Media 2020



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

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

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

    • Andrew Kreig / Justice Integrity Project editor


      andrew kreig c span

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

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

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

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


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

May 21

Axios, The Atlantic lays off almost 20% of staff, Sara Fischer, May 21, 2020. The Atlantic is laying off nearly 20% of staff, according to an internal note from David Bradley, the publication's chairman, that was obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: It's the latest media company that's been been forced to take drastic measures to survive the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

atlantic logoThe state of play: The 68 staff cuts are mostly attributable to the collapse of the company's events business, which was one of its strongest pillars for many years.

atlantic logo horizontalIn the memo, Bradley says that sales, editorial and events staff are all impacted."There is no fault on the part of people leaving the firm. What makes this so particularly difficult is that these are exceptional and beloved Atlantic colleagues. They are exactly the same good people who were selected to join us at the outset Measure for measure, they have contributed to The Atlantic as have those who are remaining. It is only that the ground has shifted," Bradley wrote in his note to staff.

"I had thought that I would spend some substantial part of this memo explaining the reasoning behind our decision. But, I think it may speak for itself. The particular timing is clear — a global pandemic that has shuttered the economy generally, advertising acutely, and in-person events altogether," he added.

Between the lines: The Atlantic's new majority ownership stake from Emerson Collective, the impact investment vehicle owned by Laurene Powell Jobs, has allowed the company to accelerate its growth in recent years, including a major staff increase and expansion that began in 2018.

The big picture: The pandemic is forcing dozens of major media companies, including newer, digitally-native media companies and older magazine companies, to carry out layoffs and pay cuts.

The Atlantic joins The Hollywood Reporter, Fortune, Billboard, The Economist Group, Group Nine Media, BuzzFeed News, Vox Media, Bustle Digital Group, Cheddar, Maven Media, G/O Media, Protocol and others who have resorted to layoffs and furloughs.

May 18

ny times logoNew York Times, Is Ronan Farrow Too Good to Be True? Ben Smith, May 18, 2020 (print ed.). He has delivered revelatory reporting on some of the defining stories of our time. But a close examination reveals the weaknesses in what may be called an era of resistance journalism.

Ronan Farrow, in Los Angeles in February, may now be the most famous investigative reporter in America.Credit...Danny Moloshok/Reuters

It was a breathtaking story, written by The New Yorker’s marquee reporter and published with an attention-grabbing headline: “Missing Files Motivated the Leak of Michael Cohen’s Financial Records.”

ronan farrowIn it, the reporter, Ronan Farrow, right, suggests something suspicious unfolding inside the Treasury Department: A civil servant had noticed that records about Mr. Cohen, the personal lawyer for President Trump, mysteriously vanished from a government database in the spring of 2018. Mr. Farrow quotes the anonymous public servant as saying he was so concerned about the records’ disappearance that he leaked other financial reports to the media to sound a public alarm about Mr. Cohen’s financial activities.

The story set off a frenzied reaction, with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes calling it “an amazing shocking story about a whistle-blower” and his colleague Rachel Maddow describing it as “a meteor strike.” Congressional Democrats demanded answers, and the Treasury Department promised to investigate.

Two years after publication, little of Mr. Farrow’s article holds up, according to prosecutors and court documents. The Treasury Department records on Michael Cohen never went “missing.” That was merely the story put forward by the civil servant, an Internal Revenue Service analyst named John Fry, who later pleaded guilty to illegally leaking confidential information.

The records were simply put on restricted access, a longstanding practice to prevent leaks, a possibility Mr. Farrow briefly allows for in his story, but minimizes. And Mr. Fry’s leaks had been encouraged and circulated by a man who was barely mentioned in Mr. Farrow’s article, the now-disgraced lawyer Michael Avenatti, a passionate antagonist of Mr. Cohen.

Mr. Farrow may now be the most famous investigative reporter in America, a rare celebrity-journalist who followed the opposite path of most in the profession: He began as a boy-wonder talk show host and worked his way downward to the coal face of hard investigative reporting. The child of the actress Mia Farrow and the director Woody Allen, he has delivered stories of stunning and lasting impact, especially his revelations about powerful men who preyed on young women in the worlds of Hollywood, television and politics, which won him a Pulitzer Prize.

I’ve been watching Mr. Farrow’s astonishing rise over the past few years, marveling at his ability to shine a light on some of the defining stories of our time, especially the sexual misconduct of the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, which culminated with Mr. Weinstein’s conviction in February just before the pandemic took hold. But some aspects of his work made me wonder if Mr. Farrow didn’t, at times, fly a little too close to the sun.

ronan farrow catch and kill CustomBecause if you scratch at Mr. Farrow’s reporting in The New Yorker and in his 2019 best seller, Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators, you start to see some shakiness at its foundation. He delivers narratives that are irresistibly cinematic — with unmistakable heroes and villains — and often omits the complicating facts and inconvenient details that may make them less dramatic. At times, he does not always follow the typical journalistic imperatives of corroboration and rigorous disclosure, or he suggests conspiracies that are tantalizing but he cannot prove.

Mr. Farrow, 32, is not a fabulist. His reporting can be misleading but he does not make things up. His work, though, reveals the weakness of a kind of resistance journalism that has thrived in the age of Donald Trump: That if reporters swim ably along with the tides of social media and produce damaging reporting about public figures most disliked by the loudest voices, the old rules of fairness and open-mindedness can seem more like impediments than essential journalistic imperatives.

That can be a dangerous approach, particularly in a moment when the idea of truth and a shared set of facts is under assault.

The New Yorker has made Mr. Farrow a highly visible, generational star for its brand. And Mr. Farrow’s supporters there point out the undeniable impact of his reporting — which ousted abusers like New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, and helped rewrite the rules of sex and power in the workplace, sometimes with his colleague Jane Mayer. Ken Auletta, The New Yorker writer who helped Mr. Farrow take his work from NBC to the magazine, said that the important thing is that Mr. Farrow helped reveal Mr. Weinstein’s predatory behavior to the world and bring him down.

“Are all the Ts crossed and the Is dotted? No,” Mr. Auletta said of some of Mr. Farrow’s most sweeping claims of a conspiracy between Mr. Weinstein and NBC to suppress his work.

“You’re still left with the bottom line — he delivered the goods,” Mr. Auletta said.

David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, defended Mr. Farrow’s reporting, calling it “scrupulous, tireless, and, above all, fair.”

“Working alongside fact checkers, lawyers and other editorial staff members at The New Yorker, he achieved something remarkable, not least because he earned the trust of his sources, many of whom had to relive traumatic events when they talked to him,’’ Mr. Remnick said in a statement. “We stand by Ronan Farrow’s reporting. We’re proud to publish him.”

Mr. Farrow, in his own statement to The New York Times, said he brings “caution, rigor, and nuance” to each of his stories. “I’m proud of a body of reporting that has helped to expose wrongdoing and to bring important stories into public view.”

It’s impossible, however, to go back and answer the question of whether Mr. Farrow’s explosive early reporting would have carried such power if he’d been more rigorous and taken care to show what he knew and what he didn’t. Is the cost of a more dramatic story worth paying? Because this much is certain: There is a cost.

That becomes clear in an examination of Mr. Farrow’s debut article on Mr. Weinstein, back in October 2017, which provided the first clear, on-the-record claim that Mr. Weinstein had gone beyond the systematic sexual harassment and abuse revealed days earlier by The Times into something that New York prosecutors could charge as rape. The accuser was Lucia Evans, a college student whom Mr. Weinstein had approached at a private club, and then later lured to his office with a promise of acting opportunities. There, she told Mr. Farrow, he forced her to perform oral sex on him.

But a fundamental principle of the contemporary craft of reporting on sexual assault is corroboration: the painstaking task of tracking down friends and neighbors a traumatized victim may have confided in soon after the assault, to see if their accounts align with the victim’s story and to give it more — or less — weight. In much of the strongest #metoo reporting, from the stories about Mr. Weinstein in The New York Times to The Washington Post’s exposé of Charlie Rose and even some of Mr. Farrow’s other articles, clunky paragraphs interrupt the narrative to explain what an accuser told friends, and often, to explore any conflicting accounts. Americans are now watching this complicated form of reporting play out in the stories about Tara Reade, who has accused Joe Biden of assaulting her.

Mr. Farrow’s first big story on Mr. Weinstein offered readers little visibility into the question of whether Ms. Evans’s story could be corroborated. He could have indicated that he had, or hadn’t, been able to corroborate what Ms. Evans said, or reported what her friends from the time had told the magazine. He wrote instead: “Evans told friends some of what had happened, but felt largely unable to talk about it.”

It appears Mr. Farrow was making a narrative virtue of a reporting liability, and the results were ultimately damaging.

A crucial witness, the friend who was with Ms. Evans when both women met Mr. Weinstein at the club, later told prosecutors that when a fact checker for The New Yorker called her about Mr. Farrow’s story, she hadn’t confirmed Ms. Evans’s account of rape. Instead, according to a letter from prosecutors to defense lawyers, the witness told the magazine that “something inappropriate happened,” and refused to go into detail.

But the witness later told a New York Police Department detective something more problematic: That Ms. Evans had told her the sexual encounter with Mr. Weinstein was consensual. The detective told the witness that her response to the magazine’s fact checker “was more consistent” with Ms. Evans’s allegation against Mr. Weinstein and suggested she stick to The New Yorker version, prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorneys office later acknowledged. The detective denied the exchange, but when Mr. Weinstein’s lawyers unearthed the witness’s contradictory accounts, the judge dismissed the charge. Mr. Weinstein’s lawyers gloated, though, of course, their client was ultimately convicted on other counts.

May 17

The Atlantic, Opinion: The Conspiracy Theorists Are Winning, Jeffrey Goldberg, June, 2020. America is losing its grip on Enlightenment values and reality atlantic logoitself. The Middle East is a cauldron of conspiracy, a place where the most bizarre theories often have real policy consequences. Saul Lieberman once said, “Nonsense is nonsense but the history of nonsense is scholarship.” I would add: The influence of nonsense, when unchecked by science, by direct observation, by a shared epistemological reality, can be profoundly damaging.

atlantic logo horizontalEight years later, in a windowless Austin, Texas, warehouse, the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was explaining to me why he, like Mustafa Mahmoud, disbelieved the investigated and proven truth of what happened on 9/11. Jones is a top-tier conspiracist, a professional one, too, and I visited him at his headquarters to find out for myself if he actually believed the idiocy he peddled—that the government controls the weather; that Bill Gates is secretly a genocidal eugenicist. The list of absurdities has no end. It always seemed outlandish to me that otherwise smart people (Mustafa Mahmoud was one of Egypt’s leading physicians) could sincerely believe in theories that stand in opposition to logic, Occam’s razor, and accreted fact. My assumption about people like Jones was that they were nihilistic grifters, exploiting innocent people seeking to satiate the deep human need for coherence.

Jones told me he was busy; I could have 30 minutes. Four hours later he was still talking—we were having dinner at a Mexican restaurant by then—and I was looking for an exit. He was nuts, and therefore exhausting. It was an afternoon filled with statements like this: “We’re living under tyranny. The bankers, the New World Order, they’re using the War Powers Act to grab our guns. This isn’t a republic. Come on, if you say the bankers are forcing fluoride on us, if you call 9/11 an inside job, they’ll destroy your life, that’s how evil they are.”

Trump does not defend our democracy from the ruinous consequences of conspiracy thinking. Instead, he embraces such thinking. A conspiracy theory—birtherism—was his pathway to power, and, in office, he warns of the threat of the “deep state” with the ferocity of a QAnon disciple. He has even begun to question the official coronavirus death toll, which he sees as evidence of a dark plot against him. How is he different from Alex Jones, from the conspiracy manufacturers of Russia and the Middle East?

He lives in the White House. That is one main difference.

The Atlantic, State and Federal Data on COVID-19 Testing Don’t Match Up, Robinson Meyer and Alexis C. Madrigal, June, 2020. The CDC has quietly atlantic logostarted releasing nationwide numbers. But they contradict what states themselves are reporting.

For the past 11 weeks, the COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic has been the country’s only reliable source for national testing data. (The tracker compiles the number of tests reported by each U.S. state and territory daily.) While the CDC has provided only occasional and rudimentary tallies of total tests, data from the COVID Tracking Project have been used by Johns Hopkins University, governors and members of Congress, and the White House.

atlantic logo horizontalWith the new CDC site, the federal government is providing regular testing data again, and for the first time ever, it is doing so on a state-by-state level. But an initial analysis of the CDC’s state-level data finds major discrepancies between what many states are reporting and what the federal government is reporting about them. In Florida, for example, the disparity is enormous. The state government reported on Friday that about 700,000 coronavirus tests have been conducted statewide since the beginning of the outbreak.

This count should be authoritative: Governor Ron DeSantis has ordered hospitals and doctors to report their test results to the Florida Department of Health. Yet the CDC reported more than 919,000 tests in the state in that same period. That’s 31 percent more tests than Florida itself seems to think it has conducted. (Because the CDC says it does not update its data on the weekends, we have, throughout this article, compared its figures against the numbers reported by each state on Friday.) When we asked the CDC to explain the discrepancy in Florida, the agency declined to comment on the record.

“If this is what they’re getting, the CDC should pick up the phone and call the state of Florida and say, ‘What’s happening?’” Ashish Jha, the K.T. Li Professor of Global Health at Harvard, told us.

Given the complexity and the multisource nature of the data, some variations should certainly be anticipated. But the inconsistencies we found suggest that Florida is not an outlier. Using the state numbers that match the CDC’s output most closely, in 22 states, the CDC’s reported number of tests diverges from the number reported by the state government by more than 10 percent. In 13 states, it diverges by more than 25 percent. In some cases, the CDC’s tallies are much higher than what states are reporting; in others, much lower.

  • The Atlantic, Birtherism of a Nation, Adam Serwer, June, 2020. The conspiracy theories surrounding Obama’s birthplace and religion were much more than mere lies. They were ideology.

May 15

PBS, What 74 former Biden staffers think about Tara Reade’s allegations, Daniel Bush and Lisa Desjardins, May 15, 2020. Over his decades-long career in the Senate, former Vice President Joe Biden was known as a demanding but fair and family-oriented boss, devoted to his home life in Delaware and committed to gender equality in his office.

He was not on a list of “creepy” male senators that female staffers told each other to avoid in the elevators on Capitol Hill.

Yet Biden, now the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, was also a toucher, seemingly oblivious to whether physical contact made some women uncomfortable. That behavior has persisted in recent years. Biden is now facing fresh scrutiny after a former aide in March charged that he sexually assaulted her when she worked in his Senate office in the early 1990s, an allegation Biden has categorically denied.

The PBS NewsHour spoke with 74 former Biden staffers, of whom 62 were women, in order to get a broader picture of his behavior toward women over the course of his career, how they see the new allegation, and whether there was evidence of a larger pattern.

None of the people interviewed said that they had experienced sexual harassment, assault or misconduct by Biden. All said they never heard any rumors or allegations of Biden engaging in sexual misconduct, until the recent assault allegation made by Tara Reade. Former staffers said they believed Reade should be heard, and acknowledged that their experiences do not disprove her accusation.

In all, the NewsHour tried to contact nearly 200 former staffers of Biden’s, based primarily on public records of his time in the Senate and White House and also from interviews with current campaign advisers. They include former interns and senior aides, from his 1972 Senate campaign through his time at the White House.

Some are still in politics, others left long ago to pursue other careers. They were asked about Reade’s allegation but also whether they, or anyone they know, were ever uncomfortable around Biden. Many said that her sexual assault allegation was at odds with their knowledge of Biden’s behavior toward women.

The interviews revealed previously unreported details about the Biden office when Reade worked there, such as an account that she lost her job because of her poor performance, not as retaliation for lodging complaints about sexual harassment, as Reade has said.

Other recollections from former staffers corroborated things she has described publicly, such as Biden’s use of the Senate gym and a supervisor admonishing her for dressing inappropriately.

Overall, the people who spoke to the NewsHour described largely positive and gratifying experiences working for Biden, painting a portrait of someone who was ahead of his time in empowering women in the workplace.

“The one thing about Joe Biden is, he is a man of the highest character and that’s why these accusations are so surreal and just can’t comport with the man I worked with,” said Marcia Lee Taylor, a senior policy advisor on the Judiciary Committee, where women held leading roles when Biden served as chairman.

But he had blindspots, which Biden himself has publicly acknowledged, when it came to how his interactions with women in public could make them uncomfortable.

Reade declined the NewsHour’s interview request but her attorney, Doug Wigdor, sent detailed answers to a number of questions by email. He wrote that Biden’s public touching is evidence that he could have mistreated his client in the way she claims.

“I don’t think anyone would describe these situations as normal,” Wigdor wrote. “They are troublesome, to say the least.”

Many former Biden staffers said they believe Reade’s allegation is false.

Addressing Tara Reade’s allegations

Since Reade went public with her assault accusation in March, former staffers of Biden’s world have been scanning their memories, considering the details of her story and their own experiences.

Reade, in interviews with multiple news outlets, has alleged that Biden attacked her in the Senate complex when she met him on an errand. But her accusations are also more sweeping. She has charged that the Biden office was a toxic place to work, that the senator touched her shoulders and neck multiple times, and that she was asked to serve drinks because he thought she was pretty. Reade has also claimed she was demoted and ultimately pushed to leave because she complained about workplace harassment.

The NewsHour spoke with more than 20 people who worked for Biden when Reade was also a staffer. Some remembered her, many did not.

Ben Savage, who said his desk was next to Reade’s in the Biden mailroom, disputed her charge that she was forced out of her job in retaliation for a sexual harassment complaint she claims to have filed.

Savage, who worked as the office’s systems administrator, overseeing computers and information processing, told the NewsHour that Reade was fired for her poor performance on the job, which he witnessed — not as retaliation for her complaints about sexual harassment.

But according to Savage, Reade had been mishandling a key part of her job and an essential office task — processing constituent mail, something they worked on together. Savage said he recalls reporting these issues to his boss, deputy chief of staff Dennis Toner. After that, Savage said he began diminishing Reade’s duties, taking over some of her tasks and rerouting parts of the process to exclude her.

“Of all the people who held that position, she’s the only one during my time there who couldn’t necessarily keep up or who found it frustrating,” said Savage, who worked in the office for three years, from 1993 to 1996.

Toner, who was Savage’s direct supervisor, told the NewsHour that he did not remember Reade. He said he did remember Savage as a good worker who stood out in the office.

“I can’t take issue with Ben saying that her job performance was not up to par. We would have had a discussion with Tara or whomever the employee would have been to see how we could make it work,” Toner said. “I do not recall Tara being in the office. I can’t comment on why she would have left or anything like that,” he added.

Wigdor, Reade’s attorney, said that she does not remember Savage specifically, but said his story is wrong and her performance had nothing to do with her termination.

“Ms. Reade recalls that there was a lot of nitpicking regarding her performance in the office,” he wrote. “She was also very nervous at that point and distracted so it is possible that from time to time there was a mistake made … but her performance had nothing to do with her termination.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden says he does not remember Tara Reade, Annie Linskey, May 15, 2020. Joe Biden says on MSNBC that he does not recall the former senate aide, who worked for him in the early 1990s.

Former vice president Joe Biden said Thursday that he does not remember Tara Reade, who has accused him of sexually assaulting her when she was working in his Senate office in the early 1990s.

Asked by MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell if he remembers Reade, Biden said: “To be honest with you, I don’t.”

Biden made the remarks in an interview that aired Thursday evening on “The Last Word.” The presumptive Democratic nominee for president appeared alone in one segment of the program, and was then joined by Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic Georgia gubernatorial nominee.

Abrams is a potential vice-presidential pick for Biden, and he asked that she join him on the program. He complimented her work on voting rights, saying she “knows what she’s doing and she’s incredibly capable person.”

tara reade joe biden CustomBefore Abrams, Biden was asked about Reade and made his most extensive comments since he first addressed the accusation on “Morning Joe” earlier this month.

“Her story has changed considerable times,” Biden said at one point. “This claim has changed as it’s gone on.”

Last year, Reade was among several women who said that Biden had made her feel uncomfortable. She told The Washington Post that he touched her neck and shoulders but did not mention the alleged assault.

This year Reade added to the story, saying that he pushed her against a wall in a Senate hallway and put his hand up her skirt.

“Nothing like this ever happened,” Biden said Thursday. “She should be heard and the story should be vetted but ultimately the truth matters.”

Biden also addressed the distress that the accusation has caused on the left, in which some activists take her claims seriously but also want to defeat President Trump, who has been accused of sexual assault by at least 16 women.

Sex Claim, Investor Scam Promoter Pursued

Jacob Wohl, whose supposed investment acumen as a 17-year-old, was featured by Fox Business News (screenshot)

Jacob Wohl, whose supposed investment acumen as a 17-year-old, was featured by Fox Business News (screenshots). Separate from his investment activities, Wohl has become known as a promoter of scandal allegations against perceived opponents of Donald Trump and other Republicans. On May 7, Diana Andrade and Jacob Wohl (Andrade photo via, Reason Magazine published a column quoting Diana Andrade, shown below right in a photo with Wohl when she said they were dating, in a story headlined as follows: Reason, She Said Anthony Fauci Sexually Assaulted Her. Now She Says Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman Paid Her to Lie.

Salon, Arizona attorney general “actively pursuing” right-wing troll Jacob Wohl, Roger Sollenberger, May 15, 2020. Right-wing provocateur Jacob Wohl owes $43,000 in Arizona, and the state AG is prepared to come for him. The Arizona attorney general's office is actively pursuing collection efforts against right-wing social media provocateur Jacob Wohl, who has not made any payments toward nearly $38,000 in fines from a 2016 investment fraud ruling against him, Salon has learned.

A spokesperson for the Arizona Corporation Commission notified Salon about Wohl's delinquency in response to a Salon article last week.

"The Commission, through the Arizona Attorney General's Office, is actively pursuing collection efforts against Mr. Wohl," the spokesperson told Salon in an email.

"Mr. Wohl has not paid anything since the matter was sent to the Attorney General's Office for collections," the spokesperson wrote in an email. "Given his indictment last year, I would venture that any available funds are going to pay his criminal defense counsel."

The Commission said it retains the right to take further action against Wohl "if he violates any part of the order or if he commits additional actions that violate the Arizona Securities Act or the Investment Management Act."

According to the court order, the commission said, Wohl accrues interest on any unpaid amount.

"Between penalty and restitution, Mr. Wohl owes approximately $43,000," the commission spokesperson said. "The Attorney General's office has engaged California counsel to assist in collections efforts. Those lawyers are utilizing all statutorily allowed collection methods to obtain the funds owed to the state."

The 22-year-old Wohl, who has achieved a modest measure of media infamy with a series of hapless attempts to fabricate smears of sexual impropriety against Democratic elected officials and other public figures — including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former special counsel Robert Mueller, and, most recently, Dr. Anthony Fauci — apparently cut his teeth on investment fraud beginning in his late teens.

In 2017 the Arizona Corporation Commission filed a cease-and-desist order against Wohl, at the time 20 years old, alleging that he and his business partner broke the law in 2015 and 2016 when they misled clients about how much of their money would be at risk and exaggerated the size of their company.

The commission ordered Wohl to pay his victims $32,919 in restitution, plus $5,000 in penalties. Wohl asked for a continuance. "I'm wondering why we're going through this exercise, and why you think your client is going to make payment on a later date if he's not able to make payment today," Commissioner Boyd Dunn said to Wohl's counsel at a hearing.

"This is a relatively small amount," the attorney replied. "I know you guys have seen hundreds of thousands of dollars for these types of cases."

"It's not a small amount to the investor. So don't belittle it," Dunn said. The commission accommodated Wohl with a four-week continuance, after which he was required to pay his fine in monthly installments of $1,371.61. Arizona Central reported in 2018 that Wohl had not paid any of it, and that balance remains unchanged today.

The scams earned Wohl a lifetime ban by the National Futures Association, and led directly to felony charges currently facing him in California. (Wohl has denied wrongdoing.)

In 2016 an Arizona man tipped off the Riverside County district attorney's fffice that Wohl and his business partner, Matt Johnson, 30, had swindled him out of $75,000 he invested through Wohl Capital Investment Group. The man killed himself shortly afterward, according to Wohl's arrest warrant.

The tip led the Riverside County DA to open an investigation into a separate matter, which led the office to indict Wohl, who lives in Corona, California, as well as Johnson, on two counts of selling unregistered securities. The Daily Beast first reported those charges last September.

In February, Wohl and Johnson pleaded not guilty, but their hearing, set for April 24, was postponed due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and has not been rescheduled.

The tip led the Riverside County DA to open an investigation into a separate matter, which led the office to indict Wohl, who lives in Corona, California, as well as Johnson, on two counts of selling unregistered securities. The Daily Beast first reported those charges last September.

In February, Wohl and Johnson pleaded not guilty, but their hearing, set for April 24, was postponed due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and has not been rescheduled.

May 14

atlantic logoThe Atlantic, Investigation Into The Prophecies of Q, Adrienne LaFrance, June 2020. American conspiracy theories are entering a dangerous new phase. This article is part of “Shadowland,” a project about conspiracy thinking in America.

Conspiracy theories are a constant in American history, and it is tempting to dismiss them as inconsequential. But as the 21st century has progressed, such a dismissal has begun to require willful blindness. I was a city-hall reporter for a local investigative-news site called Honolulu Civil Beat in 2011 when Donald Trump was laying the groundwork for a presidential run by publicly questioning whether Barack Obama had been born in Hawaii, as all facts and documents showed. Trump maintained that Obama had really been born in Africa, and therefore wasn’t a natural-born atlantic logo horizontalAmerican—making him ineligible for the highest office. I remember the debate in our Honolulu newsroom: Should we even cover this “birther” madness? As it turned out, the allegations, based entirely on lies, captivated enough people to give Trump a launching pad.

[With] Trump now president, a series of ideas began burbling in the QAnon community: that the coronavirus might not be real; that if it was, it had been created by the “deep state,” the star chamber of government officials and other elite figures who secretly run the world; that the hysteria surrounding the pandemic was part of a plot to hurt Trump’s reelection chances; and that media elites were cheering the death toll. Some of these ideas would make their way onto Fox News and into the president’s public utterances. fox news logo SmallAs of late last year, according to The New York Times, Trump had retweeted accounts often focused on conspiracy theories, including those of QAnon, on at least 145 occasions.

The power of the internet was understood early on, but the full nature of that power — its ability to shatter any semblance of shared reality, undermining civil society and democratic governance in the process — was not. The internet also enabled unknown individuals to reach masses of people, at a scale Marshall McLuhan never dreamed of. The warping of shared reality leads a man with an AR-15 rifle to invade a pizza shop. It brings online forums into being where people colorfully imagine the assassination of a former secretary of state. It offers the promise of a Great Awakening, in which the elites will be routed and the truth will be revealed. It causes chat sites to come alive with commentary speculating that the coronavirus pandemic may be the moment QAnon has been waiting for. None of this could have been imagined as recently as the turn of the century.

QAnon is emblematic of modern America’s susceptibility to conspiracy theories, and its enthusiasm for them. But it is also already much more than a loose collection of conspiracy-minded chat-room inhabitants. It is a movement united in mass rejection of reason, objectivity, and other Enlightenment values. And we are likely closer to the beginning of its story than the end. The group harnesses paranoia to fervent hope and a deep sense of belonging. The way it breathes life into an ancient preoccupation with end-times is also radically new. To look at QAnon is to see not just a conspiracy theory but the birth of a new religion.

What might have languished as a lonely screed on a single image board instead incited fervor. Its profile was enhanced, according to Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins of NBC News, by several conspiracy theorists whose promotion of Q in turn helped build up their own online profiles. By now, nearly three years since Q’s original messages appeared, there have been thousands of what his followers call “Q drops” — messages posted to image boards by Q. He uses a password-protected “tripcode,” a series of letters and numbers visible to other image-board users to signal the continuity of his identity over time. (Q’s tripcode has changed on occasion, prompting flurries of speculation.) As Q has moved from one image board to the next — from 4chan to 8chan to 8kun, seeking a safe harbor — QAnon adherents have only become more devoted. If the internet is one big rabbit hole containing infinitely recursive rabbit holes, QAnon has somehow found its way down all of them, gulping up lesser conspiracy theories as it goes.

It’s impossible to know the number of QAnon adherents with any precision, but the ranks are growing. At least 35 current or former congressional candidates have embraced Q, according to an online tally by the progressive nonprofit Media Matters for America. Those candidates have either directly praised QAnon in public or approvingly referenced QAnon slogans. (One Republican candidate for Congress, Matthew Lusk of Florida, includes QAnon under the “issues” section of his campaign website, posing the question: “Who is Q?”)

QAnon has by now made its way onto every major social and commercial platform and any number of fringe sites. Tracy Diaz, a QAnon evangelist, known online by the name TracyBeanz, has 185,000 followers on Twitter and more than 100,000 YouTube subscribers. She helped lift QAnon from obscurity, facilitating its transition to mainstream social media. (A publicist described Diaz as “really private” and declined requests for an interview.) On TikTok, videos with the hashtag #QAnon have garnered millions of views. There are too many QAnon Facebook groups, plenty of them ghost towns, to do a proper count, but the most active ones publish thousands of items each day. (In 2018, Reddit banned QAnon groups from its platform for inciting violence.)

Adherents are ever looking out for signs from on high, plumbing for portents when guidance from Q himself is absent. The coronavirus, for instance — what does it signify? In several of the big Facebook groups, people erupted in a frenzy of speculation, circulating a theory that Trump’s decision to wear a yellow tie to a White House briefing about the virus was a sign that the outbreak wasn’t real. On March 9, Q himself issued a triptych of ominous posts that seemed definitive: The coronavirus is real, but welcome, and followers should not be afraid. The first post shared Trump’s tweet from the night before and repeated, “Nothing Can Stop What Is Coming.” The second said: “The Great Awakening is Worldwide.” The third was simple: “GOD WINS.”

A month later, on April 8, Q went on a posting spree, dropping nine posts over the span of six hours and touching on several of his favorite topics — God, Pizzagate, and the wickedness of the elites. “They will stop at nothing to regain power,” he wrote in one scathing post that alleged a coordinated propaganda effort by Democrats, Hollywood, and the media. Another accused Democrats of promoting “mass hysteria” about the coronavirus for political gain: “What is the primary benefit to keep public in mass-hysteria re: COVID‑19? Think voting. Are you awake yet? Q.” And he shared these verses from Ephesians: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.”

Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has become an object of scorn among QAnon supporters who don’t like the bad news he delivers or the way he has contradicted Trump publicly. In one March press conference, Trump referred to the State Department as the “Deep State Department,” and Fauci could be seen over the president’s shoulder, suppressing a laugh and covering his djt anthony fauciface. By then, QAnon had already declared Fauci irredeemably compromised, because WikiLeaks had unearthed a pair of emails he sent praising Hillary Clinton in 2012 and 2013.

Sentiment about Fauci, right, among QAnon supporters on social-media platforms ranges from “Fauci is a Deep State puppet” to “FAUCI is a BLACKHAT!!!”—the term QAnon uses for people who support the evil cabal that Q warns about. One person, using the hashtags #DeepStateCabal and #Qanon, tweeted this: “Watch Fauci’s hand signals and body language at the press conferences. What is he communicating?” Another shared an image of Fauci standing in a lab with Barack Obama, with the caption “Obama and ‘Dr.’ Fauci in the lab creating coronovirus [sic]. #DeepstateDoctor.” The Justice Department recently approved heightened security measures for Fauci because of the mounting volume of threats against him.

In the final days before Congress passed a $2 trillion economic-relief package in late March, Democrats insisted on provisions that would make it easier for people to vote by mail, prompting Q himself to weigh in with dismay: “These people are sick! Nothing can stop what is coming. Nothing.”

The most prominent QAnon figures have a presence beyond the biggest social-media platforms and image boards. The Q universe encompasses numerous blogs, proprietary websites, and types of chat software, as well as alternative social-media platforms such as Gab, the site known for anti-Semitism and white nationalism, where many people banned from Twitter have congregated. Vloggers and bloggers promote their Patreon accounts, where people can pay them in monthly sums.

There’s also money to be made from ads on YouTube. Q evangelists have taken a “publish everywhere” approach that is half outreach, half redundancy. If one platform cracks down on QAnon, as Reddit did, they won’t have to start from scratch somewhere else. Already embroiled in the battle between good and evil, QAnon has involved itself in another battle — between the notion of an open web for the people and a gated internet controlled by a powerful few.

Media Matters, Opinion: A conspiracy theorist who scammed people with a fake Ebola virus cure is now selling silver as a coronavirus solution, Eric media matters logoHananoki, May 14, 2020. Rima E. Laibow is a quack doctor who scammed people in 2014 by peddling her brand of nano-silver as a cure for the Ebola virus. She’s now fraudulently selling that product as a solution to the coronavirus pandemic, claiming that it’s “your last line of defense” and for “anyone interested in not being a statistic in this pandemic.”

She also advised people who think they have been exposed to the coronavirus or are starting to have corresponding symptoms that they should increase the daily usage of her product so they can supposedly protect themselves.

Laibow is an Arizona-based doctor, commentator, and conspiracy theorist. She is the medical director of the Natural Solutions Foundation, which describes itself as “a private international NGO (Non Governmental Organization) focused on health and food freedom.” She also posts coronavirus conspiracy theories on a website called Open Source Truth.

Laibow sells “Dr. Rima Recommends™ Nano Silver” through an online store that is apparently run by the limited liability company Natural Solutions Health.

She has a history of fraudulently marketing her silver. In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission sent her a warning letter after she repeatedly claimed that her nano-silver could cure, treat, and prevent the Ebola virus. (Laibow has heavily disputed the cdc logo Customfederal government’s action.) A June 2015 business plan posted on her website stated that “during two recent periods, mid 2009 and late 2014, (the ‘Swine Flu’ panic of 2009 and the viral threat in 2014) we sold over a $100,000 volume of silver per month for several months each time, with continuing residual sales.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that “there is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.” The FDA and FTC have been sending warning letters to companies that promote their products as being able to treat, cure, or prevent COVID-19.

May 13

Media Matters, Opinion: Month to month, Fox News’ coronavirus coverage has dropped more than 20%, Rob Savillo and Lis Power, May 13, 2020. By the media matters logotime you read this, the official American death toll from COVID-19 may have surpassed 90,000. The actual number is almost certainly much higher.

However, our review of Fox News' coverage showed that as the pandemic devastated America, the network steadily declined its coverage of the crisis. From March 12 through April 10, 95% of weekday segments on Fox were related to the coronavirus. Then, from April 13 through May 11, the proportion of coronavirus-related weekday segments on Fox dropped to just 74%. In the last week, coronavirus-related weekday segments accounted for only 56% of all output from the network. By contrast, in the same period both CNN and MSNBC maintained a high-level of coronavirus-related coverage.

fox news logo SmallFurther, many of Fox's recent segments on the coronavirus pandemic have focused on efforts to reopen the economy, rather than coverage of further coronavirus prevention efforts.

While Fox’s original coverage of the crisis proved to be harmful, their neglect of the story amidst mass death in America is equally problematic. Here are recent advertisers on the network who have sponsored Fox's disregard for public health.

Also: In one day alone, Fox & Friends devoted twice as much time to the "Obamagate" charade (more on that below) than it did on the coronavirus pandemic.

Media Matters, Fox News hosts are trying to get Fauci fired. In Senate testimony this week Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institutes of media matters logoAllergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that states that ignore federal guidelines and prematurely reopen businesses and roll back social distancing measures risk causing new outbreaks of the coronavirus, and could trigger “avoidable suffering and death” from COVID-19. Fauci’s warning received considerable blowback from Fox News and right-wing media, who appear to be trying to remove him from his high-ranking position.

In response to Fauci’s testimony, which contradicted many of President Trump’s statements, the president’s supporters at Fox lashed out at him one way or another this week. In particular, Tucker Carlson said Fauci “may be even more off-base than your average epidemiologist” and called him “the chief buffoon.”

Notably, the prime-time hosts did not criticize Trump for listening to Fauci; instead they suggested that Fauci himself has abused his power.

Fox’s notable escalation of criticism towards Fauci is bad news for those of us who believe it’s beneficial for the president to consult with an expert with decades of experience dealing with pandemics.

As Media Matters Matt Gertz explained, “Trump not only watches Fox prime-time shows religiously, but he also personally consults with their hosts. Carlson played a role in former national security adviser John Bolton’s departure from the White House, and his personal meeting with Trump and a monologue he gave in March have been credited with the president taking the virus more seriously. Hannity reportedly speaks to the president nightly and has so much influence he’s been described by White House officials as the 'shadow' chief of staff. And Ingraham dropped by the White House twice last month to advise the president and other top officials on the coronavirus response. If the Fox Cabinet turns Fauci into a regular target, it puts his job in jeopardy."

May 10

ny times logoNew York Times, Virus Conspiracists Elevate a New Champion, Davey Alba, May 10, 2020 (print ed.). A video promoting baseless and dubious claims by the discredited scientist Judy Mikovits has been viewed more than 8 million times in the past week.

In a video posted to YouTube on Monday, a woman animatedly described an unsubstantiated secret plot by global elites like Bill Gates and Dr. Anthony Fauci to use the coronavirus pandemic to profit and grab political power.

In the 26-minute video, the woman asserted how Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a leading voice on the coronavirus, had buried her research about how vaccines can damage people’s immune systems. It is those weakened immune systems, she declared, that have made people susceptible to illnesses like Covid-19.

The video, a scene from a longer dubious documentary called “Plandemic,” was quickly seized upon by anti-vaccinators, the conspiracy group QAnon and activists from the Reopen America movement, generating more than eight million views. And it has turned the woman — Dr. Judy Mikovits, 62, a discredited scientist — into a new star of virus disinformation.

Her ascent was powered not only by the YouTube video but also by a book that she published in April, “Plague of Corruption,” which frames Dr. epoch timesMikovits as a truth-teller fighting deception in science. In recent weeks, she has become a darling of far-right publications like The Epoch Times and The Gateway Pundit. Mentions of her on social media and television have spiked to as high as 14,000 a day, according to the media insights company Zignal Labs.

The rise of Dr. Mikovits is the latest twist in the virus disinformation wars, which have swelled throughout the pandemic. Conspiracy theorists have used the uncertainty and fear around the disease to mint many villains. Those include Dr. Fauci after he appeared to slight President Trump and Mr. Gates, a co-founder of Microsoft, as someone who started the disease. They have also pushed the baseless idea that 5G wireless waves can help cause the disease.

On the flip side, they have created their own heroes, like Dr. Mikovits.

The conspiracy theorists “recast a pusher of discredited pseudoscience as a whistle-blowing counterpoint to real expertise,” said Renee DiResta, a disinformation researcher at the Stanford Internet Observatory.

Dr. Mikovits did not respond to requests for comment.

Judy Mikovits has a degree in biology from the University of Virginia and a Ph.D. in molecular biology from George Washington University. From 1992 to 2001, she worked at the National Cancer Institute as a postdoctoral fellow, a staff scientist and a lab director, then served as research director of the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease from 2006 to 2011. In 2011, after her research into chronic fatigue syndrome was discredited, she was fired from Whittemore.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump wants America to ‘normalize’ coronavirus deaths. It’s the media’s job not to play along, Margaret Sullivan, right, May 10, margaret sullivan 2015 photo2020. Here’s how journalists can puncture this administration’s loaded buzzwords, bogus comparisons and callousness about human life.

Media critic and New York University professor Jay Rosen sees a strategy of normalizing coronavirus as key to Trump’s attempt to save his political skin before November’s presidential election, as he described in a widely-read essay last week:

“The plan is to have no plan, to let daily deaths between one and three thousand become a normal thing, and then to create massive confusion about who is responsible,” he wrote.

The media’s role in Trump’s plan-without-a-plan? Well, he’s counting on us to regurgitate and magnify his message — and in doing so, make people begin to shrug off the daily horrors as inevitable. When journalists repeat the rhetoric about the necessity of widespread “reopening” or when they become inured to the continuing death count, they do his work for him.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Many Have Died? For Some on the Right, It’s Politics, Not Science, Matthew Rosenberg and Jim Rutenberg, May 10, 2020 (print ed.). Elements of the right have sought to bolster President Trump’s political standing by turning scientific questions into political issues.

The claim was tailor-made for President Trump’s most steadfast backers: Federal guidelines are coaching doctors to mark Covid-19 as the cause of death even when it is not, inflating the pandemic’s death toll.

That the claim came from a doctor, Scott Jensen, who also happens to be a Republican state senator in Minnesota, made it all the more alluring to the president’s allies. Never mind the experts who said that, if anything, the death toll was being vastly undercounted.

“SHOCKING,” tweeted Chris Berg, a conservative television show host on KX4, a Fox affiliate in Fargo, N.D., after interviewing Dr. Jensen last month. Soon after, Laura Ingraham, the Fox News host, invited Dr. Jensen onto her show. His assertions were picked up by Infowars, the conspiracy-oriented website founded by Alex Jones. They were shared by followers of Qanon, who subscribe to a web of vague, baseless theories that a secret cabal in the government is trying to take down the president.

washington post logoWashington Post, NYC schools lift ban on Zoom — even as hackers hit other educational online events, Valerie Strauss, May 10, 2020. One Ohio school district is suspending its use of Zoom after a Board of Education meeting was hacked and child pornography was displayed.

A virtual graduation ceremony at Oklahoma State University held Saturday on the Zoom platform was hacked by saboteurs who displayed racist and anti-Semitic messages, the school said. Another instance of what is known as “Zoombombing” was reported in Ohio, where a Brecksville-Broadview Heights School District Board of Education meeting was interrupted by a hacker who displayed child pornography on the screen for several seconds, the district said.

Online security concerns have been growing since schools across the country closed to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus and students were told to work remotely. Schools and districts rushed to create remote lessons and partnered with different online platforms, sometimes without strict security filters. There have been numerous reports of intruders disrupting classes and school meetings, from elementary school to higher education.

May 9

ny times logoNew York Times, Will Coronavirus Kill Astrology? The pandemic has affected all of us. Who saw it coming? Hayley Phelan, May 9, 2020. If ever there was one, Susan Miller would be a blue-chip astrologer. So, in January, when she appeared on CBS New York and predicted that 2020 would “be a great year, and it will be a prosperous year,” people listened.

People listened when she said Capricorn would be the year’s “celestial favorite,” and that Cancer was the most likely to wed; Libra was set to score in real-estate and Taurus could expect a calendar full of international travel.

And then, people got mad because — it probably doesn’t need pointing out — things didn’t exactly go according to the stars’ plan.

“I remember a month ago, thinking: has everybody fired their astrologer?” said Divya Babbar, who subscribed to Ms. Miller’s free app last year. As a Sagittarius, Ms. Babbar had been looking forward to the year of profit Ms. Miller had predicted for her.

YouTube and Instagram users took to Ms. Miller’s feeds to complain. “Susan, you’re a very good writer but you forgot about the Covid-19 virus and the loss of jobs,” one user sniped.

Another railed: “Why didn’t you predict this, Susan? Covid-19 was major enough to see it coming!”

Many astrologers and their followers believe that daily events are impacted by the movements and positions of celestial objects, the planets and the sun. Science says: No. Most psychologists agree that astrology’s appeal relies largely on “confirmation bias” — the human tendency to seek out, recall and favor information that confirms what we already believe.

Astrologers, the haters say, write their horoscopes in such a broad, general way that anyone could find something that applied to them, especially if they’re really looking for it. But then March 2020 arrived, and with it the dawning of a global pandemic, the magnitude and universality of which seemed to contradict not just astrology, but the very notion that each sign could have its own fate (after all, we all are facing a common threat at the moment and it doesn’t take a seer to know that most of us will be spending a lot more time at home).

May 8

Pandemic Politics / Media

washington post logoWashington Post, White House tightens its grip on virus information, Toluse Olorunnipa, May 8, 2020 (print ed.). The president has sought to block or downplay information about the severity of the pandemic as he urges a return to normalcy. Several Republican governors are following his lead.

President Trump in recent weeks has sought to block or downplay information about the severity of the coronavirus pandemic as he urges a return to normalcy and the rekindling of an economy that has been devastated by public health restrictions aimed at mitigating the outbreak.

djt hands up mouth open CustomHis administration has sidelined or replaced officials not seen as loyal, rebuffed congressional requests for testimony, dismissed jarring statistics and models, praised states for reopening without meeting White House guidelines and, briefly, pushed to disband a task force created to combat the virus and communicate about the public health crisis.

Several Republican governors are following Trump’s lead as an effort takes shape to control the narrative about a pandemic that has continued to rage throughout a quickly reopening country. With polls showing most consumers still afraid to venture out of their homes, the Trump administration has intensified its efforts to soothe some of those fears through a messaging campaign that relies on tightly controlling information about a virus that has proven stubbornly difficult to contain.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump labels Americans as ‘warriors’ in risky push to reopen, David Nakamura, May 8, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump praised American farmers as the “warriors” in his trade war with China that was harming their exports. He used the same term to describe the Republican lawmakers who spent political capital to defend him in the impeachment fight.

Now, as he pushes to reopen the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, Trump has identified a new group of “warriors” to enlist in battle: the American public.

Trump unveiled the moniker this week — during a trip to a face-mask manufacturing facility in Phoenix on Tuesday and again in an Oval Office photo op with nurses Wednesday — suggesting it is no longer just medical workers on the front lines who must respond against the lethal illness.

“I’m actually calling now . . . the nation warriors,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “We have to be warriors. We can’t keep our country closed down for years.”

The president’s use of the term has capped a weeks-long rhetorical effort to frame the crisis through battlefield language. Trump has called himself a “wartime president” and cast the virus as an “invisible enemy” that is “smart” and “tough.” In recent days, he has taken to comparing the national emergency to other moments in American history when the nation’s collective spirit and bravery helped overcome threats from a challenging foe, including World War II.

Yet in his efforts to rally public support, Trump — as he did with the farmers and GOP lawmakers — is again shifting the burden and potential repercussions of his decisions onto those whom he is enjoining in the fight, in this case most other Americans.

Press Run, Opinion: Access journalism is killing us, Eric Boehlert, May 8, 2020. News consumers deserves real answers.  Finally emerging from his pandemic-era Fox News bunker, Trump sat for an interview with ABC News this week. For weeks as the U.S. death toll skyrocketed and tens of millions of people lost their jobs, Trump had agreed only to answer pleasing, one-on-one questions from Fox News. He did his best to create an alternate universe, where the deadly cornonavirus would soon "wash away."

Agreeing to be interviewed by ABC, Trump appeared to be taking a risk by exposing himself to tougher questions about his historically incompetent response to the public health crisis, and a mountain of evidence that he personally chose to do nothing to protect the country from a virus invasion. In the end, the soft-as-a-pillow interview on ABC proved to be no risk. And Trump probably knew that going in, because TV journalists, perhaps more concerned about access than answers, simply refuse to hold him accountable in-person.

Accustomed to blustering his way through TV Q&A's and facing minimal pushback, Trump once again delivered an often-incoherent session with ABC, while lying relentlessly. Yet Trump was never closely questioned by "ABC World News Tonight" anchor David Muir, even when the issues of the day include more than 70,000 dead Americans and 30 million lost jobs. Incredibly, Muir failed to call Trump out on the pandemic-related lies he had been telling for weeks during his White House briefings. Meaning, Muir likely knew in advance what Trump's falsehoods would be, yet the anchor did nothing.

Content with the TV "get" (i.e. landing a interview with Trump), Muir did his minimal best to hold the president accountable for what some experts see as the greatest single failure of leadership in the history of the United States presidents. Muir did what so many journalists before him have done over the last five years — he let Trump get away with it. And Muir did it at a time when America is so desperate for answers and accountability.

 Trump Donor Now Controls Postal Service

washington post logoWashington Post, Top Republican fundraiser and Trump ally named postmaster general, giving president new influence over Postal Service, Josh Dawsey, Lisa Rein and Jacob Bogage, May 7, 2020 (print ed.). Top Republican fundraiser and Trump ally named postmaster general, giving president new influence over Postal Service.

postal service old logoA top donor to President Trump and the Republican National Committee will be named the new head of the Postal Service, putting a top ally of the president in charge of an agency where Trump has long pressed for major changes in how it handles its business.

The Postal Service’s board of governors confirmed late Wednesday that Louis DeJoy, a North Carolina businessman who is currently in charge of fundraising for the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, will serve as the new postmaster general.

rnc logoThe action will install a stalwart Trump ally to lead the Postal Service, which he has railed against for years, and probably move him closer than ever before to forcing the service to renegotiate its terms with companies and its own union workforce. Trump’s Treasury Department and the Postal Service are in the midst of a negotiation over a $10 billion line of credit approved as part of coronavirus legislation in March.

amazon logo smallThe confirmation came after The Washington Post asked for comment on the decision.

Trump has indicated he wants the Postal Service to dramatically raise fees for delivering packages for customers such as Amazon in exchange for tapping the line of credit. Trump has long argued that Amazon doesn’t pay the Postal Service enough, a charge the agency has fiercely contested. (Amazon’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, owns The Post.)

Palmer Report, Opinion: For the last time, Donald Trump can’t magically rig the election by killing off the Post Office, Bill Palmer, May 8, 2020. When Donald Trump and the Republican Senate recently signaled their hesitation to include the Post Office in its overall bailout legislation, some folks out there came up with a conspiracy theory that Trump and the GOP were trying to kill off the Post Office so there would be no mail-in voting in November.

If you put any thought into this conspiracy theory at all, it immediately falls apart. Unlike most government entities, the Post Office generates substantial revenue, so it’s not something the government can get rid of simply by “defunding” it. Nor would the Post Office magically be gone from the face of the earth before the election. Even if that did happen, no one would stand for it. Democrats and Republicans both use the Post Office for various things, and would not tolerate its disappearance. For that matter, Republican and Democratic voters both like to mail in their votes.

The trouble is, we’ve seen this “Trump is killing the Post Office so he can magically rig the election” nonsense repeated so many times, it ends up warping our view of everything that we see happening. What we’re really seeing play out right now is twofold.

First, UPS and FedEx have been paying the GOP to sabotage the Post Office for a decade, because they don’t like having to compete with Post Office Priority Mail on pricing. By squeezing the Post Office, with the pension scam and other tactics, the GOP has been forcing the Post Office to raise its Priority Mail prices in order to make up the revenue. This has been going on forever; it’s just that the media has barely covered it, so most people don’t know it’s going on.

Second, Donald Trump has a personal vendetta against Amazon because its CEO Jeff Bezos also owns the Washington Post, which has exposed a number of Trump’s scandals. Sabotaging the Post Office doesn’t directly harm Bezos, as the Post Office only handles a fraction of Amazon’s shipping. But it’s fairly clear that the GOP and its donors have goaded Trump into going after the Post Office as a way of supposedly harming Bezos, because they want the Post Office to be squeezed for Priority Mail pricing reasons.

But if you weren’t aware of any of the lengthy backstory for why Trump and the GOP keep squeezing the Post Office, and your first taste of the story was when they tried to squeeze the Post Office at the start of the pandemic, then you might be inclined to mistakenly believe the this had something to do with mail-in voting.

The trouble is, this kind of conspiracy theory doesn’t help us. Yes, we need to fight for the Post Office. But we’ve needed to be fighting for the Post Office for the past decade, as the GOP has been trying to sabotage it on behalf of UPS and FedEx. If we’re only focusing on fighting an imaginary battle to stop Trump from killing the Post Office and magically rigging the election, we’ll never rectify the actual scandal – which has always centered entirely around Priority Mail pricing.

May 5

Mediaite, NY AG Reportedly Initiated Harassment Investigation Into NBC News Including Claims Against Andy Lack, Chris Matthews, Rudy Takala, May Letitia James 150x1505, 2020. New York’s attorney general Letitia James, right, launched an investigation into NBC News in late 2019, according to a new report, over allegations of sexual harassment, retaliation and gender discrimination.

The investigation involves allegations against former “Hardball” host Chris Matthews and NBC News chief Andrew Lack, according to the Tuesday report in Variety. It comes after the network’s Monday announcement that Lack was retiring earlier than anticipated.

Sources told the publication the attorney general’s office had interviewed a number of women in connection with the investigation, including former “Today” host Megyn Kelly. Attorney Douglas Wigdor is reportedly representing several of the women.

