News with tag Washington  RSS
Queen of Vacuumed Murder Hornets' Nest Remains In Tree, Job Not Done

27.10.2020 11:23

Washington officials would've really liked to say, "off with her head" ... as it relates to the queen bee hornet in that nest they destroyed ... but, sadly, they can't just yet. The Washington State Department of Agriculture has confirmed their...


Search resumes for college professor who vanished while hiking near Mt. Rainier

27.10.2020 9:29

University of Washington professor San Dubal has been missing since Oct. 11.


Wildfires are ravaging the West Coast. Here's how you can help

27.10.2020 9:28

Since August deadly wildfires have wreaked havoc on California, Oregon, and Washington forcing tens of thousands of people into shelters amid the coronavirus pandemic.


Viktor Orbán's use and misuse of religion serves as a warning to Western democracies

27.10.2020 8:14

Somewhere in his journey to power in Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had a radical religious conversion. An atheist when he started in politics in the late 1980s, Orbán now calls himself a defender of Christianity. In an August speech commemorating the 1920 Treaty of Trianon – a traumatic event in which Hungary lost much of its territory – Orbán argued that Western Europe had given up on “a Christian Europe” and was choosing instead to experiment with “a godless cosmos, rainbow families, migration and open societies.”As experts in European politics and the religious right, we argue that Orbán’s embrace of religion has served to consolidate his power, “other” his opponents and shield Hungary from EU criticism of its attacks on the rule of law. It is also, we believe, a dangerous model for how religion can be used to fuel democratic backsliding. Consolidating powerIn 2014, during an address to the nation, Orbán spoke of building “an illiberal state, a non-liberal state,” in Hungary. While an illiberal state is an ambiguous concept, Orbán praised it as better able to protect Hungary’s national interests and preserve its cohesion. Four years later, his tone had shifted: Hungary was now a “Christian democracy.” Such a shift is emblematic of Orbán’s career, with its many ideological twists and turns. He has changed his tune on many major issues, from being a firm supporter of European integration to becoming a strong defender of national sovereignty. He has befriended Russian President Vladimir Putin since his return to power in 2010, despite his past anti-Russian stance. And he renounced his past atheism during the 1990s – a decision that went hand in hand with his courting of religious and conservative voters. According to European politics scholar Charles Gati, “no European leader since Napoleon may have changed his spots more.” Far from consistently adhering to clear principles, Orbán, according to The Economist, over the years has instead been “dedicated to the accumulation and maintenance of power.” That ruthlessness grew after Orbán was voted out as prime minister in 2002. Deeply shocked by this turn of events, he vowed not to lose power again if he ever returned to office. During the 2010 election campaign, Orbán declared that “we need to win only once, but need to win big” – an apparent warning that he would use any large electoral victory to strengthen his position, so not to have to relinquish power. Cynically claiming the mantle of Christian Democracy, according to Princeton scholar Jan-Werner Mueller, became a key tool of his strategy in the following decade to consolidate his grip on Hungarian politics. Wedge issues at homeLike much of Europe, Hungary is somewhat secular. In the 2011 census, 45% of the population did not list any religious affiliation. Hungary’s communist regime had certainly scorned and discouraged religion for many decades. After the 1989 fall of the Iron Curtain dividing Europe between the communist Eastern bloc and free market West, people did not flock to churches. Nonetheless, when Orbán returned to power in 2010, he began to rely on religion to mobilize voters. For instance, he framed his harsh anti-immigration policies as a defense of Christianity.As the Syrian civil war reached a crescendo in 2015, hundreds of thousands of migrants fled the violence. Although most migrants to Europe were trying only to transit through Hungary, Orbán declared that Syrian migrants were trying to invade the country and change its culture and religion. Officials of Orbán’s party, Fidesz, have echoed these claims over the years, suggesting Muslim refugees are trying to impose their culture and establish a caliphate on the continent.For a country with a history of invasion that stretches from the sacking of cities by Mongols through the Nazi invasion in 1944 and Soviet occupation, the terminology raised fear and unease. Orbán has also resurrected older anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Jews and leftists to consolidate his Christian credentials, such as sponsoring exhibits implicitly associating communists with Jews. It has also helped to cement an “us or them” narrative in which opponents of Orbán are “othered.” To do this, Orbán chose billionaire philanthropist George Soros as his major foil. Soros, who is Jewish, was born in Hungary. He went into hiding during the Holocaust and fled the country once communists took control. After the Iron Curtain fell in 1989, Soros donated millions of dollars to Hungary’s fledgling civil society. Yet he was easy to demonize for some Hungarians, not only because he was Jewish, but because he had spent most of his adult life outside the country. In the 2019 European Parliament elections, a government tax-funded campaign attacked Soros and then European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, accusing them of using migration plans to undermine Hungary’s security. The year before, during the 2018 Hungarian elections, Orbán used even more explicit anti-Semitic undertones to attack Soros: “We are fighting an enemy that is different from us. Not open, but hiding; not straightforward, but crafty; not honest, but base; not national, but international; does not believe in working, but speculates with money.”[Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter.] Deflecting criticisms, seeking alliesOrbán’s use of Christianity also serves wider foreign policy goals.The continued erosion of the rule of law in Hungary, including attacks against the free media and the independence of the judiciary, is a long-standing concern for the European Union. But Orbán has, up to now, skillfully taken advantage of the EU’s divisions and weaknesses to avoid any major consequences for his country’s democratic backsliding. He has conveniently used Christianity as a shield to deflect and delegitimize the criticisms from Brussels.Orbán also invokes Christianity to court allies, close and far. This has been the case with solidifying the alliance with Hungary’s conservative neighbor Poland. Orbán, after all, understands the importance of close friends in the EU. Not only can they help to counter policies he objects to, but major rule of law sanctions in the EU require unanimity. Poland and Hungary can thus provide cover for each other.Finally, Orbán has also made use of Christianity, highlighting Hungary’s policies to help persecuted Christians, to build ties with key players beyond Europe. It is noteworthy that Orbán was the only EU leader to attend the inauguration of the right-wing Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil in 2019. And the Hungarian government has gone out of its way to court religious conservatives and conservative nationalists in the United States. Religious embraceIn many respects, Viktor Orbán’s use of religion is no different from Ronald Reagan’s embrace of Christian evangelicals in the late 1970s. Both leaders relied on religious imagery to build bigger voting coalitions. Every Republican candidate for president since has tried to appeal to evangelicals and invoked Christian values. And even ham-handed attempts such as those by President Donald Trump have done little to undermine such unions. Such an embrace of religious groups is not in itself a problem. But calculated uses of religion to attack domestic and foreign opponents, or to weaken democratic checks and balances, is, we believe, a major concern. Orbán’s Hungary provides a clear warning of how easily Christianity can be distorted and used to erode democracy.This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Garret Martin, American University School of International Service and Carolyn Gallaher, American University School of International Service. * Poland’s abortion ruling amounts to a ban – but it will not end abortion access * EndSARS: How Nigeria can tap into its youthful populationGarret Martin receives funding from the European Union for the Transatlantic Policy Center that he co-directs at American University.Carolyn Gallaher is affiliated with The Latin American Working Groups Education Fund (past board president). I also write for Greater Greater Washington (I'm on the edit board) and Political Research Associates.

Republicans are on the verge of a spectacular upside-down achievement

27.10.2020 5:57

President Trump and congressional Republicans could be headed to a stinging, possibly historic defeat on November 3. With the president down nearly 10 points in national polling averages and looking up at Democratic nominee Joe Biden in every critical battleground state, five incumbent Republican senators trailing their Democratic challengers, another handful tied or barely ahead, and Republicans likely to lose at least a few seats in the House, too, it looks as though the verdict voters hand down about the last four years of our history will be sharp and, by the standards of our polarized, partisan era, incontrovertible.The president, due largely to his bottomless repertoire of repulsive antics and divisive hyper-partisanship, was on track to lose the election even before the COVID-19 nightmare upended the lives of everyone on Earth. His sociopathic indifference to our suffering caused his political standing to crater even further, whereas a simple determination to try to do the right thing — even had he failed — probably could have saved both him and his party. And his commitment since the summer to making it all so much worse by gallivanting around the country holding superspreader rallies full of unmasked, heedless acolytes bent on throwing their recklessness in the faces of everyone who has sacrificed so much for the past eight miserable months has almost certainly sealed his political fate and that of his party.If it happens, a Republican wipeout will also be close to a unique achievement in American history. It's been almost 130 years since a presidential candidate captured the office back from the other party, brought both houses of Congress with him, and then frittered it all away in four short years. The last person to notch this dubious achievement was Grover Cleveland, still the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms in office. In his second, disastrous spin through the White House, he brought a Democratic House and Senate with him after defeating the incumbent Republican President Benjamin Harrison. The panic of 1893 set in almost immediately after his inauguration (as did oral cancer, which he kept secret), and the ensuing economic depression dragged down his popularity.The Democrats were also — like the GOP today — swimming against a heavy partisan current. Cleveland was the only Democrat elected president between 1860 and 1912, and Republicans controlled Congress for the majority of those 52 years too. While Cleveland declined to run for a third term, the party's nominee in 1896, William Jennings Bryan, lost the election to Republican William McKinley after Republicans had seized both houses of Congress in the 1894 midterms. Due in part to Cleveland's mess of a presidency, it would be another 16 years before a Democrat would again win a presidential election. In hindsight, Cleveland's tenure looks like a blip in a long period of GOP dominance.The Republicans might be staring at a similar prognosis in the near future. Jimmy Carter might even live long enough to see an incumbent president lose by a larger popular vote margin than he did (9.7 points) to Ronald Reagan. What makes the political disaster of Trumpism a more monumental upside-down accomplishment than, say, Herbert Hoover losing the presidency and both chambers of Congress to FDR and the Democrats in 1932 is that like Cleveland, Trump and the Republicans were given a fresh mandate by voters in 2016, while Hoover's four years came on the heels of two-term Republican president Calvin Coolidge. No party has won a third consecutive presidential term since George H. W. Bush and the Republicans in 1988, but it is nevertheless rare for the public to turn this quickly and decisively against a party that so recently won total control of the government. To be sure, Trump lost the popular vote, and Republicans received fewer votes in the Senate, and won the House vote by just a point, but they still swept victoriously into Washington in January 2017, believing their stay in power would be lengthy.It doesn't look good for them anymore.Is a total Democratic takeover on Tuesday a slam dunk? Certainly not. While Trump himself looks like an almost certain loser based on today's polling, and while Republicans have almost no chance of retaking the House of Representatives, it is the Senate where the Democrats' dreams of unified government might still die.Thanks to a dreadful Senate map in 2018 that saw Democrats defending seats in red states like North Dakota, Missouri, and Indiana, the GOP actually increased its slim majority to 53 despite an extremely difficult national environment in which Democrats won the popular vote for the House by more than 8 points. The defeat of incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in Florida was particularly consequential, because he led Republican Rick Scott throughout the campaign, and his loss made this year's math much tougher.This year's map might not be as hostile as 2018's, but Democrats still have their work cut out for them. Republicans are defending just two seats in states that Hillary Clinton won — Cory Gardner's in Colorado and Susan Collins' in Maine. Therefore the path to a Democratic Senate would have to run through at least two states won by Trump in 2016. And Collins, who was re-elected by 37 points in 2014, is not a complete goner like Gardner and should not be underestimated.Thanks to the ongoing leftward shift in Arizona and incumbent Sen. Martha McSally's self-inflicted unpopularity, Democrats have what looks to be a high-likelihood pickup there with former astronaut Mark Kelly (and the husband of sympathetic shooting victim and former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords) as their nominee. McSally would be the first person in American history to lose both of her state's Senate seats to the other party in the span of two years. She would make three flips, but Democrats have yet another red state senator facing nearly insurmountable headwinds in Doug Jones (Ala.), who is down double digits in most polls to his challenger, former college football coach Tommy Tuberville.That means that even if Gardner, Collins, and McSally go down, Democrats will almost certainly need one more pickup to get to 50 seats — where Kamala Harris would break the tie as vice president, should Biden win. Democratic candidates lead polling averages in two more races: in North Carolina, where incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis has not led a single poll against challenger Cal Cunningham since June, and in Iowa, where Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield holds the narrowest of leads against incumbent and onetime rising GOP star Sen. Joni Ernst.If the polls are 100 percent accurate — and they won't be, especially not in Senate races — that is 51 seats for Democrats. To expand their majority from there, Democrats would have to win some races where they are tied, as in the two Georgia races, or trail ever-so-slightly, as in South Carolina, Montana, Alaska, and Kansas.If surveys are biased against the GOP by a few points, as they were in 2014, 2016, and in several red state Senate races in 2018, Democrats are not guaranteed to win the Senate at all. But there is some tantalizing evidence that this might be a year, like 2012, where the polls underestimate Democrats across the board. The extraordinary early voting turnout combined with the unprecedented number of heavily-Democratic leaning 18- to 29-year-olds saying they will definitely turn out to vote could be a perfect storm leading to a Biden win of 12 points or more and even longer coattails down-ballot than he already has. And if that's the case, Republicans could lose anywhere from 5 to 10 seats in the Senate.They certainly have it coming. On Monday night they confirmed hard-right Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court a mere eight days before November 3 after inventing a new principle to deny Barack Obama's nominee to the court, Merrick Garland, the courtesy of a hearing eight months before the 2016 election, Republicans will now have to face the consequences of their cynical, alienating, hardball political maneuvering. While anything is still statistically possible, it looks increasingly likely that voters have had enough — of McConnell, of Trump, and of minority rule whose only guiding principle is giving the middle finger to people who disagree.Want more essential commentary and analysis like this delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for The Week's "Today's best articles" newsletter here.More stories from The very different emotional lives of Trump and Biden voters The 19 greatest and worst presidential campaign ads of the 2020 election The Trump administration has surrendered to the pandemic

Justice Kavanaugh seems to argue no votes should be counted after Election Day. He may get his wish in key states.

27.10.2020 5:29

The Supreme Court sided with Republicans in Wisconsin on Monday, ruling 5-3 along ideological lines that Wisconsin can count only those absentee ballots that arrive by Election Day — even if they were mailed days earlier. Since first-class mail has been taking an average of 10 days to be delivered in the state, Wisconsin's Democratic Party urged mail-in Democrats to hand-deliver their absentee ballots or vote in person.The practical issue involves what happens with Wisconsin's 700,000 outstanding absentee ballots. "But the deeper issue is about the extent to which a ballot should be considered as valid," Phillip Bump writes in The Washington Post. In a factually sloppy concurring opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh evidently embraced President Trump's baseless conspiracies about voter fraud and bizarre demand that the winner be announced election night.Many states require absentee ballots to arrive by Election Day because they "want to avoid the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after election day and potentially flip the results of an election," Kavanaugh wrote. "And those states also want to be able to definitively announce the results of the election on election night, or as soon as possible thereafter."Justice Elena Kagan, in her dissent, noted that "there are no results to 'flip' until all valid votes are counted. And nothing could be more 'suspicio[us]' or 'improp[er]' than refusing to tally votes once the clock strikes 12 on election night."More broadly, Kavanaugh — and Justice Neil Gorsuch — embraced late Chief Justice William Rehnquist's concurring opinion in 2000's Bush v. Gore, which invented a legal theory "so radical, so contrary to basic principles of democracy and federalism, that two conservative justices" rejected it, even as they agreed to hand the White House to George W. Bush in what was supposed to be a one-off decision, Mark Joseph Stern writes at Slate.> Kavanaugh favorably cites Bush v. Gore two pages later. So much for "limited to the present circumstances." (Kavanaugh worked on Bush's legal team in that case.)> > — Matt Ford (@fordm) October 26, 2020Rehnquist argued that state courts cannot interpret state election laws in federal elections, Stern writes, "a breathtaking assault on state sovereignty" that would transform the Supreme Court "into a national board of elections with veto power over each state's election rules." With Judge Amy Coney Barrett put on the court, the conservatives likely have five votes enact Rehnquist's theory, throwing out ballots in Pennsylvania and North Carolina as well as Wisconsin, he added. "In other words, Barrett's first decisions as a justice may determine the outcome of the election."More stories from The very different emotional lives of Trump and Biden voters The 19 greatest and worst presidential campaign ads of the 2020 election The Trump administration has surrendered to the pandemic

First nest of Asian 'murder hornets' vacuumed out of tree in United States

27.10.2020 5:29

Agricultural department workers wearing protective suits have eradicated the first nest of giant "murder hornets" discovered in the United States, vacuuming them out of a tree in Washington state. The nest of Asian giant hornets was found on Thursday by Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) entomologists on a property in Blaine, near the border with Canada, the agency said. They spent weeks searching for the nest, trapping hornets and tracking them, using dental floss to tie tiny radio trackers on the insects, which are nearly two inches (five centimeters) in length and have a painful sting. Before dawn on Saturday, a team of workers dressed from head to toe in protective suits vacuumed the insects out of their nest in the cavity of a dead tree. "Got 'em. Vacuumed out several AsianGiantHornets from a tree cavity near Blaine this morning," the state agriculture department said on Twitter later Saturday, along with a video showing a mass of hornets in a transparent container. It said removal of the nest appeared to have been successful and more details would be provided at a press conference on Monday. Scientists in Washington state have been actively searching for the Asian giant hornet since the first such insect was detected in December 2019 and after one of the wasps was trapped in July in Whatcom County, where Blaine is located. Canada also found Asian giant hornets in two locations in neighboring British Colombia. Several more of the invasive pest not native to the US were subsequently caught, all in the same region. The WSDA believes there was a good chance that there are more nests and "stopping this cold is very crucial," said Sven Spichiger, an entomologist with WSDA, during a press conference on Friday. "If it becomes established, this hornet will have negative impacts on the environment, economy, and public health of Washington State," the WSDA said.

Fox News Is Covering Hunter Biden Claims More Than 2016 WikiLeaks Emails

27.10.2020 5:29

A month before the 2016 presidential election, WikiLeaks released hacked emails from John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman.Last week, The New York Post published an article featuring emails from a laptop purportedly owned by Hunter Biden, son of the Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden. The emails, about business dealings in Ukraine, have not been independently verified.So how did cable news treat these two caches, which were both aimed at Democratic candidates during the heights of their presidential campaigns?The answer: Fox News is giving more airtime to the unverified Hunter Biden emails than it did to the hacked emails from Podesta in 2016, according to an analysis from the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, which studies disinformation.While Fox News' mentions of the word "WikiLeaks" took up a peak of 198 seconds in one day in mid-October 2016, the news channel's references to "Hunter" reached 273 seconds one day last week, according to the analysis. Fox News did not respond to a request for comment.In contrast, most viewers of CNN and MSNBC would not have heard much about the unconfirmed Hunter Biden emails, according to the analysis. CNN's mentions of "Hunter" peaked at 20 seconds and MSNBC's at 24 seconds one day last week.CNN and MSNBC covered the WikiLeaks disclosures more, according to the study. Mentions of "WikiLeaks" peaked at 121 seconds on CNN in one day in October 2016 and 90 seconds on MSNBC in one day in the same period."In 2016, the WikiLeaks releases were a gigantic story, covered across the political spectrum," said Emerson Brooking, a resident fellow at the Digital Forensic Research Lab, who worked on the report. "In 2020, the Hunter Biden leaks are a WikiLeaks-sized event crammed into one angry, intensely partisan corner" of cable news television.As for online news outlets, 85% of the 1,000 most popular articles about the Hunter Biden emails were by right-leaning sites, according to the analysis. Those articles, which were shared 28 million times, came from The New York Post, Fox Business, Fox News and The Washington Times, among other outlets. The researchers did not have a comparative analysis for the WikiLeaks revelations.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company

Trump Had One Last Story to Sell. The Wall Street Journal Wouldn't Buy It.

27.10.2020 5:29

By early October, even people inside the White House believed President Donald Trump's reelection campaign needed a desperate rescue mission. So three men allied with the president gathered at a house in McLean, Virginia, to launch one.The host was Arthur Schwartz, a New York public relations man close to Trump's eldest son, Donald Jr. The guests were a White House lawyer, Eric Herschmann, and a former deputy White House counsel, Stefan Passantino, according to two people familiar with the meeting.Herschmann knew the subject matter they were there to discuss. He had represented Trump during the impeachment trial early this year, and he tried to deflect allegations against the president in part by pointing to Hunter Biden's work in Ukraine. More recently, he has been working on the White House payroll with a hazy portfolio, listed as "a senior adviser to the president," and remains close to Jared Kushner.The three had pinned their hopes for reelecting the president on a fourth guest, a straight-shooting Wall Street Journal White House reporter named Michael Bender. They delivered the goods to him there: a cache of emails detailing Hunter Biden's business activities, and, on speaker phone, a former business partner of Hunter Biden's named Tony Bobulinski. Bobulinski was willing to go on the record in The Journal with an explosive claim: that Joe Biden, the former vice president, had been aware of, and profited from, his son's activities. The Trump team left believing that The Journal would blow the thing open and their excitement was conveyed to the president.The Journal had seemed to be the perfect outlet for a story the Trump advisers believed could sink Biden's candidacy. Its small-c conservatism in reporting means the work of its news pages carries credibility across the industry. And its readership leans further right than other big news outlets. Its Washington bureau chief, Paul Beckett, recently remarked at a virtual gathering of Journal reporters and editors that while he knows that the paper often delivers unwelcome news to the many Trump supporters who read it, The Journal should protect its unique position of being trusted across the political spectrum, two people familiar with the remarks said.As the Trump team waited with excited anticipation for a Journal expose, the newspaper did its due diligence: Bender and Beckett handed the story off to a well-regarded China correspondent, James Areddy, and a Capitol Hill reporter who had followed the Hunter Biden story, Andrew Duehren. Areddy interviewed Bobulinski. They began drafting an article.Then things got messy. Without warning his notional allies, Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and now a lawyer for Trump, burst onto the scene with the tabloid version of the McLean crew's carefully laid plot. Giuliani delivered a cache of documents of questionable provenance -- but containing some of the same emails -- to The New York Post, a sister publication to The Journal in Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Giuliani had been working with the former Trump aide Steve Bannon, who also began leaking some of the emails to favored right-wing outlets. Giuliani's complicated claim that the emails came from a laptop Hunter Biden had abandoned, and his refusal to let some reporters examine the laptop, cast a pall over the story -- as did The Post's reporting, which alleged but could not prove that Joe Biden had been involved in his son's activities.While the Trump team was clearly jumpy, editors in The Journal's Washington bureau were wrestling with a central question: Could the documents, or Bobulinski, prove that Joe Biden was involved in his son's lobbying? Or was this yet another story of the younger Biden trading on his family's name -- a perfectly good theme, but not a new one or one that needed urgently to be revealed before the election.Trump and his allies expected the Journal story to appear Monday, Oct. 19, according to Bannon. That would be late in the campaign, but not too late -- and could shape that week's news cycle heading into the crucial final debate last Thursday. An "important piece" in The Journal would be coming soon, Trump told aides on a conference call that day.His comment was not appreciated inside The Journal."The editors didn't like Trump's insinuation that we were being teed up to do this hit job," a Journal reporter who wasn't directly involved in the story told me. But the reporters continued to work on the draft as the Thursday debate approached, indifferent to the White House's frantic timeline.Finally, Bobulinski got tired of waiting."He got spooked about whether they were going to do it or not," Bannon said.At 7:35 Wednesday evening, Bobulinski emailed an on-the-record, 684-word statement making his case to a range of news outlets. Breitbart News published it in full. He appeared the next day in Nashville, Tennessee, to attend the debate as Trump's surprise guest, and less than two hours before the debate was to begin, he read a six-minute statement to the press, detailing his allegations that the former vice president had involvement in his son's business dealings.When Trump stepped on stage, the president acted as though the details of the emails and the allegations were common knowledge. "You're the big man, I think. I don't know, maybe you're not," he told Biden at some point, a reference to an ambiguous sentence from the documents.As the debate ended, The Wall Street Journal published a brief item, just the stub of Areddy and Duehren's reporting. The core of it was that Bobulinski had failed to prove the central claim. "Corporate records reviewed by The Wall Street Journal show no role for Joe Biden," The Journal reported.Asked about The Journal's handling of the story, the editor-in-chief, Matt Murray, said the paper did not discuss its newsgathering. "Our rigorous and trusted journalism speaks for itself," Murray said in an emailed statement.And if you'd been watching the debate, but hadn't been obsessively watching Fox News or reading Breitbart, you would have had no idea what Trump was talking about. The story the Trump team hoped would upend the campaign was fading fast.The Gatekeepers ReturnThe McLean group's failed attempt to sway the election is partly just another story revealing the chaotic, threadbare quality of the Trump operation -- a far cry from the coordinated "disinformation" machinery feared by liberals.But it's also about a larger shift in the American media, one in which the gatekeepers appear to have returned after a long absence.It has been a disorienting couple of decades, after all. It all began when The Drudge Report, Gawker and the blogs started telling you what stodgy old newspapers and television networks wouldn't. Then social media brought floods of content pouring over the old barricades.By 2015, the old gatekeepers had entered a kind of crisis of confidence, believing they couldn't control the online news cycle any better than King Canute could control the tides. Television networks all but let Donald Trump take over as executive producer that summer and fall. In October 2016, Julian Assange and James Comey seemed to drive the news cycle more than the major news organizations. Many figures in old media and new bought into the idea that in the new world, readers would find the information they wanted to read -- and therefore, decisions by editors and producers, about whether to cover something and how much attention to give it, didn't mean much.But the past two weeks have proved the opposite: that the old gatekeepers, like The Journal, can still control the agenda. It turns out there is a big difference between WikiLeaks and establishment media coverage of WikiLeaks, a difference between a Trump tweet and an article about it, even between an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal suggesting Joe Biden had done bad things, and a news article that didn't reach that conclusion.Perhaps the most influential media document of the past four years is a chart by a co-director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, Yochai Benkler. The study showed that a dense new right-wing media sphere had emerged -- and that the mainstream news "revolved around the agenda that the right-wing media sphere set."Bannon had known this, too. He described his strategy as "anchor left, pivot right," and even as he ran Breitbart News, he worked to place attacks on Hillary Clinton in mainstream outlets. The validating power of those outlets was clear when The New York Times and Washington Post were given early access in the spring of 2015 to the book "Clinton Cash," an investigation of the Clinton family's blurring of business, philanthropic and political interests by writer Peter Schweizer.Schweizer is still around this cycle. But you won't find his work in mainstream outlets. He's over on Breitbart, with a couple of Hunter Biden stories this month.And the fact that Bobulinski emerged not in the pages of the widely respected Journal but in a statement to Breitbart was essentially Bannon's nightmare, and Benkler's fondest wish. And a broad array of mainstream outlets, unpersuaded that Hunter Biden's doings tie directly to the former vice president, have largely kept the story off their front pages, and confined to skeptical explanations of what Trump and his allies are claiming about his opponent."SO USA TODAY DIDN'T WANT TO RUN MY HUNTER BIDEN COLUMN THIS WEEK," conservative writer Glenn Reynolds complained Oct. 20, posting the article instead to his blog. Trump himself hit a wall when he tried to push the Hunter Biden narrative onto CBS News."This is '60 Minutes,' and we can't put on things we can't verify," Lesley Stahl told him. Trump then did more or less the same thing as Reynolds, posting a video of his side of the interview to his own blog, Facebook.The media's control over information, of course, is not as total as it used to be. The people who own printing presses and broadcast towers can't actually stop you from reading leaked emails or unproven theories about Joe Biden's knowledge of his son's business. But what Benkler's research showed was that the elite outlets' ability to set the agenda endured in spite of social media.We should have known it, of course. Many of our readers, screaming about headlines on Twitter, did. And Trump knew it all along -- one way to read his endless attacks on the establishment media is as an expression of obsession, a form of love. This week, you can hear howls of betrayal from people who have for years said the legacy media was both utterly biased and totally irrelevant."For years, we've respected and even revered the sanctified position of the free press," wrote Dana Loesch, a right-wing commentator not particularly known for her reverence of legacy media, expressing frustration that the Biden story was not getting attention. "Now that free press points its digital pen at your throat when you question their preferences."On the Other Side of the GateThere's something amusing -- even a bit flattering -- in such earnest protestations from a right-wing movement rooted in efforts to discredit the independent media. And this reassertion of control over information is what you've seen many journalists call for in recent years. At its best, it can also close the political landscape to a trendy new form of dirty tricks, as in France in 2017, where the media largely ignored a last-minute dump of hacked emails from President Emmanuel Macron's campaign just before a legally mandated blackout period.But I admit that I feel deep ambivalence about this revenge of the gatekeepers. I spent my career, before arriving at The Times in March, on the other side of the gate, lobbing information past it to a very online audience who I presumed had already seen the leak or the rumor, and seeing my job as helping to guide that audience through the thicket, not to close their eyes to it. "The media's new and unfamiliar job is to provide a framework for understanding the wild, unvetted, and incredibly intoxicating information that its audience will inevitably see -- not to ignore it," my colleague John Herrman (also now at The Times) and I wrote in 2013. In 2017, I made the decision to publish the unverified "Steele dossier," in part on the grounds that gatekeepers were looking at it and influenced by it, but keeping it from their audience.This fall, top media and tech executives were bracing to refight the last war -- a foreign-backed hack-and-leak operation like WikiLeaks seeking to influence the election's outcome. It was that hyper-vigilance that led Twitter to block links to The New York Post's article about Hunter Biden -- a frighteningly disproportionate response to a story that other news organizations were handling with care. The schemes of Herschmann, Passantino and Schwartz weren't exactly WikiLeaks. But the special nervousness that many outlets, including this one, feel about the provenance of the Hunter Biden emails is, in many ways, the legacy of the WikiLeaks experience.I'd prefer to put my faith in Murray and careful, professional journalists like him than in the social platforms' product managers and executives. And I hope Americans relieved that the gatekeepers are reasserting themselves will also pay attention to who gets that power, and how centralized it is, and root for new voices to correct and challenge them.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company

Fox News COVID Infection Sends Election Plans Into ‘Chaos’

27.10.2020 5:29

Fox News has been planning its election night coverage for weeks, prepping staff and on-air talent for the biggest news night of the year. But now Fox faces uncertainty after the network’s president and many of its key on-air stars may have been exposed to COVID-19.“Everyone is in a panic about election night,” said one current Fox News staffer.On Sunday, The New York Times reported that top Fox News executives and talent will quarantine and get tested after flying on a network-chartered flight from Nashville to New York—following Thursday night’s presidential debate—with a staffer who later tested positive for the coronavirus. Passengers included network president Jay Wallace and on-air political hosts and analysts like Bret Baier, Martha MacCallum, Dana Perino, and Juan Williams. (A Fox News spokesperson would not confirm the Times story or the exposure, citing employee confidentiality.)All four of those stars were expected to play key in-studio roles for Fox’s election-night coverage. But now it’s unclear how the network plans to proceed with its top talent potentially unable to gather in the same room.“I believe it will put election night-plans into chaos,” another current Fox staffer told The Daily Beast under condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. “It will be like starting from scratch... It’s not good for anyone.” The employee added: “It’s insane that there’s a possibility the anchors will have to host the biggest night of 2020 from their homes.”“We have multiple contingency plans in place and always have back-up plans for all kinds of scenarios, even without a pandemic,” a Fox News spokesperson told The Daily Beast. In a Monday internal memo obtained by The Daily Beast, Wallace and CEO Suzanne Scott acknowledged that some staffers had tested positive for COVID-19, and said that the network would reduce staff in buildings and implement “enhanced testing procedures.” The executives said that the network will further pare down its in-person election night coverage, and that “only those employees who are critical to that night’s production will be permitted to work from [Fox’s Midtown Manhattan headquarters].”Fox News Host Wonders When Masks Got ‘Political.’ He Should Watch His Own Network.The plane debacle isn’t the only reminder of the danger of the pandemic for the network’s employees in recent days. Last week, an internal memo was sent to Fox News staffers noting that web video producer Rob Brown, who had been with the network since 1999, had died. While the memo did not specify a cause of death, several sources, including a family member, confirmed to The Daily Beast that Brown—who had not been in the office since March—died from coronavirus complications.“Rob was a wonderful employee and a bright light to those of us who were blessed to have worked alongside him,” a Fox News spokesperson said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”The news of last week’s debate-night flight exposure has alarmed Fox News staff, many of whom have felt relatively safe because of the network’s fairly robust testing protocols and skeleton in-person staffing at the Washington and New York City offices.Still, some employees were not surprised by the exposure of leadership and talent, noting how Fox execs have sent large groups of staffers to travel for the debates—even when the network had no primary role in the events.“Last week in Nashville, [NBC reporter Kristen] Welker was the moderator. But NBC had almost no footprint. ABC had almost no footprint,” one source familiar with the situation told The Daily Beast. “But [Fox News] had a huge, huge footprint? Why is that?” (In addition to Wallace, MacCallum, Baier, Williams, and Perino, the network separately flew in pundits Karl Rove, Katie Pavlich, and Donna Brazile.)Williams and Perino, who co-host late-afternoon talk show The Five, both showed up at the offices on Friday after the flight in which they were potentially exposed to the virus, raising alarms among staffers after the Times report, per network insiders. And several of the show’s unabashedly pro-Trump hosts, Greg Gutfeld and Jesse Watters, meanwhile, have taken an ambivalent stance towards large-scale anti-coronavirus measures like a national mask mandate, which experts say could save tens of thousands of lives.“They think mask-wearers are punks,” the source said of Watters and Gutfeld, noting how the pair have repeatedly echoed Trump’s dismissive suggestions that we are “turning the corner” on the pandemic that has now killed more than 225,000 people in the United States, with no end in sight. A recent Instagram post from The Five’s official account shows Watters standing in the greenroom without a mask.In light of their colleagues’ at-times cavalier attitude towards the coronavirus—both on- and off-air—some Fox staffers have begun to re-examine in-office behavior and expressed concerns that some colleagues aren’t taking the crisis seriously enough.“In the elevators, everyone’s good about masks,” one source said. “But in the offices, nope.”Since the pandemic began, the network has been operating with a skeleton crew from its hubs in New York City and Washington, D.C., and have taken some precautions to ensure that staff are tested. Some network talent take regular weekly saliva tests facilitated by the network, and the traveling cohort to major events including debates and conventions receive rapid tests. Fox News also installed plexiglass in the control rooms between seats and the building is routinely sanitized.Still, some employees have been hesitant about returning back to in-studio programming amid the pandemic, including Williams himself. The Five returned to the studio in recent weeks and has featured the hosts sitting in socially-distant high chairs. Prior to the pandemic, the set featured all five hosts crammed together around a small table.While on-air talent is subject to the network's rigorous testing protocols, they appear to be sending a message to viewers that social-distancing isn't that important. Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, for instance, were seated nearly shoulder-to-shoulder throughout Thursday evening’s coverage of the presidential debate. Both Bret & Martha were tested by the Commission on Presidential Debates before entering the debate hall which is why they sat without being distance. Baier, meanwhile, further noted on Monday that he has since tested negative.Thursday’s debate coverage wasn’t the only time that lack of social distancing was noticed on-air. Following the first presidential debate last month in Cleveland, Ohio, pro-Trump Fox News host Sean Hannity interviewed presidential son Donald Trump, Jr.—who refused to follow mask-wearing requirements during the debate—inside the debate hall as the two sat right next to each other. (They even joked about being so close together without masks.) Fox News commentator Donna Brazile, who also traveled to Nashville, was in Salt Lake City for the vice-presidential debate and was within arm’s length of anchor Bill Hemmer on set.> No social distancing happening on the Fox News set this morning.> > — Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) October 7, 2020Besides the network sending big teams to cover these political events, Fox News stars have also individually placed themselves in harm’s way.For instance, Laura Ingraham and Pete Hegseth—both Trump loyalists and informal presidential advisers—were present at the Rose Garden ceremony last month announcing Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination that turned into a super-spreader event. This even resulted in one especially awkward on-air moment, in which Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner mistakenly believed that Hegesth had confessed to testing positive for the coronavirus.—Lachlan Cartwright contributed reporting. Diana Falzone was an on-camera reporter for Fox News from 2012 to 2018. In May 2017, she filed a gender discrimination and disability lawsuit against the network and settled, and left the company in March 2018. She was represented by attorney Nancy Erika Smith.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

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