Alfred Buckham Edinburgh c1920
Who said Dems don’t know how to create memes?
BIDEN: “I’ll lead an effective strategy to mobilize trunalimunumaprzure.”
I’ve said 1000 times that Lockdown 2.0 is the worst idea ever. But here they come. The politicians who failed at 1.0 should resign, not get a shot at failing again.
“Lockdowns just have one consequence that you must never, ever belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer..”
• WHO Special Envoy On COVID Reiterates Caution Against Lockdowns (PFW)
WHO’s special envoy on COVID-19, Dr. David Nabarro, cautioned in a Thursday interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today that full national lockdowns should be used only as a “reserve” measure to control the coronavirus, describing such actions as very extreme. Nabarro, who was appointed in February as one of six special envoys tasked to deal with the coronavirus response, warned that national lockdowns are “a very extreme restriction on economic and social life” that temporarily “freezes the virus in place.” “You don’t want to use those as your primary, and I stress that, primary, means of containment. Because in the end living with the virus as a constant threat means maintaining the capacity to find people with the disease and isolating them,” Nabarro said.
The British doctor went on to recommend a robust test, trace and isolation system as the priority for government response with lockdown being “the reserve that you use to take the heat out of the system when things are really bad.” In early October, Nabarro also cautioned against lockdowns in an interview with the Spectator, saying, “we in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus.” Perhaps the most jarring part of his warning was when he described the economic impact of imposing strict lockdowns. “Lockdowns just have one consequence that you must never, ever belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer,” he said.
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“I would suggest to you that maybe next time when we have a serious bear market it’s going to be the worst in my lifetime..”
• Governments Closing Economies Worse Than Pandemic Itself – Jim Rogers (RT)
While the coronavirus outbreak triggered the deepest crisis in decades, “overreacting” politicians have only exacerbated the situation, legendary investor Jim Rogers has told an international forum hosted by Russia. “This is probably the worst [crisis] that I have seen in my lifetime, because everything collapsed and you had politicians and media and everybody overreacting in my view, and everybody closed down,” he told the 12th annual ‘Russia Calling’ Investment Forum in Moscow, when asked if he sees any parallels with previous financial crises. The business event is being held online this year for the first time due to the pandemic.
“We’ve had many epidemics in history, but never before did they close McDonalds, never before did they close all the airlines,” Rogers noted, adding that this overreaction has ruined many economies and the lives of many people. The investor believes that the current crisis is markedly different to previous ones as never in history have governments spent, printed or borrowed so much money. While the current situation might be good for the markets, he noted that it cannot be good for the future due to skyrocketing debt. “I caution all of you, it’s been 11 years since we’ve had a serious bear market… and I would suggest to you that maybe next time when we have a serious bear market it’s going to be the worst in my lifetime,” Rogers told the participants of the forum.
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It’s going to be such a mess.
• Swing States Face The Worst Postal Delays, Data Shows (F.)
Battleground states in the presidential election are suffering from some of the worst ballot delivery delays in the country, U.S. Postal Service data analyzed by the Washington Post shows, and with state laws or court rulings requiring mail-in ballots to be received by Election Day, several states face a particularly high risk of voters having their ballots arrive too late to count, potentially impacting close races.
Michigan: Data analyzed by the Post shows that only 72.8% of ballots in Detroit and 84.3% of ballots elsewhere in Michigan have been delivered on time over the past five days, and an appeals court ruled that mail-in ballots must be received by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.
Wisconsin: Less than 85% of ballots are being delivered on time in the Lakeland district covering much of Wisconsin, and the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that ballots must be delivered by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. Colorado: There’s a similar on-time rate in Colorado, which has been holding primarily mail-based elections since 2013 and has a number of established mail-in voting processes in place and requires ballots to be returned by Election Day.
Pennsylvania: While ballot delivery in Western Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia area is above 93%, on-time delivery is less than 85% in Eastern Pennsylvania, and though ballots can be delivered for up to three days after Election Day, late-arriving ballots will be segregated and could potentially be invalidated by the Supreme Court.
Georgia: Parts of Northern Georgia are experiencing less than 85% of ballots being delivered on time—mail elsewhere in the state is being delivered between 90% and 93% on time—and an appeals court has ruled that ballots must be received by 7:00 p.m. on Election Day.
Only approximately 85% of North Carolina ballots were delivered on time, but mail-in ballots there can be delivered up to nine days after Election Day, and while not as bad as in other battleground states, ballot delivery is still below the USPS’s ideal service standard of 97% on time in parts of Florida, Ohio and Minnesota, where late ballots will also be segregated and potentially invalidated by the courts.
