‘thoroughly investigate’ extortion claims made by Bezos, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Paul Farhi, Sarah Ellison and Devlin Barrett​, Feb. 8, 2019. American Media Inc. said it believes the tabloid acted lawfully in its reporting on Jeffrey P. Bezos, the Amazon chief executive and owner of The Post.

lauren sanchez jeff bezos david pecker ap via fox news

Lauren Sanchez, Jeffrey Bezos and David Pecker (left to right, Associated Press via Fox News photos)

Background: Daily Beast, Bezos’ Investigators Question the Brother of His Mistress, Lauren Sanchez, in National Enquirer Leak Probe, Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng, Jan. 31, 2019. Michael Sanchez is an outspoken Trump supporter with ties to Roger Stone and Carter Page. Jeff Bezos’ top personal security consultant has questioned his mistress’ brother as part of the probe into how the couple’s text messages wound up in the hands of the National Enquirer.

Gavin de Becker, the Amazon chief’s longtime personal security consultant and the point person for the investigation, confirmed to The Daily Beast on Wednesday that his probe has scrutinized Michael Sanchez, the brother of Bezos mistress Lauren Sanchez and a personal and business associate of Trumpworld figures including Roger Stone, Carter Page, and Scottie Nell Hughes.

On Wednesday, The Daily Beast first reported the existence of that investigation, which is taking place independent of Amazon and being funded by Bezos personally. Three sources familiar with the inquiry said it was increasingly probable that whoever leaked the text messages to the Enquirer, which ran a conspicuously large 12-page spread on Bezos’ affair, harbored political animosity towards Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post.

Michael Sanchez’s name bubbled up on the British celebrity news and gossip website Popbitch last week in the context of the Enquirer story. Stone also mentioned Sanchez in an interview with conspiracy theory site Infowars on Wednesday that sought to preempt The Daily Beast’s reporting by falsely claiming that it would accuse him of conspiring with the Trump administration to hack Bezos’ phone.

More Evidence On Saudi Murder?

ny times logoNew York Times, Year Before Killing, Saudi Prince Told Aide He Would Use ‘a Bullet’ on Jamal Khashoggi, Mark Mazzetti, Feb. 8, 2019 (print edition). Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia told a top aide in a conversation in 2017 that he would use “a bullet” on Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist killed in October, if Mr. Khashoggi did not return to the kingdom and end his criticism of the Saudi government, according to current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of intelligence reports.

jamal khashoggi western suitThe conversation, intercepted by American intelligence agencies, is the most detailed evidence to date that the crown prince considered killing Mr. Khashoggi (right) long before a team of Saudi operatives strangled him inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and dismembered his body using a bone saw. Mr. Khashoggi’s murder prompted weeks of outrage around the world and among both parties in Washington, where senior lawmakers called for an investigation into who was responsible.

mohammad bin salman cropped file smallThe Saudi government has denied that the young crown prince played any role in the killing, and President Trump has publicly shown little interest in trying to get the facts about who was responsible. Prince Mohammed, left, the next in line to the Saudi throne behind his ailing father, King Salman, has become the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia and a close ally of the Trump White House — especially Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser.

The conversation appears to have been recently transcribed and analyzed as part of an effort by intelligence agencies to find proof of who was responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s death. The National Security Agency and other American spy agencies are now sifting through years of the crown prince’s voice and text communications that the N.S.A. routinely intercepted and stored, much as the agency has long done for other top foreign officials, including close allies of the United States.

Media: More Scandal Claims

ronan farrowHuffpost, Ronan Farrow Says Jeff Bezos Isn’t The Only One AMI Tried To Blackmail, Liza Hearon, Feb. 8, 2019. Ronan Farrow’s allegation comes after the Amazon CEO accused tabloid publisher American Media Inc. of blackmail and extortion. Journalist Ronan Farrow (shown in a file photo) said tabloid publisher American Media Inc. sent him blackmail threats over his reporting on President Donald Trump and the National Enquirer.

Farrow tweeted about the “stop digging or we’ll ruin you” efforts shortly after Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, in a bombshell blog post on Medium, said AMI CEO David Pecker threatened to publish embarrassing photos of him if he didn’t stop investigating the company.

Political Wire, Jerome Corsi Sues Roger Stone for Defamation, Taegan Goddard, Feb. 8, 2019. Jerome Corsi, who is listed as “Person 1” in the indictment of Roger Stone, is suing Stone, accusing him of defamation for repeatedly saying that Corsi lied.

Feb. 7

World's Richest Man Claims Extortion

Medium, Opinion: No thank you, Mr. Pecker, Jeff Bezos, Feb. 7, 2019. Something unusual happened to me yesterday. Actually, for me it wasn’t just unusual — it was a first. I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse. Or at least that’s what the top people at the National Enquirer thought. I’m glad they thought that, because it emboldened them to put it all in writing. Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I’ve decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten.

AMI, the owner of the National Enquirer, led by David Pecker, recently entered into an immunity deal with the Department of Justice related to their role in the so-called “Catch and Kill” process on behalf of President Trump and his election campaign. Mr. Pecker and his company have also been investigated for various actions they’ve taken on behalf of the Saudi Government.

And sometimes Mr. Pecker mixes it all together:

“After Mr. Trump became president, he rewarded Mr. Pecker’s loyalty with a White House dinner to which the media executive brought a guest with important ties to the royals in Saudi Arabia. At the time, Mr. Pecker was pursuing business there while also hunting for financing for acquisitions…”

Palmer Report, Opinion: The sheer genius of what Jeff Bezos just did to Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Feb. 7, 2019. Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos found himself in the ultimate no-win situation. National Enquirer and its boss David Pecker had already exposed his affair and ruined his marriage. Bezos tried to investigate whether his enemy and Pecker’s friend Donald Trump was behind the whole thing.

bill palmer report logo headerSo what did Jeff Bezos do in response to this no-win situation? He screamed as loudly as possible, for all to hear, that the National Enquirer had compromising photos of him.

By going public about the whole thing, Jeff Bezos has ensured that David Pecker will go to prison for a long time because this extortion attempt will blow up his immunity plea deal with the SDNY. Further, Pecker’s lawyers are surely explaining to him right now that if he does sell or publish these pictures, it’ll ensure that Pecker will go to prison for even longer.

washington post logoWashington Post, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos accuses National Enquirer’s parent of ‘extortion’ over ‘intimate’ photos, Paul Farhi​, Feb. 7, 2019. Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, said the blackmail threat was made after he began looking into how the Enquirer acquired text messages that revealed his relationship with a former TV anchor.

jeffrey bezos washington postAmazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos (left) said Thursday that he was the target of an extortion attempt by the National Enquirer, which he said threatened to publish embarrassing photos of him if he didn’t halt his investigation into how the tabloid obtained private texts and photos between him and his mistress.

Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, said the Enquirer made the blackmail threat after he began looking into how the tabloid acquired text messages that revealed his relationship with Lauren Sanchez, a former TV anchor.

In a rare and revealing statement posted to the online publishing platform Medium, Bezos said the National Enquirer wanted him to make a false public statement to the news media that he and his security consultant, Gavin de Becker, “have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage [of the affair] was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.” (AMI is American Media, the parent company of the National Enquirer.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Jill Abramson, former New York Times executive editor accused of plagiarism, defends her book, Annie Linskey and Amy Gardner, Feb. 7, 2019 (print edition). Former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson denied allegations Wednesday that she plagiarized portions of her new book, “Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Facts.”

Abramson was confronted about the allegations — which are outlined in a Twitter thread by Vice News’s Michael Moynihan — during an appearance on Fox News. When asked by anchor Martha MacCallum if she had any comment on the numerous similarities detailed by Moynihan, Abramson replied, “I really don’t.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Sandy Hook Victims’ Families Gain Ground in Alex Jones Suits, Elizabeth Williamson, Feb. 7, 2019. As defamation cases inch toward trial, the conspiracy theorist faces the possibility that he will have to be deposed and provide business records.

Families of the Sandy Hook school shooting victims have won a series of victories in their defamation suits against the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones that would open Mr. Jones’s business records to them and compel him to speak under oath.

alex jones headshotTen families are pursuing lawsuits against Mr. Jones (right) over his role in spreading bogus claims about the shooting, including that the victims’ families were actors in a plot to confiscate firearms from Americans. The families have endured death threats, stalking and online abuse.

Mr. Jones, a far-right provocateur and the owner of Infowars, a radio show and website on which he sells diet supplements, survivalist gear and gun paraphernalia, has come under growing scrutiny over the past year and has lost access to much of his online audience. Facebook, Twitter, Apple and YouTube have all banned him, and a recent deal for his show to stream on Roku was revoked last month after public outrage.

The suits by the Sandy Hook families have advanced on several fronts in recent weeks.

A Texas judge on Jan. 25 ordered Mr. Jones and representatives of his company to submit to questioning by lawyers for Scarlett Lewis, the mother of Jesse Lewis, one of the 20 children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012. The Texas judge also granted access to Mr. Jones’s relevant business records, and denied his lawyer’s motion to keep the records sealed.

In Connecticut, a judge ordered Infowars representatives and business partners to testify, and a ruling is expected as soon as mid-February on the families’ request to depose Mr. Jones, and several Infowars “reporters” and associates.

They include Wolfgang Halbig, a former school administrator and Infowars contributor who for years has deluged Newtown officials with open records requests, demanding, among other things, records from the cleanup of “bodily fluids, brain matter, skull fragments and around 45-60 gallons of blood.”

Some families of the victims have been subjected to years of harassment from people who have embraced the bogus crisis-actor theory promoted by Mr. Jones.

Feb. 5

washington post logoWashington Post, Was tabloid exposé about Bezos’s affair just juicy gossip or a political hit job? Marc Fisher, Manuel Roig-Franzia and Sarah Ellison, Feb. 5, 2019. Dueling investigations seek to learn how the National Enquirer obtained text messages sent by Amazon CEO Jeffrey P. Bezos, the owner of The Washington Post.

jeffrey bezos washington postWhen the National Enquirer published explicit text messages between Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos (shown in a file photo) and the woman he was having an affair with, the world’s richest man made clear he wanted to find out how the tabloid got hold of his private communications.

Bezos commissioned an investigation into the Enquirer’s investigation of his love life, thereby leaping into a roiling mix of political attacks and conspiracy theories featuring the president of the United States, key figures in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election, minor Hollywood celebrities and the owner of The Washington Post, Bezos himself.

Depending on whom you believe, the Enquirer’s exposé on Bezos’s affair was a political hit inspired by President Trump’s allies, an inside job by people seeking to protect Bezos’s marriage, or no conspiracy at all, simply a juicy gossip story.

Feb. 4

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How the media can cover Trump without being manipulated, Jill Abramson (shown at right, journalist and author of the new book Merchants of Truth”), Feb. 4, 2019 (print edition. The news media’s collective shock that Donald Trump won in 2016 was evidence of how out of touch most reporters were jill abramsonwith the less affluent, less educated, rural parts of the country, where white voter rage galvanized into votes that made him the 45th president.

I was powerfully moved by a recent article in the New Yorker about journalism by LBJ biographer Robert Caro. He described how he couldn’t really understand President Lyndon B. Johnson’s native Texas Hill Country until he and his wife actually moved there from New York City for three years. The locals had a derisive name for the reporters who parachuted in and out: “portable journalists.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Va. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax denies sex assault allegation from 2004, Theresa Vargas, Feb. 4, 2019. Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax issued a statement early Monday denying a sexual assault allegation that appeared on the same conservative website that posted a racist photograph from Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook page.

“Lt. Governor Fairfax has an outstanding and well-earned reputation for treating people with dignity and respect,” read the statement from his chief of staff and communications director. “He has never assaulted anyone — ever — in any way, shape or form.”

The statement came after the online publication Big League Politics ran a story under the headline: “UPDATE: Stanford Fellow Hints At Possible Justin Fairfax Sex Assault.”

The story was based on a private Facebook post from the woman, which the publication said it had obtained from a friend of hers who had permission to share it.

martin baron at 2018 pulitzers wikimedia commonsFairfax and the woman told different versions of what happened in the hotel room with no one else present. The Washington Post could not find anyone who could corroborate either version. The Post did not find “significant red flags and inconsistencies within the allegations,” as the Fairfax statement incorrectly said.

Martin Baron (shown in a photo at the 2018 Pulitzer Prize awards ceremony distributed via WikiMedia), executive editor of The Post, said the news organization had an obligation to publish.

“Lt. Gov. Fairfax is a public official who may well rise to the position of governor,” Baron said in a statement. “He began the morning by issuing a statement regarding allegations against him, making specific representations about Post reporting that had not resulted in publication. We then had an obligation to clarify the nature of both the allegations and our reporting. “

Feb. 3

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Review: The sad, inspiring state of modern news, Ann Marie Lipinski, Jan. 31, 2019 (Feb. 3 print edition). Jill Abramson owes two debts to David Halberstam and The Powers That Be, the late writer’s epic 1979 examination of four powerful news companies. The first is her career. Reading it inspired her to become a journalist, a path that led to the executive editorship of the New York Times.

Three years into that post, Abramson was fired, and Halberstam’s book inspired her anew. Surveying a battlefield on which she had become a casualty, jill abramson merchants of truthshe saw a contested future for quality news. What Halberstam had done for a Golden Age in media, Abramson wanted to do for journalism’s Age of Anxiety.

Following the Halberstam template, Abramson studies the fortunes of four companies struggling, as she puts it, “to keep honest news alive.” Her book, Merchants of Truth is a reported meditation on journalism’s last decade, told through the experiences of BuzzFeed, the New York Times, Vice and The Washington Post. Like Halberstam’s chosen four (Time, The Post, CBS and the Los Angeles Times), Abramson saw at each news organization good and important work. “And all four are endangered,” she asserts.

Ann Marie Lipinski directs the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. She is the former editor of the Chicago Tribune, where she received a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tip from ‘concerned citizen’ exposed racist photo in Va. governor’s yearbook, Paul Farhi, Feb. 3, 2019. Patrick Howley, editor in chief of the website Big League Politics, first reported the existence of a photo on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s page of his 1984 medical-school yearbook depicting a figure in blackface standing next to another person in a Ku Klux Klan hood.

The Intercept, Commentary: NBC News, to Claim Russia Supports Tulsi Gabbard, Relies on Firm Just Caught Fabricating Russia Data for the Democratic Party, Glenn Greenwald, Feb. 3 2019. NBC News published a predictably viral story Friday, claiming that “experts who track websites and social media linked to Russia have seen stirrings of a possible campaign of support for Hawaii Democrat Tulsi Gabbard.”

tulsi gabbardBut the whole story was a sham: The only “expert” cited by NBC in support of its key claim was the firm New Knowledge, which just got caught by the New York Times fabricating Russian troll accounts on behalf of the Democratic Party in the Alabama Senate race to manufacture false accusations that the Kremlin was interfering in that election.

To justify its claim that Gabbard is the Kremlin’s candidate, NBC stated, “analysts at New Knowledge, the company the Senate Intelligence Committee used to track Russian activities in the 2016 election, told NBC News they’ve spotted ‘chatter’ related to Gabbard in anonymous online message boards, including those known for fomenting right-wing troll campaigns.”

nbc news logoWhat NBC — amazingly — concealed is a fact that reveals its article to be a journalistic fraud: That same firm, New Knowledge, was caught just six weeks ago engaging in a massive scam to create fictitious Russian troll accounts on Facebook and Twitter in order to claim that the Kremlin was working to defeat Democratic Senate nominee Doug Jones in Alabama. The New York Times, when exposing the scam, quoted a New Knowledge report that boasted of its fabrications: “We orchestrated an elaborate ‘false flag’ operation that planted the idea that the [Roy] Moore campaign was amplified on social media by a Russian botnet.'”

Feb. 1

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Discusses Claims of ‘Fake News’ With Times’s Publisher, Michael M. Grynbaum, Feb. 1, 2019. A.G. Sulzberger asked the president to curb his anti-press rhetoric. Mr. Trump replied with a request for “a great story, just one” from The Times.

January 2019

Jan. 28

Tabloid Formulas For Fakery

 ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: The Tabloid Myths of Jennifer Aniston and Donald Trump, Jim Rutenberg, Jan. 28, 2019 (print edition).  In a depressing news cycle, the cover of In Touch Weekly’s Jan. 21 issue was a beautiful sight. It was a blast from a less complicated past, with brad pitt jennifer aniston baby birl jan 21 2019 in touch Custom 2its vintage photograph of a beaming Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt staring out at readers from above the bold headline: “We’re Having a Girl!”

Going by the tabloid reports, I found that Ms. Aniston should have given birth to some two dozen babies in the last few years. According to OK! alone, she has acquired up to 15 kids since 2013, having been pregnant nine times — twice with twins! — while also adopting a third set of twins.

It’s no mystery why In Touch and OK! keep printing these false stories. At a time when gossip magazines are suffering right along with more serious publications and digital outlets, they no longer have the reporting ranks they once relied on to dig up real celebrity scoops.

Whether the subject is celebrities or politics, readers can be easy marks for comforting tales. Tabloid publishers know this. So do online trolls and click-hungry websites.

Investigative Reporting

The New Yorker, The Secrets of Lyndon Johnson’s Archives, Robert A. Caro (shown at right), Jan.28, 2019 Issue. On a Presidential paper robert caro 2012new yorker logotrail. There are certain moments in your life when you suddenly understand something about yourself. I loved going through those files, making them yield their secrets to me....

Alan [Hathaway, an early editor of the author] looked at me for what I remember as a very long time. “Just remember,” he said. “Turn every page. Never assume anything. Turn every goddam page.”

There were about forty thousand boxes [of Lyndon Johnson records], the archivist told me; each had a capacity of eight hundred pages, but, she said, not all of them were completely filled, and some were overfilled. There were thirty-two million pages in all. I had known that doing research on a President would be a lot different from doing it on Robert lyndon johnson points fingerMoses, the subject of my previous book, “The Power Broker,” but I hadn’t expected anything like this. I had a bad feeling: during all the years since Alan Hathway had given me that first piece of advice—“Turn every page. Never assume anything. Turn every goddam page”—I had never forgotten it; it was engraved in my mind. There would be no turning every page here.

But what pages to turn?

I said to [Caro's wife] Ina, “I’m not understanding these people and therefore I’m not understanding Lyndon Johnson [shown at left]. We’re going to have to move to the Hill Country and live there.”

We rented a house on the edge of the Hill Country, where we lived for much of the next three years.

That changed everything. As soon as we moved there, as soon as the people of the Hill Country realized we were there to stay, their attitude toward us softened; they started to talk to me in a different way.

I began to hear the details they had not included in the anecdotes they had previously told me, and they told me anecdotes and stories that no one had even mentioned to me before — stories about a Lyndon Johnson very different from the young man who had previously been portrayed: about a very unusual young man, a very brilliant young man, a very ambitious, unscrupulous, and quite ruthless person, disliked and even despised, and, by people who knew him especially well, even beginning to be feared.

Jan. 27

Media Criticism: Venezuela

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: These Media Claims About Venezuela Are Lies Or Misconceptions, b, Jan. 27, 2019.The U.S. mainstream media is suddenly discovering Venezuela. Without having any actual knowledge of the country, all dirt the writers can think of is thrown against its government. Don't expect to get any facts from them. Most is just propaganda in a media buildup for a war.

nicolas maduro customIn this NPR report for example, Amid Chaos Venezuelans Struggle To Find The Truth, Online, the first line is already an outrageous lie: "In Venezuela, where media is controlled by the government, figuring out what is truth, rumor or propaganda has always been difficult."

No. The media in Venezuela is NOT controlled by the government. There are many privately owned newspapers and TV stations. Many of them oppose the government. They have a larger viewership than the government controlled ones. While there are, as elsewhere, laws that allow for some censorship, their actual use is not common.

venezuela flag waving customOne claim, repeated yesterday by the British ambassador at the UN, is that Nicholas Maduro (above right) won the presidential election by "stuffing the ballot boxes." Venezuela doesn't have ballot boxes. It uses an electronic system developed by a British company that is highly praised:

In September 2012, former US President Jimmy Carter said "the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world." The voters identify with a voter ID and a finger print and vote on a touch screen. Maduro was duly elected as president. Twice.

Some, not all opposition parties and candidates, boycotted the last election which led to a lower than usual turnout. Not taking part is a right the opposition can use. It is not the fault of the government.

Some media claim that the "international community" accepted the U.S. sponsored dude's presidential claim. That is a lie. The U.S. tried to find allies for its onslaught on Venezuela but failed to get international support except from a few of its poodles. Yesterday the UN security council did not take up a resolution against Venezuela because it was obvious that it would fail. Even at the Organisation of American States (OAS) U.S. attempts to push for a resolution against Maduro failed to gain a simple majority.

All 'western' media repeat the claim that the U.S. sponsored dude claimed the presidency based on article 233 of the constitution. But none of them refute that obviously false claim. Article 233 of the constitution (pdf) of Venezuela details the procedures for the case that the president "becomes permanently unavailable" which Nicolas Maduro is obviously not. Moreover the next in place if the president becomes unavailable is the vice president, not the leader of the National Assembly. The dude has no legal basis to claim the presidency.

News: Melania Wins Apology

washington post logoWashington Post, British newspaper apologizes, agrees to pay damages for ‘false statements’ about Melania Trump, Kristine Phillips, Jan. 27, 2019 (print edition). This is not the first time the first lady has received an apology and damages from publications over stories about her modeling career. A British newspaper apologized to first lady Melania Trump and agreed to pay “substantial damages” after publishing a story that it says made false statements about her family and modeling career.

Melania Trump Twitter photoIn a three-paragraph apology Saturday, the Telegraph retracted several claims that were printed last week in the paper’s magazine publication. “The mystery of Melania,” which is no longer online, reported that Trump was struggling in her modeling career before she met her future husband, Donald Trump, and that her career advanced only after his assistance. That was false, the paper said.

“We accept that Mrs. Trump was a successful professional model in her own right before she met her husband and obtained her own modeling work without his assistance,” the paper said, adding later: “We apologise unreservedly to The First Lady and her family for any embarrassment caused by our publication of these allegations.”

The Washington Post reported last year that Trump was a “working model” who was initially not widely known in the highly competitive New York fashion world and that her association with Donald Trump, whom she began dating in 1998, raised her profile.

melania trump i really dont care jacket twitterThe Telegraph’s magazine cover story, which was published on Jan. 19, was an excerpt from the book “The Golden Handcuffs: The Secret History of Trump’s Women,” by journalist Nina Burleigh. It was published in October. Burleigh didn’t respond to a request for comment from The Post on Saturday.

In a comment to the Daily Beast, Burleigh suggested that the retraction was over fears of “Gawker slayer Charles Harder,” the California lawyer who represented the first lady in a defamation lawsuit against the Daily Mail, another British publication, and is representing the president in lawsuits against adult-film actress Stormy Daniels. Harder is best known for helping a Silicon Valley billionaire successfully sue the gossip website Gawker, leading to its demise.

“The book has been out since October, and excerpted widely by various U.S. publications without a peep of objection. I stand by my reporting,” Burleigh told the Daily Beast.

This is not the first time the first lady has received an apology and damages from publications over stories about her career.

In April 2017, the British tabloid the Daily Mail apologized for an article that alleged “she provided services beyond simply modeling,” according to a statement released at that time. Melania Trump filed and later settled defamation lawsuits, with the Daily Mail agreeing to pay an unspecified amount of damages.

The first lady also sued a Maryland blogger who reported about unfounded rumors that she once worked as a high-end escort. Trump settled in February 2017, and the blogger, Webster Tarpley, agreed to apologize and pay her a “substantial sum.”

Local Newspapers' Decline

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Local newspapers have already been gutted. There’s nothing left to cut, Steve Cavendish, Jan. 27, 2019 (print edition). The ugly future of corporate news

Wednesday was a bloodbath for journalists. BuzzFeed said it would lay off 15 percent of its employees, and Verizon Media announced it would cut 7 percent from its newsrooms at HuffPost, AOL and Yahoo.

gannett logo CustomWorst of all, a wave of layoffs tore through Gannett newsrooms across the country that day, hitting staffs that had already been thinned by years of nearly annual cuts.

In December, Gannett’s USA Today Network president, Maribel Wadsworth, told her employees that the nation’s largest-circulation newspaper chain “will be a smaller company” in the future and, well, the future is now. Wadsworth is facing a lot of pressures: Print revenue is down, digital and mobile revenue aren’t nearly enough, and now a hedge fund promising even deeper cuts wants to acquire the company.

If the future of corporate news operations looks bleak, that’s because it is.

In Tennessee, we’ve been watching the slow-motion destruction of our news institutions under Gannett for a few decades now, and the idea that things are about to get even worse is appalling. As badly as the country needs strong coverage of national news these days, the local news landscape is important, too. And what happened here mirrors what’s already happened in city after city.

The Nashville I grew up in was a two-newspaper town, home to a daily slugfest between the scrappy afternoon Nashville Banner and the larger morning Tennessean. For 91 years, the papers dueled with talented staffs that featured heavyweights like John Seigenthaler, Fred Russell and David Halberstam, and owners who loved sending those reporters to brawl over their favorite politicians and causes.

Both papers had their problems as well as successes, but the competition was healthy for a growing region. The papers fought for scoops, launched deep investigations into corruption, covered the institutions the city was built on and told the stories of its citizens. They gave readers a choice.

Steve Cavendish, a former editor of the Nashville Scene and Washington City Paper who started his career at the Nashville Banner, is president of Nashville Public Media, a nonprofit news start-up.

Jan. 26

washington post logoWashington Post, Johns Hopkins to buy Newseum building in D.C. as journalism museum plans to relocate, Nick Anderson and Peggy McGlone, Jan. 26, 2019 (print edition).  The $372.5 million deal will give the university a prime Pennsylvania Avenue address for graduate programs.

Jan. 25

Newseum Sold, To Close At Year-End

newseum ennead architects Small

Newseum, Freedom Forum Announces Sale of 555 Pennsylvania Avenue to Johns Hopkins University, Staff report, Jan. 25, 2019. Today, the Freedom Forum — the creator and primary funder of the Newseum — is announcing the sale of the building in which the Newseum (shown above in an architect's graphic) is located to Johns Hopkins University, a premier academic institution. The University will use the building as a new consolidated center for its DC-based graduate programs.

The deal remains subject to all necessary regulatory approvals, and the Newseum will remain open to the public through 2019.

The sale comes at the conclusion of a 16-month strategic review, announced in August 2017, of the Freedom Forum’s funding priorities, including an assessment of the Newseum’s unsustainable operating costs. The purpose of the review was to identify financially responsible solutions for the building through creative partnerships, a partial sale, leaseback scenarios, or other joint ventures. Despite those efforts, the Freedom Forum review made clear that a sale of the facility was the best path forward to enable the organization and its affiliates to continue their First Amendment-based mission. Johns Hopkins will acquire the property for $372.5 million.

Since its opening in 2008, the Freedom Forum has committed more than $600 million to build and fund the Newseum, one of the largest gifts to any museum anywhere in the world.

“This was a difficult decision, but it was the responsible one,” said Jan Neuharth, chair and CEO of the Freedom Forum. “We remain committed to continuing our programs – in a financially sustainable way – to champion the five freedoms of the First Amendment and to increase public awareness about the importance of a free and fair press. With today’s announcement, we can begin to explore all options to find a new home in the Washington, DC area.”

“The Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue has delighted millions with its entertaining and educational exhibits, garnering five-star reviews from critics and visitors alike,” said Peter Prichard, chair of the Newseum board of trustees. “Our patrons learned about the joys, the duties, and even the dangers journalists experience in their work, and why a free and fair press is so important to a well-functioning democracy.

Breakthrough JFK, MLK, RFK, Malcolm X Coverage

kennedys and king logo

Assassinated 1960s civil rights leaders, from left: President John F. Kennedy, Attorney Gen. Robert F. Kennedy (JFK's brother), the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and preacher and activist Malcolm X (photo graphic from the site Kennedys and King)

washington post logotom jackmanWashington Post, Kennedy, King, Malcolm X relatives and scholars seek new assassination probes, Tom Jackman (right), Jan. 25, 2019. Their letter calls for a Truth and Reconciliation Committee on the JFK, RFK, MLK and Malcolm X slayings. Joined by relatives of Robert F. Kennedy, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, a group of more than 60 authors and investigators have called for a new congressional investigation into the assassinations of the three men and President John F. Kennedy, saying that the four slayings were not resolved and “had a disastrous impact on the course of American history.”

In a public statement, they demanded a public tribunal modeled on South Africa’s “Truth and Reconciliation” process to persuade either Congress or the Justice Department to revisit all four assassinations.

Guardian, YouTube vows to recommend fewer conspiracy theory videos, Julia Carrie Wong and Sam Levin, Jan. 25, 2019. Site’s move comes amid continuing pressure over its role as a platform for misinformation and extremism. YouTube did not provide a clear definition of what it considers to be harmful misinformation.

YouTube will recommend fewer videos that “could misinform users in harmful ways”, the company announced on Friday, in a shift for a platform that has faced criticism for amplifying conspiracy theories and extremism.

The change concerns YouTube’s recommendations feature, which automatically creates a playlist of videos for users to watch next. The recommendations are the result of complex and opaque algorithms designed to capture a user’s interest, but they have become a locus of criticism when YouTube directs people to potentially harmful and false content that they would not have otherwise sought out.

The company did not provide a clear definition of what it considers to be harmful misinformation, but said that some examples were “videos promoting a phony miracle cure for a serious illness, claiming the Earth is flat, or making blatantly false claims about historic events like 9/11”.

The changes will also affect “borderline content”, or videos that come close to violating the company’s rules for content without technically crossing the line.

Jan. 24

The Guardian, Trapped in a hoax: survivors of conspiracy theories speak out, Ed Pilkington, Jan. 24, 2019.  According to a recent study, half of the American public endorses at least one conspiracy theory. What happens to those caught up in the toxic lies of conspiracy theorists? The Guardian spoke to five victims whose lives were wrecked by falsehoods.

