Media News 2021-23




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

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

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

    • Andrew Kreig / Justice Integrity Project editor


      andrew kreig c span

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

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

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

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


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


 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



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.
Get a curated selection of 10 of our best stories in your inbox every weekend.

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.
Tech is not your friend. We are. Sign up for The Tech Friend newsletter.

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


llewellyn king photo logo

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.


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!



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.

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.”
Get a curated selection of 10 of our best stories in your inbox every weekend.

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 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-profile journalists.

Ms. Stonesifer, a longtime friend of Mr. Bezos, agreed to step in as an interim leader after Mr. Ryan departed this year. She said in her email that she had worked with the senior leadership team over the past two months to review the company’s business and financial results, leading to the decision to offer buyouts “in the hopes of averting more difficult decisions such as layoffs.”

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.

amazon logo smallMr. Bezos, who paid $250 million for the newspaper in 2013, has previously said he wants the publication to be profitable.

Some of The Post’s troubles have been placed at the feet of Fred Ryan, 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-profile journalists.

Ms. Stonesifer, a longtime friend of Mr. Bezos, agreed to step in as an interim leader after Mr. Ryan departed this year. She said in her email that she had worked with the senior leadership team over the past two months to review the company’s business and financial results, leading to the decision to offer buyouts “in the hopes of averting more difficult decisions such as layoffs.”

She said employees would be notified this week if they were eligible for a package and were free to decline the offer.

The Post has been searching for a permanent chief executive and publisher. The search is down to a final five candidates, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, who asked not to be identified discussing private conversations.

Leaders of The Washington Post Guild blasted the company in a statement on Tuesday.

In January, The Post laid off 20 journalists and froze hiring on 30 open jobs. It shut down its online gaming vertical, Launcher, as well as KidsPost, its section for children. A number of other media companies have laid off at least 7 percent of their staff this year, including The Los Angeles Times, Vox Media and NPR.

Inside the Media Industry

  • The Wall Street Journal: Emma Tucker, the new editor in chief, is moving away from some of the organization’s traditions in a bid to keep up with a fast-evolving media industry.
  • TV Networks’ Last Best Hope: It’s no secret that network TV ratings have plummeted in recent years as viewers have fled to streaming platforms outlets. There’s one notable exception: people over 60.
  • Netflix: The company is ending its DVD subscription service, bringing to a close an origin story that ultimately upended the entertainment industry.
  • Rolling Stone: Jann Wenner, the magazine’s co-founder, was removed from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame board a day after The New York Times published an interview in which he made comments that were denounced as sexist and racist.

Oct. 9


elon musk sideviewwashington post logoWashington Post, As false war information spreads on X, Musk promotes unvetted accounts, Joseph Menn, Oct. 9, 2023. Information researchers said that the new outbreak of violence between Israel and Hamas is an early test of how the revamped X conveys accurate data during a major crisis.

As false information about the rapidly changing war between Gaza Strip militants and Israel proliferated on the social media platform X over the weekend, owner Elon Musk, shown aboce,  personally recommended that users follow accounts notorious for promoting lies.

“For following the war in real-time, @WarMonitors & @sentdefender are good,” Musk posted on the platform formerly called Twitter on Sunday morning to 150 million follower accounts. That post was viewed 11 million times in three hours, drawing thanks from those two accounts, before Musk deleted it.

x logo twitterBoth were among the most important early spreaders of a false claim in May that there had been an explosion near the White House. The Dow Jones Industrial Average stock index briefly dropped 85 points before that story was debunked.

Emerson T. Brooking, a researcher at the Atlantic Council Digital Forensics Research Lab, posted that @sentdefender is an “absolutely poisonous account. regularly posting wrong and unverifiable things … inserting random editorialization and trying to juice its paid subscriber count.”

The War Monitor account has argued with others over Israel and religion, posting a year ago that “the overwhelming majority of people in the media and banks are zionists” and telling a correspondent in June to “go worship a jew lil bro.”

Information researchers said that the new conflict was an early test of how the revamped X conveys accurate data during a major crisis, and that the immediate impression was poor.

“Anecdotal evidence that X is failing this stress test is plentiful,” said Mike Caulfield, a research scientist at the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public. “Go on the platform, do a search on Israel or Gaza — you don’t have to scroll very far to find dubious or debunked information.”

Oct. 8

Politico, RFK Jr.’s Ultimate Vanity Project, David Freedlander


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

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

Politico, RFK Jr.’s Ultimate Vanity Project, David Freedlander, Oct. 7, 2023. How a deep sense of persecution and a taste for conspiracy have coalesced into a campaign about censorship that matters to almost no Democratic voters.

politico CustomThe Bowery Hotel on the Lower East Side of Manhattan is the place where Hollywood stars and rock royalty stay when in New York. Courtney Love, Rihanna, Taylor Swift and Kendall Jenner have all been spotted at one time or another traipsing past its heavily lacquered and dimly lit lobby.

Sitting on the highest floor one Wednesday in May, out on the terrace off his penthouse hotel room and using the arms of his eyeglasses to stir a ginger-lime-pear-and-celery green juice that was brought up by room service is Robert F. Kennedy Jr., son of the late New York senator, environmental lawyer, vaccine skeptic and then surprisingly strong challenger to Joe Biden for the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination.

Kennedy is building his campaign around the argument that the American people in 2023 are being systematically gagged by their government and their handmaidens on social media and in the mainstream press.

The air was heavy; Kennedy and I had spoken a few weeks before, and it ended badly. The man has an almost inhuman ability — or compulsion — to talk, and he called me one Sunday afternoon as he was hiking in the canyons behind his Brentwood, California, home. More than two hours later, he was asking if I agreed with him on the threat government censorship had on American life. As I wracked my brain to think of concrete examples of the federal government actually prohibiting or punishing people for speaking, he took my silence for acquiescence.

“I can tell you are not troubled,” he said. “To me, that is just really shocking. I thought you were supposed to be a journalist.”

In order to change the subject from my failures as a reporter and as a human being, I asked him if he remembered where he was during the afternoon of Jan. 6.

“What do you think is more dangerous,” he responded. “The censorship by the government of Americans who disagree with its policies or Jan. 6?”

I tried to point out that there really is no government censorship as commonly defined — that the government neither really coerces nor threatens private citizens or businesses. As for his complaint that the government sometimes flags information on social media platforms as incorrect, after which those platforms remove certain posts, I suggested that presumably the government has as much right to flag suspect content as any other entity, that no one was being killed or imprisoned for their statements or their views and that in fact there were more avenues to reach more people now than ever before. I said that not only did people die on Jan. 6 but a mob tried to murder a sitting vice president and members of Congress in a bid to disrupt the lawful transfer of power, but Kennedy cut me off.

“Jan. 6 was an attack on a building,” he said. “And we have lots of layers of government behind that building.”

Kennedy has built his campaign around this argument: that the American people in 2023 — perhaps the most lavishly platformed population in any society in human history — are being systematically gagged by their government and its handmaidens on social media and in the mainstream press. For Kennedy, censorship isn’t just about punishing speech, or even pressuring opponents into silence. It also means decisions by private actors — including those who control social media and the press and other gateways to public debate — who limit what can be said on their own platforms.

Like many people from both the right and the left who rail against censorship, Kennedy’s views on the matter tend to align with his political incentives and don’t particularly cohere. He talks a lot about the need to express himself on social media, but little, for example, about limits some school districts are placing on books in their library or what college professors can teach. Still, it is this question of censorship, even more than his widely discredited anti-vaccine work, or arguments against Covid-era public health measures, or his long and estimable career as an environmental lawyer, or his equally long crusade against a government which he says is willfully deceiving the people it claims to serve, that is the true cornerstone of his run for president. This is so because it is the thing Kennedy talks about that he has enfolded everything else within. What is the debate around vaccines, after all, if not a debate about who gets to say what where, and what kind of information has the imprimatur of truth and science associated with it?

The problem for him is that no one much seems to care. When we spoke in April, Kennedy was a novelty act, someone who, after half a century as an activist and author and repeated entreaties to run for office, had finally jumped into politics. For a moment, it looked as if Kennedy would make a dent. He was polling as high as 20 percent in some polls — higher, he liked to point out, than Ron DeSantis — and was generating media buzz and a lot of attention, especially from the type of Silicon Valley edgelords who were recently part of a cohort thought to be the progressive vanguard in American politics, and who, it should be said, have more influence on what is permissible on social media than probably anybody else.

rfk jr twitterNow, some five months later, Kennedy, left, is still a novelty. Polls show that Biden could have been vulnerable to the right kind of primary challenge, but Kennedy has never attempted that kind of primary challenge. He has managed to squander a healthy chunk of that early polling bump, settling just under 15 percent. And he appears set to bolt the party that has been synonymous with the Kennedy family and launch an independent bid, arguing once again that the powers that be — in this case the Democratic National Committee — are effectively silencing him again by not scheduling any debates with the incumbent president, and rigging the game against him by backing Biden instead of acting as neutral arbiters in the process.

Former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, anti-vax activists Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Charlene Bollinger, and longtime Trump ally and advisor Roger Stone, left to right, backstage at a July 2021 Reawaken America event. The photo was posted but later removed by Bollinger, who has appeared with Kennedy at multiple events. She and her husband sponsored an anti-vaccine, pro-Trump rally near the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Bollinger celebrated the attack and her husband tried to enter the Capitol. Kennedy later appeared in a video for their Super PAC. Kennedy has repeatedly invoked Nazis and the Holocaust when talking about measures aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19, such as mask requirements and vaccine mandates. Kennedy, who has announced a presidential campaign for 2024, has at times invoked his family’s legacy in his anti-vaccine work, including sometimes using images of President Kennedy.

Former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, anti-vax activists Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Charlene Bollinger, and longtime Trump ally and advisor Roger Stone, left to right, backstage at a July 2021 Reawaken America event. The photo was posted but later removed by Bollinger, who has appeared with Kennedy at multiple events. She and her husband sponsored an anti-vaccine, pro-Trump rally near the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Bollinger celebrated the attack and her husband tried to enter the Capitol. Kennedy later appeared in a video for their Super PAC. Kennedy has repeatedly invoked Nazis and the Holocaust when talking about measures aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19, such as mask requirements and vaccine mandates. Kennedy, who has announced a presidential campaign for 2024, has at times invoked his family’s legacy in his anti-vaccine work, including sometimes using images of President Kennedy.

And so Kennedy has become every conservative pundit’s favorite Democrat (in part, although Kennedy seems not to acknowledge this, because he is taking on an incumbent Democrat) — hosted by the likes of Tucker Carlson (“He is the only guy talking about the First Amendment,” Kennedy says of him) and Bari Weiss, invited by Republicans to testify to Congress in a hearing this summer about the federal government censoring Americans on social media (“We appreciate your willingness to fight for the First Amendment,” said Republican chair and Donald Trump attack dog Jim Jordan) and boosted by Steve Bannon and others in Trump’s orbit (“I would go on his podcast if my wife would let me,” Kennedy told me).

But even as Kennedy attempts to broaden his reach as an independent, there is little indication that this is an issue that ranks at all among the concerns of most voters. (In fact, most Americans agree the government and social media companies should restrict false or violent information online.) Crime and the economy are still the top two issues for most voters, a fact that Kennedy mostly just shrugs at.

“It is part of my job to remind Americans about what is important in this country,” he told me. And if, after they are reminded of his crusade, they just sort of shrug? Well, “they ought to care,” he said. “That is one of the missions of my campaign, to make censorship important to people.”

He unleashes a torrent of stats and information about the pandemic far too fast to permit any kind of fact-check, threads together vast covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2conspiracies of government figures doing the bidding of their corporate pay-masters, says that Vitamin D supplements are superior to the Covid shot, insists he has been proven right by everything (“Tell me one thing I got wrong,” he says) and can’t believe how you have been fed lies about the cover-up involving the conspiracy to kill both his father and his uncle.

“Everything you are saying is wrong. The evidence is so voluminous, you just don’t know about it, and you really need to ask yourself why that is,” he said to me when we first spoke in April. “All you are doing is repeating the narrative that is, of course, supported by the New York Times. You are walking around in a sleep state right now.”

This feeling, that he wasn’t being properly heard and considered, and that so-called experts were dismissing him, is not a new one for Kennedy. In 2014, Kennedy wrote a book titled Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak, which picked up on an argument Kennedy made in a 2005 article co-published in both Salon and Rolling Stone which alleged that childhood vaccines caused autism. The article was so error-ridden — including by vastly overstating the amount of mercury in vaccines, conflating ethylmercury with methylmercury, misattributing quotes and getting basic factual details wrong — that it received five major corrections within days of publication, and in 2011 was retracted entirely by Salon, which could no longer stand by the piece.

The reviews didn’t slow down his reach; Kennedy published six books in the eight years after Thimerosal was released, including a defense of his cousin, Michael Skakel, who was convicted for the 1975 murder of his Greenwich, Connecticut, neighbor. (Kennedy fingers two teens of color from the Bronx as the real killers, saying they were “obsessed” with the neighbor’s “beautiful blonde hair,” and daring the men to sue him if they were wrong; they say they do not have the money to mount a suit. Skakel was released in 2013 when a judge ruled that his lawyer had not provided an adequate defense. In 2016, the state Supreme Court reinstated his conviction, then reversed itself again in 2018.) Much more recently, and more sensationally, he published The Real Anthony Fauci, which even a sympathetic reviewer in the conservative Claremont Review of Books found so wrong on its facts and contradictory in its claims as to be entirely without merit, a book that “will be of very little use to future historians, except as an example of the strain of extreme paranoia that is an ineradicable, but not admirable, part of human nature in response to crisis.”

Even Kennedy’s booting from Instagram was at best an only partial cancellation. He was still publishing books, after all, still selling them on Amazon and still giving speeches. He was even still on Twitter and Facebook. No matter. He was now a member of the Rebel Alliance, linking arms with all those cast out from polite society, to say nothing of Democratic Party politics, the True King of Canceled Mountain preparing to exact revenge on those stuffed shirts who kicked him into the wilderness in the first place.

It was this experience, as much as anything that had happened to him previously, that has powered Kennedy’s presidential campaign. Over the last several years, there has been an explosion in an alternative ecosystem of content that caters to those with the very specific views on public health, the pandemic and censorship that Kennedy has. He told me that much as John F. Kennedy used the then-new medium of television to boost his presidential campaign, he intends to do the same with this still-nascent form of social media. In this sense, he says, getting kicked off Instagram was a blessing.

When reviewers panned his earlier books, and magazines retracted his articles, Kennedy said those who did it were misinformed, and in some cases, were in league with powerful forces determined to suppress the truth, but what he didn’t say was that he was being “censored.” It took Covid for that.

Prior to Covid, tech companies had been reluctant to restrict who could say what on their platforms. Threats made by users with smaller followings were dealt with more harshly than when threats were issued by, say, the president of the United States, under the guise that statements by the latter at least had news value. It is hard to remember now, but before 2016, tech companies were seen as havens of progressive politics, their users skewed left, and the platforms themselves were seen as vehicles of democratization, pluralization and openness.

An attempt by Russia, a foreign adversary, to use those platforms to elect Trump made its leaders skittish about their commitment to open debate. It isn’t cutting tech billionaires and the platforms they operate an unfair amount of slack to imagine that in the midst of a global pandemic, the goal of balancing the desire for free speech and a vigorous exchange of ideas ran up against a need to not have people with large platforms recite information so wrong that it could not only kill people but could leave society grappling with a pandemic longer than it needed to.

This is not slack that Kennedy is willing to cut them, however, and it is not slack that they are willing to cut themselves. Some of Kennedy’s most prominent supporters are the people who made billions on building those platforms and who now echo Kennedy in his complaint of them, among them Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, current X owner Elon Musk, Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya, who in 2017 said the social media site was ripping society apart, and David Sacks, an early investor in PayPal, Facebook and Twitter who now says that the tech companies hold too much power in American life.

Kennedy’s take is similarly schizophrenic. On the one hand, censorship is the greatest threat facing the republic; on the other, YouTube, x logo twitterApple podcasts, X, Instagram and the like are private companies, and he says, are free to kick him off anytime they want. When I asked him if platforms had the right to remove Alex Jones, which they did in 2018 for glorifying violence, inciting hatred, bullying and hate speech after Jones had spent years calling for the harassment of Sandy Hook families as crisis actors, Kennedy said he didn’t know anything about it. “For what? What did he say?”

As for Tucker Carlson, who was repeatedly accused of encouraging acts of violence against specific people, Kennedy said, “I am not familiar with that. I don’t agree with everything Tucker says by any means, but by the way he had the biggest audience on TV, and he was the only guy talking about the First Amendment.”

What about Russia using social media platforms to hack the 2016 election?

“I don’t know. What is your take on it? Wasn’t a lot of this sort of debunked in the Durham Report? I can’t speak with any authority about it. I haven’t delved into it.”

And what would a President Kennedy do if a foreign adversary attempted a similar attack on our election again?

“I tell you what you don’t do, what you don’t do is censor,” he said. “The solution to bad information is more information. Everybody knows that they are being censored and that the government is trying to hide information from them, so they stop trusting in anything,” he said. “You can point to information and you say, ‘This is a sworn enemy of ours and they are trying to rig the election.’ You say, ‘Mr. Trump, will you please disavow that?’”

And if he doesn’t?

“Well then, that’s fine,” he said. “That’s his problem if he refuses to acknowledge it.”

Oct. 5

ny times logoNew York Times, Jon Fosse Is Awarded Nobel Prize in Literature, Alex Marshall, Oct. 5, 2023. The Norwegian writer was honored “for his innovative plays and prose which give voice to the unsayable.”

The Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded on Thursday to the Norwegian novelist and playwright Jon Fosse “for his innovative plays and prose which give voice to the unsayable.”

Fosse’s work has long been lauded throughout continental Europe, but he has recently found a growing audience in the English-speaking world. By receiving what is widely seen as the most prestigious prize in literature, the author (whose name is pronounced Yune FOSS-eh, according to his translator) joins a list of laureates including Toni Morrison, Kazuo Ishiguro and Annie Ernaux.

ny times logoNew York Times, How a Chain-Snatching and a Vegas Beatdown Led to Tupac Shakur’s Murder, Joe Coscarelli, Julia Jacobs, Jonathan Abrams and Jill Cowan, Oct. 5, 2023. Grand jury witness testimony describes how gang clashes spilled into a fatal dispute that would alter the course of hip-hop.

In the adrenalized aftermath of a Mike Tyson prizefight in 1996, a black BMW carrying the rapper Tupac Shakur pulled up to a red light just off the Las Vegas Strip, thrilling the women in the car next to him.

As Mr. Shakur hung out of his passenger-side window, his friends in the Lexus behind him assumed that he was inviting the women to his record label’s new nightspot, Club 662 — its numeric name a barely disguised telephone code for “MOB.”

The women pulled away and a white Cadillac took their place. A large, muscular arm emerged from its rear window and fired a barrage of shots from a .40-caliber Glock pistol into the BMW. Mr. Shakur was hit four times.

The driver of the BMW, the Death Row Records impresario Marion Knight, better known as Suge, was grazed by the gunfire. But he managed to take off, making a U-turn over a traffic median and driving the wounded Mr. Shakur in the opposite direction before pulling over.

Malcolm Greenidge, a rapper and close friend of Mr. Shakur’s who had been following them in the Lexus, rushed out of the car to check on Mr. Shakur, he testified this summer to a Las Vegas grand jury. Mr. Shakur seemed less concerned with his wounds than with Greenidge’s safety as armed police officers approached the chaotic scene, he recalled.

“Get on the ground, they’re going to shoot you,” Mr. Shakur told him, Mr. Greenidge testified. Mr. Shakur would die less than a week later, at 25.

In the 27 years since, accounts of what happened on Sept. 7, 1996, have existed in an unwieldy tangle of news reports, true crime specials, street gossip, internet innuendo and dubious self-mythologizing. The case went cold.

But with last week’s indictment of Duane Keith Davis, a former Compton gang leader known as Keffe D, who has been saying publicly for years that he was in the white Cadillac when the fatal shots were fired, prosecutors have begun to map out the most detailed narrative yet of the chain of events they say led to Mr. Shakur’s death, one that will be tested in court.

While the broad outlines of Mr. Shakur’s killing and its possible motive have long been known, hundreds of pages of grand jury witness testimony reviewed by The New York Times — given under oath and with surprisingly vivid descriptions for a decades-old case — offer new details of how hyperlocal disputes between warring gang factions had spilled into an ultimately fatal rap beef that would alter the course of hip-hop history.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jeffrey Epstein’s Role in a Pricey Art Deal Is Investigated, Matthew Goldstein, Oct. 5, 2023.  Mr. Epstein helped the billionaire Leon Black defer capital gains taxes from the swap. A Senate committee is scrutinizing some of Mr. Black’s art deals.

In late 2016, when the private equity mogul Leon Black was trying to sell one expensive piece of art to buy another without incurring a hefty tax bill, he turned to the one man he knew who could help pull it off: his friend Jeffrey Epstein.

On Nov. 23 that year, Mr. Black sold an Alberto Giacometti sculpture from his massive private art collection for $25 million to a trust controlled by Mr. Epstein, by then a registered sex offender, according to documents viewed by The New York Times. That same day, a company linked to Mr. Black used the proceeds from that sale to buy a watercolor painting by Paul Cezanne for $30 million.

Mr. Black, a co-founder of Apollo Global Management, took advantage of an incentive that allows an investor to defer paying capital gains taxes on the sale of an asset if the proceeds are quickly rolled over into the purchase of a “like kind” asset of equal or greater value. Although the incentive was intended mainly to encourage new construction by real estate developers, private art collectors often used it until the 2017 tax law closed the loophole.

The documents, the contents of which have not been previously reported, offer a rare look at some of the high-priced tax and estate advisory work that Mr. Epstein provided Mr. Black in the years before Mr. Epstein was arrested on federal sex-trafficking charges in July 2019. Mr. Black, who had known Mr. Epstein for years, paid $158 million to Mr. Epstein for services such as the art transaction from 2013 to 2017.

Oct. 4

washington post logoWashington Post, Coordinated ‘swatting’ effort may be behind hundreds of school shooting hoaxes, Joanna Slater, Oct. 4, 2023. Over the past year, more than 500 schools in the United States have been subjected to a coordinated campaign of fear that exploits the all-too-real American danger of school shootings, according to a review of media reports and dozens of public records requests. The Washington Post examined police reports, emergency call recordings, body-camera footage or call logs in connection with incidents in 24 states.

The calls are being investigated by the FBI and have generated an aggressive response by local law enforcement — particularly after officers in Uvalde, Tex., came under criticism for waiting more than an hour to confront the gunman during the May 2022 elementary school massacre.

In state after state, heavily armed officers have entered schools prepared for the worst. Students have hidden in toilets, closets, nurse’s offices. They’ve barricaded doors with desks and refrigerators. Medical helicopters have been placed on standby while trauma centers have paused surgeries, anticipating possible victims. Terrified parents have converged on schools, not knowing if their children are safe.



Sept. 30

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court to Hear Challenges to State Laws on Social Media, Adam Liptak, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The tech industry argues that laws in Florida and Texas, prompted by conservative complaints about censorship, violate the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to decide whether Florida and Texas may prohibit large social media companies from removing posts based on the views they express, setting the stage for a major ruling on how the First Amendment applies to powerful tech platforms.

The laws’ supporters argue that the measures are needed to combat what they called Silicon Valley censorship, saying large platforms had removed posts expressing conservative views on issues like the coronavirus pandemic and claims of election fraud. In particular, they objected to the decisions of some platforms to bar President Donald J. Trump after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Two trade groups, NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association, had challenged the laws, saying the First Amendment prevents the government from telling private companies whether and how to disseminate speech.

The court’s decision to hear the cases was unsurprising. In each case, both sides had urged the justices to do so, citing a clear conflict between two federal appeals courts. One ruled against the Florida law, the other in favor of the one in Texas.



james gordon meek abc logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Former ABC News journalist gets 6-year sentence in child pornography case, Salvador Rizzo, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). A former national security journalist who worked for ABC News until his apartment was searched last year in a child pornography investigation was sentenced Friday to six years in prison.

James Gordon Meek pleaded guilty in July to possessing explicit images and videos of minors, and sharing them with two other users on a smartphone messaging app called Kik in 2020. The FBI seized several devices during a search of Meek’s apartment in Arlington County, Va., last year, and Meek admitted they contained “dozens of images and at least eight videos depicting children engaged in sexually explicit conduct,” according to court filings.

At his sentencing Friday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Meek asked his victims and his family for forgiveness and said he should have used his reporting skills to help victims of online sexual abuse instead of contributing to their exploitation.

“I was a journalist. I wrote countless stories about the misconduct of others,” he told Judge Claude M. Hilton. “I broke federal law, I violated God’s law, and I undermined my own personal ethos of always helping others. … I need you to hold me accountable.”

The investigation into Meek, an Emmy-winning producer who covered wars, terrorism and major crimes, began with a tip from the file storage company Dropbox about digital materials on an account he had registered, according to court records.

Authorities alleged that Meek also communicated online with minors, persuading at least one girl to send photographs showing nudity, although his guilty plea was based strictly on possessing and sharing child sexual abuse materials. Defense attorney Eugene Gorokhov noted throughout the case that Meek was not accused of physically meeting or abusing minors.

Federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia requested a prison sentence of 12½ to nearly 16 years, arguing that Meek shared “images and videos of prepubescent children, including infants, being forcibly raped and exploited for the sexual pleasure of adults on the internet.”

One of Meek’s victims described what it felt like to be repeatedly victimized: “The first time was being abused and the second time is the ongoing anxiety due to the images of my abuse forever accessible,” according to a statement quoted by prosecutors.

“Not only were they traumatized by the initial sexual abuse that was captured on film, but they are also further victimized through the ongoing distribution and consumption of depictions of their abuse,” federal prosecutors Zoe Bedell and Whitney Kramer wrote in a court filing.

Gorokhov, who asked the judge to impose a prison sentence of five years, said Meek began to struggle with his mental health as he covered the horrors of war and terrorism, ultimately developing “this disease, this illness, this curse” as a coping mechanism.

“There’s going to be a breaking point,” Gorokhov said, noting that Meek also had files on his electronic devices showing “torture, executions, beheadings, human-rights atrocities” because of the kind of reporting he practiced.

Before joining ABC, Meek worked for the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee, “where he advised top congressional leaders and held a top-secret clearance,” according to his attorney.

Sept. 29

elon musk sideview

Politico, Musk ousts X team curbing election disinformation, Clothilde Goujard, Sept. 29, 2023. The announcement comes after EU digital chief Vera Jourová criticized the social media company over rampant falsehoods on its platform.

politico CustomElon Musk, above, the owner of X (formerly Twitter) said overnight that a global team working on curbing disinformation during elections had been dismissed — a mere two days after being singled out by the EU's digital chief as the online platform with the most falsehoods.

twitter bird CustomResponding to reports about cuts, the tech mogul said on X, "Oh you mean the 'Election Integrity' Team that was undermining election integrity? Yeah, they’re gone."

Several Ireland-based staff working on a threat-disruption team — including senior manager Aaron Rodericks — were x logo twitterallegedly fired this week, according to tech media outlet The Information. Rodericks has, however, secured a court order halting disciplinary action over allegedly liking tweets critical of the company, according to Irish media.

european union logo rectangleVice President Vera Jourová this week warned that EU-supported research showed that X had become the platform with the largest ratio of posts containing misinformation or disinformation. The company under Musk left the European Commission's anti-disinformation charter in late May after failing its first test.

Jourová also urged tech companies to prepare for numerous national and European elections in the coming months, especially given the “particularly serious" risk that Russia will seek to meddle in them. Slovakia will hold its parliamentary election on Saturday. Poland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands will also head to the polls in the coming weeks.

X must comply with the EU's content rules, the Digital Services Act (DSA), which requires large tech platforms with over 45 million EU users to mitigate the risks of disinformation campaigns. Failure to follow the rulebook could lead to sweeping fines of up to 6 percent of companies' global annual revenue.

Sept. 28

 fcc logo

washington post logoWashington Post, FCC’s net neutrality battle is back after years of deadlock, Eva Dou, Sept. 28, 2023. The push comes amid widespread grievance with internet service providers — a reflection, some regulators say, of monopoly power wielded by a short list of providers.

When the Federal Communications Commission in 2014 asked the public to comment on how to regulate internet providers, such as Comcast and Verizon, it received more than a million responses. Aggrieved customers crashed the commission’s website. More than 7,800 of the comments contained f-bombs.

“It is absolutely maddening that the FCC would give free rein to this monopoly to screw customers over,” one commenter wrote. “There is no free market competition and it is unamerican.”

The FCC effort became the landmark 2015 decision — known as “net neutrality” — to regulate internet service as a public utility, akin to water or electricity. That classification granted the FCC broad oversight over internet service providers, including ensuring they did not discriminate or charge unreasonable rates.

The agency repealed the rule in 2017 under the Trump administration, arguing that the private sector would make better decisions than the government.

Now the FCC is preparing to reinstate net neutrality as the law of the land. The agency argues that restoring the rule will improve consumers’ experience with internet providers — including by enabling it to better track broadband service outages and network reliability.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a speech Tuesday that due to high costs of entry into the market, there is only one high-speed broadband provider in some parts of the country.

“That provider might be the only game in town,” she said. “You need a referee on the field looking out for the public interest.”

The move came after Anna Gomez was sworn in as the FCC’s fifth commissioner on Monday, breaking a long-standing deadlock at the agency and giving Democrats a 3-2 majority.

Industry groups have stepped forward to declare that internet providers have not discriminated and will not discriminate, and that FCC regulation is overkill.

“America’s broadband providers are fiercely committed to an open internet. That has not and will not change,” said Jonathan Spalter, CEO of USTelecom, an industry group representing broadband providers including AT&T and Verizon, in a statement.

The FCC is placing the issue at the top of its agenda and is expected to release the text of the proposed rule Thursday. But the process will take months, and the clock is ticking: If Biden loses the presidential election next year, a Republican administration might repeal the rule again.

If the FCC gives the green light at its Oct. 19 monthly meeting, the agency will embark on a new rulemaking process with public comment.

Rosenworcel said in the speech that she knows it will be a fierce fight. “I have, in fact, been to this rodeo before,” she said.

Unchanged since the last clash: Internet service providers earn some of the lowest customer-satisfaction ratings in corporate America — a reflection, regulators argue, of monopoly power wielded by a short list of providers.

The 2023 American Customer Satisfaction Index — calculated from surveys with tens of thousands of consumers — gave internet service providers a score of 68 out of 100, the second-lowest rating among 43 industries. Only gas stations provided consumers with less satisfaction (with a score of 65).

But the technology has evolved since the early debate over net neutrality, when the internet’s pipes were slower and smaller. At the time, economists warned that internet providers had an incentive to throttle certain types of websites — such as bandwidth-heavy video-streaming services like Netflix. Internet providers theoretically could determine which websites lived and died, based on personal preferences, or who could pay the most.

These days, the threat of an internet service provider squeezing Netflix seems less likely. The internet’s pipes have gotten so wide that there is generally enough to go around. After the removal of the net neutrality rule in 2017, there haven’t been reports of an internet provider choking a website to death.

 Sept. 26


Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Kahn

Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Kahn

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Accuses Amazon of Illegally Protecting Monopoly in Online Retail, David McCabe, Sept. 26, 2023. The Federal Trade Commission and 17 states sued Amazon, saying its conduct in its online store and services to merchants illegally stifled competition.

ftc logoThe Federal Trade Commission and 17 states sued Amazon on Tuesday, setting up a long-awaited antitrust fight with the e-commerce giant that could alter the way Americans shop for everything from toilet paper to electronics online.

amazon logo smallThe 172-page suit, the federal government’s most significant challenge to the power of the online store, accused Amazon of protecting a monopoly over swaths of online retail by squeezing merchants and favoring its own services.

For consumers, that meant “artificially higher prices” as merchants were blocked from selling their products for less on other sites, and a worse shopping experience as Amazon boosted its own products and peppered its search results with ads, the lawsuit said. The retailer’s tactics made it impossible for its rivals to compete, the agency and states said.

“A single company, Amazon, has seized control over much of the online retail economy,” said the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. “It exploits its monopolies in ways that enrich Amazon but harm its customers: both the tens of millions of American households who regularly shop on Amazon’s online superstore and the hundreds of thousands of businesses who rely on Amazon to reach them.”

The lawsuit put the influence and reach of Amazon, a $1.3 trillion behemoth, squarely in the spotlight after years of mounting scrutiny. Founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994, the onetime upstart online bookseller has grown into a sprawling conglomerate with tentacles in retail, Hollywood and the foundational infrastructure of the internet.

