The ‘fire and fury’ of US President Donald Trump has translated into many memorable phrases that have baffled, amused or infuriated observers. RT looks at the top quotes from the first year of his presidency. January 2017: ‘You are fake news’ Trump had famously sparred with the media throughout his campaign. He reserved his ire […]
SUBJECT: THINGS TO PONDER
The devil whispered to me, “I’m coming for you.” I whispered back,
ME: (sobbing my heart out, eyes were swollen, nose
red)…I can’t see you anymore. I am not going to let you hurt me like
TRAINER: It was a sit up. You did one sit up.
Having plans sounds like a good idea until you have to
put on clothes and leave the house.
It’s weird being the same age as old people.
When I was a kid, I wanted to be older…. this is not what I expected.
Chocolate is God’s way of telling us he likes us a little bit chubby.
It’s probably my age that tricks people into thinking I’m an adult.
MARRIAGE COUNSELOR: Your wife says you never buy her flowers. Is that true?
HIM: To be honest, I never knew she sold flowers.
Never sing in the shower! Singing leads to dancing,
dancing leads to slipping, and slipping leads to
paramedics seeing you naked. So remember…Don’t sing!
I don’t think the therapist is supposed to say “wow,”
that many times in your first session but here we are…
So if a cow doesn’t produce milk, is it a milk dud or an udder failure?
If you can’t think of a word say “I forgot the English word for it.”
That way people will think you’re bilingual instead of an idiot.
I’m at a place in my life where errands are starting to count as going out.
I’m at that age where my mind still thinks I’m 29, my humor suggests I’m
while my body mostly keeps asking if I’m sure I’m not dead yet.
Don’t be worried about your smartphone or TV spying on you.
Your vacuum cleaner has been collecting dirt on you for years.
I’m getting tired of being part of a major historical event.
I don’t always go the extra mile, but when I do it’s because I missed my
How many of us have looked around our family reunion and
thought “Well aren’t we just two clowns short of a circus?”
At what point can we just start using 2020 as profanity?
As in: “That’s a load of 2020.” or “What in the 2020.” or
You don’t realize how old you are until you sit on the floor and then
try to get back up.
We all get heavier as we get older, because there’s a
lot more information in our heads. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Broward Attorneys Accused Of Foreclosure Scheme With Convicted Felons
The four are accused of working together to claim surplus foreclosure funds held by the clerk of court
By Tony Pipitone • Published October 6, 2020 • Updated on October 7, 2020 at 9:55 am
Two Broward County attorneys found themselves on the wrong side of the jailhouse wall this week after the sheriff’s…
Two Broward County attorneys found themselves on the wrong side of the jailhouse wall this week after the sheriff’s office alleged they were part of a scheme with convicted felons to steal up to $742,000 in foreclosure sale proceeds.
The four are accused of working together to claim surplus foreclosure funds held by the clerk of court, money left over after a foreclosed property is sold and the lender is paid what is owed.
The attorneys took “those foreclosures surplus checks by filing fraudulent pleadings with the court, basically lying to judges in Broward County, saying they were representing the rightful recipients of those dollars,” said sheriff’s spokesman Carey Codd.
Attorney Rashida Overby remained in custody Tuesday, until she could post nearly $140,000 in bond with money she can prove was not fruit of the 29 counts she faces, including alleged theft and money laundering.
Attorney Ria Sankar-Balram was free on $57,000 bond, charged with seven counts, including money laundering, stemming from the alleged theft of $78,000.
Also charged were Patricia and Illya Tinker, a married couple convicted last year of another real estate scam. Patricia is serving a 35-year sentence and her husband 177 years after a jury convicted them of dozens of charges.
Sankar-Balram assisted the defense, taking notes, during that trial, she told NBC 6, while declining to comment on the current charges.
“We have multiple victims in this case and they did target deceased individuals and to the tune of approximately $750,000 dollars,” Codd said of what the sheriff’s office dubbed Operation Claim Game.
Among those deceased, Joanne Weaver, who died in 2018 at age 88.
“I’m only the voice for Joanne because she can’t talk for herself any more,” said a longtime friend who assisted the investigation. “I won’t let them do this to someone else.”
When Joanne Weaver died, she still owed some money on a mortgage for her share of her house in Dania Beach. The bank foreclosed, the property sold and $97,000 in excess funds was deposited with the clerk of the court.
Then someone named Barbara Weaver stepped forward to say the money was hers. The only problem, the sheriffs office says: there is no Barbara Weaver.
The sheriff’s complaint alleges attorney Rashida Overby filed fraudulent documents with the court claiming to represent a fictional Barbara Weaver and then cashed the $97,000 check.
Media Mask-Mania, or Covid19 Groupthink
I never thought I’d see the day when publicly wearing a muzzle would constitute a proof of virtue in the same country whose government, less than twenty years ago, rationalized the bloody invasion of Afghanistan as a way of saving women from veiling their faces.
But then, I never thought I’d hear American liberals proudly denounce supporters of the US Constitution as a “death cult,” nor that I’d actually start to find Donald Trump sounding almost reasonable.
But at least there’s one thing we can all be sure about: “mainstream” news media, busily cheerleading for the death of freedom, will continue to gush with absurdities, self-contradictions and victim-shaming memes in their propaganda war to Keep America Gagged. The Bill of Rights (in case you haven’t noticed) is history; today, we demonstrate our patriotism by creeping around hiding our faces. Dissenters need not apply.
If you think I’m exaggerating, I suspect you haven’t been paying attention. Recently I had the poor judgment to turn on National Public Radio for about an hour, under the impression that I was going to learn something about the day’s news.
