Media News 2021-24

 

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

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

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

    • Andrew Kreig / Justice Integrity Project editor

       

      andrew kreig c span

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

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

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

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

 2021-24

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

 

May

May 27

 

 bill walton ap

ny times logoNew York Times, Bill Walton, one of basketball’s most eccentric characters, dies at 71, Jason Quick, May 27, 2024. Bill Walton, a Hall of nba logoFame center who authored a career that was triumphant and tragic, as well as colorful and controversial, died Monday at the age of 71 after abattle with cancer, the NBA announced.

Walton, shown above in a f le photo, was regarded as one of the most dominant and versatile centers to ever play, which translated to two state titles with Helix High in La Mesa, Calif., two NCAA titles at UCLA and two NBA titles, one with the Portland Trail Blazers in 1977 and one with the Boston Celtics in 1986. In 1993, he was elected into the Naismith Hall of Fame, and in 1997, the NBA named him one of the Top 50 players of all time.

elon musk sideview

ny times logoNew York Times, Musk’s A.I. Firm Raises $6 Billion in Race With Rivals, Jason Karaian, May 27, 2024. Mr. Musk, above, who founded xAI last year, has said the business “still has a lot of catching up to do” as it looks to compete with well-funded companies like OpenAI.

Elon Musk’s artificial intelligence company, xAI, said on Sunday that it has raised $6 billion, helping to close the funding gap with OpenAI, Anthropic and other rivals in the red-hot industry.

The funds would be used “to take xAI’s first products to market, build advanced infrastructure, and accelerate the research and development of future technologies,” the company said in a statement.

Mr. Musk, who founded xAI in July, said in a social media post the funding round valued the company at $18 billion, not including the new money. Investors included the Silicon Valley heavyweights Andreessen Horowitz and Sequoia Capital, along with Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.

May 24

ny times logoNew York Times, University Leaders Face a Long, Complex Summer, Jeremy W. Peters, May 24, 2024. Many officials may be confronting federal investigations, disputes over student discipline — and the prospect that anti-war protests start again in the fall.

May 23

 

 

The Warner brothers (Photo via Margaret Herrick Library/Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)

The Warner brothers (Photo via Margaret Herrick Library/Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: What Does Hollywood Owe Its Jewish Founders? May 23, 2024. In a dated black and white photo, four men in dark suits sit around a desk in a sparsely decorated office.

The Jews who founded Hollywood — and make no mistake, the big studio heads were overwhelmingly Jewish — shared several things: ambition, creative vision and killer business instincts.

But more than anything else, the men who were the driving forces behind Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers, Universal, Columbia and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer shared a very 20th-century sense of being Jewish in America. They were assimilationists who considered themselves American above all else and who molded Hollywood to reflect and shape their American ideals.

“Above all things, they wanted to be regarded as Americans, not Jews,” Neal Gabler wrote in his definitive 1988 history, “An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood.” Louis B. Mayer, a co-founder of MGM, went so far as to claim that his birth papers had been lost during immigration and to declare his birthday henceforth as the Fourth of July.

It was troubling, then, that when the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opened in 2021, it neglected to integrate Jews into its portrayal of Hollywood’s early days and later successes despite obvious attentiveness to other ethnic and racial groups. Beyond a few brief mentions, including Billy Wilder fleeing Nazi Germany, a photo of the MGM mogul and academy founder Louis B. Mayer looming over Judy Garland, and a few scoundrels in an exhibit on #MeToo, Jews were absent. Jewish studio heads, business leaders and actors were almost entirely shut out, an oversight that led to much outcry.

“It’s sort of like building a museum dedicated to Renaissance painting and ignoring the Italians,” the Hollywood historian and Brandeis University professor Thomas Doherty told Rolling Stone at the time.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Billionaire Gave Graduates $1,000 in Cash, With One Request, Jenna Russell, May 23, 2024. Rob Hale, a part owner of the Boston Celtics, gave the 1,200 graduates of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth a gift. He asked them to give, too.

Until the final minutes of their commencement ceremony last Thursday, the 1,200 graduates of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth thought they knew what they would remember most about it: the supremely bad weather during the outdoor ceremony, where they sat drenched and shivering in a torrential rainstorm.

Then, as they prepared to collect their diplomas, their commencement speaker, Rob Hale, a billionaire philanthropist from Boston, returned to the dripping podium. He brought along two cash-stuffed duffel bags, he announced, and would hand every graduate $1,000 as they crossed the stage — $500 to keep for themselves, and $500 to give to any good cause.

“My friends and I were looking at each other like, no way,” Ali McKelvey, one of the students, said. “We were like, this has to be a joke.”

It wasn’t. Mr. Hale, the co-founder and chief executive of Granite Telecommunications, ranks as one of the country’s wealthiest people and most generous benefactors. He and his wife, Karen, gave away $1 million every week in 2022, to both well-known and unheard-of causes.

Still, as he told the graduates at UMass Dartmouth, he has never forgotten the experience of losing everything, when the first company he built went bankrupt in the dot-com crash more than 20 years ago.

Deadline, Media Matters For America Undergoes Round Of Layoffs, Ted Johnson, May 23, 2024. Media Matters for America, the progressive watchdog journalism organization, underwent a round of layoffs today, as its president cited the shifting media landscape as well as its defense against legal action.

media matters logoA spokesperson said that more than a dozen staffers were impacted. Staffers turned to X/Twitter to post news of their layoffs.

Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters, said in a statement, “We’re confronting a legal assault on multiple fronts and given how rapidly the media landscape is shifting, we need to be extremely intentional about how we allocate resources in order to stay effective. Nobody does what Media Matters does. So, we’re taking this action now to ensure that we are sustainable, sturdy and successful for whatever lies ahead.”

Elon Musk, the owner of X/Twitter, sued Media Matters last year, alleging that the organization “manipulated the algorithms” of the social media platform so that racist images and incendiary content appeared next to blue chip advertisements. The lawsuit came amid an exodus of major brands from Musk’s platform, but there also had been attention paid to Musk’s own amplification of antisemitic material.

At the time, Carusone said, “This is a frivolous lawsuit meant to bully X’s critics into silence. Media Matters stands behind its reporting and looks forward to winning in court.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also opened an investigation of Media Matters, but a federal judge last month granted the organization a preliminary injunction to essentially halt the investigation, citing the First Amendment.

One of those laid off was Katherine Abughazaleh, a senior video producer known as Kat Abu on X/Twitter, who wrote, “Bad News: I’ve been laid off from @mmfa, along with a dozen colleagues. There’s a reason far-right billionaires attack Media Matters with armies of lawyers: They know how effective our work is, and it terrifies them (him).”

Media Matters was founded in 2004 by activist David Brock.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Plans to Sue Ticketmaster Owner, Accusing It of Defending a Monopoly, David McCabe and Ben Sisario, May 23, 2024 (print ed.). Live Nation Entertainment, the concert giant that owns Ticketmaster, faces a fight that could reshape the multibillion-dollar live music industry.

The Justice Department and a group of states plan to sue Live Nation Entertainment, the concert giant that owns Ticketmaster, as soon as Thursday, accusing it of illegally maintaining a monopoly in the live entertainment industry, said three people familiar with the matter.

The government plans to argue in a lawsuit that Live Nation shored up its power through Ticketmaster’s exclusive ticketing contracts with concert venues, as well as the company’s dominance over concert tours and other businesses like venue management, said two of the people, who declined to be named because the lawsuit was still private. That helped the company maintain a monopoly, raising prices and fees for consumers, limiting innovation in the ticket industry and hurting competition, the people said.

The government will argue that tours promoted by the company were more likely to play venues where Ticketmaster was the exclusive ticket service, one of the people said, and that Live Nation’s artists played venues that it owns.

Live Nation is a colossus of the concert world and a force in the lives of musicians and fans alike. Its scale and reach far exceed those of any competitor, encompassing concert promotion, ticketing, artist management and the operation of hundreds of venues and festivals around the world.

The Ticketmaster division alone sells 600 million tickets a year to events around the world. According to some estimates, it handles ticketing for 70 percent to 80 percent of major concert venues in the United States.

ny times logoNew York Times, TikTok moved to limit Russian and Chinese media’s reach on the platform in a big election year, Sapna Maheshwari, May 23, 2024. The platform will keep state-affiliated media accounts out of users’ feeds if they “attempt to reach communities outside their home country on current global events and affairs.”

tiktok logo square CustomTikTok said on Thursday that it was introducing new measures to limit the spread of videos from state-affiliated media accounts, including Russian and Chinese outlets, as the company deflects criticism that it could be used as a propaganda tool in a major election year.

The company in 2022 started labeling state-affiliated media accounts — like those from RT, the global Russian television network, and People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party. It said it would no longer allow videos from such accounts into users’ main feeds if they “attempt to reach communities outside their home country on current global events and affairs.”

TikTok also said the accounts would not be permitted to advertise on TikTok outside their home countries, to further reduce their reach.

Social media platforms, including Meta, YouTube and X, are grappling with misinformation in a year when as much as half the global population will vote in major elections. Political news on TikTok, which is owned by a Chinese company, ByteDance, is under particular scrutiny after the passage of a law that would force ByteDance to sell the company or face a ban in the United States. Lawmakers and intelligence officials have said TikTok is a threat to national security, partly because of how the Chinese government could use it to spread propaganda.

TikTok, which is suing the federal government over the law, has vehemently pushed back on such concerns.

But fears about the presidential election in the United States helped build support for the new law. Officials like Lisa Monaco, the U.S. deputy attorney general, met with individual lawmakers before the bill was introduced, saying TikTok could be used to disrupt U.S. elections.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Increasing Trumpification of TikTok, Anjali Huynh, May 23, 2024. An internal analysis found nearly twice as many pro-Trump posts as pro-Biden ones since November, a sign of the right’s use of the platform.

And he may not need to be, as his allies and surrogates transform it in his favor. The social-media platform, though still regarded as a hub for Democratic voices and liberal causes, has seen an uptick of right-wing, pro-Trump influencers since the last presidential election.

The increase comes as President Biden signed legislation that would force a sale of TikTok by its Chinese owner or would have it banned in the U.S. That law has triggered a backlash from young voters who backed Mr. Biden overwhelmingly in 2020, some of whom are also opposing his administration’s support of Israel’s war in Gaza. An internal analysis within TikTok found nearly twice as many pro-Trump posts as pro-Biden ones on the platform since November: 1.29 million pro-Trump posts versus 651,000 pro-Biden posts.

“If we allow the Democrats and the leftist organizations and leftist influencers to have a monopoly on the content that’s produced on TikTok, we will lose the next generation of Americans,” said C.J. Pearson, a social-media influencer with nearly 149,000 followers on TikTok who co-chairs the Republican National Committee’s youth advisory council.

But TikTok still presents challenges as the former president seeks to regain the White House.

Among the right, TikTok’s reach remains overshadowed by that of other social media platforms. Although a super PAC backing Mr. Trump joined TikTok this month, it remains unclear whether his unpopularity with young voters, who are on the platform in large numbers, will make it difficult for him to find widespread support. And Republican politicians — including Mr. Trump — have largely resisted joining the platform, with many having vocally opposed it.

ny times logoNew York Times, A.I. Promised to Upend the 2024 Campaign. It Hasn’t Yet, Shane Goldmacher, Tiffany Hsu and Steven Lee Myers, May 23, 2024. The political uses of A.I. appear to be more theoretical than transformational. “This is the dog that didn’t bark,” a political adviser said.

Artificial intelligence helped make turnout predictions in the Mississippi elections last year, when one group used the technology to transcribe, summarize and synthesize audio recordings of its door knockers’ interactions with voters into reports on what they were hearing in each county.

Another group recently compared messages translated by humans and A.I. into six Asian languages and found them all to be similarly effective. A Democratic firm tested four versions of a voice-over ad — two spoken by humans, two by A.I. — and found that the male A.I. voice was as persuasive as its human equivalent (the female voice outperformed her A.I. equivalent).

The era of artificial intelligence has officially arrived on the campaign trail. But the much-anticipated, and feared, technology remains confined to the margins of American campaigns.

ny times logoNew York Times, Some Prominent Silicon Valley Investors Shift to the Right, Erin Griffith, May 23, 2024. Marc Andreessen, Chamath Palihapitiya and several other tech venture capitalists are increasingly criticizing President Biden and making their disaffection known in an election year.

In 2021, David Sacks, a prominent venture capital investor and podcast host, said former President Donald J. Trump’s behavior around the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol had disqualified him from being a future political candidate.

At a tech conference last week, Mr. Sacks said his view had changed.

“I have bigger disagreements with Biden than with Trump,” the investor said. Mr. Sacks said he and his podcast co-hosts were working on hosting a fund-raiser for Mr. Trump, which could include an interview for their “All In” show. They also extended an invitation to President Biden, he said, but the Trump camp was more open to it.

Such public support for Mr. Trump used to be taboo in Silicon Valley, which has long been seen as a liberal bastion. But frustration with Mr. Biden, Democrats and the state of the world has increasingly driven some of tech’s most prominent venture capitalists to the right.

Some investors, like Chamath Palihapitiya of Social Capital, backed Democrats in the past. (He is set to co-host the fund-raiser for Mr. Trump alongside Mr. Sacks.) Others, like Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz and Shaun Maguire of Sequoia Capital, have criticized Mr. Biden without expressing support for Mr. Trump. Still others, like Keith Rabois of Khosla Ventures, are focusing their efforts on electing Republicans to Congress.

The activity may amount to more noise than formal support or personal donations for Mr. Trump’s campaign. And it is by no means everyone. Much of Silicon Valley, including prominent donors like the investors Reid Hoffman and Vinod Khosla, remains loyal to Democrats. Peter Thiel, the investor who backed Mr. Trump in the past, has said he is disillusioned with politics and plans to stay out of the 2024 race.

jrue holiday

ny times logoNew York Times, Jrue Holiday Is the N.B.A.’s Ultimate Teammate. His Wife, Lauren, Made Sure of It, Jared Weiss, May 23, 2024. When Jrue Holiday, above, was a teenager, he needed to make some extra money.

He had a knack for bagging groceries, arranging cans of soup alongside bags of grapes to maximum efficiency. So, he went to his mother, Toya, the athletic director at his school, Campbell Hall in Los Angeles, and asked if he could apply for a job at his local grocer Vons.

“I wanted to go to the movies and get something to eat and not look lame. I had to have a little extra chicken on me,” Holiday said. “So, I tried. But my mom was like, ‘No, school is your job.’ So I ended up not having a job.”

But, when the women’s tennis team was looking for a manager, Toya volunteered her son. At the time, Holiday couldn’t tell a drop shot from a kick serve.

Holiday was one of the best basketball players in the country, but this was a new experience. He was no longer a star player. His job was to grab sandwiches and pack bags. He learned to sacrifice and do the things no one else wanted to do for the betterment of the team.

“We got out of school early, we’d go to Santa Barbara all the time, and I’m around a bunch of women, so I’m not mad,” Holiday said. “I got a state ring out of it. It was fun.”

As tennis manager, Holiday wasn’t on the court, so he had to find ways to build bonds away from it. By the time he got to the NBA years later, it was natural.

The Celtics brought him in to win the title. Playing to win and sacrificing for the team, is what Holiday has built his career on.

Holiday’s mom knew bagging groceries would get him a little extra money to go out, but managing the tennis team would pay off in the long run. He might finally get his wish. But, as always, it won’t just be for him.

Like so many others he’s guided over the years, he’ll try to show his kids the way. Then they’ll forge their own path.

“Maybe I’ll take my kids with me,” Holiday said. “They need a little hard living. My kids are really spoiled, so maybe they need to go and serve other people more. I do my best to try to get them to, but you know how kids are. They end up doing their own thing. You never know.”

May 21

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washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Why this is a massive month for the future of college sports, Jesse Dougherty, May 21, 2024 (print ed.). The NCAA and power conferences are set to vote on whether to settle an antitrust lawsuit, which would have far-reaching implications.

More changes are coming to college sports. Or more accurately, some major, major changes should be kick-started next week, when the NCAA and power conferences are set to vote on whether to settle an antitrust lawsuit that could cost them more than $2.7 billion in damages.

A settlement in House v. NCAA is expected. That much is clear. But beyond those damages — which would be paid to past athletes who sued over not being compensated for the use of their names, images and likenesses (NIL) in television broadcasts — a settlement also would establish a system for schools to share revenue directly with athletes for the first time. According to multiple reports, revenue sharing would be a choice for each school and initially capped at around $20 million per year. And that’s where everything would get more complicated.

“When a number like $2.7 billion gets thrown around in a settlement and a number like $20 million a year gets thrown around as the number that the school can directly share with the athletes, kids and parents are going to care, and they’re going to have a lot of questions,” said Jim Cavale, the founder and CEO of Athletes.org, one of the organizations hoping to represent athletes in future bargaining talks. As of now, though, discussions have not included collective bargaining rights for athletes, meaning the plaintiffs’ lawyers are negotiating the next iteration of college sports.

“They’re going to be asking the schools: Why $20 million?” Cavale continued. “Who gets what? How much does football get? How much does each player get? What about Title IX? Scholarships?”
‘Athletes are going to get paid’

If the sides agree on a settlement in the near future, the process would be far from over. Judge Claudia Wilken would have to approve it. From there, it would still take months to iron out the finer points. And if a House settlement does establish revenue sharing — which would include money from television deals, ticket sales and sponsorships — it wouldn’t begin until the fall of 2025.

In the meantime, here’s a look at how and why this month became such an inflection point (based on conversations with more than a dozen people in the industry, including conference commissioners, athletic directors, athlete advocates and lawyers):

-- The House defendants — the NCAA, SEC, Big Ten, ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 — want to settle for two main reasons. The first is that, if they go to trial in January and lose, any damages would be tripled and they would be on the hook for a much bigger number than $2.7 billion. And the second is that, in that scenario, the damages would probably be due right away. According to Yahoo Sports and ESPN, the proposed settlement would allow the NCAA and its schools to instead pay the damages over a 10-year period. The NCAA, conferences and schools much prefer that avenue.

-- Because the potential damages are so high and because a trial loss could bankrupt the NCAA, the plaintiffs have leverage to negotiate for a revenue sharing model for current and future athletes. Again, this would be optional for schools, though the idea is it would be necessary to stay competitive in at least football and men’s and women’s basketball. According to Yahoo Sports and ESPN, proposed revenue share caps — that $20 million figure — were calculated by taking about 22 percent of the average power conference school’s main revenue streams (including TV money and ticket sales, excluding donations). It is expected that the caps would rise with revenue over time.

-- House is not the only major antitrust case facing the NCAA. That’s very important here. Jeffrey Kessler, one of the lead plaintiffs’ attorneys, is also the lead lawyer for Hubbard v. NCAA (which seeks back compensation for before athletes were allowed to receive education-related payments) and Carter v. NCAA (which challenges current rules about athlete compensation). The House settlement would include Hubbard and Carter, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions. But another antitrust case, Fontenot v. NCAA, matters, too.

ny times logoNew York Times, C. Gordon Bell, Creator of a Personal Computer Prototype, Dies at 89, Glenn Rifkin, May 21, 2024. It cost $18,000 when it was introduced in 1965, but it bridged the world between room-size mainframes and the modern desktop.

C. Gordon Bell, a technology visionary whose computer designs for Digital Equipment Corporation fueled the emergence of the minicomputer industry in the 1960s, died on Friday at his home in Coronado, Calif. He was 89.

The cause was pneumonia, his family said in a statement.

Called the “Frank Lloyd Wright of computers” by Datamation magazine, Mr. Bell was the master architect in the effort to create smaller, affordable, interactive computers that could be clustered into a network. A virtuoso at computer architecture, he built the first time-sharing computer and championed efforts to build the Ethernet. He was among a handful of influential engineers whose designs formed the vital bridge between the room-size models of the mainframe era and the advent of the personal computer.

After stints at several other startup ventures, Mr. Bell became the head of the National Science Foundation’s computers and information science and engineering group, where he directed the effort to link the world’s supercomputers into a high-speed network that led directly to the development of the modern internet. He later joined Microsoft’s nascent research lab, where he remained for about 20 years before being named researcher emeritus.

scarlett johansson open ai

washington post logoWashington Post, Scarlett Johansson says OpenAI copied ‘Her’ voice after she said no, Nitasha Tiku, Pranshu Verma and Gerrit De Vynck, May 21, 2024 (print ed.). The actress, shown above in a file photo, alleges OpenAI CEO Sam Altman tried to hire her, then copied her voice when she said no.

Actress Scarlett Johansson is threatening legal action against OpenAI, alleging the artificial intelligence start-up copied her voice after she refused to license it to the company.

sam altman testimony 5 16 2023OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, shown at right in a file photo, asked Johansson in September to be the voice of the company’s conversational AI system, the actress said in a statement provided to The Washington Post.

Johansson declined. In May, two days before OpenAI planned to demonstrate the technology, Altman contacted her again, asking her to reconsider, she said. Before she could respond, OpenAI released a demo of its improved audio technology, featuring a voice called “Sky.” Many argued the coquettish voice — which flirted with OpenAI employees in the presentation — bore an uncanny resemblance to Johansson’s character in the 2013 movie “Her,” in which she performed the voice of a super-intelligent AI assistant.

washington post logoWashington Post, Controversial Donald Trump movie ‘The Apprentice’ depicts him as rapist, Jada Yuan, May 21, 2024 (print ed.). A dark new biopic starring Sebastian Stan as a young Trump is the talk of Cannes.

Had a movie called “The Apprentice” about a young Donald Trump’s rise to power premiered in America — during an election year in which said protagonist is the front-runner for the Republican nomination for president — one imagines there might have been protests and police in riot gear.

Instead, this Monday evening at the Cannes Film Festival, the film received the usual reverential treatment: a gala audience in gowns and tuxedos and star Sebastian Stan posing for photos on the red carpet. (Jeremy Strong, who plays the ruthless lawyer and political fixer Roy Cohn, is on Broadway; during the eight-minute standing ovation, Iranian Danish director Ali Abbasi held up a still photo of the actor in his dressing room with his fingers in a peace sign.)

The film follows Trump in his years as a New York real estate mogul, as he strikes up an almost filial relationship with Cohn (and then abandons him as Cohn contracts AIDS), and falls in and out of love with his first wife Ivana (Maria Bakalova of “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”).

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Review: A dewy-eyed look at the life and death of Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, Roxanne Roberts, May 21, 2024 (print ed.). “Once Upon a Time” delves lovingly into the life story of JFK Jr.’s wife 25 years after her death in a plane crash.

In 1996, Sotheby’s auctioned more than 5,500 items from the estate of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who had died two years earlier. The winning bids shattered all presale estimates: A monogrammed silver tape measure went for $48,875, a faux pearl necklace for $211,500. The four-day total topped an astonishing $34 million. “Most of the items were not exceptional works of art or craftsmanship, nor were they even from the White House era,” Elizabeth Beller writes in a new book. “They were all Jackie.”

The enduring romance and glamour of Camelot cannot be overstated. The Kennedys were the closest this country gets to a royal family, and Jackie’s beloved son — handsome, playful, adored — was America’s crown prince and most eligible bachelor. When John Jr. married Carloyn Bessette a few months after the auction, the fashion publicist was transformed into an international celebrity overnight.

They were a beautiful couple. She was a tall, elegant blonde with a cool reserve that complemented his effortless charm. Many people believed that one day John Jr. would become president and she would be first lady. That dream ended tragically when John, Carolyn and her sister died in a plane crash in the summer of 1999.

Now, 25 years later, Beller has written a biography, “Once Upon a Time: The Captivating Life of Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy.” The writer, who never met Carolyn, very much wants her subject to be remembered as extraordinary in her own right, not an ordinary young woman pulled into the Kennedy orbit. To underscore her point, the book opens with an author’s note: Beller says she wants to defend the “slanderous” rumors that Carolyn was shallow, difficult and manipulative, characterizations she attributes to a “dysfunctional culture,” the anti-feminist patriarchy and the media. Her decision to write this book “was not so much a choice as a compulsion.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Book Review on Sex, Drugs and Economics: The Double Life of a Conservative Gadfly, Dwight Garner, May 18, 2024. The professor and social commentator Glenn Loury opens up about his vices in a candid new memoir.

Glenn C. Loury’s new book, Late Admissions, is unlike any economist’s memoir I have ever read. Most don’t mention picking up streetwalkers. Or smoking crack in a faculty office at Harvard’s Kennedy School — or in an airplane at 30,000 feet. Or stealing a car. Or having sex on a beach in Israel with a mistress and attracting the attention of the Israel Defense Forces. Or later being arrested and charged with assaulting her. Or cuckolding a best friend.

Or abandoning children born out of wedlock. Or becoming estranged from the children that weren’t. Or writing computer code to win at blackjack. Or having a porn addiction. Or keeping a bachelor pleasure dome decorated with a bearskin rug, a brass four-poster bed and a fat marijuana plant. Or sidling around in a paisley smoking jacket with a matching ascot because it “radiated suave sophistication and Hefneresque cool.” Or sneaking into dorm rooms as a professor to suck face with much younger women. Or entering detox clinics, finding God when it was convenient, appearing on “The 700 Club,” then ditching God.

I’m surely missing a few things. My note-taking pen ran out of ink, shortly after I scribbled something about how all this would make for a monster screenplay if only there were a conservative Spike Lee to direct it.

Loury, 75, is a theoretical economist who has taught at Harvard and Brown, among other elite colleges and universities, though he is probably best known as a conservative Black (he prefers a lowercase “b”) commentator on social issues. The economist and the opinion-maker in him comprise one half of his person.

There is a second Glenn C. Loury, he proposes. This Loury needs people to know he is “a black Harvard professor who can hang on the corner.” He is a “Player,” a seducer, a working-class product of Chicago’s South Side, a pool shark and a “Master of the Universe” on multiple and interlocking levels. One of Loury’s uncles once told him that getting laid was all that mattered in life, and he took his uncle at his word.

Late Admissions passes the Orwell Test. “An autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful,” Orwell wrote. “A man who gives a good account of himself is probably lying, since any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats.” The annihilating level of detail in Loury’s book convinces you that he is aiming for straight talk, even if candor and honesty aren’t quite the same thing.

It’s among this book’s drawbacks that the two Glenn Lourys aren’t persuasively synthesized.

May 20

 

julian assange facts wikileaks Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Julian Assange Can Appeal U.S. Extradition, English Court Rules, Megan Specia, May 20, 2024. The WikiLeaks founder, shown above, won his bid to appeal his extradition on espionage charges, opening a new chapter in a prolonged legal saga.

A London court ruled on Monday that Julian Assange, the embattled WikiLeaks founder, could appeal his extradition to the United States, a move that opens a new chapter in his prolonged fight against the order in Britain’s courts.

Two High Court judges said they would allow an appeal to be heard on a limited number of issues.

In March, the judges said that the court would grant a request to appeal unless the American government gave “a satisfactory assurance” that Mr. Assange would be afforded protections under the U.S. Constitution, would not be “prejudiced by reason of his nationality,” and that “the death penalty is not imposed.”

The U.S. Embassy in Britain provided assurances on those issues in a letter sent in April, but Mr. Assange’s legal team had argued in court that they did not all go far enough to meet the court’s request.

Mr. Assange, 52, has been held in Belmarsh, one of Britain’s highest-security prisons, in southeastern London since 2019 as his fight against the extradition order has proceeded through the courts.

He faces charges in the United States under the Espionage Act related to WikiLeaks’ publication of tens of thousands of secret military and diplomatic documents leaked to the site by Chelsea Manning, an Army intelligence analyst, in 2010.

In June 2012, Mr. Assange entered the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he stayed for the next seven years over fears that he could be arrested. He was eventually evicted from the embassy in 2019 and was promptly arrested.

The U.S. Justice Department had charged Mr. Assange with 18 counts of violating the Espionage Act by participating in a criminal hacking conspiracy and by encouraging hackers to steal secret material. In 2021, the extradition order for Mr. Assange was denied by a British judge, who ruled that he would be at risk of suicide if sent to a U.S. prison, but the High Court later reversed that decision. In 2022, Priti Patel, Britain’s home secretary at the time, approved the extradition request.

An earlier request from Mr. Assange’s legal team for an appeal was rejected by a judge, before the two judges who made Monday’s decision decided that his appeal could go ahead.

Since his arrest in 2019, Mr. Assange has rarely been seen, and in his final hearing on Monday he decided not to attend the hearing for undisclosed health reasons, according to his legal team. Throughout his time in prison, his lawyers and his wife, Stella Assange, have warned about his diminishing physical and mental health. In 2021, Ms. Assange had a small stroke. Speaking ahead of the final hearing, Ms. Assange said her concerns for his mental health were “very serious.”

Last month, President Biden said that the administration was considering a request from Australia that Mr. Assange be allowed to return there and not face prison, prompting speculation that Washington could be rethinking the case.

Supporters have long argued that Mr. Assange’s life could be at risk if he were sent to the United States for trial. While Mr. Assange’s lawyers say that he could face up to 175 years in prison if convicted, lawyers for the U.S. government have said that he would be more likely to be sentenced to four to six years.

May 19

The Athletic via New York Times, Oleksandr Usyk’s legacy-defining win over Tyson Fury cements him as an all-time great, Jacob Tanswell, May 19, 2024 (print ed.). Oleksandr Usyk’s greatness extended into new territory after he became a two-weight undisputed world champion on Saturday night.

ny times logoUsyk inflicted the first defeat of Tyson Fury’s professional career with a split-decision victory in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It was an exhibition of intelligent, in-fight adjustments and a reminder, if one was needed, that Usyk defies heavyweight conventions.

The Ukrainian, in six heavyweight fights, has collected all four belts. Having stepped up from cruiserweight in 2019 where he became the division’s undisputed champion, Usyk has banished the notion he was too small or was a big man at a lower weight who would fear mixing it with giants.

Usyk, 37, has beaten Anthony Joshua twice to win the IBF, WBA and WBO titles and, after taking down Fury, has claimed the WBC belt, too. He is the first heavyweight since Lennox Lewis beat Evander Holyfield 25 years ago to become the undisputed heavyweight world champion.

May 18

ny times logoNew York Times, Sean Combs’s Legal Troubles: What We Know, Julia Jacobs and Ben Sisario, May 18, 2024. In March, agents raided his homes in connection with a federal inquiry. On Friday, video surfaced that appeared to show him assaulting an ex-girlfriend.

sean combsSince federal agents raided two of Sean Combs’s homes in Los Angeles and the Miami area on March 25, the investigation into the hip-hop mogul has become the subject of intense public interest and speculation.

The raids were conducted by Homeland Security Investigations, which has said very little about the focus of its inquiry. No criminal charges have been filed against Mr. Combs, right, in relation to the case.

But the footage of federal officers brandishing weapons while entering Mr. Combs’s sprawling Los Angeles mansion, where they confiscated computers and other devices, has raised questions about the nature of the investigation and how it might relate to a series of civil sexual assault lawsuits filed against Mr. Combs in recent months.

Mr. Combs — a high-profile music producer and artist for decades who has been lauded as one of the architects of hip-hop’s commercial rise — has vehemently denied all the accusations, and his lawyer called the raids a “witch hunt based on meritless accusations made in civil lawsuits.”

As details about the federal investigation gradually emerge, here is what we know about Mr. Combs’s legal troubles.

A federal official said the inquiry into Mr. Combs was at least in part a human trafficking investigation. Homeland Security Investigations often leads inquiries into trafficking. It’s not clear exactly how the federal investigation relates to the civil lawsuits filed against Mr. Combs, but all of the civil suits accused him of violating sex trafficking laws.

The dramatic raids on Mr. Combs’s properties follow a series of lawsuits, in which four women have accused him of rape and sexual assault and a man accused him of unwanted sexual contact.

Several of the lawsuits accused Mr. Combs of human trafficking, with two of the plaintiffs accusing him of forcing them to participate in sexual encounters with prostitutes.

May 12

 

elon musk sideview

ny times logoNew York Times, Elon Musk’s Diplomacy: Woo Right-Wing World Leaders. Then Benefit, Ryan Mac, Jack Nicas and Alex Travelli, May 12, 2024. Mr. Musk has courted numerous heads of state, including Argentina’s Javier Milei and India’s Narendra Modi, to push his politics and expand his empire.

Minutes after it became clear that Javier Milei had been elected president of South America’s second-largest nation in November, Elon Musk posted on X: “Prosperity is ahead for Argentina.”

x logo twitterSince then, Mr. Musk has continued to use X, the social network he owns, to boost Mr. Milei. The billionaire has shared videos of the Argentine president attacking “social justice” with his 182 million followers. One doctored image, which implied that watching a speech by Mr. Milei was better than having sex, is among Mr. Musk’s most viewed posts ever.

Mr. Musk has helped turn the pugnacious libertarian into one of the new faces of the modern right. But offline, he has used the relationship to press for benefits to his other businesses, the electric carmaker Tesla and the rocket company SpaceX.

“Elon Musk called me,” Mr. Milei said in a television interview weeks after taking office. “He is extremely interested in the lithium.”

May 11

rudy giuliani calls for beheading demsny times logo

New York Times, Giuliani Is Suspended by WABC, and His Radio Show Is Canceled, Nicholas Fandos, May 11, 2024 (print ed.). The radio station disciplined Rudolph W. Giuliani, shown above in a file photo, after he violated company policy by trying to discuss the legitimacy of the 2020 election on the air.

Rudolph W. Giuliani was suspended by WABC radio on Friday and his daily talk show was abruptly canceled after the station said he violated its policy by trying to discuss discredited claims about the 2020 presidential election on air.

John Catsimatidis, the billionaire Republican businessman who owns the station, said he had made the decision after Mr. Giuliani refused to avoid the topic despite repeated warnings.

“We’re not going to talk about fallacies of the November 2020 election,” Mr. Catsimatidis said in a brief phone interview. “We warned him once. We warned him twice. And I get a text from him last night, and I get a text from him this morning that he refuses not to talk about it.”

“So,” Mr. Catsimatidis continued, “he left me no option. I suspended him.”

Mr. Giuliani, a former New York City mayor, was one of the leading figures in former President Donald J. Trump’s attempts to contest and overturn the 2020 election results. He was Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer at the time and helped coordinate legal challenges to Mr. Biden’s victory in several states in a bid to keep Mr. Trump in office.

Mr. Giuliani’s removal from WABC, one of his only current sources of income, is almost certain to add to the mounting legal and financial woes that have engulfed him in the years since. The suspension will deny him one of his last mainstream public platforms.

Mr. Giuliani has been criminally charged in two states, Georgia and Arizona, for this role in the effort to overturn the 2020 results and has been targeted in a number of recent lawsuits. He has also been besieged by creditors, including two Georgia election workers to whom he owes $148 million after a court found that he had defamed them.

In a statement, he called WABC’s policies “a clear violation of free speech.” He disputed that he had been aware of any policy related to what he could say on air about the 2020 election, and said he only learned he had been fired when contacted by The New York Times.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sudden Resignations. A Leaked Letter. What’s Happening Inside Miss USA? Madison Malone Kircher, May 11, 2024 (print ed.). Noelia Voigt’s announcement this week that she was stepping down as Miss USA set off a string of departures and prompted larger questions about the inner workings of the organization.

When the reigning Miss USA, Noelia Voigt, announced this week she would be resigning from her position, she cited her mental health and wrote about her gratitude for the opportunity.

“As individuals, we grow through experiencing different things in life that lead us to learning more about ourselves,” she wrote on Instagram on Monday. But an internal resignation letter by Ms. Voigt to Miss USA leadership and the Miss Universe Organization, obtained on Friday by The New York Times, presented a much darker picture.

In the eight-page letter, Ms. Voigt, who represented the state of Utah and was crowned in September, described “a toxic work environment within the Miss USA Organization that, at best, is poor management and, at worst, is bullying and harassment.” She also complained in her letter that the organization had delayed making good on her prize winnings.

May 8

washington post logoWashington Post, Boy Scouts rebrands as Scouting America, dropping gendered name, Kim Bellware, May 8, 2024 (print ed.). After 114 years of being known as the Boy Scouts of America, the nation’s largest scouting organization is changing its name to the more inclusive Scouting America.

The major rebrand, announced Tuesday, comes after years of turmoil for the organization, as well as major changes meant to stem the tide of declining membership. The new Scouting America name is also a reflection of the organization’s biggest change: the decision five years ago to welcome girls into its ranks at all levels.

Visitors to the Boy Scouts of America website Tuesday were greeted by a pop-up message explaining that the forthcoming name change was made to be more welcoming of the entire scouting community and would take effect Feb. 8, 2025.

“Though our name will be new, our mission remains unchanged: we are committed to teaching young people to be Prepared. For Life,” Roger A. Krone, president and chief executive of Scouting America, said in a statement Tuesday. “This will be a simple but very important evolution as we seek to ensure that everyone feels welcome in Scouting.”

For years, the Boy Scouts have faced pressure from progressive members and outside groups to be more accepting, not just of girls but of LGBTQ scouts and troop leaders. The Boy Scouts ended its longtime ban on openly gay Scouts in 2013 and its prohibition on gay troop leaders in 2015. Two years later, the organization announced that it would allow transgender boys in its ranks.

The organization is officially nonsectarian but asks members to affirm a belief in God. The changes to allow gay Scouts and troop leaders caused rifts with some religious groups. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one of the Scouts’ biggest partners, cut ties with the organization when it began to accept gay Scouts and leaders. At the time, roughly 20 percent of Scouts were Mormon.

washington post logoWashington Post, The iPad lost. Smartphones won, Shira Ovide, May 8, 2024 (print ed.). Steve Jobs predicted iPads could become as widespread as cars. Instead, they’re a niche. When Steve Jobs introduced the first iPad 14 years ago, he said there was a place for a third device that was between a laptop and a smartphone — as long as that in-between gadget did some essential tasks better than each of the others.

For some of you, the iPad is exactly that. It’s more comfortable than a phone or computer to watch YouTube videos, dash off an email or distract your kiddo.

apple logo rainbowOn Tuesday, Apple released updated iPad models that the company expects to perk up its sagging sales. Apple also boasted about the company’s artificial intelligence capabilities, an area where Apple is under pressure to prove itself.

But the iPad has not become as widespread as computers and, especially, smartphones. As the iPhone and other smartphones became more capable, larger and globally ubiquitous, they made the iPad irrelevant.

Many of you love your iPads. Great! Even technology that doesn’t reach its hoped-for potential can still be useful. The iPad might have changed your habits but it and other tablets didn’t have a broad impact.

The iPad’s history shows that technology founders like Jobs who are revered for seeing the future can get it wrong sometimes. That’s a useful lesson when executives like Elon Musk or OpenAI’s Sam Altman blare predictions about the future of transportation or AI.

Months after the iPad debuted in 2010, Jobs made an analogy involving cars and trucks.

Personal computers, he said in an interview, would still be useful for many people but would increasingly become a niche, as trucks did once Americans moved to cities and fewer people needed a workhorse vehicle on farms.

Each year, there are about 1.1 billion new smartphones sold globally. There were about 260 million computers sold last year, according to research firm IDC. There were nearly 130 million iPads and other tablets sold in 2023, IDC estimates.

IDC research manager Jitesh Ubrani says that thanks to a pandemic-related purchase binge for iPads — which also affected computers — slightly more people own iPads today than they did when new iPad sales peaked a decade ago.

 

May 7

ny times logoNew York Times, The New York Times and The Washington Post Win 3 Pulitzers Each, Michael M. Grynbaum, May 7, 2024 (print ed.). The prize for public service went to ProPublica for coverage of the Supreme Court. The Pulitzer board also issued a special citation for journalists covering the Middle East.

The New York Times and The Washington Post received three Pulitzer Prizes each on Monday for a wide array of journalism that spanned conflict and injustice around the globe, including the plight of child migrant workers in the American Midwest, the lethal consequences of war in the Middle East and the brutal repression of dissent in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

The prize for public service, considered the most prestigious of the Pulitzers, went to ProPublica for exposing a web of questionable financial entanglements involving Justice Clarence Thomas of the U.S. Supreme Court. The series, which revealed that Justice Thomas failed to disclose lavish gifts he had received from wealthy supporters, prompted the court to issue a new ethical code of conduct.

The prize for investigations went to Hannah Dreier of The Times, for an exposé of migrant child labor in the modern United States, and the governmental blunders and disregard that have allowed the illegal practice to persist. This was the second Pulitzer awarded to Ms. Dreier, who won the 2019 feature writing prize for her coverage of the criminal gang MS-13 for ProPublica.

The Times received the international reporting prize for its coverage of the war in the Middle East. The newspaper’s foreign staff produced an array of stories that encompassed the immediate aftermath of the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, the errors by Israeli defense forces that left its citizens vulnerable and the consequences for Palestinian civilians of Israel’s subsequent military campaign in Gaza.

The Pulitzer board also issued a special citation for journalists covering the conflict, noting that “under horrific conditions, an extraordinary number of journalists have died in the effort to tell the stories of Palestinians and others in Gaza.” The citation comes at a moment when the Middle East reporting of many media outlets, including The Times, has become a focus of criticism from activists on all sides of the conflict.

The Washington Post shared the prize for national reporting for “Terror on Repeat,” an examination of the AR-15 rifle, a widely available weapon commonly used in deadly mass killings that is capable of firing hundreds of bullets in rapid succession. The Post described how the rifle had “given assailants the power to instantly turn everyday American gathering places into zones of gruesome violence.”

Reuters was the other winner for national reporting, for its examination of troubling practices at workplaces controlled by Elon Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur, including the rocket company SpaceX and Tesla, the manufacturer of electric cars.

The Post was also recognized twice for its opinion journalism. The commentary prize went to Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian activist and journalist who had contributed columns from a jail cell in Russia, where he has been detained by the government of President Putin. David E. Hoffman of The Post won the editorial writing prize for a series on authoritarians’ use of digital technology to squash dissent.

The New York Times Magazine received the award for feature writing for “The Mother Who Changed: A Story of Dementia,” by Katie Engelhart, a portrait of how two sisters navigated their mother’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. The article addressed knotty questions of medical ethics and how to compassionately care for loved ones in the grip of mental decline.

The New Yorker received two prizes. Sarah Stillman, a staff writer, was recognized in the explanatory reporting category for her examination of felony murder, a legal doctrine that often leads to draconian consequences for Black and young Americans. Medar de la Cruz, a contributor, won the illustrated reporting prize for a visual story set in New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex. The story, which drew on the author’s experience as a library worker at the jail, was the first piece that he had submitted to the magazine.

Justin Chang, who joined The New Yorker this year, received the criticism prize for film reviews written at his previous employer, The Los Angeles Times. Greg Tate, a writer who died in 2021 and whose influential criticism and essays on hip-hop helped establish the genre as an elevated art form, received a special citation.

Started in 1917, the Pulitzer Prizes are presented annually by Columbia University for excellence in journalism and letters. In its presentation on Monday, the Pulitzer board acknowledged the ongoing turmoil in the news industry that has led to thousands of job losses and raised existential questions about the sustainability of the industry.

One nonprofit journalism organization, the Chicago-based Invisible Institute, received two prizes. It won the local reporting prize for an investigation into missing Black girls and women in Chicago, in partnership with City Bureau, another nonprofit newsroom. The audio reporting prize went to the Invisible Institute and USG Audio for a series on a hate crime in Chicago in the 1990s.

Two major wire services received photography prizes. The Associated Press was recognized for images of migrants traveling from Colombia to the southern border of the United States. Reuters won for the photographs it produced, on deadline, of the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7, and the early weeks of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.

Lookout Santa Cruz, a digital-only start-up in California that aims to eliminate so-called news deserts in communities where traditional media outlets have closed, won the breaking news prize for coverage of damaging floods and mudslides in the region.

In the prizes for arts and letters, the Pulitzer board recognized several works addressing the Black experience in America.

“King: A Life,” a biography of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Jonathan Eig, shared the award for biography with “Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey From Slavery to Freedom,” by Ilyon Woo, an account of slaves who escaped Georgia in 1848 and became leading abolitionists in the North. The history prize went to Jacqueline Jones for “No Right to an Honest Living: The Struggles of Boston’s Black Workers in the Civil War Era.”

The Middle East conflict figured in the prize for general nonfiction, which was awarded to “A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: Anatomy of a Jerusalem Tragedy,” by Nathan Thrall, which profiles a Palestinian father in the West Bank whose young child dies in a school bus crash.

A saxophone concerto by Tyshawn Sorey won the music prize. “Night Watch,” a novel by Jayne Anne Phillips set in the aftermath of the Civil War, won for fiction. “Primary Trust,” a play by Eboni Booth, won the drama prize. And the prize for memoir was awarded to Cristina Rivera Garza for “Liliana’s Invincible Summer: A Sister’s Search for Justice,” an account of the murder of the author’s sister.

May 6

ny times logoNew York Times, A FAFSA Fiasco Has Students Still Asking: Which College Can They Afford? Colbi Edmonds and Bernard Mokam, May 6, 2024 (print ed.). The new application for federal tuition aid was meant to be easier. High schoolers say it has been anything but, and some are still unsure of their plans.

By this time of year, college-bound high school seniors are usually celebrating their choices, researching dorms and even thinking of their majors. This year, that’s not necessarily the case.

Because of a disastrous rollout of the new application for federal tuition aid, many still don’t know how much tuition they would be paying and so have not decided where they can afford to go.

ny times logoNew York Times, Madonna Brings Massive Free Concert to Rio, Capping Celebration Tour, Flávia Milhorance and Julia Jacobs, May 6, 2024 (print ed.). The pop superstar performed a final date on her global trek marking four decades of hits: a set on Copacabana Beach before the largest live crowd of her career.

madonna toronto film festivalWhen Madonna, shown in a file photo, stepped out onto the mammoth stage constructed on Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach on Saturday night in a gleaming halo headpiece and black kimono, she was greeted by the largest live crowd of her four-decade career.

The free show, announced in late March, was a grand finale to the pop superstar’s latest world tour, which has delivered 80 performances since last October. Without ticket data, concert crowd sizes can be difficult to gauge; Riotur, the municipality’s tourism department, estimated that 1.6 million people flooded onto the 2.4-mile stretch of sand on Saturday that had been turned into a roughly $12 million playground surrounding the 8,700-square-foot stage.

It was the culmination of days of Madonna-mania in the city, where talk of the singer, 65, was inescapable. Her songs spilled out of stores and car stereos. Fans assembled outside her hotel and shouted her name. Updates about the concert, which was broadcast on the network Globo TV, dominated local media reports.

The spectacle in Rio was a milestone in Madonna’s career: the victory lap for her first stage retrospective, called the Celebration Tour, in which she chronicled her rise to stardom, performing hits like “Into the Groove,” “Like a Prayer” and “Ray of Light” with a cadre of dancers, four of her six children, and a wardrobe of elaborate costuming that recalled some of her most memorable looks.

“Here we are, the most beautiful place in the world,” Madonna announced early in the concert, indicating the ocean and the mountains around her. “This is magic.” Later, she expounded on her gratitude for her Brazilian fans. “You have always been there for me,” she said. “That flag: that green-and-yellow flag, I see it everywhere. I feel it in my heart.”

The two-plus-hour Rio show hewed closely to the Celebration show, with a few exceptions: Madonna added her 2000 track “Music” to the set list, rearranged as a samba with live drummers and a special guest, the Brazilian drag star Pabllo Vittar. “Live to Tell,” staged as a tribute to victims of AIDS, included photographs of the Brazilian musicians Cazuza and Renato Russo, and the actress Sandra Bréa. For “Vogue,” Madonna appeared in a sparkly dress in the colors of the Brazilian flag and was joined by the pop sensation Anitta, who helped “judge” the competitors strutting down the runway.

May 4

ap logoAssociated Press via Politico, Democratic officials criticize Meta ad policy, saying it amplifies lies about 2020 election, Staff Report, May 4, 2024. The secretaries of state said allowing ads that claim the 2020 presidential election was stolen will further erode trust in elections.

politico CustomSeveral Democrats serving as their state’s top election officials have sent a letter to the parent company of Facebook, asking it to stop allowing ads that claim the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

In the letter addressed to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the secretaries of state from Colorado, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington and Vermont said allowing such ads will further erode trust in elections and fuel threats of political violence against election workers, which already has led some to leave the profession. Also signing the letter was Wisconsin Secretary of State Sarah Godlewski, who does not oversee elections.

meta logo“Meta is allowing extremists and election deniers to further undermine our elections,” the secretaries wrote in the letter, which was emailed to the tech giant on Thursday. “As Secretaries of State, we are strongly opposed to Meta’s decision to allow ads promoting election denialism and urge you to repeal this policy before it inflicts more damage.”

Nearly four years later, conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 election and false claims of widespread fraud and manipulation of voting machines persist. Former President Donald Trump continues to insist, despite no evidence of widespread fraud, that he won that election as he seeks a return to the White House.

Reviews, recounts and audits in the swing states where he disputed his loss have all affirmed Democrat Joe Biden’s victory, and even Trump’s former attorney general said there was no fraud on a scale that could have tipped the election. In an interview this week with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Trump falsely claimed he won Wisconsin despite losing to Biden by about 21,000 votes. Trump told the news outlet he would accept the results of the November election “if everything’s honest.”

Since the 2020 election, election workers across parts of the country have faced death threats and harassment. A recent survey by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU found that 34% of local election officials said they knew of one or more local election officials or election workers who left their job at least in part because of safety fears, threats or intimidation. The environment has led to a historic turnover of election workers throughout the country.

YouTube, the Google-owned video service, announced a policy similar to Meta’s last year in which it said it would stop removing content that falsely claimed previous U.S. presidential elections were tainted by fraud.

Meta has defended the work it’s doing to protect elections globally. A company spokesperson provided details about how the company views elections, referencing its 2022 plan for the midterm elections in which the company said it will “continually review content to determine if it violates our community standards, including our policies on election and voter interference, hate speech, coordinating harm and publicizing crime, and bullying and harassment.”

As part of its work, Meta said it would remove election-related content that includes misinformation about the “dates, locations, times and methods of voting” along with calls for violence related to voting or the outcome of an election. In that plan, the company specified it would reject ads calling into question the legitimacy of an upcoming or ongoing election.

But it’s the ads related to the 2020 election that have the group of Democratic secretaries of state concerned, including various campaign ads earlier this year repeating false claims that the election was rigged. The letter was organized by the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, a political action committee affiliated with the Democratic National Committee, and was circulated only among Democrats.

“When people believe an election was stolen they are less likely to have confidence in the system, and that depresses turnout,” Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows said in an interview Friday. “We want voters to know the truth about elections and feel empowered to participate.”

May 2

washington post logoWashington Post, Russian state media ramping up English, Spanish presence on TikTok, study finds, Joseph Menn, May 2, 2024. A Brookings Institution report predicts Russia’s use of TikTok will increase as the November election nears.

While fears that China would push propaganda on TikTok fueled an unprecedented law to force its sale, it is not the only country to invest in getting messages across on the popular platform.

tiktok logo CustomNew research shows that Russian state media are posting English and Spanish videos to TikTok and have doubled last year’s engagement on their posts, which include attacks on President Biden’s Israel policy and his age as well as promotion of far-right commentator Tucker Carlson’s Russia coverage.

A report published Thursday by the nonprofit Brookings Institution documents the trend and predicts that it will accelerate as the November election nears.

Brookings fellow Valerie Wirtschafter said that as she tracked the accounts in the first three months of this year, “it felt like I was seeing the process evolve, and the recognition that this is an emerging space they should devote resources to.”

May 1

 

djt biden resized smilesThe Hartmann Report, Commentary: Would "Dictator" Trump Kill his Rivals? Thom Hartmann, right, May 1, 2024. Trump has thom hartmannunleashed his inner psychopath and if he wins this election it’s going to get uglier here in America than most people today can imagine…

time logo ogTime Magazine reporter Eric Cortellessa spent hours interviewing Donald Trump, producing ashocking cover story this week. Converting one of his opening paragraphs into bullet points for readability, he summarized that Trump fully plans:

— “To carry out a deportation operation designed to remove more than 11 million people from the country, Trump told me, he would be willing to build migrant detention camps and deploy the U.S. military, both at the border and inland.
— “He would let red states monitor women’s pregnancies and prosecute those who violate abortion bans.
— “He would, at his personal discretion, withhold funds appropriated by Congress, according to top advisers.
— “He would be willing to fire a U.S. Attorney who doesn’t carry out his order to prosecute someone, breaking djt maga hatwith a tradition of independent law enforcement that dates from America’s founding.
— “He is weighing pardons for every one of his supporters accused of attacking the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, more than 800 of whom have pleaded guilty or been convicted by a jury.
— “He might not come to the aid of an attacked ally in Europe or Asia if he felt that country wasn’t paying enough for its own defense.
— “He would gut the U.S. civil service, deploy the National Guard to American cities as he sees fit, close the White House pandemic-preparedness office, and staff his Administration with acolytes who back his false assertion that the 2020 election was stolen.”

ICE logoWhile each and every one of Cortellessa’s points gleaned from Trump’s admissions and brags have the potential to transform America into a nation more closely resembling Russia or Saudi Arabia than anything seen here since the violence of the Confederacy, the reporter failed to ask Trump about his most troubling threat: to use assassination as a political weapon the way Putin and MBS do routinely.

Along those lines, CNN and the rest of America learned this past weekend that Bill Barr heard Trump repeatedly call for the murder of people he dislikes, but Barr says he thinks it’s all just bluster. Like that January 6th “bluster” that almost led to Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi ending up dead, and killed at least eight other individuals, including police officers.

Historians will tell you that dictators throughout history started just this same way, making vague threats to whip up their followers and engaging in “bluster.” And then, when the blood starts flowing, people realized, too late, that they should have been taking that all rhetoric seriously.

Killing his political rivals has been a theme with Donald Trump for years, and now that he’s promising to be a “dictator on day one” and to engage in “revenge” and “retribution” it’s past time to take him seriously.

Back in 2016, he bragged that he could shoot somebody on 5th Avenue and his followers would still vote for him.

Proof, Investigative Commentary: Are Far-Right Insurrectionists Infiltrating the Pro-Ceasefire Protests As Part of the Run-seth abramson graphicUp to the November Political Violence Trump Just Hinted at in Time Magazine? Seth Abramson, left, professor, best-selling Trump biographer and attorney, May 1, 2024. On social media, whispers have become chatter, chatter a chorus of concern. Is some percentage of these Gaza protests attributable to MAGA stagecraft? The evidence of inorganic mass action is growing.

seth abramson proof logoIntroduction: Proof adamantly rejects the post-January 6 conspiracy theorizing of the insurrectionist far right—which, without evidence, said that the armed attack on the United States Capitol that day was both instigated and carried out by FBI agents—so we begin our consideration of the 2024 Gaza Protests by stating unequivocally that a great many of the protesters demanding a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza War at scores of colleges and universities across America are indeed leftists.

Proof would even add that the overwhelming majority of them are leftists, but candidly—as this report shows—that would be journalistic overreach, as we simply don’t know anything about the majority of the protesters, let alone an “overwhelming” majority.

What we do know is this:

Supporters of Donald Trump have already begun to verbalize online their view that these protests, which have been largely nonviolent, are in fact terrifically violent; that these protests, which are animated first and foremost by a desire to save Gazan children from being killed in a conflict they have nothing to do with, is in fact a domestic terror operation; and that in view of these two false claims, MAGAs are entitled to engage in nationwide political violence if Trump loses this November because they would merely be doing the same as leftists are doing now.

Trump supporters in government are almost universally calling for aggressive law enforcement responses to these largely nonviolent protests, despite knowing that such aggressive responses often lead to violence that would not otherwise have occurred (and despite knowing that government suppression of protected speech is in many cases a free speech violation, which one would expect conservatives to know after years of them falsely calling a free speech issue non-government actors like Twitter engaging in content moderation under their publicly posted Terms of Service).

djt maga hatThe closer a demagogue is to real power in the Trumpist GOP—whether it be Governor Greg Abbott in Texas or Glenn Youngkin in Virginia, Republican Party leaders in Congress like Mike Johnson and Elise Stefanik or the hundreds of online influencers atop the MAGA “movement”—the more likely that person is to be advocating for actions in response to the campus protests that any public policy or law enforcement expert would tell you are far more likely to enflame the situation on college and university campuses in America than resolve them.

Trump just told Time magazine that he cannot promise that his supporters won’t get violent if he loses, and that he will not instruct them to remain peaceful. In fact, Trump, who has consistently said that if he doesn’t win the election handily it by definition was rigged against him, has made clear that the only guarantee of a peaceful transition in 2025 is a Trump victory. All this puts him in a precarious legal position, as he’s already under federal indictment over January 6 at the state and federal levels (and an unindicted co-conspirator in at least Michigan and Arizona so far) but has under six months to prepare his followers for the violence he’s now implicitly expecting of them; how can he incite another armed rebellion without facing new charges? In 2021, he and his followers justified January 6 by pointing to the 2020 George Floyd protests—a miniscule percentage of which became violent when they were infiltrated (per a Just Security report submitted into the congressional record) by organized crime, white supremacists, apolitical anarchists, and suspected 4chan trolls—and seem to be positioning themselves now to justify a second round of post-election violence using the Gaza protests. This means that Trump, his associates inside the Republican Party apparatus, and his rank-and-file followers all see a benefit in the Gaza protests turning violent.

A Supreme Court ruling just upheld the most serious abridgment of Freedom of Assembly in America in generations, though thankfully the decision for now only affects Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Under the new legal regime in these three red states, it only takes one far-right agitator infiltrating a left-wing protest for the leader(s) of that protest to face legal repercussions that could destroy their lives forever. This, despite the evidence that the far right has engaged in exactly these sorts of infiltrations this decade.

Unsurprisingly, this attack on the First Amendment garnered absolutely no complaints whatsoever from supposed far-right First Amendment “absolutists” like Elon Musk. So what does this have to do with the Gaza protests? Well, it means that at many of the campus protests—especially the several now ongoing in Texas and Louisiana—there is a significant potential benefit to far-right agitators who are able to successfully infiltrate the protests that goes well beyond just possible rhetorical cover for post-election violence in November and December of this year, as it also could extend to efforts to decimate the organized left in an election year through new lawsuits targeting left-leaning political organizers.

And it’s in the context of the items above that two further observations must be made:

Benjamin Netanyahu smile TwitterWe don’t know how many American and Israeli Jews now saying that the campus protests are threatening them are supporters of Trump or his friend Benjamin Netanyahu, right. This is not to say that there haven’t been documented instances of antisemitism at some of the now-ongoing Gaza protests, as there certainly have been), but simply that we can’t ignore the context in which these protests are occurring: months of efforts by far-right billionaires to attack higher education through overheated claims of antisemitism against the nation’s top academic institutions, accompanied by a concerted effort by the far-right Likud Party in Israel (and the Trumpist GOP in America) to equate any complaint against the Netanyahu administration with not just antisemitism but terroristic antisemitism. Just recently, Netanyahu described young people in America exercising their constitutional right to free speech en masse as nothing more than the “horrific” actions of “antisemitic mobs” that have (and it’s not clear what he’s actually referring to here) “taken over leading universities [in America]” (emphasis added). Netanyahu went on to lie about what has been happening during these protests, describing a fanciful epidemic of physical “attacks” on Jewish students and faculty and using such an imaginary portrait of ongoing mass violence in America as grounds to compare America in 2024 to “1930s Germany.” Netanyahu calls these exercises of free speech “unconscionable” and demands that they be “stopped”, taking great care to excoriate presumptively left-leaning college administrators and praise presumptively right-leaning government “officials” for their response to the protests (he seems to refer to Governors Abbott and Youngkin particularly). And in his most shameful incitement of all, Netanyahu claimed that the student protesters broadly writ want to “kill Jews wherever they are.” That’s outrageous.

As the data below confirms, over 50% of those participating in the largest campus protests now ongoing have no affiliation with the campuses on which the protests are occurring. To be clear—and as is confirmed below with major-media sourcing—Proof is not saying that the majority of those who are participating in the Gaza protests aren’t students at the colleges and universities where the largest protests are occurring, Proof is saying (again, with the benefit of hard data) that a majority of those at these protests have no affiliation with the campuses on which these protests are occurring whatsoever. They aren’t students or faculty or staff or administrators or longstanding contractors or alumni; they are, in fact, totally anonymous. This means we know nothing about their backgrounds, their motivations, or, yes, even their political affiliations.

So there’s ample data and precedent to support the idea that some number of Trumpist agitators could be infiltrating these protests to discredit them, inflame them, direct them toward violence, build from inside them a supposed precedent for future far-right political violence, direct otherwise peaceful leftists toward actions that could put them out of commission during the upcoming political organizing season, and, above all else, seed within their ranks an utter hatred of President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party that we already know the Republican Party is angling for because it’s more or less all their leaders talk about anymore inside or outside of Washington.

alden global capital logony times logo

New York Times, 8 Daily Newspapers Sue OpenAI and Microsoft Over A.I., Katie Robertson, May 1, 2024 (print ed.). The suit, which accuses the tech companies of copyright infringement, adds to the fight over the online data used to power artificial intelligence.

Eight daily newspapers owned by Alden Global Capital sued OpenAI and Microsoft on Tuesday, accusing the tech companies of illegally using news articles to power their A.I. chatbots.

tribune publishing logoThe publications — The New York Daily News, The Chicago Tribune, The Orlando Sentinel, The Sun Sentinel of Florida, The San Jose Mercury News, The Denver Post, The Orange County Register and The St. Paul Pioneer Press — filed the complaint in federal court in the U.S. Southern District of New York. All are owned by MediaNews Group or Tribune Publishing, subsidiaries of Alden, the country’s second-largest newspaper operator.

In the complaint, the publications accuse OpenAI and Microsoft of using millions of copyrighted articles without permission to train and feed their generative A.I. products, including ChatGPT and Microsoft Copilot. The lawsuit does not demand specific monetary damages, but it asks for a jury trial and said the publishers were owed compensation from the use of the content.

The complaint said the chatbots regularly surfaced the entire text of articles behind subscription paywalls for users and often did not prominently link back to the source. This, it said, reduced the need for readers to pay subscriptions to support local newspapers and deprived the publishers of revenue both from subscriptions and from licensing their content elsewhere.

“We’ve spent billions of dollars gathering information and reporting news at our publications, and we can’t allow OpenAI and Microsoft to expand the Big Tech playbook of stealing our work to build their own businesses at our expense,” Frank Pine, the executive editor overseeing Alden’s newspapers, said in a statement.

An OpenAI spokeswoman said in a statement that the company was “not previously aware” of Alden’s concerns but was engaged in partnerships and conversations with many news organizations to explore opportunities.

ny times logoNew York Times, Meta Faces E.U. Investigation Over Election Disinformation, Adam Satariano, May 1, 2024 (print ed.). The inquiry is intended to pressure the tech giant to more aggressively police Facebook and Instagram ahead of the European Union’s closely watched elections in June.

meta logoMeta, the American tech giant, is being investigated by European Union regulators for the spread of disinformation on its platforms Facebook and Instagram, poor oversight of deceptive advertisements and potential failure to protect the integrity of elections.

european union logo rectangleOn Tuesday, European Union officials said Meta did not appear to have sufficient safeguards in place to combat misleading advertisements, deepfakes and other deceptive information that is being maliciously spread online to amplify political divisions and influence elections.

The announcement appears intended to pressure Meta to do more ahead of elections across all 27 E.U. countries this summer to elect new members of the European Parliament. The vote, from June 6-9, is being closely watched for signs of foreign interference, particularly from Russia, which has sought to weaken European support for the war in Ukraine.

The Meta investigation shows how European regulators are taking a more aggressive approach to regulate online content than authorities in the United States, where free speech and other legal protections limit the role the government can play in policing online discourse. An E.U. law that took effect last year, the Digital Services Act, gives regulators broad authority to rein in Meta and other large online platforms over the content shared through their services.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Rowing Rescinds Ted Nash’s Honors After Abuse Investigation, Juliet Macur, May 1, 2024 (print ed.). A law firm examining accusations that Ted Nash sexually abused Jennifer Fox — when she was 13 and he was her 40-year-old running coach — found that her claims were credible.

ted nash 1972A 16-month investigation made public on Tuesday determined that child sexual abuse accusations against Ted Nash, a two-time Olympic medalist and nine-time Olympic coach for the United States who had mythic status in his sport over decades, were credible and that his main accuser had no motive to lie about the abuse.

The 154-page report by the law firm Shearman & Sterling, which U.S. Rowing, the sport’s governing body in the United States, asked to examine claims against Mr. Nash (shown in a 1972 photo), found that Jennifer Fox, now 64 and a filmmaker who lives in Manhattan, was believable when she said that Mr. Nash had sexually abused her more than 50 years ago. Ms. Fox claimed that he had groomed her for a sexual relationship and sexually assaulted her multiple times when she was 13 and he was her 40-year-old running coach.

The abuse, which lasted several months and included his coercing her to have sex with him multiple times, ended in 1973, said Ms. Fox, whose 2018 film “The Tale” depicted her memories of the abuse but did not name Mr. Nash. He died at 88 in 2021.

Jan Nash, his widow, did not immediately respond to voice messages and texts seeking comment. Last year, she told The New York Times that she was shocked and saddened by the accusations and said that “it’s just not fair” for Ms. Fox to name Mr. Nash now that he can’t defend himself.

 

April

April 30

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Class of 2024, It’s Not in Your Head: The Job Market Is Tough, Peter Coy, right, April 30, 2024 peter coy(print ed.). Here is a brutal fact for the college class of 2024: There aren’t enough college-level jobs out there for all of you.

Some of you will snag them. Others will have to settle for jobs that don’t require a college education. And history shows that many of those who start out in a job that doesn’t require a college education are still toiling in that kind of job a decade later.

The best way to avoid underemployment is to pick a major that employers want and to complete an internship, Burning Glass found. If you didn’t do those things and you’re a few weeks from commencement without a job lined up … um, potentially not good.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: "If Only!"— Pro-Trump Host Expresses Desire for Allowing Only White Men to Vote, J.D. Wolf, April 30, 2024. Ben Bergquam is a reporter for Real America's Voice.

mtn meidas touch networkBen Bergquam is one of Trump and MAGA Republicans' voices in right wing media. He's covers Trump rallies, MAGA events, the border, and protests. In 2019, Bergquam was present with Marjorie Taylor Greene when their group confronted AOC's office and Greene kept flipping the mail slot on AOC's office door.

On his Instagram Story Wednesday, Bergquam shared a map of the United States indicating a resulting Trump victory if only white men were allowed to vote. Bergquam added the comment "if only" to the original post, implying approval of allowing only white men to vote and thus resulting in a Trump victory.

djt maga hatMAGA Republicans are often criticized for being racist. During a 2019 interview panel with Marjorie Taylor Greene, Bergquam once joked about putting on blackface to get into the White House.

Bergquam, who has been part of the MAGA scene for a long time, has tons of pro-Trump pictures and on his social media pages. Here is Bergquam at Trump's Mar-a-Lago club and residence.

Politico, This liberal crusader helped convince America Covid came from a lab, Carmen Paun, April 30, 2024. Gary Ruskin, founder of U.S. Right to Know, says the government is covering it up.

politico CustomCongressional Republicans are banking on a blockbuster hearing Wednesday on the origins of Covid-19 to show once and for all that U.S. scientists, working with a Chinese lab, caused a devastating pandemic.

To counter the view of many scientists that Covid originated naturally among wild animals, the Republicans will rely on evidence uncovered by a tiny nonprofit in Oakland, California, led by a disciple of consumer activist Ralph Nader.

U.S. Right to Know and its founder, Gary Ruskin, have proven “more successful than any of us in getting information from the administration,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) after introducing Ruskin at a March hearing.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: "If Only!"— Pro-Trump Host Expresses Desire for Allowing Only White Men to Vote, J.D. Wolf, April 30, 2024. Ben Bergquam is a reporter for Real America's Voice.

mtn meidas touch networkBen Bergquam is one of Trump and MAGA Republicans' voices in right wing media. He's covers Trump rallies, MAGA events, the border, and protests. In 2019, Bergquam was present with Marjorie Taylor Greene when their group confronted AOC's office and Greene kept flipping the mail slot on AOC's office door.

On his Instagram Story Wednesday, Bergquam shared a map of the United States indicating a resulting Trump victory if only white men were allowed to vote. Bergquam added the comment "if only" to the original post, implying approval of allowing only white men to vote and thus resulting in a Trump victory.

djt maga hatMAGA Republicans are often criticized for being racist. During a 2019 interview panel with Marjorie Taylor Greene, Bergquam once joked about putting on blackface to get into the White House.

Bergquam, who has been part of the MAGA scene for a long time, has tons of pro-Trump pictures and on his social media pages. Here is Bergquam at Trump's Mar-a-Lago club and residence.

April 29

oan logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Right-Wing Network Retracts False Story About Key Witness in Trump Trial, Maggie Haberman and Katie Robertson, April 29, 2024. Michael D. Cohen’s lawyers took on OAN over the false story. The settlement came as right-wing news outlets face a barrage of defamation suits.

One America News, a right-wing cable news network, on Monday retracted a report claiming that Donald J. Trump’s former fixer had been the person who actually had an affair with the porn star whose claims of a sexual relationship with Mr. Trump are key to his criminal trial.

The retraction came after the fixer, Michael D. Cohen, hired a leading defamation lawyer to address the false report, which was posted on the network’s website on March 27.

The lawyer, Justin Nelson, had represented Dominion Voting Systems in a suit against Fox News that cost that network $787.5 million to settle. Mr. Nelson worked with Mr. Cohen’s longtime lawyer, Danya Perry, in what was a remarkably quick about-face by OAN.

There are no monetary damages, but the story is being removed from the website “and all social media,” the network said in a statement on Monday.

“This retraction is part of a settlement reached with Michael Cohen,” the statement said. “OAN apologizes to Mr. Cohen for any harm the publication may have caused him.”

 

wells college 620x264

Wells College, founded in 1868 and exclusively for women until 2004,  sits on the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake in Aurora, north of Ithaca. This aerial view is courtesy of Wells College.

14850 Magazine, Wells College says it will close at the end of the spring semester, Mark H. Anbinder, April 29, 2024. A letter from the Wells College board chair and president released Monday morning says the college will close at the end of the spring 2024 academic semester. The letter says the college’s trustees “have determined after a thorough review that the College does not have adequate financial resources to continue.”

Wells has made arrangements for students to finish their undergraduate educations with “preferred teach-out partner” Manhattanville University or additional partners Excelsior University, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Keuka College, Le Moyne College, Mercy University, and SUNY Brockport.

Most staff and faculty will find their jobs ending, though “Wells College has sufficient financial resources to meet any payroll obligations for retained individuals,” and they are working to wind down operations “as humanely and respectfully as possiblem,” the college says.

The closure comes just a year after Cazenovia College announced it would close just shy of its 200th anniversary, saying “a combination of financial challenges were more than the College could overcome and consequently, the College announced it would not be enrolling students for the Fall 2023 semester.”

ny times logoNew York Times, With Paramount in Chaos and Its Future Uncertain, Its Chief Steps Down, Benjamin Mullin and Lauren Hirsch, April 29, 2024. Bob Bakish was once a staunch ally of Shari Redstone, Paramount’s controlling shareholder. His departure comes as the company considers a major merger.

Shari Redstone, the controlling shareholder of Paramount, has tried to resist the erosion of her media empire over the last decade as she confronted the death of cable TV, the rise of streaming and even a failed boardroom coup from a longtime ally.

By her side through it all has been Bob Bakish, Paramount’s chief executive. For years, she saw him as a loyal lieutenant who could navigate the treacherous entertainment industry with the financial dexterity of the management consultant he once was. As Paramount’s share price sagged, she was patient with him — even as she steered the company toward an eventual sale that he had reservations about.

That patience officially ran out on Monday.

Mr. Bakish is stepping down effective immediately, Paramount announced on Monday, a stunning shake-up in the top ranks of the company as it considers a major merger.

Mr. Bakish, 60, will be replaced by an “office of the C.E.O.” run by three executives: Brian Robbins, head of the Paramount movie studio; George Cheeks, chief executive of Paramount’s CBS division; and Chris McCarthy, chief executive of Showtime and MTV Entertainment Studios.

Looming over Mr. Bakish’s exit are broader questions about the future of Paramount. Like many media companies, Paramount has struggled in recent years to get its streaming business off the ground as audiences for its cable channels have diminished. As a result, it has long been considered an acquisition target by rivals looking to build up their content libraries and increase their leverage in cable negotiations.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Can Nonprofit News Save the South From Itself? Margaret Renkl, April 29, 2024. When I moved here in 1987, Nashville had two daily newspapers: a morning paper, The Tennessean, whose editorial page leaned left; and an evening paper, the Nashville Banner, whose editorial page leaned right. I still a subscribe to The Tennessean, but the Banner is long gone. In 1998, The Tennessean bought its longtime competitor and shut it down.

I recall with fondness that venerable newspaper, no matter that its editorial page did not align with my own politics. Some of the local journalists I most admire got their start at the Banner. And a city with competing newsrooms, each determined to get the news first and to get it right, is protected by a powerful bulwark against extremism and governmental mischief. In a democracy, the only way to be sure there isn’t a fox watching the henhouse is to set a whole bunch of reporters the task of watching the foxes.

Today less than a dozen U.S. cities have two competing daily newspapers, and many communities have no local news source at all. Nashville, like many other midsize cities, still has television news channels, an alternative newsweekly (the Nashville Scene) and various online publications to do some of that henhouse-watching. Nevertheless, the combined ranks of reporters covering crucial beats like state and local politics, education, criminal justice and the like, are dramatically smaller than they were in the days when the Tennessean and the Banner, each fully staffed and fully funded, were scrapping for scoops.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Hunter Biden Intends To Sue Fox News: Report, Jordy Meiselas, April 29, 2024. The lawsuit is expected imminently.

mtn meidas touch networkAccording to a new report by NBC News, Hunter Biden is preparing to file a lawsuit against Fox News "imminently." NBC News obtained a letter from earlier this month that put Fox News Channel and Fox News Digital on notice for the network's alleged “conspiracy and subsequent actions to defame Mr. Biden and paint him in a false light, the unlicensed commercial exploitation of his image, name, and likeness, and the unlawful publication of hacked intimate images of him.”

This latest news comes as Fox News has repeatedly brought on guests that have attacked Hunter Biden. It also comes at a precarious time for the network. Recently, Fox News agreed to pay nearly $800 million to Dominion Voting Systems following the company's defamation claims. Fox also agreed to pay $12 million in a separate settlement with a former employee, and is currently facing a massive, $2.7 billion lawsuit filed by Smartmatic, another voting-related company. That lawsuit stems from similar allegations as the Dominion suit.

Biden's attorney, Mark Geragos, gave the following statement to NBC News regarding the possibility of a lawsuit against Fox News:

“For the last five years, Fox News has relentlessly attacked Hunter Biden and made him a caricature in order to boost ratings and for its financial gain. The recent indictment of FBI informant Smirnov has exposed the conspiracy of disinformation that has been fueled by Fox, enabled by their paid agents and monetized by the Fox enterprise. We plan on holding them accountable.”

April 19

ny times logoNew York Times, How an Obscure Chinese Real Estate Start-Up Paved the Way to TikTok, Mara Hvistendahl and Lauren Hirsch, April 19, 2024 (print ed.).  Court records tell a story about the birth of ByteDance, its bumpy road to success and the role of the Republican megadonor Jeff Yass’s firm.

In 2009, long before Jeff Yass became a Republican megadonor, his firm, Susquehanna International Group, invested in a Chinese real estate start-up that boasted a sophisticated search algorithm.

tiktok logo CustomThe company, 99Fang, promised to help buyers find their perfect homes. Behind the scenes, employees of a Chinese subsidiary of Mr. Yass’s firm were so deeply involved, records show, that they conceived the idea for the company and handpicked its chief executive. They said in one email that he was not the company’s “real founder.”

As a real estate venture, 99Fang ultimately fizzled. But it was significant, according to a lawsuit by former Susquehanna contractors, because of what it spawned. They say that 99Fang’s chief executive — and the search technology — resurfaced at another Susquehanna venture: ByteDance.

China FlagByteDance, the owner of TikTok, is now one of the world’s most highly valued start-ups, worth $225 billion, according to CB Insights, a firm that tracks venture capital. ByteDance is also at the center of a tempest on Capitol Hill, where some lawmakers see the company as a threat to American security. They are considering a bill that could break up the company. The man picked by Susquehanna to run the housing site, Zhang Yiming, became ByteDance’s founder.

