After 1,000+ shows, Jen has is taking on a new role of reporting and anchoring. We are delighted that she will still be contributing to all the live shows in the months ahead.
After 1,000+ shows, Jen has is taking on a new role of reporting and anchoring. We are delighted that she will still be contributing to all the live shows in the months ahead.
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Monday confirmed reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited him in a Berlin hospital where he was being treated for what German authorities determined was nerve agent poisoning. “There was a meeting, but one shouldn’t call it secret,” Navalny said in a tweet, referring to media reports alleging that Merkel made a secret visit to the Charite hospital where he remained for 32 days.
Shares in China's biggest chip maker tumbled Monday on reports that Washington had imposed export controls on the company, the latest salvo in the battle for technological dominance over Beijing.
With urban schools starting online because of COVID, many students aren't showing up. More children could be left behind after the pandemic.
They came fleeing war and persecution in countries like Myanmar, Eritrea and Iraq, handpicked by the United States for resettlement under longstanding humanitarian traditions. Now, tens of thousands of refugees welcomed into the U.S. during the Obama administration are American citizens, voting the first time in what could be the most consequential presidential contest of their lifetimes. With some states already sending out early ballots, the first-time voters from Arizona to Florida are excited but mindful of their responsibility in helping to choose the country's next leader.
Today for Prime members, Amazon is offering the Fire TV Recast over-the-air DVR starting at $130, or $100 off the regular price. You can also get several Fire TV Edition TVs for $100 off, including a 43-inch Toshiba 1080p model for $180 and Insignia 50-inch 4K set for $250.
Of all the misguided clichés applied to President Donald Trump, maybe the most egregious is the term “populist.” Whether or not the president even has a coherent worldview beyond toggling between hedonism and resentment, it’s easy to see how consciously and consistently crass, petty, ignorant, and arrogant he is, which makes him seem more like your everyday barroom blowhard than a dignified statesman. Yet millions of voters consistently assume that his faults are actually what make him relatable, a man of the people.There’s a certain snobbery in calling a boob like Trump a populist, because it not so subtly implies that self-governance is wasted on people who vote for him. If this is the people’s champion, so the reasoning goes, then maybe we the people aren’t really meant to call the shots after all. Be honest—who among us hasn’t felt that way, at one time or another, in the last four years?There’s certainly no denying that the term populism has taken a beating lately, its definition so mauled and devalued that the word is now barely more than a synonym for bottom-feeding.And that really pisses off Thomas Frank, the journalist and political historian. “Populism and fake populism have been the themes of my entire writing career,” Frank said in an interview with The Daily Beast. “When the word started being used as a synonym for ‘racist authoritarianism’ it really ticked me off. I had to investigate how that happened.”Biden Goes Full Populist in Closing WeeksFrank is best known for his 2004 bestseller What’s the Matter With Kansas? There he analyzed one of the biggest and most persistent ironies in modern politics: why the very people who have so little to gain from Republican policies keep resolutely voting Republican politicians into office. Frank suggests that the answer is a case of identity politics gone awry: rail against those out-of-touch Washington elites or East coast sophisticates and end up with tax cuts for the fantastically wealthy and crumbling public schools.Frank, a proud progressive hailing from the Midwest, argues that there are in fact deeply progressive traditions that go overlooked amid the latest culture war kerfuffle. In his latest book The People, No, Frank examines what grassroots prairie populism was and what it was not, how it was thwarted at the ballot box, and why it’s worth saving today.Contradicting the accusations from elites both then and now, Frank demonstrates that the 19th century Populists (he refers to them as the Pops) were often people who understood economics from lived experience. He broke down for me what the Pops understood that their contemporaries didn’t: “Number one, that economic rules are not handed down by God. Number two, that ordinary people have as much right to make demands on the government as do, say, railroad corporations. Number three, that concentration of wealth and political corruption go hand in hand.”Evidently, a century later, even those fairly simple but potent observations are lost, or more likely ignored, by a majority in Congress.The original Pops were largely rural farmers, tradesmen, and small business owners who started seriously discussing how to make their concerns heard. It wasn’t all crazy talk, either. As Frank points out, “Many of Populism’s causes are familiar to us today: the regulation of monopolies, the income tax, the initiative and referendum, the direct election of senators.”If these ideas sound pretty commonsensical now, then credit is due to the egalitarian, community-minded Populists. A footnote in The People, No explains that “before the adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913, senators were chosen by state legislatures.” It’s good to be reminded of this slightly disturbing fact, especially when issues of proportional representation are being hotly debated. Some of the other items on the agenda might be a little dated in today’s terms, such as the demand for “free silver” over the gold standard, but insisting on government control of currency and the railroads, as well as rooting out political corruption, are notions that don’t sound that far out today, when otherwise arcane terms like Late Capitalism are getting traction.Far from being no more than a case of “the great unwashed” getting unruly, the Pops were deeply concerned with economic justice, internationalism, and accessible education for its own sake. The goal was to lift otherwise neglected communities through improving the material and intellectual living standards whenever possible. They were far less concerned with hot-button, culture war issues of their time like Prohibition and took an open-minded perspective on social policy—“for the most part they refrained from denouncing ordinary people for their bad values” Frank points out. “They regarded many of the controversies of the day as traps or distractions.” This might be a useful thing for activists and organizers to keep in mind, as it often seems like the left wastes energy painstakingly debating the next hot button issue.Naturally, this assertion of equal rights and equal worth rankled the well-heeled. “To prosperous Americans of the Gilded Age,” Frank writes, “it was inconceivable that intelligent human beings would wish to crack down on banks or ditch the gold standard… populist grievances were irrational by definition.”Mark Hanna, a Republican strategist who happens to be Karl Rove’s political hero, believed that “some men must rule; the great mass of men must be ruled.” Hanna took it upon himself to thwart the Populist candidate William Jennings Bryan’s chances in the 1896 presidential election by “crushing Bryan under a mountain of money.”Not unlike today’s world of dark money and unaccountable mega-donors, the Republicans got to work raising fear and alarm nationwide and putting their money behind the hysteria. Hanna raised gobs of cash anywhere he could find and spread fear and misinformation whenever possible. As one historian put it, “moral enthusiasm was to be beaten at every point in the line by a machinelike domination of the actual polling.” It worked; William McKinley won by a solid margin.It’s so much easier to assume that ordinary people don’t have what it takes to govern themselves when you see them as caricatures. The People, No includes a vivid and amusing gallery of anti-populist cartoons from the period which appeared in popular journals, depicting the Pops as demented rabble-rousers bent on utter destruction. In one, the Pops are portrayed as a gaunt, wild-eyed ruffian who wears a tattered cape with “populism” on the side, glaring threateningly at the swells in top hats and tails, clenching a knife labeled “murder” in one hand and a flaming torch labeled “ruin” in the other. On his head is a French Revolution-style stocking cap (red, of course) that reads “anarchy.” Some things never change.Another more explicitly xenophobic cartoon ties the Pops to the fear of the lethal immigrant: a white-clad American lady lies dead after being stabbed by a swarthy “assassin” who is clearly intended to be a dangerous Other. William Jennings Bryan is depicted as Satan himself—an especially ironic insult given that Bryan was actually a devout Christian who famously argued the prosecution’s fundamentalist position in the infamous 1925 Scopes “monkey“ trial. The connection between Christian piety and progressive values has been overshadowed these days, but it doesn’t have to be—another unnecessary victim of the culture wars.Frank connects historical dots between the Populists’ fervor for equality and FDR’s New Deal and forward to the civil fights movement, another important link in the populist tradition. Martin Luther King Jr. is often hailed for his commitment to racial equality and pacifism, but his commitment to economic equality was every bit as fierce. King’s mantra that “all labor has dignity” is described as “an expression that could have come straight out of a Populist manifesto circa 1891.”The great civil Rights organizer Bayard Rustin believed that lower-middle-class whites can go either way politically, depending on how issues are framed. Frank thinks that in today’s political landscape “this is the real swing vote in America, even though the opinion cartel doesn’t want to discuss it (for the usual self-interested reasons). Talk to these people and you’ll find they can be downright radical on economic issues.”In recent decades, the left has turned inward. The politics of identity, endorsed by the New Left emphasis on race, gender, and sexuality—creating the motto “the personal is political”—began to replace the more class-based solidarity of yesteryear. Experts and managers and academics became the new liberal vanguard. This caused, Frank says, a historical backlash: “Elitist was the word used to describe emerging centrist liberalism; a stylish politics for people bedazzled by experts but contemptuous toward their blue-collar countrymen.”Frank cites the end of Easy Rider, where Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda’s freewheeling young hippies are shot dead in cold blood by two rednecks in a pick-up truck, as an example of the cultural gap that began to widen in the ’60s. Those palookas didn’t necessarily need to be the enemy—their working-class dads had probably voted for FDR four times in a row. The same could be said of the famous scene in Five Easy Pieces where Jack Nicholson berates the diner waitress, who was probably living on tips and just trying to get through a long shift. Not exactly sticking it to The Man.The right hasn’t changed its general economic policy much since the Gilded Age. When asked why they seem to be better at playing pretend populism, Frank points out that “they are totally cynical. They have seen their opportunities and they have taken them.” We are all still reeling from how faux folksy types like Reagan and George W. Bush aped the Populist style while legislating the opposite way.As for today’s Democratic Party, Frank thinks it “needs to focus on bringing together working people across the board. With the right issues you could easily assemble massive coalitions that would easily overwhelm the GOP. Make it easy to form labor unions again. You can’t have a left without a mass movement behind it.” Certainly the issues that animated the Populist tradition over a century ago are still as urgently relevant as ever. Maybe that urgency has reached a breakthrough point thanks to the perpetual incompetence and venality of Washington’s status quo. But if so, it will be up to the voters, otherwise known as the People, to make it happen.