Putin had a goal
Two reports are being presented to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Russian disinformation campaigns, and ahead of their release, we’ve been getting a sneak peek at their contents thanks to The Washington Post and New York Times.
The Post got a copy of the report by the Computational Propaganda Project at Oxford University, which shows the Russian disinformation operation’s scale and sweep (45,000+ shares), write Craig Timberg and Tony Romm. According to the researchers, Russia “used every major social media platform to deliver words, images and videos tailored to voters’ interests to help elect President Trump — and worked even harder to support him while in office.” None of the social media outlets made it easy for the investigators, but Google was singled out as the least helpful, which is why Shira Ovide says, “I eagerly await Google's response to the critique from a different set of Senate researchers: ‘Google submitted information in an especially difficult way for the researchers to handle.’”
Scott Shane and Sheera Frenkel of The New York Times obtained a copy of the second report, produced by cybersecurity company New Knowledge along with researchers at Columbia University and Canfield Research LLC. From that report, they highlight the fact that the Russian 2016 Influence Operation Targeted African-Americans (36,000+ shares). Tweets Jesse Rodriguez, “Report says Putin had a goal and he accomplished what he wanted,” while Michael Humphrey highlights, “Its attack on the United States used almost exclusively high-tech tools created by American companies.” And Amanda Marcotte notices an “Important detail from new reports about Russian propaganda operations. It suggests it wasn’t just about defeating Clinton, but that Russia specifically saw Trump as an asset.”
Meanwhile, Will Pollock points out, “American media was 100% duped by blatantly obvious Russian sabotage,” and thinks this is “*another* missed chance for @nytimes to admit cartoonishly irresponsible errors & omissions.”
Polluting the discourse
Speaking of American media, Jim Rutenberg of The New York Times writes about the only thing that’s possibly More Powerful Than a Russian Troll Army: The National Enquirer. He tweets, “Now that AMI has admitted it was acting as an adjunct of the Trump campaign it’s clearer than ever: The Enquirer was acting as the real-world embodiment of the online world of trolls — foreign and domestic — who polluted the 2016 discourse.” Also, placement is everything in grocery stores, so “How did the National Enquirer get on those grocery store line racks in the first place? @jimrutenberg tells all,” tweets Amy Rosenberg.
If you’re having trouble keeping up with all the investigations and legal dealings, at WIRED, Garrett Graff has created a very handy Complete Guide to All 17 (Known) Trump and Russia Investigations, which Virginia Heffernan calls, “Suitable for lamination.” (That’s right, SEVENTEEN. That we know of.)
And on that note, while you’re wondering whether a sitting president can be indicted, read about The police officer who arrested a president, by Michael Rosenwald of The Washington Post. Rosenwald tells the story of the only recorded criminal arrest of a sitting U.S. president. William H. West, a black policeman who had fought in the Civil War, arrested President Ulysses Grant in 1872 for speeding in his horse-drawn carriage. “Precedent!” tweets Jeff Stein. And a fascinating tale in any context. In a thread about the arrest, Yoni Appelbaum notes, “Think about that. An enslaved man enlisted; fought in the Battle of the Crater; joined the police; and arrested a sitting president—who defended him for doing his job, and paid his speeding fine. That’s what it means that we live in a country subject to the rule of law.”
A cracker of a story for you this morning
And now, for what Ben de Pear calls a “Great if frightening piece of work.” At POLITICO, Tom McTague explores How Britain is grappling with a nationalist dark web, revealing, “Pro-Brexit, anti-Islam, right-wing populist — a new breed of hyper-partisan news sites has the government worried.” Tweets Mark Scott, “Morning all, here’s a cracker of a story for you this morning. @TomMcTague delves into anonymous nationalist websites that are playing an increasing role in UK politics.” Adds Mike Butcher, “< very concerning. The question is, how much of this is engagement is real, or simply made to look real?”
As Abby Phillip says, here’s “Another excellent, eye opening piece by @sbg1 on Trump's Merkel obsession.” At the New Yorker, Susan Glasser writes about How Trump Made War on Angela Merkel and Europe. A former German ambassador to the United States tells Glasser, “We were extremely poorly prepared for this.” Hakan Tanriverdi highlights, “Really insightful piece about Trump's ‘deep animus toward Germany in general, and Merkel in particular’, including this bit about Merkel preparing for her first meeting with Trump by reading his Playboy-Interview.”
“Carlos Ghosn was once revered as the savior of Nissan Motor Co. Now he’s in jail, thanks to a secret investigation by his own colleagues. An astonishing corporate tale - well worth a read for its intricate detail.” Paul Beckett links to that piece by Sean McLain, Phred Dvorak, Sam Schechner and Patricia Kowsmann at The Wall Street Journal, The Fall of the House of Ghosn. Heidi Moore calls it a “Fantastically well-reported article about Carlos Ghosn and how he got to this point. It is really, really wonderful to see this kind of excellent business reporting regularly again.”
