How a NeoCon-Backed “Fact Checker” Plans to Wage War on Independent Media

As Newsguard’s project advances, it will soon become almost impossible to avoid this neocon-approved news site’s ranking systems on any technological device sold in the United States.

By  Whitney Webb  Whitney Webb 

MINNEAPOLIS — Soon after the social media “purge” of independent media sites and pages this past October, a top neoconservative insider — Jamie Fly — was caught stating that the mass deletion of anti-establishment and anti-war pages on Facebook and Twitter was “just the beginning” of a concerted effort by the U.S. government and powerful corporations to silence online dissent within the United States and beyond.

While a few, relatively uneventful months in the online news sphere have come and gone since Fly made this ominous warning, it appears that the neoconservatives and other standard bearers of the military-industrial complex and the U.S. oligarchy are now poised to let loose their latest digital offensive against independent media outlets that seek to expose wrongdoing in both the private and public sectors.

As MintPress News Editor-in-Chief Mnar Muhawesh recently wrote, MintPress was informed that it was under review by an organization called Newsguard Technologies, which described itself to MintPressas simply a “news rating agency” and asked Muhawesh to comment on a series of allegations, several of which were blatantly untrue. However, further examination of this organization reveals that it is funded by and deeply connected to the U.S. government, neo-conservatives, and powerful monied interests, all of whom have been working overtime since the 2016 election to silence dissent to American forever-wars and corporate-led oligarchy. 

More troubling still, Newsguard — by virtue of its deep connections to government and Silicon Valley — is lobbying to have its rankings of news sites installed by default on computers in U.S. public libraries, schools, and universities as well as on all smartphones and computers sold in the United States. 

In other words, as Newsguard’s project advances, it will soon become almost impossible to avoid this neocon-approved news site’s ranking systems on any technological device sold in the United States. Worse still, if its efforts to quash dissenting voices in the U.S. are successful, Newsguard promises that its next move will be to take its system global.

Red light, green light . . .

Newsguard has received considerable attention in the mainstream media of late, having been the subject of a slew of articles in the Washington Post, the Hill, the Boston Globe, Politico, Bloomberg, Wired, and many others just over the past few months. Those articles portray Newsguard as using “old-school journalism” to fight “fake news” through its reliance on nine criteria allegedly intended to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to online news.

Newsguard separates sites it deems worthy and sites it considers unreliable by using a color-coded rating — green, yellow, or red — and more detailed “nutrition labels” regarding a site’s credibility or lack thereof. Rankings are created by Newsguard’s team of “trained analysts.” The color-coding system may remind some readers of the color-coded terror threat-level warning system that was created after 9/11, making it worth noting that Tom Ridge, the former secretary of Homeland Security who oversaw the implementation of that system under George W. Bush, is on Newsguard’s advisory board.

Newsguard | Fox News

Newsguard gives Fox News high marks for accuracy.

As Newsguard releases a new rating of a site, that rating automatically spreads to all computers that have installed its news ranking browser plug-in. That plug-in is currently available for free for the most commonly used internet browsers. NewsGuard directly markets the browser plug-in to libraries, schools and internet users in general.

According to its website, Newsguard has rated more than 2,000 news and information sites. However, it plans to take its ranking efforts much farther by eventually reviewing “the 7,500 most-read news and information websites in the U.S.—about 98 percent of news and information people read and share online” in the United States in English. 

A recent Gallup study, which was supported and funded by Newsguard as well as the Knight Foundation (itself a major investor in Newsguard), stated that a green rating increased users likelihood to share and read content while a red rating decreased that likelihood. Specifically, it found 63 percent would be less likely to share news stories from red-rated websites, and 56 percent would be more likely to share news from green-rated websites, though the fact that Newsguard and one of its top investors funded the poll makes it necessary to take these findings with a grain of salt.

However, some of the rankings Newsguard itself has publicized show that it is manifestly uninterested in fighting “misinformation.” How else to explain the fact that the Washington Post and CNN both received high scores even though both have written stories or made statements that later proved to be entirely false? For example, CNN falsely claimed in 2016 that it was illegal for Americans to read WikiLeaks releases and unethically colluded with the DNC to craft presidential debate questions to favor Hillary Clinton’s campaign that same year. 

In addition, in 2017, CNN published a fake story that a Russian bank linked to a close ally of President Donald Trump was under Senate investigation. That same year, CNN was forced to retract a report that the Trump campaign had been tipped off early about WikiLeaks documents damaging to Hillary Clinton when it later learned the alert was about material already publicly available.

The Washington Post, whose $600 million conflict of interest with the CIA goes unnoted by Newsguard, has also published false stories since the 2016 election, including one article that falsely claimed that “Russian hackers” had tapped into Vermont’s electrical grid. It was later found that the grid itself was never breached and the “hack” was only an isolated laptop with a minor malware problem. Yet, such acts of journalistic malpractice are apparently of little concern to Newsguard when those committing such acts are big-name corporate media outlets.

Furthermore, Newsguard gives a high rating to Voice of America, the U.S. state-funded media outlet, even though its former acting associate director said that the outlet produces “fluff journalism” and despite the fact that it was recently reformed to “provide news that supports our [U.S.] national security objectives.” However, RT receives a low “red” rating for being funded by the Russian government and for “raising doubts about other countries and their institutions” (i.e., including reporting critical of the institutions and governments of the U.S. and its allies).

Keeping the conversation safe for the corporatocracy

Newsguard describes itself as an organization dedicated to “restoring trust and accountability” and using “journalism to fight false news, misinformation and disinformation.” While it repeatedly claims on its website that its employees “have no political axes to grind” and “care deeply about reliable journalism’s pivotal role in democracy,” a quick look at its co-founders, top funders and advisory board make it clear that Newsguard is aimed at curbing voices that hold the powerful — in both government and the private sector — to account.

Newsguard is the latest venture to result from the partnership between Steven Brill and Louis Gordon Crovitz, who currently serve as co-CEOs of the group. Brill is a long-time journalist —  published in TIME and The New Yorker, among others — who most recently founded the Yale Journalism Initiative, which aims to encourage Yale students who “aspire to contribute to democracy in the United States and around the world” to become journalists at top U.S. and international media organizations. He first teamed up with Crovitz in 2009 to createJournalism Online, which sought to make the online presence of top American newspapers and other publishers profitable, and was also the CEO of the company that partnered up with the TSA to offer “registered” travelers the ability to move more quickly through airport security — for a price, of course.

While Brill’s past does not in itself raise red flags, Crovitz — his partner in founding Journalism Online, then Press+, and now Newsguard — is the last person one would expect to find promoting any legitimate effort to “restore trust and accountability” in journalism. In the early 1980s. Crovitz held a number of positions at Dow Jones and at the Wall Street Journal, eventually becoming executive vice president of the former and the publisher of the latter before both were sold to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp in 2007. He is also a board member of Business Insider, which has received over $30 million from Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos in recent years.