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
It came in off the street one day—a tip, a lead, a rumor—whatever you cared to call it, it was one of the strangest things they had heard in their careers. Chapo Guzmán, the world-famous drug lord, had hired a young IT guy and the kid had built him a sophisticated system of high-end cell phones and secret servers, all of it ingeniously encrypted.The unconfirmed report—perhaps that was the best way to describe it—had arrived that Friday in June 2009 when a tipster walked into the lobby of the FBI’s field division office in New York. After his story had been vetted downstairs, it made its way up seven flights of stairs and landed with a curious thud among the crowded cubicles of C-23, the Latin American drug squad. For more than thirty years, the elite team of agents and their bosses had hunted some of the drug trade’s biggest criminals, and while tall tales of their antics circulated constantly through its squad room near the courts in Lower Manhattan, no one in the unit knew what to make of this one. The tipster’s account seemed credible enough, but it was sorely lacking details: The only facts he had offered on the young technician were a first name—Christian—and that he was from Medellín, Colombia. All sorts of kooks spouting all sorts of nonsense showed up all the time at FBI facilities, claiming they had inside information on the Kennedy killing or knew someone who knew someone who knew where Jimmy Hoffa was. In what were still the early days of internet telephony, it seemed a bit far-fetched that a twentysomething hacker had reached a deal with the world’s most wanted fugitive and furnished him in hiding with a private form of Skype. As alluring as it sounded, it was just the sort of thing that would probably turn out to be a myth.Inside Colombia’s ‘Air Chapo’ Cocaine Shipping ScandalIn the middle of a drug war, chasing myths was not enough to send C-23 into the field: reality was keeping the unit busy on its own. Three years after Mexico had launched a crusade against its brutal cartel kingpins, the country had erupted into incomparable violence, and much of the chaos had rolled downhill into American investigative files. Just that winter, a psychopath who called himself the Stewmaker had been caught near Tijuana after having boiled three hundred bodies down to renderings in caustic vats of acid. Two weeks later, a retired Mexican general was murdered in Cancún, his kneecaps shattered, and his corpse propped up behind the steering wheel of a pickup truck abandoned on a highway. Since late 2006, the country’s seven drug clans had all been at war with one another or the government—or sometimes both at once—and ten thousand people had already lost their lives.C-23 and other U.S .law enforcement agencies pitched in when they could, opening cases and offering intelligence to their counterparts in Mexico. But in the past several months, conditions at the border had only gotten worse and had metastasized from an ordinary security emergency into something that resembled a full-scale insurrection. From the American point of view, the Sisyphean struggle to end the bloodshed—and to stem the flow of drugs heading north—seemed increasingly impossible despite the constant seizures, the federal indictments and the helicopter gunships sent as foreign aid.In this target-rich environment, Chapo Guzmán was an interest- ing case. While he was neither the wealthiest nor the most sadistic trafficker in Mexico, he was by a matter of degree the most illustrious. His famous alias, “El Chapo”—often rendered “Shorty” but more accurately a reference to his squat, stocky frame—was globally familiar, with a recognition level that rivaled that of movie stars and presidents. Not since Pablo Escobar had ruled over Colombia had la pista secreta—the secret path of the narcotics business—seen a figure who was both a major criminal and a mass celebrity. For nearly twenty years, Guzmán had been at the center of the drug trade, involved in some of its best-known capers and disasters. In 1993, in his earliest brush with fame, he was sent to jail in Mexico for the murder of a Roman Catholic cardinal, Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo*, whose daylight killing at the Guadalajara airport introduced the world to the threat presented by Mexican cartels. Eight years later, in a move that earned him full folkloric status, Guzmán had escaped from prison, slipping out in a laundry cart after paying off his jailers.Ever since, he had been on the run, moving back and forth among a half-dozen hideouts deep in the Sierra Madre mountains, in the Mexi- can state of Sinaloa. Though he lived like an outlaw, he was treated like a king—loved by some, feared by many and inarguably one of the most powerful men in Mexico. A single word from him from one of his mountain dens could set in motion tractor-trailers in Nogales, planes in Cartagena, and merchant freighters in Colón. At fifty-two—an improbable age in an industry that did not promote longevity—Guzmán had reached the height of his career, running his business freely and warring against his rivals, all while playing cat and mouse with those among the Mexican authorities who weren’t on his payroll. While the American government was after him as well, a contrarian consensus had emerged in parts of Washington that at least he was contained in the Sierras, where he was spending exorbitant sums on his security and could not engage in the same bloody havoc that emergent mafias, like the Zetas or La Familia Michoacán, had recently been wreaking in the lowlands. It was also the case that no one—not the FBI, the DEA, nor their cousins in the intelligence community—had ever mounted a successful capture operation in the rugged region he had fled to. In the past two years alone, a panoply of American agencies had helped arrest Otto Herrera, Guzmán’s connection to Colombia’s cartels; Juan Carlos Ramírez, one of his top suppliers; and Jesus “El Rey” Zambada, the brother of “El Mayo” Zambada, his most important partner. The heir to Guzmán’s throne—Mayo’s son, Vicente—was in jail in Mexico City, and Pedro and Margarito Flores, the twin brothers who had handled much of his American distribution, were about to start recording him for U.S. drug officials. By mid-2009, Guzmán himself was already under indictment in San Diego and Tucson and would soon face further charges in Brooklyn and Chicago. But after all of this—countless hours of investigative and prosecutorial effort—he had never spent a single day in an American court of law.That was why C-23’s new lead couldn’t be discounted, as crazy as it sounded. The possibilities it promised were simply too enticing. It stood to reason that a man in Guzmán’s position—on the lam, with far-flung operatives around the globe—would at least want a means of sending and receiving secret messages. Imagine the windfall if the drug squad in New York could hack into the system.That is, if it actually existed.While many of his coworkers shrugged at the story of the mythic cell-phone system, treating it like a piece of science fiction, Special Agent Robert Potash raised his hand and volunteered to run the rumor down. As the rookie in the unit, he had little else to do. Potash had joined C-23 only the year before and while he was as eager as anyone to succeed, he was still finding his feet among his older, more seasoned peers.One of those anomalies who came to law enforcement late in life, Potash had attended the FBI’s academy in Quantico just before his thirty-seventh birthday, the outside age for new recruits. For a federal agent, his background was unusual. Trained as a mechanical engineer, Potash had spent fifteen years of well-paid boredom in the private sector, designing robots and lasers before he realized that what he really wanted to do was put together criminal cases, not expensive widgets. The son of a toolmaker from Connecticut, he had always been something of a tinkerer. Even approaching forty, he often still thought about himself as the handy little kid who built the neighborhood treehouse every summer and spent all winter working on a soapbox car in his garage.Potash had never handled a cartel case before, but knowing of his technical bent, his bosses at C-23 had invited him to sit in on the interview with the tantalizing tipster. He left the conversation convinced there was something there and did not get much resistance from the squad when he stepped forward to investigate it further. Many of the unit’s top agents didn’t want the job, which, by the looks of it, was going to require studying encryption and reading up on arcane subjects like Voice over Internet Protocol. It was, to say the least, not the typical drug cop stuff of busting bad guys or grabbing kilos off the street. When you got down to it, it was more or less nerd work. But that was Potash’s lane.Joining him in his new assignment was his partner, Stephen Marston. Marston was eight times as experienced as Potash and nearly twice as tall. An agent cut from the classic mold—big, broad- shouldered, stolid, methodical—Marston, a New Yorker, had been at C-23 for much of the decade. In his own time in the unit, he had mostly focused on Colombians, among them the remnants of the cocaine cowboys from Medellín and Cali who had since the 1980s