Media News 2020

 

 JIPLogo

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

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

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

    • Andrew Kreig / Justice Integrity Project editor

       

      andrew kreig c span

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

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

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

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

 2020

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

 

January 2021 Update

Jan. 17

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Three ways the media can vanquish the Big Lie that will linger even after Trump is gone, Margaret Sullivan, right, Jan. 17, 2021. It’s not margaret sullivan 2015 photoenough to simply present truthful information to the public. We need it to sink in.

His administration is down to its last hours, but you can bet that the false belief held by millions of Americans that the election was rigged is not going away when President Trump does.

Journalists, if they take their core mission seriously, should think hard about how they’re going to confront this Big Lie, as it’s become known.

Our goal should go beyond merely putting truthful information in front of the public. We should also do our best to make sure it’s widely accepted — “to create a public square with a common set of facts,” as Tom Rosenstiel, an author and the executive director of the Virginia-based American Press Institute, put it.

But how? Here are a few ideas I’ve gathered.

Martin Luther King Jr., Riverside Church, April 4, 1967

Martin Luther King Jr., Riverside Church, April 4, 1967

washington post logoWashington Post, Tom Lankford: 1935–2021; Civil rights reporter secretly in league with police dies at 85, Matt Schudel, Jan. 17, 2021. On orders of his publisher, Tom Lankford worked with the Alabama police and wiretapped the civil rights leaders he covered.

Tom Lankford, a journalist who covered the civil rights movement in the troubled city of Birmingham, Ala., while also conducting secret surveillance for his publisher and local police authorities in the 1960s, died Dec. 31 at a hospital in Gadsden, Ala. He was 85.

His family announced the death in a notice in the Gadsden Times newspaper. His former newspaper, the Birmingham News, reported that he died of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

tom lankford headshotMr. Lankford began working for the News, then an afternoon newspaper, in 1959, when the civil rights movement was gaining strength, along with White resistance to it. For several years, he seemed to be everywhere in the South, covering major civil rights flash points.

Working as both a reporter and a photographer, Mr. Lankford, right, won numerous awards for his front-line coverage, which sometimes put him in danger. He covered the Freedom Riders, the civil rights activists who rode buses into the South to protest segregated transportation facilities, only to be attacked by White thugs and often jailed.

He covered marches and other demonstrations led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth in Birmingham and across the South. Pretending to be a student, he photographed James Meredith in class when Meredith became the University of Mississippi’s first African American student in 1962. He outran U.S. marshals to the local Associated Press office, which put his picture on the news wire.

Mr. Lankford, left, reported on the bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church on Sept. 15, 1963, which killed four Black girls. He took a memorable tom lankford dawn bowlingphotograph of civil rights marchers, led by John Lewis and Hosea Williams, crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on March 7, 1965. The peaceful marchers were beaten by White police officers on a day so notorious that it became known as Bloody Sunday.

“That man was present for almost all the historical civil rights events,” former Birmingham police officer Teresa Thorne, who interviewed Mr. Lankford for an upcoming book about the civil rights era, told the News. “He had a lot of respect for Martin Luther King Jr. and Fred Shuttlesworth. He admired their courage. He was on a friendly basis with them.”

During those years, Mr. Lankford was not just a “multi-portfolioed Birmingham News reporter,” Diane McWhorter wrote in Carry Me Home, her Pulitzer Prize-winning history of the civil rights movement in Birmingham. He also had a secondary identity as a “surrogate cop, spy, and ‘have gun, will travel’ agent provocateur.”

At the behest of Vincent Townsend, assistant publisher of the News, Mr. Lankford had a lavish expense account to buy wiretap and photographic surveillance equipment. He had a truck with a phone company logo on the side and became adept at climbing telephone poles and putting wiretaps on the lines. He entered churches and union meeting halls to put surveillance devices in place.

eugene bull connorHe also worked closely with Birmingham’s police department, which was led until 1963 by the notoriously brutal segregationist Eugene “Bull” Connor, right. One of Connor’s detectives introduced Mr. Lankford to members of the Ku Klux Klan, which saved his life at least once. After he photographed White gangs beating civil rights protesters, Mr. Lankford was roughed up in an alley by Klan members until one of them recognized him as “Bull’s boy.”

“He was embedded with the police department,” Thorne told the News in its obituary of Mr. Lankford. “By his own admission, he became too involved and too close for an objective journalist. He did not regret it one bit.”

Hollywood PoliTrivia, Film Criticism: Cheering the Demise of the Antagonists, Wayne Madsen, Jan. 17, 2021. Throughout the history of the movies, audiences have cheered the final demise of its antagonists, fictional and real life. As real-life arch-villain Donald Trump prepares to leave the White House and the U.S. presidency, we are reminded how Hollywood has treated the final curtain on its most loathsome bad guys.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Marjorie Taylor Greene has been temporarily suspended from Twitter, Bill Palmer, Jan. 17, 2021. Last night Palmer Report pointed out that brand New House Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene had gone completely off the deep end with a semi-coherent Twitter rant. Now it turns out she’s been temporarily suspended.

bill palmer report logo headerTwitter has suspended Greene for twelve hours due to her recent false tweets. In response she’s released a completely unhinged statement, ranting about a “Silicon Valley Cartel.” This is notable because her pattern of recent tweets suggests that she’ll continue making a point of breaking the rules and getting repeatedly suspended, raising the question of whether Twitter will end up permanently twitter bird Custombanning her. Twitter banned Donald Trump for life, but that was at a point where he was a few weeks away from being out of office anyway. Greene is set to be in the House for two more years, unless she resigns in scandal first.

To be clear, while Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Twitter account is still visible to the public, she is in fact suspended. Twitter leaves accounts still visible while they’re temporarily suspended, but the individual can’t use the account. Twitter only takes accounts offline if they’re suspended permanently, as in the case of Donald Trump.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump, having lost Kayleigh McEnany, is now relying on… Hogan Gidley? Bill Palmer, Jan 17, 2021. Over the weekend the news leaked that Donald Trump was blaming Kayleigh McEnany of all people for his ongoing downfall. This was followed by the news that McEnany, below right, has simply stopped kayleigh mcenany djtshowing up for work. So, without a press secretary for his final few days, Trump is now relying on someone named Hogan Gidley.

bill palmer report logo headerHogan Gidley appeared on Fox News this morning and insisted that the only reason Donald Trump hasn’t done more to denounce the U.S. Capitol domestic terrorist attack is “because the platforms have removed him.” No really, he said this.

The mere fact that Trump was able to send Gidley on national television to deliver his message is proof that Trump could have simply gone on television himself; if Fox was willing to book Gidley, they’d certainly rather have had Trump. Instead Trump is hiding behind whatever PR flack is left in his White House, and blaming it all on Twitter. Three more days and Trump will no longer be our problem.

washington post logoWashington Post, Phil Spector (1939–2021): Lionized producer of 1960s pop and convicted murderer dies, Glenn Rifkin, Jan. 17, 2021.  He was known as the creative force behind such hits as “Be My Baby” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” — and for disturbing behavior that culminated in a murder conviction in 2009.

In his career’s twilight, Mr. Spector was found guilty of fatally shooting actress Lana Clarkson in 2003 at his sprawling neo-Gothic chateau east of Los Angeles after a night of drinking. After a mistrial, he was retried and convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 19 years to life in prison.

Jan. 16

djt apprentice

ny times logoNew York Times, Inside Twitter’s Decision to Cut Off Trump, Kate Conger and Mike Isaac, Jan. 16, 2021. Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive, was working remotely on a private island in French Polynesia frequented by celebrities escaping the paparazzi when a phone call interrupted him on Jan. 6.

jack dorsey resized 2018On the line was Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s top lawyer and safety expert, with an update from the real world. She said she and other company executives had decided to lock President Trump’s account, temporarily, to prevent him from posting statements that might provoke more violence after a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol that day.

Mr. Dorsey, shown in a 2018 file photo, was concerned about the move, said two people with knowledge of the call. For four years, he had resisted demands by liberals and others that Twitter terminate Mr. Trump’s account, arguing that the platform was a place where world leaders could speak, even if their views were heinous. But he had delegated moderation decisions to Ms. Gadde, 46, and usually deferred to her — and he did so again.

twitter bird CustomMr. Dorsey, 44, did not make his misgivings public. The next day, he liked and shared several tweets urging caution against a permanent ban of Mr. Trump. Then, over the next 36 hours, Twitter veered from lifting Mr. Trump’s suspension to shutting down his account permanently, cutting off the president from a platform he had used to communicate, unfiltered, with not just his 88 million followers but the world.

Jack Dorsey had reservations about locking President Trump’s account. But the calls for violence that his tweets provoked were too overwhelming.

The decision was a punctuation mark on the Trump presidency that immediately drew accusations of political bias and fresh scrutiny of the tech industry’s power over public discourse. Interviews with a dozen current and former Twitter insiders over the past week opened a window into how it was made — driven by a group of Mr. Dorsey’s lieutenants who overcame their boss’s reservations, but only after a deadly rampage at the Capitol.

washington post logoWashington Post, Wikipedia turns 20: Fighting disinformation on the world’s encyclopedia, Heather Kelly, Jan. 16, 2021 (print ed.). Amid heightened concerns about the spread of disinformation and misinformation, Wikipedia’s pages on controversial topics — such as QAnon and the Proud Boys — can be a balm.

Wikipedia is a thing that shouldn’t work, but somehow does. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers, without pay, collectively trying to document every corner of human knowledge, including history happening in real time.

This month, the online encyclopedia‘s strengths and quirks were on full display as hundreds of volunteers furiously worked to create a page for the Capitol riots as events unfolded Jan. 6. As it transitioned from a protest to something more violent, Wikipedia’s volunteer editors added key details while debating the article title, as shared by editor Molly White. Was it a protest, an insurrection or a riot? It ended up the “2021 storming of the United States Capitol.” Hundreds of people were working on the ballooning document at a time, which has now been touched by nearly 1,000 editors, is more than 10,000 words long and has been viewed nearly 2 million times.

wikipedia logoLike most Wikipedia articles, it will continue to change, a fluid draft of history meant to stick as closely to dispassionate facts as possible while regularly swatting off attempts to insert opinions and disinformation.

“I think the large number of editors helps to make sure different viewpoints are considered,” said White, who has put in 12 hours of editing on the page and related wikis since last week. “Any changes must be carefully sourced, and there are constant discussions to ensure neutral tone and appropriate weight to topics within the page. … It is the lower-profile pages that are more susceptible.”

Wikipedia is turning 20 years old on Friday, and in the midst of heightened concerns about the spread of disinformation and misinformation, its pages on controversial topics or current events can be a balm. The page for QAnon gets straight to the point in its first line, saying it “is a disproven and discredited far-right conspiracy theory.” The page for the Proud Boys is equally straightforward, calling them “a far-right, neo-fascist, and male-only political organization that promotes and engages in political violence in the United States and Canada.”

jimmy wales wikipedia logoFounded in 2001 by Jimmy Wales, right, and Larry Sanger, Wikipedia is an ad-free site edited by volunteers and hosted by the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation. It’s one of the 20 most popular sites on the Internet, and its pages are regularly the top results for Google searches.

Anyone interested in changing an article is allowed, and people with more experience can gain more privileges. Some editors have specialties, others are generalists, and they all donate their time and energy to try to keep the resource clean and informative in multiple languages. Editors follow a few basic tenets, including that posts should have a neutral point of view, they should treat each other with respect and that there are no firm rules.

What’s most striking about Wikipedia is its sheer size. Like the number of posts (55 million), the number of volunteers (270,000 active editors a month) and even the number of edits that have taken place (it just passed a billion).

kayleigh mceneny collage

Palmer Report, Opinion: Kayleigh McEnany runs and hides, Bill Palmer, right, Jan. 16, 2021. Over the weekend it was reported that Donald Trump is now pissed off at bill palmerKayleigh McEnany because even though she was willing to lie for him throughout his attempt at overthrowing the election she hasn’t been willing to defend him in the wake of his Capitol terrorist attack. Now it turns out Kayleigh is running for the hills.

Now Kayleigh McEnany is “finished” at the White House as of yesterday, according to the New York Times. She hasn’t resigned or anything, she’s just not planning to show up for work this upcoming week. No reason has been given, but we suspect it has something to do with the bill palmer report logo headerfact that Trump is now blaming her for his downfall.

And so yet another of Donald Trump’s henchmen is facing a disastrous end. Kayleigh McEnany destroyed her future employability by leading the charge in pushing Trump’s deranged lies about the election result. Now she’s on the outs with him anyway. She’s getting the worst ending possible, and she deserves it.

sidney powell rudy giuliani resized

washington post logofox news logo SmallWashington Post, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell have disappeared from Fox airwaves, Jeremy Barr, Jan. 16, 2021 (print ed.). They’ve not been on Fox cable news shows since a legal pushback from the voting-technology companies they maligned. At one point, it was hard for Fox viewers to avoid Rudolph W. Giuliani, Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis.

For several weeks starting in November, the Trump-associated lawyers were an almost-daily presence on Fox shows, arguing that the president had been robbed of a second term by a fraudulent process that they claimed they would soon have the evidence to reveal.

But Giuliani and Powell have not appeared on any Fox cable news show in more than a month, according to a review by The Washington Post. Giuliani’s last appearance was Dec. 12 and Powell’s was Dec. 10 on “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” a show that was once a regular vehicle for both her and Giuliani. Ellis has appeared only once on the networks since early December.

In November and December, all three were frequent guests on Fox News and Fox Business Network shows, sometimes doing double duty, as Powell did in appearing on shows hosted by Lou Dobbs and Sean Hannity on the same night — even though she had already been booted from the Trump campaign’s efforts. Ellis appeared on three Fox News Media shows on Nov. 20.

The network would not comment on the trio’s absence. But the timing of their disappearance aligns with the first legal pushback from a pair of voting-technology companies that say they’ve been falsely smeared by baseless conspiratorial claims of election fraud by Trump allies.

Jan. 15

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Twitter ban shows that tech companies held keys to Trump’s power all along, Craig Timberg, Jan. 15, 2021 (print ed.). It may take historians years to grasp the full implications of the social media hurricane that President Trump conjured. But it took just a single week to hear what happened when that storm headed out to sea.

twitter bird CustomDuring President Trump’s first impeachment, in December 2019, he tweeted more than 600 times — an average of 58 times a day. One of the last said, “Can you believe that I will be impeached today by the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, AND I DID NOTHING WRONG!”

During President Trump’s second impeachment, this week, he tweeted not once.

ny times logoNew York Times, After Barring Trump, Facebook and Twitter Face Scrutiny About Inaction Abroad, Adam Satariano, Jan. 15, 2021 (print ed.). Human rights groups and activists have spent years urging the companies to do more to remove content that encouraged violence.

In Sri Lanka and Myanmar, Facebook kept up posts that it had been warned contributed to violence. In India, activists have urged the company to combat facebook logoposts by political figures targeting Muslims. And in Ethiopia, groups pleaded for the social network to block hate speech after hundreds were killed in ethnic violence inflamed by social media.

“The offline troubles that rocked the country are fully visible on the online space,” activists, civil society groups and journalists in Ethiopia wrote in an open letter last year.

For years, Facebook and Twitter have largely rebuffed calls to remove hate speech or other comments made by public figures and government officials that civil society groups and activists said risked inciting violence. The companies stuck to policies, driven by American ideals of free speech, that give such figures more leeway to use their platforms to communicate.

But last week, Facebook and Twitter cut off President Trump from their platforms for inciting a crowd that attacked the U.S. Capitol. Those decisions have angered human rights groups and activists, who are now urging the companies to apply their policies evenly, particularly in smaller countries where the platforms dominate communications.

washington post logoWashington Post, Wikipedia turns 20: Fighting disinformation on the world’s encyclopedia, Heather Kelly, Jan. 15, 2021. Amid heightened concerns about the spread of disinformation and misinformation, Wikipedia’s pages on controversial topics — such as QAnon and the Proud Boys — can be a balm.

washington post logofox news logo SmallWashington Post, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell have disappeared from Fox airwaves, Jeremy Barr, Jan. 15, 2021 (print ed.). They’ve not been on Fox cable news shows since a legal pushback from the voting-technology companies they maligned. At one point, it was hard for Fox viewers to avoid Rudolph W. Giuliani, Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis.

washington post logoWashington Post, Politico brought Ben Shapiro on as a ‘Playbook’ guest author to bring balance. It brought a backlash instead, Elahe Izadi, Jan. 15, 2021 (print ed.). The platform given to the right-wing pundit enraged Politico staffers, forcing a top editor to defend the choice.

Top editors at Politico thought they would mix things up by tapping a rotating cast of guest writers for the daily “Playbook” before they named a permanent new team for their marquee newsletter. The guests included documentarian Ken Burns, Free Beacon editor in chief Eliana Johnson, MSNBC host Chris ben shapiro HS2Hayes and PBS NewsHour White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor.

And then came Ben Shapiro, right. The popular and provocative right-wing commentator authored Thursday’s Playbook, in which he wrote sympathetically that the GOP’s resistance to impeaching President Trump for inciting the Capitol riot was not because they were untroubled by his behavior but because of “a deep and abiding conservative belief that members of the opposing political tribe want their destruction.”

A number of reporters at the outlet were flabbergasted by the choice of author. Why did Politico give “its biggest platform” to a pundit with “a long history of bigoted and incendiary commentary, particularly in the aftermath of last week’s violence,” one Politico reporter posted on an internal messaging platform. More than 80 colleagues signaled agreement.

“It’s not just that he’s incendiary or conservative,” said one reporter. “It’s that he sells falsehoods as an incendiary persona.” Several Politico journalists spoke to The Washington Post under an agreement not to use their names because they were not authorized to speak publicly about their employer.

washington post logoWashington Post, Laura Poitras says she’s been fired by First Look Media over Reality Winner controversy. Now she’s questioning the watchdog itself, Sarah Ellison, Jan. 15, 2021 (print ed.). Filmmaker Laura Poitras revealed her departure from First Look (parent company of The Intercept) in an open letter on Thursday. The news came nearly seven years after she and several other prominent investigative journalists launched the company they hoped would provide tough-minded, independent and original reporting, with the help of generous funding from billionaire eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

laura poitrasIn a statement early Thursday afternoon, First Look described Poitras’s parting from the company as a “natural” decision to not renew her contract after she “decided to step away from her role at the company to pursue her own projects.” The company denied that its decision was based on Poitras, right, talking to the media.

Later Thursday, First Look issued another statement that Poitras had “not been active in any capacity with our company for more than two years. This is simply not a tenable situation for us or any company.” Poitras denied this, saying she had been active on several films in production when she was fired as well as making an online security guide for filmmakers.

Her departure means only one person from First Look’s founding team remains after years of turmoil and turnover at the organization, during which she says she was repeatedly “raising concerns internally about patterns of discrimination and retaliation.”

Poitras, a 2012 MacArthur “genius” grant recipient, came to prominence for her 2013 Pulitzer-winning work with Glenn Greenwald bringing to light the edward snowden twitterblockbuster disclosures of National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. Greenwald was also one of First Look’s co-founders; he quit in October with a fiery and meandering resignation letter objecting to what he called censorship of a column he had written about then-Democratic nominee Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

reality winner mug CustomNow, Jeremy Scahill, a former Nation writer who is close to the Intercept’s editor in chief, Betsy Reed, is the only member of the founding team remaining at the organization.

The events leading up to Poitras’s departure are ironic given that First Look’s primary concerns at its outset were data privacy and source protections — areas in which the Intercept failed when it came to the case of Reality Winner, a young Air Force veteran and NSA intelligence specialist who in 2017 sent the publication a classified document about Russian hackers accessing U.S. voter registration databases. Even before the Intercept published the documents, federal investigators traced them back to Winner (shown at left in prison garb) and arrested her.

john bolton djt palmer images Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. judge says John Bolton may probe whether White House delayed his memoir to protect Trump, Spencer S. Hsu, Jan. 15, 2021 (print ed.). A federal judge on Thursday rejected for now a Justice Department bid to claw back profits from an explosive memoir written by John Bolton, above left, finding that the former national security adviser may probe whether President Trump or senior White House officials acted in bad faith to delay approval of The Room Where it Happened.

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth denied a Justice Department motion for an immediate ruling, holding that evidence of “unclean hands” by the White House could support Bolton’s defense that Trump aides politicized the review to stall publication and protect the president from embarrassment.

john bolton room where cover CustomPublished in June, Bolton’s best-selling account of his 17 months as Trump’s top security adviser depicted the president as “stunningly uninformed” and said he repeatedly asked foreign leaders’ assistance for his personal benefit. Bolton wrote for example that Trump asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to help him win reelection and dangled military aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden’s son.

At the time, Lamberth denied a belated government lawsuit seeking to halt publication, but ruled in October that it could sue to seize the book proceeds, finding that Bolton was required to let the White House complete a prepublication review to prevent disclosure of classified information. In an 18-page opinion Thursday, Lamberth reiterated that Bolton could not challenge whether the book actually contained properly classified material. The judge said he had already confirmed that based on closed-door submissions by the government.

Jan. 14

ny times logoNew York Times, Millions Flee to Chat Apps Behind Walls of Encryption, Jack Nicas, Mike Isaac and Sheera Frenkel, Jan. 14, 2021 (print ed.). Encrypted messaging services like Telegram and Signal have become the world’s hottest apps, driven by anxiety over big tech companies and privacy concerns.

Neeraj Agrawal, a spokesman for a cryptocurrency think tank, has typically used the encrypted messaging app Signal to chat with privacy-minded colleagues and peers. So he was surprised on Monday when the app alerted him to two new users: Mom and Dad.

“Signal still had a subversive shine to it,” said Mr. Agrawal, 32. “Now my parents are on it.”

Over the past week, tens of millions of people have downloaded Signal and Telegram, making them the two hottest apps in the world. Signal allows messages to be sent with “end-to-end encryption,” meaning no one but the sender and receiver can read its contents. Telegram offers some encrypted messaging options, but is largely popular for its group-based chat rooms where people can discuss a variety of subjects.

Their sudden jump in popularity was spurred by a series of events last week that stoked growing anxiety over some of the big tech companies and their communication apps, like WhatsApp, which Facebook owns. Tech companies including Facebook and Twitter removed thousands of far-right accounts — including President Trump’s — after the storming of the Capitol.

Amazon, Apple and Google also cut off support for Parler, a social network popular with Mr. Trump’s fans. In response, conservatives sought out new apps where they could communicate.

ny times logoNew York Times, New York Post to Staff: Stay Away From CNN, MSNBC, New York Times and Washington Post, Katie Robertson, Jan. 14, 2021 (print ed.). As the Murdoch tabloid navigates a fraught political moment, high-level editors instructed reporters not to base articles on reporting by four news outlets that President Trump has falsely labeled “fake news.”

CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post and The New York Times are among the news organizations that President Trump has falsely labeled “fake news.” And now articles based on reporting from the four outlets are no longer welcome at Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, according to three journalists who work there.

High-level editors at The New York Post instructed staff members this week not to use reporting from CNN, MSNBC, The Times and The Washington Post as the sole basis for any Post article, the three journalists said, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. A Post spokeswoman declined to comment.

It is common practice at The New York Post and its website, nypost.com, to publish articles based entirely on other news outlets’ reporting, without independent confirmation by a Post journalist. The Post is not alone in following this widespread practice, and many news sites have had success by repackaging material from other news organizations. The directive at the Murdoch tabloid was unusual in that it deemed material from certain outlets off limits.

The order was handed down by Michelle Gotthelf, the editor in chief of nypost.com, and section editors, the three Post journalists said. Post journalists who now spot a report on the four forbidden outlets that they think is worth writing up must now do some reporting before they go to the keyboard.

Why did The Post single out these four outlets and not, say, Variety or CBS News? The three journalists said no explanation had been given, but they added that the reason did not have to be detailed. CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post and The Times are seen as liberal within the Murdoch empire, which is home to Fox News and Fox Business, cable networks that were instrumental to the rise of President Trump. To publish articles based on the work of those organizations would not fit The Post’s right-leaning identity, the journalists said.

Jan. 12

ali akbar alexander stop the steal

Legal Schnauzer, Investigation: As Parler data leak spews forth files about planning of deadly Trump rally, organizer Ali (Akbar) Alexander goes into hiding, with legal problems likely looming, Roger Shuler, Jan. 12, 2021. Stop the Steal organizer Ali (Akbar) Alexander, he of the Alabama ties via Montgomery lawyer and talk-show host Baron Coleman, has gone into hiding, according to a report at the Daily Beast.

Is Alexander's disappearing act driven, in part, by reports that security researchers have cracked all the files at Parler, the site reportedly used by right wingers to plan last week's protest-turned-riot at the U.S. Capitol? Does Alexander (shown above in a file photo) know the security pros plan to provide Parler files to law enforcement, perhaps posing serious legal implications for planners from the Trump fringe who launched the rally that turned into a deadly assault on Congress?

It's too early to have definitive answers to those question, but it appears likely Alexander knows he's gone too far and might need to lawyer up shortly. Under the headline, "Stop the Steal’ Organizer in Hiding After Denying Blame for Riot," the DailyBeast's Will Sommer writes:

Two weeks before thousands of Trump rioters breached Congress, “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander said his group wasn’t violent—“yet.”

“One of our organizers in one state said, ‘We’re nice patriots, we don’t throw bricks,’” Alexander told a crowd at a Dec. 19 rally at Arizona’s state capitol. “I leaned over and I said, ‘Not yet. Not yet!’ Haven’t you read about a little tar-and-feathering? Those were second-degree burns!”

Alexander, who has described himself as one of the “official originators” of the Jan. 6 rally in Washington, went on to use “yet” as a code word for violence. Then Alexander told the Phoenix crowd about his plans for Washington.

“We’re going to convince them to not certify the vote on January 6 by marching hundreds of thousands, if not millions of patriots, to sit their butts in D.C. and close that city down, right?” Alexander said. “And if we have to explore options after that…‘yet.’ Yet!”

Alexander apparently is not quite so glib these days. Writes Sommer:

Alexander led a host of activists in ratcheting up the rhetoric ahead of Congress’ certification of the electoral votes, threatening to “1776” opponents of Trump’s re-election. Now that five people, including a Capitol Police officer, are dead, however, Alexander has gone into hiding, and the website promoting his Jan. 6 rally has been wiped from the internet.

Alexander is defiant, saying he won’t “take an iota of blame that does not belong to me.”

“I didn’t incite anything,” Alexander said in a video posted Friday to Twitter. “I didn’t do anything.”

That last statement suggests Alexander already is thinking of a defense to federal incitement charges that could be coming. Does Alexander's claim that he "didn't incite anything" mesh with reality? Not exactly. Writes Sommer:

Alexander’s voice grew more menacing in the lead-up to the Jan. 6 rally. He tweeted that he would “give my life for this fight,” a call that was promoted by the Arizona Republican Party.

Alexander also began tweeting frequently about “1776,” a reference to the start of the American Revolution. Alexander wrote in one post that the choice was “45”—Trump’s re-election—“or 1776.” In another message, he wrote that “1776 is always an option for free men and women.”

Most pointedly, Alexander responded to a tweet from QAnon-supporter Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) claiming that top congressional leaders were working to block objections to the electoral vote. If that happened, Alexander said, he and hundreds of thousands of other protesters would “1776” the Capitol.

“If they do this, everyone can guess what me and 500,000 others will do to that building,” Alexander tweeted on Dec. 30. “1776 is *always* an option”

The night before the Jan. 6 rally, Alexander riled up Trump supporters in Washington with a “victory or death” chant and once again brought up “1776.”

“1776 is always an option,” Alexander told the crowd. “These degenerates in the deep state are going to give us what we want, or we are going to shut this country down.”

For now, Alexander is out of sight and begging his followers for money:

Alexander claims to be in hiding, alleging in a video posted Friday that he needs $2,000 a day to fund his security detail and other expenses and hitting his fans up for donations. In a bizarre moment in his fundraising pitch, Alexander claimed that he was being targeted by the supernatural: “Witches and wiccans are putting hexes and curses on us.”

It’s not clear how, however, if Alexander’s supporters can send him money at all. On Saturday, he posted on Parler that he had been banned from Venmo and PayPal.

In his Friday video, Alexander claimed that his “rally never turned violent.” But Alexander also read a quote from talk radio host Rush Limbaugh that positively compared the rioters to the heroes of the American Revolution, and said rioters who entered the Capitol should suffer light consequences, if any.

“I think people should be rowdy, I think people should be messy,” Alexander said. “I do believe that we own that U.S. Capitol. So I’m not apologizing for nothing.”

As for Parler, the story of its downfall -- and the resulting data leak -- broke early yesterday, and that could prove to be a gift from heaven for federal investigators. Writes Dell Cameron at Gizmodo:

parler logoIn the wake of the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by scores of President Trump’s supporters, a lone researcher [from Austria] began an effort to catalogue the posts of social media users across Parler, a platform founded to provide conservative users a safe haven for uninhibited “free speech” — but which ultimately devolved into a hotbed of far-right conspiracy theories, unchecked racism, and death threats aimed at prominent politicians.

The researcher, who asked to be referred to by her Twitter handle, @donk_enby, began with the goal of archiving every post from January 6, the day of the Capitol riot; what she called a bevy of “very incriminating” evidence. According to the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, among other sources, Parler is one of a several apps used by the insurrections to coordinate their breach of the Capitol, in a plan to overturn the 2020 election results and keep Donald Trump in power.

Operating on little sleep, @donk_enby began the work of archiving all of Parler’s posts, ultimately capturing around 99 percent of its content. In a tweet early Sunday, @donk_enby said she was crawling some 1.1 million Parler video URLs. “These are the original, unprocessed, raw files as uploaded to Parler with all associated metadata,” she said. Included in this data tranche, now more than 56 terabytes in size, @donk_enby confirmed that the raw video files include GPS metadata pointing to exact locations of where the videos were taken.

@donk_enby later shared a screenshot showing the GPS position of a particular video, with coordinates in latitude and longitude.

The privacy implications are obvious, but the copious data may also serve as a fertile hunting ground for law enforcement. Federal and local authorities have arrested dozens of suspects in recent days accused of taking part in the Capitol riot, where a Capitol police officer, Brian Sicknick, was fatally wounded after being struck in the head with a fire extinguisher.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump has been suspended from YouTube, Rachel Lerman, Jan. 12, 2021. YouTube will not allow Trump to upload new videos for at least a week. YouTube suspended President Trump from uploading new videos to his official account for at least a week, joining fellow social media giants Twitter and Facebook in shutting the president out of his account because of concerns his posts will incite violence.

youtube logo CustomYouTube, the streaming video service owned by Google, said it removed new content uploaded to the president’s account for violating its policies and “in light of concerns about the ongoing potential for violence.”

It will not allow Trump to add new videos for a minimum of seven days, it said in a Twitter post late Tuesday night. It will also disable comments on his entire channel for an indefinite period of time.

Twitter on Friday banned Trump from its site, which had been a favorite communication tool of the president. Twitter cited the potential for future violence stemming from the president’s tweets, particularly concerning the inauguration of President elect Joe Biden.

Social media companies have been cracking down on Trump’s posts for the past year, labeling and fact checking posts that contained misinformation about the coronavirus and the 2020 election. But after the attack on the U.S. Capitol last week, which Trump did not immediately condemn, the mainstream social media companies decided the risk was too great to keep Trump online.

ny times logoNew York Times, Talk Radio Giant Tells Hosts to Stop ‘Stolen Elections’ Rhetoric: Live Updates, Tiffany Hsu, Jan. 12, 2021 (print ed.). The talk radio network that airs Dan Bongino and Mark Levin warned staff to stop ‘dog-whistle talk.’

  • Parler accuses Amazon of breaking antitrust law in suspending hosting services.
  • Government watchdog warns of $3.6 billion in potentially fraudulent P.P.P. loans.
  • Ford, citing the pandemic, will stop making cars in Brazil and shut three factories.
  • The government settled with a company accused of using stored photos to create facial recognition databases.

cumulus media logoCumulus Media, a talk radio company with a roster of popular right-wing personalities including Dan Bongino, Mark Levin and Ben Shapiro, has warned its hosts to steer clear of misinformation about election fraud.

Brian Philips, an executive vice president of Cumulus, sent the stern memo on Wednesday, the same day that a pro-Trump mob rampaged through the halls of Congress. Addressed to employees working in the company’s programming and talent divisions, including those at its syndication arm, Westwood One, the memo’s first section appeared in bold typeface, with many words capitalized for emphasis.

“We need to help induce national calm NOW,” the memo began.

“Cumulus and Westwood One will not tolerate any suggestion that the election has not ended,” it continued. “The election has resolved, there are no alternate acceptable ‘paths.’ Please inform your staffs that we have ZERO TOLERANCE for any suggestion otherwise. If you transgress this policy, you can expect to separate from the company immediately. There will be no dog-whistle talk about ‘stolen elections,’ ‘civil wars’ or any other language that infers violent public disobedience is warranted, ever.”

Twestwood one cumulushe memo, which was first reported by Inside Music Media, underlined a statement at the end of the paragraph: “Through all of our communication channels, including social, we will work to urge restoration of PEACE AND ORDER.”

Cumulus did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Levin, right, who has attacked Democrats and many Republicans who have not supported Mr. Trump, has tweeted about a “massive fraud perpetrated against the president” and promoted the Jan. 6 demonstration in the days leading up to it. On the Wednesday episode of his radio show, Mr. Levin, who also hosts a Fox News program on Sunday nights, criticized those who stormed the mark levin resized cpacCapitol, but defended “people who are peacefully protesting” against “a stolen election” — a characterization that has been repeatedly debunked as false.

Mr. Bongino, a former Secret Service agent and a current Fox News contributor, is also an investor in Parler, a social media app popular with Trump supporters. In an appearance on Fox News on Monday, Mr. Bongino fulminated against the suspension of Parler by major technology companies, referring to “tech tyrants,” “tech totalitarians” and “the communists at Apple and Amazon and Google.”

Mr. Bongino, who hosts a podcast and has a popular Facebook page, has raised questions about “irregularities” in the 2020 election. On an episode of his podcast in November, he said, referring to the election, “Ladies and gentlemen, these claims that there are no evidence of fraud are utterly absurd.”

Cumulus owns and operates 416 stations across 86 markets, including WMAL in Washington, WNBM in New York and KABC in Los Angeles.

Jan. 11

ny times logoNew York Times, Parler accuses Amazon of breaking antitrust law in suspending hosting services, Staff Report, Jan. 11, 2021. Hours after it went offline on Monday, the social media start-up Parler filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing Amazon of violating antitrust law and asking for a temporary restraining order to prevent the tech giant from blocking access to cloud computing services.

parler logoAmazon told Parler over the weekend that it would shut off service because “a steady increase in violent content” on the site showed that the company did not have a reliable process to prevent it from violating Amazon’s terms of service. Amazon said it would ensure Parler’s data was preserved so that it could migrate to a new hosting provider.

Before Parler went dark, technologists also raced to scrape publicly available data from the app, as part of a broader effort to identify those who helped organize and participated in the riot at the Capitol last week.

Millions of people have turned to Parler since the November election and after Twitter and Facebook barred President Trump after the Capitol riot. Apple and Google both kicked Parler out of their app stores last week, though users who already had downloaded the app could still use it. But the app relied on amazon logo smallAmazon’s cloud computing technology to work.

Parler’s complaint was dated Sunday, before Amazon suspended Parler. But the suit was not filed with the court until Monday.

In the suit, filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, Parler accused Amazon of terminating, not just suspending, its account — and said it should have received 30 days’ notice. It also argued that Amazon violated antitrust law by conspiring with Twitter, a major Amazon customer, to boot Parler just as it was gaining broader appeal. It said it had 12 million users, and “expects to add millions more this week given its growth the last few days.”

Parler did not provide direct evidence showing that Amazon and Twitter coordinated the response. Instead, it pointed to a December news release announcing a multiyear strategic partnership between Amazon and Twitter, and it made references to Twitter’s own challenges policing its content.

Parler said losing Amazon’s services would be a “death knell,” though other platforms popular with the far right and conspiracy theorists, like Gab and 8chan, have recovered after being terminated by hosting providers.

David J. Groesbeck, a sole practitioner intellectual property lawyer in Olympia, Wash., filed the suit for Parler. Amazon did not respond to an immediate request for comment.

ny times logoNew York Times, Parler, a Chosen App of Trump Fans, Has Become a Test of Free Speech, Jack Nicas and Davey Alba, Updated Jan. 11, 2021. The app has renewed a debate about who holds power over online speech after tech giants yanked their support for it. Parler went dark early on Monday.

From the start, John Matze had positioned Parler as a “free speech” social network where people could mostly say whatever they wanted. It was a bet that had recently paid off big as millions of President Trump’s supporters, fed up with what they deemed censorship on Facebook and Twitter, flocked to Parler parler logoinstead.

On the app, which had become a top download on Apple’s App Store, discussions over politics had ramped up. But so had conspiracy theories that falsely said the election had been stolen from Mr. Trump, with users urging aggressive demonstrations last week when Congress met to certify the election of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Those calls for violence soon came back to haunt Mr. Matze, 27, a software engineer from Las Vegas and Parler’s chief executive. By Saturday night, Apple and Google had removed Parler from their app stores and Amazon said it would no longer host the site on its computing services, saying it had not sufficiently policed posts that incited violence and crime.

amazon logo smallEarly on Monday morning, just after midnight on the West Coast, Parler appeared to have gone offline.

Those moves had set off a furious effort to keep Parler up. Mr. Matze said on Sunday that he was racing to save the data of Parler’s roughly 15 million users from Amazon’s computers. He was also calling company after company to find one willing to support Parler with google logo customhundreds of computer servers.

“I believe Amazon, Google, Apple worked together to try and ensure they don’t have competition,” Mr. Matze said on Parler late Saturday. “They will NOT win! We are the worlds last hope for free speech and free information.” He said the app would probably shut down “for up to a week as we rebuild from scratch.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Fox News overhauls daily schedule, moving news anchor Martha MacCallum to make way for opinion expansion, Jeremy Barr, Jan. 11, 2021. It’s the top-rated cable channel’s most dramatic programming shift in years. Rival news network CNN also unveiled a slate of programming changes fox news logo Smallthat includes an expansion of news anchor Jake Tapper’s show and a shrinking of veteran anchor Wolf Blitzer’s.

Her move means that Fox’s daily news programming will end after anchor Bret Baier’s 6 p.m. show concludes and not pick up again until anchor Shannon Bream’s show begins at 11 p.m.

Palmer Report, Opinion: New York State Bar Association launches probe into Rudy Giuliani’s role in U.S. Capitol terrorist attack, Bill Palmer, Jan. 11, 2021. It turns out you can’t tell a teeming mob that they should hold a “trial by combat” and then escape consequences when that mob commits a domestic terrorist attack on the United States Capitol Building.

bill palmer report logo headerThe New York State Bar Association is launching a probe into Rudy Giuliani’s conduct in relation to the Capitol attack, according to a report this morning from NBC News. This is a big deal for a few reasons. First, Giuliani could end up disbarred over this, and rendered rudy giuliani recentunable to practice law. But this also feels like just a first step in his dismantling.

If the Bar Association sees cause to investigate Rudy Giuliani’s culpability in the Capitol terrorist attack, then it stands to reason that law enforcement sees it the same way. Giuliani is already reportedly under federal criminal investigation for taking dirty foreign money and other matters. Now he could go down for this as well. And if Trump pardons Giuliani, New York State can criminally pursue Giuliani. It’s increasingly difficult to imagine how Rudy doesn’t end up in prison.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: We Worked Together on the Internet. Last Week, He Stormed the Capitol, Ben Smith, Jan. 11, 2021 (print ed.). At BuzzFeed, we followed the signals of social media. A young employee followed them all the way to Charlottesville and Capitol Hill.

He fit in as well as anyone did at our Los Angeles studio, a place full of ambitious misfits with an unusual gift. They knew how to make web videos people wanted to watch.

His real name was Anthime Joseph Gionet, though he preferred others. His value to BuzzFeed was clear: He’d do anything for the Vine, the short video platform that had a brief cultural moment before being crushed by Instagram and Snapchat in 2017.

He was, in that way, a natural for BuzzFeed when he arrived in the spring of 2015, where I was editor in chief, overseeing the website. Mr. Gionet was hired to run the Vine account for our video operation, and his job mostly consisted of editing down to six seconds the silly, fun videos his colleagues produced. Within months, he took over a BuzzFeed Twitter account, too, drawing on his same intuition for what kind of video people would share.

And so the language I heard from Mr. Gionet, now 33, on his livestream last Wednesday was familiar. “We’ve got over 10,000 people live, watching, let’s go!” he said excitedly. “Hit that follow button — I appreciate you guys.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Parler is over, Bill Palmer, Jan. 11, 2021. And then one day, like a miracle, Parler disappeared. The far right lunatic social network was parler logoevicted by its web hosting service last night, meaning parler.com now points nowhere, and the pro-Trump site simply no longer exists.

bill palmer report logo headerThis doesn’t mean Parler won’t be back, as it’s reportedly searching for a new web host. But there are only a small number of web hosting services that can handle a website of its size, and thus far none of them are willing to take on the liability of hosting a site that’s full of violent rhetoric. Even if Parler does come back online in a week or a month, momentum is everything when it comes to building and maintaining a social network, and by that time most of Parler’s momentum (and thus user headcount) will have evaporated.

Here’s the thing. These lunatics all quit (or got banned from) Twitter and went to Parler, only for it to be shut down. Now they’re presumably reduced to standing in their back yard and yelling their conspiracy theories at squirrels.

Jan. 10

washington post logoWashington Post, Amazon suspends Parler, threatening to take pro-Trump site offline, Tony Romm and Rachel Lerman, Jan. 10, 2021 (print ed). Amazon suspended the pro-Trump social network Parler from its Web-hosting service this weekend, a move that threatens to darken the site indefinitely after its users glorified the recent riot at the U.S. Capitol.

amazon logo smallThe e-commerce and Web-hosting giant said Parler had violated its terms of service given its inadequate content-moderation practices, adding in a letter that it would implement its punishment just before midnight Pacific time Monday.

The move by Amazon Web Services, or AWS, marks the latest and most crippling blow for the pro-Trump social network, which has emerged as a haven for conservative users who have fled more mainstream Silicon Valley sites that crack down on harmful, viral falsehoods online. Earlier this week, Apple and Google removed Parler’s app from their stores for smartphone downloads, similarly citing concerns that posts on Parler could contribute to violence.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A person familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of parler logoanonymity, confirmed that AWS had communicated its suspension to Parler on Saturday.

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.

Parler also did not respond to a request for comment. But its chief executive, John Matze, said in a post on his site that the social network soon could be “unavailable on the Internet for up to a week as we rebuild from scratch.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump scrambles to find new social network after Twitter ban; White House prepares to blast big tech, Tony Romm and Josh Dawsey, Jan. 10, 2021 (print ed). Twitter’s decision to ban him days before the end of his term sparked a wide political backlash among his most fervent allies.

washington post logoWashington Post, Capitol siege was planned online. Trump supporters now planning the next one, Jan. 10, 2021 (print ed). Twitter cited dangerous talk and online planning in banning Trump’s account. The planning for Wednesday’s assault on the U.S. Capitol happened largely in plain view, with chatters in far-twitter bird Customright forums explicitly discussing how to storm the building, handcuff lawmakers with zip ties and disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s election — in what they portrayed as responding to orders from President Trump.

This went far beyond the widely reported, angry talk about thronging Washington that day. Trump supporters exchanged detailed tactical advice about what to bring and what to do once they assembled at the Capitol to conduct “citizen’s arrests” of members of Congress. One poster said, “[expletive] zip ties. I’m bringing rope!”

Such comments were not confined to dark corners of the Web. They were scooped up and catalogued by researchers who made their findings public weeks before a seemingly unprepared Capitol Police force was overrun by thousands of rioters, in an incident that left one officer, one rioter and three other people dead.

The question left unanswered is why authorities didn’t prepare more effectively for a storm that many outsiders saw looming on the horizon — especially when those planning the assault were so open about their intentions.

washington post logoWashington Post, MyPillow founder Mike Lindell is now one of Fox’s loudest right-wing critics. He’s still one of its biggest advertisers, Jeremy Barr, Jan. 10, fox news logo Small2021. Mike Lindell, a.k.a. “the MyPillow guy,” vaulted to national fame for his loud and proud support of President Trump and the commercials for his bedding company that have aired in heavy rotation on Fox News, making him the network’s top advertiser in 2020.

But, in a surprising twist befitting the upheaval in the conservative media since Trump’s defeat, Lindell has emerged in recent weeks as a loud critic of Fox — even as he continues running MyPillow advertisements on the network.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: We Worked Together on the Internet. Last Week, He Stormed the Capitol, Ben Smith, Jan. 10, 2021. At BuzzFeed, we followed the signals of social media. A young employee followed them all the way to Charlottesville and Capitol Hill.

He fit in as well as anyone did at our Los Angeles studio, a place full of ambitious misfits with an unusual gift. They knew how to make web videos people wanted to watch.

His real name was Anthime Joseph Gionet, though he preferred others. His value to BuzzFeed was clear: He’d do anything for the Vine, the short video platform that had a brief cultural moment before being crushed by Instagram and Snapchat in 2017.

He was, in that way, a natural for BuzzFeed when he arrived in the spring of 2015, where I was editor in chief, overseeing the website. Mr. Gionet was hired to run the Vine account for our video operation, and his job mostly consisted of editing down to six seconds the silly, fun videos his colleagues produced. Within months, he took over a BuzzFeed Twitter account, too, drawing on his same intuition for what kind of video people would share.

And so the language I heard from Mr. Gionet, now 33, on his livestream last Wednesday was familiar. “We’ve got over 10,000 people live, watching, let’s go!” he said excitedly. “Hit that follow button — I appreciate you guys.”

Jan. 9

ny times logoNew York Times, Parler Pitched Itself as Twitter Without Rules. Not Anymore, Apple and Google Said, Jack Nicas, Updated Jan. 9, 2021. Google and Apple told Parler, a social network popular with far-right conservatives, that it must better police its users if it wants a place in their app stores.

parler logoParler is one of the hottest apps in the world, a social network that has attracted millions of far-right conservatives over the past year with its hands-off approach to policing users’ posts. And with the news that President Trump had been kicked off Twitter and Facebook, Parler was the odds-on bet to be his next soapbox.

But just as it has been gaining new clout, Parler is now suddenly faced with an existential crisis.

apple logo rainbowOn Friday, Apple told the company that it had to step up its policing of the conversation on its app — undercutting its flagship feature — or lose its platform on iPhones. Several hours later, Google suspended Parler from the Play Store, the main way to download apps on Android devices, until it better polices its app.

In an email to Parler, Apple said it had received complaints that people used the Parler app, which mimics Twitter, to plan Wednesday’s deadly riot in Washington. Apple said it had determined that Parler was not “removing content that encourages illegal activity and poses a serious risk to the health and safety of users.”

google logo customA day earlier, John Matze, Parler’s chief executive, had said in an interview with The Times about Wednesday’s melee that he didn’t “feel responsible for any of this and neither should the platform, considering we’re a neutral town square that just adheres to the law.”

In its letter, Apple referenced his stance and added, “We want to be clear that Parler is in fact responsible for all the user generated content present on your service and for ensuring that this content meets App Store requirements for the safety and protection of our users.”

Apple gave Parler 24 hours to comply before the app would be removed from Apple’s App Store.

Google said in a statement that it had pulled the app because Parler was not enforcing its own moderation policies, despite a recent reminder from Google, and because of continued posts on the app that sought to incite violence.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Trump Reels, Fox News Has a Message for Viewers: Stick With Us, Michael M. Grynbaum, Jan. 9, 2021. As allies abandon the president, his favorite network revives familiar villains for the Biden era. And the prospects for a Trump TV media venture are “greatly diminished.”
His president reeling, his cable network at a crossroads, Tucker Carlson began his show on Thursday night asking a question that has echoed for weeks among anchors and producers at Fox News: “What is life going to be like for us on Jan. 21?”

“Who has got your concerns top of mind? Who wakes up in the middle of the night worried about your family?” Mr. Carlson asked his flock, acknowledging that Mr. Trump would be gone in two weeks “and we cannot change it.”

fox news logo Small“The rest of us — and this is the key — will still be here,” he continued. “We’ve got nowhere to go.”

The imminent end of the Trump presidency has presented a challenge to the enormously popular, enormously profitable Fox News — the crown jewel of Rupert Murdoch’s American empire — whose right-wing stars yoked themselves to Mr. Trump more tightly than any other mainstream pundits over the past four years.

Jan. 8

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter permanently suspends Trump’s account, Nitasha Tiku and Tony Romm, Jan. 8, 2021. “Despite our efforts to serve the public conversation, as Trump’s megaphone, we helped fuel the deadly events of January 6th,” the employees wrote.

Hundreds of Twitter employees demanded in a letter written this week that the company’s leaders permanently suspend Donald Trump’s Twitter account because of his actions surrounding the storming of the U.S. Capitol Tuesday, calling the company’s response insufficient.

twitter bird CustomIn an internal letter addressed to chief executive Jack Dorsey and his top executives viewed by The Washington Post, roughly 350 Twitter employees asked for a clear account of the company’s decision-making process regarding the President’s tweets the day that a pro-Trump mob breached the U.S. Capitol. Employees also requested an investigation into the past several years of corporate actions that led to Twitter’s role in the insurrection.

donald trump twitter“Despite our efforts to serve the public conversation, as Trump’s megaphone, we helped fuel the deadly events of January 6th,” the employees wrote. “We request an investigation into how our public policy decisions led to the amplification of serious anti-democratic threats. We must learn from our mistakes in order to avoid causing future harm.”

“We play an unprecedented role in civil society and the world’s eyes are upon us. Our decisions this week will cement our place in history, for better or worse,” the added.

In a statement, Twitter spokesperson Brandon Borrman wrote, “Twitter encourages an open dialogue between our leadership and employees, and we welcome our employees expressing their thoughts and concerns in whichever manner feels right to them.”

Letter to Jack Dorsey from Twitter employees asking to permanently suspend Donald Trump’s account

Twitter on Wednesday initially labeled Trump’s tweets about the election as disputed. But a subsequent video from the president — calling for calm while continuing to peddle disinformation — prompted the company to step up its enforcement actions. Twitter ultimately locked the president out of his account for the first time, requiring him to delete his offending tweets — then wait 12 hours — in order to regain access. That came Thursday morning, and Trump issued his first public comments on the site later that night. Twitter said it would suspend Trump permanently if he continues to break its rules, putting users at risk.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just got kicked off Twitter for the THIRD time tonight, Bill Palmer, Jan. 8, 2021. Shortly after Donald Trump got permanently banned from Twitter tonight, he tried rogue tweeting from the @POTUS account, which is supposed to be for government use. That only lasted about thirty seconds before Twitter cracked down, deleting his rant. Now it’s happened again on another account.

bill palmer report logo headerTwitter has now permanently suspended Donald Trump’s official campaign Twitter account @TeamTrump after he and/or his handlers used it to post the same rant that Twitter had just removed from the @POTUS account. That’s right, Trump has now been kicked off Twitter for the third time tonight.

At this rate Donald Trump’s next move will be to create a new account called “Ronald Trump” and hope that Twitter doesn’t figure out it’s also him. Trump is the dumbest villain of all time, and he’s getting dumber as the night goes on.

New York Times, Pro-Trump Mob Livestreamed Its Rampage, and Made Money Doing It, Kellen Browning and Taylor Lorenz, Jan. 8, 2021. A site called Dlive, where rioters broadcast from the Capitol, is benefiting from the exodus of right-wing users from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

When the white nationalist Tim Gionet stormed the U.S. Capitol with a mob of Trump loyalists on Wednesday, entering congressional offices and putting his feet up on lawmakers’ furniture, he also chatted live with more than 16,000 of his fans.

Using a livestreaming site called Dlive, Mr. Gionet — known by the online alias “Baked Alaska” — broadcast his actions inside the Capitol. Through Dlive, his fans then sent him messages telling him where to go to avoid capture by the police. They also tipped him with “lemons,” a Dlive currency that can be converted into real money, through which Mr. Gionet made more than $2,000 on Wednesday, according to online estimates.

Mr. Gionet operates one of at least nine channels that used Dlive to share real-time footage from the front lines of Wednesday’s rampage. He and hundreds of other members of the far right have turned to the platform after mainstream services removed them. In 2017, Mr. Gionet was kicked off Twitter; last year, he was barred from YouTube.

Dlive’s increasing popularity shows how an online exodus of far-right figures on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube since the November election has now moved beyond alternative social-networking, news and video sites like Rumble, Gab and Parler. Livestreaming is also benefiting — especially as a way to communicate live with followers and to earn money by spreading hate.

That shift gained further momentum this week after Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitch limited President Trump’s accounts for inciting Wednesday’s violence and clamped down on other right-wing personalities.

On Friday, Dan Bongino, a right-wing podcaster, tweeted that he was leaving Twitter for good because it was an “anti-American platform” and that he would be on Parler instead. Twitter later said it had permanently suspended the accounts of several prominent Trump supporters who used the platform to spread conspiracy theories, including the lawyer Sidney Powell and Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn.

Dlive said in a statement on Friday that it had “zero tolerance toward any forms of violence and illegal activities.” It added that it had suspended, forced offline or limited 10 accounts and deleted 100 broadcasts. Dlive also said it was freezing the earnings of streamers who had broken into the Capitol.

Jan. 7

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump banned from Facebook indefinitely, CEO Mark Zuckerberg says, Tony Romm and Elizabeth Dwoskin, Jan. 7, 2021.  The move follows temporary bans of Trump’s accounts by both Twitter and Facebook.

facebook logoFacebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday the social media giant is banning President Trump indefinitely, marking a dramatic escalation between Silicon Valley and the White House after Trump weaponized the web to help stoke a riot at the U.S. Capitol.

“We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great,” Zuckerberg wrote. "Therefore, we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.”

Facebook’s suspension marked the most aggressive penalty that any social media company has meted out to Trump over his four-year term, a period in which he has repeatedly peddled falsehoods, attacked critics and spread divisive rhetoric online. Twitter on Wednesday evening suspended Trump for 12 hours, but the company’s blockade lifted Thursday morning — and the president had not yet tweeted.

The tech giants each took the rare aggressive steps after a violent mob stormed the House and Senate Wednesday, forcing lawmakers into a lockdown and briefly interrupting their formal process to certify Joseph Biden as the next president of the United States. In failing to act until after the deadly riot occurred, Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube have faced sharp criticism saying they should have done more, and sooner, to stop Trump from helping provoke the situation.

Jan. 6

Palmer Report, Opinion: Twitter removes multiple Donald Trump tweets, Bill Palmer, Jan. 6, 2021. Donald Trump tweeted a deranged video this evening, referring to the domestic terrorists who invaded the U.S. Capitol building as “special.” Twitter then locked down the tweet, preventing anyone from liking or replying to it. But now things have escalated.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump posted a sickening tweet saying “These are the things that happen” when the election is rigged against him. This prompted Twitter to go ahead and delete that tweet, while also deleting Trump’s video tweet. We know that these tweets were removed by Twitter, and not by Trump himself, because they’ve been replaced with a “This Tweet is no longer available” message. If Trump had deleted them twitter bird Customhimself, they would simply have vanished.

This comes amid mounting pressure on Twitter to suspend or delete Donald Trump’s account entirely. There has long been an expectation that he’ll be banned from Twitter shortly after he leaves office, due to rules violations. But we’re coming close to Trump getting banned before his term is over.

Pressure grows on Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment tonight; Now we have to impeach Donald Trump again; Twitter just basically deplatformed Donald Trump’s deranged response to U.S. Capitol attack.

Jan. 5

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We must stop calling Trump’s enablers ‘conservative.’ They are the radical right, Margaret Sullivan, right, Jan. 5, 2021 (print ed.). You margaret sullivan 2015 photohear the word “radical” a lot these days. It’s usually aimed like a lethal weapon at Democratic office-seekers, especially those who want to unseat a Republican incumbent. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, the Georgia Republican, rarely utters her challenger’s name without branding him as “radical liberal Raphael Warnock.”

Such is the upside-down world we’ve come to inhabit. These days, the true radicals are the enablers of President Trump’s ongoing attempted coup: the media bloviators on Fox News, One America and Newsmax who parrot his lies about election fraud; and the members of Congress who plan to object on Wednesday to what should be a pro forma step of approving the electoral college results, so that President-elect Joe Biden can take office peacefully on Jan. 20.

But instead of being called what they are, these media and political figures get a mild label: conservative.

News outlets that traffic in conspiracy theories? They’re branded as “conservative.” Politicians who are willing to bring down democracy to appease a cult leader? (“Acting on the basis either of fear of the president or sheer political opportunism,” as The Post’s Dan Balz explained.) Just a bloc of “conservatives.”

As the Hill put it in a typical headline Monday: “Cotton breaks with conservative colleagues who will oppose electoral vote.”
In applying this innocuous-sounding description, the reality-based media does the public a terrible disservice. Instead of calling out the truth, it normalizes; it softens the dangerous edges.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Trump-Raffensperger call was big news — unless you were following conservative media, Paul Farhi, Jan. 5, 2021 (print ed.). The story was widely reported on Sunday and Monday — but it looked very different depending on where you get your news.

In the media ecosystem that reliably supports the president, the significance of President Trump’s attempts to persuade Georgia’s secretary of state to toss aside the will of the voting public was downplayed or rationalized — and sometimes largely ignored. Conservative outlets such as the Daily Caller and Breitbart paid it scant attention.

washington post logoWashington Post, USPS delays are threatening small-town newspapers. So is a postage price increase, Jacob Bogage, Jan. 5, 2021 (print ed.). Historic package volume has gummed up the Postal Service, and community newspapers are caught in the mail backlog.

The U.S. Postal Service has been under siege for months as record volumes of holiday packages and election mail ran up against a spike in coronavirus cases within its workforce, leaving the agency severely short-staffed. Nearly 19,000 workers were in quarantine at the end of 2020 after becoming infected or exposed to the virus, according to the American Postal Workers Union.

That has left hundreds of small publishers struggling to deliver their products, according to the National Newspaper Association, undercutting their advertising revenues and subscriber bases, and depriving the largely rural communities they serve of crucial news coverage. Some news operations have even called on reporters and editors to deliver papers.

They’re also staring down rate increases of as much as 9 percent in 2022 and for years thereafter.

Jan. 4

ny times logoNew York Times, British Judge Blocks Assange’s Extradition to U.S., Citing Mental Health, Elian Peltier and Megan Specia, Jan. 5, 2021 (print ed.). Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who is jailed in Britain, had been indicted in the United States on 17 charges of violating the Espionage Act.

A British judge ruled on Monday that the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, shown below, cannot be extradited to the United States to face trial on charges of violating the Espionage Act, saying he would be at extreme risk of suicide.

julian assange facts wikileaks CustomThe decision in the high-profile case grants Mr. Assange a major victory against the U.S. authorities who charged him over his role in obtaining and publishing secret military and diplomatic documents related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rights groups and advocates applauded the ruling, but many expressed concern about the rationale for the decision. The judge focused on Mr. Assange’s mental health issues, but rejected the defense argument that the charges were an attack on press freedom and were politically motivated.

Mr. Assange, 49, who was present at Monday’s hearing and wearing a face mask, was indicted in 2019 on 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act and conspiring to hack government computers in 2010 and 2011. If found guilty on all counts, he could face a sentence of up to 175 years in prison.

The judge, Vanessa Baraitser of Westminster Magistrates’ Court, said in Monday’s ruling that she was satisfied that the American authorities had brought forth the case “in good faith,” and that Mr. Assange’s actions went beyond simply encouraging a journalist. But she said there was evidence of a risk to Mr. Assange’s health if he were to face trial in the United States, noting that she found “Mr. Assange’s risk of committing suicide, if an extradition order were to be made, to be substantial.”

United Kingdom flagShe ruled that the extradition should be refused because “it would be unjust and oppressive by reason of Mr. Assange’s mental condition,” pointing to conditions he would most likely be held under in the United States.

The ruling on Monday at the Central Criminal Court in London, known as the Old Bailey, was a major turning point in a legal struggle that has spanned more than a decade. But that battle is likely to drag on for at least several months, as U.S. prosecutors indicated they would appeal the decision. The authorities have two weeks to file an appeal.

A crowd of supporters gathered outside the courthouse in central London erupted in cheers when the verdict was delivered on Monday.

Craig Murray former UK Ambassador“Today, we are swept away by our joy at the fact that Julian will shortly be with us,” Craig Murray, left, a former British diplomat and rights activist who has been documenting the hearing, told reporters outside the courthouse, noting that Mr. Assange’s defense team would be requesting bail while the appeal was underway. He said while he was “delighted we have seen some humanity,” the ruling on mental health grounds was an “excuse to deliver justice.”

Rights groups also applauded the denial of the extradition request, but some expressed concerns about the substance of the ruling. Among them was Rebecca Vincent, the director of international campaigns for Reporters Without Borders.

Common Dreams News, Threat to Journalism Remains, Warn Critics, After Assange Extradition Rejected Solely Due to Brutal US Prison System, Jake Johnson, Jan. 4, 2021. Why did a British judge reject the Trump administration's attempt to extradite Julian Assange, despite accepting "virtually all of the allegations" the U.S. government leveled against the WikiLeaks founder?

The answer lies not in the dire threat extradition would pose to press freedoms across the globe, but in the dangerous abomination that is the U.S. prison system.

In her 132-page ruling (pdf) issued Monday, Judge Vanessa Baraitser of the Westminster Magistrates' Court on Monday described the conditions Assange would face in the U.S. as "harsh" even compared to London's notorious maximum-security Belmarsh jail, where the publisher has been held since April of 2019.

"The one fact that swayed her into refusing the extradition was that the U.S. prison system is so brutal that it would increase the risk of suicide," according to John Rees, of the Don't Extradite Assange campaign.

After dismissing arguments against extradition brought by Assange's legal team—including their warnings that the WikiLeaks founder would be denied a fair trial in the U.S.—Baraitser said (pdf) she believes that if confined to a U.S. supermax prison, "Mr. Assange's mental health would deteriorate causing him to commit suicide."

"Faced with the conditions of near total isolation without the protective factors which limited his risk at [Her Majesty's Prison] Belmarsh, I am satisfied the procedures described by the U.S. will not prevent Mr. Assange from finding a way to commit suicide," said Baraitser, "and for this reason I have decided extradition would be oppressive by reason of mental harm and I order his discharge."

As Shadow Proof managing editor Kevin Gosztola—who has been covering the extradition case from its inception—put it, "The United States government's mass incarceration system just lost them their case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange."

Lawyers for the U.S. government, which in 2019 charged Assange with 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act, said they will appeal Baraitser's decision as Assange's attorneys fight for his release on bail. If extradited to the U.S., Assange—whose health has declined precipitously in recent months due to conditions that physicians have condemned as torture—would face up to 175 years in a maximum-security prison.

The aggressive effort by U.S. authorities to extradite and punish Assange for publishing classified documents that exposed American war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan has been decried as a major threat to press freedoms everywhere, given that journalists regularly obtain and report on secret materials.

"We continue to believe that Mr. Assange was targeted for his contributions to journalism, and until the underlying issues here are addressed, other sources, journalists, and publishers remain at risk." said, Rebecca Vincent of Reporters Without Borders.

While raising alarm over her dismissal of press freedom concerns, human rights groups organizations welcomed Baraitser's ruling against extradition as an important step in protecting Assange and other journalists around the world.

"Today's ruling is a huge sigh of relief for anyone who cares about press freedom," Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, said in a statement. "While the judge's opinion contains many worrying assertions that disregard journalists' rights, her rejection of the Trump administration's extradition request means the U.S. government likely won't be able to obtain any precedent that would criminalize common newsgathering and publishing practices. And that is a very good thing."

After joining others in applauding the judge's decision to reject the U.S. extradition request, Rebecca Vincent of Reporters Without Borders said she has "serious concerns about the substance of the judgment."

"We disagree with the judge's assessment that this case is not politically motivated, that it's not about free speech," said Vincent. "We continue to believe that Mr. Assange was targeted for his contributions to journalism, and until the underlying issues here are addressed, other sources, journalists, and publishers remain at risk."

In a column for The Guardian on Monday, Owen Jones wrote that "it is not to critique the soundness of Baraitser's legal judgment to argue that this was the right decision, but for the wrong reason."

"That a British court has ruled that the U.S. prison system is too barbaric to guarantee the safety of Assange tells its own story," Jones added. "But this is about something much bigger than Assange: it's about journalism, the free press, and most importantly of all, the ability to expose atrocities committed by the world's last remaining superpower."

John Rees of the U.K.'s Don't Extradite Assange campaign said Monday that "it's an incredible judgement," noting that "95% of this judge's remarks supported the prosecution."

"She said there's no public interest defense, there's no journalistic defense, there's no political opinion defense," said Rees. "The one fact that swayed her into refusing the extradition was that the U.S. prison system is so brutal that it would increase the risk of suicide, and she wasn't willing to put him into an oppressive prison system."

Noting that the U.S. will appeal, Rees argued Monday's ruling marks "the beginning of the fight, not the end of the fight."

"But it's a terrific day," Rees added. "And if the bail application—which they're discussing inside the court right at this moment—goes through and Julian walks free, that will be a terrific watershed in this case."

Speaking to the media Monday, Stella Moris, Assange's partner, expressed a similar sentiment, calling the ruling "the first step towards justice in this case."

ny times logoNew York Times, TikTok, Texts and Tinder: Campaigns Court Young Voters in Georgia, Rick Rojas, Jan. 4, 2021. Invigorated by a surge in voter turnout in November that delivered a victory in Georgia for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in her life, and forced runoffs in two high-profile, high-stakes Senate races, Patricia Granda-Malaver got to work.

tiktok logo square CustomMs. Granda-Malaver, 22, began working on phone banks and walking up to strangers, whether at her dentist’s office or the grocery store, asking whether they were registered to vote. She saw Georgia was changing and she wanted a diverse coalition of young voters to be the ones driving that change.

“Keeping up that momentum is something we’re really aware of,” she said of herself and other young voters who have spent the last two months focused on participation in Tuesday’s runoff races. The contests pit Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, both Republicans, against Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, both Democrats, in races that will determine which party controls the Senate.

As hundreds of millions of dollars have been pumped into Georgia, few groups have been as vigorously pursued as young voters.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hundreds of Google Employees Unionize, Culminating Years of Activism, Kate Conger, Jan. 4, 2021. More than 225 Google engineers and other workers have formed a union, the group revealed on Monday, capping years of growing activism at one of the world’s largest companies and google logo custompresenting a rare beachhead for labor organizers in staunchly anti-union Silicon Valley.

The union’s creation is highly unusual for the tech industry, which has long resisted efforts to organize its largely white-collar work force. It follows increasing demands by employees at Google for policy overhauls on pay, harassment and ethics, and is likely to escalate tensions with top leadership.

Jan. 2

julian assange stella morris son gabriel righ max belmarsh prison irish examiner com

Stella Moris and son Gabriel, right, and Max leave Belmarsh prison after visiting her partner and their father, Julian Assange. His two children could lose their father for the rest of their lives [Source: irishexaminer.com].

Covert Action Magazine, Opinion: Upcoming Ruling in Assange Trial Threatens More Than Just Freedom of the Press, Steve Brown, Jan. 2, 2021. Although important legal principles are at stake in the extradition trial of Julian Assange, below right in a file photo, for which a ruling will be handed down on January 4, it should not be forgotten that there are important human issues at stake as well.

One such issue is Assange’s health, which has progressively worsened under what seems to be cruel and even sadistic maltreatment by the British government, including the refusal of appropriate medical care and confining him in his cell for 23 hours a day, seven days a week.

The other is that, if the Judge’s ruling is adverse, Julian’s two children may never see their father again.

julian assange facts wikileaks CustomMany stories have been written about the legal issues in Julian’s case, and the chilling effect that his extradition to the U.S.  — where he will almost certainly be imprisoned for life — would have on journalists around the world who seek to expose the lies and crimes committed by their own governments.

Most of those stories present Julian, primarily, as a symbol, a hero to his principles, and an ominous example in how far tyrannical governments and corrupt politicians will go to keep their citizens ignorant and submissive.

But Julian is more than a symbol. He is also a father, a husband-to-be (even if he may have to be married in prison) and, most importantly, a human being —o ne who, as the world watches in horror and shame, is being subjected to calculated assaults on his physical and mental health in hopes that he will quickly die and spare the British and American governments the embarrassment of having to deal with him.

For nearly three years Assange and his partner, Stella Moris, had successfully kept their personal relationship and the existence of their two children a secret. Moris only revealed it (on April 11) because “Julian’s poor physical health puts him at serious risk, like many other vulnerable people, and I don’t believe he will survive infection with coronavirus” — which had been spreading rapidly through the British prison system, especially at Belmarsh, the high security prison in which Assange is being held.

 

December

Dec. 31

tribune publishing logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Hedge Fund Seeks Control of Tribune Publishing, a Major News Chain, Michael J. de la Merced and Marc Tracy, Dec. 31, 2020. Alden Global Capital, which is already Tribune’s biggest shareholder, valued the company at about $520.6 million.

Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund that has amassed a newspaper empire, has expressed interest in taking full control of Tribune Publishing, the parent of major metropolitan dailies including The Chicago Tribune, The New York Daily News and The Baltimore Sun.

If a deal goes through, it would strengthen the financial industry’s grip on the struggling news media business.

Alden controls some 200 newspapers nationwide through its MediaNews Group subsidiary, and its acquisition of Tribune Publishing would make it an even more formidable rival to the largest United States newspaper chain, Gannett, a company controlled by the private equity fund Fortress Investment Group.

Alden’s designs on Tribune Publishing, a publicly traded company that runs eight prominent metro dailies across the country, became clear in 2019, when the hedge fund revealed that it had taken a 32 percent stake in the chain, making it the company’s largest shareholder. Many Tribune Publishing reporters denounced Alden’s hold on the company, citing the hedge fund’s strategy of slashing newsroom costs at its MediaNews Group publications.

alden global capital logoAlden’s offer, if it goes through, may strike fear into the hearts of journalists at Tribune newspapers, who have publicly urged benefactors to keep the hedge fund from taking control of the chain’s papers.

Alden’s most famous run-in with journalists came in 2018, when the staff of The Denver Post openly rebelled, publishing a special opinion section devoted to blasting its hedge fund ownership, which had made drastic cuts at the paper. “If Alden isn’t willing to do good journalism here, it should sell The Post to owners who will,” the paper’s editorial board wrote.

Tribune was a chain in trouble before Alden’s entry into the company. For many years, it billed itself under a new name meant to suggest its digital emphasis — Tronc — and its executives tangled with journalists at the Los Angeles Times in a series of spats that did not end until Tribune sold that paper to the medical entrepreneur Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong and his wife, Michele B. Chan. In 2018, Tribune cut the staff of The New York Daily News, once the largest-circulation newspaper in the country, in half.

Since Alden acquired its 32 percent stake in Tribune, the hard times have continued. The company has offered buyouts and closed several newsrooms while trying to endure the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on an already distressed industry.

In August, after most newspaper employees had worked remotely for months, Tribune announced that it was permanently closing the newsroom of The Daily News. That announcement was quickly followed by the company’s shuttering of the physical newsrooms of The Morning Call in Allentown, Pa.; The Orlando Sentinel; The Carroll County Times in Westminster, Md.; and The Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md. In December, the newsroom at another Tribune daily, The Hartford Courant, which has been in operation since 1764, also went dark.

spiked HR cover11Revenue has plummeted for local newspapers over the past 15 years as readers have increasingly favored getting the news on screens rather than in print newspapers. Alden and other hedge funds have found that they have nonetheless been able to wring profits from newspaper chains through austere management practices.

Journalists and press advocates have expressed alarm over the influx of private equity into the news-gathering business, arguing that finance firms make imperfect stewards of an industry built on the work of watching closely over government and commerce.

Justice Integrity Project editor Andrew Kreig published a 1987 book, "Spiked: How Chain Management Corrupted America's Oldest Newspaper" (Peregrine Press), documenting problems at the Hartford Courant in Connecticut as a case study of the transformation of the newspaper sector under conglomerate ownership.

Times Mirror bought the locally owned newspaper, the second largest in New England, in 1979 for the then-record price of $105 million and then resold it to the Tribune Companies. The Courant recently announced the closure of its much-downsized newsroom, thereby requiring journalists to work from home.

OpEdNews, Opinion: The Kafkaesque Imprisonment of Julian Assange Exposes U.S. Myths About Freedom and Tyranny, Glenn Greenwald, Dec. 31, 2020. That U.S. indictment and the accompanying request to extradite Assange to the U.S. to stand trial provided, by design, the pretext for the British government to imprison Assange indefinitely.

A judge quickly ruled that Assange could not be released on bail pending his extradition hearing, but instead must stay behind bars while the U.K. courts fully adjudicate the Justice Department's extradition request. No matter what happens, it will takes years for this extradition process to conclude because whichever side (the DOJ or Assange) loses at each stage (and Assange is highly likely to lose the first round when the lower-court decision on the extradition request is issued next week), they will appeal, and Assange will linger in prison while these appeals wind their way very slowly through the U.K. judicial system.

Julian Assange August That means that absent a pardon by Trump or the withdrawal of the charges by what will become the Biden DOJ, Assange, right, will be locked up for years without any need to prove he is guilty of any crime. He will have been just disappeared: silenced by the very governments whose corruption and crimes he denounced and exposed.

Those are the same governments -- the U.S. and U.K. -- that sanctimoniously condemn their adversaries (but rarely their repressive allies) for violating free speech, free press and due process rights.

(he ample evidence showing that the indictment of Assange is the single gravest threat to press freedoms in years, and that the arguments mounted to justify it are fraudulent, has been repeatedly documented by myself and others, so I will not rehash those discussions here. Those interested can see the article and video program I produced on this prosecution along with my op-ed inThe Washington Post; Laura Poitras' New York Times op-ed last week on the indictment; former Brazilian President Lula da Silva's Guardian op-ed calling for Assange's immediate release; the editorial from The Guardian and column from The Washington Post's media reporter Margaret Sullivan condemning this prosecution as abusive; and statements from the Freedom of the Press Foundation, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Columbia Journalism Review, and the ACLU warning of the serious dangers to press freedoms it poses).

Justice Department log circularEven Assange's conviction on "bail jumping" charges, and the way it is portrayed in mainstream media discourse, reveals how deceitful these narratives are, and how illusory are these supposedly protected liberties.

Assange's misdemeanor bail jumping conviction was based on his decision to seek asylum from Ecuador rather than appear for his 2012 extradition hearing in London. That asylum request was granted by Ecuador on the ground that Sweden's attempt to extradite Assange from the U.K. for a sexual assault investigation could be used as a pretext to ship him to the U.S., which would then imprison him for the "crime" of reporting on its illegal and deceitful acts. Such retaliatory imprisonment, said Ecuador, would amount to classic political persecution, thus necessitating asylum to protect his political rights from attack by the U.S. (the case in Sweden was subsequently closed after prosecutors concluded that Assange's asylum rendered the investigation futile).

When the U.S. grants asylum to dissidents from adversary countries in order to protect them from persecution, the U.S. media heralds it a noble, benevolent act, one that proves how devoted the U.S. Government is to the rights and freedoms of people all over the world.

ny times logo

New York Times, Opinion: Goodbye, Twitter Trump! And Other Predictions for 2021, Kara Swisher, right, Dec. 31, 2020. The coronavirus has forced the kara swisherkind of work experimentation that would have taken a decade otherwise. No one expected 2020 to turn out the way it did. The worst I imagined for this year, in my annual list of digital predictions in 2019, was that the “ever screechy” President Trump would get “to stay on Twitter retweeting fake accounts and links that appear to unmask a whistle-blower.”

If only. Mr. Trump is screechier than ever, and even more unhinged than expected. Most of his tweets are now labeled “disputed” by Twitter, which I would translate from geekspeak as a polite way of calling them lies.

Since I’m not polite, I’m starting this round of prognosticating with this: Soon after our forever troller in chief leaves office on Jan. 20, his account will be donald trump twittersuspended by Twitter temporarily, and then, since he cannot stop breaking rules, he’ll get tossed off, just like his hideous pal, Alex Jones.

I have never thought, as many have, that Mr. Trump should have been de-platformed during his term as president. As flagitious as he can be, Mr. Trump has been a legitimate news figure and, thus, what he had to say should be aired.

twitter bird CustomBut after Joe Biden is inaugurated, Mr. Trump should be treated like any other mendacious loudmouth, and Twitter will be well within its rights to put a sock in it. He’ll rage and then head over Parler to try to make fetch happen, which will not satisfy his enormous ego. It will all end in a whimper.

The Amazon acquisition this week of the podcast maker Wondery, in a deal valued at $300 million — whatever that means — was exactly the kind of thing we will see more of. Amazon is aiming its considerable heft and pocketbook directly at a nascent podcast market. This will amazon logo smallresult in an inevitable smackdown with Spotify, which has been playing the most aggressively in this space, and we’ll see Apple wade in too along with traditional media companies.

Speaking of media companies: While the reverberations of the Warner Bros. decision to put all its 2021 movies on its HBOMax streaming service are sorting themselves out, the shift is permanent — whether offended filmmakers like it or not. Creators who adapt will benefit, especially if they devise new models of payment.

The longtime entertainment business model was built on powerful gatekeepers that made most of the money and relied on a vast network of middlemen. But in the new world, those who can assemble a fan base that they directly service will profit. Imagine the future relationship between creators and fans as a subscription business, and the economics get much more interesting. Hollywood will have to become much more nimble and entrepreneurial.

Mediaite, GOP Congressman Slams Mark Levin Over Calling Him A ‘Reckless Politician’: ‘Godfather Of Outrage For Profit," Zachary Petrizzo, Dec. 31, 2020. Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) fired back at Fox News host Mark Levin Thursday morning after Levin took a series of potshots at the Republican legislator over him being a vocal critic of President Donald Trump.

Levin, who was once a “NeverTrump” supporter, began the war of words by tweeting early Thursday morning that Kinzinger was a “reckless politician.”

“Adam Kinzinger is very devious and reckless politician. He was elected as a Tea Party candidate 10 years ago and quickly turned on them,” the Fox News host tweeted. “He is now an activist for the administrative state and against constitutionalists.”

Levin proceeded to take additional swings at Kinzinger.

“Unsurprisingly, he’s celebrated by the Dem-Party media. His attack on those earnestly trying to fix what the Dems broke during this election cycle & their efforts to prevent further usurpations of the Constitution (as they’ve announced their intentions), is unconscionable,” Levin added.

“He should be defeated at the ballot box in the next Republican primary. Then he can join CNN or MSNBC as a full-time, conservative-trashing contributor,” Levin concluded.

adam kinzinger twitterYet Kinzinger, right, wasn’t going to let the big-time conservative talk radio host’s words go without a response.

“Mark is The Godfather of ‘outrage for profit.’ For some reason he has been obsessed with me for a while,” Kinzinger fired back.

In recent days, Levin has touted his departure from Facebook and continues to be an outspoken supporter of Trump’s legal efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

And how could one forget that Levin wants Trump to be honored with a ‘ticker-tape parade.”

UPDATE (1/1/2021): Levin responded to Kinzinger ripping him.

“I guess I hit a nerve. Don’t flatter yourself, Hollywood. And don’t worry about my finances. I pay your overpaid salary. Just do your damn job,” Levin tweeted.

Dec. 28djt nypost stop insanity cover dec 28 2020

washington post logoWashington Post, Murdoch’s New York Post urges Trump to accept defeat: ‘You’re cheering for an undemocratic coup,’ Tim Elfrink, Dec. 28, 2020. The tabloid, long one of President Trump’s strongest allies, demanded he stop spreading false claims of voter fraud and accept Joe Biden’s victory.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Cheerleader’s Vulgar Message Prompts a First Amendment Showdown, Adam Liptak, right, Dec. 28, 2020. A Pennsylvania school district adam liptakhas asked the Supreme Court to rule on whether students may be disciplined for what they say on social media. The Supreme Court next month will consider whether to hear the case of Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., involving a student’s freedom of speech while off school grounds.

It was a Saturday in the spring of 2017, and a ninth-grade student in Pennsylvania was having a bad day. She had just learned that she had failed to make the varsity cheerleading squad and would remain on junior varsity.

The student expressed her frustration on social media, sending a message on Snapchat to about 250 friends. The message included an image of the student and a friend with their middle fingers raised, along with text expressing a similar sentiment. Using a curse word four times, the student expressed her dissatisfaction with “school,” “softball,” “cheer” and “everything.”

Though Snapchat messages are ephemeral by design, another student took a screenshot of this one and showed it to her mother, a coach. The school suspended the student from cheerleading for a year, saying the punishment was needed to “avoid chaos” and maintain a “teamlike environment.”

The student sued the school district, winning a sweeping victory in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia. The court said the First Amendment did not allow public schools to punish students for speech outside school grounds.

Next month, at its first private conference after the holiday break, the Supreme Court will consider whether to hear the case, Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., No. 20-255. The Third Circuit’s ruling is in tension with decisions from several other courts, and such splits often invite Supreme Court review.

In urging the justices to hear the case, the school district said administrators around the nation needed a definitive ruling from the Supreme Court on their power to discipline students for what they say away from school. “The question presented recurs constantly and has become even more urgent as Covid-19 has forced schools to operate online,” a brief for the school district said. “Only this court can resolve this threshold First Amendment question bedeviling the nation’s nearly 100,000 public schools.”

Justin Driver, a law professor at Yale and the author of The Schoolhouse Gate: Public Education, the Supreme Court and the Battle for the American Mind” agreed with the school district, to a point.

“It is difficult to exaggerate the stakes of this constitutional question,” he said. But he added that schools had no business telling students what they could say when they were not in school.

“In the modern era, a tremendous percentage of minors’ speech occurs off campus but online,” he said. “Judicial decisions that permit schools to regulate off-campus speech that criticizes public schools are antithetical to the First Amendment. Such decisions empower schools to reach into any student’s home and declare critical statements verboten, something that should deeply alarm all Americans.”

The key precedent is from a different era. In 1969, in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, the Supreme Court allowed students to wear black armbands to protest the Vietnam War but said disruptive speech, at least on school grounds, could be punished.

 Dec. 27

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: Heather Cox Richardson Offers a Break From the Media Maelstrom. It’s Working, Ben Smith, Dec. 27, 2020. She is the breakout star of the newsletter platform Substack, doing the opposite of most media as she calmly situates the news of the day in the long sweep of American history.

Last Wednesday, I broke the news to Heather Cox Richardson that she was the most successful individual author of a paid publication on the breakout newsletter platform Substack.

Early that morning, she had posted that day’s installment of “Letters From an American” to Facebook, quickly garnering more than 50,000 reactions and then, at 2:14 a.m., she emailed it to about 350,000 people. She summarized, as she always does, the events of the day, and her 1,120 words covered a bipartisan vote on a spending measure, President Trump’s surprise attack on that bill, and a wave of presidential pardons. Her voice was, as it always is, calm, at a slight distance from the moment: “Normally, pardons go through the Justice Department, reviewed by the pardon attorney there, but the president has the right to act without consulting the Department of Justice,” she wrote. “He has done so.”

The news of her ranking seemed to startle Dr. Richardson, who in her day job is a professor of 19th century American history at Boston College. The Substack leader board, a subject of fascination among media insiders, is a long way from her life on a Maine peninsula — particularly as the pandemic has ended her commute — that seems drawn from the era she studies. On our Zoom chat, she sat under a portrait that appeared as if it could be her in period costume, but is, in fact, her great-great-grandmother, who lived in the same fishing village, population a bit over 600.

Dec. 26

 donald trump melania trump piano pose

TMZ, Donald Trump Says 'Elitist Snobs' in Fashion Biz Kept Melania Off Magazine Covers, Staff report, Dec. 26, 2020. Donald Trump has too many grievances to count ... the latest being his anger that Melania (shown in a file photo with him) has not graced a single magazine cover in the 4 years he's been President, and he thinks he knows why.

Trump tweeted his outrage that, as he called her, "the most elegant First Lady" has been blackballed from mag covers by "elite snobs," and without directly saying it, it seems he might be zeroing in on Anna Wintour.

Melania was on the cover of Vogue in 2005, shortly after her marriage to Trump, but that was it.

Michelle Obama, by contrast, was on the cover of Vogue 3 times during her tenure in the White House. The last cover was in November 2016 ... after Trump's victory. As you know, the Obamas popularity drives Trump insane, so no surprise here.

Melania was actually on one cover that we know of ... the February 2017 issue of Vanity Fair Mexico.

Wintour is not a Trump fan, for sure. She's been public about her political preferences, which include Kamala Harris, whom she profiled in April 2018.

How 'bout focusing on that COVID relief bill, please.

Dec. 22

washington post logoWashington Post, Millions of Christmas presents may arrive late because of USPS package delays, Jacob Bogage and Hannah Denham, Dec. 22, 2020 (print ed.). Historic volumes of e-commerce orders, soaring coronavirus cases among its workforce and continuing fallout from a hobbled cost-cutting program are choking U.S. Postal Service operations.

us mail logoNearly 19,000 of the agency’s 644,000 workers have called in sick or are isolating because of covid-19, according to the American Postal Workers Union. Meanwhile, packages have stacked up inside some postal facilities, leading employees to push them aside to create narrow walkways on shop floors.

Some processing plants are now refusing to accept new mail shipments. The backlogs are so pronounced that some managers have reached out to colleagues in hopes of diverting mail shipments to nearby facilities. But often, those places are full, too. Meanwhile, packages sit on trucks for days waiting for floor space to open so their loads can be sorted.

“[Customers] are screaming, ‘Where’s my package? Why did it go to Jacksonville, Fla., when it’s going to Miami?’" said Martin Ramirez, president of the APWU Local 170 in Ohio. “I can’t speak on that. I’ve never seen this before where these places are overflowing.”

The end result: Many families won’t see online orders arrive in time for Christmas Day.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ex-Bloomberg Reporter Who Covered Martin Shkreli Reveals Relationship With Him, Katie Robertson, Dec. 22, 2020 (print ed.). Christie Smythe helped break the story of Mr. Shkreli’s arrest in 2015. Then she “started to fall for him,” she said, and quit her job at Bloomberg News. The relationship between Ms. Smythe, who joined Bloomberg News as a legal reporter in 2012, and Mr. Shkreli was revealed in an Elle magazine article on Sunday.

Dec. 21

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: The ‘Red Slime’ Lawsuit That Could Sink Right-Wing Media, Ben Smith, Updated Dec. 21, 2020. Last week, a lawyer for Antonio Mugica sent scathing letters to Fox, Newsmax and OAN demanding that they immediately, forcefully clear his company’s name. Voting machine companies threaten “highly dangerous” cases against Fox, Newsmax and OAN, says Floyd Abrams.

antonio mugicaAntonio Mugica, left, was in Boca Raton when an American presidential election really melted down in 2000, and he watched with shocked fascination as local government officials argued over hanging chads and butterfly ballots.

It was so bad, so incompetent, that Mr. Mugica, a young Venezuelan software engineer, decided to shift the focus of his digital security company, Smartmatic, which had been working for banks. It would offer its services to what would obviously be a growth smartmaticindustry: electronic voting machines. He began building a global company that ultimately provided voting machinery and software for elections from Brazil to Belgium and his native Venezuela. He even acquired an American company, then called Sequoia.

Last month, Mr. Mugica initially took it in stride when his company’s name started popping up in grief-addled Trump supporters’ wild conspiracy theories about the election.

djt maga hat“Of course I was surprised, but at the same time, it was pretty clear that these people were trying to discredit the election and they were throwing out 25 conspiracy theories in parallel,” he told me in an interview last week from Barbados, where his company has an office. “I thought it was so absurd that it was not going to have legs.”

But by Nov. 14, he knew he had a problem. That’s when Rudy Giuliani, serving as the president’s lawyer, suggested that one voting company, Dominion Voting Systems, had a sinister connection to vote counts in “Michigan, Arizona and Georgia and other states.” Mr. Giuliani declared on Twitter that the company “was a front for SMARTMATIC, who was really doing the computing. Look up SMARTMATIC and tweet me what you think?”

dominion voting systemsSoon his company, and a competitor, Dominion — which sells its services to about 1,900 of the county governments that administer elections across America — were at the center of Mr. Giuliani’s and Sidney Powell’s theories, and on the tongues of commentators on Fox News and its farther-right rivals, Newsmax and One America News.

Here’s the thing: Smartmatic wasn’t even used in the contested states. The company, now a major global player with over 300 employees, pulled out of the United States in 2007 after a controversy over its founders’ Venezuelan roots, and its only involvement this November was with a contract to help Los Angeles County run its election.

In an era of brazen political lies, Mr. Mugica has emerged as an unlikely figure with the power to put the genie back in the bottle.

Last week, his lawyer sent scathing letters to the Fox News Channel, Newsmax and OAN demanding that they immediately, forcefully clear his company’s name — and that they retain documents for a planned defamation lawsuit.

He has, legal experts say, an unusually strong case. And his new lawyer is J. Erik Connolly, who not coincidentally won the largest settlement in the history of American media defamation in 2017, at least $177 million, for a beef producer whose “lean finely textured beef” was described by ABC News as “pink slime.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: There are flickers of hope for local journalism. So far, it’s not nearly enough, Margaret Sullivan, right, Dec. 21, 2020 (print ed.). With its margaret sullivan 2015 photo14-member newsroom, Mississippi Today is by far the largest in the state, he said. Only 20 years ago, a typical regional newspaper boasted a newsroom staff of at least 100; larger ones, as in Cleveland and Detroit, had 300 journalists or more.

Fifty-five news outlets have closed for good since the pandemic began — and that’s on top of more than 2,000 newspapers that have folded since 2004. Thousands of local journalists have been fired or furloughed.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Antitrust Case Against Big Tech, Shaped by Tech Industry Exiles, Daisuke Wakabayashi, Dec. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Regulators are relying on insiders like Dina Srinivasan, who left her digital ad job after concluding that “Facebook and Google were going to win and everybody else is going to lose.”

Three years ago, before she became an antitrust scholar whose work laid the blueprint for a new wave of monopoly lawsuits against Big Tech, Dina Srinivasan was a digital advertising executive bored with her job and worried about the bleak outlook for the industry.

facebook logo“It just felt like, OK, Facebook and Google were going to win and everybody else is going to lose and that’s just the way the cards were stacked,” Ms. Srinivasan said. “I don’t think this was widely understood.”

So she quit her job at a unit of WPP, the world’s largest advertising agency, and pursued something she hadn’t done since her days as a law student at Yale: writing a legal treatise.

With no background in academia but an insider’s understanding of the digital ad world and a stack of economics books, she wrote a paper with a novel theory — that Facebook harmed consumers by extracting more and more personal data for using its free services. This year, she argued in another paper that Google’s monopoly in advertising technology allowed for the type of self-dealing and insider trading that would be illegal on Wall Street.

Her arguments reframed the antitrust thinking about the companies. And her timing was perfect.

ny times logoNew York Times, Giving Billions Fast, MacKenzie Scott Upends Philanthropy, Nicholas Kulish, Through a streamlined operation, Ms. Scott has given away $6 billion this year, much of it to small charities and nonprofits. On a Monday evening in November, Dorri McWhorter, the chief executive of the Y.W.C.A. Metropolitan Chicago, got a phone call from a representative of the billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. The news was almost too good to be true: Her group would be receiving a $9 million gift.

Between the pandemic and the recession, it had been a difficult year for the Chicago Y.W.C.A., which runs a rape crisis hotline and provides counseling to women on jobs, mortgages and other issues. Money was tight. Ms. McWhorter shed tears of joy on the call.

Similar scenes were playing out at charities nationwide. Ms. Scott’s team recently sent out hundreds of out-of-the-blue emails to charities, notifying them of an incoming gift. Some of the messages were viewed as possible scams or landed in spam filters. Many of the gifts were the largest the amazon logo smallcharities had ever received. Ms. McWhorter was not the only recipient who cried.

All told, Ms. Scott — whose fortune comes from shares of Amazon that she got after her divorce last year from Jeff Bezos, the company’s founder — had given more than $4 billion to 384 groups, including 59 other Y.W.C.A. chapters.

Dec. 20

NBC News, Kansas City Star apologizes for decades of racist coverage, Tim Stelloh, Dec. 20, 2020. The newspaper had “robbed an entire community of nbc news logoopportunity, dignity, justice and recognition,” the newspaper's editor wrote.

One Midwest’s most influential newspapers apologized Sunday for what its top editor described as decades of racist coverage of Kansas City.

In a letter to readers, Mike Fannin, who has been the Kansas City Star's editor since 2008, wrote that the newspaper “disenfranchised, ignored and scorned generations of Black Kansas Citians. It reinforced Jim Crow laws and redlining.”

For much of the early history of the newspaper, which was founded in 1880, the Star “robbed an entire community of opportunity, dignity, justice and recognition,” Fannin wrote.

The apology came three months after the publisher of another influential U.S. newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, acknowledged its own “blind spots” and said its staff was beginning the process of “acknowledging” its past biases and affirming that its newsroom will not tolerate prejudice.

Dec. 19

Palmer Report, Opinion: Fox News forced to finally crack down on lunatic host Lou Dobbs, Bill Palmer, Dec. 19, 2020. Just how much of a lunatic tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist has Lou Dobbs become? Fox News doesn’t even air him on its main network, and instead airs him on Fox Business Channel. Dobbs’ show generally consists of laugh out loud conspiracy theories, with a healthy heaping of racism and pro-Trump cheerleading.

bill palmer report logo headerBut now Lou Dobbs’ nonsense has finally gotten him in trouble. After one voting machine company demanded that Fox stop allowing hosts like Dobbs to spread phony conspiracy theories about its machines, Fox responded by forcing Dobbs to air a two minute long fact check, shooting down his own claims. What’s more, Mediaite says that Fox is going to force Judge Jeanine Pirro to air the same fact check during her show this weekend.

fox news logo SmallHosts like Lou Dobbs and Jeanine Pirro are unwatchably inane, and we’ve long suspected that Fox only keeps them around because Donald Trump is a fan of them. We’ve wondered if the end of Trump’s presidency might eventually mean the end of their shows. At this rate they might not last as long as we were expecting.

washington post logoWashington Post, The massive cyber spy campaign against the U.S. government is grave and ongoing. And Russia is ‘pretty clearly’ behind it, Pompeo says, Ellen Nakashima, Dec. 19, 2020. The secretary of state is the first Trump administration official to publicly blame Moscow for the hacks.

mike pompeo portraitRussia is behind the massive, ongoing cyber spy campaign against the federal government and private sector, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday — the first Trump administration official to publicly blame Moscow for the computer hacks.

“This was a very significant effort, and I think it’s the case that now we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity,” said Pompeo, right, in an interview with “The Mark Levin Show.”

The department he leads is one of a growing list of federal agencies discovered in recent days to have been breached.

Until now the administration has refrained from attributing the operation and President Trump, who has long expressed skepticism that Russia engaged in interference in the 2016 election, has not publicly addressed the issue.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal prosecutors accuse Zoom executive of working with Chinese government to surveil users and suppress video calls, Drew Harwell and Ellen Nakashima, Dec. 19, 2020 (print ed.).  The case is a stunning blow for the $100 billion video-call giant that has become the go-to source for staying in touch during the pandemic.

Justice Department log circularA security executive with the video-tech giant Zoom worked with the Chinese government to terminate Americans’ accounts and disrupt video calls about the 1989 massacre of pro-democracy activists in Tiananmen Square, Justice Department prosecutors said Friday.

The case is a stunning blow for Zoom, one of the most popular new titans of American tech, which during the pandemic became one of the main ways people work, socialize and share ideas around the world. The California-based company is now worth more than $100 billion.

But the executive’s work with the Chinese government, as alleged by FBI agents in a criminal complaint unsealed Friday in a Brooklyn federal court, highlights the often-hidden threats of censorship on a forum promoted as a platform for free speech. It also raises questions about how Zoom is protecting users’ data from governments that seek to surveil and suppress people inside their borders and abroad.

Prosecutors said the China-based executive, Xinjiang Jin, worked as Zoom’s primary liaison with Chinese law enforcement and intelligence services, sharing user information and terminating video calls at the Chinese government’s request.

peter navarro white house image

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: This might be the most embarrassing document created by a White House staffer, Philip Bump, Dec. 19, 2020 (print ed.). Peter Navarro's compilation of nonsensical fraud claims offers a new low-water mark,

The first thing I did when I cracked open White House trade adviser Peter Navarro’s 30-page compilation of President Trump’s voter-fraud greatest hits was check a footnote. The introduction claimed that, as of midnight on Election Day, Trump looked to be “well on his way to winning a second term,” given that he “was already a lock to win both Florida and Ohio.”

But this, in broad strokes, is how Navarro’s document operates. It throws out as near-certainties things that are unfounded, misrepresented or unimportant.

epoch timesHis footnotes cite the blatantly pro-Trump Epoch Times more than the Washington Post and the New York Times combined. In fact, he celebrates his reliance on biased and flawed sources of information

Put another way, Americans seeking dubious or debunked information are only able to find it from outlets willing to publish and air dubious and debunked information.

One of the hallmark characteristics of rhetoric from the White House is the substitution of volume for value. Trump offers dishonest statements with abandon, hoping that his audience will accept as true at least some small percentage of his blizzard of nonsense.

But the White House also uses presenting a lot of accusations as somehow being evidence supporting the accusations, as though getting 500 people to say they believe aliens invented pistachios makes it more likely to be true than if one person said it. Navarro does this exact thing explicitly at one point, in fact, hyping widespread belief that something dubious occurred — belief fostered by Trump and the above-named media outlets — as evidence that it did.

 ny times logoNew York Times, A Riveting ISIS Story, Told in a Times Podcast, Falls Apart, Mark Mazzetti, Ian Austen, Graham Bowley and Malachy Browne, Dec. 19, 2020 (print ed.). He described the killings in lurid detail — how he shot one man in the head and stabbed another in the heart before hanging the corpse on a cross.

A Canadian’s gruesome account as an Islamic State executioner in Syria, which was the subject of the “Caliphate” podcast, was fabricated, officials say.

He spoke at length about joining the religious police of the Islamic State in Syria, and being trucked to a terrorist training session on attacking the West, including North America, his homeland.

He recounted how Islamic State commanders displayed maps and color-coded instructions, showing recruits like him how to strike major Western targets, get into restricted areas, kill people and attain martyrdom.

They envisioned “something as spectacular as 9/11,” he said. “They wanted to outdo Al Qaeda, make their mark.”

But Shehroze Chaudhry, the central figure in the 2018 podcast “Caliphate,” by The New York Times, was a fabulist who spun jihadist tales about killing for the Islamic State in Syria, Canadian and American intelligence and law enforcement officials contend.

washington post logoWashington Post, The New York Times could not verify ISIS claims in its ‘Caliphate’ podcast. Now it’s returning a prestigious award, Elahe Izadi and Paul Farhi, Dec. 19, 2020 (print ed.). The New York Times acknowledged Friday that a celebrated podcast that featured a would-be Islamic State terrorist’s account of committing atrocities in Syria could not be substantiated, completing a spectacular journalistic fall for the award-winning series and its primary reporter.

In several episodes of “Caliphate,” a Canadian man named Shehroze Chaudhry hauntingly described barbaric acts that included executing two hostages in Syria in 2014.

But after a nearly three-month review, the Times concluded that the podcast, co-hosted by reporter Rukmini Callimachi and audio producer Andy Mills, “did not meet our standards for accuracy,” according to an editor’s note now attached to the series.

Dec. 17

  virginia roberts giuffres st tropaz naomi cambpell

Epstein accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre, recruited by Mar-a-Lago member Jeffrey Epstein's operation from her work as a towel girl at poolside at the Trump-owned club in Florida, is shown in her travels at a party in St. Tropez in bygone days with such society figures as model Naomi Campbell, top right, and Epstein's friend, sex partner and alleged recruiter, Ghislaine Maxwell, back to camer at upper right. Maxwell is seeking release from pre-trial custody for the holidays pending trial on sex trafficking charges next summer.

New York Post, Jeffrey Epstein’s modeling agent pal Jean-Luc Brunel detained in Paris, Rebecca Rosenberg, Dec. 17, 2020. Jean-Luc Brunel, model-scout pal of late pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, has been taken into custody in France for questioning on suspicion of raping and trafficking minors, Paris prosecutors said.

jean luc brunelBrunel, who was being investigated as part of a French probe into the sexual abuse of women and girls by Epstein and his friends, was picked up Wednesday at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, officials said. He was about to board a flight to Dakar, Senegal, the Guardian reported.

Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre alleges that Brunel, 74, had once “gifted” the late financier three 12-year-old French girls from poor families for his birthday.

She alleged that Brunel bought them in Paris from their parents, promising to promote their modeling careers, then shipped them to New York to be sexually abused by Epstein. They were allegedly returned to France the following day.

Giuffre, who has claimed she was coerced into being Epstein’s “sex slave,” made the disturbing disclosure in court papers.

Brunel’s lawyer has previously said he denies the allegations. He has been dogged by sexual abuse claims for decades. Ghislaine Maxwell introduced Brunel to Epstein in the 1980s, according to the Guardian. Maxwell was arrested in July on charges she recruited girls and women to be abused by her and Epstein. She has pleaded not guilty.

washington post logogoogle logo customWashington Post, Nearly 40 states sue Google over search manipulation, marking the third antitrust salvo against the tech giant, Tony Romm, Dec. 17, 2020. The lawsuit by the state attorneys general marks the third competition case that U.S. regulators have filed against the search-and-advertising giant since October

 

Dec. 15

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Opinion: Plea to the Press: Don’t Make Trump 2021’s Shadow President, Matt Lewis, Dec. 15, 2020. BE BEST, MEDIA! As president, everything he says is news. Soon, that won’t be so. We have to learn not to take his bait.

right, in a file photo by Jim Watson of AFP via GettyThere’s a dirty little secret between Donald Trump (right, in a file photo by Jim Watson of AFP via Getty) and the media that at this point isn’t much of a secret.

A symbiosis exists between us; we use him and he uses us. Now that his presidency is mercifully taking its last gasp, can we quit him and return to a modicum of sanity and normalcy? Starting in January, can we string together a few Trump-free news cycles? More to the point: can we quit taking his bait? Or are we doomed to cover Trump’s antics as a sort of shadow presidency?

ny times logoNew York Times, An Agent’s Mistake Cost an N.B.A. Player $3 Million. He Paid Him Back, Sopan Deb, Dec. 15, 2020 (print ed.). All Bill Duffy had to do was inform the Miami Heat that Anthony Carter planned to return. Two decades after failing to do that, Duffy has made his client whole. 

washington post logoWashington Post,‘This is the reality’: Newsmax and One America grapple uneasily with Biden’s electoral college victory, Jeremy Barr, Dec. 15, 2020 (print ed.). As electors certified the presidential vote, the conservative outlets that have tried to outflank Fox News changed their tune on election denialism — slightly.

For the past six weeks, two upstart cable news channels — Newsmax and One America News — have tried to outflank Fox News from the right by embracing President Trump’s strategy of election denialism.

But on Monday, as the electoral college sealed Democrat Joe Biden’s victory, their paths seemed to diverge slightly.

Dec. 13

michael pack

washington post logomargaret sullivan 2015 photoWashington Post, Opinion: Restoring the Voice of America after a Trump ‘wrecking ball’ won’t be easy. But it’s worth saving, Margaret Sullivan, right, Dec. 13, 2020. The global news organization has been under siege by CEO Michael Pack (shown above), who claims to be rooting out bias.

washington post logoWashington Post, John le Carré, who lifted the spy novel to literature, dies at 89, Matt Schudel, Dec. 13, 2020. John le Carré, a British author who drew on the enigma of his incorrigibly criminal father and his own experiences as a Cold War-era spy to write powerful novels about a bleak, morally compromised world in which international intrigue and personal betrayal went hand in hand, died Dec. 12 at a hospital in Cornwall, England. He was 89.

The cause was pneumonia, his U.S. publisher, Viking Penguin, said in a statement.

In a literary career spanning six decades, Mr. le Carré published more than two dozen books. His best-known titles, including “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold” (1963) and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (1974), sold in the millions and were made into acclaimed film and television adaptations. More than a master of espionage writing, he was widely regarded as an elegant prose stylist whose skills and reputation were not limited by genre or era.

Dec. 12

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: I’m burning a source. Here’s why, Radley Balko, Dec. 12, 2020. For the past several months, I’ve been working on a new series about policing in Little Rock. In 2018, I published an investigation into how the city had been conducting illegal no-knock drug raids, and then another into police misconduct disciplinary problems in the city’s police department.

A Little Rock attorney lied to me during an off-the-record conversation, then mischaracterized that conversation in a sworn court document.

Dec. 10

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S., states sue Facebook as an illegal monopoly, setting stage for potential breakup, Tony Romm, Dec. 10, 2020 (print ed.). The U.S. government and 48 attorneys general filed landmark antitrust lawsuits against Facebook on Wednesday, seeking to break up the social networking giant over charges it engaged in illegal, anti-competitive tactics to buy, bully and kill its rivals.

facebook logoThe twin lawsuits filed in federal district court allege that Facebook under its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, behaved for years as an unlawful monopoly — one that had repeatedly weaponized its vast stores of data, seemingly limitless wealth and savvy corporate muscle to fend off threats and maintain its stature as one of the most widely used social networking services in the world.

The state and federal complaints chiefly challenge Facebook’s acquisition of two companies: Instagram, a photo-sharing tool, and WhatsApp, a messaging service. Investigators said the purchases ultimately helped Facebook remove potentially potent rivals from the digital marketplace, allowing the tech giant to enrich itself on advertising dollars at the cost of users, who as a result have fewer social networking options at their disposal.

Read the state and federal lawsuits against Facebook

The lawsuits together represent the most significant political and legal threats to Facebook in its more than 16-year history, setting up a high-profile clash between U.S. regulators and one of Silicon Valley’s most profitable firms that could take years to resolve. Antitrust regulators explicitly asked a court to consider forcing Facebook to sell off Instagram and WhatsApp to remedy their competition concerns. Such a punishment would unwind Zuckerberg’s digital empire and severely constrain Facebook’s ambitions.

The Federal Trade Commission, led by Republican Chairman Joe Simons, brought its lawsuit in a D.C. district court. Letitia James, the Democratic attorney general of New York, led her Democratic and Republican counterparts from dozens of states and territories in filing their complaint in the same venue. Appearing at a news conference, James on Wednesday sharply rebuked Facebook for having put “profits ahead of consumers’ welfare and privacy.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Silicon Valley feared Facebook’s bullying tactics years before they came to the attention of regulators, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Dec. 10, 2020 (print ed.). Facebook hasn’t kept its promises of independence to WhatsApp and Instagram.

Facebook executives approached Ali Partovi, the creator of a popular app that used Facebook’s data, a decade ago with a threatening ultimatum. Sell your company to us or we will shut you down, according to legal filings. Partovi’s app, iLike, had built a predecessor to the “like” button.

facebook logoPartovi refused the offer. Shortly after, Facebook discontinued features that iLike relied upon, pushing Partovi to sell his start-up to Myspace for a fraction of its previous value. Facebook then built its own “like” button, modeled after iLike.

The negotiations — when Facebook was a much smaller player — are early evidence of the hardball tactics to neutralize competition that got the social network to where it is today: a platform that counts more than a third of the world’s population as monthly users of its family of apps, which include WhatsApp messaging and the photo-sharing service Instagram.

That behavior is now the subject of sweeping antitrust lawsuits filed Wednesday from 48 state attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission. The suits allege that the company is a monopoly that abused its market power through years of anti-competitive conduct and illegal acquisitions, enabling Facebook to become the world’s largest social network while stripping users of alternatives.

 

Dec. 10

washington post logoWashington Post, A North Carolina judge is blocking journalists from his courtroom. One objected — and got handcuffed, Elahe Izadi and Mark Berman, Dec. 11, 2020. The judge has given no reason for the order in a county wracked by racial-justice protests. That’s causing concern for transparency advocates.

It started last week, when a District Court judge blocked them from a hearing in his courtroom. Though many assumed it had to do with the pandemic, he offered no explanation.

So this week, three newspapers filed a motion asking for clarity and demanding access to observe a Tuesday hearing in a case that has drawn the attention of local Black Lives Matter activists. One publisher pushed the issue harder, walking into the hearing and telling Judge Fred Wilkins he had a right to be there.

That’s when the handcuffs came out.

Dec. 9

ny times logoNew York Times, FireEye, a Top Cybersecurity Firm, Says It Was Hacked by a Nation-State, David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, Dec. 9, 2020 (print ed.). The Silicon Valley company said hackers — almost certainly Russian — made off with tools that could be used to mount new attacks around the world.

For years, the cybersecurity firm FireEye has been the first call for government agencies and companies around the world who have been hacked by the most sophisticated attackers, or fear they might be.

Now it looks like the hackers — in this case, evidence points to Russia’s intelligence agencies — may be exacting their revenge.

FireEye revealed on Tuesday that its own systems were pierced by what it called “a nation with top-tier offensive capabilities.” The company said hackers used “novel techniques” to make off with its own tool kit, which could be useful in mounting new attacks around the world.

It was a stunning theft, akin to bank robbers who, having cleaned out local vaults, then turned around and stole the F.B.I.’s investigative tools. In fact, FireEye said on Tuesday, moments after the stock market closed, that it had called in the F.B.I.

michael pack

washington post logoWashington Post, Voice of America interim director pushed out by Trump-appointed overseer in final flurry of actions to assert control, Paul Farhi, Dec. 9, 2020 (print ed.). Trump appointee overseeing VOA won’t cooperate with Biden transition team.

The head of the agency that oversees Voice of America removed the international broadcasting service’s interim director on Tuesday, in a move apparently aimed at asserting greater control over its editorial operations.

voice of america logoMichael Pack, shown above in a file photo, a Trump appointee who has made sweeping and controversial changes at VOA and its sister broadcasting networks, pushed out Elez Biberaj, a VOA veteran whom Pack had appointed as the head of the service on an interim basis in June.

Biberaj, who has worked as a journalist for 40 years at VOA, had quietly resisted Pack’s attempts to change the news organization into one more aligned with President Trump’s views and policies.

Pack, who runs a federal agency called the U.S. Agency for Global Media that supervises VOA and four other government-funded news and information networks, has asserted the right to breach a regulatory “firewall” that prohibits political appointees from direct involvement in the work of journalists at VOA and sister agencies, such as Radio Free Asia and Middle East Broadcasting Networks.

washington post logofacebook logoWashington Post, State, federal authorities expected to file antitrust lawsuits against Facebook, Tony Romm, Dec. 9, 2020 (print ed.). The filings from more than 40 attorneys general and the U.S. government will allege the tech giant engaged in unlawful tactics to buy or kill off its rivals and solidify its dominance in social networking.

ny times logoNew York Times, In a reversal, YouTube will remove new misleading videos that claim fraud or errors influenced the 2020 election, Davey Alba, Dec. 9, 2020. YouTube on Wednesday announced changes to how it handles videos about the 2020 presidential election, saying it would remove youtube logo Customnew videos that mislead people by claiming that widespread fraud or errors influenced the outcome of the election.

The company said it was making the change because Tuesday was the so-called safe harbor deadline — the date by which all state-level election challenges, such as recounts and audits, are supposed to be completed. YouTube said that enough states have certified their election results to determine that Joseph R. Biden Jr. is the president-elect.

Dec. 7

ny times logoNew York Times, Bob Dylan Sells His Songwriting Catalog in Blockbuster Deal, Ben Sisario, Dec. 7, 2020. Universal Music purchased Bob Dylan’s songwriting catalog, including classics like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “The Times They Are A-Changin’” and “Like a Rolling Stone.”

The deal, which covers Dylan’s entire career, from his earliest tunes to his latest album, “Rough and Rowdy Ways,” was struck directly with Dylan, 79, who has long controlled the vast majority of his own songwriting copyrights. The price was not disclosed, but is estimated at more than $300 million.

washington post logoWashington Post, FCC announces $9.2 billion in awards to provide rural areas with broadband access, Christian Davenport, Dec. 7, 2020. SpaceX joins Charter Communications, LTD Broadband and the Rural Electric Cooperative Consortium in receiving large grants to provide broadband Internet service to millions of Americans who now lack access to reliable service.

fcc logoThe Federal Communications Commission on Monday awarded $9.2 billion in funding to help companies provide broadband Internet service to millions of Americans without access to reliable service.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called the awards the “single largest step ever taken to bridge the digital divide.”

Among the big winners was Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which has been launching dozens of satellites at a time in a bold attempt to build a massive constellation in space that would help serve remote or rural areas. The company received $886 million from the FCC to help serve hundreds of thousands of customers in 35 states, a huge boost in its quest to pull off a feat even Musk has said had a high likelihood of failure.

So far the company has launched nearly 1,000 satellites as part of its Starlink constellation and has begun a pilot program in the northern United States and southern Canada it calls “Better Than Nothing.”

The company has approval to launch some 12,000 satellites, and as the number increases, so will the reliability and speed of its service, the company has said. It plans to expand its beta service by early next year and “rapidly expanding to near global coverage of the populated world by 2021,” according to its website.

Biden, top Democrats lay groundwork for multibillion-dollar push to boost U.S. broadband

The funding gives SpaceX an even bigger lead over its competitors in the race to build the Internet in space. Recently, OneWeb emerged from bankruptcy and appointed a new CEO. Jeff Bezos’s Amazon also intends to flood Earth’s orbit with its own satellites in a project it calls Kuiper that it has said would bring broadband to “unserved and underserved communities around the world.” (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

In a statement, Pai said the awards would bring “welcome news to millions of unconnected rural Americans who for too long have been on the wrong side of the digital divide. They now stand to gain access to high-speed, high-quality broadband service.” The winning bidders must provide financial statements, coverage maps and certify that their network is capable of delivering “to at least 95% of the required number of locations in each relevant state,” the FCC said.

Dec. 6

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump is leaving press freedom in tatters. Biden can take these bold steps to repair the damage, Margaret Sullivan, right, Dec. 6, margaret sullivan 2015 photo2020. In words and deeds, Biden should act quickly to restore America’s reputation and stop the attacks on journalists.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why Do So Many Americans Think the Election Was Stolen? Ross Douthat, Dec. 6, 2020 (print ed.). Looking for the reasons behind a seemingly unreasonable belief.

There have been few surprises this past month in how Donald Trump has dealt with the reality of his electoral defeat.

Anyone familiar with his career could have predicted that he would claim to have been cheated out of victory.

So far, so predictable. But speaking as a cynical observer of the Trump era, one feature of November did crack my jaded shell a bit: not his behavior or the system’s response, but the sheer scale of the belief among conservatives that the election was really stolen, measured not just in polling data but in conversations and arguments, online and in person, with people I would not have expected to embrace it.

Drawn from my conversations in the past few weeks, here’s an attempt at a taxonomy of these unlikely seeming fraud believers.

  • The conspiracy-curious normie.
  • The outsider-intellectual
  • The recently radicalized

At the moment, the voter-fraud narrative is being deployed, often by people more cynical than the groups I’ve just described, to help an outgoing president — one who twice lost the popular vote and displayed gross incompetence in the face of his administration’s greatest challenge — stake a permanent claim to the leadership of his party and establish himself as the presumptive Republican nominee in 2024.

And it’s being used to push aside the more compelling narrative that the Republican Party could take away from 2020, which is that Trump’s presidency demonstrated that populism can provide a foundation for conservatism, but to build on it the right needs a very different leader than the man Joe Biden just defeated.

washington post logoWashington Post, SNL skewers Giuliani and Trump’s ballot fraud claims, Helena Andrews-Dyer, Dec. 6, 2020. On "Saturday Night Live," Rudy Giuliani's flatulence and Cecily Strong's drunken conspiracy theorist Melissa Carone stole the cold open.

In its first episode after celebrating President-elect Joe Biden’s win, “Saturday Night Live” lampooned voter fraud conspiracy theories and later turned the punchlines inward to address its own controversy.

First, the cold open poked fun at political theater that was practically made for Studio 8H. Real life took a decidedly bonkers turn last Wednesday as the Michigan House of Representatives Oversight Committee heard testimony on possible election fraud from Trump campaign attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani and the campaign’s star witness Melissa Carone, who claimed with no evidence that tens of thousands of votes had been counted twice.

The opening scene began with SNL player Mikey Day assuming the part of Michigan state Rep. Steven Johnson (R) who introduced the hearing thusly: “It is my honor and also one of the great horrors of my life to welcome President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.”

SNL’s famed chameleon Kate McKinnon then took over as a bald (and very flatulent) Giuliani. “It’s great to be in a courtroom where I’m not the defendant,” she said.

McKinnon-as-Giuliani then swore that he and Trump would overturn illegal votes in “Georgylvania,” “Pennsachusettes,” and “North Dacanada.” When Rep. Johnson countered that the campaign’s voter fraud claims were based on “zero actual evidence,” Giuliani brought in his “highly intelligent, barely intoxicated” eyewitnesses.

First at-bat was Cecily Strong as a dead ringer for the real life Carone with black frame glasses, a blonde messy top knot and a business-y blazer.

Hollywood PoliTrivia, The often-forgotten third industry of Hollywood, Wayne Madsen, right, Dec. 6, 2020. The thirteen-story Capitol Records Tower is almost as wayne madsen screen shoticonic as the famed "Hollywood" sign overlooking Tinsel Town from the Hollywood Hills in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Musical artists recording their singles and albums at the Capitol Records Tower did so at a time when their hits sometimes ended up as part of motion picture scores. During the heyday of Hollywood, movies, television shows, and record hits were all interwoven in what was then the entertainment capital of the world.

Radio listeners around the world were also keenly aware of Hollywood's connection to music when, every week and beginning on July 4, 1970, deejay Casey Kasem played "Billboard" magazine's top popular music hits on "American Top 40."

Dec. 3

washington post logoWashington Post, DOJ sues Facebook, alleging it improperly hired foreign workers, Tony Romm and Abigail Hauslohner,  The Justice Department on Thursday sued Facebook over allegations that it discriminated against Americans in the way it hired temporary foreign workers for thousands of facebook logowell-paid positions.

The lawsuit contends that Facebook failed to properly advertise at least 2,600 jobs — and consider applications from U.S. citizens — before it offered the spots to foreign workers whom the tech giant was sponsoring for green cards granting permanent residence.

Facebook’s practices violated federal laws that require employers to demonstrate that there are no qualified U.S. workers available before it offers positions to temporary foreign workers it is sponsoring, the Justice Department said. The government sought unspecified monetary damages and other penalties against the tech giant for the alleged violations, which occurred in 2018 and 2019.

washington post logoWashington Post, Project Veritas’s James O’Keefe crashed a private CNN teleconference. CNN says he may have broken the law, Jeremy Barr, Dec. 3, 2020. Over the last few years, Project Veritas has gathered evidence in an effort to prove that CNN slants its coverage to hurt President Trump.

In the past, that has meant surreptitiously recording and releasing videos of unsuspecting CNN employees talking about the network’s coverage, as well as releasing leaked tapes of comments made by network executives and staffers in editorial meetings.

cnn logoBut on Tuesday, Project Veritas — an organization that has used deceptive tactics in some of its attempts to capture proof of what it says is liberal bias and corruption in mainstream media and government — may have crossed a line.

To help promote a new cache of two months of recordings of CNN’s daily morning editorial calls, the group’s founder, James O’Keefe, filmed himself calling in to the network’s 9 a.m. meeting and pressing CNN President Jeff Zucker on the network’s journalistic integrity.

While Project Veritas had previously disseminated covert recordings of CNN’s daily meeting, in this video O’Keefe himself could be seen dialing in to a private CNN call — apparently without the knowledge or consent of participants.

washington post logoWashington Post, Parler’s got a porn problem: Adult businesses target pro-Trump social network, Craig Timberg, Drew Harwell and Rachel Lerman, Dec. 3, 2020 (print ed.). Anyone following the #sexytrumpgirl hashtag on Parler, a social media site increasingly popular with conservatives, got an eyeful one recent Thursday evening as images of topless women and links to hardcore pornography websites appeared at a rapid-fire rate, often more than one per minute.

The surge of #sexytrumpgirl posts highlighted a broader dilemma for Parler: The site’s lax moderation policies, in keeping with its claims to being a bastion of free speech, have helped it become a magnet for pornographers, escort services and online sex merchants using hashtags targeting conservatives, such as #keepamericasexy and #milfsfortrump2020.

The pornography threatens to intrude on users not seeking sexual material and has the potential to complicate hopes the site may have to expand advertising, which is now limited. Experts on the impact of pornography say major companies typically avoid having their sales pitches appear alongside controversial imagery.

Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, for example, prohibit sexually explicit images and videos, while Twitter generally allows them so long as they show the images or actions of consenting adults.

Parler once banned all pornography but in recent months revised its terms of service to permit essentially anything that’s legal, making its policy close to Twitter’s, if slightly more permissive.

washington post logoWashington Post, Kayleigh McEnany’s husband, an MLB pitcher, declines to wear mask at White House briefing, Des Bieler, Dec. 3, 2020 (print ed.). Sean Gilmartin, a free agent MLB pitcher and the husband of White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, declined to wear a mask during a White House briefing Wednesday despite being asked to do so by a New York Times photographer.

According to a pool report by Chris Johnson of the Washington Blade, Gilmartin was standing near the back of the White House briefing room while major league baseball mlb logoMcEnany conducted a news conference for approximately 25 minutes. New York Times photographer Doug Mills, a board member of the White House Correspondents’ Association, pointed out to Gilmartin that there is a policy requiring mask-wearing in White House press areas.

At that point, per the pool report, a White House staffer “incredulously” asked, “Kayleigh’s husband?” As Mills replied that the rules on mask-wearing applied to everyone, the staffer exited the room with Gilmartin, who played last season for the Tampa Bay Rays. Mills subsequently told Johnson that he was unaware of Gilmartin’s identity when he confronted the veteran relief pitcher.

Zeke Martin of the Associated Press, the president of the WHCA, told The Washington Post via email that his organization has “repeatedly encouraged everyone in the press areas to wear masks at all time, including with signage and frequent reminders that failing to do so puts themselves and others around them at greater risk.”

Dec. 2

washington post logoWashington Post, Parler’s got a porn problem: Adult businesses target pro-Trump social network, Craig Timberg, Drew Harwell and Rachel Lerman, Dec. 2, 2020. Anyone following the #sexytrumpgirl hashtag on Parler, a social media site increasingly popular with conservatives, got an eyeful one recent Thursday evening as images of topless women and links to hardcore pornography websites appeared at a rapid-fire rate, often more than one per minute.

The surge of #sexytrumpgirl posts highlighted a broader dilemma for Parler: The site’s lax moderation policies, in keeping with its claims to being a bastion of free speech, have helped it become a magnet for pornographers, escort services and online sex merchants using hashtags targeting conservatives, such as #keepamericasexy and #milfsfortrump2020.

The pornography threatens to intrude on users not seeking sexual material and has the potential to complicate hopes the site may have to expand advertising, which is now limited. Experts on the impact of pornography say major companies typically avoid having their sales pitches appear alongside controversial imagery.

Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, for example, prohibit sexually explicit images and videos, while Twitter generally allows them so long as they show the images or actions of consenting adults.

Parler once banned all pornography but in recent months revised its terms of service to permit essentially anything that’s legal, making its policy close to Twitter’s, if slightly more permissive.

washington post logoWashington Post, To boost voter-fraud claims, Trump advocate Sidney Powell turns to unusual source: The longtime operator of QAnon’s Internet home, Drew Harwell, Dec. 2, 2020 (print ed.). In her legal quest to reverse the reality of last month’s election, President Trump’s recently disavowed attorney Sidney Powell has gained a strange new ally: The longtime administrator of the message board 8kun, the QAnon conspiracy theory’s Internet home.

Powell on Tuesday filed an affidavit from Ron Watkins, the son of 8kun’s owner Jim Watkins, in a Georgia lawsuit alleging that Dominion Voting Systems machines used in the election had been corrupted as part of a sprawling voter-fraud conspiracy.

Powell has claimed that a diabolical scheme backed by global communists had invisibly shifted votes with help from a mysterious computer algorithm pioneered by the long-dead Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez — a wild story debunked by fact-checkers as a “fantasy parade” and devoid of actual proof.

No real evidence was included in Watkins’ affidavit, either. But Watkins, who said in the affidavit that he lives in Japan, nevertheless speculated that — based on his recent reading of the Dominion software’s online user guide — it may be “within the realm of possibility” for a biased poll worker to fraudulently switch votes.

Watkins’ affidavit marks one of the first official connections between a notable player in the QAnon conspiracy universe and Trump’s muddled multistate legal campaign, which some of the president’s allies have labeled, in the words of Chris Christie, a “national embarrassment.”

But many similar Trump-QAnon overtures have already played out on TV and social media since the election nearly one month ago. Watkins made similar allegations in an unchallenged segment on the far-right One America News network, which Trump retweeted to his 88 million followers last month.

Powell and her client Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, are effectively celebrities to QAnon loyalists, who posit online that both will soon help “release the Kraken” and expose a bombshell that could salvage a Trump second term, vanquish his enemies and unveil the hidden machinations of a communist conspiracy.

Since claiming to have resigned last month from 8kun, Watkins has devoted much of his online activity to claims about unfounded suspicions regarding Dominion, an 18-year-old voting-technology company whose computer programs, ballot printers and other products are used by elections officials in 28 states. Trump and his supporters have loudly attacked the Denver-based company as having contributed in some unproven way to steal the vote.

In a lengthy rebuttal last week, Dominion said that Powell’s claims were nonsensical: Manual recounts, machine tests and independent audits had reaffirmed that the voting systems had given accurate, undistorted results. Her “wild and reckless allegations,” the company added, were “not only demonstrably false” but had “led to stalking, harassment, and death threats to Dominion employees.”

In his affidavit, Watkins called himself an information security expert with nine years of experience as a “network and information defense analyst” and security engineer. But he did not mention that his experience had come largely through 8kun, the site once called 8chan that was knocked offline for nearly three months last year.

The message board is infamous for its anonymous threads of racist bile and extremist threats, and the site was used by gunmen to announce and celebrate three fatal attacks last year at an El Paso Walmart, a San Diego-area synagogue and a New Zealand mosque.

Major web-services providers that form the Internet’s backbone have refused to work with the site, with one executive telling The Washington Post last year that Watkins’ site had facilitated “mass shootings and extreme hate speech with intolerable consequences.”

Q has posted more than 4,000 times since 2017, but only three times since the election, sparking a mix of anxiety and faith-based recommitment among QAnon believers.

Dec. 1

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump threatens to veto major defense bill unless Congress repeals Section 230, a legal shield for tech giants, Tony Romm, Dec. 1, 2020. President Trump on Tuesday threatened to veto an annual defense bill unless Congress repeals the federal law that spares Facebook, Google and other social-media sites from legal liability over their content-moderation decisions.

Trump delivered the ultimatum targeting the digital protections, known as Section 230, in a late-night tweet that marked a dramatic escalation in his attacks against Silicon Valley over unproven allegations that the country’s tech giants exhibit bias against conservatives.

twitter bird Custom“Section 230, which is a liability shielding gift from the U.S. to ‘Big Tech’ (the only companies in America that have it - corporate welfare!), is a serious threat to our National Security & Election Integrity,” Trump tweeted.

Unless the “very dangerous & unfair Section 230 is not completely terminated as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA),” Trump continued, “I will be forced to unequivocally VETO the Bill when sent to the very beautiful Resolute desk.”

Section 230: The little law that defined how the Internet works

facebook logoFCC push to rethink legal protections for tech giants marks major turn amid months of political pressure

Section 230 is a decades-old federal law that spares websites from being held liable for their decisions about the posts, photos, videos and other content they take down or leave online. It is considered one of the web’s foundational laws, crafted in large part to facilitate free expression.

Many lawmakers — Democrats and Republicans — have sought to repeal Section 230 in recent years to hold tech giants accountable for failing to police a wide array of harmful google logo customcontent, including hate speech and election disinformation. But Trump and his Republican allies have seized on the debate to advance their arguments that Facebook, Google, Twitter and others exhibit political bias against conservatives — a charge for which they have provided little evidence, and one that the companies themselves deny.

Trump has ratcheted up his attacks as social-media companies have taken more aggressive action against his most controversial posts, including his tweets falsely claiming he won the 2020 presidential election. Tying the fight to the NDAA, a must-pass defense bill, threatens to inject a heavy dose of partisan politics into an annual national security debate.

washington post logoWashington Post, To boost voter-fraud claims, Trump advocate Sidney Powell turns to unusual source: The longtime operator of QAnon’s Internet home, Drew Harwell, Dec. 1, 2020. In her legal quest to reverse the reality of last month’s election, President Trump’s recently disavowed attorney Sidney Powell has gained a strange new ally: The longtime administrator of the message board 8kun, the QAnon conspiracy theory’s Internet home.

Powell on Tuesday filed an affidavit from Ron Watkins, the son of 8kun’s owner Jim Watkins, in a Georgia lawsuit alleging that Dominion Voting Systems machines used in the election had been corrupted as part of a sprawling voter-fraud conspiracy.

Powell has claimed that a diabolical scheme backed by global communists had invisibly shifted votes with help from a mysterious computer algorithm pioneered by the long-dead Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez — a wild story debunked by fact-checkers as a “fantasy parade” and devoid of actual proof.

No real evidence was included in Watkins’ affidavit, either. But Watkins, who said in the affidavit that he lives in Japan, nevertheless speculated that — based on his recent reading of the Dominion software’s online user guide — it may be “within the realm of possibility” for a biased poll worker to fraudulently switch votes.

Watkins’ affidavit marks one of the first official connections between a notable player in the QAnon conspiracy universe and Trump’s muddled multistate legal campaign, which some of the president’s allies have labeled, in the words of Chris Christie, a “national embarrassment.”

But many similar Trump-QAnon overtures have already played out on TV and social media since the election nearly one month ago. Watkins made similar allegations in an unchallenged segment on the far-right One America News network, which Trump retweeted to his 88 million followers last month.

Powell and her client Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, are effectively celebrities to QAnon loyalists, who posit online that both will soon help “release the Kraken” and expose a bombshell that could salvage a Trump second term, vanquish his enemies and unveil the hidden machinations of a communist conspiracy.

Since claiming to have resigned last month from 8kun, Watkins has devoted much of his online activity to claims about unfounded suspicions regarding Dominion, an 18-year-old voting-technology company whose computer programs, ballot printers and other products are used by elections officials in 28 states. Trump and his supporters have loudly attacked the Denver-based company as having contributed in some unproven way to steal the vote.

In a lengthy rebuttal last week, Dominion said that Powell’s claims were nonsensical: Manual recounts, machine tests and independent audits had reaffirmed that the voting systems had given accurate, undistorted results. Her “wild and reckless allegations,” the company added, were “not only demonstrably false” but had “led to stalking, harassment, and death threats to Dominion employees.”

In his affidavit, Watkins called himself an information security expert with nine years of experience as a “network and information defense analyst” and security engineer. But he did not mention that his experience had come largely through 8kun, the site once called 8chan that was knocked offline for nearly three months last year.

The message board is infamous for its anonymous threads of racist bile and extremist threats, and the site was used by gunmen to announce and celebrate three fatal attacks last year at an El Paso Walmart, a San Diego-area synagogue and a New Zealand mosque.

Major web-services providers that form the Internet’s backbone have refused to work with the site, with one executive telling The Washington Post last year that Watkins’ site had facilitated “mass shootings and extreme hate speech with intolerable consequences.”

Q has posted more than 4,000 times since 2017, but only three times since the election, sparking a mix of anxiety and faith-based recommitment among QAnon believers.

 

November

Nov. 30

ny times logoamazon logo smallNew York Times, The Luxury E-Commerce Wars Heat Up, Elizabeth Paton and Vanessa Friedman, Nov. 30, 20200 (print ed.). On one side: Amazon. On the other: a new alliance of brands and platforms. Who will win?

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The King of Trump TV Thinks You’re Dumb Enough to Buy It, Ben Smith, Nov. 30, 20200 (print ed.). Chris Ruddy, the C.E.O. of Newsmax, has found a business opportunity in feeding Trump supporters the fantasy that the president could still win the election.

Mr. Ruddy, a Long Island-born 55-year-old, has emerged as the most audacious media entrepreneur of the Trump election fantasy. The chief executive of Newsmax and part of President Trump’s South Florida social circle, Mr. Ruddy has capitalized on the anger of Mr. Trump’s supporters at Fox News for delivering the unwelcome news, first in Arizona and then nationally, that Mr. Trump had lost his re-election campaign. On Newsmax, however, the fight is still on, the imaginary election-altering Kraken is yet to be released, Mr. Trump is striving valiantly for four more years and the ratings are incredible.

Newsmax’s prime-time ratings, which averaged 58,000 before Election Day, soared to 1.1 million afterward for its top shows, with one host, Greg Kelly, cheerleading on Twitter and on the air for “the QUEST TO COUNT all the LEGAL VOTES.” The ratings even drew a congratulatory call from Mr. Trump himself, my colleagues Michael Grynbaum and John Koblin reported last week.

But Mr. Ruddy is not the sort of true-believing ideologue his viewers may imagine in the foxhole alongside them. He is, rather, perhaps the purest embodiment of another classic television type, the revenue-minded cynic for whom the substance of programming is just a path to money and power.

Mr. Ruddy is hardly alone in the sudden scramble to convert Mr. Trump’s political profile into cash.

The noisiest effort is led by Hicks Equity Partners, the family business of a Republican National Committee co-chairman and friend of Donald Trump Jr., Thomas Hicks Jr. The Hicks group has sought to lead buyouts of both Newsmax and its smaller and stranger rival, the One America News Network.

Other possibilities for the president to cash in on his stature include creating a new Trump TV network from scratch, either as a television broadcast channel, a package of online video or even a way to direct cash into the Trump family political operation.

ny times logoNew York Times, TV Review: Which Nxivm Show Is Better? An Expert Investigates, Barry Meier, Nov. 30, 20200 (print ed.). The reporter who broke the story of the cult for The New York Times thought he was done with Nxivm. But he couldn’t resist seeing how “The Vow” and “Seduced” compared with his own experiences.

“The Vow” on HBO and “Seduced” on Starz have a combined running time of 13 hours. I make cameos in both shows as the reporter for The New York Times who in 2017 broke the story about Nxivm (pronounced Nex-e-um), and had fast forwarded through them to check out how good I looked. (Quite good, it turns out.)

The Nxivm story was bizarre and sickening. The group, which was based near Albany, N.Y., offered “self-improvement” courses, claiming they would help participants overcome fears and realize their potential. But Nxivm was a misogynistic, mind-control cult whose adherents referred to its leader, Keith Raniere, as “Vanguard,” and where women who joined a secret sorority were branded with a symbol containing his initials. Over the past two years, several Nxivm officials have pleaded guilty to federal charges and Raniere, following his conviction for sex trafficking and other crimes, was recently sentenced to 120 years in prison.

I’d had my fill of Nxivm. But the documentaries have become pandemic TV hits and, given my role in them, plenty of people have offered me their opinions of the shows. They have included friends and acquaintances I wouldn’t have expected to spend evenings absorbed by a sex cult. Then, my interest was further piqued when Apatow tweeted, “I may need to do a 300 hour podcast to explain why The Vow goes so much easier on the NXIVM cult than Seduced.”

I decided to watch the documentaries more closely to see how their depictions of Nxivm jibed with my impressions. They struck me as starkly different from each other. “The Vow” resembles a crime show that follows several Nxivm defectors and the actress Catherine Oxenberg, whose daughter India became a member of the cult, in real time as they try to alert law enforcement authorities to its horrors. “Seduced,” in which the Oxenbergs are the central characters, is a study of the coercive techniques used by cults and delves deeply into the abuse that Nxivm visited on its female members.

I watched “The Vow” first because I played a part in its story. I learned about Nxivm from the two filmmakers, Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer, who would go on to direct the show. The couple had previously made “The Square,” a well-received documentary about the Arab Spring, and we met in 2016 when they approached me about making a documentary based on a book I had written about a former FBI agent, Robert A. Levinson, who disappeared in Iran.

Nov. 27

ny times logoNew York Times, Pushed by the Pandemic, Amazon Goes on a Hiring Spree Without Equal, Karen Weise, Nov. 27, 2020. The company added 427,300 employees in 10 months for a work force of more than 1.2 million people globally, which approaches the population of Dallas. The hiring has taken place at headquarters in Seattle, at warehouses in rural communities and suburbs, and in countries such as India and Italy.

amazon logo smallAmazon added 427,300 employees between January and October, pushing its work force to more than 1.2 million people globally, up more than 50 percent from a year ago. Its number of workers now approaches the entire population of Dallas.

The spree has accelerated since the onset of the pandemic, which has turbocharged Amazon’s business and made it a winner of the crisis. Starting in July, the company brought on about 350,000 employees, or 2,800 a day. Most have been warehouse workers, but Amazon has also hired software engineers and hardware specialists to power enterprises such as cloud computing, streaming entertainment and devices, which have boomed in the pandemic.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Horse-race political analysis is important — and flawed. We need more moral journalism, Michael Gerson, right, Nov. 27, 2020 (print ed.). michael gerson file photoMany of our most serious divisions have become openly moral. In the current case, the president and his strongest supporters believe that their cause — the maintenance of power — is worth the massive invalidation of legitimate votes in disproportionately Black urban areas. They claim this is a moral action — to fight socialism, or to protect tradition, or to serve their illustrious leader, or whatever.

They are wrong. And only an ethical argument can demonstrate it. It is racist to seek the invalidation of mainly Black votes in Detroit, Milwaukee, Philadelphia or Atlanta. It is a violation of morality and an attack on democracy to throw away valid votes for nakedly political reasons.

This is not to argue against the importance of horse-race journalism or issues journalism, both of which will always have their place. It is only to put in a good word for moral journalism and moral commentary — which reveal the names and faces of those who suffer, and remind us of the duties we have to one another.

World Socialist Web Site, Commentary on 'Meet the Censored': Andre Damon, Matt Taibbi, Nov. 27, 2020. The following interview was conducted by journalist Matt Taibbi, the author of The Great Derangement (2009); Griftopia (2010); The Divide (2014); Insane Clown President (2017); I Can't Breathe (2017); and Hate Inc. (2019).

For much of the last four years, the WSWS  World Socialist Web Site] has been a bit of a canary in the coal mine, when it comes to new forms of censorship and speech restrictions.

Many Americans didn't pay attention to new forms of content moderation until May, 2019, when a group of prominent tech platforms banned figures like Alex Jones and Milo Yiannopolis. A legend quickly spread that such campaigns exclusively target the right. Long before then, however, the WSWS had been trying to google logo customsound the alarm about the impact of corporate speech moderation on dissenting voices on the progressive left. As far back as August of 2017, the WSWS sent an open letter to Google, demanding that it stop the "political blacklisting" of their site, as well as others.

Like many alternative news sites, WSWS noticed a steep decline in traffic in 2016-2017, after Donald Trump was elected and we began to hear calls for more regulation of "fake news." Determined to search out the reason, the site conducted a series of analyses that proved crucial in helping convince outlets like the New York Times to cover the issue. In its open letter to Google, the WSWS described inexplicable changes to search results in their political bailiwick:

Google searches for "Leon Trotsky" yielded 5,893 impressions (appearances of the WSWS in search results) in May of this year. In July, the same search yielded exactly zero impressions for the WSWS, which is the Internet publication of the international movement founded by Leon Trotsky in 1938.

The WSWS connected the change to Project Owl, a plan announced by Google in April of 2017 designed to "surface more authoritative content."

When I called Google about a year later for a story on a related subject, they explained the concept of "authority" as an exercise in weighting some credentials over others. So, I was told, an old search for "baseball" might first return a page for your local little league, while a new one would send you to the site for Major League Baseball.

The rub was that Google was now pushing viewers away from alternative sources, such that an article in the New York Times about Trotskyism might be ranked ahead of the world's leading Trotskyite media organ. Queries had to be right on the nose to call up a whole host of alternative sites, all of which had seen sharp drops in their Google search results.

The WSWS listed many of them: Alternet down 63 percent, Common Dreams down 37 percent, Democracy Now! down 36 percent, down 25 percent, etc. Even WikiLeaks, in the middle of an international furor over Russiagate, was down 30 percent.

In the years since, the WSWS has been one of the only major media outlets in the U.S. to regularly focus on tech censorship issues, frequently showing an interest in constitutional principles curiously absent in traditionally "liberal" publications. This has won the site an unpleasant brand of notoriety with tech platforms. In a recent Senate hearing, Google CEO Sundar Pichai referenced the WSWS when challenged by Utah Republican Mike Lee to name one left-wing "high profile person or entity" it had censored.

TK reached out to Andre Damon, writer and editor for the WSWS, to ask about the site's experiences:

TK: There was recently an incident involving the Twitter presence of International Youth and Students for Social Equality. Can you explain what happened? Has the WSWS had any other issues with Twitter over the years?

Damon: On November 11, Twitter suspended the account of the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (US) without explanation. The IYSSE is the student movement of the Socialist Equality Parties around the world, which are affiliated with the World Socialist Web Site.

When we wrote to Twitter to demand the reinstatement of the account, Twitter replied vaguely, hinting that the IYSSE was operating multiple accounts. We responded that the IYSSE has chapters all over the world, which are officially recognized on dozens of campuses, including New York University, the University of Michigan, and Berlin's Humboldt University, where the IYSSE holds multiple seats in the student parliament. Each of these chapters, legitimately, has its own social media presence.

Twitter's stated justification for suspending the IYSSE's account was a ridiculous pretext, and this act of censorship triggered statements of opposition. Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters and model Andrea Pejić made statements opposing it, as did dozens of other people. Nine days after the account was suspended, Twitter reinstated it, again without any serious explanation.

TK: When did the WSWS first become interested in the issue of platform censorship, content moderation, or whatever you want to call it? Actually, what do you call it? Is what's going on with increased content moderation a first amendment/free speech issue?

Damon: It's censorship, and it absolutely is a First Amendment issue.

In July 2017, we noticed that traffic to our site from Google fell by more than 75 percent. After reaching out to other sites and SEO experts we realized that the WSWS was one of over a dozen left-wing websites whose search traffic had also plunged.

As we sought an explanation, we discovered a blog post by Ben Gomes, at the time Google's VP of engineering, announcing that Google was making changes in its algorithm to demote what it called "fake news." It explained that Google would be hiring a small army of people to review search results and score them. The reviewers were told that if a search returned "alternative viewpoints," that search should be scored poorly. This system was internally called 'Project Owl,' and later came to be known as such publicly.

It was obvious that the drop in search traffic to the WSWS and other left-wing sites was caused by this change in Google's algorithm.

The actions by Google were the outcome of a campaign, largely bipartisan but led by the Democrats and their affiliated news outlets, to claim that domestic social opposition was the product of interference by foreign countries, particularly Russia. To stop this alleged interference, it was necessary to censor domestic political opposition, which the Russians allegedly sought to "amplify."

At repeated hearings in Washington, figures like Mark Warner and Adam Schiff would demand over and over again that Google, Facebook and Twitter censor left-wing content. It was all a clear and flagrant violation of the First Amendment, which says that Congress does not have the power to limit the freedom of expression. But here was Congress instigating private companies to do exactly that, and threatening to regulate or fine them if they did not comply.

In August 2017, the WSWS sent Google executives an open letter demanding "that the anti-democratic changes to the Google search result rankings and its search algorithm since April be reversed." In January 2018, we called for the formation of an "international coalition to fight Internet censorship."

In response to our letters, Google flatly denied it was carrying out political censorship. But this makes its admission this month that it is censoring the WSWS so significant.

When Senator Mike Lee asked Google CEO Sundar Pichai, "Can you name for me one high profile person or entity from a liberal ideology who you have censored," Pichai replied that "We have had compliance issues with the World Socialist Review [sic], which is a left-leaning publication."

This was a confirmation of every claim made by the WSWS in its campaign against internet censorship.

Nov. 26

ny times logoNew York Times, Penguin Random House to Buy Simon & Schuster, Alexandra Alter and Edmund Lee, Nov. 25, 2020. ViacomCBS agreed to sell the 96-year-old company in a deal that potentially creates a megapublisher.

The biggest book publisher in the United States is about to get bigger. ViacomCBS has agreed to sell Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House for more than $2 billion in a deal that will create the first megapublisher.

Penguin Random House, the largest book publisher in the United States, is owned by the German media conglomerate Bertelsmann. Adding Simon & Schuster, the third largest publisher, would create a book behemoth, a combination that could trigger antitrust concerns.

The deal announced on Wednesday includes provisions that would protect ViacomCBS in the event that a sale is squashed by authorities. Bertelsmann would pay what is known as a termination fee if the deal does not go through. The sale of the company will profoundly reshape the publishing industry, increasingly a winner-take-all business in which the largest companies compete for brand-name authors and guaranteed best-sellers.

Simon & Schuster, which publishes prominent authors like Stephen King, Don DeLillo, Bob Woodward, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Walter Isaacson, had long been rumored to be the next big company to be put up for sale, and it made an attractive prize for larger publishing houses seeking to grow through acquisitions. It has a vast backlist of more than 30,000 titles.

The sale of Simon & Schuster is part of a great unwinding taking place across the media industry as conglomerates cleave off or close down ancillary businesses. ViacomCBS, which also owns Paramount studios and Nickelodeon, has bet its future on streaming, and books won’t play a big role in that strategy.

daily beast logoDaily Beast, The Biden Presidency Already Has Its First Conspiracy Theory: The Great Reset, Will Sommer, Nov. 26, 2020. HERE WE GO AGAIN. Usually, you become president before the crazy starts. But Biden still has weeks to go till he assumes office. Joe Biden isn’t president yet. But his incoming White House already has its first conspiracy theory to deal with.

It goes by the tag the “Great Reset” and under its construct a wild dystopian future is in store. The coronavirus pandemic is merely a means to enslave humanity and end capitalism. Biden’s “Build Back Better” slogan is really a cover for nefarious plotting of a global cabal from Davos, Switzerland, intent on abolishing private property and building prison camps for the dissenters who refuse to accept microchips that will read their thoughts. Even Grover from Sesame Street might be involved.

The Great Reset is a hodgepodge of one-world-government fears that has gained steam in the wake of Biden’s win. It’s been fed by right-wing media personalities who have told their audiences that Biden is bent on launching said reset by using the coronavirus pandemic to ban religion, crush small businesses, and turn humans into something like robots—or replace them with actual robots.

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon has declared that the Great Reset is “up in your grill,” while talk radio host Glenn Beck said the Great Reset is a plot to institute Nazi-style restrictions on American citizens. WorldNetDaily has called it a scheme from our “globalist overlords.” Pro-Trump personalities “Diamond and Silk” have warned their audience on Newsmax TV that Biden is behind the Great Reset plot.

“You know Biden said he wants to build back better,” Lynnette “Diamond” Hardaway said on Nov. 21 on her show, Diamond and Silk: Crystal Clear. “But no, he doesn’t want to build back better. He wants to take this economy and build back globally. You all, I know you heard about this thing called the Great Reset.”

Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham have also promoted the idea that Biden is a key player in a nefarious movement dubbed the Great Reset.

“His handlers, who are basically all old Obama staffers, believe in something called the Great Reset of capitalism,” Ingraham said in a November episode of her show. “It’s a plan to force a more equitable distribution of global resources.”

Despite the apocalyptic predictions of pro-Trump media figures, though, the supposed Great Reset’s actual origins are much more mundane.

In May, the World Economic Forum—a non-governmental group that hosts the annual Davos conference—announced a series of events and articles called the Great Reset centered on the idea of reducing inequality in the aftermath of the pandemic.

The series, summed up in a book of the same name from WEF chief Klaus Schwab, is made up of the same kind of vague, feel-good talk aimed at the world’s wealthy that amounts to thought leadership at Davos. The WEF’s Great Reset website is filled with buzzwords like “sustainability,” “upscaling,” and “stakeholder capitalism,” but few concrete plans—and certainly nothing like the world-destroying plot described in pro-Trump media.

Nov. 25

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis:Trump tweets string of falsehoods about Wisconsin absentee voters, Salvador Rizzo, Nov. 25, 2020.

“‘In Wisconsin, somebody has to be indefinitely confined in order to vote absentee. In the past there were 20,000 people. This past election there were 120,000...and Republicans were locked out of the vote counting process.’ @VicToensing @newsmax”

— President Trump, in a tweet, Nov. 24, 2020

Every part of this is false, proving once again why none of Trump’s claims about election fraud should be given any credence.

As we’ve documented in recent fact checks, the statements from Trump and his lawyers are all absurd and easily debunked. Last week, it was Sidney Powell alleging with no evidence that an algorithm from Venezuela had changed millions of Trump votes to votes for President-elect Joe Biden. This week, Rudolph W. Giuliani is mixing up Michigan and Minnesota to peddle a false claim about “phantom voters.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Happy Thanksgiving to All Those Who Told the Truth in This Election, Thomas L. Friedman, right, Nov. 25, 2020 (print ed.). Civil servants, tom friedman twitterelected officials and judges did their jobs and protected democracy. With so many families gathering, in person or virtually, for this most unusual Thanksgiving after this most unusual election, if you’re looking for a special way to say grace this year, I recommend the West Point Cadet Prayer. It calls upon each of these future military leaders to always choose “the harder right instead of the easier wrong” and to know “no fear when truth and right are in jeopardy.”

Because we should be truly thankful this Thanksgiving that — after Donald Trump spent the last three weeks refusing to acknowledge that he’d lost re-election and enlisted much of his party in a naked power play to ignore the vote counts and reinstall him in office — we had a critical mass of civil servants, elected officials and judges who did their jobs, always opting for the “harder right” that justice demanded, not the “easier wrong” that Trump and his allies were pressing for.

It was their collective integrity, their willingness to stand with “Team America,” not either party, that protected our democracy when it was facing one of its greatest threats — from within. History will remember them fondly.

ny times logoNew York Times, Since Election Day, a Lot of Tweeting and Not Much Else for Trump, Karen Yourish and Larry Buchanan, Nov. 25, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump has posted some 550 tweets since Nov. 3. About three-quarters of them attempted to undermine the integrity of the election results.

donald trump twitterIn total, the president attacked the legitimacy of the election more than 400 times since Election Day, though his claims of fraud have been widely debunked.

As Mr. Trump’s attacks continue, the coronavirus pandemic rages on, worse than ever. More than 25,000 people in the United States have died from Covid in the past three weeks.

Mr. Trump’s public calendar, meanwhile, has been remarkably light, especially relative to his pre-election schedule, when he often attended multiple campaign rallies in a single day.

From Nov. 4 to Nov. 23, he has had just eight days with an official schedule, though he has managed to maintain his weekend golf plans at his club in Virginia, as he has done most weekends in Washington.

washington post logoWashington Post, YouTube suspends One America News, a Trump favorite, for peddling pandemic misinformation, Craig Timberg, Nov. 25, 2020 (print ed.). The action against OANN, which President Trump’s allies have praised in recent weeks while raging against Fox News for supposed disloyalty following the election, was the latest sign that Silicon Valley remains prepared to enforce policies against false and misleading information.