Court documents reveal a complex origin story for ByteDance and TikTok. The records include emails, chat messages and memos from inside Susquehanna. They describe a middling business experiment, founder-investor tension and, ultimately, a powerful search engine that just needed a purpose.

The records also show that Mr. Yass’s firm was more deeply involved in TikTok’s genesis than previously known. It has been widely reported in The New York Times and elsewhere that Susquehanna owns roughly 15 percent of ByteDance, but the documents make clear that the firm was no passive investor. It nurtured Mr. Zhang’s career and signed off on the idea for the company.

Susquehanna has tens of billions of dollars at stake as lawmakers debate whether TikTok gives its Chinese owner the power to sow discord and spread disinformation among Americans. As Susquehanna’s founder, Mr. Yass potentially has billions riding on the outcome of the debate.

Mr. Yass, a former professional poker player, is also the single largest donor this election cycle, with more than $46 million in contributions through the end of last year, according to OpenSecrets, a research group that tracks money in politics.

Susquehanna has turned over Mr. Yass’s emails as part of the case, according to court documents. But those emails are not included in the trove that was made public, leaving Mr. Yass’s personal involvement in ByteDance’s formation unknown.

  • New York Times, A trove of ByteDance records mistakenly went public. Here’s what they say.

ny times logoNew York Times, Google fired 28 employees involved in the protest of an Israeli cloud contract, Nico Grant, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). The dismissals escalated longstanding tensions between company leaders and activist employees opposed to supplying technology to Israel’s government.

google logo customGoogle on Wednesday fired 28 workers after dozens of employees participated in sit-ins at the company’s New York and Sunnyvale, Calif., offices to protest the company’s cloud computing contract with the Israeli government.

A day earlier, nine employees were arrested on charges of trespassing at the two offices.

Israel Flag“Physically impeding other employees’ work and preventing them from accessing our facilities is a clear violation of our policies, and completely unacceptable behavior,” a Google spokeswoman said in a statement.

Years before the dismissals, tensions had been simmering between the company’s management and some activist employees over Project Nimbus, a $1.2 billion Google and Amazon deal to supply the Israeli government with cloud services, such as artificial intelligence.

That discord had deepened since the war in Gaza began in October. Google recently fired an employee who disrupted an Israeli technology conference in New York. And the company is even planning to make changes to a corporate forum because employees were bickering about the conflict.

Google said it would continue to investigate the Tuesday protests. In Sunnyvale, employees refused to leave the office of Thomas Kurian, the chief executive of Google Cloud.

Google employees affiliated with the group that organized the sit-ins, called No Tech For Apartheid, said in a statement that the firings were “a flagrant act of retaliation.”

“Google workers have the right to peacefully protest about terms and conditions of our labor,” the employees said. They added that some of the employees Google fired had not participated in the sit-ins.

The Nimbus contract, announced in 2021, was to supply various Israeli government ministries with cloud software. Since the contract’s inception, some Google employees have expressed concern that the company was aiding Israel’s military.

A Google spokeswoman said that Nimbus “is not directed at highly sensitive, classified, or military workloads relevant to weapons or intelligence services.”

In 2018, Google workers successfully pushed the company to end a deal with the U.S. Defense Department. Called Project Maven, it would have helped the military analyze drone videos.

Employees who have taken part in Nimbus activism said in their statement that they would continue protesting “until the company drops Project Nimbus.”

  • New York Times, A trove of ByteDance records mistakenly went public. Here’s what they say.

April 19

ny times logoNew York Times, Legal Fight Over Trump Media’s Ownership Adds to Its Woes, Matthew Goldstein and David Yaffe-Bellany, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). Two ex-contestants on “The Apprentice” sold Donald Trump on the idea of a social media platform. Now, the company and the pair are wrangling over their stake.

Twenty years ago, Wes Moss and Andy Litinsky met Donald J. Trump as contestants on his reality TV show, “The Apprentice” — a connection that led them to help launch the former president’s social media platform, Truth Social, with his blessing.

Now, they might as well be starring in an episode of “Family Feud.”

For weeks, Mr. Moss and Mr. Litinsky have been fighting with Trump Media & Technology Group, the parent company of Truth Social, over their roughly 8 percent stake in the company. In February, they sued the company, claiming that Trump Media — which made its trading debut last month at an $8 billion valuation — was trying to deprive them of the full value of their shares. Now they also claim the company is trying to prevent them from selling those shares.

ny times logoNew York Times, Right-Wing Apps Falter, David Yaffe-Bellany and Matthew Goldstein, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). Donald Trump’s social media platform has outdistanced similar conservative sites such as Parler and Gettr, even as it lags far behind X and others.

After former President Donald J. Trump was kicked off Twitter in 2021, conservative entrepreneurs rushed to promote social media alternatives tailored to him and his supporters.

There were Parler and Gab, Twitter-like sites popular among the people who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Then came Gettr, a social media app created by one of Mr. Trump’s former advisers.

That crowded field has now narrowed, giving an edge to Truth Social, the platform that Mr. Trump’s company owns and where he is the main attraction.

In March, Truth Social recorded 1.5 million unique visitors in the United States as its parent company started trading on the public markets, up 130 percent from the previous month, according to Similarweb, a data firm that tracks web traffic. While the app’s visitor count was minuscule compared with mainstream social sites, it was 13 times the size of the combined total recorded by Parler and Gettr.

ny times logoNew York Times, How an Obscure Chinese Real Estate Start-Up Paved the Way to TikTok, Mara Hvistendahl and Lauren Hirsch, April 19, 2024 (print ed.).  Court records tell a story about the birth of ByteDance, its bumpy road to success and the role of the Republican megadonor Jeff Yass’s firm.

In 2009, long before Jeff Yass became a Republican megadonor, his firm, Susquehanna International Group, invested in a Chinese real estate start-up that boasted a sophisticated search algorithm.

tiktok logo CustomThe company, 99Fang, promised to help buyers find their perfect homes. Behind the scenes, employees of a Chinese subsidiary of Mr. Yass’s firm were so deeply involved, records show, that they conceived the idea for the company and handpicked its chief executive. They said in one email that he was not the company’s “real founder.”

As a real estate venture, 99Fang ultimately fizzled. But it was significant, according to a lawsuit by former Susquehanna contractors, because of what it spawned. They say that 99Fang’s chief executive — and the search technology — resurfaced at another Susquehanna venture: ByteDance.

China FlagByteDance, the owner of TikTok, is now one of the world’s most highly valued start-ups, worth $225 billion, according to CB Insights, a firm that tracks venture capital. ByteDance is also at the center of a tempest on Capitol Hill, where some lawmakers see the company as a threat to American security. They are considering a bill that could break up the company. The man picked by Susquehanna to run the housing site, Zhang Yiming, became ByteDance’s founder.

Court documents reveal a complex origin story for ByteDance and TikTok. The records include emails, chat messages and memos from inside Susquehanna. They describe a middling business experiment, founder-investor tension and, ultimately, a powerful search engine that just needed a purpose.

The records also show that Mr. Yass’s firm was more deeply involved in TikTok’s genesis than previously known. It has been widely reported in The New York Times and elsewhere that Susquehanna owns roughly 15 percent of ByteDance, but the documents make clear that the firm was no passive investor. It nurtured Mr. Zhang’s career and signed off on the idea for the company.

Susquehanna has tens of billions of dollars at stake as lawmakers debate whether TikTok gives its Chinese owner the power to sow discord and spread disinformation among Americans. As Susquehanna’s founder, Mr. Yass potentially has billions riding on the outcome of the debate.

Mr. Yass, a former professional poker player, is also the single largest donor this election cycle, with more than $46 million in contributions through the end of last year, according to OpenSecrets, a research group that tracks money in politics.

Susquehanna has turned over Mr. Yass’s emails as part of the case, according to court documents. But those emails are not included in the trove that was made public, leaving Mr. Yass’s personal involvement in ByteDance’s formation unknown.

  • New York Times, A trove of ByteDance records mistakenly went public. Here’s what they say.

 

April 18

ny times logoNew York Times, The House is moving toward a vote on a measure that would ban TikTok in the United States unless ByteDance sells it, David McCabe and Sapna Maheshwari, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). The House on Wednesday tiktok logo Custommade another push to force through legislation that would require the sale of TikTok by its Chinese owner or ban the app in the United States, accelerating an effort to disrupt the popular social media app.

Speaker Mike Johnson has indicated that he intends to package the measure, a modified version of a stand-alone bill that the House passed last month, with foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

U.S. House logoWhile the new legislation would still require TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, to sell the app to owners that resolved national security concerns, it includes an option to extend the deadline for a sale to nine months from the original six months, according to text of the legislation released by House leadership. The president could extend the deadline by another 90 days if progress toward a sale was being made.

House lawmakers are expected to vote Saturday on a package of legislation that includes the TikTok ban and other bills popular with Republicans, a maneuver intended to induce lawmakers to vote for the foreign aid. If the package passes, the measures will be sent as a single bill to the Senate, which could vote soon after. President Biden has said he’ll sign TikTok legislation into law if it reaches his desk.

China FlagThe move “to package TikTok is definitely unusual, but it could succeed,” said Paul Gallant, a policy analyst for the financial services firm TD Cowen. He added that “it’s a bit of brinkmanship” to try to force an up-or-down vote without further negotiation with the Senate.

ny times logoNew York Times, How A.I. Tools Could Change India’s Elections, Suhasini Raj, April 18, 2024. Avatars are addressing voters by name, in whichever language they speak. Experts see potential for misuse in a country already rife with disinformation.

For a glimpse of where artificial intelligence is headed in election campaigns, look to India, the world’s largest democracy, as it starts heading to the polls on Friday.

An A.I.-generated version of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that has been shared on WhatsApp shows the possibilities for hyperpersonalized outreach in a country with nearly a billion voters. In the video — a demo clip whose source is unclear — Mr. Modi’s avatar addresses a series of voters directly, by name.

ny times logoNew York Times, The House is moving toward a vote on a measure that would ban TikTok in the United States unless ByteDance sells it, David McCabe and Sapna Maheshwari, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). The House on Wednesday made another push to force through legislation that would require the sale of TikTok by its Chinese owner or ban the app in the United States, accelerating an effort to disrupt the popular social media app.

Speaker Mike Johnson has indicated that he intends to package the measure, a modified version of a stand-alone bill that the House passed last month, with foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

tiktok logo CustomWhile the new legislation would still require TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, to sell the app to owners that resolved national security concerns, it includes an option to extend the deadline for a sale to nine months from the original six months, according to text of the legislation released by House leadership. The president could extend the deadline by another 90 days if progress toward a sale was being made.

House lawmakers are expected to vote Saturday on a package of legislation that includes the TikTok ban and other bills popular with Republicans, a maneuver intended to induce lawmakers to vote for the foreign aid. If the package passes, the measures will be sent as a single bill to the Senate, which could vote soon after. President Biden has said he’ll sign TikTok legislation into law if it reaches his desk.

The move “to package TikTok is definitely unusual, but it could succeed,” said Paul Gallant, a policy analyst for the financial services firm TD Cowen. He added that “it’s a bit of brinkmanship” to try to force an up-or-down vote without further negotiation with the Senate.

ny times logoNew York Times, How an Obscure Chinese Real Estate Start-Up Paved the Way to TikTok, Mara Hvistendahl and Lauren Hirsch, April 18, 2024. Court records tell a story about the birth of ByteDance, its bumpy road to success and the role of the Republican megadonor Jeff Yass’s firm.

In 2009, long before Jeff Yass became a Republican megadonor, his firm, Susquehanna International Group, invested in a Chinese real estate start-up that boasted a sophisticated search algorithm.

tiktok logo CustomThe company, 99Fang, promised to help buyers find their perfect homes. Behind the scenes, employees of a Chinese subsidiary of Mr. Yass’s firm were so deeply involved, records show, that they conceived the idea for the company and handpicked its chief executive. They said in one email that he was not the company’s “real founder.”

As a real estate venture, 99Fang ultimately fizzled. But it was significant, according to a lawsuit by former Susquehanna contractors, because of what it spawned. They say that 99Fang’s chief executive — and the search technology — resurfaced at another Susquehanna venture: ByteDance.

ByteDance, the owner of TikTok, is now one of the world’s most highly valued start-ups, worth $225 billion, according to CB Insights, a firm that tracks venture capital. ByteDance is also at the center of a tempest on Capitol Hill, where some lawmakers see the company as a threat to American security. They are considering a bill that could break up the company. The man picked by Susquehanna to run the housing site, Zhang Yiming, became ByteDance’s founder.

Court documents reveal a complex origin story for ByteDance and TikTok. The records include emails, chat messages and memos from inside Susquehanna. They describe a middling business experiment, founder-investor tension and, ultimately, a powerful search engine that just needed a purpose.

The records also show that Mr. Yass’s firm was more deeply involved in TikTok’s genesis than previously known. It has been widely reported in The New York Times and elsewhere that Susquehanna owns roughly 15 percent of ByteDance, but the documents make clear that the firm was no passive investor. It nurtured Mr. Zhang’s career and signed off on the idea for the company.

Susquehanna has tens of billions of dollars at stake as lawmakers debate whether TikTok gives its Chinese owner the power to sow discord and spread disinformation among Americans. As Susquehanna’s founder, Mr. Yass potentially has billions riding on the outcome of the debate.

Mr. Yass, a former professional poker player, is also the single largest donor this election cycle, with more than $46 million in contributions through the end of last year, according to OpenSecrets, a research group that tracks money in politics.

Susquehanna has turned over Mr. Yass’s emails as part of the case, according to court documents. But those emails are not included in the trove that was made public, leaving Mr. Yass’s personal involvement in ByteDance’s formation unknown.

  • New York Times, A trove of ByteDance records mistakenly went public. Here’s what they say.

April 18

ny times logoNew York Times, How A.I. Tools Could Change India’s Elections, Suhasini Raj, April 18, 2024. Avatars are addressing voters by name, in whichever language they speak. Experts see potential for misuse in a country already rife with disinformation.

For a glimpse of where artificial intelligence is headed in election campaigns, look to India, the world’s largest democracy, as it starts heading to the polls on Friday.

An A.I.-generated version of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that has been shared on WhatsApp shows the possibilities for hyperpersonalized outreach in a country with nearly a billion voters. In the video — a demo clip whose source is unclear — Mr. Modi’s avatar addresses a series of voters directly, by name.

April 14

washington post logoWashington Post, Frescoes buried by volcano uncovered in ancient dining room in Pompeii, Victoria Bisset, April 14, 2024 (print ed.). Archeologists in Pompeii, Italy, found a banquet hall with frescoes showing mythological figures including Helen of Troy and Apollo.

In the ancient city of Pompeii, which was preserved under a blanket of ash and smoke from Mount Vesuvius volcano eruption in 79 A.D., archaeologists have uncovered a banquet room decorated with beautiful frescoes of mythological characters inspired by the Trojan War.

washington post logoWashington Post, It’s no Cannes or Venice, but Gettysburg just had a sold out film festival, Michael E. Ruane, April 14, 2024 (print ed.). Ken Burns, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston came out for the Gettysburg Film Festival, which organizers hope will grow into a regular celebration of movies and documentaries with a connection to history.

Filmmaker Ken Burns was sitting in the research room of the Adams County Historical Society talking about the sadness of his early life and the power of movies.

“My family … had lots of illness in it,” he said. “My mom was dying.” Yet his father never seemed to cry. “He never cried when she was sick or when she died, or at the funeral.”

His mother, Lyla, died in 1965 at age 42. Not long after, he and his father, Robert, were watching the 1947 movie “Odd Man Out” on TV. A tragic story about the Troubles in Northern Ireland, it made his father cry.

Burns was 12. He said he realized that the film gave his father “a safe haven” for his emotions. “I knew how much I loved movies,” he said. “I knew how much I loved seeing movies with him. I knew how much they moved me.”

The award-winning filmmaker, now 70, was in town last weekend for the Gettysburg Film Festival. A version of the event began last year, on a smaller scale, and organizers hope it will grow into a regular celebration of movies and documentaries with a connection to history.

“It’s all a little bit of an evolution,” said festival director Jake Boritt. “And we don’t want to overstretch ourselves or over promise. But … it’s kind of crazy, the enthusiasm for it the past few days, which is wonderful.”

The Majestic Theater in Gettysburg, Pa., where films by Ken Burns were shown during the Gettysburg Film Festival this month. (Michael E. Ruane/The Washington Post)

The festival featured screenings of Burns’s films at Gettysburg’s venerable Majestic Theater, and conversations with Burns, actors Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston, and author Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Burns brought along his 13-year-old daughter, Willa.

Waterston was the voice of Abraham Lincoln in Burns’s 1990 blockbuster documentary “The Civil War.” Sheen played Confederate General Robert E. Lee in the 1993 movie “Gettysburg.”

All events were sold out, said Andrew Dalton, festival producer and executive director of the Adams County Historical Society.

“There doesn’t appear to be another American history film festival in the United States,” he said. “It’s a large opportunity for Gettysburg to become a place that’s known, not just for a battlefield and a speech, but also for a film festival.”

He said in an email later that an object of the festival was to increase the interest in history.

“It’s also to bring Americans together through storytelling,” he added. “There’s so much emphasis on division and disagreement. I hope what we’re doing can remind people of what we have in common.”

Burns has helped make films on World War II, baseball, jazz, the Holocaust, the Vietnam War and Muhammad Ali, among many others.

During the Civil War, Gettysburg was where the Union army defeated Confederate forces in July 1863, and where, four months later, Lincoln delivered his famous address calling for a new birth of freedom for all Americans.

“This town … is central to the whole United States,” Burns said in a media briefing last Friday. “Everything kind of led up to this in the Civil War, and everything comes out of it.”

Many big film festivals are held in exotic locales such as Cannes, in France, Venice, and Telluride, in Colorado. Gettysburg is in the rural apple-growing country of southern Pennsylvania.

April 13

djt wikipedia fraudsters

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Wikipedia finally gets something right, Wayne Madsen, left, April 13-14, 2024.  wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallWhile WMR will continue to criticize the on-line encyclopedia Wikipedia as the greatest source of disinformation since the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, we can point outthat it finally got something right. Wikipedia now lists Donald Trump as one of the most notorious fraudsters in history.

wayne madesen report logoAnd that is exactly how history and social studies teachers around the country should refer to him in their lesson plans.

Rather than compare Trump to all of the other presidents, who, compared to the grifter from Queens, were all honorable men -- including Andrew Jackson and Richard Nixon -- Trump is better suited to be in the company of fellow fraudsters and swindlers like Bernie Madoff, Ken Lay, and Charles Ponzi, the latter of Ponzi scheme infamy.

Trump's final con during his sordid career tops those performed by all of his fellow crooks. That was, of course, being elected President of the United States.

Although historians now agree that Donald Trump ranks as the worst president in history, when it comes to swindlers, grifters, and crooks, he ranks right up there with George Parker, the man who repeatedly "sold" the Brooklyn Bridge to the unwary, and "Crazy Eddie" Antar, the tri-state consumer electronics salesman who made famous the money laudering scheme nicknamed the "Panama pump."

Wikipedia describes fraudster Trump as follows: "Real-estate purchaser and hospitality venue operator found by a State of New York Supreme Court justice to have provided fraudulent statements of financial condition that vastly overstated his wealth. Victims included the Government of the United States, which relied on the documents when awarding Trump a contract to convert and operate the Old Post Office (Washington, DC) as a hotel, and borrowers and insurers who relied on the documents to provide favorable rates for which he was not actually entitled. The court ordered Trump's ill-gotten gains disgorged and placed a roughly $354 million judgment, plus interest, against him and his two adult sons."

Trump now finds himself in the company of such rogues as Madoff, whose grift totaled $17.179 billion; Scientology minister and Earthlink co-founder Reed Slatkin, who defrauded mostly other Scientologists of $593 million; Marc Dreier, who swindled $740 million mainly by selling fraudulent promissory notes; and Ponzi, who lent his name to later fraudulent investment schemes, including those concocted by Madoff and Trump, as well as by Shimon Hayut, aka Simon Leviev, who conned unwary investors of $100 million. Hayut was the focus of the Netflix series titled "The Tinder Swindler."

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Trump Violates Gag Order in NY Criminal Case With Attack on Michael Cohen, Brett Meiselas, April 13-14, 2024. A panicked Donald Trump continues to test the legal system as his first criminal trial approaches in Manhattan.

mtn meidas touch networkWith just days before his New York criminal trial, Donald Trump sent a flurry of panicked messages on his social media app, with one in particular clearly violating his gag order. The post attacked his former attorney, Michael Cohen, a key witness in the case.

In this screenshot from a video posted to Twitter, a law student, Malak Afaneh, and a professor, Catherine Fisk, tussle over a microphone.In this screenshot from a video posted to Twitter, a law student, Malak Afaneh, and a professor, Catherine Fisk, tussle over a microphone.

ny times logoNew York Times, At Berkeley, a Protest at a Dean’s Home Tests the Limits of Free Speech, Vimal Patel, April 13, 2024 (print ed.). Pro-Palestinian supporters disrupted a dinner for law students. There was a tussle over the microphone and conflicting claims of harm.

Erwin Chemerinsky has supported speech rights for pro-Palestinian students. But this incident shows how the Israel-Hamas war has complicated the debate. Credit...Carolyn Fong for The New York Times

The dean of Berkeley’s law school is known as a staunch supporter of free speech, but things became personal for him when pro-Palestinian students disrupted a celebratory dinner party for some 60 students at his home.

Erwin Chemerinsky, the law school dean, hosted the dinner on Tuesday night in the backyard of his Oakland, Calif., home. The party was supposed to be a community building event, open to all third-year law students, with no speeches or formal activities.

But a third-year law student and a Palestinian activist, Malak Afaneh, stood up at the event, holding a microphone, and launched into a speech.

As she began to talk, Mr. Chemerinsky, a noted Constitutional scholar, can be seen shouting, “Please leave our house! You are guests in our house!”

Catherine Fisk, another Berkeley law professor and Mr. Chemerinsky’s wife, can be seen with her arm around Ms. Afaneh, trying to yank the microphone away and pulling the student up a couple steps.

Ms. Afaneh and other student protesters described Ms. Fisk’s struggle for the microphone as a disproportionate and violent response. Students, they said, had a right to speak at a university gathering.

Mr. Chemerinsky said the dinner was paid for by the university. But he said that the students, who brought their own microphone and amp, had no such free speech rights in a private home, at a dinner with no planned remarks.

In the past, Mr. Chemerinsky has supported speech rights for pro-Palestinian students, including the right to block Zionists from speaking to their groups. But this latest incident shows how the Israel-Hamas war has intensified and complicated the free speech debate. As pro-Palestinian students stage sit-ins and disrupt events at campuses across the country, some administrators, pressed by donors and politicians, have cracked down on unruly behavior, arresting and suspending students.

The moment has been especially fraught for the University of California, Berkeley, long a hotbed of leftist activism and the home of the ’60s Free Speech movement. As protests there continue over the Middle East conflict, some Jewish students and alumni have criticized university officials, saying that the school has tolerated activism that veers into antisemitic speech.

On Thursday night, about 15 protesters returned to Mr. Chemerinsky’s home for another student dinner, this time staying outside the house for about 90 minutes, Mr. Chemerinsky said.

“They were carrying signs and had drums,” he wrote in an email message. “They stood in front of our house chanting (some quite offensive) and banging their drums.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Robert MacNeil, urbane anchor who founded ‘PBS NewsHour,’ dies at 93, Harrison Smith, April 13, 2024 (print ed.). He forged a two-decade partnership with Jim Lehrer, his co-anchor on public television. Robert MacNeil, a Canadian-born broadcast journalist who built what is now “PBS NewsHour” and served for two decades as its urbane, evenhanded co-anchor, died April 12 at a hospital in Manhattan. He was 93.

His daughter Alison MacNeil confirmed the death but did not cite a cause.

Mr. MacNeil, known as Robin, and Jim Lehrer, a former Texas newspaperman, formed one of television journalism’s most successful and enduring partnerships in 1975, when they launched what became “PBS NewsHour.” As the news world transformed around them with the arrival of 24-hour cable news and combative political talk shows, they maintained a reputation for sober, straightforward reporting and analysis.

The duo met in 1973 while anchoring public television’s gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Senate Watergate hearings. Teaming up again two years later, they decided to offer a sophisticated supplement to the network nightly news, focusing on a single issue each night that they addressed in interviews with experts.

April 11

ny times logoNew York Times, Akebono, First Foreign-Born Sumo Grand Champion, Dies at 54, Victoria Kim, Hisako Ueno and Yan Zhuang, Updated April 11, 2024. Born in Hawaii, he moved to Japan in 1988 and won 11 grand championships. His success drove a resurgence in the sport’s popularity.

He died of heart failure in early April while receiving care at a Tokyo hospital, according to a statement from his family that was distributed by the United States military in Japan on Thursday.

When he became Japan’s 64th yokozuna, or grand champion sumo wrestler, in 1993, he was the first foreign-born wrestler to achieve the sport’s highest title in its 300-year modern history.

April 9

washington post logoWashington Post, OpenAI prepares to fight for its life as legal troubles mount, Cat Zakrzewski, Nitasha Tiku and Elizabeth Dwoskin, April 9, 2024. The company has hired more than two dozen in-house lawyers and adopted a new Washington playbook.

As OpenAI’s top executives huddled with world leaders this past summer — touting the benefits of its ChatGPT with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron — comedian Sarah Silverman was preparing to take the company to court.

Silverman’s suit, which alleged the company stole her work when it used her memoir, “The Bedwetter,” to train its artificial intelligence products, was at the bleeding edge of a legal blitz that has exploded in recent months.

OpenAI has been hit with more than a dozen high-profile lawsuits and government investigations since Silverman’s complaint. Top authors including Jodi Picoult and media companies including the New York Times have also alleged that the company violates copyright law by training the algorithms that power popular services like ChatGPT on their work. Billionaire Elon Musk sued OpenAI for diverging from its original nonprofit mission. And government agencies in the United States and Europe are investigating whether the company ran afoul of competition, securities and consumer protection laws in multiple regulatory probes.

  • Washington Post, Analysis: Hundreds of groups urge Big Tech CEOs to step up fight against AI-fueled lies, Naomi Nix, April 9, 2024.

washington post logoWashington Post, Colorado GOP ousts reporter from event, claiming ‘unfair’ coverage, Anumita Kaur, April 9, 2024. As a veteran journalist in Colorado, it wasn’t Sandra Fish’s first time reporting on the state GOP assembly. But it was her first time getting kicked out.

The Colorado Republican Party expelled Fish from its event in Pueblo, Colo., on Saturday after she was told the party chairman finds her reporting “very unfair.”

Colorado GOP Chairman Dave Williams, a Donald Trump supporter who is running for a seat in the U.S. House, said he stands by the ejection.

“We make no apologies for kicking out a fake journalist,” Williams said in a text message Monday, echoing Trump’s oft-used epithet of “fake news.” Williams added that the Colorado Sun, a nonprofit news outlet founded in 2018, “is just an extension of the Democrat Party’s PR efforts.”

Colorado Sun editor Larry Ryckman said it’s “a sad day when politicians get to decide who can and cannot report for the American people,” according to the paper. He defended Fish’s reporting, calling her an “experienced, accomplished journalist,” the Sun reported.

April 6

ny times logoNew York Times, How Tech Giants Cut Corners to Harvest Data for A.I., Cade Metz, Cecilia Kang, Sheera Frenkel, Stuart A. Thompson and Nico Grant, April 6, 2024. OpenAI, Google and Meta ignored corporate policies and altered their own rules as they sought information to train their newest artificial intelligence systems.

In late 2021, OpenAI faced a supply problem.

The artificial intelligence lab had exhausted every reservoir of reputable English-language text on the internet as it developed its latest A.I. system. It needed more data to train the next version of its technology — lots more.

So OpenAI researchers created a speech recognition tool called Whisper. It could transcribe the audio from YouTube videos, yielding new conversational text that would make an A.I. system smarter.

Some OpenAI employees discussed how such a move might go against YouTube’s rules, three people with knowledge of the conversations said. YouTube, which is owned by Google, prohibits use of its videos for applications that are “independent” of the video platform.

Ultimately, an OpenAI team transcribed more than one million hours of YouTube videos, the people said. The team included Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s president, who personally helped collect the videos, two of the people said. The texts were then fed into a system called GPT-4, which was widely considered one of the world’s most powerful A.I. models and was the basis of the latest version of the ChatGPT chatbot.

April 4

ny times logoNew York Times, TikTok Turns to Nuns, Veterans and Ranchers in Marketing Blitz, Sapna Maheshwari, April 4, 2024. The video app is spending millions on ads as Congress considers a bill that could lead to a U.S. ban.

tiktok logo square CustomIn a TV commercial, Sister Monica Clare, a nun in northern New Jersey, walks through a church that’s bathed in sunlight and sits in a pew, crossing herself. Her message: TikTok is a force for good.

“Because of TikTok, I’ve created a community where people can feel safe asking questions about spirituality,” she says in the advertisement.

Sister Monica Clare is one of several fans of TikTok — along with drawling ranchers, a Navy veteran known as Patriotic Kenny and entrepreneurs — whom the company is highlighting in commercials as it faces intense scrutiny in Washington.

ny times logoNew York Times, Disney Fends Off Activist Investor for Second Time in 2 Years, Brooks Barnes, April 4, 2024 (print ed.). Nelson Peltz had campaigned for two seats on Disney’s board of directors, as he sought to shake up the company’s growth plan.

The activist investor Nelson Peltz and Ike Perlmutter, the former chairman of Marvel Entertainment, have failed to infiltrate Disney’s board for the second time in two years, losing a tensely fought contest for support of the company’s shareholders as part of a campaign to alter its direction.

disney logoThe Walt Disney Company said on Wednesday that shareholders had voted to elect its entire slate of board nominees by a “substantial” margin — thus rejecting a demand by Mr. Peltz’s hedge fund, Trian Partners, for two seats and endorsing a growth plan that the company’s chief executive, Robert A. Iger, has laid out.

Trian controls about $3.5 billion in Disney stock, a vast majority of which is owned by Mr. Perlmutter. He and Mr. Peltz, both 81, had also tried to shake up the Disney board last year, abandoning the effort after Mr. Iger unveiled a sweeping turnaround plan.

“With the distracting proxy contest now behind us, we’re eager to focus 100 percent of our attention on our most important priorities: growth and value creation for our shareholders and creative excellence for our consumers,” Mr. Iger said.

Mr. Peltz received 31 percent of the vote from shareholders who thought he should join the company’s board, according to a preliminary count. In a statement, Trian said that it was “disappointed” with the outcome but that it was “proud of the impact we have had in refocusing this company on value creation and good governance.”

April 3

ny times logoNew York microsoft logo CustomTimes, Regulators Force Another Microsoft Split, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Ravi Mattu, Bernhard Warner, Sarah Kessler, Michael J. de la Merced, Lauren Hirsch and Ephrat Livni, April 3, 2024 (print ed.). The tech giant is unbundling Teams from its Office software suite, as it faces mounting scrutiny on both sides of the Atlantic.

April 2

gannett logo CustomPublishers Daily, Gannett CEO Mike Reed Returns To His Previous Rate, Ray Schultz, April 2, 2024. Gannett CEO Mike Reed is being called out for taking a high salary even as the publishing company aggressively cuts expenses.

Reed earned $3.9 million in 2023, 14% more than the prior year, according to the Boston Business Journal.

That’s 76 times the median pay of $50,856 per employee, the Business Journal reports, based on analysis of a proxy report filed with the SEC. The average employee salary fell by $179, it adds.

A look at the proxy report shows that Reed’s base compensation was restored to $900,000 in 2023. In addition, there was a bonus of $1.3 million and $1.7 million in stock awards, the Business Journal adds.

Reed had taken a large pay cut in 2022, bringing his total pay down to $4.5 million, versus $12 million in 2021, according to 2022 reports.

Apparently he is making it up.

Gannett declined to comment on executive salaries, the Business Journal continues.

The question is: are the salary rates fair?

And is Reed helping or hurting the news business?

Total head count at Gannett fell by 11% last year, the Business Journal continues. And while newsroom staffs are being reduced, the chain has also eliminated Associated Press. None of this can help the free flow of information.

Additionally, Gannett has reduced its real estate, resulting in adoption of a hybrid work model in some locations.

Of course, disproportionate CEO salaries are not unique to the publishing industry. And Reed is not the only highly paid executive at Gannett – CFO Douglas E. Horne’s base salary was hiked to $775,000 based on his increased responsibilities and performance, the proxy report states. Neither are in the very top tier of executive salaries.

March

March 31

The Hartmann Report, Commentary: The Early Days of Fox: Losing Money to Gain Political Power, Thom Hartmann, right,
thom hartmannMarch 31, 2024. Excerpt from one of Thom Hartmann's bestselling book, "The Hidden History of Monopolies: How Big Business Destroyed the American Dream."

Conservative commentator Brit Hume noted, in a 1999 interview with PBS, “This operation [Fox News] loses money. It doesn’t lose nearly as much as it did at first, and it’s—well, it’s hit all its projections in terms of, you know, turning a profit, but it’s—it will lose money now, and we expect for a couple more years. I think it’s losing about $80 million to $90 million a year.”

But that loss wasn’t viewed by these right-wing billionaires as a “loss”—rather, it was an investment.

It’s what Reverend Moon believed, as his Washington Times newspaper lost hundreds of millions of dollars but spread right-wing perspectives that influenced the nation. It’s how the Koch brothers have referred to the hundreds of millions they shower on right-wing politicians and causes. And it’s what the people who started Air America Radio believed, although they couldn’t get big funders to understand the stakes.

March 29

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Government Clampdowns on Social Media Are Not the Answer, David French, right, March 29, 2024 david french cropped(print ed.). My entire life I’ve seen a similar pattern. Older generations reflect on the deficiencies of “kids these days,” and they find something new to blame. The latest technology and new forms of entertainment are always bewitching our children. In my time, I’ve witnessed several distinct public panics over television, video games and music. They’ve all been overblown.

meta logoThis time, however, I’m persuaded — not that smartphones are the sole cause of increasing mental health problems in American kids, but rather that they’re a prime mover in teen mental health in a way that television, games and music are not. No one has done more to convince me than Jonathan Haidt. He’s been writing about the dangers of smartphones and social media for years, and his latest Atlantic story masterfully marshals the evidence for smartphones’ negative influence on teenage life.

At the same time, however, I’m wary of government intervention to suppress social media or smartphone access for children. The people best positioned to respond to their children’s online life are parents, not regulators, and it is parents who should take the lead in responding to smartphones. Otherwise, we risk a legal remedy that undermines essential constitutional doctrines that protect both children and adults.

I don’t want to minimize the case against phones. Haidt’s thesis is sobering:

Once young people began carrying the entire internet in their pockets, available to them day and night, it altered their daily experiences and developmental pathways across the board. Friendship, dating, sexuality, exercise, sleep, academics, politics, family dynamics, identity — all were affected.

The consequences, Haidt argues, have been dire. Children — especially teenagers — are suffering from greater rates of anxiety and depression, and suicide rates have gone up; and they spend less time hanging out with friends, while loneliness and friendlessness are surging.

Neither smartphones nor social media are solely responsible for declining teen mental health. The rise of smartphones correlates with a transformation of parenting strategies, away from permitting free play and in favor of highly managed schedules and copious amounts of organized sports and other activities. The rise of smartphones also correlates with the fraying of our social fabric. Even there, however, the phones have their roles to play. They provide a cheap substitute for in-person interaction, and the constant stream of news can heighten our anxiety.

I’m so convinced that smartphones have a significant negative effect on children that I’m now much more interested in the debate over remedies. What should be done?

That question took on added urgency Tuesday, when Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, signed a bill banning children under 14 from having social media accounts and requiring children under 16 to have parental permission before opening an account. The Florida social media bill is one of the strictest in the country, but Florida is hardly the only state that is trying to regulate internet access by minors. Utah passed its own law; so have Ohio and Arkansas. California passed a bill mandating increased privacy protections for children using the internet.

So is this — at long last — an example of the government actually responding to a social problem with a productive solution? New information has helped us understand the dangers of a commercial product, and now the public sector is reacting with regulation and limitation. What’s not to like?

Quite a bit, actually. Federal courts have blocked enforcement of the laws in Ohio, Arkansas and California. Utah’s law faces a legal challenge and Florida’s new law will undoubtedly face its day in court as well. The reason is simple: When you regulate access to social media, you’re regulating access to speech, and the First Amendment binds the government to protect the free-speech rights of children as well as adults.

 

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is shown via an Associated Press photo in the prisoner's area during a sham proceeding in Russia's prosecution of him on spy charges.Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is shown via an Associated Press photo in the prisoner's area during a sham proceeding in Russia's prosecution of him on spy charges.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia-Ukraine War: It Has Been One Year Since Russia Put Evan Gershkovich in Jail, Katie Robertson, March 29, 2024. In a high-security prison, The Wall Street Journal reporter stays in touch with supporters through letters as they keep up the pressure for his release.

Russian FlagOne year ago on Friday, Ella Milman and Mikhail Gershkovich received a chilling phone call from the managing editor of The Wall Street Journal. Their son, Evan, a foreign correspondent for The Journal who was on a reporting assignment in Russia, had missed his daily security check-in.

“We were hoping this was some kind of error, that everything is going to be fine,” the older Mr. Gershkovich recalled. But the stunning reality became clear: The Russian authorities had detained Evan and accused him of spying for the American government, making him the first American reporter to be held on espionage charges in Russia since the end of the Cold War.

Since his arrest, Mr. Gershkovich, 32, has been held in the notorious high-security Lefortovo prison in Moscow, the same facility holding the people accused in the deadly attack at a concert venue in the city this month. The Journal and the U.S. government have vehemently denied that Mr. Gershkovich is a spy, saying he was an accredited journalist doing his job.

On Tuesday, Mr. Gershkovich’s detention was extended for yet another three months. A trial date has not been set.

“Every day is very hard — every day we feel that he is not here,” Ms. Milman said. “We want him at home, and it has been a year. It’s taken a toll.”

evan gershkovitz kate helster npc

More than three dozen journalists and other supporters gathered Thursday on Freedom Plaza to call for the release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been wrongfully detained in Russia for a year, and whose sister, Danielle Gershkovich, is portrayed at front, center. Justice Integrity Project editor Andrew Kreig, a member of the National Press Club Press Freedom Committee, is at top center. Photo by Kate Helster for the National Press Club.

National Press Club, D.C. journalists stand with Evan Gershkovich in Washington on Thursday, Staff report, March 29, 2024.  national  press club logoWashington-based journalists gathered at Freedom Plaza Thursday to mark one year of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich being jailed on bogus charges in Russia.

Carrying signs saying, "#IStandWithEvan," about 40 people stood on the plaza with the Capitol in the background. Several members of the National Press Club, led by President Emily Wilkins, front row at right,were among them. So too were Gershkovich's sister, Danielle, and Paul Beckett, the Journal associate editor leading the efforts to free him.

wsj logoThe photo will be used to support the Journal's efforts to free Gershkovich, who was arrested while working and has been held without trial for a year.

Former Club Executive Director Bill McCarren, who helped organize the event and is shown at front row center, noted on X that it was the Club's ninth event in support of Gershkovich since his arrest. Among others in the photo are

National Press Club, Imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich could get a hearing in Russia next week, national  press club logoGwen Flanders, March 21, 2024. Almost a year into reporter Evan Gershkovich's imprisonment by Russian uthorities, his friends, family and Wall Street Journal colleagues are redoubling their efforts to secure his release.

Panelists at a briefing Thursday at the National Press Club, calling attention to the one-year anniversary of Gershkovich's arrest on March 29, expressed optimism tempered with caution. Jason Conti, general counsel for Dow Jones, the Journal's parent company, said Russian prosecutors have obtained several extensions of Gershkovich's hearing, saying they need more time to investigate the espionage charges against him -- which are baseless, according to Gershkovich, The Wall Street Journal and the U.S. State Department. The last extension ends March 30, which could result in a hearing next week. After that would be a trial held in secret.

"Nobody thinks that the legal route is the path to get Evan free," Conti said. "The conviction rate is 99 percent plus in Russia. ... This is going to get resolved in diplomatic channels."

He noted "an expressed willingness" by Russian President Vladimir Putin "to do a trade of some sort."

"It's quite a difficult business, this business of trading humans," Conti said.

Nobody on the panel Thursday discussed particulars, but news reports have speculated that Putin may want to swap Gershkovich for a Russian who was convicted of murder in Germany.

npc journalism institute logoMeanwhile, press conferences and other public events keep the case visible. Many journalists wear "#ISTANDWITHEVAN" buttons.

The tone at the news conference was optimistic. Danielle Gershkovich, Evan's sister, expressed appreciation for the "incredible community of journalists" who have rallied to keep his cause in the public eye. She also talked about his ability to maintain his sense of humor, making jokes in their weekly exchange of letters.

Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post journalist who was imprisoned in Iran from July 22, 2014, to Jan. 16, 2016, described the deprivation of imprisonment in an autocratic country, especially being unable to access the internet or "witness the people who have stepped up for him."

Eventually, Gershkovich could be tried, said Paul Beckett, whose current title at The Wall Street Journal is "associate editor/Evan," and he worries about the challenge for journalists to report a conviction factually. A headline saying "Wall Street Journal reporter convicted of spying ... would be grossly misleading."

Proof, Investigative Commentary: Elon Musk’s Many Years As An Illegal Immigrant, Seth Abramson, left, March 28, 2024. This seth abramson graphiccarefully researched and sourced series investigating Musk’s immigration status from 1988 through his receiptof US citizenship in 2002 reveals shocking new details about the world’s richest man.

Introduction: It’s hard for me not to feel bad for Elon Musk biographer Ashlee Vance.

seth abramson proof logoAs a Donald Trump biographer and presidential historian who wrote three national bestsellers on the most prolific liar in American political history, I had to decide early on that I would never cite—at least not for the truth of the matter—any source with a clear and consistent reputation for deceit unless the source in question was making what we criminal defense attorneys would call “a statement against [self-]interest.”

But when Vance was writing his 2015-published Musk biography in the early- to mid-2010s, he couldn’t have known—as really, far fewer of us in journalism did than would be the case today—that he was using as his foremost source a man who may well be the most prolific liar in the history of American business (with some consideration of this question accessible via these reports by Gizmodo, The Washington Post, Jalopnik, CNN, The Verge, The Los Angeles Times, Inc, The Wrap, Yahoo News, CBS News, Le Monde, The Times of India, Business Insider, Forbes, WIRED, NDTV, Boing Boing, India Today, HuffPost, Philanthropy News Digest, Fortune, Drive, WIRED (again), Yahoo Finance, Road and Track, Platformer, MIT Technology Review, Cheapism, The Associated Press, The American Genius and Techdirt, to name just a few of hundreds).

The result of Musk consistently pulling the wool over Vance’s eyes, as Musk has done to so many people across the world over the last 25 years, is that a bestselling book (Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future) is filled with claims and timelines that make no sense whatsoever. Some of these should have been detected by Vance’s editors at Ecco—I know from thirty years of experience as a working author that it can difficult to catch your own errors and false presumptions—but others are quite simply the product of a now decades-long disinformation campaign that’s been waged by the world’s second-richest man against journalists purely out of spite.

Ashlee Vance was, in my estimation, an unwitting mark for and victim of this spite, not a willing accomplice.

Even so, what this entry in the ongoing Proof series analyzing Elon Musk’s years as an illegal immigrant aims to do is tease out some of the worst lies Musk appears to have told Vance. Most of these apparent lies have one thing in common: they obscure Mr. Musk’s immigration status during a decade-long period in his life: from 1988 to 1997.

These (at best) misstatements and (at worst) deliberate deceptions were—and are—essential to Musk’s self-made mythology because (a) they enable him to demagogue on Twitter on a daily basis the political question of U.S. immigration policy without his highly inflammatory rhetoric being ignored due to his evident hypocrisy on the matter of illegal immigration; (b) they help ensure that few or no questions will be asked of either Elon or his brother Kimbal Musk about whether they lied on federal forms to gain their U.S. citizenship (with any such lies causing problems for Elon’s status as a U.S. citizen and perhaps his status as one of the leading federal contractors with the Department of Defense, as that position is threatened by a contractor’s vulnerability to blackmail); and (c) they give him a jumping-off point for performing a sinister breed of racism and white identity politics that clearly appeals to him personally but also bolsters his newest quest, that being to re-elect Donald Trump—a bigot whose return to the White House would ensure Musk remains a federal government contractor in good standing, a presidential adviser who is actually listened to (rather than a pariah in the eyes of the Biden administration), and an influential mover-and-shaker behind the party that would rule Washington in the event of a return to power by Mr. Trump.

Musk’s two primary goals—making money and being loved—are both served, and served best, by backing MAGA demagogues in 2024. And right now those people are focused on a topic that clearly means little to Musk personally: illegal immigration.

But to stand alongside MAGA demagogues on immigration as Trumpism continues its decade of expansion in American politics, Musk has had to ensure that articles and books about him published during The MAGA Era—which began in June 2015—don’t encourage enterprising journalists or citizen researchers to look at the possibility that Musk was a longtime crypto-illegal immigrant himself. Which, as it happens, he was.
How the Bestselling Vance Book Devolved Into a Scam

Elon’s fellow South African-born techie, Ashlee Vance, neither authored nor intended to advance a scam with his book. But Musk also had no problem with his own actions—his deceit in his many interviews with Vance—creating precisely that appearance.

While Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future is well-written, well-researched, and even accurate as to much it details—though this last feature is finally impossible to gauge, given how much of the book is Musk’s self-reporting (and given how often Vance says Musk shut him down from investigating certain topics further)—some portions of it are nevertheless credulous to the point of being embarrassing.

To hear Musk tell it, he was the smartest child anyone had ever seen; he was bullied by comically evil adversaries; South Africa wasn’t big enough to contain his intellect; when he failed in certain subjects in school, it wasn’t for any lack of intelligence or aptitude but simply a lack of interest; and he displayed endless ingenuity in all of his hobbies and other pursuits, most of which lay beyond the ken, interest, or capacity of normal children.

What Vance (and Musk) are at greater pains to explain or justify, however, are several events that the latter clearly wishes not to revisit. Perhaps foremost among these is the question of why he would choose, at age 10 or 11, to live with his psychologically abusive father, Errol Musk—a man who happened to be, it turns out, an international gem smuggler—rather than his loving mother, Maye, after she and Errol divorced.

(His younger brother Kimbal, his junior by about a year, made the same decision four years later—perhaps tellingly, right around the time Errol Musk’s life had changed dramatically due to his recent purchase of a stake in several Zambian emerald mines.)

What exactly did the “alpha male”-obsessed (Vance pg. 34, Amazon Kindle version) Elon and Kimbal hope to gain by living with an international jet-setting criminal who was not only a multimillionaire, not only smuggled and sold off fabulously valuable Zambian emeralds in illicit deals around the world, but was willing to whisk his boys off with him on these seat-of-your-pants globe-trotting adventures?

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s Bible grift is going to backfire, Eugene Robinson, March 28, 2024. Donald Trump could be making a big mistake hawking the “God Bless the USA” Bible to his MAGA supporters. Some of them might actually read it.

ICE logoThis latest grift might well flop, like Trump Steaks and those hideous gold-colored “Never Surrender” sneakers he’s trying to sell for $399. For its opportunistic timing alone — the rollout is happening during Holy Week, the most sacred time on the Christian calendar — the Bible venture deserves to be smitten by a wrathful marketplace.

If the MAGA faithful do buy those Bibles and look inside, however, they will find myriad reasons to forsake their profoundly flawed political hero.

They need only read as far as Exodus 20, in which Moses comes down from the mountain and pronounces the Ten Commandments. “Thou shalt not commit adultery” is an injunction Trump has bragged about habitually violating, as heard on the “Access Hollywood” tape. In that same recording, he also boasted about violating another commandment — “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife” — by saying he “did try and f---” a married woman.

Trump is scheduled to be tried in a New York courtroom next month on felony charges that stem from a brief sexual liaison with adult-film star Stormy Daniels. At the same time, he is appealing an $83 million civil judgment against him for defaming writer E. Jean Carroll, whom he sexually abused in a department store dressing room, according to the court’s findings. I could go on and on.

“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” is yet another commandment Trump routinely ignores. Of the tens of thousands of documented lies he has told, many have been falsehoods about his real or perceived enemies. Just this week, he has been telling lies about the daughter of the judge who presides in his impending criminal trial — and who angered Trump by issuing a gag order prohibiting him from lying about witnesses, prosecutors, jurors and court staff.

Of course, the commandments are found in the Old Testament, where God’s judgments can be harsh and definitive. The New Testament tells us that we all are sinners — and that we all can be saved. 

That is the theological basis on which Trump’s unlikeliest loyal followers — evangelical Christians and their pastors — justify looking past the way Trump scoffs at so many of the Bible’s instructions. Yes, he is far from perfect, they tell themselves; but like all of us, he can find salvation through Jesus Christ. As we give him our campaign contributions and our votes, we can also pray for his redemption.

Anyone who forks over $59.99 for a “God Bless the USA” Bible and reads it, however, will see that Jesus — whose resurrection Christians celebrate this weekend, on Easter Sunday — gave detailed instructions for believers to obey. They are encapsulated in the Sermon on the Mount as related in Matthew 5-7.

“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth,” Jesus said. “… Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” 

March 27

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washington post logoWashington Post, NBC reverses decision to hire Ronna McDaniel after on-air backlash, Jeremy Barr, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). Political analyst Chuck Todd and MSNBC hosts Rachel Maddow and Joe Scarborough were among those who lambasted the hiring of the former Republican National Committee chair, shown above left.

NBC News logoAmid a chorus of on-air protest from some of the network’s biggest stars, NBC announced Tuesday night that former Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel will no longer be joining the network as a paid contributor.

In a memo, NBCUniversal News Group Chairman Cesar Conde told staff that he had listened to “the legitimate rnc logoconcerns” of many network employees. “No organization, particularly a newsroom, can succeed unless it is cohesive and aligned,” he wrote. “Over the last few days, it has become clear that this appointment undermines that goal.”

The network had only just announced four days earlier that they were bringing McDaniel on board to provide “expert insight and analysis” on politics. “It couldn’t be a more important moment to have a voice like Ronna’s on the team,” one NBC News executive told staff at the time.

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Julian Assange Extradition On Hold Until U.S. Gives More Assurances, Megan Specia, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). Judges asked the U.S., which wants to try the WikiLeaks founder, shown above in a file photo, on espionage charges, for more guarantees about his treatment.

The High Court in London ruled on Tuesday that Julian Assange, the embattled WikiLeaks founder, cannot be immediately extradited to the United States, saying American authorities must offer assurances about his treatment first, including over his First Amendment rights and protection from the death penalty.

The decision had been highly anticipated as the moment the court would decide if Mr. Assange had exhausted his challenges within British courts. Instead, in a nuanced ruling, two judges determined that clarity on his fate would again be on hold.

The two High Court judges said that the court “will grant leave to appeal” on narrow grounds, “unless a satisfactory assurance is provided by the government of the United States of America.”

The court has given the United States three weeks “to give satisfactory assurances” that Mr. Assange “is permitted to rely on the First Amendment to the United States Constitution (which protects free speech), that he is not prejudiced at trial (including sentence) by reason of his nationality, that he is afforded the same First Amendment protections as a United States citizen and that the death penalty is not imposed.”

If those assurances are not given by April 16, then Mr. Assange will be granted a full appeal hearing. If the United States does provide the requested assurances, there will be a further hearing on May 20 to decide if they “are satisfactory, and to make a final decision on leave to appeal.”

While the United States has already provided some assurances over the treatment of Mr. Assange if he was extradited, the High Court judges asked for additional guarantees.

Proof, Investigative Commentary: ICYMI: Elon Musk Has Been Outed As A Former Illegal Immigrant By His Brother Kimbal Musk, Seth seth abramson graphicAbramson, left, March 26-27, 2024. In a 2013 interview, Kimbal Musk admitted that he and Elon were in the United States illegally when they secured millions in investments to launch their careers. And he shut down Elon’s lies about it.

seth abramson proof logoIn 2013, the Milken Institute conducted a 45-minute interview with Elon Musk and Kimbal Musk, two extremely wealthy South Africans who came to the United States in the early 1990s to try to become even more wealthy. (As Proof will exhaustively detail in an upcoming book-chapter excerpt, much of the Musk Family’s wealth came from several illegal, Apartheid-era Zambian emerald mines partly owned by Errol Musk, Elon and Kimbal’s father and a rather virulent racist who would have had minimal concern about the exploitation of cheap Black labor in Zambia in the 1980s and 1990s.)

During this long-since-forgotten interview, Elon’s brother Kimbal confesses that when the two sought—and received—millions of dollars in investments for their first start-up, Zip2, the company that launched their careers and ultimately made both of them (for the first time, apart from their father Errol) multi-millionaires, they were hiding from those investors they were pitching to that they were illegal immigrants.

Now Musk spends his days attacking poor, nonwhite men, women, and children who are fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries—reasons considerably more noble than Musk’s own for entering or remaining in the United States without proper documentation.

Indeed, under the not just strident but wildly inflammatory view of illegal immigration Musk has advanced in postings online and in interviews, he shouldn’t just be deported from the United States to South Africa, he should also lose any contracts (particularly taxpayer-funded ones with the Department of Defense) requiring him to be a citizen and go to the very back of the very long line for legal re-entry to America—an arduous process that possibly would take Musk until he was in his seventies to fully complete.

washington post logoWashington Post, Exclusive: Qatari royal invested about $50 million in pro-Trump network Newsmax, David Kenner, Sarah Ellison and Jonathan O'Connell, March 26, 2024. A member of the Qatari royal family invested roughly $50 million in Newsmax, according to documents and representatives for the media company and the royal, in a moment of acute Middle East tensions during the Trump administration.

newsmax logoThe investment bolstered a key conservative media outlet at a time when Qatar was facing intense diplomatic pressure from its neighbors and seeking allies in the United States.

At the time the investment was made, a coalition of countries led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had established a diplomatic and economic blockade against Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorist groups across the Middle East. Qatar had counted on its relationship with the United States for protection, but President Donald Trump initially sided with its regional rivals, praising their move in 2017 and criticizing Qatar for funding terrorism.

In 2019 and 2020, Sheikh Sultan bin Jassim Al Thani, a former Qatari government official and the owner of a London-based investment fund, Heritage Advisors, invested in Newsmax. The investment has not been previously reported.

Newsmax had been looking for outside investors to better compete with its much larger rival, Fox News, according to people who spoke at the time with its founder and CEO, Christopher Ruddy. Before and after the investment, senior newsroom leaders urged Newsmax staff to soften coverage of Qatar, current and former employees said. A representative for Newsmax strongly disputed that the network “slanted coverage to be favorable to Qatar,” and that Ruddy had told staff not to criticize the country.

Newsmax and Heritage Advisors confirmed the investment after being presented with documents detailing the transaction, which show that Sultan subsequently transferred his stake to a Cayman Islands-based corporate structure. The $50 million investment represents a significant minority stake in Newsmax, a privately held media company estimated to be worth between $100 million and $200 million, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The documents came from a trove of roughly 100,000 leaked files from Genesis Trust, a Cayman Islands-based financial services provider, which were obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and reviewed by The Washington Post

ny times logoNew York Times, E.U. Takes Aim at Alphabet, Apple and Meta in Wide-Ranging Investigations, Adam Satariano and Tripp Mickle, March 26, 2024 (print ed.). The inquiries signal the bloc’s intention to tightly enforce sweeping new competition rules that took effect this month.

Alphabet, Apple and Meta were told by European Union regulators on Monday that they were under investigation for a range of potential violations of the region’s new competition law.

european union logo rectangleThe inquiries are the first that regulators have announced since the Digital Markets Act took effect on March 7, and they signal the bloc’s intention to tightly enforce the sweeping competition rules. The law requires Alphabet, Apple, Meta and other tech giants to open up their platforms so smaller rivals can have more access to their users, potentially impacting app stores, messaging services, internet search, social media and online shopping.

apple logo rainbowThe investigations in Brussels add to the regulatory scrutiny the largest tech companies are facing globally. Last week in Washington, the Justice Department sued Apple for breaking antitrust laws with practices that were intended to keep customers reliant on their iPhones and less likely to switch to a competing device. Google and Amazon are also facing federal antitrust lawsuits.

google logo customThe E.U. investigations center on whether Apple and Alphabet, the parent company of Google, are unfairly favoring their own app stores to box out rivals, particularly restrictions that limit how app developers can communicate with customers about sales and other offers. Google is also being investigated over the display of search results in Europe, meta logowhile Meta will be questioned about a new ad-free subscription service and the use of data for selling advertising.

The European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, can fine the companies up to 10 percent of their global revenue, which for each runs into the hundreds of billions of dollars annually. The commission has 12 months to complete its investigations.

March 25

ronna mcdaniel djt

 washington post logoWashington Post, Former RNC chair Ronna McDaniel faces sharp criticism after NBC hiring, Drew Harwell, March 25, 2024 (print ed.). Former Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel, above left, said on March 24 that President Biden had legitimately won the 2020 election.

March 24

ny times logoNew York Times, Peter Angelos, Owner of the Baltimore Orioles, Dies at 94, Emmett Lindner, March 24, 2024 (print ed.). Mr. Angelos, who built a fortune as a class-action lawyer, endeared himself to fans by investing in free agents to bolster the team. Mr. Angelos’s death came as his family awaited approval by Major League Baseball owners to sell the team — valued, along with its assets, at $1.725 billion, according to The Baltimore Sun — to David Rubenstein, the president of Inner Harbor Sports.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Man Who Helped Redefine Campus Antisemitism, Vimal Patel, March 24, 2024. Kenneth Marcus has tried to douse what he says is rising bias against Jews at U.S. colleges. Some see a crackdown on pro-Palestinian speech.

In the early 2000s, as the uprising known as the second intifada instilled fear in Israelis through a series of suicide bombings, Kenneth Marcus, then an official in the U.S. Department of Education, watched with unease as pro-Palestinian protests shook college campuses.

“We were seeing, internationally, a transformation of anti-Israel animus into something that looked like possibly a new form of antisemitism,” Mr. Marcus recalled in an interview, adding that U.S. universities were at the forefront of that resurgence.

Ever since, Mr. Marcus, perhaps more than anyone, has tried to douse what he sees as a dangerous rise of campus antisemitism, often embedded in pro-Palestinian activism.

He has done it as a government insider in the Bush and Trump administrations, helping to clarify protections for Jewish students under the 1964 Civil Rights Act and broadening the definition of what can be considered antisemitic.

He has also been an outside agitator, filing and promoting federal claims of harassment of Jews that he knows will garner media attention and put pressure on college administrators, students and faculty.

The impact of his life’s work has never been more felt than in the last few months, as universities reel from accusations that they have tolerated pro-Palestinian speech and protests that have veered into antisemitism.

Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has opened dozens of investigations into allegations of antisemitism at colleges and K-12 schools, a dramatic increase from previous years.

The bar for starting an investigation is low, but the government has opened cases into institutions as varied as Stanford, Wellesley, the New School and Montana State University.

Mr. Marcus’s nonprofit, the Brandeis Center, initiated only a handful of these complaints, but his tactics have been widely copied by other groups.

Mr. Marcus is “the single most effective and respected force when it comes to both litigation and the utilization of the civil rights statutes” to combat antisemitism, said Jeffrey Robbins, a visiting professor at Brown University, who once served on the Brandeis Center board.

Few, if any, would take issue with the Office for Civil Rights extending protections to students facing antisemitic harassment. But critics say that Mr. Marcus’s larger ambition is to push a pro-Israel policy agenda and crack down on speech supporting Palestinians.

His complaints have often included ugly details, like swastikas being scrawled on doors, and a university’s indifference to them. Those claims, however, have been mingled with examples of pro-Palestinian speech, which some critics say is not antisemitic, even if it makes Jewish students uncomfortable.

One recent complaint against American University includes an example of a student who said that she overheard suite mates “accusing Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinians.” In November, his center filed a complaint against Wellesley College, stating that panelists at an event “minimized the atrocities committed by Hamas.”

The whole point, free-speech supporters contend, is to stir the pot and put colleges under the microscope of a federal investigation. Many universities have since taken an aggressive stance against some forms of speech and protest, moves often decried by academic freedom groups. Columbia, Brandeis University and George Washington University have suspended their chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine.

March 23

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Sues Apple, Accusing It of Maintaining an iPhone Monopoly, David McCabe and Tripp Mickle, March 22, 2024 (print ed.). apple logo rainbowThe lawsuit caps years of regulatory scrutiny of Apple’s popular devices and services, which have fueled its growth into a nearly $3 trillion company.

The Justice Department joined 16 states and the District of Columbia to file an antitrust lawsuit against Apple on Thursday, the federal government’s most significant challenge to the reach and influence of the company that has put iPhones in the hands of more than a billion people.

Justice Department log circularIn an 88-page lawsuit, the government argued that Apple had violated antitrust laws with practices that were intended to keep customers reliant on their iPhones and less likely to switch to a competing device.

The tech giant prevented other companies from offering applications that compete with Apple products like its digital wallet, which could diminish the value of the iPhone, the government said. Apple’s policies hurt consumers and smaller companies that compete with some of Apple’s services, in the form of “higher prices and less innovation,” the lawsuit said.

“Each step in Apple’s course of conduct built and reinforced the moat around its smartphone monopoly,” the government said in the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

The lawsuit caps years of regulatory scrutiny of Apple’s wildly popular suite of devices and services, which have fueled its growth into a nearly $2.75 trillion public company that was for years the most valuable on the planet. It takes direct aim at the iPhone, Apple’s most popular device and most powerful business, and attacks the way the company has turned the billions of smartphones it has sold since 2007 into the centerpiece of its empire.

By tightly controlling the user experience on iPhones and other devices, Apple has created what critics call an uneven playing field, where it grants its own products and services access to core features that it denies rivals. Over the years, it has limited finance companies’ access to the phone’s payment chip and Bluetooth trackers from tapping into its location-service feature. It’s also easier for users to connect Apple products, like smartwatches and laptops, to the iPhone than to those made by other manufacturers.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Trustbuster Who Has Apple and Google in His Sights, David McCabe, March 23, 2024 (print ed.). Jonathan Kanter, the head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, has made his boldest move by accusing Apple of violations.

Shortly after Jonathan Kanter took over the Justice Department’s antitrust division in November 2021, the agency secured an additional $50 million to investigate monopolies, bust criminal cartels and block mergers.

To celebrate, Mr. Kanter bought a prop of a giant check, placed it outside his office and wrote on the check’s memo line: “Break ’Em Up.”

Justice Department log circularMr. Kanter, 50, has pushed that philosophy ever since, becoming a lead architect of the most significant effort in decades to fight the concentration of power in corporate America. On Thursday, he took his biggest swing when the Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple. In the 88-page lawsuit, the government argued that Apple had violated antitrust laws with practices intended to keep customers reliant on its iPhones and less likely to switch to competing devices.

That lawsuit joins two Justice Department antitrust cases against Google that argue the company illegally shored up monopolies. Mr. Kanter’s staff has also challenged numerous corporate mergers, including suing to stop JetBlue Airways from buying Spirit Airlines.

“We want to help real people by making sure that our antitrust laws work for workers, work for consumers, work for entrepreneurs and work to protect our democratic values,” Mr. Kanter said in a January interview. He declined to comment on the Google cases and other active litigation.

At a news conference about the Apple lawsuit on Thursday, Mr. Kanter compared the action to past Justice Department challenges to Standard Oil, AT&T and Microsoft. The suit is aimed at protecting “the market for the innovations that we can’t yet perceive,” he said.

March 22

Politico, Judge permits Gaetz, Greene to sue California cities that canceled their events, Kyle Cheney, March 22, 2024. But the judge blasted the GOP lawmakers for “pure conjecture” and “conspiracy theory” against civic groups.

politico CustomA federal judge on Friday cleared the way for Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene to sue two California cities that canceled their political events in 2021.

But the judge excoriated the two pro-Trump firebrands for attempting to blame the cancellation on a slew of liberal advocacy groups — from the NAACP to the League of Women Voters to LULAC, who the pair accused of conspiring with Anaheim and Riverside, Calif., to shut down their planned rallies.

The lawsuit by the two GOP lawmakers is “utterly devoid of any specifics plausibly alleging such an agreement,” wrote U.S. District Judge Hernan Vera in a 22-page opinion, calling it “both legally and literally, a conspiracy theory that relies purely on conjecture.”

In fact, he said, Gaetz and Greene had attempted with their lawsuit what they accused the groups of doing to them: seeking to punish political rivals for speaking out against them.

“[H]aling nine civil rights groups into federal court for speaking out against an event … should shock in equal measure civic members from across the political spectrum,” Vera wrote.

The opinion arose from a little-noticed lawsuit that has been pending for months in the Central District of California’s federal courthouse. Gaetz and Greene filed suit in July, seeking damages and a court order prohibiting similar cancellations in the future. Their complaint stemmed from their multiple attempts to book rallies, first in Riverside and then in Anaheim, only to have venues yanked from them at the last minute amid pressure from city officials.

Notably, their attorneys in the suit include John Eastman, an architect of Donald Trump’s bid to remain in power despite losing the 2020 election and who is facing a potential disbarment ruling as soon as next week.

The city officials who pushed their local venues to cancel Gaetz and Greene’s events were responding, in part, to a political backlash from civic groups and their members, who complained that the local venues would host the far-right political events.

Vera, a Biden appointee, agreed that Gaetz and Greene had at least a plausible case against both cities, which appeared to lean on the venues to cancel the events, in large part because of “viewpoint discrimination.” But attempting to punish the civic groups for speaking out and mobilizing their members was a bridge too far, Vera concluded.

“All that is left to aver against the Nonprofit Defendants are the unremarkable allegations that they exercised their own First Amendment rights to lobby for the cancellation of the event,” he wrote. “That is protected.”

ny times logoNew York Times, The A.C.L.U. Said a Worker Used Racist Tropes and Fired Her. But Did She? Jeremy W. Peters, March 22, 2024. The civil liberties group is defending itself in an unusual case that weighs what kind of language may be evidence of bias against Black people.

Kate Oh was no one’s idea of a get-along-to-go-along employee.

During her five years as a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, she was an unsparing critic of her superiors, known for sending long, blistering emails to human resources complaining about what she described as a hostile workplace.

She considered herself a whistle blower and advocate for other women in the office, drawing unflattering attention to an environment she said was rife with sexism, burdened by unmanageable workloads and stymied by a fear-based culture.

Then the tables turned, and Ms. Oh was the one slapped with an accusation of serious misconduct. The A.C.L.U. said her complaints about several superiors — all of whom were Black — used “racist stereotypes.” She was fired in May 2022.

The A.C.L.U. acknowledges that Ms. Oh, who is Korean American, never used any kind of racial slur. But the group says that her use of certain phrases and words demonstrated a pattern of willful anti-Black animus.

In one instance, according to court documents, she told a Black superior that she was “afraid” to talk with him. In another, she told a manager that their conversation was “chastising.” And in a meeting, she repeated a satirical phrase likening her bosses’ behavior to suffering “beatings.”

Did her language add up to racism? Or was she just speaking harshly about bosses who happened to be Black? That question is the subject of an unusual unfair-labor-practice case brought against the A.C.L.U. by the National Labor Relations Board, which has accused the organization of retaliating against Ms. Oh.

A trial in the case wrapped up this week in Washington, and a judge is expected to decide in the next few months whether the A.C.L.U. was justified in terminating her.

If the A.C.L.U. loses, it could be ordered to reinstate her or pay restitution.

The heart of the A.C.L.U.’s defense — arguing for an expansive definition of what constitutes racist or racially coded speech — has struck some labor and free-speech lawyers as peculiar, since the organization has traditionally protected the right to free expression, operating on the principle that it may not like what someone says, but will fight for the right to say it.

The case raises some intriguing questions about the wide swath of employee behavior and speech that labor law protects — and how the nation’s pre-eminent civil rights organization finds itself on the opposite side of that law, arguing that those protections should not apply to its former employee.

March 21

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Sues Apple, Accusing It of Maintaining an iPhone Monopoly, David McCabe and Tripp Mickle, March 21, 2024. apple logo rainbowThe lawsuit caps years of regulatory scrutiny of Apple’s popular devices and services, which have fueled its growth into a nearly $3 trillion company.

The Justice Department joined 16 states and the District of Columbia to file an antitrust lawsuit against Apple on Thursday, the federal government’s most significant challenge to the reach and influence of the company that has put iPhones in the hands of more than a billion people.

Justice Department log circularIn an 88-page lawsuit, the government argued that Apple had violated antitrust laws with practices that were intended to keep customers reliant on their iPhones and less likely to switch to a competing device.

The tech giant prevented other companies from offering applications that compete with Apple products like its digital wallet, which could diminish the value of the iPhone, the government said. Apple’s policies hurt consumers and smaller companies that compete with some of Apple’s services, in the form of “higher prices and less innovation,” the lawsuit said.

“Each step in Apple’s course of conduct built and reinforced the moat around its smartphone monopoly,” the government said in the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

The lawsuit caps years of regulatory scrutiny of Apple’s wildly popular suite of devices and services, which have fueled its growth into a nearly $2.75 trillion public company that was for years the most valuable on the planet. It takes direct aim at the iPhone, Apple’s most popular device and most powerful business, and attacks the way the company has turned the billions of smartphones it has sold since 2007 into the centerpiece of its empire.

By tightly controlling the user experience on iPhones and other devices, Apple has created what critics call an uneven playing field, where it grants its own products and services access to core features that it denies rivals. Over the years, it has limited finance companies’ access to the phone’s payment chip and Bluetooth trackers from tapping into its location-service feature. It’s also easier for users to connect Apple products, like smartwatches and laptops, to the iPhone than to those made by other manufacturers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump Media, launched after an insurrection, faces rebellion of its own, Drew Harwell, March 22, 2024 (print ed.). Four lawsuits involving the founding boosters of Truth Social threaten to erode former president Donald Trump’s grasp on a massive financial haul.

When former president Donald Trump’s Trump Media & Technology Group and its proposed merger partner, Digital World Acquisition, announced last month a shareholder vote on their long-delayed deal, it marked a final step for the owner of Truth Social to become a public company potentially worth billions of dollars — most of which is owned by Trump himself.

But in the lead-up to Friday’s vote, both companies have been rocked by legal warfare. Their leaders, past and present, have traded heated accusations of deception and impropriety across four lawsuits in three states. And the cases threaten to erode Trump’s grasp on a stake in the post-merger company potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars — a possible financial lifeline, given that he owes more than $500 million in legal fines.

washington post logoWashington Post, Two major newspaper chains dropped the AP. What will it mean for readers? Laura Wagner, March 22, 2024 (print ed.). Both Gannett and McClatchy say they will have no trouble filling their pages with news, but some observers warn that the cost-saving move will rob readers of a reliable source of reporting.

Since the Mexican-American War of 1846, newspapers large and small have turned to the Associated Press for reporting from places inaccessible to their own reporters.

With more than 200 bureaus around the globe, the AP remains the biggest brand name among what came to be known as the wire services, transmitting its articles and images to news outlets for a licensing fee. Some smaller papers came to rely so heavily on its content that “AP” was their single most frequent byline.

But now, two major American newspaper chains have said they will no longer use the AP for news. Gannett, the publisher of USA Today and more than 200 local newspapers, and McClatchy, which publishes the Miami Herald and Kansas City Star among more than two dozen other newspapers, said this week that they were ending their content relationship with the AP.

evan gershkovich apNational Press Club, Imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich could get a hearing in Russia next week,national  press club logoGwen Flanders, March 21, 2024. Almost a year into reporter Evan Gershkovich's imprisonment by Russian authorities, his friends, family and Wall Street Journal colleagues are redoubling their efforts to secure his release. He is shown above at a sham proceeding in Russia.

Panelists at a briefing Thursday at the National Press Club, calling attention to the one-year anniversary of Gershkovich's arrest on March 29, expressed optimism tempered with caution.

wsj logoJason Conti, general counsel for Dow Jones, the Journal's parent company, said Russian prosecutors have obtained several extensions of Gershkovich's hearing, saying they need more time to investigate the espionage charges against him -- which are baseless, according to Gershkovich, The Wall Street Journal and the U.S. State Department. The last extension ends March 30, which could result in a hearing next week. After that would be a trial held in secret.

"Nobody thinks that the legal route is the path to get Evan free," Conti said. "The conviction rate is 99 percent plus in Russia. ... This is going to get resolved in diplomatic channels."

He noted "an expressed willingness" by Russian President Vladimir Putin "to do a trade of some sort."

"It's quite a difficult business, this business of trading humans," Conti said.

Nobody on the panel Thursday discussed particulars, but news reports have speculated that Putin may want to swap Gershkovich for a Russian who was convicted of murder in Germany.

npc journalism institute logoMeanwhile, press conferences and other public events keep the case visible. Many journalists wear "#ISTANDWITHEVAN" buttons.

The tone at the news conference was optimistic. Danielle Gershkovich, Evan's sister, expressed appreciation for the "incredible community of journalists" who have rallied to keep his cause in the public eye. She also talked about his ability to maintain his sense of humor, making jokes in their weekly exchange of letters.

Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post journalist who was imprisoned in Iran from July 22, 2014, to Jan. 16, 2016, described the deprivation of imprisonment in an autocratic country, especially being unable to access the internet or "witness the people who have stepped up for him."

Eventually, Gershkovich could be tried, said Paul Beckett, whose current title at The Wall Street Journal is "associate editor/Evan," and he worries about the challenge for journalists to report a conviction factually. A headline saying "Wall Street Journal reporter convicted of spying ... would be grossly misleading."

The Committee to Protect Journalists says that as of Dec. 1, 2023, 320 journalists are imprisoned around the world.

Panel moderator Bill McCarren of the Press Club made a point of naming two other U.S. citizens in prison in Russia: Paul paul whelanWhelan, let,a former Marine who was convicted of espionage in 2020 and given a 16-year sentence, and Radio Free Europe/Radio alsu kurmashevaLiberty journalist Alsu Kurmasheva, right, held since Oct.19, 2023, on charges of spreading false information about the Russian military and failing to register as a foreign agent.

March 19

 

This week's new official portrait of the U.S. Supreme Court

The official portrait of the U.S. Supreme Court

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Is Wary of Bid to Limit Federal Input on Social Media Posts, Adam Liptak, March 19, 2024 (print ed.). The justices tried to distinguish between persuading sites to take down posts, which is permitted, and coercing them, which violates the First Amendment.

A majority of the Supreme Court seemed wary on Monday of a bid by two Republican-led states to limit the Biden administration’s interactions with social media companies, with several justices questioning the states’ legal theories and factual assertions.

Most of the justices appeared convinced that government officials should be able to try to persuade private companies, whether news organizations or tech platforms, not to publish information so long as the requests are not backed by coercive threats.

The dispute was the latest in an extraordinary series of cases this term requiring the justices to assess the meaning of free speech in the internet era.

Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Elena Kagan, both former White House lawyers, said interactions between administration officials and news outlets provided a valuable analogy. Efforts by officials to influence coverage are, they said, part of a valuable dialogue that is not prohibited by the First Amendment.

Members of the court also raised questions about whether the plaintiffs — Missouri and Louisiana, along with five individuals — had suffered the kind of injury that gave them standing to sue. They also suggested that a broad injunction prohibiting contacts between many officials and the platforms was not a proper remedy in any event.

“I don’t see a single item in your briefs that would satisfy our normal tests,” Justice Kagan told J. Benjamin Aguiñaga, Louisiana’s solicitor general.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor accused the states of distorting the record in the case. “I have such a problem with your brief,” she told Mr. Aguiñaga. “You omit information that changes the context of some of your claims. You attribute things to people who it didn’t happen to.”

Mr. Aguiñaga apologized “if any aspect of our brief was not as forthcoming as it should have been.”

The justices peppered Mr. Aguiñaga with hypothetical questions about national security, doxxing of public officials and contests that could endanger teenagers, all suggesting that there is a role for vigorous efforts by the government to combat harmful speech.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., the member of the court who appeared most sympathetic to the states’ position, urged his colleagues to remain focused on the case before them.

