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Sat, 31 Oct 2020
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The Intercept abandoned its truth-seeking mission — and lost its best journalist in the process

glen greenwald
© Marcos Oliveira/Agência Senado
Journalist Glenn Greenwald
Journalist Glenn Greenwald shocked his global readership on Thursday, when he abruptly announced his resignation from the Intercept, the six-year-old site that became famous after publishing documents released by Edward Snowden. The incident that sparked Greenwald's departure was the Intercept's refusal to publish in whole an article he'd written criticizing much of the US media for failing to seriously cover allegations by a former business associate of Hunter Biden — son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden — that the Biden family had used its name to profit from business deals in foreign countries where the United States has important foreign-policy interests.

Since his early days at the Intercept, which Greenwald co-founded in 2014 with left-wing journalist Jeremy Scahill and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, he operated under an agreement stipulating that his columns would be published without the requirement that they be edited by colleagues. In a lengthy statement posted to his new Substack page, Greenwald argues that politically motivated Intercept editors violated this agreement in regard to his latest article, by "refusing to publish it unless I remove all sections critical of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, the candidate vehemently supported by all New-York-based Intercept editors involved in this effort at suppression." In his post, Greenwald situated this disagreement within the context of a Trump-era newsroom culture — and a broader trend within established journalistic circles — that excludes political dissent.

Comment: Intercept funder Pierre Omidyar is a rather ominous character:

Mr. Potato

Zero self-awareness: CNN's Don Lemon likens Trump supporters to drug addicts, says he's been forced to dump friends who back the president

don lemon
© Reuters / Eduardo Munoz
CNN's Don Lemon is shown arriving at a television show premiere last year in New York.
CNN host Don Lemon said supporters of President Donald Trump are like drug "addicts" who must "hit rock bottom" before they can "live in reality" and be set free from misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic and other issues.

Comment: Lemon is describing himself. But even rock bottom might not do it for him and the people like him. They may very well go to the grave believing Covid was as bad as they all insisted it was. It isn't, and it never was.

Lemon, apparently closing the door on the idea of politically divided Americans being able to live in harmony in the Covid era, claimed he has had to dump many of his friends for supporting Trump and clinging to false beliefs. "I think they have to hit rock bottom like an addict, right? And they have to want to get help," Lemon said Thursday night on his show.

Comment: Lemon obviously doesn't want to get help. He doesn't even know that he needs it.

"They have to want to know the truth," he continued. "They have to want to live in reality. They have to want to be responsible not only for other people's lives but for their lives."

Comment: This is hilarious coming from Lemon, one of the dumbest men in media.

The Louisiana native said that having lived in several "red states," he has developed friendships with many conservatives. But after clashing with those friends on pandemic-related issues, he said, "I can't do it anymore."

"They are so nonsensical when it comes to this issue," Lemon said. "They have every single talking point that they hear on state TV and that they hear from this president," he added, ironically suggesting that mainstream news in the US is predominantly pro-Trump. "They repeat it, and they are blinded by it.

Comment: State TV? It is idiots like Lemon parroting pseudo-scientific nonsense with no critical thinking. They're the ones repeating talking points and giving people the impression Covid has been orders of magnitude more deadly than it actually has been. They're the ones who make no sense. Get a grip, Don.


Leaked Facebook document reveals policies on restricting New York Post's Biden story

facebook censorship
Moderators had to manually intervene to limit distribution of Hunter Biden report

Facebook moderators had to manually intervene to suppress a controversial New York Post story about Hunter Biden, according to leaked moderation guidelines seen by the Guardian.

The document, which lays out in detail Facebook's policies for dealing with misinformation on Facebook and Instagram, sheds new light on the process that led to the company's decision to reduce the distribution of the story.

"This story is eligible to be factchecked by Facebook's third-party factchecking partners," Facebook's policy communications director, Andy Stone, said at the time. "In the meantime, we are reducing its distribution on our platform. This is part of our standard process to reduce the spread of misinformation. We temporarily reduce distribution pending factchecker review."

Comment: And from Newsweek (of all places!) comes this relatively even-handed report:
In the moments after the New York Post published what it called a "smoking gun" story about Hunter Biden's emails last week, both Twitter and Facebook worked to limit the article's circulation. Each company gave a different reason for doing so: Twitter said it violated the company's "Hacked Materials Policy," while Facebook said it would reduce the story's visibility until fact checkers could weigh in.

While Twitter's actions had little impact on the reach of the story, data shows that Facebook's suppression of the article caused it to reach (in this case meaning likes, shares and comments) roughly half the readers that major anti Trump scoops — like the Atlantic's article on Trump's alleged comments about American's who died in war and The New York Times' story on the president's tax returns — did.

