Media News 2020

 

 JIPLogo

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

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

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

    • Andrew Kreig / Justice Integrity Project editor

       

      andrew kreig c span

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

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

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

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

 2020

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

 

September

Sept. 27

washington post logotiktok logo square CustomWashington Post, TikTok push showcases ‘central planner’ Trump and his hands-on approach to world’s largest economy, David J. Lynch, Sept. 27, 2020. The whirl of presidential action reflects President Trump’s determination to command the $19 trillion U.S. economy with the same hands-on vigor he brought to his Manhattan real estate firm.

Sept. 26

Media Matters, Opinion: The Supreme Court is way more important than right-wing media let on, John Whitehouse, Sept. 26, 2020. This week: What Fox News doesn't want people to know about a far right Supreme Court, how the media mishandled Trump's stunning refusal to commit to a peaceful transition, 200,000 are dead in the United States from the pandemic, CBS News runs with GOP spin, and more.

As expected, President Donald Trump officially nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court on Saturday evening. If you watched Fox News coverage of the nomination (and like I've said before, I don't recommend it), you've seen a lot of talk about Barrett's faith, intelligence, and personal life.

media matters logoWhat you don't see on Fox News is a lot of honest talk about the policy consequences of the Supreme Court with a 6-3 right-wing majority. The most they'll talk about is that Roe v. Wade is endangered (and that is an understatement).

Fox News is especially dismissing concerns that a Court with Barrett would invalidate the Affordable Care Act, including protections for pre-existing conditions. Barrett is on record praising late Justice Antonin Scalia's dissent in a 2012 case that would have invalidated the entire law. But in the few moments discussing health care on air on Saturday, Fox personalities scoffed at the likelihood.

Others are not being as coy. Fox News host Mark Levin railed at the Affordable Care Act on Twitter. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) admitted to George Stephanopoulos that the Supreme Court possible striking down the ACA "shouldn't tarnish Judge Barrett."

The fact of the matter is that Trump promised to appoint far right judges who would dismantle popular provisions in the law and prevent further such laws. That's where the focus of this confirmation fight should be.

fox news logo SmallAlso: Fox News on Sunday morning hosted network contributor and noted bigot Robert Jeffress to complain about an alleged anti-Catholic bias regarding Judge Barrett, even as a majority of current Supreme Court justices are Catholic. Meanwhile, Jeffress has called Catholicism a "counterfeit religion," the product of a "Babylonian mystery religion," and a product of "the genius of Satan." Once again, the hypocrisy is the point.

A federal appeals court on Sunday stayed a lower court’s injunction that would have allowed mail ballots in Wisconsin to count if postmarked by Election Day and received up to six days later. The typical deadline for mail ballots to be received is 8 p.m. on Election Day.

The injunction, a victory for Democrats in a closely watched swing state, is on hold pending further review, according to the order issued Sunday afternoon by the Seventh Circuit. District Judge William Conley, who issued the injunction last week, had expressed fears that tens of thousands of voters could be disenfranchised.

“Election workers’ and voters’ experiences during Wisconsin’s primary election in April, which took place at the outset of the COVID-19 crisis, have convinced the court that some, limited relief from statutory deadlines for mail-in registration and absentee voting is again necessary to avoid an untenable impingement on Wisconsin citizens’ right to vote,” Conley wrote in a 69-page opinion.

The Seventh Circuit’s judges include Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. Pushing for Barrett’s swift appointment, which would cement a conservative majority, Trump has suggested the Supreme Court could play a decisive role in the presidential election.

The Seventh Circuit’s order was not signed and did not include an explanation or the number of judges who agreed.

Conley had also told the state to extend its online and mail-in voter registration deadline by one week, from Oct. 14 to Oct. 21. He said voters who requested but did not receive mail ballots must have the option of accessing replacement ballots online or via email between Oct. 22 and Oct. 29.

Conley had put his injunction extending ballot-counting time on hold for seven days to allow the other side time to appeal.

Sept. 25

ny times logoNew York Times, Karen McDougal’s defamation suit against Fox News is dismissed, Michael M. Grynbaum and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Updated Sept. 25, 2020.tucker carlson Fox News won a legal victory on Thursday after a federal judge dismissed a defamation suit brought against its host Tucker Carlson, right, by a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Donald J. Trump before he was president.

The suit, filed last year, stemmed from a 2018 episode of Mr. Carlson’s show in which he accused the model, Karen McDougal, of djt karen mcdougal blue dressextorting Mr. Trump. She sold the rights to her story of an affair to The National Enquirer in 2016, which did not publish the story, a transaction that involved Mr. Trump’s former longtime lawyer, Michael D. Cohen.

fox news logo SmallMs. McDougal, shown at left, said Mr. Carlson’s remarks harmed her reputation, but Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil, of United States District Court in Manhattan, said the host’s comments were protected by the First Amendment.

“The statements are rhetorical hyperbole and opinion commentary intended to frame a political debate, and, as such, are not actionable as defamation,” she wrote.

ny times logoNew York Times, Alphabet Settles Shareholder Suits Over Sexual Harassment Claims, Daisuke Wakabayashi, Sept. 25, 2020. Google’s parent company was hit with a wave of lawsuits after The New York Times reported that an accused executive had received a $90 million exit package.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has settled a series of shareholder lawsuits over its handling of sexual harassment claims, agreeing to greater oversight by its board of directors in future cases of sexual misconduct and committing to spend $310 million over the next decade on corporate diversity programs.

The settlement, filed on Friday in California Superior Court, also said employees would no longer be forced to settle disputes with Alphabet in private arbitration. Workers had demanded that change after details of sexual harassment cases at the company became public two years ago.

In addition, Alphabet said it would limit confidentiality restrictions when settling harassment and discrimination cases and ban workplace romances between managers and subordinates.

The Silicon Valley company was hit by a wave of shareholder lawsuits after The New York Times reported in 2018 that the board of directors had approved a $90 million exit package for a star executive, Andy Rubin, even after an investigation deemed a sexual harassment claim against him credible. Mr. Rubin has denied the claim and others against him.

washington post logojohn bolton room where cover CustomWashington Post, U.S. judge questions Bolton’s political motives as he battles White House lawsuit for book profits, Spencer S. Hsu, Sept. 25, 2020 (print ed.). Attorneys for former Trump national security adviser John Bolton urged a federal judge Thursday to halt the government’s efforts to seize the proceeds from his memoir and accused White House aides of improperly trying to stall publication of the book because it reveals unflattering material about the president.

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth of Washington, D.C., voiced doubt, saying Bolton attorneys were mounting their own “political diatribe” in alleging Trump aides took unprecedented steps and politicized a pre-publication review of Bolton’s book, The Room Where It Happened.

“Isn’t the question whether the information is classified or not?” Lamberth prodded Bolton’s defense. “You’ve engaged in that whole political diatribe, but it really has no place in what we’re arguing today.”

The oral argument came after a lawyer for the career government official who conducted the initial review for classified information in Bolton’s manuscript contended in a letter to the court that Trump aides had “commandeered” the process, then erroneously claimed the memoir contained classified information and failed to propose edits to facilitate publication.

On Thursday, the parties gathered for a video court hearing in the lawsuit brought by the Trump administration in June seeking to halt release of Bolton’s book, a blistering account of his 17 months as the president’s top security adviser. Among other disclosures, the book reports that Trump asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to help him win reelection, confirms that Trump attempted to use military aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s son and says Trump expressed willingness to halt or obstruct criminal investigations as personal favors to authoritarian foreign leaders.

michael pack

Washington Post,washington post logoWashington Post, Head of government media agency flouts subpoena, angering Democrats and Republicans, Karoun Demirjianm, Sept. 25, 2020 (print ed.). The head of the government’s main international broadcasting agency flouted a subpoena for congressional testimony Thursday, angering both Democrats and Republicans already alarmed by his management tactics.

Michael Pack, chief executive of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees Voice of America and similar institutions, was issued a subpoena by the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week after he reneged on a promise to appear before the panel citing unspecified “administrative proceedings,” according to the panel’s chairman, Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.)

Engel said Thursday that Pack (shown above in a file photo from a previous appearance) “manufactured this conflict to get out of being here today.”

Spokesmen for the U.S. Agency for Global Media did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

voice of america logoPack has been the subject of intense scrutiny and controversy that commenced before he was confirmed to his position less than four months ago. In his brief tenure, he has ousted the heads of VOA’s sister operations Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks and the Open Technology Fund, frozen spending, and refused to renew the visas of foreign journalists — a move he has defended as an effort to root out potential spies.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Rewrite that list of debate topics, Chris Wallace. And put the climate crisis at No. 1, Margaret Sullivan, right, Sept. 25, 2020 (print margaret sullivan 2015 photoed.). When the wildfires are burning, we must have our candidates address how the planet is heating up — and dispense with topics of partisan pandering.

The past few months should have forced even the staunchest climate-crisis deniers to yank their heads out of the warming sand.

The temperature in Death Valley hit 130 degrees, the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth. Drought-fueled wildfires in the West are still raging, sending smoke all the way to the East Coast after destroying millions of acres and thousands of buildings, and causing more than 25 deaths. And tropical storms, one after another, endlessly roiled the Atlantic.

Our planet is in serious, irrevocable trouble. There’s no bigger issue.

Which is why it’s flat-out wrong that Fox News’s Chris Wallace — and those who advised him — didn’t see fit to put climate change on his topic list for Tuesday’s first presidential debate.

Instead, as the veteran newsman picked the subjects that will occupy each 15-minute segment of the 90-minute debate from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, we got these: the candidates’ records, the Supreme Court, covid-19, the economy, “race and violence in our cities,” and election integrity.

Sept. 24

ny times logoNew York Times, Harold Evans Dies at 92; Crusading Newspaperman With a Second Act, Robert D. McFadden, Sept. 24, 2020. In Britain, he helped redefine high-quality newspapers and challenged legal restrictions on the press. In America, he brought new scope and glitz to book publishing as the head of Random House.

Harold Evans, the crusading British newspaperman who was forced out as editor of The Times of London by Rupert Murdoch in 1982 and reinvented himself in the United States as a publisher, author and literary luminary, died on Wednesday night in New York City. He was 92.

His wife, the editor Tina Brown, confirmed his death in a statement. In Britain, he helped redefine high-quality newspapers and pushed back legal restrictions on the press. In the United States, he edited national magazines, introduced new scope and glitz to book publishing as the head of Random House, wrote history books and a best-selling memoir, and, with Ms. Brown, who edited Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, dazzled and upset the cognoscenti.

ny times logoNew York Times, Right-Wing Media Stars Mislead on Covid-19 Death Toll, Tiffany Hsu, Sept. 24, 2020. h Using a bogus interpretation of C.D.C. data, radio hosts like Mark Levin cast doubt on 200,000 pandemic deaths.

When the coronavirus death toll in the United States passed 200,000 on Tuesday, matching projections made by White House experts this spring, many of the right-wing media personalities who had mocked the estimates as overblown were quiet.

The death toll, tracked by Johns Hopkins University and a New York Times database, is most likely an undercount, many public health experts believe. At least 266,000 more people have died in the United States during the pandemic than would have been the case during a typical year.

Mark Levin, the host of a syndicated radio show and a Fox News program, declared on Twitter on Wednesday that “THE U.S. DID NOT SURPASS 200,000 COVID-19 DEATHS.” As evidence, he cited data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that 94 percent of the reported deaths involved underlying health problems and that 6 percent of the people who died had no illness or medical condition other than Covid-19.

Mr. Levin was one of several popular radio hosts who have used the C.D.C. statistic to make a case that the pandemic death toll was inflated, a false claim that was also promoted by a supporter of the QAnon conspiracy theory and amplified by President Trump in a post that Twitter removed last month.

Business Insider, Press freedom advocates are slamming Trump for glorifying violence against reporters, Sarah Al-Arshani, Sept. 24, 2020. Press freedom organizations say they're shocked, but not surprised, by Trump's remarks; They also warned that this sort of rhetoric is dangerous for reporters and the American people.

Press organizations have urged reporters to keep holding President Donald Trump accountable after he applauded physical aggression toward journalists covering his campaign.

"They grabbed a guy — 'I'm a reporter! I'm a reporter!' — 'Get out of here!' They threw him aside like a bag of popcorn. But honestly, when you watch the crap we've all had to take ... it's actually a beautiful sight," Trump said Tuesday, in reference to an MSNBC reporter who was hit by a rubber bullet while covering protests in Minnesota in May.

john donnellyJohn Donnelly, right, the chair of the press freedom team at the National Press Club, told Business Insider "a statement that glorifies violence against reporters is anathema to the American constitution."

Donnelly said that Trump's latest comments follow a long list of broadsides against journalists, which ultimately pose a threat to democracy itself.

"What he is doing is akin to what a Duterte or an Erdogan or a Putin might do," Donnelly added, referring to the president of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte and the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"Not what you would expect from a president of the United States and not what we have seen from the president of the United States up to this point. So it is extremely concerning for reporters, but it is par for the course for this president," Donnelly said.

In its own statement, the Society of Professional Journalists said it was "appalled" by Trump's latest remarks applauding violence against the news media.
"Promoting physical contact against journalists who are just trying to do their jobs during a pandemic is sickening and frankly, un-American. The president of the United States should be above calling a journalist 'a little bag of popcorn' and calling a journalist's forceful removal 'a beautiful sight,'" the statement read.

Elisa Lees Muñoz, the executive director for the International Women's Media Foundation told Business Insider she was shocked but not surprised by Trump's comments.

She said Trump's remarks continue to put reporters at risk on the ground, and online.

According to the US Press Freedom Tracker, at least 201 journalists have been attacked so far this year. There have also been more than 800 reports of aggression against reporters during Black Lives Matter protests.

"We know that journalists are being physically harmed on the ground, but to have it be mocked, and praised was beyond the pale, even for this president and this administration," Muñoz said.

She added that some of Trump's rhetoric has even been adopted by leaders abroad who have used it as justification to attack reporters there, especially women.

"It's happened in the Philippines. It's happened in Mexico, and in Brazil," Muñoz said.

Donnelly said Trump's repeated use of the phrase "fake news" is meant to attack news organizations and the credibility of their reporting, he says what it amounts to is an attempt to deflect criticism and accountability.

"First of all, there is such a thing as actual fake news. It is misinformation often created by America's adversaries and spewed online," Donnelly said. "But when the president says fake news, he means news that doesn't serve his agenda or hurts him politically."

Donnelly urged the press to continue calling out Trump when necessary and to keep telling the truth.

"There's a temptation to say, 'Oh, there's Trump being Trump again,' and to just move on, but we have to call out every single time he does this as unacceptable because it is beyond the pale. He is attacking a pillar of our country."

Sept. 23

Gothamist, NYU Warns Students After Professor Allegedly Declares Masks "Ineffective" In Slowing COVID Spread, Jen Chung, Sept. 23, 2020. Administrators at New York University, one of the few colleges in the area reopening for in-person learning, had to step in after one of its professors allegedly told his students that masks were not effective in mitigating the spread of coronavirus.

"It pains us to comment in any way on a faculty member’s comments, and we do so advisedly now; however, we do not feel we have a choice," school administrators said in an email reminding students that masks are required. "The matter is too important to your health and the health of those around you."

The comes after a student, Julia Jackson, wrote on Twitter that Mark Crispin Miller, a professor of media, culture, and communication, recently told students that "wearing masks doesn't prevent the spread of COVID-19":

The email, sent on Monday, was addressed to Miller's students from NYU's Steinhardt School dean, Jack Knott, and Dr. Carlo Ciotoli, who leads the school's COVID-19 response.

It reads, "Amid reports that your professor, Mark Crispin Miller, has been saying that masks are ineffective in checking the spread of COVID-19, we refer to the most authoritative public health guidance, which recommends wearing a mask as an effective way to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The evidence backs it up. And we remind you that wearing a mask is required at NYU," with links to the CDC's website and NYU's mask guidance.

mark crispin millerMiller, right, is known for his controversial views: He was included on a conservative watchlist of radical professors, for allegedly comparing President George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler, and has suggested the 9/11 attacks were an inside job (his departmental chair, at the time, said in 2017 that he was "entitled to his views").

On his website, Miller called his student's tweets "venomous" and insisted he never specifically told his class not to wear masks.

"Here’s the thread that prompted NYU to email my students, referring them to the CDC’s 'authoritative' position on face masks (that is, the one the CDC now takes, having said the opposite before April), and reaffirming NYU’s strict mask mandate (which I never urged the class to violate)," Miller writes. "I’ve been teaching propaganda (how to study it, not do it) for years now; and while there’s always disagreement, and resistance—both good things—I’ve never had anything like this happen."

Jackson, though, argued in her Twitter thread, that there's a public health emergency:

"The safety of the NYU community, as well as the New York City community, is our top priority," NYU spokesman John Beckman said in a statement to Gothamist. "Mask-wearing is a requirement at NYU for all students and faculty; we communicate it repeatedly to students and employees. Amid the reports about this online class, we have communicated directly with the students in it to remind them of the guidance from health authorities, the evidence supporting it, and that everyone on campus has to wear a mask and follow the other rules, such as maintaining social distancing and being tested regularly. We are pleased to report that the NYU community has embraced this guidance, and we have seen a high degree of compliance with our health rules."

Last week, an NYU dorm was put under lockdown after four students tested positive for the coronavirus. According to the school's COVID dashboard, for the seven-day period between September 12th and September 18th, there have been 53 new cases from almost 12,000 tests, for a positivity rate of 0.43%.

ny times logoNew York Times, Americans Have Lost $145 Million to Coronavirus Fraud, Christina Morales and Christine Hauser, Sept. 23, 2020. More than 200,000 complaints of scams and fraud have been filed so far this year, data from the Federal Trade Commission shows. Schemes related to the coronavirus peaked in the spring, and they focused on federal stimulus payments and other forms of financial relief, personal protective equipment, and unemployment and other government benefits, the commission reported.

The data was compiled by the commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network, which provides law enforcement agencies and the public with information about rampant forms of fraud. The network has tracked about 206,000 reports of fraud, identity theft, spam telephone calls and other potential scams related to the coronavirus that were submitted to the F.T.C. from Jan. 1 through Sept. 22.

According to Monica Vaca, director of the F.T.C.’s division of consumer response and operations, what is breathtaking about the reports is that the problems encompass so many aspects of consumers’ lives.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Turns Attack on MSNBC Journalist Into Rally Fodder, Katie Robertson, Sept. 23, 2020. At multiple campaign stops, the president has gotten laughs by inaccurately recounting Ali Velshi’s being hit by a rubber bullet while covering a protest.

msnbc logo CustomClaims of “fake news” have long been a staple of President Trump’s rally speeches. But in recent days, with the election less than six weeks off, he has made his rhetorical attacks on the news media more personal, with repeated references to a specific reporter’s suffering an injury while on the job.

At a rally in Bemidji, Minn., on Friday, Mr. Trump went after the MSNBC anchor and correspondent Ali Velshi by name, describing a moment when Mr. Velshi was hit in a knee by a rubber bullet in May while reporting on a Minneapolis protest prompted by the police killing of George Floyd. (The incident was captured live on MSNBC.)

“It was the most beautiful thing,” Mr. Trump said, after incorrectly stating that Mr. Velshi had been hit by a tear-gas canister. He added, “It’s called law and order.”

The president brought up the incident again the next day at a rally in Fayetteville, N.C., to more applause.

ny times logoNew York Times, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. to Retire as New York Times Company Chairman, Marc Tracy, Sept. 23, 2020. A changing of the guard is complete as he steps back from the board of the news organization he led to 61 Pulitzer Prizes.

The New York Times Company announced on Wednesday that Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. will retire as the chairman and as an active member of its board of directors on Dec. 31, completing a generational shift at a newspaper that has been in the same family for more than 120 years. He will be succeeded as the board’s chairman by his son, A. G. Sulzberger, the publisher.

Mr. Sulzberger, 69, served as publisher of The Times from 1992 to 2017. He made sweeping changes during his tenure, taking the print newspaper from black and white to color starting in 1993 — a move viewed with suspicion by some traditionalists — and later transforming it into a digital publication. He became chairman in 1997 and will assume the title of chairman emeritus.

His retirement concludes a changing of the guard, coming nearly three years after his son became the publisher and weeks after Meredith Kopit Levien, previously the chief operating officer, replaced Mark Thompson as the chief executive and president. Mr. Thompson, who held the chief executive job for eight years, was appointed to that role by the elder Mr. Sulzberger.

Sept. 21

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Jeff Zucker Helped Create Donald Trump. That Show May Be Ending, Ben Smith, Sept. 21, 2020 (print ed.). The coziness between the TV executive and Mr. Trump is a Frankenstein story for the cable news era. But then the monster got away, our columnist writes.

washington post logoWashington Post, TikTok says Oracle can review its source code, but deal won’t allow tech transfers, Eva Dou, Sept. 21, 2020. China's TikTok sought to tamp down domestic controversy over its deal with Oracle and Walmart, saying in a blog post Monday that there would be no technology transfer to Oracle, though the U.S. company would be able to check its software for safety.

tiktok logo square CustomThe statement by TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, reflected the awkward situation confronting TikTok as it navigates the same political pressures that U.S. companies have long faced in the China market. For years, U.S. firms have been the ones issuing the assurances that their Chinese partner couldn’t access their data except for safety checks.

“The current plan does not involve the transfer of any algorithms or technology,” ByteDance said in the post on its official WeChat account. “Oracle has the authority to check the source code of TikTok USA.”

The TikTok deal has been a vivid example of the Trump administration’s policy of reciprocity toward Chinese businesses. Supporters of the approach say it’s only fair to treat Chinese companies by the same standards to which U.S. companies are held in China. Critics say the United States should not stoop to the strong-arm negotiating tactics that it criticizes other governments for using.U.S. officials have followed Beijing’s playbook in demanding the viral-video app give the government a cut of the deal, and in applying eleventh-hour pressure in threatening to remove TikTok from U.S. app stores.

ny times logoNew York Times, James Levine Was Fired Over Sexual Misconduct, Then Was Paid $3.5 Million, James B. Stewart and Michael Cooper, Updated Sept. 21, 2020. The terms of a settlement last summer between the Metropolitan Opera and the renowned conductor had not been previously disclosed.

Last summer, Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, convened the executive committee of the company’s board to announce the end of one of the highest-profile, messiest feuds in the Met’s nearly 140-year history. A bitter court battle had concluded between the company and the james levine 40 years coverconductor James Levine, right, who had shaped the Met’s artistic identity for more than four decades before his career was engulfed by allegations of sexual improprieties.

Mr. Gelb told the committee that the resolution was advantageous to the Met. But the settlement, whose terms have not been publicly disclosed until now, called for the company and its insurer to pay Mr. Levine $3.5 million, according to two people familiar with its terms.

The Met had fired Mr. Levine in 2018 after an internal investigation uncovered what the company called credible evidence of “sexually abusive and harassing conduct toward vulnerable artists in the early stages of their careers.” Rather than going quietly, Mr. Levine sued the company for breach of contract and defamation, seeking at least $5.8 million. The Met countersued, revealing lurid details of its investigation and claiming that Mr. Levine’s misconduct had violated his duties. It sought roughly the same amount.

Wall Sreet on Parade, Analysis: 3-Count Felon, JPMorgan Chase, Caught Laundering More Dirty Money, Pam Martens and Russ Martens, right, Sept. 21, 2020. russ martens pam martensThe International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has once again managed to do what federal bank regulators refuse to do in the United States – come clean with the American people about our dirty Wall Street banks.

ICIJ dropped a bombshell investigative report yesterday about money laundering for criminals at some of the biggest banks on Wall Street, but you won’t find a peep about it on the front page of today’s Wall Street Journal or New York Times’ print editions.

JPMorgan Chase has already pleaded guilty to three criminal felony counts brought by the U.S. Department of Justice since 2014. Two of those counts related to money laundering and failure to file suspicious activity reports on the business bank account it held for Bernie Madoff for decades. JPMorgan Chase actually told U.K. regulators that it suspected Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme but it failed to jp morgan chase logoshare those concerns with U.S. regulators, even though it was required under law to do so.

The third felony count brought by the U.S. Department of Justice came one year later, in 2015. It related to JPMorgan’s involvement in a bank cartel that was engaged in rigging foreign exchange trading.

The ICIJ investigation is based on secret documents leaked from FinCEN, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a unit of the U.S. Treasury. The documents “show that five global banks — JPMorgan, HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank, Deutsche Bank and Bank of New York Mellon — kept profiting from powerful and dangerous players even after U.S. authorities fined these financial institutions for earlier failures to stem flows of dirty money.”

The report has much to say about JPMorgan Chase:

JPMorgan Chase was involved in moving illicit funds for the fugitive, Jho Low, involving the notorious looting of public funds in Malaysia. Jho Low has been accused by multiple jurisdictions of playing a key role in the embezzlement of more than $4.5 billion from a Malaysian economic development fund, 1MDB. JPMorgan Chase moved $1.2 billion in money for Jho Low from 2013 to 2016, according to the report.

paul manafort cnnThe ICIJ bombshell includes the charge that JPMorgan also “processed more than $50 million in payments over a decade, the records show, for Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager for President Donald Trump (shown at right in a 2016 file photo). The bank shuttled at least $6.9 million in Manafort transactions in the 14 months after he resigned from the campaign amid a swirl of money laundering and corruption allegations spawning from his work with a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.”

More troubling activity at JPMorgan Chase includes the following, according to ICIJ investigators:

“JPMorgan also moved money for companies and people tied to corruption scandals in Venezuela that have helped create one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. One in three Venezuelans is not getting enough to eat, the UN reported this year, and millions have fled the country.

“One of the Venezuelans who got help from JPMorgan was Alejandro ‘Piojo’ Isturiz, a former government official who has been charged by U.S. authorities as a player in an international money laundering scheme. Prosecutors allege that between 2011 and 2013 Isturiz and others solicited bribes to rig government energy contracts. The bank moved more than $63 million for companies linked to Isturiz and the money laundering scheme between 2012 and 2016, the FinCEN Files show…”

Sept. 20

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Judge Temporarily Halts Trump’s WeChat Ban, Ana Swanson and David McCabe, Sept. 20, 2020. A federal judge has issued an injunction against President Trump’s executive order banning the Chinese social media app WeChat from carrying out commercial transactions in the United States after Sunday, presenting at least a temporary setback in the president’s efforts to block an app that he has labeled a national security threat.

wechat logoThe ruling, which came Sunday morning, will temporarily halt Mr. Trump’s efforts to bar WeChat, which is owned by the Chinese company Tencent Holdings, from operating in the United States. The Trump administration has said the app offers China a conduit to collect data on Americans and to censor the news and information shared by WeChat’s more than a billion monthly active users.

In her decision, Judge Laurel Beeler of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California said that she had chosen to grant the motion because the plaintiffs had raised serious questions about whether the order would harm First Amendment rights, and that it placed significant hardship on the plaintiffs.

The U.S. government could now appeal to the Ninth Circuit court to seek to overturn the stay.

The motion for a preliminary injunction was filed Aug. 27 by the U.S. WeChat Users Alliance, a nonprofit group whose trustees include several prominent Chinese-American lawyers. The group says it has no connection to Tencent Holdings or any of its affiliates.

Julian Assange IndicterJulian Assange (Photo by The Indicter Magazine).

CraigMurrayBlog, Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 13, Craig Murray, right, Sept. 20, 2020. Friday gave us the most emotionally charged craig murray newermoments yet at the Assange hearing, showed that strange and sharp twists in the story are still arriving at the Old Bailey, and brought into sharp focus some questions about the handling and validity of evidence, which I will address in comment.

The first witness of the day was Nicky Hager, the veteran New Zealand investigative journalist. Hager’s co-authored book “Hit and Run” detailed a disastrous New Zealand SAS raid in Afghanistan, “Operation Burnham”, that achieved nothing but the deaths of civilians, including a child. Hager was the object of much calumny and insult, and even of police raids on his home, but in July an official government report found that all the major facts of his book were correct, and the New Zealand military had run dangerously out of control: “Ministers were not able to exercise the democratic control of the military. The military do not exist for their own purpose, they are meant to be controlled by their minister who is accountable to Parliament.”

Edward Fitzgerald took Hager through his evidence. Hager stated that journalists had a duty to serve the public, and that they could not do this without access to secret sources of classified information. This was even more necessary for the public good in time of war. Claims of harm are always made by governments against any such disclosures. It is always stated. Such claims had been frequently made against him throughout his career. No evidence had ever emerged to back up any of these claims that anybody had been harmed as a result of his journalism.

When Wikileaks had released the Afghan War Logs, they had been an invaluable source to journalists. They showed details of regular patrols, CIA financed local forces, aid and reconstruction ops, technical intelligence ops, special ops and psychological ops, among others. They had contributed much to his books on Afghanistan. Information marked as confidential is essential to public understanding of the war. He freqently used leaked material. You had to judge whether it was in the higher public interest to inform the public. Decisions of war and peace were of the very highest public interest. If the public were being misled about the conduct and course of the war, how could democratic choices be made?

United Kingdom flagEdward Fitzgerald then asked about the collateral murder video and what they revealed about the rules of engagement. Hager said that the Collateral Murder video had “the most profound effect throughout the world”. The publication of that video and the words “”Look at those dead bastards” had changed world opinion on the subject of civilian casualties. In fact the Rules of Engagement had been changed to put more emphasis on avoiding civilian casualties, as a direct result.

Historian, human rights activist and former UK ambassador Craign Murray has been covering the Assange extradition hearings in London. About Craig Murray.

The Sun, Anti-pedophile subreddit used by QAnon fans is banned after moderator 'admits addiction to child porn & pre-teen girls,' Nicole Darfrah, Sept. 20, 2020. An anti-pedophile message board has been banned after one of its moderators confessed to being obsessed with child pornography.

The Reddit page called “PedoGate” – used by QAnon followers – was banned from the platform this week after a moderator called Benjamin posted his confession online.

Sept. 19

washington post logoWashington Post, College newspaper reporters are the journalism heroes for the pandemic era, Elahe Izadi, Sept. 19, 2020. In New York, it was the Washington Square News that first reported a covid-19 outbreak in a college dorm. In Gainesville, Fla., the Alligator is the newspaper that has been painstakingly updating a map of local cases. And the Daily Gamecock alerted the public to the ways that University of South Carolina officials were withholding information about covid-19 clusters.

While the pandemic economy has devastated the local news business, there remains a cadre of small newspapers that are more energized than ever, producing essential work from the center of the nation’s newest coronavirus hot spots.

Those would be college newspapers, whose student journalists have been kept busy breaking news of campus outbreaks, pushing for transparency from administrators and publishing scathing editorials about controversial reopening plans.

Student-run newspapers have been reporting about the prevalence of covid-19 at fraternity and sorority houses, in campus residences halls and among student athletes. Professional media outlets have been crediting them for scoops, like the one at NYU. And student newspaper editorials taking school administrators to task for reopening plans — like Notre Dame’s the Observer’s front-page editorial titled “Don’t make us write obituaries" and the University of North Carolina’s Daily Tar Heel’s f-bomb headline — have made national news.

Sept.18

washington post logotiktok logo square CustomWashington Post, Trump administration bans WeChat, TikTok from app stores beginning on Sunday, Jeanne Whalen, Sept. 18, 2020. The White House will take action to curb WeChat’s use beginning Sunday, and will give TikTok until Nov. 12 until further bans kick in. The move is expected to sharply raise tensions with Beijing.

National Press Club, Statement On DOJ Decision Related To Al Jazeera Filing Under FARA, John Donnelly, Sept. 18, 2020. In response to the Justice Department’s Monday order for a U.S.-based affiliate of Al Jazeera to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), National Press Club President Michael Freedman and National Press Club Journalism Institute President Angela Greiling Keane released the following joint statement.

national  press club logo“We disagree with the U.S, Department of Justice (DOJ) decision to require AJ+ to file under FARA. This order effectively says the U.S. government views Al Jazeera to be a propaganda arm of the Qatari government rather than the independent news organizations that journalists all over the world know it to be, particularly though its coverage of the pro-Democracy Arab Spring movement of the past decade.

“Further, the timing of this FARA announcement the day before the UAE formally signed an agreement normalizing relations with Israel is of note. The UAE has made undercutting Al Jazeera’s journalism one of its priorities since it worked with Saudi Arabia in 2017 to impose a blockade on Qatar, which provides state funding to the news organization.

“We object to this mischaracterization of AJ+ which produces news videos and other content in multiple languages for digital distribution, as a foreign agent. We can only conclude that the Trump Administration is buckling to the demands of the UAE, which wants to suppress independent news gathering in the region – reporting that can expose the systemic inequality, corruption and incompetence of many of the region’s rulers

“While the Qatari government funds Al Jazeera, it does not control the network’s editorial decisions. Other prominent examples exist of international news outlets receiving foreign government funding, yet still being viewed as credible journalism organizations that do not have to file under FARA, These include: the BBC, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and AFP.

“FARA was developed during World War II to block Nazi propaganda from influencing Americans. It requires designated foreign entitites to reveal their sources of funding and to file regular public disclosures about their activity. The classification of Al Jazeera under FARA seems wholly political. The Trump Administration has close ties to UAE and Saudi Arabia even as the United States shares long-term strategic interests with Qatar exemplified by the Air Force’s reliance on the large air base at Al Udeid.

“Americans interest is in the growth and proliferation of independent media throughout the Middle East that can serve as a check on corrupt and unresponsive governments. Calling Al Jazeera a propaganda outlet instead of the independent news organization it is sends exactly the wrong message.”

Sept. 16

 susan page screenshot

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The cozy media-political cocktail circuit needs a cooling-off. Now is the perfect time, Margaret Sullivan, right, Sept. 16, 2020 margaret sullivan 2015 photo(print ed.). From the perspective of the Washington women involved in “Girls’ Night Out,” the social gathering was friendly, professionally helpful, and harmless.

And they largely stayed out of the public eye — until last week when one such event went embarrassingly public.

seema verma officialThe 2018 party at the home of USA Today’s Washington bureau chief Susan Page (shown above in a screenshot) was thrown for two Trump administration honorees, one of them Seema Verma, left, who had been appointed administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

A congressional investigation into Verma’s use of taxpayer funds to hire public-relations consultants found that about $3,000 went to Republican consultant Pam Stevens for her work organizing this party. As it happens, Stevens has had a longtime role managing the “Girls’ Night Out” guest lists — sending out invitations and gathering RSVPs. But in this case, she was also working for Verma, paid to elevate the Trump appointee’s “brand.”

SaveJournalism.org, Advocacy: Sen. Blumenthal to Google: “You’re driving [newspapers] out of business,” Morgan Caplan, Sept. 16, 2020. The Senate Judiciary Committee picked up where the House left off last month, with a bipartisan grilling of Google during a hearing in which the harm to the journalism industry featured prominently. Citing research showing Google is taking up to 70% of ad revenue from news outlets, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said to Google, “[y]ou’re depriving these news organizations of the revenue they need to keep going when the First Amendment is already under assault.”

richard blumenthal portraitSen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), left, zeroed in on how Google uses its multi-platform dominance with Search, its Chrome browser, and Android mobile operating system to harvest data on a newspaper’s readers, using the Hartford Courant [and New Haven Register] as an example.

Google is then able to use that data to go to advertisers who would buy space in the Courant and enable them to reach the Courant’s readers with ads at a lower cost. Sen. Blumenthal told Google, “you’re driving [papers] out of business…engaging in conduct that cuts their payrolls so there are fewer employees at those papers nationwide.” C-SPAN coverage here.

David Dinielli, Senior Advisor of Omidyar Network, spotlighted Google’s misuse of the journalism industry by hammering into the advertisement model that news publishers have been forced into while Google reaps the benefits, noting that “if you are an advertiser or a publisher all roads lead to Google.” Dinielli also made a crucial point that without advertising revenue streaming through newsrooms there is less content creation. Less content creation ensures a lower quality of local news reporting -- an asset that consumers need more than ever as the country faces crisis after crisis.

The following is a statement from Laura Bassett, former Senior Politics Reporter for HuffPost who was laid off in January 2019, and co-founder of the Save Journalism Project:

A bipartisan group of Senators exposed Google’s abuse of its market power to harm the journalism industry in a critical Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday. While journalists are risking their lives to report on a global pandemic, wildfires, the fight for social justice and elections, Google is exploiting its multi-platform dominance to drive newspapers out of business. The time has come to use the antitrust laws to stop Google from using their monopoly power to harm the journalism industry before it’s too late.

Journalism in America is facing an existential threat from the monopolistic control of tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Apple. Big tech’s dominance over the digital advertising market and their unrivaled capacity to monetize its platforms are having drastic effects on journalism as a whole.

Sept. 15

google logo customC-SPAN, Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a former Washington Post reporter and Connecticut Attorney General, challenges Google's business practices with questions and comments directed at Donald Harrison, Google president for Global Partnerships and Corporate Development, Sept. 15, 2020 (6:15 min. video).

Craig Murray Blog via Information Clearing House, Commentary: Assange Hearing Day 9, Craig Murray, right, Sept. 15, 2020. Things became not craig murray uk ambassadormerely dramatic in the Assange courtroom today, but spiteful and nasty.

There were two real issues, the evidence and the procedure. On the evidence, there were stark details of the dreadful regime Assange will face in US jails if extradited. On the procedure, we saw behaviour from the prosecution QC that went well beyond normal cross examination and was a real attempt to denigrate and even humiliate the witness. I hope to prove that to you by a straightforward exposition of what happened today in court, after which I shall add further comment.

Today’s witness was Eric Lewis. A practicing US attorney for 35 years, Eric Lewis has a doctorate in law from Yale and a masters in criminology from Cambridge. He is former professor in law at Georgetown University, an elected member of both the American Law Institute and the Council on Foreign Relations and a fellow of the American Bar Foundation. He is Chairman of Reprieve. He has represented high profile clients in national security and terrorism cases, including Seymour Hersh and Guantanamo Bay internees.

Lewis had submitted five statements to the court, between October 2019 and August 2020, addressing the ever-changing indictments and charges brought by the prosecution. He was initially led through the permitted brief half-hour summary of his statements by defence QC Edward Fitzgerald. (I am told I am not currently allowed to publish the defence statements or links to them. I shall try to clarify this tomorrow.)

Eric Lewis testified that no publisher had ever been successfully prosecuted for publishing national security information in the USA. Following the Wikileaks publications including the diplomatic cables and the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, Assange had not been prosecuted because the First Amendment was considered insuperable and because of the New York Times problem – there was no way just to prosecute Assange without prosecuting the New York Times for publishing the same material. The New York Times had successfully pleaded the First Amendment for its publication of the Pentagon Papers, which had been upheld in a landmark Supreme Court judgment.