95.04%. That’s the average national rate of on-time delivery for completed ballots being sent from voters to election officials between October 24 and 29, according to USPS data filed in federal court Friday, while 98.2% of blank ballots were sent on average from election offices to voters on time. (On-time delivery for first class mail like election mail is classified as between one to three days.) The Justice Department, which is representing USPS in court, noted in the filing that the numbers aren’t a “representatively accurate measurement” of USPS service performance because they only include ballots sent using specific codes, and do not take “first mile” and “last mile” service into account, which could add time to delivery.
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“Butler County voted for President Donald Trump over Democrat rival Hillary Clinton in 2016 about 66% to 29%.”
• Thousands Of Ballots In Pennsylvania May Be Missing (ET)
Thousands of voters in Butler County, Pennsylvania, said have they never received their ballots…Nearly 40,000 registered voters in the county requested mail-in ballots, but only about 24 percent of them have been returned back to the county so far, authorities said. “At first we thought that maybe it just was a delay in the postal system” due to the high number of requests, Leslie Osche, chair of the Butler County commissioners, was quoted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as saying. “And that could still be the case. But nonetheless, when we realized that, we changed our strategy and now have begun to tell folks that if they haven’t received a ballot, they still have multiple options.” “Our main focus—because it’s too late now to worry about this—we need to make sure we get these people their ballots,” Osche added.
A U.S. Postal Service (USPS) spokesperson told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the agency is “unaware of any significant delays or issues and is in regular contact with the Board of Election as we work to locate and deliver ballots as they are presented to us.” As of Tuesday, voters in Pennsylvania cannot apply for a mail-in or absentee ballot. A local county official, Aaron Sheasley, told CNN Friday that the county has received more than 10,000 phone calls about information related to the ballots that were requested but not received. “Somewhere between the post office and the Pittsburgh sorting facility something happened,” Sheasley told the network. “We don’t know what.” He added: “We haven’t given out any numbers” about the number of missing ballots “because we simply don’t know.”
Speaking to CNN, Chuck Bugar, president of the American Postal Workers Union Pittsburgh chapter, said there is no record that suggests the missing ballots in Butler County made it to a Postal Service facility. “There’s no pile of ballots that have been taken from the Butler County election committee that are sitting around,” Bugar said. “There’s no record or indication that they entered the mail stream. There’s paperwork that goes along with it.” Butler County voted for President Donald Trump over Democrat rival Hillary Clinton in 2016 about 66% to 29%. The county is located north of Pittsburgh and has approximately 150,000 registered voters. In 2020, both Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden have been holding events and rallies, vying to secure the key battleground state with 20 electoral votes.
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“Biden’s polling average advantage is greater than 5 points in just four of twelve swing states and the race will hinge on what happens in the races where Biden’s margin is thin enough to leave the candidates in a virtual dead heat.”
• Polling Averages Show Trump Gaining On Biden In Most Swing States (USA Today)
Election Day is four days away, and more than half the number of Americans who voted in 2016 have already cast their ballots, as polls continue to show Democratic nominee Joe Biden with a large national lead over President Donald Trump, along with a smaller advantage in several key states. The deadline for early voting ends Friday in several states where the race is tight, including Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Texas – and on Saturday in the key states of Florida and North Carolina. Though early turnout appears to favor Democrats in many states, Republicans are gaining ground quickly in Florida and other early voting states. As the race enters the home stretch, the USA TODAY average of averages, which is based on data from RealClearPolitics and FiveThirtyEight, finds Biden up 8.3 percentage points over Trump nationally. That is nearly a full point higher than Biden was at the end of September but 2 points lower than the 10.1-point edge he held in mid-October.
The polls were also shifting in Trump’s favor ahead of his upset win over Hillary Clinton in 2016, but that trend was more pronounced and her lead was not as big as Biden’s heading into the election. Four days before Election Day that year, Clinton’s average lead was about 2.1 percentage points. If the states end up breaking according to their current polling averages, and assuming the non-swing states go the way they did in 2016, Biden would win decisively in the Electoral College, even if he lost Ohio, which is tied. But Biden’s polling average advantage is greater than 5 points in just four of twelve swing states and the race will hinge on what happens in the races where Biden’s margin is thin enough to leave the candidates in a virtual dead heat.
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Trafalgar was right 4 years ago. The others, not so much.
• Positive Trump Polls Spark Polling Circle Debate (Hill)
Most pollsters show Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with a sturdy and stable lead over President Trump at a time when tens of millions of people have already voted and there is almost no time to change the course of the race. But a handful of contrarian pollsters believe Trump’s support is underrepresented and that election analysts could be headed for another embarrassing miss on Election Day. The battles have spilled on to social media, where some well-known political analysts have dismissed polls that show Trump leading Biden. The Trafalgar Group, which was the only nonpartisan outlet in 2016 to find Trump leading in Michigan and Pennsylvania on Election Day, shows Trump with small leads in both states, which would be keys to another Trump win in the Electoral College. Nearly every other pollster shows Biden with a comfortable lead.
Trafalgar’s Robert Cahaly says there is a hidden Trump vote that is not being accounted for in polls that show Biden on a glide path to the White House. “There are more [shy Trump voters] than last time and it’s not even a contest,” Cahaly said, adding that it’s “quite possible” that the polling industry is headed for a catastrophic miss in 2020. FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver and Cook Political Report editor Dave Wasserman are among those deeply skeptical of Cahaly’s polling. Both have dug into the crosstabs of Trafalgar polls and pointed to questionable breakdowns as evidence Trafalgar doesn’t know what it’s doing. For instance, the crosstabs in a Michigan poll, which are no longer online, appeared to show Trump leading Biden by 8 points among young voters, a Democratic stronghold.
“[Trafalgar] doesn’t disclose their ‘proprietary digital methods’ so I can’t really evaluate what they’re doing,” said Jon McHenry, a Republican pollster with North Star Opinion Research. “They’re far enough out on a limb that a year from now, we’ll all remember if they were very right or very wrong.” FiveThirtyEight’s model gives Trump about an 11 percent chance of winning — roughly equal to pulling an inside straight in poker — after giving him about a 30 percent chance on Election Day in 2016. Biden appears to have a more comfortable lead in the polls than Hillary Clinton had at this point in 2016. Polls show Trump is underperforming — in some cases dramatically — among the key coalitions that powered his 2016 victory. Biden is also a more popular candidate than Clinton.
McHenry said he does not think there are many “shy” Trump supporters who would lie about their intentions. Rather, there is concern about a “skewed response rate pattern,” whereby Trump voters would be less likely to participate in a survey or answer the phone when a pollster calls.
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• Trump Must Win Pa. By 4 Or 5 Points To Overcome Voter Fraud – Pollster (JTN)
Robert Cahaly, one of the few pollsters who correctly had Donald Trump ahead in Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan the day before Election Day in 2016, said on “Hannity” Friday night that Trump is going to have to win Pennsylvania by four or five points to “overcome the voter fraud that’s going to happen there.” Cahaly, the chief pollster with the Georgia-based Trafalgar Group, is predicting a Trump victory against Democratic candidate Joe Biden. He says the other pollsters don’t understand the so-called “shy Trump voters.”
“These [voters] aren’t straightforward when it comes to these polls,” Cahaly told host Sean Hannity. “[The other pollsters] don’t understand it, they refuse to understand it, and it seems actually logical. I think that the states that we had before for Trump — Florida, Arizona and North Carolina — are still there. I feel like Michigan is a win right now. Pennsylvania, he’s going to need to get further along than he is. I think he’s going to need to win Pennsylvania by four or five to overcome the voter fraud that’s going to happen there.”
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“..half of White voters have cast ballots [..] In Pennsylvania, nearly 75% of registered Black voters have not yet voted..”
• Biden Advisers Sound Red Alert Over Black, Latino Turnout (ZH)
Senior Biden campaign officials are ‘becoming increasingly worried’ over low turnout among black and latino voters in key states such as Pennsylvania and Florida, according to Bloomberg, citing people familiar with the matter. “Despite record early-vote turnout around the country, there are warning signs for Biden. In Arizona, two-thirds of Latino registered voters have not yet cast a ballot. In Florida, half of Latino and Black registered voters have not yet voted but more than half of White voters have cast ballots, according to data from Catalist, a Democratic data firm. In Pennsylvania, nearly 75% of registered Black voters have not yet voted, the data shows.” -Bloomberg. “I would like to see turnout increase – and yes, we need improvement,” said Biden super PAC president, Steve Schale in a Tuesday blog post.
According to the report, top campaign leaders are confident that blacks and latinos will show up on election day, however some Biden advisers have expressed concerns about a lack of participation – and are urging the campaign to spend more money to target minority voters in the final stretch. Perhaps minorities found out that Biden didn’t want to raise his children in a racial jungle when he opposed desegregation? Or that he drafted the 1994 crime bill, which sent tens of thousands of black men to prison for minor crimes, something Biden was proud of as recently as four years ago. Or that his ‘guide and mentor’ was an ‘Exalted Cyclops’ in the KKK (who renounced his racist ways when
it became a political liability he saw the light.)
Or that he equates being poor to being black. Or that rapper 20 cent endorsed Trump (until his ex-girlfriend Chelsea Handler yanked his leash), while Lil’ Wayne, Kanye and Ice Cube have thrown their support behind Trump, or at least a new ‘platinum plan’ intended to help the black community.
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“He thinks he’s going to win, and I know he’s an evil genius and he’s smarter than all of us. And I know people hate to hear that, but I’m sorry.”
• Michael Moore: Trump ‘Evil Genius,’ Biden’s Poll Lead Not Accurate Count (JTN)
Liberal filmmaker Michael Moore is warning that Joe Biden’s hefty leads in nearly every national poll is not accurate and is calling President Trump an “evil genius” who could well figure out a way to win reelection. The left-wing director told The Hill that 2020 is beginning to look a lot like 2016, when pollsters predicted Hillary Clinton would win in a landslide, prompting the Democratic candidate to stop campaigning in Wisconsin and Michigan — two states she went on to lose. “Biden is pretty much doing what Hillary did,” Moore said Thursday. “He’s come to Michigan a couple of times, but he hasn’t for the last 10 days. I’ve been, like, putting out there on social media and saying that ‘Where’s Joe Biden? Why isn’t Biden coming to Michigan?’
“Remember Hillary not coming to Michigan, not going to Wisconsin? Why is Pence here in Flint the other day? Why is Trump in Lansing, Trump in Muskegon? Trump everywhere!” Moore, known for films like “Fahrenheit 9/11” and “Roger and Me,” said there are most definitely hidden Trump voters out there. “The Trump vote is always being undercounted, the pollsters, when they actually call a real Trump voter, the Trump voter’s very suspicious of the ‘Deep State’ calling them and asking them who they’re voting for,” Moore said. Of Biden’s lead, Moore said: “It’s all fake news to them, remember. It’s not an accurate count.”
“I think the safe thing to do, this is not scientific … whatever they’re saying the Biden lead is, cut it in half, right now, in your head. Cut it in half, and now you’re within the four-point margin of error.” Trump, Moore said, is “smarter than all of us.” “I wake up every morning with the assumption that Trump believes he’s going to win and that’s good enough for me,” the director said. “He thinks he’s going to win, and I know he’s an evil genius and he’s smarter than all of us. And I know people hate to hear that, but I’m sorry.”
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“Tony Podesta, Manafort and Gates worked together on lobbying and political consulting projects..”
• Mueller Had Evidence DNC, Clinton Camp Made Up Russia Collusion Story (JTN)
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office gathered evidence suggesting that Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee launched a political “smear job” in spring 2016 tying Donald Trump to Russia collusion through the lobbying work of his campaign chairman Paul Manafort in Ukraine, according to memos that were excluded from the prosecutor’s final report. The evidence, reviewed by Just the News, includes information obtained by State Department officials from a trusted Ukrainian source, a private investigator’s report, and an email exchange suggesting Tony Podesta — a Manafort business associate and brother of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta — tried at one point to slow down the opposition research project.
The evidence — which is additional to records showing the law firm for the Clinton campaign and the DNC funded the infamous “Steele dossier” given to the FBI — was never mentioned in last year’s vast, two-volume Mueller Report, which concluded that no Americans colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election. The newly surfaced evidence bolsters separate intelligence reporting that Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe made public recently showing the Obama CIA also believed Clinton’s campaign had launched a political dirty trick to “vilify” Trump on Russia in an effort to distract from her own controversies.
“We did have evidence to show that early collusion allegations against Trump and Manafort were created or propagated by people who either worked for the DNC or the Clinton campaign, including some efforts that went beyond the Steele dossier,” a person with direct knowledge of the Mueller probe told Just the News. Asked why the Mueller report did not mention the Clinton campaign tactics, the source answered: “Our job was to report on and prosecute crimes, not write an essay on how political opposition research was conducted by the two parties.”
Unredacted emails and other documents gathered by Mueller’s team suggest the earliest hint of the Democrats’ Russia collusion smear campaign emerged in a May 2016 email exchange between Democratic super-lobbyist Tony Podesta and Manafort’s lead business manager in Ukraine, Rick Gates, who also worked as a deputy campaign manager for the Trump campaign. The thread appeared under the subject line: “DNC and Paul Manafort.” Though on opposite sides of the political spectrum, Tony Podesta, Manafort and Gates worked together on lobbying and political consulting projects related to Ukraine’s Party of Regions and former President Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted from power in 2014.
“Last Friday APAC had a meeting at DNC organized by their ethnic outreach office, presenting Democratic Party strategies for presidential elections,” Gates emailed Tony Podesta on May 17, 2016. “One of the subjects was a smear campaign against Paul Manafort, which will be launched in a couple of days. The head of the ethnic outreach is of Ukrainian descent and has connections in Ukraine. “She was able to produce documents linking Manafort to Moscow during his time as adviser to Victor Yanukowych (cq), ousted former Ukrainian president. They will try to link Donald Trump to Putin through Manafort’s engagement and money trail of over [a] billion dollars. This was a formal presentation on the part of DNC — I am trying to obtain an audio tape from the meeting. I just wanted to share this with you to make you aware before they start.”
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Taibbi and Greenwald would seem to be a good team.
The Tucker video is excellent. And a strong sign of what US media has become, that Greenwald needs to go to Fox to be able to tell his story.
• Glenn Greenwald On His Resignation From The Intercept (Taibbi)
Greenwald, after commenting pointedly about the reaction by press and Democratic Party officials to the New York Post story, reached out to Intercept editor Betsy Reed to float the idea of writing on the subject. The first hint of trouble came when Reed suggested that yes, it might be a story, if proven correct, but “even if it did represent something untoward about Biden,” that would “represent a tiny fraction of the sleaze and lies Trump and his cronies are oozing in every day.” When Greenwald retorted that deciding not to report on one politician’s scandals because those of another politician are deemed worse is a “corrupt calculus” for reporters, Reed expressed concern. Based on this, on his comments on Twitter, and other factors, she worried that “we are headed for a conflict over the editing of this piece.”
Greenwald insisted he wasn’t planning an overwhelming amount of coverage but wanted to do a single article, reviewing the available facts and perhaps asking the Biden campaign to comment on the veracity of the Post story. Reed agreed that he should write a draft, then they could “see where we are.” An aside: when reporters and editors interact, they speak between the lines. If an editor only ever suggests or assigns stories from a certain angle, you’re being told they don’t particularly want the other angle. If your editor has lots of hypothetical concerns at the start, he or she probably won’t be upset if you choose a different topic. Finally, when an editor lays out “suggestions” about things that might “help” a piece “be even stronger,” it’s a signal both parties understand about what elements have to be put in before the editor will send the thing through.
Reed explained that any piece Greenwald wrote on the Biden/Burisma subject would have to go through “the editorial process and fact-checking that we do with any story with this kind of high profile.” Peter Maass would edit, but Reed also noted that there was a lot of “in-house knowledge” they could all “tap into.” By “in-house knowledge,” she meant the work of Robert Mackey and Jim Risen, two Intercept reporters with whom Greenwald clashed in the past. Risen had already loudly denounced the Post story not only as conspiracy theory, but foreign disinformation. Essentially, Reed was telling Greenwald his piece would be quasi-edited by people with whom he’d had major public disagreements about Russia-related issues going back years.
To this, Greenwald responded that this was a double-standard: when Risen wrote an article credulously quoting intelligence officials like James Clapper, John Brennan, and Michael Hayden (more on the extreme irony of this later) describing the Post story as having “the classic earmarks of Russian misinformation,” he could do so willy-nilly. But when Greenwald wanted to write an op-ed piece questioning the “prevailing wisdom on Biden and Burisma,” a team of people would would be summoned. “The only reason people are getting interested in and ready to scrutinize what I write is because everyone is afraid of being accused of having published something harmful to Biden,” Greenwald told them. “That’s the reality.”
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From a colleague at the Intercept.
• The Intercept Abandoned Truth-Seeking Mission, Lost Its Best Journalist (Q.)
Unfortunately, not everyone at the Intercept felt that we should be “aggressively anti-partisan.” As the election approached, many colleagues began to complain about my articles about Clinton. At the time, I should stress, I was a politics reporter. I didn’t write columns or offer my opinion in these articles. My reporting was fact-based and in the public interest, and at no point did my colleagues (or other credible critics) question the facts I presented. Rather, they simply didn’t like seeing Democrats facing bad press at a time when they were going up against Trump in the general election. These internal pressures grew by an order of magnitude after Trump went on to win the presidency. It was ruefully communicated to me, in various ways, that I had helped betray our unwritten mandate to help Clinton defeat Trump.
Over time, these discussions became more explicit, with the editorial line becoming increasingly partisan and ideologically skewed. It no longer felt like we were an independent outlet dedicated to telling the truth and investigating those in power. Our goal was to undermine the Trump administration. Yes, we occasionally criticized Democrats, but almost invariably for not being sufficiently progressive or militantly anti-Trump. Greenwald is a controversial figure, but my sense of him is that he’s extremely principled. Although he’s unabashedly a man of the liberal-Left—having spent years advocating for left-wing causes from animal rights to anti-war activism—he has developed an impressive (some would call it inflexible) commitment to what he sees as basic fairness.
He doesn’t care about the letter next to a politician’s name: Greenwald believes everyone in power should be held accountable at all times. For someone who’s so outspoken about his progressive politics, he’s remarkably consistent about refusing to do favors (including favors of omission) for any politician or party. In the current climate, this marks him as an exception. And no matter what others’ views on Greenwald might be, it would be hard for any informed media observer to deny that his newly published observations about the Intercept apply equally to numerous other journalistic outlets around the world [..]
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“The Times is being sued for defamation for calling the videos “deceptive,” “coordinated disinformation,” using solely “unidentified sources,” and for having “no verifiable evidence.”
• Project Veritas To Sue New York Times Over Ballot Harvesting Story (JTN)
James O’Keefe, the founder and CEO of Project Veritas, announced Friday his organization intends to sue The New York Times and two of its reporters, Maggie Astor and Tiffany Hsu, for defamation. The announcement came after negotiations for an apology and a retraction failed. The lawsuit is based on a story that Project Veritas broke regarding the practice of paying cash for ballots, tied to Minnesota Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar. As they often do, Project Veritas used undercover video and published footage of two people who state that it was Omar who “came up with” the scheme to purchase ballots.
[..] The Times is being sued for defamation for calling the videos “deceptive,” “coordinated disinformation,” using solely “unidentified sources,” and for having “no verifiable evidence.” The Times claims that the term “deceptive” is an opinion, and thus not defamatory. But Project Veritas points out that it was in the news, not opinion section of the paper, and that the Times violated its own standards by not contacting Project Veritas for a comment before publishing the story. The parties appeared close to resolving the matter to avoid a lawsuit. O’Keefe said Project Veritas worked in good faith to achieve that outcome, but in the end, negotiations failed.
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• The Tech Antitrust Problem No One Is Talking About (Wired)
After years of building political pressure for antitrust scrutiny of major tech companies, this month Congress and the US government delivered. The House Antitrust Subcommittee released a report accusing Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook of monopolistic behavior. The Department of Justice filed a complaint against Google alleging the company prevents consumers from sampling other search engines. The new fervor for tech antitrust has so far overlooked an equally obvious target: US broadband providers. “If you want to talk about a history of using gatekeeper power to harm competitors, there are few better examples,” says Gigi Sohn, a fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy.
Sohn and other critics of the four companies that dominate US broadband—Verizon, Comcast, Charter Communications, and AT&T—argue that antitrust intervention has been needed for years to lower prices and widen internet access. A Microsoft study estimated last year that as many as 162.8 million Americans lack meaningful broadband, and New America’s Open Technology Institute recently found that US consumers pay, on average, more than those in Europe, Asia, or elsewhere in North America. The coronavirus pandemic has given America’s gaping digital divide more bite. Children without reliable internet have been forced to scavenge bandwidth outside libraries and Taco Bells to complete virtual school assignments. In April, a Pew Research Center survey found that one in five parents with children whose schools had been closed by coronavirus believed it likely they would not be able to complete schoolwork at home because of an inadequate internet connection.
Such problems are arguably more material than some of the antitrust issues that have recently won attention in Washington. The Department of Justice complaint against Google argues that the company’s payments to Apple to set its search engine as the default on the iPhone make it too onerous for consumers to choose a competing search provider. For tens of millions of Americans, changing broadband providers is even more difficult—it requires moving. The Institute for Local Self Reliance, which promotes community broadband projects, recently estimated from Federal Communications Commission data that some 80 million Americans can only get high-speed broadband service from one provider.
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