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The Solar Impulse 2 aircraft has set off from New York to cross the Atlantic for the latest stage of an attempt to fly around the globe using solar energy.

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The massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, was the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. But it was far from the first. Friday marked a year since nine people were killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Before that, there was Newtown, Connecticut; Aurora, Colorado; Tucson, Arizona – the list goes on.

As mass shootings continue to populate news cycles, we know there are many questions that remain unanswered about the tragedies, how they happened and why. So we want to hear what you want to know about gun violence and mass shootings in America. What do you feel is missing from the news coverage? What questions linger when the media attention fades?

Share your question below with our newsroom. With the help of our readers, we’ll choose one to investigate and share what we find.

Hear the episode:

Anton Yelchin’s Star Trek colleagues have lead the tributes to the actor who has died at the age of 27.

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Virginia Raggi has been elected Rome’s first female mayor, taking 67% of the vote and promising a clean up.

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Welders, software engineers, forklift drivers and call center representatives – Aerotek has them all. The temp agency, co-founded by Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, is one of the country’s largest suppliers of temporary workers.

But Aerotek has another, less favorable distinction. It is “the poster child for not complying with subpoenas,” according to John Hendrickson, the government’s top workplace discrimination attorney in Chicago.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been investigating racial and gender discrimination at Aerotek branches since 2008. Two former Chicago-area recruiters kicked it off with complaints that they were denied promotions because of their Mexican heritage.

Hendrickson laughed when asked why it’s taken so long. He blamed Aerotek. “They have dug in their heels repeatedly about providing the evidence,” he said.

His office took Aerotek to court three different times for undermining investigations and withholding information. In one case, Aerotek told its recruiters to not talk to a government investigator. In another, the firm refused to provide names of clients and temp workers, which would allow the EEOC to analyze hiring patterns.

The government won each time. Aerotek appealed twice to a higher court and lost there, too, most recently in March.

The ongoing slog shows just how bogged down a job bias probe can get when a big company fights back. It helps that Aerotek has tremendous resources. The Maryland-based company has been so wildly successful that Bisciotti is now the billionaire cigar-chomping owner of a professional football team. Aerotek’s parent company, Allegis Group, is the largest staffing firm in the United States, with $8.3 billion in revenue.

The delays mean that compensation for victims or changes at the company – the kinds of things government lawyers can extract in settlements – get pushed back, too.

“If the employer decides they’re not going to cooperate at all, then they can string out the process for a very long time,” said Hendrickson, whose jurisdiction as EEOC regional attorney includes much of the Upper Midwest.

Discrimination in the temp industry is a nationwide scourge, an earlier investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting found. In Illinois, where a preference for Latino temp workers has fueled racial tensions, industry lobbying helped kill a reform attempt.

Federal investigators have found evidence suggesting Aerotek’s Illinois branches were hiring temp workers based on race, nationality, sex and disability.

John Hendrickson, an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission attorney in Chicago, says Aerotek officials “have dug in their heels repeatedly about providing the evidence” in an ongoing investigation of racial and gender discrimination at the temp agency’s branches. Credit: Courtesy of the EEOC

“If the customer wanted blacks or whites or whatever they wanted, Aerotek would facilitate that,” Hendrickson said.

The EEOC also turned up hundreds of requests from employers for Aerotek branches around the country to hire workers by age. One request said “a person in their 40s or 50s would not be a cultural fit.” Another specified, “Looking for young entergetic (sic) guys with some sports knowledge.” Yet another was “looking for a Fresh College Grad.”

At one point in 2014, an Aerotek lawyer acknowledged that “we discovered isolated incidents that suggest certain Aerotek employees were not acting in a manner consistent with Company policy and practices.”

Aerotek declined interview requests. A statement from Tanya Axenson, vice president of human resources, said: “First and foremost, there is no place for discrimination in our company or our industry. Equal employment opportunity is a fundamental value at Aerotek.”

The company has cooperated with the government, Axenson wrote, “to try and determine whether and how any misconduct may have taken place; and if it did, to make it right and prevent it from happening again.”

But, she said, “Overbroad requests, like the requests Aerotek has fought, are tantamount to fishing expeditions.”

Unfortunately for Aerotek, federal judges haven’t agreed.

“It would seem to me,” said Judge Milton Shadur in February 2015, “that having been alerted to the fact that some of these clients engage in activities that on their face are age discriminatory, that Aerotek might have the responsibility for doing some better policing of its own clients.”

After ruling against the company, Shadur later threatened to hold Aerotek in contempt, saying, “I am really troubled by the fact that Aerotek is sort of turning the process on its head.”

Aerotek tried its luck with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which also shot down the company. “If the court were to allow Aerotek to control the investigation,” Judge Ilana Rovner said, “that would give Aerotek an opportunity to tip off clients or even, heaven forbid, destroy evidence. And that seems unprecedented to me.”

It all started in 2008 when two former Aerotek recruiters, who worked out of the suburban Schaumburg office for part of their time, said the company segregated them and withheld training and promotions because of their Mexican heritage.

When the EEOC looked into it, though, Aerotek told its recruiters to keep quiet and refer an investigator to the company’s lawyer. The commission went to court, and Aerotek eventually backed down.

The investigator ended up gathering witness testimony of potential hiring discrimination at seven Illinois branches.

And yet, in 2013, as the investigation dragged on, five years after the EEOC complaints, hiring by race, gender and age still was commonplace at the Schaumburg office, said former Aerotek recruiter Andre Tate’.

“That really happened day in and day out,” said Tate’, who left the job within months.

At staff meetings, Tate’ said, managers would go down a list of companies on a whiteboard and describe the employers’ preferences.

“The manager that represents that company would say, ‘OK, this position is open at X company. They’re looking for a heavy lifter,’ ” he said. “Everybody knew that by ‘heavy lifter,’ that meant they need a man.”

“Or sometimes they’d say, ‘All right, this company is going to need a machinist, but it has to be a good ‘culture fit.’ And they kind of stress, ‘culture fit.’ ”

When the meeting was over, the managers would explain what “culture fit” meant. “They’d just come out and be like, ‘OK, well, we need a Mexican dude for this company,’” he said.

Recruiters would have to turn away qualified white and black applicants in favor of Latino workers, Tate’ said.

“People would come in excited, and then just because the managers see that they’re a certain color, they can’t go to the job,” he said.

One time, Tate’ remembered, he found a seemingly perfect candidate for a forklift position. Over the phone, Tate’ didn’t realize the man was black.

“I brought him in and was talking to him, and then my manager pulled me aside and was just like, ‘OK, well, first thing is he’s too old. And second thing is they have to be a Mexican dude.’ ”

Tate’ went back and told the man that there already was somebody interviewing for the position, he said. Aerotek would call him if it didn’t work out, Tate’ told the man.

“That was just a bad feeling,” Tate’ said, “knowing like, I’m lying right to this person’s face.”

Australian Zach Alchin pleads guilty to targeting women with explicit abuse on social media after his friend shared one woman’s Tinder profile online.

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Hundreds of Australians are paying tribute on social media to a popular “cuddle-loving” wombat after it died of kidney damage.

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Ten of thousands of birds head to the North Korean coast during their biannual migration across the planet.

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The maritime militias, missing history books, and package holiday tourists being used to bolster China’s South China Sea claims.

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Switzerland and France play out a Euro 2016 goalless draw which takes the Swiss into the last 16 and sees the French win Group A.

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Albania record their first major tournament win with victory over Romania that gives them hope of reaching the Euro 2016 last 16.

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BBC Sport takes a look at Cristiano Ronaldo’s poor start to Euro 2016, as the Portugal captain fails to score from 20 attempts on goal in two matches.

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Leaderless resistance isn’t a new phenomenon. Last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center published a comprehensive study on domestic terrorism between 2009 and 2015 and found that 74 percent of the attacks were carried out by a person acting alone, without any outside money or direction.

Like Omar Mateen.

Listen to the story

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Information still is emerging on the man who walked into Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in the early hours of June 12, killing 49 people and wounding dozens of others. But Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Montgomery, Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center, who helped author the “Lone Wolf Report,” said Mateen seems to fit the profile of a lone wolf.

“What does not look likely is that he had any real support from overseas,” Potok said. “It does not seem to have been remotely like the 9/11 attackers, who really were sent to this country as part of a major plot that was devised elsewhere.”

Now, officials also are looking into Mateen’s wife – investigating whether she knew about his plans. Potok said that when lone wolves aren’t acting alone, they’re typically tight-knit pairs: a father and son, a wife and husband. If you include these small groups, about 90 percent of the attacks the law center looked at could be considered “lone wolf” attacks.