Lewis here gave evidence that mirrored that already reported of Prof Feldstein, Trevor Timm and Prof Rogers, so I shall not repeat all of it. He said that credible sources had stated the Obama administration had decided not to prosecute Assange, notably Matthew Miller, a highly respected Justice Department figure who had been close to Attorney General Holder and would have been unlikely to brief the media without Holder’s knowledge and approval.

Eric Lewis then gave testimony on the change of policy towards prosecuting Assange from the Trump administration. Again this mostly mirrored the earlier witnesses. He added detail of Mike Pompeo stating the free speech argument for Wikileaks was “a perversion of what our great country stands for”, and claiming that the First Amendment did not apply to foreigners.

Attorney General Sessions had accordingly stated that it was “a priority for the Justice Department” to arrest Julian Assange. He had pressured prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia to bring a case. In December 2017 an arrest warrant had been issued, with the indictment to be filled in later. The first indictment of a single count had been launched in March 2018, its timing possibly dictated by a limitation deadline.

In May 2019 a new superseding indictment increased the counts from one to eighteen, seventeen of which related to espionage. This tougher stance followed the appointment of William Barr as Attorney General just four months previously. The plain intention of the first superseding indictment was to get round the New York Times problem by trying to differentiate Assange’s actions with Manning from those of other journalists. It showed that the Justice Department was very serious and very aggressive in acting on the statements of Trump administration officials. Barr was plainly acting at the behest of Trump. This represented a clear abuse of the criminal enforcement power of the state.

The prosecution of a publisher in this way was unprecedented. Yet the facts were the same in 2018 as they had been in 2012 and 13; there was no new evidence behind the decision to prosecute. Crucially, the affidavits of US Assistant Attorney Gordon Kromberg present no legal basis for the taking of a different decision to that of 2013. There is no explanation of why the dossier was lying around with no action for five or six years.

The Trump administration had in fact taken a different political decision through the Presidential spokesperson Sarah Sanders who had boasted that only this administration had acted against Assange and “taken this process seriously.”

Edward Fitzgerald QC then turned to the question of probable sentencing and led Lewis through his evidence on this point. Eric Lewis confirmed that if Julian Assange were convicted he could very probably spend the rest of his life in prison. The charges had not been pleaded as one count, which it had been open to the prosecution to do. The judge would have discretion to sentence the counts either concurrently or consecutively. Under current sentencing guidelines, Assange’s sentence if convicted could range from “best case” 20 years to a maximum of 175 years. It was disingenuous of Gordon Kromberg to suggest a minimal sentence, given that Chelsea Manning had been sentenced to 35 years and the prosecution had requested 60.

United Kingdom flagIt had been a government choice to charge the alleged offences as espionage. The history of espionage convictions in the USA had generally resulted in whole life sentences. 20 to 30 years had been lighter sentences for espionage. The multiple charges approach of the indictment showed a government intention to obtain a very lengthy sentence. Of course the final decision would lay with the judge, but it would be decades.

Edward Fitzgerald then led on to the question of detention conditions. On the question of remand, Gordon Kromberg had agreed that Julian Assange would be placed in the Alexandria City Jail, and there was a “risk” that he would be held there under Special Administrative Measures. In fact this was a near certainty. Assange faced serious charges related to national security, and had seen millions of items of classified information which the authorities would be concerned he might pass on to other prisoners. He would be subject to Special Administrative Measures both pre- and post-conviction.

After conviction Julian Assange would be held in the supermax prison ADX Florence, Colorado. There were at least four national security prisoners currently there in the H block. Under SAMS Assange would be kept in a small cell for 22 or 23 hours a day and not allowed to meet any other prisoners. He would be allowed out once a day for brief exercise or recreation excluded from other prisoners, but shackled.

Fitzgerald then led Lewis to the 2017 decision by the International Criminal Court to open an investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan, in which the evidence provided by the Wikileaks release of US war logs and diplomatic cables provided essential evidence. This had been denounced by Trump, John Bolton and Pompeo. The ICC prosecutor’s US visa had been cancelled to hinder his investigation. An Executive Order had been issued imposing financial sanctions and blocking the banking access of any non US national who assisted the ICC investigation into crimes alleged against any US citizen. This would affect Julian Assange.

Coverage continued in much greater detail on the Craig Murray Blog. Craig John Murray is a British former diplomat turned political activist, human rights campaigner, blogger and whistleblower. Between 2002 and 2004, he was the British ambassador to Uzbekistan during which time he exposed the violations of human rights in Uzbekistan by the Karimov administration.

ny times logotiktok logo square CustomNew York Times, TikTok’s Proposed Deal Seeks to Mollify U.S. and China, David McCabe, Ana Swanson and Erin Griffith, Updated Sept. 15, 2020. The Chinese-owned app designed a compromise to satisfy U.S. security concerns. The terms are now under review by the Trump administration.

washington post logoWashington Post, A Washington lawmaker shared conspiracy theories. She threatened a reporter who wrote about it, Jaclyn Peiser, Sept. 15, 2020. Daniel Walters was surprised to see an incoming call from Washington state Rep. Jenny Graham (R) on Aug. 27. The Spokane, Wash., journalist wrote a story that day about Graham sharing false articles on Facebook, including a story claiming that thousands of missing children are kept in dungeons and raped by demons.

But Walters was unable to pick up in time. When he called the state representative back, she unleashed a barrage of hateful insults.

“You c---------!” Graham said twice. “Don’t ever call me again.”

Before Walters could get some answers as to why Graham was upset, the line disconnected.

For days following the phone call, Graham took to Facebook, posting attacks against the reporter and calling his story false. On Monday, Walters wrote a follow-up piece in the Inlander, an alt-weekly newspaper in Spokane, fact-checking his earlier story and including the full recording of his interview with Graham, as well as the audio from a threatening voice mail she left him.

Sept. 14

 wall street on parade logo

Wall Sreet on Parade, Analysis: Citigroup, Closely Tied to the Clintons, Had a Senior V.P. Outed as a QAnon Promoter, a Conspiracy Group that Reviles the russ martens pam martensClintons, Pam Martens and Russ Martens, right, Sept. 14, 2020. This is the perfect litmus test of just how little mainstream media knows about the dangerous Wall Street banks. Last Thursday, the fact-checking website, Logically, outed Jason Gelinas, who was living a secret-life as a promoter of the conspiracy group, QAnon, while also holding down a Senior V.P. technology position at Citigroup, a giant Wall Street bank that played a key role in the financial and economic collapse of 2008.

But instead of headlining the story as “Citigroup V.P Outed as QAnon Promoter,” dozens of headlines described Gelinas as “NJ Man.” (Check out the “NJ Man” headlines here.) As far as we’re aware, there is no context in which the state of New Jersey would be relevant to this story, but there certainly is relevance when it comes to Citigroup.

citigroup logoCitigroup has remained strangely silent about the matter, declining to respond to a request from a Bloomberg News reporter as well as an email inquiry sent by Wall Street On Parade. It’s an embarrassment to Citigroup for sure. A leaked FBI memo that specifically names QAnon, indicated that such groups may pose a domestic terrorism threat. That’s not exactly someone you want in a senior role in technology security at one of the largest banks in the country.

QAnon’s conspiracy theories stem from an anonymous poster known as “Q,” whom QAnon followers believe is a person inside the Trump administration helping the President uncover and expose an evil cartel that includes child sex traffickers. In the eyes of QAnon commenters, Trump has taken on super action figure status while Hillary and Bill Clinton have been designated permanent roles in the evil cartel.

Deconstructing the posts on the various QAnon websites, it’s very hard not to draw the conclusion that Q is someone in the Trump campaign, or a zealous Trump supporter, simply trying to throw red meat to Trump’s base and keep them engaged.

We located a French language website, DisSept.com, which has a direct link to the QAnon website set up by Gelinas, QMap.pub, (now taken down but visible at the Wayback Machine) and echoes the same themes: Trump is out to save the U.S. while the Clintons are pure evil.

A website analytics firm, SimilarWeb.com, shows that DisSept.com was the main referral site to QMap, although the bulk of QMap’s 10 million visitors a month in May, June and July were coming directly to the site, not through a referral site.

There is heavy irony in Citigroup now being outed as the employer of Gelinas, whose LinkedIn resume (also now removed) indicated he had worked for the bank for the past 17 years. Citigroup has a heavy history with the Clintons. President Bill Clinton’s Treasury Secretary was Robert Rubin. After Rubin helped to engineer the 1999 repeal of the 1933 banking legislation known as the Glass-Steagall Act, allowing federally-insured banks to merge with Wall Street trading casinos, Rubin became a member of the Citigroup Board of Directors and reaped $120 million in compensation over the next decade. Citigroup desperately needed the repeal of this legislation because it had already illegally merged Citicorp with Salomon Brothers the prior year.

Sandy Weill, the Co-CEO at Citigroup in 1999, who lobbied for the repeal of Glass-Steagall, was given a commemorative pen from the Clinton signing ceremony that repealed the legislation. Just nine years after the repeal, Wall Street banks like Citigroup blew up Wall Street, taking down the U.S. economy in the process.

According to PolitiFact, Citigroup was the bank that provided the Clintons (shown in a file photo at right) with a $1.995 million mortgage to buy their Washington, D.C. residence in 2000, Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton via flickr and Karen Smith Murphyas President Bill Clinton’s second term in the White House was ending.

Citigroup also paid Bill Clinton hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees after he left the White House according to financial disclosure forms. The bank also committed at least $5.5 million to the Clinton Global Initiative — a nonprofit created by Bill Clinton in 2005, after leaving the White House. The nonprofit previously brought global leaders together annually to make action commitments.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Citigroup was the number one contributor to Hillary Clinton’s reelection run for the Senate in 2006. Goldman Sachs was number two. The banks are not allowed to donate directly to the candidate. The money comes from bank employees, their spouses, and the banks’ political action committees.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Intercept Promised to Reveal Everything. Then Its Own Scandal Hit, Ben Smith, Sept. 14, 2020 (print ed.). Internal documents show how a source ended up in jail — and the fallout in the newsroom.

Where were you when you first heard about the Snowden leak? The huge breach of the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program in June edward snowden twitter2013 was one of the proudest moments in modern journalism, and one of the purest: A brave and disgusted whistle-blower, Edward Snowden, right, revealed the government’s extensive surveillance of American and foreign citizens. Two journalists protected their source, revealed his secrets and won the blessings of the Establishment — a Pulitzer Prize and an Oscar for it.

One of the people who fell in love with that story was Pierre Omidyar, the earnest if remote billionaire founder of eBay. That October, he pledged $250 million for a new institution led by those two journalists, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. Mr. Omidyar was the benefactor of journalists’ dreams. He promised total independence for a new nonprofit news site, The Intercept, under the umbrella of his First Look Media.

The Intercept was founded in the belief that “the prime value of journalism is that it imposes transparency, and thus accountability, on those who wield the greatest governmental and corporate power.” The outlet’s first mission was to set up a secure archive of Mr. Snowden’s documents, and to keep mining them for stories.

All the drama would make this another colorful story about extreme newsroom dysfunction had The Intercept not caught the attention of a naïve National Security Agency linguist with the improbable name of Reality Winner in 2017. Ms. Winner, then 25, had been listening to the site’s podcast. She printed out a secret report on Russian cyberattacks on American voting software that seemed to address some of Mr. Greenwald’s doubts about Russian interference in the 2016 campaign and mailed it to The Intercept’s Washington, D.C., post office box in early May.

reality winner mug CustomThe Intercept scrambled to publish a story on the report, ignoring the most basic security precautions. The lead reporter on the story sent a copy of the document, which contained markings that showed exactly where and when it had been printed, to the N.S.A. media affairs office, all but identifying Ms. Winner as the leaker.

On June 3, about three weeks after Ms. Winner, shown at left in a mug shot, sent her letter, two F.B.I. agents showed up at her home in Georgia to arrest her. They announced the arrest soon after The Intercept’s article was published on June 5.

“They sold her out, and they messed it up so that she would get caught, and they didn’t protect their source,” her mother, Billie Winner-Davis, said in a telephone interview last week. “The best years of her life are being spent in a system where she doesn’t belong.”

Failing to protect an anonymous leaker is a cardinal sin in journalism, though the remarkable thing in this instance is that The Intercept didn’t seem to try to protect its source. The outlet immediately opened an investigation into its blunder, which confirmed the details that the Justice Department had gleefully announced after it arrested Ms. Winner. They included the fact that The Intercept led the authorities to Ms. Winner when it circulated the document in an effort to verify it, and then published the document, complete with the identifying markings, on the internet.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Should Bob Woodward have revealed that Trump lied sooner? Robert Harrington, Sept. 14, 2020. When a crime is committed it’s sometimes a favorite pastime of a certain kind of armchair cynic to find people other than the criminal to blame. The most repulsive of the type are the blamers of rape victims. Far less abhorrent but still representative of the breed are those who insist that Bob Woodward should have come forward sooner with the taped revelation that Donald Trump deliberately misled the American people about coronavirus. Put another way, could lives have been saved had Bob Woodward come forward sooner with the tape proving Trump was lying?

bill palmer report logo headerLet me start by interjecting the personal. I’m not a huge fan of Bob Woodward. I’ve always thought there was something just a little bit sleazy about him and that he didn’t always deserve the accolades he so generously receives. From his involvement in the “Jimmy’s World” scandal (in which he supported a Washington Post inner city story about an 8 year old heroin addict that turned out to be entirely fictional) to his highly questionable claim of a deathbed interview with CIA Director William Casey, to his rather clumsy, unimaginative interview style, he’s never exactly been my favorite. Of the two famous Watergate reporters I always thought Bernstein was the smart one.

What’s more, had I been in Woodward’s position, I would like to think I would have announced to the world right away that Trump was lying about coronavirus and I had the tapes to prove it. To be sure, I doubt that it would have done any good. When you stop to think about it, it still hasn’t done any good, really, and that carries my point. But announce I would have, all the same. And it would have come, I think, at no loss to my soon-to-be-released book.

With those preliminaries out of the way, it isn’t Bob Woodward’s job to warn the American people about the dangers of coronavirus, it’s the job of the president of the United States. Trump’s failure to do so is his shame, and he shares that shame with nobody. Bob Woodward is no more responsible for the inner workings of Donald Trump than Lindsey Graham is responsible for Trump’s moronic decision to do the Woodward interview in the first place. The buck stops there, and we need to stop suggesting otherwise.

Donald Trump deliberately misled the American people, knowing with crystalline clarity, in advance, that people would die. He did it to protect his precious stock market with the insane belief that it would enhance his re-election chances. He made the decision to voluntarily trade 200,000 American lives (so far) in exchange for four more years as America’s first criminal president, went home, had dinner and slept like a baby. Donald Trump is the evil at work here. He gets the blame and no one else.

If there’s any doubt left among you that Donald Trump is a psychopathic murderer, wholly without an ounce of human compassion, a murderer who would kill anyone any time to advance his shot at re-election, now is the time to abandon that doubt. Donald Trump isn’t just your garden variety corrupt Republican, he is as evil and as ruthless and as heartless and as vicious as any serial murderer you have ever read about. Trump is a dead-eyed killer.

There are a million reasons why Donald Trump is unfit to be president of the United States, this has been another one. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.x

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The egregious gaslighting around Trump’s handling of the pandemic, Philip Bump, Sept. 14, 2020. Likely recognizing the political danger of having taken this deceptive approach, Trump and his allies have fallen back on whataboutism as a defense. On Sunday, Trump highlighted a segment from Fox News’s Greg Gutfeld, in which Gutfeld presented various Democratic leaders and media personalities similarly downplaying the threat.

Unable to leave well enough alone, Trump took Gutfeld’s extremely generous argument further.

“I was right, these people were all wrong, and now they criticize me,” Trump wrote. “Such hypocrisy!”

This is unmitigated gaslighting. The people in the video were no more wrong than Trump in the excerpted quotes — and were subsequently far more proactive in realistically addressing the threat.

Trump was informed at the end of January that the pandemic would be “the biggest national security threat” he faced as president. Trump and Woodward spoke on Feb. 7, at which point Trump explained the risks. Yet he and his team failed to act with any sense of urgency for weeks.

Sept. 13

washington post logoWashington Post, Consumer Tech Investigation: The 5G lie: The network of the future is still slow, Geoffrey A. Fowler, Sept. 13, 2020 (print ed.). We speed tested 5G phones against 4G ones. America’s new nationwide 5G networks weren’t much faster — and in some places they were slower.

att logoUnless you’ve been living under a rock — which in 2020 actually sounds soothing — you’ve probably heard there’s a new cellphone technology called 5G. Any iPhone or Galaxy owner knows the law of Gs: Every additional G makes downloads faster. 3G sent pictures. 4G streamed video.

sprint tmobile logosApple is planning to hold a launch event on Sept. 15, where it could unveil its first 5G-enabled iPhones. Samsung’s entire flagship lineup is now 5G-equipped. So these 2020 models are going to really fly, right?

Well, hold on just a minute.

washington post logoamazon logo smallWashington Post, Bezos’s likely Amazon successor is an executive made in Bezos’s image, Jay Greene, Sept. 13, 2020 (print ed.). Andy Jassy, the leader of Amazon’s cloud computing business, is now the clear heir apparent to Jeff Bezos after the announced retirement of the retail operations chief. There are few chief executives more identified with the companies they run than Jeff Bezos.

jeffrey bezos washington postBut the 56-year-old Amazon founder, and the world’s wealthiest person, left, will one day need to pass on the reins of the e-commerce giant. And an heir apparent has emerged in recent weeks: Andy Jassy, the 52-year-old head of Amazon Web Services, or AWS, the company’s cloud computing business, who was one of two No. 2s in Amazon’s corner offices.

The likelihood of Jassy’s being Bezos’s successor increased when the other deputy, Jeff Wilke, who ran Amazon’s retail business, last month unexpectedly announced plans to retire early next year.

Sept. 10

djt profile balding big head palmer

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump caught bragging that he helped cover up murder of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Bill Palmer, Sept. 10, 2020. This morning Palmer Report predicted with certainty that there would be more bombshells about Donald Trump coming from Bob Woodward this week. After all, Woodward’s book is still five days away from launch, meaning he was going to give more advance details to the press. Sure enough, that’s happening already this afternoon.

bill palmer report logo headerIt turns out Donald Trump bragged to Woodward that he helped cover up the murder of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi, by pressuring Congress into dropping the investigation into Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right.

Mohammed Bin Salman Al-SaudTrump went so far as to say “I saved his ass” in reference to Bin Salman, which is likely true, considering what dire straits Bin Salman was in at the time.

This is a confession to a murder coverup, since Trump’s actions helped a murderer avoid being brought to justice. This comes on top of Trump’s coronavirus admissions, which are tantamount to a taped confession to negligent homicide.

The Independent, Assange extradition hearing paused over fears lawyer exposed to coronavirus, Lizzie Dearden, Sept. 10, 2020. Wikileaks founder is battling being sent to US on 18 charges over leaked cables. Julian Assange’s extradition hearing has been paused over fears that a lawyer may have been exposed to coronavirus. The Wikileaks founder is battling against attempts to send him to the US for trial for allegedly conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law over the release of confidential cables in 2010 and 2011.

Judge Vanessa Baraitser adjourned the case until Monday after being told one of the lawyers involved had been exposed to the virus.

Mr Assange has been held on remand at HMP Belmarsh for a year after serving a 50-week jail sentence for breaching bail conditions by fleeing to London’s Ecuadorian embassy in 2012. His current extradition hearing, which was previously delayed by the coronavirus outbreak, is expected to last for around a month.

Wednesday’s hearing was told that the Australian’s political opinions put him in the ”crosshairs“ of the Donald Trump administration. Professor Paul Rogers told the Old Bailey that Wikileaks’ revelations were ”significant“ in showing how the US coalition's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were going wrong despite public claims of their success.

The emeritus professor of peace studies at Bradford University said leaked documents published by Wikileaks exposed details of an extra 15,000 civilians killed in Iraq. Asked by Mr Fitzgerald QC if he believed the charges against Mr Assange are motivated by ”criminal justice concerns“ or political considerations, Prof Rogers said: ”I have to say it appears to be the latter. This does appear to be a political trial.“

washington post logoWashington Post, Susan Page of USA Today criticized for hosting off-the-record event honoring Trump appointees, Jeremy Barr, Sept. 10, 2020. USA Today is defending longtime Washington bureau chief Susan Page, after a congressional investigation revealed that she hosted a “Girls’ Night Out” event at her home in honor of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema seema verma officialVerma, right, in November 2018.

Page, a longtime member of the D.C. press corps, was recently picked by the Commission on Presidential Debates to host the vice-presidential debate on Oct. 7.

Her leading role in hosting the event at her home raised eyebrows on social media from observers who suggested that it conflicted with her ability to cover the administration as an impartial journalist. Reporters are supposed to maintain an arm’s-length relationship with their sources, and hosting parties for them arguably compromises this role.

The investigation targeted Verma’s “use of taxpayer funds to retain communications consultants with strong Republican political ties.” A report, including billing documents, was released on Thursday. The investigation was conducted by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Senate Committee on Finance (minority party members) and Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (minority party members).

A Politico article on Thursday called attention to Verma’s spending on public-relations consultants but did not identify Page as a host of an event.

According to the investigation, taxpayers paid $2,933 for organizing the “Girls’ Night Out” event.

But USA Today spokesperson Chrissy Terrell said on Thursday afternoon that Page was “unaware” that the CMS was billed for the event, which the newspaper said was held to honor “two women who had recently gotten significant appointments, Heather Wilson to head the Air Force and Seema Verma to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — both milestone moments to be recognized.”

The newspaper defended Page’s decision to host the gathering, which the publication said are “routinely hosted” by female journalists to “honor significant accomplishments of both Democratic and Republican women,” with the journalists footing the bill. (Page paid $4,025 for catering, plus several hundred dollars for beverages and more money tips for the wait staff.)

“USA Today is fully aware of these long-standing events that recognize the accomplishments of women and fall well within the ethical standards that our journalists are expected to uphold,” the publication said, adding that Page “was not paid or reimbursed by the federal government” for the event.

Republican communications consultant Pam Stevens, who was reportedly “working to raise the brand of Verma,” is the longtime organizer of the social gatherings and sends out the invitations.

Page and the other attendees at the mixer were not aware that Verma was a client of Stevens, according to people with knowledge of the situation who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

The publication said that “PBS NewsHour” anchor Judy Woodruff, “CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell, CBS News correspondent Rita Braver and NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell have hosted similar events in the past, which are considered to be off-the-record for reporting purposes and are held at either host’s homes or a restaurant. (The January 2017 gathering hosted at Woodruff’s home was "to welcome Kellyanne Conway and Katie Walsh and the women of the Trump White House,” according to an invitation)

The congressional investigation into Verma concluded that her consultants “charged CMS nearly $6 million for work that included boosting her public profile and personal brand, serving as her preferred communications advisers, arranging private meetings for her with media personalities and other high-profile individuals, and routinely traveling with her to events across the country.”

Sept. 9

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Should Bob Woodward have reported Trump’s virus revelations sooner? Here’s how he defends his decision, Margaret margaret sullivan 2015 photoSullivan, right, Sept. 9, 2020. Critics say the scoop was too important to hold for his new book.

Two waves of outrage greeted the news on Wednesday of Bob Woodward’s latest White House chronicle, a book titled “Rage.”

The first was Trump’s disclosure to Woodward that he knew as early as February — even as he was dismissing the novel coronavirus publicly — that the looming pandemic was far deadlier than the flu. The second was that Woodward, long associated with The Washington Post, didn’t reveal this to the public sooner.

bob woodward rageI took the questions and complaints to Woodward, who initially was reluctant to speak on the record until after a “60 Minutes” segment airs on Sunday because he had promised the publisher and CBS not to give any interviews until then. But because my questions were about process, rather than the content of the book, he agreed to address the ethical issues.
The fact that this second outrage mostly circulated among journalists talking to one another made it no less furious: If the famous Watergate reporter knew that Trump was lying to the public about a matter of life and death, why didn’t he reveal it immediately?

Woodward book: Trump says he knew coronavirus was ‘deadly’ and worse than the flu while intentionally misleading Americans

Woodward is hardly the first journalist to save juicy information for a book. But “is this traditional practice still ethical?” tweeted David Boardman, dean of the Temple University journalism school and a former longtime editor of the Seattle Times.

Sept. 7

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Here’s what the media must do to fend off an election-night disaster, Margaret Sullivan, right, Sept. 7, 2020 (print ed.). There are margaret sullivan 2015 photolessons to take from the Iowa caucuses, the midterms and the 2000 election. Is the media paying attention?

This time, with the stakes of the election so high, news organizations need to get it right. They need to do two things, primarily, and do them extraordinarily well.

First, in every way possible, they must prepare the public for uncertainty, and start doing this now. Granted, the audience doesn’t really show up in force until election night itself, but news reports, pundit panels and special programming can help plow the ground for public understanding of the unpredictability — or even chaos — to come.

Second, on election night and in the days (weeks? months?) to follow, news organizations will need to do the near-impossible: reject their ingrained instincts to find a clear narrative — including the answer to the question “who won?” — and stay with the uncertainty, if that’s indeed what’s happening.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Journalists Aren’t the Enemy of the People. But We’re Not Your Friends, Either, Ben Smith, Sept. 7, 2020 (print ed.).  Our columnist writes that President Trump will try to put the media on the ballot, and reporters face the temptation to posture for those eager to oust him.

Julian Assange at Ecuador's Embassy (Photo Collage by The Indicter Magazine)

WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange, center, an Australian, obtained political asylum for years at Ecuador's Embassy in London (Photo Collage by The Indicter Magazine).

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. extradition trial for founder of WikiLeaks starts in London, William Booth, Sept. 7, 2020 (print ed.). Federal prosecutors want to try Julian Assange, an Australian anti-secrecy activist, for allegedly violating the Espionage Act.

United Kingdom flagThe long-delayed evidentiary hearing in the extradition case of imprisoned WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange returned to the courtroom here Monday.

U.S. prosecutors say the Australian publisher and activist violated the Espionage Act by conspiring to obtain and disclose hundreds of thousands of pages of secret government documents, including classified diplomatic cables and sensitive reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

julian assange facts wikileaks CustomProsecutors have also charged Assange with conspiracy to commit “computer intrusions” by helping army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning try to hack a password to get access to even more files. In a superceding indictment unsealed in June, prosecutors say he also solicited hackers to break into Icelandic government computers to steal information. They want Assange transported to Northern Virginia to face federal charges.Washington Post,

Assange is fighting the extradition. His lawyers argue that the crimes of which he’s accused are “purely political offenses” and say British treaty law should protect him from forced transfer.

The WikiLeaks publisher appeared in court Monday at the Old Bailey, the Central Criminal Court in London, where Assange’s lawyers will call witnesses to testify in person or via remote video link. Assange wore a suit and tie and watched the proceedings from behind a glass wall. He answered “no” when asked by the judge if he would consent to being extradited to the United States.

The judge and lawyers were in the courtroom, but as a precaution against the coronavirus, most observers and journalists will be limited to watching via tightly controlled virtual links. The hearings will not be broadcast to the public. They are expected to last three weeks.

Sept. 4

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Angrily Denies Report He Called Fallen Soldiers ‘Losers,’ Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, Sept. 4, 2020. The report, in The Atlantic (Americans Who Died in War Are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers:’ Trump), could be problematic for President Trump because he is counting on strong support among the military in the election.

President Trump confronted a crisis on Friday that could undercut badly needed support in the military community for his re-election campaign as he sought to dispute a report that he privately referred to American soldiers killed in combat as “losers” and “suckers.”

djt pence yard sign logoMr. Trump, who has long portrayed himself as a champion of the armed forces and boasted of rebuilding a military depleted after years of overseas wars, came under intense fire from Democrats and other opponents who said the magazine report demonstrated his actual contempt for those who serve their country in uniform.

The campaign of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee, blasted out a series of statements and organized a conference call for reporters with Khizr Khan, the Gold Star father who represented Virginia at the Democratic National Convention last month, and Senator Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat severely wounded while serving as a helicopter pilot in Iraq, who slammed Mr. Trump during the convention as the “coward in chief.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Fox News confirms Donald Trump made deranged remarks about the troops, Bill Palmer, Sept. 4, 2020. After the Atlantic reported fox news logo SmallDonald Trump’s remarks about U.S. troops being “losers” and “suckers,” the Associated Press and Washington Post each independently confirmed the remarks. But Trump still decided that it’s fake news, because he doesn’t like any of those news outlets. Now his problem has gotten bigger.

bill palmer report logo headerJennifer Griffin from Fox News is confirming on Twitter that the Atlantic story is true. Fox is confirming that Trump said that “Anyone who went [to Vietnam] was a sucker” and that having wounded veterans in military parades is “not a good look.”

In the normal world, no one cares what a rag like Fox News says. But in the world of disinformed people who were steered toward Trump by Fox News to begin with, it’s a big deal that even Fox is now confirming Trump really did say these horrible things about the troops.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump said U.S. soldiers injured and killed in war were ‘losers,’ magazine reports, Colby Itkowitz, Alex Horton and Carol D. Leonnig, Sept. 4, 2020. President Trump called U.S. soldiers injured or killed in war “losers,” questioned the country’s reverence for them and expressed confusion over why anyone would choose to serve, according to a new report that the White House has called “patently false.”

djt smiling fileThe report, published late Thursday by the Atlantic, cites four unnamed people with firsthand knowledge of Trump’s comments. It says Trump disparaged the military service of the late former president George H.W. Bush, objected to wounded veterans being involved in a military parade, and canceled a visit to Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018 because he didn’t care about honoring those killed in war.

The White House released a sharply worded statement defending Trump — who has insulted POWs, traded barbs with grieving families of the dead and said before he was president that avoiding sexually transmitted diseases was his own “personal Vietnam” — against accusations that he doesn’t respect the military.

washington post logoNew York Times, Trump Says He Will Reverse Plan to Close Military Newspaper, Helene Cooper, Sept. 4, 2020. The reversal on the Stars and Stripes newspaper came as President Trump was in full defensive mode over reports he’d disparaged military personnel.

President Trump said late Friday that he planned to reverse Pentagon budget cuts that would have permanently closed Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper that has both informed and spoken for American troops over the decades.

stars strips logo CustomUnder Defense Department spending plans, the paper would cease print and online publication by the last day of September, a move seen as expanding the Trump administration’s war on news media to include those paid by the government to cover the military.

Yet, while the demise of Stars and Stripes had been in budget cuts first proposed by Mr. Trump’s Pentagon in February, the president announced the paper would continue to publish.

“The United States of America will NOT be cutting funding to @starsandstripes magazine under my watch,” Mr. Trump posted on Twitter several hours after major news organizations began publishing stories about the pending closure of the newspaper. “It will continue to be a wonderful source of information to our Great Military!”

Begun during the Civil War, Stripes has more recently frustrated presidents and defense secretaries during the “forever wars” that began after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by elevating the voices of those in uniform who contradicted commanders and political leaders.

But while the newspaper found enough backers in Congress and among retired military officers to keep it alive during previous administrations, that support has been unable to reverse Defense Department plans to zero-out the Stars and Stripes budget during a Trump presidency marked by continuing battles with journalists.

A bipartisan group of 11 Democratic and four Republican senators called on the Defense Department to maintain funding for the publication, which has about 1.3 million readers online and in print. In a letter on Wednesday to Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, the senators said the Pentagon, with its budget of more than $700 billion, could surely find the $15.5 million in federal funding mark esperneeded to keep Stars and Stripes going.

The challenge facing Stars and Stripes — maintaining editorial independence from the government while depending on government funding — is playing out in other parts of the Trump administration.

Similar efforts to weaken federally funded news outlets are underway at the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees international broadcast outlets like Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcast Networks.

In February, Mr. Esper, left, who was appointed by Mr. Trump last year, proposed ending the Defense Department’s funding to Stars and Stripes.

office.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon reaffirms Microsoft’s JEDI cloud contract, dealing a blow to Amazon, Aaron Gregg, Sept. 4, 2020. The Defense Department decided almost a year ago to award its $10 billion JEDI cloud computing contract to Microsoft, but it opted for a do-over when a bid protest from Amazon uncovered a mistake in how prices were evaluated.

The Pentagon reaffirmed its controversial decision to give its largest-ever cloud computing contract to Microsoft instead of to market-leader Amazon, defying a court decision that blocked the earlier award amid criticism that President Trump’s animosity toward Amazon influenced the decision.

amazon logo smallWith Amazon likely to continue its legal challenge, the decision means there is still no end to the bitter legal fight that has held up the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, commonly known as JEDI, for close to two years. An Amazon representative did not immediately respond to questions on whether it would appeal the decision.

“The Department has completed its comprehensive re-evaluation of the JEDI Cloud proposals and determined that Microsoft’s proposal continues to represent the best value to the Government,” said Russ Goemaere, a Defense Department spokesman. He added that contract performance cannot begin until after Feb. 13 because of an existing court order, but the department hopes to begin work on JEDI soon.

“DoD is eager to begin delivering this capability to our men and women in uniform,” Goemaere added.

Last summer, President Trump asked for an investigation into the contract over concerns that the contract requirements had been tailored for Amazon. Newly installed Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper then launched his own “review” of the department’s approach. The Pentagon then awarded JEDI to Microsoft, prompting a lawsuit from Amazon.

In its bid protest Amazon alleged that Trump’s interest in the JEDI contract was motivated by his antipathy toward Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post. Bezos, who bought The Post in 2013, does not weigh in on The Post’s coverage decisions, the news organization’s leaders have said.

That lawsuit halted the department’s progress on JEDI just as it was getting started. A judge concluded that officials had erred when they evaluated the two competing applications. The Pentagon asked to redo the award. By again giving the contract to Microsoft, the Defense Department is arguing that the mistakes it made were not significant enough to affect the outcome.

Amazon had been widely expected to get the contract to consolidate much of the Pentagon’s cloud computing efforts under one vendor when JEDI was initially put out for bids in early 2018. But what appeared to be a likely path was derailed in July of last year when Trump, urged on by members of Congress and lobbied aggressively by Amazon’s competitors, directed Esper to reexamine the bidding process. Defense Department spokespeople and officials have insisted Trump did not “order” or “pressure” Esper to pick any specific bidder, and Esper told the Defense Department inspector general that his review was prompted primarily by pressure from Congress. In October, the Pentagon awarded the contract to Microsoft.

U.S. Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial Board: Congress Must Be Clear: No Doctored Videos, Editorial Board, Sept. 4, 2020. A congressman posted a manipulated video. That ought to be taken seriously. Last weekend, Representative Steve Scalise, the Louisiana Republican, shared a video clip featuring Ady Barkan, a progressive activist, asking Joe Biden, “Do we agree that we can redirect some of the funding for police?”

To which Mr. Biden responded, “Yes, absolutely.”

Except that Mr. Barkan, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and communicates with the aid of a computerized voice, had not included the words “for police” in his question. Those were spliced in by Mr. Scalise’s team, making it seem as though Mr. Biden was expressing direct support for defunding the police — something he explicitly opposes, no matter how loudly Republicans claim otherwise. Mr. Biden’s criminal justice plan, in fact, includes $300 million in additional funding for police departments.

Outraged by the violation, Mr. Barkan called out the congressman. “@SteveScalise, These are not my words,” he tweeted on Sunday afternoon. “I have lost my ability to speak, but not my agency or my thoughts. You and your team have doctored my words for your own political gain. Please remove this video immediately. You owe the entire disability community an apology.”

washington post logoWashington Post, The QAnon problem facing local journalism this election season, Elahe Izadi, Sept. 4, 2020. As supporters of the bogus conspiracy theory run for office, reporters grapple with how to cover them. The 16 candidates who sought the Republican nomination in the open race for Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District this year included a former state senator, two former mayors, a pharmacist — and two supporters of the bogus conspiracy theory known as QAnon.

The quandary, then, for the Knoxville News Sentinel: How on earth to responsibly explain QAnon — a murky cultlike belief system that, according to law enforcement, has inspired violence among some of its proponents — to the newspaper’s readers?

Ultimately, said executive editor Joel Christopher, the newsroom made a calculation that both candidates were extreme long shots. So they punted on the question entirely — and devoted no ink at all to the QAnon connections. In the end, the two candidates only received 3.3 percent of the total vote.

“But if anyone thinks this is going to vanish, they’re delusional,” Christopher said. “We’re going to have to tackle it at some point.”

Sept. 3

washington post logoWashington Post, Network of news sites must register as political committee due to Democratic links, GOP-affiliated group alleges, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Sept. 3, 2020. The complaint comes as researchers raise concerns about political outfits masquerading as news sites.

A new complaint filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission alleges that a national network of local media websites must register as a political committee because of its ties to a Democratic-aligned group.

Courier Newsroom, which includes seven news sites concentrated in presidential swing states, is backed by ACRONYM, a politically active nonprofit run by Democratic strategist Tara McGowan.

Federal election laws and regulations do not apply to media outlets unless they are “owned or controlled by” a political party, committee or candidate and are acting as a media outlet rather than a political one.

But the complaint, filed by Americans for Public Trust, a watchdog group affiliated with former Nevada attorney general Adam Laxalt, a Republican, alleges that Courier Newsroom is not eligible for that exemption and that the media group failed to register as a political group and report its donors and expenses as is required of political groups under federal law.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump and the right loved Clay Travis. The fight over college football sealed their bond, Ben Strauss, Sept. 3, 2020. This summer, as the pandemic, protests over racial injustice and the approaching election collided with the return of sports, Clay Travis’s nascent mini-media empire has morphed into the go-to platform for Republicans hoping to win over sports fans.

For fans of college football, hope came Wednesday in the form of a presidential tweet.

“Had a very productive conversation with Kevin Warren, Commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, about immediately starting up Big Ten football," President Trump tweeted. "On the one yard line!”

Though the fate of Big Ten football remains unclear, the tweet offered a momentary boost to fans, whose fall suddenly looked less desolate, and to Trump, for whom empty college football stadiums could signal to some swing-state voters his failure to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

But it was perhaps an even bigger moment for Clay Travis, who reportedly brokered the phone call, completing his only-in-2020 transformation from abrasive sports blogger to influential conservative sports radio host to apparent Trump campaign surrogate.

Sept. 2

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: British fascism catching up with America's, Wayne Madsen, Sept. 2, 2020. Britain's far-right government of wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallConservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson has taken a step toward the type of fascist governance that has taken hold under Donald Trump in America.

In June, Trump installed extreme right-winger Michael Pack as the head of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM). Pack has responsibility for U.S. government broadcasting, including the Voice of America (VOA). Pack's marching orders were to transform the facebook logoVOA, Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, Middle East Broadcasting Networks, and other broadcast divisions into a pro-Trump and anti-Democratic Party version of Fox News.

Pack's new counterpart at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Director-General Tim Davie, is ramping up a far-right purge of the network's news and entertainment divisions.

