December 3, 2023

For News From Syrian Battleground, a Reliance on Social Media

Western journalists are struggling to cover what the world has so far seen largely through YouTube. But while some television news crews have been filing reports from Damascus, the dangers of reporters being killed or kidnapped there — as well as visa problems — have kept most journalists outside the country’s borders and heightened the need for third-party images.

“The difficulty of getting into Syria, the shrunken foreign correspondent corps, and the audience gains for social media make it likely this story will be consumed differently by the American public than tensions or conflicts in past years,” said Ann Marie Lipinski, the curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard.

The Committee to Protect Journalists calls Syria the deadliest country in the world for reporters. Last year, 28 journalists working there were killed, and 18 have died so far this year, according to the group, a nonprofit based in New York.

Among the few television outlets broadcasting from Damascus are CBS News, the BBC and ITN, a British news provider. A CNN correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, had been reporting from Damascus, but his visa expired this week and he was relocated to Beirut, Lebanon, a spokeswoman for the network said.

The Wall Street Journal has a reporter in Damascus, and Reuters and The Associated Press both said that they had journalists inside Syria.

For many news organizations, though, Beirut or Syria’s borders are the closest they can safely get. Richard Engel, an NBC News correspondent who was held hostage for five days last year in Syria, traveled inside the country earlier this week, but most recently reported from the Turkish-Syrian border.

Reporters from The Washington Post and The New York Times are in Beirut, and this week ABC News reopened its bureau there after two decades.

“It’s risky being in Damascus in the best of times, and when you’ve got U.S. missiles raining down on the city, it adds to the sense of risk,” said Jon Williams, ABC News’s managing editor for international news.

For networks without a Syrian correspondent, partnerships with other organizations supply some video. ABC works with the BBC, for example, and NBC with ITN. But the networks also rely on YouTube and other third-party sources, which have yielded some of the most vivid and disturbing video of the conflict, but has also brought a host of verification problems.

This week, CNN broadcast a film showing what purported to be evidence of mass graves, and said that it came from “an independent filmer who is absolutely trustworthy.” CBS News uses a team of Arabic-speaking employees in London to review third-party videos, according to Christopher Isham, its Washington bureau chief.

ABC News, Reuters and other outlets use Storyful, a company that scours social sites and verifies videos through tests like comparing street scenes to maps and checking an uploader’s affiliated accounts. The New York Times has also worked with Storyful in the past. David Clinch, Storyful’s executive editor, said it first learned of a possible chemical attack last week from videos, and alerted its clients within an hour of the incident.

“This content is often the only content available,” Mr. Clinch wrote in an e-mail, “because news organizations either can’t get to the scene of suspected chemical attacks, don’t have anyone in Syria (some do but most don’t) or their staff cannot go out from Damascus.”

For those still within Syria, the challenge has simply been to stay safe. Mr. Isham said that CBS went to “extreme lengths” to protect its staff there, although he did not elaborate.

“Anytime you go into a combat zone, your folks are at risk,” he said. “You want to reduce that risk as much as possible.”

Article source:

Times Site Is Disrupted in Attack by Hackers

The hacking was just the latest of a major media organization, with The Financial Times and The Washington Post also having their operations disrupted within the last few months. It was also the second time this month that the Web site of The New York Times was unavailable for several hours.

Marc Frons, chief information officer for The New York Times Company, issued a statement at 4:20 p.m. on Tuesday warning employees that the disruption — which appeared to be affecting the Web site well into the evening — was “the result of a malicious external attack.” He advised employees to “be careful when sending e-mail communications until this situation is resolved.”

In an interview, Mr. Frons said the attack was carried out by a group known as “the Syrian Electronic Army, or someone trying very hard to be them.” The group attacked the company’s domain name registrar, Melbourne IT. The Web site first went down after 3 p.m.; once service was restored, the hackers quickly disrupted the site again. Shortly after 6 p.m., Mr. Frons said that “we believe that we are on the road to fixing the problem.”

The Syrian Electronic Army is a group of hackers who support President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. Matt Johansen, head of the Threat Research Center at White Hat Security, posted on Twitter that he was directed to a Syrian Web domain when he tried to view The Times’s Web site.

Until now, The Times has been spared from being hacked by the S.E.A., but on Aug. 15, the group attacked The Washington Post’s Web site through a third-party service provided by a company called Outbrain. At the time, the S.E.A. also tried to hack CNN.