L. Gordon Crovitz | Newsguard

L. Gordon Crovitz, then-publisher of The Wall Street Journal, introduces the redesign of the newspaper, Dec. 4, 2006 in New York. Mark Lennihan | AP

In addition to being a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Crovitz proudly notes in his bio, available on Newsguard’s website, that he has been an “editor or contributor to books published by the American Enterprise Institute and Heritage Foundation.” Though many MintPress readers are likely familiar with these two institutions, for those who are not, it is worth pointing out that the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is one of the most influential neoconservative think tanks in the country and its “scholars,” directors and fellows have included neoconservative figures like Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, John Bolton and Frederick Kagan. 

During the George W. Bush administration, AEI was instrumental in promoting the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq and has since advocated for militaristic solutions to U.S. foreign policy objectives and the expansion of the U.S.’ military empire as well as the “War on Terror.” During the Bush years, AEI was also closely associated with the now defunct and controversial neoconservative organization known as the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), which presciently called, four years before 9/11, for a “new Pearl Harbor” as needed to rally support behind American military adventurism.

The Heritage Foundation, like AEI, was also supportive of the war in Iraq and has pushed for the expansion of the War on Terror and U.S. missile defense and military empire. Its corporate donors over the years have included Procter & Gamble, Chase Manhattan Bank, Dow Chemical, and Exxon Mobil, among others. 

Crovitz’s associations with AEI and the Heritage Foundation, as well as his ties to Wall Street and the upper echelons of corporate media, are enough to make any thinking person question his commitment to being a fair watchdog of “legitimate journalism.” Yet, beyond his innumerable connections to neoconservatives and powerful monied interest, Crovitz has repeatedly been accused of inserting misinformation into his Wall Street Journal columns, with groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation accusing him of “repeatedly getting his facts wrong” on NSA surveillance and other issues. Some of the blatant falsehoods that have appeared in Crovitz’s work have never been corrected, even when his own sources called him out for misinformation.

For example, in a WSJ opinion piece that was written by Crovitz in 2012, Crovitz was accused of making “fantastically false claims” about the history of the internet by the very people he had cited to support those claims. 

As TechDirt wrote at the time:

Almost everyone he [Crovitz] sourced or credited to support his argument that the internet was invented entirely privately at Xerox PARC and when Vint Cerf helped create TCP/IP, has spoken out to say he’s wrong. And that list includes both Vint Cerf, himself, and Xerox. Other sources, including Robert Taylor (who was there when the internet was invented) andMichael Hiltzik, have rejected Crovitz’s spinning of their own stories.”

The oligarch team’s deep bench

While Brill and Crovitz’s connections alone should be enough cause for alarm, a cursory examination of Newsguard’s advisory board makes it clear that Newsguard was created to serve the interests of American oligarchy. Chief among Newsguard’s advisors are Tom Ridge, the first Secretary of Homeland Security under George W. Bush and Ret. General Michael Hayden, a former CIA director, a former NSA director and principal at the Chertoff Group, a security consultancy seeking to “advise corporate clients and governments, including foreign governments” on security matters that was co-founded by former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who also currently serves as the board chairman of major weapons manufacturer BAE systems.

Newsguard | conservatives

Another Newsguard advisor of note is Richard Stengel, former editor of Time magazine, a “distinguished fellow” at the Atlantic Council and Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy under President Barack Obama. At a panel discussion hosted last May by the Council on Foreign Relations, Stengel described his past position at the State Department as “chief propagandist” and also stated that he is “not against propaganda. Every country does it and they have to do it to their own population and I don’t necessarily think it’s that awful.”

Other Newsguard advisors include Don Baer, former White House communications director and advisor to Bill Clinton and current chairman of both PBS and the influential PR firm Burson Cohn & Wolfe as well as Elise Jordan, former communications director for the National Security Council and former speech-writer for Condoleezza Rice, as well as the widow of slain journalist Michael Hastings — who was writing an exposé on former CIA director John Brennan at the time of his suspicious death.

A look at Newguard’s investors further illustrates the multifarious connections between this organization and the American political and corporate elite. While Brill and Crovitz themselves are the company’s top investors, one of Newsguard’s most important investors is the Publicis Groupe. Publicis is the third largest global communications company in the world, with more than 80,000 employees in over 100 countries and an annual revenue of over €9.6 billion ($10.98 billion) in 2017. It is no stranger to controversy, as one of its subsidiaries, Qorvis, recently came under fire for exploiting U.S. veterans at the behest of the Saudi government and also helped the Saudi government to “whitewash” its human rights record and its genocidal war in Yemen after receiving $6 million from the Gulf Kingdom in 2017.

Furthermore, given its size and influence, it is unsurprising that the Publicis Groupe counts many powerful corporations and governments among its clientele. Some of its top clients in 2018 included pharmaceutical giants Eli Lilly, Merck, Pfizer and Bayer/Monsanto as well as Starbucks, Procter & Gamble, McDonalds, Kraft Heinz, Burger King, and the governments of Australia and Saudi Arabia. Given its influential role in funding Newsguard, it is reasonable to point out the potential conflict of interest posed by the fact that sites that accurately report on Publicis’ powerful clients — but generate bad publicity — could be targeted for such reports in Newsguard’s ranking.

Maurice Lévy | Newsguard

Maurice Lévy (center), the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Publicis Groupe, appears with a cadre of high-level politicians and corporate executives at an event for Rabbi Arthur Schneier’s “Appeal of Conscience Foundation,” Sept. 26, 2018. Brian Ach | AP Images for Appeal of Conscience Foundation

In addition to the Publicis Groupe, another major investor in Newsguard is the Blue Haven Initiative, which is the venture capital “impact investment” fund of the wealthy Pritzker family — one of the top 10 wealthiest families in the U.S., best known as the owners of the Hyatt Hotel chain and for being the second largest financial contributors to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. 

Other top investors include John McCarter, a long-time executive at U.S. government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, as well as Thomas Glocer, former CEO of Reuters and a member of the boards of pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co., financial behemoth Morgan Stanley, and the Council on Foreign Relations, as well as a member of the Atlantic Council’s International Advisory Board.

Through these investors, Newsguard managed to raise $6 million to begin its ranking efforts in March of 2018. Newsguard’s actual revenues and financing, however, have not been disclosed despite the fact that it requires the sites it ranks to disclose their funding. In a display of pure hypocrisy, Newsguard’s United States Securities and Exchange Commission Form D — which was filed March 5, 2018 — states that the company “declined to disclose” the size of its total revenue.