YouTube said it suspended right-wing channel One America News for one week, beginning Tuesday, for violating its policy against misinformation related to the covid-19 pandemic and temporarily stripped the channel of its ability to make money from other videos.

youtube logo CustomThe action against OAN, which President Trump’s allies have praised in recent weeks while raging against Fox News for supposed disloyalty during and after this month’s election, was the latest sign that Silicon Valley was prepared to enforce policies against false and misleading information — even against those aligned with the president.

YouTube spokeswoman Ivy Choi said OAN, which has 1.2 million subscribers on the video service and sees some of its posts reach hundreds of thousands of viewers, violated the policy against portraying a covid-19 remedy as a cure for the illness that has killed more than 258,000 Americans and 1.4 million people worldwide.

In addition to losing the ability to post new videos for the coming week, OAN has been suspended from YouTube’s “Partner Program,” which allows monetization of videos through advertisements and can be a significant source of revenue to online operations. The reason, Choi said, was “repeated violations” of YouTube’s policies against covid misinformation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Comcast to begin charging more for heavy Internet users in Northeast, ending pandemic-related relief, Rachel Lerman, Nov. 25, 2020. Comcast said this week it would start charging more for heavy users of home Internet in the Northeast, sparking complaints from some customers as the global pandemic keeps life online.

Home Internet usage has skyrocketed during the pandemic as more people work from home and attend classes online, not to mention spend hours and hours streaming TV and games.

Comcast initially responded to this trend by giving people relief from data caps, which have already been in place across the central and western U.S. for a few years. That reprieve ended in July, and now the company is expanding its controversial data thresholds to the new region starting next year.

Nov. 23

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: How Misinformation ‘Superspreaders’ Seed False Election Theories, Sheera Frenkel, Nov. 23, 2020. Researchers have found that a small group of social media accounts are responsible for the spread of a disproportionate amount of the false posts about voter fraud.

eric trump djtOn the morning of Nov. 5, Eric Trump (shown at far right), one of the president’s sons, asked his Facebook followers to report cases of voter fraud with the hashtag, Stop the Steal. His post was shared over 5,000 times.

By late afternoon, the conservative media personalities Diamond and Silk had shared the hashtag along with a video claiming voter fraud in Pennsylvania. Their post was shared over 3,800 times.
Image

That night, the conservative activist Brandon Straka asked people to protest in Michigan under the banner #StoptheSteal. His post was shared more than 3,700 times.

Over the next week, the phrase “Stop the Steal” was used to promote dozens of rallies that spread false voter fraud claims about the U.S. presidential elections.

New research from Avaaz, a global human rights group, the Elections Integrity Partnership and The New York Times shows how a small group of people — mostly right-wing personalities with outsized influence on social media — helped spread the false voter-fraud narrative that led to those rallies.

facebook logoThat group, like the guests of a large wedding held during the pandemic, were “superspreaders” of misinformation around voter fraud, seeding falsehoods that include the claims that dead people voted, voting machines had technical glitches, and mail-in ballots were not correctly counted.

“Because of how Facebook’s algorithm functions, these superspreaders are capable of priming a discourse,” said Fadi Quran, a director at Avaaz. “There is often this assumption that misinformation or rumors just catch on. These superspreaders show that there is an intentional effort to redefine the public narrative.”

Across Facebook, there were roughly 3.5 million interactions — including likes, comments and shares — on public posts referencing “Stop the Steal” during the week of Nov. 3, according to the research. Of those, the profiles of Eric Trump, Diamond and Silk and Mr. Straka accounted for a disproportionate share — roughly 6 percent, or 200,000, of those interactions.

While the group’s impact was notable, it did not come close to the spread of misinformation promoted by President Trump since then. Of the 20 most-engaged Facebook posts over the last week containing the word “election,” all were from Mr. Trump, according to Crowdtangle, a Facebook-owned analytics tool. All of those claims were found to be false or misleading by independent fact checkers.

donald trump twitterThe baseless election fraud claims have been used by the president and his supporters to challenge the vote in a number of states. Reports that malfunctioning voting machines, intentionally miscounted mail-in votes and other irregularities affecting the vote were investigated by election officials and journalists who found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

The voter fraud claims have continued to gather steam in recent weeks, thanks in large part to prominent accounts. A look at a four-week period starting in mid-October shows that President Trump and the top 25 superspreaders of voter fraud misinformation accounted for 28.6 percent of the interactions people had with that content, according to an analysis by Avaaz.

“What we see these people doing is kind of like setting a fire down with fuel, it is designed to quickly create a blaze,” Mr. Quran said. “These actors have built enough power they ensure this misinformation reaches millions of Americans.”

In order to find the superspreaders, Avaaz compiled a list of 95,546 Facebook posts that included narratives about voter fraud. Those posts were liked, shared or commented on nearly 60 million times by people on Facebook.

twitter bird CustomAvaaz found that just 33 of the 95,546 posts were responsible for over 13 million of those interactions. Those 33 posts had created a narrative that would go on to shape what millions of people thought about the legitimacy of the U.S. elections.

A spokesman for Facebook said the company had added labels to posts that misrepresented the election process and was directing people to a voting information center.

“We’re taking every opportunity to connect people to reliable information about the election and how votes are being counted,” said Kevin McAlister, a Facebook spokesman. The company has not commented on why accounts that repeatedly share misinformation, such as Mr. Straka’s and Diamond and Silk’s, have not been penalized. Facebook has previously said that President Trump, along with other elected officials, is granted a special status and is not fact-checked.

Many of the superspreader accounts had millions of interactions on their Facebook posts over the last month, and have enjoyed continued growth. The accounts were active on Twitter as well as Facebook, and increasingly spread the same misinformation on new social media sites like Parler, MeWe and Gab.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why the far-right news outlets can’t beat Fox News at its game, Paul Waldman, Nov. 23, 2020. President Trump’s most devoted paul waldmansupporters have had it with the liberally biased news media. But now, the outlet they’re abandoning isn’t CNN or the New York Times or The Post. It’s Fox News.

Many seem to be heading to Newsmax, which used to be a network characterized by cheap production values and elaborate conspiracy theories, but is now characterized by cheap production values, elaborate conspiracy theories — and rapidly growing ratings. Others seem to be gravitating to One America News, the even nuttier cable news alternative that has long been a Trump favorite. Meanwhile, some Trumpists fed up with Twitter — another of Trump’s targets — have been decamping for Parler, where right-wingers are free to say almost anything they please without moderation.

fox news logo SmallBut as a political project, they’re limited in one important way. Conservatives are very good at raising a stink, and news organizations often respond by changing their coverage. But it only works if those in the mainstream are aware of what’s being said on the right. You can’t pressure someone who is barely aware you exist.

Which is part of the power of Fox News: It’s watched by most Republicans in official Washington, and what happens there is injected into the mainstream conversation. The same congressman who watches Fox News in his office later goes on ABC News and repeats what he heard.

Nov. 22

rudy giuliani calls for beheading dems

Rudy Giuliani, Trump's top lawyer in lawsuits seeking to overturn the election, calls for beheading Democratic leaders (that would include President-Elect Biden) on Fox New's Hannity show. (Sceengfrab by Dave Lindorff).

This Can' Be Happening Blog via OpEdNews, Opinion: 'They should be beheaded!': Trump and Giuliani Go Full IS in Attack on Biden and Democrats, Dave Lindorff, oenearthlogoNov. 22, 2020. It's often been noted that countries that go to war tend to adopt the behaviors of their enemies in fighting them, and then bring that war and the techniques they have appropriated home where they begin to apply them domestically.

For at least two decades, since the US in 2001 launched its so-called "War" on Terror following the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001, the US, under a series of three presidents, has waged a grossly illegal war around the globe against alleged terrorists, real or perceived, in countries as remote as Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria. In this borderless, lawless "war" the US has turned to the same kind of terrorism that it accuses its enemies of using.

sean hannity white houseThese attacks on terrorist leaders are, in the lingo of the trade, referred to as "decapitations." It's the same term applied to what the Taliban in Afghanistan or IS fighters in Syria or elsewhere use to describe how they kill captives in their actions, which they, without an airforce or access to drone technology, dispatch in the old-fashioned way, with a large knife or a sword.

Now soundly and decisively defeated in his bid for re-election (Biden's winning the national vote by 4% and by 6 million votes and counting, with only heavily Democratic New York State and primarily even more heavily Democratic New York City having a significant one-sixth of its fox news logo Smallvotes in the form of absentee ballots left to count) and having won 306 Electoral College votes, 36 more than needed, Dear Leader Donald Trump is turning to IS tactics in his flailing effort to hang on to the White House.

On Nov. 19 on Fox News's "Sean Hannity Show," Rudy Giuliani, the head of Trump's legal team that is filing dozens of lawsuits in so-called swing states that narrowly went for Joe Biden this year seeking to overturn those Biden victories, told Hannity, shown in a file photo above right, that the Democratic Party had been taken over by "the Clintons," and then added that the the leadership of that party "needs to be beheaded."

He made a hand-accross-the-neck gesture to emphasize his meaning.

Hannity cut the interview off abruptly at that point, but the Fox News shock-jock shouldn't have been caught by surprise."

Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani leads a news conference at Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, DC on Nov. 19, 2020.

Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani leads a news conference at Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, DC on Nov. 19, 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s wildest claims are going nowhere in court. Thank legal ethics, Adam Winkler (professor at UCLA School of Law, where he teaches legal ethics and other subjects), Nov. 22, 2020 (print ed.). The president’s lawyers can’t make assertions without evidence in front of judges.

President Trump’s lie that the election was stolen has had some unfortunate success in the court of public opinion: Polling shows that more than three-quarters of his supporters believe the contest was riddled with fraud. To overturn the result, though, Trump needs to win in the court of law. A president who packed the federal courts with conservatives now depends on the judicial system to agree with his perspective and provide him a pathway to a second term despite Joe Biden’s win.

Yet Trump’s legal strategy has run aground — in no small part because of legal ethics. While lawyers are often cast as unscrupulous and immoral, they are required to follow a strict code of professional responsibility established by state bars. The famous duty of lawyers to keep a client’s confidences, for instance, comes from these ethical codes. Law students must take a course in legal ethics, the bar exam includes a section on ethical rules, and continuing-education requirements emphasize lawyers’ duties to clients and to the courts.

Two ethical rules have been fatal to Trump’s election lawsuits in state after state: the lawyer’s duty of candor to a court and the lawyer’s duty to avoid frivolous claims. The president can spew all the theories he wants, and his advocates can say whatever they like on television, but because of these two ethical duties, Trump’s lawyers can make claims before courts only if they can back them up with actual evidence.

Lawyers are obligated to be truthful in everything they say to a court. If they aren’t, they can lose their license to practice law. In a hearing over Trump’s claim that his campaign was being excluded from observing the ballot count in Philadelphia, the judge — a conservative George W. Bush appointee — asked Trump’s lawyer if campaign observers were in fact present. Because of the duty of candor to the court, Trump’s lawyer had to concede that campaign observers were indeed in the room.

djt rudy giuliani headshots CustomConcerns about violating ethical rules partly explain why Trump’s lawyers are deserting him. Two large law firms withdrew as counsel only days after filing lawsuits. Two new lawyers signed on, only to withdraw within days themselves. Lawyers in high-profile cases rarely quit a client so quickly — unless they fear that the representation will violate the rules of legal ethics. Then they have no choice. Likewise, most of the establishment legal team that defended Trump during his impeachment has stayed away from the post-election litigation efforts.

The exodus has left Trump’s lawsuits in the hands of Rudolph W. Giuliani, who until this past week hadn’t been in a courtroom in decades. Although he’s made wild accusations in news conferences about “a massive fraud” involving the Clintons, George Soros and Hugo Chávez, Giuliani acknowledged in a federal court hearing in Pennsylvania that “this is not a fraud case.” And so far, none of the strangest claims he’s made publicly have found their way into any court filings.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The disinformation system that Trump unleashed will outlast him. Here’s what reality-based journalists must do about it, Margaret margaret sullivan 2015 photoSullivan, right, Nov. 22, 2020. It’s time for journalism to stand for something — or lose its audience to the excitement of burgeoning lies.

President Trump didn’t create the media cesspool that he’ll bequeath to a troubled nation. He just made it exponentially worse — not only with his own constant lies but with his ability to spread the ugliness.

Just days ago, he tweeted out a debunked conspiracy theory that a company that makes voting machines had deleted millions of Trump votes. And though he — barring true disaster — will leave office in January, the widespread disinformation system that he fostered will live on.

Social media platforms, streaming “news” channels and innumerable websites will spew lies and conspiracy theories, and will keep weakening the foundation of reality that America’s democracy needs in order to function.

So what, if anything, can the reality-based press do to counter it?

I see three necessities.

First, be bolder and more direct than ever in telling it like it is. No more pussy-foooting or punch-pulling. No more of what’s been called “false equivalence” — giving equal weight to truth and lies in the name of fairness.

ny times logoNew York Times, Newsmax, Once a Right-Wing Also-Ran, Is Rising, and Trump Approves, Michael M. Grynbaum and John Koblin, Nov. 22, 2020. A once-niche conservative cable network, owned by a longtime friend of the president, lures audiences by refusing to declare an electoral winner.

Flanked by aides in the Oval Office on Wednesday, President Trump dialed up a friend in the news media with a message: Keep up the good work.

“He said that it’s just incredible, the ratings you’re getting, and everyone’s talking about it,” recalled Christopher Ruddy, the owner of Newsmax, a niche conservative cable network that has yet to declare a winner in the 2020 presidential election.

Based in Boca Raton, Fla., the network features lo-fi production values and off-brand personalities like Sean Spicer and Diamond and Silk. Even finding it can be a chore: It appears on Channel 1115 in some major markets. But since Election Day, Newsmax has become a growing power in a conservative media sphere that has been scrambled by President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory and Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede.

Hundreds of thousands of new viewers have tuned into Newsmax programs that embrace the president’s debunked claims of voter fraud and insist that Mr. Trump can keep the White House. Until recently, the network’s top shows attracted a paltry 58,000 viewers. On Thursday night, the network drew its biggest audience ever, notching 1.1 million viewers at 7 p.m.

The out-of-nowhere rise has come as Fox News — the No. 1 network in TV news and long the destination of choice for many Trump partisans — has experienced a rare dip in dominance. Ratings for the Rupert Murdoch-owned network have dropped since election night, when its early projection that Mr. Biden had won Arizona infuriated Mr. Trump and his allies.

 chuck todd meet the press logo

Palmer Report, Opinion: Chuck Todd crashes and burns, Bill Palmer, Nov. 22, 2020. The mainstream media is getting a number of things wrong right now. For instance, Donald Trump isn’t looking at some kind of 2024 magic carpet ride, he’s looking at criminal charges and prison. But the media has done a good job of making clear that Trump has lost, and that he isn’t going to just magically remain in office come January. Then there’s Chuck Todd.

This morning Chuck Todd (above), who isn’t fit to host The Gong Show let alone Meet The Press, said this: “It looks like Biden is going to be the apparent winner. There’s still more to go through.” No really, he said this. This is some Fox News level nonsense.

It’s the latest reminder that while too many TV pundits treat politics as if both sides were the same, Chuck Todd openly roots for both-sidesism. He has way too much fun trying to invent ways to knock one side when the other side is doing poorly, which he appears to think it what “unbiased” means. He’s almost uniquely bad at this, and in his current position he does real harm. It’s one thing to be at 1pm weekdays on MSNBC, when no one cares. It’s another thing to hold the reins of something as powerful as Meet The Press. Every one of you reading this would do a better job of hosting it, if only because you wouldn’t try to do it wrong.

The American penal system is a perfect breeding ground for the virus. Squabbles over mask wearing and social distancing are essentially moot inside overcrowded facilities, many of them old and poorly ventilated, with tight quarters and with hygiene standards that are difficult to maintain. Uneven testing, inadequate medical resources and the constant churn of staff members, visitors and inmates further speed transmission. Crueler still, inmates suffer disproportionately from comorbidities, such as high blood pressure and asthma, putting them at an elevated risk for complications and death.

Nov. 21

michael pack

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge halts efforts by Trump appointee to reshape Voice of America and related agencies, Paul Farhi, Nov. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Michael Pack (shown above in a file photo) took over VOA’s parent agency in June and immediately set about firing senior leaders and disbanding oversight boards.

A federal judge issued a series of preliminary injunctions against a Trump appointee who has enacted sweeping and controversial changes at Voice of America and other government-funded news networks, effectively stopping the appointee’s efforts to reshape the international broadcasters.

beryl howellThe ruling late Friday by Judge Beryl A. Howell, right, in district court in Washington was a setback for Michael Pack, who in June took over Voice of America’s parent agency, the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), and immediately set about firing senior leaders and disbanding oversight boards.

Pack had asserted the right to direct how journalists at VOA and sister networks such as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Radio Free Asia covered the news, a violation of the traditional “firewall” that ensures the networks aren’t government mouthpieces. Pack’s declaration was viewed by journalists at the networks as both alarming and ironic, given that their broadcasts — which are intended to counter foreign government’s official censorship and propaganda — would themselves be subjected to potential censorship by a political appointee of the U.S. government.

Pack’s actions and statements — including evidence-free suggestions that VOA was a nest of foreign spies — raised concerns that Pack was seeking to create news favorable to President Trump, his political patron.

Howell’s ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed last month by five senior executives at USAGM whom Pack had fired or suspended in August in what was seen as a purge of those opposed to Pack’s plans. The former employees sought to stop Pack from interfering in the editorial affairs of the broadcasters his agency oversees.

Nov. 20

jfk limo dallas 31kb

Future of Freedom Foundation, Analysis: The Cunning Plot to Kill Kennedy, Jacob Hornberger, right, Nov. 20, 2020. If anyone murders a federal official, you can be assured jacob hornberger newof one thing: the feds will do everything they can to ensure that everyone involved in the crime is brought to justice. It's like when someone kills a cop. The entire police force mobilizes to capture, arrest, and prosecute everyone involved in killing the cop. The phenomenon is even more pronounced at the federal level, especially given the overwhelming power of the federal government

Yet, the exact opposite occurred in the Kennedy assassination. The entire effort immediately became to pin the crime solely on a "communist" ex-U.S. Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald and to shut down any aggressive investigation into whether others were involved in the crime.

What's up with that? That's not the way we would expect federal officials to handle the assassination of any federal official, especially the president of the United States. We would expect them to do everything -- even torture a suspect -- in order to capture and arrest everyone who may have participated in the crime.

For example, just three days after the assassination and after Oswald himself had been murdered, Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach sent out a memo stating, "The public must be satisfied that Oswald was the assassin; that he did not have confederates who are still at large; and that evidence was such that he would have been convicted at trial."

How in the world could he be so certain that Oswald was the assassin and that he had no confederates? Why would he want to shut down the investigation so soon? Does that sound like a normal federal official who is confronted with the assassination of a president?

The answer to this riddle lies in the brilliantly cunning scheme of the U.S. national-security establishment to ensure that the investigation into Kennedy's assassination would be shut down immediately and, therefore, not lead to the U.S. national-security establishment.

The assassination itself had all the earmarks of a classic military ambush, one in which shooters were firing from both the front and back of the president. It is a virtual certainty that responsibility for the ambush lay with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who had been waging a vicious war against Kennedy practically since the time he assumed office. (See Future of Freedom Foundations book JFK's War with the National Security Establishment: Why Kennedy Was Assassinated by Douglas Horne, who served on the staff of the Assassination Records Review Board in the 1990s.)

While the JCS were experts at preparing military-style ambushes, they lacked the intellectual capability of devising the overall plot and cover-up, given its high level of cunning and sophistication. That responsibility undoubtedly lay with the CIA, whose top officials were brilliant graduates of Ivy League Schools. Moreover, practically from its inception the CIA was specializing in the art of state-sponsored assassinations and in how to conceal the CIA's role in them.

To ensure that the role of the Pentagon and the CIA in the Kennedy assassination would be kept secret, they had to figure out a way to shut down the investigation from the start. Their plan worked brilliantly. While the normal thing would have been all-out investigations into the murder, in this particular murder the state of Texas and U.S. officials did the exact opposite. They settled for simply pinning the crime on Oswald, the purported lone nut communist ex-U.S. Marine.

Here is how they pulled it off.

As the years have passed, it has become increasingly clear that Oswald was a government operative, most likely for military intelligence or maybe the CIA and the FBI as well. His job was to portray himself as a communist, which would enable him to infiltrate not only domestic communist and socialist organizations but also communist countries, such as Cuba and the Soviet Union.

After all, how many communist Marines have you ever heard of? The Marines would be a good place to recruit people for intelligence roles. Oswald learned fluent Russian while in the military. How does an enlisted man do that, without the assistance of the military's language schools? When he returned from the Soviet Union after supposedly trying to defect and after promising that he was going to give up secret information he had acquired in the military, no federal grand jury or congressional investigation was launched into his conduct, even though this was the height of the Cold War.

Thus, Oswald would make the perfect patsy. He could be stationed wherever his superiors instructed. And he would have all the earmarks of a communist, which would immediately prejudice Americans at the height of the Cold War.

lee harvey oswald in dallas custodyBut simply framing Oswald (shown in custoday in Dallas after the shooting) wouldn’t have been enough to shut down the investigation. An aggressive investigation would undoubtedly be able to pierce through the pat nature of the frame-up. They needed something more.

If you’re going to frame someone who is supposedly firing from the rear, then doesn’t it make sense that you would have shots being fired only from the rear? Why would they frame a guy who is supposedly firing from the rear by having shots fired from the front?

That’s where the sheer brilliance of this particular regime-change operation came into play. The plan was much more cunning than even the successful regime-change operations and assassinations that took place prior to the one against Kennedy — i.e., Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, Cuba from 1959-1963, and the Congo in 1961.

There is now virtually no doubt that Kennedy was hit by two shots fired from the front. Immediately after Kennedy was declared dead, the treating physicians at Parkland Hospital described the neck wound as a wound of entry. They also said that Kennedy had a massive, orange-sized wound in the back of his head. Nurses at Parkland said the same things. Two FBI agents said they saw the big exit-sized wound. Secret Service agent Clint Hill saw it.

Navy photography expert Saundra Spencer told the ARRB in the 1990s that she developed the JFK autopsy photos on a top-secret basis on the weekend of the assassination and that they depicted a big exit-sized wound in the back of JFK’s head. A bone fragment from the back of the president’s head was found in Dealey Plaza after the assassination. That is just part of the overwhelming evidence that establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that the shot that hit Kennedy in the head came from the front.

Okay, if you’ve got a shooter firing from the back and he’s a communist, and if you have other shooters firing from the front, then they have to be working together. So, who would the shooters be who were firing from the front? The logical inference is that they had to be communist cohorts of Oswald.

That’s what Oswald’s supposed visits to the Cuban and Soviet embassies in Mexico just before the assassination were all about — making it look like Oswald was acting in concert with the Soviet and Cuban communists to kill Kennedy.

If the assassination was part of the Soviet Union’s supposed quest to conquer the world, retaliation would mean World War III, which almost surely would have meant nuclear war, which was the biggest fear among the American people in 1963.

But why not retaliate in some way? Would U.S. officials at the height of the Cold War hesitate to retaliate for the communist killing of a U.S. president, simply because they were scared of nuclear war? Not a chance! In fact, throughout Kennedy’s term in office the Pentagon and the CIA were champing at the bit to attack Cuba and go to war with the Soviet Union.

But here’s the catch: How do you take action that is going to destroy the world when it was your side that started the assassination game in the first place? Remember: It was the CIA that started the assassination game by partnering with the Mafia to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Thus, Lyndon Johnson, the CIA, and the JCS had the perfect excuse to shut down the investigation and pin the crime only on Oswald: If they instead retaliated, it would be all-out nuclear war based on an assassination game that the U.S. had started.

In fact, when Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade alleged from the start that Oswald was part of a communist conspiracy, Johnson told him to shut it down for fear that Wade might inadvertently start World War III.

earl warrenMoreover, when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, right, initially declined Johnson’s invitation to serve on what ultimately became the Warren Commission, Johnson appealed to his sense of patriotism by alluding to the importance of avoiding a nuclear war. Johnson used the same argument on Senator Richard Russell Jr.

From the start, the Warren Commission proceedings were shrouded in “national-security” state secrecy, including a top-secret meeting of the commissioners to discuss information they had received that Oswald was an intelligence agent. When Warren was asked if the American people would be able to see all the evidence, Warren responded yes, but not in your lifetime.

Does that make any sense? If the assassination was, in fact, committed by some lone nut, then what would “national security” and state secrecy have to do with it?

...

Thus, the plan entailed operating at two levels: One level involved what some call the World War III cover story. It entailed shutting down the investigation, as well as a fraudulent autopsy, to prevent nuclear war. The other level involved showing the American people that their president had been killed by only one person, a supposed lone nut communist former Marine.

...

Gradually, as the years have passed, the incriminating puzzle has come together. The big avalanche of secret information came out in the 1990s as part of the work done by the Assassination Records Review Board.

Of course, there are still missing pieces to the puzzle, many of which are undoubtedly among the records that the CIA and national-security establishment are still keeping secret. But enough circumstantial evidence has come to light to enable people to see the contours of one of the most cunning and successful assassination plots in history.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden, top Democrats lay groundwork for multibillion-dollar push to boost U.S. broadband, Tony Romm, Nov. 20, 2020. President-elect Joe Biden and top congressional Democrats are hoping they can secure billions of dollars in new government aid to improve Internet access and affordability -- and help people stay online during the pandemic.

Party leaders are mulling a wide array of proposals that would extend the availability of broadband in hard-to-reach rural areas, raise Internet speeds for American households, assist families who are struggling to pay their Internet bills and provide more funding to schools for computers and other equipment. Many Democrats say they are bullish about their prospects, believing they can shepherd a series of record-breaking investments at a time when the resurgent coronavirus is forcing Americans to work and learn from home again.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tucker Carlson bashes Trump attorney Sidney Powell for lack of evidence in fraud claims: ‘She never sent us any,’ Tim Elfrink, Nov. 20, tucker carlson2020. As Fox News host Tucker Carlson noted on Thursday night, he’s more than willing to give airtime to outlandish claims. “We literally do UFO segments,” he said.

fox news logo SmallBut even Carlson, right, said he was fed up with the total lack of evidence produced by Sidney Powell, one of the Trump campaign’s attorneys, for her unfounded allegation that electronic voting systems had switched millions of ballots to favor President-elect Joe Biden.

“We invited Sidney Powell on the show. We would have given her the whole hour,” Carlson said. “But she never sent us any evidence, despite a lot of requests, polite requests. Not a page. When we kept pressing, she got angry and told us to stop contacting her.”

Carlson also noted: “She never demonstrated that a single actual vote was moved illegitimately by software from one candidate to another. Not one.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The very different view of the election from pro-Trump media, David Weigel, Nov. 20, 2020 (print ed.). On Newsmax, on One America News, at websites such as the Epoch Times and Gateway Pundit, the plan to keep President Trump in power sounds straightforward.

Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election, carrying 306 electoral votes. Dozens of lawsuits, brought by both President Trump's campaign and by conservative activists, have been knocked down, failing to find irregularities that had any effect on the vote.

epoch timesYet for three hours on Tuesday night, Newsmax prepared conservative viewers for something big. In Wayne County, Mich., two Republican officials had declined to certify the results of the Nov. 3 election. Host Greg Kelly claimed that the election could be “reversed,” then brought on Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell to explain what the events in Michigan had meant.

“That’s an excellent development,” Powell said. “I would expect the entire Michigan board to reject the counts from the ballots. The election could not have been more rigged than it was.”

Moments later, the Wayne County Republicans reversed their decision, certifying the election. Twenty-four hours later they’d reverse themselves, again, attempting to retract the certification, which election rules don't allow them to do. This was surprising, but far less so for people watching pro-Trump media. Those outlets are offering his base an addictive alternate theory of the election. In this theory, one with no basis in fact or evidence but that threatens to undermine how American democracy works, the president claims to have won the election and the rest of the media is trying to steal it from him.

Nov. 19

ny times logoNew York Times, BuzzFeed to Acquire HuffPost From Verizon Media, Edmund Lee and Tiffany Hsu, Nov. 19, 2020. Once they had digital media almost to themselves. Now, in a deal led by the BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti, two giants of the web plan to join forces to better compete in an increasingly crowded field.

After falling prey to some of the same business difficulties that have plagued newspapers and magazines, the digital-media giants BuzzFeed and HuffPost have decided to join forces, the companies announced on Thursday.

huff post logoUnder the plan, BuzzFeed will acquire HuffPost from its owner, Verizon Media, as part of a larger stock deal, the companies said. The BuzzFeed and HuffPost websites will remain distinct, each with its own editorial staff. The BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti, who helped found HuffPost 15 years ago, will serve as the chief executive.

As part of the arrangement, Verizon Media will become a minority shareholder in BuzzFeed, the companies said, but it will not have a seat on BuzzFeed’s board.

BuzzFeed and HuffPost have struggled, with both having gone through rounds of layoffs in recent years. Mr. Peretti believes that getting bigger is the right move for his business.

Digital media, a relatively open territory when HuffPost started in 2005, has grown crowded and more competitive. Google and Facebook have grabbed huge chunks of ad revenue from publishers; Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Twitch are taking would-be readers’ attention; and many legacy media outlets have gotten the hang of the web while also figuring out how to persuade readers to pay for content.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Twitter cracks down on Republican Party’s official account, Bill Palmer, Nov. 19, 2020. As Donald Trump’s tweets continue to become more false and unhinged, Twitter has begun promptly placing various warning labels on them. Many of us think Twitter hasn’t been going far enough. But at least now Twitter is expanding its crackdowns to include the official @GOP account, which claimed today that Donald Trump won in a “blowout” but was hit with a warning label which twitter bird Customconfirmed that Joe Biden is the actual winner. It’s a start.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump has found a way to get himself publicly condemned by Tucker Carlson, Mitt Romney, and Ben Sasse, all on the same night. Don’t tell me Trump is somehow magically winning. He’s just forcing his sometimes-allies to totally throw him under the bus, because they feel compelled to preserve their own relative credibility while he goes down this particularly embarrassing path to defeat.

Tweet of the day, from Congressman Eric Swalwell: “Why am I not freaking out over realDonald Trump? It’s not that I have faith in him doing what’s right. It’s that I have faith in you. He is a loser. It’s over. He wants you to think this is a thing. Let’s not make a small, insignificant man bigger and more significant than he is.”

 

Nov. 18

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: An improbable journalist’s case could pressure the Supreme Court to rethink qualified immunity, George F. george f willWill, right, Nov. 18, 2020. Priscilla Villarreal, who calls herself Lagordiloca, which she translates as the Crazy Fat Lady, is a familiar figure on the streets of Laredo.

She has cruised them practicing a form of journalism that she calls “News on the Move.” In December 2017, the police department of Texas’s 10th-largest city arrested her for committing two felonies. She was charged, essentially, with committing journalism: She got information from the government and published it.

Three years after her arrest, she is suing the city and some of its employees, charging that her arrest was retaliatory. Her case involves a 2020 preoccupation, police misbehavior, and a court-created rule, “qualified immunity,” that breeds misbehavior by enabling much of it to go unpunished.

Villarreal, who sometimes uses salty language that would cause blushes below deck in a troop transport, has used her cellphone and her Facebook page — she has more than 170,000 followers — to livestream and comment on crime scenes, traffic accidents, immigration enforcement and other matters, including police behavior. She has enemies in high places.

Nov. 17

ny times logoNew York Times, A Popular Political Site Made a Sharp Right Turn. Why? Jeremy W. Peters, Nov. 17, 2020. Real Clear Politics pitches itself as a “trusted, go-to source” for unbiased polling. The Trump era changed its tone and funding sources.

For three days after every major news organization declared Joseph R. Biden Jr. the victor of the presidential election, one widely read political site maintained that Pennsylvania was still too close to call.

The delay was welcome news to allies of President Trump like Rudolph W. Giuliani and friendly outlets like The Gateway Pundit, which misrepresented the site’s decision in their efforts to spread false claims that Mr. Biden’s lead was unraveling.

That site, Real Clear Politics, is well known as a clearinghouse of elections data and analysis with a large following among the political and media establishment — and the kinds of political obsessives who might now have all the counties in Georgia memorized. It markets itself to advertisers as a “trusted, go-to source” admired by campaign and news professionals alike. Its industry benchmark polling average is regularly cited by national publications and cable news networks.

But less well known is how Real Clear Politics and its affiliated websites have taken a rightward, aggressively pro-Trump turn over the last four years as donations to its affiliated nonprofit have soared. Large quantities of those funds came through two entities that wealthy conservatives use to give money without revealing their identities.

The founders of Real Clear Politics, two self-described news junkies who became friends at Princeton and started the website in 2000, said over email that they “fully stand behind” the average and their editors’ decision to publish those pieces. “Our advertisers, sponsors, supporters, and readers represent an array of perspectives across the political spectrum,” wrote John McIntyre, the chief executive, and Tom Bevan, the president. “And they know we practice fiercely independent journalism that necessarily covers all relevant sides of our national political and policy debates.”

Nov. 14

daily beast logoDaily Beast, The Mercer Family Is Funding the Right-Wing Social Network Parler: WSJ, Blake Montgomery, Nov. 14, 2020. Robert and Rebekah Mercer are funding the moderation-free Twitter alternative Parler, The Wall Street Journal reports.

`Neither the hedge fund billionaire nor his daughter commented to the Journal on why, but both have financed many of the highest-profile ultra-conservative causes of recent years like Cambridge Analytica, Breitbart News, and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

The app has grown to 10 million users thanks in large part to conservatives chafing against other social networks’ content moderation policies, which, among other things, prohibit false claims that the election was stolen.

Nov. 13

U.S. Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, First major newspaper to endorse Trump in 2016 urges him to accept loss in this election, Elahe Izadi, Nov. 13, 2020 (print ed.).sheldon adelson The editorial page of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, owned by GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson, right, urged President Trump to work with Joe Biden’s transition team.

“President Donald Trump seeks to delay the inevitable,” reads the headline of the editorial, which appeared in print Thursday and published online Wednesday night.

“It is too fitting that the Trump presidency concludes amid a babel of bluster and bravado,” the unbylined authors, representing the viewpoint of the paper’s management, wrote. “But the president does a disservice to his more rabid supporters by insisting that he would have won the Nov. 3 election absent voter fraud. That’s simply false.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s attacks on election outcome prolong tech’s emergency measures, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Nov. 13, 2020 (print ed.). Facebook extends political ad ban while Twitter labeled 300,000 tweets on election week. Technology companies are bracing for a prolonged facebook logoperiod of uncertainty as long as President Trump and his allies dispute the outcome of the election, testing whether the firms can sustain the pace of enforcement they put in place during the past week.

donald trump twitterTwitter has softened the aggressive approach it took in the days after the election, when the company covered up 456 total tweets, the company said in a blog post Thursday, including many by Trump, his campaign and allies including his son Eric Trump and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. It labeled 300,000 tweets overall. Spokesman Nick Pacilio said it will continue to restrict the proliferation of tweets that get labels and disable the retweet button indefinitely in an effort to slow the flow of potentially harmful content until the election results are settled.

Roughly 30 percent fewer people shared tweets that received a prompt warning people before sharing, Twitter said. And 74 percent of people twitter bird Customwho saw the tweets saw it with the label — the others saw the tweets before they were labeled.

A Google spokeswoman, Charlotte Smith, declined to share information about the company’s timeline for lifting its political ad ban, which applies to all Google properties, including Google-owned YouTube.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has made a huge mistake, Bill Palmer, Nov. 13, 2020. Donald Trump has made a huge mistake by going a week without speaking in public. It’s not clear if he’s trying to make us miss him, or if he’s just pouting, or some combination of both. But either way, he’s given us a taste of what it’ll be like when he’s gone – no chaos and a newfound ability to focus on more important things – and it’s only making us more eager to be rid of him.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump tweeted “Biden did not win.” Twitter slapped a warning label on it that confirms Biden did win. That pretty much sums up how this entire delusional farce is going for Trump.

The government of China just congratulated Joe Biden on his win. This is a big deal. China could have chosen to drag this out as a way of trying to weaken Biden’s negotiating position in the early days of his presidency. Instead China is opting to fall in line fairly quickly, a sign that it knows better than to mess with Biden on this kind of thing.

Tweet of the day, from Jimmy Kimmel: “One reason Trump’s advisors are so worried he might not be able to win, is because he lost.”

Nov. 12

djt impeachment graphic

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump, the “kingmaker” of Cell Block D, Bill Palmer, Nov. 12, 2020. The mainstream media has done a pretty good job of making clear to the American public that Donald Trump has in fact lost the election, and that he’s not going to somehow magically overturn the results. That said, the media clearly doesn’t want to give up its ratings-friendly Trump chew toy just yet, and so it’s spinning a tale of Trump either being a 2024 presidential contender, or being a “kingmaker” who determines the prospects of future Republican candidates.

bill palmer report logo headerSorry, I just can’t stop laughing at this.

Even when you set aside the fact that Donald Trump will obviously be in prison long before 2024, the notion of him getting blown out this badly and then having that much influence in the party is simply hilarious. Yes, a lot of people voted for him, but a lot more people voted against him. He’s broadly unpopular. His endorsement won’t be one that any Republican running in a swing state or competitive district would want to touch.

It reminds me of when Sarah Palin’s presence on the ticket caused John McCain to get blown out in 2008. The mainstream media insisted that this would somehow make Palin either the 2012 frontrunner or the Republican Party “kingmaker.” Sure, she had her die-hard base. But again, she was broadly unpopular, just like Trump. The GOP understood this, and by 2012 it was largely treating Palin like she never existed.

Donald Trump awaits the same fate. The media is just (wittingly or unwittingly) giving in to wishful thinking. Controversial politicians like Trump and Palin tend to generate huge ratings for the media, and so naturally the media hopes that they stick around in some form.

But logic says that Trump is about to become just another Palin – the only difference being that Palin didn’t go to prison. Are we really expecting Trump to be holding rallies for 2024 Republican candidates from his prison cell? Come on.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jeffrey Toobin Is Fired by The New Yorker, Katie Robertson, Nov. 12, 2020 (print ed.). The star journalist, right, exposed himself on a jeffrey toobinvideo conference call last month. “We take workplace matters seriously,” a Condé Nast executive said.

Mr. Toobin, 60, reported the news of his firing on Twitter. "I was fired today by @NewYorker after 27 years as a Staff Writer. I will always love the magazine, will miss my colleagues, and will look forward to reading their work."

 

Nov. 11

OpEdNews, Opinion: Trump Is Sandbagging to Send Election to the House; Election Integrity Should Not Help Him, Jonathan Simon, shown at right oenearthlogobelow, author of "Code Red: Computerized Election Theft and The New American Century," also shown below, Nov. 11, 2020.

jonathan simonAs Donald Trump, facing a defeat he signaled in advance he would not (and could not, given the stakes and his nature) accept, files lawsuit after lawsuit in a kind of virtuoso false-note cadenza improvised on a lifelong theme of litigiousness, some of my election integrity colleagues (and good friends) have declared support for Trump's attempted putsch, "open-mindedly" asserting it is our vehicle to a new election-integrity dawn. The ironies could not be much richer.

We do face what one of my colleagues, appalled by Trump, described as a "horrible dilemma:" to seize the rarest of opportunities to secure bipartisan support and press for serious election reform or essentially keep silent vigil and pray Trump's con doesn't work. The answer, to me, becomes clearer with every CAPS LOCK TWEET, frivolous lawsuit, and breathless Trump/GOP fundraising appeal. This crisis is being played for money (lots of it) and short- and long-term political advantage. It has literally nothing to do with democracy or election integrity. And it is being played by the same cynics who doubled down on every thumb on the electoral scales, including voter-suppression and disinformation schemes galore.

It is worthy of note that Trump has never stopped claiming that there were "millions of illegal voters" who cost him the popular vote victory in 2016 without ever producing a shred of evidence to substantiate that eternally repeated claim. In fact, he slapped together an Electoral Integrity "Commission" to ferret out the fraudsters and then disbanded it without so much as a Report.

We do face what one of my colleagues, appalled by Trump, described as a "horrible dilemma:" to seize the rarest of opportunities to secure bipartisan support and press for serious election reform or essentially keep silent vigil and pray Trump's con doesn't work. The answer, to me, becomes clearer with every CAPS LOCK TWEET, frivolous lawsuit, and breathless Trump/GOP fundraising appeal. This crisis is being played for money (lots of it) and short- and long-term political advantage. It has literally nothing to do with democracy or election integrity. And it is being played by the same cynics who doubled down on every thumb on the electoral scales, including voter-suppression and disinformation schemes galore.

It is worthy of note that Trump has never stopped claiming that there were "millions of illegal voters" who cost him the popular vote victory in 2016 without ever producing a shred of evidence to substantiate that eternally repeated claim. In fact, he slapped together an Electoral Integrity "Commission" to ferret out the fraudsters and then disbanded it without so much as a Report.

jonathan simon code redAnd it is further worthy of note that Trump's current strategy is not about actually overturning enough votes to win election legitimately. His own aides have acknowledged that is impossible. Rather it is fixed on delaying certification past the applicable deadlines. The law favors delay and Team Trump knows it.

His plan is to prevent certification of 270 Biden electoral votes by tying up several state processes in court past the state deadlines (the "hard" one being 12/14, when the Electoral College votes on slates) and then either importuning friendly state legislatures (the GOP controls Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Arizona) to send Trump elector slates to Congress, or simply throwing the election to the House, where the GOP controls the majority of state delegations (under the Twelfth Amendment, the House votes for president by state delegation) so Trump wins.

Does that look like democracy or electoral integrity to you? To me it looks like yet another right-wing scheme to steal an election and haven't we been through (and been irreparably harmed by) enough of those? Don't kid yourselves this is a clear and present danger.

So I think we should examine what's going on now in context. Yes, our electoral system is manifestly in need of serious reform. And yes, no Democrat, since The Help America Vote Act (2002) ushered in the Computerized Voting Era, has challenged the system's non-transparency or the parade of red flags that that non-transparency has given rise to. But Trump has no intention of pursuing a genuine investigation bent on bringing transparency to the system. He is interested in the welfare of no one and nothing other than Donald J. Trump not his party, not his nation, not its voters. That has been demonstrated beyond any disputing. He will lie. He will falsely accuse. He might even commit fraud as part of his desperate putsch.

I think our responsibility is not to join the Democrats and media in chanting how wonderful and legitimate our electoral system is. We know better than anyone that it is not. But our responsibility is to keep careful watch over the delay-scam that Trump is now setting in motion, and give what support we can to the beleaguered election officials who will now be attacked ruthlessly and desperately (my god, they're even going after their own GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in Georgia!). So far Trump has failed for lack of evidence in virtually every case he has taken to court, some before highly partisan right-leaning judges. We can let that process play out (it is infinitely more than Kerry or Clinton or Ossoff or Coakley or any Democrat-of-note with the exception of Al Franken has ever ventured). But we don't have to and shouldn't provide more anecdotal or ambiguous forensic fuel to a desperate man who has utter contempt for fact and evidence, or to the party that yet again is riding cynical shotgun for him.

It's not that we as Democrats, Progressives, or EI advocates "won." Given the polls and the control of the equipment, and given all the other outcomes (from Senate to House to state legislatures), Democrats are hardly the "winners" of this election. We have at least as good reason, in the pervasive red shift from both exit and tracking polls, to suspect wholesale rigging to benefit Republican candidates, as Trump has to suspect retail indeed much better, given the egregious numbers and the whole forensic history of the post-HAVA era.

Perhaps this will turn out to be a long-postponed moment of truth and reckoning for our voting system and for a counting process incidentally or diabolically designed for concealment. We continue to crunch numbers and search for telltale patterns of "mistabulation." Computerized election fraud rarely, if ever, comes out and shakes your hand. Trust in our electoral process and its core protocols has, as I've cautioned with increasing urgency over the past two decades, at last jumped the shark, hit the wall, gone over the cliff so perhaps there will now be a more receptive audience for our near-proofs and desperate pleas.

But you don't get Trump if you don't get that he will use everyone and everything he possibly can for his own ends -- and lose you when you no longer serve them. He's demonstrated that his whole life with hardly a single flinch.

You think you'll ride his scattershot charges to some new dawn for electoral integrity. If you get in bed with him (and do anything to further nurture the hopes of his besotted followers), don't expect to get up in the morning.

washington post logoWashington Post, Robin Kemp lost her news job in Clayton County, Ga. — but she kept reporting the news. It paid off on election week, Reis Thebault, Nov. 10, 2020. Robin Kemp was 12 hours into the longest day of her journalism career when she got a call from a funny number. A British radio station wanted her on air to talk about the presidential election in Clayton County, Ga., where she lives and works. Could she be ready in, oh, 30 seconds?

That was Kemp’s first clue that her county, a suburban community south of Atlanta, had become the center of the political world. It was late on Thursday, nearly two full days after polls had closed, and Joe Biden was suddenly on the precipice of overtaking President Trump in Georgia and turning the state blue for the first time in nearly three decades.

It took her even longer to realize that the world wasn’t just watching her state. It was watching her.

Kemp, an indefatigable 56-year-old reporter who started her news site after the local paper laid her off in April, was the only journalist to watch all 21 hours of Clayton County’s marathon tabulation of absentee votes, from about 9 a.m. Thursday to 5 a.m. Friday. During that span, a record number of absentee ballots helped Biden close the statewide gap with Trump. And it was votes from Clayton County — the heart of the late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis’s old district — that pushed Biden into the lead.

Kemp’s all-night coverage was public service journalism in its purest form.

When she set out that morning, Kemp had just a couple hundred Twitter followers and less than $2,000 in a GoFundMe she started in April. By the next day, she was at well over 10,000 followers and dollars. And her fledgling news site, the Clayton Crescent, saw a flood of readers.

Kemp’s work is emblematic of the sort of journalism that is vanishing by the day in the United States. Since 2004, more than a quarter of the country’s newspapers have disappeared, according to research by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill journalism professor Penny Muse Abernathy. The coronavirus pandemic has only accelerated that dire trend. In April and May alone, at least 30 papers closed or merged, dozens went online-only and thousands of journalists were furloughed or laid off.

Nov. 10

washington post logoWashington Post, E.U. antitrust regulators announce charges against Amazon, alleging unfair business practices, Michael Birnbaum, Nov. 10, 2020. The European Union’s antitrust chief announced charges against Amazon on Tuesday, alleging that the online giant misuses the data it gathers from other sellers on its platform.

amazon logo smallThe charge was the latest European move against U.S. tech giants, who in recent years have often run into more aggressive regulation from E.U. enforcers than those in the United States. E.U. antitrust regulator Margrethe Vestager alleged that Amazon uses the vast pool of information it gathers from its marketplace platform to identify popular products being sold by outside vendors on its website, then offers similar products itself, sometimes at lower prices.

Vestager, a former Danish economy minister, has made aggressive policing of companies including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple a theme of her tenure. Her allegations came a day after E.U. ministers approved $4 billion in tariffs on U.S. products, an unrelated decision that nevertheless suggested that nearly four years of angry trade relations under President Trump are unlikely to end overnight with the election of Joe Biden as president, even if he has offered a more conciliatory approach than the current occupant of the Oval Office.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: What Went Wrong With Polling? Some Early Theories, Nate Cohn, Nov. 10, 2020. Pollsters thought they had learned from the errors of 2016. It’s possible that they did, and that this election reflects new problems. It’s not too early to say that the polls’ systematic understatement of President Trump’s support was very similar to the polling misfire of four years ago, and might have exceeded it.

For now, there is no easy excuse. After 2016, pollsters arrived at plausible explanations for why surveys had systematically underestimated Mr. Trump in the battleground states. One was that state polls didn’t properly weight respondents without a college degree. Another was that there were factors beyond the scope of polling, like the large number of undecided voters who appeared to break sharply to Mr. Trump in the final stretch.

This year, there seemed to be less cause for concern: In 2020, most state polls weighted by education, and there were far fewer undecided voters.

But in the end, the polling error in states was virtually identical to the miss from 2016, despite the steps taken to fix things. The Upshot’s handy “If the polls were as wrong as they were in 2016” chart turned out to be more useful than expected, and it nailed Joe Biden’s one-point-or-less leads in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona.

The national polls were even worse than they were four years ago, when the industry’s most highly respected and rigorous survey houses generally found Hillary Clinton leading by four points or less — close to her 2.1-point popular-vote victory. This year, Mr. Biden is on track to win the national vote by around five percentage points; no major national live-interview telephone survey showed him leading by less than eight percentage points over the final month of the race.

In the months ahead, troves of data will help add context to exactly what happened in this election, like final turnout data, the results by precinct, and updated records of which voters turned out or stayed home. All of this data can be appended to our polling, to nail down where the polls were off most and help point toward why. But for now, it’s still too soon for a confident answer.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Have we all been conned?’: The QAnon conspiracy theory faces a post-Trump identity crisis, Drew Harwell and Craig Timberg, Nov. 10, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump’s election loss and the week-long disappearance of their anonymous prophet have forced supporters of the baseless movement to rethink their beliefs.

President Trump’s election loss and the week-long silence of “Q,” the QAnon movement’s mysterious prophet, have wrenched some believers into a crisis of faith, with factions voicing unease about their future or rallying others to stay calm and “trust the plan.”

The uncertainty has been compounded by the abrupt public resignation, also last Tuesday, of Ron Watkins, the administrator of Q’s online sanctuary on the message board 8kun.

Q has gone quiet before. But the abrupt lack of posts since last Tuesday — Election Day, which the anonymous figure had touted for months as a key moment of reckoning — has sparked speculation and alarm among the movement’s most ardent followers.

Some QAnon proponents have begun to publicly grapple with reality and question whether the conspiracy theory is a hoax. “Have we all been conned?” one user wrote Saturday on 8kun.

washington post logoWashington Post, Stop the Steal’ supporters, restrained by Facebook, turn to Parler to spread false election claims, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Rachel Lerman, Nov. 10, 2020 (print ed.). Alternative social media app Parler has surged in popularity as Facebook restricts groups and hashtags spreading election misinformation.

Nov. 8

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The media never fully learned how to cover Trump. But they still might have saved democracy, Margaret Sullivan, right, Nov. 8, margaret sullivan 2015 photo2020. Over the past four or five years, I’ve been sharply critical of the media, including that subset I like to call the “reality-based press” — as distinguished from, say, the mendacious bilge spewed by the likes of Sean Hannity and Alex Jones.

He was a deeply abnormal president, but we constantly sought to normalize him, treating his deranged tweets like legitimate news and piously forecasting, every time he sounded the least bit calm, that he was becoming “presidential.”

The mainstream media, however flawed, has managed to tell us who Trump is. Even the worst of it — the way lie-filled briefings on the coronavirus, in which the president promoted untested cures and pure quackery, were broadcast live to the nation — had the benefit of showing people how unfit he was.
Without the reality-based press, whatever its flaws and shortcomings, we would be utterly lost.

washington post logoWashington Post, Seymour Topping (1921–2020): New York Times correspondent and editor dies at 98, Harrison Smith, Nov. 7, 2020. He reported on the Chinese Communist Revolution and First Indochina War and later served as the administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes.

Nov. 7

 

Vox, Opinion: A Coup Attempt In Plain Sight, Ezra Klein, Nov. 7, 2020. How do we cover it when it’s happening here? A few years ago, there was a boom of articles called “If it happened there,” imagining how the American press would cover this or that story if it happened in another country. How would we cover the government shutdown if it happened in another country? The Ferguson protests? The Oregon militia siege? George Floyd’s killing? Mike Bloomberg?

Slate’s Joshua Keating popularized the form, but other outlets, including Vox, have deployed it. The intent was to use the tropes of foreign coverage to create a sense of what the literary critic Darko Suvin called “cognitive estrangement”: severing us from the familiarity and overconfidence that can dull our awareness of extraordinary events. And so you’d get leads like, “the pleasant autumn weather disguises a government teetering on the brink. Because, at midnight Monday night, the government of this intensely proud and nationalistic people will shut down, a drastic sign of political dysfunction in this moribund republic.”

djt as chosen oneBut the slight air of parody lent the whole enterprise a sense of unreality. America isn’t a banana republic. It wasn’t happening there. It was happening here, and that made all the difference. In order to even see the danger, to recognize the depth of tensions or the possibilities of fracture, we had to control for American exceptionalism, for the implicit belief that we were the United States of America, and we were different.

If the past four years — and the past four days — have proven anything, it’s that we are not as different as we believed, not as kissed by providence as we hoped. Perhaps we are not different at all. We need to cover it as if it happening here, because it is.
Donald Trump is trying to discredit an election he is losing

Joe Biden has won the presidency. But the current president of the United States, Donald Trump, is attempting a coup in plain sight. “I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!” he tweeted on Saturday morning. This came after he demanded that states cease counting votes when the total began to turn against him, after his press secretary shocked Fox News anchors by arguing that legally cast votes should be thrown out.

The Trump administration’s current strategy is to go to court to try and get votes for Biden ruled illegitimate, and that strategy explicitly rests on Trump’s appointees honoring a debt the administration, at least, believes they owe. One of his legal advisers said, “We’re waiting for the United States Supreme Court — of which the President has nominated three justices — to step in and do something. And hopefully Amy Coney Barrett will come through.”

If that fails, and it will, Mark Levin, one of the nation’s most popular conservative radio hosts, is explicitly calling on Republican legislatures to reject the election results and seat Donald Trump as president anyway. After Twitter tagged the tweet as contested, Trump’s press secretary weighed in furiously on Levin’s behalf.

That this coup probably will not work — that it is being carried out farcically, erratically, ineffectively — does not mean it is not happening, or that it will not have consequences. Millions will believe Trump, will see the election as stolen. The Trump family’s Twitter feeds, and those of associated outlets and allies, are filled with allegations of fraud and lies about the process (reporter Isaac Saul has been doing yeoman’s work tracking these arguments, and his thread is worth reading). It’s the construction of a confusing, but immersive, alternative reality in which the election has been stolen from Trump and weak-kneed Republicans are letting the thieves escape.

This is, to borrow Hungarian sociologist Bálint Magyar’s framework, “an autocratic attempt.” That’s the stage in the transition toward autocracy in which the would-be autocrat is trying to sever his power from electoral check. If he’s successful, autocratic breakthrough follows, and then autocratic consolidation occurs. In this case, the would-be autocrat stands little chance of being successful. But he will not entirely fail, either. What Trump is trying to form is something akin to an autocracy-in-exile, an alternative America in which he is the rightful leader, and he — and the public he claims to represent — has been robbed of power by corrupt elites.

The corruption of the GOP will outlive Trump’s presidency

Members of the Trump family are explicitly, repeatedly, trying to make the acceptance of their conspiracies a litmus test for ambitious Republicans. And it is working. To read elected Republicans today — with a few notable exceptions, like Sen. Mitt Romney — is to read a careful, cowardly double-speak. Politician after politician is signaling, as Vice President Mike Pence did, solidarity with the president, while not quite endorsing his conspiracies. Of course every legal vote should be counted. Of course allegations of fraud should be addressed. But that is not what the president is demanding — he is demanding the votes against him be ruled illegal — and they know it.

What we are not seeing, in any way, is a wholesale rejection on the right of Trump’s effort to delegitimize the election. And thus there is no reason to believe Trump will not retain his hold over much of the party, and much of its base, going forward.

Even if Trump is rejected in this election, the Republican Party that protected and enabled him will not be. Their geographic advantage in the Senate insulates them from anything but massive, consecutive landslide defeats, and their dominance over the decennial redistricting process has given them a handicap in the House, too.

Here’s the grim kicker: The conditions that made Trump and this Republican Party possible are set to worsen. Republicans retained control of enough statehouses to drive the next redistricting effort, too, and their 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court will unleash their map-drawers more fully. The elections analyst G. Elliott Morris estimates that the gap between the popular vote margin and the tipping point state in the Electoral College will be 4 to 5 percentage points, and that the GOP’s control of the redistricting process could push it to 6 to 7 points next time.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Fox News reportedly suspends or cancels Judge Jeanine Pirro after Donald Trump loses, Bill Palmer, Nov. 7, 2020. For months, Palmer fox news logo SmallReport has been predicting that if Donald Trump lost the election, Fox News would make some noise in his defense, but would then end up moving to distance itself from Trump and try to move on.

After all, Fox is a business, not a fan club, and it has to remain viable with its audience as Trump fades from the stage.

bill palmer report logo headerNow the far right site Newsmax is reporting that Fox News has either suspended or canceled Judge Jeanine Pirro’s television show after she launched into particularly deranged conspiracy theories about Donald Trump’s election loss.

jeanine pirro twitter photoNewsmax is the kind of propaganda site that’s making a point of refusing to admit that Trump lost. So we don’t trust them in general, but there would be no reason for them to make up a story about Jeanine Pirro, right, getting the boot.

So take it for whatever it’s worth until it’s independently confirmed, but it looks like Fox News may indeed already be laying the groundwork for moving beyond the Donald Trump era now that it’s over.

 ny times logoNew York Times, The New York Post has turned critical as President Trump moves toward defeat, and a top editor plans to retire, Katie Robertson, Nov. 7, 2020 (print ed.). Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid has turned critical as the president seems headed to defeat. Col. Allan, a wizard there, says he plans to retire next year.

Last month The New York Post called President Trump “an invincible hero, who not only survived every dirty trick the Democrats threw at him, but the Chinese virus as well.” Then it published front-page articles trying to link the contents of a laptop said to belong to Hunter Biden to his father, Joseph R. Biden Jr.

On Thursday, in a sudden about-face, Rupert Murdoch’s scrappy tabloid published two articles with a wildly different tone. One accused the president of making an “unfounded claim that political foes were trying to steal the election.” The headline on the other described Donald Trump Jr. as the “panic-stricken” author of a “clueless tweet.”

What happened?

In short, the president appears to be going down — and The Post is not about to go with him.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The balance of power on Twitter just shifted dramatically, Bill Palmer, Nov. 7, 2020. The tweets that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris posted today announcing victory are now both among the top ten most liked tweets in history. Trump’s most popular tweet today got barely one-third as many likes as bill palmer report logo headerJoe’s and Kamala’s tweets. The balance of power on Twitter has shifted dramatically.

twitter bird CustomAccording to the folks who track these things, Kamala’s tweet today is the seventh most liked of all time, and Joe’s tweet is the eighth most liked of all time. President Obama has the second and third most liked tweets of all time. Interestingly, Donald Trump doesn’t have any tweets on the top ten list.

Nov. 5

washington post logoWashington Post, ESPN announces hundreds of layoffs as pandemic, cord-cutting upend sports television, Ben Strauss, Nov. 5, 2020. ESPN will lay off 300 workers and leave another 200 positions unfilled, network president Jimmy Pitaro told employees Thursday, as the pandemic and changing television-viewing habits continue to affect the sports behemoth and its parent company, Disney.

The cuts will affect all aspects of the company but focus heavily on those who work in production, for events the network televises and studio programming at the company’s headquarters in Bristol, Conn., according to multiple people with knowledge of the changes.

espn logoESPN has faced various head winds in recent years, mainly the decline in cable subscribers. This year brought a new series of challenges as the novel coronavirus disrupted the sports calendar and contributed to a sharp decline in sports viewership.

The network, still the dominant force in sports television, went several months without any of its traditional live sports offerings in the spring and summer. When sports did return, they did so with mostly empty stadiums and fan bases whose interest in sports was dampened by the pandemic and a dizzying political-news cycle.

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook bans ‘STOP THE STEAL’ group Trump allies were using to organize protests against counting, Tony Romm and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Nov. 5, 2020. The group, which had attracted more than 360,000 members, was among widespread efforts by conservative activists to spark protests challenging the legitimacy of the election.

facebook logoPresident Trump’s allies have turned to Facebook and other social-media sites in an effort to spark nationwide protests against the 2020 election, thrusting some of Silicon Valley’s most powerful organizing tools into a contest over the legitimacy of American democracy.

The campaign and its aides have relied on a network of new and existing Facebook pages, groups and events — some of which have garnered hundreds of thousands of members — to rally people in public this week around a baseless conspiracy theory that Democratic candidate Joe Biden is attempting to “steal” the election. Some of the efforts promoted in places like Pennsylvania and Arizona specifically target vote-counting centers, threatening disruptions while ballot tallying is still underway.

Nov. 4

washington post logoWashington Post, Top White House adviser Birx contradicts Trump on virus threat, urging all-out response, Lena H. Sun and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 4, 2020 (print ed.). A top White House coronavirus adviser sounded alarms Monday about a new and deadly phase in the health crisis, pleading with top administration officials for “much more aggressive action,” even as President Trump continues to assure rallygoers that the nation is “rounding the turn” on the pandemic.

“We are entering the most concerning and most deadly phase of this pandemic … leading to increasing mortality,” said the Nov. 2 report from Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force. “This is not about lockdowns — it hasn’t been about lockdowns since March or April. It’s about an aggressive balanced approach that is not being implemented.”

Birx’s internal report, shared with top White House and agency officials, contradicts Trump on numerous points: While the president holds large campaign events with hundreds of attendees, most without masks, she explicitly warns against them. While the president blames rising cases on more testing, she says testing is “flat or declining” in many areas where cases are rising. And while Trump says the country is “rounding the turn,” Birx notes that the country is entering its most dangerous period yet and will see more than 100,000 new cases a day this week.

Through a spokesperson, Birx did not respond to a request for comment.

Other health experts, including Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have warned of record surges in cases and hospitalizations as the United States records more than 9 million cases and 230,000 deaths.

“We’re in for a whole lot of hurt,” Fauci told The Washington Post late Friday, predicting a long and potentially deadly winter unless there’s an “abrupt change” — prompting Trump to suggest that he planned to fire the scientist after the election.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump blatantly seeks to undermine democracy with attempts to falsely claim victory, subvert election, Dan Balz, Nov. 4, 2020. For four years, President Trump has sought to undermine the institutions of a democratic society, but never so blatantly as in the early morning hours of Wednesday. His attempt to falsely claim victory and to subvert the election itself by calling for a halt to vote-counting represents the gravest of threats to the stability of the country.

Millions of votes remain to be counted, votes cast legally under the laws of the states. Until they are all counted, the outcome of the election remains in doubt. Either he or former vice president Joe Biden could win an electoral college majority, but neither has yet done so, no matter what he says. Those are the facts, for which the president shows no respect.

A president who respected the Constitution would let things play out. But Trump has shown once again he cares not about the Constitution or the stability and well-being of the country or anything like that. He cares only about himself and retaining the powers he now holds. And so he cries “fraud” when there is no evidence whatsoever of any such thing.

Media News

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We still don’t know much about this election — except that the media and pollsters blew it again, Margaret Sullivan, right, Nov. 4, 2020. Observations on the unexpected margaret sullivan 2015 photoelection night we should have seen coming.

By early morning Wednesday, there was a lot that millions of anxious Americans didn’t know.

Mainly, they didn’t know who the president-elect is. That, in itself, wasn’t unexpected, nor is it terrible.
Follow the latest on Election 2020

But after consuming hours of news on Tuesday night, and observing the election results thus far, there are a few things that we can be certain of.

That we should never again put as much stock in public opinion polls, and those who interpret them, as we’ve grown accustomed to doing. Polling seems to be irrevocably broken, or at least our understanding of how seriously to take it is.

The supposedly commanding lead that Joe Biden carried for weeks didn’t last very long into Tuesday evening. This was a lead, remember, that many predicted could result in a landslide Biden victory, help turn the Senate blue, and bring the Democrats amazing victories in red states like Ohio and Florida.

Fox News called Arizona early for Biden — and once again, prompted Trump to question its loyalty

It didn’t take long for that dream to dissipate into a much more typical process of divvying up the states into red and blue, with a lot of unknowns added in. But none of it amounted to the clear repudiation of Trump that a lot of the polling caused us to think was coming. (As for the New York Times “needle” that projected results for Georgia, North Carolina and Florida? Just as in 2016, the way the graphic twitched and swerved throughout the evening once again was capable of provoking a heart attack or, depending on your politics, nausea.)

The news media, in general, has not done a good job of covering the Latino vote. “One day after this election is over I am going to write a piece about how Latino is a contrived ethnic category that artificially lumps white Cubans with Black Puerto Ricans and Indigenous Guatemalans . . .” tweeted Nikole Hannah-Jones of the New York Times.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fox News Made a Big Call in Arizona, Buoying Biden and Angering Trump, Michael M. Grynbaum and John Koblin, Nov. 4, 2020. It was just after 12:30 a.m. on election night, and Fox News was under fire.

“Arnon, we’re getting a lot of incoming here, and we need you to answer some questions,” the network’s chief political anchor, Bret Baier, said pointedly.

“Shoot!” Arnon Mishkin replied, his face breaking into a smile.

fox news logo SmallRoughly an hour earlier, Mr. Mishkin’s decision desk team at Fox News had made a bold call that instantly changed the tenor of the night: Arizona had gone to Joseph R. Biden Jr. The projection buoyed supporters of the Democratic candidate and sent President Trump’s aides into conniptions.

Even Mr. Trump himself took a whack, referring dismissively to Mr. Mishkin during an early-morning appearance at the White House as “the gentleman that called it.”

“It” was Arizona, a state that Mr. Trump won in 2016 but that Fox News now said had fallen into Mr. Biden’s column, just as Democrats were ruing a lackluster showing in Florida.

Trump campaign officials said they were taken aback by the Fox News projection: Jason Miller, the campaign’s chief strategist, claimed on Twitter that more donald trump twitterthan one million votes were outstanding in Arizona, and he baselessly accused the network of “trying to invalidate their votes.” John Roberts, the network’s chief White House correspondent, said the campaign was “livid.” A false rumor circulated online that Fox News had retracted its call.

Cue Mr. Mishkin, a management and polling consultant who has led Fox News’s decision desk since 2008. Far from caving to the pressure from Mr. Trump’s aides, he held firm, saying the campaign’s insistence that it could secure a win in the state was, simply, wrong.

“That’s not true,” Mr. Mishkin told the Fox News anchor team. “I’m sorry, the president is not going to be able to take over and win enough votes.” He added, “We’re not wrong in this particular case.”

This was a night when other networks were playing things cautiously. CNN, for instance, did not project Mr. Biden’s victory in Virginia until several hours after The Associated Press had already called it.

 

Nov. 2

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: It’s the End of an Era for the Media, No Matter Who Wins the Election, Ben Smith, Nov. 2, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump made the legacy media great again. Here’s what’s next for them.

Many leaders in news and media have been holding their breaths for the election — and planning everything from retirements to significant shifts in strategy for the months to come, whoever wins. President Trump, after all, succeeded in making the old media great again, in part through his obsession with it.

His riveting show allowed much of the television news business, in particular, to put off reckoning with the technological shifts — toward mobile devices and on-demand consumption — that have changed all of our lives. But now, change is in the air across a news landscape that has revolved around the president.

Nov. 1

Palmer Report, Opinion: I like our chances, Bill Palmer, right, Nov. 1, 2020. More people would be reading this article right now if I’d given it a scary headline about how we bill palmercould be just forty-eight hours from total doom. But I’ve never been interested in trying to scare people into paying attention to my political analysis, and I’m not going to start now. I don’t believe in optimism, but I do believe in evidence.

When you look at the numbers and the circumstances, there is far, far, far greater reason to expect Joe Biden to win than there was to expect Hillary Clinton to win. The two elections just look so different; the main difference being that Donald Trump keeps trying the same tricks as last time, yet this time he isn’t getting much mileage out of any of them. Hunter Biden’s emails? Crazed rallies? Lock somebody up? This is all so 2016. The clear majority of the country is over it.

bill palmer report logo headerHeading into Election Day in 2016, Clinton had a three and a half point lead in the national polling averages; she ended up winning by two points (and therefore lost the Electoral College). Heading into Election Day in 2020, Biden has an eight to ten point lead in the national polling averages, depending on how you do the math; if the polls are off in 2020 by the same amount they were off in 2016, Biden will win an Electoral College landslide.

And while I believe the Supreme Court wouldn’t hesitate to hand Donald Trump a victory if the deciding swing state came down to a few hundred votes like in 2000, there is nothing to suggest that this election is going to be close. If Biden wins decisively, Trump may put up a fight – but Democrats have lawyers too, and Biden will be named the winner.

So yeah, we should all be concerned that there’s a remote chance our country could come to an end in forty-eight hours. I’m not going to sugar coat how ugly it would be if Trump did win. But the odds are overwhelmingly in our favor. I like our chances. And if you’re worried about the remote chance that everything might be about to go to hell, then spend these final two days making sure your friends, family, and associates turn out and vote. We’ve spent four years working to take Trump down. Now let’s finish the job.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump just made Biden’s closing argument for him, Dana Milbank, right, Nov. 1, 2020 (print ed.).  This is the time for presidential candidates to make their closing dana milbank Customarguments, but Joe Biden didn’t really have to.

“The Fake News Media is riding COVID, COVID, COVID, all the way to the Election. Losers!” Trump tweeted.

“Covid, covid, covid, covid,” he said in Nebraska.

“Covid, covid, covid, covid, covid, covid, covid, covid, covid, covid!” he railed in Michigan

Trump was doubling down — actually, tripling, quadrupling, sextupling and decupling down — on the very thing costing him the election: his incompetent and inhumane handling of the greatest mass trauma in living memory for the vast majority of Americans.

U.S. Elections / Democracy

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Dishonesty Has Defined Trump’s Presidency. The Consequences Could Be Lasting, Peter Baker, Nov. 1, 2020. Whether President Trump wins or loses, the concept of public trust in a set of facts necessary for the operation of a democratic society has been eroded.

Born amid made-up crowd size claims and “alternative facts,” the Trump presidency has been a factory of falsehood from the start, churning out distortions, conspiracy theories and brazen lies at an assembly-line pace that has challenged fact-checkers and defied historical analogy.

But now, with the election just days away, the consequences of four years of fabulism are coming into focus as President Trump argues that the vote itself is inherently “rigged,” tearing at the credibility of the system. Should the contest go into extra innings through legal challenges after Tuesday, it may leave a public with little faith in the outcome — and in its own democracy.

The nightmarish scenario of widespread doubt and denial of the legitimacy of the election would cap a period in American history when truth itself has seemed at stake under a president who has strayed so far from the normal bounds that he creates what allies call his own reality. Even if the election ends with a clear victory or defeat for Mr. Trump, scholars and players alike say the very concept of public trust in an established set of facts necessary for the operation of a democratic society has eroded during his tenure with potentially long-term ramifications.

“You can mitigate the damage, but you can’t bring it back to 100 percent the way it was before,” said Lee McIntyre, the author of “Post-Truth” and a philosopher at Boston University. “And I think that’s going to be Trump’s legacy. I think there’s going to be lingering damage to the processes by which we vet truths for decades. People are going to be saying, ‘Oh, that’s fake news.’ The confusion between skepticism and denialism, the idea that if you don’t want to believe something, you don’t have to believe it, that’s really damaging and that’s going to last.”

October

Oct. 29

NBC News, Investigation: How a fake persona laid the groundwork for a Hunter Biden conspiracy deluge, Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny, Oct. 29, 2020. A 64-page document that was later disseminated by close associates of President Donald Trump appears to be the work of a fake "intelligence firm."
Hunter Biden speaks at the World Food Program USA's annual awards ceremony in Washington in April 2016.

One month before a purported leak of files from Hunter Biden's laptop, a fake "intelligence" document about him went viral on the right-wing internet, asserting an elaborate conspiracy theory involving former Vice President Joe Biden's son and business in China.

The document, a 64-page composition that was later disseminated by close associates of President Donald Trump, appears to be the work of a fake "intelligence firm" called Typhoon Investigations, according to researchers and public documents.

The author of the document, a self-identified Swiss security analyst named Martin Aspen, is a fabricated identity, according to analysis by disinformation researchers, who also concluded that Aspen's profile picture was created with an artificial intelligence face generator. The intelligence firm that Aspen lists as his previous employer said that no one by that name had ever worked for the company and that no one by that name lives in Switzerland, according to public records and social media searches.

One of the original posters of the document, a blogger and professor named Christopher Balding, took credit for writing parts of it when asked about it and said Aspen does not exist.

Despite the document's questionable authorship and anonymous sourcing, its claims that Hunter Biden has a problematic connection to the Communist Party of China have been used by people who oppose the Chinese government, as well as by far-right influencers, to baselessly accuse candidate Joe Biden of being beholden to the Chinese government.
Inside the false conspiracy theory being pushed about the Bidens
Oct. 23, 202004:43

The document and its spread have become part of a wider effort to smear Hunter Biden and weaken Joe Biden's presidential campaign, which moved from the fringes of the internet to more mainstream conservative news outlets.

An unverified leak of documents — including salacious pictures from what President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and a Delaware Apple repair store owner claimed to be Hunter Biden's hard drive — were published in the New York Post on Oct. 14. Associates close to Trump, including Giuliani and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, have promised more blockbuster leaks and secrets, which have yet to materialize.

The fake intelligence document, however, preceded the leak by months, and it helped lay the groundwork among right-wing media for what would become a failed October surprise: a viral pile-on of conspiracy theories about Hunter Biden.
Behind Typhoon

The Typhoon Investigations document was first posted in September to Intelligence Quarterly, an anonymous blog "dedicated to collecting important daily news," according to its "about" section. Historical domain records show the blog was registered to Albert Marko, a self-described political and economic adviser, who also lists the blog on his Twitter bio. When asked about the provenance of the document, Marko said he received it from Balding.

Balding, an associate professor at Fulbright University Vietnam who studies the Chinese economy and financial markets, posted the document on his blog on Oct. 22, seven weeks after it was initially published.

"I had really not wanted to do this but roughly 2 months ago I was handed a report about Biden activities in China the press has simply refused to cover. I want to strongly emphasize I did not write the report but I know who did," Balding said in an email.

Balding later claimed to NBC News that he wrote some of the document.

"I authored small parts of the report and was involved in report preparation and review. As a researcher, and due to the understandable worry about foreign disinformation, it was paramount that the report document activity from acknowledged and public sources," Balding said. "Great care was taken to document, cite, and retain information so that acknowledged facts could be placed in the public domain."

martin aspen deep fakeA viral dossier about Hunter Biden was written by "Martin Aspen," left, a fake identity whose profile picture was created by artificial intelligence.TyphoonInvesti1 / via Twitter

Balding said Aspen is "an entirely fictional individual created solely for the purpose of releasing this report." Balding did not name the document's main author, saying "the primary author of the report, due to personal and professional risks, requires anonymity."

Balding claimed that the document was commissioned by Apple Daily, a Hong Kong-based tabloid that is frequently critical of the Chinese government. Apple Daily did not respond to a request for comment.

In addition to posting the document to his blog, Balding also promoted it in far-right media, appearing on Bannon's podcast and on "China Unscripted," a podcast produced by The Epoch Times, a pro-Trump media outlet opposed to the Chinese government.

Balding, an American who taught economics at China's Peking University HSBC Business School until 2018, is often critical of the Chinese government. He made news this year as a source uncovering a global bulk data collection operation by the Chinese company Shenzhen Zhenhua Data Technology.

djt profile balding big head palmer

Palmer Report, Opinion: Fox News just cut off Donald Trump and aired Joe Biden instead, Bill Palmer, Oct. 29, 2020. Earlier this week Donald Trump publicly expressed his frustration after Fox News aired President Obama’s campaign speech. Trump still seems to believe that Fox was propping him up all this time because it liked him, when in reality these decisions are always about ratings and maintaining relative credibility with your audience.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump is sure to be even more upset when he gets word that Fox News cut him off mid-speech today in favor of airing Joe Biden’s rally speech in full. Trump always counted on getting an unfair amount of cable news airtime in 2016, particularly from Fox, and it’s a contribution factor as to why he’s in office.

fox news logo SmallBut at this point Fox News appears to have concluded that Donald Trump is likely to lose, and that Joe Biden is a better ratings draw, even for its right-leaning audience. Whether Fox viewers like Biden or not, many of them expect him to be the next President, so they’re interested in what he has to say and what he’s going to do.