Just a day earlier, The Times’s Web site was down for several hours. The Times cited technical problems and said there was no indication the site had been hacked.

The S.E.A. first emerged in May 2011, during the first Syrian uprisings, when it started attacking a wide array of media outlets and nonprofits and spamming popular Facebook pages like President Obama’s and Oprah Winfrey’s with pro-Assad comments. Their goal, they said, was to offer a pro-government counternarrative to media coverage of Syria.

The group, which also disrupted The Financial Times in May, has consistently denied ties to the government and has said it does not target Syrian dissidents, but security researchers and Syrian rebels say they are not convinced. They say the group is the outward-facing campaign of a much quieter surveillance campaign focused on Syrian dissidents and are quick to point out that Mr. Assad once referred to the S.E.A. as “a real army in a virtual reality.”

In a post on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon, the S.E.A. also said it had hacked the administrative contact information for Twitter’s domain name registry records. According to, the S.E.A. was listed on the entries for Twitter’s administrative name, technical name and e-mail address.

Twitter said that at 4:49 p.m., the domain name records for one image server,, were modified, affecting the viewing of images and photos for some users. By 6:29 p.m. the company said, it had regained control, although as of early evening, some users were still reporting problems receiving images.

The social networking company, based in San Francisco, said no user information had been affected.

Mr. Frons said the attacks on Twitter and The New York Times required significantly more skill than the string of S.E.A. attacks on media outlets earlier this year, when the group attacked Twitter accounts for dozens of outlets including The Associated Press. Those attacks caused the stock market to plunge after the group planted false tales of explosions at the White House.

“In terms of the sophistication of the attack, this is a big deal,” Mr. Frons said. “It’s sort of like breaking into the local savings and loan versus breaking into Fort Knox. A domain registrar should have extremely tight security because they are holding the security to hundreds if not thousands of Web sites.”

Vindu Goel contributed reporting.

Article source:

Axel Springer’s New Focus on Digital Draws Cries of Betrayal

BERLIN — The publisher Axel Springer’s role in Germany’s postwar history — from building its high-rise headquarters close to the Berlin Wall to antagonize the Communist authorities on the other side to denouncing the student movement in 1968 — has earned it respect and disdain in equal turns.

What has never been disputed since the company’s namesake, Axel Springer, founded the company in 1946 with a daily newspaper and a program guide, is the publisher’s role as a bastion of print media in Germany, and more recently, Europe.

So when the publisher announced on July 25 that it was selling off two regional newspapers and several magazines to focus on digital products, the news was met with howls of outrage and accusations of betrayal from German commentators and reporters.

“The company is in the process of transforming itself from one of Europe’s most renowned publishers to a conglomerate concentrated on digital media,” the German Journalists’ Association said in a statement.

“Journalism? Not with us,” the left-leaning daily Taz, a longstanding rival of the more conservative Springer publications, wrote in a headline about the sale.

The print media in Germany have been largely immune to the upheavals that have racked the newspaper industry in much of the world, retaining more than 45.5 million readers, or slightly more than half of the population in 2012, according to the Frankfurt-based group Media Analysis.

So that a leading publisher could divest itself of several of its most traditional printed publications in the name of an electronic future was as shocking for many here as the Graham family’s decision to sell The Washington Post to Jeffrey P. Bezos, founder of, the online retail behemoth.

Springer said its decision to sell the regional newspapers Hamburger Abendblatt and Berliner Morgenpost, the popular Hörzu TV program guide and several women’s magazines was very different from the Grahams’ decision to sell The Washington Post.

“We sold moneymaking publications to a traditional publisher,” said Tobias Fröhlich, a spokesman for Axel Springer. “For us, it was a question of where we saw the potential for growth.”

The sale of the Springer publications to the Funke MedienGruppe, previously the WAZ Gruppe, for about 920 million euros, or $1.2 billion, still requires approval from Germany’s antitrust authorities.

For Springer, the growth lies in digital media. The company operates several online portals, including the real estate site, the StepStone online employment market and a shopping site.

Springer insisted that journalism would remain at the heart of its business. The sale, the company said, would allow its two main publications, Bild and Die Welt, to grow, partly by expanding its presence online through multimedia and digital storytelling. Together, those publications made 514 million euros in profit for the company in 2012 and accounted for about 15 percent of total sales.