Conspiracy theories used to be seen as bizarre expressions of harmless eccentrics. Not any more. Gone are the days of outlandish theories about Roswell’s UFOs, the “hoax” moon landings or grassy knolls. Instead, today’s iterations have morphed into political weapons. Turbocharged by social media, they spread with astonishing speed, using death threats as currency.

Together with their first cousins, fake news, they are challenging society’s trust in facts. At its most toxic, this contagion poses a profound threat to democracy by damaging its bedrock: a shared commitment to truth.

Their growing reach and scale is astonishing. A University of Chicago study estimated in 2014 that half of the American public consistently endorses at least one conspiracy theory. When they repeated the survey last November, the proportion had risen to 61%. The startling finding was echoed by a recent study from the University of Cambridge that found 60% of Britons are wedded to a false narrative.

The trend began on obscure online forums such as the alt-right playground 4chan. Soon, media entrepreneurs realized there was money to be made – most notoriously Alex Jones, whose site Infowars feeds its millions of readers a potent diet of lurid lies (9/11 was a government hit job; the feds manipulate the weather.) How rightwing conspiracy theorists attacked Christine Blasey Ford's testimony.

Now the conspiracy theorist-in-chief sits in the White House. Donald Trump cut his political teeth on the “birther” lie that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, and went on to embrace climate change denial, rampant voter fraud and the discredited belief that childhood vaccines may cause autism.

Amid this explosive growth, one aspect has been underappreciated: the human cost. What is the toll paid by those caught up in these falsehoods? And how are they fighting back?

      • Marcel Fontaine: Falsely accused of being the Parkland shooter
      • Lenny Pozner: Targeted after he lost his child at Sandy Hook
      • Paul Offit: Harassed by anti-vaccine activists
      • Brianna Wu: Attacked by #gamergate trolls
      • James Alefantis: Falsely accused of running a paedophile ring

washington post logoWashington Post, BuzzFeed, HuffPost owner are the latest to feel the pinch in a faltering digital news economy, Paul Farhi, Jan. 24, 2019. BuzzFeed announced it would lay off about 15 percent of its staff, while Verizon Media Group — the owner of HuffPost, AOL and Yahoo — announced its own round of layoffs of about 7 percent of its staff. Traditional media organizations, such as newspaper and TV stations, have been buffeted for years by the transition to a digital economy, with some of their readers and advertising base siphoned away by the likes of BuzzFeed, Vice and HuffPost.

But over the past several months, digital companies have faced some of the same issues, as profits have proved elusive in an advertising market dominated by two giants — Google and Facebook.

Vice has instituted a hiring freeze and is seeking to cut its workforce by about 10 to 15 percent this year, primarily through attrition. Verizon Media Group, the owner of HuffPost, AOL and Yahoo, announced its own round of layoffs of about 7 percent on Wednesday.

 U.S. Frees Iranian Journalist

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Releases American Journalist Who Works for Iranian TV After Testimony, Rick Gladstone, Jan. 24, 2019 (print edition). An American journalist for Iran’s Press TV was freed in Washington by federal law enforcement officials on Wednesday, her son said, ending a detention that began on Jan. 13 when the F.B.I. took her into custody as a material witness.

The arrest of the journalist, Marzieh Hashemi, 59, had become a flash point of tension between Iran and the United States for more than a week.

marzieh hashemi headshotMs. Hashemi, left, had been ordered to appear before a grand jury in Washington but was not charged with a crime. Her family and Iranian leaders accused American officials of disrespecting her Muslim faith while she was under arrest, forcing her to remove her hijab, or head scarf, and offering her only non-halal food.

The F.B.I. has declined to talk about Ms. Hashemi or the grand jury case in which she had been required to testify.

Ms. Hashemi was arrested in St. Louis while on a trip to the United States to visit relatives, and was transferred by the F.B.I. to Washington. Officials later disclosed she was a material witness in an unspecified criminal case.

Under American law, witnesses can be arrested if the government can show that their testimony is “material in a criminal proceeding” and that they might flee from the authorities. The law generally requires the release of such witnesses after their testimony is completed.

Ms. Hashemi, who was born Melanie Franklin in Louisiana, converted to Islam after the 1979 Iranian revolution and moved to Iran more than a decade ago, but she has periodically returned to visit family. She is well known in Iran as an anchorwoman on Press TV’s English service. Her son, Hossein Hashemi-Niasari, a graduate student at the University of Colorado, confirmed in a text message the accuracy of a Press TV report that she had been released after providing a third round of testimony to the grand jury on Wednesday afternoon.

Jan. 23

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Baby Boomers Are the Biggest Suckers for Fake News, Spencer Feingold, Jan. 23, 2019. Facebook users 65 and older shared the majority of fake news during the 2016 election, a new study found. The results were consistent for all baby boomers regardless of political ideology.

Jan. 21

washington post logogoogle logo customWashington Post, France fines Google nearly $57 million for first major violation of Europe’s tough privacy rules, Tony Romm​, Jan. 21, 2019. The country's top data privacy agency said that Google failed to fully disclose to users how their personal information is collected and what happens to it. The Silicon Valley giant also did not properly obtain users’ consent for the purpose of showing them personalized ads, the watchdog agency said.

Jan. 19

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. jails journalist who works for news outlet overseen by Iranian government, Tom Jackman and Spencer S. Hsu, Jan. 19, 2019. The U.S. government confirmed that since Sunday it has been holding Marzieh Hashemi, an American-born journalist who works in Iran. Hashemi is a “material witness” in a federal case and will be released after she testifies before a grand jury, the government said.

The U.S. government confirmed Friday that it has been holding an American-born journalist, who works in Iran, in jail since Sunday as a “material witness” in a case in federal court in Washington and that she will be released after she testifies before a grand jury.

No date was given for the testimony and no information about the nature of the case was revealed in a two-page court filing unsealed Friday.

marzieh hashemi headshotMarzieh Hashemi, left, 59, has been a producer and on-air presenter for Press TV in Iran for 25 years. She is an American citizen, her family said. Press TV is an English language network based in Tehran and overseen by the Iranian government.

Hashemi returns periodically to the United States to visit her family. She had been working on a documentary about Black Lives Matter in St. Louis, her family said, and was arrested on a material witness warrant by the FBI when she arrived at Lambert International Airport in St. Louis before a flight to Denver to visit her adult children. She was then transported to Washington and apparently is being held in the D.C. Jail, her family said.

The FBI had declined to acknowledge the arrest until Friday and her court case is sealed. An unsealed court order Friday said Hashemi, who also is referred to in the filing by her birth name of Melanie Franklin, has not been accused of any crime.

Material witness warrants are rare. Hashemi’s case is the first such filed in federal court in Washington this year, and the court’s electronic docketing system indicates only two such cases were filed last year. Both are still under seal.

Hossein Hashemi, son of Marizeh Hashemi, leaves federal court in Washington on Friday. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

Her son Hossein Hashemi, a research fellow at the University of Colorado, told The Washington Post Friday that he, his mother and two of his siblings had been subpoenaed to appear at U.S. District Court in Washington, but said he did not know the subject matter. He said that neither his mother nor any of his family had testified and that “we don’t anticipate her getting out today.”

Jan. 16

 ny times logoNew York Times, Veterans of the News Business Are Now Fighting Fakes, Edmund Lee, Jan. 16, 2019. After raising $6 million, the start-up NewsGuard, co-founded by Steve Brill, has signed Microsoft as its first major client. The main goal: to combat the spread of false stories on the internet.

On the internet, conspiracy theories, propaganda and plain old inaccuracies can stump even the most thoughtful readers, spreading faster than you can say “fake news.”

A small start-up, NewsGuard, says it may have a solution. The effort is led by a pair of veteran news executives — Steven Brill, an author and the founder of the magazine The American Lawyer, and Gordon Crovitz, a former publisher of The Wall Street Journal. On Wednesday the company announced that it had signed Microsoft as its first major client.

NewsGuard has created the equivalent of nutrition labels for news organizations, rating more than 2,000 news and information sites with tags: red for unreliable, green for trustworthy. A team of roughly 50 journalists and analysts is making the evaluations.

NewsGuard has given its stamp of approval to established publications like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, as well as later entrants like BuzzFeed and Newsmax. FoxNews.com, The Hill, The Daily Beast and HuffPost have also gotten green lights.
Sites to watch out for, according to NewsGuard, include Infowars and Breitbart on the right, and Daily Kos on the left. Media Matters, a left-leaning advocacy organization with a prolific media-watchdog blog, has received a green rating, but scores negatively on four of the nine criteria used by NewsGuard.

The service, free to readers, offers a browser extension that shows a news operation’s rating when a reader lands on its site. The NewsGuard tag also appears in search results next to article links for those who have the extension.

Jan. 14

ny times logoNew York Times, Hedge Fund Called ‘Destroyer of Newspapers’ Bids for USA Today Owner Gannett, Edmund Lee and Tiffany Hsu, Jan. 14, 2019. A New York hedge fund known for gutting newsrooms is backing a hostile takeover bid for Gannett, the publisher of USA Today and 100 other newspapers. The unsolicited offer, worth over $1.3 billion, would create the largest newspaper company in the United States and further consolidate a struggling industry.

usa today logoIn an open letter to the Gannett board, MNG Enterprises, which is owned by the hedge fund Alden Global Capital, offered on Monday to pay $12 cash per Gannett share, a 23 percent premium on the company’s closing price on Friday. Gannett shares were trading about 19 percent higher around midday.

MNG said in its letter that Gannett, which owns The Detroit Free Press, The Tennessean in Nashville and other newspapers in nearly three dozen states, had “suffered from a series of value-destroying decisions made by an unfocused leadership team.”

Operating under the name Digital First Media, MNG owns around 200 publications, including The Denver Post and The San Jose Mercury News in California. It said it was Gannett’s largest shareholder, with a 7.5 percent stake.

Jan. 11

Genocide / Press Freedom

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kyaw soe ooo left wa lone jorge silva reuters photo

Imprisoned Reuters journalists Kyaw Soe Oo, left, and Wa Lone last year (Reuters photo by Jorge Silva).

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Opinion: Myanmar court confirms seven-year jail terms for Reuters journalists, Staff report, Jan. 11, 2019. RSF is appalled to learn that Myanmar’s high court today upheld the seven-year jail sentences of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo on appeal. RSF now urges the country’s highest authorities to end their nightmare.

myanmar flagIn a shocking decision handed down this morning in Yangon, the high court also upheld their convictions on charges of violating the Official Secrets Act. It concluded the utterly iniquitous judicial process to which these two journalists have been subjected ever since their arrest in a trap set by the police in December 2017.

“Everything about this case, both the substance and its conduct, called for their convictions to be overturned, but Myanmar’s justice system has shown its determination until the very end to punish Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo although they just did their job as reporters,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

win myint myanmar 2018 president“This decision constitutes yet further evidence, if any were needed, of the judicial system’s unacceptable manipulation by the executive and dramatically signifies the end of Myanmar’s democratic transition. We now call on its highest political officials to pardon these journalists as quickly as possible so that they can be reunited with their families.”

President Win Myint (left), who is an ally of government leader Aung San Suu Kyi, has the power to issue pardons, which are traditionally given at the time of the Burmese New Year in April. Regardless of the final outcome, the authorities have already sent a chilling message to Myanmar’s journalists: that this is the price you will pay if you dare to investigate subjects that are off limits.

myanmar execution reuters photo

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo did some remarkable investigative reporting on a massacre of Rohingya civilians by soldiers in Inn Din, a village in the north of Rakhine state, that that was widely seen as an act of genocide or ethnic cleansing. Their arrest was regarded as a punishment orchestrated by the security forces.

The region where the massacre took place, the traditional home of Myanmar’s Rohingya community, continues to be completely inaccessible to journalists aside from those who have been taken there on pathetic propaganda visits that are tightly controlled by the authorities.

Jan. 10

washington post logomargaret sullivan 2015 photoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s address was a pure propaganda opportunity. Networks shouldn’t allow it again, Margaret Sullivan​ (right), Jan. 10, 2019 (print edition). The speech had high-drama quotes. But there wasn’t anything of substance that we haven’t heard many times before.

Jan. 7

Future of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: Why Isn’t Radio Marti Shut Down During the Shutdown? by Jacob G. Hornberger (right, a Libertarian non-profit executive, attorney, author and book publisher), Jan. 7, 2019. When it comes to nonessential federal jacob hornberger headshotprograms, Radio Marti has to rank near the top of the list.

Radio Marti uses Channel 153 on Sirius XM to broadcast its official anti-communist propaganda. During the past three weeks of Trump’s shutdown, Radio Marti has continued propagandizing listeners of Channel 153 on SiriusXM.

The larger question, of course, is why Radio Marti wasn’t shut down permanently a long time ago. Established during the conservative reign of President Ronald Reagan in 1983, the mission of Radio Marti has always been to meddle in the internal affairs of Cuba by targeting the Cuban people with pro-U.S., anti-communist propaganda.

Needless to say, Radio Marti’s propaganda has had the same effect on the Cuban communist regime as the decades-old U.S. economic embargo has had, which is none. One reason for that is that the communist government has always done its best to block Radio Marti’s broadcasts and also made it a criminal offense for Cubans to listen to it.

cuba flag saving CustomBut one thing is certain: the Cold War ostensibly ended in 1989. Therefore, why wasn’t Radio Marti shut down 30 years ago?

Equally important, if not more so, why is Radio Marti broadcasting its propaganda on Sirius XM, a privately owned U.S. company whose customer base consists primarily of American citizens? I thought that the position of the United States has always been that it’s wrong for governments to propagandize their own citizens? Didn’t U.S. officials rail against the Nazi regime’s use of propaganda to mold the minds of the German people? Don’t they also rail against the Cuban communist regime’s use of propaganda to mold the minds of the Cuban people?

Then why in the world is the U.S. government using Radio Marti to propagandize the American listeners of SiriusXM? And why is SiriusXM permitting Radio Marti to use SiriusXM to broadcast its propaganda?

Here’s another problem, at least from the standpoint of the First Amendment. Every Sunday morning at 7 a.m., Radio Marti broadcasts a Catholic mass on SiriusXM. What business does the federal government have targeting people with religious propaganda, whether its target is Cuban citizens or American citizens?

Why should American taxpayers, many whom aren’t even Catholic, be forced to underwrite that sort of religious propaganda? What business does a private company like SiriusXM have in participating in such a scheme?

ny times logoNew York Times, Posing as Prohibitionists, 2nd Effort Used Online Fakery in Alabama Race, Scott Shane and Alan Blinder, Jan. 7, 2019. The “Dry Alabama” Facebook page, illustrated with stark images of car wrecks and videos of families ruined by drink, had a blunt message: Alcohol is the devil’s work, and the state should ban it entirely.

Along with a companion Twitter feed, the Facebook page appeared to be the work of Baptist teetotalers who supported the Republican, Roy S. Moore, in the 2017 Alabama Senate race. “Pray for Roy Moore,” one tweet exhorted.

In fact, the Dry Alabama campaign, not previously reported, was the stealth creation of progressive Democrats who were out to defeat Mr. Moore — the second such secret effort to be unmasked. In a political bank shot made in the last two weeks of the campaign, they thought associating Mr. Moore with calls for a statewide alcohol ban would hurt him with moderate, business-oriented Republicans and assist the Democrat, Doug Jones, who won the special election by a hair-thin margin.

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Fake News Reports Blamed Cuba, Russia And China Of 'Sonic Attack' On U.S. Diplomats -- The Culprits Were Crickets, b, Jan. 7, 2019. In the autumn of 2016 U.S. diplomats stationed in Cuba started to complain about being affected by some mysterious noise. Twenty four embassy staff and family claimed a bizarre list of symptoms - from headaches, dizziness and sleeping difficulties to problems with balance, vision and hearing. Doctors were not sure what affected these people. There were all kinds of speculations about a mysterious 'sonic weapons' with which the diplomats were 'attacked', but no convincing evidence was found.

Cuba fully cooperated with an FBI investigation into the mystery. Scientist dispelled the idea of a 'sonic weapon' attack. The medical evidence turned out to be dubious. Nevertheless anti-Cuban politicians in the U.S. successfully used the issue to pressure the White House to penalize the country. The Trump administration recalled 60% of its embassy personal in Havana and expelled Cuban diplomats from the embassy in Washington. It issued a travel warning for its citizens going to Cuba and stopped issuing visas for Cubans in Havana.

Last Friday the New York Times reported that U.S. scientists found that the mysterious noise identified by the diplomats was indeed from crickets: "Alexander Stubbs of the University of California, Berkeley, and Fernando Montealegre-Z of the University of Lincoln in England studied a recording of the sounds made by diplomats and published by The Associated Press."

Diplomatic relations with Cuba are still reduced. The State Department still has a travel warning for Cuba "due to attacks targeting U.S. Embassy Havana employees". In the public record Russia is still accused of causing this non-issue in which it was never involved.

Not one of the 'journalists' involved in the fear campaign will be punished for ignoring the earlier AP report of the Cuban finding. None of the media that smeared Russia over the issue will retract those reports or expose the officials who initiated them.

Jan. 3

Media Commentary

william arkin nbc screenshot

Medium, Opinion: Full email from William Arkin, leaving NBC and MSNBC, William Arkin (shown above), Jan. 3, 2018. January 4 is my last day at NBC News nbc news logoand I’d like to say goodbye to my friends, hopefully not for good. This isn’t the first time I’ve left NBC, but this time the parting is more bittersweet, the world and the state of journalism in tandem crisis. My expertise, though seeming to be all the more central to the challenges and dangers we face, also seems to be less valued at the moment. And I find myself completely out of synch with the network, being neither a day-to-day reporter nor interested in the Trump circus.

I first started my association with NBC 30 years ago, feeding Cold War stories to Bob Windrem and Fred Francis at the Pentagon. I became an on-air analyst during the 1999 Kosovo War, continuing to work thereafter with Nightly News, delighting and oftentimes annoying in my peculiar position of being a mere civilian amongst THE GENERALS and former government msnbc logo Customofficials. A scholar at heart, I also found myself an often lone voice that was anti-nuclear and even anti-military, anti-military for me meaning opinionated but also highly knowledgeable, somewhat akin to a movie critic, loving my subject but also not shy about making judgements regarding the flops and the losers.

Somewhere in all of that, and particularly as the social media wave began, it was clear that NBC (like the rest of the news media) could no longer keep up with the world. Added to that was the intellectual challenge of how to report our new kind of wars when there were no real fronts and no actual measures of success.

david petraeus wTo me there is also a larger problem: though they produce nothing that resembles actual safety and security, the national security leaders and generals we have are allowed to do their thing unmolested. Despite being at “war,” no great wartime leaders or visionaries are emerging. There is not a soul in Washington who can say that they have won or stopped any conflict. And though there might be the beloved perfumed princes in the form of the Petraeus’ [left] and Wes Clarks’, james mattisor the so-called warrior monks like Mattis and [below left] McMaster, we’ve had more than a generation of national security leaders who sadly and fraudulently have done little of consequence.

And yet we (and others) embrace them, even the highly partisan formers who masquerade as “analysts”. We do so ignoring the empirical truth of what they have wrought: There is not one county in the Middle East that is safer today than it was 18 years ago. Indeed the world becomes ever more polarized and dangerous.

As perpetual war has become accepted as a given in our lives, I’m proud to say that I’ve never deviated in my argument at NBC (or at my newspaper gigs) that terrorists will never bedefeated until we better understand why they are driven to fighting. And I have maintained my central view that airpower (in its broadest sense including space and cyber) is not just the future but the enabler and the tool of war today.

washington post logoWashington Post, Chinese censors go old school to clamp down on Twitter: A knock on the door, Gerry Shih, Jan. 4, 2019. Twitter is officially banned in China. But only recently china flag Smallhave Chinese authorities started to worry about the power of tweets.

In Beijing and other cities across China, prominent Twitter users confirmed in interviews to The Washington Post that authorities are sharply escalating the Twitter crackdown. It suggests a wave of new and more aggressive tactics by state censors and cyber-watchers trying to control the Internet.

twitter bird CustomTwitter is banned in China — as are other non-Chinese sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. But they are accessed by workarounds such as a virtual private network, or VPN, which is software that bypasses state-imposed firewalls.

While Chinese authorities block almost all foreign social media sites, they rarely have taken direct action against citizens who use them, preferring instead to quietly monitor what the Chinese are saying.

But recently, Internet monitors and activists have tallied at least 40 cases of Chinese authorities pressuring users to delete tweets through a decidedly low-tech method: showing up at their doorsteps.

Jan. 2

washington post logoWashington Post, Beyond ‘no comment’: The White House has no response — at all — to many media questions, Paul Farhi, Jan. 2, 2019 (print edition). The New York Times published a powerful story last week about President Trump’s growing isolation in the White House, with colorful details such as Trump’s tendency to interrupt advisers during meetings to call them “freaking idiots” (except he doesn’t use the word “freaking”).

Asked to comment by the Times’s reporters about this, the White House said nothing. It did not respond. Similarly, it offered no response when The Washington Post asked the White House about Trump’s false claim during a post-Christmas Day visit to U.S. troops in Iraq that he boosted military pay by 10 percent.

Reporters are used to officials who respond to their inquiries with a terse “no comment.” This was typically the practice in prior presidential administrations when officials saw no strategic value in rebutting an unflattering story.

But as in so many things, the Trump administration is different. Instead of “no comment,” Trump’s press representatives often don’t bother saying anything at all.

“This is the least responsive White House press operation I’ve ever dealt with by far,” said Peter Baker, a veteran White House reporter for the New York Times and one of the co-authors of the story about Trump’s isolation. “There are certainly individuals there who are professional and try to be helpful when they can, and I appreciate their efforts, I really do. But as a whole, I’ve learned not to expect answers even to basic questions.”

 washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What connects Trumpish figures around the world? The Internet is the best answer, Megan McArdle, Jan. 2, 2019 (print edition). The Internet is disrupting politics the way it has disrupted everything else.

Jan. 1

Guardian, 'It's astonishing': The demise of the daily White House press briefing, David Smith, Jan. 1, 2019. The press briefing has become a monthly event in the era of Trump, and concerns are that it may soon disappear altogether.

sarah huckabee sanders 2017 05 05Then a voice on the public-address system: “The press briefing will begin at 1.20pm. Thank you.” The hundred-or-so journalists crammed into the seats and aisles erupt in knowing laughs and groans. Sarah Huckabee Sanders [shown in a file photo] eventually enters at 1.35 pm. It will be the White House press secretary’s sole briefing in the whole of November – a paltry total she will match in December.

The question-and-answer session was described as must-see television in the early months of the Trump administration, gripping millions of viewers and earning the accolade of parody on the TV variety show Saturday Night Live. But now the daily press briefing is no more. It has effectively become a monthly press briefing, raising concerns that it might soon disappear altogether.

That would be a tragedy and a campaign point in 2020,” said Anthony Scaramucci, who served as White House communications director for 11 days in 2017. “I pray that that does not happen. For the president to be successful, you don’t want that to be a campaign talking point in 2020. The American people intuitively know that there needs to be an open communication between the White House and the free press.”

The first official White House press secretary was George Akerson under President Herbert Hoover in 1929. In recent decades the position became best known to the outside world for the briefing, in which the press secretary stands at a podium and fields questions from reporters in a briefing room (formerly a swimming pool) in the west wing.

December 2018

Dec. 31

harveysilverglate 136Boston Globe, Opinion: National Enquirer didn’t commit a crime by killing Trump affair stories, Harvey Silverglate (right), Dec. 31, 2018 (print edition).  In saner times, the announcement of a plea deal between The National Enquirer and federal prosecutors stemming from the tabloid’s supposed campaign finance violations would elicit healthy skepticism, rather than cheers, at America’s media institutions. Lost in the fury of progressive — and some conservative — resistance to President Trump is the fact that the Enquirer did not commit a crime: Its conduct is protected by the First Amendment.

The long-understood dishonesty and unfairness that characterize the federal criminal justice system, which in normal times furnish fodder for the Fourth Estate’s skepticism, now are the subject of breathless page-one reporting of prosecutorial triumphs. The coverage of the National Enquirer case is a perfect example.

david pecker croppedIt is now known that David J. Pecker (left), chairman and CEO of American Media, publisher of the National Enquirer and other supermarket tabloids, was a longtime friend of Trump. As such, during the 2016 election, Pecker, in concert with Trump’s personal attorney Michael D. Cohen, engaged in the practice known as “catch and kill,” in which the tabloid would buy stories on an exclusive basis from women who credibly claimed to have had affairs with Trump. Their undisclosed purpose was to bury, not publish, the scandalous stories.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan deemed these payoffs campaign finance law violations, since they exceeded federal campaign contribution limits and their alleged purpose was to protect candidate Trump’s electoral prospects, rather than the alternative motive of hiding the infidelity from Trump’s wife. michael cohen ap file croppedBoth Cohen (right) and Pecker, when caught and offered a plea bargain, purported to buy into the prosecutors’ interpretation of the purpose of the scheme. Cohen pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years imprisonment for this and other confessed Trump-related crimes, while Pecker and his company entered into a favorable nonprosecution deal, as the Times put it, “in exchange for its cooperation.”

Such deals are notorious among prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers, and even among the federal judges who routinely accept and bless them from the bench. It’s an open secret that those who are by these means “turned” into government witnesses adopt prosecutors’ favored scenarios as part of what Alan Dershowitz has aptly named agreements to “sing and compose.”

It is the composing aspect of the system, which should (but does not) bother all ethical lawyers and judges, that seems to elude the reporters and editorialists covering these events, who doubtless would be bothered by the tactic if the targets were more sympathetic. It is understandable why lawyers like Cohen and publishers like Pecker engage in such deals, even if they have to align their stories with interpretations of the law that turn them into confessed criminals (Cohen) or violators spared only by virtue of their cooperation (Pecker).

A US Attorney says the National Enquirer’s parent company won’t be prosecuted over efforts to protect Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign.

Harvey Silverglate, a criminal defense and civil liberties lawyer and writer, is the author, most recently, of “Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent.”

Dec. 27

oenearthlogoOpEdNews, This Is What Happens When a Court Decides Whether You Get Justice or Get Destroyed, Ted Rall (below right), Dec. 27, 2018. More care goes into the making of a sandwich. That's what I was thinking last Thursday as I watched oral arguments in the California Court of Appeals in Los Angeles.

ted rallCase after case came before a three-judge panel. They concerned a variety of matters.

And there was me, former editorial cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, defending myself from an "anti-SLAPP" motion that, if successful, would end my lawsuit before it began and bankrupt me with a court order for methe victimto pay the Times hundreds of thousands of dollars for their legal fees.

It ought to be illegal for a police department to own a newspaper. But it's not. In 2015 the LAPD pension fund was a major tribune publishing logoshareholder of Tribune Publishing, owner of the Times. Annoyed at my cartoons about him, then-LAPD Chief Charlie Beck asked the Times then-publisher Austin Beutner, now LA schools superintendent, to fire me as a political favor. He did. Beck also wanted my reputation destroyed so I could never work again, in order to send a message to journalists: don't mess with the LAPD.

Beutner (shown below at right via his Twitter photo), Beck's political ally and a man with ambitions to become mayor or governor, complied by ordering that the paper publish two libelous articles about me portraying me as a liar.

austin beutner twitterThe second one was published after I proved I had told the truth. I sued for defamation and wrongful termination in 2016.

Since then Times attorney Kelli Sager, who also represents the National Enquirer in its smear of gay icon Richard Simmons, has waged a scorched-earth litigation campaign designed to intimidate, harass and delay my quest to clear my name.

Sager filed the anti-SLAPP, a law designed to be used by individuals to defend themselves against powerful corporate entities, against me. She convinced the court to force me to pay $75,000 just to be able to continue my case for something called a "Section 1030"a law whose intent is to discriminate against out-of-state plaintiffs (I live in New York.) Last week, during oral arguments in open court, she compared me to a "pedophile."

Last summer the lower court in L.A. ruled against me on the anti-SLAPP, saying that even though I showed that I was truthful and the Times was not, I must pay $330,000 (as of then) in legal fees to the Times. I appealed, which is why I was in court last Thursday.

We knew it was going to be tough. Shortly beforehand the court issued a "tentative opinion" that indicated the Court of Appeals planned to buy Sager's arguments lock, stock and barrel. Those arguments were lengthy and complicated but they could be summarized as: the First Amendment allows newspapers to publish anything they want, the truth doesn't much matter and if you slap a veneer of officialdom on libel  in this case, the Times claimed, it was merely reporting on what the LAPD said about meit becomes "privileged," i.e. inactionable.

Dec. 26

Trump & Media

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Stupid Questions,’ Rarer Briefings, No Holiday Party: Trump’s Year With the Press, Michael M. Grynbaum, Dec. 26, 2018. The rituals of reporting on the White House, and the place of journalism in American life, continued to shift in 2018 under President Trump.

Presidents usually hold a holiday reception for the Washington press corps (even Mr. Trump acquiesced to one in 2017); this year’s edition was canceled. Presidents usually avoid criticizing American journalists on foreign soil; visiting Britain, Mr. Trump called NBC News “dishonest” and refused to take a question from Jim Acosta of CNN. (“Music to the ears of dictators and authoritarian leaders,” said an official at the Committee to Protect Journalists.)

Mr. Trump is reinventing relations between the president and the press. Next year may reveal if the changes are a blip, or permanent.
On Twitter, President Trump has used the term “Fake News” 174 times in 2018. It can be easy to forget that, two years ago, the White House press briefing took place nearly every day. The president refrained from insulting reporters on live television. And correspondents did not lose their access for showing insufficient “respect.”That’s the thing about traditions — they tend to be sacrosanct until they aren’t.

ny times logoNew York Times, LinkedIn Co-Founder Apologizes for Deception in Alabama Senate Race, Scott Shane, Dec. 26, 2018. Reid Hoffman, the tech billionaire whose money was spent on Russian-style social media deception in a Senate race last year, apologized on Wednesday, saying in a statement that he had not approved the operation and did not support such tactics in American politics.

Mr. Hoffman said he had no idea that political operatives whose work he had financed had used fakery on Facebook and Twitter in the special Senate election a year ago in Alabama. But he had an obligation to track how his money was spent, he said, and he promised to exercise more care in the future.

The New York Times and The Washington Post reported last week that $100,000 from Mr. Hoffman was spent on a deceptive social media campaign to aid Doug Jones, the Democratic candidate, who barely defeated the Republican, Roy Moore. The money went to a small group of social media experts that included Jonathon Morgan, the chief executive of New Knowledge, a cybersecurity firm.

They created a Facebook page intended to look like the work of conservative Alabamians, and used it to try to split Republicans and promote a conservative write-in candidate to take votes from Mr. Moore.

They also used thousands of Twitter accounts to make it appear as if automated Russian bot accounts were following and supporting Mr. Moore, according to an internal report on the project. The apparent Russian support for Mr. Moore drew broad news media coverage.

Democratic political strategists say the small Alabama operation — which accounts for a minuscule share of the $51 million spent in the contest — was carried out as a debate about tactics intensified within the party.

The Alabama operation is among the first examples to come to light of such underhanded methods on social media in American politics. But because such efforts are generally very easy to hide and very difficult to trace, it is possible that other instances have gone undetected.

In 2017, through a fund called Investing in Us, Mr. Hoffman gave money to a small company, American Engagement Technologies. The company’s leader, Mikey Dickerson, is a former Google employee who founded the United States Digital Service during the Obama administration to try to upgrade the federal government’s use of technology.

Dec. 20

German Fake News Scandal

ny times logoNew York Times, After German Journalism Scandal, Critics Are ‘Popping the Corks,’ Katrin Bennhold, Dec. 20, 2018. He told the story of a Syrian boy who believed he had helped start the country’s civil war with a prank. He profiled an American woman who traveled around the United States to watch executions. He brought to life, in astoundingly granular detail, the anguish of a would-be suicide bomber in Iraq.

Claas Relotius, a star writer at Der Spiegel, Germany’s most respected newsmagazine, won many awards for his reporting on the most important stories of the day.

Except, it turns out, much of it was invented.

claas relotius portrat cropDer Spiegel fired Mr. Relotius (left) and published a lengthy apology to its readers this week. But the failure of a magazine long considered the leader in Germany for hard-hitting investigations could have cascading consequences for the news media, analysts and senior journalists said.

“Spiegelgate,” as it has been dubbed on social media, is one of Germany’s biggest postwar journalism scandals, potentially spanning seven years and many dozens of articles. Coming at a moment when public trust in journalism is already low, it could hardly have arrived at a worse time.

Untruths and half-truths circulate liberally on social media platforms, and populists on both sides of the Atlantic have been aggressively trying to discredit and intimidate the mainstream media.

President Trump routinely accuses the media of producing “fake news.” In Germany, members of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, describe mainstream outlets as the “Lügenpresse,” or “lying press,” a term used by the Nazis in the 1920s before they rose to power.

Media / Suspected Trafficking

sacha baron cohen as gio monaldo in who is america

Sacha Baron Cohen in character as Gio Monaldo (Showtime)

Newsweek, Sacha Baron Cohen’s ‘Who Is America?’ deleted scene may have exposed elite, Andrew Whalen, Dec. 20, 2018. In Sacha Baron newsweek logoCohen’s latest series, Who Is America?, the character comedian and provocateur nudged former and current Republican members of Congress into endorsing armed kindergartners, revealed anti-Muslim racism and got Dick Cheney to autograph a waterboarding kit. But there was one scene the Showtime series captured on camera that was too dark and extreme, even for Baron Cohen.

In a new interview with Deadline, Baron Cohen describes how the election of Donald Trump inspired him to get back into costume (“I realized, I have to do something else to deal with this kind of anger and total disgust at what was going on”) and explained the agonizing detail that went into fictional characters like former Mossad agent Erran Morad and far-right conspiracy theorist Billy Wayne Ruddick.

Along the way, Baron Cohen was astounded by the increase in open American racism. “When we were shooting Borat, if somebody said something anti-Semitic or homophobic, we were surprised and we knew that it would make the cut,” Baron Cohen told Deadline. “Now, going out all these years later, you realize that the political dialogue that’s come from the top has made an extremely negative impact on other politicians and to the populace. People are saying things that they never would have dreamed of saying publicly, prior to Trump.”

The interview also gives some new insight into how Baron Cohen gained Cheney’s confidence. “I think he felt happy and almost excited to sit in a room next to my character, because I had done the one thing that he hadn’t actually done. He’d ordered people to be killed but he never actually killed someone with his bare hands,” Baron Cohen said. “It’s a bit like a virgin sitting next to a womanizer and being enamored by them.”

But more than Cheney or the man he convinced to “murder” three people at the Women’s March (the interview subject triggered a fictional bomb), Baron Cohen’s most shocking encounter came when, in character as Italian playboy Gio Monaldo, he convinced a concierge to help him find an underaged boy to molest.

“We wanted to investigate how does someone like Harvey Weinstein gets away with doing what…get away with criminality, essentially. And the network that surrounds him. We decided that Gio would interview a concierge in Las Vegas,” Baron Cohen describes.

During the interview, believing the admission would drive the concierge from the room, Baron Cohen, as Gio, reveals that he’s molested an eight-year-old boy.

“This guy starts advising Gio how to get rid of this issue. We even at one point talk about murdering the boy, and the concierge is just saying, ‘well, listen, I’m really sorry. In this country, we can’t just drown the boy. This is America we don’t do that,’” Baron Cohen describes.

After the concierge offers to put Gio in touch with a lawyer who can help “silence the boy,” Baron Cohen asked for his help securing a date for the night.

“He says, ‘what do you mean, a date?’ I go, you know, like a young man. He says, ‘well, what kind of age?’ I say, lower than Bar Mitzvah but older than eight. And he says, ‘yeah, I can put you in touch with somebody who can get you some boys like that.’”

Rather than airing the segment, Baron Cohen and his production team turned the footage over to the FBI, “because we thought, perhaps alexander acosta labor othere’s a pedophile ring in Las Vegas that’s operating for these very wealthy men. And this concierge had said that he’d worked for politicians and various billionaires.”

While Baron Cohen judged the interview too “dark” and “extreme” to be included in the show, it’s a revealing look at how the powerful can get away with decades-long sexual abuse, including pedophile sexual abuse, such as in the massive cover-up of the crimes of Jeffrey Epstein, orchestrated by President Trump’s Labor Secretary, Alexander Acosta, right.

Dec. 19

More Facebook Scandal

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Facebook Gave Tech Giants More Intrusive Data Access Than It Disclosed, Gabriel J.X. Dance, Michael LaForgia and Nicholas Confessore, Dec. 18, 2018. Internal records show that the social network had arrangements with Microsoft, Amazon and others, effectively exempting some partners from its usual privacy rules. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is shown in a file photo.

facebook logoFor years, Facebook gave some of the world’s largest technology companies more intrusive access to users’ personal data than it has disclosed, effectively exempting those business partners from its usual privacy rules, according to internal records and interviews.

The special arrangements are detailed in hundreds of pages of Facebook documents obtained by The New York Times. The records, generated in 2017 by the company’s internal system for tracking partnerships, provide the most complete picture yet mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wof the social network’s data-sharing practices. They also underscore how personal data has become the most prized commodity of the digital age, traded on a vast scale by some of the most powerful companies in Silicon Valley and beyond.

The exchange was intended to benefit everyone. Pushing for explosive growth, Facebook got more users, lifting its advertising revenue. Partner companies acquired features to make their products more attractive. Facebook users connected with friends across different devices and websites. But Facebook also assumed extraordinary power over the personal information of its 2.2 billion users — control it has wielded with little transparency or outside oversight.

Facebook allowed Microsoft’s Bing search engine to see the names of virtually all Facebook users’ friends without consent, the records show, and gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read Facebook users’ private messages.

Dec. 18

9/11 Truth Analyzed On Radio

steve bhaerman wiki politiki

Wiki Politiki, The Latest REAL News on the 9/11 Attacks and Finding Truth in a Sea of Lies, Steve Bhaerman, 5 p.m., Dec. 18, 2018. An Interview with Andrew Kreig, Author, Attorney, Broadcaster and Founder of the Justice Integrity Project. Did you know that In a letter dated November 7, 2018, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York notified the Lawyers’ Committee for 9/11 Inquiry that he would comply with the provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 3332 requiring him to present to a special grand jury the Lawyers’ Committee’s reports filed earlier this year of unprosecuted federal crimes at the World Trade Center?

You didn’t? That’s because mainstream media makes it its business to insure that anything that points to the nefarious doings of the real deep state is “none of its business.” The misinformation, disinformation and missing information that pollute corporate news have created the perfect field for “real” fake news to flourish.

Which is why this latest development might be a genuine breakthrough. It means a 23-member grand jury, vested with subpoena power and the authority to take sworn testimony, will hear the voluminous evidence of the World Trade Center’s demolition and will have the ability to conduct a thorough investigation that could result in indictments against suspected individuals — in other words, what the 9/11 Truth Movement has been working toward for 17 years.

Our guest this week on Wiki Politiki, journalist and author Andrew Kreig (pronounced “Craig”) will discuss his own involvement with the Lawyers Committee, as well as his work through his own organization, the Justice Integrity Project.

Visit Justice Integrity, and you will find a refreshingly broad, transpartisan and bluntly truthful site that isn’t afraid to take on both the deep state and the Trumpist disinfo machine. Their mission is “to report misconduct, primarily in the justice and political systems, that harms individuals, communities and democratic values. The project is non-partisan and supported by advertising revenue and paid subscriptions.”

 washington post logoWashington Post, More companies pull ads from Tucker Carlson’s show in growing backlash over immigrant comment, Deanna Paul and Alex Horton, Dec. 18, 2018. Fox News advertisers face pressure to quit. Again. Fox News host Tucker Carlson lost yet another advertiser after suggesting that immigrants make the U.S. “dirtier” on Dec. 13.

tucker carlson djtThe growing backlash against Tucker Carlson’s anti-immigrant rhetoric has prompted multiple companies to pull advertisements from the air during his prime-time Fox News show, including IHOP and Ancestry.com. During his Thursday evening opening monologue, the host (shown in a file photo with one of President Trump adjoining) suggested that immigrants make the United States “poorer and dirtier.”

“Our leaders demand that you shut up and accept this,” Carlson said, as he name-checked House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and ran footage of trash along the border purportedly from caravans of Central fox news logo SmallAmerican migrants. “We have a moral obligation to admit the world’s poor, they tell us, even if it makes our own country poorer and dirtier and more divided. Immigration is a form of atonement.”

On Tuesday, more companies took a position, even as Fox reported that no revenue has been lost. A count by The Hollywood Reporter reached 16 companies as of 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, with TD Ameritrade, Just For Men and the United Explorer credit card joining the ranks of companies who had previously announced their intentions.

Dec. 17

Russian Cyber-Attack Reports robert mueller screenshot washington post

Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, the former FBI director appointed by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama (file photo)

Washington Post, Russians targeted Mueller on social media, says report prepared for Senate, Craig Timberg, Tony Romm and Elizabeth Dwoskin, Dec. 17, 2018. Having worked to help get President Trump into the White House, Russian operatives turned their efforts to neutralizing the biggest threat to his staying there, according to a new report, and unloaded on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III via fake accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and beyond.

Months after President Trump took office, Russia’s disinformation teams trained their sites on a new target: special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Having worked to help get Trump into the White House, they now worked to neutralize the biggest threat to his staying there.

The Russian operatives unloaded on Mueller through fake accounts on Facebook, Twitter and beyond, falsely claiming that the former FBI director was corrupt and that the allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election were crackpot conspiracies. One post on Instagram — which emerged as an especially potent weapon in the Russian social media arsenal — claimed that Mueller had worked in the past with “radical Islamic groups.”

Such tactics exemplified how Russian teams ranged nimbly across social media platforms in a shrewd online influence operation aimed squarely at American voters. The effort started earlier than commonly understood and lasted longer while relying on the strengths of different sites to manipulate distinct slices of the electorate, according to a pair of comprehensive new reports prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee and released Monday.

One of the reports, authored by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and network analysis firm Graphika, became public when The Washington Post obtained it and published its highlights Sunday. The other report was by social media research firm New Knowledge, Columbia University and Canfield Research.

 ny times logoNew York Times, CBS Says Les Moonves Will Not Receive $120 Million Severance, Edmund Lee and Rachel Abrams, Dec. 17, 2018. The CBS Corporation, battered by cbs logoscandal and facing a leadership vacuum, said its former chief executive, Leslie Moonves, misled the company about multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and tried to hide evidence as he made a frenzied attempt to save his legacy and reap a lucrative severance. As a result, the company said Mr. Moonves would not receive his $120 million exit payout.

Dec. 16

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, FCC Blasted for Opening the Door to Text Message Censorship, Austen Erblat, Dec. 16, 2018. The FCC voted to allow cellular carriers to block text messages at their discretion. In a move that Democrats and electronic-rights groups worry could lead to censorship of political messages, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted this week to allow wireless carriers to block unwanted or spam text messages. The vote was split along party lines in the commission, with the three Republicans supporting and the lone Democrat opposing.

fcc logoRepublicans said the move reaffirms a tradition of allowing wireless carriers to block spam or scam text messages before they get to consumers’ phones, but Democrats and electronic- rights activists say this allows carriers to censor or block text messages, removing consumers’ right to decide for themselves.

ajit pai headshot custom“The FCC shouldn’t make it easier for spammers and scammers to bombard consumers with unwanted texts,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, left, said in a statement. “And we shouldn’t allow unwanted messages to plague wireless messaging services in the same way that unwanted robocalls flood voice services.”

But who decides what is “unwanted?”

The lone Democrat on the commission, Jessica Rosenworcel, said the decision means consumers “no longer have the final say on where your text messages go and what they said. That means your carrier now has the legal right to block your text messages and censor the very content of your messages.”

Electronic-rights groups claim the decision will continue to allow carriers to block fundraising campaign text messages and political messages, preempting consumers’ ability to decide whether they want to receive the messages.

“This decision does nothing to curb spam, and is not needed to curb spam,” Harold Feld, senior vice president at Public Knowledge, said in a statement.

“It is simply the latest example of Chairman Pai’s radical agenda that puts companies ahead of consumers.”

Dec. 14

washington post logoWashington Post, The Weekly Standard, influential conservative magazine, will shutter, Paul Farhi​, Dec. 14, 2018. After 23 years the Washington-based magazine will come to an end, with 35 staff members losing their jobs.

The Weekly Standard, the conservative political and cultural magazine, will shut down after its last issue appears on Monday, the chief executive of its parent company said Friday. The Washington-based magazine’s 35-member editorial staff will be laid off as a result, said Ryan McKibben, the head of Clarity Media Group, the Colorado company that owns the Standard and its sister publication, the Washington Examiner newspaper.

The Standard was founded in 1995 by three journalists, Bill Kristol, Fred Barnes and John Podhoretz, with funding from conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch sold his interest to billionaire Philip Anschutz in 2009.

At its peak, the magazine’s circulation topped 100,000. But it has been in steady decline in recent years, losing about half it circulation and revenue since Clarity, owned by Anschutz, took it over, McKibben said.·​

Dec.13

washington post logoWashington Post, Probe of U.S.-funded broadcaster that denounced George Soros finds additional offensive content about Muslims, Aaron C. Davis, Dec. 13, 2018 (print edition). The federal agency that oversees Radio and Television Martí also is examining how the news network came to publish a story that included anti-Semitic language about Soros, a U.S. citizen and Democratic megadonor, as well as an anti-Muslim piece.

Dec. 11

journalists as time magazine person of year

Time magazine's Person of the Year honorees. This combination photo provided by Time Magazine shows one of four covers for the "Person of the Year," announced Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. The cover includesJamal Khashoggi, top left, members of the Capital Gazette newspaper, of Annapolis, Md., top right. (Time Magazine photos

ap logoAssociated Press via Chicago Tribune, Time magazine's 2018 person of the year are 4 journalists and a newspaper, David Bauder, Dec. 11, 2018. Time magazine has chosen "The Guardians and the War on Truth" as its Person of the Year honorees (Time) Time magazine on Tuesday recognized journalists, including the slain Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi, as its 2018 Person of the Year in what it said was an effort to emphasize the importance of reporters' work in an increasingly hostile world.

The designation wasn't intended as a specific message to the magazine's runner-up choice, President Donald Trump, who has denounced "fake news" and called some reporters enemies of the people, said Ben Goldberger, executive editor. Time cited four figures it called "the guardians." Besides Khashoggi, they are the staff of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, where five people were shot to death in June; Philippine journalist Maria Ressa; and Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who have been jailed in Myanmar for a year.

It's the first time since the magazine began the end-of-year tradition in 1927 that Time has featured a journalist or recognized someone posthumously.

Time said that 2018 has been marked by manipulation and abuse of information, along with efforts by governments to foment mistrust of the facts.

Goldberger said the magazine hopes the choice reminds people outside of journalism about the importance of the work. Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said he sees this message already starting to get through — sadly, in part because of the attention paid to Khashoggi's killing. Khashoggi is one of at least 52 journalists murdered so far this year, the committee said.

"In some ways, I feel we're at a turning point," Simon said.

Khashoggi was killed two months ago when The Washington Post columnist, who had lived in the U.S., visited Saudi Arabia's consulate in Turkey for paperwork so he could get married. He had been critical of the Saudi regime.

The Washington Post applauded Time for its message of support for journalists.

"We hope this recognition will prompt our nation's leaders to stand up for America's values and hold accountable those who attempt to silence journalists who cover our communities or in Jamal's case, an oppressive authoritarian government," said Fred Ryan, the Post's publisher and CEO.

Dec. 9

washington post logoWashington Post, At NPR, an army of temps faces a workplace of anxiety and insecurity, Paul Farhi, Dec. 9, 2018. For decades, the public broadcaster has relied on a cadre of temporary journalists to produce its hourly newscasts and popular news programs. Without temporary workers — who are subject to termination without cause — NPR would probably be unable to be NPR.

npr logoTemps do almost every important job in NPR’s newsroom: they pitch ideas, assign stories, edit them, report and produce them. Temps not only book the guests heard in interviews, they often write the questions the hosts ask the guests.

And there are a lot of them. According to union representatives, between 20 and 22 percent of NPR’s 483 union-covered newsroom workforce — or one in five people — are temps. The number varies week to week, as temps come and go.

washington post logo

Bush Legacy

 whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Opinion: Fawning Coverage of Bush 41 Discredits the Media, Russ Baker (founder of WhoWhatWhy, author of Family of Secrets and frequent contributor to the Columbia Journalism Review), Dec. 9, 2018. Yes, we all know you’re not supposed to speak ill of the recently departed. But seriously, the recent Bush coverage by so-called russ baker cover Customprofessional journalists has been ridiculously obsequious.

George W. Bush delivered a eulogy for his father, the 41st president of the United States, George H. W. Bush. OK, not unusual. But someone else did too: Jon Meacham, the former editor of Newsweek, a major US news organization. That’s more unusual.

Meacham, who at one point ran an ostensibly hard-hitting magazine, went on to write a biography of the elder Bush so fawning and uncritical that he became like family for the Bushes. And then he delivered the tribute.

Yet hardly any media —none?— even noted the conflict of interest. And why should they? The vast majority of news organizations abdicated their roles as honest brokers for “Bush Week,” rushing to outdo each other in gushing with exaggerated and ill-founded praise for a former president once criticized for a broad range of transgressions — legal, moral, and otherwise.

Dec. 7

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump called journalists ‘THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!’ A Capital Gazette photographer had a powerful rebuttal, Tim Elfrink, Dec. 7, 2018. Photographer Joshua McKerrow spent Thursday at the Maryland governor’s mansion, where he’s traveled annually for years to cover the holiday decorations with Capital Gazette reporter Wendi Winters. But this year, Winters was absent — one of the five victims killed in a mass shooting in the paper’s Annapolis newsroom in June. So McKerrow was already emotional when he saw President Trump’s latest all-caps broadside against journalists.

“FAKE NEWS - THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!” Trump tweeted Thursday night amid a flurry of outbursts about special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.

McKerrow responded eloquently in a thread that is equal parts memorial to Winters and rebuttal of the president’s attacks on journalists at a time when global violence against reporters is spiking.

“Wendi was no ones enemy,” McKerrow wrote in a series retweeted more than 12,000 times as of early Friday.

cnn logoPalmer Report, Analysis, CNN evacuated over bomb threat right after Donald Trump posts incendiary tweet, Bill Palmer, Dec. 7, 2018. Remember back when a guy in a Donald Trump van was sending bombs in the mail to everyone that Donald Trump was attacking during his Twitter meltdowns? That guy is now in jail where he belongs, but it turns out Trump – predictably – hasn’t learned anything from the experience.

bill palmer report logo headerAs Donald Trump was having a rabid multi-tweet meltdown on Twitter tonight about various topics, he threw in this all-caps proclamation: “FAKE NEWS – THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!” Just about half an hour later, CNN announced that it was evacuating its headquarters in the Time Warner building in New York City because someone had sent in a bomb threat.

Could this have been a coincidence? Sure, anything is possible. The last time Donald Trump started going off on CNN in such vicious fashion, one of his supporters tried to murder everyone at CNN. Trump’s tweet tonight was another de facto attack on CNN, and everyone knows it, because he directs these phrases at CNN the most often. When the President of the United States declares that CNN is the “THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE” and someone threatens to blow up CNN just minutes later, we have a real problem here.

Dec. 6

syria comic

SouthFront, DC Comics Got New Superhero From Douma. His Sister Was “Gassed” By “Russians’ Puppet” Assad, Staff report, Dec. 6, 2018. DC Comics, or the company that is behind all Batman and Superman comics and movies, as well as all other characters in their universe, took part in Washington’s Syrian propaganda narrative.

The twitter account “Stranf of the web of life,” published a crop of a page (shown above) that shows the origin story of Sandstorm, a Syrian superhero, who was part of the Global Guardians.

Dec. 4

washington post logoWashington Post, The Guardian offered a bombshell about Paul Manafort. It still hasn’t detonated, Paul Farhi​​, Dec. 4, 2018. The Guardian newspaper reported last week that Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign manager, had met with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange several times, including during a critical period in March 2016.

The story suggested that the meeting in London could be a key link in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of the Trump campaign. If such a meeting occurred, it would establish the first direct contact between one of the president’s associates and WikiLeaks, which began releasing emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee in summer 2016. The emails, stolen by Russian agents and passed to WikiLeaks, proved damaging to Trump’s opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Manafort and WikiLeaks have blasted the Guardian’s reporting. Manafort — who was convicted in August on eight counts of bank- and tax-fraud charges arising from his decades-long business and political activities in Ukraine — has called the article “totally false and deliberately libelous.” He said in a statement last week that he’s never met Assange.

 

November

Nov. 30

The Unz Review, Major Progress Amid Media Purges, Ron Unz, Nov. 30, 2018. As many reader may already be aware, I originally launched this small webzine five years ago in the wake of my sudden and unexpected purge after eight years as publisher of The American Conservative: "Why The American Conservative [TAC] Purged Its Own Publisher," Ron Unz, May 29, 2018).

Since TAC had been the primary venue for my own writings, I was faced with a major challenge, but a sudden insight changed this picture.

I realized that many other writers and columnists had also been purged from mainstream publications, and that these prominent victims could constitute the core contributors of an entirely new publication. Hence was born The Unz Review, entitled “An Alternative Media Selection” and bearing the descriptive subtitle “A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media.”

Obviously alternative media websites had existed on the Internet from its earliest days, but nearly all of these had always been centered upon a particular ideological or political orientation. But The Unz Review was intended to include most of these frequently contradictory perspectives, hosting material both Left and Right, conspiratorial and racialist, fascistic and anarchistic, with very lightly moderated comment-threads.

Although many doubted that a webzine providing such varied and conflicting viewpoints would ever attract any significant audience, I do think that we have. Our steadily rising readership reached nearly three million monthly pageviews and 45,000 monthly comments in September and October. Moreover, this strong and steady growth has come despite our suffering some of the same “soft censorship,” especially upon Social Media, that has been inflicted upon most other alternative media websites, whether Left or Right, especially in the wake of Donald Trump’s unexpected election victory.

According to the Alexa.com estimates, many of these other popular webzines have lost or more of their traffic-rankings since the January 2017 crackdown, while ours has increased by almost 50% during that same period. And according to Alexa, our daily traffic surpassed that of TAC about one year ago, and has remained significantly ahead every month since that time. Here’s a comparison table of UNZ.com over the last couple of years with roughly forty mid-size mostly alternative websites.

Less than two years ago, we were towards the lower end of the traffic rankings of these dozens of webzines, and now we are near the very top. For example, during this period our relative traffic ranking has grown by 229% over that of Counterpunch and 34% over that of TAC. Even more remarkably, our traffic was improved by 133% over the venerable and very mainstream New Republic, placing us at roughly two-thirds of the readership of that century-old publication.

Our stated role as a refuge for the purged and the persecuted has become an increasingly important one as other publications have become conforming to the ruling dictates of the Corporate Media, perhaps for fear that they would be branded “Russian Fake News.”

Just as my own 2013 purge launched this webzine, ongoing purges in the media are spurring its expansion, even into new forms of content.

For 17 years, Bonnie Faulkner’s hour-long Guns & Butter was one of the most popular and controversial shows airing on the leftwing Pacifica radio network, headquartered in Berkeley, California. And then just a few months ago, the show was suddenly cancelled and its complete archives scrubbed from the KPFA website, allegedly for its “controversial” content (though I suspect that Pacifica‘s severe financial problemsmay have allowed outside donors the necessary leverage to finally remove a long-standing thorn in their side).

Regardless, KPFA’s loss is our gain, and I’m very pleased to announce that Guns & Butter has now joined The Unz Review as our first podcast, with the website software having been extended to handle that additional form of content. This includes the hundreds of Guns & Butter shows aired since 2001, with hopes that some additional past shows will soon be located and added.

Nov. 29

glenn greenwald cnnThe Intercept, CNN Submits to Right-Wing Outrage Mob, Fires Marc Lamont Hill Due to his “Offensive” Defense of Palestinians at the UN, Glenn Greenwald (shown at right in a screenshot from a previous CNN appearance), Nov. 29 2018. CNN on Thursday afternoon fired its commentator, Temple University Professor Marc Lamont Hill, after right-wing defenders of Israel objected to a speech Professor Hill gave at the U.N. on Wednesday in defense of Palestinian rights. CNN announced the firing just twenty-four hours after Hill delivered his speech.

Hill’s firing from CNN is a major victory for the growing so-called “online call-out culture” in which people who express controversial political views are not merely critiqued but demonized online and then formally and institutionally punished after a mob consolidates in outrage, often targeting their employes with demands that they be terminated. Hill’s firing, conversely, is a major defeat for the right to advocate for Palestinian rights, to freely critique the Israeli government, and for the ability of journalism and public discourse in the U.S. generally to accommodate dissent.

cnn logoConservatives claimed to be offended, traumatized and hurt by Hill’s political views on Israel and Palestine, which they somehow construed as being anti-semitic, and demanded that CNN fire him as punishment for the expression of those opinions. CNN honored the demands of those claiming to be victimized by exposure to Hill’s viewpoints by firing him as a political analyst.

On Wednesday, Hill appeared at an event of the U.N. Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, commemorating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. During his speech, he accused the Israeli Government of practicing “settler colonialism” and apartheid, supported the international boycott movement against Israel (modeled on the one that ended South African apartheid in the 1980s), and called for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea.”

The right-wing outrage machine sprung into immediate action. The Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein accused Hill of a “long history of anti-Semitism,” adding: “The phrase ‘from the river to the sea’ has been a rallying cry for Hamas and other terrorist groups seeking the elimination of Israel, as a Palestinian state stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea would mean that Israel would be wiped off the map.”

Some on the pro-Israel right who agitated for Hill’s firing have previously mocked what they call “outrage culture,” in which people are fired for controversial comments. The Washington Examiner’s Executive Editor and fanatical Israel defender, Seth Mandel, has long denounced and ridiculed such “mobs,” angrily objecting, for instance, when Disney recently fired director James Gunn for provocative Twitter remarks about pedophilia. Mandel used similarly derisive language (“internet outrage machine”) to denounce the removal by Business Insider of a column by Daniella Greenbaum that many found to be hurtful and traumatizing because it was, they insisted, transphobic.

Yet the very same Seth Mandel who finds “outrage mobs” so offensive when they target people who have similar political views to his own helped lead his own “internet outrage mob” to have Hill fired. This Stalwart Champion of Free Expression posted a series of tweets directed at CNN claiming that Hill was an anti-Jewish bigot and an advocate of genocide, and then posted multiple childish tweets with gifs celebrating Hill’s firing.

Our discourse, our newsrooms, and our academic institutions are now drowning with people who demand that any speech be banned and suppressed that they regard as “hurtful,” “offensive,” “traumatizing,” or fostering a feeling of being “unsafe.” But what they really mean is that they want speech suppressed that they and those who agree with them find “hurtful” and “traumatizing.” Speech that makes their political enemies feel offended, uncomfortable or unsafe is heralded as brave and provocative.

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: This Intentional Guardian Fake News Story Proves That The Media Can't Be Trusted, b, Nov. 29, 2018. In 2015, the British Guardian appointed Katherine Viner as editor in chief. Under her lead, the paper took a new direction. While it earlier made attempts to balance its shoddier side with some interesting reporting, it is now solidly main stream in the worst sense. It promotes neo-liberalism and a delves into cranky identity grievances stories. It also became a main outlet for manipulative propaganda peddled by the British secret services.

Its recent fake news story about Paul Manafort, Wikileaks and Julian Assange aptly demonstrates this.

On November 27 the Guardian prepared to publish a story which asserted that Paula Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager, had met Julian Assange, the publisher of Wikileaks, in the Ecuadorian embassy in London on at least three occasions. Some two hours before the story went public it contacted Manafort and Assange's lawyers to get their comments.

The piece did not include the public denial Wikileaks issued to its 5.4 million followers one and a half hour before it was published.