If Trump was hoping Fox would keep propping him up until the bitter end, he’s about to learn the hard way that his relationship with Fox has always been transactional. Trump is loyal to no one, so it’s fitting that Fox is finally being less loyal to him during his time of need.

 glenn greenwald intercept anniversary poster april 16 2019

Better Times: Shown above is a promotional photo for The Intercept, showing Editor Betsy Reed at left. Next to her is shown co-founder and columnist Glenn Greenwald, who resigned on Oct. 29.

ny times logoNew York Times, Glenn Greenwald Leaves The Intercept, Claiming He Was Censored, Katie Robertson, Oct. 29, 2020. Mr. Greenwald will join other high-profile journalists who have left major media outlets to work largely on their own at Substack.

The journalist Glenn Greenwald said on Thursday that he was leaving The Intercept, the news website he helped found, claiming that it had refused to publish an article he wrote on Joseph R. Biden Jr. unless he removed sections that were critical of the Democratic presidential nominee.

Mr. Greenwald, who is best known for his role in making public the National Security Agency documents leaked by Edward Snowden in 2013, said in a statement that he would continue to publish his work at Substack, a digital platform for subscription newsletters.

He announced his decision to leave The Intercept in a Substack post, writing that the “final, precipitating cause” was that “The Intercept’s editors, in violation of my contractual right of editorial freedom, censored an article I wrote this week, refusing to publish it unless I remove all sections critical of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, the candidate vehemently supported by all New-York-based Intercept editors involved in this effort at suppression.”

Betsy Reed, the editor in chief of The Intercept, disputed Mr. Greenwald’s claim that he had been censored.

“Glenn Greenwald’s decision to resign from The Intercept stems from a fundamental disagreement over the role of editors in the production of journalism and the nature of censorship,” she wrote in a statement.

Ms. Reed added that his post about his departure was “teeming with distortions and inaccuracies — all of them designed to make him appear a victim, rather than a grown person throwing a tantrum.”

The statement included some qualified praise.

“We have the greatest respect for the journalist Glenn Greenwald used to be, and we remain proud of much of the work we did with him over the past six years,” the editor wrote. “It is Glenn who has strayed from his original journalistic roots, not the Intercept.”

In a phone interview, Mr. Greenwald said he had received a “story memo” from The Intercept outlining what the publication would allow and not allow in his article. “My arrangement with The Intercept since it began is my opinion pieces are not edited by anyone,” he said.

In his resignation post, Mr. Greenwald referred to “the Hunter Biden materials,” suggesting that the disputed article was about digital data taken from a laptop computer said to belong to the candidate’s son.

The Intercept was founded in 2013 by Mr. Greenwald, the filmmaker Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill, with backing from the eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar.

Substack, Personal Opinion: My Resignation From The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald, Oct. 29, 2020. The same trends of repression, censorship and ideological homogeneity plaguing the national press generally have engulfed the media outlet I co-founded, culminating in censorship of my own articles. Today I sent my glenn greenwald firstlookintention to resign from The Intercept, the news outlet I co-founded in 2013 with Jeremy Scahill and Laura Poitras, as well as from its parent company First Look Media.

The final, precipitating cause is that The Intercept’s editors, in violation of my contractual right of editorial freedom, censored an article I wrote this week, refusing to publish it unless I remove all sections critical of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, the candidate vehemently supported by all New-York-based Intercept editors involved in this effort at suppression.

The censored article, based on recently revealed emails and witness testimony, raised critical questions about Biden’s conduct. Not content to simply prevent publication of this article at the media outlet I co-founded, these Intercept editors also demanded that I refrain from exercising a separate contractual right to publish this article with any other publication.

I had no objection to their disagreement with my views of what this Biden evidence shows: as a last-ditch attempt to avoid being censored, I encouraged them to air their disagreements with me by writing their own articles that critique my perspectives and letting readers decide who is right, the way any confident and healthy media outlet would. But modern media outlets do not air dissent; they quash it. So censorship of my article, rather than engagement with it, was the path these Biden-supporting editors chose.

The censored article will be published on this page shortly. My letter of intent to resign, which I sent this morning to First Look Media’s President Michael Bloom, is published below.

As of now, I will be publishing my journalism here on Substack, where numerous other journalists, including my good friend, the great intrepid reporter Matt Taibbi, have come in order to practice journalism free of the increasingly repressive climate that is engulfing national mainstream media outlets across the country.

This was not an easy choice: I am voluntarily sacrificing the support of a large institution and guaranteed salary in exchange for nothing other than a belief that there are enough people who believe in the virtues of independent journalism and the need for free discourse who will be willing to support my work by subscribing.

I began writing about politics fifteen years ago with the goal of combatting media propaganda and repression, and — regardless of the risks involved — simply cannot accept any situation, no matter how secure or lucrative, that forces me to submit my journalism and right of free expression to its suffocating constraints and dogmatic dictates.

Oct. 28

djt amy coney barrett resized white house 10 26 20

President Trump and Justice Amy Coney Barrett at the White House on Monday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Daily Howler, Opinion: Who is Associate Justice Barrett? Bob Somerby, Oct. 28, 2020. Who is Amy Coney Barrett? And why didn't anyone ask? Barrett, of course, is now an associate justice on the United States Supreme Court. She'll be on the Court for the next thirty years—but who was Amy Coney Barrett in the 48 years before that?

ap logoThe question arises because of an AP news report which only broke last week. As it appeared in the Washington Post, the AP report started like this, headline included:

SMITH AND BIESECKER (10/21/20): Barrett was trustee at private school with anti-gay policies:

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett served for nearly three years on the board of private Christian schools that effectively barred admission to children of same-sex parents and made it plain that openly gay and lesbian teachers weren’t welcome in the classroom.

The policies that discriminated against LGBTQ people and their children were in place for years at Trinity Schools Inc., both before Barrett joined the board in 2015 and during the time she served.

The three schools, in Indiana, Minnesota and Virginia, are affiliated with People of Praise, an insular community rooted in its own interpretation of the Bible, of which Barrett and her husband have been longtime members. At least three of the couple’s seven children have attended the Trinity School at Greenlawn, in South Bend, Indiana.

The AP spoke with more than two dozen people who attended or worked at Trinity Schools, or former members of People of Praise. They said the community’s teachings have been consistent for decades: Homosexuality is an abomination against God, sex should occur only within marriage and marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

The AP report continued from there. We remain puzzled by the (extremely) late emergence of this information.

Barrett testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on October 13 and 14. She was never asked about this matter, possibly because no one knew about it.

Arguably, it was an abomination against democratic procedure when Barrett received a lifetime appointment to the nation's highest court without this matter being reported or discussed. One wonders where Democrats were in recent years, but also the national press.

Has opposition research suddenly ceased to exist? Barrett was known to (possibly) be "next in line" for at least the past three years. It's hard to know how a matter like this could come to light only after it was too late to make any conceivable difference in any conceivable way.

The AP report on this matter came and went last week. Perhaps understandably at this juncture, it provoked very little discussion.

That said, the chronology of this revelation remains a mystery to us. Who is Associate Justice Barrett? And why was no one able to ask her about this part of her personal history?

As we mentioned in real time, we spent two full days watching Barrett testify. As we mentioned, we were struck by how amazingly little we knew about her by the time the two days were done.

Democrats insisted on asking the types of questions they knew she wouldn't answer. A week later, we learned that no one had asked her about this part of her past.

Today, warnings are emerging across the press about the ways the Supreme Court could intervene in the aftermath of an apparent win by Candidate Biden. Was Barrett a "Manchurian nominee," one who might tip the balance toward a judicial assault on the electoral process?

We don't know how the Court might handle legal challenges to an apparent Biden win. But who is Amy Coney Barrett, and why didn't anyone ask?

We had two major reactions to Barrett's two days of testimony:

First, we noted the fact that Barrett was amazingly telegenic. Also, Democratic questioning struck us as amazingly pointless and daft.

One week later, up jumped the AP report. In our view, the fire trucks had arrived at the scene puzzlingly late.

What the heck ever happened to oppo? We can't answer that question.

ap logoAssociated Press via Texarkana Gazette, Both newspapers in Utah's capital plan to cease daily publication, Oct. 28 2020. Salt Lake City will go from two daily printed newspapers to none after both of its major publications cut print days to once a week in unusual moves for a large city that could portend more struggles for the country's newspaper industry.

The 170-year-old Deseret News in the state capital said Tuesday it will stop publishing daily starting next year, a disclosure that came a day after the Salt Lake Tribune made a similar announcement.

It's an unusually deep cutback in print days, even in an era of steeply declining revenue, media analyst Ken Doctor said.

"To go from seven to one just like that and to have it done by both papers in the same city shows us how deep the reckoning is for the American newspaper industry going into 2021," said Doctor, who writes the Newsonomics blog.

The newspaper industry has been in crisis, with The Associated Press finding in 2019 that some 1,400 cities and towns across the U.S. had lost a newspaper over the past 15 years. Much of that has come in smaller markets, though papers in cities such as New Orleans and Pittsburgh have also cut print days less deeply.

Youngstown, Ohio, became the largest U.S. city without a daily newspaper last year — before the nation's economy was thrown into turmoil by the pandemic.

In Salt Lake City, both newspapers will continue to publish breaking stories online every day. The Salt Lake Tribune, which won the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting in 2017, is not cutting newsroom staff. There were some journalist layoffs at the Deseret News.

The two publications have a joint-operating agreement that wi3ll end later this year.

Both papers will offer a weekly print publication. The Deseret News will also have a monthly magazine.

Deseret News Editor Doug Wilks said in an op-ed that the publication owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will continue its "national leadership role as the watchdog of the family and of faith in the public square."

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall tweeted that it's a significant change for the city.

"It's hard to believe we'll no longer have a daily print paper in SLC," she wrote. "Local journalism is essential to democracy I look forward to reading online, but I'll miss both papers dearly."

The Deseret News will lay off six journalists and give severance packages to 18 staffers in visual editing and sales departments. About 160 people associated with the two newspapers' joint print operations will also be laid off.

The Deseret News is named after the territory's early title. The newspaper was born three years after pioneers arrived in 1847.

The newspaper has worked to expand its digital offerings for a decade, appealing to church members and others outside the state, and now 70% of its digital users come from outside the state, said Jeff Simpson, its president and publisher.

Politico, MAGA scrambles to repair the Hunter Biden narrative, Tin Nguyen, Oct. 28, 2020. Instead of publishing the more salacious allegations, conservative media has been more focused on covering alleged suppression of the story.

Weeks ago, when Rudy Giuliani first threw the contents of Hunter Biden’s alleged laptop online, he promised a trove of even more damning information 10 days before the election.

Yet with less than a week to go, Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, is still moving down the conservative media food chain, looking for takers.

The Wall Street Journal and Fox News have both reported finding no evidence that former Vice President Joe Biden benefited from the Hunter Biden business dealings that have drawn scrutiny. More explicitly pro-Trump media outlets — OAN, Breitbart, Newsmax — have mostly shied away from publishing fresher, more salacious allegations. And conservative talking heads — pundits, politicians and loud MAGA Twitter personalities alike — have been more focused on the meta narrative around the laptop, arguing that mainstream media, social media companies and the deep state are conspiring to prevent President Donald Trump’s reelection by suppressing the story.

When Breitbart did touch on new revelations, it preemptively distanced itself, carefully framing a fresh trove of emails as an independent investigation by Peter Schweizer, author of Clinton Cash, the 2015 look into the Clinton family’s extensive foreign financial ties that made several overstated or inaccurate claims.

So the story has gone elsewhere. Videos apparently showing Hunter Biden in compromising positions, allegedly obtained from the laptop, have been uploaded to a Chinese website owned partially by Steve Bannon, the former Trump aide who has been helping Giuliani. The explicit photos ended up on Gateway Pundit, a site known for promoting conspiracy theories about various Democratic figures. An email allegedly tying Hunter Biden to a Kazakh oligarch ended up in the British tabloid The Daily Mail, with only a passing mention of Biden. Other details have been published by outlets connected to prominent conservative super PACs.

Ultimately, the bulk of fresh allegations have been reduced to public statements from Tony Bobulinski, Hunter Biden’s former business partner, who found a willing partner in Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Tuesday night. Bobulinski got an extensive, 45-minute segment to lay out his case to Carlson’s millions of viewers. Yet elsewhere, Giuliani has groused on his podcast, “Common Sense,” that the public can only find out the truth from him, “because I'm not allowed on main television to tell you these things.”

 

Oct. 25

WhoWhatWhy, Investigation: Watch Porn? You Might Think Twice After Reading This, Laura Arman,Oct. 25, 2020. The world’s most popular X-rated site, Pornhub, averages 70 million daily visits, ranking 11th in global traffic ranking, according to Traffic Junky. Two other porn “tube” sites are close behind: Redtube at #85 and YouPorn at #120.

Of the tens of millions of free porn videos available online (Pornhub alone claims to have more than 13 million selections), most feature lawful activity between consenting adults. But critics say it’s not unusual on Pornhub and other sites to find clips of minors, rapes (real or simulated), or videos posted without consent of the participants.

Pornhub “is blatantly enabling and profiting from the rape, trafficking, assault and abuse of women and children,” said Laila Mickelwait, founder of Traffickinghub. The organization wants to shut down X-rated sites like Pornhub, saying they encourage sex trafficking and fail to remove illegal videos.

“There was recently a case of a 15-year-old girl in Florida who was missing for a year and she was located in 58 videos on Pornhub being exploited and raped for profit,” Mickelwait told WhoWhatWhy.

“She was part of a program … where Pornhub earns 35 percent of the revenue from video sales.” According to a published report, the girl’s mother found almost 60 porn videos of her on Pornhub, Periscope, Modelhub, Snapchat, and other video sharing sites.

On September 15, an Alabama man, Michael Williams, was arrested after an 18-year-old told police about a 2018 video on Pornhub that showed her performing sexual acts with the suspect when she was 16. Williams had an account, apparently verified through the site’s ModelHub program, which allowed Pornhub to earn 35 percent of each sale, according to Michael Dinsmore of the anti-trafficking campaign Exodus Cry.

“Any commercial sex act involving a minor is by definition sex trafficking according to the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act,” Dinsmore said. “The monetized child pornography video was up for two years with over 2,000 views.”

Earlier this year, “the BBC reported that 14-year-old Rose Kalemba was taken at knifepoint, raped for 12 hours and the videos of her torture were uploaded to Pornhub,” Mickelwait said. The horrific event took place in the summer of 2009 in a small town in Ohio.

A spokesman for Pornhub, who refused to be identified, told WhoWhatWhy that he was familiar with Kalemba’s claims, but said there was no evidence that her videos had been posted on the site: “We have a very detailed record of videos that have existed on Pornhub dating back to its inception, and Rose has said what the titles of videos were, and there are no videos that matched those titles or anything close to it that ever appeared on Pornhub.”

He acknowledged that prohibited videos are sometimes uploaded to Pornhub, but said the problem is far greater on other non-porn websites, especially social media. Twitter, for example, said it had banned 244,188 unique users for child sexual abuse material during the first six months of 2019.

He accused critics of trying to disguise their true goal: banning pornography entirely. “Just because Traffickinghub says these things, doesn’t make them true,” he said.

Oct. 24

ny times logoNew York Times, How The Epoch Times Created a Giant Influence Machine, Kevin Roose, Oct. 24, 2020. Since 2016, the Falun Gong-backed newspaper has used aggressive Facebook tactics and right-wing misinformation to create an anti-China, pro-Trump media empire.

For years, The Epoch Times was a small, low-budget newspaper with an anti-China slant that was handed out free on New York street corners. But in 2016 and 2017, the paper made two changes that transformed it into one of the country’s most powerful digital publishers.

The changes also paved the way for the publication, which is affiliated with the secretive and relatively obscure Chinese spiritual movement Falun Gong, to become a leading purveyor of right-wing misinformation.

epoch timesFirst, it embraced President Trump, treating him as an ally in Falun Gong’s scorched-earth fight against China’s ruling Communist Party, which banned the group two decades ago and has persecuted its members ever since. Its relatively staid coverage of U.S. politics became more partisan, with more articles explicitly supporting Mr. Trump and criticizing his opponents.

Around the same time, The Epoch Times bet big on another powerful American institution: Facebook. The publication and its affiliates employed a novel strategy that involved creating dozens of Facebook pages, filling them with feel-good videos and viral clickbait, and using them to sell subscriptions and drive traffic back to its partisan news coverage.

In an April 2017 email to the staff obtained by The New York Times, the paper’s leadership envisioned that the Facebook strategy could help turn The Epoch Times into “the world’s largest and most authoritative media.” It could also introduce millions of people to the teachings of Falun Gong, fulfilling the group’s mission of “saving sentient beings.”

Today, The Epoch Times and its affiliates are a force in right-wing media, with tens of millions of social media followers spread across dozens of pages and an online audience that rivals those of The Daily Caller and Breitbart News, and with a similar willingness to feed the online fever swamps of the far right.

falun gong nazi symbol demonstrationIt also has growing influence in Mr. Trump’s inner circle. The president and his family have shared articles from the paper on social media, and Trump administration officials have sat for interviews with its reporters. In August, a reporter from The Epoch Times asked a question at a White House press briefing.

It is a remarkable success story for Falun Gong (whose supporters have portrayed their movement at times with Nazi-like symbolism, as at left), which has long struggled to establish its bona fides against Beijing’s efforts to demonize it as an “evil cult,” partly because its strident accounts of persecution in China can sometimes be difficult to substantiate or veer into exaggeration. In 2006, an Epoch Times reporter disrupted a White House visit by the Chinese president by shouting, “Evil people will die early.”

Oct. 21

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Department Files Antitrust Suit Against Google, David McCabe and Cecilia Kang, Oct. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Most Aggressive Move Against Tech Giants in Decades

The Justice Department accused Google of maintaining an illegal monopoly over search and search advertising, in the government’s most significant legal challenge to a tech company’s market power in a generation.

google logo customIn a lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, the agency accused Google, a unit of Alphabet, of using several exclusive business contracts and agreements to lock out competition.

Such contracts include Google’s payment of billions of dollars to Apple to place the Google search engine as the default for iPhones. By using contracts to maintain its monopoly, the suit says, competition and innovation has suffered.

Attorney General William P. Barr, left, who was appointed by Mr. Trump, has played an unusually active role in the investigation. He pushed career Justice william barr new oDepartment attorneys to bring the case by the end of September, prompting pushback from lawyers who wanted more time and complained of political influence. Mr. Barr has spoken publicly about the inquiry for months and set tight deadlines for the prosecutors leading the effort.

The lawsuit may stretch on for years and could set off a cascade of other antitrust lawsuits from state attorneys general. About four dozen states and jurisdictions have conducted parallel investigations and are expected to bring separate complaints against the company’s grip on technology for online advertising.

A victory for the government could remake one of America’s most recognizable companies and the internet economy that it has helped define since it was founded by two Stanford University graduate students in 1998.

But Google has long denied accusations of antitrust violations and is expected to fight the government’s efforts by using a global network of lawyers, economists and lobbyists. Alphabet, valued at $1.04 trillion and with cash reserves of $120 billion, has fought similar antitrust lawsuits in Europe.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Justice Department is suing Google — but it’s the government’s power to police big tech that’s on trial, Tony Romm, Oct. 21, 2020. At stake in the lawsuit is no less than the power and political willingness of Washington to watch over Silicon Valley, putting to the test whether century-old federal antitrust rules are sufficiently powerful to keep the country's technology giants in check.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Five takeaways from the Google antitrust lawsuit, Heather Kelly, Oct. 21, 2020 (print ed.). What the federal action has to say about Apple, Amazon and the problems with being the most popular search engine.

In the 64-page complaint, the Justice Department lays out its case against Google’s alleged search monopoly by focusing on one part of its business. It looks at all the deals Google has struck to be the path of least resistance for most consumers. Years of partnering with other companies, expanding its own line of products and user complacency have made it the default search engine on everything from our laptops to smartwatches.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: It’s Google’s World. We Just Live In It, Brian X. Chen, Oct. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Googling something was all we once did with Google. Now we spend hours a day using its maps, videos, gadgets and more, our columnist writes.

About 20 years ago, I typed Google.com into my web browser for the first time. It loaded a search bar and buttons. I punched in “D.M.V. sample test,” scrolled through the results and clicked on a site.

Wow, I thought to myself. Google’s minimalist design was a refreshing alternative to other search engines at the time — remember AltaVista, Yahoo! and Lycos? — which greeted us with a jumble of ads and links to news articles. Even better, Google seemed to show more up-to-date, relevant results.

And the entire experience took just a few seconds. Once I found the link I needed, I was done with Google.

google logo customTwo decades later, my experience with Google is considerably different. When I do a Google search in 2020, I spend far more time in the internet company’s universe. If I look for chocolate chips, for example, I see Google ads for chocolate chips pop up at the top of my screen, followed by recipes that Google has scraped from across the web, followed by Google Maps and Google Reviews of nearby bakeries, followed by YouTube videos for how to bake chocolate chip cookies. (YouTube, of course, is owned by Google.)

It isn’t just that I am spending more time in a Google search, either. The Silicon Valley company has leveraged the act of looking for something online into such a vast technology empire.

The Guardian, Rudy Giuliani faces questions after compromising scene in new Borat film, Catherine Shoar, Oct. 21, 2020. Trump’s personal attorney has indiscreet encounter with actor playing Borat’s daughter in hotel room during pandemic. This article contains spoilers about 'Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.'

The reputation of Rudy Giuliani could be set for a further blow with the release of highly embarrassing footage in Sacha Baron Cohen’s follow-up to Borat.

In the film, released on Friday, the former New York mayor and current personal attorney to Donald Trump is seen reaching into his trousers and apparently touching his genitals while reclining on a bed in the presence of the actor playing Borat’s daughter, who is posing as a TV journalist.

Following an obsequious interview for a fake conservative news programme, the pair retreat at her suggestion for a drink to the bedroom of a hotel suite, which is rigged with concealed cameras.

After she removes his microphone, Giuliani, 76, can be seen lying back on the bed, fiddling with his untucked shirt and reaching into his trousers. They are then interrupted by Borat who runs in and says: “She’s 15. She’s too old for you.”

Representatives for Giuliani have not replied to the Guardian’s requests for comment.

Word of the incident first emerged on 7 July, when Giuliani called New York police to report the intrusion of an unusually-dressed man. “This guy comes running in, wearing a crazy, what I would say was a pink transgender outfit,” Giuliani told the New York Post. “It was a pink bikini, with lace, underneath a translucent mesh top, it looked absurd. He had the beard, bare legs, and wasn’t what I would call distractingly attractive.

“This person comes in yelling and screaming, and I thought this must be a scam or a shakedown, so I reported it to the police. He then ran away,” Giuliani said. The police found no crime had been committed.

Giuliani continued: “I only later realised it must have been Sacha Baron Cohen. I thought about all the people he previously fooled and I felt good about myself because he didn’t get me.”

Viewers may be less convinced that Baron Cohen, reprising his role as the bumbling reporter Borat Sagdiyev, and Maria Bakalova, who plays his daughter, Tutar, had no success.

In the film, Borat is dispatched by the Kazakh government back to the US to present a bribe to an ally of Donald Trump in order to ingratiate his country with the administration. After the monkey earmarked for the gift is indisposed, Borat’s supposedly underage offspring becomes the replacement present.

Even before he reaches into his trousers, Giuliani does not appear to acquit himself especially impressively during the encounter. Flattered and flirtatious, he drinks scotch, coughs, fails to socially distance and claims Trump’s speedy actions in the spring saved a million Americans from dying of Covid. He also agrees – in theory at least – to eat a bat with his interviewer.

Giuliani has become a key figure in the late stages of the US presidential election after obtaining a laptop hard drive purportedly belonging to Hunter Biden and left at a repair shop in Delaware.

His efforts to unearth political dirt on Trump’s rival for the White House mean that the film’s mortifying footage can be seen as an attempt to undermine Giuliani’s credibility. The film, released on Amazon Prime less than a fortnight before the election, ends with an instruction for viewers to vote.

Although unfortunate, the circumstances of the setup appear consensual, with Giuliani led to believe he was being courted. Bakalova, 24, is highly plausible in the sting, despite also having to pretend, for the benefit of viewers, to be a feral child posing as a far-right journalist.

As with the first film, which made $262m on release in 2006 and won a Golden Globe for Baron Cohen, the most troubling scenes are those which reveal deep-seated prejudice among the American people.

Oct. 20

djt lesley stahl

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Taunts Lesley Stahl of ‘60 Minutes’ After Cutting Off Interview, Michael M. Grynbaum and Maggie Haberman, Oct. 20, 2020. Two weeks from Election Day, the president picked a fight with the country’s most popular television news program.

President Trump abruptly cut off an interview with the “60 Minutes” star Lesley Stahl, left, at the White House on Tuesday and then taunted her on Twitter, posting a short behind-the-scenes video of her at the taping and noting that she had not been wearing a mask in the clip.

Mr. Trump then threatened to post his interview with Ms. Stahl ahead of its intended broadcast time on Sunday evening, calling it “FAKE and BIASED.”

The spectacle of a president, two weeks from Election Day, picking a fight with the nation’s most popular television news program began on Tuesday after Mr. Trump grew irritated with Ms. Stahl’s questions, according to two people familiar with the circumstances of the taping.

One person briefed on what took place said that Mr. Trump had spent more than 45 minutes filming with Ms. Stahl and her CBS News crew, and that the taping had not wrapped up when the president’s aides had expected it to.

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside the ‘Malarkey Factory,’ Biden’s war room designed to fight online misinformation, Matt Viser, Oct. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Joe Biden’s campaign has quietly built a multimillion-dollar operation with dozens of people monitoring the Web and deploying countermeasures.

Joe Biden’s campaign has quietly built a multimillion-dollar operation over the past two months that’s largely designed to combat misinformation online, aiming to rebut President Trump while bracing for any information warfare that could take place in the aftermath of the election.

The effort, internally called the “Malarkey Factory,” consists of dozens of people around the country monitoring what information is gaining traction digitally, whether it’s resonating with swing voters and, if so, how to fight back. The three most salient attacks the Malarkey Factory has confronted so far are claims that Biden is a socialist, that he is “creepy” and that he is “sleepy” or senile.

In preparation for misinformation spreading as voters head to the polls, especially a stretch around Election Day when Facebook will not let campaigns buy new ads, the campaign has partnered with dozens of Facebook pages associated with liberal individuals or groups that have large followings. The campaign has also enlisted 5,000 surrogates with big social media platforms who can pump out campaign messages.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. held secret talks with Syria over missing American journalist, sanctions and U.S. military presence, Syrian newspaper reports, Sarah austin tice CustomDadouch, Oct. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Two senior U.S. officials visited Damascus in August for secret talks about the fate of missing American journalist Austin Tice, sanctions and the U.S, military presence in Syria, in rare high-level negotiations, according to a newspaper aligned with the Syrian government.

According to the report in Al Watan newspaper, U.S. Ambassador Roger Carstens, an envoy for hostage affairs, and Kash Patel, a top White House counter-terrorism advisor, met with Ali Mamlouk, the head of Syria’s intelligence agency, in his office in Damascus.

The visit, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, comes as the White House has been pressing Syria to release Tice, right, a freelance journalist abducted in Syria in 2012 and believed to be held there by the Syrian government or allied forces.

ny times logoNew York Times, New Yorker Suspends Jeffrey Toobin After Zoom Incident, Johnny Diaz and Azi Paybarah, Oct. 20, 2020. In a statement, the magazine said it was investigating a matter involving the author and CNN legal analyst.

jeffrey toobinnew yorker logoThe New Yorker said on Monday that it had suspended the staff writer Jeffrey Toobin after he exposed himself during a Zoom call last week with employees of the magazine and WNYC radio, according to two people familiar with the call.

Staff writers at The New Yorker and employees from WNYC, which jointly produce the magazine’s podcast, were on a video call prepping for election night coverage, according to Vice, which first reported the episode.

During a pause in the call for breakout discussions, Mr. Toobin switched to a second call that was the video-call equivalent cnn logoof phone sex, according to the two people familiar with the call, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Asked Monday afternoon about reports that he had exposed himself, Mr. Toobin said in a statement: “I made an embarrassingly stupid mistake, believing I was off-camera. I apologize to my wife, family, friends and co-workers.”

Oct. 19

 Hunter Biden (shown in a Zoom video of remarks at the 2020 Democratic National Convention)

Hunter Biden (shown in a Zoom video of remarks at the 2020 Democratic National Convention)

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: New York Post Published Hunter Biden Report Amid Newsroom Doubts, Katie Robertson, Oct. 19, 2020 (print ed.). Some reporters withheld their bylines and questioned the credibility of an article that made the tabloid’s front page on Wednesday. The New York Post’s front-page article about Hunter Biden on Wednesday was written mostly by a staff reporter who refused to put his name on it, two Post employees said.

Bruce Golding, a reporter at the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid since 2007, did not allow his byline to be used because he had concerns over the article’s credibility, the two Post employees said, speaking on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation.

Coming late in a heated presidential campaign, the article suggested that Joseph R. Biden Jr. had used his position to enrich his son Hunter when he was vice president. The Post based the story on photos and documents the paper said it had taken from the hard drive of a laptop purportedly belonging to Hunter Biden.

Many Post staff members questioned whether the paper had done enough to verify the authenticity of the hard drive’s contents, said five people with knowledge of the tabloid’s inner workings. Staff members also had concerns about the reliability of its sources and its timing, the people said.

The article named two sources: Stephen K. Bannon, the former adviser to President Trump now facing federal fraud charges, who was said to have made the paper aware of the hard drive last month; and Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, who was said to have given the paper “a copy” of the hard drive on Oct. 11.

Mr. Giuliani said he chose The Post because “either nobody else would take it, or if they took it, they would spend all the time they could to try to contradict it before they put it out.”

Top editors met on Oct. 11 to discuss how to use the material provided by Mr. Giuliani. The group included the tabloid veteran Colin Allan, known as Col; Stephen Lynch, The Post’s editor in chief; and Michelle Gotthelf, the digital editor in chief, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting. Mr. Allan, who was The Post’s editor in chief from 2001 to 2016 and returned last year as an adviser, urged his colleagues to move quickly, the person said.

As deadline approached, editors pressed staff members to add their bylines to the story — and at least one aside from Mr. Golding refused, two Post journalists said. A Post spokeswoman had no comment on how the article was written or edited.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Local News Dies, a Pay-for-Play Network Rises in Its Place, Davey Alba and Jack Nicas, Oct. 19, 2020 (print ed.). A nationwide operation of 1,300 local sites publishes coverage that is ordered up by Republican groups and corporate P.R. firms.

The instructions were clear: Write an article calling out Sara Gideon, a Democrat running for a hotly contested U.S. Senate seat in Maine, as a hypocrite.

Angela Underwood, a freelance reporter in upstate New York, took the $22 assignment over email. She contacted the spokesman for Senator Susan Collins, the Republican opponent, and wrote an article on his accusations that Ms. Gideon was two-faced for criticizing shadowy political groups and then accepting their help.

The short article was published on Maine Business Daily, a seemingly run-of-the-mill news website, under the headline “Sen. Collins camp says House Speaker Gideon’s actions are hypocritical.” It extensively quoted Ms. Collins’s spokesman but had no comment from Ms. Gideon’s campaign.

Then Ms. Underwood received another email: The “client” who had ordered up the article, her editor said, wanted it to add more detail.

The client, according to emails and the editing history reviewed by The New York Times, was a Republican operative.

Maine Business Daily is part of a fast-growing network of nearly 1,300 websites that aim to fill a void left by vanishing local newspapers across the country. Yet the network, now in all 50 states, is built not on traditional journalism but on propaganda ordered up by dozens of conservative think tanks, political operatives, corporate executives and public-relations professionals, a Times investigation found.

The sites appear as ordinary local-news outlets, with names like Des Moines Sun, Ann Arbor Times and Empire State Today. They employ simple layouts and articles about local politics, community happenings and sometimes national issues, much like any local newspaper.

But behind the scenes, many of the stories are directed by political groups and corporate P.R. firms to promote a Republican candidate or a company, or to smear their rivals.

djt apprentice

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: The TV Producer Who Shaped Trump’s Image Is Losing His Touch, Ben Smith, Oct. 19, 2020 (print ed.). With “The Apprentice,” Mark Burnett helped make Donald Trump a national figure. But he seems to be losing his grip on the cultural moment, Ben Smith writes.

Like his greatest creation, Mr. Trump — who sought and then lost an idiotic television ratings war on Thursday night with Joe Biden — Mr. Burnett seems to be struggling to keep his grip on the cultural moment.

Mr. Burnett’s story has been told often, and until 2016 he was eager to help tell it — how he reshaped American television with “Survivor” in 2000 and how, with the 2004 start of “The Apprentice,” he “resurrected Donald Trump as an icon of American success,” as The New Yorker put it.

He’s been in Mr. Trump’s ear ever since: He held a planning meeting for the 2016 inauguration in his Ritz-Carlton apartment, the event’s planner, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, wrote. His associates produced the Republican National Convention this summer, Michael Grynbaum and Annie Karni reported for The New York Times. When President Trump took the presidential helicopter from the hospital to the White House this month, panicked Twitter commentators compared an official video of his triumphal return to the work of the Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl. But Mr. Burnett was the artiste whose influence really shined through on the video, though a spokeswoman said he did not consult on it.

“The level of production coming out of the White House is something we would have appreciated having,” Bill Pruitt, a producer on the “The Apprentice,” said of the video’s specific camera angles and its particular obsession with helicopters, a longtime favorite prop of Mr. Burnett’s dating back to “Survivor.” “As is customary for this, the reality TV version of a presidential campaign, it seems they’re not striving as much for ‘four more years’ as they are ‘Season 2.’”

The Idea Logical Company, Analysis: The end of the general trade publishing concept, Mike Shatzkin, Oct. 19, 2020. My brilliant friend Joe Esposito has written a piece to explain why Penguin Random House would want to acquire Simon & Schuster. I have also been thinking about why PRH, or any of the other three of the “Big Five”, would want to acquire S&S. In fact, two of the three, Hachette and HarperCollins, have indicated interest.

Here’s a snapshot of my view of the world of big consumer publishers and how it has changed over the past three decades, which informs my explanation of why PRH would want to buy S&S.

Big consumer publishers are called “trade publishers” because they have historically sold the vast preponderance of their units through “the trade,” the network of bookstores and libraries and their wholesalers that has grown up in the US over the past century. As the role and importance of bookstores in the overall distribution world of books has changed, so has the commercial reality for publishers.

In 1990, there were about 500,000 individual book titles to choose from because only what was in “books in print” was really available. There were, at that time, dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of stores in the country that carried 100,000 titles or more. Trade publishers who depended on that bookstore network and worked it regularly with two or three “lists” a year could almost always put out a few thousand copies of any book on their list through that bookstore network.

Each new book published was competing with half-a-million others in the market, and the publishers were insulated from competition from any entity that didn’t cover the bookstores regularly the way they did.

The result of this was that most publishers made a little money on most of the books they published, unless they very much overpaid on the author advance or printed many more copies than they distributed

We’re in a different world today. The universe of possible titles now is about 18 million unique possibilities, or about 35 to 40 times more titles competing with each new book for attention and sales than existed three decades ago. (And all of those 18 million books, most of which live today as files ready to be printed-on-demand, are available in a day or two from Ingram.) Bookstores today are perhaps 25 percent of sales, so having a strong position with them only commands a fraction of the market. The stores are smaller in number and smaller in footprint; very few stores today carry more than 35-40,000 titles.

Big publishers (and Ingram, which is not a publisher but provides the full range of services and a shared infrastructure to 600 distributed publishers, making them collectively as big as most of the Big Five) have long recognized this market shift. They have been building “direct” sales efforts, including creating vertical websites, compiling email lists of book consumers, and “working” the Internet for sales and marketing opportunities, for well over a decade.

This has been reflected in shrinking trade sales forces and growing digital marketing teams. It has also delivered greater profitability for publishers while sales — topline revenues — are struggling to stay even with last year.

And all of that is why Penguin Random House could benefit a great deal from acquiring Simon & Schuster. They would get tens of thousands of commercially viable titles to push through channels they have that S&S did not.

Book publishing is not going to stop, or even slow down. Individual authors, purpose-driven publishers, and many organizations (including schools) that see books as useful to their mission, will keep pushing new titles into the marketplace. It gets less and less expensive to do that all the time when a “first printing” doesn’t have to be covered with risk capital. But publishing as a commercial enterprise will become increasingly challenging, especially as a “stand-alone.”

Publishers will need to have a captive market — of students, conference attendees, employees, customers for something else — to make a lot of new titles make sense.

Hartford Courant, Hartford Courant will outsource printing of newspaper, Kenneth R. Gosselin, Oct 19, 2020. The Hartford Courant announced Monday that the newspaper will now be printed in Springfield, ending more than 250 years of publication in Connecticut’s capital city.

The outsourcing will eliminate 151 jobs at the Courant’s plant on Broad Street, effective between Dec. 19 and Jan. 15, according to a notice filed with the state Department of Labor Monday afternoon.

The shift from Hartford will not affect distribution and circulation of the paper, which is the nation’s oldest continuously published newspaper. The paper began as a newsweekly on Oct. 29, 1764.

“The Courant remains committed to its mission of telling the stories of the people of Connecticut,” said Andrew Julien, the Courant’s Publisher and Editor-in-Chief. “We are not in any way changing the mission of the paper.”

Earlier this year, Tribune Publishing Co., the Courant’s Chicago-based parent, said it would close five newsroom spaces, including the Daily News in New York and the Orlando Sentinel in Florida. Those newspapers are continuing to publish, with reporters, editors and photographers working at home as they had been doing during the pandemic. Courant reporters and photographers have been working remotely during the pandemic.

Monday’s announcement did not address the future of the newsroom in Hartford.

Two months ago, the Hartford City Council passed a resolution urging Tribune Publishing’s largest shareholder, Alden Global Capital, a New York-based hedge fund, to “cease any further layoffs that have decimated the staff.”

Tribune Publishing, a Chicago-based media company also publishes the Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun and other daily papers.

The Springfield Republican newspaper will take over printing of the paper by the end of the year.

A decades-long decline in advertising revenue across the newspaper industry deepened with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year. Nationwide, newspaper financial woes have intensified, amid reader shifts to more fragmented, digital consumption of news and consolidation under corporate ownership.

For years, newspapers have sought to cut expenses by outsourcing printing operations. Earlier this month the Philadelphia Inquirer said it would close its printing plant and shift production to an outside contractor. The Miami Herald also outsourced printing this year, as did papers in nearby Northampton and Greenfield, Massachusetts.

Although newspapers have accelerated their push into digital delivery of news, it came late, forcing publishers to play catch-up. The relocation of printing of the Courant could signal a more intense focus on its digital offerings.

A history of The Courant, published for the newspaper’s 250th anniversary in 2014, noted the paper had been printed on its own presses with only two exceptions: for four days during the flood of 1936 when the New Britain Herald published the Courant and one day during the flood of 1955 when the Courant’s rival The Hartford Times printed the paper.

Oct. 18

Palmer Report, Analysis: Rudy Giuliani’s New York Post stunt just turned into even more of a disaster, Bill Palmer, Oct. 18, 2020. To give you an idea of just how badly Rudy Giuliani’s “Hunter Biden laptop” story has flopped, his fellow Kremlin asset Ron Johnson resorted to making the desperate false claim today that there were inappropriate pictures of children on the laptop. No one is falling for this crap who wasn’t already voting for Trump, meaning the whole thing was pointless Now it’s gotten even uglier.

It turns out the New York Post article in question – which was so obviously a work of fiction that Twitter banned it from even being linked to – was written by a reporter who ended up having such doubts about the story, he refused to allow his name to be placed on it. The New York Times is reporting that multiple people at the Post thought the story was nonsense. But it gets even worse, because Rudy is now running his mouth.

Rudy admitted that he gave the story to the New York Post because “either nobody else would take it, or if they took it, they would spend all the time they could to try to contradict it before they put it out.” That’s right, Rudy is flat out admitting that if he gave the story to any news outlet that might scrutinize it before publishing it, the story would fall apart and never get published at all. It’s one thing to do this, which is shady. It’s another to admit it out loud, which is stupid and self-sabotaging.

In any case, there is no indication that this phony “Hunter Biden laptop” scandal is having any impact on the outcome of the election. The only people who are choosing to fall for it are the people who were already voting for Trump anyway. It’s simply up to the rest of us to turn out in full force and vote him out.

Media Matters, Analysis / Advocacy: New York Times report exposes the shoddy journalism behind New York Post's Biden hit piece, John Whitehouse, Oct. 18, media matters logo2020. Katie Robertson has a must-read piece up at The New York Times about the reaction inside the New York Post's newsroom to its shoddy hit piece on Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his son Hunter earlier this week. There's a lot in there, so please go read the whole thing.

Now that you've done that, here are some of the key takeaways:

  • The report was mostly written by a staff writer who refused to put their name on it, per two Post sources.
  • Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani says he gave the material to the Post because he was worried other outlets would practice actual journalism: “either nobody else would take it, or if they took it, they would spend all the time they could to try to contradict it before they put it out."
  • Top figures at the paper were involved in deciding how to proceed, including editor in chief Stephen Lynch, digital editor in chief Michelle Gotthelf, and adviser Colin Allan.
  • Editors at the Post pressed people there to add their name to the byline, according to two sources who spoke to Robertson.

Of the two bylines on the piece, we had known that Emma-Jo Morris had worked at Sean Hannity's Fox News show recently, and that her Instagram had pictures of her with figures like Hannity, Roger Stone, and Steve Bannon. Robertson adds that Gabrielle Fonrouge, who had the other byline on the piece, did not know that she had a byline until after the piece went live. Robertson writes that three sources told her that Fonrouge “had little to do with the reporting or writing of the article.”

The one outlet that embraced the report wholeheartedly from the get go was Fox News, which ran over 100 segments on the story in the first two and a half days, despite all the red flags.

The New York Post is the corporate cousin of Fox News, and is part of News Corp, which is run by Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch, Co-Chairman Lachlan Murdoch, and CEO Robert Thomson. This is how Murdoch-style journalism works.

Oct. 17

fcc logo

washington post logoWashington Post, FCC push to rethink legal protections for tech giants marks major turn, Tony Romm,  Oct. 17, 2020 (print ed.). The agency’s Republican chairman unveiled his plans hours after Facebook and Twitter limited the reach of an article about Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his family, angering President Trump and his supporters.

A new effort by the Federal Communications Commission to rethink the legal shield that applies to social media sites drew widespread rebukes this week, as critics faulted the agency for reversing its past positions in the face of mounting public pressure from the White House.

The agency’s move threatens to strike at the heart of a critical federal law known as Section 230, which for decades has spared tech giants from being held ajit pai headshot customaccountable for the ways they police their platforms. Ajit Pai, the FCC’s Republican chairman, unveiled his plans to “clarify” the scope of those protections hours after Facebook and Twitter took the rare step of limiting the reach of a New York Post story about Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his family, angering President Trump and his top supporters.

The FCC is an independent agency, and historically, it has sought to emphasize its separation from the White House. But some critics still saw the FCC’s timing as politically peculiar.

Only a year ago, top FCC aides had told the Trump administration privately that they did not want to pursue regulation around online speech, according to four people with direct knowledge of the talks, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe confidential proceedings. The comments came as part of a series of conversations convened by the White House designed to explore potential regulation targeting Silicon Valley.

Pai himself had previously expressed opposition to new FCC regulation targeting social media sites. On Thursday, however, he set the agency on a path toward issuing new rules around Section 230, citing concerns shared by “all three branches of government” about the tech giants’ behavior.

“Social media companies have a First Amendment right to free speech,” said Pai, who tweeted his statement at 2:30 p.m. “But they do not have a First Amendment right to a special immunity denied to other media outlets, such as newspapers and broadcasters.”

Oct. 16

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Campaign Lawyers Are Aiding a Leading Proponent of QAnon, Danny Hakim, Oct. 16, 2020. A firm started by a group of Trump lawyers underscores the connections between false conspiracy theory and President Trump and his inner circle.

Senior lawyers for the Trump campaign set up a small law firm last year that is working for Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican House candidate in Georgia with a history of promoting QAnon, a pro-Trump conspiracy theory.

While federal filings show that the firm, Elections L.L.C., principally collects fees from the president’s campaign and the Republican National Committee, it also does work for a number of congressional candidates, and none more so than Ms. Greene, underscoring the connections between QAnon and Mr. Trump and his inner circle. The latest example came Thursday night, when President Trump repeatedly declined to disavow QAnon at a televised town hall.

Ms. Greene is one of several Republican candidates who openly espouse the collection of bogus and bizarre theories embraced by followers of QAnon, who have been labeled a potential domestic terror threat by the F.B.I. and who former President Barack Obama warned Wednesday were infiltrating the mainstream of the Republican Party. QAnon imagines, falsely, that a Satanic cabal of pedophile Democrats are plotting against Mr. Trump, plays on anti-Semitic tropes and stokes real world violence — and has been expounded on at length by Ms. Greene in videos.

Elections L.L.C. was founded last year by Justin Clark, Mr. Trump’s deputy campaign manager, and Stefan Passantino, a former top ethics lawyer in the Trump White House. Matthew Morgan, the Trump campaign’s counsel, is also a partner at the firm. Ms. Greene’s campaign has made 14 payments to the firm since last year, worth nearly $70,000 in total, the most of any congressional campaign.

Mr. Passantino appears in records filed with the Georgia secretary of state as the lawyer who incorporated Ms. Greene’s campaign committee, though the full scope of his work for the candidate is unclear. He also does legal work for a Georgia political operative, Jason D. Boles, who is a personal friend of Ms. Greene’s and who helped set up her campaign. (Mr. Boles has been a recent subject of controversy, after it emerged that he had helped bankroll an effort to infiltrate and discredit voting rights groups in North Carolina.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Savannah Guthrie grilled Trump like few others have, taking the heat off NBC for its town, Jeremy Barr, Oct. 16, 2020 (print ed.). The network was criticized for accommodating Trump after he rejected a debate. But then the ‘Today’ host started asking him questions.

Media Matters, Analysis / Advocacy: Trump’s prime-time mask attack is powered by the Trump-Fox feedback loop, Matt Gertz, Oct. 16, 2020. A lot of people are dying because Trump takes advice from Tucker Carlson and friends.

media matters logoPresident Donald Trump is using a new false talking point on the campaign trail to downplay the effectiveness of face masks in fighting the coronavirus pandemic. He likely adopted it after seeing a similar falsehood deployed on Tucker Carlson Tonight, one of his favorite Fox News programs. The situation presents a case study in how the president has leaned on the network’s right-wing commentators to shape the federal response to the pandemic, with deadly results.

On Thursday, Trump repeatedly mangled a study to falsely suggest that face coverings may not prevent -- and may actually promote -- the spread of the virus.

“They come out with things today — did you see, the CDC? That 85% of the people wearing the masks catch it, OK?” he said during a rally in Greenville, North Carolina.

He repeated the claim during a prime-time town hall event on NBC. “Just the other day,” he said, “they came out with a statement that 85% of the people that wear masks catch it.”

“They didn't say that,” moderator Savannah Guthrie responded. “I know that study. That's not --”

“Well, that's what I heard,” Trump replied, “and that's what I saw.”

When Trump later attempted to return to the figure, Guthrie said, “I looked at that report. It's not about mask wearing — it was neutral on the question of masks.”

More than 10 million Americans watched the president’s dubious critique of masks.

But Guthrie is correct about the study, which was published in September by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and did not focus on mask use.

Based on a survey of 314 people from 11 health care facilities, it focused on the impact of going to public places where masks cannot easily be worn, such as restaurants with on-site eating and bars. The study concluded that “adults with positive SARS-CoV-2 test results were approximately twice as likely to have reported dining at a restaurant than were those with negative SARS-CoV-2 test results.” It also found that close contact with someone who also tested positive was a major risk factor.

washington post logoWashington Post, Court rules Trump appointee overstepped authority when he tried to replace media fund’s leadership, Paul Farhi, Oct. 16, 2020. A District judge has ruled that a Trump appointee overstepped his authority when he fired the board of an agency that helps dissidents and journalists in repressive countries and sought to replace it with his own slate of directors, including himself.

Shortly after taking over as chief executive of the federal agency that supervises the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and other government-funded media operations in June, Michael Pack began a sweeping overhaul of the six organizations, firing five of their directors; two others resigned in anticipation of his cuts.

But the board of the Open Technology Fund, which Pack dismissed along with its director, rejected his order, arguing that he didn’t have the authority to replace them, and at one point, it blocked Pack’s chosen slate of directors and his new chief executive designee from taking over its offices in the District.

The District’s attorney general, which oversees nonprofits in the city, sued on the agency’s behalf. And on Wednesday, Superior Court Judge Shana Frost Matini agreed that Pack was not authorized by the fund’s bylaws to replace its leadership and that the board Pack has been seeking to replace is the “valid” one at the agency.

Although the ruling affirms the existing board’s authority, it probably has little application for Voice of America and other entities under control of Pack’s U.S. Agency for Global Media because they are chartered under a different set of regulations that gives USAGM greater oversight.

Pack has frozen about half of Open Technology Fund’s remaining grant funds for 2020, said Laura Cunningham, the agency’s acting chief executive and president. Along with unpaid grants from the prior fiscal year, USAGM has held back about $20 million, she said, prompting the suspension of about 80 percent of its ongoing projects.

washington post logoWashington Post, C-SPAN suspends political editor Steve Scully after he lied about his Twitter account being hacked, Elahe Izadi, Oct. 16, 2020. The host came forward with an explanation for a mysterious tweet about Trump ahead of a since-scrapped presidential debate.

C-SPAN has suspended host and political editor Steve Scully — who had been booked to moderate the now-scrapped second presidential debate — after he falsely claimed his Twitter account had been hacked.

Scully informed C-SPAN and the Presidential Commission on Debates late Wednesday that he had lied when he claimed a mysterious tweet that appeared on his feed was the result of a hack, C-SPAN said in a statement.

“By not being immediately forthcoming to C-SPAN and the Commission about his tweet, he understands that he made a serious mistake,” reads a statement from C-SPAN. “We were very saddened by this news and do not condone his actions.”

C-SPAN noted his 30-year tenure with the network and “his fairness and professionalism as a journalist. . . . After some distance from this episode, we believe in his ability to continue to contribute to C-SPAN.”

The C-SPAN host had been criticized for several weeks on social media and by conservative media outlets, culminating with President Trump attacking him by name on television, Scully said in a statement. “Out of frustration,” he explained, he sent a brief tweet to Anthony Scaramucci, a former Trump White House communications director who has emerged as a vocal critic of the president, reading “should I respond to trump."

“The next morning when I saw that this tweet had created a new controversy, I falsely claimed that my Twitter account had been hacked," Scully said. “These were both errors in judgement for which I am totally responsible. I apologize.”

The incident with Scully is the latest in a string of bad headlines and headaches for the journalists tasked with moderating national political debates this year. Wallace was criticized for not intervening sooner in the first debate between Trump and Biden. USA Today’s Susan Page, who moderated the vice-presidential debate, faced blowback beforehand for having hosted an off-the-record event honoring Trump appointees.

NBC News correspondent Kristen Welker is scheduled to moderate the third debate on Oct. 22.

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter Changes Course After Republicans Claim ‘Election Interference,’ Mike Isaac and Kate Conger, Oct. 16, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump called Facebook and Twitter “terrible” and “a monster” and said he would go after them. Senators Ted Cruz and Marsha Blackburn said they would subpoena the chief executives of the companies for their actions. And on Fox News, prominent conservative hosts blasted the social media platforms as “monopolies” and accused them of “censorship” and election interference.

On Thursday, simmering discontent among Republicans over the power that Facebook and Twitter wield over public discourse erupted into open acrimony. Republicans slammed the companies and baited them a day after the sites limited or blocked the distribution of an unsubstantiated New York Post article about Hunter Biden, the son of the Democratic presidential nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr.

For a while, Twitter doubled down. It locked the personal account of Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, late Wednesday after she posted the article, and on Thursday it briefly blocked a link to a House Judiciary Committee webpage. The Trump campaign said Twitter had also locked its official account after it tried promoting the article. Twitter then prohibited the spread of a different New York Post article about the Bidens.

But late Thursday, under pressure, Twitter said it was changing the policy that it had used to block the New York Post article and would now allow similar content to be shared, along with a label to provide context about the source of the information. Twitter said it was concerned that the earlier policy was leading to unintended consequences.

Even so, the actions brought the already frosty relationship between conservatives and the companies to a new low point, less than three weeks before the Nov. 3 presidential election, in which the social networks are expected to play a significant role. It offered a glimpse at how online conversations could go awry on Election Day. And Twitter’s bob-and-weave in particular underlined how the companies have little handle on how to consistently enforce what they will allow on their sites.

“There will be battles for control of the narrative again and again over coming weeks,” said Evelyn Douek, a lecturer at Harvard Law School who studies social media companies. “The way the platforms handled it is not a good harbinger of what’s to come.”

Facebook declined to comment on Thursday and pointed to its comments on Wednesday when it said the New York Post article, which made unverified claims about Hunter Biden’s business in Ukraine, was eligible for third-party fact-checking. Among the concerns was that the article cited purported emails from Hunter Biden that may have been obtained in a hack, though it is unclear how the paper obtained the messages and whether they were authentic.

Twitter had said it was blocking the New York Post article partly because it had a policy of not sharing what might be hacked material. But late Thursday, Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s head of legal, said the policy was too sweeping and could end up blocking content from journalists and whistle-blowers. As a result, she said, Twitter was changing course.

Ms. Gadde added that Twitter would continue blocking links to or images from the article if they contained email addresses and other private information, which violated the company’s privacy policy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fox News veterans face a hurdle in the job market: Having Fox on the résumé, Jeremy Barr, Oct. 16, 2020 (print ed.). When Eboni Williams was first exploring leaving her job at Fox News in 2017 and 2018, she kept hearing the same thing in her conversations with news executives at rival networks.

“They would meet with me and say, ‘You’ve got to get out,’ ” she recalled. “ ‘We cannot acquire a Fox News talent. We can’t take that on, publicity-wise.’ ”

Williams, who now hosts a weekly news show for the much smaller Revolt TV, understands what they meant: After Fox, she needed to go somewhere else first, before they would even consider hiring her.

“Nobody wants to be the first to pick up a Fox News talent,” she said. “Once you’re at Fox three or more years, you are indoctrinated with that Fox News fox news logo Smallbranding, and it becomes almost impossible to shake.”

Williams is among the Fox News veterans, both journalists and pundits, who say they’ve faced skepticism in the job market since leaving the network. While Fox has always leaned right, particularly its nighttime punditry hours, its image as a fortress of conservatism has been hardened during the Trump presidency, as fire-breathing hosts such as Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham have gone to extreme rhetorical lengths to defend the president and attack his critics. Fairly or not, that reputation has rubbed off even on many of Fox’s most ardently nonpartisan journalists.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: By giving Trump a town hall to rival Biden’s, NBC is playing into his ratings obsession — again, Margaret Sullivan, right, Oct. 16, 2020 (print ed.). After the margaret sullivan 2015 photopresident bailed on a scheduled debate, the network rewarded him with a gift: an event on his own terms.
When NBC News drew fire for scheduling Thursday night’s town hall with President Trump directly opposite an ABC News town hall with Joe Biden, the excuse was parity.

This arrangement was the essence of fairness, the corporate brass maintained, since it mirrored a recent town hall that Biden had done with the network — same Miami location, same 8 p.m. time slot.

NBC News logoTotally even-handed! Right?

Actually, I’d describe that gambit with an entirely different word: specious. It may sound plausible, but it is wrong.

In fact, NBC News is doing what so much of mainstream media has done time and again: allowed Trump to steal the spotlight and command attention on his terms.

“I am dismayed—more like disgusted—by NBC’s decision to air Trump’s ‘I won’t play by the rules so let me make my own rules’ town hall opposite Biden’s,” wrote a former NBC News executive, Cheryl Gould.By 1 hour ago

ny times logoNew York Times, YouTube Cracks Down on QAnon Conspiracy Theory, Kevin Roose, Oct. 16, 2020 (print ed.). Citing Offline Violence, YouTube has played a bigger role in moving QAnon from the fringes to the mainstream than most platforms.

youtube logo CustomYouTube on Thursday became the latest social media giant to take steps to stop QAnon, the sprawling pro-Trump conspiracy theory community whose online fantasies about a cabal of satanic pedophiles running the world have spilled over into offline violence.

The company announced in a blog post that it was updating its hate speech and harassment policies to prohibit “content that targets an individual or group with conspiracy theories that have been used to justify real-world violence.” The new policy will prohibit content promoting QAnon, as well as related conspiracy theories such as Pizzagate, which falsely claims that top Democrats and Hollywood elites are running an underground sex-trafficking ring from the basement of a Washington pizza restaurant.

Other social networks have also taken steps to curb the spread of QAnon, which has been linked to incidents of violence and vandalism. Last week, Facebook hardened its rules related to QAnon content and compared it to a “militarized social movement” that was becoming increasingly violent. This week, several smaller platforms, including Pinterest, Etsy and Triller, also announced new restrictions on QAnon content.

Under YouTube’s new policy, which goes into effect today, “content that threatens or harasses someone by suggesting they are complicit” in a harmful theory like QAnon or Pizzagate will be banned. News coverage of these theories and videos that discuss the theories without targeting individuals or groups may still be allowed.

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Obama Photographer Pete Souza Exposes Trump’s ‘Obviously’ Staged Pics, Matt Wilstein, Oct. 16, 2020 (print ed.). Pete Souza breaks down what working for Reagan and Obama taught him about Trump’s “disastrous” presidency. Plus, watch an exclusive clip from his documentary “The Way I See It.”

As soon as Pete Souza saw the photos of President Donald Trump “working” from Walter Reed hospital earlier this month, he knew something was off.

“They were obviously posed pictures,” Souza, who worked as chief White House photographer under both President Barack Obama and President Ronald Reagan, tells me by email a couple of weeks after our longer conversation below about his new documentary The Way I See It, which will premiere commercial-free on MSNBC this Friday night at 10 p.m. ET.

Aside from the seemingly blank sheet of paper Trump can be seen signing in one of the photos, released by the White House in an attempt to prove the president was hard at work, one intrepid reporter determined that another photo, in which Trump is wearing a different outfit, was taken just 10 minutes later.

Oct. 15

ny times logoNew York Times, YouTube Cracks Down on QAnon Conspiracy Theory, Kevin Roose, Oct. 15, 2020. Citing Offline Violence, YouTube has played a bigger role in moving QAnon from the fringes to the mainstream than most platforms.

YouTube on Thursday became the latest social media giant to take steps to stop QAnon, the sprawling pro-Trump conspiracy theory community whose online fantasies about a cabal of satanic pedophiles running the world have spilled over into offline violence.

youtube logo CustomThe company announced in a blog post that it was updating its hate speech and harassment policies to prohibit “content that targets an individual or group with conspiracy theories that have been used to justify real-world violence.” The new policy will prohibit content promoting QAnon, as well as related conspiracy theories such as Pizzagate, which falsely claims that top Democrats and Hollywood elites are running an underground sex-trafficking ring from the basement of a Washington pizza restaurant.

Other social networks have also taken steps to curb the spread of QAnon, which has been linked to incidents of violence and vandalism. Last week, Facebook hardened its rules related to QAnon content and compared it to a “militarized social movement” that was becoming increasingly violent. This week, several smaller platforms, including Pinterest, Etsy and Triller, also announced new restrictions on QAnon content.

Under YouTube’s new policy, which goes into effect today, “content that threatens or harasses someone by suggesting they are complicit” in a harmful theory like QAnon or Pizzagate will be banned. News coverage of these theories and videos that discuss the theories without targeting individuals or groups may still be allowed.

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook and Twitter take unusual steps to limit spread of New York Post story on Hunter Biden, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Oct. 15, 2020. The actions, which prompted an outcry from President Trump and the right, were the result of a year of tech companies’ scenario-planning exercises for the 2020 election.

facebook logoFacebook and Twitter took unusual steps Wednesday to limit readership of an article by the New York Post about alleged emails from Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s son, one of the rare occasions they have sanctioned a traditional media outlet.

The social media giants took that action before verifying the contents of the article, in which President Trump‘s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani and his former top adviser Stephen K. Bannon claimed to have obtained and leaked a trove of private materials from Hunter Biden. The leaked documents suggested at one point he gave a Ukrainian executive the “opportunity” to meet the former vice president. The Biden campaign said his schedule indicated no such meeting took place.

Facebook preemptively limited the spread of the story while sending it to third-party fact-checkers, a decision the company said it has taken on various occasions but is not the standard process. Twitter allowed the story to surge to a No. 3 trending topic in the U.S., although later marked the link as “potentially unsafe” and blocked it. It also temporarily locked White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s account, as well as the New York Post’s, adding notices to their tweets saying they violated Twitter’s rules on prohibiting publishing hacked materials. Trump’s campaign account was also temporarily locked.

washington post logoWashington Post, QAnon-supporting Republican candidate endorses Loeffler for Senate, Paulina Firozi, Oct. 15, 2020. Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) has accepted the endorsement of Marjorie Taylor Greene, a congressional candidate in the state who has made a slew of racist statements and openly espoused the QAnon conspiracy theory.

“I’m so proud to have this strong, conservative fighter on Team Kelly!” Loeffler tweeted, announcing the endorsement.

The pair appeared together at an event in Paulding County in Georgia to announce the endorsement, driving up to the event in a vehicle adorned with a campaign sign for Greene and a smaller sign for President Trump and Vice President Pence.

Greene, on Twitter, called Loeffler the “most conservative Senator in Washington” who has “fought for the key issues I care about.”

Loeffler is running in a Nov. 3 special election to keep her Senate seat after being appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp (R) to fill the vacancy left when former senator Johnny Isakson (R) resigned because of health problems.

In Facebook videos unearthed by Politico, Greene makes numerous racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic remarks. In the videos, she said Black people are “held slaves to the Democratic Party,” called prominent Jewish Democratic donor George Soros a “Nazi himself trying to continue what was not finished,” and likened the election of the first two Muslim women to Congress to an “Islamic invasion of our government.”

Greene has promoted QAnon, an online movement the FBI has identified as a potential domestic terrorist threat. The baseless conspiracy theory maintains that Trump is battling a cabal of “deep state” saboteurs who worship Satan and traffic children for sex. The House voted overwhelmingly this month to condemn QAnon.

Greene, whom Trump has called a “future Republican star,” is all but certain to win the race for Georgia’s deep-red 14th Congressional District after her challenger, Democrat Kevin Van Ausdal, dropped out of the race in September.

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter Changes Course After Republicans Claim ‘Election Interference,’ Mike Isaac and Kate Conger, Oct. 15, 2020. President Trump called Facebook and Twitter “terrible” and “a monster” and said he would go after them. Senators Ted Cruz and Marsha Blackburn said they would subpoena the chief executives of the companies for their actions. And on Fox News, prominent conservative hosts blasted the social media platforms as “monopolies” and accused them of “censorship” and election interference.

On Thursday, simmering discontent among Republicans over the power that Facebook and Twitter wield over public discourse erupted into open acrimony. Republicans slammed the companies and baited them a day after the sites limited or blocked the distribution of an unsubstantiated New York Post article about Hunter Biden, the son of the Democratic presidential nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr.

For a while, Twitter doubled down. It locked the personal account of Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, late Wednesday after she posted the article, and on Thursday it briefly blocked a link to a House Judiciary Committee webpage. The Trump campaign said Twitter had also locked its official account after it tried promoting the article. Twitter then prohibited the spread of a different New York Post article about the Bidens.

But late Thursday, under pressure, Twitter said it was changing the policy that it had used to block the New York Post article and would now allow similar content to be shared, along with a label to provide context about the source of the information. Twitter said it was concerned that the earlier policy was leading to unintended consequences.

Even so, the actions brought the already frosty relationship between conservatives and the companies to a new low point, less than three weeks before the Nov. 3 presidential election, in which the social networks are expected to play a significant role. It offered a glimpse at how online conversations could go awry on Election Day. And Twitter’s bob-and-weave in particular underlined how the companies have little handle on how to consistently enforce what they will allow on their sites.

“There will be battles for control of the narrative again and again over coming weeks,” said Evelyn Douek, a lecturer at Harvard Law School who studies social media companies. “The way the platforms handled it is not a good harbinger of what’s to come.”

Facebook declined to comment on Thursday and pointed to its comments on Wednesday when it said the New York Post article, which made unverified claims about Hunter Biden’s business in Ukraine, was eligible for third-party fact-checking. Among the concerns was that the article cited purported emails from Hunter Biden that may have been obtained in a hack, though it is unclear how the paper obtained the messages and whether they were authentic.

Twitter had said it was blocking the New York Post article partly because it had a policy of not sharing what might be hacked material. But late Thursday, Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s head of legal, said the policy was too sweeping and could end up blocking content from journalists and whistle-blowers. As a result, she said, Twitter was changing course.

Ms. Gadde added that Twitter would continue blocking links to or images from the article if they contained email addresses and other private information, which violated the company’s privacy policy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fox News veterans face a hurdle in the job market: Having Fox on the résumé, Jeremy Barr, Oct. 15, 2020. When Eboni Williams was first exploring leaving her job at Fox News in 2017 and 2018, she kept hearing the same thing in her conversations with news executives at rival networks.

“They would meet with me and say, ‘You’ve got to get out,’ ” she recalled. “ ‘We cannot acquire a Fox News talent. We can’t take that on, publicity-wise.’ ”

Williams, who now hosts a weekly news show for the much smaller Revolt TV, understands what they meant: After Fox, she needed to go somewhere else first, before they would even consider hiring her.

“Nobody wants to be the first to pick up a Fox News talent,” she said. “Once you’re at Fox three or more years, you are indoctrinated with that Fox News fox news logo Smallbranding, and it becomes almost impossible to shake.”

Williams is among the Fox News veterans, both journalists and pundits, who say they’ve faced skepticism in the job market since leaving the network. While Fox has always leaned right, particularly its nighttime punditry hours, its image as a fortress of conservatism has been hardened during the Trump presidency, as fire-breathing hosts such as Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham have gone to extreme rhetorical lengths to defend the president and attack his critics. Fairly or not, that reputation has rubbed off even on many of Fox’s most ardently nonpartisan journalists.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: By giving Trump a town hall to rival Biden’s, NBC is playing into his ratings obsession — again, Margaret Sullivan, right, Oct. 15, 2020. After the margaret sullivan 2015 photopresident bailed on a scheduled debate, the network rewarded him with a gift: an event on his own terms.
When NBC News drew fire for scheduling Thursday night’s town hall with President Trump directly opposite an ABC News town hall with Joe Biden, the excuse was parity.

This arrangement was the essence of fairness, the corporate brass maintained, since it mirrored a recent town hall that Biden had done with the network — same Miami location, same 8 p.m. time slot.

NBC News logoTotally even-handed! Right?

Actually, I’d describe that gambit with an entirely different word: specious. It may sound plausible, but it is wrong.

In fact, NBC News is doing what so much of mainstream media has done time and again: allowed Trump to steal the spotlight and command attention on his terms.

“I am dismayed—more like disgusted—by NBC’s decision to air Trump’s ‘I won’t play by the rules so let me make my own rules’ town hall opposite Biden’s,” wrote a former NBC News executive, Cheryl Gould.By 1 hour ago

Media Matters, Analysis / Advocacy: Fox News death cult embraces declaration calling for “herd immunity," Madeline Peltz, Oct. 15, 2020. An online declaration called "The Great Barrington Declaration" developed by a libertarian think tank, is being supported by the White House and promoted by Fox News personalities. The declaration that calls for “herd immunity” approach to the coronavirus pandemic, the deeply flawed idea that the virus should be intentionally spread widely in the population. While the “herd immunity” concept in vaccinology dictates that a population can become immune to a disease through mass vaccination, it has been spun by the White House and right-wing media in an effort to end public health best practices, and allow the coronavirus to spread throughout the population unfettered.

media matters logoFox’s promotion of herd immunity and praise of the Trump White House’s embrace of it, is dangerous. Dr. Anthony Fauci called the Great Barrington Declaration “ridiculous” and “if you talk to anybody who has any experience in epidemiology and infectious diseases, they will tell you that that is risky and you'll wind up with many more infections of vulnerable people, which will lead to hospitalizations and deaths. So I think that we just got to look that square in the eye and say it's nonsense.”

Then vs now: Scott Atlas, a Fox News regular who used the platform to become Trump’s dubious coronavirus adviser, appeared on The Ingraham Angle to push “herd immunity,” only a few weeks after appearing on the network to deny reports that he had counseled the president on this policy.

Herd immunity approach, debunked: It's not just Fauci calling out Atlas. Infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm told Meet the Press today that a "herd immunity" theory reportedly invoked by Atlas "is the most amazing combination of pixie dust and pseudoscience I've ever seen."

Who is to blame: Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch is reportedly “disgusted” by President Donald Trump’s failed handling of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The fact is that he and his son Lachlan Murdoch, who currently oversees the network, are also partly responsible for it.

Media Matters, Analysis / Advocacy: Sinclair stations set to air Eric Bolling monologue claiming masks and lockdown precautions do not help slow the spread of COVID-19, Zachary Pleat, Oct. 15, 2020. Sinclair Broadcast Group’s weekly program America This Week continues to be a source of dangerous COVID-19 misinformation thanks to its host Eric Bolling, who in a monologue this week dismissed the effectiveness of face mask use and social distancing in slowing down the spread of the novel coronavirus which has killed well over 200,000 Americans.

media matters logoBolling pushed this dangerous health misinformation, uncritically aired Trump’s claim of being immune to the virus, and repeated long-debunked lies that the virus was “altered” in a Chinese lab. His program is typically broadcast on weekends on more than 40 Sinclair-owned or -operated TV stations in about three dozen states, and the latest episode is already available for streaming from Sinclair stations’ websites.

After Media Matters' Zach Pleat reported on this, Sinclair told The New York Times that it would edit Bolling's monologue to remove his anti-mask commentary -- and would leave the rest in.

This is just the latest example of Sinclair pushing disinformation about the pandemic -- and then doing not even bare minimum when we expose them for the propagandists that they are.

Meanwhile, Bolling is set this week to host a town hall with President Donald Trump at the White House.

Also: A Sinclair reporter has pushed pro-Trump messaging in at least 18 national news segments aired on Sinclair stations.

Trump’s prime-time mask attack is powered by the Trump-Fox feedback loop

The lie started in the fever swamps, jumped to Tucker Carlson and Alex Berenson on Fox News, where it was picked up by President Donald Trump, who added his own dishonest twist. Trump's new talking point is that "85% of the people wearing the masks" contract COVID-19. This is totally false, just a complete and utter lie.

A similar claim attacking masks was trumpeted on conservative websites like TheBlaze, The Federalist, and The Gateway Pundit misinterpreting a CDC study. The study itself tried to identify risk factors in the United States other than masks for people who contracted COVID. The study focused on places where masks cannot be diligently worn, like restaurants and bars.

When Trump brought the study up during his NBC town hall, he was promptly corrected by Savannah Guthrie.

This is just the latest example of Fox News using terrible data to attack basic health and safety practices during the pandemic. As The Washington Post reports,Trump brought a Laura Ingraham screenshot to the debate and waved it around. The Post found that the data Ingraham gave Trump was misleading.

A bizarre Benghazi conspiracy theory traveled through the right-wing echo chamber from QAnon accounts to the president

This is, to be honest, one of the dumbest conspiracy theories I've ever seen get so much traction in right-wing media. And it was amplified by President Donald Trump -- twice.

Courtney Hagle explains: "A fringe right-wing narrative has been circulating alleging a secret plot among Obama administration officials and the CIA to protect Osama bin Laden and assassinate members of SEAL Team 6. The claims appear to have originated at a conservative conference last weekend and quickly spread across the internet, reaching President Donald Trump by Tuesday evening when he retweeted an unverified account affiliated with QAnon."
The full, bonkers conspiracy theory makes wild allegations about a body double for Bin Laden.

YouTube: YouTube has allowed The Next News Network, a conspiracy theory channel with over a million subscribers, to monetize misinformation, without much penalty for doing so. The network's version of the Bin Laden conspiracy theory has been viewed over 2 million times.

ny times logoNew York Times, YouTube Cracks Down on QAnon Conspiracy Theory, Kevin Roose, Oct. 15, 2020. Citing Offline Violence, YouTube has played a bigger role in moving QAnon from the fringes to the mainstream than most platforms.

youtube logo CustomYouTube on Thursday became the latest social media giant to take steps to stop QAnon, the sprawling pro-Trump conspiracy theory community whose online fantasies about a cabal of satanic pedophiles running the world have spilled over into offline violence.

The company announced in a blog post that it was updating its hate speech and harassment policies to prohibit “content that targets an individual or group with conspiracy theories that have been used to justify real-world violence.” The new policy will prohibit content promoting QAnon, as well as related conspiracy theories such as Pizzagate, which falsely claims that top Democrats and Hollywood elites are running an underground sex-trafficking ring from the basement of a Washington pizza restaurant.

Other social networks have also taken steps to curb the spread of QAnon, which has been linked to incidents of violence and vandalism. Last week, Facebook hardened its rules related to QAnon content and compared it to a “militarized social movement” that was becoming increasingly violent. This week, several smaller platforms, including Pinterest, Etsy and Triller, also announced new restrictions on QAnon content.

Under YouTube’s new policy, which goes into effect today, “content that threatens or harasses someone by suggesting they are complicit” in a harmful theory like QAnon or Pizzagate will be banned. News coverage of these theories and videos that discuss the theories without targeting individuals or groups may still be allowed.

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Obama Photographer Pete Souza Exposes Trump’s ‘Obviously’ Staged Pics, Matt Wilstein, Oct. 15, 2020. Pete Souza breaks down what working for Reagan and Obama taught him about Trump’s “disastrous” presidency. Plus, watch an exclusive clip from his documentary “The Way I See It.”

As soon as Pete Souza saw the photos of President Donald Trump “working” from Walter Reed hospital earlier this month, he knew something was off.

“They were obviously posed pictures,” Souza, who worked as chief White House photographer under both President Barack Obama and President Ronald Reagan, tells me by email a couple of weeks after our longer conversation below about his new documentary The Way I See It, which will premiere commercial-free on MSNBC this Friday night at 10 p.m. ET.

Aside from the seemingly blank sheet of paper Trump can be seen signing in one of the photos, released by the White House in an attempt to prove the president was hard at work, one intrepid reporter determined that another photo, in which Trump is wearing a different outfit, was taken just 10 minutes later.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fox News veterans face a hurdle in the job market: Having Fox on the résumé, Jeremy Barr, When Eboni Williams was first exploring leaving her job at Fox News in 2017 and 2018, she kept hearing the same thing in her conversations with news executives at rival networks.

“They would meet with me and say, ‘You’ve got to get out,’ ” she recalled. “ ‘We cannot acquire a Fox News talent. We can’t take that on, publicity-wise.’ ”

Williams, who now hosts a weekly news show for the much smaller Revolt TV, understands what they meant: After Fox, she needed to go somewhere else first, before they would even consider hiring her.

“Nobody wants to be the first to pick up a Fox News talent,” she said. “Once you’re at Fox three or more years, you are indoctrinated with that Fox News fox news logo Smallbranding, and it becomes almost impossible to shake.”