Much of the Seattle-based company’s power has emanated from its online marketplace, sometimes known as an “everything store” for the range of products it sells and the speed with which it delivers them. Amazon’s sway over online commerce has shaped the lives of merchants around the world, set the working conditions for more than one million warehouse workers and pushed the U.S. Postal Service to deliver on Sundays.

Big, A Newsletter on the Politics of Monopoly Power, Commentary: How to Hide a $2 Trillion Antitrust Trial, Matt Stoller, right, Sept. 26, 2023. Secret matt stollertrials subvert the very rule of law. Yet Judge Amit Mehta has blocked the public from getting access to the Google antitrust trial, which is being held mostly behind closed doors.

Today, I want to do a bit of a summary of the Google antitrust trial, since we’re investing so much into covering it. The key question is as follows. Google is a very powerful corporation worth around $2 trillion, it controls access to the internet, and it will roll out generative artificial intelligence for billions of people. And yet, the public hasn’t heard that much about a major Justice Department log circulartrial where the firm and its executives are being asked how they secured that immense power. Why?

google logo customThere are several possibilities, but in my view, the most obvious reason is that the judge in the case, Amit Mehta, is effectively holding the contest in secret. Last week, according to our calculations, over half of the trial, including testimony from key witnesses, happened in closed session, unavailable to the public. Why? Here’s Mehta in a pre-trial hearing in August, explaining his thinking to Google’s attorneys.

“Look, I’m a trial judge. I am not anyone that understands the industry and the markets in the way that you do. And so I take seriously when companies are telling me that if this gets disclosed, it’s going to cause competitive harm. And I think it behooves me to be somewhat conservative in thinking about that issue, because, you know, I can’t see around every corner.”

In other words, Mehta is deferring to Google on the need for secrecy.


djt mug fulton county

ny times logoNew York Times, Former President Trump’s lawyers said a gag order in an election case would strip him of his First Amendment rights, Alan Feuer, Sept. 26, 2023. Lawyers representing former President Donald J. Trump against federal charges accusing him of seeking to overturn the 2020 election offered an outraged response on Monday to the government’s request for a gag order, saying the attempt to “muzzle” him during his presidential campaign violated his free speech rights.

Justice Department log circularIn a 25-page filing, the lawyers sought to turn the tables on the government, accusing the prosecutors in the case of using “inflammatory rhetoric” themselves in a way that “violated longstanding rules of prosecutorial ethics.”

“Following these efforts to poison President Trump’s defense, the prosecution now asks the court to take the extraordinary step of stripping President Trump of his First Amendment freedoms during the most important months of his campaign against President Biden,” one of the lawyers, Gregory M. Singer, wrote. “The court should reject this transparent gamesmanship.”

The papers, filed in Federal District Court in Washington, came 10 days after prosecutors in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, asked Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, who is overseeing the election interference case, to impose a narrow gag order on Mr. Trump. The order, they said, was meant to curb Mr. Trump’s “near-daily” barrage of threatening social media posts and to limit the effect his statements might have on witnesses in the case and on the potential jury pool for the trial. It is scheduled to take place in Washington starting in March.

The lawyers’ attempt to fight the request has now set up a showdown that will ultimately have to be resolved by Judge Chutkan, an Obama appointee who has herself experienced the impact of Mr. Trump’s menacing words.

One day after the former president wrote an online post in August saying, “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU,” Judge Chutkan received a voice mail message in her chambers from a woman who threatened to kill her. (The woman, Abigail Jo Shry, has since been arrested.)

Gag orders limiting what trial participants can say outside of court are not uncommon, especially to constrain pretrial publicity in high-profile cases. But the request to gag Mr. Trump as he solidifies his position as the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination has injected a current of political tension into what was already a fraught legal battle.

That tension has only been heightened by the fact that Mr. Trump has placed the election interference case — and the three other criminal indictments he is facing — at the heart of his campaign.

His core political argument — that he is being persecuted, not prosecuted — may be protected in some ways by the First Amendment but has also put him on what could be a collision course with Judge Chutkan. Early in the case, she warned Mr. Trump that she would take measures to ensure the integrity of the proceedings and to keep him from intimidating witnesses or tainting potential jurors.

ny times logoNew York Times, On Day 146, Screenwriters Reach Deal With Studios to End Their Strike, Brooks Barnes and John Koblin, Sept. 26, 2023 (print ed.). The Writers Guild of America got most of what it wanted. With actors still on picket lines, however, much of Hollywood will remain shut down.

Hollywood’s bitter, monthslong labor dispute has taken a big first step toward a resolution.

The Writers Guild of America, which represents more than 11,000 screenwriters, reached a tentative deal on a new contract with entertainment companies on Sunday night, all but ending a 146-day strike that has contributed to a shutdown of television and film production.

In the coming days, guild members will vote on whether to accept the deal, which has much of what they had demanded, including increases in compensation for streaming content, concessions from studios on minimum staffing for television shows, and guarantees that artificial intelligence technology will not encroach on writers’ credits and compensation.

“We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional — with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership,” the Writers Guild’s negotiating committee said in an email to members.

Conspicuously not doing a victory lap was the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which bargains on behalf of studios. “The W.G.A. and A.M.P.T.P. have reached a tentative agreement” was its only comment.

ny times logoNew York Times, The deal reflects the strength of unions’ hands in the current moment, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Ravi Mattu, Bernhard Warner, Sarah Kessler and Michael J. de la Merced, Sept. 26, 2023 (print ed.). The work stoppage isn’t officially over yet, and actors remain on strike. But hints about what the W.G.A. attained suggest that as organized labor enjoys a surge in popularity across a variety of industries, its muscle-flexing is achieving results.

“We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional,” the W.G.A. told its members on Sunday, though it hasn’t yet disclosed details. News reports suggest the deal includes provisions for residual payments from streaming, minimum staffing of shows and limits on the use of artificial intelligence.

Expect more particulars once the W.G.A. informs its membership ahead of a vote that’s expected on Tuesday. Until then, writers are still on strike, though they’re not actively picketing. Late-night talk shows, which don’t rely on striking actors, are likely to resume production first.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Pandemic-era boom changes the face of American home schooling, Laura Meckler, Peter Jamison, Emily Guskin and Scott Clement, Sept. 26, 2023. Fear of school shootings, bullying and indoctrination helped fuel a pandemic-era boom in home schooling, according to an exclusive Washington Post-Schar School survey.

A pandemic-era boom has fundamentally changed the face of American home schooling, transforming a group that has for decades been dominated by conservative Christians into one that is more racially and ideologically diverse, a Washington Post-Schar School poll finds.

Rather than religion, home-schoolers today are likely to be motivated by fear of school shootings, anxiety over bullying and anger with the perceived encroachment of politics into public schools, the poll finds. Yet even among those who voice such concerns, many do not share the deep-seated opposition to public education that defined home-schoolers of past decades, and the new crop is more likely to mix and match home schooling with public school, depending on their children’s needs.

The survey, the first of its kind since the pandemic spurred hundreds of thousands of families to try home schooling, offers the clearest reasons to date for its explosive growth, documenting shifts with broad implications for the future of U.S. education.

The poll’s findings suggest that American home schooling is evolving from a movement into a practice — no longer driven by shared ideology and political goals but by circumstances specific to individual families.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP wants to cut this education program by nearly 80% as shutdown looms, Theodoric Meyer, Leigh Ann Caldwell and Tobi Raji, Sept. 26, 2023. Because House Republicans are focusing on year-long spending bills, we thought it’s worth taking a closer look at what’s in those bills.

The 12 bills would cut nondefense discretionary spending — which doesn’t include Pentagon funding or mandatory programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — by $58 billion more than the amount to which President Biden and McCarthy agreed in May when they struck a deal to raise the debt limit, according to an analysis by Bobby Kogan and Jean Ross of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. (The analysis also excludes Department of Veterans Affairs medical care spending.)

But the cuts would hit some government programs much harder than others — and several bills that House Republicans have made the most progress passing would raise spending rather than slash it.

The only spending bill House Republicans have passed to date — the military construction and veterans affairs bill — would raise spending by 4.8 percent compared with the previous fiscal year, according to the analysis by Kogan and Ross.

The four spending bills the House will take up today include the homeland security bill (which would raise spending by 3.9 percent, according to the CAP analysis), the defense bill (which would raise spending by 2.2 percent, per the analysis), the agriculture bill (which would cut spending by 2 percent, according to the analysis) and the State Department and foreign operations bill (which would cut spending by 15 percent, according to the analysis).
Deep cuts

One quarter of all the savings House Republicans’ bills would achieve comes from cutting a single program that provides funding for low-income schools, known as Title I education grants.

House Republicans want to cut Title I by nearly 80 percent, saving $14.7 billion.

The cuts are even steeper than education funding reductions proposed by the Center for Renewing America, a think tank led by Russ Vought, former president Donald Trump’s White House budget director.

The think tank put out a budget proposal in December that called for cutting $8.2 billion from the Department of Education’s elementary and secondary education programs, which include Title I grants. (House Republicans would cut $14.7 billion from Title I in the 2024 fiscal year compared with the previous year, while the Center for Renewing America proposed cutting $8.2 billion from almost 30 elementary and secondary education programs in the 2023 fiscal year compared with the 2021 fiscal year.)

The Title I cuts are included in one of two appropriations bills that haven’t made it out of committee yet. The House Appropriations Committee is expected to meet today to discuss how to move forward, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Democrats have warned that Republicans’ proposed cuts could cost up to 224,000 teachers their jobs, and teachers unions have mobilized to lobby against them.



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

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

washington post logoWashington Post, Tucker Carlson finds a new booster: Russian TV, Mary Ilyushina, Sept. 26, 2023 (print ed.). The blustering American TV personality Tucker Carlson has lambasted the United States for sending too much aid to Ukraine, called Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky “sweaty and rat-like” and given credence to Russia’s baseless justifications for its invasion.

The former Fox News host’s rhetoric on the war — he has called it a U.S.-led “regime-change war” against Russia — and his attacks on Zelensky’s government — “a pure client state of the United States State Department” — aligns so well with the major propaganda points of Russian state television that one channel has decided to broadcast Carlson’s new show on X, formerly Twitter, to millions of Russians, though apparently without Carlson’s permission.

The channel, Rossiya 24, had recently been teasing a new show “Tucker,” and the first episode aired over the weekend. But rather than a voiced-over ensemble of Carlson’s greatest hits against Ukraine — effectively throwing raw meat to the pro-war hawks in its audience — the show turned out to be a puzzling, roughly 20-minute excerpt of his recent interview of embattled Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, an official virtually unknown to Russian viewers.

Rossiya 24 is Russia’s leading news channel, and the hosts of its political talk shows spend hours drumming into their audiences that Kyiv, not Moscow, is to blame for the brutal war, and that U.S. military aid will accomplish nothing other than helping “neo-Nazi Zelensky” fight “until the last Ukrainian.”

In that sense, Carlson would be a natural fit in the lineup. His descriptions of Zelensky, who is Jewish, as a rat, for instance, have been denounced by Jewish groups as resorting to an old antisemitic trope used by the Nazis, among others. He made those comments in the debut of his internet show in June, in which he also declared that aliens were visiting Earth and questioned the official accounts of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

But Russian pundits have long used Carlson’s rants on Fox News to support their viewpoints, seizing on the prominent American TV star to boost the credibility of their claims and showcase how Russian President Vladimir Putin’s conspiracy theories about Washington resonate well beyond Russian borders.

Long before the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Russian television executives excitedly replayed Carlson segments to illustrate political turmoil in the United States and to debunk allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election. (Even though the late Wagner boss Yevgeniy Prigozhin boasted of meddling in the race using his internet troll farms.)

Sept. 25

Meidas Touch Network, Analysis: Trump Directs House GOP to Shut Down Government and Blame Biden, Ben Meiselas, Sept. 24-25, 2023. This is Trump’s second directive to compliant House Republicans via his social media posts

President Donald Trump officialDonald Trump has issued his latest order to House Republicans: shut down and refuse to fund the United States government and then blame President Biden for the catastrophic fallout.

On September 20, Trump issued his first directive to compliant House MAGA Republicans, telling them that a “very important deadline is approaching at the end of the month” and “this is the last chance to defund these political prosecutions against me.”

djt maga hatIn his latest post, Trump orders the House GOP: “UNLESS YOU GET EVERYTHING, SHUT IT DOWN.

Trump goes on to say that Republicans shouldn’t worry about the damage that will be caused to the country, as he claims President Biden will get blamed for it. Trump also tells House Republicans not to listen to Republican Senate republican elephant logoMinority Leader Mitch McConnell if he wants to make a deal with Democrats, because Trump says McConnell is “weak” and “dumb.”

MAGA Republicans in the House continue to take their orders directly from Donald Trump and do whatever he says. They have followed his directives, bringing the country to the brink of a catastrophic shutdown.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Trump Prosecutions Move Forward, Threats and Concerns Increase, Michael S. Schmidt, Adam Goldman, Alan Feuer, Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush, Sept. 25, 2023 (print ed.). As criminal cases proceed against the former president, heated rhetoric and anger among his supporters have authorities worried about the risk of political dissent becoming deadly.

Justice Department log circularAt the federal courthouse in Washington, a woman called the chambers of the judge assigned to the election interference case against former President Donald J. Trump and said that if Mr. Trump were not re-elected next year, “we are coming to kill you.”

FBI logoAt the Federal Bureau of Investigation, agents have reported concerns about harassment and threats being directed at their families amid intensifying anger among Trump supporters about what they consider to be the weaponization of the Justice Department. “Their children didn’t sign up for this,” a senior F.B.I. supervisor recently testified to Congress.

And the top prosecutors on the four criminal cases against Mr. Trump — two brought by the Justice Department and one each in Georgia and New York — now require round-the-clock protection.

As the prosecutions of Mr. Trump have accelerated, so too have threats against law enforcement authorities, judges, elected officials and others. The threats, in turn, are prompting protective measures, a legal effort to curb his angry and sometimes incendiary public statements, and renewed concern about the potential for an election campaign in which Mr. Trump has promised “retribution” to produce violence.

Given the attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, scholars, security experts, law enforcement officials and others are increasingly warning about the potential for lone-wolf attacks or riots by angry or troubled Americans who have taken in the heated rhetoric.

In April, before federal prosecutors indicted Mr. Trump, one survey showed that 4.5 percent of American adults agreed with the idea that the use of force was “justified to restore Donald Trump to the presidency.” Just two months later, after the first federal indictment of Mr. Trump, that figure surged to 7 percent.

Sept. 24

donald trump apprentice color nbc

Meidas Touch Network, Analysis: Trump Vows to Ban All News Media That Doesn’t Praise Him, Brett Meiselas, Sept. 24-25, 2023. Donald Trump continues to tell us his fascist intentions should he be reelected. Will the mainstream media finally listen?

Donald Trump launched into his most overtly fascist assault on the First Amendment in a Sunday night tirade, promising that he will remove from the airwaves any news media that is not friendly towards him should he be reelected as president of the United States.

NBC News logoTrump specifically took aim at NBC News to make his point t (ironically, NBC is the network that employed and elevated Donald Trump during The Apprentice days, shown above in a publicity photo from the show), writing that the network “should be investigated for its ‘Country Threatening Treason.’”

Trump then made his intentions crystal clear:

“I say up front, openly, and proudly, that when I WIN the Presidency of the United States, they and others of the LameStream Media djt maga hatwill be thoroughly scrutinized for their knowingly dishonest and corrupt coverage of people, things, and events. Why should NBC, or any other of the corrupt & dishonest media companies, be entitled to use the very valuable Airwaves of the USA, FREE? They are a true threat to Democracy and are, in fact, THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE! The Fake News Media should pay a big price for what they have done to our once great Country!”

Sept. 23


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sept. 22

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sept. 21


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sept. 20

mike freedman kalb report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sept. 19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sept. 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


elon musk sideview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sept. 17


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

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

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

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

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

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

Sept. 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sept. 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inside the World of Big Tech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


owen shroyer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sept. 10

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

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

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

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

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

Sept. 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sept. 5

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

A decade or so ago, Americans were feeling pretty positive about higher education. Public-opinion polls in the early 2010s all told the same story. In one survey, 86 percent of college graduates said that college had been a good investment; in another, 74 percent of young adults said a college education was “very important”; in a third, 60 percent of Americans said that colleges and universities were having a positive impact on the country. Ninety-six percent of parents who identified as Democrats said they expected their kids to attend college — only to be outdone by Republican parents, 99 percent of whom said they expected their kids to go to college.
Listen to This Article

For more audio journalism and storytelling, download New York Times Audio, a new iOS app available for news subscribers.

In the fall of 2009, 70 percent of that year’s crop of high school graduates did in fact go straight to college. That was the highest percentage ever, and the collegegoing rate stayed near that elevated level for the next few years. The motivation of these students was largely financial. The 2008 recession devastated many of the industries that for decades provided good jobs for less-educated workers, and a college degree had become a particularly valuable commodity in the American labor market. The typical American with a bachelor’s degree (and no further credential) was earning about two-thirds more than the typical high school grad, a financial advantage about twice as large as the one a college degree produced a generation earlier. College seemed like a reliable runway to a life of comfort and affluence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

truth social logo

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

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

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

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

Trump’s Truth Social facing a key funding deadline

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

Sept. 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sept. 2

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

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

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

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

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


elon musk sideview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


truth social logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


jimmy buffett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






mark thompson headshot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 30

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

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

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

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

Aug. 29

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ralph Nader Angle

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Life of Reporting on Crime

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

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

andy thibault gateway

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

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

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

Paying those contributors is a struggle.

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

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

Aug. 27

climate change photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The chief bristled.

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

He also advised Gruver that he had hired a lawyer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 25

elon musk sideview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 20

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 19


djt handwave file

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that’s not the only reason.

Aug. 18


spj logo horizontal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 16

lina khan resized ftc

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 11


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 10


fox upside down news

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The New York Times Wades In

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

That is untrue.

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



July 29

 elon musk sideview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 28

x logo twitter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 27

U.S. Higher Education Policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

chat gpt logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 kevin spacey house

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 26


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kennedy’s Brain Trust

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

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

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

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

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


x logo twitter

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

Twitter began removing its name from its corporate headquarters Monday, blocking two lanes of traffic as a large crane plucked letters off the sign. The crane departed by midafternoon leaving the task half-finished — only the blue bird logo and the “er” remained, next to a ghostly outline reading “@twitt.”
Tech is not your friend. We are. Sign up for The Tech Friend newsletter.

Some will see that as an apt metaphor for state of business at the social media platform. In changing Twitter’s famous blue logo to a black-and-white “X,” part of a sweeping rebrand that has alienated longtime users and left marketing experts perplexed, owner Elon Musk is trading a bird in the hand for the promise of a wide-ranging “everything app,” one analysts say may never materialize.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that lofty vision is also an uphill climb.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The changes came after billionaire owner Elon Musk said his social media platform will retire the blue bird logo — and eventually the Twitter name — as part of his effort to overhaul the company.
Tech is not your friend. We are. Sign up for The Tech Friend newsletter.

The “X,” was featured on Twitter’s own account, along with some branding on the site, though the blue bird logo and other references to the Twitter name could still be found in certain places. Musk’s account also took on an X logo. Twitter chief executive Linda Yaccarino tweeted, “X is here! Let’s do this.”

July 24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 22


tony bennett

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

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

His publicist, Sylvia Weiner, announced his death.

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

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


tony bennett portrait

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there’s also this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


robert oppenheimer

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

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

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

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

The move essentially gave Democrats two choices.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 July 20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 19

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

July 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 14

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

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

twitter bird CustomThe first beneficiaries appear to be high-profile far-right influencers who tweeted before the announcement how much they’ve earned as part of the program. Ian Miles Cheong, Benny Johnson and Ashley St. Claire all touted their earnings.
Tech is not your friend. We are. Sign up for The Tech Friend newsletter.

“Wow. Elon Musk wasn’t kidding. Content monetization is real,” tweeted an anonymous account called End Wokeness, with 1.4 million followers, accompanied by a screenshot showing earnings of over $10,400.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shame on all who have behaved so egregiously.

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

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

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

July 13

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

July 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Saudi Arabia Is Buying Up Sports: Why? July 12, 2023 (print ed.). Soccer, golf, cycling, F1 and now tennis? But what are the reasons for the deals and what is next?


supreme court 2022 o

ap logoAssociated Press via New York Post, Investigation: SCOTUS judges likely would break ethics rules that cover officials in other branches of gov, Staff Report, July 12, 2023. The Associated Press submitted over 100 public records requests to public schools and institutions that the Supreme Court has visited over the years.

new york post logoIn a monthslong inquiry, which included reviewing tens of thousands of pages of documents from more than 100 public records requests, the Associated Press has examined what happens behind the scenes when Supreme Court justices travel to colleges and universities for lectures and other events.

The AP learned the identities of donors and politicians invited to events with justices, details about the perks that have accompanied the school visits and information about how school trips have helped advance books sales.

Some of the key takeaways:

Book sales

sonya sotamayor saul loeb afp via getty imagesThe documents reveal how university visits are a convenient way for justices to sell their own books. That’s especially true in the case of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, above, a prolific author who has kept the court’s most active travel schedule over the past decade, according to the records reviewed by the AP.

Emails and other documents show that Supreme Court staff members have been directly engaged in facilitating book sales by asking schools how many copies they want to buy and by helping to arrange the purchase of mass quantities.

At a 2019 event jointly hosted by the Multnomah County Library in Oregon and Portland Community College, a Sotomayor aide told organizers that “250 books is definitely not enough” for a program with an expected 1,000 guests in which people would be required to have a copy to meet the justice for a signing after the event.

michigan state logoMichigan State University purchased 11,000 copies to be distributed to incoming first-year students. When Clemson University in South Carolina worried that 60 copies might be too many for Sotomayor to sign, a staffer reassured the school that “most institutions order in the ranges of 400 and up.”

And before a scheduled visit to the law school at the University of California, Davis, for the 2018 commencement, the court staff pitched the school on signed copies of her books in connection with the event.

In a statement, a Supreme Court spokesperson said that staff members work to follow judicial ethics guidance and that “at no time have attendees been required to buy a book in order to attend an event.”

“Schools have occasionally invited Justice Sotomayor to take part in a program in which they select a book for an entire school or a freshman class, and the Justice gives a book talk,” the statement said. “When she is invited to participate in a book program, Chambers staff recommends the number of books based on the size of the audience so as not to disappoint attendees who may anticipate books being available at an event, and they will put colleges or universities in touch with the Justice’s publisher when asked to do so.”

A lure for money

Supreme Court justices insist that they cannot and do not participate in fundraising events. But the emails obtained by the AP show that the court’s definition of a fundraiser — an event that raises more than it costs or where guests are asked for contributions — excludes much of the work that typically goes into persuading a wealthy donor to cut a check.

That’s given schools wide latitude to court rich patrons.

clarence thomas official scotus portraitFor instance, ahead of a 2017 event with Justice Clarence Thomas, right, officials at McLennan Community College in Texas worked with the prominent conservative lawyer Ken Starr and his wife, Alice, to craft a guest list designed to reward school patrons and incentivize future contributions. In an interview, Starr’s widow called it “friendraising.”

In an email planning the event, the executive director of the college’s foundation wrote that she had thoughts about whom to invite “mainly because they are wealthy conservative Catholics who would align with Clarence Thomas and who have not previously given.”

Thomas isn’t the only one whose status as a justice has been leveraged by schools eager to capitalize with donors. Before Justice Elena Kagan, below left, visited the University of Colorado’s law school, one official suggested a “larger donor to staff ratio” for a 2019 dinner with her, emails show. Another event Elena Kagan O HRorganizer said the organizer was “open to suggestions about which VIP donors to cultivate relationships with.” A school spokesperson said the attendees weren’t asked for any donations connected to the event.

One official said it was hoped the events, which included donors, would “ultimately generate resources” for the university’s Humanities Advancement Board, which played a lead organizing role. As university officials devised a guest list, an alumni relations official wrote: “When you say $1M donors, please be sure to include our corporate donors at that level, too.”

In a statement, a court spokesperson said it “routinely asks event organizers to confirm that an event at which a Justice will speak is not a fundraiser, and it provides a definition of ‘fundraiser’ in order to avoid misunderstandings.” The spokesperson said justices have occasionally declined to attend events even after being told expressly that they were not fundraisers.

Political commingling

Visits to universities are promoted as academic in nature, but they also have facilitated encounters between justices and elected officials.

neil gorsuch headshotMonths after he was seated on the Supreme Court, Justice Neil Gorsuch, left, attended an event at the University of Kentucky with then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, right, hosted by a center to study the judiciary named after one of McConnell’s closest friends, a former mitch mcconnell2federal judge.

In 2020, after teaching a weeklong course at the University of Florida’s law school, Thomas extended his stay in the state to attend a gathering of the regional branch of the Federalist Society, where he was introduced with effusive praise by Gov. Ron DeSantis, with whom he also had a private dinner.

Thomas also attended a private dinner during a visit to the University of Texas at Tyler that was sponsored by a group of donors to then-Rep. Louie Gohmert. Six years later, Gohmert would spearhead a lawsuit that sought to empower Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election that Donald Trump lost.

A court spokesperson said: “Justices exercise caution in attending events that might be described as political in nature, following guidance in the Code of Conduct which cautions judges against engaging in political activity. Merely attending an event where an elected official might also be in attendance — such as several of the events described in your email — does not necessarily render the event impermissibly political in nature.”

No ethics code

Some of the conduct revealed by the AP likely would run afoul of ethics rules that cover officials in other branches of government as well as lower federal court judges.

Political Flare, Troublemaking WH Reporter Throws Hissy Fit After Karine Jean-Pierre Threatens to Kick Him of Our Briefing Room FOR GOOD, Megan Hamilton, simon ateba twitterJuly 12, 2023. The letter also cites other incidents involving Simon Ateba, right, from May 13, March 20, and Dec. 8, 2022.

During the March 20 briefing, Ateba didn’t even give Jean-Pierre the chance to introduce the cast of “Ted Lasso,” before he began shouting. The cast was on hand to speak about mental health. Other reporters in the room tried to get Ateba to shut up and the White House Correspondents Association lamented the “breakdown of decorum.”

In December, Jean-Pierre brought the press briefing to an abrupt stop after she called on a reporter from The Hill, which Ateba interrupted yet again, by shouting and asking why he was not being called on.

If Ateba continues this behavior, he may well lose his press pass to the White House, but he would still be able to enter the facility through a more complicated procedure that requires those in the media to apply for access on a daily basis. I’m guessing in his case his requests will be continually turned down.

I’m going to also add if Jean-Pierre is avoiding his questions, she may be doing this to avoid his continued belligerence. One can hardly blame her for this. So if Ateba does lose his press pass he has no one to blame but himself.

But he’ll probably continue the blame game, claiming Jean-Pierre and those other journalists for discriminating against him.

July 11

 threads meta logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Meta’s Threads tops 100 million users in just 5 days, Zuckerberg says, Eli Tan, July 11, 2023 (print ed.). Meta’s Threads tops 100 million users in just 5 days, Zuckerberg says.

meta logoMeta’s new text-based social network Threads has eclipsed 100 million users in its first five days.

The app is now among the most used social media platforms in the United States, rivaling even TikTok, which had 102.3 million active U.S. users in May, according to data from Insider Intelligence.

mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wIn a Monday post on Threads announcing the milestone, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, left, said the user base was “mostly organic demand” and Meta has not “turned on many promotions yet.”

But Threads has benefited from its integration with Instagram, Meta’s photo-sharing social network that had an estimated 135 million active U.S. users in May. Users are able to sign up for a Threads account by linking their Instagram account.

Despite not being available in Europe yet because of European Union data privacy regulations, Threads has reached 100 million users faster than any other app. The speed of its growth handily beat artificial intelligence app ChatGPT, which took two months to reach that mark, according to a UBS study.

ny times logoNew York Times, The New York Times Will Disband Its Sports Department, Katie Robertson and John Koblin, July 11, 2023 (print ed.). Coverage of games, players and leagues will now primarily come from The Athletic, the sports website that the company bought last year.

The New York Times said on Monday that it would disband its sports department and rely on coverage of teams and games from its website The Athletic, both online and in print.

Joe Kahn, The Times’s executive editor, and Monica Drake, a deputy managing editor, announced the change to the newsroom as “an evolution in how we cover sports.”

“We plan to focus even more directly on distinctive, high-impact news and enterprise journalism about how sports intersect with money, power, culture, politics and society at large,” the editors wrote in an email to The Times’s newsroom on Monday morning. “At the same time, we will scale back the newsroom’s coverage of games, players, teams and leagues.”

The shuttering of the sports desk, which has more than 35 journalists and editors, is a major shift for The Times. The department’s coverage of games, athletes and team owners, and its Sports of the Times column in particular, were once a pillar of American sports journalism. The section covered the major moments and personalities of the last century of American sports, including Muhammad Ali, the birth of free agency, George Steinbrenner, the Williams sisters, Tiger Woods, steroids in baseball and the deadly effects of concussions in the National Football League.

The move represents a further integration into the newsroom of The Athletic, which The Times bought in January 2022 for $550 million, adding a publication which had some 400 journalists covering more than 200 professional sports teams.

The staff of The Athletic will now provide the bulk of the coverage of sporting events, athletes and leagues for Times readers and, for the first time, articles from The Athletic will appear in The Times’s print newspaper. Online access to The Athletic, which is operated separately from The Times newsroom, is included for those who subscribe to

Journalists on the sports desk will move to other roles in the newsroom and there were no planned layoffs, Mr. Kahn and Ms. Drake said. A group on the business desk will cover money and power in sports, while new beats covering sports will be added to other sections. The moves are expected to be completed by the fall.

July 9

Reuters, Missing Mexican journalist's body found, Anna-Catherine Brigida, July 9, 2023. The body of missing 59-year-old Mexican journalist Luis Martín Sanchez Iniguez was found in the Mexican state of Nayarit with signs of violence, the state public prosecutor's office confirmed Saturday.

Sanchez Iniguez worked for the newspaper La Jornada. He had been missing since Wednesday and his wife filed a missing persons report with Mexican authorities on Friday.

His body was found on the outskirts of the city of Tepic. It was not immediately clear how he died, but authorities estimated the time of his death occurred 24 to 48 hours prior to the finding of his body.
The discovery comes as authorities are investigating two other potential crimes against media workers in Nayarit. Another media worker was reported missing on July 4. He has not been seen since he left for work at a school the prior morning, authorities said.

Mexican media has identified him as Osiris Maldonado, who previously worked with La Jornada.

On July 7, two hooded armed men broke into the apartment of journalist Jonathan Lora Ramirez and forced him into a car. Lora Ramirez has been found alive and "in a good state of health." Authorities are investigating the crime of illegal detention.

July 7

 threads meta logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Threads, designed to lure people from Twitter, is live. Here’s what you need to know, Geoffrey A. Fowler and Naomi Nix, July 7, 2023 (print ed.). Meta’s Threads may be the first Twitter alternative that really matters because it’s built on top of Instagram’s existing base of billions of users.

meta logoMark Zuckerberg’s Threads, a clone of Twitter designed to lure people turned off by the social network’s changes under owner Elon Musk, has 30 million signups as of this morning.

mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wThe billionaire social media smackdown is about to get real.

Before Meta’s free text conversation-focused app launched late Wednesday, we had a chance to try it and quiz its makers. We found Meta has some advantages over rivals to turn Threads into a major new hub for online conversations.

Most of all, it arrives with a potential audience of billions who already use Meta’s photo and video-oriented Instagram, which Threads is built on top of. Would-be Twitter rivals Mastodon and Bluesky have yet to grow beyond single-digit millions of users.

But Threads also comes with Meta baggage, including privacy, moderation and algorithmic feed practices that have turned many people off Zuckerberg’s other twitter bird Customsocial networks such as Facebook. For example: From the moment you first log in to Threads, it starts showing you recommended posts from instagram logoaccounts and brands you don’t necessarily follow — or necessarily even care to see.

What’s novel — and predictable — about Threads? And how do you give it a try? Answers below, which we’ll keep updating as we learn more. Send us an email about what you would like to know.

ap logoAssociated Press, Twitter threatens legal action against Meta over its new rival app Threads, July 6, 2023. Twitter has threatened legal action against Meta over its new text-based app called Threads, which has drawn tens of millions of users since launching this week as a rival to Elon Musk’s social media platform.