 

August

Aug. 31

Media News

Palmer Report, Opinion: Steve Scalise forced to cave after getting caught posting doctored video, Bill Palmer, Aug. 31, 2020. In the latest reminder that there are no limits to how low Donald Trump’s allies will sink to try to salvage his failing 2020 bid, Republican Congressman Steve Scalise tweeted a doctored video on Sunday that set off a furor. It showed footage of health care advocate Ady Barkan, an ALS patient who speaks with a computerized voice. Scalise’s video added words to Barkan’s computerized voice that Barkan never said.

bill palmer report logo headerAdy Barkan tweeted this in response to Scalise’s deranged fake video: “These are not my words. I have lost my ability to speak, but not my agency or my thoughts. You and your team have doctored my words for your own political gain. Please remove this video immediately. You owe the entire disability community an apology.”

Leaders from Joe Biden to Nancy Pelosi quickly condemned Steve Scalise and demanded that he delete the video. Twitter slapped a “manipulated media” warning on Scalise’s video, but didn’t delete it outright. Finally, late on Sunday night, Scalise deleted the tweet and announced that he would remove the doctored clip of Barkan from the video going forward. Score one for the good guys. Scalise is a scumbag.

Associated Press via Chron.com, VOA journalists protest new US global media chief's moves, Matthew Lee, Aug. 31, 2020. A group of journalists at Voice of America is protesting moves made by the U.S.-funded outlet’s new chief that they say are endangering their colleagues and the international broadcaster’s credibility as a news source.

In a letter to VOA management sent on Monday, 14 senior VOA journalists expressed deep concern and profound disappointment with steps U.S. Agency for Global Media head Michael Pack has taken that they say also threaten to harm American national security.

The signatories said they were “compelled to express our profound disappointment with the actions and comments of the chief executive officer of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which endanger the personal security of VOA reporters at home and abroad, as well as threatening to harm U.S. national security objectives.”

Aug. 30

washington post logoWashington Post, Review: Charting Fox News’s slide from serious news outlet to ‘state media,’ Jane Eisner, Aug. 30, 2020 (print ed.). CNN’s Brian Stelter contends that Fox aids Trump in manipulating the truth and the public.

fox news logo SmallBrian Stelter’s new book, Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth, covers much the same ground and offers much the same argument, but in a catty, chatty tone that makes for an easy read, though a less substantive one. Drawing on three years of interviews with more than 140 staffers at Fox and 180 former staffers and other knowledgeable sources, Stelter describes how the network evolved from a serious news operation with a decidedly conservative perspective to what he asserts is essentially “state-cnn logosupported TV.”

Stelter, chief media correspondent for CNN Worldwide, does not assume Mayer’s detached, neutral tone. As he writes in his opening: “What you’ll get in these pages is not the Stelter in a navy blue blazer that you see on CNN. I’m writing this book as a citizen; as an advocate for factual journalism; and a new dad who thinks about what kind of world my children are going to inherit.”

Jane Eisner, a regular contributor to Book World, is the director of academic affairs at the Columbia School of Journalism.

washington post logoWashington Post, Outpouring of grief after Chadwick Boseman’s death: ‘This is a crushing blow,’ Emily Yahr, Aug. 30, 2020 (print ed.). Remembering 'Black Panther' actor Chadwick Boseman. The shock of the tragic news amplified the devastated reaction worldwide, as thousands fans, as well as Hollywood stars, politicians and athletes, mourned the beloved actor on social media.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump treats naturalization like a game show prize, Suketu Mehta, Aug. 30, 2020 (print ed.). It was the most unnatural of naturalization ceremonies: On Tuesday, the Republican National Convention showcased footage of the most anti-immigrant president in U.S. history personally bestowing citizenship, as might an emperor, upon a group of five new Americans selected for their public relations value to his reelection campaign.

Chad Wolf, an official instrumental in creating the horrific family separation policy (and whose appointment as acting homeland security secretary a congressional watchdog deemed invalid), administered the oath.

rnc 2020 logoThe White House initially suggested that the citizenship and immigration agency find someone from Mexico; perhaps no one was immediately available from central casting. The only other thing missing was for Stephen Miller to cut the welcome cake for the assembled Muslims, Africans, Middle Easterners, Latinos and Indians. It was like watching a photo op staged by Stalin commending a bunch of Jewish doctors for their medical expertise, or the Taliban’s Mohammad Omar praising a group of Buddhists for their sculpting prowess, or Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailing a family of Muslims for their excellent biryani.

At least two of our newest citizens seem to have been entirely unaware that this most sacred of ceremonies would be broadcast at the Republican convention, to make the president seem kinder and gentler for suburbanites queasy about his policy of yanking screaming babies from their mothers at the border. So the five — two of them Muslims, a group that their host, during his first presidential campaign, proposed banning from entering the United States — looked on, with an unsmiling bust of Abraham Lincoln as backdrop, and cheered. What choice did they have? It was a humiliating spectacle and physically risky, to boot — none of them had a mask on, and neither did any of the eminences present. The masks wouldn’t look good on TV; they would be off-message for a convention that is a celebration of, above all, the inalienable right of Americans to commit mass suicide.

The new citizens are here among us because of provisions that Trump has spent his entire term trying to eliminate.

Suketu Mehta is an associate professor of journalism at New York University, and the author, most recently, of "This Land is Our Land: An Immigrant's Manifesto."

Aug. 28 

washington post logoWashington Post, Robocall targets battleground states with falsehoods about mail-in voting, Meryl Kornfield, Aug. 28, 2020 (print ed.). The recorded message features a woman who says she works for “Project 1599,” founded by the right-wing operatives Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman, who deny involvement in the call.

The call falsely warned Michigan and Pennsylvania residents that voting by mail would subject them to police scrutiny and debt collection, Michigan officials say.

Officials launched an investigation Thursday into what they said was an erroneous, racist robocall aimed at discouraging voters in battleground states from casting their ballots by mail.

The recorded message features a woman who says she works for “Project 1599,” founded by the right-wing operatives Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman, and falsely warns that personal information of those who vote by mail will be shared with police tracking down warrants and credit card companies collecting outstanding debt, according to recordings of the call reviewed by The Washington Post. Wohl and Burkman denied their involvement in the call, blaming “leftist pranksters.”

“Don’t be finessed into giving your private information to the man,” the recording says. “Stay safe and beware of vote-by-mail.”

It’s not known how many people were targeted in Democratic-leaning Detroit, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

Announcing the inquiry into the call’s origin, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel rebutted the misinformation, warning residents that the recorded message may precede more flagrant falsehoods directed at voters as the November election nears.

How to prevent your mail ballot from being rejected

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: Farewell to Kellyanne Conway, the ultimate Woman for Trump, Monica Hesse, Aug. 28, 2020 (print ed.). Kellyanne Conway had a two-word weapon that she deployed with shrewd skill during her almost-four-year stint at the White House, and it left her targets defenseless.

kellyanne conway talkingFor Kellyanne Conway, right, “Excuse me” really meant “Excuse you.” It was a shaming. It implied that the other party was in the wrong for not permitting her bulldozing, browbeating and bloviating. It relied, successfully, on the assumption that nobody wanted to be seen interrupting a tiny blond woman on live television. And so it excused her.

She is brilliant. She is terrifying.

She is also gone, theoretically. Earlier this week, Conway announced she would be resigning from her role as senior adviser to the president. Her Wednesday speech at the Republican National Convention was a farewell of sorts, the last time we can expect to see her behaving as an official mouthpiece for Trump before she retreats to her new “less drama, more mama” lifestyle.

She used her very presence to bat away charges of sexism against Trump. Again and again she reminded us — as she did again Wednesday — Trump had named her the first female campaign manager of a winning presidential ticket. How could he possibly be sexist?

Ever since the dawn of the #MeToo movement, affronted male readers have occasionally written me to say they are tired of reading about toxic masculinity all the time and wondering whether there was a female corollary: toxic femininity. If there is, I can’t help but think it looks like Kellyanne Conway: someone who takes the stereotypical gentle niceties we once sent girls to charm school to learn — and uses them to sow information chaos.

Excuse me, she would say, needling a news anchor to permit her to barge into the conversation and take it in a more alternative-factsy direction.

Excuse me, she would say to fellow guests who tried, unsuccessfully, to join in with their own opinions. It was a filibuster of false manners, a prim reminder that she would not be yielding the floor.

Aug. 26

nicholas sandmann rnc screenshot

OpEdNews, Opinion: Nick Sandmann: GOP's Poster Child for Fake Victimhood, Thomas Knapp, Aug. 26, 2020. A common complaint among Republicans is that their opponents are mainly in the business of manufacturing victims and turning those victims into Democratic voters.

But grievance-based politics is nothing new, nor does America's political "left" enjoy a monopoly on it. For proof of that latter claim, one need look no further than the case of Nick Sandmann.

"I'm the teenager who was defamed by the media," Sandmann told the Republican National Convention on August 26. But, he said, "I would not be canceled."

Leaving aside the question of precisely how turning him into a celebrity (with stories that, while initially mildly inaccurate, were almost instantly corrected as more information came in) constitutes an instance of the "cancel culture" he decries, let's be clear about what he, and his handlers, are up to:

Nick Sandmann publicly plays the victim for money. That's his job, and it will probably remain his job until he's stretched his proverbial 15 minutes as far as they can be stretched.

After participating in an anti-abortion protest in Washington, DC, Sandmann went through a tense moment with some other protesters, who were agitated about other issues, and his motives were (mistakenly, but not libelously in any sane universe) misinterpreted by journalists based on partial video.

Lawyers Todd McMurtry and Lin Wood offered Sandmann a lucrative career opportunity, representing him in frivolous/malicious defamation lawsuits that media companies settled rather than fight.

The settlement amounts weren't publicly disclosed, but while they likely came to pennies on the demanded dollar, they also probably brought Sandmann more wealth than a life of real work would have. It's hard to blame a teenager for jumping on a get-rich-quick scheme, as presented by two experienced ambulance chasers. Especially one that's actually worked out for him.

Now the Republicans are attempting to parlay Sandmann's faux victimhood into votes by creating a new victim category: "Whiny, white, Christian abortion opponent."

Not that such a bloc would vote Democrat absent the attention. But Republicans are afraid the people resembling that description might not bother to vote at all. And they need every vote they can get.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Congressman’s old social media posts about sex with 15-year-old girls, rape surface in South Florida re-election fight, Skyler Swisher, Aug. 26, 2020 (print ed.). South Florida Congressman Brian Mast joked about rape and referenced sex with 15-year-old facebook logogirls in old Facebook comments to a friend who is now his campaign manager.

The messages were posted years ago, but they’ve surfaced in Mast’s tough re-election fight against Democratic challenger Pam Keith.

brian mast headshotMast, left, a 40-year-old Republican, represents one of South Florida’s most competitive swing districts. He apologized for the remarks on Tuesday.

Two years later, LeDonni asked in a May 20, 2011, post: “Anyone have any good pick up lines for this weekend considering according to the crazy christian radio guy the world may end on sunday?”

“How about don’t turn this rape into a murder,” Mast responded.

In a statement Tuesday, Mast apologized for the posts.

“A decade ago when I was in the Army, and following my injury, I made disgusting and inappropriate jokes that I am embarrassed to have associated with my name today,” he said. “I am sorry about that part of who I was, and I strive every day to be a better example for my kids.”

Mast is a decorated war veteran. He lost his legs and a finger when a bomb exploded under him in September 2010 in Afghanistan.

After the explosion, Mast was hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center into 2012, where he underwent numerous surgeries, learned to walk again and was often heavily medicated.

LeDonni has been a senior campaign advisor and political consultant for Mast since he first was elected in 2016, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Pam KeithThe posts were public on LeDonni’s Facebook page, but they were removed from view after Mast’s campaign was contacted by the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Keith, right, a former Navy JAG officer, condemned the posts in a statement.

“This is disgusting, unacceptable and dishonorable behavior for any man, let alone a sitting member of Congress,” Keith said. “Rape, violence and intimidation of women and children are not Brian Mast’s punchline — his words are an insult and betrayal to the women he claims to represent.”

Keith hasn’t held back on social media. In March 2020, Keith responded to a comment that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden might have raped someone.

“That means he still has LOTS of rape to do to catch up to Trump. Also .... I highly doubt that’s true,” she wrote.iological study in what happens when the midwest migrates to an area that was once part of Georgia.

washington post logoWashington Post, As a sale of the National Enquirer collapses, some wonder if the tabloid is too hot to handle, Sarah Ellison and Jonathan O'Connell, Aug. 26, 2020 (print ed.). In the spring of 2019, the National Enquirer appeared once again to be riding out another storm in its long, tumultuous history.

The gossip tabloid was embroiled in political scandal, but that was hardly anything new — if anything, that was part of its business model. Circulation was down, but that was the case for the entire publishing industry. Its parent company had put it up for sale, but a surprisingly appropriate new buyer had emerged for this impulse-buy fixture of the supermarket checkout lines — Hudson News, perhaps the last thriving operator of newsstands in the country.

david pecker croppedBut a year and a half later, that long-stalled sale has fallen through, and questions surround the Enquirer’s future as never before. Its longtime publisher and champion, David Pecker, right, has been sidelined within the company, and the chief of the hedge fund that now owns it has to contend with pension fund investors who are uncomfortable with the tabloid’s role in alleged scheming to tilt the 2016 election to Donald Trump.

And last week, when parent company American Media Inc. announced its merger with an unlikely partner — a distribution company specializing in products like face masks and hand sanitizer, which like AMI is currently owned by Chatham Asset Management — the news release cited AMI titles like Us Weekly, Life & Style, and Men’s Journal. But strikingly, it made no mention of the Enquirer, its former flagship.

The collapse of the deal AMI announced last year to sell the Enquirer and two of its lesser-known tabloid cousins — the National Examiner and the Globe — to James Cohen, CEO of Hudson News, for an eye-popping $100 million raised questions for some industry observers as to whether the Enquirer had become too hot to handle.

Last year, Chatham pushed Pecker — then the CEO and chairman of AMI — to sell the Enquirer. Though the tabloid continues to be a lucrative property, it was coming off an unusually high-profile slate of scandals.

In the first scandal, Pecker and his top deputy, Dylan Howard, avoided indictment for campaign finance violations in 2018 by entering into non-prosecution agreements with federal investigators for their role in buying and then burying the story of a former Playboy model who alleged having an affair with then-candidate Trump. The two men admitted that they did so to tilt the election in favor of Trump, a longtime business friend of Pecker’s.

Not long after that agreement was made public, AMI published a controversial scoop in January 2019 about the extramarital affair of Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon and owner of The Washington Post. Bezos then accused Pecker and Howard of attempting to blackmail him by threatening to publish intimate photos of his that they claimed to have obtained. The Bezos allegations threw their deal with prosecutors into jeopardy, and federal investigators explored whether they had broken the law, which could have nullified the deal.

Aug. 24

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump is ‘Fox’s Frankenstein,’ insiders told CNN’s Brian Stelter — and here’s the toll it’s taken, Margaret margaret sullivan 2015 photoSullivan, right, Aug. 24, 2020 (print ed.). If anyone was born to write a juicy book about the democracy-threatening relationship between Fox News and Donald Trump, it had to be Brian Stelter.

After all, at not quite 35, the Maryland native has been reporting on cable news for more than 15 years. As a college undergraduate, he started a blog, CableNewser, that he eventually sold to a digital-publishing company.

And as CNN’s chief media correspondent, he is so ubiquitous — writing stories, producing a popular newsletter, tweeting prolifically and hosting the Sunday media-centric show, “Reliable Sources” — that Columbia Journalism Review called him “unavoidable.”

Turning this bottomless drive and energy to one of the most consequential media stories of our time, the symbiotic ties between Fox News and Trump, Stelter talked to hundreds of current and former network employees for a new book to be published Tuesday by Simon & Schuster: “Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth.” (I obtained an early copy and interviewed Stelter last week.)

Aug. 22

 ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook Braces Itself for Trump to Cast Doubt on Election Results, Mike Isaac and Sheera Fre, Aug. 22, 2020 (print ed.). The world’s biggest social network is working out what steps to take should President Trump use its platform to dispute the vote.

Facebook spent years preparing to ward off any tampering on its site ahead of November’s presidential election. Now the social network is getting ready in case President Trump interferes once the vote is over.

facebook logoEmployees at the Silicon Valley company are laying out contingency plans and walking through postelection scenarios that include attempts by Mr. Trump or his campaign to use the platform to delegitimize the results, people with knowledge of Facebook’s plans said.

Facebook is preparing steps to take should Mr. Trump wrongly claim on the site that he won another four-year term, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Facebook is also working through how it might act if Mr. Trump tries to invalidate the results by declaring that the Postal Service lost mail-in ballots or that other groups meddled with the vote, the people said.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, and some of his lieutenants have started holding daily meetings about minimizing how the platform can be used to dispute the election, the people said. They have discussed a “kill switch” to shut off political advertising after Election Day since the ads, which Facebook does not police for truthfulness, could be used to spread misinformation, the people said.
Opinion:

Palmer Report, Opinion: Down goes Donald Trump’s pal David Pecker, Bill Palmer, right, Aug. 22, 2020. David Pecker used his tabloid publication the bill palmerNational Enquirer to publish one fake story about Hillary Clinton after another, in order to help his pal Donald Trump in the 2016 election. Pecker then helped Trump silence the women who wanted to come forward against him. Then Pecker got caught up in Trump’s criminal plot to blackmail Jeff Bezos.

bill palmer report logo headerAll things considered, it’s amazing David Pecker isn’t in prison yet. But Pecker is just about broke, and now the National Enquirer’s parent company is being sold off and folded into some other company in a merger. Notably, on Friday night it was reported that Pecker was not going to be a part of the newly formed company, and had instead been pushed out entirely.

david pecker croppedThis leaves the question of whether the newly formed company is pushing out Pecker as simply a business decision, or if there’s an expectation that Pecker, right, is about to finally be indicted. Considering the SDNY just arrested Donald Trump’s longtime henchman Steve Bannon, it’s pretty clear that Trump and Bill Barr aren’t able to stop whatever the SDNY is planning to do.

At the least, David Pecker’s criminal plotting with Donald Trump has cost Pecker his company and has effectively ruined him. At worst, Pecker will end up being the next Trump henchman to face the handcuffs. And if that does happen, Trump will simply claim that he barely knew the guy. Of course Pecker, having nothing left to lose, could be inclined to cut a plea deal against Trump at that point.

washington post logoWashington Post, Commentary: A ‘loud mouth’ writer says the White House broke its own briefing-room rules. So he did the same, Paul Farhi, Aug. 22, 2020 (print ed.). Brian Karem saw the White House skirting the rules of its own briefing room. So he’s decided they no longer apply to him either.

Upset that the White House is trying to “pack” news briefings, as he put it, with Trump-friendly correspondents, Karem showed up to Wednesday’s briefing despite strict space limits that barred him from the room that day.

Karem, a correspondent for Playboy and a former CNN contributor, stood at the back of the room during the President Trump’s late-afternoon briefing and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s session earlier in the day, shouting questions at both as they finished addressing the media.

Neither responded. But Karem thinks he made his point.

“I’m there to ask questions — that’s my job — whether they answer the questions or not,” he said. “I’m doing my damn job and whoever doesn’t like it, tough.”

Yes, but in the covid-19 era, the White House press staff and the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) agreed in March to limit entry to the briefing room to just 14 journalists, plus a few technicians and photographers, to maintain social distancing. For months, reporters from dozens of news organizations have taken turns cycling through the room in a rotation maintained by the WHCA.

Karem said he considers those rules null and void, inasmuch as the White House itself has unilaterally breached them. Last week, McEnany admitted representatives from two far-right outfits, the Gateway Pundit and Epoch Times, exceeding the limits. In early April, Trump himself made room for One America Network, a conservative cable outlet that Trump has repeatedly praised, including on Sunday.

Karem — who calls himself a “ ‘Loud Mouth’ WH reporter” in his Twitter bio — doesn’t take issue with OAN or Gateway Pundit’s representatives being in the room. But since Trump “tore up the rules,” he said it doesn’t make sense to play by them any longer. “If they don’t follow the guidelines, why should anyone else?” he asks.

So on Wednesday, Karem used his “hard pass” — which permits holders to come and go from the White House grounds after a basic security check — to enter the workspace behind the briefing room. When Trump and McEnany’s briefings started, he stood about 12 feet behind the seating area and six feet behind the spot the White House carved out for OAN.

Aug. 20

ny times logoNew York Times, The Republican Embrace of QAnon Goes Far Beyond Trump, Matthew Rosenberg and Maggie Haberman, Aug. 20, 2020. As President Trump all but endorses the conspiracy theory, it is shifting from the fringes of the internet to become an offline political movement.

Late last month, as the Texas Republican Party was shifting into campaign mode, it unveiled a new slogan, lifting a rallying cry straight from a once-unthinkable source: the internet-driven conspiracy theory known as QAnon.

The new catchphrase, “We Are the Storm,” is an unsubtle cue to a group that the F.B.I. has labeled a potential domestic terrorist threat. It is instantly recognizable among QAnon adherents, signaling what they claim is a coming conflagration between President Trump and what they allege, falsely, is a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophile Democrats who seek to dominate America and the world.

Aug. 19

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge orders Tavis Smiley to pay $2.6 million, $1 million more than originally sought by PBS, Keith L. Alexander, Aug. 19, 2020. Six women accused the former talk show host of sexual harassment.

A District judge ordered former PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley to pay the network more than $2.6 million. The amount was about $1 million more than what PBS originally argued in court that Smiley owed after it was forced to cancel his contract upon learning six female employees had accused him of sexual harassment.

tavis smiley CustomA D.C. Superior Court jury ruled March 4 that Smiley had violated his PBS contract. On Aug. 5, Judge Yvonne Williams who oversaw the three-week trial heard additional arguments from PBS and determined Smiley must pay PBS $1.9 million in damages associated with his final two seasons with the network, and another $703,000 in losses connected to the network’s underwriters who put up the funds to enable PBS to cover Smiley’s contract.

n her 10-page ruling, Williams wrote: “The court determines that the amount sought by PBS in liquidated damages is reasonable because it is the amount it paid to produce Season 13 and 14 of ‘The Tavis Smiley Show.’ ”

Smiley’s attorneys could not be reached for comment on Judge Williams’s ruling on the damages.

The harassment accusations and subsequent verdict led to a dizzying downfall for Smiley, 55, who was awarded a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and whose nightly show for 14 years became a must visit for politicians, actors, singers and authors who also wanted to reach African Americans within PBS’s core adult audience.

During the trial, six women testified through video deposition that during their tenure with his company, Smiley had pressured them for sex or told lewd jokes.

Smiley took the stand twice and admitted to having intimate relationships with two of the women. PBS stipulates in its contracts that such relationships among its employees or contractors are prohibited. Smiley testified he never used his position as their boss to pressure or threaten them. He also said any jokes were innocent and not intended to offend.

Aug. 18

washington post logoWashington Post, The newsroom was the beating heart of a local newspaper. What’s lost when the owner shuts it down? Elahe Izadi, Aug. 18, 2020. The coronavirus crisis is devastating the news industry. Many newspapers won’t survive it.

Through war, depression and every kind of turmoil the country endured over the past 100 years, the Morning Call’s newsroom was on the same downtown corner in Allentown, Pa. Until now.

tribune publishing logoHit this year by a pandemic and an economic downturn, Tribune Publishing informed journalists at the Morning Call and four of its other newspapers Wednesday that their newsrooms would permanently close.

“These decisions were not made lightly or hastily,” reads a memo sent to reporters for the Capital Gazette of Annapolis that promised to continue “our in-depth community coverage.” Other shuttered newsrooms include the New York Daily News, the Carroll County Times of Westminster, Md., and the Orlando Sentinel. An Aurora, Ill. bureau of the Chicago Tribune was also closed.

Like office workers across the United States, journalists have been pushed by covid-19 to retreat from communal spaces and into remote work. Now some are confronting the very real possibility that they may never again work in a physical newsrooms — a touchstone of journalism — and what that could mean for the future of their profession.

“People need to know that we’re a presence in Allentown and that we’re there to cover their communities, their school boards, their municipalities,” said Jennifer Sheehan, a features and entertainment reporter for the Morning Call. “When you don’t even have a physical location, it’s almost like you’re not there, even though you are.”

The pandemic era has forced news organizations to figure out new ways to produce high-caliber journalism, collaborating via video conferencing and messaging platforms. But in newsrooms — the original open-plan offices — reporters across disparate beats can shape each others’ ideas. Young journalists sharpen their skills by overhearing how veteran reporters conduct their interviews.

Aug. 17

ny times logoNew York Times, Virus Misinformation Becomes a New Front for Doctors to Battle, Staff reports, Aug. 17, 2020. Some doctors say patients are more inclined to believe social media posts than professionals. New York’s gyms can reopen on Aug. 24, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said. Students and teachers will be screened for infection even as the Los Angeles school district begins instruction remotely. The Democratic National Convention begins today and will be conducted almost entirely online. Here’s the latest.

Doctors on the front lines of the pandemic say they are fighting not just the coronavirus, but also a never-ending scourge of misinformation about the disease that is hurting patients. Some say they regularly treat people more inclined to believe what they read on social media than what a medical professional tells them.

Before the pandemic, medical professionals had grown accustomed to dealing with patients misled by online information, a phenomenon they called Dr. Google. But in interviews, more than a dozen doctors and misinformation researchers in the United States and Europe said the volume related to the virus was like nothing they had seen before.

According to the doctors and researchers, several factors are to blame: leaders like President Trump who amplify fringe theories; social media platforms that are not doing enough to stamp out false information; and individuals who are too quick to believe what they see online.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: The Month Old Hollywood Finally, Actually Died, Ben Smith, Aug. 17, 2020. The streaming services are in charge, and bringing a ruthless new culture with them.

For decades, the best thing about being a Hollywood executive, really, was how you got fired. Studio executives would be gradually, gently, even lovingly, nudged aside, given months to shape their own narratives and find new work, or even promoted. When Amy Pascal was pushed out of Sony Pictures in 2015, she got an exit package and production deal worth a reported $40 million.

That, of course, was before streaming services arrived, upending everything with a ruthless logic and coldhearted efficiency.

That was never more clear than on Aug. 7, when WarnerMedia abruptly eliminated the jobs of hundreds of employees, emptying the executive suite at the once-great studio that built Hollywood, and is now the subsidiary of AT&T. In a series of brisk video calls, executives who imagined they were studio eminences were reminded that they work — or used to work — at the video division of a phone company. The chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment, Bob Greenblatt, learned that he’d been fired the morning of the day the news broke, two people he spoke to told me. Jeffrey Schlesinger, a 37-year company veteran who ran the lucrative international licensing business, complained to friends that he had less than an hour’s notice, two other people told me.

“We’re in the brutal final scenes of Hollywood as people here knew it, as streaming investment and infrastructure take precedence,” said Janice Min, the former Hollywood Reporter co-president who did a brief stretch as an executive at the streaming platform Quibi. “Politesse and production deal kiss-offs for those at the top, and, more importantly, the financial fire hose to float a bureaucracy, seem to be disappearing. It’s like a club, already shut down by the pandemic, running out of dues to feed all its members.”

Law & Crime, Indictment Reveals Real Reason Behind Arrest of InfoWars Correspondent Millie Weaver, Jerry Lambe, Aug. 17, 2020. Millicent “Millie” Weaver, 29, the correspondent for the Alex Jones-helmed conspiracy-theory website InfoWars, was arrested Friday at her Ohio home and charged with several felonies stemming from a dispute with her mother, documents filed in the Portage County Common Pleas Court show.

millie weaver maga hatWeaver’s arrest, which came hours before she was scheduled to release a “documentary” claiming to show that President Donald Trump was set-up by government officials in the Russia scandal, gave rise to a slew of conspiracy theories, but the truth appears far more mundane.

Weaver, left, along with her brother, Charles L. Weaver Jr., and boyfriend Gavon Wince, were all charged with one count each of robbery, tampering with evidence, obstructing justice, and domestic violence, stemming from an incident with Weaver’s mother Felicia McCarron.

According to the indictment from the Portage County Grand Jury, all three were charged with robbery (a second-degree felony) for “attempting or committing a theft offense, or in fleeing immediately after the attempt or offense, recklessly inflict, attempt to inflict, or threaten to inflict physical harm upon Felicia McCarron.”

The trio also face charges of evidence tampering (a third-degree felony), obstructing justice (a fifth-degree felony), and domestic violence (a first degree misdemeanor). The obstruction charge stems from allegedly communicating “false information” about the dispute in order to hinder law enforcement’s investigation.

A YouTube user claiming to be McCarron reportedly wrote that the charges stemmed from a “family dispute” over a $50 cell phone. That post expressed shock, surprise and disapproval of the charges.

ny times logoNew York Times, Special Prosecutor Finds ‘Abuses of Discretion’ in Jussie Smollett Case, Julia Jacobs, Aug. 17, 2020. A special prosecutor tasked with reinvestigating the case against Jussie Smollett has found that the Cook County state’s attorney’s office did not violate the law in its handling of the case but did abuse its discretion in deciding to drop charges and put out false or misleading public statements about why they did so.

jussie smollett mugshotThe findings, published in a news release on Monday, conclude the investigation by the special prosecutor, Dan K. Webb, who was appointed last year after a judge ruled that the state’s attorney, Kim Foxx, had not properly handled the Smollett case the first time. In February, Mr. Webb announced that a grand jury had revived the criminal case against Mr. Smollett, right, indicting him on charges that he lied to the police in connection with an alleged hate crime attack against him.

The second part of Mr. Webb’s investigation involved determining whether any person or office engaged in wrongdoing while handling the Smollett case. In the news release, Mr. Webb’s office said that it unearthed evidence that supports “substantial abuses of discretion and operational failures” by the state’s attorney’s office in prosecuting the initial case in 2019.

Mr. Webb’s office found that lawyers who work in the office’s criminal division were “surprised” or “shocked” by the terms under which prosecutors dropped the charges against Mr. Smollett, just a month after his arrest.

An investigation has found that the state’s attorney’s office did not violate the law in its handling of the case against the actor Jussie Smollett, but it cited substantial “operational failures.”

Aug. 16

Salon, Analysis: What is QAnon? A not-so-brief introduction to the conspiracy theory that's eating America, Robert Guffey, Aug. 16, 2020. (This is the first article in a series.)_ Do millions of Americans really believe Donald Trump is saving children from underground demons? It seems that way.

I've been involved in the wild world of conspiracy theories for 24 years now, ever since I published my first article in the pages of Paranoia Magazine in the spring of 1996 when I was 24 years old. What most impressed me about Paranoia was the anarchy of information available within its pages. It wasn't a right-wing conspiracy magazine. It wasn't a left-wing conspiracy magazine. It didn't even exist between these two poles. Its editorial mission (or non-mission) was beholden to values (or non-values) that lay far beyond these limiting parameters, a dedication to cataloging and analyzing the extremes of fringe beliefs from multiple points of view. As Marshall McLuhan once said, "A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding." The editors of Paranoia dedicated themselves to not having a point of view. It was the exact opposite of propaganda. By its very nature, propaganda excludes any information that contradicts or undermines the message the dedicated propagandist is intent on disseminating.

Conspiracy theories have always been used by what we now call "persuasion engineers" as tools of mass indoctrination. A good conspiracy theory that seems plausible and frightening enough can be worth more than a thousand well-reasoned stump speeches.
Advertisement:

In my first book, "Cryptoscatology: Conspiracy Theory as Art Form," I broke conspiracy theories down into five distinct categories: 1) Insanity, 2) Disinformation, 3) Misinformation, 4) Satire, and 5) Legitimate Research. Some theories manage to merge two or more categories into one. Only on very rare occasions do such theories manage to combine all five categories. The most recent — and arguably most impactful — strain of this hybrid form of conspiracy-mongering first emerged in 2017, promulgated by an anonymous 4chan poster known only as "Q" — or "QAnon." You've been hearing a lot about this lately, most likely. At least one QAnon supporter is almost certain to be elected to Congress in November, and devotees of this particular conspiracy theory are eagerly supporting the re-election of Donald Trump.

The average person, who has not spent the past couple of decades studying the origins of conspiracy theories (a reasonable choice, I might add), would probably not recognize the origins of most of the quasi-surreal elements that make up the convoluted QAnon narrative.

Earlier this year, in March, I was talking to a friend about COVID-19 and the national lockdown. He's 10 years older than me and lives in a small town in the Midwest. I live in Long Beach, California. While chatting with him on the phone about all the unexpected difficulties that have arisen from teaching my English classes online, he suddenly volunteered the opinion that COVID-19 would be a positive development in 2020.

As of May 28, only 10 days after being posted, this video had already received 33,105 views and only 34 dislikes. I've seen YouTube videos of random kids opening birthday presents get more dislikes than that. The Blessed to Teach YouTube channel has 92,600 subscribers.

If it's not clear to you yet, let me spell this out: Even as you're reading these words, there are thousands of "Christian Patriots" living in the United States who sincerely believe that Donald Trump saved them from being eaten by demons when he entered the White House. This is not hyperbole. This is a literal interpretation of what they believe.

This is the mentality you're dealing with. No amount of logic, common sense or reason can combat such convoluted delusions. These people are clearly the product of incessant brainwashing, and yet they think everyone else in the country is mind-controlled to such an extreme degree that people who do not support Trump are either A) soulless demon-worshippers or B) poor unfortunates incapable of understanding the obvious truths being unveiled by geniuses like "Rick B2T" and his pal "Gene." On Nov. 18, 1978, hundreds of "True Believers" in Guyana held similar beliefs, only seconds before they literally drank the Kool-Aid.

You might assume that most of Rick's viewers are hardcore evangelicals dwelling in a deep pit in the Ozarks. But my friend wasn't raised a hardcore Christian and had never expressed such views in my presence over the course of many, many years. Something happened to change him radically between the emergence of QAnon in 2017 and the advent of the national lockdown in 2020. Even a regular Joe can be swayed by nonsense with a fair amount of ease.

Nonsense has always been an essential part of the American landscape, from Salem witch hunts in the 1690s to New Age UFO cults in the 1990s, but QAnon takes this tradition of nonsense to a whole new level.

Robert Guffey is a lecturer in the Department of English at California State University, Long Beach. His books include the novel "Until the Last Dog Dies" and "Chameleo: A Strange but True Story of Invisible Spies, Heroin Addiction, and Homeland Security." Visit his website.

millie weaverHeavy.com, Millie Weaver: Filmmaker Arrested Hours Before ‘Shadow Gate,’ Erin Laviola, Aug. 16, 2020. Millie Weaver is a conservative filmmaker who was arrested at her home in northeastern Ohio hours before she was scheduled to debut her new documentary called Shadow Gate on YouTube.

Weaver, shown at right and below at left, claimed she had uncovered a plot, orchestrated by both major political parties, against President Donald Trump and that the documentary would explain how it all worked.

The timing of her arrest flamed conspiracy theories online, with critics wondering whether the arrest was related to the Shadow Gate documentary. Heavy confirmed with the Portage County Jail that Weaver, along with her significant other, Gavin Wince, were both arrested on August 14 on felony charges including robbery and domestic violence. There is no evidence to suggest her arrest was related to the documentary.

The Portage County Sheriff further confirmed via email that Weaver was arrested on an indictment from the Portage County Grand Jury. Heavy has reached out to the county prosecutor’s office to ask about obtaining a copy of the affidavit.

Here’s what you need to know:

Millicent Weaver and Gavin Wince were both arrested by the Portage County Sheriff’s Office on August 14. Inmate records show they were booked into the Portage County Jail around 1:50 a.m.

Heavy confirmed with the Portage County Jail, over the phone, that Weaver and her partner are both facing four charges: Robbery; Tampering with evidence; Obstructing justice; Domestic violence.

The Portage County Jail official Heavy spoke with referred to Weaver’s partner as her husband. The Cleveland Plain Dealer, in a separate report, described Wince as Weaver’s boyfriend. Heavy has not independently verified whether the couple is married.

millie weaver maga hatWeaver was being held over the weekend without a bond. She was expected to face a judge on Monday, August 17, although it was not clear whether she would physically appear in court or remotely. Weaver is the mother of two children. The official at the Portage County Jail did not have information about who was caring for the two children while their parents were behind bars.

Weaver live-streamed the August 14 arrest on her official Facebook page. Author Mike Dice, who wrote a 2019 book called The Liberal Media Industrial Complex, shared the video on Twitter and the clip has been viewed more than 1 million times.

In the clip, Weaver is recording the interaction with a sheriff’s deputy with her phone pointing at the ground. She asks, “You’re saying a grand jury indicted me? For what?” The deputy asks Weaver to get her shoes and that paperwork would be waiting for them at the jail. Weaver cooperates as one of her children can be heard making noises off-camera.

As Weaver walks into her home, she directs her comments to viewers. “Guys, I don’t know what’s happening right now. The police have just shown up at my house and they said that they’re arresting me. They said that a grand jury indicted me for something. I have no idea what. This is crazy.”

Since her arrest, a GoFundMe campaign was launched on Weaver’s behalf to help pay for her legal defense. As of this writing, thousands of donors had given more than $108,000.

In Ohio, a ‘Secret Indictment’ Simply Means the Indictment is Sealed Until After the Accused Has Been Arrested

One of the details about Millie Weaver’s arrest that has sparked intrigue online was that she was arrested on a secret indictment. This is a standard procedure under Ohio law. The legal code explains that “secret indictments shall not be docketed by name until after the apprehension of the accused.”

Weaver Claimed to Uncover Knowledge of a Coup Against President Trump

Weaver had described Shadow Gate as the “biggest whistleblowing event ever” on her website. Weaver claimed in a trailer ahead of the film’s release that she had spoken with two people with knowledge of a secret organization of “contractors.” She claimed the contractors were “hired by government officials to frame the Trump campaign, set him up for the Russia collusion investigation, provided witnesses for the impeachment hearings and provided administrative support services to the Department of Justice during the Mueller investigation.”

Weaver also claimed these “contractors” were responsible for creating the “fake news in mainstream media.” She alleged that the “shadow government” was responsible for spurring the recent nationwide protests and promoting the “defund the police” movement.

Weaver goes on to accuse Republicans and Democrats of working together in a plot to bring down President Trump. “Both parties are equally guilty of covering up what should turn out to be an even bigger scandal. Shadow Gate: the tactical and operational role the shadow government played behind the scenes carrying out the coup against President Trump. We’re going to be looking behind the puppets at who the real puppet master, string-pullers are.”

The film was shared to YouTube after Weaver’s arrest. But as of August 16, the documentary had been “removed for violating YouTube’s policy on hate speech.”

Weaver Contributes to Infowars & Host Alex Jones Dismissed a Conspiracy Theory That Weaver’s Arrest Was Staged

Weaver was named by Newsmax as one of the “30 Most Influential Republicans Under 30” in 2017. The site described her as a “former model” who “made a name for herself as a political activist, reporter, and satirist.”

Newsmax noted that Weaver was “most known for her contributions to Infowars.com and the videos on her YouTube channel.” Her channel, which includes videos promoting theories about a corrupt “deep state” and claims that riots in Minneapolis were preplanned by a “leftist radicalization” group, currently has more than 400,000 subscribers.

Weaver has visited the White House at least twice. She shared on Instagram in January that White House staff had invited her to tour the West Wing. She wrote in part, “I’m glad to see that my hard work is recognized and appreciated! We truly have the greatest country and the greatest President! #Trump2020.” Weaver posted about another visit on March 7, writing, “It was nice to be back at The White House. Big things coming! Stay tuned.”

Weaver is a contributor to Infowars and the site describes her as one of its reporters. Infowars host Alex Jones said in a video statement that he had known Weaver for at least eight years and described her as a “good Christian lady.” He added that Weaver contributed to Infowars as a freelancer.

Jones disputed an online conspiracy theory that claimed the arrest was “staged” in order to promote her Shadow Gate film. In the clip, Jones also suggested the arrest could be related to a family dispute, specifically a dispute with Weaver’s mother.

Aug. 13

washington post logomargaret sullivan 2015 photoWashington Post, Opinion: Tucker Carlson’s mangling of Kamala Harris’s name was all about disrespect, Margaret Sullivan, right, Aug.13, 2020 (print ed.). The Fox News host had a mini-meltdown when a guest mildly corrected his pronunciation.

Strategic Culture Foundation, Opinion: CIA-Sponsored Propaganda Has Been Around for 75 Years, Wayne Madsen (shown below at left), Aug. 13, 2020. The release of a report by the U.S. Department of State’s strategic culture logoGlobal Engagement Center (GEC), billed as the Donald Trump administration’s “dedicated center for countering foreign disinformation and propaganda, cites the Strategic Culture Foundation in Russia, Canada’s Global Research Center, and other on-line publications as “proxy sites” for Russian intelligence and the Russian Foreign Ministry.

The State Department’s report is titled, “Pillars of Russia’s Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem” and it is not much different than the series of reports issued by the State Department’s “International Information Program” in the mid-2000s that were used to debase U.S. journalists and authors critical of the George W. Bush-Dick Cheney neo-conservative wars of choice. Those diatribes, like the recent one masquerading as a “special report,” were written on the U.S. taxpayers’ dime and represent a squandering of money.

Diagrams in the recent State Department report depict various on-line publications and Internet sites as coronavirus microbes. The Mike Pompeo-led State Department, which has, along with the Trump White House, issued a daily dose of pabulum that can only be described as conspiracy theory-based rantings from congenital liars and reality-challenged fabulists and fanatical right-wingers, have no ethical or political grounds to proclaim virtuousness when it comes to spewing forth propaganda and outright lies.

One could easily issue a multi-volume report that deals with America’s propaganda factory both during the Cold War and in its aftermath. A major focus of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency from its very inception was the penetration of the news media, including the assignment of CIA agents to the newsrooms and editorial offices of America’s largest media operations, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, Hearst Newspapers, NBC News, ABC News, CBS News, and other major newspapers and broadcast networks.

CIA LogoThe CIA also thoroughly infiltrated America’s political polling companies, including Gallup, Harris, and Roper. Details concerning the CIA’s Operation MOCKINGBIRD and “The Mighty Wurlitzer” propaganda and news influencing operations can easily be found in the annals of America’s post-World War II history. These are activities that the U.S. corporate media, as well as the CIA and State Department would prefer to have global consumers of news ignore.

As far as the State Department’s “Propaganda Ecosystem” report and its earlier incarnation, the International Information Program (IIP), are concerned, they are remnants of U.S. Cold War-era disinformation shops. The IIP’s chief propagandist was a one-time colleague of disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff in formulating pro-apartheid propaganda for South Africa’s minority apartheid government in the 1980s – Project Babushka. In the 1980s, through a front organization in Washington established by South Africa’s military establishment – the International Freedom Foundation (IFF) – propaganda was regularly churned out to argue against sanctions imposed on the apartheid regime. Serving as chairman of the editorial advisory board for the IFF’s publication branch—a group that pumped out all sorts of propaganda claiming that the African National Congress and Nelson Mandela were Communists – was none other than the far-right Republican Senator from North Carolina, Jesse Helms.

Today, Helms has been replaced by similar vile right-wing political creatures like Republican Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Ron Johnson of wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallWisconsin, who are always willing to carry the political tripe doled out by the Trump White House and Pompeo State Department.

Operating out of the State Department, the IIP launched vicious attacks on two American writers – this one included – as well as the Argentine newspaper Clarin, the Sunday Mirror (London), Quinto Dia (Venezuela), and other publications over their reports on the George W. Bush administration’s covert and war crime operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Southeast Asia, Iran, and Pakistan. The IIP even attacked The Los Angeles Times over its story on the kidnapping of poor children from poverty-ravished Latin American barrios for the purpose of organ harvesting. The IIP’s true masters in Israel were upset about the coverage because it involved Israeli human organ brokers.

Aug. 12

ny times logoNew York Times, The Daily News Is Now a Newspaper Without a Newsroom, Marc Tracy, Aug. 12, 2020. Tribune Publishing said that it was permanently closing the tabloid’s office in Lower Manhattan. Plans for a future workplace are uncertain. A tabloid once famous for its bustling, big-city newsroom no longer has a newsroom.

tribune publishing logoIn a move that was almost unthinkable before the coronavirus pandemic, Tribune Publishing said on Wednesday that The Daily News, once the largest-circulation newspaper in the country, was permanently closing its physical newsroom at 4 New York Plaza in Lower Manhattan. The same day, Tribune, the Chicago newspaper chain that has owned The News since 2017, told employees that it was closing four of its other newspapers’ offices.

“We have determined that we do not need to reopen this office in order to maintain our current operations,” Toni Martinez, a human resources executive at Tribune Publishing, wrote in an email to the staff that was reviewed by The New York Times. “With this announcement, we are also beginning to look at strategic opportunities and alternatives for future occupancy.”

The paper will continue to be published. The company made no promises about a future physical location. “As we progress through the pandemic and as needs change, we will reconsider our need for physical offices,” said a Tribune Publishing spokesman, Max Reinsdorf.

Newspapers across the country have been struggling for more than a decade because of punishing industry trends like the move away from revenue-generating print products and the nationalization of news. The pandemic, which has sharply squeezed advertising revenue, has added to the publications’ woes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sumner Redstone 1923–2020: Dealmaker and titan of media dies at 97, David Marino-Nachison and Adam Bernstein, Aug. 12, 2020. The mogul’s Viacom empire included Paramount Pictures film studios, CBS and MTV.

sumner redstone resized boston universitySumner Redstone, right, a combative and daring dealmaker who in his 60s turned his family’s movie theater chain into one of the world’s largest media empires, with holdings that included Paramount Pictures film studios, CBS, MTV and the publishing house Simon & Schuster, died Aug. 11 at 97.

His media holding company, National Amusements, announced the death in a statement but did not provide additional details. A spokeswoman, Sara Evans, did not specify the cause but said it was not related to the novel coronavirus.

In recent years, as the mogul’s mental and physical decline became increasingly apparent, legal and public-relations battles erupted among his presumed successors, members of the family and an array of other hangers-on. All had a stake in inheriting chunks of his $40 billion business empire, his personal fortune or both.

ny times logoNew York Times, QAnon Followers Are Hijacking #SaveTheChildren, Kevin Roose, Aug. 12, 2020. Fans of the pro-Trump conspiracy theory are clogging anti-trafficking hotlines and raising false fears about child exploitation, our columnist writes.

QAnon first surfaced in 2017 with a series of anonymous posts on the internet forum 4chan claiming to reveal high-level government intelligence about crimes by top Democrats. It has since spawned one of the most disturbing and consequential conspiracy theory communities in modern history.

Its followers have committed serious crimes, and its online vigilantes have made a sport of harassing and doxxing their perceived enemies. The F.B.I. has cited QAnon as a potential domestic terror threat, and social networks have begun trying to pull QAnon groups off their platforms. Dozens of QAnon-affiliated candidates are running for office this year. One of them, Marjorie Taylor Greene, won a primary runoff Tuesday for a House seat in Georgia, drawing a congratulatory tweet from Mr. Trump.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: NBC Universal doesn't want anyone to see skit of Trump buying two young children, Wayne Madsen, Aug. 12, 2020. Donald Trump and his litigious murder of attorneys apparently are embarrassed about a comedy skit Trump made about him buying two young children sitting in the back seat of a car parked in front of one of his properties in Manhattan.

When the parking valet informs Trump that he will have to wait until the mother of the children moves her car in order to park Trump's car, Trump announces he will buy the mother's car, children included.

NBC Universal prevailed upon YouTube to take down the Trump clip the editor included in a video to illustrate Trump's lackadaisical attitude toward "buying," i.e., the sex trafficking, of children.

Aug. 10

washington post logoWashington Post, Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai arrested under national security law, Shibani Mahtani, Aug. 10, 2020. In an operation that spanned more than 12 hours, Hong Kong police on Monday arrested media tycoon and activist Jimmy Lai, his sons and at least seven others and raided his newsroom under a sweeping national security law that China recently imposed on Hong Kong.

Those swept up included Agnes Chow, a 23-year old activist who rose to prominence alongside Joshua Wong and Nathan Law as a student protester in 2014. Police said that most of those arrested were suspected of colluding with foreign powers, a crime punishable by life in prison.

Taken together, the dramatic events quashed any doubt that Beijing would use the national security law as a mere deterrent and underscored the increasingly precarious plight of pro-democracy activists and journalists in Hong Kong. Lai, 71, and Chow are the most prominent of those arrested under the law to date.

Just after dawn, officers arrived at Lai's home and that of his sons to question and arrest them. Four other senior executives at his media group, Next Digital, were also arrested, according to the company and Mark Simon, a close aide to Lai. Next Digital is the parent company of Apple Daily, a pro-democracy news outlet critical of Beijing that Lai founded in 1995.

Shortly afterward, more than 200 police entered Next Digital’s offices, according to the company’s Facebook page and a live-stream of the raid, and searched Apple Daily’s newsroom. They rifled through reporters’ desks and papers, told employees to show identification cards and warned journalists to stop filming and photographing the raid. By the end of the operation, police had seized 25 boxes of material.

washington post logoLegal Schnauzer, Commentary: Legal Schnauzer winds up in the middle of Facebook's effort to remove fraudulent accounts associated with Trump ally and GOP dirty trickster, Roger Stone, Roger Shuler, Aug. 10, 2020. In January 2017, we published a post in which I expressed suspicions that someone associated with Donald Trump ally and GOP dirty trickster Roger Stone had targeted Legal Schnauzer for a stream of vile, profane, and threatening comments. Turns out we were right.

Facebook made international headlines last Friday with reports that the cybersecurity firm Graphika had determined that Stone and his associates created a disinformation network that prompted Facebook to launch a takedown effort of fake accounts that stretched from Canada to Brazil, from Ecuador to Ukraine. From a facebook logoreport at the South Florida SunSentinel, which covers Stone's home base of Fort Lauderdale:

Roger Stone spent a half-century honing his skills as a political operator and building a reputation as a stop-at-nothing dirty trickster, in support of a range of big-name politicians and causes, including Donald Trump and Richard Nixon.

Now, a report from the cybersecurity firm Graphika suggests that Stone — who in recent years has become one of Fort Lauderdale’s best-known residents — was able to translate his real-world approach to the online world, exploiting the social media platform Facebook as he pursued goals that included promoting Trump and himself.

A closer look at the document shows how the Sunshine State emerged as an epicenter for the disinformation network, which set out to meddle in Florida politics and beyond.

The social media giant ultimately took down a network of 54 Facebook accounts, 50 pages and four from Instagram, another social media site it owns. A map showed 15 locations of the accounts were in Florida, mostly along the east coast from Vero Beach to Miami; a handful were elsewhere.

Some pages associated with Stone promoted Stone, and often his books. Some attempted to influence legislation and criticized enemies — including Hillary Clinton — sometimes with negative messages. Some used fake names and were illustrated with faces found on the internet.

“Our investigation linked this network to Roger Stone and his associates,” Facebook said. Some had links to the far-right group Proud Boys, Facebook said.

Facebook apparently spared no expense in tracking the Stone network. From Facebook's report on its internal investigation:

We found this network as part of our internal investigation into suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior in the region. Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities and coordination, our investigation found links to political consultants and former government employees in Ecuador and Estraterra, a Canada-based PR firm. Estraterra is now banned from our platforms.

Several of these Pages had links to Proud Boys, a hate group we banned in 2018. Some Pages appeared to have acquired followers from Pakistan and Egypt to make themselves seem more popular than they were. This network — which was also active on other internet platforms — was most active between 2015 and 2017. Since then, the majority of these accounts have been dormant, and some were permanently deleted by the users. The Page admins and account owners posted about local politics in Florida, Roger Stone and his Pages, websites, books, and media appearances.

Stone's social network unraveled primarily because of his ties to the Proud Boys and Robert Mueller's investigation of the Trump-Russia scandal from the 2016 presidential election. From the internal Facebook report:

We first started looking into this network as part of our investigation into the Proud Boys’ attempts to return to Facebook after we had designated and banned them from the platform. We identified the full scope of this network following the recent public release of search warrants pertaining to the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in response to a joint petition from The New York Times, CNN, the Associated Press, The Washington Post, and Politico. Our investigation linked this network to Roger Stone and his associates.

How does Legal Schnauzer enter the picture? The SunSentinel explains:

The [Facebook] report, issued last month, tied one example of online harassment by the network to a Sarah Jameson Facebook account, which purported to be a woman living in Plantation.

Roger Shuler, who writes an online blog called “Legal Schnauzer,” said he received a barrage of profanity-laden emails from some claiming to be a “Sarah Jameson” in 2015 and 2016. The person emailing was upset over Shuler’s critical posts about then-U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions and federal Judge Bill Pryor.

Shuler said he looked up Jameson’s Facebook page and found a “Roger Stone shrine.” It seemed bizarre enough for him to write on his blog about the account with only 18 friends and posts promoting Stone.

“I definitely had suspicions that it was a fake account or a false identity,” Shuler said. “It was kind of like a fan-girl page. Not much in-depth information. Whoever it was seemed to like Roger Stone for some reason.”

“It made me wonder: Roger Stone is known for dirty tricks. Was he involved in some of this?” Shuler added.

The Mueller search warrants apparently helped prove, among other things, that Stone and Co. targeted Legal Schnauzer for what likely can best be described as a cyber harassment and cyber stalking campaign. Ours is the only blog mentioned in the Graphika report as a specific target of the Stone network:

Similarly, a Facebook account called “Sarah Jameson” that Facebook identified as part of the network matched names and profile pictures with an account called @S_jameson82 on Twitter. The Twitter account was created in 2016 and stopped posting in early 2017; of its 20 most recent posts, 11 focused on Stone or advertised his books. Most of the rest focused on Donald Trump’s election campaign in 2016 and the controversy over his ban on immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries in early 2017.

Aug. 9

Media Matters, Advocacy: Sunday show coverage of COVID-19 relief negotiations was again filled with false equivalency, Cydney Hargis, Aug. 9, 2020. For months, Republicans failed to make a proposal, and still are split on whether to continue COVID-19 aid at all. Instead of focusing on what was needed, Sunday shows instead frequently just blamed both sides for not coming to an agreement.

media matters logoPresident Trump signed four executive orders following a congressional gridlock over negotiations about the second COVID-19 relief bill, which Republicans refused to enter into until the eleventh hour. Sunday political shows, however, continued with their false equivalency that both parties are to blame which forced the president’s hand.

The economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic have been devastating for millions of Americas. The Census Bureau estimated that sometime before July 21, nearly 30 million Americans did not have enough to eat. Millions are still unemployed, and the Congressional Budget Office expects the unemployment rate to remain “elevated” through 2021. Forty million people are reportedly at risk of being kicked out of their homes due to the pandemic, especially as eviction moratoriums across the country come to an end. The ending of enhanced unemployment benefits looks set to become an economic catastrophe.

Aug. 5

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook Removes, and Twitter Blocks, Trump Campaign’s Misleading Video, Cecilia Kang and Sheera Frenkel, Aug. 5, 2020. It was the first time Facebook took down a post by President Trump’s campaign for spreading virus misin

Facebook took down a video posted by the campaign of President Trump on Wednesday in which he claimed children were immune to the coronavirus, a violation of the social network’s rules against misinformation around the virus.

facebook logoIt was the first time Facebook has removed a post by Mr. Trump’s campaign for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus, though the social network has previously taken down other ads and posts by the campaign for violating other policies. In June, for example, Facebook took down campaign ads that used a Nazi-related symbol, which broke the company’s rules against organized hate.

The action on Wednesday did not signal a change to Facebook’s fierce defense of free expression. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, has said the social network is not an arbiter of truth and that it is in the public’s interest to see what political leaders post — even if they include falsehoods by politicians like Mr. Trump. Mr. Zuckerberg has stood by the position, even as other social media companies like Twitter have ramped up their rule enforcement with regard to the president’s speech.

The stance has put Facebook under tremendous pressure from employees, advertisers and civil-rights leaders, who have opposed permitting Mr. Trump to spread falsehoods around mail-in voting on the site and to allow comments and threatening language around the Black Lives Matter protests to remain up.

Aug. 4

Media Matters, Advocacy:  Right-wing media struggle to handle Trump’s train wreck Axios interview, Eric Kleefield, Aug. 4, 2020. “They are dying, that's true. And it is what it is,” is what President Donald Trump said in reference to the coronavirus outbreak in America during an interview with Axios on HBO, which aired this week.

media matters logoTrump's lies were repeatedly exposed through simple follow-up questions by Axios political correspondent Jonathan Swan. He also attacked recently deceased civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) for not attending his inauguration, suggested the Civil Rights Act was a mistake, and complemented Jeffrey Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell.

But even beyond all of that, the interview will be remembered for Trump's wild lies about the COVID-19 pandemic. The president didn't even understand Swan's point that the United States has had more people die from the pandemic per capita than many other countries. When asked about additional efforts to contain the pandemic, Trump just said "It is what it is. ... It's under control as much as you can control it." He also said "manuals" and "books" say not to test too much, and never explained what he was talking about, instead changing the subject.

Trump's answers were immediately widely panned. Fox News didn't mention the interview very much at all.

Beyond Fox, right-wing media struggled to applaud the president’s performance. Some tried, including right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh, who said about the interview, “Trump is a realist. He deals with things as they are. I am a realist. I’m Mr. Literal. I am the mayor of Realville. You know me. One of my all-time favorite, little, short, philosophical sayings: It is what it is.”

Aug. 3

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How the News Media Could Get the Election Story Wrong, Ben Smith, Aug. 3, 2020 (print ed.). We may not know the results for days, and maybe weeks. So it’s time to rethink “election night.”

ny times logokayleigh mcenany djtNew York Times, Kayleigh McEnany Heckles the Press. Is That All? Katie Rogers and Maggie Haberman, Aug. 3, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump does not always watch her briefings, and even his allies say she risks being known more for “hitting the press with a two-by-four” than advancing his priorities.

Palmer Report, Opinion: We haven’t won this yet, Robert Harrington, Aug. 3, 2020. I was interviewed on Wednesday for two hours by The Mystic-Skeptic Radio Show, a media entity that doubles as a podcast. The pre-recording of my interview is slated to go out on “Radio Free Nashville” sometime in late August. The two hosts, young-ish progressives, were eager to see progressive policies enacted that they doubted that Joe Biden and the DNC machine were equal to.

bill palmer report logo headerI did my best to introduce them to reality as I saw it, pointing out that, yes, that painting near the Captain’s Table might look better over by the Grand Staircase, but didn’t they think we had better attend to the task at hand first, namely getting the damned passengers off the Titanic?

I’m deeply puzzled by people who are in such a hurry to see certain pet programs succeed and yet are blind to the greater peril. I think single-payer healthcare for all Americans, for instance, is a cracking good idea, long overdue. As an American living in England I’m atypically positioned to comprehend the difference between the two systems.

But one thing at a time, please. Politics, I cautioned my hosts, is a long game, one of give and take, a game of conceding small concessions for larger ones. You can seldom get everything all your own way overnight, and revolutions too fast sometimes spawn counterrevolutions. These matters must be handled delicately, to invoke the Wicked Witch of the West.

It seems, though, that the older one gets the more time one has. Put another way, the younger one is the more in a rush. So I caution my younger readers to have patience. We have paid a terrible price for Trump, let’s at least learn a lesson that can partly justify that price. Once we’re in charge we can use our newly empowered sense of urgency to shore up the nation against another Trump ever happening again. Then we can get down to the business of fixing the nation and healing the planet.

If we get back in charge, that is, and there’s the rub. Engagious, a focus group company, claims that focus groups they have conducted over the past year suggest that swing voters in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida favor Donald Trump two to one. They studied the oddball voter who voted for, say, Romney in 2012 and Clinton in 2016, or Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016. In other words, the Unpredictables may turn out to be a subset of the Deplorables. This is cause for concern, but not alarm.

As British athletics commentator Brendan Foster once put it, races aren’t run on paper, they’re run at races. What we need to realize above all else is Biden may look to be way ahead in the polls but he hasn’t won yet. The race is still on for November third, not August third. Even so, these focus groups sometimes pick up on trends that polls miss, and that is another reason why we must not be wholly reliant on polls.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Lincoln Project’s plan for preserving the union: Drive Trump out of office by driving him nuts, Roxanne Roberts, Aug. 3, 2020 (print ed.). Your house is on fire. Do you care who the firemen are?

That is a central question of the 2020 election. Donald Trump has managed to do one thing no other president has done: Bring Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and progressives, boomers and millennials together in unprecedented numbers to try to defeat him in November. For Americans who believe the president is a raging threat to democracy, purity tests are out. Results are in.

abraham lincoln 1860 matthew brady cooper unionWhich explains the spectacular rise of the Lincoln Project, a group of Republican Never Trumpers who have moved rent free into the president’s head. Their viral videos and tweets mocking his leadership, his intelligence and his patriotism — aimed both at Republican voters who are wavering and Trump himself — have attracted millions of dollars, via donors from both parties. More than 10,000 people attended a virtual town hall last month and about 80,000 others watched it on a live stream. Lifelong Democrats are organizing fundraisers for the project.

The “Mourning in America” ad attacks Trump’s mismanagement of the coronavirus outbreak. “#TrumpIsNotWell” questions his mental and physical fitness. “Bounty” asks why Trump won’t confront Vladimir Putin about U.S. intelligence reports that Russia offered bounties for the killing of American soldiers in Afghanistan.

The ads are slick, scathing and more shocking than anything Joe Biden’s official campaign has produced. The newest release, “Wake Up,” is a dark comic satire about a george conway postcoma victim hearing about Trump’s last three years. “Republicans, we need to wake up. This guy was in a coma. What’s your excuse?”

“Donald Trump is so completely at odds with every institution in America and so completely at odds with anything that the Republican Party allegedly stood for: the rule of law, constitutional fealty, institutions, norms, traditions, all of those things are out the window,” says Rick Wilson, a co-founder of the group with George Conway, right. “So you’re either going to make a choice between Trump or this country. We made the choice for the country, even if it doesn’t immediately seem to fit with all of our ideological or political priors.”

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: Trump and Hitler analogy: Not wanted in some circles, Wayne Madsen, Aug. 3, 2020. It is not often that the editor has an article rejected for publication. However, as the presidential election draws nearer, certain circles find the comparisons of Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler to be politically unpalatable.

Trump is not the only right-wing leader who is dismantling local and regional government in violation of constitutional norms. Not one to be intimidated, the article that got some armbands in a twist abroad is republished here in its entirety.

Palmer Report, Opinion: TikTok just won and Donald Trump just lost, Bill Palmer, Aug. 3, 2020. Palmer Report, Opinion: In the latest sign that Donald Trump fancies himself a tiktok logo square Customvengeful tyrant, he announced this weekend that he was banning the TikTok video app in the United States, simply because too many of its users have humiliated him. And in the latest sign that Trump is increasingly an empty suit, he’s now quietly backing down from that proclamation already.

bill palmer report logo headerOn Sunday night, Donald Trump gave TikTok’s China-based parent company forty-five days to sell TikTok to Microsoft or another bidder. In response, Microsoft confirmed it’s indeed seeking to acquire TikTok. Here’s the thing: nothing has changed.

TikTok was already for sale, and Microsoft was already attempting to buy it, before Donald Trump threw his little tantrum. Donald Trump has backed down in such a manner that things are now back to precisely what they had been, meaning he 100% caved. TikTok, its parent company, its users, and Microsoft all won. Trump lost.

When Trump faces any amount of pushback these days, he usually tepidly backs down.

Aug. 1

 sinclair broadcast logo custom

washington post logolarry klayman resized eric bolling judy mikovits sinclair pandemicWashington Post, Sinclair yanked a pandemic conspiracy theory program. But it has stayed in line with Trump on coronavirus, Paul Farhi, Aug. 1, 2020 (print ed.). Eric Bolling’s interview with the discredited “Plandemic” theorist represented an extreme edge of the typical commentary from one of the nation’s largest TV groups.

Editor's Note: Sinclair's America This Week host Eric Bolling, shown at center in adjoining photo, interviewing Judy Mikovits, right, of the conspiracy theory video Plandemic and her attorney Larry Klayman, left, about their plans to sue Dr. Anthony Fauci.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump says he’ll bar TikTok from operating in U.S., Ellen Nakashima, Rachel Lerman and Jeanne Whalen, Aug. 1, 2020 (print ed.). The ban would come amid tiktok logo square Customrising tension with China. The president also told reporters Friday night the administration may take other actions targeted at TikTok.

washington post logoWashington Post, James Murdoch resigns from News Corp. board over ‘disagreements’ about editorial content, Jeremy Barr, Aug. 1, 2020 (print ed.). James Murdoch, son of media baron Rupert Murdoch and the former chief executive of Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox — now called Fox Corp. — has resigned his seat on the board of the Murdoch-controlled News Corp., citing concerns about the company’s content and decision-making.

The abrupt resignation came in a tersely worded letter sent by Murdoch to the board of the company, which owns Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones and the New York Post, among other holdings.

fox news logo Small“My resignation is due to disagreements over certain editorial content published by the Company’s news outlets and certain other strategic decisions,” Murdoch wrote in the letter, which was filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday.

His resignation is the strongest sign yet that Murdoch, 47, has broken ideologically from his family’s media holdings, which include the cable news channel that he once had oversight over.

While his father, who remains the company’s executive chairman, is influential in Republican politics, Murdoch and his wife, Kathryn, have long been major donors to left-leaning causes and political candidates. They very publicly donated $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League in August 2017 after the protests in Charlottesville, calling out “hate and bigotry.”

Whistleblowing Revelations

"You never volunteer to be a whistleblower; it falls into your lap."

-- Wayne Madsen

charlotte dennett

OpEdNews, 2020 Annual Whistleblower Summit Features "Telling Stories Almost Too Big to Hear," Marta Steele, Aug. 1, 2020. This year's annual Whistleblower Summit, held on Zoom in combination with a dynamic film festival, featured a world-class panel, "Telling Stories Almost Too Big to Hear," organized by the well-known activist and attorney Andrew Kreig,

The four panelists, all expert whistleblowers who have spoken truth to power, included Charlotte Dennett, author of The Crash of Flight 3804 (shown above), the story of her investigations into the death of her father in a 1947 plane crash en route to report on his work investigating the huge oil industries in the Middle East.

don siegelman stealing our democracy CustomWayne Madsen, left, author of 18 books and master investigative reporter, began this segment of his career with "an A to Z encyclopedia of covert groups focused on the most sensitive issues on Earth, encompassing the intelligence backgrounds of U.S. politicians and judges before they were elected to office."

Former Alabama governor Don Siegelman, right, told his story of a meteoric career up the political ranks in the bright red state of Alabama despite his extremely progressive background and how Karl Rove and his cronies stepped in to ruin him even as he was being short-listed as a Democratic candidate for president in the 2004 general election. He has recently published an amazing memoir, Stealing Our Democracy: How the Political Assassination of a Governor Threatens Our Nation.

Dr. William Pepper, a close associate of both Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. (with whom he is shown below) in the 1960s, told an amazing life story of investigating the assassinations of both, risking his life in the process.

mlk william pepper plot to kill cover 300x169

 

July

July 30

bo john lewis eulogy cspan

Media Matters, Commentary: Right-wing media attack Barack Obama's eulogy for John Lewis, Jason Campbell, July 30, 2020. After the first Black president eulogizes a civil rights hero (above), conservatives lash out: “Barack Obama is a national disgrace”

Former President Barack Obama delivered a eulogy today for Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), commemorating the civil rights icon and longtime member of the House of media matters logoRepresentatives. Obama praised Lewis’ history of promoting civil rights and called for action to continue the late congressman’s legacy, including ending the Senate legislative filibuster and passing a new Voting Rights Act.

Right-wing media was quick to criticize Obama’s eulogy, claiming the former president had politicized the event. Some conservative media personalities mocked Obama and derided his speech as a campaign event for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Even following a solemn funeral in which this country’s first Black president praised the legacy of a champion for civil rights, right-wing media continued to demonstrate its shameless hatemongering.

Sean Hannity spent large chunks of his radio show complaining about Obama's eulogy, including accusing the former president of lying and claiming that voter suppression is a myth even though multiple Republican figures have admitted otherwise. Sen. Lindsey Graham told Hannity that “Donald Trump has done more to help the people they're talking about at the funeral than President Obama did.”

July 29

Media Matters, Commentary: Tucker Carlson's coverage of Breitbart's "Frontline Doctors" video, Nikki McCann Ramirez, July 29, 2020. Tucker Carlson’s deceitful coverage of Breitbart's COVID-19 “Frontline Doctors” video. Late on July 27, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook removed a hyperviral video riddled with misinformation related to the novel coronavirus posted by the far-right media outlet Breitbart.

fox news logo Smallmedia matters logoPresident Donald Trump and other prominent conservatives had shared the video, and its removal sparked cries of censorship from conservatives, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who on Tuesday night covered the story through cherry-picked snippets, outlandish accusations, and misrepresentation.

Carlson opened his show by claiming that with “the ruthlessness of Chinese authoritarians but with double the self-righteousness,” technology companies had collaborated with Democrats to pull the video from social media, viewing it as “a threat to Joe Biden's campaign.” Carlson claimed out-of-control tech companies were wielding unchecked power to silence “a group of physicians giving a press conference about medical advances in the fight against COVID.” In reality, the video was a hodgepodge of largely debunked medical claims.

July 27

washington post logoWashington Post, Congress prepares for epic clash with Big Tech, Tony Romm, July 27, 2020. Congress brought the country’s big banks to heel after the financial crisis, cowed a tobacco facebook logoindustry for imperiling public health and forced airline leaders to atone for years of treating their passengers poorly.

amazon logo smallNow, lawmakers are set to turn their attention to technology, channeling long-simmering frustrations with Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google into a high-profile hearing that some Democrats and Republicans hope will usher in sweeping changes throughout Silicon Valley.

On Wednesday, the industry’s four most powerful chief executives are set to appear, swear an oath and submit to a grilling from House lawmakers who have been probing the Web’s most recognizable names to determine whether they have become too big and powerful. The focus is antitrust, and the extent to which a quartet of digital behemoths — representing a nearly $5 trillion slice of the U.S. economy — has harmed competition, consumers and the country writ large.

washington post logomargaret sullivan 2015 photoWashington Post, Perspective: Media coverage of the 2016 campaign was a disaster. Now’s the last chance to get 2020 right, Margaret Sullivan, right, July 27, 2020 (print ed.). How did the news media mess up in the 100 days leading up to the 2016 presidential election? Let me count the ways.

Journalists relied too much on what opinion polls were saying and often presented a skewed interpretation of their meaning. That fed the sense that Hillary Clinton would be the inevitable winner.

They vastly overplayed the Clinton email story, particularly the “reopened investigation” aspect in October. Given Donald Trump’s background and behavior, the emphasis was astonishingly out of whack with reality.

News organizations failed to understand the tear-it-all-down mood of large segments of the voting public, or the racism and sexism that often fueled it.

July 26

sinclair broadcast logo custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Sinclair stations delay airing interview with ‘Plandemic’ researcher amid backlash, Meryl Kornfield, After facing intense scrutiny for planning to air a baseless conspiracy theory that infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauci helped to create the coronavirus, conservative TV broadcaster Sinclair Broadcast Group announced Saturday that it will delay the segment to edit the context of the claims.

Sinclair, which has 191 stations across the country, received backlash this week after “America This Week” host Eric Bolling interviewed Judy Mikovits, a former medical researcher featured in the debunked “Plandemic” conspiracy online film.

In the Sinclair interview, Mikovits claimed that Fauci “manufactured” the coronavirus and shipped it to Wuhan, China, where the outbreak originated. A chyron during the segment reads, “DID DR. FAUCI CREATE COVID-19?”

Mikovits and her lawyer Larry Klayman dropped other unfounded allegations during the show, including President Trump soft-pedaling relations with China because he has evidence of the country’s involvement with the inception of the virus.

The show was released online earlier this week before it was to be aired on local news channels. The segment was first reported by Media Matters, a left-leaning media watchdog. As of Saturday afternoon, the show was pulled from Sinclair websites.

Bolling, a former Fox News personality, did not challenge Mikovits’s assertions, calling what she said a “hefty claim.” He later told The Washington Post via text that he brought Fox News medical contributor Nicole Saphier on the show after to provide an He later told The Washington Post via text that he brought Fox News medical contributor Nicole Saphier on the show after to opposing viewpoint.

Saphier said during her interview that it was “highly unlikely” Fauci was responsible for the coronavirus.

anthony fauci CustomFauci, right, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has come under heavy criticism by some conservatives as he has stated positions opposite of the president over the virus and measures needed to contain its spread. Trump, while at times praising the doctor, also has been critical at times.

A Sinclair spokesperson did not respond to requests from The Post for comment, but the company issued a statement saying that it is not “aligning with or endorsing the viewpoints” aired in the segment, but adding that it is “a supporter of free speech and a marketplace of ideas and viewpoints, even if incredibly controversial.”

“We will spend the coming days bringing together other viewpoints and provide additional context,” the company later shared. “All stations have been notified not to air this and will instead be re-airing last week’s episode in its place.”

We hear your feedback regarding a segment on this week's "America This Week." At no juncture are we aligning with or endorsing the viewpoints of Dr. Mikovitz or Mr. Klayman or endorsing the "Plandemic" documentary. Full stop.

— Sinclair Broadcast Group (@WeAreSinclair) July 25, 2020

Based in Maryland, Sinclair owns and operates local news stations across the country and has endured criticism for its anchors parroting Trump’s remarks.

“As a propaganda machine, Sinclair is far more dangerous than OANN,” New York University professor Jay Rosen tweeted following the news of the interview with Mikovits. “Although it’s emerging a little more as itself lately, it is still for the most part a stealth network that operates through local 'community’ stations that present to the viewer as ABC CBS NBC & Fox affiliates.”

Mikovits did not respond to a request for comment but previously told The Post that her troubles stem from a cabal aimed at dismantling her career.

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus Live Updates: U.S. Nears National Peak as 18 States Set Single-Day Records, Staff reports, July 26, 2020 (print ed.). Friday was the fourth day running that the United States reported over 1,100 deaths. Pirate attacks are among the crime patterns shifting in the pandemic. New research sheds light on male vulnerability to severe Covid-19. South Carolina announced 80 new deaths on Saturday, a single-day record.

California. South Carolina. North Dakota, Kentucky. Hawaii. Those are among the 18 states that set single-day case records in the last week, putting the country on track to breaking a national single-day record for new coronavirus cases set less than two weeks ago.

More than 73,500 cases were reported on Friday, according to a New York Times database, approaching the country’s record of 75,697 cases, set on July 16. Since June 24, the seven-day average has more than doubled, to more than 66,100 on Friday from 31,402.

California's San Quentin prison (Aerial view by ABC-TV 7, San Francisco).

California's San Quentin prison (Aerial view by ABC-TV 7, San Francisco).

 washington post logoWashington Post, Guest Opinion: Inside San Quentin prison, you sit and wait until covid-19 comes for you, Joe Garcia, July 26, 2020 (print ed.). Joe Garcia is incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison, where he is a staff member of the San Quentin News and an editorial liaison for the Prison Journalism Project.

As a working prison journalist, I wanted to keep my eyes and ears wide-open. I wanted to detail everything going on around me as covid-19 raged out of control here. But a fog crept through me. Was it just a cold, a sinus infection, influenza — all things I’ve battled before? I woke to strange chills in the night; there was an acrid aftertaste along the back of my tongue. Maybe I just needed to pull out a blanket.

Is this what covid-19 feels like? My temperature had been normal every day. My breathing remained strong and clear. I wanted to believe that meant I was fine.

On June 22 and 23, everyone in my building, San Quentin’s North Block, lined up for covid-19 testing. I had just begun to feel weirdly awful. I overheard other guys describing the same things I was feeling. None of us wanted to alert the medical staff. So, you admit you’re sick? Well, let’s remove you from the few familiar comforts you have and throw you in an empty cell for a 14-day quarantine. That’s the protocol we all feared worse than covid-19.

Eventually, I did receive a notice informing me that I’d tested positive for covid-19 — one more number in a group that has now passed 2,000. Fifteen San Quentin inmates have died.

July 25

 sinclair broadcast logo custom

huff post logoHuffPost, Sinclair To Push Coronavirus Conspiracy Theory Via Massive Local News Network: Reports, Sara Boboltz, July 25, 2020.  The conservative company owns a huge swath of the local news market in the U.S.

Sinclair Broadcasting Group, the local news behemoth that runs nearly 200 stations across the country, is reportedly set to promote a baseless and inflammatory conspiracy theory about the origin of the coronavirus on some of its channels.

Eric Bolling, a former Fox News host who now hosts a program for Sinclair called “America This Week,” spent several minutes on his latest show interviewing Judy Mikovits, a discredited scientist who is a central character in the conspiracy film “Plandemic,” Media Matters was first to report.

The episode was streamed online this week and is expected to air over an unknown number of Sinclair’s stations this weekend, according to Media Matters and CNN Business.

“Plandemic” is a 26-minute concoction that argues America’s top doctors ― particularly Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force and the nation’s leading expert on infectious disease ― cannot be trusted to provide information on the crisis.

The film was banned from Facebook and YouTube when it started gaining traction earlier this year for providing false information on COVID-19.

Now, key elements of the conspiracy theory will be shown across Sinclair’s vast network of stations, which cover roughly 40% of the American market.

It’s not the first time the company’s conservative leadership has sought to use its platform to push unsubstantiated right-wing theories. In 2018, Sinclair instructed anchors to recite a “must-run” segment decrying the “troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country.”

Mikovits told Bolling that she believes Fauci “manufactured the coronaviruses in monkey cell lines” and shipped them to Wuhan, China, where the illness was first detected.

Contrary to her claims, scientists believe the virus has a natural origin, having evolved to infect humans from bats by way of some unknown intermediary animal. Because Wuhan’s live animal markets bring together animals that would not otherwise normally mix, they provide the perfect environment for such a virus to emerge in the human population. The genetic makeup of the novel coronavirus is also not similar enough to any known human pathogen to have originated in a lab.

Mikovits is a known figure in the anti-vaccine movement whose body of work includes a study on chronic fatigue syndrome that was roundly criticized in the scientific community and abruptly retracted in 2011. She has since attempted to position herself as a victim whose work has been continually suppressed by “Big Pharma.”

July 23

Media Matters for America, Criticism/Advocacy: Sinclair gives “Plandemic" conspiracy theorists a platform to spread their lies about Dr. Fauci and the coronavirus, John Whitehouse on coverage by Zachary Pleat with research from Alex Kaplan and Pam Vogel, July 23, 2020.

For years, Media Matters has covered the right-wing propaganda that Sinclair Broadcasting puts on local television channels across the country. The instance this week may have been the worst example yet.

larry klayman resized eric bolling judy mikovits sinclair pandemicThe latest example of Sinclair's "America This Week" features host Eric Bolling, shown at center in adjoining photo, interviewing Judy Mikovits, right, of the conspiracy theory video Plandemic and her attorney Larry Klayman, left, about their plans to sue Dr. Anthony Fauci. Bolling introduced the prerecorded interview by referring to Mikotivs as “an expert in virology” who previously “worked with Dr. Anthony Fauci.”

As Zach Pleat meticulously documented, Mikovits may be the most prominent COVID-19 conspiracy theorist in the country. She gained notoriety after she made multiple false and misleading claims about the coronavirus and public health in Plandemic. The viral video featured various lies, including about vaccines and the COVID-19 death count. She also reportedly made false claims about Fauci in the video, and defended a bogus bleach product as a treatment for the disease. YouTube, Facebook, and other platforms all removed Plandemic for violations of their terms of service.

Bolling didn't mention any of that, instead allowing them to peddle conspiracy theories, like accusing Fauci of having "manufactured the coronaviruses" and shipped them to Wuhan, China. (This, obviously, did not happen.)

When the interview was over, Bolling brought on a Fox News medical contributor to react. During that portion of the show, Bolling hypothesized -- again without evidence -- that China “accelerated the virus” while researching a vaccine and “it somehow leaked out of a laboratory.” Experts have long established that the novel coronavirus was not made in a lab and there is no evidence that it leaked from one.

Media Matters reported about this segment on Thursday. After outrage grew, Sinclair finally responded on Saturday, announcing first that it supported free speech even if it was "controversial."

Hours later, the company issued a statement that it would ask local stations to delaying airing this episode. This was too late. We already found that the segment aired on at least one local Sinclair station in West Virginia, and possibly more.

Sinclair has pushed far-right propaganda for years, and Bolling made his mark at Fox where he pushed birtherism and other conspiracy theories, before leaving Fox for Sinclair after allegedly sending explicit pictures to multiple colleagues. The only difference now is how many people might risk getting sick and even die because of them.

 california institution resized for women cal dept corrections rehab aerialAn aerial view of the California Institution for Women, right (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation).

washington post logoWashington Post, Inmates witnessed a suicide attempt. They received coloring pages instead of counseling, Eileen Guo, July 26, 2020. Inmates at the California Institution for Women try to cope with the mental toll of the coronavirus.

On a morning in mid-May, Anna "C.J." Rugg, a 38-year-old transgender man who had tested positive for the coronavirus at the California Institution for Women, set his room in the medical isolation unit on fire.

"I made my room an inferno," he told The Washington Post by JPay, the inmate emailing system, and "laid down on the floor and waited for the smoke to get me."

Rugg had serious health issues and struggled with acceptance since coming out in prison as transgender, but it was the extra stresses of covid-19 measures that pushed him over the edge. “This lockdown is too much,” he wrote to Arlene Veronesi, a close friend and former cellmate. “I lost it. Don’t hate me.”

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, incarcerated individuals in California’s 35 state prisons faced poor mental health care. The situation is especially dire for the rapidly increasing number of female prisoners, who make up 4 percent of the state’s incarcerated population but 11 percent of suicides, according to 2016 figures. Seven women committed suicide between 2013 and 2016 at the California Institution for Women, a 1398-bed prison currently housing close to 1500 women; in 2018, a woman experiencing a psychotic episode waited hours for care, ripping out and swallowing her own eye before receiving treatment.

Multiple state audits of the prison have found slow response rates to mental health incidents as a major factor in suicides. A class-action lawsuit filed in 1990, on behalf of all of California’s incarcerated individuals receiving mental health services, is ongoing.

The pandemic has exacerbated the lack of mental health care at CIW. Inmates have refused tests, temperature checks and other measures meant to contain the virus’s spread to avoid being put in isolation, and four women have attempted suicide while in quarantine or isolation for the coronavirus. “Rather than treat[ing] their mental health,” the pandemic has shifted the entire correctional health care system’s priority to “basically just trying to keep people alive,” said Michael Bien, lead counsel in the class-action lawsuit.

When CIW’s first positive coronavirus test came back on April 6, correctional officials quarantined women to their own cells if they might have been exposed. Prison officials put whole housing units into lockdown and moved positive patients into separate medical isolation units.

But a number of inmates say that CIW staff never told them what was happening.

On the same day as the first positive test at CIW, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) issued guidance requiring all staff to wear face masks. It was “our first time seeing any staff in a mask,” Rianne Theriaultodom, an incarcerated woman who was in the medical isolation unit with Rugg, told The Post via JPay. This left the women “confused and terrified” about the disease’s progression in their facility.

  • Washington Post, Trump’s chief economic adviser says federal eviction ban will be extended, Meryl Kornfield and Marisa Iati, July 26,  2020.

July 22

washington post logoWashington Post, NPR may be ‘public’ radio, but it’s feeling the economic pain of the pandemic. More trouble lies ahead, Paul Farhi, July 22, 2020 (print ed.). NPR reporter Kelsey Snell would normally have spent last week covering Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell as the congressional correspondent for “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.” But it wasn’t a normal week for Snell or anyone else at NPR.

Instead, she was out of work — one of dozens in NPR’s 520-person Washington newsroom who are going on unpaid week-long furloughs at some point during this shutdown summer, under a cost-saving agreement between NPR’s management and its newsroom.

npr logo“Please support your local public radio station!” she tweeted before ducking out for the week.

For decades, the P in NPR stood for “public,” as in publicly supported, noncommercial radio and digital news. Yet with its growing dependence on corporate advertising, NPR has found itself on equally troubled footing as its for-profit competitors, all of them reliant on the same pool of advertising dollars that have dried up during the coronavirus pandemic.

A sharp downturn in “underwriting” — public broadcasting’s euphemism for its tasteful style of advertising — prompted NPR to adopt a package of pay cuts, furloughs and other concessions in April. Yet NPR will still show a deficit of about $10 million when its fiscal year closes in September, its widest in years, chief executive John Lansing said in an interview.

The new year starting in October figures to be even tougher. Without another round of givebacks, Lansing is projecting a deficit of $30 million to $43 million — by far the largest in NPR’s 50-year history.

djt michael cohen

washington post logoWashington Post, Michael Cohen’s book to allege Trump made racist comments about Obama and Nelson Mandela, lawsuit says, Shayna Jacobs, July 22, 2020 (print ed.).  The book manuscript being drafted by President Trump's ex-lawyer Michael Cohen, above left, alleges that Trump has made racist comments about his predecessor Barack Obama and the late South African leader Nelson nelson mandela 2008 wMandela (shown at right in 2008), according to court filings made public Monday night that contend Cohen was sent back to prison this month as retaliation.

The filings from Cohen’s attorneys seek his immediate release from federal custody following his rearrest July 9, less than two months after he was allowed to serve the remainder of his sentence on home confinement because of the coronavirus pandemic.

His lawsuit alleges that Cohen’s First Amendment rights were violated when he was detained at the federal courthouse in Manhattan during a meeting with probation officers, who had asked him to sign a gag order prohibiting him from speaking to the media or publishing a book while serving the rest of his sentence.

July 20

Former Fox News Chief White House Correspondent Ed Henry, left, and Fox prime time stars Tucker Carlson, center, and Sean Hannity (Fox News screenshots).

Former Fox News Chief White House Correspondent Ed Henry, left, and Fox prime time stars Tucker Carlson, center, and Sean Hannity (Fox News screenshots).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Fox News faces allegations of sexual harassment, rape, Erik Wemple, July 20, 2020. For the past few years, Fox News has kept telling us that it learned its lesson: The culture of sexual harassment that started with longtime chief Roger Ailes and extended to disgraced former anchor Bill O’Reilly and others had been addressed. New, accountable lines of authority were drawn up; a new HR apparatus was in place; a so-called Workplace Professionalism and Inclusion Council (WPIC) sprung into action.

fox news logo SmallHas it all done any good? Not according to a fresh lawsuit brimming with horrific allegations.

cathy areu left jennifer eckhartOn Monday, former Fox Business associate producer Jennifer Eckhart, shown at right in the adjoining photo, and former Fox News guest Cathy Areu, at left, brought a complaint against the network claiming yet more misconduct that key executives allegedly failed to thwart. The complaint, filed by Douglas Wigdor and Michael Willemin of Wigdor LLP, includes misconduct allegations directed at former host Ed Henry, prime-time mainstays Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity (portrayed above) and media correspondent/host Howard Kurtz.

The most disturbing allegations relate to Henry, a former Fox News host and correspondent who had a stormy tenure at the network. Henry was suspended for roughly four months in 2016 after carrying on an extramarital relationship with a Las Vegas hostess on company time. He returned to work and again climbed the hierarchy, becoming a co-host of the morning program “America’s Newsroom.”

Earlier this month, however, Fox News announced it had fired Henry over sexual misconduct allegations the network received on June 25. “Based on investigative findings, Ed has been terminated,” said top Fox News officials in a memo to colleagues. The conduct in question took place “years ago,” said the memo. At the time, Wigdor told the media that the firm wasn’t in a position to “share any further information.”

Now the other shoe has dropped. The complaint is detailed and not suitable for republication in a family newspaper such as this one.

Ed Henry, former Fox chief white house correspondentIt begins with a caution in red ink: “TRIGGER WARNING: THIS DOCUMENT CONTAINS HIGHLY GRAPHIC INFORMATION OF A SEXUAL NATURE, INCLUDING SEXUAL ASSAULT.” It then alleges that Henry “preyed upon, manipulated and groomed Ms. Eckhart starting at the young age of 24, by exerting his abuse of power over her and her career. Mr. Henry not only leveraged this imbalance of power for control over his victim, Ms. Eckhart, but asked her to be his ‘sex slave’ and his ‘little whore,’ and threatened punishment and retaliation if Ms. Eckhart did not comply with his sexual demands.”

According to the document, Henry raped Eckhart at a hotel where the network puts up visiting employees. Eckhart was “helpless and restrained in metal handcuffs, as Mr. Henry preformed sadistic acts on her without her consent that left her injured, bruised and battered with bloody wrists.”

Included in the complaint are alleged text messages between Henry and Eckhart — messages that “establish Mr. Henry’s delusions and prove his violence,” according to the complaint. “Gona make you my little whore again,” reads one of them. Fox has denied allegations against others accused.

  • CBS News interview with plaintiffs Jennifer Eckhart and Cathy Areu here.

July 17

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Twitter just proved it can’t keep the accounts of global leaders safe, Cat Zakrzewski, July 17, 2020 (print ed.). The massive Twitter breach yesterday wasn't just disruptive. It was a sobering reminder that even the most powerful social networks are vulnerable to attacks.

The hack impacted everyone from Joe Biden to Elon Musk, raising new concerns about Twitter’s ability to keep global leaders’ accounts safe. It's sure to have wide-ranging implications for the service that has become a core communication channel in American society, disseminating everything from President Trump's rockets to corporate news.

twitter bird Custom“The problem is that we all rely on Twitter as this public space that is safe and secure, and we know that the tweets that someone like a Joe Biden is sending out are authentic,” Harper Reed, an entrepreneur who served as the 2012 Obama campaign’s chief technology officer, told me. “Twitter has proven to us that may not be true.”

Accounts belonging to prominent billionaires and politicians began posting similar messages yesterday afternoon asking for money to be sent to cryptocurrency accounts, Rachel Lerman, Joseph Marks and I reported. The messages received thousands of likes before they were taken off Twitter, and in some instances, they were posted again from the same account.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Do Progressives Have a Free Speech Problem? Michelle Goldberg, July 17, 2020 (print ed.). The illiberal left is a lot less threatening than the right. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

An acquaintance came to me a few weeks ago with the rough draft of a letter about free speech and asked me to sign. I declined, in part because it denounced “cancel culture.” As I wrote in an email, the phrase “‘cancel culture,’ while it describes something real, has been rendered sort of useless because it’s so often used by right-wing whiners like Ivanka Trump who think protests against them violate their free speech.”

A little later my acquaintance came back to me with a new version, which didn’t mention “cancel culture.” Like the people who wrote the letter, I think left-wing illiberalism is a problem, though I’ve mostly stopped writing about it since Donald Trump was elected, because it seems like complaining about a bee sting when you have Stage IV cancer.

So I signed. The statement, published in Harper’s Magazine as “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate,” spawned takes and countertakes, most of them, despite my modest effort, about “cancel culture.” nefit enormously from a vaccine, they remain distrustful of a medical establishment with a history that includes the Tuskegee syphilis study and surgical experiments on enslaved people — not to mention the ongoing disparities they confront in the U.S. health-care system.

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Fox News Staffers Erupt Over Network’s Racism: Bosses ‘Created a White Supremacist Cell,’ Lachlan Cartwright, Lloyd Grove, Andrew Kirell, Noah Shachtman, Justin Baragona, July 17, 2020. A heated early-June phone call between Fox execs and Black staffers was just the beginning of an internal revolt against racism at the network, insiders told The Daily Beast.

Four days after Fox News aired a particularly tone-deaf graphic connecting the killings of Black men—including George Floyd and Martin Luther King Jr.—to stock market gains, many of the network’s Black staffers took part in a phone call with company brass to confront Fox’s increasingly racist and hostile rhetoric towards the protests against police brutality.

It did not go well.

fox news logo SmallThe call on June 9 lasted more than 90 minutes and included Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott, President Jay Wallace, and HR chief Kevin Lord, people familiar with the matter told The Daily Beast. It was led by Scott, who is white, and Marsheila J. Hayes, the vice president of diversity and inclusion at Fox Corporation, who is Black.

It was almost immediately rife with tension. One staffer directly asked why Bret Baier—the anchor of the network’s key weekday news broadcast, Special Report, which aired the offensive graphic—was not on the call, nor any other white on-air talent. (Baier had previously apologized for the “major screw-up,” noting that, because the show bears his name, “the buck stops with me.” Fox News also apologized for the “insensitivity” of the infographic, adding that it “should have never aired on television without full context.”)

Other participants on the call expressed anger and distress about rampant racism at Fox, both on- and off-air.

July 16

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Twitter just proved it can’t keep the accounts of global leaders safe, Cat Zakrzewski, July 16, 2020. The massive Twitter breach yesterday wasn't just disruptive. It was a sobering reminder that even the most powerful social networks are vulnerable to attacks.twitter bird Custom

The hack impacted everyone from Joe Biden to Elon Musk, raising new concerns about Twitter’s ability to keep global leaders’ accounts safe. It's sure to have wide-ranging implications for the service that has become a core communication channel in American society, disseminating everything from President Trump's rockets to corporate news.

“The problem is that we all rely on Twitter as this public space that is safe and secure, and we know that the tweets that someone like a Joe Biden is sending out are authentic,” Harper Reed, an entrepreneur who served as the 2012 Obama campaign’s chief technology officer, told me. “Twitter has proven to us that may not be true.”

Accounts belonging to prominent billionaires and politicians began posting similar messages yesterday afternoon asking for money to be sent to cryptocurrency accounts, Rachel Lerman, Joseph Marks and I reported. The messages received thousands of likes before they were taken off Twitter, and in some instances, they were posted again from the same account.

  • Washington Post, Twitter hack hits prominent accounts, July 16, 2020.

washington post logoapple logo rainbowWashington Post, Apple wins victory against E.U. as court rules it does not have to pay $14.8 billion in back taxes, Michael Birnbaum, July 16, 2020 (print ed.).  An appeals court crimped the European Union’s aggressive antitrust enforcement effort against the tech giant.

Mediaite, Photographer Catches Topics in Kayleigh McEnany’s Briefing Binder: Obama, Hate, Golf, Mueller, Lies, LGBT and More, Reed Richardson, July 16, 2020. A Reuters photograph of White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s vast briefing binder offered a peek behind the curtain of the Trump administration’s messaging priorities.

Taken from the side of the White House briefing room podium, the photograph catches McEnany, right, opening the book, exposing dozens of alphabetized tabs with short category names. During her tenure, McEnany has developed a reputation for flipping open her briefing book after a particularly confrontational question and reading verbatim from pre-written responses, which often included canned attacks on the press or praise from allies.

In the photo takayleigh mcenany white house file Customken at Thursday’s White House briefing, McEnany’s tabs include a number evergreen topics, but several recent ones as well. “Covid” and “Test” as well as “PPE,” “Masks,” “CDC,” and “Cases” suggest a healthy amount of prepared remarks on the raging pandemic. But also included in the binder were more ephemeral topics, like “Goya” about the controversy over the Trump-led counter-backlash to a liberal boycott of the food company, “Mary” which, presumably, refers to the president’s niece and her damning tell-all book, and “Hogan,” which likely alluded to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s scathing Washington Post essay condemning Trump’s pandemic response. Also included were notable files on former President Barack “Obama,” as well as subjects used to frequently criticize Trump like “Golf,” “Russia,” “Hate,” and a misspelled “Meuller.”

But many of the tabs spoke to this White House’s favorite boogeymen, with categories such as “Media,” “Lies,” “China,” “BLM,” “Privil” suggesting white privilege, and one simply labeled “Absurd.” “Statues” was also included as was “LGBT.” Notably, one tab was labeled “Karl,” which might be an oppo brief against ABC News White House correspondent Jon Karl, who has frequently clashed with Trump at press conferences.

Finally, in what appeared to be the last tab, at the bottom of the book, was one labeled “Wins.”

Mediaite, ‘They’re All Cowards’: Spurs Coach Popovich Shreds Texas Leaders Over Pandemic Response, Says Team is Safer in Florida, Sarah Rumpf, July 16, 2020. ‘They’re All Cowards’: Spurs Coach Popovich Shreds Texas Leaders Over Pandemic Response, Says Team is Safer in Florida.

Gregg Popovich is well known for not doing two things: losing games and holding his tongue. The outspoken San Antonio Spurs head coach lived up to his reputation during a media nba logosession Thursday, calling out Texas state leaders as “cowards” for their handling of the coronavirus pandemic and saying that he feels that his team is safer in Florida.

The Spurs, like other NBA teams, are currently in what the league has deemed the “bubble” in Orlando, Florida, quarantined to their hotel rooms, gyms, and courts, and practicing for an upcoming end to the 2019–20 season, like none other in history.

Coronavirus cases have been spiking in a number of areas around the country, including both the Spurs’ home state of Texas, and Florida where they are now. A reporter for a San Antonio CBS-TV station asked Popovich what he thought about those outbreaks, and he responded by calling the bubble “one of the safest places you could be.”

Wearing a black t-shirt that said in all-capital letters “VOTE: YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT,” Popovich turned his comments to the situation in Texas.

“We’ve been all over the map in Texas,” he said. “Nobody knows what the hell’s going on. You know, we have a lieutenant governor [Dan Patrick] who’s decided he doesn’t want to listen to [Dr. Anthony] Fauci and those people anymore.”

“Well, that makes a lot of sense,” Popovich added, the sarcastic tone clear in his voice. “Come on. How safe can that be?”

Popovich called the messaging coming from state leaders “ridiculous,” and turned his criticism towards Gov. Greg Abbott.

Mediaite, WATCH: Mary Trump Claims ‘Virulently Racist’ Donald Trump Has Used N-Word, Anti-Semitic Slurs, KJ Edelman, July 16, 2020. Mary Trump claimed that she has heard her uncle, President Donald Trump, use the N-word and anti-Semitic slurs in a new interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Thursday night. A preview clip of the interview aired on the Thursday evening edition of NBC Nightly News.

“I have to press you on it a little bit just to ask if the president, if your uncle, was an exception to that in your family or if he — if you heard — you ever heard him express either his anti-Semitic slurs or other sentiments like that,” Maddow asked the president’s niece, who is on a book tour for her tell-all Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. “Or do you mean this was an ambient thing in your family but you can’t say you ever heard it from him or did you hear it from him, too?”

“Oh yeah, of course I did,” Mary said. “And I don’t think that should surprise anybody, given how virulently racist he is today.” Maddow then had Trump specifically confirm one-by-one that she had heard her uncle use both the N-word and anti-Semitic slurs.

The 55-year-old psychologist started her press tour for her book this week after a judge ruled that she was allowed to speak freely about it. In its first day, the book sold almost 1 million copies.

In excerpts from her book, she has accused Trump of cheating on his SATs, detailed how he was humiliated and “destroyed” by his father, and explain how Trump’s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, mocked her brother for running in the 2016 election and for only going to church for PR purposes.

In Mary’s first interview with ABC News on Tuesday, she said she initially supported him but now wants him to resign. She also said he’s “utterly incapable of leading” and needed to “stop this” and “make up” for not acting sooner.

July 15

washington post logoWashington Post, The conservative alternative to Twitter wants to be a place for free speech for all. It turns out, rules still apply, Rachel Lerman,July 15, 2020. A crackdown by Twitter and Facebook against messages from President Trump that the companies said violate their policies is fueling Parler’s rise. But the site is quickly discovering the limits of free expression.

July 14

mcclatchy logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: 'A lot of uncertainty’: Staffers at renowned McClatchy newspapers mull bankruptcy sale, Paul Farhi, July 14, 2020. America’s newest newspaper baron is a hedge fund whose co-founder and chief executive has ties to President Trump’s most tabloid-worthy stories and whose publishing assets include the National Enquirer.

Chatham Asset Management, the winner of a bankruptcy court auction for the McClatchy Co., will take over a continent-spanning chain of 30 prominent daily newspapers, including the Miami Herald, the Sacramento Bee and the Charlotte Observer.

The agreement, still subject to final court approval, will elevate Chatham and its chief executive, Anthony Melchiorre, to major-player status in an industry that faced existential challenges even before the coronavirus pandemic pulverized many news organizations. Like its peers, McClatchy has been desiccated after years of deserting advertisers, disappearing readers and evaporating profit.

chatham partners.logoChatham has announced few specific plans for McClatchy, to which it has loaned money for more than a decade. But its emergence as the company’s controlling shareholder has sparked a new round of hope and anxiety in McClatchy’s weary newsrooms.

“We don’t know what they’re up to, and that’s an ominous feeling,” said Mary Ellen Klas, the Miami Herald’s Tallahassee bureau chief, on Monday, a day after the sale. “We fear that they’re efficiency experts, not journalists, and that’s a daunting prospect if you care about reporting the news. There’s a lot of uncertainty.”

By Klas’s count, the Herald now has about 130 journalists left, down from about 400 when McClatchy acquired the newspaper in 2006 in its ill-starred takeover of the Knight Ridder chain for $4.5 billion.

“We’ve been cut to the bone,” said Klas’s colleague, investigative reporter Julie K. Brown. “I am hopeful that they understand that to be profitable, you need good journalism. That means you need people. Investigative reporting is grueling and expensive. You have to invest in it.” Brown’s articles on the victims of convicted sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein in late 2018 helped revive interest in the case and led to his arrest.

McClatchy, hobbled by debt and pension obligations, filed for Chapter 11 protection in February. Under a restructuring plan submitted to a bankruptcy court in New York, Chatham — its largest investor outside of the McClatchy family and biggest debt-holder — will emerge as the sole owner and take the company private. The companies did not put a price on the deal announced Sunday, but in an earlier filing, Chatham offered roughly $300 million in a combination of restructured debt and at least $30 million in cash.

The shedding of much of McClatchy’s debt through bankruptcy court gives Chatham some financial breathing room, said Rick Edmonds, a media-business analyst at the Poynter Institute. It’s possible, he said, that Melchiorre could sell some McClatchy titles to raise money or that he would consider merging the company with another chain owner to cut costs further.

Chatham — named by Melchiorre after the suburban New Jersey township where the firm is based — is among a group of private-equity firms that have emerged in the past decade as the newly dominant players in the newspaper business. Its peers include Alden Global Capital, Fortress Investment Group and Apollo Global Management. Fortress and Apollo control the largest publisher, Gannett Co., which owns USA Today and 250 other dailies; Alden owns Digital First Media, which publishes some 50 papers, including the Denver Post and the San Jose Mercury News.

Heath Freeman is the hedge fund guy who says he wants to save local news. Somehow, no one’s buying it.

Though newspapers have been declining for years, these investors have wrung profits from them through severe cost-cutting measures, including layoffs and the sale of assets such as the papers’ headquarters buildings. The strategy, sometimes derided as “vulture capitalism,” has gradually weakened newspapers but has been financially lucrative.

Melchiorre, 52, is a former Wall Street junk-bond trader who co-founded Chatham in 2003. Chatham became involved in publishing through its 2014 acquisition of American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer. It later acquired a Canadian company, Postmedia, which owns the National Post, the Ottawa Citizen and the Montreal Gazette.

Enquirer publisher David Pecker and AMI admitted in 2018 that they had funneled $150,000 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal in 2016 to suppress her story of a 10-month affair with Trump, starting in 2006, to help his presidential election prospects. The admission about the tactic — known as “catch and kill” — came as part of a non-prosecution agreement with the Justice Department; in exchange, Pecker and AMI agreed to cooperate with an investigation.

Melchiorre and his wife were guests at the White House in July 2017 for a dinner with Trump that was arranged by Pecker, according to “The Fixers,” a book by Wall Street Journal reporters Joe Palazzolo and Michael Rothfeld that detailed AMI’s catch-and-kill methods. The dinner included Kacy Grine, a French businessman and adviser to Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, and Dylan Howard, then the editorial director of AMI.

AMI went on to produce a glossy magazine that praised Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman, an unusual subject choice for a company known for its supermarket tabloids. The CIA later concluded that Salman approved the killing and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident Saudi journalist who wrote for The Washington Post.

Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos, who owns The Post, has also suggested that Salman’s intelligence services were behind the hacking of his cellphone around the time the Enquirer published a story exposing his extramarital affair last year. Bezos said Howard used the intimate photos to try to blackmail him into making statements supportive of AMI; instead, Bezos made the allegations public.

Months later, the scandal-weary Chatham ordered AMI to sell the National Enquirer. Though it was soon announced that Hudson News, owner of a chain of airport newsstands, had made a winning offer to buy the tabloid, more than a year later the deal has apparently not been finalized.

Chatham in a statement said that it was “pleased with the outcome of the auction” for McClatchy and that it was “committed to preserving newsroom jobs and independent journalism that serve and inform local communities during this important time.”

The mayors of Miami-Dade County, Fla., Kansas City, Mo., Raleigh, N.C., and Lexington, Ky., all wrote to the bankruptcy court judge asking that he approve a sale to a responsible steward of journalism.

“Our community needs a strong daily paper that is locally rooted and locally invested in our community, motivated by the desire to serve the broader public interest and not the narrow bottom line,” Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin wrote. “Please consider paths for each of the local McClatchy papers that will help sustain and support strong, independent journalism.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Trump ad falsely suggests Biden supports defunding police, Glenn Kessler, July 14, 2020. The Trump campaign is spending big money to promote a Four-Pinocchio ad with a false narrative.

“Joe Biden’s supporters are fighting to defund police departments. Violent crime has exploded. You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”

— Text of a Trump campaign ad, “Abolished,” over images of violence and a recording of a police answering machine, released July 2, 2020.

The Trump campaign has a problem. Former vice president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has firmly rejected calls from left-wing activists to “defund police.” But clearly the Trump campaign wants to tag him with the somewhat confusing slogan. So it produced an ad that slickly tries to get around this uncomfortable fact.

The Trump campaign must think the effort is a winner. Ben Taber, an account manager at Advertising Analytics, says that as of July 13, the Trump campaign had spent $6.7 million placing the ad on network television and on local stations in Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Arizona, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nevada, Iowa, New Mexico and Michigan.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lincoln Project video editor is out over crude tweets about female anatomy, Amanda Becker, July 14, 2020. A  video editor who shaped the buzzy Lincoln Project ads needling President Trump is no longer affiliated with the Republican organization over a series of past tweets in which he used offensive slang for female anatomy to insult political rivals.

Ben Howe, who came of age politically making anti-Obama ads during the rise of the tea party, did not publicly tout his work for the super PAC formed by a group of high-level Republican operatives who have broken ranks with the party over Trump’s presidency until a recent interview with Vanity Fair. He was described in the article as “the creative mind, video editor, and, he said, sometimes narrating voice on many of the group’s ads.”

The 19th, a nonprofit news outlet, had emailed the Lincoln Project about a series of Twitter posts made by Howe in the years after Trump’s election that deployed female anatomy as an insult, calling rivals a “vagina” or “twat,” or in some instances using a more profane term.

“Based on these unacceptable and offensive posts, and those that came to light last week, Ben Howe is no longer affiliated with the Lincoln Project, effective immediately,” Keith Edwards, the group’s spokesman, said in a statement.

Last week, the Daily Dot resurfaced tweets from Howe that defended Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. They were published by Talking Points Memo shortly after they were made in 2014 and have since been deleted.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Ivanka Trump just made a total mess for herself, Bill Palmer, July 14, 2020. By the time Tuesday night rolled around, Ivanka Trump had already thoroughly embarrassed ivanka trump goya pose resized july 14 2020herself by rolling out a “Find Something New” campaign which encouraged unemployed Americans to simply find a new career by magic wand or something. The Trumps never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, so Ivanka found a way to humiliate herself even further.

Ivanka Trump posted this tweet – and yes, it’s real:

Ivanka Trump
@IvankaTrump


If it’s Goya, it has to be good.
Si es Goya, tiene que ser bueno.

That’s right, Ivanka Trump is now doing straight up product placement, like something out of The Price Is Right, to try to reward a brand that’s facing widespread boycotts because its CEO came out in support of a sinking Donald Trump. The thing is, Ivanka just stepped in it. This idiotic photo of her will be thrown back in her face for as long as she’s in the public eye.

nsa headquarters strategic culture foundation

Headquarters of the National Security Agency in Maryland.

The Corbett Report via YouTube, Conspiracy Theorists Are Wrong!!! . . . Even When They're Right! James Corbett, right, james corbettJuly 14, 2020 (13:34 min. video). The host reviews;Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State, a new book by Pulitzer-winning Washington Post national security reporter Barton Gellman.

Corbett found remarkable the book's description of the FIRSTFRUITS scoop in 2005 by independent journalist Wayne Madsen' about an operation at the National Security Agency (NSA), where Madsen had worked for a year many years previous on detail from his work as a Navy intelligence officer.

In 2005, Madsen, below left, reported based on sources that an operation codenamed FIRSTFRUITS was targeting journalists and their sources, an undertaking at odds with the historic and supposed ban at NSA on spying on Americans.

Madsen's revelations were ignored by other journalists but were confirmed nearly a decade later in mainstream media accounts, including those based on the 2013 revelations of former NSA and CIA analyst Edward Snowden. Gellman was awarded a Pulitzer along with two others, Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian and independent filmmaker Laura Poitras, based on their reporting of Snowden's revelations.

Corbett writes that Gellman unwittingly reveals in his account his own deep biases in favor of establishment theories and sources.

"Then came the day," Corbett quotes Gellman as writing, "I found my name in the Snowden archives" as well as verifacation that the NSA had a database called FIRSTFRUITS focused on journalists, as Madsen had reported, and located in the NSA's Denial and Deception unit within the agency's Signals Intelligence Unit.

washington post logoWashington Post, New York Times shreds Trump campaign lawsuit over Russia op-ed, Erik Wemple, July 14, 2020 (print ed.). The Times filed a motion Thursday to dismiss a complaint the Trump campaign filed in February over an opinion piece the newspaper published in 2019 by former executive editor Max Frankel. Coming just after Attorney General William P. Barr’s faulty summary of the Mueller report, Frankel argued that while there may not have been criminal cooperation/collusion/conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians, there was a more ambient “overarching deal."

donald trump twitterThe complaint, filed in New York State Supreme Court and drafted by attorney Charles Harder, rests on a disingenuous reading of the Frankel column as a literal assertion of conspiracy that was refuted by the Mueller report. In fact, the column made no such case, as is clear from the headline and the very first paragraph. The lawsuit is a time-wasting joke, as the Erik Wemple Blog outlined at the time.

There’s more to the story, though. In its motion to dismiss, the Times argues that Frankel’s article is straight-up opinion and not a statement of fact. That distinction is central to the paper’s defense, since “[o]nly false statements can be grounds for a libel action,” as the motion states. To boost its argument in this regard, the newspaper made reference to a case the New York State Supreme Court decided a few years ago: Cheri Jacobus v. Donald J. Trump, Corey Lewandowski, and Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.

ny times logoNew York Times, Radio Host Loses Her Show Over English-Only Rant, Derrick Bryson Taylor and Allyson Waller, July 14, 2020. A New Hampshire radio station has severed ties with a conservative radio host who berated landscape workers for speaking Spanish in a widely shared video.

The host, Dianna Ploss, “is no longer associated or affiliated in any way with WSMN or Bartis-Russell Broadcasting LLC,” WSMN Broadcasting said in a statement on Sunday. “We at WSMN value freedom of speech, freedom of expression and assembly. We will not tolerate discrimination, racism or hatred.”

The station added that it would continue to present on-air opportunities for “discussion, education and the exchange of opinions and ideas.”

Ms. Ploss, who hosted “The Dianna Ploss Show,” recorded herself on Friday confronting several employees of Morin’s Landscaping as they were setting up potted trees on Main Street in Nashua, N.H., about 35 miles south of Concord, the capital.

One of the workers responds that they did not work for the state.

Ms. Ploss goes on to ask if any of the workers are in the country illegally. “Speak English,” Ms. Ploss repeats to the workers.

In the video, Ms. Ploss is confronted by a man who asks why she is harassing the workers. “He’s a Black man, and he’s going to protect the brown man from this white woman who’s practicing white privilege because she happened to walk by and heard this guy talking to all of these guys, doing this work, in Spanish,” she says.

Ms. Ploss couldn’t be reached for comment on Tuesday.

A fervent supporter of President Trump, Ms. Ploss has more than 43,000 followers on Facebook and more than 34,000 on Twitter. Calling herself an “America First Activist,” she hosts weekly shows on Facebook Live and leads the group “Massachusetts 4 Trump.”

George Russell, the owner of WSMN Broadcasting, said Tuesday that Ms. Ploss’s conservative show was no longer airing on the station, adding that she had been a host at the station for two and a half years.

July 13

mcclatchy logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Chatham hedge fund wins auction for bankrupt news publisher McClatchy, Jacob Bogage, July 13, 2020. The deal, pending court approval, would take the publisher of the Miami Herald and Kansas City Star out of family control.

Jersey-based hedge fund Chatham Asset Management submitted the winning bid for the McClatchy Co., five months after the publisher of the Miami Herald, Kansas City Star and more than two dozen other newspapers filed for bankruptcy.

The companies did not put a price on the deal announced Sunday, which comes after a judge rejected a last-minute challenge by another hedge fund. But in an earlier filling, Chatham offered roughly $300 million in a combination of restructured debt and at least $30 million in cash.

The plan is subject to bankruptcy court approval; a hearing is set for July 24.

McClatchy, hobbled by debt and pension obligations, filed for Chapter 11 protection in February. Under the restructuring plan submitted to U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York, Chatham, its largest investor outside of the McClatchy family, would emerge as the sole owner and take the company private.

The publisher has said it received interest from more than 20 companies, but could provide no details about any of the bids after Judge Michael E. Wiles ordered them sealed.

Competing hedge fund Alden Global Capital filed an emergency motion to delay the bankruptcy auction, but the bid was denied. Its media business, run under the name Digital First Media, owns 98 newspapers, including the Denver Post, Orange County Register, San Jose Mercury News and St. Paul Pioneer Press.

But even before the coronavirus recession took hold, local publishers had long struggled with online business models and dozens of papers were snapped up by private-equity firms — including Alden and GateHouse Media, which now owns Gannett — that pursued profitability through steep retrenchments.

ny times logoNew York Times, Columnist: While America Looks Away, Autocrats Crack Down on Digital News Sites, Ben Smith, July 13, 2020 (print ed.). Around the world, independent journalism is on the defensive. Independent journalism is on the defensive, from Hungary to Malaysia.

Like many American media types, I spent a lot of time last week reading heated arguments about free speech. I was wondering if I, too, could count myself as a “veteran of the Twitter wars” when Steven Gan distracted me by telling me about his car.

Mr. Gan, the co-founder and editor in chief of Malaysia’s most important political news site, is leaving his hatchback at home on Monday morning and catching a ride to court with a colleague. That’s because Mr. Gan thinks there’s a good chance he’ll be going straight from the courthouse to jail.

The nominal charge against him is contempt of court, a charge brought because his site, Malaysiakini, briefly hosted user comments insulting the judiciary. But his real crime, in the eyes of the government, appears to be his years of straightforward journalism, often chronicling the corruption of the faction that recently retook power in Malaysia.

“Power is consolidating power” around the world, said Maria Ressa, the co-founder of the Filipino site Rappler, who has been watching with alarm and sympathy from Manila, across the South China Sea. “By taking out independent news groups, it’s easier for the voice with the loudest megaphone to shape reality.”

washington post logoWashington Post, New York Times shreds Trump campaign lawsuit over Russia op-ed, Erik Wemple, July 13, 2020. The Times filed a motion Thursday to dismiss a complaint the Trump campaign filed in February over an opinion piece the newspaper published in 2019 by former executive editor Max Frankel. Coming just after Attorney General William P. Barr’s faulty summary of the Mueller report, Frankel argued that while there may not have been criminal cooperation/collusion/conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians, there was a more ambient “overarching deal."

The complaint, filed in New York State Supreme Court and drafted by attorney Charles Harder, rests on a disingenuous reading of the Frankel column as a literal assertion of conspiracy that was refuted by the Mueller report. In fact, the column made no such case, as is clear from the headline and the very first paragraph. The lawsuit is a time-wasting joke, as the Erik Wemple Blog outlined at the time.

There’s more to the story, though. In its motion to dismiss, the Times argues that Frankel’s article is straight-up opinion and not a statement of fact. That distinction is central to the paper’s defense, since “[o]nly false statements can be grounds for a libel action,” as the motion states. To boost its argument in this regard, the newspaper made reference to a case the New York State Supreme Court decided a few years ago: Cheri Jacobus v. Donald J. Trump, Corey Lewandowski, and Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.

July 11

tucker carlson djt

washington post logoWashington Post, Tucker Carlson’s chief writer resigns over racist and sexist posts, the latest trouble for Fox’s most controversial star, Sarah Ellison, July 11, 2020. Following an inquiry from a reporter, it took less than a day for Fox News to receive the resignation of Tucker Carlson’s chief writer, who was exposed for the racist and sexist messages he had been covertly sharing on an online forum.

Among his posts, Blake Neff had smeared black people as lazy and criminal, stated that he would not get medical care from an Asian doctor, used homophobic slurs and repeatedly mocked a female college acquaintance by reposting her Facebook messages and photos for several years.

fox news logo SmallTop newsroom officials called Neff’s posts “horrendous” and “deeply offensive” in a memo to staff Saturday, a day after they were exposed in a CNN story. “FOX News Media strongly condemns this horrific racist, misogynistic and homophobic behavior,” said the memo from Suzanne Scott and Jay Wallace, the chief executive and president of Fox News, respectively. “Make no mistake, actions such as his cannot and will not be tolerated at any time in any part of our work force.”

July 8

washington post logoWashington Post Magazine, Commentary: Goodbye to the Hometown Paper, Margaret Sullivan, right, July 8, 2020 (July 12 print ed.). Over her long career as a journalist, Margaret Sullivan has margaret sullivan 2015 photowatched the decline of local news with growing alarm. Now it’s vanishing, leaving our very democracy in peril,

In the summer of 2019, with a certain amount of trepidation, I attended a party at the Buffalo News, the daily newspaper serving my hometown of Buffalo and the surrounding region. It would be the first time I’d been back in the building since I’d stepped down as editor in 2012 to become the public editor of the New York Times.

Between 2008 and 2017, American newspapers cut 45 percent of their newsroom staffs; even deeper cutbacks came in the years after that. Some of the most trusted sources of news are slipping away, never to return. The consequences may not always be obvious, but they are insidious. As a major PEN America study concluded in 2019: “As local journalism declines, government officials conduct themselves with less integrity, efficiency, and effectiveness, and corporate malfeasance goes unchecked. With the loss of chris collins olocal news, citizens are: less likely to vote, less politically informed, and less likely to run for office.” Democracy weakens, in other words, and loses its foundations.

The tight connection between local news and good citizenship became abundantly clear in 2018 for Nate McMurray, the Democratic candidate for Congress in a heavily Republican district in western New York.

Although the supervisor of the town of Grand Island was battling a party enrollment skewed against him, he had one monumental advantage: His Republican opponent, incumbent Rep. Chris Collins, left, had just been indicted on insider trading charges.

The Buffalo News’s Washington correspondent, Jerry Zremski, had broken the story, and the paper had followed developments diligently for months. Many who would likely have voted for the incumbent crossed the aisle to vote blue. But that wasn’t always the case in the farther-flung parts of the sprawling congressional district that were less served by strong local news.

The problem, as McMurray saw it, was that voters in those parts were shockingly uninformed. “I’d be going door-to-door, or meeting with people at a diner or a fair, for example, and in the most isolated areas, a lot of people had no idea that their own congressman had been indicted,” McMurray told me. One of the toughest places, he said, was Orleans County, which University of North Carolina journalism professor Penny Muse Abernathy identifies as a “news desert” — i.e., a place with little or no local news.

July 7

gareth porter trnn screenshot

The Grayzone, Opinion: How the Pentagon failed to sell Afghan government’s bunk ‘Bountygate’ story to US intelligence agencies, Gareth Porter, July 7, 2020. Another New York TimesRussiagate bombshell turns out to be a dud, as dodgy stories spun out by Afghan intelligence and exploited by the Pentagon ultimately failed to convince US intelligence agencies. The New York Times dropped another Russiagate bombshell on June 26 with a sensational front-page story headlined, “Russia Secretly Offered Afghan Militants Bounties to Kill U.S. Troops, Intelligence Says.” A predictable media and political frenzy followed, reviving the anti-Russian hysteria that has excited the Beltway establishment for the past four years.

But a closer look at the reporting by the Times and other mainstream outlets vying to confirm its coverage reveals another scandal not unlike Russiagate itself: the core elements of the story appear to have been fabricated by Afghan government intelligence to derail a potential US troop withdrawal from the country. And they were leaked to the Times and other outlets by US national security state officials who shared an agenda with their Afghan allies.

In the days following the story’s publication, the maneuvers of the Afghan regime and US national security bureaucracy encountered an unexpected political obstacle: US intelligence agencies began offering a series of low confidence assessments in the Afghan government’s self-interested intelligence claims, judging them to be highly suspect at best, and altogether bogus at worst.

In light of this dramatic development, the Times’ initial report appears to have been the product of a sensationalistic disinformation dump aimed at prolonging the failed Afghan war in the face of President Donald Trump’s plans to withdraw US troops from it.

The Times not only broke the Bountygate story but commissioned squads of reporters comprising nine different correspondents to write eight articles hyping the supposed scandal in the course of eight days. Its coverage displayed the paper’s usual habit of regurgitating bits of dubious information furnished to its correspondents by faceless national security sources. In the days after the Times’ dramatic publication, its correspondent squads were forced to revise the story line to correct an account that ultimately turned out to be false on practically every important point.

The Bountygate saga began on June 26, with a Times report declaring, “The United States concluded months ago” that the Russians “had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks last year.” The report suggested that US intelligence analysts had reached a firm conclusion on Russian bounties as early as January. A follow-up Times report portrayed the shocking discovery of the lurid Russian plot thanks to the recovery of a large amount of U.S. cash from a “raid on a Taliban outpost.” That article sourced its claim to the interrogations of “captured Afghan militants and criminals.”

However, subsequent reporting revealed that the “US intelligence reports” about a Russian plot to distribute bounties through Afghan middlemen were not generated by US intelligence at all.

The Times reported first on June 28, then again on June 30, that a large amount of cash found at a “Taliban outpost” or a “Taliban site” had led U.S. intelligence to suspect the Russian plot. But the Times had to walk that claim back, revealing on July 1 that the raid that turned up $500,000 in cash had in fact targeted the Kabul home of Rahmatullah Azizi, an Afghan businessmen said to have been involved in both drug trafficking and contracting for part of the billions of dollars the United States spent on construction projects. 

AP via Washington Post, Tucker Carlson’s continued ‘coward’ attack on Sen. Tammy Duckworth draws swift backlash, Jeremy Barr, July 8, 2020. Fox News host Tucker Carlson is drawing heat from prominent Democrats, including presidential candidate Joe Biden, for his attacks on Sen. Tammy Duckworth.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson has escalated his criticism of Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), lambasting the double-amputee combat veteran as a “coward,” “fraud” and “moron” on his second night of attacks against her. While Carlson is no stranger to criticism, the reaction to his latest remarks has been particularly swift.

On the Monday night edition of his prime-time show, Carlson called Duckworth “a deeply silly and unimpressive person” who “[hates] America,” taking issue with comments she made on CNN about having a “national dialogue” regarding monuments of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson amid the larger reckoning on race following the killing of George Floyd.

In response, Duckworth responded on Twitter that Carlson should “walk a mile in my legs and then tell me whether or not I love America.” (In 2004, Duckworth lost both her legs when a Blackhawk helicopter she was co-piloting was shot down in Iraq.)

But, on Tuesday night, Carlson ratcheted up his criticism of the senator even further. “What a coward,” he said. “Tammy Duckworth is also a fraud.”

Two Democratic senators who have appeared recently as guests on Fox News criticized Carlson’s comments in statements to The Washington Post on Wednesday afternoon.

“Tucker Carlson’s comments were reprehensible, and I have no interest in appearing on his hateful, pro-Trump propaganda show,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). “His baseless attacks on decorated war veteran Tammy Duckworth are just another attempt to distract Americans from the facts and the truth of Donald Trump’s failed leadership.”

“Senator Duckworth has made incredible sacrifices serving our country and for Tucker Carlson, who is not a veteran, to suggest she holds America in anything other than the highest regard is ludicrous,” said Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.). “I will continue appearing on Fox News with hosts that engage in fair and robust debates about the issues facing our country. I will not surrender to the political division people like Tucker Carlson are trying to sow.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Auditors call Facebook’s decision to prioritize free speech above other values a ‘tremendous setback,’ Elizabeth Dwoskin and Cat Zakrzewski, July 8, 2020. Civil rights auditors hired by Facebook criticized the social media giant's choice to leave untouched several posts by President Trump.

  • Washington Post, Opinion: What Lincoln’s life teaches us about monuments, David Von Drehle, July 8, 2020.
  • Washington Post, Opinion: ICE is putting international students in a terrible position — and hurting America, Margarita Konaev, July 8, 2020.

July 6

washington post logoWashington Post, Tell-all book by President Trump’s niece to be published two weeks earlier on July 14, Michael Kranish, July 6, 2020. A highly anticipated book by Mary L. Trump, the niece of President Trump, will be published two weeks earlier than planned after a court last week allowed Simon & Schuster to continue distributing copies. The book will be published on July 14 mary trump coverbecause of intense interest in it, the publisher announced Monday.

While the publisher last week was released from a temporary restraining order, Mary Trump is still under the order and is contesting it. In the meantime, her publisher released the book jacket and a news release that promised a sweeping indictment of the president’s psychological makeup.

“From this explosive book,” the news release said, “we learn how Donald acquired twisted behaviors and values” such as that “cheating is a way of life,” “taking responsibility for your failures is discouraged” and “qualities like empathy, kindness and expertise are punished.” It did not provide specifics, leaving that for the book’s publication.

The back cover of the book, also released Monday, said that “Donald is much as he was at three years old: incapable of growing, learning or evolving.” It says that Donald Trump feared his father’s rejection and “suffered deprivations that would scar him for life.”

kayleigh mcenany djt

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: McEnany butchers her defense of Trump’s Bubba Wallace tweet, Aaron Blake, July 6, 2020. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was pressed Monday on President Trump’s tweet that NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace should have “apologized” for his handling of an incident in which a noose-like rope appeared in his garage at a race.

In the process, though, McEnany misstated several key facts about the situation and offered an implausible argument for Trump’s motivation to tweet it.

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook, Google, Twitter halt review of Hong Kong requests for data, Rachel Lerman, July 6, 2020. The social media giants said they would pause reviewing such requests from Hong Kong until they had reviewed the new national security law imposed by the Chinese government.

July 5

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Militias flocked to Gettysburg to foil a supposed antifa flag burning, an apparent hoax created on social media, Shawn Boburg and Dalton Bennett, July 4, 2020. For weeks, a mysterious figure on social media talked up plans for antifa protesters to converge on this historical site on Independence Day to burn American flags, an event that seemed at times to border on the farcical.

“Let’s get together and burn flags in protest of thugs and animals in blue,” the anonymous person behind a Facebook page called Left Behind USA wrote in mid-June. There would be antifa face paint, the person wrote, and organizers would “be giving away free small flags to children to safely throw into the fire.”

As word spread, self-proclaimed militias, bikers, skinheads and far-right groups from outside the state issued a call to action, pledging in online videos and posts to come to Gettysburg to protect the Civil War monuments and the nation’s flag from desecration. Some said they would bring firearms and use force if necessary.

On Saturday afternoon, in the hours before the flag burning was to start, they flooded in by the hundreds — heavily armed and unaware, it seemed, that the mysterious Internet poster was not who the person claimed to be.

facebook logoBiographical details — some from the person’s Facebook page and others provided to The Washington Post in a series of messages — did not match official records. An image the person once posted on a profile page was a picture of a man taken by a German photographer for a stock photo service.

The episode at Gettysburg is a stark illustration of how shadowy figures on social media have stoked fears about the protests against racial injustice and excessive police force that have swept across the nation since the death of George Floyd in police custody on May 25.

Armed vigilantes lined the streets of small Idaho towns last month after false claims circulated online about antifa, a loose collection of activists who oppose fascism and have sometimes embraced property damage and violent protest in recent years. Similar hoaxes have befallen towns in New Jersey, South Dakota and Michigan in recent weeks.

It is not always clear who has made these false claims and why, whether they seek to advance a political agenda, antagonize people with whom they disagree or achieve some other goal.

Social media companies have in recent weeks shut down a handful of fake accounts created by white supremacist groups posing as antifa operatives in a bid to undermine peaceful protests.

In response to messages from The Post, the person managing the Left Behind USA account identified himself as 39-year-old Alan Jeffs, a lifelong Democrat-turned-anarchist from Pittsburgh who now lives in Des Moines.

The Post examined real estate, court and voter records, as well as other public documents, but could find no such person.

July 4

washington post logoWashington Post, Prospect of vaccine unites anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists and hippie moms in Germany, Loveday Morris and William Glucroft, July 4, 2020 (print ed.). german flagGerman health experts have warned that even if a coronavirus vaccine is approved, refusals could open the way to a resurgence of the virus.

While much of the world is aching for a coronavirus vaccine, Lilia Löffler is adamant that her three children won't be getting any jabs.

Shrugging off light rain to join a two-hour bike protest of shutdown rules, Löffler said that previously she vaccinated all her kids.

But she changed her mind after what she’s been hearing at demonstrations and reading on the Internet during the pandemic. She noted that her 6-year-old son is supposed to get a shot for measles ahead of school in the fall.“But he won’t get that,” she said. Or any other vaccination.

The possibility that Germany’s anti-vaccination movement may gain new adherents like Löffler has been a concern for health authorities, as the coronavirus unites a mishmash of groups resistant to the prospect of a vaccine, from far-right conspiracy theorists to hippie moms.

michael pack

ny times logoNew York Times, New Trump Appointee Puts Global Internet Freedom at Risk, Critics Say, Pranshu Verma and Edward Wong, July 4, 2020. A battle involving Michael Pack and a U.S.-funded tech group revolves around software from Falun Gong, the secretive, anti-Beijing spiritual movement with pro-Trump elements.

When Michael Pack, above, a conservative filmmaker and ally of Stephen K. Bannon, recently fired the heads of four U.S. government-funded news outlets, many became alarmed that he would turn the independently operated organizations, as well as the Voice of America, into “Trump TV.”

But Mr. Pack, the new chief executive of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, also cleaned house last month at the lesser-known Open Technology Fund, an internet freedom group overseen by the agency Mr. Pack now runs.

Many worry that the move could have an even greater effect.

In less than a decade, the Open Technology Fund has quietly become integral to the world’s repressed communities. Over two billion people in 60 countries rely on tools developed and supported by the fund, like Signal and Tor, to connect to the internet securely and send encrypted messages in authoritarian societies.

After Mr. Pack was confirmed for his new post on June 4, following a personal campaign of support by President Trump, Mr. Pack fired the technology group’s top officials and bipartisan board, an action now being fought in the courts. A federal judge on Thursday ruled in Mr. Pack’s favor, a decision that plaintiffs will likely appeal.

On Friday, Mr. Pack appointed an interim chief executive, James M. Miles, to head the fund, according to a letter obtained by The New York Times. Mr. Miles is little known in the internet freedom community, and his appointment needs approval from the fund’s new board, which is stacked with Trump administration officials and chaired by Mr. Pack.

The move was a victory for a lobbying effort backed by religious freedom advocates displeased with the fund’s work and who are often allied with conservative political figures.

epoch timesThis battle revolves around software developed by Falun Gong, the secretive spiritual movement persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party.

Some Falun Gong members have become notable players in American politics. The Epoch Times, a newspaper started by Falun Gong practitioners, has spent millions of dollars on pro-Trump ads, including conspiratorial ones, on Facebook and YouTube — and was even banned by Facebook last year from buying more ads because it had tried to evade advertising rules.

Now, allies of Falun Gong are making a big push for the Open Technology Fund and the State Department to give money to some of the group’s software, notably Ultrasurf, developed about a decade ago by a Falun Gong member.

 

June

June 29

 maria ressa rappler

Journalist Maria Ressa

USA Today, Opinion: Why Maria Ressa's fight for free speech and a free press should be America's fight, too, Kathy Kiely, June 29, 2020. Americans should care because powerful US usa today logocompanies are aiding and abetting Ressa’s censors and our tax dollars are going to Duterte's government.

Americans should care because powerful US companies are aiding and abetting Ressa’s censors and our tax dollars are going to Duterte's government. In the middle of a worldwide pandemic and a paroxysm of racial resentments in the United States, it would be tempting to avoid hurting our heads even further with the details of a complicated legal battle now unfolding in a faraway place. 

But if we believe in democracy and want to preserve it, journalist Maria Ressa’s battle for freedom must be ours as well.

rodrigo duterte philippines presidentRessa’s legal team was back in a Philippine court Monday to appeal the libel verdict handed down this month against her. It’s the latest twist in a legal battle that rivals Charles Dickens' famous novel Bleak House, a powerful allegory in which, as in Ressa’s case, legal technicalities end up overriding basic human morality and common sense.

A former CNN reporter raised in New Jersey after her parents fled martial law in the Philippines, Ressa eventually returned to her home country and founded Rappler, an innovative online news outlet.

Its investigations have drawn the ire of Rodrigo Duterte, right, the unsavory but hugely popular president.

Duterte does not brook criticism. He has already locked up one Philippine senator who criticized him, and he recently shut down one of the country’s leading broadcast networks. Against Rappler, Duterte is engaged in what might be called censorship by trial: Over the past 15 months, 11 cases have been leveled against the news organization or its employees. Ressa herself has had to post bail eight times just to stay out of jail.

Strategic Culture Foundation, Opinion: Trump’s ‘Alternate History’ and Rejection of Facts, Wayne Madsen, right, wayne madsen screen shotJune 29, 2020. Future historians will scratch their heads when researching the annals strategic culture logoand archives of the Donald Trump administration. Trump’s denial of basic facts about history, science, and even the weather will undoubtedly result in his administration and the subsequent fall-out from it being called the “Age of Unreason.” Trump and his administration often seize on erroneous information and turn them into, in what is in their minds, irrefutable facts. One example has been Trump’s insistence that the 1918 influenza occurred in 1917. Trump and his advisers discount the fact that the “1918 flu” is thus named because it was first detected in 1918, not in 1917.

Trump eschews facts as often as he is able. The 1918 flu, incorrectly called the “Spanish flu” was first detected in the United States on March 4, 1918. “Patient zero” was identified as Albert Gitchell, a U.S. Army cook at Camp Funston in Kansas.

Facts matter, except for a select group of fascist and proto-fascist leaders who include Trump, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, right, Colombian President Ivan Duque, Philippines President jair bolsonaro brazilRodrigo Duterte, and a few other delusional presidents and prime ministers scattered around the globe.

Trump’s logic on the Covid-19 virus is as bizarre as his botching the time line of the 1918 flu. Trump repeatedly claimed the United States had more cases of Covid-19 because it was conducting more tests. Trump also admitted that he ordered less tests because that action would result in fewer cases. Of course, such a statement is that of a madman and is similar to someone claiming that if he or she was not tested for cancer, they would not contract cancer.

It is historical revisionism by Trump and his acolytes that presents the most danger for the United States and the world. George Orwell’s novel about a dystopian fascistic future, “1984,” introduced the quote, “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” That fascist precept, a canon of fictional Oceania’s “Ministry of Truth,” is dominant in Trump’s administration and Republican Party, the latter having become a personal political vehicle for would-be dictator Trump.

Alteration of American history lies at the heart of Trump’s attempt to re-brand the Old Confederacy. Trump has held up politicians and generals of the Confederate States of America, over which the United States was ultimately victorious in the U.S. Civil War, as part of the “heritage” of America. “Heritage” is a word that has become synonymous with adulation of the Confederacy, Jim Crow-era racism, plantation system slavery, and esteem for Confederate leaders. In order to re-write history, Trump and his Republicans have acted to develop fictional stories about the past.

In Mississippi, the Republicans opposed to removing the Confederate battle flag from the state flag have incorrectly stated that the flag was designed by “an African-American Confederate soldier.” State senator Kathy Chism, a Republican supporter of Trump, wrote on Facebook about the black Confederate soldier, who she failed to identify, “I can only imagine how proud he was that his art, his flag design was chosen to represent our State and now we want to strip him of his pride, his hard work. I’m sure he put a lot of thought into this design.” Chism made up the entire claim.

First, there were no black soldiers who fought for the Confederacy. Second, the current Mississippi flag was designed in 1894 by one of her predecessors in the state Senate, Edward Scudder, a white man who wanted to honor the Confederacy. Scudder’s wife actually sewed the flag as both she and her husband were ardent supporters of the segregationist South. What better way to both honor the Confederacy and send a strong message to Mississippi’s large black population than to place the flag of a defeated secessionist and racist confederation of states on the flag of Mississippi!

Another disturbing alteration of history can be linked directly to the neo-fascist global movement of former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon. The neo-fascist catechism holds forth that Adolf Hitler and his Nazis were not far-right-wingers but represented “left-wing socialism.” This false historical narrative, pushed by officials in both the Trump and Bolsonaro administrations, reasons that because “National Socialism,” the political tenet of the Nazis, contain the word “socialism,” that makes Hitler and his Nazis “socialists.” Those who believe such codswallop refuse to recognize that Germany’s true Socialists and Communists were either executed by Hitler’s paramilitary forces or sent to the death camps, where few survived. To Hitler, socialism represented Bolshevik Marxism, Socialism, and Communism. There was absolutely nothing “leftist” about Hitler and his Nazis.

Trump and his supporters’ entire campaign to paint the news as “fake” and history, as we know it, as false is an Orwellian attempt to own the past, dictate the present, and control the future. Trump has given more than one “wink and nod” to an extreme fringe of right-wingers, who call themselves “Qanon,” who believe that even more far-out fantasies are true. One is that John F. Kennedy, Jr., the son of the 35th president who died along with his wife and sister-in-law in a 1999 plane crash, faked his own death in order to re-emerge one day to join Trump in battling an international pedophile ring. Several Qanon followers have emerged to join Trump on the Republican ballot in several states for the November 3 election. Qanon has a major outlet for their bizarre views on a cable “news” network, One America News Network, which is based in San Diego, California.

washington post logoWashington Post,Trump and Biden both want to repeal this tech rule. They’re both wrong, Editorial Board, June 29, 2020. Section 230 does not need a revocation. It needs a revision. President Trump and Joe Biden both think Internet platforms have it too easy — but for very different reasons.

Neither really gets it right.“REVOKE 230!” the president tweeted late last month, the day after signing an executive order seeking to punish platforms for alleged systematic anti-conservative censorship that the evidence says doesn’t exist. “Section 230 . . . immediately should be revoked,” his Democratic rival told the New York Times. Mr. Biden is of the opposite opinion: that companies aren’t removing enough harmful material.

Proposals on the table today try to address both sets of concerns.Mr. Biden at least has a better handle than Mr. Trump on the purpose of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which was designed to encourage Internet sites to moderate content without worrying about being punished for anything illicit that got through.

The legislation, which shields companies from liability for content posted by third parties, has sometimes offered sites too free a pass — permitting them to refuse to remove illegal activity and even, at times, to solicit it. Yet wholesale repeal would certainly threaten the Web as we know it. 

ny times logomartin baron at 2018 pulitzers wikimedia commonsNew York Times, Marty Baron Made The Post Great Again. Now, the News Is Changing, Ben Smith,  June 29, 2020 (print ed.). The ultimate old-school editor, right, is grappling with a moment of cultural reckoning, our columnist Ben Smith writes.At the heart of The Washington Post’s identity is Martin Baron, the paper’s executive editor since 2013.

June 27

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook will label violating posts from public figures going forward, Rachel Lerman, June 27, 2020 (print ed.). Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook will start labeling posts it deems newsworthy but that also violates its policies, marking a major about-turn from the company’s previous hands-off stance.

facebook logoIn a town hall that was streamed live Friday, Zuckerberg said the company will also remove content that incites violence or attempts to suppress voting — no matter who says it.

“There are no exceptions for politicians in any of the policies that I’m announcing today,” he said.

Twitter labels Trump tweet on force

Social media companies are under an especially bright spotlight this year in the lead up to the 2020 presidential election, facing pressure to control hate speech and misinformation on their sites — something that still haunts them from rampant disinformation that spread online during the 2016 campaign.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘PizzaGate’ Conspiracy Theory Thrives Anew in the TikTok Era, Cecilia Kang and Sheera Frenkel, June 27, 2020. The false theory targeting Democrats, now fueled by QAnon and teenagers on TikTok, is entangling new targets like Justin Bieber.

Four minutes into a video that was posted on Instagram last month, Justin Bieber leaned into the camera and adjusted the front of his black knit beanie. For some of his 130 million followers, it was a signal.

tiktok logo square CustomIn the video, someone had posted a comment asking Mr. Bieber to touch his hat if he had been a victim of a child-trafficking ring known as PizzaGate. Thousands of comments were flooding in, and there was no evidence that Mr. Bieber had seen that message. But the pop star’s innocuous gesture set off a flurry of online activity, which highlighted the resurgence of one of social media’s early conspiracy theories.

Viewers quickly uploaded hundreds of videos online analyzing Mr. Bieber’s action. The videos were translated into Spanish, Portuguese and other languages, amassing millions of views. Fans then left thousands of comments on Mr. Bieber’s social media posts asking him if he was safe. Within days, searches for “Justin and PizzaGate” soared on Google, and the hashtag #savebieber started trending.

Four years ago, ahead of the 2016 presidential election, the baseless notion that Hillary Clinton and Democratic elites were running a child sex-trafficking ring out of a Washington pizzeria spread across the internet, illustrating how a crackpot idea with no truth to it could blossom on social media — and how dangerous it could be. In December 2016, a vigilante gunman showed up at the restaurant with an assault rifle and opened fire into a closet.

In the years afterward, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube managed to largely suppress PizzaGate. But now, just months before the next presidential election, the conspiracy theory is making a comeback on these platforms — and on new ones such as TikTok — underlining the limits of their efforts to stamp out dangerous speech online and how little has changed despite rising public frustration.

June 26

nbc news logoNBC News via Yahoo News, Trump signs executive order to punish vandalism against federal monuments, Dartunorro Clark, June 26, 2020. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Friday to protect federal monuments after a rash of recent incidents involving the vandalism of statues memorializing the Confederacy and some of the nation's Founding Fathers.

"I just had the privilege of signing a very strong Executive Order protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues - and combatting recent Criminal Violence. Long prison terms for these lawless acts against our Great Country!" Trump said in a tweet.

The order would "reinforce" existing federal law, which criminalizes the destruction of federal monuments. For instance, the Veterans’ Memorials Preservation and Recognition Act of 2003 imposes a fine and up to 10 years in prison on anyone who vandalizes a monument.

"Individuals and organizations have the right to peacefully advocate for either the removal or the construction of any monument," the order states. "But no individual or group has the right to damage, deface, or remove any monument by use of force."

It also threatens to withhold federal funding from state and local law enforcement agencies that "fail to protect monuments, memorials, and statues."
The protests against racism and police brutality prompted by the killing of George Floyd has reignited the debate around statues and other monuments honoring the Confederacy and slave-holding presidents, such as George Washington and Andrew Jackson. After violence prompted by white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, there was a public outcry to remove Confederate symbols across the country.

Earlier this week, protesters defaced a statue of President Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square outside the White House and tried to topple it, but police pepper-sprayed demonstrators to protect the monument. Jackson was a slaveholder and oversaw the expulsion of Native Americans in which they were forcibly moved further west by the federal government. Roughly 4,000 Cherokees died on that journey, known as the "Trail of Tears."

Julian Assange IndicterJulian Assange (Photo by The Indicter Magazine).

Medium, Opinion: Demasking the Torture of Julian Assange; On the occasion of the International Day in Support of Torture Victims, Nils Melzer (UN Special Rapporteur on Torture), June 26, 2020. I know, you may think I am deluded. How could life in an Embassy with a cat and a skateboard ever amount to torture?

That’s exactly what I thought, too, when Assange first appealed to my office for protection. Like most of the public, I had been subconsciously poisoned by the relentless smear campaign, which had been disseminated over the years. So it took a second knock on my door to get my reluctant attention.

But once I looked into the facts of this case, what I found filled me with repulsion and disbelief.

Surely, I thought, Assange must be a rapist! But what I found is that he has never been charged with a sexual offence. True, soon after the United States had encouraged allies to Swedish flagfind reasons to prosecute Assange, Swedish prosecution informed the tabloid press that he was suspected of having raped two women.

Anna Ardin and Sofia WilenStrangely, however, the women themselves never claimed to have been raped, nor did they intend to report a criminal offence. Go figure.

Moreover, the forensic examination of a condom submitted as evidence, supposedly worn and torn during intercourse with Assange, revealed no DNA whatsoever — neither his, nor hers, nor anybody else’s. Go figure again. One woman even texted that she only wanted Assange to take an HIV test, but that the police were “keen on getting their hands on him.” Go figure, once more.

Ever since, both Sweden and Britain have done everything to prevent Assange from confronting these allegations without simultaneously having to expose himself to US extradition and, thus, to a show-trial followed by life in jail. His last refuge had been the Ecuadorian Embassy.

Alright, I thought, but surely Assange must be a hacker! But what I found is that all his disclosures had been freely leaked to him, and that no one accuses him of having hacked a single computer. In fact, the only arguable hacking-charge against him relates to his alleged unsuccessful attempt to help breaking a password which, had it been successful, might have helped his source to cover her tracks. In short: a rather isolated, speculative, and inconsequential chain of events; a bit like trying to prosecute a driver who unsuccessfully attempted to exceed the speed-limit, but failed because their car was too weak.

Well then, I thought, at least we know for sure that Assange is a Russian spy, has interfered with US elections, and negligently caused people’s deaths! But all I found is that he consistently published true information of inherent public interest without any breach of trust, duty or allegiance. Yes, he exposed war crimes, corruption and abuse, but let’s not confuse national security with governmental impunity.

Yes, the facts he disclosed empowered US voters to take more informed decisions, but isn’t that simply democracy? Yes, there are ethical discussions to be had regarding the legitimacy of unredacted disclosures. But if actual harm had really been caused, how come neither Assange nor Wikileaks ever faced related criminal charges or civil lawsuits for just compensation?

But surely, I found myself pleading, Assange must be a selfish narcissist, skateboarding through the Ecuadorian Embassy and smearing feces on the walls? Well, all I heard from Embassy staff is that the inevitable inconveniences of his accommodation at their offices were handled with mutual respect and consideration. This changed only after the election of President Moreno, when they were suddenly instructed to find smears against Assange and, when they didn’t, they were soon replaced. The President even took it upon himself to bless the world with his gossip, and to personally strip Assange of his asylum and citizenship without any due process of law.

In the end it finally dawned on me that I had been blinded by propaganda, and that Assange had been systematically slandered to divert attention from the crimes he exposed. Once he had been dehumanized through isolation, ridicule and shame, just like the witches we used to burn at the stake, it was easy to deprive him of his most fundamental rights without provoking public outrage worldwide.

And thus, a legal precedent is being set, through the backdoor of our own complacency, which in the future can and will be applied just as well to disclosures by The Guardian, the New York Times and ABC News.

Very well, you may say, but what does slander have to do with torture? Well, this is a slippery slope. What may look like mere «mudslinging» in public debate, quickly becomes “mobbing” when used against the defenseless, and even “persecution” once the State is involved. Now just add purposefulness and severe suffering, and what you get is full-fledged psychological torture.

Yes, living in an Embassy with a cat and a skateboard may seem like a sweet deal when you believe the rest of the lies. But when no one remembers the reason for the hate you endure, when no one even wants to hear the truth, when neither the courts nor the media hold the powerful to account, then your refuge really is but a rubber boat in a shark-pool, and neither your cat nor your skateboard will save your life.

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

This Op-Ed has been offered for publication to the Guardian, The Times, the Financial Times, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian, the Canberra Times, the Telegraph, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Thomson Reuters Foundation, and Newsweek. None responded positively.

djt karen mcdougal blue dress

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The recklessness of Tucker Carlson, Karen McDougal, Erik Wemple, June 26, 2020. On his highly rated prime-time program, Fox News host Tucker Carlson commonly faults others for not properly loving America — for not sufficiently adoring its freedoms, opportunities and promise. He even goes as far as to say that Democrats “hate” the place.

Among the reasons Carlson should indeed appreciate this country: His brand of tendentious broadcasting enjoys generous protection under the First Amendment. A case now making its way through federal courts, though, may test that proposition.

fox news logo Smalltucker carlson djtIn a complaint filed in December, former Playboy model Karen McDougal (shown above with Trump) sued Fox News over a “Tucker Carlson Tonight” segment in which the host accused her of “extortion” in her dealings with Donald Trump.

“Two women approach Donald Trump and threaten to ruin his career and humiliate his family if he doesn’t give them money,” argued Carlson in a December 2018 segment. “Now that sounds like a classic case of extortion. Yet for whatever reason, Trump caves to it, and he directs Michael Cohen to pay the ransom. Now, more than two years later, Trump is a felon for doing this. It doesn’t seem to make any sense.”

One of the reasons that the sequence outlined by Carlson doesn’t make any sense is that it’s false. Those “two women” are Stephanie Clifford (a.k.a. Stormy Daniels) and McDougal, both of whom received hush money for keeping quiet about alleged affairs with Trump.

In McDougal’s case, she didn’t “approach Donald Trump”; through an attorney, she approached American Media Inc., whose holdings included the National Enquirer; AMI paid karen mcdougal playboy McDougal $150,000 for the rights to the story as well as columns on fitness. Then the company essentially buried the story. Trump and his then-attorney, Michael Cohen, were coordinating the whole “catch and kill” operation with AMI executive David Pecker.

In her lawsuit, McDougal (shown iat right on a Playboy cover) alleged that Carlson’s representations were “intentionally false and made with reckless disregard for the truth.” Those words are deliberate: Under First Amendment law, there’s a high bar for defaming a public figure such as McDougal. The “actual malice” standard requires proof that the offending, false statement was made knowingly or with “reckless disregard" for the truth.

Lawyers for Fox News argue that the suit fails on at least two levels. For one, they point to the heavy requirements to prove “reckless disregard” under First Amendment law. That very issue lies at the center of a defamation case filed by former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin against the New York Times in 2017, over an editorial alleging that her political action committee had somehow incited the murderous rampage of Jared Lee Loughner in 2011. It wasn’t true. To prove, however, that the editorial page acted with reckless disregard, Palin would have to show "more than a departure from reasonably prudent conduct,” according to an opinion from Justice John Paul Stevens in the 1989 Supreme Court case Harte-Hanks Communications v. Connaughton. "There must be sufficient evidence to permit the conclusion that the defendant in fact entertained serious doubts as to the truth of his publication.”

Serious doubts? Tucker Carlson doesn’t do serious doubts.

In last week’s oral argument, federal Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil (a longtime Federalist Society member nominated by Trump) pushed attorney Eric Bernstein, representing McDougal, to cite facts proving that Carlson had acted with actual malice. “I believe that the facts supporting that he was reckless is that he — first of all, Fox has reported on this story before and no one has ever said any of the things that he was saying that night, which is that my client approached and threatened [Trump],” said Bernstein, who later said Carlson had concocted the tale out of “thin air.”

Yet the judge continued to press: “Don’t you need to allege facts to support it? It’s not enough to just recite the standard under the case law,” said Vyskocil.

June 25

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Sanders-Trotskyist - Neo-Nazi collusion in statue destruction? Wayne Madsen, June 25, 2020. The world has witnessed in the past collusion between ostensibly left-wing Trotskyists and right-wing fascists, including Nazis. One of the Trotskyist left figures who agitates for even more widespread destruction and removal of non-racist oriented statues is Shaun King, a darling of the Bernie Sanders left and a writer for Glenn Greenwald's "The Intercept," Daily Kos, and a supporter of Black Lives Matter. It is noteworthy that King's part-time employer, Greenwald, once represented in court convicted neo-Nazi terrorist Matthew Hale.

King jumped the shark on statue removal when he recently advocated tearing down statues of Jesus, claiming that his depiction as a white man represents "a form of white supremacy." Such extremism is the favorite tool of the so-called "far-left," including Trotskyists and anarcho-syndicalists.

A provocateur like King serves two purposes. One is moving the goal post to include other targets in a radicalized "cultural revolution." The other is to provide the extreme right with another cause célèbre to rally Trump's increasingly shrinking base. There are already reports of priceless stained glass windows in churches being smashed by either provocateurs of the extreme left or extreme right or both acting in concert.

King, who claims to be fully African-American but reportedly had a white father, knows full-well where his call to remove Jesus statues leads: vandalizing of churches and cemeteries of many sects, from Roman Catholics to Greek Orthodox. It also provides the religious right with a rallying cry to continue to fleece their congregations in drumming up more financial support for Trump's flagging re-election campaign.

Daily Beast, Judge Tosses Trump Family Attempt to Block Mary Trump’s Tell-All, Lachlan Cartwright and Asawin Suebsaeng, June 25, 2020. A Queens County Surrogate Court Judge cited “several improprieties” in Robert Trump’s attempt to block niece Mary’s tell-all. A New York judge has tossed an application by President Donald Trump’s brother to try and halt the publication of his niece’s book, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.

Queens County Surrogate Court Judge Peter Kelly cited “several improprieties” in Robert Trump’s filing that rendered it “fatally defective”—including that it was based on the official disposition of patriarch Fred Trump Sr.’s estate, which wrapped up in 2001 and is thus for legal purposes “nonexistent.” That settlement included a confidentiality clause that niece donald trump twitterMary Trump signed, and which the elder Trumps have argued prevents her from publishing the sort of titillating family secrets her memoir is set to contain.

But Kelly asserted that his court could not provide the declaratory judgment blocking the book that Robert sought, and recommended the Trump brother try his luck in the New York State Supreme Court, which oversees civil and criminal matters. The Surrogate Court strictly handles the wills and assets of the deceased.

Daily Beast, Trump Brother Was in ICU Just Before Suing Over Tell-All, Lachlan Cartwright and Asawin Suebsaeng, June 25, 2020. Robert Trump, Donald’s younger brother, spent at least 10 days in a neuro intensive care unit just before launching legal action to stop the publication of his niece’s book.