More news from around the world
Patrick Kingsley of The New York Times reports from Hungary, where Thousands Brave Cold to Protest Hungary’s Far-Right Leader, in Rare Dissent (27,000+ shares). He tweets, “Article updated to include details of the assault on an opposition MP, @hadhazyakos, after he entered the state broadcaster to ask for coverage of the protest and its demands.” Tweets Timothy Garton Ash, “This is important. A sustained manifestation of people power to counter #Orban & #fidesz erosion of liberal democracy in Hungary wld be perfect way to mark next year's 30th anniversary of 1989.”
Tom Wright of The Wall Street Journal reports, Malaysia Files Criminal Charges Against Goldman Sachs over its role in the 1MDB bribery scandal. Prosecutors say they’ll seek fines “well in excess of the $2.7 billion misappropriated from the bonds proceeds and $600 million in fees received by Goldman Sachs.”
In another instance of “History repeats itself,” as Alexandra Stevenson tweets, China’s Detention Camps for Muslims Turn to Forced Labor, report Chris Buckley, Austin Ramzy and Darren Byler of The New York Times. Jim Sciutto says, “This appears to be a 20th century crime taking place in the 21st and with little consequence.” Or as Jerome Taylor puts it, “Oh look, China’s Xinjiang internment camps are going full gulag, throwing forced labour into the mix.” Amelia Pang adds, “Retailers should avoid sourcing from #Xinjiang.”
“This is superb journalism from the New York Times: the videoed anatomy of a massacre of Shia in Nigeria. 10 minutes you'll wish you could forget,” says andrew brown, who links to Nigeria Says Soldiers Who Killed Marchers Were Provoked. Video Shows Otherwise, by Dionne Searcey and Emmanuel Akinwotu of The New York Times. On Twitter, Searcy notes, “Nigerian soldiers used a speech by Trump to justify firing on rock-throwing protestors. Our video investigation shows them shooting fleeing protestors. Since he took office, Trump has strengthened ties with Nigeria.”
The public benefits hamster wheel
They Grabbed Her Baby and Arrested Her at a Welfare Office. Now She’s Speaking Out. At The New York Times, Ashley Southall and Nikita Stewart write about Jazmine Headley, who has “become a cause célèbre for New Yorkers who depend on food stamps and cash public assistance and who say they are often met with hostility and are sometimes threatened with arrest at city benefits offices.” Jim Dwyer tweets, “After hours on the public benefits hamster wheel, a mom was videotaped struggling with security and cops. ‘It’s the story of many other people,’ she said. ‘My story is the only one that made it to the surface.’” “Thank you for this, @AshleyAtTimes @kitastew. Many are lucky enough not to know how much stress poor people are under, how little dignity with which they are treated, that as a result they don't always react the way folks who don't have these worries would,” tweets Nikole Hannah-Jones.
I will take this unwanted cheese
First off, this is not a motivational business fable. This really is about cheese, and it turns out, America Can’t Move Its Cheese, writes Heather Haddon at The Wall Street Journal. Micah Maidenberg is “Just going to leave this lede from @heatherhaddon about the cheese glut right here: ‘America’s cheese hoard continues to balloon to unprecedented levels, as producers fear the mountain could grow further and put even more dairy farmers out of business.’” So it appears that the cheese snobs are creating problems for Big Cheese, but here comes Tony Romm to the rescue: “i am happy to help tackle this problem on behalf of my country.” And Ariel Crespo Melendez, who tweets, “Important and v surprising read. PS: I will take this unwanted cheese.” Also Max Gersh: “I'm here to eat cheese and save the dairy industry!” As Gareth Vipers points out, “‘There's just too much cheese,’ said no one, ever.”
According to a USA TODAY/Suffolk Poll, Americans’ message to Washington on the looming shutdown: Don't, report Susan Page and Bill Theobald of USA Today. And if it does, whose fault will it be? “By nearly 2-1, Americans would blame Trump and the Republicans, not congressional Democrats.”
A Texas Elementary School Speech Pathologist Refused to Sign a Pro-Israel Oath, Now Mandatory in Many States — So She Lost Her Job, reports Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept, and “This is just obviously unconstitutional,” tweets Paul Blumenthal. Put another way, “Hi this is what dictatorships do,” says Danny Rivero.
At the San Francisco Chronicle, Erin Allday reports that Trump’s travel ban is keeping a Yemeni mother from her dying 2-year-old son.
“.@yaelstone was scared to come forward and speak about Geoffrey Rush. But she's done it. Read this @bariweissstory in @nytopinion to understand her story and why Australian defamation law keeps so many people silent.” Damien Cave links to Bari Weiss’ column in The New York Times about the “Orange Is the New Black” star’s experiences with Geoffrey Rush, The Cost of Telling a #MeToo Story in Australia.
“No, @AdaStolsmo can’t twerk. But she can tell a hell of a story. The first ever Ballon d'Or Féminin winner, in her own words.” The Players’ Tribune Global links to Not Here to Dance, by Ada Hegerberg. “This!” tweets Anne-Marije Rook.
And finally today, in case you missed this one, Thomas Dunne urges, “Writers, give this a gander if you're ever feeling down about the state of your career.” In The Baffler, American Ghostwriter tells the tale of Sean Cooper’s “adventures among the memoir-happy one-percent.” A warning, though: “This is great (and very bleak), as Mitch Moxley tweets.