In 2014, Jerad and Amanda Miller walked into a Las Vegas pizza restaurant and shot and killed two local police officers on their lunch break. Then the married couple fatally shot a shopper before dying during a shootout with responding officers.

In 2014, Jerad and Amanda Miller walked into a Las Vegas pizza restaurant and shot and killed two local police officers on their lunch break. Then the married couple fatally shot a shopper before dying during a shootout with responding officers.Credit:

Jerad and Amanda Miller, a married couple from Indiana, moved to Las Vegas in January 2014. Six months later, according to the report, they walked into a pizza restaurant there and shot and killed two police officers on their lunch break – Igor Soldo, 31, and his partner Alyn Beck, 41. They left a swastika and a Gadsden flag on one of the officer’s bodies – the flag is a symbol used by the anti-government patriot movement.

The couple then headed to a nearby Walmart and fatally shot a shopper, Joseph Wilcox, 31. The Millers died during a shootout with responding officers.

By operating alone or in small groups, lone-wolf terrorists often fly below law enforcement’s radar because they typically aren’t very social and are unlikely to tell anyone their plans, which makes it pretty much impossible for someone to step in and stop them.

Lone wolves are especially hard to recognize if they haven’t had prior contact with law enforcement.

“That was obviously the case with Dylann Roof, who really had no history at all of political violence,” Potok said, referring to the man who has been charged with the murder of nine people in a Charleston, South Carolina, church last year.

Dylann Roof, who has been charged with the murder of nine people in a Charleston, South Carolina, church last year, didn't have any contact with a hate group or white supremacists before the attack.

Dylann Roof, who has been charged with the murder of nine people in a Charleston, South Carolina, church last year, didn’t have any contact with a hate group or white supremacists before the attack. Credit: Centralized Bond Hearing Court via AP

Potok describes Roof as a “classic example of the modern lone wolf.” He never had any direct contact with any hate group, and he never met with other white supremacists. He simply trolled around the internet looking at websites.

“One day, (he) typed the words ‘black on white crime’ into Google and came upon a racist webpage run by a group called the Council of Conservative Citizens that catalogued alleged black-on-white crime,” Potok said.  “And based on that, Roof decided to act – to actually go out and start killing people.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center found that about 51 percent of the attacks it examined were motivated by hate. This is a category that includes people who are inspired by racism, homophobia and radical Islam. But the rest were motivated by the antigovernment “patriot movement,” a broad group of right-wing – and mostly white – Americans that the FBI considers domestic terrorists.

Most of the cases may have received little news coverage or may have been reported as terrorist attacks. Many of them were committed by white Americans not influenced by foreign terrorist groups, but they are included because they had political motivations, according to the law center’s analysis.

There are even a few cases in which the perpetrator was not identified or caught. They’re listed as “unknown.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center used data by Indiana State University and the University of Maryland to identify domestic terrorist attacks from April 1, 2009, to Feb. 1, 2015. It cast a wide net and included cases that might’ve involved mental illness or personal grudges but had “an obvious political aspect.” The report covered both terror attacks that were actualized and those that officials were able to stop.

The timeline below shows every domestic terrorist the law center named in its report.

This week’s attack on a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, was the largest mass shooting in American history. On this hour of Reveal, we go to Orlando to hear from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community targeted by this violence.

The city’s downtown now is flooded with disaster responders, government officials and media outlets trying to understand what happened. And in the midst of this upheaval, members of the LGBT community targeted by this violence are working through the tragedy in their own way. We hear from them and a woman who survived the shooting. She’s also a gun owner and believes she could have protected herself if she’d been armed.

Many are asking not only why this tragedy happened, but how. In 2013 and 2014, the FBI investigated shooter Omar Mateen and decided he wasn’t a threat. He passed a background check to buy firearms. And he passed a third security check to become a private armed security guard.

Reporter Shoshana Walter investigates how security companies – including the one Mateen worked for – screen guards, and she explains more about how these screening systems work and where they break down. Reveal originally checked Mateen’s arrest record in 2014 as part of an investigation of the armed-guard industry.

In this hour, we also look at the ways gun violence is measured, and we investigate how the NRA and gun control groups use data on gun violence to shape the debate.

But the true cost of gun violence cannot be quantified. We end this episode by remembering the victims of the Pulse nightclub attack with a sonic memorial.

Dig deeper

  • Listen: A sonic memorial to the victims at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub
  • Examine: Lone wolves are the face of modern domestic terrorism
  • Read: Orlando shooter Omar Mateen was a licensed security guard
  • Check out: More essential reading on the Orlando massacre

As our newsroom worked on this week’s show about gun violence in Orlando, Florida, and beyond, Reveal’s Michael Corey and I started thinking about a way to represent data on the mass shooting through sound.

We used a process known as “data sonification” last year as part of an investigation into Oklahoma’s drilling-linked earthquake epidemic. This time, our goal was to represent the lives of the 49 people killed in the Orlando shooting over the course of 50 years.

We start in 1966. The first tone represents the birth of Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, who was the oldest person to be taken away that night. The last tone is for Akyra Monet Murray, born in 1998, the youngest person in the nightclub. There are 18 full cycles where every note plays, until we get to June 2016.

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I thought of bells and bell-like tones and their meaning across different cultures. We recognize them in many places, from European village bells and the way that they signify important moments in communities to gamelan performances and the additive effect of overtones produced by a body of many different, interdependent instruments.

We find music in the moments when tones, like lives, intersect. They are meant to be funereal but also celebratory.

On first listen, it may feel like the repetitions go on for too long, as though we’re waiting for them to end or to change. But the ultimate statement of this piece is that there is beauty in those cycles and new life within every beat.

Sometimes, that life ends too soon.

Jim Briggs can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @jimbriggs3.

Memorial for Jo Cox (cc photo: Garry Knight)

Memorial for Jo Cox, British MP whose suspected murderer had ties to a US neo-Nazi group that has long evaded corporate media scrutiny (cc photo: Garry Knight)

The suspect in the murder of British Labour MP Jo Cox had ties to a US neo-Nazi organization, the Washington Post (6/17/16) reports, citing a leading hate group monitor:

According to documents obtained by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the US-based organization that tracks extremist groups, [Thomas] Mair was a longtime supporter of the National Alliance, a once-prominent white supremacist group. In 1999, Mair bought a manual from the organization that included instructions on how to build a pistol, the center said.

Cox was shot by a weapon that witnesses described as either homemade or antique.

The National Alliance was founded in 1974 by William Pierce, an associate of American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell and the former editor of the magazine National Socialist World. The group was a reorganization of the National Youth Alliance, itself an outgrowth of  Youth for Wallace, an organization that came out of the 1968 presidential campaign of segregationist George Wallace. Pierce turned the group, in the words of the SPLC, into “the most dangerous and best organized neo-Nazi formation in America.”

Rescue workers search the remains of the Murrah Building in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing (photo: FEMA)

The 1995 Oklahoma City bombing was inspired by a novel written by the founder of the neo-Nazi National Alliance (photo: FEMA)

While head of the National Alliance, Piece published The Turner Diaries, a novel that favorably portrays a guerrilla race war and the mass murder of Jews, gays and interracial couples. A chapter that depicts the bombing of an FBI building helped inspire Timothy McVeigh’s 1995 bombing of a government building in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people; when he was arrested, McVeigh had photocopied pages of the novel with him in his car, with selected passages highlighted (e.g., “But the real value of all of our attacks today lies in the psychological impact, not in the immediate casualties”).  Phone records revealed that McVeigh had called a National Alliance number seven times the day before the bombing, SPLC notes.

Media spent little time examining the National Alliance connection in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, however. Once it became clear that media’s initial assumption that the bombing had to be the work of Muslim terrorists was wrong, it was, as I wrote in Extra! (7–8/95) at the time, “as if the wind had been taken out of the media’s sails when they discovered that they didn’t have a new international terrorist menace to rail against.” Journalists lost interest before delving far into the world of violent right-wing extremism.

The National Alliance turned up again in another terrorism story more recently, when Kevin Harpham planted a bomb filled with shrapnel and rat poison at the 2011 Martin Luther King Day parade in Spokane, Washington. Harpham, a one-time National Alliance member, is currently serving a 32-year prison sentence for the attempted bombing.

If you don’t remember this story, don’t worry—it got very little coverage. As FAIR’s Steve Rendall noted (Extra!, 5/11), it was only mentioned three times on the nightly news in the ten weeks that followed; by comparison, the much less sophisticated “Times Square bomb,” which failed to go off a year earlier, got 49 mentions in the same time frame, in a classic example of how acts of political violence carried out by Muslims are seen as inherently more newsworthy by US corporate media.

Bob Grant

Talkshow host Bob Grant allowed neo-Nazi recruitment on his WABC radio show.

The National Alliance was repeatedly promoted on the radio show of Bob Grant, a popular and influential talkshow host who broadcast on WABC in New York, the flagship of the ABC radio network (Extra! Update, 6/95). Grant, whose endorsement was avidly sought by prominent politicians despite the virulent racism that provided a substantial portion of his show’s content, allowed callers to give out contact information for the National Alliance over the air; one described it as an “organization fighting for” the “white race” (WABC, 3/10/93), while another  recommended it to “white Americans who are concerned about the future of their race and nation” (WABC, 3/24/93).  When another caller (WABC, 3/27/95) recommended the National Alliance as a group “for support of European-American males,” Grant twice declared: “I don’t have any problem with the National Alliance!”

About a year after FAIR exposed his promotion of white supremacist groups, Bob Grant was fired by Disney (WABC‘s then-owner) for gloating over the death of Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, who was African-American (Extra! Update, 6/96). But even then, his connection to the neo-Nazi National Alliance did not become an issue. Lack of curiosity about the influence of the violent far-right is a long tradition in US corporate media; don’t expect the murder of Jo Cox to change that.

Jim Naureckas is the editor of He’s on Twitter: @JNaureckas.




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FCC commissioners celebrate net neutrality ruling. (photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

An NPR blogger’s report (6/14/16) on a court ruling approving net neutrality rules was accompanied by a photo of FCC commissioners celebrating. But the FCC majority’s perspective was strangely missing when the blogger was interviewed on All Things Considered (6/14/16). (photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

Everyone should have access to the same internet content: That’s the principle that guided last year’s FCC decision to reclassify high-speed internet as a utility subject to the same kinds of regulation as electricity, landline phone service or other utilities that serve the public good. It’s a principle widely embraced by advocates of net neutrality, but opposed by ISPs and cable companies, who want a world in which internet content can be filtered and throttled. Even before the ink was dry on the FCC’s Title II reclassification, the ISPs took the FCC to court, claiming the agency had overstepped it bounds.

This week, that DC Circuit Court took the FCC’s side, agreeing that broadband internet’s role as the conduit to the content shaping everyday experience made reclassification a sensible choice.

“Over the past two decades, this content has transformed nearly every aspect of our lives,” the judges wrote, “from profound actions like choosing a leader, building a career and falling in love to more quotidian ones like hailing a cab and watching a movie.”

In other words, the court agreed that reclassifying the internet is a step forward, a way to recognize profound changes that have occurred in the media landscape since the emergence of the web. Why, then, did NPR’s coverage of the ruling on All Things Considered (6/14/16) seem to suggest the opposite?

The segment opened with a strong nod to the anti-neutrality camp, describing the ruling as “a massive blow to internet service providers” and quoting Republican Sen. Ted Cruz’s description of net neutrality as “Obamacare for the internet.” Then, rather than drawing directly from either the court’s written decision or FCC chair Tom Wheeler’s reaction, host Kelly McEver turned to NPR tech blogger Alina Selyukh for context and analysis.

Asked to explain what reclassification meant, Selyukh chose a backward-looking analogy, claiming the FCC “put Internet service providers into the same kind of bucket as an old telephone company.” And when asked to summarize arguments made in court, she focused on widely disputed claims by ISPs and cable companies that “this approach is so outdated that it will stifle innovation and it will stop them from investing in these really important networks.”

Along with implying that the FCC’s decision reflected an outdated understanding of technology, the All Things Considered segment left out one of the most importance consequences of Title II reclassification over the past year — namely, the FCC’s attempt to establish new privacy protections for broadband users. The overall impression of the piece is that the FCC is pursuing regulation for regulation’s sake.

I should mention that Selyukh has written a more balanced post on the topic for NPR’s breaking news blog The Two-Way (6/14/16), in which she brings up the new privacy rules, quotes from the court decision, and remembers to mention a key player in the net neutrality struggle omitted by All Things Considered—the American public, who weighed in with 4 million comments during the FCC comment process and who overwhelmingly supported the idea of the open internet.

Anyone reading Seyukh’s post on The Two-Way would come away with a fairly good sense of what’s at stake in the ongoing battle over net neutrality. Too bad they couldn’t get that same information listening to National Public Radio.

Lisa Lynch is a visiting associate professor of communications and journalism at Drew University in New Jersey, researching the intersection between culture, technology and political change.

You can contact NPR ombud Elizabeth Jensen via NPR’s contact form or via Twitter@ejensenNYC. Please remember that respectful communication is the most effective.

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John and Molly Knefel of Radio Dispatch

John and Molly Knefel of Radio Dispatch

FAIR’s Jim Naureckas was interviewed by sibling podcasters John and Molly Knefel (Radio Dispatch, 6/17/16) about coverage of Trump, Sanders and Clinton. An excerpt:

There’s been a long period of conditioning of the right-wing electorate to be not just skeptical, but hostile to media and to the idea of journalism…. They’ve been trying to set up this independent reality and this idea that really any kind of criticism that can be leveled at conservative leaders can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from this group that is mostly hostile to their interests. I think there’s something of a charade going on, in that the interests of the corporations—the interests of Comcast, which owns NBC, the interests of Disney, which owns ABC—are not really at odds with the interests of the Republican Party. They have a great deal in common. And setting up this idea of an inherent conflict between elitists who are trying to tell you what to do, and regular folks, it is really a way that conservatives are able to sell policies that are pro-rich, pro-capitalism, and package them as somehow being anti-establishment and sticking up for the little guy.


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This week on CounterSpin: After the June 12 massacre of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, social and independent media were filled with grief from the LGBTQ and Latinx community, immediately combined with a refusal to allow that grief to be weaponized for use against Muslims, which corporate media were swinging into gear to do as soon as they learned the killer’s identity.

Familia: Pulse Orlando ResponseSo while corporate media talked about “radical Islam,” others worked to maintain focus on the victims, with things like a short video from the group Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, featuring people talking about the killings and other violence they face. Jorge Gutierrez is founder and national coordinator of Familia: TQLM. He’ll join us to talk about that.


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Centering the victims doesn’t mean ignoring other factors, including access to weapons, a pervasive lack of understanding of mental instability and how to address it, and a culture of violence–or, as writer Kiese Laymon put it, a country so dependent and boastful of big guns that it has no moral authority to educate and chastise its citizens on how it uses its small guns. But media assertions that the Orlando killer had “no history of violence” point to a chronically undercovered element: domestic abuse. We’ll hear from writer and activist Soraya Chemaly of Women’s Media Center Speech Project.


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MP3 Link

First we take a look back at the week’s press, including ethnicity and the “terror” label, rewriting the history of terrorism and electoral politics, and the New York Times‘ attempt to bury Bernie Sanders’ ideas.


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MP3 Link


  • “Trans and Queer Latinxs Respond to #PulseOrlando Shooting,” Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement (6/14/16)
  • “In Orlando, as Usual, Domestic Violence Was Ignored Red Flag,” by Soraya Chemaly (Rolling Stone, 6/13/16)
/, Global News, Lgbt, World News
Washington Post: Russian Hackers Were Found in the DNC's Computer Network

A Washington Post video turned a computer security firm’s allegations about a DNC hack into a series of unsourced factoids.

The Washington Post reported on Tuesday (6/14/16) that Russian intelligence had hacked the DNC servers to steal opposition research on Donald Trump:

Russian Government Hackers Penetrated DNC, Stole Opposition Research on Trump 

While the Post story by Ellen Nakashima was sourced to “committee officials and security experts who responded to the breach”—i.e., CrowdStrike, the security firm hired by the DNC—that attribution dropped out of the headline, presenting Russian government culpability as an unquestioned fact. This framing was echoed by dozens of media outlets who picked up on the story and uncritically presented Russian guilt in their headlines without qualification:

  • Russian Government Hackers Broke Into DNC Servers, Stole Trump Oppo (Politico, 6/14/16)
  • Russia Hacked DNC Network, Accessed Trump Research (MSNBC, 6/14/16)
  • Russians Steal Research on Trump in Hack of US Democratic Party (Reuters, 6/14/16)
  • Russian Government-Affiliated Hackers Breach DNC, Take Research on Donald Trump (Fox, 6/14/16)
  • Russia Hacks Democratic National Committee, Trump Info Compromised (USA Today, 6/14/16)
  • Russian government hackers steal DNC files on Donald Trump (The Guardian, 6/14/16)
  • Russians Hacked DNC Computers to Steal Opposition Research on Trump (Talking Points Memo, 6/14/16)
  • Russian Spies Hacked Into the DNC’s Donald Trump Files (Slate, 6/14/16)
  • What Russia’s DNC Hack Tells Us About Hillary Clinton’s Private Email Server  (Forbes, 6/15/16)

Then something strange happened. Wednesday afternoon, a person or persons using the name “Gufficer 2.0” (referencing a hacker who infamously got into the Bush family emails) published online what appears to be detailed information derived from the hack. In the post, Gufficer 2.0 claimed the hack wasn’t nearly as sophisticated as CrowdStrike claimed, and wasn’t the work of hackers working for Russian intelligence.

