Lots of threads to be pulled
There’s plenty to catch up on after the weekend, but we’ll start with some of the latest developments in the Jeff Bezos saga. Lachlan Markay of The Daily Beast sets it up this way: “What we now know: the brother of Jeff Bezos’ mistress leaked the couple’s texts to the National Enquirer. What we still don’t know: quite a lot.” For the part about what we do know, read his new piece, Mistress Lauren Sanchez’s Brother Leaked Bezos’ Racy Texts to Enquirer. Multiple sources have told The Daily Beast that Michael Sanchez, who’s also a Trumpworld associate, gave the couple’s texts to the National Enquirer. So, Christopher Dickey wonders, “Does this let the Saudis off the hacking hook? So it would seem.”
Well, Will Bunch says, “I connected the dots between the Saudis’ hacking skills, the National Enquirer and its ties to Trump and MBS, Bezos and the possible connection to Khashoggi’s murder and POTUS 45’s 2016 election. This is about A LOT more than a selfie.” That dot-connecting can be found in his latest column for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Bezos, the National Enquirer, the Saudis, Trump, and the blackmailing of U.S. democracy, about which Rex W. Huppke says, “My pal @Will_Bunch delivers a thorough and fascinating look at the possible Trump/National Enquirer/Saudi Arabia connection. Lots of threads to be pulled.” Bunch proposes that “the Bezos scandal is ripping away the curtain on a secret world that’s been hiding in plain sight.”
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal’s Erich Schwartzel, Alexandra Berzon and Laura Stevens trace Jeff Bezos’s Journey From Private Family Man to Tabloid Sensation. Rebecca Ballhaus highlights the fact that “Jeff Bezos has spent $42 million on a friend’s effort to build a clock that will tick once a year for 10,000 years.” Evan Perez notes, “This is standard WSJ coverage of a CEO in turmoil — not that his blogpost on AMI alleged extortion is normal. But Jay Carney seems shocked: ‘I didn’t realize The Wall Street Journal trafficked in warmed-over drivel from supermarket tabloids.’” Elliott Gotkine says, “I think more spokespeople should speak like this.”
Bob freaking Costas!!!
Alex Weprin says, “This feels like it deserves to be one of the big media stories this week. Bob Costas speaking out about the power the NFL wields over TV networks.” New from Mark Fainaru-Wada of ESPN, the Inside story of how legendary NFL broadcaster Bob Costas ended up excised from football and out at NBC. Rose Eveleth thinks, “If Bob Costas (Bob freaking Costas!!!) can’t talk about concussions without being punished, what chance do new reporters have when it comes to covering the NFL’s darker sides?” “The ESPN Outside the Lines story on Bob Costas is great reading and viewing. (ESPN does the same thing with regard to its properties, of course, but it’s a story worth telling.),” says Eric Crawford. Eriq Gardner notices, “Midway through this article, ESPN holds up a mirror.”
An awful must-read
The result of a major investigation by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News is a three-part series on “Abuse of Faith” by Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers. Read part one, by Robert Downen, Lise Olsen and John Tedesco, which looks at 20 years, 700 victims: Southern Baptist sexual abuse spreads as leaders resist reforms (138,000+ shares). Tweets Steve Riley, “Nearly year in the making. An exclusive database of the convicted. An awful story that you must read.” Tedesco adds, “I know this is a really tough story to read. It was difficult to report and write. But the responses we've received have been incredible. Thanks for sharing your feedback and your stories. We're listening. #churchtoo.” Jay Rosen calls it a “‘Spotlight’-type investigation by the @HoustonChron and San Antonio @ExpressNews, focusing on cases of abuse in Southern Baptist churches. Equally horrific.” And yet another reminder that “Local journalism matters,” as Ryan McCarthy tweets.
Imagine what happens to ordinary women
For a story about “More thug money that also funds tech,” Kara Swisher refers you to Vivian Yee’s new piece in The New York Times, A Princess Vanishes. A Video Offers Alarming Clues. As Clara Jeffery summarizes, “Princess tries to escape Dubai. She's caught, drugged up for years after. So her sister tries to escape, in part to free her. And she gets caught. And somehow Mary Robinson—former pres of Ireland and UNHRC head—gives the regime cover? WTF!” “This story has everything. An escape from suffocating existence. Thelma and Louise references. Skydiving. Martial arts. The former president of Ireland. Yachts on the Indian Ocean,” adds Carolyn Ryan.
Nicholas Kristof points out, “When this happens to a princess in the Gulf, imagine what happens to ordinary women.” Also, “Be a Cool Debbie Downer(TM) by sending this to adults and kids who talk about being a princess like it’s a good thing,” suggests Jacqui Cheng.
Max Read says, “this is a pretty fascinating article about a dirty-tricks private intel contractor trying (and failing) to influence a hospital board election in central california.” Or as Adam Entous puts it, “A group of former Israeli spies wanted to influence U.S. elections. What could possibly go wrong?” Read Entous’s new piece with Ronan Farrow for The New Yorker, Private Mossad for Hire, which goes inside a plot to influence American elections, starting with one small-town race.
While we’re at it, “Remember the Israeli undercover operative @jsrailton exposed at a fancy midtown restaurant last month? There were more of them,” Raphael Satter reveals in his new AP exclusive: Undercover spy exposed in NYC was 1 of many. Half a dozen people in five different countries have been pursued by undercover operatives, and all six targets have something in common: They’ve written about, researched or sued the same Israeli spyware company.
Reporting on the revolution
“Tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of the #IslamicRepublic in #Iran, but today February 10, is 40 years since @latimes correspondent Joe Alex Morris, Jr. was killed reporting on the revolution. My friend & colleague, Bill Branigin remembers that awful day.” Jason Rezaian links to William Branigin’s piece in The Washington Post, We were covering the Iranian revolution. Then a single gunshot changed everything. The lede: “Forty years later, I can still hear that earsplitting crack.” Tweets Martin Baron, “Thank you to the brave Bill Branigin of @washingtonpost for remembering Joe Alex Morris Jr. of @latimes and for telling this story of courageous, caring journalists.”
Chris Bartlett links to the not-at-all-alarming Guardian headline, Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten collapse of nature’ (162,000+ shares). In that piece, Damian Carrington writes, The world’s insects are hurtling down the path to extinction, threatening a ‘catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems’, according to the first global scientific review.” “As wake up calls go, this is arresting…” Lenore Taylor notes. And Jane Merrick puts it this way: “Another light on our planetary dashboard has just started flashing red.”
Rebels with a cause
In the meantime, we’ll file this one under “a little hope for the future.” Alex Horton of The Washington Post reports that unvaccinated teens are fact-checking their parents — and trying to get shots on their own (58,000+ shares). In other words, the times they are a’changing. As Carl Swanson points out, “Teens used to rebel against their parents by doing drugs and getting piercings. Now they're getting vaccinated.” “Centuries from now, whoever follows us will have no problem pinpointing the years it all went so horribly wrong…” says Jerome Taylor.
Here we go again
But as far as the immediate future goes, well...“Today in ‘sequels no one needs’” is how Nolan Hicks puts it. He links to the latest from Erica Werner and Damian Paletta of The Washington Post, Border talks at impasse as shutdown looms Friday, officials say. The current standoff isn’t over money for the wall but about the number of ICE detention beds. “Here we go again,” tweets Michel Marizco.
Reading Devastated by one shutdown, dreading the next, by Eli Saslow of The Washington Post, Deborah Blum has a simple request: “Could our government please pretend to be functional?”
Better than usual, but…
Four wins each for Kacey Musgraves and Childish Gambino. Three each to Lady Gaga and Brandi Carlile. Cardi B’s win marked the first time the best rap album award went to a female solo artist. Michelle Obama made a surprise appearance. And Dolly Parton showed us all how it’s done. Get your complete 2019 Grammy winner coverage here from The Hollywood Reporter staff. In his review of the 61st Grammy Awards for Variety, Daniel D'Addario finds A More Equitable Show Still Hits Familiar Pitfalls. He tweets, “better show than usual and (not coincidentally) one that, itself, stepped up to allow women to shine. But familiar pitfalls remain.”