A security vibe akin to an Outback steakhouse

Muck Rack Daily

A security vibe akin to an Outback steakhouse
April 4th, 2019 View in browser
Muck Rack Daily

We’re taking our monthly Q&A series with journalists one step further, bringing you additional interviews with journalists that go into more detail on the beats they cover. Muck Rack’s Jessica Lawlor kicks off the series with a spotlight on healthcare journalism and an interview with John George, healthcare and sports business reporter for the Philadelphia Business Journal. Head over to the Muck Rack Blog for Beat spotlight: 10 questions with healthcare journalist John George.


Distress call

Last night, Nicholas Fandos, Michael Schmidt and Mark Mazzetti of The New York Times broke the news that some of Mueller’s investigators are saying that the report was more damaging for President Trump than Barr revealed. “Whaaaat? But this was shocking and unexpected!” says Rachel Sklar. Or as Matt Seaton puts it, “No shit, Sherlock!” As nycsouthpaw observes, “it would appear the boat has sprung a leak,” and Corey Pein wonders, “What’re the odds on this thing leaking unredacted?”

Fandos, Schmidt and Mazzetti also report that Barr and his advisers are expressing their frustrations that the special counsel’s investigators “declined to decide whether Mr. Trump illegally obstructed the inquiry.”

Ellen Nakashima, Carol Leonnig and Rosalind Helderman of The Washington Post confirm the Times reporting with their story, Limited information Barr has shared about Russia investigation frustrated some on Mueller’s team. Tweets Brian Stelter, “Mueller’s team ‘worked in near silence’ for nearly two years. So ‘the fact that some have been confiding in recent days to associates is a sign of the level of their distress.’ Tonight's NYT and WaPo stories sure do sound like a distress call.” Greg Sargent highlights, “Crucial new revelation from WaPo: Mueller team prepared summaries of their findings *for the express purpose* of informing the public. One official says goal was for findings to be ‘shared in their own words — and not in the attorney general’s summary.’”

More entrants into the Trump news cycle

Some other things we learned last night: CNN’s Lauren Fox reports that House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal has formally requested Trump’s tax returns from the IRS.

We also found out which senior White House official had their security clearance denied by career officials, and you’ll never guess who it was. Just kidding — you knew it was Jared Kushner. “You can always tell a Milford man,” as Dan Zak says. Tom Hamburger, Rachael Bade and Ashley Parker have the story at The Washington Post, and Josh Sternberg is worried about the Twitter: “Man, the President’s tweets tomorrow morning are gonna be a doozy. Between having his taxes subpoenaed to Mueller investigators starting to talk to the press, we now have this late entrant into the Trump news cycle.”

Spies of Mar-a-Lago

But why stop there? Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Katie Rogers and Alexandra Stevenson of The New York Times reveal that the arrest of a Chinese woman who carried a malware-laced device into Mar-a-Lago exposes security gaps at the club. It’s also escalating tensions between Secret Service agents and the resort’s staff members. Dan Zak highlights some choice details: “Just today: Jared has too many ‘significant disqualifying factors’ to deserve a clearance, but has one anyway. Mar-a-Lago, where a secretary may have foiled a malware attack, has a security vibe akin to an ‘Outback steakhouse.’” (Real quote from Laurence Leamer, a Palm Beach resident who wrote a book about Mar-a-Lago.) Shane Goldmacher calls this piece “Today’s must read.”

And now, Alex Wayne links to “NEWS: The @MiamiHerald reports there's a federal counterintelligence investigation of possible Chinese efforts to penetrate Mar-a-Lago. It got ‘turbo-charged’ after the Zhang arrest on Saturday, the newspaper says. Li ‘Cindy’ Yang also involved.” For those details, read Jay Weaver and Sarah Blaskey’s story at the Miami Herald, Counterintelligence probe of Chinese activity focuses on Mar-a-Lago, Cindy Yang, intruder. “In the backyard of ⁦@marcorubio⁩, a China hawk,” notes Jonathan Martin. Tweets Alex Daugherty, “Overheard in the Senate press gallery: ‘Did you see that @MiamiHerald story?’ This is the one they were referring to.” 

Lasting historical importance

Attacks by White Extremists Are Growing. So Are Their Connections, and a new data-visualization analysis by Weiyi Cai and Simone Landon of The New York Times explores how the connections between the killers span continents — and “how the internet and social media have facilitated the spread of white extremist ideology and violence.” Tweets Doug Saunders, “Extraordinary new data-visualization package showing that deadly attacks against minorities, immigrants and their supporters by white-identified killers are no longer ‘domestic terrorism’ but have become fully international in scope and organization.” Tim Fitzsimons notices, “The European Sojourn — increasingly, a stop on the road toward white nationalist violence.”

Meanwhile, Jonathan Chait says, “.@DavidNakamura captures a profound dynamic with lasting historical importance: the imagery of Trump’s nearly all-white administration.” David Nakamura of The Washington Post points out that formal and casual White House photos show distance between Trump and increasingly diverse nation, aka “White House so white,” tweets Adam Pasick.

Guess who’s writing your state laws

A two-year investigation by the Arizona Republic, USA Today and the Center for Public Integrity reveals the extent to which special interests have infiltrated state legislatures using model legislation. In “Copy, Paste, Legislate,” the Arizona Republic’s Rob O’Dell and USA Today’s Nick Penzenstadler explain, You elected them to write new laws. They’re letting corporations do it instead. In other words, as Erin Richards tweets, “Why do so many states pass similar laws? Often, because of copycat legislation written wholesale by special interests.”

