The art of the cave
New this morning, the White House says it wants to keep the government open, will find other ways to fund the border wall, report Erica Werner, Damian Paletta and John Wagner of The Washington Post. This “major shift” in messaging was delivered by White House press secretary Sarah Sanders in an interview on Fox News, where she also noted, “We have other ways that we can get to that $5 billion.” As Steven Greenhouse says, “Looks as if Wall Street’s dive went far to persuade Trump not to shut down the government — that could have deepened Wall Street’s slide.” Kim Masters calls it “The art of the cave. Bad day, Stephen Miller. You’ll have to satisfy yourself with your current means of torturing and killing desperate refugees and kids for now.”
J.D. Gallop links to the report by Adam Goldman and Mark Mazzetti of The New York Times revealing that two former Michael Flynn business associates have been indicted as part of a federal investigation into Turkey’s secret 2016 lobbying campaign to pressure the United States to expel a rival of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Charges against the two former associates, Bijan Kian and Ekim Alptekin, were unsealed on Monday. “This is so wild. I find it harder to wrap my head around than any of the Russia stuff,” says Christopher Hooks.
Rachel Weiner, Matt Zapotosky and Carol Leonnig cover the story at The Washington Post, Michael Flynn’s business associates charged with illegally lobbying for Turkey, and Leonnig tweets, “We reported pieces of this and yet it’s still so shocking to read: How Michael Flynn was willing to sell out the US govt and lie about his foreign clients -- all on his way to a gov job steering U.S. national security policy.”
Knock me over with a feather
Mueller? Now, why on earth would they be worried about him? It’s a mystery, but according to the Oxford University Computational Propaganda Project report prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee, Russian disinformation teams targeted Robert S. Mueller III, write Craig Timberg, Tony Romm and Elizabeth Dwoskin of The Washington Post. Steve Inskeep highlights the fact that “This report documents instances in which the Russian message - spreading conspiracy theories about Mueller - followed similar themes as the president’s messages long after the election.” Which leads Robert Schlesinger to wonder, “So wait, does this mean that @realDonaldTrump is actually a Russian bot?” The president wasn’t the only one. Tweets Steve Silberman, “And I have no doubt, no doubt, no doubt that people I know circulated these memes.”
Here’s something you may not have expected. According to the New Knowledge report (the other report commissioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee), Instagram Was a Bigger Russian Election Tool Than Facebook. Sarah Frier and Steven Dennis have the details at Bloomberg on how Instagram “was a significant front” in the Russian Internet Research Agency’s influence operation.
Meanwhile, Charles Arthur calls this “Shocking, I know,” so brace yourself: Roger Stone Admits Spreading Lies on InfoWars. “Knock me over with a feather,” says David Knowles. At The Wall Street Journal, Cezary Podkul and Shelby Holliday report that Stone settled a defamation suit seeking $100 million in damages, and as part of the agreement, he has to run ads in national newspapers apologizing for making defamatory statements about a Chinese businessman who is a vocal critic of Beijing.
Speaking of spreading lies, it’s high time for media to enter the No Kellyanne Zone — and stay there, Margaret Sullivan writes in her new Washington Post column. “In a world awash in disinformation, there’s no ‘both sides’ to the truth. The media must stop enabling liars,” she tweets.
Oh, and as for the Mueller investigation, actual witches have a message for Trump: Stop Calling it a ‘Witch Hunt,’ writes Will Sommer of The Daily Beast. Although Adam Pasick notes, “Isn't being anti-witch hunt inherently pro-witch?” We live in very confusing times.
Even grosser than you thought
About this next story, Shawn Levy is “Dumbstruck. Sickened. Horrified. But somehow not surprised. And her name appears in ZERO biographies of Allen -- which I take to be a sign of the sloppiness/indifference of the (male) authors who have written about him and his power to cover up his shit.” In an exclusive for The Hollywood Reporter, Gary Baum spoke with Christina Engelhardt, who says she began a secret physical relationship with Woody Allen when she was 16. In Woody Allen’s Secret Teen Lover Speaks, Baum tells a story of sex, power and a conflicted muse who inspired “Manhattan.” As Kevin Fallon says, “You: Separate the art from the artist! Woody Allen: Here is a movie about a 42-year-old man sleeping with a teenager I made when I was 41 sleeping with a teenager.” Also, “good morning. the character in Manhattan was older than Woody Allen’s actual girlfriend,” notes Amanda Hess. In other words, “Woody Allen, even grosser than you thought. Which I didn't think was possible, but here we are,” tweets Clara Jeffery.
On that note, “This is beyond disturbing. A clear portrait of toxic white male privilege run rampant and unchecked,” tweets Emma Gray, who links to Evgenia Peretz’s new exposé for Vanity Fair, “Men for Others, My Ass”: After Kavanaugh, Inside Georgetown Prep’s Culture of Omertà. Clara Jeffery can’t get a break: “Well this has me filled with apoplectic rage all over again.” As Eric Geller says, “Good lord, this story.” Aaaaand to top it all off, “In a statement to Vanity Fair, Georgetown Prep accused the magazine of being ‘a publication that routinely parades and promotes the promiscuity of American society,’” Vanity Fair shares on Twitter.
Meanwhile, CBS says it’s not paying. Edmund Lee and Rachel C. Abrams of The New York Times are reporting that Les Moonves Will Not Receive His $120 Million Severance, and as Ken Tremendous points out, “It’s really sad that not giving a serial sex offender an additional $120 million seems like a victory. But this seems like a victory.”