In a letter Wednesday to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Alex Spiro, an attorney representing Twitter, accused Meta of unlawfully using Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property by hiring former Twitter employees to create a “copycat” app.

The move ramps up the tensions between the social media giants after Threads debuted Wednesday, targeting those who are seeking out alternatives to Twitter amid unpopular changes Musk has made to the platform since buying it last year for $44 billion.

  • New York Times, Threads Becomes Most Rapidly Downloaded App, Raising Twitter’s Ire, July 7, 2023.

 washington post logoWashington Post, With Threads signups surging past 30M, Zuckerberg notches a win, Naomi Nix and Leo Sands, July 7, 2023 (print ed.). Meta is seizing on Elon Musk’s rocky tenure overseeing Twitter to expand its digital footprint in a big way.

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter Sues Law Firm Over $90 Million Payment in Elon Musk Deal, Ryan Mac and Lauren Hirsch, July 7, 2023. The lawsuit targeted Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, a well-known Wall Street firm, for “unjust enrichment” related to Mr. Musk’s purchase of Twitter.

twitter bird CustomTwitter’s parent company sued a leading corporate law firm on Friday for what it said were unjust payments related to Elon Musk’s $44 billion acquisition of the social media company last year.

A $90 million payment that Twitter made to Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, a top mergers and acquisitions firm, amounted to “unjust enrichment” and should be paid back, according to the lawsuit, which the parent company, X Corp., filed in San Francisco Superior Court.

The lawsuit said Wachtell Lipton took “funds from the company cash register while the keys were being handed over” to Mr. Musk, who owns X Corp.

Twitter’s previous management hired Wachtell Lipton after Mr. Musk tried to terminate his agreement to acquire the company last year. He was unsuccessful, and the purchase closed in October.

Twitter has disputed other fees related to Mr. Musk’s purchase of the company. An advisory firm, Innisfree M&A, sued Twitter for $1.9 million in February over what it said were unpaid bills. Joele Frank, a public relations firm, sued Twitter in May, arguing that it wasn’t paid about $830,498 for services rendered in the deal.New York Times, Wisconsin Judge Allows Challenge to Abortion Law to Proceed, July 7, 2023. The preliminary ruling on the law, passed long before Roe v. Wade, gave hope to abortion-rights supporters who want to restore access to the procedure.

Wachtell Lipton is one of the best-known law firms on Wall Street, having advised high-profile deals including Mr. Musk’s failed effort to take Tesla, his electric car company, private in 2018. The firm commands high fees, cementing its perch among the law firms with the highest profits per partner.

The firm has been sued before. In 2018, the activist investor Carl Icahn sued Wachtell Lipton over its work on his hostile 2012 attempt to take over CVR Energy. The suit was dismissed.

According to documents submitted with Friday’s lawsuit, Twitter’s board and executives approved the $90 million payment because Wachtell Lipton and one of its lawyers, William Savitt, had succeeded in making Mr. Musk abide by his agreement to buy the company.

By approving the payment, Twitter’s former executives and board breached their fiduciary duty, the lawsuit said. Twitter’s board rushed to close the deal with Mr. Musk and did not act “prudently” or “on an informed basis,” the lawsuit said.

Wachtell Lipton was wired the bulk of the $90 million fee a mere 10 minutes before the deal closed in October, the lawsuit said. Within minutes of Wachtell Lipton’s receiving that transfer, Mr. Musk fired some of Twitter’s top executives, including its chief legal officer and general counsel, according to the suit.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Russia hasn’t stopped maneuvering for a role in internet oversight, David Ignatius, July 7, 2023 (print ed.). Russia might be reeling from an “armed mutiny” at home and a botched invasion of Ukraine, but that hasn’t stopped it from pushing a plan for centralized United Nations oversight of the internet. An unfortunate new wrinkle is that Moscow’s approach appears to be getting some support from U.N. Secretary General António Guterres.

“We’re concerned about the Russians … pushing their authoritarian digital agenda in every forum around the world,” explained a senior Biden administration official in an email. “It’s global and relentless, and when we step back even a little bit, they fill that void.” He said the State Department has conveyed its “legitimate concern” about a U.N. “takeover” of internet governance to U.N. officials in New York.

Russia’s latest bid for top-down internet control came in a resolution submitted for next week’s meeting in Geneva of the ruling council of the U.N.’s International Telecommunication Union. Moscow’s proposal seeks changes in governance “to prevent fragmentation of the Internet,” according to a document posted on the ITU website.

What “fragmentation” is Russia talking about? The internet has been functioning pretty smoothly for decades. If there are any blockages, they’re the ones introduced by authoritarian governments such as Russia and China. But as you read Moscow’s proposal, it becomes clear that Russia is doubling down on its past demands for global political regulation as an alternative to what it claims is U.S. control of cyberspace.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What it takes to rupture Fox News’s wall of silence, Erik Wemple, July 7, 2023 (print ed.). Fox News relies on a battalion of anchors, reporters, producers and assistants to generate its ratings-topping programming. Trouble is, some those employees double as walking, talking, text-happy corporate risk centers, privy as they are to the making of the network’s rancid sausage.

That dynamic contextualizes a recent headline: Fox News paid former producer Abby Grossberg $12 million to settle a complaint about her experiences working at the network, including on the now-defunct program “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

Fox News settles suit by Tucker Carlson’s former booker for $12 million

The substance of Grossberg’s allegations is horrific: misogyny, disrespect, sexist language and more. But how Grossberg came to file her complaint matters, too — and speaks to how Fox News has kept a lid on its inner workings for most of its nearly 27-year history.

Before February, Grossberg had a minimal public profile. She had worked at CBS News, CNN, NBC Universal and ABC News before arriving at Fox News in 2019 to be a senior booking producer for “Sunday Morning Futures With Maria Bartiromo.” Which is to say, she was among the Fox News worker bees who recruit commentators, polish scripts and otherwise toil at all hours to assemble a smooth and compelling television product.

washington post logoWashington Post, Theater is in freefall, and the pandemic isn’t the only thing to blame, Peter Marks, July 7, 2023 (print ed.). Companies are closing, seasons have been truncated and in New Haven, a revered company is pivoting after giving up its own stage.

For more than 55 years, the highly regarded Long Wharf Theatre made its home in a converted warehouse in an old food terminal near New Haven Harbor. Then one day last year, with rent payments an escalating burden, the company became homeless.

Is a legacy theater company without its theater still a company? It’s a proposition that Long Wharf’s artistic director, Jacob G. Padrón, has been testing — an “itinerant” theater model — and the rest of the anxiety-ridden theater world is watching closely. Still reeling from the pandemic, many of the country’s nonprofit theaters of various sizes are in deep financial trouble, in what is rapidly turning into the most severe crisis in the 70-year history of the regional theater movement.

“It’s happening more and more and more, and it’s going to be an epidemic,” said Michael M. Kaiser, former president of the Kennedy Center and now chairman of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland. “I’ve always believed that we were heading for a time that we were going to lose a whole lot of midsized cultural organizations. And I still believe that’s true.”

Evidence of the turmoil mounts day by day, as companies from California to New York announce major cutbacks in their offerings — or shut down altogether. The theater world was further rocked recently when one of the nation’s largest companies, the Los Angeles-based Center Theatre Group, said it would “pause” programming in one of its theaters, the Mark Taper Forum. That followed the upheaval at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, another industry mainstay, which said last month it needed an emergency infusion of $7.5 million or its 2023 season could not go on. The urgent effort came after a similar plea, in April, for which OSF raised $2.5 million.

The cutbacks and closings have been so regular of late that a document circulates among leaders of the field, listing recent “permanent closures” — such as Triad Stage in North Carolina, Southern Repertory Theatre in New Orleans, New Ohio Theatre in New York — and staff and program downsizings. In June, off-Broadway’s Public Theater eliminated its Under the Radar Festival, which set an industry standard for avant-garde and international plays. To save money, even august companies such as Arena Stage — working with what its leaders call “deficit planning” — are reducing the number of plays they produce.

And just last week, Chicago’s 35-year-old Lookingglass Theatre Company, debut theater for Tony-winning director Mary Zimmerman’s “Metamorphoses,” declared that it was ceasing operations until late next spring. As regional theaters often are the seeding ground for both new-play development and work that eventually goes to Broadway, every “pause” can have consequences down the road.

  • Washington Post, GQ pulls article slamming Warner Bros. Discovery CEO Zaslav after complaint, Will Sommer, July 6, 2023.

National Press Club, Club leaders condemn brutal assault on Russian journalist Elena Milashina and attorney Alexander Nemov, Staff report, July 6, 2023. Following is a statement from Eileen O’Reilly, president of the National Press Club, and Gil Klein, president of the National Press Club Journalism Institute, on the brutal assault by masked assailants on Russian investigative journalist Elena Milashina and attorney Alexander Nemov as they were traveling in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya:

“We are outraged by this repulsive attack on Elena Milashina and Alexander Nemov on July 4. Both were in Grozny for the trial of Zarema Musayeva, the mother of exiled opposition activists, according to Elena's employer, the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta. Elena was there to cover the trial, and Alexander is Musayeva's attorney.

“This odious attack, which left Elena with brain injuries and broken fingers and Alexander suffering a stab wound, was the action of those who are afraid of exposure to the reality of life under the oppressive rule of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his key ally, Chechnya's autocratic leader, Ramzan Kadyrov.

“Our hearts are with Elena and Alexander, and we wish them a full recovery. The whole world should condemn the barbaric treatment they received at the hands of masked thugs. The perpetrators of this egregious act must be held accountable, else we fear more violent attacks like this - and not contained to Chechnya and Russia.”

July 6



southern baptist convention logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Southern Baptists lose another megachurch: Elevation quits the SBC, Bob Smietana, July 6, 2023 (print ed.). A North Carolina megachurch, known for its popular music and charismatic pastor, has left the Southern Baptist Convention.

southern baptist convention logo 2In a letter sent to the SBC’s executive committee in Nashville and to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, Charlotte-based Elevation Church said it was “withdrawing its affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention effective immediately.”

The letter was published by Baptist Press, an official SBC publication. A spokesman for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina confirmed receiving the letter.

“We have no plans to make a public announcement on this decision — we have too much to do in reaching a world that needs the love of Jesus,” the letter reads. “Should your Credentials Committee decide to make this decision by Elevation public, we will only respond with a copy of this letter to anyone inquiring about the notification.”

The SBC’s Credentials Committee is charged with determining if churches are in “friendly cooperation” with the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. That cooperation includes giving to SBC causes and closely following the SBC’s doctrine.

Earlier this year, five congregations — including Saddleback Church, which was one of the largest SBC churches in the country — were expelled from the SBC for having female pastors. During their recent annual meeting, Southern Baptists passed a proposed constitutional amendment that would bar churches that have female pastors of any kind. That amendment must be ratified in 2024.

By some estimates, about 2,000 SBC churches have women serving in pastoral roles — including supporting roles such as associate pastors, children’s pastors and music ministers.

Elevation’s letter gives no reason for the church’s departure after more than two decades in the SBC. However, Holly Furtick, wife of Elevation pastor Steven Furtick, is described as a church co-founder and preaches on a regular basis. A number of SBC leaders, including prominent seminary President Albert “Al” Mohler, believe the Bible bars women from preaching in worship services.

According to data submitted by the church to the SBC, Elevation averaged 10,185 attendees each week and had $103 million in donations for 2021. The church gave $10,000 to the SBC’s Cooperative Program.

A recent study found that Elevation is one of four megachurches whose songs dominate the market for contemporary worship music.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Demand for Workplace A.I. Rises, Tech Companies Rush to Provide It, Yiwen Lu, July 6, 2023 (print ed.). Amazon, Box, Salesforce, Oracle and others have recently rolled out A.I.-related products to help workplaces become more efficient and productive.

att logoEarlier this year, Mark Austin, the vice president of data science at AT&T, noticed that some of the company’s developers had started using the ChatGPT chatbot at work. When the developers got stuck, they asked ChatGPT to explain, fix or hone their code.

It seemed to be a game-changer, Mr. Austin said. But since ChatGPT is a publicly available tool, he wondered if it was secure for businesses to use.

So in January, AT&T tried a product from Microsoft called Azure OpenAI Services that lets businesses build their own A.I.-powered chatbots. AT&T used it to create a proprietary A.I. assistant, Ask AT&T, which helps its developers automate their coding process. AT&T’s customer service representatives also began using the chatbot to help summarize their calls, among other tasks.

“Once they realize what it can do, they love it,” Mr. Austin said. Forms that once took hours to complete needed only two minutes with Ask AT&T so employees could focus on more complicated tasks, he said, and developers who used the chatbot increased their productivity by 20 to 50 percent.


Keith Raniere, the leader of the NXIVM sex trafficking cult.

Keith Raniere, the leader of the NXIVM sex trafficking cult.

washington post logoWashington Post, Allison Mack released from prison early in NXIVM case, Samantha Chery, July 6, 2023 (print ed.).  The former ‘Smallville’ actress was sentenced to three years in prison for her role in recruiting women for the cultlike sex-trafficking group.

allison mackAllison Mack, right, the “Smallville” actress who was in prison for racketeering and racketeering conspiracy for the cultlike group NXIVM, was released from prison a year early on Monday, according to Federal Bureau of Prisons records.

Mack, 40, was sentenced to three years in prison, a $20,000 fine and 1,000 hours of community service in June 2021 for her role as a high-ranking leader in the Albany, N.Y.-based organization NXIVM.

NXIVM, founded by former businessman Keith Raniere and former nurse Nancy Salzman in 1998, became popular among Hollywood stars. Members paid thousands of dollars to participate in self-improvement workshops known as “Executive Success Programs” and invited others to the group to rise in NXIVM’s ranks.

Behind the scenes, prosecutors say, Raniere and the organization’s leaders used the group as a cover for criminal activity, including sexually exploiting a 15-year-old girl and taking photos of the abuse, and enslaving another victim for about two years.

Prosecutors say Mack helped recruit women and forced them to provide “collateral,” such as nude photographs for NXIVM’s women subgroup, DOS. Mack also benefited financially from forcing two women to have sex with Raniere, the group’s leader also known as “Vanguard” who portrayed himself as a genius.

DOS was short for Dominus Obsequious Sororium, broken Latin that roughly translates to “master of the obedient female companions.” New women in the group, called “slaves” within NXIVM, were recruited by “masters” and blackmailed to ensure their compliance as they were subject to low-calorie diets and sleep deprivation, court filings said.

NXIVM’s dealings were first publicly revealed in a 2017 report in the New York Times and were further detailed in “The Vow,” the HBO documentary series of the experiences of NXIVM’s key players that brought more attention to the case.

NXIVM operated under the guise of a self-help group, and when Mack joined the group in 2007 and DOS when it began in 2015, she “(wrongly) understood DOS to be an organization designed to empower women,” her sentencing memo states. She faced between 14 and 17½ years in prison, but her cooperation allowed her sentence to be lowered.

“In the language of DOS, you were a slave as well as a master, and the harms that you inflicted as a master were, to some extent, demanded of you in your capacity as Mr. Raniere’s slave,” U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis wrote in the sentencing memo.

Raniere, who prosecutors say used the women in DOS for labor and sex and had them branded with his initials in private ceremonies, was sentenced to 120 years in prison and fined $1.75 million in October 2020.

July 5

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: A Georgia teacher’s plight exposes the essence of anti-woke MAGA fury, Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman, July 5, 2023. At first glance, the plight of Katherine Rinderle, a fifth-grade teacher in Georgia, might seem confusing. Rinderle faces likely termination by the Cobb County School District for reading aloud a children’s book that touches on gender identity. Yet she is charged in part with violating policy related to a state law banning “divisive concepts” about race, not gender.

In short, when it comes to all these anti-woke laws and the MAGA-fied frenzy they’ve unleashed, the vagueness is the point.

As CNN reported, the district sent Rinderle a letter in May signaling its intent to fire her for a lesson using “My Shadow Is Purple.” The book is written from the perspective of a child who likes both traditionally “boy” things like trains and “girl” things like glitter. Its conclusion is essentially that sometimes blue and pink don’t really capture kids’ full interests and personalities — and that everyone is unique and should just be themselves.

This disconnect captures something essential about state laws and directives restricting classroom discussion across the country: They seem to be imprecisely drafted to encourage censorship. That invites parents and administrators to seek to apply bans to teachers haphazardly, forcing teachers to err on the side of muzzling themselves rather than risk unintentionally crossing fuzzy lines into illegality.

The district’s letter, which we have obtained, criticized Rinderle for teaching the “controversial subject” of “gender identity” without giving parents a chance to opt out. She was charged with violating standards of professional ethics, safeguards for parents’ rights and a policy governing treatment of “controversial issues.”

“Teachers are fearful,” Rinderle told us in an interview. “These vague laws are chilling and result in teachers self-censoring."

After all, in that law, those “divisive concepts” are all about race. Among them are the ideas that the United States is “fundamentally racist" and that people should feel “guilt” or bear “responsibility” for past actions on account of their race. It’s not clear how this policy applies to Rinderle’s alleged transgression.

What’s more, we have learned that this action was initiated by a parent’s troubling email to the district, provided to us by Rinderle and her lawyer, in which the parent notes that teachers were told to avoid “divisive” concepts. The parent then writes, “I would consider anything in the genre of ‘LGBT’ and ‘Queer’ divisive.”

ny times logoNew York Times, At the University of Chicago, a Debate Over Free Speech and Cyber Bullying, Vimal Patel, July 5, 2023 (print ed.). A student objected to a class and tweeted the lecturer’s photo and email address. Hate mail poured in. What should the school do?

Rebecca Journey, a lecturer at the University of Chicago, thought little of calling her new undergraduate seminar “The Problem of Whiteness.” Though provocatively titled, the anthropology course covered familiar academic territory: how the racial category “white” has changed over time.

She was surprised, then, when her inbox exploded in November with vitriolic messages from dozens of strangers. One wrote that she was “deeply evil.” Another: “Blow your head clean off.”

The instigator was Daniel Schmidt, a sophomore and conservative activist with tens of thousands of social media followers. He tweeted, “Anti-white hatred is now mainstream academic inquiry,” along with the course description and Dr. Journey’s photo and university email address.

Spooked, Dr. Journey, a newly minted Ph.D. preparing to hit the academic job market, postponed her class to the spring. Then she filed complaints with the university, accusing Mr. Schmidt of doxxing and harassing her.

Mr. Schmidt, 19, denied encouraging anyone to harass her. And university officials dismissed her claims. As far as they knew, they said, Mr. Schmidt did not personally send her any abusive emails. And under the university’s longstanding, much-hailed commitment to academic freedom, speech was restricted only when it “constitutes a genuine threat or harassment.”

The university’s declaration of free speech principles, developed in 2014 and known as the Chicago statement, has become a touchstone and guide for colleges across the country that have struggled to manage campus controversies, particularly when liberal students shout down conservative speakers. Scores of schools have adopted it.

But what followed for the rest of the academic year at the University of Chicago has tested whether its principles address a new, rapidly changing environment where a single tweet can rain down vitriol and threats.

The Chicago statement assumes that what takes place on campuses is “in good faith and that people have an interest in engaging the ideas,” said Isaac A. Kamola, of Faculty First Responders, which monitors conservative attacks on academics. But, he added, “the ecosystem that Daniel Schmidt is part of has no interest in having a conversation.”

Geoffrey R. Stone, a law professor, led the faculty committee that drafted the Chicago statement. He said that back then, the group was not thinking about how online threats could harm free expression — never mind this situation, where Mr. Schmidt simply posted a tweet with publicly available information.

Posting repeatedly, while knowing the response, might be harassment, said Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional law scholar at the University of California, Berkeley.

But, he said, “The hard question is, where is that line crossed?”

Mr. Schmidt seemed to understand that he stood right at the divide.

July 4

ny times logoNew York Times, Meta’s ‘Twitter Killer’ App Is Coming, Mike Isaac, July 4, 2023 (print ed.). Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, teased a new app called Threads that is set to take on Twitter for real-time digital conversations.

mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wMark Zuckerberg, left, has long wanted to dislodge Twitter and provide the central place for public conversation online. Yet Twitter has remained meta logostubbornly irreplaceable.

That hasn’t stopped Mr. Zuckerberg.

On Monday, his company, Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, teased a new app aimed squarely at Twitter’s territory.

The app, which is called Threads and is connected to Instagram, appeared in Apple’s App Store for users to sign up to download on Thursday, when it will be released. The app appears to function much like Twitter, emphasizing public conversations, with users able to follow people they already do on Instagram. Some techies have referred to the coming app as a “Twitter killer.”

twitter bird CustomMr. Zuckerberg is striking while Twitter undergoes fresh turmoil. Since Elon Musk bought the social platform last year, he has changed the service by tinkering with Twitter’s algorithm that decides which posts are most visible, thrown out content moderation rules that ban certain kinds of tweets and overhauled a verification process that confirms the identities of users.

Then over the weekend, Mr. Musk imposed limits on how many tweets its users would be able to read when using the app. He said the move was in response to other companies taking Twitter’s data in a process called “scraping.” Twitter’s users were soon met with messages that they had exceeded their “rate limit,” effectively making the app unusable after a short amount of time viewing posts. Many Twitter users became frustrated.

“If there’s ever been a more self-destructive owner of a multibillion-dollar enterprise who resents the very customers who determine the success of that enterprise, I am unaware of it,” Lou Paskalis, founder and chief executive of AJL Advisory, a marketing and advertising technology strategy firm, said of Mr. Musk and Twitter.

The latest turbulence at Twitter appears to have given Mr. Zuckerberg an opening for Threads.

Meta’s executives have discussed how to capitalize on the chaos at Twitter since last year, including by building a rival service. “Twitter is in crisis and Meta needs its mojo back,” one Meta employee wrote in an internal post last year, according to a report in December by The New York Times. “LET’S GO FOR THEIR BREAD AND BUTTER.”

instagram logoThat has resulted in Threads, a crash project spun out of Instagram and internally code-named Project 92. Users will be able to log into Threads using their Instagram account, according to photo previews of the app displayed in Apple’s App Store.

Meta executives previously characterized the app as a “sanely run” version of a public-facing social network, in a not-so-subtle jab at Mr. Musk’s erratic behavior.

July 2

ny times logoNew York Times, The N.F.L.’s Betting Penalties Put ‘Integrity’ to the Test, Santul Nerkar and Emmanuel Morgan, July 2, 2023 (print ed.). The punishments for players caught breaking the N.F.L.’s gambling rules are harsh. The league wants no insinuation that games might be rigged.

When the N.F.L. on Thursday announced that three players had been found to have bet on football, the penalties came down with characteristic harshness: indefinite suspensions that can only be appealed after a full season.

It was the second such set of gambling penalties levied this off-season, after the league in April invoked the same suspension against three players who had bet on N.F.L. games.

The suspensions, punitive by nature, were also a warning to other pros tempted by the pervasive opportunities to bet on football. But, critics say, the harsh punishment is dissonant with the league’s business partnerships with betting companies, which brought the league more than $1 billion in 2022.

On Thursday, the N.F.L. suspended Isaiah Rodgers and Rashod Berry of the Indianapolis Colts and free agent Demetrius Taylor through at least the 2023 season for betting on N.F.L. games. Shortly after the announcement, the Colts released Rodgers and Berry.

whistleblower summit logoOpEd News, Whistleblower Summit & Film Festival Announces Slate of Films and Screenplays for 11th Annual Film & Writing Competition, Michael McCray, left, Update July 1, 2023. Pentagon Papers Whistleblower to be Remembered During 11th Annual Event Featuring Film Screenings, Screenplay Contest, and a Tribute to Famed michael mccrayWhistleblower Daniel Ellsberg at the National Press Club.

ACORN 8, in collaboration with the Justice Integrity Project, announced feature, documentary, short film, and screenplay selections premiering virtually at the Whistleblower Summit & Film Festival ( The hybrid event, set for July 22-33 in Washington, DC, will include live events and virtual screenings of featured films and panels. The theme for the annual conference is "Unraveling the Truth: 60 Years after the Assassination of JFK." The annual festival is a globally recognized platform amplifying free speech, social justice, and civil & human rights advocacy. Festival passes, and single tickets are on sale now.

For more information about the summit hosts and film festival, click here

The National Whistleblower Day (July 30) feature screenings include The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. Additional screenings include District Insiders: Former JFK Secret Service Protector Describes Shocking JFK Assassination and other industry panels (filmmaker and screenwriter). This year's programming illuminates a wide array of storytelling that showcases the talent of writers and filmmakers alike.

"We are proud to be back live for the 11th year to bring audiences, both in-person and virtually, an inspiring selection of events celebrating free speech in all its forms "film, books, journalism, and advocacy," said Michael McCray, Managing Director. "We're thrilled to spotlight transformative storytelling that demonstrates the power of equity in entertainment media."

"We are honored to recognize Abraham Bolden (African American) an important JFK Secret Service Agent turned whistleblower at this year's summit," said Andrew Kreig, Executive Director for the Justice Integrity Project.

"We're excited to come together for the 11th year running to share unique and untold stories, showcasing diverse and inclusive content to the masses. This year's filmmakers are unmatched in their refreshing narratives," Marcel Reid, Festival Director.

ny times logoNew York Times, Elon Musk Says Twitter Is Limiting Number of Posts Users Can Read, Eduardo Medina and Ryan Mac, July 2, 2023 (print ed.). The change on Saturday came as thousands of users complained about getting an error message that they had “exceeded” their “rate limit.”

Elon Musk said on Saturday that Twitter will temporarily limit the number of posts users can read per day to address concerns over data scraping, just hours after thousands of users reported widespread problems using the site.

twitter bird CustomMany of those users reported that they were getting an error message that they had “exceeded” their “rate limit,” suggesting that they had violated Twitter’s rules and downloaded and viewed too many tweets.

Mr. Musk, who said on Friday that “several hundred organizations” were taking Twitter’s data in a process called scraping and that “it was affecting the real user experience,” did not say how long the limits would last or what could prompt him to lift the restriction.

He originally said that verified accounts would be limited to reading 6,000 posts per day, unverified accounts to 600 posts and new unverified accounts to 300 posts.

ny times logoNew York Times, Authors and Students Sue Over Florida Law Driving Book Bans, Elizabeth A. Harris and Alexandra Alter, June 21, 2023 (print ed.). The authors of a picture book about a penguin family with two fathers sued the state and a school district that removed the book from libraries.

July 1

ny times logoNew York Times, Fox News Agrees to Pay $12 Million to Settle Hostile Workplace Suit, Katie Robertson, July 1, 2023 (print ed.). The settlement with a former producer, Abby Grossberg, shown in a file photo, is the latest development in a series of legal battles involving Fox.

abby grossberg johns hopkinsFox News has agreed to pay $12 million to Abby Grossberg, a former Fox News producer who had accused the network of operating a hostile and discriminatory fox news logo Smallworkplace and of coercing her into providing false testimony in a deposition.

Parisis G. Filippatos, a lawyer for Ms. Grossberg, said that the settlement concluded all of Ms. Grossberg’s claims against Fox and the people she had named in her complaints, which included the former host Tucker Carlson and some of his producers.

Ms. Grossberg’s legal team filed a request in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Friday to dismiss a remaining lawsuit against Fox in light of the settlement.

Ms. Grossberg said in a statement on Friday that she stood by her allegations, but she was “heartened that Fox News has taken me and my legal claims seriously.”

“I am hopeful, based on our discussions with Fox News today, that this resolution represents a positive step by the network regarding its treatment of women and minorities in the workplace,” she said.
Inside the Media Industry

A spokeswoman for Fox said in a statement on Friday: “We are pleased that we have been able to resolve this matter without further litigation.”

Justin Wells, a former senior executive producer for Mr. Carlson, who was named in a complaint, said in a post on Twitter: “We deny Ms. Grossberg’s claims and allegations against Tucker Carlson and his team. Nevertheless, we are glad that Fox has settled this matter and that all sides can move forward.”

The settlement with Ms. Grossberg is the latest development in a series of legal battles involving Fox. In April, the company paid Dominion Voting Systems $787.5 million, in what is believed to be the biggest settlement figure in a defamation case. Days later, Fox took Tucker Carlson, its most popular host, off the air after the company’s leadership concluded he was more of a problem than an asset and had to go.

Fox faces a second defamation case by another voting technology company. Smartmatic, like Dominion, says Fox knowingly spread false information about its products, baselessly claiming that they contributed to election fraud in 2020.



June 29


The five most radical right Republican justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are shown above, with the sixth Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, omitted in this view.

The five most radical right Republican justices on the Supreme Court are shown above, with the sixth Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, omitted in this photo array.

ny times logo New York Times, Supreme Court Curtails Affirmative Action at U.S. Colleges, Adam Liptak, June 29, 2023. Strikes Down Race-Conscious Admissions at 2 Universities. The court rejected programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina. The vote was 6 to 3, with the court’s liberal members in dissent.
The decision was expected to set off a scramble as schools revisit their admissions practices. In disavowing race as a factor in achieving educational diversity, the court all but ensured that the student population at the campuses of elite institutions will become whiter and more Asian and less Black and Latino.

The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the race-conscious admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina were unlawful, curtailing affirmative action at colleges and universities around the nation, a policy that has long been a pillar of higher education.

john roberts oThe vote was 6 to 3, with the court’s liberal members in dissent. In a footnote, Chief Justice Roberts, right, exempted military academies from the ruling in light of “the potentially distinct interests” they present. There had been discussion of whether the military needed to maintain affirmative action in training its future officer corps based on a judgment that it would be bad for military discipline and cohesiveness if the leadership cadre did not reflect the diversity of the rank-and-file troops who do the bulk of fighting and dying in wars.

Justices Sotomayor and Jackson both criticized the majority for making an exception for military academies. Justice Sotomayor called it ketanji brown jackson robearbitrary, while Justice Jackson, left, wrote, “The court has come to rest on the bottom-line conclusion that racial diversity in higher education is only worth potentially preserving insofar as it might be needed to prepare Black Americans and other underrepresented minorities for success in the bunker, not the boardroom (a particularly awkward place to land, in light of the history the majority opts to ignore).”

Justin Driver, a professor at Yale Law School and an expert on the Supreme Court’s education rulings, predicted that the affirmative action decision could cause some state universities to move to race-neutral strategies for increasing diversity, such as the “top percent” model used in Texas.

In that state, students with the highest grade point averages at each high school are guaranteed admission to a public university, including the system’s flagship, the University of Texas at Austin.

In a statement celebrating the decision, Edward Blum, the conservative activist behind the lawsuits against Harvard and U.N.C., said: “Ending racial preferences in college admissions is an outcome that the vast majority of all races and ethnicities will celebrate. A university doesn’t have real diversity when it simply assembles students who look different but come from similar backgrounds and act, talk and think alike.”

In Justice Jackson’s dissent in the U.N.C. case, she wrote: “It would be deeply unfortunate if the Equal Protection Clause actually demanded this perverse, ahistorical and counterproductive outcome. To impose this result in that clause’s name when it requires no such thing, and to thereby obstruct our collective progress toward the full realization of the clause’s promise, is truly a tragedy for us all.”

washington post logoWashington Post, State affirmative action bans helped White, Asian students, hurt others, Janice Kai Chen and Daniel Wolfe, Updated June 29, 2023. While highly selective schools saw diversity decline, data shows other schools saw growth

The Supreme Court has ruled to restrict affirmative action and eliminate race-conscious admissions in higher education, overturning more than four decades of court precedent.

A Washington Post review of 30 years of race and ethnicity data from the eight states that currently ban race-based admission policies in higher education shows how a federal ban on affirmative action might harm minority students across the United States.

Where race-based admission policies were banned in 2021, already underrepresented racial groups had even lower representation when compared to states harvard logowithout bans. Banned states in 2021 include Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Washington.

Two lawsuits, against the University of North Carolina and Harvard University, are behind the high court’s decision to federally restrict affirmative action. Plaintiffs in both cases contend that race-conscious admissions favor some students — Black, Hispanic and Native Americans — over others.

How is affirmative action used in college admissions?

north carolina map

At the University of North Carolina, White students have been overrepresented for the past 30 years, with the White freshman class approaching racial parity only in 2020, when compared to state demographics. Black students have remained underrepresented by around 10 points.


washington post logoWashington Post, National Geographic lays off its last remaining staff writers, Paul Farhi, June 29, 2023 (print ed.). The magazine, which remains among the most read in the U.S., has struggled in the digital era to command the kind of resources that fueled the deep reporting it became known for.

Like one of the endangered species whose impending extinction it has chronicled, National Geographic magazine has been on a relentlessly downward path, struggling for vibrancy in an increasingly unforgiving ecosystem.

