not a good look
June 2, 2020

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) was already in hot water after not returning to his Bronx district amid the COVID-19 crisis. This probably won't help.

On Tuesday, Eliot, who represents parts of Bronx and Westchester counties, joined Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. for press conference following violent protests in the area the night before. A livestream of the conference began before Diaz actually began speaking, and at one point, Engel can be heard asking for a speaking slot, repeatedly saying "if I didn't have a primary, I wouldn't care."

Diaz initially outlined exactly who would be speaking after protests turned into vandalism in the borough, noting that if every elected official was allowed to talk, "you would never get out of here." Engel then chimed in to say "if I didn't have a primary, I wouldn't care," and Diaz quickly shut him down. "Don't do that to me. Everybody has a primary," Diaz said.

Engel is trying to avoid a repeat of 2018, in which longstanding Democratic congressmember Joe Crowley of Queens and the Bronx was ousted in a primary by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). A field of several progressives challenging Engel narrowed down to one on Monday as Justice Democrats-backed Andom Ghebreghiorgis dropped out and endorsed Working Families party pick Jamaal Bowman. Kathryn Krawczyk

December 18, 2019

At least some members of President Trump's party weren't thrilled with the scathing letter he sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday.

Trump protested impeachment in the letter, accusing Democrats of staging a "coup" and "declaring a war on American democracy." But it reportedly wasn't a galvanizing moment for the GOP — at least a few Republican senators were unhappy with the performance, a senior GOP official said.

Those senators aren't going on the record with their displeasure, but former GOP congressman Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.) was free to echo the sentiment.

It was also reported Tuesday that White House lawyers weren't involved in drafting the letter, with Trump deciding to keep them out of the loop. Instead, he relied on Legislative Affairs Director Eric Ueland, adviser Stephen Miller, and Michael Williams, an adviser to acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Tim O'Donnell

April 25, 2019

Twitter seems to have a not-so-public answer to why white supremacist content is permeating its site.

Over the past few years, Twitter has found success in algorithmically banning content and accounts linked to ISIS and other terrorist groups. It sometimes leads to "innocent accounts" such as Arabic language broadcasters being caught up in anti-ISIS sweeps, Vice News' Motherboard reports a Twitter executive saying at a recent all-staff meeting. But "society, in general, accepts" that sacrifice, the executive reportedly continued.

That apparently isn't the case when it comes to white supremacist content, though. "In separate discussions" beyond the meeting, one Twitter employee says the site "hasn’t taken the same aggressive approach to white supremacist content because the collateral accounts that are impacted can, in some instances, be Republican politicians," Vice News writes. Vice News then explained further:

The employee argued that, on a technical level, content from Republican politicians could get swept up by algorithms aggressively removing white supremacist material. Banning politicians wouldn't be accepted by society as a trade-off for flagging all of the white supremacist propaganda, he argued.

A Twitter spokesperson said that this “is not [an] accurate characterization of our policies or enforcement — on any level." Still, it raises questions about why Twitter doesn't have a public explanation for why white supremacist posts persist, and how "societal norms" could be stopping Twitter from banning that content altogether, Vice News writes. Read more from Vice News here. Kathryn Krawczyk

January 26, 2018

Several government employees say they are stuck in "career purgatory" within the State Department for work they did under the Obama administration, CNN reported Friday. Particularly, public servants who worked on closing the Guantanamo Bay prison which President Trump has vocally resistedsay they've been intentionally relegated to work that they're overqualified for.

The various employees who spoke to CNN say that they've been assigned to the State Department's Freedom of Information Act office, despite being career foreign affairs officials with years of experience. There is a well-publicized logjam of public information requests at the department, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has vowed to clear the backlog of roughly 13,000 outstanding inquiries by the end of the year. Handling FOIA requests is considered "low-level" work, CNN pointed out.

State Department staff claim the Trump administration is using the FOIA office to discard people who worked on now abandoned Obama-era initiatives. CNN described the workers as "misfit toys," including ambassadors and other federal workers whose old jobs were folded in Tillerson's quest to reduce the size of the State Department.