“Whatever coercion means,” he said, “whatever happened here is sufficient.”

The case arose from a barrage of communications from administration officials urging platforms to take down posts on topics like the coronavirus vaccines and claims of election fraud. Last year, a federal appeals court severely limited such interactions.

March 18

Proof, Investigative Commentary: Ten Stunning Revelations From the Hour-Plus Interview Between Elon Musk and Don Lemon, Seth Abramson, left, March 18, 2024. The interview confirms that Elon Musk should not be a federal contractor, should not be CEO of any publicly traded company, and seth abramson graphicshould not be controlling satellites and social media platforms in 2024. The Introduction to this report is free to the public; its remainder is for full Proof subscribers. To access this report and all 250+ reports at Proof for free for a week, click the button below.

seth abramson proof logoIntroduction: Proof is aware that most Americans aren’t going to be willing to listen to Elon Musk speak for an hour, whether it’s with ex-CNN anchor Don Lemon or anyone else.

Nor should they.

Musk is—this Musk biographer has found, in hundreds of hours of listening to and reading him—inarticulate, ill-informed, and irritable in a way that is hard to watch.

So Proof has summarized the key takeaways from the lengthy Lemon-Musk Interview.

Why read such a summary here on Proof? Well, for a few reasons: (1) I’m writing a book on Musk and have thus become a Musk biographer, which gives me a unique perspective on the man; (2) Musk himself reads my work (often with evident anger, as he calls he an “unreadable nonsense machine”) so this analysis is one he’ll almost certainly be reviewing and taking seriously if not, in any sense, accepting as factual; (3) I’m an attorney and was for many years a working trial attorney, which means I review and summarize both depositions and interviews professionally; (4) I’m a former federal criminal investigator as well, which again underscores how seriously I take reviewing depositions and interviews for their most important revelations; (5) I’m a journalist with thirty years of experience working in the field and more than half a decade spent as a journalism professor, so my ethoi with respect to a journalism are well-established; and (6) perhaps the only thing both Proof readers and Proof critics agree on is that I’m an obsessive researcher, so there can be nothing casual about me writing a report like this one.

With that in mind, this Proof report focuses on what is new—and newsworthy—in this new interview, not what’s redundant to statements previously made by Elon Musk.

washington post logoWashington Post,∙RBG Award gala canceled after Ginsburg family criticizes honorees, Maura Judkis, March 18, 2024. Elon Musk, Rupert Murdoch had been among the announced recipients of this year’s award, which previously honored women.

An award given in the name of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been abruptly canceled after the family of the late Supreme Court justice and others objected that this year’s slate of recipients do not reflect her values.

ruth ginsberg npc 4 17 14 st. johnThe Dwight D. Opperman Foundation last week announced that it would award the prize to Elon Musk, Martha Stewart, Rupert Murdoch, Michael Milken and Sylvester Stallone. Critics couldn’t help but observe that these “five iconic individuals” — as the awards news release described them — included among them convicted felons and conservative billionaires who own right-wing media enterprises.

In a seven-paragraph statement released Monday afternoon, Julie Opperman — chairperson of the foundation named after her late husband — addressed the criticism that erupted in the wake of the announcement.

“The Foundation is not interested in creating controversy. It is not interested in generating a debate about whether particular honorees are worthy or not. And while Justice Ginsburg’s concept of EQUALITY for women was very controversial for most of her life, the Foundation does not intend to enter the fray. Indeed, Justice Ginsburg was known for her civility,” Opperman wrote.

Jim Ginsburg, the liberal justice’s son, told The Washington Post via email that he is “relieved” that the awards will not proceed.

Semafor, ‘Very few have balls’: How American news lost its nerve, Max Tani, March 17, 2024. There’s too much to read and watch, too many places to read and watch it. It’s enough to distract you from the biggest news in journalism right now: In 2024, it’s harder than ever to get a tough story out in the United States of America.

A landscape of gleefully revelatory magazine exposés, aggressive newspaper investigations, feral online confrontations, and painstaking television investigations has been eroded by a confluence of factors — from rising risks of litigation and costs of insurance, which strapped media companies can hardly afford, to social media, which has given public figures growing leverage over the journalists who now increasingly carry their water.

The result is a thousand stories you’ll never read, and a shrinking number of publications with the resources and guts to confront power.

One recent example illustrates the difficulty of getting even a modestly negative revelation about a popular public figure into print. Last year, freelance reporter John McDermott discovered that Jay Shetty, a massively popular lifestyle podcaster who recently interviewed President Joe Biden, had fudged biographical details about his life. But months after he began his reporting for Esquire, he wondered: Would any outlet publish it?

Esquire lost interest as the piece took on a critical tone. He then approached The Hollywood Reporter — as did Shetty’s publicists, who delivered a litany of complaints about the journalist, arguing that he had a conflict of interest. More than a year after its conception, McDermott’s story was eventually published by The Guardian, prompting British education officials to demand Shetty remove false references to them from his website.

“Very few owners have balls any more,” the former Vanity Fair and New Yorker editor Tina Brown told Semafor, “a very sorry fact for journalism.”

There are at least five major factors putting journalists on their heels.

Darkening legal climate. The American right kicked off the assault on reporters who cross powerful people, beginning in earnest with Peter Thiel’s success in shuttering Gawker in 2016. That year, future President Donald Trump promised to “open up the libel laws.”

But media lawyers say plaintiffs attorneys have also been emboldened by the massive $788 million settlement that Fox agreed to pay Dominion Voting Systems for its on-air lies about the company.

Magazines lose their swagger. At a moment of economic fragility in the media industry, there’s also simply less of an appetite for stories that could damage important business relationships. This has been a particularly challenging balance for glossy entertainment and lifestyle magazines, whose audiences long ago moved online and who now rely heavily on the businesses they cover.

March 16

ny times logoNew York Times, Bill to Force TikTok Sale Slows, David McCabe and Sapna Maheshwari, March 16, 2024 (print ed.). Legislation to force TikTok’s Chinese owner to sell the app or face a U.S. ban sailed through the House, but the Senate has no plans to move hastily.

After a bill that would force TikTok’s Chinese parent company to sell the app or face a nationwide ban sailed through the House at breakneck speed this week, its progress has slowed in the Senate.

tiktok logo square CustomSenator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader who determines what legislation gets a vote, has not decided whether to bring the bill to the floor, his spokesman said. Senators — some of whom have their own versions of bills targeting TikTok — will need to be convinced. Other legislation on the runway could be prioritized. And the process of taking the House bill and potentially rewriting it to suit the Senate could be time consuming.

Many in the Senate are keeping their cards close to their vest about what they would do on the TikTok measure, even as they said they recognized the House had sent a powerful signal with its vote on the bill, which passed 352 to 65. The legislation mandates that TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, sell its stake in the app within six months or face a ban.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ginsburg family blasts plan to give RBG Award to Musk, Murdoch, others, Samantha Chery, March 16, 2024 (print ed.). The family of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg and some of the Supreme Court justice’s former colleagues have denounced this year’s slate of honorees for an award that a philanthropic foundation bestows in the name of the liberal icon (shown below left in a 2014 photo at the National Press Club by Noel St. John).

In a statement Friday, the family called the Dwight D. Opperman Foundation’s plans to give its “Ruth Bader Ginsburg Leadership Award” to conservative billionaires Elon Musk and Rupert Murdoch, among others, “an affront to the memory of our mother and grandmother.”

ruth ginsberg npc 4 17 14 st. johnWithout specifically criticizing any of the honorees — who also include Martha Stewart, Sylvester Stallone and financier Michael Milken — the Ginsburg family said the foundation “has strayed far from the original mission of the award and from what Justice Ginsburg stood for.” For its first four years, the prize was styled as a “Woman of Leadership” award and presented to individual women of prominence.

“Her legacy is one of deep commitment to justice and to the proposition that all persons deserve what she called ‘equal citizenship stature’ under the Constitution,” the Ginsburg family statement said. “She was a singularly powerful voice for the equality and empowerment of women, including their ability to control their own bodies.”

March 15

ny times logoNew York Times, Down the Rabbit Hole in Search of a Few Frames of Irish American History, Dan Barry, March 15, 2024. The silent film “The Callahans and the Murphys” was pulled after an uproar over stereotyping. What happened next tantalized one fan of old movies.

One moment I am sprawled on a couch in my New Jersey home, lost in another classic old movie. The next, I am falling through the floorboards and tumbling like Alice into the wondrous unknown, only to land in a bunkerlike government structure built into the side of a Virginia mountain.

Yes, I had gone down a rabbit hole, down into the black-hole past. As I plummeted, I learned about “lost” movies, an unlikely box office star, a secure facility where national memories are stored — and a silent film whose comic Irish stereotypes once caused uproars in theaters.

Follow me down, why don’t you?

I am a first-generation Irish American who is fairly steeped in the reflections of me and mine in popular culture — from the simian Irish caricatures of Thomas Nast to Christopher’s nightmare in “The Sopranos” that hell is an Irish bar called the Emerald Piper. But my ignorance of The Callahans and the Murphys sent me deeper into the well of curiosity.

Released in June 1927, the comedy initially received encouraging reviews. But several Irish American organizations lodged complaints about the depiction of Irish life as one long, intoxicated slugfest. MGM blithely defended the film as good-natured fun, only to realize that an intractable Hibernian grudge was taking hold, as this internal studio telegram reflects:

As black-and-white ghosts cavorted across the screen, I could only wonder what my mother from Galway — who never acted like that! — might have said about this silent comedy, Irish stereotypes and a son lost again down another rabbit hole.

March 14

time warner logony times logo

New York Times, Gerald Levin, Time Warner Chief in a Merger Debacle, Dies at 84, Chris Kornelis, March 14, 2024. He was called a visionary in cable television, but his foray into the world of the internet, in a marriage with AOL, proved disastrous.

Gerald M. Levin, a “visionary” media executive, as he was often described, who became chief executive of the world’s largest media company, Time Warner, and an architect of its merger with America Online, widely considered the worst corporate marriage in American history, died on Wednesday. He was 84.

Jake Maia Arlow, a grandchild of Mr. Levin’s, confirmed the death, in a hospital, and said he lived in Long Beach, Calif. No other details were provided. Mr. Levin had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Mr. Levin was Time Warner’s chief executive when he and his counterpart at AOL at the time, Steve Case, devised what was then the largest business merger in U.S. history. When the deal was announced on Jan. 10, 2000, Time Warner was the world’s largest media company, and America Online was the largest internet company, with a combined market value of roughly $342 billion (the equivalent of about $600 billion today).

The merger, creating AOL Time Warner, was heralded as a watershed moment — the union of old and new media, a storied 20th-century American company whose origins could be traced to the publishing baron Henry Luce and the Hollywood boss Jack Warner, hitching up with a Virginia tech company for a ride into the World Wide Web. Instead, it became shorthand for the excesses of the turn-of-the-century dot-com bubble and the era of so-called synergy.

Richard Parsons, who succeeded Mr. Levin as chief executive of AOL Time Warner in 2002, said in a phone interview for this obituary in 2022 that Mr. Levin was “one of the smartest guys in the media and entertainment space,” a “visionary” who saw the digital wave coming and understood how the internet would transform Time Warner’s business.

“He saw the merger with AOL as making Time Warner digital by injection,” Mr. Parsons said. “What AOL brought to the party was instant access and competence in terms of how to access the internet world.”

ny times logoNew York Times, House Passes Bill to Force TikTok Sale From Chinese Owner or Ban the App, Sapna Maheshwari, David McCabe and Annie Karni, March 14, 2024 (print ed.). The legislation is likely to escalate a showdown between Beijing and Washington over the control of technologies. The bill faces a tough road in the Senate.

tiktok logo square CustomThe House on Wednesday passed a bill with broad bipartisan support that would force TikTok’s Chinese owner to sell the hugely popular video app or be banned in the United States. The move escalates a showdown between Beijing and Washington over the control of technologies that could affect national security, free speech and the social media industry.

Republican leaders fast-tracked the bill through the House with limited debate, and it passed on a lopsided vote of 352-65, reflecting widespread backing for legislation that would take direct aim at China in an election year.

The action came despite TikTok’s efforts to mobilize its 170 million U.S. users against the measure, and amid the Biden administration’s push to persuade lawmakers that Chinese ownership of the platform poses grave national security risks to the United States.

The result was a bipartisan coalition behind the measure that included Republicans, who defied former President Donald J. Trump in supporting it, and Democrats, who also fell in line behind a bill that President Biden has said he would sign.

The bill faces a difficult road to passage in the Senate, where Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, has been noncommittal about bringing it to the floor for a vote and where some lawmakers have vowed to fight it.

TikTok has been under threat since 2020, with lawmakers increasingly arguing that Beijing’s relationship with TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, raises national security risks. The bill is aimed at getting ByteDance to sell TikTok to non-Chinese owners within six months. The president would sign off on the sale if it resolved national security concerns. If that sale did not happen, the app would be banned.

Representative Mike Gallagher, the Wisconsin Republican who is among the lawmakers leading the bill, said on the floor before the vote that it “forces TikTok to break up with the Chinese Communist Party.”

March 9

 

maria butina gun over shoulders ap pavel ptsitsin

Convicted Kremlin spy Maria Butina, above, was a onetime associate of former Russian bank co-owner Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, belowright — the father and maurice greenberg 2019former boss of new Trump financial patron Evan Greenberg, whose Chubb Limited now hopes to back the nearly bankrupt criminal defendant to the tune of over $91 million dollars.

 

Former President Donald Trump is shown in a photo collage with columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accused him of raping her three decades ago, with her civil suit scheduled for trial this spring in New York City.

Former President Donald Trump is shown in a photo collage with columnist E. Jean Carroll, who won civil suits against him in New York City on claims of sexual battery and defamation.

Proof, Investigative Commentary: The New Questions Federal Investigators Must Ask on An Emergency Basis About Trump’s Eleventh-Hour — Whose seth abramson graphicApparent Kremlin Connections Increase By the Hour, Seth Abramson, left, March 9, 2024. Authored by a former federal criminal investigator, this list gives the NYC federal court overseeing E. Jean Carroll case’s against Trump details on what’s gravely wrong about his proposed bond.

seth abramson proof logoIntroduction: Most major-media reporting on Donald Trump’s proposed $91.6 million supersedeas bond from Chubb, a large insurance carrier, emphasizes that Chubb’s CEO is a former Trump adviser, Evan Greenberg—and that Greenberg, left, who spent four years (2018 to 2022) working on the President Trump-created Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations, almost evan greenbergcertainly signed off on the massive financial risk for Chubb that it stands on the cusp of assuming and objectively makes no business sense for the firm.

See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here for examples of such coverage.

ICE logoPerhaps because Trump has so many other major professional milestones coming up—he’s likely to clinch the Republican Party presidential nomination this week; he goes to trial on 34 felonies in New York City in 16 days; and he faces a deadline to pay $454 million in yet another civil suit related to his tortious conduct in New York state on the very same day his criminal trial begins, March 25—or perhaps because Greenberg did the Russian Flagbare minimum we would expect of any American after the January 6 armed rebellion (as the Washington Post approvingly notes, but without the italics mindfully added by this author, Trump’s new lender “condemned efforts to keep Trump in power after the January 6 insurrection”), it seems that many in major media are ready to move on from Trump’s bizarre, eleventh-hour procuring of what indisputably is one of the strangest bond proposals in the history of civil litigation in the United States.

So before we address the additional major breaking news about this bond proposal in exhaustive detail—including revealing harrowing new details about its relationship to key past events involving Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin—some added background on what U.S. major media inexplicably isn’t telling its readers is required.

Trump’s Dodgy Bond Proposal Has Not Been Accepted By the Court

Nearly every major-media report this author could find on Trump’s bond falsely said that the bond had been “posted”—suggesting that it’s a done deal about which there is no purpose in media continuing to report. But in fact accepting the bond as already conclusively posted is exactly whatU.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan didn’t do.

In a strange juxtaposition, the New York Times simultaneously reports that Trump has “posted” bond and that Trump’s legal team has in fact merely “asked Judge Kaplan to approve the bond.” As an attorney as well as a journalist and a longtime journalism professor, this author can report that only the latter framing is accurate: while Trump has indeed secured a bond with an insurance carrier, he has not actually posted a bond.

This distinction is due, however, to a quirk of this particular case that the Times (again without any obvious explanation) somehow both reports on and fails to account for in its reporting. That is, the Times is correct to imply that an uncontested bond is usually reported on as “posted” as soon as it’s “secured”—which is the practice the Times has adopted here—but the problem is that Trump isn’t the conventional litigant, and as a result his second civil-suit loss to journalist E. Jean Carroll isn’t a typical legal defeat.

Trump has a long and well-documented history of lying to courts, lenders, and party opponents in civil cases—and for that reason Judge Kaplan, as the Times does correctly note, on Friday (yesterday) “gave [E. Jean] Carroll until 11AM [on] Monday to file any response to the proposed bond, and said that if she had any opposition to its form or amount, the judge would hold a hearing that afternoon [March 11] on the matter.”

This is an astounding development that could easily have led major-media coverage of Trump’s bond situation rather than, as was the case with the Times, getting relegated to the thirteenth paragraph of the relevant reporting. Why? Well, for several reasons:

As noted, it means Trump hasn’t “posted bond” in this historic case, and every headline claiming otherwise—which, sadly, is nearly all of them—is incorrect.

In fact, Trump has “proposed a bond” in his case, which means it is the duty of every major media outlet to report on whether his proposal is legally sound. By not accurately reporting on the major national news story in this way, some in media have abandoned their duty to professionally analyze Trump’s new bond proposal via research, legal analysis, and historic contextualization of the bond proposal within Trump’s astonishingly checkered legal and financial history.

The biggest open question in the United States this weekend is therefore whether E. Jean Carroll and her attorney Roberta Kaplan will challenge Trump’s proposal as they have been invited to do by Judge Kaplan (no relation). Because U.S. major media has fewer journalistic resources to bring to bear on weekends—for the obvious reason that employees are entitled to a weekend break—it’s convenient for media to pretend that this major weekend news story with significant national security implications isn’t happening at all. I can confirm, having been a working journalist for thirty years and having worked also as a journalism professor for many years (during which period the study of corporate media was one of my academic foci), the hope within American corporate media is likely that (a) Carroll won’t challenge the Trump bond proposal, making any work it could and should be doing this weekend seemingly moot, or (b) if she does challenge the proposal, most readers of major media won’t notice or care that major media launched its coverage of that stunningly significant story several days after it actually began.

lewis kaplanJudge Kaplan, left, almost certainly doesn’t regularly issue orders like the one he did yesterday, which makes the order itself worthy of discrete reporting rather than it being buried amongst a story that inaccurately claims Trump already “posted” bond (adding then, in the fine print, that Trump lawyer Alina Habba has merely “proposed” a bond). In my years of experience as a trial attorney, judges do not see a need to invite parties to object to bonds through written orders because that invitation is always tacit. Parties can always object via motion to any action taken by the party opposite if they believe it was for some reason legally infirm. The reasoning behind Judge Kaplan issuing his Friday order is therefore, more than likely, because he understands that Trump has a uniquely rich and sordid history of attempting to escape his debts via subterfuge.

For a federal court to implicitly acknowledge this with respect the presumptive Republican Party nominee for President of the United States isn’t just unprecedented and therefore astounding but could itself warrant a second discrete course of reporting from major media that we as American news consumers curiously aren’t getting this weekend. The effect of this non-reportage is obfuscation of the fact that the federal court system understands Donald Trump to be a scofflaw of highly irregular proportion and scope.

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

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

 

katie britt 3 7 2024 cspan

ny times logoNew York Times, Britt Faces Accusations of Misleading on Border in State of the Union Response, Ken Bensinger, March 9, 2024. The Alabama senator, shown above in her nationwide address, used a story about sex trafficking to criticize the Biden administration’s border policies. But the events appear to have occurred in Mexico years ago.

In her rebuttal to President Biden’s State of the Union speech Thursday night, Senator Katie Britt, Republican of Alabama, told a story about a Mexican woman who was a victim of sex trafficking at the age of 12, laying blame at the feet of the current administration.

“President Biden’s border policies are a disgrace,” she said.

The story, while wrenching, was highly misleading.

Although Ms. Britt did not name the victim in her speech, she has previously shared the story of a woman who appears to be the same individual based on congressional testimony, news releases and news reports.

That woman, Karla Jacinto Romero, is a Mexican citizen who does not live in the United States and who has spoken frequently about her experiences of being forced into sexual slavery for four years. In 2023, Ms. Jacinto participated in an event near the Texas border with Mexico that was also attended by three senators, including Ms. Britt. In a video released shortly after that trip, Ms. Britt discussed Ms. Jacinto’s experiences.

In her speech Thursday, Ms. Britt talked about the harrowing story as part of a critique of President Biden’s border policies, saying that “we wouldn’t be OK with this happening in a third-world country.” She added that “this is the United States of America, and it is past time, in my opinion, that we start acting like it.”

jonathan katzIn fact, as first reported by the independent journalist Jonathan Katz, above, on TikTok on Friday, Ms. Jacinto’s experiences did not happen in the United States. She has testified that she was kidnapped in Mexico City and that her shocking experience of being raped thousands of times took place entirely in Mexico. Moreover, she has said the kidnapping occurred in 2002 and she was rescued in 2006. Ms. Jacinto continues to live in Mexico and does not appear to have ever lived in the United States or to have sought asylum here.

In other words: None of this happened during President Biden’s administration, nor does it appear to have anything to do with his policies regarding the U.S. border with Mexico. But that didn’t stop the first-term senator from strongly implying that the president could have somehow prevented it from happening, using rhetoric that seemed calibrated to inflame public fears about immigration.

“We know that President Biden didn’t just create this border crisis,” she said. “He invited it.”

Ms. Jacinto did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for Ms. Britt, Sean Ross, stood behind her speech.

“The story Senator Britt told was 100 percent correct,” he said in a statement. “And there are more innocent victims of that kind of disgusting, brutal trafficking by the cartels than ever before right now. The Biden administration’s policies — the policies in this country that the president falsely claims are humane — have empowered the cartels and acted as a magnet to a historic level of migrants making the dangerous journey to our border.”

He did not immediately respond to a follow-up question about what direct responsibility Mr. Biden had for what Ms. Jacinto experienced or what an anecdote about sex trafficking entirely within another country has to do with U.S. border policies.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Katie Britt’s false linkage of a sex-trafficking case to Joe Biden, glenn kesslerGlenn Kessler, right, March 9, 2024.

“We know that President Biden didn’t just create this border crisis. He invited it with 94 executive actions in his first 100 days. When I took office, I took a different approach. I traveled to the Del Rio sector of Texas. That’s where I spoke to a woman who shared her story with me. She had been sex trafficked by the cartels starting at the age of 12. She told me not just that she was raped every day, but how many times a day she was raped. katie britt oThe cartels put her on a mattress in a shoe box of a room, and they sent men through that door over and over again for hours and hours on end. We wouldn’t be okay with this happening in a Third World country. This is the United States of America, and it is past time, in my opinion, that we start acting like it. President Biden’s border policies are a disgrace.”

— Sen. Katie Boyd Britt (R-Ala.), right, in the Republican response to the State of the Union address, March 7

If you were watching Britt’s speech on Thursday night, you likely would have thought she was talking about a recent victim of sex trafficking who was abused in the United States and suffered because of President Biden’s policies.

If you did, you would have been wrong. Sean Ross, Britt’s communications director, confirmed that she was talking about Karla Jacinto Romero — who has testified before Congress about being forced to work in Mexican brothels from 2004 to 2008. (A viral TikTok by journalist Jonathan Katz first revealed that Britt was speaking about Romero.) In a phone conversation and a statement, Ross disputed that Britt’s language was misleading.

We disagree. Let’s take a look.

Britt’s account of Romero’s experience was a centerpiece of her rebuttal to Biden’s address. The way Britt sets up the story, there is no indication that she is talking about a woman who was working in brothels in Mexico during the George W. Bush administration. This is how the passage unfolds.

She first blames Biden for the surge of migrants at the border.

Then she says she visited the border shortly after she took office. That would be 2023.
At length, she details the story of an unnamed victim that she says she met on her trip. The implication is that the woman recently crossed the border — because of “sex trafficking by the cartels.”

She strongly suggests that her abuse took place in the United States: “We wouldn’t be okay with this happening in a Third World country. This is the United States of America, and it is past time, in my opinion, that we start acting like it.”

She ends by reinforcing that such alleged trafficking is Biden’s fault: “President Biden’s border policies are a disgrace.”

But Biden has nothing to do with Romero’s story. As she testified nine years ago, her mother threw her out of her house at age 12 and she “fell prey to a professional pimp.” She says she then spent the next four years in brothels before a regular client helped her escape when she was 16 years old. There is no indication in her story that drug cartels were involved, though Britt said that in the State of the Union response and has made a similar claim on at least one other occasion. Romero was never trafficked to the United States; instead, she says many men who paid to have sex with her were “foreigners visiting my city looking to have sexual interactions with minors like me.”

In a YouTube video, Britt features images of her hugging Romero during her 2023 trip to the border. “If we as leaders of the greatest nation in the world are not fighting to protect the most vulnerable, we are not doing our job,” she said in the video. The implication again is that this happened on Biden’s watch.

When Donald Trump was president, he regularly decried human trafficking that he claimed was happening at the border, including that “thousands of young girls and women” were being smuggled across the border for prostitution. In 2019, we investigated that claim and found no evidence to support it. Most human trafficking prosecutions generally involve legal border crossings, visa fraud and travel into the United States on airplanes. Victim organizations say there are relatively few cases that involve forced kidnapping across the border. This might be one reason Britt regularly cites a case that happened long ago and did not involve crossing the border.

Ross, Britt’s spokesman, said that Romero’s story was indicative of trafficking that is now happening at the border and that should be clear from Britt’s framing in the speech.

He said the reference to a “Third World country” was generic and was not intended to refer to Mexico, which he said is not a Third World country. Third World is a dated Cold War-era term previously used to refer to poor or developing countries. Global South, indicating low income and high poverty, is a more common expression today. Mexico is considered part of the Global South, though it is also a member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

In a written statement, Ross said:

“The story Senator Britt told was 100% correct. And there are more innocent victims of that kind of disgusting, brutal trafficking by the cartels than ever before right now. The Biden administration’s policies — the policies in this country that the President falsely claims are humane — have empowered the cartels and acted as a magnet to a historic level of migrants making the dangerous journey to our border. Along that journey, children, women, and men are being subjected to gut-wrenching, heartbreaking horrors in our own backyard. And here at home, the Biden administration’s policies are leading to more and more suffering, including Americans being poisoned by fentanyl and being murdered. These human costs are real, and it’s past time for some on the left to stop pretending otherwise.”

The Pinocchio Test

In a high-profile speech like this, a politician should not mislead voters with emotionally charged language. Romero’s story is tragic and may be evocative of other Mexican girls trapped in the sex trade in that country. But she was not trafficked across the border — and her story has nothing to do with Biden. Britt’s failure to make that clear earns her Four Pinocchios.

ny times logoNew York Times, In the Republican response, Senator Katie Britt of Alabama delivered tonally jarring remarks, Michael C. Bender and Kayla Guo, Updated March 8, 2024. The Alabama senator, 42, who has been floated as a possible running mate for Donald Trump, gave a tonally jarring speech that toggled between strained cheerfulness and a fierce glare.

With a sunny, inviting smile, Senator Katie Britt of Alabama, shown above, welcomed Americans into her kitchen on Thursday night.

Many soon backed away nervously.

In the Republican Party’s official response to President Biden’s State of the Union address, Ms. Britt delivered a jarring speech that toggled between an increasingly strained cheerfulness and a fierce glare as she gave ominous warnings about illegal immigration.

Ms. Britt, 42, has been seen as a rising Republican star and floated as a possible running mate for former President Donald J. Trump. But in the biggest moment of her fledgling political career, she delivered a tonally uneven speech that was made more unusual by the setting of her own house in Montgomery, Ala., where she sat at her kitchen table and painted a dark picture of an America in decline.

“Our commander in chief is not in command,” Ms. Britt said. “The free world deserves better than a dithering and diminished leader.”

Her comments were in line with messages Republicans have increasingly used to criticize Mr. Biden at the start of the election year, but her 17-minute speech seemed likely to be remembered more for her disconcerting performance. She spoke in grim detail about a child victim of sex trafficking by drug cartels and the recent killing of a Georgia nursing student in which a Venezuelan migrant has been charged.

“That could’ve been my daughter,” Ms. Britt said. “It could’ve been yours.”

Previous State of the Union rebuttals have been delivered from behind a lectern in official settings, but Ms. Britt chose a domestic backdrop, trying to underscore her argument that Mr. Biden represents a threat to prosperity for American families.

But the scene seemed to confuse viewers on social media, where Ms. Britt was mocked by some for using a dramatic, breathy voice to deliver critiques of the president.

“Under his administration, families are worse off — our communities are less safe, and our country is less secure,” she said. “I just wish he understood what real families are facing around kitchen tables just like this one.”

Mr. Trump praised her speech.

“Katie Britt was a GREAT contrast to an Angry, and obviously very Disturbed, ‘President,’” he wrote on his social media site. “She was compassionate and caring, especially concerning Women and Women’s Issues. Her conversation on Migrant Crime was powerful and insightful. Great job Katie!”

March 8

hannah gutierrez reed

ny times logoNew York Times, What the ‘Rust’ Jury Heard About How Live Rounds Got on a Film Set, Julia Jacobs, March 8, 2024 (print ed.). Here is what emerged during the trial about the live ammunition, and where it may have come from.

Ever since a real, live bullet discharged from the gun that Alec Baldwin was rehearsing with on the set of the film “Rust” in 2021, killing the cinematographer and wounding the director, one question has vexed everyone involved: How did live ammunition end up on a film set, where — all agree — it absolutely should never have been?

The film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, shown above, was found guilty on Wednesday of involuntary manslaughter in the death of the cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, and faces up to 18 months in prison. The jury found that Ms. Gutierrez-Reed, 26, had behaved negligently by failing to check that all of the rounds she loaded into Mr. Baldwin’s revolver were dummies, which are inert rounds that look real but cannot be fired.

The question of where the live ammunition came from in the first place has hung over the case from the start. The original investigation by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office did not reach a conclusion on where the live rounds had come from.

During the trial, prosecutors sought to convince jurors that it was Ms. Gutierrez-Reed who was responsible for bringing the rounds onto the set. The defense asserted that Ms. Gutierrez-Reed, who did not testify, was not at fault, and tried to focus attention on the movie’s primary weapons and ammunition supplier, Seth Kenney, who took the stand and denied responsibility.

Here is what emerged during the trial about the live ammunition, and where it may have come from.

When investigators arrived at the chaotic scene shortly after the shooting, on Oct. 21, 2021, Ms. Gutierrez-Reed showed a lieutenant from the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office a cart where she kept guns and ammunition and drew his attention to a box of ammunition where she said that she had retrieved the rounds she put in Mr. Baldwin’s revolver.

“So here’s the box that I got them out of,” Ms. Gutierrez-Reed, visibly shaken, told the lieutenant, Tim Benavidez, according to body-camera footage that was shown to the jury.

On the witness stand, Lieutenant Benavidez said that Ms. Gutierrez-Reed had shown him a rectangular white box labeled “45 LONG COLT DUMMIES.” Jurors were shown a photograph of the box that was taken in his patrol vehicle.

ny times logoNew York Times, No More No. 2 Pencils: The SAT Goes Fully Digital, Dana Goldstein, March 8, 2024. The new format cuts nearly an hour out of the exam and has shorter reading passages.

With adolescent anxiety surging and attention spans challenged, high school students will take a revamped version of the SAT on Saturday, which has been designed in part to reduce stress, according to the College Board, which administers the test.

The exam will be briefer — two hours and 14 minutes instead of three hours — and students will have more time for each question. The reading passages will be much shorter, and test-takers will now be able to use an online graphing calculator for the entire math section of the exam.

And after 98 years of students scratching answers on paper, the SAT will now be fully digital for the remote-learning generation.

March 7

Politico, Johnson Backs Tik-Tok Ban Bill, Olivia Beavers and Rebecca Kern, March 7, 2024.  Speaker Mike Johnson is publicly supporting a bipartisan bill that aims to kick TikTok off U.S. app stores while it's owned by a parent company linked to the Chinese government. The company would have to sell it in order to reverse the ban.

politico Custom“It’s an important bipartisan measure to take on China, our largest geopolitical foe, which is actively undermining our economy and security,” Johnson said in a statement first provided to

tiktok logo square CustomCongressional offices are getting bombarded with calls from TikTok users, according to multiple staffers, as the House is poised to move on a bill that would force the sale of the social media app by its Chinese owner or face a ban from app stores.

Multiple House GOP staffers say they are being bombarded with calls — mostly from people they believe are teenagers — who are concerned that the bill would shut down the popular video app entirely. While the legislation does not call for an outright ban, that hasn’t stopped TikTok officials from peddling that claim to rally its users.

TikTok even has a pop-up on its app encouraging users to call lawmakers to stop a “total ban” of the app, arguing that it will infringe on their freedom of expression and damage millions of businesses, according to a screenshot of the pop-up provided to POLITICO. That pop-up even directs the user to their own elected representative, assumedly based on their location.

“It’s so so bad. Our phones have not stopped ringing. They’re teenagers and old people saying they spend their whole day on the app and we can't take it away,” one House GOP staffer told POLITICO, granted anonymity to speak candidly.

Another House GOP staffer observed that “most of the callers are unaware of why they’re even calling, with several agreeing with the bill but calling to continue using the app.” That staffer predicted their office would "easily surpass" receiving "1,000 calls today.”

A third House GOP staffer said some of the younger callers were using false and sometimes vulgar names, such as “Mr. Ben Dover.”

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.), cosponsor of the TikTok bill, said the video app's pop-up alert is lying about his bill. “If you actually read the bill, it's not a ban. It's a divestiture.”

He said his bill puts the decision “squarely in the hands of TikTok to sever their relationship with the Chinese Communist Party.” If its Beijing-based owner ByteDance sells the app then “TikTok will continue to survive,” he said. Speaker Mike Johnson announced Thursday morning that he supported the legislation.

“But the basic ownership structure has to change. That’s the message we’ve heard from every single national security official in the Biden administration right now,” he added.

One well-connected Republican said they are hearing the TikTok campaign to call lawmakers is "backfiring," incensing members who were on the fence and are now leaning towards voting for Gallagher's bill.

ny times logoNew York Times, Taylor Swift encouraged her 282 million Instagram followers to vote, without saying for whom, Rebecca Davis O’Brien, March 5, 2024. After months of anticipation, Taylor Swift made her first foray into the 2024 election on Tuesday morning, encouraging her 282 million followers on Instagram to make a plan to vote in the presidential primaries.

taylor swift stageThe message was brief and nonpartisan, and did not include any endorsements. It was directed at voters in the more than a dozen states and territories — including Tennessee, where she owns at least one home — that are holding primaries on Tuesday.

“I wanted to remind you guys to vote the people who most represent YOU into power,” she wrote. “If you haven’t already, make a plan to vote today.”

The message has the potential to provoke outrage on Fox News and among the fringes of the Make America Great Again contingent, which in recent months have promoted theories that Ms. Swift is part of an elaborate plot to spread Democratic propaganda — or rig the Super Bowl, or force people to be vaccinated against Covid-19, or do something else that is not entirely clear.

A person familiar with Ms. Swift’s plans said she had already voted, by mail, ahead of Tuesday’s contests, and that she is registered to vote in Tennessee. Ms. Swift, 34, has not endorsed a candidate in the 2024 election. In 2020, she endorsed Joseph R. Biden Jr., and she is high on his aides’ wish list for another endorsement this year.

March 5

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Beware of Russian-generated fake financial newsletters, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 24 books and former Navy intelligence officer, March 5, 2024. Russian on-wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallline disinformation factories have embarked on a different approach to plant anti-Joe Biden and pro-Donald Trump fake news items in the American infosphere.

wayne madesen report logoAfter having baited unsuspecting news consumers with fake news stories purporting to have originated with actual news media organizations, from The Guardian of the UK, Der Spiegel of Germany, and The Washington Post, Russian troll farms are currently inundating email in-boxes with fake financial investment newsletters pushing such false stories as the imminent collapse of the U.S. dollar, a series of U.S. bank failures, and other claptrap aimed at hurting President Biden's re-election chances.

Russian FlagIn opting to unsubscribe from such newsletters, recipients are unwittingly signalling to the newsletter originators' servers that a valid email address is receiving the unwanted newsletter. That, in turn, results in receiving dozens more unsolicited newsletters. Unsubscribing to them merely results in inclusion on additional mailing lists of countless newsletters in a never-ending cycle.

One recent fake newsletter, said to be headquartered in Milton, Delaware, hyped a recent "war game" of Russia and China in the Sea of Japan. It noted that the Russian and Chinese war gamers successfully sank a "hostile submarine, read that as American, in the war game and that this is a prelude to a Chinese military attack on Taiwan."

Another bogus newsletter, claiming to be based in Palm Beach, Florida, warned that the checking accounts of Americans will soon become worthless federal reserve system Customas banks switch to "digital dollars." Five banks are singled out in this respect: U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citigroup, and JP Morgan Chase. Another newsletter, claiming to be headquartered in Palm Beach Garden, Florida, states that the Federal fec logo black background CustomReserve Board has new powers to track every checking account in the nation. These "warnings," of course, are nonsense but they play into Vladimir Putin's hand in creating doubts about the rising U.S. economy in order to benefit Trump.

The Federal Trade Commission and Federal Election Commission could jointly shut down these bogus newsletters. However, the incessant Republican attack on federal regulatory agencies has stymied enforcement of existing laws and regulations.

Salon, Commentary: There is something wrong at the New York Times, Lucian K. Truscott IV, March 5, 2024. From presidential polls to refusing to report on Trump’s stumbles, things aren’t adding up at the Gray Lady.

salon LogoTwo things — check that, three things — appear to have gone off the rails at the paper we used to call the Gray Lady. First, whoever is in charge of the paper’s polls is not doing their job. Second, whoever is choosing what to emphasize in Times coverage of the campaign for the presidency is showing bias. Third, the Times is obsessed with Joe Biden’s age at the same time they’re leaving evidence of Donald Trump’s mental and verbal stumbles completely out of the news.

Let’s start right there. At a rally on Saturday night in Virginia, Trump confused Barack Obama, who left office seven years ago, with President Biden for the third time over the last six months. “Putin has so little respect for Obama that he’s starting to throw around the nuclear word,” Trump said, as his crowd of rabid supporters suddenly fell silent. “You heard that. Nuclear. He’s starting to talk nuclear weapons today.” You won’t find that verbal stumble and the crowd’s stunned reaction in the Times coverage of the campaign over the weekend. You’ll have to read other publications — for example, Salon or maybe the Guardian — if you want to learn how often Trump is losing his way mid-sentence at rallies and just mumbling incoherently.

The Times on Sunday, however, had this headline ready for your morning coffee: “Majority of Biden’s 2020 Voters Now Say He’s Too Old to be Effective.” It’s another grab from the New York Times/Siena College poll they published on Saturday that is so outrageously flawed, a cottage industry has sprung up to pick apart its methodology and point out its glaring contradictions and straight-up bias.

A favorite of poll skeptics is its sampling bias. How did the New York Times come up with a polling sample that included 36 percent rural voters when the 2020 proportion of rural voters was 19 percent? Somehow, the poll’s sample of female voters was equally skewed. The poll found Trump winning the female vote by one percent, when Biden carried women in 2020 by 11 points. The Times wants you to ignore that in between, all three of Trump’s Supreme Court justices quarterbacked the Dobbs decision overturning women’s constitutional right to abortion, followed almost immediately by states banning abortion all over the country, many with no exceptions for rape or incest. The Times doesn’t say how it squares its poll numbers with the fact that women turned out in huge numbers to help win referendums confirming a right to abortion, including in such Republican strongholds as Kansas and Kentucky, and handed every special election to Democratic candidates in the bargain. They just want you to believe there’s been a 12-point swing toward Trump among women, with no evidence except, poof! It happened!

If you’re getting off the subway anywhere near 8th Avenue and 42nd Street, hold your nose. There’s something fishy at the New York Times.

The truly incredible thing is that the New York Times provides the evidence that would cause any other reasonable journalistic enterprise to question the accuracy of its own poll. The poll shows that Trump still has the support of nearly every Republican who voted for him in 2020 — this in the face of the fact that between 30 and 40 percent of primary voters have chosen another candidate than Trump. Those people are not poll respondents. They’re voters. The Times/Siena poll also somehow comes up with 12 percent support among Democrats for Rep. Dean Phillips, who has yet to get more than two percent of the vote in a primary. Even Phillips himself posted a tweet that said “When the NYT/Siena poll shows me at 12%, you better believe it’s flawed. Only 5% even know who I am.” The poll also shows that among respondents who described themselves as unhappy with both candidates, they favor Biden over Trump by 12 points. So Biden has the utterly disaffected vote and carries independents by four points, and he’s losing to Trump by four points?

It just doesn’t add up.

Why is the New York Times missing the red flags in its own polls? More important, why has the paper decided to give its own deeply biased poll results such heavy play? I don’t want to bring up but her emails, but for crying out loud, why is the New York Times so clearly making the same mistakes of bias and emphasis they made in 2016 covering Hillary Clinton all over again? The Times was down on Clinton for months because of her so-called email scandal that wasn’t a scandal at all, and when Russian intelligence leaked Democratic Party emails through WikiLeaks in the fall of 2016, reading the Times you would think that each and every DNC email that nobody bothered reading was a smoking gun. None of the daily drumbeat of manufactured “news” added up to even a pinprick of a scandal, but as the Times did with Whitewater and the rest of the made-up Clinton scandals, the paper simply couldn’t resist filling its front page with negative stories about the Democratic candidate for president.

There are no scandals with the name Biden attached to them, unless you consider the lies Russian spies supplied the so-called impeachment committee with. So The New York Times has apparently devoted half a floor in its Eighth Avenue headquarters to a search for bad news about Biden, and then they reserve a space nearly every day above the fold on the front page for whatever grain of grim shit the Biden hunters have managed to come up with. They’re probably working on a story on how Biden is losing the pro-choice vote as we speak, while pointing out the wild success of Trump’s “move to the middle” on abortion with “centrist” voters.

If you’re getting off the subway anywhere near Eighth Avenue and 42nd Street, hold your nose. There’s something fishy at the New York Times.

 

james foley isis 2012 via abc

washington post logo

Washington Post, ISIS executed her son. Her new book describes confronting his kidnapper, Jonathan Edwards, March 5, 2024. Diane Foley’s book, “American Mother,” examines her frustrations with the U.S. government after her son James Foley was captured, and her activism since his death.

None of her immediate family wanted to meet one of the men who had helped take her son hostage and then posted a terrorist propaganda video of him being brutally beheaded. But Diane Foley felt compelled to talk to him.

In late 2021, over seven years after millions watched freelance journalist James Foley forcibly read about how his imminent execution was the fault of the “complacent criminality” of the U.S. government, she wanted to speak with the Islamic State member who had written her son’s last words — to tell him about Jim’s empathy for others, to possibly glean information about where his remains might be, to honor the goodness of a son who would have wanted the man involved in his killing to be heard.

Over the course of about 10 hours across two days at a federal courthouse in Alexandria, Va., she talked with Alexanda Kotey. She did not find the monster that people had warned her about. She discovered someone who minimized his role in her son’s torture and execution, but also cried when he spoke of his daughters.
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“All of us are capable of incredible evil and also incredible good,” she said, “so it was interesting to see that confirmed.”

Foley’s conversation with Kotey starts “American Mother,” a memoir she co-wrote with novelist Colum McCann that Etruscan Press published on Monday. The 256-page account documents how Foley learned her son had been taken hostage by the Islamic State while covering the civil war in Syria as a freelance journalist and videographer and scrambled to save him during his 21 months in captivity. She details learning of her son’s execution after a video of it was posted online and how she has coped by diving into activism aimed at changing how the U.S. government handles negotiations for Americans who are taken hostage or wrongfully detained.

As Foley travels Europe and the United States on book tours, she tells would-be readers how her family struggled to navigate the disjointed and, what she perceived to be, deceptive efforts by the U.S. government to rescue her son. She praises the ways officials’ approach has improved since her son’s death and how it can get better as hostile countries turn to kidnapping Americans as a way to gain leverage over the United States.

“It’s a real threat to our national security,” Foley said. “We still have a lot of work in front of us.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Artificial Intelligence: Authors decry an ‘explosion’ of knockoff books on Amazon, Will Oremus, March 5, 2024. On Amazon, new books such as Kara Swisher’s memoir now routinely vie with imitators in search results. Some authors are fed up.

kara swisherWeeks before the release of her new memoir, recalls tech journalist Kara Swisher, right, her wife noticed something odd as she searched for the book on Amazon. “She was like, ‘What is this picture of you? It’s weird!’,” Swisher said.

Swisher looked at the screen and saw a book claiming to be a new biography of her, with an image on the cover that she immediately pegged as an AI-generated fake. While the book promised the inside story of Swisher’s life, the author was someone she’d never heard of. A closer look suggested that the book itself might be largely or entirely AI-generated, substituting generic descriptions of Swisher for factual details or anecdotes. Swisher was irritated but brushed it off, she said.

amazon logo smallBut when she looked at Amazon again this week, she saw spammy clone biographies of her had proliferated, as the tech blog 404 Media first reported. Each bore a slightly different title, author, and fake image of her on its cover. “There were dozens and dozens,” Swisher said. “I was like, ‘What is happening here, and why aren’t they stopping it?’”

Swisher is just the latest author to find that selling a new book on Amazon these days often means competing for readers’ attention with knockoffs that bear signs of having been generated largely or entirely by artificial intelligence tools. Nearly 10 months after The Washington Post reported on one of the first known examples of these impostors, authors say the problem appears to be getting worse.

March 4

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why Elon Musk Is the Second Most Important Person in MAGA, David French, right, March 4, 2024 (print ed.). One of the most david french croppedremarkable developments of the new century has been the concentration of right-wing power and adulation in two men. Donald Trump is the obvious one, the unquestioned king of the American right. But easier to miss if you’re outside the MAGA world is the central importance of Elon Musk.

We’re familiar with Trump’s arc, of course. But why is Musk so important to the right? Why is a reported illicit drug user and unmarried father of 11 children by three women, a man whose social media site, X, is overrun with hatred and pornography, celebrated across the length and breadth of the new right, including parts of the Christian right?

The answer is that if Trump is MAGA’s champion, Musk is its gatekeeper. He doesn’t just use his immense reach (he has 174 million followers on X) to fight the left; he owns the right wing’s public square. This is because outside of X, the public isn’t reading the right. And as a result, X now shapes the right as much as even Fox News.

On Feb. 22, a website called The Righting released an analysis using Comscore data to compare web traffic at top right-wing sites from January 2020 to January 2024. The findings are surprising: Right-wing media appears to be struggling even more than mainstream media. Of the top right-wing sites in 2020, only Newsmax gained audience over the past four years. Every other right-wing site lost visitors, and most lost a staggering percentage of them.

For example, The Righting reports that The Washington Examiner lost 66 percent of its visitors. The Washington Times lost 82 percent. Breitbart lost 87 percent and The Daily Wire 73 percent. Aside from Newsmax and Fox News (which lost only 24 percent of its visitors), every other right-wing site has lost at least half its visitors in four years. Some have lost so many that The Righting could no longer measure their reader numbers.

In fact, the loss is so profound that there are individual articles and columns in The New York Times that get more visitors than all of the content that many of these sites post for an entire month. As a practical matter, this means that social media — and principally Musk’s X — becomes the central way in which many right-wing figures reach the public.

There are several consequences of this reality. It’s altering the way the right speaks. People will be naturally prone to focus most of their efforts on the medium through which they interact with the most people. A vast majority of people who interact with my work, for example, do so by reading my pieces, not by viewing my social media posts. My written work is the central focus of my professional life, while my social media posts are essentially an afterthought.

ny times logoNew York Times, Apple Fined $2 Billion by E.U. for Using App Store to Thwart Competition, Tripp Mickle and Adam Satariano, March 4, 2024. Apple said it would appeal the penalty, the latest in a series of regulatory setbacks for the tech giant.

Apple on Monday was fined 1.8 billion euros ($1.95 billion) by European Union regulators for thwarting competition among music streaming rivals, a severe punishment levied against the tech giant in a long-simmering battle over the powerful role it plays as gatekeeper of the App Store.

The penalty, announced by the E.U. antitrust regulator, is the culmination of a five-year investigation set in motion by one of its biggest rivals, Spotify. Regulators said Apple illegally used its App Store dominance to box out rivals.

“For a decade, Apple abused its dominant position in the market for the distribution of music streaming apps through the App Store,” said Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission executive vice president who oversees competition policy.

“From now on,” she said in a news conference, “Apple will have to allow music streaming developers to communicate freely with their own users.” The size of the fine, she added, “reflects both Apple’s financial power and the harm that Apple’s conduct inflicted on millions of European users.”

The action by the European Commission, the E.U. executive branch, is the latest in a series of regulations and penalties to target the App Store. Most of the disputes are because Apple requires that apps use its in-app payment service for sales. It takes as much as a 30 percent commission on each transaction, a fee that many developers say is excessive.

Regulators in the Netherlands and South Korea have passed laws or orders to force Apple to allow alternative payment services, but Apple has largely disregarded the regulators’ challenges. In those countries it is allowing alternatives but charging a 27 percent commission, a solution that regulators in the countries are contesting.

March 3

JFK Facts, Review and Commentary: Zapruder Film Features in Netflix 'American Conspiracy' Series, Peter Voskamp, March 3, 2024. Casolaro Researcher Says She Was Shown a Different Version of JFK Film.

Netflix just released a new series entitled “American Conspiracy: The Octopus Murders,” a four-part inquiry into the 1991 death of investigative reporter Danny Casolaro, and the story that so obsessed him and perhaps led to his demise.

The case of Casolaro has long beguiled and befuddled. He had gone to see a source in West Virginia but ended up being found dead in a Sheraton Hotel bathtub with both his wrists slit multiple times, some slashes deep enough to sever a tendon. The death was ruled a suicide, though his family didn’t accept the finding.

Casolaro had been deep in his investigation of a surveillance software called PROMIS created by a company called INSLAW. In the process of his investigation, Casolaro reportedly fell down a rabbit hole of competing high-powered interests — the Department of Justice, intelligence agencies, foreign agents, drug dealers and mobsters — “a Bermuda Triangle of spooks, guns, drugs and organized crime,” as Richard Fricker wrote in Wired magazine. Casolaro called it the “Octopus” and had planned to write a book about his findings, which included links to the alleged October Surprise, Iran Contra, and the BCCI bank.

‘Nothing is as it appears to be’

The Netflix series was directed by Zachary Treitz and follows his friend, photojournalist Christian Hansen, as he carries out his own investigation into Casolaro’s fate while also trying to advance the story Casolaro had already started.

As reported by Joe McGovern of the TheWrap, in one episode they speak to Cheri Seymour, who was also looking into Casolaro’s death. In 1992, she met with a mysterious “government facilitator” named Robert Booth Nichols, a figure with whom Casolaro had also met. Nichols told her that no journalist had done enough work “to deserve to know” why Casolaro died. He then, Seymour claims, showed her “the real” Zapruder film, in which the driver of JFK’s limousine turns and shoots the president himself.

Nichols went on to show her the “public” Zapruder film and pointed out a tree with a section of its trunk missing, indicative, he said, of the film having been tampered with.

“Nothing is as it appears to be,” Seymour says Nichols declared. She went on to say that “my ability to see the truth or report the facts kind of goes out the window when you start describing that film, especially if you say you believed it.”

 

February

Feb. 22

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Biden administration cancels $1.2 billion in student loans with new repayment plan, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Feb. 22, 2024 (print ed.). President Biden will start notifying 153,000 student loan borrowers enrolled in the Save repayment plan that their debts — totaling $1.2 billion — have been forgiven. Starting Wednesday, President Biden will email 153,000 student loan borrowers enrolled in his signature repayment plan to let them know their debts — totaling $1.2 billion — have been forgiven.

The notice makes good on the administration’s promise to accelerate forgiveness for borrowers with low original balances who are enrolled in the Saving on a Valuable Education (Save) plan. Rather than wait 20 to 25 years for relief through other income-driven repayment plans, enrollees in the Save plan who borrowed less than $12,000 can have their debt wiped clean after 10 years of payments. The Education Department had originally planned to begin forgiveness in July but started identifying eligible borrowers this month.

People who are notified do not need to take any further action to receive loan forgiveness. Student loan servicers, the middlemen who collect payments on the federal government’s behalf, will begin discharging the debt in coming days, according to the department. Next week, the agency plans to directly contact borrowers who would be eligible for early cancellation under the Save plan but are not currently enrolled.

ny times logoNew York Times, At Harvard, Some Wonder What It Will Take to Stop the Spiral, Anemona Hartocollis, Feb. 22, 2024 (print ed.). At a summit of university presidents, the talk was about Harvard and its plummeting reputation.

When 70 university presidents gathered for a summit at the end of January, the topic on everyone’s mind was the crisis at Harvard.

The hosts of the summit treated the university, battered by accusations of coddling antisemitism, as a business-school case study on leadership in higher education, complete with a slide presentation on its plummeting reputation.

The killer slide: “Boeing & Tesla Have Similar Levels of Negative Buzz as Harvard.”

In other words, Harvard, a centuries-old symbol of academic excellence, was generating as much negative attention as an airplane manufacturer that had a door panel drop from the sky and a car company with a mercurial chief executive and multiple recalls.

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a professor at Yale’s School of Management, organized the summit. “Despite near 400 years of history, the value of brand equity is nowhere near as permanent as Harvard trustees think it is,” he said in an interview. “There used to be a term in the industry of something being the Cadillac of the industry. Well, Cadillac itself is, you know, sadly not the Cadillac of the industry anymore.”

Many of the presidents attending the summit saw the erosion of Harvard’s brand as a problem not only for the school, but also by extension for the entire enterprise of higher education. If Harvard could not protect itself, then what about every other institution? Could Harvard’s leadership find an effective response?

There was a hint of a more assertive approach by Harvard on Monday, when the university announced that it was investigating “deeply offensive antisemitic tropes” posted on social media by pro-Palestinian student and faculty groups. The groups had posted or reposted material containing an old cartoon of a puppeteer, his hand marked by a dollar sign inside a Star of David, lynching Muhammad Ali and Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Harvard took the action at a time when the House Committee on Education and the Workforce has begun to scrutinize its record on antisemitism. On Friday, the committee issued subpoenas to Harvard’s interim president, the head of the school’s governing board and its investment manager, in a wide-ranging hunt for documents relating to the university’s handling of campus antisemitism claims. The threat of the subpoenas led PEN America, a writers’ group that defends academic freedom, to warn against a fishing expedition.

There is also a lawsuit against Harvard, calling the university “a bastion of rampant anti-Jewish hatred and harassment,” as well as federal investigations into charges that the university ignored both antisemitism and Islamophobia on campus.

washington post logoWashington Post, How everything became a ‘psyop’ for conservative media, Jeremy Barr, Feb. 22, 2024. It’s not just Taylor Swift. Right-wing pundits are branding everything from climate change to the Hunter Biden case a ‘psyop,’ though the conspiracy-tinged phrase is losing grip on an actual definition.

It’s not just Taylor Swift. Right-wing pundits are branding everything from climate change to the Hunter Biden case a ‘psyop,’ though the conspiracy-tinged phrase is losing grip on an actual definition.

Lately, it’s become popular in conservative media circles to brand certain things as a psychological operation, or “psyop.”

Climate change, for example. Or covid. Or the media coverage of Donald Trump. Or even the prosecution of Hunter Biden.

Technically, “psyop” is a U.S. military term, referring to various kinds of campaigns to get inside the heads of adversaries. In a classic psychological operation during the Vietnam War, the U.S. government blasted messages over loudspeakers that were meant to urge Viet Cong soldiers to defect. Ahead of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, it was millions of leaflets dropped on cities to undermine support for then-President Saddam Hussein. “Who needs you more? Your family or the regime?” one flier asked.

But conservative media personalities have begun using the term in vaguer and wilder ways, seemingly to allege government conspiracies targeted at American citizens — something that would be illegal, even if any of these theories were remotely plausible.

washington post logoWashington Post, Vice, former digital-media darling, to end website, lay off hundreds, Elahe Izadi and Will Sommer, Feb. 22, 2024. Once valued at more than $5 billion for its vaunted appeal to younger audiences, the company filed for bankruptcy last year

vice newsVice, the swashbuckling media upstart once valued at more than $5 billion for its vaunted appeal to young audiences, is effectively shuttering its independent news operations.

Bruce Dixon, chief executive of Vice Media Group, told employees Thursday that “several hundred” positions will be eliminated, and the company will no longer publish at its flagship website, Vice.com, although he left open the possibility of Vice providing content through other media organizations.

“It is no longer cost-effective for us to distribute our digital content the way we have done previously,” he wrote in a memo. “Moving forward, we will look to partner with established media companies to distribute our digital content, including news, on their global platforms, as we fully transition to a studio model.”

The downfall of Vice represents one of the biggest media busts in recent memory, as the company went from darling of the digital media era to bankruptcy. Last year, Vice Media Group filed for bankruptcy and was sold for $350 million to its former lenders, led by giant investment firm Fortress Investment Group.

Journalists who had done work for Vice spent the day furiously trying to save their work after hearing rumors that the site could imminently shut down. As of Thursday evening, the site was still accessible, and employees were told they would learn more about their fate early next week.

“We are out of the daily news business,” said a person familiar with Fortress’s thinking, speaking on the condition of anonymity to frankly discuss personnel matters but offering no specifics on how many people would remain. “This company was built in such a way that no longer works as part of the media landscape.”

Vice Media Group also includes other brands, such as Refinery29, a digital site aimed at young women, which will continue to operate, although executives “are in advanced discussions to sell this business, and we are continuing with that process,” with more news expected in the coming weeks, Dixon wrote in the memo.

ny times logoTampa Bay Times, Tampa media figure Tim Burke indicted on conspiracy charges, Justin Garcia, Dan Sullivan and Jay Cridlin, Feb. 22, 2024. Burke, a nationally recognized media consultant, was released after appearing in federal court Thursday in Tampa.

Tampa media consultant Tim Burke was charged Thursday with 14 federal crimes related to alleged computer hacks at Fox News.

Federal law enforcement officials arrested Burke, 45, on Thursday morning. He appeared in handcuffs in a Tampa federal courtroom Thursday afternoon, wearing a brown sweater, white collared shirt and dark jeans, and was released on his own recognizance shortly thereafter.

The indictment charges Burke with one count of conspiracy; six counts of accessing a protected computer without authorization; and seven counts of intercepting or disclosing wire, oral or electronic communications.

Burke runs Burke Communications, a media and political consulting company. He produces a wide range of video content, including for high-profile media clients like HBO and ESPN. He previously worked for the online news outlets Deadspin and the Daily Beast.

According to the indictment, Burke and an unnamed person used “compromised credentials” to access and save protected commercial broadcast video streams, then disseminate specific clips after taking steps to mask where they came from and how they were obtained.

Burke is married to Tampa City Council member Lynn Hurtak, who was present when Burke was led into the courtroom. In a statement provided by an aide, Hurtak defended Burke, who also managed her 2023 campaign for office.

“I am confident in my husband’s innocence, and I support him completely,” Hurtak stated. “I will not be making additional statements regarding this matter.”

FBI agents last May searched the Seminole Heights home where Burke and Hurtak live. The agents took electronic devices and computers he used for his media business.

ny times logoNew York Times, John Avlon, CNN Commentator, Enters Race for Long Island Swing Seat, Nicholas Fandos, Feb. 22, 2024 (print ed.). Mr. Avlon, a Democrat who helped found the centrist political group No Labels, is seeking to unseat the Republican incumbent, Representative Nick LaLota.

John Avlon, a Democrat and former CNN political analyst, announced on Wednesday that he would enter a crowded congressional primary to try to flip a Republican-held swing seat on Long Island.

A moderate who once worked for Rudolph W. Giuliani and helped found the centrist political group No Labels, Mr. Avlon emerged in recent years as a piercing critic of former President Donald J. Trump and the Republican Party he has refashioned in his image.

In an interview, Mr. Avlon, 51, said he felt compelled to step from journalism into the political fray to help “break this fever” and oust “MAGA minions who are not even trying to solve problems in the national interest.”

“The seriousness of the times really sunk into me,” he said.

Winning the Suffolk County district will be no easy task for a Democrat. It is currently held by Representative Nick LaLota, a first-term Republican. Though President Biden won the district by 0.2 percentage points in 2020, Mr. LaLota sailed to an 11-point victory two years later.

Democrats in Washington do not currently consider the district a top-tier target on par with more favorable suburban swing seats elsewhere in New York. But that could still change, as Democrats in Albany weigh whether to use a rare mid-decade court-ordered redistricting process to draw a more favorable congressional map.

Mr. Avlon has deep connections in New York City politics and journalism. He served as Mr. Giuliani’s policy adviser and chief speechwriter during his mayoralty and presidential campaign, or, as Mr. Avlon said, “when he was sane.” Mr. Avlon later joined The Daily Beast as a columnist, and rose to be its editor in chief before joining CNN as an on-air commentator full time in 2018.

But his ties to the district are shallower. A longtime Manhattan resident, he bought a house in 2017 in Sag Harbor, the wealthy Hamptons enclave, with his wife, Margaret Hoover. She is a conservative who hosts “Firing Line,” the PBS talk show. Voting records show that Mr. Avlon voted in Suffolk County for the first time in 2020.

Critics in both parties waited only moments to pounce on Thursday.

Ms. Goroff was more diplomatic, saying she would “welcome anyone who is ready to join the fight.” But behind the scenes, her allies were already sharpening attacks on Mr. Avlon’s residency and his political history with Republicans that are likely to burst into the open in the coming months.

Feb. 21

washington post logoWashington Post, Virginia labor unions come out against plan for new Caps, Wizards arena, Teo Armus, Gregory S. Schneider and Laura Vozzella, Feb. 21, 2024 (print ed.). A group of labor unions said on Tuesday they oppose a proposal to move the Washington Capitals and Wizards from downtown D.C. to Alexandria, Va., dealing another blow to a plan that is already facing increasingly tall hurdles among legislators in Richmond.

Officials behind the plan as well as Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the teams’ owner, had said they would commit to hiring union labor at the new arena. But the Northern Virginia AFL-CIO — which represents construction laborers as well as concession stand employees at the teams’ current home at Capital One Arena — said the plan lacks necessary labor protections for the workers who would build it ­— or similar union commitments for private development projects in the entertainment district that would go around the Alexandria facility.

“Taxpayers should not make a massive investment in a project that is only going to create more low-wage jobs for local workers,” Virginia Diamond, president of the AFL-CIO’s Northern Virginia arm, said in a statement.

The unions’ stance — which follows a breakdown in their negotiations with state officials and Monumental — is likely to influence state and local lawmakers who have said labor support is essential for the $2 billion project.

Inside Ted Leonsis’s decision to move Wizards, Capitals to Virginia

Virginia state lawmakers and the Alexandria City Council must approve the proposal for it to move forward, and several Democrats in the legislature and on the council said they would vote no if organized labor was opposed.

“If they’re against it, then the arena deal is probably going to have a very difficult time,” said Virginia House Speaker Don L. Scott Jr. (D-Portsmouth). “If it dies, it dies.”

But a public statement of opposition from organized labor does not mean that the deal is dead. The final weeks of the legislative session are likely to see intense negotiating, and labor leaders may continue to try to work out a deal with Monumental and state officials.

washington post logoWashington Post, A reporter investigated neo-Nazis. Then they came to his house in masks, Will Sommer, Feb. 21, 2024 (print ed.). The chilling visit to Raw Story reporter Jordan Green’s home represents an increasingly common tactic by extremist groups.

raw story logo squareJordan Green reports on extremists for the news website Raw Story, where his stories have included alleged neo-Nazis joining the U.S. military or protesting at drag shows. For the past few months, he has worked on an investigation into a teenage gang that local police had linked to a spate of racist vandalism, including a brick attack on a Jewish center in Pensacola, Fla.

As Green prepared to publish his story, neo-Nazis came to his house.

Green’s reporting had found that the Pensacola gang was part of a larger online network known as 2119 Blood and Soil Crew, with members operating in several states. On Feb. 10, five people connected to 2119 appeared outside his home in Greensboro, N.C., according to Green, as well as photos the group itself shared on social media.

Some wore skull face masks, a common accessory for violent neo-Nazi groups, according to the photos they posted on Telegram, a social media messaging app popular with far-right extremists. One had a shirt with a skull and a message praising the Einsatzkommando, German death squads in the Holocaust. Another held a sign aimed at Green: “Freedom of press does not equal freedom from consequences.”

Before leaving, the group held up lit flares and made “sieg heil” gestures, the photos showed. Afterward, members of the group posed happily in a picture posted to social media at a marker for the “Greensboro Massacre,” the site where white supremacists fatally shot five labor organizers in 1979.

“Opposition move freely when they feel immune,” a member posted on the group’s Telegram account. “Remove that privilege.”

The intended message was obvious to Green: Stop reporting on 2119. But Green hasn’t been deterred. On Tuesday, Raw Story published Green’s investigation into 2119, as well as Green’s account of the attempted intimidation.

The attacks on Green represent an increasingly common tactic by extremist groups against journalists who seek to uncover their activities.

In 2020, federal prosecutors charged five alleged members of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division with intimidating a ProPublica reporter and other journalists covering the group by “swatting” them, or faking emergency calls to police to provoke a violent response against their targets. In 2023, the former head of another neo-Nazi group was charged with making death threats toward a reporter, which included allegedly sending an image of a gun aimed at the reporter’s face.

Feb. 20

National Press Club, Press Club leaders condemn Russian court ruling on Alsu Kurmasheva’s detention, call on U.S. leaders to take action, Bill McCarren, Feb. 20, 2024. Following is a statement from Emily Wilkins, president of the National Press Club, and Gil Klein, president of the National national  press club logoPress Club Journalism Institute, on a Russian court’s ruling on Tuesday that American journalist Alsu Kurmasheva, an editor for Radio Free Europe, will remain in pretrial detention.

alsu kurmasheva“We are appalled by the Russian government’s unjust detention of Radio Free Europe journalist Alsu Kurmasheva, a U.S. citizen, on politically motivated charges for more than four months. We condemn the senseless cruelty of today’s decision by the Supreme Court of Russia's Republic of Tatarstan keeping Alsu in pretrial detention. Alsu’s lawyers had requested that she be transferred to house arrest due to issues including her state of health.”

“We call for the Russian government to immediately release Alsu, along with Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich. Every day they remain in prison is an outrage.”

“The world cannot stand idly by and allow journalists to be used as political pawns by the Russian government. The United States government can do more to help secure Alsu’s release, and we call on the Biden Administration to take action.”

“The U.S. State Department has yet to designate Alsu as wrongfully detained as it has other U.S. citizens held in Russia. The designation would raise the profile of the case against Alsu, effectively labeling it as politically motivated.”

“We call on the State Department to immediately designate Alsu as wrongfully detained. Secretary Blinken must act now. Every day of inaction is another day too long.”

Feb. 19

 

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Sinclair’s recipe for TV news: Crime, homelessness, illegal drugs, Sarah Ellison, Feb. 18, 2024 (print ed.). The local news powerhouse, whose chairman recently bought the Baltimore Sun, focuses on fear in broadcasts that often align with Donald Trump’s view of cities.

Every year, local television news stations owned by Sinclair Broadcasting conduct short surveys among viewers to help guide the year’s coverage.

A key question in each poll, according to David Smith, the company’s executive chairman: “What are you most afraid of?”

The answers are evident in Sinclair’s programming. Crime, homelessness, illegal drug use, failing schools and other societal ills have long been core elements of local TV news coverage. But on Sinclair’s growing nationwide roster of stations, the editorial focus reflects Smith’s conservative views and plays on its audience’s fears that America’s cities are falling apart, according to media observers, Smith associates, and current and former staffers who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal company matters.

Smith, an enthusiastic supporter of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump who has built Sinclair into one of the largest television station operators in the country, purchased the Baltimore Sun last month. In a private meeting with the Sun’s journalists, he urged them to emulate coverage at the local Sinclair station, Fox45, which in 2021 produced a documentary titled simply “Baltimore Is Dying.”

Sinclair’s local network of 185 stations across the country makes it an influential player in shaping the views of millions of Americans, especially at a time when local newspapers are rapidly being gutted — or closed altogether.

As Sinclair increasingly fills the void, it offers its viewers a perspective that aligns with Trump’s oft-stated opinion that America’s cities, especially those run by Democratic politicians, are dangerous and dysfunctional.

washington post logoWashington Post, Paramore rejects Tenn. honor after Allison Russell denied same recognition, Jonathan Edwards and Tobi Raji, Feb. 19, 2024 (print ed.). Tennessee state Rep. Justin Jones (D) brought two resolutions to the floor of the lower chamber on Monday, both of them congratulating Nashville-area musicians on winning their first Grammy awards the week before.

One was for Paramore, a Tennessee-based emo-pop band that had won Grammys for best rock album and best alternative music performance. The other was for Allison Russell, a folk musician who had won the Grammy for best American roots performance.

The resolutions were so perfunctory that they were placed on the chamber’s consent calendar, a grouping of noncontroversial bills that representatives pass en masse.

But Rep. Jeremy Faison (R) had a problem with one of them. With an objection, he removed the resolution honoring Russell from the consent calendar, while not doing the same for the one honoring Paramore. Jones responded that singling out Russell, who is Black, is a “shameful” example of “Jim Crow thinking.” Paramore, whose members are White, rebuked Faison’s objection as “blatant racism.”

In a statement sent by the Tennessee House Republican Caucus, Faison said that, as a member of the Republican leadership, he had been approached by several members with questions about Russell, “which made it appropriate for us to press pause on that particular resolution.”

Feb. 18

washington post logoWashington Post, Tucker Carlson faces new backlash over Putin interview after Navalny death, Adela Suliman and María Luisa Paúl, Feb. 18, 2024 (print ed.). Former Fox News host Tucker Carlson is facing a fresh wave of criticism over his controversial interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week — and his subsequent comments that “every leader kills people” — following the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Friday.

tucker carlson 2022Navalny died suddenly in an Arctic Russian prison colony Friday, collapsing after he felt “unwell” after taking a walk, Russia’s prison service said. Russian opposition figures, and some global leaders, called it a state-sponsored murder.

On Feb. 8, just over a week before Navalny’s death, Carlson made global headlines when he aired a two-hour interview with Putin. He framed it as a media coup — even as critics noted that Putin dominated the interview, offering rambling accounts of Russian history while Carlson spent most of the time in silence.

For Putin nemesis Alexei Navalny, long-feared death arrives in Arctic prison

Then on Monday, Carlson was questioned at the World Government Summit in Dubai, asked by Egyptian journalist Emad Eldin Adeeb why he did not challenge Putin on Navalny, freedom of speech in Russia, or restrictions on the opposition ahead of upcoming elections.

Feb. 17

 

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Politico, Trump’s Truth Social nears Wall Street listing that could yield millions, Declan Harty, Feb. 17, 2024 (print ed.). The deal could inject some $300 million into the company, which operates Trump’s social media bullhorn, Truth Social.

politico CustomDonald Trump may be finally headed for Wall Street.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has signed off on one of the last outstanding hurdles to a more than two-year-old planned merger to take the former president’s media venture public, according to the companies behind the deal, Trump Media & Technology Group and Digital World Acquisition Corp.

Now, pending final approval from investors, Trump Media would join the ranks of thousands of other public companies trading in the U.S. The deal could inject some $300 million into the company, which operates Trump’s social media bullhorn, Truth Social. And Trump himself will gain a major stake in the company.

“I never thought it would get to this point,” said Julian Klymochko, CEO of Accelerate Financial Technologies, which operates a fund focused on so-called blank-check companies like Digital World that seek to acquire private companies to take them public. “Deals die on the vine, but this one somehow managed to survive despite seemingly everything going against it.”

The SEC’s green light is a surprising turn for the beleaguered deal — injecting new hope into Trump’s next act in business, just as the presumptive GOP nominee’s campaign against President Joe Biden heats up.

Shares in Digital World Acquisition Corp., or DWAC, skyrocketed more than 25 percent on the news Thursday.

Since the beginning, the planned union has been mired in regulatory issues, market volatility and looming deadlines that have posed existential threats to the deal.

The SEC began investigating the transaction soon after its unveiling in late 2021, resulting in insider trading charges against a trio of Florida men involved in the deal as well as a separate settlement with Digital World over the company’s disclosures. Digital World agreed to pay $18 million last year to resolve the allegations.

Executives for Digital World and Trump Media have had to push investors repeatedly for more time to complete the deal.

Feb. 15

elon musk sideview

ny times logoNew York Times, Terrorists Are Paying for Check Marks on X, Report Says, Kate Conger, Feb. 15, 2024 (print ed.). The report shows that X has accepted payments for subscriptions from entities barred from doing business in the U.S., a potential violation of sanctions.

x logo twitterX, the social media platform owned by Elon Musk, above, is potentially violating U.S. sanctions by accepting payments for subscription accounts from terrorist organizations and other groups barred from doing business in the country, according to a new report.

The report, by the Tech Transparency Project, a nonprofit focused on accountability for large technology companies, shows that X, formerly known as Twitter, has taken payments from accounts that include Hezbollah leaders, Houthi groups, and state-run media outlets in Iran and Russia. The subscriptions, which cost $8 a month, offer users a blue check mark — once limited to verified users like celebrities — and better promotion by X’s algorithm, among other perks.

The U.S. Treasury Department maintains a list of entities that have been placed under sanctions, and while X’s official terms of service forbid people and organizations on the list to make payments on the platform, the report found 28 accounts that had the blue check mark.

“We were surprised to find that X was providing premium services to a wide range of groups the U.S. has sanctioned for terrorism and other activities that harm its national security,” said Katie Paul, the director of the Tech Transparency Project. “It’s yet another sign that X has lost control of its platform.”

Mr. Musk has said that he wants X to be a haven for free speech and that he will remove only illegal content.

twitter bird CustomSince Mr. Musk’s acquisition of Twitter in 2022, the company has made drastic changes to the way it does business — in some cases spurning advertising in favor of subscription dollars. It has also restored thousands of barred accounts and rolled back rules that once governed the site.

Mr. Musk also did away with Twitter’s verification policy, in which staff members vetted politicians, celebrities, journalists and others, granting them a blue check mark to show they were real. Instead, people now pay for those badges, and popular paid accounts are eligible to receive a cut of the revenue for ads displayed next to their posts. Subscriptions for organizations cost $1,000 per month, a tier that comes with additional perks and a gold check mark.

(X still denotes official government accounts with a complimentary check mark, now gray.)

It is unclear how the organizations and people highlighted in the report skirted X’s rules to pay for their premium status. (Mr. Musk has laid off roughly 80 percent of X’s staff.) Because X no longer verifies the identities of users before granting check marks, it is also possible that the accounts discovered by the Tech Transparency Project belong to impersonators.

Congressional legislation known as the Berman amendments provides for the free flow of information, without penalties, between the United States and countries that it has placed under sanctions. Internet companies have previously leaned on the amendments, including in 2020 when TikTok argued that they protected the app from an effort by President Donald J. Trump to block U.S. citizens from downloading it. But it’s unclear whether the argument would cover financial transactions on a social media service.

Feb. 13

Covert Action Magazine, Hugh Aynesworth: CIA Media Asset, FBI Informer, Friend of Lyndon Johnson White House and Media’s Darling JFK Assassination “Lone Nutter” Journalist Dies at 92, Jeremy Kuzmarov, Feb. 13, 2024. In 1967, the CIA issued a memo to its army of media “assets” instructing them on how to counter so-called “conspiracy theorists” who challenged the veracity of the Warren Commission report, which determined that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin of President John F. Kennedy.

One of the CIA’s “assets” is believed to have been Hugh G. Aynesworth, a long-standing reporter for The Dallas Morning News who made a career of trying to invalidate the claims of so-called JFK conspiracy theorists.

Aynesworth died on December 23 at his home in Dallas, Texas, at the age of 92.