I could have saved myself the trouble. During the hour in question, I learned nothing at all about the presidential election campaign (now in its final months), nothing about the tens of millions of my fellow citizens whose jobs have been snatched away by government fiat, nothing about climate change, nuclear arms buildups, international refugees or growing worldwide poverty – nothing even about the intensification of air and water pollution authorized by recent federal regulation, although pollution kills an estimated 100,000 Americans every year.
No – for a solid hour, I heard the following: that COVID19 – in reality, at most, a moderately serious flu virus – is the worst medical threat the United States has ever faced; that this “deadly” virus (the word “deadly” was repeated obsessively, even though the disease is fatal in a tiny percentage of cases) has been empowered by a conspiracy of Republican politicians serving the arch-demon Donald Trump; that recent data showing the rapid decline in deaths attributable to the virus may have been faked, because the numbers aren’t what the “experts” want them to be; and that a massive increase in COVID19 tests – primarily among people between 20 and 40 years of age who are subjected to swabbing because their employers demand it, not because they’re in any danger – cannot possibly have anything to do with a rise in the number of reported infections, and that anyone who dares to suggest otherwise is “putting lives at risk.”
But the real theme of the hour was masks, masks, masks: how to make them, how to wear them, their different types, who doesn’t seem to have enough of them, and why muffling our faces (even though no such thing was ever demanded of us during dozens of past viral outbreaks) is absolutely, positively good for us all.
I waited in vain for some mention of the fact that every single order requiring the wearing of muzzles in the US is probably unconstitutional, a matter that National Public Radio – which once prided itself on its legal affairs reporting – might have been expected to care about.
Nor did anyone mention that just a few months ago, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention was explicitly advising against a general mask-wearing regime, as was Anthony Fauci, the High Priest of COVID19.
No, facts would only have complicated matters. After all, we already knew what good little boys and girls were expected to do with those muzzles. At the close of each weather forecast, just in case anyone had missed the point, the reporter said cheerily, “And when you go out – put on a mask.” “And drink milk with every meal,” I half expected him to add, but I guess self-conscious condescension would have spoiled the effect.
Put on a mask.
In well over half a century, I cannot remember a weather report that ended with a brisk piece of non-meteorological advice, let alone a patently silly one – after all, if these magical masks were to make any difference, their greatest usefulness would have been at the beginning of the outbreak, not on its heels.
Yet throughout March, while police-state fever prompted the suspension of democracy in some 40 states and most of the US population was being hustled into virtual house arrest, the pro-incarceration crowd’s loudest voices unanimously insisted that masks were of no practical value.
For anyone who has forgotten, Fauci told 60 Minutes that:
[t]here’s no reason to be walking around with a mask. When you’re in the middle of an outbreak, wearing a mask might make people feel a little better and it might even block a droplet, but it’s not providing the perfect protection that people think it is. And often there are unintended consequences – people keep fiddling with the mask and they keep touching their face.”
That was how things stood when the epidemic was new and all stops were out. And now? Contemplating the lockdown-lovers’ belated fetish for surgical gear, one can only imagine the US Navy ceremoniously issuing an air-raid warning at Pearl Harbor a hundred days or so after the Japanese attack had wiped out much of the fleet.
But you’ve got to hand it to the mask-maniacs. No matter how many of their excuses for muzzling the population go the way of the Great Auk, they keep the new ones tumbling out so fast you can hardly keep track.
Here’s one peddled on July 14 in the Los Angeles Times: even though the masks won’t really prevent infection, they may reduce the amount of the virus you breathe in – that is, just in case you happen to come across an infected person who somehow manages to breathe into your (masked) face from a very short distance and for an extended period. (No one cited in the article bothers to discuss how often such a scenario is likely to occur.) According to a Dr. Monica Gandhi:
[t]here is this theory that facial masking reduces…disease severity.”
In other words, you’ll get COVID19 with or without a mask, but the effects will probably be milder if you muffle your face.
But wait a minute – even if “this theory” is correct (note that it contradicts everything the propagandists have been telling us about masks for the last three months), wasn’t it always the case that the overwhelming majority of those who catch COVID19 have very mild symptoms, or no symptoms at all?
So what’s the big advantage of the mask? The article is silent on that point – and Dr. Gandhi herself ultimately admits that her “theory” remains unproven. But that doesn’t stop the Times from lambasting a few local California officials who have raised inconvenient questions about mandatory muzzling.
“This anti-mask rhetoric is mind-blowing, dangerous, deadly and polarizing,” the article quotes Dr. Peter Chin-Hong as responding. Why? Because masks prevent infection? No. Because they save lives? No. Criticizing the muzzle mandate is “deadly” because – wait for it – because:
[t]here is no evidence that [wearing a mask] is dangerous.”
Well, actually, there is such evidence; Anthony Fauci admitted as much to 60 Minutes in March.
But the main problem with this retort is that it misses the point: people are being forced to mask their faces in public without any evidence that it’s dangerous not to.
Dr. Chin-Hong’s implicit confession that this is so knocks the stuffing out of the mandate – and the Times’ rationale. But to say so openly is “dangerous, deadly [there’s that favorite adjective again] and polarizing.” It’s no accident that the symbol of submission currently in vogue is one that covers the mouth. The real message of the mask-maniacs is that we have no right to say what we think.
And speaking of “polarizing,” what about the personal viciousness to which mask-mania so frequently descends? I have lost track of the number of videos circulated by so-called news outlets that depict frustrated shoppers losing their cool over being forced to dress like mummies.
Apparently this is supposed to be cute – as in, “Get a load of that stupid, Trump-supporting bitch having a public meltdown.” Myself, I feel sorry for these people; I share their exasperation, and I empathize with them over the invasion of their privacy.
