Lazy Caturday Reads

By Jackie Morris

Good Afternoon!!

The lies come thick and fast from the Trump administration. It’s not just Trump; it’s his entire gang of shameless prevaricators.

Remember those MAGA hats that Trump signed for service members in Iraq? The White House swore up and down to CNN that they didn’t distribute the campaign merchandise, but people who were there say otherwise.

Of course we can’t be sure these tweets are legit, but come on! Who actually believes these soldiers bought Trump hats and banners and had them shipped to Iraq? Give me a break. I know this is a minor scandal in the scheme of things Trump, but still…

And besides, this was supposed to be a secret, surprise visit, so are we supposed to believe these folks always carry their MAGA hats and banners around with them and to the mess hall?

OK, I know I’m beating a dead horse, but I get so tired of all the gaslighting.

Now check this out. Remember that NYT story awhile back about undocumented immigrants working at Trump’s New Jersey golf club?

The New York Daily News: New Jersey AG has obtained evidence of possible crimes at Trump’s golf club — and Mueller, FBI are involved in probe.

New Jersey prosecutors have collected evidence that supervisors at President Trump’s Garden State golf club may have committed federal immigration crimes — and the FBI as well as special counsel Robert Mueller have played part in the inquiry, the Daily News has learned.

Anibal Romero, a Newark attorney who represents several undocumented immigrants who used to work at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, said Friday he recently met with investigators from the state attorney general’s office and handed over fraudulent green cards and Social Security numbers that management at the club allegedly procured and gave his clients, Victorina Morales and Sandra Diaz.

Before he met with the state prosecutors, Romero said he reached out to Mueller’s office because, while he wanted to contact federal authorities, he was concerned about looping in the Justice Department, which was headed by Jeff Sessions at the time.

Mueller’s office got back to Romero and said the issue was out of their jurisdiction, but they apparently passed the information on to the FBI.

A few weeks later, an FBI agent in New Jersey called Romero.

“He said to me that he had received a referral from Robert Mueller’s office and that he already knew the specifics and that he wanted to meet with me in person,” Romero said.

By S. Telari, Deviant Art

Romero then met with two agents at a federal office in Branchburg, N.J., and outlined the same evidence he had already given the AG prosecutors. The agents said they would “coordinate” with the AG’s office, according to Romero.

Romero said he’s stayed in touch with the FBI and the attorney general’s office but declined to confirm whether either of the agencies have formally opened investigations.

“I’m confident that federal and state authorities will conduct a complete and thorough investigation,” Romero said.

How many states is Trump under investigation in now? I’ve lost count.

Here’s a funny media story from by Ashley Feinberg at HuffPost: The Thinnest Skins In Media In 2018. Their diapers runneth over. You’ll have to click on the link to read the details, but here’s the list of included media figures:

Jake Tapper, CNN Anchor And Respecter Of Troops

Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine Columnist And Scab

Jim VandeHei, Axios CEO And Co-founder, Unofficial Spokesman For Zuckerberg 2020

Maggie Haberman, Nonpartisan New York Times Non-non-reporter

Jonathan Swan, Axios-Branded Dictaphone

Chris Cillizza, CNN Something-Or-Other

Glenn Greenwald, Prophet Of Civil Liberties And Ironic Capitalization

Salena Zito, Gas Station Oracle

Chris Cuomo, Famous Brother Haver

Ben Wittes, Prose Torturer

Ashley Feinberg, Professional Corncob

Now go read. You won’t be sorry.

Here in Massachusetts, the Governor just signed a new law regulation short-term rentals. The Boston Globe: Baker signs long-awaited Airbnb bill, opening new era for industry.

Governor Charlie Baker on Friday signed first-of-its-kind legislation to tax and regulate the short-term housing rental market in Massachusetts, capping years of debate over how to navigate an industry that has exploded through companies like Airbnb.

The new rules will take effect July 1 and could transform a market that spans the state, from Cape Cod summer homes to Boston apartment buildings to Western Massachusetts vacation retreats.

The bill requires every rental host to register with the state, mandates they carry insurance, and opens the potential for local taxes on top of a new state levy. A chief negotiator for the House said the goal is to register every short-term rental in the state by September, and local officials, including in Boston, say the new law will help buttress their own efforts to regulate the booming market.

Airbnb is fighting back.

But before Baker’s ink could dry, the law drew a sharp rebuke from Airbnb, which called it “flawed” and unnecessarily complex. Advocates who have closely followed the process — including Airbnb’s decision to sue in federal court to overturn Boston’s municipal regulations — warn a lawsuit against the state could also follow.

More details on the law:

Beyond requiring all hosts to register and carry insurance, it also subjects short-term rentals to the same 5.7 percent state levy now paid by hotels — but exempts people who rent their homes 14 or fewer nights a year. Officials have estimated that tax could raise at least $25 million annually.

It also would allow cities and towns to impose their own taxes of up to 6 percent, except in Boston, where it would be 6.5 percent, with occasional hosts also exempted.

Additional taxes would be levied on hosts who own multiple units. And an extra fee would also fall on units in Boston, Cambridge, and a handful of other cities that support the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, but only after bonds are paid off on the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in South Boston.

Some cities, including New York and San Francisco, have used short-term rental registries to rein in the industry, but this law makes Massachusetts the first state to require all hosts to register. That, more than the taxes, has been the focus of debate in recent months.

It will be interesting to see how this works out.

Time Magazine has a new story on Paul Manafort: Exclusive: Russian Ex-Spy Pressured Manafort Over Debts to an Oligarch.

When the U.S. government put out its latest sanctions list on Dec. 19, the man named at the top did not seem especially important. Described in the document as a former Russian intelligence officer, he was accused of handling money and negotiations on behalf of a powerful Russian oligarch. The document did not mention that the man, Victor Boyarkin, had links to the 2016 campaign of President Donald Trump.

Jackie Morris for Amnesty International

A months-long investigation by TIME, however, found that Boyarkin, a former arms dealer with a high forehead and a very low profile, was a key link between a senior member of the Trump campaign and a powerful ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In his only interview with the media about those connections, Boyarkin told TIME this fall that he was in touch with Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in the heat of the presidential race on behalf of the Russian oligarch. “He owed us a lot of money,” Boyarkin says. “And he was offering ways to pay it back.”

The former Russian intelligence officer says he has been approached by the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Boyarkin’s response to those investigators? “I told them to go dig a ditch,” he says. Peter Carr, the spokesman for the Special Counsel’s Office, declined to comment. Through his spokesman, Manafort likewise declined to comment on his alleged connections with Boyarkin.

But those connections could be potentially important to the Special Counsel’s inquiry. They would mark some of the clearest evidence of the leverage that powerful Russians had over Trump’s campaign chairman. And they may shed light on why Manafort discussed going right back to work for pro-Russian interests in Eastern Europe after he crashed out of the Trump campaign in August 2016, according to numerous sources in the TIME investigation.

Read the rest at the link. It’s a long story.

One more from Buzzfeed: These Are 50 Of The Biggest Fake News Hits On Facebook In 2018.