Robert, 72, had been at Mount Sinai hospital’s neurosciences intensive care unit (NSICU) in New York since at least June 11th, being treated for a serious condition. He was discharged on Sunday and, despite his stay in the hospital, he wasted no time in filing and signing complicated legal documents aided by his celebrity attorney Charles Harder and releasing a statement.

On its website Mount Sinai boasts that its 16-bed NSICU specializes in “state of the art, compassionate care of patients who suffer from subarachnoid hemorrhage, acute ischemic stroke, intracerebral hemorrhage, subdural hematomas, coma, tumors of the brain and spine, severe or prolonged seizures, neuro-infections, [and] spinal cord injury among others.”

Robert did not respond to multiple requests for comment Wednesday and his attorney, Harder, declined to comment.

Mary Trump’s high-powered legal team, which includes the renowned First Amendment attorney Theodore Boutrous of the law firm Gibson Dunn, are expected to file their response in the coming days.

June 24

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump family seeks to block book by niece that calls him ‘world’s most dangerous man,’ Michael Kranish, June 24, 2020 (print ed.). Presales of the book, slated for a July 28 publication, have soared on the basis of a description from publisher Simon & Schuster that says it will reveal decades of family secrets, including a “nightmare of traumas” that explain President Trump’s psychology.

President Trump’s brother on Tuesday petitioned a New York court to block the publication of a book by Mary L. Trump that describes the president, her uncle, as the “world’s most dangerous man.”

Presales of the book, slated for publication on July 28, have soared to the top of bestseller lists on the basis of a description from publisher Simon & Schuster that it will reveal decades of family secrets, including a “nightmare of traumas” that explain the psychology of the man who is now president.

President Trump told the Axios news service earlier this week that Mary Trump is “not allowed” to write the book, because she signed a nondisclosure agreement in 2001 that settled her suit against him and his siblings over her inheritance from her grandfather Fred Trump Sr., the president’s father. President Trump said the agreement was a “very powerful one” that “covers everything.”

Yahoo News, Devin Nunes can’t sue Twitter over statements by fake cow, judge rules, Kate Irby, June 24, 2020. A judge has ruled that Rep. Devin Nunes has no right to sue Twitter over statements made by a fake Internet cow, someone parodying his mother and a Republican strategist.

devin nunes file flagJudge John Marshall said in a decision Friday that Twitter was “immune from the defamation claims of” Nunes, R-Tulare, due to federal law that says social media companies are not liable for what people post on their platforms.

Nunes, right, “seeks to have the court treat Twitter as the publisher or speaker of the content provided by others based on its allowing or not allowing certain content to be on its internet platform,” Marshall wrote. “The court refuses to do so.”

Nunes sued Twitter, the two parody accounts known as Deivn Nunes’ Cow and Deivn Nunes’ Mom and strategist Liz Mair in March 2019. He alleged the latter three had defamed him online, ruining his reputation and causing him to win his 2018 election by a narrower margin than normal. He accused Twitter of being negligent for allowing the alleged twitter bird Customdefamation.

Twitter’s lawyers, in their motion to dismiss the suit, argued that Twitter was immune from the lawsuit due to federal law. The law, known as Section 230, says that social media companies like Twitter are not liable for what third parties post on their platform. The only exception is if Twitter personally helped develop or create the content. Both Twitter and Nunes agreed the company did not do that in this case.

Nunes’ lawyer, Steven Biss, argued that Twitter’s actions in allegedly favoring more liberal content over conservation content and allegedly promoting tweets that made fun of Nunes meant that Section 230 protections should not apply.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House correspondents’ dinner canceled over coronavirus concerns, Nina Zafar, June 24, 2020 (print ed.). The White House Correspondents’ Association canceled its annual dinner after consulting “with medical experts, government authorities and our own members.”

June 23

ny times logoNew York Times, Tennessee Newspaper Fires Advertising Manager After Anti-Muslim Ad, Staff Report, Aimee Ortiz, June 23, 2020 (print ed.). The Tennessean apologized for the ad on Sunday in a statement that said its advertising standards forbid hate speech. The Tennessean newspaper and Gannett, its parent company, fired an advertising manager on Monday, a day after the newspaper published a full-page ad from a biblical prophecy group claiming “Islam” would detonate a bomb in Nashville.

The manager who was fired “agreed to proceed with the ad without fully reviewing the content” after it had been flagged by a sales executive, Kathy Jack-Romero, the president of local sales for Gannett, said in a Tennessean article published on Monday.

An internal investigation found that three advertising staff members had the opportunity to review the ad before it published, she said, adding that “the sales and design teams did not fully read the context of the ad content in its entirety and subsequently approved it.”

 Ron Jeremy, center, with attorney Stuart Goldfarb at right in Los Angeles Superior Court (LA Times pool photo distributed via AP on in Los Angeles Superior Court June  23, 2020).

  Porn star Ron Jeremy, center, with attorney Stuart Goldfarb at right in Los Angeles Superior Court (LA Times pool photo distributed via AP on June 23, 2020).

Forbes, Adult Film Star Ron Jeremy Charged With Sexually Assaulting Four Women, Lisette Voytko, June 23, 2020. Adult film star Ron Jeremy, 67, was charged Tuesday with sexually assaulting four women in 2014, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, and could face 90 years in prison if convicted as charged.

Jeremy, whose full given name is Ronald Jeremy Hyatt, was charged with “three counts each of forcible rape and forcible penetration by a foreign object and one count each of forcible oral copulation and sexual battery,” according to the district attorney’s statement.

He is accused of raping a 25-year-old woman in West Hollywood in May 2014 and raping a 30-year-old woman at a local bar in July 2019.

Jeremy (shown above in a Los Angeles Times pool photo on June 23 in Los Angeles Superior Court with his attorney) is also accused of sexually assaulting two more women, ages 33 and 46, at that same bar in separate 2017 incidents.

Jeremy has faced accusations of sexual assault in the past. He told Rolling Stone in 2017 that he denies all allegations, calling them “pure lies or buyer’s remorse,” and added “I have never and would never rape anyone.” At the time, Jeremy also expressed support for women and men coming forward about being sexually assaulted, saying, “These real predators need to be taken down.” Jeremy, a prolific adult film star, reportedly made the Guinness Book of World Records for having made the most appearances in adult films.

June 22

washington post logoWashington Post Magazine, The Stars and Stripes newspaper has long supported the troops. Now it needs Congress’s support, Graham Vyse, June 22, 2020 (June 28 print ed.). By mid-March, coronavirus response efforts were underway worldwide. President Trump had declared a national emergency. France was in lockdown. And Japanese public schools were closed.

stars strips logo CustomBut schools on American military bases in Japan planned to remain open, much to the dismay of nervous parents. Then the news appeared in Stars and Stripes, the Pentagon-subsidized but editorially independent newspaper that covers the U.S. armed forces at home and abroad. “School is such an easy place for viruses and germs to spread,” one Navy spouse fretted to the publication, “and it seems like too much of a risk.” A day later, closures were announced.

Stars and Stripes has been chronicling the military angle of the covid-19 crisis for months now: sailors infected on Navy ships, face masks purchased for the Department of Defense workforce, stimulus checks cut for veterans. But in the midst of the pandemic, the newspaper faces an unprecedented threat all its own: In February, the Trump administration proposed eliminating all of the publication’s federal support in 2021. That’s more than $15 million a year, about half its budget. “I can’t think of a graver threat to its independence,” the paper’s ombudsman, Ernie Gates, told me recently. “That’s a fatal cut.”

mark esperDefense Secretary Mark Esper justifies the cut by saying the publication’s money should be spent on “higher-priority issues,” including space and nuclear programs. But considering that Stars and Stripes represents a minuscule fraction of the department’s $705 billion budget — “decimal dust,” as editorial director Terry Leonard puts it — critics see the proposal as consistent with the president’s broader war on journalism. “It’s another obnoxious assault by the Trump administration on freedom of the press,” says Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), a Marine veteran and member of the House Armed Services Committee, who blasts the defunding plan as “un-American.”

Now Moulton’s committee — and ultimately the rest of Congress — must decide whether to support the appropriation by the fall, preserving a news organization with a unique civic role. This deliberation comes as the coronavirus economic crisis exacerbates the news industry’s financial woes, adding to what The Washington Post recently described as a “tsunami of layoffs, cutbacks, furloughs and closures” washing over American newsrooms.

Stars and Stripes, which dates back to the Civil War, has published continuously since World War II.

ny times logoNew York Times, What’s Facebook’s Deal With Donald Trump? Ben Smith, June 22, 2020 (print ed.). Mark Zuckerberg has forged an uneasy alliance with the Trump administration. He may have gotten too close. Last Nov. 20, NBC News broke the news that Mark Zuckerberg, Donald Trump and a Facebook board member, Peter Thiel, had dined together at the White House the previous month. “It is unclear why the meeting was not made public or what Trump, Zuckerberg and Thiel discussed,” the report said.

facebook logoThat was it. Nothing else has emerged since. Not the date, not who arranged the menu, the venue, the seating, not the full guest list. And not whether some kind of deal got done between two of the most powerful men in the world. The news cycle moved on, and the dinner became one of the unsolved mysteries of American power.

But I was able to pry some of those details loose last week from White House officials along with current and former senior Facebook employees and people they speak to. Most said they would only talk on the condition their names not be used, since the company is not eager to call attention to Mr. Zuckerberg’s relationship with the president.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tennessee Newspaper Apologizes for ‘Utterly Indefensible’ Anti-Muslim Ad, Bryan Pietsch, Updated June 22, 2020. The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville is investigating how it came to publish a full-page ad on Sunday by a biblical prophecy group claiming “Islam” would detonate a bomb in the city.

The ad, which included a photo collage of President Trump, Pope Francis and burning American flags, urged readers to visit a website offering more details. The ad was credited to the group Ministry of Future for America, which says its mission is to “proclaim the final warning message” from the Bible.

Addressed to “Dear Citizen of Nashville,” the eight-paragraph ad spanned the full length of the newspaper page, and discussed Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Democratic Party and Sept. 11. It claimed Trump’s presidency was part of a prophecy, warned of “another civil war,” and said that “Islam is going to detonate a nuclear device” in Nashville.

The full-page ad, which appeared in Sunday’s editions of The Tennessean and claimed “Islam” would detonate a nuclear device in Nashville, “should have never been published,” the editor said.

June 19

jacob hornberger newFuture of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: Fear in the JFK Assassination, Part 2 (of 2), Jacob G. Hornberger, right, June 23, 2020. Let’s now move to the autopsy that the U.S. military conducted on the President John F. Kennedy’s body on the evening of the assassination, November 22, 1963.

Texas law required the autopsy to be conducted in Texas. Dr. Earl Rose, the Dallas Medical Examiner, insisted on conducting the autopsy immediately upon Kennedy’s death. An armed team of Secret Service agents, brandishing their guns, refused to permit that to happen and forced their way out of Parkland Hospital. Operating on orders, their objective was to get the president’s body to the airport, where Vice President Lyndon Johnson was waiting for it. His objective: to put the autopsy in the hands of the U.S. military.

In the 1970s, the U.S. House of Representatives opened up a new investigation into Kennedy’s assassination. During and after those hearings, a group of Navy enlisted men came forward with a remarkable story. They stated that they had secretly carried Kennedy’s body into the morgue at Bethesda Naval Medical Center in Maryland about an hour-and-a-half before the body was officially brought into the morgue.

They also stated that they had all been sworn to secrecy immediately after the autopsy and had been threatened with severe punishment, including criminal prosecution, if they ever revealed to anyone the classified secrets about the autopsy that they had acquired.
The Boyajian Report

In the 1990s, the Assassination Records Review Board, which was formed to enforce the JFK Records Act, uncovered an official document that had been kept secret for more than 30 years. It became known as the Boyajian Report. It had been created by Marine Sergeant Roger Boyajian immediately after the autopsy. Boyajian gave a copy of the report to the ARRB. Boyajian and his report confirmed that his team carried the president’s body into the morgue in a cheap military-style shipping casket at 6:35 p.m., about 1 and 1/2 hours before 8 p.m., the time that the body was officially brought into the morgue in the expensive, ornate casket into which it had been placed in Dallas.

On the night of the autopsy, one of the autopsy physicians, Admiral James Humes, telephoned U.S. Army Colonel Pierre Finck asking him to come to the morgue and assist with the autopsy. That phone call was made at 8 p.m. During the conversation, Humes told Finck that they already had some x-rays made of the president’s head. Yet, how could they have x-rays of the president’s head, given that the president’s body was being officially brought into the morgue at 8 p.m.? Humes’s testimony inadvertently confirmed the accuracy of the Boyajian Report and the statements of the enlisted men who had secretly carried the president’s body into the morgue an hour-and-a-half before the official 8 p.m. time that the body was brought into the morgue.

The Magic Bullet

During the autopsy, Finck began to “dissect” the president’s neck wound, a wound that later became embroiled in what became known as the “magic bullet” controversy. As Finck began the procedure, he was ordered by some unknown figure to cease and desist and to leave the wound alone. Finck complied with the order. The order showed that the three autopsy physicians were not in charge of the autopsy and that there was a higher force within the deep state that was orchestrating and directing the overall operation.
The brain examinations

It’s worth mentioning the brain examinations that took place as part of the autopsy. In an autopsy, there is only one brain examination. In the Kennedy autopsy, there were two, the second of which involved a brain that could not possibly have belonged to the president. Rather than detail the circumstances surrounding that unusual occurrence, I’ll simply link to the following two articles that the mainstream press published about it for those who might be interested in that aspect of the autopsy:

  • Newly Released JFK Documents Raise Questions About Medical Evidence by Deb Riechmann in the November 9, 1998, issue of the Washington Post.
  • Archive Photos Not of JFK’s Brain, Concludes Aides to Review Board by George Lardner Jr. in the November 10, 1998, issue of the Washington Post.

It is also worth noting that when Congress enacted the JFK Records Act mandating that federal agencies had to release their long-secret records relating to the assassination, the law that brought the ARRB into existence to enforce the law expressly prohibited the ARRB from investigating any aspect of the assassination. It was a provision that the ARRB board strictly enforced on the ARRB staff, which thereby prevented the staff from investigating the two separate brain examinations once they were discovered or, for that matter, anything else.

It’s is also worth noting that there are still thousands of assassination-related records that the National Archives is keeping secret, owing to a request by the CIA to President Trump early in his administration to continue keeping them secret, a request that Trump granted. The CIA’s reason for the continued secrecy? The CIA told Trump that the disclosure of the 56-year-old records to the American people would endanger “national security.”

 June 22

ny times logoNew York Times, What’s Facebook’s Deal With Donald Trump? Ben Smith, June 22, 2020 (print ed.). Mark Zuckerberg has forged an uneasy alliance with the Trump administration. He may have gotten too close. Last Nov. 20, NBC News broke the news that Mark Zuckerberg, Donald Trump and a Facebook board member, Peter Thiel, had dined together at the White House the previous month. “It is unclear why the meeting was not made public or what Trump, Zuckerberg and Thiel discussed,” the report said.

facebook logoThat was it. Nothing else has emerged since. Not the date, not who arranged the menu, the venue, the seating, not the full guest list. And not whether some kind of deal got done between two of the most powerful men in the world. The news cycle moved on, and the dinner became one of the unsolved mysteries of American power.

But I was able to pry some of those details loose last week from White House officials along with current and former senior Facebook employees and people they speak to. Most said they would only talk on the condition their names not be used, since the company is not eager to call attention to Mr. Zuckerberg’s relationship with the president.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tennessee Newspaper Apologizes for ‘Utterly Indefensible’ Anti-Muslim Ad, Bryan Pietsch, Updated June 22, 2020. The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville is investigating how it came to publish a full-page ad on Sunday by a biblical prophecy group claiming “Islam” would detonate a bomb in the city.

The ad, which included a photo collage of President Trump, Pope Francis and burning American flags, urged readers to visit a website offering more details. The ad was credited to the group Ministry of Future for America, which says its mission is to “proclaim the final warning message” from the Bible.

Addressed to “Dear Citizen of Nashville,” the eight-paragraph ad spanned the full length of the newspaper page, and discussed Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Democratic Party and Sept. 11. It claimed Trump’s presidency was part of a prophecy, warned of “another civil war,” and said that “Islam is going to detonate a nuclear device” in Nashville.

The full-page ad, which appeared in Sunday’s editions of The Tennessean and claimed “Islam” would detonate a nuclear device in Nashville, “should have never been published,” the editor said.

June 21

djt tulsa rally 6 20 20 crowd shot 1 Custom

Photo via Twitter of President Trump's campaign rally in Tulsa on June 20, showing empty blue seats in upper decks. Tulsa's fire marshall announced attendance at 6,200 for the 19,000 seat area, far below Trump estimates of up to a million attendees and also substantially below estimates of many cable pundits Saturday night who estimated the area was two-thirds or half-filled.

ny times logo

 New York Times, TikTok Teens and K-Pop Stans Say They Sank Trump Rally, Taylor Lorenz, Kellen Browning and Sheera Frenkel, June 21, 2020. Did a successful prank inflate attendance expectations for the president’s rally? TikTok users and fans of Korean pop music groups claimed to have registered potentially hundreds of thousands of tickets for Mr. Trump’s campaign rally as a prank. After the Trump campaign’s official account @TeamTrump posted a tweet asking supporters to register for free tickets using their phones on June 11, K-pop fan accounts began sharing the information with followers, encouraging them to register for the rally — and then not show.

The trend quickly spread on TikTok, where videos with millions of views instructed viewers to do the same, as CNN reported on Tuesday. “Oh no, I signed up for a Trump rally, and I can’t go,” one woman joked, along with a fake cough, in a TikTok posted on June 15.

tiktok logo square CustomThousands of other users posted similar tweets and videos to TikTok that racked up millions of views. Representatives for TikTok did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“It spread mostly through Alt TikTok — we kept it on the quiet side where people do pranks and a lot of activism,” said the YouTuber Elijah Daniel, 26, who participated alexandria ocasio cortezin the social media campaign. “K-pop Twitter and Alt TikTok have a good alliance where they spread information amongst each other very quickly. They all know the algorithms and how they can boost videos to get where they want.”

Many users deleted their posts after 24 to 48 hours in order to conceal their plan and keep it from spreading into the mainstream internet. “The majority of people who made them deleted them after the first day because we didn’t want the Trump campaign to catch wind,” Mr. Daniel said. “These kids are smart and they thought of everything.”

Twitter users on Saturday night were quick to declare the social media campaign’s victory. “Actually you just got ROCKED by teens on TikTok,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, left, tweeted in response to Mr. Parscale, who had tweeted that “radical protestors” had “interfered” with attendance

June 19

jeffrey epstein who killed graphic consortium news Custom

elizabeth vosConsortium News, Analysis: Epstein Case Documentaries Won’t Touch Tales of Intel Ties, Elizabeth Vos, right, June 19, 2020. Two new documentaries on the Jeffery Epstein affair delve into lurid details & give voice to his victims, but both scratch the surface of the political & intelligence dimensions of the scandal.

Investigation Discovery premiered a three-hour special, “Who Killed Jeffrey Epstein?” on May 31, the first segment in a three-part series, that focused on Epstein’s August 2019 death in federal custody. The series addresses Epstein’s alleged co-conspirator Ghislaine Maxwell, his links with billionaire Leslie Wexner, founder of the Victoria Secrets clothing line, and others, as well as the non-prosecution deal he was given.

The special followed on the heels of Netflix’s release of “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich,” a mini-series that draws on a book of the same name by James Patterson.

Promotional material for “Who Killed Jeffery Epstein?” promises that: “… exclusive interviews and in-depth investigations reveal new clues about his seedy underworld, privileged life and controversial death. The three-hour special looks to answer the questions surrounding the death of this enigmatic figure.” Netflix billed its series this way: “Stories from survivors fuel this docuseries examining how convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein used his wealth and power to carry out his abuses.”

Neither documentary however deals at all with Epstein’s suspected ties to the world of intelligence.

robert maxwell with papers fileAbsent from both are Maxwell’s reported links to Israeli intelligence through her father, Robert Maxwell, former owner of The New York Daily News and The Mirror newspaper in London. Maxwell essentially received a state funeral in Israel and was buried on the Mount of Olives after he mysteriously fell off his yacht in 1991 in the Atlantic Ocean.

In an interview with Consortium News, former Israeli intelligence officer Ari Ben-Menashe said Epstein did not work with Mossad. “Military intelligence was who he was working with,” said Ben-Menashe. “Big difference,” he said. “He never worked with Mossad, and Robert Maxwell never did, either. It was military intelligence.”

In Epstein: Dead Men Tell No Tales, a book published in December, Ben-Menashe is quoted as saying he worked with Robert Maxwell who introduced his daughter and Epstein to Israeli intelligence, after which they engaged in a blackmail operation for Israel. “[Epstein] was taking photos of politicians f**king fourteen-year-old girls — if you want to get it straight. They [Epstein and Maxwell] would just blackmail people, they would just blackmail people like that,” he says in the book.

Victims’ Voices

alexander acosta o cropped CustomThe Netflix and Investigation Discovery productions allow survivors to recount their experiences in interviews as well as taped police recordings and focus on the sweetheart plea deal provided to Epstein by former Trump Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, right, during Acosta’s tenure as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

Each series outlines Epstein’s relationships with Wexner (below left), Maxwell, and a variety of elite figures. Investigation Discovery focuses on the controversy surrounding Epstein’s death while Netflix’s “Filthy Rich” examines the second attempt to prosecute Epstein in the context of the Me Too movement.

leslie wexner youtube cropped screenshot american academy of achievementOmitting the intelligence aspect of Epstein’s history allows the Establishment media to portray his case as a mysterious and unsolvable aberration, rather than perhaps a continuation of business-as-usual amongst those in power.

The glaring refusal to address Epstein’s intelligence involvement becomes clear when Investigation Discovery and Netflix’s programs discuss the role of Acosta in securing Epstein’s “sweetheart” plea deal, but do not reference Acosta’s widely reported explanation as to why Acosta agreed to the deal. As reported by The Daily Beast, Acosta claimed that he cut the non-prosecution deal because he had been told that “Epstein ‘belonged to intelligence’ and to leave it alone.”

Independent journalist Whitney Webb has reported on Epstein’s many ties with intelligence, telling CNLive! in August last year that there is evidence this included with the CIA.

“I think that one of the goals of this [Netflix] documentary is to basically imply that Epstein was the head of the operation and that now that he is dead, all of that activity has ceased,” Webb said. “If they had actually bothered to explore the intelligence angle, in some of the more obvious facts about the case, like Leslie Wexner’s role, for example, it becomes clear that Epstein was really just more of a manager of this type of operation, [and] that these activities continue.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Ex-Pentagon Analyst Sentenced to 30 Months in Leak Case, Adam Goldman, June 19, 2020 (print ed.). The former counterterrorism analyst had pleaded guilty to sharing classified information with reporters about foreign weapon systems. A former Pentagon counterterrorism analyst was sentenced by a federal judge on Thursday to more than two years in prison for sharing national security secrets with a pair of reporters and a consultant.

The former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, Henry Kyle Frese, 32, had pleaded guilty this year in federal court in Alexandria, Va., to willful transmission of top-secret national henry frese amanda macias combo Customdefense information, namely about foreign countries’ weapons systems. He had faced up to 10 years in prison.

“Frese repeatedly passed classified information to a reporter, sometimes in response to her requests, all for personal gain,” John C. Demers, the top national security official at the Justice Department, said in a statement.

The arrest of Mr. Frese was part of the Trump administration’s effort to crack down on illegal leaks of classified information, a push that dates to the second half of the George W. Bush administration and intensified under former President Barack Obama.

Mr. Frese, shown at right in a mug shot, admitted to sharing information from April 2018 to September 2019 with the two journalists, identified as Journalist 1 and Journalist 2 in court documents.

According to court documents and social media posts, Journalist 1 was Amanda Macias, shown above right, a national security reporter at CNBC, who was Mr. Frese’s girlfriend and cnbc logoshared a home with him.

Ms. Macias published eight articles that contained classified information related to those weapons systems, prosecutors said. The articles contained sensitive material taken from classified intelligence reports, they said.

In May 2018, Ms. Macias reported that China had installed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile system in the South China Sea. Mr. Frese shared a link to the article that she had posted on Twitter.

Prosecutors said that at least 30 times in 2018, Mr. Frese searched classified government systems for information he discussed with the reporters.

And from early 2018 to October 2019, Mr. Frese communicated with an employee of an overseas consulting group using social media, according to court papers. On at least two occasions, prosecutors said, Mr. Frese transmitted classified information to the consultant, who was not named.

As part of its investigation, the F.B.I. wiretapped Mr. Frese’s cellphone and intercepted some of his text messages and phone calls. The government also obtained data from Twitter, where he communicated with one of the reporters.

Mr. Frese’s lawyers had argued in a court filing shortly before he was sentenced that he did not deserve more than 12 months and one day, noting that his disclosures included no sources or methods of intelligence-gathering, which are among the government’s most closely held secrets.

In April 2018, prosecutors said, Ms. Macias introduced Mr. Frese to Journalist 2, who has been identified as Courtney Kube, a reporter for NBC News covering the Pentagon. Mr. Frese said that he was “down” to help Ms. Kube if it helped Ms. Macias’s career “progress.” Note: Both CNBC and NBC are owned by Comcast. Neither reporter was accused of any nbc logowrongdoing. Neither has reportedly commented on the case. 

The lawyers said Mr. Frese met Ms. Macias after a traumatic breakup with a long-term girlfriend. His lawyers said Ms. Macias’s “career was stalling, and she would ask Mr. Frese to share information.” They said he was a “dedicated patriot” who was “particularly susceptible to pressure and influence.”

“Mr. Frese engaged in his regrettable behavior at a time of clouded judgment and in a misguided effort to salvage a relationship that was not worth saving,” his lawyers wrote in a court document filed on Wednesday. “For that he will always be sorry.”

June 18

washington post logoWashington Post, After departure of VOA editors, official fires heads of sister organizations, Paul Farhi, June 18, 2020. Michael Pack, a controversial Trump appointee, dismissed the director of Radio Free Europe and three other government-funded but otherwise independent news broadcasting operations.

voice of america logoThe directors of four federally funded agencies that produce news and information for international audiences have been fired by a new chief executive appointed by President Trump, in a purge that has raised concerns among Democrats about editorial meddling.

Combined with the resignation of the director and deputy director of Voice of America on Monday, the firings ordered by Michael Pack, the new head of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, represents a clean sweep of top officials who manage government-funded but otherwise independent news broadcasting operations.

The speed and sweep of the firings — Pack began work only Monday after a bruising Senate confirmation battle — raised fears that Trump was trying to exert greater control over the output of such venerable organizations as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Middle East Broadcasting and the Open Technology Fund, the agencies whose heads Pack removed via a brief letter late Wednesday.

Palmer Report, Opinion: CNN exposes Donald Trump for posting fake story that he falsely claimed was from CNN, Bill Palmer, June 18, 2020. On Thursday evening Donald Trump tweeted a video that was problematic on several levels. First, it falsely claimed that CNN had aired a story about a “racist baby” on the loose. Second, it ruined what had been a popular feel-good meme. And for good measure, the fake video somehow misspelled “toddler.”

bill palmer report logo headerTwitter responded by slapping a “Manipulated Media” warning label on Donald Trump’s tweet. CNN piled on, using its @CNNPR account to post this response: “CNN did cover this story – exactly as it happened. Just as we reported your positions on race (and poll numbers). We’ll continue working with facts rather than tweeting fake videos that exploit innocent children. We invite you to do the same. Be better.” CNN then linked to its original story from last September, which accurately reported on the two toddlers in question.

Both CNBC and NBC are owned by Comcast. Neither reporter was accused of any wrongdoing. Neither has commented on the case.

June 16

john bolton djt palmer images Custom

  ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Administration Sues to Try to Delay Publication of Bolton’s Book, Maggie Haberman and Katie Benner, June 16, 2020. The Trump administration sued theformer national security adviser John R. Bolton, above, on Tuesday to try to delay the publication of his highly anticipated memoir about his time in the White House, saying it contained classified information that would compromise national security if it became public.

The book, The Room Where It Happened, is set for release on June 23. Administration officials have repeatedly warned Mr. Bolton against publishing the book.

Mr. Bolton “had negotiated a book deal allegedly worth about $2 million and had drafted a 500-plus-page manuscript rife with classified information, which he proposed to release to the world,” the Justice Department said in a lawsuit against Mr. Bolton filed in federal court in Washington.

Mr. Bolton’s lawyer, Charles Cooper, has said that his client acted in good faith and that the Trump administration is abusing a standard review process to prevent Mr. Bolton from revealing information that is merely embarrassing to President Trump, but not a threat to national security.

On Monday, Mr. Trump accused Mr. Bolton of violating policies related to classified information by moving ahead with the book.

But the book has already been printed and bound and has shipped to warehouses, which could make it more difficult for the administration to stop Mr. Bolton’s account from becoming public.

Mr. Bolton submitted the manuscript to the administration for review in January. At the time, the impeachment inquiry was underway into whether Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine constituted an abuse of power.

Democrats asked Mr. Bolton to testify voluntarily in the House impeachment inquiry, but he declined, and they never sought a subpoena, fearing a protracted court fight. Mr. Bolton offered to testify in the impeachment trial in the Senate, where Republicans control the majority. They declined to call him.

June 15

voice of america logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Top Voice of America editors resign amid strife with White House, Paul Farhi and Elahe Izadi, June 15, 2020. The White House in April accused the international news service of promoting Chinese propaganda in its coronavirus reporting.

The top two editors at Voice of America resigned Monday amid White House criticism of the government-funded but editorially independent news agency and as a new overseer loyal to President Trump was about to take office.

It wasn’t immediately clear why VOA Director Amanda Bennett and Deputy Director Sandy Sugawara submitted their resignations. In a memo to staff on Monday, they jointly wrote, “It is time for us to leave,” but cited no specific reason other than the arrival of Michael Pack, a Trump appointee who will head the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees VOA. Pack is an ally of Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist.

They added, “As the Senate-confirmed C.E.O., he has the right to replace us with his own VOA leadership.”

Their departure comes amid concerns within the agency that the Trump administration is seeking to exert greater control over what and how VOA reports.

The organization’s relationship with the Trump administration was already fraught, but over the weekend, a new rift developed. After news emerged that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had instructed its communications staff to deny interviews to VOA reporters — a policy prompted by the White House’s criticism of the agency — Bennett issued a strongly worded statement condemning the policy.

“Efforts such as those outlined in the CDC memo can result in the kind of chilling effect on our journalism that we regularly see in the markets we broadcast to that have no free press,” she wrote.

The White House in April launched an extraordinary public attack on VOA, accusing it of promoting Chinese government propaganda in its reporting on the coronavirus outbreak. It also said VOA advanced the views of regimes of countries hostile toward the United States, such as Iran.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Pandemic Claims New Victims: Prestigious Medical Journals, Roni Caryn Rabin, June 15, 2020. Two major study retractions in one month have left researchers wondering if the peer review process is broken. One study promised that popular blood-pressure drugs were safe for people infected with the coronavirus. Another paper warned that anti-malaria drugs endorsed by President Trump actually were dangerous to these patients.

The studies, published in the New England Journal of Medicine and The Lancet, were retracted shortly after publication, following an outcry from researchers who saw obvious flaws.

The hasty retractions, on the same day this month, have alarmed scientists worldwide who fear that the rush for research on the coronavirus has overwhelmed the peer review process and opened the door to fraud, threatening the credibility of respected medical journals just when they are needed most.

Peer review is supposed to safeguard the quality of scientific research. When a journal receives a manuscript, the editors ask three or more experts in the field for comments. The reviewers’ written assessments may force revisions in a paper or prompt the journal to reject the work altogether. The system, widely adopted by medical journals in the middle of the 20th century, undergirds scientific discourse around the world.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: John Bolton made a tragic mistake. It’s not the one you might think, George T. Conway III, June 15, 2020 (print ed.). John Bolton made a mistake. It’s not the one you may think it is.

The former national security adviser’s memoir about his experiences working for President Trump will arrive on June 23. For months, the book has triggered criticism that Bolton put commercial profit over country by saving his depiction of Trump for the book, instead of providing it under oath during Trump’s impeachment proceedings last winter. A new wave of such criticism hit Bolton on Friday, when his publisher revealed more about what’s in the book.

In short: Trump is as bad as we thought, perhaps worse. According to the publisher, Bolton will describe Trump as “a president for whom getting reelected was the only thing that mattered, even if it meant endangering or weakening the nation.” Bolton even “argues that the House committed impeachment malpractice by keeping their prosecution focused narrowly on Ukraine when Trump’s Ukraine-like transgressions existed across the full range of his foreign policy.”

The only way to make sense of Bolton’s behavior is to recognize that he actually did intend and expect to testify. He wanted to testify, but wanted to appear to be forced to do it. Perhaps he thought that, as a reluctant witness, he’d be less open to being caricatured as a disgruntled, discharged adviser, and his credibility would have been enhanced. So he insisted on a court order to appear before the House.

When that didn’t happen, Bolton began virtually begging to testify: But Bolton made one fateful misjudgment. 

maria ressa rappler

National Press Club, Club and its Journalism Institute speak out against wrongful conviction of journalist Maria Ressa, Lindsay Underwood, June 15, 2020. The following is a statement national  press club logofrom National Press Club President Michael Freedman and National Press Club Journalism Institute President Angela Greiling Keane on the conviction yesterday in a Manila Court of Maria Ressa, right, Executive Editor of Rappler:

We are deeply concerned and disappointed to learn of the conviction of crusading journalist Maria Ressa on charges of cyber libel. The Government of the Philippines has repeatedly charged Ms. Ressa over the last several years with a variety of bogus counts trying very hard to get something to stick.

Make no mistake they are looking to silence her outspoken and fearless voice, which is often in opposition to many of the restrictive and illegal policies of the government. The people of the Philippines lose an important voice if Ms. Ressa is silenced -- as does the world. It was not long ago in January of 2019 that Maria Ressa was named among the group honored as “Persons of the Year” in Time magazine's issue on Press Freedom. Time was right to place a spotlight on her courage and remarkable achievements as a journalist. We must all stand up for Maria Ressa at this critical time.

We invite her to come to the National Press Club right now if she will be allowed to make the trip. We are anxious to hear from her.

June 13

ny times logoNew York Times, Fox News Removes a Digitally Altered Image of Seattle Protests, Jesse Drucker, June 13, 2020. Fox News acknowledged that one photo was a combination of several images, and a second was taken in a different city. Fox News removed photos accompanying its coverage of Seattle’s demonstrations from its website on Friday after acknowledging that one was a combination of several different images and a second photo was of a fiery scene in a different city.

fox news logo SmallOn Seattle’s Capitol Hill, protesters of the police killing of George Floyd have claimed a series of city blocks, now known as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. The police there have boarded up their precinct and given protesters free rein in the area. In recent days, the zone has featured speeches, music and a screening of a film on the criminal justice system.

On Friday, Fox posted on its site a photo of a man armed with a rifle standing in front of the shattered glass of a storefront. The Seattle Times noted that it was a combination of several different photos from Getty Images taken over nearly two weeks.

Also on the website, Fox also posted a nighttime photo of a burning storefront and car, accompanied by the headline “Crazy Town” and a list of articles on the unrest in Seattle. But that image was taken in St. Paul, Minn.

tucker carlson djt

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Forgive Tucker Carlson for his panicky desperation. His world is collapsing, Erik Wemple, June 13, 2020. Two nights after George Floyd died under theknee of a Minneapolis police officer, Fox News host Tucker Carlson turned his attention to a certain city in Minnesota. “We’ll have the latest on those riots in Minneapolis last night,” Carlson said at the top of his show on Wednesday, May 27. “And yes, they were in fact riots, no matter what they’re telling you on the other channels — that’s a fact and we have the tape.”

Again: This was how Carlson launched the first show in which he addressed Floyd’s death.

So many questions merited answers on that edition of “Tucker Carlson Tonight”: How does the Floyd case align with the Minneapolis police department’s record on the use of force? What justification could there possibly be for the treatment of Floyd?

But, no, Carlson went right to broken windows. “Rioters cut a path of destruction through Minneapolis last night after a video went viral that showed a man dying in police custody,” he said. Then came a live shot from Fox News correspondent Mike Tobin, who was in the midst of a confrontation between protesters and police. There were flash-bangs and pepper spray from the police, and Tobin began coughing. Carlson pulled away, saying, “We’re getting reports that there’s looting in other parts of the city. So, I think we’re going to come back to you a little bit from now.”

June 12

ny times logoNew York Times, Amazon Said to Be Under Scrutiny in 2 States for Abuse of Power, Karen Weise and David McCabe, June 12, 2020. State investigators in California and Washington have been looking into whether Amazon abuses its power over sellers on the tech giant’s site, according to people involved with the inquiry.

amazon logo smallIn the last several months, California has asked about the company’s private label products and whether it uses data from sellers to inform which products it sells, according to two people, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of retribution by the company.

The Washington attorney general’s office has also been interested in whether Amazon makes it harder for sellers to list their products on other websites, according to correspondence viewed by The New York Times.

The people said that the inquiries did not appear to be in advanced stages.

PBS via WGBH Radio (Boston), Frontline, Maria Ressa, Duterte & the Fight for the Free Press, Max Green and James Edwards, June 12, 2020.  Ahead of the expected verdict in her trial, Philippine journalist Maria Ressa speaks out about reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte's brutal drug war — and -- then becoming a high-profile target of his government's crackdown on the press.  

As she faces potential prison time on cyber libel charges, the co-founder and CEO of the independent Philippine news site Rappler tells Frontline how she’s preparing, discusses her reporting on Duterte, and says that her conviction about what she does is undaunted: “All it has done is to make us stronger in our intent to continue to hold government to account…”

For more on Duterte’s drug war, watch Frontline's "On the President’s Orders." And for more from Ressa, read Frontline's interview with her for The Facebook Dilemma, in which she discusses her reporting on how Duterte weaponized the platform to target his critics and spread disinformation. Plus: Stay tuned for the forthcoming documentary A Thousand Cuts, featuring Ressa’s story, which will see a summer theatrical release and a fall Frontline broadcast.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Fox News Host Tucker Carlson Loses More Advertisers, Tiffany Hsu, June 12, 2020. Disney, Papa John’s, Poshmark and T-Mobile backed away from “Tucker Carlson Tonight” after the host’s comments about Black Lives Matter protests.

On Monday’s segment of his prime-time show, the Fox News host Tucker Carlson cast doubt on the reasons behind the worldwide unrest prompted by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month.

fox news logo Small“This may be a lot of things, this moment we are living through,” Mr. Carlson said. “But it is definitely not about black lives, and remember that when they come for you. And at this rate, they will.”