On Wednesday, the Washington-based magazine that has surveyed science and the natural world for 135 years reached another difficult passage when it laid off all of its last remaining staff writers.

The cutback — the latest in a series under owner Walt Disney Co. — involves some 19 editorial staffers in all, who were notified in April that these terminations were coming. Article assignments will henceforth be contracted out to freelancers or pieced together by editors. The cuts also eliminated the magazine’s small audio department.

The layoffs were the second over the past nine months, and the fourth since a series of ownership changes began in 2015. In September, Disney removed six top editors in an extraordinary reorganization of the magazine’s editorial operations.

Departing staffers said Wednesday the magazine has curtailed photo contracts that enabled photographers to spend months in the field producing the publication’s iconic images.

In a further cost-cutting move, copies of the famous bright-yellow-bordered print publication will no longer be sold on newsstands in the United States starting next year.

June 28

 philadelphia skyline w

ny times logoNew York Times, Historians Criticize Moms for Liberty Event at Museum in Philadelphia, Jennifer Schuessler, June 28, 2023. Several leading scholarly groups have criticized the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia (shown above in a file of the city skyline) for renting space to the group, which has pushed for book bans.

A half-dozen scholarly groups, including the nation’s two largest associations of professional historians, have criticized the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia for renting space to Moms for Liberty, calling it a dangerous normalization of an organization that supports book bans and restrictions on teaching about race and gender.

In a letter to the museum on Monday, the American Historical Association called on the museum to find a legal way to cancel the rental.

“Moms for Liberty is an organization that has vigorously advocated censorship and harassment of history teachers, banning history books from libraries and classrooms, and legislation that renders it impossible for historians to teach with professional integrity without risking job loss and other penalties,” the letter said.

The letter recognized the group’s right to argue for its preferred approach to history education. “However, Moms for Liberty has crossed a boundary in its attempts to silence and harass teachers, rather than participate in legitimate controversy,” it said.

The controversy became public in early June, when it was reported that dozens of museum employees were calling on the museum to cancel the rental to Moms for Liberty, on the grounds that it undermined the museum’s reputation and mission.

The rental was for a reception during its four-day “Joyful Warriors National Summit,” which begins on Thursday. The summit will feature several dozen prominent speakers, including former President Donald J. Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, both of whom have championed the teaching of “patriotic history” and opposition to “wokeness.”

In a statement, the museum, a private nonprofit, acknowledged the legitimacy of the employees’ concerns, but said it could not discriminate on the basis of a group’s political beliefs, which it called “antithetical to our purpose.”

Moms for Liberty has objected to negative characterizations of the group, which the Southern Poverty Law Center recently labeled “extremist.”

In a statement to The New York Times, the organization’s co-founders, Tiffany Justice and Tina Descovich, said: “We expect our national summit in Philadelphia to be a time of training and empowerment for parents to be more active in their child’s school system. We stand for the rights of parents and against anyone trying to silent parents who want to speak up on behalf of their child’s needs.”

Moms for Liberty, founded in 2021, originally focused on opposition to pandemic-era restrictions in schools, but has since expanded to supporting parents’ rights to ban books they deem inappropriate from classrooms and school libraries. The group has also become a force in Republican politics — the scheduled speakers at the summit include several presidential candidates.

The controversy over the Moms for Liberty event also highlights the complexities of free speech, and the line between opposing censorship and engaging in it. In their statements, the historical groups did not speak entirely with one voice.

ny times logoNew York Times, Remains Found in California Wilderness Are Identified as Those of Julian Sands, Derrick Bryson Taylor, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). The British actor was reported missing in January after he went hiking alone on a trail on Mount Baldy. Last weekend, after months of intense searches, hikers found human remains in the area.

Human remains that were found on Saturday in the Southern California wilderness have been identified as those of the British actor Julian Sands, who had been missing since January after he went hiking in the area, the authorities said on Tuesday.

Mr. Sands, 65, of North Hollywood, was an avid hiker and was best known for his role in the critically acclaimed 1986 film “A Room With a View.” The film, an adaptation of the novel by E.M. Forster, regularly makes lists as one of the best British films of all time. He also appeared in dozens of other films and television shows, including “Arachnophobia,” “Naked Lunch,” “Warlock” and “Ocean’s Thirteen.”

ny times logoNew York Times, PGA Tour’s Pact With Saudi Wealth Fund Shows Many Details Left to Settle, Alan Blinder, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). The five-page agreement provoked a furor but included only a handful of binding provisions.

The PGA Tour’s tentative deal with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund to form an alliance with the rival LIV Golf series includes only a handful of binding commitments — such as a nondisparagement agreement and a pledge to dismiss acrimonious litigation — and leaves many of the most consequential details about the future of men’s professional golf to be negotiated by the end of the year.

The five-page framework agreement was obtained by The New York Times on Monday, the day the tour shared a copy of it with a Senate subcommittee that plans to hold a July hearing about the deal.

The proposed deal, announced on June 6 by the tour and the wealth fund, the financial force behind the renegade LIV Golf circuit, has caused an uproar throughout the golf industry. But a review of the agreement points to the rushed nature of the secret, seven-week talks that led to the deal and the complex path that remains ahead for the new venture, a potential triumph for Saudi Arabia’s quest to gain power and influence in sports and, its critics say, to distract from its reputation as a human rights abuser.

Most crucially, the tour and the wealth fund must still come to terms on the values of the assets that each will contribute to their planned partnership. Bankers and lawyers have spent recent weeks beginning the valuation process, but the framework agreement includes no substantive details of projected figures or even the size of an anticipated cash investment from the wealth fund.

June 27

washington post logoWashington Post, The Biden administration announces $42 billion in federal aid to expand high-speed internet access, Tony Romm, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). About 7 percent of the country still doesn’t have broadband access that meets minimum standards, according to federal estimates. The funding — a centerpiece of the recent bipartisan infrastructure law — marks the largest-ever federal push to help an estimated 8.5 million families and businesses.

joe biden resized oThe Biden administration on Monday announced more than $42 billion in new federal funding to expand high-speed internet access nationwide, commencing the largest-ever campaign to help an estimated 8.5 million families and small businesses finally take advantage of modern-day connectivity.

The money, which the government plans to parcel out to states over the next two years, is the centerpiece of a vast and ambitious effort to deliver reliable broadband to the entire country by 2030 — ensuring that even the most far-flung parts of the United States can reap the economic benefits of the digital age.

In a preview of Biden’s planned remarks, White House officials likened the new infrastructure project to the government’s work to electrify the nation’s darkened heartland in the late 1930s, when more than 90 percent of farms had no electric power in the face of high costs and prohibitive terrain.

  • Washington Post, The real reason people in the Northeast are most likely to still have landlines, Andrew Van Dam, June 26, 2023.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Review-Bombing Can Tank a Book Before It’s Published, Alexandra Alter and Elizabeth A. Harris, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). The website Goodreads has become an essential avenue for building readership, but the same features that help generate excitement can also backfire.

Cecilia Rabess figured her debut novel, “Everything’s Fine,” would spark criticism: The story centers on a young Black woman working at Goldman Sachs who falls in love with a conservative white co-worker with bigoted views.

But she didn’t expect a backlash to strike six months before the book was published.

In January, after a Goodreads user who had received an advanced copy posted a plot summary that went viral on Twitter, the review site was flooded with negative comments and one-star reviews, with many calling the book anti-Black and racist. Some of the comments were left by users who said they had never read the book, but objected to its premise.

“It may look like a bunch of one-star reviews on Goodreads, but these are broader campaigns of harassment,” Rabess said. “People were very keen not just to attack the work, but to attack me as well.”

In an era when reaching readers online has become a near-existential problem for publishers, Goodreads has become an essential avenue for building an audience. As a cross between a social media platform and a review site like Yelp, the site has been a boon for publishers hoping to generate excitement for books.

But the same features that get users talking about books and authors can also backfire. Reviews can be weaponized, in some cases derailing a book’s publication long before its release.

“It can be incredibly hurtful, and it’s frustrating that people are allowed to review books this way if they haven’t read them,” said Roxane Gay, an author and editor who also posts reviews on Goodreads. “Worse, they’re allowed to review books that haven’t even been written. I have books on there being reviewed that I’m not finished with yet.”

Rabess, who quit her job as a data scientist at Google to focus on writing after selling her novel to Simon & Schuster, worried that the online ambush might turn people against her book.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jesse Watters will take over Tucker Carlson’s former slot in Fox News prime-time shakeup, Jeremy Barr, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). Laura Ingraham’s show will move to 7 p.m. and Greg Gutfeld will shift to 10 p.m.

Fox News picked Jesse Watters to serve as permanent host of its 8 p.m. show as part of a broader shake-up of the network’s prime-time lineup.

Laura Ingraham will also move from 10 p.m. to 7 p.m., and comedian Greg Gutfeld will move from 11 p.m. to 10 p.m.

fox news logo SmallIn moving from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., Watters will fill an hour that has been helmed by rotating hosts since Fox fired top-rated host Tucker Carlson in late April.

Sean Hannity will remain at 9 p.m., while news anchor Trace Gallagher will move up an hour from midnight to 11 p.m.

The changes come amid a significant decline in viewers since the network’s decision to oust Carlson. In the month after Carlson’s departure, Fox’s overall prime-time ratings declined by 38 percent — from an average of 2.6 million viewers to 1.6 million.

For the week of June 5, MSNBC’s prime-time lineup attracted more viewers than Fox’s prime-time block for the first time in several years. The following week, Fox regained its edge over MSNBC in total viewers but lost among the 25-to-54 age demographic prized by advertisers.

June 26

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Legal Foundation of Women’s Sports Is Under Fire, David French, right, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). What is the legal foundation for women’s david french croppedsports? It’s a simple question with a surprisingly complex answer.

After all, the most potent federal statute supporting parallel men’s and women’s sports leagues would appear — on its face — to also prohibit separate leagues. Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

The act contains explicit exceptions — such as permitting fraternities and sororities and beauty pageants and protecting the liberty of religious educational institutions — but its language tracks that of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI prohibits race discrimination in federally funded educational programs using virtually identical language, declaring, “No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

In the realm of athletics, however, these two statutes have traditionally worked in remarkably different ways. Race segregation in athletic programs is a legal and cultural taboo. There are no legally segregated white and Black football leagues, for example, and if a school decided to create a Black league and a white league, it would face an immediate civil rights complaint. Excluding a football player from a team simply because of his race is unlawful discrimination.

But this is not the case when it comes to sex. The result of Title IX was not the large-scale creation of coed sports leagues, where men and women have an equal opportunity to compete in the same events, where the best man or woman makes the team, and the best man or woman wins the race. Instead, Title IX has resulted in the expansion of women’s sports into an enormous, separate and parallel apparatus, where women by the millions compete against one another, winning women’s titles in women’s leagues.

Why this difference? Why have two statutes with such similar language created such different realities? Because sex is substantially different from race, and treating sex the same as race would be a profound injustice for women in sports.

Let’s go back to the language of the statute itself, which speaks in terms of both “participation” and “benefits.” If you treat people of different races the same, people of all races can both participate and receive the benefits of participation in athletics. If you treat people of different sexes the same, the reality is very different.

This month, an en banc panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit heard arguments in a prominent case about whether Title IX prohibits transgender girls from participating in women’s sports. The case involves claims by four former Connecticut female high school track athletes who lost races to two transgender (natal male) athletes, including state championships.

The plaintiffs in the case sought a declaration that the state sports league’s policy permitting transgender girls to compete in women’s athletics violated Title IX by “failing to provide competitive opportunities that effectively accommodate the abilities of girls” and failing to provide “equal treatment, benefits and opportunities for girls in athletic competition.” The plaintiffs argued that Title IX was intended to grant women and girls the “chance to be champions,” not just a right to compete.

Last year, a three-judge panel of the appellate court rejected the plaintiffs’ claims. The panel didn’t reject the “chance to be champions” theory entirely, but Judge Denny Chin, writing for the court, said that the plaintiffs had not claimed “an injury in fact” (and thus lacked standing to bring their claims) because “all four plaintiffs regularly competed at state track championships as high school athletes, where plaintiffs had the opportunity to compete for state titles in different events.” Indeed, as the court notes, one of the plaintiffs even beat the transgender athletes in a 100-meter race in 2019. Under the court’s reasoning, the chance to compete was a “chance to be a champion.”

But then something unusual happened. The entire appeals court asked to hear the case. This month, the court heard oral arguments, and a decision is expected soon. The oral arguments were dominated by questions of standing — whether a loss of a championship should be considered a legally recognizable injury, an injury that courts should or could address.

To be clear, the question was not whether the transgender girls did anything wrong — casting any aspersions on their participation in the races would be profoundly unjust. They ran the race in accordance with the rules of the race. The question was whether the rules were wrong.

The transgender athletes intervened in the case, with the aid of the A.C.L.U., and argued that “Title IX does not require sex-separated teams or an equal number of trophies for male and female athletes.” They emphasized that the plaintiffs “repeatedly outperformed” the transgender athletes “in direct competition.”

But the argument is not that transgender athletes will always win, but rather that if schools replace sex with gender identity as the relevant criterion for participation, then the statutory sex-based promises of participation and benefits in educational programs will be undermined. (Gender identity, as the A.C.L.U. defined it, is a “medical term for a person’s ‘deeply felt, inherent sense’ of belonging to a particular sex.”)

After all, when we survey the performance gap between male and female athletes, is that gap best explained by the differences in gender identity between the competitors or the differences that are inherent in biological sex? And if those differences are best explained by biological sex rather than gender identity, then any rule that wipes out biological sex as the determining factor in eligibility will undermine both the practical and legal basis for women’s sports.

I’m not a catastrophist. I hate rhetoric that declares that women’s sports will be “destroyed” by the inclusion of a small number of trans women in athletic competition. I hate even more any demonization or disparagement of the trans athletes themselves. When they compete according to the rules of the sport, they are doing nothing wrong. But legal definitions do matter, especially when they are rooted in hard facts, such as the systematic, documented performance gap between the sexes.

All people are created equal, and possess equal moral worth, but we are not all created the same. To protect equal opportunity, there are times when the law should recognize differences. And in the realm of athletics, if we want to both secure and continue the remarkable advances women have made in the 51 years since Congress passed Title IX, it’s important to remember that sex still matters, and sex distinctions in the law should remain.

June 25


dominion voting systemsRollingstone, Newsmax Staffers Hit With Subpoenas in 2020 Election Defamation Suit, Staff Report, June 25, 2023. Court filings rife with internal communications exposed Fox News’ post-election misinformation push. Newsmax could be next.

rolling stone logoDominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit against Fox News laid bare how the network communicated behind the scenes about broadcasting 2020 election misinformation, ultimately leading the network to fork over a massive settlement. Newsmax could be next, as voting-technology company Smartmatic has subpoenaed several of the right-wing cable network’s current and former employees for work and personal correspondence.

Several Newsmax insiders, who spoke with Rolling Stone under a condition of anonymity due to a fear of reprisal, said that roughly three weeks ago they were told to hand over “mirror images of their personal cellphone, personal email, and iCloud,” as Smartmatic’s lawsuit against the network moves forward.

Smartmaric’s attorney J. Erik Connolly, managing chair of the litigation practice group at Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan, & Aronoff, LLC, tells Rolling Stone: “Smartmatic intends to pursue discovery from the current and former Newsmax employees who participated in the egregious disinformation campaign against the company. Some of the discovery has come, and will come, from the company. Smartmatic is pursuing these individuals to get the rest. Our complaint does not numerically specify the amount of damages we have suffered.”

Smartmatic claims in its lawsuit that Newsmax knowingly pushed falsehoods about the company following the 2020 presidential election. “Newsmax published and/or republished false statements and implications during news broadcasts, in online reports, and on social media that ‘Smartmatic participated in a criminal conspiracy’ to fix, rig, and steal the Election,” the defamation suit alleges.

Newsmax, which did not return Rolling Stone’s request for comment, initially pushed back on the Smartmatic defamation suit with a countersuit claiming it was an intimidation tactic. However, in February 2023, Smartmatic’s case was permitted to proceed, and Newsmax staffers are now being asked to hand over pertinent material.

June 22

 lina khan resized ftc

ny times logoNew York Times, F.T.C. Sues Amazon for Tricking Users Into Subscribing to Prime, David McCabe, June 22, 2023 (print ed.). The lawsuit is the first time that the Federal Trade Commission under its chair, Lina Khan, has taken Amazon to court.

The Federal Trade Commission sued Amazon on Wednesday, accusing it of illegally inducing consumers to sign up for its Prime service and then hindering them from canceling the subscription, in the most aggressive action against the company to date by the agency’s chair, Lina Khan (shown above in a file photo).

amazon logo smallIn its lawsuit, the F.T.C. argued that Amazon had “duped millions of consumers” into enrolling in Prime by using “manipulative, coercive or deceptive” design tactics on its website known as “dark patterns.” And when consumers wanted to cancel, Amazon “knowingly complicated” the process with byzantine procedures.

“Amazon tricked and trapped people into recurring subscriptions without their consent, not only frustrating users but also costing them significant money,” Ms. Khan said in a statement.

Amazon said in a statement that the F.T.C.’s “claims are false on the facts and the law” and that “by design we make it clear and simple for customers to both sign up for or cancel their Prime membership.” The company accused the F.T.C. of filing the lawsuit without advance notice, while the two sides were still in conversation about the case.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, takes aim at a key Amazon program that has become ubiquitous in the lives of more than 200 million customers. Prime members pay $139 a year to get packages shipped faster from Amazon’s retail store, to stream movies and series from its in-house studio and to receive discounts when they check out at Amazon’s Whole Foods grocery chain. The company has added more perks to Prime over time, including live sports, and has raised the annual subscription fee.

The F.T.C.’s action was the first time that the agency took Amazon to court under Ms. Khan, who rose to fame with a viral critique of the company and who is ramping up scrutiny of the e-commerce giant. Ms. Khan has said the power that big tech companies exert over online commerce requires regulators to be far more aggressive, and she has taken actions against them.

ny times logoNew York Times, China’s Cloud Computing Firms Raise Concern for U.S., David McCabe, June 22, 2023. The Biden administration is exploring whether it can counter Chinese tech giants like Alibaba and Huawei, potentially fueling tensions with Beijing.

washington post logoWashington Post, Andrew Tate, brother indicted on charges of rape, human trafficking, Victoria Bisset and Loveday Morris, June 21, 2023 (print ed.). Romanian prosecutors announced Tuesday they had indicted internet personality and self-described misogynist Andrew Tate, right, and his brother on charges of human trafficking, rape and forming an organized crime group.

andrew tate 2021The indictment marks the end of the criminal investigation into Tate and two Romanian associates, and prosecutors will now send the case to trial. The prosecutors’ statement said the injured parties were “sexually exploited by group members” and forced to produce online pornography through acts of “violence and mental coercion.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Samuel Alito’s reply in The Wall Street Journal took ProPublica by surprise, Katie Robertson, June 22, 2023. The Wall Street Journal made the unusual decision to let Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. pre-empt ProPublica’s article about him in its opinion pages.

The Wall Street Journal faced criticism on Wednesday after its highly unusual decision to let Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. pre-empt another media organization’s article about him by publishing his response in its opinion pages.

The essay by Justice Alito in The Journal’s opinion section, which operates independently of its newsroom, ran online on Tuesday evening with the headline “Justice Samuel Alito: ProPublica Misleads Its Readers.”

An editor’s note at the top of the essay said two ProPublica reporters, Justin Elliott and Josh Kaplan, had emailed questions to Justice Alito on Friday and had asked him to respond by noon Tuesday. “Here is Justice Alito’s response,” the editor’s note said.

ProPublica published its investigation into Justice Alito several hours later on Tuesday, revealing that he took a luxury fishing trip in 2008 as the guest of Paul Singer, a billionaire Republican donor, and had not disclosed the trip nor recused himself from cases since then that involved Mr. Singer’s hedge fund.

Stephen Engelberg, the editor in chief of ProPublica, said in a statement on Wednesday that ProPublica always invited people mentioned in articles to offer a response before publication. ProPublica has run several articles in recent months about possible conflicts of interests among some Supreme Court justices.

“We were surprised to see Justice Alito’s answers appear to our questions in an opinion essay in The Wall Street Journal, but we’re happy to get a response in any form,” he said.

“We’re curious to know whether The Journal fact-checked the essay before publication,” he added. “We strongly reject the headline’s assertion that ‘ProPublica Misleads Its Readers,’ which the piece declared without anyone having read the article and without asking for our comment.”

A spokeswoman for The Journal did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In an editorial published Wednesday evening, The Journal’s editorial board wrote that it had seen ProPublica’s questions for Justice Alito and that he “clearly wanted his defense to receive public disclosure in full, not edited piecemeal.”

Bill Grueskin, a professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, said that while essays on opinion pages usually got some form of fact-checking, The Journal would have been unable to do so in this case because the ProPublica investigation had not yet been published.

“Justice Alito could have issued this as a statement on the SCOTUS website,” Mr. Grueskin, a former top news editor at The Journal, said in an email. “But the fact that he chose The Journal — and that the editorial page was willing to serve as his loyal factotum — says a great deal about the relationship between the two parties.”

In the article, Justice Alito argued that ProPublica’s claims that he should have recused himself from certain cases and should have disclosed certain items in a 2008 financial disclosure report were not valid.

Rod Hicks, the director of ethics and diversity for the Society of Professional Journalists, said that “it’s quite uncommon for a news outlet to allow an official to use its platform to respond to questions from a different outlet.”

“And it’s totally unheard-of to post that response before the other outlet even publishes its story,” he added. “If not ethics, professional courtesy should have restrained The Journal.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Bookforum is Returning, Months After the Literary World Mourned its Closure, Kate Dwyer, June 22, 2023. The literary magazine will be back in print in August, with a new publishing partner: The Nation.

Bookforum’s relaunch, announced on Thursday, marks a return to form, said Bhaskar Sunkara, president of The Nation, who initiated talks in the spring. Bookforum will remain a quarterly print publication with the same branding and aesthetic, helmed by the staff at the time of its closure, he added. Longtime contributors have signed on to write for the relaunch issue.

June 21

samuel alito frowing uncreditedwashington post logoWashington Post, ProPublica asked about Alito’s travel. He replied in the Wall Street Journal, Paul Farhi, June 21, 2023. Questioned about an undisclosed fishing trip hosted by a GOP billionaire, the Supreme Court justice instead shared his rebuttal in a rival media outlet — before the investigative journalists could publish their scoop.

pro publica logoSupreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., shown above in a file photo, took issue with questions raised by the investigative journalism outlet ProPublica about his travel with a politically active billionaire, and on Tuesday evening, he outlined his defense in an op-ed published by the Wall Street Journal.

Yet Alito was responding to a news story that ProPublica hadn’t yet published.

Alito’s Journal column, bluntly headlined “ProPublica Misleads Its Readers,” was an unusual public venture by a Supreme Court justice into the highly opinionated realm of a newspaper editorial page. And it drew criticism late Tuesday for effectively leaking elements of ProPublica’s still-in-progress journalism — with the assistance of the Journal’s editorial-page editors.

An editor’s note at the top of Alito’s column said that ProPublica reporters Justin Elliott and Josh Kaplan had sent a series of questions to Alito last week and asked for a response by Tuesday at noon. The editor’s note doesn’t mention that ProPublica hadn’t yet published its story — nor that Alito did not provide his answers directly to ProPublica.

June 20

ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Targets Researchers Who Study Disinformation Ahead of 2024 Election, Steven Lee Myers and Sheera Frenkel, June 20, 2023 (print ed.). A legal campaign against universities and think tanks seeks to undermine the fight against false claims about elections, vaccines and other topics.

On Capitol Hill and in the courts, Republican lawmakers and activists are mounting a sweeping legal campaign against universities, think tanks and private companies that study the spread of disinformation, accusing them of colluding with the government to suppress conservative speech online.

djt maga hatThe effort has encumbered its targets with expansive requests for information and, in some cases, subpoenas — demanding notes, emails and other information related to social media companies and the government dating back to 2015. Complying has consumed time and resources and already affected the groups’ ability to do research and raise money, according to several people involved.

They and others warned that the campaign undermined the fight against disinformation in American society when the problem is, by most accounts, on the rise — and when another presidential election is around the corner. Many of those behind the Republican effort had also joined former President Donald J. Trump in falsely challenging the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

“I think it’s quite obviously a cynical — and I would say wildly partisan — attempt to chill research,” said Jameel Jaffer, the executive director of Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute, an organization that works to safeguard freedom of speech and the press.

The House Judiciary Committee, which in January came under Republican majority control, has sent scores of letters and subpoenas to the researchers — only some of which have been made public. It has threatened legal action against those who have not responded quickly or fully enough.

A conservative advocacy group led by Stephen Miller, the former adviser to Mr. Trump, filed a class-action lawsuit last month in U.S. District Court in Louisiana that echoes many of the committee’s accusations and focuses on some of the same defendants.

Targets include Stanford, Clemson and New York Universities and the University of Washington; the Atlantic Council, the German Marshall Fund and the National Conference on Citizenship, all nonpartisan, nongovernmental organizations in Washington; the Wikimedia Foundation in San Francisco; and Graphika, a company that researches disinformation online.

In a related line of inquiry, the committee has also issued a subpoena to the World Federation of Advertisers, a trade association, and the Global Alliance for Responsible Media it created. The committee’s Republican leaders have accused the groups of violating antitrust laws by conspiring to cut off advertising revenue for content researchers and tech companies found to be harmful.

The committee’s chairman, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, a close ally of Mr. Trump, has accused the organizations of “censorship of disfavored speech” involving issues that have galvanized the Republican Party: the policies around the Covid-19 pandemic and the integrity of the American political system, including the outcome of the 2020 election.

Much of the disinformation surrounding both issues has come from the right. Many Republicans are convinced that researchers who study disinformation have pressed social media platforms to discriminate against conservative voices.

Those complaints have been fueled by Twitter’s decision under its new owner, Elon Musk, to release selected internal communications between government officials and Twitter employees. The communications show government officials urging Twitter to take action against accounts spreading disinformation but stopping short of ordering them to do, as some critics claimed.

June 17

ny times logoNew York Times, Meta to Lower Age for Users of Virtual Reality Headset to 10 From 13, Mike Isaac, Adam Satariano and Natasha Singer, June 17, 2023 (print ed.). The company has reached out to regulators about its plans, which could set off privacy and safety concerns for parents and watchdogs.

meta logoMeta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, plans to lower the recommended age for using its Quest headset to 10 from 13, the company said in a blog post on Friday, a move that could set off new privacy and safety concerns with parents and global watchdogs.

facebook logoThe company is discussing its plans with regulators, two people with knowledge of Meta’s conversations said, and is trying to assuage immediate concerns over whether younger children using the headset could be subject to greater risk.

Meta said it would require a preteen’s parental approval to set up an account, and that young users would only see apps and content rated for the preteen age group. The Quest headset allows people to enter the so-called metaverse, an immersive online world, and to play virtual reality games and do other tasks.

Over the past year, Meta has slowly moved the age restrictions for its virtual reality apps lower to reach younger audiences. In April, the company said it would allow people under 18 to use Horizon Worlds, its virtual reality-based social network, which appears to have many young users. Horizon Worlds will remain restricted to users 13 and older, as reported earlier by The Verge.

June 15



southern baptist convention logo

ny times logoNew York Times, What’s at Stake as Southern Baptists Move to Bar Women Pastors, Colbi Edmonds, June 15, 2023 (print ed.). The influential Southern Baptist Convention is grappling with divisions over the role of women in leadership.

The Southern Baptist Convention, a denomination that is often a bellwether for evangelical America, has expelled five churches from the convention this year over their appointment of women as pastors.

southern baptist convention logo 2The move to enforce a strict ban against women in church leadership comes as some evangelicals fear a liberal drift in their congregations and a departure from Scripture.

On Tuesday, two of those churches, Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., and Saddleback Church in Southern California, appealed their expulsions before thousands of delegates at the annual convention in New Orleans.

At the same time, ultraconservatives were moving to amend the S.B.C. constitution to further restrict the role of women in leadership, by stating that a church could be Southern Baptist only if it “does not affirm, appoint or employ a woman as a pastor of any kind.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Southern Baptists Move to Purge Churches With Female Pastors, Elizabeth Dias and Ruth Graham, June 14, 2023 (print ed.). Some conservatives in the evangelical denomination fear a liberal drift and are set to vote on a strict ban against women in church leadership.

southern baptist convention logo 2The letter in October came as a shock to Linda Barnes Popham, who had been the pastor of Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., for 30 years, the first woman to lead her congregation. She had served in ministry even longer, since she started as a pianist at age 16.

But now, she read in the letter, officials of the Southern Baptist Convention had received a complaint about her church being led by a woman. The denomination was investigating, it said.

She replied at length, listing her qualifications and her church’s interpretation of the Bible that affirmed her eligibility to lead. Church deacons, including men, rallied to her defense.

Convention officials decided to expel her church anyway, along with four other congregations that have female pastors, including one of the most prominent in the country, Saddleback Church, based in Southern California.

“I never believed this would happen,” Ms. Barnes Popham said of the move to expel her church, as she prepared to appeal the expulsion on Tuesday afternoon before thousands of delegates at the annual S.B.C. convention in New Orleans. “Why would you want to silence the voices of the faithful churches? Why?”

However the delegates vote on her appeal, the larger message is clear: There is a movement in the Southern Baptist Convention, a denomination that is often a bellwether for evangelical America, to purge women from its leadership.

The right wing of the Southern Baptists, the largest Protestant denomination in America, is now — like conservatives more broadly — cracking down on what it sees as dangerous liberal drift. Most people in the denomination have long believed that the office of head pastor should be reserved for men. But an ultraconservative faction with a loud online presence is going further, pressing for ideological purity and arguing that female pastors are a precursor to acceptance of homosexuality and sexual immorality.

Some ultraconservatives are now pushing for investigations and expulsions of the churches whose practices differ, like Fern Creek.

The fight over the place of women in the church, long contentious, has been escalating as American evangelicalism increasingly fuses with Republican politics and a vocal ultraconservative minority pushes for power.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Twitter Carlson is trying to turn Trump’s fanbase into his own, Philip Bump, June 15, 2023 (print ed.). Earlier this year, Fox News’s prime-time lineup featured a host named Tucker Carlson. For unclear reasons, Carlson was fired by the network, and ever since he’s been trying to find his footing.

His current play is to host a sporadic “show” on Twitter which, in practice, means lengthy diatribes offered directly to the camera and then tweeted out. Whether this constitutes a violation of his severance agreement with Fox News as competing product will be adjudicated in court, though it seems very fair to assume that the extent of the “competition” is limited. His first “show” got tens of millions of views under Twitter’s extraordinarily generous and self-serving metrics, but the impact on the national conversation was minimal, to again be generous.

This is undoubtedly frustrating for Carlson. His goal was to use his platform at Fox to reshape right-wing politics, and he was having some success. Now he’s spending the 17 months before the 2024 election trying to recreate that power however he can.

As you are likely unaware, that effort included his most recent “show,” a 13-minute speech posted on Twitter on Tuesday evening. The ostensible predicate for the program was the arraignment of former president Donald Trump in a federal courthouse in Miami on criminal charges. But Carlson’s polemic instead went a different direction: trying to center his own foreign-policy philosophy as the true target of the federal government’s anger.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fox News Tells Tucker Carlson to Stop Posting Videos on Twitter, Jeremy W. Peters and Benjamin Mullin, June 13, 2023 (print ed.). The network and its former star have been engaged in an increasingly bitter dispute over Mr. Carlson’s Twitter videos, which Fox says violate his contract.

Fox News has demanded that Tucker Carlson stop posting videos to Twitter, escalating the dispute between the network and its former star host over how — and if — he can continue to speak publicly now that his prime-time show is off the air.

In a letter sent to Mr. Carlson from Fox lawyers, the network accused him of violating the terms of his contract, which runs until early 2025 and limits his ability to appear in media other than Fox. The letter is labeled “not for publication,” in all caps.

Since Mr. Carlson was ousted by Fox News, he has begun producing a bare-bones version of his Fox program, “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” and posting it directly to Twitter. The new show, called “Tucker on Twitter,” bears some of the hallmarks of his prime-time show on Fox, including a monologue focused on current affairs and cultural issues.