By Max Carlier

After spending two years launching third-party fact-checking programs, rolling out News Feed updates, and investing in other anti-misinformation initiatives, Facebook is still the home of viral fake news.

For the third year in a row, BuzzFeed News compiled a list of 50 of the most viral false stories on Facebook and measured their total engagement on the platform. And in spite of a prediction from Facebook’s top anti-misinformation product manager that these articles would see a decline in engagement in 2018, this year’s top-performing hoaxes generated almost as many shares, reactions, and comments as last year’s.

The top 50 fake stories of 2018 identified by BuzzFeed News generated roughly 22 million total shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook between Jan. 1 and Dec. 9, 2018, according to data from BuzzSumo and Trendolizer. This was only 7% fewer engagements than the 23.5 million engagements generated by to top 50 of 2017, and slightly more than the top 50 fakes identified by BuzzFeed News in 2016, when those links generated 21.5 million engagements.

Read the whole thing at Buzzfeed. How long before Facebook goes the way of AOL?

So . . . what else is happening on this long holiday weekend? Post your recommendations in the comment thread below.

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Thursday Reads: The Usual Insanity Reigns in Trump World

Good Afternoon!!

As usual, there’s way too much news out there this morning. In Trump world, there’s never an opportunity to catch your breath and focus on one important thing. I can’t cover everything, so here are some random stories that caught my interest.

Cecile Richards has a new book out–Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead: My Life Story–and she included some creepy revelations about Jared and Ivanka Kushner. People Magazine: Planned Parenthood CEO Says Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump Offered ‘Bribe’ to Stop Abortions.

In a riveting passage from Cecile Richards’ new memoir, the Planned Parenthood chief says Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were, during Donald Trump’s 2016 transition as president-elect, so eager to be recognized as shrewd political dealmakers that the soon-to-be first daughter and her husband made an offer that felt like a “bribe”: an increase in federal funding for Planned Parenthood in exchange for its agreement to stop providing abortions.

Richards says she “reached out” to Ivanka at the suggestion of a friend, in hopes of finding an ally in the Trump White House. Ivanka insisted on bringing Jared, so Richards asked her husband Kirk Adams to come with her.

According to a statement from Planned Parenthood given to Time.com, the purpose of the meeting “was to make sure that Ivanka Trump fully understood the important role Planned Parenthood plays in providing health care to millions of people and why it would be a disastrous idea to block people from accessing care at Planned Parenthood.”

After Richards explained this, she writes that Kushner told her Planned Parenthood “had made a big mistake by becoming ‘political.’ ”

“The main issue, he explained, was abortion,” Richards writes. “If Planned Parenthood wanted to keep our federal funding, we would have to stop providing abortions. He described his ideal outcome: a national headline reading ‘Planned Parenthood Discontinues Abortion Services.’”

According to Make Trouble, Kushner said that if Richards agreed to the plan then funding could increase, but he urged them to “move fast.”

“If it wasn’t crystal clear before, it was now. Jared and Ivanka were there for one reason: to deliver a political win,” she writes. “In their eyes, if they could stop Planned Parenthood from providing abortions, it would confirm their reputation as savvy dealmakers. It was surreal, essentially being asked to barter away women’s rights for more money. It takes a lot to get Kirk mad, but it looked like his head was about to explode.”

Richards explained that there was “no way” Kushner’s proposal would work and that they’d continue to fight for funding.

“‘Our mission is to care for women who need us, and that means caring for all of their reproductive needs — including safe and legal abortion,’” she recalls saying.

Can you imagine the nerve? In Trump world, everything is about money. These people can’t even begin to conceive of the notion that there are people with personal values that are non-negotiable.

There’s another new book about Trump world–this time by Trump booster Ronald Kessler. Still, a few embarrassing tidbits are coming out in advice of its release date.

The Cut: Trump Reportedly Called Jared Kushner a ‘Little Boy.’

According to journalist Ronald Kessler in his new bookThe Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game, when Kushner addressed reporters during a live television appearance, President Trump told the aides watching with him, “Look at Jared, he looks like a little boy, like a child.”

Kessler also claims that Trump once told Kushner and his daughter, Ivanka, that “they never should have left New York,” and he “made it clear to them that he would not mind if they gave up their White House roles.” [….]

Trump calling Jared “a child” seems rather unfair. Not only has president given his son-in-law a set of absurdly stratospheric, decidedly adult responsibilities, Kushner clearly looks more like a haunted doll than a little boy.

Kessler writes that Kellyanne Conway is the “number one leaker” in the White House except for Trump himself, who leaks as as an “anonymous source” to specific reporters in hopes of positive coverage. According to Kessler, Melania Trump is an important adviser to her husband, and she once “walked out on” Trump in 1998 when she found out he was cheating on her. Now you don’t have to read the book, which reported is filled with Trump boosterism.

Luke Harding, who wrote the terrific book Collusion, has a new piece on Paul Manafort’s machinations at The Guardian: Former Trump aide approved ‘black ops’ to help Ukraine president.

Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort authorised a secret media operation on behalf of Ukraine’s former president, featuring “black ops”, “placed” articles in the Wall Street Journal and US websites, and anonymous briefings against Hillary Clinton.

The project was designed to boost the reputation of Ukraine’s then leader, Viktor Yanukovych. It was part of a multimillion-dollar lobbying effort carried out by Manafort on behalf of Yanukovych’s embattled government, emails and documents reveal.

The strategies included:

 Proposing to rewrite Wikipedia entries to smear a key opponent of the then Ukrainian president.

 Setting up a fake “thinktank” in Vienna to disseminate viewpoints supporting Yanukovych.

 A social media blitz “aimed at targeted audiences in Europe and the US”.

 Briefing journalists from the rightwing website Breitbart to attack Clinton, when she was US secretary of state.

Manafort’s Ukraine strategy anticipates later efforts by the Kremlin and its troll factory to use Twitter and Facebook to discredit Clinton and to help Trump win the 2016 US election. The material seen by the Guardian dates from 2011 to 2013.

Read the rest at The Guardian.

Another interesting long read from The Guardian by Donna Ladd: Dangerous, growing, yet unnoticed: the rise of America’s white gangs. It’s a portrait of one man–Benny Ivy–who as a kid joined “one of the oldest and largest white gangs in the US, the Simon City Royals.”

The Royals’ roots date to Chicago’s North Side in 1952, when two violent white “greaser” gangs – the Ashland Royals and Simon City – guarded Simon Park turf as Puerto Ricans moved in.

Early greasers were immigrants, often Italian, maligned by wealthier whites for greasing machines in blue-collar jobs. In 1968, the greasers united as the Simon City Royals, often rumbling with the nearby Latin Kings as well as the white supremacist Gaylords. (Their rhetoric is familiar: a Gaylords nostalgia websitecalled Latino gangs “storage bins for illegal immigrants”.)

The Royals were one of the biggest and most violent street gangs in Chicago by the 1970s, when they joined the Folk Nation alliance with the Black Gangster Disciples, began admitting Hispanics and, later, women and black members.