supplied cocaine to Mexican smugglers like Guzmán who worked along the border. While Marston didn’t know much about technology—his computer degree from 1993 was obsolete—he did know quite a bit about investigating drug cartels. And something in the tipster’s report had caught his eye.Under questioning, the tipster had explained that shortly before the young technician Christian had gone to work for Guzmán, he had built a beta version of his system for another trafficking group, the Cifuentes family, one of Colombia’s stealthiest and most successful smuggling organizations. Known as the “invisible clan” for their ability to work beneath the radar, the Cifuenteses were, like Christian, based in Medellín. The family had a long and tangled history with Guzmán and had for years been shipping him their product in everything from King Commander turboprops to long-range shark and tuna boats. Marston knew that the tipster’s story might have had a few implausible details, but he recognized its basic inner logic. If some of the Cifuenteses had acquired a new technology, it would certainly be reasonable to think that they had passed it on, through the man who had developed it, to their longtime friend and ally.Meticulous as always, Marston was not about to raise an alarm—or his boss’s expectations—without first thoroughly confirming the account. In the FBI, if you were smart, you always promised less than you delivered. As he and Potash started on the case, Marston decided that he needed proof of concept: some hard evidence that the secret system was more than just a pipe dream.What he really needed, when he thought about it further, was one of the damned phones.They started with their colleagues in Colombia.After squeezing the tipster for all that he was worth, Marston and Potash decided to run his story past the experts on the ground: the FBI’s legal attaché team and their DEA equivalents in Bogotá. They arranged a call with the embassy and to their surprise, when they mentioned Christian’s name, everyone seemed to know who they were talking about. A young technician—Christian Rodriguez, they were told—ran a small business in Medellín repairing computers and setting up communications networks. Rodriguez was also known to dabble from time to time in the city’s black-hat hacking scene. Though there wasn’t much in the way of solid proof, the agents in Bogotá were confident it had to be their man.Signing off, Marston and Potash dwelled on their discovery: The young kid that Chapo Guzmán had brought in as his infotech consultant appeared to have a day job as Medellín’s Geek Squad guy.*The murder of Cardinal Ocampo, on May 24, 1993, was a seminal moment in Mexico, awakening the public to the rising power and violence of the country’s drug mafias. It was also a seminal moment for Guzmán. He has always denied involvement in the killing; indeed, the evidence suggests that he may have been its target, not its perpetrator. Ocampo was likely killed in accidental crossfire when hit men from the Tijuana cartel tried to murder Guzmán. Guzmán never forgot that the cartel’s leaders, the Arellano-Félix brothers, attempted to assassinate him or that they let him take the blame for Ocampo’s death. The rancor spawned a bloody war between Guzmán and the brothers that raged intermittently from the early 1990s well into the first decade of the 2000s.EXCERPTED FROM EL JEFE: THE STALKING OF CHAPO GUZMÁN. COPYRIGHT © 2020 BY ALAN FEUER. EXCERPTED BY PERMISSION OF FLATIRON BOOKS, A DIVISION OF MACMILLAN PUBLISHERS. NO PART OF THIS EXCERPT MAY BE REPRODUCED OR REPRINTED WITHOUT PERMISSION IN WRITING FROM THE PUBLISHER.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
When I loaded up a mustard-colored Kia Seltos in June with a cooler, a suitcase, a kayak, and a mountain bike and struck out of Portland for the rust-colored rockscapes of Utah, it felt a little reckless.Oregon had begun to get a weak grip on the coronavirus, but too many of the reddest Utahns were proudly rebuffing epidemiologists' urgent pleas to stay 6 feet away from one another and wear masks. Moab, a city of 5,000-ish people that draws 3 million visitors annually to its uncanny collection of rock arches and flowy trail systems, was actively discouraging anyone from coming to town. The region’s tiny health care offerings would be quickly overwhelmed by a tourist-driven spike in COVID-19 cases.But I was quarantine-cooped and desperate for a scene change and went anyway, hewing as close as possible to parts of the state where I could quickly retreat to Salt Lake’s robust hospital network if I caught the Bug. And now, after nearly two weeks of sweltering in the stagnant soup of PM 2.5 from the wildfires that have gobbled up what feels like half of the Cascade Range’s towering forests, I’m again eyeing the Beehive State as refuge.The journey to blue skies depends of course on where it starts, but all roads ultimately lead to Salt Lake City and the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Salt Lake, a fine vantage point to explore a downtown whose biggest strengths are a series of excellent restaurants, all within walking distance: pork belly lettuce wraps and short rib polenta poutine at Whiskey Street; charred beets and togarashi on the artsy back patio of Eva; snowball shrimp and shaken steak cubes at the Vietnamese/Chinese fusion joint Pleiku.If it makes the most sense to stay closest to big hospitals, keep eating your way through Salt Lake City and pick up a Connect Pass, which affords access to museums, parks and gardens around the city. If southwest spires are calling, pack your belongings, change into hiking or biking clothes and work in a jaunt on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, which rings the city via the foothills of the Wasatch and Oquirrh mountain ranges cradling the valley, on your way out.For higher elevations, bluer skies and literally greener pastures, the bougie outdoor mecca that is Park City is less than an hour’s drive east of Salt Lake, where just off of the main drag into the cutesy downtown is a mid-century modern homage: the Park City Peaks Hotel, which offers direct links to area trails.Park City is best known for its epic ski scene (and the Sundance Film Festival,) but in balmier months there’s plenty to do, from 450 miles of mountain biking on an impeccably built trail system to post-adventure bites at fine restaurants like the family-owned Silver Star Cafe and it’s “roots cuisine”: blackened shrimp and polenta, organic half-chicken with a persimmon-chili glaze, pan-seared Scottish salmon. There’s also the High West Distillery, where the finest Sazerac in the Wasatch range pairs nicely with a charcuterie and cheese board.It makes all kinds of sense to do Utah for its famed series of national parks and monuments: Zion, Canyonlands, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, to name a few. But national parks can be crowded and prone to closure, and there is much to Utah that lies off of well worn paths. From Park City, then, slide down the eastern side of the Wasatch on State Highway 189, past Utah Lake, through Provo and Spanish Fork and then on to the Goblin Valley, the San Rafael Swell, and Hanksville, all nice jumping off points for an array of uncrowded adventures.The Valley of Goblins features a nice network of established trails from one overlook to the next, in a maze of sandstone formations. But it’s also perfectly acceptable to wander off trail to check out the hoodoos, mushrooms and goblins scattered throughout the area. A 21-mile-long graded dirt road ferries bikers to a 360-degree view of Capitol Reef, Thousand Lake Mountain, Boulder Top, Factory Butte and the Henry Mountains.You might not find a high-degree of pandemic respect in Hanksville but there’s at least one nice place to crash: Duke’s Slickrock, with tent sites, fully furnished cabins and a restaurant that somehow excels both at vegetarian fare and baby back ribs.From Hanksville it’s about an hour to the Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch’s old stomping grounds: the Green River, where various whitewater guides offer multiday trips through the wild Gray Canyons. For more of a Tarzan vibe, travelers can track down the excellent and patient guides of Get in the Wild, for canyoneering. (I am terrified of heights and was foolish enough not to have googled what canyoneering actually is until after I went canyoneering, so I had to beg my way out of the adventure that included a 40-foot rappel down a rock face in favor of one with shorter drops. But it was still a blast.)Up next is a quick drive west to Torrey, a jumping off point for Capitol Reef National Park. The Broken Spur Hotel and Steakhouse is a fine alternative to park lodging if that’s full, especially if you’re a meat and fish eater.From Torrey it’s about a three-hour drive to St. George and if you’re lucky, The Advenire, a grand boutique hotel with 60 spacious rooms and a rooftop space with sweeping views of surrounding red rocks, and an on-site restaurant, Wood. Ash. Rye. There’s enough to do around here to warrant at least a week in this charming little burg, from a stroll around downtown to a plethora of adventure options all within an hour’s drive.For mountain biking, Bearclaw Poppy is a meticulously built trail system within 15 minutes of the hotel. For hikes and strolls, A half hour from the Advenire lies Snow Canyon State Park, whose folded sandstone layers make for a fun scramble at the end of a hot day and a swell place to camp, if there are spots available.Stick around awhile, or head back the way you came. On that note: From San Francisco, it’s a largely uninteresting blast through Reno and Battle Mountain en route to Salt Lake. From Los Angeles, you’d effectively take the reverse of my road trip, which began in Portland, because the southernmost stops on the journey will show up first on the map. From Portland, the first stop is either Bend or Boise, depending on what level of road warrior you are. If a blast down the interstate feels more prudent, you’ll stop in Boise. The prettier and slightly longer route is through Bend, where two idyllic hotel options await: the crowd favorite Old St. Francis School Hotel, where like many of the hotels in the Portland-based chain McMenamins there are surprising little meticulously restored touches around every corner, and where unlike many of the hotels in the chain there’s a turquoise-tiled soaking pool. For a swankier but not snootier choice, opt for The Oxford, which rises gallantly from the heart of downtown and whose rooms and suites are spacious and well-appointed, with enticing views of the Three Sisters mountains to the west. If proximity to the great outdoors is what lured you to Bend, check out LOGE Bend, which bills itself as the city’s closest property to Mt. Bachelor, a 15-minute bike ride to breweries downtown or a few moments on singletrack to one of the region’s best mountain bike networks, Phil’s Trail. The hiply designed rooms include hammocks and bike racks, and the communal space features outdoor kitchens, Traeger pellet grills, bike tuning stations and ski lockers.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
Jim Obergefell, in whose name marriage equality became the law of the land in 2015 after he successfully presented his case to the Supreme Court, believes it is now “in danger” with the likely appointment to the court of conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett.Obergefell, 54, told The Daily Beast he has been dealing “with the feeling of devastation” over the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Now Judge Barrett’s nomination has brought an “overwhelming fear about LGBTQ+ rights and women’s rights and so many things,” he said. “I feel what I, and the many other marriage equality plaintiffs fought for, is at more risk than ever before.”Kiss Your Rights Goodbye When Amy Coney Barrett Joins SCOTUSObergefell didn’t feel the same level of concern over the safety of marriage equality under the law when Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016, as he felt Chief Justice John Roberts “put so much weight on precedents, and so I thought would have been on the side of keeping marriage equality. But if Judge Barrett is appointed, it’s a potential 6-3 split in favor of conservatives. I’m concerned, I really am. I hate to say it, I really do, but I believe marriage equality is in danger. It makes me sick to my stomach.”Obergefell is far from alone in his concern, which is echoed by LGBTQ groups and campaigners. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has called Judge Barrett an “absolute threat to LGBTQ rights,” pointing to her questioning the role of the Supreme Court in ruling on marriage equality, and her opinion that the text of Title IX does not extend to explicitly protect transgender students. At a 2016 lecture Judge Barrett referred to transgender women as “physiological males.”“If Amy Coney Barrett is… confirmed, she is not going to uphold Justice Ginsburg's legacy,” HRC president Alphonso David said in a tweet. “She’s going to do her best to dismantle it. The American people should have a say in this appointment. We oppose her nomination & this sham process.”Obergefell, who lives in Columbus, Ohio, said President Trump’s appointment of more than 200 judges in lower courts made marriage equality legislation even more vulnerable to challenge at the Supreme Court. “That’s what makes me scared. If there’s a case that gets in front of the right judge who is opposed to marriage equality, they could rule in favor of it. Before now, I had confidence the Supreme Court would have said, ‘This is precedent, marriage equality is the law of the land.’ I thought the highest court in the land had ruled we have marriage, that it was not going anywhere. I don’t have that confidence now. I am extremely concerned that we could have marriage equality overturned. I have to be realistic. It’s a scary time to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community, indeed any member of a marginalized community. I’m worried about equality for every group who has gone before the court in order just to be treated like everyone else.”Obergefell said he was not upset for himself but about “the harm it will do people across our nation” if marriage equality is revoked. In the seven years since he started fighting the case, he has been hugely affected by the interactions he has had with same-sex couples who tell him what the victory has meant to them; the young people “who hug me and thank me for giving them the hope they will be able to marry the person they love,” and the parents who thank him for making it possible for their children to marry who they love.“That’s what breaks my heart and makes me sick to the stomach,” said Obergefell, “to think of all those people who found a sense of hope and sense of belonging in our nation, and to have that ripped away and suddenly facing going back to second-class status. We all want to spend our lives with someone we love, and to suddenly have that taken away is devastating. It makes me incredibly sad for our nation.”Obergefell and partner John Arthur married in 2013 in Baltimore, as same-sex marriage was then illegal in their home state of Ohio. Arthur, who suffered from ALS, died later that year. Arthur is never far from Obergefell’s mind. Judge Barrett’s nomination, and the danger marriage equality is now in, has brought him even more to mind. “I think John would be really disappointed in our nation,” said Obergefell.Obergefell has felt “a creeping sense of dread and fear” as the Trump administration has attacked LGBTQ people, particularly trans people. “Justice Ginsburg’s death and now this nomination has kicked that feeling of dread into a more distinct feeling of fear.”More recently than marriage equality, in June SCOTUS ruled that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act does protect LGBTQ people from discrimination. Companies cannot now fire people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.The marriage equality case started off in 2013 “as a personal thing,” said Obergefell. “John was dying of ALS, the Edie Windsor decision had happened [striking down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013]. I proposed, we got married. At that point, my life consisted of four walls. John was confined to bed. We started this fight because we simply wanted to feel like we existed and mattered.” After Arthur died and Obergefell secured his first victory in federal court, “it suddenly become very clear to me what our fight meant to so many others. It started becoming this bigger fight.”After the victory at the Supreme Court, Obergefell—memorably congratulated live on CNN by then-President Barack Obama—wished Arthur had been alive to see “we were husbands for good and that no one can change that. No one can disrespect that. That was such a beautiful thing to realize. I never thought it would happen. I felt very fortunate. It’s hard to describe how momentous and meaningful it was, but it was all because I loved John and I wanted to live up to my promises to love, honor, and protect him. I was willing to do anything to do that, including going to the highest court.”* * *“It’s infuriating. It disgusts me that there are people in this nation who want nothing more than to drag us backwards.”The prospect of marriage equality being lost is “terrifying” to Obergefell. It also makes him angry. “I want to say to people, how would they feel if their government suddenly said, ‘Your relationship, your marriage, the person you care most about in the whole world, suddenly means nothing—actually it means less than nothing, and we are going to disregard it and disrespect it in every way.’ It’s infuriating. It disgusts me that there are people in this nation who want nothing more than to drag us backwards. There are people in this country who do not believe in ‘We the People.’ They don’t believe in equal justice under the law. They only believe in it if it benefits them, not if it benefits anyone else—and I just find that thoroughly disheartening. It’s a slap in the face for our country’s founders and Constitution.”The behavior of Trump and Republicans pushing Judge Barrett’s nomination forward so fast after Justice Ginsburg’s death has been “offensive,” said Obergefell. “They didn’t even give her the dignity of letting 24 hours—let alone a little bit longer—pass until they turned this into a political play. And then you add their hypocrisy to it, after they obstructed Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination under President Obama. “I look at the GOP, and think power and party are so much more important to them than the oath they took for office. Power and party to them seem much more important than our Constitution and our nation. I find it disgusting and reprehensible.”To Trump, Judge Barrett, and the Supreme Court, Obergefell would say that the Constitution is a “living, breathing document” that they know would change as society changed. “I would also ask, ‘What harm does my marriage, or any same-sex marriage, do? None whatsoever. We’re simply asking to enjoy the same rights, protections, and responsibilities as any other American, as promised to us in the Constitution.”In the years since 2015, Obergefell has continued his activism through public speaking, his advocacy with Family Equality, and charitable donations from Equality Vines, the wine label he co-founded in Guerneville, Sonoma County, in California. Judge Barrett’s nomination, and the threat now posed to marriage equality, means Obergefell feels he has an even greater responsibility to speak up. “I have to do all I can to make sure we don’t lose that vital right to say ‘I do,’ and actually have it mean something.”Obergefell also had some happier news to share. He revealed he had just started seeing a new partner. Introduced by a mutual friend, they spent months corresponding virtually and just met this week for the first time face-to-face in San Francisco, where his partner lives. “It’s been great,” said Obergefell. “Our friend’s first thought was that we had to meet, and I have to say she wasn’t wrong. In a positive way, the pandemic took away some of the anxiety of meeting in person. We got to know each other really well by email, phone, and then FaceTime. When we met for the first time, it didn’t feel like that.”To LGBTQ people feeling as alarmed by Judge Barrett’s likely appointment as he does, Obergefell said he also has felt “terrified and hopeless at times recently. But I would say: ‘Don’t lose hope. Don’t give up the fight.’ Even though at a federal level, things are looking scary, there’s still an awful lot we can do at the local, state, and city level.”Obergefell paused. “I would also say we owe it to Justice Ginsburg to keep fighting. She was our advocate. She was our ally. She was so important to our community and other marginalized communities that we can’t let her down. She worked long into her life, long past when others would retire. She did that for us. So no matter how disheartened, terrified, and afraid we are, we have to keep fighting because we owe it to Ruth.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. 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Unlike President Donald Trump’s eagerly accommodating attorney general, Bill Barr, Shepard Smith doesn’t believe that New York is a dystopian jurisdiction of “anarchy, violence, and destruction.” That was the claim in last week’s Justice Department memo threatening the cutoff of federal tax dollars to the city.“You know, man, I walk out in Greenwich Village and we have outdoor restaurants everywhere,” CNBC’s newest star told The Daily Beast, in that familiar booming broadcast voice only slightly inflected by his small-town Mississippi roots, as he got ready for Wednesday night’s debut of The News with Shepard Smith, an hour-long show that replaces the 7 p.m. airing of Shark Tank.