Why give folks a choice?

While even a quick glance at its advisory board alone would be enough for many Americans to decline to install Newsguard’s browser extension on their devices, the danger of Newsguard is the fact that it is diligently working to make the adoption of its app involuntary. Indeed, if voluntary adoption of Newsguard’s app were the case, there would likely be little cause for concern, given that its website attracts barely more than 300 visits per month and its social-media following is relatively small, with just over 2,000 Twitter followers and barely 500 Facebook likes at the time of this article’s publication.

To illustrate its slip-it-under-the-radar strategy, Newsguard has gone directly to state governments to push its browser extension onto entire state public library systems, even though its website suggests that individual public libraries are welcome to install the extension if they so choose. The first state to install Newsguard on all of its public library computers across its 51 branches was the state of Hawaii — which was the first to partner with Newsguard’s “news literacy initiative,” just last month. 

According to local media, Newsguard “now works with library systems representing public libraries across the country, and is also partnering with middle schools, high schools, universities, and educational organizations to support their news literacy efforts,” suggesting that these Newsguard services targeting libraries and schools are soon to become a compulsory component of the American library and education system, despite Newsguard’s glaring conflicts of interest with massive multinational corporations and powerful government power-brokers.

Notably, Newsguard has a powerful partner that has allowed it to start finding its way into public library and school computers throughout the country. As part of its new “Defending Democracy” initiative, Microsoft announced last August that it would be partnering with Newsguard to actively market the company’s ranking app and other services to libraries and schools throughout the country. Microsoft’s press release regarding the partnership states that Newsguard “will empower voters by providing them with high-quality information about the integrity and transparency of online news sites.” 

Since then, Microsoft has now added the Newsguard app as a built-in feature of Microsoft Edge, its browser for iOS and Android mobile devices, and is unlikely to stop there. Indeed, as a recent report in favor of Microsoft’s partnership with Newsguard noted, “we could hope that this new partnership will allow Microsoft to add NewsGuard to Edge on Windows 10 [operating system for computers] as well.”

Newsguard, for its part, seems confident that its app will soon be added by default to all mobile devices. On its website, the organization notes that“NewsGuard will be available on mobile devices when the digital platforms such as social media sites and search engines or mobile operating systems add our ratings and Nutrition Labels directly.” This shows that Newsguard isn’t expecting its rating systems to be offered as a downloadable application for mobile devices but something that social media sites like Facebook, search engines like Google, and mobile device operating systems that are dominated by Apple and Google will “directly” integrate into nearly every smartphone and tablet sold in the United States.

A Boston Globe article on Newsguard from this past October makes this plan even more clear. The Globe wrote at the time:

Microsoft has already agreed to make NewsGuard a built-in feature in future products, and [Newsguard co-CEO] Brill said he’s in talks with other online titans. The goal is to have NewsGuard running by default on our computers and phones whenever we scan the Web fornews.”

This eventuality is made all the more likely given the fact that, in addition to Microsoft, Newsguard is also closely connected to Google, as Google has been a partner of the Publicis Groupe since 2014, when the two massive companies joined Condé Nast to create a new marketing service called La Maison that is “focused on producing engaging content for marketers in the luxury space.” Given Google’s power in the digital sphere as the dominant search engine, the creator of the Android mobile operating system, and the owner of YouTube, its partnership with Publicis means that Newsguard’s rating system will soon see itself being promoted by yet another of Silicon Valley’s most powerful companies.

Furthermore, there is an effort underway to integrate Newsguard into social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Indeed, as Newsguard was launched, co-CEO Brill stated that he planned to sellthe company’s ratings of news sites to Facebook and Twitter. Last March, Brill told CNN that “We’re asking them [Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google] to pay a fraction of what they pay their P.R. people and their lobbyists to talk about the problem.”

On Wednesday, Gallup released a poll that will likely be used as a major selling point to social media giants. The poll — funded by Newsguard and the Knight Foundation, which is a top investor in Newsguard and has recently funded a series of Gallup polls relating to online news — seems to have been created with the intention of manufacturing consent for the integration of Newsguard with top social media sites.

This is because the promoted findings from the study are as follows:“89% of users of social media sites and 83% overall want social media sites and search engines to integrate NewsGuard ratings and reviews into their news feeds and search results” and “69% would trust social media and search companies more if they took the simple step of including NewsGuard in their products.” However, a disclaimer at the end of the poll states that the results, which were based on the responses of 706 people each of whom received $2 to participate, “may not be reflective of attitudes of the broader U.S adult population.”

With trust at Facebook nose-diving and Facebook’s censorship of independent media already well underway, the findings of this poll could well be used to justify its integration into Facebook’s platform. The connections of both Newsguard and Facebook to the Atlantic Council make this seem a given.

Financial censorship

Another Newsguard service shows that this organization is also seeking to harm independent media financially by targeting online revenue. Through a service called “Brandguard,” which it describes as a “brand safety tool aimed at helping advertisers keep their brands off of unreliable news and information sites while giving them the assurance they need to support thousands of Green-rated [i.e., Newsguard-approved] news and information sites, big and small.”

At the time the service was announced last November, Newsguard co-CEO Brill stated that the company was “in discussions with the ad tech firms, leading agencies, and major advertisers” eager to adopt a blacklist of news sites deemed “unreliable” by Newsguard. This is unsurprising given the leading role of the Publicis Groupe, one of the world’s largest advertising and PR firms, has in funding Newsguard. As a consequence, it seems likely that many, if not all, of Publicis’ client companies will choose to adopt this blacklist to help crush many of the news sites that are unafraid to hold them accountable.

It is also important to note here that Google’s connection to Publicis and thus Newsguard could spell trouble for independent news pages that rely on Google Adsense for some or all of their ad-based revenue. Google Adsense has long been targeting sites like MintPressby demonetizing articles for information or photographs it deemed controversial, including demonetizing one article for including a photo showing U.S. soldiers involved in torturing Iraqi detainees at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison.

Since then, Google — a U.S. military contractor — has repeatedly tried to shutter ad access to MintPress articles that involve reporting that is critical of U.S. empire and military expansion. One article that has been repeatedly flagged by Google details how many African-Americans have questioned whether the Women’s March has aided or harmed the advancement of African-Americans in the United States. Google has repeatedly claimed that the article, which was written by African-American author and former Washington Postbureau chief Jon Jeter, contains “dangerous content.”

Given Google’s already established practice of targeting factual reporting it deemed controversial through Adsense, Brandguard will likely offer the tech giant just the excuse it needs to cut off sites like MintPress, and other pages equally critical of empire, altogether.