Harmeet K. Dhillon, a lawyer representing Mr. Carlson, said in a statement that Fox News’s legal threat was not in the interest of the network’s audience.

ny times logoNew York Times, Senate Opens Inquiry Into PGA Tour Deal with Saudi-Funded LIV Golf, Kevin Draper and Alan Blinder, June 13, 2023 (print ed.). The PGA Tour and LIV have been asked to provide documents and communications tied to the agreement announced last week.

liv golf logoThe PGA Tour and LIV Golf have not yet closed a stunning partnership agreement announced only last week, but vows from Washington to slow or stop the deal — or at least make it uncomfortable for golf executives — crystallized on Monday, when the Senate opened an inquiry into the arrangement.

richard blumenthal portraitSenator Richard Blumenthal, right, Democrat of Connecticut and the chairman of the chamber’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said Monday that he had demanded that both the PGA Tour and the Saudi Arabian-funded LIV give up a wide array of documents and communications tied to the agreement. Blumenthal also asked for records related to the PGA Tour’s nonprofit status, suggesting an appetite to challenge the tour’s tax-exempt standing.

In a statement issued three days before the start of the U.S. Open in Los Angeles, Blumenthal decried Saudi Arabia’s “deeply disturbing human rights record at home and abroad” and said the agreement raised concerns “about the Saudi government’s role in influencing this effort and the risks posed by a foreign government entity assuming control over a cherished American institution.”

ny times logoNew York Times, PGA Tour Commissioner Steps Back After ‘Medical Situation,’ Alan Blinder, June 14, 2023 (print ed.). The tour did not elaborate on Jay Monahan’s condition but said two other executives would oversee operations during his absence.

The PGA Tour said Tuesday night that Jay Monahan, right, its commissioner, was “recuperating from a medical situation” and that two of its other executives would jay monahan 2019oversee the tour’s day-to-day operations for the time being.

The tour’s four-sentence statement came one week after Monahan, 53, announced that the tour had reached a partnership deal with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, which bankrolled the LIV Golf league that has clashed with Monahan’s circuit for more than a year.

Monahan, the tour’s commissioner since 2017, was one of the lead negotiators during the secret talks, which led to a deal that has stirred a furor among players, outrage on Capitol Hill and the prospect that the Justice Department will seek to block the arrangement. He has spent recent days crafting a response to a crush of opposition to the deal, including a session with players he called “heated,” a contentious news conference, a town-hall meeting with tour employees in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and a pointed letter to lawmakers in Washington.

The tour did not elaborate on Monahan’s condition but said that its board “fully supports Jay and appreciates everyone respecting his privacy.”

The tour did not give a timeline for Monahan’s return and said that Ron Price, the circuit’s chief operating officer, and Tyler Dennis, the president of the PGA Tour, would take charge in the interim.

“Our thoughts are with Jay and his family during his absence, and we wish him a speedy recovery,” Price and Dennis said in a statement. “We have a strong and experienced leadership team in place, and our priority is to support our players and continue the work underway to further lead the PGA Tour and golf’s future.”

Monahan has worked for the tour since 2008, with stints as its chief operating officer, its chief marketing officer and as executive director of the Players Championship. Under the deal that Monahan helped broker this spring after he spent months condemning the rush of Saudi cash into men’s professional golf, the moneymaking components of the PGA Tour, LIV Golf and the DP World Tour are to be housed in a new company.

Monahan is expected to be its chief executive, and Yasir al-Rumayyan, the governor of the Saudi wealth fund, is in line for its chairmanship. Monahan and his lieutenants have insisted that the company’s structure, which allows for extensive Saudi investment, will give the PGA Tour ultimate authority over the most elite tiers of professional golf. But al-Rumayyan’s role and the potential for significant infusions of Saudi cash have helped stir doubts about the extent of Monahan’s authority.

It is not clear when the deal will close, but the agreement has been the subject of intense discussion and skepticism among players at the U.S. Open, where competition is scheduled to begin Thursday at the Los Angeles Country Club.

ny times logoNew York Times, Cormac McCarthy, Novelist of a Darker America, Is Dead at 89, Dwight Garner, June 14, 2023 (print ed.). “All the Pretty Horses,” “The Road” and “No Country for Old Men” were among his acclaimed books that explore a bleak world of violence and outsiders.

Cormac McCarthy, the formidable and reclusive writer of Appalachia and the American Southwest, whose raggedly ornate early novels about misfits and grotesques gave way to the lush taciturnity of “All the Pretty Horses” and the apocalyptic minimalism of “The Road,” died on Tuesday at his home in Santa Fe, N.M. He was 89.

Knopf, his publisher, said in a statement that his son John had confirmed the death.

Mr. McCarthy’s fiction took a dark view of the human condition and was often macabre. He decorated his novels with scalpings, beheadings, arson, rape, incest, necrophilia and cannibalism. “There’s no such thing as life without bloodshed,” he told The New York Times magazine in 1992 in a rare interview. “I think the notion that the species can be improved in some way, that everyone could live in harmony, is a really dangerous idea.”

His characters were outsiders, like him. He lived quietly and determinately outside the literary mainstream. While not quite as reclusive as Thomas Pynchon, Mr. McCarthy gave no readings and no blurbs for the jackets of other writers’ books. He never committed journalism or taught writing. He granted only a handful of interviews.

The mainstream, however, eventually came to him. “All the Pretty Horses,” a reflective western that cut against the grain of his previous work, won a National Book Award in 1992, and “The Road” won a Pulitzer Prize in 2007. Both were made into films, as was Mr. McCarthy’s “No Country for Old Men,” which won the Academy Award for best picture in 2008.

That film, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, gave the world the indelible image of Javier Bardem as Mr. McCarthy’s nihilistic hit man Anton Chigurh, dispatching his victims with a pneumatic bolt gun meant for cattle.

Mr. McCarthy had in recent years been discussed as a potential winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. The critic Harold Bloom named him one of the four major American novelists of his time, alongside Philip Roth, Don DeLillo and Thomas Pynchon, and called Mr. McCarthy’s novel “Blood Meridian” (1985), a bad dream of a Western, “the greatest single book since Faulkner’s ‘As I Lay Dying.’”

Saul Bellow noted Mr. McCarthy’s “absolutely overpowering use of language, his life-giving and death-dealing sentences.”

Acclaim for Mr. McCarthy’s work was not universal, however. Some critics found his novels portentous and self-consciously masculine. There are few notable women in his work.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: It’s Not a Good Sign When People Who Don’t Pay for News Have So Little to Choose From, Lydia Polgreen, June 13, 2023. In a recently published profile of the former CNN executive Jeff Zucker, a tidbit of news caught my eye. Zucker, who has a venture fund with $1 billion to invest, is one of at least three suitors seeking to buy a controlling stake in Air Mail, a glossy media company catering to the jet set elite, founded by the former Vanity Fair editor in chief Graydon Carter.

A recent weekly edition includes a profile of the caterer turned mercenary magnate who is a close ally (and possible competitor) of Vladimir Putin, an excoriation of new diversity rules for the Oscars and an article on Adele’s go-to rosé. It’s a frothy mix of European royals, luxurious fashion and salacious true crime, redolent of the Vanity Fair of yore. Air Mail has made quite a splash: It threw a star-studded bash with Warner Brothers in Cap d’Antibes that was the toast of the Cannes Film Festival last month. It is generally a fun read. I have been a subscriber for a while.

Still, it was jarring to see that this confection has so many suitors, checkbooks at the ready, at a time when the butcher’s bill in American journalism grows longer and longer. Last week, The Los Angeles Times announced it will reduce its newsroom staff by 13 percent, a month after the paper celebrated winning two Pulitzer Prizes. Last month, Vice, a company that once seemed like the invincible future of media, sought bankruptcy protection. BuzzFeed shuttered its Pulitzer Prize-winning news division. Insider slashed its staff by 10 percent earlier this year; its journalists are currently on strike. Hundreds of journalists from Gannett, the once mighty local news company, also staged a short strike last week after years of staffing and budget reductions. We’ve seen deep cuts at the major TV and cable news networks. MTV News closed its doors.

And last week, the pain hit close to home for me: Many of my former colleagues at Gimlet, the ambitious podcast studio where I worked from 2020 to 2022, lost their jobs. The pink slips landed shortly after the team won a Pulitzer Prize for an investigative podcast.

The loss of jobs in any industry, particularly one as central to protecting our democracy as journalism, is always worrying. But what makes these losses particularly troubling is what many of these news organizations have in common: They sought to make quality news for the masses that cost little to nothing to consume.

n an ever more unequal world, it is perhaps not surprising that we are splitting into news haves and have-nots. Those who can afford and are motivated to pay for subscriptions to access high-quality news have a wealth of choices: newspapers such as The Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times compete for their business, along with magazines such as The New Yorker and The Atlantic. Niche subscription news products serving elite audiences are also thriving and attracting investment — publications like Punchbowl News, Puck and Air Mail. The people who subscribe to these publications tend to be affluent and educated.

It bodes ill for our democracy that those who cannot pay — or choose not to — are left with whatever our broken information ecosystem manages to serve up, a crazy quilt that includes television news of diminishing ambition, social media, aggregation sites, partisan news and talk radio. Yes, a few ambitious nonprofit journalism outlets and quality digital news organizations remain, but they are hanging on by their fingernails. Some news organizations are experimenting with A.I.-generated news, which could make articles reported and written by actual human beings another bauble for the Air Mail set, along with Loro Piana loafers and silk coats from the Row.

I’ve been thinking about the problem of news for people who don’t pay for news since the last months of the 2016 presidential campaign, when I was offered a job as editor in chief at The Huffington Post, succeeding its namesake, Arianna Huffington.

Before that, I really hadn’t seriously considered leaving The Times, where I had worked for almost 15 years, mostly as a foreign correspondent. I had experienced firsthand the lengths The Times would go to report in some of the most far-flung and dangerous places in the world. My editors had sent me from the Himalayan peaks of Kashmir to the dense jungle of eastern Congo, from the desert scrub of Darfur to the sodden deltas of Bangladesh. They literally sent me to Timbuktu. Twice!

Still, I took the meeting. I knew that something had gone wrong with American journalism. Local journalism was in free-fall. Trust in the news media was reaching new depths. And most worryingly, the news organizations that were thriving were the ones that people paid for directly.

Then Donald Trump won the presidential election, and I felt that maybe in that moment there was work to do elsewhere. Maybe HuffPost, with its huge home-page audience, could be a vessel for testing this question that had been nagging at me: How can you make a quality news product for people who were never going to pay for news? What would it mean to create a news organization that saw itself not as writing about people who feel left out of the political, economic and social power arrangements, but for them? I took the job.

With its clever, large-format headlines and populist sensibility, HuffPost had the feel of a left-of-center tabloid, like The New York Daily News in its heyday. We would make news for everyone on the internet, for free. Corporate America, via digital advertising, would foot the bill. If this all sounds overly optimistic, if not downright naïve, well, it was. But what else could one do in those desperate postelection days but fuse dreams and work and hope for the best?

In a way, this plan represented a very old model of paying for quality journalism, one that began in 1833, when a young businessman named Benjamin Day had an idea. As Tim Wu wrote in his book “The Attention Merchants,” most of New York City’s newspapers at that time were priced at 6 cents — the equivalent of more than $2 today — a luxury good aimed at a tiny, wealthy audience. Day realized that he could make more money if he charged readers just a penny for his newspaper, and then sold their eyeballs to businesses who wanted to sell them stuff. His newspaper, The New York Sun, set the template for the news business in the United States for most of the next two centuries, even as new technologies such as radio and television transformed how news was distributed.

Capturing mass attention required access to expensive means of distribution: either a press and delivery trucks for print, or access to the public airwaves — which were licensed by the government — for broadcast. These costs allowed the news organizations that could afford them to corner the market on mass audiences, whose attention they then sold to advertisers. The handsome profits they reaped enabled investments in high-quality journalism, including high-risk and expensive endeavors such as investigative reporting and international coverage.

We all know what happened next. The internet, which initially promised to propel this old model even further by reducing distribution costs to near zero and creating the tools to sell ever more sophisticated kinds of advertising, instead created an economic crisis for journalism. Newspapers still had to produce their expensive print products even as the advertisements that paid for them gave way to much cheaper and more highly targeted digital ones. Paid classified advertising evaporated. Local news cratered, and even titans like The New York Times faced existential threats.

Meanwhile, the digital revolution brought a new crop of news organizations roaring to life, unburdened by physical production costs and powered by new forms of information distribution. HuffPost figured out how to reverse-engineer news articles that matched information people were searching for on the internet. Then social media arrived, and with it the opportunity to build huge audiences across people’s social networks, an art perfected by BuzzFeed. Sensing the opportunity for hypergrowth, venture capitalists piled into the media business, sending the valuations of these digital upstarts into the stratosphere. On paper, at least.

Powered by those dollars, some companies invested in quality journalism, just like the old-school newspaper publishers had when the market buoyed them. HuffPost won a Pulitzer in 2012. Vice News produced groundbreaking television coverage of the far right. BuzzFeed News invested deeply in investigative journalism and international reporting, and also won a Pulitzer. It seemed, for a time, that a new form of quality mass media was emerging on the back of new technology.

And then it all fell apart. Advertisers began cutting out the middlemen — publishers — and buying advertising directly from social media platforms, which offered what was sold as laser-sharp targeting of a company’s most desirable customers. And after Trump, who augured a new era of misinformation online and a ton of new headaches for social media companies, digital platforms largely fell out of love with news. The spigots that had gushed money-spinning traffic to new sites ran dry.

It turned out that I had arrived at the digital media party just as it started to wind down. It was almost impossible to sustain quality journalism with advertising alone. At HuffPost, we went through several rounds of layoffs in three years. Ultimately, I encouraged Verizon Media, which was then HuffPost’s owner, to sell the site to a company more focused on news. When it didn’t sell, I decided to leave. Less than a year later, Verizon all but paid BuzzFeed to take HuffPost off its hands.

HuffPost, with its big home-page audience, is less reliant on social media networks and has survived. It is smaller and less global than it once was, but it continues to employ talented and enterprising journalists who break news. But with all the layoffs, closures and bankruptcies it is hard not to feel that the old dream of digital news — lots of free, quality and diverse news from lots of different places — is mostly dead.

Instead, there are a few very successful media companies that charge people money for high-quality journalism. The best news organizations take their public service mission seriously, and do create news products that are free to all, like podcasts and email newsletters. Some have relatively porous paywalls, and even drop their paywalls entirely for coverage of major events involving public safety. But many surviving free consumer sites are cutting staff and focusing on aggregation — which is an important service, but not the same as investing in original journalism. Television news is dominated by talking heads as budgets for real news-gathering shrink. Cable news is in terminal decline in the age of cord cutting.

The current landscape means the mass audience that never paid for news and never will pay remains underserved, and that has big implications for the future of our country. Creating a shared reality was always the work of mass media. But our present and future look much more like the 1830s, with one class of people getting tips on summering in the South of France from Air Mail and everyone else reading whatever A.I.-generated aggregation the internet spits up.

For the better part of two centuries, news that was free — or at least felt free, owing to its reliance on advertising — was good business. But the advertising dollars that once underwrote ambitious mass journalism are now stuffing the pockets of technology billionaires. We’re all — even those of us willing and able to pay for quality journalism — the poorer for it.
Lydia Polgreen has been a New York Times Opinion columnist since 2022. She spent a decade as a correspondent for The Times in Africa and Asia, winning Polk and Livingston Awards for her coverage of ethnic cleansing in Darfur and resource conflicts in West Africa. She also served as editor in chief of HuffPost. @lpolgreen

washington post logoWashington Post, 9 shot in downtown Denver as fans celebrate Nuggets’ NBA title, police say, Leo Sands, June 13, 2023. At least nine people were shot in downtown Denver as people celebrated the Denver Nuggets’ NBA Finals victory early Tuesday, police said. Three of the victims are in critical condition, and a suspect is in custody, police said.

All nine of the gunshot victims, as well as the suspect, were transported to a hospital, Denver police spokesman Doug Schepman said early Tuesday.

The shooting took place around 12:30 a.m. on Market Street, where crowds had gathered to celebrate the Nuggets’ first NBA title, police said. “It did occur in the area in which we saw our largest crowd gather earlier in the night,” Schepman said when asked whether the shooting was connected to the celebrations.

Schepman said that a “smaller crowd” was in the area when the shooting took place and that authorities were able to take a suspect into custody “pretty quickly” because of the police presence downtown.

  • Washington Post, As Congress probes PGA Tour-Saudi deal, golfers ‘know literally nothing,’ Rick Maese, June 13, 2023.

Relevant Recent Headlines

June 14

ny times logoNew York Times, Google’s Online Advertising Practices Violate Antitrust Laws, E.U. Says, Adam Satariano, June 14, 2023. Regulators filed new antitrust charges against Google, which could lead to fines and orders for the company to change its business practices.

google logo customGoogle on Wednesday was charged with violating European Union antitrust laws by using its dominance in online advertising to undercut rivals, the latest in a string of cases around the world that strike at the core of the internet giant’s business model.

The case was brought by the European Commission, the executive branch of the 27-nation European Union, and marks the fourth european union logo rectangletime Google has been charged with violating European antitrust laws in recent years. In this instance, the E.U. accused Google of abusing its control of the market for buying and selling online advertising.

The European Union announcement follows similar charges brought against Google in January by the U.S. Justice Department, which accused the company of illegally abusing a monopoly over the technology that powers online advertising. Britain’s antitrust authority has also been investigating Google’s advertising practices.

The outcomes of the cases could have significant implications for Google’s parent company, Alphabet, which reaped most of its $60 billion in profit last year from advertising. Advertising underpins nearly all of Google’s most popular services, including search, email, maps and Android, and allows the company to offer them for free.

ny times logoNew York Times, Europeans Take a Major Step Toward Regulating A.I., Adam Satariano, June 14, 2023. A draft law in the European Parliament has become the world’s most far-reaching attempt to address potentially harmful effects of A.I. The European Union took an important step on Wednesday toward passing what would be one of the first major laws to regulate artificial intelligence, a potential model for policymakers around the world as they grapple with how to put guardrails on the rapidly developing technology.

european union logo rectangleThe European Parliament, a main legislative branch of the E.U., passed a draft law known as the A.I. Act, which would put new restrictions on what are seen as the technology’s riskiest uses. It would severely curtail uses of facial recognition software, while requiring makers of A.I. systems like the ChatGPT chatbot to disclose more about the data used to create their programs.

The vote is one step in a longer process. A final version of the law is not expected to be passed until later this year.

The European Union is further along than the United States and other large Western governments in regulating A.I. The 27-nation bloc has debated the topic for more than two years, and the issue took on new urgency after last year’s release of ChatGPT, which intensified concerns about the technology’s potential effects on employment and society.

June 13

washington post logoWashington Post, FTC asks federal judge to block Microsoft’s $69 billion Activision deal, Cat Zakrzewski, June 13, 2023 (print ed.). The request brings a global regulatory battle over the future of gaming to a Northern California court.

ftc logoThe Federal Trade Commission sought a restraining order Monday to block Microsoft from closing its $69 billion purchase of the gaming company Activision Blizzard, the latest regulatory hurdle for the largest deal in the tech company’s history.

The agency filed the request in Northern California District Court. The move brought the federal government and Microsoft’s months-long battle over the deal to federal court; the FTC last year filed a lawsuit challenging the deal through its own internal administrative process.

The FTC argues that the deal needs to be blocked to “maintain the status quo and prevent interim harm to competition” while its administrative process proceeds. Microsoft and the FTC are currently conducting depositions. Hearings are expected to begin in August.

The filing is a gamble for antitrust enforcers, who have recently suffered a series of setbacks in the courts to their efforts to restrain the power of large technology companies. If a judge denies the FTC’s request to block the deal, it would be a blow to its arguments in the parallel administrative proceedings.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fred Ryan to leave Washington Post after nine years as publisher, Elahe Izadi and Will Sommer, June 13, 2023 (print ed.). Ryan, chief executive of The Post for most of the decade since Jeff Bezos bought it, will lead the new Center on Public Civility at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation.

At the time, the majority of The Post’s revenue came from its print business, and it had about 35,000 digital subscribers. Now, Ryan said, the majority of The Post’s revenue comes from its digital business, and it has about 2 million digital subscribers.

Ryan presided over The Post during a period of rapid expansion, growing from around 600 newsroom employees to nearly double that size today.

One of his biggest responsibilities was to hire a new executive editor to replace Martin Baron, who retired in 2021. Ryan selected Sally Buzbee, the former top executive for the Associated Press, who became the first woman to serve as The Post’s executive editor.

His tenure also coincided with the chaotic years of the Trump presidency, when The Post and other media companies saw record levels of digital traffic and a boom in subscriptions. In the final weeks of the Trump administration in January 2021, The Post counted 3 million digital subscribers.

But those figures leveled off after Trump left office and the coronavirus pandemic ebbed. The Post ended the past year in the red after what Ryan called six years of “significant growth and profit.” (The Post is a private company that does not disclose its financials.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Why Patty Stonesifer said ‘yes’ to becoming the Post’s interim CEO, Herb Scribner and Elahe Izadi, June 13, 2023 (print ed.). Stonesifer ran the Gates Foundation for many years after several successful years at Microsoft. In meeting newsroom staffers, she emphasized that her role is temporary.

The Washington Post’s new interim CEO is a former Microsoft executive who helped Bill and Melinda Gates start their global nonprofit foundation. She has served on the Smithsonian Institution’s Board of Regents, headed a local Washington charity organization and has been on Amazon’s board of directors for nearly three decades. But what Patty Stonesifer emphasized most Monday while meeting The Post’s staff was that her job with the news organization is temporary.

“We have a couple really important jobs to fill [at The Post], starting with the publisher and CEO, and a couple of other big roles,” Stonesifer said in an interview Monday afternoon, noting that she will help Post owner Jeff Bezos, a longtime friend, pick his next publisher and CEO. “There are changes across the organization the last couple of years, and just ensuring the team and the culture are in place for the decade ahead is really the number one goal.”

Fred Ryan to leave Washington Post after nine years as publisher

Stonesifer’s appointment Monday came with the news that Post Publisher Fred Ryan will step down from the helm after nine years. Ryan will depart in August, but Stonesifer will begin work immediately.

Addressing The Post’s newsroom staff with Ryan soon after the announcements, Stonesifer said Bezos asked her to oversee a smooth transition for the company. (Neither Ryan nor Stonesifer would comment on when those conversations began.)

“I had no reason to say yes,” she told the newsroom, noting her age, 67. “But this place makes me say yes.”

In an interview earlier in the day, noting that she had been on the job for “41/2 minutes,” Stonesifer spoke of Bezos’s commitment and interest in The Post. “For the past 10 years, he has talked about it all the time,” she said. “He is very dedicated to the mission and the quality.”

Stonesifer, who lives in Washington’s Cleveland Park neighborhood with her husband, the journalist Michael Kinsley, told the staff that she is an avid, longtime reader of The Post on all its platforms, digital and print. She praised its journalism, including recent coverage of the Supreme Court, the indictment of former president Donald Trump and restaurants.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House press secretary violated Hatch Act, watchdog agency finds, Mariana Alfaro, Amy B Wang and Matt Viser, June 13, 2023. At issue was the use of the phrase ‘mega MAGA Republicans’ during briefings to reporters.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre violated the Hatch Act, a law that bars federal employees from promoting partisan politics while in their official capacity, for how she spoke about Republicans during official White House press briefings, a government watchdog agency found. But the agency also did not recommend any reprimand.

The Office of Special Counsel, an independent agency that enforces the act, cited Jean-Pierre’s use of the phrase “mega MAGA Republicans” during news briefings leading up to the 2022 midterms as being in violation of the 1939 law, according to the letter dated June 7.

“Because Ms. Jean‐Pierre made the statements while acting in her official capacity, she violated the Hatch Act prohibition against using her official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election,” Ana Galindo‐Marrone, who leads the agency’s Hatch Act Unit, wrote in the letter.

The office, however, did not recommend any reprimand, saying that Jean-Pierre may not have been told such phrasing was a violation.

“The White House Counsel’s Office did not at the time believe that Ms. Jean‐Pierre’s remarks were prohibited by the Hatch Act, and it is unclear whether OSC’s contrary analysis regarding the use of ‘MAGA Republicans’ was ever conveyed to Ms. Jean‐Pierre,” the letter stated.

Jean-Pierre has frequently cited the Hatch Act during press briefings, often using it as a reason she cannot answer reporters’ questions. White House spokesman Andrew Bates said Monday that the administration is reviewing the OSC’s opinion.

“As has been made clear throughout the administration, we take the law seriously and uphold the Hatch Act,” Bates said.

In the leadup to the midterm elections, President Biden began using the term “MAGA Republicans” last summer to refer to Republicans who are tied to former president Donald Trump, who announced last fall his campaign to again seek the GOP nomination for the presidency. Presidents are not subject to the Hatch Act, even though their political appointees are.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: The NBA has gone global, with Nikola Jokic as its all-world center, Jerry Brewer, June 13, 2023 (print ed.). At 2:30 a.m. in Serbia, the dream appeared on live television. Nikola Jokic lumbered onto the NBA Finals court one last, victorious time and proceeded to transcend imagination. With a Finals MVP performance to clinch his adopted city’s first championship, Jokic stands now as a phenomenon that many in his hoops-crazed country once thought impossible: the best player in the world.

The screen didn’t lie. His unorthodox greatness was as striking on the Arena Sport broadcast in Serbia as it was on ABC in the United States. Or on networks in China, Finland, France, Italy, Latin America and Spain, all of which were on-site covering a sport whose global popularity keeps multiplying.

As the Denver Nuggets celebrate their confetti-triggering 94-89 win over the Miami Heat in Game 5, the world sees the superstar Jokic has become. The world sees the diversifying virtue of the entire NBA. This is no longer a league that one team, rivalry or nation can own.

washington post logoWashington Post, 9 shot in downtown Denver as fans celebrate Nuggets’ NBA title, police say, Leo Sands, June 13, 2023. At least nine people were shot in downtown Denver as people celebrated the Denver Nuggets’ NBA Finals victory early Tuesday, police said. Three of the victims are in critical condition, and a suspect is in custody, police said.

All nine of the gunshot victims, as well as the suspect, were transported to a hospital, Denver police spokesman Doug Schepman said early Tuesday.

The shooting took place around 12:30 a.m. on Market Street, where crowds had gathered to celebrate the Nuggets’ first NBA title, police said. “It did occur in the area in which we saw our largest crowd gather earlier in the night,” Schepman said when asked whether the shooting was connected to the celebrations.

Schepman said that a “smaller crowd” was in the area when the shooting took place and that authorities were able to take a suspect into custody “pretty quickly” because of the police presence downtown.

  • Washington Post, As Congress probes PGA Tour-Saudi deal, golfers ‘know literally nothing,’ Rick Maese, June 13, 2023.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Athletic announces layoffs and a new approach to its sports coverage, Ben Strauss, June 13, 2023 (print ed.). The Athletic, the subscription sports website owned by the New York Times, announced Monday that it was laying off nearly 20 reporters, or about 4 percent of its journalistic staff. The news was delivered in an email to staffers from The Athletic’s publisher David Perpich and editor in chief Steven Ginsberg.

The note said an additional 20 reporters would be moved from their current team beats to new ones, including regional coverage or general assignment roles.

ny times logoThat strategy marks a departure from the one-time mission of the outlet, which was to cover every team from every major league across the country with a dedicated reporter. The Athletic has been successful editorially, with millions of subscribers, but that coverage — and the travel and staffing associated with it — is expensive.

“The Athletic has generally viewed every league in a similar manner, with similar beats and offerings. But our growing body of research and our own understanding of the sports we cover compel a more nuanced approach,” the note said, adding, “There is no perfect formula for determining which teams to cover, but we are committing dedicated beat reporters to the ones that most consistently produce stories that appeal to both large and news-hungry fan bases, as well as leaguewide audiences.”

 Alex Soros with his father, George, in February. Both lean left politically (Alex Soros photo on Twitter via Reuters).Alex Soros with his father, George, in February. Both lean left politically (Alex Soros photo on Twitter via Reuters).

ny times logoNew York Times, George Soros Gives Control of His $25 Billion Foundation to His Son, Michael J. de la Merced, June 13, 2023 (print ed.).  Alex Soros will take the reins of the grant-making network from his father, whose support of liberal causes has long made him a boogeyman of the right.

After decades running one of the most prominent and politically active financial empires, George Soros is handing the reins of his $25 billion Open Society Foundations to his son Alex, the grant-making network confirmed on Monday.

The move is another example of succession planning by Wall Street’s old guard. But the changeover is especially notable because it involves the elder Soros, whose unabashed support of liberal causes, to the tune of $1.5 billion a year, has long made him a boogeyman of the right.

Alex Soros, the second-youngest of George’s five children, was elected the foundation’s chairman in December. He also serves as president of the Soros super PAC and is the only family member on the investment committee for Soros Fund Management, a private investment management firm.

That will put him in charge of a philanthropic empire, funded from the billions that George Soros made from finance. Over five decades, George Soros cemented his reputation as one of the most successful investors in modern history, particularly when he made more than $1 billion by betting against the British pound in 1992.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fox News Tells Tucker Carlson to Stop Posting Videos on Twitter, Jeremy W. Peters and Benjamin Mullin, June 13, 2023 (print ed.). The network and its former star have been engaged in an increasingly bitter dispute over Mr. Carlson’s Twitter videos, which Fox says violate his contract.

Fox News has demanded that Tucker Carlson stop posting videos to Twitter, escalating the dispute between the network and its former star host over how — and if — he can continue to speak publicly now that his prime-time show is off the air.

In a letter sent to Mr. Carlson from Fox lawyers, the network accused him of violating the terms of his contract, which runs until early 2025 and limits his ability to appear in media other than Fox. The letter is labeled “not for publication,” in all caps.

Since Mr. Carlson was ousted by Fox News, he has begun producing a bare-bones version of his Fox program, “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” and posting it directly to Twitter. The new show, called “Tucker on Twitter,” bears some of the hallmarks of his prime-time show on Fox, including a monologue focused on current affairs and cultural issues.

Harmeet K. Dhillon, a lawyer representing Mr. Carlson, said in a statement that Fox News’s legal threat was not in the interest of the network’s audience.

ny times logoNew York Times, Senate Opens Inquiry Into PGA Tour Deal with Saudi-Funded LIV Golf, Kevin Draper and Alan Blinder, June 13, 2023 (print ed.). The PGA Tour and LIV have been asked to provide documents and communications tied to the agreement announced last week.

The PGA Tour and LIV Golf have not yet closed a stunning partnership agreement announced only last week, but vows from Washington to slow or stop the deal — or at least make it uncomfortable for golf executives — crystallized on Monday, when the Senate opened an inquiry into the arrangement.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut and the chairman of the chamber’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said Monday that he had demanded that both the PGA Tour and the Saudi Arabian-funded LIV give up a wide array of documents and communications tied to the agreement. Blumenthal also asked for records related to the PGA Tour’s nonprofit status, suggesting an appetite to challenge the tour’s tax-exempt standing.

In a statement issued three days before the start of the U.S. Open in Los Angeles, Blumenthal decried Saudi Arabia’s “deeply disturbing human rights record at home and abroad” and said the agreement raised concerns “about the Saudi government’s role in influencing this effort and the risks posed by a foreign government entity assuming control over a cherished American institution.”

June 12

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Kimberly Akimbo’ and ‘Leopoldstadt’ take top awards at the Tony Awards, Peter Marks, June 12, 2023 (print ed.). “Kimberly Akimbo,” the melodically bright, tenderhearted account of a New Jersey teen who ages at five times the normal rate, was the major winner at the 76th Tony Awards on Sunday night, earning the top honor of best musical and four other prizes, including best book, score, and leading and featured actress in a musical.

As widely expected, the Tony for best play went to “Leopoldstadt” by 85-year-old Tom Stoppard, a Holocaust drama inspired by the playwright’s discovery late in life of his own Jewish roots. It collected four trophies, including best director of a play, costumes and featured actor, winning over “Ain’t No Mo’,” “The Cost of Living,” “Between Riverside and Crazy” and “Fat Ham.”

June 8

washington post logoWashington Post, Pat Robertson, televangelist who mixed politics and religion, dies at 93, Matt Schudel, June 8, 2023.  The Rev. Pat Robertson, a Baptist preacher who attracted a worldwide following as a religious broadcaster, built a business empire from his headquarters in Virginia Beach and helped create a powerful political movement of religious conservatives as a founder of the Christian Coalition, died June 8 at his home in Virginia Beach. He was 93.

The Christian Broadcasting Network, which Rev. Robertson founded, announced the death but did not provide a cause.

Rev. Robertson, the son of a long-serving U.S. congressman and senator from Virginia, was among the first evangelists to take religion out of the realm of private belief and into the secular arena of politics. In large part through his influence, the Christian right became a potent force in American politics and culture.

His sole foray into electoral politics, a short-lived effort to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 1988, “signaled the modern melding of fundamentalist Christianity with the Republican Party — an association that has continued right up to the present day,” Larry J. Sabato, a politics professor at the University of Virginia, told The Washington Post.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pat Robertson, Who Gave Christian Conservatives Clout, Is Dead at 93, Douglas Martin, June 8, 2023. A Baptist minister and a broadcaster, he turned evangelicals into a powerful constituency that helped Republicans capture Congress in 1994.

Pat Robertson, a Baptist minister with a passion for politics who marshaled Christian conservatives into a powerful constituency that helped Republicans capture both houses of Congress in 1994, died on Thursday at his home in Virginia Beach, Va. He was 93.

His death was announced by the Christian Broadcasting Network, which Mr. Robertson founded in 1960.

Mr. Robertson built an entrepreneurial empire based on his Christian faith, encompassing a university, a law school, a cable channel with broad reach, and more. A product of a family with politics in its veins, he also waged a serious though unsuccessful campaign for the 1988 Republican presidential nomination, resigning as a Baptist minister as he began the run in the face of criticism about mixing church and state.

The loss did not dampen his political fervor; he went on to found the Christian Coalition, which stoked the conservative faith-based political resurgence of the 1990s and beyond.

Whether in the pulpit, on the stump or in front of a television camera, Mr. Robertson could exhibit the mild manner of a friendly local minister, chuckling softly and displaying an almost perpetual twinkle in his eye. But he was also given to statements that his detractors saw as outlandishly wrongheaded and dangerously incendiary.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden vetoes GOP-led effort to strike down student loan forgiveness program, Mariana Alfaro,June 8, 2023 (print ed.). President Biden on Wednesday vetoed a Republican-led resolution that would have struck down his controversial plan to forgive more than $400 billion in student loans.

In a statement on Wednesday, the president said the resolution — which the Senate approved on a 52-46 vote Thursday under the Congressional Review Act, a week after the House passed the measure — would have kept millions of Americans from receiving “the essential relief they need as they recover from the economic strains associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.” The resolution called for a restart of loan payments for millions of borrowers that have been on pause since early in the coronavirus pandemic. It also would have prevented the Education Department from pursuing similar policies in the future.

In his statement, the president said it is “a shame for working families across the country that lawmakers continue to pursue this unprecedented attempt to deny critical relief to millions of their own constituents, even as several of these same lawmakers have had tens of thousands of dollars of their own business loans forgiven by the Federal Government.”

 chris licht profile, CNN/Warner Brothers photo

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Does CNN’s Turmoil Mean There’s No Room on Cable for Independent News? Jim Rutenberg, June 8, 2023. Chris Licht’s brief tenure in charge of the network showed how increasingly hard it can be to find success in today’s splintered, on-demand media era.

cnn logoThe Warner Bros. Discovery chief, David Zaslav, was clear from the day he took control of CNN in 2022 about what he wanted for the cable news network. Publicly and privately he told associates, reporters and whoever else might care that he wanted to move the network away from what he viewed as left-leaning “advocacy” and toward more “balance.” His CNN would not be anti-Trump, and would be more welcoming for Republicans.

As Mr. Zaslav’s handpicked CNN leader, Chris Licht, shown above, appeared to struggle with that remit in the months that followed, Mr. Zaslav backed him with the ultimate carte blanche statement: “Ratings be damned.”

Indeed, the ratings would go on to be damned, as would be Mr. Licht’s tenure, which abruptly ended after little more than a year on Wednesday, when Mr. Zaslav hit his limit.

Mr. Licht’s dismissal immediately raised a defining question for the television news industry and beyond: Can an unaligned independent approach to news work in today’s splintered, on-demand media era, when audiences are primed for news on their own terms? And can it work in, of all places, the highly niche precincts of cable?

Inside the Media Industry

  • Tucker Carlson: The sidelined prime-time Fox News host released the first installment of what he said would be his new show on Twitter.
  • Reporting on Sexual Misconduct: After publishing an exposé, journalists in New Hampshire faced broken windows, vulgar graffiti and a legal brawl with important First Amendment implications.
  • Gannett: Hundreds of journalists at the country’s largest newspaper chain walked off the job on June 5, accusing the company’s chief executive of decimating its local newsrooms.
  • A Rare Win in China: Amid a crackdown on the news media in Hong Kong, the city’s top court overturned the conviction of a prominent reporter who had produced a documentary that was critical of the police.

June 7

chris licht profile, CNN/Warner Brothers photo

ny times logoNew York Times, Chris Licht Is Out at CNN, Ending a Brief and Chaotic Run, John Koblin and Benjamin Mullin, June 7, 2023. Mr. Licht’s 13-month tenure as the chairman of CNN was marked by one controversy after another, culminating in his exit.

Chris Licht (shown above in a CNN photo), the former television producer who oversaw a brief and chaotic run as the chairman of CNN, is out at the network.

cnn logoDavid Zaslav, the chief executive of CNN’s parent, Warner Bros. Discovery, informed staff on Wednesday morning that he had met with Mr. Licht and that he was leaving, effective immediately.

Mr. Licht’s 13-month run at CNN was marked by one controversy after another. He got off to a bumpy start even before he had officially started when he oversaw the shuttering of the costly CNN+ streaming service at the request of its network’s new owners, who were skeptical about a stand-alone digital product. The cuts resulted in scores of layoffs.

“For a number of reasons things didn’t work out, and that’s unfortunate,” Mr. Zaslav said, according to a recording of his remarks. “It’s really unfortunate, and ultimately that’s on me. And I take full responsibility for that.”

“This job was never going to be easy, especially at a time of great disruption and transformation,” he continued. “Chris poured his heart and soul into this job. Like all of you, he was in the line of fire and he’s taken a lot of hits. We appreciate his efforts, his passion, his love for journalism, and his love for this business.”

Mr. Zaslav said that an interim group of leaders — the CNN veterans Amy Entelis, Virginia Moseley and Eric Sherling, as well as the newly appointed chief operating officer, David Leavy — would take over before a permanent leader was installed. He said the process could take several months.

Inside the Media Industry

  • Tucker Carlson: The sidelined prime-time Fox News host released the first installment of what he said would be his new show on Twitter.
  • Reporting on Sexual Misconduct: After publishing an exposé, journalists in New Hampshire faced broken windows, vulgar graffiti and a legal brawl with important First Amendment implications.
  • Gannett: Hundreds of journalists at the country’s largest newspaper chain walked off the job on June 5, accusing the company’s chief executive of decimating its local newsrooms.
  • A Rare Win in China: Amid a crackdown on the news media in Hong Kong, the city’s top court overturned the conviction of a prominent reporter who had produced a documentary that was critical of the police.

washington post logoWashington Post, These academics studied falsehoods spread by Trump and others. Now the GOP is scrutinizing them, Naomi Nix and Joseph Menn, June 7, 2023 (print ed.). Republican House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan is demanding emails and meetings with the researchers, part of a flurry of records requests, subpoenas and lawsuits that academics say have become tools of harassment.

Republican House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan and his allies in Congress are demanding documents from and meetings with leading academics who study disinformation, increasing pressure on a group they accuse of colluding with government officials to suppress conservative speech.

Jordan’s colleagues and staffers met Tuesday on Capitol Hill with a frequent target of right-wing activists, University of Washington professor Kate Starbird, two weeks after they interviewed Clemson University professors who also track online propaganda, according to people familiar with the events.

Last week, Jordan (Ohio) threatened legal action against Stanford University, home to the Stanford Internet Observatory, for not complying fully with his records requests. The university turned over its scholars’ communications with government officials and big social media platforms but is holding back records of some disinformation complaints. Stanford told The Washington Post that it omitted internal records, some filed by students: The university is negotiating for limited interviews.

The push caps years of pressure from conservative activists who have harangued such academics online and in person and filed open-records requests to obtain the correspondence of those working at public universities. The targeted researchers study the online spread of disinformation, including falsehoods that have been accelerated by former president and candidate Donald Trump and other Republican politicians. Jordan has argued that content removals urged by some in the government has suppressed legitimate theories on vaccine risks and the covid-19 origins as well as news stories wrongly suspected of being part of foreign disinformation campaigns.

Last month, the founder of the conspiracy theory-prone outlet the Gateway Pundit and others sued Starbird and Stanford academics Alex Stamos and Renée DiResta, alleging that they are part of a “government-private censorship consortium” that tramples on free speech.

Although those pushing the inquiries have yet to score a major legal win or pass legislation, the campaign has kept alive the narrative that government officials violate the First Amendment’s free-speech guarantee by working with a variety of professors, Twitter and Facebook.

GOP lawmakers allege Big Tech conspiracy, even as ex-Twitter employees rebut them

The pressure has forced some researchers to change their approach or step back, even as disinformation is rising ahead of the 2024 election. As artificial intelligence makes deception easier and platforms relax their rules on political hoaxes, industry veterans say they fear that young scholars will avoid studying disinformation.

“The political part is intimidating — to have people with a lot of power in this world making false claims, false accusations about our work,” said Starbird, who has sharply cut back on public engagement. “We are putting that out of our minds and doubling down on the work, but we’re stepping a little bit away from the spotlight, because those tactics work.”

Starbird’s meeting Tuesday follows a letter from Jordan in March to the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public, which she co-founded to focus on online disinformation. The letter demanded years of her communications, saying the center may have supported a “censorship regime” backed by the federal government.

“Whether directly or indirectly, a government-approved or-facilitated censorship regime is a grave threat to the First Amendment and American civil liberties,” Jordan wrote.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Reporter Investigated Sexual Misconduct. Then the Attacks Began, David Enrich, June 7, 2023 (print ed.). After publishing an exposé, journalists in New Hampshire faced broken windows, vulgar graffiti and a legal brawl, with big First Amendment implications.

One drizzly Saturday in May last year, a slender man in a blue raincoat approached a house in the Boston suburb of Melrose. It was just before 6 a.m., and no one was around. The man took out a can of red spray paint and scrawled “JUST THE BEGINNING!” on the side of the white house. Then he hurled a brick through a large window and sprinted away.

The house belonged to Lauren Chooljian, a journalist at New Hampshire Public Radio. Hours earlier, her parents’ home in New Hampshire had been vandalized, too — for the second time in a month. Weeks earlier, her editor’s home had also been attacked.

The vandal’s three-word message in red would prove accurate. What started as a string of vandalism incidents has mushroomed over the past year into a bare-knuckle legal brawl with important implications for the First Amendment.

Attacks on journalists in the United States have become common. Last year, the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker identified 41 journalists who were physically assaulted. In one extreme case, a Nevada politician was charged with murdering a reporter investigating him.

Libel lawsuits have been on the rise, too, according to the latest data collected by the Media Law Resource Center. Many legal experts said such suits were often used to punish smaller news organizations for aggressive coverage and to deter others from speaking out.

And sometimes, as Ms. Chooljian and New Hampshire Public Radio have learned, the physical and legal threats converge. Their ordeal is a striking example of the perils facing news organizations in an era when politicians regularly demonize journalists and some judges want to curtail the First Amendment protections that the press has long enjoyed.

ny times logoNew York Times, Los Angeles Times to Cut More Than 10% of Newsroom, Katie Robertson, June 7, 2023. The restructuring stems from the same persistent economic headwinds facing news media across the country,” the executive editor said in an email to the staff.

los angeles times logoThe Los Angeles Times is cutting more than 10 percent of its newsroom jobs, its executive editor, Kevin Merida, said on Wednesday.

In an email to staff, Mr. Merida said the company was restructuring and would eliminate 74 roles as a result. A spokeswoman for the news organization, Hillary Manning, said about 500 people would remain.

“The restructuring stems from the same persistent economic headwinds facing news media across the country,” Mr. Merida said in the email, which was obtained by The New York Times. “Collectively, we have done a vast amount of work as a company to meet the budget and revenue challenges head-on. But that work will need acceleration, and we will need more radical transformation in the newsroom for us to become a self-sustaining enterprise.”

Mr. Merida also said that while “the weeks and months ahead will test us as a newsroom,” he remained “supremely confident” about the publication’s future.

“We are on the brink, I’m convinced, of doing something extraordinary,” he said, “transforming a 141-year-old newspaper into a truly next-generation digital powerhouse that serves the people of this city, and the world, in unparalleled ways.”

Mr. Merida was appointed two years ago to lead the newsroom and help it compete on a national scale. Last month, The Los Angeles Times won two Pulitzer Prizes: for breaking news reporting and for feature photography.

The Los Angeles Times is owned by Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, a billionaire biotech entrepreneur, and his wife, Michele B. Chan, who bought the paper and other publications in 2018 from Tribune for $500 million. Dr. Soon-Shiong invested in the newsroom, adding around 150 journalists.

Ms. Manning, the spokeswoman, said in a statement that the economics of operating a media had grown “increasingly challenging” since the pandemic started and that the company was positioning itself to navigate this year and beyond.

She declined to comment on which sections would be affected by the cuts. The people being laid off were to be informed on Wednesday.

Reed Johnson, the unit council chair for the L.A. Times Guild, said in a statement that the union was outraged by the decision, which would affect about 15 percent of unionized members of the newsroom.

“We were blindsided by this news,” he said. “Management did not consult us in advance about other options for cutting costs and saving money, short of layoffs. We have been bargaining a new contract since September, and this was never hinted at during bargaining.”

Other media organizations that have also made cuts in recent months include CNN, Gannett, The Washington Post and NPR.

June 6

ny times logoNew York Times, Françoise Gilot, Artist in the Shadow of Picasso, Is Dead at 101, Alan Riding, June 6, 2023. An accomplished painter (and memoirist) in her own right, she was long his lover until she did what no other mistress of his had ever done: She walked out.

Françoise Gilot, an accomplished painter whose art was eclipsed by her long and stormy romantic relationship with a much older Pablo Picasso, and who alone among his many mistresses walked out on him, died on Tuesday at a hospital in Manhattan. She was 101.

The death was confirmed by her daughter Aurelia Engel, who said Ms. Gilot had recently been dealing with heart and lung ailments.

“You imagine people will be interested in you?” Ms. Gilot quoted a surprised Picasso as saying after she told him that she was leaving him. “They won’t ever, really, just for yourself. Even if you think people like you, it will only be a kind of curiosity they will have about a person whose life touched mine so intimately.”

But unlike his two wives and other mistresses, Ms. Gilot rebuilt her life after she ended the relationship, in 1953, almost a decade after it had begun despite an age difference of 40 years. She continued painting and exhibiting her work and wrote books.

ny times logoNew York Times, Astrud Gilberto, 83, Dies; Shot to Fame With ‘The Girl From Ipanema,’ Jim Farber, June 6, 2023. Astrud Gilberto, whose soft and sexy vocal performance on “The Girl From Ipanema,” the first song she ever recorded, helped make the sway of Brazilian bossa nova a hit sound in the United States in the 1960s, died on Monday. She was 83.

June 5

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter’s U.S. Ad Sales Plunge 59% as Woes Continue, Ryan Mac and Tiffany Hsu, June 5, 2023. In internal forecasts, the company projected that ad sales would keep declining, handing a tough challenge to its new chief executive.

twitter bird CustomElon Musk, below left, recently said Twitter’s advertising business was on the upswing. “Almost all advertisers have come back,” he asserted, adding that the elon musk 2015social media company could soon become profitable.

But Twitter’s U.S. advertising revenue for the five weeks from April 1 to the first week of May was $88 million, down 59 percent from a year earlier, according to an internal presentation obtained by The New York Times. The company has regularly fallen short of its U.S. weekly sales projections, sometimes by as much as 30 percent, the document said.

That performance is unlikely to improve anytime soon, according to the documents and seven current and former Twitter employees.

Twitter’s ad sales staff is concerned that advertisers may be spooked by a rise in hate speech and pornography on the social network, as well as more ads featuring online gambling and marijuana products, the people said. The company has forecast that its U.S. ad revenue this month will be down at least 56 percent each week compared with a year ago, according to one internal document.

These issues will soon be inherited by Linda Yaccarino, the NBCUniversal executive whom Mr. Musk named Twitter’s chief executive last month. She is expected to start the job on Monday, four people familiar with the situation said.

The state of Twitter’s advertising is crucial because ads have long made up 90 percent of the company’s revenue. After Mr. Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion in October and took the company private, he vowed to build “the most respected ad platform.” But he quickly alienated advertisers by firing key sales executives, spreading a conspiracy theory on the site and welcoming back barred Twitter users.

In March, Mr. Musk said the company was worth $20 billion, down more than 50 percent from the $44 billion he paid for it. Last week, the mutual funds giant Fidelity, which owns shares in Twitter, valued the company at $15 billion.

June 4

 jeff zucker cnn

ny times logoNew York Times, Could Jeff Zucker Fix CNN? He Seems to Think So, Benjamin Mullin, June 4, 2023. It’s been more than a year since Jeff Zucker, shown above in a file photo,  was forced from the top job at the network. Since then, he has made no secret of his frustrations with his exit.

The seminar was to be on media leadership. Dozens of students filling a classroom at Yale University in April were there to learn about the business from a man who had commanded attention in TV control rooms and corporate boardrooms for decades before a stunning exit last year.

cnn logoWhat they got was remarkable candor about that exit.

Jeff Zucker, who had been president of CNN for nine years, told the group that he believed the network’s former owners used his relationship with Allison Gollust — who was also in attendance — as a pretext for removing him, three people familiar with his comments said.

In front of the students — where other high-profile media executives, including Bob Iger of Disney, were scheduled to speak the same day — Mr. Zucker compared his failure to disclose his relationship with Ms. Gollust, CNN’s former communications chief, to handing over a dangerous weapon.

“I gave them a gun, and they shot me with it,” Mr. Zucker said, according to the people.

That Mr. Zucker would compare his forced departure to a gunshot wound underscores the depth of his frustration with his last days at a network he controlled with exacting detail for years.

The complaint wasn’t unusual for Mr. Zucker, 58. He often compares notes on the media business with former colleagues and industry acquaintances, many of whom call him to grouse about the current state of CNN.

But his gripes have become more frequent of late, and he has made no secret of his unhappiness with the terms of his exit from CNN or his low regard for the performance of its current leader, Chris Licht. In a sense, he is now serving as a kind of grievance switchboard for current and former employees of the news network, many people who have spoken with him said.

Mr. Zucker’s criticism may be painful for executives running CNN to hear second- and thirdhand. But also painful are the numbers: The news division, which once regularly made more than $1 billion in profit annually, generated just $750 million in profit last year, in part because of what Warner Bros. Discovery said was $200 million in losses from the CNN+ streaming service. And its ratings were down more than 30 percent in the first quarter of this year compared with the same point in the 2020 presidential election cycle, when Donald J. Trump — a major driver of cable news viewership — was still in the White House, according to Nielsen data.

As it has geared up to cover the 2024 campaign, the network has committed some unforced errors. Last month, CNN hosted a town hall with Mr. Trump in New Hampshire that was criticized for airing false information. Mr. Licht’s leadership and problems at the helm of the network were dissected at length in a 15,000-word Atlantic article that was published Friday.


chuck todd meet the press logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Chuck Todd to Leave NBC’s ‘Meet the Press,’ Benjamin Mullin, June 4, 2023. He will be succeeded by Kristen Welker, NBC’s chief White House correspondent and the co-anchor of “Weekend Today.”

Chuck Todd said on Sunday that he was stepping down from NBC’s “Meet the Press” after nine years in the moderator’s chair and would be succeeded by the network’s chief White House correspondent, Kristen Welker (shown below with Todd in a file photo).

kristen welker chuck todd meet the press january nbc william plowman

In remarks at the conclusion of the show on Sunday, Mr. Todd, 50, said he was conscious that many leaders “overstay their welcome” and that he’d rather leave “a little bit too soon than stay a tad too long.”

“I’ve let work consume me for nearly 30 years,” Mr. Todd said, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. “I can’t remember the last time I didn’t wake up before 5 or 6 a.m., and as I’ve watched too many friends and family let work consume them before it was too late, I promised my family I wouldn’t do that.”

Mr. Todd, a longtime political journalist in Washington, started as moderator of “Meet the Press” in 2014. He has recently interviewed newsmakers including former Vice President Mike Pence, Vice President Kamala Harris, the Republican presidential aspirant Vivek Ramaswamy and Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the House minority leader.

Rebecca Blumenstein, the president of editorial for NBC News, and Carrie Budoff Brown, the network’s senior vice president of politics, thanked Mr. Todd in a memo and said Mr. Todd would continue at NBC as chief political analyst.

“Through his penetrating interviews with many of the most important newsmakers, the show has played an essential role in politics and policy, routinely made front-page news, and framed the thinking in Washington and beyond,” the memo said.

Ms. Welker, 46, is a longtime NBC stalwart. She was an intern for “Today” in 1997 and has been working for the network full time since 2010. She began covering the White House for NBC a year later and has covered presidents abroad in Belgium, England, Austria, Poland and Japan. In 2020, she was widely praised for her moderation of the final presidential debate between President Donald J. Trump and Joe Biden.

June 3

 rfk jr twitter

 Going Deep with Russ Baker, Investigative Commentary: More Indications RFK Jr’s Anti Vaccine Claims Have Little Basis, Russ Baker, right, June 3, 2023. Russ whowhatwhy logoruss bakerBaker, founder and publisher of the investigative site WhoWhatWhy, is a longtime media critic, investigative reporter and researcher on historical topics, including as author of the best-selling "Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America's Invisible Government and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years."

At a time when disinformation and narrow-mindedness are at an all-time high, the last thing we need is a purported “reform” candidate who contributes to the mess.

Although COVID-19 numbers are down in the US, they are soaring in China — and we know well enough from history that as goes China, so may go the rest of the world. Therefore, it’s not a good time to just thank our lucky stars and move on. And that means we still need to achieve consensus on the threat and what to do about it.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Most people believe that the medical and scientific establishment did the best they could with an unanticipated emergency, that they made mistakes but learned along the way.

And most people remember how it was. Not so long ago, hospitals were bursting at the seams with patients deathly ill with COVID-19. As soon as one died, another was brought in. Freezer trucks were parked outside the hospitals, containing piles of bodies with nowhere to go for burial. Victims of other emergencies — car accidents, heart attacks, strokes — were being sent away in ambulances driven by desperate EMT workers who didn’t know where to go next. The public was crying out for a vaccine.

rfk jr mouth openBut not everyone seems to remember why a COVID-19 vaccine became necessary. There’s a small but loud minority who seem to have forgotten.They’re the base for Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidential campaign, which drew 20 percent of Democratic voters in a recent CNN poll. He almost certainly can’t win, but he can be a potent factor, and maybe a distraction at an inflection point in what is shaping up as an epic battle for the future of America and the world.

As noted in previous columns, I find Kennedy (shown above and at left) a bit slippery in terms of what he says about COVID-19 and vaccines. That seems a glaring deficiency given that Kennedy is ostensibly running to mitigate a lack of forthrightness and honesty among politicians.

I’ve also noticed, based on comments from his supporters, that their skepticism about the trustworthiness of the US medical establishment often extends to the US establishment in general — which they accuse of nefarious meddling in almost everything, including the endless tragedy in Ukraine.

They are infatuated by the notion that Kennedy will “unwind the empire” — as if at this particular point in history, when US power is receding, that is nevertheless more urgent than solving climate change and ensuring that humanity survives.

They lecture me, they chastise me, they say I have lost my way, or perhaps am a traitor and covert operative for big pharma, and some explicitly grouse that I was never the critical-eyed investigative reporter and resolute truth-seeker they thought I was.

So for my own sanity I’ve had to hit the mute button quite a bit lately. To be totally frank, the more I look into their assertions the more I conclude these folks don’t actually know what they’re talking about.

I also am increasingly identifying a sort of core gene, an almost reptilian-brain instinct from being in the trenches so long against an admittedly flawed US system and “empire” — a perspective so calcified and lacking in open-mindedness that all situational discernment and fair-mindedness is out the window.

It’s the Left version of a disease sweeping the country. Mindset drives everything. As a result, like Fox and Newsmax viewers, these Bobby Kennedy Jr. acolytes trust a small set of “sources” that they actually know little about.

As noted, I’ve explored many of Kennedy’s claims on various subjects, and found them to be shoddy or downright incorrect. But his supporters — much like Trump’s — will forgive almost anything, due to some “larger principle.” I’ve actually seen some writing off gross mischaracterizations as, “Well, nobody’s perfect.”

Still, they continue to send links, and videos, and articles, dismissing the millions of scientific and healthcare professionals with whom they disagree. But I keep remembering the old saying: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” And they don’t present such evidence — not even solid ordinary evidence, let alone extraordinary. Before I put a pin in this topic, I will briefly discuss one final request, which comes from a friend of long standing.


Former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, anti-vax activists Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Charlene Bollinger, and longtime Trump ally and advisor Roger Stone, left to right, backstage at a July 2021 Reawaken America event. The photo was posted but later removed by Bollinger, who has appeared with Kennedy at multiple events. She and her husband sponsored an anti-vaccine, pro-Trump rally near the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Bollinger celebrated the attack and her husband tried to enter the Capitol. Kennedy later appeared in a video for their Super PAC. Kennedy has repeatedly invoked Nazis and the Holocaust when talking about measures aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19, such as mask requirements and vaccine mandates. Kennedy, who has announced a presidential campaign for 2024, has at times invoked his family’s legacy in his anti-vaccine work, including sometimes using images of President Kennedy.

Former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, anti-vax activists Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Charlene Bollinger, and longtime Trump ally and advisor Roger Stone, left to right, backstage at a July 2021 Reawaken America event. The photo was posted but later removed by Bollinger, who has appeared with Kennedy at multiple events. She and her husband sponsored an anti-vaccine, pro-Trump rally near the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Bollinger celebrated the attack and her husband tried to enter the Capitol. Kennedy later appeared in a video for their Super PAC. Kennedy has repeatedly invoked Nazis and the Holocaust when talking about measures aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19, such as mask requirements and vaccine mandates. Kennedy, who has announced a presidential campaign for 2024, has at times invoked his family’s legacy in his anti-vaccine work, including sometimes using images of President Kennedy.

 NOTE: This week RFK Jr. excitedly tweeted that Fox News had made a documentary about him, and Elon Musk has offered him a one-on-one discussion on Twitter. The Republicans cannot wait to inflict him on Biden. Those who care neither about the accuracy of his COVID-19 claims nor about the consequences of his candidacy as a lobbed grenade in a moment of great peril must bear some personal responsibility for where this all could go. As someone just wrote to me on Twitter, “I wonder when critical thinking died in this country.”

June 2

chris licht profile, CNN/Warner Brothers photo

The Atlantic, Inside the Meltdown at CNN, Tim Alberta, Photographs by Mark Peterson, June 2, 2023. CEO Chris Licht (shown above in a CNN/Warner Brothers cnn logophoto)) felt he was on a mission to restore the network’s reputation for serious journalism. How did it all go wrong?

atlantic logo horizontal“How are we gonna cover Trump? That’s not something I stay up at night thinking about,” Chris Licht told me. “It’s very simple.”

It was the fall of 2022. This was the first of many on-the-record interviews that Licht had agreed to give me, and I wanted to know how CNN’s new leader planned to deal with another Donald Trump candidacy. Until recently Licht had been producing a successful late-night comedy show. Now, just a few months into his job running one of the world’s preeminent news organizations, he claimed to have a “simple” answer to the question that might very well come to define his legacy.

“The media has absolutely, I believe, learned its lesson,” Licht said.


steve schmidt logo horizontalThe Warning with Steve Schmidt, Steve Schmidt explains why CNN has proven to be unfit to cover Donald Trump, June 2, 2023 (18:47 mins.). Steve Schmidt reacts to the profile of the Head of CNN, Chris Licht, in The Atlantic. Steve explains how Licht's lack of character led to the debacle at the Trump Town Hall and will continue to lead to a failure in covering the former President.

The Guardian, ‘Extra Trumpy’: Atlantic profile of CNN chief Licht details town hall disaster, Martin Pengelly, June 3, 2023. Network chief executive reportedly wanted New Hampshire event to be ‘extra Trumpy’ but broadcast prompted wide condemnation

cnn logoThe CNN chief executive, Chris Licht, wanted the network’s New Hampshire town hall with Donald Trump last month to be “extra Trumpy”, according to a report on Licht’s attempts to remodel the news giant and how controversy over the Trump event continues to reverberate through US politics and media.

In a lengthy profile published on Friday, Tim Alberta of the Atlantic wrote: “Licht wasn’t scared to bring a bunch of Maga enthusiasts onto his set – he had remarked to his deputies about the ‘extra Trumpy’ make-up of the crowd CNN was expecting – and he damn sure wasn’t scared of Trump.

‘Extra Trumpy’: Atlantic profile of CNN chief Licht details town hall disaster

chris licht wThe CNN chief executive, Chris Licht, right, wanted the network’s New Hampshire town hall with Donald Trump last month to be “extra Trumpy”, according to a report on Licht’s attempts to remodel the news giant and how controversy over the Trump event continues to reverberate through US politics and media.

In a lengthy profile published on Friday, Tim Alberta of the Atlantic wrote: “Licht wasn’t scared to bring a bunch of Maga enthusiasts onto his set – he had remarked to his deputies about the ‘extra Trumpy’ make-up of the crowd CNN was expecting – and he damn sure wasn’t scared of Trump.

“The way to deal with a bully like Trump, Licht told his journalists, was to confront him with facts.”

atlantic logo horizontalBut Trump, wholly unsurprisingly, threw facts out of the window.

The former president repeated his lies about the 2020 election being stolen; abused E Jean Carroll, the writer against whom he had just been found liable for sexual assault and defamation; insulted his host, Kaitlan Collins; and otherwise revved up a crowd which responded with glee.

Before the town hall, Alberta wrote, Licht’s wish for an “extra Trumpy” crowd caused internal concern. After the event, amid widespread condemnation, Licht told Alberta he did not regret the crowd because it represented the Republican base.

Trump does dominate the Republican primary for 2024, capitalising on unprecedented legal jeopardy to lead his closest challenger, the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, by about 30 points in most polling averages.

Alberta shadowed Licht for months for the Atlantic as the executive attempted to redirect a network that took an adversarial stance when Trump was in power.

Licht said: “The mission was to go after this guy … Right or wrong. I’m not saying he’s a good guy. He’s definitely not. But, like, that was the mission.”

Trump, Licht said, “changed the rules of the game, and the media was a little caught off guard and put a jersey on and got into the game as a way of dealing with it. And at least [at] my organisation, I think we understand that jersey cannot go back on. Because guess what? It didn’t work.”

CNN, Licht said, should simply do “journalism” and aim to be “trusted … There has to be a source of absolute truth. There’s good actors, there’s bad actors, there’s a lot of shit in the world. There has to be something that you’re able to look at and go, ‘They have no agenda other than the truth.’”

He also said such an approach did not make him “a fascist rightwinger who’s trying to steal Fox viewers.”

bill mccarren ballparkNational Press Club Executive Director Bill McCarren, right, who retires this month, strengthened the Club's financial foundation and bolstered its press freedom efforts. When he wasn't at the Club, you could find him at the ballpark. Photo: McCarren family

National Press Club, McCarren strengthened Club's finances, press freedom mission, Daniel Moore, June 2, 2023. When Bill McCarren, below right, founded a startup, U.S. Newswire, in 1986, he moved one floor below a lively social club he saw as a gathering ground for connecting Washington policy-making with the journalists who make the news happen.

He joined his upstairs neighbor, the National Press Club, as a member that year. More than three decades later, he will retire after serving the last 16 years as first the Club’s general manager and then as executive director, a tenure marked by the Club’s increasing financial strength and wider reach on press freedom issues.

national  press club logoThe Club will host a farewell for McCarren at 7 p.m. Friday, June 2, in the Reliable Source.

McCarren said he was first drawn to the Club as a place where he could build a professional network for U.S. Newswire, where he was CEO.

“I had to have some kind of relationship with the media all across town,” McCarren said while sitting in the Club’s library, as multiple events proceeded in the Club’s 13th-floor gathering spaces. “This was a super-easy place for me to do that.”

He went from taking part in Club activities to running them as its top executive when he was hired as general manager in 2007.

Past presidents said McCarren’s business acumen, combined with his deep understanding of journalism, helped to guide the Club through an economic recession, the rise of social media and disinformation, the gutting of local newsrooms, increasing threats to press freedom and democracy around the world, and, finally, a global pandemic.

The Club was vibrant, with a busy bar and headline-grabbing luncheons when McCarren took the helm. That year, the Club held about 70 luncheon speakers and even hosted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by video link, said Jerry Zremski, Club president in 2007 and a longtime Washington reporter for The Buffalo News.