“And I walked by the Red Lion the other night”—the famed Greenwich Village live music venue—“and there was an amazing singer and guitar player in the doorway and they had socially distanced tables set up right on Bleecker Street, and it was fantastic,” Smith went on. “New York was alive, and people were out and about, and they were being right with each other.”Getting positively rhapsodic, Smith continued: “I live in the Village. How many languages and every kind of people from every place on the planet! I used to walk to the subway station and hear every language—sometimes English—on the way. And all those people from all those places are all doing the same thing. They’re being good to each other by wearing their masks and staying separate. I loved it.”Shepard Smith Leaving Fox News After Clashes With ColleaguesWithout quite saying so, Smith, 56, was firmly and volubly rejecting much of the messaging—whether about immigrants, COVID-19 or the alleged lawlessness of Blue State cities—coming out of the Trump White House these days.And without mentioning the president’s name, Smith—a mega-donor to the Committee to Protect Journalists (to the tune of $500,000, a check he wrote last November when he emceed the group’s annual fundraising dinner)—also chided Trump for repeatedly mocking MSNBC anchor Ali Velshi at his rallies for getting hit by a rubber bullet (a “beautiful sight,” Trump likes to gloat) as he covered a peaceful demonstration in Minneapolis against George Floyd’s alleged murder by cop.“Violence should never be glorified or condoned,” Smith told The Daily Beast. “I don’t wish harm on anyone. My colleagues, friends, and family don’t either. Leaders have the power to inspire and influence. That power, used properly, can make us better. I hope we can disagree with civility and respect.”At Fox News, where he had thrived for nearly a quarter-century, Smith was a rarity—an increasingly severe critic of Trump’s lies, his “crazy… ridiculous throwaway lines,” his campaign’s involvement with Russian operatives, and his attacks on journalists; Trump of course returned the favor, deriding “low ratings Shep Smith” (never mind that he consistently crushed his rivals at CNN and MSNBC) as “HOPELESS & CLUELESS!”Yet when Smith is asked why he quit Fox News last October—a whiplash-inducing turnabout barely 18 months after he signed a lucrative multi-year deal to continue at the right-leaning cable channel—his natural fluency becomes clipped and abrupt, almost as if he’s acting out a Hemingway parody.“I made a decision to leave. I left. And that’s it,” Smith said about his departure, which—seconds after he announced it on air Oct. 11—astonished such colleagues as Neil Cavuto (“Whoa!...I’m a little stunned and a little heartbroken”), Bret Baier (“Today brought about a little shock for us here”), and John Roberts (“I…suddenly got hit by a subway train. Holy mackerel!”).On his final newscast, Smith told viewers, “Recently I asked the company to allow me to leave Fox News and begin a new chapter. After requesting that I stay, they obliged.”Published reports suggested that Smith gave up a $15-million annual salary, significantly more than CNBC is said to be paying him (“I don’t talk about money, because my mama told me that’s not polite,” Smith jokes), because he could no longer abide the conspiracy theories, fanciful claims, and pro-Trump propaganda being pushed by some of his Fox News colleagues, especially primetime hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham.The last straw, according to a friend who is regular contact with Smith, was his on-air dustup with Carlson last September over an insult made against Fox News’ resident judicial analyst, former New Jersey judge Andrew Napolitano, by one of Carlson’s guests. On Smith’s afternoon show, Napolitano had said Trump’s tacit quid pro quo attempt to coerce the president of Ukraine into launching an investigation into Joe Biden, in return for congressionally-mandated military aid, constituted a crime.That night, Carlson’s guest Joe DiGenova, a rabidly pro-Trump former U.S. attorney, called Napolitano “a fool,” with zero pushback from Carlson.“Attacking our colleague, who’s here to offer legal assessments, on our air, in our work home, is repugnant,” Smith declared grimly the next day—prompting Carlson that night to invite DiGenova on again and snicker, “Repugnant! Not clear if that was you or me, but someone’s repugnant.”Shep Smith Hammers Fox News Guest for ‘Repugnant’ Attack on Colleague Judge NapolitanoSmith, his friend said, was frustrated and angry that Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and news president Jay Wallace, Smith’s longtime former producer, did nothing to put a stop to the sort of unseemly internecine public feuding that Fox News founder Roger Ailes would never have permitted—accelerating his decision.Asked about that, Smith didn’t contradict it, but was the soul of tact and diplomacy. “I was there for 23 years,” he said, “and my goal was always the same—to seek the truth, find the truth and tell the truth and then have some fun doing it. We gotta have a little fun in life and we have to find the kinds of people who make everything that’s terrible better—heroes in the chaos, because I cover a lot of chaos.“And while I was there, I made friends for life. I was fortunate to be able to do a first draft of history, and I decided I wanted a change. And I made it. And one of the things that’s constant in my life is I have to make a lot of decisions. We all do. It’s part of my life at work. I’m one of the people who makes decisions, and when I make one, that’s it. Because there’s too many more to be made.”Smith’s departure came more than three years after the disgraced Ailes resigned amid sexualmisconduct allegations, and two years after his May 2017 death. “I loved him,” Smith told viewers in an emotional tribute to his late mentor and cheerleader—a man, he acknowledged, with “well-documented flaws.”Nearly four years later, Smith said tersely: “I think Roger wanted news. And he wanted me to do the news. And I did it. And I’m glad I did it. And I’m glad I moved on to a new challenge.”Smith said the CNBC program—which will draw upon the journalistic resources of NBC News, a division of the company Trump persists in calling “Concast”—will be different from what he was doing at Fox, where the news reports were frequently punctuated by punditry.“We’re gonna do a newscast,” he said. “We’re gonna seek the truth and find the truth and tell the truth, in context and with perspective. We’re gonna have experts and we’re gonna have newsmakers. But we’re gonna have no pundits and no opinion.”Smith elaborated: “I think everything goes into about six buckets these days. I think there’s politics and there’s COVID and, beyond that, there’s the information age and all the changes, there’s social justice and how we have to have it, there’s income inequality and how it will kill us if we let it, and there’s climate change that we better pay attention to or we’ll wake up one day and say this period was a cakewalk. About everything in life goes in those buckets and that’s what we’re gonna be focusing on.”Although Smith acknowledges that politics, namely the future of the Senate and Biden versus Trump, are likely to dominate his newscast for a good long while—“’Tis the season”—“it’s not my favorite thing,” he said. “There’s a lot of agendas there. I like people stories. I like to cover things that affect people’s day to day lives. Like now. Everything about life has changed one way or another, and I think documenting how we live in this new normal that changes all the time is important and interesting.”Smith also indicated that he’ll be doing the sort of fact-checking, political and otherwise, that distinguished his work at Fox News.“I’m worried about disinformation most,” he said. “I’m worried about deep fakes and I’m worried about people who live in an information hole that’s actually a dis-information hole…It’s fairly new in the arc of things. It’s brand new. And we have to learn how to call out misinformation and disinformation because it’s injurious to society. So that’s one thing we’re gonna do.”He added a cautionary note against “the shiny object. So many people—business leaders, CEOs, politicians—they throw up a shiny object to try to distract you from what’s going on. We’re gonna call that out—maybe not every single day, but some days I think there will be more than one shiny object. We should not be distracted.”Smith, who prefers to keep his private life private, has been increasingly open in recent years that he’s a gay man in a longtime committed relationship with 33-year-old Giovanni “Gio” Graziano, a former Fox News and Fox Business Network producer who these days is managing their mutual finances among other pursuits, such as academics and caring for their four-year-old Italian water dog, a truffle-sniffing Lagotto Romagnolo named Lucia.When asked on Friday about the impending Supreme Court nomination of former Antonin Scalia clerk Amy Coney Barrett and its potential impact on recently adjudicated LGBTQ rights such as marriage—and whether a 6 to 3 conservative majority on the court might threaten those rights—Smith sounds like he’s either unconcerned or putting on a brave face.“We weren’t granted rights! We already had them!” he boomed. “They were there from the Constitution. And that’s a done deal. In America people don’t take away rights. That’s not what America is. That’s not what America does. America doesn’t take away rights. America makes sure that everyone gets to exercise their rights that are inalienable and are endowed by the Creator. That’s what America does. I’ve not met anyone at any level, anywhere, who wants to take the rights away that were granted to me by the Constitution. I’ve not met the person who wants to do that. That’s not gonna happen.”Smith burst out laughing when asked if he and Gio might consider availing themselves of the right to get married.“I don’t know that we need the government involved in our relationship,” he said with a chuckle. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I don’t know. I don’t know anything. I’m enormously happy, and I hope nothing changes.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