As for the propagandists who peddle Schadenfreude in support of governors-turned-dictators – I indict them as heartless hypocrites, who claim to value our collective welfare and prove it by publicly humiliating their victims. Would they take similar pleasure, I wonder, in mocking the reaction of a black shopper who’d just been called “nigger”?
And it gets worse. In the upside-down world of COVID19 media values, even death is no protection from victim-shaming. Recently, American news organizations “reported” the death of an Ohio man who had the misfortune to die on July 4 of what they gleefully called “complications of COVID-19.”
More than two months earlier, the victim had posted a comment on social media saying he wasn’t going to “buy a mask.” The articles – which even named the deceased (a combat veteran) – practically salivated over the fact that he had had the audacity to go to a swimming pool in mid-June, where he may have contracted the virus. You see? screamed the reporters’ moralizing subtext. The maskless, self-indulgent right-wing bastard got what he deserved!
Just for the record, let me note that there are a number of things we don’t know. We don’t know whether the poor man actually wore a mask or not. (He wrote in late April that he didn’t intend to buy one, but that’s really not the same thing.) We don’t know how he actually caught the virus. We don’t know whether he could have been saved with better treatment; it’s even possible he waited too long to seek medical help.
Given his youth and the apparently lightning pace of his descent into serious illness, his death from COVID19 is so highly unusual that its medical significance amounts to another thing we don’t know.
Most important, we don’t know whether wearing or not wearing a mask had anything at all to do with his death. (If he was infected while at a swimming pool, I doubt even the mask-maniacs would insist that he should have worn it in the water.)
What we do know is that he was targeted for savage personal attacks after he died, first on social media and now in the press.
“[P]eople have come out of the woodworks, posting nasty, hateful comments about a man they knew nothing about,” one of his friends has said. “Most of it crossed the line into harassment. When reported to Facebook, nothing was taken down nor was there ANY action taken,” he added, while “[t]hose that defended [him] faced consequences from Facebook in way of bans.”
Well, at least the pattern of the propaganda makes sense, in a way: slander the nonconformist and you can get away with murder; defend him, you’re silenced.
Even the New York Times’ resident faux progressive, Michelle Goldberg, has taken up the cry. Another “Trump fan,” she sniffed on July 14, has become a “macabre cliché” by dying of a disease she blames him for contracting.
I wonder whether Ms. Goldberg would be smirking about a woman who was raped some two months after posting a comment to the effect that “I’ll go wherever I want and dress however I like.” My guess is that the analogy hasn’t occurred to her; she knows her job, and it’s about propaganda, not consistency.
And the propaganda’s bottom line is as clear as it is grim. Forget about your personal liberties. Forget about the democracy you thought you were living in. The mask – the symbol of fear, of arbitrary rule, of the abolition of normal social life, of voiceless submission – isn’t going away any time soon.
Nor is the police state that sponsors it.
“There’s going to be no summertime lull with a big wave in the fall,” says Eric Toner, one of the boffins of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, a partner of the neoliberal American Enterprise Institute that has been instrumental in promoting lockdowns from the start.
It’s clear that we are having a significant resurgence of cases in the summer, and they’ll get bigger. And it’ll keep going until we lock things down again.”
And how long before the cycle of incarceration really ends? “[S]everal years,” Toner says blandly, adding the sinister afterthought that people who resist being muzzled “will get over it.… It’s just a question of how many people get sick and die before they get over it.”
Makes you feel kind of warm and protected, doesn’t it? Thank heaven people like Toner know our needs so much better than we do.
The media ubiquity of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security is another ominous feature of the current wave of propaganda.
Last October, the Center ran a coronavirus pandemic “simulation” in New York City – cosponsored by the World Economic Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – for an assembly of powerful people in business and government, after which its members openly speculated about the possible need for “censoring social media content” on the theory that “[m]isinformation and disinformation are likely to be serious threats during a public health emergency.”
These facts obviously bear on the organization’s motives and credibility, at the very least. But you won’t hear them mentioned when the Center’s data are repeated as fact in mainstream media, nor when its members assure us that if we don’t wear masks for the next two years we’ll all drop dead.
Is it unreasonable to hope that reporters might want to explore why “health security” is presumed to entail censorship? Or whether the huge investment of the Gates Foundation in vaccine development has any influence on its partner organization’s bleak predictions for escaping the coronavirus without a new vaccine? Or whether, having insisted first on devastating lockdowns and now on worthless face masks, the Center will use its political leverage to demand mandatory vaccination when the time comes?
Professor Lawrence Gostin is another worrisome presence in the media, including Michelle Goldberg’s recent sanctimonious outburst in the New York Times – where, pretending to describe the consequences of the virus, she catalogs the devastation of the lockdowns instead:
[A] record 5.4 million people lost their health insurance between February and May. A generation of American kids will have their educations derailed, and many parents who don’t lose their jobs due to the economic crisis will see their careers ruined by the demands of child care
The psychological consequences alone will be incalculable. Even before the coronavirus, researchers spoke of loneliness as its own epidemic in America. A March article in the medical journal JAMA Psychiatry attributed 162,000 deaths a year to the fallout of social isolation. Now people are being told that they can socialize only under the most stringent conditions. Much of what makes life sweet is lost to us, not for days or weeks, but months or years.
As I said, this is a chillingly accurate summary of the consequences of the mass incarceration foisted on us by more than 40 state governors, most of them Democrats, beginning in early March – when each one, with a unilateral declaration of a “health emergency,” seized quasi-dictatorial powers, shunted aside the Constitution and bankrupted the citizenry. Those “emergency” powers have not been relinquished to this day.