The company’s actions increasingly reflect the shifting focus on the digital world.

Last year, Bild sent its editor in chief, Kai Diekmann, to Silicon Valley to make contacts with the heads of major digital media firms. He even exchanged his tie and slicked-backed hair for a much more tech-friendly look, complete with hoodie and a beard.

The company announced its plans in May to build a Media Campus near its Berlin headquarters to house its digital subsidiaries and to attract and train young reporters in digital media.

Last week, several Springer publications allowed Google to display parts of articles on its news search pages, despite a new copyright law that took effect Aug. 1.

But the bankruptcies of the news service DAPD and the daily Frankfurter Rundschau last year, as well as the closure of The Financial Times Deutschland, has raised concerns among the German news media.

“They are worried about their own future,” The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote about journalists in an article that explained the hopes that had been pinned on Axel Springer’s chief executive. “With Springer’s split from its newspapers and print magazines, an illusion has also burst: the illusion that Mathias Döpfner and his company could show the industry the way in how to bring old newspapers and print magazines successfully into the digital era.”

On Tuesday, while German publications were more muted in their lamentation over the sale of The Washington Post, Die Welt lauded the move. In an editorial published online, it compared Mr. Bezos to the leaders from the Industrial Revolution.

“Today customers want to be participants, they want to have control and make decisions for themselves,” Die Welt wrote. “Now, Bezos is beginning to review structures in the news business that date from the 19th century. The decision is not premature.”

Article source:

Bezos Brings Promise of Innovation to Washington Post

What, many are asking, does Mr. Bezos, the billionaire founder and chief executive of, see in a 135-year-old newspaper that others do not?

If Mr. Bezos’s business history is any indication, don’t expect a quick answer and don’t expect any short-term fixes for The Post, which has suffered from years of sliding revenue and circulation. While terms like disrupter and innovator are often used to describe Mr. Bezos in his years at Amazon, he has also proved to be a long-term thinker, someone willing to buck Wall Street demands for big profits in order to invest in his company’s growth.

Now that he is the private owner of The Post, it would not be surprising to see him worry little about turning a quick profit and instead push to upend the often ossified world of newspaper publishing, just as he did with books more than a decade ago.

Indeed, Mr. Bezos, who declined a request for an interview, hinted in a letter to employees that he felt a “need to invent, which means we will need to experiment,” and that “there will, of course, be change at The Post over the coming years.”

But just what those experiments will be is anyone’s guess.

“Jeff Bezos doesn’t need The Washington Post to make money tomorrow or even in five years,” said Glenn Kelman, the founder and chief executive of Redfin, a real estate site that, like Amazon, is based in Seattle. “He’s proven that he’s able to think over a geological time scale.”

In recent years, newspapers large and small have experimented with concepts aimed at capturing elusive online revenue to make up for losses in print circulation and advertising. The Post, for example, has dabbled in some experimental news products, including the creation of a social reader for Facebook and a recommendation engine called Trove.

Other news organizations have toyed with various strategies, most with limited success. The Daily, an iPad-only news app developed by News Corporation, shuttered after less than two years. The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, The New York Times and The Post have adopted various pay models for digital readers. The Guardian started a United States-based operation in 2011 to experiment with a digitally focused newsroom.

All of these companies have created mobile apps and made significant investments in online video, where advertising revenue is expected to grow, but no paper has cracked the code on how to replace steep declines in print advertising. Other traditional print magazines, like The New Yorker and Vogue, have digitized and sold portions of their archives.

They have also dabbled with new ways to make money through Amazon, particularly through the Kindle Singles, which are shorter e-books. Amazon’s biggest influence has been disrupting the economics of newspapers through millions of its Kindle mobile devices.

Mr. Bezos said The Post would be run separately from Amazon, but there is little doubt that he will bring what he has learned over the years to the newspaper world.

“He’s done an amazing job of bringing e-books to reality,” said Matt Galligan, the co-founder of the mobile news start-up Circa. “There’s a strong likelihood that a similar transition could happen at The Post.”

Though Mr. Bezos demurely noted in his letter that he had no history in newspapers, that he is an outsider not steeped in the old ways of newspaper management has excited some.

“Washington Post to be sold to Jeff Bezos?! I’d actually return to the journalism world if I could work for him,” wrote Adrian Holovaty on Twitter after the news broke.

Six years ago, Mr. Holovaty held the title “editor for editorial innovation” at The Post, but left in 2007. The co-creator of the popular Web framework Django, he thinks Mr. Bezos will bring “fresh, baggage-less thinking.”

No baggage — and deep pockets — means room to try new things. Might Mr. Bezos apply tech industry concepts like frictionless payments, e-commerce integration, recommendation engines, data analytics or improved concepts for mobile reading?

Nick Wingfield contributed reporting.

Article source:

The Media Equation: The Washington Post Reaches the End of the Graham Era

“We knew we could survive, but we always felt that our ownership should do more than help the paper survive,” Mr. Graham said in an interview Monday evening.

With the agreement of the board, the company retained Allen Company and had an initial round of discussions with six potential buyers. Then in July, at Allen’s annual Sun Valley conference, Mr. Graham met with one of them, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Mr. Graham liked what he heard.

So after 80 years of control and editorial leadership by the Graham family, The Post began to change ownership Monday, when Mr. Bezos agreed to buy it for $250 million.

The sale, when it is completed, will end the special relationship the paper has had with the nation’s capital. Washington has been through all manner of tumult and change in the last eight decades, with years of racial strife, the resignation of a president, a terrorist attack on the Pentagon and the evaporation of a bipartisan political process.

But through it all, The Washington Post has been a source of both constancy and coverage, a center of gravity and a force in the civic, social and cultural life of a city where many others came and went.

“It is a very big Washington moment,” said David Gergen, who was involved in four presidential administrations.

“When Kay Graham had you to her house, it was a command performance,” Mr. Gergen added, referring to Mr. Graham’s mother, the paper’s leader for more than two decades. “It was one of the last places where people with very different agendas would set down their weapons and come to talk. That has been disappearing for a long time, but symbolically, this brings an end to that era.”

To many, the Washington that the newspaper once guided from family dinners and select Georgetown salons disappeared long before the sale. The rise of the Web site Politico — built by people trained and nurtured at The Washington Post — and other insurgents foretold a change in the order of things. The days when people snapped open the daily paper to find out the things they should care about were long past, replaced by a cacophony of information sources, many of them far more driven by ideology than The Washington Post.

 In that way, perhaps, the purchase of one of the prized assets of American journalism by a talented entrepreneur from another coast is less of a shock than it might have been.

In selling to Mr. Bezos, the Grahams left the Sulzbergers, the owners of The New York Times, as the last family standing in a club that once also included the Chandlers (Los Angeles Times), the Copleys (San Diego Tribune), the Cowles (Minneapolis Star Tribune), and the Bancrofts (Wall Street Journal). But even as those other families sold out to moneyed interests, it always seemed a safe assumption that the Grahams would continue to find a way to exercise a certain kind of stewardship over Washington.

The Grahams’ resolve to retain ownership was wilted by an industrial sea change that laid many newspapers low. And even as the rest of the industry decided that there was an urgent need to begin charging on the Web, The Post held out, only recently deciding to join the rest.

For a time, the newspaper was propped up by its education division, Kaplan Inc., but when that company encountered regulatory and business turbulence, the losses at the newspaper — revenue dropped 44 percent over the past six years — came into sharp focus.

Still, news of the sale  and who was buying it was an extraordinary development in the newspaper industry. Given that The Post still has potency as a political symbol, the fact that it could be acquired by a man who made his fortune taking apart book-publishing — another traditional business — served as more evidence that the power center in the media world has turned away from the East Coast.

Technology and its leaders have proved time and again that they can set an agenda based on giving consumers what they want, not what some politician, or a newspaper, thinks they need.

Perhaps  the biggest surprise in the sale is that it happened under the watch of Donald Graham. All scions of industry do their time on the shop-room floor, but Mr. Graham had shown that he didn’t want to just inherit his enterprise, he wanted to earn it. He served in Vietnam and later joined the Washington police force to walk a beat before doing his stations in the Post newsroom and on the business side.

He was perhaps not the legend that his mother was, but to many he represented a certain kind of stubborn belief that good newspapering was its own end. In the popular imagination, journalism reached its highest and best calling during Watergate, when The Post and its determined owner, Ms. Graham, took on a sitting president.