While it’s definitely conceivable that Gufficer 2.0 could turn out to be a front for Russian intelligence, as CrowdStrike alleges, it certainly raises doubts as to the airtight case against Russia. Tech website Vocativ  (6/16/16) concluded with a note of skepticism from Jeffrey Carr, CEO of a competing cybersecurity firm, who observed that while “it’s not unusual for any intelligence service to cover its tracks,”

I’m skeptical almost all the time when it comes to attribution…. I think the entire historical assignment of [government-affiliated] actors…was just wrong. That they were never part of an intelligence service or military service in the Russian government, that they were always independent hackers, and we don’t really know who they are.

In the wake of the Gufficer 2.0 development, some media outlets began to hedge their bets.  Notice the shift in framing from Wired’s Andy Greenberg:

Russia’s Breach of the DNC Is About More Than Trump’s Dirt (6/14/16)

Thirty-six hours later — after the Guccifer revelation:

A Chaotic Whodunnit Follows the DNC’s Trump Research Hack (6/15/16)

They were 100 percent certain the hack was Russian, and now it’s a “Whodunnit”? International Business Times also shifted from a “Russia did it” to a “it’s a mystery” framing:

  • Russian Hackers Infiltrated Democratic Party Computers to Steal Research on Donald Trump (6/14/16)
  • DNC Hack: Security Firm CrowdStrike Stands by Research as Russia Strongly Denies Involvement (6/16/16)

Suddenly things aren’t so certain. Which is good—journalists should update stories as they evolve—but this raises an essential question: Why was everyone so willing and ready to take CrowdStrike’s word for it, without an ounce of skepticism, in the first place?

CrowdStrike's Dmitri Alperovitch (left); Russia's Vladimir Putin (right)

CrowdStrike’s Dmitri Alperovitch (left) says spying by Vladimir Putin’s Russia has increased “a thousand-fold” in the past two years. (images: YouTube, Global Panorama)

From the initial report, there were some red flags. Dmitri Alperovitch—CTO, co-founder and spokesperson for CrowdStrike—isn’t without a flair for the dramatic. In the Washington Post article, Alperovitch made a startlingly hyperbolic claim:

Russia has always been a formidable foe in cyberspace, but in the past two years, “there’s been a thousand-fold increase in its espionage campaign against the West,” said Alperovitch, who is also a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. “They feel under siege.”

Russian espionage against “the West” has increased 100,000 percent? That would certainly add urgency to the Russian menace. A request by FAIR to the Washington Post to explain how they verified this figure remains unanswered.

The Post also did not respond to inquires by FAIR on how or whether they attempted to independently verify CrowdStrike’s claims of Russian intelligence’s culpability.

CSO Online (6/15/16), a straightforward cybersecurity blog, noted in its recap of the back and forth that “overall, the Washington Post story actually read more like a promotion for CrowdStrike’s incident response offerings than actual security news.”

Alperovitch, as the Post notes, also works for the Atlantic Council—a reliably anti-Putin think tank that publishes articles such as “Two Cheers for Cold War!” and policy papers like “Distract Deceive Destroy: Putin at War in Syria” and Hiding in Plain Sight: Putin’s War in Ukraine.” The Atlantic Council is funded by the US State Department, US allies (Norway, Sweden, Finland, NATO) and a consortium of Western corporations (Qualcomm, Coca-Cola, The Blackstone Group), including weapons manufacturers (Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman) and oil companies (ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, BP).

CrowdStrike currently has a $150,000 / year, no-bid contract with the FBI for “systems analysis.”

In January 2014 (back when, according to Alperovitch, Russian espionage was 0.1 percent as intense as it is today), CrowdStrike again was the sole accuser of Russian cyberattacks. Just as in the DNC case, the Washington Post’s Nakashima was on it–although in the earlier report, the qualifications made it into the headline: “Researchers Say They See Russian Hackers’ Hands in Cyber Espionage Against Western Energy Interests.”

The story was also reported in Reuters (1/22/14), Mashable (1/22/14) and several others. According to the Post, Alperovitch “did not have definitive proof” to implicate Russia. It seems the standards for “definitive proof” have weakened since then.

As NATO and Russian tensions build to Cold War levels, wouldn’t it be prudent for editors, at the very least, to throw in an “allegedly” or two? Instead, what we have is lockstep condemnation from a press eager to demonize the Russian menace. Just because those in power are preparing for a “new Cold War” doesn’t mean the media need to play along.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this piece misidentified Sweden and Finland as NATO members.

Adam Johnson is a contributing analyst for Follow him on Twitter at @AdamJohnsonNYC.

Messages can be sent to the Washington Post at [email protected], or via Twitter @washingtonpost. Please remember that respectful communication is the most effective.

/, Global News, World News

We’re continuing to compile essential coverage of Sunday’s massacre in Orlando, Florida, and its repercussions. We’ll continue to collect the best work explaining the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. If you have something you think we should include, tweet us @reveal or find us on Facebook.

The investigation

The New York Times looks at the FBI’s earlier investigation into shooter Omar Mateen.

“I think the F.B.I. has an incredibly hard job, because this guy seems like a lone wolf,” said Caroline Fredrickson, the president of the American Constitution Society, a frequent critic of the agency. “He was an American citizen born in the United States. Law enforcement has been working its butt off to figure out what else could be done.”

The shooter’s wife reportedly knew about his plot, according to The Huffington Post.

She had driven him to Pulse nightclub on an earlier occasion when he scouted the location, according to NBC. CBS News said that she had also traveled with him to Disney World in April as he allegedly surveilled parts of the amusement park and that she went with him to downtown Orlando earlier this month to scout other Disney facilities as well as the nightclub.

A survivor of the attack says that during the attack, Mateen told them that he “didn’t have a problem with black people.”

He asked the people in the stalls if there were “any black people” in the bathroom. A man next to Carter said there were “six or seven of us.” Mateen responded that he “didn’t have a problem with black people,” Carter said. “He said, ‘You guys have suffered enough’ ” at the hands of white Americans.

Caring for the survivors

Medical staff look for ways to improve trauma care during mass shootings, from The New York Times.

Specialists in emergency medicine say the escalating severity of mass shootings in the United States calls for a re-evaluation of the medical response. In the past, disaster drills have focused on crises like bus accidents or plane crashes, which involve blunt trauma injuries, not gunshots from high-powered weapons capable of mowing down dozens of people at a time.

Fusion looks at the additional burden on undocumented families in the aftermath of the Orlando shootings.

“For many families, no matter how much money they raise they still may not be able to get permission to come to the U.S.,” said Ramirez. “For the family to be watching this back in their countries and not be able to help their sons is painful; this all hurts the family back home too.”

Making sense of the horror

The Washington Post features memories of those killed in the attack.

Solivan, who went by Mary and was from Ponce, Puerto Rico, was married and had two young boys. Her Facebook page is a series of photos of someone who loves family life – her two children horsing around among pillows, her eldest son and husband wearing matching wacky T-shirts, that same son in a Captain America costume.

The Huffington Post asks how to move forward if Mateen was, indeed, gay.

To put it more plainly: the things that we hate the most about others are often the things that we hate the most about ourselves and that hate can bring disastrous consequences. This isn’t any kind of brilliantly new or incandescent truth — it’s one of the oldest, saddest stories in the raggedy book that houses our shared human history. But perhaps merely being reminded of it can offer us a way to begin to reimagine ourselves and our culture in what feels like the endless (and endlessly suffocating) dusk of Sunday’s massacre.

BuzzFeed compiled reflections from the LGBT community on queer bars as places of security.

I was 17 years old in 1979 when my gay boyfriend and I ventured to the Parliament House in Orlando, Florida. It was like walking into Wonderland — an alternate Universe I never knew existed. For once, being a fat girl didn’t make any difference. I was embraced and accepted for all that I was. I found myself in the midst of brilliant, eccentric, artistic and whirling-twirling misfits that pulled me into the middle of their all-male fold.