But neither Goldberg nor her hero, Professor Gostin, offers a single word of criticism for any of those governors, and certainly not for the Democratic Party leadership that has backed this democracy-destroying, economy-wrecking madness at every step. For them, everything is the exclusive fault of one man: Donald Trump.
Coming from Goldberg, that might be just another election-year screed against an incumbent the Times dislikes. But what about Gostin? Well, although Goldberg never mentions it, Professor Gostin just happens to be the author of the model version of the Emergency Health Powers Act, the adoption of which in all fifty states (if in somewhat different versions) made possible the coup the governors pulled off by claiming “emergencies” several months ago.
It’s worth remembering that Gostin’s proposed bill was sharply criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union back in 2001 as “replete with civil liberties problems” and “a throwback to a time before the legal system recognized basic protections for fairness.”
In fact, some of its specific objections to the EHPA deserve quoting at length, in light of where the Act’s reckless application has brought us today:
- It fails to include basic checks and balances. The Act would grant extraordinary emergency powers, but that kind of authority should never go unchecked. Public health authorities make mistakes, and politicians abuse their powers…The lack of checks and balances could have serious consequences for individuals’ freedom, privacy, and equality. The Act lets a governor declare a state of emergency unilaterally and without judicial oversight, fails to provide modern due process procedures for quarantine and other emergency powers…and contains no checks on the power to order forced treatment and vaccination.
- It goes well beyond bioterrorism. The act includes an overbroad definition of “public health emergency”…that clearly do[es] not justify quarantine, forced treatment, or any of the other broad emergency authorities that would be granted under the Act.
- It lacks privacy protections. The Act requires the disclosure of massive amounts of personally identifiable health information to public health authorities, without requiring basic privacy protections and fair information practices…. That not only threatens to violate individuals’ medical privacy but undermines public trust in government activities.
It’s not hard to see why Ms. Goldberg is reluctant to give us the accurate back story for her star witness. The ACLU’s list of warnings about the potential abuses of the law Gostin drafted is a near-perfect précis of what has actually happened: unilateral declarations of an “emergency,” state by state, where none really existed; the seizure by each governor of almost unlimited power to order quarantines and forced vaccinations; the elimination of “due process” restrictions on mass confinement; the dismantling of privacy protections along with basic rights.
I don’t intend to sing the praises of the ACLU, which – like so many other liberal institutions in the US – has been missing in action since the actual coup began last March. But no one can deny the prescience of its critique. And Goldberg knows her readers aren’t stupid: once they are aware of the role Gostin played in orchestrating the overthrow of their freedoms, they’re not likely to grant him the pied piper status Goldberg wants him to have.
Why does she cite Gostin? First, to “prove” – like Eric Toner in another context – that the COVID19 outbreak, the current excuse for the denial of our liberties, will last another two years; amazingly, Goldberg claims this while insisting simultaneously that the same outbreak is practically over in New Zealand, Taiwan and Italy after just a few months.
But she also needs him to explain, albeit in somewhat indirect language, why democracy isn’t good for us.
According to Gostin, the coronavirus has proved that “health system capacity alone is almost useless unless you have a government that can unleash that capacity promptly and consistently.” Obviously, we can’t do that if we have to bother with pesky constraints like representative government or the public will. And from Gostin’s perspective, we’ve been dabbling in the utopianism of democracy for too long as it is: “It’s going to take several years for us to be able to come out of all of the trauma that we’ve had,” he warns.
And I think that suggests the real message Goldberg and the other propagandists are keen on peddling. They didn’t do this to us. It’s not that we’ve been lied to and illegally confined. It’s not that our state executives have defied their oaths of office. It’s not that their media mouthpieces have offered us one swindle after another: lockdowns, business closings, job losses, muzzling, scare-mongering, the destruction (as Goldberg herself admits) of “much of what makes life sweet” – theater, cinema, public discussion, time shared with friends.
The problem is us. We’ve been clinging to dreams of freedom – and that will cost us. The lockdown-lovers are going to punish us for our wrongheaded attachment to notions of individual rights, and they will punish us still more for continuing recalcitrance. But note this: they can only get away with it by selling us one more lie – namely, that what they’re doing to us is really the work of a disease beyond anyone’s control.
“The coronavirus is a natural disaster,” Goldberg writes.
No, it isn’t.
The coronavirus is just another flu. The real disaster has been the work of human beings. Resisting it must be, too.
Federal lawsuit calls Tulsa’s mask ordinance unconstitutional and unhealthy for citizens First amended complaint attached – read my http://www.Virus-Lies.com for more info http://tulsabeacon.com/mask-lawsuit/ (Masks cause hypoxia by reducing Oxygen below 19.5% – in violation of OSHA directions – causes headaches, dizzyness, etc) Doctor Robert Zoellner, Clay Clark, Doctor James Meehan, MD, and several Tulsa-based business […] […]Federal lawsuit calls Tulsa’s mask ordinance unconstitutional and unhealthy for citizens — The BlackRobed Mafia — Manifest Injustice
Photo by John E. Marriott Last week, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported a 13% increase in the number of wolves in the state over the last year, bringing the estimated total to just over 1000. The annual count, from April 2019 to April 2020, is primarily conducted over the winter when tracking…The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Reports Increased Gray Wolf Numbers but This Doesn’t Mean Recovery is Complete — Wolves of Douglas County News
Last August, NPR profiled a Harvard-led experiment to help low-income families find housing in wealthier neighborhoods, giving their children access to better schools and an opportunity to “break the cycle of poverty.” According to researchers cited in the article, these children could see $183,000 greater earnings over their lifetimes—a striking forecast for a housing program still in its experimental stage.
If you squint as you read the story, you’ll notice that every quoted expert is connected to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which helps fund the project. And if you’re really paying attention, you’ll also see the editor’s note at the end of the story, which reveals that NPR itself receives funding from Gates.
NPR’s funding from Gates “was not a factor in why or how we did the story,” reporter Pam Fessler says, adding that her reporting went beyond the voices quoted in her article. The story, nevertheless, is one of hundreds NPR has reported about the Gates Foundation or the work it funds, including myriad favorable pieces written from the perspective of Gates or its grantees.
And that speaks to a larger trend—and ethical issue—with billionaire philanthropists’ bankrolling the news. The Broad Foundation, whose philanthropic agenda includes promoting charter schools, at one point funded part of the LA Times’ reporting on education. Charles Koch has made charitable donations to journalistic institutions such as the Poynter Institute, as well as to news organizations such as the Daily Caller News Foundation, that support his conservative politics. And the Rockefeller Foundation funds Vox’s Future Perfect, a reporting project that examines the world “through the lens of effective altruism”—often looking at philanthropy.
As philanthropists increasingly fill in the funding gaps at news organizations—a role that is almost certain to expand in the media downturn following the coronavirus pandemic—an underexamined worry is how this will affect the ways newsrooms report on their benefactors. Nowhere does this concern loom larger than with the Gates Foundation, a leading donor to newsrooms and a frequent subject of favorable news coverage.
I recently examined nearly twenty thousand charitable grants the Gates Foundation had made through the end of June and found more than $250 million going toward journalism. Recipients included news operations like the BBC, NBC, Al Jazeera, ProPublica, National Journal, The Guardian, Univision, Medium, the Financial Times, The Atlantic, the Texas Tribune, Gannett, Washington Monthly, Le Monde, and the Center for Investigative Reporting; charitable organizations affiliated with news outlets, like BBC Media Action and the New York Times’ Neediest Cases Fund; media companies such as Participant, whose documentary Waiting for “Superman” supports Gates’s agenda on charter schools; journalistic organizations such as the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, the National Press Foundation, and the International Center for Journalists; and a variety of other groups creating news content or working on journalism, such as the Leo Burnett Company, an ad agency that Gates commissioned to create a “news site” to promote the success of aid groups. In some cases, recipients say they distributed part of the funding as subgrants to other journalistic organizations—which makes it difficult to see the full picture of Gates’s funding into the fourth estate.
The foundation even helped fund a 2016 report from the American Press Institute that was used to develop guidelines on how newsrooms can maintain editorial independence from philanthropic funders. A top-level finding: “There is little evidence that funders insist on or have any editorial review.” Notably, the study’s underlying survey data showed that nearly a third of funders reported having seen at least some content they funded before publication.
RELATED: ‘When money is offered, we listen’
Gates’s generosity appears to have helped foster an increasingly friendly media environment for the world’s most visible charity. Twenty years ago, journalists scrutinized Bill Gates’s initial foray into philanthropy as a vehicle to enrich his software company, or a PR exercise to salvage his battered reputation following Microsoft’s bruising antitrust battle with the Department of Justice. Today, the foundation is most often the subject of soft profiles and glowing editorials describing its good works.
During the pandemic, news outlets have widely looked to Bill Gates as a public health expert on covid—even though Gates has no medical training and is not a public official. PolitiFact and USA Today (run by the Poynter Institute and Gannett, respectively—both of which have received funds from the Gates Foundation) have even used their fact-checking platforms to defend Gates from “false conspiracy theories” and “misinformation,” like the idea that the foundation has financial investments in companies developing covid vaccines and therapies. In fact, the foundation’s website and most recent tax forms clearly show investments in such companies, including Gilead and CureVac.
In the same way that the news media has given Gates an outsize voice in the pandemic, the foundation has long used its charitable giving to shape the public discourse on everything from global health to education to agriculture—a level of influence that has landed Bill Gates on Forbes’s list of the most powerful people in the world. The Gates Foundation can point to important charitable accomplishments over the past two decades—like helping drive down polio and putting new funds into fighting malaria—but even these efforts have drawn expert detractors who say that Gates may actually be introducing harm, or distracting us from more important, lifesaving public health projects.
From virtually any of Gates’s good deeds, reporters can also find problems with the foundation’s outsize power, if they choose to look. But readers don’t hear these critical voices in the news as often or as loudly as Bill and Melinda’s. News about Gates these days is often filtered through the perspectives of the many academics, nonprofits, and think tanks that Gates funds. Sometimes it is delivered to readers by newsrooms with financial ties to the foundation.
The Gates Foundation declined multiple interview requests for this story and would not provide its own accounting of how much money it has put toward journalism.
In response to questions sent via email, a spokesperson for the foundation said that a “guiding principle” of its journalism funding is “ensuring creative and editorial independence.” The spokesperson also noted that, because of financial pressures in journalism, many of the issues the foundation works on “do not get the in-depth, consistent media coverage they once did.… When well-respected media outlets have an opportunity to produce coverage of under-researched and under-reported issues, they have the power to educate the public and encourage the adoption and implementation of evidence-based policies in both the public and private sectors.”
As CJR was finalizing its fact check of this article, the Gates Foundation offered a more pointed response: “Recipients of foundation journalism grants have been and continue to be some of the most respected journalism outlets in the world.… The line of questioning for this story implies that these organizations have compromised their integrity and independence by reporting on global health, development, and education with foundation funding. We strongly dispute this notion.”
The foundation’s response also volunteered other ties it has to the news media, including “participating in dozens of conferences, such as the Perugia Journalism Festival, the Global Editors Network, or the World Conference of Science Journalism,” as well as “help[ing] build capacity through the likes of the Innovation in Development Reporting fund.”
The full scope of Gates’s giving to the news media remains unknown because the foundation only publicly discloses money awarded through charitable grants, not through contracts. In response to questions, Gates only disclosed one contract—Vox’s—but did describe how some of this contract money is spent: producing sponsored content, and occasionally funding “non-media nonprofit entities to support efforts such as journalist trainings, media convenings, and attendance at events.”
In the same way that the news media has given Gates an outsize voice in the pandemic, the foundation has long used its charitable giving to shape the public discourse on everything from global health to education to agriculture.
Over the years, reporters have investigated the apparent blind spots in how the news media covers the Gates Foundation, though such reflective reporting has waned in recent years. In 2015, Vox ran an article examining the widespread uncritical journalistic coverage surrounding the foundation—coverage that comes even as many experts and scholars raise red flags. Vox didn’t cite Gates’s charitable giving to newsrooms as a contributing factor, nor did it address Bill Gates’s month-long stint as guest editor for The Verge, a Vox subsidiary, earlier that year. Still, the news outlet did raise critical questions about journalists’ tendency to cover the Gates Foundation as a dispassionate charity instead of a structure of power.
Five years earlier, in 2010, CJR published a two-part series that examined, in part, the millions of dollars going toward PBS NewsHour, which it found to reliably avoid critical reporting on Gates.
In 2011, the Seattle Times detailed concerns over the ways in which Gates Foundation funding might hamper independent reporting:
To garner attention for the issues it cares about, the foundation has invested millions in training programs for journalists. It funds research on the most effective ways to craft media messages. Gates-backed think tanks turn out media fact sheets and newspaper opinion pieces. Magazines and scientific journals get Gates money to publish research and articles. Experts coached in Gates-funded programs write columns that appear in media outlets from The New York Times to The Huffington Post, while digital portals blur the line between journalism and spin.
Two years after the story appeared, the Seattle Times accepted substantial funding from the Gates Foundation for an education reporting project.
These stories offered compelling evidence of Gates’s editorial influence, but they didn’t attempt to investigate the full scope of the foundation’s financial reach into the fourth estate. (For perspective, $250 million is the same amount that Jeff Bezos paid for the Washington Post.)
When Gates gives money to newsrooms, it restricts how the money is used—often for topics, like global health and education, on which the foundation works—which can help elevate its agenda in the news media.
For example, in 2015 Gates gave $383,000 to the Poynter Institute, a widely cited authority on journalism ethics (and an occasional partner of CJR’s), earmarking the funds “to improve the accuracy in worldwide media of claims related to global health and development.”
Poynter senior vice president Kelly McBride said Gates’s money was passed on to media fact-checking sites, including Africa Check, and noted that she is “absolutely confident” that no bias or blind spots emerged from the work, though she acknowledged that she has not reviewed it herself.
I found sixteen examples of Africa Check examining media claims related to Gates. This body of work overwhelmingly seems to support or defend Bill and Melinda Gates and their foundation, which has spent billions of dollars on development efforts in Africa. The only example I found of Africa Check even remotely challenging its patron was when a foundation employee tweeted an incorrect statistic—that a child dies of malaria every 60 seconds, instead of every 108.
Africa Check says it went on to receive an additional $1.5 million from Gates in 2017 and 2019.
“Our funders or supporters have no influence over the claims we fact-check…and the conclusions we reach in our reports,” said Noko Makgato, executive director of Africa Check, in a statement to CJR. “With all fact-checks involving our funders, we include a disclosure note to inform the reader.”
Earlier this year, McBride added NPR public editor to her list of duties, as part of a contract between NPR and Poynter. Since 2000, the Gates Foundation has given NPR $17.5 million through ten charitable grants—all of them earmarked for coverage of global health and education, specific issues on which Gates works.
NPR covers the Gates Foundation extensively. By the end of 2019, a spokesperson said, NPR had mentioned the foundation more than 560 times in its reporting, including 95 times on Goats and Soda, the outlet’s “global health and development blog,” which Gates helps fund. “Funding from corporate sponsors and philanthropic donors is separate from the editorial decision-making process in NPR’s newsroom,” the spokesperson noted.
NPR does occasionally hold a critical lens to the Gates Foundation. Last September, it covered a decision by the foundation to give a humanitarian award to Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, despite Modi’s dismal record on human rights and freedom of expression. (That story was widely covered by news outlets—a rare bad news cycle for Gates.)
On the same day, the foundation appeared in another NPR headline: “Gates Foundation Says World Not on Track to Meet Goal of Ending Poverty by 2030.” That story cites only two sources: the Gates Foundation and a representative from the Center for Global Development, a Gates-funded NGO. The lack of independent perspectives is hard to miss. Bill Gates is the second-richest man in the world and might reasonably be viewed as a totem of economic inequality, but NPR has transformed him into a moral authority on poverty.
Given Gates’s large funding role at NPR, one could imagine editors insisting that reporters seek out financially independent voices or include sources who can offer critical perspectives. (Many NPR stories on Gates don’t: here, here, here, here, here, here.) Likewise, NPR could seek a measure of independence from Gates by rejecting donations that are earmarked for reporting on Gates’s favored topics.
Even when NPR publishes critical reporting on Gates, it can feel scripted. In February 2018, NPR ran a story headlined “Bill Gates Addresses ‘Tough Questions’ on Poverty and Power.” The “tough questions” NPR posed in this Q&A were mostly based on a list curated by Gates himself, which he previously answered in a letter posted to his foundation’s website. With no irony at all, reporter Ari Shapiro asked, “How do you…encourage people to be frank with you, even at risk of perhaps alienating their funder?”
In the interview, Gates said that critics are voicing their concerns and the foundation is listening.
In 2007, the LA Times published one of the only critical investigative series on the Gates Foundation, part of which examined the foundation’s endowment holdings in companies that hurt those people the foundation claimed to help, like chocolate companies linked to child labor. Charles Piller, the lead reporter on the series, says he made strenuous efforts to get responses from the Gates Foundation during the investigation.
“For the most part they were unwilling to engage with me. They were unwilling to answer questions and pretty much refused to respond in any sort of way, except in the most minimal way, for most of my stories,” Piller said.“That’s very, very typical of big companies, government agencies—to try to hope that whatever controversial issues have been raised in reporting will have limited shelf life, and they’ll be able to go back to business as usual.”
Asked about the dearth of hard reporting on Gates, Piller says the foundation’s funding may prompt newsrooms to find other targets.
“I think they would be kidding themselves to suggest that those donations to their organizations have no impact on editorial decisions,” he says. “It’s just the way of the world.”
Two journalists who have investigated Gates more recently cite what appear to be more explicit efforts by the foundation to exercise editorial influence.
Writing in De Correspondent, freelance journalists Robert Fortner and Alex Park examined the limitations and inadvertent consequences of the Gates Foundation’s relentless efforts to eradicate polio. In HuffPost, the two journalists showed how Gates’s outsize funding of global health initiatives has steered the world’s aid agenda toward the foundation’s own goals (like polio eradication) and away from issues such as emergency preparedness to respond to disease outbreaks, like the Ebola crisis. (This narrative has been lost in the current covid-19 news cycle, as outlets from the LA Times to PBS to STAT have portrayed Gates as a visionary leader on pandemics.)
During the course of Fortner and Park’s reporting these two stories, the foundation went over their heads to seek an audience with their editors. Editors at both publications say this raised questions about Gates attempting to influence editorial direction on the stories.
“They’ve dodged our questions and sought to undermine our coverage,” says Park.
During Park and Fortner’s investigation for De Correspondent, the head of Gates’s polio communications team, Rachel Lonsdale, made an unusual offer to the duo’s editor, writing, “We typically like to have a phone conversation with the editor of a publication employing freelancers we are engaging with, both to fully understand how we can help you with the specific project and to form a longer term relationship that could transcend the freelance assignment.”
The news outlet said it rejected the proposition because of its potential to compromise the independence and integrity of its journalistic work.
In a statement, the foundation said Lonsdale “was conducting normal media relations work as part of her role as a senior program officer. As we wrote to Tim in December 2019, ‘As with many organizations, the foundation has an in-house media relations team that cultivates relationships with journalists and editors in order to serve as a resource for information gathering and to help facilitate thorough and accurate coverage of our issues.’ ”
Park says his editors stood behind his work on both stories, but he doesn’t discount the foundation’s efforts to put “a wedge between us and the publication…if not to assert influence outright, to give themselves a channel through which they could assert influence later.”
Fortner, meanwhile, says he mostly avoids pitching articles to Gates-funded news outlets because of the conflict of interest this presents. “Gates funding, for me, makes a good-faith pitching process impossible,” he says.
Fortner, who authored CJR’s 2010 story on Gates’s journalism funding, self-published a follow-up in 2016 that examined how Gates funding is not always disclosed in news articles, including fifty-nine news stories the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting funded in part with Gates’s money. The center also declined to tell Fortner which fifty-nine articles had Gates’s funding.
If critical reporting about the Gates Foundation is rare, it is largely beside the point in “solutions journalism,” a new-ish brand of reporting that focuses on solutions to problems, not just the problems themselves. That more upbeat orientation has drawn the patronage of the Gates Foundation, which directed $6.3 million to the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) to train journalists and fund reporting projects. Gates is the largest donor to SJN—supplying around one-fifth of the organization’s lifetime funding. SJN says more than half of this money has been distributed as subgrants, including to Education Lab, its partnership with the Seattle Times.
SJN acknowledges on its website “that there are potential conflicts of interest inherent” in taking philanthropic funding to produce solutions journalism, which SJN cofounder David Bornstein elaborated on in an interview. “If you are covering global health or education and you are writing about interesting models,” Bornstein said, “the chances that an organization [you are covering] is getting money from the Gates Foundation are very high because they basically blanket the whole world with their funding, and they’re the major funder in those two areas.” Asked if he could provide examples of any critical reporting about Gates emerging from SJN, Bornstein took issue with the question. “Most of the stories that we fund are stories that look at efforts to solve problems, so they tend to be not as critical as traditional journalism,” he said.
That is also the case for the journalism Bornstein and fellow SJN cofounder Tina Rosenberg produce for the New York Times. As contract writers for the “Fixes” opinion column, the two have favorably profiled Gates-funded education, agriculture, and global health programs over the years—without disclosing that they work for an organization that receives millions of dollars from Gates. Twice in 2019, for example, Rosenberg’s columns exalted the World Mosquito Project, whose sponsor page lands on a picture of Bill Gates.
“We do disclose our relationship with SJN in every column, and SJN’s funders are listed on our website. But you are correct that when we write about projects that get Gates funding, we should specifically say that SJN receives Gates funding as well,” Rosenberg noted in an email. “Our policy going forward with the NY Times will be clearer and will ensure disclosures.”
My cursory review of the Fixes column turned up fifteen installments where the writers explicitly mention Bill and Melinda Gates, their foundation, or Gates-funded organizations. Bornstein and Rosenberg said they asked their editors at the Times to belatedly add financial disclosures to several of these columns, but they also cited six they thought did not need disclosure. Rosenberg’s 2016 profile of Bridge International Academies, for example, notes that Bill Gates personally helps fund the project. The writers argue that SJN’s ties are to the Gates Foundation, not to Bill Gates himself, so no disclosure is needed.
“This is a significant distinction,” Rosenberg and Bornstein stated in an email.
Months after Bornstein and Rosenberg say they asked their editors to add financial disclosures to their columns, those pieces remain uncorrected. Marc Charney, a senior editor at the Times, said he wasn’t sure if or when the paper would add the disclosures, citing technical difficulties and other newsroom priorities.
Likewise, NPR said it would add a financial disclosure to a 2012 story it published on the Gates Foundation, but did not follow through. (In the vast majority of articles about Gates, NPR makes disclosures.)
Even perfect disclosure of Gates funding doesn’t mean the money can’t still introduce bias. At the same time, Gates funding, alone, doesn’t fully explain why so much of the news about the foundation is positive. Even news outlets with no obvious financial ties to Gates—the foundation isn’t required to publicly report all of the money it gives to journalism, making the full extent of its giving unknown—tend to report favorably on the foundation. That may be because Gates’s expansive giving over the decades has helped influence a larger media narrative about its work. And it may also be because the news media is always, and especially right now, looking for heroes.
A larger worry is the precedent the prevailing coverage of Gates sets for how we report on the next generation of tech billionaires–turned-philanthropists, including Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg. Bill Gates has shown how seamlessly the most controversial industry captain can transform his public image from tech villain to benevolent philanthropist. Insofar as journalists are supposed to scrutinize wealth and power, Gates should probably be one of the most investigated people on earth—not the most admired.
Reporting for this piece was supported by a fellowship from the Alicia Patterson Foundation.
Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to an investment the foundation had made in a company, CureVax. It is, in fact, CureVa
CDC abruptly removes new guidance on coronavirus airborne transmission
The CDC said the guidance had been posted on its website “in error.”
ByAnne FlahertySeptember 21, 2020, 1:30 PM• 6 min read
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NOTIFIED: Sept. 21, 2020
Catch up on the developing stories making headlines.Catch up on the developing stories making headlines.
The misstep is one of several in recent weeks in which the CDC has left the public scratching its head.
Since July, the agency has flip-flopped on its guidance on testing people who don’t show symptoms, finally settling on the recommendation that it’s a good idea.
Critics of the Trump administration say too much politics is at play and that the agency’s wavering is undermining its credibility with the public.MORE: CDC reverses testing guidelines after report of interference
“A draft version of proposed changes to these recommendations was posted in error to the agency’s official website. CDC is currently updating its recommendations regarding airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Once this process has been completed, the update language will be posted,” the CDC stated Monday.
How long the virus lingers in the air and how far it travels after someone sneezes or coughs has been the subject of much speculation since the beginning of the pandemic. On Friday, the CDC quietly updated a page on its website on how the virus spreads.
“There is growing evidence that droplets and airborne particles can remain suspended in the air and be breathed in by others, and travel distances beyond 6 feet (for example, during choir practice, in restaurants, or in fitness classes). In general, indoor environments without good ventilation increase this risk,” the CDC stated on Friday in a post that has since been taken down.MORE: In stunning reversal, CDC abruptly changes position on when to get tested
That assessment raised serious questions about whether such practices as attending school or dining indoors were safe because people would might remove their masks if there is enough social distance. School districts have long been sounding the alarm on the lack of ventilation, including old buildings and windows that won’t open.
A general view of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, on September 30, 2014.
The White House had no comment on the unexplained CDC action.
President Donald Trump has publicly challenged the CDC’s findings on the virus, oftentimes refusing to wear a mask and pressing the agency to reframe its guidance on schools to favor reopening. In recent months, the White House installed a press secretary at Health and Human Services who frequently disparaged CDC researchers.
The CDC caused alarm last August when it released guidance suggesting people didn’t necessarily need to get tested for the virus even if they were exposed. The agency last week walked that back and returned to its guidance from earlier in the summer that anyone who has been exposed needs to be tested.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield holds up his mask as he speaks at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing, Sept. 16, 2020, in Washington.
Similarly, Trump last week insisted the agency’s director, Robert Redfield, made a “mistake” when he predicted that most Americans wouldn’t have access to a vaccine until the middle of next year.
Redfield’s spokesman initially issued a statement that appeared to realign himself with the president, but then retracted the statement, leaving it unclear whether Redfield agreed with the president.
According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has addressed the matter in recent weeks, the virus is believed to spread both through droplets by talking, sneezing or coughing, but also smaller droplets that linger in the air.
In a recent JAMA interview, Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said the degree of aerosolization is still being researched.
“We need to pay a little more attention now to the recirculation of air indoors,” he said.
ABC News’ Eric Strauss, Sony Salzman and Stephanie Ebbs contributed to this report.
On the right side of the block editor you have this. Click on the drop down (circled, red) Click on switch!! And viola! So okay my freehand circles suck…get over it!Block Editor Back to Classic… — Freedom Is Just Another Word…
You know what pisses me off even more than this new blog writing thing?
Trying to get a truly comfortable task chair for use at a computer.
Hell, I spend 20 hours a day in this chair sometimes. Every chair boasts of how comfortable the chair is. Sure, maybe for the first three days. They don’t put enough cush in the but. I almost get paralyzed this thing is so uncomfortable.
I even had a Hon for a while. Same thing. Every one I have ever tried, the seat cushion collapses in no time, and then it is like sitting on a hard wooden bench. Hell, the wooden bench could not hurt any worse.
Why can’t they produce a truly comfortable chair that will not lose the seat cushion. I don’t weigh that much. 125-130 pounds and I am 5′ 8″ tall.
If anyone knows of a chair that will not kill me to sit in it for 20 hours a day, please, let me know!
I must be slow or dumb, but I cannot use the new editor. I was much happier before.