Former NBC News producer Rich McHugh said in a Monday interview he wasn’t aware of the details, but that the attorney general’s civil division was spearheading the investigation. “We’re not sure if it could lead to anything criminal, but I do know they have been looking into this and interviewing employees over a number of months,” McHugh said.

andy lackFormer “NBC News at Sunrise” anchor Linda Vester, who accused the network’s Tom Brokaw of misconduct in 2018, said the attorney general’s office asked her to share details of her allegations. “They asked me to recount my original experience, and wanted to know a lot about the retaliation after I told the Brokaw story and what I thought might be Andy Lack’s involvement in it.”

A woman who spoke anonymously said she was harassed by Matthews and that the network retaliated against her for reporting it. “Everyone in that company knew about it and they knew about it for years and it was horrible,” she said.

Another woman, Addie Zinone, who alleged that she had a 2000 affair with NBC anchor Matt Lauer while she worked as a 24-year-old production assistant, said the AG’s office also contacted her. “It’s time to ask what top management at NBC and other outlets are doing to change the culture that allowed Lauer, along with numerous news anchors with questionable attitudes toward women, to stay in their positions for nbc logoso long,” Zinone said.

Lauer, who was fired from the “Today” show in 2017 over a rape allegation, infamously had a button installed under his desk that allowed him to lock his door while visitors were in his office. NBC at the time denied the report in a vaguely-worded statement, saying, “The button releases a magnet that holds the door open. It does not lock the door from the inside.”

NBCUniversal said on Monday that Telemundo chief Cesar Conde would replace Lack at the network. Lack, who served as NBC’s president and chief operating officer, became a controversial figure after he quashed reporting by Ronan Farrow on allegations of sexual abuse by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

May 4

washington post logoWashington Post, Andy Lack, longtime NBC News and MSNBC executive, steps down from chairmanship after internal, external criticism, Sarah Ellison and Elahe Izadi, May 4, 2020. Andy Lack, right, who has served as chairman of NBC News and MSNBC for five years after a longtime affiliation with the company, is stepping down from his job amid a corporate restructuring.

andy lackLack “has decided to step down and will transition out of the company at the end of the month,” according to a statement from NBC. The move came months ahead of schedule, according to people familiar with the deliberations, who said Lack had planned to step down after the 2020 presidential election.

The announcement ended Lack’s lengthy tenure at NBC, one split into two tours and marked by significant upheaval within his ranks, particularly in his most recent time at the network.

The news came the same day NBCUniversal announced it was reorganizing its news and entertainment divisions. Cesar Conde, who has overseen Spanish-language Telemundo and NBC’s international organization, will now serve in the newly created role of chairman of NBCUniversal News Group, which includes NBC News, CNBC and MSNBC.

It’s the first big executive shuffle by CEO Jeff Shell since he took over for Steve Burke earlier this year. Lack’s direct reports, who included NBC News President Noah Oppenheim and MSNBC President Phil Griffin, will now report to Conde, along with CNBC Chairman Mark Hoffman.

msnbc logo CustomThe move comes now in part because Shell wanted to make his imprint on the company and is facing intense budget pressure during economic fallout from the novel coronavirus, according to NBCUniversal insiders who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.

That fallout had already forced NBC to place on hold an ambitious plan to launch a news service with Sky News, which NBC parent Comcast gained control of in 2018.

matt lauer todayLack, 72, a veteran TV news producer, first joined NBC as news division president in 1993 after a long career at CBS and oversaw a surge in the ratings for “NBC Nightly News” and the “Today” show. He left the network for a series of other corporate media jobs a decade later.

Since returning to the network as chairman of its news division in 2015, Lack oversaw a resurgence of some of NBC’s marquee shows, such as “Today,” and urged NBC News to fully embrace its cable partner MSNBC, pushing anchors from both divisions to work together.

He also oversaw high-profile controversies and missteps: anchor Brian Williams’s suspension and demotion for exaggerating his reporting exploits; the network’s apparent delay during the 2016 presidential campaign of the “Access Hollywood” recording from 2005 in which Donald Trump bragged about groping women; “Today” host Matt Lauer’s firing for sexual misconduct in 2017 (Lauer is shown at left in a file photo); and the ronan farrowsigning of Fox News host Megyn Kelly to a huge contract that resulted in a low-rated talk show and her eventual departure from NBC.

Lack was also in charge when NBC parted ways three years ago with investigative journalist Ronan Farrow, right, who subsequently won a Pulitzer for the New Yorker magazine with his groundbreaking story revealing Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein as a repeat sexual offender and harasser.

 chris hayes Custom

Palmer Report, Analysis, MSNBC Chairman Andy Lack resigns after network faces backlash for phony Biden scandal, Bill Palmer, May 4, 2020. MSNBC just had its ugliest five day stretch in the network’s quarter-century history. Host Chris Hayes falsely characterized a non-credible allegation against Joe Biden, which led to Biden going on Morning Joe and refuting the whole thing.

bill palmer report logo headerEven after the Associated Press confirmed that the accuser was fundamentally changing her story, MSBNC still spent the weekend obsessively hammering away at the story as if it were a real scandal. Meanwhile, MSNBC’s audience began loudly rebelling against MSNBC across social media for its journalistic malpractice.

Now MSNBC chairman Andy Lackandy lack, right, is suddenly resigning. NBC is officially saying that this is due to a larger restructuring. But these kinds of “restructuring” moves in the corporate world are often orchestrated as cover for getting rid of a specific executive without making it look like a controversial ouster.

Given the timing, it’s difficult to imagine that Lack’s abrupt departure is mere coincidence. We’re coming off a week in which large chunks of Chris Hayes’ own audience are calling for his resignation, the names of other MSNBC hosts like Ali Velshi have been trending amid backlash, and MSNBC figures like Andrea Mitchell have been getting severely “ratioed” with negative replies on Twitter.

It was fairly clear that certain MSNBC hosts felt confident in breathlessly hyping the phony Biden scandal – even as it was completely falling apart – because they felt that it was what the MSNBC bosses wanted them to do. Now that the entire thing has blown up in MSNBC’s face, and its audience is outraged, that “boss” is suddenly resigning. Again, NBC will continue to paint this as being mere coincidence. But let’s see if there’s a shift in on-air tone today at MSNBC, now that the debacle appears to have cost the network’s chairman his job.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s Fox News town hall disaster just opened up a whole new can of worms for him, Bill Palmer, right, May 4, 2020. What bill palmera lot of people don’t understand is that Fox News is a for-profit corporation like any other major news outlet. The only difference is that Fox has a business centered around feeding convenient lies to conservatives in order to rile them up and keep them tuned in. But even Fox has to maintain relative credibility with its gullible audience, or it risks losing them.

When Donald Trump agreed to do a coronavirus town hall on Fox News last night, he and his handlers must have been expecting a series of softball questions. After all, Fox News viewers are the people who like him. Perhaps he thought he’d get asked questions about how successful he is, or what an amazing job he’s done with the coronavirus crisis. Instead, the audience questions were are all fairly reasonable and topical.

bill palmer report logo headerFox could have cherry picked questions that were about how great Trump is – surely a few were submitted – but that’s clearly not where Fox’s audience is. Even these gullible conservatives are worried about treatments and vaccines, food and income, and the importance of what’s going on right now. Donald Trump must not have expected these questions, because he had no idea how to answer almost any of them.

fox news logo SmallAt one point Donald Trump was telling a bizarre and inaccurate story about World War I. He’d been asked about nursing homes. At another point Trump began rambling about airline bailouts. He’d been asked about how to save an individually-run business with no employees. His answers didn’t even match the questions.

It’s not just that Donald Trump made himself look really inept in the eyes of an unusually sober Fox News audience. The real problem for Trump is that even a lot of Fox viewers seem to be looking for serious solutions and governmental competence right now – and Trump has absolutely no idea how to deliver that or even address it. Serious moments require serious leaders, and Trump is more of a failing carnival barker than ever.

May 3

Palmer Report, Opinion: ABC News retracts phony Joe Biden story, apologizes, Bill Palmer, May 3, 2020. Even as MSNBC continues to take a bizarre victory lap for having promoted a phony Joe Biden scandal that’s falling apart in real time, ABC News has made a mess of its own, with an entirely different phony Biden scandal. This has landed the ABC reporter in hot water and made an even bigger mess of things.

bill palmer report logo headerIt all started when a woman claimed that Joe Biden had made inappropriate remarks to her during a 2008 event, while she was underage. This allegation was dead on arrival, because there’s widespread documentation that Biden wasn’t even at the event in question.

But when ABC News reporter Sasha Pezenik posted a Twitter thread about the non-story, she listed the allegation in the first tweet – where everyone would see it – and then she only acknowledged the falseness of the allegation deeper in the thread, where no one would see it.

This morning Pezenik tweeted this: “Last night I posted a tweet about Vice President Biden. The allegations in my tweet had not been vetted or put through the ABC News standards process. I have since removed the tweet and I apologize for posting it.”

This is a huge and inexcusable error in judgment – but at least she was willing to retract it and apologize.

msnbc logo CustomWhen TV news outlets breathlessly overhype a “scandal” they know is phony, and then they’re called out on it, too often they sanctimoniously double down on the false story instead of backing down. There’s a hashtag pushing for Pezenik to be fired, but we’re not sure we agree with that. She handled this very differently than MSNBC host Chris Hayes, who openly mocked his audience for daring to point out that he mischaracterized a phony Biden scandal.

SouthFront, Appeal Of SouthFront Steering Committee Regarding Censorship On YouTube And Facebook, Viktor Stoilov (SouthFront steering committee member), May 3, 2020. On April 30th, our Facebook page with about 100,000 subscribers was deleted without any warnings or an opportunity to file an appeal.

Now, the situation appears to be even worse.

youtube logo CustomOn May 1st, YouTube terminated all of South Front’s channels, with approximately 170,000 subscribers. Our YouTube channels were also terminated without any warnings or notifications. The main YouTube channel in English had over 152,000 subscribers, 1,900 uploaded videos and approximately 60 million views.

The termination of our channels occurred regardless of the fact that our YouTube channels had zero active strikes. Covering conflicts in the Middle East, we expressly understand the inherent sensitivity of the issue. Therefore, we have strictly followed YouTube’s Community Guidelines and have always complied with the Terms of Service.

SouthFront’s YouTube channels were terminated without any warning. All that we got was a single automated email regarding the termination of our inactive channel in Farsi “SouthFront Farsi” that included several translations of our war reports. However, even this email provides no details regarding the decision and just claims that “SouthFront Farsi” violated YouTube’s Terms of Service without any elaboration.

facebook logoThroughout the past five years of our endeavors, South Front has been constantly subjected to pressure from different Euro-Atlantic structures and US tech companies that hold a monopoly on the dissemination of information. We have repeatedly faced attempts to censor our coverage of world events, in the form of written analysis, videos and livestream interviews.

The only reasonable explanation, we may imagine, is that US authorities ordered YouTube and Facebook to cleanse the media sphere of sources of objective coverage and analysis on the Middle East region as a part of the ongoing preparations for a war with Iran.

May 2

Associated Press, AP Exclusive: Harassment, assault absent in Biden complaint, Alexandra Jaffe, Don Thompson and Stephen Braun, May 2, 2020.  Tara Reade, the former Senate staffer who alleges Joe Biden sexually assaulted her 27 years ago, says she filed a limited report with a congressional personnel office that did not explicitly accuse him of sexual assault or harassment.

“I remember talking about him wanting me to serve drinks because he liked my legs and thought I was pretty and it made me uncomfortable,” Reade said in an interview Friday with The Associated Press. “I know that I was too scared to write about the sexual assault.”

Reade said she described her issues with Biden but “the main word I used — and I know I didn’t use sexual harassment — I used ‘uncomfortable.’ And I remember ‘retaliation.’”

Reade described the report after the AP discovered additional transcripts and notes from its interviews with Reade last year in which she says she “chickened out” after going to the Senate personnel office. The AP interviewed Reade in 2019 after she accused Biden of uncomfortable and inappropriate touching. She did not raise allegations of sexual assault against Biden until this year, around the time he became the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

tara reade youngerThe existence of the Senate report has become a key element of the accusations against Biden, which he has flatly denied. Reade says she doesn’t have a copy of the report, and Biden said Friday that he is not aware that any complaint against him exists. He asked the Senate and the National Archives to search their records to try to locate a complaint from Reade.

But Reade [shown at left in a photo from her younger years] is suggesting that even if the report surfaces, it would not corroborate her assault allegations because she chose not to detail them at the time.

According to a transcript of her 2019 interview with the AP, Reade said: “They have this counseling office or something, and I think I walked in there once, but then I chickened out.” She made a similar statement in a second interview with AP that same day, according to written notes from the interview.

On Friday, Reade said she was referring to having “chickened out” by not filing full harassment or assault allegations against Biden. In multiple interviews with the AP on Friday, Reade insisted she filed an “intake form” at the Senate personnel office, which included her contact information, the office she worked for and some broad details of her issues with Biden.

Reade was one of eight women who came forward last year with allegations that Biden made them feel uncomfortable with inappropriate displays of affection. Biden acknowledged the complaints and promised to be “more mindful about respecting personal space in the future.”

During one of the April 2019 interviews with the AP, she said Biden rubbed her shoulders and neck and played with her hair. She said she was asked by an aide in Biden’s Senate office to dress more conservatively and told “don’t be so sexy.”

She said of Biden: “I wasn’t scared of him, that he was going to take me in a room or anything. It wasn’t that kind of vibe.”

The AP reviewed notes of its 2019 interviews with Reade after she came forward in March with allegations of sexual assault against Biden. But reporters discovered an additional transcript and notes from those interviews on Friday.

A recording of one of the interviews was deleted before Reade emerged in 2020 with new allegations against Biden, in keeping with the reporter’s standard practice for disposing of old interviews. A portion of that interview was also recorded on video, but not the part in which she spoke of having “chickened out.”

The AP declined to publish details of the 2019 interviews at the time because reporters were unable to corroborate her allegations, and aspects of her story contradicted other reporting.

In recent weeks, Reade told the AP and other news organizations that Biden sexually assaulted her, pushing her against a wall in the basement of a Capitol Hill office building in 1993, groping her and penetrating her with his fingers. She says she was fired from Biden’s office after filing a complaint with the Senate alleging harassment.

The accusation has roiled Biden’s presidential campaign, sparking anxiety among Democrats. Republicans have accused Biden backers of hypocrisy, arguing that they have been quick to believe women who have accused President Donald Trump and other conservatives of assault. Trump has faced multiple accusations of assault and harassment, all of which he denies.

Reade says she was reluctant to share details of the assault during her initial conversations with reporters over a year ago because she was scared of backlash, and was still coming to terms with what happened to her.

bill palmerPalmer Report, Opinion: Joe Biden accuser changes her story again, admits she didn’t originally even accuse him of assault, Bill Palmer, right, May 2, 2020. Even as certain MSNBC hosts continue to breathlessly hype a sexual assault allegation against Joe Biden that was already uniquely non-credible on its face, the accuser has now fundamentally changed her story yet again – and it appears she’s now trying to backtrack in rapid fashion.

Yesterday, Biden called on the National Archives and Senate archives to release their copy of the report that Tara Reade claims she filed in 1993. The National Archives says it has no such report. If the Senate confirms the same, it’ll strongly point to Reade bill palmer report logo headerhaving never filed a report to begin with. Now Reade is telling the AP that when she filed the report, she didn’t accuse Biden of sexual harassmentor assault. Instead she simply said that she felt “uncomfortable.”

This changes things in a rather massive way. By her own admission, the key supposed piece of her contemporaneous corroboration – the report she filed – absolutely does not corroborate her story. She can still argue that the assault happened and that she only filed a vague report about msnbc logo Customfeeling “uncomfortable” instead. But that won’t hold any credibility, because she originally claimed that she filed a report about sexual assault.

Biden’s accuser had already changed fundamentally changed her story in self-contradictory manner multiple times, and several of her supposed corroborators had already shot her down, before MSNBC host Chris Hayes opened this can of worms by falsely characterizing the allegation as “credible” and “corroborated.” How Hayes still has a job is anyone’s guess. At this point, this isn’t even a Joe Biden scandal; it’s a Tara Reade scandal. MSNBC had absolutely no business hyping this mess as if it were some legitimate story.

kayleigh mcenany djt

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis 15 minutes after pledging not to lie, Trump’s new press secretary made an obviously false claim, Philip Bump, May 2, 2020 (print ed.). It dealt with a former Trump official who admitted lying.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany held the first daily news briefing in more than a year Friday, her first since assuming her current role last month. McEnany, a veteran of rising to Donald Trump’s defense on cable news, when he was a candidate and now as president, was prepared for the moment, armed with voluminous talking points and an ability to seamlessly introduce them.

The reporters in the room were clearly at least somewhat skeptical of the extent to which they could take McEnany at her word. At one point, a reporter asked her to pledge that she would never lie to the reporters and, by extension, the public.

“I will never lie to you,” McEnany replied. “You have my word on that.”

Fifteen minutes later, she raised a subject no one had asked about and quickly offered an obviously false claim about it.

“I am glad that you brought up justice, and — because, look, there is, again, a case of injustice that has yet to be brought up today, but I certainly would like to bring it up,” she said. “And that’s the case of General Michael Flynn.”

She offered a rough presentation of the case being made by Flynn’s defenders that the former national security adviser was railroaded into accepting a guilty plea after misrepresenting his 2016 interactions with Russia’s ambassador during a conversation with FBI investigators. This week, the Justice Department released documents centered on the investigation, which included notes written before Flynn was interviewed by the FBI at the White House. They’ve been touted as a smoking gun showing bias against Flynn, though that interpretation is dubious.

What the notes did not say is what McEnany said they did.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s head is spinning, Bill Palmer, May 2, 2020. Over the past twenty-four hours Donald Trump has seemed to insinuate that the phony allegation against Joe Biden is both credible and fake. Last night Trump’s lapdog Lindsey Graham went on Fox News and dct underage wmr tweetstrongly defended Biden against the allegation, suggesting that Team Trump wants nothing to do with it – even amid reports that the Trump campaign was testing out a TV ad aimed at legitimizing the phony allegation. So what’s going on?

bill palmer report logo headerIt’s pretty clear that Donald Trump and his team don’t know what to do with this phony Biden scandal. That’s not surprising. It wasn’t invented for Trump’s benefit. It was invented by “Bernie or Bust” fanatics masquerading as journalists, in a desperate last-ditch attempt at taking Biden down, under the delusional belief that this would somehow result in Bernie Sanders being the nominee instead. Nevermind that Sanders has dropped out and strongly endorsed Biden; now that Bernie has formally divorced himself from the “Bust” crowd, they’ve become even more deranged in their behavior.

Joe Biden aced his interview about the fake scandal yesterday, meaning it’s not going to have the impact that the “Bust” crowd was hoping for.

Biden has a 100% chance of being the nominee. Sanders isn’t going to withdraw his endorsement and magically reenter the race, no matter how much time his more deranged supporters spend fantasizing over this.

Bernie’s reasonable supporters are already lined up behind Biden. Yet now this Biden vs Trump race has a fake Biden scandal that could end up djt pedo graphic IMG 3170 Custombeing more of a problem for Trump than for Biden.

The mere existence of the phony Biden scandal has prompted the media and the public to recall that Donald Trump has dozens of credible accusers.

If Trump and his team start trying to promote the Biden scandal, it could backfire on them, as everyone is reminded of who the actual sexual criminal is in this race. On the other hand, as the focus shifts more toward Trump’s status as a sexual predator, he and his team could feel compelled to try to play up the fake Biden allegation in the hope of shifting the focus back.

There’s a reason Donald Trump’s head is spinning as he tries to figure out how to handle this. When a fake scandal is invented about a Democratic candidate, it’s usually invented by the Republicans, meaning they get to come up with a fake scandal that specifically works in their favor.

This is a fake scandal about a Democratic candidate that was invented by the fringe left to keep the Democrat from getting to the general election to begin with, so it’s not at all a good fit for what Trump needs right now. No wonder he’s not sure what to do with it.

May 1

voice of america logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Pence staff threatens action against reporter who tweeted about visit to clinic without surgical mask, Paul Farhi, May 1, 2020. Pence Mike Pence, right, visits Mayo Clinic hospital, does not wear mask.

Vice President Pence’s office has threatened to retaliate against a reporter who revealed that Pence’s office had told journalists they would need masks for Pence’s visit to the Mayo Clinic — a requirement Pence himself did not follow.

Pence’s trip to the clinic Tuesday generated criticism after he was photographed without a surgical mask — the only person in the room not wearing one. The Minnesota clinic requires visitors to wear masks as a precaution against spreading the coronavirus.

Pence’s wife, Karen Pence, said in an interview with Fox News on Thursday that he was unaware of the mask policy until his visit was over.

But Steve Herman, who covers the White House for Voice of America, suggested that there was more to the story after Karen Pence’s interview.

“All of us who traveled with [Pence] were notified by the office of @VP the day before the trip that wearing of masks was required by the @MayoClinic and to prepare accordingly,” tweeted Herman, who covered the trip as part of his rotation as one of the pool reporters, who share information with other reporters in limited-space situations.

The tweet apparently enraged Pence’s staff, which told Herman that he had violated the off-the-record terms of a planning memo that had been sent to him and other reporters in advance of Pence’s trip.

Herman said he was notified by the White House Correspondents’ Association that Pence’s office had banned him from further travel on Air Force Two, although a spokesperson in Pence’s office later told VOA managers than any punishment was still under discussion, pending an apology from Herman or VOA.

VOA is continuing to talk with Pence’s staff, said Yolanda Lopez, the director of VOA’s news center. She said it wasn’t clear how the vice president intended to proceed. Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, declined to comment.

The issue, according to people involved, is whether Herman’s tweet violated the off-the-record terms of a planning document sent via email Monday evening by the vice president’s office to reporters who planned to travel with Pence to the clinic.

A copy of the document obtained by The Washington Post explicitly stated that masks are required for the visit and instructed reporters to wear them. “Please note, the Mayo Clinic is requiring all individuals traveling with the VP wear masks,” the document said. “Please bring one to wear while on the trip.”

The directive confirms that Pence’s staff was well aware of the need for masks, raising the possibility that none of his aides alerted him to the requirement or that Pence had intentionally flouted it, perhaps to avoid being photographed in a mask. (Pence himself told reporters after the visit that because he doesn’t have the coronavirus — he is tested frequently — he decided he could “speak to these researchers, these incredible health-care personnel, and look them in the eye and say thank you.”)

However, the planning document is marked, “OFF THE RECORD AND FOR PLANNING PURPOSES ONLY.” The off-the-record designation is standard for such logistical memos, indicating reporters are obligated not to publish or report the information. The White House typically keeps planning information confidential to maintain security for official trips.

But there’s some question about how long the obligation lasts — whether it is permanent or only applies to the period before and during the trip.

Herman’s tweet came nearly 48 hours after the vice president’s trip had ended, suggesting the vice president’s staff was more embarrassed by the disclosure than concerned about security.

“My tweet speaks for itself,” Herman said in a statement. “We always have and will strictly adhere to keeping off the record any White House communications to reporters for planning purposes involving logistics that have security implications prior to events. . . . All White House pool reporters, including myself and my VOA colleagues, take this very seriously.”

As is, the vice president’s office took no action against another reporter, Gordon Lubold of the Wall Street Journal, who traveled with Pence and tweeted something similar to Herman’s tweet Thursday. “Everyone in the entire Mayo Clinic had a mask on, everyone, and we were all told the day before we had to wear a mask if we entered the clinic,” Lubold tweeted.

In a now-deleted tweet, the clinic said it had alerted Pence to its mask policy before his visit. A later statement from the clinic said only that it had informed Pence’s office of the policy, not Pence personally.

Voice of America is a government-funded but independent news agency that has lately been the object of White House criticism. The Trump administration accused VOA this month of promoting Chinese government propaganda in its reporting about the coronavirus. The VOA’s director, Amanda Bennett, has defended its independence.

On Thursday, Pence wore a mask as he toured a General Motors auto plant in Indiana that has been converted into a factory making ventilators for hospitals around the country.

washington post logoWashington Post, House investigators demand Amazon’s Bezos testify in antitrust probe, Tony Romm and Jay Greene​, May 1, 2020. House amazon logo smalllawmakers investigating Amazon for antitrust violations demanded on Friday that Jeff Bezos, left, the company’s chief executive, agree to testify at an upcoming hearing or face a potential subpoena that would force him to appear.

jeffrey bezos washington postThe dramatic escalation between members of Congress and the e-commerce giant follows reports that Amazon employees tapped data from third-party sellers in its marketplace to make decisions about launching its own competing products, despite initially telling Democrats and Republicans it did not engage in such practices.

Lawmakers on the House’s top competition-focused panel specifically pointed to statements that Amazon made starting last July, when officials explicitly told Congress that “we do not use any seller data to compete with them." Lawmakers raised the potential that Amazon might have committed perjury during its earlier testimony on Capitol Hill.

Palmer Report, Opinion: What did Bill Barr just do to Michael Cohen? Bill Palmer, May 1, 2020.  Two weeks ago, it was announced that Michael Cohen was william barr new obeing released from prison early due to the coronavirus outbreak in the prison system, and that he would serve the rest of his sentence from home. Then word surfaced that Cohen is writing a tell-all book about Donald Trump that will be released before the election. Now, suddenly, Cohen isn’t going to be released from prison.

It’s not difficult to figure out what’s going on here. Donald Trump’s lawyer recently sent a letter to Michael Cohen, threatening him over the book. This gives away that Trump is scared to death of what Cohen might do to him. And now, according to the Daily bill palmer report logo headerBeast, Cohen is suddenly not being let out.

It’s fairly clear to us that Attorney General Bill Barr, right, has intervened and is blocking Michael Cohen from being released. Of course this won’t actually stop Cohen’s book from being published; he’s been writing it while in prison, and it’ll come out before the election whether he’s still locked up or not. The book won’t contain any national security matters, like John Bolton’s book did, so there will be no method for Trump to use for trying to forcibly delay Cohen’s book.

djt smiling fileOf course Bill Barr is no dummy, so he knows that keeping Michael Cohen locked up won’t keep his book from coming out. But Barr knows that Donald Trump is the kind of dummy who thinks keeping Cohen locked up will somehow keep his book from coming out. As usual, Barr is making a move that will please Trump, but not help Trump. If anything, this controversy over Cohen’s release hurts Trump, because now it’ll be a bigger story, and more people will be looking forward to seeing what’s in Cohen’s book.

Biden Accuser Commentary

washington post logojennifer rubin new headshotWashington Post, Opinion: What Joe Biden did right in rebutting Tara Reade’s claims, Jennifer Rubin, right, May 1, 2020. Political pundits will “grade” former vice president Joe Biden’s response to Tara Reade’s allegation that he digitally penetrated her more than 25 years ago. The campaign’s written statement was empathetic and respectful but definitive. Biden sat for a tough interview Friday without losing his cool. He was not angry or accusatory; he did not claim a conspiracy nor insult the accuser. He volunteered to open Senate papers (which he said are at the National Archives, not at the University of Delaware). In short, he did what an innocent person would do and say.

The lines “If you believe Christine Blasey Ford, you have to believe Reade” or “You didn’t believe President Trump, so you cannot believe Biden” (or other variations) are the worst examples of mindless “balance” and faux objectivity. It takes a minute to identify fundamental differences between situations that bear little resemblance to one another.

Trump never sat for a grueling interview to go through the facts of more than a dozen claims against him. Biden sat for an interrogation of a single claim of sexual assault. (And no, his penchant to ignore personal space and excessive hugginess were not sexual, although they were inappropriate.)

Unlike Republicans and now-Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, who refused to allow a full investigation of charges, Biden has put no restrictions on media inquiries and has offered up relevant documents. (Republicans also refused to open up all documents relevant to Kavanaugh’s past White House work having nothing to do with Ford’s allegation.)

And let’s get real: Reade and Ford are not similar accusers. Ford’s story was consistent for years. Reade’s has not been. Ford did not claim to have complained contemporaneously; Reade did and was rebutted by Biden staff to whom she would have complained. In Kavanaugh’s case, there was another witness to an alleged, separate incident of sexual misconduct at Yale University involving Kavanaugh. In Reade’s case, no one else has accused Biden of anything like Reade’s claim.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why we’ll never have resolution on Tara Reade’s accusation against Joe Biden, Paul Waldman, May 1, 2020. We will be spending a good bit of time debating whether Biden’s comments were properly sensitive or politically deft, and people will continue to argue about whether Reade’s charge or Biden’s denial is more convincing.

But we should understand that there will be no resolution to this controversy, no satisfying conclusion, no point at which anyone feels that we’ve fully understood what happened and what we should think about it. It may fade as a campaign issue, but it will remain an open wound.

And yes, we can point out that President Trump has been credibly accused of various forms of sexual misconduct, all the way up to rape, by no fewer than two dozen women, not to mention the fact that he is on tape bragging about his ability to sexually assault women with impunity. And we can observe that unlike Biden, who reiterates that women have a right to be heard and refrains from attacking Reade, Trump has met his accusers with the accusation that they’re all despicable liars; in one case, he said, “Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you.”

You can point all that out to Trump’s supporters, but it won’t do you any good. Unlike liberals for whom sexual assault and gender equality are important issues, many conservatives are unencumbered by questions of principle, and they’re practiced at pretending to care about something for only as long as it gives them political advantage. Remind them that the president they worship is an accused sexual predator, and they’ll just laugh.

And right now, they couldn’t be happier. If you search “Tara Reade” at, you come up with more than 2,500 results. It’s a game they’re practiced at playing. They don’t need to persuade the public that Trump is good, only that everyone else is just as bad as he is — just as corrupt, just as venal, just as dishonest, just as morally contemptible. The fact that the charge against Biden is the same kind that has been leveled so many times (and far more persuasively) against Trump isn’t a bug; it’s a feature.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Biden begs off questions about University of Delaware documents, Aaron Blake, May 1, 2020. Joe Biden gave his first public interview Friday about allegations of sexual assault against him. And he set up the interview by issuing a lengthy statement in which he called for the National Archives to release any record of the complaint that his accuser, Tara Reade, says she filed in the early 1990s — but that Biden says didn’t exist.

But during the subsequent interview on MSNBC, he struggled to answer questions about other documents that could also potentially shed some light: ones housed at the University of Delaware.

Biden resisted repeated inquires from “Morning Joe” host Mika Brzezinski about also releasing documents from his personal files there. Those documents are being held back now since they are generally released once an official like Biden leaves public life.

Biden repeatedly sought to beg off questions about the files by saying that they would not contain any documents pertinent to the Reade allegations.

“First of all, let’s get this straight: There are no personnel documents. You can’t do that,” Biden said, adding: “You have my income tax returns. They’re private documents. They do not get put out in the public. They’re not part of the public record.”

He repeatedly drove home the point that there were “no personnel records” in the documents. Pressed further, he said he was also sure there was nothing about Reade in those documents.

“So personnel records aside, are you certain there was nothing about Tara Reade in those records --” Brzezinski asked.

“I am absolutely certain,” he said, adding: “There is nothing. They’re not there. I don’t understand the point you’re trying to make. There are no personnel records, by definition.”

Biden also said he worried that disclosing documents, including his confidential conversations with foreign leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, “could really be taken out of context.” He emphasized that those documents are generally released when someone leaves public office.

“All of that to be fodder in a campaign at this time — I don’t know of anybody who’s done anything like that,” Biden said.

Brzezinski then offered a compromise: Why not have someone search just for documents that pertain to Reade?

Biden, though, wouldn’t commit to it. “Who does that search?” he said.

Brzezinski said the university or some kind of commission could do so, but Biden reverted to talking about how any actual complaint should be in the National Archives.

But while the complaint — which Reade has said was not for the alleged assault but for making her feel uncomfortable — might not be in Biden’s University of Delaware files, those files could contain other documentation that could shed light. As The Post’s editorial board wrote recently in urging Biden to release any such relevant records:

The editorial board repeatedly acknowledged there may indeed be nothing pertinent or about Reade in those files, as Biden now insists, but it said they should be examined:

There are 1,875 boxes and 415 gigabytes of electronic content, largely uncataloged. Searching won’t be as easy as some might assume. But an inventory conducted with an eye toward releasing only relevant material could at least ascertain whether personnel records are part of this archive at all.

Disinformation Via Cults, Web

washington post logoWashington Post, Internet Culture Analysis: Why dangerous conspiracy theories about the virus spread so fast — and how they can be stopped, Travis M. Andrews, May 1, 2020. Fighting online misinformation, such as the 5G conspiracy theory, can feel like fighting a waterfall. But it can be done.

Since the novel coronavirus pandemic began, misinformation has proliferated on the Internet — par for the course during a crisis. People took to social media in droves to share false claims that covering your body in chlorine or eating garlic were effective methods of fighting the virus, both of which were disproved by the World Health Organization.

The pandemic has also sparked a wave of more insidious conspiracy theories, such as the false claim that 5G mobile networks spread and worsen the coronavirus, which has led to dozens of instances of arsonists setting fire to cell towers across Europe.

Misinformation spreads online much like a virus itself. Although various types spread slightly differently, the transmission of the 5G conspiracy theory offers some insight into how false claims grow online.

In this case, it involved 5G, the newest, fastest type of cellular network, which began deploying globally in 2019. As is usually the case with new technologies, it has attracted its fair share of conspiracy theories. A general practitioner in Belgium named Kris Van Kerckhoven baselessly told the newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws in a Jan. 22 story that 5G was life-threatening and linked to the coronavirus, as Wired reported.

The newspaper quickly issued a correction and deleted the offending article from its website, but it was too late. Anti-5G groups began spreading the rumor, and some members of a frightened public, desperate for some sense of order, believed this deeply implausible lie.

It’s certainly more difficult to fight misinformation if someone is purposely and relentlessly spreading it, which is partially the case with various 5G conspiracy theories. The Russian network RT America has been peddling disinformation about the mobile network since long before covid-19, in part, according to the New York Times, to slow the rollout in the United States and give Russia time to catch up.

RT helped plant the seeds of mistrust surrounding 5G. Van Kerckhoven watered them.

Alex Jones Screen shot May 1, 2020 at 12.02.06 pm

If society collapses, Alex Jones says he would kill and cook his neighbours to feed his children (screenshot from Infowars )

Independent, Alex Jones says he'd kill and cook his neighbors to feed his kids, Oliver O'Connell, May 1, 2020. He has a few years’ worth of food stored away to get through first.

In an unhinged rant on his InfoWars radio show, notorious conspiracy theorist Alex Jones described in detail how he would kill and eat his neighbours to feed his children.

In a segment from his 28 April show: ‘Mission Accomplish! Coronavirus Panic Triggers Global Collapse,’ the controversial radio host said: “You know what, I’m ready. My daughters aren’t starving to death. I’ll eat my neighbors.”

He then explains in graphic detail how he would go about doing so.

A one-minute-long edited segment of the show was posted to Twitter by Jones’ ex-wife Kelly Jones, with whom he has battled in court for custody of their three children.

Ms Jones tweeted: “This is my ex-husband, Alex Jones, graphically describing how he'll kill his neighbor to f e e d my kids: Homicidal. Terrifying.”
Watch more

“I lost my kids for tweeting about injustice. This is UNJUST to my kids. This is a mom's worst nightmare. Court must act,” she added, before asking for retweets to further her cause.

The Joneses divorced in March 2015, and in 2017 Ms Jones sought sole or joint custody of the children due to her husband’s behaviour — he has a history of wild conspiracy theories and on-air rants. Ms Jones says that he is “not a stable person.”



April 28

washington post logomargaret sullivan 2015 photoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump has played the media like a puppet. We’re getting better — but history will not judge us kindly, Margaret Sullivan, right, April 28, 2020. The media has failed America by never figuring out how to cover a president who busts all our norms., Howard Stern: Trump Supporters Should All ‘Take Disinfectant and Drop Dead,’ Staff Writer, April 28, 2020. “I would love it if Donald would get on TV and take an injection of Clorox and let’s see if his theory works,” Howard Stern said on his show on Monday according to the NY Daily News.

“Hold a big rally, say f—k this coronavirus, with all of his followers, and let them hug each other and kiss each other and have a big rally.”

When Robin Quivers suggested, “A big cocktail of disinfectant,” Stern replied “Yeah…and all take disinfectant and all drop dead.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump allies highlight new claims regarding allegations against Biden, Matt Viser, April 28, 2020 (print ed.). A former neighbor and a former work colleague are reported to have corroborated claims of harassment and assault by a former Senate aide to Joe Biden.

April 27

diamond and silk cropped

Daily Beast, Fox News Cuts Ties With Diamond & Silk, Unofficial Trump ‘Advisers’ Who Spread Bonkers Coronavirus Claims, Lachlan Cartwright and daily beast logoJustin Baragona, April 27, 2020. The MAGA superstars lost their Fox gig after pushing absolutely wild conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fox News has cut ties with MAGA vlogging superstars Diamond & Silk, who had contributed original content to the network’s streaming service Fox Nation since shortly after its late 2018 launch.

The sudden split comes after the Trump-boosting siblings have come under fire for promoting conspiracy theories and disinformation about the coronavirus. “After what they’ve said and tweeted you won’t be seeing them on Fox Nation or Fox News anytime soon,” a source with knowledge of the matter told The Daily Beast.

After rising to prominence during the 2016 election, Lynette “Diamond” Hardaway and Rochelle “Silk” Richardson leveraged their newfound celebrity into regular sycophantic appearances on Fox News, resulting in President Donald Trump raving about their performances, featuring them at rallies, and treating them as “senior advisers.”

fox news logo SmallThe social-media personalities were eventually tapped to provide weekly videos for Fox Nation after it launched as a subscription-based online video network. Their episodes, essentially 5-7 minute distillations of their freeform live-streams, appeared like clockwork on the streaming service until earlier this month.

No new episodes of their online program have been uploaded since April 7, as CNN senior media reporter Oliver Darcy first noted over the weekend. Prior to this month, the duo never missed a week posting episodes since December 2018.

A spokesperson for Fox News did not respond to a request for comment. Diamond & Silk also did not reply when emailed by The Daily Beast.

The sisters’ Fox guest spots have also dried up recently. According to a search of TVEyes, a cable-news monitoring system, Diamond & Silk haven’t appeared on the network since a March 6 interview on Fox & Friends and a March 7 hit on the now-defunct Fox Business Network show trish regan fox Customhosted by Trish Regan, who was also ditched by Fox after her own comments calling the pandemic an “impeachment scam.”

Diamond & Silk have used their heavy social-media presence to be at the forefront of right-wing misinformation about the COVID-19 outbreak. For instance, during their March 30 livestream, the duo claimed that the number of American coronavirus deaths has been inflated to make Trump look bad.

“What I need to know is how many people have passed away in New York, and what I need to know is: Who has the bodies?” Diamond asked. “I need for somebody that does investigative work to call the morgues. To call the funeral homes. We need to know, because I don't trust anything else that comes out of his mouth now... Something's not right here. Something is off here.”

She added: “Is this being deliberately spread? Look, I’m not being a conspiracy theorist, this is real, but I’m asking my own questions. What the hell is going on?"

Silk, meanwhile, baselessly asserted that the disease was “man-made” and “engineered,” wondering aloud if there was a “little deep-state action going on behind the scenes.” She also questioned whether the World Health Organization had a “switch” to “turn this virus on and off?”

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), A cult within a cult: Falun Gong and the Trump administration, Wayne Madsen, left, April 27, 2020. Falun Gong, the Central wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallIntelligence Agency-linked Chinese cult, which is banned in China, has achieved overarching influence in the Donald Trump White House, State Department, and among Republican Party stalwarts harboring ambitions for national office. The cult's newspaper, The Epoch Times, enjoys access to White House press conferences and is currently engaged in a campaign to cast blame on China for the Covid-19 pandemic.

Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), as well as former Trump ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and right-wing radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, have swallowed Falun Gong's bait by accusing China of manufacturing the Covid-19 virus as a bio-weapon at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The Falun Gong has also enticed Trump personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani into making the false claim epoch timesthat President Barack Obama funded virus research at the Wuhan laboratory in 2017, even though Trump was president during the time frame. Giuliani tweeted: "Why did the US (NIH) in 2017 give $3.7m to the Wuhan Lab in China?"

In fact, the National Institutes of Health grants to an NGO that was conducting virus research at the Wuhan laboratory were approved by the Republican-controlled Congress in 2016, with $700,000 of the funds being granted by the Trump administration in 2017. Falun Gong is not the only cult in which Giuliani is heavily involved, the other being the Iranian exile group Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), which is a terrorist group based in Albania that is trying to overthrow the Iranian government.

The Epoch Media Group, the Falun Gong media operation, has spent millions of dollars on social media campaigns, including setting up fake accounts, that have promoted Trump and proffered conspiracy theories against presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

April 24

Media Matters, Advocacy: Right-wing media struggle to respond to Trump's remarks about a "disinfectant" and an "injection," Bobby Lewis, April 24, media matters logo2020. Introduction by John Whitehouse: This week: This is (still) as serious as it gets. Lives are on the line with how this coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic is covered. It's clear that right-wing media are not just failing this test, but failing it badly.

During a coronavirus press conference, President Donald Trump suggested that injecting disinfectant into people could be a potential treatment for COVID-19. This is false; disinfectants are not meant to be consumed by humans in any way, and Trump arguably clarified later that he wasn’t talking about a physical injection. The initial comment prompted outcry from medical experts and media figures, and the disinfectant brand Lysol issued a statement warning against internal use of its products. While some in right-wing media admitted that Trump said what he said, others tried to downplay or justify the president’s displayed ignorance.

fox news logo SmallA few conservative outlets, such as the Washington Examiner and the Daily Caller (which called it a “hypothetical”) admitted that Trump did in fact suggest injecting disinfectant to fight coronavirus. Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy admitted on-air that Trump suggested using something poisonous inside the body and that people should not do it.

Many others defended Trump. An article on Fox News' website suggested that Trump was taken out of context. Rush Limbaugh, The Daily Wire, and Breitbart took a similar deny-everything approach.

djt profile balding big head palmerOn his radio show, MSNBC’s Hugh Hewitt attacked the media for “abusing ... Trump’s comments on ultraviolet light” because “he didn’t say what they say he said.” Hewitt also promised to never buy Lysol products again, due to the company’s statement against internal use of its products.

Others just outright defended Trump. The following was written by David Brody, a right-wing journalist who has been a frequent guest on Meet the Press in recent years.

A Fox News host said that it was "hilarious" that people were talking about an "offhand comment" from Trump.

After many of these right-wing outlets said that Trump never said anything like this, Trump himself came out and and admitted he did say that, but he was being sarcastic. That's just another obvious lie for these outlets to defend. The whole sordid affair raises questions about why these briefings were aired live by all networks anyway. It may be a moot question since Trump is reportedly planning to scale them back.
Fox's promotion of protests against social distancing mirrors its tea party support

Despite the warnings of medical experts, Fox News has aggressively promoted right-wing demonstrations calling for the removal of social distancing mandates. Fox’s promotion of these protests mimic their efforts promoting the tea party in the build up to the 2010 midterm elections. Some coverage of the protests even resemble shot by shot remakes of its tea party promotion.

In 2009, the network’s parent company handed over more than $2 million to GOP-linked political groups. Fox’s support of the tea party movement was a key moment in the network’s transition from a right-wing news outlet to a GOP political organization. That year Fox personalities heavily promoted tea party demonstrations, encouraged viewers to attend protests, thanked tea party activists for their work, and even participated in more than a dozen events themselves.

Now, more than a decade later, Fox is running the same playbook. As it did with the tea party, the network isn’t simply covering the protests as newsworthy events, it is actively encouraging its audience to support and attend the events. From April 13 to April 20, Fox ran 91 segments on the protests and spent 6 hours covering the story.

April 22

ny times logoNew York Times, Bezos Takes Back the Wheel at Amazon, Karen Weise, April 22, 2020. The chief executive, who had distanced himself from day-to-day management, is closely involved in the company’s response to the pandemic.

At the end of February, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, and his girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez, were in France discussing climate change with President Emmanuel Macron at the Élysée Palace and celebrating atop the Eiffel Tower with the designer Diane von Furstenberg. Days jeffrey bezos washington postlater, paparazzi spotted the couple grabbing dinner at Carbone in New York.

By late March, he had decamped to his ranch in West Texas, focusing on Amazon as the coronavirus pandemic spread across the United States.

After years of working almost exclusively on long-term projects and pushing day-to-day management to his deputies, Mr. Bezos, 56, has turned back to the here-and-now problems facing Amazon, the company said, as the giant retailer grapples with a surge of demand, labor unrest and supply chain challenges brought on by the coronavirus.

amazon logo smallrachel maddow headshotHe is holding daily calls to help make decisions about inventory and testing, as well as how and when — down to the minute — Amazon responds to public criticism. He has talked to government officials. And in April, for the first time in years, he made a publicized visit to one of Amazon’s warehouses.

“For now, my own time and thinking continues to be focused on Covid-19 and how Amazon can help while we’re in the middle of it,” Mr. Bezos wrote to shareholders last week.

Mr. Bezos’ daily oversight hasn’t led to perfectly smooth sailing. Amazon has struggled to respond quickly to the growing number of coronavirus cases in its work force, and it has been slammed with orders from consumers.

But Amazon is one of the few companies that have benefited financially from the crisis. Because of all the customer demand, shares of the company have hit record highs. That has made Mr. Bezos, the wealthiest man in the world, $25 billion richer since early March.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fox News Stars Touted a Malaria Drug, Until They Didn’t, Michael M. Grynbaum, April 22, 2020. Laura Ingraham called hydroxychloroquine “a game changer.” But after a month of coverage, she stopped discussing the drug on the air.

For a month’s stretch, the Fox News star Laura Ingraham relentlessly promoted the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to her nearly four million nightly viewers.

The drug was “a game changer” in the fight against the coronavirus, the conservative anchor declared. She booked recovered patients to describe their “miracle turnaround” — “like Lazarus, up from the grave,” as Ms. Ingraham put it. Anyone who questioned the drug’s efficacy fox news logo Smallwas, she said, “in total denial.”

“I love everybody, love the medical profession,” the host said on April 3, after listing off public health experts who questioned the cure. “But they sean hannity white housewant a double-blind controlled study on whether the sky is blue.”

But as of Wednesday last week, Ms. Ingraham was no longer talking about hydroxychloroquine, and she hasn’t brought it up on her show since.

Her fellow Fox News prime-time stars, Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, have also cut back on referring to the drug. In fact, since April 13, hydroxychloroquine has been mentioned about a dozen times on Fox News, compared with more than 100 times in the four previous weeks, according to a review of network transcripts.

ny times logoNew York Times, Rupert Murdoch, his son Lachlan Murdoch and other Fox executives will take pay cuts, Edmund Lee, April 22, 2020. Rupert fox news logo SmallMurdoch’s Fox Corporation, the owner of Fox News and the Fox television network, announced pay cuts to its executive ranks that will affect 700 employees as it worked to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

rupert murdoch 2011 shankbone The Fox Corporation chief executive Lachlan Murdoch, the elder son of Rupert, made the announcement in a memo sent to the company’s 7,700 workers on Wednesday.

“While we don’t know exactly when we will return to normal and full operations across the company, we have decided to take several new actions to ensure that we remain strong and are well-positioned when this crisis recedes,” Lachlan Murdoch said.

He and the family patriarch will forgo their entire salaries through September, though most of their compensation comes from stock awards and bonuses. Rupert Murdoch, shown at left in a photo by David Shankbone, makes $5 million in salary but his compensation tops $29 million with incentives and stock. Lachlan Murdoch makes $3 million in salary, with an additional $20 million coming from stocks and bonuses.

Consequences of Sound (CoS), Seth MacFarlane Calls Out Oprah for Popularizing “Dubious Characters” Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz, Ben Kaye, April 22, 2020. The celebrity doctors have been spouting off misinformation about the coronavirus and its possible treatments.

Over the last few weeks, celebrity doctors Phil McGraw (a psychologist), right, and Mehmet Oz (a cardiothoracic surgeon), below left, have been spouting off misinformation about the coronavirus and its possible treatments.

Besides the fact that neither are actually trained in epidemiology, a common phil mcgraw 2013factor between the two TV docs is how they got their start: as guests on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show. That’s a connection Seth MacFarlane has recently taken issue with, mehmet ozcalling on Oprah to “correct” the record on the pair of medical hosts.

The Family Guy creator’s first remarks came from a tweet in which he shared a Los Angeles Times article detailing Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil’s controversial COVID-19 remarks. “Oprah has done some wonderfully altruistic things with her career, but the use of her platform to amplify the voices of dubious characters rather than legitimate scientists has been a disservice,” MacFarlane wrote. “I hope she will lend her own powerful voice to correct it.”

April 21

kayleigh mcenany djt

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s idiot press secretary Kayleigh McEnany would like to have this tweet back, Bill Palmer, April 21, 2020. On Monday evening, Donald Trump’s new White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany attacked a reporter on Twitter for daring to refer to Donald Trump as “Trump.”

bill palmer report logo headerMcEnany tweeted, “To you, he’s not Trump, he’s PRESIDENT Trump!” This prompted all kinds of backlash against McEnany for her clueless arrogance. It also prompted some digging.

Various people managed to dig up this tweet that Kayleigh McEnany posted back in 2012:

Obama filling out his "presidential bracket" now on ESPN. Don't you have better things to do son? Like.. oh, I don't know.. govern.

— Kayleigh McEnany (@kayleighmcenany) March 15, 2012

That’s right, she wasn’t using the “President” honorific back when Barack Obama was President. For that matter she referred to Obama as “son” – which feels an awful lot like a thinly veiled racist remark.

Media Matters, Commentary: Despite rules about misinformation, a YouTube video calling coronavirus a “false flag” related to 5G racked up millions media matters logoof views, Alex Kaplan, April 20, 2020. An April 16 YouTube video suggesting the novel coronavirus is a “false flag” to force “mandatory vaccines” and microchips on people has quickly racked up millions of views despite the platform’s pledge to crack down on COVID-19 misinformation. The video also claims that both Bill Gates and 5G cell phone towers are somehow involved.

youtube logo CustomLast month, as the pandemic began to spread throughout the United States, YouTube wrote that it had “worked to prevent misinformation associated with the spread of the virus” and would “quickly remove videos that violate our policies when they are flagged, including those that discourage people from seeking medical treatment or claim harmful substances have health benefits.” YouTube has also pledged to crack down on some specific false conspiracy theories, such as that 5G is connected to the virus, which YouTube’s CEO Susan Wojcicki mentioned in a CNN interview aired on April 19.

But on the evening of April 16, The Next News Network, a conspiracy theory YouTube channel with a history of pushing false and dubious claims, uploaded a video titled “EXCLUSIVE: Dr. Rashid Buttar BLASTS Gates, Fauci, EXPOSES Fake Pandemic Numbers As Economy Collapses.”

The video features Dr. Rashid Buttar, who HuffPost noted is “a widely discredited osteopath” and has been using social media to spread falsehoods about the virus. In just four days, the video has already racked up more than 4.3 million views and more than 930,000 Facebook engagements, and the numbers continue to climb.

Toward the start of the video, host Gary Franchi described other videos Buttar has made, saying he has showed that there’s “fraud ... being perpetuated across the world by the World Health Organization, the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], Bill Gates, the deep state, the mainstream media,” and there’s “hysteria being perpetuated to scare the world population based on false data.”

Buttar proceeded to push multiple falsehoods and conspiracy theories throughout the video.

cdc logo CustomHe pushed the absurdly false claim that “nobody has yet demonstrated a single death from the actual virus” and also falsely said that “the number of deaths are still less than the seasonal flu.” Additionally, Buttar claimed the death count was being inflated, although experts agree the death total is likely being undercounted, and he claimed that there was fake activity at hospitals. Buttar also said “studies clearly show that if you've had a flu shot you're going to test positive for COVID-19,” which is another falsehood that has spread over social media.

Later in the video, Buttar accused White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci of being a “criminal” who’s committed “traitorous” activity and dubiously suggested that the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine had “at least 99% efficacy” in treating COVID-19, claiming that “they've shown hundreds and hundreds of patients have treated, nobody's died.”

Buttar suggested the pandemic was a “false flag event to then mandate mandatory vaccines” and that people who refuse will be “considered as dissidents” and “shot in the head” or “quarantined in some kind of a concentration camp.” He also suggested that “5G towers” and “chemtrails” were related to the virus, and that increasing vaccines and 5G would cause people to become even more sick.

Buttar also referenced a false social media conspiracy theory involving Bill Gates to claim that future vaccinations will be monitored by putting “more RF chips in us to see who has had the vaccine” as part of “a cycle that they’re going to keep on going over and over again until they’ve got everybody digitized and they have RF chips in everybody.” He also called the CDC’s 6-foot social distancing recommendation “absolute garbage” and a ruse to “decide who … should be available to talk and work and who should be used as a dissident or classified as a dissident and made quiet.”

Buttar later expanded on his Gates conspiracy theory, accusing him of having a “depopulation agenda,” and claimed that hundreds of millions of people will be harmed by vaccines, but “they're going to blame it on the COVID-19.” He added that “anybody who says that vaccines are necessary, they either are completely 100% ignorant or they have a suspect agenda.” (Buttar also compared his Gates-microchip conspiracy theory to what happened in the Holocaust and then promoted a video about vaccines and eugenics from conspiracy theory outlet Infowars.)

April 20

deborah birx djt white house photo cropped

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Stop Airing Trump’s Briefings! Charles M. Blow, right, April 20, 2020 (print ed.). The media is allowing disinformation to charles blow customappear as news.

Around this time four years ago, the media world was all abuzz over an analysis by mediaQuant, a company that tracks what is known as “earned media” coverage of political candidates. Earned media is free media. The firm computed that Donald Trump had “earned” a whopping $2 billion of coverage, dwarfing the value earned by all other candidates, Republican and Democrat, even as he had only purchased about $10 million of paid advertising.

Simply put, the media was complicit in Trump’s rise. Trump was macabre theater, a man self-immolating in real time, one who was destined to lose, but who could provide entertainment, content and yes, profits while he lasted. The Hollywood Reporter in February of 2016 quoted CBS’s C.E.O. as saying, “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS,” because as The Reporter put it, “He likes the ad money Trump and his competitors are bringing to the network.”

I fear that history is repeating itself.

For over a month now, the White House has been holding its daily coronavirus briefings, and most networks, cable news channels and major news websites have been carrying all or parts of them live, as millions of people, trapped inside and anxious, have tuned in.

The briefings are marked by Trump’s own misinformation, deceptions, rage, blaming and boasting. He takes no responsibility at all for his abysmal handling of the crisis, while each day he seems to find another person to blame, like a child frantically flinging spaghetti at a wall to see which one sticks.

He delivers his disinformation flanked by scientists and officials, whose presence only serves to convey credibility to propagandistic performances that have simply become a replacement for his political rallies.

We are in the middle of a pandemic, but we are also in the middle of a presidential campaign, and I shudder to think how much “earned media” the media is simply shoveling Trump’s way by airing these briefings, which can last up to two hours a day.

washington post logoWashington Post, Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz aren’t coronavirus experts. So why are they talking about it on TV news? Paul Farhi and Elahe Izad, April 20, 2020 (print ed.). Some cable networks’ willingness to let pundits opine on topics beyond their expertise draws pushback as the celebrity doctors tackle covid-19, lockdowns and other life-and-death matters.

phil mcgraw 2013Dr. Phil had much to say about the coronavirus lockdown the other night on Fox News.

“Look, the fact of the matter is we have people dying — 45,000 people a year die from automobile accidents, 480,000 from cigarettes,” the talk-show host, shown right in 2013, said Thursday, “but we don’t shut the country down for that. But yet we’re doing it for this?”

Social media quickly erupted with fury and derision as viewers pointed out the hopeless apples-to-orangeness of his argument: Cars and tobacco aren’t exactly communicable diseases; and both, in fact, have inspired extensive government regulations to limit injuries and death. (The TV shrink was also widely mocked for making a comparison to swimming-pool deaths using a bogus statistic inflated by a factor of nearly 100.)

But the interview raised deeper concerns: Why was Dr. Phil — not a medical doctor but a clinical psychologist with no special knowledge about the politics, science or economics of the shutdown — on a TV news channel talking about the topic in the first place?

mehmet ozIn recent TV appearances to discuss the pandemic, fellow celebrity doctors Drew Pinsky and Mehmet Oz,left, have offered commentary based on a loose or seemingly wobbly understanding of the crisis — arguably doing more to undermine public understanding than enhance it.

All three have since walked back their statements. Pinsky apologized for last month dismissing the coronavirus as no more serious than influenza; Oz said Thursday he “misspoke” this week when he casually urged reopening schools at a “cost [of] 2 to 3 percent in terms of total mortality.” And on Friday, McGraw acknowledged that he had used an inflated number of drowning deaths and that his comparisons to smoking and driving weren’t quite on point, either. “Yes, I know that those are not contagious. So, probably bad examples.”

washington post logofacebook logoWashington Post, Pro-gun activists use Facebook to promote protests of orders to remain at home, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Tony Romm​, April 20, 2020 (print ed.).​ Three far-right provocateurs are behind some of the largest Facebook groups calling for anti-quarantine demonstrations, offering the latest evidence that some seemingly organic protests are engineered by a network of conservative activists.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: With no good answer for lost month of virus preparation, Trump snaps at another female reporter, Amber Phillips, April 20, 2020 (print ed.). When President Trump was asked at Sunday’s White House coronavirus task force briefing why he didn’t warn Americans in February that the virus was spreading and implement social distancing earlier, Trump’s response was to go back to late January, when he issued the travel restrictions on Chinese people coming to the United States.

In other words: More than two months into this crisis, Trump doesn’t have an answer for why he didn’t do more in this crucial window to prepare the country for the coronavirus.

On Sunday, Trump got defensive when a reporter asked him why his administration had not done more to prepare. He told CBS’s Weijia Jiang to “lower her voice” and to take it “nice and easy.”

April 19

Newsday, Opinion: An early casualty of the coronavirus pandemic has been the loss of easy access to public information, Miranda S. Spivack, Updated April 19, 2020. In Hawaii, Gov. David Ige suspended the open meetings and open records laws. In California, numerous governments and public agencies, including San Francisco, announced suspension or substantial delays in providing public records.

In Ohio, the state labor department stopped issuing daily unemployment figures. In the District of Columbia, the city council approved a measure that allows agencies to suspend fulfilling public information requests during “days of a Covid-19 closure.”

“Many state agencies are releasing data on Twitter,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, an open-government advocacy group. “That’s better than nothing, but it means there is a ton of data being released in a very disjointed way.”

The picture is even bleaker at the federal level. The FBI quickly shut down its record division and refused to accept any electronic request for records, insisting instead on paper inquiries.The White House ordered that high-level meetings about the coronavirus be classified. The Army stopped providing data on soldiers who are infected with the virus, saying the information could fall into the hands of the nation’s enemies.

Federal officials have declined to identify nursing homes where residents are ill from the virus. The $2.2 trillion stimulus bill that President Donald Trump signed into law on March 27 includes a provision that exempts the Federal Reserve from holding public meetings, a remarkable development because the agency will play a key role in shepherding the federal monetary response to the pandemic — and will be able to do so away from the public.

It is obvious that some delays and detours are necessary as governments adjust to the new normal and step up their public health response. But the virus in the United States also should be an opportunity for governments to rethink how they maintain — and yes — enhance the ability of the public to track government actions and data whenever possible in real time. Daily briefings are good, but there is so much more that governments can do to keep the public informed, especially during a public health crisis of this magnitude.

washington post logoWashington Post, Americans at World Health Organization transmitted real-time information about coronavirus to Trump administration, Karen world health organization logo CustomDeYoung, Lena H. Sun and Emily Rauhala, April 19, 2020. The presence of U.S. scientists in Geneva undercuts president’s argument that the WHO failed to communicate with Washington.

More than a dozen U.S. researchers, physicians and public health experts, many of them from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were working full time at the Geneva headquarters of the World Health Organization as the novel coronavirus emerged late last year and transmitted real-time information about its discovery and spread in China to the Trump administration, according to U.S. and international officials.

cdc logo CustomA number of CDC staffers are regularly detailed to work at WHO in Geneva as part of a rotation that has operated for years. Senior Trump-appointed health officials also consulted regularly at the highest levels with the WHO as the crisis unfolded, the officials said.

The presence of so many U.S. officials undercuts President Trump’s charge that the WHO’s failure to communicate the extent of the threat, born of a desire to protect China, is largely responsible for the rapid spread of the virus in the United States.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. live updates: Governors in U.S. Hot Spots Plead for More Testing, Staff reports, April 19, 2020. New York and New Jersey, epicenters of the outbreak in the United States, say they can’t reopen their economies without wider tests for the virus.

 virus fox rallies to reopen economy april 18 may 2 Custom 2

Media Matters, Commentary: Fox News promotes protests against social distancing, Matt Gertz, April 19, 2020 (first published April 16). Introduction by John Whitehead: This is (still) as serious as it gets. Lives are on the line with how this coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic is covered. It's clear that right-wing media are not just failing this test, but failing it badly.

fox news logo SmallOver the last few days, Fox News has enthusiastically promoted protests against social distancing orders. Hosts and other network figures have promoted and encouraged viewers to join in.

On Saturday, Fox aired the above map of planned protests. The entire affair is very similar to how the network promoted Tea Party protests in 2009. In fact, the map (shown below) was even similar.

tea party rallies 2009 fox Custom 2

There's substantial evidence that some of these protests are astro-turfed. But even taking into account that some people really do feel this way, the fact is that polls show that the vast majority of Americans are more worried about governments opening things too quickly.

As Media Matters president Angelo Carusone told Vox, Fox News and right-wing media didn't create these protests, but they are legitimizing them, whitewashing extremist ties, and bringing them to a larger audience, both in terms of pushing people to participate and pushing other media outlets to cover them. The goal is to change public opinion about the pandemic.

The difference this time is that this is about science, not politics. And these protests -- and those like Fox that promote them -- only help spread the virus.

Fox News triggered Trump's all-caps endorsement of protests against his own guidelines for re-opening the economy

President Donald Trump endorsed conservative protests against social distancing measures in three states immediately after Fox News aired a segment on the efforts. Trump, who was apparently watching the segment, responded to it in real-time by expressing support for the protests, sending multiple tweets saying, “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!,” “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!,” “LIBERATE VIRGINIA.”

Earlier this week, Fox hosts cheered on protests by conservative activists against Michigan’s stay-at-home order. As Matt Gertz noted at the time: “If Trump sees Fox’s protest coverage and endorses the effort, social distancing will become even more politically polarized. The hard-won progress in the fight against the virus could evaporate in an instant, leaving behind a shattered economy and an influx of COVID-19 deaths.”

This is not hyperbole. We've already seen data indicate that there may be a surge in COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin after Republicans and the Supreme Court forced that state's voters to go to the polls.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump campaign decides to focus on Biden rather than try to promote his pandemic response, Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey, Annie Linskey and Toluse Olorunnipa, April 19, 2020. Both Democrats and Republicans shifted their strategies after polling showed declining approval ratings for President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

President Trump’s campaign is preparing to launch a broad effort aimed at linking Joe Biden to China, after concluding that it would be more politically effective than defending or promoting Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision by top campaign advisers, which has met pushback from some White House officials and donors, reflects polling showing a declining approval rating for Trump among key groups and growing openness to supporting Biden in recent weeks, according to officials familiar with the data who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The shift represents a remarkable acknowledgment by aides to a self-described “wartime president,” leading during what might have been a rally-around-the-flag moment, to ­effectively decide it is better to go on the attack than focus on his own achievements. Campaign polling found more than three-quarters of voters blamed China for the coronavirus outbreak, underscoring the potential benefits of tying the presumptive Democratic nominee to ­Beijing.

The planned China push, which has already been embraced by pro-Trump outside groups, comes as both the Trump and Biden campaigns have been anxiously recalibrating their plans in response to the most catastrophic economic and health crisis in the United States in generations. The two title contenders for the 2020 elections are finally set, but neither campaign, with their mismatched strengths and weaknesses, knows what the election arena will look like.

washington post logoWashington Post, #FloridaMorons trends after people flock to reopened Florida beaches, Meryl Kornfield and Samantha Pell, April 19, 2020 (print ed.). Aerial snapshots of people flocking to a reopened beach in Jacksonville, Fla., made waves on the Internet on Saturday.

Local news aired photos and videos of Florida’s shoreline dotted with people, closer than six feet apart, spurring #FloridaMorons to trend on Twitter after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) gave the go-ahead for local beachfront governments to decide whether to reopen their beaches during a news briefing Friday. Duval and St. Johns counties have reopened their beaches, while Miami-Dade County officials said they are considering following suit.

On the same day that Florida reported 58 deaths from the coronavirus — its highest daily toll since the pandemic began — DeSantis told reporters that it’s essential that Floridians get exercise outdoors.

 Media / Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Coronavirus Story Isn’t About the President, Ben Smith, April 19, 2020. Trump has begun his corona campaign. We don’t have to play along, our columnist writes.

Did you hear? The president said some things today. Mean things! About someone I know … I can’t quite remember the details, or whether it was today or yesterday, or what day of the week it is, anyway.

President Trump has figured out the answer to one of the less important questions of 2020: How do you run a presidential campaign amid a pandemic? He can’t hold rallies, he can’t kiss babies, he can’t shake hands, not that he likes doing that anyway. And he can’t talk about anything else.

What Mr. Trump can do, it turns out, is host rolling, raucous, two-plus-hour daily television variety shows to keep his connection with the faithful and, incidentally, to variously entertain and appall the rest of the homebound American public. He can rally gun owners in Virginia as well as angry suburbanites in Michigan. He can attack the news media to make sure it’s paying attention.

This is it — the corona campaign. The most effective form of direct presidential communication since Franklin Roosevelt’s fireside chats. Mr. Trump wanted to start a radio show, my colleague Elaina Plott reported, but really, television was the medium that made him and the one he knows and loves. Get used to it, because given its power, he’s not going to stop in November, win or lose. He’ll most likely broadcast on his favorite medium until the day he dies.

So how do we, citizens and — to stick to my particular beat here at The Times — journalists, handle this?

April 18

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Trump administration is muzzling government scientists. It’s essential to let them speak candidly to the press margaret sullivan 2015 photoagain, Margaret Sullivan, April 17, 2020. Kathryn Foxhall remembers a time when reporters could call up any doctor or researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and ask them questions on the record. A journalist might even get them to open up for a “background” interview, offering candid information on the condition the expert’s name would not be used.

“There was the official story and then there was everything else,” the former editor of the Nation’s Health, an industry publication, told me. “We took this for granted.”

Foxhall watched with dismay as that openness disintegrated radically over the past two decades. Federal agencies, including the CDC, began to require media inquiries to go through a public information officer. Direct contact was minimized and tightly monitored. Interviews might take place with a public-relations “minder” present.

When the coronavirus pandemic arrived, the situation got much worse.

Suddenly, the filter between journalists and experts became even more opaque — and much more politicized. Who got to speak publicly, including to the news media, was controlled by Vice President Pence’s office after he was put in charge of the administration’s pandemic response.

The new restrictions are dangerous, said Anna Diakun, staff attorney with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, which this month sued the CDC for the release of records about White House and CDC policies that may keep the agency’s employees from speaking to the press and public.

“The White House is promoting inaccurate and misleading claims about the pandemic, even as it is restricting CDC employees from speaking to the press and the public,” she said.

She told me what’s happening amounts to a “gag order” on the very experts that the public needs to hear from directly. And it may be a violation of constitutionally protected free speech.

While conflicting information about the pandemic has made expert opinion especially crucial right now, the underlying free-speech issue has been building for a long time.

“This problem predates President Trump and the epidemic by 20 years,” Foxhall said. And she’s been battling it for years, working with the Society of Professional Journalists to survey journalists about the restrictive practices they have grown accustomed to — and, in her view, have failed to fight back against strongly enough.

Journalists work around these constraints instead of challenging them, she believes, and it’s the public that loses out because the press can no longer get the full picture of what’s happening inside federal agencies.

April 18

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Architects and Engineers for 911 Turth (AE911Truth) "Free Fall" radio show: Request for Correction: What It Means and How NIST Might Respond, ae for 9 11 truth logoAn Interview with Mick Harrison and Ted Walter, April 18, 2020. On this week’s episode of "9/11 Free Fall," attorney Mick Harrison and AE911Truth Director of Strategy Ted Walter join host Andy Steele for an in-depth discussion of the request for correction submitted to NIST earlier this week regarding the agency's 2008 report on the destruction of World Trade Center Building 7.

The 100-page request for correction, which is signed by ten 9/11 family members, 88 architects and structural engineers, and AE911Truth, represents the most serious challenge to date against NIST's World Trade Center investigation.

9/11 Free Fall recently moved from an hour-long to a half-hour format. We hope you’ll be able to tune in for this episode or read the full interview.

April 17

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Architects and Engineers for 911 Turth (AE911Truth), Commentary: A Teaser for the Much-Anticipated Building 7 Documentary, Staff report, April 17, ae for 9 11 truth logo2020. We at Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth are thrilled to release a short teaser for our upcoming documentary on Building 7 and the University of Alaska Fairbanks study led by Dr. Leroy Hulsey, shown above.

We’ve got to bring this film to millions, so please share the teaser widely and stay tuned for updates on our forthcoming release of the film!

April 17

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washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Tara Reade, Joe Biden and the limitations of journalism, Monica Hesse, April 17, 2020 (print ed.). Reporters can’t always clear away the fog. Being a journalist reporting on sexual assault allegations is a delicate, humbling, horrifying task, which feels worse than any other task except for the alternative: not reporting on the allegations — allowing an accuser’s pursuit of justice or an accused’s pursuit of exoneration to wither in your voicemail.

This week, The Washington Post and the New York Times both published lengthy investigations into a sexual assault allegation against Joe Biden — an account that had previously been reported via the Intercept and on a podcast, and which the Biden campaign denies.

Tara Reade (shown above), who worked in Biden’s Senate office in 1992 and 1993, last year came forward to say that Biden had touched her neck and shoulders when she was in his employ. She has now expanded that account with a more serious charge:

Reporters didn’t have access to the full police report; it’s not public. And, unlike the legal system, reporters don’t have the power to subpoena witnesses and compel truthful testimony; key players can decline to comment at any moment. And news outlets can’t sentence individuals to prison, and they cannot know, with 100 percent certainty, exactly what happened on congressional grounds or at parties or in basements or with powerful celebrities 20 or 30 years ago.

The profession has limitations, memory has limitations, people have limitations.

I know all of this, and yet, even as I read the account I found myself thinking the same things I thought during Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s hearings or while reading accounts of a molestation accusation against Woody Allen or with any number of other accusations regarding long-ago events: Solve this. Show us the smoking gun, or the indisputable security-camera footage, or the telltale lie. Produce an old roommate, an old diary. Eliminate all doubt, so we don’t have to live with it.

washington post logoWashington Post, How governments in U.S. and worldwide are using people’s phones in attempt to fight virus, Craig Timberg, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Drew Harwell and Tony Romm, April 17, 2020. Data long considered personal and sensitive is now being used to track the coronavirus's spread. But it's unclear that such data will help in the absence of traditional contact tracing methods.

ny times logoNew York Times, Bill Gates, at Odds With Trump on Virus, Becomes a Right-Wing Target, Daisuke Wakabayashi, Davey Alba and Marc Tracy, April 17, 2020. The  Microsoft co-founder turned philanthropist has been attacked with falsehoods that he created the coronavirus and wants to profit from it.

In a 2015 speech, Bill Gates warned that the greatest risk to humanity was not nuclear war but an infectious virus that could threaten the lives of millions of people.

bill gatesThat speech has resurfaced in recent weeks with 25 million new views on YouTube — but not in the way that Mr. Gates probably intended. Anti-vaccinators, members of the conspiracy group QAnon and right-wing pundits have instead seized on the video as evidence that one of the world’s richest men planned to use a pandemic to wrest control of the global health system.

Mr. Gates, 64, the Microsoft co-founder turned philanthropist, has now become the star of an explosion of conspiracy theories about the coronavirus outbreak. In posts on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, he is being falsely portrayed as the creator of Covid-19, as a profiteer from a virus vaccine, and as part of a dastardly plot to use the illness to cull or surveil the global population.

The wild claims have gained traction with conservative pundits like Laura Ingraham and anti-vaccinators such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr. as Mr. Gates has emerged as a vocal counterweight to President Trump on the coronavirus. For weeks, Mr. Gates has appeared on TV, on op-ed pages and in Reddit forums calling for stay-at-home policies, expanded testing and vaccine development. And without naming Mr. Trump, he has criticized the president’s policies, including this week’s move to cut funding to the World Health Organization.

Misinformation about Mr. Gates is now the most widespread of all coronavirus falsehoods tracked by Zignal Labs, a media analysis company. The misinformation includes more than 16,000 posts on Facebook this year about Mr. Gates and the virus that were liked and commented on nearly 900,000 times, according to a New York Times analysis. On YouTube, the 10 most popular videos spreading lies about Mr. Gates posted in March and April were viewed almost five million times.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: The hoax industry and its main hucksters, Wayne Madsen, April 17, 2020. Currently, Trump's team of wayne madesen report logomisfits, freaks, and racists are targeting the governors and legislatures of several states over the imposition of coronavirus stay-at-home and closure orders.

The medium that created Trump as a virtual political cartoon character, television, is now providing him and his supporters with phony advice and encouragement from a group of phony doctors.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Fauci dismisses dodgy premises in Laura Ingraham interview, Aaron Blake, April 17, 2020. The Fox News host’s interview with Dr. Phil is getting a lot of attention, but it might have been her interview with an actual medical doctor, Anthony S. Fauci, that best spotlighted conservative media’s suspect coverage of the coronavirus.

Fox News host Laura Ingraham’s interview with Dr. Phil is getting all the attention this morning. But it might have been her interview Thursday with an actual medical doctor, Anthony S. Fauci, that best spotlighted conservative media’s odd, speculative and suspect coverage of the coronavirus.

Ingraham has been one of the leading conservative skeptics of health officials’ response to the virus. She has repeatedly attacked the models used to project death tolls and argued that those officials have oversold the threat and ruined the economy by hijacking public policy.

So welcoming Fauci to her show would have seemed a good opportunity to press perhaps the most preeminent figure on these issues. For Ingraham, though, it didn’t turn out so well.

Perhaps the most glaring problem with her interview with Fauci is that she didn’t even bring up the models that she has repeatedly attacked and offered as evidence of an overzealous response. Nor did she reiterate her past suggestions that Fauci has inappropriately taken over the decision-making process in the federal government.

At one point, she questioned the idea of not fully returning to business as usual until we have a vaccine.

“Dr. Fauci, on the question of a vaccine: We don’t have a vaccine for SARS,” she said, adding: “We don’t have a vaccine for HIV. And life did go on, right?”

Fauci rejected the comparison.

“Well, no, but Laura, this is different,” he said. “HIV/AIDS is entirely different. We don’t have a vaccine for HIV/AIDS, but we have spectacularly effective treatment. People who invariably would have died years ago right now are leading essentially normal lives. SARS is a different story. SARS disappeared.”

Architects and Engineers for 911 Turth (AE911Truth), Commentary: A Teaser for the Much-Anticipated Building 7 Documentary, Staff report, April 17, ae for 9 11 truth logo2020. We at Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth are thrilled to release a short teaser for our upcoming documentary on Building 7 and the University of Alaska Fairbanks study. We’ve got to bring this film to millions, so please share the teaser widely and stay tuned for updates on our forthcoming release of the film!

April 16

washington post logoWashington Post, New study says Trump has ‘dangerously undermined truth’ with attacks on news media, Paul Farhi, April 16, 2020. The report from the Committee to Protect Journalists catalogues President Trump’s anti-press actions.

djt quizzical uncredited palmer CustomA new research report from a leading journalism organization says President Trump’s attacks on the news media have endangered American democracy and imperiled press freedom in other countries.

The report from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) catalogues a lengthy list of Trump’s anti-press behaviors, from repeatedly tarring credible reporting with charges of “fake news,” to trying to bar reporters from the White House, to scrubbing or withholding information from government websites.

Trump’s attacks on the news media have “dangerously undermined truth and consensus in a deeply divided country” at a time when the nation faces the unprecedented challenge of the coronavirus, concludes CPJ, a New York-based organization that monitors press issues around the world.

Its report, titled “The Trump Administration and the Media,” documents such Trump administration practices as using U.S. Customs and Border Protection to question journalists and search their electronic devices at border crossings; Trump’s calls for boycotts of news organizations and for changes in libel laws to punish reporting he doesn’t like; the ending of formal White House press briefings for more than a year; and Trump’s repeated lies to discredit accurate reporting.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Michael Savage Is Blasting Hannity and the Right-Wing Media on the Virus, Jeremy W. Peters, April 16, 2020. The conservative radio host is still loyal to President Trump but says right-wing media got it all wrong by doubting the severity of the coronavirus early on.

michael savage white house 2018 CustomThere are a lot of people who are ruining the country right now, according to Michael Savage (shown in 2018 at the White House). Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Liberal mayors in big cities like San Francisco. Undocumented immigrants. Homeless people.

But for the past two months, listeners to Mr. Savage’s conservative radio show have heard him howl with unabated contempt about another menace: “The pimps” in the right-wing media “who tell you what you want to hear.” They are “intellectual dwarfs” and “science illiterates,” he says, who spent weeks downplaying the threat from the coronavirus epidemic and accusing President Trump’s opponents of exaggerating it to hurt him politically.

On Mr. Savage’s broadcast, which has one of the largest audiences in talk radio with 7.5 million listeners each week, the virus has never been a hoax or a bad case of the sniffles. He has lectured his fans on the research in detail: How it is transmitted; which treatments are proving effective; and the difference between morbidity and mortality rates.

With no small amount of self-satisfaction, Mr. Savage reminds people of his credentials — a Ph.D. and training in epidemiology — and of the fact that he was one of the few voices in conservative media who had warned them all along.

Much of the time, Mr. Savage still sounds like any other right-wing shock jock — making fun of Nancy Pelosi and doubting the validity of the #MeToo movement. But on the subject of the coronavirus, Mr. Savage has become one of the loudest voices of dissent on the right.

His views are a striking departure from the accepted version of events among Mr. Trump’s loyalists in the media, who have made a concerted effort to deny that they downplayed the epidemic. Mr. Savage has attacked the credibility of the conservative media, accused its biggest stars of being too rote and unthinking in their defense of the president, and demanded that they be held accountable for misleading millions of Americans.

MSNBC host Chris Cuomo, recuperating at home from COVID-19, and his wife, Cristina Greeven Cuomo

MSNBC host Chris Cuomo, recuperating at home from COVID-19, and his wife, Cristina Greeven Cuomo

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘It just breaks my heart’: Chris Cuomo says his wife, Cristina, has coronavirus, too, Timothy Bella, April 16, 2020. When Chris Cuomo announced he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the high fever, chills, shortness of breath and hallucinations of his late father weren’t what immediately worried the CNN anchor. What did concern him, he said, was passing the virus to his family.

“I just hope I didn’t give it to the kids and Cristina,” Cuomo, 49, wrote in his March 31 tweet announcing his diagnosis. “That would make me feel worse than this illness!”

On Wednesday night, Cuomo, broadcasting again from his home’s basement, where he remains quarantined, said that his worst fear had become a reality: His wife, Cristina, had tested positive for the coronavirus.

April 14

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washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis of The Me President: Trump uses briefing to focus on himself, Ashley Parker, April 14, 2020 (print ed.). Monday’s news conference offered a stark portrait of a president who seemed unable to grasp the magnitude of the crisis.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump’s propaganda-laden, off-the-rails coronavirus briefing, Aaron Blake, April 14, 2020 (print ed.). Near the start of his daily coronavirus briefing on Monday, President Trump made a statement that betrayed, better than just about anything, how he views the purpose of such briefings.

Before playing a campaign-style video intended to show his decisive action on the virus and to accuse his critics of being the actual culprits on downplaying the threat, Trump cued it up by talking about what he wanted to do after it played.

“Most importantly,” he said, “we’re going to get back on to the reason we’re here, which is the success we’re having.”

Trump’s self-promotion, falsehoods and use of dodgy medical advice in these coronavirus briefings have led to a dialogue about whether networks should carry them live. And on Monday, he seemed to be daring all of them to stop, turning the whole thing into a spectacle of government-produced propaganda and even more personal score-settling and grievances.

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Palmer Report, Editorial note: It’s about time! Bill Palmer, right, April 14, 2020. At one point during Donald Trump’s press briefing yesterday, after his behavior had bill palmertaken a turn for the indescribable, CNN put a chyron (above) across the bottom of the screen that said “TRUMP MELTS DOWN.” It was a perfectly accurate and factual description of what was going on. It’s about time.

bill palmer report logo headerWhen I first started referring to Donald Trump’s behavior as “meltdowns,” I took a ton of heat for it. Various mainstream media outlets and pundits told me I was being hyperbolic, sensationalistic, and unprofessional. Meanwhile they were doing their best to understate and normalize his behavior by framing his rubber room-level antics as somehow merely being “untraditional” or “out of the box.”

Now, three years too late, the media is finally reporting on Donald Trump using accurate words that properly reflect his behavior. I’m not bitter that some of the same mainstream pundits who gave me grief for using words like “meltdown” are now using it themselves. I do resent that if the media had been doing its job properly these past few years, Trump would probably have been ousted by now. But better late than never.

My goal from the start has been to nudge the mainstream media toward being more honest and accurate. The media has a bad habit of using painfully understated headlines and descriptors that have falsely painted Donald Trump as merely behaving in unusual fashion, when by any objective measure he’s behaving as an unhinged and deranged lunatic. We’re getting closer. I’ll keep pushing until the mainstream media is willing to fully tell the public just how objectionable Trump’s behavior is without sugarcoating it.

April 13

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What it really means when Trump calls a story ‘fake news,’ Margaret Sullivan, right, April 13, 2020. President Trump margaret sullivan 2015 photoat the White House news briefing Friday. After the president spent Easter trashing media investigations that found his coronavirus response slow and lacking, a few things became clear.

President Trump has rhapsodized in recent weeks about how special Easter is for him. He never quite specified why that is, but for a while it was the date he had in mind for ending the national shutdown — the day on which he envisioned Americans crowding the church pews once again.

And yet he spent much of the holiest weekend on the Christian calendar in an uproar over crushing news reports that make it clear his early response to coronavirus warnings was a failure — that cost thousands of human lives.

On April 4, The Washington Post reported that it took 70 days from the time Trump was first notified of the seriousness of the coronavirus threat for him to treat it “not as a distant threat or harmless flu strain well under control, but as a lethal force that had outflanked America’s defenses and was poised to kill tens of thousands of citizens.” The Post detailed how that 10-week period “now stands as critical time that was squandered.”

This landmark piece of reporting was followed a week later by a New York Times investigation based in part on a stunning chain of emails from dozens of experts in government agencies, health organizations and universities. The “Red Dawn” emails make it undeniable that the alarm was raised months ago, while Trump was assuring the nation that the virus was nothing more serious than the flu and would soon disappear.

April 10

Real Clear Politics, Ex-GOP Group "The Lincoln Project" Endorses Biden, Launches Brutal Ad Hitting Trump For Golfing During Pandemic, Tim Hains, April 10, 2020  (5:54 min.). This week, the anti-Trump conservative group "The Lincoln Project" endorsed Democrat Joe Biden for president.

Co-founded by George Conway, the outspoken husband of Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, and Rick Wilson, the [GOP campaign consultant] author of "Everything Trump Touches Dies," the group also launched this ad blaming President Trump directly for the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the U.S.

"Coronavirus has now killed three times more Americans than 9/11," the ad says. "So what’s Donald Trump been up to? Blaming the impeachment hearings for distracting him from preparing for the pandemic."

"Where was Trump? He wasn’t distracted. He had plenty to do. Like campaign rallies and golfing. In February, the virus spread to Europe. While Italy was shutting down and quarantines were being announced all over the world, Trump played more golf and packed thousands of people together. Sounds safe."

"Trump just didn’t care. He still doesn’t. He was never distracted. And Americans have been paying attention."

"We are proud to endorse @JoeBiden for President."

"As America contends with unprecedented loss, we need a leader who can steady the ship, heal our common wounds, and lead us into our next national chapter. Joe Biden has the humanity, empathy and steadiness we need in a leader."

— The Lincoln Project (@ProjectLincoln) April 8, 2020.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Shame on you CNN for caving like this, Bill Palmer, April 10, 2020. Yesterday morning, CNN announced that Mike Pence was trying to blackmail the network into airing Trump’s press briefings in full, by refusing to allow anyone from the coronavirus response team to appear on CNN. When yesterday’s Trump press conference began, CNN stuck to its recent approach of refusing to air Trump’s opening speech, and only tuning in later for the experts and the reporter questions.

bill palmer report logo headerCNN received praise for this from all sides, including me. But when Trump’s briefing began today, CNN promptly put it on the air, right from the start. It’s now clear that CNN did cave to Mike Pence, but decided to wait a day before caving, in the hope that no one would notice it was caving.

This is disturbing, but not unexpected. Cable news networks are multimillion dollar for-profit businesses that literally exist to turn a profit, not to inform you. They’ll always do whatever they think is going to deliver them the highest ratings.

CNN must have concluded that it was going to get more overall viewers by airing the briefings and having access to the response team members, than by not having any of it on the air. This is a reminder that the only person who can change a cable news network’s behavior is you – by refusing to watch the segments that shouldn’t be on the air, and by contacting the networks to let them know which kinds of content you’re refusing to watch.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House attacks Voice of America, claiming it promoted Chinese propaganda, Paul Farhi, April 10, 2020. The stinging public criticism, which may be unprecedented by an administration since the federally funded but independent news service was founded in 1942, took VOA officials by surprise.

voice of america logoThe White House launched an extraordinary attack on Voice of America on Friday, saying the federally funded but independent news service had promoted Chinese government propaganda in its reporting about the coronavirus outbreak.

The critique was found on the official White House website, flagging its brief statement with a provocative headline: “Amid a Pandemic, Voice of America Spends Your Money to Promote Foreign Propaganda.”

The unsigned statement said, in part: “Journalists should report the facts, but VOA has instead amplified Beijing’s propaganda. This week, VOA called China’s Wuhan lockdown a successful ‘model’ copied by much of the world—and then tweeted out video of the Communist government’s celebratory light show marking the quarantine’s alleged end.”

It added, “Even worse, while much of the U.S. media takes its lead from China, VOA went one step further: It created graphics with Communist government statistics to compare China’s Coronavirus death toll to America’s. As intelligence experts point out, there is simply no way to verify the accuracy of China’s numbers.”

The statement was preceded by a barbed tweet on Thursday from Dan Scavino, President Trump’s social media director. In sharing VOA’s tweet showing a Chinese celebration marking the end of a lockdown, Scavino wrote, “American taxpayers—paying for China’s very own propaganda, via the U.S. Government funded Voice of America! DISGRACE!!”

Scavino is one of President Trump’s longest-serving aides; he often produces videos that accompany Trump’s tweets.

The stinging public criticism, which may be unprecedented by an administration since VOA was founded in 1942, took VOA officials by surprise. “I’m afraid I can’t tell you what prompted it,” said Amanda Bennett, VOA’s director. “I don’t actually know. It just came out of the blue.”

ny times logoNew York Times, How a Virus Conspiracy Theory Fueled Arson and Harassment in Britain, Adam Satariano and Davey Alba, April 10, 2020. A false idea linking the spread of the coronavirus to 5G wireless technology has spurred more than 100 incidents this month, officials said.

On April 2, a wireless tower was set ablaze in Birmingham. The next day, a fire was reported at 10 p.m. at a telecommunications box in Liverpool. An hour later, an emergency call came in about another cell tower in Liverpool that was going up in flames.

Across Britain, more than 30 acts of arson and vandalism have taken place against wireless towers and other telecom gear this month, according to police reports and a telecom trade group. In roughly 80 other incidents in the country, telecom technicians have been harassed on the job.

The attacks were fueled by the same cause, government officials said: an internet conspiracy theory that links the spread of the coronavirus to an ultrafast wireless technology known as 5G. Under the false idea, which has gained momentum in Facebook groups, WhatsApp messages and YouTube videos, radio waves sent by 5G technology are causing small changes to people’s bodies that make them succumb to the virus.

The incidents starkly demonstrate how coronavirus conspiracy theories have taken a dark turn by spilling out into the real world. In just a few weeks, the pandemic has given pre-existing fringe ideas online new urgency by playing on people’s fears.

Before the coronavirus, rarely did such theories cause as much tangible harm so quickly, disinformation researchers said.

In the United States, one person died after self-medicating with chloroquine, which was touted online as a miracle cure for the coronavirus even though its efficacy is unproven. And Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was assigned more security this month after unfounded theories spread that he was part of a secret cabal working to undermine President Trump.

“Most conspiracies stay online, but this is having real-world impact,” said Alexandre Alaphilippe, executive director of the E.U. DisinfoLab, a Brussels-based group tracking virus conspiracy theories. He called managing pandemic misinformation “a new problem” because the disease is global and people everywhere are hunting for information.

The false theory linking 5G to the coronavirus has been especially prominent, amplified by celebrities like John Cusack and Woody Harrelson on social media. It has also been stoked by a vocal anti-5G contingent, who have urged people to take action against telecom gear to protect themselves.

The idea has deep internet roots. An analysis by The New York Times found 487 Facebook communities, 84 Instagram accounts, 52 Twitter accounts, and dozens of other posts and videos pushing the conspiracy. The Facebook communities added nearly half a million new followers over the past two weeks. On Instagram, a network of 40 accounts nearly doubled its audience this month to 58,800 followers.

On YouTube, the 10 most popular 5G coronavirus conspiracy videos posted in March were viewed over 5.8 million times. Today, the conspiracy can be found on Facebook in over 30 countries, including Switzerland, Uruguay and Japan.

British politicians said the conspiracy theory and the violent acts it was causing were unacceptable. “This is nonsense of the absolute highest order,” said Julian Knight, a member of Parliament who leads a committee investigating coronavirus-related online misinformation. He said Facebook and YouTube needed to “get a grip” on the situation or risk undermining the crisis response.

Mr. Knight added that the spread of 5G conspiracies raised alarms about how information about a future coronavirus vaccine would be disseminated.

“If we were to get a vaccine for Covid-19, can we trust the social media companies to ensure that the right public health messages are put out about that vaccine?” he asked. “That could be a question of life and death for many people.”

Facebook, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, said it was “starting to remove false claims that 5G technology causes the symptoms of or contraction of Covid-19.” YouTube said it would reduce recommendations of videos linking the coronavirus to 5G, while Twitter said it had taken action against misleading and harmful content about the illness.

April 9kayleigh mcenany djt

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: New press secretary Kayleigh McEnany could do the impossible: Make us miss Sean Spicer, Margaret Sullivan (below right), April margaret sullivan 2015 photo9, 2020 (print ed.). We couldn’t imagine it could get worse than Spicer lying about inaugural crowd sizes. Sarah Sanders and Stephanie Grisham showed us it could.

By now, we’ve come to accept that spin is part of the job description for White House press secretaries. It’s a tactic and talent that has been on display in every modern presidential administration.

But race-baiting? Dangerous bluster on topics of public health? Blatant sycophancy?

We should still be shocked to see these qualities in the president’s top spokesperson. Evidence of these things in someone’s background should be disqualifying for the position — which, after all, is responsible for informing the public through the news media.

Nevertheless, Kayleigh McEnany (shown above) got the job Tuesday. She got it despite her appalling Twitter joke in 2012 about President Barack Obama’s brother having never left his Kenyan hut and smears centered on “birtherism” conspiracy theories — unfounded questions about whether Trump’s predecessor was born in the United States — to stoke racism.

Deadline Hollywood, Mike Pence’s Office Reverses Decision, Allows Public Health Officials To Appear On CNN, Ted Johnson, April 9, 2020.  Vice President Mike Pence’s office has reversed itself and will now allow two top public health officials to appear on CNN, after earlier blocking the medical professionals from appearing on the network because it has not carried the nightly White House Coronavirus Task Force briefings in their entirety.

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will appear on a CNN coronavirus town hall on Thursday evening and Dr. Anthony Fauci will guest on New Day on Friday, the network said.

Earlier in the day, CNN’s Oliver Darcy reported that Pence’s office had withheld the health experts from the network out of upset that the network had not carried the portion of the press briefings that include the Vice President and other members of the task force. According to CNN, a spokesperson for the Vice President said, “When you guys cover the briefings with the health officials then you can expect them back on your air.”

cnn logoCNN and other networks have been under pressure to stop airing the press briefings live, out of concerns that they have given President Donald Trump a platform to make unverified claims or relay other forms of misinformation. Even some on-air personalities have urged the networks to at least do more aggressive forms of fact checking. Some, like The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, suggested that Pence’s portion of the briefing, typically a more sobering view of the crisis, was just as if not more essential to cover.

“There’s a big debate going on among folks about whether cable should be airing Trump briefings,” she tweeted on Tuesday. “Okay. But if you’re running the beginning of the briefing, why cut away from Pence and the actual health officials?”

On Wednesday, CNN did cover the portion of the briefing where Trump took questions from the media, and also aired portions where Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx spoke to reporters. But to many viewers, it has meant that networks hop back and forth from the briefing to their news anchors, who have tried to do quick fact checks of some of the statements made.

The White House did not return a request for comment. A spokesperson for CNN also declined to comment.

One press advocacy organization, PEN America, condemned the attempt to restrict CNN’s access to public health officials.

April 7

Cleveland Scene, Plain Dealer Put Out to Pasture. In Final Death Blow, Remaining Reporters Given Impossible Choice, Sam Allard, April 7, 2020. On the first workday after a brutal and debilitating round of layoffs at The Plain Dealer, Editor Tim Warsinskey delivered what will be the paper's final and cruelest blow.

He told the 14 remaining newsroom staffers that they would henceforth be forbidden from covering stories in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, and Summit County and could no longer report on anything that might be deemed a "statewide" issue. Those vast content areas will now fall under the editorial jurisdiction of, the PD's non-union sister newsroom.

If the PD staffers choose to remain employed, Warsinskey said, they will have to do so as members of a "bureau" responsible for reporting on Northeast Ohio's outlying counties: Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina and Portage.

This announcement came as a shock to those who had survived Friday's purge and were only now coming up for air. Some level of reorganization within the newsroom was expected — hence the Monday meeting — but the total theft of their beats was "incomprehensible," according to a statement from the Northeast Ohio Newspaper Guild Local 1, posted moments ago to its Facebook page.

And so the paper's remaining staffers are now faced with a devastating decision: they can either leave and let the state's largest paper, (and the country's first News Guild), die, ceding victory at last to the Newhouses of Advance Publications, who've been ruthlessly and methodically busting the PD's [Plain Dealer's] union for years; or they can stay on, suffering the indignities of filing low-stakes stories on distant locales that haven't been part of the paper's regular coverage area for years.

Exceptions have been made for four remaining employees, according to the Guild's statement. Terry Pluto and Philip Morris will be permitted to remain as columnists; Steve Litt can stay on as the region's art and architecture critic; and Susan Glaser can still cover regional travel.

But the rest will have to sacrifice their beats — in many cases, beats which they've been covering for decades and for which they are by far the most equipped and knowledgeable reporters in the region — to

It should be obvious, though, that there will be nowhere close to 77 journalists covering the region after the 14 on the PD side make up their minds this week. Equally obvious is the fact that Tim Warsinskey and Advance Publications could not care less about "the stories that matter to you," least of all "the pandemic impact that is gripping us all."

Actions do, in fact, speak louder than words. As of last Thursday, (and long before the spread of COVID-19), The Plain Dealer had a three-person team covering health in the region. Brie Zeltner, who covered the intersection of medicine and public health, and Julie Washington, who wrote stories about individual patients and medical technology, were both laid off Friday. Ginger Christ covers the hospitals. During the biggest and most destructive public health story in a century, Advance Publications has chosen to rob the region of its most skilled and deeply sourced health reporters. That's how much they care.

The Guild is correct, then, in its assessment that this "strategy" has absolutely nothing to do with Advance's interest in meaningful coverage of Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina and Portage counties. That's a bad joke and should be interpreted as such. The purported coverage area, ("outlying counties"), is so geographically broad and remote as to be meaningless as a beat. And yet it's simultaneously so restrictive ("no stories about Cuyahoga or Summit counties or any statewide issues") that reporting on it would paralyze any news reporter who takes the job seriously.

That's deliberate.

Politico, Coronavirus clampdown: The virus casts a shroud over American civic life, Jeremy B. White, April 7, 2020. States and cities across the country are cutting off access to open records and canceling in-person meetings, starving the public — not to mention lobbyists and other influence-brokers — of information as the coronavirus outbreak reaches into all corners of civic life.

The public access shutdown comes just as local officials make unprecedented decisions about health care and how to disburse billions of dollars in federal aid. And it could undermine years of hard-won victories on access to information, some transparency advocates say, with now-temporary restrictions enduring even after this crisis has receded.

Meetings that typically allow constituents to physically interact with their representatives have been suspended. Activists and lobbyists no longer have physical access to state lawmakers in some places. And many cities and states, their staff preoccupied with the virus, have halted or curbed their responses to public records requests.

That is meeting pushback from some public transparency and good government advocates who warn that a public health emergency shouldn’t undermine the public’s access to the workings of government — particularly when that government is making critical, life-and-death decisions. One advocate drew a parallel to how some records vanished from public view after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“Here’s another huge national event, this health crisis, that is probably also going to set new precedents for what’s going to be available or not and how people are going to respond or not respond based on the new normal,” said Daniel Bevarly, executive director National Freedom of Information Coalition.

In-the-open policymaking has receded as elected officials hunker down. The California legislature adjourned early and then delayed its return date. Illinois state legislators are holding private discussions about future bills, while the Massachusetts legislature has also nixed in-person public hearings. The Los Angeles City Council has suspended in-person meetings for the foreseeable future. Courts have curtailed their business, which means public attendance relies on varyingly available telephonic access. California’s campaign finance watchdog has delayed disclosure deadlines, as has Los Angeles.

Some legislative bodies have loosened their rules to allow for more remote access. Others have not, in some cases citing difficult-to-amend rules that require physical participation. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker have signed executive orders springing agencies from in-person meeting requirements.

stephanie grisham unsourced Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Grisham out as White House press secretary after eight months during which she held no regular briefings, Anne Gearan, April 7, 2020. Stephanie Grisham has worked closely with first lady Melania Trump and will now become her chief of staff and spokesperson, the White House announced Tuesday.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, shown at center above, is leaving the job after eight months during which she held no regular press briefings of the sort that once defined the job.

First lady Melania Trump announced Tuesday that Grisham would rejoin her staff as a full-time chief of staff and spokesperson, calling her “a mainstay and true leader in the Administration.”

Grisham was not a fixture in the inner circle of advisers to President Trump, as her predecessor Sarah Sanders had been, although White House officials have praised her loyalty.

The White House did not immediately name a successor for Grisham, who has also held the job of communications director.

 kayleigh mcenany djt

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s new White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany is even more of a disaster than the last three, Bill Palmer, April 7, 2020. Donald Trump’s revolving door of idiots, stooges, con artists, and buffoons continues. Today he got rid of White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, who was on the job for ten months and never did hold a press briefing, and replaced her with Kayleigh McEnany – who is somehow even worse.

bill palmer report logo headerShe had been working for Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign, where braindead idiocy is par for the course. Now Trump’s new Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has apparently decided that the White House needs a Press Secretary who actually does the job, so he’s replaced Grisham with McEnany.

April 6

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Sunday shows have become horror shows, Jennifer Rubin, right, April 6, 2020 (print ed.). There is no factual debate: The jennifer rubin new headshotTrump administration did not follow the advice from George W. Bush’s and Barack Obama’s administrations to prepare for pandemics. Instead, Trump and his staff wasted 70 days, 10 weeks, after learning of the covid-19 disaster.

We could have straightened out and deployed testing on a massive scale, as South Korea did. We could have stockpiled supplies, prepared the country and mandated a national stay-at-home order (which has still not been done, a failure the surgeon general could not explain).

While Trump made outrageous promises, even Republicans knew he was spouting nonsense. The Post explained: “In mid-March, as Trump was rebranding himself a wartime president and belatedly urging the public to help slow the spread of the virus, Republican leaders were poring over grim polling data that suggested Trump was lulling his followers into a false sense of security in the face of a lethal threat.”

The utter lack of preparation, arguably the worst failure in presidential leadership in the modern era, continues to this day as the administration fails to come to grips with the virus and plot a way forward. The Sunday shows put on display the desperate attempts by informed experts, the media and governors to find any evidence that the administration has gained a handle on the crisis.

ny times logoNew York Times, Americans Don’t Trust the Media Anymore. So Why Do They Trust the Cuomos? Ben Smith, April 6, 2020 (print ed.). CNN once prevented Chris Cuomo from interviewing his brother, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on the air. But that all changed with the arrival of the coronavirus.

andrew cuomoIn a series of four riveting interviews, Andrew Cuomo, 62, right, delivered the scary reality of the pandemic to his brother’s audience. He also bragged that he is their mother’s favorite and that Chris — Christopher, he calls him — was the family “meatball.” When the governor’s audio finally dropped, Chris delivered an aside: “This is a great chance for me to say some things to him.”

The Cuomo brothers’ show became a deeper drama last week when Chris Cuomo, 49, revealed his coronavirus diagnosis. He had lost 13 pounds in three days. He chipped a tooth one night when he was in terrible pain. On Thursday, he called into his brother’s daily news conference.

“You came to me in a dream, you had on a very interesting ballet outfit, and you were dancing in the dream, and you were waving a wand and saying, ‘I wish I could wave my wand and make this go away,’” Chris Cuomo told the governor.

The sick guy in his basement roasting his brother is not exactly high-minded journalism. Imagine the reaction, if, say, a Trump family member interviewed the president on Fox News. But it is moving television. And more than anything, it reflects the instincts and inclinations of Jeff Zucker, the morning show producer-turned-corporate executive who now runs CNN.

jamal khashoggi entering consulate

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump calls MBS his ‘friend’ — 18 months to the day after Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, Fred Hiatt (Editorial page editor), April 6, 2020 (print ed.). No doubt President Trump was unaware of the significance of the date he chose to salute “my friend MBS.”

No doubt Trump had no idea that it was the year-and-a-half-anniversary of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Mohammed Bin Salman Al-SaudBut, yes, Trump’s tweet came 18 months to the day after his “friend MBS” — Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right — had a hit squad murder Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. A hit squad that included forensic doctor Salah Mohammed Tubaigy, who brought his bone saw with him from Riyadh.

You probably remember the outlines of the story. A respected Saudi journalist living in Virginia and writing columns for The Post, Khashoggi (shown below in the Washington Post's newsroom) had visited the consulate the previous week seeking paperwork so he could marry his Turkish fiancee, Hatice Cengiz. He had been told, no problem, come back the following Tuesday — Oct. 2, 2018.

U.S. intelligence officials concluded that the murder could not have taken place without the crown prince’s authorization. An investigation by U.N. special rapporteur Agnes Callamard called the murder and dismemberment “an extrajudicial killing for which the State of the jamal khashoggi washpost newsroom SmallKingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible.”

For a time, the Trump administration pretended to seek information about the killing. The truth would come out, Trump said. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pressed the crown prince at least to move aside his chief henchman, Saud al-Qahtani.

But any pretense is long gone. Qahtani remains influential. The administration has illegally ignored congressional mandates to furnish information on the killing and impose sanctions.

And now, as though to mark a year and a half of Saudi nose-thumbing, Trump is prostrating himself again. The reason: As a pandemic imperils the American economy, the Saudis have threatened to devastate the U.S. oil industry further by flooding the market with cheap oil.

April 4

#MeToo Claims

Medium via OpEd News, Deep Reporting / Commentary: Evidence Casts Doubt on Tara Reade's Sexual Assault Allegations of Joe Biden, Brian Krassenstein and Eddie Krassenstein, April 4, 2020. Alexandra Tara Reade’s accusations of sexual assault against Joe Biden appear very questionable once the story is fully investigated. We reached out to Ms. Reade for comment but she refused.

(For more Justice Integrity Project coverage, see March 31 and March 30 excerpts in #MeToo coverage here.)

April 3

Daily Beast, Dr. Fauci Shuts Down ‘Fox & Friends’ on Coronavirus Cure: ‘We Don’t Operate on How You Feel,’ Justin Baragona, April 3, 2020. daily beast logo“I think we’ve got to be careful that we don’t make that majestic leap to assume that this is a knockout drug,” the top doctor said of hydroxychloroquine

Top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci left the hosts of Fox & Friends disappointed and frustrated Friday when he threw cold water on their insistence that the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine is a game-changing cure for the coronavirus.

Citing a recent poll showing that 37 percent of doctors around the world feel the drug is currently the most effective treatment of COVID-19, co-host Steve Doocy added that frequent Fox News guest Dr. Mehmet Oz recently touted a small Chinese study that found the drug had some efficacy in treating the virus.

fox news logo SmallDoocy went on to play a clip of Dr. Oz wondering whether Fauci was impressed with the results of that study. The Fox host asked the top physician to respond to the TV doctor.