But the Club had no cash reserves, carried a high debt, and operated on an unprofitable business model. The Club, forced to take out loans to pay its bills, was “one financial disaster away from being in terribly dire straits,” Zremski said.

The Club board appointed McCarren executive director in 2010. He oversaw a long-term financial overhaul that involved selling artwork and refocusing the Club on higher-margin activities.

He grew the Broadcast Operations Center, bolstered catering operations, smoothed out tax issues, and “made things more efficient and professional on the business side,” said Donna Leinwand Leger, who served as Club president in 2009 and is now president and founder of DC Media Strategies LLC.

“He really got our financial ship in order,” Leinwand Leger said. “Nothing ruffled Bill’s feathers.”

As of the end of May, the Club had about $18 million in cash and investment reserves and no debt, McCarren said. Membership rolls stood at about 2,700 people.

McCarren’s work to build up financial reserves paid dividends in bolstering its position as a leading voice for press freedom.

jason rezaianHe positioned the Club to successfully secure the 2016 release of Jason Rezaian, left, the Washington Post journalist held captive in Iran. Rezaian’s case bolstered the Club’s approach in other campaigns, such as the push to free Austin Tice, a journalist held in Syria since 2012, and Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter captured in Russia this year.

“Bill showed such great resolve on press freedom issues, but without his work to stabilize the financial operations, none of the Club’s great work is possible,” said John Hughes, a Bloomberg Law editor who spent a decade on the Club board and was president in 2015.

“Our strengths as journalists are writing and reporting–most of us didn’t go to business school,” Hughes said. “But by the time we ended our Press Club service we knew a lot, thanks to Bill.”

The Club was prepared to confront the final major test of his time as executive director: the COVID-19 pandemic.

McCarren helped to bring people back to the Club as soon as possible with masking and vaccination guidelines that closely followed public health guidelines, said Lisa Matthews, the Club’s president in 2021 and planning editor for The Associated Press.

“We really could not have made it through the pandemic without Bill, in terms of the health issues and the financial considerations we had to work through,” Matthews said. “We were reworking entire budgets and plans that included people’s livelihoods.”

Looking ahead, McCarren said he wanted to see the Club continue to evolve.

It should convene difficult conversations on a sustainable business model for news and how to report on the tenuous state of democracy, he said. The Club should also consider whether to relax some long-standing practices — perhaps adding more grab-and-go food options, allowing less dressy attire, improving its WiFi and technology — to attract a younger generation to the Club, he said.

“These are big issues that I’d like to see the Club figuring out how to use its resources to address,” he said. “I think there’s an awful lot of good we can do.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: A Peek Behind the MAGA Curtain, David French, right, June 2, 2023. Every now and then, it’s important to watch Fox News in prime time. david french croppedNo, not because the programs are particularly good or because the hosts tell their audience the truth. Fox is writing Dominion Voting Systems a $787.5 million check for very good reasons, and it still faces a multibillion-dollar lawsuit from Smartmatic over the channel’s election reporting.

But to watch Fox News is to begin to understand millions of your fellow Americans. And there was no better time to start understanding the 2024 Republican primary contest than Thursday night, during Donald Trump’s town hall in Iowa, hosted by Sean Hannity.

djt maga hatTo watch the town hall was to start learning the answer to a key question: After everything, how can Republicans still be so loyal to Trump? But that word, “everything,” is loaded with different meanings in different American communities.

When I look back on the Trump years, I see a dark time of division, corruption and social decay. After all, when he left office, the murder rate was higher, drug overdose deaths had increased, and the abortion rate had gone up for the first time in decades. America was more bitterly divided, and deficits increased each year of his presidency. His early Covid lies helped fuel an immense amount of confusion and almost certainly cost American lives. And his entire sorry term was capped by a violent insurrection fueled by an avalanche of lies.

fox news logo SmallIf you watched the town hall, however, you entered an entirely different world. According to Trump’s narrative, everything he did was good. His first term was a time of economic prosperity, energy independence, fiscal responsibility, a rejuvenated military, a locked-down border and fear and respect from foreign regimes. The only thing that marred his four years was a stolen election and his unjust persecution by the corrupt Democratic Party and its allies in the F.B.I.

In Trumpworld, the Trump past is golden, and the Trump future bright, but the present is a time of misery and darkness. It is President Biden, not Trump, who mishandles classified documents. It is Biden’s family, not Trump’s, that corruptly profits off foreign regimes. Trump would have prevented the Ukraine war. Trump would have withdrawn from Afghanistan more smoothly. As for Biden himself, he’s an object of derision and pity — far too physically and mentally impaired to be president of the United States.

False narratives are often sustained by a few kernels of truth, and so it is in MAGA America. The economy was strong before Covid, and there were fewer southern border crossings each year during Trump’s presidency than during Biden’s. The ISIS caliphate fell. And I don’t know a single Republican who isn’t pleased with Trump’s judicial nominees.

Moreover, not all of Trump’s opponents possess the cleanest of hands. There were, in fact, Department of Justice excesses during its investigation of his campaign’s possible ties to Russia. A special counsel is investigating Biden’s mishandling of classified documents. Hunter Biden is under criminal investigation, and his overseas business dealings are indeed unsavory, even if there is not yet proof of criminal wrongdoing. The withdrawal from Afghanistan turned into a chaotic and bloody rout of allied forces. Inflation remains too high.

In short, there is enough truthful criticism of the Biden administration to make it vulnerable to an election loss. And there remains sufficient false Trump administration nostalgia to make Trump the G.O.P. nominee. Put both realities together, and the nation is facing RealClearPolitics polling averages that show Trump to be the overwhelming favorite for the G.O.P. nomination and a slight leader in a potential general election matchup against Biden.

Given these facts — and Thursday night’s peek at MAGA America — my colleague Frank Bruni’s warning to Democrats yesterday was timely and important: Democrats should not hope to face Trump in 2024. Rooting for him isn’t just dangerous; it’s based on misunderstandings. All too many Trump opponents — in both parties — have spent so long building their voluminous cases against him that they’ve forgotten how he looks to the other side. They can’t conceive of a coherent case for his candidacy.

The two most telling moments on Thursday came from Trump’s audience. First, they booed Mike Pence at the very mention of his name. Second, they shouted derisively at Hannity at the mere thought that Trump should perhaps tone down his rhetoric. Both moments emphasized the ferocity of their support for Trump. When you see that public response, you can begin to see his opponents’ dilemma. Given the size of Trump’s base, a winning Republican rival will have to peel away at least some members of audiences like Thursday’s — the very people who see him as a persecuted hero.

That challenge is compounded by every event like Thursday’s town hall, in which a relaxed Trump was “questioned” by a supine host in front of an adoring crowd. Hannity’s performance was quite a contrast to Kaitlan Collins’s pointed challenges to Trump during last month’s CNN town hall. Yet both events advanced Trump’s narrative. CNN’s tough questions reminded MAGA of his alleged persecution. Hannity’s coddling reminded MAGA of Trump’s alleged triumphs. Both ultimately helped Trump deepen his bond with the people who love him the most.

June 1

washington post logoWashington Post, Project Veritas sues founder James O’Keefe over his messy departure, Will Sommer, June 1, 2023 (print ed.). The right-wing group, known for its undercover videos, also alleges its former chairman lavished donor money on his own expenses.

In February, conservative undercover-video activist James O’Keefe left the nonprofit he founded, Project Veritas, amid a dispute with his board over his spending and treatment of employees.

Then he launched his comeback media tour.

O’Keefe told Donald Trump adviser turned podcaster Stephen K. Bannon that he had been “removed,” and announced on radio host Mark Levin’s show that he had been “ousted.” In an appearance on comedian Russell Brand’s podcast, O’Keefe said he had been “thrown out.” Sometimes, O’Keefe implied he had been fired at the behest of Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant and coronavirus vaccine manufacturer that he had targeted in a sting.

All this came as a surprise to the Project Veritas board, according to a lawsuit it filed Wednesday against O’Keefe. Project Veritas insists that its founder remained an employee until barely two weeks ago — even as he set up a rival organization.

ny times logoNew York Times, James Beard Foundation, Whose Awards Honor Chefs, Is Now Investigating Them, Brett Anderson and Julia Moskin, June 1, 2023 (print ed.). The group behind “the Oscars of the food world” created a new process to weed out nominees with problematic pasts. But that process has troubles of its own.

The chef Sam Fore received an ominous voice mail message this month from an unknown number. The caller identified himself as a private investigator working for the James Beard Foundation. Later that day, Ms. Fore found herself on a Zoom call, answering questions from him and another man.

“They said to me, ‘We have an anonymous complaint we have to ask you about,’” she said.

Ms. Fore is a finalist in the James Beard awards, which for nearly three decades have been considered the most prestigious culinary honors in the United States, the so-called “Oscars of the food world.” As the #MeToo movement led to high-profile revelations of misbehavior and workplace abuse in the restaurant world in recent years, the Beard foundation overhauled its processes to make the awards more equitable and diverse, and to ensure that chefs with troubling histories are not honored.

Ms. Fore is among the first subjects of an investigatory process created in 2021 as part of that overhaul. But in many ways she is the kind of chef the retooled awards are meant to recognize more fully. Early indications suggest that the new process is vulnerable to failure in several ways.

While the awards have historically honored mostly white chefs serving European-derived food in expensive urban restaurants — in fact, the other four finalists in the Best Chef: Southeast category with Ms. Fore are white men — her business, Tuk Tuk, is a pop-up that serves cuisine inspired by what she grew up eating in Lexington, Ky., as the daughter of Sri Lankan immigrants.

In what she called “an interrogation,” the investigators asked her about social media posts she had made on both private and public accounts. Someone had sent them to the foundation through an anonymous tip line on its website. The men told Ms. Fore that the posts potentially violated the organization’s code of ethics — specifically that they amounted to “targeted harassment” and “bullying.”

They included an Instagram post, she said, that was part of a domestic-violence awareness campaign, and others related to her advocacy for victims of sexual violence, including “vague tweets” about people the posts did not name.

She said she told the investigators: “We’ve been talking for 90 minutes about these tweets, and you don’t know who I’m ‘targeting’ with them. How is that targeted harassment?”

Ms. Fore is still waiting to hear whether she has been disqualified from the awards, which will be given out at a ceremony in Chicago on June 5. But she now believes that what was supposed to be the honor of a lifetime could actually do her more harm than good.

“I realize that my presence is a good look for Beard, but I cooked my way across the country to get to this level,” she said. “Now all I’ve done can be dismissed because someone on the internet called me a bully?”

Started in 1985 to honor the food writer James Beard, the foundation established its chef and restaurant awards in 1991.

The foundation has identified itself more and more closely with chefs and restaurants over the years, riding the rise in popularity of chef culture starting in the 1990s. As the American public became increasingly fascinated by restaurants and the people who run them, the profile of the awards grew, the events became more glamorous, the brand partnerships more lucrative. (According to I.R.S. filings, the foundation’s revenues jumped from $5 million in 2010 to $18 million in 2020.)

To address those problems, the foundation established an ethics committee before the 2022 awards, along with the tip line and the pursuant investigations, to ensure that the awards would not celebrate chefs who failed to meet its standards. (Brett Anderson, who co-wrote this article, was on the restaurant awards committee from 2002 to 2012.)

“The James Beard awards are known as the standard bearers of excellence in the industry. We take that very seriously,” said Clare Reichenbach, the foundation’s chief executive. “We’ve built a process with great intentionality, that we think has rigor, that reflects our values and our mission, and we stand by it.”

But it is unclear whether the foundation is up to the task of vetting the finalists.

By making itself the chief arbiter of restaurant excellence, however, the foundation also made many of the restaurant world’s most pernicious problems — inequality, lack of diversity in leadership, workplace abuse of many kinds — its own.



May 31

Politico, Fox News, backed by Trump White House lawyer, fights subpoena in leak lawsuit, Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein, May 31, 2023 (print ed.). The network is trying to protect a source who disclosed details of an FBI probe into a Chinese American scientist.

politico CustomA former Fox News reporter is fighting in court to scuttle a subpoena demanding that she reveal the source behind a series of stories that aired confidential details of a counterintelligence probe into a Chinese American scientist.

That scientist, Yanping Chen, is suing the FBI for damages, claiming that the leaked information was part of a campaign to damage her after federal prosecutors ended their six-year investigation of her without bringing charges. Chen, who operated a graduate education program based in Arlington, Virginia, also subpoenaed Fox and Catherine Herridge, now of CBS — to force her to disclose the source of several 2017 stories.

Notably, Fox News and Herridge are being represented by Patrick Philbin, a former top lawyer from Donald Trump’s White House. Philbin, who decried media leaks during Trump’s first impeachment trial, appeared in court Tuesday to help Herridge fend off the effort to expose her source.

The FBI initially suspected that Chen had lied on immigration forms about her work on the Chinese space program, and she was the subject of two search warrants and seizures of her devices. But she was informed in 2016 that she would not be charged with any wrongdoing.

fox news logo SmallWithin a year, Herridge was reporting on key aspects of the probe, as well as on the divisions within the government about the decision not to charge Chen. Chen says the reports were followed by a sharp drop in enrollment and funding for her graduate program.

Herridge’s reporting included “snippets of her immigration forms, a summary of an FBI interview with her daughter, and personal photographs of her and her husband,” according to U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper.

Chen sued the FBI, DOJ, Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security in 2018 seeking damages, an admission of wrongdoing from the government and prosecutions of any violations of the Privacy Act that may apply to her case. But after dozens of depositions failed to unmask the potential leaker, Chen turned her sights to Fox News and Herridge, which Chen’s attorneys say is a last resort.

The lawsuit has steadily advanced for five years despite generating little attention. Yet it represents the collision of a wide range of Washington interests and issues, carrying implications for how journalists’ First Amendment protections are balanced against the need to prevent leaks of sensitive government information that implicates privacy rights. Cooper noted in court Tuesday that while Congress passed the Privacy Act almost five decades ago, lawmakers have “not seen fit to pass a reporters’ shield law.”

“For better or worse,” the judge added.

Philbin, who works in the Washington office of the firm helmed by former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, sought to conduct Tuesday’s proceedings under seal, a nod to the voluminous details about the case that have been redacted from public view and the potential implications for the FBI’s counterintelligence operations. But Cooper declined, at first, to close the hearing to the public, instead urging Philbin to make broader legal arguments without delving into the sensitive details of the case. Cooper later sealed the hearing to permit the parties to delve into the sensitive details of the case.

During the public portion of the hearing, Philbin contended that Chen had failed to pursue all possible leads about the source of the leak before turning to a subpoena for Herridge. Chen’s inquiry centers around the existence of a PowerPoint document that contained details of the FBI’s probe that later wound up on Fox. Philbin said that while Chen narrowed down potential sources of the leak who “possessed” the PowerPoint to a handful of officials, she omitted a much larger number of people who had “access” to the file. That includes a counterintelligence “squad” of eight to 12 people who worked in an office where the PowerPoint was stored on a CD, he said.

Philbin’s comments prompted Justice Department senior litigation counsel Carol Federighi to interject, warning that he appeared to be veering into subjects meant to be kept from public view. Federighi intervened a second time when Philbin began to describe some binders that included pictures similar to information contained in the PowerPoint.

While journalists have won considerable protection in state courts and enjoy near-immunity from subpoenas by prosecutors in federal criminal cases due to DOJ regulations adopted by Attorney General Merrick Garland, Privacy Act lawsuits remain treacherous for members of the press.

In 2008, a judge handling a Privacy Act lawsuit brought by former government scientist Steven Hatfill ordered former USA Today reporter Toni Locy to pay escalating fines of up to $5,000 a day and attorneys’ fees for defying an order to identify her sources for stories about a federal investigation into Hatfill’s potential ties to deadly anthrax attacks in 2001.

Locy said she could not recall which sources provided specific information about Hatfill, but a judge rejected that.

While Locy’s appeal of that contempt order was pending, the U.S. government settled with Hatfill for $5.8 million, mooting the contempt fight.

Shortly after the settlement, the Justice Department informed Hatfill’s attorneys that investigators had ultimately concluded that Hatfill was not involved in the anthrax mailings.

Chen’s effort to seek damages comes just three months after the Biden administration shut down a China-focused anti-espionage program, known as the China Initiative, claiming it had created a false perception about Chinese Americans and U.S. residents from China.

Philbin has been a figure of intense interest in recent years for his presence in the White House during the crucial chaotic weeks at the end of Trump’s term, when Trump attempted to subvert the 2020 election and rebuffed calls to calm his supporters for hours as violence raged at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Philbin has interviewed twice with prosecutors now working for special counsel Jack Smith. But he’s also been seen entering the federal courthouse for various civil matters that he and his firm are involved in.

Philbin had a harsh assessment about media leaks during Trump’s 2020 impeachment trial on charges that he abused his power and obstructed Congress over allegations that he pressured Ukraine’s president to launch a criminal probe of Joe Biden. At the time, Philbin assailed congressional Democrats for what he said was animus toward Trump, exemplified by leaks from closed-door depositions.

“The testimony that took place was selectively leaked to a compliant media to establish a false narrative about the president. If that sort of conduct had occurred in a real grand jury, that would have been a criminal violation.”

ny times logoNew York Times, A.I. Poses ‘Risk of Extinction,’ Industry Leaders Warn, Kevin Roose, May 31, 2023 (print ed.). Leaders from OpenAI, Google Deepmind and other A.I. labs are set to issue a warning that future systems could be as deadly as pandemics and nuclear weapons.

A group of industry leaders is planning to warn on Tuesday that the artificial intelligence technology they are building may one day pose an existential threat to humanity and should be considered a societal risk on par with pandemics and nuclear wars.

“Mitigating the risk of extinction from A.I. should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks, such as pandemics and nuclear war,” reads a one-sentence statement expected to be released by the Center for AI Safety, a nonprofit organization. The open letter has been signed by more than 350 executives, researchers and engineers working in A.I.

The signatories included top executives from three of the leading A.I. companies: Sam Altman, chief executive of OpenAI; Demis Hassabis, chief executive of Google DeepMind; and Dario Amodei, chief executive of Anthropic.

Geoffrey Hinton and Yoshua Bengio, two of the three researchers who won a Turing Award for their pioneering work on neural networks and are often considered “godfathers” of the modern A.I. movement, signed the statement, as did other prominent researchers in the field (The third Turing Award winner, Yann LeCun, who leads Meta’s A.I. research efforts, had not signed as of Tuesday.)

The statement comes at a time of growing concern about the potential harms of artificial intelligence. Recent advancements in so-called large language models — the type of A.I. system used by ChatGPT and other chatbots — have raised fears that A.I. could soon be used at scale to spread misinformation and propaganda, or that it could eliminate millions of white-collar jobs.

Eventually, some believe, A.I. could become powerful enough that it could create societal-scale disruptions within a few years if nothing is done to slow it down, though researchers sometimes stop short of explaining how that would happen.

These fears are shared by numerous industry leaders, putting them in the unusual position of arguing that a technology they are building — and, in many cases, are furiously racing to build faster than their competitors — poses grave risks and should be regulated more tightly.

This month, Mr. Altman, Mr. Hassabis and Mr. Amodei met with President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to talk about A.I. regulation. In a Senate testimony after the meeting, Mr. Altman warned that the risks of advanced A.I. systems were serious enough to warrant government intervention and called for regulation of A.I. for its potential harms.

Dan Hendrycks, the executive director of the Center for AI Safety, said in an interview that the open letter represented a “coming-out” for some industry leaders who had expressed concerns — but only in private — about the risks of the technology they were developing.

“There’s a very common misconception, even in the A.I. community, that there only are a handful of doomers,” Mr. Hendrycks said. “But, in fact, many people privately would express concerns about these things.”

Some skeptics argue that A.I. technology is still too immature to pose an existential threat. When it comes to today’s A.I. systems, they worry more about short-term problems, such as biased and incorrect responses, than longer-term dangers.

But others have argued that A.I. is improving so rapidly that it has already surpassed human-level performance in some areas, and it will soon surpass it in others. They say the technology has showed signs of advanced capabilities and understanding, giving rise to fears that “artificial general intelligence,” or A.G.I., a type of artificial intelligence that can match or exceed human-level performance at a wide variety of tasks, may not be far-off.

In a blog post last week, Mr. Altman and two other OpenAI executives proposed several ways that powerful A.I. systems could be responsibly managed. They called for cooperation among the leading A.I. makers, more technical research into large language models and the formation of an international A.I. safety organization, similar to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which seeks to control the use of nuclear weapons.

Mr. Altman has also expressed support for rules that would require makers of large, cutting-edge A.I. models to register for a government-issued license.

In March, more than 1,000 technologists and researchers signed another open letter calling for a six-month pause on the development of the largest A.I. models, citing concerns about “an out-of-control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Racing Regulators Hold Emergency Meeting to Investigate Horse Deaths, Joe Drape, May 31, 2023 (print ed.). The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority called a summit of veterinarians in response to the deaths of 12 horses at Churchill Downs.

Lisa Lazarus, the chief executive of the authority, called the “emergency veterinary summit” in Lexington, Ky., to review necropsies, toxicology reports and veterinarians’ and trainers’ notes on the deaths, seven of which preceded this month’s Kentucky Derby. The deaths have cast a pall over the Triple Crown season, the few weeks each spring when casual sports fans have heightened focus on horse racing.

In addition, the authority has asked a longtime California track superintendent, Dennis Moore, to examine the racing surfaces at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., and offer an independent analysis of the dirt and turf courses’ suitability for racing.

“I have not had a single jockey or trainer tell me that they believe the track is a factor in these fatalities,” Lazarus said. Most of the deaths occurred after horses broke down while racing.

May 30

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: A British Reporter Had a Big #MeToo Scoop. Her Editor Killed It, Jane Bradley, May 30, 2023 (print ed.). Seven women say that a star columnist groped them or made unwanted sexual advances. But Britain’s news media has a complicated relationship with outing its own.

Inside the Financial Times newsroom this winter, one of its star investigative reporters, Madison Marriage, had a potentially explosive scoop involving another newspaper.

A prominent left-wing columnist, Nick Cohen, had resigned from Guardian News & Media, and Ms. Marriage had evidence that his departure followed years of unwanted sexual advances and groping of female journalists.

Ms. Marriage specialized in such investigations. She won an award for exposing a handsy black-tie event for Britain’s business elite. A technology mogul got indicted on rape charges after another article.

But her investigation on Mr. Cohen, which she hoped would begin a broader look at sexual misconduct in the British news media, was never published. The Financial Times’ editor, Roula Khalaf, killed it, according to interviews with a dozen Financial Times journalists.

It was not spiked because of reporting problems. Two women were willing to speak openly, and Ms. Marriage had supporting documentation on others. Rather, Ms. Khalaf said that Mr. Cohen did not have a big enough business profile to make him an “F.T. story,” colleagues said.

Mr. Cohen’s departure and the death of Ms. Marriage’s article offer a window into the British news media’s complicated relationship with the #MeToo movement. Leading American newsrooms — Fox News, CNN, NBC, The New York Times and others — have confronted misconduct allegations. British journalism has seen no such reckoning.

For Lucy Siegle, the death of the Financial Times article hit especially hard. In 2018, she had reported Mr. Cohen to the Guardian for groping her in the newsroom, but nothing had happened. Now it seemed the whole industry was protecting itself.

“It just amplified this sense that #MeToo is nothing but a convenient hashtag for the British media,” Ms. Siegle said. “The silence on its own industry is just really conspicuous.”

The British news media is smaller and cozier than its American counterpart, with journalists often coming from the same elite schools. Stringent libel laws present another hurdle. And in a traditional newsroom culture of drinking and gender imbalances, many stories of misconduct go untold, or face a fight.

Jane Bradley, an investigative correspondent in Britain, interviewed more than 35 journalists at The Guardian and The Financial Times to examine sexual misconduct in the British news media, an industry she has worked in for 15 years.

May 23

ny times logoNew York Times, Spying in Mexico Strikes a New Victim: The President’s Ally, Natalie Kitroeff and Ronen Bergman, May 23, 2023 (print ed.). While looking into abuses by the armed forces, the country’s top human rights official was targeted with Pegasus, the world’s most notorious spyware.

He is a longtime friend of the president, a close political ally for decades who is now the government’s top human rights official.

And he has been spied on, repeatedly.

Alejandro Encinas, Mexico’s under secretary for human rights, was targeted with Pegasus, the world’s most notorious spyware, while investigating abuses by the nation’s military, according to four people who spoke with him about the hack and an independent forensic analysis that confirmed it.

Mexico has long been shaken by spying scandals. But this is the first confirmed case of such a senior member of an administration — let alone someone so close to the president — being surveilled by Pegasus in more than a decade of the spy tool’s use in the country.

The attacks on Mr. Encinas, which have not been reported previously, seriously undercut President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s pledge to end what he has called the “illegal” spying of the past. They’re also a clear sign of how freewheeling the surveillance in Mexico has become, when no one, not even the president’s allies, appears to be off limits.

Pegasus is licensed only to government agencies, and while there’s no definitive proof which one carried out the hack of Mr. Encinas’s phone, the military is the only entity in Mexico that has access to the spyware, according to five people familiar with the contracts. In fact, the Mexican military has targeted more cellphones with the technology than any government agency in the world.

Mr. Encinas has long been at odds with the armed forces. He and his team have accused them of being involved in the mass disappearance of 43 students, one of the worst human rights violations in the country’s recent history.

His cellphone has been infected multiple times — as recently as last year while he was leading a government truth commission into the abductions — giving the hackers unfettered access to his entire digital life, according to the four people who have discussed it with him.

Pegasus was wielded against some of Mexico’s most prominent journalists and democracy advocates several years ago, igniting an international scandal that stained the previous administration.

ny times logoNew York Times, Andrew Tate Thought He Was Above the Law. Romania Proved Him Wrong, Andrew Higgins, May 23, 2023 (print ed.). The online influencer is facing charges of human trafficking and rape, after seeking out a place where “corruption is accessible to everybody.”

andrew tate 2021Andrew Tate, right, a pugilistic online influencer and self-crowned “king of toxic masculinity,” never made any secret of why he had chosen Romania as his home and business base.

“I like living in a society where my money, my influence and my power mean that I’m not below or beholden” to any laws, Mr. Tate told his fans.

andrew tate graphicBut, like much of what the former kickboxer has told his millions of mostly young male followers on social media — including claims that he is a trillionaire and has 19 passports — Mr. Tate’s proclamation of faith in Romania as a risk-free haven for antisocial behavior reflected more fantasy than reality.

The Romanian authorities arrested Mr. Tate, a citizen of both the United States and Britain, and his younger brother, Tristan, in December on charges of human trafficking, rape and forming an organized criminal group. Held for three months in a jail in Bucharest, the capital, both men, who deny any wrongdoing, are now under house arrest, awaiting trial.

Their home is a sprawling compound down a dingy dead-end street in Voluntari, a town next to Bucharest that is dotted with shiny new office towers and derelict empty lots. It looks more like an industrial warehouse than the lair of a man who boasted of immense wealth and posted videos of himself hanging out in private jets with beautiful women and driving fast cars.

May 22

washington post logoWashington Post, E.U.’s record $1.3 billion fine for Meta could have broad effects on U.S. businesses, Naomi Nix, Annabelle Timsit and Cat Zakrzewski, May meta logo22, 2023. Facebook’s parent company was found to have broken the E.U.’s sweeping set of privacy laws by transferring user data from Europe to the United States. Critics say the ruling puts U.S. companies in limbo, threatening a common practice.

ny times logoNew York Times, Meta Fined $1.3 Billion for Violating E.U. Data Privacy Rules, Adam Satariano, May 22, 2023. The Facebook owner said it would appeal an order to stop sending data about European Union users to the United States.

Meta on Monday was fined a record 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion) and ordered to stop transferring data collected from Facebook users in Europe to the United facebook logoStates, in a major ruling against the social media company for violating European Union data protection rules.

The penalty, announced by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, is potentially one of the most consequential in the five years since the European Union enacted the landmark data privacy law known as the General Data Protection Regulation. Regulators said the company failed to comply with a 2020 decision by the E.U.’s highest court that data shipped across the Atlantic was not sufficiently protected from American spy agencies.

meta logoThe ruling announced on Monday applies only to Facebook and not Instagram and WhatsApp, which Meta also owns. Meta said it would appeal the european union logo rectangledecision and that there would be no immediate disruption to Facebook’s service in the Europe Union.

Several steps remain before the company must cordon off the data of Facebook users in Europe — information that could include photos, friend connections, direct messages and data collected for targeting advertising. The ruling comes with a grace period of at least five months for Meta to comply. And the company’s appeal will set up a potentially lengthy legal process.

 roman protasevich

ny times logoNew York Times, Belarus pardoned an opposition activist who was hauled off a Ryanair flight in 2021, state media said, Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Ivan Nechepurenko, May 22, 2023. Belarus has pardoned an opposition activist who was arrested in 2021 after the Belarusian government forced the landing of a commercial flight he had been on that was transiting its airspace, state media reported on Monday.

The activist, Roman Protasevich, 28, above, was the editor of Nexta, a channel on the Telegram messaging app that was instrumental in organizing mass protests alexander lukashenko resized 2019against President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, left, after his disputed election victory in 2020. The details of Mr. Protasevich’s arrest drew international attention.

A Belarusian court in May sentenced Mr. Protasevich to eight years in prison for crimes including acts of terrorism and insulting the president. But on Monday, Belta, the Belarusian state news agency, reported that Mr. Protasevich had told journalists he had been pardoned, calling it “great news.”

Such leniency for someone who had been an active member of the opposition is unusual in Belarus, where, during nearly three decades in power, Mr. Lukashenko has a longstanding pattern of silencing dissent and violently suppressing opponents.

washington post logoWashington Post, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO booed at Boston University commencement speech over writers strike, Herb Scribner, May 22, 2023 (print ed.). The Writers Guild of America said it planned to picket during the speech. Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav faced boos and jeers from audience members during his Boston University commencement speech on Sunday during the ongoing Hollywood writers strike.

Picketers and audience members broke out in chants, including, “pay your writers!” as Zaslav spoke about his career experience and how he rose up to become WBD’s president. Crowds yelled, “we don’t want you here!” and “shut up Zaslav!” as he spoke.

During his speech, Zaslav advised students that “some people will be looking for a fight, but don’t be the one they find it with,” which caused an eruption of boos and cheers from the crowd. He then told students to “focus on people’s good qualities,” which was a tip he said he received from the late General Electric CEO Jack Welch.

As he wrapped up his address — advising students to “figure out what you’re good at” and “show up for your friends” — audience members shouted expletives at him.

Zaslav, who wore sunglasses during the duration of speech, did not directly address the strike. But he may have been speaking to the picketers and protesters when he wrapped up, saying, “I hope to see all of you — and I mean all of you — along the way. The journey of life. There’s nothing better.”

Zaslav addressed the protests in a statement sent to The Washington Post Sunday afternoon.

“I am grateful to my alma mater, Boston University, for inviting me to be part of today’s commencement and for giving me an honorary degree, and, as I have often said, I am immensely supportive of writers and hope the strike is resolved soon and in a way that they feel recognizes their value,” he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House reporters stuck with $25,000 charges after Biden trip canceled, Paul Farhi, May 22, 2023 (print ed.). Some correspondents think it could prompt media bosses to pull back from covering the president on future overseas tours.

Every traveler dreads a sudden flight cancellation. But few travelers have been stuck with the kind of headache that White House reporters were left with this week.

In anticipation of covering President Biden’s trip to Japan and Australia, news organizations shelled out big bucks to charter a plane to carry journalists from Hiroshima to Sydney. But then Biden decided to skip the Australian leg of his trip to return to Washington for continuing negotiations with congressional Republicans over a debt ceiling increase.

The decision stuck media organizations with the tab for a trip that never happened. And some correspondents think it could prompt their bosses to pull back from covering the president on overseas trips, dooming future charter flights.

The now-canceled charter flight, organized by the White House Travel Office, cost $760,000, or about $14,000 for each of the 55 journalists who’d booked seats on it. Journalists will immediately lose their deposits, about $7,700 each, and may be on the hook for the rest, according to a memo sent to reporters on Wednesday by Tamara Keith, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association.

May 18

ny times logoNew York Times, In Battle Over A.I., Meta Decides to Give Away Its Crown Jewels, Cade Metz and Mike Isaac, May 18, 2023. The tech giant has publicly released its latest A.I. technology so people can build their own chatbots. Rivals say that approach can be dangerous.