Since he made those statements and others, prominent companies including the Walt Disney Company, Papa John’s, Poshmark and T-Mobile have distanced themselves from “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” joining other businesses that have backed away from the show in recent years.

The flight of advertisers accelerated on Tuesday, when the watchdog group Sleeping Giants tagged T-Mobile in a Twitter post, saying that Fox News had aired what amounted to an “extremely racist segment scaremongering about the Black community.”

June 11

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump campaign seeks apology, retraction of CNN poll showing Biden leading, John Wagner and Felicia Sonmez, June 11, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump’s reelection campaign is asking CNN for an apology and demanding a retraction of a poll this week that shows presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden with a sizable lead, claiming it was designed “to manufacture an anti-Trump narrative.”

cnn logoCNN said Wednesday that it stands by the poll, which showed Trump trailing the former vice president, 41 percent to 55 percent, or by 14 points, among registered voters in a November matchup.

In a letter to CNN President Jeff Zucker, representatives of the Trump campaign questioned the methodology and timing of the poll, noting that it was largely conducted before better-than-expected unemployment numbers were released Friday.

“Media polls such as these are designed to manufacture an anti-Trump narrative and misinform and mislead actual voters,” the letter, dated Tuesday, said. “It’s a stunt and a phony poll to cause voter suppression, stifle momentum and enthusiasm for the President, and present a false view generally of the actual support across America for the President.”

While Trump has complained about polling dating back to the 2016 election, this is the first known time that he or his campaign have threatened legal action to suppress results.

The Trump campaign asked CNN to retract the poll “by publishing a full, fair, and conspicuous retraction, apology, and clarification to correct its misleading conclusions.” The letter also puts CNN “on notice” that it should preserve documents related to the production of the poll, which was conducted for the network by SSRS and released Monday.

CNN executive vice president and general counsel David Vigilante responded Wednesday afternoon with a letter to the Trump campaign. Vigilante said the Trump campaign’s letter marked what he believed to be the first time that the network has been threatened over polling results in its 40-year history.

June 10

Palmer Report, Opinion: Tucker Carlson just suffered a major blow, Bill Palmer, June 10, 2020. As Donald Trump’s popularity continues to collapse, and even many conservative media matters logoAmericans are beginning to support movements like Black Lives Matter, the hosts on Fox News have two choices. They can begin to incrementally evolve themselves, in order to match their incrementally evolving audience. Or they can histrionically double down on racist hysteria, like Tucker Carlson has been doing this week, and begin paying the price accordingly.

bill palmer report logo headerNo matter what your ratings are, you can’t survive as a cable news host if your advertisers start abandoning you, because your show stops being profitable. We saw that when Bill O’Reilly started bleeding advertisers after his sexual misconduct came to light. To that end, Tucker Carlson – who has spent the past week telling his audience that black people are fox news logo Smallcoming to get them – has lost five major advertisers today.

Media Matters says that Carlson has now lost T-Mobile, SmileDirectClub, Disney, Papa John’s, and Vari. Fox News will attempt to replace these advertisers with new ones. But with so many companies now boycotting Carlson’s show, Fox will have to significantly reduce the ad rates in order to attract new clients. His show will end up being full of no-name advertisers who are paying very little for the slot.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Shoddy editors serve as another dagger in the heart of journalism, Wayne Madsen, left, June 10, 2020. During a time of Wayne Madsenunprecedented attacks on reporters, including physical police attacks on journalists covering civil rights protests – with one suffering the loss of an eye – editorial offices are ill-serving their staffs and the public.

The dodgy reporting of the on-line publication, The Intercept, edited by the over-rated Glenn Greenwald, a one-time attorney for Illinois neo-Nazi leader Matthew Hale, should be particularly suspect during the current situation involving white supremacist provocateurs involved in stoking violence amid otherwise peaceful protests against police violence.

June 1

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: Record Ratings and Record Chaos on Cable News, Ben Smith, June 1, 2020 (print ed.). Cable CNN Logonetworks are facing threats, and opportunities, in a national crisis. Now, Fox is fighting back and CNBC is looking to the right. CNN is defined by Jeff Zucker, and he may run for mayor.

fox news logo SmallIf Twitter is the twisted heart of America’s public conversation, cable news is its aorta, carrying fear and anger, as the rapper and activist Killer Mike put it last week, into the body politic. The coronavirus pandemic and the new urban crisis have made it impossible to look away, and journalists have at times become targets for the police. In this extraordinary news moment, the primacy of this supposedly dying medium has never been clearer, its ratings higher than ever.

msnbc logo CustomBut behind the scenes, chaos and uncertainty are also reaching record highs. I spent last week speaking to homebound executives, producers and on-air talent at the three cable news networks and found them wrestling in wildly different ways with an exceptional news moment that does not fit into cable’s familiar boxes: the coronavirus story, the economic crisis, and the protests and fires in the streets of American cities.

ny times logo

New York Times, Fall Is Now Jam-Packed for Book Publishers. That Could Be a Problem, Alexandra Alter, June 1, 2020. Books scheduled for release this spring and summer are now on track for fall, when authors will be fighting for attention in the midst of a presidential election and an ongoing crisis.

Delaying a book’s publication is a calculation that authors and publishers throughout the industry have made and wrestled with in recent months, as the pandemic has devastated the retail landscape and led to canceled tours, book fairs, literary festivals and media appearances. As publishers scramble to limit the economic fallout and sales declines driven by the epidemic, hundreds of books that were scheduled to come out this spring and early summer have been postponed, in some cases until next year. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Ryan Grim helped push the Tara Reade story into the mainstream. What does he think of it now? Paul Farhi, June 1, 2020. The Washington editor of the Intercept has been both hero and scourge for various factions of liberals.

The past few weeks haven’t been kind to Tara Reade, the woman who has accused former vice president Joe Biden of sexual assault. Several of Reade’s former landlords and acquaintances say she manipulated and deceived them. Lawyers say she inflated her résumé as a prosecution witness in several criminal cases, and a district attorney in California is investigating whether she perjured herself. Her attorney quit on her after just two weeks.

Ryan Grim is unmoved.

Grim — a journalist whose work has given prominence and credence to Reade’s allegations, which Biden has firmly denied — thinks the latest revelations don’t really change the story’s basic contours.

“It’s messy and getting messier,” he said last week. Those “who don’t believe her, or don’t want to believe her, have plenty to cling to. People who do believe her, or who want to believe her, do as well, though many people in the middle have shifted to the doubtful camp as more questions have arisen.”

As Washington bureau chief of the Intercept, he was among the first journalists to showcase Reade’s latest allegations of abusive treatment when she worked in Biden’s office. And when, shortly thereafter, she alleged on a podcast that Biden had sexually assaulted her in 1993, Grim was noisy in his efforts to call attention to the story — both on Twitter, where he has more than 150,000 followers, and in interviews discussing each twist and turn.

New reporting puts focus on Tara Reade’s inconsistencies

He also broke an important piece of the story last month when he uncovered a recording of Reade’s late mother calling in to CNN in 1993 and telling host Larry King about unspecified “problems” her daughter had working for “a prominent senator.” The call “isn’t conclusive, but it buttresses [Reade’s] credibility,” Grim said in a webcast interview. “It adds to the pile of evidence” supporting Reade, who had previously said she told her mother about the alleged assault when it happened.

Biden partisans have accused Grim and the Intercept of promoting the story to boost Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Biden’s last rival for the Democratic nomination, who remained in the race until mid-April and would be the likeliest benched candidate to see his hopes resurrected if Biden dropped out. (Biden’s campaign representatives declined to comment.)

Critics note that the Intercept — co-founded in 2014 by Pulitzer-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar — is known for taking whacks at the Democratic establishment and championing the party’s insurgent wing.

Grim has been attacked by Neera Tanden, a former Obama administration official who is the president of the Center for American Progress, a liberal-leaning think tank. “We’ve had story after story that demonstrates massive inconsistencies at best and lies at worst by Reade. And silence by @ryangrim, who pushed this story online for weeks,” she tweeted May 21. Tanden went on to accuse him of being among a group of journalists “who spend years pushing a certain candidate, he loses the primary, and then those journalists push stories to torpedo the candidate who won.”

Grim fired back by calling Tanden “delusional” and defending his coverage of the primaries — maintaining that, far from seeing him as an ally, Sanders supporters have attacked him for his tough reporting on their candidate.

washington post logoWashington Post, Misinformation about extent of D.C. unrest surges across Twitter, Craig Timberg, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Fenit Nirappil​, June 1, 2020. Misinformation about the extent of the unrest in Washington, D.C. and false claims about widespread communications outages burgeoned on Twitter Monday, making the #DCblackout hashtag into a nationwide trend on the platform.

Started by an account with just three followers, the hashtag exploded in popularity, generating about half a million tweets in its first nine hours after being created. The thread swelled with untrue claims that authorities had somehow blocked protesters from communicating from their smartphones in order to crack down on the unrest, which included looting and some fires.

Several Twitter accounts shared images of a major fire burning out of control near the Washington Monument, but others noted that the image appeared to have been copied from the television show “Designated Survivor.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook employees blast Zuckerberg’s response to Trump posts, Rachel Siegel, June 1, 2020. Facebook’s stance on the president’s post stands in stark contrast to Twitter, which for the first time limited the public’s ability to view or share his tweet.

As protests swept the nation over the weekend, several Facebook employees publicly chastised CEO Mark Zuckerberg for his hands-off approach to a divisive post on the demonstrators by President Trump — one that Twitter took the unprecedented step of flagging as inflammatory on its site.

“I am not proud of how we’re showing up,” tweeted Jason Toff, director of product management. “The majority of co-workers I’ve spoken to feel the same way. We are making our voice heard.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Police injure, arrest reporters covering unrest, Paul Farhi and Elahe Izadi, June 1, 2020 (print ed.). Even when displaying a press badge, some were hit with pepper spray or rubber bullets. “I have never been fired at by police,” said one startled war correspondent, “until tonight.”

 

May

May 28

U.S. 2020 Elections / Politics

DOJ Probes U.S. Reporter After Barr Exposé

U.S. Crime, Courts, Scandals

 

 U.S. 2020 Elections / Politics

djt smiling file

 ny times logoNew York Times, Executive Order Is Expected to Curtail Protections for Social Media Companies, Maggie Haberman and Kate Conger, May 28, 2020. The move is almost certain to face a court challenge and signals the latest salvo by President Trump to crack twitter bird Customdown on online platforms.

The Trump administration is preparing an executive order intended to curtail the legal protections that shield social media companies from liability for what gets posted on their platforms, two senior administration officials said early Thursday.

facebook logoSuch an order, which officials said was still being drafted and was subject to change, would make it easier for federal regulators to argue that companies like Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter are suppressing free speech when they move to suspend users or delete posts, among other examples.

The move is almost certain to face a court challenge and is the latest salvo by President Trump in his repeated threats to crack down on online platforms. Twitter this week attached fact-checking notices to two of the president’s tweets after he made false claims about voter fraud, and Mr. Trump and his supporters have long accused social media companies of silencing conservative voices.

youtube logo CustomWhite House officials said the president would sign the order later Thursday, but they declined to comment on its content. A spokesman for Twitter declined to comment.

Under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, online companies have broad immunity from liability for content created by their users.

But the draft of the executive order, which refers to what it calls “selective censoring,” would allow the Commerce Department to try to refocus how broadly Section 230 is applied, and to let the Federal Trade Commission bulk up a tool for reporting online bias.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Donald Trump isn’t the one with the leverage here, Bill Palmer, right, May 28, 2020. As is increasingly the case these bill palmer report logo headerbill palmerdays, Donald Trump is attempting to write checks he can’t cash when it comes to the threats he’s making.

He spent all of Wednesday threatening to punish Twitter, or even shut it down entirely, because the site dared to place a fact check warning on two of his false tweets.

Here’s the thing, though. On Wednesday night we saw Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey fire back at Trump, and that’s a good thing. But while watching the exchange play out between Trump and Jack, something occurred to me: they’re both using Jack’s platform to do it.

donald trump twitterYes, Trump has other ways of getting his message across, including television. But it’s long been clear that Trump considers Twitter to be his most effective communication tool. The fact that Trump had to use Twitter to threaten to shut down Twitter means that Trump isn’t the one with the leverage here.

Yes, Twitter will take a hit in the popularity department if Donald Trump stops using it as his main platform.

But Trump has more to lose.He’s on track to lose a presidential election, and he’ll end up indicted and put on criminal trial in New York if he loses. If Trump sees tweeting as one of his key campaign strategies, he’s not at all in a position to walk away from Twitter. Twitter might lose some traffic if this feud escalates, but Trump could lose everything.

DOJ Probes Reporter After Barr Exposé

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: Barr's DOJ demanded and received access to WMR editor's email / iPhone account, Wayne Madsen, May 28, 2020. On February 14, 2019, William Barr was sworn in as Attorney General, a position in which he has proceeded to act as Donald Trump's personal lawyer and hatchet man.

A little over a month from Barr assuming his position, his Department of Justice issued a legal demand to Microsoft and Apple, approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, "for data related to your Email account."

On March 29, 2019, the same day Barr's Justice Department demanded from Microsoft and Apple access to this editor's Hotmail and iPhone data, WMR published a scathing article concerning Barr. Something in the article obviously triggered Barr into demanding access to Hotmail and Apple data, possibly to discover potential leakers in DOJ or the FBI.

U.S. Crime, Courts, Scandals

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s ‘Horrifying Lies’ About Lori Klausutis May Cross a Legal Line, Peter H. Schuck (emeritus professor of law at Yale and Darling Foundation visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley, this semester), May 28, 2020. The president’s innuendo about the death of a congressional staffer in 2001 could lead to a costly court judgment against him.

President Trump and his minions relentlessly grind out despicable acts — gratuitous insults to war heroes, over 18,000 (and counting) false or misleading statements, many decisions courts have ruled illegal. But Mr. Trump’s wantonly cruel tweets about the tragic death in 2001 of Lori Klausutis are distinctive: They may constitute intentional torts for which a civil jury could award punitive damages against him.

Last week, Timothy Klausutis, Lori’s widower husband, wrote a remarkably restrained, poignant letter to Jack Dorsey, the head of Twitter, citing the pain that Mr. Trump’s “horrifying lies” about his wife’s death have caused him and the family, and asking Mr. Dorsey to remove Mr. Trump’s tweet.

Mr. Dorsey has refused, most likely because the 1996 Communications Decency Act probably protects him from defamation claims for publishing the words of another. However Twitter added a warning label to the president’s false tweets on Tuesday about mail-in ballots, the first time the service has taken such a step.

Mr. Trump’s first tort is called intentional infliction of emotional distress, which the courts developed precisely to condemn wanton cruelty to another person who suffers emotionally as a result. This tort, which is sometimes called “outrage,” readily applies to Mr. Trump’s tweets about Ms. Klausutis. They were intentional and reckless, and were “extreme and outrageous” without a scintilla of evidence to support them. And they caused severe emotional distress — the protracted, daily-felt grief described in Mr. Klausutis’s letter to Mr. Dorsey.

Although the tweets targeted Mr. Scarborough, his own infliction of emotional distress claim may be weaker than Mr. Klausutis’s.

Even so, Mr. Scarborough might succeed in a defamation suit against Mr. Trump for reputational harm. After all, the president’s innuendo that Mr. Scarborough may have murdered Lori Klausutis — presumably credible to the many Trump Twitter followers who subscribe to conspiracy theories — may seriously harm Mr. Scarborough’s reputation with them and others.

Mr. Trump, moreover, often aims his tweets to lead multiple news cycles affecting well beyond his Twitter followers. The president will surely argue that he has not actually accused anyone of murder and was merely “raising questions.” But courts have held that such calculated innuendo can constitute defamation, depending on the facts. This would be for a jury to decide.

Mr. Scarborough, as a public figure in his own right, must satisfy the Supreme Court’s demanding test for defamation liability in its landmark New York Times v. Sullivan decision.

Under this test — designed to free public debate from being unduly constrained by fear of legal liability — Mr. Scarborough must prove that Mr. Trump made his defamatory comment either with actual knowledge that it was false or with “reckless disregard” for whether it was true or false. But the president’s tweets about the Klausutis case probably satisfy this test. After all, he has not cited any evidence to support his calumny either before the tweets or in response to the backlash since then. If the jury found for Mr. Scarborough, it could require Mr. Trump to pay substantial punitive damages in addition to compensation for his reputational harm.

Under the court’s unanimous 1998 ruling in Paula Jones’s sexual harassment suit against President Bill Clinton, both of these lawsuits — by Mr. Klausutis and by Mr. Scarborough — could proceed against the president while he is still in office. Because his tweets reach followers nationwide, the lawsuits could probably be brought in any state. And since the subject of his tweets had nothing to do with his presidential responsibilities, he probably could not hide behind an assertion of executive privilege.

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr appoints Texas prosecutor to review Obama officials’ ‘unmasking’ requests, Devlin Barrett, May 28, 2020. This is an offshoot of an investigation underway by the U.S. Attorney of Connecticut, who was tapped by Barr to investigate the origins of the 2016 election interference probe that has overshadowed Trump’s presidency.

Attorney General William P. Barr has appointed a U.S. attorney in Texas to scrutinize Obama-era officials who sought to identify anonymized names in government documents that turned out to be people connected to then-President-elect Trump, a Justice Department official said Wednesday.

In an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity, Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said the attorney general had tasked John Bash, the U.S. attorney in the Western District of Texas, to examine the practice of “unmasking,” which many Republicans charge was abused by the previous administration to unfairly target people close to Trump.

May 27

 washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter labels Trump’s tweets with a fact check for the first time, Elizabeth Dwoskin​, May 27, 2020 (print ed.). The move was made in response to two recent tweets in which President Trump falsely claimed that mail-in ballots are fraudulent.

twitter bird CustomTwitter on Tuesday slapped a fact-check label on President Trump’s tweets for the first time, a response to long-standing criticism that the company is too hands-off when it comes to policing misinformation and falsehoods from world leaders.

The move, which escalates tensions between Washington and Silicon Valley in an election year, was made in response donald trump twitterto two Trump tweets over the past 24 hours. The tweets falsely claimed that mail-in ballots are fraudulent. Twitter’s label says, “Get the facts about mail-in ballots,” and redirects users to news articles about Trump’s unsubstantiated claim.

The tweets, said Twitter spokeswoman Katie Rosborough, “contain potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots.”

The label directs users to articles by CNN, The Washington Post and the Hill, along with selections from the articles and a page summarizing the findings of fact-checkers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump doubles down on conspiracy theory about woman’s death, ignoring grieving widower’s plea for peace, Toluse Olorunnipa, Elizabeth Dwoskin and John Wagner, May 27, 2020 (print ed.).  President Trump’s online stream of baseless allegations, misinformation and pseudoscience has intensified in recent weeks, sparking renewed calls for social media platforms to take action.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook hasn’t warned investors about illegal activity, including drug sales, whistleblowers allege, Nitasha Tiku, May 27, 2020. The new complaint to the SEC claims the social media company is aware of illegal activity on its platform and has failed to properly police it.

facebook logoA consortium of Facebook insiders and critics filed a confidential whistleblower’s complaint to the Securities and Exchange Commission late Tuesday, claiming the social media giant is aware of illegal activity on its platform, such as the sale of opioids, and has failed to properly police it.

The complaint, which was obtained by The Washington Post, includes dozens of pages of screenshots of opioids and other drugs for sale on Facebook and its photo-sharing site Instagram, with some having seemingly obvious tags such as “#buydrugsonline.” It also notes that Facebook has a pattern of taking down content when it is pointed out by media or activists, only to have it reappear later.

The filing is part of a campaign by the National Whistleblowers Center to hold Facebook accountable for unchecked criminal activity on its properties. By petitioning the SEC, the consortium is attempting to get around a bedrock law — Section 230 of the Communications and Decency Act — that exempts Internet companies from liability for the user-generated content on their platform.

Instead, the complaint focuses on federal securities law, arguing that Facebook’s failure to tell shareholders about the extent of illegal activity on its platform is a violation of its fiduciary duty. If Facebook alienates advertisers and has to shoulder the true cost of scrubbing criminals from its social networks, it could affect investors in the company, the complaint argues.

PEN America, Opinion: Trump Lashes Out Against Twitter; PEN America CEO says it’s a “red alert for all Americans,” Suzanne Noessel, May 27, 2020. In response to President Trump’s threats to shut down Twitter over its fact-check of his false tweets, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said the following:

“President Trump’s threat to regulate or shut down social media platforms sounds a red alert for all Americans who care about free speech. His call to punish Twitter for its fact-checking of his blatantly false statements is akin to threatening to shut down a newspaper or a TV network for a report considered unfriendly. Not only does he not have the authority to silence these platforms and users, the constitution expressly forbids using the power of government to exact reprisals against speech. He isn’t protecting free speech; he is chilling it.

“Free speech has never involved a right to say things that are false and not be held to account. In this instance, Twitter has neither silenced the president nor closed his account. And that’s a good thing. It is valuable for Americans to know what their president thinks, no matter how odious. It’s often revelatory.

“But when those tweets are deceptive or misleading, the company is well within its rights to apply its rules: namely that information will be fact-checked, and if found to be false, marked as such. Twitter is not obligated to offer a vehicle for President Trump’s falsehoods, and he perverts the power of the presidency in threatening the company for doing so.”

May 25 martin luther king injustice quote

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: In Memphis, Journalism Can Still Bring Justice, Margaret Renkl, May 25, 2020. The nonprofit newsroom MLK50, founded by Wendi C. Thomas, aims to carry on the work that Martin Luther King Jr. started.

Wendi C. Thomas launched MLK50 in 2017 as a one-year project to make the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. a time to consider the current state of economic justice in the city where he was murdered while advocating for a living wage.

“Underpaid black workers and their plight drew Dr. King to Memphis more than 50 years ago,” Ms. Thomas said in a phone interview last week. “That’s why he was here. And while I wouldn’t say that Memphis has made no progress, it’s hard to fathom that Dr. King would be proud of where we’re at.” It is a city where almost 28 percent of the population lives in poverty, and that number is growing.

Ms. Thomas was under no illusion that simply telling the stories of underpaid workers, immigrants and other vulnerable Memphians would sort out the economic issues that make it so difficult for them to emerge from poverty. “The city has made a commitment, a commitment, to low-wage industries, which means low-wage labor, which means systems that exploit, for the most part, black and brown workers,” she said. But telling their stories was a start. Three years later, her one-year project is still going strong.

Educated in Memphis schools, Ms. Thomas is a veteran journalist with more than 25 years of reporting and editing experience at daily newspapers in Indianapolis, Nashville and Charlotte, N.C. For 11 years, she served as a columnist and assistant managing editor at The Commercial Appeal in Memphis. By the time she’d completed a year as a fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, she had both the knowledge and the experience to build a newsroom from scratch.

What she didn’t have was funding. In the beginning, for weeks on end, she worked 16- and 18-hour days, living off her credit cards while creating a news source unlike any other in Memphis. “We unapologetically exist to dismantle the status quo where it doesn’t serve low-income residents in Memphis, the overwhelming majority of whom are black,” Ms. Thomas said. “We’re not a black publication, but we frame the news from the perspective of the most vulnerable.”

Ms. Thomas’s investigative series on predatory debt collection by a nonprofit hospital system affiliated with the United Methodist Church, the largest hospital chain in the Memphis area, revealed that these hospitals sued their own low-income employees for failing to pay their medical debts. In other words, a faith-based hospital system both failed to pay its employees a living wage and sued them for being unable to pay their bills. To add insult to injury, workers’ health-insurance policies did not cover care at rival hospitals with more generous financial-assistance policies.

In the three years since MLK50 launched, the publication has grown to include a managing editor, a visuals director and a senior editor, and it hires a range of freelancers, all of whom are paid. Thanks to large grants from the American Journalism Project and the Racial Equity in Journalism Fund at Borealis Philanthropy, Ms. Thomas is now poised to expand her nonprofit newsroom to include a development director and an operations manager. A full-time Report for America corps member will join the team, as well.

washington post logoWashington Post, Florida family grieves as Trump spreads debunked conspiracy theory to attack MSNBC host, Craig Pittman, May 25, 2020 (print ed.). A little after 8 a.m. on July 20, 2001, a couple arriving for an appointment opened an unlocked front door at an office in the Florida panhandle town of Fort Walton Beach and discovered a woman lying on the floor, dead. Her name was Lori Kaye Klausutis and she was just 28.

The police said they found no signs of foul play. The medical examiner concluded her lonely death was an accident. She had fainted, the result of a heart condition, and hit her head on a desk, he said.

joe scarborough headshotNow, nearly 20 years later, Klausutis’s death has captured the attention of the country’s most prominent purveyor of conspiracy theories — the president of the United States — who has without evidence speculated that she might have been murdered and that the case should be reopened.

msnbc logo CustomThe reason for President Trump’s fixation:

At the time of her death, Klausutis was working for a Republican congressman from Pensacola named Joe Scarborough, left, — the same Scarborough who today, as host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, is a fierce critic of Trump and has in recent weeks decried the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic as a failure.

ny times logoNew York Times, The New Model Media Star Is Famous Only to You, Ben Smith, May 25, 2020 (print ed.). With short videos and paid newsletters, everyone from superstars to half-forgotten former athletes and even journalists can, as one tech figure put it, “monetize individuality.”

Back in March, I was trying to persuade my dad to stop taking the subway to work in Manhattan and join me upstate. So I paid $75 to Leonard Marshall, a retired New York Giants defensive lineman we both loved in the 1980s, to send the message.

“I put a few guys in the hospital, Bob,” he told my father solemnly. “I need you to play defense in these crazy times.”

It worked, and my father hasn’t been to Times Square since.

I had reached Mr. Marshall through Cameo, a service that allows you to buy short videos from minor celebrities. I also used Cameo to purchase a pep talk from an Olympic triathlete for my daughter ($15), an ingratiating monologue for my new boss from a former Boston Red Sox manager ($100) and a failed Twitter joke delivered by the action star Chuck Norris ($229.99).

Cameo is blowing up in this strange season because “every celebrity is really a gig economy worker,” says Steven Galanis, the company’s chief executive. They’re stuck at home, bored and sometimes hard up for cash as performances, productions and sporting events dry up. The company’s weekly bookings have grown to 70,000 from about 9,000 in early January, it says, and Mr. Galanis said he anticipated bringing in more than $100 million in bookings this year, of which the company keeps 25 percent. The company expects to sell its millionth video this week.

May 22

U.S. Courts, Crime

Norma McCorvey, center left, raises arm in triumph with her attorney Gloria Allred following 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, as portrayed in new FX documentary

Norma McCorvey, center left, raises arm in triumph with her attorney Gloria Allred and Supreme Court building in background following 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, as portrayed in new FX documentary "AKA Jane Roe," illustrated by Associated Press photo by J. Scott Applewhite.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Jane Roe’s Pro-Life Conversion Was a Con, Michelle Goldberg, right, May 22, 2020. Norma McCorvey makes a shocking michelle goldberg thumbdeathbed confession.

In 2006, I went to Jackson, Miss., to report on the weeklong siege of the state’s last abortion clinic by the anti-abortion group Operation Save America. Flip Benham, then the group’s leader, had T-shirts made up, black with white lettering, saying, “Homosexuality Is Sin! Islam Is a Lie! Abortion Is Murder! Some Issues Are Just Black and White!”

By his side was Norma McCorvey, the Jane Roe in Roe v. Wade. In 1995 Benham opened the headquarters of Operation Rescue, an earlier iteration of Operation Save America, next to the Texas abortion clinic where McCorvey worked, and converted her during her smoke breaks. In Mississippi, she tore up the decision bearing her alias, telling the abortion protesters: “You’re so beautiful. I’m so sorry for what I did.” That night, the group burned all the scraps in a church parking lot. McCorvey lit the match.

It was a cultural coup for the right when McCorvey publicly turned against legal abortion. Jane Roe rejecting Roe v. Wade was something abortion opponents could throw in the faces of pro-choice activists. So it is a bombshell that McCorvey has revealed, in the posthumous new documentary AKA Jane Roe, that it was, at least in some sense, an act. “I am a good actress,” she said.

The movie, which debuts on Friday on FX, also makes clear that anti-abortion leaders understood this. They’ve been perpetrating a scam on us all for 25 years.

In the documentary’s final 20 minutes, McCorvey, who died of heart failure in 2017, gives what she calls her “deathbed confession.” She and the pro-life movement, she said, were using each other: “I took their money, and they put me out in front of the cameras and told me what to say, and that’s what I’d say.”

In her career as a pro-life icon, she collected nearly half a million dollars. But at the end of her life, she once again affirmed a belief in the right to abortion, and evinced pride in Roe v. Wade. “Roe isn’t going anywhere,” she said early on election night in 2016, when she thought Hillary Clinton was going to win. “They can try, but it’s not happening, baby.”

Given the political damage done by her cynical about-face, it’s surprising how sympathetic McCorvey — campy, foul-mouthed and irreverent — comes off. She was a lost soul from a traumatic background. Her father was absent and her mother beat her, and she ended up in reform school after running away from home at 10. She entered an abusive marriage at 16, became addicted to drugs and alcohol, and lost custody of her first child.

Norma McCorvery fx documentary

Christianity Today, Opinion: Deathbed Apology: Norma McCorvey’s Pro-Life Friends Tell Another Story, Jonathon Van Maren, May 22, 2020. What the ‘AKA Jane Roe’ documentary gets wrong.

"In February 1970, I was Norma McCorvey, a pregnant street person, a twenty-one-year-old woman in big trouble,” writes McCorvey in her 1994 memoir I Am Roe. “I became Jane Roe at a corner table at Columbo’s, an Italian restaurant at Mockingbird Lane and Greenville Avenue in Dallas.”

That short meeting with Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, two lawyers looking for the right case to strike a blow on behalf of abortion rights, transformed McCorvey’s life. The following month, Weddington and Coffee filed a lawsuit against Dallas district attorney Henry Wade for enforcing Texas’s abortion law and used McCorvey as their lead plaintiff. The case ended up at the United States Supreme Court, and on January 22, 1973, the justices overturned the law seven-to-two and legalized abortion in all fifty states.

norma mccorvey jane roe 1989On that day, Norma McCorvey (shown at left in a 1989 photo) became Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade — part symbol, part person, trapped in the maelstrom of history and the sound and fury of America’s abortion wars. When she left the abortion industry for the pro-life movement in 1994, she made headlines across the nation.

Now again, McCorvey is making headlines as the bombshell subject of a new FX documentary, AKA Jane Roe, which claims that she changed her mind a second time and reverted back to a pro-abortion position. Producer Nick Sweeney tells a story in which McCorvey’s relationship with the pro-life movement was strictly a financial one.

In a series of interviews that she dubbed her “deathbed confession,” McCorvey calls it all an “act.”

“I was the big fish,” McCorvey says in the documentary. “I think it was a mutual thing … I took their money and they’d put me out in front of the cameras and tell me what to say.”

Numerous headlines have suggested that McCorvey was “paid to change her mind” on abortion, despite the fact that those are not actually her words. In trying to unearth the real narrative, I spoke with many of her close friends, three of whom went on the record. Those three, in addition to others, reject the idea that she was bribed into switching sides. Their story of McCorvey and their relationship with her is much more complex, intimate, and humane.

“For this new documentary to quote Norma saying she was not genuinely pro-life is very suspicious,” said Father Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life. “I knew Norma. Her pro-life convictions were not an act.”

Pavone was part of McCorvey’s faith story. As she described in her second memoir, Won By Love, her relationship with various pro-lifers led her to Christianity and also to the pro-life movement. On August 8, 1995, she was baptized in a backyard swimming pool in Dallas, Texas. In 1998, she became a Roman Catholic and adopted Pavone as her spiritual director. (His organization recently released a statement on the Sweeney documentary.)

Starting the year of her baptism, McCorvey spoke at numerous pro-life events and publicly expressed remorse for her role in the legalization of abortion. In 2004, she even sought to have the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade based on new evidence that abortion hurts women. (The case was dismissed the following year.)

Was McCorvey bribed for her ongoing contributions to the movement? Sweeney’s evidence for this claim — that over the decades, McCorvey had been paid at least $456,911 in gifts — supports an opposite conclusion, in my opinion. The figure is not a high one, considering that some pro-life speakers often earn upwards of $10,000 for a single speaking engagement. And being paid to advocate for a position is not the same thing as being paid to change your mind.

More importantly, my sources suggest that these monetary contributions were primarily given not for coercive purposes but for supportive ones. McCorvey’s pro-life friends cared deeply for her and often helped her financially when she was in need.

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.com)2020, Reason Magazine published a column quoting Diana Andrade, shown below right in a photo with Wohl when she said they were dating, in a story headlined as follows: Reason, She Said Anthony Fauci Sexually Assaulted Her. Now She Says Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman Paid Her to Lie.

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 12

Media News

“When will they open a Cold Case on the Psycho Joe Scarborough matter in Florida. Did he get away with murder? Some people think so. Why did he leave Congress so quietly and quickly? Isn’t it obvious? What’s happening now? A total nut job!”

President Trump, in a tweet, May 12

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s vicious claim that Joe Scarborough might have murdered an aide, Salvador Rizzo, May 12, 2020. The sun had not been up for an hour when the president of the United States, in his ninth tweet of the day, said MSNBC anchor Joe Scarborough might be a murderer.

It’s an old claim, debunked by The Washington Post in 2017. Trump often smears those who challenge him. He has a long-running feud with the joe scarborough headshot“Morning Joe” husband-and-wife team of Scarborough, left, and Mika Brzezinski.

But it remains astounding to see the president make a thinly veiled murder accusation devoid of evidence. Many of the 18,000 false and misleading claims in our Trump database feature overheated rhetoric. Few of them rise to these vicious heights.

The Facts “Morning Joe” airs on MSNBC from 6 to 9 a.m. on weekdays. The hosts have been hammering the administration’s dysfunction in the face of the covid-19 pandemic, with Scarborough often taking Trump to task for “a blizzard of lies.”

This morning, the hosts also zeroed in on Trump’s contentious exchange with a CBS News reporter at a news conference Monday. Brzezinski and Scarborough both called Trump’s remarks “racist.” They ran a segment criticizing the Justice Department’s unusual move to drop the criminal case against Michael Flynn, a former Trump national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. They interviewed Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), who said of Trump: “He can’t handle women, particularly strong women, and we know that Trump is xenophobic, and it comes out time and again.”

Meanwhile, somewhere inside the White House, Trump was firing off tweets accusing Scarborough of possibly having murdered an aide in 2001.

Trump first lobbed this conspiratorial charge at Scarborough in November 2017. The president is referring to the 2001 death of Lori Klausutis, a 28-year-old aide who worked for Scarborough when he was a Republican member of Congress representing Florida’s 1st Congressional District.

The circumstances of Klausutis’s death have spawned conspiracy theories, but authorities never suspected foul play. Her death is not an unsolved mystery or a cold case waiting for answers. Klausutis’s death on July 20, 2001, was ruled accidental and the police concluded there was no reason to further investigate. A police investigator told The Post in 2017 that authorities had left “no stone unturned.” PolitiFact has given Trump’s claim its worst rating, “Pants on Fire.”

msnbc logo CustomThe medical examiner, Michael Berkland, determined that an abnormal heart rhythm caused Klausutis to lose consciousness and fall, fatally striking her head. She was discovered in Scarborough’s office in Fort Walton Beach, lying on her back with her head near a desk, according to a police report.

The Fort Walton Beach police report from Aug. 6, 2001, noted that the medical examiner had determined that Klausutis died as a result of an acute subdural hematoma, or blood clot. The police report cited a letter from Berkland, stating that the injury was the result of trauma from a fall as she lost consciousness from “a probable cardiac arrhythmia secondary to valvular heart disease.” The day before she was found dead, Klausutis told a colleague she was not feeling well, according to the police report. She also told a mail carrier she was not feeling well.

Trump in his tweet asked why Scarborough had left Congress so “quickly and quietly,” implying a connection between Klausutis’s death and Scarborough’s resignation. In fact, the death occurred almost two months after Scarborough announced his resignation. Klausutis was looking for a new job when she died, and Scarborough was in Washington.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s ‘ask China’ response to CBS’s Weijia Jiang shocked the room — and was part of a pattern, Sarah Ellison and Elahe Izadi, May 12, 2020. President Trump has a long history of using the bully pulpit to take jabs at reporters. Yet the pandemic-era briefings have become especially fraught — and an unusually barbed exchange with one journalist on Monday raised questions about whether he reserves special contempt for some.

weija jiang cbs twitterAt a Rose Garden press briefing, CBS News correspondent Weijia Jiang, right, asked the president why he so frequently claims that the United States is doing “far better than any other country” at testing for coronavirus. “Why does that matter?” she asked. “Why is this a global competition to you if every day Americans are still losing their lives?”

Trump started by deflecting — “they’re losing their lives everywhere in the world” — before pivoting suddenly: “They’re losing their lives everywhere in the world, and maybe that’s a question you should ask China. Don’t ask me, ask China that question, okay?”

Jiang, an American journalist of Chinese descent, seemed taken aback and asked, “Why are you saying that to me, specifically?” He replied that he would give the same answer to “anybody that asks a nasty question.” Seconds later, he abruptly ended the news conference and walked off.

In a moment when Asian Americans have reported being subjected to verbal and physical abuse amid coronavirus fears, and when the president himself has leaned into his anti-China rhetoric, Trump’s slap at Jiang drew widespread attention.

May 10

Media News

judy mikovits pandemic

ny times logoNew York Times, Virus Conspiracists Elevate a New Champion, Davey Alba, May 11, 2020 (print ed.). A video promoting baseless and dubious claims by the discredited scientist Judy Mikovits, above, 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, margaret sullivan 2015 photoMay 11, 2020 (print ed.). 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.

May 10

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.

bill palmer report logo headerIf 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 FoxNews.com, 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

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.

SaraCarter.com, 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

ae 911 freefall correction request graphic Custom

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

Dr. Leroy Hulsey trailer thumb headshot Custom

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

tara reade joe biden Custom

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

djt virus rewrites history cnn jonathan karl april 13 2020 Custom

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.

djt meltdown chyron cnn april 13 2020 Custom

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 cleveland.com, 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 cleveland.com.

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

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).

Reason.com, 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 CNN.com. 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.

 ...

Conclusion

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

Heavy.com, 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

 

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, March 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.

ae 911 truth building 7 graphic hulsey study Custom

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

djt profile balding big head palmer

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

djt march 2020 Custom

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

trish regan fox Custom

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

chelsea manning screen shot 2018 06 05 media convention

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

jill stein djt Custom

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.

jill stein joe biden decline Custom

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.

tavis smiley Custom

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

chris matthews screenshot

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.

February

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

mcclatchy logo

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