Williams is among the Fox News veterans, both journalists and pundits, who say they’ve faced skepticism in the job market since leaving the network. While Fox has always leaned right, particularly its nighttime punditry hours, its image as a fortress of conservatism has been hardened during the Trump presidency, as fire-breathing hosts such as Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham have gone to extreme rhetorical lengths to defend the president and attack his critics. Fairly or not, that reputation has rubbed off even on many of Fox’s most ardently nonpartisan journalists.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: By giving Trump a town hall to rival Biden’s, NBC is playing into his ratings obsession — again, Margaret Sullivan, right, After the margaret sullivan 2015 photopresident bailed on a scheduled debate, the network rewarded him with a gift: an event on his own terms.
When NBC News drew fire for scheduling Thursday night’s town hall with President Trump directly opposite an ABC News town hall with Joe Biden, the excuse was parity.

This arrangement was the essence of fairness, the corporate brass maintained, since it mirrored a recent town hall that Biden had done with the network — same Miami location, same 8 p.m. time slot.

NBC News logoTotally even-handed! Right?

Actually, I’d describe that gambit with an entirely different word: specious. It may sound plausible, but it is wrong.

In fact, NBC News is doing what so much of mainstream media has done time and again: allowed Trump to steal the spotlight and command attention on his terms.

“I am dismayed—more like disgusted—by NBC’s decision to air Trump’s ‘I won’t play by the rules so let me make my own rules’ town hall opposite Biden’s,” wrote a former NBC News executive, Cheryl Gould.By 1 hour ago

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Obama Photographer Pete Souza Exposes Trump’s ‘Obviously’ Staged Pics, Matt Wilstein, Oct. 15, 2020. Pete Souza breaks down what working for Reagan and Obama taught him about Trump’s “disastrous” presidency. Plus, watch an exclusive clip from his documentary “The Way I See It.”

As soon as Pete Souza saw the photos of President Donald Trump “working” from Walter Reed hospital earlier this month, he knew something was off.

“They were obviously posed pictures,” Souza, who worked as chief White House photographer under both President Barack Obama and President Ronald Reagan, tells me by email a couple of weeks after our longer conversation below about his new documentary The Way I See It, which will premiere commercial-free on MSNBC this Friday night at 10 p.m. ET.

Aside from the seemingly blank sheet of paper Trump can be seen signing in one of the photos, released by the White House in an attempt to prove the president was hard at work, one intrepid reporter determined that another photo, in which Trump is wearing a different outfit, was taken just 10 minutes later.

Oct. 14

Lewiston Tribune (Idaho), COVID-19 infection scuttles local TV news, Elaine Williams, Oct. 14, 2020. KLEW-TV employees are in two-week quarantine after positive test among staff. The region’s death toll from the coronavirus pandemic edged up Tuesday with a fatality in Whitman County, while operations at KLEW-TV in Lewiston and the Idaho County Jail were limited by COVID-19 infections.

The man who died in Whitman County was between the ages of 60 and 79 and was the third person there to succumb to COVID-19, according to a news release from the county.

Elsewhere, the disease continued to create challenges in a number of ways. KLEW-TV is not doing its nightly Lewiston news broadcasts after one staff member was confirmed to have COVID-19, and five employees began a two-week quarantine Friday, Station Manager Dan Stellmon said.

The station is serving its viewers through its Facebook page, Twitter and its website www.klewtv.com as much as possible for the next two weeks, Stellmon said.

“We’ll be back to normal as soon as possible,” he said in a prepared statement. “Please wear a mask when in public and maintain social distancing.”

One inmate at the Idaho County Jail tested positive for COVID-19, prompting the sheriff’s office to suspend fingerprinting, jail visits, work on concealed weapons permits and sex offender registrations, Sheriff Doug Giddings said.

The inmate is recovering and has been isolated from the rest of the jail population.

He exhibited mild coronavirus symptoms, Giddings said, and the jail staff followed the same procedure they do for any ill inmate, taking him across the street to the medical clinic at Syringa Hospital.

“We’re just being cautious, because the virus is a nasty thing,” he said.

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Twitter Blocks Users From Sharing NY Post Article on Biden, Rachel Olding, Oct. 14, 2020. The extraordinary measure by Twitter went a step further than Facebook. Twitter has blocked a controversial New York Post article on Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, from being shown or shared—the first time the social media company has proactively blocked an article from a major mainstream news organization.

Facebook’s policy communications director Andy Stone also tweeted that Facebook would reduce the article’s visibility while it is fact-checked by outside fact-checkers. If Twitter users try to share the article, a message reads, “We can’t complete this request because this link has been identified by Twitter or our partners as being potentially harmful.” Links to the article in older tweets now warn the user that the article is potentially unsafe.

The article, touted as an exclusive provided to the Post by Trump sidekick Rudy Giuliani, was shot down by the Biden camp for containing crucial errors that could have been pointed out if the Post had approached them for comment.

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Man Who Reportedly Gave Hunter’s Laptop to Rudy Speaks Out in Bizarre Interview, Jordan Howell and Erin Banco, Oct. 14, 2020. John Paul Mac Isaac gave conflicting stories to reporters on Wednesday. He also said he feared for his life, citing the Seth Rich conspiracy. On Wednesday morning, the New York Post published a story alleging that Hunter Biden dropped off a laptop at a Delaware computer store for repair and that the device contained nefarious emails and photos.

The item was immediately viewed with suspicion, both for the timing of it—coming less than three weeks before the elections—and the path the laptop supposedly took. The Post said that “before turning over the gear,” the owner of the computer repair shop “made a copy of the hard drive and later gave it to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello.” The story alleged that the Biden son was setting up a meeting between a top executive at a Ukrainian energy firm on which he served and his father, who was then the vice president. The Biden campaign has said no such meeting was scheduled.
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On Wednesday afternoon, a group of reporters, among them a journalist for The Daily Beast, spoke with the owner of the shop, a man named John Paul Mac Isaac who lives in Wilmington, Delaware. The audio of that nearly hour-long question and answer session is below.

Mac Isaac appeared nervous throughout. Several times, he said he was scared for his life and for the lives of those he loved. He appeared not to have a grasp on the timeline of the laptop arriving at his shop and its disappearance from it. He also said the impeachment of President Trump was a “sham.” Social media postings indicate that Mac Isaac is an avid Trump supporter and voted for him in the 2016 election.

Mac Isaac said he had a medical condition that prevented him from actually seeing who dropped off the laptop but that he believed it to be Hunter Biden’s because of a sticker related to the Beau Biden Foundation that was on it. He said that Hunter Biden actually dropped off three laptops for repair, an abundance of hardware that he chalked up to the Biden son being “rich.”

Throughout the interview, Mac Isaac switched back and forth from saying he reached out to law enforcement after viewing the files in the laptop to saying that it was actually the Federal Bureau of Investigation that contacted him. At one point, Mac Isaac claimed that he was emailing someone from the FBI about the laptop. At another point he claimed a special agent from the Baltimore office had contacted him after he alerted the FBI to the device’s existence. At another point, he said the FBI reached out to him for “help accessing his drive.”

Mac Isaac referenced the infamous Seth Rich conspiracy theory—which holds that a DNC staffer who police say was murdered in a botched robbery was actually killed off by Clinton allies because he leaked committee emails—as reason for his paranoia. He said he made a copy of the hard drive for the purposes of personal protection.

“They probably knew I had a copy because I was pretty vocal about not wanting to get murdered,” he said, “so I’m going to have a copy.”

Mac Isaac refused to answer specific questions about whether he had been in contact with Rudy Giuliani before the laptop drop-off or at any other time before the Post article’s publication. Pressed on his relationship with Giuliani, he replied: “When you’re afraid and you don’t know anything about the depth of the waters that you’re in, you want to find a lifeguard.”

Seeming to realize he’d said too much, he added: “Ah, shit.”

So Rudy was your lifeguard? the reporters asked. “No comment,” he replied.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Hunter Biden’s alleged laptop: An explainer, Glenn Kessler, Oct. 14, 2020. How Trump's attempt to force a Biden-Ukraine investigation backfired to the impeachment trial.

The Fact Checker unravels what happened when Trump tried to force an investigation into the false rumor about then-Vice President Joe Biden and Ukraine. (Meg Kelly, Sarah Cahlan/The Washington Post)

The New York Post on Wednesday published an article based on emails purportedly obtained from a laptop that Hunter Biden, the vice president’s son, had supposedly left behind for repair in a Delaware shop in April 2019. Here’s a brief explainer to help readers evaluate its significance. We will continue to update this article as more information becomes available.

The key thrust of the article is that an April 2015 email suggests Hunter Biden arranged for a top executive at a Ukrainian energy firm to meet with the then-vice president when he was in charge of U.S. policy toward Ukraine. “Dear Hunter, thank you for inviting me to DC and giving an opportunity to meet your father and spent [sic] some time together. It’s realty [sic] an honor and pleasure,” reads the email, supposedly written by Vadym Pozharskyi, an adviser to the board of Burisma.

Why would that be important?

Hunter Biden in 2014 became a board member of Burisma, which news reports at the time suggested was a conflict of interest, given his father’s position. The former vice president has said he did not discuss Burisma with his son. The email is not specific about the nature of the meeting and is written in a way that it could be talking about a possible future meeting. Nevertheless, Republicans have long sought to tie the vice president to his son’s business interests, even launching a Senate investigation, so any indication that the vice president helped his son could be politically damaging. The New York Post claimed it was a “smoking-gun email.”

How do we know the email is authentic?

We do not. The New York Post published PDF printouts of several emails allegedly taken from the laptop, but for the “smoking-gun” email, it shows only a photo made the day before the story was posted, according to Thomas Rid, the author of “Active Measures,” a book on disinformation. “There is no header information, no metadata.” The Washington Post has not been able to independently verify or authenticate these emails, as requests to make the laptop hard drive available for inspection have not been granted. The New York Post said it obtained the material from former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, a personal lawyer to President Trump.

There also is no indication that Hunter Biden replied to the email.

Moreover, another alleged email published by the New York Post contradicts the notion that Hunter Biden could influence his father. “What he will do and say is out of our hands,” Hunter Biden wrote in an email that the New York Post said was sent April 13, 2014.

What does the Biden campaign say?

Andrew Bates, a campaign spokesman for Joe Biden, said a review of Biden’s schedules from 2015 finds no record of any such meeting. Officials who worked for Biden at the time told The Fact Checker that no such meeting took place.

“I was with the vice president in all of his meetings on Ukraine,” said Michael Carpenter, Biden’s foreign policy adviser in 2015. “He never met with this guy. In fact, I had never heard of this guy until the New York Post story broke.”

The New York Post article also cites an email from Pozharskyi to Hunter Biden saying he was “going to share this information with the US embassy here in Kyiv, as well as the office of Mr Amos Hochstein in the States.”

“I know for a fact he never contacted me or my office,” said Hochstein, who at the time worked closely with Biden as special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs. “I provided every record to the Senate investigation, and no mention of this guy was ever made, no emails, no correspondence. I know almost every player in the energy sector in Ukraine. I never met this guy.”

Carpenter said that the vice president wouldn’t have had a meeting with a company executive. “He was the vice president of the United States,” he said. “He met with prime ministers.”

This does not exclude the possibility that Biden briefly shook hands and chatted with Pozharskyi during a public event. Hunter Biden, for instance, helped arrange for a potential business partner, Jonathan Li, to shake hands with his father in the lobby of a Beijing hotel when the vice president made an official trip to China.

Pozharskyi, in the email, mentions that he spoke to Hunter “yesterday evening.” At the request of The Fact Checker, a Biden aide reviewed Biden’s schedule for April 16, 2015. The vice president gave remarks at the White House Greek Independence Day Reception, between 5 and 6 p.m., and then spoke to the Congressional Fire Services Institute Gala, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., the aide said.

What does Hunter Biden say?

Asked to verify whether the email is genuine, Hunter Biden’s attorney George Mesires told The Fact Checker: “We have no idea where this came from, and certainly cannot credit anything that Rudy Giuliani provided to the NY Post, but what I do know for certain is that this purported meeting never happened.”
Are there errors in the New York Post report?

A separate article, about another email, claims that a public relations company that worked for Burisma was allowed to take part in a conference call about an upcoming visit by Joe Biden to Ukraine. But there was nothing secret about this call, and the transcript was released publicly and posted on the White House website.

More broadly, the New York Post repeats the falsehood, advanced by President Trump, that the “elder Biden pressured government officials in Ukraine into firing a prosecutor who was investigating the company.”

We have fact-checked this repeatedly. During President Barack Obama’s second term, Biden was in charge of the Ukraine portfolio, keeping in close touch with the country’s president, Petro Poroshenko. Biden’s brief was to sweet-talk and jawbone Poroshenko into making reforms that Ukraine’s Western benefactors wanted to see as part of Ukraine’s escape from Russia’s orbit. But the Americans saw an obstacle to reform in Viktor Shokin, the top Ukrainian prosecutor, whom the United States viewed as ineffective and beholden to Poroshenko and Ukraine’s corrupt oligarchs. In particular, Shokin had failed to pursue an investigation of the founder of Burisma, Mykola Zlochevsky.

The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv proposed that Biden, during his 2015 visit there, use a pending delivery of $1 billion of loan guarantees as leverage to force reform. Biden addressed the Ukrainian parliament, decrying the “cancer of corruption” in the country and criticizing the prosecutor’s office. During that visit, Biden privately told Poroshenko the loan guarantees would be withheld unless Shokin was replaced. After repeated calls and meetings between the two men over several months, Shokin was removed and the loan guarantees were provided.

Pavlo Klimkin, Ukrainian foreign minister from 2014 until Aug. 29, 2019, said that the firing of Shokin was universally urged by Ukraine’s benefactors. “The demand came not just from the U.S., and not just from Biden,” he said. “I heard it in every meeting with the international financial institutions, especially the IMF and World Bank. It was not just Biden. Clearly.”

Colin H. Kahl, Biden’s national security adviser at the time, told The Fact Checker that “our policy on corruption and Shokin in Ukraine kept getting tougher across 2015, so the whole theory of the case [in the New York Post] makes no sense.”

Why is this coming out now?

Good question. The FBI supposedly obtained the hard drive earlier this year from John MacIsaac, who said he owns the Wilmington Mac Shop.

MacIsaac told reporters on Wednesday that a MacBook laptop was dropped off at his shop in Wilmington, Del., in April 2019. MacIsaac, who said that he was legally blind, said that he was almost certain that it was Hunter Biden who dropped off the computer. He said that he made several attempts to get in touch with Hunter Biden but the equipment was still in his hands 90 days after it had been left there, and he said that he became curious about what he’d seen.

He made a copy of the hard drive and gave it to Giuliani. This past weekend, Giuliani passed a copy to the New York Post. But presumably the laptop would have been of use to the year-long Senate investigation, which found no wrongdoing by Biden.

As Giuliani has sought to locate information about Hunter Biden and Ukraine, he has regularly interacted with a Ukrainian lawmaker who was recently sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department as being an “active Russian agent for over a decade” and was engaged in an influence operation to affect the 2020 election. Those interactions have given rise to fears that the emails could be part of a broader disinformation campaign.

WVTF (Virginia Public Radio -- RADIOIQ), Local Journalist Receives Outpouring of Support After Being Fired, Mallory Noe-Payne, Oct. 14, 2020. The last remaining journalist at the Floyd Press says she’s been fired by corporate owner Lee Enterprises after doing an interview detailing difficult work conditions.

That story, “She’s a One-Person Newsroom, But Lee Enterprises Kept Cutting” was published by Radio IQ last Thursday.

In an interview Wednesday Ashley Spinks says she doesn’t regret giving the interview because “I think that’s some of the only power that workers have over corporate ownership is to speak truth to power, and speak honestly about their experiences.”

Spinks was paid $36,000 to do the job of a reporter, editor, photographer and layout designer at the Floyd Press. Since Lee Enterprises took control of the paper in March she had been furloughed and the paper’s freelance budget had been slashed. She had been vocal on Twitter about the challenges of doing her job well under the circumstances.

She says she was told she was let go Tuesday afternoon because she had spoken “disparagingly” about Lee Enterprises on social media and had given an interview without corporate permission. She says she was also told she had violated “journalistic ethics.”

She says she asked for specific examples and was given none.

A spokesman for Lee Enterprises declined our interview request Wednesday saying “the company does not comment on personnel matters.” The spokesman did say that the position of Managing Editor of the Floyd Press, the only editorial staff position at the weekly paper, will be posted immediately and that contingencies have been made to cover the absence in the meantime. He said "The Floyd Press will print and be delivered without interruption."

Spinks says she was asked to leave the office immediately after she was given notice of her termination Tuesday. The paper, which publishes each Thursday, was not yet complete.

“I’m deeply sad and worried for the Floyd community,” Spinks said. “I don’t know what the state of the newspaper will be for Floyd this week or in coming weeks.”

Spinks shared the news on Twitter Tuesday afternoon. It’s since been shared thousands of times, including by high-profile journalists like NPR's David Folkenflik, CNN’s Jake Tapper and the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold.

Floyd Press Managing Editor Ashley Spinks is the only full-time editorial staff at the weekly paper. Credit Mallory Noe-Payne / RADIOIQ

WVTF (Virginia Public Radio -- RADIOIQ), She’s a One-Person Newsroom, But Lee Enterprises Kept Cutting, Mallory Noe-Payne, Oct. 8, 2020. Lee Enterprises is one of the largest corporate newspaper chains in the country, and the company now owns more than a dozen daily papers throughout Virginia -- plus more weeklies. Lee bought the newspapers back in March from BH Media for $140 million. Since then they’ve fired reporters, outsourced work, and furloughed staff.

10/14 Update: Days after this story was initially published, Ashley Spinks was fired. She says one reason management cited was that she gave this interview and that she made "disparaging comments" about Lee Enterprises. Our story about that is here.

It may be the weekend but reporter Ashley Spinks still has a full schedule. It begins with a Pride parade in downtown Floyd.

“I’m Ashley, I’m from the Floyd Press,” she introduces herself to a parade participant with a smile, notebook in hand.

Spinks and I walked to the parade route together from the Floyd Press headquarters. The office itself is an old brick building in a downtown that isn’t just small, it’s less than half a square mile. Fun fact, says Spinks, there’s only one stop light in the entire county.

Another fact: there’s also only one full-time newspaper reporter.

Spinks’ technical title is Managing Editor of the Floyd Press, but in practicality she’s reporter, photographer, layout designer and editor. Each week she single-handedly pulls together the 16-20 page newspaper. And she does it all for $36,000. The paper does also have one ad manager and one customer service representative.

All you have to do though is take a look at the photographs on the wall to see it hasn’t always been this way. Spinks points them out in the lobby, a chronicling of the years. With a small laugh she calls it “cool slash demoralizing.” You can see the group shrink over time.

These are cuts that happened before the latest corporate owner took charge in March, by the time Lee Enterprises bought the paper from BH Media there was practically no staff left to cut. But the company has still managed to find other ways to trim.

Media Matters, The New York Post’s Hunter Biden smear story doesn’t make any sense, Matt Gertz, Oct. 14, 2020. Conservative media are spending a lot of time and energy trying to use a flimsy (at best) New York Post story about Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden to upend the presidential election. The problem for them is that the story doesn't make sense.

media matters logoMatt Gertz explains: "The implication is that Joe Biden improperly used his position as vice president to benefit his son’s Ukrainian business interests.

But as we learned when Giuliani and his allies pushed the story last year, that isn’t what happened. Biden did pressure the Ukrainian government to force the prosecutor in question, Viktor Shokin , to resign.

But he did so because the U.S. government had determined that Shokin wasn’t doing enough to fight corruption in the country -- an assessment shared by American allies and the International Monetary Fund. And at the time Biden acted, the Ukrainian investigation into Burisma Holdings, the company Hunter Biden was linked to, had reportedly been moribund for a year. But the story is even thinner than that -- the email the Post cites does not actually show that Hunter Biden 'introduced' Joe Biden to the Burisma executive. ... the Post does not appear to have produced any other reporting indicating such a meeting took place."

The real story: The real story appears to be how these emails were created and ended up in the possession of Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal attorney and frequent guest in right-wing media. And there are already reports that there are investigations looking into possible ties to Russian intelligence. We also know that Trump was personally warned about Giuliani possibly running with Russia disinformation in 2019 by his own national security adviser.

Many Trump media allies have suggested that they learned about the Biden smear campaign around the same time that Russian intelligence discussed stolen Burisma emails.

Along these lines, Media Matters' Alex Kaplan identified a user on pro-Trump message board The Donald who was hyping the Post's story days in advance. The user had a display name that used neo-Nazi code words.

Other salient information: We've put relevant information on this story into one key document. One thing of note: The New York Post story was co-written by a former producer for Sean Hannity's Fox News show.

Don't fall for the trap: A CBS reporter shouted a question to Joe Biden on the tarmac about the pseudo-scandal, uncritically lifting it up. This kind of attention is just what Giuliani, Trump, and Steve Bannon are looking for. This mirrors the network running dozens of stories about Hillary Clinton's email in 2016.

Oct. 13

daily beast logoThe Daily Beast, Justice Department Sues Melania Trump’s Former BFF Over Dishy Tell-All, Blake Montgomery and Pilar Melendez,  Oct. 13, 2020. The Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Melania Trump’s former best friend, accusing her of breaking a non-disclosure agreement and not submitting a draft of her tell-all book about her relationship with the first lady to the federal government for pre-publication review.

stephanie winston wolkoff coverStephanie Winston Wolkoff, the planner of President Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration, penned Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady about the sudden souring of her relationship with the first lady. The look into Melania’s inner circle, published nearly two months ago, painted an unflattering portrait of the first lady, as did several clandestine recordings Wolkoff later shared.

stephanie winston wolkoff twitterFiled in Washington, D.C. District Court, the lawsuit accuses Wolkoff of breach of contract and breach of fiduciary obligations. Justice Department prosecutors contend that a “gratuitous services agreement” Wolkoff and Melania Trump signed in August 2017 had no end date and that Wolkoff had access to sensitive “deliberative information” about the the first lady’s duties, similar to claims the agency made when attempting to keep the book, which was published in September, from store shelves.

“This was a contract with the United States and therefore enforceable by the United States,” Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said.

Wolkoff’s attorneys previously called the claims “unfounded and meritless” and said the contract had been terminated more than two years ago.

Justice Department lawyers wrote, “Ms. Wolkoff agreed, among other things, ‘that [she was] specifically prohibited from publishing, reproducing or otherwise divulging any such information to any unauthorized person or entity in whole or in part.’” The Department has requested the court redirect any profits earned from the book to the federal government via a constructive trust.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Campaign Suggests Omarosa Manigault Newman Pay for $1 Million in Ad, Maggie Haberman, Oct. 13, 2020. The suggestion emerged in an arbitration case over the critical comments Ms. Manigault Newman, a former White House aide, made about President Trump in her 2018 book Unhinged.’

Omarosa Manigault Newman was a contestant on the first season of The Apprentice and later served as an adviser to President Trump at the White House.

The Trump campaign has suggested that Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former White House aide, pay for an ad campaign costing nearly $1 million as a “corrective” remedy for her critical comments about President Trump in her 2018 book and in subsequent interviews.

The recommendation was made in a document filed by the Trump campaign from an expert witness last week as part of an ongoing arbitration case; The Times reviewed the document.

The witness, Eric W. Rose, a crisis management expert, detailed a lengthy advertising proposal across several platforms that would cost just over $846,000. He did not suggest a time frame by which the ad campaign would need to take place. But the proposal mentions several times the impressions Ms. Manigault Newman’s comments could have left with “voters,” and was filed a few weeks before the election.

“It would be my recommendation that Ms. Manigault Newman pays for the corrective ads/corrective statements outlined above to counteract the long-term adverse effects of information that appeared as a result of Ms. Manigault Newman violating her confidentially agreement,” Mr. Rose wrote. He concluded: “If corrective ads are not placed, voters may continue to hold beliefs about the president as a result of Ms. Manigault Newman’s statements.”

Ms. Manigault Newman’s lawyer, John Phillips, said that the Trump campaign’s submission of Mr. Rose’s document was the height of “weaponized litigation.”

“Friday, we found out their bullets are commercials they want Omarosa to go do,” he said, referring to the report’s suggestion that only an ad campaign could “remedy” what had been said. “This isn’t free speech. It’s speech with a gun to your head.”

President Trump’s lawyers filed an arbitration case against Ms. Manigault Newman after she published a tell-all book, “Unhinged,” in August 2018, arguing she violated a nondisclosure agreement she had signed when the Trump campaign hired her in 2016. In her book she described Mr. Trump as a racist and misogynist who had made disparaging comments about Black people and women over the years.
Keep up with Election 2020

Ms. Manigault Newman had previously worked with Mr. Trump when she appeared on several seasons of his “Apprentice” reality shows.

Mr. Phillips said the document from Mr. Rose was filed after Ms. Manigault Newman’s side in the arbitration fight had sought an explanation for how they could prove “damages” were owed. Mr. Phillips said that the campaign couldn’t justify it by claiming a loss of donations, since it has raised more than $1 billion.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: In a stunning rebuke, a federal judge hammers the Trump administration for snatching back stimulus payments from incarcerated individuals, Michelle Singletary, Oct. 13, 2020 (print ed.). While millions of Americans wait anxiously to see if another stimulus package will ever see the light of day, a federal judge in California has rapped the knuckles of Treasury and the IRS for withholding and requiring the return of relief money from incarcerated people.

A class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of incarcerated individuals argued that the decision to deny the payments was arbitrary and against the law.

djt quizzical uncredited palmer CustomJudge Phyllis Hamilton of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California agreed and ordered the Treasury Department and the IRS to reverse their decision to disallow stimulus funds to prisoners solely based on their incarcerated status. The government has filed an appeal.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (Cares) Act provides economic impact payments or stimulus payments of up to $1,200 for individuals and up to $2,400 for taxpayers filing a joint tax return.

The Cares Act specifically excluded some people: nonresident aliens, an estate or trust and people who are dependents on someone else’s tax return. The law did not exclude payments to incarcerated individuals.

Initially, the IRS sent nearly 85,000 payments totaling $100 million to incarcerated people, according to a June report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). After TIGTA raised concerns about the payments to prisoners, the IRS reversed course, declaring in an FAQ on irs.gov that such payments to people in local, state and federal correctional facilities were not allowed under the Cares Act.

washington post logoWashington Post, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan donate $100 million more to election administrators, despite conservative pushback, Michael Scherer, Oct. 13, 2020. The new donations come on top of $300 million already given by the couple amid concerns over a smaller-than-needed level of federal funding.

facebook logoFacebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, announced Tuesday an additional $100 million in donations to local governments to pay for polling place rentals, poll workers, personal protective equipment and other election administration costs over the coming weeks.

The donation, which follows a previous gift of $300 million for state and local governments to help fund U.S. elections, comes in the face of a lawsuits from a conservative legal group seeking to block the use of private funds for the state and local administration of elections, an expense that has historically been paid for by governments.

But Zuckerberg has been unmoved by legal threats, arguing in a Facebook post expected to go live Tuesday that his decision to fund election administration does not have a partisan political motive.

 

wayne madesen report logo

mike pompeo portraitWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: Pompeo releases Clinton's emails: Nada, Wayne Madsen, Oct. 13, 2020. Many of the classified emails were wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallheavily redacted by the intelligence community stakeholders, so what Trump and the far-right wing Judicial Watch -- which sued for the emails -- obtained was a large cache of newspaper and magazine clippings, letters, foreign policy thoughts contained in emails from U.S. diplomats and other parties, scheduling and travel matters, speech preparation, Sunday talk show comments, United Nations votes, and generally, the same type of information contained in State Department cables released by WikiLeaks' Julian Assange.

Ironically, some of the Clinton emails released by Pompeo refer to the angst among State Department employees caused by Assange's release of State Department cables, many of which were classified.

Hillary ClintonThere are no "smoking guns" in the Clinton emails and, once again, Trump has been proven to be an exaggerator and confabulator of the highest degree.

While the emails indicate that Clinton was uncomfortably friendly with the likes of disgraced General and former Central Intelligence Agency director David Petraeus (who she referred to as "Dave"), there is nothing in the emails that suggests any criminal wrongdoing on her part or that of her staff.

washington post logoWashington Post, Anchorage mayor apologizes for ‘inappropriate messaging relationship’ with news anchor, Katie Shepherd, Oct. 13, 2020. On Friday afternoon, veteran Anchorage news anchor Maureen “Maria” Athens published a video on Facebook leveling unsubstantiated allegations that the city’s married mayor had posted inappropriate photos online. Hours later, Athens posted a nude photo, allegedly of the mayor, to bolster her case.

The saga soon turned even stranger. The mayor quickly denied the allegations, calling Athens “hostile and unwell,” and the news station she worked for also rejected her claims. By the end of the day, Athens was arrested for allegedly assaulting the station’s manager.

But on Monday afternoon, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz (D) issued a public apology and admitted to engaging in an “inappropriate messaging relationship” with Athens, 41.

“I apologize to the people of Anchorage for a major lapse in judgment I made several years ago when I had a consensual, inappropriate messaging relationship with reporter Maria Athens,” Berkowitz, 58, said in a statement shared with The Washington Post on Monday. “I’m embarrassed and ashamed for the hurt I’ve caused my family and our community. I take responsibility for my actions.”

The backstory of the scandal, which has transfixed Anchorage, remains murky, with Berkowitz continuing to deny Athens’s claims and noting that law enforcement also investigated and found he’d done nothing wrong. Athens, meanwhile, didn’t respond to a request for comment from The Post, and it is not clear if she is being represented by an attorney.

The Democrat became mayor of Alaska’s most populous city in 2015. Before that, Berkowitz served as a state representative from 1997 to 2007, when he unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor. He is in his last term as mayor and not up for reelection this year.

Athens has worked as an anchor and reporter for Your Alaska Link, which consists of the KTBY and KYUR stations.

The video Athens posted on Facebook appears to have been shot inside the news studio with a cellphone held by another person. In the video, Athens accuses the mayor, without evidence or sourcing, of posting inappropriate photos on an “underage girls website.” She pledged to reveal more details on her news broadcast later that night. Thousands of people shared, commented and reacted to the post, which is still live on Athens’s Facebook page.

In the hours after the post, Berkowitz emphatically denied the allegation.

“The slanderous allegations from Your Alaska Link reporter Maria Athens are categorically false and appear to be the product of someone who is hostile and unwell,” the mayor’s office said in a statement on Friday. “We spoke with Ms. Athens’ employer, general manager Scott Centers, who emphatically disavowed his employee’s comments.”

Later that night, Athens was arrested at the Your Alaska Link station after getting into a physical altercation with Centers, the station’s general manager. Court records noted that Centers was also in a romantic relationship with the reporter, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

 

Oct. 11

julian assange facts wikileaks Custom

OpEdNews, Opinion: A horror story in 2 parts (Part II): A Travesty of Justice as UK Caters to US Desire to Crush Assange, Ron Ridenour, Oct. oenearthlogo11, 2020. The second indictment of alleged violations of the Espionage Act belatedly filed by the US against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, shown above, actually should not include him since there is no contention that he spied for any warring enemy, nor is he a U.S. citizen or resident, which the 1917 law targeted.

The original indictment focused on allegations that Assange had criminally aided Chelsea Manning in "hacking" into and downloading secret documents that show U.S. war crimes. That case went sour when the government prosecutors could not find any evidence. Furthermore, Manning (at that time while known as Bradley Manning) was a private in the US Army working in Iraq as an intelligence analyst and was authorized to download those documents so she had no need of assistance from Assange.

Hence the second indictment admitted Assange is a publisher, but claimed he had put government informant lives in danger - a different crime. Ample defense evidence was presented showing how Assange had carefully redacted the names of informants. Some names were mentioned by The Guardian and other mass media, but that was because of a choice by those editors who chose not redact their names.

Part of the prosecution's case was now built on Assange's ordering 18-year-old Sigurdur Thordarson to hack into Iceland politicians' phone conversations. Even if earlier charges fell apart, the new allegation could still form grounds for extradition. The new charges included using FBI informant Thordarson, but he had been convicted in Iceland for fraud, embezzlement, and impersonating Assange. He served time in an Icelandic prison, and was diagnosed as a sociopath. Significantly, Iceland has not sought to prosecute Assange or Wikileaks for any crime.

In 2010-11, Thordarson worked with Wikileaks first as a volunteer and for some months on staff. In August, 2011, he contacted the U.S. embassy in Reykjavik to give them information about Assange and Wikileaks. Eight FBI agents and a prosecutor flew to Iceland in a private jet to interview him. The Icelandic government had the courage to tell them to leave, fearing that the FBI and a mole sought to frame Assange. The FBI took their pigeon to ever-compliant Denmark to interview him. They did this several times.

In 2013-5, Thordarson was also tried for various sexual offenses, promising boys from 15-20 years of age cars and money in exchange for sex. This is the man whom the U.S. government had as its key witness in the new indictment. The UK hearing judge appeared to have no problem with that.

Another problem with the government's admitting that Assange is a publisher is that under the US Constitution's First Amendment journalist-publishers have special protection against prosecution for engaging in free-speech and press activities. So, in another change of tactic, the US government now interprets the Espionage Act to mean that anyone, journalists and publishers alike, can be charged with crimes of violating the Espionage Act. That includes any and all media personnel in the entire world - perhaps ordinary citizens too, who simply access Wikileaks materials. It's a fact that journalists and editors and publishers the world over who have been ignoring or misreporting on this case should be paying close heed to because of the dangerous precedent it is setting.

Edward Snowden wrote about reading former British ambassador Craig Murray's daily accounts of court proceedings: "Read this and tell me the show trial of Assange doesn't read like something from Kafka. The judge permits the charges to be changed so frequently the defense doesn't know what they are. The most basic needs are denied. No one can hear what the defendant says-a farce."

Oct. 9

OpEdNews, Opinion: A horror story in two parts -- Part I: Will England Send Assange-the-Messenger to America's Dungeons? Ron Ridenour, Oct. 9, 2020.  Most oenearthlogopeople might be excused for not knowing it, because the story is mainly ignored, or is shamelessly misreported in the corporate media when it does get any attention. A courageous Australian journalist, abandoned by his own country, is being railroaded by a British court towards extradition to the US where he could face life in prison in solitary confinement for the "crime of espionage"-exposing US war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq.

What Julian Assange and his organization Wikileaks have revealed for the whole world to see is the systematic devastation of peoples, of lands, and perennial military pollution of planet earth. The main perpetrator is the most powerful and self-declared "greatest democratic nation" in the world, the United States of America-accompanied by its European and Commonwealth vassal states, plus proxy allies in the Middle East and Zionist Israel.

The villainous perpetrators are the prosecutors. The truth-telling hero is their prisoner.

That is what the British extradition hearing holding Julian Assange's fate in its hands is all about. The testimony aspect of the court case has ended after four grueling weeks. While awaiting closing arguments and the judge's decision, the truth-teller is forced to deteriorate in a prison cell where he has been languishing for 18 months.

The defense and prosecution are now preparing for closing arguments, which, however, will not be held orally. The public will be denied court interaction. The extradition judge, Vanessa Baraitser, will take only written arguments on November 16. She will make her ruling on extradition January 4, 2021.

Magistrate Baraitser noted in this purportedly "non-political" court case that the election might have an impact on the hearing. She said, "I agree that one way or the other my decision will come after an election in the United States. For that reason, I find no reason not to give you the four weeks," to prepare closing arguments, she told the arguing parties.

Assange and his publication Wikileaks have not murdered anyone. Nevertheless, Assange is treated as a dangerous criminal, because he and his staff have published well over 10 million government/military secret documents showing crimes and corruption of scores of governments, above all how the United States, with its always faithful "United" Kingdom, have committed massive war crimes during their "war on terror". This three-decade-long war has resulted in the deaths of three to five million humans, and forced between 37 and 58 million to flee their bombed out countries seeking refuge in neighboring countries and in Europe.

Wikileaks' disclosures are clearly in the "public interest". Yet the public's interest is not allowed as evidence in United States grand jury courts nor in the British courts created as part of the Magna Carta-heralded by "Lord" "Baron" "King's Counsel" Alfred Thompson Denning as "the greatest constitutional document of all times - the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot". The Magna Carta is a forbearer to the U.S. Constitution.

Julian Assange has been held in isolation 23 hours every day at Belmarsh high-security prison since he was dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy, in London, on April 11, 2019. This was just the beginning of a "charade of justice", as former British ambassador Craig Murray has called court proceedings against Julian. (1)

President Donald Trump successfully pressured, or to put it more accurately bribed, Ecuador's new president, Lenin Moreno, to expel Assange from its embassy in London. Moreno also expunged Assange's Ecuadoran citizenship. In return, the U.S. saw to it that Ecuador got a much-needed loan from the International Monetary Fund, and improved trade deals. Ecuador would realign its foreign policy to meet U.S. terms, such as recognizing Juan Guadió as the self-declared president of Venezuela, and have Ecuador's troops trained by the U.S.

Moreno also met with Trump in Washington D.C. Trump and about what he termed this "great meeting," said, "We're working on military options including the purchase of a lot of our military equipment."

Upon expulsion (actually more of a kidnapping by British Metropolitan police) from Ecuador's embassy, Assange was immediately convicted of jumping bail. He had been given 15 minutes with his lawyer before the hearing. A judge called him a narcissist. He was sentenced to 50 weeks in the country's hardest prison.

Oct. 9

JFK Assassination Analysis

vincent salandria resized

Vincent Salandria, an attorney and pioneering researcher into flaws in the Warren Commission's 1964 report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, is shown above in a file photo. He died this summer in Philadelphia. His works include, via People and the Pursuit of Truth (via Ratical), The Design of the Warren Report to Fall to Pieces, April, 1977.

Kennedys and King, Sylvia Meagher and Clay Shaw vs. Jim Garrison, James DiEugenio, below left, Oct. 9, 2020. Having recently recounted Vincent Salandria's faithful jim dieugenio filesupport of Jim Garrison, Jim DiEugenio now examines Sylvia Meagher's own relationship to Jim Garrison and her unflinching defense of Clay Shaw to the point of stubbornly refusing to consider the last year and a half of Garrison’s investigation and files.

In writing my elegy for Vincent Salandria, I reviewed his career in the JFK field, cataloguing his achievements and his characteristics as a critic — the first critic — of the Warren Report.

In reviewing that impressive record, I was again struck by his personal relationship and his lifelong fairness to New Orleans DA Jim Garrison. What made this aspect more salient was something I may have underplayed in my article: Salandria spent decades as a practicing attorney in Philadelphia. In my article, I noted that Vince was a high school teacher in 1964 when he encountered Arlen Specter talking about the Warren Report at a Philadelphia bar association event. That was true, but Salandria taught part time. He practiced law in the afternoons, and after he retired as a teacher, he worked for the Philadelphia school system as an attorney.

Salandria had attended law school at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. That university is a member of the Ivy League and their law school is habitually rated in the top ten of the US News and World Report rankings in the field. (For 2021, they are rated number 7).

Therefore, Salandria was one of the few early critics who was also a lawyer. In fact, in the early critical period of 1964–66, aside from Mark Lane, he may have been the only one. This placed him in a position to not only understand more precisely what the Warren Commission had done with the evidence, but jim garrisonalso to understand what Jim Garrison, right, was up against when he began his criminal investigation in New Orleans. As I noted in my requiem, Salandria told me that at his first personal meeting with Garrison he told him he probably would not succeed in his attempt to flush out the conspiracy by beginning at the lower level and leveraging them against the upper level. But he would be able to learn something about the plot by the acts of those who would try and interfere with his inquiry.

With what the Assassination Records and Review Board declassified about New Orleans in this regard, Salandria — as he usually was — proved to be prescient in that prediction. For as we now know, very soon after Garrison’s investigation was made public, the CIA was recruiting local attorneys in New Orleans to defend certain suspects and defendants (e.g. lawyers like James Quaid, Edward Baldwin, and Steve Plotkin).

In September, at the request of Director Richard Helms, the Agency assembled its first meeting of the Garrison Group. At that meeting, Ray Rocca, James Angleton’s first assistant, declared that if things were to proceed as they were, Clay Shaw, would be convicted. (James DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, second edition, p. 270) The meeting was convened by Helms in order to consider the implications of Garrison’s actions before during and after the trial of  Shaw, left. clay shawFrom the declassified record, the result was that certain counter measures were now taken to obstruct, cripple, and negate Garrison’s inquiry (e.g. blocking service of subpoenas, flipping witnesses, recruiting infiltrators). (Ibid, pp. 271–85)

I should add here another key action taken by the Agency around this time. In April of 1967, they issued worldwide a memorandum which was titled “Countering Criticism of the Warren Report”. This memo was essentially a call to action to all station chiefs to use their assets in order to attack the critics of the Commission. It even outlined techniques to use in the attacks, for instance: accuse them of being interested in monetary gain, of having been biased from the start, or of having leftist political orientation. As author Lance deHaven Smith has noted, it was around this time that the New York Times began to use the phrase “conspiracy theorist” in a much more profuse and pernicious manner than before.

cia logoLater — in July of 1968 — the CIA distributed an attack article on Jim Garrison which had been written by Edward Epstein and published in The New Yorker. The memo advised all station chiefs to use the article in order to brief any political leaders; or assign it to assets in order to counter any attacks. This important memo, and the article’s author, should be kept in mind as we progress.

Since Salandria predicted that things like the above would occur, and since he visited Garrison in New Orleans and served as an advisor for the Shaw trial, he appreciated what Garrison was doing in the face of the forces arrayed against him. Some others who did so were Mark Lane, Penn Jones, Maggie Field, Ray Marcus, and, at the time, Harold Weisberg. (Lane and Weisberg were actually working with the DA.)

But there was a prominent Commission critic who, quite early, did not appreciate the warnings Salandria had issued about what Garrison was doing or the countermeasures taken against him. That critic was Sylvia Meagher, below left, of New York. At a rather early date, she staked out a position that separated her from the above writers and researchers. She also fostered a counter-movement in the critical community against Garrison. That movement would eventually include Josiah Thompson, Peter Scott, Paul Hoch, and, later, Anthony Summers.

sylvia meagherI am going to say some adverse things about Meagher in this regard, but I want to make it clear at the outset that none of this should detract from her achievements in the field. Her subject indexes to both the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee volumes were and are valuable assets to the research community. Her critique of the Warren Commission, Accessories After the Fact, is still one of the signal achievements in the literature on the case.

It is one thing to expose a patently phony murder investigation, especially one that furnished the critic with 26 volumes of testimony and exhibits in order to dismantle itself — since so much of the 26 volumes contradicted, or at least compromised, the conclusions in the report. It’s quite another to try and find out what actually happened in a complex political assassination and what the smoke and mirrors were all about.

As Vincent Salandria once said, the Warren Report was just too easy to tear apart  -- to the point that he came to think that it was designed to collapse [as argued in his 1977 article, The Design of the Warren Report to Fall to Pieces, cited above].

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Oct. 8

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook bans marketing firm running ‘troll farm’ for pro-Trump youth group, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Oct. 8, 2020. Facebook said Thursday that it will permanently ban from its platform an Arizona-based marketing firm running what experts described as a domestic "troll farm” following an investigation of the deceptive behavior prompted by a Washington Post article last month.

facebook logoThe firm, Rally Forge, was “working on behalf of Turning Point USA,” Facebook concluded in an inquiry that led to the removal of 200 accounts and 55 pages, as well as 76 Instagram accounts — many of them operated by teenagers in the Phoenix area. The fake accounts, some with either cartoonlike Bitmoji profiles or images generated by artificial intelligence, complemented the real accounts of users involved in the effort, which largely entailed leaving comments sympathetic to President Trump and other conservative causes across social media.

Facebook stopped short of penalizing Turning Point USA, the prominent conservative youth organization based in Phoenix, or its president, Charlie Kirk, 26, saying it could not determine the extent to which the group’s leaders were aware of the specific violations carried out on their behalf, such as the use of fake accounts. Twitter also acted against the operation on Thursday, suspending 262 accounts involved in “platform manipulation and spam" — in addition to the several hundred accounts already removed last month following questions from The Post — but similarly did not boot Turning Point USA, a tax-exempt nonprofit group founded in 2012, or its affiliates from the online platform.

The Phoenix-based firm, Rally Forge, enlisted teenagers to coordinate pro-Trump posts across social media in a secretive operation that involved the use of fake accounts. The effort was uncovered last month by a Post investigation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: No more presidential debates this year? Not a problem. We’ve seen enough, Perspective, Margaret Sullivan, right, Oct. 8, 2020. The margaret sullivan 2015 photofirst presidential debate — just over a week ago, if calculated in ordinary time — was a nightmare.

Moderator Chris Wallace failed to keep President Trump under control, and the dominant memory is of three White men in their 70s shouting over one another’s voices.

The one and only vice-presidential debate Wednesday night was a different kind of mess, but no more useful to the voting public. USA Today’s Susan Page asked some excellent questions, but the candidates dodged them, giving mini-speeches about the subjects of their choice instead.

Page failed to effectively follow up by demanding germane answers; nor did she successfully enforce time limits — meaning that the dominant memory of that night is of a fly lingering on Mike Pence’s white hair or Kamala Harris’s pained smiling (following the ironclad women’s rule for expressing disagreement) as she repeated the phrase, “I’m speaking.”

Harris wouldn’t answer a reasonable question about whether a Biden administration would seek to add seats to the Supreme Court. Pence wouldn’t address the even more consequential issue of what he would do if Trump refused to leave office, as he’s suggested he might if he doesn’t like the results of next month’s election. (And after he failed to speak up for a peaceful transfer of power, noted Dartmouth political scientist Brendan Nyhan, Page’s only follow-up “was to ask a kid’s question about why people in politics don’t get along.”)

With these dispiriting events still fresh in one’s mind, a sensation of welcome relief flooded in when the presidential debate commission announced Thursday morning that, given Trump’s recent covid-19 diagnosis and general public health concerns, the second Trump-Biden debate would not be done in person next week but rather remotely.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Susan Page responds to debate critics: ‘The refusal to answer a question, I thought, could be telling,’ Jeremy Barr, Oct. 8, 2020. The Pence-Harris debate moderator (shown in a file photo) was criticized for failing to enforce the rules or ask follow-up questions.

Susan Page has no regrets about how she chose to moderate the debate between Vice President Pence and Sen. Kamala D. Harris on Wednesday night.

“I felt good about how it went,” Page told The Washington Post as she headed to the airport in Utah on Thursday morning. “I felt it was a relatively civil debate, and one that was focused on issues that mattered to voters.”

Like Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, who moderated the first showdown between President Trump and former vice president Joe Biden last week, Page faced criticism for failing to ask enough follow-up questions or cut short the candidate who talked beyond the allotted time ― in this case Pence, who repeatedly ignored her very diplomatic pleas ("Thank you,” she said, over and over again) to wrap up his answers in adherence with the agreed-upon rules of the debate.

Page said Thursday that she intentionally led off with very specific questions that she believed would obviate the need for follow-ups. “I tried to ask the question so narrowly the first time around that it seemed unlikely that the second time around I was going to get a more direct response,” she said. “Some people would have handled that differently.”

She argued that “the refusal to answer a question, I thought, could be telling — maybe not as telling as if they had actually answered it — but that was not without some value." Both candidates dodged questions about whether they had discussed what would happen in the event of a “presidential disability” that would require them to take over the presidency.

Idea Logical Company, Analysis: 7 ways book publishing will change over the next few years, Mike Shatzkin, Oct. 8, 2020. A prior post described the new structure of the book publishing ecosystem. In the past three decades, we have migrated away from a world where a publisher needed to own a substantial infrastructure to deliver printed books to thousands of retail locations. And “back then” and for most of the time since, most book readers both found the books they wanted and purchased them in those stores.

Both the market and the nature of the infrastructure have changed. Now more than half the book sales and an even greater amount of the “discovery” takes place online and a lot of the discovery and a lion’s share of the purchases happen at a single account: Amazon. You don’t need a big organization to cover a single account nor a big infrastructure to service it. The other half of the sales in the US, and sales around the world, are now facilitated by another single account, Ingram Content Group.

Ingram provides every component of the fixed-cost infrastructure that any book publisher requires and, in fact, provides all or any part of that infrastructure to an ever-growing number of publishers. Many of them are new players enabled by this change of circumstances to create a publishing company with a fraction of the investment that would have been required three decades ago.

But many of them are longtime publishers who are shedding fixed costs for variable ones by relying increasingly on Ingram. (And, it should be noted, pure sales and distribution services are also provided by the large publishers who are continuing to do it themselves in a shrinking market.)

Oct. 7

ny times logoNew York Times, House Lawmakers Condemn Big Tech’s ‘Monopoly Power,’ Cecilia Kang and David McCabe, Oct. 7, 2020 (print ed.). In a report led by Democrats, lawmakers said Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook needed to be checked and recommended reforming antitrust laws. Here are 12 accusations in the amazon logo smallscathing report on the four tech giants.

House lawmakers who spent the last 16 months investigating the practices of the world’s largest technology companies said on Tuesday that Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google had exercised and abused their monopoly power and called for the most sweeping changes to antitrust laws in half a century.

facebook logoIn a 449-page report that was presented by the House Judiciary Committee’s Democratic leadership, lawmakers said the four companies had turned from “scrappy” start-ups into “the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons.” The lawmakers said the companies had abused their dominant positions, setting and often dictating prices and rules for commerce, search, google logo customadvertising, social networking and publishing.

To amend the inequities, the lawmakers recommended restoring competition by effectively breaking up the companies, emboldening the agencies that police market concentration and throwing up hurdles for the companies to acquire start-ups. They also proposed reforming antitrust laws, in the biggest potential shift since the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act of 1976 created stronger reviews of big mergers.

The House Report is here.

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Carly Fiorina and Fox News just dropped a house on Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Oct. 7, 2020. Carly Fiorina, above, a Republican who ran for president in 2016, went on Fox News this morning and endorsed Joe Biden. Here’s what stands out as remarkable. Fox had to know Fiorina was going to do this (she’d been publicly siding with Biden for awhile), yet they booked her anyway.

bill palmer report logo headerIt’s becoming clear that for all its nonsensical and dishonest pro-Trump rhetoric, Fox News is now trying to prepare its audience for a post-Trump future. Of course Carly Fiorina’s endorsement of Joe Biden comes after 2016 Republican presidential candidate John Kasich did the same last month.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Commission on Presidential Debates should be disbanded, Jennifer Rubin, right, Oct. 7, 2020. The Commission on Presidential jennifer rubin new headshotDebates allowed President Trump to debate last week without proof of testing negative for the coronavirus and without forcing Trump’s entourage at the event to abide by the commission’s rule on mask-wearing. Circumstantial evidence strongly suggests Trump’s Rose Garden ceremony for the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court was a superspreader event, making it entirely possible that Trump was positive when he debated without a mask on Sept. 29. Given this, the commission’s insistence on in-person live debates has become a public health hazard.

On Wednesday night, the commission will allow Vice President Pence to appear at the vice-presidential debate, even though he, too, was at the Rose Garden event and sat immediately in front of at least one person who tested positive (Sen. Mike Lee of Utah). Pence will be separated from Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) by the skimpiest of plexiglass panels.

What is clear is that the commission is allowing the White House to call the shots. Commission co-chair Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr. told the Los Angeles Times: “There will be a plexiglass divider between the two candidates and the candidates and the moderator. The Trump campaign agreed to that so long as we don’t surround Vice President Pence all the way around.” It should not be Pence’s call. The plexiglass is for others’ protection, not just his.

This should be the last debate overseen by the commission, which plainly has failed to provide a safe environment and set a good example for a pandemic-plagued country. Any future debates with Trump should be remote, as we simply cannot trust him or his doctors to tell us when he was infected, how serious his case is and what, if any, symptoms he is still experiencing.

There is no need at all for in-person presidential debates during a pandemic. In 1960, a third of the famous Nixon-Kennedy debates was remote. Doing so again would solve two problems: maintaining health standards and making it easier to prevent Trump’s interruptions. He can be muted when his opponent is speaking.

Why does the Commission on Presidential Debates allow reckless conduct from Team Trump? Perhaps it wants good ratings. Perhaps it does not want to enrage Trump. Perhaps it figures a remote debate won’t attract as many viewers. Inertia might paralyze the commission’s members.

It really does not matter what the reason is for the commission’s fecklessness. What matters is that the candidates, moderator and audience remain safe. The best and logical way to do this, which does not depend on the White House for accurate information, is to have remote debates. The onus should not be on the Biden camp to demand this.

The commission might see the light after Wednesday night’s debate. But if its leaders fear incurring the ire of the president, they should consider that such unnecessary events under these circumstances is the perfect description of reckless endangerment, a crime in virtually all, if not all, states. Perhaps the commission should be held liable should anyone fall ill because of these debates.

washington post logoe jean carroll headshotWashington Post, Lawyers for E. Jean Carroll fight Justice Dept. intervention in Trump defamation case, Shayna Jacobs, Oct. 6, 2020. The former magazine columnist sued the president in New York state court, but the case was moved to federal court after the U.S. government stepped in.

Oct. 4

ny times logoNew York Times, In Biden’s Home State, Republican Centrism Gives Way to the Fringe, Elizabeth Williamson, Oct. 4, 2020. The Republican Party’s slide from statewide power to irrelevance in Delaware mirrored its swerve from moderation to the fringe. Now a QAnon fan is running for the Senate. “People are so tired of George Bush-era politics. Nationalist populism is the future,” said Lauren Witzke, a Republican Senate candidate in Delaware. “America First is the future. And that is what I am.”

Lauren Witzke, a dabbler in QAnon, a self-proclaimed “flat earther” and the Republican Party’s nominee in Delaware for the Senate, was exhorting her supporters last month to “Go get ’em — America First,” as they squared off against a handful of Black Lives Matter protesters.

Gathered with her in the parking lot of the Republican Party headquarters here was a self-appointed security guard with a gun on his hip, a political adviser whose losing clients include candidates accused of racism and anti-Semitism, and a smattering of Proud Boys, the far-right brawlers whom President Trump told to “stand back and stand by.”

Across the street, Keandra McDole, sister of a wheelchair-bound Black man who was killed in 2015 by the Delaware police, chanted “Lauren Witzke’s got to go,” above the din of revving car engines and calls of “Trump, Trump, Trump” and “K.K.K.” The “security” man pointed his handgun toward the protesters.

“This is ridiculous,” Tori Parker, a Republican Party consultant, said as she scanned the scene from the Black Lives Matter side. “It’s sad that voters feel like they only have a choice between democratic socialism and white supremacy.”

Ms. Witzke’s ascent in Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s home state may be the nadir of the Delaware Republican Party’s rapid swerve from patrician moderation to the far-right fringe. And its plunge from power to irrelevance is an object lesson for other states like Colorado, Oregon and California, where Republicans running statewide are facing a choice: Appeal to the vocal extreme or find some way to assemble a more centrist coalition that could actually elect them.

Ten years ago, Michael Castle, a former Republican governor, sitting House member and pro-business moderate, was supposed to be a shoo-in for the Senate seat that Mr. Biden gave up to become vice president. Then he was blindsided in the Republican primary by Christine O’Donnell, a Tea Party candidate with a sideline in witchcraft who was crushed in the general election by Chris Coons, a relatively unknown Democratic county executive, by a vote of 57 percent to 40 percent.

Oct. 3

washington post logoWashington Post, Media Criticisim Opinion: The new details on Kimberly Guilfoyle’s time at Fox News are horrific, Erik Wemple, Oct. 3, 2020. At the media-mobbed presidential debate at Hofstra University in 2016, the Erik Wemple Blog spotted then-Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle. This was just a few months after Guilfoyle helped to spearhead a campaign to stick up for Roger Ailes, the Fox News chief who’d been accused of sexual harassment by Gretchen Carlson and, eventually, several others.

Those allegations bore out, and Ailes found himself out of a job. So we asked Guilfoyle if she’d apologized to Carlson. Her face dropped and she turned around faster than a nuclear centrifuge. No answer.

New reporting may help explain Guilfoyle’s reticence.

fox news logo SmallIn November 2018, a female colleague of Guilfoyle’s sent a draft complaint to Fox News executives regarding the treatment she said she received from the cable news star, who bantered with her fellow roundtable chatterboxes on the popular Fox News program “The Five.” The allegations are so bizarre as to defy categorization — sexual harassment, sexual abuse, psychological torture?

Have a look:

among other things, she said that she was frequently required to work at Guilfoyle’s New York apartment while the Fox host displayed herself naked, and was shown photographs of the genitalia of men with whom Guilfoyle had had sexual relations. The draft complaint also alleged that Guilfoyle spoke incessantly and luridly about her sex life, and on one occasion demanded a massage of her bare thighs; other times, she said, Guilfoyle told her to submit to a Fox employee’s demands for sexual favors, encouraged her to sleep with wealthy and powerful men, asked her to critique her naked body, demanded that she share a room with her on business trips, required her to sleep over at her apartment, and exposed herself to her, making her feel deeply uncomfortable.

The complaint runs 42 pages. It was never filed in a court, and Fox News paid more than $4 million to the employee, who left the network.

Those revelations come from a report by Jane Mayer of the New Yorker, a journalist who has documented the close ties between the No. 1 cable news network and Trump world (New Yorker, Investigation: The Secret History of Kimberly Guilfoyle’s Departure from Fox).

They build on the work of Yashar Ali, who in 2018 nailed down many of the particulars regarding Guilfoyle’s exit, which was initially presented as a voluntary thing, though Mayer reports that she was forced out in July 2018. She moved on to work at a pro-Trump super PAC. In January, the Trump campaign announced she would head up joint fundraising between the campaign and the Republican National Committee. Guilfoyle is dating Donald Trump Jr., with whom she makes frequent appearances for the president.

The Trump campaign referred an inquiry to Guilfoyle’s employment attorney, John Singer. He noted that he has no connection to the campaign and referred this blog to his 2018 statement, which read, in part, “Any accusations of Kimberly engaging in inappropriate work-place conduct are unequivocally baseless and have been viciously made by disgruntled and self-interested employees.”

Guilfoyle issued this statement to the New Yorker: “In my 30-year career working for the SF District Attorney’s Office, the LA District Attorney’s Office, in media and in politics, I have never engaged in any workplace misconduct of any kind. During my career, I have served as a mentor to countless women, with many of whom I remain exceptionally close to this day.”

roger ailes wWhat does all of this say about Fox News? Well, the same things that we’ve known about Fox News for some time. First is the cruelty. The allegations in the draft complaint recall workplace brutality of the sort that arose in the reporting on Ailes, a paranoid and abusive network head. Over 20 years, Ailes subjected a Fox News booker to a regime of psychological torture and sexual coercion, the details of which don’t belong in a family newspaper. At one point, Ailes allegedly took a videotape of the woman dancing for him in a black garter and stockings, and kept the videotape in a safe-deposit box, just in case the woman decided to blow the whistle.

Second is the bullying approach to stifling allegations. As Mayer reports, the colleague who alleged the harassment by Guilfoyle joined Fox News out of college in 2015.

The employee declined the money, triggering another level of mistreatment, Mayer reported. If the employee was too revelatory with Paul, Weiss, Guilfoyle suggested that some aspects of her personal life could be outed. Associates of Guilfoyle contacted Mayer during her work on the story with details on the woman, “evidently in hopes of damaging her credibility and leading me not to publish this report.”

None of that worked. But Guilfoyle, a lawyer and former prosecutor in San Francisco, surely had some evidence that it could have been successful.

There are a lot of moving pieces to the cultural backdrop here. One is that Ailes built Fox News to objectify the female “talent” on air, so it’s no wonder that the mind-set has outlived him. Another is money — there’s way too much of it sloshing around in the bank

washington post logoWashington Post, House votes to condemn QAnon conspiracy theory, Donna Cassata, Oct. 2, 2020. Seventeen Republicans voted against the bipartisan resolution, an indication of how the baseless online movement — which the FBI has identified as a potential domestic terrorist threat — is gaining traction in the GOP.

The House voted overwhelmingly Friday to condemn the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory as the online movement identified as a potential domestic terrorist threat by the FBI has gained traction with some in the Republican Party.

The vote was 371 to 18 for the resolution sponsored by Reps. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) and Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) and came days after Malinowski said he received death threats from QAnon supporters after a false GOP ad accused him of lobbying “to protect sexual predators.”

Seventeen Republicans and one independent voted against the resoultion condemning QAnon, a pro-Trump conspiracy theory that has been a central vector of misinformation about the coronavirus, on the same day the president said he and his wife had tested positive for the virus.

Adherents of QAnon believe President Trump is battling a cabal of “deep state” saboteurs who worship Satan and traffic children for sex. In August, Trump gave a major boost to the baseless theory, saying that he appreciated the support of its followers, calling them “people that love our country.”

QAnon, which took root on anonymous message boards in 2017, has been identified by the FBI as among the extremist views “very likely” to motivate violence. Its adherents, according to law enforcement, have been arrested in numerous incidents, including two murders, a kidnapping, vandalism of a church and a heavily armed standoff near the Hoover Dam.

“This dangerous ideology is radicalizing violence at an alarming rate – yet, for far too long, Republicans have refused to denounce QAnon and its conspiracy theories,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a statement after the vote “At the same time, social media platforms that have facilitated the rise of QAnon must be held accountable.”

Malinowski said he has faced attacks online from QAnon supporters and received threats after the National Republican Congressional Committee ran an ad that falsely said Malinowski tried to block a provision in a 2006 crime bill that would have expanded registration requirements for sex offenders.

Malinowski, a freshman who worked on national security issues in the Clinton and Obama administrations, was the director of Human Rights Watch from 2001 to 2013.

Oct. 2

washington post logoWashington Post, In a new ruling, judge says census count must continue through October, In a new ruling, judge says census count must continue through October, Tara Bahrampour, Oct. 2, 2020. The decision follows a tense week in which the government appeared to try to circumvent a preliminary injunction against ending the count early.

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 washington post logoWashington Post, Judge rejects John Bolton bid to dismiss government lawsuit seeking book proceeds, Spencer S. Hsu, Oct. 2, 2020 (print ed.). A federal judge on Thursday rejected John Bolton’s bid to dismiss a government lawsuit seeking the proceeds of his memoir, ruling that the former Trump national security adviser was required to let the White House complete a prepublication review.

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth of Washington, D.C., said the government had sufficiently alleged that Bolton violated a nondisclosure agreement by not waiting for written White House authorization before giving his publisher a manuscript for “The Room Where It Happened,” an explosive account of his 17 months at Trump’s top security adviser that was published in June.

“The government has the power to prevent harm to the national security,” Lamberth wrote in a 26-page opinion. “While the government may not prevent Bolton from publishing unclassified materials, it may require him to undergo a reasonable prepublication review process. The . . . agreements are thus consistent with the First Amendment.”

john bolton room where cover CustomBolton’s memoir, The Room Where It Happened, was published in June.

In a statement, lead Bolton attorney Charles J. Cooper said, “The Court’s decision, which we are still studying, means that the case will now move forward to the phase in which the parties will develop and present their evidence to the Court.”

Legal analysts said Lamberth’s opinion underscored that Bolton is in serious legal jeopardy and made it more difficult for other national security professionals to publish without risk of being sued by the government.

“This is a horrible new precedent,” Mark S. Zaid, a lawyer who specializes in national security and whistleblower cases, said in an email. “Before this case the U.S. Government had never pursued anyone for simply sharing a draft manuscript with lawyers, literary agents or publishers, even though by law it was improper to do so. As long as the manuscript was approved before actual publication, the U.S. Government was satisfied. But now the rules have changed, and any dissemination can create liability. “

Bolton has alleged that Trump appointees took unprecedented steps to hijack the prepublication review by erroneously claiming the book contained classified information after the National Security Council’s career senior director for information security told Bolton she had finished her own months-long review and declared it did not.

Bolton asserted that the White House sought to block the book to protect Trump from political embarrassment before November’s election.

Lamberth’s opinion gave a close reading to the terms of agreement Bolton signed. The opinion rejected Bolton’s assertion that the government had to prove he knowingly disclosed materials that “are, relate to, or purport to be” Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information — the highest level of classification, concerning intelligence sources and methods — “or describe activities that produce or relate to SCI.”

 

Jacob Wohl, whose supposed investment acumen as a 17-year-old, was featured by Fox Business News (screenshot)

Jacob Wohl, above, whose supposed investment acumen as a 17-year-old, was featured by Fox Business News (screenshots). Separate from his investment activities, Wohl has become known as a promoter of scandal allegations against perceived opponents of Donald Trump and other Republicans. On May 7, Diana Andrade and Jacob Wohl (Andrade photo via Reason.com)2020, Reason Magazine published a column quoting Diana Andrade, shown below right in a photo with Wohl when she said they were dating, in a story headlined as follows: Reason, She Said Anthony Fauci Sexually Assaulted Her. Now She Says Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman Paid Her to Lie.

washington post logoWashington Post, Conservative operatives face felony charges in connection with robocalls seeking to mislead voters, Meryl Kornfield, Oct. 2, 2020 (print ed.). Two right-wing operatives infamous for inventing outlandish conspiracy theories face felony charges in Michigan for allegedly intimidating voters with inaccurate robocalls that discouraged residents in urban areas from casting their ballots by mail.

Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman were charged with four felonies of intimidating voters, conspiring to violate election law and using a computer to commit a crime, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Thursday. Thousands of residents from at least five states received the robocall aimed at discouraging absentee voting at a time when many Americans are expected to vote by mail rather than in person during the coronavirus pandemic.

Each charge against the pair carries a five- or seven-year sentence if they are convicted in Michigan — adding up to a maximum 12 years as some sentences for the charges would be concurrent. Wohl and Burkman, who live in Los Angeles and Arlington, Va., respectively, have not yet been arraigned, Nessel’s office said, adding that it is “too early to say if formal extradition will be necessary or if they will present themselves here voluntarily in the very near future.”

Nearly 12,000 residents with phone numbers from the 313 area code in Detroit were targeted, Nessel’s office said. Attorneys general in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois reported similar robocalls made to urban residents, amounting to an estimated 85,000 calls nationally, according to the Michigan office.

The caller, who claims to work for a civil rights organization founded by Wohl and Burkman, falsely says personal information for those who vote by mail will be shared with police tracking down warrants, credit card companies collecting outstanding debt, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requiring mandatory vaccinations. The caller tells voters to not be “finessed into giving your private information to the man.” Officials said the call exploited “racially-charged stereotypes.”

Robocall targets battleground states with falsehoods about mail-in voting

“Any effort to interfere with, intimidate or intentionally mislead Michigan voters will be met with swift and severe consequences,” Nessel said in a statement. “This effort specifically targeted minority voters in an attempt to deter them from voting in the November election. We’re all well aware of the frustrations caused by the millions of nuisance robocalls flooding our cell phones and landlines each day, but this particular message poses grave consequences for our democracy and the principles upon which it was built. Michigan voters are entitled to a full, free and fair election in November and my office will not hesitate to pursue those who jeopardize that.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge orders Edward Snowden to forfeit book, speech proceeds totaling more than $5 million, Ellen Nakashima, Oct. 2, 2020 (print ed.). A federal court issued a final judgment this week ordering former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden to forfeit all proceeds from his memoir and paid speeches, totaling at least $5.2 million so far.

The ruling Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady in Alexandria follows a December opinion by O’Grady that Snow­den violated his obligations, under secrecy agreements he signed, to clear any book containing intelligence-related information with the government before publication.

edward snowden twitter“Intelligence information should protect our nation, not provide personal profit,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “This judgment will ensure that Edward Snowden receives no monetary benefits from breaching the trust placed in him.”

Snowden may appeal the December ruling on his liability. His attorney, Lawrence Lustberg, said Snowden “is still in the process of deciding on next steps.” Lustberg said the judgment allows Snowden “to take all lawful steps” to resist government efforts to collect the moneys at issue.

Snowden separately has been facing espionage charges since 2013, when he exposed top-secret NSA programs that touched off a global debate about the proper scope of U.S. surveillance but also drew condemnation from two successive U.S. administrations as harming national security.

Judge grants government proceeds from Snowden’s book

Snowden, who lives in Russia, where he initially received asylum and now has residency, published an autobiography in September 2019 explaining his motives for leaking material that revealed sensitive surveillance programs. The NSA eventually ended its mass collection of data about Americans’ phone calls after one of his leaks forced the government to confirm the program’s existence.

Snowden did not seek pre-publication approval from the CIA, a previous employer, or the NSA as required under the secrecy agreements he signed as a contractor. Snowden acknowledged breaking the rules in a “Daily Show” interview, saying he didn’t want to “let the CIA edit [my] life story.”

The Justice Department last year sued to cut off his profits from the book, “Permanent Record,” as well as from his paid speeches.

Snowden’s attorneys argued last year that Snowden preferred to risk future royalties rather than subject his work to government censorship. They also said nothing in his public talks revealed new information.

Snowden has said he would like to return to the United States, but only if he would be allowed to defend himself at trial by asserting his actions were in the public interest. That type of defense does not exist under U.S. law.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: To the Fox News reporter who’s ‘tired of it’: Clean up your own house, Jennifer Rubin, right, Oct. 2, 2020. John Roberts, Fox News’s jennifer rubin new headshotchief White House correspondent, grew frustrated with White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Thursday when she would not give a definitive statement that President Trump denounces white supremacists after he refused to do so in the presidential debate Tuesday. He later lost patience, saying: “Stop deflecting. Stop blaming the media,” Roberts declared. “I’m tired of it!” Really?

Let’s stipulate that Roberts is not akin to the “Fox & Friends” hosts or Fox’s evening lineup of Trump sycophants when it comes to distorting reality and cheerleading Trump. (Disclosure: I am an MSNBC contributor.) However, the White House has been deflecting like this for nearly four years. It has refused to fox news logo Smallanswer all sorts of questions about Russian President Vladimir Putin, about Trump’s finances, about Trump’s embrace of racists and about any topic that would reveal Trump to be clueless or malicious. McEnany is just the most egregious practitioner of the non-response or the out-and-out falsehood. Roberts cannot possibly have just figured this out.

Roberts should look closer to home, if he’s “tired of it.” It is his network that allows Trump on air to spin bizarre conspiracy theories and blatant lies about his opponent. It is Fox News that has become a cesspool of anti-democratic (small “d”) and racist tropes. It is Fox News that tries to avoid — or to borrow a word, “deflects” — topics injurious to Trump, such as the New York Times bombshell about his taxes.

It would be hard to find one entity on the planet more responsible than John Roberts’s employer for enabling Trump, keeping his base in line, misleading the public about Trump’s corruption, excusing his culpability and giving him a sense of invincibility. It is not the only one, but it certainly leads the pack of Pravda-like outlets whose job is to defend Trump by deceiving viewers and readers if need be.

Oct. 1

ny times logoNew York Times, Chris Wallace Calls Debate ‘a Terrible Missed Opportunity,’ Michael M. Grynbaum, Oct. 1, 2020 (print ed.). The anchor conceded he was initially “reluctant” to step in during the matchup. “I’ve never been through anything like this,” he said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Drudge Report, a Trump Ally in 2016, Stops Boosting Him for 2020, Tiffany Hsu, Oct. 1, 2020 (print ed.). A rift between the president and the online news pioneer Matt Drudge is playing out in pithy headlines and needling tweets as the campaign heats up. Something has changed at Drudge Report, the influential site known for its tabloid-poetry headlines and conservative take on the news, and don’t think the president hasn’t noticed.

matt drudgeMatt Drudge, right, a web pioneer who went live with his site in 1995, was seen as an important media champion of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 campaign. “A large measure of why Trump is the nominee goes to Matt Drudge,” Carl Bernstein said four years ago. And Mr. Trump has expressed his appreciation for the fedora-wearing web journalist, calling him “a great gentleman.”

But nowadays, like CNN, The New York Times and many other outlets, Drudge Report is just one more purveyor of “fake news,” in the Trump view.

For anyone who had not stopped by the site since it developed a reputation for lifting Mr. Trump and his brand of conservatism, the welcome page on Monday made for an arresting sight. At the top were images of stickers being sold by the Biden-Harris campaign that read, “I paid more income taxes than Donald Trump.”

Below that appeared a scroll of headlines linking to news stories from various sites, all of them written in Mr. Drudge’s staccato style, many of them related to a New York Times investigation of Mr. Trump’s troubled financial history.

Mr. Drudge also did not pull any punches after Tuesday’s presidential debate: “Chaos reigns in hell debate … Undecided voters describe President as a ‘crackhead,’ ‘arrogant’ in focus group … Joe faces down raging Don.”

kimberly guilfoyle rnc 1

jane mayer cspanNew Yorker, Investigation: The Secret History of Kimberly Guilfoyle’s Departure from Fox, Jane Mayer, right, Oct. 1, 2020. A former assistant at Fox accused Kimberly Guilfoyle (shown at this summer's Republican National Convention), who is now one of the Trump campaign’s top fund-raising officials, of sexual harassment—and of attempting to buy her silence.

As President Donald Trump heads into the 2020 elections, he faces a daunting gender gap: according to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, he trails Joe Biden by thirty percentage points among female voters. As part of his campaign, Trump has been doing all he can to showcase female stars in the Republican Party, from nominating Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court to naming Kimberly Guilfoyle, the former Fox News host and legal analyst, his campaign’s finance chair.

Guilfoyle, however, may not be an ideal emissary. In November, 2018, a young woman who had been one of Guilfoyle’s assistants at Fox News sent company executives a confidential, forty-two-page draft complaint that accused Guilfoyle of repeated sexual harassment, and demanded monetary relief. The document, which resulted in a multimillion-dollar out-of-court settlement, raises serious questions about Guilfoyle’s fitness as a character witness for Trump, let alone as a top campaign official.

new yorker logoIn the 2020 campaign, Trump has spotlighted no woman more brightly than Guilfoyle. She was given an opening-night speaking slot at the Republican National Convention. And this fall Guilfoyle, who is Donald Trump, Jr.,’s girlfriend, has been crisscrossing the country as a Trump surrogate, on what is billed as the “Four More Tour.” At a recent “Women for Trump” rally in Pennsylvania, Guilfoyle claimed that the President was creating “eighteen hundred new female-owned businesses in the United States a day,” and praised Trump for promoting school choice, which, she said, was supported by “single mothers like myself.”

Guilfoyle has maintained that her decision to move from television news to a political campaign was entirely voluntary. In fact, Fox News forced her out in July, 2018 — several years before her contract’s expiration date. At the time, she was a co-host of the political chat show “The Five.” Media reports fox news logo Smallsuggested that she had been accused of workplace impropriety, including displaying lewd pictures of male genitalia to colleagues, but few additional details of misbehavior emerged. Guilfoyle publicly denied any wrongdoing, and last year a lawyer representing her told The New Yorker that “any suggestion” she had “engaged in misconduct at Fox is patently false.” But, as I reported at the time, shortly after Guilfoyle left her job, Fox secretly paid an undisclosed sum to the assistant, who no longer works at the company. Recently, two well-informed sources told me that Fox, in order to avoid going to trial, had agreed to pay the woman upward of four million dollars.

Until now, the specific accusations against Guilfoyle have remained largely hidden. The draft complaint, which was never filed in court, is covered by a nondisclosure agreement. The former assistant has not been publicly identified, and, out of respect for the rights of alleged victims of sexual harassment, The New Yorker is honoring her confidentiality. Reached for comment, she said, “I wish you well. But I have nothing to say.”

The woman was hired in 2015, just out of college, to work as an assistant for Guilfoyle and another former Fox host, Eric Bolling.

According to a dozen well-informed sources familiar with her complaints, the assistant alleged that Guilfoyle, her direct supervisor, subjected her frequently to degrading, abusive, and sexually inappropriate behavior; among other things, she said that she was frequently required to work at Guilfoyle’s New York apartment while the Fox host displayed herself naked, and was shown photographs of the genitalia of men with whom Guilfoyle had had sexual relations.

The draft complaint also alleged that Guilfoyle spoke incessantly and luridly about her sex life, and on one occasion demanded a massage of her bare thighs; other times, she said, Guilfoyle told her to submit to a Fox employee’s demands for sexual favors, encouraged her to sleep with wealthy and powerful men, asked her to critique her naked body, demanded that she share a room with her on business trips, required her to sleep over at her apartment, and exposed herself to her, making her feel deeply uncomfortable.

As serious as the draft complaint’s sexual-harassment allegations were, equally disturbing was what the assistant described as a coverup attempt by Guilfoyle, whose conduct was about to come under investigation by a team of outside lawyers.

In July, 2016, the network had hired the New York-based law firm Paul, Weiss to investigate sexual misconduct at the company, which, under the leadership of Roger Ailes, had a long history of flagrant harassment and gender discrimination. According to those familiar with the assistant’s draft complaint, during a phone call on August 6, 2017, she alleged that Guilfoyle tried to buy her silence, offering to arrange a payment to her if she agreed to lie to the Paul, Weiss lawyers about her experiences. The alleged offering of hush money brings to mind Trump’s payments to the porn star Stormy Daniels, in order to cover up his sexual impropriety.

By 2017, the Paul, Weiss lawyers had begun investigating accusations of workplace sexual misconduct involving Eric Bolling, with whom Guilfoyle shared kimberly guilfoyle smile wthe assistant. Guilfoyle,  shown at left in a file photo, and Bolling were close, and it was all but inevitable that if the assistant accused Bolling of sexual harassment — as in fact she did — Guilfoyle’s conduct would come under scrutiny next. (Bolling, whose employment Fox ended in September, 2017, declined to comment; he has denied any wrongdoing, and is now a host at Sinclair Broadcast Group.)

According to the assistant, as the investigation into Bolling gained momentum, Guilfoyle told her that she needed to know what the assistant would say if she were asked about sexual harassment, and warned her that she could cause great damage if she said the wrong thing. Guilfoyle, she said, told her that, in exchange for demonstrating what Guilfoyle called loyalty, she would work out a payment to take care of her — possibly, she said, with funds from Bolling. The assistant alleged that Guilfoyle mentioned sums as large as a million dollars, and also other inducements, including a private-plane ride to Rome, a percentage of Guilfoyle’s future speaking fees, and an on-air reporting opportunity.

People close to Guilfoyle called the assistant’s allegation untrue, and said they were shocked that she would fabricate such a false claim. But a well-informed source independently confirmed to me that Guilfoyle had discussed the topic of raising hush money.

When the assistant declined the offer of money, Guilfoyle warned — in a manner that the assistant regarded as threatening — that, if she spoke candidly to the lawyers, some aspects of the assistant’s private life that Guilfoyle knew about might be exposed. In fact, as I reported on this story, associates of Guilfoyle’s contacted me, offering personal details about the assistant, evidently in hopes of damaging her credibility and leading me not to publish this report.

Guilfoyle declined to be interviewed for this story but issued a statement: “In my 30-year career working for the SF District Attorney’s Office, the LA District Attorney’s Office, in media and in politics, I have never engaged in any workplace misconduct of any kind. During my career, I have served as a mentor to countless women, with many of whom I remain exceptionally close to this day.”

 

September

Sept. 27

washington post logotiktok logo square CustomWashington Post, TikTok push showcases ‘central planner’ Trump and his hands-on approach to world’s largest economy, David J. Lynch, Sept. 27, 2020. The whirl of presidential action reflects President Trump’s determination to command the $19 trillion U.S. economy with the same hands-on vigor he brought to his Manhattan real estate firm.

Sept. 26

Media Matters, Opinion: The Supreme Court is way more important than right-wing media let on, John Whitehouse, Sept. 26, 2020. This week: What Fox News doesn't want people to know about a far right Supreme Court, how the media mishandled Trump's stunning refusal to commit to a peaceful transition, 200,000 are dead in the United States from the pandemic, CBS News runs with GOP spin, and more.

As expected, President Donald Trump officially nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court on Saturday evening. If you watched Fox News coverage of the nomination (and like I've said before, I don't recommend it), you've seen a lot of talk about Barrett's faith, intelligence, and personal life.

media matters logoWhat you don't see on Fox News is a lot of honest talk about the policy consequences of the Supreme Court with a 6-3 right-wing majority. The most they'll talk about is that Roe v. Wade is endangered (and that is an understatement).

Fox News is especially dismissing concerns that a Court with Barrett would invalidate the Affordable Care Act, including protections for pre-existing conditions. Barrett is on record praising late Justice Antonin Scalia's dissent in a 2012 case that would have invalidated the entire law. But in the few moments discussing health care on air on Saturday, Fox personalities scoffed at the likelihood.

Others are not being as coy. Fox News host Mark Levin railed at the Affordable Care Act on Twitter. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) admitted to George Stephanopoulos that the Supreme Court possible striking down the ACA "shouldn't tarnish Judge Barrett."

The fact of the matter is that Trump promised to appoint far right judges who would dismantle popular provisions in the law and prevent further such laws. That's where the focus of this confirmation fight should be.

fox news logo SmallAlso: Fox News on Sunday morning hosted network contributor and noted bigot Robert Jeffress to complain about an alleged anti-Catholic bias regarding Judge Barrett, even as a majority of current Supreme Court justices are Catholic. Meanwhile, Jeffress has called Catholicism a "counterfeit religion," the product of a "Babylonian mystery religion," and a product of "the genius of Satan." Once again, the hypocrisy is the point.

A federal appeals court on Sunday stayed a lower court’s injunction that would have allowed mail ballots in Wisconsin to count if postmarked by Election Day and received up to six days later. The typical deadline for mail ballots to be received is 8 p.m. on Election Day.

The injunction, a victory for Democrats in a closely watched swing state, is on hold pending further review, according to the order issued Sunday afternoon by the Seventh Circuit. District Judge William Conley, who issued the injunction last week, had expressed fears that tens of thousands of voters could be disenfranchised.

“Election workers’ and voters’ experiences during Wisconsin’s primary election in April, which took place at the outset of the COVID-19 crisis, have convinced the court that some, limited relief from statutory deadlines for mail-in registration and absentee voting is again necessary to avoid an untenable impingement on Wisconsin citizens’ right to vote,” Conley wrote in a 69-page opinion.

The Seventh Circuit’s judges include Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. Pushing for Barrett’s swift appointment, which would cement a conservative majority, Trump has suggested the Supreme Court could play a decisive role in the presidential election.

The Seventh Circuit’s order was not signed and did not include an explanation or the number of judges who agreed.

Conley had also told the state to extend its online and mail-in voter registration deadline by one week, from Oct. 14 to Oct. 21. He said voters who requested but did not receive mail ballots must have the option of accessing replacement ballots online or via email between Oct. 22 and Oct. 29.

Conley had put his injunction extending ballot-counting time on hold for seven days to allow the other side time to appeal.

Sept. 25

ny times logoNew York Times, Karen McDougal’s defamation suit against Fox News is dismissed, Michael M. Grynbaum and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Updated Sept. 25, 2020.tucker carlson Fox News won a legal victory on Thursday after a federal judge dismissed a defamation suit brought against its host Tucker Carlson, right, by a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Donald J. Trump before he was president.

The suit, filed last year, stemmed from a 2018 episode of Mr. Carlson’s show in which he accused the model, Karen McDougal, of djt karen mcdougal blue dressextorting Mr. Trump. She sold the rights to her story of an affair to The National Enquirer in 2016, which did not publish the story, a transaction that involved Mr. Trump’s former longtime lawyer, Michael D. Cohen.

fox news logo SmallMs. McDougal, shown at left, said Mr. Carlson’s remarks harmed her reputation, but Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil, of United States District Court in Manhattan, said the host’s comments were protected by the First Amendment.

“The statements are rhetorical hyperbole and opinion commentary intended to frame a political debate, and, as such, are not actionable as defamation,” she wrote.

ny times logoNew York Times, Alphabet Settles Shareholder Suits Over Sexual Harassment Claims, Daisuke Wakabayashi, Sept. 25, 2020. Google’s parent company was hit with a wave of lawsuits after The New York Times reported that an accused executive had received a $90 million exit package.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has settled a series of shareholder lawsuits over its handling of sexual harassment claims, agreeing to greater oversight by its board of directors in future cases of sexual misconduct and committing to spend $310 million over the next decade on corporate diversity programs.

The settlement, filed on Friday in California Superior Court, also said employees would no longer be forced to settle disputes with Alphabet in private arbitration. Workers had demanded that change after details of sexual harassment cases at the company became public two years ago.

In addition, Alphabet said it would limit confidentiality restrictions when settling harassment and discrimination cases and ban workplace romances between managers and subordinates.

The Silicon Valley company was hit by a wave of shareholder lawsuits after The New York Times reported in 2018 that the board of directors had approved a $90 million exit package for a star executive, Andy Rubin, even after an investigation deemed a sexual harassment claim against him credible. Mr. Rubin has denied the claim and others against him.

washington post logojohn bolton room where cover CustomWashington Post, U.S. judge questions Bolton’s political motives as he battles White House lawsuit for book profits, Spencer S. Hsu, Sept. 25, 2020 (print ed.). Attorneys for former Trump national security adviser John Bolton urged a federal judge Thursday to halt the government’s efforts to seize the proceeds from his memoir and accused White House aides of improperly trying to stall publication of the book because it reveals unflattering material about the president.

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth of Washington, D.C., voiced doubt, saying Bolton attorneys were mounting their own “political diatribe” in alleging Trump aides took unprecedented steps and politicized a pre-publication review of Bolton’s book, The Room Where It Happened.

“Isn’t the question whether the information is classified or not?” Lamberth prodded Bolton’s defense. “You’ve engaged in that whole political diatribe, but it really has no place in what we’re arguing today.”

The oral argument came after a lawyer for the career government official who conducted the initial review for classified information in Bolton’s manuscript contended in a letter to the court that Trump aides had “commandeered” the process, then erroneously claimed the memoir contained classified information and failed to propose edits to facilitate publication.

On Thursday, the parties gathered for a video court hearing in the lawsuit brought by the Trump administration in June seeking to halt release of Bolton’s book, a blistering account of his 17 months as the president’s top security adviser. Among other disclosures, the book reports that Trump asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to help him win reelection, confirms that Trump attempted to use military aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s son and says Trump expressed willingness to halt or obstruct criminal investigations as personal favors to authoritarian foreign leaders.

michael pack

Washington Post,washington post logoWashington Post, Head of government media agency flouts subpoena, angering Democrats and Republicans, Karoun Demirjianm, Sept. 25, 2020 (print ed.). The head of the government’s main international broadcasting agency flouted a subpoena for congressional testimony Thursday, angering both Democrats and Republicans already alarmed by his management tactics.

Michael Pack, chief executive of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees Voice of America and similar institutions, was issued a subpoena by the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week after he reneged on a promise to appear before the panel citing unspecified “administrative proceedings,” according to the panel’s chairman, Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.)

Engel said Thursday that Pack (shown above in a file photo from a previous appearance) “manufactured this conflict to get out of being here today.”

Spokesmen for the U.S. Agency for Global Media did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

voice of america logoPack has been the subject of intense scrutiny and controversy that commenced before he was confirmed to his position less than four months ago. In his brief tenure, he has ousted the heads of VOA’s sister operations Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks and the Open Technology Fund, frozen spending, and refused to renew the visas of foreign journalists — a move he has defended as an effort to root out potential spies.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Rewrite that list of debate topics, Chris Wallace. And put the climate crisis at No. 1, Margaret Sullivan, right, Sept. 25, 2020 (print margaret sullivan 2015 photoed.). When the wildfires are burning, we must have our candidates address how the planet is heating up — and dispense with topics of partisan pandering.

The past few months should have forced even the staunchest climate-crisis deniers to yank their heads out of the warming sand.

The temperature in Death Valley hit 130 degrees, the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth. Drought-fueled wildfires in the West are still raging, sending smoke all the way to the East Coast after destroying millions of acres and thousands of buildings, and causing more than 25 deaths. And tropical storms, one after another, endlessly roiled the Atlantic.

Our planet is in serious, irrevocable trouble. There’s no bigger issue.

Which is why it’s flat-out wrong that Fox News’s Chris Wallace — and those who advised him — didn’t see fit to put climate change on his topic list for Tuesday’s first presidential debate.

Instead, as the veteran newsman picked the subjects that will occupy each 15-minute segment of the 90-minute debate from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, we got these: the candidates’ records, the Supreme Court, covid-19, the economy, “race and violence in our cities,” and election integrity.

Sept. 24

harold evans newsroom

ny times logoNew York Times, Harold Evans Dies at 92; Crusading Newspaperman With a Second Act, Robert D. McFadden, Sept. 24, 2020. In Britain, he helped redefine high-quality newspapers and challenged legal restrictions on the press. In America, he brought new scope and glitz to book publishing as the head of Random House.

harold evans hsHarold Evans, the crusading British newspaperman who was forced out as editor of The Times of London by Rupert Murdoch in 1982 and reinvented himself in the United States as a publisher, author and literary luminary, died on Wednesday night in New York City. He was 92.

harold  evans good times coverHis wife, the editor Tina Brown, confirmed his death in a statement. He is shown above in a London newsroom and at right in more recent years.

In Britain, he helped redefine high-quality newspapers and pushed back legal restrictions on the press. In the United States, he edited national magazines, introduced new scope and glitz to book publishing as the head of Random House, wrote history books and a best-selling memoir, and, with Ms. Brown, who edited Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, dazzled and upset the cognoscenti.

Justice Integrity Project Editor's Note: Evans appeared on the weekly radio show, Washington Update, co-hosted by JIP Editor Andrew Kreig for seven years, to discuss his memoir, Good Times, Bad Times, in an hour-long interview.

ny times logoNew York Times, Right-Wing Media Stars Mislead on Covid-19 Death Toll, Tiffany Hsu, Sept. 24, 2020. Using a bogus interpretation of C.D.C. data, radio hosts like Mark Levin cast doubt on 200,000 pandemic deaths.

When the coronavirus death toll in the United States passed 200,000 on Tuesday, matching projections made by White House experts this spring, many of the right-wing media personalities who had mocked the estimates as overblown were quiet.

The death toll, tracked by Johns Hopkins University and a New York Times database, is most likely an undercount, many public health experts believe. At least 266,000 more people have died in the United States during the pandemic than would have been the case during a typical year.

Mark Levin, the host of a syndicated radio show and a Fox News program, declared on Twitter on Wednesday that “THE U.S. DID NOT SURPASS 200,000 COVID-19 DEATHS.” As evidence, he cited data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that 94 percent of the reported deaths involved underlying health problems and that 6 percent of the people who died had no illness or medical condition other than Covid-19.

Mr. Levin was one of several popular radio hosts who have used the C.D.C. statistic to make a case that the pandemic death toll was inflated, a false claim that was also promoted by a supporter of the QAnon conspiracy theory and amplified by President Trump in a post that Twitter removed last month.

Business Insider, Press freedom advocates are slamming Trump for glorifying violence against reporters, Sarah Al-Arshani, Sept. 24, 2020. Press freedom organizations say they're shocked, but not surprised, by Trump's remarks; They also warned that this sort of rhetoric is dangerous for reporters and the American people.

Press organizations have urged reporters to keep holding President Donald Trump accountable after he applauded physical aggression toward journalists covering his campaign.

"They grabbed a guy — 'I'm a reporter! I'm a reporter!' — 'Get out of here!' They threw him aside like a bag of popcorn. But honestly, when you watch the crap we've all had to take ... it's actually a beautiful sight," Trump said Tuesday, in reference to an MSNBC reporter who was hit by a rubber bullet while covering protests in Minnesota in May.

john donnellyJohn Donnelly, right, the chair of the press freedom team at the National Press Club, told Business Insider "a statement that glorifies violence against reporters is anathema to the American constitution."

Donnelly said that Trump's latest comments follow a long list of broadsides against journalists, which ultimately pose a threat to democracy itself.

"What he is doing is akin to what a Duterte or an Erdogan or a Putin might do," Donnelly added, referring to the president of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte and the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"Not what you would expect from a president of the United States and not what we have seen from the president of the United States up to this point. So it is extremely concerning for reporters, but it is par for the course for this president," Donnelly said.

In its own statement, the Society of Professional Journalists said it was "appalled" by Trump's latest remarks applauding violence against the news media.
"Promoting physical contact against journalists who are just trying to do their jobs during a pandemic is sickening and frankly, un-American. The president of the United States should be above calling a journalist 'a little bag of popcorn' and calling a journalist's forceful removal 'a beautiful sight,'" the statement read.

Elisa Lees Muñoz, the executive director for the International Women's Media Foundation told Business Insider she was shocked but not surprised by Trump's comments.

She said Trump's remarks continue to put reporters at risk on the ground, and online.

According to the US Press Freedom Tracker, at least 201 journalists have been attacked so far this year. There have also been more than 800 reports of aggression against reporters during Black Lives Matter protests.

"We know that journalists are being physically harmed on the ground, but to have it be mocked, and praised was beyond the pale, even for this president and this administration," Muñoz said.

She added that some of Trump's rhetoric has even been adopted by leaders abroad who have used it as justification to attack reporters there, especially women.

"It's happened in the Philippines. It's happened in Mexico, and in Brazil," Muñoz said.

Donnelly said Trump's repeated use of the phrase "fake news" is meant to attack news organizations and the credibility of their reporting, he says what it amounts to is an attempt to deflect criticism and accountability.

"First of all, there is such a thing as actual fake news. It is misinformation often created by America's adversaries and spewed online," Donnelly said. "But when the president says fake news, he means news that doesn't serve his agenda or hurts him politically."

Donnelly urged the press to continue calling out Trump when necessary and to keep telling the truth.

"There's a temptation to say, 'Oh, there's Trump being Trump again,' and to just move on, but we have to call out every single time he does this as unacceptable because it is beyond the pale. He is attacking a pillar of our country."

Sept. 23

Gothamist, NYU Warns Students After Professor Allegedly Declares Masks "Ineffective" In Slowing COVID Spread, Jen Chung, Sept. 23, 2020. Administrators at New York University, one of the few colleges in the area reopening for in-person learning, had to step in after one of its professors allegedly told his students that masks were not effective in mitigating the spread of coronavirus.

"It pains us to comment in any way on a faculty member’s comments, and we do so advisedly now; however, we do not feel we have a choice," school administrators said in an email reminding students that masks are required. "The matter is too important to your health and the health of those around you."

The comes after a student, Julia Jackson, wrote on Twitter that Mark Crispin Miller, a professor of media, culture, and communication, recently told students that "wearing masks doesn't prevent the spread of COVID-19":

The email, sent on Monday, was addressed to Miller's students from NYU's Steinhardt School dean, Jack Knott, and Dr. Carlo Ciotoli, who leads the school's COVID-19 response.

It reads, "Amid reports that your professor, Mark Crispin Miller, has been saying that masks are ineffective in checking the spread of COVID-19, we refer to the most authoritative public health guidance, which recommends wearing a mask as an effective way to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The evidence backs it up. And we remind you that wearing a mask is required at NYU," with links to the CDC's website and NYU's mask guidance.

mark crispin millerMiller, right, is known for his controversial views: He was included on a conservative watchlist of radical professors, for allegedly comparing President George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler, and has suggested the 9/11 attacks were an inside job (his departmental chair, at the time, said in 2017 that he was "entitled to his views").

On his website, Miller called his student's tweets "venomous" and insisted he never specifically told his class not to wear masks.

"Here’s the thread that prompted NYU to email my students, referring them to the CDC’s 'authoritative' position on face masks (that is, the one the CDC now takes, having said the opposite before April), and reaffirming NYU’s strict mask mandate (which I never urged the class to violate)," Miller writes. "I’ve been teaching propaganda (how to study it, not do it) for years now; and while there’s always disagreement, and resistance—both good things—I’ve never had anything like this happen."

Jackson, though, argued in her Twitter thread, that there's a public health emergency:

"The safety of the NYU community, as well as the New York City community, is our top priority," NYU spokesman John Beckman said in a statement to Gothamist. "Mask-wearing is a requirement at NYU for all students and faculty; we communicate it repeatedly to students and employees. Amid the reports about this online class, we have communicated directly with the students in it to remind them of the guidance from health authorities, the evidence supporting it, and that everyone on campus has to wear a mask and follow the other rules, such as maintaining social distancing and being tested regularly. We are pleased to report that the NYU community has embraced this guidance, and we have seen a high degree of compliance with our health rules."

Last week, an NYU dorm was put under lockdown after four students tested positive for the coronavirus. According to the school's COVID dashboard, for the seven-day period between September 12th and September 18th, there have been 53 new cases from almost 12,000 tests, for a positivity rate of 0.43%.

ny times logoNew York Times, Americans Have Lost $145 Million to Coronavirus Fraud, Christina Morales and Christine Hauser, Sept. 23, 2020. More than 200,000 complaints of scams and fraud have been filed so far this year, data from the Federal Trade Commission shows. Schemes related to the coronavirus peaked in the spring, and they focused on federal stimulus payments and other forms of financial relief, personal protective equipment, and unemployment and other government benefits, the commission reported.

The data was compiled by the commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network, which provides law enforcement agencies and the public with information about rampant forms of fraud. The network has tracked about 206,000 reports of fraud, identity theft, spam telephone calls and other potential scams related to the coronavirus that were submitted to the F.T.C. from Jan. 1 through Sept. 22.

According to Monica Vaca, director of the F.T.C.’s division of consumer response and operations, what is breathtaking about the reports is that the problems encompass so many aspects of consumers’ lives.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Turns Attack on MSNBC Journalist Into Rally Fodder, Katie Robertson, Sept. 23, 2020. At multiple campaign stops, the president has gotten laughs by inaccurately recounting Ali Velshi’s being hit by a rubber bullet while covering a protest.

msnbc logo CustomClaims of “fake news” have long been a staple of President Trump’s rally speeches. But in recent days, with the election less than six weeks off, he has made his rhetorical attacks on the news media more personal, with repeated references to a specific reporter’s suffering an injury while on the job.

At a rally in Bemidji, Minn., on Friday, Mr. Trump went after the MSNBC anchor and correspondent Ali Velshi by name, describing a moment when Mr. Velshi was hit in a knee by a rubber bullet in May while reporting on a Minneapolis protest prompted by the police killing of George Floyd. (The incident was captured live on MSNBC.)

“It was the most beautiful thing,” Mr. Trump said, after incorrectly stating that Mr. Velshi had been hit by a tear-gas canister. He added, “It’s called law and order.”

The president brought up the incident again the next day at a rally in Fayetteville, N.C., to more applause.

ny times logoNew York Times, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. to Retire as New York Times Company Chairman, Marc Tracy, Sept. 23, 2020. A changing of the guard is complete as he steps back from the board of the news organization he led to 61 Pulitzer Prizes.

The New York Times Company announced on Wednesday that Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. will retire as the chairman and as an active member of its board of directors on Dec. 31, completing a generational shift at a newspaper that has been in the same family for more than 120 years. He will be succeeded as the board’s chairman by his son, A. G. Sulzberger, the publisher.

Mr. Sulzberger, 69, served as publisher of The Times from 1992 to 2017. He made sweeping changes during his tenure, taking the print newspaper from black and white to color starting in 1993 — a move viewed with suspicion by some traditionalists — and later transforming it into a digital publication. He became chairman in 1997 and will assume the title of chairman emeritus.

His retirement concludes a changing of the guard, coming nearly three years after his son became the publisher and weeks after Meredith Kopit Levien, previously the chief operating officer, replaced Mark Thompson as the chief executive and president. Mr. Thompson, who held the chief executive job for eight years, was appointed to that role by the elder Mr. Sulzberger.

Sept. 21

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Jeff Zucker Helped Create Donald Trump. That Show May Be Ending, Ben Smith, Sept. 21, 2020 (print ed.). The coziness between the TV executive and Mr. Trump is a Frankenstein story for the cable news era. But then the monster got away, our columnist writes.

washington post logoWashington Post, TikTok says Oracle can review its source code, but deal won’t allow tech transfers, Eva Dou, Sept. 21, 2020. China's TikTok sought to tamp down domestic controversy over its deal with Oracle and Walmart, saying in a blog post Monday that there would be no technology transfer to Oracle, though the U.S. company would be able to check its software for safety.

tiktok logo square CustomThe statement by TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, reflected the awkward situation confronting TikTok as it navigates the same political pressures that U.S. companies have long faced in the China market. For years, U.S. firms have been the ones issuing the assurances that their Chinese partner couldn’t access their data except for safety checks.

“The current plan does not involve the transfer of any algorithms or technology,” ByteDance said in the post on its official WeChat account. “Oracle has the authority to check the source code of TikTok USA.”

The TikTok deal has been a vivid example of the Trump administration’s policy of reciprocity toward Chinese businesses. Supporters of the approach say it’s only fair to treat Chinese companies by the same standards to which U.S. companies are held in China. Critics say the United States should not stoop to the strong-arm negotiating tactics that it criticizes other governments for using.U.S. officials have followed Beijing’s playbook in demanding the viral-video app give the government a cut of the deal, and in applying eleventh-hour pressure in threatening to remove TikTok from U.S. app stores.

ny times logoNew York Times, James Levine Was Fired Over Sexual Misconduct, Then Was Paid $3.5 Million, James B. Stewart and Michael Cooper, Updated Sept. 21, 2020. The terms of a settlement last summer between the Metropolitan Opera and the renowned conductor had not been previously disclosed.

Last summer, Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, convened the executive committee of the company’s board to announce the end of one of the highest-profile, messiest feuds in the Met’s nearly 140-year history. A bitter court battle had concluded between the company and the james levine 40 years coverconductor James Levine, right, who had shaped the Met’s artistic identity for more than four decades before his career was engulfed by allegations of sexual improprieties.

Mr. Gelb told the committee that the resolution was advantageous to the Met. But the settlement, whose terms have not been publicly disclosed until now, called for the company and its insurer to pay Mr. Levine $3.5 million, according to two people familiar with its terms.

The Met had fired Mr. Levine in 2018 after an internal investigation uncovered what the company called credible evidence of “sexually abusive and harassing conduct toward vulnerable artists in the early stages of their careers.” Rather than going quietly, Mr. Levine sued the company for breach of contract and defamation, seeking at least $5.8 million. The Met countersued, revealing lurid details of its investigation and claiming that Mr. Levine’s misconduct had violated his duties. It sought roughly the same amount.

Wall Sreet on Parade, Analysis: 3-Count Felon, JPMorgan Chase, Caught Laundering More Dirty Money, Pam Martens and Russ Martens, right, Sept. 21, 2020. russ martens pam martensThe International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has once again managed to do what federal bank regulators refuse to do in the United States – come clean with the American people about our dirty Wall Street banks.

ICIJ dropped a bombshell investigative report yesterday about money laundering for criminals at some of the biggest banks on Wall Street, but you won’t find a peep about it on the front page of today’s Wall Street Journal or New York Times’ print editions.

JPMorgan Chase has already pleaded guilty to three criminal felony counts brought by the U.S. Department of Justice since 2014. Two of those counts related to money laundering and failure to file suspicious activity reports on the business bank account it held for Bernie Madoff for decades. JPMorgan Chase actually told U.K. regulators that it suspected Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme but it failed to jp morgan chase logoshare those concerns with U.S. regulators, even though it was required under law to do so.

The third felony count brought by the U.S. Department of Justice came one year later, in 2015. It related to JPMorgan’s involvement in a bank cartel that was engaged in rigging foreign exchange trading.

The ICIJ investigation is based on secret documents leaked from FinCEN, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a unit of the U.S. Treasury. The documents “show that five global banks — JPMorgan, HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank, Deutsche Bank and Bank of New York Mellon — kept profiting from powerful and dangerous players even after U.S. authorities fined these financial institutions for earlier failures to stem flows of dirty money.”

The report has much to say about JPMorgan Chase:

JPMorgan Chase was involved in moving illicit funds for the fugitive, Jho Low, involving the notorious looting of public funds in Malaysia. Jho Low has been accused by multiple jurisdictions of playing a key role in the embezzlement of more than $4.5 billion from a Malaysian economic development fund, 1MDB. JPMorgan Chase moved $1.2 billion in money for Jho Low from 2013 to 2016, according to the report.

paul manafort cnnThe ICIJ bombshell includes the charge that JPMorgan also “processed more than $50 million in payments over a decade, the records show, for Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager for President Donald Trump (shown at right in a 2016 file photo). The bank shuttled at least $6.9 million in Manafort transactions in the 14 months after he resigned from the campaign amid a swirl of money laundering and corruption allegations spawning from his work with a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.”

More troubling activity at JPMorgan Chase includes the following, according to ICIJ investigators:

“JPMorgan also moved money for companies and people tied to corruption scandals in Venezuela that have helped create one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. One in three Venezuelans is not getting enough to eat, the UN reported this year, and millions have fled the country.

“One of the Venezuelans who got help from JPMorgan was Alejandro ‘Piojo’ Isturiz, a former government official who has been charged by U.S. authorities as a player in an international money laundering scheme. Prosecutors allege that between 2011 and 2013 Isturiz and others solicited bribes to rig government energy contracts. The bank moved more than $63 million for companies linked to Isturiz and the money laundering scheme between 2012 and 2016, the FinCEN Files show…”

Sept. 20

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Judge Temporarily Halts Trump’s WeChat Ban, Ana Swanson and David McCabe, Sept. 20, 2020. A federal judge has issued an injunction against President Trump’s executive order banning the Chinese social media app WeChat from carrying out commercial transactions in the United States after Sunday, presenting at least a temporary setback in the president’s efforts to block an app that he has labeled a national security threat.

wechat logoThe ruling, which came Sunday morning, will temporarily halt Mr. Trump’s efforts to bar WeChat, which is owned by the Chinese company Tencent Holdings, from operating in the United States. The Trump administration has said the app offers China a conduit to collect data on Americans and to censor the news and information shared by WeChat’s more than a billion monthly active users.

In her decision, Judge Laurel Beeler of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California said that she had chosen to grant the motion because the plaintiffs had raised serious questions about whether the order would harm First Amendment rights, and that it placed significant hardship on the plaintiffs.

The U.S. government could now appeal to the Ninth Circuit court to seek to overturn the stay.

The motion for a preliminary injunction was filed Aug. 27 by the U.S. WeChat Users Alliance, a nonprofit group whose trustees include several prominent Chinese-American lawyers. The group says it has no connection to Tencent Holdings or any of its affiliates.

Julian Assange IndicterJulian Assange (Photo by The Indicter Magazine).

CraigMurrayBlog, Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 13, Craig Murray, right, Sept. 20, 2020. Friday gave us the most emotionally charged craig murray newermoments yet at the Assange hearing, showed that strange and sharp twists in the story are still arriving at the Old Bailey, and brought into sharp focus some questions about the handling and validity of evidence, which I will address in comment.

The first witness of the day was Nicky Hager, the veteran New Zealand investigative journalist. Hager’s co-authored book “Hit and Run” detailed a disastrous New Zealand SAS raid in Afghanistan, “Operation Burnham”, that achieved nothing but the deaths of civilians, including a child. Hager was the object of much calumny and insult, and even of police raids on his home, but in July an official government report found that all the major facts of his book were correct, and the New Zealand military had run dangerously out of control: “Ministers were not able to exercise the democratic control of the military. The military do not exist for their own purpose, they are meant to be controlled by their minister who is accountable to Parliament.”

Edward Fitzgerald took Hager through his evidence. Hager stated that journalists had a duty to serve the public, and that they could not do this without access to secret sources of classified information. This was even more necessary for the public good in time of war. Claims of harm are always made by governments against any such disclosures. It is always stated. Such claims had been frequently made against him throughout his career. No evidence had ever emerged to back up any of these claims that anybody had been harmed as a result of his journalism.

When Wikileaks had released the Afghan War Logs, they had been an invaluable source to journalists. They showed details of regular patrols, CIA financed local forces, aid and reconstruction ops, technical intelligence ops, special ops and psychological ops, among others. They had contributed much to his books on Afghanistan. Information marked as confidential is essential to public understanding of the war. He freqently used leaked material. You had to judge whether it was in the higher public interest to inform the public. Decisions of war and peace were of the very highest public interest. If the public were being misled about the conduct and course of the war, how could democratic choices be made?

United Kingdom flagEdward Fitzgerald then asked about the collateral murder video and what they revealed about the rules of engagement. Hager said that the Collateral Murder video had “the most profound effect throughout the world”. The publication of that video and the words “”Look at those dead bastards” had changed world opinion on the subject of civilian casualties. In fact the Rules of Engagement had been changed to put more emphasis on avoiding civilian casualties, as a direct result.

Historian, human rights activist and former UK ambassador Craign Murray has been covering the Assange extradition hearings in London. About Craig Murray.

The Sun, Anti-pedophile subreddit used by QAnon fans is banned after moderator 'admits addiction to child porn & pre-teen girls,' Nicole Darfrah, Sept. 20, 2020. An anti-pedophile message board has been banned after one of its moderators confessed to being obsessed with child pornography.

The Reddit page called “PedoGate” – used by QAnon followers – was banned from the platform this week after a moderator called Benjamin posted his confession online.

Sept. 19

washington post logoWashington Post, College newspaper reporters are the journalism heroes for the pandemic era, Elahe Izadi, Sept. 19, 2020. In New York, it was the Washington Square News that first reported a covid-19 outbreak in a college dorm. In Gainesville, Fla., the Alligator is the newspaper that has been painstakingly updating a map of local cases. And the Daily Gamecock alerted the public to the ways that University of South Carolina officials were withholding information about covid-19 clusters.

While the pandemic economy has devastated the local news business, there remains a cadre of small newspapers that are more energized than ever, producing essential work from the center of the nation’s newest coronavirus hot spots.

Those would be college newspapers, whose student journalists have been kept busy breaking news of campus outbreaks, pushing for transparency from administrators and publishing scathing editorials about controversial reopening plans.

Student-run newspapers have been reporting about the prevalence of covid-19 at fraternity and sorority houses, in campus residences halls and among student athletes. Professional media outlets have been crediting them for scoops, like the one at NYU. And student newspaper editorials taking school administrators to task for reopening plans — like Notre Dame’s the Observer’s front-page editorial titled “Don’t make us write obituaries" and the University of North Carolina’s Daily Tar Heel’s f-bomb headline — have made national news.

Sept.18

washington post logotiktok logo square CustomWashington Post, Trump administration bans WeChat, TikTok from app stores beginning on Sunday, Jeanne Whalen, Sept. 18, 2020. The White House will take action to curb WeChat’s use beginning Sunday, and will give TikTok until Nov. 12 until further bans kick in. The move is expected to sharply raise tensions with Beijing.

National Press Club, Statement On DOJ Decision Related To Al Jazeera Filing Under FARA, John Donnelly, Sept. 18, 2020. In response to the Justice Department’s Monday order for a U.S.-based affiliate of Al Jazeera to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), National Press Club President Michael Freedman and National Press Club Journalism Institute President Angela Greiling Keane released the following joint statement.

national  press club logo“We disagree with the U.S, Department of Justice (DOJ) decision to require AJ+ to file under FARA. This order effectively says the U.S. government views Al Jazeera to be a propaganda arm of the Qatari government rather than the independent news organizations that journalists all over the world know it to be, particularly though its coverage of the pro-Democracy Arab Spring movement of the past decade.

“Further, the timing of this FARA announcement the day before the UAE formally signed an agreement normalizing relations with Israel is of note. The UAE has made undercutting Al Jazeera’s journalism one of its priorities since it worked with Saudi Arabia in 2017 to impose a blockade on Qatar, which provides state funding to the news organization.

“We object to this mischaracterization of AJ+ which produces news videos and other content in multiple languages for digital distribution, as a foreign agent. We can only conclude that the Trump Administration is buckling to the demands of the UAE, which wants to suppress independent news gathering in the region – reporting that can expose the systemic inequality, corruption and incompetence of many of the region’s rulers

“While the Qatari government funds Al Jazeera, it does not control the network’s editorial decisions. Other prominent examples exist of international news outlets receiving foreign government funding, yet still being viewed as credible journalism organizations that do not have to file under FARA, These include: the BBC, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and AFP.

“FARA was developed during World War II to block Nazi propaganda from influencing Americans. It requires designated foreign entitites to reveal their sources of funding and to file regular public disclosures about their activity. The classification of Al Jazeera under FARA seems wholly political. The Trump Administration has close ties to UAE and Saudi Arabia even as the United States shares long-term strategic interests with Qatar exemplified by the Air Force’s reliance on the large air base at Al Udeid.

“Americans interest is in the growth and proliferation of independent media throughout the Middle East that can serve as a check on corrupt and unresponsive governments. Calling Al Jazeera a propaganda outlet instead of the independent news organization it is sends exactly the wrong message.”

Sept. 17

robert martin montgomery independentMontgomery Independent, Obituary: Robert A. Martin, Staff report, Sept. 17, 2020. Robert A. Martin, age 79, former editor and publisher of the Montgomery Independent passed away on Sept 15, 2020 after an extended illness. He is survived by his wife, Nancy, four children: Jeffrey Archer Martin (Betsy) of Montgomery, AL.; Jennifer Martin Cargile of Denver, CO.; James Douglas Martin of Montgomery, AL.; Jeremy Willis Martin (Anthea) of Denver, CO.; and ten grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents Calvin Grady Martin and Lou Sellie Box Martin.

Martin (shown at right in a Montgomery Independent photo) began his newspaper career with The Florence Times of Florence, Alabama, now known as The Times Daily, while attending Florence State University, now the University of North Alabama (UNA). As a college student, Marin began in the mail room, worked in circulation and started covering high school football games. He became a sports reporter and eventually sports editor. He continued to advance at The Times ultimately becoming its executive editor.

In 1972 Martin, with family in tow, followed newly elected Chief Justice Howell Heflin to Montgomery where he began a 25-year career with the Administrative Office of the Courts working under Chief Justice Heflin, C.C. “Bo” Torbert, Sonny Hornsby and Perry Hooper, Sr. Martin earned his Juris Doctor from Jones School of Law in 1989.

Throughout his career in both the newspaper business and as director of the courts, Martin became friends with and met many important figures, not the least of which was President John Kennedy. He also wrote many interesting stories about famous people in Alabama and the south. One of those was Buford Pusser, the sheriff depicted in the famous movie Walking Tall. Pusser was the Sheriff of McNairy County, Tennessee, not far from Florence.

While at the AOC, Bob played vital role in passing the Judicial Article, which unified and standardized the public’s interaction with Alabama Courts. After spending 25 years working for the State of Alabama, Martin felt a call to continue his first career, the news business. Martin purchased The Montgomery Independent in March, 1997 and soon after retired from the State of Alabama to dedicate all of his time to the publication. His primary goal as editor and publisher of the Montgomery Independent was to remain dedicated to covering the community affairs, especially those events that received little or no attention from other media outlets.

Martin’s weekly editorial was syndicated in other newspapers throughout the state and was a regular guest on Alabama Public Television’s For the Record and Capitol Journal. One area of excellence for the newspaper under Martin’s leadership was state government reporting and opinion. Martin worked diligently to provide a variety of commentary related to state issues, which became a hallmark of the newspaper along with its reporting of local society events and the coverage of high school sports.

Bob served as President of the Alabama Press Association (APA) Journalism Foundation in 2008. Felicia Mason, Executive Director of the APA remembers Martin’s service to the foundation. “Bob has provided sound leadership to APA through his service on the APA Board and as president of the APA Journalism Foundation. His interest in journalism education helped countless students through the grants, internships and scholarships offered through the Foundation. He was a staunch advocate for programs supporting high school journalism and for the Newspapers In Education programs, which provided newspapers to classrooms throughout the State.”

Martin often said he cherished the time he spent with the state and is especially proud of his long, ongoing efforts to improve the justice system in Alabama, “My time with the Courts was very rewarding and exciting, but my first love was always newspapering,” Martin said using one of his favorite phrases. Martin was a member of the U.S Army Reserve Unit in Sheffield, the Fighting 336th Army APU.

Further background: Inside Alabama Politics, Martin retires, Montgomery Independent to remain in family, Staff report, Aug. 8, 2017. Owner and longtime publisher of The Montgomery Independent, Robert A. Martin has retired. Over the last several years Bob has been gradually passing the duties of running the newspaper to his oldest son, Jeff Martin. Effective August 1, Bob decided to complete the handover.

While at the AOC [Administrative Office of the Courts], Bob played a vital role in passing the Judicial Article, which unified and standardized the public’s interaction with Alabama courts. Having the same form in Huntsville courts and Mobile courts may seem like a no-brainer today, but for many years it wasn’t that organized.

“It was while he was working for Chief Justice Heflin when I first met Bob. He had worked on what became a constitutional amendment to create the unified judicial system, which as far as I am concerned has been an outstanding example of a judicial system. Any kind of judiciary is going to have its shortcomings but the system our state created is second to none in the United States, and Bob played a big part in that. Bob has been a friend of mine and a servant to the people of Alabama. Now that he has decided to retire, I think he deserves the rest,” said longtime Circuit Judge and former state Senator Jerry Fielding.

Martin said he cherishes the time he spent with the state and is especially proud of his long, ongoing efforts to improve the justice system in Alabama. “My time with the Courts was very rewarding and exciting, but my first love was always “newspapering,”’ Martin said using one of his favorite phrases.

After spending 25 years working for the State of Alabama, Bob felt a call to continue his first career, the news business. Martin purchased The Montgomery Independent in March, 1997 and soon after retired from the State of Alabama to dedicate all of his time to the publication.

His primary goal as editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent was to remain dedicated to covering community affairs, especially those events that received little or no attention from other media outlets. Martin’s weekly editorial was syndicated in other newspapers throughout the state and he appeared regularly on Alabama Public Television’s For the Record and Capitol Journal.

One area of excellence for the newspaper under Martin’s leadership was state government reporting and opinion. Martin worked diligently to provide a variety of commentary related to state issues, which became a hallmark of the newspaper along with its reporting of local society events and the coverage of high school sports.

In 2003 he founded another newspaper, The Millbrook Independent, along with Art Parker, who was also serving as the sports editor of The Montgomery Independent. That publication enjoyed more than a dozen years of success until the company sold it in 2015 and Parker returned to the Montgomery paper. Today Parker serves as editor and handles the day-to-day operations of The Montgomery Independent.

Bob served as President of the Alabama Press Association (APA) Journalism Foundation in 2008. Felicia Mason, Executive Director of the APA remembers Martin’s service to the foundation.

“Bob has provided sound leadership to APA through his service on the APA Board and as president of the APA Journalism Foundation. His interest in journalism education helped countless students through the grants, internships and scholarships offered through the Foundation. He was a staunch advocate for programs supporting high school journalism and for the Newspapers In Education programs, which provided newspapers to classrooms throughout the state.”

In addition to his many professional acquaintances some have become close, dear friends. Retired Clerk of the Alabama Supreme Court Robert Esdale is one such person.

“I consider Bob Martin one of the real pluses in my life. He is a dear friend and a fellow Atlanta Braves fanatic. He and I had season tickets to the Atlanta Braves for more than 20 years,” Esdale said.

Bob & Jeff attending one of many Auburn games together

Longtime Montgomery lawyer Tommy Gallion said that he counts Bob not only as a true friend but one of the great journalists in Montgomery history.

“Bob was one of the last true journalists. He came from a time when facts and citing sources was important. Far from the fake news of today. For Bob it was more important to be right than to be first. In addition to that he has been a true friend of mine for many years,” Gallion said.

Montgomery businessman Milton McGregor has known Bob as a customer, advisor and political ally. He also considers him a close personal friend.

“I have never known anyone in the media with as much integrity as Bob Martin. He is an honest person and I am delighted to call him my friend,” McGregor said.

Sept. 16

 susan page screenshot

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The cozy media-political cocktail circuit needs a cooling-off. Now is the perfect time, Margaret Sullivan, right, Sept. 16, 2020 margaret sullivan 2015 photo(print ed.). From the perspective of the Washington women involved in “Girls’ Night Out,” the social gathering was friendly, professionally helpful, and harmless.

And they largely stayed out of the public eye — until last week when one such event went embarrassingly public.

seema verma officialThe 2018 party at the home of USA Today’s Washington bureau chief Susan Page (shown above in a screenshot) was thrown for two Trump administration honorees, one of them Seema Verma, left, who had been appointed administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

A congressional investigation into Verma’s use of taxpayer funds to hire public-relations consultants found that about $3,000 went to Republican consultant Pam Stevens for her work organizing this party. As it happens, Stevens has had a longtime role managing the “Girls’ Night Out” guest lists — sending out invitations and gathering RSVPs. But in this case, she was also working for Verma, paid to elevate the Trump appointee’s “brand.”

SaveJournalism.org, Advocacy: Sen. Blumenthal to Google: “You’re driving [newspapers] out of business,” Morgan Caplan, Sept. 16, 2020. The Senate Judiciary Committee picked up where the House left off last month, with a bipartisan grilling of Google during a hearing in which the harm to the journalism industry featured prominently. Citing research showing Google is taking up to 70% of ad revenue from news outlets, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said to Google, “[y]ou’re depriving these news organizations of the revenue they need to keep going when the First Amendment is already under assault.”

richard blumenthal portraitSen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), left, zeroed in on how Google uses its multi-platform dominance with Search, its Chrome browser, and Android mobile operating system to harvest data on a newspaper’s readers, using the Hartford Courant [and New Haven Register] as an example.

Google is then able to use that data to go to advertisers who would buy space in the Courant and enable them to reach the Courant’s readers with ads at a lower cost. Sen. Blumenthal told Google, “you’re driving [papers] out of business…engaging in conduct that cuts their payrolls so there are fewer employees at those papers nationwide.” C-SPAN coverage here.

David Dinielli, Senior Advisor of Omidyar Network, spotlighted Google’s misuse of the journalism industry by hammering into the advertisement model that news publishers have been forced into while Google reaps the benefits, noting that “if you are an advertiser or a publisher all roads lead to Google.” Dinielli also made a crucial point that without advertising revenue streaming through newsrooms there is less content creation. Less content creation ensures a lower quality of local news reporting -- an asset that consumers need more than ever as the country faces crisis after crisis.

The following is a statement from Laura Bassett, former Senior Politics Reporter for HuffPost who was laid off in January 2019, and co-founder of the Save Journalism Project:

A bipartisan group of Senators exposed Google’s abuse of its market power to harm the journalism industry in a critical Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday. While journalists are risking their lives to report on a global pandemic, wildfires, the fight for social justice and elections, Google is exploiting its multi-platform dominance to drive newspapers out of business. The time has come to use the antitrust laws to stop Google from using their monopoly power to harm the journalism industry before it’s too late.

Journalism in America is facing an existential threat from the monopolistic control of tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Apple. Big tech’s dominance over the digital advertising market and their unrivaled capacity to monetize its platforms are having drastic effects on journalism as a whole.

Sept. 15

google logo customC-SPAN, Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a former Washington Post reporter and Connecticut Attorney General, challenges Google's business practices with questions and comments directed at Donald Harrison, Google president for Global Partnerships and Corporate Development, Sept. 15, 2020 (6:15 min. video).

Craig Murray Blog via Information Clearing House, Commentary: Assange Hearing Day 9, Craig Murray, right, Sept. 15, 2020. Things became not craig murray uk ambassadormerely dramatic in the Assange courtroom today, but spiteful and nasty.

There were two real issues, the evidence and the procedure. On the evidence, there were stark details of the dreadful regime Assange will face in US jails if extradited. On the procedure, we saw behaviour from the prosecution QC that went well beyond normal cross examination and was a real attempt to denigrate and even humiliate the witness. I hope to prove that to you by a straightforward exposition of what happened today in court, after which I shall add further comment.

Today’s witness was Eric Lewis. A practicing US attorney for 35 years, Eric Lewis has a doctorate in law from Yale and a masters in criminology from Cambridge. He is former professor in law at Georgetown University, an elected member of both the American Law Institute and the Council on Foreign Relations and a fellow of the American Bar Foundation. He is Chairman of Reprieve. He has represented high profile clients in national security and terrorism cases, including Seymour Hersh and Guantanamo Bay internees.

Lewis had submitted five statements to the court, between October 2019 and August 2020, addressing the ever-changing indictments and charges brought by the prosecution. He was initially led through the permitted brief half-hour summary of his statements by defence QC Edward Fitzgerald. (I am told I am not currently allowed to publish the defence statements or links to them. I shall try to clarify this tomorrow.)

Eric Lewis testified that no publisher had ever been successfully prosecuted for publishing national security information in the USA. Following the Wikileaks publications including the diplomatic cables and the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, Assange had not been prosecuted because the First Amendment was considered insuperable and because of the New York Times problem – there was no way just to prosecute Assange without prosecuting the New York Times for publishing the same material. The New York Times had successfully pleaded the First Amendment for its publication of the Pentagon Papers, which had been upheld in a landmark Supreme Court judgment.

Lewis here gave evidence that mirrored that already reported of Prof Feldstein, Trevor Timm and Prof Rogers, so I shall not repeat all of it. He said that credible sources had stated the Obama administration had decided not to prosecute Assange, notably Matthew Miller, a highly respected Justice Department figure who had been close to Attorney General Holder and would have been unlikely to brief the media without Holder’s knowledge and approval.

Eric Lewis then gave testimony on the change of policy towards prosecuting Assange from the Trump administration. Again this mostly mirrored the earlier witnesses. He added detail of Mike Pompeo stating the free speech argument for Wikileaks was “a perversion of what our great country stands for”, and claiming that the First Amendment did not apply to foreigners.

Attorney General Sessions had accordingly stated that it was “a priority for the Justice Department” to arrest Julian Assange. He had pressured prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia to bring a case. In December 2017 an arrest warrant had been issued, with the indictment to be filled in later. The first indictment of a single count had been launched in March 2018, its timing possibly dictated by a limitation deadline.

In May 2019 a new superseding indictment increased the counts from one to eighteen, seventeen of which related to espionage. This tougher stance followed the appointment of William Barr as Attorney General just four months previously. The plain intention of the first superseding indictment was to get round the New York Times problem by trying to differentiate Assange’s actions with Manning from those of other journalists. It showed that the Justice Department was very serious and very aggressive in acting on the statements of Trump administration officials. Barr was plainly acting at the behest of Trump. This represented a clear abuse of the criminal enforcement power of the state.

The prosecution of a publisher in this way was unprecedented. Yet the facts were the same in 2018 as they had been in 2012 and 13; there was no new evidence behind the decision to prosecute. Crucially, the affidavits of US Assistant Attorney Gordon Kromberg present no legal basis for the taking of a different decision to that of 2013. There is no explanation of why the dossier was lying around with no action for five or six years.

The Trump administration had in fact taken a different political decision through the Presidential spokesperson Sarah Sanders who had boasted that only this administration had acted against Assange and “taken this process seriously.”

Edward Fitzgerald QC then turned to the question of probable sentencing and led Lewis through his evidence on this point. Eric Lewis confirmed that if Julian Assange were convicted he could very probably spend the rest of his life in prison. The charges had not been pleaded as one count, which it had been open to the prosecution to do. The judge would have discretion to sentence the counts either concurrently or consecutively. Under current sentencing guidelines, Assange’s sentence if convicted could range from “best case” 20 years to a maximum of 175 years. It was disingenuous of Gordon Kromberg to suggest a minimal sentence, given that Chelsea Manning had been sentenced to 35 years and the prosecution had requested 60.

United Kingdom flagIt had been a government choice to charge the alleged offences as espionage. The history of espionage convictions in the USA had generally resulted in whole life sentences. 20 to 30 years had been lighter sentences for espionage. The multiple charges approach of the indictment showed a government intention to obtain a very lengthy sentence. Of course the final decision would lay with the judge, but it would be decades.

Edward Fitzgerald then led on to the question of detention conditions. On the question of remand, Gordon Kromberg had agreed that Julian Assange would be placed in the Alexandria City Jail, and there was a “risk” that he would be held there under Special Administrative Measures. In fact this was a near certainty. Assange faced serious charges related to national security, and had seen millions of items of classified information which the authorities would be concerned he might pass on to other prisoners. He would be subject to Special Administrative Measures both pre- and post-conviction.

After conviction Julian Assange would be held in the supermax prison ADX Florence, Colorado. There were at least four national security prisoners currently there in the H block. Under SAMS Assange would be kept in a small cell for 22 or 23 hours a day and not allowed to meet any other prisoners. He would be allowed out once a day for brief exercise or recreation excluded from other prisoners, but shackled.

Fitzgerald then led Lewis to the 2017 decision by the International Criminal Court to open an investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan, in which the evidence provided by the Wikileaks release of US war logs and diplomatic cables provided essential evidence. This had been denounced by Trump, John Bolton and Pompeo. The ICC prosecutor’s US visa had been cancelled to hinder his investigation. An Executive Order had been issued imposing financial sanctions and blocking the banking access of any non US national who assisted the ICC investigation into crimes alleged against any US citizen. This would affect Julian Assange.

Coverage continued in much greater detail on the Craig Murray Blog. Craig John Murray is a British former diplomat turned political activist, human rights campaigner, blogger and whistleblower. Between 2002 and 2004, he was the British ambassador to Uzbekistan during which time he exposed the violations of human rights in Uzbekistan by the Karimov administration.

ny times logotiktok logo square CustomNew York Times, TikTok’s Proposed Deal Seeks to Mollify U.S. and China, David McCabe, Ana Swanson and Erin Griffith, Updated Sept. 15, 2020. The Chinese-owned app designed a compromise to satisfy U.S. security concerns. The terms are now under review by the Trump administration.

washington post logoWashington Post, A Washington lawmaker shared conspiracy theories. She threatened a reporter who wrote about it, Jaclyn Peiser, Sept. 15, 2020. Daniel Walters was surprised to see an incoming call from Washington state Rep. Jenny Graham (R) on Aug. 27. The Spokane, Wash., journalist wrote a story that day about Graham sharing false articles on Facebook, including a story claiming that thousands of missing children are kept in dungeons and raped by demons.

But Walters was unable to pick up in time. When he called the state representative back, she unleashed a barrage of hateful insults.

“You c---------!” Graham said twice. “Don’t ever call me again.”

Before Walters could get some answers as to why Graham was upset, the line disconnected.

For days following the phone call, Graham took to Facebook, posting attacks against the reporter and calling his story false. On Monday, Walters wrote a follow-up piece in the Inlander, an alt-weekly newspaper in Spokane, fact-checking his earlier story and including the full recording of his interview with Graham, as well as the audio from a threatening voice mail she left him.

Sept. 14

 wall street on parade logo

Wall Sreet on Parade, Analysis: Citigroup, Closely Tied to the Clintons, Had a Senior V.P. Outed as a QAnon Promoter, a Conspiracy Group that Reviles the russ martens pam martensClintons, Pam Martens and Russ Martens, right, Sept. 14, 2020. This is the perfect litmus test of just how little mainstream media knows about the dangerous Wall Street banks. Last Thursday, the fact-checking website, Logically, outed Jason Gelinas, who was living a secret-life as a promoter of the conspiracy group, QAnon, while also holding down a Senior V.P. technology position at Citigroup, a giant Wall Street bank that played a key role in the financial and economic collapse of 2008.

But instead of headlining the story as “Citigroup V.P Outed as QAnon Promoter,” dozens of headlines described Gelinas as “NJ Man.” (Check out the “NJ Man” headlines here.) As far as we’re aware, there is no context in which the state of New Jersey would be relevant to this story, but there certainly is relevance when it comes to Citigroup.

citigroup logoCitigroup has remained strangely silent about the matter, declining to respond to a request from a Bloomberg News reporter as well as an email inquiry sent by Wall Street On Parade. It’s an embarrassment to Citigroup for sure. A leaked FBI memo that specifically names QAnon, indicated that such groups may pose a domestic terrorism threat. That’s not exactly someone you want in a senior role in technology security at one of the largest banks in the country.

QAnon’s conspiracy theories stem from an anonymous poster known as “Q,” whom QAnon followers believe is a person inside the Trump administration helping the President uncover and expose an evil cartel that includes child sex traffickers. In the eyes of QAnon commenters, Trump has taken on super action figure status while Hillary and Bill Clinton have been designated permanent roles in the evil cartel.

Deconstructing the posts on the various QAnon websites, it’s very hard not to draw the conclusion that Q is someone in the Trump campaign, or a zealous Trump supporter, simply trying to throw red meat to Trump’s base and keep them engaged.

We located a French language website, DisSept.com, which has a direct link to the QAnon website set up by Gelinas, QMap.pub, (now taken down but visible at the Wayback Machine) and echoes the same themes: Trump is out to save the U.S. while the Clintons are pure evil.

A website analytics firm, SimilarWeb.com, shows that DisSept.com was the main referral site to QMap, although the bulk of QMap’s 10 million visitors a month in May, June and July were coming directly to the site, not through a referral site.

There is heavy irony in Citigroup now being outed as the employer of Gelinas, whose LinkedIn resume (also now removed) indicated he had worked for the bank for the past 17 years. Citigroup has a heavy history with the Clintons. President Bill Clinton’s Treasury Secretary was Robert Rubin. After Rubin helped to engineer the 1999 repeal of the 1933 banking legislation known as the Glass-Steagall Act, allowing federally-insured banks to merge with Wall Street trading casinos, Rubin became a member of the Citigroup Board of Directors and reaped $120 million in compensation over the next decade. Citigroup desperately needed the repeal of this legislation because it had already illegally merged Citicorp with Salomon Brothers the prior year.

Sandy Weill, the Co-CEO at Citigroup in 1999, who lobbied for the repeal of Glass-Steagall, was given a commemorative pen from the Clinton signing ceremony that repealed the legislation. Just nine years after the repeal, Wall Street banks like Citigroup blew up Wall Street, taking down the U.S. economy in the process.

According to PolitiFact, Citigroup was the bank that provided the Clintons (shown in a file photo at right) with a $1.995 million mortgage to buy their Washington, D.C. residence in 2000, Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton via flickr and Karen Smith Murphyas President Bill Clinton’s second term in the White House was ending.

Citigroup also paid Bill Clinton hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees after he left the White House according to financial disclosure forms. The bank also committed at least $5.5 million to the Clinton Global Initiative — a nonprofit created by Bill Clinton in 2005, after leaving the White House. The nonprofit previously brought global leaders together annually to make action commitments.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Citigroup was the number one contributor to Hillary Clinton’s reelection run for the Senate in 2006. Goldman Sachs was number two. The banks are not allowed to donate directly to the candidate. The money comes from bank employees, their spouses, and the banks’ political action committees.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Intercept Promised to Reveal Everything. Then Its Own Scandal Hit, Ben Smith, Sept. 14, 2020 (print ed.). Internal documents show how a source ended up in jail — and the fallout in the newsroom.

Where were you when you first heard about the Snowden leak? The huge breach of the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program in June edward snowden twitter2013 was one of the proudest moments in modern journalism, and one of the purest: A brave and disgusted whistle-blower, Edward Snowden, right, revealed the government’s extensive surveillance of American and foreign citizens. Two journalists protected their source, revealed his secrets and won the blessings of the Establishment — a Pulitzer Prize and an Oscar for it.

One of the people who fell in love with that story was Pierre Omidyar, the earnest if remote billionaire founder of eBay. That October, he pledged $250 million for a new institution led by those two journalists, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. Mr. Omidyar was the benefactor of journalists’ dreams. He promised total independence for a new nonprofit news site, The Intercept, under the umbrella of his First Look Media.

The Intercept was founded in the belief that “the prime value of journalism is that it imposes transparency, and thus accountability, on those who wield the greatest governmental and corporate power.” The outlet’s first mission was to set up a secure archive of Mr. Snowden’s documents, and to keep mining them for stories.

All the drama would make this another colorful story about extreme newsroom dysfunction had The Intercept not caught the attention of a naïve National Security Agency linguist with the improbable name of Reality Winner in 2017. Ms. Winner, then 25, had been listening to the site’s podcast. She printed out a secret report on Russian cyberattacks on American voting software that seemed to address some of Mr. Greenwald’s doubts about Russian interference in the 2016 campaign and mailed it to The Intercept’s Washington, D.C., post office box in early May.

reality winner mug CustomThe Intercept scrambled to publish a story on the report, ignoring the most basic security precautions. The lead reporter on the story sent a copy of the document, which contained markings that showed exactly where and when it had been printed, to the N.S.A. media affairs office, all but identifying Ms. Winner as the leaker.

On June 3, about three weeks after Ms. Winner, shown at left in a mug shot, sent her letter, two F.B.I. agents showed up at her home in Georgia to arrest her. They announced the arrest soon after The Intercept’s article was published on June 5.

“They sold her out, and they messed it up so that she would get caught, and they didn’t protect their source,” her mother, Billie Winner-Davis, said in a telephone interview last week. “The best years of her life are being spent in a system where she doesn’t belong.”

Failing to protect an anonymous leaker is a cardinal sin in journalism, though the remarkable thing in this instance is that The Intercept didn’t seem to try to protect its source. The outlet immediately opened an investigation into its blunder, which confirmed the details that the Justice Department had gleefully announced after it arrested Ms. Winner. They included the fact that The Intercept led the authorities to Ms. Winner when it circulated the document in an effort to verify it, and then published the document, complete with the identifying markings, on the internet.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Should Bob Woodward have revealed that Trump lied sooner? Robert Harrington, Sept. 14, 2020. When a crime is committed it’s sometimes a favorite pastime of a certain kind of armchair cynic to find people other than the criminal to blame. The most repulsive of the type are the blamers of rape victims. Far less abhorrent but still representative of the breed are those who insist that Bob Woodward should have come forward sooner with the taped revelation that Donald Trump deliberately misled the American people about coronavirus. Put another way, could lives have been saved had Bob Woodward come forward sooner with the tape proving Trump was lying?

bill palmer report logo headerLet me start by interjecting the personal. I’m not a huge fan of Bob Woodward. I’ve always thought there was something just a little bit sleazy about him and that he didn’t always deserve the accolades he so generously receives. From his involvement in the “Jimmy’s World” scandal (in which he supported a Washington Post inner city story about an 8 year old heroin addict that turned out to be entirely fictional) to his highly questionable claim of a deathbed interview with CIA Director William Casey, to his rather clumsy, unimaginative interview style, he’s never exactly been my favorite. Of the two famous Watergate reporters I always thought Bernstein was the smart one.

What’s more, had I been in Woodward’s position, I would like to think I would have announced to the world right away that Trump was lying about coronavirus and I had the tapes to prove it. To be sure, I doubt that it would have done any good. When you stop to think about it, it still hasn’t done any good, really, and that carries my point. But announce I would have, all the same. And it would have come, I think, at no loss to my soon-to-be-released book.

With those preliminaries out of the way, it isn’t Bob Woodward’s job to warn the American people about the dangers of coronavirus, it’s the job of the president of the United States. Trump’s failure to do so is his shame, and he shares that shame with nobody. Bob Woodward is no more responsible for the inner workings of Donald Trump than Lindsey Graham is responsible for Trump’s moronic decision to do the Woodward interview in the first place. The buck stops there, and we need to stop suggesting otherwise.

Donald Trump deliberately misled the American people, knowing with crystalline clarity, in advance, that people would die. He did it to protect his precious stock market with the insane belief that it would enhance his re-election chances. He made the decision to voluntarily trade 200,000 American lives (so far) in exchange for four more years as America’s first criminal president, went home, had dinner and slept like a baby. Donald Trump is the evil at work here. He gets the blame and no one else.

If there’s any doubt left among you that Donald Trump is a psychopathic murderer, wholly without an ounce of human compassion, a murderer who would kill anyone any time to advance his shot at re-election, now is the time to abandon that doubt. Donald Trump isn’t just your garden variety corrupt Republican, he is as evil and as ruthless and as heartless and as vicious as any serial murderer you have ever read about. Trump is a dead-eyed killer.

There are a million reasons why Donald Trump is unfit to be president of the United States, this has been another one. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.x

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The egregious gaslighting around Trump’s handling of the pandemic, Philip Bump, Sept. 14, 2020. Likely recognizing the political danger of having taken this deceptive approach, Trump and his allies have fallen back on whataboutism as a defense. On Sunday, Trump highlighted a segment from Fox News’s Greg Gutfeld, in which Gutfeld presented various Democratic leaders and media personalities similarly downplaying the threat.

Unable to leave well enough alone, Trump took Gutfeld’s extremely generous argument further.

“I was right, these people were all wrong, and now they criticize me,” Trump wrote. “Such hypocrisy!”

This is unmitigated gaslighting. The people in the video were no more wrong than Trump in the excerpted quotes — and were subsequently far more proactive in realistically addressing the threat.

Trump was informed at the end of January that the pandemic would be “the biggest national security threat” he faced as president. Trump and Woodward spoke on Feb. 7, at which point Trump explained the risks. Yet he and his team failed to act with any sense of urgency for weeks.

Sept. 13

washington post logoWashington Post, Consumer Tech Investigation: The 5G lie: The network of the future is still slow, Geoffrey A. Fowler, Sept. 13, 2020 (print ed.). We speed tested 5G phones against 4G ones. America’s new nationwide 5G networks weren’t much faster — and in some places they were slower.

att logoUnless you’ve been living under a rock — which in 2020 actually sounds soothing — you’ve probably heard there’s a new cellphone technology called 5G. Any iPhone or Galaxy owner knows the law of Gs: Every additional G makes downloads faster. 3G sent pictures. 4G streamed video.

sprint tmobile logosApple is planning to hold a launch event on Sept. 15, where it could unveil its first 5G-enabled iPhones. Samsung’s entire flagship lineup is now 5G-equipped. So these 2020 models are going to really fly, right?

Well, hold on just a minute.

washington post logoamazon logo smallWashington Post, Bezos’s likely Amazon successor is an executive made in Bezos’s image, Jay Greene, Sept. 13, 2020 (print ed.). Andy Jassy, the leader of Amazon’s cloud computing business, is now the clear heir apparent to Jeff Bezos after the announced retirement of the retail operations chief. There are few chief executives more identified with the companies they run than Jeff Bezos.

jeffrey bezos washington postBut the 56-year-old Amazon founder, and the world’s wealthiest person, left, will one day need to pass on the reins of the e-commerce giant. And an heir apparent has emerged in recent weeks: Andy Jassy, the 52-year-old head of Amazon Web Services, or AWS, the company’s cloud computing business, who was one of two No. 2s in Amazon’s corner offices.

The likelihood of Jassy’s being Bezos’s successor increased when the other deputy, Jeff Wilke, who ran Amazon’s retail business, last month unexpectedly announced plans to retire early next year.

Sept. 10

djt profile balding big head palmer

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump caught bragging that he helped cover up murder of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Bill Palmer, Sept. 10, 2020. This morning Palmer Report predicted with certainty that there would be more bombshells about Donald Trump coming from Bob Woodward this week. After all, Woodward’s book is still five days away from launch, meaning he was going to give more advance details to the press. Sure enough, that’s happening already this afternoon.

bill palmer report logo headerIt turns out Donald Trump bragged to Woodward that he helped cover up the murder of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi, by pressuring Congress into dropping the investigation into Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right.

Mohammed Bin Salman Al-SaudTrump went so far as to say “I saved his ass” in reference to Bin Salman, which is likely true, considering what dire straits Bin Salman was in at the time.

This is a confession to a murder coverup, since Trump’s actions helped a murderer avoid being brought to justice. This comes on top of Trump’s coronavirus admissions, which are tantamount to a taped confession to negligent homicide.

The Independent, Assange extradition hearing paused over fears lawyer exposed to coronavirus, Lizzie Dearden, Sept. 10, 2020. Wikileaks founder is battling being sent to US on 18 charges over leaked cables. Julian Assange’s extradition hearing has been paused over fears that a lawyer may have been exposed to coronavirus. The Wikileaks founder is battling against attempts to send him to the US for trial for allegedly conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law over the release of confidential cables in 2010 and 2011.

Judge Vanessa Baraitser adjourned the case until Monday after being told one of the lawyers involved had been exposed to the virus.

Mr Assange has been held on remand at HMP Belmarsh for a year after serving a 50-week jail sentence for breaching bail conditions by fleeing to London’s Ecuadorian embassy in 2012. His current extradition hearing, which was previously delayed by the coronavirus outbreak, is expected to last for around a month.

Wednesday’s hearing was told that the Australian’s political opinions put him in the ”crosshairs“ of the Donald Trump administration. Professor Paul Rogers told the Old Bailey that Wikileaks’ revelations were ”significant“ in showing how the US coalition's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were going wrong despite public claims of their success.

The emeritus professor of peace studies at Bradford University said leaked documents published by Wikileaks exposed details of an extra 15,000 civilians killed in Iraq. Asked by Mr Fitzgerald QC if he believed the charges against Mr Assange are motivated by ”criminal justice concerns“ or political considerations, Prof Rogers said: ”I have to say it appears to be the latter. This does appear to be a political trial.“

washington post logoWashington Post, Susan Page of USA Today criticized for hosting off-the-record event honoring Trump appointees, Jeremy Barr, Sept. 10, 2020. USA Today is defending longtime Washington bureau chief Susan Page, after a congressional investigation revealed that she hosted a “Girls’ Night Out” event at her home in honor of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema seema verma officialVerma, right, in November 2018.

Page, a longtime member of the D.C. press corps, was recently picked by the Commission on Presidential Debates to host the vice-presidential debate on Oct. 7.

Her leading role in hosting the event at her home raised eyebrows on social media from observers who suggested that it conflicted with her ability to cover the administration as an impartial journalist. Reporters are supposed to maintain an arm’s-length relationship with their sources, and hosting parties for them arguably compromises this role.

The investigation targeted Verma’s “use of taxpayer funds to retain communications consultants with strong Republican political ties.” A report, including billing documents, was released on Thursday. The investigation was conducted by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Senate Committee on Finance (minority party members) and Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (minority party members).

A Politico article on Thursday called attention to Verma’s spending on public-relations consultants but did not identify Page as a host of an event.

According to the investigation, taxpayers paid $2,933 for organizing the “Girls’ Night Out” event.

But USA Today spokesperson Chrissy Terrell said on Thursday afternoon that Page was “unaware” that the CMS was billed for the event, which the newspaper said was held to honor “two women who had recently gotten significant appointments, Heather Wilson to head the Air Force and Seema Verma to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — both milestone moments to be recognized.”

The newspaper defended Page’s decision to host the gathering, which the publication said are “routinely hosted” by female journalists to “honor significant accomplishments of both Democratic and Republican women,” with the journalists footing the bill. (Page paid $4,025 for catering, plus several hundred dollars for beverages and more money tips for the wait staff.)

“USA Today is fully aware of these long-standing events that recognize the accomplishments of women and fall well within the ethical standards that our journalists are expected to uphold,” the publication said, adding that Page “was not paid or reimbursed by the federal government” for the event.

Republican communications consultant Pam Stevens, who was reportedly “working to raise the brand of Verma,” is the longtime organizer of the social gatherings and sends out the invitations.

Page and the other attendees at the mixer were not aware that Verma was a client of Stevens, according to people with knowledge of the situation who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

The publication said that “PBS NewsHour” anchor Judy Woodruff, “CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell, CBS News correspondent Rita Braver and NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell have hosted similar events in the past, which are considered to be off-the-record for reporting purposes and are held at either host’s homes or a restaurant. (The January 2017 gathering hosted at Woodruff’s home was "to welcome Kellyanne Conway and Katie Walsh and the women of the Trump White House,” according to an invitation)

The congressional investigation into Verma concluded that her consultants “charged CMS nearly $6 million for work that included boosting her public profile and personal brand, serving as her preferred communications advisers, arranging private meetings for her with media personalities and other high-profile individuals, and routinely traveling with her to events across the country.”

Sept. 9

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Should Bob Woodward have reported Trump’s virus revelations sooner? Here’s how he defends his decision, Margaret margaret sullivan 2015 photoSullivan, right, Sept. 9, 2020. Critics say the scoop was too important to hold for his new book.

Two waves of outrage greeted the news on Wednesday of Bob Woodward’s latest White House chronicle, a book titled “Rage.”

The first was Trump’s disclosure to Woodward that he knew as early as February — even as he was dismissing the novel coronavirus publicly — that the looming pandemic was far deadlier than the flu. The second was that Woodward, long associated with The Washington Post, didn’t reveal this to the public sooner.

bob woodward rageI took the questions and complaints to Woodward, who initially was reluctant to speak on the record until after a “60 Minutes” segment airs on Sunday because he had promised the publisher and CBS not to give any interviews until then. But because my questions were about process, rather than the content of the book, he agreed to address the ethical issues.
The fact that this second outrage mostly circulated among journalists talking to one another made it no less furious: If the famous Watergate reporter knew that Trump was lying to the public about a matter of life and death, why didn’t he reveal it immediately?

Woodward book: Trump says he knew coronavirus was ‘deadly’ and worse than the flu while intentionally misleading Americans

Woodward is hardly the first journalist to save juicy information for a book. But “is this traditional practice still ethical?” tweeted David Boardman, dean of the Temple University journalism school and a former longtime editor of the Seattle Times.

Sept. 7

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Here’s what the media must do to fend off an election-night disaster, Margaret Sullivan, right, Sept. 7, 2020 (print ed.). There are margaret sullivan 2015 photolessons to take from the Iowa caucuses, the midterms and the 2000 election. Is the media paying attention?

This time, with the stakes of the election so high, news organizations need to get it right. They need to do two things, primarily, and do them extraordinarily well.

First, in every way possible, they must prepare the public for uncertainty, and start doing this now. Granted, the audience doesn’t really show up in force until election night itself, but news reports, pundit panels and special programming can help plow the ground for public understanding of the unpredictability — or even chaos — to come.

Second, on election night and in the days (weeks? months?) to follow, news organizations will need to do the near-impossible: reject their ingrained instincts to find a clear narrative — including the answer to the question “who won?” — and stay with the uncertainty, if that’s indeed what’s happening.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Journalists Aren’t the Enemy of the People. But We’re Not Your Friends, Either, Ben Smith, Sept. 7, 2020 (print ed.).  Our columnist writes that President Trump will try to put the media on the ballot, and reporters face the temptation to posture for those eager to oust him.

Julian Assange at Ecuador's Embassy (Photo Collage by The Indicter Magazine)

WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange, center, an Australian, obtained political asylum for years at Ecuador's Embassy in London (Photo Collage by The Indicter Magazine).

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. extradition trial for founder of WikiLeaks starts in London, William Booth, Sept. 7, 2020 (print ed.). Federal prosecutors want to try Julian Assange, an Australian anti-secrecy activist, for allegedly violating the Espionage Act.

United Kingdom flagThe long-delayed evidentiary hearing in the extradition case of imprisoned WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange returned to the courtroom here Monday.

U.S. prosecutors say the Australian publisher and activist violated the Espionage Act by conspiring to obtain and disclose hundreds of thousands of pages of secret government documents, including classified diplomatic cables and sensitive reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

julian assange facts wikileaks CustomProsecutors have also charged Assange with conspiracy to commit “computer intrusions” by helping army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning try to hack a password to get access to even more files. In a superceding indictment unsealed in June, prosecutors say he also solicited hackers to break into Icelandic government computers to steal information. They want Assange transported to Northern Virginia to face federal charges.Washington Post,

Assange is fighting the extradition. His lawyers argue that the crimes of which he’s accused are “purely political offenses” and say British treaty law should protect him from forced transfer.

The WikiLeaks publisher appeared in court Monday at the Old Bailey, the Central Criminal Court in London, where Assange’s lawyers will call witnesses to testify in person or via remote video link. Assange wore a suit and tie and watched the proceedings from behind a glass wall. He answered “no” when asked by the judge if he would consent to being extradited to the United States.

The judge and lawyers were in the courtroom, but as a precaution against the coronavirus, most observers and journalists will be limited to watching via tightly controlled virtual links. The hearings will not be broadcast to the public. They are expected to last three weeks.

Sept. 4

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Angrily Denies Report He Called Fallen Soldiers ‘Losers,’ Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, Sept. 4, 2020. The report, in The Atlantic (Americans Who Died in War Are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers:’ Trump), could be problematic for President Trump because he is counting on strong support among the military in the election.

President Trump confronted a crisis on Friday that could undercut badly needed support in the military community for his re-election campaign as he sought to dispute a report that he privately referred to American soldiers killed in combat as “losers” and “suckers.”

djt pence yard sign logoMr. Trump, who has long portrayed himself as a champion of the armed forces and boasted of rebuilding a military depleted after years of overseas wars, came under intense fire from Democrats and other opponents who said the magazine report demonstrated his actual contempt for those who serve their country in uniform.

The campaign of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee, blasted out a series of statements and organized a conference call for reporters with Khizr Khan, the Gold Star father who represented Virginia at the Democratic National Convention last month, and Senator Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat severely wounded while serving as a helicopter pilot in Iraq, who slammed Mr. Trump during the convention as the “coward in chief.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Fox News confirms Donald Trump made deranged remarks about the troops, Bill Palmer, Sept. 4, 2020. After the Atlantic reported fox news logo SmallDonald Trump’s remarks about U.S. troops being “losers” and “suckers,” the Associated Press and Washington Post each independently confirmed the remarks. But Trump still decided that it’s fake news, because he doesn’t like any of those news outlets. Now his problem has gotten bigger.

bill palmer report logo headerJennifer Griffin from Fox News is confirming on Twitter that the Atlantic story is true. Fox is confirming that Trump said that “Anyone who went [to Vietnam] was a sucker” and that having wounded veterans in military parades is “not a good look.”

In the normal world, no one cares what a rag like Fox News says. But in the world of disinformed people who were steered toward Trump by Fox News to begin with, it’s a big deal that even Fox is now confirming Trump really did say these horrible things about the troops.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump said U.S. soldiers injured and killed in war were ‘losers,’ magazine reports, Colby Itkowitz, Alex Horton and Carol D. Leonnig, Sept. 4, 2020. President Trump called U.S. soldiers injured or killed in war “losers,” questioned the country’s reverence for them and expressed confusion over why anyone would choose to serve, according to a new report that the White House has called “patently false.”

djt smiling fileThe report, published late Thursday by the Atlantic, cites four unnamed people with firsthand knowledge of Trump’s comments. It says Trump disparaged the military service of the late former president George H.W. Bush, objected to wounded veterans being involved in a military parade, and canceled a visit to Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018 because he didn’t care about honoring those killed in war.

The White House released a sharply worded statement defending Trump — who has insulted POWs, traded barbs with grieving families of the dead and said before he was president that avoiding sexually transmitted diseases was his own “personal Vietnam” — against accusations that he doesn’t respect the military.

washington post logoNew York Times, Trump Says He Will Reverse Plan to Close Military Newspaper, Helene Cooper, Sept. 4, 2020. The reversal on the Stars and Stripes newspaper came as President Trump was in full defensive mode over reports he’d disparaged military personnel.

President Trump said late Friday that he planned to reverse Pentagon budget cuts that would have permanently closed Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper that has both informed and spoken for American troops over the decades.

stars strips logo CustomUnder Defense Department spending plans, the paper would cease print and online publication by the last day of September, a move seen as expanding the Trump administration’s war on news media to include those paid by the government to cover the military.

Yet, while the demise of Stars and Stripes had been in budget cuts first proposed by Mr. Trump’s Pentagon in February, the president announced the paper would continue to publish.

“The United States of America will NOT be cutting funding to @starsandstripes magazine under my watch,” Mr. Trump posted on Twitter several hours after major news organizations began publishing stories about the pending closure of the newspaper. “It will continue to be a wonderful source of information to our Great Military!”

Begun during the Civil War, Stripes has more recently frustrated presidents and defense secretaries during the “forever wars” that began after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by elevating the voices of those in uniform who contradicted commanders and political leaders.

But while the newspaper found enough backers in Congress and among retired military officers to keep it alive during previous administrations, that support has been unable to reverse Defense Department plans to zero-out the Stars and Stripes budget during a Trump presidency marked by continuing battles with journalists.

A bipartisan group of 11 Democratic and four Republican senators called on the Defense Department to maintain funding for the publication, which has about 1.3 million readers online and in print. In a letter on Wednesday to Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, the senators said the Pentagon, with its budget of more than $700 billion, could surely find the $15.5 million in federal funding mark esperneeded to keep Stars and Stripes going.

The challenge facing Stars and Stripes — maintaining editorial independence from the government while depending on government funding — is playing out in other parts of the Trump administration.

Similar efforts to weaken federally funded news outlets are underway at the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees international broadcast outlets like Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcast Networks.

In February, Mr. Esper, left, who was appointed by Mr. Trump last year, proposed ending the Defense Department’s funding to Stars and Stripes.

office.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon reaffirms Microsoft’s JEDI cloud contract, dealing a blow to Amazon, Aaron Gregg, Sept. 4, 2020. The Defense Department decided almost a year ago to award its $10 billion JEDI cloud computing contract to Microsoft, but it opted for a do-over when a bid protest from Amazon uncovered a mistake in how prices were evaluated.

The Pentagon reaffirmed its controversial decision to give its largest-ever cloud computing contract to Microsoft instead of to market-leader Amazon, defying a court decision that blocked the earlier award amid criticism that President Trump’s animosity toward Amazon influenced the decision.

amazon logo smallWith Amazon likely to continue its legal challenge, the decision means there is still no end to the bitter legal fight that has held up the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, commonly known as JEDI, for close to two years. An Amazon representative did not immediately respond to questions on whether it would appeal the decision.

“The Department has completed its comprehensive re-evaluation of the JEDI Cloud proposals and determined that Microsoft’s proposal continues to represent the best value to the Government,” said Russ Goemaere, a Defense Department spokesman. He added that contract performance cannot begin until after Feb. 13 because of an existing court order, but the department hopes to begin work on JEDI soon.

“DoD is eager to begin delivering this capability to our men and women in uniform,” Goemaere added.

Last summer, President Trump asked for an investigation into the contract over concerns that the contract requirements had been tailored for Amazon. Newly installed Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper then launched his own “review” of the department’s approach. The Pentagon then awarded JEDI to Microsoft, prompting a lawsuit from Amazon.

In its bid protest Amazon alleged that Trump’s interest in the JEDI contract was motivated by his antipathy toward Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post. Bezos, who bought The Post in 2013, does not weigh in on The Post’s coverage decisions, the news organization’s leaders have said.

That lawsuit halted the department’s progress on JEDI just as it was getting started. A judge concluded that officials had erred when they evaluated the two competing applications. The Pentagon asked to redo the award. By again giving the contract to Microsoft, the Defense Department is arguing that the mistakes it made were not significant enough to affect the outcome.

Amazon had been widely expected to get the contract to consolidate much of the Pentagon’s cloud computing efforts under one vendor when JEDI was initially put out for bids in early 2018. But what appeared to be a likely path was derailed in July of last year when Trump, urged on by members of Congress and lobbied aggressively by Amazon’s competitors, directed Esper to reexamine the bidding process. Defense Department spokespeople and officials have insisted Trump did not “order” or “pressure” Esper to pick any specific bidder, and Esper told the Defense Department inspector general that his review was prompted primarily by pressure from Congress. In October, the Pentagon awarded the contract to Microsoft.

U.S. Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial Board: Congress Must Be Clear: No Doctored Videos, Editorial Board, Sept. 4, 2020. A congressman posted a manipulated video. That ought to be taken seriously. Last weekend, Representative Steve Scalise, the Louisiana Republican, shared a video clip featuring Ady Barkan, a progressive activist, asking Joe Biden, “Do we agree that we can redirect some of the funding for police?”

To which Mr. Biden responded, “Yes, absolutely.”

Except that Mr. Barkan, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and communicates with the aid of a computerized voice, had not included the words “for police” in his question. Those were spliced in by Mr. Scalise’s team, making it seem as though Mr. Biden was expressing direct support for defunding the police — something he explicitly opposes, no matter how loudly Republicans claim otherwise. Mr. Biden’s criminal justice plan, in fact, includes $300 million in additional funding for police departments.

Outraged by the violation, Mr. Barkan called out the congressman. “@SteveScalise, These are not my words,” he tweeted on Sunday afternoon. “I have lost my ability to speak, but not my agency or my thoughts. You and your team have doctored my words for your own political gain. Please remove this video immediately. You owe the entire disability community an apology.”

washington post logoWashington Post, The QAnon problem facing local journalism this election season, Elahe Izadi, Sept. 4, 2020. As supporters of the bogus conspiracy theory run for office, reporters grapple with how to cover them. The 16 candidates who sought the Republican nomination in the open race for Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District this year included a former state senator, two former mayors, a pharmacist — and two supporters of the bogus conspiracy theory known as QAnon.

The quandary, then, for the Knoxville News Sentinel: How on earth to responsibly explain QAnon — a murky cultlike belief system that, according to law enforcement, has inspired violence among some of its proponents — to the newspaper’s readers?

Ultimately, said executive editor Joel Christopher, the newsroom made a calculation that both candidates were extreme long shots. So they punted on the question entirely — and devoted no ink at all to the QAnon connections. In the end, the two candidates only received 3.3 percent of the total vote.

“But if anyone thinks this is going to vanish, they’re delusional,” Christopher said. “We’re going to have to tackle it at some point.”

Sept. 3

washington post logoWashington Post, Network of news sites must register as political committee due to Democratic links, GOP-affiliated group alleges, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Sept. 3, 2020. The complaint comes as researchers raise concerns about political outfits masquerading as news sites.

A new complaint filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission alleges that a national network of local media websites must register as a political committee because of its ties to a Democratic-aligned group.

Courier Newsroom, which includes seven news sites concentrated in presidential swing states, is backed by ACRONYM, a politically active nonprofit run by Democratic strategist Tara McGowan.

Federal election laws and regulations do not apply to media outlets unless they are “owned or controlled by” a political party, committee or candidate and are acting as a media outlet rather than a political one.

But the complaint, filed by Americans for Public Trust, a watchdog group affiliated with former Nevada attorney general Adam Laxalt, a Republican, alleges that Courier Newsroom is not eligible for that exemption and that the media group failed to register as a political group and report its donors and expenses as is required of political groups under federal law.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump and the right loved Clay Travis. The fight over college football sealed their bond, Ben Strauss, Sept. 3, 2020. This summer, as the pandemic, protests over racial injustice and the approaching election collided with the return of sports, Clay Travis’s nascent mini-media empire has morphed into the go-to platform for Republicans hoping to win over sports fans.

For fans of college football, hope came Wednesday in the form of a presidential tweet.

“Had a very productive conversation with Kevin Warren, Commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, about immediately starting up Big Ten football," President Trump tweeted. "On the one yard line!”

Though the fate of Big Ten football remains unclear, the tweet offered a momentary boost to fans, whose fall suddenly looked less desolate, and to Trump, for whom empty college football stadiums could signal to some swing-state voters his failure to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

But it was perhaps an even bigger moment for Clay Travis, who reportedly brokered the phone call, completing his only-in-2020 transformation from abrasive sports blogger to influential conservative sports radio host to apparent Trump campaign surrogate.

Sept. 2

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: British fascism catching up with America's, Wayne Madsen, Sept. 2, 2020. Britain's far-right government of wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallConservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson has taken a step toward the type of fascist governance that has taken hold under Donald Trump in America.

In June, Trump installed extreme right-winger Michael Pack as the head of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM). Pack has responsibility for U.S. government broadcasting, including the Voice of America (VOA). Pack's marching orders were to transform the facebook logoVOA, Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, Middle East Broadcasting Networks, and other broadcast divisions into a pro-Trump and anti-Democratic Party version of Fox News.

Pack's new counterpart at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Director-General Tim Davie, is ramping up a far-right purge of the network's news and entertainment divisions.

 

August

Aug. 31

Palmer Report, Opinion: Steve Scalise forced to cave after getting caught posting doctored video, Bill Palmer, Aug. 31, 2020. In the latest reminder that there are no limits to how low Donald Trump’s allies will sink to try to salvage his failing 2020 bid, Republican Congressman Steve Scalise tweeted a doctored video on Sunday that set off a furor. It showed footage of health care advocate Ady Barkan, an ALS patient who speaks with a computerized voice. Scalise’s video added words to Barkan’s computerized voice that Barkan never said.

bill palmer report logo headerAdy Barkan tweeted this in response to Scalise’s deranged fake video: “These are not my words. I have lost my ability to speak, but not my agency or my thoughts. You and your team have doctored my words for your own political gain. Please remove this video immediately. You owe the entire disability community an apology.”

Leaders from Joe Biden to Nancy Pelosi quickly condemned Steve Scalise and demanded that he delete the video. Twitter slapped a “manipulated media” warning on Scalise’s video, but didn’t delete it outright. Finally, late on Sunday night, Scalise deleted the tweet and announced that he would remove the doctored clip of Barkan from the video going forward. Score one for the good guys. Scalise is a scumbag.

Associated Press via Chron.com, VOA journalists protest new US global media chief's moves, Matthew Lee, Aug. 31, 2020. A group of journalists at Voice of America is protesting moves made by the U.S.-funded outlet’s new chief that they say are endangering their colleagues and the international broadcaster’s credibility as a news source.

In a letter to VOA management sent on Monday, 14 senior VOA journalists expressed deep concern and profound disappointment with steps U.S. Agency for Global Media head Michael Pack has taken that they say also threaten to harm American national security.

The signatories said they were “compelled to express our profound disappointment with the actions and comments of the chief executive officer of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which endanger the personal security of VOA reporters at home and abroad, as well as threatening to harm U.S. national security objectives.”

Aug. 30

washington post logoWashington Post, Review: Charting Fox News’s slide from serious news outlet to ‘state media,’ Jane Eisner, Aug. 30, 2020 (print ed.). CNN’s Brian Stelter contends that Fox aids Trump in manipulating the truth and the public.

fox news logo SmallBrian Stelter’s new book, Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth, covers much the same ground and offers much the same argument, but in a catty, chatty tone that makes for an easy read, though a less substantive one. Drawing on three years of interviews with more than 140 staffers at Fox and 180 former staffers and other knowledgeable sources, Stelter describes how the network evolved from a serious news operation with a decidedly conservative perspective to what he asserts is essentially “state-cnn logosupported TV.”

Stelter, chief media correspondent for CNN Worldwide, does not assume Mayer’s detached, neutral tone. As he writes in his opening: “What you’ll get in these pages is not the Stelter in a navy blue blazer that you see on CNN. I’m writing this book as a citizen; as an advocate for factual journalism; and a new dad who thinks about what kind of world my children are going to inherit.”

Jane Eisner, a regular contributor to Book World, is the director of academic affairs at the Columbia School of Journalism.

washington post logoWashington Post, Outpouring of grief after Chadwick Boseman’s death: ‘This is a crushing blow,’ Emily Yahr, Aug. 30, 2020 (print ed.). Remembering 'Black Panther' actor Chadwick Boseman. The shock of the tragic news amplified the devastated reaction worldwide, as thousands fans, as well as Hollywood stars, politicians and athletes, mourned the beloved actor on social media.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump treats naturalization like a game show prize, Suketu Mehta, Aug. 30, 2020 (print ed.). It was the most unnatural of naturalization ceremonies: On Tuesday, the Republican National Convention showcased footage of the most anti-immigrant president in U.S. history personally bestowing citizenship, as might an emperor, upon a group of five new Americans selected for their public relations value to his reelection campaign.

Chad Wolf, an official instrumental in creating the horrific family separation policy (and whose appointment as acting homeland security secretary a congressional watchdog deemed invalid), administered the oath.

rnc 2020 logoThe White House initially suggested that the citizenship and immigration agency find someone from Mexico; perhaps no one was immediately available from central casting. The only other thing missing was for Stephen Miller to cut the welcome cake for the assembled Muslims, Africans, Middle Easterners, Latinos and Indians. It was like watching a photo op staged by Stalin commending a bunch of Jewish doctors for their medical expertise, or the Taliban’s Mohammad Omar praising a group of Buddhists for their sculpting prowess, or Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailing a family of Muslims for their excellent biryani.

At least two of our newest citizens seem to have been entirely unaware that this most sacred of ceremonies would be broadcast at the Republican convention, to make the president seem kinder and gentler for suburbanites queasy about his policy of yanking screaming babies from their mothers at the border. So the five — two of them Muslims, a group that their host, during his first presidential campaign, proposed banning from entering the United States — looked on, with an unsmiling bust of Abraham Lincoln as backdrop, and cheered. What choice did they have? It was a humiliating spectacle and physically risky, to boot — none of them had a mask on, and neither did any of the eminences present. The masks wouldn’t look good on TV; they would be off-message for a convention that is a celebration of, above all, the inalienable right of Americans to commit mass suicide.

The new citizens are here among us because of provisions that Trump has spent his entire term trying to eliminate.

Suketu Mehta is an associate professor of journalism at New York University, and the author, most recently, of "This Land is Our Land: An Immigrant's Manifesto."

Aug. 28 

washington post logoWashington Post, Robocall targets battleground states with falsehoods about mail-in voting, Meryl Kornfield, Aug. 28, 2020 (print ed.). The recorded message features a woman who says she works for “Project 1599,” founded by the right-wing operatives Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman, who deny involvement in the call.

The call falsely warned Michigan and Pennsylvania residents that voting by mail would subject them to police scrutiny and debt collection, Michigan officials say.

Officials launched an investigation Thursday into what they said was an erroneous, racist robocall aimed at discouraging voters in battleground states from casting their ballots by mail.

The recorded message features a woman who says she works for “Project 1599,” founded by the right-wing operatives Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman, and falsely warns that personal information of those who vote by mail will be shared with police tracking down warrants and credit card companies collecting outstanding debt, according to recordings of the call reviewed by The Washington Post. Wohl and Burkman denied their involvement in the call, blaming “leftist pranksters.”

“Don’t be finessed into giving your private information to the man,” the recording says. “Stay safe and beware of vote-by-mail.”

It’s not known how many people were targeted in Democratic-leaning Detroit, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

Announcing the inquiry into the call’s origin, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel rebutted the misinformation, warning residents that the recorded message may precede more flagrant falsehoods directed at voters as the November election nears.

How to prevent your mail ballot from being rejected

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: Farewell to Kellyanne Conway, the ultimate Woman for Trump, Monica Hesse, Aug. 28, 2020 (print ed.). Kellyanne Conway had a two-word weapon that she deployed with shrewd skill during her almost-four-year stint at the White House, and it left her targets defenseless.

kellyanne conway talkingFor Kellyanne Conway, right, “Excuse me” really meant “Excuse you.” It was a shaming. It implied that the other party was in the wrong for not permitting her bulldozing, browbeating and bloviating. It relied, successfully, on the assumption that nobody wanted to be seen interrupting a tiny blond woman on live television. And so it excused her.

She is brilliant. She is terrifying.

She is also gone, theoretically. Earlier this week, Conway announced she would be resigning from her role as senior adviser to the president. Her Wednesday speech at the Republican National Convention was a farewell of sorts, the last time we can expect to see her behaving as an official mouthpiece for Trump before she retreats to her new “less drama, more mama” lifestyle.

She used her very presence to bat away charges of sexism against Trump. Again and again she reminded us — as she did again Wednesday — Trump had named her the first female campaign manager of a winning presidential ticket. How could he possibly be sexist?

Ever since the dawn of the #MeToo movement, affronted male readers have occasionally written me to say they are tired of reading about toxic masculinity all the time and wondering whether there was a female corollary: toxic femininity. If there is, I can’t help but think it looks like Kellyanne Conway: someone who takes the stereotypical gentle niceties we once sent girls to charm school to learn — and uses them to sow information chaos.

Excuse me, she would say, needling a news anchor to permit her to barge into the conversation and take it in a more alternative-factsy direction.

Excuse me, she would say to fellow guests who tried, unsuccessfully, to join in with their own opinions. It was a filibuster of false manners, a prim reminder that she would not be yielding the floor.

Aug. 26

nicholas sandmann rnc screenshot

OpEdNews, Opinion: Nick Sandmann: GOP's Poster Child for Fake Victimhood, Thomas Knapp, Aug. 26, 2020. A common complaint among Republicans is that their opponents are mainly in the business of manufacturing victims and turning those victims into Democratic voters.

But grievance-based politics is nothing new, nor does America's political "left" enjoy a monopoly on it. For proof of that latter claim, one need look no further than the case of Nick Sandmann.

"I'm the teenager who was defamed by the media," Sandmann told the Republican National Convention on August 26. But, he said, "I would not be canceled."

Leaving aside the question of precisely how turning him into a celebrity (with stories that, while initially mildly inaccurate, were almost instantly corrected as more information came in) constitutes an instance of the "cancel culture" he decries, let's be clear about what he, and his handlers, are up to:

Nick Sandmann publicly plays the victim for money. That's his job, and it will probably remain his job until he's stretched his proverbial 15 minutes as far as they can be stretched.

After participating in an anti-abortion protest in Washington, DC, Sandmann went through a tense moment with some other protesters, who were agitated about other issues, and his motives were (mistakenly, but not libelously in any sane universe) misinterpreted by journalists based on partial video.

Lawyers Todd McMurtry and Lin Wood offered Sandmann a lucrative career opportunity, representing him in frivolous/malicious defamation lawsuits that media companies settled rather than fight.

The settlement amounts weren't publicly disclosed, but while they likely came to pennies on the demanded dollar, they also probably brought Sandmann more wealth than a life of real work would have. It's hard to blame a teenager for jumping on a get-rich-quick scheme, as presented by two experienced ambulance chasers. Especially one that's actually worked out for him.

Now the Republicans are attempting to parlay Sandmann's faux victimhood into votes by creating a new victim category: "Whiny, white, Christian abortion opponent."

Not that such a bloc would vote Democrat absent the attention. But Republicans are afraid the people resembling that description might not bother to vote at all. And they need every vote they can get.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Congressman’s old social media posts about sex with 15-year-old girls, rape surface in South Florida re-election fight, Skyler Swisher, Aug. 26, 2020 (print ed.). South Florida Congressman Brian Mast joked about rape and referenced sex with 15-year-old facebook logogirls in old Facebook comments to a friend who is now his campaign manager.

The messages were posted years ago, but they’ve surfaced in Mast’s tough re-election fight against Democratic challenger Pam Keith.

brian mast headshotMast, left, a 40-year-old Republican, represents one of South Florida’s most competitive swing districts. He apologized for the remarks on Tuesday.

Two years later, LeDonni asked in a May 20, 2011, post: “Anyone have any good pick up lines for this weekend considering according to the crazy christian radio guy the world may end on sunday?”

“How about don’t turn this rape into a murder,” Mast responded.

In a statement Tuesday, Mast apologized for the posts.

“A decade ago when I was in the Army, and following my injury, I made disgusting and inappropriate jokes that I am embarrassed to have associated with my name today,” he said. “I am sorry about that part of who I was, and I strive every day to be a better example for my kids.”

Mast is a decorated war veteran. He lost his legs and a finger when a bomb exploded under him in September 2010 in Afghanistan.

After the explosion, Mast was hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center into 2012, where he underwent numerous surgeries, learned to walk again and was often heavily medicated.

LeDonni has been a senior campaign advisor and political consultant for Mast since he first was elected in 2016, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Pam KeithThe posts were public on LeDonni’s Facebook page, but they were removed from view after Mast’s campaign was contacted by the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Keith, right, a former Navy JAG officer, condemned the posts in a statement.

“This is disgusting, unacceptable and dishonorable behavior for any man, let alone a sitting member of Congress,” Keith said. “Rape, violence and intimidation of women and children are not Brian Mast’s punchline — his words are an insult and betrayal to the women he claims to represent.”

Keith hasn’t held back on social media. In March 2020, Keith responded to a comment that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden might have raped someone.

“That means he still has LOTS of rape to do to catch up to Trump. Also .... I highly doubt that’s true,” she wrote.iological study in what happens when the midwest migrates to an area that was once part of Georgia.

washington post logoWashington Post, As a sale of the National Enquirer collapses, some wonder if the tabloid is too hot to handle, Sarah Ellison and Jonathan O'Connell, Aug. 26, 2020 (print ed.). In the spring of 2019, the National Enquirer appeared once again to be riding out another storm in its long, tumultuous history.

The gossip tabloid was embroiled in political scandal, but that was hardly anything new — if anything, that was part of its business model. Circulation was down, but that was the case for the entire publishing industry. Its parent company had put it up for sale, but a surprisingly appropriate new buyer had emerged for this impulse-buy fixture of the supermarket checkout lines — Hudson News, perhaps the last thriving operator of newsstands in the country.

david pecker croppedBut a year and a half later, that long-stalled sale has fallen through, and questions surround the Enquirer’s future as never before. Its longtime publisher and champion, David Pecker, right, has been sidelined within the company, and the chief of the hedge fund that now owns it has to contend with pension fund investors who are uncomfortable with the tabloid’s role in alleged scheming to tilt the 2016 election to Donald Trump.

And last week, when parent company American Media Inc. announced its merger with an unlikely partner — a distribution company specializing in products like face masks and hand sanitizer, which like AMI is currently owned by Chatham Asset Management — the news release cited AMI titles like Us Weekly, Life & Style, and Men’s Journal. But strikingly, it made no mention of the Enquirer, its former flagship.

The collapse of the deal AMI announced last year to sell the Enquirer and two of its lesser-known tabloid cousins — the National Examiner and the Globe — to James Cohen, CEO of Hudson News, for an eye-popping $100 million raised questions for some industry observers as to whether the Enquirer had become too hot to handle.

Last year, Chatham pushed Pecker — then the CEO and chairman of AMI — to sell the Enquirer. Though the tabloid continues to be a lucrative property, it was coming off an unusually high-profile slate of scandals.

In the first scandal, Pecker and his top deputy, Dylan Howard, avoided indictment for campaign finance violations in 2018 by entering into non-prosecution agreements with federal investigators for their role in buying and then burying the story of a former Playboy model who alleged having an affair with then-candidate Trump. The two men admitted that they did so to tilt the election in favor of Trump, a longtime business friend of Pecker’s.

Not long after that agreement was made public, AMI published a controversial scoop in January 2019 about the extramarital affair of Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon and owner of The Washington Post. Bezos then accused Pecker and Howard of attempting to blackmail him by threatening to publish intimate photos of his that they claimed to have obtained. The Bezos allegations threw their deal with prosecutors into jeopardy, and federal investigators explored whether they had broken the law, which could have nullified the deal.

Aug. 24

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump is ‘Fox’s Frankenstein,’ insiders told CNN’s Brian Stelter — and here’s the toll it’s taken, Margaret margaret sullivan 2015 photoSullivan, right, Aug. 24, 2020 (print ed.). If anyone was born to write a juicy book about the democracy-threatening relationship between Fox News and Donald Trump, it had to be Brian Stelter.

After all, at not quite 35, the Maryland native has been reporting on cable news for more than 15 years. As a college undergraduate, he started a blog, CableNewser, that he eventually sold to a digital-publishing company.

And as CNN’s chief media correspondent, he is so ubiquitous — writing stories, producing a popular newsletter, tweeting prolifically and hosting the Sunday media-centric show, “Reliable Sources” — that Columbia Journalism Review called him “unavoidable.”

Turning this bottomless drive and energy to one of the most consequential media stories of our time, the symbiotic ties between Fox News and Trump, Stelter talked to hundreds of current and former network employees for a new book to be published Tuesday by Simon & Schuster: “Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth.” (I obtained an early copy and interviewed Stelter last week.)

Aug. 22

 ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook Braces Itself for Trump to Cast Doubt on Election Results, Mike Isaac and Sheera Fre, Aug. 22, 2020 (print ed.). The world’s biggest social network is working out what steps to take should President Trump use its platform to dispute the vote.

Facebook spent years preparing to ward off any tampering on its site ahead of November’s presidential election. Now the social network is getting ready in case President Trump interferes once the vote is over.

facebook logoEmployees at the Silicon Valley company are laying out contingency plans and walking through postelection scenarios that include attempts by Mr. Trump or his campaign to use the platform to delegitimize the results, people with knowledge of Facebook’s plans said.

Facebook is preparing steps to take should Mr. Trump wrongly claim on the site that he won another four-year term, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Facebook is also working through how it might act if Mr. Trump tries to invalidate the results by declaring that the Postal Service lost mail-in ballots or that other groups meddled with the vote, the people said.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, and some of his lieutenants have started holding daily meetings about minimizing how the platform can be used to dispute the election, the people said. They have discussed a “kill switch” to shut off political advertising after Election Day since the ads, which Facebook does not police for truthfulness, could be used to spread misinformation, the people said.
Opinion:

Palmer Report, Opinion: Down goes Donald Trump’s pal David Pecker, Bill Palmer, right, Aug. 22, 2020. David Pecker used his tabloid publication the bill palmerNational Enquirer to publish one fake story about Hillary Clinton after another, in order to help his pal Donald Trump in the 2016 election. Pecker then helped Trump silence the women who wanted to come forward against him. Then Pecker got caught up in Trump’s criminal plot to blackmail Jeff Bezos.

bill palmer report logo headerAll things considered, it’s amazing David Pecker isn’t in prison yet. But Pecker is just about broke, and now the National Enquirer’s parent company is being sold off and folded into some other company in a merger. Notably, on Friday night it was reported that Pecker was not going to be a part of the newly formed company, and had instead been pushed out entirely.

david pecker croppedThis leaves the question of whether the newly formed company is pushing out Pecker as simply a business decision, or if there’s an expectation that Pecker, right, is about to finally be indicted. Considering the SDNY just arrested Donald Trump’s longtime henchman Steve Bannon, it’s pretty clear that Trump and Bill Barr aren’t able to stop whatever the SDNY is planning to do.

At the least, David Pecker’s criminal plotting with Donald Trump has cost Pecker his company and has effectively ruined him. At worst, Pecker will end up being the next Trump henchman to face the handcuffs. And if that does happen, Trump will simply claim that he barely knew the guy. Of course Pecker, having nothing left to lose, could be inclined to cut a plea deal against Trump at that point.

washington post logoWashington Post, Commentary: A ‘loud mouth’ writer says the White House broke its own briefing-room rules. So he did the same, Paul Farhi, Aug. 22, 2020 (print ed.). Brian Karem saw the White House skirting the rules of its own briefing room. So he’s decided they no longer apply to him either.

Upset that the White House is trying to “pack” news briefings, as he put it, with Trump-friendly correspondents, Karem showed up to Wednesday’s briefing despite strict space limits that barred him from the room that day.

Karem, a correspondent for Playboy and a former CNN contributor, stood at the back of the room during the President Trump’s late-afternoon briefing and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s session earlier in the day, shouting questions at both as they finished addressing the media.

Neither responded. But Karem thinks he made his point.

“I’m there to ask questions — that’s my job — whether they answer the questions or not,” he said. “I’m doing my damn job and whoever doesn’t like it, tough.”

Yes, but in the covid-19 era, the White House press staff and the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) agreed in March to limit entry to the briefing room to just 14 journalists, plus a few technicians and photographers, to maintain social distancing. For months, reporters from dozens of news organizations have taken turns cycling through the room in a rotation maintained by the WHCA.

Karem said he considers those rules null and void, inasmuch as the White House itself has unilaterally breached them. Last week, McEnany admitted representatives from two far-right outfits, the Gateway Pundit and Epoch Times, exceeding the limits. In early April, Trump himself made room for One America Network, a conservative cable outlet that Trump has repeatedly praised, including on Sunday.

Karem — who calls himself a “ ‘Loud Mouth’ WH reporter” in his Twitter bio — doesn’t take issue with OAN or Gateway Pundit’s representatives being in the room. But since Trump “tore up the rules,” he said it doesn’t make sense to play by them any longer. “If they don’t follow the guidelines, why should anyone else?” he asks.

So on Wednesday, Karem used his “hard pass” — which permits holders to come and go from the White House grounds after a basic security check — to enter the workspace behind the briefing room. When Trump and McEnany’s briefings started, he stood about 12 feet behind the seating area and six feet behind the spot the White House carved out for OAN.

Aug. 20

ny times logoNew York Times, The Republican Embrace of QAnon Goes Far Beyond Trump, Matthew Rosenberg and Maggie Haberman, Aug. 20, 2020. As President Trump all but endorses the conspiracy theory, it is shifting from the fringes of the internet to become an offline political movement.

Late last month, as the Texas Republican Party was shifting into campaign mode, it unveiled a new slogan, lifting a rallying cry straight from a once-unthinkable source: the internet-driven conspiracy theory known as QAnon.

The new catchphrase, “We Are the Storm,” is an unsubtle cue to a group that the F.B.I. has labeled a potential domestic terrorist threat. It is instantly recognizable among QAnon adherents, signaling what they claim is a coming conflagration between President Trump and what they allege, falsely, is a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophile Democrats who seek to dominate America and the world.

Aug. 19

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge orders Tavis Smiley to pay $2.6 million, $1 million more than originally sought by PBS, Keith L. Alexander, Aug. 19, 2020. Six women accused the former talk show host of sexual harassment.

A District judge ordered former PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley to pay the network more than $2.6 million. The amount was about $1 million more than what PBS originally argued in court that Smiley owed after it was forced to cancel his contract upon learning six female employees had accused him of sexual harassment.

tavis smiley CustomA D.C. Superior Court jury ruled March 4 that Smiley had violated his PBS contract. On Aug. 5, Judge Yvonne Williams who oversaw the three-week trial heard additional arguments from PBS and determined Smiley must pay PBS $1.9 million in damages associated with his final two seasons with the network, and another $703,000 in losses connected to the network’s underwriters who put up the funds to enable PBS to cover Smiley’s contract.

n her 10-page ruling, Williams wrote: “The court determines that the amount sought by PBS in liquidated damages is reasonable because it is the amount it paid to produce Season 13 and 14 of ‘The Tavis Smiley Show.’ ”

Smiley’s attorneys could not be reached for comment on Judge Williams’s ruling on the damages.

The harassment accusations and subsequent verdict led to a dizzying downfall for Smiley, 55, who was awarded a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and whose nightly show for 14 years became a must visit for politicians, actors, singers and authors who also wanted to reach African Americans within PBS’s core adult audience.

During the trial, six women testified through video deposition that during their tenure with his company, Smiley had pressured them for sex or told lewd jokes.

Smiley took the stand twice and admitted to having intimate relationships with two of the women. PBS stipulates in its contracts that such relationships among its employees or contractors are prohibited. Smiley testified he never used his position as their boss to pressure or threaten them. He also said any jokes were innocent and not intended to offend.

Aug. 18

washington post logoWashington Post, The newsroom was the beating heart of a local newspaper. What’s lost when the owner shuts it down? Elahe Izadi, Aug. 18, 2020. The coronavirus crisis is devastating the news industry. Many newspapers won’t survive it.

Through war, depression and every kind of turmoil the country endured over the past 100 years, the Morning Call’s newsroom was on the same downtown corner in Allentown, Pa. Until now.

tribune publishing logoHit this year by a pandemic and an economic downturn, Tribune Publishing informed journalists at the Morning Call and four of its other newspapers Wednesday that their newsrooms would permanently close.

“These decisions were not made lightly or hastily,” reads a memo sent to reporters for the Capital Gazette of Annapolis that promised to continue “our in-depth community coverage.” Other shuttered newsrooms include the New York Daily News, the Carroll County Times of Westminster, Md., and the Orlando Sentinel. An Aurora, Ill. bureau of the Chicago Tribune was also closed.

Like office workers across the United States, journalists have been pushed by covid-19 to retreat from communal spaces and into remote work. Now some are confronting the very real possibility that they may never again work in a physical newsrooms — a touchstone of journalism — and what that could mean for the future of their profession.

“People need to know that we’re a presence in Allentown and that we’re there to cover their communities, their school boards, their municipalities,” said Jennifer Sheehan, a features and entertainment reporter for the Morning Call. “When you don’t even have a physical location, it’s almost like you’re not there, even though you are.”

The pandemic era has forced news organizations to figure out new ways to produce high-caliber journalism, collaborating via video conferencing and messaging platforms. But in newsrooms — the original open-plan offices — reporters across disparate beats can shape each others’ ideas. Young journalists sharpen their skills by overhearing how veteran reporters conduct their interviews.

Aug. 17

ny times logoNew York Times, Virus Misinformation Becomes a New Front for Doctors to Battle, Staff reports, Aug. 17, 2020. Some doctors say patients are more inclined to believe social media posts than professionals. New York’s gyms can reopen on Aug. 24, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said. Students and teachers will be screened for infection even as the Los Angeles school district begins instruction remotely. The Democratic National Convention begins today and will be conducted almost entirely online. Here’s the latest.

Doctors on the front lines of the pandemic say they are fighting not just the coronavirus, but also a never-ending scourge of misinformation about the disease that is hurting patients. Some say they regularly treat people more inclined to believe what they read on social media than what a medical professional tells them.

Before the pandemic, medical professionals had grown accustomed to dealing with patients misled by online information, a phenomenon they called Dr. Google. But in interviews, more than a dozen doctors and misinformation researchers in the United States and Europe said the volume related to the virus was like nothing they had seen before.

According to the doctors and researchers, several factors are to blame: leaders like President Trump who amplify fringe theories; social media platforms that are not doing enough to stamp out false information; and individuals who are too quick to believe what they see online.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: The Month Old Hollywood Finally, Actually Died, Ben Smith, Aug. 17, 2020. The streaming services are in charge, and bringing a ruthless new culture with them.

For decades, the best thing about being a Hollywood executive, really, was how you got fired. Studio executives would be gradually, gently, even lovingly, nudged aside, given months to shape their own narratives and find new work, or even promoted. When Amy Pascal was pushed out of Sony Pictures in 2015, she got an exit package and production deal worth a reported $40 million.

That, of course, was before streaming services arrived, upending everything with a ruthless logic and coldhearted efficiency.

That was never more clear than on Aug. 7, when WarnerMedia abruptly eliminated the jobs of hundreds of employees, emptying the executive suite at the once-great studio that built Hollywood, and is now the subsidiary of AT&T. In a series of brisk video calls, executives who imagined they were studio eminences were reminded that they work — or used to work — at the video division of a phone company. The chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment, Bob Greenblatt, learned that he’d been fired the morning of the day the news broke, two people he spoke to told me. Jeffrey Schlesinger, a 37-year company veteran who ran the lucrative international licensing business, complained to friends that he had less than an hour’s notice, two other people told me.

“We’re in the brutal final scenes of Hollywood as people here knew it, as streaming investment and infrastructure take precedence,” said Janice Min, the former Hollywood Reporter co-president who did a brief stretch as an executive at the streaming platform Quibi. “Politesse and production deal kiss-offs for those at the top, and, more importantly, the financial fire hose to float a bureaucracy, seem to be disappearing. It’s like a club, already shut down by the pandemic, running out of dues to feed all its members.”

Law & Crime, Indictment Reveals Real Reason Behind Arrest of InfoWars Correspondent Millie Weaver, Jerry Lambe, Aug. 17, 2020. Millicent “Millie” Weaver, 29, the correspondent for the Alex Jones-helmed conspiracy-theory website InfoWars, was arrested Friday at her Ohio home and charged with several felonies stemming from a dispute with her mother, documents filed in the Portage County Common Pleas Court show.

millie weaver maga hatWeaver’s arrest, which came hours before she was scheduled to release a “documentary” claiming to show that President Donald Trump was set-up by government officials in the Russia scandal, gave rise to a slew of conspiracy theories, but the truth appears far more mundane.

Weaver, left, along with her brother, Charles L. Weaver Jr., and boyfriend Gavon Wince, were all charged with one count each of robbery, tampering with evidence, obstructing justice, and domestic violence, stemming from an incident with Weaver’s mother Felicia McCarron.

According to the indictment from the Portage County Grand Jury, all three were charged with robbery (a second-degree felony) for “attempting or committing a theft offense, or in fleeing immediately after the attempt or offense, recklessly inflict, attempt to inflict, or threaten to inflict physical harm upon Felicia McCarron.”

The trio also face charges of evidence tampering (a third-degree felony), obstructing justice (a fifth-degree felony), and domestic violence (a first degree misdemeanor). The obstruction charge stems from allegedly communicating “false information” about the dispute in order to hinder law enforcement’s investigation.

A YouTube user claiming to be McCarron reportedly wrote that the charges stemmed from a “family dispute” over a $50 cell phone. That post expressed shock, surprise and disapproval of the charges.

ny times logoNew York Times, Special Prosecutor Finds ‘Abuses of Discretion’ in Jussie Smollett Case, Julia Jacobs, Aug. 17, 2020. A special prosecutor tasked with reinvestigating the case against Jussie Smollett has found that the Cook County state’s attorney’s office did not violate the law in its handling of the case but did abuse its discretion in deciding to drop charges and put out false or misleading public statements about why they did so.

jussie smollett mugshotThe findings, published in a news release on Monday, conclude the investigation by the special prosecutor, Dan K. Webb, who was appointed last year after a judge ruled that the state’s attorney, Kim Foxx, had not properly handled the Smollett case the first time. In February, Mr. Webb announced that a grand jury had revived the criminal case against Mr. Smollett, right, indicting him on charges that he lied to the police in connection with an alleged hate crime attack against him.

The second part of Mr. Webb’s investigation involved determining whether any person or office engaged in wrongdoing while handling the Smollett case. In the news release, Mr. Webb’s office said that it unearthed evidence that supports “substantial abuses of discretion and operational failures” by the state’s attorney’s office in prosecuting the initial case in 2019.

Mr. Webb’s office found that lawyers who work in the office’s criminal division were “surprised” or “shocked” by the terms under which prosecutors dropped the charges against Mr. Smollett, just a month after his arrest.

An investigation has found that the state’s attorney’s office did not violate the law in its handling of the case against the actor Jussie Smollett, but it cited substantial “operational failures.”

Aug. 16

Salon, Analysis: What is QAnon? A not-so-brief introduction to the conspiracy theory that's eating America, Robert Guffey, Aug. 16, 2020. (This is the first article in a series.)_ Do millions of Americans really believe Donald Trump is saving children from underground demons? It seems that way.

I've been involved in the wild world of conspiracy theories for 24 years now, ever since I published my first article in the pages of Paranoia Magazine in the spring of 1996 when I was 24 years old. What most impressed me about Paranoia was the anarchy of information available within its pages. It wasn't a right-wing conspiracy magazine. It wasn't a left-wing conspiracy magazine. It didn't even exist between these two poles. Its editorial mission (or non-mission) was beholden to values (or non-values) that lay far beyond these limiting parameters, a dedication to cataloging and analyzing the extremes of fringe beliefs from multiple points of view. As Marshall McLuhan once said, "A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding." The editors of Paranoia dedicated themselves to not having a point of view. It was the exact opposite of propaganda. By its very nature, propaganda excludes any information that contradicts or undermines the message the dedicated propagandist is intent on disseminating.

Conspiracy theories have always been used by what we now call "persuasion engineers" as tools of mass indoctrination. A good conspiracy theory that seems plausible and frightening enough can be worth more than a thousand well-reasoned stump speeches.
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In my first book, "Cryptoscatology: Conspiracy Theory as Art Form," I broke conspiracy theories down into five distinct categories: 1) Insanity, 2) Disinformation, 3) Misinformation, 4) Satire, and 5) Legitimate Research. Some theories manage to merge two or more categories into one. Only on very rare occasions do such theories manage to combine all five categories. The most recent — and arguably most impactful — strain of this hybrid form of conspiracy-mongering first emerged in 2017, promulgated by an anonymous 4chan poster known only as "Q" — or "QAnon." You've been hearing a lot about this lately, most likely. At least one QAnon supporter is almost certain to be elected to Congress in November, and devotees of this particular conspiracy theory are eagerly supporting the re-election of Donald Trump.

The average person, who has not spent the past couple of decades studying the origins of conspiracy theories (a reasonable choice, I might add), would probably not recognize the origins of most of the quasi-surreal elements that make up the convoluted QAnon narrative.

Earlier this year, in March, I was talking to a friend about COVID-19 and the national lockdown. He's 10 years older than me and lives in a small town in the Midwest. I live in Long Beach, California. While chatting with him on the phone about all the unexpected difficulties that have arisen from teaching my English classes online, he suddenly volunteered the opinion that COVID-19 would be a positive development in 2020.

As of May 28, only 10 days after being posted, this video had already received 33,105 views and only 34 dislikes. I've seen YouTube videos of random kids opening birthday presents get more dislikes than that. The Blessed to Teach YouTube channel has 92,600 subscribers.

If it's not clear to you yet, let me spell this out: Even as you're reading these words, there are thousands of "Christian Patriots" living in the United States who sincerely believe that Donald Trump saved them from being eaten by demons when he entered the White House. This is not hyperbole. This is a literal interpretation of what they believe.

This is the mentality you're dealing with. No amount of logic, common sense or reason can combat such convoluted delusions. These people are clearly the product of incessant brainwashing, and yet they think everyone else in the country is mind-controlled to such an extreme degree that people who do not support Trump are either A) soulless demon-worshippers or B) poor unfortunates incapable of understanding the obvious truths being unveiled by geniuses like "Rick B2T" and his pal "Gene." On Nov. 18, 1978, hundreds of "True Believers" in Guyana held similar beliefs, only seconds before they literally drank the Kool-Aid.

You might assume that most of Rick's viewers are hardcore evangelicals dwelling in a deep pit in the Ozarks. But my friend wasn't raised a hardcore Christian and had never expressed such views in my presence over the course of many, many years. Something happened to change him radically between the emergence of QAnon in 2017 and the advent of the national lockdown in 2020. Even a regular Joe can be swayed by nonsense with a fair amount of ease.

Nonsense has always been an essential part of the American landscape, from Salem witch hunts in the 1690s to New Age UFO cults in the 1990s, but QAnon takes this tradition of nonsense to a whole new level.

Robert Guffey is a lecturer in the Department of English at California State University, Long Beach. His books include the novel "Until the Last Dog Dies" and "Chameleo: A Strange but True Story of Invisible Spies, Heroin Addiction, and Homeland Security." Visit his website.

millie weaverHeavy.com, Millie Weaver: Filmmaker Arrested Hours Before ‘Shadow Gate,’ Erin Laviola, Aug. 16, 2020. Millie Weaver is a conservative filmmaker who was arrested at her home in northeastern Ohio hours before she was scheduled to debut her new documentary called Shadow Gate on YouTube.

Weaver, shown at right and below at left, claimed she had uncovered a plot, orchestrated by both major political parties, against President Donald Trump and that the documentary would explain how it all worked.

The timing of her arrest flamed conspiracy theories online, with critics wondering whether the arrest was related to the Shadow Gate documentary. Heavy confirmed with the Portage County Jail that Weaver, along with her significant other, Gavin Wince, were both arrested on August 14 on felony charges including robbery and domestic violence. There is no evidence to suggest her arrest was related to the documentary.

The Portage County Sheriff further confirmed via email that Weaver was arrested on an indictment from the Portage County Grand Jury. Heavy has reached out to the county prosecutor’s office to ask about obtaining a copy of the affidavit.

Here’s what you need to know:

Millicent Weaver and Gavin Wince were both arrested by the Portage County Sheriff’s Office on August 14. Inmate records show they were booked into the Portage County Jail around 1:50 a.m.

Heavy confirmed with the Portage County Jail, over the phone, that Weaver and her partner are both facing four charges: Robbery; Tampering with evidence; Obstructing justice; Domestic violence.

The Portage County Jail official Heavy spoke with referred to Weaver’s partner as her husband. The Cleveland Plain Dealer, in a separate report, described Wince as Weaver’s boyfriend. Heavy has not independently verified whether the couple is married.

millie weaver maga hatWeaver was being held over the weekend without a bond. She was expected to face a judge on Monday, August 17, although it was not clear whether she would physically appear in court or remotely. Weaver is the mother of two children. The official at the Portage County Jail did not have information about who was caring for the two children while their parents were behind bars.

Weaver live-streamed the August 14 arrest on her official Facebook page. Author Mike Dice, who wrote a 2019 book called The Liberal Media Industrial Complex, shared the video on Twitter and the clip has been viewed more than 1 million times.

In the clip, Weaver is recording the interaction with a sheriff’s deputy with her phone pointing at the ground. She asks, “You’re saying a grand jury indicted me? For what?” The deputy asks Weaver to get her shoes and that paperwork would be waiting for them at the jail. Weaver cooperates as one of her children can be heard making noises off-camera.

As Weaver walks into her home, she directs her comments to viewers. “Guys, I don’t know what’s happening right now. The police have just shown up at my house and they said that they’re arresting me. They said that a grand jury indicted me for something. I have no idea what. This is crazy.”

Since her arrest, a GoFundMe campaign was launched on Weaver’s behalf to help pay for her legal defense. As of this writing, thousands of donors had given more than $108,000.

In Ohio, a ‘Secret Indictment’ Simply Means the Indictment is Sealed Until After the Accused Has Been Arrested

One of the details about Millie Weaver’s arrest that has sparked intrigue online was that she was arrested on a secret indictment. This is a standard procedure under Ohio law. The legal code explains that “secret indictments shall not be docketed by name until after the apprehension of the accused.”

Weaver Claimed to Uncover Knowledge of a Coup Against President Trump

Weaver had described Shadow Gate as the “biggest whistleblowing event ever” on her website. Weaver claimed in a trailer ahead of the film’s release that she had spoken with two people with knowledge of a secret organization of “contractors.” She claimed the contractors were “hired by government officials to frame the Trump campaign, set him up for the Russia collusion investigation, provided witnesses for the impeachment hearings and provided administrative support services to the Department of Justice during the Mueller investigation.”

Weaver also claimed these “contractors” were responsible for creating the “fake news in mainstream media.” She alleged that the “shadow government” was responsible for spurring the recent nationwide protests and promoting the “defund the police” movement.

Weaver goes on to accuse Republicans and Democrats of working together in a plot to bring down President Trump. “Both parties are equally guilty of covering up what should turn out to be an even bigger scandal. Shadow Gate: the tactical and operational role the shadow government played behind the scenes carrying out the coup against President Trump. We’re going to be looking behind the puppets at who the real puppet master, string-pullers are.”

The film was shared to YouTube after Weaver’s arrest. But as of August 16, the documentary had been “removed for violating YouTube’s policy on hate speech.”

Weaver Contributes to Infowars & Host Alex Jones Dismissed a Conspiracy Theory That Weaver’s Arrest Was Staged

Weaver was named by Newsmax as one of the “30 Most Influential Republicans Under 30” in 2017. The site described her as a “former model” who “made a name for herself as a political activist, reporter, and satirist.”

Newsmax noted that Weaver was “most known for her contributions to Infowars.com and the videos on her YouTube channel.” Her channel, which includes videos promoting theories about a corrupt “deep state” and claims that riots in Minneapolis were preplanned by a “leftist radicalization” group, currently has more than 400,000 subscribers.

Weaver has visited the White House at least twice. She shared on Instagram in January that White House staff had invited her to tour the West Wing. She wrote in part, “I’m glad to see that my hard work is recognized and appreciated! We truly have the greatest country and the greatest President! #Trump2020.” Weaver posted about another visit on March 7, writing, “It was nice to be back at The White House. Big things coming! Stay tuned.”

Weaver is a contributor to Infowars and the site describes her as one of its reporters. Infowars host Alex Jones said in a video statement that he had known Weaver for at least eight years and described her as a “good Christian lady.” He added that Weaver contributed to Infowars as a freelancer.

Jones disputed an online conspiracy theory that claimed the arrest was “staged” in order to promote her Shadow Gate film. In the clip, Jones also suggested the arrest could be related to a family dispute, specifically a dispute with Weaver’s mother.

Aug. 13

washington post logomargaret sullivan 2015 photoWashington Post, Opinion: Tucker Carlson’s mangling of Kamala Harris’s name was all about disrespect, Margaret Sullivan, right, Aug.13, 2020 (print ed.). The Fox News host had a mini-meltdown when a guest mildly corrected his pronunciation.

Strategic Culture Foundation, Opinion: CIA-Sponsored Propaganda Has Been Around for 75 Years, Wayne Madsen (shown below at left), Aug. 13, 2020. The release of a report by the U.S. Department of State’s strategic culture logoGlobal Engagement Center (GEC), billed as the Donald Trump administration’s “dedicated center for countering foreign disinformation and propaganda, cites the Strategic Culture Foundation in Russia, Canada’s Global Research Center, and other on-line publications as “proxy sites” for Russian intelligence and the Russian Foreign Ministry.

The State Department’s report is titled, “Pillars of Russia’s Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem” and it is not much different than the series of reports issued by the State Department’s “International Information Program” in the mid-2000s that were used to debase U.S. journalists and authors critical of the George W. Bush-Dick Cheney neo-conservative wars of choice. Those diatribes, like the recent one masquerading as a “special report,” were written on the U.S. taxpayers’ dime and represent a squandering of money.

Diagrams in the recent State Department report depict various on-line publications and Internet sites as coronavirus microbes. The Mike Pompeo-led State Department, which has, along with the Trump White House, issued a daily dose of pabulum that can only be described as conspiracy theory-based rantings from congenital liars and reality-challenged fabulists and fanatical right-wingers, have no ethical or political grounds to proclaim virtuousness when it comes to spewing forth propaganda and outright lies.

One could easily issue a multi-volume report that deals with America’s propaganda factory both during the Cold War and in its aftermath. A major focus of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency from its very inception was the penetration of the news media, including the assignment of CIA agents to the newsrooms and editorial offices of America’s largest media operations, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, Hearst Newspapers, NBC News, ABC News, CBS News, and other major newspapers and broadcast networks.

CIA LogoThe CIA also thoroughly infiltrated America’s political polling companies, including Gallup, Harris, and Roper. Details concerning the CIA’s Operation MOCKINGBIRD and “The Mighty Wurlitzer” propaganda and news influencing operations can easily be found in the annals of America’s post-World War II history. These are activities that the U.S. corporate media, as well as the CIA and State Department would prefer to have global consumers of news ignore.

As far as the State Department’s “Propaganda Ecosystem” report and its earlier incarnation, the International Information Program (IIP), are concerned, they are remnants of U.S. Cold War-era disinformation shops. The IIP’s chief propagandist was a one-time colleague of disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff in formulating pro-apartheid propaganda for South Africa’s minority apartheid government in the 1980s – Project Babushka. In the 1980s, through a front organization in Washington established by South Africa’s military establishment – the International Freedom Foundation (IFF) – propaganda was regularly churned out to argue against sanctions imposed on the apartheid regime. Serving as chairman of the editorial advisory board for the IFF’s publication branch—a group that pumped out all sorts of propaganda claiming that the African National Congress and Nelson Mandela were Communists – was none other than the far-right Republican Senator from North Carolina, Jesse Helms.

Today, Helms has been replaced by similar vile right-wing political creatures like Republican Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Ron Johnson of wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallWisconsin, who are always willing to carry the political tripe doled out by the Trump White House and Pompeo State Department.

Operating out of the State Department, the IIP launched vicious attacks on two American writers – this one included – as well as the Argentine newspaper Clarin, the Sunday Mirror (London), Quinto Dia (Venezuela), and other publications over their reports on the George W. Bush administration’s covert and war crime operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Southeast Asia, Iran, and Pakistan. The IIP even attacked The Los Angeles Times over its story on the kidnapping of poor children from poverty-ravished Latin American barrios for the purpose of organ harvesting. The IIP’s true masters in Israel were upset about the coverage because it involved Israeli human organ brokers.

Aug. 12

ny times logoNew York Times, The Daily News Is Now a Newspaper Without a Newsroom, Marc Tracy, Aug. 12, 2020. Tribune Publishing said that it was permanently closing the tabloid’s office in Lower Manhattan. Plans for a future workplace are uncertain. A tabloid once famous for its bustling, big-city newsroom no longer has a newsroom.

tribune publishing logoIn a move that was almost unthinkable before the coronavirus pandemic, Tribune Publishing said on Wednesday that The Daily News, once the largest-circulation newspaper in the country, was permanently closing its physical newsroom at 4 New York Plaza in Lower Manhattan. The same day, Tribune, the Chicago newspaper chain that has owned The News since 2017, told employees that it was closing four of its other newspapers’ offices.

“We have determined that we do not need to reopen this office in order to maintain our current operations,” Toni Martinez, a human resources executive at Tribune Publishing, wrote in an email to the staff that was reviewed by The New York Times. “With this announcement, we are also beginning to look at strategic opportunities and alternatives for future occupancy.”

The paper will continue to be published. The company made no promises about a future physical location. “As we progress through the pandemic and as needs change, we will reconsider our need for physical offices,” said a Tribune Publishing spokesman, Max Reinsdorf.

Newspapers across the country have been struggling for more than a decade because of punishing industry trends like the move away from revenue-generating print products and the nationalization of news. The pandemic, which has sharply squeezed advertising revenue, has added to the publications’ woes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sumner Redstone 1923–2020: Dealmaker and titan of media dies at 97, David Marino-Nachison and Adam Bernstein, Aug. 12, 2020. The mogul’s Viacom empire included Paramount Pictures film studios, CBS and MTV.

sumner redstone resized boston universitySumner Redstone, right, a combative and daring dealmaker who in his 60s turned his family’s movie theater chain into one of the world’s largest media empires, with holdings that included Paramount Pictures film studios, CBS, MTV and the publishing house Simon & Schuster, died Aug. 11 at 97.

His media holding company, National Amusements, announced the death in a statement but did not provide additional details. A spokeswoman, Sara Evans, did not specify the cause but said it was not related to the novel coronavirus.

In recent years, as the mogul’s mental and physical decline became increasingly apparent, legal and public-relations battles erupted among his presumed successors, members of the family and an array of other hangers-on. All had a stake in inheriting chunks of his $40 billion business empire, his personal fortune or both.

ny times logoNew York Times, QAnon Followers Are Hijacking #SaveTheChildren, Kevin Roose, Aug. 12, 2020. Fans of the pro-Trump conspiracy theory are clogging anti-trafficking hotlines and raising false fears about child exploitation, our columnist writes.

QAnon first surfaced in 2017 with a series of anonymous posts on the internet forum 4chan claiming to reveal high-level government intelligence about crimes by top Democrats. It has since spawned one of the most disturbing and consequential conspiracy theory communities in modern history.

Its followers have committed serious crimes, and its online vigilantes have made a sport of harassing and doxxing their perceived enemies. The F.B.I. has cited QAnon as a potential domestic terror threat, and social networks have begun trying to pull QAnon groups off their platforms. Dozens of QAnon-affiliated candidates are running for office this year. One of them, Marjorie Taylor Greene, won a primary runoff Tuesday for a House seat in Georgia, drawing a congratulatory tweet from Mr. Trump.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: NBC Universal doesn't want anyone to see skit of Trump buying two young children, Wayne Madsen, Aug. 12, 2020. Donald Trump and his litigious murder of attorneys apparently are embarrassed about a comedy skit Trump made about him buying two young children sitting in the back seat of a car parked in front of one of his properties in Manhattan.

When the parking valet informs Trump that he will have to wait until the mother of the children moves her car in order to park Trump's car, Trump announces he will buy the mother's car, children included.

NBC Universal prevailed upon YouTube to take down the Trump clip the editor included in a video to illustrate Trump's lackadaisical attitude toward "buying," i.e., the sex trafficking, of children.

Aug. 10

washington post logoWashington Post, Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai arrested under national security law, Shibani Mahtani, Aug. 10, 2020. In an operation that spanned more than 12 hours, Hong Kong police on Monday arrested media tycoon and activist Jimmy Lai, his sons and at least seven others and raided his newsroom under a sweeping national security law that China recently imposed on Hong Kong.

Those swept up included Agnes Chow, a 23-year old activist who rose to prominence alongside Joshua Wong and Nathan Law as a student protester in 2014. Police said that most of those arrested were suspected of colluding with foreign powers, a crime punishable by life in prison.

Taken together, the dramatic events quashed any doubt that Beijing would use the national security law as a mere deterrent and underscored the increasingly precarious plight of pro-democracy activists and journalists in Hong Kong. Lai, 71, and Chow are the most prominent of those arrested under the law to date.

Just after dawn, officers arrived at Lai's home and that of his sons to question and arrest them. Four other senior executives at his media group, Next Digital, were also arrested, according to the company and Mark Simon, a close aide to Lai. Next Digital is the parent company of Apple Daily, a pro-democracy news outlet critical of Beijing that Lai founded in 1995.

Shortly afterward, more than 200 police entered Next Digital’s offices, according to the company’s Facebook page and a live-stream of the raid, and searched Apple Daily’s newsroom. They rifled through reporters’ desks and papers, told employees to show identification cards and warned journalists to stop filming and photographing the raid. By the end of the operation, police had seized 25 boxes of material.

washington post logoLegal Schnauzer, Commentary: Legal Schnauzer winds up in the middle of Facebook's effort to remove fraudulent accounts associated with Trump ally and GOP dirty trickster, Roger Stone, Roger Shuler, Aug. 10, 2020. In January 2017, we published a post in which I expressed suspicions that someone associated with Donald Trump ally and GOP dirty trickster Roger Stone had targeted Legal Schnauzer for a stream of vile, profane, and threatening comments. Turns out we were right.

Facebook made international headlines last Friday with reports that the cybersecurity firm Graphika had determined that Stone and his associates created a disinformation network that prompted Facebook to launch a takedown effort of fake accounts that stretched from Canada to Brazil, from Ecuador to Ukraine. From a facebook logoreport at the South Florida SunSentinel, which covers Stone's home base of Fort Lauderdale:

Roger Stone spent a half-century honing his skills as a political operator and building a reputation as a stop-at-nothing dirty trickster, in support of a range of big-name politicians and causes, including Donald Trump and Richard Nixon.

Now, a report from the cybersecurity firm Graphika suggests that Stone — who in recent years has become one of Fort Lauderdale’s best-known residents — was able to translate his real-world approach to the online world, exploiting the social media platform Facebook as he pursued goals that included promoting Trump and himself.

A closer look at the document shows how the Sunshine State emerged as an epicenter for the disinformation network, which set out to meddle in Florida politics and beyond.

The social media giant ultimately took down a network of 54 Facebook accounts, 50 pages and four from Instagram, another social media site it owns. A map showed 15 locations of the accounts were in Florida, mostly along the east coast from Vero Beach to Miami; a handful were elsewhere.

Some pages associated with Stone promoted Stone, and often his books. Some attempted to influence legislation and criticized enemies — including Hillary Clinton — sometimes with negative messages. Some used fake names and were illustrated with faces found on the internet.

“Our investigation linked this network to Roger Stone and his associates,” Facebook said. Some had links to the far-right group Proud Boys, Facebook said.

Facebook apparently spared no expense in tracking the Stone network. From Facebook's report on its internal investigation:

We found this network as part of our internal investigation into suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior in the region. Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities and coordination, our investigation found links to political consultants and former government employees in Ecuador and Estraterra, a Canada-based PR firm. Estraterra is now banned from our platforms.

Several of these Pages had links to Proud Boys, a hate group we banned in 2018. Some Pages appeared to have acquired followers from Pakistan and Egypt to make themselves seem more popular than they were. This network — which was also active on other internet platforms — was most active between 2015 and 2017. Since then, the majority of these accounts have been dormant, and some were permanently deleted by the users. The Page admins and account owners posted about local politics in Florida, Roger Stone and his Pages, websites, books, and media appearances.

Stone's social network unraveled primarily because of his ties to the Proud Boys and Robert Mueller's investigation of the Trump-Russia scandal from the 2016 presidential election. From the internal Facebook report:

We first started looking into this network as part of our investigation into the Proud Boys’ attempts to return to Facebook after we had designated and banned them from the platform. We identified the full scope of this network following the recent public release of search warrants pertaining to the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in response to a joint petition from The New York Times, CNN, the Associated Press, The Washington Post, and Politico. Our investigation linked this network to Roger Stone and his associates.

How does Legal Schnauzer enter the picture? The SunSentinel explains:

The [Facebook] report, issued last month, tied one example of online harassment by the network to a Sarah Jameson Facebook account, which purported to be a woman living in Plantation.

Roger Shuler, who writes an online blog called “Legal Schnauzer,” said he received a barrage of profanity-laden emails from some claiming to be a “Sarah Jameson” in 2015 and 2016. The person emailing was upset over Shuler’s critical posts about then-U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions and federal Judge Bill Pryor.

Shuler said he looked up Jameson’s Facebook page and found a “Roger Stone shrine.” It seemed bizarre enough for him to write on his blog about the account with only 18 friends and posts promoting Stone.

“I definitely had suspicions that it was a fake account or a false identity,” Shuler said. “It was kind of like a fan-girl page. Not much in-depth information. Whoever it was seemed to like Roger Stone for some reason.”

“It made me wonder: Roger Stone is known for dirty tricks. Was he involved in some of this?” Shuler added.

The Mueller search warrants apparently helped prove, among other things, that Stone and Co. targeted Legal Schnauzer for what likely can best be described as a cyber harassment and cyber stalking campaign. Ours is the only blog mentioned in the Graphika report as a specific target of the Stone network:

Similarly, a Facebook account called “Sarah Jameson” that Facebook identified as part of the network matched names and profile pictures with an account called @S_jameson82 on Twitter. The Twitter account was created in 2016 and stopped posting in early 2017; of its 20 most recent posts, 11 focused on Stone or advertised his books. Most of the rest focused on Donald Trump’s election campaign in 2016 and the controversy over his ban on immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries in early 2017.

Aug. 9

Media Matters, Advocacy: Sunday show coverage of COVID-19 relief negotiations was again filled with false equivalency, Cydney Hargis, Aug. 9, 2020. For months, Republicans failed to make a proposal, and still are split on whether to continue COVID-19 aid at all. Instead of focusing on what was needed, Sunday shows instead frequently just blamed both sides for not coming to an agreement.

media matters logoPresident Trump signed four executive orders following a congressional gridlock over negotiations about the second COVID-19 relief bill, which Republicans refused to enter into until the eleventh hour. Sunday political shows, however, continued with their false equivalency that both parties are to blame which forced the president’s hand.

The economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic have been devastating for millions of Americas. The Census Bureau estimated that sometime before July 21, nearly 30 million Americans did not have enough to eat. Millions are still unemployed, and the Congressional Budget Office expects the unemployment rate to remain “elevated” through 2021. Forty million people are reportedly at risk of being kicked out of their homes due to the pandemic, especially as eviction moratoriums across the country come to an end. The ending of enhanced unemployment benefits looks set to become an economic catastrophe.

Aug. 5

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook Removes, and Twitter Blocks, Trump Campaign’s Misleading Video, Cecilia Kang and Sheera Frenkel, Aug. 5, 2020. It was the first time Facebook took down a post by President Trump’s campaign for spreading virus misin

Facebook took down a video posted by the campaign of President Trump on Wednesday in which he claimed children were immune to the coronavirus, a violation of the social network’s rules against misinformation around the virus.

facebook logoIt was the first time Facebook has removed a post by Mr. Trump’s campaign for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus, though the social network has previously taken down other ads and posts by the campaign for violating other policies. In June, for example, Facebook took down campaign ads that used a Nazi-related symbol, which broke the company’s rules against organized hate.

The action on Wednesday did not signal a change to Facebook’s fierce defense of free expression. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, has said the social network is not an arbiter of truth and that it is in the public’s interest to see what political leaders post — even if they include falsehoods by politicians like Mr. Trump. Mr. Zuckerberg has stood by the position, even as other social media companies like Twitter have ramped up their rule enforcement with regard to the president’s speech.

The stance has put Facebook under tremendous pressure from employees, advertisers and civil-rights leaders, who have opposed permitting Mr. Trump to spread falsehoods around mail-in voting on the site and to allow comments and threatening language around the Black Lives Matter protests to remain up.

Aug. 4

Media Matters, Advocacy:  Right-wing media struggle to handle Trump’s train wreck Axios interview, Eric Kleefield, Aug. 4, 2020. “They are dying, that's true. And it is what it is,” is what President Donald Trump said in reference to the coronavirus outbreak in America during an interview with Axios on HBO, which aired this week.

media matters logoTrump's lies were repeatedly exposed through simple follow-up questions by Axios political correspondent Jonathan Swan. He also attacked recently deceased civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) for not attending his inauguration, suggested the Civil Rights Act was a mistake, and complemented Jeffrey Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell.

But even beyond all of that, the interview will be remembered for Trump's wild lies about the COVID-19 pandemic. The president didn't even understand Swan's point that the United States has had more people die from the pandemic per capita than many other countries. When asked about additional efforts to contain the pandemic, Trump just said "It is what it is. ... It's under control as much as you can control it." He also said "manuals" and "books" say not to test too much, and never explained what he was talking about, instead changing the subject.

Trump's answers were immediately widely panned. Fox News didn't mention the interview very much at all.

Beyond Fox, right-wing media struggled to applaud the president’s performance. Some tried, including right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh, who said about the interview, “Trump is a realist. He deals with things as they are. I am a realist. I’m Mr. Literal. I am the mayor of Realville. You know me. One of my all-time favorite, little, short, philosophical sayings: It is what it is.”

Aug. 3

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How the News Media Could Get the Election Story Wrong, Ben Smith, Aug. 3, 2020 (print ed.). We may not know the results for days, and maybe weeks. So it’s time to rethink “election night.”

ny times logokayleigh mcenany djtNew York Times, Kayleigh McEnany Heckles the Press. Is That All? Katie Rogers and Maggie Haberman, Aug. 3, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump does not always watch her briefings, and even his allies say she risks being known more for “hitting the press with a two-by-four” than advancing his priorities.

Palmer Report, Opinion: We haven’t won this yet, Robert Harrington, Aug. 3, 2020. I was interviewed on Wednesday for two hours by The Mystic-Skeptic Radio Show, a media entity that doubles as a podcast. The pre-recording of my interview is slated to go out on “Radio Free Nashville” sometime in late August. The two hosts, young-ish progressives, were eager to see progressive policies enacted that they doubted that Joe Biden and the DNC machine were equal to.

bill palmer report logo headerI did my best to introduce them to reality as I saw it, pointing out that, yes, that painting near the Captain’s Table might look better over by the Grand Staircase, but didn’t they think we had better attend to the task at hand first, namely getting the damned passengers off the Titanic?

I’m deeply puzzled by people who are in such a hurry to see certain pet programs succeed and yet are blind to the greater peril. I think single-payer healthcare for all Americans, for instance, is a cracking good idea, long overdue. As an American living in England I’m atypically positioned to comprehend the difference between the two systems.

But one thing at a time, please. Politics, I cautioned my hosts, is a long game, one of give and take, a game of conceding small concessions for larger ones. You can seldom get everything all your own way overnight, and revolutions too fast sometimes spawn counterrevolutions. These matters must be handled delicately, to invoke the Wicked Witch of the West.

It seems, though, that the older one gets the more time one has. Put another way, the younger one is the more in a rush. So I caution my younger readers to have patience. We have paid a terrible price for Trump, let’s at least learn a lesson that can partly justify that price. Once we’re in charge we can use our newly empowered sense of urgency to shore up the nation against another Trump ever happening again. Then we can get down to the business of fixing the nation and healing the planet.

If we get back in charge, that is, and there’s the rub. Engagious, a focus group company, claims that focus groups they have conducted over the past year suggest that swing voters in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida favor Donald Trump two to one. They studied the oddball voter who voted for, say, Romney in 2012 and Clinton in 2016, or Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016. In other words, the Unpredictables may turn out to be a subset of the Deplorables. This is cause for concern, but not alarm.

As British athletics commentator Brendan Foster once put it, races aren’t run on paper, they’re run at races. What we need to realize above all else is Biden may look to be way ahead in the polls but he hasn’t won yet. The race is still on for November third, not August third. Even so, these focus groups sometimes pick up on trends that polls miss, and that is another reason why we must not be wholly reliant on polls.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Lincoln Project’s plan for preserving the union: Drive Trump out of office by driving him nuts, Roxanne Roberts, Aug. 3, 2020 (print ed.). Your house is on fire. Do you care who the firemen are?

That is a central question of the 2020 election. Donald Trump has managed to do one thing no other president has done: Bring Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and progressives, boomers and millennials together in unprecedented numbers to try to defeat him in November. For Americans who believe the president is a raging threat to democracy, purity tests are out. Results are in.

abraham lincoln 1860 matthew brady cooper unionWhich explains the spectacular rise of the Lincoln Project, a group of Republican Never Trumpers who have moved rent free into the president’s head. Their viral videos and tweets mocking his leadership, his intelligence and his patriotism — aimed both at Republican voters who are wavering and Trump himself — have attracted millions of dollars, via donors from both parties. More than 10,000 people attended a virtual town hall last month and about 80,000 others watched it on a live stream. Lifelong Democrats are organizing fundraisers for the project.

The “Mourning in America” ad attacks Trump’s mismanagement of the coronavirus outbreak. “#TrumpIsNotWell” questions his mental and physical fitness. “Bounty” asks why Trump won’t confront Vladimir Putin about U.S. intelligence reports that Russia offered bounties for the killing of American soldiers in Afghanistan.

The ads are slick, scathing and more shocking than anything Joe Biden’s official campaign has produced. The newest release, “Wake Up,” is a dark comic satire about a george conway postcoma victim hearing about Trump’s last three years. “Republicans, we need to wake up. This guy was in a coma. What’s your excuse?”

“Donald Trump is so completely at odds with every institution in America and so completely at odds with anything that the Republican Party allegedly stood for: the rule of law, constitutional fealty, institutions, norms, traditions, all of those things are out the window,” says Rick Wilson, a co-founder of the group with George Conway, right. “So you’re either going to make a choice between Trump or this country. We made the choice for the country, even if it doesn’t immediately seem to fit with all of our ideological or political priors.”

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: Trump and Hitler analogy: Not wanted in some circles, Wayne Madsen, Aug. 3, 2020. It is not often that the editor has an article rejected for publication. However, as the presidential election draws nearer, certain circles find the comparisons of Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler to be politically unpalatable.

Trump is not the only right-wing leader who is dismantling local and regional government in violation of constitutional norms. Not one to be intimidated, the article that got some armbands in a twist abroad is republished here in its entirety.

Palmer Report, Opinion: TikTok just won and Donald Trump just lost, Bill Palmer, Aug. 3, 2020. Palmer Report, Opinion: In the latest sign that Donald Trump fancies himself a tiktok logo square Customvengeful tyrant, he announced this weekend that he was banning the TikTok video app in the United States, simply because too many of its users have humiliated him. And in the latest sign that Trump is increasingly an empty suit, he’s now quietly backing down from that proclamation already.

bill palmer report logo headerOn Sunday night, Donald Trump gave TikTok’s China-based parent company forty-five days to sell TikTok to Microsoft or another bidder. In response, Microsoft confirmed it’s indeed seeking to acquire TikTok. Here’s the thing: nothing has changed.

TikTok was already for sale, and Microsoft was already attempting to buy it, before Donald Trump threw his little tantrum. Donald Trump has backed down in such a manner that things are now back to precisely what they had been, meaning he 100% caved. TikTok, its parent company, its users, and Microsoft all won. Trump lost.

When Trump faces any amount of pushback these days, he usually tepidly backs down.

Aug. 1

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washington post logolarry klayman resized eric bolling judy mikovits sinclair pandemicWashington Post, Sinclair yanked a pandemic conspiracy theory program. But it has stayed in line with Trump on coronavirus, Paul Farhi, Aug. 1, 2020 (print ed.). Eric Bolling’s interview with the discredited “Plandemic” theorist represented an extreme edge of the typical commentary from one of the nation’s largest TV groups.

Editor's Note: Sinclair's America This Week host Eric Bolling, shown at center in adjoining photo, interviewing Judy Mikovits, right, of the conspiracy theory video Plandemic and her attorney Larry Klayman, left, about their plans to sue Dr. Anthony Fauci.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump says he’ll bar TikTok from operating in U.S., Ellen Nakashima, Rachel Lerman and Jeanne Whalen, Aug. 1, 2020 (print ed.). The ban would come amid tiktok logo square Customrising tension with China. The president also told reporters Friday night the administration may take other actions targeted at TikTok.

washington post logoWashington Post, James Murdoch resigns from News Corp. board over ‘disagreements’ about editorial content, Jeremy Barr, Aug. 1, 2020 (print ed.). James Murdoch, son of media baron Rupert Murdoch and the former chief executive of Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox — now called Fox Corp. — has resigned his seat on the board of the Murdoch-controlled News Corp., citing concerns about the company’s content and decision-making.

The abrupt resignation came in a tersely worded letter sent by Murdoch to the board of the company, which owns Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones and the New York Post, among other holdings.

fox news logo Small“My resignation is due to disagreements over certain editorial content published by the Company’s news outlets and certain other strategic decisions,” Murdoch wrote in the letter, which was filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday.

His resignation is the strongest sign yet that Murdoch, 47, has broken ideologically from his family’s media holdings, which include the cable news channel that he once had oversight over.

While his father, who remains the company’s executive chairman, is influential in Republican politics, Murdoch and his wife, Kathryn, have long been major donors to left-leaning causes and political candidates. They very publicly donated $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League in August 2017 after the protests in Charlottesville, calling out “hate and bigotry.”

Whistleblowing Revelations

"You never volunteer to be a whistleblower; it falls into your lap."

-- Wayne Madsen

charlotte dennett

OpEdNews, 2020 Annual Whistleblower Summit Features "Telling Stories Almost Too Big to Hear," Marta Steele, Aug. 1, 2020. This year's annual Whistleblower Summit, held on Zoom in combination with a dynamic film festival, featured a world-class panel, "Telling Stories Almost Too Big to Hear," organized by the well-known activist and attorney Andrew Kreig,

The four panelists, all expert whistleblowers who have spoken truth to power, included Charlotte Dennett, author of The Crash of Flight 3804 (shown above), the story of her investigations into the death of her father in a 1947 plane crash en route to report on his work investigating the huge oil industries in the Middle East.

don siegelman stealing our democracy CustomWayne Madsen, left, author of 18 books and master investigative reporter, began this segment of his career with "an A to Z encyclopedia of covert groups focused on the most sensitive issues on Earth, encompassing the intelligence backgrounds of U.S. politicians and judges before they were elected to office."

Former Alabama governor Don Siegelman, right, told his story of a meteoric career up the political ranks in the bright red state of Alabama despite his extremely progressive background and how Karl Rove and his cronies stepped in to ruin him even as he was being short-listed as a Democratic candidate for president in the 2004 general election. He has recently published an amazing memoir, Stealing Our Democracy: How the Political Assassination of a Governor Threatens Our Nation.

Dr. William Pepper, a close associate of both Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. (with whom he is shown below) in the 1960s, told an amazing life story of investigating the assassinations of both, risking his life in the process.

mlk william pepper plot to kill cover 300x169

 

July

July 30

bo john lewis eulogy cspan

Media Matters, Commentary: Right-wing media attack Barack Obama's eulogy for John Lewis, Jason Campbell, July 30, 2020. After the first Black president eulogizes a civil rights hero (above), conservatives lash out: “Barack Obama is a national disgrace”

Former President Barack Obama delivered a eulogy today for Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), commemorating the civil rights icon and longtime member of the House of media matters logoRepresentatives. Obama praised Lewis’ history of promoting civil rights and called for action to continue the late congressman’s legacy, including ending the Senate legislative filibuster and passing a new Voting Rights Act.

Right-wing media was quick to criticize Obama’s eulogy, claiming the former president had politicized the event. Some conservative media personalities mocked Obama and derided his speech as a campaign event for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Even following a solemn funeral in which this country’s first Black president praised the legacy of a champion for civil rights, right-wing media continued to demonstrate its shameless hatemongering.

Sean Hannity spent large chunks of his radio show complaining about Obama's eulogy, including accusing the former president of lying and claiming that voter suppression is a myth even though multiple Republican figures have admitted otherwise. Sen. Lindsey Graham told Hannity that “Donald Trump has done more to help the people they're talking about at the funeral than President Obama did.”

July 29

Media Matters, Commentary: Tucker Carlson's coverage of Breitbart's "Frontline Doctors" video, Nikki McCann Ramirez, July 29, 2020. Tucker Carlson’s deceitful coverage of Breitbart's COVID-19 “Frontline Doctors” video. Late on July 27, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook removed a hyperviral video riddled with misinformation related to the novel coronavirus posted by the far-right media outlet Breitbart.

fox news logo Smallmedia matters logoPresident Donald Trump and other prominent conservatives had shared the video, and its removal sparked cries of censorship from conservatives, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who on Tuesday night covered the story through cherry-picked snippets, outlandish accusations, and misrepresentation.

Carlson opened his show by claiming that with “the ruthlessness of Chinese authoritarians but with double the self-righteousness,” technology companies had collaborated with Democrats to pull the video from social media, viewing it as “a threat to Joe Biden's campaign.” Carlson claimed out-of-control tech companies were wielding unchecked power to silence “a group of physicians giving a press conference about medical advances in the fight against COVID.” In reality, the video was a hodgepodge of largely debunked medical claims.

July 27

washington post logoWashington Post, Congress prepares for epic clash with Big Tech, Tony Romm, July 27, 2020. Congress brought the country’s big banks to heel after the financial crisis, cowed a tobacco facebook logoindustry for imperiling public health and forced airline leaders to atone for years of treating their passengers poorly.

amazon logo smallNow, lawmakers are set to turn their attention to technology, channeling long-simmering frustrations with Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google into a high-profile hearing that some Democrats and Republicans hope will usher in sweeping changes throughout Silicon Valley.

On Wednesday, the industry’s four most powerful chief executives are set to appear, swear an oath and submit to a grilling from House lawmakers who have been probing the Web’s most recognizable names to determine whether they have become too big and powerful. The focus is antitrust, and the extent to which a quartet of digital behemoths — representing a nearly $5 trillion slice of the U.S. economy — has harmed competition, consumers and the country writ large.

washington post logomargaret sullivan 2015 photoWashington Post, Perspective: Media coverage of the 2016 campaign was a disaster. Now’s the last chance to get 2020 right, Margaret Sullivan, right, July 27, 2020 (print ed.). How did the news media mess up in the 100 days leading up to the 2016 presidential election? Let me count the ways.

Journalists relied too much on what opinion polls were saying and often presented a skewed interpretation of their meaning. That fed the sense that Hillary Clinton would be the inevitable winner.

They vastly overplayed the Clinton email story, particularly the “reopened investigation” aspect in October. Given Donald Trump’s background and behavior, the emphasis was astonishingly out of whack with reality.

News organizations failed to understand the tear-it-all-down mood of large segments of the voting public, or the racism and sexism that often fueled it.

July 26

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washington post logoWashington Post, Sinclair stations delay airing interview with ‘Plandemic’ researcher amid backlash, Meryl Kornfield, After facing intense scrutiny for planning to air a baseless conspiracy theory that infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauci helped to create the coronavirus, conservative TV broadcaster Sinclair Broadcast Group announced Saturday that it will delay the segment to edit the context of the claims.

Sinclair, which has 191 stations across the country, received backlash this week after “America This Week” host Eric Bolling interviewed Judy Mikovits, a former medical researcher featured in the debunked “Plandemic” conspiracy online film.

In the Sinclair interview, Mikovits claimed that Fauci “manufactured” the coronavirus and shipped it to Wuhan, China, where the outbreak originated. A chyron during the segment reads, “DID DR. FAUCI CREATE COVID-19?”

Mikovits and her lawyer Larry Klayman dropped other unfounded allegations during the show, including President Trump soft-pedaling relations with China because he has evidence of the country’s involvement with the inception of the virus.

The show was released online earlier this week before it was to be aired on local news channels. The segment was first reported by Media Matters, a left-leaning media watchdog. As of Saturday afternoon, the show was pulled from Sinclair websites.

Bolling, a former Fox News personality, did not challenge Mikovits’s assertions, calling what she said a “hefty claim.” He later told The Washington Post via text that he brought Fox News medical contributor Nicole Saphier on the show after to provide an He later told The Washington Post via text that he brought Fox News medical contributor Nicole Saphier on the show after to opposing viewpoint.

Saphier said during her interview that it was “highly unlikely” Fauci was responsible for the coronavirus.

anthony fauci CustomFauci, right, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has come under heavy criticism by some conservatives as he has stated positions opposite of the president over the virus and measures needed to contain its spread. Trump, while at times praising the doctor, also has been critical at times.

A Sinclair spokesperson did not respond to requests from The Post for comment, but the company issued a statement saying that it is not “aligning with or endorsing the viewpoints” aired in the segment, but adding that it is “a supporter of free speech and a marketplace of ideas and viewpoints, even if incredibly controversial.”

“We will spend the coming days bringing together other viewpoints and provide additional context,” the company later shared. “All stations have been notified not to air this and will instead be re-airing last week’s episode in its place.”

We hear your feedback regarding a segment on this week's "America This Week." At no juncture are we aligning with or endorsing the viewpoints of Dr. Mikovitz or Mr. Klayman or endorsing the "Plandemic" documentary. Full stop.

— Sinclair Broadcast Group (@WeAreSinclair) July 25, 2020

Based in Maryland, Sinclair owns and operates local news stations across the country and has endured criticism for its anchors parroting Trump’s remarks.

“As a propaganda machine, Sinclair is far more dangerous than OANN,” New York University professor Jay Rosen tweeted following the news of the interview with Mikovits. “Although it’s emerging a little more as itself lately, it is still for the most part a stealth network that operates through local 'community’ stations that present to the viewer as ABC CBS NBC & Fox affiliates.”

Mikovits did not respond to a request for comment but previously told The Post that her troubles stem from a cabal aimed at dismantling her career.

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus Live Updates: U.S. Nears National Peak as 18 States Set Single-Day Records, Staff reports, July 26, 2020 (print ed.). Friday was the fourth day running that the United States reported over 1,100 deaths. Pirate attacks are among the crime patterns shifting in the pandemic. New research sheds light on male vulnerability to severe Covid-19. South Carolina announced 80 new deaths on Saturday, a single-day record.

California. South Carolina. North Dakota, Kentucky. Hawaii. Those are among the 18 states that set single-day case records in the last week, putting the country on track to breaking a national single-day record for new coronavirus cases set less than two weeks ago.

More than 73,500 cases were reported on Friday, according to a New York Times database, approaching the country’s record of 75,697 cases, set on July 16. Since June 24, the seven-day average has more than doubled, to more than 66,100 on Friday from 31,402.

California's San Quentin prison (Aerial view by ABC-TV 7, San Francisco).

California's San Quentin prison (Aerial view by ABC-TV 7, San Francisco).

 washington post logoWashington Post, Guest Opinion: Inside San Quentin prison, you sit and wait until covid-19 comes for you, Joe Garcia, July 26, 2020 (print ed.). Joe Garcia is incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison, where he is a staff member of the San Quentin News and an editorial liaison for the Prison Journalism Project.

As a working prison journalist, I wanted to keep my eyes and ears wide-open. I wanted to detail everything going on around me as covid-19 raged out of control here. But a fog crept through me. Was it just a cold, a sinus infection, influenza — all things I’ve battled before? I woke to strange chills in the night; there was an acrid aftertaste along the back of my tongue. Maybe I just needed to pull out a blanket.

Is this what covid-19 feels like? My temperature had been normal every day. My breathing remained strong and clear. I wanted to believe that meant I was fine.

On June 22 and 23, everyone in my building, San Quentin’s North Block, lined up for covid-19 testing. I had just begun to feel weirdly awful. I overheard other guys describing the same things I was feeling. None of us wanted to alert the medical staff. So, you admit you’re sick? Well, let’s remove you from the few familiar comforts you have and throw you in an empty cell for a 14-day quarantine. That’s the protocol we all feared worse than covid-19.

Eventually, I did receive a notice informing me that I’d tested positive for covid-19 — one more number in a group that has now passed 2,000. Fifteen San Quentin inmates have died.

July 25

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huff post logoHuffPost, Sinclair To Push Coronavirus Conspiracy Theory Via Massive Local News Network: Reports, Sara Boboltz, July 25, 2020.  The conservative company owns a huge swath of the local news market in the U.S.

Sinclair Broadcasting Group, the local news behemoth that runs nearly 200 stations across the country, is reportedly set to promote a baseless and inflammatory conspiracy theory about the origin of the coronavirus on some of its channels.

Eric Bolling, a former Fox News host who now hosts a program for Sinclair called “America This Week,” spent several minutes on his latest show interviewing Judy Mikovits, a discredited scientist who is a central character in the conspiracy film “Plandemic,” Media Matters was first to report.

The episode was streamed online this week and is expected to air over an unknown number of Sinclair’s stations this weekend, according to Media Matters and CNN Business.

“Plandemic” is a 26-minute concoction that argues America’s top doctors ― particularly Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force and the nation’s leading expert on infectious disease ― cannot be trusted to provide information on the crisis.

The film was banned from Facebook and YouTube when it started gaining traction earlier this year for providing false information on COVID-19.

Now, key elements of the conspiracy theory will be shown across Sinclair’s vast network of stations, which cover roughly 40% of the American market.

It’s not the first time the company’s conservative leadership has sought to use its platform to push unsubstantiated right-wing theories. In 2018, Sinclair instructed anchors to recite a “must-run” segment decrying the “troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country.”

Mikovits told Bolling that she believes Fauci “manufactured the coronaviruses in monkey cell lines” and shipped them to Wuhan, China, where the illness was first detected.

Contrary to her claims, scientists believe the virus has a natural origin, having evolved to infect humans from bats by way of some unknown intermediary animal. Because Wuhan’s live animal markets bring together animals that would not otherwise normally mix, they provide the perfect environment for such a virus to emerge in the human population. The genetic makeup of the novel coronavirus is also not similar enough to any known human pathogen to have originated in a lab.

Mikovits is a known figure in the anti-vaccine movement whose body of work includes a study on chronic fatigue syndrome that was roundly criticized in the scientific community and abruptly retracted in 2011. She has since attempted to position herself as a victim whose work has been continually suppressed by “Big Pharma.”

July 23

Media Matters for America, Criticism/Advocacy: Sinclair gives “Plandemic" conspiracy theorists a platform to spread their lies about Dr. Fauci and the coronavirus, John Whitehouse on coverage by Zachary Pleat with research from Alex Kaplan and Pam Vogel, July 23, 2020.

For years, Media Matters has covered the right-wing propaganda that Sinclair Broadcasting puts on local television channels across the country. The instance this week may have been the worst example yet.

larry klayman resized eric bolling judy mikovits sinclair pandemicThe latest example of Sinclair's "America This Week" features host Eric Bolling, shown at center in adjoining photo, interviewing Judy Mikovits, right, of the conspiracy theory video Plandemic and her attorney Larry Klayman, left, about their plans to sue Dr. Anthony Fauci. Bolling introduced the prerecorded interview by referring to Mikotivs as “an expert in virology” who previously “worked with Dr. Anthony Fauci.”

As Zach Pleat meticulously documented, Mikovits may be the most prominent COVID-19 conspiracy theorist in the country. She gained notoriety after she made multiple false and misleading claims about the coronavirus and public health in Plandemic. The viral video featured various lies, including about vaccines and the COVID-19 death count. She also reportedly made false claims about Fauci in the video, and defended a bogus bleach product as a treatment for the disease. YouTube, Facebook, and other platforms all removed Plandemic for violations of their terms of service.

Bolling didn't mention any of that, instead allowing them to peddle conspiracy theories, like accusing Fauci of having "manufactured the coronaviruses" and shipped them to Wuhan, China. (This, obviously, did not happen.)

When the interview was over, Bolling brought on a Fox News medical contributor to react. During that portion of the show, Bolling hypothesized -- again without evidence -- that China “accelerated the virus” while researching a vaccine and “it somehow leaked out of a laboratory.” Experts have long established that the novel coronavirus was not made in a lab and there is no evidence that it leaked from one.

Media Matters reported about this segment on Thursday. After outrage grew, Sinclair finally responded on Saturday, announcing first that it supported free speech even if it was "controversial."

Hours later, the company issued a statement that it would ask local stations to delaying airing this episode. This was too late. We already found that the segment aired on at least one local Sinclair station in West Virginia, and possibly more.

Sinclair has pushed far-right propaganda for years, and Bolling made his mark at Fox where he pushed birtherism and other conspiracy theories, before leaving Fox for Sinclair after allegedly sending explicit pictures to multiple colleagues. The only difference now is how many people might risk getting sick and even die because of them.

 california institution resized for women cal dept corrections rehab aerialAn aerial view of the California Institution for Women, right (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation).

washington post logoWashington Post, Inmates witnessed a suicide attempt. They received coloring pages instead of counseling, Eileen Guo, July 26, 2020. Inmates at the California Institution for Women try to cope with the mental toll of the coronavirus.

On a morning in mid-May, Anna "C.J." Rugg, a 38-year-old transgender man who had tested positive for the coronavirus at the California Institution for Women, set his room in the medical isolation unit on fire.

"I made my room an inferno," he told The Washington Post by JPay, the inmate emailing system, and "laid down on the floor and waited for the smoke to get me."

Rugg had serious health issues and struggled with acceptance since coming out in prison as transgender, but it was the extra stresses of covid-19 measures that pushed him over the edge. “This lockdown is too much,” he wrote to Arlene Veronesi, a close friend and former cellmate. “I lost it. Don’t hate me.”

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, incarcerated individuals in California’s 35 state prisons faced poor mental health care. The situation is especially dire for the rapidly increasing number of female prisoners, who make up 4 percent of the state’s incarcerated population but 11 percent of suicides, according to 2016 figures. Seven women committed suicide between 2013 and 2016 at the California Institution for Women, a 1398-bed prison currently housing close to 1500 women; in 2018, a woman experiencing a psychotic episode waited hours for care, ripping out and swallowing her own eye before receiving treatment.

Multiple state audits of the prison have found slow response rates to mental health incidents as a major factor in suicides. A class-action lawsuit filed in 1990, on behalf of all of California’s incarcerated individuals receiving mental health services, is ongoing.

The pandemic has exacerbated the lack of mental health care at CIW. Inmates have refused tests, temperature checks and other measures meant to contain the virus’s spread to avoid being put in isolation, and four women have attempted suicide while in quarantine or isolation for the coronavirus. “Rather than treat[ing] their mental health,” the pandemic has shifted the entire correctional health care system’s priority to “basically just trying to keep people alive,” said Michael Bien, lead counsel in the class-action lawsuit.

When CIW’s first positive coronavirus test came back on April 6, correctional officials quarantined women to their own cells if they might have been exposed. Prison officials put whole housing units into lockdown and moved positive patients into separate medical isolation units.

But a number of inmates say that CIW staff never told them what was happening.

On the same day as the first positive test at CIW, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) issued guidance requiring all staff to wear face masks. It was “our first time seeing any staff in a mask,” Rianne Theriaultodom, an incarcerated woman who was in the medical isolation unit with Rugg, told The Post via JPay. This left the women “confused and terrified” about the disease’s progression in their facility.

  • Washington Post, Trump’s chief economic adviser says federal eviction ban will be extended, Meryl Kornfield and Marisa Iati, July 26,  2020.

July 22

washington post logoWashington Post, NPR may be ‘public’ radio, but it’s feeling the economic pain of the pandemic. More trouble lies ahead, Paul Farhi, July 22, 2020 (print ed.). NPR reporter Kelsey Snell would normally have spent last week covering Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell as the congressional correspondent for “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.” But it wasn’t a normal week for Snell or anyone else at NPR.

Instead, she was out of work — one of dozens in NPR’s 520-person Washington newsroom who are going on unpaid week-long furloughs at some point during this shutdown summer, under a cost-saving agreement between NPR’s management and its newsroom.

npr logo“Please support your local public radio station!” she tweeted before ducking out for the week.

For decades, the P in NPR stood for “public,” as in publicly supported, noncommercial radio and digital news. Yet with its growing dependence on corporate advertising, NPR has found itself on equally troubled footing as its for-profit competitors, all of them reliant on the same pool of advertising dollars that have dried up during the coronavirus pandemic.

A sharp downturn in “underwriting” — public broadcasting’s euphemism for its tasteful style of advertising — prompted NPR to adopt a package of pay cuts, furloughs and other concessions in April. Yet NPR will still show a deficit of about $10 million when its fiscal year closes in September, its widest in years, chief executive John Lansing said in an interview.

The new year starting in October figures to be even tougher. Without another round of givebacks, Lansing is projecting a deficit of $30 million to $43 million — by far the largest in NPR’s 50-year history.

djt michael cohen

washington post logoWashington Post, Michael Cohen’s book to allege Trump made racist comments about Obama and Nelson Mandela, lawsuit says, Shayna Jacobs, July 22, 2020 (print ed.).  The book manuscript being drafted by President Trump's ex-lawyer Michael Cohen, above left, alleges that Trump has made racist comments about his predecessor Barack Obama and the late South African leader Nelson nelson mandela 2008 wMandela (shown at right in 2008), according to court filings made public Monday night that contend Cohen was sent back to prison this month as retaliation.

The filings from Cohen’s attorneys seek his immediate release from federal custody following his rearrest July 9, less than two months after he was allowed to serve the remainder of his sentence on home confinement because of the coronavirus pandemic.

His lawsuit alleges that Cohen’s First Amendment rights were violated when he was detained at the federal courthouse in Manhattan during a meeting with probation officers, who had asked him to sign a gag order prohibiting him from speaking to the media or publishing a book while serving the rest of his sentence.

July 20

Former Fox News Chief White House Correspondent Ed Henry, left, and Fox prime time stars Tucker Carlson, center, and Sean Hannity (Fox News screenshots).

Former Fox News Chief White House Correspondent Ed Henry, left, and Fox prime time stars Tucker Carlson, center, and Sean Hannity (Fox News screenshots).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Fox News faces allegations of sexual harassment, rape, Erik Wemple, July 20, 2020. For the past few years, Fox News has kept telling us that it learned its lesson: The culture of sexual harassment that started with longtime chief Roger Ailes and extended to disgraced former anchor Bill O’Reilly and others had been addressed. New, accountable lines of authority were drawn up; a new HR apparatus was in place; a so-called Workplace Professionalism and Inclusion Council (WPIC) sprung into action.

fox news logo SmallHas it all done any good? Not according to a fresh lawsuit brimming with horrific allegations.

cathy areu left jennifer eckhartOn Monday, former Fox Business associate producer Jennifer Eckhart, shown at right in the adjoining photo, and former Fox News guest Cathy Areu, at left, brought a complaint against the network claiming yet more misconduct that key executives allegedly failed to thwart. The complaint, filed by Douglas Wigdor and Michael Willemin of Wigdor LLP, includes misconduct allegations directed at former host Ed Henry, prime-time mainstays Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity (portrayed above) and media correspondent/host Howard Kurtz.

The most disturbing allegations relate to Henry, a former Fox News host and correspondent who had a stormy tenure at the network. Henry was suspended for roughly four months in 2016 after carrying on an extramarital relationship with a Las Vegas hostess on company time. He returned to work and again climbed the hierarchy, becoming a co-host of the morning program “America’s Newsroom.”

Earlier this month, however, Fox News announced it had fired Henry over sexual misconduct allegations the network received on June 25. “Based on investigative findings, Ed has been terminated,” said top Fox News officials in a memo to colleagues. The conduct in question took place “years ago,” said the memo. At the time, Wigdor told the media that the firm wasn’t in a position to “share any further information.”

Now the other shoe has dropped. The complaint is detailed and not suitable for republication in a family newspaper such as this one.

Ed Henry, former Fox chief white house correspondentIt begins with a caution in red ink: “TRIGGER WARNING: THIS DOCUMENT CONTAINS HIGHLY GRAPHIC INFORMATION OF A SEXUAL NATURE, INCLUDING SEXUAL ASSAULT.” It then alleges that Henry “preyed upon, manipulated and groomed Ms. Eckhart starting at the young age of 24, by exerting his abuse of power over her and her career. Mr. Henry not only leveraged this imbalance of power for control over his victim, Ms. Eckhart, but asked her to be his ‘sex slave’ and his ‘little whore,’ and threatened punishment and retaliation if Ms. Eckhart did not comply with his sexual demands.”

According to the document, Henry raped Eckhart at a hotel where the network puts up visiting employees. Eckhart was “helpless and restrained in metal handcuffs, as Mr. Henry preformed sadistic acts on her without her consent that left her injured, bruised and battered with bloody wrists.”

Included in the complaint are alleged text messages between Henry and Eckhart — messages that “establish Mr. Henry’s delusions and prove his violence,” according to the complaint. “Gona make you my little whore again,” reads one of them. Fox has denied allegations against others accused.

  • CBS News interview with plaintiffs Jennifer Eckhart and Cathy Areu here.

July 17

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Twitter just proved it can’t keep the accounts of global leaders safe, Cat Zakrzewski, July 17, 2020 (print ed.). The massive Twitter breach yesterday wasn't just disruptive. It was a sobering reminder that even the most powerful social networks are vulnerable to attacks.

The hack impacted everyone from Joe Biden to Elon Musk, raising new concerns about Twitter’s ability to keep global leaders’ accounts safe. It's sure to have wide-ranging implications for the service that has become a core communication channel in American society, disseminating everything from President Trump's rockets to corporate news.

twitter bird Custom“The problem is that we all rely on Twitter as this public space that is safe and secure, and we know that the tweets that someone like a Joe Biden is sending out are authentic,” Harper Reed, an entrepreneur who served as the 2012 Obama campaign’s chief technology officer, told me. “Twitter has proven to us that may not be true.”

Accounts belonging to prominent billionaires and politicians began posting similar messages yesterday afternoon asking for money to be sent to cryptocurrency accounts, Rachel Lerman, Joseph Marks and I reported. The messages received thousands of likes before they were taken off Twitter, and in some instances, they were posted again from the same account.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Do Progressives Have a Free Speech Problem? Michelle Goldberg, July 17, 2020 (print ed.). The illiberal left is a lot less threatening than the right. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

An acquaintance came to me a few weeks ago with the rough draft of a letter about free speech and asked me to sign. I declined, in part because it denounced “cancel culture.” As I wrote in an email, the phrase “‘cancel culture,’ while it describes something real, has been rendered sort of useless because it’s so often used by right-wing whiners like Ivanka Trump who think protests against them violate their free speech.”

A little later my acquaintance came back to me with a new version, which didn’t mention “cancel culture.” Like the people who wrote the letter, I think left-wing illiberalism is a problem, though I’ve mostly stopped writing about it since Donald Trump was elected, because it seems like complaining about a bee sting when you have Stage IV cancer.

So I signed. The statement, published in Harper’s Magazine as “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate,” spawned takes and countertakes, most of them, despite my modest effort, about “cancel culture.” nefit enormously from a vaccine, they remain distrustful of a medical establishment with a history that includes the Tuskegee syphilis study and surgical experiments on enslaved people — not to mention the ongoing disparities they confront in the U.S. health-care system.

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Fox News Staffers Erupt Over Network’s Racism: Bosses ‘Created a White Supremacist Cell,’ Lachlan Cartwright, Lloyd Grove, Andrew Kirell, Noah Shachtman, Justin Baragona, July 17, 2020. A heated early-June phone call between Fox execs and Black staffers was just the beginning of an internal revolt against racism at the network, insiders told The Daily Beast.

Four days after Fox News aired a particularly tone-deaf graphic connecting the killings of Black men—including George Floyd and Martin Luther King Jr.—to stock market gains, many of the network’s Black staffers took part in a phone call with company brass to confront Fox’s increasingly racist and hostile rhetoric towards the protests against police brutality.

It did not go well.

fox news logo SmallThe call on June 9 lasted more than 90 minutes and included Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott, President Jay Wallace, and HR chief Kevin Lord, people familiar with the matter told The Daily Beast. It was led by Scott, who is white, and Marsheila J. Hayes, the vice president of diversity and inclusion at Fox Corporation, who is Black.

It was almost immediately rife with tension. One staffer directly asked why Bret Baier—the anchor of the network’s key weekday news broadcast, Special Report, which aired the offensive graphic—was not on the call, nor any other white on-air talent. (Baier had previously apologized for the “major screw-up,” noting that, because the show bears his name, “the buck stops with me.” Fox News also apologized for the “insensitivity” of the infographic, adding that it “should have never aired on television without full context.”)

Other participants on the call expressed anger and distress about rampant racism at Fox, both on- and off-air.

July 16

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Twitter just proved it can’t keep the accounts of global leaders safe, Cat Zakrzewski, July 16, 2020. The massive Twitter breach yesterday wasn't just disruptive. It was a sobering reminder that even the most powerful social networks are vulnerable to attacks.twitter bird Custom

The hack impacted everyone from Joe Biden to Elon Musk, raising new concerns about Twitter’s ability to keep global leaders’ accounts safe. It's sure to have wide-ranging implications for the service that has become a core communication channel in American society, disseminating everything from President Trump's rockets to corporate news.

“The problem is that we all rely on Twitter as this public space that is safe and secure, and we know that the tweets that someone like a Joe Biden is sending out are authentic,” Harper Reed, an entrepreneur who served as the 2012 Obama campaign’s chief technology officer, told me. “Twitter has proven to us that may not be true.”

Accounts belonging to prominent billionaires and politicians began posting similar messages yesterday afternoon asking for money to be sent to cryptocurrency accounts, Rachel Lerman, Joseph Marks and I reported. The messages received thousands of likes before they were taken off Twitter, and in some instances, they were posted again from the same account.

  • Washington Post, Twitter hack hits prominent accounts, July 16, 2020.

washington post logoapple logo rainbowWashington Post, Apple wins victory against E.U. as court rules it does not have to pay $14.8 billion in back taxes, Michael Birnbaum, July 16, 2020 (print ed.).  An appeals court crimped the European Union’s aggressive antitrust enforcement effort against the tech giant.

Mediaite, Photographer Catches Topics in Kayleigh McEnany’s Briefing Binder: Obama, Hate, Golf, Mueller, Lies, LGBT and More, Reed Richardson, July 16, 2020. A Reuters photograph of White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s vast briefing binder offered a peek behind the curtain of the Trump administration’s messaging priorities.

Taken from the side of the White House briefing room podium, the photograph catches McEnany, right, opening the book, exposing dozens of alphabetized tabs with short category names. During her tenure, McEnany has developed a reputation for flipping open her briefing book after a particularly confrontational question and reading verbatim from pre-written responses, which often included canned attacks on the press or praise from allies.

In the photo takayleigh mcenany white house file Customken at Thursday’s White House briefing, McEnany’s tabs include a number evergreen topics, but several recent ones as well. “Covid” and “Test” as well as “PPE,” “Masks,” “CDC,” and “Cases” suggest a healthy amount of prepared remarks on the raging pandemic. But also included in the binder were more ephemeral topics, like “Goya” about the controversy over the Trump-led counter-backlash to a liberal boycott of the food company, “Mary” which, presumably, refers to the president’s niece and her damning tell-all book, and “Hogan,” which likely alluded to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s scathing Washington Post essay condemning Trump’s pandemic response. Also included were notable files on former President Barack “Obama,” as well as subjects used to frequently criticize Trump like “Golf,” “Russia,” “Hate,” and a misspelled “Meuller.”

But many of the tabs spoke to this White House’s favorite boogeymen, with categories such as “Media,” “Lies,” “China,” “BLM,” “Privil” suggesting white privilege, and one simply labeled “Absurd.” “Statues” was also included as was “LGBT.” Notably, one tab was labeled “Karl,” which might be an oppo brief against ABC News White House correspondent Jon Karl, who has frequently clashed with Trump at press conferences.

Finally, in what appeared to be the last tab, at the bottom of the book, was one labeled “Wins.”

Mediaite, ‘They’re All Cowards’: Spurs Coach Popovich Shreds Texas Leaders Over Pandemic Response, Says Team is Safer in Florida, Sarah Rumpf, July 16, 2020. ‘They’re All Cowards’: Spurs Coach Popovich Shreds Texas Leaders Over Pandemic Response, Says Team is Safer in Florida.

Gregg Popovich is well known for not doing two things: losing games and holding his tongue. The outspoken San Antonio Spurs head coach lived up to his reputation during a media nba logosession Thursday, calling out Texas state leaders as “cowards” for their handling of the coronavirus pandemic and saying that he feels that his team is safer in Florida.

The Spurs, like other NBA teams, are currently in what the league has deemed the “bubble” in Orlando, Florida, quarantined to their hotel rooms, gyms, and courts, and practicing for an upcoming end to the 2019–20 season, like none other in history.

Coronavirus cases have been spiking in a number of areas around the country, including both the Spurs’ home state of Texas, and Florida where they are now. A reporter for a San Antonio CBS-TV station asked Popovich what he thought about those outbreaks, and he responded by calling the bubble “one of the safest places you could be.”

Wearing a black t-shirt that said in all-capital letters “VOTE: YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT,” Popovich turned his comments to the situation in Texas.

“We’ve been all over the map in Texas,” he said. “Nobody knows what the hell’s going on. You know, we have a lieutenant governor [Dan Patrick] who’s decided he doesn’t want to listen to [Dr. Anthony] Fauci and those people anymore.”

“Well, that makes a lot of sense,” Popovich added, the sarcastic tone clear in his voice. “Come on. How safe can that be?”

Popovich called the messaging coming from state leaders “ridiculous,” and turned his criticism towards Gov. Greg Abbott.

Mediaite, WATCH: Mary Trump Claims ‘Virulently Racist’ Donald Trump Has Used N-Word, Anti-Semitic Slurs, KJ Edelman, July 16, 2020. Mary Trump claimed that she has heard her uncle, President Donald Trump, use the N-word and anti-Semitic slurs in a new interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Thursday night. A preview clip of the interview aired on the Thursday evening edition of NBC Nightly News.

“I have to press you on it a little bit just to ask if the president, if your uncle, was an exception to that in your family or if he — if you heard — you ever heard him express either his anti-Semitic slurs or other sentiments like that,” Maddow asked the president’s niece, who is on a book tour for her tell-all Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. “Or do you mean this was an ambient thing in your family but you can’t say you ever heard it from him or did you hear it from him, too?”

“Oh yeah, of course I did,” Mary said. “And I don’t think that should surprise anybody, given how virulently racist he is today.” Maddow then had Trump specifically confirm one-by-one that she had heard her uncle use both the N-word and anti-Semitic slurs.

The 55-year-old psychologist started her press tour for her book this week after a judge ruled that she was allowed to speak freely about it. In its first day, the book sold almost 1 million copies.

In excerpts from her book, she has accused Trump of cheating on his SATs, detailed how he was humiliated and “destroyed” by his father, and explain how Trump’s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, mocked her brother for running in the 2016 election and for only going to church for PR purposes.

In Mary’s first interview with ABC News on Tuesday, she said she initially supported him but now wants him to resign. She also said he’s “utterly incapable of leading” and needed to “stop this” and “make up” for not acting sooner.

July 15

washington post logoWashington Post, The conservative alternative to Twitter wants to be a place for free speech for all. It turns out, rules still apply, Rachel Lerman,July 15, 2020. A crackdown by Twitter and Facebook against messages from President Trump that the companies said violate their policies is fueling Parler’s rise. But the site is quickly discovering the limits of free expression.

July 14

mcclatchy logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: 'A lot of uncertainty’: Staffers at renowned McClatchy newspapers mull bankruptcy sale, Paul Farhi, July 14, 2020. America’s newest newspaper baron is a hedge fund whose co-founder and chief executive has ties to President Trump’s most tabloid-worthy stories and whose publishing assets include the National Enquirer.

Chatham Asset Management, the winner of a bankruptcy court auction for the McClatchy Co., will take over a continent-spanning chain of 30 prominent daily newspapers, including the Miami Herald, the Sacramento Bee and the Charlotte Observer.

The agreement, still subject to final court approval, will elevate Chatham and its chief executive, Anthony Melchiorre, to major-player status in an industry that faced existential challenges even before the coronavirus pandemic pulverized many news organizations. Like its peers, McClatchy has been desiccated after years of deserting advertisers, disappearing readers and evaporating profit.

chatham partners.logoChatham has announced few specific plans for McClatchy, to which it has loaned money for more than a decade. But its emergence as the company’s controlling shareholder has sparked a new round of hope and anxiety in McClatchy’s weary newsrooms.

“We don’t know what they’re up to, and that’s an ominous feeling,” said Mary Ellen Klas, the Miami Herald’s Tallahassee bureau chief, on Monday, a day after the sale. “We fear that they’re efficiency experts, not journalists, and that’s a daunting prospect if you care about reporting the news. There’s a lot of uncertainty.”

By Klas’s count, the Herald now has about 130 journalists left, down from about 400 when McClatchy acquired the newspaper in 2006 in its ill-starred takeover of the Knight Ridder chain for $4.5 billion.

“We’ve been cut to the bone,” said Klas’s colleague, investigative reporter Julie K. Brown. “I am hopeful that they understand that to be profitable, you need good journalism. That means you need people. Investigative reporting is grueling and expensive. You have to invest in it.” Brown’s articles on the victims of convicted sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein in late 2018 helped revive interest in the case and led to his arrest.

McClatchy, hobbled by debt and pension obligations, filed for Chapter 11 protection in February. Under a restructuring plan submitted to a bankruptcy court in New York, Chatham — its largest investor outside of the McClatchy family and biggest debt-holder — will emerge as the sole owner and take the company private. The companies did not put a price on the deal announced Sunday, but in an earlier filing, Chatham offered roughly $300 million in a combination of restructured debt and at least $30 million in cash.

The shedding of much of McClatchy’s debt through bankruptcy court gives Chatham some financial breathing room, said Rick Edmonds, a media-business analyst at the Poynter Institute. It’s possible, he said, that Melchiorre could sell some McClatchy titles to raise money or that he would consider merging the company with another chain owner to cut costs further.

Chatham — named by Melchiorre after the suburban New Jersey township where the firm is based — is among a group of private-equity firms that have emerged in the past decade as the newly dominant players in the newspaper business. Its peers include Alden Global Capital, Fortress Investment Group and Apollo Global Management. Fortress and Apollo control the largest publisher, Gannett Co., which owns USA Today and 250 other dailies; Alden owns Digital First Media, which publishes some 50 papers, including the Denver Post and the San Jose Mercury News.

Heath Freeman is the hedge fund guy who says he wants to save local news. Somehow, no one’s buying it.

Though newspapers have been declining for years, these investors have wrung profits from them through severe cost-cutting measures, including layoffs and the sale of assets such as the papers’ headquarters buildings. The strategy, sometimes derided as “vulture capitalism,” has gradually weakened newspapers but has been financially lucrative.

Melchiorre, 52, is a former Wall Street junk-bond trader who co-founded Chatham in 2003. Chatham became involved in publishing through its 2014 acquisition of American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer. It later acquired a Canadian company, Postmedia, which owns the National Post, the Ottawa Citizen and the Montreal Gazette.

Enquirer publisher David Pecker and AMI admitted in 2018 that they had funneled $150,000 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal in 2016 to suppress her story of a 10-month affair with Trump, starting in 2006, to help his presidential election prospects. The admission about the tactic — known as “catch and kill” — came as part of a non-prosecution agreement with the Justice Department; in exchange, Pecker and AMI agreed to cooperate with an investigation.

Melchiorre and his wife were guests at the White House in July 2017 for a dinner with Trump that was arranged by Pecker, according to “The Fixers,” a book by Wall Street Journal reporters Joe Palazzolo and Michael Rothfeld that detailed AMI’s catch-and-kill methods. The dinner included Kacy Grine, a French businessman and adviser to Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, and Dylan Howard, then the editorial director of AMI.

AMI went on to produce a glossy magazine that praised Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman, an unusual subject choice for a company known for its supermarket tabloids. The CIA later concluded that Salman approved the killing and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident Saudi journalist who wrote for The Washington Post.

Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos, who owns The Post, has also suggested that Salman’s intelligence services were behind the hacking of his cellphone around the time the Enquirer published a story exposing his extramarital affair last year. Bezos said Howard used the intimate photos to try to blackmail him into making statements supportive of AMI; instead, Bezos made the allegations public.

Months later, the scandal-weary Chatham ordered AMI to sell the National Enquirer. Though it was soon announced that Hudson News, owner of a chain of airport newsstands, had made a winning offer to buy the tabloid, more than a year later the deal has apparently not been finalized.

Chatham in a statement said that it was “pleased with the outcome of the auction” for McClatchy and that it was “committed to preserving newsroom jobs and independent journalism that serve and inform local communities during this important time.”

The mayors of Miami-Dade County, Fla., Kansas City, Mo., Raleigh, N.C., and Lexington, Ky., all wrote to the bankruptcy court judge asking that he approve a sale to a responsible steward of journalism.

“Our community needs a strong daily paper that is locally rooted and locally invested in our community, motivated by the desire to serve the broader public interest and not the narrow bottom line,” Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin wrote. “Please consider paths for each of the local McClatchy papers that will help sustain and support strong, independent journalism.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Trump ad falsely suggests Biden supports defunding police, Glenn Kessler, July 14, 2020. The Trump campaign is spending big money to promote a Four-Pinocchio ad with a false narrative.

“Joe Biden’s supporters are fighting to defund police departments. Violent crime has exploded. You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”

— Text of a Trump campaign ad, “Abolished,” over images of violence and a recording of a police answering machine, released July 2, 2020.

The Trump campaign has a problem. Former vice president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has firmly rejected calls from left-wing activists to “defund police.” But clearly the Trump campaign wants to tag him with the somewhat confusing slogan. So it produced an ad that slickly tries to get around this uncomfortable fact.

The Trump campaign must think the effort is a winner. Ben Taber, an account manager at Advertising Analytics, says that as of July 13, the Trump campaign had spent $6.7 million placing the ad on network television and on local stations in Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Arizona, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nevada, Iowa, New Mexico and Michigan.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lincoln Project video editor is out over crude tweets about female anatomy, Amanda Becker, July 14, 2020. A  video editor who shaped the buzzy Lincoln Project ads needling President Trump is no longer affiliated with the Republican organization over a series of past tweets in which he used offensive slang for female anatomy to insult political rivals.

Ben Howe, who came of age politically making anti-Obama ads during the rise of the tea party, did not publicly tout his work for the super PAC formed by a group of high-level Republican operatives who have broken ranks with the party over Trump’s presidency until a recent interview with Vanity Fair. He was described in the article as “the creative mind, video editor, and, he said, sometimes narrating voice on many of the group’s ads.”

The 19th, a nonprofit news outlet, had emailed the Lincoln Project about a series of Twitter posts made by Howe in the years after Trump’s election that deployed female anatomy as an insult, calling rivals a “vagina” or “twat,” or in some instances using a more profane term.

“Based on these unacceptable and offensive posts, and those that came to light last week, Ben Howe is no longer affiliated with the Lincoln Project, effective immediately,” Keith Edwards, the group’s spokesman, said in a statement.

Last week, the Daily Dot resurfaced tweets from Howe that defended Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. They were published by Talking Points Memo shortly after they were made in 2014 and have since been deleted.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Ivanka Trump just made a total mess for herself, Bill Palmer, July 14, 2020. By the time Tuesday night rolled around, Ivanka Trump had already thoroughly embarrassed ivanka trump goya pose resized july 14 2020herself by rolling out a “Find Something New” campaign which encouraged unemployed Americans to simply find a new career by magic wand or something. The Trumps never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, so Ivanka found a way to humiliate herself even further.

Ivanka Trump posted this tweet – and yes, it’s real:

Ivanka Trump
@IvankaTrump


If it’s Goya, it has to be good.
Si es Goya, tiene que ser bueno.

That’s right, Ivanka Trump is now doing straight up product placement, like something out of The Price Is Right, to try to reward a brand that’s facing widespread boycotts because its CEO came out in support of a sinking Donald Trump. The thing is, Ivanka just stepped in it. This idiotic photo of her will be thrown back in her face for as long as she’s in the public eye.

nsa headquarters strategic culture foundation

Headquarters of the National Security Agency in Maryland.

The Corbett Report via YouTube, Conspiracy Theorists Are Wrong!!! . . . Even When They're Right! James Corbett, right, james corbettJuly 14, 2020 (13:34 min. video). The host reviews;Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State, a new book by Pulitzer-winning Washington Post national security reporter Barton Gellman.

Corbett found remarkable the book's description of the FIRSTFRUITS scoop in 2005 by independent journalist Wayne Madsen' about an operation at the National Security Agency (NSA), where Madsen had worked for a year many years previous on detail from his work as a Navy intelligence officer.

In 2005, Madsen, below left, reported based on sources that an operation codenamed FIRSTFRUITS was targeting journalists and their sources, an undertaking at odds with the historic and supposed ban at NSA on spying on Americans.

Madsen's revelations were ignored by other journalists but were confirmed nearly a decade later in mainstream media accounts, including those based on the 2013 revelations of former NSA and CIA analyst Edward Snowden. Gellman was awarded a Pulitzer along with two others, Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian and independent filmmaker Laura Poitras, based on their reporting of Snowden's revelations.

Corbett writes that Gellman unwittingly reveals in his account his own deep biases in favor of establishment theories and sources.

"Then came the day," Corbett quotes Gellman as writing, "I found my name in the Snowden archives" as well as verifacation that the NSA had a database called FIRSTFRUITS focused on journalists, as Madsen had reported, and located in the NSA's Denial and Deception unit within the agency's Signals Intelligence Unit.

washington post logoWashington Post, New York Times shreds Trump campaign lawsuit over Russia op-ed, Erik Wemple, July 14, 2020 (print ed.). The Times filed a motion Thursday to dismiss a complaint the Trump campaign filed in February over an opinion piece the newspaper published in 2019 by former executive editor Max Frankel. Coming just after Attorney General William P. Barr’s faulty summary of the Mueller report, Frankel argued that while there may not have been criminal cooperation/collusion/conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians, there was a more ambient “overarching deal."

donald trump twitterThe complaint, filed in New York State Supreme Court and drafted by attorney Charles Harder, rests on a disingenuous reading of the Frankel column as a literal assertion of conspiracy that was refuted by the Mueller report. In fact, the column made no such case, as is clear from the headline and the very first paragraph. The lawsuit is a time-wasting joke, as the Erik Wemple Blog outlined at the time.

There’s more to the story, though. In its motion to dismiss, the Times argues that Frankel’s article is straight-up opinion and not a statement of fact. That distinction is central to the paper’s defense, since “[o]nly false statements can be grounds for a libel action,” as the motion states. To boost its argument in this regard, the newspaper made reference to a case the New York State Supreme Court decided a few years ago: Cheri Jacobus v. Donald J. Trump, Corey Lewandowski, and Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.

ny times logoNew York Times, Radio Host Loses Her Show Over English-Only Rant, Derrick Bryson Taylor and Allyson Waller, July 14, 2020. A New Hampshire radio station has severed ties with a conservative radio host who berated landscape workers for speaking Spanish in a widely shared video.

The host, Dianna Ploss, “is no longer associated or affiliated in any way with WSMN or Bartis-Russell Broadcasting LLC,” WSMN Broadcasting said in a statement on Sunday. “We at WSMN value freedom of speech, freedom of expression and assembly. We will not tolerate discrimination, racism or hatred.”

The station added that it would continue to present on-air opportunities for “discussion, education and the exchange of opinions and ideas.”

Ms. Ploss, who hosted “The Dianna Ploss Show,” recorded herself on Friday confronting several employees of Morin’s Landscaping as they were setting up potted trees on Main Street in Nashua, N.H., about 35 miles south of Concord, the capital.

One of the workers responds that they did not work for the state.

Ms. Ploss goes on to ask if any of the workers are in the country illegally. “Speak English,” Ms. Ploss repeats to the workers.

In the video, Ms. Ploss is confronted by a man who asks why she is harassing the workers. “He’s a Black man, and he’s going to protect the brown man from this white woman who’s practicing white privilege because she happened to walk by and heard this guy talking to all of these guys, doing this work, in Spanish,” she says.

Ms. Ploss couldn’t be reached for comment on Tuesday.

A fervent supporter of President Trump, Ms. Ploss has more than 43,000 followers on Facebook and more than 34,000 on Twitter. Calling herself an “America First Activist,” she hosts weekly shows on Facebook Live and leads the group “Massachusetts 4 Trump.”

George Russell, the owner of WSMN Broadcasting, said Tuesday that Ms. Ploss’s conservative show was no longer airing on the station, adding that she had been a host at the station for two and a half years.

July 13

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washington post logoWashington Post, Chatham hedge fund wins auction for bankrupt news publisher McClatchy, Jacob Bogage, July 13, 2020. The deal, pending court approval, would take the publisher of the Miami Herald and Kansas City Star out of family control.

Jersey-based hedge fund Chatham Asset Management submitted the winning bid for the McClatchy Co., five months after the publisher of the Miami Herald, Kansas City Star and more than two dozen other newspapers filed for bankruptcy.

The companies did not put a price on the deal announced Sunday, which comes after a judge rejected a last-minute challenge by another hedge fund. But in an earlier filling, Chatham offered roughly $300 million in a combination of restructured debt and at least $30 million in cash.

The plan is subject to bankruptcy court approval; a hearing is set for July 24.

McClatchy, hobbled by debt and pension obligations, filed for Chapter 11 protection in February. Under the restructuring plan submitted to U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York, Chatham, its largest investor outside of the McClatchy family, would emerge as the sole owner and take the company private.

The publisher has said it received interest from more than 20 companies, but could provide no details about any of the bids after Judge Michael E. Wiles ordered them sealed.

Competing hedge fund Alden Global Capital filed an emergency motion to delay the bankruptcy auction, but the bid was denied. Its media business, run under the name Digital First Media, owns 98 newspapers, including the Denver Post, Orange County Register, San Jose Mercury News and St. Paul Pioneer Press.

But even before the coronavirus recession took hold, local publishers had long struggled with online business models and dozens of papers were snapped up by private-equity firms — including Alden and GateHouse Media, which now owns Gannett — that pursued profitability through steep retrenchments.

ny times logoNew York Times, Columnist: While America Looks Away, Autocrats Crack Down on Digital News Sites, Ben Smith, July 13, 2020 (print ed.). Around the world, independent journalism is on the defensive. Independent journalism is on the defensive, from Hungary to Malaysia.

Like many American media types, I spent a lot of time last week reading heated arguments about free speech. I was wondering if I, too, could count myself as a “veteran of the Twitter wars” when Steven Gan distracted me by telling me about his car.

Mr. Gan, the co-founder and editor in chief of Malaysia’s most important political news site, is leaving his hatchback at home on Monday morning and catching a ride to court with a colleague. That’s because Mr. Gan thinks there’s a good chance he’ll be going straight from the courthouse to jail.

The nominal charge against him is contempt of court, a charge brought because his site, Malaysiakini, briefly hosted user comments insulting the judiciary. But his real crime, in the eyes of the government, appears to be his years of straightforward journalism, often chronicling the corruption of the faction that recently retook power in Malaysia.

“Power is consolidating power” around the world, said Maria Ressa, the co-founder of the Filipino site Rappler, who has been watching with alarm and sympathy from Manila, across the South China Sea. “By taking out independent news groups, it’s easier for the voice with the loudest megaphone to shape reality.”

washington post logoWashington Post, New York Times shreds Trump campaign lawsuit over Russia op-ed, Erik Wemple, July 13, 2020. The Times filed a motion Thursday to dismiss a complaint the Trump campaign filed in February over an opinion piece the newspaper published in 2019 by former executive editor Max Frankel. Coming just after Attorney General William P. Barr’s faulty summary of the Mueller report, Frankel argued that while there may not have been criminal cooperation/collusion/conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians, there was a more ambient “overarching deal."

The complaint, filed in New York State Supreme Court and drafted by attorney Charles Harder, rests on a disingenuous reading of the Frankel column as a literal assertion of conspiracy that was refuted by the Mueller report. In fact, the column made no such case, as is clear from the headline and the very first paragraph. The lawsuit is a time-wasting joke, as the Erik Wemple Blog outlined at the time.

There’s more to the story, though. In its motion to dismiss, the Times argues that Frankel’s article is straight-up opinion and not a statement of fact. That distinction is central to the paper’s defense, since “[o]nly false statements can be grounds for a libel action,” as the motion states. To boost its argument in this regard, the newspaper made reference to a case the New York State Supreme Court decided a few years ago: Cheri Jacobus v. Donald J. Trump, Corey Lewandowski, and Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.

July 11

tucker carlson djt

washington post logoWashington Post, Tucker Carlson’s chief writer resigns over racist and sexist posts, the latest trouble for Fox’s most controversial star, Sarah Ellison, July 11, 2020. Following an inquiry from a reporter, it took less than a day for Fox News to receive the resignation of Tucker Carlson’s chief writer, who was exposed for the racist and sexist messages he had been covertly sharing on an online forum.

Among his posts, Blake Neff had smeared black people as lazy and criminal, stated that he would not get medical care from an Asian doctor, used homophobic slurs and repeatedly mocked a female college acquaintance by reposting her Facebook messages and photos for several years.

fox news logo SmallTop newsroom officials called Neff’s posts “horrendous” and “deeply offensive” in a memo to staff Saturday, a day after they were exposed in a CNN story. “FOX News Media strongly condemns this horrific racist, misogynistic and homophobic behavior,” said the memo from Suzanne Scott and Jay Wallace, the chief executive and president of Fox News, respectively. “Make no mistake, actions such as his cannot and will not be tolerated at any time in any part of our work force.”

July 8

washington post logoWashington Post Magazine, Commentary: Goodbye to the Hometown Paper, Margaret Sullivan, right, July 8, 2020 (July 12 print ed.). Over her long career as a journalist, Margaret Sullivan has margaret sullivan 2015 photowatched the decline of local news with growing alarm. Now it’s vanishing, leaving our very democracy in peril,

In the summer of 2019, with a certain amount of trepidation, I attended a party at the Buffalo News, the daily newspaper serving my hometown of Buffalo and the surrounding region. It would be the first time I’d been back in the building since I’d stepped down as editor in 2012 to become the public editor of the New York Times.

Between 2008 and 2017, American newspapers cut 45 percent of their newsroom staffs; even deeper cutbacks came in the years after that. Some of the most trusted sources of news are slipping away, never to return. The consequences may not always be obvious, but they are insidious. As a major PEN America study concluded in 2019: “As local journalism declines, government officials conduct themselves with less integrity, efficiency, and effectiveness, and corporate malfeasance goes unchecked. With the loss of chris collins olocal news, citizens are: less likely to vote, less politically informed, and less likely to run for office.” Democracy weakens, in other words, and loses its foundations.

The tight connection between local news and good citizenship became abundantly clear in 2018 for Nate McMurray, the Democratic candidate for Congress in a heavily Republican district in western New York.

Although the supervisor of the town of Grand Island was battling a party enrollment skewed against him, he had one monumental advantage: His Republican opponent, incumbent Rep. Chris Collins, left, had just been indicted on insider trading charges.

The Buffalo News’s Washington correspondent, Jerry Zremski, had broken the story, and the paper had followed developments diligently for months. Many who would likely have voted for the incumbent crossed the aisle to vote blue. But that wasn’t always the case in the farther-flung parts of the sprawling congressional district that were less served by strong local news.

The problem, as McMurray saw it, was that voters in those parts were shockingly uninformed. “I’d be going door-to-door, or meeting with people at a diner or a fair, for example, and in the most isolated areas, a lot of people had no idea that their own congressman had been indicted,” McMurray told me. One of the toughest places, he said, was Orleans County, which University of North Carolina journalism professor Penny Muse Abernathy identifies as a “news desert” — i.e., a place with little or no local news.

July 7

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The Grayzone, Opinion: How the Pentagon failed to sell Afghan government’s bunk ‘Bountygate’ story to US intelligence agencies, Gareth Porter, July 7, 2020. Another New York TimesRussiagate bombshell turns out to be a dud, as dodgy stories spun out by Afghan intelligence and exploited by the Pentagon ultimately failed to convince US intelligence agencies. The New York Times dropped another Russiagate bombshell on June 26 with a sensational front-page story headlined, “Russia Secretly Offered Afghan Militants Bounties to Kill U.S. Troops, Intelligence Says.” A predictable media and political frenzy followed, reviving the anti-Russian hysteria that has excited the Beltway establishment for the past four years.

But a closer look at the reporting by the Times and other mainstream outlets vying to confirm its coverage reveals another scandal not unlike Russiagate itself: the core elements of the story appear to have been fabricated by Afghan government intelligence to derail a potential US troop withdrawal from the country. And they were leaked to the Times and other outlets by US national security state officials who shared an agenda with their Afghan allies.

In the days following the story’s publication, the maneuvers of the Afghan regime and US national security bureaucracy encountered an unexpected political obstacle: US intelligence agencies began offering a series of low confidence assessments in the Afghan government’s self-interested intelligence claims, judging them to be highly suspect at best, and altogether bogus at worst.

In light of this dramatic development, the Times’ initial report appears to have been the product of a sensationalistic disinformation dump aimed at prolonging the failed Afghan war in the face of President Donald Trump’s plans to withdraw US troops from it.

The Times not only broke the Bountygate story but commissioned squads of reporters comprising nine different correspondents to write eight articles hyping the supposed scandal in the course of eight days. Its coverage displayed the paper’s usual habit of regurgitating bits of dubious information furnished to its correspondents by faceless national security sources. In the days after the Times’ dramatic publication, its correspondent squads were forced to revise the story line to correct an account that ultimately turned out to be false on practically every important point.

The Bountygate saga began on June 26, with a Times report declaring, “The United States concluded months ago” that the Russians “had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks last year.” The report suggested that US intelligence analysts had reached a firm conclusion on Russian bounties as early as January. A follow-up Times report portrayed the shocking discovery of the lurid Russian plot thanks to the recovery of a large amount of U.S. cash from a “raid on a Taliban outpost.” That article sourced its claim to the interrogations of “captured Afghan militants and criminals.”

However, subsequent reporting revealed that the “US intelligence reports” about a Russian plot to distribute bounties through Afghan middlemen were not generated by US intelligence at all.

The Times reported first on June 28, then again on June 30, that a large amount of cash found at a “Taliban outpost” or a “Taliban site” had led U.S. intelligence to suspect the Russian plot. But the Times had to walk that claim back, revealing on July 1 that the raid that turned up $500,000 in cash had in fact targeted the Kabul home of Rahmatullah Azizi, an Afghan businessmen said to have been involved in both drug trafficking and contracting for part of the billions of dollars the United States spent on construction projects. 

AP via Washington Post, Tucker Carlson’s continued ‘coward’ attack on Sen. Tammy Duckworth draws swift backlash, Jeremy Barr, July 8, 2020. Fox News host Tucker Carlson is drawing heat from prominent Democrats, including presidential candidate Joe Biden, for his attacks on Sen. Tammy Duckworth.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson has escalated his criticism of Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), lambasting the double-amputee combat veteran as a “coward,” “fraud” and “moron” on his second night of attacks against her. While Carlson is no stranger to criticism, the reaction to his latest remarks has been particularly swift.

On the Monday night edition of his prime-time show, Carlson called Duckworth “a deeply silly and unimpressive person” who “[hates] America,” taking issue with comments she made on CNN about having a “national dialogue” regarding monuments of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson amid the larger reckoning on race following the killing of George Floyd.

In response, Duckworth responded on Twitter that Carlson should “walk a mile in my legs and then tell me whether or not I love America.” (In 2004, Duckworth lost both her legs when a Blackhawk helicopter she was co-piloting was shot down in Iraq.)

But, on Tuesday night, Carlson ratcheted up his criticism of the senator even further. “What a coward,” he said. “Tammy Duckworth is also a fraud.”

Two Democratic senators who have appeared recently as guests on Fox News criticized Carlson’s comments in statements to The Washington Post on Wednesday afternoon.

“Tucker Carlson’s comments were reprehensible, and I have no interest in appearing on his hateful, pro-Trump propaganda show,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). “His baseless attacks on decorated war veteran Tammy Duckworth are just another attempt to distract Americans from the facts and the truth of Donald Trump’s failed leadership.”

“Senator Duckworth has made incredible sacrifices serving our country and for Tucker Carlson, who is not a veteran, to suggest she holds America in anything other than the highest regard is ludicrous,” said Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.). “I will continue appearing on Fox News with hosts that engage in fair and robust debates about the issues facing our country. I will not surrender to the political division people like Tucker Carlson are trying to sow.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Auditors call Facebook’s decision to prioritize free speech above other values a ‘tremendous setback,’ Elizabeth Dwoskin and Cat Zakrzewski, July 8, 2020. Civil rights auditors hired by Facebook criticized the social media giant's choice to leave untouched several posts by President Trump.

  • Washington Post, Opinion: What Lincoln’s life teaches us about monuments, David Von Drehle, July 8, 2020.
  • Washington Post, Opinion: ICE is putting international students in a terrible position — and hurting America, Margarita Konaev, July 8, 2020.

July 6

washington post logoWashington Post, Tell-all book by President Trump’s niece to be published two weeks earlier on July 14, Michael Kranish, July 6, 2020. A highly anticipated book by Mary L. Trump, the niece of President Trump, will be published two weeks earlier than planned after a court last week allowed Simon & Schuster to continue distributing copies. The book will be published on July 14 mary trump coverbecause of intense interest in it, the publisher announced Monday.

While the publisher last week was released from a temporary restraining order, Mary Trump is still under the order and is contesting it. In the meantime, her publisher released the book jacket and a news release that promised a sweeping indictment of the president’s psychological makeup.

“From this explosive book,” the news release said, “we learn how Donald acquired twisted behaviors and values” such as that “cheating is a way of life,” “taking responsibility for your failures is discouraged” and “qualities like empathy, kindness and expertise are punished.” It did not provide specifics, leaving that for the book’s publication.

The back cover of the book, also released Monday, said that “Donald is much as he was at three years old: incapable of growing, learning or evolving.” It says that Donald Trump feared his father’s rejection and “suffered deprivations that would scar him for life.”

kayleigh mcenany djt

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: McEnany butchers her defense of Trump’s Bubba Wallace tweet, Aaron Blake, July 6, 2020. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was pressed Monday on President Trump’s tweet that NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace should have “apologized” for his handling of an incident in which a noose-like rope appeared in his garage at a race.

In the process, though, McEnany misstated several key facts about the situation and offered an implausible argument for Trump’s motivation to tweet it.

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook, Google, Twitter halt review of Hong Kong requests for data, Rachel Lerman, July 6, 2020. The social media giants said they would pause reviewing such requests from Hong Kong until they had reviewed the new national security law imposed by the Chinese government.

July 5

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Militias flocked to Gettysburg to foil a supposed antifa flag burning, an apparent hoax created on social media, Shawn Boburg and Dalton Bennett, July 4, 2020. For weeks, a mysterious figure on social media talked up plans for antifa protesters to converge on this historical site on Independence Day to burn American flags, an event that seemed at times to border on the farcical.

“Let’s get together and burn flags in protest of thugs and animals in blue,” the anonymous person behind a Facebook page called Left Behind USA wrote in mid-June. There would be antifa face paint, the person wrote, and organizers would “be giving away free small flags to children to safely throw into the fire.”

As word spread, self-proclaimed militias, bikers, skinheads and far-right groups from outside the state issued a call to action, pledging in online videos and posts to come to Gettysburg to protect the Civil War monuments and the nation’s flag from desecration. Some said they would bring firearms and use force if necessary.

On Saturday afternoon, in the hours before the flag burning was to start, they flooded in by the hundreds — heavily armed and unaware, it seemed, that the mysterious Internet poster was not who the person claimed to be.

facebook logoBiographical details — some from the person’s Facebook page and others provided to The Washington Post in a series of messages — did not match official records. An image the person once posted on a profile page was a picture of a man taken by a German photographer for a stock photo service.

The episode at Gettysburg is a stark illustration of how shadowy figures on social media have stoked fears about the protests against racial injustice and excessive police force that have swept across the nation since the death of George Floyd in police custody on May 25.

Armed vigilantes lined the streets of small Idaho towns last month after false claims circulated online about antifa, a loose collection of activists who oppose fascism and have sometimes embraced property damage and violent protest in recent years. Similar hoaxes have befallen towns in New Jersey, South Dakota and Michigan in recent weeks.

It is not always clear who has made these false claims and why, whether they seek to advance a political agenda, antagonize people with whom they disagree or achieve some other goal.

Social media companies have in recent weeks shut down a handful of fake accounts created by white supremacist groups posing as antifa operatives in a bid to undermine peaceful protests.

In response to messages from The Post, the person managing the Left Behind USA account identified himself as 39-year-old Alan Jeffs, a lifelong Democrat-turned-anarchist from Pittsburgh who now lives in Des Moines.

The Post examined real estate, court and voter records, as well as other public documents, but could find no such person.

July 4

washington post logoWashington Post, Prospect of vaccine unites anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists and hippie moms in Germany, Loveday Morris and William Glucroft, July 4, 2020 (print ed.). german flagGerman health experts have warned that even if a coronavirus vaccine is approved, refusals could open the way to a resurgence of the virus.

While much of the world is aching for a coronavirus vaccine, Lilia Löffler is adamant that her three children won't be getting any jabs.

Shrugging off light rain to join a two-hour bike protest of shutdown rules, Löffler said that previously she vaccinated all her kids.

But she changed her mind after what she’s been hearing at demonstrations and reading on the Internet during the pandemic. She noted that her 6-year-old son is supposed to get a shot for measles ahead of school in the fall.“But he won’t get that,” she said. Or any other vaccination.

The possibility that Germany’s anti-vaccination movement may gain new adherents like Löffler has been a concern for health authorities, as the coronavirus unites a mishmash of groups resistant to the prospect of a vaccine, from far-right conspiracy theorists to hippie moms.

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ny times logoNew York Times, New Trump Appointee Puts Global Internet Freedom at Risk, Critics Say, Pranshu Verma and Edward Wong, July 4, 2020. A battle involving Michael Pack and a U.S.-funded tech group revolves around software from Falun Gong, the secretive, anti-Beijing spiritual movement with pro-Trump elements.

When Michael Pack, above, a conservative filmmaker and ally of Stephen K. Bannon, recently fired the heads of four U.S. government-funded news outlets, many became alarmed that he would turn the independently operated organizations, as well as the Voice of America, into “Trump TV.”

But Mr. Pack, the new chief executive of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, also cleaned house last month at the lesser-known Open Technology Fund, an internet freedom group overseen by the agency Mr. Pack now runs.

Many worry that the move could have an even greater effect.

In less than a decade, the Open Technology Fund has quietly become integral to the world’s repressed communities. Over two billion people in 60 countries rely on tools developed and supported by the fund, like Signal and Tor, to connect to the internet securely and send encrypted messages in authoritarian societies.

After Mr. Pack was confirmed for his new post on June 4, following a personal campaign of support by President Trump, Mr. Pack fired the technology group’s top officials and bipartisan board, an action now being fought in the courts. A federal judge on Thursday ruled in Mr. Pack’s favor, a decision that plaintiffs will likely appeal.

On Friday, Mr. Pack appointed an interim chief executive, James M. Miles, to head the fund, according to a letter obtained by The New York Times. Mr. Miles is little known in the internet freedom community, and his appointment needs approval from the fund’s new board, which is stacked with Trump administration officials and chaired by Mr. Pack.

The move was a victory for a lobbying effort backed by religious freedom advocates displeased with the fund’s work and who are often allied with conservative political figures.

epoch timesThis battle revolves around software developed by Falun Gong, the secretive spiritual movement persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party.

Some Falun Gong members have become notable players in American politics. The Epoch Times, a newspaper started by Falun Gong practitioners, has spent millions of dollars on pro-Trump ads, including conspiratorial ones, on Facebook and YouTube — and was even banned by Facebook last year from buying more ads because it had tried to evade advertising rules.

Now, allies of Falun Gong are making a big push for the Open Technology Fund and the State Department to give money to some of the group’s software, notably Ultrasurf, developed about a decade ago by a Falun Gong member.

 

June

June 29

 maria ressa rappler

Journalist Maria Ressa

USA Today, Opinion: Why Maria Ressa's fight for free speech and a free press should be America's fight, too, Kathy Kiely, June 29, 2020. Americans should care because powerful US usa today logocompanies are aiding and abetting Ressa’s censors and our tax dollars are going to Duterte's government.

Americans should care because powerful US companies are aiding and abetting Ressa’s censors and our tax dollars are going to Duterte's government. In the middle of a worldwide pandemic and a paroxysm of racial resentments in the United States, it would be tempting to avoid hurting our heads even further with the details of a complicated legal battle now unfolding in a faraway place. 

But if we believe in democracy and want to preserve it, journalist Maria Ressa’s battle for freedom must be ours as well.

rodrigo duterte philippines presidentRessa’s legal team was back in a Philippine court Monday to appeal the libel verdict handed down this month against her. It’s the latest twist in a legal battle that rivals Charles Dickens' famous novel Bleak House, a powerful allegory in which, as in Ressa’s case, legal technicalities end up overriding basic human morality and common sense.

A former CNN reporter raised in New Jersey after her parents fled martial law in the Philippines, Ressa eventually returned to her home country and founded Rappler, an innovative online news outlet.

Its investigations have drawn the ire of Rodrigo Duterte, right, the unsavory but hugely popular president.

Duterte does not brook criticism. He has already locked up one Philippine senator who criticized him, and he recently shut down one of the country’s leading broadcast networks. Against Rappler, Duterte is engaged in what might be called censorship by trial: Over the past 15 months, 11 cases have been leveled against the news organization or its employees. Ressa herself has had to post bail eight times just to stay out of jail.

Strategic Culture Foundation, Opinion: Trump’s ‘Alternate History’ and Rejection of Facts, Wayne Madsen, right, wayne madsen screen shotJune 29, 2020. Future historians will scratch their heads when researching the annals strategic culture logoand archives of the Donald Trump administration. Trump’s denial of basic facts about history, science, and even the weather will undoubtedly result in his administration and the subsequent fall-out from it being called the “Age of Unreason.” Trump and his administration often seize on erroneous information and turn them into, in what is in their minds, irrefutable facts. One example has been Trump’s insistence that the 1918 influenza occurred in 1917. Trump and his advisers discount the fact that the “1918 flu” is thus named because it was first detected in 1918, not in 1917.

Trump eschews facts as often as he is able. The 1918 flu, incorrectly called the “Spanish flu” was first detected in the United States on March 4, 1918. “Patient zero” was identified as Albert Gitchell, a U.S. Army cook at Camp Funston in Kansas.

Facts matter, except for a select group of fascist and proto-fascist leaders who include Trump, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, right, Colombian President Ivan Duque, Philippines President jair bolsonaro brazilRodrigo Duterte, and a few other delusional presidents and prime ministers scattered around the globe.

Trump’s logic on the Covid-19 virus is as bizarre as his botching the time line of the 1918 flu. Trump repeatedly claimed the United States had more cases of Covid-19 because it was conducting more tests. Trump also admitted that he ordered less tests because that action would result in fewer cases. Of course, such a statement is that of a madman and is similar to someone claiming that if he or she was not tested for cancer, they would not contract cancer.

It is historical revisionism by Trump and his acolytes that presents the most danger for the United States and the world. George Orwell’s novel about a dystopian fascistic future, “1984,” introduced the quote, “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” That fascist precept, a canon of fictional Oceania’s “Ministry of Truth,” is dominant in Trump’s administration and Republican Party, the latter having become a personal political vehicle for would-be dictator Trump.

Alteration of American history lies at the heart of Trump’s attempt to re-brand the Old Confederacy. Trump has held up politicians and generals of the Confederate States of America, over which the United States was ultimately victorious in the U.S. Civil War, as part of the “heritage” of America. “Heritage” is a word that has become synonymous with adulation of the Confederacy, Jim Crow-era racism, plantation system slavery, and esteem for Confederate leaders. In order to re-write history, Trump and his Republicans have acted to develop fictional stories about the past.

In Mississippi, the Republicans opposed to removing the Confederate battle flag from the state flag have incorrectly stated that the flag was designed by “an African-American Confederate soldier.” State senator Kathy Chism, a Republican supporter of Trump, wrote on Facebook about the black Confederate soldier, who she failed to identify, “I can only imagine how proud he was that his art, his flag design was chosen to represent our State and now we want to strip him of his pride, his hard work. I’m sure he put a lot of thought into this design.” Chism made up the entire claim.

First, there were no black soldiers who fought for the Confederacy. Second, the current Mississippi flag was designed in 1894 by one of her predecessors in the state Senate, Edward Scudder, a white man who wanted to honor the Confederacy. Scudder’s wife actually sewed the flag as both she and her husband were ardent supporters of the segregationist South. What better way to both honor the Confederacy and send a strong message to Mississippi’s large black population than to place the flag of a defeated secessionist and racist confederation of states on the flag of Mississippi!

Another disturbing alteration of history can be linked directly to the neo-fascist global movement of former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon. The neo-fascist catechism holds forth that Adolf Hitler and his Nazis were not far-right-wingers but represented “left-wing socialism.” This false historical narrative, pushed by officials in both the Trump and Bolsonaro administrations, reasons that because “National Socialism,” the political tenet of the Nazis, contain the word “socialism,” that makes Hitler and his Nazis “socialists.” Those who believe such codswallop refuse to recognize that Germany’s true Socialists and Communists were either executed by Hitler’s paramilitary forces or sent to the death camps, where few survived. To Hitler, socialism represented Bolshevik Marxism, Socialism, and Communism. There was absolutely nothing “leftist” about Hitler and his Nazis.

Trump and his supporters’ entire campaign to paint the news as “fake” and history, as we know it, as false is an Orwellian attempt to own the past, dictate the present, and control the future. Trump has given more than one “wink and nod” to an extreme fringe of right-wingers, who call themselves “Qanon,” who believe that even more far-out fantasies are true. One is that John F. Kennedy, Jr., the son of the 35th president who died along with his wife and sister-in-law in a 1999 plane crash, faked his own death in order to re-emerge one day to join Trump in battling an international pedophile ring. Several Qanon followers have emerged to join Trump on the Republican ballot in several states for the November 3 election. Qanon has a major outlet for their bizarre views on a cable “news” network, One America News Network, which is based in San Diego, California.

washington post logoWashington Post,Trump and Biden both want to repeal this tech rule. They’re both wrong, Editorial Board, June 29, 2020. Section 230 does not need a revocation. It needs a revision. President Trump and Joe Biden both think Internet platforms have it too easy — but for very different reasons.

Neither really gets it right.“REVOKE 230!” the president tweeted late last month, the day after signing an executive order seeking to punish platforms for alleged systematic anti-conservative censorship that the evidence says doesn’t exist. “Section 230 . . . immediately should be revoked,” his Democratic rival told the New York Times. Mr. Biden is of the opposite opinion: that companies aren’t removing enough harmful material.

Proposals on the table today try to address both sets of concerns.Mr. Biden at least has a better handle than Mr. Trump on the purpose of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which was designed to encourage Internet sites to moderate content without worrying about being punished for anything illicit that got through.

The legislation, which shields companies from liability for content posted by third parties, has sometimes offered sites too free a pass — permitting them to refuse to remove illegal activity and even, at times, to solicit it. Yet wholesale repeal would certainly threaten the Web as we know it. 

ny times logomartin baron at 2018 pulitzers wikimedia commonsNew York Times, Marty Baron Made The Post Great Again. Now, the News Is Changing, Ben Smith,  June 29, 2020 (print ed.). The ultimate old-school editor, right, is grappling with a moment of cultural reckoning, our columnist Ben Smith writes.At the heart of The Washington Post’s identity is Martin Baron, the paper’s executive editor since 2013.

June 27

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook will label violating posts from public figures going forward, Rachel Lerman, June 27, 2020 (print ed.). Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook will start labeling posts it deems newsworthy but that also violates its policies, marking a major about-turn from the company’s previous hands-off stance.

facebook logoIn a town hall that was strea