“That was not a very robust study,” replied Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force. He also pointed out that while there’s still a possibility of a “beneficial effect,” the scale and strength of the evidence is not “overwhelmingly strong.”

“But getting back to what you said just a moment ago that ‘X percent’—I think you said 37 percent—of doctors feel that it’s beneficial. We don’t operate on how you feel. We operate on what evidence is, and data is,” he continued. “So although there is some suggestion with the study that was just mentioned by Dr. Oz—granted that there is a suggestion that there is a benefit there—I think we’ve got to be careful that we don’t make that majestic leap to assume that this is a knockout drug.”

Co-host Brian Kilmeade, meanwhile, pushed back against the disease expert, claiming a large percentage of doctors in other countries are now prescribing the drug to treat coronavirus. He then speculated as to whether those taking the drug for other conditions were prevented from infection of COVID-19.

“I would be very curious, doctor, to see if anyone who was taking this for lupus or arthritis has gotten the coronavirus, that would be one way to go the other way to see about this study,” Kilmeade wondered aloud.

“I mean, obviously this is a good drug in many respects for some of the diseases you mentioned, and the one thing we don’t want to happen is that individuals who really need a drug with a proven indication don’t have it available,” Fauci responded, adding that it doesn’t matter if a large percentage of doctors “think that it works.”

Co-host Ainsley Earhardt then jumped in, suggesting that “Democratic leaders” are preventing patients from receiving hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the disease and asking Fauci what could be done to make sure we’re giving it to everyone in need.

“Well first of all, this is an approved drug for another indication, and doctors can, and the FDA has made it very clear that doctors can prescribe it on what we call off label,” he explained. “There’s no inhibition for that. So a considerable amount of drug was made available, as you remember, just a few days ago. But the FDA was very clear that they’re not going to be inhibiting anyone from doing an off label prescription of the drug. So they’re free to do that if they want to.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Thousands of Zoom video calls left exposed on open Web, Drew Harwell, April 3, 2020. Many of the videos include personally identifiable information and deeply intimate conversations, recorded in people’s homes.

Thousands of personal Zoom videos have been left viewable on the open Web, highlighting the privacy risks to millions of Americans as they shift many of their personal interactions to video calls in an age of social distancing.

Videos viewed by The Washington Post included one-on-one therapy sessions; a training orientation for workers doing telehealth calls that included people’s names and phone numbers; small-business meetings that included private company financial statements; and elementary school classes, in which children’s faces, voices and personal details were exposed.

Many of the videos include personally identifiable information and deeply intimate conversations, recorded in people’s homes. Other videos include nudity, such as one in which an aesthetician teaches students how to give a Brazilian wax.

April 2

washington post logoWashington Post, Pakistan court overturns convictions in killing of journalist Daniel Pearl, Shaiq Hussain, April 2, 2020. Omar Saeed Sheikh’s sentence was reduced to life in prison, and three co-conspirators were freed. The decision by the Sindh High Court can still be appealed to Pakistan’s Supreme Court.

A regional Pakistani court on Thursday overturned the convictions of the men involved in the killing of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002.

The ruling by two judges on the High Court of Sindh province can still be appealed to Pakistan’s Supreme Court.

“As per the court’s judgment, Omar Saeed Sheikh has been found guilty of kidnapping and not of murder. The accused was in jail for 20 years,” the defendants’ lawyer Khawaja Naveed told The Washington Post.

Saeed had been sentenced to death for Pearl’s murder, but now with just a seven-year sentence for kidnapping, he could be released, given the 18 years he has already served.

The three other men convicted with Saeed — Fahad Naseem, a computer expert; Salman Saqib, a religious activist; and Sheikh Adil, a police officer — were ordered released by the court.

  •  Washington Post, Shivering, hallucinating, beaten ‘like a piñata’: Chris Cuomo’s ‘haunted’ night with coronavirus, Allyson Chiu, April 2, 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, OANN gets booted from White House press room after making unauthorized appearance, Paul Farhi, April 2, 2020. Despite social distancing in the crowded briefing room, the White House made an exception for conservative One America News Network (OANN). White House correspondents pushed back.

This time, it was a fairly routine question that Chanel Rion, a correspondent for One America News Network, posed to President Trump during Tuesday’s White House news briefing: How many clinical trials would it take before a potential coronavirus drug he has touted could be approved? Trump wasn’t sure and turned the question over to Anthony S. Fauci, his infectious-diseases expert.

But the brief Q&A raised its own question: What was Rion doing there in the first place?

Under strict new guidelines jointly imposed last month by White House officials and the White House Correspondents' Association, which represents journalists, access to the cramped briefing room is now restricted to about 15 reporters each day, to enforce social-distancing measures amid the coronavirus crisis, and several smaller news organizations can rotate in only once every several days.

And it wasn’t OANN’s turn on Tuesday. Nor on Wednesday, when Rion showed up in the room again — prompting the correspondents’ association to vote to remove OANN from the rotation.

“We did this because a reporter for this outlet twice attended press briefings in contravention of this policy,” the board of the WHCA said in a statement late Wednesday. “We do not take this action lightly. This is a matter of public safety.”

Rion and her employer, a tiny conservative cable outlet known as OANN, appear to have gotten special permission from the White House, in violation of the guidelines. The reasons, and the source of the approval, are unclear, but OANN and Rion have a history of reporting favorably about Trump. Rion herself has pushed conspiracy theories that advance his political interests, such as the unfounded allegation that officials in Ukraine secretly manipulated the 2016 election to help Hillary Clinton. Trump, in turn, has tweeted praise of OANN’s reporting dozens of times.

The White House, in effect, on Tuesday bent the rules — which were designed to ensure the health of journalists, the president and the nation’s top public-health officials — in granting access and a national spotlight to a correspondent from an obscure but Trump-friendly news outlet.

OANN was founded 2013 by Robert Herring Sr., a millionaire Republican donor from San Diego who made his fortune in the circuit-board business before starting over in media. His son, Charles Herring, president of One America’s parent company Herring Broadcasting, told The Post last week that the channel “is designed to report just the news” and that “we would not describe our news reporting as right-leaning.”


March 31

Palmer Report, Opinion: CNN refused to start airing Donald Trump’s press conference today until he was done speaking, Bill Palmer, March 31, 2020. It looks like Donald Trump has finally pushed CNN to the point where it’s no longer willing to air him while he’s dishonestly rambling during his press conferences.

bill palmer report logo headerWhen Trump began speaking this evening, MSNBC started airing it immediately. But CNN didn’t start airing it until Trump was done babbling and Dr. Birx began speaking.

No TV network should be airing these press conferences at all. But we’ve reached a fascinating point here, where CNN is refusing to put the President of the United States on the air because of the dangerous misinformation that he likes to spew. This cnn logocan’t simply be a ratings decision, or CNN wouldn’t be airing the press briefing at all. Instead, this is specifically about keeping Trump from harming people.

This comes after Donald Trump used his last few press conferences to spread deadly false information about coronavirus drugs, to make random false accusations about hospital workers stealing medical equipment, and to give the My Pillow guy a

#MeToo Claim Against Biden

Democracy Now! Opinion: “It Shattered My Life”: Former Joe Biden Staffer Tara Reade Says He Sexually Assaulted Her in 1993, Amy Goodman, March 31, 2020. In an exclusive Democracy Now! TV/radio broadcast, we speak with Tara Reade, the former staffer in Joe Biden’s Senate office who has come forward with allegations that Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993.

Last week, The Intercept reported that the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, set up to help survivors of rape and sexual assault, refused to fund a #MeToo investigation into allegations against Biden. Reade told journalist Katie Halper in an interview published Tuesday that Biden repeatedly touched her without her consent and sexually assaulted her.

Reade approached the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund in January looking for assistance, but was reportedly told the fund could not help her because Biden is a candidate for federal office, and pursuing a case could jeopardize the fund’s nonprofit status. Reade says she learned from The Intercept report that the public relations firm representing Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund is SKDKnickerbocker, whose managing director, Anita Dunn, is top adviser to Biden’s presidential campaign.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you give us the circumstances, how you ended up — what was the day, how you ended up alone with Joe Biden? Explain what happened that day.

TARA READE: I was approached by my supervisor. She handed me a gym bag and said, “Hurry, Joe wants this, so get it to him. He’ll meet you down towards the Capitol.” And I went down the stairs, and I don’t remember exactly where I was, because there’s connections between the Russell Building and all of that and the corridors, but we were in a semi-private location. It wasn’t a room. It wasn’t, you know, the Russell Office Building — I mean, in his office. It was down in the corridors. And I handed him the gym bag.

And then he — it was one, as I described, fluid moment. He was talking to me, and he said some things that I don’t recall. And I was up against the wall. And he — I remember the coldness of the wall. And I remember his hands underneath my blouse and underneath my skirt, and his fingers penetrating me as he was trying to kiss me and I was pulling away. And he pulled back, and he said, “Come on, man. I heard you liked me.” But he was angry. It was like a tight voice. And he tended to smile when he was angry. And he isn’t like the Uncle Joe like everybody talks about now. He was younger. He was my dad’s age at that time and very strong. And he looked insulted and angry. And I remember feeling like I had done something wrong when he said that statement. And then I was standing there when he said — he was still near me. He said — pointed his finger and said, “You’re nothing to me. You’re nothing.” And he walked away.

The next thing I remember was that night and talking to my mom, and she was like, “You need to file a police report. It’s a sexual assault.” And I didn’t think of it as sexual assault, and I didn’t really understand. And I was trying to just get over the shock of it, because I looked up to him. He was supposed to be a champion of women. And I was so thrilled to be at that office and so honored, and it shattered my life and changed the trajectory of my whole career and life. And I lost my job after I complained, and I was fired.

AMY GOODMAN: And how exactly did you complain, Tara? You filed a complaint of sexual harassment against Senator Biden at the time? Now, let’s be clear, this is 1993, two years after he led the Senate Judiciary Committee around the Anita Hill charges against Clarence Thomas. So this is soon after that. You filed a complaint. Did you talk about this happening?

TARA READE: No, I didn’t talk about the sexual assault. What I did was I went through office protocol, which would be to go to your supervisor. And if you’re not happy, you go to the next supervisor, and then the next one would be the chief of staff. And I did go up the chain verbally. And there were a couple of meetings — more than a couple, actually. And there were people taking notes. I mean, I know they took notes. And some were more informal in the hallway, with Marianne. And I was basically — after I had not served the drinks, that whole, you know, episode, I was immediately told, like within a few days, by Marianne’s assistant that I dressed too provocatively, that I was too — that I needed to be less noticeable. And then Marianne got me in the hallway, because I was annoyed by that, and she said, you know, “You want to just keep your head down and do as you’re told, if you want to last here.”

And I went to them and told them I was uncomfortable. So I couched it in those terms. We didn’t use the term “sexual harassment” a lot back then. And I remember saying I was uncomfortable and why. But nothing happened. And in fact, I was put in a windowless office, and I had my duties taken away from me. I was given a desk audit. I was told to call one of my upper-level supervisors even if I went to the restroom. I was not to call or talk to other staffers or go to legislative hearings. I was told that I was given a month to find another job. And I sent out my résumés. And before I did that, because of this retaliation, I told my mother, who gave me the term “retaliation” and explained to me what was happening, and said to march in there and file a sexual harassment claim. And I said — and she used the word. And I said, “Well, you don’t just march into their office. Like, that’s not how this is done.”

March 30

U.S. Media / Propaganda

#MeToo Claim Against Biden

tara reade joe biden Custom

U.S. Media / Propaganda

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook, Google and Twitter Struggle to Prepare for Election, Kevin Roose, Sheera Frenkel and Nicole Perlroth, Updated March 30, 2020. After spending billions to avoid a repeat of 2016, the tech giants are careening from crisis to crisis as their foes change tactics.

The day after the New Hampshire primary last month, Facebook’s security team removed a network of fake accounts that originated in facebook logoIran, which had posted divisive partisan messages about the U.S. election inside private Facebook groups.

Hours later, the social network learned the campaign of Michael R. Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York mayor, had sidestepped its political ad process by directly paying Instagram meme accounts to post in support of his presidential bid.

google logo customThat same day, a pro-Trump group called the Committee to Defend the President, which had previously run misleading Facebook ads, was found to be promoting a photo that falsely claimed to show Bernie Sanders supporters holding signs with divisive slogans such as “Illegal Aliens Deserve the Same as Our Veterans.”

twitter bird CustomFacebook, Twitter, Google and other big tech companies have spent the past three years working to avoid a repeat of 2016, when their platforms were overrun by Russian trolls and used to amplify America’s partisan divide. The internet giants have since collectively spent billions of dollars hiring staff, fortifying their systems and developing new policies to prevent election meddling.

But as the events of just one day — Feb. 12 — at Facebook showed, although the companies are better equipped to deal with the types of interference they faced in 2016, they are struggling to handle the new challenges of 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Gannett will furlough workers at more than 100 newspapers over next three months, Jacob Bogage, March 30, 2020.  gannett logo CustomSome employees paid more than $38,000 a year by one of the company’s newspapers, including USA Today, will be required to take one week of unpaid leave in April, May and June.

  • Washington Post, Trump berates PBS NewsHour reporter for ‘threatening’ question, hits ‘nice’ question out of park, Katie Shepherd, March 30, 2020.

washington post logoej dionne w open neckWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s quarantine con should be the breaking point, E.J. Dionne Jr., March 30, 2020. If you doubted that President Trump’s approach to the coronavirus crisis is all about him — about getting a few hours or a few days of blaring headlines and then manically moving on to some other empty gesture that he can claim is “strong” — his threat on Saturday to quarantine the New York region tells you all you need to know.

The man who fleeced innocent souls through what the conservative National Review called the “massive scam” of Trump University is applying the same hucksterism to a situation where thousands of lives are at stake.

The quarantine caper ought to be the straw that breaks the hustler’s back.

There was Trump telling reporters in the early afternoon: “There is a possibility that sometime today we’ll do a quarantine, short term, two weeks, on New York, probably New Jersey, certain parts of Connecticut,” he said, expressing worry that “a lot of New Yorkers are going down” to Florida.

Media-wise, all hell broke loose.

Of course he had never spoken to the governors of the affected states beforehand. Of course this was a way of shifting blame for his own incompetence to the stricken people of three Democratic states that would never vote for him. Of course he never considered whether he even had the power to do what he claimed he might do.

And of course it was all fake.

Having milked the “possibility” for a long news cycle, he informed the world on Twitter at 8:19 p.m. Saturday: “A quarantine will not be necessary.”

There are two lessons here. The first is that the media must treat Trump the way they treat anyone else who regularly offers lies along with idle but explosive conjecture. His daily journey before the White House cameras is no different from any of his other swindles, and his “briefings” should be treated with the contempt they deserve.

The second lesson is more important for the long run. We are learning, in both good ways and bad, about the importance of competent, energetic and empathetic government. For the past week, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has been offering a running seminar on this subject for all who will listen, both in a floor speech and in a phone interview from his home in Brooklyn.

In voting — unanimously in the Senate — for a $2.2 trillion economic rescue bill, Schumer told me, Republicans acknowledged what they regularly deny: that government is indispensable, especially “when there’s an emergency, when lives are at stake, and when you need quick action.” Also: when “the private sector cannot do the job.”

  • Washington Post, Trump berates PBS NewsHour reporter for ‘threatening’ question, hits ‘nice’ question out of park, Katie Shepherd, March 30, 2020.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Is Hurting His Own Re-Election Chances, David Leonhardt, right, david leonhardt thumbMarch 30, 2020 (print ed.). Don’t be fooled by snapshot polls. The president backed off of his hope that the country will be “opened up and raring to go” by Easter. A top medical adviser and governors had said they could not envision easing the measures anytime soon.

The strangest part of President Trump’s coronavirus response is that it’s almost certainly damaging his chances of re-election.

I realize that may sound surprising, given that his approval rating has been rising. But when you look beyond day-to-day events — which Trump often struggles to do — you see that he is creating the conditions for a miserable summer and fall, with extended virus outbreaks and a deeper recession. The summer and fall, of course, are the crux of the presidential campaign.

Trump’s virus strategy revolves around trying to make the present seem as good as possible, without much concern for the future. He spent almost two months denying that the virus was a serious problem and falsely claiming that the number of cases was falling. He has spent the last two weeks alternately taking aggressive measures and refusing to do so, often against the advice of public-health experts. Some Republican governors, following Trump’s lead, are also rejecting those experts’ pleas: There are beaches open in Florida, restaurants open in Georgia and Missouri and many people out and about in Oklahoma and Texas.

Altogether, the United States seems to have engaged in the least aggressive response of any affected country. Sure enough, it also now has the world’s largest number of confirmed cases. The American caseload was initially following a similar path as the Chinese and Italian caseloads. But the number of American infections is now rising uniquely fast, with 96,000 new cases in the last week — more than twice as many as in any seven-day period in any other country.

This surge doesn’t cause only more short-term deaths and overwhelmed hospitals. It also leads to more cases in later months, by creating a larger group of infected people who can spread the virus to others. As Tom Frieden, a former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told me, “The higher the peak, the longer it lasts.”

And the longer that the country is gripped by the virus, the deeper that the economic downturn will be. Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago professor, refers to this as the first rule of “virus economics”: The only way to resuscitate the economy is to stop the virus. Premature attempts to restart business activity will lead to further outbreaks, which will cause more fear and new shutdowns.

 wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary, No evidence of bio-warfare involved with COVID-19, Wayne Madsen (author of 18 wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallbooks, investigative reporter and former Navy Intelligence officer and NSA analyst), March 30, 2020. Contrary to ruminations from far right-wing Republicans -- including Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Marco Rubio of Florida, as well as fundamentalist crackpot Jerry Falwell, Jr. -- that COVID-19 involves either a willful or accidental biological warfare operation set in motion by China or North Korea, the facts are that the deadly virus involves no military or intelligence service.

The fact that every military and intelligence service on the planet has been negatively impacted and severely hobbled by the virus is evidence that there are no strategic military winners and only losers with respect to the pandemic. It is Donald Trump's senior Republican officials and evangelical supporters who are pushing such nonsense that COVID-19 is a biological warfare attack. It is proof of the paucity of any level of military or intelligence expertise in the Republican Party and the Trump administration.

#MeToo Claim Against Biden

tara reade screenshot via the hill Custom

Tara Reade (screenshot via The Hill newspaper)., Opinion: Why Are the Mainstream Media Ignoring Tara Reade's Sexual Assault Accusation Against Joe Biden? Robby Soave, March 30, 2020. So far, it's been silence from The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and others.

On September 14, 2018, The New York Times reported the existence of an unverified sexual misconduct allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The story cited three people who had read a letter sent by the accuser—Christine Blasey Ford—to Sen. Diane Feinstein (D–Calif.). Ford was not interviewed for the story; indeed, she wasn't named.

Unconfirmed reports of a teenaged Kavanaugh assaulting a teenaged Ford evidently merited coverage from The Times. This prompts an obvious question: Why is the paper of record now declining to publicize a very troubling allegation against former Vice President Joe Biden?

The Times is hardly alone in this regard. The mainstream media have remained bafflingly silent about Tara Reade, a former member of then-Senator Biden's staff who claims that he sexually assaulted her in 1993. Reade's name has only appeared twice in The Washington Post, and both were quick asides: A news roundup from April of last year briefly acknowledged an earlier, milder version of Reade's accusation, and a recent rapid-fire Q&A asked a Post political reporter to weigh-in on the political ramifications "of the Tara Reade bombshell." (The nature of the bombshell is not described.)

And while the coronavirus pandemic is obviously dominating news coverage, CNN has made plenty of time for Biden. Chris Cillizza is still ranking Biden's potential veep choices, and the network conducted a virtual townhall event with the candidate last Friday. Reade's name didn't come up, and it has never appeared at At NBC, it's the same story: Chuck Todd interviewed Biden but didn't ask about the allegation.

tara reade joe biden Custom

Medium, Investigative Commentary: Evidence Casts Doubt on Tara Reade’s Sexual Assault Allegations of Joe Biden, Brian Krassenstein and Eddie Krassenstein, March 30, 2020. Alexandra Tara Reade’s accusations of sexual assault against Joe Biden (both shown above) appear very questionable once the story is fully investigated.

We were able to contact a longtime friend of Reade’s who wished to remain anonymous, but they said they “do not believe her allegations,” claiming she has always been one to seek attention. Note: We reached out to Ms. Reade for comment but she refused.

Every allegation of sexual assault must be taken seriously, and the #metoo movement has certainly given the victims of sexual harassment and assault a greater shield of confidence in coming forward with less fear of being attacked themselves. With this said, however, it is the media’s responsibility to thoroughly investigate accusations before jumping into a story and allowing those allegations to potentially destroy another human being, or, in this case, a political campaign. Every woman deserves to be heard, but every media outlet still has the responsibility of investigating and then relaying to the public all of the facts at face value.

joe biden 2020 button CustomAlexandra Tara Reade came forward last week with quite disturbing allegations against former Vice President and current 2020 Presidential candidate Joe Biden. In April of 2019, Reade originally said that Joe Biden’s handsiness made her feel uncomfortable when she worked as a Senate aide in 1993. At the time, however, she said that she did not consider Biden’s actions to be sexualization, instead comparing her experience to that of being a beautiful lamp.

This story suddenly changed last week when Reade took part in an interview with podcast host Katie Halper. In the interview, Reade claimed that then-Senator Joe Biden “penetrated” her, against her will, with his finger, in an encounter that took place in ‘93.

While the allegations made by Reade are impossible to prove or disprove, examining Reade’s actions over the years and other evidence Vladimir Putin Il Corrierethat has been archived on the internet, brings her honesty and integrity into question.

Below we will cover many of the inconsistencies in her story, the endless contradictions she has made over the years, and the evidence that paints a picture of someone who went from seemingly adoring Joe Biden and disliking Vladimir Putin, right, in 2017, to someone who showed compassion and love for Vladimir Putin in 2018, to someone who accused Biden of doing horrific things to her in 2019 and 2020.

Who is Alexandra Tara Reade?

Alexandra Tara Reade has gone by many names and aliases over the years. According to our research, she was born as Tara Reade Moulton, before changing her name in her early 20s to Tara Reade, then changing it back to Tara Moulton again, and then changing it once again later in life (through marriage) to Alexandra Tara McCabe.

It appears as though sometime between 2017 and early 2018 she began calling herself Alexandra Tara Reade.

According to a website that she recently deleted, Reade is the founder of Gracie’s Pet Food Pantry, graduated from Seattle University School of Law, and was the co-host, creator and producer of a soul music radio show called “Soul Vibes” on KNRY — an AM radio station that serves the Santa Cruz and Monterey areas in California.

At one point in her life Reade worked on the domestic violence unit for the King County Prosecutor, in Seattle, WA, as a ‘Victim’s Advocate,” and on at least one occasion testified as an expert witness on domestic violence.

Reade also worked for former Congressman Leon Panetta, former Senator Joe Biden, and former California State Senator Jack O’Connell.

In 2017 Alexandra Tara Reade Praised Joe Biden for Helping End Sexual Assault.

In 2017 Alexandra Tara Reade praised Joe Biden for his action in helping stop sexual assault, not just once, but on multiple occasions.

Alexandra Tara Reade’s other Twitter account under her legal name Alexandra (Tara) McCabe.

Between September of 2016 and May of 2017, Alexander Tara Reade used a Twitter account, under the name Tara McCabe, to spread praise of Joe Biden via tweeting, retweeting and liking various Tweets.

There are multiple examples of this, as seen below:

  • In the below instance, Reade retweeted a tweet by Margaret Cho that appears to commend Joe Biden for working with Lady Gaga to end sexual assault.
  • In 2017 Joe Biden worked with Lady Gaga to help end sexual assault. In February of 2017, Tara Reade retweeted this tweet apparently commending Biden for his work in doing so.
  • Then again in April of 2017, Reade liked a tweet by the Huffington post that praised the former Vice President for helping men realize how important they are in the fight against sexual assault. The article commends Biden for the steps he has taken to encourage men to take responsibility in stopping assaults against women.



No, no one will be able to say with certainty whether Tara Reade’s latest allegations are legitimate or not, but the very least we can do is ensure that the public has as much information as possible to make an informed decision. That’s the purpose of this article.

With that, we leave you with two things to think about

#1) A tweet response made by Reade just weeks before coming forward with new allegations seemingly contradicting her original story, and just days before The Daily Beast reported on the Russian media becoming concerned with Joe Biden’s resurgence. As you can see, it seems as though Reade is admitting that she’s waiting for the perfect time to release her new allegations in order to hurt Joe Biden’s campaign:

And #2) A tweet response that Reade made to the parents of accused rapist Julian Assange. She called the man “a hero.”

Note: UPDATE 4/2/20: We were able to contact a longtime friend of Reade’s who wished to remain anonymous, but they said they “do not believe her allegations,” claiming she has always been one to seek attention.

We went out of our way to get Reade on the record to defend herself and also spoke to individuals close to her for years in an effort to get someone to tell us that Reade was telling the truth. Those we spoke to could not do so and in fact left us even more convinced that things don’t add up.

Background on Krassentein Brothers

brian krassenstein ed krassenstein left facebook, Krassenstein Brothers: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know, Erin Laviola, Updated May 24, 2019. Ed (above at left) and Brian Krassenstein (above right in the Facebook photo), the Florida brothers who became famous on Twitter for their outspoken opposition of President Trump, have been permanently banned from the social platform.

The Krassensteins were accused of creating fake Twitter accounts and purchasing automated “bots” that could share and “like” their tweets in order to boost their own profiles. They shared the official statement that Twitter sent out on their website, the Hill Reporter:

“The Twitter Rules to apply to everyone. Operating multiple fake accounts and purchasing account interactions are strictly prohibited. Engaging in these behaviors will result in permanent suspension from the service.”

Ed and Brian Krassenstein have denied the accusations. They wrote in an op-ed on May 24, 2019 “We NEVER, and we want to make twitter bird Customthis as clear as day, ever bought or sold ANY Twitter accounts or interactions. We swear on our graves that this is 100% true.”

The Krassenstein brothers had more than 1.6 million followers between them before Twitter banned them from the site. Ed and Brian Krassenstein have been tweeting about Donald Trump and his administration since late 2016. Many of their tweets have called for his impeachment and accused him of being corrupt. They often were seen responding to the president’s tweets. They are also credited with helping to promote the hashtag “Resistance” on social media.

Here’s what you need to know.

1. Ed & Brian Krassenstein Began Tweeting About Donald Trump in Late 2016; The Brothers Say They Started Posting About the President Out of Sincere Concerns About the Administration

2. The Krassenstein Brothers Deny Paying For Bots & Have Asked Twitter to Review The Suspension

3. Federal Investigators Searched Ed & Brian Krassenstein’s Homes in 2016 After They Were Accused of Helping to Promote Scams Run By a Russian Crime Organization; The Brothers Were Never Charged With a Crime

4. Ed & Brian Krassenstein Have Operated Dozens of Websites Since the Early 2000s

5. Brian & Ed Krassenstein Are Both Married Fathers & Live in the Same Neighborhood in Fort Myers, Florida

Daily Beast, Twitter Bans #Resistance-Famous Krassenstein Brothers for Allegedly Operating Fake Accounts: GONE, Will Sommer, May 23, daily beast logo2019. Ed and Brian Krassenstein are banned for life after ‘operating multiple fake accounts and purchasing account interactions,’ a Twitter spokesman said.

Twitter has permanently banned prominent anti-Trump brothers Brian and Ed Krassenstein, alleging that two of the biggest stars of #Resistance Twitter had broken the site’s rules about operating fake accounts and purchasing fake interactions with their accounts.

“The Twitter Rules apply to everyone,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement. “Operating multiple fake accounts and purchasing account interactions are strictly prohibited. Engaging in these behaviors will result in permanent suspension from the service.”

The suspensions are a major loss for the Krassensteins, who had used their massive Twitter followers and ability to quickly respond to tweets from Donald Trump to make themselves internet celebrities. Ed Krassenstein had roughly 925,000 followers before he was banned, while Brian Krassenstein had more than 697,000.

twitter bird CustomThe brothers appeared to be unusually good at getting attention on Twitter. While the Twitter statement doesn’t explain what the Krassensteins allegedly did to illicitly promote their accounts, “fake interactions” could engage buying bots to retweet their posts, or buying fake followers to inflate their profiles on the site.

In a statement to The Daily Beast, the Krassensteins denied breaking Twitter rules.

“Twitter claims that we manipulated our interactions through the purchase of fake accounts and fake interactions,” the Krassenstein brothers said. “We have never once acquired anything for the purpose of increasing our Twitter presence.”

The Krassensteins say they only operated secondary accounts on Twitter to monitor death threats, as well as accounts for their businesses.

“None of those accounts were ever used for manipulative purposes as Twitter claims,” the Krassensteins said in the statement.

March 27

trish regan fox Custom

Daily Beast, Fox Business Ditches Trish Regan After Coronavirus ‘Impeachment Scam’ Rant, Matt Wilstein, March 27, 2020. The Fox daily beast logoBusiness host was officially let go on Friday more than two weeks after she ranted against the “coronavirus impeachment scam.”

Fox Business Network announced on Friday that it has officially “parted ways” with anchor Trish Regan following her controversial rant against what she called the “coronavirus impeachment scam” earlier this month.

fox news logo Small“We thank her for her contributions to the network over the years and wish her continued success in her future endeavors,” the network said in a statement. “We will continue our reduced live primetime schedule for the foreseeable future in an effort to allocate staff resources to continuous breaking news coverage on the Coronavirus crisis.”

“I have enjoyed my time at FOX and now intend to focus on my family during these troubled times,” Regan said in her own statement.

Regan was previously placed on an indefinite hiatus after she delivered a surreal monologue on Monday, March 9th in which she accused Democrats and the media of perpetuating a coronavirus hoax.

With the words “Coronavirus Impeachment Scam” on the screen next to her, Regan told viewers, “We've reached a tipping point. The chorus of hate being leveled at the president is nearing a crescendo as Democrats blame him and only him for a virus that originated halfway around the world. This is yet another attempt to impeach the president.”

“Many in the liberal media using, and I mean using, coronavirus in an attempt to demonize and destroy the president,” she added.

Following what amounted to a suspension, Regan tried to pass off her situation as part of larger safety measures at Fox, tweeting, “FBN has taken prudent steps to limit staffing levels and is prioritizing its coverage during market hours. I fully support this decision — we all must to do our part to keep our colleagues safe.”

Since then she has mostly used her Twitter account to encourage private companies to help fight the pandemic and cheer on the stock market during its rare rallies.

 Major 9/11 Report Analyzed

leroy hulsey freefall graphic Custom Custom

AE911Truth "Free Fall" radio show: In the Name of Engineering, Science, and Truth: Leroy Hulsey and Roland Angle on the Final WTC 7 Report, Host Andy Steele, ae for 9 11 truth logoMarch 27, 2020 (30 mins.). On this week's episode of 9/11 Free Fall, Dr. Leroy Hulsey of the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Roland Angle of AE911Truth join host Andy Steele to discuss the release of the final report on World Trade Center Building 7 and the importance of everyone helping in their own way to share it.

Andrew Steele:

So we are all collectively at the end of a very long journey, maybe not long in the span of all of humankind, but for all of us who have been eagerly awaiting the publishing of the final report on World Trade Center 7, we are here now this week. We're going to be talking about that. For people who may be new — we always want to take them into account — Roland, can you briefly describe for our audience what this report is about.

Roland Angle:

Professor Hulsey and his team at the University of Alaska Fairbanks conducted this study of the collapse of World Trade Center 7, the 47-story building that collapsed in New York City on 9/11, because there had been significant questions raised about the government-issued report on that collapse, which was authored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

And there was just a lot of research that indicated that the conclusions that NIST came to — that the building was brought down by normal office fires — was highly suspect. And so Professor Hulsey and the University of Alaska agreed at our request, to conduct a full, thorough engineering study of the collapse and determine just how valid the NIST report was. And if not, what other mechanism might have caused the collapse of the building.

So that's the purpose of the study. And I would like to say that I've worked with Professor Hulsey and other engineers as this report has been developed, and I can say that it is a very thorough and exact study of what happened that day.

Dr. Hulsey, I know you have taped presentations out there that go into a lot of detail about this. But just briefly for our audience, as we maneuver into talking about the report overall, can you tell us about some of the many years' processes that were involved in putting this report together?

Leroy Hulsey:

So if it's going to come down through some form of natural phenomenon, it's likely not to come straight down. That was looked at very carefully at the beginning. We established the methodology to look at every little detail that might impact what might have occurred to this building as it might be coming down.

And so we looked at, in detail, floors 12 and 13, as NIST did, and we examined numbers of things about that. We also, at the same time, were looking at, without consideration from NIST, what might have happened under a heated-up floor system, walls, columns, etc., etc. And we determined that the modeling was essential in determining how this building is going to respond.

What we did is put together a virtual model of the building to virtually simulate a failure and then [analyze] what kind of failures needed to happen to get what you see in the videos that actually occurred. That's kind of a snapshot overview.

Andrew Steele:

Now again, because our time is brief, can you just talk about some of the conclusions that you had reached that you talked about last September.

Leroy Hulsey:

Yeah, well the first one was that it became very clear early on that fire did not bring this building down. So that's the first thing. And when I took this on, I said, "I might not be able to come up with the reason it came down, but I could certainly tell you what didn't happen." And, well, that didn't happen.

The second thing we began to look at is how the building actually deformed if it was subjected to all this heat. And it became pretty clear pretty quickly that the exterior part of this building was not that stiff. So when you heat up something, imagine that it's going to elongate with respect to some point. And that point is where it's the stiffest. That's not on the outside of the building; it's closer to the inner core, where the elevator shafts were.

That being said, the response going around, the big controversy, which was column 79, and the bearing plates, and the A2001 girder coming into it led to a whole different set of findings than they used as an argument that brought this building down. And furthermore, when you go up and take a look at the system, the other conclusion we came to was that the system up near the top, near the penthouse, that series of columns didn't fail down below, they failed up around Floor 45 — in that neighborhood, which there was no fires up there.

So that was a further finding that led us to be sure that what we were saying is true. Anyway, that's kind of a snapshot....

Andrew Steele:

Absolutely. And I love the fact that you point that out — the fact that we have NIST telling us one thing, Dr. Hulsey and the University of Alaska Fairbanks telling us another. You have two very different outcomes of this analysis. I will step back further and say for myself that from one side, you have the input data hidden away under this guise of public safety: We have to preserve public safety by not making the input data available to the general public, even though engineers like yourselves need that input data — if you believe the official story — to make the general public more safe. Because if buildings can just collapse from random office fires, good God, we're all in danger — anybody who works in a major city.

But this is only phase one of our getting the word out. Again, the corporate media have never been the best friend of 9/11 Truth. Any progress we've made has been because of ourselves. So the next step is to be doing the work to get this out in front of as many people — especially engineering professionals —as possible.

Our volunteers are getting ready for the long fight. They're going to be doing their work. They're fighting those professors on one team. They're going to be calling those professors on another team. And we're going to be having Project Due Diligence doing the proper outreach to those people as well, to carry on those discussions, to get presentations.

This is going to be a full-on assault against the official story of Building 7. And this report is going to be the big Sherman Tank driving through the resistance. Because, again, it's very hard to challenge. I mean, common sense, when you first look at the building coming down, is a very big weapon. But when you actually have the science and everything laid out in this volume, it's very hard to get around it.

Roland, I want to hear from you though. I know what our supporters can do. I've got my own views. But as a board member, what in your view, can our supporters do to help us out in promoting the results of the study?

Roland Angle:

I think if people will look at the results of the study. It's a 115-page document, and I think it's very well laid out. It's very clearly stated. I think that most people can actually follow it. Now, I know it's asking a lot for people to look through 115-page technical report, but this is an issue that is part of a story that has defined the whole era that we're living in.

People have asked in the past, "What good does it do to go back and study this?" And I think we need to understand that the study points out the fact that the evidence that was examined and the conclusion that we came to as a result of that study, was seriously flawed. Therefore, we have been off on a deviant trip. And we need to go back to that information and restudy it and come to different conclusions about what was the cause of that event.

And that event is so important from a professional standpoint alone, for us as engineers. We cannot allow information that is not correct to circulate throughout our profession. It will undermine the foundation of our profession, and we will lose all credibility—and we should lose all credibility if we can't explain why a failure like this actually occurred.

So, what people can do is spread this information as best they can. Point to it, talk about it, research it, look at the different aspects of it, and encourage, especially their engineering friends and colleagues, to do the same.

We will reach a tipping point. And I'm convinced that, from my experience—and our experience as engineers who have been taking this information out into the engineering community—that engineers, like it or not, are playing a very central role in this whole event, because we are the experts.

The public is relying upon us to tell them what we know to be true about what happened. What I'm finding is that, wherever we go, when we present our information to the engineering community, they stand behind us 100% and agree that the NIST report is flawed and we need a new investigation.

Andrew Steele:

As a layman sitting on the outside—I mean, I work here at AE, but I'm not a scientist or engineer like you guys are—it just seems to me that so much work has been done in this report and in all of the work previous on World Trade Center Seven. Now that this report is out, what else can be done to make the case? I think I asked Richard Gage one time this on the show, but I want to hear it from you guys as the engineers here, starting with Roland, is there anything further that could be done on World Trade Center 7 to point to the fact that we're not getting the full story of what happened that day?

Roland Angle:

That's a very good question. I think the information is clear now. I'm satisfied that the information that we have produced, including this report, over the last 15 years, proves without a doubt that the buildings were brought down by controlled demolition. That information is presented to the public most often as some kind of a conspiracy theory [Emphasis added].

However, we're progressing from an engineering standpoint of, in this case, constructing a virtual model, subjecting it to the fires, looking at the observed collapse, and coming to a reasoned, scientific conclusion about what caused that collapse. So we've got to take that information now out to the universities. We're going to encourage the universities to study both reports. They have students who are routinely assigned to solve forensic problems that are presented to them in this field. And we're going to ask that the universities take up such studies.

They can come down only in three ways. They can say that the NIST report is valid and they stand behind it. They can say that the University of Alaska study is valid and they stand behind it. Or they might come up with some third hypothesis or some theory as to why the building came down.

But I think it's very important that this discussion take place in the engineering community, that the public be aware that this discussion is going on, that the public encourage the engineering community in every way possible to take up this study, and that people continue to assist us by funding us to go out to the engineering community.

So far we've made 22 presentations to chapters of professional organizations like the American Society of Civil Engineers and the National Society of Professional Engineers, and to various universities. We've gone to conferences. We're getting a great response and a lot of interest.

And that all takes money. Money is a very important aspect of this, and we have only been able to accomplish this with the support of our many supporters who have contributed the money that has been necessary for us to pay for this study and to pay for our efforts with due diligence, and our other efforts to publicize this issue.

We are a grassroots organization. We're a nonprofit. We don't get any money from any special interest. We are not endorsing any products. We are simply in it for the benefit of the reputation of the engineering community and the responsibility that we have to the general public.

So, everybody has a role to play. Wherever they fit into that model, they should play their part. We encourage everyone to take this up as a matter of great, overwhelming importance to our society.

March 26

washington post logofox news logo SmallWashington Post, Fact checker: Trump’s faux facts on Fox News, Glenn Kessler and Salvador Rizzo, March 26, 2020. The president was all over the network, but he often got his facts about the pandemic wrong. Here's a guide to his spin.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump spent 25 percent of his time at Wednesday’s briefing on self-congratulation and placing blame, Aaron Blake, March 26, 2020. He often devotes considerable time to playing up his alleged successes and the obstacles that stand in his way. That was particularly the case Wednesday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Local journalism needs a coronavirus stimulus plan, too, Margaret Sullivan, right,March 26, 2020. In an margaret sullivan 2015 photoapocalyptic advertising downturn, ideas that would have been unthinkable weeks ago deserve immediate consideration.

Media readership and viewership is soaring as citizens seek life-or-death information about the coronavirus: Where to get tested? Does my hospital have enough ventilators? Is it safe to go outside?

But the accompanying economic decline is killing off advertising — for restaurants, cars, travel, entertainment — and other support that has kept many news organizations going.

For some, the events of the past few weeks have already proved too much for their fragile existence. Alternative weeklies have stopped printing. Local dailies are laying off staff at already decimated newsrooms. Many others, including digital-only newsrooms, are hanging on by a thread.

It’s happening around the world: Newspapers in Australia and Britain announced in the past few days that they were going out of business or suspending print publication.

HuffPost, Alex Jones Loses Sandy Hook Court Appeal, Must Now Pay Nearly $150,000 In Legal Fees, Sebastian Murdock, March 26, 2020. huff post logoThe Infowars host is being sued by nine people whose family members were killed in the shooting at the Connecticut elementary school.

Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist and repeated loser of court battles, was ordered Wednesday to pay more than $20,000 in attorney fees after losing another appeal in a defamation case related to the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He now owes nearly $150,000 in legal fees before he even faces a jury.

The Texas Court of Appeals sided with Sandy Hook father Neil Heslin, who for years has been attacked by conspiracy theorists who alex jones radio logofalsely claim the school shooting in which 20 children and six adults were killed never happened.

Heslin’s lawsuit accuses Jones and his website, Infowars, of defamation after Jones claimed the parents of the dead children were “crisis actors” who helped stage the shooting. Jones is now being sued by nine family members of people who died in the shooting.

Jones’ most recent appeal to dismiss Heslin’s lawsuit was found to be “frivolous,” the court ruled Wednesday. Jones was ordered to pay $22,250 in attorney fees.

Jones was also ordered to pay approximately $25,000 in October after a court sanctioned him. And in December, he was ordered to pay $100,000 in legal fees after a Texas judge ruled his defense team “intentionally disregarded” an earlier order to produce witnesses.

Attorney Mark Bankston, who is representing Heslin and other families suing Jones, told HuffPost in a statement that the latest victory for his client spells the end for Jones.

“It is rare to see a legal defense so incompetent and disrespectful to the rule of law that it causes a defendant to rack up $150,000 in fines during preliminary motions before even reaching trial,” Bankston said. “These fines are only the beginning. A far greater reckoning awaits Mr. Jones.”

Former allies have turned against Jones during his legal battle. Rob Jacobson, a former Infowars editor, testified in a deposition that staff laughed at him when he warned them against spreading lies about Sandy Hook.

“I told [Jones] straight to his face: ‘They’re going to come after you for Sandy Hook. This is really bad,’” Jacobson said. “He just stared at me like a deer in the headlights, he had nothing to say. And we just went on our way.”

Paul Watson, Jones’ longtime friend and a contributor to Infowars, testified in December that he also warned Jones to leave the parents alone, but was largely ignored.

Jones was most recently in the news after he was caught peddling a toothpaste he falsely claimed could kill the deadly coronavirus.

March 25leroy hulsey report final march 25 2020 Custom 2

Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, WTC 7 Not Destroyed by Fire, Concludes Final University of Alaska Fairbanks Report, AE911 Truth, ae for 9 11 truth logoMarch 25, 2020. The destruction of the 47-story World Trade Center Building 7 in New York City late in the afternoon of September 11, 2001, was not a result of fires, according to the much-anticipated final report issued today by researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF).

The UAF team’s findings, which were the result of a four-year computer modeling study of the tower’s collapse, contradict those of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which concluded in a 2008 report that WTC 7 was the first tall building ever to collapse primarily due to fire.

“Our study found that the fires in WTC 7 could not have caused the observed collapse,” said Professor Leroy Hulsey, right, the study’s principal investigator. “The only way it could have fallen in the observed manner is by the near-simultaneous failure of every column.”
leroy hulseyIMG 2188 Small“The only way it could have fallen in the observed manner is by the near-simultaneous failure of every column.” — Professor Leroy Hulsey

The four-year study was funded by Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911Truth), a nonprofit organization representing more than 3,000 architects and engineers who have signed the organization’s petition calling for a new investigation into the destruction of the three World Trade Center towers on 9/11.

“We are proud to have supported the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Professor Leroy Hulsey in conducting a genuinely scientific study into the reasons for this building’s collapse,” said Richard Gage, president and founder of AE911Truth. “It is now incumbent upon the building community, the media, and government officials to reckon with the implications of these findings and launch a new full-scale investigation.”

AE911Truth and its allies among the 9/11 victims’ families will now use the findings in the report as part of a formal “request for correction” that the group plans to submit to NIST in the coming days. “The indisputable errors documented in our request for correction will give NIST no way out of correcting its deeply flawed report and reversing its conclusion that fires were the cause of the collapse,” said Gage.

“It is now incumbent upon the building community, the media, and government officials to reckon with the implications of these findings and launch a new full-scale investigation.” — Richard Gage, AIA

The final report, entitled A Structural Reevaluation of the Collapse of World Trade Center 7 – Final Report, includes clarifications and supplemental text based on public comments submitted in response to a draft report released by UAF and AE911Truth on September 3, 2019.

The UAF team’s final report is the result of an extensive four-year computer modeling effort that was followed by a robust peer review process. The peer review included dozens of public comments as well as external review by two independent experts, Dr. Gregory Szuladzinski of Analytical Service Company, a leading expert in structural mechanics and finite element modeling, and Dr. Robert Korol, a professor emeritus of civil engineering at McMaster University and a fellow of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering.

richard gage cspan interview“I am grateful to everyone who supported or participated in this study in any way,” said Professor Hulsey. “We hope that our findings will be carefully looked at by the building community and spur further investigation into how this building came down on that tragic day.”

The Hulsey report and supporting materials can be found on UAF’s Institute of Northern Engineering website and on the AE911Truth website.

Richard Gage (shown at left on one of the most downloaded C-SPAN program in its history) and civil engineer Roland Angle held a live virtual presentation on March 26, 2020 to outline the findings contained in the final report. Please tune in or watch the archived presentation here.

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March 24

ny times logoNew York Times, Local News Outlets Dealt a Crippling Blow by Biggest of Stories, Tiffany Hsu and Marc Tracy, March 24, 2020 (print ed.). Weekly papers and small dailies across America are facing peril as the coronavirus cuts off ads and live events.

Alternative weeklies and daily papers in small and midsize cities across the United States were already suffering because of the recession last decade, the migration of readers from print to online and the decline of the advertising business. Since 2004, roughly one-fourth of American newspapers — more than 2,000 — have been lost to mergers or shutdowns, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina. Most were weeklies.

The arrival of the coronavirus shook the industry’s already weakened economic foundation. As ad revenue and the money generated by events sponsored by small publications started to evaporate, many papers have canceled print editions, laid off workers or asked readers for donations.

Among those affected: Metro Weekly, a magazine about gay issues in Washington, D.C.; First Touch, a soccer publication in New York; and Gaming Today, a gambling newspaper in Las Vegas.

Charleston City Paper, in South Carolina, described the outbreak as a “storm of a disease.” Pittsburgh City Paper, using a local insult, referred to the crisis as a “jagoff.” Submerge Magazine in Sacramento wrote that the coronavirus “is poised to decimate” the publication. Indy Week in Durham, N.C., likened it to an earthquake that has forced the paper to face “the prospect of weeks or months deep in the red.”

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. news publishers band together to urge China not to expel their journalists, Paul Farhi, March 24, 2020. An unusual full-page ad in The Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal called for the need of “probing, accurate, on-the-ground reporting” during the coronavirus crisis.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. combats martial law conspiracy theories as the National Guard assists in coronavirus response, Dan Lamothe, March 24, 2020. With the expected deployment of tens of thousands of National Guardsmen to help with the coronavirus outbreak, the Defense Department finds itself trying to stamp out conspiracy theories that the United States will adopt martial law.

washington post logoamazon logo smallWashington Post, Prime members first: Amazon is ranking customers and ramping up hiring to address coronavirus demand, Jay Greene, March 24, 2020. The retailer's inability to deliver household staples such as toilet paper and bleach to many customers has led the company to reduce sales of nonessential items and prioritize shipping to members of its $119 a year Prime service.

Amazon has added a new measure to try to triage its flood of orders and shortage of goods during the coronavirus pandemic: prioritizing its $119-a-year Prime members.

Now, the company is offering delayed delivery times for non-members of Prime on many nonessential items that are available — such as hair dryers, Tic Tac candies and pill pockets to help dogs take medicine.

The move follows weeks of inability to stock and ship household staples — ranging from toilet paper to hand sanitizer to bleach — at a time when shoppers are more and more reliant on Amazon while they are staying at home to prevent the spread of the virus.

Amazon has said it will hire 100,000 workers, limit shipments to its warehouses from its third-party sellers, and restrict orders of “lower-priority shipments” to customers in France and Italy, where the outbreak is particularly acute.

March 21

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Have we finally reached the breaking point? Bill Palmer, March 21, 2020. CNN host John King used his show yesterday to curse at Donald Trump for his dishonest and embarrassing performance during his latest coronavirus press briefing. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow used her show last night to call on her own network to stop airing Trump’s press briefings live, due to the harm they’re doing. Former FBI Assistant Director and frequent MSNBC contributor Frank Figliuzzi also called for an end to live airings of Trump’s briefings.

bill palmer report logo headerFor the major media outlets, there are few things more sacred than White House press briefings. They get to send people to ask the President of the United States, or the President’s representatives, direct questions on live national television. These briefings are a farce in the Trump era. But back when we had real Presidents, the briefings were an institution. Certain questions could make or break presidential administrations.

For some of the biggest faces on cable news to now be calling for their own networks to pull the plug on White House briefings, it’s a big deal. More specifically, pulling the plug on live Presidential press briefings, during a time of crisis, is nothing short of surreal.

Yet there’s a decent chance that when Donald Trump holds his next coronavirus press briefing, whether it be today or on Monday, MSNBC and CNN won’t carry it. These networks face a lot of pressure to air Presidential press briefings. Now they’re publicly facing pressure from within their own upper ranks to pull the plug. Have we finally reached the breaking point where cable news is fully saying no to broadcasting Trump live?

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Call Trump’s News Conferences What They Are: Propaganda, Jennifer Senior, March 21, 2020. Then contrast them with the leadership shown by Andrew Cuomo, Justin Trudeau and Angela Merkel.

In a time of global emergency, we need calm, directness and, above all, hard facts. Only the opposite is on offer from the Trump White House. It is therefore time to call the president’s news conferences for what they are: propaganda.

We may as well be watching newsreels approved by the Soviet Politburo. We’re witnessing the falsification of history in real time. When Donald Trump, under the guise of social distancing, told the White House press corps on Thursday that he ought to get rid of 75 to 80 percent of them — reserving the privilege only for those he liked — it may have been chilling, but it wasn’t surprising. He wants to thin out their ranks until there’s only Pravda in the room.

March 20

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump somehow managed to have his worst press conference yet today, Bill Palmer, March 20, 2020. Remember all those terrible, embarrassing, disinformational, utterly pathetic press conferences that Donald Trump has put on over the past week?

We can now look back on those as the good old days. Today, Trump decided to show us how he really feels about being stuck as President of the United States during a crisis of his own making, and let’s just say that… well, we’re not even sure what to say.

bill palmer report logo headerAt one point Trump was handed an opportunity to score the easiest of points, when NBC News reporter Peter Alexander asked him what he would say to Americans who are afraid about the coronavirus crisis. All Trump had to do was say something like “You’ll be fine if you follow the precautions” or even just “Don’t be scared.” No one was expecting him to bust out an FDR-level “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

But even with the bar set so low for Donald Trump, he still couldn’t clear it. In fact he didn’t want to.

When asked what he would say to Americans who are afraid, Trump’s response was “I’d say you’re a terrible reporter.” No really, the President of the United States said that. To a reporter. During a televised press conference. In the midst of a pandemic that’s already killed hundreds of Americans.

This isn’t a guy who’s trying to win reelection. This isn’t a guy who’s even focused on trying to survive this crisis. This is a guy who doesn’t think he has any chance of a good outcome for himself, so he’s taking out his frustrations on anyone he can.

With his answer today, he didn’t just tell a respected reporter to go screw himself. He told all Americans to go screw themselves. It’s as if he now expects to lose in November, and he’s taking out his frustrations on the American people because they’re going to vote him out.

March 19

Media News

Donald Trump speech with change from

Donald Trump speech with change from "Corona" to "Chinese (Jabin Botsford photo for Washington Post, March 19, 2020).

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump caught changing his press conference notes to make them more racist, Bill Palmer, March 19, 2020. Donald Trump didn’t start referring to the coronavirus as the “Chinese Virus” until everyone figured out that he was wrong bill palmer report logo headerabout it being a hoax, and he needed a racist stunt in order to keep his base in line. It turns out Trump is going to even greater lengths to push this racist trope than we thought.