The gun debate

Donald Trump shifts position on gun purchases by those on watch lists.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday he will meet with the National Rifle Association about not allowing people on a terrorist watch list to purchase guns.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch calls for a new discussions on gun laws.

“We need to have the hard discussion and talk about gun laws that allow an individual to legally purchase weapons that facilitate mass killing. We have to have those hard discussions,” Lynch said at a White House conference on women’s issues.

Focusing on the AR-15 as the main target of gun control misses a larger point, from The Washington Post

While aesthetically similar to and just as lethal as an AR-15, the MCX is internally a different beast, thus all but removing it from the AR-15 family of rifles. Yet while the weapon is different, the MCX and the AR-15 share the same design purpose: providing a highly portable, customizable, easy to operate and accurate rifle for the individual who possesses it.

Defining terror

Foreign Policy asks if there are any more “lone wolf” attackers in an age of ISIS.

Calling Mateen a “lone wolf” risks obscuring more than it reveals, according to Michael Smith, a counterterrorism expert and consultant, because it fails to accurately describe the threat posed by the Islamic State, and masks the relationship the group is building with its sympathizers abroad.

ISIS supporters call for further attacks on the West.

The FBI confirmed in a press conference on Monday that Mateen pledged allegiance to ISIS in a phone call to police before the attack, but investigations and reports into his true motivations continue to emerge. No evidence has emerged to suggest that ISIS directed the attack. Similarly, the new video is also decentralized, not put together by an official ISIS propaganda outfit.

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A law in California that took effect this year is intended to keep guns out of the hands of people like the Orlando, Florida, nightclub shooter: They’re suspected to be violent but convicted of no crime.

The gun violence restraining order law allows law enforcement officers or family members to ask a judge to approve gun restrictions. If the judge finds that the person has threatened violence or acted in a violent manner, his or her right to buy a gun may be taken away temporarily and his or her guns can be confiscated.

The law was spurred by the 2014 Santa Barbara-area mass shooting by Elliot Rodger, who killed six people and injured more than a dozen others near a college campus.

As in the Orlando case, Rodger drew the attention of law enforcement and his mother, but he avoided the kind of criminal charges that would create a barrier to buying or owning guns.

Rodger had encountered deputies over a fight with a roommate, a conflict at a party and a check requested by his concerned mother, according to an extensive report from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office. He went on to stalk a college campus and kill six people before turning the gun on himself.

The FBI twice opened probes into Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people and injured 53 others in Orlando early Sunday. His former wife also told reporters that Mateen was violent and beat her. With no arrests or restraining orders on record, though, nothing was in place to stop Mateen from buying a gun.

Such gun-related restraining orders exist only in California and Indiana, said Lindsay Nichols, a senior attorney with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. But several states, including Washington, Illinois and New Jersey, are considering them. They’re the kind of common-sense measure the nation needs, she said.

“I think state lawmakers need to start taking serious action,” Nichols said. “We need to quicken the pace because people are dying on a daily basis in this country. While we have slow progress that is happening, we cannot continue this way as a country.”

The California gun restraining order lasts 21 days and can be extended for up to a year. Nichols said the law was not controversial. Legislative records show that law enforcement agencies – including the California Police Chiefs Association – backed it.

Christina Jewett can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: @By_CJewett.

Spaniards demonstrating against war and terrorism (cc photo: kippelboy/Wikimedia)

An NPR correction tells you who lost the 2004 Spanish elections–but it didn’t tell you that the peace movement won. (cc photo: kippelboy/Wikimedia)

In response to a post by Sam Husseini (6/13/16) and the demands of FAIR activists, NPR News has posted an online correction to the on-air claim by “counter-terrorism correspondent” Dina Temple-Raston that conservatives won the Spanish election held in the wake of the 2004 Madrid bombing:

On June 12, 2016, during a live broadcast about the Orlando shootings, NPR‘s Dina Temple-Raston was mistaken when she said commuter trains in Madrid were bombed in 2007. In fact, that happened in 2004. She also was mistaken about the results of elections that were held three days after the bombings. Prime Minister José María Aznar’s party was defeated.

As Husseini noted in a response on his own blog (6/15/16), the correction does little to explain the significance of Temple-Raston’s mistake: She had speculated that ISIS might intentionally attack the United States in the run-up to the November elections, possibly in order to help elect Donald Trump, since “they would be able to perhaps get more recruits because of the way he talks about Muslims.” Though noting there was no evidence that this was happening, Temple-Raston claimed that “it’s happened in the past”—which is how she led in to her false statement that “the more conservative candidate ended up winning” in the Spanish election immediately following the Madrid train station bombing.

The correction tells NPR‘s audience (its online audience, anyway) that Aznar lost; one can infer from this that he was “the more conservative candidate.” Unless you are already familiar with Spanish politics, however, you wouldn’t know that the election was won by the Socialist Party running on an anti-war platform—so the bombing had a political effect opposite from what Temple-Raston suggested to NPR‘s listeners. The correction also leaves unclear whether there are in fact examples of terrorist groups successfully manipulating elections, since the one example she gives of this didn’t happen as she related.

If it was worth NPR‘s airtime to give a false impression of the connection between terrorism and electoral politics, isn’t it worth airtime to tell people what the actual historical record says?

Jim Naureckas is the editor of He can be followed on Twitter: @JNaureckas.

You can contact NPR ombud Elizabeth Jensen via NPR‘s contact form or via Twitter@ejensenNYC. Please remember that respectful communication is the most effective.


/, Global News, World News
Pro-Net Neutrality activists (photo: Free Press)

Pro-net neutrality activists (photo: Free Press)

Covering the pro–net neutrality ruling by the DC Court of Appeals, Mark Karlin of Truthout (6/15/16) cited FAIR’s criticism of the Comcast media empire:

Comcast is now investing not just in providing internet services, but in internet content. This has significant implications in how news is framed, considering that the company also owns NBC (and MSNBC, which it is migrating from being a semi-progressive channel to being a clearly centrist channel). On June 11, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) ran an article identifying the irony: “Comcast-Funded Website [Vox] Plugs Comcast-Owned TV Show [The Tonight Show] Promoting Comcast-Backed Trade Pact [Trans-Pacific Partnership].” This is an example of the vertical media consolidation that even the FCC “common carrier” regulations cannot prevent. We can expect more corporate domination of the internet—as a part of media consolidation strategies—despite the FCC court victory.

Janine Jackson interviewed Lee Fang about industry’s role in the opioid crisis for the  June 10, 2016, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.


Lee Fang (image: David Feldman Show)

Lee Fang: “They’ve coordinated a massive network of different foundations and medical societies to promote more use of these drugs for all kinds of different purposes.” (image: David Feldman Show)


Janine Jackson: In 2014, a class of drugs known as opioids were involved in more than 28,000 deaths, or 61 percent of all drug overdose deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The rate of opioid overdoses has tripled since the year 2000. Recent data show two different but related trends: an increase in so-called illicit opioid overdoses, largely due to heroin, and then this 15-year increase in overdose deaths involving prescription opioid pain relievers. Those drugs, like oxycodone and hydrocodone, or brand names like OxyContin and Vicodin, account for more than 16,000 fatal overdoses each year. The CDC says they’re comfortable using the term “epidemic” to describe the crisis.

Pharmaceutical companies say they lament the addiction and fatality problems tied to their products, but they also seem determined to resist efforts to address them, suggesting to do so would have to mean taking away relief from people in pain. It’s a medical story, certainly, but it’s also one that calls for following the money, and that’s what our guest does. Lee Fang is an investigative journalist whose work appears on The Intercept, among other places. He joins us now by phone from San Francisco. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Lee Fang.

Lee Fang: Hey, thank you so much for having me.

JJ: Let’s talk a little about how we got here, to an opioid crisis. Any time a powerful drug exists, there’s an opportunity for abuse, of course. But this isn’t just a tragic tale of unintended consequence; there are some factors, aren’t there, in how these particular drugs were introduced?

Purdue Pharma logoLF: Right. For some of the bigger, well-known opioids, like OxyContin, manufactured by Purdue Pharma, these drugs were kind of rushed to market. There’s evidence to suggest that early warning signs that showed how truly addictive OxyContin is were ignored in the approval process, and that the company did not really present evidence showing how dangerous and how likely patients were to overdose on OxyContin through their approval process.

But the larger story of how we got to where we are today, where there’s an epidemic that you referenced, not just from prescription opioids, but the recent surge in heroin use and heroin overdoses is also linked to the prescription opioid industry. Four out of five heroin users got started on opioid painkillers, many of those folks receiving those drugs just being prescribed by their doctors. And in America alone, about 81 percent of the global supply of oxycodone products, and almost 100 percent of hydrocodone products, such as Vicodin, are used by Americans. So this is a uniquely American crisis.

But to understand where we got to where we are today, it’s really a marketing strategy that’s been employed over the last 20, 25 years, in which these pharmaceutical companies have pressured doctors, suppressed evidence, and they’ve coordinated a massive network of different foundations and medical societies to promote more use of these drugs for all kinds of different purposes, everything from minor tooth pain to minor back pain. There’s clear evidence that the pharmaceutical companies are part and parcel of the recent surge we see in opioid use.

JJ: I want to just draw on one point that you just made. As you note, Americans are 5 percent of the world’s population, but we consume virtually all of the hydrocodone products like Vicodin and huge percentages of the oxycodone. And so you kind of have to ask, have other countries just not embraced the miracle? You know? They don’t understand that this is a better mousetrap? Or maybe it comes down to marketing.

And that brings us back to a company like Purdue Pharma, that produced OxyContin for many years. You talk about downplaying risks of addiction. I understand that they were telling their sales representatives to tell doctors that the risk of addiction was less than 1 percent, and it seems as though there was a gap between what they knew internally and what they were putting out to the public. And, of course, that’s what’s so troubling to us on this, is to know that a company can know something and yet regulators don’t know it, and so of course the public doesn’t know it.

LF: Yeah, that’s right. You know, this story is very similar to how, for example, tobacco companies use a vast political network and marketing strategy to push their product despite overwhelming signs showing the health concerns of their product. Or the oil industry using very sophisticated political strategies to suppress science.

So for Purdue Pharma, they took a multi-pronged approach. In addition to the typical pharmaceutical strategies—aggressively bringing on sales reps to push doctors, to persuade them with different types of financial and other incentives to prescribe OxyContin and other opioids—there was also a more public-facing strategy, where Purdue Pharma created a national network of different pain foundations. So these pain foundations would create marketing tools that would bring in people suffering from certain types of pain, from pain doctors and specialists, and pressure them to use opioids as the main type of recourse.

JJ: Right.

LF: So between 1996 and 2002, Purdue Pharma funded more than 20,000 pain-related education programs, almost ten a day, seven days a week. During that time, Purdue conducted more than 40 national pain-management training conferences, in vacation spots like Boca Raton and Scottsdale, paying for more than 5,000 physicians to attend. And they also helped create and fund specialty centers, academies for pain sciences, that would take doctors and give them all types of materials, and prescribing guidelines to encourage the use of OxyContin and other opioids.

And for certain areas of the country, they even created specialized regional pain foundations that would market the drug. So the Appalachian Pain Foundation, based in West Virginia, they were well-funded by Purdue Pharma, and they’d arrange meetings between doctors and local reporters.

There’s also evidence to suggest that Purdue Pharma and other pain companies would coordinate grassroots networks of pain patients. So when reporters would write stories saying there’s this growing opioid epidemic, there are these problems with addiction, they would coordinate to send angry emails to reporters and claim that they were being stigmatized unfairly, to push back against reporters and editors who were starting to peek around and look at this type of dynamic.

JJ: Right. And, of course, the reason that that would have resonance is that there was a moment in which it was understood that pain was undertreated. And there are people who have severe pain and who want it to be taken seriously, and none of this is to undermine the situation that those people face.

But that’s why that kind of narrative, that claims to harness a grassroots voice or a voice of patients, particularly patients in pain, can be very persuasive. And yet you get another aspect of the story from the fact that Purdue, for example, the makers of OxyContin, they’re saying that they’re patient advocates, but when patients get together, like some in Ohio did, to have a class action to say that they’d become addicted to OxyContin, well, then Purdue wants to block that.

LF: Right. But like for any grassroots lobbying campaign, they seized on a legitimate grievance, and that’s the undertreatment of some pain conditions. And they layered on some untrue claims, such as these guidelines and these marketing materials that claimed that opioids were not addictive, or were not at high risk of addiction, and they organized individuals and these kind of very PR-savvy foundations to push this false claim.

CDC headquarters, Druid Hills, Georgia (cc photo: nrbelex/Wikimedia)

CDC headquarters, Druid Hills, Georgia (cc photo: nrbelex/Wikimedia)

JJ: Well, let’s talk about what’s going on now. Because in response to what even media are calling attention to as an alarming crisis going on, in terms of an explosion of abuse and of overdoses from opioids, the CDC said that they were going to put forward these non-binding guidelines to do with their prescription. And what happened then? The documents were leaked, essentially, and what happened?

LF: Yeah, so last year, as the CDC took up guidelines that, as you mentioned, are voluntary but provide a government-endorsed idea of maybe best practices, as they were working on these guidelines to maybe discourage the high rates of opioid prescribing, a copy of the guidelines were leaked, and we really saw the political machine of the opioid companies move into high gear. We saw a number of pharma-funded groups immediately attack the CDC. So there’s evidence to suggest that members of Congress, working at some level in conjunction with pharma companies, threatened the CDC with an investigation, saying that this was unfair, that they were not having the right, open process.

Another group, called the Washington Legal Foundation, which, speaking of tobacco, they were very famous during the ‘90s in taking tobacco money and then filing lawsuits against places that were attempting to regulate tobacco, acting kind of as a neutral-sounding front. I mean, “Washington Legal Foundation” is kind of benign-sounding. Anyways, Washington Legal Foundation is funded by Purdue Pharma, makers of OxyContin, and they threatened the CDC with legal action over the guidelines.

And according to the Associated Press, a group called the Pain Care Forum, another one of these pharma-funded fronts for the opioid industry, organized regular meetings in Washington among lobbyists and other painkiller advocacy groups to start pressuring policymakers, pressuring the people at the CDC, to, if not back away from these guidelines, to water them down. So we know from a lawsuit filed by the city of Chicago that the top lobbyist for Purdue Pharma actually controlled the Pain Care Forum, and the company of course also funds Pain Care Forum. So it’s the same constellation of groups that has existed for a very long time now, kicking into political gear attacking the CDC.

And after the CDC released a preliminary version of these guidelines, I believe last December, they received even more criticism, both from Capitol Hill, from some allies of the pharmaceutical industry, and from these political groups and these foundations, financed and controlled by pharmaceutical companies.

And after an open comment period, finally the CDC handed down its guidelines in March of this year, and the guidelines basically say, for most types of routine pain-related health issues, doctors should not prescribe high dosages of opioids as the first choice. I mean, anything from ibuprofen to other kinds of pain-care management therapies should be tried first, and then, if those don’t work out, the high-dosage opioids might be acceptable. And, again, these are voluntary guidelines.

JJ: And after the guidelines came out, has there not been pushback since, that we’re now going to revisit it and go back and bring more, quote unquote, “stakeholders” to the table? I thought that that sort of reopening had been achieved, in a way, by the industry side.

LF: Yeah, and that’s the kind of interesting dynamic here. So we did a story recently, again on the guidelines. And, you know, as we go into midterm elections, we just kind of, by circumstance of the Senate election map, we have a lot of senators from the Northeast, which is a region that’s been heavily hit by the opioid and heroin epidemic, up for reelection this year. So these legislators, from places like New Hampshire and Pennsylvania and Ohio, are adamant about taking something to voters saying that they’ve dealt with the opioid crisis, they’ve been leaders in passing big legislation, fixing the problem. And the administration, the Obama administration, is also eager to say that they’ve done something big.

But the big package coming out of Capitol Hill in just the last few weeks, that supposedly addresses the opioid crisis, mostly provides some money and incentives for drug treatment of addiction, and for increasing the supply for first responders with Narcan, which is an overdose drug that helps revive someone who’s in overdose on an opioid. And these are positive developments.

But as we pointed out in our piece recently, the legislation does nothing to crack down on pharmaceutical companies to try to limit the overprescribing of opioids. And, in fact, might actually be a step backwards, because there is the provision in the bill that sets a new task force, which will have industry and other stakeholders in the process, to review the CDC guidelines. So there’s a potential in the future that the industry might have a second shot at going after the CDC guidelines that they’ve been so concerned about.

JJ: It’s very interesting that the response is to put more of industry representation on the decision-making body. If I could just pull out to a bigger picture view, it sounds as though what we’re saying is, you can’t have a government panel on climate change without the oil industry, because that’s their thing, you know. There’s something funny about this philosophy that says that you can’t have a panel about change, it’s not legitimate, unless it’s like 50 percent ardent, invested advocates for the status quo. You know? As though you’re not legitimate to be in the room discussing something unless you make money off it. It seems a very kind of strange attitude for government regulators to take up, frankly.

LF: Yeah, and we’ve seen this strategy employed recently on a whole number of issues where there’s a lot of public support. You know, the public is demanding some type of government response to the opioid crisis. And if you look at how lobbyists are attacking other popular issues, you know, payday lending is another one: Republicans on Capitol Hill have given up on trying to repeal the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Their claim now, their kind of strategy over the last few years, has been to instead say, these regulations, they need to be formulated with the input of industry. They’ve been trying to add new commissioners and advisors to the board that are representatives from the payday-lending industry and from other financial firms on Wall Street, hoping that by having more of a stake in the process of creating these rules, they can weaken them or make them effectively useless in a procedural way.

So this is a similar strategy that we’re seeing here: Now it seems too difficult to repeal the CDC guidelines, the previous effort by these front groups to derail them through lawsuits, or the threat of lawsuits, that was a failure. So the next phase is, OK, we can’t get rid of the CDC guidelines, how do we create this new body that will oversee them that will have representatives from industry?

Cannabis sativa

Big Pharma has been funding the fight against legalizing marijuana.

JJ: Let me ask you, finally—it’s not really a pivot, because it’s the same issue. If the industry backing didn’t raise questions about the sincerity of the claims of some of these groups and pain foundations and some of the individuals involved here, their claims that they’re really only concerned with people in pain and providing them access to pain relief, well, the role that some of these same folks are playing in the marijuana legalization story would seem to raise questions about that driving interest in pain relief. There is some connection between these two stories, isn’t there?

LF: Yeah, that’s I think the next wave of reporting, and a big policy fight going into the future. We’re seeing a number of studies now suggesting that marijuana can be an effective treatment for some pain management, and in some cases even more effective than powerful prescription opioids. And so we’ve seen Elizabeth Warren and other legislators try to convince government agencies like Medicare and the Veterans Administration to at least allow some patients to seek medical marijuana, and that there should be more studies on this approach.

But interestingly enough, as the opioid industry has attempted to gain influence or buy off the anti-drug and pain-related foundation world, some of the largest anti-drug advocacy groups in America, like the group called CADCA, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America — one of their largest donors is actually Purdue Pharma. And they, notably, even though opioid drug abuse is one of the biggest problems faced in the drug abuse community, mostly sat on the sidelines when it came to the CDC guidelines fight. They kept their mouth closed and did not encourage people to go and promote the guidelines, which really contrasts with their approach to marijuana, where they’ve held rallies and organized grassroots lobbying drives to keep marijuana prohibition, and to continue the criminalization of marijuana.

JJ: It seems there’s just no substitute for following the money. I’d like to thank you very much for connecting those dots for us, Lee Fang. We’ve been speaking with Lee Fang. You can find his work on this and other issues online at

LF: Thank you so much, Janine.



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In the aftermath of the Orlando, Florida, shooting Sunday, we’re compiling essential coverage on the massacre and its repercussions. We’ll continue to collect the best work explaining the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. If you have something you think we should include, tweet us @reveal or find us on Facebook.

The victims

The Orlando Sentinel has posted in-depth profiles of the shooting victims.

Since he was a boy, Anthony Luis Laureano Disla loved to dance. Early Sunday morning, Laureano Disla, 25, was dancing and laughing with his friends at the Pulse nightclub, when a gunman stormed in. Laureano Disla was shot several times and died.

Doctors at Orlando Regional Medical Center describe treating the waves of injured.

“It was singularly the worst day of my career and the best day of my career, and it was probably the same for every person standing here,” Dr. Chadwick P. Smith said. “We quickly got about five patients, and that was a lot for us, and we thought maybe that was going to be it,” said Dr. Kathryn Bondani. “And then they started lining up in the hallway.”

Inside the attack

The Washington Post breaks down the sequence of events during the shooting.

Around 2 a.m, the shooter walked past the front entrance into the main dance floor, according to a witness. He turned toward the bar area and started shooting. According to police reports, an off-duty officer engaged in a firefight with the shooter.

Survivor Angel Colon describes his account inside the nightclub to BuzzFeed.

“I thought, That’s it, I’m dead,” he said. Mateen aimed for Colon’s head but shot his hand and his hip. Colon said he remained still and played dead until Mateen turned his attention elsewhere.

The Tampa Bay Times chronicles the shooting as it unfolded in four hours of terror.

In Pulse’s back room, Joe Galligan, 24, was drinking a Long Island iced tea and talking to friends. Then he heard gunshots. “Everyone in the room thought it was a speaker blowing out in the other room,” he said. “But it didn’t take very long to realize what it actually was. So the next thing I know, everyone was just on the ground.”

Details emerge about the shooter

The FBI investigates Mateen’s previous patronage of Pulse nightclub.

Mateen’s wife tried to talk him out of the attack, according to NBC News.

Mateen’s wife, Noor Zahi Salman, told the FBI she was with him when he bought ammunition and a holster, several officials familiar with the case said. She told the FBI that she once drove him to the gay nightclub, Pulse, because he wanted to scope it out.

The Tampa Bay Times looks into Mateen’s family history.

After college, Mateen got a job as a prison guard at Martin Correctional Institute in neighboring Martin County, but lasted less than six months in the job, according to the Florida Department of Corrections. He was then hired as a guard for G4S Security Solutions. At the time of the shooting, he held an active state security guard license and a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

The political aftermath of the attack

The Intercept notes that both presidential candidates propose ramping up attacks on ISIS, even though there is no direct evidence that Mateen was directed by the terror group.

Both candidates neglected to consider that no operational links between ISIS and the alleged Orlando shooter have been discovered. While Mateen pledged allegiance to ISIS shortly before the attacks, he had reportedly previously claimed connections to two groups that oppose ISIS: the Lebanese militia group Hezbollah and al-Qaida.

Vox asks if a terror attack “could sweep Donald Trump into the White House.”

“Crisis situations evoke feelings of distress, anxiety, and hopelessness, which draw citizens to leaders who promise to deliver better times,” Jennifer Merolla and her co-authors have written. “Charismatic leaders surface in times of crisis because they are seen as saviors and are perceived to have a unique ability to improve a critical situation.”

Vox highlights a recent town hall exchange between President Barack Obama and a gun shop owner in Elkhart, Indiana, where Obama describes how lax gun laws could lead to a situation like Orlando.

Obama said: “What I have said is precisely what you suggested, which is: Why don’t we treat this like every other thing that we use? I just came from a meeting today in the situation room in which I got people who we know have been on ISIL websites, living here in the United States, U.S. citizens, and we’re allowed to put them on the no-fly list when it comes to airlines, but because of the National Rifle Association, I cannot prohibit those people from buying a gun. This is somebody who is a known ISIL sympathizer. And if he wants to walk into a gun store or a gun show right now and buy as much – as many weapons and ammo as he can, nothing’s prohibiting him from doing that, even though the FBI knows who that person is.”

The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community struggles to respond to the tragedy, as reported by BuzzFeed.

The Orlando attack has caused dueling reactions among LGBT rights advocates, with sometimes conflicting impulses even within an individual leader’s own thinking. They call for increased vigilance, but some also maintain that the rise of Islamist extremists doesn’t necessarily pose any particular threat to LGBT people.

Politico examines the debate around access to high-powered firearms and the AR-15, in particular.

Gun control activists despise the weapon because it gives an individual the power to inflict mass casualties as quickly, reliably and accurately as anything else on the civilian market – which is exactly the same reason gun rights extremists revere this rifle. Those who envision themselves fighting for freedom against an oppressive government don’t want to be outgunned.

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News coverage over the past 48 hours of the Orlando nightclub attacks has shown how corporate media use specific vocabulary to manipulate public perceptions and perpetuate harmful stereotypes and xenophobia.

ABC News tweet on Orlando

Typical news media tweet before shooter’s ethnicity known.

In the early hours of June 12, as reports poured in about a shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, news outlets were reluctant to characterize the incident beyond calling it an act of violence.

With little information beyond “a shooting has left a number of people of dead in a nightclub,” the Twitter accounts of major media outlets used the contextually neutral language of “shooting” to describe the situation:

It’s important to note, however, that early in the morning law enforcement had already alerted the media and the public to the fact that they were treating the event as an act of terror. ABC News reported as much at 7:42 AM, tweeting, “Police: Investigating Orlando nightclub shooting as an ‘act of terrorism.’” Yet there was no move to label the event as such by mainstream media sources until the shooter’s ethnicity was revealed—at which point the language began to change.

New York magazine tweet on Orlando

Typical news media tweet after shooter’s ethnicity known.

Once the shooter was identified as Omar Mateen, a US citizen of Afghan descent, the narrative changed. After this South Asian ethnicity was revealed, news media began calling the attack an act of terror. At 9:01 AM, CBS News tweeted: “JUST IN: Orlando nightclub shooter ID’d as Omar S. Mateen, law enforcement sources tell @CBSNews.” Just ten minutes later, the way CBS was discussing the crime had changed: “Authorities ‘leaning towards Islamic terrorism’ as motive, @CBSNews‘ Pat Milton reports:”

Over the next couple of hours, the new descriptor spread throughout corporate media:

Glenn Greenwald asserted in June 2015 that “terrorism” is “a completely malleable, manipulated, vapid term of propaganda that has no consistent application whatsoever.” Greenwald was writing in response to the Charleston church massacre and the news media’s unwillingness to call that event an act of terror.

But it’s quite obvious that for today’s news media, the vocabulary of “terrorism” does have a consistent application: It means, overwhelmingly, acts of violence committed by Muslims and seen as targeting the West—as many media confidently portrayed the nightclub attack, although that narrative may become more complicated as details of Mateen’s life and the massacre itself emerge.

For an example of that double standard of terminological application, consider the events that unfolded only hours after the Orlando attack.

WSJ tweet on Santa Monica suspect

Heavily armed white man described as “planning to attend Pride parade.”

As the nation reeled from the nightclub shooting, law enforcement in Santa Monica arrested a heavily armed Indiana man headed to the LA Pride parade. James Wesley Howell was quickly identified as a white man, distanced from the Orlando attacks, and treated very differently by the news media:

  • The LA Times reported that “Santa Monica police spokesman Saul Rodriguez said detectives are “not aware of what the suspect’s intentions were at this point.”
  • The Daily Mail said that while Howell’s car was filled with “three rifles, a substantial amount of ammunition and 5 lb of mixed Tannerite powder, which can be used to make a pipe bomb,” and while Howell was “on the way to the LA Pride event to meet a friend, and ‘wanted to harm’ people there,” authorities “were still trying to establish Howell’s motives.”

In fact, Howell’s ethnicity and lack of ties to the Orlando shooting and Islam made his potential attack a non-story, despite him being heavily armed and ready to cause the same levels of carnage as Mateen. Social media accounts for major news organizations outside of LA almost exclusively referred to Howell as a “heavily armed man,” and most organizations mentioned his arrest only once on social media, if at all:

When those who wish to use violence against innocent people are unidentified, they are referred to as “shooters” and their attacks as “attacks” or, in the case of Orlando, as “shootings.” It’s not until the perpetrators are identified as non-white people with an otherized cultural background that the media uses the word “terror.”

This manipulation of language by news media has shown quite clearly that the term “terrorism” refers not to the acts themselves, but rather to the ethnicity and specifically defined ideology of the perpetrators of the attacks.

Eoin Higgins is a journalist and historian from Western Massachusetts. You can find more of his work at and follow him on twitter at @EoinHiggins_.

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The security company that employed Orlando, Florida, nightclub shooter Omar Mateen failed to heed warnings about at least two other employees who later went on to kill.

In 2015, a coroner’s investigation in the United Kingdom found G4S ignored red flags before Danny Fitzsimons shot and killed two co-workers in Baghdad in 2009. The company had received anonymous emails from a fellow guard with warnings about Fitzsimons.

“I am speaking out because I feel that people should not be put at risk,” one of the emails said.

“I have told you that he remains a threat and you have done nothing,” another reads.

Fitzsimons, who already was facing assault and a firearms-related charges at the time of his hiring, had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He had been dismissed from a prior Iraq contractor after he punched a client, according to news reports.

He wrote in his private papers: “I will continue to satisfy my blood lust and my need to take life.”

During the investigation, a former senior director at G4S described a subsequent company audit that found “widespread failure in screening and vetting processes.” Of the 500 employees screened, he said a total of 304 had failed to meet the required standards, according to news reports about the hearing.

In Canada in 2013, former G4S armored car guard Travis Baumgartner was convicted of murder after shooting four of his co-workers in a robbery at the University of Alberta in 2012.

Over the three months before the shootings, Baumgartner had posted several statements on Facebook that authorities later cited in court documents. Among them: “I wonder if I’d make the six o’clock news if I just started poping (sic) people off.” Later, he changed his profile photograph to a picture of himself wearing a vest, balaclava mask and sunglasses.

In Mateen’s case, none of the guard’s previous background checks had prevented him from purchasing guns or obtaining licenses to work as an armed guard.

He’d been questioned twice by the FBI for possible links to terrorism. His ex-wife said he was abusive, and a co-worker reported him for making racist and homophobic statements.

But Mateen did not fit any of the categories of people who, under federal law, are prohibited from possessing guns. He did not have a felony criminal record or misdemeanor domestic violence conviction, and he never had been committed to a mental health institution.

Although he at one point was on what is known as the terrorist watch list, Mateen was not on the list at the time of his gun purchases. Even so, it is not against the law for a suspected terrorist to purchase a gun. The Government Accountability Office has urged lawmakers to give the Department of Justice the power to deny gun purchases based on terror concerns, but Republicans have resisted the idea.

Mateen also had met all of the requirements for a security guard and gun license in Florida. The state, like most others, does not require guards to receive psychological evaluations before getting permission to carry guns on the job. G4S does require certain hires to complete a psychological test, according to the company, which Mateen passed when he was hired in 2007.

According to Bloomberg News, G4S gave Mateen a Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, a popular personality test that frequently is given to security guard and law enforcement applicants.

One G4S guard described the test as a written, multiple-choice questionnaire of a little more than 100 questions. John Dearborn, a security guard in Portland, Oregon, told Reveal that it took him about 45 minutes to complete in a room with others also going through the employment process.

“They’re trying to weed out those people who have a God complex or on a power trip or have a screw loose,” he said. “They’re asking you questions in different ways to find out if you have a tendency to be a person who gets angry or a person who has a hidden agenda.”

The FBI’s first investigation into Mateen began after co-workers reported that Mateen suggested he might have terrorist ties.

Daniel Gilroy, who worked with Mateen at a gated community, described him as “unhinged and unstable.” He said he repeatedly warned the company before quitting his job after Mateen began sending him as many as 20 or 30 text messages a day and leaving more than a dozen phone messages, according to the Los Angeles Times. He said Mateen threatened to kill people “all the time.”

“I complained multiple times that he was dangerous, that he didn’t like blacks, women, lesbians and Jews,” Gilroy told the paper. “I saw this coming.”

In a statement released today, the company noted the FBI’s decision to close its investigations into Mateen without action and said it had no record of complaints from Gilroy.

“G4S notes the statement today by FBI Director James Comey that agents investigated Omar Mateen in 2013 and 2014 and closed their investigations after deciding that no further action was necessary.

“G4S also notes the comments by a former employee, Daniel Gilroy. G4S has no record of any complaint by Mr. Gilroy about Mr. Mateen. And further, Mr. Gilroy is on record on June 2015, shortly after leaving G4S, as saying, ‘The work and job assignments were respectful and co-workers were good men and women that put in an honest day’s work and genuinely like to work as a team and contribute,’ ” the statement reads.

Only four states – Delaware, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and New Mexico – require armed-guard applicants to undergo a mental health evaluation, which is standard for law enforcement officers before being placed on the job.

In Oklahoma, licensing authorities have taken immediate action on a guard’s license after receiving a report from a company about substance abuse or dangerous, unstable behavior on the job. Unstable guards can get their licenses back only after receiving clearance from a mental health professional.

It’s unclear whether G4S ever notified the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services about the complaints lodged against Mateen. Records obtained by Reveal show G4S has reported firearm discharges to the state, a requirement under the law.

Between 2008 and 2012, guards with G4S in Florida fired their guns 17 times on the job, according to state records. In one case, a guard working at the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant was suspended by G4S and immediately sent to drug and alcohol testing after he forgot to turn on his gun’s safety lock and accidentally fired the gun while attempting to load it. That guard’s license was not revoked and remains active.

Shoshana Walter can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @shoeshine.

RICHMOND, Va. (Reuters) – A Virginia state trooper who was engaged in a training exercise at a Richmond bus station died on Thursday after a man pulled out a gun and opened fire before being fatally shot by two police officers, police said.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Lender GE Capital asked the U.S. government on Thursday to stop designating it as “too big to fail,” saying it had shrunk to the point where it would not pose a major threat to the nation’s financial stability if it experiences distress.

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