Texas television station KERA published a laudatory obituary heralding Aynesworth, who started working at The Dallas Morning News in 1960, describing him as a “renowned Dallas journalist and bestselling author.” The article went on to quote Robert Mong, the former editor-in-chief at The Dallas Morning News, who said: “Personally, I don’t know that there’s ever been a better reporter to come out of Dallas, really.”

But according to noted JFK researcher Robert Morrow, “Hugh did the same thing to truth and the JFK assassination as [serial killer] Ted Bundy did to the Florida State University Chi Omega house on January 15, 1978, except Aynesworth [producer of a Netflix documentary on Ted Bundy] did his butchering for 60 years.”

A native of Clarksburg, West Virginia, who started his journalism career as freelancer for the Clarksburg Exponent-Telegram and sports writer for the Fort Smith (Arkansas) Times Record, Aynesworth claimed to have been the only reporter present in both Dealey Plaza, when Kennedy was fatally shot, and the Texas Theatre when police arrested Lee Harvey Oswald.

Aynesworth also claimed to have been present in the basement of the Dallas Police Headquarters when Jack Ruby shot Oswald and was the first newspaperman to get an interview with Oswald’s widow, Marina, whom he bragged about having an affair with.[4]

In a May 1967 Newsweek article “The JFK Assassination Conspiracy,” which he sent an advanced copy to White House Press Secretary George Christian, Aynesworth accused New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison of engaging in bribery to advance what Aynesworth considered to be conspiratorial theories about the JFK assassination.

Feb. 10

 

james okeefeMedia Matters for America, Investigative Commentary: James O’Keefe is using dating apps to find targets for undercover videos and recruiting media matters logofollowers to sell it as “journalism,” Audrey McCabe, Research contributions from Jack Winstanley, Feb. 10, 2024. O’Keefe, above, has offered to pay $5,000 for usable footage obtained with the same tactic. 

James O’Keefe, the ousted founder of Project Veritas who is now trying to build up O’Keefe Media Group as a new outlet for his right-wing sting operations, has been targeting Democratic officials and high-level corporate employees through dating apps, luring them to meet up, and secretly recording them speaking about their jobs. O’Keefe is also trying to recruit followers to employ the same tactics, promoting a $20 webinar and claiming that he will pay $5,000 for usable footage from fake dates with targets.

After being ousted from Project Veritas last year, O’Keefe is trying to build up O’Keefe Media Group through sting operations targeting political opponents and videotaping them on fake dates. O’Keefe has released videos of at least four sting operations that were based on footage obtained under the cover of dates. [NPR, 2/21/23; Twitter/X, 1/25/23; YouTube, 6/22/23, 1/24/24, 1/31/24]

O’Keefe has introduced a “D.C. Swamp Exposed” series, releasing two videos on January 24 and 31 that purport to expose political corruption. Both videos — the first with a Capitol Hill intern and the second with a White House cybersecurity official — were captured on fake dates, at least one of which was set up using Tinder. [YouTube, 1/24/24, 1/31/24]

O’Keefe claimed, “Tinder has just gotten rid of my profile, ladies and gentlemen. Tinder has shut down James O’Keefe’s dating profile.” He then said, “I guess I’m going to use Grindr from now on.” [Twitter/X, 1/31/24]

O’Keefe claimed that O’Keefe Media Group plans to release a new investigation every Wednesday. He also said he intends to expand the program by recruiting followers to set up their own stings. [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 2/1/24; Twitter/X, 10/30/23]

heather cox richardsonLetters from an American, Commentary: Feb. 10, 2024, Heather Cox Richardson, right, Feb. 10, 2024. A key story that got missed yesterday was that the Senate voted 64–19 to allow a bill that includes $95.34 billion in aid for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan to advance a step forward. In terms of domestic politics, this appears to be an attempt by those who controlled the Republican Party before Trump to push back against Trump and the MAGA Republicans.

MAGA lawmakers had demanded border security measures be added to a national security supplemental bill that provided this international aid, as well as humanitarian aid to Gaza, but to their apparent surprise, a bipartisan group of lawmakers actually hammered out that border piece. Trump immediately demanded an end to the bill and MAGA obliged on Wednesday, forcing the rest of the party to join them in killing the national security supplemental bill. House Republicans then promptly tried to pass a measure that provided funding for Israel alone.

At stake behind this fight is not only control of the Republican Party, but also the role of the U.S. in the world—and, for that matter, its standing. And much of that fight comes down to Ukraine’s attempt to resist Russia’s invasions of 2014 and 2022.

Russian president Vladimir Putin is intent on dismantling the rules-based international order of norms and values developed after World War II. Under this system, international organizations such as the United Nations provide places to resolve international disputes, prevent territorial wars, and end no-holds-barred slaughter through a series of agreements, including the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the U.N. Genocide Convention, and the Geneva Conventions on the laws of war.

CBS News via Yahoo, Social welfare organization or political party? Why No Labels may need a label, Cristina Corujo, Updated Feb. 10, 2024. For cbs news logomonths, the group No Labels has mounted an aggressive ballot access drive, aiming to put a candidate on the 2024 presidential ballot in as many states as possible. No Labels says it wants to give American voters "a better choice" than what seems increasingly likely to be available from the major parties: a rematch between former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden.

Though the group has succeeded in obtaining a ballot line in 14 states, critics have raised questions about how No Labels, which is not a political party, plans to run a candidate in the 2024 presidential race.

What is No Labels?

No Labels was founded in 2009 by Nancy Jacobson — the wife of Mark Penn, who was Hillary Clinton's chief strategist on her Senate and first presidential campaigns — as a 501(c)(4) organization. This tax designation means No Labels is a social welfare organization, a group that "may engage in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to candidates for public office provided that such intervention does not constitute the organization's primary activity," according to the IRS. Initially, No Labels aimed to unite Democrats and Republicans trying to solve some of Congress' most intractable problems.

But by 2021 its mission had evolved. No Labels began working on a nationwide ballot access project to "enable the potential nomination of an independent Unity ticket in 2024," its website says.

In pursuing ballot access in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., No Labels has raised a backlash from Democratic leaders and groups that fear the group's candidate could take votes from President Biden and hand the presidency to Trump.

Some Democratic members of Congress and groups have also accused No Labels of acting like a political party, despite its tax-exempt social welfare organization status.

No Labels chief strategist Ryan Clancy said that No Labels is not acting like a party because it is "not specifically advocating for or against [a] candidate."

"A group like No Labels has a right to get on the ballot without being considered a political committee," he said.

But in some states where it has obtained a ballot line, No Labels has already been recognized as a political party. Maine's secretary of state recently recognized it as an official political party early this year after it reached the signature threshold necessary, the state's election commission said.

William Galston, one of the group's co-founders, told CBS News that he decided to part ways with the movement when its "mission shifted" and started working on its possible independent presidential movement for 2024.

"I decided that this was such an important issue for me that I can no longer in good conscience remain in a fairly senior and visible advisory position inside No Labels," Galston said.

Two No Labels donors accused group of "bait and switch"

That alleged shift in mission is already the subject of a lawsuit in the New York State Supreme Court. In January, two members of the Durst family, one of New York City's most prominent real estate families, accused the group of a "bait and switch," contending No Labels diverged from its original mission of encouraging bipartisan legislation to pursue a possible 2024 third-party presidential bid.

The lawsuit says No Labels solicited funds nearly a decade ago pitching "bipartisan activism aimed at achieving common-sense solutions that appeal to the average American." It was a goal that convinced Douglas and Jonathan Durst to donate $145,000 to the group. But the Durst cousins now regret it, claiming No Labels "has lost its way, abandoned its original mission, and fundamentally betrayed its donors' trust in the process."

No Labels' finances have also been questioned in recent months because its organization as a social welfare organization means it is not required to disclose its donors. Political parties, however, must regularly disclose who their donors are and how much they donated.

The group says it will address this. In a press briefing last year, Clancy said once a campaign with a candidate is announced, No Labels would be "subject to every campaign finance requirement." No Labels spokeswoman Martini clarified that it would be the ticket — the presidential and vice presidential candidate, and not No Labels — that would be subject to campaign finance laws, and the ticket "would be entirely separate from the No Labels 501(c)(4) organization."

When will No Labels announce its presidential candidate?

No Labels is still considering whether it should proceed with its presidential unity ticket. Clancy says the group should reach a decision on this "somewhere in mid-March."

Although No Labels has offered scant information about its candidate selection process, it has said it will hold a virtual convention and then announce a nominee. The group has not said who, if anyone, would be eligible to run but has mentioned that the selection process will be conducted by its own members.

Galston believes that although the group claims to be bipartisan, the influence of former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan over No Labels shows that the group prefers "to put a Republican on the top of the ticket, [rather] than a Democrat." Hogan resigned from the board of No Labels early this year and endorsed GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley. He announced Friday that he's running for Senate.

Haley was commended by No Labels founding chairman and former independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman as someone who "really deserves serious consideration" when asked by CBS News about putting her at the top of a No Labels ticket.

"If we decide to put forth a ticket, we'll have full details on exactly how that ticket will be selected," Clancy said. "Our focus is making sure we can just get on the ballot, because that's really everything if you're not on the ballot, this whole discussion is academic," he added.

Where has No Labels qualified for the ballot?

No Labels has been able to qualify for the ballot in 14 states so far: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, South Dakota and Utah.

Clancy says No Labels is expected to be able to obtain ballot access in 32 states because some states will only allow the group to qualify "as a placeholder" for a candidate.

For this reason, Martini said that regarding roughly dozen and a half states, that it's the candidate who would be pursuing the qualification because of state requirements that there be an actual candidate or because "the ballot access requirement is far less burdensome for the candidate to pursue than for No Labels to pursue without the candidate." She pointed out that in Massachusetts, for example, the state would require 60,000 signatures from an organization like No labels, "but only 10,000 from a candidate."

Thirteen states require a named candidate: Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

Feb. 9

 

vladimir putin hand up palmer

washington post logoWashington Post, Putin interview with Tucker Carlson shows Kremlin outreach to Trump’s GOP, Robyn Dixon and Natalia Abbakumova, Feb. 8, 2024 (print ed.). As Russian state television propagandists salivated over Tucker Carlson’s interview with President Vladimir Putin (shown above in a file photo), the first of Carlson’s falsehoods about his visit to Moscow was punctured, fittingly enough, by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who presumably helped arrange the whole strange venture.

tucker carlson 2022Carlson, right, the conservative former Fox News host with a history of airing bogus “news,” claimed — falsely — that prominent U.S. newspapers and television outlets had refused to interview Putin since his invasion of Ukraine and were ignoring Russia’s perspective. Carlson labeled Western media as “corrupt” and accused them of lies on Tuesday in a video confirming that he was in Moscow for a Q&A with the president.

dmitry peskov“Mr. Carlson is wrong,” Peskov, left, said during his daily briefing for reporters. “We receive many requests for interviews with the president.”

Peskov conceded that the Kremlin routinely blocked media interview requests from large Western outlets, but he said it gave Carlson the nod because “his position is different” from the major “Anglo-Saxon media.” (Anglo-Saxon is a common blanket jab at the West even when mostly Americans are involved.)

Carlson’s assertion was astonishing, given that two journalists who are U.S. citizens are now jailed in Russia: Evan Gershkovich, of The Wall Street Journal, who was accused of espionage and seized by Federal Security Service agents last year during a reporting trip to Yekaterinburg, and Alsu Kurmasheva, of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, who has dual U.S. and Russian citizenship and who was arrested in October while visiting Russia from Prague where she had been living.

The Kremlin’s decision to allow the interview demonstrated Putin’s interest in building bridges to the disruptive MAGA element of the Republican Party, and it seemed to reflect the Kremlin’s hope that Donald Trump would return to the presidency and that Republicans would continue to block U.S. military aid to Ukraine.

Halting aid from the United States, which is Ukraine’s biggest Western supporter, could provide Russia with a path to victory in the nearly two-year war. Although the war is largely at a stalemate, Ukraine is facing critical shortages of soldiers, ammunition and weapons as it battles a much larger and better-equipped Russian force.

Putin portrays himself as a guardian of traditional conservative values, showing common cause with MAGA conservatives, who have opposed gender-neutral bathrooms. Putin has made repeated, derisive references about the West’s promotion of transgender rights.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary:Tucker Carlson: the perfect candidate for Logan Act prosecution, Wayne Madsen, left, Feb. 9, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2024. Tucker Carlson's sycophantic interview of Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin marks an additional violation of the 1799 Logan Act by the fired Fox host and promoter of fascist strongmen around the world.

wayne madesen report logoThe Logan Act bars private U.S. citizens from engaging in their own foreign policy. The act is particularly useful in curbing private citizens from treating with foreign governments that are either at war with the United States or its allies, subject to economic and political sanctions by the United States and its allies, or pose a national security threat to America. By fluffing for Putin in a two-hour conspiracy-laden interview during which the Russian strongman suggested that President Biden was not in charge of the government but fronting for some deep state cabal, Carlson showed himself to be the type of person the framers of the Logan Act had in mind when they enacted the law.

Russian FlagViolations of the Logan Act are felonies. The two 19th century prosecutions under the act involved individuals not involved in criminal conspiracies against the U.S. government. Other threatened Logan Act prosecutions involved sitting members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives acting in their constitutional capacities. The threatened prosecution of former Secretary of State John Kerry by the Trump Justice Department was rejected by the U.S. Attorneys for the Southern District of Manhattan and the District of Maryland for being a political misuse of the Logan Act.

Carlson presents a wholly different case. He has become a virtual roving ambassador for the American far-right in currying favor with fascist leaders around the world. He championed the government of far-right Hitler- and Mussolini-praising former President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil. Carlson praised Bolsonaro supporters who, in January 2023, violently stormed Brazilian government buildings in the capital of Brasilia to prevent the inauguration of the man who defeated Bolsonaro in the 2022 election, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Repeating the same fascist tripe he used in January 2021 when the U.S. Capitol was stormed by the far-right to prevent the certification of Joe Biden as president, Carlson echoed Bolsonaro's charge that the 2022 election was rigged in Lula's favor.

Likewise, Carlson's fawning interviews of Hungarian fascist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Argentina's far-right and unhinged President Javier Milei, and Alberta's far-right secessionist Premier Danielle Smith fit in nicely with what can only be described as a fascist shadow foreign policy regime that also involves Steve Bannon, Elon Musk, Fox's Lachlan Murdoch, Sebastian Gorka, and other fascism-loving cockwombles.

Carlson is not a journalist but a fascist provocateur. He has been seen on the streets of Madrid protesting alongside Spanish fascist Vox Party leader Santiago Abascal against amnesty for Catalan independence leaders. Carlson, along with Bannon, has praised far-right xenophobe street brawlers in Ireland who have protested against the government of Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.

washington post logoWashington Post, Putin, in rambling interview, barely lets Tucker Carlson get a word in, Francesca Ebel, Feb. 9, 2024. Russian President Vladimir Putin spent the first 30 minutes of his two-hour interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson giving a revisionist historical tirade on the founding myths of Russia and Ukraine, the breakup of the Soviet Union and NATO expansionism.

From there, admonishing Carlson when he interrupted, Putin pontificated on everything from the war in Ukraine and relations with the United States, the case of imprisoned American reporter Evan Gershkovich, and even on artificial intelligence.

By the end of the conversation, it was clear that Putin had no intention of ending his brutal war against Ukraine. But Carlson, who was sacked from Fox last year, seemed ready to surrender. Putin offered to keep talking. Carlson, evidently exhausted by the Russian leader’s long-winded conspiracy theories and grievances against the West, thanked him and called it quits — far short of the media coup that he had been touting.

Analysts said Putin’s choice to talk to Carlson was based partly on his perceived sympathy — the former Fox host has repeatedly dismissed criticism of Putin over the years — and the opportunity to appeal to the more MAGA reaches of the Republican Party during an election year. That could boost Donald Trump’s chances of reelection and convince Republicans to continue to block U.S. military aid to Ukraine.

Carlson spent most of the interview in silence, or looking confounded.

He did not ask a single question about Russia’s attacks on civilian areas or critical infrastructure in Ukraine, which have killed thousands. There was no mention of the war crime allegations facing the Russian leader or the forced deportation of Ukrainian children. Absent too were questions on Russia’s sweeping political crackdowns on Putin’s critics or the long jail sentences meted out to ordinary Russians staging antiwar protests.

Instead, Carlson posed increasingly esoteric questions — including whether any world leader could be a true Christian — and at times appeared to goad Putin into alleging a U.S. deep state and promote other conspiracy theories.

At several moments, when Carlson tried to interject, he was chastised by the president.

“I’ll tell you, I’m coming to that. This briefing is coming to an end. It might be boring, but it explains many things,” said Putin in a condescending tone.

“It’s not boring. [I’m] just not sure how it’s relevant,” said Carlson.

Putin’s domination of the interview with Carlson was a stark contrast with a grilling that the Russian leader received from Austrian news anchor Armin Wolf, who won acclaim in 2018 by repeatedly challenging him and putting him on the defensive.

Carlson himself appeared to acknowledge the challenges of interviewing an increasingly reclusive autocrat with a 24-year history of dodging questions and dominating interviews.

Ruminating on the interview afterward in a gilded antechamber at the Kremlin palace, Carlson said that the start of the interview had taken him by surprise, with “an extremely detailed history going back to the 9th century of the formation of Russia.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The big problem with the hyped interview, Will Sommer, Feb. 9, 2024. It was none other than Putin himself, whom the erstwhile cable-news star somehow let ramble to the point of tedium.

Tucker Carlson’s interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow should have been a big win for both of them.

For Putin, it was a chance to explain his justification for the Russian invasion of Ukraine to a sympathetic voice in American conservatism, just as congressional Republicans are considering whether to approve a Ukrainian aid package. For Carlson, it was an opportunity to bolster his relevance after being fired from Fox News last year — and promote his new media venture at the same time.

But Carlson’s much-touted interview, recorded on Tuesday and released on Thursday evening, ran into a problem as soon as it began. In his attempt to justify the invasion, Putin spent a significant part of the interview focused on a tedious recounting of Russian and Ukrainian history, to the point that Carlson became irritated and two began to clash.

Putin’s lengthy version of the history between the two countries — which he’s laid out before, and has been criticized as a revisionist pretext for war by some historians — went back as far as the 9th century, namechecking the likes of “Prince Rurik” and “Prince Yaroslav the Wise” in an attempt to argue that Ukrainians are actually Russian.

But that rambling account seems unlikely to resonate with Carlson’s die-hard conservative audience in the United States.

There was a sense even among some of Carlson’s allies that the interview had failed to reach its full promise. On X, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn — who pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying about his own contacts with the Russian government — said viewers should understand that Carlson was probably subjected to negotiated terms about the interview.

 

Michael Mann, then-professor of atmospheric science at Penn State, arrives at the “Before the Flood” premiere on day 2 of the Toronto International Film Festival at the Princess of Wales Theatre on Sept. 9, 2016, in Toronto. A jury on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, said Mann was defamed 12 years ago when a pair of conservative writers compared his depictions of global warming to a convicted child molester. (File Photo by Evan Agostini via Invision and AP.)

Michael Mann, then-professor of atmospheric science at Penn State, arrives at the “Before the Flood” premiere on day 2 of the Toronto International Film Festival at the Princess of Wales Theatre on Sept. 9, 2016, in Toronto. A jury on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, said Mann was defamed 12 years ago when a pair of conservative writers compared his depictions of global warming to a convicted child molester. (File Photo by Evan Agostini via Invision and AP.)

ap logoAssociated Press, Jury awards climate scientist Michael Mann $1 million in defamation lawsuit, Suman Naishadham, Feb. 9, 2024 (print ed.). A jury on Thursday awarded $1 million to climate scientist Michael Mann who sued a pair of conservative writers 12 years ago after they compared his depictions of global warming to a convicted child molester.

Mann, a professor of climate science at the University of Pennsylvania, rose to fame for a graph first published in 1998 in the journal Nature that was dubbed the “hockey stick” for its dramatic illustration of a warming planet.

The work brought Mann wide exposure but also many skeptics, including the two writers that Mann took to court for comments that he said affected his career and reputation in the U.S. and internationally.

“It feels great,” Mann said Thursday after the six-person jury delivered its verdict. ”It’s a good day for us, it’s a good day for science.”

In 2012, a libertarian think tank named the Competitive Enterprise Institute published a blog post by Rand Simberg, then a fellow at the organization, that compared investigations into Mann’s work to the case of Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at Penn State University who was convicted of sexually assaulting multiple children. At the time, Mann worked at Penn State University, too.

Mann’s research was investigated after his and other scientists’ emails were leaked in 2009 in an incident that brought further scrutiny of the “hockey stick” graph, with skeptics claiming Mann manipulated data. Investigations by Penn State and others found no misuse of data by Mann, but his work continued to draw attacks, particularly from conservatives.

“Mann could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except for instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data,” Simberg wrote. Another writer, Mark Steyn, later referenced Simberg’s article in his own piece in National Review, calling Mann’s research “fraudulent.”

The jury in Superior Court of the District of Columbia awarded Mann $1 in compensatory damages from each writer; it also awarded punitive damages of $1,000 from Simberg and $1 million from Steyn. It announced its verdict after four weeks of trial and one day of deliberations.

washington post logoWashington Post, Seiji Ozawa, groundbreaking Asian conductor, dies at 88, Tim Page, Feb. 9, 2024. In the 1970s, at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, his studiously hip, turtle-necked, love-beaded image made him seem a new sort of music director for a new age.

Seiji Ozawa, the shaggy-haired, high-voltage maestro who served as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for almost 30 years and was widely considered the first Asian conductor to win world renown leading a classical orchestra, died Feb. 6 at his home in Tokyo. He was 88.

The Seiji Ozawa International Academy Switzerland announced the death on its webpage but did not provide an immediate cause.

Mr. Ozawa, who underwent treatment for esophageal cancer in 2010, had been in fragile health for years. He was expected to conduct the Boston Symphony in July 2016 but pulled out that May because of what was described as a “lack of physical strength.”

It was a melancholy coda for a man who had arrived in Boston in the early 1970s as a long-haired and fashionably clad maestro who exuded youthful energy. He seemed a sharp contrast to the middle-aged, tuxedoed Northern Europeans who had long dominated the podium in classical music.

The March 2024 cover of British Vogue. (Steven Meisel/British Vogue)

The March 2024 cover of British Vogue. (Steven Meisel/British Vogue)

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: For British Vogue’s editor in chief, the March cover is a mic drop, Robin Givhan, Feb. 9, 2024. Edward Enninful’s final cover for the magazine celebrates diversity in all its forms and challenges the fashion industry to keep aiming for full inclusion.

When Edward Enninful became editor in chief of British Vogue in August 2017, he made history as the first man and the first Black person to lead the century-old glossy publication. He arrived with a significant amount of good will within the fashion industry along with the burden of high expectations. British Vogue was known for its substantial prose, its upper-crust lineage and its mostly White staff and cover models.

Enninful ends his time at the magazine with the March issue; Chioma Nnadi took over as head of editorial content in October. His final cover image — a group photograph that is a feat of logistics and synergy — looks back at Enninful’s accomplishments, but it also challenges the industry to keep moving forward and aiming for full inclusion, not just on the runways and in advertising, but in retail, design studios and on corporate boards.

 

Federal Communications Commission Chair Jessica Rosenworcel (Feb. 8, 2024 po+ol photo by Oliver Contreras).

 Federal Communications Commission Chair Jessica Rosenworcel (Feb. 8, 2024 po+ol photo by Oliver Contreras).

ap logoAssociated Press, The FCC is outlawing AI-generated voices in robocalls as concerns grow around their ability to deceive voters, Ali Swenson, Feb. 9, 2024 (print ed.). The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday outlawed robocalls that contain voices generated by artificial intelligence, a decision that sends a clear message that exploiting the technology to scam people and mislead voters won’t be tolerated.

The unanimous ruling targets robocalls made with AI voice-cloning tools under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, a 1991 law restricting fcc logojunk calls that use artificial and prerecorded voice messages.

The announcement comes as New Hampshire authorities are advancing their investigation into AI-generated robocalls that mimicked President Joe Biden’s voice to discourage people from voting in the state’s first-in-the-nation primary last month.

Effective immediately, the regulation empowers the FCC to fine companies that use AI voices in their calls or block the service providers that carry them. It also opens the door for call recipients to file lawsuits and gives state attorneys general a new mechanism to crack down on violators, according to the FCC.

jessica rosenworcel fcc“Bad actors are using AI-generated voices in unsolicited robocalls to extort vulnerable family members, imitate celebrities, and misinform voters,” the agency’s chairwoman, Jessica Rosenworcel, right, said in a news release. “We’re putting the fraudsters behind these robocalls on notice.”

Under the consumer protection law, telemarketers generally cannot use automated dialers or artificial or prerecorded voice messages to call cellphones, and they cannot make such calls to landlines without prior written consent from the call recipient.

The new ruling classifies AI-generated voices in robocalls as “artificial” and thus enforceable by the same standards, the FCC said..

Those who break the law can face steep fines, maxing out at more than $23,000 per call, the FCC said. The agency has previously used the consumer law to clamp down on robocallers interfering in elections, including imposing a $5 million fine on two conservative hoaxers for falsely warning people in predominantly Black areas that voting by mail could heighten their risk of arrest, debt collection and forced vaccination.

Feb. 8

ny times logoNew York Times, New York Times Co. Added 300,000 Digital Subscribers in Fourth Quarter, Katie Robertson, Feb. 8, 2024 (print ed.). At the end of the year, The Times had 10.36 million subscribers, 9.7 million of them digital-only.

The New York Times Company added 300,000 paid digital subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2023, the company said on Wednesday, helping to push annual revenue for digital subscriptions above $1 billion for the first time.

The Times reported total revenue of $676.2 million in the last three months of the year, essentially flat compared with a year earlier. Adjusted operating profit increased 8.5 percent, to $154 million.

It was “a strong year for The Times that showcased the power of our strategy to be the essential subscription for every curious person seeking to understand and engage with the world,” Meredith Kopit Levien, the company’s president and chief executive, said in a statement.

The company has focused in recent years on pushing a bundle of products to subscribers: its core news report as well as games like Wordle and Spelling Bee; its product review site, Wirecutter; a recipe app; and The Athletic, its sports news website.

The Athletic, which The Times bought two years ago for $550 million, continued to lose money in the fourth quarter. But its operating loss shrank to $4.4 million, from $9.6 million a year earlier. Revenue at The Athletic grew 31.3 percent, to $38.5 million.

At the end of the year, The Times had 10.36 million subscribers, 9.7 million of them digital-only. The company has a stated goal of 15 million subscribers by the end of 2027.

Feb. 7

Politico, Tucker Carlson faces media fury over Putin interview, Claudia Chiappa, Feb. 8, 2024 (print ed.). The controversial pundit is interviewing the Russian leader. Now other journalists are raging at “this SoB.”

tucker carlson 2022Tucker Carlson, right,  is interviewing Russian President Vladimir Putin. The reaction has been apoplectic.

politico CustomCarlson, a conservative pundit and former Fox News anchor who has repeatedly questioned support for Ukraine’s war effort, announced Tuesday night his plans to sit down with the Russian president during his trip to Moscow.

In a video that racked up more than 60 million views by Wednesday morning, Carlson said he was interviewing Putin “because it’s our job. We’re in journalism. Our duty is to inform people.”

But Carlson’s monologue, in which he lambasted Western media and claimed it wasn’t making an effort to hear Putin’s side of the story, has sparked backlash from American and Russian journalists.

“Many journalists have interviewed Putin, who also makes frequent, widely covered speeches,” wrote Anne Applebaum, an American journalist and historian, on X (formerly Twitter). “Carlson’s interview is different because he is not a journalist, he’s a propagandist, with a history of helping autocrats conceal corruption.”

Carlson, who was ousted by Fox last year, said the interview would be published “unedited” and “not behind a paywall” on his personal website. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday confirmed that the interview had already taken place, but did not share when it would air.

While Western media outlets have done “scores of interviews” with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Carlson said, “not a single Western journalist has bothered to interview the president of the other country involved in this conflict, Vladimir Putin.”

“Most Americans have no idea why Putin invaded Ukraine or what his goals are now,” he said. “They’ve never heard his voice. That’s wrong.”

While it’s true that Carlson will be the first American to interview Putin since the start of Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine almost two years ago, journalists from major outlets in the United States and Europe were quick to point out that this is not for lack of trying.

“Does Tucker really think we journalists haven’t been trying to interview President Putin every day since his full-scale invasion of Ukraine?” Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s chief international anchor, railed on X. “It’s absurd — we’ll continue to ask for an interview, just as we have for years now.”

Politico, Commentary: Tucker Carlson joins long line of ‘useful idiot’ journalists helping tyrants, Jamie Dettmer, Feb. 9, 2024 (print ed.). The notorious Walter Duranty of the New York Times and Nazi broadcaster Lord Haw-Haw offer cautionary tales.

politico CustomTucker Carlson is far from being the first Western journalist to have aligned himself with the enemy. There’s a long tradition of the likes of Hitler and Stalin finding pliable Brits and Americans to do their propaganda for them.

Russian President Vladimir Putin can be confident he won’t be facing any zingers in his interview with Carlson, due to be broadcast on Thursday night in the U.S. It will probably be more an exercise in sycophancy akin to the softball encounter between Carlson and Donald Trump last August. Indeed, it could be an attempt to map out the contours of another Trump-Putin love-in.

After all, Carlson nailed his colors to Putin’s mast long ago. He’s argued Washington should take Russia’s side in its war on Ukraine and dubbed Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy a “dangerous authoritarian” — not a description, apparently, he thinks applicable to the Russian leader. He has also always been in tune with Putin’s calls for “traditional values” — which in Russia tends to mean the abuse of LGBTQ+ rights.

The most obvious parallel with Carlson’s fawning approach to a Russian despot is arguably the New York Times reporter Walter Duranty, bureau chief in Moscow from 1922 to 1936.

After proving his loyalty and writing glowing accounts of the Communists’ Five-Year Plan he was granted an exclusive interview by Stalin. He failed to report on the Holodomor, the famine that killed millions of Ukrainians in 1932 and 1933, and attacked those who tried to get the word out, including Gareth Jones, a Welsh journalist. “Any report of a famine in Russia is today an exaggeration or malignant propaganda,” Duranty noted in one false article.

Historian Mark von Hagen later wrote that Duranty’s reporting was just rehashed Soviet propaganda at odds with the “experience of the peoples of the Russian and Soviet empires.” But it had impact. Sally Taylor, author of a critical biography, argued Duranty’s reporting was a factor in U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s decision in 1933 to grant official recognition to the Soviet Union. Later, when Stalin’s atrocities became public knowledge, Duranty said: “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.”

That attitude didn’t do the New York Times any favors over the years and Duranty was repeatedly wheeled out as such an egregious example of malpractice, not least by Ukrainians. The paper concedes the coverage that won him a Pulitzer Prize in 1932 is “largely discredited.”

Duranty was a true believer, insisting the ends justified the means. Much like American socialist reporter John Reed, author of 10 Days That Shook the World, who worked for the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs, translating decrees and news about the Bolshevik government in the early days around the 1917 revolution.

Feb. 6

washington post logoWashington Post, The school bus is disappearing. Welcome to the era of the school pickup line, Andrew Van Dam, Feb. 6, 2024. Parent drop-offs at school soared during the pandemic, and bus use fell, but only among kids whose parents graduated from college. What’s going on?

The yellow school bus must be the most iconic means of transportation in American history. But the operative word in that sentence is “history.” For the first time on record, most American students are whisked to school in a private vehicle.

In 2022, youths of almost every age shifted from bus to Buick, with 53 percent of U.S. students getting dropped off at school or driving themselves, according to our analysis of the recently revamped National Household Travel Survey. The survey, from the fine folks at the Federal Highway Administration, collects detailed transportation data, including trip logs, from about 17,000 Americans in about 8,000 households.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Newspapers cried wolf at the dawn of the internet. AI is the real wolf, Jim Albrecht (senior director of news ecosystem products at Google from 2017 to 2023), Feb. 6, 2024. ChatGPT and its cousins constitute a real threat to news organizations. The courts — or Congress — need to act fast to stop them.

The news publishing industry has always reviled new technology, whether it was radio or television, the internet or, now, generative artificial intelligence. After all, newspapers long had a monopoly on the distribution of information, and each innovation pared back the exclusiveness of that franchise.

The news industry’s problem has also been my problem. For the past seven years, I ran a team at Google focused on making the web ecosystem more hospitable to news publishers. We built products to make the production of expensive journalism cheaper (giving them cutting-edge AI document analysis and transcription tools), to make it easier for people to buy subscriptions, and to let publishers showcase their editorial viewpoints and thus find their audiences more effectively. In aggregate, these things delivered billions of dollars of value to publishers around the world.

But they did not fundamentally alter the fact that the internet had hollowed out the value of the daily newspaper. Back in the day, if you wanted to know a sports score, a stock quote, a movie showtime, where the garage sales were or what concerts were coming up, you looked in the newspaper. Now, the web allows you to find this information more quickly elsewhere. So, if consumers once had 20 reasons to buy a newspaper, now they had only one: news — the labor-intensive, expensive work of reporting and writing the news — which isn’t a thing advertisers are especially excited to be associated with.

To combat this turn of affairs, news publishers, first in Europe but increasingly around the world, began turning to regulators and legislators to restore their past dominance — or at least their profitability. And I had to figure out how Google would respond to these demands.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bluesky, a trendy rival to X, finally opens to the public, Will Oremus, Feb. 6, 2024. The upstart social network has been by invitation only since its launch last year.

When Jack Dorsey, then Twitter’s CEO, tweeted in 2019 that he planned to create a new, “decentralized” form of social media, most people scratched their heads. But Jay Graber immediately got excited.

An idealistic, former software developer who had tried unsuccessfully to build her own social media system, Graber, then 28, saw Twitter’s involvement as the key to making the idea a reality. She applied and was chosen in August 2021 to lead the project, called Bluesky, and soon convinced Twitter honchos that it would work best as an independent organization, so that it wouldn’t be dependent on Dorsey for support.
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“I didn’t see the future,” Graber said in an interview Monday, referring to the subsequent ouster of Dorsey as Twitter’s CEO and sale of the company to Elon Musk. “But as I like to say, the captain can always sink the ship.”

Today, Bluesky is opening to the public after nearly a year as an invitation-only app, with Graber as its CEO. With a little over 3 million users, it’s mounting a long-shot bid to take on the company that spawned it — and to set social media on a course that no single captain can control.

On the surface, Bluesky looks familiar to anyone who has used Twitter or Meta’s Threads, with a feed full of text posts and images from people you follow. Underneath, however, the company is building what Graber calls “an open, decentralized protocol” — a software system that allows developers and users to create their own versions of the social network, with their own rules and algorithms. She compared the idea to email, where users of different apps like Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo Mail can interact freely because they all run on the same underlying technology.

That system is a work in progress. So far, Bluesky is the only social network using its protocol. But it already has some features that set it apart.

For instance, users can subscribe to feeds where algorithms prioritize the most popular posts overall or the posts most popular among the people they follow. There are also options for feeds geared to their specific areas of interest, such as science or art. And users can toggle personal moderation settings that either “hide,” “warn” or “show” categories of content such as nudity, violence, spam and hate-group iconography.

washington post logoWashington Post, Toby Keith, country superstar from ‘Honkytonk U,’ dies at 62, Harrison Smith, Feb. 6, 2024. Keith sold more than 40 million albums, mixing flag-waving anthems such as “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” with easygoing drinking songs such as “Red Solo Cup.”

Toby Keith, a former rodeo hand, oil rigger and semipro football player who became a rowdy king of country music, singing patriotic anthems, wry drinking songs and propulsive odes to cowboy culture that collectively sold more than 40 million records, died Feb. 5 at 62.

His death was announced on his official website, which did not give further details. Mr. Keith announced in June 2022 that he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer, adding that he had received chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.

A brawny singer-songwriter with piercing blue eyes and an Oklahoma twang, Mr. Keith cultivated a persona as “the big, bad outlaw who hides a big, soft heart,” as music critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine once put it. He could be ornery, cantankerous, self-deprecating and sensitive, recording mournful ballads about heartbreak and desire, as well as party songs about raising hell, drinking whiskey from a paper cup and getting high with his friend Willie Nelson.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fake and Explicit Images of Taylor Swift Started on 4chan, Study Says, Tiffany Hsu, Feb. 6, 2024 (print ed.). The lewd images probably originated as part of a challenge on one of the internet’s most notorious message boards, according to researchers.

taylor swift uncreditedImages of Taylor Swift that had been generated by artificial intelligence and had spread widely across social media in late January probably originated as part of a recurring challenge on one of the internet’s most notorious message boards, according to a new report.

Graphika, a research firm that studies disinformation, traced the images back to one community on 4chan, a message board known for sharing hate speech, conspiracy theories and, increasingly, racist and offensive content created using A.I.

The people on 4chan who created the images of the singer did so in a sort of game, the researchers said — a test to see whether they could create lewd (and sometimes violent) images of famous female figures.

The synthetic Swift images spilled out onto other platforms and were viewed millions of times. Fans rallied to Ms. Swift’s defense, and lawmakers demanded stronger protections against A.I.-created images.

Graphika found a thread of messages on 4chan that encouraged people to try to evade safeguards set up by image generator tools, including OpenAI’s DALL-E, Microsoft Designer and Bing Image Creator. Users were instructed to share “tips and tricks to find new ways to bypass filters” and were told, “Good luck, be creative.”

Sharing unsavory content via games allows people to feel connected to a wider community, and they are motivated by the cachet they receive for participating, experts said. Ahead of the midterm elections in 2022, groups on platforms like Telegram, WhatsApp and Truth Social engaged in a hunt for election fraud, winning points or honorary titles for producing supposed evidence of voter malfeasance. (True proof of ballot fraud is exceptionally rare.)

Rules posted by 4chan that apply sitewide do not specifically prohibit sexually explicit A.I.-generated images of real adults.

ny times logoNew York Times, Dartmouth College Will Again Require the SAT for Applicants, David Leonhardt, Feb. 6, 2024 (print ed.). The change will go into effect starting next year. Here’s why other selective colleges may follow Dartmouth’s lead.

dartmouth logoDartmouth College announced this morning that it would again require applicants to submit standardized test scores, starting next year. It’s a significant development because other selective colleges are now deciding whether to do so. In today’s newsletter, I’ll tell you the story behind Dartmouth’s decision.

Like many other colleges during the Covid pandemic, Dartmouth dropped its requirement that applicants submit an SAT or ACT score. With the pandemic over and students again able to take the tests, Dartmouth’s admissions team was thinking about reinstating the requirement. Beilock wanted to know what the evidence showed.

Three Dartmouth economists and a sociologist then dug into the numbers. One of their main findings did not surprise them: Test scores were a better predictor than high school grades — or student essays and teacher recommendations — of how well students would fare at Dartmouth. The evidence of this relationship is large and growing, as I explained in a recent Times article.

A second finding was more surprising. During the pandemic, Dartmouth switched to a test-optional policy, in which applicants could choose whether to submit their SAT and ACT scores. And this policy was harming lower-income applicants in a specific way.

The researchers were able to analyze the test scores even of students who had not submitted them to Dartmouth. (Colleges can see the scores after the admissions process is finished.) Many lower-income students, it turned out, had made a strategic mistake.

They withheld test scores that would have helped them get into Dartmouth. They wrongly believed that their scores were too low, when in truth the admissions office would have judged the scores to be a sign that students had overcome a difficult environment and could thrive at Dartmouth.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Pray for the Baltimore Sun, Erik Wemple, Feb. 6, 2024 (print ed.). Will the Baltimore Sun morph into urban apocalypse porn?

That’s an open question now that David Smith, the 73-year-old executive chairman of the sprawling Sinclair Broadcast Group, purchased the daily. As reported in the Baltimore Banner, Smith, who grew up in Baltimore, suggested in a staff meeting that Sun reporters mimic the work of Fox Baltimore (WBFF/Fox45), a Sinclair property famous for its dramatized coverage of crime. So, it bears considering: What would a Sinclairized Baltimore Sun look like?

The Sun is a storied American daily founded in 1837 and the winner of 16 Pulitzer Prizes, not to mention the largest newspaper in Maryland.

There’s an ideological gap at the heart of this story. The editorial board of the Baltimore Sun, like those of many American newspapers, leans to the left. Though many TV stations in the country are driven solely by ratings — and they’re happy to bash politicians of every stripe — Sinclair has upended the industry by inserting a conservative bent to coverage, including persistent pro-Trump commentary.

Even when newspapers are gasping for breath and reducing staff, the Sun doesn’t need a business model powered by fearmongering, conflicts of interest and, in fairness, a history of investigative work. Could that formula even migrate to a daily newspaper?

Unlikely.

Feb. 5

ny times logoNew York Times, Google’s Once Happy Offices Feel the Chill of Layoffs, Nico Grant, Feb. 5, 2024. Job cuts, which could continue throughout the year, have created a glum mood at what was arguably Silicon Valley’s most exuberant workplace.

When Diane Hirsh Theriault’s co-worker returned from lunch to Google’s Cambridge, Mass., office one afternoon in October, his work badge couldn’t open a turnstile. He quickly realized it was a sign that he had been laid off.

google logo customMs. Hirsh Theriault soon learned that most of her fellow Google News engineers in Cambridge had also lost their jobs. More than 40 people in the news division were cut, a company union said, though a number of them were later offered jobs elsewhere inside Google.

Ms. Hirsh Theriault’s experience is increasingly common at Google, where rolling job cuts in recent months, after a year of significant layoffs, have employees on edge. The layoffs have slowed down projects and prompted employees to spend working hours trying to learn which work groups have been hit and who could be next, said 10 current and former Google employees, including some who asked for anonymity so they could speak candidly about their jobs.

What’s more, the layoffs have shifted the narrative that long defined working at Google; that it was more of a tinkerer’s community than a workaday office, where creativity and thinking out of the box was encouraged. That it was a fun, different kind of place to work.

Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, said more than a year ago that the company would cull 12,000 jobs, or 6 percent of the work force, describing it as “a difficult decision to set us up for the future.”

Those cuts have trickled into this year in what Mr. Pichai said could be much smaller, rolling layoffs throughout the year. Since early January, the company has cut more than a thousand jobs, affecting its ad sales division, YouTube and employees working on the company’s voice-operated assistant.

washington post logoWashington Post, The U.S. economy is booming. So why are tech companies laying off workers? Gerrit De Vynck, Danielle Abril and Caroline O'Donovan, Feb. 5, 2024 (print ed.). Google, Amazon, Microsoft and a raft of others fired thousands of workers in January, continuing a layoff wave that began in 2022.

The first time Julian Chavez got laid off from his job as a digital ad sales rep at web.com didn’t turn him off from the tech industry. Neither did the second time when he was laid off from ZipRecruiter. By the third time, though, Chavez had had enough.
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“I really loved what I did,” said Phoenix-based Chavez in a text message. “But the layoffs got me jaded.” Now he’s pursuing a graduate degree in psychology.

Chavez is one of hundreds of thousands of tech workers who’ve been laid off in the past two years in what now seems like a never-ending wave of cuts that has upended the culture of Silicon Valley and the expectations of those who work at some of America’s richest and most powerful companies.

Last year, tech companies laid off more than 260,000 workers according to layoff tracker Layoffs.fyi, cuts that executives mostly blamed on “over-hiring” during the pandemic and high interest rates making it harder to invest in new business ventures. But as those layoffs have dragged into 2024 despite stabilizing interest rates and a booming job market in other industries, the tech workforce is feeling despondent and confused.

The U.S. economy added 353,000 jobs in January, a huge boost that was around twice what economists had expected. And yet, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Discord, Salesforce and eBay all made significant cuts in January, and the layoffs don’t seem to be abating. On Tuesday, PayPal said in a letter to workers it would cut another 2,500 employees or about 9 percent of its workforce.

The continued cuts come as companies are under pressure from investors to improve their bottom lines. Wall Street’s sell-off of tech stocks in 2022 pushed companies to win back investors by focusing on increasing profits, and firing some of the tens of thousands of workers hired to meet the pandemic boom in consumer tech spending. With many tech companies laying off workers, cutting employees no longer signaled weakness. Now, executives are looking for more places where they can squeeze more work out of fewer people.

Feb. 4

washington post logoWashington Post, Joe Madison, radio host who merged talk format and activism, dies at 74, Brian Murphy, Feb. 4, 2024 (print ed.). Calling himself the Black Eagle, Mr. Madison was an influential voice for decades in Washington and later on satellite radio.

joe madison mlk panel at NPC Jan. 12 2016 IMG 1905 Small 2Joe Madison, a civil rights activist who found his voice as an influential talk radio host known as the Black Eagle and whose decades on the air often pushed listeners to action with his tagline: “What are you going to do about it?,” died Jan. 31 at his home in Washington. He was 74.

Mr. Madison, shown in a 2016 photo at the National Press Club, had prostate cancer, said his daughter, Monesha Lever.

During an era when mainstream talk radio became increasingly dominated by conservative views, Mr. Madison pushed hard in the other direction since the 1980s. He worked the microphones at Black-oriented stations including Washington’s WOL — and later exclusively on satellite radio — with a passion he said was instilled as a young NAACP leader in Detroit.

“I’m in the media, but I’m not a journalist,” he once said. “I’m an advocate and activist who has a talk show.”

His audiences gravitated to his uncompromising style, relished his biting retorts and cheered on his personal crusades such as hunger strikes to protest Republican-led attempts to block federal voting rights legislation. When the bills died in the Senate, he called off the fast in late January 2022. His weight had dropped from 194 pounds to below 165. He also learned his cancer, once in remission, had returned and spread.

He often called his work “staying on the battlefield.” His radio studio, he said, was his way of honoring the lunch counter protests in the South during the civil rights movement or the bus seat in Montgomery, Ala., that Rosa Parks refused to give up for a White passenger in 1955. This was a powerful niche Mr. Madison carved out, said Michael Harrison, editor of Talkers magazine, which covers talk radio and similar formats.

Many of Mr. Madison’s causes were part of the wider spotlight: raising alarms about gentrification in traditional minority neighborhoods; probing police shootings involving Black suspects; and opposing Sudan’s battles against separatists in what became the new nation of South Sudan in 2011.

Feb. 3

 

 

llewellyn king photo logo

White House Chronicle, Commentary: Denigration of the Media Has Become a Political Mainstay, Llewellyn King (executive producer and host of "White House Chronicle" on PBS), Feb. 3, 2024. In the 1990s, someone wrote in The Weekly Standard — it may well have been Matt Labash — that for conservatives to triumph, they had to attack the messenger rather than the message. His advice was to go after the media, not the news.

Attacking the messenger was all well and good for the neoconservatives. Still, their less-thoughtful successors, MAGA supporters, are killing the messenger.

The press — always identified as the “liberal media” — is now often seen, due to relentless denigration, as a force for evil, a malicious contestant on the other side.

No matter that there is no liberal media beyond what has been fabricated from political ectoplasm. Traditionally, most proprietors have been conservative, and many, but not most reporters, have been liberal.

It surprises people to learn that when you work in a large newsroom, you don’t know the political opinions of most of your colleagues. I have worked in many newsrooms over the decades and tended to know more about my colleagues’ love lives than their voting preferences.

This philosophy of “kill the messenger” might work briefly, but down the road, the problem is no messenger, no news, no facts. The next stop is anarchy and chaos — you might say, politics circa 2024.

Add to that social media and its capacity to spread innuendo, half-truth, fabrication and common ignorance.

The political turmoil we are going through is partly a result of media denigration. People believe what they want to believe; they can seize any spurious supposition and hold it close as a revealed truth.

This is a trade of imperfect operators but an essential one. For better or for worse, we are the messengers.

ny times logoNew York Times, Bill Ackman and Mark Zuckerberg Fail to Land Candidates on Harvard’s Board of Overseers, Anemona Hartocollis, Feb. 3 2024 (print ed.). The candidates had promised to challenge the university’s leadership, but failed to collect enough signatures to get on the ballot for the board.

It’s hard to get into Harvard, even if you’ve done it before.

harvard logoMark Zuckerberg, head of Meta, and Bill Ackman, head of the Pershing Square hedge fund, discovered as much, in their failed push to get dissident candidates onto the Harvard Board of Overseers, one of the university’s two governing bodies.

The candidates — a slate of four backed by Mr. Ackman and one candidate backed by Mr. Zuckerberg — said on Friday that they had not collected enough petition signatures to get on the April ballot for election to the board.

“We are disappointed but greatly appreciate all the support,” Zoe Bedell, an assistant U.S. attorney, who ran on the Ackman slate, said in a statement on Friday. “We look forward to trying again next year.”

Their failure raised the question of how much support existed for Mr. Ackman’s persistent campaign against Harvard’s leadership over the past few months.

Mr. Ackman touted the candidates’ military experience, and Mr. Zuckerberg’s candidate, Sam Lessin, is a venture capitalist and a former employee of Facebook (as Meta was formerly known).

But they could not surmount the first hurdle: collecting the 3,238 signatures from Harvard alumni to get their names on the ballot for the April election.

Feb. 2

ny times logoNew York Times, Can This A.I.-Powered Search Engine Replace Google? It Has for Our Columnist, Kevin Roose, Feb. 2, 2024 (print ed.). A start-up called Perplexity shows what’s possible for a search engine built from scratch with artificial intelligence, Kevin Roose writes. Kevin Roose used the Perplexity search engine for several weeks to report this column.

For my entire adult life, whenever I’ve had a question about the world or needed to track down something online, I’ve gone to Google for answers.

But recently, I’ve been stepping out on Google with a new, A.I.-powered search engine. (No, not Bing, which is dead to me after it tried to break up my marriage last year.)

It’s called Perplexity. The year-old search engine, whose founders previously worked in A.I. research at OpenAI and Meta, has quickly become one of the most buzzed-about products in the tech world. Tech insiders rave about it on social media, and investors like Jeff Bezos — who was also an early investor in Google — have showered it with cash. The company recently announced that it had raised $74 million in a funding round led by Institutional Venture Partners, which valued the company at $520 million.

Many start-ups have tried and failed to challenge Google over the years. (One would-be competitor, Neeva, shut down last year after failing to gain traction.) But Google seems less invincible these days. Many users have complained that their Google search results have gotten clogged with spammy, low-quality websites, and some people have started looking for answers in places like Reddit and TikTok instead.

Intrigued by the hype, I recently spent several weeks using Perplexity as my default search engine on both desktop and mobile. I tested both the free version and the paid product, Perplexity Pro, which costs $20 per month and gives users access to more powerful A.I. models and certain features, such as the ability to upload their own files.

Hundreds of searches later, I can report that even though Perplexity isn’t perfect, it’s very good. And while I’m not ready to break up with Google entirely, I’m now more convinced that A.I.-powered search engines like Perplexity could loosen Google’s grip on the search market, or at least force it to play catch-up.

I’m also scared that A.I. search engines could destroy my job, and that the entire digital media industry could collapse as a result of products like them. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

ny times logoNew York Times, The biggest impact of generative A.I. will be in banking and tech, a new report says, Steve Lohr, Feb. 2, 2024 (print ed.). A new generation of artificial intelligence is poised to turn old assumptions about technology on their head.

For years, people working in warehouses or fast food restaurants worried that automation could eliminate their jobs. But new research suggests that generative A.I. — the kind used in chatbots like OpenAI’s ChatGPT — will have its biggest impact on white-collar workers with high-paying jobs in industries like banking and tech.

A report published Thursday by the Burning Glass Institute, a nonprofit research center, and SHRM, formerly the Society for Human Resource Management, stops short of saying the technology will do away with large numbers of jobs. But it makes clear that workers need to better prepare for a future in which A.I. could play a significant role in many workplaces that until now have been largely untouched by technological disruption.

For people in tech, it means they may be building their A.I. replacements.

“There’s no question the workers who will be impacted most are those with college degrees, and those are the people who always thought they were safe,” said Matt Sigelman, president of the Burning Glass Institute.

For hundreds of corporations, the researchers estimated the share of payroll spending that goes to workers employed in the 200 occupations most likely to be affected by generative A.I. Many of those jobs are held by affluent college graduates, including business analysts, marketing managers, software developers, database administrators, project managers and lawyers.

Companies in finance, including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley, have some of the highest percentages of their payrolls likely to be disrupted by generative A.I. Not far behind are tech giants like Google, Microsoft and Meta.

Getting A.I. to do human work could result in big savings for those companies. The research estimates that banks and some tech companies spend 60 to 80 percent of their payrolls, or more, on workers in occupations most likely to be affected by the new technology.

The retail, restaurant and transportation industries are least likely to be affected by generative A.I., the report found. Companies like Walmart, McDonald’s and Delta Air Lines mostly employ workers without college degrees who perform roles like helping customers, stocking shelves, cooking food and handling baggage. They spend less than 20 percent of their payrolls on employees in occupations most likely to be affected by generative A.I.

ny times logoNew York Times, Universal Music Group Pulls Songs From TikTok, Ben Sisario, Feb. 2, 2024 (print ed.). The music giant, home to stars like Taylor Swift and Drake, had threatened to withdraw licenses for its tracks if they failed to come to a new agreement.

taylor swift uncreditedThe music giant, home to stars like Taylor Swift, right, and Drake, had threatened to withdraw licenses for its tracks to the social media juggernaut if they failed to come to a new agreement.

Videos on TikTok began to go silent early Thursday, after combative licensing negotiations broke down this week between the popular social media platform and Universal Music Group, the giant company that releases music by artists like Taylor Swift, Drake, U2 and Ariana Grande.

On Tuesday, a day before its licensing contract with TikTok was set to expire, Universal — the largest of the three major record companies — published a fiery open letter accusing TikTok of offering unsatisfactory payment for music, and of allowing its platform to be “flooded with A.I.-generated recordings” that diluted the royalty pool for real, human musicians.

TikTok confirmed early Thursday that it had removed music from Universal, and videos on the app began to show the effects of the broken partnership. Recordings by Universal artists were deleted from TikTok’s library, and existing videos that used music from Universal’s artists had their audio muted entirely. Universal songs were also unavailable for users to add to new videos.

A video posted by Kylie Jenner in September, for example, using a song by Lana Del Rey, who is signed to a Universal label was silent, with a note saying, “This sound isn’t available.” (Commenters to the video had remarked on the music.) Other videos carried similar statements, including “Sound removed due to copyright restrictions.”

When users went to the official profiles for Universal artists like Swift and Grande — who is scheduled to release a new album next month — the tabs that would normally display dozens of tracks that users could add to their own clips were either entirely bare or reduced to a handful of brief snippets.

 

Sylvester Stallone and Carl Weathers in the 1976 film “Rocky.” (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Sylvester Stallone, left, and Carl Weathers in the 1976 film “Rocky.” (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

washington post logoWashington Post, Carl Weathers, ‘Rocky’ nemesis who became action star, dies at 76, Staff and wire reports, Feb. 2, 2024. The onetime NFL linebacker played Apollo Creed in four installments of the “Rocky” franchise.

 

john fettermanPolitico, Fetterman expresses support for striking and laid-off journalists, Samantha Latson, Feb. 2, 2024. This month has been off to a trying start for the news business.

Sen. John Fetterman, above, on Friday expressed support for journalists who have taken to picket lines or have been laid off from their jobs in the past few weeks.

“A living wage and a fair contract are necessary to maintain a free press, and that’s what we need to maintain a functioning democracy,” Fetterman (D-Pa.) said in the statement.

His statement came a day after more than 200 journalists from the Chicago Tribune and seven other newsrooms staged 24-hour walkouts across the country on Thursday, demanding fair wages and contract negotiations. Fetterman specifically pointed to a local outlet that participated: the Morning Call in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, whose website calls it the “the third largest newspaper in Pennsylvania.”

It wasn’t the first media walkout of the year. Two weeks ago, members of the Los Angeles Times Guild walked out of newsrooms following an announcement from management about plans to lay off a “significant” portion of its journalists.

2024 has been off to a trying start for the news business. Over 500 journalists were laid off from newsrooms in January alone, according to a report by Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That number doesn’t account for layoffs announced at The Messenger and The Wall Street Journal this week as well.

The Messenger announced plans to shut down on Wednesday — less than a year after its launch — with founder Jimmy Finkelstein citing financial difficulties. Fetterman took aim at the “billionaire owners of The Messenger” who “shut down the news site and fired hundreds of workers with zero notice.”

Fetterman urged a resolution to ongoing contract negotiations.

“Management needs to stop dragging their feet and give these workers what they deserve,” he added. “We’ve seen through the historic United Auto Workers deal, the SAG-AFTRA agreement, and so many other labor actions over the last year just how powerful workers can be when they stand together and demand their fair share.”

Feb. 1

Reveal, Merger of Mother Jones, The Center for Investigative Reporting Is Official, Staff Report, Feb. 1, 2024. The merger of two of the country’s most storied and trusted investigative news organizations, Mother Jones and The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), took effect Feb. 1, forming a news outlet that reaches millions of people each month through in-depth reporting across social media, websites, video, radio, podcast, and print.

“This is a moment of tremendous urgency for journalism and for democracy,” said Monika Bauerlein, CEO of the newly merged organization. “By merging, we can shine a light into more dark corners, and reach more people with investigative reporting on the issues that matter most.”

The integrated newsroom will continue to produce Mother Jones’ magazine and website, the Reveal radio show and podcast, and documentary films such as The Grab, which investigates efforts to control the planet’s supply of food and water.

Leadership of the organization includes Bauerlein; Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief; Reveal host Al Letson; and Robert J. Rosenthal, CEO emeritus. The organization currently reaches an audience of 10 million per month, including 3.5 million across digital platforms, 1.8 million on radio and podcasts, and nearly 500,000 print or newsletter subscribers.

Mother Jones was founded in 1976, and CIR in 1977, and they have frequently produced joint reporting projects over the years, including an investigation last year about how the nation’s largest chain of psychiatric hospitals harms foster kids; a report in 2022 about national efforts to restrict people’s ability to vote; and an investigation in 2021 about labor abuses at sugarcane plantations in the Dominican Republic.

The Center for Investigative Reporting is a national nonprofit news organization that produces Mother Jones magazine and website, and Reveal radio show and podcast, which combined reach a monthly audience of 10 million across TV, radio, podcasts, print, websites, social media, and newsletters. The organization is headquartered in San Francisco, and operates additional offices in New York City and Washington, D.C.

Feb. 2

ny times logoNew York Times, Universal Music Group Pulls Songs From TikTok, Ben Sisario, Feb. 2, 2024 (print ed.). The music giant, home to stars like Taylor Swift and Drake, had threatened to withdraw licenses for its tracks if they failed to come to a new agreement.

taylor swift uncreditedThe music giant, home to stars like Taylor Swift, right, and Drake, had threatened to withdraw licenses for its tracks to the social media juggernaut if they failed to come to a new agreement.

Videos on TikTok began to go silent early Thursday, after combative licensing negotiations broke down this week between the popular social media platform and Universal Music Group, the giant company that releases music by artists like Taylor Swift, Drake, U2 and Ariana Grande.

On Tuesday, a day before its licensing contract with TikTok was set to expire, Universal — the largest of the three major record companies — published a fiery open letter accusing TikTok of offering unsatisfactory payment for music, and of allowing its platform to be “flooded with A.I.-generated recordings” that diluted the royalty pool for real, human musicians.

TikTok confirmed early Thursday that it had removed music from Universal, and videos on the app began to show the effects of the broken partnership. Recordings by Universal artists were deleted from TikTok’s library, and existing videos that used music from Universal’s artists had their audio muted entirely. Universal songs were also unavailable for users to add to new videos.

A video posted by Kylie Jenner in September, for example, using a song by Lana Del Rey, who is signed to a Universal label was silent, with a note saying, “This sound isn’t available.” (Commenters to the video had remarked on the music.) Other videos carried similar statements, including “Sound removed due to copyright restrictions.”

When users went to the official profiles for Universal artists like Swift and Grande — who is scheduled to release a new album next month — the tabs that would normally display dozens of tracks that users could add to their own clips were either entirely bare or reduced to a handful of brief snippets.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Your Product Is Killing People’: Tech Leaders Denounced Over Child Safety, Cecilia Kang and David McCabe, Feb. 1, 2024 (print ed.). Senators criticized the chief executives of Meta, TikTok, Snap, X and Discord for not doing enough to prevent child sexual abuse online.

Lawmakers on Wednesday denounced the chief executives of Meta, TikTok, X, Snap and Discord, accusing them of creating “a crisis in America” by willfully ignoring the harmful content against children on their platforms, as concerns over the effect of technology on youths have mushroomed.

In a highly charged 3.5-hour hearing, members of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee raised their voices and repeatedly castigated the five tech leaders — who run online services that are very popular with teenagers and younger children — for prioritizing profits over the well-being of youths. Some said the companies had “blood on their hands” and that users “would die waiting” for them to make changes to protect children. At one point, lawmakers compared the tech companies to cigarette makers.

“Every parent in America is terrified about the garbage that is directed at our kids,” Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, said.

The tech chiefs, some of whom showed up after being forced by subpoena, said they had invested billions to strengthen safety measures on their platforms. Some said they supported a bill that bolsters privacy and parental controls for children, while others pointed to the faults of rivals. All of the executives emphasized that they themselves were parents.

In one blistering exchange with Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s chief executive, stood up and turned to address dozens of parents of online child sexual exploitation victims.

“I’m sorry for everything you have all been through,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. “No one should go through the things that your families have suffered.” He did not address whether Meta’s platforms had played a role in that suffering and said the company was investing in efforts to prevent such experiences.

The bipartisan hearing encapsulated the increasing alarm over tech’s impact on children and teenagers. Last year, Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general, identified social media as a cause of a youth mental health crisis. More than 105 million online images, videos and materials related to child sexual abuse were flagged in 2023 to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the federally designated clearinghouse for the imagery. Parents have blamed the platforms for fueling cyberbullying and children’s suicides.

  • New York Times, Here are six takeaways from the contentious hearing, Feb. 1, 2024 (print ed.).

 

January 2024

Jan. 31

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Judge orders Tesla to undo pay package that helped make Musk world’s richest person, Faiz Siddiqui, Rachel Lerman and Will Oremus, Jan. 31, 2024 (print ed.). The ruling by a Delaware court stems from a Tesla shareholder lawsuit over the tech billionaire’s 2018 compensation package

tesla logoA Delaware judge on Tuesday ruled that Elon Musk’s generous 2018 compensation package, which helped make the tech entrepreneur the world’s richest person, was unfair and should be undone.

The $56 billion package, advanced by shareholders and Tesla’s board, entitled Musk to stock options in the company as it hit specific performance targets. Shareholders sued Musk, alleging the process that led to the package was improper.

The decision was earlier reported by Chancery Daily, which tracks Delaware Chancery Court matters, on Threads.

Musk issued a stern reaction on X, the social media site he bought in 2022, when it was known as Twitter.

“Never incorporate your company in the state of Delaware,” he said.

The ruling comes at a particularly tense juncture for the Tesla CEO. He has asked for 25 percent control over the company — which went on to become the world’s most valuable automaker after the pay package was implemented — after he sold off billions worth of stock to help fund his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter. Investors, including some who were enthusiastic about the 2018 package, are skeptical of Musk’s request for additional control.

Jan. 30

ap logoAssociated Press, 4 NHL players have been charged with sexual assault in a 2018 case in Canada, their lawyers say, Stephen Whyno, Jan. 30, 2024. NHL players Carter Hart of the Philadelphia Flyers, Michael McLeod and Cal Foote of the New Jersey Devils and Dillon Dube of the Calgary Flames have been charged with sexual assault in connection with an alleged assault by several members of Canada’s 2018 world junior team.

Attorneys representing Hart, McLeod, Foote and Dube said Tuesday that each player has been charged with sexual assault by police in London, Ontario. They denied any wrongdoing on behalf of their clients.

Hart’s lawyers, Megan Savard and Riaz Sayani, said their client is facing one count of sexual assault, adding, “He is innocent and will provide a full response to this false accusation in the proper forum, a court of law.”

Legal teams representing McLeod and Dube said the players would be pleading not guilty.

“(We) will vigorously defend the case,” McLeod’s attorneys, David Humphrey and Seth Weinstein, said in a statement. “We ask that the public respect Mr. McLeod’s privacy, and his family’s privacy. Because the matter is now before the court, we will not comment further at this time.”

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Joel Embiid Wants the African Diaspora to Flourish Onscreen, Emmanuel Morgan, Jan. 30, 2024. “I’ve always been passionate about storytelling,” said the N.B.A. star, above, whose production studio will create a documentary about Memphis Depay’s success on the Dutch soccer team.

Joel Embiid knew as early as his rookie season in the National Basketball Association that he eventually wanted to enter the media industry.

Seven years later, he is now at the pinnacle of the sport — the league’s reigning most valuable player, Embiid set a Philadelphia 76ers record last week by scoring 70 points in a game — and is ready to take on that new challenge.

nba logoEmbiid, 29, who moved from Cameroon to the United States as a teenager, has created a production studio, Miniature Géant, that he hopes will amplify the culture of his home continent. The studio intends to profile athletes and entertainment figures of African descent, with an initial goal of selling content to streaming services.

“We’re dabbling in a lot of different spaces, but the common denominator is Africa and the joys and the quest of African people and the African diaspora,” said Sarah Kazadi-Ndoye, who is the studio’s lead creative executive and was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Miniature Géant’s first documentary will explore themes of race and identity as it follows Memphis Depay, a Dutch soccer player who was born to a white mother from the Netherlands and a Ghanaian father. The studio is also having exploratory conversations with the Cameroonian mixed martial arts fighter Francis Ngannou, a former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight champion. In addition to coverage of athletes, the studio hopes to also explore the entertainment world.

Embiid is one of several athletes to enter the world of content creation. The basketball player Giannis Antetokounmpo recently announced the start of a production company with the ESPN analyst Jay Williams. The retired National Football League quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning created similar organizations and have released projects with ESPN and Netflix.

ny times logoNew York Times, Chita Rivera, Electrifying Star of Broadway and Beyond, Is Dead at 91, Robert D. McFadden, Jan. 30, 2024. Appearing in scores of stage productions, she dazzled audiences for nearly six decades, most memorably starring as Anita in “West Side Story.” Chita Rivera’s dancing sometimes overshadowed her thrillingly dramatic way with a song, our theater critic writes.

chita rivera memoirChita Rivera, the fire-and-ice dancer, singer and actress who leapt to stardom in the original Broadway production of “West Side Story” and dazzled audiences for nearly seven decades as a Puerto Rican lodestar of the American musical theater, died on Tuesday in New York. She was 91.

To generations of musical aficionados, Ms. Rivera was a whirling, bounding, high-kicking elemental force of the dance; a seductive singer of smoky ballads and sizzling jazz; and a propulsive actress of vaudevillian energy. She appeared in scores of stage productions in New York and London, logged 100,000 miles on cabaret tours and performed in dozens of films and television programs.

On Broadway, she created a string of memorably hard-edged women — Anita in “West Side Story” (1957), Rosie in “Bye Bye Birdie” (1960), the murderous floozy Velma Kelly in “Chicago” (1975) and the title role in “Kiss of the Spider Woman” (1993). She sang enduring numbers in those roles: “America” in “West Side Story,” “One Boy” and “Spanish Rose” in “Bye Bye Birdie,” and “All That Jazz” in “Chicago.”

ny times logoNew York Times, At Penn, Tensions May Only Be Growing After Magill’s Resignation, Stephanie Saul, Jan. 30 2024 (print ed.). Professors at the University of Pennsylvania have begun to organize, fearing what they view as a plan by the billionaire Marc Rowan to upend academic freedom.

Campus protests are not usually aimed at a single person. But last week at the University of Pennsylvania, professors staged a rally targeting Marc Rowan, the New York private-equity billionaire.

A Penn alumnus and a major benefactor of the university, Mr. Rowan deployed his formidable resources in a relentless campaign against Penn’s president, M. Elizabeth Magill, leading to her resignation in December.

But it was what happened next that spurred the protest. Mr. Rowan sent a four-page email to university trustees titled “Moving Forward,” which many professors interpreted as a blueprint for a more conservative campus.

Amy C. Offner, a history professor who led the protest, called the document a proposed “hostile takeover of the core academic functions of the university.”

The protest of about 100 people was a sign that the discord on campus would probably continue despite Ms. Magill’s resignation, which many members of Penn’s community hoped would quell the outrage over testimony she gave at a congressional hearing that seemed to equivocate over whether students would be disciplined if they called for the genocide of the Jews.

Instead, Penn, now operating under an interim president, Dr. J. Larry Jameson, is facing a lineup of alumni, donors and students who argue that universities have been taken over by a liberal orthodoxy that tolerates or even promotes antisemitism.

Jan. 28

 

harry connick sr. album

ny times logoNew York Times, Harry Connick Sr., New Orleans D.A. Criticized for Overreach, Dies at 97, Adam Nossiter, Jan. 28, 2024. The city’s top prosecutor from 1973 to 2003, he led an office that sent hundreds of Black men to prison and became known for its record of wrongful convictions.

Harry Connick Sr., a long-serving district attorney in New Orleans whose office gained national notoriety for prosecutorial overreach that eventually resulted in many reversed convictions, died on Thursday at his home in New Orleans. He was 97.

His death was announced by his son, the singer Harry Connick Jr., in a statement.

The older Mr. Connick (shown above on an album cover) was a singer himself and became locally renowned for his nightclub performances in the French Quarter. But his national reputation as a district attorney was much darker, particularly after a 2011 dissent by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that blasted the Orleans Parish district attorney’s office, under his leadership, for singular incompetence and misconduct.

Justice Ginsburg found that Mr. Connick’s subordinates systematically hid evidence that could aid the defense, in violation of the Constitution. Mr. Connick, she said, had “created a tinderbox in Orleans Parish” in which violations of the defendant’s right to be given evidence were “nigh inevitable.”

The justice excoriated Mr. Connick for his “cavalier approach,” noting that he himself acknowledged that he had “stopped reading law books” and “looking at opinions” after first being elected in 1973.

Louisiana has routinely had one of the world’s highest incarceration rates, and the Orleans Parish district attorney’s office bears much of the responsibility.

According to the Innocence Project of New Orleans, which works to free the wrongfully convicted, 32 of those convicted during Mr. Connick’s time in office, from 1973 to 2003, were “factually innocent” and later exonerated. In 27 of those cases there was prosecutorial misconduct by Mr. Connick’s assistants, the group’s director, Jee Park, said in an email.

New Orleans under Mr. Connick had “the highest known wrongful conviction rate in the world,” Ms. Park said. “I do not know of any other former or current district attorney in the country with such a devastating record.”

Race was at the heart of it. An overwhelming majority of those wrongfully convicted by Mr. Connick’s office, 96 percent, were Black, according to the Innocence Project.

“You are in the South,” said Calvin Johnson, the former chief judge of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, who heard dozens of cases brought by Mr. Connick’s office in 17 years on the bench. “All that was happening, it was centered around race.”

Mr. Connick was “embedded in the attitudinal thing of prosecuting to the fullest extent of the law,” Mr. Johnson said in a phone interview — which meant, for instance, sending people to jail for 10 years for possessing marijuana.

The effect on New Orleans of all those prosecutions and convictions, over Mr. Connick’s decades in office, has been “absolutely horrific,” the former judge said. “You’ve had the traumatic impact of that,” he added. “New Orleans has not gotten over that.”

A genial man in person, Mr. Connick appeared nonplused in his later years over a reputation that had been severely tainted.

“Would you make it the legacy of Hank Aaron or Babe Ruth that they struck out a lot?” he asked in an interview with The Times-Picayune in 2012. “I have to look at myself and say this is who I am. This is what I’ve done. Perfect? No. But I’ve done nothing to go to confession about in that office. At all.”

His sudden fall appeared to him all the more bewildering because, for years, he had been one of the city’s principal local power brokers. He was elected five times to six-year terms, mostly without difficulty, and his endorsement was eagerly sought by powerful politicians, Black and white, in New Orleans.

Yet his hands-off approach to the district attorney’s office had become proverbial. Even before he began a once-a-week stint at a French Quarter club, in imitation of his son’s blossoming international career, “Connick left the courtroom work to his assistants, an ill-paid, hard-driving group, mostly men, mostly white,” the journalist Jed Horne wrote in “Desire Street” (2005), a book about the case of Curtis Kyles, whose 1984 murder conviction was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1995 because Mr. Connick’s assistants withheld evidence.

“The office locked up mostly Black men, mostly poor people, in ways that required them to hide the evidence they were supposed to disclose,” Denise LeBoeuf, a New Orleans lawyer, said in an interview. “It was under his watch. That will always be on him.”

In 1973, after working as a federal prosecutor, he ran for district attorney in New Orleans against Jim Garrison, who had received national attention for his quixotic, and unsuccessful, attempt to prove a far-flung conspiracy in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. (That effort was the basis of the Oliver Stone movie “JFK.”)

For years, few in New Orleans questioned the hardball tactics of Mr. Connick and his prosecutors, even as crime remained high, the city’s economy declined and its population ebbed and grew poorer. He was even re-elected after being charged with racketeering by federal prosecutors in 1990, on allegations that he had returned betting records to a convicted bookmaker.

ny times logoNew York Times, Statue of Jackie Robinson Stolen From Kansas Park, Aimee Ortiz, Jan. 28, 2024 (print ed.). A bronze, life-size statue of the baseball player who broke racial barriers was cut at its ankles, leaving behind just its shoes and the statue’s base.

Robinson, who had been a young star with the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro leagues, broke the color barrier and became the first Black player to play in Major League Baseball when he stepped onto Ebbets Field during his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.

Robinson became a symbol of hope for racial equality in the country. After he retired from baseball, he continued working on civil rights issues and went on to break barriers in advertising, broadcasting and business.

Mr. Robinson “used his prestige as a star athlete to garner support for the civil rights movement,” according to the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute. Dr. King said that Robinson “made my success possible,” according to the Baseball Hall of Fame. “Without him, I would never have been able to do what I did.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Truman Capote Cashed In on His Friends’ Secrets. It Cost Him Everything, Ginia Bellafante, Jan. 28, 2024 (print. ed.). The rarefied social circle that embraced the writer, and then banished him, is up for re-evaluation in a new TV series, our columnist writes.

In 1979, five years before he died and four years after his exile from the Upper East Side’s social cockpit, Truman Capote appeared on a talk show as a friend of the common man. The host, David Susskind, remained unpersuaded. “You are always on people’s yachts” and in “great mansions on Long Island,” he pointed out. “The thing in Spain with the Pamplona bull runs.” Come on.

Capote gave up, reverting to a defense of his affection for the moneyed class. It had come to define him as much as his written work, the output of which had notoriously stalled after the publication of In Cold Blood in 1966. “I like rich people,” Capote said, “because they aren’t always trying to borrow something from me.”

The joke sprang from the underbrush, inadvertently poignant. If Capote was not on loan, he was there — at the most rarefied parties and dining halls, as the favored guest at Cap Ferrat — to be bartered. The terms of the exchange were relatively simple: his wit and company, his brocaded stories and dazzlingly foul mouth, traded for the devotion of the thin, beautiful, unhappily married women, up and down Fifth Avenue, who were still wearing white gloves past Stonewall and Woodstock, past Watergate and the fall of Saigon.

This world and the writer’s place in it has come up for re-evaluation with the arrival of Feud: Capote vs. the Swans” an eight-part television series on FX. The impressive cast includes Naomi Watts, Demi Moore and Diane Lane as women who contained their subversions to bed, sleeping with men who were not their husbands, and to lunch with Truman — “Tru” — Manhattan’s most celebrated gay confidant.

Whatever implicit contract existed among them was violated to very unhappy consequence in 1975, with the publication of Capote’s “La Côte Basque, 1965” in Esquire magazine. A short story that bears almost no adherence to the form, it was meant to exist as a chapter of “Answered Prayers,” the novel that famously went unfinished.

At just under 12,000 words, the story is all chatter, plotless and full of vulgar cruelties. Capote had betrayed his friends who, perhaps naïvely, did not think of themselves as material. And he had done it in service of a piece of literature that in language and sentiment reads like a set of story-meeting notes for an episode of “As the World Turns.”

Jan. 27

ny times logoNew York Times, Explicit Deepfake Images of Taylor Swift Swamp Social Media, Kate Conger and John Yoon, Jan. 27, 2024 (print. ed.). Fans of the star and lawmakers condemned the images, probably generated by artificial intelligence, after they were shared with millions online.