Washington Post photographer Jabin Botsford captured this remarkable photo of Donald Trump’s press conference notes today, which reveals that Trump’s handlers told him to say “Corona Virus” but he crossed out “Corona” and replaced it with “Chinese.”

Moon of Alabama, False Claims About The Novel Coronavirus And How To Debunk Them, b, March 19, 2020. Today China reported zero new domestic cases of novel coronavirus infections. It has beaten the epidemic just as we predicted early on. Other countries with still expanding epidemics will have to adopt all the measures China has taken to also win the fight.

Our extensive reporting about the novel cornonavirus has attracted many new commentators to this site. Unfortunately some of these, as well as some of the regulars, continue to spread disinformation and myths about the current pandemic and its causes.

To keep some level of quality at this site requires an aggressive countering of such comments. But our capacity to do so is limited. We do delete comments that are nonsensical or have been debunked and we do block people who insist to post or repost nonsense. But there are now many more comments per day than we can read. We therefore have to ask other commentators to counter the bad false ones.

March 18

Washington Examiner, Trump pleads with Syria to free American journalist Austin Tice amid coronavirus pandemic, Caitlin Yilek, March 19, 2020. President Trump urged Syria to release American journalist and veteran U.S. Marine Corps officer, Austin Tice, right, who is believed to be held hostage in the country.

austin tice Custom“Syria, please work with us. We would appreciate you letting him out,” the president said at the White House coronavirus task force’s daily briefing on Thursday.

Trump later clarified that he was not confirming that Tice is still alive.

"We’re trying to find that out," he said. “If he is alive, we would like very much to get him back.”

Tice, 38, disappeared in Syria in 2012 while he was working as a freelance journalist. He illegally entered Syria to report on the civil war, which was then in its second year.

He intended to leave in August 2012 but was detained at a checkpoint. Five weeks later, a short video titled “Austin Tice still alive” was posted on a Syrian pro-government website. The video showed him blindfolded in a rocky mountainside being forced to recite a prayer Muslims say before dying. He then said in English, “Oh, Jesus. Oh, Jesus.”

The State Department said after his capture that it believed Tice was in the custody of the Syrian government, which has not admitted to imprisoning him.

Trump also announced Lebanese-American Amer Fakhoury, who has been detained in Lebanon since September, had been released.

Fakhoury, who has stage 4 cancer, was arrested after a Hezbollah-linked publication alleged that he tortured people imprisoned by the South Lebanon Army, a majority-Christian militia group backed by Israel in its fight against Hezbollah and Palestinian militias during the 1980s and 1990s. He was charged with murder, kidnapping, and the torture of prisoners at Khiam detention center.

Fakhoury’s lawyer said the charges were bogus.

“Amer’s only crime is that he is a United States citizen, which is making the Lebanese government hold him hostage to gain leverage over the United States," Celine Atallah, Fakhoury’s lawyer said. "This is an egregious act of criminality by them.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Fakhoury will receive urgent medical treatment.

“His return comes as a relief to those who have followed the case with grave concern,” Pompeo said in a statement. “We are relieved to be able to welcome him back home.”

New York Magazine, Playboy Magazine Is Closing Down, Probably for Good, Christopher Bonanos, March 18, 2020. No more print edition. Playboy has announced that it’s closing down its flagship magazine for the rest of 2020.

It seems unlikely, given the wording of the announcement and the state of print magazine-making, that it will ever return. It’s not a surprise, exactly — its circulation and advertising drooped long ago, accelerating as the nudie pictures for which it was celebrated became available everywhere for free.

Hugh Marston Hefner, its founder/editor/latter-day reality-show star/loungewear enthusiast, died in 2017, as his faded empire contracted around him, and one got the sense that the magazine was kept going partly because nobody wanted Hef to outlive it.

Hard to imagine it now, but Playboy once felt forward-thinking and modern. Founded in 1953, it was a significant force in the loosening of anti-obscenity laws regarding the press.

By the early 1960s, it was a huge success, soon expanding to open its namesake clubs all over the world. It also moved into TV with Playboy’s Penthouse (later Playboy After Dark), a late-night talk show of sorts starring Hefner and an array of celebrity guests. The magazine peaked in the early 1970s at a circulation, breathtaking to see now, of 5.6 million copies a month. The magazine’s licensing operation since then has put the signature rabbit logo on cocktail glasses, clothes, car accessories, and far more. Plus, of course, online porn.

March 17

ny times logoNew York Times, The World of Books Braces for a Newly Ominous Future, Alexandra Alter, March 16, 2020. Publishers, bookstores and authors are struggling to confront and limit the financial fallout from the unfolding coronavirus crisis.

In these isolated times, many people are inside reading, but the book business, like others, is bracing for catastrophe. Major literary festivals and fairs around the world have been canceled. Public libraries have closed. Author tours, signings and bookstore appearances have been scrapped.

As the severity of the coronavirus outbreak continues to intensify, authors, publishers and booksellers are struggling to confront and limit the financial fallout. Many fear the worst is yet to come, including more store closures and potential disruptions to warehouse and distribution centers, as well as possible paper shortages and a decline in printing capacity.

“There’s no question we’re going to see a drop in sales,” said Dennis Johnson, co-publisher of the Brooklyn-based independent press Melville House, who has directed staff to work from home. “It’s unprecedented. Nobody knows what to do except hoard Purell.”

The Sydney Writers’ Festival, which typically draws an audience of 80,000 and was scheduled to begin on April 27, was called off this week, following cancellations of major book fairs in England, France, Germany and Italy. In the United States, The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Tucson Festival of Books, the Virginia Festival of the Book and The Believer Festival in Las Vegas were among the many shuttered events, which draw tens of thousands of readers and can be a critical sales venue for authors and publishers.

On Monday, PEN America announced that it was calling off its World Voices Festival, which was set to take place in early May in New York, with planned appearances by Margaret Atwood, Zadie Smith, Jenny Slate, Elif Shafak and others.

BookExpo, a pivotal annual trade show for publishers, booksellers and librarians, is currently still scheduled to take place at the end of May at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York, according to the event’s organizer, Reed Exhibitions. “We remain optimistic that we can take the appropriate measures to see ourselves on the other side of this by the end of May and carry on as planned,” BookExpo’s director said in a statement on its website. “That being said, we will continue to follow guidelines and precautions suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

The potential long-term effects for book retailers are sobering. Many in the industry are worried that independent bookstores will be devastated as local and state officials mandate social distancing and order some businesses to temporarily close.

March 16

ny times logoNew York Times, Andrew Cuomo Is the Control Freak We Need Right Now, Ben Smith, March 16, 2020. Mr. Cuomo has emerged as the executive best suited for the coronavirus crisis, our columnist writes.

andrew cuomo“A crisis shows you a person’s soul,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, right, mused during a conference call with reporters on Sunday. “It shows you what they’re made of. The weaknesses explode and the strengths are, uh, emboldened.”

He paused. He’d forgotten, perhaps, whom he was talking about and seemed to have strayed to talking about himself. Then, he returned to the subject at hand, introducing the Westchester County executive: “And, uh, George Latimer has really stepped up.”

Mr. Cuomo has governed New York for more than nine years without inspiring much love. He wins elections by grinding opponents into dust before they can make it to the ballot box. He governs by transaction, not inspiration, as a dispenser of favors and destroyer of insurgents’ dreams, the purest master of the machine since Lyndon Johnson in his prime.

He has passed marriage equality, cut deals with Republicans, meddled incessantly in the running of the subway system. The people most passionate about politics these days — the New Left and the Trump-led right — dislike him because he governs as both a social liberal and a friend of business. Many moderate and liberal politicians, who ought in theory to like Mr. Cuomo, simply fear him.

And yet Mr. Cuomo has emerged as the executive best suited for the coronavirus crisis, as President Trump flails and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wrestles haltingly with a crucial decision and then heads to the gym.

The governor has been the clearest and most decisive of the three, relentless behind the scenes and open about the risks. He has publicly worried over his daughters and his 88-year-old mother, and put state prisoners to work making hand sanitizer. He’s alternated between sweetness and confrontation with Mr. Trump, as he would with a wayward upstate legislator.

Even many of his critics say the very qualities that make him abrasive in ordinary interactions are serving him well now.

The hallmarks of crisis management are clear communication and utter decisiveness. And Mr. Cuomo seems to be one of handful of governors, including Mike DeWine of Ohio, a Republican, and Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, a Democrat, who have stepped into a vacuum to demonstrate those qualities.

washington post logoWashington Post, Coronavirus exposes Internet inequality among U.S. students as schools close their doors, Tony Romm, March 16, 2020. Millions of Americans lack Web access, a digital divide that complicates educators’ efforts to continue instruction during a health crisis.

Every year, Anthony Angelini surveys his seventh-grade students at New Oxford Middle School in rural Pennsylvania, asking whether they have access to a computer and a reliable way to get online.

And every year, some portion of them say they don't. “That number is significant when you're talking about kids,” Angelini said.

But his annual query has taken on new urgency in recent days, as schools around the country shut their doors in response to the fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak. While some are migrating their daily lessons and homework assignments onto the Web, many administrators and teachers lack that digital luxury — illustrating how a public health crisis has brought to light a technological one.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s rage at the media takes a dangerous new turn, Greg Sargent, March 16, 2020. It’s bad enough that President Trump has relentlessly minimized the coronavirus threat for nakedly political reasons, disastrously hampering the federal government response to the President Donald Trump officialcrisis, with untold consequences to come.

Determined not to be outdone by his own malice and depravity, Trump is taking new steps that threaten to make all of it worse. He’s telling millions of Americans to entirely shut out any and all correctives to his falsehoods. He’s insisting they must plug their ears to any criticism designed to hold his government accountable for the failures we’re seeing, even though such criticism could nudge the response in a more constructive direction.

Trump is now raging at the media for reporting on his botched claims about Google’s plans for a new website to steer people to testing options. Trump dramatically overpromised in this regard, forcing Google to scale down the expectations he had created.

washington post logoWashington Post, On Fox News, suddenly a very different tune about the coronavirus, Paul Farhi and Sarah Ellison, March 16, 2020.  'This is impeachment all over again': How Fox is reacting to the coronavirus outbreak.

For weeks, some of Fox News’s most popular hosts downplayed the threat of the coronavirus, characterizing it as a conspiracy by media organizations and Democrats to undermine President Trump.

fox news logo SmallFox News personalities such as Sean Hannity and Laura In­graham accused the news media of whipping up “mass hysteria” and being “panic pushers.” Fox Business host Trish Regan called the alleged media-Democratic alliance “yet another attempt to impeach the president.”

But that was then.

With Trump’s declaration on Friday that the virus constitutes a national emergency, the tone on Fox News has quickly shifted.

On his program on Friday, Hannity — the most watched figure on cable news — lauded the president’s handling of what the host is now, belatedly, referring to as a “crisis.”

“Tonight, we are witnessing what will be a massive paradigm shift in the future of disease control and prevention,” he said. “A bold, new precedent is being set, the world will once again benefit greatly from America’s leadership. . . . The federal government, state governments, private businesses, top hospitals all coming together, under the president’s leadership, to stem the tide of the coronavirus.”

In all, it has been a complicated dance for a network whose hosts are among Trump’s most ardent boosters and defenders — an increasingly challenging position to take as the crisis grew in magnitude. Trump, meanwhile, has long looked to Fox News and its personalities for guidance and approval, a dynamic that may have been pivotal this week after host Tucker Carlson reportedly visited with the president in person to urge him to take the coronavirus seriously.

Until then, Trump’s allies on Fox News were inclined to take the same stance that the president himself promoted for several weeks — that this coronavirus that had sickened and killed thousands of people in China was no worse a threat than the seasonal flu.

Just a week ago, Hannity shrugged at the pandemic. “So far in the United States, there’s been around 30 deaths, most of which came from one nursing home in the state of Washington,” he said last Tuesday. “Healthy people, generally, 99 percent recover very fast, even if they contract it.”

By way of comparison, he added: “Twenty-six people were shot in Chicago alone over the weekend. I doubt you heard about it. You notice there’s no widespread hysteria about violence in Chicago. And this has gone on for years and years. By the way, Democratic-run cities, we see a lot of that.”

From February: Conservative pundits blame a grab bag of supposed villains amid the coronavirus outbreak

Ingraham, whose program follows Hannity’s, also seems to have had a fast-dawning recognition that the social and economic dislocation of the virus was more than just a Democratic talking point wielded against the president.

In late February, Ingraham called Democrats the “pandemic party” and displayed photos of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) alongside enlarged images of coronavirus molecules. “How sick that these people seem almost happiest when Americans are hurting,” she said.

March 13

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Media Matters, Opinion: Fox puts Trish Regan’s Fox Business show on hiatus after deranged coronavirus monologue, John Whitehouse, March 13, 2020. Days after Regan called coronavirus a scam, Fox said that her show is going on hiatus to make room for more coverage of the pandemic.

On Monday, March 9, Trish Regan opened her Fox Business show by complaining of the “Coronavirus impeachment scam.” Her deranged monologue received widespread ridicule after a tweet by Media Matters’ Andrew Lawrence that has been viewed millions of times.

On Friday, March 13, Bloomberg News reported that Regan’s 8 p.m. show, Trish Regan Primetime, was being put on hiatus.

fox news logo Small“Fox Business’s prime-time programs Trish Regan Primetime and Kennedy will both be on hiatus until further notice,” Fox said a statement. “Due to the demands of the evolving pandemic crisis coverage, we are deploying all resources from both shows for staffing needs during critical market hours. Fox Business will run long form programming in prime time for the foreseeable future.”

I want to let everyone know that Trish Regan Primetime is now on hiatus. FBN has taken prudent steps to limit staffing levels and is prioritizing its coverage during market hours. I fully support this decision — we all must to do our part to keep our colleagues safe. #TrishRegan

Fox Business’s Kennedy, hosted by Lisa “Kennedy” Montgomery, was also put on hiatus.

Before this monologue calling a deadly global pandemic a “scam,” Regan was known for over-the-top pro-Trump rhetoric and for being the first interview that top Trump adviser Stephen Miller gave after his emails revealed an affinity for racist rhetoric and white nationalist conspiracy theories.

Lest anyone get the wrong idea here, there is plenty of awful coronavirus coverage on Fox that has not led to any consequences.

March 12

Media / Civil Rights News

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washington post logoWashington Post, Chelsea Manning is released from jail, Rachel Weiner​, March 12, 2020. A federal judge ruled that the testimony of the former Army private was no longer needed in the investigation of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Chelsea Manning, shown in a 2018 file photo, was released from jail Thursday after a federal judge announced that the grand jury investigating WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had been disbanded. “Ms. Manning’s appearance before the grand jury is no longer needed,” federal judge Anthony J. Trenga of the Eastern District of Virginia wrote. “Her detention no longer serves any coercive purpose.”

Manning had been detained in the Alexandria Detention Center for 11 months in civil contempt for her refusal to testify. The judge’s order comes a day after the former Army private attempted suicide in jail. Authorities said they stepped in before serious harm occurred.

In 2010, while serving as an Army intelligence analyst in Iraq, Manning shared with WikiLeaks thousands of classified State and Defense Department cables. She was sentenced to 35 years in a military prison but was released by President Barack Obama after seven years.

Manning is still liable for $256,000 in fines levied by the judge for her refusal to testify.

Assange is now facing charges in Alexandria under the Espionage Act. Prosecutors contend that by soliciting the information from julian assange facts wikileaks CustomManning and helping her crack a password, he went beyond the role of a journalist or publisher in disseminating the classified information.

Assange is fighting extradition from the United Kingdom to Alexandria, arguing the case against him is politically motivated.

Hacker Jeremy Hammond, who was also being held in civil contempt for refusing to testify before the WikiLeaks grand jury, was also ordered released by Trenga after five months of civil contempt. But he is still serving a 10-year prison sentence for cyberattacks on various government agencies and businesses.

Trenga’s order rendered moot the arguments by Hammond and Manning that they could never be coerced into testifying. In Alexandria, grand jurors generally serve six to 18 months. The judge did not explain his reasons for ending this grand jury now beyond saying its “business” has “concluded.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook, Twitter suspend Russian-linked operation targeting African Americans on social media, Tony Romm and Craig Timberg, March 12, 2020. Facebook and Twitter have disabled a sophisticated Russian-linked operation designed to stoke racial tensions among African Americans in the United States, the companies announced Thursday, raising fresh alarms about Kremlin interference ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

facebook logoThe malicious campaign relied on a mix of fake accounts and real people, who lived in Ghana and Nigeria, some of whom appear to have been duped into thinking they were aiding a nongovernmental organization. Instead, they helped amplify a network of inauthentic accounts, pages and groups on Facebook and Twitter that shared polarizing content around social issues including race and civil rights, twitter bird Customthe tech giants said.

None of the so-called coordinated, inauthentic activity focused on the 2020 election or sought to “promote or denigrate political candidates,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, the head of security policy at Facebook. But Facebook and Twitter linked the operation to some of the same Russian actors that employed similar tactics four years ago to spread falsehoods during the 2016 presidential race.

March 10

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Palmer Report, Opinion: What are Donald Trump and Jill Stein plotting now? Bill Palmer, March 10, 2020. You remember Jill Stein. She ran for president in 2016 as a supposed far left candidate, but all she did was help hand the election to Donald Trump. She was also photographed having dinner with

Vladimir Putin in Moscow just before she entered the 2016 race, so go figure.

Anyway, Jill Stein posted a lie-filled tweet about Joe Biden yesterday, and guess who retweeted it this morning?

That’s right, Donald Trump is now retweeting Jill Stein’s lies (below) about Joe Biden. Everything she’s said here can be easily disproven. Joe Biden did an interview on Lawrence O’Donnell’s MSNBC show just last night, and Biden has done rallies in multiple states over the past few days.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis, Unraveling three manipulated videos about Joe Biden, Glenn Kessler, March 10, 2020. For the first time, Twitter applied its new “manipulated media” label — and the Trump campaign is not happy about it.

twitter bird CustomWhite House social media director Dan Scavino posted the video, and it was later retweeted by President Trump. (He also quote tweeted the video and retweeted Scavino’s complaint that the video was not manipulated.) The video suggested that Biden had said in a rally, “Excuse me. We can only reelect President Trump.”

But despite the protests of the Trump campaign, this clearly is manipulated video. Last year, the Fact Checker unveiled our guide to manipulated video, which includes three broad categories: Some video is taken out of context; other content is deceptively edited; or, in the worst instances, deliberately altered.

The Trump tweet is an example of “Missing Context”: The video is unaltered, but the way it is presented to the viewer lacks or misstates the context in which events occurred. In this specific case, this is an example of what we labeled as “isolation” — a brief clip from a longer video to create a false narrative that does not reflect the event as it occurred.

The Trump campaign ended the clip before Biden completed his full sentence: “Excuse me. We can only reelect Donald Trump if in fact we get engaged in this circular firing squad here. It’s gotta be a positive campaign.”

In other words, Biden was calling for Democratic Party unity, not the reelection of Trump. But the video — eagerly shared by supporters of both Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — does not let viewers know that. Instead, it appears to be part of an ongoing effort to suggest that Biden, who stutters, is too old or feebleminded to assume the presidency.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Trying to Stoke U.S. Racial Tensions Before Election, Officials Say, Julian E. Barnes and Adam Goldman, March 10, 2020 (print ed.). Russian intelligence services are trying to incite violence by white supremacist groups to sow chaos in the United States, American intelligence officials said.

The Russian government has stepped up efforts to inflame racial tensions in the United States as part of its bid to influence November’s presidential election, including trying to incite violence by white supremacist groups and to stoke anger among African-Americans, according to seven American officials briefed on recent intelligence.

Russian FlagRussia’s lead intelligence agency, the S.V.R., has apparently gone beyond 2016 methods of interference, when operatives tried to stoke racial animosity by creating fake Black Lives Matter groups and spreading disinformation to depress black voter turnout. Now, Russia is also trying to influence white supremacist groups, the officials said; they gave few details, but one official said federal investigators are examining how at least one neo-Nazi organization with ties to Russia is funded.

Other Russian efforts, which American intelligence agencies have tracked, involve simply prodding white nationalists to more aggressively spread hate messages and amplifying their invective. Russian operatives are also trying to push black extremist groups toward violence, according to multiple officials, though they did not detail how.

Russia’s more public influence operations, like state-backed news organizations, have continued to push divisive racial narratives, including stories emphasizing allegations of police abuse in the United States and highlighting racism against African-Americans within the military.

Austin American-Statesman, Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones charged with DWI near Austin, authorities say, Kelsey Bradshaw, March 10, 2020. Austin-alex jones headshotbased conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was booked into the Travis County Jail on a charge of driving while intoxicated just after midnight Tuesday, the Travis County sheriff’s office said.

Jones, 46, was booked at 12:37 a.m., said Kristen Dark, spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office. The driving while intoxicated charge is a class B misdemeanor, she said.

An arrest affidavit for Jones says a sheriff’s deputy responded at 10:10 p.m. Monday to a western Travis County residence for a disturbance reported by Jones’ wife.

His wife had told the dispatcher they were in a verbal fight that had been physical earlier in the day, the affidavit says. She said Jones left the residence in a black Dodge Charger and that he was possibly drinking, the affidavit says.

While en route to the residence, a deputy saw a dark Dodge leaving the neighborhood. The vehicle was traveling 45 mph in a 40 mph zone.

Miami Herald, Journalists from around the world alerted after conference attendee has coronavirus, Carli Teproff, March 10, 2020. More than a thousand journalists from around the world have been put on notice after an attendee of a major computer-assisted reporting conference held over the weekend in New Orleans has tested presumptive positive for the novel coronavirus.

Several reporters from across McClatchy — including two from the Miami Herald — were among those who attended the 2020 NICAR conference, which was held March 5-8 at the New Orleans Marriott on Canal Street.

March 8

ny times logoNew York Times, Erik Prince Recruits Ex-Spies to Help Infiltrate Liberal Groups, Mark Mazzetti and Adam Goldman, March 8, 2020 (print ed.). Mr. Prince, a contractor close to the Trump administration, contacted veteran spies for operations by Project Veritas, the conservative group known for conducting stings on news organizations and other groups.

erik princeErik Prince, left, the security contractor with close ties to the Trump administration, has in recent years helped recruit former American and British spies for secretive intelligence-gathering operations that included infiltrating Democratic congressional campaigns, labor organizations and other groups considered hostile to the Trump agenda, according to interviews and documents.

One of the former spies, an ex-MI6 officer named Richard Seddon, helped run a 2017 operation to copy files and record conversations in a Michigan office of the American Federation of Teachers, one of the largest teachers’ unions in the nation. Mr. Seddon directed an undercover operative to secretly tape the union’s local leaders and try to gather information that could be made public to damage the organization, documents show.

abigail spanberger twitterUsing a different alias the next year, the same undercover operative infiltrated the congressional campaign of Abigail Spanberger, then a former C.I.A. officer who went on to win an important House seat in Virginia as a Democrat. The campaign discovered the operative and fired her.

Both operations were run by Project Veritas, a conservative group that has gained attention using hidden cameras and microphones for sting operations on news organizations, Democratic politicians and liberal advocacy groups. Mr. Seddon’s role in the teachers’ union operation — detailed in internal Project Veritas emails that have emerged from the discovery process of a court battle between the group and the union — has not previously been reported, nor has Mr. Prince’s role in recruiting Mr. Seddon for the group’s activities.

Both Project Veritas and Mr. Prince have ties to President Trump’s aides and family. Whether any Trump administration officials or advisers to the president were involved in the operations, even tacitly, is unclear. But the effort is a glimpse of a vigorous private campaign to try to undermine political groups or individuals perceived to be in opposition to Mr. Trump’s agenda.

betsy devos oMr. Prince, the former head of Blackwater Worldwide and the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, left, has at times served as an informal adviser to Trump administration officials. He worked with the former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn during the presidential transition. In 2017, he met with White House and Pentagon officials to pitch a plan to privatize the Afghan war using contractors in lieu of American troops. Jim Mattis, then the defense secretary, rejected the idea.

Mr. Prince appears to have become interested in using former spies to train Project Veritas operatives in espionage tactics sometime during the 2016 presidential campaign. Reaching out to several intelligence veterans — and occasionally using Mr. Seddon to make the pitch — Mr. Prince said he wanted the Project Veritas employees to learn skills like how to recruit sources and how to conduct clandestine recordings, among other surveillance techniques.

James O’Keefe, the head of Project Veritas, declined to answer detailed questions about Mr. Prince, Mr. Seddon and other topics, but he called his group a “proud independent news organization” that is involved in dozens of investigations. He said that numerous sources were coming to the group “providing confidential documents, insights into internal processes and wearing hidden cameras to expose corruption and misconduct.”

March 7

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside the Sanders campaign’s quest to win the Internet, Isaac Stanley-Becker, March 7, 2020. Bernie Sanders’s critique of the “corporate media” is inseparable from his effort to reach people in new ways — and on a whole different scale than his rivals.

As Sanders seeks to reinvigorate his presidential campaign against a largely unified Democratic establishment, he will tap a political resource bernie sanders 2020 button croppedunlike any other in Democratic politics — a far-reaching universe of podcasts, YouTube channels, subreddits, Facebook groups and digital newsletters.

This unfiltered online megaphone, which channels distrust of the political mainstream, gives Sanders an edge as he seeks another rebound moment for his campaign. It offers a chance to encourage new voters to turn out in upcoming primaries and to amplify his attacks on former vice president Joe Biden.

Bernie Sanders’s political movement faces a reckoning after Super Tuesday setbacks

facebook logoNo other Democrat exercises the same kind of power online. The candidates who competed in the nominating contest’s four early states collectively garnered about 57 million views on Facebook live streams over the past year. Sanders is responsible for 54 million of them, according to an analysis conducted by his campaign using CrowdTangle, a social media tracking tool.

The online machinery, designed by a staff filled with veterans of liberal news sites and experts in online messaging, has helped Sanders cultivate a mass following — including in California, which accounts for an outsize share of the online views tracked by his campaign and delivered him an important primary win this week.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Amazon ‘likely to succeed’ on key point in Pentagon cloud lawsuit, judge says, Aaron Gregg, March 7, 2020 (print ed.). A Court of Federal Claims judge sided with Amazon on several points in its protest of the military’s award of a massive cloud computing contract to Microsoft. halts the work for now while Amazon’s case proceeds.

amazon logo smallA federal judge has concluded that a bid protest lawsuit brought by Amazon over President Trump’s intervention in an important Pentagon cloud computing contract “is likely to succeed on the merits” of one of its central arguments, according to a court document made public Friday.

The document provides the first indication of how Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims might rule in a high-stakes bid protest over the Pentagon’s JEDI cloud computing contract, which was awarded to Microsoft in October following intervention from the White House and members of Congress.

microsoft logo CustomIn a blow to Microsoft and the Defense Department, Campbell-Smith recently ordered the Pentagon to halt work on JEDI. In a lengthy opinion explaining her reasoning, she sided with Amazon’s contention that the Pentagon had made a mistake in how it evaluated prices for competing proposals from Amazon and Microsoft. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

She also concluded that the mistake is likely to materially harm Amazon, an important qualifier for government contract bid protests. And she rejected arguments raised earlier by Microsoft and the Defense Department that Amazon should have raised its concerns sooner.

March 6

bbc news logo2BBC, Woody Allen book pulped after walkout at publisher, Staff report, March 6, 2020. Hachette Book Group (HBG) has cancelled plans to woody allen tribeca festival 2009 david shankbonepublish a memoir by Woody Allen, the award-winning film director who has been accused of sexual abuse. Allen is , shown at right in a 2009 photo by David Shankbone.

The decision on Friday came one day after Hachette employees staged an office walkout in protest at the plan to publish the book.

It also came after Allen's son, Ronan Farrow, spoke out against the decision.

ronan farrowMr Farrow, left, a journalist, wrote a book for HBG last year about how powerful men avoid punishment for misconduct. Mr Farrow is Allen's son with actress Mia Farrow.

His adopted sister, Dylan Farrow, has accused Allen of sexually abusing her in 1992 when she was seven years old. He has denies the claim.

A statement by HBG spokeswoman Sophie Cottrell called the decision to pulp Allen's autobiography -- Apropos of Nothing -- "a difficult one".

"At HBG we take our relationships with authors very seriously, and do not cancel books lightly. We have published and will continue to publish many challenging books," she added.

She said that listening sessions had been held with staff members, which led the publisher to come "to the conclusion that moving forward with publication would not be feasible".

The publishing house also plans to return the rights to Allen, the statement added. The book seems to have been acquired by HBG last year, but the announcement that it would be released in April only came this week.

ronan farrow catch and kill CustomDylan Farrow had released a scathing statement on Monday, accusing Hachette of betraying one of their authors, her brother Ronan Farrow, whose book, Catch and Kill, was published by HBG in October 2019.

"Hachette's publishing of Woody Allen's memoir is deeply upsetting to me personally and an utter betrayal of my brother whose brave reporting, capitalised on by Hachette, gave voice to numerous survivors of sexual assault by powerful men," she wrote.

"This provides yet another example of the profound privilege that power, money and notoriety affords. Hachette's complicity in this should be called out for what it is and they should have to answer for it."

Mr Farrow also released a statement, saying that HBG had "concealed the decision from me and its own employees while we were working on Catch and Kill -- a book about how powerful men, including Woody Allen, avoid accountability for sexual abuse".

Catch and Kill tells the story of disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, who was jailed for rape last month.

March 5

djt profile balding big head palmer

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump campaign lawsuits against NYT, WaPo present a juicy opportunity, Erik Wemple, March 5, 2020. Former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III sought for more than a year to interview President Trump for his investigation into possible collaboration between his 2016 presidential campaign and Russia. The two sides negotiated “accommodations” allowing Trump to answer questions in writing. The eventual answers, noted the Mueller report, “demonstrate the inadequacy of the written format,” prompting Mueller to push for a personal interview. “The President declined,” reads the report.

Thus was lost the opportunity to press Trump, under oath, about all the Russia stuff.

But wait! A fresh chance may be lurking in recent libel suits filed by the Trump campaign against the New York Times and The Washington Post for opinion pieces relating to Trump-Russia, as well as to North Korea. As noted here and here, the complaints are shoddy frivolities that seek to curtail fair and crucial discussion of matters of public consequence. Accordingly, they’re sure to disappear after a couple of righteous motions to dismiss. (Disclosure: I work for The Post’s Opinions section.)

A more investigative option beckons, however. Instead of seeking a quick dismissal of the lawsuits, the newspapers — or either one of them individually — could choose to dig in and proceed straight to the discovery stage of the litigation. Such a move would require the newspapers to turn over emails and submit to depositions about how they commissioned and edited the columns in question. Since discovery is a two-way street, it would also require the Trump campaign to do likewise: to open its aides, past and present, to scrutiny regarding the topics at hand.

Call the campaign’s bluff, in other words.

We’re talking about a fantasy scenario here. The legal arms of newspapers exist to secure the dismissal, not the prolongation, of libel claims. Though they assist their newsrooms with Freedom of Information Act litigation and other efforts to secure documents, they are not captives of the news operations. And what sane news organization invites plaintiffs’ lawyers to muck around in their deliberations? When Times editorial page editor James Bennet, for example, answered questions in a preliminary stage of Sarah Palin’s libel suit, he exposed a rickety editing process.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Jurors find Tavis Smiley violated contract with PBS after testimony about dating and sexually harassing employees, Keith L. Alexander, March 5, 2020 (print ed.). A jury in the District on Wednesday found former PBS talk-show host Tavis Smiley, above, violated his contract with the TV network after hearing accounts of six women who said he had sexually harassed them when they worked for him.

After about 1½ days of deliberations, the jury of seven men and two women determined Smiley, 55, had acted counter to the network’s morals clause, which prohibited on-air talent from participating in any public behavior that would negatively affect the employee or the network.

The women testified through video deposition that during their tenure with Smiley’s company, TS Media, Smiley had pressured them for sex or told lewd jokes. The trial, which lasted about three weeks, was held at D.C. Superior Court because TS Media, while based in Los Angeles, is incorporated in the District.

Smiley admitted to having intimate relationships with two of the women, but testified he never used his position as their boss to pressure or threaten them. And he said any jokes were innocent and not intended to offend.

For 14 years, PBS distributed Smiley’s late-night talk show to 238 PBS stations nationwide, about 72 percent of its network.

The court case began when Smiley claimed the network terminated his contract without proof of the allegations and sued PBS for nearly $1 million. The network countersued for about $1.7 million that it said Smiley owes in money it provided to him for a season that never aired.

PBS attorneys said Smiley could be ordered to pay the network as much as $1.9 million, including penalties and fees. Judge Yvonne Williams, who oversaw the trial, scheduled another hearing to finalize Smiley’s financial penalties.

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook takes down Trump campaign ads it deemed deceptive after first allowing them, Craig Timberg and Tara Bahrampour, March 5, 2020. After complaints from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the company removed the ads for violating its policy against misleading references to the U.S. census.

facebook logoFacebook removed Trump campaign ads on Thursday for violating its policy against misleading references to the U.S. census amid criticism that it has given politicians too much leeway to misinform users on its platform.

The Trump ads urged Facebook users to “take the official 2020 Congressional District Census today,” but despite the look and language of the ad, they were not related to the once-a-decade national count of U.S. citizens happening this year. Instead, the ads linked to a survey on the “Certified Website of President Donald J. Trump,” which collected information and requested a donation.

Facebook initially said it would permit the ads, ruling that they were clearly not a part of the U.S. census, according to Popular Information, a politically themed online newsletter that first reported on the ads and the company’s refusal to remove them. Facebook announced its policy against misleading references to the census in December.

Epstein Case

PhilosophyInsights via YouTube,

, March 5, 2020 (15 min. video). In this new interview from March 2020, New York financier Dr.  Eric Weinstein goes to the bottom of what happned to Jeffrey Epstein, and asks precisely why journalists and government official do not ask some very basic questions.

Is journalism broken? What was his impression when Eric met Epstein in 2002?

Weinstein, with a Harvard Ph.D. in mathematics, is managing director of Theil Capital. His Wikipedia profile is here.

March 2

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nbc news logoNBC News, Chris Matthews announces retirement, mutually parts ways with MSNBC, Jason Abbruzzese, March 2, 2020. Matthews was due to retire in the near future with the events of the past week playing a factor in the timing of the move, an MSNBC spokesperson said.

Chris Matthews, one of the longest-tenured voices at MSNBC, announced his retirement during Monday’s night’s airing of his talk show, “Hardball.”

chris matthews 2011 david shankbone CustomMatthews, 74 (shown in a 2011 photo by David Shankbone), said he and MSNBC had mutually agreed to part ways. The decision followed a series of events that resulted in criticism of the host’s statements about Bernie Sanders, African-American lawmakers, and comments he had made to female journalists and coworkers.

“I’m retiring,” Matthews said. “This is the last ‘Hardball’ on MSNBC.”

Matthews was due to retire in the near future with the events of the past week playing a factor in the timing of the move, an MSNBC spokesperson said.

msnbc logo CustomAfter MSNBC aired a commercial following the announcement, Matthews did not return to the program. Steve Kornacki, a political reporter for the network, took over the rest of the hour, and seemed shocked by the news. “That was a lot to take in,” he said, saying it had been an honor to work with Matthews, and then beginning a discussion about the coronavirus response.

Matthews, a former speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter, has hosted “Hardball” on MSNBC since 1999 and remained a centrist voice on the cable news channel’s prime-time programming, which often features commentary that is further to the left.

NBCUniversal is the parent company of MSNBC and NBC News. Matthews said he was not retiring due to a lack of interest in politics, but nodded to changes taking place.

March 1

Assange Prosecution: Implications

julian assange clean cut library screenshot 2007 Custom 2Consortium News via Zero Hedge, Opinion: Assange Extradition: Can A French Touch Pierce A Neo-Orwellian Farce? Pepe Escobar, March 1, 2020.
 It’s quite fitting that the – imperially pre-determined – judicial fate of Julian Assange (shown above in a 2007 screenshot) is being played out in Britain, the home of George Orwell.

As chronicled by the painful, searing reports of Ambassador Craig Murray, what’s taking place in Woolwich Crown Court is a sub-Orwellian farce with Conradian overtones: the horror…the horror…, remixed for the Raging Twenties. The heart of our moral darkness is not in the Congo: it’s in a dingy courtroom attached to a prison, presided by a lowly imperial lackey.

In one of Michel Onfray’s books published last year, Theorie de la Dictature (Robert Laffont) – the top dissident, politically incorrect French philosopher starts exactly from Orwell to examine the key features of a new-look dictatorship. He tracks seven paths of destruction: to destroy freedom, impoverish language, abolish truth, suppress history, deny nature, propagate hate, and aspire to empire.

To destroy freedom, Onfray stresses, power needs to assure perpetual surveillance; ruin personal life; suppress solitude; make opinion uniform and denounce thought crimes. That sounds like the road map for the United States government’s persecution of Assange.

Other paths, as in impoverishing language, include practicing newspeak; using double language; destroying words; oralizing language; speaking a single language; and suppressing the classics. That sounds like the modus operandi of the ruling classes in the Hegemon.

To abolish truth, power must teach ideology; instrumentalize the press; propagate fake news; and produce reality. To propagate hate, power, among other instruments, must create an enemy; foment wars; and psychiatrize critical thinking.

There’s no question we are already mired deep inside this neo-Orwellian dystopia.

John Paradise Lost Milton, in 1642, could not have been more prophetic, when he wrote “Those that hurt the eyes of the people blame them for being blind.” How not to identify a direct parallel with Le Petit Roi Emmanuel Macron’s army, month after month, willfully blinding protesting Gilets Jaunes/Yellow Vests in the streets of France.

Orwell was more straightforward than Milton, saying that to talk about freedom is meaningless unless it refers to the freedom to tell people what they don’t want to hear. And he put it in context by quoting a line from Milton: “By the known rules of ancient liberty.”

No “known rules of ancient liberty” are allowed to penetrate the heart of darkness of Woolwich Crown Court.
A Spy at the Service of the People

Juan Branco is arguably the most brilliant young French intellectual – heir to a fine Sartre/Foucault/Deleuze tradition. The French establishment detests him, especially because of his best-seller Crepuscule, where he dissected Macronism – branded as a thuggish regime – from the inside, and the French president as a creature and instrument of a tiny oligarchy.

Julian Assange. (YouTube still)

He has just published Assange: L’Antisouverain (Les Editions du Cerf), an absorbing, erudite study that he defines as “a philosophy book about the figure of the Anti-Sovereign.” The Sovereign is of course the state apparatus.

Here (in French) is an excellent interview with Branco about the book. There’s nothing even remotely comparable to it in the Anglosphere, which has treated Assange essentially as an unpleasant freak, oozing pedestrian slander and piling up sub-ideology tirades disguised as facts.

The book is essentially structured as a seminary for the hyper-selective Ecole Normale Superieure, the august school in the Latin Quarter here that shapes French elites, a privileged nest of power institutions and reproduction of privileges. Branco takes the reader to the heart of this universe just to make him or her discover Assange from the point of view of one of those students.

Branco was privileged to profit from the interaction between the Ecole Normale Superieure and Yale. He met Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in January 2014, “in a state of radical confinement,” and then followed him as a juridical consultant, then lawyer, “day after day,” until meeting him again in September 2016, “getting ready to no less than change the course of the American presidential election and engineer the fall of the one who had sworn to crush him, one Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

Branco is fascinated by Assange’s “scientific journalism,” and his capacity to “intervene in the political space without occupying a determined place.” Assange is painted as a contemporary oracle, a maniac for free access to information, someone who “never looked for a reward, or insertion, or juridical protection,” which is a totally different modus operandi from any media.


Feb. 27

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The moderators let the Democratic debate spiral into chaos and crosstalk. There must be a better way, Margaret Sullivan, right, margaret sullivan 2015 photoFeb. 27, 2020 (print ed.). I can think of two possible reforms, neither of which I like very much. The first is simple enough: Moderators should have the ability to shut off the microphones of candidates whenever they refuse to respect the time limits.

There was one particularly cringe-inducing moment at the end of the Democratic debate Tuesday night that summed up all the embarrassments of the previous two hours.

“CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell, with a palpable sense of relief, announced that the debate was over. But her co-moderator, Gayle King, immediately jumped in to correct her: “Time for one more break, Norah. Time flies when you’re having fun!”

O’Donnell looked surprised and none too happy. Then the commercial break took place and the moderators reappeared — only to say that, yes, the show really was over.

And while the two-hour debate in Charleston, S.C., had its enlightening moments, a viewer couldn’t help but feel that the whole thing had careened, more than slightly, out of control.

Media News

Consortium News, Live Updates and Commentary: Assange extradition hearing adjourned until May 18, Staff report, Feb. 27, 2020. The judge has adjourned the hearings a day earlier than planned. It will resume in Woolwich Crown Court on May 18.

The defense this week seriously undermined the prosecutors’ case that Assange had endangered lives of informants, had “solicited” classified material from Chelsea Manning, and had helped Manning crack a password to enter a government computer. The defense showed Manning had legal access to the database and did not need a user name or password. Assange was helping her download video games and movies forbidden to U.S. soldiers.

The defense also laid out its evidence that Assange actually worked to protect informants; and that Manning had not responded to WikiLeaks‘ solicitations, a charge that ignores that asking sources for classified information is a routine journalistic practice.

julian assange cropped with un headerThe last two days of the hearings were consumed by the question of whether Assange (shown in a file photo while being given political prisoner protection in Ecuador's London embassy) was being accused of political offenses, and whether the British-U.S. extradition treaty or British domestic law on extraditions would apply. The question of whether Assange was being given a fair trial also arose, given that he is cut off from communication with his attorneys during the proceedings, while being locked in a glass cage behind them.

Assange is back in his glass cage at the back of the courtroom. The court gave him headphones to help him hear what is going on, but he soon after took them off. The spectacle on Wednesday, in which Assange said he was no more a participant in his own hearing that “a spectator at Wimbledon,” underscored the pettiness and even sadism of the governor of Belmarsh prison.

What other reason to separate Assange from his attorneys in the courtroom, when murder suspects routinely sit with their lawyers, what other reason to strip search him, handcuff him 11 times, put him five different cells and take away his legal papers on Monday than to simply humiliate him and show that his life is in their abusive hands?

Before the hearing began Tuesday a court officer instructed Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, that he had been instructed to bar the “head of WikiLeaks” from entering the public gallery, a glassed-in room with two rows of seats high above the small courtroom.

John Shipton, Assange’s father, and Assange’s brother Gabriel and Hrafnsson protested and left the cramped area where 18 people lined up to get into the gallery. A few minutes later they returned. Hrafnsson said sending out a few tweets got the court authorities to change their mind. He said no explanation for why the court wanted him barred was given.

The family sat down to hear Assange’s lawyers complaining that on Monday Assange had been intimidated by prison authorities, being strip searched, handcuffed 11 times, made to stay in five different cells and had legal documents he was studying taken away from him. Judge Vanessa Baraister told the court she had no jurisdiction over how Assange is being mistreated.

During the hearing Assange is separated from his lawyers in room at the back of the court behind bullet-proof glass. He wore a gray jumper and blazer and looked to have aged well beyond his 48 years. He appeared mostly able to focus on the proceedings, at times intensely. He sent word to the judge through one of his lawyers that he wished to sit among his attorneys in the courtroom.

Feb. 26

washington post logoWashington Post, Five arrested, accused of targeting journalists as part of neo-Nazi Atomwaffen group, Rachel Weiner and Matt Zapotosky, Feb. 26, 2020. Federal officials on Wednesday arrested several alleged members of a white-supremacist group called Atomwaffen Division, including its two leaders, accusing them of plotting to intimidate journalists by calling police to their homes and offices and dropping off threatening fliers.

John Cameron Denton, of Montgomery, Tex., is charged in U.S. District Court in Alexandria with conspiring to call in fake threats targeting a ProPublica reporter and his office. Police arrived in force at both locations, at one point briefly detaining the reporter.

In federal court in Seattle, prosecutors say Kaleb Cole and three others hatched a different intimidation plan: finding out where journalists live and leaving posters at their homes with messages featuring swastikas, weapons and the vague threat that they were being watched. After Atomwaffen founder Brandon Russell was arrested in Florida in 2017, according to prosecutors, Denton and Cole, of Arlington, Wash., took leadership of the group. As news organizations began to expose their members, authorities said they discussed how to strike back.

“We must simply approach them with nothing but pure aggression,” Cole said in a recorded message in 2018, according to court records. “We cannot let them think they are safe.”

Denton, according to prosecutors, directed a group of neo-Nazis who harassed ProPublica and a reporter there by calling in fake threats to law enforcement in hopes of provoking an overwhelming response — a practice known as “swatting.” While the reporter is not named in court papers, the description is of A.C. Thompson, who has written extensively about Denton and Atomwaffen.

The group called New York police to ProPublica’s office in December 2018, according to the criminal complaint, claiming that there was a pipe bomb, a hostage and a dead body inside.

A dozen officers responded and cleared the floor in question; one employee was there and “visibly shaken,” according to the complaint.

Two months later, prosecutors say the group called police to Thompson’s home in California, claiming that he was armed and had just killed his wife. He and his wife were briefly detained by police.

According to the complaint, Denton acknowledged his role in an interview with an undercover agent last month.

In Seattle, prosecutors say Cole and a high-ranking recruiter named Cameron Brandon Shea came up with “Operation Erste Saule,” a German term they used to refer to the news media. One person involved recommended using the Society of Professional Journalists website to pick targets, according to court papers.

Employees of the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish organization that tracks anti-Semitism and has investigated Atomwaffen, reported receiving threatening messages. Prosecutors say an Atomwaffen member named Johnny Roman Garza participated in the intimidation by leaving fliers at the homes of black and Jewish journalists in Arizona, while Taylor Ashley Park-Dipeppe is accused of attempting to threaten a reporter in Florida. However, prosecutors say he left the poster at the wrong address.

Feb. 24

U.S. Justice System

washington post logoWashington Post, Weinstein guilty on two charges in sexual assault case, acquitted on others, Shayna Jacobs​, Feb. 24, 2020. The jury in the New harvey weinsteinYork trial determined that Harvey Weinstein, right, forced a sex act on a former production assistant in 2006 and raped a former aspiring actress in 2013. He was found not guilty of the most severe charge, predatory sexual assault.

• Washington Post, Advocates for victims of sexual assault hail Weinstein’s conviction as a breakthrough.
• Washington Post, Perspective: Weinstein’s conviction allowed victims to have messy stories. That’s revolutionary.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: The Lessons of #MeToo’s Monster, Editorial Board, Feb. 24, 2020. After decades of abuse allegations, Harvey Weinstein is found guilty. What does the hard-won, long-overdue conviction of Harvey Weinstein demonstrate?

It shows how difficult it can be to bring abusers to justice, particularly when they are wealthy and powerful. It shows how much the #MeToo movement has changed American life. And it shows how far society still has to go.

Mr. Weinstein was convicted on Monday of a felony sex crime and rape in the third degree but was acquitted of the most serious counts against him, predatory sexual assault. He is headed for at least five years in prison. That’s a victory for Mr. Weinstein’s victims.

But the Weinstein case shows the obstacles presented by the American legal system to successfully prosecuting abusers. The case, tried in a Manhattan courtroom, rested on testimony from just six women out of the more than 90 who have accused Mr. Weinstein of sexual misconduct. (He also faces charges in Los Angeles of raping one woman and groping and masturbating in front of another.)

It took decades of persistence by survivors, advocates, journalists and law enforcement to call Mr. Weinstein to account before the law. In 2015, Cyrus Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, declined to prosecute credible allegations against Mr. Weinstein. Mr. Vance acted years later only after dozens of women went public with their allegations.

UK Assange Hearing Starts

julian assange screenshot arrest (Ruptly)

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

The Guardian, Julian Assange hearing: sources 'disappeared' after WikiLeaks release, Ben Quinn, Feb. 24, 2020. Lawyers for US government deliver opening arguments as extradition case begins.

Secret sources who had supplied information to the US government “disappeared” after they were put at risk from death or torture by the release of classified documents by WikiLeaks, the first day of Julian Assange’s extradition hearing has been told.

The US case for the extradition of the WikiLeaks founder was opened at Woolwich crown court by James Lewis QC, who referred to a range of sources in states including Iraq, Afghanistan and China.

“The US is aware of sources, whose redacted names and other identifying information was contained in classified documents published by WikiLeaks, who subsequently disappeared, although the US can’t prove at this point that their disappearance was the result of being outed by WikiLeaks,” he told the court in south-east London.

By disseminating material in an unredacted form, Lewis said Assange knowingly put human rights activists, dissidents, journalists and their families at risk of serious harm in states operated by oppressive regimes.

julian assange cropped with un headerAssange, 48, shown in a file photo, is wanted in the US to face 18 charges of attempted hacking and breaches of the Espionage Act. They relate to the publication a decade ago of hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and files covering areas including US activities in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Australian, who could face a 175-year prison sentence if found guilty, is accused of working with the former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to leak classified documents.

Sitting at the back of the court and dressed in a grey blazer, grey sweater and white shirt with reading glasses perched on his head, Assange listened impassively as the US case was laid out while the sound of chants from hundreds of his supporters outside could be clearly heard throughout the first morning of evidence.

Earlier, Lewis said that reporting for journalism was not an excuse for breaking laws, lawyers acting for the US government have said on the first day of a legal battle over whether the WikiLeaks founder can be extradited from the UK.

“The defence seek to suggest that the risk to these individuals who, by having the individuals revealed as informants, is somehow overstated. I would remind the court that these were individuals who were passing on information on regimes such as Iran and organisations such as al-Qaida.”

He took the court through a number of details about documents relating to sources which the US alleges were put at risk. They included one who had supplied information about an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attack in Iraq and who had been mentioned in a report classified as “secret.”

Earlier, Lewis said he wanted to emphasise that Assange essentially faced two areas relating to his conduct in the indictment – theft and computer hacking of the information published and identifying informants in Iraq and Afghanistan knowing that they would be at risk of harm.

“He is not charged with disclosure of embarrassing or awkward information that the government would rather not have have disclosed,” he added. “The disclosures charges are solely where there was a risk of risk.”

Earlier, Lewis referred to a report in the Guardian from September 2011, which reported that WikiLeaks had published its full archive of 251,000 secret US diplomatic cables, without redactions, potentially exposing thousands of individuals named in the documents to detention, harm or putting their lives in danger.

He went on to describe how the move had been strongly condemned by WikiLeaks’ five previous media partners – the Guardian, New York Times, El País, Der Spiegel and Le Monde – who have worked with the site publishing carefully selected and redacted documents.

“We deplore the decision of WikiLeaks to publish the unredacted state department cables, which may put sources at risk,” the organisations said in a joint statement, which Lewis read out.

Assange’s case has drawn widespread support, including from the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, who said last week that he should not be extradited because of the potential impact on press freedom and concerns about “the real risk of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment.”

Feb. 22

washington post logoWashington Post, Wall Street Journal reporters protest ‘sick man’ headline in Wall Street Journal, Paul Farhi, Feb. 22, 2020. The Wall Street Journal’s China staff is urging the newspaper to apologize for a headline that prompted the Chinese government to expel three of its journalists this week.

Feb. 21

washington post logoWashington Post, How conservatives learned to wield power inside Facebook, Craig Timberg, Feb. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Facebook created “Project P” — for propaganda — in the hectic weeks after the 2016 presidential election and quickly found dozens of pages that had peddled false news reports facebook logoahead of Donald Trump’s surprise victory. Nearly all were based overseas, had financial motives and displayed a clear rightward bent.

In a world of perfect neutrality, which Facebook espouses as its goal, the political tilt of the pages shouldn’t have mattered. But in a videoconference between Facebook’s Washington office and its Silicon Valley headquarters in December 2016, the company’s most senior Republican, Joel Kaplan, voiced concerns that would become familiar to those within the company.

“We can’t remove all of it because it will disproportionately affect conservatives,” said Kaplan, a former George W. Bush White House official and now the head of Facebook’s Washington office, according to people familiar with the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect professional relationships.

When another Facebook staff member pushed for the entire list to be taken down on the grounds that the accounts fueled the “fake news” that had roiled the election, Kaplan warned of the backlash from conservatives.

“They don’t believe it to be fake news,” he said, arguing for time to develop guidelines that could be defended to the company’s critics, including on the right.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThe debate over “Project P,” which resulted in a few of the worst pages quickly being removed while most others remained on the platform, exemplified the political dynamics that have reigned within Facebook since Trump emerged as the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee to the White House in 2016. A company led mainly by Democrats in the liberal bastion of Northern California repeatedly has tilted rightward to deliver policies, hiring decisions and public gestures sought by Republicans, according to current and former employees and others who have worked closely with the company.

Trump and other party leaders have pressured Facebook by making unproven claims of bias against conservatives amid rising signs of government action on the issue, including investigations by Congress and the Justice Department. Republicans also have leveraged Facebook’s fears of alienating conservative Americans to win concessions from a company whose most widely shared news content typically includes stories from Fox News and other right-leaning sources.

These sensitivities — in conjunction with the company’s long-standing resistance to acting as “an arbiter of truth” — have affected Facebook’s responses to a range of major issues, from how to address fake news and Russian manipulation of American voters on the platform to, more recently, the advertising policies that have set the political ground rules for the 2020 election, say people privy to internal debates.

Such factors have helped shape a platform that gives politicians license to lie and that remains awash in misinformation, vulnerable to a repeat of twitter bird Custommany of the problems that marred the 2016 presidential election.

Facebook, unlike Google and Twitter, also has refused calls to restrict politicians’ access to powerful ad-targeting tools — which Trump used with particular relish four years ago — that allow messages to be tailored to individual voters, based on characteristics Facebook has gleaned over years of tracking user behavior.

ny times logoNew York Times, A $1 Billion Literary Scandal and the ‘Madoff of France,’ David Segal, Feb. 21, 2020. Accused of orchestrating a literary Ponzi scheme, Gérard Lhéritier prepares his defense as his breathtaking collection is auctioned off.

A letter from Frida Kahlo, signed and twice kissed with red lipstick, fetched just over $8,800. A page of scribbled calculations by Isaac Newton sold for about $21,000. A 1953 handwritten speech by John F. Kennedy took in $10,000.

All of the items came from a now-defunct company, Aristophil, which starting in 2002 built one of the largest collections of rare books, autographs and manuscripts in history — some 136,000 pieces in all.

The buying spree turned the company’s founder and president, a stout 71-year-old named Gérard Lhéritier, into a celebrity. He opened the stately Museum of Letters and Manuscripts in a pricey neighborhood in Paris, and surrounded himself with French luminaries. They included former presidents, authors and journalists, who crowned him the “king of manuscripts.”

Six years ago, the French authorities shut down Aristophil and arrested Mr. Lhéritier, charging him with fraud and accusing him of orchestrating what amounts to a highbrow Ponzi scheme. As he bought all those rare manuscripts and letters, he had them appraised, divided their putative value into shares and sold them as if they were stock in a corporation. Those shares were bought by 18,000 people, many of them elderly and of modest means, who collectively invested about $1 billion.

The problem has nothing to do with quality. Everything in the collection is authentic, and a large part of it is highly coveted. But the authorities say that with the help of pliant experts, Mr. Lhéritier grossly inflated the value of pieces before he sold shares in them.

ny times logoNew York Times, What Happened Between E. Jean Carroll and Elle Magazine? Katherine Rosman and Jessica Bennett, Feb. 21, 2020. Her contract was terminated early, but the fashion magazine maintains it wasn’t because of her allegations against President Trump.

Media / Propaganda

jimmy wales facing tomorrow conference israel 2009 AP photo 09102109924 1 Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales speaks at the ‘Facing Tomorrow’ conference in Israel in 2009 (Tara Todras-Whitehill | Associated Press)

Wired, Opinion: Wikipedia Is the Last Best Place on the Internet, Richard Cooke, Feb. 17, 2020. People used to think the crowdsourced encyclopedia represented all that was wrong with the web. Now it's a beacon of so much that's right.

In its first decade of life, the website appeared in as many punch lines as headlines. The Office's Michael Scott called it “the best thing ever,” because “anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject — so you know you are getting the best possible information.” Praising Wikipedia, by restating its mission, meant self-identifying as an idiot.

wikipedia logoThat was in 2007. Today, Wikipedia is the eighth-most-visited site in the world. The English-language version recently surpassed 6 million articles and 3.5 billion words; edits materialize at a rate of 1.8 per second. But perhaps more remarkable than Wikipedia's success is how little its reputation has changed. It was criticized as it rose, and now makes its final ascent to … muted criticism. To confess that you've just repeated a fact you learned on Wikipedia is still to admit something mildly shameful. It's as though all those questions that used to pepper think pieces in the mid-2000s — Will it work? Can it be trusted? Is it better than Encyclopedia Britannica? — are still rhetorical, when they have already been answered, time and again, in the affirmative.

Of course, muted criticism is far better than what the other giants at the top of the internet are getting these days. Pick any inflection point you like from the past several years — the Trump election, Brexit, any one of a number of data breaches, alt-right feeding frenzies, or standoffish statements to Congress — and you'll see the malign hand of platform monopolies.

Not too long ago, techno-utopianism was the ambient vibe of the elite ideas industry; now it has become the ethos that dare not speak its name. Hardly anyone can talk abstractly about freedom and connection and collaboration, the blithe watchwords of the mid-2000s, without making a mental list of the internet's more concrete negative externalities.

Yet in an era when Silicon Valley's promises look less gilded than before, Wikipedia shines by comparison. It is the only not-for-profit site in the top 10, and one of only a handful in the top 100. It does not plaster itself with advertising, intrude on privacy, or provide a breeding ground for neo-Nazi trolling. Like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, it broadcasts user-generated content. Unlike them, it makes its product de-personified, collaborative, and for the general good. More than an encyclopedia, Wikipedia has become a community, a library, a constitution, an experiment, a political manifesto—the closest thing there is to an online public square. It is one of the few remaining places that retains the faintly utopian glow of the early World Wide Web. A free encyclopedia encompassing the whole of human knowledge, written almost entirely by unpaid volunteers: Can you believe that was the one that worked?

Wikipedia is not perfect. The problems that it does have—and there are plenty of them—are discussed in great detail on Wikipedia itself, often in dedicated forums for self-critique with titles like “Why Wikipedia is not so great.” One contributor observes that “many of the articles are of poor quality.” Another worries that “consensus on Wikipedia may be a problematic form of knowledge production.” A third notes that “someone can just come and edit this very page and put in ‘pens are for cats only.’” Like the rest of the tech world, the site suffers from a gender imbalance; by recent estimates, 90 percent of its volunteer editors are men. Women and nonbinary contributors report frequent harassment from their fellow Wikipedians—trolling, doxing, hacking, death threats. The site's parent organization has repeatedly owned up to the situation and taken halting steps to redress it; several years ago, it allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars to a “community health initiative.” But in a way, the means to fix Wikipedia's shortcomings, in terms of both culture and coverage, are already in place: Witness the rise of feminist edit-athons.

Feb. 20

Inside DC

John Solomon, Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing

John Solomon, longtime DC-based journalist, shown at left, with his lawyers and souces Joseph DiGenova and the latter's wife Victoria Toensing.

washington post logoWashington Post, John Solomon columns on Ukraine ripped in newspaper’s internal investigation for conflicts and distortions, Paul Farhi, Feb. 20, 2020 (print ed.). In a lengthy and damning review of former columnist John Solomon, the Hill newspaper ripped Solomon — and itself — for publishing misleading and poorly attributed articles last year that asserted corruption by Joe Biden in his dealings with Ukraine during his time as vice president.

The columns, published in early 2019, set in motion President Trump’s demand that Ukrainian officials announce an investigation of Biden and his son, Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company. Trump’s demand, and his withholding of military aid to Ukraine, led to the House’s impeachment of Trump and his subsequent acquittal in the Senate.

Trump and his allies, including his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and his son Donald Trump Jr., promoted Solomon’s Hill columns via Twitter, and Solomon made several appearances on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program to promote his conclusions, which were that Biden, then considered Trump’s top 2020 challenger, had ousted Ukraine’s top prosecutor to head off an investigation into the company that had hired his son.

That allegation has never been proved; indeed, the former Ukrainian prosecutor has recanted it.

In effect, the Hill said Solomon amplified an inaccurate and one-sided narrative about the Bidens and Ukraine that was fed to him by Giuliani, “facilitated” by businessman Lev Parnas, who was working with Giuliani at the time, and reinforced by Solomon’s own attorneys, who also represented clients embroiled in U.S.-Ukraine politics.

Igor Fruman, top left, and Lev Parnas, two Soviet-born associates of Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney at bottom of a Wall Street Journal graphic above by Laura Kammermann, appear to be deeply involved in the Ukraine scandal.Igor Fruman, top left, and Lev Parnas, two Soviet-born associates of Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney at bottom of a Wall Street Journal graphic above by Laura Kammermann, appear to be deeply involved in the Ukraine scandal.

But the Hill stopped short of retracting or apologizing for Solomon’s articles, nor did it say it shouldn’t have published them. It also didn’t characterize Solomon’s motives in presenting what appears to be a largely debunked conspiracy theory about Ukraine.

The columns were roundly criticized as distorted and inaccurate by U.S. diplomats during their testimony before the House’s impeachment hearings.

The Hill, in its review of 14 Solomon columns and related videos about Ukraine, found multiple flaws in his reporting and in the Hill’s own presentation of his work. It said it has attached editor’s notes to the columns to provide “context and/or disclosure that should have been included at the time of his writings” or to “highlight what has been learned” since Solomon’s columns were published.

“In certain columns, Solomon failed to identify important details about key Ukrainian sources, including the fact that they had been indicted or were under investigation,” said the internal investigation, which was overseen by the newspaper’s editor, Bob Cusack. “In other cases, the sources were [Solomon’s] own attorneys” — Victoria Toensing and Joseph DiGenova, who have also represented President Trump and Giuliani, who was also a key source for Solomon’s columns.

Solomon didn’t disclose this connection in his columns nor did he disclose to his editors that he shared drafts of his stories with Toensing, DiGenova and Parnas, the review noted. \

  • facebook logoWashington Post, How the right learned to wield power inside Facebook, Craig Timberg, Feb. 20, 2020. The social media giant balked at removing misinformation after the 2016 election out of concern it would alienate conservatives.

USA Today, Intelligence employee pleads guilty to leaking classified info to journalists, Savannah Behrmann, Feb. 20, 2020. Henry Kyle Frese pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to illegally transmitting national defense information to journalists.

Frese, 31, was employed as a counterterrorism analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency from February 2018 to October 2019, and held a top-secret clearance.

“Frese violated the trust placed in him by the American people when he disclosed sensitive national security information for personal gain,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers in a statement. “He alerted our country’s adversaries to sensitive national defense information, putting the nation’s security at risk."

Federal prosecutors say he researched multiple classified intelligence reports – some of which were unrelated to his job duties – and leaked information about a foreign country's weapons systems to two journalists.

Prosecutors said that Frese, who worked as both a contractor and a full-time employee for DIA, was in a relationship with one of the journalists and sought to advance the reporter's career.

The journalist linked romantically to Frese published at least eight articles containing classified information provided by the analyst, authorities say. Prosecutors asserted that Frese compromised the contents of at least five intelligence reports.

The unauthorized disclosures happened in 2018 and 2019. Prior to that, from August 2017 to August 2018, Frese and the reporter lived together, authorities say.

Feb. 19

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Syria - Turkey's Bluff Is Called - Media Opposition Sources Run By British Intelligence, b, Feb. 19, 2020. Russia has called Turkey's bluff of a wide ranging attack on Syrian government forces. The Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan will now have to find a way out of the Idleb trap he set himself in. His excellent Syria adventure is coming to an end.

Russian FlagMeanwhile we learn that the British military intelligence ran another large dis-information campaign that brought 'Syrian voices' into the 'western' press.

Erdogan continues with his wild rhetoric over Syria.

The 'Western' media is again practicing tear jerking about these refugees in Idleb. But its reports forget to mention that al-Qaeda rules Idleb and that it prevents the people from crossing the line into Syrian government held areas:

In yet another lengthy, expensive, lavishly illustrated story about Idlib, the NYT once again failed to make any mention of the politics of what is happening in that enclave of northwestern Syria – namely, the fact that well-armed jihadist/takfiri fighters from all around the world have controlled it for the past several years, while Syria’s government forces have been battling to regain control.

In that latest article, as in all of the lengthy, one-sided tearjerkers it has published about Idlib over the past year, the NYT has no actual journalists or photographers on the ground reporting the story. It is wholly reliant instead on “stories” and footage it gathers from unverifiable sources inside the enclave – sources who notably never include any mention of the jihadi armed groups that control all aspects of life there.

Today we learn [Middle East Eye (MEE), [The British government’s covert propaganda campaign in Syria] that many of these unverifiable sources have been on the British government payroll since at least 2012.

Middle East Eye (MEE), Investigation: The British government’s covert propaganda campaign in Syria, Ian Cobain and Alice Ross, Feb. 19, 2020. Documents obtained by MEE reveal how British contractors recruited Syrian citizen journalists -- often without their knowledge -- to promote 'moderate opposition.'

united kingdom flagThe British government covertly established a network of citizen journalists across Syria during the early years of the country’s civil war in an attempt to shape perceptions of the conflict, frequently recruiting people who were unaware that they were being directed from London.

A number of leaked documents seen by Middle East Eye show how the propaganda initiative began in 2012 and gathered pace the following year, shortly after the UK parliament refused to authorise British military action in Syria.

Drawing upon British, American and Canadian funding, UK government contractors set up offices in Istanbul and Amman, where they hired members of the Syrian diaspora, who in turn recruited citizen journalists inside Syria.

These journalists, many of them young, were commissioned to produce TV footage, radio programmes, social media, posters, magazines and even children’s comics.

While many Syrians turned spontaneously to media activism from the start of the war, the documents describe the way in which the British government sought to guide some of their output, seeing citizen journalism as a way of covertly influencing Syrian audiences.

The papers also make clear that those people who were recruited were often unaware that they were part of a British propaganda initiative.
Some of those who were recruited have defended their involvement, however, saying that they were reliant on western support in their efforts to counter pro-government reporting in Syrian state media, and in Iranian and Russian-backed media.

At a time when the last opposition-held enclave in Idlib province is under assault by pro-government forces, they questioned whether western countries could have contributed more material support to moderate rebels.

Some Syrian journalists complained that western support for their work was decreasing even as it was most needed after Russia's entry into the war in 2015 tipped the balance in favour of President Bashar al-Assad.

The documents were drawn up as blueprints for the initiative by an anthropologist working in counter-terrorism at the foreign office in London. They were issued in late 2014 to a small number of communications companies that were invited to bid for three contracts to deliver the work.

One says: “The objective of the project is contribute [sic] towards positive attitudinal and behavioural change.”

This was further defined as: “Reinforcement of popular rejection of the Assad regime and extremist alternatives; promotion of the moderate values of the revolution; promotion of Syrian national identity.”

'Reinforcement of popular rejection of the Assad regime and extremist alternatives; promotion of the moderate values of the revolution; promotion of Syrian national identity'

The documents show that the over-arching aim of the citizen journalism project – and a series of interlinked British propaganda initiatives – was to promote the UK’s strategic interests in Syria and the Middle East.

These are defined in the leaked papers as “a more stable and democratic Syria that better meets the needs and aspirations of its people”, support for a political solution to the conflict, the alleviation of humanitarian suffering, and enhanced UK security.

As well as developing grassroots journalism aligned with British government values, the UK and other western governments were at the same time attempting to build civil society in areas controlled by some of Assad’s opponents, financing and training police forces and civil defence teams.

The anthropologist’s blueprint makes clear that this was being done not just to help maintain law and order and provide humanitarian assistance, but “to build confidence in a future Syria free from extremist rule”.

However, the documents acknowledge the risks to the young journalists who had unwittingly been co-opted by the British government.

“Media coverage of the project will be distinctly unwelcome due to the risks to Syrian employees and to project effectiveness that it would generate,” says one.

“The implementer is not permitted to speak publicly (to the media or at academic conferences) about their work without the explicit permission of HMG [Her Majesty’s Government]. This will be enforced by a Non Disclosure Agreement.”

A number of young Syrian citizen journalists were detained and murdered by the Islamic State (IS) group after it began capturing territory in the country in 2015.

The group frequently denounced its victims as western “spies” and some Syrian citizen journalists were pursued across the border to Turkey and killed.

Whilst many of the victims were not thought to be involved in British-sponsored projects, MEE is aware of two who were.

Feb. 18

Ultra-Right Media Hoax?

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Right-Wing Activists Discussed Wiretapping Seth Rich’s Family, Three People in the Room Say, Will Sommer, Updated Feb. 18, 2020. Involved in the talks about murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich: a Fox reporter, a former intelligence contractor, and a pair of provocateurs looking to sow “targeted chaos” online.

A strange set of characters from some of the highest and lowest positions in the American right gathered one morning in September 2017 at an affluent neighborhood outside of Dallas.

One of their topics was responding to online critics of wealthy Texas businessman Ed Butowsky, who had recently been outed as a driving seth richforce behind a retracted Fox News story about murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, right.

The group that gathered at Butowsky’s home included a conspiracy theorist, a Fox reporter fighting for her career, a former private intelligence contractor married to star journalist Lara Logan, and a Democratic PR operative who lost his business in the face of sexual assault allegations. The group also included Thomas Schoenberger and Manuel “Defango” Chavez, two notorious internet provocateurs who had recently launched a self-proclaimed “elite” company that promised to use bots and sow “targeted chaos” to defend its clients online.

According to some attendees, the solutions discussed at the September get-together went to extremes. Three people who attended the gathering said the group even discussed the possibility of wiretapping and surveilling Rich’s grieving parents.

In a sworn deposition last year, Schoenberger claims Butowsky wanted to “hear a pin drop” in the Rich’s Omaha, Nebraska, kitchen.

“They wanted it to the point where they can listen to every room and hear discussions,” Schoenberger said in a sworn deposition last year about the gathering. “They literally wanted ears in every room.”

Butowsky strongly disputes Schoenberger’s wiretapping claims and The Daily Beast could find no evidence that anyone in the group actually carried out surveillance on Rich’s family. Butowsky points to Schoenberger’s criminal history—a 2011 felony stalking charge and a 2014 misdemeanor DUI—to argue that his allegations about what occurred at Butowsky’s house can’t be trusted.

“Nobody wiretapped anybody, nobody attempted to wiretap anybody, nobody discussed wiretapping anybody, and quite frankly, I don’t know what wiretapping is,” Butowsky said.

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Butowsky confirmed the list of guests at his house, although he disputed the characterization of it as a “meeting.”

“It was just like a sit-down and chat,” said Butowsky. “Nothing happened. There wasn’t like some meeting where we left with plans. It was a bunch of people explaining how reputation management worked on Twitter.”

The varied group, according to Butowsky, included Schoenberger, Chavez, outspoken Rich conspiracy theorist Matt Couch and an associate, Logan’s husband Joe Burkett, as well as Fox News reporter Malia Zimmerman, who was the author of the retracted Fox story.

“Nobody wiretapped anybody, nobody attempted to wiretap anybody, nobody discussed wiretapping anybody, and quite frankly, I don’t know what wiretapping is.”

— Ed Butowsky

They were joined by Trevor FitzGibbon, a former Democratic PR bigwig whose firm once worked with groups like MoveOn and NARAL, but collapsed in 2015 in the face of sexual harassment and assault allegations against him (FitzGibbon denied those allegations and never faced criminal charges). According to Schoenberger and Chavez, FitzGibbon teamed up with them in August 2017 to launch “Shadowbox,” their “elite” online reputation firm. Butowsky was their first client.

Media, Privacy

washington post logoWashington Post, How Ring and Nest helped normalize American surveillance — and turned us into a nation of voyeurs, Drew Harwell, Feb. 18, 2020. People who own Web-connected cameras say they’ve reshaped their awareness around what’s going on at home. But all that added vigilance has come at a surprising cost.

Margaret Cudia thought her Ring doorbell camera was “the best thing since sliced bread.” She loved watching the world pass by through her suburban New Jersey neighborhood, guarding vigilantly for suspicious strangers and porch pirates from the comfort of her phone.

She hadn’t expected the camera also might capture awkward moments closer to home, like the time it caught her daughter grabbing a beer and talking about how controlling her mother was. “I never told her about that one,” she said with a laugh.

Amazon’s Ring, Google’s Nest and other Internet-connected cameras — some selling for as little as $59 — have given Americans the tools they need to become a personal security force, and millions of people now seeing what’s happening around their home every second — what Ring calls the “new neighborhood watch.” (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

But the allure of monitoring people silently from afar has also proved more tempting than many expected. Customers who bought the cameras in hopes of not becoming victims joke that instead they’ve become voyeurs.

The Washington Post surveyed more than 50 owners of in-home and outdoor camera systems across the United States about how the recording devices had reshaped their daily lives. Most of those who responded to online solicitations about their camera use said they had bought the cameras to check on package deliveries and their pets, and many talked glowingly about what they got in return: security, entertainment, peace of mind. Some said they worried about hackers, snoops or spies.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. designates 5 major Chinese media outlets as government entities, Anna Fifield, Carol Morello and Emily Rauhala, Feb. 18, 2020. The designation means they will be treated as though they are diplomatic outposts of the Chinese government and subject to the same constraints. The move is the latest in a series of U.S. efforts to tackle China’s influence in the United States.

The State Department on Tuesday designated five Chinese media outlets as official government entities under the Foreign Missions Act, meaning they will treated as though they are diplomatic outposts of the Chinese government and subject to the same constraints.

The move is the latest in a series of U.S. efforts to tackle China’s influence in the United States. It will be sure to anger Beijing, which generally views U.S. government’s actions — from the trade war and the accusations against Huawei to criticism of its human rights record — as an effort to thwart China’s global rise.

The media outlets are the official Xinhua News Agency; China Global Television Network, known as CGTN, the international arm of state broadcaster CCTV; China Radio International; the China Daily newspaper; and Hai Tian Development, a U.S. company linked to the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China.

Feb. 16

Media News

elise stefanik hearing

Glens Falls Post-Star, Opinion: Stefanik letter does nothing to address the threats, Ken Tingley (Editor of The Post-Star in Glens Falls, N.Y.), Feb. 16, 2020. On Oct. 10, I sent a message to Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY, shown above in a screenshot from December's House impeachment hearings). It wasn’t a formal letter, but it was a direct message to her after she showed support for a local man who shouted threats against the newspaper at a public rally in Glens Falls.

I explained to her in the message that the threats against the newspaper had made many of the men and women who work at our newspaper – from the receptionist and obituary clerks to those in our advertising department – nervous about their safety.

I asked her to denounce the actions of this man, who was a vocal supporter of hers, and I urged her to visit the newspaper to explain to the regular workers with families why she had put them in danger.

republican elephant logoShe held a town hall meeting in Kingsbury that day, but she did not stop by the newspaper.

She did not respond to my message at all.

Until Friday of this week – Valentine’s Day—when I opened my mailbox to find a letter personally addressed to me from Elise.

“Dear Mr. Tingley” it started, but “Mr. Tingley” was crossed out and “Kenneth” was written in what appeared to be blue sharpie.

We were back on a first-name basis.

I wanted to yell out, “Call me Ken.”

Finally, Elise – I can assume I can her Elise now, right? — had seen the light. I hoped she was responding to my concerns about the safety of our newspaper staff and her ill-advised support of people who threaten us.

Those hopes were quickly dashed.

Elise wanted me to help her fight back against the radical left. She wanted me to help her save the country from Adam Schiff. And she wanted to me to pledge $50, $100, $250, $500, or even $1,000. Didn’t she just finish raising $3 million in the last three months of the year?

She wrote about taking on Nancy Pelosi and Jerry Nadler for citizens in the 21st Congressional District. I don’t recall seeing either of them at the Civic Center or walking around Lake George, but Elise says they are our enemies in upstate New York.

As I continued to read the letter, I wondered if the congresswoman was a little star struck after all the attention she had gotten from President Trump.

She explained that the Democrats fear “dedicated, articulate Republican leaders like me.”

Sounded like, she was a little full of herself.

I was hoping she might mention something about bringing us together, condemning violence and telling the truth.

At the very least, some of her most important accomplishments as our representative.

Instead, Elise sounded like she was going to war.

Then – after hitting me up for a donation to her campaign – she said this:

“Of course, we cannot count on the biased media to expose the Democrats’ horrible abuses of power, their flawed accusations, or their partisan motivations. The smug media elitists have become little more than the PR division of the Democratic Party.”

Feb. 15

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washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The future of local newspapers just got bleaker. Here’s why we can’t let them die, Margaret Sullivan, right, Feb. 15, margaret sullivan 2015 photo2020. With McClatchy filing for bankruptcy, the business is gasping for air. But, against the odds, local newsrooms keep doing vital work.

It’s been a particularly rough couple of months for those who care about local journalism — which should be every American citizen.

Warren Buffett sold his 31 newspapers in January, a powerful vote of no confidence in their financial future. A rapacious hedge fund got its claws deeper into the Chicago Tribune chain in December, which includes the New York Daily News and the Baltimore Sun. Gannett and GateHouse, the two biggest newspaper chains, continued merging — a development almost certain to mean more staff cutbacks in already shrunken newsrooms.

And then on Thursday came more devastating news. Weighed down under enormous debt, the McClatchy newspaper chain — one of the nation’s largest newspaper publishers and owner of the Miami Herald among many others — was filing for bankruptcy protection.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hedge fund behind McClatchy bankruptcy set to take over, Jonathan O'Connell, Feb. 15, 2020 (print ed.). Chatham Asset Management will take over newspaper chain if court approves reorganization plan. Bankruptcy may have been inevitable for the newspaper chain McClatchy ever since its ill-fated decision to borrow heavily in 2006 to buy another chain, Knight Ridder, for $4.5 billion.

Shortly afterward both the national economy and the print news industry collapsed, and the latter has never recovered.

A decade of cost-cutting and efforts at growing new digital revenue wasn’t enough to change the company’s fortunes. More recent, behind-the-scenes transactions on Wall Street shaped a new path for the 163-year-old owner of the Miami Herald, the Charlotte Observer and 28 other newspapers across the country.

McClatchy’s announcement does not name who its new controlling owner would be, the hedge fund Chatham Asset Management, referring instead to Chatham as its largest secured creditor.

But details in hundreds of pages of documents associated with the filing show how Chatham used several financial transactions to exert increasing control over the company, to the point where it partnered with McClatchy on a bankruptcy plan that, if finalized and approved by the court, would hand control of the company to the hedge fund.

In a sign of possible complications to come, the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. raised concerns in a bankruptcy filing Friday about a 2018 financial transaction between Chatham and McClatchy and asked the court to investigate. The filing was first reported by McClatchy’s Washington bureau.

Chatham, which reported $4.4 billion in assets in 2019, isn’t a stranger to the news business but its reputation has not won accolades among McClatchy supporters and employees.

Chatham founder Anthony Melchiorre has been referred to as a “bare-knuckled fighter in business dealings” who “has waded deeper into contrarian bets over the years and stuck by them,” according to industry publication Pensions & Investments.

Chatham is also the controlling owner of American Media Inc., parent of the racy tabloid the National Enquirer. AMI’s chairman, David Pecker, worked with President Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen, to bury allegations of Trump’s extramarital affairs, and the publication threatened to publish intimate photos of Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos.

Feb. 14

washington post logoWashington Post, Crimea, Kashmir, Korea: Google redraws borders on maps depending on who’s looking, Greg Bensinger​, Feb. 14, 2020. ​ Google alters maps under political pressure and the whims of tech executives. Contract employees say a “disputed region team” addresses more prickly matters.

For more than 70 years, India and Pakistan have waged sporadic and deadly skirmishes over control of the mountainous region of Kashmir. Tens of thousands have died in the conflict, including three just this month.

google logo customBoth sides claim the Himalayan outpost as their own, but web surfers in India could be forgiven for thinking the dispute is all but settled: The borders on Google’s online maps there display Kashmir as fully under Indian control. Elsewhere, users see the region’s snaking outlines as a dotted line, acknowledging the dispute.

Google’s corporate mission is “to organize the world’s information,” but it also bends it to its will. From Argentina to the U.K. to Iran, the world’s borders look different depending on where you’re viewing them from. That’s because Google — and other online mapmakers — simply change them.

Feb. 13

mcclatchy logo

washington post logoWashington Post, McClatchy, one of the nation’s largest newspaper publishers, files for bankruptcy, Taylor Telford and Thomas Heath, Feb. 13, 2020. McClatchy Co., one of the nation’s largest newspaper publishers, filed for bankruptcy protection Thursday, another harbinger of America’s deepening local news crisis.

The Chapter 11 filing will allow the Sacramento-based company to keep its 30 newspapers afloat while it reorganizes more than $700 million in debt, 60 percent of which would be eliminated under the plan. If the court approves, it would also hand control of the 163-year-old family publisher to a hedge fund, Chatham Asset Management, its largest creditor.

The filing foreshadows further cost-cutting and retrenchment for one of the biggest players in local journalism at a time when most American newsrooms already are straining to cover their communities. About 20 percent of all U.S. newspapers have closed since 2004, according to a recent report from PEN America, and the sector has shed 47 percent of its jobs.

miami herald logoThe publisher of the Miami Herald, Kansas City Star and other regional dailies has been saddled with debt since its $4.5 billion takeover of a much bigger rival, Knight Ridder, in 2006. The combination coincided with a digital boom that disrupted the prevailing business model and changed the way news is consumed.

“In 2010, the total revenue for print ads fell below 1950 levels, and it has continued to decrease,” said Penny Abernathy, Knight chair of journalism and digital media economics at the University of North Carolina. “Everyone assumed if you could just make the transition over to digital that things would be okay. But the problem is that as of 2015, Google and Facebook make up about 75 percent of the digital ad dollar in U.S. markets. That’s not enough to sustain the newsrooms McClatchy inherited from Knight Ridder.”

Feb. 12

National Public Radio, Major Smartphone Trade Show Canceled In Barcelona Amid Coronavirus Concerns, Shannon Bond, Feb. 12, 2020.  Organziers of the Mobile World Congress had resisted calls to cancel the event, but reversed course after major companies pulled out over coronavirus fears.

One of the world's biggest trade shows has been cancelled as mounting concerns over the coronavirus outbreak ripple across the business world.

Organizers called off the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, after big-name participants pulled out.

The annual conference, scheduled to kick off on Feb. 24, is a marquee event for the city of Barcelona and for the mobile phone industry. It typically attracts more than 100,000 attendees each year who come to check out the latest in smartphone technology.

facebook logoBut in recent days, companies from Sony and Intel to Amazon and Facebook said they would stay away because of worries about the safety of their employees.

The conference organizer, GSMA, initially resisted calls to cancel. It said it would put in place health precautions including scanning body temperatures, and advised attendees against shaking hands.

Still, companies kept pulling out, and on Wednesday, GSMA reversed course. "The global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event," the group's CEO, John Hoffman, said in a statement.

Other trade shows and business events have also been affected by the outbreak. More than two dozen industry conferences in Asia have been postponed, Reuters reported. Watchmaker Swatch canceled an event in Zurich planned for late February.

WKRN-TV (ABC affiliate in Nashville), TN lawmakers introduce joint resolution to recognize CNN and Washington Post as “fake news,” Staff report, Feb. 11, 2020. An amendment to a house joint resolution was announced Tuesday at the Tennessee State Capitol, announcing that the state of Tennessee recognizes CNN and The Washington Post “as fake news and part of the media wing of the Democratic party.”

cnn logoAccording to the resolution, lawmakers say that an editor of The Washington Post wrote on October 3, 2019 that President Trump “cast a spell on the Republican Party and suggested that Trumpism is cult-like.” The resolution also says that a CNN host suggested that Trump supporters “belong to a cult and that our president is using mind control” on November 24, 2019.

“We recognize that fake news outlets suggest ideas without directly making accusations so that they can claim innocence from their ivory towers,” the resolution reads.

The joint resolution introduced in the state House with the Senate reportedly concurring says that CNN and The Washington Post are condemned “for denigrating our citizens and implying that they are weak-minded followers instead of people exercising their rights that our veterans paid for with their blood.”

Read the full resolution here.

gabriel matzneff infographic

ny times logoNew York Times, Gabriel Matzneff, Who Wrote for Years About Pedophilia, Is Charged, Norimitsu Onishi, Feb. 12, 2020. Gabriel Matzneff  (shown above), the French writer who talked openly for decades about engaging in pedophilia, was charged on Wednesday in a Paris court with promoting the sexual abuse of children.

Mr. Matzneff, who has been in hiding in the Italian Riviera and did not appear in court, was accused of defending and justifying pedophilia through his many books and public appearances, according to the case filed by l’Ange Bleu, an anti-pedophilia organization.

The court set September 2021 as the start of the trial, which will scrutinize not only the author’s actions but also those of the French elite who published his books, promoted his career and even helped him evade justice.

“Everyone will have to take responsibility,” l’Ange Bleu’s lawyer, Méhana Mouhou, said after the hearing.

L’Ange Bleu is using a special legal procedure to force Mr. Matzneff to stand trial, arguing that its interests as an organization devoted to fighting pedophilia were damaged by Mr. Matzneff’s longstanding promotion of pedophilia. If convicted in that case, Mr. Matzneff, 83, could face up to five years in prison.

Although Mr. Matzneff is not scheduled to appear in court until next year in the case brought by the anti-pedophilia organization, he could face legal challenges sooner if prosecutors decide to charge him in specific cases of abuse.

Prosecutors, who have been criticized in recent weeks for their long inaction despite Mr. Matzneff’s avowed pedophilia, are moving on a separate track that could lead to more criminal charges.

They said on Tuesday that they would actively seek other victims of the author, and on Wednesday they raided for the second time the headquarters of Gallimard, one of Mr. Matzneff’s publishers, to seize more of his books and manuscripts, according to the French news media.

Mr. Matzneff openly talked and wrote about pedophilia, but the dynamic changed after the publication last month of Le Consentement (“Consent”) by Vanessa Springora, the first testimony by one of the writer’s underage victims.

Fueling an abrupt cultural shift in France, the book touched off the sudden downfall of Mr. Matzneff, who was dropped by his three publishers, stripped of a rare benefit from the French government and abandoned by longtime supporters.

Until just a few weeks ago, Mr. Matzneff was recognized as a celebrated writer.

In many books, Mr. Matzneff writes about his relations with teenage girls in France and sex tourism in the Philippines with boys as young as 8. His breakthrough book as an author, from 1974, had the title Les Moins de Seize Ans (“Under 16 Years Old”).

Feb. 11

tribune publishing logo

Hartford Business Journal, Another round of buyouts hits the Hartford Courant’s newsroom, Joe Cooper, Feb. 11, 2020. For the second time in two years, The Hartford Courant’s newsroom has shrunk from buyouts, as daily print newspapers face a challenging and changing media landscape.

Four reporters and two editors recently accepted voluntary separation packages that parent Tribune Publishing recently offered to employees, according to Rebecca Lurye, a Courant reporter and chair of the Hartford Courant Guild.

The buyouts -- terms of which were not disclosed -- came one year after the Courant’s newsroom agreed to form a union and months after New York alden global capital logohedge fund Alden Global Capital LLC became the largest shareholder of Chicago-based Tribune.

Lurye said the 60 or so Courant reporters and editors were concerned about Alden’s reputation of slashing newspaper jobs and sucking up short-term profits at other media organizations it controls through its MediaNews Group subsidiary, including The Denver Post, St. Paul Pioneer Press and Boston Herald.

Their concerns were realized a month ago when Tribune sent an email to staffers announcing its latest round of buyouts citing “industry-wide revenue challenges.”

“They are not receptive to our message, which is buyouts are incredibly damaging to a newsroom,” Lurye said of recent collective bargaining negotiations. “There has been a lot of mixed messaging from the company saying we are a leading media company, or that we are doing really well financially.” (Tribune reported revenue of $236 million in the third-quarter last year, down from $255.8 million in the year prior.)

In recent days, town reporter Michael Walsh, environmental and agricultural reporter Gregory B. Hladky and nature columnist Peter Marteka have all publicly announced their departures from the Courant.

Lurye said the 256-year-old paper’s newsroom has shrunk by 30 staffers since she joined it in early 2017, either through buyouts or positions being left unfilled. That includes the 10 newsroom veterans that left the newspaper during the last round of buyouts in Nov. 2018, she said.

In 2014, Hartford Business Journal reported the Courant’s newsroom peaked in 1994 at 400 employees and fell to 135 employees in 2009. There are well under 100 newsroom employees today.

“That's an incredible loss for a newspaper,” Lurye said.

Cross-state rival Hearst Newspapers in recent years has hired away some big-name Courant talent, including economic and political columnist Dan Haar, sports columnist Jeff Jacobs and columnist and radio personality Colin McEnroe, who is now at Connecticut Public.

The cost-cutting moves have occurred as average weekday print circulation at the Hartford paper has dropped 43% since the fourth quarter of 2015 from 90,057 to 51,416 in the fourth quarter of 2019, according to Alliance for Audited Media (AAM) figures. The average Sunday print circulation in that period fell 40% from 160,563 in 2015, to 96,541 in 2019, AAM said.

In a statement, Andrew Julien, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Hartford Courant Media Group, said “The structural changes in reader habits that have affected print operations at the Courant and newspapers across the nation are well documented and well known. At the same time, we continue to see strong engagement from readers on both the print and digital fronts, with impressive growth particularly on the digital side."

Julien added that during the recent New England Newspaper & Press Association annual awards ceremony the Courant was awarded first place in digital engagement, "a testament to the creative and innovative approaches to storytelling that are keeping the Courant relevant to a new generation of news readers."

He also said the Courant's mission remains the same, to produce "high quality, hard-hitting journalism.”

Feb. 10 julian assange and swedens politically appointed judges indicter graphic

WikiLeaks Editor Julian Assange (graphic by The Indicter Magazine and Swedish Doctors for Human Rights).

OpEdNews, Opinion: What Is Happening to Assange Will Happen to the Rest of Us, Chris Hedges, Feb. 10, 2020. David Morales, the indicted owner of the Spanish private security firm Undercover Global, is being investigated by Spain's high court for allegedly providing the CIA with audio and video recordings of the meetings WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had with his attorneys and other visitors when the publisher was in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

The security firm also reportedly photographed the passports of all of Assange's visitors. It is accused of taking visitors' phones, which were not permitted in the embassy, and opening them, presumably in an effort to intercept calls. It reportedly stole data from laptops, electronic tablets and USB sticks, all required to be left at the embassy reception area. It allegedly compiled detailed reports on all of Assange's meetings and conversations with visitors. The firm even is said to have planned to steal the diaper of a baby brought to visit Assange to perform a DNA test to establish whether the infant was a secret son of Assange. UC Global, apparently at the behest of the CIA, also allegedly spied on Ecuadorian diplomats who worked in the London embassy.

The probe by the court, the Audiencia Nacional, into the activities of UC Global, along with leaked videos, statements, documents and reports published by the Spanish newspaper El País as well as the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, offers a window into the new global security state. Here the rule of law is irrelevant. Here privacy and attorney-client privilege do not exist. Here people live under 24-hour-a-day surveillance. Here all who attempt to expose the crimes of tyrannical power will be hunted down, kidnapped, imprisoned and broken. This global security state is a terrifying melding of the corporate and the public. And what it has done to Assange it will soon do to the rest of us.

The publication of classified documents is not yet a crime in the United States. If Assange is extradited and convicted, it will become one. Assange is not an American citizen. WikiLeaks, which he founded, is not a U.S.-based publication. The extradition of Assange would mean the end of journalistic investigations into the inner workings of power. It would cement into place a terrifying global, corporate tyranny under which borders, nationality and law mean nothing. Once such a legal precedent is set, any publication that publishes classified material, from The New York Times to an alternative website, will be prosecuted and silenced.

The flagrant defiance of law and international protocols in the persecution of Assange is legion. In April 2019, Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno capriciously terminated Assange's right of asylum at the London embassy, where he spent seven years, despite Assange's status as a political refugee. Moreno authorized British police to enter the embassy diplomatically sanctioned sovereign territory to arrest a naturalized citizen of Ecuador. (Assange retains his Australian citizenship.) The British police seized Assange, who has never committed a crime, and the British government keeps him imprisoned, ostensibly for a bail violation.

Assange is being held in the notorious high-security HM Prison Belmarsh. He has spent much of his time in isolation, is often heavily sedated and has been denied medical treatment for a variety of physical ailments. His lawyers say they are routinely denied access to their client. Nils Melzer, the United Nations' special rapporteur on torture who examined Assange with two physicians, said Assange has undergone prolonged psychological torture. Melzer has criticized what he calls the "judicial persecution" of Assange by Britain, the United States, Ecuador and Sweden, which prolonged an investigation into a sexual assault case in an effort to extradite Assange to Sweden. Assange said the case was a pretext to extradite him to the United States. Once Assange was arrested by British police the sexual assault case was dropped.

Melzer says Assange would face a politicized show trial in the United States if he were extradited to face 17 charges under the Espionage Act for his role in publishing classified military and diplomatic cables, documents and videos that exposed U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each of the counts carries a potential sentence of 10 years, and an additional charge that Assange conspired to hack into a government computer has a maximum sentence of five years. A hearing to determine whether he will be extradited to the United States starts Feb. 24 at London's Woolwich Crown Court. It is scheduled to last about a week and then resume May 18, for three weeks more.

WikiLeaks released U.S. military war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq, a cache of 250,000 diplomatic cables and 800 Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs along with the 2007 "Collateral Murder" video, in which U.S. helicopter pilots banter as they gun down civilians, including children and two Reuters journalists, in a Baghdad street. The material was given to WikiLeaks in 2010 by Chelsea Manning, then Bradley Manning, a low-ranking intelligence specialist in the U.S. Army. Assange has been accused by an enraged U.S. intelligence community of causing "one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States." Manning was convicted of espionage charges in August 2013 and sentenced to 35 years in a military prison. She was granted clemency in January 2017 by President Barack Obama. Manning was ordered back to prison last year after refusing to testify before a grand jury in the WikiLeaks case, and she remains behind bars. No one was ever charged for the war crimes WikiLeaks documented.

Assange earned the enmity of the Democratic Party establishment by publishing 70,000 hacked emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee and senior Democratic officials. The emails were copied from the accounts of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman. The Podesta emails exposed the donation of millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two of the major funders of Islamic State. It exposed the $657,000 that Goldman Sachs paid to Hillary Clinton to give talks, a sum so large it can only be considered a bribe. It exposed Clinton's repeated mendacity. She was caught in the emails, for example, telling the financial elites that she wanted "open trade and open borders" and believed Wall Street executives were best positioned to manage the economy, a statement that contradicted her campaign statements. It exposed the Clinton campaign's efforts to influence the Republican primaries to ensure that Donald Trump was the Republican nominee. It exposed Clinton's advance knowledge of questions in a primary debate. It exposed Clinton as the principal architect of the war in Libya, a war she believed would burnish her credentials as a presidential candidate.

Journalists can argue that this information, like the war logs, should have remained hidden, but they can't then call themselves journalists.

The Democratic and Republican leaders are united in their crusade to extradite and sentence Assange. The Democratic Party, which has attempted to blame Russia for its election loss to Trump, charges that the Podesta emails were obtained by Russian government hackers. However, James Comey, the former FBI director, has conceded that the emails were probably delivered to WikiLeaks by an intermediary, and Assange has said the emails were not provided by "state actors."

WikiLeaks has done more than any other news organization to expose the abuses of power and crimes of the American empire. In addition to the war logs and the Podesta emails, it made public the hacking tools used by the CIA and the National Security Agency and their interference in foreign elections, including French elections. It disclosed the internal conspiracy against British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn by Labour members of Parliament. It intervened to save Edward Snowden, who made public the wholesale surveillance of the American public by our intelligence agencies, from extradition to the United States by helping him flee from Hong Kong to Moscow. (The Snowden leaks also revealed that Assange was on a U.S. "manhunt target list.")

The inquiry by the Spanish court is the result of a criminal complaint filed by Assange, who accuses Morales and UC Global of violating his privacy and client-attorney confidentiality rights. The WikiLeaks founder also says the firm is guilty of misappropriation, bribery and money laundering.

washington post logofacebook logoWashington Post, Democrats call for Facebook, Twitter to take down edited Nancy Pelosi video, Cat Zakrzewski, Feb. 10, 2020 (print ed.). It’s likely just the start of an ongoing battle between social media companies and politicians about altered media.\

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who represents Silicon Valley, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who helms the House antitrust investigation of Big Tech, and a longtime Pelosi staffer were among the prominent voices who called for Twitter and Facebook to twitter bird Customtake action against the Pelosi clip.

The video was edited to make it look like the House speaker was ripping up a copy of Trump’s State of the Union speech right after he paid tribute to various special guests --- including a Tuskegee airman and a military family being reunited. (Pelosi did tear up the speech, but at the conclusion of the president’s remarks, not in response to any individual guest.)

ny times logoNew York Times, He Combs the Web for Russian Bots. That Makes Him a Target, Adam Satariano, Feb. 10, 2020 (print ed.). Ben Nimmo, shown below right, in an Atlantic Council photo, helped pioneer disinformation investigations. His work is now more urgent as misleading internet tactics spread.

ben nimmo atlantic councilIn August 2017, Ben Nimmo was declared dead by 13,000 Russian bots on Twitter.

“Our beloved friend and colleague Ben Nimmo passed away this morning,” read the epitaph, which was manipulated to look as if it were from a co-worker’s Twitter account. “Ben, we will never forget you.”

The message was immediately shared thousands of times by the network of automated accounts. Notes began pouring in from worried friends and colleagues — even though Mr. Nimmo was very much alive.

It didn’t take long for Mr. Nimmo, who helped pioneer investigations into online disinformation, to figure out what was going on: He had been targeted by a shadowy group after reporting, along with others, that American far-right groups had adopted pro-Kremlin messages on social media about Ukraine. His fake death notice was a sinister attempt at disinformation, which is the spreading of falsehoods with the deliberate intent to mislead.

“That made it personal,” said Mr. Nimmo, 47, whose home address in a town near Edinburgh and other personal data, like bank details, have also been posted online.

For the last five years, Mr. Nimmo, a founder of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, has been a leader of a small but growing community of online sleuths. These researchers serve as an informal internet police force that combats malicious attempts to use false information to sway public opinion, sow political discord and foment distrust in traditional institutions like the news media and the government.

Mr. Nimmo’s work came to the fore after the 2016 American presidential election, when intelligence agencies concluded that Russia had used Facebook and other internet platforms to influence voters. His research has since caused Facebook and other companies to ban thousands of disinformation-related accounts; he has also been tapped as an expert by governments studying foreign interference.

Now his skills are needed more than ever, as the 2020 presidential election approaches and the tactics of internet trickery have been adopted by governments, activist groups and clickbait farms in at least 70 countries. In tandem, a disinformation-for-hire industry has emerged. And domestic disinformation efforts in the United States are also on the rise.

“It doesn’t matter how much money you throw at the problem, or how many technological advances you have,” said Jenni Sargent, managing director of First Draft, a London group that tracks disinformation and trains journalists. “Without the human layer of someone like Ben dissecting the way that people use the internet, then we wouldn’t be as far ahead as we are in terms of understanding the problem and the scale.”

Mr. Nimmo works from his home atop a hill and next to a grain farm in the small Scottish town of Haddington. To ferret out disinformation networks, he relies on open-source digital tools: the Wayback Machine to find internet pages that have been deleted; Amnesty International’s Citizen Evidence Lab, which provides information about YouTube videos; and Sysomos for spotting social media trends.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ransomware Attacks Grow, Crippling Cities and Businesses, Nathaniel Popper, Feb. 10, 2020 (print ed.). Hackers are locking people out of their networks and demanding big payments to get back in. New data shows just how common and damaging the attacks have become.

The frequency of ransomware attacks — among the scariest and most costly online assaults — has been hard to pinpoint because many victims quietly pay off their attackers without notifying the authorities.

Now, an array of new data provides perhaps the best available picture of the problem. In 2019, 205,280 organizations submitted files that had been hacked in a ransomware attack — a 41 percent increase from the year before, according to information provided to The New York Times by Emsisoft, a security firm that helps companies hit by ransomware.

ny times logoNew York Times, Amazon Is Quietly Removing Books That Promote Nazis, David Streitfeld, Feb. 10, 2020 (print ed.). The retailer once said it would sell “the good, the bad and the ugly.” Now it is getting pulled into the free speech debates that have roiled social media sites.

george lincoln rockwellOver the past 18 months, the retailer has removed two books by David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, as well as several titles by George Lincoln Rockwell, left, the founder of the American Nazi Party. Amazon has also prohibited volumes like The Ruling Elite: The Zionist Seizure of World Power and A History of Central Banking and the Enslavement of Mankind.

While few may lament the disappearance of these hate-filled books, the increasing number of banished titles has set off concern among some of the third-party booksellers who stock Amazon’s vast virtual shelves. Amazon, they said, seems to operate under vague or nonexistent rules.

amazon logo small“Amazon reserves the right to determine whether content provides an acceptable experience,” said one recent removal notice that the company sent to a bookseller.

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have been roiled in recent years by controversies that pit freedom of speech against offensive content. Amazon has largely escaped this debate. But with millions of third-party merchants supplying much of what Amazon sells to tens of millions of customers, that ability to maintain a low profile may be reaching its end.

Amazon began as a bookstore and, even as it has moved on to many more lucrative projects, now controls at least two-thirds of the market for new, used and digital volumes in the United States. With its profusion of reader reviews, ability to cut prices without worrying about profitability and its control of the electronic book landscape, to name only three advantages, Amazon has immense power to shape what information people are consuming.

Yet the retailer declines to provide a list of prohibited books, say how they were chosen or even discuss the topic. “Booksellers make decisions every day about what selection of books they choose to offer,” it said in a statement.

Gregory Delzer is a Tennessee bookseller whose Amazon listings account for about a third of his sales. “They don’t tell us the rules and don’t let us have a say,” he said. “But they squeeze us for every penny.”

Nazi-themed items regularly crop up on Amazon, where they are removed under its policy on “offensive and controversial materials.” Those rules pointedly do not apply to books. Amazon merely says that books for sale on its site “should provide a positive customer experience.”

Now Amazon is becoming increasingly proactive in removing Nazi material. It even allowed its own Nazi-themed show, “The Man in the High Castle,” to be cleaned up for a tribute book. The series, which began in 2015 and concluded in November, is set in a parallel United States where the Germans and the Japanese won World War II.

Feb. 9

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, What Happens When QAnon Seeps From the Web to the Offline World, Mike McIntire and Kevin Roose, Feb. 9, 2020. A city council member in California took the dais and quoted from QAnon, a pro-Trump conspiracy theory about “deep state” traitors plotting against the president, concluding her remarks, “God bless Q.”

What began online more than two years ago as an intricate, if baseless, conspiracy theory that quickly attracted thousands of followers has since found footholds in the offline world. QAnon has surfaced in political campaigns, criminal cases, merchandising and at least one college class.

Last month, hundreds of QAnon enthusiasts gathered in a Tampa, Fla., park to listen to speakers and pick up literature, and in England, a supporter of President Trump and the Brexit leader Nigel Farage raised a “Q” flag over a Cornish castle.

The seepage of conspiracy theorizing from the digital fever swamps into life offline is one of the more unsettling developments of the Trump era, in which the president has relentlessly pushed groundless conspiracies to reshape political narratives to his liking.

In promoting fringe ideas about deep state schemes, Mr. Trump has at times elevated and encouraged QAnon followers — recirculating their posts on Twitter, posing with one for a photograph in the Oval Office, inviting some to a White House “social media summit.” Recently, during a daylong Twitter binge, Mr. Trump retweeted more than 20 posts from accounts that had trafficked in QAnon material.

QAnon began in October 2017, when a pseudonymous user of the online message board 4chan started writing cryptic posts under the name Q Clearance Patriot. The person claimed to be a high-ranking official privy to top-secret information from Mr. Trump’s inner circle. Over two years and more than 3,500 posts, Q — whose identity has never been determined — has unspooled a sprawling conspiracy narrative that claims, among other things, that Mr. Trump was recruited by the military to run for office in order to break up a global cabal of pedophiles, and that Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation would end with prominent Democrats’ being imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay.

The anonymous posts subsequently moved to 8chan, where they remained until August, when that site was taken offline after the El Paso mass shooting. They now live on 8kun, a new website built by 8chan’s owner.

Most recently, the botched Iowa Democratic caucuses and the coronavirus outbreak have provided fodder for conspiracy mongering: QAnon fans shared groundless theories online linking the liberal billionaire George Soros to technological problems that hobbled the caucuses, and passed around bogus and potentially dangerous “treatments” for the virus.

About a dozen candidates for public office in the United States have promoted or dabbled in QAnon, and its adherents have been arrested in at least seven episodes, including a murder in New York and an armed standoff with the police near the Hoover Dam. The F.B.I. cited QAnon in an intelligence bulletin last May about the potential for violence motivated by “fringe political conspiracy theories.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Joan Cusack and other performance pros weigh in on the Democratic debate, James Warren, Feb. 9, 2020. James james warren CustomWarren, right, a former managing editor of the Chicago Tribune, is executive editor of NewsGuard, which rates the credibility of news and information sites.

What did professional observers of performance think of Friday night’s debate in New Hampshire, an impressively sober, 2½-hour exchange?

It’s not an academic question. Just a few days before in his State of the Union address, President Trump demonstrated just how much of politics is theater — and how powerful it can sometimes be.

So it seemed like a good moment to change the lens and assess the Democrats as performers.

We asked a handful of experts who perform, teach performance or judge performers professionally, to give us their reactions. Our group included: Joan Cusack, two-time Academy Award-nominee; Chris Jones, theater critic of the Chicago Tribune; Kelly Leonard, executive vice president of the Second City improvisational comedy troupe; Anne Libera, director of comedy studies at Chicago’s Columbia College; Jon Maas, a Hollywood writer-producer; and Harvey Young, dean of the college of fine arts at Boston University.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. radio’s top player blames AI for layoffs. DJs say that’s spin, Drew Harwell, Feb. 9, 2020 (print ed.).The company that owns iHeartRadio and more than 850 local stations across the country has called AI the muscle it needs to fend off rivals.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Harvey Weinstein accuser Jessica Mann’s dramatic testimony is a new kind of test in sex-crime trials, Shayna Jacobs, Feb. 9, 2020. The actress's admitted consensual sexual relationship with Weinstein, both before and after the alleged assaults, makes her a traditionally imperfect witness.

Feb. 7

ny times logoNew York Times, Data Reveals Which Platforms Reported Surge in Child Pornography, Gabriel J.X. Dance and Michael H. Keller, Feb. 7, 2020. In a first, videos outnumbered photos in reports to the authorities last year. Facebook found the most imagery, the bulk of it on its Messenger app.Facebook found the bulk on its Messenger app, but while companies are getting better at finding such content, predators remain adept at exploiting their services.

facebook logoThe number of online photos and videos of child sexual abuse reported to the authorities grew by more than 50 percent last year, an indication that many of the world’s biggest technology platforms remain infested with the illegal material.

Nearly 70 million of the images and videos were reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a federally designated clearinghouse for the imagery that works with law enforcement agencies.

The record number was driven by a surge in illegal videos, which have always been popular among sexual predators but are now more readily detected by some companies. Over 41 million videos were reported; the number five years ago was under 350,000. The companies flagged many of the same images and videos multiple times as they were shared among users.

Miami Herald, Police report: Top aide to Miami’s mayor sent sexually graphic photo to teen’s phone, Charles Rabin, Joey Flechas and
David Ovalle, Feb. 5, 2020. On Feb. 7, Rene Pedrosa was arrested and charged with battery and transmitting pornography to a minor after police said he groped a teen in City Hall and later sent the teen a sexually explicit picture.

The report says Rene Pedrosa, 48, solicited some type of picture from the teen, who was familiar with Pedrosa. What exactly he solicited was redacted.

Pedrosa, the mayor’s spokesman and a former television reporter, resigned Tuesday after Mayor Francis Suarez said Pedrosa admitted he was being investigated for “personal misconduct.”

The list of offenses, according to the report, are sexual performance by a child, possession of pornography and soliciting a child via computer and transmission of material harmful to minors.

Pedrosa spent years as a television news reporter at América TeVé-Channel 41, a Spanish-language television station that covers news across Miami-Dade County. Pedrosa often covered stories in local government and the court system.

He joined the mayor’s staff in January 2019 as Suarez’s communications director. Pedrosa became a top adviser and spokesman for the mayor, known for pushing the mayor’s views in local media, especially on Spanish-language radio.

Feb. 6

glenn greenwald ap photo leo correa

In this July 10, 2019 file photo, U.S. journalist Glenn Greenwald checks his news website at his home in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A judge in Brasilia dismissed accusations that Glenn Greenwald was involved in hacking phones of Brazilian officials, following weeks of criticism that his prosecution would infringe on constitutional protections for journalists. (AP Photo / Leo Correa, File)

Associated Press, Brazil judge rejects hacking accusation against Greenwald, Mauricio Savarese and David Biller, Feb. 6, 2020. A judge in ap logoBrazil’s capital on Thursday dismissed accusations that journalist Glenn Greenwald was involved in hacking phones of officials, following weeks of criticism that his prosecution would infringe on constitutional protections for the press.

Prosecutors last month leveled accusations that Greenwald helped a group of six people hack into phones of hundreds of local authorities, saying his actions amounted to criminal association and illegal interception of communications.

Since last year, Greenwald’s online media outlet The Intercept Brasil has published a series of excerpts from private conversations on a messaging app involving current Justice Minister Sérgio Moro.

The attempt by prosecutors to criminalize Greenwald’s work had prompted swift backlash from national and foreign journalist associations, freedom of expression advocates and Brazil’s national bar association.

brazil flag wavingThose groups said prosecutors were abusing their power to persecute Greenwald, an attorney-turned-journalist who lives with his husband and children in Rio de Janeiro. Greenwald’s lawyers called the allegations “bizarre” and said they challenged a previous ruling in the case by the Brazilian Supreme Court protecting freedom of the press.

Thursday’s decision by the Brasilia-based judge, Ricardo Leite, invoked that earlier ruling by Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes, who barred investigations of Greenwald and The Intercept Brasil in relation to the alleged hacking.

“My feeling is that the decision of Justice Gilmar Mendes adopted a wide and extensive sense and it does include the interpretation of blocking any action of investigation by the state, both in the investigation phase and in the judicial one,” Leite wrote in his decision.

While rejecting the claims regarding Greenwald, Leite accepted those against the six alleged hackers, who will now face charges as defendants.

The journalist said in a statement that he welcomes “the fact that this investigation will not move forward,” but adds that he believes “this decision is insufficient to guarantee the rights of a free press.”

“We seek a decisive rejection from the Supreme Court of this abusive prosecution on the grounds that it is a clear and grave assault on core press freedoms. Anything less would leave open the possibility of further erosion of the fundamental freedom of the press against other journalists,” Greenwald said.

He said his news outlet would continue to publish reports based on material obtained from the source.

The Intercept also welcomed the ruling, with reservations.

“As federal police investigators affirmed last year, he did nothing wrong,” said Betsy Reed, The Intercept’s editor-in-chief. “However, the ruling is narrow and procedural, based on the injunction issued by a Supreme Court minister last year.”

The leaked excerpts published by The Intercept Brasil purport to show that Moro, then a judge, was improperly coordinating with prosecutors he was overseeing in a vast corruption investigation.

Feb. 5


bob woodward carl bernstein npc noel 10 20 14

Authors Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein at the National Press Club remember their iconic Watergate books (2014 file photo by Noel St. John.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Alice Mayhew, Who Edited a Who’s Who of Writers, Dies at 87, Anita Gates, Feb. 5, 2020 (print ed.). At Simon & Schuster, best sellers were her stock in trade. She popularized the nonfiction political page turner, starting with All the President’s Men.

Alice Mayhew, a widely admired editor who shepherded into print best sellers by a veritable who’s who of writers — along the way popularizing the Washington political narrative, beginning with All the President’s Men in 1974 — died on Tuesday at her home in Manhattan. alice mayhew 2007 david jacobs.jpgShe was 87.

The death was confirmed by Simon & Schuster, where she had been a vice president and editorial director.

All the President’s Men, the Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s account of how they uncovered the truth about the Watergate burglary and the subsequent White House effort to cover it up, became an immediate best seller and had a decided impact on American history. Published on June 15, 1974 (no advance copies had been provided, even for reviewers), it accelerated a growing public disapproval of President Richard M. Nixon’s actions and helped fuel a congressional drive toward impeachment that led to Nixon’s resignation 55 days later.

Ms. Mayhew (shown in a 2007 photo at right by David Jacobs) also worked with notable public figures, including President Jimmy Carter (A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety, 2015) and the Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (My Own Words, 2017).

The countless best sellers that Ms. Mayhew edited include John Dean’s Blind Ambition: The White House Years (1976); Taylor Branch’s Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years (1998); Walter Isaacson’s books, including Steve Jobs (2011) and Leonardo da Vinci (2017); David Brooks’s On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (and Always Have) in the Future Tense (2004), an examination of contemporary American society; Diane McWhorter’s Pulitzer Prize-winning civil rights history, Carry Me Home (2001); and the first volumes of Sidney Blumenthal’s political biography of Abraham Lincoln, beginning with A Self-Made Man (2016).

In 2014, when Simon & Schuster celebrated its 90th anniversary by having staff members vote for their 90 favorite titles over those years, almost one-third of the books (29) had been edited by Ms. Mayhew.

Mr. Woodward’s Fear: Trump in the White House (2018) was, as he noted in the acknowledgments, his 19th book with her.

Ms. Mayhew’s books occasionally dealt with the lighter side of political or popular culture. She edited Kitty Kelley’s gossipy biography Nancy Reagan (1991) and two memoirs by the fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg.

While Ms. Mayhew firmly avoided talking about herself, she was considerably more straightforward when discussing others.

In an interview with Len Colodny, co-author of Silent Coup: The Removal of a President, about Mr. Dean’s claim that his editors had told him to include false information in Blind Ambition (reissued in 2009), Ms. Mayhew said: “That’s a lie. L-I-E. That is spelled L-I-E.”

Feb. 4

Press Freedom

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (file photo)

Reporters Without Borders USA (RSF USA), UK: Banning of journalists from Downing Street press briefing latest worrying move by Boris Johnson’s new government, Staff report, Feb. 4, 2020. Today’s attempt by Downing Street to ban select journalists from a press briefing is the latest of a number of worrying steps taken by Boris Johnson’s new government that restrict press freedom.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for an immediate reversal of this alarming trend before the UK follows the US further down the World Press Freedom Index.

united kingdom flagOn February 3, political journalists walked out of a Downing Street press briefing en masse after an aide attempted to ban selected reporters from attending. The Prime Minister’s Director of Communications, Lee Cain, reportedly tried to prevent journalists from the Independent, the i, the Mirror, HuffPost, PoliticsHome, and others from covering the briefing, on the grounds that they had not been specifically invited. A handful of media had received invitations to a “No10 technical background briefing on the UK’s future relationship with the EU;” however, the journalists who had been invited walked out in protest to the barring of access for their colleagues.

Political journalists had recently complained about the change in location of daily press briefings from Parliament to Downing Street. Many feared this measure could be used to impose restrictions on which media were permitted access, and as highlighted in a letter signed by every national newspaper editor, otherwise “create barriers to covering democracy and impede the work of a free press.”

bbc news logo2In December, it was confirmed that the government was considering decriminalising non-payment of the licence fee that provides the majority of the BBC’s funding -- a step that could effectively defund the country’s foremost public service broadcaster. Reports also emerged that ministers have been banned from appearing on BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs programme, the Today Programme -- a move criticized as an attempt to “delegitimize” the broadcaster.

“Restrictions on journalists’ access and threats against public service media are nothing short of alarming, and are disturbingly reminiscent of early Trump administration moves in the US - practices that should be reversed, not replicated. We call on the Prime Minister to ensure that such steps are immediately ceased, and that this government is acting in line with the country’s obligations to protect and respect press freedom,” said RSF UK Bureau Director Rebecca Vincent.

The UK is ranked 33rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Social media was a cesspool of toxic Iowa conspiracy theories last night. It’s only going to get worse, Margaret margaret sullivan 2015 photoSullivan, Feb. 4, 2020. Dubious but noisy allegations of caucus-rigging could undermine faith in our democracy.

All credible reporting seemed to confirm the explanation that a technical snag, not a dirty trick, was to blame. But it didn’t matter. Iowa conspiracy theorists were already working overtime long before voters headed to their caucus sites Monday evening, thanks to another technical glitch that prompted the Des Moines Register to cancel the release of its vaunted Iowa Poll on Saturday night.

Supporters of Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang circulated the hashtag “#ReleaseThePoll,” claiming without evidence that it had been killed because their respective candidates did better than expected.

Feb. 3

washington post logoWashington Post, Rush Limbaugh says he has advanced lung cancer, will continue radio program while he undergoes treatment, Paul Farhi, Feb. 3, 2020. Rush Limbaugh, for decades the leading figure in conservative talk radio, said during his program on Monday that he has advanced lung cancer and will soon begin treatment.

Limbaugh, 69, gave few details about his condition other than a diagnosis from two doctors.

The radio icon said he sought a doctor’s opinion after experiencing shortness of breath on Jan. 12, his birthday.

“I thought about not telling anybody,” he said on the air from his home studio in West Palm Beach, Fla. “It is what it is. You know me, I’m the mayor of Realville. This has happened, and my intention is to come here every day I can and do this program as normally and competently and expertly as I do each and every day because that is the source of my greatest satisfaction professionally, personally.”

He added: “I’ve had so much support from family and friends during this that it’s been tremendous. I told the staff today that I have a deeply personal relationship with God that I do not proselytize about. But I do, and I have been working that relationship tremendously, which I do regularly anyway, but I’ve been focused on it intensely for the past couple of weeks.”

washington post logoWashington Post, The end comes for another local newspaper, 165 years after it began, Paul Farhi, Feb. 3, 2020 (print ed.). They’re closing up the office now, with its musty odor of moldering newsprint and decrepit bound copies stacked neck-high. On Thursday, the last Montgomery Sentinel rolled off a press, 165 years after its birth.

The newspaper once carried ads for slaves and chronicled the news from both the Civil War and the civil rights movement. It survived the Great Depression and muddled through the Great Recession. But the paper, with editions serving Maryland’s two largest counties, Montgomery and Prince George’s, couldn’t survive Facebook and Google and Instagram. And so now it is gone, the latest to fall in America’s vast newspaper famine.

The story has become humdrum, so routine that newspapers barely stir themselves to report on all the deaths in their family. The civic commemorations are brief, too, if they happen at all. The numbers are dry: More than 1 in 5 newspapers, mostly weeklies like the Sentinel, have dropped dead over the past 15 years.

Like all those papers, the Sentinel covered the local stuff, news of the community, just over the border from the nation’s capital. It wrote about county government (“Bike registration, stipends and zoning dominate meeting,” read last week’s headline), and once staffed all the other meaty beats: schools, politics, cops, courts.

The politicians and bureaucrats knew someone was watching — accountability journalism. Does Facebook do anything like that?

It wrote about people — the teachers, doctors, librarians and artists who lived down the street. When those people died, the obituaries helped everyone remember. Does Instagram do obits?

Feb. 2

U.S. TV / Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: For Better or Worse, Trump Will Get His Favorite Things on Super Bowl Sunday, Will Leitch, His pregame interview with Sean Hannity offers unfettered airtime in front of a huge national audience. This Sunday afternoon, before the San Francisco 49ers take on the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV, President Trump will speak with Sean Hannity on Fox, the network airing the Super Bowl. As you might suspect, this interview will be a much more insular enterprise. Mr. Trump speaks regularly with Mr. Hannity, who is seen as an informal but influential adviser, and Mr. Hannity has been in return a staunch, unyielding defender of the president.

It will mark the third time Mr. Trump will do the traditional interview before America’s annual television holiday; he spoke to Mr. O’Reilly in 2017, took 2018 off because the game was aired on NBC, and famously told Margaret Brennan of CBS that he wouldn’t allow his son Barron to play football because it’s “really tough” and “a dangerous sport.”

This year’s Super Bowl comes at an amazing moment, a confluence of political circumstances and events that give this particular bully pulpit a power and a spotlight it hasn’t had in years. With impeachment, the Iowa caucuses and the State of the Union all on deck, Mr. Trump will have a stage, and a famously pliant interviewer, that is unparalleled in American culture. He couldn’t ask for a more ideal year for it to be Fox’s turn to air the game.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘S.N.L.’ Imagines the Impeachment Trial That Could Have Been, Dave Itzkoff, Feb. 2, 2020. On Super Bowl weekend, Alec Baldwin returned to play President Trump in an episode that also featured several football-themed sketches. If you ended the week hoping that President Trump’s impeachment trial would go on longer, this weekend’s opening “Saturday Night Live” sketch imagined just such a scenario: a parade of self-serving witnesses that wasn’t necessarily an improvement.

This week’s episode, hosted by J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans and featuring the musical guest Luke Combs, began with a voice-over lamenting that the president’s trial “wound up consisting of two weeks of dry debate and posturing, and will conclude without any witness testimony or new evidence.” Instead, the sketch promised “the trial you wish had happened.”

#MeToo Scandals

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Angels’ in Hell: The Culture of Misogyny Inside Victoria’s Secret, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Katherine Rosman, Sapna Maheshwari and James B. Stewart, Feb. 2, 2020 (print ed.). Victoria’s Secret defined femininity for millions of women. Its catalog and fashion shows were popular touchstones. For models, landing a spot as an “Angel” all but guaranteed international stardom.

But inside the company, two powerful men presided over an entrenched culture of misogyny, bullying and harassment, according to interviews with more than 30 current and former executives, employees, contractors and models, as well as court filings and other documents.

edward razekEd Razek, right, for decades one of the top executives at L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, was the subject of repeated complaints about inappropriate conduct. He tried to kiss models. He asked them to sit on his lap. He touched one’s crotch ahead of the 2018 Victoria’s Secret fashion show.

Executives said they had alerted Leslie Wexner, the billionaire founder and chief executive of L Brands, about his deputy’s pattern of behavior. Some women who complained faced retaliation. One model, Andi Muise, said Victoria’s Secret had stopped hiring her victorias secret logofor its fashion shows after she rebuffed Mr. Razek’s advances.

A number of the brand’s models agreed to pose nude, often without being paid, for a prominent Victoria’s Secret photographer who later used some pictures in an expensive coffee-table book — an arrangement that made L Brands executives uncomfortable about women feeling pressured to take their clothes off.

The atmosphere was set at the top. Mr. Razek, the chief marketing officer, was perceived as Mr. Wexner’s proxy, leaving many employees with the impression he was invincible, according to current and former employees. On multiple occasions, Mr. Wexner himself was heard demeaning women.

Feb. 1

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter bans Zero Hedge account after it doxxed a Chinese researcher over coronavirus, Derek Hawkins, Feb. 1, 2020. Twitter on Friday permanently suspended the right-leaning finance blog Zero Hedge after it published a conspiracy theory suggesting that a Chinese scientist might be responsible for the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

twitter bird CustomA Twitter spokesperson did not comment on what specifically prompted the suspension, saying only that Zero Hedge was removed for violating the social media giant’s platform manipulation policy. Twitter defines platform manipulation as “using Twitter to engage in bulk, aggressive, or deceptive activity that misleads others and/or disrupts their experience.”

But Zero Hedge’s founder, who uses the pseudonym Tyler Durden, wrote in a Friday afternoon post that he received a notice from Twitter saying he violated the platform’s rules against abuse and targeted harassment.

“It is news to us that this website has (ever) ‘engaged in the targeted harassment of someone,' ” Durden wrote.


Jan. 31

Associated Press, Anne Cox Chambers, wealthy newspaper heiress, dies at 100, Jeff Martin, Jan. 31, 2020. Anne Cox Chambers, a newspaper heiress, diplomat and philanthropist who was one of the country’s richest women, has died at the age of 100.

Her nephew James Cox Kennedy announced her death to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, her company’s flagship newspaper.

Chambers, a director of Cox Enterprises Inc., promoted Jimmy Carter’s political career and served as U.S. ambassador to Belgium during his presidency. Forbes estimated her net worth several years ago at nearly $17 billion. She was well known for her charitable giving, and served on the boards of the Atlanta Arts Alliance and the High Museum of Art among other institutions.

She was the daughter of James Middleton Cox, the 1920 Democratic presidential candidate and founder of Cox Enterprises Inc. The privately held company has included The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other newspapers, radio and TV stations, cable TV systems and other businesses.

Chambers and her mother and siblings inherited the company when the senior Cox died in 1957.

While most of her wealthy friends were Republicans, she remained a staunch Democrat. At 89, she even knocked on doors for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, the newspaper reported.

“I just don’t discuss politics with my friends. No use having fights,” she once told Vanity Fair magazine.

“Both of my parents were extremely caring people, so that I think growing up, well, there was the fact of feeling responsible,” she said. “My father’s rich friends would complain about paying taxes, but he used to say it was a privilege to pay taxes. In Russia, you’d never make enough money to pay those taxes.”

Jan. 30

Media News

julian assange npc event jan 30 2020 Custom

@Action_4Assange, an advocacy group for the civil rights of imprisoned WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange, sponosored a panel discussion on Jan. 30, 2020 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The discussion is available via YouTube

. In related news, see a news report below based on a United Nations finding.


Courage Foundation video YouTube,

.be" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Prosecution of Julian Assange and Its Impact on the Freedom of the Press, expert panel appearing at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, Jan. 30, 2020, published on Jan. 31 and filmed by Taylor Hudak‏ of @Action_4Assange (70:04 mins).

WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange has been indicted on 17 counts of Espionage and 1 count of conspiracy to commit computer crime for WikiLeaks' 2010 publications of the Iraq War Logs, the Afghan War Diary, and State Department cables leaked to WikiLeaks by US Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

On Jan. 30, 2020, these legal and academic experts discussed the impact of Assange's prosecution on the freedom of the press, at the National Press Club's First Amendment Lounge in Washington DC.


  • Jameel Jaffer, Director, Knight First Amendment Institute
  • Amy Jeffress, Attorney, former US Department of Justice
  • Ben Wizner, Director, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project

Moderator: Mary-Rose Papandrea, Constitutional Law Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The Courage Foundation supports whistleblowers and the public's right to know. Courage hosts Julian Assange's defense site at, UN rapporteur: Assange being set up to be ‘burnt at the stake,’ Nils Melzer, Jan. 31, 2020. The detention and potential extradition to the US of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is an attack on democratic principles and the freedom of the press, says the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture.

In an interview with news outlet Republikexternal link, Melzer delivered a damning indictment of the legal and political systems in the United States, Britain, Sweden and Ecuador.

“It is obvious that what we are dealing with here is political persecution,” he said. “The case is a huge scandal and represents the failure of Western rule of law.”

Assange is currently in a high-security prison in Britain fighting extradition to the US. In 2010 the whistleblowing website Wikileaks published material from former intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning of alleged US war crimes in Iraq.

Melzer got involved in the case last year but was dissatisfied with answers to his enquiries to the Swedish and British authorities. He has visited Assange in jail and says that the 48-year-old is being denied legal rights and is being subject to psychological torture that could cost him his life.

Melzer, who has previously criticised the Swiss government’s stance towards Assange, tells Republik that he has documentary evidence that Swedish police made up evidence to accuse Assange with rape, an investigation that was subsequently dropped.

“Four democratic countries joined forces – the US, Ecuador, Sweden and the UK – to leverage their power to portray one man as a monster so that he could later be burnt at the stake without any outcry. If Julian Assange is convicted, it will be a death sentence for freedom of the press,” Melzer said.

Assange is wanted for trial in the US to face several charges, including breaches of the Espionage Act. He continues to divide public opinion, with some accusing him of being a dangerous narcissist who endangers lives and others believing him to be a defender of democratic freedoms.

Jan. 29

mary louise kelly john bolton cnn files

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Pompeo Called Me a ‘Liar.’ That’s Not What Bothers Me, Mary Louise Kelly (co-host of NPR’s “All Things Considered”), Jan. 29, 2020. Journalists are supposed to ask tough questions, then share the answers — or lack thereof — with the world.

I write about all this now to refocus attention on the substance of the interviews, which has been overshadowed by Mr. Pompeo’s subsequently swearing at me, calling me a liar and challenging me to find Ukraine on an unmarked map.

For the record, I did. That’s not the point. The point is that recently the risk of miscalculation — of two old adversaries misreading each other and accidentally escalating into armed confrontation — has felt very real. It occurs to me that swapping insults through interviews with journalists such as me might, terrifyingly, be as close as the top diplomats of the United States and Iran came to communicating this month.

Rolling Stone, QAnon YouTubers Are Telling People to Drink Bleach to Ward Off Coronavirus, EJ Dickson, Jan. 29, 2020. Dangerous advice is spreading on YouTube and Twitter, despite efforts to stop it. 

As coronavirus spreads across the globe — with Chinese authorities confirming nearly 6,000 cases and 132 people dead as of Wednesday — the reaction on social media in particular has largely been marked by fear and panic. For some conspiracy theorists, however, it has also served as a prime opportunity to spread misinformation and baseless rumors about the disease — some of which are potentially extremely dangerous.

One terrifying example? QAnon supporters are encouraging people to drink MMS — or Miracle Mineral Solution, a bleaching agent that has been touted as a “miracle cure” by anti-vaxxers and other fringe groups — to ward off coronavirus. And despite restrictions on such content on platforms like YouTube, it is nonetheless fairly easy to find.

According to the Daily Beast, proponents of QAnon — the elaborate conspiracy theory purporting that President Donald Trump is waging a secret war against a ring of Democratic child sexual abusers — have been promoting MMS as a “cure” for coronavirus on Twitter, particularly the MMS-branded “20-20-20 spray,” with one account alleging it “kills viruses instantly.” Another prominent conspiracy theorist tweeted, “#coronavirus is a depopulation program,” recommending colloidal silver (a supplement that, if taken in large amounts, can result in discoloration of the skin and nails, or kidney damage) and MMS to ward off the disease.

Jan. 27

Reporters Facing Threats julian assange and swedens politically appointed judges indicter graphic

WikiLeaks Editor Julian Assange (graphic by The Indicter Magazine and Swedish Doctors for Human Rights).

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Reporters Face New Threats From the Governments They Cover, James Risen (right, a former reporter for The Times and james risen h ssenior national security correspondent for The Intercept), Jan. 27, 2020 (print ed.). The cases against Julian Assange and Glenn Greenwald may be models for a crackdown.

When Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, was charged last year by the Trump administration in connection with the publication of secret United States government documents nearly a decade earlier, many journalists expressed deep concern about the dangerous precedent the case could set for investigative reporting in America.

But few seemed to consider that the case might also serve as a model for other nations eager to clamp down on press freedom.

glenn greenwald hsOn Tuesday, Glenn Greenwald, left, an American journalist living and working in Brazil, was charged, in a criminal complaint brought by Brazilian prosecutors, with cybercrimes in connection with his stories on private messages among Brazilian officials that revealed corruption and abuses at the highest levels of the government. Brazilian prosecutors asserted that Mr. Greenwald was part of a criminal organization that hacked the cellphones of government officials. He has denied the charges. (Full disclosure: Mr. Greenwald is a co-founder of The Intercept, where I work as a reporter; I also run the First Look Press Freedom Defense Fund, part of the nonprofit organization that includes The Intercept.)

The case against Mr. Greenwald is eerily similar to the Trump administration’s case against Mr. Assange. Last April, the Justice Department charged Mr. Assange with aiding a source, the former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, to gain access to a United States military computer database. In May 2019, the charges against him were broadened, and he was indicted under the Espionage Act in connection with the publication of American military and diplomatic documents by WikiLeaks.

Both cases are based in part on a new prosecutorial concept — that journalism can be proved to be a crime through a focus on interactions between reporters and their sources. Prosecutors are now scrutinizing the processes by which sources obtain classified or private information and then provide it to journalists. Since those interactions today are largely electronic, prosecutors are seeking to criminalize journalism by turning to anti-hacking laws to implicate reporters in the purported criminal activity of their sources in gaining access to data on computers or cellphones without authorization.

This blunt approach gives the government enormous leverage over journalists and, in the United States, provides them with a detour around First Amendment concerns. If these cases become templates that prosecutors in the United States and other nations follow, virtually every investigative reporter will become vulnerable to criminal charges and imprisonment.

jair bolsonaro brazilBoth the Trump administration and the right-wing Brazilian government of President Jair Bolsonaro, right, seem to have decided to experiment with such draconian anti-press tactics by trying them out first on aggressive and disagreeable figures.

In fact, by the time of his indictment last year, there was still an ongoing debate within the media about whether Mr. Assange should even be considered a journalist at all.

Mr. Assange was both a publisher and an intermediary between sources and reporters, which made it difficult to define his journalistic role. His later involvement in the Trump-Russia case — in 2016, WikiLeaks obtained and released emails and other documents from the Clinton presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee from a hacker believed to be a front for Russian intelligence — transformed Mr. Assange into an even more incendiary character with little public support. (The federal charges against Mr. Assange are not related to his involvement in the 2016 campaign.)

It will be tragic if journalists shrug off the attack on the contrarian Mr. Greenwald and don’t see his case for what it truly signifies — that Trump-like attacks on the press are spreading like a virus around the globe.

mary louise kelly john bolton cnn files

washington post logoWashington Post, Emails support NPR host after Mike Pompeo calls her a liar in setting up contentious interview, Paul Farhi, Jan. 27, 2020 (print ed.). They indicate that the secretary of state’s press aide was aware that Mary Louise Kelly intended to ask him about several topics and the aide raised no objections, contrary to Pompeo’s characterization.

Pompeo’s statement implied that Kelly (shown above with Pompeo via separate file photos via CNN) had agreed before the interview to confine her questions to developments in Iran and that he would not be asked about other subjects. He made the same claim during the interview but Kelly pushed back, telling him she’d worked out a different arrangement with his staff.

But emails between Kelly and Pompeo’s press aide, Katie Martin, a day before the interview show that there was no such agreement and that Kelly made clear her intention to question Pompeo about other topics.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Post’s misguided suspension of Felicia Sonmez over Kobe Bryant tweets, Erik Wemple, Jan. 27, 2020.
The Post has suspended reporter Felicia Sonmez following her social-media activity over the death of NBA great Kobe Bryant. Here’s the explanation from Managing Editor Tracy Grant: “National political reporter Felicia Sonmez was placed on administrative leave while The Post reviews whether tweets about the death of Kobe Bryant violated The Post newsroom’s social media policy. The tweets displayed poor judgment that undermined the work of her colleagues.”

What did Sonmez do to deserve this brushback? She tweeted out a very good story from the Daily Beast.

News of Bryant’s death on Sunday prompted an immediate and overwhelming expression of grief on Twitter, with fans and followers praising an NBA icon. The perennial all-star perished in a helicopter crash along with eight other people, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. Sonmez wished to remind everyone of one incident in Bryant’s life.

An immediate and overwhelming expression of anger piled on Sonmez from Twitter users. Sonmez had directed her followers to this April 2016 story in the Daily Beast by Marlow Stern. Written at the time of Bryant’s farewell tour through NBA cities, the story takes a deep look at the sexual-assault allegation against Bryant stemming from his 2003 visit to Colorado’s Lodge & Spa at Cordillera. The case never made it to trial because the 19-year-old accuser — “who had been dragged through the mud for months by the media and Bryant’s defense team,” wrote Stern — declined to testify. She did, however, file a separate civil complaint, which Bryant settled.

Jan. 26

Reporters Facing Threats julian assange and swedens politically appointed judges indicter graphic

WikiLeaks Editor Julian Assange (graphic by The Indicter Magazine and Swedish Doctors for Human Rights).

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Reporters Face New Threats From the Governments They Cover, James Risen (right, a former reporter for The Times and james risen h ssenior national security correspondent for The Intercept), Jan. 26, 2020. The cases against Julian Assange and Glenn Greenwald may be models for a crackdown.

When Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, was charged last year by the Trump administration in connection with the publication of secret United States government documents nearly a decade earlier, many journalists expressed deep concern about the dangerous precedent the case could set for investigative reporting in America.

But few seemed to consider that the case might also serve as a model for other nations eager to clamp down on press freedom.

glenn greenwald hsOn Tuesday, Glenn Greenwald, left, an American journalist living and working in Brazil, was charged, in a criminal complaint brought by Brazilian prosecutors, with cybercrimes in connection with his stories on private messages among Brazilian officials that revealed corruption and abuses at the highest levels of the government. Brazilian prosecutors asserted that Mr. Greenwald was part of a criminal organization that hacked the cellphones of government officials. He has denied the charges. (Full disclosure: Mr. Greenwald is a co-founder of The Intercept, where I work as a reporter; I also run the First Look Press Freedom Defense Fund, part of the nonprofit organization that includes The Intercept.)

The case against Mr. Greenwald is eerily similar to the Trump administration’s case against Mr. Assange. Last April, the Justice Department charged Mr. Assange with aiding a source, the former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, to gain access to a United States military computer database. In May 2019, the charges against him were broadened, and he was indicted under the Espionage Act in connection with the publication of American military and diplomatic documents by WikiLeaks.

Both cases are based in part on a new prosecutorial concept — that journalism can be proved to be a crime through a focus on interactions between reporters and their sources. Prosecutors are now scrutinizing the processes by which sources obtain classified or private information and then provide it to journalists. Since those interactions today are largely electronic, prosecutors are seeking to criminalize journalism by turning to anti-hacking laws to implicate reporters in the purported criminal activity of their sources in gaining access to data on computers or cellphones without authorization.

This blunt approach gives the government enormous leverage over journalists and, in the United States, provides them with a detour around First Amendment concerns. If these cases become templates that prosecutors in the United States and other nations follow, virtually every investigative reporter will become vulnerable to criminal charges and imprisonment.

jair bolsonaro brazilBoth the Trump administration and the right-wing Brazilian government of President Jair Bolsonaro, right, seem to have decided to experiment with such draconian anti-press tactics by trying them out first on aggressive and disagreeable figures.

In fact, by the time of his indictment last year, there was still an ongoing debate within the media about whether Mr. Assange should even be considered a journalist at all.

Mr. Assange was both a publisher and an intermediary between sources and reporters, which made it difficult to define his journalistic role. His later involvement in the Trump-Russia case — in 2016, WikiLeaks obtained and released emails and other documents from the Clinton presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee from a hacker believed to be a front for Russian intelligence — transformed Mr. Assange into an even more incendiary character with little public support. (The federal charges against Mr. Assange are not related to his involvement in the 2016 campaign.)

It will be tragic if journalists shrug off the attack on the contrarian Mr. Greenwald and don’t see his case for what it truly signifies — that Trump-like attacks on the press are spreading like a virus around the globe.

glenn greenwald david miranda

Glenn Greenwald is show at right with his partner David Miranda.

Jan. 25

washington post logoWashington Post, Sanders supporters have weaponized Facebook to spread angry memes about his Democratic rivals, Craig Timberg and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Jan. 25, 2020 (print ed.). Users are using mass-posting technologies to flood Facebook with attacks on Elizabeth Warren and others.

A Democrat in Michigan scrolled through a surge of nasty Facebook memes about Sen. Elizabeth Warren last week before fixing on one that captured his growing dislike of the candidate. It depicted her smiling face as a mask. Behind it was Hillary Clinton.

facebook logoMatt Walters, 64, a retired factory worker and supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), shared the image onward to eight Facebook groups and tens of thousands of potential eyeballs with a few taps on his smartphone — using a popular new mass-posting technique that allows ordinary Americans to operate with rapid-fire speed reminiscent of Russian bots and trolls in 2016.

In that small way, Walters contributed to a massive wave of hostile memes about Sanders’s Democratic rivals that both reflects the rising divisiveness in the party’s nominating contest and, in the view of social media experts, exacerbates it.

The volume and viciousness of the memes — portraying Warren (D-Mass.) as a snake, a backstabber and a liar — reflect how Facebook identifies and rewards emotionally charged content to generate reactions from its billions of users. That serves the company’s ad-driven business model, which equates engagement with profit. But it also, in the view of experts who study Facebook’s effect on political speech, distorts democratic debate by confirming biases, sharpening divisions and elevating the glib visual logic of memes over reasoned discussion.

Facebook’s “algorithm not only aggregates people, it activates people in a way that accentuates extremism,” said George Washington University professor Steven Livingston, director of the university’s Institute for Data, Democracy and Politics. “It inflames passions. It inflames the nature of the discourse.”

Jan. 24

Press Freedom

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Open Letter to Brazilian Authorities on the Charges Against Journalist Glenn Greenwald, Jan. 24, 2020. A coalition of around 40 human rights and free speech NGOs have signed an open letter, organized by Freedom of the Press Foundation and Reporters Without Borders, addressed to the Brazilian authorities condemning the charges that the Brazilian federal prosecutor’s office has brought against US journalist Glenn Greenwald (shown below in a file screenshot).

glenn greenwald cnnThe charges must be now be examined by a federal judge, who could dismiss them and thereby preserve press freedom in Brazil. The NGOs firmly condemn the intimidatory nature of such judicial procedures, which are designed to intimidate other journalists. The letter to Brazilian authorities:

We, the undersigned press freedom and civil liberties organizations, emphatically condemn the Brazilian authorities’ criminal charges against the award-winning investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald.

These charges represent a straightforward attempt to intimidate and retaliate against Greenwald and The Intercept for their critical reporting on messages that appeared to show a judge advising federal prosecutors how to prosecute cases he was presiding over in the “Operation Car Wash” investigation. Further, by charging Greenwald with a cybercrime the government has essentially criminalized engaging in legitimate journalistic practices, which threatens to have a chilling effect on journalists and sources alike.

brazil flag wavingThe recently disclosed charges are only the most recent development in a campaign of harassment against journalists covering the scandal. Threats against them have been documented since last June, when The Intercept began publishing a series of important public interest stories based on a cache of leaked Telegram messages between public officials.

A coalition of 29 free speech and human rights organizations penned a letter in July 2019 to denounce these threats.1 Then, as now, the implications affect not just Greenwald and his colleagues, but the broader free press in Brazil, including both domestic and international media.

The attacks on Greenwald and The Intercept have included specific death threats, public disinformation, and a criminal prosecution. Notably, in August 2019, in a remarkable opinion by a member of Brazil’s highest court ordered any police investigation into Greenwald halted and condemned any such efforts as “an unambiguous act of censorship” in violation of the country’s constitution.

The right of journalists to report on primary source materials documenting official malfeasance is a critically important press freedom issue. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office has abused its power by charging Greenwald for doing just that — despite a federal police conclusion just last month that there was no evidence that Greenwald committed any crime in relation to the leaked messages.

Given the Supreme Court injunction and that federal police conclusion, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office’s position that Greenwald conspired to commit a crime with his anonymous source is unjustifiable.

These charges await approval from a federal judge, giving the courts the opportunity to reject them and protect freedom of the press. Even so, the chilling effect of such legal intimidation remains. If these tactics are allowed to stand, it would jeopardize all Brazilians’ freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom to participate in democracy.

Media / People / Privacy

ny times logoNew York Times, Jeff Bezos, Tabloid Man, Karen Weise, Jan. 24, 2020 (print ed.). Just a year ago, the world’s richest man seemed to have a pretty low-key life. Times sure have changed.

At the beginning of 2019, Mr. Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, was widely regarded as a low-key guy — or at least about as low-key as the world’s richest man, and one of the country’s top executives, could be. He’d geek out over “Star Trek” and he publicly joked that washing dishes every night was “the sexiest thing I do.”

That image exploded by the end of January, when The National Enquirer reported about his affair with Lauren Sanchez, a former TV personality, including contents of intimate text messages between the two. After the Enquirer reporting, Mr. Bezos said he had opened up an investigation into how the paper acquired the messages, hinting that Saudi Arabia may have been involved because of his ownership of The Washington Post.

This week, the United Nations released a statement, based largely on a forensic report commissioned by Mr. Bezos’ investigators, that essentially accused Saudi Arabia’s crown prince of hacking Mr. Bezos’ phone to spy on him. The Saudi government called the claims “absurd.”

The report did not provide evidence that hacked material ended up in The Enquirer. But it did provide a potent reminder of how much has changed in a year. Mr. Bezos had become a tabloid fixture, with yacht appearances, evening strolls and romantic dinners captured in detail.

  • New York Times, Opinion: Jeff Bezos’s Phone Hack Should Terrify Everyone, Charlie Warzel, Jan. 24, 2020 (print ed.).

Jan. 23

ny times logoNew York Times, Jim Lehrer, Longtime PBS News Anchor, Is Dead at 85, Robert D. McFadden, Jan. 23, 2020. For 36 years, mostly teaming with Robert MacNeil, he offered an alternative to network evening news programs with in-depth reporting, interviews and news analysis.

jim lehrer 2007Jim Lehrer, the retired PBS anchorman who for 36 years gave public television viewers a substantive alternative to network evening news programs with in-depth reporting, interviews and analysis of world and national affairs, died on Thursday at his home in Washington. He was 85.

While best known for his anchor work, which he shared for two decades with his colleague Robert MacNeil, Mr. Lehrer (shown at right in a 2007 file photo) moderated a dozen presidential debates and was the author of more than a score of novels, which often drew on his reporting experiences. He also wrote four plays and three memoirs.

A low-key, courtly Texan who worked on Dallas newspapers in the 1960s and began his PBS career in the 1970s, Mr. Lehrer saw himself as “a print/word person at heart” and his program as a kind of newspaper for television, with high regard for balanced and objective reporting. He was an oasis of civility in a news media that thrived on excited headlines, gotcha questions and noisy confrontations.

Mr. Lehrer co-anchored a single-topic, half-hour PBS news program with Mr. MacNeil from its inception in 1975 to 1983, when it was expanded into the multitopic “MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.” It ran until Mr. MacNeil retired in 1995. The renamed “NewsHour With Jim Lehrer” continued until 2009, when he reduced his appearances to two and then to one a week until his own retirement in 2011

Jan. 21

Press Freedom: Brazil

glenn greenwald cnn

Axios, Brazil charges American journalist Glenn Greenwald with cybercrimes, Rashaan Ayesh, Jan. 21, 2020.  Brazilian prosecutors charged American journalist Glenn Greenwald (shown above in a file screenshot) with cybercrimes on Tuesday for allegedly spreading cellphone messages "that have embarrassed prosecutors and tarnished the image of an anti-corruption task force," the New York Times reports.

The big picture: Greenwald, who is best known for publishing leaked documents from Edward Snowden about U.S. domestic surveillance, is a co-founder of The Intercept Brazil. The publication has faced attacks from far-right President Jair Bolsonaro after publishing leaked messages about a task force that prosecuted high-profile political figures, including former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Prosecutors allege that Greenwald did more than just receive the leaked messages and played a “clear role in facilitating the commission of a crime," per the Times.

brazil flag wavingGreenwald lives in Brazil and is married to Brazilian politician David Miranda, who lost a bid for a Brazilian congressional seat and has labeled himself as the "antithesis of Bolsonaro."

What he's saying: In a statement to The Daily Beast, Greenwald said: "The Bolsonaro government and the movement that supports it has made repeatedly clear that it does not believe in basic press freedoms—from Bolsonaro's threats against Folha to his attacks on journalists that have incited violence to Sergio Moro’s threats from the start to classify us as ‘allies of the hackers’ for revealing his corruption."

“Less than two months ago, the Federal Police, examining all the same evidence cited by the Public Ministry, stated explicitly that not only have I never committed any crime but that I exercised extreme caution as a journalist never even to get close to any participation,” he continued. “Even the Federal Police under Minister Moro's command said what is clear to any rational person: I did nothing more than do my job as a journalist—ethically and within the law.”

“This denunciation — brought by the same prosecutor who just tried and failed to criminally prosecute the head of the Brazilian Bar Association for criticizing Minister Moro — is an obvious attempt to attack a free press in retaliation for the revelations we reported about Minister Moro and the Bolsonaro government."

Press Freedom: Canada

Consortium News, Commentary: Consortium News has sent libel notices to a Canadian spy agency and major broadcaster after their reports said CN is part of a Russian-directed propaganda campaign targeting Canadian leaders, Joe Lauria, Jan. 21, 2020. Consortium News has sent libel notices to the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Canada’s version of the U.S. National Security Agency, and to a major Canadian television network, Global News, for a report that said Consortium News was “part of a cyber-influence campaign directed by Russia.”

canadian flagBased on a CSE leak of a secret document, Global News’ website said in a Dec. 10, 2019 article entitled, “‘Canadian eyes only’ intelligence reports say Canadian leaders attacked in cyber campaigns,” that Consortium News led this campaign. “The first attack was a February 2017 report in the ‘online Consortium News’ followed ‘in quick succession’ by pro-Russian English language and Russian-language online media, the CSE report says,” according to Global News.

A caption on the Global News site under a screenshot of the Feb. 27, 2017 Consortium News article reads: “A CSE report says Consortium News was part of an attack from Russia on Chrystia Freeland’s reputation.” Freeland was the then Canadian foreign minister and is now deputy prime minister.

The libel notices were sent by a Toronto law firm on behalf of Consortium News, which seeks a retraction of all mention of Consortium News and an apology. CN is making a formal Access to Information Act request (Canada’s Freedom of Information Act) to obtain a copy of the CSE report. Part of the CSE report, classified “SECRET CEO,” CEO meaning Canadian Eyes Only, was broadcast by Global News.

The Feb. 27, 2017 Consortium News article, written by journalist Arina Tuskanova exclusively for CN, was titled “A Nazi Skeleton in the Family Closet.” It reveals that Freeland had lied about her grandfather’s past as an editor of a Nazi newspaper in occupied Poland during the war.

Jan. 19

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, The Senate put limits on impeachment trial coverage. Even C-SPAN is annoyed, Michael M. Grynbaum, Jan. 19, 2020. The Senate will control the cameras during the impeachment trial, limiting what viewers see, and reporters will be confined to roped-off areas.

Journalists are up in arms about new restrictions on their movement inside the Capitol, which they say will prevent them from easily interviewing lawmakers about the proceedings. The rules, negotiated by Republican Senate leadership, have yet to be written down, causing confusion among reporters and the Capitol Police expected to enforce them.

Even sedate C-SPAN is aggrieved, calling on the Senate to allow its television crews to document the trial, instead of the government-controlled cameras that — as was the case during Bill Clinton’s trial 21 years ago — will limit what viewers see and hear inside the Senate chamber.

Hurling insults at journalists is standard fare for officials at the White House. But Congress, with its protocols and rituals, was considered a relatively safe space for reporters, where cordiality was prized.

The pretrial tensions suggest that the bash-the-press mentality that led the White House to kill off the daily briefing and strip reporters of their credentials has now crept into what senators like to call “the world’s greatest deliberative body.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: Will The Chicago Tribune Be the Next Newspaper Picked to the Bone? David Jackson and Gary Marx (investigative reporters at the Chicago Tribune), Jan. 19, 2020. Journalists worry that a New York hedge fund with a big stake in the paper will impose draconian cuts, as it has elsewhere.

We are investigative reporters in a great American city infamous for its corruption and murders.

chicago tribune hqIn recent years, we and our colleagues have exposed rapes and assaults inside nursing homes, deadly hazards in children’s toys, the staggering prevalence of sexual violence in Chicago’s public schools, grievous failure in America’s extradition system, mercury in store-bought tuna fish, prostitution schemes in residential treatment centers for foster children and rampant corruption at the highest levels of Illinois government.

Spurred by this reporting, federal, state and local legislators have changed laws in ways that have made people safer and our notoriously crooked government a little cleaner.

alden global capital logoBut now that type of journalism faces an urgent threat.

The hedge fund Alden Global Capital in November acquired 32 percent of Tribune Publishing Company shares, becoming the largest shareholder, and it is angling for control of the company. Tribune Publishing includes not only The Chicago Tribune — the largest daily newspaper in Illinois — but also The Daily News of New York, The Baltimore Sun, The Hartford Courant, The Orlando Sentinel, The Sun-Sentinel of South Florida, The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Va., and The Capital Gazette of Annapolis, Md.

Alden’s strategy of acquiring struggling local newsrooms and stripping them of assets has built the personal wealth of the hedge fund’s investors. But Alden has imposed draconian staff cuts that decimated The Denver Post and other once-proud newspapers that have been vital to their communities and to American democracy. Those newsrooms, which put a spotlight on local political corruption, have served as forums for community voices and have driven the coverage of regional television, radio and online outlets.

In a signal of what may happen in Chicago, on Jan. 13, we and other newsroom staff members were offered buyouts. Now, we are bracing for the sight of colleagues with decades of experience walking out with cardboard boxes in their arms and tears streaming down their faces.

The Chicago Tribune was founded in 1847, and ever since it has played an outsize role in the national conversation. It supported the presidential candidacy of Abraham Lincoln, a subscriber. Even its pratfalls, like the “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline of 1948, are the stuff of legend.

The Tribune has won 27 Pulitzer Prizes, and the other newspapers in our chain have claimed 37 more.

Among those awards was a special citation last year to The Capital Gazette, where a gunman in 2018 killed four journalists and another employee — the most deadly attack on journalists in United States history. The Pulitzer Prize Board cited the newspaper staff “for demonstrating unflagging commitment to covering the news and serving their community at a time of unspeakable grief.”

The courage displayed by the Capital Gazette symbolizes the importance of regional and local newsrooms as part of a vital free press.

Editor's note: The Justice Integrity Project's editor earned his first money in journalism as a stringer for the Chicago Tribune and worked 14 years as a reporter and editor for the chain's Hartford Courant, later authoring the book Spiked: How Chain Management Corrupted America's Oldest Newspaper, which served as a case study for how news outlets were being gutted by extreme profit-seeking by conglomerates acquiring media properties.

Jan. 18

Media / Propaganda

national archives womens march blurred Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, National Archives exhibit blurs signs in Women’s March image critical of Trump, Jan. 18, 2020 (print ed.). The large color photograph that greets visitors to a National Archives exhibit celebrating the centennial of women’s suffrage shows a massive crowd filling Pennsylvania Avenue NW for the Women’s March on Jan. 21, 2017, the day after President Trump’s inauguration.

The 49-by-69-inch photograph is a powerful display. Viewed from one perspective, it shows the 2017 march. Viewed from another angle, it shifts national archivesto show a 1913 black-and-white image of a women’s suffrage march also on Pennsylvania Avenue. The display links momentous demonstrations for women’s rights more than a century apart on the same stretch of pavement.

But a closer look reveals a different story.

The Archives, right, acknowledged in a statement this week that it made multiple alterations to the photo of the 2017 Women’s March showcased at the museum, blurring signs held by marchers that were critical of Trump. Words on signs that referenced women’s anatomy were also blurred.

Privacy, Civil Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, The Secretive Company That Might End Privacy as We Know It, Kashmir Hill, Jan. 18, 2020. A little-known start-up helps law enforcement match photos of unknown people to their online images. Its facial recognition tool “might lead to a dystopian future or something,” a backer says.

Hoan Ton-That — an Australian techie and onetime model — did something momentous: He invented a tool that could end your ability to walk down the street anonymously, and provided it to hundreds of law enforcement agencies, ranging from local cops in Florida to the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security.

His tiny company, Clearview AI, devised a groundbreaking facial recognition app. You take a picture of a person, upload it and get to see public photos of that person, along with links to where those photos appeared. The system — whose backbone is a database of more than three billion images that Clearview claims to have scraped from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo and millions of other websites — goes far beyond anything ever constructed by the United States government or Silicon Valley giants.

Federal and state law enforcement officers said that while they had only limited knowledge of how Clearview works and who is behind it, they had used its app to help solve shoplifting, identity theft, credit card fraud, murder and child sexual exploitation cases.

Jan. 17

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) at the U.S. Capitol (Photo by Saul Loeb / AFP)

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) at the U.S. Capitol (Photo by Saul Loeb / AFP)

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Advocacy: RSF USA calls on the Senate to reverse unprecedented restrictions on the press, Jan. 17, 2020. RSF strongly condemns the restrictions the Senate sergeant at arms and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration are imposing on Capitol Hill reporters during the impeachment trial for President Donald Trump. RSF calls on the Senate Majority Leader to reverse these rules immediately.

Members of the press covering the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump, which began January 16, are facing new “security measures” in the form of restrictions that are not typically imposed on Capitol Hill reporters. The full extent of these measures is unclear as the Senate Sergeant at Arms and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration have not provided a formal document outlining them. However, one rule prohibits reporters from walking through the halls of Congress to ask senators questions. Others prevent reporters from bringing electronic devices into the Senate Chamber, require journalists to pass through a second security screening inside the Senate, and force them into pens and roped-off lines so they cannot access senators as they normally would.

“Until he reverses these arbitrary new rules, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is violating Americans’ First Amendment rights during a monumental moment in US history: the trial for the impeachment of the President of the United States,” said Dokhi Fassihian, Executive Director of RSF USA. “By preventing the press from asking questions on behalf of the American people during this trial, the Senate is escaping public scrutiny and effectively undermining the very foundation of our democracy.”