The Guardian piece came at a critical moment. Currently the U.K. and Ecuador conspire to deliver Julian Assange to U.S. authorities. On Monday special counsel Robert Mueller said Manafort lied to investigators, violating his recent plea deal.

The new sensational claim was immediately picked up by prominent reporters and major mainstream outlets. It is likely that millions of people took note of it. But many people who had followed Russiagate fairytale and the Mueller investigation were immediately suspicious of the Guardian claim.

The story was weakly sourced and included some details that seemed unlikely to be true. Glenn Greenwald noted that the Ecuadorian embassy is under heavy CCTV surveillance. There are several guards, and visitors have to provide their identity to enter it. Every visit is logged. If Manaford had really visited Assange, it would have long been known.

Julian Assange instructed his lawyers to sue the Guardian for libel. Wikileaks opened a fund to support the lawsuit.

A day after the Guardian smear piece, the Washington Times reported that Manafort's passports, entered into evidence by the Muller prosecution, show that he did not visit London in any of the years the Guardian claimed he was there to visit Assange.

The story was completely false and the Guardian knew it was. It disregarded and left out the denials the subjects of the story had issued before it was published. Within hours of being published the Guardian piece was debunked as fake news. That did not hinder other outlets to add to its smear.

natasha bertrand

Nov. 27

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Fox & Friends’ Fed Interview Script to Trump’s EPA Chief, Emails Show, Maxwell Tani, Nov. 27, 2018.The president’s favorite cable-news show shared its interview scripts and its oh-so-hard-hitting questions in advance with an embattled Trump official.

scott pruitt epaFormer Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, left, was clearly taken aback last year when occasional Fox & Friends fill-in host Ed Henry grilled him about a number of ethical scandals facing his administration.

And Pruitt had a good reason to be surprised. In past interviews with President Trump’s favorite cable-news show, the then-EPA chief’s team chose the topics for interviews, and knew the questions in advance.

In one instance, according to emails revealed in a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the Sierra Club and reviewed by The Daily Beast, Pruitt’s team even approved part of the show’s script.

fox news logo SmallFox & Friends has long been a friendly venue for Trump and his allies, but the emails demonstrate how the show has pushed standard cable-news practices to the extreme in order to make interviews a comfortable, non-confrontational experience for favored government officials. “Every American journalist knows that to provide scripts or articles to the government for review before publication or broadcast is a cardinal sin. It’s Journalism 101,” said David Hawkins, a CBS News and CNN veteran who teaches journalism at Fordham University. “This is worse than that. It would and should get you fired from any news organization with integrity.”

“I can’t imagine why a high-level newsmaker—like a White House official—would ever receive a formal pre-interview,” added Sid Bedingfield, a former CNN executive who now teaches journalism at the University of Minnesota.

Reuters, Former Pennsylvania attorney general may soon begin jail sentence, Jonathan Allen, Nov. 27, 2018. Pennsylvania’s former top prosecutor Kathleen Kane could soon begin serving her jail sentence for perjury after the state’s Supreme Court denied her appeal, with prosecutors asking a judge on Tuesday to revoke bail.

kathleen kane headA jury convicted Kane, shown in a file photo, in 2016 of leaking secret grand jury information to the press to embarrass a former state prosecutor, and then lying about it to investigators. She was sentenced to serve 10 to 23 months in county jail. Kane was the first woman and the first Democrat to be elected as Pennsylvania’s attorney general, a role that first became an elected office in 1980. She resigned two days after the conviction and was released on bail pending her appeal.

Kane was accused of giving information from a grand jury proceeding in 2013 to a Philadelphia Daily News reporter to retaliate against a former state prosecutor, Frank Fina. She believed Fina had told the Philadelphia Inquirer about her decision to drop prosecution of a case that Fina had developed against six black Democratic legislators in Philadelphia. Grand jury information is bound by secrecy. Kane’s lawyers argued that Kane had intended only to legally leak information, and was unaware her aides would also include grand jury material.

New York Post, Potential bidders for Tribune Publishing will team up, Keith J. Kelly, Nov. 27, 2018. Two of the potential bidders for Tribune Publishing are joining forces. Will Wyatt, the former Starboard hedge fund manager who formed the Donerail Group, is teaming up with AIM Media, headed by former Chicago Sun-Times and Dallas Morning News executive Jeremy Halbreich.

tribune publishing logoThey’re now jointly pursuing Tribune Publishing, formerly know as Tronc, which counts the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun, the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel and the struggling New York Daily News among its holdings.

H. Ross Perot, a billionaire and an independent presidential candidate in the ’90s, is among the backers of that bid, my colleague Josh Kosman learned. Perot teamed up earlier with Halbreich and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones as they expanded AIM Media to include newspapers in Texas, Ohio and West Virginia. Neither Halbreich nor Wyatt could be reached for comment.

They are squaring off against the only other suitor still in the hunt, the McClatchy Co., owner of the Miami Herald, Kansas City Star, Sacramento Bee and other newspapers.

Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon Shiong still controls about 25 percent of the stock of Tribune Publishing and originally talked with the Donerail Group about a joint bid. He then talked to McClatchy but now is said to be on the sidelines, aligned with neither. He is said to be facing new problems with a declining print and digital audience in LA.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tribune_Publishing

daily beast logojulian assange indicter imageDaily Beast, Unkempt, Heavily Bearded Julian Assange No Longer Has Embassy Cat For Company, Barbie Latza Nadeau, Nov. 27, 2018. WikiLeaks founder (shown in a photo by The Indicter human rights journal) is living in isolation with limited human contact. Even his cat found it too lonely.

It has been six long years since Australian secret-spiller Julian Assange jumped bail and sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to escape an international arrest warrant for alleged sex abuse and rape in Sweden. During that time, he has gained Ecuadorian citizenship and the Swedish charges have been dropped, but if he leaves the embassy, he risks arrest for breaching bail and the possibility of extradition to the United States, where federal charges appear to have been filed against him in secret.

The Ecuadorian embassy staff have apparently grown tired of hosting their global persona non grata, and are essentially trying to squeeze him out by forcing him into what amounts to isolation. They’ve cut off his internet—his lifeline, and won’t let most visitors in to see him. Those who try to leave messages, like Trump presidential adviser Roger Stone, who left his card earlier this year, are apparently turned away. Not even former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson, his ardent supporter https://www.thedailybeast.com/pamela-anderson-my-open-letter-to-australian-pm-scott-morrison-on-julian-assangewho was a frequent guest and suspected paramour, can get past the guards.

But last week, journalists from the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, who have visited Assange annually for the last six years, were able to once again gain access — on the condition that they do not print an interview that might provoke even more pressure on Ecuador to kick him out.

What they found was a depleted man on the verge of going mad.

“As soon as we saw him, we realized he has lost a lot of weight,” the La Repubblica reporters write. “He is so skinny. Not even his winter sweater can hide his skinny shoulders. His nice-looking face, captured by photographers all around the world, is very tense. His long hair and beard make him look like a hermit, though not a nutter: As we exchange greetings, he seems very lucid and rational.”

They say Assange’s cramped quarters at the embassy do not allow him access to the garden, which means he does not go outside—something even prisoners serving life sentences in isolation are afforded. He only speaks to his lawyer and the security guards, he has limited phone service, and his mail is strictly monitored. Even the cat that once kept him company and “diffused tension” is gone, according to La Repubblica.

“Assange preferred to spare the cat an isolation which has become unbearable and allow it a healthier life.”

He is suspected of acting on behalf of Russia’s GRU intelligence agency to distribute emails and hacked documents belonging to the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential election. In April 2017, CIA Director Mike Pompeo called Assange’s web-based agency WikiLeaks a “a non-state hostile intelligence service, often abetted by state actors like Russia.”

Nov. 24

Moon of Alabama, Investigative commentary: British Government Runs Secret Anti-Russian Smear Campaigns, b, Nov. 24, 2018. In 2015 the government of Britain launched a secret United Kingdom flagoperation to insert anti-Russia propaganda into the western media stream. We have already seen many consequences of this and similar programs which are designed to smear anyone who does not follow the anti-Russian government lines. The 'Russian collusion' smear campaign against Donald Trump based on the Steele dossier was also a largely British operation but seems to be part of a different project.

The 'Integrity Initiative' builds 'cluster' or contact groups of trusted journalists, military personal, academics and lobbyists within foreign countries. These people get alerts via social media to take action when the British center perceives a need.

On June 7 it took the the Spanish cluster only a few hours to derail the appointment of Perto Banos as the Director of the National Security Department in Spain. The cluster determined that he had a too-positive view of Russia and launched a coordinated social media smear campaign (pdf) against him.

The Initiative and its operations were unveiled when someone liberated some of its documents, including its budget applications to the British Foreign Office, and posted them under the 'Anonymous' label at cyberguerrilla.org.

The Initiative is nominally run under the (government financed) non-government-organisation The Institute For Statecraft. Its internal handbook (pdf) describes its purpose:

The Integrity Initiative was set up in autumn 2015 by The Institute for Statecraft in cooperation with the Free University of Brussels (VUB) to bring to the attention of politicians, atlantic council logopolicy-makers, opinion leaders and other interested parties the threat posed by Russia to democratic institutions in the United Kingdom, across Europe and North America.

It lists Bellingcat and the Atlantic Council as "partner organisations" and promises that:

"Cluster members will be sent to educational sessions abroad to improve the technical competence of the cluster to deal with disinformation and strengthen bonds in the cluster community. [...] (Events with DFR Digital Sherlocks, Bellingcat, EuVsDisinfo, Buzzfeed, Irex, Detector Media, Stopfake, LT MOD Stratcom – add more names and propose cluster participants as you desire)."

The Initiatives Orwellian slogan is 'Defending Democracy Against Disinformation'. It covers European countries, the UK, the U.S. and Canada and seems to want to expand to the Middle East.

NATOOn its About page it claims: "We are not a government body but we do work with government departments and agencies who share our aims." The now published budget plans show that more than 95% of the Initiative's funding is coming directly from the British government, NATO and the U.S. State Department. All the 'contact persons' for creating 'clusters' in foreign countries are British embassy officers. It amounts to a foreign influence campaign by the British government that hides behind a 'civil society' NGO.

The organisation is led by one Chris N. Donnelly (shown in a Euromaidanpress photo) who receives £8,100 per month for creating the smear campaign chris donnelly via euromaidanpressnetwork.

The Initiative has a black-and-white view that is based on a "we are the good ones" illusion. When "we" 'educate the public' it is legitimate work. When others do similar, it its disinformation. That is of course not the reality. The Initiative's existence itself, created to secretly manipulate the public, is proof that such a view is wrong.

If its work were as legit as it wants to be seen, why would the Foreign Office run it from behind the curtain as an NGO? The Initiative is not the only such operation.

A look at the 'clusters' set up in U.S. and UK shows some prominent names. Members of the Atlantic Council, which has a contract to censor Facebook posts, appear on several cluster lists. The UK core cluster also includes some prominent names like tax fraudster William Browder, the daft Atlantic Council shill Ben Nimmo and the neo-conservative Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum.

state dept map logo SmallOne person of interest is Andrew Wood who handed the Steele 'dirty dossier' to Senator John McCain to smear Donald Trump over alleged relations with Russia. A separate subcluster of so-called journalists names Deborah Haynes, David Aaronovitch of the London Times, Neil Buckley from the FT and Jonathan Marcus of the BBC. The programme is proposed to run until at least March 2019, to ensure that the clusters established in each country have sufficient time to take root, find funding, and demonstrate their effectiveness. FCO funding for Phase 2 will enable the activities to be expanded in scale, reach and scope.

The budget plan includes a section that describes 'Risks' to the initiative. These include hacking of the Initiatives IT as well as: "Adverse publicity generated by Russia or by supporters of Russia in target countries, or by political and interest groups affected by the work of the programme, aimed at discrediting the programme or its participants, or to create political embarrassment."

We hope that this piece contributes to such embarrassment.

Nov. 20

washington post logoWashington Post, A reporter unwittingly left a voice mail for a GOP candidate. She was fired for what she said, Alex Horton, Nov. 20, 2018. Brenda Battel, a staff writer for the Huron Daily Tribune in rural Michigan, was seeking a chance to speak with Republican Senate candidate John James on Wednesday after the election.

Battel left a voice-mail message with the James campaign, and alerted it to a potential follow-up email to further discuss his campaign against Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D). Then Battel hung up the phone — or so she believed, she later said.

“Man, if he beats her … Jesus! F---ing John James. That would suck!” Battel is heard saying in a voice mail released by the James campaign. “I don’t think it’s going to happen though.”

The incident prompted the Daily Tribune to fire Battel later Monday after less than three years on staff. Battel responded Wednesday in a statement.

Nov. 14

ny times logoNew York Times, Leading conservative lawyers criticized Mr. Trump’s attacks on the justice system and the news media, Adam Liptak, Nov. 14, 2018. The annual convention of the Federalist Society, the conservative legal group, has long been a glittering and bustling affair. In the Trump era, though, the group has become more powerful than ever, supplying intellectual energy and judicial candidates to an assertive administration eager to reshape the legal landscape.

But as the group prepares to gather on Thursday for the start of this year’s convention, more than a dozen prominent conservative lawyers have joined together to sound a note of caution. They are urging their fellow conservatives to speak up about what they say are the Trump administration’s betrayals of bedrock legal norms.

The group, called Checks and Balances, was organized by George T. Conway III, a conservative lawyer and the husband of President Trump’s counselor, Kellyanne Conway. In recent opinion articles, Mr. Conway has criticized Mr. Trump’s statements on birthright citizenship and argued that his appointment of Matthew G. Whitaker to serve as acting attorney general violated the Constitution.

The new group also includes Tom Ridge, a former governor of Pennsylvania and secretary of homeland security in the Bush administration; Peter D. Keisler, a former acting attorney general in the Bush administration; two prominent conservative law professors, Jonathan H. Adler and Orin S. Kerr; and Lori S. Meyer, a lawyer who is married to Eugene B. Meyer, the president of the Federalist Society.

ny times logoNew York Times, Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis, Sheera Frenkel, Nicholas Confessore, Cecilia Kang, Matthew Rosenberg and Jack Nicas, Nov. 14, 2018. In just over a decade, Facebook has connected more than 2.2 billion people, a global nation unto itself that reshaped political campaigns, the advertising business and daily life around the world. Along the way, Facebook accumulated one of the largest-ever repositories of personal data, a treasure trove of photos, messages and likes facebook logothat propelled the company into the Fortune 500.

But as evidence accumulated that Facebook’s power could also be exploited to disrupt elections, broadcast viral propaganda and inspire deadly campaigns of hate around the globe, Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg stumbled. Bent on growth, the pair ignored warning signs and then sought to conceal them from public view. At critical moments over the last three years, they were distracted by personal projects, and passed off security and policy decisions to subordinates, according to current and former executives.

Nov. 13

Saudi Dissident's Murder

ny times logomohammed bin salman al saudNew York Times, Tell Your Boss’: Recording Is Seen to Link Saudi Crown Prince to Khashoggi Killing, Julian E. Barnes, Eric Schmitt and David D. Kirkpatrick, Nov. 13, 2018 (print edition). Shortly after the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed last month at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, a member of the kill team made a call to a superior. The recording is seen by intelligence officials as some of the strongest evidence connecting the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, right, to Mr. Khashoggi’s death.

More On Press Freedom

washington post logojim acosta gage skidmore croppedWashington Post, CNN sues White House to regain access for reporter Jim Acosta, Paul Farhi​, Nov. 13, 2018. The unusual lawsuit comes after the president banished Acosta from the White House grounds after a testy exchange last week.

CNN sued the Trump Administration on behalf of reporter Jim Acosta (shown at right in a Gage Skidmore photo) on Tuesday, asking a court to restore Acosta’s White House press pass after President Trump suspended it last week.

The unusual lawsuit, an escalation of Trump’s longrunning war of words with CNN, seeks a judge’s intervention after Trump banished Acosta from the White House grounds for an indefinite period after a brief altercation between Acosta and a White House press aide.

cnn logoAfter a testy exchange between the president and the reporter, the unidentified press aide went up to Acosta to take a microphone out of his hands. As a result, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced a few hours later that the White House had revoked Acosta’s “hard pass,” which enables reporters to enter and leave the grounds each day.

CNN filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington. “We have asked this court for an immediate restraining order requiring the pass be returned to Jim, and will seek permanent relief as part of this process,” the network said in a statement released Tuesday morning.

Mediaite, Bob Woodward Criticizes CNN Lawsuit Against White House: We’re Taking Trump’s ‘Bait,’ Joe DePaolo, Nov. 13, 2018. One of the preeminent figures in American journalism is coming out against the rare lawsuit filed by a news organization against the White House.

bob woodwardIn comments reported by Dylan Byers of NBC News, Bob Woodward — speaking at the Global Financial Leadership Conference in Naples, FL — came out against CNN’s White House lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday morning. The network is suing to have access restored for its chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

But Woodward, shown in a file photo, believes CNN is just taking the “bait” being dangled by President Donald Trump. “This is a negative,” Woodward said. He added, “Trump is sitting around saying, ‘This is great.’ …When we engage in [Trump’s strategy] we’re taking his bait.”

The longtime Washington Post journalist added, “The remedy [isn’t a lawsuit], it’s more serious reporting about what he’s doing.”

Nov. 8

Investigator's Report Announced

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation: General release of Trump-Mafia collusion Road Map, Wayne Madsen (syndicated columnist, author of 16 books and former Navy intelligence officer), Nov. 8, 2018 (Whereas most WMR columns are subscription only this article is available to the general public.)

Since WMR began developing and maintaining the "Trump-Mafia collusion Road Map" in 2017, it has been WMR's intention to release it to the general public the moment Donald Trump made a hostile move on the Department of Justice and specifically, Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Sessions — who was recused from overseeing the collusion investigation of Trump's and his family's criminal foreign entanglements — Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller are all being targeted by Trump and his criminal associates in an attempt to hide the Trump Organization's close connections to and involvement with major international criminal networks.

The Trump-Mafia Road Map illustrates the myriad nature of Trump's criminal enterprises. Due to its size and compression, the .PDF file [download here] must be expanded by at least 400 times, using a .PDF viewer, for proper reading and scrolling.

On November 7, Trump fired Sessions, removed Rosenstein from overseeing Mueller's investigation, and named, as acting Attorney General, the Attorney General's chief of staff Matt Whitaker, a GOP operative from Iowa and a close friend and political associate of Sam Clovis, a Trump campaign official and a witness called before a grand jury empaneled by Mueller. This "Wednesday afternoon massacre" was the first step toward Trump's shutting down the important work of Mueller and his team of investigators.

There is an inter-active version of the Road Map. It contains side notes and other relevant information. It can be accessed by clicking here. If you choose this viewing method, be prepared for very long load times. This is a massive document. Your device may freeze during accessing. We are, therefore, recommending only downloading the PDF document.

White House Press Dispute

 

sarah huckabee sandersThe Hill, Reporters accuse Sarah Sanders of sharing edited video of The Hill, Avery Anapol, Nov. 8, 2018. Trump to Acosta: CNN should be 'ashamed' of employing you. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (shown in a file photo) is facing accusations that she shared an edited video of the exchange between CNN correspondent Jim Acosta and an administration aide at President Trump's post-midterm news conference on Wednesday.

Sanders shared the video on her official Twitter account to justify the White House's decision to revoke Acosta’s press credentials after his tense exchange with Trump:

We stand by our decision to revoke this individual’s hard pass. We will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video.— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) 10:33 PM - Nov 7, 2018

Sanders cited Acosta’s interaction with the press aide as reason for suspending his “hard pass.”

During the press conference, the aide attempted to take a microphone away from Acosta as he questioned Trump, but he refused to let go. Video shows his arm brushing hers in the process.

But dozens of social media users, including several reporters and political analysts, said that the video Sanders shared zooms in on the moment of contact, and appears to have been sped up to make the moment appear more aggressive.

cnn logoMatt Dornic, CNN’s vice president of communications and digital partnerships, said it was “absolutely shameful” for Sanders to share the video. “History will not be kind to you,” Dornic tweeted. "Absolutely shameful, @PressSec. You released a doctored video - actual fake news. History will not be kind to you."

Sample comments:

      • This is a video that Infowars made. They sped it up so that it seems more violent than it is.— Nicole Goodkind (@NicoleGoodkind) 11:42 PM - Nov 7, 2018
      • Took @PressSec Sarah Sanders' video of briefing2) Tinted red and made transparent over CSPAN video3) Red motion is when they doctored video speed4) Sped up to make Jim Acosta's motion look like a chop5) I've edited video for 15+ years6) The White House doctored it— Rafael Shimunov (@rafaelshimunov) 3:34 AM - Nov 8, 2018

Terror Threat Against CNN

benjamin craig matthews baxter countyArkansas Democrat-Gazette, Arkansan charged in threats to CNN, Baxter County man accused of 40 calls. Bill Bowden, Nov. 8, 2018. A Mountain Home man was arrested Tuesday, accused of making threatening telephone calls to CNN headquarters in Atlanta. Benjamin Craig Matthews, 39, made more than 40 threatening calls to CNN from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, according to a probable-cause affidavit filed in Baxter County Circuit Court.

cnn logoIn several calls, Matthews threatened a CNN journalist described in court documents as DL. In one call, according to the affidavit, Matthews asked the CNN switchboard operator, "Could I be directed to DL's dead body hanging from a tree?" In another call, Matthews spoke of "bloody pictures of DL cut up in small pieces, like the movie Saw," according to the affidavit from Sgt. Brad Hurst with the Baxter County sheriff's office.

CNN has been a consistent target of President Donald Trump.

Matthews' telephone records indicate that he had also made calls to MSNBC; U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.; U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; attorney Michael Avenatti; Washington Speakers Bureau; and Planned Parenthood, "suggesting a pattern of harassment towards certain political affiliations," according to the affidavit.

Matthews has been charged with five counts of felony terroristic threatening, four counts of misdemeanor terroristic threatening and nine counts of harassing communications, which is a misdemeanor.

Verge, China’s state-run press agency has created an ‘AI anchor’ to read the news, James Vincent, Nov. 8, 2018. But the agency’s new host isn’t any more sophisticated than a CGI puppet. Xinhua, China’s state-run press agency, has unveiled new “AI anchors” — digital composites created from footage of human hosts that read the news using synthesized voices.

It’s not clear exactly what technology has been used to create the anchors, but they’re in line with the most recent machine learning research. It seems that Xinhua has used footage of human anchors as a base layer, and then animated parts of the mouth and face to turn the speaker into a virtual puppet. By combining this with a synthesized voice, Xinhua can program the digital anchors to read the news, far quicker than using traditional CGI. (We’ve reached out to AI experts in the field to see what their analysis is.)

"Xinhua says ‘AI anchors’ can work 24 hours a day on multiple platforms"

According to reports from Xinhua and the South China Morning Post, two anchors (one for English broadcasts and one for Chinese) were created in collaboration with local search engine company Sogou. Xinhua says the anchors have “endless prospects” and can be used to cheaply generate news reports for the agency’s TV, web, and mobile output.

Each anchor can “work 24 hours a day on its official website and various social media platforms, reducing news production costs and improving efficiency,” says Xinhua.

This will strike many as a disturbing prospect, especially as the technology is being deployed in China. There, the press is constantly censored, and it is nearly impossible to get clear reports of even widespread events like the country’s suppression of the Muslim Uighur community. Creating fake anchors to read propaganda sounds chilling.

But what the actual effect on society may be if such anchors become widespread is hard to judge. If Xinhua wants someone to read the news without questioning it they don’t need AI to make that happen. Meanwhile, synthetic characters are slowly finding their way into mainstream culture, with figures like virtual pop star Hatsune Miku and CGI Instagram models familiarizing the public with this sort of creation.

But while these examples fall clearly into the world of entertainment, having AI anchors read the news suggests the technology could become more than a novelty.

Nov. 7

amazon logo smallny times logoNew York Times, After Protest, Booksellers Are Victorious Against Amazon Subsidiary, David Streitfeld, Nov. 7, 2018. A worldwide strike by antiquarian booksellers against an Amazon subsidiary proved successful after two days, with the retailer apologizing and saying it would cancel the actions that prompted the protest.

It was a rare concerted uprising against any part of Amazon by any of its millions of suppliers, leading to an even rarer capitulation. Even the book dealers said they were surprised at the sudden reversal by AbeBooks, the company’s secondhand and rare bookselling network.

The uprising, which involved nearly 600 booksellers in 27 countries removing about four million books, was set off by the retailer’s decision to cut off stores in five countries: the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, South Korea and Russia. AbeBooks never explained its actions beyond saying it was related to payment processing.

“AbeBooks was saying entire countries were expendable to its plans,” said Scott Brown, a Eureka, Calif., bookseller who was an organizer of the strike. “Booksellers everywhere felt they might be next.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump calls CNN reporter 'rude, terrible person,' 'enemy of the people,' Lindsey Bever, Nov. 7, 2018. President Trump lashed out at journalists during an afternoon press briefing, calling some of them “hostile,” instructing them to sit down and telling a CNN reporter, “You are a rude, terrible person.”

cnn logoThe heated exchange occurred Wednesday when CNN reporter Jim Acosta continued to question Trump after the president dismissed him during a news conference about the 2018 midterm elections. Acosta had brought up the Central American migrant caravan, asking the president why he characterized it as "an invasion.”

“I think you should let me run the country, you run CNN and if you did it well, your ratings would be much better,” Trump told Acosta.

Then when Acosta tried to question Trump about the Russia investigation, the president shouted: “That’s enough. That’s enough. That’s enough. That’s enough," telling him to “put down the mic.”

Trump then told the reporter: “CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them. You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN. ... You’re a very rude person. The way you treat Sarah Huckabee is horrible. And the way you treat other people are horrible. You shouldn’t treat people that way.”

As The Washington Post’s Elise Viebeck reported, Trump snapped at yet another reporter later in the press conference after she noted that the president had once called himself a “nationalist" and asked him whether his embrace of “nationalism” is supporting white nationalists.

"I don’t know why you’d say that — that’s such a racist question,” Trump told PBS Newshour’s White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, who is black.

cnn logoCNN, White House pulls CNN correspondent Jim Acosta's pass after contentious news conference, Brian Stelter, Nov. 7, 2018. In a stunning break with protocol, the White House said Wednesday night that it's suspending the press pass of CNN's Jim Acosta "until further notice."

The move came just hours after Acosta, CNN's chief White House correspondent, drew the ire of President Donald Trump and his allies by asking multiple questions at a post-midterms news conference. Trump insulted Acosta and called him a "terrible" person.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders announced in a statement that Acosta would be stripped of what's known as a "hard pass," which gives him access to the White House grounds.

CNN said in a statement that Acosta has the network's full support.

The revocation of his pass "was done in retaliation for his challenging questions at today's press conference," the statement said. "In an explanation, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders lied. She provided fraudulent accusations and cited an incident that never happened. This unprecedented decision is a threat to our democracy and the country deserves better. Jim Acosta has our full support."

Nov. 4

Booksellers Boycott Against Amazon.com

ny times logoNew York Times, Sellers Unite to Pull Books Off Amazon-Owned Site in Protest, David Streitfeld, Nov. 4, 2018. More than 250 antiquarian book dealers in 24 countries say they are pulling over a million books off an Amazon-owned site for a week, an impromptu protest after the site abruptly moved to ban sellers from several nations.

The flash strike against the site, AbeBooks, which is due to begin Monday, is a rare concerted action by vendors against any part of Amazon, which depends on third-party sellers for much of its merchandise and revenue. The protest arrives as increasing attention is being paid to the extensive power that Amazon wields as a retailer — a power that is greatest in books.

amazon logo smallThe stores are calling their action Banned Booksellers Week. The protest got its start after AbeBooks sent emails last month to booksellers in countries including South Korea, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Russia to say that it would no longer “support” them. “We apologize for this inconvenience,” the company said.

As the news spread, even unaffected dealers were surprised and angered. AbeBooks, together with Amazon itself, is by far the biggest international marketplace for secondhand and rare books.

AbeBooks lists millions of books and manages the payments. The booksellers mail the books directly from their shops. The platform was founded in 1995 and was bought by Amazon in 2008. It continues to operate independently, and many of its customers never even realize who the owner is. AbeBooks is based in Victoria, British Columbia, where it started.

The Amazon subsidiary told the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers that it was scaling back because “it is no longer viable for us to operate in these countries due to increasing costs and complexities.”

Peter Harrington, a leading London antiquarian dealer, said AbeBooks’ “high-handed manner” was at the root of the protest, with the platform taking the affected booksellers and “destroying their livelihoods in just a couple of impersonal sentences.”

Dealers in 24 countries say they are removing over a million books from AbeBooks for a week after the site moved to ban sellers from several nations.

The flash strike is a rare concerted action by vendors against any part of Amazon, which depends on third-party sellers.

Nov. 1

Propaganda 'News'

Dealbreaker.com, Opinion: We Went To Jacob Wohl’s Most Important Press Conference Ever And It Was Everything We’d Hoped It Would Be, Thornton McEnery, Nov. 1, 2018. When we left our quiet, comfortable home in the pre-dawn darkness to drive alone to Washington DC this morning, we did so with the solitary hope the eventual reward would warrant our sacrifice.

Oh, how it did.

Awaiting us hours down I-95 was the promise of a press conference being hosted by our old pal Jacob Wohl and some MAGA DC lawyer that he’d pulled into his latest venture: becoming a global private eye hellbent on destroying prosecutor Robert Mueller. According to Jacob’s pre-sale, he was going to present a victim of sexual assault who would claim that her abuser was none other than Mueller himself. Our boy Jacob was going to show her off to the assembled press at a Holiday Inn in Arlington, VA and end the long investigation into his adopted daddy, President Donald Trump.

We had spent the previous day watching Jacob’s whole plan unravel in the most JacobWohlian way possible. The investigation firm that he claimed had contacted him turned out to be yet another of his adorable shell companies with a web registration bearing his email and a phone number that rang back to his mom’s cell. He had also apparently forgotten to update the photo template on the website he fabricated, leaving up bio headshots of famous actors and models, stock photo faces, and of course, his own head. The whole thing was very cute and dumb and totally what we’ve come to expect from Jacob over the years.

What we didn’t expect though was just how utterly fucking shambolic the whole presser would be once we finally arrived at the Rosslyn Holiday Inn....

 

October

Oct. 30

GOP Voter Suppression: Newsworthy?

ny times logoNew York Times, In North Dakota, Native Americans Try to Turn an ID Law to Their Advantage, Maggie Astor, Oct. 30, 2018. Nobody in the squat yellow house serving as the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s get-out-the-vote headquarters knew its address. It was on Red Tail Hawk Avenue; they knew that much. But the number was anyone’s guess. Phyllis Young, a longtime tribal activist leading the voter-outreach effort, said it had fallen off the side of the house at some point. Her own home has a number only because she added one with permanent marker.

This is normal on Native American reservations. Buildings lack numbers; streets lack signs. Even when a house has an address in official records, residents don’t necessarily know what it is.

Yet under a law the Supreme Court allowed to take effect this month, North Dakotans cannot vote without a residential address. Post office boxes, which many Native Americans rely on, aren’t enough anymore.

The Republican-controlled state legislature began debating this requirement just a few months after Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat, won a Senate seat in 2012 with strong support from Native Americans. That race was decided by fewer than 3,000 votes. Ms. Heitkamp is now seeking re-election in one of the nation’s most aggressively contested elections, and she is trailing her Republican opponent, Representative Kevin Cramer, in the polls. And once again, she is looking to Native Americans for a strong vote: there are at least 30,000 of them in North Dakota.

Supporters of the address requirement say it is needed to prevent voter fraud and has nothing to do with Ms. Heitkamp. Native Americans, noting that state officials have not confirmed any pattern of fraud, see it as an attempt at voter suppression.

But in these final days before the election, their tribal governments are working feverishly to provide the necessary identification, and some Native Americans believe their anger could actually fuel higher turnout.

washington post logoWashington Post, Commentary: Voter suppression is a crucial story in America, but broadcast news mostly shrugs, Margaret Sullivan, Oct. 30, 2018 (print edition). With the midterm elections a week away, and tensions building daily, a bipartisan rallying cry grows louder: People must get out and vote.

But how possible is that, exactly, for some Americans? In North Dakota, thousands of Native American voters may be prevented from voting next week in a key Senate race because of an ugly technicality that amounts to targeted voter suppression.

In Georgia, hundreds of thousands of citizens were “purged” from the voting rolls in what election-law experts have called the worst disenfranchisement of voters in modern American history.

Yes, voter suppression is alive and well in the United States. But Americans who rely on the broadcast news networks for their information, and they still number in the millions every night, probably don’t know about it.

cbs news logoObsessed with all things Trump — caravan invasion, anyone? — and occupied with breaking news about hurricanes and mass shootings, the networks have almost ignored voter suppression.

With the consequential midterm elections only a week away, the near silence is deafening.

nbc news logo“What is happening to voting rights is fundamental to how we function as a country,” says Robert Greenwald, an independent filmmaker who is trying to fill the gap with a video that explores the problem. “There has been nowhere near enough media attention,” he told me.

Andrew Tyndall, who closely tracks network news for his well-respected Tyndall Report newsletter and website, has a plausible theory about why.

“The network news divisions have not worked out how to cover politics without following the agenda set by President Trump,” he told me by email. “That’s not to say their coverage is pro-Trump, since they will use his agenda to present him in both a positive and negative light. But it does mean that they find it difficult to present politics as being abc news logoabout anything except him.”

Since Labor Day, Tyndall told me last week, the three broadcast networks (CBS, NBC and ABC) together had done only a handful of stories — fewer than 10, all told — on threats to voting rights.

Oct. 28

chuck todd meet the press logo

Meet the Press host Chuck Todd is shown in a promotional graphic for the long-running NBC News show

Media Matters, Commentary: Chuck Todd and Meet The Press sanitize Erick Erickson's garbage, John Whitehouse, Oct. 28, 2018. Meet the Press runs with garbage, pro-Trump media push conspiracy theories about the MAGA bomber, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories spread.

Meet the Press hosted radio host Erick Erickson to talk about civility and the need for conservatives to believe in facts. This is like asking a wolf about how to keep sheep alive.Erickson has repeatedly pushed conspiracy theories. Erickson also goes to absurd lengths to protect conservatives in the face of reported facts. He endorsed reported pedophile Roy Moore for a Senate seat until the very end, on the basis that Moore was "the only one standing" against "the left." He dismissed concerns about one of President Donald Trump’s cabinet members flying in private jets because he "needs to be protected." When Erickson is on Fox or on the radio, he's more than happy to defend Trump's behavior toward the mainstream press.

And then there's just the ugly. He wrote a book warning of a "leftist-homosexual mafia" and argued in 2017 that gay men in bars who wear certain clothing are asking to be assaulted. Erickson has also endorsed the horrific practice of anti-LGBTQ "conversion therapy," a practice more akin to torture than therapy. He also compared members of the LGBTQ community to terrorists.

Erickson is an unrepentant sexist. He said of the Women’s March, "I feel sorry for all the ham and cheese that won't get made into sandwiches while all those women are marching." He's argued that "the male typically is the dominant role" and that women should stay home while men bring " home the bacon."

He called Trump's Muslim ban "brilliant politics." Erickson shot up a copy of The New York Times when the paper published an editorial on gun violence, and he blamed Obama for mass shootings. When Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis was briefly jailed for contempt of court for not issuing same-sex marriage licenses, Erickson warned of a civil war. In 2009, Erickson asked at what point people in Washington state might "beat [their state representative] to a bloody pulp for being an idiot."

Needless to say, none of this came up on Meet The Press, with host Chuck Todd only offering a brief nod to “some people” who say Erickson pushes conspiracy theories. Instead, Erickson was portrayed as a reasonable conservative interested in the facts.

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: Trump’s Attacks on the News Media Are Working, Jim Rutenberg, Oct. 28, 2018. He was at it again. At 3:14 a.m. on Friday, President Trump was awake and tweeting.

“Funny how lowly rated CNN, and others, can criticize me at will, even blaming me for the current spate of Bombs and ridiculously comparing this to September 11th and the Oklahoma City bombing,” he wrote, “yet when I criticize them they go wild and scream, ‘it’s just not Presidential!’”

He tapped that one out as federal authorities were investigating the 12 pipe bombs mailed to the billionaire George Soros, Democratic politicians, Robert De Niro and CNN. Hours later, Mr. Trump’s tweet was national news.

“President Blames Media For Attempted Bombs,” read the onscreen chyron on “Good Morning America” as an ABC News correspondent, Jonathan Karl, briefed the anchor George Stephanopoulos on the president’s latest digital sortie from the still-dark White House lawn.

So began Day 645 of a presidency that has made denigrating the news media one of its identifying features.

More Media News

cenk uygur andrea edney noel st john

Cenk Uygur, founder of The Young Turks, talks with Club President Andrea Edney (Photo courtesy of Noel St. John).

National Press Club, Host and founder of The Young Turks blasts mainstream media, touts role of digital media in progressive movement, Kristina S. Groenning, Oct. 28, 2018. Cenk Uygur, host and founder of progressive digital news outlet The Young Turks, delivered a blistering attack on the mainstream media Friday at the National Press Club.

Uygur railed against what he described as a mainstream media beholden by corporate money to the status quo, in contrast to digital media outlets.

“I don’t think it has a liberal bias, I don’t think it has a conservative bias, I think it has an establishment bias,” Uygur said of the mainstream media. Referring to CNN, he said, “Why are they in favor of the status quo? They don’t want to rock the boat. It’s their boat. If you’re a multibillion dollar corporation you do not want change. You just don’t want it.”

Specifically calling out Wolf Blitzer, Uygur said, “His problem is he does have a perspective and he might not even know it. His perspective is the status quo is awesome - so Hillary Clinton is acceptable, Jeb Bush is acceptable, Bernie Sanders is not acceptable, Donald Trump is not acceptable - it oozes out of every broadcast.”

Uygur claims that the mainstream media’s establishment bias has led to inadequate and unfair coverage of progressives. “Progressives – they’re either to be dismissed and ignored or derided – Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, almost all of them,” he said. Yet establishment candidates “already have coverage. They already have power. You don’t need to shower them with more. But you do,” Uygur added.

If the media wants to be more fair and accurate in its coverage, Uygur believes it should place greater emphasis on candidates with large numbers of small non-corporate donors and volunteers. “If you saw how many volunteers Ocasio-Cortez had, if you saw how many small donors she had, you would’ve had a pretty good idea that she was gonna win. That’s how we knew. She got almost no coverage in the mainstream press. We had done thirty-four videos about her - before the election.”

Uygur also faults traditional media for sacrificing truth at the expense of maintaining neutrality, stating “[n]eutrality is not objectivity. It is the wrong standard. If you call everything 50/50, you will equate the lies and truth, and that gives lies an enormous advantage.”

He specifically recalled coverage by The New York Times of Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes that failed to cite any of his calls for violence, instead meagerly asserting that McInnes had a “nerd aesthetic.”

“To soften right wing fascists like that is despicable,” Uyger proclaimed. “You [the media] are not anywhere near liberal. You’re not anywhere near objective. All you want is neutrality at the expense of the truth,” he added.

By contrast, Uygur contends that digital media platforms like The Young Turks are “in the business of truth.” One example is its lack of hesitancy to report right wing conspiracy theories as lunacy, he said, adding “[w]e’re not worried about, hey are my ratings gonna go down if I insult or offend Republicans.”

Uygur noted that The Young Turks is free of corporate influence, because it is funded by its audience - “they’re our boss, instead of giant sponsors or donors.”

Midst unleashing his assault on the mainstream media, Uygur made a point of interjecting that “[w]e’re not the right wing. We don’t call you the enemy of the people. We want you to do a better job. We want you to get to the truth.”

Wrapping up the event, Andrea Edney, Club President and journalist of nearly twenty-five years, came to the defense of her colleagues in the mainstream media, stating “[a]ll of the reporters and editors I know work so hard to get it right. Objectivity is incredibly important. It is incredibly important to have a fair and unbiased standard of reporting. I just want to recognize here, that the reporters and editors working for newspapers and TV work really hard to get it right.”

fdr npc 1933 president raymond brandt right former pres theodore tiller

FDR receives his Club membership card from President Raymond Brandt prior to the black-tie dinner in 1933. Former Club President Theodore Tiller of The Washington Times is on the left.

National Press Club, NPC in History: FDR gets his Club membership card, Gilbert Klein, Oct. 28, 2018. For its 25th anniversary bash on May 29, 1933 – the Silver Jubilee – the Club invited President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to be the guest of honor at the black-tie event less than three months after he was inaugurated.

As was customary, the Club wanted to present the new president with his membership card. Every president since Woodrow Wilson had been a Club member – and they all paid their dues, like any other member (a tradition that lasted through President Kennedy).

As you can see from the accompanying photo, Roosevelt accepted the special silver-engraved membership card while standing up, something painful for him to do as he tried to hide his disability. The braces on his legs are clearly visible at his shoes, and he seems to have a firm grip on the arm of Club President Raymond Brandt of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Roosevelt was still standing, supporting himself on the back of a heavy chair, when a short British Pathe news clip recorded his quips.

“One of the speakers mentioned he was only a partway member because he wasn’t sure whether the check he drew was good or not,” Roosevelt said in his famously patrician voice. “I am not that far advanced in membership as that because the only complaint I have against the new secretary of the treasury is that I have had no salary to date and have drawn no checks.”

According to The Washington Post story the next morning, as part of the membership ceremony, FDR was “assigned” by Frank B. Lloyd, who was what we now call the membership secretary, to “cover” the White House.

The president was described as “the most promising cub reporter that ever came out of Hyde Park.” He was charged with the duty of being extremely courteous to his fellow newspapermen, “to report not only on the detailed doings of the President, but also to provide his fellow correspondents with carbon copies of every presidential pronouncement, and to be fully and frankly responsive to their inquiries.”

“The pass word of the tribe, Mr. President,” Mr. Lord told him, “is ‘whatduyeno?’ and the response is ‘nuthin, whatduyeno?’”

This is another in a series provided by Club historian Gil Klein. Dig down anywhere in the Club’s 110-year history, and you will find some kind of significant event in the history of the world, the nation, Washington, journalism and the Club itself. Many of these events were caught in illustrations that tell the stories. The video of Roosevelt speaking that evening can be found here.

Oct. 26

Overseas Press Club, Experts Discuss Current Risks and Rewards of Video Journalism, Chad Bouchard, Oct. 26, 2018. Over the last two decades, newspapers and other traditional print media have been under increasing pressure to provide video and multimedia content. But in today’s era of ubiquitous cell phone cameras, viral distribution, and manipulated content, video storytelling comes with many pitfalls. On Oct. 18, a panel of experts gathered for a panel to present a “Video 101” seminar on perils and best practices of using video footage.

“Video is an essential part of storytelling, and of any news organization’s content mix,” said OPC Secretary Paula Dwyer of Bloomberg News, who moderated the panel. But she added that print journalists who are expected to shoot video now have to learn new skills because “the technology differs, the way you tell the story is different, ethics involved are different, the framing of the story is different.”

Oct. 24

jumpei yasuda japanese reporter

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), RSF relieved by Japanese reporter’s release after three years as hostage in Syria, Staff report, Oct. 24, 2018. RSF is relieved to learn that Japanese freelance journalist Jumpei Yasuda, shown above, has been released after being held hostage by an armed group in Syria for more than three years.

Yasuda began covering the Middle East in 2003 and was kidnapped for the first time in Iraq in 2004 when he was held hostage for three days. An armed Islamist group kidnapped him in Syria in June 2015, when he was investigating fellow Japanese journalist Kenji Goto’s murder by Islamic State.

CraigMurray.com via Southfront: Commentary: Khashoggi, Erdogan and the Truth, Craig Murray (shown at left, author, broadcaster and former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan craig murray new2002-2004), Oct. 24, 2018. The Turkish account of the murder of Khashoggi given by President Erdogan is true, in every detail. Audio and video evidence exists and has been widely shared with world intelligence agencies, including the US, UK, Russia and Germany, and others which have a relationship with Turkey or are seen as influential.

That is why, despite their desperate desire to do so, no Western country has been able to maintain support for Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, right. I have not seen the mohammed bin salman al saudvideo from inside the consulate, but have been shown stills which may be from a video. The most important thing to say is that they are not from a fixed position camera and appear at first sight consistent with the idea they are taken by a device brought in by the victim.

There are many things to learn from the gruesome murder other than the justified outrage at the event itself. It opens a window on the truly horrible world of the extremely powerful and wealthy.

The first thing to say is that the current Saudi explanation, that this was an intended interrogation and abduction gone wrong, though untrue, does have one thing going for it. It is their regular practice.

bbc news logo2The Saudis have for years been abducting dissidents abroad and returning them to the Kingdom to be secretly killed. The BBC World Service often contains little pockets of decent journalism not reflected in its main news outlets, and here from August 2017 is a little noticed piece on the abduction and “disappearance” of three other senior Saudis between 2015-17. Interestingly, while the piece was updated this month, it was not to include the obvious link to the Khashoggi case.

The key point is that European authorities turned a completely blind eye to the abductions in that BBC report, even when performed on European soil and involving physical force. The Saudi regime was really doing very little different in the Khashoggi case.

jamal kahshoggiIn fact, inside Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi (right) was a less senior and important figure than those other three abducted then killed, about whom nobody kicked up any fuss, even though the truth was readily available. Mohammed Bin Salman appears to have made two important miscalculations: he misread Erdogan and he underestimated the difference which Khashoggi’s position as a Washington Post journalist made to political pressure on Western governments.

Oct. 23

Saudi Murder Most Foul

saudi consular service cropped

washington post logojamal khashoggi western suitWashington Post, Erdogan: Saudi team planned ‘brutal’ killing of Khashoggi, Kareem Fahim, Oct. 23, 2018. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, right, was a “planned” and “brutal” murder and called on Saudi Arabia to extradite 18 suspects to Turkey to face justice for the crime.

Erdogan’s highly anticipated comments, during a speech to his ruling party in Ankara, the Turkish capital, contradicted Saudi accounts that Khashoggi was killed when an argument inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul escalated into a fistfight.

recep tayyip erdogan mohommed bin salban july 2017 presidency press service pool via apThe Turkish leader, shown at right with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last year in a government photo, did not directly accuse the Saudi leadership of involvement in the killing but strongly indicated that the Saudi investigation, which has resulted in the arrests of 18 people so far, had not reached high enough into the kingdom’s ruling circles.

Erdogan did not address the most explosive allegations that have surfaced during the investigation — notably that Khashoggi was dismembered after he was killed. And he did not turkey flagpresent any of the evidence Turkey had gathered so far, including audio recordings investigators are said to possess that captured the moments when Khashoggi was killed.

But the president provided the most detailed timeline yet of the days and hours leading up the murder on Oct. 2. He said a team of Saudi agents who were dispatched to Istanbul had carefully prepared for Khashoggi’s death.

washington post logoWashington Post, Journalist’s slaying forces Saudi allies to take a more critical look at crown prince’s record, Kevin Sullivan, Oct. 23, 2018. The Khashoggi case has brought new attention to Mohammed bin Salman’s record of crushing dissent.

Other Threatened Journalists

National Press Club, Award-Winning Journalist To Judge Who Denied Him Asylum: "I Must Implore You For My Life," Lindsay Underwood, Oct. 23, 2018. After eight hours of waiting outside an immigration courtroom, journalist Emilio Gutiérrez-Soto on Monday had an opportunity to make a personal appeal to the judge who last year ordered him deported to the country where he has been threatened with death. The hearing was delayed when Gutiérrez's attorney discovered that the judge had not read or seen crucial evidence on the journalist's behalf.

"I must implore you for my life," Gutiérrez told Judge Robert Hough, adding that he was also appealing for his son, Oscar, who fled to the United States as a teenager with his father after the veteran Mexican journalist's exposés of military corruption made him the target of death threats.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Brazil: Newspaper attacked after reporting illegal funding that benefited presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro, Staff report, Oct. 23, 2018.  One of jair bolsonaro brazilBrazil’s leading dailies, the Folha de São Paulo, has been under heavy attack since reporting on October 18 that far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro benefited from illegal funding. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) regards the attacks as a serious press freedom violation and deplores the toxic climate for Brazil’s journalists since the election campaign began.

The October 18 article in the Folha de São Paulo claimed that businessmen have been illegally funding a WhatsApp disinformation campaign designed to get Brazilians to vote for Bolsonaro, right, in the presidential election, the second round of which is to be held on October 28.

According to the report, WhatsApp has been used to bombard voters with millions of automated messages, most of them smearing the Workers’ Party and its candidate, Fernando Haddad. Such private sector funding of an election campaign is illegal in Brazil and the country’s electoral tribunal, the TSE, has opened an investigation.

WhatsApp, which had already used spam detection software to delete thousands of accounts suspected of spreading false information during the campaign, announced that it had launched an internal investigation and was ready to take “all necessary legal measures” to prevent the automated spread of misinformation.Dubbed “Bolsonaro’s No. 2 account,” the affair has had a big impact in Brazil, angering Bolsonaro and his supporters. “The Folha de São Paulois Brazil’s biggest fake news source,” the candidate said in a video sent to his supporters on October 22. Addressing the newspaper, he added: “You won’t get any more government advertising if I’m elected (...) Venal press, my condolences.”

Patrícia Campos Mello, the veteran Folha de São Paulo reporter who wrote the story, has been attacked and threatened on social networks by Bolsonaro’s supporters and forced to block public access to her Twitter account. She also received anonymous calls threatening her and her family.

Press Freedom / Libel Law

ny times logomichelle goldberg thumbNew York Times, Opinion: Revenge of the Right-Wing Snowflakes, Michelle Goldberg, Oct. 22, 2018. Angry men go to court to silence their critics.One minor sordid subplot of the Trump era has been the ugly custody battle between Jason Miller, senior communications adviser on Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, and A.J. Delgado, a former Trump campaign surrogate.

Miller and Delgado started an affair during the presidential race; Delgado became pregnant while Miller’s wife was pregnant as well. Now Miller and Delgado are involved in a vicious custody battle over their son, which Delgado chronicles on her Twitter feed.

For all its squalor, this is a story of public interest. It’s reportedly the reason Miller didn’t become White House communications director, instead signing on to defend Trump as a CNN contributor.

So it was news when Delgado claimed, in a court filing, that Miller had made a previous girlfriend pregnant and then put abortion-inducing medication in her smoothie. In September the website Splinter, part of Gizmodo Media, reported on the filing, noting that Miller denied the allegations.

In response, Miller made an aggressive legal move that’s becoming more common on the right, suing the report’s author, Katherine Krueger, and Gizmodo Media for $100 million. When Krueger’s boyfriend, a co-host of the cult left-wing podcast Chapo Trap House, called Miller a “rat-faced baby killer” in a tweet, Miller added him to the suit.

There is an air of dark absurdity about this saga. Miller is unlikely to prevail, because there are broad protections for journalists to report on claims made in legal filings, whether or not they are true. But it’s still worth taking seriously, because it’s part of a mounting conservative assault on free speech.

Oct. 22

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Khashoggi Drama - A Deal Is No Longer Possible -- Erdogan Demands That MbS Goes, Staff report, Oct. 22, 2018. The Khashoggi saga continues to influence Middle East policies. On Friday, the Saudi regime admitted that Khashoggi was killed in its consulate in Istanbul. Since then they have changed their story twice.

Mohammad bin Salman, the Saudi clown prince and effective ruler, does not seem to have any good media advisors. By not sticking to one story, all further Saudi accounts will immediately come into doubt.

jamal khashoggi mustafa al madani

The Saudis originally claimed that Khashoggi had left the consulate. We now know why they felt safe to make that claim. CNN has a new Turkish story of a decoy which was send out to make it look as if Khashoggi left. They provide pictures to prove it. While Khashoggi was half bald, the decoy in Khashoggi's cloth[ing] seems to have full hair.

Khashoggi was a personal friend of Erdogan. He was a columnist at the Washington Post, the CIA's most favored news outlet. Mohammad bin Salman is an enemy of both. Neither the neocon opinion editor of the Post, Fred Hiatt, nor Erdogan have any love for the Saudi clown prince. They would of course raise a ruckus when given such a chance.

They will pile on and air the Saudi's dirty linen until MbS is gone. Years of lobbying and tens of millions of dollars to push pro-Saudi propaganda have now gone to waste.

The affair is damaging to Trump. He built his Middle East policy on his relations with Saudi Arabia. But he can not avoid the issue and has to call out MbS over the killing.

Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed is Mohammad bin Salman's mentor and partner in crime in Yemen. MbZ is smarter than MbS -- and will be more difficult to dislodge.

The Riyadh administration must dethrone Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at once. It has no other choice. Otherwise, it is going to pay very heavy prices. If they fail to quash the trap set up targeting Saudi Arabia through bin Zayed, they will be victims of Trump’s “You won’t last two weeks” statement, and the process is going to start to work in that direction.    ...    This duo must be taken out of the entire region and neutralized. Otherwise they are going to throw the region in fire.

Oct. 20

The Atlantic, Letter to the Editor Opinion: Gary Hart Was Not Set Up, James Savage, Oct. 20, 2018. A journalist who reported on Gary Hart’s downfall in 1987 pushes back on the notion that the candidate’s Monkey Business incident may have been staged.

I was the Miami Herald’s investigations editor who helped report and edit the 1987 stories that uncovered Gary Hart’s relationship with Donna Rice and prompted him to quit his presidential campaign.

I believe from my personal knowledge of the facts that The Atlantic’s article contains serious factual errors.

The article’s conspiracy theory suggests that William Broadhurst deliberately maneuvered Hart into potentially damaging press exposure by arranging for him to spend time on the yacht Monkey Business and have his picture taken with Donna Rice sitting on his lap.

The truth is the late Mr. Broadhurst did everything short of violence trying to prevent the Herald’s investigations team from publishing the first story about the scandal.

I believe the Atlantic story also implies that Donna Rice was somehow involved in a conspiracy to embarrass Hart. I am convinced from my firsthand knowledge of how the Herald learned about Hart’s plan to meet with Ms. Rice that she did not have any involvement in any plan to embarrass Hart.

Atlantic author James Fallows replies: The details of the Miami Herald’s handling of the Gary Hart–Donna Rice case were explicitly not the topic of my article.

donna rice hughes The literature on the topic is too vast and contradictory to set out, even in a magazine article many times longer than the one I wrote.....what the Herald did was not the topic I was discussing.

The news my article conveyed is what might have happened before anyone at any newspaper got involved.

Oct. 16

gary hart donna rice monkey business

Model Donna Rice and 1988 Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart, a Colorado senator taknig a cruise on a yahct named Monkey Business, in a photo taken during the campaign by Rice's friend Lynn Armandt and provided to news media

The Atlantic, Was Gary Hart Set Up? James Fallows, Oct. 16, 2018. November 2018 issue, What are we to make of the deathbed confession of the political operative Lee Atwater, newly revealed, that he staged the events that brought down the Democratic candidate in 1987?

lee atwater headshotIn the spring of 1990, after he had helped the first George Bush reach the presidency, the political consultant Lee Atwater learned that he was dying. Atwater, right, who had just turned 39 and was the head of the Republican National Committee, had suffered a seizure while at a political fund-raising breakfast and had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. In a year he was dead.

Atwater put some of that year to use making amends. Throughout his meteoric political rise he had been known for both his effectiveness and his brutality. And in a private act of repentance that has remained private for nearly three decades, he told Raymond Strother that he was sorry for how he had torpedoed Gary Hart’s chances of becoming president.

“There were a lot of people on the dock, people getting off their boats and wandering up and down on the wharf,” [Gary] Hart told me. “While I was waiting for Broadhurst and whatever he was working out with the customs people, I sat on this little piling on the pier.” Hart said that Donna Rice’s friend and companion on the boat, Lynn Armandt, was standing a short distance away. “Miss Armandt made a gesture to Miss Rice, and she immediately came over and sat on my lap. Miss Armandt took the picture. The whole thing took less than five seconds, with lots of other people around. It was clearly staged, but it was used after the fact to prove that some intimacy existed.”

What are we to make of Strother’s late-in-life revelation of Atwater’s deathbed confession?

Oct. 18

terry albury gofundme photo

Former FBI special agent Terry Albury, sentenced to four years in prison on espionage charges after what he describes as whistleblowing (personal photo via GoFundMe campaign)

The Intercept, As FBI Whistleblower Terry Albury Faces Sentencing, His Lawyers Say He Was Motivated by Racism and Abuses at the Bureau, Alice Speri, Oct. 18, 2018. On Thursday, Judge Wilhelmina Wright sentenced Terry Albury to 48 months in prison, telling him that his disclosure “put our country at risk.” Albury pleaded guilty to unlawful transmission and unlawful retention of national defense information, which under the Espionage Act could earn him 10 years in prison each.

Albury was specifically charged with leaking two documents to the media — one that highlighted FBI methods for recruiting informants and another that was about threats from an unspecified Middle Eastern country — and retaining another. In a search warrant affidavit released at the time of his plea, the government said that Albury had also accessed other documents published by the news outlet.

In January 2017, Albury was assigned by the FBI to be an airport liaison, working to recruit informants at the border. According to the government sentencing memo, he continued to take FBI documents home from the airport — though he never shared them with anyone. When law enforcement raided his home, in August 2017, they found the documents on a storage device in a shirt pocket in his closet, wrapped in a note with a reporter’s phone number of it.

Prosecutors wrote that Albury acted with “clear disrespect for the law and his profession” and that his actions “put us all at risk.”

While they maintained that “motive is irrelevant to the offenses,” they called into question whether Albury was driven by “social conscience,” and said that he was no whistleblower because, in their view, the matters he exposed don’t constitute abuse. “Were the defendant truly troubled or disturbed or at odds with FBI policies or practices, he could have walked away,” they wrote. “Ultimately, he chose instead to engage in criminal conduct for 18 months rather than engage any process to remedy the ills he perceived against others or felt against himself.

That argument was supported by an amicus brief filed by 17 First Amendment scholars. The group wrote that between 2 to 3 million U.S. officials have the authority to classify information, and that last year, they made more than 49.5 million classification decisions — a 10 percent increase over 2016. Reviews of classification practices have regularly concluded that the procedure is widely abused, that classifying information is too easy, and that there is no consequence for misclassification. A former director of the Information Security Oversight Office cited in the scholars’ brief reported that information “published in third-grade textbooks” is classified. Further revealing just how arbitrary the process can be, fired FBI Director James Comey’s memos of his meetings with President Donald Trump, which were leaked to the media earlier this year, opened with his assessment of the level of classification they should hold. “I am not sure of the proper classification here so have chosen SECRET,” Comey wrote. “Please let me know of [sic] it should be higher or lower than that.”

“Overclassification is rampant,” the scholars concluded. “A great deal of nonsensitive information is classified simply because disclosure would embarrass powerful officials or expose government misconduct.”

Perhaps the most famous example of the arbitrary and unequal nature of leak prosecutions is that of former CIA Director David Petraeus, who pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor — and served no jail time — for sharing his highly classified journals with his biographer and lover, and then lying to the FBI about it.

“All administrations leak profusely from the top, meaning that they leak politically convenient information,” Heidi Kitrosser, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School and one of the authors of the amicus brief, told The Intercept. “When that is coupled with a historically unparalleled use of the Espionage Act to go after lower-level employees for leaking classified information, it becomes a powerful weapon for the government to pick and choose what they want the people to know.”

In their amicus brief, the group of legal scholars recalled a 2011 exchange between an intelligence official and the then-executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, about the subpoena of New York Times reporter James Risen, who is now at The Intercept.

That subpoena to force a reporter to disclose his source — which Risen refused to do — would be “one of the last you’ll see,” the official said at the time. “We don’t need to ask who you’re talking to. We know.”