According to data compiled by Newswhip, which tracks Facebook likes, shares and comments as well as "influencer" shares on Twitter, roughly 1.94 million people engaged with the Post's Hunter Biden story in the first 24 hours after publishing, and a total of 2.12 million readers as of Sunday. In comparison, 3.69 people read the Atlantic article accusing Trump of calling fallen soldiers "losers and suckers," in the first 24 hours of its publishing and 6.86 million people read the story as of Sunday. About 4.12 million people read the New York Times story on Trump's tax returns in its first 24 hours, and 5.37 read it as of Sunday.

The Post's story, headlined, "Smoking Gun email reveals how Hunter Biden introduced Ukrainian businessman to VP dad," made waves the moment it was published. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg quickly came under scrutiny for their decisions to suppress the story.

After two days, Twitter reversed course and allowed the story, which tied the presidential candidate to his son Hunter's activities as a board member of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy firm. It's a bombshell story President Donald Trump has been begging the mainstream media to explore, given he was impeached (ultimately acquitted) over allegedly withholding aid to the Ukraine if it didn't investigate the Burisma allegations concerning Hunter and Joe Biden.

Unlike Twitter, Facebook didn't block users from linking the Post story, but it did flag it for third-party fact-checkers to review, and the firm says that, on average, when such a review deems a story "false" it causes views of an article to plummet 80 percent.

Facebook didn't respond to Newsweek's request to comment on the outcome of its flag or review (or even if a review has been conducted yet), but it appears the act of flagging the story itself has dented its appeal.

According to additional data from Newswhip, "Influencer" shares on Twitter in the first 24 hours approximately equaled 339,000 for the Atlantic, 434,000 for the Times and 342,000 for the Post. "Influencer" shares as of yesterday equaled 478,625 for the Atlantic, 474,922 for the Times and 446,280 for the Post.

The data suggests Facebook was far more effective in slowing the spread of the Post story than was Twitter, and NewsWhip said that's because it was such a fast-growing story that it had already been shared heavily by large influencers before Twitter shut it down. Then, users re-shared such posts even if they couldn't directly share a link to the story themselves.

Twitter says it initially blocked the sharing of the Post story because it included private information and because it violated its "hacked materials policy." The company since reversed the decision, and Dorsey said that the company was "wrong." Twitter executive Vijaya Gadde said the platform updated its policy so that, going forward, it will only block hacked content if it is shared by hackers or those working with them.

It seems, though, that Dorsey's reversal has not satisfied Senators Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham and Josh Hawley, all three of whom are on the Senate Judiciary Committee, as they say they intend to go through with their plan to subpoena him and Zuckerberg. Both executives have already appeared before lawmakers to answer charges they routinely suppress conservatives, and both have denied the allegations. A Senate panel is expected to vote this week on whether or not it will again subpoena the two executives.

"I don't know if these New York Post stories are true or not," Cruz said in a statement to the press. "Those are questions Vice President Biden should answer. But Twitter and Facebook and Big Tech billionaires don't get to censor political speech and actively interfere in the election."

The dustup, in fact, comes amid calls that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that protects online platforms from liability over what their users post ought to be changed. Proponents for a change say that if Twitter and Facebook insist on being the sort of gatekeepers that news outlets claim to be, then they should not be exempt from libel laws.

"We have seen Big Tech — we've seen Twitter and Facebook — actively interfering in this election in a way that has no precedent in the history of our country," Cruz said in his statement. "The Senate Judiciary Committee wants to know what the hell is going on."

Meanwhile, one of Facebook's fact-checkers, Politifact, run by the Poynter Institute, published a story Friday throwing water on the Post story about the Biden's saying: "None of the emails included with the article, however, point to a meeting having taken place. And an image in the article of the email that the Post calls 'blockbuster correspondence' does not contain any of the metadata — such as a message ID number, and the time and date the email was created — that would help establish authenticity of an email."

And Al Tompkins, a senior faculty member at Poynter's Institute for Media Studies, tells Newsweek that Twitter's and Facebook's suppression of the story may be much ado about nothing because it won't affect the outcome of the election.

"Only 3-6 percent of the voters are undecided now and millions have voted," he said, adding that the coronavirus, race relations and healthcare are far more important to voters. The Hunter Biden story, he said, "is so convoluted, and is without any confirmation, that nobody has any idea what to make of it."

Still, Facebook's flag and Twitter's "wrong" decision to block the Post story has some experts scratching their heads. "They want to fight fake news, but it's a legitimate question as to why they picked this particular story," said John Pitney, the Roy P. Crocker professor of American politics at Claremont McKenna College.

Really? Not so hard to understand if you look beyond the lamestream media:

Steve Bannon: 'Joe Biden is the hand grenade, Hunter Biden is the pin' to blow up the Democratic establishment

Twitter, which declined to comment for this story, also locked the Post's entire Twitter account for at least two days after the outlet's initial story. After the Post published a follow-up story, alleging that Hunter Biden tried to leverage his influence to secure payments from Chinese companies, Twitter allowed it to be shared but marked it "unsafe."

The controversy over stories suggesting that the Biden family engaged in shady business dealings isn't going away, and over the weekend Donald Trump Jr. entered the fray.

"Twitter has been throttling my reach and I'm getting 1/3 the amount of (retweets) I would normally get. Instagram is doing the same & worse for the last few days," he tweeted Sunday night. Social media, he said, is trying to "hide the truth about the Biden crime family."

Oct. 20, 2020: Story altered to clarify Newswhip tracks likes, shares and comments on Facebook.


Project Veritas taking The New York Times to court for defamation

james o'keefe project veritas new york times nyt
© Project Veritas
James O'Keefe announces lawsuit against the New York Times newspaper
In their release, Project Veritas states "Project Veritas is filing a lawsuit today against The New York Times for their defamatory articles attacking our Minnesota Ballot Harvesting story."

Project Veritas also released screenshots of every claim they believe to be "deceptive" on the part of NYT.

O'Keefe said "There was absolutely no deceptive editing done in our videos, the rampant Ballot Harvesting Fraud taking place in Minnesota was crystal clear for anyone to see."

Comment: Odds are Project Veritas will soon have yet another retraction to post on its Wall of Shame


States mull deploying National Guard amid worries about Election Day unrest

National Guard
© Anthony Souffle/Star Tribune via AP
National Guard, Minneapolis, MN
Amid worries about civil unrest and violence following the presidential election and possible shortages of poll workers on Nov. 3 itself, more state leaders are considering deployment of the National Guard.

Although the U.S. military is generally left out of the election process, polling locations attempting to manage impossibly long voting lines may not be in a position to turn away help from the Guard, whose members would fill in as plainclothes poll workers or help to monitor cybersecurity.

In key battleground states such as the Rust Belt's Wisconsin and the Sun Belt's Arizona, governors have already announced they could or would activate the National Guard to help with security.

Comment: Danger Will Robinson: A Trump lead heading into election night may be the tipping point to spur chaos and ignite violence across America. A Biden lead with violence will be blamed on Trump. Either way, be assured it will be 'Trump's fault'.
There is one much simpler scenario for election-night chaos, centering on a single address, that many analysts see as among the most plausible. The scenario can be averted, election officials say, by heightening public awareness about it - and by cautioning vigilance against carefully targeted lies that Donald Trump has already begun to tell.
Known as the "red mirage", the scenario could develop if Trump appears to be leading in the presidential race late on election night and declares victory before all the votes are counted.

"On election night, there's a real possibility that the data will show Republicans leading early, before all the votes are counted. Then they can pretend something sinister's going on when the counts change in Democrats' favor."

In the scenario, Trump's declaration of victory is echoed on the conservative TV network Fox News and by powerful Republicans across the US.

By the time final returns show that in fact Joe Biden has won the presidency, perhaps days later, the true election result has been dragged into a maelstrom of disinformation and chaos.
To some officials, the scenario is too realistic for words. The delay that officials know will be required to finish the counting could be enough time for Trump to sow doubt about the result, an effort the president has already begun.

Current and former Pennsylvania officials and activists say that the antidote to the "red mirage" is as simple as the scenario itself.

Philadelphia will not be able to report its election result on the night of 3 November. In turn, the surge of Democratic votes out of Philadelphia, when they do land, will probably create the perception of a huge swing in the state to Biden. And finally, that swing could well be large enough to erase a lead that Trump might build up in rural counties elsewhere in the state - to appear to turn Pennsylvania from "red" to "blue" - and to potentially decide the entire election. Tom Ridge said:
"All votes will not be counted by midnight on November 3. Because of Covid-19, there'll be millions of mail-in votes that it'll take several days to tally," Ridge said in a phone interview. One of the ways to reduce the anxiety level is to remind Americans of that reality, and call for peace and patience so that every vote can be counted."
The blood-curdling thing about the red-mirage scenario, for some analysts, is that some aspects of it look more like a certainty than a scenario.

"The key term is 'election week'," said Patrick Christmas, policy director of the non-partisan Committee of Seventy good government organization in Philadelphia. "There's no longer going to be an election day here."

As plausible as it is, however, there are also many reasons why a "red mirage" scenario might not unfold. Biden could put the race away with a win earlier on election night in a key battleground state such as Florida.
There is undoubtably an election day 'mirage', most telling in the speculations and fantasies above.

Star of David

Twitter shuts down accounts following Israeli pressure

Hallel Silverman
© Instagram
Israeli soldier Hallel Silverman (R) the face of Israel's latest anti-Palestinian campaign, supports Joe Biden and BLM.
Israel's strategic affairs ministry has launched a new campaign targeting online expressions of support for Palestinian rights.

On Tuesday, 4IL - a propaganda outlet of the ministry - tweeted the handles of dozens of accounts it claimed were "anti-Israel bots and trolls who try to steer public opinion. Report them right now," the Israeli government urged.

The ministry also issued a report claiming it had "examined over 250 accounts, in which 70 percent of them (170) were found to be considered inauthentic."

The report claims that the accounts were trying to "stir anti-Israel sentiment online and manipulate discourse against Israel" by, among other activities, promoting calls for Israel to be held accountable for war crimes at the International Criminal Court.


Too lazy to fact check, WaPo falsely reports Trump administration thinks Billie Eilish is 'destroying' US

© WH handout/Reuters/DN Convention/Jonathan Ernst
President Donald Trump • Billie Eilish
Lazy reporting from the Washington Post has triggered an avalanche of bogus clickbait stories after the outlet incorrectly stated that the Trump administration described singer Billie Eilish as a menace to society.

The paper attempted to piggyback on a Politico scoop about an internal document showing that the Trump administration had screened the political views of 274 potential celebrity contributors who were being considered for a $300 million taxpayer-funded ad campaign to "defeat despair" about the coronavirus. Critics say the PSA initiative was political in nature and that the White House wanted to use public funds to support Trump's re-election.

In its own write-up of the story, the Washington Post highlighted the "notes" attached to several of the celebrities asked to participate in the ad campaign. For example, the document said that actress Jennifer Lopez had "made a political statement during her Super Bowl performance to address Trump's immigration policies."

In an apparent attempt to highlight the political favoritism purportedly revealed by the document, WaPo also pointed to the entry for singer-songwriter Billie Eilish. But the paper's attempt at muck-raking was severely hampered by a lack of reading comprehension.


FBI: Extremist threatened Trump, Obama in online posts

Barry Croft
© Delaware Department of Justice via AP
Barry Croft charged with plotting to kidnap Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
A man charged in an alleged conspiracy to kidnap Michigan's governor also made threatening online comments about President Donald Trump, former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton and other prominent political figures, an FBI agent said in a federal court filing.

Barry Croft, a Delaware resident, railed against numerous present and former elected leaders in private Facebook posts, special agent Kristopher Long said. Croft is one of six purported members of an extremist paramilitary group accused of scheming to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer because of her shutdown orders to control the coronavirus.

Long described the posts in an affidavit supporting a request for a warrant to search an account that Croft allegedly created Sept. 2 and closed Sept. 26. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the document Wednesday after The Detroit News reported its contents.

It said one Facebook post in May showed an image of Trump with a caption reading, "True colors shining through, wanna hang this mf'er too!!!%" Another post the next day said, "I say we hang everything currently governing us, they're all guilty!!% And what a deterrent, Rope!!!%"

Arrow Down

High rate of symptomless COVID-19 infection among grocery store workers: study says

© CC0 Public Domain
Grocery store employees are likely to be at heightened risk of COVID-19 infection, with those in customer-facing roles 5 times as likely to test positive as their colleagues in other positions, suggests the first study of its kind, published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

What's more, among those testing positive, three out of four had no symptoms, suggesting these key workers could be an important reservoir of infection, say the researchers.

Published research focusing on essential/key workers has largely focused on healthcare workers. To try and plug this knowledge gap and find out how COVID-19 has affected the health and wellbeing of other key workers, the researchers studied 104 employees of one grocery store in Boston, Massachusetts.

Each employee was tested for SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19 infection, in May this year as part of a mandatory testing policy across Boston.

But before doing so, they completed detailed questionnaires on: their lifestyle; medical history; employment history; working patterns and role at the store; commuting to and from work; and the protective measures they were able to take against infection at work.

Comment: Bogeyman alert: One time, one place, one dubious study with no references does not warrant new rules, and never mind the virus has not affected these workers. It is a baseless scare tactic aimed at employees and the public, targeting sources for food and supply chain essentials.


Leftists fear Trump may take Minnesota, plot post-election 'mass mobilization'

minneapolis protests riots
© John Minchillo / AP
Protesters demonstrate outside of a burning Third Precinct police station in Minneapolis on May 28, 2020.
A leaked confidential document obtained by Breitbart News reveals that a coalition of left-wing groups in Minnesota, fearing a possible Trump win, is preparing for post-election mass unrest while planning to execute wide scale "strategic disruption."

Led by TakeAction Minnesota, described as a "hub for Minnesota's progressive movement," the groups warn of a need for mass mobilization in a recently leaked highly confidential document circulating among the group's leadership and intended as a prep guide for the coming weeks.

Comment: The plan is no joke. Millie Weaver brings an undercover report on other groups who are working along similar lines. The 'resisters' include employees of various US government departments, and contract security personnel: