New York Times responds to Donald Trump's lawsuit threat: bring it on


Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump boasted of groping women. This opened the gates, and women came forward with claims of Trump groping them. The New York Times reported their allegations. Trump threatened to sue the Times. Times lawyer David E. McCraw responds:

Dear Mr. Kasowitz:

I write in response to your letter of October 12, 2016 to Dean Baquet concerning your client Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for President of the United States. You write concerning our article “Two Women Say Donald Trump Touched Them Inappropriately” and label the article as “libel per se.” You ask that we “remove it from [our] website, and issue a full and immediate retraction and apology.” We decline to do so.

The essence of a libel claim, of course, is the protection of one’s reputation. Mr. Trump has bragged about this non-consensual sexual touching of women. He has bragged about intruding on beauty pageant contestants in their dressing rooms. He acquiesced to a radio host’s request to discuss Mr. Trump’s own daughter as a “piece of ass.” Multiple women not mentioned in our article have publicly come forward to report on Mr. Trump’s unwanted advances. Nothing in our article has had the slights effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself.

But there is a larger and much more important point here. The women quoted in our story spoke out on an issue of national importance – indeed, as an issue that Mr.

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Computer-mining poetry from the New York Times's obituary headlines


The standard format for a New York Times lead obit headline goes NAME, AGE, Dies; STATEMENT OF ACCOMPLISHMENT (e.g. "Suzanne Mitchell, 73, Dies; Made Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders a Global Brand. Read the rest

Trump threatens to sue New York Times over new groping allegations


Following new allegations of sexual assault aimed at Donald Trump by women, the millionaire presidential candidate is threatening the New York Times for publishing them.

In a "demand for retraction," Trump lawyer Marc E. Kasowitz writes that the article is "reckless, defamatory and constitutes libel per se" and "nothing more than a politically-motivated effort."

The Guardian tallies the new allegations.

Two women, Jessica Leeds and Rachel Crooks, told the New York Times that Trump groped or kissed them without consent. Another woman, Mindy McGillivray, claimed she was groped by the Republican nominee at a Trump foundation event at his Mar-A-Lago estate in Florida. Natasha Stoynoff, a reporter for People magazine, who said Trump forced himself on her shortly before she was due to interview him and his wife in 2005. Two Miss USA contestants claimed Trump deliberately walked in on them when they were naked in a dressing room. Five Miss Teen USA contestants also told Buzzfeed he had entered their dressing room while the young women – aged between 15 and 19 – were getting changed. A recording emerged in which Trump appears to sexualise a 10-year-old girl, with a video recording him saying of the child: “I am going to be dating her in 10 years. Can you believe it?”

In separate recordings that emerged in the past week, Trump himself told Howard Stern in 2005 that he did in fact go backstage when contestants were undressing:

Trump's election campaign appears to be falling apart. Read the rest

Goldman Sachs really only has to pay half of its settlement for world-destroying financial fraud

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The headline figure of a $5B settlement that Goldman will have to pay after admitting to the toxic-asset fraud that led to the global economic collapse is just window-dressing: in the fine print are exemptions and giveaways that could cut that number in half. Read the rest

Judge John Hodgman is back in the NYT


John Hodgman's old New York Times advice column -- which transmogrified into a brilliant podcast -- has been restored to its original home, where it provides much-needed color in the Grey Lady's pages. Read the rest

When the FBI told MLK to kill himself (who are they targeting now?)

We've known for years that the FBI spied on Martin Luther King's personal life and sent him an anonymous letter in 1964 threatening to out him for his sexual indiscretions unless he killed himself in 34 days. Now we have an unredacted version of the notorious letter. Read the rest

NSA facial recognition: combining national ID cards, Internet intercepts, and commercial facial databases for millions of people

A newly released set of slides from the Snowden leaks reveals that the NSA is harvesting millions of facial images from the Web for use in facial recognition algorithms through a program called "Identity Intelligence." James Risen and Laura Poitras's NYT piece shows that the NSA is linking these facial images with other biometrics, identity data, and "behavioral" data including "travel, financial, behaviors, social network."

The NSA's goal -- in which it has been moderately successful -- is to match images from disparate databases, including databases of intercepted videoconferences (in February 2014, another Snowden publication revealed that NSA partner GCHQ had intercepted millions of Yahoo video chat stills), images captured by airports of fliers, and hacked national identity card databases from other countries. According to the article, the NSA is trying to hack the national ID card databases of "Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran."

This news is likely to be rhetorically useful to campaigners against national ID cards in countries like the UK, where the issue has been hotly debated for years (my own Member of Parliament, Meg Hillier, was the architect of one such programme, and she, along with other advocates for national ID cards, dismissed fears of this sort of use as paranoid ravings).

The development of the's NSA facial recognition technology has been accompanied by a mounting imperative to hack into, or otherwise gain access to, other databases of facial images. For example, the NSA buys facial images from Google's Pittpatt division, while another program scours mass email interceptions for images that appear to be passport photos. Read the rest

New NYT editor spiked NSA spying story

Dean Baquet.

Mostly lost in the past week's media gossip around NYT executive editor Jill Abramson's ouster, and Dean Baquet's promotion to her role: Baquet is the former LA Times editor who killed the biggest NSA leak pre-Edward Snowden.

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NSA authorized Australian wiretapping of US law firms in trade-dispute

A new Snowden leak, "SUSLOC (Special US Liaison Office Canberra) Facilitates Sensitive DSD Reporting on Trade Talks," details how the NSA mentored and oversaw Australian spies, and sanctioned their surveillance a of US law firm representing the nation of Indonesia in a trade dispute with Australia. The NSA and their Australian counterparts have captured the master keys for Telkomsel, the Indonesian carrier, and have total access to its communications. It's more evidence that mass surveillance and Internet wiretaps are about economic espionage more than national security -- and more evidence that the NSA is a lawless organization with no respect for foundational principles like attorney-client privilege. Read the rest

NYT vs wget: technologically illiterate Snowden coverage

Explaining the Snowden leaks to people who don't understand technology crucial, but surely there's a better way than the NYT's terrible piece on the whistleblower's use of the common free software tool wget to harvest NSA documents. On Techdirt, Mike Masnick's got some epic snark on the fusty, tone-deaf way the Times approaches technology in its reporting. Read the rest

DHS stops NYT reporters at border, lies about it

Two New York Times reporters are suing the DHS, because the agency stopped them and questioned them extensively at the border, typing their answers into a computer, and then later insisted first that they weren't required to search for records, and then that they had no records at all on the men. Read the rest

NYT endorses brutal, secret, Internet-destroying corporatist TPP trade-deal; write to your lawmaker to fight it

The New York Times has endorsed the Trans-Pacific Partnership; a trade deal negotiated in utmost secrecy, without public participation, whose text is still not public. From leaks, we know that TPP wasn't just anti-democratic in its process -- it also contains numerous anti-democratic provisions that allow private offshore companies to overturn domestic law, especially laws that allow for free speech and privacy online. TPP is slated for fast-tracking through Congress, minimizing any scrutiny of a deal negotiated behind closed doors before it is turned into law. From what we've seen of TPP, it recapitulates all the worst elements of ACTA and then some. The Electronic Frontier Foundation needs you to write to your lawmaker demanding full and public debate on TPP. Read the rest

Debating the Great Firewall of Cameron in the NYT

The NYT's "Room for Debate" section asked a variety of people for positions on the UK's Great Firewall of Cameron -- a new rule whereby ISPs must slap an "adult content" filter on every Internet connection in the land, which is meant to stop everything from porn to gambling sites to "esoteric material" (whatever that is). I wrote one of the pieces, as did many others. Read the rest

Raising a daughter not to be 'nice'

In a stirring NYT op-ed, author Catherine Newman talks about the kind of girl her daughter has become and who she may yet be. Her daughter, Birdy, is intensely moral, unconcerned with being "pretty," indifferent or hostile to strangers who want to strike up conversations about her appearance. She is polite about things like second helpings of food or asking for assistance in locating her rain-boots, but doesn't care if you know that she thinks gendered toy-aisles are stupid. It's a delicate balance, but an important one. Read the rest

Secret rulings from America's shadow Supreme Court legalizes spying in one-sided hearings

America's 11-judge Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) has made more than a dozen classified rulings that vastly expanded the powers of America's spy agencies, operating under an obscure legal doctrine called "special needs." Under this doctrine, established in 1989 in a Supreme Court case over drug testing railway workers, a "minimal intrusion on privacy" is allowed in order to help the state mitigate "overriding public danger." FISC's rulings have widened this ruling to allow for wholesale spying in the name of preventing "nuclear proliferation," as well as terrorism. The NYT calls this a "shadow Supreme Court" but notes that FISC proceedings only hear from the government -- no one presents alternatives to the government's arguments. Much of the expansion of surveillance turns on whether metadata collection is intrusive (I think it is):

The officials said one central concept connects a number of the court’s opinions. The judges have concluded that the mere collection of enormous volumes of “metadata” — facts like the time of phone calls and the numbers dialed, but not the content of conversations — does not violate the Fourth Amendment, as long as the government establishes a valid reason under national security regulations before taking the next step of actually examining the contents of an American’s communications.

This concept is rooted partly in the “special needs” provision the court has embraced. “The basic idea is that it’s O.K. to create this huge pond of data,” a third official said, “but you have to establish a reason to stick your pole in the water and start fishing.”

Under the new procedures passed by Congress in 2008 in the FISA Amendments Act, even the collection of metadata must be considered “relevant” to a terrorism investigation or other intelligence activities.

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Tortured junk-food pushers bare all

A long, investigative feature on junk food, health and the processed food industry in yesterday's NYT consists primarily of interviews with tortured and semi-tortured junk food scientists and execs who have perfected the art of getting you to eat food that makes you sick. It's quite a read:

Eventually, a line of the trays, appropriately called Maxed Out, was released that had as many as nine grams of saturated fat, or nearly an entire day’s recommended maximum for kids, with up to two-thirds of the max for sodium and 13 teaspoons of sugar.

When I asked Geoffrey Bible, former C.E.O. of Philip Morris, about this shift toward more salt, sugar and fat in meals for kids, he smiled and noted that even in its earliest incarnation, Lunchables was held up for criticism. “One article said something like, ‘If you take Lunchables apart, the most healthy item in it is the napkin.’ ”

Well, they did have a good bit of fat, I offered. “You bet,” he said. “Plus cookies.”

The prevailing attitude among the company’s food managers — through the 1990s, at least, before obesity became a more pressing concern — was one of supply and demand. “People could point to these things and say, ‘They’ve got too much sugar, they’ve got too much salt,’ ” Bible said. “Well, that’s what the consumer wants, and we’re not putting a gun to their head to eat it. That’s what they want. If we give them less, they’ll buy less, and the competitor will get our market.

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NYT, 1924: Hitler's tamed by prison, "no longer to be feared"

From the Dec 20, 1924 issue of the New York Times: Adolph Hitler's rehabilitation is now complete, and he is "no longer to be feared."

Hitler Tamed By Prison Read the rest

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