In fact, the scholars argue, First Amendment protections extended to reporters have become all but useless now that officials can easily track their sources without them. “Given technological advances, the administration simply no longer needs to rely on subpoenaing reporters the way they used to,” Kitrosser told The Intercept. “They have surveillance cameras, call logs, third-party subpoenas, and many other means less available to them in the past to track down sources without having to go to the reporter. This poses a new and very scary threat to the ability of the press to cover information of great public importance.”

The prosecution of leakers has already significantly chilled sources’ willingness to risk their jobs and freedom, several reporters have said, with devastating impact on public discourse. In punishing Albury, the legal scholars pleaded, the court should consider “the benefits to the public and to democratic deliberation” that resulted from his disclosure, “as well as the damage that a severe sentence would inflict on the constitutionally-protected interest in the flow of information to the citizenry on matters of public importance.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Ex-Minneapolis F.B.I. Agent Is Sentenced to 4 Years in Leak Case, Charlie Savage and Mitch Smith, Oct. 18, 2018. By the time Terry J. Albury arrived in Minneapolis in 2012, about 11 years after he went to work for the F.B.I., he had grown increasingly convinced that agents were abusing their powers and discriminating against racial and religious minorities as they hunted for potential terrorists.

The son of an Ethiopian political refugee, Mr. Albury was the only African-American field agent assigned to a counterterrorism squad that scrutinized Minnesota’s Somali-American community. There, according to his lawyer, he became disillusioned about “widespread racist and xenophobic sentiments” in the bureau and “discriminatory practices and policies he observed and implemented.”

In 2016, Mr. Albury began photographing secret documents that described F.B.I. powers to recruit potential informants and identify potential extremists. On Thursday, he was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty last year to unauthorized disclosures of national security secrets for sending several of the documents to The Intercept, which published the files with a series titled “The F.B.I.’s Secret Rules.”

Before Judge Wilhelmina M. Wright announced the sentence, Mr. Albury spoke haltingly in her courtroom in downtown St. Paul, pausing to wipe his face and breathe deeply. He apologized to his former F.B.I. colleagues and said he had been motivated to act by perceived injustices. In hindsight, he said, he wished he had voiced his concerns through official channels and not the news media.

“I truly wanted to make a difference and never intended to put anyone in danger,” Mr. Albury said.

The sentencing — which also included three years of supervised release after Mr. Albury gets out of prison — brought to a close the second leak case charged under the Espionage Act during the Trump administration after Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s vow last year to crack down on unauthorized disclosures of classified information.

jeff sessions ag oOn Thursday, Mr. Sessions, left, was triumphant, saying in a statement that the department was “conducting perhaps the most aggressive campaign against leaks” in its history.

“Today’s sentence should be a warning to every would-be leaker in the federal government that if they disclose classified information, they will pay a high price,” he said.

The first leak case came to a close in August when Reality Winner, a former National Security Agency contractor, was sentenced to more than five years in prison after she pleaded guilty to leaking a classified document about Russian efforts to hack state elections systems. Like Mr. Albury, Ms. Winter had sent her document to The Intercept.

Betsy Reed, the editor in chief of The Intercept, which published a lengthy profile of Mr. Albury on Thursday, said in an email that it was getting easier for the government to hunt down journalists’ sources using surveillance and internal monitoring systems. She warned of a growing chill for investigative journalism.

Oct. 17

Brookings Institution, Book Launch: "Enemy of the people:" A book discussion with Marvin Kalb and Dan Rather, Oct. 17, 2018. The American press has long been an institution seeking to uphold the integrity of our democracy. Past presidential administrations may have criticized the media at times, but the Trump administration has elevated such attacks to unprecedented levels, declaring the press as being an “enemy of the American people.”

As President Trump fuels the “fake news” fire and a general distrust of journalists, the power of the press is weakening in some segments of society. In his new book, “Enemy of the People,” award-winning journalist and warns that this trend poses serious threats to the health of our democracy.

On Wednesday, Oct. 17, Kalb debuted his book at Brookings and was joined by veteran journalist Dan Rather for a discussion about its main themes. The two journalists explored how Trump has delegitimized the American press and why we should fear for the future of American democracy.

Editor's Note: Audience member Karl Golovin, a retired special agent of the U.S. Customs Service and 9/11 responder in 2001, asked Kalb and Rather during Q&A to address the lack of news coverage regarding how World Trade Center Building 7 could possibly have collapsed at near free-fall speeds more than seven hours after two other Trade Center buildings had collapsed and without being hit by an airplane. They ducked his question, which he he posed during a segment beginning at the 30:57 minute-mark on the video here.

Oct.11

ny times logoNew York Times, Newsweek’s Former Owner Faces Fraud Charges, William K. Rashbaum and Patricia Cohen, Oct. 11, 2018 (print edition). Newsweek magazine, the onetime media powerhouse, was at the center of a multimillion-dollar fraud and money-laundering conspiracy, according to an indictment by Manhattan prosecutors that was unsealed Wednesday.

newsweek logoTwo publishing companies, IBT Media, which owned the magazine, and Christian Media, a faith-based online publisher in Washington, were charged with trying to defraud lenders by pretending to borrow money for sophisticated computing services.

Instead, most of the money was funneled back to accounts controlled by the two media companies and their principals — Etienne Uzac, a co-founder of IBT, and William Anderson, Christian Media’s former chief executive and publisher — and unnamed co-conspirators, the indictment said. It said some of the money had been used to cover the magazine’s operating expenses.

The men were charged with misrepresenting Newsweek’s financial health and creating a fictitious accounting firm, Karen Smith L.L.P., along with a series of fake financial statements to dupe lenders into putting up millions of dollars in 2015 and 2016.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office brought the charges after an extended investigation into the companies’ financial dealings that included a raid of IBT’s Manhattan offices in January. Top editors and reporters at Newsweek were fired after they, too, started delving into the company’s accounts and the owners’ connections to Olivet University, an evangelical Christian college in New York. Several other magazine employees soon resigned.

cyrus vance jrMr. Uzac defended himself on Wednesday on IBT’s website, accusing the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., left, of retaliating against his news organization for reporting last fall on a campaign contribution to Mr. Vance from the lawyer for Harvey Weinstein, the powerful film producer

The Manhattan district attorney’s office brought the charges after an extended investigation into the companies’ financial dealings that included a raid of IBT’s Manhattan offices in January. Top editors and reporters at Newsweek were fired after they, too, started delving into the company’s accounts and the owners’ connections to Olivet University, an evangelical Christian college in New York. Several other magazine employees soon resigned.

Mr. Uzac defended himself on Wednesday on IBT’s website, accusing the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., of retaliating against his news organization for reporting last fall on a campaign contribution to Mr. Vance from the lawyer for Harvey Weinstein, the powerful film producer.

More background: New York Observer, Moonies, Messiahs and Media: Who Really Owns Newsweek? Peter Sterne, Aug. 4, 2013. Is it controlled by a controversial Christian preacher?

Oct. 9

Vanity Fair, “She Gets to Move to L.A.”: The Backstory of Hope Hicks’s Bolt to Fox on the West Coast, Gabriel Sherman, Oct. 9, 2018. Trump and Jared Kushner lobbied Rupert Murdoch to hire Hicks as chief communications officer—a big job, but still in the family.

hope hicks strategic communications directorIn the American mind, California has been a place of fresh starts and re-invention. So it makes sense that Hope Hicks, left, is heading west to serve as chief communications officer for “New Fox,” the parent company of Fox News, based in Los Angeles. Hicks, a 29-year-old former P.R. flack, had experienced a difficult time in New York after exiting Donald Trump’s White House at the end of March.

rnc logoShe was hounded by paparazzi, who photographed her jogging in Central Park with Rob Porter, her West Wing office romance, who left the White House after allegations of spousal abuse surfaced (Porter denied it). And she’s also had to spend time and six figures on legal fees, (apparently funded by the Republican National Committee), dealing with Robert Mueller’s investigation. The opportunity to work for the Murdochs on another coast would be a chance for a reset.

It’s unclear what this means for her relationship with Porter, who’s so far been unable to find a job, a former West Wing colleague told me. “It’s a big job. Plus she gets to move to L.A.,” a friend said. Although, of course, since she’s working for Fox, which often works for Trump, it’s in another sense not a fresh start at all.

Oct. 8

Protests Grow Over Saudi Dissident

Saudi Arabian flag

washington post logojamal kahshoggiWashington Post, Opinion: Jamal Khashoggi chose to tell the truth. It’s part of the reason he’s beloved, David Ignatius, Oct. 8, 2018 (print edition). In his work, he has always had the same insistent passion for honesty about his country. I have known Khashoggi, right, for about 15 years and want to share here some of the reasons he is beloved in our profession and the news of his disappearance has been such a shock.

washington post logoWashington Post, Disappearance and alleged killing of Saudi journalist could complicate relations with U.S., Karen DeYoung, Oct. 8, 2018 (print edition). The Trump administration has said little publicly about the fate of Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for The Post, but officials are frustrated with the lack of a Saudi response to its queries.

JIP Editor's Note: An example of Khashoggi's commentary was in Middle East Monitor, Khashoggi: the deal of the century will disappear, Staff report, Feb. 21, 2018:

The well-known Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi confirmed that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince has started a relationship with Israel and tried to pressure the Palestinians to accept the so-called “deal of the century.”

However, this approach has floundered. Khashoggi [shown at right in a Facebook photo] was speaking during a seminar in Istanbul hosted by the “Riwaq Istanbul” [Istanbul gallery].

jamal khashoggi western suit“The Crown Prince’s promise was that he will manage to pressure the Palestinians to accept the “Deal of the Century” in return for the Americans and Israelis expulsion of Iranians from Syria and Lebanon. But in reality this cannot be realized,” Khashoggi told The New Khaleeji.

According to Khashoggi, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would not agree to consider the town of Abu Dis (adjacent to Jerusalem) as the capital of Palestine. Khashoggi also added that Jordan’s King Abdullah II l has ignored all Saudi pressures.

He said “The crown prince discovered that he does not have a ‘Palestine card’ to play. The American president, Donald Trump, cannot do anything about the Iranians. The man is paralyzed and sending US troops to get the Iranians out of Aleppo and Damascus is but a dream.”

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Mainstream Journos Pissed As Saudi Clown Prince Nabs One Of Their Own, Staff report, Oct. 8, 2018. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, is pissed that the Saudi clown prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered the kidnapping of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

mohammad bin salman cropped fileKhashoggi, who comes from a very rich family, has long served the Saudi regime in editorial positions and was the media adviser to Prince Turki al-Faisal during his tenure as ambassador in London and Washington. He left Saudi Arabia last year out of fear of being targeted in the ongoing crackdown by clown prince Mohammad bin Salman (shown at right). He ended up writing mildly critical columns for the Washington Post.

Khashoggi is no liberal but a staunch supporter of Saudi system and its brutality. He had praised the beheading of Syrian soldiers by ISIS as an "effective psychological military tactic" and supported the abhorrent Saudi war on Yemen.

The mainstream journos who are now up in arms over Khashoggi are mostly embarrassed about their earlier adoration of Mohammad bin Salman. But even more important to them is that Khashoggi is one of their class. They think of themselves as entitled aristocrats who do not deserve such a fate. That is reserved for the deplorable plebs below them.

Just consider this amoral passage in Friedman's whining column about the Khashoggi case:

If Jamal has been abducted or murdered by agents of the Saudi government, it will be a disaster for M.B.S. and a tragedy for Saudi Arabia and all the Arab Gulf countries. It would be an unfathomable violation of norms of human decency, worse not in numbers but in principle than even the Yemen war.

Every ten minutes a child in Yemen starves because of the famine caused by the Saudi, UAE, U.S. and UK war on the country. The renewed attack on the harbor of Hodeidah and hyperinflation over the recent months have doubled the prices of food and gas Most people in Yemen no longer have the income to pay for the needed food. Tens of thousands were already silently starved, millions will likely follow. By what humanitarian 'principle' would the potential death of one bootlicking columnist be worse than that?

Investigator Murdered

SouthFront, Bulgarian Journalist Found Raped, Murdered; She Was Covering Investigation of Financial Frauds of EU Politicians, Businessmen, Staff report, Oct. 8, 2018. On October 6, a Bulgarian journalist, Viktoria Marinova, was found brutally raped and murdered in Bulgaria’s northern town of Ruse.

viktoria marinova tvn bulgaria via reuters scanpix leta cropThe body of the 30-year-old woman (shown at left in a TVN photo) was found by a passerby in bushes near the pier on the Danube river, according to Ruse regional prosecutor Georgy Georgiev. “Her mobile phone, car keys, glasses and part of her clothes were missing,” he said.

Prior to the murder, Marinova was also raped. She was disfigured due to blows to the head and suffocated to death. Prime Minister Boyko Borisov expressed hope that the investigation would succeed because of the “work that has been done.”

She was a TV host, and her last aired show happened on September 30th when she interviewed investigative journalists Dimitar Stoyanov from the Bivol.bg website and Attila Biro from the Romanian Rise Project about an investigation of alleged fraud with EU funds linked to big businessmen and politicians.

Her colleagues from TVN were staggered by the event. “We are in shock. In no way, under any form, never have we received any threats – aimed at her or the television,” a journalist from TVN told AFP under a condition of anonymity, adding that he and his colleagues feared for their safety.

Bulgarian media reports said that over the last year Marinova had reported on an ongoing investigation into alleged corruption involving European Union funds for the broadcaster TVN. She also worked on a program focusing on social issues and was involved with charity work.

Oct. 5

Media News: Kidnapped Reporter?

ap logoAssociated Press via Washington Post, Post prints empty column for Saudi writer missing in Turkey, Ayse Wieting and Jon Gambrell, Oct. 5, 2018. The Washington Post printed a blank column in its newspaper Friday in solidarity with a Saudi contributor who went missing while on a visit to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, raising concerns about his safety.

Separately, the Post’s editorial board called on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to ensure writer Jamal Khashoggi “is free and able to continue his work,” which included writing columns critical of the upstart royal and the kingdom’s policies.

“His criticism, voiced over the past year, most surely rankles Mohammed bin Salman, who was elevated to crown prince last year and has carried out a wide-ranging campaign to silence dissent while trying to modernize the kingdom,” the Post editorial read. “Among those in his prisons for political speech are clerics, bloggers, journalists and activists. He imprisoned women who agitated for the right to drive, a right that was granted even as they were punished.”

The Post’s empty column in Friday’s edition bore Khashoggi’s byline and the headline: “A missing voice.”

jamal khashoggi western suitKhashoggi, right, a 59-year-old veteran journalist who has lived in self-imposed exile in the U.S. since Prince Mohammed’s rise to power, disappeared Tuesday while on a visit to the consulate to get paperwork done to be married to his Turkish fiancée. The Saudi Consulate insists Khashoggi left its building, contradicting Turkish officials who say they believe he is still there. Turkey summoned the Saudi ambassador Thursday over the writer’s disappearance.

Supporters held a small rally Friday outside of the consulate.

Khashoggi’s disappearance threatens to further harm relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which are on opposite sides of an ongoing four-nation boycott of Qatar and other regional crises.

Oct. 4

Foreign Policy via Medium, The Problem Isn’t Fake News From Russia. It’s Us, Micah Zenko, Oct. 4, 2018. Propaganda has long affected elections around the world because publics have an appetite for it.

The role of disinformation in electoral campaigns, how it is transmitted and spread, and what influence it has on voters have appropriately been a matter of national debate since the 2016 presidential election. The most commonly identified perpetrators this time around are Russia, Iran, and China. The U.S. intelligence community, House and Senate intelligence committees, and special counsel Robert Muller have all exhaustively documented Russian-directed efforts to covertly undermine the election.

When one dives into these allegations, what stands out is the lack of precision in identifying exactly what activities are troubling and thus should be prohibited. Indeed, there is a blending of adversaries’ purported goals with their alleged actions. For example, the assessment from the U.S. intelligence community warns of Russia’s “desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order” as if that, in itself, is a crime. That is akin to saying an American leader who appeared to support the same objective by maligning security allies, implementing protectionist trade policies, fomenting nationalism, and publicly noting adoration for authoritarian leaders should be legally silenced.

The internet as a tool for malignant  —  and occasionally positive  —  political and societal purposes is the focus of an excellent new book, LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media, by the defense experts P.W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking. It is a deeply researched page-turner. Simply by cataloguing the hate, lies, state propaganda, and government monitoring that the internet makes possible, it is also incidentally alarmist. Yet since troubling stories are uncovered, reported, and forgotten so quickly, the authors write, it is hard to recognize the consequences that the internet has on our civil liberties, personal safety, polity, and even national security and foreign policy.

It is within the domains of national security and foreign policy where the book makes its most far-reaching claim: The strategic use of the internet and, more specifically, social media is indeed like war. Subsequently, it is the world’s primary battlefield, and we are all witting or unwitting co-combatants and targets.

How one interprets such efforts depends on the source, the messaging intent, and one’s tolerance for hypocrisy. As Dov H. Levin, now an assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong, demonstratedwith his dataset that tracked great powers’ interference in foreign elections between 1946 and 2000, the Soviet Union/Russia and the United States meddled — primarily covertly — in 117 out of 938 elections around the world, with Washington doing so more than twice as often (81 interventions) as Moscow (36). Of course, all great powers espouse universal norms that they violate in practice, and this naturally extends to interfering in other countries’ domestic affairs.

However, one person’s extremist fabulist is another’s brave truth-teller, just as one’s promotion of valid information is another’s weaponization of the same. The issue that Americans have chosen to ignore over the past 20 months is why the public has so deeply embraced and then spread alleged misinformation from China, Iran, or Russia. Politicians and pundits have chosen to blame the United States’ divides on its adversaries, but that is like trying to curb illegal drug use by focusing solely on the foreign countries where the drugs are produced (forgetting, of course, that many drugs are produced at home). The appetite for selective, biased, or partisan information is growing, and it will continue to do so given apparent trends in the U.S. public’s information literacy, critical thinking, and partisanship. The country cannot merely wish away its confirmation biases.

Micah Zenko is Whitehead Senior Fellow at Chatham House and is the author of "Red Team: How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy."

Oct. 1

oenearthlogoOpEdNews, Opinion: Sex, Lies, and Hypocrisy: Kavanaugh's Glass House, Carl Petersen, Oct. 1, 2018. Much like Dr. Christine Ford, Monica Lewinsky's life was turned upside down by the glare of someone else's spotlight.

While Brett Kavanaugh asserted that engaging in sexual relations with Bill Clinton turned "her life into a shambles," from Lewinsky's point of view it was his boss, Kenneth Starr, "who turned [her] 24-year-old life into a living hell."

Looking back on the 1990s with the experience of the #MeToo era, there are questions that should have been asked about the most powerful man in the world having sexual relations with an employee.

monica lewinsky may 1967Lewinsky, left, has always maintained that the relationship was consensual, but "power imbalances -- and the ability to abuse them -- do exist even when the sex has been consensual." As a society, have we established where the lines are?

Unfortunately, Kavanaugh (shown below right during his snarling Senate confirmation testimony Thursday)did not seem interested in this line of questioning. Instead, he was infatuated with the most unimportant part of the story - the details of the sex acts.

brett kavanaugh nbc cropped sept 27 2018Given this history, one has to wonder what Lindsey Graham was thinking as he bloviated that if Kavanaugh was looking "for a fair process, [then] he came to the wrong town at the wrong time." When does he think that this poisoned, political atmosphere began?

bill clinton wIf the nominee thinks that the "confirmation process has become a national disgrace," how does he feel today about what he put Lewinsky through and what it did to her and her family? If "the idea of going easy on [Clinton, left] at the questioning [was] abhorrent to [him]," his current outrage should be directed at the Republican majority in the Senate.

By not investigating all of the accusations, they are the ones who are avoiding the responsibility of providing informed consent to his lifetime nomination to the highest court in the land.

Of course, this ignores the important distinction between Kavanaugh's apparent obsession with Clinton's sex life and the charges that may derail his assertion to the Supreme Court; if Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is telling the truth, then Kavanaugh acted without consent. This alleged attempted rape represents "callous and disgusting behavior that has somehow gotten lost in the shuffle."

cbs logo

oenearthlogoOpEdNews, Opinion:How the American Media Was Destroyed, Paul Craig Roberts, Oct. 1, 2018. In my September 24 column, "Truth Is Evaporating Before Our Eyes," I used the destruction of the CBS news team that broke the Abu Ghraib story and the story of President George W. Bush's non-performance of his Texas Air Force National Guard duties to demonstrate how accusations alone could destroy a Peabody Award-winning, 26-year veteran producer of CBS News, Mary Mapes, and the established news dan rather new portraitanchor Dan Rather, right.

Until I read Mary Mapes's book, Truth and Duty (St. Martin's Press, 2005), I was unaware of how this monopolization of the media in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act and American tradition had proceeded to destroy honest reporting.

Here is what happened.

The Texas Air National Guard was a place the elite placed their sons to avoid the Vietnam War draft. Copies of documents written by Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian describing George W. Bush's ability to jump the large waiting list hoping to avoid the war, Bush's non-compliance with National Guard requirements and Bush's unauthorized departure to another state were given to CBS.

The CBS team worked for many months to confirm or discredit the documents. The information in the documents proved to be consistent with the interviews of people acquainted with George W. Bush's time in the Texas National Guard. It was a carefully prepared story, not a rushed one, and it fits all the information we now have of Bush's non-performance.

george w. bush wThe problem for the CBS news team, which might not have been realized at the time, was that the documents were copies, not originals that experts could authenticate as real beyond question. Therefore, although the documents were consistent with the testimony of others, no expert could validate the documents as they could originals.

The Republicans seized on this chink in the armor to turn the issue away from the truthfulness of the CBS 60 Minutes report to whether or not the copies were fakes.

CBS had two other problems. One was that Viacom, its owner, was not in the news business, but in the lobbying business in Washington -- wanting to enrich the company with legislative perks and regulatory permissions. Truthful news from CBS, exposing US torture in the face of the Bush regime's denials and showing that Bush (shown above at left) was too privileged to be held accountable by the Texas National Guard, was damaging Viacom's highly paid lobbying effort.

les moonvesTruth in America is being exterminated, and the destruction of CBS news was the starting point. As Mary Mapes reports in her book, as soon as Viacom was entirely rid of 60 Minutes with the firing of the entire staff, on the very next day Viacom held a triumphant annual investor meeting. Chairman Sumner Redstone was awarded a $56 million paycheck for 2004. Chief operating officers, Les Moonves, right, and Tom Freston "each pocketed a whoopping fifty-two million for the year."

Mapes writes: "Just a few years ago, this kind of corporate executive largesse was unherd of. Now, these media Masters of the Universe have taken over the public airwares and they have one obligation: making a profit." Ever a larger one, which requires protecting the government and the corporate advertisers from investigative reporting. The consequence today is that the American media is totally unreliable.

bob woodward fear trump in the white house

Midnight Writer News, Investigative Commentary: Bob Woodward, Al Haig, and the Confirmation of Deep History, S.T. Patrick, Oct. 1, 2018. Bob Woodward’s newest book, Fear: Trump in the White House, stands atop the New York Times Bestseller list for Hardcover Non-Fiction.

Woodward skeptics and Watergate revisionists still question Woodward’s monarchical hold on modern journalism and publishing. In this issue, contributing editor S.T. Patrick continues a series that will spotlight the questionable tactics and little-known fallacies of Bob Woodward’s journalistic career. This is part two in the series.

* * * * *

On March 6, 1989, would-be authors Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin sat with The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward in preparation for what would be their upcoming book Silent Coup: The Removal of a President (1991). Woodward and co-author Carl Bernstein had written what establishment historians and educators considered the two books of record on the end of Richard Nixon’s presidency: All the President’s Men (1974) and The Final Days (1976). Both would be made into films.

On this day, however, Colodny and Gettlin had confirmed information that would turn the Watergate story – and Woodward’s role in it – on its head.

len colodny silent coup coverWoodward verified that he had worked at the Pentagon as a communications officer. This was already in contrast with the book and film notion of Woodward as a bottom-rung hoofer who was fighting his way up the journalistic ladder at The Post. The film created the legend that all Woodward had done was to write about the lack of cleanliness in local restaurants. When the editors debated the oncoming storm of Watergate reporting, it was in an effort to decide if Woodward was even qualified to write such a consequential story. In reality, he was, and the editors knew it.

Woodward denied to Gettlin that he had any other function at the Pentagon beyond once being a communications watch officer. Gettlin then asked if Woodward had ever done “any briefings of people”?

“Never! … And I defy you to produce somebody who says I did a briefing. It’s just… it’s not true,” Woodward responded.

alexander haig generalThe conversation turned to Gen. Alexander Haig, who had become Nixon’s chief of staff upon the urged resignation of H.R. Haldeman.

Tim Weiner, upon Haig’s death in 2010, wrote in The New York Times that Haig, right, had been the “acting president” while Nixon was pre-occupied with Watergate.

Haig biographer Roger Morris wrote that President Gerald Ford’s pardon of Nixon was also a de facto pardon of Haig, as well. Haig had played an important role in the transition from Nixon to Ford, and had even been one of the most instrumental voices privately encouraging Nixon’s resignation.

The conversation turned to Gen. Alexander Haig, who had become Nixon’s chief of staff upon the urged resignation of H.R. Haldeman.

Tim Weiner, upon Haig’s death in 2010, wrote in The New York Times that Haig, right, had been the “acting president” while Nixon was pre-occupied with Watergate.

Haig biographer Roger Morris wrote that President Gerald Ford’s pardon of Nixon was also a de facto pardon of Haig, as well. Haig had played an important role in the transition from Nixon to Ford, and had even been one of the most instrumental voices privately encouraging Nixon’s resignation.

alexander haig portraitIf Haig (shown also in his portrait as Secretary of State in the early 1980s) had a previous working relationship with Woodward, and if Woodward’s stories were contradictory to the Nixon administration’s best interests, then the relationship and roles of both Woodward and Haig in relation to Nixon’s fall demanded examination.

“I never met or talked to Haig until some time in the spring of ’73,” Woodward responded. That Woodward had never done briefings, had never been a briefing officer, and had never met Haig until 1973 were ideas that sources “in a position to know,” as Gettlin called them in the interview, contradicted.

Lest someone assume that Colodny and Gettlin’s sources on Woodward were journalistic rivals or disenfranchised victims made unemployable by Watergate’s political aftermath, they were not. And unlike Woodward’s most notable sources, they were not kept hidden under “deep background.”

Colodny and Gettlin’s confirmation came from Adm. Thomas H. Moorer, Melvin Laird, and Jerry Friedheim, all of who can be read and heard on “Watergate.com.”

September

Sept. 29

Information Clearing House, Analysis: Facebook’s New Propaganda Partners, Alan MacLeod, Sept. 29, 2018. Media giant Facebook recently announced (Reuters, 9/19/18) it would combat “fake news” by partnering with two propaganda organizations founded and funded by the US government: the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI). The social media platform was already working closely with the NATO-sponsored Atlantic Council think tank (FAIR.org, 5/21/18).

facebook logoIn a previous FAIR article (8/22/18), I noted that the “fake news” issue was being used as a pretext to attack the left and progressive news sites. Changes to Facebook’s algorithm have reduced traffic significantly for progressive outlets like Common Dreams (5/3/18), while the pages of Venezuelan government–backed TeleSur English and the independent Venezuelanalysis were shut down without warning, and only reinstated after a public outcry.

madeleine.albrightThe Washington, DC–based NDI and IRI are staffed with senior Democratic and Republican politicians; the NDI is chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, left, while the late Sen. John McCain was the longtime IRI chair.

Both groups were created in 1983 as arms of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a Cold War enterprise backed by then–CIA director William Casey (Jacobin, 3/7/18). That these two US government creations, along with a NATO offshoot like the Atlantic Council, are used by Facebook to distinguish real from fake news is effectively state censorship.

Facebook’s collaboration with the NED organizations is particularly troubling, as both have aggressively pursued regime change against leftist governments overseas. The NDI undermined the Sandinista government of Nicaragua in the 1980s, and continues to do so to this day, while the IRI claimed a key role in the 2002 coup against leftist President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, announcing that it had

"served as a bridge between the nation’s political parties and all civil society groups to help Venezuelans forge a new democratic future…. We stand ready to continue our partnership with the courageous Venezuelan people."

brazil flag wavingThe Reuters report (9/19/18) mentioned that Facebook was anxious to better curate what Brazilians saw on their feeds in the run-up to their presidential elections, which pits far-right Jair Bolsonaro against leftist Fernando Haddad. The US government has a long history of undermining democracy in Brazil, from supporting a coup in 1964 against the progressive Goulart administration to continually spying on leftist President Dilma Rousseff (BBC, 7/4/15) in the run-up to the parliamentary coup against her in 2016 (CounterSpin, 6/2/17).

Sept. 27

kirsten powers michael caputo cnn sept.26 2018

CNN guest commentators Kirsten Powers and Michael Caputo, right, squared off on the show of Anderson Cooper, left.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘I called out his victim blaming and he lost it,’ says Kirsten Powers after Michael Caputo’s CNN meltdown, Allyson Chiu, Sept. 27, 2018. Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign aide turned political strategist and conservative pundit, was thrust into the spotlight after having what many are calling a “meltdown” during a heated panel discussion about the controversial allegations against Kavanaugh on Anderson Cooper’s “AC360” Wednesday night.

Sept. 21

Palmer Report, Opinion: Washington Post exposes New York Times story on Rod Rosenstein for being bullshit, Bill Palmer, Sept. 21, 2018. “No, that could never happen, major newspapers have better standards than that.” This is the reflexive response I’ve been getting from some observers in the two hours since I called bullshit on the New York Times story about Rod Rosenstein wanting to wear a wire and wanting to invoke the 25th Amendment.

Unfortunately, the reality is that major media outlets do often walk into traps set by inside sources with an axe to grind. It’s pretty clearly what just happened here – and it’s yet another reminder that if Donald Trump knows how to do one thing well, it’s to take advantage of the mainstream media’s willingness to play the role of braindead stenographer.

ny times logoThe New York Times story in question is already being exposed a work of fiction.

