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THE BIG NEWS
GOP Campaigns Feed 1,200+ Fake Local News Websites
Politico took a thorough look yesterday at President Joe Biden's personal media habits. He starts his days watching Morning Joe on MSNBC (ugh) while riding his exercise bike. Biden is "occasionally in touch with some of the hosts and...let Joe Scarborough know that he enjoyed his description of Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) as 'having rocks in his head.'" (OK, that's funny.) Biden also keeps a small TV in the Oval Office tuned to CNN. But he seems to favor print (which is wise, in my opinion), ordering up the morning editions of the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. He has also "maintained a relationship with the New Yorker's Evan Osnos," who wrote a book about Biden's campaign. This is the kind of media diet you'd expect of a mainstream liberal like Biden. Of course I'd prefer he watch MR instead of Morning Joe, but one could do a lot worse.
It's pretty hard to stay well-informed these days: hence this newsletter. And it's getting harder all the time. Vice News, which supplies a fair number of the stories we link to here, just laid off a bunch of journalists, and its only the latest in a long list of companies to do so this year. But economic pressures on the news industry aren't the only problem. There's also a concerted campaign by powerful right-wing interests to confuse and misinform the public. Fox News almost looks quaint next to what real journalists are up against these days.
For a shocking and disturbing example of what I'm talking about, check out this Washington Post story:
The top Republican campaigns in Illinois used a private online portal last year to request stories and shape coverage in a network of media outlets that present themselves as local newspapers. ...
Screenshots show that the password-protected portal, called Lumen, allowed users to pitch stories; provide interview subjects as well as questions; place announcements and submit op-eds to be 'published verbatim' in any of about 30 sites that form part of the Illinois-focused media network, called Local Government Information Services.
I'd just like to make it absolutely clear that this is not how the sausage is supposed to get made! What's being described is a digital propaganda mill, not a news organization. Believe it or not, there is a difference.
The online portal offers the potential for a new level of collaboration between political operators and certain media outlets — one in which candidates can easily seek to customize news stories without the public's knowledge. The use of the tactic in Illinois has caught the attention of allies of former president Donald Trump, who have discussed the potential of expanding the operation.
It should come as no surprise that Mr. "Fake News" himself wants to expand the misinformation business. The Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University estimates there are 1,200 such "pink slime" local fake news sites around the country, all linked to Brian Timpone, a right-wing businessman and former TV journalist. In 2016, Timpone swore in a declaration to the Federal Election Commission that his pink slime network "does not coordinate its articles or content with candidates, political committees, or parties." But the Post's reporting suggests that wasn't true. Here's hoping Democratic and public interest groups can use campaign finance laws to shut down this far-right sludge factory before its toxic products spread.
MORE STORIES TO WATCH
Trumpdates: Pence Testifies to Jan. 6 Grand Jury
One day after a federal appeals court rejected Donald Trump's request to bar Mike Pence from testifying to a federal grand jury investigating the Jan. 2021 coup attempt, Pence sat and testified for as many as seven hours. Regarding Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith's other investigation, into Trump's theft of classified documents, Trump's lawyers wrote to House Republican leaders to demand that the DOJ "be ordered to stand down." (I'm no lawyer, but I don't think that's how it works.) Meanwhile, Trump's legal team cross-examined the writer E. Jean Carroll, who took him to trial for raping her in 1996, in a Manhattan courtroom yesterday. Many questions had to do with the timing of her accusation. Per the New York Times, her own lawyer asked "Carroll why she didn't sue Les Moonves for defamation.
She had written in her book that Moonves, the former chief executive officer of CBS, had assaulted her also. 'He did not defame me. He did not call me a liar,' Carroll responded, adding: 'Donald Trump called me a liar.'"
Authorities Target Climate Activists as Temperatures Soar
In North Africa and across Europe's Iberian Peninsula, an "unprecedented" spring heat wave is pushing temperatures up to 104 degrees Farenheit. Spain is also enduring one of its worst droughts on record. Large parts of South and Southeast Asia, from Myanmar to the Philippines, are also suffering "endless record heat" and temperatures surpassing 109 degrees. "The climate emergency is here," climate scientist Deepshikha Sharma tells the Guardian. California, which just capped off a prolonged megadrought with a record snowfall, is bracing for further flooding. "Drought, wildfires, flooding and heavy snow are nothing new in the eastern Sierras," the Los Angeles Times reports. "But this year the region is mirroring patterns of extreme weather worldwide." Meanwhile in Germany, the Guardian reports that police, judges, and politicians "are calling for harsher penalties for climate activists, including preventive detention and longer prison terms, in an effort to halt their disruptive protests." That'll fix it!
- Biden May Forfeit 2024 New Hampshire Primary The Democratic National Committee's new primary calendar puts South Carolina first, but New Hampshire and Iowa refuse to recognize it, so Marianne Williamson or Robert Kennedy Jr. could win by default in those states. via NBC News.
- Military Leaker Was Obsessed with Mass Shootings, Government Standoffs Prosecutors say Airman Jack Teixeira, who had a top secret security clearance, led "regular discussions about violence and murder" on Discord, and kept a small arsenal of firearms in a bedroom locker. via the New York Times.
- Kansas GOP Overrides Democratic Gov.'s Veto of Anti-Trans Bill The new law, which takes effect July 1, is "possibly the most sweeping transgender bathroom law in the U.S." via the Associated Press.
- Senate Republicans Block Equal Rights Amendment, Again "It's been over 100 years, we deserve for gender equality to be enshrined in the Constitution," Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley said as House Democrats marched to the Senate before the vote. via the Hill.
- Title 42 Expires in Two Weeks The Trump-era rule restricting asylum applications, continued under the Biden administration, will be supplanted by new migrant "processing centers" in Colombia and Guatemala. via the Los Angeles Times.
That's how many homeless people in California might "qualify" for a forced mental health treatment program overseen by a new civil court system, according to the Washington Post. Medical associations and civil rights groups are concerned that the new Care Courts will stigmatize people while failing to afford them proper representation -- in addition to doing nothing to solve the housing shortage.
ON THE SHOW TODAY
4/28: It's Casual Friday! Sam and Emma host Sam and Emma host Jamelle Bouie, opinion columnist at the New York Times and co-host of the Unclear and Present Danger podcast, to round up the week in news. Then, they're joined by comedian Tim Heidecker, who has a real bone to pick with Sam!
DON'T MISS MR CLIPS
"People across the country have asked for" welfare work requirements? Really? Which people?
Looks like a quack, walks like a quack, quacks like a quack.
"One purpose of the privacy amendment clearly was to give the abortion right a textual foundation in our state constitution."
-- Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Carlos Muñiz, writing in a 2004 journal article that Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights groups have now cited in their own court filings to argue that the state's abortion ban is unconstitutional. Antiabortion groups had cheered the elevation of Muñiz to Florida's high court, the Washington Post reports; Muñiz declined to comment on his past writing.
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