The idea that Mr. Graham would sell the paper, whatever merits the sale might entail, seemed as unlikely as Henry V giving up the crown.

But on Monday, Mr. Graham seemed at peace with what he had done.

As he rode down in the elevator to the newsroom for the announcement, some of the paper’s reporters rode with him. One asked: “Is this bad?” Mr. Graham shook his head, saying that, in the end, he thought it would be good news for the paper.

“It was clear to me that he wanted to buy the newspaper for the right reasons,” Mr. Graham said of Mr. Bezos, “that he understood what newspapers do and why this newspaper in particular is important and that he would be willing to stand up for it.”

Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Michael D. Shear contributed reporting.

Article source:

Economix Blog: Warren Mosler: A Reading List

Warren MoslerRichard Perry/The New York Times Warren Mosler

In Business Day on Friday, I profile Warren Mosler, a charismatic gearhead and hedge fund executive who is among the best-known proponents of modern monetary theory. It is an unusual understanding of how money and economies work, and one of its main ideas is that governments never need to balance their budgets, ever.

Here is a brief reading list for those interested in modern monetary theory and Mr. Mosler:

     “Seven Deadly Innocent Frauds of Economic Policy,” a book Mr. Mosler wrote.

    “Soft Currency Economics,” an essay by Mr. Mosler.

    Mr. Mosler on the long-term deficit problem, or lack thereof.

     A debate between Mr. Mosler and Robert Murphy, an Austrian economist who believes that deficits very much matter.

     A mock interview and question-and-answer explanation of how Mr. Mosler believes government finances work.

     A Time Magazine article naming Mr. Mosler’s Consulier one of the 50 worst cars of all time.

     An interview Mr. Mosler did with Car and Driver magazine.

     The Washington Post on modern monetary theory.

Article source:

John L. Dotson Jr., Publisher of Beacon Journal, Dies at 76

The cause was mantle cell lymphoma, his son, John Dotson III, said.

When Mr. Dotson became president and publisher of The Journal in 1992, he had been a reporter for big-city newspapers, an editor at Newsweek, the publisher of a Colorado paper and a founder of an institute for minority journalists. Two years later The Journal won the Pulitzer for public service for the five-part series “A Question of Color.”

The final installment solicited pledges from readers to fight racism; the names of 22,000 respondents were later published in a special supplement.

James Crutchfield, who succeeded Mr. Dotson as publisher, recalled in The Journal’s obituary that he had been concerned that the series might be too inflammatory. Mr. Dotson, who as a reporter covered the Detroit race riots of the 1960s, counseled him not to hold back.

“I felt we were pushing the envelope,” Mr. Crutchfield said. “We ended up pushing it even further.”

In 1977, Mr. Dotson and eight other journalists, including Earl Caldwell and Dorothy Butler Gilliam, who were columnists for The Washington Post, and Robert C. Maynard, who was publisher and editor of The Oakland Tribune, founded a nonprofit organization devoted to training and expanding opportunities for minority journalists. Based in Oakland, Calif., it was renamed the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education after Mr. Maynard’s death in 1993.

Mr. Dotson spoke openly about the pressures on a black executive in a predominantly white industry and the guarded way he often dealt with white colleagues early on. “When I came along, I would get up in the morning and I would put on this armor and go to work,” he said in 2000 when interviewed by The New York Times for its series “How Race Is Lived in America,” which also won a Pulitzer.

Some colleagues saw him as cautious and alert to how he was perceived.

“I think it’s kind of funny how a lot of people in the newsroom, white people in the newsroom, think he bends over backwards to appease and please the black community and black reporters in the newsroom,” Carl Chancellor, who is black and a former columnist at The Journal, told The Times. “When I think if you polled the black people in the newsroom, they’d probably think that it’s the other way around.”

Early in his career Mr. Dotson was a reporter for The Newark Evening News, The Detroit Free Press and The Philadelphia Inquirer. He joined Newsweek in 1965 and became a senior editor there. In 1983, he was named president and publisher of The Daily Camera in Boulder, Colo.

John Louis Dotson Jr. was born on Feb. 5, 1937, in Paterson, N.J., to John Dotson and the former Evelyn Nelson. He served as a lieutenant in the Army and received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Temple University in 1958.