An action plan for the genuine protection of journalism

Though it is just getting started, Newsguard’s plan to insert its app into every device and major social-media network is a threat to any news site that regularly publishes information that rubs any of Newsguard’s investors, partners or advisors the wrong way. Given its plan to rank the English-language U.S. news sites that account for 98 percent of U.S. digital news consumption, Newsguard’s agenda is of the utmost concern to every independent media page active in the United States and beyond — given Newsguard’s promise to take its project global. 

By linking up with former CIA and NSA directors, Silicon Valley Giants, and massive PR firms working for some of the most controversial governments and corporations in the world, Newsguard has betrayed the fact that it is not actually seeking to “restore trust and accountability” in journalism, but to “restore trust and accountability” in news outlets that protect the existing power structure and help shield the corporate-led oligarchy and military-industrial complex from criticism. 

Not only is it trying to tank the reputations of independent media through its biased ranking system, Newsguard is also seeking to attack these alternative voices financially and by slipping its ranking system by default onto all computers and phones sold in the U.S. 

However, Newsguard and it agenda of guarding the establishment from criticism can be stopped. By supporting independent media and unplugging from social media sites committed to censorship, like Facebook and Twitter, we can strengthen the independent media community and keep it afloat despite the unprecedented nature of these attacks on free speech and watchdog journalism. 

Beyond that, a key way to keep Newsguard and those behind it on their toes is to hold them to account by pointing out their clear conflicts of interest and hypocrisy and by derailing the narrative they are carefully crafting that Newsguard is “non-partisan,” “trustworthy,” and true guardians against the scourge of “fake news.” 

While this report has sought to be a starting point for such work, anyone concerned about Newsguard and its connections to the war machine and corrupt corporations should feel encouraged to point out the organization’s own conflicts of interests and shady connections via its Twitter and Facebook pages and the feedback section on Newsguard’s website. The best way to defeat this new tool of the neocons is to put them on notice and to continue to expose Newsguard as a guardian of empire, not a guardian of journalism.

Correction | An earlier version of this story wrote that CNN’s collusion with the Clinton campaign was illegal. However, upon further investigation, MintPress News could not corroborate that such a move was, in fact, illegal, though it is clearly in breach of journalistic ethics. As a consequence, the sentence in question was changed to say that CNN “unethically colluded” with the Clinton campaign. MintPress apologizes for the error and thanks its readers for bringing this oversight to our attention.

Top Photo | This photo, edited by MintPress News, shows Primedia chairman and CEO Tom Rogers, left, talking with Newsguard CEO Steven Brill after a New York news conference announcing Brill as the chariman and CEO of Media Central, Jan. 4, 2001. Ed Bailey | AP

Gaining Traction With Consumers and Platforms, NewsGuard Draws Scrutiny From RT, WikiLeaks Kremlin-linked outlets accuse the platform of plotting to silence independent media, rather than call out fake news.

 

NewsGuard, the new project from media veterans Steve Brill and Gordon Crovitz which aims to boost media literacy by providing “nutrition labels” assessing the trustworthiness of online news sources, appears to be gaining steam.

According to a new Gallup survey—which, it should be noted, was funded by NewsGuard and the Knight Foundation, a major investor—out of 706 U.S. adults who tried NewsGuard’s browser extension on a trial basis, 91 percent found the nutrition labels helpful, 78 percent would recommend NewsGuard to a friend and 69 percent reported that integrating NewsGuard into a search engine or social media platform would make them more trusting of that platform as a news source.

“We were delighted with the results,” Crovitz tells Folio:. “When we released the browser extension in late summer, we had hoped that consumers would have this kind of reaction.”

To date, about 30,000 people have downloaded the browser extension, currently available on Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Microsoft Edge. But since NewsGuard’s launch, the real challenge has always been getting Silicon Valley to provide the service as a built-in feature, rather than expecting consumers to download it themselves.

“We really launched the browser extension to give social media and search companies and browsers something concrete to use and take a look at,” Crovitz continues. “We were very pleasantly surprised when public libraries across the country saw the browser extension as a practical literacy tool, and many of them have downloaded it onto the computers that library patrons use. But our business model is to encourage the browsers and social media companies to integrate NewsGuard into their products.”

NewsGuard’s first major victory on that front came this week, with the announcement that Microsoft was integrating NewsGuard into beta versions of its Edge browser in Android and iOS devices (a public rollout is expected in the near future). Crovitz declined to go into details on any additional arrangements with browsers, search engines or social media platforms, but says more announcements can be anticipated.



But not all of the headlines surrounding NewsGuard this week were positive.

A day after the results of the Gallup survey were publicized, a series of articles questioning NewsGuard’s motives proliferated across outlets linked to the Russian government: an article on RT.com meticulously detailing NewsGuard’s purported conflicts of interest; a news article and an opinion piece on Sputnik News accusing NewsGuard of “censorship” and “propaganda,” respectively, as well as a radio spot decrying “the war on alternative media;” even a TV news segment on RT America summarizing the same talking points.

The complaints essentially boil down to a few central theses:

  1. NewsGuard is funded, influenced or otherwise unduly connected to the neoconservative elite (NewsGuard’s advisory board includes former cabinet-level national security officials from the George W. Bush administration; Crovitz used to work at the Wall Street Journal).
  2. NewsGuard’s rating system is inherently biased or otherwise flawed (it gave CNN, the Washington Post and the federally funded Voice of America a pass, but flagged the Kremlin-funded RT as unreliable).
  3. NewsGuard’s true ambitions lie in blacklisting news outlets that go against the neoconservative consensus (it received an investment from advertising giant Publicis Groupe and it offers an advertiser-facing “Brand Safety” product, both of which could be used to financially cripple alternative media).

To add perspective on the matter, the RT segment brought in political cartoonist Ted Rall, who asserted that NewsGuard’s ratings must be unreliable. How does he know? NewsGuard gave a green rating to the Los Angeles Times, who he is suing for defamation.

For some context around where, exactly, NewsGuard sets the bar: ThinkProgressAlterNet, The Daily Caller and FoxNews.com all received green ratings; Palmer ReportThe Daily KosInfoWars and Breitbart are rated untrustworthy. Sites given a red nutrition label are not blocked on browsers that have installed the extension, but are accompanied by a message urging caution when a user hovers his or her mouse over the NewsGuard icon.

By Monday, Wikileaks’ official accounts had picked up the story, tweeting out criticism of Crovitz and calling NewsGuard a “neocon app.” And on Tuesday, the feedback loop came full-circle, with both RT and Sputnik posting additional articles summarizing the Wikileaks criticism.

WikiLeaks

@wikileaks

Microsoft adds neocon app “NewsGuard” to its Edge webrowser by default pushing U.S. security state news imperialism across the world. Gives green tick rating for Voice of America & Fox News but red mark for @WikiLeaks despite admitting perfect accuracy. https://www.newsguardtech.com/our-advisory-board/  pic.twitter.com/atd0Ouucdy

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If citations are any indication, the whole thing began last Wednesday, when Mnar Muhawesh, editor-in-chief of the Minnesota-based site MintPress News, posted about an interaction she’d had with a reporter for NewsGuard who appeared to be fact-checking a series of old claims about MintPress that can be turned up by a cursory Google search.

Muhawesh was alarmed by the NewsGuard emissary’s “list of eight loaded questions” about the site she founded in 2012, which describes itself as a watchdog but generated some controversy in the past for its allegedly pro-Assad coverage of the Syrian Civil War. In the note, Muhawesh refuted nearly all of the claims about which the reporter inquired, immediately perceiving the questions as an attempt to undermine MintPress, and accused NewsGuard of harboring its own inherent bias, its founders’ true agenda little more than a thinly veiled attempt to “control the free flow of information that poses a threat to the war establishment and the corporations that fund them.”

“It was clear that NewsGuard was maliciously targeting MintPress by the loaded questions NewsGuard journalist Jennie Kamin sent me,” Muhawesh tells Folio:. “The reporter had either not visited our website to find the basic answers to her questions or purposely tried to frame MintPress as unprofessional.”

MintPress went on the offensive with a second, more detailed exclusive report detailing NewsGuard’s purported nefarious motives and shady ties, which quickly picked up hundreds of retweets. Within a day, the first article summarizing the same points appeared on RT.com.

MintPress News@MintPressNews

EXCLUSIVE: As Newsguard’s project advances, it will soon become almost impossible to avoid this neocon-approved news site’s ranking systems on any technological device sold in the United States. @_whitneywebbhttps://www.mintpressnews.com/newsguardneocon-backed-fact-checker-plans-to-wage-war-on-independent-media/253687/ 

How a NeoCon-Backed “Fact Checker” Plans to Wage War on Independent Media

Newsguard, the internet news “fact checker” has deep connections to the US government and silicon valley, and it’s going after independent media.

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At press time, MintPress News is “still in the process of being rated,” according to NewsGuard.

Crovitz says the reports are being selective about the facts.

“We operate with radical transparency,” Crovitz added in a phone conversation Monday afternoon. “Everybody knows what our nine criteria are. If a publisher gets a red rating on any of those nine, it explains the reasons why. One thing that’s noteworthy about these reports is that they’re not trying to defend their practices as much as they’re attacking the fact that we have cybersecurity experts on our advisory board, and that sort of thing.”

Crovitz denied that NewsGuard’s board and investors have any input on its rating process—which he says is handled by its staff of professional reporters, editors and fact checkers—and pointed out that NewsGuard makes no attempt to hide the identities of its investors and advisory board.

“Confronting fake news starts with educating people about media literacy at the school level and empowering citizens with the right tools so that we can think for ourselves to decipher what is true or not,” adds Muhawesh, who claims that “soft censorship and throttling” from platforms has led to steep declines in readership and ad revenue for MintPress.

Having an entity like NewsGuard that works so closely with the political establishment to decide what is ‘real news’ and ‘fake news’ is dangerous as it will only lead to the control of information and mass censorship, leaving Americans little access to alternative information.”

Among the advisory board members who raised eyebrows at MintPress and RT, Richard Stengel, the former Timemanaging editor from 2006 to 2013, was later recruited by the Obama State Department to help counter ISIS propaganda online; but another, General Michael Hayden, has faced criticism for statements made as CIA and NSA director, particularly those concerning former CIA contractor and NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

“We make clear who our ownership is on our website. There’s no involvement of any government and there’s no government investment,” Crovitz says. “The advisory board includes people with different backgrounds. We have people who are in national security, people who are digital experts, we have journalists. We thought it was important to get guidance and advice from people who have been thinking about these issues of disinformation for a long time.”

NewsGuard declared RT—which claims editorial independence but receives the bulk of its funding from the Russian government and has been accused of spreading state propaganda—an untrustworthy news source at its inception, using it as an example of a “red-rated” news outlet even prior to launching the browser extension last year. Apart from a short video segment last March expressing skepticism about NewsGuard’s feasibility, however, this appears to be the first time RT has covered the startup.

My Settler Sister Knows Her Enemies. First of All, She Hates the Germans. Then the Arabs

The 'March of Flags' through the Old City marking Jerusalem Day, the unification of the city under Israeli rule after 1967. May 13, 2018
Olivier Fitoussi

Opinion My Settler Sister Knows Her Enemies. First of All, She Hates the Germans. Then the Arabs 

The less you know about your enemies, the easier it is to project all your fantasies on to them. The closer you come to the other, the more you see the vulnerabilities, the paradoxes, the contradictions. Part two of a three part report

Some years ago, a cultural historian wrote in a Dutch newspaper that land-grabbers should not complainwhen they get killed.   

His remarks were triggered by the killing of a family of settlers in the West Bank. My written response was that I wasn’t sure that, despite all our differences, it could possibly be truethat my own settler sister should not be allowed to complain if somebody tries to murder her for being a land-grabber.

>> Read Arnon Grunberg’s previous reports from Dolev: I Detest My Sister’s West Bank Settlement. That’s Why I’m Going to Live There >> When You’re Staying With West Bank Settlers, Here’s How to Break the Ice

A few years later, I attended a Jerusalem Day March, marking the post-1967 “unification” of the city,  together with members of the right-wing religious youth movement, Bnei Akiva (I used to be a member of Bnei Akiva in my teens, without much enthusiasm).

The moment it became clear to the celebrating marchers that I was a journalist working for the “foreign media,” I was basically branded a traitor and pushed out of the march.

Most of the enthusiastic young marchers refused to talk to me; only a young man who called himself “an official spokesman” was willing to engage in conversation with me. It turned out to be not much of a conversation.

No matter what question I asked him, his response was: “Could you tell me why you are a self-hating Jew?”

Sitting in my sister’s kitchen in Dolev, and drinking Nescafé, I think of these two events. More specifically, I think about the certainty with which some people know whom their enemy is.

In the past my sister had called me a “self-hating Jew” as well, but those days are gone. We are much more polite to each other nowadays. We love each other, reluctantly on my part, but I’m the youngest, it’s the privilege of the younger sibling to love reluctantly, teasingly.

Ironically enough, in the Netherlands, some members of the extreme-right have the habit to call me a self-hating Jew as well.

Whenever I write an article arguing that there is not much difference between Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, whenever I declare that the insistence that all Muslims are terrorists is more or less the same rhetorical trick fine-tuned by Hitler claiming that all Jews are Bolsheviks or capitalists, or capitalists and Bolsheviks at the same time, because with Jews everything is possible, those readers will call me a self-hating Jew.

Israeli youths committed to rebuilding the former Amona outpost - evacuated and demolished in 2017 because it was built on private Palestinian land - near the Ofra settlement. December 16, 2018
Israeli youths committed to rebuilding the former Amona outpost – evacuated and demolished in 2017 because it was built on private Palestinian land – near the Ofra settlement. December 16, 2018AFP

Many of these people writing me angry emails urge me to visit a certain neighborhood in The Hague, in the Netherlands, where lots of Muslims live, and to walk around there with a yarmulke on my head. I’m quite sure they themselves have never been to this neighborhood, and most likely they’ve never met anybody with a yarmulke on his head either. It seems that, among certain people, the old saying that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, is very much alive.

My sister knows who her enemies are. First of all, she hates the Germans, even though our parents were as much German as they were Jewish, and they both very much identified as German Jews.

Our parents resented the Dutch Jews for how they had half-heartedly welcomed and treated the German Jews, before and after the war. My father proudly announced, over dinner, especially during Jewish holidays, that German culture was the best culture in the world. He didn’t do this so much to provoke, rather he genuinely believed that German literature and philosophy were superior to any other literature and philosophy.

My sister was raised bilingual, Dutch and German, whereas with me my parents didn’t bother – they only spoke Dutch to me. It is a miracle to me how one can be loyal to one’s parents while ignoring such an important part of their heritage.

I consider myself both Jewish and German, even though I’ve never lived in Germany – the German mountains feel more like home than the hills around Dolev. This is something I won’t tell my sister, because then she would call me a self-hating Jew again, or maybe even worse.

At her kitchen table I realize something else. None of her children have even so much as tried engaging with me in conversation about religion or politics. Except for one instance – with her youngest daughter Rinatya, when she was in Amsterdam to visit her grandmother, and I had taken her to the Anne Frank House, she said to me: “How can Jews live here?”

I answered: “Despite everything that happened, Jews can live here and they live very well here.”

With Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers in the background, a Bedouin man leaves an area fenced off by Jewish settlers in the West Bank village of Khirbet Ein al-Hilweh, Jordan Valley. Nov. 9, 2010
With Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers in the background, a Bedouin man leaves an area fenced off by Jewish settlers in the West Bank village of Khirbet Ein al-Hilweh, Jordan Valley. Nov. 9, 2010AP

For my nieces and nephews, politics and identity are not something you talk about, at least not with me. To them it all appears to be obvious – identity, Israel, or the question where Jews are supposed to live. There’s no need to discuss it relentlessly, and they’re not tempted to convert those who haven’t seen the light yet.

To some of them, kashrut is more important than politics. When my nephew Tuvya was in New York and he visited briefly my apartment, he even refused to drink a glass of water. I had to put the water in a plastic cup.

Besides the Germans, my sister also considers the Arabs to be an enemy, although she hardly mentions them. Before the second Intifada, a Palestinian from a nearby village came to Dolev to sell vegetables. My sister speaks almost fondly of him. “He would sell vegetables on credit,” she says, “but then he stopped coming, because other Palestinians would have killed him.”

The invisible enemy appeared in the past as a kind greengrocer – but, of course, this man was the exception. Her husband tells us: “When we lay down our arms, we will all be killed. When the Arabs lay down their arms there will be peace.”

The love object and the enemy have something in common. The less you know about them, the easier it is to project all your fantasies on them.

I strongly believe that you should talk with everyone. That is not to say that enemies don’t exist, I’m not naive, but talking to anyone means to learn something, and to realize that your fantasies are often not very accurate. The closer you come to the monster, the more you see that the monster looks very much like yourself.

Jewish settlers throws rocks towards Palestinians, not pictured, during clashes near the Jewish settlement of Yitzhar, near Nablus. April 30, 2013
Jewish settlers throws rocks towards Palestinians, not pictured, during clashes near the Jewish settlement of Yitzhar, near Nablus. April 30, 2013AP

Back in 2009, I was in Baghdad to write about the aftermath of war – it was really still more of an ongoing war than an aftermath. I had hired private security, friendly Iraqi guys with guns who insisted that I should wear a flak jacket. I had remained silent about my Jewish background, and to be on the safe side, I went by the name of “Arnold.”

One evening, we were eating lamb in a restaurant, one of the guys said to me: “I know you are Jewish, but I couldn’t care less about the Palestinians. We have our own problems. And you know, Jews, Christians, Muslims, we all believe in the same God. The real problem are the atheists, they are pigs.”

I smiled and I appreciated this remark. But I didn’t tell him that I was a kind of atheist. Silence can be golden.

My sister would not make that difference, Germans, Arabs, Muslims, enemies. But she is willing to treat my non-Jewish girlfriend with all her kindness as if she were already family. The closer you come to the other, the more you see the vulnerabilities, the paradoxes, the contradictions.

My sister and I ready ourselves to go to Jerusalem to visit the graves of our parents.

Although my sister is only eight years older than I am, at 55 her health appears to be deteriorating. She is deaf on both sides – she wears hearing aids – and she has problems with her teeth. On Shabbat, she refused to change the battery of her hearing devices, even though her husband had told her that it was probably okay to do so.

“The most important thing for me is to be a good person,” she says.

“So, being good,” I answer, “means being deaf for half of the Shabbat?”

She ignores this. “What’s the most important thing for you?” she asks.

“To be a good writer,” I reply.

Somali Militants Say Deadly Kenya Attack Was Revenge for Trump’s Jerusalem Move

Security forces help civilians flee the scene as cars burn at a hotel complex in Nairobi, Kenya on , Jan. 15, 2019.
AP Photo/Ben Curtis

Somali Militants Say Deadly Kenya Attack Was Revenge for Trump’s Jerusalem Move 

Shabab statement says attack was response to Trump’s ‘witless remarks’ and ‘declaration of Al-Quds as the capital of Israel’

Somali militant group al-Shabab said on Wednesday that they had launched a deadly attack on an upscale Kenyan hotel and business complex because of U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. 

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The two page statement said: “The Mujahideen (holy warriors) carried out this operation … (as) a response to the witless remarks of U.S. president, Donald Trump, and his declaration of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) as the capital of Israel.” 

 An American who survived the 9/11 attacks, two best friends from Kenya who worked to help Somalia, and a British development professional were among the 21 people killed after Somali militants blasted their way into the hotel and office complex.

Nairobi is a major hub for expatriates and the compound targeted contained offices of various international companies, in an echo of a deadly 2013 assault on a Nairobi shopping center in the same neighborhood.

Kenya has often been targeted by Shabab, which killed 67 people at the Westgate shopping center in 2013 and nearly 150 students at Garissa University in 2015. The group says its attacks are revenge for Kenyan troops stationed inside Somalia, which has been riven by civil war since 1991.

Israel-Japan partners eye robot testers, autonomous forklifts on factory floor

Entrepreneur Ran Poliakine teams up with Honda unit to help usher in Industry 4.0, the digitalization of the manufacturing process

Illustrative image of robots in the manufacturing process (PhonlamaiPhoto; iStock by Getty Images)
In 1944, Hungarian Jews line up outside the 'Glass House' building from which Swiss diplomat Carl Lutz helped save the lives of tens of thousands of people. (FOTO:FORTEPAN / Archiv für Zeitgeschichte ETH Zürich / Agnes Hirschi)

In 1944, Hungarian Jews line up outside the ‘Glass House’ building from which Swiss diplomat Carl Lutz helped save the lives of tens of thousands of people. (FOTO:FORTEPAN / Archiv für Zeitgeschichte ETH Zürich / Agnes Hirschi)

Plaintiff lawyer: Hungary has never been brought to justice

DC court says Holocaust survivors can sue Hungary in the US for huge reparations

Potential multi-billion dollar suit dates back to 2010. Appeals court rules that in pursuit of justice, case can be tried in States. Lawyers say decision could go to Supreme Court

BUDAPEST — The second-highest court in the United States has reinstated a lawsuit brought by a group of Holocaust survivors and their families against the government of Hungary and its national railroad. The class action suit demands restitution for the role Hungary played in the murder of 500,000 Jews and the seizure of their property during World War II.

Setting the stage for what could be a landmark civil suit running into the tens of billions of dollars, Judge Patricia A. Millett wrote for the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on December 28 that Hungary could not force the plaintiffs to have the case tried in a Hungarian court.

The decision overturned that of a federal judge who ruled that the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty between Hungary and the Allied powers granted Hungary immunity.

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A 2016 decision from the Court of Appeals in the ongoing case similarly overruled an additional federal court decision, which also would have prevented the case from being brought in the US.

The Court of Appeals said that victims of the Holocaust can claim compensation in a US court for any Jewish property seized by Hungary from the moment the Jews were expelled from their homes, calling the theft “genocidal taking” in contravention of international law.

“This is probably the most important and the only litigation in which the Hungarian government and its national railroad will be held responsible for their role in the destruction of Hungarian Jewry between 1941 and 1945,” Marc Zell, the legal counsel for the plaintiffs, told The Times of Israel.

“Up until now, Hungary, which was a sovereign state during the time of WWII, has never been brought to justice for what it did, and attempted to exonerate itself from any liability in its peace treaty that it signed in 1947 with the Allied powers,” Zell said.

New York-based attorney Konrad L. Cailteux told The Times of Israel that the defense had no comment due to pending litigation. Likewise, repeated requests for comment from the Hungarian Ministry of Justice were not answered.

On Friday, the defense filed a petition to have the appeal retried by the entire 11-judge DC Circuit Court alongside another case being brought against Germany. That petition is still pending.

According to Zell, by filing the petition Hungary may be positioning itself for a Supreme Court appeal.

Marc Zell, the head of Republicans Overseas Israel, at an event in Jerusalem, October 26, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Hungarian government has invoked the 1947 treaty to stall this case numerous times since it was first brought in 2010, and succeeded in using it to drop a similar simultaneous case that was brought in Chicago.

“The Federal Appellate court told them [in the Chicago case] they had to go to Hungary to try it there, and they did — and they ran into a stone wall. They just threw up their hands in futility,” said Zell.

Zell alleged that the Hungarian court used “all kinds of technical grounds — the very thing that we argued to the court in Washington why it wasn’t fair to force Holocaust survivors and their families to go back to the very place of the Holocaust, a country that still has difficulty even admitting that they have responsibility for it, and try their case in a Hungarian court.”

‘More harm than good’

Over the past 20 years, the Hungarian government has made a pretense of allowing Hungarian Holocaust victims to file claims for their losses, said Zell, but he called the payouts “tantamount to a joke.”

“For persons who were sent to Auschwitz or to Mauthausen and survived, for example, or for those who had family members perish in the camps, they would pay maybe a thousand dollars,” said Zell.

He also alleged that many of the victims were denied relief altogether. Hungarian nationals living in Israel who applied for compensation under their Hebrew names were turned down, he said, though the Jewish and Hungarian names on file represented the same people.

“They turned them down on technical grounds and bureaucratic procedures, just to avoid having to pay them the very little compensation that they were theoretically willing to pay. It’s been a travesty of justice,” said Zell.

The lead plaintiffs include American, Canadian, Australian, and Israeli citizens. Notably absent among the group of 14  – 12 of whom survived Auschwitz – are any residents of Hungary.

Zell said that while Hungary-based Holocaust survivors are included in the class action and would benefit from a favorable ruling, not a single person currently living in Hungary wanted to take a lead role in the US case, fearing retribution back home.

Rabbi Zoltán Radnóti in his Budapest office, July 17, 2017 (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

Rabbi Zoltan Radnoti, chairman of the rabbinical council of MAZSIHISZ, the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, told The Times of Israel last week that he wasn’t surprised by Hungarian Jews’ reluctance to get involved in the massive civil suit.

“A lot of people are afraid to go up against the government. It’s an Eastern European mentality,” Radnoti said. “Maybe the government will put them on a list of people who were against it. It’s not good for them, for their families. They know that if they go up against the government in the US, the Hungarian government knows everything – it’s extremely powerful.”

Radnoti pointed to recent strikes and demonstrations against an increasingly government-controlled media and what has been dubbed the new “slave labor law,” saying that the protests were at most a few thousand strong. “Why would people go? It’s not good for them,” he said.

He also noted fears of an anti-Semitic backlash by the greater Hungarian public.

“The [largely secular] Hungarian Jewish people don’t want to be seen as ‘Jewish,’” Radnoti said. “And if the US court says that the Hungarian government has to pay billions of dollars to Jews in Hungary or anywhere else, the people will say, ‘The Jews are taking money from the hospitals, the Jews are taking money from the police.’ It will do more harm than good.”

Achieving justice is a US lawyer’s mentality, he said.

“The Hungarian people don’t think like that. This was 74 years ago. Who cares? If we’re proven right, then what? What does it accomplish?” asked Radnoti.

There still remain ongoing efforts to negotiate compensation from the Hungarian government, albeit farther from the limelight, according to the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO). The local Jewish community is cooperating with those efforts, the WJRO said.

“WJRO, in coordination with the Hungarian Jewish community, is in discussions with the Hungarian government regarding outstanding restitution issues,” said WJRO chair of operations Gideon Taylor.