But by the 1980s, the gang had weakened after its leadership got locked up or killed.

Strength shifted to prisons, and the brand spread to midwestern and southern states like Mississippi, where the Royals are now one of the largest and most violent gangs in the state.

Surveys of young Americans have shown that 40% identifying as gang members are white, but police tend to undercount them at 10% to 14% and overcount black and Hispanic members, says Babe Howell, a criminal law professor at City University of New York who focuses on crime and race.

“Police see groups of young white people as individuals, each responsible for his or her own conduct, and hold young people of color in street gangs criminally liable for the conduct of their peers,” she says.

Much more at the link.

Trump is insisting on sending National Guard troops to the southern border because he heard about a so-called “caravan” of migrants marching across Mexico. We now have a “president” who uses to executive ordered to deal with fake crises. Trump probably doesn’t know that U.S. troops can’t take any actions against people to enforce domestic laws because of the Posse Commitatus Act. So he’s sending the troops down there anyway instead of just letting them train to do their real jobs. So what about this “caravan?”

The New York Times: ‘You Hate America!’: How the ‘Caravan’ Story Exploded on the Right.

It was the kind of story destined to take a dark turn through the conservative news media and grab President Trump’s attention: A vast horde of migrants was making its way through Mexico toward the United States, and no one was stopping them.

A Central American woman gives water to a baby as a large group of immigrants sets up camp for a few days at a sports center in Matias Romero in Mexico’s Oaxaca state late Monday. (Felix Marquez / Associated Press)

“Mysterious group deploys ‘caravan’ of illegal aliens headed for U.S. border,” warned Frontpage Mag, a site run by David Horowitz, a conservative commentator.

The Gateway Pundit, a website that was most recently in the news for spreading conspiracies about the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., suggested the real reason the migrants were trying to enter the United States was to collect social welfare benefits.

And as the president often does when immigration is at issue, he saw a reason for Americans to be afraid. “Getting more dangerous. ‘Caravans’ coming,” a Twitter post from Mr. Trump read.

The story of “the caravan” followed an arc similar to many events — whether real, embellished or entirely imagined — involving refugees and migrants that have roused intense suspicion and outrage on the right. The coverage tends to play on the fears that hiding among mass groups of immigrants are many criminals, vectors of disease and agents of terror. And often the president, who announced his candidacy by blaming Mexico for sending rapists and drug dealers into the United States, acts as an accelerant to the hysteria.

That’s the fake story, now for the real story.

The New York Times: Inside an Immigrant Caravan: Women and Children, Fleeing Violence.

MATÍAS ROMERO, Mexico — With a sarcastic half-smile, Nikolle Contreras, 27, surveyed her fellow members of the Central American caravan, which President Trump has called dangerous and has used as a justification to send troops to the border.

More than 1,000 people, mostly women and children, waited patiently on Wednesday in the shade of trees and makeshift shelters in a rundown sports complex in this Mexican town, about 600 miles south of the border. They were tired, having slept and eaten poorly for more than a week. All were facing an uncertain future.

“Imagine that!” said Ms. Contreras, a Honduran factory worker hoping to apply for asylum in the United States. “So many problems he has to solve and he gets involved with this caravan!”

The migrants, most of them Hondurans, left the southern Mexican border city of Tapachula on March 25 and for days traveled north en masse — by foot, hitchhiking and on the tops of trains — as they fled violence and poverty in their homelands and sought a better life elsewhere.

This sort of collective migration has become something of an annual event around Easter week, and a way for advocates to draw more attention to the plight of migrants.

But this particular caravan caught the attention of Mr. Trump, apparently after he heard about it on Fox News. In a Twitter tirade that began Sunday, he conjured up hordes of dangerous migrants surging toward the border. He demanded that Mexican officials halt the group, suggesting that otherwise he would make them pay dearly in trade negotiations or aid cuts.

Mr. Trump even boasted that his threat had forced Mexico’s government to halt and disperse the caravan participants. But there was no evidence of that on Wednesday.

Read the rest at the NYT.

What stories are you following today? 


Monday Reads: Fairness, Awareness and the death of the Fairness Doctrine

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I often wonder how different our political, economic, and science discourse would be if the Fairness Doctrine were still in place.  This reflection seems more relevant than ever given the appalling number of voters that fell for ‘fake news’, lies, and promises of virtually impossible policy outcomes.  Both the tariffs and tax bill inflicted on this economy are going to send us to very dark places quite rapidly. All those crazies in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and the rest of Farm country are about to see an Agricultural Crisis as we relearn the Great Depression lesson, once again, of how every one loses Trade Wars. (It’s already sending the markets down as China retaliates big time.)  Craziness is also ensuing as Trump and Bernie Sanders both demonize Amazon with either personal or no reason.  Amazon stocks are taking off–after an initial plunge after Trump’s Tax threats–while it appears that Trump’s net worth crash is partially due to the successful business model built by Bezos.  Property in the Manhattan shopping districts isn’t doing so well.

All you have to do is sort the media in to “normal” vs. right wing propaganda and you see what’s what.  Still, it’s hard to understand how even “normal” media does what it does in the age of false equivalence of facts. But,how about this little blurb in the local in Hutchison, Kansas where small is still sometimes best?  

Consider federal deficits, which are now at a trillion dollars a year and headed still higher. The big reason are GOP tax cuts, although new spending, mostly for the U.S. military, also is adding red ink.

As the tax cuts were being proposed, Congress was warned by its own staff that they would not, as Trump claimed, pay for themselves by fueling additional economic growth.

Not even the White House believes that anymore. A year ago, White House officials vowed their tax cuts would create such energy that the country’s GDP would grow by 4 percent in 2018. A few days ago, the White House announced that it expects 3 percent growth this year.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve predicts the U.S. GDP to grow by 2.5 percent this year.

It’s also worth noting that the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has argued that tax cuts – of any kind – won’t create even a 0.4 percent difference in economic growth.

The story is much the same on other issues: Changing goals, squishy principles and lots of finger-pointing substitute for achievement.

The latest spending bill pushed through late at night with little debate illustrates the lack of sound reason or policy.

NY Mag has a feature up on Trump’s record of  massive corruption. It’s a must read.  The Presidential Pig is on the cover snout and all.

Since Trump took office, his pledge to ignore his own interests has been almost forgotten, lost in a disorienting hurricane of endless news. It is not just a morbid joke but a legitimate problem for the opposition that all the bad news about Trump keeps getting obscured by other bad news about Trump. Perhaps the extraordinary civic unrest his presidency has provoked will be enough to give Democrats a historic win in the midterms this fall, but it is easy to be worried.

Trump’s approval rating hovers in the low 40s: lower than the average of any other president, yes, but seemingly impervious to an onslaught of scandals that would have sunk any other president, and within spitting range of reelectability.