The Standing Committee of Correspondents, an organization that represents and accredits daily reporters on Capitol Hill, sent a letter to Senate leaders on January 14 protesting the rules. And on January 16, RSF joined 57 other media outlets and journalism organizations in sending a letter to Senate leadership opposing the restrictions.

The United States is ranked 48th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

TeleSUR, Abby Martin Banned From Speaking at US University For Refusing to Sign Pro-Israel Pledge, Jan. 17, 2020. Since 2014, 28 states, among those Georgia, have adopted anti-boycott laws, including five executive orders issued by governors.

Former teleSUR presenter and creator of The Empire Files Abby Martin was blocked from delivering a keynote speech at Georgia Southern University for refusing to "sign a contractual pledge to not boycott Israel" to comply with the anti-Boycott, Divest and Sanctions state law.

"After I was scheduled to give a keynote speech at an upcoming Georgia Southern conference, organizers said I must comply with Georgia's anti-BDS law," Martin tweeted on Friday.

Since 2014, 28 states, among those Georgia, have adopted anti-boycott laws, including five executive orders issued by governors.

"I refused and my talk was canceled. The event fell apart after colleagues supported me." Martin is an outspoken critic of Israel’s apartheid government and anti-Palestinian policies.

As the nationwide crackdown on BDS continues, President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Dec. 11 that will effectively allow the government to interpret Judaism as both a race or nationality and religion under federal law so that the Education Department can take direct action against what he views as “anti-Semitism on college campuses.”

Trump stated clearly that the decision targets the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) calling it an “anti-Semitic campaign against Israel.”

The order will trigger Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that requires educational institutions receiving federal funding to not discriminate based on national origin; meaning the government can now withhold federal funding from any college or educational program that is deemed to allow or endorse “anti-Semitism.”

BDS has gained notoriety in college campuses across the U.S. with more people understanding and backing the Palestinian struggle.

The non-violent BDS movement, however, was founded in 2005 by 170 Palestinian unions, political parties, refugee networks, and women organizations, among others, has gained such renown that it was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Inspired by South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement, BDS calls for non-violent pressure on Israel through boycotting any organization linked to the state of Israel, withdrawing investment from Israeli companies, and sanctioning the county until Israel recognizes the right of Palestinian refugees to return, ends the illegal military occupation of Palestine, and ends the apartheid regime by recognizing Palestinian's equal rights and stops human rights abuses.

Jan. 16

washington post logodana milbank CustomWashington Post, Opinion: Impeachment descends into darkness, Dana Milbank, right, Jan. 16, 2020 (print ed.).  Under the glare of 61 floodlights, the House voted Wednesday to appoint managers to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate. Projectors beamed each lawmaker’s name and vote onto a wall for all to see.

And now comes the darkness.

As the long-delayed transfer of the impeachment articles finally got underway, President Trump’s allies in the Senate announced extraordinary new restrictions on press coverage of the upcoming trial, shielding senators in unprecedented ways from the prying eyes of the American public.

When House managers arrived with the impeachment articles in a ceremonial procession Tuesday evening, Senate Republican leadership had already decreed that their arrival would be filmed only by a single, shared TV camera (partially obstructed, it turned out) at the doors of the chamber in which the mostly empty desks of Republican senators also could not be seen.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his team — the Senate sergeant-at-arms and Rules Committee make the decisions, but McConnell (R-Ky.) is the driving force behind the restrictions, people involved tell me — further decreed that journalists would be confined during the entire trial to roped-off pens, forbidden from approaching senators in Capitol corridors.

The GOP leadership likewise rejected a request from the Standing Committee of Correspondents to allow journalists to bring laptops or silenced phones into the chamber so they could write (the House allows this) or to allow cameras in to capture the history of the moment (the House allowed this during the impeachment process).

It’s obvious what the restrictions are about, because they mirror McConnell’s general approach to the trial. He had signed on to a proposal to dismiss the House impeachment articles without a trial. He has resisted allowing documentary or testimonial evidence to surface during the trial. And now he’s doing everything in his power to shield senators from reporters — and from the public.

Because still and TV cameras aren’t allowed in the chamber, the only images will be C-SPAN-style footage from fixed TV cameras operated by government employees. The public won’t be able to see which senators are sleeping, talking or missing entirely.

McConnell’s team also decided to claw back seats typically reserved for the general public, to “augment” seating for their own friends and family; they’ll have at least 134 such seats. They offered no such augmentation for the media, which has 107 seats, only about 20 of which provide a full view of the Senate floor.

Nor can the senators be observed outside the chamber. At a private luncheon of Republican senators this week, Blunt showed where the media would be penned in and reportedly “joked” that the senators could now avoid reporters.

It’s a curious attempt at fortress-building after House Republicans noisily objected to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) taking depositions in his “basement bunker.” They can’t quash the trial itself, but McConnell’s restrictions will go a long way toward restricting what the American public sees of this historic moment.

The National Press Club Journalism Institute, Advocacy: National Press Club, Journalism Institute denounce press limits on Senate trial, Staff report, national  press club logoJan. 16, 2020. The National Press Club and its Journalism Institute strongly object to restrictions on press coverage during the Senate trial of President Donald Trump. The proposed limitations are onerous, unnecessary and serve only to limit the news media’s ability to properly report on this historic event to the American public.

We fully support the position taken by the Standing Committee of Correspondents, which tried to negotiate rules of coverage only to see its suggestions ignored.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has insisted that the Senate follow the same rules the Senate set for itself during the trial of President Bill Clinton 20 years ago. But when it comes to press coverage, the restrictions on news coverage planned by the Sergeant at Arms and the Capitol Police far exceed the access limits imposed during the Clinton trial. Indeed, the constraints are more restrictive than they are for State of the Union messages or Inauguration ceremonies.

“These constraints and security obstacles only impede the press from doing its job,” said National Press Club President Michael Freedman. “When the conduct of our elected officials is under the highest scrutiny, the government should not be restricting the ability of journalists to be eyes and ears for the American public.”

As spelled out by the Standing Committee of Correspondents, the proposed restrictions on the press for the upcoming trial include:

Security sweeps with magnetometer inside the Senate press gallery
Penning in reporters outside the Senate chamber to prohibit them from freely getting access to Senators as they enter or leave the chamber.
A single pool camera to record the transmission of Articles of Impeachment from the House to the Senate.
Restrictions on reporters’ ability to walk and interview Senators from the Senate subway to the Capitol elevators.

“These restrictions set a horrible precedent and reinforce the lie that the news media is dangerous and the ‘enemy of the people,’” said Angela Greiling Keane, the president of the National Press Club Journalism Institute. “Congress should be the most accessible institution in government. As the branch closest to the people, it is ironic that these limits only isolate those who are elected to serve.”

While penning reporters has become commonplace over the years to improve traffic flow outside the Senate chamber, reporters have had free access to approach senators to question them about issues of the day. Sweeping reporters with a magnetometer as they enter the Senate gallery is simply unnecessary overkill as they would have already gone through security entering the Capitol.

We especially fear that these restrictions will become the new standard for congressional coverage, a slippery slope that will reduce accountability and further erode an essential tenet of our democracy — the need for an informed electorate.

The National Press Club, the world’s leading professional organization for journalists, represents more than 3,000 reporters, editors and professional communicators worldwide. The Club’s nonprofit affiliate, the National Press Club Journalism Institute, promotes an engaged global citizenry through an independent and free press, and equips journalists with skills and standards to inform the public in ways that inspire civic engagement. JIP Editor's Note: JIP's editor is a member of the club's Press Freedom Committee.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: GOP senator’s vicious outburst shows the corruption of Trump’s defenders, Greg Sargent, Jan. 16, 2020. If you were martha mcsally oa United States senator who just snapped angrily at a reporter for politely asking whether compelling new information about a matter of great import to the nation was weighing on your understanding of that consequential matter, you probably wouldn’t see this as something to advertise.

But then again, you’re not Martha McSally of Arizona. McSally, right, just did exactly this — yet she is now treating it as a badge of honor; as something to boast about.

cnn logoIn a perverse way, it’s fitting that this episode is going viral at exactly the moment when President Trump’s impeachment trial is getting underway — that is, when Trump’s defenders in the Senate are set to put on a great show of pretending to give serious consideration to the case against Trump, before voting to acquit him.

McSally’s vile little performance puts the lie to that notion as effectively as anything possibly could., Opinion: #CNNisTrash, David Swanson, Jan. 16, 2020. Why has the hash tag #CNNisTrash been popular since this week’s presidential primary debate? There was nothing new about the corporate, militarist, anti-progressive slant of the debate “moderation.”

What was new was the level of blatant bias so extreme that even viewers who knew nothing about the issues couldn’t miss it, plus the amount of time CNN focused on expressing its hostility toward a single candidate, Bernie Sanders.

cnn logoRemarkably, CNN began Tuesday’s debate with a focus on endless U.S. wars in the Middle East, and with questions aimed at criticizing those who had supported the launching of some of those wars many years ago — support that various politicians and even media outlets like the New York Times (but not CNN) have long since been compelled to apologize for.

Yet the CNN moderator began by noting how close the United States had just come to war with Iran and then asking Bernie Sanders why he would be the best commander in chief, not why he would be the best president for making peace.

Next, CNN falsely claimed that Sanders had only recently admitted that his vote for war on Afghanistan was wrong, and equated that vote with Joe Biden’s vote for and promotion of war on Iraq, as well as Biden’s blatant lying about his record.

With each new topic, the bias grew in Tuesday’s debate. What can be read in the debate transcript was compounded by the titles CNN displayed on the lower part of the television screen during each segment. For example: “Sanders’ proposals would double federal spending over a decade; how will he avoid bankrupting the country?”

CNN, which added right-wing journalists to its panels of questioners at all four of its Republican primary debates in 2016, has adamantly refused to add progressive journalists to its panels at Democratic debates.

Then CNN turned to a story that it had reported on just prior to the debate, alleging that Sanders had told Senator Elizabeth Warren that he did not believe a woman could be elected U.S. president. The CNN moderator ignored Sanders’ assertions that he had a public record going back decades of stating that a woman could be elected president, that he had stayed out of the race in 2015 until Warren decided not to run, and that in fact he had told Warren no such thing. Then came this exchange:

CNN: So Senator Sanders — Senator Sanders, I do want to be clear here, you’re saying that you never told Senator Warren that a woman could not win the election?

SANDERS: That is correct.

CNN: Senator Warren, what did you think when Senator Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?

Many viewers recognized the slant. Many even began to notice the strange double standard in never mentioning the cost of any of the wars, but pounding away on the misleading assertions that healthcare and other human needs cost too much.

Jan. 14

Media / Spy Agencies

washington post logoWashington Post, News networks use retired military brass as war analysts without disclosing their defense-industry ties, Paul Farhi, Jan. 14, 2020 (print ed.). During eight appearances on Fox News and Fox Business Network in early January, Jack Keane was introduced several ways: as “a retired four-star general,” as the former “vice chief of staff for the U.S. Army,” and as Fox News’s “senior strategic analyst.”

jack keaneAll of those are accurate descriptions. Keane (shown when he was on active duty) is a distinguished veteran, having commanded American troops in such places as Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia. Fox employs him to provide analysis of national security and military operations, such as the unfolding hostilities between the United States and Iran.

fox news logo SmallBut another part of Keane’s résumé wasn’t mentioned: the former general is also executive chairman of AM General, a leading defense contractor, best known as the manufacturer of the Humvee and other tactical military vehicles. He is also a partner at a venture-capital firm that specializes in the defense industry. In other words, viewers never learned that Keane has a direct financial interest in the war policies he was assessing on the air.

cnn logoFox News’s nondisclosure of Keane’s role in the military-industrial complex is standard operating procedure for network news shows. Many of the retired military leaders employed by the networks as paid contributors have secondary affiliations that are rarely, if ever, mentioned, leaving viewers in the dark about whose interests they’re promoting.

Like Fox News, none of the leading networks — ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and MSNBC — makes a regular practice of announcing its military analysts’ financial ties to the Pentagon, connections that could color their on-air comments.

washington post logoWashington Post, NSA found a dangerous Windows 10 flaw and alerted Microsoft — rather than weaponize it, Ellen Nakashima​, Jan. 14, 2020. The disclosure represents a major shift in the agency’s approach, choosing to put computer security ahead of building up its arsenal of hacking tools.

nsa logo 2The National Security Agency recently discovered a major flaw in Microsoft’s Windows operating system — one that could potentially expose computer users to significant breaches or surveillance — and alerted the firm of the problem rather than turn it into a hacking weapon, according to people familiar with the matter.

The disclosure represents a major shift in the NSA’s approach, choosing to put computer security ahead of building up its arsenal of hacking tools that allow the microsoft logo Customagency to spy on adversaries’ networks, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Microsoft plans to issue a patch for the flaw on Tuesday, the individuals said.

“Big kudos to NSA for voluntarily disclosing to Microsoft,” said computer security expert Dmitri Alperovitch in a tweet Tuesday morning. “This is the type of [vulnerability] I am sure the [NSA hackers] would have loved to use for years to come.”

Jan. 13

Media / Privacy / Spying

Julian Assange at Ecuador's Embassy (Photo Collage by The Indicter Magazine)

Julian Assange, center, at Ecuador's Embassy (Photo Collage by The Indicter Magazine)

The Hill, Opinion: Will Alleged CIA Misbehavior Set Julian Assange Free? James C. Goodale, Jan. 10, 2020. A few days before Christmas, Julian Assange testified to a Spanish court that a Spanish security company, UC Global S.L., acting in coordination with the CIA, illegally recorded all his actions and conversations, including with his lawyers, and streamed them back in real time to the CIA. He will, at the end of February, make a similar complaint to a British extradition court about the CIA’s alleged misbehavior.

Will such misbehavior, if proven, set Assange free?

The Daniel Ellsberg case may be instructive. You may recall that after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the “Pentagon Papers” case, Ellsberg was indicted under the Espionage Act for leaking Pentagon documents to The New York Times and The Washington Post.

julian assange facts wikileaks CustomAfter the trial commenced in San Francisco, it was brought to the judge’s attention that the “White House plumbers” broke into the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist. Based on that information and other complaints of government misbehavior, including the FBI’s interception of Ellsberg’s telephone conversations with a government official, Judge William Matthew Byrne decided that the case should be dismissed with prejudice because the government acted outrageously.

For similar reasons, the case against Assange should be dismissed, if it reaches the U.S. courts.

The “plumbers” were a covert group formed by the Nixon White House to stop leaks of information from the government, such as the Pentagon Papers. They are notorious for their burglary at the Watergate complex, which led to former President Nixon’s downfall. Approximately nine months before the Watergate break-in, the plumbers, led by former CIA agent E. Howard Hunt, burglarized a psychiatrist’s office to find information that could discredit Ellsberg.

The CIA also was involved with the break-in. It prepared a psychiatric profile of Ellsberg as well as an ID kit for the plumbers, including drivers’ licenses, Social Security cards, and disguises consisting of red wigs, glasses and speech alteration devices.

Additionally, the CIA allowed Hunt and his sidekick, G. Gordon Liddy, to use two CIA safe houses in the D.C. area for meetings and storage purposes. Clearly, the CIA knew the plumbers were up to no good. It is unclear whether the CIA knew Ellsberg was the target, but it would not have taken much to figure it out.

The Spanish newspaper El Pais broke the story that UC Global invaded Assange’s privacy at the Ecuadorian embassy and shared its surveillance with the CIA. It demonstrated step-by-step, document-by-document, UC Global’s actions and its contacts with the CIA. UC Global reportedly installed cameras throughout Assange’s space in the embassy — including his bathroom — and captured Assange’s every word and apparently livestreamed it, giving the CIA a free TV show of Assange’s daily life.

After reading El Pais’s series, you would have to be a dunce not to believe the CIA didn’t monitor Assange’s every move at the Ecuadorian embassy, including trips to the bathroom.

Ecuador granted Assange asylum in their embassy for seven years, after he jumped bail in London to avoid extradition to Sweden for allegedly raping two Swedish women. (Those charges are now dismissed.) If you can believe it, Ecuador had hired UC Global to protect the Ecuadorian embassy and Assange. Not surprisingly, the CIA later made UC Global its spy to surveil Assange.

When there was a change of administration in Ecuador, Assange’s asylum was withdrawn, and he was immediately arrested by British police at the request of U.S. officials. The United States subsequently indicted him for violating the Espionage Act, for publishing the very same information published roughly contemporaneously by The New York Times, The Guardian, El Pais, Le Monde and Der Spiegel. (Assange already was subject to a sealed indictment in the United States for computer hacking.)

The behavior of UC Global and the CIA seems indistinguishable from the government’s behavior in the Ellsberg case, which a federal judge found to have “offended a sense of justice” and “incurably infected the prosecution” of the case. Accordingly, he concluded that the only remedy to ensure due process and the fair administration of justice was to dismiss Ellsberg’s case “with prejudice,” meaning that Ellsberg could not be retried.

Can anything be more offensive to a “sense of justice” than an unlimited surveillance, particularly of lawyer-client conversations, livestreamed to the opposing party in a criminal case? The alleged streaming unmasked the strategy of Assange’s lawyers, giving the government an advantage that is impossible to remove. Short of dismissing Assange’s indictment with prejudice, the government will always have an advantage that can never be matched by the defense.

The usual remedy for warrantless surveillance is to exclude any illegally obtained information from the trial, but that remedy is inapplicable here. The government’s advantage in surveilling Assange is not the acquisition of tangible evidence but, rather, intangible insights into Assange’s legal strategy. There is no way, therefore, to give Assange a fair trial, since his opponents will know every move he will make.

When Assange begins his extradition hearing, this will be part of his argument — that the CIA’s misbehavior violates his human rights by depriving him of his right to a fair trial.

The CIA will no doubt attempt to trump this argument by defending the surveillance on grounds of national security. This may be easier said than done, however: It is one thing to say the CIA can engage in surveillance abroad for its own intelligence-gathering purposes, and another to say it can listen to the private lawyer-client communications of a person against whom the U.S. government has an open criminal investigation.

More to the point, it does not seem immediately clear why eavesdropping on conversations of legal strategy protects U.S. national security. In my experience in national security cases (I led The New York Times lawyers in the “Pentagon Papers” case), every time the government is backed into a corner in such cases, it will simply serve up a defense of “national security” because it is difficult to defend against such an assertion and the government, consequently, has the ability to trump every competing argument.

James C. Goodale was the vice chairman and general counsel of The New York Times and is the author of “Fighting for the Press: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers and other battles.”

ny times logoNew York Times, The Decimation of Local News Has Lawmakers Crossing the Aisle, Cecilia Kang, Jan. 13, 2020 (print ed.). Lawmakers from both parties blame companies like Facebook and Google for the struggles of local newspapers.

facebook logoWhen a sport utility vehicle swerved out of its lane several weeks ago, slamming into a pickup truck and killing a teenager, a reporter from The Northeast Georgian raced to the scene. Within hours, the paper had posted the news on Facebook and updated it twice. It was shared by hundreds of people on the social network.

The fatal wreck consumed the town of Cornelia, Ga., nestled near the Chattahoochee National Forest about 90 miles northeast of Atlanta. The Northeast Georgian was the first to report the news, but unless the people who shared its story on Facebook follow a link to its website, either to see an ad or to subscribe to its twice-weekly print edition, the paper won’t get paid.

As with many small papers across the country, that business strategy is not working for The Northeast Georgian. The paper’s five employees do not just report and write. They also edit the articles, take photographs and lay out the newspaper.

But the tough economics facing small newspapers like Mr. NeSmith’s has generated rare bipartisan agreement in Washington.

google logo customAnger toward big technology companies has led to multiple antitrust investigations, calls for a new federal data privacy law and criticism of the companies’ political ad policies. Perhaps no issue about the tech companies, though, has united lawmakers in the Capitol like the decimation of local news.

Lawmakers from both parties blame companies like Facebook and Google, which dominate the online ad industry. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, gave a big boost last week to a bill that may provide some papers a lifeboat. The proposal would give news organizations an exemption from antitrust laws, allowing them to band together to negotiate with Google and Facebook over how their articles and photos are used online, and what payments the newspapers get from the tech companies. (The bill is backed by the News Media Alliance, a trade group that represents news organizations including The New York Times Company.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Setting Up Clash, Barr Asks Apple to Unlock Pensacola Killer’s Phones, Katie Benner, Jan. 13, 2020. William Barr asked the company to provide access to two phones used by the gunman in last month’s shooting at a naval air station in Pensacola, Fla. The unusually high-profile request set up a confrontation between law enforcement and technology companies in the latest battle over privacy.

Attorney General William P. Barr declared on Monday that a deadly shooting last month at a naval air station in Pensacola, Fla., was an act of terrorism, and he asked Apple in an unusually high-profile request to provide access to two phones used by the gunman.

Mr. Barr’s appeal was an escalation of an ongoing fight between the Justice Department and Apple pitting personal privacy against public safety.

apple logo rainbow“This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that the public be able to get access to digital evidence,” Mr. Barr said, calling on technology companies to find a solution and complaining that Apple had provided no “substantive assistance.”

Detailing the results of the investigation into the Dec. 6 shooting that killed three sailors and wounded eight others, Mr. Barr said the gunman, Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani — a Saudi air force cadet training with the American military — had displayed extremist leanings.

The government has also removed from the country some 21 Saudi students who trained with the American military, Mr. Barr said. He stressed that investigators found no connection to the shooting among the cadets but that some had ties to extremist movements or possessed child pornography. Mr. Barr said the cases were too weak to prosecute but that Saudi Arabia kicked the trainees out of the program.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Russians Hacked Ukrainian Gas Company at Center of Impeachment, Nicole Perlroth and Matthew Rosenberg, Jan. 13, 2020. With President Trump facing an impeachment trial over his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., right, and his son Hunter Biden, Russian joe biden omilitary hackers have been boring into the Ukrainian gas company at the center of the affair, according to security experts.

The hacking attempts against Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company on whose board Hunter Biden served, began in early November, as talk of the Bidens, Ukraine and impeachment was dominating the news in the United States.

It is not yet clear what the hackers found, or precisely what they were searching for. But the experts say the timing and scale of the attacks suggest that the Russians could be searching for potentially embarrassing material on the Bidens — the same kind of information that Mr. Trump wanted from Ukraine when he pressed for an investigation of the Bidens and Burisma, setting off a chain of events that led to his impeachment.

The Russian tactics are strikingly similar to what American intelligence agencies say was Russia’s hacking of emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman and the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential campaign. In that case, once they had the emails, the Russians used trolls to spread and spin the material, and built an echo chamber to widen its effect.

Then, as now, the Russian hackers from a military intelligence unit known formerly as the G.R.U., and to private researchers by the alias “Fancy Bear,” used so-called phishing emails that appear designed to steal usernames and passwords, according to Area 1, the Silicon Valley security firm that detected the hacking. In this instance, the hackers set up fake websites that mimicked sign-in pages of Burisma subsidiaries, and have been blasting Burisma employees with emails meant to look like they are coming from inside the burisma logocompany.

The hackers fooled some of them into handing over their login credentials, and managed to get inside one of Burisma’s servers, Area 1 said.

“The attacks were successful,” said Oren Falkowitz, a co-founder of Area 1, who previously served at the National Security Agency. Mr. Falkowitz’s firm maintains a network of sensors on web servers around the globe — many known to be used by state-sponsored hackers — which gives the firm a front-row seat to phishing attacks, and allows them to block attacks on their customers.

“The timing of the Russian campaign mirrors the G.R.U. hacks we saw in 2016 against the D.N.C. and John Podesta,” the Clinton campaign chairman, Mr. Falkowitz said. “Once again, they are stealing email credentials, in what we can only assume is a repeat of Russian interference in the last election.”

The Justice Department indicted seven officers from the same military intelligence unit in 2018.

The Russian attacks on Burisma appear to be running parallel to an effort by Russian spies in Ukraine to dig up information in the analog world that could embarrass the Bidens, according to an American security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence. The spies, the official said, are trying to penetrate Burisma and working sources in the Ukrainian government in search of emails, financial records and legal documents.

The Hill, Opinion: Will Alleged CIA Misbehavior Set Julian Assange Free? James C. Goodale, Jan. 10, 2020. A few days before Christmas, Julian Assange testified to a Spanish court that a Spanish security company, UC Global S.L., acting in coordination with the CIA, illegally recorded all his actions and conversations, including with his lawyers, and streamed them back in real time to the CIA. He will, at the end of February, make a similar complaint to a British extradition court about the CIA’s alleged misbehavior.

Will such misbehavior, if proven, set Assange free?

The Daniel Ellsberg case may be instructive. You may recall that after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the “Pentagon Papers” case, Ellsberg was indicted under the Espionage Act for leaking Pentagon documents to The New York Times and The Washington Post.

After the trial commenced in San Francisco, it was brought to the judge’s attention that the “White House plumbers” broke into the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist. Based on that information and other complaints of government misbehavior, including the FBI’s interception of Ellsberg’s telephone conversations with a government official, Judge William Matthew Byrne decided that the case should be dismissed with prejudice because the government acted outrageously.

For similar reasons, the case against Assange should be dismissed, if it reaches the U.S. courts.

The “plumbers” were a covert group formed by the Nixon White House to stop leaks of information from the government, such as the Pentagon Papers. They are notorious for their burglary at the Watergate complex, which led to former President Nixon’s downfall. Approximately nine months before the Watergate break-in, the plumbers, led by former CIA agent E. Howard Hunt, burglarized a psychiatrist’s office to find information that could discredit Ellsberg.

The CIA also was involved with the break-in. It prepared a psychiatric profile of Ellsberg as well as an ID kit for the plumbers, including drivers’ licenses, Social Security cards, and disguises consisting of red wigs, glasses and speech alteration devices.

Additionally, the CIA allowed Hunt and his sidekick, G. Gordon Liddy, to use two CIA safe houses in the D.C. area for meetings and storage purposes. Clearly, the CIA knew the plumbers were up to no good. It is unclear whether the CIA knew Ellsberg was the target, but it would not have taken much to figure it out.

The Spanish newspaper El Pais broke the story that UC Global invaded Assange’s privacy at the Ecuadorian embassy and shared its surveillance with the CIA. It demonstrated step-by-step, document-by-document, UC Global’s actions and its contacts with the CIA. UC Global reportedly installed cameras throughout Assange’s space in the embassy — including his bathroom — and captured Assange’s every word and apparently livestreamed it, giving the CIA a free TV show of Assange’s daily life.

After reading El Pais’s series, you would have to be a dunce not to believe the CIA didn’t monitor Assange’s every move at the Ecuadorian embassy, including trips to the bathroom.

Ecuador granted Assange asylum in their embassy for seven years, after he jumped bail in London to avoid extradition to Sweden for allegedly raping two Swedish women. (Those charges are now dismissed.) If you can believe it, Ecuador had hired UC Global to protect the Ecuadorian embassy and Assange. Not surprisingly, the CIA later made UC Global its spy to surveil Assange.

When there was a change of administration in Ecuador, Assange’s asylum was withdrawn, and he was immediately arrested by British police at the request of U.S. officials. The United States subsequently indicted him for violating the Espionage Act, for publishing the very same information published roughly contemporaneously by The New York Times, The Guardian, El Pais, Le Monde and Der Spiegel. (Assange already was subject to a sealed indictment in the United States for computer hacking.)

The behavior of UC Global and the CIA seems indistinguishable from the government’s behavior in the Ellsberg case, which a federal judge found to have “offended a sense of justice” and “incurably infected the prosecution” of the case. Accordingly, he concluded that the only remedy to ensure due process and the fair administration of justice was to dismiss Ellsberg’s case “with prejudice,” meaning that Ellsberg could not be retried.

Can anything be more offensive to a “sense of justice” than an unlimited surveillance, particularly of lawyer-client conversations, livestreamed to the opposing party in a criminal case? The alleged streaming unmasked the strategy of Assange’s lawyers, giving the government an advantage that is impossible to remove. Short of dismissing Assange’s indictment with prejudice, the government will always have an advantage that can never be matched by the defense.

The usual remedy for warrantless surveillance is to exclude any illegally obtained information from the trial, but that remedy is inapplicable here. The government’s advantage in surveilling Assange is not the acquisition of tangible evidence but, rather, intangible insights into Assange’s legal strategy. There is no way, therefore, to give Assange a fair trial, since his opponents will know every move he will make.

When Assange begins his extradition hearing, this will be part of his argument — that the CIA’s misbehavior violates his human rights by depriving him of his right to a fair trial.

The CIA will no doubt attempt to trump this argument by defending the surveillance on grounds of national security. This may be easier said than done, however: It is one thing to say the CIA can engage in surveillance abroad for its own intelligence-gathering purposes, and another to say it can listen to the private lawyer-client communications of a person against whom the U.S. government has an open criminal investigation.

More to the point, it does not seem immediately clear why eavesdropping on conversations of legal strategy protects U.S. national security. In my experience in national security cases (I led The New York Times lawyers in the “Pentagon Papers” case), every time the government is backed into a corner in such cases, it will simply serve up a defense of “national security” because it is difficult to defend against such an assertion and the government, consequently, has the ability to trump every competing argument.

James C. Goodale was the vice chairman and general counsel of The New York Times and is the author of “Fighting for the Press: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers and other battles.”

Jan. 10

harry meghan news collage january 2020 slate Custom

Collage of Daily Mail and The Sun, photo illustration by Slate

Slate, The British Press Is Losing Its Mind Over Harry and Meghan, Heather Schwedel, Jan. 10, 2020. Exiled wax figures and asparagus prognostication have stormed the tabloids. For the United Kingdom’s tabloid press, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan’s decision to “step back” from their duties as royals is an all-hands-on-deck situation.

There have been no shortage of royal events that brought with them wall-to-wall press coverage over the past decade as this generation’s royals have come of age — engagements, weddings, babies — but never has there been a story quite like a princess quitting the entire institution and taking her prince with her. Apparently lost on the press is the irony that part of what prompted the move is its own racist coverage.

Harry and Meghan have had an understandably tense relationship with the tabs — they’re literally suing one of them. While they maintain a veneer of just-in-it-for-the-drama neutrality, it’s also clear that some of the papers’ sympathies lie with Queen Elizabeth II and the rest of the Windsors, evidenced especially by the Daily Mirror’s front page: “They Didn’t Even Tell the Queen.”

Elsewhere, journalists criticized the move as “selfish” and “an atrocious lapse of judgment.” The Daily Telegraph went with the headline “Harry and Meghan quit the firm,” invoking some vintage slang for the royal family. In addition to “Megxit,” further punnage was attempted, to middling success: The Sun offered “Meg It Work” and “Meg Your Mind Up,” while the Daily Star is trying to make “pass the duchy” happen.

washington post logoWashington Post, Meghan flies back to Canada; Prince Harry in ‘crisis’ talks with Prince Charles, Karla Adam, Jan. 10, 2020. Her departure renewed speculation that the couple will make Canada their part-time home.

united kingdom flagMeghan, Duchess of Sussex, has flown back to Canada following the bombshell announcement that she and her husband, Prince Harry, are "stepping back" from royal duties, prompting intensified speculation that the couple will make Canada their part-time home.

An official at Buckingham Palace confirmed reports that Meghan had returned to Canada — the latest act in a drama that the British press has dubbed “Megxit.”

Meanwhile, Harry remains in Britain, where he is reportedly in deep discussions with his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II; his father, Prince Charles; and his brother, Prince William, about the couple’s future role.

Media Matters, Opinion: The final, inevitable collapse of the right-wing media’s Uranium One conspiracy theory, Matt Gertz, Jan. 10, 2020. In 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed U.S. attorney John Huber to review the sale of the company known as Uranium One. Fox News and conservative media had spent years fixated on the case, portraying it as a scandal aimed at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Some mainstream outlets even played along.

Huber reportedly is now closing the two-year review without bringing any charges.

media matters logoThe Uranium One pseudoscandal has its roots in the work of the Government Accountability Institute, a nonprofit conservative investigative research organization founded by Steve Bannon and helmed by Peter Schweizer, a conservative author with a record of major factual errors and questionable sourcing. During the 2016 election, The New York Times and The Washington Post made “exclusive agreements” with Schweizer “for early access to his opposition research on Hillary Clinton.”
That's how this false, right-wing lie ended up on the front page of The New York Times:

From there, the story became a major part of the 2016 campaign, with it often mentioned by Trump. And rather than fade away after the election, it became a major Fox News talking point after special counsel Robert Mueller began reviewing ties between Trump’s associates and Russian interference in the 2016 election.

john solomonFox hosts like Hannity flogged the story repeatedly in 2017 thanks to a misleading report from John Solomon, right. (Solomon's "report" featured someone he called a whistleblower who was represented by Victoria Toensing; we know now that Toensing is also Solomon's own attorney. When the whistleblower was questioned by House investigators, he had no information.) The story was so prominent in right-wing media at this point that then-Fox host Shep Smith ran a segment reiterating that it was a false conspiracy theory.

Sessions appointed Huber at this point, after Fox host Jeanine Pirro reportedly criticized the Attorney General to Trump in the Oval Office. Now that investigation is ending with nothing having been turned up.

Not that this will break through to the Fox News audience. Shep has left the network, and Hannity furiously said on Friday that he still believes there is wrongdoing. Maybe in 2020, though, outlets like The New York Times will think a bit before teaming up with Steve Bannon.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Chaos Is the Point’: Russian Hackers and Trolls Grow Stealthier in 2020, Matthew Rosenberg, Nicole Perlroth and David E. Sanger, Jan. 10, 2020. While U.S. cyberdefenses have improved since 2016, many of the vulnerabilities remain. And attacks are getting more sophisticated. The Russians were sloppy in 2016 because they could be: They caught Americans off guard. Now hackers and trolls are working far harder to cover their tracks.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoThe National Security Agency and its British counterpart issued an unusual warning in October: The Russians were back and growing stealthier.

Groups linked to Russia’s intelligence agencies, they noted, had recently been uncovered boring into the network of an elite Iranian hacking unit and attacking governments and private companies in the Middle East and Britain — hoping Tehran would be blamed for the havoc.

For federal and state officials charged with readying defenses for the 2020 election, it was a clear message that the next cyberwar was not going to be like the last. The landscape is evolving, and the piggybacking on Iranian networks was an example of what America’s election-security officials and experts face as the United States enters what is shaping up to be an ugly campaign season marred by hacking and disinformation.

Fox #MeToo Scandals

bombshell poster

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘I do wish I had done more’: Megyn Kelly tearfully reacts to ‘Bombshell’ and the fallout of the Fox News sexual harassment scandal, Katie Shepherd, Jan. 10, 2020. Hot, dry and windy conditions caused two large blazes to merge into one the size of the state of Delaware — or about eight times larger than New York City. As the young woman excitedly pitched herself for a job to the company’s senior executive, a man dressed in an expensive suit, he appeared to be listening intently, nodding as she listed all of the skills she could bring to the position. Then, he gave her an order: “Do a little spin for me.”

fox news logo SmallThe uncomfortable scene comes from the recently released film “Bombshell” (shown above), but the story could have been told by many women at Fox News who said former chief roger ailes wexecutive Roger Ailes, right, asked them the same question in his office.

“Turn around let me see your ass,” Juliet Huddy, a former Fox News host, recalled Ailes telling her in a video shared Thursday by Megyn Kelly after the women watched the movie together. Two other victims of harassment at Fox, Rudi Bakhtiar and Julie Zann, joined them to share their thoughts on the fictionalized drama about the scandal that upended their careers.

All four of the women said Ailes had asked them to twirl for him. Only Bakhtiar, a former Fox News correspondent, said she refused. Kelly recalled the humiliation she felt after Ailes asked her to spin for him.

Jan. 9

Climate Change / Media / Economy

jane fonda publicity dec 17 Custom

Down With Tyranny! Opinion: Jane Fonda Is Pitching For Our Future. Lend an Ear, Skip Kaltenheuser, Jan. 9, 2020. Even for those already in the climate choir, Jane Fonda’s sermon last month at the National Press Club is well worth the time to read or watch and listen to. I’ve logged loads of press club luncheon speeches over the years. This was one of the finest I’ve heard. Fonda eloquently described how global warming has us up against the wall. Not just the heartfelt delivery one expects from Oscar winners, but the essential substance and slightly wicked wit woven throughout. Send it to those needing motivation to confront the stark realities before us and to act (59 min. video here via C-SPAN and YouTube).

Fonda’s many actions include Fire-drill Fridays, protests for which she temporarily moved to DC in September, at which she’s been arrested a half dozen times. If you’re around Washington, the last drill before her return to acting commitments in L.A. is Jan. 10. Guest speakers include Bill McKibben and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Fonda's speech took no prisoners, calling out a range of climate villains, including Exxon, which over forty years ago knew the truth about the effect of increasing CO2 gases and the short window to address it, and whose executives, when their scientists informed them of the global impacts, replied “This problem is not as significant to mankind as a nuclear holocaust or world famine.”

jane fonda dec.17 npc"And they continued to drill," said Fonda, right. "Exxon, Shell, Mobil, and others knew that their products wouldn’t stay profitable once the world understood the risks. So they used the same consultants that the tobacco companies had used to launch a huge communications effort, to develop strategies on how to fool us."

"The difference is that tobacco companies were primarily harming people who smoke. The fossil fuel companies are harming the entire planet and all its inhabitants. The companies not only hid what they knew, a coalition, together with the Koch brothers and other billionaires spent tens of millions of dollars on think tanks, like the Heartland Institute, that promote false science, sowing confusion about global warming, so that people won't try to stop them. Their line was, and continues to be, that the, “Science about climate change is not clear. And even if it were, the fault lies with governments and consumers, not with them.” You see, but the thing is, these oil companies have played a big role in actively stopping governments from enacting clean energy policies, with Exxon leading the way."

That includes Exxon’s undermining the 1998 International Treaty on Climate, the Kyoto Protocol. Fonda points to other bad actors, like the American Petroleum Institute, with its new video, America’s Energy Security: A Generation of Progress at Risk, equating fracking and drilling with patriotism, as Republicans including Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania introduce resolutions to prohibit a President from implementing a unilateral moratorium on fracking, and as the Manhattan Institute, with significant backing from fossil fuels concerns, warns of global recession if the US bans fracking. It won’t shock that Fonda advocates legal consequences for knowing deceptions and environmental damage.

To claims like Toomey’s that American oil and gas production is the only path to energy security, Fonda asks if it’s necessary for energy security, what are we doing shipping it overseas? She quoted Oil Change International that 45% of existing drilling wouldn’t be profitable without taxpayers subsidizing fossil fuels with over $16 billion dollars a year.

She didn’t mention it, but that’s dwarfed by military expenditures underpinning escapades with oil in mind. They arguably include backing Iraq in the Iraq-Iran war of 1980-88, the invasions of Iraq, and shoring up the Saudi regime and the UAE and pumping up their ally Israel. Now we’re doing that trio's bidding with a dance in the dark with Iran.

ny times logoNew York Times, White House Moves to Exempt Big Projects From Environmental Review, Lisa Friedman, Jan. 9, 2020. The Trump Administration, hoping to speed infrastructure projects like pipelines, will formally introduce changes to a landmark environmental law.

The White House on Thursday introduced major changes to the nation’s benchmark environmental protection law, moving to ease approval of major energy and infrastructure projects without detailed environmental assessment or consideration of climate change.

epa general logoMany of the changes to the law — the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act, a landmark measure that touches nearly every significant construction project in the country — had been long sought by the oil and gas industry as well as trade unions, which have argued that the review process is lengthy, cumbersome and used by environmental activists to drag out legal disputes and kill infrastructure projects.

Under the law, major federal projects like bridges, highways, pipelines or power plants that will have a significant impact on the environment require an review, or environmental impact statement, outlining potential consequences. The proposed new rules would narrow the range of projects that require such a study and impose strict new deadlines on completing assessments.

australian fires kangaroo nytimes Custom

Kangaroo rushes past a burning house Tuesday in Lake Conjola, New South Wales, Australia (Photo: Matthew Abbott for The New York Times).

washington post logoWashington Post, A billion animals have been caught in Australia’s fires. Some may go extinct, Karin Brulliard and Darryl Fears, Jan. 9, 2020.  Some of the rarest species on Earth are threatened by fires scorching their habitats, scientists warn. Expert says Australian habitats might take centuries to recover — if at all

The mouse-size dunnart is not as iconic as the koalas or platypuses that draw tourists, but it is arguably the most special mammal on Australia’s Kangaroo Island.

Now the Kangaroo Island dunnart’s days may be numbered. Before bush fires struck, it was already endangered, so rare that even researchers who studied them had never seen one. Now they fear they never will. One-third of the 1,700-square-mile island has burned, including the entire area where these dunnarts are known to live.

“One hundred percent — all of our records since 1990 are within the burned fire scar. The entire range of the species has been burned,” said Rosemary Hohnen, an ecologist who spent more than two years surveying the Kangaroo Island dunnart. “They’re in true peril, real peril of extinction.”

Jan. 7

Media Matters, Opinion: The myth of "Donald the Dove" shows the perils of a gullible press, Parker Molloy, Jan. 7, 2020. In the lead up to the 2016 election, opinion writers across several major outlets published articles that argued of the two major party candidates, Donald Trump was less inclined to enter a war. Infamously, Maureen Dowd published an opinion article titled, “Donald the Dove, Hillary the Hawk.”

media matters logoThis article and others cemented the simplistic idea in voters minds, all the while ignoring the many public statements Donald Trump had made previously that indicated otherwise.

While Trump’s statements on foreign policy were often conflicting, they should not have been too difficult for journalists to parse. On an August 11, 2015, episode of Fox & Friends, Trump declared that he was “the most militaristic person there is.” Further, Trump said that he would “take out” families of terrorists, a move widely considered a war crime, vowed to bring back waterboarding, and called for massive increases in military spending.

The notion that Trump was going to be an anti-militaristic candidate directly contradicted many of his own public comments, and is yet another example of how Trump was not judged on his own merits in the 2016 election. While “Donald the Dove, Hillary the Hawk,” made for a clever use of alliteration, it didn’t inform people on what to expect under a Trump presidency.

Jan. 7

Media News

daniel hopsickerMadcow News, Investigation & Commentary: Paint It Mint, Daniel Hopsicker, right, Jan. 7, 2020. On the eve of war, with breaking news advancing like an electrical storm across the horizon, I was outmaneuvered by an internet troll into promising to explain what I know about a bizarre little Minneapolis news site called MintPress News.

This is that story.

Who stands behind Mint Press, a small Minneapolis-based site with a progressive bent that hides its funding even from employees and has mysterious connections to the Middle East?

Their poking around also establishes the nature of the mystery. The background to the case.

In stories filed with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, MinnPost, and the Colombia Journalism Review, journalists on the ground in Minnesota provided most of the following details.

Interviews with former employees and people familiar with the inner workings of Mint Press, they wrote, paint a portrait of a dysfunctional outlet where employees are left in the dark about the site’s sources of funding and are alienated from the Muhawesh family that runs it:

odeh muhawesh CustomMnar Muhawesh, the editor-in-chief, her brother-in-law and managing editor Muhammad Muhawesh, and her father-in-law Odeh Muhawesh, 54, left, a Minneapolis businessman born in Jordan.

They also revealed an agenda that lines up, from its sympathy with the Syrian regime to its hostility to Sunni Saudi Arabia, with that of the Islamic Republic of Iran, where Odeh Muhawesh studied under an ayatollah for five years after the Islamic Revolution, and where he visited as recently as last summer.

A fellow researcher recently discovered information indicating Odeh Muhawesh was part of a government operation with the father of Peter Strzok, the recently-famous and controversial FBI Agent.

Before to the invasion of Iraq by the George W. Bush regime, Muhawesh opened an office as president of Middle East Trading Company, Inc. in Jordan to provide agricultural and developmental projects within Iraq with funding from federal agencies like U.S. AID and the United Nations World Food Progress.

Peter Strzok, Sr. was the former director of humanitarian and development programs throughout the Middle East. Strzok organized a program to send used tractors and other farm equipment to Iraq.

Both Muhawesh and Srtzok’s Dad, himself a former FBI Agent, are affiliated with the Minnesota-based American Refugee Committee, part of a USAID program to distribute relief supplies in Iraq.

If their USAID program wasn’t connected to the CIA, it would likely be the only one operating in country.

 daniel hopsicker barry boys coverJustice Integrity Project Editor's Note: The project has not independently verified the allegations in the investigation above made by Hopsicker, author of Barry and the Boys, whose cover is shown at right, and Welcome To Terrorland. Our project has excerpted columns also by MintPress News, most notably a series of cutting-edge reports by Whitney Webb during the summer of 2019 regarding context for the Jeffrey Epstein scandals. We are seeking reaction from MintPress News and Webb to Hopsicker's report.

Justice Integrity Project, MintPress News Denounces Hopsicker's Claims As Error-Filled 'Smear,' Andrew Kreig, Jan. 13, 2020 (updated). MintPress News Editor-in-Chief Mnar Muhawesh and correspondent Whitney Webb rebutted claims made Madcow News founder Daniel Hopsicker in the column above, describing it as a poorly researched, inaccurate and highly biased "dangerous smear."

Webb, shown below in one of the photos she uses to illustrate her columns, wrote on Twitter on Jan. 8, "Dangerous smear about Mintpress sadly coming from D Hopsicker, who falsely claims that it has 'direct ties' to Iran and whitney webb twitterspecifically Soleimani at a time when the US is about to go to war w Iran and MSM calling Soleimani a 'terrorist'. Clear attempt to get MPN deplatformed."

She wrote also, using the Twitter name @whitneywebb, "Hopsicker also claiming, after looking up the names of my relatives, that my dad worked for the OSS, an agency that was liquidated years before my dad was even born. Hopsicker began to 'investigate"'me after he implied I was a Nazi for merely being an American living in Chile."

"Hopsicker's problem with me,"  Webb continued, "is because I wrote about the links between Epstein and Israeli intel (I also covered his links to US Intel btw). His smears now being promoted by other alt media ppl who think it's impossible that I wrote my Epstein series w/o special help fr a govt."

In another Tweet, she wrote, "Nearly [sic] smear since my Epstein series has come from old men in alt media who are clearly upset that a woman half their age (I'm 30) made connections in that case in a couple of months that they couldn't make for years."

MintPress editor Muhawesh wrote in a separate Tweet, "No mention of my response to BuzzFeed smear & Odeh's role as a tech & HR advisor when I first started MPN. Why didn't Hopsicker mention my actual editorial & other business advisors like Mickey Huff & Kate Madonna. Is it because they are not brown Muslims?"

The MintPress website describes its background and alliances in part as follows: "MintPress News is proud to partner with leading journalism venues and activist sites that work tirelessly to bring attention to social justice issues at home and abroad. These syndication partners include: Shadow Proof, TruthOut, CommonDreams, Media Roots, War Is A Crime, , and several others. Become a MintPress partner! If you’d like to become a syndication or news partner or are simply interested in collaborating on an investigation with MintPress, contact our editor Mnar Muhawesh."

Hopsicker replied with a Jan. 11 Tweet asserting in call capitals, "THE SECOND THING...WHITNEY WEBB DISSOCIATED HERSELF FROM MINT PRESS NEWS YESTERDAY."

Webb responded the same day as follows: "For those asking, this is not even remotely true. I have several reports coming out for Mintpress this week. An absurd smear campaign inventing its own victory lap. Can't make this stuff up."

Jan. 5

Weinstein Trial To Begin

ny times logoNew York Times, Weinstein Heads to Trial in a Case Seen as Larger Than One Man, Megan Twohey, Jodi Kantor and Jan Ransom, Jan. 5, 2020. The Hollywood producer (shown at right)  faces sexual assault charges in a case that has already been fraught both for prosecutors and his legal team.

harvey weinsteinSince the Harvey Weinstein story broke more than two years ago, everything about it has been outsized: the scope of the allegations of sexual harassment and assault, stretching back decades; the number of his accusers, who total more than 80; and the global scale of the reckoning their stories have inspired.

Many supporters of the #MeToo movement that Mr. Weinstein’s accusers helped ignite are looking to see whether the legal system can deliver justice for victims. Lawyers for Mr. Weinstein, who lost his company, his reputation and his marriage, are arguing that the case is proof that #MeToo has gone too far. At the courthouse, media from around the world, demonstrators outside and spectators in packed galleries will be watching.

Now, as the Hollywood producer’s criminal trial begins Monday in Manhattan, the outcome already is anticipated as a verdict on much more than one man’s alleged wrongdoing.

Media Trends

ny times logofacebook logoNew York Times, How Big Tech Is Turning New York Into a Silicon Valley Rival, Matthew Haag, Jan. 5, 2020. Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google will soon have 20,000 workers in the city, many in a cluster of offices on the West Side.

Facebook’s push to accommodate its booming operations is part of a rush by the West Coast technology giants to expand in New York City. The rapid growth is turning a broad swath of Manhattan into one of the world’s most vibrant tech corridors.

Jan. 2

Page Six, Chuck Todd’s ‘Meet the Press Daily’ may be sidelined to make room for Nicolle Wallace, Emily Smith, Jan. 2, 2020. Chuck Todd’s “Meet chuck todd nbc croppedthe Press Daily” could be sidelined at MSNBC as part of a dramatic anchor reshuffling at the cable network to promote rising star Nicolle Wallace.

While the “MTP” flagship, also under NBC political director Todd, right, remains the No. 1 rated Sunday political show, with over 3 million viewers, his weekday 5 p.m. spinoff show has seen a dip in the all-important 25-to-54 age demographic. It airs between more popular, opinionated shows: Wallace’s “Deadline: White House,” which peaked with 2 million viewers in 2019, and “The Beat With Ari Melber.”

msnbc logo CustomTV insiders say NBC News boss Andy Lack and MSNBC’s Phil Griffin had tried to persuade Todd to move “Daily” to 9 a.m., directly after the network’s politically influential “Morning Joe.” The plan would allow Wallace — a breakout cable star — to broadcast for two hours on weekdays, 4 to 6 p.m.

Plus, the 9 a.m. slot could soon be open, Page Six revealed. That hour’s host, Stephanie Ruhle, has just signed to become NBC’s senior business correspondent, appearing across all shows including “Today” and “NBC Nightly News.”

But a TV insider said, “Chuck doesn’t want to move to 9 a.m. He’d rather leave MSNBC completely and focus on ‘Meet the Press’ on Sunday, and continue to provide news and political analysis across all NBC News platforms including digital. He sees his show as news, not opinion.” Another insider mused it was “madness for NBC to upset the face of its political coverage ahead of 2020. They need Chuck on air every day.”

A third MSNBC source conceded that news chiefs had asked Todd to move “Daily” because “the show doesn’t fit in the 5 p.m. slot.” But the insider insisted, “There’s no way MSNBC wants to lose ‘MTP Daily’ and Chuck. He’s NBC’s biggest political star.” The move comes as Todd faces backlash for highlighting a letter to the editor of a small newspaper that stated voters who believe in “fairy tales” and Noah’s Ark were more likely to vote for Donald Trump.

Jan. 1

Project Censored, Top 25 stories of 2018-2019, Staff report, Jan. 1, 2020. The presentation of the Top 25 stories of 2018-2019 extends the tradition originated by Professor Carl Jensen and his Sonoma State University students in 1976, while reflecting how the expansion of the Project to include affiliate faculty and students from campuses across North America has made the Project even more diverse and robust.

During this year’s cycle, Project Censored reviewed over 300 Validated Independent News stories (VINs) representing the collective efforts of 283 college students and 24 professors from 15 college and university campuses that participated in the Project’s Campus Affiliates Program during the past year.

1. Justice Department’s Secret FISA Rules for Targeting Journalists. A pair of 2015 memos, from former attorney general Eric Holder to the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, show how the government could use court orders.

2. facebook logoThink Tank Partnerships Establish Facebook as Tool of US Foreign Policy.  Under the guise of fighting “fake news” and protecting US democracy from “foreign influence,” in 2018 social media giant Facebook established partnerships with the Atlantic Council, a NATO-sponsored think tank.

3. Indigenous Groups from Amazon Propose Creation of Largest Protected Area on Earth. Sweeping development throughout the Amazon rainforest is an abiding concern for indigenous groups. The Amazon’s extraordinary biodiversity is being destroyed for profits and political gain.

4. U.S. Oil and Gas Industry Set to Unleash 120 Billion Tons of New Carbon Emissions. The US oil and gas industry has the potential to “unleash the largest burst of new carbon emissions in the world” through 2050, according to a January 2019 report.




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


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