Fake, sexually explicit images of Taylor Swift likely generated by artificial intelligence spread rapidly across social media platforms this week, disturbing fans who saw them and reigniting calls from lawmakers to protect women and crack down on the platforms and technology that spread such images.

One image shared by a user on X was viewed 47 million times before the account was suspended on Thursday. X suspended several accounts that posted the faked images of Ms. Swift, but the images were shared on other social media platforms and continued to spread despite those companies’ efforts to remove them.

While X said it was working to remove the images, fans of the pop superstar flooded the platform in protest. They posted related keywords, along with the sentence “Protect Taylor Swift,” in an effort to drown out the explicit images and make them more difficult to find.

Reality Defender, a cybersecurity company focused on detecting A.I., determined with 90 percent confidence that the images were created using a diffusion model, an A.I.-driven technology accessible through more than 100,000 apps and publicly available models, said Ben Colman, the company’s co-founder and chief executive.

As the A.I. industry has boomed, companies have raced to release tools that enable users to create images, videos, text and audio recordings with simple prompts. The A.I. tools are wildly popular but have made it easier and cheaper than ever to create so-called deepfakes, which portray people doing or saying things they have never done.

ny times logoNew York Times, Los Angeles Times Owner Clashed With Top Editor Over Unpublished Article, Ryan Mac, Benjamin Mullin and Katie Robertson, Jan. 27, 2024. When Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, the billionaire owner of The Los Angeles Times, hired Kevin Merida to be the newspaper’s top editor nearly three years ago, he hailed the journalist as someone who would maintain the publication’s high standards and journalistic integrity.

los angeles times logoBy this winter, the professional warmth between the two men had chilled. Their relationship was strained in part by an incident in December when Dr. Soon-Shiong tried to dissuade Mr. Merida from pursuing a story about a wealthy California doctor and his dog, three people with knowledge of the interactions said. The doctor was an acquaintance of Dr. Soon-Shiong’s, the people said.

The previously unreported incident occurred as The Los Angeles Times, the largest news organization on the West Coast, struggled to reverse years of losses amid a difficult market for newspapers. Mr. Merida resigned this month. Shortly afterward, the company laid off roughly 115 journalists, or about 20 percent of its newsroom.

It is not unheard-of for the owner of a publication to be consulted on sensitive reporting, particularly if it could jeopardize the newspaper legally or financially. But it is unusual for an owner or a publisher to pressure editors to stop reporting on a story well before publication, especially in cases that do not put government secrets or human lives at risk.

In a statement on Friday, Dr. Soon-Shiong disputed the characterization of how he had acted, calling it “factually incorrect.” The Los Angeles Times said in a statement that Dr. Soon-Shiong, who bought the newspaper in 2018, had made a request for “truthful, factual reporting” on the story.

In a note to staff this month, Mr. Merida said he had decided to step down after “considerable soul-searching about my career at this stage.” Dr. Soon-Shiong said at the time that it had been “mutually agreed” that Mr. Merida would leave.

Dr. Soon-Shiong’s confrontation with Mr. Merida over the unfinished article stemmed from work that a business reporter was doing on Dr. Gary Michelson, a California surgeon who made his fortune with medical patents, the three people with knowledge of the situation said.

The reporter was looking into dueling lawsuits that involved Dr. Michelson and accusations that his dog had bitten a woman at a Los Angeles park. In a suit filed by Dr. Michelson in May, he said the woman had tried to extort him. The woman filed a personal injury lawsuit against Dr. Michelson.

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Pennsylvania Governor Proposes to Overhaul the State University System, Stephanie Saul, Jan. 27, 2024 (print. ed.). Gov. Josh Shapiro, declaring that the system is broken, plans to place most schools under the same system and lower tuition for low- and middle-income students.

Jan. 25

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We did not help build women’s tennis for it to be exploited by Saudi Arabia, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova (Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova are members of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Between 1974 and 1991, each won 18 Grand Slam singles titles), Jan. 25, 2024. The WTA must stand for human rights. It should not hold its finals in Saudi Arabia.

Lately, we seem to be so inseparable that you might as well call us Evertilova. We have not always been so in step with each other; one of us is quiet, the other unquiet. But there is a matter on which we have always been perfectly united. Over many years we were opponents, sometimes in matches with an intensity that felt personal. Then we became friends, and then we met cancer together. Over the years, 50 of them now, no matter what occurred on the court or in our lives, we shared an understanding that we were engaged in a common cause, one that connected our hearts and amounted to our life’s work: the building of a Women’s Tennis Association tour founded on equality, to empower women in a male-dominated world.

That work is now imperiled. WTA Tour officials, without adequate consultation with the players who are the very foundation of the sport, are on the verge of agreeing to stage the WTA Finals in Saudi Arabia. This is entirely incompatible with the spirit and purpose of women’s tennis and the WTA itself.

We fully appreciate the importance of respecting diverse cultures and religions. It is because of this, and not despite it, that we oppose the awarding of the tour’s crown jewel tournament to Riyadh. The WTA’s values sit in stark contrast to those of the proposed host. Not only is this a country where women are not seen as equal, it is a country where the current landscape includes a male guardianship law that essentially makes women the property of men. A country which criminalizes the LGBTQ community to the point of possible death sentences. A country whose long-term record on human rights and basic freedoms has been a matter of international concern for decades.

Staging the WTA final there would represent not progress, but significant regression.

Under Saudi law, a woman must have a male guardian to marry, and when she does, the guardianship passes to her husband. Wives are required to “obey” their husbands in such matters as whether to travel together, where to live, and the frequency of sexual relations. The unequal status of women remains deeply embedded in Saudi law, and women who actively protest this injustice risk indefinite imprisonment — for they need a male guardian’s permission to leave prison even after they have served their sentences.

We can’t sit back and allow something as significant as awarding a tournament to Saudi Arabia to happen without an open, honest discussion. To clarify and ensure transparency on these issues, we make the following common-sense recommendations.

Jan. 23

Politico, LA Times slashes newsroom as paper struggles under billionaire owner, Sarah Grace Taylor, Jan. 23, 2024. The union said cuts fell disproportionately on Black, Latino and Asian employees.

politico CustomThe Los Angeles Times on Tuesday laid off at least 115 people, including about a quarter of its newsroom, in a stunning second round of major layoffs in less than a year that underscored broader challenges facing the news business.

Cuts included reporters, editors and columnists, according to the union that represents the newsroom and social media posts from individual journalists. Layoffs fell disproportionately on Black, Latino and Asian employees who tend to have less seniority, the Guild said in a statement.

los angeles times logo“Slashing a quarter of the newsroom is devastating by any measure — to our members and their families, to our morale, to the quality of our journalism, to the bond with our audience, and to the communities that depend on our work,” the Guild said.

The action did not come as a surprise. Members of the union staged a one-day walkout on Friday in an attempt to pressure the paper’s billionaire owner, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, from cuts that some warned could be even more drastic.

The layoffs also follow the recent resignation of Executive Editor Kevin Merida, along with other senior newsroom managers, and difficult conditions for news organizations even with deep-pocketed owners.

Still, it was painful for journalists across the country — some of whom announced their status on social media shortly after learning their fate.

Soon-Shiong said in a story published on the Times website that the cuts were necessary because the paper could no longer lose $30 million to $40 million a year without more progress toward increasing revenue and readership, the Times reported.

Jan. 22

ny times logoNew York Times, Critics Protest Harvard’s Choice to Lead Antisemitism Task Force, Anemona Hartocollis, Jan. 22, 2024. Bill Ackman and Lawrence Summers protested the choice of a professor of Jewish history who had signed a letter describing Israel as an apartheid regime. A Harvard task force on antisemitism has gotten off to a rocky start, with complaints that the professor chosen to help lead the panel had signed a letter that was critical of Israel, describing it as “under a regime of apartheid.”

harvard logoHarvard’s new interim president, Alan Garber, announced the formation of two “presidential task forces” forces on Friday, one to combat antisemitism and the other to combat Islamophobia. The move came less than a month after his predecessor, Claudine Gay, was forced to step down over plagiarism accusations and criticism that she was weak on reining in antisemitism.

Dr. Garber’s choice for co-chair of the antisemitism task force, Derek J. Penslar, a professor of Jewish history at Harvard, met with immediate opposition from Lawrence H. Summers, a former Harvard president, and Bill Ackman, a hedge fund manager whose relentless criticism of Dr. Gay helped bring about her downfall.

Dr. Penslar was among nearly 2,900 academics, clergy members and other public figures who signed an open letter in early August, before the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, condemning the Israeli government and saying it was determined to “ethnically cleanse all territories under Israeli rule of their Palestinian population.” The letter said that “Meanwhile, American Jewish billionaire funders help support the Israeli far right.”

The open letter was updated in December with a call for a cease-fire and an exchange of hostages and prisoners; Dr. Penslar did not sign that version.

Jan. 21

ny times logoNew York Times, Harvard Defends Its Plagiarism Investigation of Its Former President, Anemona Hartocollis, Jan. 21, 2024. In a report to a congressional committee, released on Friday, Harvard gave its most detailed account yet of its handling of the plagiarism accusations against Claudine Gay, who resigned this month as the university’s president.

harvard logoThe basic outlines of the saga were known, but Harvard had not disclosed many details, which had led to questions about the impartiality and rigor of its investigation.

In its account, Harvard defended the thoroughness of its plagiarism review. It said an outside panel had found Dr. Gay’s papers to be “sophisticated and original,” with “virtually no evidence of intentional claiming of findings” that were not hers, even as it found a pattern of duplicative language in three papers.

But its account also shows a university governing board that was slow to do a full accounting of her work. Instead, over several weeks, Harvard scrambled to investigate a steady drip of plagiarism accusations, unable to give an immediate, authoritative response to questions about Dr. Gay’s scholarship.

The report is part of a broader submission of documents by Harvard, made in response to a Dec. 20 letter from the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which is investigating plagiarism and antisemitism accusations against universities. That committee held the now notorious hearing on campus antisemitism at which Dr. Gay and two other college presidents were criticized for their legalistic answers to questions about antisemitism.

Jan.  20

 dean phillips campaign

washington post logoWashington Post, OpenAI suspends bot developer for presidential hopeful Dean Phillips, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Jan. 20, 2024. It’s the ChatGPT maker’s first known action against the use of its technology in a political campaign.

chat gpt logoThe artificial intelligence company OpenAI banned the developer of a bot mimicking long shot Democratic presidential hopeful Rep. Dean Phillips, above — the first action that the maker of ChatGPT has taken in response to what it sees as a misuse of its AI tools in a political campaign.

Dean.Bot was the brainchild of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs Matt Krisiloff and Jed Somers, who had started a super PAC supporting Phillips (Minn.) ahead of the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday. The PAC had received $1 million from hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, the billionaire activist who led the charge to oust Harvard University president Claudine Gay.

The bot was powered by OpenAI’s ChatGPT conversational software, which the company has made available to outside developers.

The super PAC, called We Deserve Better, had contracted with AI start-up Delphi to build the bot. OpenAI suspended Delphi’s account late Friday in response to a Washington Post story on the SuperPAC, noting that OpenAI’s rules ban the use of its technology in political campaigns. Delphi took down Dean.Bot after the account suspension.

“Anyone who builds with our tools must follow our usage policies,” OpenAI spokeswoman Lindsey Held said in a statement. “We recently removed a developer account that was knowingly violating our API usage policies which disallow political campaigning, or impersonating an individual without consent.”

  • Washington Post, Silicon Valley insiders are trying to unseat Biden with help from AI

Dean.Bot, which could converse with voters in real-time through a website, was an early use of an emerging technology that researchers have said could cause significant harm to elections.

The bot included a disclaimer explaining that it was an AI tool and not the real Dean Phillips, and required that voters consent to its use. But researchers told The Post that such technologies could lull people into accepting a dangerous tool, even when disclaimers are in place.

Proponents, including We Deserve Better, argue that the bots, when used appropriately, can educate voters by giving them an entertaining way to learn more about a candidate.

Without disclaimers, experts have said, the technologies could enable mass robocalls to voters who think they’re talking to actual candidates or supporters. AI systems can also produce disinformation in ads or content, such as fake websites, at scale.

  • Washington Post, OpenAI won't let politicians use its tech for campaigning

After The Post asked We Deserve Better about OpenAI’s prohibitions on Thursday, Krisiloff said he had asked Delphi to remove ChatGPT from the bot and instead rely on open source technologies that also offer conversational capabilities that had gone into the bot’s design.

The bot remained available to the public without ChatGPT until late Friday, when Delphi took the bot down in response to the suspension, Krisiloff said. Krisiloff is a former chief of staff to OpenAI CEO Sam Altman. Altman has met with Phillips but has no involvement in the super PAC, Krisiloff said.

Jan. 19

ny times logoNew York Times, Billionaires Wanted to Save the News Industry. They’re Losing a Fortune, Benjamin Mullin and Katie Robertson, Jan. 19, 2024 (print ed.). Time magazine, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times — owned by Marc Benioff, Jeff Bezos, and Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong — are still losing money.

There’s an old saying about the news business: If you want to make a small fortune, start with a large one.

As the prospects for news publishers waned in the last decade, billionaires swooped in to buy some of the country’s most fabled brands. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, bought The Washington Post in 2013 for about $250 million. Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, a biotechnology and start-up billionaire, purchased The Los Angeles Times in 2018 for $500 million. Marc Benioff, the founder of the software giant Salesforce, purchased Time magazine with his wife, Lynne, for $190 million in 2018.

Each time, the newsrooms greeted their new owners with cautious optimism that their business acumen and tech know-how would help figure out the perplexing question of how to make money as a digital publication.

But it increasingly looks like the billionaires are struggling just like nearly everyone else. Time, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times all lost millions of dollars last year, people with knowledge of the companies’ finances have said, after considerable investment from their owners and intensive efforts to drum up new revenue streams.

“Wealth doesn’t insulate an owner from the serious challenges plaguing many media companies, and it turns out being a billionaire isn’t a predictor for solving those problems,” said Ann Marie Lipinski, the curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. “We’ve seen a lot of naïve hope attached to these owners, often from employees.”

The losses may have the most immediate impact at The Los Angeles Times, where journalists are bracing for bad news. Kevin Merida, the newspaper’s widely respected editor, announced last week that he was resigning, a decision that came after tension with Mr. Soon-Shiong over editorial and business priorities, according to two people familiar with the matter.'

Inside the Media Industry

  • The Baltimore Sun: The largest newspaper in Maryland has been sold to David Smith, the executive chairman of the nationwide Sinclair network of television stations and other media.
  • ESPN: Pat McAfee, the Indianapolis Colts punter turned new-media shock jock, has not faced any discipline after criticizing an ESPN executive by name on the air, showing a power shift at the network.
  • cnn logoJeff Zucker’s Latest Bet: The former CNN president is investing in Media Res, the independent Hollywood studio behind the hit prestige dramedy “The Morning Show” on Apple TV+.
  • The New York Times: The newspaper sued OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement, opening a new front in the increasingly intense legal battle over the unauthorized use of published work to train A.I.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sports Illustrated lays off most of its staff, threatening iconic brand’s future, Ben Strauss, Jan. 19, 2024. Much of the SI staff, and possibly all remaining writers and editors, received layoff notices Friday, which could spell the end of a publication that for decades was considered the gold standard of sports journalism.

Much of the staff of Sports Illustrated, and possibly all remaining writers and editors, received layoff notices Friday, which essentially could spell the end of a publication that for decades was the gold standard of sports journalism.
The stunners. The cheers. The home runs, hat tricks and gameday magic. Don’t miss out with The Sports Moment, a newsletter for the biggest sports news.

The union of the staff tweeted Friday that it would continue to fight for the publication of the magazine but that its future is now in the hands of the magazine’s owner, Authentic Brands Group.

“This is another difficult day in what has been a difficult four years for Sports Illustrated under Arena Group (previously The Maven) stewardship,” the union said in a statement. “We are calling on ABG to ensure the continued publication of SI and allow it to serve our audience in the way it has for nearly 70 years.”

ABG has owned the magazine since 2019 and sold the publishing rights to a company called the Arena Group. The Arena Group missed a recent payment for those publishing rights, prompting ABG to pull the publishing license and putting the future of Sports Illustrated in jeopardy.

Jan. 12

 

Edward Jay Epstein in 1966, the year he turned his master’s thesis into a best-selling book on the Kennedy assassination (Photo by Marc Green for Viking PressEdward Jay Epstein in 1966, the year he turned his master’s thesis into a best-selling book on the Kennedy assassination (Photo by Marc Green for Viking Press)..

ny times logoNew York Times, Edward Jay Epstein, Author and Stubborn Skeptic, Dies at 88, Sam Roberts, Updated Jan. 12, 2024. He questioned the findings of the Warren Commission, called Edward Snowden a prized Russian asset and exposed the diamond industry’s economic impact.

Edward Jay Epstein, an iconoclastic author whose deeply researched books challenged conventional wisdom about controversies ranging from whether John F. Kennedy was killed by a lone assassin to whether the whistle-blower Edward Snowden was really a Russian spy, has died in Manhattan. He was 88.

The cause was complications of Covid, his nephew Richard Nessel said. He said Mr. Epstein was found dead in his apartment on Tuesday.

A professional skeptic, Mr. Epstein wrote more than two dozen nonfiction books, many involving allegations of government conspiracies and corporate dereliction. Some raised more questions than they answered.

In an improbable start to a prolific career, he debuted as an author early in 1966 when he transformed his master’s thesis at Cornell University into a book, Inquest: The Warren Commission and the Establishment of Truth. The New York Times called it “the first book to throw open to serious question, in the minds of serious people,” the conclusions reached by the presidential panel appointed to investigate President Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

That very day in 1963, Mr. Epstein had borrowed his stepfather’s car and driven from New York City to the Cornell campus in upstate Ithaca, N.Y., to try to wangle his way back into school after having flunked out seven years earlier.

“The entire campus seemed eerily deserted,” he recalled in his memoir, Assume Nothing: Encounters With Assassins, Spies, Presidents, and Would-Be Masters of the Universe (2023), until he encountered a lone student, who informed him of Kennedy’s death.

Thanks to a mentor, the political scientist Andrew Hacker, whose class was one that Mr. Epstein had aced, he was readmitted and encouraged to write his thesis on the assassination. In doing so he gained access to every member of the seven-man Warren Commission except its leader, Chief Justice Earl Warren.

His book raised doubts about the commission’s finding that Kennedy was killed by a lone assassin, basing them largely on what Mr. Epstein considered serious deficiencies in the panel’s investigation. “Inquest” was published a few months before “Rush to Judgment” by Mark Lane, another in a tsunami of books suggesting that the commission had been hampered by time constraints, by limited resources and access, and by Justice Warren’s demand for unanimity to make its conclusions more credible.

“It was the only master’s thesis I know of that sold 600,000 copies,” Professor Hacker, who now teaches at Queens College, said in a phone interview.

A decade after “Inquest” was published, the House Select Committee on Assassinations conducted a much more thorough forensic investigation. Its report suggested the possibility of more than one shooter and a possible conspiracy, but concluded unequivocally: “Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots at President John F. Kennedy. The second and third shots he fired struck the president. The third shot he fired killed the president.”

Mr. Epstein accepted the findings, acknowledging that they answered the questions he had raised. “In the light of the methodical and open nature of this examination, there was no mystery left,” he wrote.

Among his subsequent books were News From Nowhere: Television and the News (1973); The Rise and Fall of Diamonds (1982), which exposed the economic impact of the diamond industry in southern Africa; Deception (1989), based on his interviews with the Central Intelligence Agency’s former chief of counterintelligence James Jesus Angleton; The Assassination Chronicles: Inquest, Counterplot, and Legend”(1992); and The Secret History of Armand Hammer (1996), which detailed ties between that American businessman and the Soviet government in the 1920s and ’30s.

He also wrote How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft (2017), in which he detailed how Mr. Snowden, as a young U.S. intelligence contractor, had disclosed hundreds of American classified documents to news organizations, becoming one of the world’s most hunted fugitives. Mr. Epstein concluded that in Mr. Snowden’s defection to Russia and contact with Russian agents, he was less a heroic whistle-blower than a prized intelligence asset for Moscow.

While most of Mr. Epstein’s books won plaudits for their meticulous research, Nicholas Lemann, in The New York Times Book Review, wrote that the Snowden one was “an impressively fluffy and golden-brown wobbly soufflé of speculation, full of anonymous sourcing and suppositional language.”

Mr. Epstein’s memoir, Assume Nothing, is littered with dropped names (some 650 in the index, many of whom he actually knew). They include Jeffrey Epstein (no relation), the disgraced financier and registered sex offender, with whom Mr. Epstein palled around at one point.

In his New York Times Magazine column, William Safire once described Mr. Epstein as “the leading writer in the gray world of spies and moles.”

Sam Roberts is an obituaries reporter for The Times, writing mini-biographies about the lives of remarkable people.

ny times logoNew York Times, ESPN Used Fake Names to Secure Emmys for ‘College GameDay’ Stars, Katie Strang, Jan. 12, 2024 (print ed.). The network returned 37 Emmy statues after an investigation found it had falsified information to give awards to on-air talent ineligible to receive them.

espn logoIn March 2023, Shelley Smith, who worked 26 years as an on-air reporter for ESPN, received a call from Stephanie Druley, then the network’s head of studio and event production. Druley said she wanted to talk about something “serious” that needed to stay between the two of them, Smith recalled. She then told Smith that Smith needed to return two sports Emmy statuettes that she had been given more than a decade earlier.

That request was one of many ESPN made of some of its biggest stars last year after the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS), the organization that administers the Emmys, uncovered a scheme that the network used to acquire more than 30 of the coveted statuettes for on-air talent ineligible to receive them. Since at least 2010, ESPN inserted fake names in Emmy entries, then took the awards won by some of those imaginary individuals, had them re-engraved and gave them to on-air personalities.

Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso, Chris Fowler, Desmond Howard and Samantha Ponder, among others, were given the ill-gotten Emmys, according to a source briefed on the matter, who was granted anonymity because the individual is not authorized to discuss it publicly. There is no evidence that the on-air individuals were aware the Emmys given to them were improperly obtained.

“I think it was really crummy what they did to me and others,” said Smith, who worked at ESPN from 1997 until her contract expired last July.

The fraud was discovered by NATAS, which prompted an investigation by that organization and later by ESPN. Those probes resulted in sanctions beyond the return of the trophies. While it is not known who orchestrated the scheme, Craig Lazarus, vice president and executive producer of original content and features, and Lee Fitting, a senior vice president of production who oversaw “College GameDay” and other properties, were among the ESPN employees NATAS ruled ineligible from future participation in the Emmys.

In a statement, ESPN said: “Some members of our team were clearly wrong in submitting certain names that may go back to 1997 in Emmy categories where they were not eligible for recognition or statuettes. This was a misguided attempt to recognize on-air individuals who were important members of our production team. Once current leadership was made aware, we apologized to NATAS for violating guidelines and worked closely with them to completely overhaul our submission process to safeguard against anything like this happening again.

ny times logoNew York Times, Indiana University Cancels Major Exhibition of Palestinian Artist, Zachary Small, Jan. 12, 2024 (print ed.). Samia Halaby, an 87-year-old artist, has been outspoken in her support of Palestinians during the Israel-Gaza war.

The first American retrospective of Samia Halaby, regarded as one of the most important living Palestinian artists, was abruptly canceled by officials at Indiana University in recent weeks.

Dozens of her vibrant and abstract paintings were already at the school when Halaby, 87, said she received a call from the director of the university’s Eskenazi Museum of Art. The director informed her that employees had shared concern about her social media posts on the Israel-Gaza war, where she had expressed support for Palestinian causes and outrage at the violence in the Middle East, comparing the Israeli bombardment to a genocide.

Halaby later received a two-sentence note from the museum director, David Brenneman, officially canceling the show in Bloomington, Ind., without a clear explanation.

“I write to formally notify you that the Eskenazi Museum of Art will not host its planned exhibition of your work,” Brenneman wrote in the Dec. 20 letter, which was reviewed by The New York Times.

A few months earlier, Brenneman had applauded the artist’s “dynamic and innovative approach to art-making” in promotional materials, where he said the exhibition would demonstrate how universities “value artistic experimentation.”

The show’s cancellation is the latest example of the heavy scrutiny that artists and academics have faced since the war began in October. Magazine editors have been fired, artists have seen their work censored and university presidents have resigned under pressure.

“It is clearly my freedom of expression that is under question here,” said Halaby, who earned a master’s degree at Indiana University and later taught students there. She said concerns about her exhibition had been raised by a museum employee.

The retrospective, which was to open Feb. 10, had taken more than three years to organize in partnership with Michigan State University’s Broad Art Museum; agreements were already signed with grant-making foundations and museums that lent artworks to Indiana University from around the country. Halaby was also preparing to unveil a new digital artwork for the exhibition, in addition to previously unseen works like a 1989 painting called “Worldwide Intifadah.”

Jan. 11

ny times logoNew York Times, In Florida, New School Laws Have an Unintended Consequence: Bureaucracy, Dana Goldstein, Jan. 11, 2024 (print ed.). Under recent rules, some students can’t take a vision test or get a Band-Aid without permission slips. And it’s up to schools to hunt them down.

Got a cut and need a Band-Aid? Want to be called Will instead of William? Or get your vision checked?

Across Florida, hundreds of thousands of students need permission slips for what was once routine in schools.

Educators in the state say recent laws and regulations around parental consent have created an entirely new bureaucracy, filled with forms and nagging phone calls to parents. The requirements have made it more difficult to provide services to children who need them — even services like vision and hearing tests.

“Nurses are spending most of their time trying to obtain permission” from parents, said Lisa Kern, director of the Florida Association of School Nurses. That permission does not always come, as busy parents — particularly those who work several jobs or do not speak English — sometimes do not respond.

The well-being of children, Ms. Kern said, “is taking a hit.”

New laws and regulations under Gov. Ron DeSantis, including his signature Parental Rights in Education Act, are intended to push back against what many conservatives see as liberal orthodoxies embedded in the school system — especially around gender and race — and that they say undermine the role of parents.

But some of the state regulations are vaguely written, school staff said, leading to confusion about exactly which school activities require written consent.

The state’s 67 districts have interpreted the laws differently. Because violating the rules could result in lawsuits or school staff members losing their jobs, many districts have proceeded cautiously, requiring permission slips for an ever-expanding list of activities and services.

Jan. 10

ny times logoNew York Times, Editor of The Los Angeles Times Steps Down, Benjamin Mullin, Jan. 10, 2024 (print  ed.). Kevin Merida, who took over the job in 2021, said in an internal note that his last day would be on Friday.

los angeles times logoWhen he joined The Los Angeles Times as its top editor nearly three years ago, Kevin Merida was hailed as a leader who would restore calm to a newsroom that had been buffeted by cost-cutting and corporate ownership battles.

Now, he’s exiting with little warning, an abrupt departure that leaves the largest news organization in the West in a state of flux.

Mr. Merida told staff members on Tuesday that he was stepping down “after considerable soul-searching about my career.”

He did not specify exactly why he was leaving, but he did say that his last day would be on Friday.

Patrick Soon-Shiong, the biotechnology billionaire who owns The Times, said in a note to the newspaper’s staff that he and Mr. Merida had “mutually agreed” that Mr. Merida should leave.

“Given the persistent challenges we face, it is now imperative that we all work together to build a sustainable business that allows for growth and innovation,” Dr. Soon-Shiong wrote.

In recent months, Mr. Merida has been at odds with members of the Soon-Shiong family on a variety of matters, including editorial decisions and business priorities, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.

Mr. Merida and the Soon-Shiong family have clashed over his decision to restrict journalists who signed a letter condemning Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 attacks from covering the conflict in Gaza, the people said.

Some members of the Soon-Shiong family raised objections to Mr. Merida’s decision, one of the people said, and they were unable to reach a resolution with Mr. Merida and even discussed selling the newspaper.

Mr. Merida, 66, was named the top editor of The Times in May 2021, after previously working as a top editor at The Washington Post and ESPN. At the time, he was viewed as a stabilizing force in the newsroom, which had been buffeted by the painful erosion of its traditional business model and its stature as the pre-eminent news organization on the West Coast.

Under his leadership, the news organization won three Pulitzer Prizes, including two in 2023, for breaking news reporting and feature photography. Still, like some of its peers in the media industry, The Times has struggled to offset the declines in its print business with digital subscriptions and advertising.

Those problems were exacerbated last year in Los Angeles, where one of the major industries, Hollywood, was shut down for many months because of the actors’ and writers’ strikes. That took a toll at The Los Angeles Times: The newspaper reported on Tuesday that it had fallen short of its digital-subscriber targets.

Mr. Merida was handpicked by Dr. Soon-Shiong, who purchased the company in 2018 for $500 million. The purchase was greeted with relief by many journalists at the newspaper, who had been through years of cost-cutting at the behest of corporate owners including Tronc.

Dr. Soon-Shiong said he was acquiring the newspaper for social reasons and promised to restore it as a civic institution for the people of Southern California.

But the going has been difficult for the Soon-Shiongs, as the paper has grappled with headwinds that have afflicted the entire media industry. The family sold The San Diego Union-Tribune, a sister paper, to Alden Global Capital, a financial firm known for its cost-cutting. At one point, The Wall Street Journal reported that Dr. Soon-Shiong was exploring a sale of The Los Angeles Times, which the company denied.

In June, The Los Angeles Times announced it was cutting more than 10 percent of its newsroom staff of more than 550, citing economic headwinds.

In his note to the staff on Tuesday, Dr. Soon-Shiong said that The Times would undertake a search for Mr. Merida’s successor that would include internal and external candidates.

In the meantime, he wrote, the newspaper’s existing leadership team would continue to oversee the newsroom.

Jan. 8

 

 

Hedge fund  billionaire and Harvard critic Bill Ackman, whose criticism of Harvard's recent president on

Hedge fund billionaire and Harvard critic Bill Ackman, whose criticism of Harvard's recent president on "woke" and plagiarism grounds led to her resignation, shown with his wife, Neri Ackman, a formerly tenured professor also recently exposed as having committed what was reputed to be plagiarism in adequately citing sources (photos via CNN).

washington post logoWashington Post, Business Insider story on Harvard antagonist’s wife draws owner’s scrutiny, Will Sommer, Jan. 8, 2024. Axel Springer plans to review a Business Insider story about alleged plagiarism by Neri Oxman, wife of billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman.

Business Insider and its German parent company appear to be at odds over its reporting on plagiarism allegations against the wife of a high-profile hedge fund manager.

business insiderThe financial news site published two stories last week alleging that Neri Oxman, a prominent former Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, had plagiarized repeatedly in her academic work, including lifting from Wikipedia more than a dozen times in her dissertation.

Those stories came after her husband, billionaire investor Bill Ackman, spent weeks pressuring his alma mater, Harvard University, to oust its president — initially over his contention that she had mishandled incidents of antisemitism on campus but later over reports that she had committed plagiarism earlier in her career. At one point, Ackman wrote that a Harvard student who committed “much less” plagiarism than Claudine Gay would be forced out of the university. Gay, right, resigned from the presidency last week.

Recently resigned Harvard President Claudine Gay (Associated Press file photo by Steven Senne).But when Business Insider raised plagiarism concerns about his wife’s work, Ackman excoriated the publication, accusing it of unethical journalism, promising to review its writers’ work and predicting that it would “go bankrupt and be liquidated.” In one social media post, he implied that Business Insider’s investigations editor (whom he called “a known anti-Zionist”) may have been “willing to lead this attack” because Oxman is Israeli.

Neither Ackman nor Oxman, whose companies didn’t respond to requests for comment, have pointed to any factual errors in the articles.

Still, Ackman’s complaints seemed to get the attention of Axel Springer, the German media giant that owns Business Insider. On Sunday, the company released an unusual statement saying it would “review the processes” that led up to the articles’ publication, while acknowledging that the stories were not factually wrong.

“While the facts of the reports have not been disputed, over the past few days questions have been raised about the motivation and the process leading up to the reporting — questions that we take very seriously,” the statement read.

Business Insider staffers were surprised by the Axel Springer statement, which many had not realized was coming until a New York Times reporter shared it online, according to a Business Insider employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly. A person familiar with Axel Springer’s operations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preserve company confidences disputed that, saying Business Insider was involved in the drafting of the statement.

In a Sunday afternoon email to employees that was reviewed by The Washington Post, Business Insider global editor in chief Nicholas Carlson appeared to push back on the idea that the stories needed a review. Carlson wrote that he would “welcome” the review but argued for the news value of the stories given Oxman’s position as what he called a “well-known academic” and start-up founder.

“I made the call to publish both these stories,” Carlson wrote. “I stand by our story and the work that went into it. I know that our process was sound. I know our newsroom’s motivations are truth and accountability.”

Business Insider has a history of reporting aggressively on the wealthy and powerful, including a 2022 story alleging that Elon Musk exposed himself to a flight attendant, which Musk called a “politically motivated hit piece.” At least publicly, that reputation hasn’t been an issue for Axel Springer, which purchased the site in 2015 for $450 million and also owns Politico.

mathias doepfner 2011But the dispute over the Oxman stories appears to touch upon an issue of major importance to Axel Springer and its CEO, Mathias Döpfner (right, shown in a 2011 photo):  Israel.

The company supports Israel openly in a way that would be unusual for a nonpartisan American media firm. Axel Springer employees in Germany — though not at its U.S. properties — must sign a mission statement that affirms Israel’s right to exist, among other issues. In 2021, the Israeli flag flew for a week in front of the company’s offices after Döpfner mandated it as a statement against antisemitism, telling anyone who had a problem with the flag to leave the company.

The person familiar with Axel Springer’s discussions said company leaders are concerned that the reporting on Oxman could have been antisemitic or anti-Zionist — even though it consists primarily of straightforward comparisons between Oxman’s publications and the texts she allegedly plagiarized from.

While Ackman hasn’t raised factual issues with the articles, he has claimed that the outlet didn’t give him and his wife enough time to comment on the second story, about Wikipedia plagiarism, with a space of roughly two hours on late Friday afternoon between when his spokesman was asked for comment and when the story was published. But Ackman first went public with the Wikipedia allegations roughly an hour before the story was published by posting on social media about the impending article, which may have affected Business Insider’s publication schedule.

While Ackman boosted the plagiarism allegations against Gay, he has questioned whether the lifting of numerous paragraphs from Wikipedia can even count as plagiarism. In a 5,100-word series of posts on X on Saturday night, Ackman compared some forms of plagiarism to spelling errors, saying it’s important to consider whether plagiarism is “pervasive” in an academic’s work.

“It does not strike me as plagiarism, nor do I think it takes anything away from her work,” he wrote of his wife’s alleged Wikipedia plagiarism.

The Axel Springer statement prompted concern from some reporters over what it said about Business Insider’s future ability to pursue investigations. In a post on social media, Julia Black, a former Business Insider reporter, said she was “extremely disturbed” and concerned that reporters covering the wealthy wouldn’t be supported by the company.

“I really hope this can become a mistake we learn from rather than a new precedent,” Black wrote.

Jan. 5

 

Recently resigned Harvard President Claudine Gay (Associated Press file photo by Steven Senne).

Recently resigned Harvard President Claudine Gay (Associated Press file photo by Steven Senne).

ny times logoNew York Times, For Harvard’s First Black President, Race Became the Unavoidable Issue, Kurt Streeter, Jan. 5, 2024 (print ed.). Claudine Gay celebrated her history making appointment. But after she resigned, she spoke very differently about her experience.

In her late September inauguration, Claudine Gay looked out at a packed audience and spoke of her pride in making history as the first Black president of Harvard in its 387 years.

“I stand before you on this stage, in this distinguished company and magnificent theater,” she intoned before continuing, “with the weight and honor of being a ‘first’ — able to say, ‘I am Claudine Gay, the president of Harvard University.’”

After her resignation on Tuesday, she talked about race very differently. “Those who had relentlessly campaigned to oust me since the fall often trafficked in lies and ad hominem insults, not reasoned argument,” she wrote in a Wednesday opinion piece in The New York Times. “They recycled tired racial stereotypes about Black talent and temperament. They pushed a false narrative of indifference and incompetence.”

The painful and startling story of Dr. Gay’s brief presidency is igniting discussions of plagiarism, fairness, antisemitism and leadership. But also at its core is the unavoidable American question of race, and what role it plays in who gets ahead and how they are judged.

Her appointment came as the country was debating how to balance racial diversity and academic merit, frame history lessons about slavery and racism, and address the needs of Black and poor students.

Just as Dr. Gay took over at Harvard in July, the Supreme Court banned race-conscious admissions at colleges and universities, a decision that sprung from a lawsuit aimed at Harvard.

State legislators have enacted laws limiting what can be taught about America’s racial history. Conservative politicians and activists have targeted university programs seeking to boost diversity, equity and inclusion, and roughly 30 states are considering legislation to curb such efforts.

With its $50 billion endowment, Harvard might seem like it could soar over such battles. But the school’s elite status and the symbolism that it carries have dragged Harvard, and its leadership, straight into the fray.

“I am saddened by the inability of a great university to defend itself against an alarmingly effective campaign of misinformation and intimidation,” Randall Kennedy, a prominent Harvard legal scholar, wrote in a text message.

When Dr. Gay was installed as president of Harvard, supporters hailed her as the fresh, bold face of change. The school would now be led by the Black daughter of Haitian immigrants, a radical departure for a university with a past marred by racism and a lineage of presidents who were exclusively white and, in all but one instance, male.

Dr. Gay “embodies the path that Harvard is on,” said Natalie Sadlak, a medical student who spoke at the September inauguration. The new president, Ms. Sadlak said, represented a blending of the university’s “future and its past, a mixture of the legacy of the university and the promise of new perspectives.”

But from her earliest days in her new role, Dr. Gay operated under heightened scrutiny, with critics eager to question her qualifications and embrace of diversity and equity programs.

Opponents of efforts to diversify American campuses reacted to her promotion scornfully. Yes, since 2015, she had been a powerful administrator at the school, most recently the dean of the sprawling Faculty of Arts and Sciences. But critics argued that her scholarship was relatively thin compared with former Harvard presidents.

Adding to an already toxic brew: the clash over campus culture and politics. And Dr. Gay made enemies quickly.

In 2019, as dean, she issued a two-year, unpaid suspension to Roland Fryer, a Black economist and recipient of a MacArthur “genius grant” who was accused of sexual harassment and creating an unwelcome environment in his education research lab.

Though he has returned to the university, his research lab has been disbanded. Critics say Dr. Gay targeted Dr. Fryer because he published work that went against liberal orthodoxy.

She also had a run in with Ronald Sullivan, a Black Harvard law professor and criminal defense lawyer. Students had protested his decision to represent the film producer Harvey Weinstein against rape and related charges. This role, they claimed, disqualified him from serving as dean of Winthrop House, an undergraduate residency hall.

Harvard decided not to renew his appointment and Dr. Gay criticized him, sparking outrage from the law school faculty and leading conservatives who said that the university had caved to overly sensitive undergraduates.

Dr. Gay might still be president, however, if not for her clumsy handling of the campus conflict over the Hamas attacks in Israel on Oct. 7 and the war in Gaza. Asked at a congressional committee hearing in December whether calling for the genocide of Jews would be harassment under Harvard’s code of conduct, Dr. Gay equivocated and lapsed into legalese.

“It can be,” she said, “depending on the context.”

Her missteps galvanized her opponents.

Bill Ackman, a Harvard graduate and financier, claimed on social media that in their search for president, Harvard’s board members had considered only candidates like Dr. Gay who fit neatly into the university’s goals to become more diverse.

He claimed this filtering was likely common at elite universities. Such a practice, he said, was “not good for those awarded the office of president who find themselves in a role that they would likely not have obtained were it not for a fat finger on the scale.”

A few days after the congressional hearing, accusations that Dr. Gay had plagiarized words and phrases in her scholarship handed her opponents further ammunition.

“She is hardly a ‘scholar’s scholar’, as the university magazine tried to portray her,” wrote Christopher Rufo, the conservative activist who helped make critical race theory a conservative rallying cry. He went on to attack her as a “dutiful racialist, skilled at the manipulation of guilt, shame and obligation in service of institutional power.”

Dr. Gay tried to weather the plagiarism charges. But what began as a drumbeat became a chorus of clamoring doubt that was impossible to ignore, especially as more lapses in her work surfaced.

“I see Gay as getting her post at Harvard because she was a diversity, equity and inclusion candidate, not on the basis of strong academic qualifications,” read a Dec. 21 statement by Vernon Smith, a Harvard graduate and winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics. “There are plenty of accomplished blacks who need no such ‘help.’”

“She is a discredit to Harvard,” he added.

What becomes of Dr. Gay now? She says she plans to return to her role as a Harvard professor.

Even then, she may well carry a weight familiar to many African Americans. She is now a symbol — scorned by some, hailed by others, caught in a whipsawing argument over merit, rights and race that seems to have no end.

Jan. 3

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Persecution of Harvard’s Claudine Gay, Charles M. Blow, Jan. 3, 2024. Claudine Gay, the president of charles blow beard twitterHarvard who announced her resignation on Tuesday after her problematic congressional testimony about antisemitism and mounting questions about missing citations and quotation marks in her published work, was, in part, pushed out by political forces beyond academia and hostile to it.

But the campaign against her was never truly about her testimony or accusations of plagiarism.

It was a political attack on a symbol. It was a campaign of abrogation. It was and is a project of displacement and defilement meant to reverse progress and shame the proponents of that progress.

As Janai Nelson, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., posted online, “The project isn’t to thwart hate but to foment it thru vicious takedowns.”

When Gay and the presidents of M.I.T. and the University of Pennsylvania botched their responses before Congress, some on the political right sensed a weakness, and it quickened them. This was their chance not only to burn a witch but to torch a coven.

The presidents’ failure to provide clear, simple answers to questions whose answers would seem obvious — opting instead for halting, overlawyered responses — was pilloried as a symptom of a disease, the descent of liberalism into a form of cultural insanity driven by an obsession with identities and protection of the perverse.

When Bill Ackman, a billionaire investor and Harvard alumnus, published a Nov. 4 letter to then-President Gay, a month before the congressional testimony, he gave away the game with a swipe at Harvard’s Office for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging, complaining that it “does not support Jewish, Asian and non-L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. white students.”

Diversity, equity and inclusion, or D.E.I. — the effort to assist and support the underrepresented — turns out to be the ultimate target.

And to underscore that the vilification of the college presidents was about something more than their remarks about antisemitism, just two weeks after Ackman published his letter, he defended Elon Musk, saying that the controversial electric car maker “is not an antisemite,” even after Musk replied approvingly, on his social media platform, X, to the statement that Jewish communities “have been pushing the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: How a Proxy Fight Over Campus Politics Brought Down Harvard’s President, Nicholas Confessore, Updated Jan. 3, 2024. Amid plagiarism allegations and a backlash to campus antisemitism, Claudine Gay became an avatar for broader criticisms of academia.

The resignation of Harvard’s president, Claudine Gay, on Tuesday followed a lengthening catalog of plagiarism allegations that appeared to steadily sap her support among the university’s faculty, students and alumni. But for many of Dr. Gay’s critics, her departure was also a proxy victory in the escalating ideological battle over American higher education.

Taking down Dr. Gay was a “a huge scalp” in the “fight for civilizational sanity,” Josh Hammer, a conservative talk show host and writer, wrote on the social media platform X.

“A crushing loss to D.E.I., wokeism, antisemitism & university elitism,” wrote the conservative commentator Liz Wheeler.

“This is the beginning of the end for D.E.I. in America’s institutions,” said the conservative activist Christopher Rufo, who had helped publicize the plagiarism allegations.

Until last month, conservative-inspired efforts to remake higher education had unfolded primarily at public universities in right-leaning states such as Florida and Texas, where G.O.P. lawmakers and state officials could exercise their legislative and executive powers to ban diversity offices, set up right-leaning academic centers and demand changes to curriculum.

But Dr. Gay’s resignation on Tuesday secured their movement a signal victory at the country’s most storied private university, which had for weeks resisted calls for a change in leadership.

“I think there are major problems with higher education, and Harvard represents a lot of those problems,” said John D. Sailer, a senior fellow at the National Association of Scholars, a conservative education nonprofit. “To the extent those problems have been exposed, and skepticism increases towards the current best instantiation of higher education, I think that puts a lot of wind in the sails of reform.”

Dr. Gay’s defenders seemed to agree, warning that her resignation would encourage conservative interference in universities and imperil academic freedom. (Though some experts have rated Harvard itself poorly on campus free speech during Dr. Gay’s tenure in leadership.)

“This is a terrible moment,” said Khalil Gibran Muhammad, a professor of history, race and public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. “Republican congressional leaders have declared war on the independence of colleges and universities, just as Governor DeSantis has done in Florida. They will only be emboldened by Gay’s resignation.”

Barely a month had passed since Dr. Gay had appeared, along with the presidents of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania, at a congressional hearing on campus antisemitism, where their lawyerly defense of a student’s right to engage in anti-Jewish speech provoked national outrage. Some Jewish students, faculty and donors also felt Dr. Gay had been too timid in her response to the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel by Hamas, as well as to complaints over antisemitism on campus.

Two of the three presidents who spoke at the hearing are now out of office. (The second of those is M. Elizabeth Magill, who resigned as the University of Pennsylvania president just four days after she testified before Congress.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Harvard named Alan Garber as its interim president. Here’s what to know about him, Jacey Fortin, Jan. 3, 2024 (print ed.).  Dr. Garber is an economist and physician who told The Harvard Crimson that he regretted the university’s initial statement in response to the Israel-Hamas war.

Alan M. Garber, an economist and physician who is Harvard’s provost and chief academic officer, will now serve as its interim president.

The Harvard Corporation described Dr. Garber as “a distinguished and wide-ranging scholar” in a statement on Tuesday. “We are fortunate to have someone of Alan’s broad and deep experience, incisive judgment, collaborative style, and extraordinary institutional knowledge to carry forward key priorities and to guide the university through this interim period,” the Corporation said.

Dr. Garber, who was appointed provost in 2011, has a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard and an M.D. from Stanford. He is a member of the Association of American Physicians, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine.

Lawrence H. Summers, a former Harvard president and former Treasury secretary, said in an email that Dr. Garber, “who is universally liked, admired, and respected, is a superb choice as interim president.”

In an interview with The Harvard Crimson in November, Dr. Garber said that he regretted the university’s initial statement in response to the war in Israel and Gaza. The statement was denounced by politicians, academics and Jewish groups who said that it did not condemn Hamas strongly enough, and he spoke positively about a more forceful statement that followed from Dr. Gay, which condemned Hamas for “terrorist atrocities.”

Dr. Garber added that the crisis over the university’s response to the war has been the most serious that Harvard has faced during his tenure as provost.

“The community was immediately divided, and that is not true of every crisis that we face,” he told The Crimson. “It is a combustible situation, and one in which many people are grieving.”

Jan. 2

ap logoAssociated Press, Harvard president Claudine Gay resigns amid plagiarism claims, backlash from antisemitism testimony, Steve LeBlanc and Collin Binkley, Jan. 2, 2024. Harvard University President Claudine Gay resigned Tuesday amid plagiarism accusations and criticism over testimony at a congressional hearing where she was unable to say unequivocally that calls on campus for the genocide of Jews would violate the school’s conduct policy.

harvard logoGay is the second Ivy League president to resign in the past month following the congressional testimony. Gay, Harvard’s first Black president, announced her departure just months into her tenure in a letter to the Harvard community.

Following the congressional hearing, Gay’s academic career came under intense scrutiny by conservative activists who unearthed several instances of alleged plagiarism in her 1997 doctoral dissertation. Harvard’s governing board initially rallied behind Gay, saying a review of her scholarly work turned up “a few instances of inadequate citation” but no evidence of research misconduct.

Days later, the Harvard Corporation revealed that it found two additional examples of “duplicative language without appropriate attribution.” The board said Gay would update her dissertation and request corrections.

The Harvard Corporation said the resignation came “with great sadness” and thanked Gay for her “deep and unwavering commitment to Harvard and to the pursuit of academic excellence.”

Alan M. Garber, provost and chief academic officer, will serve as interim president until Harvard finds a replacement, the board said in a statement. Garber, an economist and physician, has served as provost for 12 years.

Gay’s resignation was celebrated by the conservatives who put her alleged plagiarism in the national spotlight. Christopher Rufo, an activist who has helped rally the GOP against critical race theory and other cultural issues, said he’s “glad she’s gone.”

“Rather than take responsibility for minimizing antisemitism, committing serial plagiarism, intimidating the free press, and damaging the institution, she calls her critics racist,” Rufo said on X, formerly Twitter. Rufo added that “this is the poison” of diversity, equity and inclusion ideology.

Critical race theory is a way of thinking about America’s history through the lens of racism. Scholars developed it during the 1970s and 1980s in response to what scholars viewed as a lack of racial progress following the civil rights legislation of the 1960s. It centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions, which function to maintain the dominance of white people in society.

Gay, in her letter, said it has been “distressing to have doubt cast on my commitments to confronting hate and to upholding scholarly rigor — two bedrock values that are fundamental to who I am — and frightening to be subjected to personal attacks and threats fueled by racial animus.”

But Gay, who is returning to the school’s faculty, added “it has become clear that it is in the best interests of Harvard for me to resign so that our community can navigate this moment of extraordinary challenge.”

Gay and the presidents of MIT and the University of Pennsylvania came under fire last month for their lawyerly answers to a line of questioning from New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, who asked whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” would violate the colleges’ code of conduct.

The three presidents had been called before the Republican-led House Committee on Education and the Workforce to answer accusations that universities were failing to protect Jewish students amid rising fears of antisemitism worldwide and fallout from Israel’s intensifying war in Gaza, which faces heightened criticism for the mounting Palestinian death toll.

Gay said it depended on the context, adding that when “speech crosses into conduct, that violates our policies.” The answer faced swift backlash from Republican and some Democratic lawmakers as well as the White House. The hearing was parodied in the opening skit on “Saturday Night Live.”

 

Recently resigned Harvard President Claudine Gay (Associated Press file photo by Steven Senne).

Recently resigned Harvard President Claudine Gay (Associated Press file photo by Steven Senne).

ap logoAssociated Press, Harvard president Claudine Gay resigns amid plagiarism claims, backlash from antisemitism testimony, Steve LeBlanc and Collin Binkley, Jan. 2, 2024. Harvard University President Claudine Gay resigned Tuesday amid plagiarism accusations and criticism over testimony at a congressional hearing where she was unable to say unequivocally that calls on campus for the genocide of Jews would violate the school’s conduct policy.

harvard logoGay is the second Ivy League president to resign in the past month following the congressional testimony. Gay, Harvard’s first Black president, announced her departure just months into her tenure in a letter to the Harvard community.

Following the congressional hearing, Gay’s academic career came under intense scrutiny by conservative activists who unearthed several instances of alleged plagiarism in her 1997 doctoral dissertation. Harvard’s governing board initially rallied behind Gay, saying a review of her scholarly work turned up “a few instances of inadequate citation” but no evidence of research misconduct.

Days later, the Harvard Corporation revealed that it found two additional examples of “duplicative language without appropriate attribution.” The board said Gay would update her dissertation and request corrections.

The Harvard Corporation said the resignation came “with great sadness” and thanked Gay for her “deep and unwavering commitment to Harvard and to the pursuit of academic excellence.”

Alan M. Garber, provost and chief academic officer, will serve as interim president until Harvard finds a replacement, the board said in a statement. Garber, an economist and physician, has served as provost for 12 years.

Gay’s resignation was celebrated by the conservatives who put her alleged plagiarism in the national spotlight. Christopher Rufo, an activist who has helped rally the GOP against critical race theory and other cultural issues, said he’s “glad she’s gone.”

“Rather than take responsibility for minimizing antisemitism, committing serial plagiarism, intimidating the free press, and damaging the institution, she calls her critics racist,” Rufo said on X, formerly Twitter. Rufo added that “this is the poison” of diversity, equity and inclusion ideology.

Critical race theory is a way of thinking about America’s history through the lens of racism. Scholars developed it during the 1970s and 1980s in response to what scholars viewed as a lack of racial progress following the civil rights legislation of the 1960s. It centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions, which function to maintain the dominance of white people in society.

Gay, in her letter, said it has been “distressing to have doubt cast on my commitments to confronting hate and to upholding scholarly rigor — two bedrock values that are fundamental to who I am — and frightening to be subjected to personal attacks and threats fueled by racial animus.”

But Gay, who is returning to the school’s faculty, added “it has become clear that it is in the best interests of Harvard for me to resign so that our community can navigate this moment of extraordinary challenge.”

Gay and the presidents of MIT and the University of Pennsylvania came under fire last month for their lawyerly answers to a line of questioning from New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, who asked whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” would violate the colleges’ code of conduct.

The three presidents had been called before the Republican-led House Committee on Education and the Workforce to answer accusations that universities were failing to protect Jewish students amid rising fears of antisemitism worldwide and fallout from Israel’s intensifying war in Gaza, which faces heightened criticism for the mounting Palestinian death toll.

Gay said it depended on the context, adding that when “speech crosses into conduct, that violates our policies.” The answer faced swift backlash from Republican and some Democratic lawmakers as well as the White House. The hearing was parodied in the opening skit on “Saturday Night Live.”

 

December

Dec. 29

 

claudine gay steven senne ap

wsj logoWall Street Journal, U.S. Education News: Plagiarism allegations surfaced about a year ago by critics who have circled Gay for years, Douglas Belkin and Arian Campo-Flores, Dec. 29, 2023. Behind the Campaign to Take Down Harvard’s Claudine Gay (shown above in an AP photo).

From the time she began carving her path through the most elite private schools in the nation to the presidency of Harvard University, Claudine Gay earned plaudits and promotions.

She also amassed detractors who were skeptical of her work and qualifications and outraged by what they saw as the political decisions she made as an increasingly powerful administrator.

Those two forces collided in spectacular fashion this month after plagiarism allegations that began circulating online about a year ago spilled into public view due to the efforts of conservative activists including Christopher Rufo, who has said he wants Gay removed from her job as Harvard president. The allegations have sparked criticism of Harvard over the process that led to Gay’s selection as president, the first Black person to hold the post, and the university’s transparency around how it responded to the plagiarism claims.

Harvard said it first learned about allegations of plagiarism against Gay in October and that the Harvard Corporation, the school’s 12-member governing board, engaged three political scientists from outside the university to carry out their own investigation. The school has declined to identify them or release their review.

In December, Harvard said the review revealed no evidence of intentional deception or recklessness in Gay’s work as a political scientist but did find instances of inadequate citation which “while regrettable, did not constitute research misconduct.” Gay requested corrections, and the board reaffirmed its support for her and has said additional charges of plagiarism were without merit.
Harvard President Claudine Gay’s early December House testimony about antisemitism on campus was widely criticized. Photo: Haiyun Jiang/Bloomberg News

What the school didn’t initially disclose is that after the allegations were brought to the governing board in October by the New York Post, the board hired a law firm that specializes in defamation law. That firm, Clare Locke, sent a 15-page letter to the Post saying the alleged instances of plagiarism were “both cited and properly credited,” according to excerpts of the letter published by the paper. The school threatened to sue the paper if it published allegations against Gay.

“Our letter responded only to specific passages identified by the Post on October 24,” the law firm said in a statement, adding that the paper “made its own decision” on whether to publish the allegations. The Post published stories this month.

ny times logoNew York Times, Inside the News Industry’s Uneasy Negotiations With OpenAI, Benjamin Mullin, Dec. 29, 2023. Several major publishers have been in talks to license content to the creator of ChatGPT, but agreement on the price and terms has been elusive.

For months, some of the biggest players in the U.S. media industry have been in confidential talks with OpenAI on a tricky issue: the price and terms of licensing their content to the artificial intelligence company.

The curtain on those negotiations was pulled back this week when The New York Times sued OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement, alleging that the companies used its content without permission to build artificial intelligence products.

ny times logoNew York Times, ChatGPT Helps, and Worries, Business Consultants, Study Finds, David Berreby, Dec. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The A.I. tool helped most with creative tasks. With more analytical work, however, the technology led to more mistakes.

washington post logoWashington Post, College chancellor fired for adult videos says it’s a free-speech issue, Kim Bellware, Dec. 29, 2023 (print ed.). In 2007, when Joseph Gow was welcomed to his new post as the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, he sketched out a wish for the future. “In a few years,” he told the school’s alumni magazine, “I want people to be saying the same kind of nice things they’re saying about me as I start: That that guy came in, he showed us a certain way and wow, he has stuck to it, and it worked.”

Gow stuck to his ways for 16 years, becoming UW-La Crosse’s second-longest-serving chancellor, a role formerly called president. But on Wednesday, his tenure ended abruptly when the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents unanimously voted to fire him after discovering sexually explicit videos Gow, 63, had produced and filmed with his wife.

wisconsin map with largest cities CustomIn statements, university officials used language such as “abhorrent” and “disgusted,” with University of Wisconsin System President Jay Rothman saying “specific conduct” by Gow had “subjected the university to significant reputational harm.”

Gow had already announced this fall that he was stepping down in the springtime and planned to return to the classroom, where he is a tenured communications professor. That plan is now in jeopardy as Rothman seeks to have the professor’s tenure status reviewed.

The firing and the fallout has come as a surprise to Gow, who said the regents never specified which policy he violated and did not invite him to speak or defend himself at their hastily called meeting Wednesday night. He is also surprised that videos of legal, consensual sex with his wife, Carmen Wilson, made in their private time, have run afoul of standards in a university system that just six years ago adopted a sweeping new policy on academic freedom and freedom of expression.

The sexuality and relationship books the couple have co-written under pseudonyms and the videos they have filmed and produced would be covered under the school’s free-expression policy, Gow argued.

Wilson, 56, was even more succinct, arguing that the board’s actions against her husband demonstrate that “free speech is free — as long as it aligns with [their] values.”

Gow’s case comes amid a broader discussion over the extent to which employers can punish or marginalize employees for legal behavior they pursue in their private lives. In the past few years, nurses, teachers, paramedics, judges and professionals in other fields have lost their jobs after they were outed as having an account on the adult content site OnlyFans or other pornography sites. In Virginia, a woman running for a state House of Delegates seat faced backlash for performing sex acts online for tips.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Columbia’s President Has Avoided Fallout Over Israel-Gaza Protests, Sharon Otterman, Dec. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The university has faded from the spotlight even as its peer schools were scrutinized over their responses to the war and claims of antisemitism on campus.

columbia logoIn the weeks after Oct. 7, Columbia University was the scene of rising tensions over the Israel-Hamas war on American college campuses.

A Jewish student said he was assaulted after putting up posters of hostages. Pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian students accused one another of support for genocide in a series of heated protests and counter-protests.

But as the fall semester ended, Columbia faded from the spotlight even as its peer schools, Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania in particular, were scrutinized over their responses to the war and claims of antisemitism on campus.

Supporters of Columbia’s president, Nemat Shafik, credit her diplomatic skills in avoiding a similar public relations crisis. But detractors said she has bent too far to the demands of Israel supporters, angering students and some faculty members but keeping powerful donors and trustees mostly happy.

She might also have benefited from a bit of luck.

When Congress invited her to a congressional hearing on antisemitism on Dec. 5 with her peers from Harvard, Penn and M.I.T., Dr. Shafik said she could not go. She told representatives that she had already planned to attend the COP28 climate conference in Dubai, where she introduced a panel about women leaders.

The Congressional hearing did not go well. The University of Pennsylvania president lost her job and the Harvard president became mired in weeks of controversy.

Dec. 28

ny times logoNew York Times, The Times Sues OpenAI and Microsoft Over A.I.’s Use of Copyrighted Work, Michael M. Grynbaum and Ryan Mac, Dec. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Millions of articles from The New York Times were used to train chatbots that now compete with it, the lawsuit said.

microsoft logo CustomThe New York Times sued OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement on Wednesday, opening a new front in the increasingly intense legal battle over the unauthorized use of published work to train artificial intelligence technologies.

The Times is the first major American media organization to sue the companies, the creators of ChatGPT and other popular A.I. chat gpt logoplatforms, over copyright issues associated with its written works. The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan, contends that millions of articles published by The Times were used to train automated chatbots that now compete with the news outlet as a source of reliable information.

The suit does not include an exact monetary demand. But it says the defendants should be held responsible for “billions of dollars in statutory and actual damages” related to the “unlawful copying and use of The Times’s uniquely valuable works.” It also calls for the companies to destroy any chatbot models and training data that use copyrighted material from The Times.

Representatives of OpenAI and Microsoft could not be immediately reached for comment.

The lawsuit could test the emerging legal contours of generative A.I. technologies — so called for the text, images and other content they can create after learning from large data sets — and could carry major implications for the news industry. The Times is among a small number of outlets that have built successful business models from online journalism, but dozens of newspapers and magazines have been hobbled by readers’ migration to the internet.

At the same time, OpenAI and other A.I. tech firms — which use a wide variety of online texts, from newspaper articles to poems to screenplays, to train chatbots — are attracting billions of dollars in funding.

ny times logoNew York Times, A.I. Can Make Art That Feels Human. Whose Fault Is That? Jason Farago, Dec. 28, 2023. A fake Drake/Weeknd mash-up is not a threat to culture. It’s a warning, our critic writes: We can’t let our imaginations shrink to machine size.

This was the year — ask your stockbroker, or the disgraced management of Sports Illustrated — that artificial intelligence went from a dreamy projection to an ambient menace and perpetual sales pitch. Does it feel like the future to you, or has A.I. already taken on the staleness and scamminess of the now-worthless nonfungible token?

Artists have been deploying A.I. technologies for a while, after all: Ed Atkins, Martine Syms, Ian Cheng and Agnieszka Kurant have made use of neural networks and large language models for years, and orchestras were playing A.I.-produced Bach variations back in the 1990s. I suppose there was something nifty the first time I tried ChatGPT — a slightly more sophisticated grandchild of Eliza, the ’60s therapist chatbot — though I’ve barely used it since then; the hallucinatory falsehoods of ChatGPT make it worthless for journalists, and even its tone seems an insult to my humanity. (I asked: “Who was the better painter, Manet or Degas?” Response: “It is not appropriate to compare artists in terms of ‘better’ or ‘worse,’ as art is a highly subjective field.”)

Still, the explosive growth of text-to-image generators such as Midjourney, Stable Diffusion and Dall-E (the last is named after the corniest artist of the 20th century; that should have been a clue) provoked anxieties that A.I. was coming for culture — that certain capabilities once understood as uniquely human now faced computational rivals. Is this really the case?

Dec. 27

 

Michael Christopher Brown, a photojournalist, has experimented with A.I. in a documentary mode, with controversial results, as with this A.I. image of refugees. ”Photographers know how to create imagery that people respond to,” he said. But these images are “a collaborative effort with a machine (Image Credit: Michael Christopher Brown). Artificial Intelligence (AI) composit image by Michael Christopher Brown).

 Michael Christopher Brown, a photojournalist, has experimented with A.I. in a documentary mode, with controversial results, as with this A.I. image of refugees above. ”Photographers know how to create imagery that people respond to,” he said. But these images are “a collaborative effort with a machine (Image Credit: Michael Christopher Brown). Artificial Intelligence (AI) composit image by Michael Christopher Brown).

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: A.I. Is the Future of Photography. Does That Mean Photography Is Dead? Gideon Jacobs, Dec. 26, 2023. Mr. Jacobs is a critic and writer on photography.

John Szarkowski, the legendary curator at the MoMA, once described photography as “the act of pointing.” And for the nearly 200 years since its inception, photography has consisted of capturing a visual perspective from the physical world using light — first with light-sensitive plates, then film, then digital sensors. When digital cameras became widely available, many photographers lamented the move away from analog technology but basically Szarkowski’s definition still held: Photography consists of pointing, as a reaction to something that exists in the world.

With advent of A.I. image generators, however, this definition feels obsolete.

Generative A.I. tools can produce photorealistic images, typically in response to written prompts. These images are available for purchase from major stock photography agencies, alongside traditional photos. They routinely go viral before being debunked. They even occasionally win prestigious photography prizes. All if which has reignited a two-centuries-old debate: What exactly qualifies as a photograph?

This is not a matter of etymological nit-picking. Calling A.I. images “photographs” — a practice I encounter often — can add to a sense of disorientation in what already feels like a profoundly disorienting moment. Thanks to the ubiquity of digital cameras, we live in a world that’s already flooded with photographs — more than a trillion are taken each year. These digital images can already be easily manipulated through existing tools, including ones built into your phone. Yet they still have some direct relationship to real scenes and events that have occurred.

Now we face a new deluge of images that, however artful or convincing, are at a remove from the world. A.I. images are typically digital composites of countless existing photographs, so by what definition are they themselves real? No wonder some observers are asking “how can we believe anything we see?”

Aside from very real concerns about the livelihoods of professional photographers, especially those who work in commercial photography, I worry that A.I. image generators may leave society as a whole more vulnerable to widespread manipulation — as presaged by hoax A.I. images of Donald Trump violently resisting arrest or, somewhat more comically, of Pope Francis wearing a Balenciaga-inspired coat.

But for all the negative potential, I can also see a possibility that these developments will start a conversation about — and foster an educated skepticism of — all visual media and the relationship of these images, however they are made, to so-called truth.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Times Sues OpenAI and Microsoft Over A.I.’s Use of Copyrighted Work, Michael M. Grynbaum and Ryan Mac, Dec. 27, 2023. Millions of articles from The New York Times were used to train chatbots that now compete with it, the lawsuit said.

microsoft logo CustomThe New York Times sued OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement on Wednesday, opening a new front in the increasingly intense legal battle over the unauthorized use of published work to train artificial intelligence technologies.

The Times is the first major American media organization to sue the companies, the creators of ChatGPT and other popular A.I. platforms, over copyright issues associated with its written works. The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan, contends that millions of articles published by The Times were used to train automated chatbots that now compete with the news outlet as a source of reliable information.

The suit does not include an exact monetary demand. But it says the defendants should be held responsible for “billions of dollars in statutory and actual damages” related to the “unlawful copying and use of The Times’s uniquely valuable works.” It also calls for the companies to destroy any chatbot models and training data that use copyrighted material from The Times.

Representatives of OpenAI and Microsoft could not be immediately reached for comment.

The lawsuit could test the emerging legal contours of generative A.I. technologies — so called for the text, images and other content they can create after learning from large data sets — and could carry major implications for the news industry. The Times is among a small number of outlets that have built successful business models from online journalism, but dozens of newspapers and magazines have been hobbled by readers’ migration to the internet.

At the same time, OpenAI and other A.I. tech firms — which use a wide variety of online texts, from newspaper articles to poems to screenplays, to train chatbots — are attracting billions of dollars in funding.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Private Liberal Arts College Is Drowning in Debt. Should Alabama Rescue It? Emily Cochrane, Dec. 27, 2023. Birmingham-Southern College was about to receive a multimillion-dollar loan, but a state official said it was not a justifiable use of taxpayer money.

On a crisp fall day at Birmingham-Southern College, the students were making their way to class, stealing a few cold minutes under the golden ginkgo trees. Inside the red brick buildings that dot the 192-acre campus, professors were preparing exams for finals week, while administrators readied the first round of acceptance letters for the next school year.

Yet looming over those quintessential scenes of college life was an unsettling question: Would the school even make it to another fall semester?

The private liberal arts school in Birmingham, Ala., has been plagued by financial instability for years, with the 2009 recession and the coronavirus pandemic exacerbating the consequences of overly ambitious investments and hulking debts.

Closure seemed imminent earlier this year, until Alabama lawmakers appeared to offer a lifeline: a law tailored toward saving the 167-year-old school with a program that could loan millions of dollars. But in October, the state treasurer denied the school’s loan application, sending administrators scrambling once again to save the school.

For many outside the school, its fate is simply about whether a private school that has mismanaged its finances deserves any kind of taxpayer support, especially in a state that has chronically underfunded its public education system. But for alumni and the school’s supporters, it is also a question of whether a classical liberal arts education is still valued at a moment when colleges and universities are facing intense scrutiny over their curricula, admissions and cultures.

Dec. 25

ny times logoNew York Times, Skyhorse Expands Its Footprint in Conservative Publishing, Alexandra Alter and Elizabeth A. Harris, Dec. 25, 2023 (print ed.). An independent publishing company known for releasing books with opposing political viewpoints is buying Regnery, a well-known conservative press.

Skyhorse Publishing, which has built a reputation for taking on books other houses consider too controversial to publish, has signed a deal to buy Regnery Publishing, a conservative press that has published politicians and media personalities including former President Donald J. Trump, Senator Rand Paul and Ann Coulter.

Tony Lyons, president and publisher of Skyhorse, said the addition of Regnery bolstered his aim of publishing across the political spectrum.

“I’d like Skyhorse to be the pre-eminent free speech publishing company that publishes on all sides, so I think this is a great combination,” he said. “Regnery is the best-known conservative publishing company in America, and I think we can do things for them that they weren’t able to do for themselves.”

Skyhorse, though much smaller than the country’s biggest publishing houses, such as Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster, is large for an independent publisher, with over 10,000 titles in print. It has garnered attention in recent years for taking on books that have been dropped by other companies because of scandal or public backlash.

Skyhorse acquired a biography of Philip Roth in 2021 after accusations surfaced against its author of sexual assault and misconduct, and the book was dropped by W.W. Norton. The year before, Skyhorse had picked up Woody Allen’s memoir “Apropos of Nothing” after its publication was canceled by Hachette. The book went on to become a New York Times best seller.

Skyhorse has also sparked controversy by publishing books by figures who espouse theories that are outside of the mainstream altogether, including Alex Jones, the conspiracy broadcaster whose recent book examines “the global elite’s international conspiracy to enslave humanity and all life on the planet.”

Mr. Lyons said he is “looking for a broad array of books that contradict each other.” Last year, Skyhorse released two versions of the Jan. 6 report, one with a foreword by a former speechwriter for Mr. Trump, the other introduced by a former Democratic congresswoman.

Regnery, on the other hand, has a distinctly conservative bent. Founded in 1947 by Henry Regnery, the company carved out a niche in the publishing landscape, which tends to skew to the left politically, by publishing conservative politicians and authors including Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Mitt Romney and former President Ronald Reagan, along with Christian titles, children’s books and fiction.

In a statement, David Evans, chief operating officer of Salem Media Group, Regnery’s parent company, said he believed Skyhorse “will both be a powerful steward of this important brand and an engine for its future growth.”

Regnery, which has projected sales of $10 million for 2023, will become an imprint of Skyhorse, and its 1,548 titles will be absorbed into the Skyhorse Publishing catalog. Skyhorse and Salem Media are not disclosing the terms of the sale.

Mr. Lyons said one of his aims is to get more conservative titles into bookstores. “Independent bookstores don’t carry most conservative books, but I think that stores ought to carry books that are provocative and dangerous and disturbing and that encourage dialogue and debate,” he said.

The addition of Regnery gives Skyhorse a much bigger footprint and greater clout in the conservative publishing sphere.

Mr. Lyons said that he doesn’t plan to add more liberal titles or add a left-leaning imprint because he feels the mainstream publishing marketplace is already saturated with those views.

“It’s a side of the argument that’s better represented in publishing,” he said.

Skyhorse has 20 imprints that publish a range of titles. Its catalog cuts across genres, including science fiction and fantasy novels, thrillers, cookbooks, books about sports and a pocket edition of the U.S. Constitution.

A small number of its books, however, gather outsize interest. Its best-selling book is by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — “The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health,” which was released in 2021 and makes baseless claims against Dr. Fauci. It has sold around 1.3 million copies. Mr. Kennedy is now a candidate for president and Mr. Lyons is co-chairman of a super PAC that supports him.

ny times logoNew York Times, Claudine Gay Turmoil Forces Harvard’s Secretive ‘Corporation’ Into Spotlight, Rob Copeland and Maureen Farrell, Dec. 25, 2023. Harvard's powerful board has backed its president and said little else, yet a member privately said “generational change” may be needed.

On Tuesday, the day before Harvard acknowledged more problems with its president’s scholarly work, two members of its governing body sat in a private dining room at Bar Enza, a popular Cambridge restaurant, and faced a grilling.

It was an exceedingly rare opportunity for a small group of prominent academics to speak directly to members of the reclusive board in charge of the school, as it endured a turbulent period. The campus was convulsed by demands for the resignation of Harvard’s president, Claudine Gay, after allegations of plagiarism and anger over her handling of antisemitism and threats to Jewish students, which spurred a donor revolt.

The two board members, the nonprofit founder Tracy Palandjian and the private-equity executive Paul Finnegan, were told directly that they had to do more to address the ongoing maelstrom consuming the campus.

“You need to be more out front of this,” Jeff Flier, the former dean of Harvard Medical School, recalled telling them. “If people are saying the university is making mistakes — they are talking about you!”

The secretive, powerful group that runs Harvard, known as the Harvard Corporation, has projected unity amid the unyielding turmoil around Dr. Gay. The board’s Dec. 12 announcement to stand by Dr. Gay, who is also a member, was followed by silence, even in the wake of rising demands for her removal by powerful donors, alumni and media figures.

Yet private conversations with donors, professors and others indicate that there are signs of tensions among board members. Some members have conceded they need to address the billowing storms, people involved in those conversations have said. Critics and sympathizers who have tried to privately counsel the board say members have shown little concrete impetus toward changing their approach.

At Bar Enza, the corporation members had no specific answers to the professors’ pleas for action, according to people who were there. The professors did not ask for Dr. Gay’s resignation, but rather an explanation of the board’s plan to stabilize the school, said Steven Pinker, a Harvard psychologist at the table. The board members offered muted apologies, and promised follow-ups.

The board members seemed aware of mounting disapproval. One toted a folder of news articles critical of the university, a Harvard spokesman confirmed.

The overall message, relayed Dr. Pinker, was that “they kind of agreed with us” that the corporation had helped create some of the problems it now needed to solve.

Ms. Palandjian told the dinner group, leaders of a Harvard council on academic freedom, that replacing the university’s president might not be going far enough to get Harvard back on course. Harvard required “generational change,” she said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Who are the members of the Harvard Corporation? Colbi Edmonds, Dec. 25, 2023 (print ed.). The Harvard Corporation is a powerful board that governs the university. Here’s what we know about the members. Gay, the powerful board governing the university has been thrust into the spotlight. Despite the mounting scrutiny over Dr. Gay, the Harvard Corporation has so far shown support for her.

The board has shown unity for its embattled president. But private conversations show signs of tensions among members.

The Harvard Corporation — formally known as the President and Fellows of Harvard College — consists of 13 members (one position is currently unfilled), is responsible for the hiring of the university president and is the arbiter of major policy decisions. Members, who meet several times a year, are not paid for their role.

The board, the smaller and more powerful of two governing boards at Harvard, dates back to 1650, making it the oldest corporation in the Western Hemisphere, according to the university. For generations, the corporation was made up of only the university president and six others, but it expanded in 2010 to 13 members amid calls for clearer communication with the broader Harvard community, according to the school’s Office of the Governing Boards.

ny times logoNew York Times, Suit Against Twitter Over Unpaid Bonuses Can Proceed, Judge Rules, Johnny Diaz, Dec. 25, 2023 (print ed.). A federal judge on Friday gave the go-ahead to a lawsuit against the social media company X, formerly known as Twitter, in which workers claim that the company promised but never paid millions of dollars in bonuses.

x logo twitterIn June, Mark Schobinger, a former senior director of compensation for Twitter who lives in Texas, sued the company, claiming breach of contract under California law. The company has its headquarters in San Francisco.

elon musk sideviewMr. Schobinger said that both before and after the billionaire Elon Musk, right, bought Twitter last year, the company had orally promised employees 50 percent of their 2022 targeted bonuses if they stayed with the company in the first quarter of 2023. However, the bonuses were never paid, according to the suit.

Mr. Schobinger filed the suit on his own behalf and on behalf of nearly 2,000 other current and former workers. The amount in dispute is greater than $5 million, according to court records.

In a three-page opinion denying the company’s motion to dismiss the case, Judge Vince Chhabria of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that Mr. Schobinger had “plausibly stated a breach of contract claim” under California law.

Mr. Schobinger maintained that he was covered by the bonus plan and that he had stayed with the company through the final possible payout date.

“Once Schobinger did what Twitter asked, Twitter’s offer to pay him a bonus in return became a binding contract under California law,” the judge wrote. “And by allegedly refusing to pay Schobinger his promised bonus, Twitter violated that contract.”