“Why shouldn’t the president surround himself with successful people?” argued Larry Kudlow, now Trump’s primary economic adviser, in 2016. “Wealthy folks have no need to steal or engage in corruption.” The administration seems to have set out to refute this generous assumption. The sheer breadth of direct self-enrichment Trump has unleashed in office defies the most cynical predictions. It may not be a surprise that he continues to hold on to his business empire and uses his power in office to direct profits its way, from overseas building deals down to printing the presidential seal on golf markers at the course near Mar-a-Lago. It is certainly not a surprise that Trump has refused to disclose his tax returns. What’s truly shocking is how much petty graft has sprung up across his administration. Trump’s Cabinet members and other senior officials have been living in style at taxpayer expense, indulging in lavish travel for personal reasons (including a trip to Fort Knox to witness the solar eclipse) and designing their offices with $31,000 dining sets and $139,000 doors. Not since the Harding administration, and probably the Gilded Age, has the presidency conducted itself in so venal a fashion.

It is hardly a coincidence that so many greedy people have filled the administration’s ranks. Trump’s ostentatious crudeness and misogyny are a kind of human-resources strategy. Radiating personal and professional sleaze lets him quickly and easily identify individuals who have any kind of public ethics and to sort them out. (James Comey’s accounts of his interactions with the president depict Trump probing for some vein of corruptibility in the FBI director; when he came up empty, he fired him.) Trump is legitimately excellent at cultivating an inner circle unburdened by legal or moral scruples. These are the only kind of people who want to work for Trump, and the only kind Trump wants to work for him.

Paul Waldman–writing for the American Prospect–believes US voters will essentially toss the lot of them because of a sense of fairness.  This assumes a lot.

At this point, it’s unlikely to change. People are already getting whatever tax cut they’re going to get, and it’s hard to imagine that six months from now many workers will say, “Wait a minute—I am getting more take-home pay! Thanks, Republicans!” Not only that, recent polling shows the tax bill to be a wash at best, with about the same number of people saying they approve of it as disapprove of it, with more usually in the latter camp.

Even if you do approve of it, are you going to rush to the polls to express your gratitude to President Trump and the Republican Congress? If you’re getting another 20 bucks a week, it seems unlikely, especially if you know how much corporations and the wealthy got.

That isn’t to say that the alternative to this bill wouldn’t have been worse for the GOP. When it passed, they breathed a gigantic sigh of relief, knowing that despite the chaos of the Trump presidency and their lack of meaningful accomplishments in this period of one-party rule, at least they could go home to the voters and tell them that they got something done.

But it’s hard to convince people that you just changed their lives for the better with a tax cut if they aren’t seeing the rewards—and they know who is. According to a new reportfrom the Tax Policy Center, people in the lowest income quintile will average a $40 tax cut from the law, or $1.54 per two-week pay period, just like Paul Ryan’s lucky secretary. Those in the middle quintile will average $800, or about $30 per paycheck. And those in the top 1 percent? Their average cut is almost $33,000.

Which is about what everyone expects from a Republican tax plan. And when you play right into people’s expectations, it doesn’t take much to convince them that you have in fact done exactly what they expected you to.

That’s not to mention the fact that if they were looking to win people’s approval for a change to the tax system, they would have done exactly the opposite of what they did. For years, polls have consistently found that what bothered people the most isn’t the amount they have to pay in taxes, even if everyone might like to pay less. The chief complaint voters have long had is that the corporations and the wealthy don’t pay their fair share. So Republicans lowered taxes on corporations and the wealthy, making the system even less fair than it was before.

So, let me just say that all this. All good news coverage and analysis depends on its availability. The idea of understanding all this unfairness assumes that Dear Reader isn’t reading crap put out by Russian Troll Farms or propaganda broadcast by certain news outlets.  It also assumes journalists do due diligence with their sources.  What good is an interview with a Senator if it’s just a lot of lies and nonsense?  Shouldn’t you fact check them all on the spot?

Earlier this month, CNN’s Brian Stelter broke the news that Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner or operator of nearly 200 television stations in the U.S., would be forcing its news anchors to record a promo about “the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country.” The script, which parrots Donald Trump’s oft-declarations of developments negative to his presidency as “fake news,” brought upheaval to newsrooms already dismayed with Sinclair’s consistent interference to bring right-wing propaganda to local television broadcasts.

You might remember Sinclair from its having been featured on John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight last year, or from its requiring in 2004 of affiliates to air anti-John Kerry propaganda, or perhaps because it’s your own local affiliate running inflammatory “Terrorism Alerts” or required editorials from former Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn, he of the famed Holocaust Remembrance Day statement that failed to mention Jewish people. (Sinclair also owns Ring of Honor wrestling, Tennis magazine, and the Tennis Channel.)

The net result of the company’s current mandate is dozens upon dozens of local news anchors looking like hostages in proof-of-life videos, trying their hardest to spit out words attacking the industry they’d chosen as a life vocation.

Now, let’s look at something most Fox watchers have probably no awareness about.  Monmouth University has a polling institute. It provides opinions and analysis. This is the one today: “‘Fake News’ Threat to Media; Editorial Decisions, Outside Actors at Fault”.

The news about “fake news” is not good, according to the Monmouth University Poll. Large majorities of the American public believe that traditional media outlets engage in reporting fake news and that outside sources are actively trying to plant fake stories in the mainstream media. When it comes to the meaning of “fake news,” a majority believe that it involves editorial decisions as well as inaccurate reporting. The public feels that social media platforms are partly to blame for the spread of fake news and are not doing enough to stop it. The poll also finds that Pres. Trump continues to be less trusted than the major cable news outlets as an information source.

More than 3-in-4 Americans believe that traditional major TV and newspaper media outlets report “fake news,” including 31% who believe this happens regularly and 46% who say it happens occasionally. The 77% who believe fake news reporting happens at least occasionally has increased significantly from 63% of the public who felt that way last year.

Just 25% say the term “fake news” applies only to stories where the facts are wrong. Most Americans (65%), on the other hand, say that “fake news” also applies to how news outlets make editorial decisions about what they choose to report.

“These findings are troubling, no matter how you define ‘fake news.’ Confidence in an independent fourth estate is a cornerstone of a healthy democracy. Ours appears to be headed for the intensive care unit,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

The belief that major media outlets disseminate fake news at least occasionally has increased among every partisan group over the past year, including Republicans (89% up from 79% in 2017), independents (82% up from 66%), and Democrats (61% up from 43%). In addition to the fact that a clear majority of Democrats now believe that traditional media outlets report fake news at least occasionally, the poll also finds that a majority of Republicans (53%) feel this happens on a regular basis (up from 37% in 2017).

A plurality of the public (42%) say that traditional news media sources report fake news on purpose in order to push an agenda. Fewer Americans (26%) believe that major media sources tend to report these stories only by accident or due to poor fact checking. Another 7% feel both reasons are equally prevalent. The remainder are either not sure or do not feel that fake news is reported by traditional media outlets. The number who believe this type of false reporting is done on purpose has not changed much from a year ago when it stood at 39%. The number who say it is done accidentally has increased from 17% a year ago as more people feel that the traditional media engages in reporting fake news stories.

Fully 83% of Americans believe that outside groups or agents are actively trying to plant fake stories in the mainstream media. Two-thirds (66%) say this is a serious problem – including 74% of Republicans, 68% of independents, and 59% of Democrats.