On Sept. 23, as the presidential election began its terminal season, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) asked acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf if Russia had an active propaganda campaign against former Vice President Joe Biden. Wolf responded by talking about two other countries.“I think on everything that I’ve seen, that there are three nation states that we have to be very concerned about. One is Russia, one is China and one is Iran,” Wolf began. Yes, Russia indeed “looks to denigrate” Biden, he acknowledged, and yes, they all respond to the election differently. But “all three nation states” comprise 2020’s foreign election threat.It was an odd conflation. While China and Iran have certainly pushed their share of political disinformation, only Russia’s propaganda is known to be directly and deeply targeted to the U.S. election in November.In his testimony, Wolf pointed to a piece of paper—one that, subtextually, U.S. senators are bound to respect. Two months before, William Evanina, the nation’s top counterintelligence official, issued a public assessment treating all three nations as election threats. But his depiction of those threats varied. China was trying to influence “the policy environment” in America, and “will continue to weigh the risks and benefits of aggressive action.” Iran wants to “undermine U.S. democratic institutions” by circulating “anti-U.S. content” online. Rudimentary maneuvers, in other words, in the realm of information warfare.U.S. Intel Repeatedly Warned About Rudy’s ‘Russian Agent’ PalRussia, by contrast, was engaged in an array of efforts—hiring American freelance writers to unknowingly pen and spread Kremlin propaganda, signal-boosting the most unhinged conspiracy theories online. And it had an agent. What’s more, Russia was using a Ukrainian parliamentarian, Andreii Derkach, to generate and circulate misinformation against Biden. Evanina didn’t say it, but Derkach gave those documents to Donald Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani.Evanina’s equivalences drew criticism from Democrats with access to intelligence. “[T]oday’s statement still treats three actors of differing intent and capability as equal threats to our democratic elections,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the intelligence committee chair, both of whom had criticized an earlier Evanina election-threat portrait. Politico subsequently reported that CIA Director Gina Haspel prevented Russia assessments from reaching the White House and accused CIA Russia analysts of lying about intelligence.A closer look at the purported intrusion campaigns, from cybersecurity analysts and others, shows a sharp divergence. Microsoft found no indication that Chinese attempts to access accounts belonging to Biden advisers and a Trump administration were successful; but it also found the Chinese targeting academics and think-tankers, consistent with its observed intelligence-collection patterns. Nor did it find any success from Iranian hackers. But Microsoft warned that Russian hackers operate a more sophisticated credential-siphoning enterprise and pledged to continue “proactively hunting” them. Given these divergences, crafting a framework of Russia-China-Iran is reminiscent of how depictions of threats from “weapons of mass destruction” paper over the vast differences between nuclear weapons, biological weapons, and chemical weapons. And if there’s a nation with nukes in this analogy, so far China and Iran haven’t shown them off.Portraying a “troika” of China, Russia, and Iran election threats suits the intelligence analysts, said the former official, who assign different weight to each of those threats in terms of scale, urgency and objective. But the formulation of them as a troika allows Trump and his allies to “cherry-pick” which threats to emphasize.“If China is mentioned in a statement like that, the administration can lift that part up while ignoring the Russia part, for example, which may be of much greater consequence. That puts Evanina and the intelligence professionals in a difficult position. You can’t engage in a war of words with your customer set, that doesn’t generally turn out well,” said the former official, who expressed respect for Evanina’s integrity.There may be further classified intelligence to back up the administration’s claim that China poses a greater threat than Russia or Iran. And it’s worth remembering WikiLeaks didn’t release its trove of emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman until October of 2016; perhaps Beijing or Tehran has an October surprise this time around.But the dispute over the correct characterization of foreign threats to the election obscures the reality that the biggest threat to the election isn’t foreign at all. It’s domestic, according to former intelligence officials and cybersecurity experts, and it seeks to keep Trump in power. He and his allies describe mail-in balloting, increasingly a choice of voters in a pandemic, as a tool for Democrats to steal the election. They’ve gamed out voter-suppression scenarios for Black voters and other presumed Democratic constituencies. Trump supporters are describing the perpetuation of Trump’s presidency as the last stand of a free republic and threaten violence if it doesn’t go their way. Whatever foreign threat imperils the election is relatively minor. But calibrating whose foreign interference is worse is much easier for politicians to confront.“My sense is that the volume and velocity of material aimed at misleading people with respect to politics in the U.S. right now, generated by Americans themselves, probably vastly exceeds the volume and velocity that emanates from foreign actors,” said a former senior intelligence official.* * *Over the last several weeks, President Trump and his closest aides, particularly National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, have ramped up a public messaging campaign focused on how China poses a greater threat to the electoral process than any other foreign power, including Russia. “We know the Chinese have taken the most active role,” O’Brien told reporters in September, adding that Beijing had “had the most massive program to influence the United States politically.”National security officials have for years worked to underscore and fight back against the threats China poses to U.S. interests, particularly its attempts to steal American intellectual property, hack into American networks, and control its own people through American proxies. Dozens and dozens of arrests have been made, including, most recently, that of a New York City cop recruited by Beijing to spy on local Tibetan groups.NYPD Officer Spied on Tibetan New Yorkers for Chinese Government: FedsLess has been said about how Beijing may be attempting to interfere in the 2020 election. Last week, the Justice Department announced the indictment of two Chinese hackers working for the Ministry of State Security; Facebook did recently remove accounts associated with a Chinese-linked disinformation network that worked to promote the People’s Republic to overseas audiences, including the American one. But the activity alleged in the indictment has nothing to do with elections, however. And Facebook told reporters at the time of the announcement that there was little engagement around the network’s posts that focused on the United States. And O’Brien himself didn’t have much to add in the way of specifics in his talk with reporters earlier this month. “I am not going to go into all the intelligence,” he said.Asked how the administration is calculating the risk China poses to the 2020 campaign, spokespersons for the National Security Council would not answer questions on the record. O’Brien recently published a Wall Street Journal op-ed on the topic, in which he pointed to that Microsoft hacking assessment—the one that showed Russia to be the more sophisticated actor. Yet O’Brien declared that, “This behavior, coupled with China’s ever-present influence operations targeting all aspects of U.S. civil society and the economy, represents a serious threat to the integrity of our elections.”In his public statements, Evanina, the U.S. counterintelligence chief, “has noted that Beijing is engaged in influence efforts, but has not gone so far as to assert that China is attempting election interference,” said Zach Cooper, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and an expert on China. “Some senior Trump administration officials, however, have appeared to suggest that both are occurring.”U.S. officials who attempt to veer from this line have faced the consequences. When FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before Congress this week, he did not speak to any specific threats posed by China but instead detailed how Russia was attempting to use disinformation to “denigrate Biden.”It didn’t take long for Trump to push back. “But Chris, you don’t see any activity from China, even though it is a FAR greater threat than Russia, Russia, Russia. They will both, plus others, be able to interfere in our 2020 Election with our totally vulnerable Unsolicited (Counterfeit?) Ballot Scam,” Trump tweeted.The next day, Trump was asked whether he intended to fire Wray. “I did not like his answers yesterday and I’m not sure he liked them either. I’m sure that he probably would agree with me.”Michael Carpenter, a defense official in the Obama administration and a managing director of the Penn Biden Center, sees a dangerous trend developing. “It is not just that the commander-in-chief doesn’t trust the intelligence that he’s getting or doesn’t act on it. He and close associates of his are trying to both insert partisan cronies into the intelligence community to do their bidding. It’s designed to undermine Biden’s candidacy,” he said.* * *When Evanina published his August statement on election security, politicians and officials argued about the significance of both China and Russian information operations, Iran kept its own propaganda machine revved up.It comes as perhaps no surprise that Tehran is continuing to wage disinformation campaigns aimed at dividing the country and attacking Trump, whose administration has over the last four years launched a massive assault on Iran’s economy with punishing sanctions. Iranian networks have long sought to use social media to attack the Trump administration so much so that the State Department created a team to fight back and target those speaking out against the administration’s Iran policy.In his election security notice, Evanina noted that in the lead-up to the election, Iran “will focus on on-line influence, such as spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-U.S. content.” “Tehran’s motivation to conduct such activities is, in part, driven by a perception that President Trump’s reelection would result in a continuation of U.S. pressure on Iran in an effort to foment regime change,” the statement said.Microsoft’s analysis revealed how Phosphorus, an Iranian group known for targeting a wide variety of organizations working on geopolitics, economics and human rights, has “continued to attack the personal accounts of people associated with the Donald J. Trump for President campaign.”In February, Facebook took down half a dozen troll accounts associated with an Iranian effort to target conservatives in the U.S. The trolls spent time in Christian groups like “Only Jesus Can Save” and “Jesus Christ Family,” and posted flyers that appeared to attack former National Security Adviser John Bolton, labeling him a “slave of gold.” The cybersecurity firm FireEye also found accounts that targeted well-known conservatives opposed to Trump and sent them messages inquiring about their thoughts on the 2020 election.Pro-Iran Troll Posed as WHO Official to Push Racist Coronavirus HoaxBut what cybersecurity firms, social media companies, and U.S. intelligence have observed about Russian propaganda is an order of magnitude more advanced and targeted to the 2020 election.Intelligence and national security officials have for months warned of Russian attempts to meddle in the 2020 presidential election. In her December 2019 remarks in front of House impeachment investigators, Fiona Hill, Trump’s former top Russia adviser, sounded the alarm.“Right now Russia security services and their proxies are geared up to repeat their interference in the 2020 election,” she said. “The way that the Russians operate is that they will use whatever conduit they can to put out information that is both real and credible but that also masks a great deal of disinformation.”In the months leading up to Hill’s testimony, intelligence officials drafted reports outlining the extent to which Russia was leaning on proxies, such as Andrii Derkach, a Ukrainian parliamentarian, to spread debunked conspiracy theories about nominee Joe Biden, his son Hunter, and their dealings in Ukraine. Members of Congress were warned about such efforts at the end of 2019, as The Daily Beast has reported. At the same time, Derkach worked closely with the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to propagate falsehoods about the Bidens and Ukrainian intervention in the 2016 election.In an Aug. 7 statement on threats to the 2020 election, Evanina pointed to Derkach as one of the main Russian-linked individuals “using a range of measures to primarily denigrate former Vice President Biden.” “Derkach is spreading claims about corruption—including through publicizing leaked phone calls—to undermine former Vice President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party,” the statement said. Earlier this month the Treasury Department blacklisted Derkach for acting as a Russian “agent” and for meddling in the 2020 election.The Derkach push is one of many. In recent months, the FBI has twice provided tips about Russian intelligence-linked troll networks on Facebook. The move led the social media company to remove at least two separate clusters of fake accounts, which posed as a fictitious news site and think tank in order to recruit unsuspecting Western freelancers to write and distribute content.And on Sept. 10, the Justice Department indicted a 27-year-old employee of the Internet Research Agency, Artem Lifshits, for his role in “a wire fraud conspiracy to further Russian foreign influence efforts and to enrich himself and others.” In August, the State Department also published a detailed guide to Russian-linked propaganda outlets and revealed the outlets’ connections to Russian intelligence services like the GRU and SVR.Asked if there were Chinese or Iranian election interference networks that the FBI had tipped the social media companies off to, an FBI spokesperson declined comment.* * *All the emphasis on foreign interference in the presidential election obscures the torrent of disinformation coming not from any overseas troll farm or cut-out, but from the president and his allies, who portray mailed ballots as the tools for a Democratic coup and undermine faith in the voting process.On Sep. 23, Evanina joined Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe in briefing the Senate Intelligence Committee. Evanina did most of the talking. According to a source familiar with the briefing, the senior intelligence officials told lawmakers that the anticipated uncertainty over the election results in the days following the votes would likely be exploited by foreign disinformation. Evanina didn’t sound any pronounced warning against any particular foreign entity. The following day, the senior Democrat on the committee, Sen. Mark Warner (VA), said the intelligence officials had assessed the period immediately before and after the election “could be uniquely volatile.”A spokesperson for the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, which Evanina helms, would not comment on the briefing. But they pointed to a Sept. 21 announcement from the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency that “raise[d] awareness of the potential threat posed by attempts to spread disinformation regarding the results of the 2020 elections.” Among its warnings about “foreign actors and cybercriminals” was the prospect of trolls defacing official election websites and manufacturing fake ones that could circulate on social media to announce false results.While the Sept. 23 briefing avoided talk of domestic politics, the source familiar with it noted that foreign propaganda typically mingles with domestically produced and disseminated disinformation. Much of that disinformation is authentically American in origin—and coming specifically from the White House.President Trump has spent weeks discrediting the mail-in voting that is likely to be a major driver of votes in a pandemic. That voting, judging from early public opinion polls, appears to be disproportionately Democratic, prompting The Atlantic’s Barton Gellman to describe it as a “proxy” for Trump “to distinguish friend from foe.” It’s in keeping with a long American history of voter suppression, particularly against Black people, most recently practiced by the Republican Party. The president, as Gellman noted, gleefully told a Black audience that he benefited from low Black turnout in 2016. The Democrats, Trump said in August, are “using COVID to steal our election.” Most ominously, Trump portrayed all of this as so dire a threat that he refused to rule out relinquishing power peacefully, a five-alarm fire for republican continuity.But mail-in voter fraud isn’t an appreciable danger to the election. The FBI’s Wray testified to a Senate panel Thursday that the FBI wasn’t seeing “coordinated national voter fraud” in the election at all, “whether it’s by mail or otherwise.” Manipulating mailed ballots would be a “major challenge,” Wray assessed. He pled for “confidence in our voting system and our election infrastructure.” By contrast, Trump said he wants to “make sure that the election is honest, and I’m not sure that it can be.”Wray was already on thin ice with the White House. But on Friday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows attempted to discredit him outright. “With all due respect to Director Wray, he has a hard time finding emails in his own FBI, let alone figuring out whether there’s any kind of voter fraud,” Meadows said. Meadows’ remarks came the morning after the Justice Department announced an investigation into nine allegedly discarded military ballots in Pennsylvania’s Luzerne County—something a former U.S. attorney told The Daily Beast smelled like a push by the department to “undermine confidence in the election.”Behind Trump is an army of amplification. “The radical left are laying the groundwork for stealing this election from my father,” Donald Trump Jr. claims in an ad urging supporters to join an “army” for election security. Notwithstanding Trump’s admonishments on the manufactured danger of voting by mail, robocalls from family surrogates Lara Trump and Kimberly Guilfoyle urge absentee voting and claim, falsely, that Democrats oppose “voting absentee.” They draw a false distinction between absentee balloting and voting by mail, which they falsely claim is “proven to be filled with fraud, abuse and mistakes.” Years of Republican messaging that both the news media and the social media companies are implacably hostile has convinced many on the right that disinformation warnings around right-wing media are cover to suppress conservative viewpoints.Further out is the untold hundreds of thousands of believers in QAnon. QAnon is a revenge fantasy about a secret Trump war against various adversaries in the political, cultural and security establishments, complete with accusations of child trafficking, secret indictments and looming Guantanamo Bay imprisonments. Trump embraced QAnon followers as “people that love our country” last month, a year after the FBI warned that it and other conspiracy groups will drive “both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts.” QAnon has taken on a life of its own, merging with or incorporating other aspects of disinformation, like considering the coronavirus a hoax and mail-in balloting the tools of a coup. In August, Facebook tried to purge large QAnon groups—many of which Facebook’s algorithm directed users toward, according to The New York Times—but they proved resilient.It took years and sustained criticism before Facebook and the other social-media giants took action against QAnon. They have been even more reluctant to label as misinformation statements discrediting mail-in voting or the coronavirus pushed by Trump and his surrogates. And though Facebook in particular was initially unwilling to concede that it was an election-disinformation vector in 2016, the companies have been notably more willing to purge foreign propaganda.Their method is functionally a compromise with the truth: they’re taking action against inauthentic identity, like Russians pretending to be Americans, rather than adjudicating the truth of a statement published on their platforms. That can’t work against disinformation Americans authentically spread. Trump has both exploited the companies’ reluctance to policing the truth—a reluctance derived from the companies’ interest in continuing to acquire and exploit data from right-wing users—and threatened them with regulatory and Justice Department investigations once they modestly began disinformation warnings.Similarly, the intelligence agencies are barred—by legal mandate and by the realities of political pressure—from assessing domestic disinformation.“Since that domestic space is so off-limits for the intelligence community, there’s just not going to be anything published, declared, or stated by U.S. intel agencies on this. It leaves the American people with no ability to compare scale,” said the former senior intelligence official.The ex-official said that this time, the Russians didn’t need to invent a narrative about how the election would be stolen. “They’re just piling on that stuff from Trump,” he said. “The beauty from their perspective is they don’t have to pilot that campaign. They’re just a force multiplier.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
Asian stocks rose Monday, tracking a healthy lead from Wall Street as bargain-buyers moved in following a recent sell-off, though advances were limited by worries about fresh virus spikes and the reimposition of economically damaging containment measures.
In these pandemic-stricken times, Carla Bruni’s Gallic insouciance is a breath of fresh air. She refers to her husband, the former French President Nicolas Sarkozy as “my man;” and the novel coronavirus she calls “the coveed.”“It’s so strange. My God. So strange!” she remarks in her airy voice. “I’m just like everyone else, I guess. Happy to be alive!”She’s been cooped up in the South of France with her mother, aunt, sister and her children, as well as Sarkozy, during the deadly contagion, chortling as she recounts how her mother has been “getting on her nerves” and “treating me like I’m 12.”When I mention that many in America have continually refused to wear face masks during the outbreak, owing to some strange libertarian notion that it treads on their personal freedoms, she lets out a big gasp. “That’s crazy!” she exclaims. “Are there really people that do that? Treading on their rights?! It’s their duty!”Amy Coney Barrett Has Broken John Oliver: It Is ‘Hopeless’Bruni, 52, has rung me to discuss her sixth studio album, Un grand amour, her first made up of original material in seven years, which will be released Oct. 9. Like most of her oeuvre, it’s a light, sensuous affair brimming with love and longing. “It’s not dark at all. The mood wasn’t coming from the coveed,” she offers. “Last November, I just got some very alive vibes, very alive feelings, and wrote the album in a very joyful situation. I don’t know why! But that’s the way it was.” A pregnant pause fills the air. “Some people near to me died. It was quite personal. And every time I get near death, it gives me a strange flow of energy, and desire, and makes me so scared that I have to compensate for it. After the grief, and after the pain of losing someone, somehow, I have a burst of life in my mind, and in my heart.”Bruni wrote nine of the 15 songs on the album during COVID confinement, and 30 in total. “It takes a lot of potatoes to make a very pure, small glass of vodka,” she says.Once the quarantine was lifted, Bruni and her band convened at a recording studio in Paris, where they recorded the album live in just six days—wearing masks in-between sessions, with musicians separated by a series of rotating walls. The effect is intimate and sweeping at once. “Everyone is playing at the same time, so there’s a movement that you don’t have where you do it like a cheesecake, where it’s layer-by-layer—the piano, the guitar, the vocals. We did it all at the same time,” recalls Bruni.The chanteuse says she’s most inspired by “being sensitive,” and harbors a borderline obsession with amour fou—as on the track “Your Lady,” her first tune in English. “I like desperate songs. Impossible things. Impossible things are very inspiring—even more than possible things,” she coos. “I love to write about impossible love.”* * *In the ‘90s, Bruni was one of the top fashion models in the world, earning millions a year working the runways for Dior, Versace, Chanel, and Saint-Laurent, whilst romancing Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, and Kevin Costner, to name a few.She looks back on her champagne-popping, blue steel-flashing catwalk era fondly—save for one bizarre episode with a vainglorious real estate mogul by the name of Donald J. Trump.According to Harry Hurt III’s Trump biography Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump, which contained eye-opening details from first wife Ivana Trump’s divorce deposition—including an allegation of rape against her then-husband—Bruni conned the Don, who appeared to be infatuated with her, into gifting her last-minute hotel accommodations at his Plaza Hotel:> Carla mischievously informed Donald that her ‘sister’ was coming to town. He immediately offered to provide a room at the Plaza Hotel. The visitor was actually one of Carla's longtime female friends, who showed up at the Plaza with a boyfriend in tow. Carla and her friends spent the next few days ordering room service and gloating over the way they fooled the ‘King of Tacky.’Then things got truly weird. On June 26, 1991, the New York Post ran a cover story about Trump splitting from his then-girlfriend Marla Maples, and alleging that Trump had left her for Bruni. (Bruni denied it to the press, saying she’d only crossed paths with Trump a few times and calling him “a lunatic.”)When I recite the book passage to Bruni, she laughs hysterically. “It’s half-true, half-not true. My friend went to the Plaza with her boyfriend for a week in New York, and I did ask Mr. Trump at the time if I could get a room there. But I wasn’t there. I was actually in Europe. I met Donald Trump very rarely, maybe twice,” she maintains.Bruni didn’t really give the whole curious episode much thought until recently when she watched the Netflix documentary Trump: An American Dream, and saw scenes of Trump impersonating his own press agent and phoning the tabloids to claim he was dating everyone from Kim Basinger and Madonna to Bruni.“I watched this Netflix documentary, and [Trump] called that woman that was a journalist and she recorded that. And he talked as if he was his own press agent!” says Bruni, giggling. “And we could hear in the recording that so many women were after him, like me, Kim Basinger, and Madonna. Madonna literally hates Trump! She must have had a heart attack!”Bruni tells me that she then confronted Trump about the bogus dating rumors. “He started making things up, so I gave him a call and he said, ‘Oh, it doesn’t matter. It’s coming from journalists.’ And I said, ‘This is not real! We’ve never really met! How can it come from a journalist?!’” she remembers. “It was a really strange situation. But then I realized that was just his way of functioning. That is how he functions with everything and everybody.”* * *It surprised many when, in the early aughts, Bruni transitioned seamlessly from supermodel to bestselling recording artist. Her 2002 debut album, Quelqu’un m’a dit, sold over 2 million copies, garnered rave views, and has had its songs featured in everything from the film (500) Days of Summer to the U.K. television series Skins.And, if globetrotting fashion model or musical star weren’t enough, Bruni achieved a third act following her 2008 marriage to then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy: first lady of France. Clad in Dior, the statuesque Bruni was undoubtedly the most glamorous first lady since Jackie O. When it comes to the current first lady of the United States, Melania Trump, well, Bruni prefers discussing Michelle Obama.“Well, Melania is beautiful. But I was crazy about Michelle Obama. She was so charming in life, and so warm,” says Bruni. “I’ve never met Melania. I have a hard time judging someone I’ve never met because people can be so different from their image. When you’re in that position you get very paranoid and filled with fear. I don’t think the style of the first lady depends very much on the way she dresses—it’s more the vibe and what she does for people.” She continues, “You have the power to help other people, and those are my best memories. So… I think Melania will be judged more through that. I love what Michelle Obama did for nutrition in America. She did a great job. I hope Melania has the occasion of… helping other people.”While there have been rumblings that her embattled husband is considering another political run, Bruni appears grateful to be relieved of the anxiety that comes with being the first couple of France.“To tell you the truth, when my husband was the president I was just scared all the time—that something might happen in the world, that something might happen to him,” she confesses. “I was stressed for him. But I tried to be professional and cool. I’m not the type of woman who gets involved in the person I love’s [business], so I didn’t want to do something wrong.”She pauses again. “The danger is so high when you’re the president of the French Republic. And you feel that danger.”Bruni received a great deal of unwarranted scrutiny during her time as first lady due to her modeling past. Mere months after her wedding to Sarkozy, a nude photograph of Bruni taken in 1993 sold at auction for $91,000; months after that, she was forced to sue the clothing company Pardon for producing a line of luxury bags decorated with another nude photo of her from ‘93. She says it was a violation of sorts, though remains proud of her past. “I don’t deny that part of my life, although when it came out it was embarrassing,” she says. “But I was 25 so I looked good.”With our conversation coming to a close, Bruni bids me adieu—and with it, a parting message of positivity: “I hope you get good elections there!”Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
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Japan Airlines is ditching the phrase "ladies and gentlemen" and instead embracing gender neutral terms during in-flight and airport announcements from next month, the company said Monday. From October 1, JAL "will abolish expressions that based on (two types of) sex and use gender-friendly expression" like "good morning" and "good evening," a spokesperson for the airline told AFP. In Japanese, the expression generally used for such announcements is already gender-neutral, but the decision applies to other languages used by the airline. The decision appears to be a first for major Japanese carriers, with a spokeswoman for rival ANA Holdings telling AFP they would "study the issue based on comments from our customers." Same-sex marriage is not legally recognised in Japan but the government has gradually expanded rights protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens in recent years. JAL last year operated a trial "LGBT Ally Charter" flight for same-sex partners and their families, and has already changed rules to extend spouse and family allowances to same-sex partners. While Japan is relatively tolerant of homosexuality, there are no specific legal protections for gay people. Japan's LGBTQ population has campaigned for greater recognition from the government in recent years. Thirteen same-sex couples filed suits last year accusing Tokyo of discrimination for failing to recognise their unions. They argue that they are being denied rights accorded to heterosexual couples and hope courts will declare the government's position unconstitutional.