In February, Meta made an unusual move in the rapidly evolving world of artificial intelligence: It decided to give away its A.I. crown jewels.

meta logoThe Silicon Valley giant, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, had created an A.I. technology, called LLaMA, that can power online chatbots. But instead of keeping the technology to itself, Meta released the system’s underlying computer code into the wild. Academics, government researchers and others who gave their email address to Meta could download the code once the company had vetted the individual.

Essentially, Meta was giving its A.I. technology away as open-source software — computer code that can be freely copied, modified and reused — providing outsiders with everything they needed to quickly build chatbots of their own.

“The platform that will win will be the open one,” Yann LeCun, Meta’s chief A.I. scientist, said in an interview.

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Rules Against Andy Warhol in Copyright Case, Adam Liptak, May 18, 2023. The question for the justices was whether the artist was free to use elements of a rock photographer’s portrait of the musician Prince.

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that Andy Warhol was not entitled to draw on a prominent photographer’s portrait of Prince for a series of images of the musician, limiting the scope of the fair-use defense to copyright infringement in the realm of visual art.

The vote was 7 to 2. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, writing for the majority, said the photographer’s “original works, like those of other photographers, are entitled to copyright protection, even against famous artists.”

In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan, joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., wrote that the decision “will stifle creativity of every sort.”

“It will impede new art and music and literature,” she wrote. “It will thwart the expression of new ideas and the attainment of new knowledge. It will make our world poorer.”

  • New York Times, Supreme Court Sidesteps Ruling on Scope of Internet Liability Shield, May 18, 2023.

washington post logoWashington Post, Montana becomes first state to ban TikTok, but court challenges are likely, Erica Werner, May 18, 2023 (print ed.). The move was denounced by the ACLU and a court challenge.

tiktok logo square CustomMontana on Wednesday became the first state to enact a total ban on sales and use of TikTok in the state, as Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed legislation he said would “protect Montanans’ private data and sensitive personal information from being harvested by the Chinese Communist Party.”
Tech is not your friend. We are. Sign up for The Tech Friend newsletter.

A spokesperson for the popular Chinese-owned app responded by accusing Gianforte of signing a bill “that infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people of Montana by unlawfully banning TikTok, a platform that empowers hundreds of thousands of people across the state.”

A number of states and the federal government already have barred the Chinese-owned app from public agencies’ devices, citing national security concerns, but the legislation in Montana goes much further.

Biden’s TikTok plan echoes failed Trump bid China called a ‘smash and grab’

It imposes fines of $10,000 per day on any mobile store making the app available, and on TikTok itself if it operates the app within the state. Individual TikTok users are not subject to the fines. The law takes effect Jan. 1, 2024.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Musk says George Soros ‘hates humanity,’ compares him to Jewish supervillain, Avi Selk and Herb Scribner, May 18, 2023 (print ed.). The CEO of the Anti-Defamation League condemned Elon Musk’s comparison of Soros to Magneto — a Marvel villain who opposes humanity.

Elon Musk made a series of attacks on George Soros overnight, tweeting that the Jewish-born investor and liberal philanthropist, who often is subject to virulent antisemitic conspiracy theories, hates humanity and “wants to erode the very fabric of civilization.”

Musk, who has overseen an increase of antisemitism and other hate speech on Twitter since he bought the social media platform last year, did not give a reason for singling out Soros. But he made his comments three days after Soros’s investment fund reported that it had sold all its stock in Tesla, the electric carmaker that Musk also runs.

And Musk seemed to specifically reference the 92-year-old Holocaust survivor’s background by comparing Soros to Magneto — a Jewish supervillain who “fights to help mutants replace humans as the world’s dominant species,” as Marvel’s official character description puts it.

“Soros reminds me of Magneto,” Musk posted at 10 p.m. Monday, apropos of nothing. The tweet triggered a flood of replies comparing Soros to various symbols of evil, recalling long-standing conspiracy theories that paint him as a godlike billionaire Jew who uses his philanthropic foundations to flood Europe with refugees and corrupt American politics.

The left-wing commentator Brian Krassenstein replied to Musk, pointing out that Magneto is a Holocaust survivor in Marvel lore, where the character manipulates magnetic fields to oppose (and occasionally help) the heroes of X-Men films and comics. “[Soros], also a Holocaust survivor, get’s attacked nonstop for his good intentions which some Americans think are bad merely because they disagree with this political affiliations,” he wrote.

Musk replied to Krassenstein five minutes later: “You assume they are good intentions. They are not. He wants to erode the very fabric of civilization. Soros hates humanity.”

washington post logoWashington Post, High-schooler gets suspended after filming her teacher using the n-word, Jonathan Edwards, May 17, 2023 (print ed.). The geometry teacher said the n-word twice in a 55-second video captured by the 15-year-old.

Mary Walton thought her teacher repeatedly saying a racist slur in class last week was wrong, so the 15-year-old sophomore at Glendale High School in Springfield, Mo., pulled out her phone and started filming, the student’s lawyer said.

She recorded him saying the n-word twice before he appeared to notice what she was doing.

“Put your phone away,” he told her, according to video reviewed by The Washington Post.

“No,” Mary said.

“Then go to the office,” he responded.

Days later, she was suspended for making the 55-second video, according to her lawyer. Mary and her mother, Kate Welborn, 44, are challenging the punishment and demanding the district apologize. Mary’s lawyer, Natalie Hull, said that the sophomore was essentially acting as a whistleblower by collecting evidence of an authority figure’s wrongdoing and that punishing her will have a “chilling effect” on students inclined to do so in the future.

“​​This kid did what we want people to do — see something, say something,” Hull said, adding: “Now we’re telling students, ‘If you see something, don’t show it, because then you’ll get suspended.’”

Officials maintain that, although the teacher’s actions were inexcusable, students are prohibited from recording in class without prior approval.

California teacher placed on leave after video shows her mocking Native American dance in headdress

On Monday, Principal Josh Groves announced that the teacher, who was initially placed on administrative leave, is no longer employed by the district. He has not been publicly identified. Officials said that while federal law prevented them from talking about student discipline, the student handbook is clear about the consequences of inappropriately using cellphones and other electronic devices.

Officials are “confident that the district appropriately and promptly handled all matters related to what occurred at Glendale,” Groves said Monday in an email to parents. “We want our schools to be safe and welcoming learning environments. When students have concerns, they should follow the appropriate steps for reporting.”

May 17



Sam Altman, the chief executive of the San Francisco start-up OpenAI 5 16 2023

ny times logoNew York Times, OpenAI’s Sam Altman Urges A.I. Regulation in Senate Hearing, Cecilia Kang, May 17, 2023 (print ed.). The tech executive and lawmakers agreed that new A.I. systems must be regulated. Just how that would happen is not yet clear.

The tone of congressional hearings featuring tech industry executives in recent years can best be described as antagonistic. Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and other tech luminaries have all been dressed down on Capitol Hill by lawmakers upset with their companies.

But on Tuesday, Sam Altman, the chief executive of the San Francisco start-up OpenAI, testified before members of a Senate subcommittee and largely agreed with them on the need to regulate the increasingly powerful A.I. technology being created inside his company and others like Google and Microsoft.

In his first testimony before Congress, Mr. Altman implored lawmakers to regulate artificial intelligence as members of the committee displayed a budding understanding of the technology. The hearing underscored the deep unease felt by technologists and government over A.I.’s potential harms. But that unease did not extend to Mr. Altman, who had a friendly audience in the members of the subcommittee.

The appearance of Mr. Altman, a 38-year-old Stanford University dropout and tech entrepreneur, was his christening as the leading figure in A.I. The boyish-looking Mr. Altman traded in his usual pullover sweater and jeans for a blue suit and tie for the three-hour hearing.


djt kaitlin collins cnn 5 10 2023

 ny times logoNew York Times, Kaitlan Collins, Moderator of Trump Forum, Named CNN’s 9 P.M. Anchor, Michael M. Grynbaum, May 17, 2023. CNN has selected Kaitlan Collins to host a new weeknight show at 9 p.m., elevating her to one of the most coveted time slots in cable news a week after she moderated a contentious town hall with former President Donald J. Trump.

The new role for Ms. Collins was announced by CNN’s chairman, Chris Licht, on Wednesday, just ahead of a presentation to advertisers in Midtown Manhattan cnn logohosted by Warner Bros. Discovery, CNN’s parent company.

Her show, which does not yet have a title, is set to begin in June. “She is a smart and gifted journalist who we’ve all seen hold lawmakers and chris licht wnewsmakers accountable,” Mr. Licht, right, wrote in a newsroom memo. “Kaitlan will expose uncovered angles and challenge conventional wisdom to make sure viewers are seeing a story from every side.”

The promotion of Ms. Collins, 31, a co-host of the network’s morning show, amounts to a major bet by CNN leadership on a rising star who has impressed colleagues with her interviewing and reporting chops, but remains relatively untested as a solo anchor.

It is also Mr. Licht’s latest attempt to revive his network’s sagging ratings.

The 9 p.m. hour at CNN — once its highest-rated time slot — has effectively been vacant since Chris Cuomo was fired in December 2021. Mr. Licht’s recent attempt to fill the hour with a variety of interviews and news specials fizzled with viewers. On weeknights, CNN lags behind Fox News and MSNBC, and on Friday, two days after the Trump town hall, it even lost to Newsmax, a fledgling conservative network that is available in fewer homes.


Author and investigative reporter Seymour Hersh (photo via Tablet).

Author and investigative reporter Seymour Hersh (photo via Tablet).

Medium, Opinion: The Sad Downfall of Seymour Hersh, Jeremy Fassler, May 17, 2023. Note: I originally wrote this piece in June 2018 for The Daily Banter upon the publication of Sy Hersh’s memoir, "Reporter." In the wake of his unacceptable reporting about Ukraine, I am republishing it here with some slight revisions.

Throughout his career, Seymour Hersh has been a crusading investigative reporter, exposing such stories as the My Lai Massacre in the Vietnam War and the abuses at Abu Gharib. With his memoir Reporter being released today, he finds himself once again in the news as journalists sing his praises. However, as they appraise his life’s work, they must take into account how, over the past decade, Hersh has grown increasingly conspiratorial and untrustworthy in his reporting, adopting bizarre theories that threaten to seriously compromise his legacy.

The first major sign of trouble came in 2013, when Hersh wrote “Whose Sarin?,” an article absolving the government of Bashar al-Assad for that summer’s chemical weapons attack in Ghouta, near Damascus, killing hundreds of Syrians and nearly bringing the United States to military action. Although a UN report on the attack laid the blame at Assad, Heresh argued that the real perpetrators were an Al-Qaeda spinoff group called Jhabat-al Nusra, citing anonymous military officials as his sources. In a follow-up article in 2014, he cosigned blame for the attack to the government of Turkey, which experts quickly debunked.

Sadly, Hersh has not let go of his Syria trutherism. Last April, after the U.S. launched missiles in retaliation to Assad’s chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaykhun, he wrote in the German paper Die Welt that, according to anonymous military officials, the initial attack was a collaboration between the Syrian Air Force, the Russians, and Washington, and the targets were not innocent Syrians but Jihadist leaders. When Guardian reported George Monbiot asked him for the coordinates of the bombing site, Hersh dodged the question.

Hersh’s conspiratorial beliefs went mainstream in 2015 when he published “The Killing of Osama bin Laden” (later released as a book) in the London Review of Books. The 10,000-word article, which had been rejected by The New Yorker, argued that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) kidnapped bin Laden in 2006, locked him up with funding from the Saudis as leverage against Al-Qaeda, and sold him to the United States in exchange for increased military aid and a “freer hand” in Afghanistan. Instead of flying the Navy SEAls into the Abbottabad compound via helicopter, raiding the promises, and killing bin-Laden with a double tap, Hersh claimed a courier let the SEALs in and allowed them to shoot the world’s most famous terrorist multiple times.

As with any conspiracy theory, a number of variables contradict Hersh’s reporting. For example, assuming that Hersh is correct — and he claims he’s correct, despite offering no supporting documents — why would the U.S. drop Pakistani cooperation in Afghanistan in subsequent years? Why would the intelligence materials brought back from Abbottabad be made up, as he says they are, even though Al-Qaeda’s second highest-ranking member says they were real? And why would Pakistan even invite the U.S. to participate in a phony raid at all? Why not just kill him themselves? Hersh has never provided satisfactory answers to any of these questions, trusting his primary source, an anonymous retired senior intelligence official who supposedly had knowledge of the plan.

This is a large red flag with Hersh’s reporting. While anonymous sources are essential in journalism, Hersh over-relies on them, taking their word at face value without properly vetting them. In fact, ex-military and intelligence officials, or “cranks,” are often the worst kinds of anonymous sources, as Jamie Kirchik called them in this article responding to Hersh’s bin Laden reporting:

“Cranks are an archetype of the intelligence world…obsessive, frustrated idiot savants who perceive themselves as stymied by the paper pushers…who don’t have the courage to come out and tell it like it really is. Such people are naturally drawn to a reporter like Hersh, a crusading writer who ‘gets it,’ who sees the world in the same conspiratorial tones they do, where dark, shadowy forces manipulate global events.”

Hersh, a member of the Vietnam generation who learned the hard way not to take the government’s justifications for war at face value, may have good reason to identify with these sources. After all, identifying the crimes of the U.S. military brought him renown. But after nearly 50 years of exposing these illegalities, he can no longer tell the difference between a solid scoop and a conspiracy that has no business being in the news.

This leads us to the story of Seth Rich, a former DNC aide who, in the summer of 2016, was murdered in a botched robbery. Conspiracy theorists on both the far right and the far left argued that Rich, a disgruntled Sanders supporter, had been murdered by the DNC for leaking their emails to Julian Assange. The conspiracy when so far that Rich’s family sued Fox News for manipulating the investigation of their son’s murder into an unbelievable series of claims, one of which said that a suppressed FBI report proved he leaked the emails. Nobody apparently saw this report, except for an anonymous intelligence official who spoke to — you guessed it — Seymour Hersh.

In a conversation with Fox News reporter Ed Butowsky, Hersh said that his source told him Rich had shared the emails with Assange via Dropbox, and even shared them with friends “in case anything happens to me.” Hersh later denied having spoken to anyone at the FBI about the report, nor having seen it with his own eyes. But while believing that Seth Rich leaked the emails to Assange is bad enough, it’s this next quote from his talk with Butowsky that consigns Hersh to the loony bin:

“I have a narrative of how that whole fucking thing [the Russia investigation] began. It’s a Brennan operation, it was it was an American disinformation and fucking the fucking president, at one point when they, they even started telling the press, they were back briefing the press, the head of the NSA was going and telling the press, fucking cock-sucker Rogers, was telling the press that we even know who in the GRU, the Russian Military Intelligence Service, who leaked it. I mean all bullshit.”

One of America’s greatest investigative reporters doesn’t believe the Russian plot to interfere in the election was real. But why should he? Hersh not only ignored the Russia story in 2016, he actually abetted the enemy. That summer, at the Washington D.C. Newseum, he introduced a documentary by filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov attacking martyred Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, the namesake for the Magnitsky Act, as a liar. Hersh was still at it by the time Trump was inaugurated, when he attacked the media for taking the intelligence community’s word on the story at face value, and offered sentiments that would make Susan Sarandon blush:

“The idea of somebody breaking things away, and raising grave doubts about the viability of the [two] party system, particularly the Democratic Party, is not a bad idea.”

Well, the system is shook up now: 4600 dead in Puerto Rico, a Supreme Court that ruled in favor of small businesses discriminating against gays, and a “zero tolerance” policy at the border separating children from their families and locking them in cages, but at least Hersh got his wish. Whether or not he comes to his sense remains to be seen, but given how he’s entrenched himself on the fringes, it seems unlikely.

We need great investigative journalism now more than ever, and Reporter will make readers nostalgic for an age of journalism that no longer exists. Unfortunately, the book’s main character no longer exists either, as Hersh has devolved from a truth-teller into, like the anonymous sources he relies on, a crank.

Jimmy Fessler is freelance writer and journalist with bylines: in the New York Times, The Atlantic, Mother Jones, etc. Co-author of "The Deadwood Bible"with Matt Zoller Seitz.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Newspaper’s Closing Deals a Blow to Guatemala’s Democracy, Jody García and Elda Cantú, May 17, 2023. On Monday, elPeriodico, an investigative daily in Guatemala, published its final edition after more than 26 years. Its executive editor is in jail and some of its reporters are in exile.

When the newspaper elPeriodico was founded in Guatemala in 1996, the country was emerging from a brutal civil war, and there was a feeling that a small space for free thought might be opening.

That opening closed this week when elPeriodico, which made a name for itself and became a frequent target for trying to hold Guatemala’s governments to account, published its final digital edition.

The newspaper’s demise followed the jailing of its publisher after he was accused by the government of financial crimes and the freezing of its assets as part of the case, which dealt a financial blow and led to the suspension of the print edition in December.

The closing of elPeriodico is the latest setback for Guatemala’s increasingly brittle democracy, civil liberties groups say, as President Alejandro Giammattei steers the country toward greater repression, targeting critics, including the news media, opposition politicians and the judiciary.

ElPeriodico was founded during a more hopeful, if uncertain, time, not long before the signing of peace accords in December 1996. The agreement put an end to a civil war in the Central American country, which had lasted 36 years and left hundreds of thousands dead or disappeared.

The conflict, which is considered a genocide, decimated the nation’s Indigenous population and pitted neighbor against neighbor.

As elPeriodico got off the ground, there were no clear lines between what was publishable and what was still unspeakable. The country was recovering from a legacy of dictatorial military governments and the prosecution and targeted killings of intellectuals and dissidents.

“We wanted to be irreverent, not necessarily confrontational,” said Luis Aceituno, who was one of three dozen remaining staff members at elPeriodico, whose newsroom at its high point in 2012 had 400 employees. But over the years, elPeriodico has drawn the ire of the country’s ruling elite.


 florida map

washington post logoWashington Post, Teacher investigated for Disney movie says politics drove her to resign, Jonathan Edwards, May 17, 2023. A fifth-grade teacher in Florida is under investigation by state officials for showing students the film, the first Disney feature with an openly gay character.

Jenna Barbee said she wanted to give students a “brain break” during standardized testing earlier this month by showing them a movie. Barbee, a fifth-grade teacher at Winding Waters K-8 school in Brooksville, Fla., chose Disney’s “Strange World” because the film about journeying to a mysterious underground land related to recent science lessons about the environment.

But “Strange World” is also Disney’s first movie featuring an openly gay character, a fact that led a school board member to report Barbee to state officials, the teacher told the Hernando County School Board at its May 9 meeting. The Florida Department of Education is now investigating whether Barbee broke the state’s law forbidding public school teachers from talking about gender and sexual orientation with students, she said in a TikTok video, which has been viewed more than 5 million times in three days.

“This is the public education system, where students from all backgrounds, cultures and religions are welcomed and should be celebrated and represented. I am not and never would indoctrinate anyone to follow my beliefs,” she said at the start of the 6½-minute video. “I will, however, always be a safe person to come to that spreads the message of kindness, positivity and compassion for everyone.”

Barbee told CNN she had already submitted her resignation from the school a week before showing the movie. She said she did so because of “politics and the fear of not being able to be who you are” in Florida public schools.

Cassie Palelis, a Florida Department of Education spokesperson, said state law prohibits officials from talking about internal investigations or confirming whether they exist. Karen Jordan, a spokesperson for the Hernando County School District, said officials there are conducting their own investigation into what happened but declined to comment further.

washington post logoWashington Post, DeSantis might have met his match in Disney’s Iger as both sides dig in, Todd C. Frankel and Lori Rozsa, May 15, 2023.  ‘The mouse brought in the big guns,’ a former Democratic state senator said.

Bob Iger was getting restless.

It was late February 2022, and Iger was only a few weeks into his retirement after a storied career running the Walt Disney Co. He’d orchestrated deals to bring Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars to Disney. And he’d rarely shied away from fights on social issues he felt were important. In 2016, he was credited with helping persuade Georgia’s governor to veto an anti-LGBTQ bill when Disney threatened to stop filming in the state. A year later, he cited his concerns about climate change when he quit President Donald Trump’s business advisory council.

Now, Iger was sitting on the sidelines watching Florida lawmakers consider a new piece of legislation called the Parental Rights in Education bill. Critics had already labeled it “don’t say gay,” because the bill would prohibit classroom discussions involving sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades. The bill seemed to have little to do with Disney’s theme parks in Orlando. Still, Disney’s army of lobbyists in Florida kept an eye on the legislation.

The risk to Disney appeared so remote that top executives at Disney’s headquarters in Burbank, Calif., were still largely in the dark about the issue, according to a person familiar with the company’s thinking who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose corporate discussions.

Bob Iger rebuilt Disney. Fighting DeSantis could define his legacy.

“It was on no one’s radar,” said this person.

Then, on Feb. 24, 2022, Iger tweeted.

“If passed, this bill will put vulnerable, young LGBTQ people in jeopardy,” Iger wrote.

Iger’s tweet caught many in the Florida government and Disney’s headquarters by surprise. It suddenly set in motion an epic clash between two Florida powerhouses — Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and Disney World, an economic engine that employs 75,000 people and attracts 50 million visitors per year. This dispute began with a contentious education bill, but, like a Magic Kingdom roller coaster, has taken numerous twists and turns in the past 15 months, picking up speed and intensity along the way.

And what started as DeSantis vs. Disney is now seen by many as DeSantis vs. Iger.

washington post logoWashington Post, Musk says George Soros ‘hates humanity,’ compares him to Jewish supervillain, Avi Selk and Herb Scribner, May 17, 2023. The CEO of the Anti-Defamation League condemned Elon Musk’s comparison of Soros to Magneto — a Marvel villain who opposes humanity.

elon musk 2015Elon Musk, right, made a series of attacks on George Soros overnight, tweeting that the Jewish-born investor and liberal philanthropist, who often is subject to virulent antisemitic conspiracy theories, hates humanity and “wants to erode the very fabric of civilization.”

Musk, who has overseen an increase of antisemitism and other hate speech on Twitter since he bought the social media platform last year, did not give a reason for singling out Soros. But he made his comments three days after Soros’s investment fund reported that it had sold all its stock in Tesla, the electric carmaker that Musk also runs.

And Musk seemed to specifically reference the 92-year-old Holocaust survivor’s background by comparing Soros to Magneto — a Jewish supervillain who “fights to help mutants replace humans as the world’s dominant species,” as Marvel’s official character description puts it.

“Soros reminds me of Magneto,” Musk posted at 10 p.m. Monday, apropos of nothing. The tweet triggered a flood of replies comparing Soros to various symbols of evil, recalling long-standing conspiracy theories that paint him as a godlike billionaire Jew who uses his philanthropic foundations to flood Europe with refugees and corrupt American politics.

The left-wing commentator Brian Krassenstein replied to Musk, pointing out that Magneto is a Holocaust survivor in Marvel lore, where the character manipulates magnetic fields to oppose (and occasionally help) the heroes of X-Men films and comics. “[Soros], also a Holocaust survivor, get’s attacked nonstop for his good intentions which some Americans think are bad merely because they disagree with this political affiliations,” he wrote.

Musk replied to Krassenstein five minutes later: “You assume they are good intentions. They are not. He wants to erode the very fabric of civilization. Soros hates humanity.”

washington post logoWashington Post, High-schooler gets suspended after filming her teacher using the n-word, Jonathan Edwards, May 17, 2023 (print ed.). The geometry teacher said the n-word twice in a 55-second video captured by the 15-year-old.

Mary Walton thought her teacher repeatedly saying a racist slur in class last week was wrong, so the 15-year-old sophomore at Glendale High School in Springfield, Mo., pulled out her phone and started filming, the student’s lawyer said.

She recorded him saying the n-word twice before he appeared to notice what she was doing.

“Put your phone away,” he told her, according to video reviewed by The Washington Post.

“No,” Mary said.

“Then go to the office,” he responded.

Days later, she was suspended for making the 55-second video, according to her lawyer. Mary and her mother, Kate Welborn, 44, are challenging the punishment and demanding the district apologize. Mary’s lawyer, Natalie Hull, said that the sophomore was essentially acting as a whistleblower by collecting evidence of an authority figure’s wrongdoing and that punishing her will have a “chilling effect” on students inclined to do so in the future.

“​​This kid did what we want people to do — see something, say something,” Hull said, adding: “Now we’re telling students, ‘If you see something, don’t show it, because then you’ll get suspended.’”

Officials maintain that, although the teacher’s actions were inexcusable, students are prohibited from recording in class without prior approval.

California teacher placed on leave after video shows her mocking Native American dance in headdress

On Monday, Principal Josh Groves announced that the teacher, who was initially placed on administrative leave, is no longer employed by the district. He has not been publicly identified. Officials said that while federal law prevented them from talking about student discipline, the student handbook is clear about the consequences of inappropriately using cellphones and other electronic devices.

Officials are “confident that the district appropriately and promptly handled all matters related to what occurred at Glendale,” Groves said Monday in an email to parents. “We want our schools to be safe and welcoming learning environments. When students have concerns, they should follow the appropriate steps for reporting.”

May 16

Law & Crime Network, Fox’s law firm distances itself from Tucker Carlson as aftershocks of host’s firing ripple into bias suit, Adam Klasfeld, May 15, 2023.  Disavowing any conflict of interest, Fox Corporation’s powerhouse law firm distanced itself from ex-host Tucker Carlson as a client in a discrimination lawsuit brought by his former producer Abby Grossberg.

lawcrime logoShortly before Fox’s settlement with Dominion, Grossberg sued the network and Carlson in New York and Delaware, claiming pervasive religious abby grossberg johns hopkinsand gender bias. Grossberg, right, also accused Fox’s attorneys of coaching her into giving “coerced” and misleading testimony that would make her and host Maria Bartiromo the network’s “sacrificial female lambs.”

Fox later entered into a $787.5 million deal with Dominion on the eve of trial, but Grossberg’s litigation endured.

On Friday, Fox’s law firm Baker McKenzie — which has dozens of offices internationally and reported $3.1 billion in revenue in 2021 — affirmed in court that it had “not entered an appearance on behalf of Mr. Carlson on this Court’s docket.”

fox news logo Small“Mr. Carlson will be represented by separate counsel in this matter, who will enter an appearance reflecting as much,” the firm’s partner Paul Evans wrote.

Grossberg’s attorney Parisis G. Filippatos called that statement distancing the firm from Carlson “patently misleading and false.”

In an email on April 10, 2023, Evans told Filippatos that he could now “now confirm” that Baker McKenzie would “also be representing” Carlson and other individual defendants. Evans did not appear to file a notice of appearance indicating this to the court.

tucker carlson 2022An email from Fox’s attorney that Abby Grossberg’s legal team proves it also represented Tucker Carlson, right, despite asserting the contrary.

Some two days after that email, a Delaware judge sanctioned the network’s legal team for not telling him the full story about Rupert Murdoch’s role in Fox News, as opposed to the Fox Corporation.

“I need people to tell me the truth,” Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis scolded on April 12. “And by the way, omission is a lie.”

Grossberg’s legal team cited this exchange in a footnote.

“It is shocking that this is not the first litigation this year — involving both parties in some manner — where Fox, through its attorneys, has chosen to be less than fully honest and truthful with the Court,” Filippatos wrote in a footnote. “Thus, the evasive and deceptive conduct of Fox’s attorneys before your honor at the outset of this case is particularly troubling on the heels of Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis’s widely-reported stern rebuke of the Fox attorneys in the Dominion Voting Systems v. Fox matter for having made certain statements the veracity of which was very much in doubt.”

Grossberg’s legal team asked U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman to order Carlson to obtain new counsel before the next hearing scheduled for June 15, 2023, one month from today.

  • Fox News, Durham report shows Congress must leverage 'power of the purse' against FBI: Jordan, Sean Hannity, May 15, 2023. Rep. Jim Jordan tells 'Hannity' that agency appropriations are 'the only leverage we have' for reform. #foxnews #hannity

ny times logoNew York Times, Microsoft Says New A.I. Shows Signs of Human Reasoning, Cade Metz, May 16, 2023. A provocative paper from researchers at Microsoft claims A.I. technology is able to understand the way people do. Critics are skeptical.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tony Awards Broadcast Can Proceed After Striking Writers’ Union Agrees, Michael Paulson and John Koblin,May 16, 2023 (print ed.). The Tony Awards, a key marketing opportunity for Broadway, can go ahead in an altered form after the striking screenwriters’ union said it would not picket this year’s broadcast.

ny times logoNew York Times, Your DNA Can Now Be Pulled From Thin Air. Privacy Experts Are Worried, Elizabeth Anne Brown, May 16, 2023 (print ed.). Environmental DNA research has aided conservation, but scientists say its ability to glean information about human populations and individuals poses danger.

David Duffy, a wildlife geneticist at the University of Florida, just wanted a better way to track disease in sea turtles. Then he started finding human DNA everywhere he looked.

Over the last decade, wildlife researchers have refined techniques for recovering environmental DNA, or eDNA — trace amounts of genetic material that all living things leave behind. A powerful and inexpensive tool for ecologists, eDNA is all over — floating in the air, or lingering in water, snow, honey and even your cup of tea. Researchers have used the method to detect invasive species before they take over, to track vulnerable or secretive wildlife populations and even to rediscover species thought to be extinct. The eDNA technology is also used in wastewater surveillance systems to monitor Covid and other pathogens.

But all along, scientists using eDNA were quietly recovering gobs and gobs of human DNA. To them, it’s pollution, a sort of human genomic bycatch muddying their data. But what if someone set out to collect human eDNA on purpose?

New DNA collecting techniques are “like catnip” for law enforcement officials, says Erin Murphy, a law professor at the New York University School of Law who specializes in the use of new technologies in the criminal legal system. The police have been quick to embrace unproven tools, like using DNA to create probability-based sketches of a suspect.

That could pose dilemmas for the preservation of privacy and civil liberties, especially as technological advancement allows more information to be gathered from ever smaller eDNA samples. Dr. Duffy and his colleagues used a readily available and affordable technology to see how much information they could glean from human DNA gathered from the environment in a variety of circumstances, such as from outdoor waterways and the air inside a building.

The results of their research, published Monday in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, demonstrate that scientists can recover medical and ancestry information from minute fragments of human DNA lingering in the environment.

ny times logoNew York Times, Is It Last Call at New York’s Friars Club? Julia Jacobs, May 16, 2023 (print ed.). The headquarters of the legendary entertainment fraternity is facing the threat of foreclosure as its leaders look for a buyer to help keep the party going. 

One of the final episodes of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” released this month, captured the bawdy, profanity-laced ritual that was a celebrity roast at New York’s Friars Club — the kind of entertainment that helped make the club the buzzing epicenter of the comedy world.

But these days the landmark home of wisecracks and cigar smoke, and legends like Milton Berle and Jerry Lewis, is trying to fight off extinction.

A loan company has moved to foreclose on the club after it missed payments on a $13 million mortgage. And a federal judge is mulling whether to appoint an outside company to take over the Friars Club’s six-story townhouse on East 55th Street, which has been shuttered for months as the club’s financial problems have deepened.

An inspection in March by the loan company described a building marred by mounds of trash, signs of mice and roaches, mold damage and containers of “unidentifiable liquid waste,” according to court papers. The club said it has “improved the conditions of the property” since that inspection. Still, the Frank Sinatra Room, once a place of fine dining, remained a scene of unfinished renovations with light bulbs hanging from the ceiling during a recent visit.

Long a stomping ground for Manhattan’s showbiz elite, the club has seen its membership age and dwindle and its dues revenue diminish as it faced a series of crises. In 2017, federal agents raided its offices as part of an inquiry into its finances. The authorities later charged its executive director at the time for filing false personal tax returns. In 2020 came flooding that shut the club down, only to be followed by the pandemic. Last year there was enough financial strain that, after the club’s typical summer hiatus, it never resumed regular hours.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Football bonded them. Its violence tore them apart, Kent Babb, May 15, 2023 (print ed.). They were roommates and teammates at Harvard, bound by their love of football and each other. Then the game — and the debate over its safety — took its toll.

May 15


Rudy Giuliani speaks to the press about various lawsuits related to the 2020 election inside the Republican National Committee’s headquarters on Nov. 19, 2020. (Photo by Drew Angerer via Getty Images.)

Rudy Giuliani speaks to the press about various lawsuits related to the 2020 election inside the Republican National Committee’s headquarters on Nov. 19, 2020. (Photo by Drew Angerer via Getty Images.) Below is a scene from the documentary film featuring the character Borat where Giuliana flirts with what he was told was an underage teen shown in a hotel bedroom.

Law & Crime Network,