And about the Death of the Fairness Doctrine:

The Fairness Doctrine sustained a number of challenges over the years. A lawsuit challenging the doctrine on First Amendment grounds, Red Lion Broadcasting Co., Inc. v. Federal Communications Commission , reached the Supreme Court in 1969. The Court ruled unanimously that while broadcasters have First Amendment speech rights, the fact that the spectrum is owned by the government and merely leased to broadcasters gives the FCC the right to regulate news content. However, First Amendment jurisprudence after Red Lion started to allow more speech rights to broadcasters, and put the constitutionality of the Fairness Doctrine in question.

In response, the FCC began to reconsider the rule in the mid-80s, and ultimately revoked itin 1987, after Congress passed a resolution instructing the commission to study the issue. The decision has been credited with the explosion of conservative talk radio in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. While the FCC has not enforced the rule in nearly a quarter century, it remains technically on the books. As a part of the Obama administration’s broader efforts to overhaul federal regulation, the FCC is finally scrapping the rule once and for all.

This was in August, 2011.  This is from Salon: “From the Fairness Doctrine to fake news: The deregulation of media has proved anathema to democracy”.

The 1990s’ deregulation of media illustrates the effectiveness of the Antidemocracy Movement in convincing Republicans and Democrats alike that a narrow, market-driven, anti-government approach was imperative, even if it led to oligopoly.

As the media became a multibillion-dollar industry, a frenzy of mergers continued, wiping out hundreds of competitors. So today most of what Americans watch and see is controlled by just a handful of companies—all preoccupied with their shareholders’ wealth, not our society’s health. The result is a downward spiral of programming. One telling narrative? By 2000, the average length of presidential candidates’ soundbites on the network nightly news had shrunk to seven seconds, less than a fifth of their length in the 1968 presidential election.

As Craig Aaron, president and CEO of the media-focused public interest group Free Press, explained to us:

Years of rubber-stamping merger deals plus the removal of and raising of ownership limits in the 1996 Act did tremendous damage to the media landscape.

Next to no issue coverage means a bigger microphone for Donald Trump.

The undermining of media as a public good and its parallel consolidation helped take us to the election of Donald Trump. A narrow focus on profitability led to this shocking finding by longtime news analyst Andrew Tyndall: In 2016, from the first of January through October 26, the three major television networks’ evening newscasts together “devoted just 32 minutes to issues coverage.” That’s roughly one-seventh of what it was in 2008. What did they cover instead? Heading into the primary season, sensational Trump stories were all but ubiquitous. By March of 2016, he had received nearly $2 billion in free media coverage. But virtually none of it touched on the serious issues our country faces.

Moreover, our hunch is that many of Trump’s lies were never seriously challenged simply because digging might have interrupted the “excitement” of the election, dimming media’s profits from political advertising. In 2012 such profits accounted for about 20 percent of TV station revenues, as much as four times the share of ten years earlier. Another reason: As online news outlets and social media have taken off, newspaper journalism—long entrusted with investigating in the public interest—has taken a big hit, with its workforce shrinking by 39 percent in 20 years. So even if many outlets wanted to expose Trump’s lies, they had little staff to investigate.

Concurrently, more Americans are choosing self-reinforcing news sources, from blogs to websites—creating an echo chamber that alternative narratives can’t penetrate. As Wired (11/18/16) warned, “We develop tunnel vision [and] eventually become victims to our own biases.” So too has talk radio become increasingly polarized, insular, and narrow-minded, and abetted, unsurprisingly, by essential players in the Anti-Democracy Movement. From 2008 to 2012, the Heritage Foundation, the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity and related groups provided approximately $22 million in sponsorships to extreme right-wing talking heads, including Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin. Many of these radio figures, especially Beck—and the local radio hosts they inspire—were critical in stirring up resentment and providing guidance to Tea Party activists from 2009 onward, as chronicled by journalist Will Bunch in his book The Backlash.

Let’s end with another of the little guys.  This an editorial out of Greensborough.

Fake news!

Sometimes you hear this label applied to news reports that are clearly false and meant to mislead. But other times you hear the cry “fake news” just because the person reading facts does not like what he/she reads.

So with actual as well as perceived “fake news” around, what constitutes real news, news that’s reliable, trustworthy journalism? And how have we gotten to the point of needing to debate whether news is real or not anyway?

Speaking at the Bryan Lecture Series a few weeks ago, Ted Koppel, former ABC News anchor and former host of “Nightline,” gave us a quick history lesson about American journalism. For many years our journalism was kept relatively trustworthy by “gatekeepers,” such as noted TV anchors and well-known editors and publishers.

The FCC wielded more influence through its “Fairness Doctrine,” which, as Dylan Matthews explains, “required that TV and radio stations holding FCC-issued broadcast licenses to (a) devote some of their programming to controversial issues of public importance and (b) allow the airing of opposing views on those issues.”

With the relaxing of Fairness Doctrine enforcement in 1969 and its repeal in 1987, the floodgates were opened for unapologetically biased news and talk shows. Now we find ourselves in a time when factual news is being replaced with more and more opinion writing and greater focus on entertainment. Americans are losing access to hard facts and careful reporting.

How can we begin to get ourselves out of this fix?

You can go read the suggestions along with the rest of today’s linky goodness!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Tuesday Reads: NASA Goes to Jupiter and Other News

Juno spacecraft

Juno spacecraft

Good Afternoon!!

Lots of breaking news this morning. FBI Director James Comey just held a press conference to announce that the FBI will not be recommending criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for her handling of State Department emails. NBC News reports:

“No reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case,” Comey told reporters.

Federal investigators did not find evidence of intentional wrongdoing, he said — but there is evidence the former secretary of state and her staff were “extremely careless.”

Comey said 110 emails sent or received on the Clinton server contained classified information. He also said it’s possible “hostile actors” gained access to the server.

So there’s still plenty of fodder for the Clinton haters and conspiracy theorists to scream out. Meanwhile, Wikileaks released a more than 1,200 of Clinton’s emails. The Independent:

The website tweeted a link to 1,258 emails on Monday that Clinton sent during her time as secretary of state. According to the release, the emails were obtained from the US State Department after they issued a Freedom of Information Act request. The emails stem from a State Department release back in February, The Hill reports.

And from NY Magazine:

If you have some hours to kill, you could do worse than a deep dive into the Clinton emails released by WikiLeaks yesterday. The site went through the emails released earlier in the year by the State Department looking for any mentions of the Iraq War. The 1,258 emails show mostly that people at the State Department are just like us, namely in that they spend their days sending their colleagues links to things they read online.

It doesn’t sound all that exciting, but Julian Assange thinks Clinton should be prosecuted. This from the guy who ran from a rape charge.

Watch Comey’s press conference:

 

There’s been another terrorist attack, this time in Saudi Arabia. Reuters: U.N. rights boss calls bombing near Saudi holy mosque an attack on Islam.

The U.N. human rights chief on Tuesday called a suicide bombing outside the Prophet Mohammad’s Mosque in the Saudi city of Medina an attack on Islam itself and many Muslims expressed shock that their second-holiest site had been targeted.

Three apparently coordinated suicide attacks on Monday targeted Medina, the U.S. consulate in Jeddah and the largely Shi’ite Muslim city of Qatif on Monday. At least four security officers were killed.

No group has claimed responsibility but Islamic State has carried out similar bombings in the U.S.-allied kingdom in the past year, targeting Shi’ites and Saudi security forces.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and a member of the Jordanian royal family, delivered his remarks via a spokesman in Geneva.

“This is one of the holiest sites in Islam, and for such an attack to take place there, during Ramadan, can be considered a direct attack on Muslims all across the world,” he said, referring to the Islamic holy month.

“It is an attack on the religion itself.”

Militant attacks on Medina are unprecedented. The city is home to the second-holiest site in Islam, a mosque built by the Prophet Mohammed, the founder of Islam, which also houses his tomb.

NBC News: ISIS Fulfills Promise of Deadly Ramadan as Holy Month Comes to an End.

With Ramadan drawing to a close on Tuesday, ISIS has fulfilled its promise of staining the Muslim holy month with bloodshed around the globe—taking credit for some of the deadly attacks that have killed hundreds in several countries, including in Iraq, Kuwait, Bangladesh, Turkey, Saudi Arabia.

The terrorist group vowed in May, just before Ramadan began, to make it “with God’s permission, a month of pain for infidels everywhere.” And that it was, with many countries remaining on high alert following the attacks.

The past few days have been particularly violent. Suicide bombs rocked two Saudi Arabian cities on Monday, killing at least four security officers, wounding five other people — and coming just hours after authorities in a third city stopped a bomber just feet from the U.S. Consulate.

On the attacks in Saudi Arabia:

In Saudi Arabia, the attacks began Sunday night, when a suicide bomber was stopped by security personnel in a hospital parking lot about 30 feet from the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah.

The bomber detonated an explosive belt, killing himself and “slightly” injuring two officers, the Saudi Interior Ministry said in a statement. No Americans were hurt and all State Department personnel were accounted for.

Hours later, on the other side of the country, a pair of suicide bombers attacked the Persian Gulf city of Qatif, a Ministry of Interior source confirmed to NBC News. Details of casualties in the largely minority Shi’ite city were not immediately available.

Shortly after that, four security officers were killed — as well as a suicide bomber — near the security headquarters of the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, a site considered to be the second holiest in Islam.

The attack occurred in a parking lot outside the mosque, during Maghreb prayers, when the bomber pretended to break the Ramadan fast with a group of security personnel, al Arabiya reported.

 

Now for some positive–even thrilling–news. NASA’s Juno spacecraft is now orbiting Jupiter! CNN:

Jet Propulsion Lab, California (CNN)NASA says it has received a signal from 540 million miles across the solar system, confirming its Juno spacecraft has successfully started orbiting Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system.

Welcome to Jupiter!” flashed on screens at mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California.

The Juno team cheered and hugged. “This is phenomenal,” said Geoff Yoder, acting administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate….

The probe had to conduct a tricky maneuver to slow down enough to allow it to be pulled into orbit: It fired its main engine for 35 minutes, effectively hitting the brakes to slow the spacecraft by about 1,212 miles per hour (542 meters per second).

Juno was launched nearly five years ago on a mission to study Jupiter’s composition and evolution. It’s the first spacecraft to orbit Jupiter since Galileo. Galileo was deliberately crashed into Jupiter on September 21, 2003, to protect one of its discoveries — a possible ocean beneath Jupiter’s moon Europa.

More from Spaceflight Now:

A 1/5th size scale model of NASA's Juno spacecraft is displayed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, July 4, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Robyn BECK

A 1/5th size scale model of NASA’s Juno spacecraft is displayed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, July 4, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Robyn BECK

Setting up post at the king of planets, NASA’s Juno spacecraft fired its main engine for 35 minutes Monday, steering into orbit around Jupiter to peer inside the gas giant and give scientists a better idea of how the solar system took shape 4.6 billion years ago.

Spinning on its axis once every 12 seconds, the probe’s British-built rocket thruster ignited and slowed down Juno just enough to be snared by Jupiter’s strong gravity field into a looping, 53-day-long orbit.

Confirmation of the burn’s successful conclusion reached Earth at 11:53 p.m. EDT (0353 GMT) via a radio tone broadcast by Juno, prompting applause and smiles inside the control room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

“All stations… we have the tone for burn cutoff on delta-v,” a ground controller said over a radio loop. “Welcome to Jupiter.”

Powered by three solar panels arranged in a propeller-like pattern around Juno’s main body, the Jupiter orbiter wrapped up a five-year, 1.7-billion-mile (2.8-billion-kilometer) trip with Monday’s automated rendezvous with the solar system’s biggest planet.

“Tonight, through tones, Juno sang to us, and it was a song of perfection,” said Rick Nybakken, Juno’s project manager at JPL. “After a 1.7-billion-mile journey, we hit our burn target within one second.”

The record-setting journey made Juno the farthest spacecraft from the sun to ever rely on solar power, and Monday’s maneuver made the $1.1 billion mission the second to ever orbit Jupiter.

Read more about it at the link.

Hillary will be campaigning with President Obama this afternoon–that should also be exciting. Politico: Obama and Clinton rally against Trump.

When Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama publicly reconciled eight years ago at a celebrated summer rally in Unity, New Hampshire, the two recent rivals were still closer to being opponents than friends.

While both candidates were set on healing the Democratic Party after a divisive primary, the lead-up to the event was fraught. Did their show of warmth — a kiss on the tarmac in Washington, D.C., as they boarded a chartered plane together — appear genuine? Would their praise for each other — “she rocks,” gushed Obama, seeking to win over her supporters — seem too forced?

When President Obama takes the stage at the Charlotte Convention Center with Clinton on Tuesday afternoon for their first joint rally of the 2016 campaign, it will be most notable for how far the two leaders of the Democratic Party have come in the eight intervening years.

“It is as far from fraught as can be,” said Obama’s former chief strategist, David Axelrod, of Obama’s long-anticipated campaign trail debut. “He’s been chomping at the bit to get out there. There’s so many reasons why he feels strongly about this — part of it is his genuine respect for her, part of it is his feelings about the alternative. There’s no half-hearted warrior here.”

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton confidant, said of Tuesday’s rally that unlike eight years ago, “they have such a great relationship that there’s nothing to psychoanalyze. He wants to do everything he can for her.”

ClintonObama_c0-10-3087-1809_s885x516

I can’t wait to watch them together on stage. On Friday Hillary will campaign with Joe Biden in his birthplace, Scranton, PA.

Here’s something else to look forward to. Buzzfeed is going to be working “a new beat” that will involve countering fake news and viral lies. First Draft News: How BuzzFeed wants to use its social media acumen to take on the hoaxers.

BuzzFeed Canada editor and First Draft Coalition member Craig Silverman will be leading the charge from Toronto, “bringing his deep expertise at debunking hoaxes to our reporting arsenal,” said Scott Lamb, BuzzFeed’s head of international growth, “and acting as a resource for all BuzzFeed editions, as well as a watchdog on behalf of our readers worldwide.”

“We’re in a really early phase of testing” Silverman told First Draft, “and seeing what’s going to work in terms of content produced and what works for the BuzzFeed audience.”

Almost every other story in the last month from Silverman, who founded the (currently dormant) rumour-tracking project Emergent, has been a debunk of one kind or another.Quick stories which set the record straight, in-depth investigations into the phenomenon of misinformation and weekly quizzes of the latest fake news to go viral have all been testing grounds to see what resonates with readers.

The biggest challenge for BuzzFeed – and for fact-checkers and debunkers the world over – will be in figuring out a way to make debunks travel as far and fast as the false rumours they address.

Read more at the link.

I haven’t heard anything about Bernie Sanders for days. I’ve been ignoring him, but he also seems to have dropped out of the news. But he’s still getting Secret Service protection. CNN: Sanders’ campaign is over, yet Secret Service motorcade roars on.

Bernie Sanders is back to his old day job, trading the booming applause of his campaign rallies to the far more tedious work of the Senate….But just off the Senate floor and across the Capitol, one vestige of his presidential campaign remains: his Secret Service detail. And taxpayers are footing the bill.

Protecting a presidential candidate costs about $40,000 a day, a federal official familiar with the Homeland Security budget told CNN. For Sanders, that’s more than a half-million dollars since the last primary on June 14. The cost could grow by nearly $2 million if he stays in the race through the Democratic convention in Philadelphia later.

The federal official said it’s difficult to tally exact costs, since some agents are working on other projects simultaneously, but the overall amount spent on Sanders is far higher when calculating the weeks of protection he received after the nomination was effectively out of his reach, as Hillary Clinton surpassed him in the delegate count.

Sanders waved off questions on the matter.

Maybe he’ll keep right on campaigning through November 8. Nothing would surprise me at this point.
What else is happening? What stories are you following today?

Tuesday Reads: Drink More Coffee–It’s Good for You!* And Other News

winter coffee book

Good Morning!!

There’s a supposedly huge drama being carried on in Washington DC, but I just can’t get excited about it. Republicans are holding funding for the Department of Homeland Security hostage in an effort to block President Obama’s executive order on immigration.

I really haven’t been following this story, not only because I assumed it would end like all the other idiotic Republican efforts to shut down the government–a huge bluff that ends one side caving–but also because I don’t particularly care about the Department of Homeland Security.

I don’t want ordinary workers there to lose their jobs, but “homeland security” gives me the creeps. Isn’t it mostly about investigating Americans and harassing them in airports and other public places? I read the list of DHS activities at their website (see previous link) and I could find anything that I could get worked up about–maybe disaster preparedness.

Boston is going through a horrendous slow-moving disaster right now, and there’s been no help coming from DHS as far as I know. I’m sure elderly people must be going hungry because they can’t get out of their homes and poor people are probably freezing because they can’t afford to pay for heat. I don’t know for sure, because the media doesn’t seem to be asking questions about these marginalized people.

I do know that working people here are losing their jobs and may eventually lose their homes because they can’t get to work. In addition to the problem of getting out of your house and getting around with after more than 100 inches of snow have been dumped on us, Boston’s public transportation system is crippled. This morning when I woke up it was -11 degrees outside, and more snow is expected tonight.

winter-coffee

But getting back to the Homeland Security/Immigration fight, the truth is that it’s really a Republican thing. Semi-normal Republicans think DHS is really important and other, completely insane Republicans are more obsessed with keeping any more brown people from becoming U.S. citizens. At Forbes, Stan Collender writes:

Up to now I’ve been relatively convinced that House and Senate Republicans somehow would find a way to avoid shutting down the Department of Homeland Securitywhen its current appropriation expires in four days.

But it has become increasingly obvious over the past week that the reason for the stalemate between House and Senate Republicans over the DHS appropriation (as I said in this post, this is an almost purely GOP vs. GOP fight) has less to do with the publicly stated reason – stopping the president’s executive orders on immigration – and far more to do with the 2016 congressional election.

That makes coming up with a solution that will satisfy the House and Senate Republican majorities AND can pass each house of Congress far more difficult and makes a DHS shutdown more likely.

The militant wing of the House Republican caucus doesn’t fear a potentially negative impact on the coming election. To the contrary, it sees shutting down the Department of Homeland Security as a boon to their reelection chances. A shutdown will demonstrate a take-no-prisoners attitude to the militantly conservative, very anti-Democrat and overwhelmingly anti-Obama constituents who vote in the primary or whose support will make a primary unnecessary. To these GOP House members, a shutdown is not something to be avoided; it’s one of the first scheduled events in their 2016 reelection campaigns.

By contrast, the 24 Senate Republicans up for reelection in 2016 not only have to pay attention to a larger and (relatively at least) more moderate base, they also have to consider the Democrats in their state who will be voting. And given that 10-12 of the 24 Republican senators who will be up for reelection next year are from blue states, they cannot afford to ignore or even give short shrift to the political impact of a shutdown on their Democratic voters.

Coffee books snow

Good. Let the Republican assholes fight it out. Mitch McConnell has a new plan to separate the immigration fight from the DHS funding, but it’s hard to see how that will work because it will take away the wingnuts’ leverage. USA Today reports:

McConnell, R-Ky., announced that he is essentially breaking off controversial immigration amendments from the bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security. Those amendments have been at the center of the impasse over a $40 billion spending bill for the agency.

McConnell is offering a bill that would bar federal funds from being used to carry out President Obama’s executive actions to protect about 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation and allow them to work legally in the USA.

That move should allow a separate DHS funding bill to move forward without the immigration provisions that have caused a stalemate in Congress and led to the looming shutdown at the agency.

{{yawn…}} I doubt if this will work, but we’ll see . . . . What I don’t get is, since a judge has already stopped Obama’s immigration plan for the moment, what is the GOP fight really about? If anyone can explain it to me, please do.

coffee books snow2

Meanwhile, various Republican state legislators continue to demonstrate their ignorance about female bodies. The latest example comes from Idaho state Rep. Vito Barbieri. From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Idaho lawmaker asks if woman can swallow camera for gynecological exam before medical abortion.

BOISE, Idaho — An Idaho lawmaker received a brief lesson on female anatomy after asking if a woman can swallow a small camera for doctors to conduct a remote gynecological exam.

The question Monday from Republican state Rep. Vito Barbieri came as the House State Affairs Committee heard nearly three hours of testimony on a bill that would ban doctors from prescribing abortion-inducing medication through telemedicine….

Dr. Julie Madsen, a physician who said she has provided various telemedicine services in Idaho, was testifying in opposition to the bill. She said some colonoscopy patients may swallow a small device to give doctors a closer look at parts of their colon.

“Can this same procedure then be done in a pregnancy? Swallowing a camera and helping the doctor determine what the situation is?” Barbieri asked.

Madsen replied that would be impossible because swallowed pills do not end up in the vagina.

“Fascinating. That makes sense,” Barbieri said, amid the crowd’s laughter.

Barbieri later claimed he was just “trying to make a point.” What that point was is unclear. Here’s what he told the press:

I was being rhetorical, because I was trying to make the point that equalizing a colonoscopy to this particular procedure was apples and oranges,” he said. “So I was asking a rhetorical question that was designed to make her say that they weren’t the same thing, and she did so. It was the response I wanted.”

BTW, doctors in Idaho do not prescribe morning after pills through telemedicine, so it’s also unclear why the bill is deemed necessary by Idaho wingnut Republicans.

winter_coffee__by_agnsun-d4o7h7e

Remember James O’Keefe? He’s baaaaaack. On Sunday, a right-wing website that I won’t link to (you can find the link at Memeorandum) reported that O’Keefe had tweeted that he has a new blockbuster video coming out and he “fears for [his] life” after it goes public. This morning, the big scoop was revealed in the New York Post. O’Keefe is targeting Al Sharpton with claims that he doesn’t really care about the families of victims like Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner.

Al Sharpton is all about the Benjamins, a daughter of police chokehold victim Eric Garner claims in a bombshell videotape.

Erica Snipes tees off on the reverend as interested primarily in money during a conversation secretly recorded by controversial conservative activist James O’Keefe’s group, Project Veritas.

One of O’Keefe’s investigators with a hidden camera posed as a Garner supporter during a protest last month at the St. George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island.

“You think Al Sharpton is kind of like a crook in a sense?” the investigator is heard asking Garner’s oldest daughter.

“He’s about this,” Snipes replies, rubbing her fingers together.

“He’s about money with you?” the undercover asks.

“Yeah,” Snipes responds.

You can watch the video at the NY Post link.

Joseph Cannon is all over this story, and I hope he’ll write more about it. For now, he has a post up with plenty of background on James O’Keefe.

heart-healthy-coffee

O’Keefe’s story isn’t likely to get much mainstream attention, because the media is already wallowing a scandal in Obama’s cabinet. From Huffington Post yesterday: VA Secretary Robert McDonald Falsely Claimed He Served In Special Forces.

Robert McDonald, the secretary of veterans affairs, wrongly claimed in a videotaped comment earlier this year that he served in special operations forces, the most elite units in the armed forces, when his military service of five years was spent almost entirely with the 82nd Airborne Division during the late 1970s….

McDonald, a retired corporate executive who took over the VA last June as the agency was sinking in scandal, made the claim in late January as he was touring a rundown Los Angeles neighborhood during a nationwide count of homeless veterans. He was accompanied by a CBS-TV news crew, which recorded an exchange between McDonald and a homeless man who told McDonald he had served in special forces.

“Special forces? What years? I was in special forces!” McDonald told the homeless man. That exchange was broadcast in a Jan. 30 CBS News story about the VA’s efforts to find and house homeless veterans.

In fact, McDonald never served in special forces. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1975, completed Army Ranger training and took courses in jungle, arctic and desert warfare. He qualified as a senior parachutist and airborne jumpmaster, and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division until he retired from military service in 1980. While he earned a Ranger tab designating him as a graduate of Ranger School, he never served in a Ranger battalion or any other special operations unit.

“I have no excuse,” McDonald told The Huffington Post, when contacted to explain his claim. “I was not in special forces.”

Today the story is at the top of Google News. There’s no way this guy is going to be able to continue in his job. Should we form a pool and guess how long it will take for him to “resign” in disgrace. Why do people do this? Spending five years in the 82 Airborne Division and graduating from Ranger School should have been enough. the Ranger training is what he must have been referring to in the video, but it doesn’t matter. He’s gone.

original

Here’s a fascinating piece about a fake story that went viral last week. I looked for local reports about this a couple of days ago and couldn’t find anything; so I figured the story couldn’t be true, since it was reported to have happened in Boston.

From Digg: Anatomy Of A Fake, Viral Story: The Priest Who Met A Female God In His Near-Death Experience.

On February 4 World News Daily Report published a story about a Massachusetts priest who made a miraculous medical recovery, and discovery:

A Catholic priest from Massachussetts [sic] was officially dead for more than 48 minutes before medics were able to miraculously re-start his heart. During that time, Father John Micheal O’neal claims he went to heaven and met God, which he describes as a warm and comforting motherly figure.

The story reported that Boston Archbishop Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley explained away O’Neal’s revelation as nothing more than “hallucinations linked to a near-death experience,” and added that “God clearly isn’t a female.”

This remarkable report of a Catholic priest claiming that the Holy Father is in fact a mother went unnoticed by other media until a newspaper in Uganda, the Daily Monitor, picked it up word-for-word. That set off a cascade of articles on other websites around the world, which together have racked up tens of thousands of shares and social interactions, primarily on Facebook.

The Daily Monitor’s motto is “Truth Everyday,” but in this case its plagiarism helped propagate a hoax. World News Daily Report looks and reads like a real news website, but everything it publishes is completely fake. It’s one of several fake news websites that pump out hoax content with the goal of generating shares and links that they can monetize with ads.

Many of these sites have legitimate sounding names, such as The Daily Currant or National Report. They not only monetize peoples’ gullibility, but also their hopes and fears, their political and religious beliefs.

Read much more about these fake news sites and how their stories go viral at the link.

* Finally, here’s a story that sounds fake, but it actually isn’t.  And it’s way more interesting to me than the DHS funding fight.

Coffee_1_The-Good-News

From the Washington Post’s Wonkblog: It’s official: Americans should drink more coffee.

When the nation’s top nutrition panel released its latest dietary recommendations on Thursday, the group did something it had never done before: weigh in on whether people should be drinking coffee. What it had to say is pretty surprising.

Not only can people stop worrying about whether drinking coffee is bad for them, according to the panel, they might even want to consider drinking a bit more, together with exogenous ketones supplements to keep you healthy.

The panel cited minimal health risks associated with drinking between three and five cups per day. It also said that consuming as many as five cups of coffee each day (400 mg) is tied to several health benefits, including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

“We saw that coffee has a lot of health benefits,” said Miriam Nelson, a professor at Tufts University and one of the committee’s members. “Specifically when you’re drinking more than a couple cups per day.”

health-benefits-of-coffee

And from Bloomberg Business: Coffee’s Great, U.S. Panel Says in Official Diet Recommendations.

“Coffee’s good stuff,” Tom Brenna, a member of the committee and a nutritionist at Cornell University, said in a telephone interview. “I don’t want to get into implying coffee cures cancer — nobody thinks that,” he said. “But there is no evidence for increased risk, if anything, the other way around.”

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a nonpartisan panel of academics and scientists, gives suggestions to U.S. agencies including the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture. Subsequent government guidelines influence federal food programs and local issues such as school lunches. Previous guidelines have not addressed caffeine’s health effects….

Research since the advisory body last met in 2010 was critical to the decision on coffee, Brenna said. “There’s been a heck of a lot of work on coffee.”

coffee-health-body

So . . . what stories are you following today? Let us know in the comment thread and have a great Tuesday!