Lawyers for the company had argued that the performance bonus plan was “not an enforceable contract, because it provides only for a discretionary bonus,” the ruling said.

The judge wrote that Mr. Schobinger was not suing to enforce the discretionary bonus plan but “to enforce Twitter’s alleged subsequent oral promise that employees would, in fact, receive a percentage of the annual bonus contemplated by the plan if they stayed with the company.”

The company argued that an oral promise was not a contract and that Texas law should apply, but the judge found that California law governed the case. But, the judge wrote, “Twitter’s contrary arguments all fail.”

Dec. 24

chat gpt logo

ny times logoNew York Times, How Strangers Got My Email Address From ChatGPT, Jeremy White De, Dec. 24, 2023. Researchers used the A.I. tool to extract contact information for more than 30 New York Times employees, demonstrating the risks to privacy.

Rui Zhu, a Ph.D. candidate at Indiana University Bloomington, had my email address, he explained, because GPT-3.5 Turbo, one of the latest and most robust large language models (L.L.M.) from OpenAI, had delivered it to him.

My contact information was included in a list of business and personal email addresses for more than 30 New York Times employees that a research team, including Mr. Rui Zhu, had managed to extract from GPT-3.5 Turbo in the fall of this year. With some work, the team had been able to “bypass the model’s restrictions on responding to privacy-related queries,” Mr. Zhu wrote.

My email address is not a secret. But the success of the researchers’ experiment should ring alarm bells because it reveals the potential for ChatGPT, and generative A.I. tools like it, to reveal much more sensitive personal information with just a bit of tweaking.

When you ask ChatGPT a question, it does not simply search the web to find the answer. Instead, it draws on what it has “learned” from reams of information — training data that was used to feed and develop the model — to generate one. L.L.M.s train on vast amounts of text, which may include personal information pulled from the Internet and other sources. That training data informs how the A.I. tool works, but it is not supposed to be recalled verbatim.

Dec. 23

washington post logoWashington Post, How a mega-merger could soon shake up the media industry, Jeremy Barr, Dec. 23, 2023 (print ed.). The potential union of Paramount and Warner Bros. Discovery is mostly about streaming — and keeping up with Disney and Netflix.

In a global entertainment marketplace dominated by giants such as Disney and Netflix, smaller streamers just can’t compete.

Take Paramount Plus. It’s got the “Frasier” reboot, all the “Yellowstone” spinoffs, “60 Minutes” and enough backlogged seasons of “Survivor” to sustain you through a long stay on a deserted island.

Or Max, which has CNN programming, “Friends,” “The Sopranos” and “The White Lotus,” not to mention both Guy Fieri and the Property Brothers.

Yet in an era when more consumers than ever before are shunning movie theaters in favor of home entertainment options while also cutting off their cable subscriptions, neither streamer is thriving financially.

That’s why their parent companies — already two of the biggest players in media — are considering joining forces, in hopes that their combined offerings and audience share can keep them competitive in the streaming era.

This week, Paramount held preliminary talks about a possible merger with Warner Bros. Discovery, itself the product of last year’s merger between CNN parent company WarnerMedia and lifestyle channel megalith Discovery Inc., according to a person with knowledge of the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment — and who cautioned that discussions were in a very early stage.

Industry analysts say the deal, if consummated, would allow both entities to better compete against Netflix and Disney, both of which boast far more paid subscribers to their streaming services. (Amazon also has a large number of subscribers for its Prime service, which includes digital video as well as shopping.)

“There’s need for consolidation for both companies,” said Dave Heger, a financial analyst for Edward Jones. “It certainly would at least put them more in the ballpark of the other big players in the industry.”
Industry analyst Brad Adgate said that it would make sense to combine WBD’s money-losing Max with the money-losing Paramount Plus, reducing costs and potentially increasing profitability.

That’s particularly important because traditional television channels are increasingly losing viewers who are canceling their cable packages and instead turning to streaming channels and free content online. And, as viewers cut the cord, cable companies are less willing to pay big bucks to television companies for their content, putting at risk one of the media industry’s most reliable sources of funding.

By packaging brands like HBO, TBS and Cartoon Network, the combined company would have more leverage to demand higher fees from distributors like DirecTV and Comcast. It would also have a larger total audience to sell to advertisers, a key piece of the revenue pie.

ny times logoNew York Times, Apple’s Newest Headache: An App That Upended Its Control Over Messaging, Tripp Mickle and Mike Isaac, Dec. 23, 2023 (print ed.). apple logo rainbowBeeper Mini, which offers iPhone messaging on Android phones, has grown fast. Its duel with the tech giant has gotten the attention of antitrust regulators.

Since it was introduced on Dec. 5, Beeper Mini has quickly become a headache and potential antitrust problem for Apple. It has poked a hole in Apple’s messaging system, while critics say it has demonstrated how Apple bullies potential competitors.

Dec. 21

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Is Shari Redstone, Ruler of a Vast Media Kingdom, Weighing a Sale? Benjamin Mullin, Dec. 21, 2023. She fought to keep control of her family’s media empire. Now she’s considering an exit as financial pressures mount. Godfather” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” has had several owners over the last century: Its co-founder Adolph Zukor. The industrial conglomerate Gulf+Western. At one point, it was a stand-alone public company.

But for nearly three decades, Paramount’s fate has been controlled by the Redstone family, after its pugnacious patriarch, Sumner Redstone, won a bidding war for the studio in 1994.

shari redstone mike blake reutersThat may be about to change. Shari Redstone, Mr. Redstone’s daughter (shown in a Reuters photo by Mike Blake), is weighing a sale of her family’s controlling interest in Paramount’s parent company just five years after she won a fight to retain control of her family’s media empire.

Suitors for both Ms. Redstone’s stake and the company she controls are already lining up, including Warner Bros. Discovery, the owner of HBO and the Warner Bros. movie studio, and Skydance, the movie studio that helps produce hit Paramount franchises like “Top Gun” and “Mission: Impossible.”

So far, the pursuit of Paramount has the makings of a drama fit for the silver screen.

Dec. 20

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Ruling in Colorado Will Test Conservative Approach to Law, Charlie Savage, Dec. 20, 2023. A ruling that Donald Trump is ineligible for the presidency will test the court’s methodological values.

The ruling by Colorado’s Supreme Court that former President Donald J. Trump is ineligible to be president again because he engaged in an insurrection has cast a spotlight on the basis for the decision: the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which includes a clause disqualifying people who violated their oaths of office from holding government positions in the future.

Mr. Trump has vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court. It is dominated by a supermajority of six justices who emerged from the conservative legal movement, which values methods of interpretation known as textualism and originalism. Under those precepts, judges should interpret the Constitution based on its text and publicly understood meaning when adopted, over factors like evolving social values, political consequences or an assessment of the intended purpose of the provision. 

Proof, Investigative Commentary: It’s Almost Certain No Supreme Court Justices Will Recuse Themselves From the Case of the Century. But seth abramson graphicOrdinarily, They Might All Have To, Seth Abramson, left (author, lawyer, professor), Dec. 20, 2023. The United States Supreme Court has innumerable ways to reply to the recent major breaking news in Colorado—which saw the Colorado Supreme Court remove 2024 Republican Party frontrunner and former twice-impeached president Donald Trump from the 2024 GOP primary ballot in Colorado on the basis of him meeting the legal definition of an “insurrectionist” under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

seth abramson proof logoThe Colorado Supreme Court immediately stayed the execution of its order so that the SCOTUS could take up Trump’s inevitable appeal. Which it certainly will.

Anderson v. Griswold is undoubtedly “the case of the century”—given that Bush v. Gore was decided on December 12, 2000, making it technically the last great case of the last century—and more or less every attorney nationwide (this author included) expects the Supreme Court to announce that it is taking up the case sometime before January 4, 2024, the day on which (if SCOTUS hasn’t acted by then) the Colorado Supreme Court stay would be lifted and Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold be ordered to remove Trump from the state’s 2024 primary ballot (which would inevitably lead to a subsequent proceeding removing him from the state’s general-election ballot, also).

The general sense among legal analysts, this one included, is that the Supreme Court will feel that it must act on this issue and do so as quickly as possible. And that’s not just for the sake of those of Americans who know (not as a matter of opinion but fact) that Trump is an active insurrectionist who’s done far more to try to realize a tinpot tyranny in the United States than he’s charged with in his federal criminal case in Washington, D.C. or his state criminal case in Georgia.

If, in the view of one of the most conservative Supreme Courts in American history, Trump isn’t eligible to serve in public office again, the GOP will need to (i) cast about for an alternative, whether it’s Nikki Haley or Ron DeSantis or another Trump (e.g., Donald Trump Jr. or Eric Trump) who wages an unprecedented MAGA convention “coup” at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee in mid-July 2024, and (ii) deal with the certainly dramatic—and potentially even violent—fallout of losing its frontrunner at a time the man commands about 65% of the national GOP-primary vote.

But what SCOTUS can’t do—not after this week—is play at aloofness from the stark consequences of whatever it decides.

And it’s some additional breaking news from this week that explains why that is.

What would the would-be rioters have done if they couldn’t have gotten onto Capitol grounds, let alone inside the Capitol building itself?

Indeed, as a far-right armed rebellion against the United States government unfolded on January 6, it was entirely possible that a sprawling Supreme Court event could have been—had the Capitol been better defended—that horrible day’s main target, instead.

Which brings us to a most uncomfortable question: is it inappropriate for journalists to note that a second Trump term puts every Supreme Court Justice in immediate mortal danger? After all, the justices would invariably have to rule at some point in the future that Trump can’t serve a third term as he aims to do, so there can be no question that the Justices—perhaps even all nine of them—will be aligned against Trump going forward in much the same way most of Congress was on January 6.

Having said all this, judges don’t ordinarily recuse themselves because of their fear of potential future harms emanating from one of the parties before them. If the courts habitually did this, what judge would sit on any case that could end with a displeased party? Indeed, as I know from having practiced criminal law for years, there are even situations in which a judge stays on a case even after he or she has been threatened by a party. But what we’re speaking of in this instance—in Anderson v. Griswold—is quite different.

Why? Because this entire case is about the manner of threat Trump posed on January 6, and because the evidence in play relates not just to what Trump said and did at the end of 2020 and in early 2021 but what he’s already said about 2024 and (yes) 2028—words that implicate the future safety of the very federal judges Trump is about to ask to rule in Anderson v. Griswold.

Putting aside the fact that Justice Clarence Thomas should already be recused from any January 6-related case, including this one—his wife supported Donald Trump’s insurrection publicly and privately—the whole court is implicated within Anderson v. Griswold merely by the fact that an armed attack on, and occupation of, their place of business is part of the evidence relevant to the case.

So why isn’t anyone in American media discussing this unprecedented conundrum?

Detroit News, Journalist Charlie LeDuff charged with domestic violence, Kara Berg, Dec. 20, 2023 (print ed.). Journalist Charlie LeDuff has been charged with domestic violence for allegedly striking his wife.

charles leduff mugLeDuff, a former Detroit News columnist, was arrested Monday in Pleasant Ridge and was charged Tuesday with a misdemeanor domestic violence in 45th District Court in Oak Park. He was released on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond after his arraignment Tuesday.

LeDuff's attorney, Todd Perkins, said the victim in the case is LeDuff's wife of 31 years. Perkins asked for LeDuff to be allowed to return to living at home if his wife was OK with it.

Judge Jaimie Horowitz said there should be no contact with LeDuff's wife. Perkins argued during LeDuff's arraignment that LeDuff is a "fixture in the community."

LeDuff is a controversial journalist and is the host of a weekly podcast "No BS News Hour with Charlie LeDuff." LeDuff has worked at the New York Times, WJBK-TV and The News. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 2001.

LeDuff most recently was a columnist with The News, but the two parted ways in October after he used a euphemism for a disparaging slur for a woman against Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on X, formerly Twitter.

That came days after his last column with The News reported that, according to documents, Nessel breached an internal legal firewall created to prevent conflicts in her office amid an investigation of friend Traci Kornak, who was accused of fraudulently billing an insurance company for $50,000 on behalf of an elderly, brain-damaged client.

Dec. 19

washington post logoWashington Post, How the decline of tackle football is changing the sport’s demographics, Dave Sheinin and Emily Giambalvo, Dec. 19, 2023 (print ed.). Football participation is declining across America. Race, politics and economics are shaping which kids abandon the sport and which keep risking its toll.

For decades, few things have united America as consistently and completely as football — the autumnal obsession of small-town Friday nights, the ritualistic centerpiece of college-town Saturdays, the communal Sunday religion of a staggering percentage of the populace. In American culture, the game stands virtually alone in the way its appeal cuts across demographic lines.

But when it comes to actually playing tackle football — and risking the physical toll of a sport linked to brain damage — there are wide divisions marked by politics, economics and race, an examination by The Washington Post found. And as the sport grapples with the steep overall decline in participation among young people, some of those divisions appear to be getting wider, The Post found, with football’s risks continuing to be borne by boys in places that tend to be poorer and more conservative — a revelation with disturbing implications for the future of the sport.

While participation is falling almost everywhere, The Post found, boys in the most conservative, poorest states continue to play high school tackle football at higher rates than those in wealthier and more politically liberal areas. The politicization of the concussion crisis is forging deeper divisions between those who support youth football and those who don’t. And while precise data about football’s racial makeup is hard to come by, the demographics appear to be gradually shifting. Among kids and teens, White and Black males are playing tackle football at declining rates, while Hispanic boys increasingly take up the sport. In college, the proportion of White players is declining, and that of Black players rising, at faster rates than national demographic changes.

High-schoolers in states that voted for former president Donald Trump in 2020 played football last year at a rate roughly 1.5 times as high as those in states that went for President Biden, The Post found — a significant divide that also existed a decade ago. But poll results revealed that liberals are increasingly more likely to discourage children from playing football, while conservatives are just about as likely to recommend the sport now as in 2012.

ny times logoNew York Times, Marvel Will Part Ways With Jonathan Majors After Guilty Verdict, Jonah E. Bromwich, Erin Nolan and Nicole jonathan majorsSperling, Dec. 19, 2023 (print ed.). Jonathan Majors, who was one of Hollywood’s fastest-rising stars before misdemeanor domestic-violence charges halted his ascent, was found guilty of assault and harassment on Monday for attacking his girlfriend in a car in Manhattan.

Shortly after a six-person jury in Manhattan announced the verdict, Marvel Studios parted ways with the actor, a spokeswoman for the company said.

The jury acquitted Mr. Majors on two counts that had required prosecutors to show that he had acted with intent — one of assault and one of harassment. But jurors found Mr. Majors guilty on the two other charges after more than five hours of deliberation.

The verdict thwarted Mr. Majors’s hopes of salvaging his career by proving his innocence in the March altercation. His future in the film industry is now clouded, and he could face just under a year in jail. His sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 6.

ny times logoNew York Times, Apple to Pause Selling New Versions of Its Watch After Losing Patent Dispute, Tripp Mickle, Dec. 19, 2023 (print ed.). The move, which follows a patent dispute, could create a run on watch sales in the week before Christmas.

apple logo rainbowApple said on Monday that it would pause sales of its flagship smartwatches online starting Thursday and at retail locations on Christmas Eve.

Two months ago, Apple lost a patent case over the technology its smartwatches use to detect people’s pulse rate. The company was ordered to stop selling the Apple Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2 after Christmas, which could set off a run on sales of the watches in the final week of holiday shopping.

The move by Apple follows a ruling by the International Trade Commission in October that found several Apple Watches infringe on patents held by Masimo, a medical technology company in Irvine, Calif.

In court, Masimo detailed how Apple poached its top executives and more than a dozen other employees before later releasing a watch with pulse oximeter capabilities — which measures the percentage of oxygen that red blood cells carry from the lungs to the body — that were patented by Masimo.

To avoid a complete ban on sales, Apple had two months to cut a deal with Masimo to license its technology, or it could appeal to the Biden administration to reverse the ruling.

But Joe Kiani, the chief executive of Masimo, said in an interview that Apple had not engaged in licensing negotiations. Instead, he said that Apple had appealed to President Biden to veto the I.T.C. ruling, which Mr. Kiani knows because the administration contacted Masimo about Apple’s request.

Dec. 18

ny times logoNew York Times, Parler, Social Media Site Sidelined After Jan. 6, Plans Return, Chris Cameron, Dec. 18, 2023. The app, which used to draw millions of Trump supporters, is set to relaunch as he runs for president again — but it won’t try to compete with Truth Social.

parler logoParler, the social media platform popular with right-wing audiences that was removed from app stores after hosting calls for violence around Jan. 6, 2021, will relaunch early next year, the company’s new owners announced on Monday.

“We’re committed to bringing Parler back online,” Ryan Rhodes, Parler’s new chief executive, said in a statement. The app had been shut down in April after it was purchased by Starboard, a digital media company.

Mr. Rhodes, Elise Pierotti, who was previously the company’s chief marketing officer, and a third partner, Jaco Booyens, purchased the company last week, Ms. Pierotti said.

Parler, which had billed itself as a platform for “uncancelable free speech,” used to draw millions of supporters of former President Donald J. Trump and was once the most downloaded app on Apple’s App Store. But tech companies pulled their support for the platform soon after the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol, saying that the company did not do enough to police posts that incited violence or crime.

 Dec. 16

Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, with a white blazer at center, and her mother, Ruby Freemans, standing at the microphone described outside of the federal courthouse in Washington, DC their ordeal of death threats and other intimidation stemming from false claims by Trump attorney Rudoph Giuiliani that they had violented election law in 2020 as election workers in Georgia (Justice Integrity Project photo by Andrew Kreig during post-verdict news conference).er ruby freeman 12 15 2023 JIP IMG 9153  Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, with a white blazer at center, and her mother, Ruby Freeman, standing at the microphone, described outside of the federal courthouse in Washington, DC on Friday evening, Dec. 15, 2023, their ordeal of death threats and other intimidation stemming from false claims by Trump attorney Rudoph Giuiliani that they had violented election law in 2020 as election workers in Georgia (Justice Integrity Project photo by Andrew Kreig during post-verdict news conference).

Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, with a white blazer at center, and her mother, Ruby Freeman, standing at the microphone, described outside of the federal courthouse in Washington, DC on Friday evening, Dec. 15, 2023, their ordeal of death threats and other intimidation stemming from false claims by Trump attorney Rudoph Giuiliani that they had violented election law in 2020 as election workers in Georgia (Justice Integrity Project photo by Andrew Kreig during post-verdict news conference).

ap logoAssociated Press, Jury awards $148 million in damages to Georgia election workers over Rudy Giuliani’s 2020 vote lies, Lindsay Whitehurst, and Alana Durkin Richer, Dec. 15-16, 2023. Former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani blasted President Joe Biden on his way out of court Friday afternoon after a jury awarded Georgia election workers $148 million in a defamation case over lies that Giuliani spread about them.

rudy giuliani recentA jury awarded $148 million in damages on Friday to two former Georgia election workers who sued Rudy Giuliani for defamation over lies he spread about them in 2020 that upended their lives with racist threats and harassment.

The damages verdict follows emotional testimony from Wandrea “Shaye” Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, who tearfully described becoming the target of a false conspiracy theory pushed by Giuliani and other Republicans as they tried to keep then-President Donald Trump in power after he lost the 2020 election.

There was an audible gasp in the courtroom when the jury foreperson read aloud the $75 million award in punitive damages for the women. Moss and Freeman were each awarded another roughly $36 million in other damages.

“Money will never solve all my problems,” Freeman told reporters outside Washington’s federal courthouse after the verdict. “I can never move back into the house that I call home. I will always have to be careful about where I go and who I choose to share my name with. I miss my home. I miss my neighbors and I miss my name.”

Giuliani didn’t appear to show any emotion as the verdict was read after about 10 hours of deliberations. Moss and Freeman hugged their attorneys after the jury left the courtroom and didn’t look at Giuliani as he left with his lawyer.

The former New York City mayor vowed to appeal, telling reporters that the “absurdity of the number merely underscores the absurdity of the entire proceeding.”

“It will be reversed so quickly it will make your head spin, and the absurd number that just came in will help that actually,” he said.

It’s not clear whether Giuliani will ever be able to pay the staggering amount. He had already been showing signs of financial strain as he defends himself against costly lawsuits and investigations stemming from his representation of Trump. In September, his former lawyer sued him, alleging Giuliani had paid only a fraction of nearly $1.6 million in legal fees he racked up.

His attorney in the defamation case told jurors that the damages the women were seeking “would be the end of Mr. Giuliani.”

Giuliani had already been found liable in the case and previously conceded in court documents that he falsely accused the women of ballot fraud. Even so, the former mayor continued to repeat his baseless allegations about the women in comments to reporters outside the Washington, D.C., courthouse this week.

Giuliani’s lawyer acknowledged that his client was wrong but insisted that Giuliani was not fully responsible for the vitriol the women faced. The defense sought to largely pin the blame on a right-wing website that published the surveillance video of the two women counting ballots.

Giuliani’s defense rested Thursday morning without calling a single witness after the former mayor reversed course and decided not to take the stand. Giuliani’s lawyer had told jurors in his opening statement that they would hear from his client. But after Giuliani’s comments outside court, the judge barred him from claiming in testimony that his conspiracy theories were right.

The judgment adds to growing financial and legal peril for Giuliani, who was among the loudest proponents of Trump’s false claims of election fraud that are now a key part of the criminal cases against the former president.

Former Trump counsel and New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani falsely claims election fraud following the 2020 presidential election, accompanied by Sydney Powell, left, and Jenna Ellis, right, two other Trump counsels who have since pleaded guilty in a Georgia racketeering case to making false election fraud charges (Nov. 19, 2020 file photo).

Former Trump counsel and New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani falsely claims election fraud following the 2020 presidential election, accompanied by Sydney Powell, left, and Jenna Ellis, right, two other Trump counsels who have since pleaded guilty in a Georgia racketeering case to making false election fraud charges (Nov. 19, 2020 file photo).

Giuliani is still facing his biggest test yet: fighting criminal charges in the Georgia case accusing Trump and 18 others of working to subvert the results of the 2020 election, won by Democrat Joe Biden, in that state. Giuliani has pleaded not guilty and characterized the case as politically motivated.

Jurors in the defamation case heard recordings of Giuliani falsely accusing the election workers of sneaking in ballots in suitcases, counting ballots multiple times and tampering with voting machines. Trump also repeated the conspiracy theories through his social media accounts. Lawyers for Moss and Freeman, who are Black, also played for jurors audio recordings of the graphic and racist threats the women received.

On the witness stand, Moss and Freeman described fearing for their lives as hateful messages poured in. Freeman described strangers banging on her door and recounted fleeing her home after people came with bullhorns and the FBI told her she wasn’t safe. Moss told jurors she tried to change her appearance, seldom leaves her home and suffers from panic attacks.

“Our greatest wish is that no one, no election worker, or voter or school board member or anyone else ever experiences anything like what we went through,” Moss told reporters after the verdict. “You all matter, and you are all important.”

alex jones headshot horizontal briana sanchez pool

ap logoAssociated Press, Alex Jones offers to pay Newtown families at least $55 million over school shooting hoax conspiracy, Dave Collins, Dec. 15, 2023. Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ latest bankruptcy plan would pay Sandy Hook families a minimum total of $55 million over 10 years, a fraction of the $1.5 billion awarded to the relatives in lawsuits against Jones (shown above in a courthouse pool photo by Brianna Sanchez) for calling the 2012 Newtown school shooting a hoax.

The families, meanwhile, have filed their own proposal seeking to liquidate nearly all of Jones’ assets, including his media company Free Speech Systems, and give the proceeds to them and other creditors.

The dueling plans, filed late Friday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Houston, will be debated and challenged over the next two months, with hearings scheduled for February that will result in a final order saying how much Jones will have to pay out.

Jones and Free Speech Systems, based in Austin, Texas, both filed for bankruptcy last year as the families were awarded more than $1.4 billion in a Connecticut lawsuit and another $50 million in a Texas lawsuit. A third trial is pending in Texas in a similar lawsuit over Jones’ hoax conspiracy filed by the parents of another child killed in the school shooting.

 

Matthew Perry collage

ny times logoNew York Times, Matthew Perry Died of ‘Acute Effects of Ketamine,’ Autopsy Says, Matt Stevens and Derrick Bryson Taylor, Dec. 16, 2023 (print ed.). The medical examiner said drowning, coronary artery disease and the effects of another drug contributed to his death.

Matthew Perry (shown above in a photo collage), the “Friends” actor who publicly struggled with drinking and drug use for decades, died from the “acute effects” of ketamine, an anesthetic with psychedelic properties, the Los Angeles County medical examiner’s office said in an autopsy report that was released on Friday.

Perry was found unresponsive in a hot tub at his home in Los Angeles on Oct. 28. He was 54.

The medical examiner’s office said that drowning, coronary artery disease and the effects of an opioid, buprenorphine, had contributed to his death.

But the autopsy ascribed his death primarily to “the acute effects of ketamine.” Ketamine is a powerful anesthetic that has become increasingly popular as an alternative therapy for depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and other hard-to-treat mental health problems. It is also used recreationally.

The autopsy report said that Perry had been on ketamine infusion therapy but that the ketamine in his system could not have been from his last known therapy session, which was about a week and a half before he died.

The Food and Drug Administration issued an alert in October warning about the dangers of treating psychiatric disorders with compounded versions of the drug.

Witnesses told detectives that Perry had played pickleball at 11 a.m. His assistant left the home to run errands around 1:37 p.m., and upon returning at 4 p.m. found him “floating face down,” records say. The assistant jumped in, moved Perry onto the steps, and called 911. Paramedics who responded pulled Perry out of the water and onto the grass before pronouncing him dead, records say.

Dec. 12

washington post logoWashington Post, How flawed research helped legitimize home-schooling, Laura Meckler, Dec. 12, 2023 (print ed.). Brian Ray says home-schooled students do better. His daughter tells a different story.

Brian Ray has spent the last three decades as one of nation’s top evangelists for home schooling. As a researcher, he has published studies purporting to show that these students soar high above their peers in what he calls “institutional schools.” At home, he and his wife educated their eight children on their Oregon farm.

His influence is beyond doubt. He has testified before state legislators looking to roll back regulations. Judges cite his work in child custody cases where parents disagree about home schooling. His voice resounds frequently in the press, from niche Christian newsletters to NPR and the New York Times. As president of the National Home Education Research Institute, he is the go-to expert for home-school advocates looking to influence public opinion and public policy, presenting himself as a dispassionate academic seeking the truth.

But Ray’s research is nowhere near as definitive as his evangelism makes it sound. His samples are not randomly selected. Much of his research has been funded by a powerful home-schooling lobby group. When talking to legislators, reporters and the general public, he typically dispenses with essential cautions and overstates the success of the instruction he champions. Critics say his work is driven more by dogma than scholarly detachment.

“You see this in a lot of areas,” said Jim Dwyer, a professor at William & Mary Law School who wrote a book about home schooling. “Someone with an ideological agenda can concoct bad social science and convince naive researchers and naive audiences to accept some position. It’s clearly true of Ray. … The research he relies on is not scientifically valid.”

Taken as a whole, the academic literature shows mixed academic outcomes for home schooling: Some studies find benefits; others show deficiencies.

Nonetheless, Ray’s work, which concludes home-schoolers score far above public school students on standardized tests, has been widely cited for many years. He has exercised enormous influence in winning acceptance for the practice and minimizing regulations. J. Michael Smith, a former president of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), the nation’s chief home-school lobbying group, said his group “has lost track of how many times Brian Ray has been called on to help establish the validity and success of homeschooling in court rooms and legislatures around the country.”

Ray comes from a conservative Christian movement that sees home schooling as a biblically mandated counterweight to secular modernity.

A community of home-school alumni has arisen in recent years to forcefully reject this form of education. They say their parents ignored entire subjects, focused on faith over academics and were physically abusive. Among these critics is someone Ray knows well: his oldest daughter, Hallie Ray Ziebart, 43.

In interviews, Ziebart said her father taught her almost no math, routinely required her to work long hours for his nonprofit institute during school days, and whipped her and her siblings with switches and other objects when they disobeyed his orders.

Her allegations were echoed by two of her siblings and by four others who spent time at their home. Some of her charges are bolstered by journals she kept at the time. She’s voiced some of these accusations in recent years on TikTok.

Ray said in an interview that he spanked his children but vigorously disputed his daughter’s characterization that it was “abuse.”

  • New York Times, The Nation Magazine to Become Monthly, Dec. 11, 2023.

ny times logoNew York Times, Google Loses Antitrust Court Battle With Makers of Fortnite Video Game, Nico Grant, Dec. 12, 2023 (print ed.). The case could reshape the rules of how Epic Games and other businesses can make money on the Android operating system.

google logo customA jury ruled on Monday that Google had violated antitrust laws to extract fees and limit competition from Epic Games and other developers on its Play mobile app store, in a case that could rewrite the rules on how thousands of businesses make money on Google’s smartphone operating system, Android.

After deliberating for a little more than three hours, the nine-person federal jury sided with Epic Games on all 11 questions in a monthlong trial that was the latest turn in a three-year legal battle.

The jury in San Francisco found that Epic, the maker of the hit game Fortnite, proved that Google had maintained a monopoly in the smartphone app store market and engaged in anticompetitive conduct that harmed the videogame maker.

Google could be forced to alter its Play Store rules, allowing other companies to offer competing app stores and making it easier for developers to avoid the cut it collects from in-app purchases.

Judge James Donato of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California will decide the remedies needed to address Google’s conduct next year. Google said it would appeal the verdict.

Dec. 11

washington post logoWashington Post, How flawed research helped legitimize home-schooling, Laura Meckler, Dec. 11, 2023. Brian Ray says home-schooled students do better. His daughter tells a different story.

Brian Ray has spent the last three decades as one of nation’s top evangelists for home schooling. As a researcher, he has published studies purporting to show that these students soar high above their peers in what he calls “institutional schools.” At home, he and his wife educated their eight children on their Oregon farm.

His influence is beyond doubt. He has testified before state legislators looking to roll back regulations. Judges cite his work in child custody cases where parents disagree about home schooling. His voice resounds frequently in the press, from niche Christian newsletters to NPR and the New York Times. As president of the National Home Education Research Institute, he is the go-to expert for home-school advocates looking to influence public opinion and public policy, presenting himself as a dispassionate academic seeking the truth.

But Ray’s research is nowhere near as definitive as his evangelism makes it sound. His samples are not randomly selected. Much of his research has been funded by a powerful home-schooling lobby group. When talking to legislators, reporters and the general public, he typically dispenses with essential cautions and overstates the success of the instruction he champions. Critics say his work is driven more by dogma than scholarly detachment.

“You see this in a lot of areas,” said Jim Dwyer, a professor at William & Mary Law School who wrote a book about home schooling. “Someone with an ideological agenda can concoct bad social science and convince naive researchers and naive audiences to accept some position. It’s clearly true of Ray. … The research he relies on is not scientifically valid.”

Taken as a whole, the academic literature shows mixed academic outcomes for home schooling: Some studies find benefits; others show deficiencies.

Nonetheless, Ray’s work, which concludes home-schoolers score far above public school students on standardized tests, has been widely cited for many years. He has exercised enormous influence in winning acceptance for the practice and minimizing regulations. J. Michael Smith, a former president of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), the nation’s chief home-school lobbying group, said his group “has lost track of how many times Brian Ray has been called on to help establish the validity and success of homeschooling in court rooms and legislatures around the country.”

Ray comes from a conservative Christian movement that sees home schooling as a biblically mandated counterweight to secular modernity.

A community of home-school alumni has arisen in recent years to forcefully reject this form of education. They say their parents ignored entire subjects, focused on faith over academics and were physically abusive. Among these critics is someone Ray knows well: his oldest daughter, Hallie Ray Ziebart, 43.

In interviews, Ziebart said her father taught her almost no math, routinely required her to work long hours for his nonprofit institute during school days, and whipped her and her siblings with switches and other objects when they disobeyed his orders.

Her allegations were echoed by two of her siblings and by four others who spent time at their home. Some of her charges are bolstered by journals she kept at the time. She’s voiced some of these accusations in recent years on TikTok.

Ray said in an interview that he spanked his children but vigorously disputed his daughter’s characterization that it was “abuse.”

News Leaders Association (NLA), NLA Board approves membership’s vote to dissolve by June 2024, Staff Report, Dec. 11, 2023. Joseph L. Brechner Freedom of Information Project will lead Sunshine Week; NLA Awards become Poynter Journalism Prizes.

During its final meeting of the year, the News Leaders Association Board of Directors unanimously approved the NLA membership’s November vote to dissolve NLA and distribute its remaining assets to nonprofit journalism organizations that can carry on NLA’s leadership, diversity and First Amendment focus.

sunshine week logo right to know squareWe are thrilled to announce that the Joseph L. Brechner Freedom of Information Project at the University of Florida is now officially in charge of Sunshine Week, continuing this decades’ old tradition for the foreseeable future.

The NLA Awards program has now been transferred to the prestigious Poynter Institute, as part of NLA’s winding down of programs as we proceed with dissolution. For more information on the Poynter Jounalism Prizes, click here.

asne apme logoAll other NLA assets, including the diversity survey, leadership training programs, and historical records of NLA (formed in 2019 in a merger of ASNE, the American Society of News Editors, and APME, the Associated Press Media Editors) will be transferred to other non-profit journalism organizations in 2024 as we finalize work to secure a home for these important programs.

The resolutions adopted by the NLA Board on Dec. 8, 2023, take effect immediately. During the electronic membership meeting in November, a quorum was reached and 84 percent of the NLA members who participated voted to dissolve NLA by June 30, 2024.

About News Leaders Association (NLA): NLA’s mission is to help journalists thrive in diverse, sustainable newsrooms with fact-based reporting in service to democracy. To learn more about NLA, go to www.newsleaders.org.

Dec. 10

ny times logoNew York Times, Elon Musk Suggests He Will Bring Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones Back to X, Kate Conger, Updated Dec. 10, 2023. Elon Musk early on Sunday suggested that he would allow the right-wing provocateur and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to return to the social media platform X, which banned him more than five years ago for posting harassing messages.

Mr. Jones spent years promoting the claim that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 was a hoax. Last year, he was ordered to pay nearly $1.5 billion to the families of eight victims of the massacre for defamation.

Also banned by Facebook and YouTube, Mr. Jones said he hoped Mr. Musk would reinstate his account on X, which was formerly known as Twitter. In an interview with Tucker Carlson that aired on X on Thursday, Mr. Jones said that users regularly called on Mr. Musk to bring him back to the platform.

“I trend all the time, ‘Hey, if you’re such an absolutist on free speech, bring back Alex Jones,’” Mr. Jones said. “I understand that he needs to go through a process before he does that.”

On Saturday, Mr. Musk responded to a user on X who said it was time for him to bring Mr. Jones back to the platform. “Ok,” Mr. Musk wrote.

Mr. Musk then started a poll, asking his 165 million followers if he should bring back Mr. Jones’s account. By early Sunday, an overwhelming majority of the nearly 2 million respondents voted in favor of Mr. Jones being reinstated. In the comments section of the poll, Mr. Musk signaled he would do just that: “The people have spoken and so it shall be,” he wrote.New York Times, Nov. 19, 2023 (print ed.).

ny times logoNew York Times, Shohei Ohtani, most coveted free agent in baseball history, to sign $700 million contract with Dodgers, Andy McCullough and Ken Rosenthal, Dec. 10, 2023 (print ed.). Shohei Ohtani, right, most coveted free agent in baseball history, to sign $700 million contract with Dodgers.

shohei ohtani dodgersShohei Ohtani’s singular pursuit of history, one man’s quest to rewrite the baseball world’s understanding of what is possible, reached another summit on Saturday when he agreed to the largest contract in the annals of major North American team sports, a 10-year, $700 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, his agency CAA announced.

Ohtani announced his decision on Instagram. The deal ends years of feverish speculation about Ohtani’s future. Ohtani, a 29-year-old two-way sensation, has captivated the industry since he left Japan for Major League Baseball heading into the 2018 season. He has done things that appeared impossible in the modern era, feats that harkened back to Babe Ruth. As he traveled the country with the Los Angeles Angels this past summer, fans serenaded him with recruiting pitches. When he entered free agency, a dozen teams lined up, curious to see if they could meet his eye.

ny times logoNew York Times, Inside OpenAI’s Crisis Over the Future of Artificial Intelligence, Tripp Mickle, Cade Metz, Mike Isaac and Karen Weise, Dec. 10, 2023 (print ed.). Split over Sam Altman’s leadership, board members and executives turned on one another.

Their brawl exposed the cracks at the heart of the A.I. movement. His ouster was the culmination of years of simmering tensions at OpenAI that pit those alarmed by A.I.’s power against others who saw the technology as a once-in-a-lifetime profit and prestige bonanza. As divisions deepened, the organization’s leaders sniped and turned on one another. That led to a boardroom brawl that ultimately showed who has the upper hand in A.I.’s future development: Silicon Valley’s tech elite and deep-pocketed corporate interests.

The drama embroiled Microsoft, which had committed $13 billion to OpenAI and weighed in to protect its investment. Many top Silicon Valley executives and investors, including the chief executive of Airbnb, also mobilized to support Mr. Altman.

Some fought back from Mr. Altman’s $27 million mansion in San Francisco’s Russian Hill neighborhood, lobbying through social media and voicing their displeasure in private text threads, according to interviews with more than 25 people with knowledge of the events. Many of their conversations and the details of their confrontations have not been previously reported.

At the center of the storm was Mr. Altman, a 38-year-old multimillionaire. A vegetarian who raises cattle and a tech leader with little engineering training, he is driven by a hunger for power more than by money, a longtime mentor said. And even as Mr. Altman became A.I.’s public face, charming heads of state with predictions of the technology’s positive effects, he privately angered those who believed he ignored its potential dangers.

OpenAI’s chaos has raised new questions about the people and companies behind the A.I. revolution. If the world’s premier A.I. start-up can so easily plunge into crisis over backbiting behavior and slippery ideas of wrongdoing, can it be trusted to advance a technology that may have untold effects on billions of people?

ny times logoNew York Times, Here are the key players in OpenAI’s boardroom drama, Cade Metz, Dec. 10, 2023 (print ed.). A mix of prominent tech industry figures and people not well known outside the A.I. community played big roles in the upheaval at the company.

On Nov. 17, Silicon Valley tumbled into turmoil when Sam Altman, chief executive of the high-profile A.I. start-up OpenAI, was suddenly removed by the company’s board of directors. After a five-day roller-coaster ride that encapsulated the increasingly heated battle over the future of artificial intelligence, Mr. Altman was reinstated and a new board was created. Here is a list of players in the year’s biggest tech drama:

ny times logoNew York Times, Elon Musk Suggests He Will Bring Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones Back to X, Kate Conger, Updated Dec. 10, 2023. Elon Musk early on Sunday suggested that he would allow the right-wing provocateur and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to return to the social media platform X, which banned him more than five years ago for posting harassing messages.

Mr. Jones spent years promoting the claim that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 was a hoax. Last year, he was ordered to pay nearly $1.5 billion to the families of eight victims of the massacre for defamation.

Also banned by Facebook and YouTube, Mr. Jones said he hoped Mr. Musk would reinstate his account on X, which was formerly known as Twitter. In an interview with Tucker Carlson that aired on X on Thursday, Mr. Jones said that users regularly called on Mr. Musk to bring him back to the platform.

“I trend all the time, ‘Hey, if you’re such an absolutist on free speech, bring back Alex Jones,’” Mr. Jones said. “I understand that he needs to go through a process before he does that.”

On Saturday, Mr. Musk responded to a user on X who said it was time for him to bring Mr. Jones back to the platform. “Ok,” Mr. Musk wrote.

Mr. Musk then started a poll, asking his 165 million followers if he should bring back Mr. Jones’s account. By early Sunday, an overwhelming majority of the nearly 2 million respondents voted in favor of Mr. Jones being reinstated. In the comments section of the poll, Mr. Musk signaled he would do just that: “The people have spoken and so it shall be,” he wrote.New York Times, Nov. 19, 2023 (print ed.).

ny times logoNew York Times, Shohei Ohtani, most coveted free agent in baseball history, to sign $700 million contract with Dodgers, Andy McCullough and Ken Rosenthal, Dec. 10, 2023 (print ed.). Shohei Ohtani, right, most coveted free agent in baseball history, to sign $700 million contract with Dodgers.

shohei ohtani dodgersShohei Ohtani’s singular pursuit of history, one man’s quest to rewrite the baseball world’s understanding of what is possible, reached another summit on Saturday when he agreed to the largest contract in the annals of major North American team sports, a 10-year, $700 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, his agency CAA announced.

Ohtani announced his decision on Instagram. The deal ends years of feverish speculation about Ohtani’s future. Ohtani, a 29-year-old two-way sensation, has captivated the industry since he left Japan for Major League Baseball heading into the 2018 season. He has done things that appeared impossible in the modern era, feats that harkened back to Babe Ruth. As he traveled the country with the Los Angeles Angels this past summer, fans serenaded him with recruiting pitches. When he entered free agency, a dozen teams lined up, curious to see if they could meet his eye.

ny times logoNew York Times, One law firm prepared the presidents of Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania for the hearing on antisemitism, Lauren Hirsch, Dec. 9, 2023 (print ed.). The presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and M.I.T. came under fire after dodging questions about their policies.

At a congressional hearing on Tuesday, the leaders of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology gave carefully worded — and seemingly evasive — answers to the question of whether they would discipline students who called for the genocide of Jews. The intense criticism that followed led many to wonder: Who had prepared them for testimony?

It turns out that one of America’s best known white-shoe law firms, WilmerHale, was intricately involved.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ex-N.F.L. Team Employee Accused of Stealing $22 Million Bet on Football, Dec. 8, 2023. The attorney for the former Jacksonville Jaguars employee said his client was suffering from a “serious gambling addiction.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Jon Rahm, 2023 Masters champion, will leave PGA Tour for LIV Golf, Brendan Quinn, Dec. 8, 2023 (print ed.). The 2023 Masters champion is departing the PGA Tour for LIV. The sport will be different now, our columnist writes. What’s believed to be the largest player acquisition in professional golf history is official. Jon Rahm is heading to LIV Golf and a sport already fundamentally fractured might now have its largest bargaining chip.

While terms of the deal have not been officially released and are not expected to be, as LIV has not done so with any of its other high-profile signings like Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson or Brooks Koepka, The Telegraph reported it to be at $566 million.

All Rahm said Thursday afternoon is the deal is “obviously good enough for someone like me to want to consider it and see this thing through.”

As part of the deal, Rahm will take control of his own LIV team franchise and serve as captain of the league’s 13th team. Asked who will be joining him on that team, Rahm only responded, “You’re going to have to wait to find out.”

Figures aside, Rahm joining LIV represents something larger than any single contract. The 29-year-old is not only the first PGA Tour defect to LIV since the June 6 framework agreement between the PGA Tour and PIF, but he’s also the best young player to join LIV and will radically change the pedigree of competition. More than that, his departure is a severe blow to a PGA Tour that has prided itself on maintaining its hold on the elite of elite players. Such a claim is empty without Rahm, a two-time major winner with 52 weeks at No. 1 in the world on his resume.

Dec. 10

 

University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill listens to a question during a hearing of the House Committee on Education on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023 in Washington (AP Photo by Mark Schiefelbein

University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill listens to a question during a hearing of the House Committee on Education on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023 in Washington (AP Photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

ap logoAssociated Press, Liz Magill, University of Pennsylvania president, resigns as antisemitism testimony draws backlash, Marc  Levy, Dec. 10, 2023 (print ed.). The University of Pennsylvania’s president has resigned amid pressure from donors and criticism over testimony at a congressional hearing where she was unable to say under repeated questioning that calls on campus for the genocide of Jews would violate the school’s conduct policy.

The departure of Liz Magill, in her second year as president of the Ivy League school, was announced by the school late Saturday afternoon. The statement said Magill will remain a tenured faculty member at the university’s Carey Law School.

Calls for her resignation exploded after Tuesday’s testimony in a U.S. House committee on antisemitism on college campuses, where she appeared with the presidents of Harvard University and MIT.

Blowback focused on a line of questioning from Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., who repeatedly asked whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” would violate Penn’s code of conduct.

“If the speech turns into conduct it can be harassment, yes,” Pressed further, Magill told Stefanik, “It is a context-dependent decision, congresswoman.”

Criticism rained down from the White House, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, members of Congress and donors. One donor, Ross Stevens, threatened to withdraw a $100 million gift because of the university’s “stance on antisemitism on campus” unless Magill was replaced.

A day later, Magill addressed the criticism, saying in a video that she would consider a call for the genocide of Jewish people to be harassment or intimidation and that Penn’s policies need to be “clarified and evaluated.”

What to know:

  • Calls for Liz Magill’s resignation exploded after a Tuesday testimony in a U.S. House committee on antisemitism on college campuses.
    Blowback focused on a line of questioning from Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., who repeatedly asked whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” would violate Penn’s code of conduct.
  • The presidents of Harvard and MIT also drew intense national backlash after the testimony.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: As Fury Erupts Over Campus Antisemitism, Conservatives Seize the Moment, Nicholas Confessore, Dec. 10, 2023. Republicans have been attacking elite universities for years. After a tense congressional hearing last week, many on the left are joining them.

For years, conservatives have struggled to persuade American voters that the left-wing tilt of higher education is not only wrong but dangerous. Universities and their students, they’ve argued, have been increasingly clenched by suffocating ideologies — political correctness in one decade, overweening “social justice” in another, “woke-ism” most recently — that shouldn’t be dismissed as academic fads or harmless zeal.

The validation they have sought seemed to finally arrive this fall, as campuses convulsed with protests against Israel’s military campaign in Gaza and hostile, sometimes violent, rhetoric toward Jews. It came to a head last week on Capitol Hill, as the presidents of three elite universities struggled to answer a question about whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” would violate school rules, and Republicans asserted that outbreaks of campus antisemitism were a symptom of the radical ideas they had long warned about. On Saturday, amid the fallout, one of those presidents, M. Elizabeth Magill of the University of Pennsylvania, resigned.

For Republicans, the rise of antisemitic speech and the timid responses of some academic leaders presented a long-sought opportunity to flip the political script and cast liberals or their institutions as hateful and intolerant. “What I’m describing is a grave danger inherent in assenting to the race-based ideology of the radical left,” said Representative Virginia Foxx, Republican of North Carolina, at the hearing, adding, “Institutional antisemitism and hate are among the poison fruits of your institution’s cultures.”

ny times logoNew York Times, University of Pennsylvania Leadership Resigns Amid Antisemitism Controversies, Stephanie Saul, Alan Blinder, Anemona Hartocollis and Maureen Farrell, Dec. 10, 2023 (print ed.). The president, Elizabeth Magill, and the chairman of the board of trustees, Scott Bok, are leaving after pressure from donors, politicians and alumni.

The president of the University of Pennsylvania, M. Elizabeth Magill, resigned on Saturday, four days after she appeared before Congress and appeared to evade the question of whether students who called for the genocide of Jews should be punished.

Support for Ms. Magill, already shaken in recent months over her approach to a Palestinian literary conference and the university’s initial response to the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7, unraveled after her testimony. Influential graduates questioned her leadership, wealthy contributors moved to withdraw donations, and public officials besieged the university to oust its president.

By Saturday evening, a day before Penn’s board of trustees was expected to meet, Ms. Magill said that she would quit. Scott L. Bok, the board’s chairman, said in an email to the Penn community that Ms. Magill had “voluntarily tendered her resignation.”

Less than an hour later, Mr. Bok announced that he, too, had resigned, deepening the turmoil at one of the nation’s most prestigious universities.

Ms. Magill is the first university president to step down in connection with the uproars that have engulfed campuses since the Hamas attack and Israel’s subsequent invasion of Gaza. Other presidents remain under pressure. On Friday, more than 70 members of Congress called for the firings of Ms. Magill and two presidents who appeared alongside her in Washington on Tuesday, Claudine Gay of Harvard and Sally Kornbluth of M.I.T.

But her resignation has alarmed faculty members worried about academic freedom. In response to Ms. Magill’s resignation, a group of Penn professors denounced what they saw as outside interference that imperiled the university’s integrity.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: What the University Presidents Got Right and Wrong About Antisemitic Speech, David French, right, Dec. 10, 2023.  As I watched the presidents of Harvard, M.I.T. and the University of Pennsylvania struggle last week to respond to harsh congressional david french croppedquestioning about the prevalence of antisemitism on their campuses, I had a singular thought: Censorship helped put these presidents in their predicament and censorship will not help them escape.

To understand what I mean, we have to understand what, exactly, was wrong — and right — with their responses in the now-viral exchange with Representative Elise Stefanik, Republican of New York. The key moment occurred when Stefanik asked whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” would violate school policies. The answers the presidents gave were lawyerly versions of “it depends” or “context matters.”

There was an immediate explosion of outrage, and the president of Penn, Elizabeth Magill, resigned on Saturday. But this is genocide we’re talking about! How can “context” matter in that context? If that’s not harassment and bullying, then what is?

But I had a different response. I’m a former litigator who spent much of my legal career battling censorship on college campuses, and the thing that struck me about the presidents’ answers wasn’t their legal insufficiency, but rather their stunning hypocrisy. And it’s that hypocrisy, not the presidents’ understanding of the law, that has created a campus crisis.

harvard logoFirst, let’s deal with the law. Harvard, Penn and M.I.T. are each private universities. Unlike public schools, they’re not bound by the First Amendment and they therefore possess enormous freedom to fashion their own, custom speech policies. But while they are not bound by law to protect free speech, they are required, as educational institutions that receive federal funds, to protect students against discriminatory harassment, including — in some instances — student-on-student peer harassment.

Academic freedom advocates have long called for the nation’s most prestigious private universities to protect free speech by using First Amendment principles to inform campus policies. After all, should students and faculty at Harvard enjoy fewer free speech rights than, say, those at Bunker Hill Community College, a public school not far from Harvard’s campus?

If Harvard, M.I.T. and Penn had chosen to model their policies after the First Amendment, many of the presidents’ controversial answers would be largely correct. When it comes to prohibiting speech, even the most vile forms of speech, context matters. A lot.

So if the university presidents were largely (though clumsily) correct about the legal balance, why the outrage? To quote the presidents back to themselves, context matters. For decades now, we’ve watched as campus administrators from coast to coast have constructed a comprehensive web of policies and practices intended to suppress so-called hate speech and to support students who find themselves distressed by speech they find offensive.

The result has been a network of speech codes, bias response teams, safe spaces and glossaries of microaggressions that are all designed to protect students from alleged emotional harm. But not all students.

Universities have censored conservatives? Then censor progressives too.

The best, clearest plan for reform I’ve seen comes from Harvard’s own Steven Pinker, a psychologist. He writes that campuses should enact “clear and coherent” free speech policies. They should adopt a posture of “institutional neutrality” on public controversy. (“Universities are forums, not protagonists.”) They should end “heckler’s vetoes, building takeovers, classroom invasions, intimidations, blockades, assaults.”

Dec. 9

 

Actors Jean Stapleton, seated, left, and Carroll O’Connor, seated, right, from “All in the Family” hold their Emmys for outstanding lead actress and actor in a comedy series, as they pose with co-star Rob Reiner, who won for supporting actor in a comedy series, standing left, producer Norman Lear, and executive producer Mort Lachman, standing right, in Los Angeles on Sept. 18, 1978. (AP file photo.)

Actors Jean Stapleton, seated, left, and Carroll O’Connor, seated, right, from “All in the Family” hold their Emmys for outstanding lead actress and actor in a comedy series, as they pose with co-star Rob Reiner, who won for supporting actor in a comedy series, standing left, producer Norman Lear (shown more recently in a photo at  lower right), and executive producer Mort Lachman, standing right, in Los Angeles on Sept. 18, 1978. (AP file photo.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Norman Lear Reshaped How America Saw Black Families, Jonathan Abrams and Christopher Kuo, Dec. 9, 2023. “Good Times,” “The Jeffersons” and “Sanford and Son” brought a wave of Black characters to TV, even as the shows opened up tensions over stereotypes.

Norman Lear (shown in a New York Times file photo by J. Emilio Flores).Norman Lear’s shows touched on hot-button issues such as civil rights activism, alcoholism and abortion, going far beyond the one-dimensional existence that Black characters were previously relegated to. His shows depicted television’s first two-parent Black family, an upwardly mobile Black family and the other side of the coin to his most famous character, “All in the Family’s” Archie Bunker, in Redd Foxx’s portrayal of the oft-bigoted Fred Sanford in “Sanford and Son.”

This full-rounded view of Black life in America — through characters who had failures and triumphs, struggles and aspirations — helped usher in what historians call the era of “social relevance” in television, in which TV shows and sitcoms offered more authentic depictions of Americans’ lives, said Adrien Sebro, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin and author of Scratchin’ and Survivin’: Hustle Economics and the Black Sitcoms of Tandem Productions, a book about Lear’s many television productions.

ny times logoNew York Times, One law firm prepared the presidents of Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania for the hearing on antisemitism, Lauren Hirsch, Dec. 9, 2023 (print ed.). The presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and M.I.T. came under fire after dodging questions about their policies.

At a congressional hearing on Tuesday, the leaders of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology gave carefully worded — and seemingly evasive — answers to the question of whether they would discipline students who called for the genocide of Jews. The intense criticism that followed led many to wonder: Who had prepared them for testimony?

It turns out that one of America’s best known white-shoe law firms, WilmerHale, was intricately involved.

 Dec. 9

ny times logoNew York Times, The E.U. agreed on artificial intelligence rules with a landmark new law, Adam Satariano, Dec. 9, 2023 (print ed.). The agreement over the A.I. Act solidifies one of the world’s first comprehensive attempts to limit the use of artificial intelligence.

european union logo rectangleEuropean Union policymakers agreed on Friday to a sweeping new law to regulate artificial intelligence, one of the world’s first comprehensive attempts to limit the use of a rapidly evolving technology that has wide-ranging societal and economic implications.

The law, called the A.I. Act, sets a new global benchmark for countries seeking to harness the potential benefits of the technology, while trying to protect against its possible risks, like automating jobs, spreading misinformation online and endangering national security. The law still needs to go through a few final steps for approval, but the political agreement means its key outlines have been set.

European policymakers focused on A.I.’s riskiest uses by companies and governments, including those for law enforcement and the operation of crucial services like water and energy. Makers of the largest general-purpose A.I. systems, like those powering the ChatGPT chatbot, would face new transparency requirements. Chatbots and software that creates manipulated images such as “deepfakes” would have to make clear that what people were seeing was generated by A.I., according to E.U. officials and earlier drafts of the law.

Use of facial recognition software by police and governments would be restricted outside of certain safety and national security exemptions. Companies that violated the regulations could face fines of up to 7 percent of global sales.

Dec. 8

washington post logoWashington Post, A CBS reporter refusing to reveal her sources could be held in contempt, Jeremy Barr, Dec. 8, 2023. First Amendment advocates are alarmed by the case of Catherine Herridge, who is facing an imminent court deadline and steep fines.

In a rapidly escalating case that is worrying First Amendment advocates, journalist Catherine Herridge could soon be held in contempt of court if she does not reveal her source for the investigative stories she wrote in 2017.

Herridge, now a reporter for CBS News who worked for Fox News at the time, has a Thursday deadline to explain to a federal judge why she should not face the civil sanction — and the hefty, accumulating fines that could come with it.

U.S. District Court Judge Christopher R. Cooper ruled Aug. 1 that Herridge must reveal how she learned about a federal probe into a Chinese American scientist who operated a graduate program in Virginia — the subject of several stories Herridge reported for Fox.

Yanping Chen was never charged as a result of the investigation, which sought to determine whether she had lied about her military service and whether her school’s student database could be accessed from China, as the Fox News reports revealed. But after those stories brought the probe to light, Chen sued the federal government alleging that Herridge had been given leaked materials that violated her privacy, including photographs and images of internal government documents.

After Chen’s lawyers conducted 18 depositions of government and other officials without learning the source of the leak, according to her legal filing, Chen has argued that only the journalist could provide the information she needed to pursue her grievance against the government.

The judge came to the same conclusion. While acknowledging “the vital importance of a free press and the critical role that confidential sources play in the work of investigative journalists,” Cooper ruled in August that Chen’s need for the evidence “overcomes Herridge’s qualified First Amendment privilege.”

But First Amendment advocates disagreed, arguing that journalists can perform their public service function only if they are able to protect the identities of their confidential sources.

And they raise special concerns about Chen’s request to the judge earlier this month that Herridge should personally pay the daily fees, which could range from $500 to $5,000, rather than allowing CBS or Fox to do so.

Chen’s request came after Herridge sat for a deposition in late September but refused to reveal how she obtained the information, citing her First Amendment rights and telling Chen’s lawyer, “I must now disobey the order.”

Politico, Washington Post staffers launch 24-hour walkout, Eric Bazail-Eimil, Dec. 8, 2023. Reporters, producers, editors and business-side staffers are walking off the job as contract negotiations stall and layoffs loom.

More than 700 staffers at The Washington Post launched a 24-hour walkout Thursday after contract negotiations with the newspaper’s leadership have stalled after 18 months.

Reporters, producers, editors and business-side staffers walked off the job and began picketing outside the Post’s enigmatic downtown headquarters in the first protest action at the paper since the mid-1970s.

The Washington Post Guild, a member of the broader Washington-Baltimore NewsGuild, is accusing management of negotiating in “bad faith” as they seek to obtain a contract that they say must address pay disparities and offer employees raises and job protections as layoffs loom at the struggling storied paper.

“We still lack a contract that keeps pace with record-level inflation and guarantees workers a living wage,” the union posted in a statement online, blaming previous leadership at the Post for the company’s current financial woes.

A spokesperson for the Post said in a statement to POLITICO that “we respect the rights of our Guild-covered colleagues to engage in this planned one-day strike” and “will make sure our readers and customers are as unaffected as possible.”

ny times logoNew York Times, From Unicorns to Zombies: Tech Start-Ups Run Out of Time and Money, Erin Griffith, Dec. 8, 2023 (print ed.). After staving off collapse by cutting costs, many young tech companies are out of options, fueling a cash bonfire.

WeWork raised more than $11 billion in funding as a private company. Olive AI, a health care start-up, gathered $852 million. Convoy, a freight start-up, raised $900 million. And Veev, a home construction start-up, amassed $647 million.

In the last six weeks, they all filed for bankruptcy or shut down. They are the most recent failures in a tech start-up collapse that investors say is only beginning.

After staving off mass failure by cutting costs over the past two years, many once-promising tech companies are now on the verge of running out of time and money. They face a harsh reality: Investors are no longer interested in promises. Rather, venture capital firms are deciding which young companies are worth saving and urging others to shut down or sell.

It has fueled an astonishing cash bonfire. In August, Hopin, a start-up that raised more than $1.6 billion and was once valued at $7.6 billion, sold its main business for just $15 million. Last month, Zeus Living, a real estate start-up that raised $150 million, said it was shutting down. Plastiq, a financial technology start-up that raised $226 million, went bankrupt in May. In September, Bird, a scooter company that raised $776 million, was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange because of its low stock price. Its $7 million market capitalization is less than the value of the $22 million Miami mansion that its founder, Travis VanderZanden, bought in 2021.

ny times logoNew York Times, Universities Face Inquiry and Angry Donors Over Handling of Antisemitism, Alan Blinder, Anemona Hartocollis and Stephanie Saul, Dec. 8, 2023 (print ed.). Congress has opened an investigation into Harvard, M.I.T. and Penn, a $100 million gift was withdrawn, and demands have grown for presidents to resign.

Harvard, M.I.T. and the University of Pennsylvania on Thursday faced threats from donors, demands that their presidents resign and a congressional investigation as repercussions mounted over the universities’ responses to antisemitism on campus.

U.S. House logoAt Penn, university trustees discussed the future of Elizabeth Magill, its president, whose congressional testimony on Tuesday set off a furor when she dodged the question of whether she would discipline students for calling for the genocide of Jews.

Her answers and similar comments by Claudine Gay of Harvard and Sally Kornbluth of M.I.T. at a House committee meeting set off accusations that they were doing little to protect their own students. All three said they had taken action against antisemitism, but critics argued they had not done enough or were even fostering antisemitism on their campuses.

In response, a House committee opened an investigation into the three institutions as its chairwoman criticized the schools for failing to tackle the “rampant antisemitism” on their campuses after the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7 and the subsequent Israeli invasion of Gaza.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: At a Hearing on Israel, University Presidents Walked Into a Trap, Michelle Goldberg, right, Dec. 8, 2023 (print ed.). On Wednesday, michelle goldberg thumba dear friend emailed me a viral clip from the House hearing on campus antisemitism in which three elite university presidents refuse to say, under questioning by Representative Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican, that calling for the genocide of Jews violates school policies on bullying and harassment. “My God, have you seen this?” wrote my friend, a staunch liberal. “I can’t believe I find myself agreeing with Elise Stefanik on anything, but I do here.”

If I’d seen only that excerpt from the hearing, which has now led to denunciations of the college leaders by the White House and the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, among many others, I might have felt the same way. All three presidents — Claudine Gay of Harvard, Sally Kornbluth of M.I.T. and Elizabeth Magill of the University of Pennsylvania — acquitted themselves poorly, appearing morally obtuse and coldly legalistic. It was a moment that seemed to confirm many people’s worst fears about the tolerance for Jew hatred in academia.

But while it might seem hard to believe that there’s any context that could make the responses of the college presidents OK, watching the whole hearing at least makes them more understandable. In the questioning before the now infamous exchange, you can see the trap Stefanik laid.

Finding themselves in a no-win situation, the university presidents resorted to bloodless bureaucratic contortions, and walked into a public relations disaster.

ny times logoNew York Times, Universities Face Inquiry and Angry Donors Over Handling of Antisemitism, Alan Blinder, Anemona Hartocollis and Stephanie Saul, Dec. 8, 2023 (print ed.). Congress has opened an investigation into Harvard, M.I.T. and Penn, a $100 million gift was withdrawn, and demands have grown for presidents to resign.

Harvard, M.I.T. and the University of Pennsylvania on Thursday faced threats from donors, demands that their presidents resign and a congressional investigation as repercussions mounted over the universities’ responses to antisemitism on campus.

U.S. House logoAt Penn, university trustees discussed the future of Elizabeth Magill, its president, whose congressional testimony on Tuesday set off a furor when she dodged the question of whether she would discipline students for calling for the genocide of Jews.

Her answers and similar comments by Claudine Gay of Harvard and Sally Kornbluth of M.I.T. at a House committee meeting set off accusations that they were doing little to protect their own students. All three said they had taken action against antisemitism, but critics argued they had not done enough or were even fostering antisemitism on their campuses.

In response, a House committee opened an investigation into the three institutions as its chairwoman criticized the schools for failing to tackle the “rampant antisemitism” on their campuses after the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7 and the subsequent Israeli invasion of Gaza.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ex-N.F.L. Team Employee Accused of Stealing $22 Million Bet on Football, Dec. 8, 2023. The attorney for the former Jacksonville Jaguars employee said his client was suffering from a “serious gambling addiction.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Jon Rahm, 2023 Masters champion, will leave PGA Tour for LIV Golf, Brendan Quinn, Dec. 8, 2023 (print ed.). The 2023 Masters champion is departing the PGA Tour for LIV. The sport will be different now, our columnist writes. What’s believed to be the largest player acquisition in professional golf history is official. Jon Rahm is heading to LIV Golf and a sport already fundamentally fractured might now have its largest bargaining chip.

While terms of the deal have not been officially released and are not expected to be, as LIV has not done so with any of its other high-profile signings like Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson or Brooks Koepka, The Telegraph reported it to be at $566 million.

All Rahm said Thursday afternoon is the deal is “obviously good enough for someone like me to want to consider it and see this thing through.”

As part of the deal, Rahm will take control of his own LIV team franchise and serve as captain of the league’s 13th team. Asked who will be joining him on that team, Rahm only responded, “You’re going to have to wait to find out.”

Figures aside, Rahm joining LIV represents something larger than any single contract. The 29-year-old is not only the first PGA Tour defect to LIV since the June 6 framework agreement between the PGA Tour and PIF, but he’s also the best young player to join LIV and will radically change the pedigree of competition. More than that, his departure is a severe blow to a PGA Tour that has prided itself on maintaining its hold on the elite of elite players. Such a claim is empty without Rahm, a two-time major winner with 52 weeks at No. 1 in the world on his resume.

ny times logoNew York Times, Charles Barkley Calls Trump Supporters ‘Nutty’ on CNN, Michael Gold, Dec. 8, 2023 (print ed.). The former N.B.A. great, who now hosts a show on the network, was critical of former President Donald J. Trump for comments he made this week about being a dictator.

Charles Barkley, the former basketball star turned sports commentator and CNN host, called supporters of former President Donald J. Trump “a small little group of nutty people” Wednesday night.

Speaking on “King Charles,” the weekly show he hosts with the “CBS Mornings” anchor Gayle King, Mr. Barkley said that he was concerned by Mr. Trump’s refusal to say in a Fox News interview that he would not be a dictator “except for Day 1” of his presidency.

Mr. Barkley, whose CNN show debuted last week to low ratings, said he worried that Mr. Trump would be more focused on retribution against the media and his political opponents than on the economic concerns of the American public.

washington post logoWashington Post, A CBS reporter refusing to reveal her sources could be held in contempt, Jeremy Barr, Dec. 8, 2023. First Amendment advocates are alarmed by the case of Catherine Herridge, who is facing an imminent court deadline and steep fines.

In a rapidly escalating case that is worrying First Amendment advocates, journalist Catherine Herridge could soon be held in contempt of court if she does not reveal her source for the investigative stories she wrote in 2017.

Herridge, now a reporter for CBS News who worked for Fox News at the time, has a Thursday deadline to explain to a federal judge why she should not face the civil sanction — and the hefty, accumulating fines that could come with it.

U.S. District Court Judge Christopher R. Cooper ruled Aug. 1 that Herridge must reveal how she learned about a federal probe into a Chinese American scientist who operated a graduate program in Virginia — the subject of several stories Herridge reported for Fox.

Yanping Chen was never charged as a result of the investigation, which sought to determine whether she had lied about her military service and whether her school’s student database could be accessed from China, as the Fox News reports revealed. But after those stories brought the probe to light, Chen sued the federal government alleging that Herridge had been given leaked materials that violated her privacy, including photographs and images of internal government documents.

After Chen’s lawyers conducted 18 depositions of government and other officials without learning the source of the leak, according to her legal filing, Chen has argued that only the journalist could provide the information she needed to pursue her grievance against the government.

The judge came to the same conclusion. While acknowledging “the vital importance of a free press and the critical role that confidential sources play in the work of investigative journalists,” Cooper ruled in August that Chen’s need for the evidence “overcomes Herridge’s qualified First Amendment privilege.”

But First Amendment advocates disagreed, arguing that journalists can perform their public service function only if they are able to protect the identities of their confidential sources.

And they raise special concerns about Chen’s request to the judge earlier this month that Herridge should personally pay the daily fees, which could range from $500 to $5,000, rather than allowing CBS or Fox to do so.

Chen’s request came after Herridge sat for a deposition in late September but refused to reveal how she obtained the information, citing her First Amendment rights and telling Chen’s lawyer, “I must now disobey the order.”

Politico, Washington Post staffers launch 24-hour walkout, Eric Bazail-Eimil, Dec. 8, 2023. Reporters, producers, editors and business-side staffers are walking off the job as contract negotiations stall and layoffs loom.

More than 700 staffers at The Washington Post launched a 24-hour walkout Thursday after contract negotiations with the newspaper’s leadership have stalled after 18 months.

Reporters, producers, editors and business-side staffers walked off the job and began picketing outside the Post’s enigmatic downtown headquarters in the first protest action at the paper since the mid-1970s.

The Washington Post Guild, a member of the broader Washington-Baltimore NewsGuild, is accusing management of negotiating in “bad faith” as they seek to obtain a contract that they say must address pay disparities and offer employees raises and job protections as layoffs loom at the struggling storied paper.

“We still lack a contract that keeps pace with record-level inflation and guarantees workers a living wage,” the union posted in a statement online, blaming previous leadership at the Post for the company’s current financial woes.

A spokesperson for the Post said in a statement to POLITICO that “we respect the rights of our Guild-covered colleagues to engage in this planned one-day strike” and “will make sure our readers and customers are as unaffected as possible.”

ny times logoNew York Times, From Unicorns to Zombies: Tech Start-Ups Run Out of Time and Money, Erin Griffith, Dec. 8, 2023 (print ed.). After staving off collapse by cutting costs, many young tech companies are out of options, fueling a cash bonfire.

WeWork raised more than $11 billion in funding as a private company. Olive AI, a health care start-up, gathered $852 million. Convoy, a freight start-up, raised $900 million. And Veev, a home construction start-up, amassed $647 million.

In the last six weeks, they all filed for bankruptcy or shut down. They are the most recent failures in a tech start-up collapse that investors say is only beginning.

After staving off mass failure by cutting costs over the past two years, many once-promising tech companies are now on the verge of running out of time and money. They face a harsh reality: Investors are no longer interested in promises. Rather, venture capital firms are deciding which young companies are worth saving and urging others to shut down or sell.

It has fueled an astonishing cash bonfire. In August, Hopin, a start-up that raised more than $1.6 billion and was once valued at $7.6 billion, sold its main business for just $15 million. Last month, Zeus Living, a real estate start-up that raised $150 million, said it was shutting down. Plastiq, a financial technology start-up that raised $226 million, went bankrupt in May. In September, Bird, a scooter company that raised $776 million, was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange because of its low stock price. Its $7 million market capitalization is less than the value of the $22 million Miami mansion that its founder, Travis VanderZanden, bought in 2021.

Dec. 7

Norman Lear (shown in a New York Times file photo by J. Emilio Flores).

washington post logoWashington Post, Norman Lear, who brought social commentary to the sitcom, dies at 101, Louis Bayard, Dec. 7, 2023 (print ed.). Archie Bunker, Maude Findlay and George Jefferson were among the characters he brought to America’s living rooms.

Norman Lear, above, the TV writer and producer who transformed the bland porridge of situation comedy into a zesty stew of sociopolitical strife and brutally funny speech and who gave the world such embattled comic archetypes as Archie Bunker, Fred Sanford, Maude Findlay and George Jefferson, died Dec. 5 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 101.

A family spokeswoman, Lara Bergthold, announced the death but did not provide an immediate cause.

Mr. Lear’s entertainment career spanned the late 1940s to the 21st century, and he also found prominence in later life as a liberal political activist. But his legend was sealed in the 1970s, when he created a handful of shows that transformed the television medium into a fractious national town meeting and showcased the American family in all its hopes and dysfunctions.

Racial prejudice, divorce, rape, Black inner-city struggle, upward social mobility — themes almost nonexistent on commercial television — were suddenly brought to compelling life through Mr. Lear’s juggernaut of hits, including “All in the Family,” “Sanford and Son,” “Maude,” “Good Times,” “The Jeffersons” and “One Day at a Time.”

Far from sermonizing, the shows were master classes in broad comedy. Their success was undeniably due in large measure to the actors, who brought shadings of empathy to troubled, worried and often deeply flawed characters.

“Norman Lear took television away from the pimps, hookers, hustlers, private eyes, junkies, cowboys and rustlers that constituted television chaos, and, in their place, he put the American people,” screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky once observed. “He took the audience and put them on the [TV] set.”

By the 1990s, the adult sensibility that Mr. Lear Norman Lear (shown in a New York Times file photo by J. Emilio Flores) brought to television found a new home in cable drama. “You can trace the impact of his shows in ‘The Sopranos,’ ‘The Shield,’ ‘The Wire,’ wherever you have complex characters of questionable morality,” said Ron Simon, a curator at the Paley Center for Media in New York. “Nothing was ever neatly wrapped up in Lear’s world.”

Dec. 2

washington post logoWashington Post, Smartmatic’s lawsuit against Fox News heats up with Murdoch depositions, Jeremy Barr, Dec. 2, 2023 (print ed.). Rupert was deposed this week and his son Lachlan will sit for a grilling as well, as the 2020-related case moves along.

Rupert Murdoch formally handed over the reins of Fox News’ parent company in mid-November, but that did not end his legal obligations in the long-running fallout over how the network covered the 2020 presidential election.

This week, the 92-year-old media mogul sat for a sworn deposition in the second major defamation lawsuit from an election-technology company that accused Fox of smearing it with false claims of vote rigging.

It’s been seven months since Fox News settled a headline-making defamation suit from Dominion Voting Systems for a record $787.5 million. But in recent weeks the Smartmatic case has stirred to life, putting Murdoch’s company once again in legal peril. Murdoch’s son Lachlan, who now runs the family’s media business, will also be deposed in the case, as will Fox’s former top lawyer, Viet D. Dinh, according to a person with knowledge of the situation who was not authorized to comment.

Fox believes that the case is winnable. The company says Smartmatic’s massive claim of $2.7 billion in financial losses is way off base, since it operates sparingly in the United States, with only one contract in one county for the 2020 election, while Dominion’s machines were used in several key states.

But the network’s First Amendment defense — that Fox hosts were just doing their jobs and reporting the news — is very similar to what it used in the Dominion case, an argument that was rejected by that judge. Despite Fox’s efforts to distinguish the cases, a Dominion lawyer said at a hearing in September that “Smartmatic’s defamation action is based on many of the same statements.”

“We will be ready to defend this case surrounding extremely newsworthy events when it goes to trial, likely in 2025,” a Fox News spokesperson said in a statement. “As a report prepared by our financial expert shows, Smartmatic’s damages claims are implausible, disconnected from reality, and on its face intended to chill First Amendment freedoms.”

Dec. 1

ny times logoNew York Times, Disinformation is among the greatest obstacles facing leaders at the summit, Tiffany Hsu and Steven Lee Myers, Dec. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Online influencers, fossil fuel companies and some of the countries attending COP28 have nourished a feedback loop of falsehoods.

As the world’s leaders gather this week at a major summit to discuss ways to address the effects of global warming, one of the greatest obstacles they face is disinformation.

Among the biggest sources of false or misleading information about the world’s weather, according to a report released this week: influential nations, including Russia and China, whose diplomats will be attending. Others include the companies that extract fossil fuels and the online provocateurs who make money by sharing claims that global warming is a hoax.

ny times logoNew York Times, Advertisers Say They Do Not Plan to Return to X After Musk’s Comments, Kate Conger and Tiffany Hsu, Dec. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Elon Musk, the owner of X, criticized advertisers with expletives on Wednesday at The New York Times’s DealBook Summit. Elon Musk, the owner of X, criticized advertisers with expletives on Wednesday at The New York Times’s DealBook Summit.

elon musk sideviewAdvertisers said on Thursday that they did not plan to reopen their wallets anytime soon with X, the social media company formerly known as Twitter, after its owner, Elon Musk, insulted brands using an expletive and told them not to spend on the platform.

x logo twitterAt least half a dozen marketing agencies said the brands they represent were standing firm against advertising on X, while others said they had advised advertisers to stop posting anything on the platform. Some temporary spending pauses that advertisers have enacted in recent weeks against X are likely to turn into permanent freezes, they added, with Mr. Musk’s comments giving them no incentive to return.

Advertisers are “not coming back” to X, said Lou Paskalis, the founder and chief executive o

 

November

Nov. 30

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. stops helping Big Tech spot foreign meddling amid GOP legal threats, Naomi Nix and Cat Zakrzewski, Nov. 30, 2023. Anthony Faiola, Stefano Pitrelli and Louisa Loveluck, Nov. 30, 2023. The federal government has stopped warning Meta about foreign influence campaigns amid a legal campaign against the Biden administration’s communication with tech firms.

The U.S. federal government has stopped warning some social networks about foreign disinformation campaigns on their platforms, reversing a years-long approach to preventing Russia and other actors from interfering in American politics less than a year before the U.S. presidential elections, according to company officials.

Meta no longer receives notifications of global influence campaigns from the Biden administration, halting a prolonged partnership between the federal government and the world’s largest social media company, senior security officials said Wednesday. Federal agencies have also stopped communicating about political disinformation with Pinterest, according to the company.

The developments underscore the far-reaching impact of a conservative legal campaign against initiatives established to avoid a repeat of the 2016 election, when Russia manipulated social media in an attempt to sow chaos and swing the vote for Donald Trump.

For months, researchers in government and academia have warned that a barrage of lawsuits, congressional demands and online attacks are having a chilling effect on programs intended to combat health and election misinformation. But the shift in communications about foreign meddling signals how ongoing litigation and Republican probes in Congress are unwinding efforts once viewed as critical to protecting U.S. national security interests.

Misinformation research is buckling under GOP legal attacks

Ben Nimmo, chief of global threat intelligence for Meta, said government officials stopped communicating foreign election interference threats to the company in July.

That month, a federal judge limited the Biden administration’s communications with tech platforms in response to a lawsuit alleging such coordination ran afoul of the First Amendment by encouraging companies to remove falsehoods about covid-19 and the 2020 election. The decision included an exemption allowing the government to communicate with the companies about national security threats, specifically foreign interference in elections. The case, Missouri v. Biden, is now before the U.S. Supreme Court, which has paused lower court restrictions while it reviews the matter.

The shift erodes a partnership considered crucial to the integrity of elections around the world — just months before voters head to the polls in Taiwan, the European Union, India and the United States. Ahead of the 2024 U.S. presidential race, foreign actors such as China and Russia have become more aggressive at trying to exacerbate political tensions in the United States, while advanced artificial intelligence allows bad actors to easily create convincing political propaganda.

Sen. Mark R. Warner, the Democratic chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said “legal warfare by far-right actors” has led to a dire situation.

“We are seeing a potential scenario where all the major improvements in identifying, threat-sharing, and public exposure of foreign malign influence activity targeting U.S. elections have been systematically undermined,” the senator from Virginia said in a statement.

Politico, ‘Go f--k yourself!’ Elon Musk tells fleeing advertisers, Claudia Chiappa, Nov. 30, 2023. ‘Is that clear? I hope it is,’ says X owner as companies pull ads from his platform.

politico CustomElon Musk has a message for advertisers who have left X en masse amid accusations of unchecked antisemitism on the social media platform: "Go fuck yourself."

“If somebody has been trying to blackmail me with advertising, blackmail me with money, go fuck yourself,” Musk said during an animated interview at the New York Times DealBook Summit on Wednesday.

Musk has faced criticism over the spread of disinformation and hate content on X since he bought the company formerly known as Twitter. That culminated in an advertiser exodus in recent weeks, as posts about the Israel-Hamas war spread.

ny times logoNew York Times, Elon Musk’s Warning to Advertisers, and Other DealBook Summit Highlights, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Ravi Mattu, Bernhard Warner, Sarah Kessler, Michael J. de la Merced, Lauren Hirsch and Ephrat Livni, Nov. 30, 2023. Artificial intelligence, antisemitism, the 2024 presidential election, war in the Middle East and other big topics made headlines at this year’s event.

x logo twitterComing into Wednesday’s DealBook Summit, few could predict what Elon Musk — whose SpaceX, Tesla and X are among the most consequential and talked-about companies in the world — would say. And the famously voluble billionaire delivered.

Yes, there was the moment when, using profane language, Musk denounced companies that had suspended advertising on X following his endorsement of an antisemitic conspiracy theory. (He did try to clear the air, saying he hadn’t meant to support bigots. “I’m quite sorry” if he had encouraged them, he said.)

But over a 90-minute conversation, Musk touched on much more, including what drives him, his fears about artificial intelligence and more.

“Don’t advertise.” Musk accused advertisers of trying to “blackmail” him over his remarks. (Bob Iger, Disney’s C.E.O., had said earlier that being associated with X and Musk was “not a positive” for his company.) After directing expletives at those businesses, Musk then cheekily added, “Hi, Bob, if you’re in the audience.” Linda Yaccarino, X’s C.E.O. whom Musk hired to win back advertisers (and who was at the summit), later posted a more conciliatory message.

“Do you want the best car, or do you not want the best car?” Whether people love Musk or hate him, the mogul boasted about the capabilities of Tesla vehicles and SpaceX rockets.

“A philosophy of curiosity.” Pressed on what drives him, Musk turned contemplative, speaking at length about a difficult childhood and how he has grappled with an existential crisis he first felt at age 12. His answer: Ensure humanity reaches the stars and settles other planets, hence his work at SpaceX. “If you’re a single-planet civilization,” he said, “something will happen to that planet, and you will die.”

“I’m quite concerned that there’s some dangerous element of A.I. that they’ve discovered.” Asked about the recent leadership shake-up at OpenAI, which he co-founded before leaving in 2019, Musk said that he was worried about the speed at which it had been pushing innovation. He predicted that the technology could reach the point of problem-solving like the human brain — so-called artificial general intelligence — in less than three years. (Jensen Huang, the C.E.O. of the A.I. chipmaker Nvidia, reckoned that milestone would take at least a decade.)

“I think I would not vote for [President] Biden.” Musk, who has turned politically conservative in recent years, criticized the president for snubbing Tesla in the company’s green-energy initiatives, despite its leadership in electric vehicles. The billionaire also said that liberals tended to embrace censorship now, anathema to the self-described free speech “absolutist.” But when asked if he would then vote for Donald Trump, Biden’s likely Republican opponent, Musk demurred, saying only, “this is definitely a difficult choice.”

  • New York Times, Opinion: How the Biden Administration Took the Pen Away From Meta, Google and Amazon, Nov. 30, 2023.

ny times logoNew York Times, Back at OpenAI, Sam Altman Outlines the Company’s Priorities, Cade Metz and Tripp Mickle, Nov. 30, 2023 (print ed.). OpenAI said on Wednesday that it had completed the first phase of a new governance structure that added Microsoft as a nonvoting board member, as it works to end the divisions that fueled the ouster of Sam Altman as chief executive and sets itself up for a future as a bigger company.

In a blog post, Mr. Altman, who was rapidly reinstated last week, also outlined his priorities for OpenAI as he retakes the reins of the high-profile artificial intelligence start-up. He said the company would resume its work building safe A.I. systems and products that benefited its customers. He added that its board would focus on improving governance and overseeing an independent review of the events that led to and followed his removal as chief executive.

Microsoft expands a three-person board that OpenAI announced last week. The tech giant is one of OpenAI’s biggest investors, having committed $13 billion. Microsoft will be able to participate in OpenAI’s board meetings but not vote on business decisions.

“Part of what good governance means is that there’s more predictability, transparency and input from various stakeholders, and this seemed like a good way to get that from a very important one,” Mr. Altman said in an interview, referring to Microsoft.

Nov. 28

washington post logoWashington Post, Elon Musk meets with Netanyahu in Israel, tours kibbutz attacked by Hamas, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The SpaceX founder also reached a ‘principle understanding’ with Israel to operate Starlink satellites in Gaza.

elon musk sideviewElon Musk, right, met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday in Israel, where the pair toured the Kfar Azza kibbutz, one of the Jewish communities attacked by Hamas militants during their Oct. 7 cross-border assault.
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x logo twitterAfter touring the scene of the violence, Musk was shown a video documenting some of the atrocities that took place, according to a conversation between the two men broadcast afterward on X, formerly known as Twitter. Musk said it was jarring to visit the site and troubling to see the joy on the faces of Hamas militants as they killed innocent people.

“It’s one thing obviously if civilians die accidentally, but it’s another thing to revel in the joy of killing civilians. … That’s evil,” Musk said.

Musk also rebuffed arguments that Israel has disproportionately killed civilians in Gaza, saying the actions of Hamas militants were intentional. “There is an important difference here, which is Israel tries to avoid killing civilians,” Musk said.

The trip comes as Musk faces widespread criticism for his decision to loosen content moderation on X, formerly Twitter, after he purchased the platform last year. Since the Hamas attack, antisemitic content has surged more than 900 percent on the platform, The Washington Post reported. Disinformation specialists have accused Musk of playing a uniquely potent role by easing moderation standards and amplifying antisemitic tropes.

Musk has also been condemned by the White House for indicating support for an antisemitic conspiracy theory on X, a move U.S. officials called an “abhorrent promotion of antisemitic and racist hate.” A number of major advertisers have fled the platform after their ads appeared next to pro-Nazi posts.

Musk did not directly address those allegations in his conversation with Netanyahu on Monday, but he said there is a need to “stop the propaganda that is convincing people to engage in murder.” The militants must be “neutralized,” he added.

 alex jones briana sanchez pool

washington post logoWashington Post, Sandy Hook families offer Alex Jones a deal to settle $1.5 billion debt, Timothy Bella, Nov. 28, 2023. The families of victims of the mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School have offered Infowars founder Alex Jones, shown above in a court appearance, a deal to settle the $1.5 billion debt for only 6 percent of what he owes them for saying the 2012 massacre in Newtown, Conn., was a hoax, according to a new court filing.

The settlement offer, which was filed in Jones’s personal bankruptcy case in Houston last week, calls for the right-wing conspiracy theorist to pay the families at least $85 million over 10 years. Lawyers for the Sandy Hook families wrote that Jones could either liquidate his estate and give the proceeds to creditors, or pay the families at least $8.5 million a year for 10 years — and 50 percent of any income over $9 million a year — to settle his debt.

While lawyers described the proposal as a viable way to help resolve the bankruptcy cases that Jones faces for himself and his company, Free Speech Systems, the attorneys for the victims slammed the Infowars founder for failing to curb his spending, change his “extravagant lifestyle,” or failing to produce financial documents in court. Jones’s personal spending between May and July of this year was $242,219, including more than $93,000 in July alone, according to previous court filings.

“Jones has failed in every way to serve as the fiduciary mandated by the Bankruptcy Code in exchange for the breathing spell he has enjoyed for almost a year,” lawyers for the Sandy Hook families wrote in the settlement offer filing, which The Post obtained. “His time is up.”

Vickie L. Driver, Jones’s personal bankruptcy attorney, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday morning. In a Monday court hearing, Driver suggested that even though the settlement offer was only pennies on the dollar compared to the $1.5 billion he owes, the figure was still too high and that it was unrealistic that he would be able to pay it.

“There are no financials that will ever show that Mr. Jones ever made that … in 10 years,” Driver said, according to the Associated Press.

The offer comes more than a year after Sandy Hook families were awarded nearly $1.5 billion in liabilities for Jones’s false theories about the 2012 school shooting. Jones, 49, is appealing the rulings in Connecticut and Texas, arguing that he didn’t get fair trials. The order came after the families testified about years of threats and harassment from Jones’s followers, who accused family members of being “crisis actors” whose children never existed. Twenty children and six adults were killed in the mass shooting.

After Free Speech Systems, the parent company of Infowars, filed for bankruptcy in July 2022, Jones did the same last December, marking $969 million in bankruptcy claims that he owed to 17 people in the Sandy Hook cases as “disputed.” Jones claimed his estimated debts to be between $1 billion and $10 billion, and said last year that his debts were primarily business debts and that he owed an estimated 50 to 99 creditors. At the time, he estimated his assets to be worth between $1 million and $10 million.

Within a year of filing for bankruptcy, Jones reported that he paid more than $1.3 million in debts that he owed to people classified as “insiders,” which include any relatives or business partners. Among those listed is Erika Wulff Jones, whom he married in 2017 and with whom he has a child. Alex Jones reported paying his wife more than $680,800 as part of what’s listed as a “premarital agreement.”

Jones is still broadcasting and continues to tell his Infowars audience that he has money problems, urging them to buy his products to support his cause. Jones recently asked U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Lopez for permission to sell his personal possessions, such as SUVs, boats and 49 firearms, to Infowars fans to help pay “administrative claims and reduce cost to maintain certain personal property, particularly those stored in various storage facilities.

Nov. 27

ny times logoNew York Times, At Meta, Millions of Underage Users Were an ‘Open Secret,’ States Say, Natasha Singer, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Meta has received more than 1.1 million reports of users under the age of 13 on its Instagram platform since early 2019 yet it “disabled only a fraction” of those accounts, according to a newly unsealed legal complaint against the company brought by the attorneys general of 33 states.

meta logoInstead, the social media giant “routinely continued to collect” children’s personal information, like their locations and email addresses, without parental permission, in violation of a federal children’s privacy law, according to the court filing. Meta could face hundreds of millions of dollars, or more, in civil penalties should the states prove the allegations.

“Within the company, Meta’s actual knowledge that millions of Instagram users are under the age of 13 is an open secret that is routinely documented, rigorously analyzed and confirmed,” the complaint said, “and zealously protected from disclosure to the public.”

The privacy charges are part of a larger federal lawsuit, filed last month by California, Colorado and 31 other states in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The lawsuit accuses Meta of unfairly ensnaring young people on its Instagram and Facebook platforms while concealing internal studies showing user harms. And it seeks to force Meta to stop using certain features that the states say have harmed young users.

But much of the evidence cited by the states was blacked out by redactions in the initial filing.

Now the unsealed complaint, filed on Wednesday evening, provides new details from the states’ lawsuit. Using snippets from internal emails, employee chats and company presentations, the complaint contends that Instagram for years “coveted and pursued” underage users even as the company “failed” to comply with the children’s privacy law.

The unsealed filing said that Meta “continually failed” to make effective age-checking systems a priority and instead used approaches that enabled users under 13 to lie about their age to set up Instagram accounts. It also accused Meta executives of publicly stating in congressional testimony that the company’s age-checking process was effective and that the company removed underage accounts when it learned of them — even as the executives knew there were millions of underage users on Instagram.

“Tweens want access to Instagram, and they lie about their age to get it now,” Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, said in an internal company chat in November 2021, according to the court filing.

In Senate testimony the following month, Mr. Mosseri said: “If a child is under the age of 13, they are not permitted on Instagram.”

In a statement on Saturday, Meta said that it had spent a decade working to make online experiences safe and age-appropriate for teenagers and that the states’ complaint “mischaracterizes our work using selective quotes and cherry-picked documents.”

 

Alabama's State Capitol, shown above

Alabama's State Capitol, shown above

washington post logoWashington Post, In Alabama, another small-town paper hit in ‘open season’ on free press, Paul Farhi, Nov. 27, 2023. It’s an increasingly familiar drama: Local authorities go after journalists and publishers of small papers, which find themselves on the First Amendment’s front lines.

When Don Fletcher checked the mailbox outside his newspaper’s office on Main Street in late September, he found a little gold mine waiting for him.

Folded up inside was a copy of a grand-jury subpoena served on two employees of the local school system. The confidential document indicated that a criminal investigation into potential financial abuse was underway — a solid lead for a veteran reporter like Fletcher.

It took a couple of weeks to confirm, but Fletcher soon broke the news in the weekly Atmore News that officials were probing the Escambia County Board of Education’s handling of federal covid-19 relief funds. What happened next, though, lifted Fletcher’s story far beyond this town nestled amid cotton fields north of the Florida panhandle.

Days later, the local district attorney ordered the arrest of Fletcher and his boss, Sherry Digmon, the News’ publisher and co-owner. He charged both with violating a state law that prohibits the disclosure of grand-jury information — a felony punishable by up to three years in prison.

The reporter, 69, and publisher, 72, were taken to the county lockup by police officers they had known for years. As a courtesy, the deputies waited until they were out of public view before placing handcuffs on them.

Don Fletcher, a reporter for the weekly Atmore (Ala.) News, was arrested earlier this fall after reporting on a grand jury subpoena involving federal covid-19 relief funds and the local county board of education. (Paul Farhi/The Washington Post)
Sherry Digmon, publisher and co-owner of the Atmore News was also arrested with reporter Don Fletcher. (Paul Farhi/The Washington Post)

The arrests shocked legal scholars and press advocates, who say it’s a violation of the First Amendment to prosecute a newspaper for reporting the news. More specifically, they argue that District Attorney Stephen M. Billy misapplied Alabama’s secrecy law, which criminalizes leaks by anyone directly involved with a grand jury — jurors, witnesses, court officials — but not news outlets that publish the information.”

Nov. 26

ny times logoNew York Times, X May Lose Up to $75 Million in Revenue as More Advertisers Pull Out, Ryan Mac and Kate Conger, Nov. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Internal documents show companies like Airbnb, Coca-Cola and Microsoft have halted ads, or may do so, after Elon Musk’s endorsement of an antisemitic conspiracy theory.

X, the social media company formerly known as Twitter, could lose as much as $75 million in advertising revenue by the end of the year as dozens of major brands pause their marketing campaigns after its owner, Elon Musk, endorsed an antisemitic conspiracy theory this month.

Internal documents viewed by The New York Times this week show that the company is in a more difficult position than previously known and that concerns about Mr. Musk and the platform have spread far beyond companies including IBM, Apple and Disney, which paused their advertising campaigns on X last week. The documents list more than 200 ad units of companies from the likes of Airbnb, Amazon, Coca-Cola and Microsoft, many of which have halted or are considering pausing their ads on the social network.

The documents come from X’s sales team and are meant to track the impact of all the advertising lapses this month, including those by companies that have already paused and others that may be at risk of doing so. They list how much ad revenue X employees fear the company could lose through the end of the year if advertisers do not return.

On Friday, X said in a statement that $11 million in revenue was at risk and that the exact figure fluctuated as some advertisers returned to the platform and others increased spending. The company said the numbers viewed by The Times were either outdated or represented an internal exercise to evaluate total risk.

The advertising freezes come during the final three months of the year, which is traditionally the social media company’s strongest quarter as brands run holiday promotions for events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In the last three months of 2021 — the last year the company reported fourth-quarter earnings before Mr. Musk took over — the company recorded $1.57 billion in revenue, of which nearly 90 percent came from advertising.

Nov. 22

sam altman

ny times logoNew York Times, Sam Altman Is Reinstated as OpenAI’s Chief Executive, Cade Metz, Mike Isaac, Tripp Mickle, Karen Weise and Kevin Roose, Nov. 22, 2023. The move late Tuesday reversed his ouster last week by the artificial intelligence company’s board, which will be overhauled. Sam Altman was reinstated late Tuesday as OpenAI’s chief executive, the company said, successfully reversing his ouster by OpenAI’s board last week after a campaign waged by his allies, employees and investors.

The company’s board of directors will be overhauled, jettisoning several members who had opposed Mr. Altman. Adam D’Angelo, the chief executive of Quora, will be the only holdover.

OpenAI had an “agreement in principle” for Mr. Altman to return as chief executive, it said in a post to X. “We are collaborating to figure out the details. Thank you so much for your patience through this.”

The return of Mr. Altman and Greg Brockman, the company’s president who had resigned in solidarity, and the remaking of the board, capped a frenetic five days that upended OpenAI, the maker of the ChatGPT chatbot and one of the world’s highest-profile artificial intelligence companies.

“I love openai, and everything i’ve done over the past few days has been in service of keeping this team and its mission together,” Mr. Altman said in a microsoft logo Custompost to X, adding that he looked forward to reinforcing OpenAI’s partnership with Microsoft, its biggest investor.

Microsoft supported the move. Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, said on X that he was “encouraged by the changes to OpenAI board,” calling it a “first essential step on a path to more stable, well-informed, and effective governance.”

Mr. D’Angelo was leading the negotiations, according to two people in touch with the board. The general framework for the changes was in place by late Sunday, one of those people said.

Determining the composition of the board slowed down the decision to bring Mr. Altman back, according to that person and one other. OpenAI called the new board its “initial” board, indicating it could expand.

A person close to the board’s deliberations on Tuesday said that Mr. D’Angelo, Tasha McCauley and Helen Toner pressed for certain concessions from Mr. Altman, including an independent investigation into his leadership of OpenAI.

In the end, Ms. Toner and Ms. McCauley agreed to step down from the board because it was clear that it needed a fresh start, this person close to deliberations said. If all of them stepped down, they worried that it would suggest the board erred even though they collectively felt they did the right thing, this person said.

The outgoing board focused on curbing Mr. Altman’s power. In addition to an investigation into his leadership, they blocked his and Mr. Brockman’s return to the board and objected to potential board members who they worried might not stand up to Mr. Altman, said this person close to the board negotiations.

OpenAI’s board surprised Mr. Altman and the company’s employees on Friday afternoon when it told him he was being pushed out. Mr. Brockman, who co-founded the company with Mr. Altman and others, resigned in protest.

The ouster kicked off efforts by Mr. Altman, 38, his allies in the tech industry and OpenAI’s employees to force the company’s board to bring him back. On Sunday evening, after a weekend of negotiations, the board said it was going to stick with its decision.

But in a head-spinning development just hours later, Microsoft said that Mr. Altman, Mr. Brockman and others would be joining the company to start a new advanced artificial intelligence lab.

Most of OpenAI’s more than 700 employees signed a letter telling the board they would walk out and follow Mr. Altman to Microsoft if he wasn’t reinstated, putting the future of the start-up in jeopardy.

Four board members — Ilya Sutskever, an OpenAI founder; Mr. D’Angelo; Ms. Toner, a director of strategy at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology; and Ms. McCauley, an entrepreneur and computer scientist — had initially decided to push Mr. Altman out.

But as the employee revolt grew, Mr. Sutskever had second thoughts: “I deeply regret my participation in the board’s actions,” he said in a message on X. He also signed the letter. Mr. Sutskever is no longer on the board but remains an OpenAI employee.

“Ilya is thrilled that Sam is back as C.E.O. and he has been working tirelessly for days to make this happen,” said Mr. Sutskever’s lawyer, Alex Weingarten. “It is what is best for the company.”

OpenAI employees had been given this week off for Thanksgiving, but many workers remained in the office or glued to their screens to follow the drama. “Thank god,” one employee said. “We’re so back,” said another.

Thrive Capital, which is leading a new funding offer that will value OpenAI at more than $80 billion, said it would continue to partner with the company “now and in the future.”

Late on Tuesday night, OpenAI employees were celebrating in the company’s office. Mr. Altman phoned a reporter at The New York Times and said: “I hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Before Sam Altman was ousted and reinstated to OpenAI, he and the board had been bickering for more than a year, Cade Metz, Tripp Mickle and Mike Isaac, Nov. 22, 2023 (print ed.). Sam Altman confronted a member over a research paper that discussed the company, while directors disagreed for months about who should fill board vacancies.

Before Sam Altman was ousted from OpenAI last week, he and the company’s board of directors had been bickering for more than a year. The tension chat gpt logogot worse as OpenAI became a mainstream name thanks to its popular ChatGPT chatbot.

At one point, Mr. Altman, the chief executive, made a move to push out one of the board’s members because he thought a research paper she had co-written was critical of the company.

Another member, Ilya Sutskever, thought Mr. Altman was not always being honest when talking with the board. And some board members worried that Mr. Altman was too focused on expansion while they wanted to balance that growth with A.I. safety.

The news that he was being pushed out came in a videoconference on Friday afternoon, when Mr. Sutskever, who had worked closely with Mr. Altman at OpenAI for eight years, read him a statement. The decision stunned OpenAI’s employees and exposed board members to tough questions about their qualifications to manage such a high-profile company.

ny times logoNew York Times, Electronic Warfare Is Disrupting Air Travel Far From the Battlefield, Selam Gebrekidan, Nov. 22, 2023 (print ed.). Planes were built to trust GPS signals, but interference in the Middle East and Ukraine has diverted flights and caused inaccurate onboard alerts.

Electronic warfare in the Middle East and Ukraine is affecting air travel far from the battlefields, unnerving pilots and exposing an unintended consequence of a tactic that experts say will become more common.

Planes are losing satellite signals, flights have been diverted and pilots have received false location reports or inaccurate warnings that they were flying close to terrain, according to European Union safety regulators and an internal airline memo viewed by The New York Times. The Federal Aviation Administration has also warned pilots about GPS jamming in the Middle East.

Radio frequency interference — intended to disrupt the satellite signals used by rockets, drones and other weaponry — spiked after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022 and has grown even more intense this fall in the Middle East. The interference can involve jamming satellite signals by drowning them out with noise, or spoofing them — mimicking real satellite signals to trick recipients with misleading information.

The radio interference has so far not proven to be dangerous. But aircraft systems have proved largely unable to detect GPS spoofing and correct for it, according to Opsgroup, an organization that monitors changes and risks in the aviation industry. One Embraer jet bound for Dubai nearly veered into Iranian airspace in September before the pilots figured out the plane was chasing a false signal.

Nov. 20

media matters logo

Politico, Musk threatens 'thermonuclear lawsuit' as X ad boycott gathers pace, Jacopo Barigazzi, Nov. 20, 2023 (print ed.). Elon Musk said on Saturday that he will file a "thermonuclear lawsuit" against non-profit watchdog Media Matters and others, as companies including Disney, Apple and IBM reportedly have paused advertising on X amid an antisemitism storm around the social media platform.

politico CustomThe split second court opens on Monday," Musk said in a post on X on Saturday. "X Corp will be filing a thermonuclear lawsuit against Media Matters and ALL those who colluded in this fraudulent attack on our company," he said.

elon musk 2015Musk ,right, also posted a statement with the headline "Stand with X to protect free speech" where he said that Media Matters "completely misrepresented the real user experience on X." He also said that "for speech to be truly free, we must also have the freedom to see or hear things that some people may consider objectionable" and added that "we will not allow agenda driven activists, or even our profits, to deter our vision."

x logo twitterMusk, owner of Tesla and Space X, who bought Twitter last year and renamed it X, was already under fire for tolerating and even encouraging antisemitism on the social media platform. The latest episode was this week when Musk endorsed an antisemitic post on X as “the actual truth” of what Jewish people were doing.

The antisemitic post said that "Jewish communties (sic) have been pushing the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them.” The post also referenced “hordes of minorities” flooding Western countries, a popular antisemitic conspiracy theory.

The White House condemned the post, recalling that the post Musk was responding to referred to a conspiracy theory that motivated the man who killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018.

The companies suspending advertising on X include Disney, IBM, Apple, Paramount, NBCUniversal, Comcast, Lionsgate and Warner Bros. Discovery, according to media reports.

In Brussels, the European Commission’s communications department has asked all EU executive services to stop running ads on X over “widespread concerns relating to the spread of disinformation,” according to an internal note seen by POLITICO's Playbook.

Media Matters, a U.S. group that describes itself as "a progressive research and information center" that monitors "media outlets for conservative misinformation," published earlier this week research showing that X has posted ads appearing next to pro-Nazi posts.

X CEO Linda Yaccarino previously said that brands are now “protected from the risk of being next to” potentially toxic content on the platform.

sam altman

ny times logoNew York Times, OpenAI Staff Threaten Exodus Unless Ousted Chief Is Reinstalled, Cade Metz, Tripp Mickle and Mike Isaac, Nov. 20, 2023. The future of OpenAI is in jeopardy after more than 700 of its 770 employees signed a letter on Monday saying they may leave the company for Microsoft if the ousted chief executive, Sam Altman, is not reinstalled at the high-profile artificial intelligence start-up.

OpenAI’s four-person board t shocked the tech industry early Friday afternoon when it removed Mr. Altman, saying they could no longer trust him. One of the board members who pushed out Mr. Altman then reversed course on Monday and signed the letter demanding that he be reinstated.

The decision by the board set off a frantic weekend of unexpected corporate jockeying that ended with Mr. Altman joining Microsoft to start a new A.I. project. By early Monday morning, the 700 employees had signed the letter, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The upheaval leaves the future of one of the fastest-growing companies in Silicon Valley history in doubt. At a time when the industry was reeling in the wake of mass layoffs, OpenAI’s technology fueled the creation of hundreds of start-ups. Now, many of those businesses are concerned about their prospects.

The A.I. start-up was in crisis after more than 700 of its nearly 800 staff members said they might head to Microsoft unless Sam Altman was reinstated.

“This is the debacle of the decade,” said Gaurav Oberoi, the founder of Lexion, a start-up that relies on OpenAI to help companies streamline legal, sales and vendor contracts. “It’s a lesson in how to destroy a huge amount of value overnight and their own reputation.”

OpenAI declined to comment. Emmett Shear, whom the board named as interim chief executive late on Sunday, declined to immediately comment because he was busy on another call.

The letter said that Microsoft had assured OpenAI employees that there were positions for them all if they chose to join its new A.I. subsidiary. Microsoft declined to comment.

In addition to Mr. Altman, several key OpenAI employees have already joined Microsoft’s new A.I. subsidiary. This includes Greg Brockman, the OpenAI president who quit the start-up in solidarity after Mr. Altman was ousted. Early Monday morning in a post to X, formerly known as Twitter, Mr. Brockman said that he and Mr. Altman would also be joined at Microsoft by three OpenAI researchers: Jakub Pachocki, Szymon Sidor and Aleksander Madry.

Now, the more than 700 OpenAI employees who signed the letter may also join this core team at Microsoft. In a remarkable reversal, this includes the OpenAI chief scientist, Ilya Sutskever, who was part of the board that ousted Mr. Altman. “I never intended to harm OpenAI,” he said on X. “I love everything we’ve built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company.” (Mr. Altman reposted the message and added three red hearts.)

Internally, OpenAI staff members were in upheaval in the hours after the board posted its memo and late into the evening, two OpenAI employees told The New York Times. Workers were privately sharing morbid jokes and memes about the power struggles from the HBO show “Succession,” the employees said. Many used private group messaging chats and video calls to plan their next steps — and to commiserate with one another.

microsoft logo CustomOpenAI stills retain its own partnership with Microsoft. Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, said in an early Monday post to X that his company remained committed to the partnership. He indicated that Microsoft would continue to work with the start-up to sell a wide range of products and services based on GPT-4 and other OpenAI technologies.

But if most OpenAI employees leave for Microsoft, the start-up will have difficulty building the next generation of A.I. technologies — systems that will be more powerful than ChatGPT. Others companies, including Google and Meta, are working on such technologies.

Mr. Oberoi of Lexion said that his company had been using OpenAI’s large language models, or L.L.M.s, to develop new features because its A.I. technologies are more advanced than any others in the market. But in the wake of this weekend’s turmoil, he said that Lexion will be developing parallel features with Anthropic, an OpenAI rival, so that the company “can switch quickly if need be.”

“This underscores a big discussion happening: Are you going to build your technology and platforms and key features on third party L.L.M.s?” Mr. Oberoi said. “As a builder on top of their products, I worry if there will be any other sudden decisions that could impact our models. Also, it’s really expensive.”

sam altman

washington post logoWashington Post, Sam Altman will lead new Microsoft AI team. OpenAI board names interim CEO, Pranshu Verma, Nitasha Tiku and Gerrit De Vynck, Nov. 20, 2023. Talks on Altman’s potential return to OpenAI broke down despite pressure by employees and investors to reinstate him.

Sam Altman, above, the face of the artificial intelligence revolution, will not return as OpenAI chief executive despite talks to negotiate his reinstatement Sunday, two people familiar with the matter said, the latest twist in one of Silicon Valley’s most dramatic boardroom showdowns.
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microsoft logo CustomMicrosoft CEO Satya Nadella tweeted early Monday that Altman and Greg Brockman, the former president of OpenAI who quit in solidarity with Altman, will be joining Microsoft to lead a new advanced AI research team.

“We look forward to moving quickly to provide them with the resources needed for their success,” Nadella said in the post. Microsoft is a major investor in OpenAI.

Emmett Shear, the co-founder of Twitch, a popular video game streaming platform Amazon acquired in 2014, will become OpenAI’s interim CEO, replacing Mira Murati, who was named to that role Friday in a management reshuffle, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post. Interim CEO Patty Stonesifer sits on Amazon’s board.)

The latest development came after a chaotic weekend, during which OpenAI investors and employees, blindsided by the board’s move to fire Altman on Friday, mounted a campaign to get him reinstated. In its vague statement explaining the rationale for his ouster, OpenAI said only that Altman wasn’t always “candid” in his communications with the board. The news reverberated through Silicon Valley and the halls of government, where Altman had become a major influencer of policy and regulation on AI.

  • New York Times, These are the winners and losers of OpenAI’s wild weekend, according to our columnist, Nov. 20, 2023.
  • New York Times, What just happened in the world of artificial intelligence? Nov. 20, 2023.

ny times logoNew York Times, If Your Child Is Addicted to TikTok, This May Be the Cure, Ginia Bellafante, Nov. 19, 2023 (print ed.). Children are suffering under the weight of social media. New York lawmakers believe they have a strategy to halt the damage.

washington post logoWashington Post, Shakira strikes last-minute deal in Spanish tax fraud case, Anne Branigin, Nov. 20, 2023. Shakira, who was charged with failing to pay more than 14.5 million euros in income taxes, will receive a three-year suspended sentence and a fine of more than 7 million euros

On the day her tax evasion trial was set to begin in Barcelona, Shakira announced that she struck a deal with Spanish prosecutors, settling a years-long legal dispute.

Spanish authorities had accused Shakira of failing to pay more than 14.5 million euros — roughly $15.8 million — in income taxes between 2012 and 2014. On Monday, the Colombian singer told the presiding magistrate that she had reached an agreement with prosecutors. According to the Associated Press, Shakira will receive a suspended three-year sentence as part of the deal, as well as pay a fine of 7.3 million euros.

Prosecutors had initially sought an eight-year prison sentence and a fine of 24 million euros.

Shakira, whose legal name is Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, rejected a deal offered to her by prosecutors in July 2022. The singer continues to maintain her innocence in the matter but said she ultimately chose to settle with Spanish authorities to avoid putting additional stress on her family.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: This Is Why Google Paid Billions for Apple to Change a Single Setting, Zeynep Tufekci, Nov. 20, 2023. A report in The Guardian in August that lawyers who had had business before the Supreme Court gave money to an aide to Justice Clarence Thomas for a Christmas party was surprising. Just as surprising was the way the publication learned about it: from the aide’s public Venmo records. Brian X. Chen, the consumer technology writer for The Times, wrote that even he was surprised that such records of money transfers could be public.

google logo customA few years ago it became known that Alexa, Amazon’s voice device, recorded and sent private conversations to third parties, that Amazon staff members listened to recordings and kept an extensive archive of recordings by default.

Both companies responded to these startling violations of privacy by suggesting that the burden to keep this information from going public was on users, who could, they said, opt out of devices’ default settings to ensure privacy. This is often the standard industry response.

Even if you’re aware of these problems, how easy is it to protect your privacy? Chen helpfully shared instructions for opting out of Venmo’s public disclosures.

“Inside the app, click on the Me tab, tap the settings icon and select Privacy. Under default privacy settings, select Private,” he explained. “Then, under the ‘More’ section in Privacy, click ‘Past Transactions’ and make sure to set that to ‘Change All to Private.’”

Got all that? I did, and changed my settings, too, as I had also been in the dark.

The bigger problem is not the sometimes ridiculous difficulty of opting out, it’s that consumers often aren’t even aware of what their settings allow, or what it all means. If they were truly informed and actively choosing among the available options, the default setting would matter little, and be of little to no value.

But companies expect users to accept what they’re given, not know their options or not have the constant vigilance required to keep track of the available options, however limited they may be. Since the power in the industry is concentrated among few gatekeepers, and the technology is opaque and its consequences hard to foresee, default settings are some of the most important ways for companies to keep collecting and using data as they want.

So, how much are default settings worth?

In April 2021, Apple changed the default settings on iPhones and other devices so that users could not be tracked automatically via a unique identifier assigned to their Apple device. For many companies, and even for entire industries whose business models are based on tracking people online, it was a cataclysmic event. No longer would people have to opt out of such tracking by going into their settings and changing the permissions. Now the apps had to ask for and receive explicit permission before they could have access to that identifier.

In 2021, Snap, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were estimated to have lost about $10 billion in total because of the change. In early 2022, Meta, Facebook’s parent company, said it alone stood to lose $10 billion. Industries like mobile gaming, in which revenue largely depends on tracking users, also suffered.

Another valuation of default settings became clear in the current Google antitrust trial. During the trial, Google revealed that it paid $26.3 billion in 2021 to be the default search engine on various platforms, with a substantial portion of the money going to Apple. That $26.3 billion was more than a third of the entire 2021 profit of Google’s parent company, Alphabet. That was more than the 2021 revenue of United Airlines and even of many tech companies, including Uber. An expert witness for Google testified that as part of that deal, the company was paying Apple 36 percent of its search advertising revenue to be its products’ default search engine.

Even when you might think you know what your default settings are, you can be surprised. On more than one occasion I discovered that my privacy settings had changed from what I thought they were. Help forums are full of similarly befuddled users. Sometimes it’s a bug. Other times, when I dug into it, I realized that another change I had made had surreptitiously switched me back into tracking. Sometimes I learned that there was yet another setting somewhere else that also needed to be changed.

I’m not a tech novice: I started programming in middle school, worked as a developer and study these systems academically. If professionals can be tripped up, I’d argue that an industry rife with information asymmetries and powerful, complicated technologies needs to be reined in.

Regulators can require companies to have defaults that favor privacy and autonomy, and make it easy to remain in control of them. There are already good efforts underway. California allows people to make a single opt-out or delete request to get all data brokers to delete all their information, rather than having to appeal to them one by one. Colorado also recently passed similar universal one-stop opt-out mechanisms. Other states have made similar privacy protection moves.

I would go further: Data brokers should not be allowed to amass information about people unless they first get explicit permission. But that’s not sufficient, since it is difficult for individuals to evaluate all the implications of their data — professionals, experts and the companies themselves keep getting surprised.

El Heraldo de Juárez via Knight Center LAtAm Journalism Review, Journalist Killed In Mexico, Staff Report, Nov. 20, 2023 (Read original article in Spanish). "The Attorney General of the State [of Chihuahua, Mexico], César Jáuregui, said that no motive can be ruled out in the [Nov. 16] murder of El Heraldo de Juárez photojournalist Ismael Villagómez.

'We've already resolved the case in the first instance. We are not going to rule out any line of investigation. What is clear and has been determined is who the perpetrator of the homicide is,' he said [...].

[...] One of the individuals [allegedly involved in the crime] is not only charged, but was given one year of preventive detention […].

Jáuregui was clear in pointing out that it is very important [to determine] if the motive was related to Villagómez's activity as a journalist, and not only as a car driver in the evenings [...]."

Politico, Commentary: The Implosion of Nikki Haley’s Social Media Crusade, Jack Shafer, Nov. 20, 2023 (print ed.). Her call to ban anonymous posting is foolish, impractical and downright unpatriotic.

politico CustomPresidential candidate Nikki Haley did free speech a great service this week by making a nutty call for social media to be bleached clean of anonymity.

nikki haley o“Every person on social media should be verified, by their name. That’s, first of all, it’s a national security threat,” Haley, right, said Tuesday on Fox News, because it can spread misinformation. Banning anonymous accounts would get “rid of the Russian bots, the Iranian bots and the Chinese bots,” she continued. On the Ruthless podcast that day, Haley reiterated her pitch: “They need to verify every single person on their outlet, and I want it by name.”

Haley earned immediate broadsides from two of her Republican opponents. Vivek Ramaswamy waved the free speech flag as he denounced her proposal as censorship. Ron DeSantis reminded her that the Federalist Papers were written anonymously. Journalists and activists unloaded with more of the same, including Glenn Greenwald, Charlie Kirk and Dana Loesch.

By Wednesday, Haley had softened her harsh proposal, saying, “I don’t mind anonymous American people having free speech; what I don’t like is anonymous Russians and Chinese and Iranians having free speech.”

Haley’s proposal crumpled under the most gentle scrutiny. In order to prove that you’re an American worthy of anonymous speech under her regime, wouldn’t you have to … identify yourself, thereby losing your anonymity? And that’s for starters. Would such a government-mandated scheme be legal? Probably not. Is the plague of anonymous misinformation somehow unique to the internet, requiring special rules for it? No. How practical would it be to identify every social media account by name? Not very. And if we said to hell with practicality and deployed the Haley plan, what would we lose?

Haley’s education must have forgone not only law but history. The right to anonymous speech goes back to the founding of our country when anonymous pamphleteers made their case for independence. Although not an absolute right, anonymity is bound tightly to the freedom of the press and has proven invaluable to the citizenry, especially the disenfranchised. Haley’s scheme would easily violate certain legal rights to privacy established by the courts (although it should be said that nothing bars private social media outlets, acting on their own, from instituting policies that require users to accurately identify themselves).

Setting aside all that, how would it work? Haley’s demand that social media companies verify usernames poses several questions. Would this be on the honor system? If so, then it would be useless as it would be easy to give a fake name or, as bars can already tell you, a fake ID. Would it be linked to driver’s licenses or passports? If so, you’d have to verify 1) that the driver’s license or passport is valid but also 2) that it was submitted by its owner. That would prove costly and time-consuming for both users and social media outlets and maybe even bankrupt them. If the site survived, would they turn their backs on international users, who might be too expensive to verify? Does Haley expect social media sites to use facial ID or other biometric data, like fingerprints, which pose monumental privacy problems?

Nov. 19

 

elon musk sideview

ny times logoNew York Times, More Advertisers Halt Spending on X in Growing Backlash Against Musk, Kate Conger and Tiffany Hsu, Nov. 19, 2023 (print ed.).  Warner Bros. and Sony have joined other companies in pausing spending on X, formerly Twitter, over Elon Musk’s endorsement of an antisemitic post.

More major advertisers have paused their spending on X, the social media service formerly known as Twitter, as the backlash continued over Elon Musk’s endorsement of an antisemitic conspiracy theory on X.

x logo twitterThe entertainment company Warner Bros. and Sony have joined other prominent brands in halting their spending on X. IBM cut off its advertising on X on Thursday, while Apple, Lionsgate, the entertainment and film distribution company, and Paramount Global, the media giant that owns CBS, all paused their ads on Friday.

The spending freeze comes as X has fought to win back advertisers who were wary of spending on the platform after Mr. Musk took it over a year ago and said he would loosen content moderation rules. Major brands tend to be cautious about placing their ads next to posts with offensive or hateful speech.

twitter bird CustomMr. Musk, who bought Twitter in October 2022 and renamed it X, drew scrutiny this week after replying to a post on X that accused Jewish people who are facing antisemitism amid the Israel-Hamas war of pushing the “exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them” and supporting the immigration of “hordes of minorities.”

“You have said the actual truth,” Mr. Musk replied. Jewish groups said that Mr. Musk’s message boosted a conspiracy theory known as replacement theory, which claims that Jews have organized nonwhite immigrants to replace the white race. The concept was embraced by Robert Bowers, who killed 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018.

Mr. Musk’s statement drew condemnation from the White House on Friday. Andrew Bates, a White House spokesman, said in a statement that it was “unacceptable to repeat the hideous lie behind the most fatal act of antisemitism in American history at any time, let alone one month after the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust.”

Mr. Musk lashed out at advertisers who had pulled their dollars from X on Friday, and threatened legal action against Media Matters, a left-wing advocacy organization that said it found antisemitic content on X and highlighted advertisements for Apple, IBM and other brands that appeared alongside posts touting Hitler and the Nazi Party.

In a post on Friday night, Mr. Musk said, “The split second court opens on Monday, X Corp will be filing a thermonuclear lawsuit against Media Matters and ALL those who colluded in this fraudulent attack on our company.”

X said that the research strategy used by Media Matters to discover the advertisements that ran along antisemitic content was not representative of how regular people use its platform. The organization followed accounts that posted the content, then refreshed the X timeline until ads appeared, X said in a blog post. Only one of the nine posts highlighted by Media Matters violated its content moderation rules, X added.

In a statement, Joe Benarroch, the head of business operations at X, said, “50 impressions served against the content in the article, out of 5.5 billion served the whole day, points to the fact of how efficiently our model avoids content for advertisers.” He added, “Data wins over allegations.”

Media Matters said that it would defend itself from litigation by X. “Far from the free speech advocate he claims to be, Musk is a bully threatening a meritless lawsuit in an attempt to silence reporting that he even confirmed is accurate,” said Angelo Carusone, the president of Media Matters. “Musk admitted the ads at issue ran alongside the pro-Nazi content we identified. This is like getting mad at a mirror because you don’t like the reflection. If he does sue us, we will win.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Antisemitism was rising online. Then Elon Musk’s X supercharged it, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Taylor Lorenz, Naomi Nix and Joseph Menn, Nov. 19, 2023. After neo-Nazi protests in Charlottesville, white supremacists were confined mostly to fringe websites. Musk’s purchase of Twitter changed that. In the weeks following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, Twitter user @breakingbaht criticized leftists, academics and “minorities” for defending the militant group. But it wasn’t until the user spoke up on behalf of antisemites that he struck a viral chord with X owner Elon Musk.

The user blamed Jewish communities for bringing antisemitism upon themselves by supporting immigration to the United States, welcoming “hordes of minorities” who don’t like Jews and promoting “hatred against whites.”

“You have said the actual truth,” Musk responded. Soon, @breakingbaht had gained several thousand new followers — and the antisemitic conspiracy theory that Jews are causing the replacement of White people was ricocheting across the internet once again.

Antisemitism has long festered online, but the Israel-Gaza war and the loosening of content moderation on X have propelled it to unprecedented levels, coinciding with a dramatic rise in real-world attacks on Jews, according to several monitoring organizations.

Since Oct. 7, antisemitic content has surged more than 900 percent on X and there have been more than 1,000 incidents of real-world antisemitic attacks, vandalism and harassment in America, according to the Anti-Defamation League — the highest number since the human rights group started counting. (That includes about 200 rallies the group deemed to be at least implicitly supporting Hamas.)

Factors that predate the Gaza war laid the groundwork for the heightened antisemitic atmosphere, say experts and advocates: the feeling of empowerment some neo-Nazis felt during the Trump presidency, the decline of enforcement on tech platforms in the face of layoffs and Republican criticism, even the 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in 2021, which gave rise to harsh criticism of Israel’s actions and sustained antisemitism online.

But Musk plays a uniquely potent role in the drama, disinformation specialists say. His comments amplifying antisemitic tropes to his 163.5 million followers, his dramatic loosening of standards for what can be posted, and his boosting of voices that previously had been banned from the platform formerly known as Twitter all have made antisemitism more acceptable on what is still one of the world’s most influential social media platforms.

Musk’s endorsement of comments alluding to the great replacement theory — a conspiracy theory espoused by neo-Nazi demonstrators in Charlottesville in 2017 and the gunmen who killed people inside synagogues in Pittsburgh in 2018 and Poway, Calif., in 2019 — brought condemnation from the White House and advertising cancellations from IBM, Apple, Comcast, and Disney, among others.

Late Friday, Musk was unrepentant: “Many of the largest advertisers are the greatest oppressors of your right to free speech,” he tweeted after word of the cancellations spread. He did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Joan Donovan, a former research director at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center who now teaches at Boston University, included Musk in what she described as “a strata of influencers … who feel very comfortable condemning Jewish people as a political critique.”

“In moments where there is a lot of concern, these right-wing influencers do go mask-off and say what they really feel,” she said.

The Israel-Gaza war also has given new life to prominent Holocaust deniers who have proclaimed on X, Telegram and other platforms that the Hamas attacks that left hundreds of Israelis dead were “false flags.” The #Hitlerwasright hashtag, which surged during the 2021 war, has returned, with Memetica, a digital investigations firm, tallying 46,000 uses of the phrase on X since Oct. 7. Previously, the hashtag appeared fewer than 5,000 times per month.

The Center for Countering Digital Hate, a nonprofit focused on online extremism and disinformation, identified 200 posts that promoted antisemitism and other forms of hate speech amid the conflict. X allowed 196 of them to remain on the platform, the group said in a report.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Fear and Tension That Led to Sam Altman’s Ouster at OpenAI, Cade Metz, Nov. 19, 2023 (print ed.). The departure of the high-profile boss of the San Francisco company drew attention to a philosophical rift among the people building new A.I. systems.

Over the last year, Sam Altman led OpenAI to the adult table of the technology industry. Thanks to its hugely popular ChatGPT chatbot, the San Francisco start-up was at the center of an artificial intelligence boom, and Mr. Altman, OpenAI’s chief executive, had become one of the most recognizable people in tech.

But that success raised tensions inside the company. Ilya Sutskever, a respected A.I. researcher who co-founded OpenAI with Mr. Altman and nine other people, was increasingly worried that OpenAI’s technology could be dangerous and that Mr. Altman was not paying enough attention to that risk, according to three people familiar with his thinking. Mr. Sutskever, a member of the company’s board of directors, also objected to what he saw as his diminished role inside the company, according to two of the people.

That conflict between fast growth and A.I. safety came into focus on Friday afternoon, when Mr. Altman was pushed out of his job by four of OpenAI’s six board members, led by Mr. Sutskever. The move shocked OpenAI employees and the rest of the tech industry, including Microsoft, which has invested $13 billion in the company. Some industry insiders were saying the split was as significant as when Steve Jobs was forced out of Apple in 1985.

But on Saturday, in a head-spinning turn, Mr. Altman was said to be in discussions with OpenAI’s board about returning to the company.

Politico, Washington Post backed down from earlier story on Hamas hostage deal, Kelly Garrity, Nov. 19, 2023. Without issuing a correction, the publication stepped back from its claim Saturday evening that Israel and Hamas had reached a tentative deal.

politico CustomThe Washington Post backed away from its claim Saturday evening that Israel and Hamas had reached a tentative deal that would free at least 50 hostages in exchange for a five day pause in fighting on both sides, after a U.S. National Security Council spokesperson tempered the claim online.

In an alert around 8:30 p.m. Saturday evening, the Post reported that Israel and Hamas had reached a “tentative U.S.-brokered deal” that would pause the deadly conflict in Gaza and allow some women and child hostages to be free. At 9:27 p.m., National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson reposted the story on X, formerly Twitter, with her own clarification:

“We have not reached a deal yet, but we continue to work hard to get to a deal,” Watson wrote.

Nov. 18

 

univision logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Latino backlash grows over Donald Trump’s friendly Univision interview, Michael Scherer, Nov. 18, 2023 (print ed.). Members of Congress plan to ask for a meeting with a company executive as one of Univision’s founders, as well as actor and comedian John Leguizamo and Latino rights advocacy groups speak out.

The nation’s largest Spanish-language media company, Univision, faced growing backlash Friday for its handling of a recent interview with former president Donald Trump, as major Latino advocacy groups delivered a letter of protest to the network’s executives and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus prepared to request a meeting with the network.

Actor and comedian John Leguizamo, who recently took a turn as host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” also posted a video on Instagram on Thursday night calling for a boycott of the network until it stopped its rejection of Biden ads, some of which were canceled just before the Trump interview aired.

“I am asking all my brothers and sisters who are actors, artists, politicians, activists to not go on Univision,” he said in a message in English and Spanish.

The pushback comes after a Nov. 7 interview with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida that was arranged with the help of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and attended by a trio of senior executives at Univision’s parent company. The interview was notable for its gracious tone, lack of follow-up questions and Trump’s assertion in the first minutes about owners of the network.

“They like me,” Trump said.

It’s a sharp contrast to the long history of tension between Trump and Univision — a fact that alarmed both Democrats and journalists inside Univision.

The network, which has said it has also requested an interview with President Biden, announced a new policy of preventing opposition advertising during single-candidate interviews shortly before the Trump interview aired. The network also canceled a booking with a Biden spokeswoman to respond to the interview on a subsequent news broadcast.

A top anchor at Univision in Miami, León Krauze, who helmed the late-night newscast, announced he had abruptly separated from the network Wednesday, less than a week after the interview aired. Neither Krauze nor the network offered a reason for the separation in their statements about the split.

Joaquin Blaya, a former president of Univision who created its signature news show in the late 1980s, told The Washington Post in an interview this week that he worried the network had moved away from its founding mission.

“I am not surprised that someone who is a serious journalist like León Krauze would not be the kind of journalist that they want there,” Blaya said. “They are different times. It is not good what is happening there.”

Blaya — who hired the network’s most famous anchor, Jorge Ramos — later ran Telemundo, the other major Spanish-language network in the United States. He said the Trump interview this month was a step back for Univision towards a journalistic approach he associated with some major broadcasters in Mexico. The Mexican media company Grupo Televisa, which has long had a close relationship with political power brokers in that country, recently merged with the owners of Univision to take joint control of the company.

“This was Mexican-style news coverage, a repudiation of the concept of separation of business and news,” Blaya said of the Trump interview. “What I saw there was batting practice, someone dropping balls for him to hit out of the park. I think it was an embarrassment.”

Wade Davis, one of the TelevisaUnivision executives who attended the Mar-a-Lago meeting, sent a note to U.S. staff this week addressing the controversy caused by the Trump interview.

“Our goal is to cover candidates from all political parties — Democrats, Republicans and Independents — and to assure Hispanics of the most comprehensive access to information that will help them make educated decisions at the ballot box,” Davis wrote. “Our mission is to make Latinos a vital part of our electoral process by encouraging them to register and exercising their constitutional right to vote.”

More than 70 groups — including major Latino rights organizations UnidosUS Action, America’s Voice and MALDEF — sent a letter Friday night to Davis and two other TelevisaUnivision executives who attended the meeting with Trump that described the interview as “a betrayal of trust.”

“We demand Univision conduct a thorough internal review, take corrective measures, and reaffirm its commitment to unbiased reporting and to keeping the Latino community informed and up-to-date with facts and truth,” the letter reads. “Unfiltered, unaddressed and unrestricted disinformation does a disservice to all communities in the U.S. and will destroy Univision’s reputation as a credible network that informs an important electorate.”

The Hispanic Federation, a network of Latino groups, has also separately requested a meeting with Univision executives to discuss their concerns about the Trump interview, according to a spokesperson for the group.

The all-Democratic Congressional Hispanic Caucus has also drafted a letter, which is likely to be sent to Univision in the coming days, asking Davis to meet with members of Congress about the journalistic standards of the network, according to a congressional staffer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the effort. The draft letter, which was shared with The Post, describes a congressional interest in addressing misinformation and disinformation in the Latino community.

Isaac Lee — the chief news officer at Univision during the 2016 campaign when the network clashed with Trump — said he had confidence that the journalists at Univision in Miami would cover the coming presidential race properly. The Trump interview had been conducted by a Mexico City-based anchor for Televisa, Enrique Acevedo, who previously worked in the United States for Univision.

“I don’t think that one interview with Enrique can determine how the campaign is going to be covered and how Latinos are going to get their information,” Lee said. “And from the people I know at Univision News, and I know all of them, I trust that their heart and their mind is in the right place.”

Nov. 17

ny times logoNew York Times, Europe: Top German Journalist Received €600,000 From Putin Ally, Leak Reveals, Graham Bowley, Nov. 17, 2023 (print ed.). The revelation that the broadcaster Hubert Seipel accepted payments from an oligarch is stirring worries in Germany that Russia is using an old playbook to promote its interests.

german flagAfter Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, Germany went through a period of uncomfortable soul-searching about the close ties that some of its political and business leaders had to Moscow.

That self-examination spilled into the country’s journalistic establishment this week after published reports revealed that an award-winning television broadcaster and author who has extensively covered Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, had received hundreds of thousands of euros in undisclosed payments from businesses linked to a billionaire ally of Mr. Putin.

The reports, by a consortium of publishing outlets including Germany’s Der Spiegel and The Guardian of Britain, were based on what the consortium said was a leaked cache of offshore financial records. They said that the broadcaster, Hubert Seipel, had been paid about 600,000 euros (about $651,000) in installments from accounts connected to Alexei A. Mordashov, a prominent Russian businessman, who was placed under sanctions by the United States last year as a way to punish Mr. Putin for his war in Ukraine. The payments were to support Mr. Seipel’s books about Mr. Putin, the reports said.

The news that a prominent journalist in Germany has been linked to large payments from someone in Russia who is seen as a proxy of that country’s government has stirred worries in Germany that Russia has continued to use an old playbook of building relationships with high-profile pundits and thought leaders to subtly and covertly promote its interests — this time deep inside the journalistic establishment.

Nov. 9

ny times logoNew York Times, Striking Actors and Hollywood Studios Agree to Deal, Brooks Barnes, John Koblin and Nicole Sperling, Nov. 9, 2023 (print ed.). . The agreement all but ends one of the longest labor crises in the history of the entertainment industry. Union members still have to approve the deal

One of the longest labor crises in Hollywood history is finally coming to an end.

SAG-AFTRA, the union representing tens of thousands of actors, reached a tentative deal for a new contract with entertainment companies on Wednesday, clearing the way for the $134 billion American movie and television business to swing back into motion.

Hollywood’s assembly lines have been at a near-standstill since May because of a pair of strikes by writers and actors, resulting in financial pain for studios and for many of the two million Americans — makeup artists, set builders, location scouts, chauffeurs, casting directors — who work in jobs directly or indirectly related to making TV shows and films.

Upset about streaming-service pay and fearful of fast-developing artificial intelligence technology, actors joined screenwriters on picket lines in July. The writers had walked out in May over similar concerns. It was the first time since 1960, when Ronald Reagan was the head of the actors’ union and Marilyn Monroe was still starring in films, that actors and writers were both on strike.

The Writers Guild of America, which represents 11,500 screenwriters, reached a tentative agreement with studios on Sept. 24 and ended its 148-day strike on Sept. 27. In the coming days, SAG-AFTRA members will vote on whether to accept their union’s deal, which includes hefty gains, like increases in compensation for streaming shows and films, better health care funding, concessions from studios on self-taped auditions, and guarantees that studios will not use artificial intelligence to create digital replicas of their likenesses without payment or approval.

ny times logoNew York Times, The New York Times Passes 10 Million Subscribers, Katie Robertson, Nov. 9, 2023 (print ed.). The company reported an adjusted operating profit of $89.8 million in its latest quarter, up from $69 million a year earlier.

The New York Times now has more than 10 million subscribers, the company said on Wednesday, edging closer to its goal of 15 million by the end of 2027.

In its third-quarter report, The New York Times Company said it had added 210,000 net digital-only subscribers in the three months through September, giving it 9.41 million along with 670,000 print subscribers.

The Times Company has focused on getting subscribers to sign up for more than one of its offerings, which include the core news report, Cooking, Games, the Wirecutter review site and the sports news site The Athletic. Nearly 3.8 million of the 9.41 million digital-only subscribers are subscribed to at least two products, the company said.

Meredith Kopit Levien, the company’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement that the third-quarter results showed that The Times’s “multiproduct bundle” was performing well and would “further us down the path to building a larger, more profitable company.”

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Nov. 8 

 

 

alsu kurmasheva

Alsu Kurmasheva Radio Free Europe editor Alsu Kurmasheva has been detained since June in Russia (Pangea Graphics photo).

National Press Club, Press Club leaders urge Biden administration to act immediately on Alsu Kurmasheva’s detention, Staff Report, Nov.  8, 2023. national  press club logoFollowing is a statement from Eileen O’Reilly, president of the National Press Club, and Gil Klein, president of the National Press Club Journalism Institute, on Russia’s detention of Russian American journalist Alsu Kurmasheva.

“We urge the U.S. government to immediately designate Alsu Kurmasheva’s imprisonment as an unlawful and wrongful detention. The Biden administration is taking too long to make this important designation.

“Alsu is the latest journalist to be jailed in Russia simply for doing her job. Journalism is not a crime. Secretary Antony Blinken and officials at the State Department should act swiftly to ensure Alsu is freed from her unjust detention.

Russian Flag“Alsu has been locked away for multiple weeks and the Biden administration shouldn’t wait another minute to make this critical designation, which will open up resources to support her release. It’s time for Alsu to come home to her husband and two children.

“Time is of the essence. Last week, the Supreme Court of Tatarstan upheld Alsu’s pre-trial detention until December 5th and another court is set to decide later this month whether to extend her time behind bars.

“Alsu is a Radio Free Europe editor who works in the Czech Republic and is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Russia. She visited Russia on a family emergency in May and was detained upon exit in June. She has been charged in Russia for failing to register as a 'foreign agent,' a charge that could carry a sentence of up to five years in prison.

“Alsu is the second U.S. citizen to be held by Russia since the cold war – joining Evan Gershkovich of the Wall Street Journal who was taken more than six months ago and is being held in a jail in Moscow.”

ap logoAssociated Press, Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows sued by book publisher for breach of contract, Hillel Italie, Nov. 8, 2023. Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is being sued by his publisher for contradicting his book’s claim about the the 2020 election.

mark meadows book chief chiefAll Seasons Press alleges that sworn testimony by Meadows undermined The Chief’s Chief, shown at right, in which he wrote that the election was stolen from former President Donald Trump.

In a breach of contract lawsuit filed Friday in Florida, All Seasons cited media reports from last month alleging that Meadows knew Trump had lost to Democrat Joe Biden.

“Meadows’ reported statements to the Special Prosecutor and/or his staff and his reported grand jury testimony squarely contradict the statements” in “The Chief’s Chief,” according to the lawsuit, filed in Sarasota, Florida. A central theme of Meadows’ book is that “President Trump was the true winner of the 2020 Presidential Election and that election was ‘stolen’ and ‘rigged’ with the help from ‘allies in the liberal media,’” the court papers read in part.

All Seasons is alleging that Meadows damaged sales and the publisher’s reputation. All Seasons, a conservative press founded in 2021, is seeking the return of Meadows’ $350,000 advance and damages of more than $1 million.

“The Chief’s Chief” has sold around 23,000 copies, according to Circana, which tracks around 85% of the print market. Most of those sales came in 2021, when the book came out. All Seasons says it sold approximately 60,000 copies out of a printing of 200,000.

Special counsel Jack Smith has been investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, siege of the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters trying to stop Congress from certifying Biden’s victory. Last month, ABC News reported that Meadows had been granted immunity by Smith and had testified that voter fraud allegations were baseless and that he knew Trump hadn’t won.

“If such media reports are accurate, Meadows testified under oath that his book contains known falsehoods,” All Seasons alleged in its breach of contract suit.

The All Seasons case is unusual both because it’s based on media reports, not direct knowledge of Meadows’ testimony, and because it’s based on alleged factual errors. Publishers rarely fact check manuscripts, relying instead on the authors to verify what they’ve written, and are far more likely to object to a book because of plagiarism or the author’s personal conduct.

Meadows has pleaded not guilty to charges in Georgia for trying to overturn the state’s election results in 2020. In September, a judge denied his request to have the case moved to federal court.

messenger logo squareThe Messenger, Disney Will Cut $2 Billion From Costs in 2024, Focus on Growing Disney+ and Hulu, William Gavin, Nov. 8, 2023. Disney will begin testing a combined Disney+ and Hulu service next month.

messenger logo squareThe Messenger, A Newscaster Killed Herself After Her Fiancé Called Off Their Wedding. He Married Months Later. Now He’s Getting Divorced, Elizabeth Urban, Updated Nov. 8, 2023. Neena Pacholke, a co-anchor of Wake Up Wisconsin, shot herself in the head after Kyle Haase cancelled their destination wedding and told her to move out.

Wisconsin newscaster fatally shot herself last year after her wedding was called off, and since then her fiancé has gotten engaged and married, and is now filing for divorce from his 23-year-old wife.

Neena Pacholke, a 27-year-old news anchor at WAOW, committed suicide in August 2022 after her then-fiancé Kyle Haase, 39, called off their wedding just seven weeks before it was set to take place. Friends and Haase himself had called 911 to perform a welfare check on Pacholke, but by the time police arrived, she had taken her own life.

Just months later, Haase reportedly met Ashley Groshek, who was 22 at the time, at a local bar and began dating. But a friend of Pacholke told the Daily Mail that Groshek was actually a former lover that Pacholke had suspected her fiancé had been cheating on her with.

Haase and Groshek ended up getting engaged in June of this year and had their wedding in September. But less than six weeks later, the couple reportedly jointly filed for divorce Oct. 18.

Nov. 6

washington post office post photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Post’s new CEO William Lewis has faced big stories and corporate drama, Elahe Izadi and Karla Adam, Nov. 6, 2023. He rose up through British newspapers and Rupert Murdoch’s empire. Now Jeff Bezos has turned to Lewis, 54, to put The Washington Post back on firm financial footing.

 (shown in a Washington Post photo by Elliott O'Donovan

Within a handful of days, William Lewis (shown above in a Washington Post photo) was both knighted by British royalty and hired by one of the richest men in the world as CEO and publisher of The Washington Post.

One role, ceremonial with few responsibilities or expectations. The other, quite the opposite.

In an interview Sunday, the London-born veteran media executive acknowledged the challenges of the job ahead — a softening ad market, a shrinking and distracted audience, a staff coping with anticipated cuts — while professing optimism about the institution he’s joining.

“We’re going to expand. We’re going to get our swagger back,” Lewis said, echoing a word that Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, has used about the news organization he bought a decade ago. “I know that right now is not our greatest time, but we’re going to grow again. And we’re going to get that confidence back and that swagger back. I can tell you that with absolute confidence.”

A former reporter, Lewis, 54, has had firsthand involvement in some of the biggest stories for the British press over the past quarter century: As a young business writer for the Financial Times — and “a journalist’s journalist,” in the words of one colleague — he broke the news of Exxon’s merger with Mobil in 1999. A decade later, he steered the Telegraph’s investigative reporting into lawmakers’ misuse of public funds for personal expenses.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Are you sitting down?’ The windfall that transformed NPR 20 years ago, Paul Farhi, Nov. 6, 2023. Was Joan B. Kroc a public radio fan? It’s unclear. But the heiress of the McDonald’s fortune knew how she wanted to spend her millions.

On a fall day 20 years ago, Kevin Klose got a phone call from a man named Dick Starmann. Klose, then president of NPR, knew Starmann as a top adviser to the widow of Ray Kroc, the man who built McDonald’s into a global fast-food juggernaut. But he had no idea what was afoot.

“Are you sitting down?” Starmann asked Klose.

joan kroc ap bill cramer 1987Joan B. Kroc (shown at right in a 1987 AP photo by Bill Cramer), who inherited her husband’s fortune after his death in 1984, had died three weeks earlier, and Starmann was wrapping up her affairs as co-executor of her will. Klose had met her several times and had told colleagues that she might make a contribution to NPR — perhaps even as much as $50,000.

“You got a pencil and paper in front of you?’” Starmann continued. “Start writing down these numbers.”

He started counting out loud by the millions, beginning around $200 million. When Starmann dramatically landed on the total amount, Klose was “flabbergasted,” he recalled last month. Kroc had left NPR $222 million.

In a stroke, the late philanthropist transformed the fortunes of NPR, a nonprofit that had struggled since its founding to keep its transmitters humming. The contribution — which ultimately hit more than $230 million once the final amount was transferred several months later — was by far the largest in public broadcasting history and, at the time, the largest monetary gift to any American cultural institution. It was more than twice NPR’s annual operating budget that year.

All at once, an organization that had nearly gone bankrupt in the early 1980s had something it had never known: breathing room.

washington post logoWashington Post, Philippine radio host fatally shot while live-streaming show, police say, Praveena Somasundaram, Nov. 6, 2023. Juan Jumalon had just finished speaking into a silver microphone as he live-streamed his Sunday morning broadcast for a Philippine radio station. As a song began to play, Jumalon — known as DJ Johnny Walker — was fatally shot while viewers watched the program live on Facebook, Philippine officials said.

Jumalon, a 57-year-old anchor for 94.7 Calamba Gold FM, was shot twice while on air from his home studio in the southern province of Misamis Occidental, police said.

The gunman stole a gold necklace from Jumalon before fleeing, a government office focused on media security said in a statement to The Washington Post. Video of the attack shows Jumalon sinking back in his chair after two gunshots are fired while music plays. The apparent attacker, whose face is not visible in the video, is also seen taking Jumalon’s necklace.

The shooting happened about 5:30 a.m. Sunday, Misamis Occidental police said in a Facebook post. Authorities asked for the public’s help in the investigation as the search for the attacker continues.

On Monday morning, police released a sketch of a suspect, a man they say is over the age of 40 and was wearing a red cap with a green shirt and black short pants. The attacker fled on a motorcycle driven by someone waiting outside the home, the Associated Press reported, citing local police.

Nov. 4

 

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Washington Chronicle, Commentary: How AI Challenges Journalism as Never Before, Llewellyn King, above, Nov. 4, 2023. This article is based on remarks the author made to the Association of European Journalists annual congress in Vlore, Albania, last week.

I am a journalist. That means, as it was once explained to me by Dan Raviv of CBS News, I try to find out what is going on and tell people. I know no better description than that of the work.

To my mind, there are two kinds of news stories: day-to-day stories and those that stay with us for a long time.

My long-term story has been energy. I started covering it in 1970, and, all these years later, it is still the big story.

Now, that story for me has been joined by another story of huge consequence to all of us, as energy has been since the 1970s. That story is artificial intelligence.

Leon Trotsky is believed to have said, “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” I say, “You may not be interested in AI, but AI is interested in you.”

Just as the Arab oil embargo of October 1973 upended everything, AI is set to upend everything going forward.

The first impact on journalism will be to truth. With pervasive disinformation, largely emanating from Russia, establishing the veracity of what we read — documents we review, emails we receive — will be harder. The provenance of information will become more difficult to establish.

Then, it is likely that there will be structural changes to our craft. Much of the more routine work will be done by AI — things like recording sports results and sifting through legal documents. And, if we aren’t careful, AI will be writing stories.

One of the many professors I have interviewed while reporting the AI story is Stuart Russell at the University of California, Berkeley, who said the first impact will be on “language in and language out.” That means journalism and writing in general, law and lawyering, and education. The written word is vulnerable to being annexed by AI.

The biggest impact on society is going to be on service jobs. The only safe place for employment may be artisan jobs — carpenters, plumbers, and electricians.

Already, fast-food chains are looking to eliminate order-takers and cashiers. People not needed, alas.

The AI industry — there is one, and it is growing exponentially —likes to look to automation and say, “But automation added jobs.” Well, all the evidence is that AI will subtract jobs almost across the board. Think of all the people around the world who work in customer service. Most of that will be done in the future by AI.

On the upside, research — especially medical research — will be boosted as never before. One researcher told me a baby born today can expect to live to 120 — another big story.

As journalists, we are going to have to continue to find out what is going on and tell people. But we will also have to find new ways of watermarking the truth. Leica, for instance, has come out with a camera that it says can authenticate the place and time a photo was taken.

We are going to have to find new outlets for our work where people will know that it was written and reported by a human being, one of us, not an algorithm.

Journalists are criticized constantly for our failings, for allegedly being left or right politically, for ignoring or overstating, but when war breaks out, we become heroes.

I salute those brave colleagues reporting from Gaza and Ukraine. They are doing the vital work of finding out what is going on and telling us. Seventeen have been killed in Ukraine and 34 in Gaza. They are the noble of our trade.

  • New York Times, A judge ruled that jurors in a defamation trial against Donald Trump would be kept anonymous for their own protection, Nov. 4, 2023.

 washington post office post photo

Politico, William Lewis is named Washington Post CEO and publisher, Staff Report, Nov. 4, 2023. Lewis, 54, served as publisher of the Wall Street Journal and CEO of Dow Jones after a career in British media.

politico CustomVeteran media executive and former business journalist William Lewis is the new CEO and publisher of the Washington Post (shown above in a Washington Post photo), according to a story published on the Post’s website Saturday.

Lewis, 54, served as publisher of the Wall Street Journal and CEO of Dow Jones after a career in British media, including as editor-in-chief of London’s Daily Telegraph. He worked at Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp. in the aftermath of the company’s phone-hacking and police bribery scandal.

He also co-founded The News Movement, a start-up aimed at young news consumers.

Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos praised Lewis as a “strong fit” for the role. “As I’ve gotten to know Will, I’ve been drawn to his love of journalism and passion for driving financial success,” Bezos wrote in an email to staff, according to the Post. “Will embodies the tenacity, energy and vision needed for this role. He believes that together we will build the right future for The Post. I agree.”

“The Washington Post is a premiere global media publisher of record, known for its 145-year-old history of unflinching journalism, and I am thrilled and humbled to be at its helm as both a media executive and former reporter,” Lewis said in a statement the newspaper provided to the New York Times.

Lewis, who starts Jan. 2, replaces Fred Ryan, who stepped down as publisher earlier this year. Ryan was also founding CEO of Politico.

washington post logoWashington Post, A newspaper giant tried to diversify its staff. White workers sued, Taylor Telford, Nov. 4, 2023. The proposed class-action lawsuit against Gannett is among a wave of recent cases claiming some corporate diversity policies disadvantage White employees.

After more than 20 years of working for his hometown newspaper, the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y., Steve Bradley was laid off amid pandemic-induced cost-cutting in May 2020. He was crushed, but he eventually took a communications job for a local school district.

Then, two years later, he received a startling message.

gannett logo CustomSitting in the bleachers at the school softball field in July 2022, Bradley took a phone call from an unknown number. He listened as J. Nelson Thomas, an employment lawyer he’d never met, presented a jarring claim: Bradley was laid off because he is White.

Now, Bradley is one of five named plaintiffs in a proposed class-action lawsuit that claims the country’s largest newspaper publisher “discriminated against non-minorities” to achieve diversity goals. Filed in August in Virginia federal court, the suit alleges that Gannett fired White employees, denied them opportunities for advancement and replaced them with less-qualified minority candidates as the company sought to diversify its workforce.

The case is among the first to test the legality of corporate diversity practices in the wake of a June Supreme Court ruling that struck down affirmative action in college admissions. That decision has sparked a wave of litigation aimed at racial considerations in the workplace, including claims that corporate efforts to increase diversity have disadvantaged White employees.

For Bradley, 56, the decision to pursue legal action wasn’t easy. He’d always thought it was good that Gannett was working to boost diversity. But he also “wanted to be judged” based on his work and the work of his team, he said, not his race.

“Somebody needed to stand up to them,” Bradley said in an interview. To know “that the decision was made because of how I look? I’m not okay with that.”

In a statement, Gannett declined to discuss the lawsuit but said it “always seeks to recruit and retain the most qualified individuals for all roles within the company.”

“We will vigorously defend our practice of ensuring equal opportunities for all our valued employees against this meritless lawsuit,” Polly Grunfeld Sack, Gannett’s chief legal counsel, said in an email.

Private employers have been barred for decades from making employment decisions based on race. Long-standing legal precedent has allowed companies to take targeted, temporary steps to mitigate historic racial inequalities in their workforces. But the recent ruling on college admissions suggests that it’s “no longer appropriate to be looking at someone’s race for the benefit of diversity,” said Devon Westhill, president and general counsel at the Center for Equal Opportunity, a conservative think tank.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: When It Comes to Israel, Who Decides What You Can and Can’t Say? Michelle Goldberg, right, Nov. 4, 2023. Last week, michelle goldberg thumbthe Anti-Defamation League and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law sent a letter to nearly 200 college presidents urging them to investigate campus chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine for potential violations of federal and state laws against providing material support to terrorism.

As evidence for these very serious accusations, the ADL and the Brandeis center offered only the student group’s own strident rhetoric, including a sentence in its online tool kit, which praised Hamas’s attacks on Israel and said: “We must act as part of this movement. All of our efforts continue the work and resistance of the Palestinians on the ground.”

Under the direction of Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida has also ordered state universities to shut chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine. Citing the same tool kit, DeSantis said, “That is material support to terrorism, and that is not going to be tolerated in the state of Florida, and it should not be tolerated in these United States of America.” Virginia’s Republican attorney general has opened an investigation into American Muslims for Palestine, a national group that, according to the ADL, helps coordinate the activities of Students for Justice in Palestine, “for potentially violating Virginia’s charitable solicitation laws, including benefiting or providing support to terrorist organizations.” Several Republicans, including Donald Trump, have called for revoking the visas of pro-Palestinian student activists.

Ever since Hamas’s slaughter and mass kidnapping of Israelis on Oct. 7, there has been mounting fear and fury over the mistreatment of Jews at American colleges and universities. The Homeland Security, Justice and Education Departments are all taking steps to combat campus antisemitism. Congressional resolutions have condemned it. But while plenty of pro-Palestinian students have behaved in appalling ways, many also feel besieged, and for good reason.

For Palestinian and Muslim students, the invocation of terrorism law is especially frightening. Attempts to curtail anti-Zionist activism are not new; about 35 states have laws targeting the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. But now advocates for Palestinian rights describe a new level of repression. “The ADL is calling for the mass violation of students’ rights in a manner that’s reminiscent of the post 9/11 environment, but with a more intensely Palestinian twist,” said Radhika Sainath, a senior staff attorney at the civil rights organization Palestine Legal. She predicts that if federal and state governments follow through on the ADL’s demands, Palestinian activists will be subjected to an increase in surveillance, infiltration and investigation, even though their groups “pose zero threat and have done nothing but engage in speech 100 percent protected by the First Amendment.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Times Writer Resigns After Signing Letter Protesting the Israel-Gaza War, Katie Robertson, Nov. 4, 2023. Jazmine Hughes, an award-winning New York Times Magazine staff writer, resigned from the publication on Friday after she violated the newsroom’s policies by signing a letter that voiced support for Palestinians and protested Israel’s siege in Gaza.

Jake Silverstein, the editor of The New York Times Magazine, announced Ms. Hughes’s resignation in an email to staff members on Friday evening.

“While I respect that she has strong convictions, this was a clear violation of The Times’s policy on public protest,” Mr. Silverstein wrote. “This policy, which I fully support, is an important part of our commitment to independence.”

Mr. Silverstein said Ms. Hughes had previously violated the policy by signing another public letter this year. That letter, which was also signed by other contributors to The Times, protested the newspaper’s reporting on transgender issues.

“She and I discussed that her desire to stake out this kind of public position and join in public protests isn’t compatible with being a journalist at The Times, and we both came to the conclusion that she should resign,” Mr. Silverstein wrote in his note on Friday.

Ms. Hughes declined to comment. A Times spokeswoman had no further comment.

Ms. Hughes joined The Times in 2015 and worked as an editor and writer for the magazine. In 2020, she won an American Society of Magazine Editors Next award for journalists under 30. This year, she won a National Magazine Award for profile writing, for articles on Viola Davis and Whoopi Goldberg.

The petition Ms. Hughes signed about the Israel-Hamas war was published online last week by a group called Writers Against the War on Gaza. The group, which describes itself as “an ad hoc coalition committed to solidarity and the horizon of liberation for the Palestinian people,” denounced what it described as Israel’s “eliminationist assault” on Palestinians as well as the deaths of journalists reporting on the war. It was signed by hundreds of people, including other well-known journalists and authors.

“We stand firmly by Gaza’s people,” the letter said.

On Friday, a contributing writer at the magazine who had also signed the letter, Jamie Lauren Keiles, said in a post on X that he would no longer contribute to the publication. He said it was “a personal decision about what kind of work I want to be able to do.”

Nov. 3

 

Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, left, and former President Donald Trump, shown in a collage via CNN.

Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, left, and former President Donald Trump, shown in a collage via CNN.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Asks Federal Appeals Court to Lift Gag Order in Election Case, Alan Feuer, Nov. 3, 2023. The former president argued that the order restricting what he can say about the case should not be in effect while he seeks to have it thrown out on appeal.

Lawyers for former President Donald J. Trump filed an emergency request to a federal appeals court on Thursday seeking to lift the gag order imposed on him in the criminal case in which he stands accused of trying to overturn the 2020 election.

Justice Department log circularThe lawyers asked the appeals court to keep the pause of the order in place until it reaches a final decision on whether the order should have been issued in the first place.

“No court in American history has imposed a gag order on a criminal defendant who is actively campaigning for public office — let alone the leading candidate for president of the United States,” the lawyers wrote in their 11th-hour petition to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

“That centuries-long practice was broken,” the lawyers added, when a federal judge in Washington put the gag order in place last month, “muzzling President Trump’s core political speech during an historic presidential campaign.”

Mr. Trump’s lawyers asked the appeals court to render a decision on their request for a stay by Nov. 10. They suggested that they would seek relief from the Supreme Court if the appellate judges denied their motion.

tanya chutkan newerThe gag order, imposed by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, right, of Federal District Court in Washington, was issued against Mr. Trump on Oct. 16 to keep him from targeting members of the court staff, prosecutors working on the case and any people who might appear as witnesses in the proceeding.

It followed a relentless barrage of social media posts by Mr. Trump that threatened not only Judge Chutkan, but also the special counsel, Jack Smith, who is overseeing the two federal prosecutions of the former president.

ny times logoNew York Times, Britney Spears’s Memoir Sells 1.1 Million Copies in U.S. in First Week, Julia Jacobs, Nov. 3, 2023 (print ed.). Britney Spears’s much-anticipated memoir, The Woman in Me, sold 1.1 million copies in all formats in the United States in its first week on sale, the book’s publisher, Gallery Books, announced on Wednesday.

britney spears woman coverThe early sales number puts Spears’s book in the ballpark of some of the best-selling celebrity memoirs in recent years. In the same time frame, Prince Harry’s memoir sold 1.6 million copies in the United States, while that of Mary Trump, former president Donald J. Trump’s niece, sold 1.4 million when it debuted in 2020.

Spears and her team took an atypical approach toward promoting the book, in which Spears recalls her rise to fame as a teenage pop sensation, followed by her years spent in a strictly controlled conservatorship. Unlike Prince Harry, who participated in a series of high-profile interviews to promote his book’s release — including appearances on “60 Minutes” and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” — Spears did not do any face-to-face interviews. She instead provided People magazine with sneak-peek excerpts and emailed quotes and promoted the book online to her millions of social media followers.

ny times logoNew York Times, Can Humanities Survive the Budget Cuts at Universities? Anemona Hartocollis, Nov. 3, 2023. After years of hand-wringing about their future, liberal arts departments now face the chopping block. At risk: French, American studies and women’s studies.

The state auditor of Mississippi recently released an eight-page report suggesting that the state should invest more in college degree programs that could “improve the value they provide to both taxpayers and graduates.”

That means state appropriations should focus more on engineering and business programs, said Shad White, the auditor, and less on liberal arts majors like anthropology, women’s studies and German language and literature.

Those graduates not only learn less, Mr. White said, but they are also less likely to stay in Mississippi. More than 60 percent of anthropology graduates leave to find work, he said.

“If I were advising my kids, I would say first and foremost, you have to find a degree program that combines your passion with some sort of practical skill that the world actually needs,” Mr. White said in an interview. (He has three small children, far from college age.)

For years, economists and more than a few worried parents have argued over whether a liberal arts degree is worth the price. The debate now seems to be over, and the answer is “no.”

Not only are public officials, like Mr. White, questioning state support for the humanities, a growing number of universities, often aided by outside consultants, are now putting many cherished departments — art history, American studies — on the chopping block. They say they are facing headwinds, including students who are fleeing to majors more closely aligned to employment.

Nov. 2

Wall Street Journal, ‘JFK: One Day in America’ Review: Assassination Interpretation, John Anderson, Nov. 2, 2023. A National Geographic documentary series, which will also stream on Hulu and Disney+, brings a fresh approach to the familiar history of that tragic November day.

wsj logoDelving into the almost 60-year-old Kennedy assassination, even for the very modest purposes of a television review, is a bit like bringing your ukulele to an audition for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. People have devoted their lives to the subject at hand; the literature has been memorized; the interpretations have been fine-tuned. Besides, as one Gen Xer of my acquaintance remarked about “JFK: One Day in America,” how many times can you revisit the same subject?

  • JFK: One Day in America: Sunday, 8 p.m., National Geographic Channel, Monday, Disney+ and Hulu

How many times can you play Mozart’s Requiem? Yes, the murder of President John F. Kennedy is familiar territory, the event so enormous that its minutiae have been burned into the brains of people whose parents couldn’t have been around to remember it as children. But times change, approaches evolve—and each interpretation can build upon the last, which is the element essential to the success of this three-part National Geographic special.

“JFK: One Day in America” takes great pains to avoid the familiar, opting for the kind of private, personal and nondefining footage a director might never use—not if he or she were making the first Kennedy assassination documentary. The material for that movie is in the heads of us viewers, even the youngest viewers, from the Zapruder film to the still photo of Lee Harvey Oswald’s murder. “One Day in America,” by using relatively unknown shots and unfamiliar angles—of Jack Ruby, for instance, skulking around the press-police scrum in a Dallas police station on the night before he killed Oswald; or of Jackie Kennedy in a crowd, waiting to join her husband’s casket on the plane back to Washington—generates a sense of intimacy, and a consequent mournfulness. It is the kind of thing that might only be achieved through offhand, innocent-bystander-type material that might mean nothing out of context. Except that there is no out-of-context with the Kennedy assassination.

It may not have been the intent of director Ella Wright to play such psychological mischief with our collective memory, but it works. And there is fresh material, too: Two members of Jackie Kennedy’s Secret Service detail, Paul Landis and Clint Hill (who, famously, jumped on the back of the Lincoln as the assassin was firing at the car), reflect on the day with a great deal of sadness and regret. Associated Press reporter Peggy Simpson recalls the astonishment among the media that Ruby, a “friend” of the Dallas police, was able to penetrate a scene that was supposedly so secure. Washington correspondent Sid Davis provides the kind of details that wouldn’t have made it into his news stories, but are fascinating regardless.

And not everyone among the “last witnesses”—as so advertised in “JFK: One Day in America”—was in Dallas that morning in an official capacity. Buell Frazier, who still seems rattled by what unfolded, worked at the Texas School Book Depository with Oswald and drove there with him on the morning of Nov. 22, 1963; he was later questioned as a suspect. And Dallas couple Gayle and Bill Newman remember how they took their two kids to see the president, and what they saw, and Ms. Wright cuts immediately to a photo of the couple, covering their children with their own bodies as they all lie on what looks like part of the infamous Grassy Knoll. A remarkable moment then, and now, and one that makes tangible the kind of terror that must have been in the November air and is among the few details of that day that may have slipped our minds.

Nov. 1

washington post logoWashington Post, Jake Sherman and the bottomless appetite for news and drama on the Hill, Jesús Rodríguez, Nov. 1, 2023 (print ed.). He’s feeding Official Washington’s bottomless appetite for fresh intel, hot drama and chewy news nuggets from Congress. What does it all amount to?

washington post logoWashington Post, The Creator Economy: Young people are turning to creators over traditional media for news, Taylor Lorenz, Nov. 1, 2023 (print ed.). A recent report found that while the audience for traditional news outlets is shrinking, the online audience for independent news sources is growing.

News consumption hit a tipping point around the globe during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, with more people turning to social media platforms such as TikTok, YouTube and Instagram than to websites maintained by traditional news outlets, according to the latest Digital News Report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. One in 5 adults under 24 use TikTok as a source for news, the report said, up five percentage points from last year. According to Britain’s Office of Communications, young adults in the United Kingdom now spend more time watching TikTok than broadcast television.

October

Oct. 29

 

 

   Former President Donald Trump is shown in a police booking mug shot released by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, on Thursday (Photo via Fulton County Sheriff's Office).

World Crisis Radio, Strategic Commentary and Pro-Democracy Action Agenda: In outrageous affront to American ally, Netanyahu scorns Blinken’s call webster tarpley 2007for humanitarian bombing pause! Webster G. Tarpley, right, historian and commentator, Nov. 4-5, 2023 (146: 34 mins.). With 9,000 dead Palestinians, US can no longer tolerate IDF atrocities;

israel flagSettler fanatics Ben Gvir and Smotrich rule in Jerusalem, but Israel is bound by UN Charter, UN Declaration of Human Rights and Geneva Conventions; US political ground shifting rapidly in favor of Gaza ceasefire as Durbin, Murphy, and Sanders demand bombing halt;

Biden reportedly sees at most a few months of political survival for defendant Bibi, resented by voters for his dictatorial plans and abject intel and military debacles; US eyes Gantz, Lapid, and Bennett to form next government;

After Oct. 7, Biden’s goals had to be avoiding mass deportations of Palestinians into the Sinai and Transjordan deserts or the use of nuclear weapons, while maintaining alliances intact; Priority now to increase humanitarian deliveries, save hostages and free foreign citizens from Gaza captivity;

Fourteenth Amendment embodies Lincoln’s New Birth of Freedom and the Second American Revolution; It must be applied to remove Trump from all state ballots across the nation for blatant MAGA insurrection;

Tlaib and other fratricidal ultralefts foolishly want to punish Biden for Gaza tragedy: their tactics help only Bibi’s friend Trump, whose hostility to Palestinians is sinister and limitless; No calamity coming out of the Middle East can exceed the threat to humanity posed by a Trump-MAGA dictatorship in US, so vote accordingly;

MAGA Mike’s theocratic attack on the Gelasian foundation of western civilization in the distinction between political-military and spiritual and political-military powers i.e. between church and state; Security alert: with such a figure two heartbeats away from the Presidency, pay special attention to reports that MAGA campaign slogan is now ”Come retribution,” the Confederate code word for the plot to assassinate Lincoln!

 

October

Oct. 29

Proof, Investigative Commentary: From Start to Finish, Major Media Got the Tragic al-Ahli Hospital Blast Exactly Right. Seth Abramson, left, Oct 29, 2023. seth abramson graphicIt Now Looks Like the Munition That Hit the Hospital in Gaza— Causing a Massacre—Indeed Came From Israel.

Media critics and mea culpas from some outlets aside, a journalistic analysis of how media reported the tragedy at the al-Ahli reveals lessons—not errors—as well as the likely truth of what happened.

seth abramson proof logoIsrael has quietly tried to build international support in recent weeks for the transfer of several hundred thousand civilians from Gaza to Egypt for the duration of its war in the territory, according to six senior foreign diplomats.

Israeli leaders and diplomats have privately proposed the idea to several foreign governments, framing it as a humanitarian initiative that would allow civilians to temporarily escape the perils of Gaza for refugee camps in the Sinai Desert, just across the border in neighboring Egypt.

The suggestion was dismissed by most of Israel’s interlocutors — who include the United States and the United Kingdom — because of the risk that such a mass displacement could become permanent. These countries fear that such a development might destabilize Egypt and lock significant numbers of Palestinians out of their homeland, according to the diplomats, who spoke anonymously in order to discuss a sensitive matter more freely.

The idea has also been firmly rejected by Palestinians, who fear that Israel is using the war — which began on Oct. 7 after terrorists from Gaza raided Israel and killed roughly 1,400 people — to permanently displace the more than two million people living in Gaza.

More than 700,000 Palestinians either fled or were expelled from their homes in what is now Israel during the war surrounding the creation of the state in 1948. Many of their descendants are now warning that the current war will end with a similar “nakba,” or catastrophe, as the 1948 migration is known in Arabic.

An intensive, comprehensive, ten-day curation and macroanalysis of reliable major-media reports from the around the world—including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Spain, Israel, and Qatar—reveals, with high confidence, that the munition that struck the al-Ahli Hospital in northern Gaza on October 17, 2023 was fired from Israeli territory by Israeli forces.

Data regarding casualty counts (both killed and wounded) following the explosion was substantially reliable when and as it was released by the Palestinian Ministry of Health (PMH), an entity that has for years been relied upon by the international community—including governments, NGOs, major-media outlets, and subject-matter experts. In contrast, following the tragedy at al-Ahli the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) engaged in what appears in retrospect to have been a systematic campaign of deceit that included false casualty counts, doctored evidence, mistranslations, the omission and even obfuscation of inculpatory evidence, gross misinterpretation of multimedia, and disingenuous or even offensive rhetoric.

While the precise origin-point of the killer munition in this case remains unknown, all extant data points at either a Tamir interceptor missile with an 11kg warhead fired from a confirmed Iron Dome installation less than two miles east of Nahal Oz, Israel, or a 155mm artillery shell from a self-propelled howitzer fired from Nahal Oz itself. Nahal Oz is a kibbutz that is under a mile from the border between Gaza and Israel.

All of the foregoing is substantiated by videos (corporate-media and citizen-journalist), audio (corporate-media and citizen-journalist), time-stamp analyses, geolocations, Doppler readouts, forensic analyses of trace evidence, testimonial evidence, and repeated patterns of conduct by the principals involved in the event.

Media critics in the West are factually wrong in opining that U.S. major media “took the word of a terrorist group” in its coverage of the al-Ahli tragedy. In fact, U.S. media coverage of the event was careful, measured and correct—honoring the best traditions of professional journalism despite an environment in which news consumers wanted hard questions answered with ease. Major media was hampered by misinformation and in some cases disinformation fed to it by the IDF, as well as other actions taken by the IDF to ensure that its false narrative about the October 17 explosion at al-Ahli Hospital would triumph in the court of public opinion.
Introduction

For years I taught journalism at an R1 flagship public research university, University of New Hampshire, so compiling an after-action report on a major breaking news story isn’t new to me. But it’s not something I’ve done here at Proof before, and it’s certainly not something easily or lightly done when the story in question involves the deaths of scores or even hundreds of civilians, many of them women and children.

The importance of reviewing major-media reporting on the explosion at the al-Ahli Hospital in northern Gaza a week ago goes well beyond the harrowing nature of the event itself. The way in which media, and Western media in particular, succeeded or failed to adequately cover one of the single bloodiest events of the seventy-five-year history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict presents for working journalists like me (and for that matter, current or former journalism professors like me) a dilemma that isn’t going to go away and so must be addressed now—not merely as an after-action report, but as a guide for the future.

This said, none can doubt that the al-Ahli blast, even taken in isolation, warrants all the ink that has now been spilled reporting it—as well as all the reporting about the reporting about it.

ny times logoNew York Times, The response to Hamas’s assault, and to Israel’s retaliation, has revealed a schism in Hollywood that many did not realize was there, Nicole Sperling and Brooks Barnes, Oct. 29, 2023. With the exception of the rare conservative, Hollywood has long seemed to exist in an ideological bubble — a bastion of progressive politics, where Jewish people have thrived, Democratic politicians have been celebrated and stars have espoused liberal ideas from the Oscar stage and rushed to support movements like Black Lives Matter.

For the most part, people in the entertainment world could trust that they were on the same political page.

That changed abruptly with the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. Reactions to the assault, and to Israel’s retaliation, have revealed a schism that many in Hollywood did not realize was there, and it has left many Jews feeling like outsiders in an industry they founded and where they have long felt safe and supported.

“There are divides that never really get talked about,” said the veteran screenwriter Barry Schkolnick, whose credits include TV shows like “Law & Order” and “The Good Wife.” “This has brought them to the surface, and it’s hurtful and disorienting.”

Many say they are disillusioned — and angered — by the trickle of public condemnation from Hollywood regarding the Oct. 7 attack. There was no flood of support on social media from celebrities. Most studios initially tried to duck, staying silent. One leading union, the Writers Guild of America, refused to put out a statement, and stuck with its decision in the face of enormous backlash from hundreds of its members.

“The silence has been deafening,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the director of the Anti-Defamation League, told The Wrap, an entertainment trade news site, on Oct. 12.

A few statements and open letters condemning the Hamas attacks started to arrive. But the damage had been done.

To the producer Jeremy Steckler, “the lack of support feels like they’re punching me in my heart and in my identity.”

“I’ve never been somebody who’s been highly attended to identity or specific religion,” he said. “I’ve always just thought I was in this little bubble and everyone’s supportive and it’s L.A. and no big deal. It’s really in the last week, have I woken up and felt othered.”

While the effect is pronounced in Hollywood, where there is a large Jewish presence, the entirety of liberal America has been similarly convulsed. On Capitol Hill, across college campuses and among progressive activist groups and philanthropies, a raw divide has emerged. On one side, there is ardent support for Israel. On the other is an energized faction who view the Palestinian cause as an extension of the racial and social justice movements that swept through the United States in the summer of 2020. And there are others, including Jewish people, calling for a cease-fire.

In Hollywood, the most prominent example of the fraught nature of the moment is the controversy involving the writers’ guild, which represents more than 11,000 screenwriters.

Jewish writers reacted with horror to the guild’s refusal to condemn the attacks on Israel. Some threatened to leave the union, while others, including the writer and producer Marc Guggenheim (“Arrow,” “Carnival Row”), said they were withholding dues. But an anonymous pro-Palestinian group calling itself WGA for Peace applauded the union’s decision, saying its members were scared to identify themselves because they would be labeled antisemitic.

“After Oct. 7, it wouldn’t have been hard for people to put out statements that said under no circumstances is rape or murder or kidnapping of civilians acceptable — and we need to work toward a just future for Jews and Palestinians in Israel and Palestine,” said Rabbi Sharon Brous, founder and senior rabbi of Ikar, a congregation in Los Angeles where many screenwriters, directors and Hollywood executives are members.

“But that’s not what happened,” she said. “And so as a result, a lot of people are shocked, afraid.”

Oct. 27

 

kanye west addidas

ny times logoNew York Times, Kanye and Adidas: Money, Misconduct and the Price of Appeasement, Megan Twohey, Oct. 27, 2023. Before Adidas broke with Kanye West last fall over antisemitic public remarks, it had tolerated years of his abusive conduct behind the scenes.

The Adidas team was huddled with Kanye West, pitching ideas for the first shoe they would create together. It was 2013, and the rapper and the sportswear brand had just agreed to become partners. The Adidas employees, thrilled to get started, had arrayed sneakers and fabric swatches on a long table near a mood board pinned with images.

But nothing they showed that day at the company’s German headquarters captured the vision Mr. West had shared. To convey how offensive he considered the designs, he grabbed a sketch of a shoe and took a marker to the toe, according to two participants. Then he drew a swastika.

It was shocking, especially to the Germans in the group. Most displays of the symbol are banned in their country. The image was acutely sensitive for a company whose founder belonged to the Nazi Party. And they were meeting just miles from Nuremberg, where leaders of the Third Reich were tried for crimes against humanity.

That encounter was a sign of what was to come during a collaboration that would break the boundaries of celebrity endorsement deals. Sales of the shoes, Yeezys, would surpass $1 billion a year, lifting Adidas’s bottom line and recapturing its cool. Mr. West, who now goes by Ye, would become a billionaire.

When the company ended the relationship last October, it appeared to be the culmination of weeks of Mr. West’s inflammatory public remarks — targeting Jews and disparaging Black Lives Matter — and outside pressure on the brand to cut ties. But it was also the culmination of a decade of Adidas’s tolerance behind the scenes.

Inside their partnership, the artist made antisemitic and sexually offensive comments, displayed erratic behavior, and issued ever escalating demands, a New York Times examination found. Adidas’s leaders, eager for the profits, time and again abided his misconduct.

 

 elon musk sideview

ny times logoNew York Times, The Consequences of Elon Musk’s Ownership of X, Steven Lee Myers, Stuart A. Thompson and Tiffany Hsu, Oct. 27, 2023. Dozens of studies of the platform formerly known as Twitter have shown a similar trend: an increase in harmful content during Mr. Musk’s tenure.

twitter bird CustomNow rebranded as X, the site has experienced a surge in racist, antisemitic and other hateful speech. Under Mr. Musk’s watch, millions of people have been exposed to misinformation about climate change. Foreign governments and operatives — from Russia to China to Hamas — have spread divisive propaganda with little or no interference.

x logo twitterMr. Musk (shown above in a file photo) and his team have repeatedly asserted that such concerns are overblown, sometimes pushing back aggressively against people who voice them. Yet dozens of studies from multiple organizations have shown otherwise, demonstrating on issue after issue a similar trend: an increase in harmful content on X during Mr. Musk’s tenure.

The war between Israel and Hamas — the sort of major news event that once made Twitter an essential source of information and debate — has drowned all social media platforms in false and misleading information, but for Mr. Musk’s platform in particular the war has been seen as a watershed. The conflict has captured in full how much the platform has descended into the kind of site that Mr. Musk had promised advertisers he wanted to avoid on the day he officially took over.

“With disinformation about the Israel-Hamas conflict flourishing so dramatically on X, it feels that it crossed a line for a lot of people where they can see — beyond just the branding change — that the old Twitter is truly gone,” Tim Chambers of Dewey Square Group, a public affairs company that tracks social media, said in an interview. “And the new X is a shadow of that former self.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Five Years After Pittsburgh Synagogue Attack, Recovery Mixes With Fresh Grief, Ruth Graham, Oct. 27, 2023. Tree of Life community was “universally embraced” after an antisemitic shooting. But with Israel engaged in war, some now feel alone.

It has been five years since a gunman stormed into the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11 worshipers and wounding six others in the deadliest antisemitic attack in American history.

A lot can happen in a half a decade. One of the three congregations that met at Tree of Life hired its first rabbi. New nonprofit organizations sprung up to serve survivors and others affected by antisemitism and violence. Plans to reconfigure and expand the building took shape, with a celebrity architect at the helm. And in August, the gunman was convicted on an array of federal charges and sentenced to death.

For some in the Tree of Life community, however, this year’s anniversary is not arriving with the sense of healing they hoped for. Weeks after more than 1,400 people were killed in a Hamas terror attack in southern Israel, many American Jews have felt their sense of safety shattered.

Now, Israeli airstrikes are pummeling Gaza, and the humanitarian crisis in the territory is worsening, with food and water in short supply and civilian deaths mounting.

But as many Jews in the United States are grieving the civilian deaths in Israel, and worried for families and friends there, some also feel abandoned by former political allies — including many of the same people and organizations that embraced Tree of Life five years ago.

Muslim organizations raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for victims in the weeks after the attack; Catholic parishes organized special collections. Thousands of people attended vigils, and statements of support poured in from across the world.

“Following the shooting and the trial, we were universally held by our community,” said Michael Bernstein, the chairman of the Tree of Life center, a new nonprofit that will be housed at the site of the attack. “There was this true sense, especially as American Jews, that we belong.”

Oct. 26

washington post logoWashington Post, This Fox News host gives climate skeptics airtime but went solar at home, Maxine Joselow, Oct. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Bret Baier has come under fire for amplifying the voices of climate change doubters and renewable energy critics. But parts of his D.C. mansion are covered in solar arrays.

bret baierWhen Fox News host Bret Baier, right, listed his D.C. mansion for an eye-popping $31.9 million last week, some eagle-eyed observers noticed a surprising feature: Dozens of solar panels covered parts of the roof.

fox news logo Small“A Fox News guy has solar panels? What does Murdoch think?!” one person wrote on an online forum for D.C. parents, referring to Rupert Murdoch, who launched the Fox media empire and has previously described himself as a “climate change skeptic.”

The listing agent, Daniel Heider of TTR Sotheby’s International Realty, confirmed to The Washington Post that 86 solar panels were installed last year on a portion of the 16,250-square-foot French chateau-style home. This comes as Baier — who hosts the highest-rated cable news program in its time slot — has used his platform to amplify criticism of action on climate change, including the adoption of solar and other clean energy sources.

Some prominent conservatives — including Rep. Thomas Massie (Ky.) and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine — have also privately embraced solar while pushing back against climate initiatives aimed at speeding the transition away from fossil fuels.

Despite their climate stances, all three men appear to have accepted a market reality: Solar panels increasingly make economic sense, especially for those who can afford the upfront costs. Although the average solar system costs between $4,600 and $16,000, the technology can help households save money on their energy bills in the long term. For the average homeowner in the nation’s capital, the panels pay for themselves in less than five years, according to the renewable energy marketplace EnergySage.

“Solar panels are a good investment in much of the U.S., regardless of politics,” said Jenny Chase, lead solar analyst at the energy research firm BloombergNEF. She said the clean-energy tax credits in President Biden’s signature climate law, the Inflation Reduction Act, make solar even more attractive across the country.

It’s unclear whether Baier claimed the subsidies, unlike in the case of Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah), who used the credits to buy 30 solar panels after voting against the climate law. A Fox News spokeswoman did not respond to attempts to seek comment from Baier.

Baier, whose home sale would be the most expensive in D.C. history if it fetches the listing price, hosts a news show on Fox, and therefore approaches political stories with more balance than the network’s well-known opinion programming. Yet Baier’s show, “Special Report,” has consistently misled the public about climate change, according to a 2021 analysis by Media Matters, a left-leaning watchdog group. From 2009 to 2021, nearly 88 percent of the show’s climate segments either spread misinformation or perpetuated false or misleading narratives about global warming, the report found.

For instance, Baier has featured the views of Marc Morano, a prominent climate change skeptic, at least 10 times. Morano said on “Special Report” in 2019 that a major U.N. report on nearly 1 million species facing extinction was about “politics, not science.”

ny times logoNew York Times, What the U.S. Has Argued in the Google Antitrust Trial, David McCabe, Cecilia Kang and Steve Lohr, Oct. 26, 2023 (print ed.). As the government wraps up its case, it has built a picture of how Google became dominant in online search — and the harms that it says resulted.

Justice Department log circularSince Sept. 12., the Department of Justice and a group of state attorneys general have questioned more than 30 witnesses as they try to prove that Google broke antitrust laws, in a landmark monopoly trial that may affect the power of the technology industry.

The government is now wrapping up its side in the case — U.S. et al. v. Google — setting the stage for the internet giant to mount its defense starting this week.

Two prime threads have emerged from the government’s case: what it said Google did to illegally maintain its search and search ads monopolies and how those practices harmed consumers and advertisers. We lay out the main arguments.

How Google kept its online search dominance going

Google paid Apple billions of dollars to crush competition

On the first day of the trial, the Justice Department said Google had paid Apple and other tech platforms more than $10 billion a year to make itself the default search engine on the iPhone and other devices.

  • Washington Post, Mysterious bylines appeared on a USA Today site. Did these writers exist? Will Sommer, Oct. 26, 2023.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jonathan Majors’s accuser is arrested after actor loses bid to avoid trial, Anne Branigin, Herb Scribner, Wesley Parnell and Samantha Chery, Oct. 26, 2023. Police arrested Grace Jabbari on charges of assaulting “Creed III” star Jonathan Majors — even as prosecutors prepare to try the actor for allegedly assaulting her.

Jonathan Majors, the “Creed III” actor slated to anchor upcoming Marvel projects, lost his bid to stave off a long-delayed domestic assault trial in which he is accused of attacking his then-girlfriend, Grace Jabbari, in the back of a chauffeured car in New York.

Hours after that short hearing, police arrested Jabbari on charges stemming from the same March incident — despite the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office assertion that it won’t prosecute her.

Wearing a light-colored shirt and a tie, Majors appeared via live stream in Manhattan Criminal Court on Wednesday morning, where Judge Michael Gaffey rejected a motion asking the case be dismissed because of evidence discrepancies and what his lawyers called the “lack of a speedy trial.”

Instead, Majors’s team and prosecutors went into the judge’s chambers for about 10 minutes and emerged with plans to start the trial Nov. 29. His lawyers did not respond to questions outside the courtroom after the hearing.

The trial was originally set for Aug. 3 but was pushed back three times after the parties asked for more time. If convicted, Majors could face up to a year in jail.

His legal team has maintained that the actor is not only innocent but was also assaulted by Jabbari during the back-seat dispute. Prosecutors have discounted that notion and have said they have no plans to prosecute Jabbari. She was nevertheless arrested on assault and criminal mischief charges Wednesday evening, according to the New York Police Department. It remained unclear why police arrested Jabbari months after the incident, and with no obvious route to bring her to trial.

“The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has officially declined to prosecute the case against Grace Jabbari because it lacks prosecutorial merit. The matter is now closed and sealed," Doug Cohen, the office’s press secretary, said in a statement Thursday morning.

Oct. 25

MSNBC, Nicolle Wallace: ‘Trump has less control than a hunting dog,’ Oct. 25, 2023. Lisa Rubin, MSNBC Legal Analyst Andrew Weissman former top official at the Department of Justice, Neal Katyal former Acting U.S. Solicitor General, and Russ Beuttner New York Times Investigations Reporter join Nicolle Wallace on Deadline White House with reaction to Donald Trump’s latest courtroom appearance which saw him fined $10,000 for violating a gag order.

Oct. 24

ny times logoNew York Times, If Trump Trial Isn’t Broadcast Live, a Plea to Record It for Posterity, Adam Liptak, Oct. 24, 2023 (print ed.). A request to broadcast one of Donald Trump’s federal trials made an intriguing argument, one rooted not in the news but in ensuring a historical record.

In a pair of filings this month, news organizations asked a federal judge in Washington to allow live television coverage of the trial of President Donald J. Trump on charges that he conspired to undermine the 2020 election. They face a distinctly uphill fight.

A federal rule of criminal procedure stands in their way, and the Supreme Court has long been wary of cameras in courtrooms, notably its own.

But one of the applications, from the corporate parent of NBC News, made an intriguing backup argument, one grounded in the text of a key roadblock to live television coverage: Rule 53 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.

If nothing else, the application said, Rule 53 allows the court to record the proceedings for posterity.

The rule prohibits “the broadcasting of judicial proceedings from the courtroom.” NBC’s application bears down on the last three words, making the case that audio and video of the trial may be distributed in ways other than by broadcast “from the courtroom.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Government moves to protect students when colleges are at risk of closing, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Oct. 25, 2023 (print ed.). The Education Department on Tuesday finalized a package of regulations to safeguard vulnerable college students. It will heighten oversight of colleges on the brink of closure and the administration of federal financial aid programs.

education department seal Custom 2“These final rules will raise the bar for accountability and protect students and taxpayers. They’ll make the department a better cop on the beat,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said on a call with reporters Tuesday.

The rules, which take effect in July, make it easier for regulators to police colleges at risk of closure. Federal officials will be able to require more schools to set aside money to protect the department from absorbing student-aid liabilities. Those circumstances include a college entering bankruptcy or facing large financial liabilities from a lawsuit by state or federal authorities.

Colleges will have 21 days to report such perils and whether they have resolved them. The Education Department will also be able to impose conditions, such as an enrollment cap, on schools exhibiting signs of distress.

A spate of school closures, primarily in the for-profit college sector, has cost the government millions of dollars as it is required to discharge the debt of students affected by such shutdowns. Between 2013 and 2022, the Education Department could collect only $344 million of the $1.6 billion colleges owed in federal student aid because the institutions had gone bankrupt or shut down.

“That leaves taxpayers on the hook, and it fails to deter future wrongdoing. No more,” Under Secretary of Education James Kvaal told reporters Tuesday. “These rules give the department greater tools to protect taxpayers from losses created by school misconduct and closures.”

The regulations also address how colleges handle the billions of dollars they receive in federal grants and loans. They require colleges to clearly disclose information in their financial aid awards, such as the net price that students pay after aid is applied and the total cost of attendance. Colleges also have to provide adequate financial aid counseling and career advice to students.

The rules prevent colleges from withholding a student’s transcript if courses were paid with federal financial aid. Colleges frequently bar students with outstanding bills from accessing their transcripts, preventing them from proving they completed courses at the institution — and often making it harder for them to seek employment.

ap logoAssociated Press via Washington Post, Scholastic reverses course on segregating ‘diverse’ book fair titles, Praveena Somasundaram, Hannah Natanson and Kim Bellware, Oct. 25, 2023. Scholastic Inc. will end a widely criticized policy that made it easier for school book fairs not to sell works with racial, disability and LGBTQ+ themes.

The children’s publisher angered many authors and educators this fall when it created a separate package of dozens of books, labeled “Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice,” and gave schools the option on whether to include them in fairs. Poet Amanda Gorman, whose “Change Sings” was among the titles in “Share Every Story,” had said in an Instagram video that Scholastic’s decision “felt like a betrayal.”
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Scholastic had said the policy, which will remain in place for the rest of the year, was a response to the proliferation of restrictions passed by states around the country. The publisher has not settled on a strategy for 2024.

Oct. 24

ny times logoNew York Times, SAT Data Shows the Deep Inequality at the Heart of American Education, Claire Cain Miller, Graphics by Francesca Paris, Oct. 24, 2023 (print ed.). New data shows, for the first time at this level of detail, how much students’ standardized test scores rise with their parents' incomes — and how disparities start years before students sit for tests.

One-third of the children of the very richest families scored a 1300 or higher, while less than 5 percent of middle-class students did, according to the data, from economists at Opportunity Insights, based at Harvard. Relatively few children in the poorest families scored that high; just one in five took the test at all.

The researchers matched all students’ SAT and ACT scores for 2011, 2013 and 2015 with their parents’ federal income tax records for the prior six years. Their analysis, which also included admissions and attendance records, found that children from very rich families are overrepresented at elite colleges for many reasons, including that admissions offices give them preference. But the test score data highlights a more fundamental reason: When it comes to the types of achievement colleges assess, the children of the rich are simply better prepared.

The disparity highlights the inequality at the heart of American education: Starting very early, children from rich and poor families receive vastly different educations, in and out of school, driven by differences in the amount of money and time their parents are able to invest. And in the last five decades, as the country has become more unequal by income, the gap in children’s academic achievement, as measured by test scores throughout schooling, has widened.

“Kids in disadvantaged neighborhoods end up behind the starting line even when they get to kindergarten,” said Sean Reardon, the professor of poverty and inequality in education at the Stanford Graduate School of Education.

“On average,” he added, “our schools aren’t very good at undoing that damage.”

In the wake of the Supreme Court decision ending race-based affirmative action, there has been revived political momentum to address the ways in which many colleges favor the children of rich and white families, such as legacy admissions, preferences for private school students, athletic recruitment in certain sports and standardized tests.

Yet these things reflect the difference in children’s opportunities long before they apply for college, Professor Reardon said. To address the deeper inequality in education, he said, “it’s 18 years too late.”

The children of the top 0.1 percent, whose parents earned an average of $11.3 million a year in today’s dollars, got far better scores than even the children of the families just below them, the new data shows. For the 12,000 students in this group, opportunities that drive achievement were amplified — exclusive private schools, summers traveling the world and college prep services that cost more than college itself — said John N. Friedman, an economist at Brown, who analyzed the new data with Raj Chetty and David J. Deming of Harvard.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Worst Scandal in American Higher Education Isn’t in the Ivy League, David French, right (former National Review columnist  and self-described evangelical  Christian), Oct. 22, 2023. Those of us who write about david french croppedhigher education can pay too much attention to America’s elite universities. Schools like Harvard, Yale and Stanford are seen as virtual cultural superpowers, and the battle over these schools is sometimes seen as a proxy for battles over the future of the country itself. It’s not that this argument is wrong, exactly. That’s why I’ve written about these schools myself. But it’s incomplete.

In rightly ascribing importance to the Harvards of the world, we can forget that other schools in other contexts also exercise immense influence, and their virtues and flaws can sometimes be more consequential than anything that happens in the Ivy League.

liberty university sealIn fact, I’d argue that the moral collapse at Liberty University in Virginia may well be the most consequential education scandal in the United States, not simply because the details themselves are shocking and appalling, but because Liberty’s misconduct both symbolizes and contributes to the crisis engulfing Christian America. It embodies a cultural and political approach that turns Christian theology on its head.

Last week, Fox News reported that Liberty is facing the possibility of an “unprecedented” $37.5 million fine from the U.S. Department of Education. The department has been investigating violations of the Clery Act, a federal statute that requires federally funded colleges and universities to education department seal Custom 2publicly report data about campus crime. To put that number into perspective, consider that Michigan State University paid $4.5 million for its own “systemic failure” to respond to the infamous Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal, in which Nassar was convicted of sexually abusing dozens of women in his care. While Liberty’s fine is not yet set, the contents of a leaked Education Department report — first reported by Susan Svrluga in The Washington Post — leave little doubt as to why it may be this large. 

The report, as Svrluga writes, “paints a picture of a university that discouraged people from reporting crimes, underreported the claims it received and, meanwhile, marketed its Virginia campus as one of the safest in the country.” The details are grim. According to the report, “Liberty failed to warn the campus community about gas leaks, bomb threats and people credibly accused of repeated acts of sexual violence — including a senior administrator and an athlete.”

A campus safety consultant told Svrluga, “This is the single most blistering Clery report I have ever read. Ever.”

jerry falwell jr resized wife assistantIf this was the only scandal at Liberty, it would and should be a national story. But it’s not the only scandal. Far from it. I’ve been following (and covering) Liberty’s moral collapse for years, and the list of scandals and lawsuits plaguing the school is extraordinarily long. The best known of these is the saga of Jerry Falwell Jr., shown above  and  below left.  Falwell, a former president of the school and a son of its founder, resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct involving himself, his wife and a pool boy turned business associate named Giancarlo Granda.

jerry falwell jr wFalwell is nationally prominent in part because he was one of Donald Trump’s earliest and most enthusiastic evangelical supporters. Falwell sued the school, the school sued Falwell, and in September Falwell filed a scorching amended complaint, claiming that other high-ranking Liberty officers and board members had committed acts of sexual and financial misconduct yet were permitted to retain their positions.

But that’s not all. In 2021, ProPublica published a comprehensive, gut-wrenching report describing how Liberty mishandled claims of sex abuse and sex harassment on campus and used its strict code of conduct, the Liberty Way, against victims of sex abuse. If, for example, victims had been drinking or engaged in any other conduct prohibited by Liberty policies, those details in their sex abuse complaints could be used against them in school disciplinary proceedings.

Liberty has faced a series of lawsuits related to those claims, and last year it settled one of those cases. Throughout these controversies, Liberty has responded by denying many of the worst allegations against it. Liberty claims, for example, that the Education Department’s preliminary report is marred by “significant errors, misstatements and unsupported conclusions.” It has also acknowledged “historic gaps in compliance” with the Clery Act and says it is making material changes on campus, including spending millions to upgrade campus security and reviewing and enhancing its Title IX procedures.

I know that there are people who will read the accounts above and be angry. They can’t believe a Christian institution could fail its students, the church and the nation so profoundly. Others will read and grow angry for a different reason. The scandals above are only a partial description of the problems at Liberty. They’ll actually think I let the campus off easy.

But there’s another group that will be angry as well — at yet another attack on an evangelical institution in a powerful secular newspaper. That anger, though, is a key part of the problem with the American church, and it’s a problem that no less a Christian figure than the apostle Paul identified almost 2,000 years ago.

In his first letter to the Corinthian church (or, as Trump might say, One Corinthians), he issued a ferocious denunciation of sexual immorality inside the church. In chapter five, he says that he’s heard of misconduct “of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate.” He’s condemning an act of incest within the church, but if you read the accounts of incidents at Liberty, you’ll read stories of gross misconduct that Christians and non-Christians alike should and do find utterly abhorrent.

The chapter continues in an interesting way. Paul demonstrates ferocious anger at the church’s internal sin, but says this about those outside the congregation: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked person from among you.’”

Not every Christian institution is rocked by scandal, and there are many Christian colleges that are healthy and vibrant, led by men and women of integrity. Yet as we witness systemic misconduct unfold at institution after institution after institution, often without any real accountability, we can understand that many members of the church have gotten Paul’s equation exactly backward. They are remarkably tolerant of even the most wayward, dishonest and cruel individuals and institutions in American Christianity. At the same time, they approach those outside with a degree of anger and ferocity that’s profoundly contributing to American polarization. It’s also perpetuating the corruption of the church.

Under this moral construct, internal critique is perceived as a threat, a way of weakening American evangelicalism. It’s seen as contributing to external hostility and possibly even the rapid secularization of American life that’s now underway. But Paul would scoff at such a notion. One of the church’s greatest apostles didn’t hold back from critiquing a church that faced far greater cultural or political headwinds — including brutal and deadly persecution at the hands of the Roman state — than the average evangelical can possibly imagine.

Why? Because he realized the health of the church wasn’t up to the state, nor was it dependent on the church’s nonbelieving neighbors. Liberty University is consequential not just because it’s an academic superpower in Christian America, but also because it’s a symbol of a key reality of evangelical life — we have met the enemy of American Christianity, and it is us.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: With War in Israel, the Cancel Culture Debate Comes Full Circle, Michelle Goldberg, right, Oct. 24, 2023 (print ed.). Nathan Thrall’s searing new michelle goldberg thumbbook, A Day in the Life of Abed Salama, struck me as important even before the obscene massacres and mass kidnappings committed by Hamas this month lit the Middle East on fire. Today, with people still struggling to understand the contours of this deeply complicated conflict, the book seems essential.

An expanded version of Thrall’s widely praised 2021 New York Review of Books article of the same name, the book follows a Palestinian man named Abed Salama as he searches for his 5-year-old son after a deadly school bus crash in the West Bank, a search hindered by Israel’s restrictions on Palestinian movement. Thrall, the former director of the Arab-Israeli project at the International Crisis Group, uses his reported account of the Salama family’s tragedy to offer a panoramic look at life under Israel’s occupation. He is deeply concerned with Palestinian grief, but also writes rich portraits of Israelis, including Beber Vanunu, founder of a settlement in the West Bank, and Dany Tirza, architect of the separation wall that cuts through the territory.

Because I admire A Day in the Life of Abed Salama so much, I agreed to moderate a talk with Thrall this Thursday in Brooklyn. But I’ve been shocked to learn that several of his other events, both in the United States and in Britain, have been canceled, either because of security fears or because it’s considered insensitive, right after the killings and abductions in Israel, to dwell on the plight of Palestinians.

“How does one promote a program on this subject to a largely Jewish audience when people on all sides are being bombed, killed and buried?” Andrea Grossman, whose Los Angeles nonprofit called off an event with Thrall, said in The Guardian. American Public Media, which distributes content for public radio stations nationwide, even pulled ads for the book.

Thrall is not alone; in recent weeks several literary and cultural events by pro-Palestinian speakers or groups have been either scrapped or relocated. But if someone as evenhanded as Thrall now finds his talks being dropped, we’re in an especially repressive period. And in a time of war, particularly a war shrouded in fiercely competing narratives, free speech is more important than ever.

ny times logoNew York Times, The New York Times has published an editors’ note about its early coverage of an explosion at a hospital in Gaza City, Staff Report, Oct. 24, 2023 (print ed.). On Oct. 17, The New York Times published news of an explosion at a hospital in Gaza City, leading its coverage with claims by Hamas government officials that an Israeli airstrike was the cause and that hundreds of people were dead or injured. The report included a large headline at the top of The Times’s website.

Israel subsequently denied being at fault and blamed an errant rocket launch by the Palestinian faction group Islamic Jihad, which has in turn denied responsibility. American and other international officials have said their evidence indicates that the rocket came from Palestinian fighter positions.

The Times’s initial accounts attributed the claim of Israeli responsibility to Palestinian officials, and noted that the Israeli military said it was investigating the blast. However, the early versions of the coverage — and the prominence it received in a headline, news alert and social media channels — relied too heavily on claims by Hamas, and did not make clear that those claims could not immediately be verified. The report left readers with an incorrect impression about what was known and how credible the account was.

The Times continued to update its coverage as more information became available, reporting the disputed claims of responsibility and noting that the death toll might be lower than initially reported. Within two hours, the headline and other text at the top of the website reflected the scope of the explosion and the dispute over responsibility.

Given the sensitive nature of the news during a widening conflict, and the prominent promotion it received, Times editors should have taken more care with the initial presentation, and been more explicit about what information could be verified. Newsroom leaders continue to examine procedures around the biggest breaking news events — including for the use of the largest headlines in the digital report — to determine what additional safeguards may be warranted.

Oct. 23

Detroit Metro Times, Detroit News fires Charlie LeDuff over c-word insult, Steve Neavling, Oct. 23, 2023. In an interview with Metro Times, LeDuff was defiant charlie leduff foxand said he has “nothing to apologize for.”

Charlie LeDuff, right, the polarizing Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who has increasingly peddled right-wing outrage on his podcast, was fired from the Detroit News after using a vulgar, coded phrase aimed at Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

LeDuff came under fire over the weekend for telling Nessel in a social media post, “See you next Tuesday,” a backronym for the word “cunt.” It’s often written, “C U Next Tuesday.””

In an email to reporters on Saturday, Detroit News editor and publisher Gary Miles said LeDuff had been fired. “While we stand by the journalism that we have published under his byline, I could not envision moving forward with his weekly column in light of recent events,” Miles wrote. Miles tells Metro Times that he and Charlie mutually agreed to terminate the weekly column.

In an interview with Metro Times on Monday morning, LeDuff was defiant and said he thought the insult was “clever” because his weekly column was published on Tuesdays. “I’m not apologizing. I have nothing to apologize for. … I stand by it,” LeDuff says. “I said something clever on my own space because I am fucking pissed.”

dana nessel oLeDuff alleged in a Detroit News column last week that Nessel, right, “subtly pressured her staff to close” an investigation into a friend, Traci Kornack, a personal injury lawyer and treasurer of the Michigan Democratic Party. Kornack was accused of bilking an insurance company out of nearly $50,000 by using the account of an elderly, brain-damaged client.

In a news release a day after the column was published, Nessel denied wrongdoing, and her acting chief legal counsel, Linus Banghart-Linn, accused LeDuff of sloppy, sensational journalism in a letter to the Detroit News.

“The opinion piece published yesterday not only fails to achieve any public good or ‘sunshine’ on the work of government, but irresponsibly twists half-understood and fully fabricated notions of the Department to the detriment of public trust in their State government,” Banghart-Linn’s letter read.

LeDuff’s insult swiftly drew condemnation from journalists.

“This is disgusting and reprehensible,” Detroit News politics editor Chad Livengood tweeted Saturday. “@charlieleduff should do us all a favor and resign.”

Jon King, a local freelance reporter, said it was important for journalists to speak out because LeDuff’s insult tarnished the profession.

michigan map“While I can’t speak for anyone but myself, my sense is that his openly hateful, misogynistic response only served to further blur the line between holding truth to power and partisan advocacy,” King tweeted. “It’s no coincidence that the initial reaction came from our female colleagues. They know all too well how their gender is weaponized against them. So when they see a male journalist indulge in that weaponization, I imagine it is not just infuriating, it is also deflating.”

Alan Stamm, a former reporter at Deadline Detroit, where LeDuff was previously a columnist, suggested the Detroit News would be better off without LeDuff.

“Charlie LeDuff is a loose cannon who backfires embarrassingly and will do so repeatedly if not tossed overboard,” Stamm tweeted.

State lawmakers also spoke out and called for LeDuff's termination. Addressing several Detroit News reporters and editors, Sen. Dayna Polehanki, D-Livonia, tweeted, “you good with your boy calling Michigan’s Attorney General a c***? Do tell us more about your ‘editorial standards.’ Asking for an army of women who have endured lifetimes of misogyny. Fire @charlieleduff.”

As expected, conservatives came to LeDuff’s defense, and some even repeated the phrase.

“Ladies can’t have it both ways,” Meshawn Maddock, former Michigan Republican Party co-chair, tweeted Sunday. “Be all offended [by] the men who use bad words, but demand to be treated like men when it suits them.”

LeDuff is no stranger to controversy. In 1995, he conceded that he plagiarized a story while working for The New York Times. He also has been accused of manufacturing quotes and featuring inaccurate descriptions.

After 12 years at The New York Times, LeDuff took a reporting job at the Detroit News, where details in some of LeDuff’s stories were called into question. In one story that made national news, LeDuff accused Detroit police of failing to respond to his call about a dead body discovered lodged in ice in an abandoned warehouse. Metro Times and the Detroit Free Press both published stories contradicting LeDuff’s accounts of what happened.

In October 2010 LeDeuff left the Detroit News to join Fox 2, where he was known for using bizarre antics to report on serious issues. In 2011, a Detroit police officer sued LeDuff over two of his Detroit News stories that claimed she moonlighted as a stripper and danced at the long-rumored, never-proven Kwame Kilpatrick party at the Manoogian Mansion. In the lawsuit, which was eventually dismissed, Officer Paytra Williams alleged LeDuff got facts wrong in the story and disputed that she moonlighted as a stripper. In 2013, LeDuff was accused of urinating in public, biting a security guard at a St. Patrick’s Day party, and calling three policewomen “whores.” He left Fox 2 in November 2016.

LeDuff wrote two critically acclaimed books, Detroit: An American Autopsy (2008) and Shitshow!: The Country’s Collapsing and the Ratings Are Great (2018).

In October 2018, LeDuff launched his ongoing podcast, The No BS News Hour, where he lurched to the right and built a conservative following by attacking Democrats and taking a hardline position against immigration. He frequently appears on Fox News and conservative podcasts.

LeDuff insists he didn’t need the Detroit News job, which he says paid “peanuts,” because of the success of his podcast. If he has any regrets, he says, it’s the harm done to Detroit News editor Gary Miles and editorial page editor Nolan Finley. “I regret the stress and the decision they had to make,” LeDuff says. “I admire them. I think of them as mentors and colleagues. I regret any ignominy or shade or stress on them. That’s who I apologize to and nobody else.”

ny times logoNew York Times, LinkedIn issued a warning to a site shaming pro-Palestinian sentiment, Ryan Mac, Oct. 23, 2023 (print ed.). The site listed thousands of people and grouped them by their workplaces after they posted on the Israeli-Hamas conflict.

Online posts asking to “#PrayForPalestine.” Entreaties for peace. Pleas to “Free Gaza.”

Over the last 10 days, a website called anti-israel-employees.com published more than 17,000 posts, which one of the people behind the site said had been taken mainly from LinkedIn. The site, which claimed to be a “global live feed of potentially supportive sentiments for terrorism among company employees,” listed thousands of people and grouped them by their workplaces, in an apparent attempt to shame them for their sentiments on the Israeli-Hamas conflict.

The website, which was taken offline for a day before being migrated to a new web address, named employees of major international corporations, including Amazon, Mastercard and Ernst & Young, and shared their profile photos, LinkedIn pages and posts.

Itai Liptz, a hedge fund manager who said he was one of the people behind the original site, said that its goal was to “expose people who supported Hamas publicly.”

“We wanted to have it documented and a record,” he said. “If I work in this company, but I see my friends on LinkedIn celebrating and praising Hamas, then I’m not feeling safe.”

But the site also highlighted posts from people who did not explicitly show support for Hamas, according to posts seen by The New York Times. Some people used hash tags like “#GazaUnderAttack” or sought to draw attention to the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. The site asked users to submit posts that they believed should be exposed, and included a numeric “hate score” for companies.

The site, which was created 10 days ago, comes amid a wider debate over online expression during a fraught international conflict. Similar lists have also been created to track college students who have spoken out in support of Palestinians, while Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, said it took down nearly 800,000 pieces of Hebrew and Arabic language content for violating its rules in the three days after the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7.

Some people who were highlighted on the site have already deleted their LinkedIn posts or their LinkedIn profiles. Mr. Liptz, who said he did not expect the site to become as popular as it did after spreading via WhatsApp groups, called the far-ranging capture of all pro-Palestinian sentiment a mistake.

“If somebody says ‘Free Palestine’ that is totally OK, and we shouldn’t put it on our website,” he said on Saturday. “We just want to make sure the filters are there because they have the right to say that.”

The site, however, was back online on Sunday at a new web address and still displayed the posts and names of people that Mr. Liptz had said would be removed. Now located at an Israel-specific domain, the site is being overseen by Guy Ophir, a lawyer in Israel, who said the team moved it to a new address after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from LinkedIn.

A spokesman for LinkedIn said the company determined that the site had used automated programs to extract content from the platform, a practice known as scraping, which is a violation of its rules. Mr. Liptz denied that his site extracted the LinkedIn information through scraping, while Mr. Ophir said he believed that LinkedIn was trying to infringe on his right to free speech.

“We are not going to remove the website,” he said. “We are willing to fight them here.”

The site has been a subject of discussion at Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, and LinkedIn, where employees have expressed concern about the chilling effect it could have on online speech.

“People are scraping pro-Palestine LinkedIn posts and adding them to a database of ‘terror supporters,’” one employee wrote last Wednesday in a note on an internal Meta message board that was seen by The Times.

Other Meta employees were in disbelief that expressing support for Palestine was equated with supporting terrorism.

“The lack of understanding,” a Meta employee wrote, “is beyond insensitive and cruel.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Ukrainian spies with deep ties to CIA wage shadow war against Russia, Greg Miller and Isabelle Khurshudyan, Oct. 24, 2023 (print ed.). The cluttered car carrying a mother and her 12-year-old daughter seemed barely worth the attention of Russian security officials as it approached a border checkpoint.

CIA LogoBut the least conspicuous piece of luggage — a crate for a cat — was part of an elaborate, lethal plot. Ukrainian operatives had installed a hidden compartment in the pet carrier, according to security officials with knowledge of the operation, and used it to conceal components of a bomb.

Four weeks later, the device detonated just outside Moscow in an SUV being driven by the daughter of a Russian nationalist who had urged his country to “kill, kill, kill” Ukrainians, an explosion signaling that the heart of Russia would not be spared the carnage of war.

The operation was orchestrated by Ukraine’s domestic security service, the SBU, according to officials who provided details, including the use of the pet crate, that have not been previously disclosed. The August 2022 attack is part of a raging shadow war in which Ukraine’s spy services have also twice bombed the bridge connecting Russia to occupied Crimea, piloted drones into the roof of the Kremlin and blown holes in the hulls of Russian naval vessels in the Black Sea.

These operations have been cast as extreme measures Ukraine was forced to adopt in response to Russia’s invasion last year. In reality, they represent capabilities that Ukraine’s spy agencies have developed over nearly a decade — since Russia first seized Ukrainian territory in 2014 — a period during which the services also forged deep new bonds with the CIA.

The missions have involved elite teams of Ukrainian operatives drawn from directorates that were formed, trained and equipped in close partnership with the CIA, according to current and former Ukrainian and U.S. officials. Since 2015, the CIA has spent tens of millions of dollars to transform Ukraine’s Soviet-formed services into potent allies against Moscow, officials said. The agency has provided Ukraine with advanced surveillance systems, trained recruits at sites in Ukraine as well as the United States, built new headquarters for departments in Ukraine’s military intelligence agency, and shared intelligence on a scale that would have been unimaginable before Russia illegally annexed Crimea and fomented a separatist war in eastern Ukraine. The CIA maintains a significant presence in Kyiv, officials said.

The extent of the CIA’s involvement with Ukraine’s security services has not previously been disclosed. U.S. intelligence officials stressed that the agency has had no involvement in targeted killing operations by Ukrainian agencies, and that its work has focused on bolstering those services’ abilities to gather intelligence on a dangerous adversary. A senior intelligence official said that “any potential operational concerns have been conveyed clearly to the Ukrainian services.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Republicans target visas of student protesters. That violates free speech, experts say, Dylan Wells, Oct. 20, 2023. The proposals reflect the determination by much of the GOP field to stake out increasingly hard-line stances against many Muslim immigrants and in support of Israel.

As tensions have erupted at college campuses throughout the country after Hamas’s attack on Israel, former president Donald Trump and other Republican presidential candidates have called to revoke student visas and deport foreign nationals who express support for Palestinians or criticize Israel’s military response — moves that would amount to violations of their First Amendment rights, according to some legal experts.

Student protests have ranged from urging a cease-fire or denouncing the treatment and killing of Palestinian civilians to blaming Israel for Hamas’s attack, a position that has been criticized across the political spectrum. Some Republican candidates have not differentiated the protests in their comments, generalizing protest participants as supporting Hamas.

Trump, the dominant polling leader in the GOP race, said this week that if he is returned to the White House, his administration would revoke student visas of “radical, anti-American and antisemitic foreigners.”

Oct. 20

washington post logoWashington Post, Lawmakers demand answers from Bezos about election misinformation on Alexa, Cat Zakrzewski and Caroline O'Donovan, Oct. 20, 2023 (print ed.). Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Rep. Joseph Morelle (D-NY), citing a Post report that found Alexa spread false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, pressed the Amazon founder on his 2024 election plans.

Lawmakers on Wednesday pressed Amazon founder Jeff Bezos on the company’s plans to prevent the spread of misinformation ahead of the 2024 election, citing a Washington Post report that the company’s voice assistant Alexa spread false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the Senate Rules and Administration Committee chair, and Rep. Joseph Morelle, the top Democrat on the House Administration Committee, asked Bezos in a letter to explain what steps have been taken to improve the accuracy of Alexa’s responses. The Minnesota and New York Democrats also pressed Bezos on how the company is vetting responses that cite Alexa users as source material — especially when the inquiries are related to elections.

“This spreading of election-related misinformation and disinformation is particularly troubling given the emerging use of artificial intelligence to mislead voters,” the lawmakers wrote.

Amazon’s Alexa has been claiming the 2020 election was stolen

Bezos, the company’s former CEO, owns The Washington Post. The Post’s interim CEO Patty Stonesifer sits on Amazon’s board.

washington post logoWashington Post, How Natalee Holloway’s case put a spotlight on media coverage of missing White women, Jonathan Edwards, Oct. 20, 2023 (print ed.). Natalee Holloway had disappeared but was everywhere.

In the summer of 2005, major news networks were running a seemingly endless barrage of stories about the 18-year-old, who had gone missing while on a graduation trip in Aruba.

On Aug. 11 of that year, after months of coverage, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper was fed up. There had been no substantive updates in the case, and yet networks had kept running stories. He showed a montage of clips from those stories, including one of then-Fox News host Bill O’Reilly referring to the case as “a soap opera” and “a reality show.”

“It’s getting downright ridiculous,” Cooper said, before telling viewers he was done talking about the Holloway case until there was actual news to relay.

More than 18 years later, the Holloway case is back in the headlines. On Wednesday, 36-year-old Joran van der Sloot, a longtime suspect, confessed to killing her on an Aruban beach because she had rejected his sexual advances.

Van der Sloot’s admission brought some finality to a story that dominated the airwaves nearly two decades ago and has lingered in the American consciousness ever since. The coverage of her disappearance played into a well-worn, centuries-old trope that University of Maryland journalism professor Mark Feldstein calls the “maiden-in-peril narrative,” an idea that in recent years has gained traction as the “missing White woman syndrome.”

fcc logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Democrats renew push to restore net neutrality, years after its repeal, Cristiano Lima and David DiMolfetta, Oct. 20, 2023 (print ed.). Democrats at the Federal Communications Commission are kicking off on Thursday a long-anticipated effort to restore the Obama-era net neutrality protections, a high-profile campaign that would grant the agency greater power to rein in internet service providers.

The FCC is slated to vote on whether to launch a rulemaking process to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service under what’s known as Title II of the Communications Act, giving the agency the leeway to carry out more aggressive utility-style regulation of the sector.

The agency, which last month clinched a 3-2 Democratic majority for the first time under President Biden, is likely to greenlight the move, which is backed by Democrats and opposed by Republicans.

In an interview previewing the meeting, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said the action is “designed to meet the moment we're in” in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which she said made it abundantly clear that “broadband is an essential service.”

“Nobody can come out of this pandemic and think that this service is a luxury. It's a necessity. We need it for everyone, everywhere,” Rosenworcel, a Democrat, told me on Wednesday. “It is foundational for so much in modern, civic and commercial life.”

But the plan, which arrives more than 1,000 days into Joe Biden’s presidency and nearly six years after the rules were repealed, is poised to face significant obstacles, from political and industry blowback to likely legal challenges and a dwindling shot clock.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia detained an American journalist and charged her with failing to register as a foreign agent, Ivan Nechepurenko, Oct. 20, 2023 (print ed.). Alsu Kurmasheva, who holds dual U.S.-Russian citizenship and works in Prague, was charged with failing to register as a foreign agent after going to Russia for family reasons.

Russian FlagThe Russian authorities have detained an editor working for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, an American broadcaster funded by the United States government, on charges of failing to register as a “foreign agent,” the media company said on Thursday.

The editor, Alsu Kurmasheva, who holds both Russian and United States citizenship, is the second American journalist to be detained in Russia this year. In March, Russian special services detained Evan Gershkovich, a Russian correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, on espionage charges, which he and The Journal have denied. He remains in a high-security prison in Moscow awaiting trial.

Ms. Kurmasheva’s detention, in Kazan, a major city about 500 miles east of Moscow, is likely to further raise suspicions that the Kremlin now views American citizens on its soil as high-profile assets that can be traded for high-value Russians held in United States custody.

Oct. 18

washington post logoWashington Post, How Hannity, Bannon and others on the right helped fuel GOP speaker chaos, Sarah Ellison and Will Sommer, Oct. 18, 2023 (print ed.). Fox News host Sean Hannity vented to his millions of viewers Monday night about the state of the Republican effort to name a new House speaker — taking special aim at the “few sensitive little snowflakes in Congress” who were not supporting his preferred GOP candidate, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio.

But the widely watched conservative pundit wasn’t only using his televised bully pulpit to pressure the holdouts. Hannity also spent the weekend personally calling several and having one of his producers reach out to others to lobby them on their vote. He also took to social media to encourage his followers to call wavering members and demand they fall into line.

Hannity’s effort to personally whip up votes for Jordan highlights the central role that right-wing media has played in the weeks-long drama engulfing Capitol Hill over who will wield the speaker’s gavel.

washington post logoWashington Post, War inflames U.S. college campuses, raises fears of antisemitism, Nick Anderson, Oct. 18, 2023. Jewish students say they have felt increasingly isolated since Hamas militants attacked Israel.

Someone scrawled “Free Palestine” on the exterior of a Jewish fraternity house at Georgia Tech over the weekend, next to a large image of a menorah. A Stanford University instructor reportedly asked Jewish and Israeli students to stand in the corner of a classroom. A Cornell University professor declared at a rally Sunday that, while he abhors violence, he felt “exhilarated” after Hamas militants from Gaza attacked Israel.

These and other incidents have rattled Jewish communities on campuses across America as they mourn victims of the Oct. 7 massacres and kidnappings. For decades, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has stoked passions and divisions over the rights of Palestinians and the security of the Jewish state. But the outbreak of war has elevated those tensions even further in recent days and raised new alarms about intimidation and antisemitism on campus.

“Jewish students are fearful and isolated,” said Melanie Schwartz, 20, a junior at Cornell.

washington post logoWashington Post, Republicans want schools to block social media or lose internet funds, Cristiano Lima, Oct. 18, 2023. A bill would require schools to ban social media and limit screen time to receive federal internet subsidies.

Republican lawmakers on Wednesday are proposing legislation to block children from using social media in school, preventing access to the platforms on poorer schools’ networks that receive federal broadband subsidies, the latest in a growing crop of bills to bar younger users from sites such as TikTok and Instagram.

The measure illustrates how policymakers are turning to a broadening and increasingly aggressive arsenal of tools to try to restrict children’s online activity amid concerns about their safety.

Led by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Ted Budd (R-N.C.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the bill would require that schools prohibit youths from using social media on their networks to be eligible to for the E-Rate program, which provides lower prices for internet access.

Discounts for support depend on the level of poverty and whether the school or library is located in an urban or rural areas.

The E-Rate program allows schools and libraries facing poverty conditions in rural and urban areas to receive significant federally funded discounts on their internet service — an effort to address gaps in broadband connectivity referred to as the “homework gap.”

While the program is broadly supported by Democrats on Capitol Hill and at the Federal Communications Commission and some prominent Republicans, top GOP congressional leaders including Cruz and conservative activists have lashed out against it as a form of wasteful government spending.

Oct. 17

ny times logoNew York Times, President Biden’s campaign said it had joined Truth Social “mostly because we thought it would be very funny,” Reid J. Epstein, Oct. 17, 2023 (print ed.). Officials with President Biden’s re-election campaign have long pledged to meet voters where they are. On Monday the campaign began a project to meet former President Donald J. Trump’s voters where they are — on his social media platform.

“Let’s see how this goes,” the campaign’s account wrote on Monday in its first post on Truth Social. “Converts welcome!”

The Biden campaign painted its debut on Mr. Trump’s outlet as a cheeky opportunity to troll the president’s likely general election opponent. Mr. Trump launched Truth Social in April 2022 in response to being blocked from mainstream social media platforms a day after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Their actions came after he published inaccurate and inflammatory messages during that day of violence.

“There’s very little ‘truth’ happening on Truth Social, but at least now it’ll be a little fun,” Kevin Munoz, a Biden campaign spokesman, said.

On X, formerly known as Twitter, the Biden campaign said it had joined the platform “mostly because we thought it would be very funny.” The decision marks a shift from the campaign’s previously stated position that it would not join the Trump platform, as reported by Axios in May.

Mr. Biden, who won the 2020 presidential election by narrow margins in just a handful of battleground states, is in search of any edge he can get with voters who could be persuaded to vote for him.

Oct. 16

taylor swift stage

 washington post logoWashington Post, Movie Review: Love Taylor Swift or not, her concert film is astonishing, Ann Hornaday, Oct. 16, 2023 (print ed.). It’s Swift’s movie. We’re just living in it.

“Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” is a simultaneously intimate and spectacular documentary of her record-breaking, earth-quaking, career-spanning victory lap.

Pro tip: If you’re going to see “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour,” make sure you see it with a packed house of grade-school-aged girls primed to shriek, rush the screen, take selfies and make heart hands through this delirious, dizzying celebration of Swift-mania.

Sure, that’s probably redundant. (Is there any other way to see “The Eras Tour” than with a crowd of screaming girls?) And yes, oldsters will need a couple of Ibuprofen when it’s all over. But to fully appreciate “The Eras Tour,” a simultaneously intimate and spectacular documentary of Swift’s record-breaking, earth-quaking, career-spanning victory lap of the past year, it’s best simply to surrender to the whole thing: the sparkly cowboy hats, the boots, the friendship bracelets and the screaming (there will be a lot of screaming).

Taylor-made: A Swiftie’s guide to the best 'Eras' movie experienceSwift has been a compelling screen presence from as far back as 2009, when she quietly stole the show from Miley Cyrus in the feature film spinoff of “Hannah Montana.” Today, with a net worth just shy of $800 million, a seemingly limitless creative output and just enough chips on her shoulder to keep things interesting, it’s Swift’s movie and we’re just living in it.

madonna art freedom

ny times logoNew York Times, Madonna Celebrates Four Decades of Hits With Career-Spanning Spectacle, Derrick Bryson Taylor and Ben Sisario, Oct. 16, 2023 (print ed.). After a health-related delay, the pop superstar (shown above in  a file  photo) launched her Celebration Tour in London with a performance devoted to her full catalog of hits.

They wore pearls with crucifixes, lace gloves, tulle skirts and body-sculpting corsets. Some even crimped their hair and drew on fake beauty moles, while others wore simple white T-shirts with only the letter M on the back. Spanning generations, the concertgoers arriving at the O2 Arena in London used Saturday night as an opportunity to dress in their favorite Madonna era, even if that was decades before they were born.

Madonna, 65, is on the road for the first time since 2020 with her global Celebration Tour, a stage spectacle touching on more than 40 of her hits across four decades. The show opened at the O2, a 20,000-capacity arena, three months after its planned first date, following a health scare for the pop icon. In June, Madonna was hospitalized shortly before the tour’s scheduled debut in Canada. At the time, her manager said she had a “serious bacterial infection” that resulted in the singer staying in an intensive care unit for several days.

Madonna swore that the tour — her first devoted to her full catalog of hits, rather than to a specific album release — would go on. In recent weeks, she has filled her Instagram account with tantalizing, and very on-brand, images from rehearsals, showing her dressed in a lacy black bustier, practicing onstage steps and resting her fishnet-clad knees.
Fans waited out a 30-minute delay before Madonna arrived onstage in London, opening with a medley of hits before acknowledging the challenges that had led to the moment. “How did I make it this far? Because of you,” she said, adding, “But I will take a bit of credit, too.”

It was clear from the beginning that this concert would be as much a journey through Madonna’s career as it would a bona fide dance party. Set on an elaborate stage that jutted out into the audience, several hanging retractable screens showed images of the singer. At other times, they displayed powerful portraits, as when she launched into “Live To Tell” and the screens displayed images of Freddie Mercury, Arthur Ashe and more people who died from AIDS.

For more than two hours, with the help of her dancers and some of her six children, Madonna blazed through her catalog of songs, singing several hits like “Holiday,” “Like a Prayer,” “Hung Up,” “Ray of Light” and “Bad Girl.” Her costumes were sexy, religious and futuristic.

 

 elon musk sideview

Going Deep With Russ Baker, Investigative Commentary: Time to Deal with Elon Musk as Chaos Agent #1, Russ Baker, right, founder of WhoWhatWhy, author and  media critic, Oct. 15-16, 2023. Musk (shown above in a  file photo) may pay a russ baker cropped david welkerbig fine for willfully spreading lies — but the human whowhatwhy logocost in lives cannot be calculated.

The media has played into the image of Elon Musk as a loveable, wacky, brilliant guy.

This past week, it seems that the media, which has waffled for years, suddenly settled on just how bad and dangerous golden boy Elon Reeve Musk actually is.

x logo twitterAs with Donald John Trump, the media screwed up big time, helping hype the brand, which in turn enabled Musk’s amassing of a far greater fortune and power. The merits of the companies he bought or started, while significant, have been far exceeded by the amount of hagiography heaped upon him.

Now, like Dr. Frankenstein, they regret their creation. And no wonder. Not only is Musk basically a destructive narcissist — he’s also a disinformation kingpin, a danger to domestic tranquility, to national security, and much, much more.

The evidence is voluminous, and may be familiar to you. Yet the details are well worth reviewing because, cumulatively, they show the evil purpose at hand.

“I Still Don’t Know What They’re Talking About!”

european union logo rectangleOn October 10, in rapid response to disinformation Musk was putting out about the Hamas-Israel conflict that had just exploded, Thierry Breton, a commissioner with the European Union and author of the Digital Services Act (passed in 2022 to regulate social media content for the protection of the public), fired off a letter to Musk. He warned him that failing to moderate fake news on X could result in a fine of 6 percent of X’s revenues — or even an EU blackout of the social media platform altogether.

twitter bird CustomThe fake news includes disinformation about the Hamas attack, including the posting of misrepresented and repurposed old images, and “military” footage that actually came from a video game. 

As he routinely does, a la Trump, when confronted about the bogus information pervading every inch of his site, Musk asks, in effect, “Huh?”

In response to the EU’, Musk feigned ignorance: “Please list the violations you allude to on X, so that the public can see them.”

Oct. 12

Politico Magazine, Analysis: Republican Chaos Has Conservative Media Fuming. It’s Their Fault It Happened, Brian Rosenwald, Oct. 12, 2023. Brian Rosenwald is director of the Red and Blue Exchange at the University of Pennsylvania, senior editor of Made by History, and author of "Talk Radio’s America: How an Industry Took Over a Political Party That Took Over the United States."

politico CustomTalk radio and Fox News hosts created the political incentives that fueled Kevin McCarthy’s ouster and today’s speakership drama.

Rep. Matt Gaetz is a “POS demagogue” for orchestrating the ouster of Kevin McCarthy from the speakership, a man who “repeatedly” lied to conservatives and, perhaps worst of all, is the “favorite Republican of the Democrat Party and their media.” Harsh words from conservative talk radio and cable news host Mark Levin.

djt maga hatFox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade recently laid into another one of the GOP mutineers, Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), to start off a stunningly confrontational interview: “You were one of the eight. Speaker McCarthy had 96 percent approval rating. But that wasn’t good enough for you. Do you feel good enough about your vote?”

And then there was Jeanine Pirro announcing twice that she was “furious” on Fox’s The Five, adding, “You’ve got the Republicans going out there and showing how dysfunctional they are as Matt Gaetz is engaging in fundraising.”

But the truth is that angry conservative media hosts have only themselves to blame for McCarthy’s downfall and the disarray currently facing House Republicans.

The leaders of conservative talk radio and cable news have spent years assailing GOP congressional leaders — including McCarthy — and they are largely responsible for turning far-right rebels like Gaetz into stars. Going back to the 1990s, conservative media created the political ecosystem in which torching and targeting Republican leaders is good politics on the right. And they’ve ensured that the next speaker, whether it’s Steve Scalise or someone else, will face the same poisonous incentive structure that took down McCarthy. 

Oct. 11

ny times logoNew York Times, The Washington Post to Cut 240 Jobs, Katie Robertson, Oct. 11, 2023 (print ed.). The Washington Post is cutting about 240 jobs across the organization as it tries to offset challenges with digital subscriptions and advertising, according to a companywide email on Tuesday.

Patty Stonesifer, the interim chief executive officer, said in the email to Post employees that the company hoped to achieve the cuts through voluntary buyouts. The buyouts will be offered to staff members this week.

washington post logoThe company has about 2,600 employees in total, with more than 1,000 in its newsroom. The company declined to comment on how many jobs in the newsroom would be eliminated.

“Our prior projections for traffic, subscriptions and advertising growth for the past two years — and into 2024 — have been overly optimistic,” Ms. Stonesifer wrote in the email. She added: “The urgent need to invest in our top growth priorities brought us to the difficult conclusion that we need to adjust our cost structure now.”

The move is the latest indication of The Post’s business struggles. The company, which is owned by the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, is on track to lose roughly $100 million this year.

The number of subscriptions at The Post has declined in recent years — it now has roughly 2.5 million subscribers, down from a high of three million subscribers at the end of 2020. The Post has also struggled in the face of an industrywide decline in digital advertising.

Mr. Bezos, who paid $250 million for the newspaper in 2013, has previously said he wants the publication to be profitable.

fred ryan wSome of The Post’s troubles have been placed at the feet of Fred Ryan, right, the longtime chief executive and publisher, who announced his resignation in June. Mr. Ryan, a former Reagan aide and Politico executive who joined The Post in 2014, oversaw abundant growth in the company during the first five years of his tenure. The newsroom roughly doubled in size and subscriptions soared.

But The Post, like other news organizations, saw a drop-off in subscribers after former President Donald J. Trump left office. Mr. Ryan was criticized for what some in the company saw as a stultified business culture and frequently clashed with newsroom leaders. He also presided over an exodus of talent in the past two years, including top-tier executives and high-p