Mr. Dotson served on the boards of The Washington Post and the Pulitzer Prizes, which are administered by Columbia University. He led a Pulitzer committee that studied whether to accept nominations for online journalism. Its proposal to do so was accepted and adopted by the Pulitzer board in 1997. He retired from The Beacon Journal in 2001 and was elected to the Hall of Fame of the National Association for Black Journalists in 2007.

In addition to his son John, he is survived by his wife, the former Peggy Burnett; another son, Christopher; a daughter, Leslie Van Every; a brother, Ronald; a sister, Beverly Spidey; and eight grandchildren. Mr. Dotson also had a home in Marco Island, Fla.

Gene Roberts, who as metropolitan editor of The Free Press in the 1960s hired Mr. Dotson, said on Monday that Mr. Dotson’s experience as a reporter had shaped his attitudes in the executive suite.

“John was very supportive of the newsroom,” said Mr. Roberts, who was later executive editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer and managing editor of The Times, “and had a sensitivity and feeling about news and the role of a newspaper in democratic society that you wish more publishers had.”

Article source:

Holder May Rein In Prosecutors On Leaks

According to an adviser familiar with the deliberations, Mr. Holder has discussed expanding a requirement for high-level review of proposed subpoenas for reporters’ phone records so that it would include e-mails. He is also examining whether to tighten a standard for when officials may seek such records without giving prior notice to the news organization.

President Obama has given Mr. Holder until July 12 to make his proposals, and Mr. Holder wants to complete an overhaul of department regulations on leak investigations before his tenure is over, said the adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deliberations are preliminary. Mr. Holder has given no indication that he intends to step down any time soon, however.

The Thursday meeting was intended to seek additional ideas and lay the groundwork for an internal push if prosecutors and intelligence officials balk at giving up some powers in leak investigations, the adviser said. Further meetings with both news organizations and government officials are planned, including another news media session on Friday.

The first news media meeting was off the record, and The New York Times was among several organizations that were invited but did not attend because it objected to that condition. At least two active leak investigations and cases involve Times reporters.

Representatives from The Daily News of New York, The New Yorker, Politico, The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post did attend, according to several participants. The group gathered in a conference room near the office of the deputy attorney general, James Cole, and met with him, Mr. Holder, and seven other officials. The meeting started after 5 p.m. and lasted more than an hour.

Mr. Holder began, they said, by acknowledging criticism that the Justice Department had tipped too far toward aggressive law enforcement and away from ensuring the free flow of information to the public. He expressed a broad commitment to update internal guidelines, including steps to reflect changes in technology since they were written three decades ago.

Several of the news media representatives, participants said, told the officials that leak investigations have had a chilling effect on both reporters and government officials. They urged more rigorous procedures for internal review of subpoena requests, including the scope of any records sought and whether to provide advance notice, and argued that there needed to be more internal and external checks and balances on prosecutors.

There have been previous efforts to consider revising the investigative guidelines. In 2003, for example, a group of lawyers representing The Associated Press, Gannett, The Washington Post and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press worked with Patrick Kelley, then the acting general counsel of the F.B.I., to develop a proposal.

The media lawyers eventually submitted a draft text and section-by-section analysis to the F.B.I. But after the 2004 election and turnover at the Justice Department, the Bush administration lost interest and dropped it, according to David Schultz, a media lawyer who led the informal project.

The 2004 proposal would in some ways have gone further than what has been initially discussed at the Justice Department. It would have expanded an existing rule that offers some protection from subpoenas for a reporter’s call logs so that it would also to cover other types of investigative tactics, like going through a reporter’s trash or obtaining a reporter’s credit card and travel records. The existing rule requires that before issuing a subpoena for phone records, other ways of obtaining information must be tried first, and the attorney general must sign off.

The 2004 proposal did not, however, contain several other ideas that Mr. Holder has discussed, according to the adviser. One example is a proposal to require prosecutors to have the Justice Department’s public affairs officials review a request for a reporter’s records before seeking the attorney general’s approval for a subpoena.

Article source:

News Corp. Says It Was Not Told of Subpoena for Reporter’s Phone Records

The company’s chief legal counsel at the time also said that he had never seen material from the government related to the subpoena.

The Justice Department has signaled that it notified News Corporation on Aug. 27, 2010, that it had seized the phone records of a Fox News reporter — who turned out to be the Washington correspondent James Rosen — after one of his articles had included details of a secret United States report on North Korea.

The seizure was part of the department’s case against Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, a State Department contractor investigated in connection with the North Korea leak. Mr. Kim has pleaded not guilty to leaking information and is awaiting trial. Fox News has denied that it knew about the subpoena, while Justice Department officials have said they sent notification 90 days after obtaining the records.

A law enforcement official said on Sunday that in the investigation that led to the indictment of Mr. Kim, “the government issued subpoenas for toll records for five phone numbers associated with the media.” This person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, added, “Consistent with Department of Justice policies and procedures, the government provided notification of those subpoenas nearly three years ago by certified mail, facsimile and e-mail.”

A Fox News executive said the channel had never heard of the Justice Department investigation and had no knowledge of New Corporation ever being notified. A News Corporation spokesman said Sunday that the company was looking into the matter of notification. “While we don’t take issue with the D.O.J.’s account that they sent a notice to News Corp., we do not have a record of ever having received it,” Nathaniel Brown, the spokesman, said.

Last week, The Washington Post obtained an affidavit that described Mr. Rosen (without naming him) as “at the very least, either as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator.” The investigation relates to a 2009 article Mr. Rosen published on that quoted a source describing missile activity in North Korea.

In e-mail to employees on Thursday, Roger Ailes, chairman and chief executive of Fox News, rejected the validity of the investigation. “We will not allow a climate of press intimidation, unseen since the McCarthy era, to frighten any of us away from the truth,” Mr. Ailes said.

Lawrence A. Jacobs, who was News Corporation’s chief legal officer until he left in June 2011, said he never saw a notification about the phone records.

“I would have remembered getting a fax from the Justice Department,” Mr. Jacobs said in an interview Sunday. “These are not the kinds of things that happen every day.”

He added, “The first thing I would’ve done would be to call Roger Ailes.”

News Corporation said it had conducted a thorough search of its legal records, including, Mr. Jacobs said, a scan of his e-mails and other relevant materials, and has found nothing related to the investigation. “The inference that I sat on this and didn’t share it with Roger couldn’t be further from the truth,” Mr. Jacobs said.

The investigation into Mr. Rosen’s phone records and personal e-mail became public only after The Associated Press said two weeks ago that the government had subpoenaed telephone records in a different leak investigation.

Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, did not comment specifically on the Fox News investigation, but said last week at a news briefing that President Obama “believes, I think, as all of his predecessors believed, that it is imperative that leaks that can jeopardize the lives of American men and women serving overseas should not be tolerated.”

Article source:

Economix Blog: Sales Tax Talk and Reality

The nation’s brick-and-mortar retailers are promoting the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would force Internet retailers to collect sales taxes based on where the product was being shipped. It passed the Senate last week, but may have more trouble in the House.



Notions on high and low finance.

It seems odd that states without sales taxes are opposed to the law. This would, if anything, encourage people to move to those states. Yet, as The Washington Post notes, seven of the 10 senators from the five states without sales taxes — Alaska, Delaware, Montana, Oregon and New Hampshire — opposed it.

That is odd because residents of those states who have products shipped to them will still be exempt from sales taxes on what they buy.

Retailers based in those states would have to collect sales taxes on products they shipped to states with sales taxes — subject to an exemption for small retailers that ship less than $1 million a year in products. So the retailers will suffer costs, although they do not seem likely to be very large. And retailers with physical presence in more than one state already must collect taxes for shipments to all of those states, something they evidently have figured out how to do.

As it is, you or I can avoid sales taxes on purchases we make by phone or over the Internet, so long as the retailer has no presence in our state. If we buy everything that way, we can get away with paying no sales taxes. If this bill became law, I, as a New York resident, would have to pay the New York tax if I had the goods shipped to me in New York. If I cared so much about ducking such taxes, I would have to move to New Hampshire or one of those other states. On the margin, that would make living in New Hampshire more attractive.

It is nothing short of amazing to me that this proposal is controversial. It already is the law that I am supposed to tally up what I buy from other states without paying sales taxes, and then send in a check to New York for the taxes I would have paid had I bought them here. Few people do so. What this would do is make tax compliance easier and provide badly needed revenue — from their own citizens — for struggling states and cities. It would also mean that local merchants — the ones who pay property taxes — would find it a little easier to be competitive with Internet merchants.

Article source: