They’re just like us — except for the bribes part
If you thought the back door was the only alternate way in, let us introduce you to the side door. The big story yesterday, as Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky report at The Washington Post, the FBI accuses wealthy parents, including celebrities, in college-entrance bribery scheme (161,000+ shares) proving once again, as Ben Estes tweets, “Celebrities, they’re just like us -- except the paying bribes to get their kids into elite colleges part.” “$500,000 for two girls to get into USC? Those kids must have one brain between them,” says Kaarin Tisue. Don’t forget, though, “They got to deduct the bribes from their taxes,” as Dana Rubinstein highlights.
Madhulika Sikka points out, “Yes, you can joke about it at one level, but if you are the first person of in your family to go to college, & a POC, this story just sticks in your craw, it reinforces things you kinda knew.” Amy Chozick is hopeful...sort of: “Maybe this will help put to rest the idea that students from certain schools are more worthy of internships, entry level jobs, etc. - in journalism or any other field. (But I worry it won’t.)”
Jenny Medina, Jennifer Medina and Katie Benner cover the story at The New York Times, College Admissions Scandal: Actresses, Business Leaders and Other Wealthy Parents Charged (88,000+ shares). “Between the bribed sailing coach, paid Instagram posts by the celebrity daughter selling dorm deliveries and the ‘Ruh Roh’ email from the actress whose cheating plan is about to be foiled, there is no room for a satirical novel about college admissions,” notes Motoko Rich. And Matt Steinglass shares, “Sometimes I complain that the Netherlands’s lack of a competitive university system encourages mediocrity. This is not one of those times.”
Desperate housewives and the Full House lady
Aaron Katersky, Bill Hutchinson and Mike Levine have been following the story at ABC News and give us the scene at the courthouse yesterday as Felicity Huffman answered “yes” to questions from the judge and acknowledged she understood the charges against her, while her husband, William H. Macy, watched silently from the front row (346,000+ shares). Pretty sure we’ve seen that one. Coen brothers, right?
For more on the sprawling FBI investigation, read the NBC News coverage by Pete Williams, Julia Ainsley, Tom Winter and Rich Schapiro, Feds uncover large-scale college entrance exam cheating plot (162,000+ shares). Hunter Walker thinks, “This is all going to end with Aunt Becky having a heartfelt talk in the kitchen with @bobsaget where she learns some real life lessons from her mistakes and is ultimately forgiven.” But Henry Gomez can’t believe it: “Come on, at least Carmela Soprano made a ricotta pie.”
And then there’s Olivia Jade. “The daughter of the Full House lady & Mossimo designer charged in college-entrance bribery scheme has said that she was only going to college for ‘gamedays, partying.’ She’s enrolled at USC. ‘I don’t really care about school, as you guys all know.’” Tracy Jan links to the story by Jonah Bromwich, Valeriya Safronova and Caity Weaver at The New York Times about Lori Loughlin’s daughter Olivia Jade Giannulli, an influencer with big audiences on YouTube and Instagram, who posted sponsored content about being a student.
Truly as good as it gets
If you want the deep dive, we recommend heading over to Deadspin, where Patrick Redford has compiled All The Incredible Details From The College Admissions Bribery Scandal, including some of the doctored photos. Peter Evans says, “The details of this college admissions scam are honestly jaw dropping @Deadspin has the dirty deeds done not cheap.” As Adam Weinrib says, “This is truly as good as it gets, article-wise.”
Meanwhile, Matthew Keys tweets, “A ProPublica journalist wrote a book about how wealthy individuals buy their child's way into college. After the book was published, he said rich people contacted him to find out how they, too, could buy their child's way into affluent colleges.” ProPublica’s Daniel Golden, who wrote that book in 2006, explains How the Rich Really Play, “Who Wants To Be An Ivy Leaguer?”
Brexit rejections — again
There are plenty of other big stories to follow today. The New York Times has the latest from the UK as the British Parliament Rejects Theresa May’s Brexit Deal, Sowing Confusion. The 391 to 242 vote “is likely to delay Brexit and could derail it entirely. It is a devastating blow to Mrs. May.” (Scott Bryan noticed that in an earlier version of that story, The Times accidentally published both potential outcomes.)
Alberto Nardelli of BuzzFeed News has another Brexit scoop. After seeing a memo laying out the thinking at the highest level of the European Commission and interviewing multiple officials and diplomats about extending article 50, he reports that the EU is telling European leaders there are only 3 reasons they should allow Brexit to be delayed: to give more time to prepare for no deal, to complete ratification of the withdrawal agreement or if the UK decides to hold an election or a referendum.
What exactly is it that you do here?
If you’re flying anytime soon, you might want to check your aircraft. Cary Aspinwall, Ariana Giorgi, Dom DiFurio of the Dallas Morning News report that several Boeing 737 Max 8 pilots in the U.S. complained about a suspected safety flaw. If the headline doesn’t convince you, maybe the lede will: “Pilots repeatedly voiced safety concerns about the Boeing 737 Max 8 to federal authorities, with one captain calling the flight manual ‘inadequate and almost criminally insufficient’ several months before Sunday’s Ethiopian Air crash that killed 157 people, an investigation by The Dallas Morning News found.”
And at The Associated Press, David Koenig and Michael R. Sisak write that pilots on at least two U.S. flights have reported that an automated system seemed to cause their Boeing 737 Max planes to tilt down suddenly. So that’s comforting.
But surely the U.S. is going to ground those planes then, right? Not exactly. As Europe and others ground Boeing 737 Max 8s, the U.S. holds back, report Keith Bradsher and Zach Wichter of The New York Times. Ron Lieber has questions: “So are we smarter than all the countries? Are our pilots just that much better and more well-read on the Boeing manuals? Just more risk averse? And will American Airlines let people change/cancel their flights fee-free now/yet?”
David A. Graham, meanwhile, is wondering, “What exactly does the Department of Transportation do?” At The Wall Street Journal, Scott McCartney writes that this is The Latest Example of a Passive DOT. He notes that the top job at the FAA has been open for 14 months, airline enforcement fines have dropped 88% in two years and lengthy tarmac delays have doubled. Ron Lieber has another question: “Does Elaine Chao exist? Seems like a reasonable question.”
The true threat
Here’s another scoop that’s pretty unnerving. Gordon Lubold and Dustin Volz of The Wall Street Journal report on an internal review that finds the Navy and its contractors are ‘under cyber siege’ by China and others, “hemorrhaging national security secrets at a rate that threatens U.S. standing as the world’s top military power,” as Volz tweets. And Paul Brandus notes, “As Americans squabble with each other, the true threat - China - has ‘derived an incalculable near- and long-term military advantage from it [cyber hacking], thereby altering the calculus of global power.’ Americans should not assume they could win a war.”
One of the great evils of our time
Next, Michael Del Moro says, “This is a stunning report. Deserves a thorough read.” “This was, and still is, a true national emergency. And, no, a wall will not stop it,” adds Jacob Soboroff. An investigation by Scott Higham, Sari Horwitz and Katie Zezima of The Washington Post reveals, Obama officials failed to focus as fentanyl burned its way across America. “One of the great evils of our time has been how opioids poisoned America, murdering thousands and reshaping communities large and small. The worst of them all has been fentanyl. The Obama administration could have stopped it. But they blew it,” tweets Terrence McCoy.
The anti-vaxxer beat
“Anybody up? Amazon did something.” And it’s not a bad thing. Brandy Zadrozny directs us to her story for NBC News, Amazon has removed books promoting autism cures and vaccine misinformation. Meanwhile, she and Ben Collins report, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey praises, appears on podcast of anti-vaccine fitness personality. But did Jack know he was an anti-vaxxer? Well, as Collins points out, “It would be really hard for Jack Dorsey, a fan of Ben Greenfield, not to know that Ben is an anti-vaxxer. Greenfield was heavily ratio’d for his hot vaccine takes one month and a day before Dorsey went on his podcast. Ben blogged about it for years.”
More than a bizarre blip
Stephen Lacey says, “This is a very disturbing story. More reporting showing that @elonmusk and Tesla are trying to ruin the lives of whistleblowers who warn about worker injuries and company waste.” He’s referring to What Happened When Elon Musk Set Out to Destroy a Junior Engineer, by Matthew Robinson and Zeke Faux at Bloomberg Businessweek. As Dana Hull notes, “In 2018, the Martin Tripp story was a bizarre blip in a crazy summer. But my intrepid colleagues went to Reno and learned much more. A must read by @robinsonmatt and @ZekeFaux.” It’s disturbing, but also: “This checks out. Bravo @BW,” tweets Linette Lopez.
Some big news out of California. Phil Willon of the Los Angeles Times reports that Gov. Gavin Newsom will sign an executive order imposing a moratorium on the death penalty in California, saying he believes that capital punishment is discriminatory, unjust and “inconsistent with our bedrock values.” The order will immediately close the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison.
Bob Egelko and Alexei Koseff cover the story at The San Francisco Chronicle in their piece, Gov. Newsom orders halt to California’s death penalty, writing, “His actions, disclosed to The Chronicle by an administration source late Tuesday, come in the wake of a pair of close but unsuccessful efforts by death penalty opponents to repeal the state law at the ballot box.” Newsom is granting reprieves to the 737 condemned inmates on the nation’s largest Death Row.
Manafort sentencing, part 2
And finally, just as we were wrapping up today’s Muck Rack Daily, CNN reports that Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered Paul Manafort to serve an additional 43 months in prison, on top of the sentence he received last week from the court in Virginia.