John Kelly highlights some of the unbelievable figures: “In this analysis of almost a decade of bills from every state, ⁦@USATODAY⁩ and ⁦@azcentral⁩ found at least 10K bills almost entirely copied from model legislation were introduced over 8 years, and more than 2,100 of those became law.” He adds, “Our latest investigation is built on a big sprawling data lift that involved not just our data journalists but the great folks on our company’s IT teams.”

Guess who’s overseeing the ‘grassroots’

Now “This is a heck of a story,” says Alex Hern. Jim Waterson of The Guardian found out that ‘grassroots’ groups that spent up to £1m on targeted Facebook ads share an administrator who works for a lobbying firm. As Waterson tweets, “Who’s overseeing the ‘grassroots’ Brexit campaign groups on Facebook, spending massive money to convince MPs that the British public is rising up in support of a hard no deal Brexit? Lynton Crosby employees and Boris Johnson’s former political adviser.” Sam Jordison says, “This is an impressive bit of journalism: ‘Grassroots’ Facebook Brexit ads secretly run by staff of Lynton Crosby firm (Yes, Lynton Crosby is in ‘Enemies Of The People’. Of course he is.)” 

Extreme levels of control

Sui-Lee Wee calls this next one “A feat of storytelling by @chubailiang @paulmozur @austinramzy on the repression in Xinjiang.” In a New York Times multimedia piece about Kashgar, a town in northwest China, Chris Buckley, Paul Mozur and Austin Ramzy explain How China Turned a City Into a Prison. On Twitter, Ramzy notes, “.@ChuBailiang and .@paulmozur got followed around by cops in Kashgar to report this eyeopening multimedia piece on the extreme levels of control in the predominately Uyghur city.” And Stephanie Strom warns, “This is our future, folks, if we don’t start getting serious about understanding and taking control of the technology we rely on.”

A bunch of movie-worthy characters

Aman Sethi says, “THIS IS MASSIVE: @HuffPostIndia investigation into the ‘Association Of Billion Minds’ peels back layers of secrecy to reveal who’s running @BJP4India's army of bhakts (and yes, many of the Bhakts are on salaries).” Read his piece with Samarth Bansal, Gopal Sathe and Rachna Khaira of HuffPost India to learn How Modi, Shah Turned A Women’s Rights NGO Into A Secret Election Propaganda Machine.

Sethi has a Twitter thread with outtakes and additional backstory on the investigation. Highlights: “Our story also has a bunch of — what can I say — movie worthy characters. A former Jet Airways flight attendant heading an Organ Donation NGO set up by a businessman who is an actual heart transplant patient.” Also: “Another deet is an ABM a grass roots worker who stores his shotgun ammunition next to his stuff toy collection. (Yes, Really!) This is a photo of his dog.” Tweets Annie Gowen, “We all heard about the ‘Association of a Billion Minds’ the secret cabal India’s ruling party tasked with running sophisticated misinformation campaigns to spread fake news on social media. But @HuffPost got the scoop.”

Racism and romance novels

Jessica Glenza says, “This is a truly fabulous read from @loisbeckett.” In Fifty shades of white: the long fight against racism in romance novels, Lois Beckett of The Guardian takes an in-depth look at the Romance Writers of America, which represents nearly 10,000 members in dozens of local chapters across the country. Tweets Kendall Taggart, “One of my first jobs was as a researcher for a documentary film about the billion dollar romance novel industry and it is FASCINATING. Read @loisbeckett’s deep look into how it’s grappling with racism.” Julie Carrie Wong highlights, “In 1999, a black romance novelist received a handwritten fan letter: ‘I guess I might sound bigoted, but I never knew that black folks fall in love like white folks.’ You need to read this fascinating story of racism in romance by @loisbeckett.” Seriously.

They know

And we leave you with this hugely important discovery. Meow hear this: Study says cats react to sound of their name. Malcolm Ritter of The Associated Press has the details on a study that cat owners are probably not too shocked about. Although, “Actually, they may CHOOSE to respond!” as Sam Litzinger tweets. And Mike Stobbe adds, “(In my humble opinion, they also know your name, and your PIN numbers.)”

A few more


Question of the Day

Yesterday, we asked: Morgan Freeman has converted his 124-acre ranch in Charleston, MS, into a sanctuary for what?

Answer: It’s a sanctuary for honeybees.

Congrats to…Craig Pittman, first to tweet the correct answer, and he was followed just a minute later by Karin Leperi and Joella Baumann, who shares, ”I just love Morgan Freeman! <3”

Your question of the day for today is…Timothy Simons says he based his “Veep” character, Jonah Ryan, on what real-life senator?

As always, click here to tweet your answer to @MuckRack.


Featured Journalist: Richard McDonough

Today’s featured journalist is freelance writer, editor and author Richard McDonough, who does freelance work throughout the United States as well as for publications in Europe. He’s also seeking out new assignments. Richard tells us that one of the approaches he uses is civic journalism, which includes investigative efforts showing people how to solve civic problems and enhance civic opportunities. That involves presenting the facts in a way that provides context to each situation; going to the original source for information, when and where possible; presenting all sides of an issue, not just “both sides”; and attributing all key facts to specific sources. Find out more by checking out his Muck Rack Profile here. And if you’re interested in discussing ways he can work with your news organization, you can contact him directly at richardmcdonoughaz@gmail.com.

Don’t forget - if you change your job in journalism or move to a different news organization, be sure to email us (hello [at] muckrack [dot] com) so we can reflect your new title. News job changes only, please! Thanks!

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