For instance the Washington Post just reported, from another source who was in the meeting in question, that Rosenstein’s remark about wearing a wire “was said in a moment of sarcasm, and that the 25th amendment was not discussed.” If you make an obviously sarcastic remark in order to demonstrate that a certain scenario isn’t realistic, and someone writes a story claiming that you offered up that scenario as a realistic option, that’s a fake story – period.

Sadly, none of this should come as a surprise. We spent the entire 2016 election cycle seeing that major news outlets often give us dubious and even false stories based on inside sources they know are biased and/or unreliable.

Most major newspapers think “journalism” equals printing anything that’s been given to them by multiple inside sources, even if those sources aligned with each other, and even if those sources are biased to the point that their claims about their adversaries shouldn’t be believed. Most cable news hosts think “journalism” equals quoting major newspapers as if they were the word of God, and then offering doomsday speculation about it to keep you tuned in.

But anyone with their thinking cap on today knows that this story is sourced to Team Trump, and that it’s a dishonest attempt at setting the groundwork for ousting Rosenstein, and that it’s a direct response to this morning’s failure of Trump’s declassification gambit, which was also an attempt at ousting Rosenstein.

This Rosenstein story is quickly being exposed as a wildly out of context work of fiction from sources with an axe to grind – just like all the false reporting on Hillary’s emails.

Today is a good day to take a look around at the various political reporters and pundits, and to see who has the guts to state the obvious. In this industry, you take a lot of heat for pointing out that someone as big as the New York Times has run an obviously bullshit story.

Lazy thinkers out there don’t want to hear it from you, because it’s easier for them to just pretend every word they hear from the Times is fact. And competing pundits (on both sides) then use it as an opportunity to paint you as some kind of conspiracy theorist for going against the Times. It’s so much easier on days like this to just go with the flow.

So let’s see who in this industry has the guts and integrity today to speak the truth about this story.

Media News: Sinclair Promos For Kavanaugh?

djt boris epshteyn sinclair kavanaugh sept 21 2018 Custom 2

President Trump sat down for an interview with Sinclair’s chief political analyst, Boris Epshteyn, who has never disagreed with the president in his commentary (screenshot).

sinclair broadcast logo custom

Media Matters, Opinion: In an interview with Sinclair, Trump touts Kavanaugh’s “unblemished record” and says he thinks he will be confirmed, Pam Vogel, Sept. 21, 2018. Media Matters is a left-leaning advocacy group founded by author and former right-leaning advocate David Brock.

Sinclair Broadcast Group, the largest owner and operator of local TV stations in the country, regularly broadcasts pro-Trump propaganda segments created by an ex-Trump staffer into the homes of millions of Americans. And now those segments include an interview with President Donald Trump himself, in which he was given a friendly platform to discuss his continued support of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh despite a report that he committed sexual assault.

The media company’s chief political analyst, Boris Epshteyn, has been producing regular commentary segments, called “Bottom Line With Boris,” for Sinclair for more than a year. Epshteyn had previously worked in the Trump White House on the communications team, after doing stints on the Trump inaugural committee and on the Trump campaign. Epshteyn also served as a Trump media surrogate throughout the campaign and first days of the Trump presidency. Epshteyn is personal friends with the president’s sons Eric and Donald Jr., and he has been spotted at Trump International Hotel multiple times, including with Don Jr. in June. He also may or may not have signed a nondisparagement agreement while he was working on the campaign, which could legally prevent him from criticizing Trump.

For a chief political analyst, Epshteyn offers takes that are notably unoriginal. At best, he regurgitates Trump talking points or touts some vague, imaginary bipartisan ideals that involve being nicer to Trump. At worst, he defends the most upsetting, racist things Trump does. In fact, in a recent interview on a National Review podcast, Epshteyn could not think of a single issue about which he had disagreed with the Trump administration in any of his commentary segments. What’s more: These segments ultimately air on an estimated 100 TV news stations under Sinclair’s control, exploiting the trust people have in their local news.

Given the president’s penchant for granting interviews to sycophants, it was only a matter of time before Trump himself made an appearance on "Bottom Line with Boris."

On September 21, Epshteyn shared the first of what will likely be several must-run segments featuring excerpts from his sit-down with the president. This one is focused on Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court and professor Christine Blasey Ford’s account of sexual assault by Kavanaugh when they were both in high school. In the segment, Trump largely repeats broad White House talking points about making sure Ford is heard, and then pivots to touting Kavanaugh’s “unblemished record.” Trump also says he believes Kavanaugh will ultimately still be confirmed.

BORIS EPSHTEYN: The nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is facing last-minute turmoil over allegations that he committed sexual assault decades ago. I spoke with President Trump about this in a one-on-one, exclusive interview. Here’s what he shared.

[INTERVIEW CLIP BEGINS]

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I think they’ve been very respectful of Dr. Ford, extremely respectful. I think they’re doing the right thing. They want to give her a voice, if she wants to take it. They’re talking now about timing. It’s already been delayed a week. That’s a long time. This is the U.S. Senate we’re talking about.

EPSHTEYN: Right.

TRUMP: I can only say this: Let her speak. But Brett Kavanaugh is one of the finest people you’ll ever meet. I think it’s been extremely hard on him and his family. When I look at what’s happening -- here’s a man with an unblemished record, and to be going through this all of a sudden. So I won’t say anything now. All I’m saying is that -- let it play out. Let her have open voice. And let’s see what happens.

This year, Epshteyn has aired interviews with seven other members of the Trump administration, eight Republican congressmen, and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. The appearances include: then-Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Vice President Mike Pence, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, Council of Economic Advisers Chair Kevin Hassett, and Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI). DeSantis, McCarthy, Rooney, and Duffy are all on ballots this year.

Sept. 20

washington post logoWashington Post, As ‘Doonesbury’ characters turn 50, Garry Trudeau describes his journey from pummeling Nixon to tackling Trump, Michael Cavna, Sept. 20, 2018 (print edition). It was the summer of 1968, and Garry Trudeau, home after a seasonal job in Washington, had a few days to kill before returning for his junior year at Yale. So he sat on his bed in Saranac Lake, N.Y., and began to draw; by the end of an afternoon, he had created a week of comic strips that would alter the entire direction of his life.

There, in incipient form, he rendered B.D., a quarterback character named as a nod to Yale football player Brian Dowling. This was a sports strip, Trudeau recounts, but B.D. and his teammates did more talking than tackling, with their Vietnam War-era huddle serving less as an arena for marching orders and more as a verbal playground for exchanging ideas.

The next week, Trudeau took his four-panel samples to the Yale Daily News, where executive editor Reed Hundt told the aspiring cartoonist: “They’re all right. We publish pretty much anything.” And so on Sept. 30 — 50 years ago this month — the characters of what would become “Doonesbury” first saw the light of publication, beginning what Trudeau calls his “life’s project.”

Sept. 18

washington post logoWashington Post, White House reviews incident involving Epoch Times photographer handing a folder to Trump, David Nakamura, Sept. 18, 2018. The White House has reviewed an incident last week in which a news photographer for the Epoch Times, a publication banned in China for its critical coverage, stepped into a restricted area and handed President Trump a folder during an official event.

The photographer, identified by other photojournalists as Samira Bouaou, passed the purple-colored folder to Trump as he was walking out of the East Room on Sept. 12 after delivering remarks at a reception for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. Bouaou was lined up with other photographers in an area reserved for journalists when she entered a restricted pathway where the president was walking, according to several news photographers who witnessed the incident.

Trump accepted the folder and appeared to open it briefly as he departed before quickly shutting it, the witnesses said. It was not clear what was inside the folder. Photographers who asked Bouaou afterward why she did it and what the folder contained said she declined to provide details.
Bouaou was said by those who know her to have recently secured a White House “hard pass” from the Secret Service allowing her daily access to the press briefing room and other events.

The incident was a violation of protocol for journalists covering the White House, and it marked at least the second time an Epoch Times journalist has disrupted a White House event. In 2006, an Epoch Times reporter, who had obtained a press credential to cover Chinese President Hu Jintao’s arrival on the South Lawn for a visit with President George W. Bush, shouted out, calling on Bush in English to stop Hu “from killing” and “persecuting the Falun Gong” — a spiritual group that has been outlawed by the Chinese Communist Party.

The Epoch Times was founded in New York in 2000 by a group of Chinese Americans in an effort to counter Chinese government propaganda. The newspaper bills itself as the largest news outlet aimed at the Chinese community outside mainland China and Taiwan, with versions in 23 languages and a reach of more than 1 million readers.

Sept. 17

The Intercept, Government Can Spy on Journalists in the U.S. Using Invasive Foreign Intelligence Process, Cora Currier, Sept. 17 2018. The U.S. government can monitor journalists under a foreign intelligence law that allows invasive spying and operates outside the traditional court system, according to newly released documents. Targeting members of the press under the law, known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, requires approval from the Justice Department’s highest-ranking officials, the documents show.

In two 2015 memos for the FBI, the attorney general spells out “procedures for processing Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act applications targeting known media entities or known members of the media.” The guidelines say the attorney general, the deputy attorney general, or their delegate must sign off before the bureau can bring an application to the secretive panel of judges that approves monitoring under the 1978 act, which governs intelligence-related wiretapping and other surveillance carried out domestically and against U.S. persons abroad.

The high level of supervision points to the controversy around targeting members of the media at all. Prior to the release of these documents, little was known about the use of FISA court orders against journalists. Previous attention had been focused on the use of National Security Letters against members of the press; the letters are administrative orders with which the FBI can obtain certain phone and financial records without a judge’s oversight. FISA court orders can authorize much more invasive searches and collection, including the content of communications, and do so through hearings conducted in secret and outside the sort of adversarial judicial process that allows journalists and other targets of regular criminal warrants to eventually challenge their validity.

“This is a huge surprise,” said Victoria Baranetsky, general counsel with the Center for Investigative Reporting, previously of Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press. “It makes me wonder, what other rules are out there, and how have these rules been applied? The next step is figuring out how this has been used.”

Sept. 12

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘60 Minutes’ Producer Jeff Fager Is Ousted at CBS, John Koblin and Michael M. Grynbaum, Sept. 12, 2018. Jeff Fager, the longtime executive producer of “60 Minutes” on CBS, was fired on Wednesday for sending a bullying text message to one of the network’s reporters, just days after Leslie Moonves stepped down as the company’s chief executive following numerous allegations of sexual misconduct.

In recent articles in The New Yorker and The Washington Post, Mr. Fager had been accused of touching women at company parties in ways that made them feel uncomfortable and fostering a culture of harassment at “60 Minutes.”

Mr. Fager has previously denied any wrongdoing, and CBS has enlisted two law firms to investigate the allegations and the workplace culture at CBS.

David Rhodes, the president of CBS News, told staff in an email that Mr. Fager’s departure was “not directly related to the allegations surfaced in press reports, which continue to be investigated independently.” It would be hard to overstate Mr. Fager’s power inside CBS’s news division or the significance of his departure to a network already reeling from the exit of its longtime leader.

Mr. Fager is only the second executive producer in the half-century history of “60 Minutes,” a show that despite dwindling audiences for news programs has remained among the highest-rated series on network television. Although Mr. Fager was not the titular head of CBS News, he was given carte blanche to run his fief as he saw fit.

Sept. 10

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Opinion, China: RSF press freedom laureate falls victim to violence in detention again, Staff report, Sept. 10, 2018. RSF condemns the latest violence inflicted by Chinese officials on Huang Qi, 55, the RSF Press Freedom Prize laureate who has been detained for almost two years without trial despite his critical health condition.

china flag SmallHis trial, scheduled for June 20, 2018, was canceled without a further date. Last Friday, in one of the rare visits, permitted, Huang’s lawyer Liu Zhengqing discovered his client's deteriorating health and weight loss. Huang, refusing to plead guilty despite pressure, had suffered 15 interrogations just in the month of August and complained of being hit by prosecutor Du Peng, as the apparent bruises on his chest indicate.

Huang Qi, the winner of the 2004 RSF prize, founder of civil-rights information website 64 Tianwang and winner of the 2016 RSF Press Freedom Prize, was arrested on October 23, 2016, for “divulging state secrets abroad,” punishable by death penalty. The journalist suffers from critical liver and kidney diseases as a result of eight years in jail and labor camp.

Sept. 9

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les moonvesAdweek, Embattled CBS CEO Les Moonves Is Officially Departing the Company After 23 Years, Jason Lynch, Sept. 9, 2018. He’ll leave immediately; COO Joseph Ianniello will step in as interim CEO. What does CBS look like without its über-confident longtime leader Les Moonves (right)? We’re about to find out.

Sept. 8

djt mike pence sheriffs rex shutterstock1211 cropped guardian

Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence pose for a picture with a group of sheriffs at the White House. Guardian graphic from Photo by Rex/Shutterstock

The Guardian, Sheriffs who cheered Trump's attack on press have their own media run-ins, Jon Swaine, Sept. 8, 2018. A group of sheriffs gave the president a troubling ovation after he called journalists ‘very, very dishonest’. Here is a taste of local media scrutiny of 10 of them.

Donald Trump whipped up another rowdy ovation from a friendly crowd this week with an attack on the media, accusing journalists of being “very, very dishonest” and refusing to give him credit for his purported achievements.

But rather than the usual sports stadium packed with partisans in red baseball caps, this tirade against the press was applauded by dozens of senior law enforcement officials in the splendour of the East Room of the White House.

The episode unfolded on Wednesday afternoon, after the New York Times published an article by an unidentified senior Trump administration official who claimed to be one of many working to thwart Trump’s “worst inclinations” and frustrate his agenda.

Some figures in law enforcement were dismayed by the sheriffs’ response to Trump’s remarks. “They are supposed to be leaders, not puppets who cheer attacks on the media,” said Michael Bromwich, a former federal prosecutor. “A shameful scene.”

A review of coverage produced by regional media outlets over recent years found that many of the sheriffs who cheered the president have come under sharp scrutiny from the press for their own actions – or for those of the officers in their departments.

They have been held accountable by local journalists for incidents including the leaving of a service pistol in a casino bathroom, alleged mistreatment in jails, the wearing of blackface by an officer, and various other actions.

Here, the Guardian has compiled some of the notable reporting on the sheriffs who appeared with Trump:

1. Sheriff Ana Franklin, Morgan County, Alabama. Franklin is under investigation by the FBI and state authorities after a local news blogger, Glenda Lockhart, disclosed last year that the sheriff used $150,000 in public money to invest in a now-bankrupt used car dealership that was part-owned by a convicted fraudster. The money was taken from a fund meant for feeding inmates in the county jail.

The sheriff’s office recruited Lockhart’s grandson as an informant as they attempted to find a source leaking information to the blogger. The grandson said he was paid to install spyware on Lockhart’s computer. Franklin’s deputies raided Lockhart’s home and seized her computer. Franklin was found by a judge to have broken the law.

Sept. 6

parents. ap logoAssociated Press via Washington Post, Bezos, wife donate $10 million to veterans political group, Sept. 6, 2018. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie Bezos have made their largest political donation to date, giving $10 million to a nonpartisan political-action committee devoted to helping military veterans running for Congress.

The North Carolina-based committee With Honor confirmed the donation, which was first reported Wednesday by The Wall Street Journal. With Honor said it has raised $20 jeffrey bezos washington postmillion toward its $30 million goal to support veteran candidates of both parties.

Bezos, shown in a file photo at left, has previously made contributions to Washington Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and to Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch and former Rep. Jason Chaffetz. He has also contributed to Washington state campaign efforts to support gay marriage and charter schools and to defeat a measure that would have imposed a state income tax on high earners.

ny times logoNew York Times, What Jack Dorsey and Sheryl Sandberg Taught Congress and Vice Versa, Farhad Manjoo, Sept. 6, 2018. Wednesday’s hearings in Washington with social media executives did not devolve into ham-handed apologies. Instead, they showed a political system wrestling with issues that have no easy answers.

facebook logoWe are at a consequential juncture in the technology business and in society. A handful of tech giants have become the guardians of global speech, amplifying certain kinds of voices and limiting others according to their own bespoke, often opaque and shifting standards.

twitter bird CustomAlthough these companies — Facebook, Google and Twitter above all — are now integral to just about every corner of our lives, they face little regulatory oversight in the United States. It was only after the last presidential election that lawmakers even began expressing interest in the companies’ power.

And yet, against the scale of the issues involved, the congressional hearings held so far about the companies and their clout have often felt petty, misinformed and sharpened for political point-scoring. And President Trump’s assertion last week that Twitter, Facebook and Google are biased against conservatives only raised the stakes.

ny times logogoogle logo customNew York Times, Trump Says Google Is Rigged, Despite Its Denials. What Do We Know About How It Works? Daisuke Wakabayashi, Sept. 5, 2018. Not many people have a good understanding of how Google delivers search results. And for good reason — the company tries to keep it a secret.

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Repeatedly Crashes Truck Into Dallas TV Station’s Building, station’s building in downtown Dallas. Matthew Haag, Sept. 5, 2018. The man was detained after ramming the truck into the local Fox affiliate’s building, upset about the fatal police shooting of a friend in 2012, the police said.

August

Aug. 31

ny times logoronan farrowNew York Times, NBC Impeded Weinstein Reporting, Ex-Producer Says, John Koblin, Aug. 31, 2018 (print edition). Ronan Farrow, right, spent months investigating sexual misconduct accusations against Harvey Weinstein while he was at NBC News, but his articles published later in The New Yorker. A producer who worked closely with Mr. Farrow said “the very highest levels of NBC” tried to halt the work. The network disagrees.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Village Voice, a New York Icon, Closes, Tyler Pager and Jaclyn Peiser, Aug. 31, 2018. When Peter D. Barbey bought The Village Voice in 2015, he vowed to invest in the storied alternative weekly, saying it would “survive and prosper.” But last August he shuttered the print edition, and on Friday he closed the operation altogether.

The end of the left-leaning independent publication was an anticlimax, given the many empty red plastic Village Voice boxes that have been scattered like debris across the sidewalks of Manhattan in recent years.

“This is a sad day for The Village Voice and for millions of readers,” Mr. Barbey said. “The Voice has been a key element of New York City journalism and is read around the world. As the first modern alternative newspaper, it literally defined a new genre of publishing.”

ny times logoNew York Times, National Enquirer Had Decades of Trump Dirt. He Wanted to Buy It All, Jim Rutenberg and Maggie Haberman, Aug. 31, 2018 (print edition). President Trump and his lawyer, Michael Cohen, devised a plan to buy all the stories on Mr. Trump that the National Enquirer and its parent company had collected, according to Mr. Trump’s associates.The move indicated just how concerned they were about all the information amassed by the company, American Media, and its chairman, David Pecker.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s disapproval rating hits a high point in new poll, Philip Rucker and Scott Clement​, Aug. 31, 2018. Overall, 60 percent of Americans disapprove of President Trump’s job performance, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll that also finds that clear majorities of the public support the special counsel’s Russia investigation and say Trump should not fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Totally dishonest’: Trump asserts only he can be trusted over opponents and ‘fake news,’ Ashley Parker, Aug. 31, 2018. Over roughly the past day, President Trump has decried the “totally dishonest” media, with its “fake news” and “fake books.” He has argued that Google is biased against conservatives. And he has accused NBC News of “fudging” the tape of an interview with him that has been available online for more than a year.

The president has even declared there is no chaos in his White House, which he claimed is a “ ‘smooth running machine’ with changing parts,” despite the tumult that emanates almost daily from within its walls.

Trump’s assertions — all on Twitter, some false, some without clear evidence — come just over nine weeks before the midterm elections that could help determine his fate, and they are bound by one unifying theme: All of his perceived opponents are peddling false facts and only Trump can be trusted.

Aug. 29

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Tariffs on Canadian Newsprint Are Overturned, Catie Edmondson, Aug. 29, 2018. The decision by the International Trade Commission is a win for regional American newspapers, which have struggled to absorb the cost of higher newsprint.

Aug. 28

(MSM) Ending Yemen War Self-Censonship

yemen cnn us missiles blackout broken1 14

Medium, Opinion: MSM [Mainstream Media] Finally Concedes Defeat On Yemen, Ceases Blackout Of Coverage, Caitlin Johnson, Aug. 28, 2018. Last month, an article by Fair.org went viral in republications by popular alternative media outlets ranging from Salon to Zero Hedge to Alternet to Truthdig, among many others. The article was initially titled “ACTION ALERT: It’s Been Over a Year Since MSNBC Has Mentioned US War in Yemen”, but many subsequent republications went with variations on the more attention-grabbing headline, “MSNBC has done 455 Stormy Daniels segments in the last year — but none on U.S. war in Yemen”.

yemen msnbc graphic comparing stormy yemen coveragemsnbc logo CustomThe centerpiece of the article was the following graphic [at right], which I saw shared on its own many times in my social media feeds:

That’s about as in your face as it gets, isn’t it?

Ever since the Saudi-led assault on Yemen began in March of 2015, alternative media outlets everywhere have been repeatedly and aggressively decrying the mainstream media in the US and UK for their spectacular failure to adequately and accurately cover the violence and humanitarian disaster with appropriate reporting on who is responsible for it. After the 2016 US election, journalist Michael Tracey wrote an essay documenting how throughout the entire year and a half that Americans were pummeled with updates from the mass media about candidates and their campaigns, not one single question about Yemen was ever asked by any mainstream outlet of any candidate.

This is of course outrageous, but because of how media coverage works, mainstream attention was never drawn to the problem. It hasn’t been a total media blackout, but because it only turns up in mainstream media reports every once in a while with little if any emphasis being placed on who is behind the devastation, it occupies a very peripheral place in western consciousness.

This has all changed in the last few days. Suddenly, the atrocities being inflicted upon the people of Yemen are being pushed into mainstream attention by the mass media outlets which have been ignoring them for more than three years.

The Washington Post editorial board published an op-edtitled “End U.S. support for this misbegotten and unwinnable war.” CNN did some actual, real journalism for a change with a viral exclusive documenting which American war profiteers were behind some of the more devastating Saudi bombings.

And yes, MSNBC finally did cover the violence in Yemen, breaking its year-long silence to report on a US-supplied bomb which killed 40 children with such urgent condemnation of those responsible you’d never know they’d been consistently ignoring such incidents which have been going on for years. Now politicians and celebrities everywhere are shoving the horror of their government facilitating the slaughter of innocents into mainstream attention.

9/11 Research

Newsweek, CIA and Saudi Arabia Conspired To Keep 9/11 Details Secret, New Book Says, Jeff Stein, Aug. 28, 2018. The authors of a new book on 9/11 hope to re-focus public attention on the cover-up. Thoroughly mining the multiple official investigations into the event, John Duffy and Ray Nowosielski find huge holes and contradictions in the official story that 9/11 was merely “a failure to connect the dots.”

Duffy, a left-leaning writer and environmental activist, and Nowosielski, a documentary filmmaker, have nowhere near the prominence of other journalists who have poked holes in the official story, in particular Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book that was turned into a gripping multi-part docudrama on Hulu earlier this year.

But Duffy and Nowosielski come to the story with a noteworthy credential: In 2009 they scored an astounding video interview with Richard Clarke, White House counterterrorism adviser during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.

In it, Clarke raged that top CIA officials, including director George Tenet, had withheld crucial information from him about Al Qaeda’s plotting and movements, including the arrival in the U.S. of future hijackers Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi. In The Watchdogs Didn’t Bark, the authors assemble a compelling case of a government-wide coverup of Saudi complicity in the affair.

Aug. 26

ny times logo

New York Times, In Liberal Wine Country, Turning Newspaper Readers Into Shareholders, Tim Arango, Aug. 26, 2018. A weekly newspaper publisher in Northern California is selling stock to its readers, who hope to save their paper and, some of them believe, democracy.

Last year, Rollie Atkinson, the owner and publisher of The Healdsburg Tribune and three other weeklies in Sonoma County, was staring down a grim financial reality. The business model, he said, was “failing rapidly.” He was tired of throwing his savings into the newspapers to keep them going, and weary of the “daily struggle” of staying afloat in an environment where readers have access to a torrent of information for free.

Aug. 16

ny times logogoogle logo customNew York Times, Google Workers Protest Plans for Censored Search Engine for China, Kate Conger and Daisuke Wakabayashi, Aug. 16, 2018. About 1,400 of the tech giant’s employees have signed a letter demanding transparency, saying censored search results raise “urgent moral and ethical issues,” according to a letter obtained by The New York Times.

Aug. 14

Media: Fighting Fake Theory

ny times logoNew York Times, Thwarting Fight Against Sandy Hook Conspiracy Theories, Sapna Maheshwari and John Herrman, Aug. 14, 2018 (print edition).  The father of a 6-year-old victim has tried to erase lies about his son from the internet, but Automattic, which runs WordPress, said “untrue content is not banned.” Leonard Pozner says he spends hours every day trying to erase online conspiracy theories that the death of his 6-year-old son Noah at the Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax.

alex jones headshotHe has taken Alex Jones, right, of Infowars, by far the most visible Sandy Hook denier, to court. He has put pressure on major tech companies to take action against the conspiracy theorists who flourish on their platforms.

But the bulk of his work is more methodical. Sandy Hook conspiracies are strewn around the internet on various platforms, each with its own opaque rules and reporting mechanisms. So Mr. Pozner has studiously flagged countless videos and posts for a wide variety of offenses — invasions of privacy, threats and harassment, and copyright infringement — prompting Facebook, Amazon and Google to remove false material about his son.

Twitter has been less receptive to his claims and some smaller sites have simply not responded at all. But one company, Mr. Pozner says, has actively pushed back against his attempts.

Aug. 12

The Hill, At least 100 newspapers sign up to publish editorials targeting Trump, Morgan Gstalter, Aug. 12, 2018. The Boston Globe has enlisted more than 100 newspapers from across the country to publish editorials fighting back against President Trump’s repeated attacks on the media.

The Globe has been contacting editorial boards and asking them to publish an editorial on Thursday, CNN reported Saturday. "We propose to publish an editorial on August 16 on the dangers of the administration's assault on the press and ask others to commit to publishing their own editorials on the same date," The Globe said in its pitch.

Marjorie Pritchard, the Globe’s deputy editorial page editor, told CNN that more than 100 publications have signed up to participate as of Saturday. She told the network that she expects the number of newspapers participating will rise in the next few days.

"The response has been overwhelming," Pritchard said. "We have some big newspapers, but the majority are from smaller markets, all enthusiastic about standing up to Trump's assault on journalism."

asne logoMajor journalistic organizations, including the American Society of News Editors [ASNE] and the New England Newspaper and Press Association, have been helping to coordinate the effort, CNN reported. Each newspaper will write their own editorial, rather than publish a unified message.

Pritchard told the newspaper teams to write about how Trump’s “assault” on journalism impacts their communities. "Our words will differ. But at least we can agree that such attacks are alarming,” Pritchard wrote.

The Globe’s campaign began days after the president ramped up his attacks on the media, which he often calls “the enemy of the people.”

"The Fake News hates me saying that they are the Enemy of the People only because they know it’s TRUE," Trump tweeted last week. "I am providing a great service by explaining this to the American People. They purposely cause great division & distrust. They can also cause War! They are very dangerous & sick!"

Editor's note: Justice Integrity Project Editor Andrew Kreig is a member of ASNE and the project supports the editorial effort.

Omarosa's Trump Book

washington post logoomarosa manigault newman unhinged CustomWashington Post, Ex-Trump aide releases recording purportedly made in White House Situation Room, Stephanie McCrummen​, Aug. 12, 2018. Omarosa Manigault Newman’s purported recording, which would constitute a serious breach of White House security, was played on NBC News’s “Meet the Press.”

Axios Sneak Peek, Analysis: 1 big thing: Inside Omarosa's reign of terror; 2. Between the lines on Omarosa's secret tapes, Jonathan Swan, Aug. 12, 2018. Want to know the secret behind Omarosa's wild, largely unchallenged, run in the White House, during which she would swan in and out of the Oval Office, secretly recording the president and his chief of staff? It’s simple: Some of the most powerful men in government were terrified of her.

1 big thing: Inside Omarosa's reign of terror: "I'm scared shitless of her... She's a physically intimidating presence," a male former colleague of Omarosa's told me. "I never said no to her," the source added. "Anything she wanted, 'Yes, brilliant.' I'm afraid of her. I'm afraid of getting my ass kicked." (He wouldn't let me use a more precise description of his former White House role because he admitted he's still scared of retribution from Omarosa. Other senior officials have admitted the same to me.)

Three other former officials shared that sentiment. “One hundred percent, everyone was scared of her,” said another former official.

The big picture: Trump has nobody to blame but himself for Omarosa's raucous book tour, in which she calls him a racist and a misogynist, and says he's in mental decline. Trump brought her into the White House at the senior-most level with the top salary.

In many ways, two former senior administration officials pointed out, what Omarosa is doing now is pure Trump.

"She may be the purest of all the Trump characters," one told me. "She may be the most Trumpian. She knows media, she knows about physical presence, like Trump does...that's why I think he's rattled."

john kelly o dhs2. Between the lines on Omarosa's secret tapes: A scene that caught the attention of West Wing officials and national security lawyers today: Omarosa let NBC's "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd play tapes of White House chief of staff John Kelly, whom she secretly recorded while he was firing her.

Why this matters: It's extraordinary enough to secretly record a White House colleague and then play the tape on television. But it's even more stunning that the conversation happened in the Situation Room — the most secure area in the West Wing, reserved for the most sensitive conversations, many of them dealing with highly classified intelligence.

Behind the scenes: I spoke to several Trump officials who've spent time in the SitRoom. They say Kelly and the White House lawyers — especially Uttam Dhillon, who was recently appointed to head the Drug Enforcement Administration — used the SitRoom to talk with staff they were accusing of serious breaches, including problems with their clearances.

In the recording Omarosa played on "Meet the Press," Kelly refuses to elaborate on the "pretty serious integrity violations" he tells her she committed.

The bottom line: Omarosa says Kelly threatened her and she made her secret recording to protect herself. And to be clear: the conversation was not classified, meaning she may not have broken federal law. But national security lawyers I've spoken to say it’s nonetheless disturbing.

Fox News, Omarosa releases purported secret recording of Chief of Staff John Kelly 'threatening' her in the Situation Room, Gregg Re, Aug. 12, 2018. Omarosa Manigault-Newman, the ex-reality star and former Trump aide who has since accused the president of racism, on Sunday released what she claimed was a secret recording of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly "threatening" her in the White House Situation Room.

But White House officials pushed back immediately, saying Manigault-Newman's termination for alleged ethical violations was handled appropriately and charging that she had flagrantly security protocols by taping Kelly in the highly secured room in the basement of the West Wing.

john kelly o dhsIn the recording, Kelly purportedly calls for Manigault-Newman's "friendly departure" from the administration without any "difficulty in the future relative to your reputation." According to the tape, Kelly continued by saying that things could get "ugly" for her, and that she was "open to some legal action" for conduct that would merit a court martial if she were in the military.

That comment was a "very obvious ... threat," Manigault-Newman told NBC's "Meet the Press." She said she had recorded the conversation because otherwise no one would believe her. That Manigault-Newman had apparently managed to record a conversation in the White House's high-tech Situation Room, which is the nerve center of sensitive government military operations, alarmed analysts Sunday.

The Hill, White House seeks to prevent Omarosa from releasing more tapes: report, Morgan Gstalter, Aug. 12, 2018. The White House is looking into legal options against former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman after she secretly recorded chief of staff John Kelly in the Situation Room, ABC News reported Sunday.

The administration reportedly wants to block Manigault Newman from releasing any more tapes and punish her for the recording she revealed on NBC's "Meet the Press" earlier Sunday, which was taped during Kelly's firing of her back in December.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Sunday that the “very idea a staff member would sneak a recording device into the White House Situation Room, shows a blatant disregard for our national security.”

“And then to brag about it on national television further proves the lack of character and integrity of this disgruntled former White House employee,” Huckabee Sanders continued.

A number of journalists, national security experts and former White House staff raised alarms about the dangers of recording in the Situation Room — the highly sensitive space where phones and electronic devices are prohibited for security reasons.

Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer called Manigault Newman’s taping “a massive violation of security protocol.”

“She taped the chief of staff for the White House in the Situation Room, clearly a violation of every security protocol that she signed when she applied for a security clearance,” Spicer said on "Fox News Sunday."

Manigault Newman released the tape in conjunction with her book tour for Unhinged: An Insider Account of the Trump White House. Excerpts of the explosive memoir released this week include the former aide claiming that Kelly fired her when he knew she was close to getting the audio of Trump using a racial slur.

Aug. 11

omarosa manigault newman unhinged Custom

The Guardian, The key Trump revelations in Omarosa Manigault Newman's new book, David Smith, Aug. 11, 2018 (print edition). The ex-White House adviser’s forthcoming memoir says Trump insisted upon being sworn in to the presidency with his own book.

Omarosa Manigault Newman, whose association with Donald Trump goes back all the way to his days on reality TV, has displayed her flair for spectacle by publishing a scathing insider’s account of his White House.

Omarosa says Trump is a racist who uses N-word – and claims there is tape to prove it.

Her book, Unhinged, characterizes the US president as a bigot, sexist and racist who has been caught on mic using the N-word “multiple times.” This is the verdict of the woman who was his director of African American outreach during the 2016 presidential election, then the most senior African American on his staff until her sudden departure last December.

Manigault Newman, who embraced the role “villain” on The Apprentice, said in 2015: “When you have a big reality TV star as the front-runner for the Republican nomination there is no way to separate it. This is the new reality.” Donald Trump is shown in a promotional photo for the show at right.

donald trump apprentice black and whiteHer memoir offers a glimpse of a reality TV candidacy and presidency full of chaos, egos, internecine warfare and mendacity.

When the Guardian approached the White House for comment about Manigault Newman’s book on Thursday, there was no response. But on Friday, press secretary Sarah Sanders claimed: “This book is riddled with lies and false accusations”. She added: “It’s sad that a disgruntled former White House employee is trying to profit off these false attacks.”

There is more to come, however. Manigault Newman is due to appear on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday and then embark on a lengthy publicity tour that could further damage the man she once regarded as a mentor.

Aug. 7

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: A Better Way to Ban Alex Jones, David French, Aug. 7, 2018. "Hate speech” is extraordinarily vague and subjective. Libel and slander are not.

alex jones headshotLet me start by making a few things abundantly clear. First, Alex Jones is a loathsome conspiracy theorist who generates loathsome content. Second, there is no First Amendment violation when a private company chooses to boot anyone off a private platform. Third, it seems reasonably clear that Mr. Jones’s content isn’t just morally repugnant, it’s also legally problematic. He makes wild, false claims that may well cross the line into libel and slander.

Right now, Mr. Jones is defending lawsuits filed by multiple Sandy Hook Elementary families accusing him of making intentionally false factual statements. Most appallingly, he has insisted that these grieving families were faking their pain:

So on Monday, when Apple, Facebook and YouTube acted — in seemingly coordinated fashion — to remove the vast bulk of Mr. Jones’s content from their sites, there’s no cause for worry, right? After all, this was an act of necessary public hygiene. A terrible human being who has no regard for truth or decency is finally getting what he deserves.

Would that it were that simple.

Rather than applying objective standards that resonate with American law and American traditions of respect for free speech and the marketplace of ideas, the companies applied subjective standards that are subject to considerable abuse.

Mr. French, the author of the column above, is a First Amendment litigator and senior writer for National Review.

Aug. 6

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washington post logoWashington Post, Alex Jones’s podcasts are erased by Apple in latest move against the conspiracy theorist who claims Sandy Hook was a hoax, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Aug. 6, 2018.  Apple has wiped iTunes and its podcasting app virtually clean of content by Alex Jones in one of the most aggressive moves by technology companies and streaming services against the conspiracy theorist and owner of the right-wing media platform Infowars.

As of early Monday, just one of the six Infowars programs once listed by Apple remained, “RealNews with David Knight.” The decision to pull the other shows, including “The Alex Jones Show” and “War Room,” represents a broader effort than those made by other companies in recent days to stop disseminating material associated with Jones, whom the Southern Poverty Law Center calls “the most prolific conspiracy theorist in contemporary America.”

Last week, Spotify removed several episodes of “The Alex Jones Show,” following similar moves by YouTube and Facebook the week before. The more sweeping action taken by Apple shows how companies have responded differently to the task of regulating false information and hate speech while remaining a neutral platform. Jones, who faces several defamation lawsuits arising from his claim that the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax, argues that his statements are protected speech.

Aug. 5

washington post logoWashington Post, The local-news crisis is destroying what a divided America desperately needs: Common ground, Margaret Sullivan​, Aug. 5, 2018. People who get their news only from Facebook or from cable TV are often deep in their own echo chambers. That’s why we need the local newspaper to give us common information — an agreed-upon set of facts to argue about.

Ken Doctor saw it coming. A few years ago, the media analyst looked at the trend lines and predicted that by 2017 or so, American newsrooms would reach a shocking point. “The halving of America’s daily newsrooms,” he called what he was seeing.

Last week, we found out that it’s true. A Pew Research study showed that between 2008 and last year, employment in newspaper newsrooms declined by an astonishing 45 percent. (And papers were already well down from their newsroom peak in the early 1990s, when their revenue lifeblood — print advertising — was still pumping strong.)

The dire numbers play out in ugly ways: Public officials aren’t held accountable, town budgets go unscrutinized, experienced journalists are working at Walmart, or not at all, instead of plying their much-needed trade in their communities.

One problem with losing local coverage is that we never know what we don’t know. Corruption can flourish, taxes can rise, public officials can indulge their worst impulses. And there’s another result that gets less attention: In our terribly divided nation, we need the local newspaper to give us common information — an agreed-upon set of facts to argue about.

Aug. 4

washington post logoWashington Post, Newseum pulls ‘fake news’ shirts after outcry from journalists, Keith McMillan and Cleve R. Wootson Jr.​, Aug. 4, 2018. The Washington attraction “dedicated to the importance of a free press and the first amendment” sold garments with phrases the president popularized. Journalists took it as an affront.

Aug. 2

sarah huckabee sanders screenshotPalmer Report, Opinion: CNN’s Jim Acosta destroys Sarah Huckabee Sanders to her face, Bill Palmer, Aug. 2, 2018.  Donald Trump has been dishonestly attacking CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta for as long as anyone can remember. That’s because Acosta, along with a handful of other White House correspondents, has been consistently fearless in asking tough questions from day one. This week Trump once again called the media the “enemy of the people” during his rally in Florida. This led Acosta to go on the offensive during today’s White House press briefing.

Jim Acosta asked Trump’s White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, whose job is to work with the media on a daily basis, to definitively state that the media is not the “enemy of the people.” This led Huckabee Sanders (shownin a file photo) to rattle off a long list of dishonest criticisms of the media, falsely painting Trump as the victim. Acosta was less than impressed, and he let her know as much.

Daily Beast, National Enquirer Boss Slinks Away From Trump, Lachlan Markay, Asawin Suebsaeng and Dean Sterling Jones, Aug. 2, 2018. Nothing Trump touches ever remains the same, including supermarket tabloids.

david pecker croppedShortly after the feds raided the office of Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s now estranged personal attorney and longtime enforcer, National Enquirer publisher David Pecker (shown at right) went into a state of calculated retreat. For years, Pecker’s tabloid had promoted and puffing up Trump’s political rise and his presidency.

But once a regular fixture on the cover of the National Enquirer, Trump hasn’t appeared on it since an issue dated early May. That appearance was for a cover story on the various scandals swirling around... Cohen.

In that same issue detailing Cohen’s dirty work—work in which the Enquirer itself played a key role—there was another story showing how the Enquirer’s “lie detector examination” supposedly absolved Trump of any Russia-related collusion. Since then, the tabloid's approach to the saga has ranged from muted to silent.

The president’s disappearance from the pages of Pecker’s famous, Trump-endorsing supermarket tabloid was no coincidence. It also further demonstrates how so much of what President Trump touches, including the tabloids that relish the drama he produces, seems to suffer under the weight of scandals.

President Donald Trump officialBut the dialing-back of Trump content may have come with a cost. The National Enquirer's circulation numbers declined in the first half of the year, according to industry metrics compiled by the Alliance for Audited Media. The tabloid lost about 4,700 paid subscriptions from January through June, about six percent of its total at the beginning of the year.

As Pecker and his team were distancing themselves from Trump publicly, a more surreptitious effort was underway to cleanse the public record of details of Pecker’s involvement in the McDougal scandal and the AMI boss’s relationship with the president.

Over the course of a week last month, an anonymous Wikipedia user repeatedly tried to scrub Pecker’s page of damaging information regarding his alleged links to the McDougal hush-money scandal, removing huge blocks of text describing Pecker’s and AMI’s roles in paying the model for her story. The origin of the edits was even more interesting.

They were made by someone using an I.P. address associated with the high-powered Hollywood talent agency William Morris Endeavor, according to publicly-available web database information. The same I.P. address has been used to edit pages for WME itself, the head of the agency’s literary division, and a number of WME clients.

July

July 31

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ny times logoNew York Times, Alex Jones, Pursued Over Infowars Falsehoods, Faces a Legal Crossroads, Elizabeth Williamson, July 31, 2018. In the five years since Noah Pozner was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., death threats and online harassment have forced his parents, Veronique De La Rosa and Leonard Pozner, to relocate seven times. They now live in a high-security community hundreds of miles from where their 6-year-old is buried.

“I would love to go see my son’s grave and I don’t get to do that, but we made the right decision,” Ms. De La Rosa said in a recent interview. Each time they have moved, online fabulists stalking the family have published their whereabouts.

“With the speed of light,” she said. “They have their own community, and they have the ear of some very powerful people.”

On Wednesday in an Austin courtroom, the struggle of the Sandy Hook families to hold to account Alex Jones, a powerful leader of this online community, will reach a crossroads.

Lawyers for Noah Pozner’s parents will seek to convince a Texas judge that they — and by extension the families of eight other victims in the 2012 shooting that killed 20 first graders and six adults — have a valid defamation claim against Mr. Jones, whose Austin-based Infowars media operation spread false claims that the shooting was an elaborate hoax.

FOIA Fights

MM (The Millions), Exposing Murder Rings and the Realities of McCarthyism: A Deep Dive into FOIA, David A. Taylor, July 24, 2018. FOIA (pronounced foya) is an odd acronym that can seem obscure and inconsequential. A small proportion of Americans submits Freedom of Information requests.

As a freelance writer, I’ve submitted relatively few FOIA requests to different government agencies. For one project, I requested public records identifying the five biggest exporters in a secretive industry trading an endangered medicinal plant. It wasn’t exactly the Watergate break-in, but the request yielded information that pointed to high-value players who preferred a low profile.

In June 2016, President Barack Obama signed a law updating the Freedom of Information Act, making more government memos accessible after 25 years. No friend to FOIA for most of his presidency, Obama had set a presidential record for censoring or denying access to FOIA-requested information. The number of unanswered requests governmentwide climbed past 200,000. Under Trump, FOIA is an even more brittle tool for holding an unpredictable executive branch accountable.

July 29

ny times logoNew York Times, Times Publisher and Trump Clash Over President’s Threats Against Journalism, Mark Landler, July 29, 2018. President Trump and the publisher of the New York Times, A. G. Sulzberger, engaged in a fierce public clash on Sunday over Mr. Trump’s threats against journalism, after Mr. Sulzberger said the president misrepresented a private meeting and Mr. Trump accused The Times and other papers of putting lives at risk with irresponsible reporting.

Mr. Trump said on Twitter that he and Mr. Sulzberger had discussed “the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, ‘Enemy of the People.’ Sad!”

In a five-paragraph statement issued two hours after the tweet, Mr. Sulzberger said he had accepted Mr. Trump’s invitation for the July 20 meeting mainly to raise his concerns about the president’s “deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric.”

“I told the president directly that I thought that his language was not just divisive but increasingly dangerous,” said Mr. Sulzberger, who became publisher of The Times on Jan. 1. “I told him that although the phrase ‘fake news’ is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists ‘the enemy of the people,’” Mr. Sulzberger continued. “I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence.”

This is particularly true overseas, Mr. Sulzberger said, where governments are using Mr. Trump’s words as a pretext to crack down on journalists. He said he warned the president that his attacks were “putting lives at risk” and “undermining the democratic ideals of our nation.”

boris epshteyn mike pence screenshot Custom

On the nationwide Sinclair TV network, commentator and former Trump campaign aide Boris Ephsteyn's pro-Trump propaganda segments are "must-run" for all stations. In this episode, Ephsteyn, right, essentially delivers the microphone to Vice President Mike Pence to claim that Trump policies are working great and no one should believe other media. Even Trump's FCC opposed Sinclair's recent big to buy 30 more TV stations.

Media Matters, Opinion: Sinclair's pro-Trump propaganda doesn't even bother with questions anymore, John Whitehouse, July 29, 2018. Sinclair has been producing pro-Trump "must-runs" that air during local news segments across the country.

sinclair broadcast logo customFrequently these segments feature chief political analyst Boris Epshteyn asking softball questions of Trump administration figures like Sarah Huckabee Sanders or Scott Pruitt -- at least when Epshteyn is not giving over the top pro-Trump commentary on his own. This week, Epshteyn gave a warm welcome to VP Mike Pence. The first parts of the interview were embarrassingly friendly, with Epsheyn praising Trump's unpopular tax law.

The final segment with Pence really jumped the rails. In the clip, Epshteyn did not even ask a question. Rather, the entire "must-run" was Pence talking about how great the Trump administration has been, followed by Epshteyn saying that the Trump administration "has to focus on continuing to achieve success for the American people."

The obvious goal here is to get audiences to only trust Sinclair -- and Trump.

July 28United Kingdom flag

ny times logofacebook logoNew York Times, British Lawmakers in ‘Fake News’ Inquiry Rebuke Facebook, David D. Kirkpatrick, July 28, 2018. In a report to be released Sunday, a parliamentary committee accused Facebook of providing “disingenuous” answers to questions and of withholding information.

USA Today, Sean Spicer accused of using racial slur at a heated book signing event, Marina Pitofsky, July 28, 2018. Sean Spicer's hotly anticipated book usa today logosigning took a turn for the worse Friday when the former Trump administration press secretary was accused of using a racial slur toward a black classmate during his high school years.

The ex-communications director, shown at the White House in a file photo, was at a book signing in Middletown, Rhode Island for his recent release of "The Briefing" about his time with President Donald Trump. At the signing, Alex Lombard, a resident of Cambridge, Massachusetts, approached him.

sean spicerLombard told Spicer they attended the Portsmouth Abbey School together, a Catholic prep school in Rhode Island. After Spicer said hello to Lombard and confirmed that he boxed in school, Lombard charged Spicer with calling him the N-word before one of their fights, according to a video from the Newport Daily News. Lombard was then escorted away by a security guard.

A publicist told The Associated Press that was "taken aback" by the "outrageous claim." In the video, other attendees at the event can be heard saying, "you should be arrested immediately" and "get out of here" in response to Lombard's allegations.

Lombard can also be heard threatening to fight Spicer in the video as he left the store. "I was 14. I was a scared kid then, Sean. I'm not scared to fight you now," Lombard said.

Supporters and critics of Trump's administration also clashed at the signing. A few protesters gathered outside of the store during the event with signs calling Spicer a liar. Beth Murphy Ward, one of the demonstrators, explained why she came to the store to protest. Spicer was scheduled to have another book signing in Massachusetts on Saturday, but the event was canceled "due to the political climate," according to the AP.

July 25

Washington Post, Trump pushes 25 percent auto tariff as top advisers scramble to stop him, Damian Paletta​, July 25, 2018. The president wants to move forward on the plan despite warnings from GOP leaders and business executives who have argued that such a move could damage the economy and lead to political mutiny.

Trump Seeks More FCC Licenses For Supporters

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washington post logoWashington Post, Trump criticizes FCC for opposing Sinclair-Tribune deal, Tony Romm and Brian Fung, July 25, 2018. The president said the media merger would provide a “conservative voice for and of the People,” though politics are not supposed to factor into such considerations.

President Donald Trump officialPresident Trump came to the defense of Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed merger with Tribune Media, days after the Federal Communications Commission raised “serious concerns” about the deal and began legal proceedings to challenge it on grounds the companies had misled regulators.

Trump said Tuesday it was “so sad and unfair” that the FCC, an independent agency, did not approve the merger, a $3.9 billion transaction that would create a conservative television giant that originally hoped to reach roughly 70 percent of U.S. households.

fcc logoIn his tweet, the president stressed how the deal would provide a “conservative voice for and of the People," though politics are not supposed to factor into merger considerations.

“Liberal Fake News NBC and Comcast gets approved, much bigger, but not Sinclair. Disgraceful!” the president tweeted.

New York Times, ‘A Stir’ on Air Force One as a Television Is Tuned to CNN, Katie Rogers and Maggie Haberman, July 25, 2018 (print ed.). On the first couple’s recent trip overseas, Melania Trump’s television aboard Air Force One was tuned to CNN. President Trump was not pleased.

fox news logo SmallHe raged at his staff for violating a rule that the White House entourage should begin each trip tuned to Fox — his preferred network over what he considers the “fake news” CNN — and caused “a bit of a stir” aboard Air Force One, according to an email obtained by The New York Times.

At the end of the email chain, officials confirmed that tuning the TVs to Fox would be standard operating procedure going forward.

The channel-flipping flap was the latest example of how Mr. Trump, at a pivotal moment in his presidency, is increasingly living in a world of selected information and bending the truth to his own narrative. As his aides work to keep him insulated from the outside world, Mr. Trump is doubling down in his efforts to tell supporters to trust him over the words of critics and news reports.

U.S. Politics

July 24

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The city that never sleeps finds that it’s running out of reporters to report, Paul Farhi, July 24, 2018 (print ed.). Local news plunges deeper into crisis as New York Daily News whacks half its staff.

New York City and its environs are home to 20 million people, Wall Street, Broadway, the fashion and media industries, and a mix of cultures unlike few cities on the planet.

And yet news organizations operating in this singular metropolis barely have enough reporters to cover the Bronx or Queens.

On Monday, the New York Daily News, one of the city’s three daily newspapers, said it would slash its news staff in half, a draconian cut that continues the long, slow bleeding of newspapers and reduces still further the amount of local news coverage in the nation’s largest city.

The story is largely the same across the United States as publishers have gradually pared their staffs amid the ongoing economic tumult wrought by the digital delivery of news and information.

The news industry has shriveled far faster than coal mining or heavy manufacturing, as exhaustively documented by the news industry itself. Employment in newspapers alone has sunk by more than half since the beginning of this century, tumbling from 424,000 people to 183,300 in mid-2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Digital 'Fake News' Scams

washington post logoWashington Post, On WhatsApp, fake news is fast — and can be fatal, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Annie Gowen, July 24, 2018 (print ed.). Americans associate misinformation with Facebook and the ways it shaped debate around the 2016 presidential election. But in other countries, falsities are just as likely to spread on private messaging services — sometimes with deadly consequences.

At least two dozen people have been killed in mob lynchings in India since the start of the year, their deaths fueled by rumors that spread on WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging service. In Brazil, messages on WhatsApp falsely claimed a government-mandated yellow-fever vaccine was dangerous, leading people to avoid it. And as Mexico was heading into its presidential election this month, experts there called WhatsApp the ugly underbelly of the country’s news environment, a place where politically misleading stories, memes and messages can spread unchecked.

On WhatsApp, with 1.5 billion users, information can go viral in minutes as individuals forward messages along to their friends or groups, without any way to determine its origin.

Messaging platforms have hosted disinformation campaigns in at least 10 countries this year, according to a report by the Computational Propaganda Project at Oxford University. WhatsApp was the main platform for disinformation in seven of those nations, including Brazil, India, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Mexico.

July 23

ap logoAssociated Press via WABC TV, New York Daily News announces it is cutting half its newsroom staff, Staff report, July 23, 2018. The New York Daily News will cut half of its newsroom staff, saying it wants to focus more on digital news.

The paper was sold to tronc Inc. last year for $1, with the owner of the Chicago Tribune assuming liabilities and debt.

In an email sent to staff Monday, tronc said staff at the Daily News will focus on breaking news involving "crime, civil justice and public responsibility."

Revenue and print circulation have been sliding at the newspaper for years, even as it provided critical coverage of health issues in public housing and for first responders after the September 11 attacks.

Revenue slid 22 percent between 2014 and 2016, and the paper had already been letting people go.

"Since the year began, we've worked hard to transform the New York Daily News into a truly digitally-focused enterprise - one that creates meaningful journalism, delivers it more quickly and more frequently, and develops new approaches to engage our readers," an email sent to staff said. "We've gained a deeper understanding of our readership. We've redefined our structures. But we have not gone far enough."

Editor-in-chief Jim Rich and Managing Editor Kristen Lee are both included in the layoffs. Robert York, editor of Tronc-owned The Morning Call in Allentown, Pennsylvania, will take over as editor of The Daily News. Tronc Inc., based in Chicago, owns the Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, the Orlando Sentinel, and other media operations.

CNN, Tronc will make cuts at other papers after NYDN layoffs, Brian Stelter, July 23, 2018. Tronc laid off half the staff of the New York Daily News on Monday. Astonishingly, the cuts are not over yet. The newspaper publisher is laying off staffers at some of its other papers "today and tomorrow," according to a Monday afternoon memo from Tronc CEO Justin Dearborn.

The announcement immediately spooked staffers at papers like The Baltimore Sun and The Chicago Tribune. Dearborn said the cuts will not be as severe as in New York.

"The Daily News is unique in that local leadership determined a complete redesign of its structure was needed post-acquisition," he wrote. "We do not expect reductions of this scale in any of our other newsrooms."

A Tronc spokeswoman declined to provide further details about the size and scope of the cutbacks. The company's other publications include the Orlando Sentinel, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Hartford Courant, and The Morning Call of Allentown, Pennsylvania.

July 22

Justice Integrity Project, ABA Honors Media Revelations About Injustice, Andrew Kreig, July 22, 2018. The American Bar Association last week continued its 60-year tradition of annual media awards for legal coverage with a ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

On July 17, the 2018 Silver Gavel Awards for Media and the Arts recognized outstanding work that, in the words of the bar association, "fosters the American public’s understanding of law and the legal system."

aba silver gavel 2018 blue Custom 2The six major awards for categories of print and video recognized cutting-edge work on policing, Japanese American internment during World War II, the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the prison colony at Guantánamo, a murder trial, and mortgage-fraud prosecution.

“The American Bar Association (ABA) engages in a careful, deliberative judging process to pick winners of the Silver Gavel Awards,” said Stephen C. Edds, chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Gavel Awards in announcing the awards. “We congratulate all of our 2018 awardees for their extraordinary efforts to foster the American public’s understanding of law.”

Beyond those kinds of formalities that could be spoken any year, speakers noted the backdrop of this year's ceremony: huge attacks on the reputation of legal establishment (such FBI and judicial personnel) and the news media, especially from the White House and its supporters.

akhil amar colorMedia speakers especially voiced concern over how their normal work is being undermined by savage attacks at the same time that Internet-fostered competition is creating devastating financial problems for media organizations, forcing staff and coverage reductions.

As a result, this year's award process is particularly important, according to keynote speaker Akhil Amar (right), a Yale Law School constitutional scholar and previous Silver Gavel award-winner in the book division.

In such times as these, the professor continued, the Silver Gavel process encourages expensive in-depth media work from many others besides award winners. The awards foster a much larger and vitally necessary eco-structure of other good work, he said.  

Details here.

 

Alleged Disinformation Cadre 'White Helmets' Headed To UK, Canada, Germany

Jerusalem Post, Opinion: Israel evacuates hundreds of Syrian White Helmets in humanitarian effort, Seth J. Frantzman, July 22, 2018. The evacuation was kept secret and began at 9:30 p.m. Some 800 Syrians affiliated with israel flagthe White Helmets and their families are being evacuated from Quneitra through Israel to Jordan, according to the IDF Spokesperson's Unit. Syrian Civil Defense, the official name of the White Helmets, is a volunteer organization that has worked in rebel areas of Syria providing medical support during the Syrian conflict.

syrian white helmetsAccording to a Bild report published Saturday night by Paul Ronzheimer, Giorgos Moutafis and Julian Ropcke, around 800 Syrians were transported across the Syrian-Israel border. “From there on to Jordan,” the article states. “They are members and families of the famous White Helmets.” Those evacuated will continue on to the UK, Canada and Germany, according to Bild.

canadian flagThe Syrians will stay in a closed area while in Jordan for no more than three months and their passage onward has been guaranteed by three western countries. Jordan emphasized that it has hosted 1.3 million refugees from Syria and that the latest deal was organized by the United Nations.

Neither the AP report nor the Jordanian government statement mention Israel. This points to the fact that Israel’s role was considered controversial and that the method of the evacuation had to be kept under wraps until it was complete.

'Helmets' Alleged To Be UK/IDF/US Operatives

syria white helmets attack april 2017

'White Helmets' shown in alleged anti-Syrian propaganda film in April 2017

SouthFront, Opinion: Israel Evacuates 800 Members Of White Helmets And Their Families From Syria To Jordan, Staff report, July 22, 2018. Israel is working to hide the evidence of special propaganda operations carried out by the US-Israeli-led block against the Damascus government in Syria.

According to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), Israel transported several hundred of the White Helmets and their families from the southwestern part of Syria to Jordan overnight Saturday. The IDF described it as “a humanitarian effort” at the request of the US and European countries.

The IDF claimed it engaged in the “out of the ordinary” move due to the “immediate risk” to the lives of the civilians in the area. The move came as Syrian government forces, backed by Russia, were finishing their operation to defeat Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) and its allies in the southern provinces of Daraa and al-Quneitra.

The “civilians” evacuated by Israel were evacuated from the militant-held area.

According to Jordan’s official Petra state media outlet, the number of evacuated persons included 800 White Helmets members and their families.

Germany’s Bild newspaper reported that a convoy of dozens of buses crossed the contact line between the Israeli-controlled area and Syria late Saturday. Then the convoy was escorted to the Jordanian border by Israeli police and UN forces.

The White Helmets is an infamous Western-backed organization, which according to Syrian, Russian and Iranian governments as well as to multiple independent researchers, has been involved in staging chemical attacks and other propaganda actions in order to assist the US-led block in its attempts to overthrow the Assad government.

One of the most prominent cases if the “Douma chemical attack” on April 14, 2018.

According to Syrian experts, the key goal of the evacuation of the White Helmets members is to not allow forces of the Syrian-Russian-Iranian alliance from questioning members of the organization over their activities and to prevent further leaks and failures how the mainstream narrative on the conflict has been created through special propaganda operations.

BBC, Opinion: Syria conflict: White Helmets evacuated by Israel, Staff report, July 22, 2018. Israel says it has carried out an evacuation bbc news logo2of members of Syria's White Helmets civil defence group from a war zone in south-western Syria. Some 422 volunteers and family members were taken to Jordan via the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights overnight.

Numbering about 3,000 volunteers, they also carry out essential repair works. Some 200 members have been killed.

The White Helmets have gained worldwide praise, were nominated for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize and were the subject of a Netflix documentary and BBC Panorama programme.

But Syria's government and its ally Russia have accused the group of links to jihadist groups. President Assad said it used "humanitarian masks and umbrellas just to implement a certain agenda".

The plan had been to evacuate 800 White Helmets and their families, but only 422 made it.The BBC's Mark Lowen says the others have been hemmed in by the expansion of Islamic State group fighters into pockets of south-west Syria and, as this was a one-off operation, fears remain for the fate of those left behind.

July 21

Mediaite, Rob Reiner’s 'Shock and Awe' Earns a Measly $41,000 on Opening Weekend, Tamar Auber, July 15, 2018. Director Rob Reiner‘s new movie "Shock and Awe," about journalists during the Iraq War, debuted this weekend… to disappointing numbers.

According to the movie’s description on Rotten Tomatoes, the film is “based on the true events of Knight Ridder journalists who were the only ones who ‘got it right’ in the lead-up to the 2003 Iraq War when they questioned the true nature of the Bush White House’s justification for the conflict.”

Yet, you would be forgiven for not kn