So here’s your breath of fresh air, courtesy of Yohana Desta at Vanity Fair: Idris Elba Says #MeToo Movement Is “Only Difficult If You’re a Man with Something to Hide.”
WTH, Alice Walker?
Benjy Sarlin sets this one up: “So this is way more insane than even the headline sounds.” As Yair Rosenberg writes at Tablet, The New York Times Just Published An Unqualified Recommendation For An Insanely Anti-Semitic Book (26,000+ shares). Turns out, Alice Walker, “The Color Purple” author, is a huge fan of anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist David Icke. While many (including Rosenberg) are calling out The New York Times for not challenging or at least asking Walker a follow-up question about that recommendation, Jonathan Weisman says, “I don’t blame the New York Times interviewer for not knowing Alice Walker had recommended an anti-Semitic tract. Heck, I didn’t know David Icke and I wrote a book on rising bigotry. But what a missed opportunity to ask, WTH, Alice Walker?”
Josh Sternberg thinks, “This is an interesting perspective. What is the role of a news organization to put context into an answer that a subject gives during a Q&A?” Nathanael Johnson has a suggestion: “a parenthetical like [Icke is an unhinged loon who believes we are being ruled by lizard people] would have been sufficient - daily reminder that smart impressive people make mistakes, we all do.”
You knew it already
New research by Amnesty International finds that female politicians and journalists are abused every 30 seconds on Twitter, as Madhumita Murgia reports for the Financial Times. She tweets, “If you’re a woman on Twitter, you knew it already, but the numbers are here - more than 1m abusive tweets directed at well-known female journos and politicians on Twitter last year.”
And here’s an unwelcome new milestone for the U.S.: “For the first time, the United States joins the ranks of the world's most dangerous places for journalists,” tweets Kim Hjelmgaard, who links to her story in USA Today, ‘Unscrupulous politicians’ help drive worst year on record for journalist killings.
A new investigation by Howard Berkes of NPR finds An Epidemic Is Killing Thousands Of Coal Miners. Regulators Could Have Stopped It (28,000+ shares). Tweets Ken Ward, “For decades, regulators knew coal miners were being exposed to deadly coal dust ... ‘They were urged to take specific and direct action to stop it. But they didn't.’ More on the shameful story of black lung disease, from the great @hberkes at @NPR.” Eric Zorn says, “This is why I’m very careful about using the tendentious term ‘regulations’ when referring to the rules that guard public health and safety. ‘Protections’ is often the more accurate term. And they are what Team Trump is zealous to cut.”
In Working but homeless: a tale from England’s housing crisis, Sarah O’Connor of the Financial Times looks at how Habitat for Humanity is tackling homelessness in a wealthy town by converting an old Quakers house. Tweets Tony Tassell, “The rise of the homeless in the UK has been shocking. This chart explains in a superb report by @sarahoconnor_on the working but homeless people shows how quickly things have changed in five years.” The story is part of the FT’s Seasonal Appeal for Habitat for Humanity. You can donate here.
At The New York Times, Declan Walsh writes about Yemen’s Deadly Seas: Fishermen Come Under Fire in Saudi War. He tweets, “Six boats, six weeks, 50 dead. Although much outrage in Yemen focuses on the air war, civilians are dying at sea too. I wrote about a recent spate of attacks, likely by Saudi or Emirati warships, where fishermen were bombed, shot or left to drown.”
Made in China
Yesterday, we told you about how China’s Detention Camps for Muslims Have Turned to Forced Labor. Now comes the report by AP’s Dake Kang, Martha Mendoza and Yanan Wang that US sportswear has been traced to a factory in China's internment camps. It’s illegal to import products of forced labor, but AP “has tracked recent, ongoing shipments from one such factory inside an internment camp to Badger Sportswear, a leading supplier in Statesville, North Carolina.”
Meanwhile, Ryan Tate offers “Congratulations to @rj_gallagher on lighting a fire, stoked to an inferno by Googlers, elected officials, and the human rights community, that may finally be smoldering out.” Ryan Gallagher of The Intercept reports that Google has been forced to shut down a data analysis system it was using to develop a censored search engine for China after members of the company’s privacy team raised internal complaints that it had been kept secret from them.
Vampires, tunnels and Elon Musk
“Here’s a fun one Elon Musk used funds & employees from one company funded by investors (SpaceX) to fund another company owned mostly by him w/employees (Boring co) Investors were upset; SpaceX got a small bit of equity.” Eliot Brown links to the story by Rob Copeland of The Wall Street Journal, Elon Musk’s New Boring Co. Faced Questions Over SpaceX Financial Ties, which is not at all boring. Among other things, you’ll find “Vampires, tunnels and Elon Musk, not in that order,” as Alex Frangos tweets.
She’ll be in Iowa next week
Dylan Scott advises, “do not speak to me unless it's about this story.” Thanks to Natalie Delgadillo at DCist, we now know that, After Bloodbath, The National Zoo’s Naked Mole-Rats Finally Choose Their Queen, and “She'll be in Iowa next week,” tweets Jared Gilmour. The zookeeper seems pretty blasé about the whole thing, telling Delgadillo, “It was the mole-rat we expected.” Others were a bit more intrigued. “Damn who knew mole rats went so hard,” tweets Gillie Houston. Russell Brandom introduces the story with “Today in media news,” while Joanna Rothkopf reveals, “been trying to tell u i have personal news.” Paul Blair thinks, “WTF, it's time to move out of this city,” but Allison Gualtieri says, “Well THANK GOD we had at least one political soap opera wrap up before the holidays.”