‘Tens of billions of dollars of compensation’

Zell said that the case against the Hungarian government and the national railway, Magyar Allamvasutak, could see a significant financial claim filed on behalf of Jewish Holocaust survivors.

“We didn’t put a number in this case, but if it goes forward we’ll be asking for tens of billions of dollars of compensation, which is the amount that would be owed based on the value of the property that was taken at the time of the deportations to the camps,” said Zell.

Zell claimed the community was “extremely affluent,” enumerating confiscated holdings such as businesses, valuable properties, and artwork. “In one of our cases the family had a whole collection of Dutch Masters in its possession that were taken by the Hungarian government,” he alleged.

“All the bank accounts, the insurance policies, huge sums of money and personal property that were worth at the time well over 1 or 2 billion dollars,” continued Zell. “But with the passage of 70 years, with interest and everything else, this number has exploded,” he said, stressing that the suit only included movable property and didn’t even address the real estate appropriated from the country’s Jews.

If the case makes it all the way to a final judgment, the plaintiffs would likely seek satisfaction from Hungarian assets in the US or elsewhere, said Zell. However, he said, no Holocaust civil litigation has ever gone all the way to trial; cases have all either been dismissed or settled. If the case does make it to trial, it would be a judicial first.

Zell said that even today the Hungarian government maintains meticulous records from the period of the Jewish expulsion and decimation, and that many survivors would be able to prove exactly what they lost in the way of property. He said they would be entitled to cash sums that reflect the value of what they lost, as would heirs of victims who are no longer alive.

The assets of many victims who can’t come forward because they are dead and have no family to claim on their behalf are also compensable, Zell said. Reparations for those assets could go into a general fund that would benefit existing Holocaust survivors living in poverty or financial hardship, of which there are many in Israel and around the world. Any leftover money could go to benefit Jewish communities and institutions in Hungary.

Illustrative: Adolf Hitler, right, looking at a stolen artwork in 1940. (Photo12/UIG via Getty Images)

However, he said, it would ultimately be up to the court to decide how to disburse any funds collected from either a settlement or a judgment.

The lawsuit also demands the railway refund the transportation costs it charged to Jewish communities for transporting them to the death camps.

The Hungarian national railway collected the Jews from their homes, and oftentimes stored them in temporary ghettos and shelters before they were put on the trains themselves, said Zell. When they boarded the trains, railway workers confiscated many people’s personal belongings — in some cases worth a lot of money, such as cash and jewelry that were hidden on the deportees to Auschwitz and Mauthausen, he said.

What distinguishes this case from others before it, said Zell, was that the Hungarian government is also a defendant, and so the amount of damages potentially claimable in this case is many times greater than that what could be claimed against the railroad alone.

“Whatever we agree to has to be an amount that has an impact on the Hungarian government and people. It cannot be something only symbolic,” said Zell. “We’re not looking to bankrupt them or the railroad. But we are looking to make the Hungarian government and people conscious in a material way, and that way justice will be served.”

Facebook will Hijack Crypto

Dear Stablecoins, please fix WhatsApp Monetization problem — signed Zuck

Former PayPal CEO David Marcus heads up Facebook’s blockchain division — Marcus is also a former board member at crypto exchange Coinbase.

The prince of centralization, is going to hack decentralization. The last frontier of legacy social media apps like Facebook and LinkedIn is India.

Some are calling it remittance revenue, I’m calling it how to send money home more efficiently. A WhatsApp stablecoin would certainly help, it would also give new life to the digital asset market in the 2020s.

The Bloomberg article on this has sparked a lot of debate. WhatsApp is pretty popular and stablecoins had a banner year in 2018. It really does make sense.

With a growing blockchain division, Facebook is truly the largest company to embrace consumer blockchain service. That it wants to hijack crypto is pretty much in line with Facebook’s MO.

Facebook is the leader in my humble opinion to acquire Coinbase, and Coinbase is looking to boost its market valuation to have such a big ticket exit as a flashy Silicon Valley startup that become popular when Bitcoin was a “get-rich” scheme for young investors and high-risk volatility champions. Well sure, I’d accept payments in a WhatsAppCoin. Convenience trumps centralization in the evil tech world after all. Please charge a bit less than PayPal though, alright?

Stablecoins like STOs appear more Centralization Movement for Digital Assets (so long crypto!)

Stablecoins have indeed become all the rage in the blockchain space during the second half of this year, just as STOs have and may replace ICOs. So much for the open peer-to-peer feeling of crypto. What they are replacing altcoins and ICOs with feel totally centralized, regulated and tethered to the old world system.

WhatsApp is certainly a leading comms app for keeping in touch with family and even for News in some places in the world. In the spirit of sending money home, certainly a stablecoin does make sense. Facebook needs to find more utility than simple digital ads if it wants to survive the user exodus that’s coming to its ecosystem.

Yet with the worst December for the stock market in decades, Facebook has been hammered beyond recognition. Entering the blockchain hype is not necessary going to save its reputation from that of American internet trash. All it seems to have is a lot of users and a lot of profits, with huge wasted profits in verticals not named advertising.

If Facebook is a much maligned social media mogul, Mark Zuckerberg is the prince of centralized tech and data harvesting. Not exactly the most compatible thing with the decentralized spirit crypto movement. But as a value proposition, having its own cryptocurrency makes sense to breathe some badly needed utility into apps such as WhatsApp and Messenger. I’m a bit surprised Snapchat did not implement something like this already.

Facebook has an identity problem, as young people flock away from its flagship app, this means Instagram and WhatsApp are the last Facebook apps where value and hijacking of other people’s products can occur. Stealing Snapchat stories and hijacking crypto are Zuck’s answer to the void of innovation at his highly centralized and oligarchy like company.

Pentagon officials ‘rattled’ by Trump White House request for military options to attack Iran: report

13 Jan 2019 at 07:30 ET

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According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, President Donald Trump’s White House — led by national security adviser John Bolton — requested options from the Pentagon to launch an attack on Iran in September of last year.

According to the report, the request — which reportedly “rattled” Pentagon and State Department officials — followed a mortar attack on into Baghdad’s diplomatic district, home to the U.S. Embassy.

The report states, “As part of the talks, Mr. Trump’s National Security Council, led by John Bolton, asked the Pentagon to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran. The request, which hasn’t been previously reported, generated concern at the Pentagon and State Department, current and former U.S. officials say.”

“It definitely rattled people,” recalled a former senior U.S. administration official. “People were shocked. It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran.”

The Journal reports, “Former U.S. officials said it was unnerving that the National Security Council asked for far-reaching military options to strike Iran in response to attacks that caused little damage and no injuries.”

The report goes on to state that it is not known whether Trump was aware of the request.