Some dissatisfied employees have even taken to hiring lawyers to help their plight. Ian Moss, who worked on the closure of Guantanamo Bay under former President Barack Obama, was sent to the FOIA office "under threat of disciplinary action," his attorney told CNN. Moss has been unable to get a rationale for his reassignment, even after sending a letter to Tillerson in December.

In explaining the FOIA reassignments, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert told CNN that "there is a job that needs to be done. It may not be a glamorous job, but it's an important one." Meanwhile, Capitol Hill Democrats are taking notice of the reshuffling, with Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) telling CNN that if the Trump administration "is punishing public servants as a form of political retribution," there must be "consequences." Read more at CNN. Kelly O'Meara Morales

June 28, 2017

Documents detailing how Facebook chooses to censor content were published by ProPublica on Wednesday — and they might raise a few eyebrows. One particularly questionable slide used to train censors teaches that "white males" are a protected category and attacks against them warrant users being blocked while unprotected "subsets," such as "black children," are fair game for vile internet trolls.

The reason is because Facebook "protects" people on the grounds of sex, religious affiliation, national origin, gender identity, serious disability or disease, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and race, but does not protect social class, continental origin, appearance, age, occupation, political ideology, religions, or countries. "Irish women," then, is a protected category, but not "Irish teens."

Facebook defended its policy as an imperfect attempt to apply consistent protection of minorities and genders around the globe. "The policies do not always lead to perfect outcomes," admitted the head of global policy management at the company, Monika Bickert,. "That is the reality of having policies that apply to a global community where people around the world are going to have very different ideas about what is okay to share."

Sometimes the policies appear to have especially imperfect outcomes, though. For example, swastikas are allowed on Facebook due to a rule permitting the "display [of] hate symbols for political messaging," but the statement "the French are the best but the Irish suck" would be banned because another rule states "it's okay to claim superiority for a nation ... but not at the expense of another nationality."

A recent thorny issue for Facebook has been speech regarding migrants:

After the wave of Syrian immigrants began arriving in Europe, Facebook added a special "quasi-protected" category for migrants, according to the documents. They are only protected against calls for violence and dehumanizing generalizations, but not against calls for exclusion and degrading generalizations that are not dehumanizing. So, according to one document, migrants can be referred to as "filthy" but not called "filth." They cannot be likened to filth or disease "when the comparison is in the noun form," the document explains. [ProPublica]

Read more about Facebook's censorship rules at ProPublica. Jeva Lange

April 19, 2017

A Republican state senator from Florida reportedly used wildly inappropriate language when in a conversation with two of his African-American colleagues at a private club Monday night, dropping the n-word and singling one of the pair out as a "f--king a--hole," "b-tch," and "girl," The Miami Herald reports.

Republican state Sen. Frank Artiles, who represents Miami, complained to Democratic state Sens. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville and Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale that "six n--gers" in the Republican caucus had helped elect Senate President Joe Negron over his preferred candidate, Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater. The only black senators in the state Senate are Democrats who did not back Negron.

"I said, 'Dude, did you say 'n--gers?'" Thurston recalled asking. "'No, I said n--gas,' [Artiles replied,] which is different in his mind."

Artiles had reportedly initially approached Gibson and Thurston at their table at the members-only Governors Club to flaunt that his interrogation of one of Gibson's bills that day had been retaliation for when she asked questions about one of his bills. Artiles called Gibson "this f--king a--hole," "girl," and "this b-tch" during his rant. When Thurston and another person at the table intervened to ask what Artiles meant, Artiles denied using the language and said he hadn't meant disrespect.

Artiles, who is Cuban-American, then reportedly used the n-word to complain about Negron's rise in the Senate. "I'm from Hialeah," he reportedly added, apparently to explain his language. Hialeah, a city in Miami-Dade County, is over 92 percent white.

In response to the incident, Democrats have called for Artiles to resign. Artiles apologized to Gibson and Thurston and Negron said in a statement: "It is my understanding that this matter has been resolved by the senators involved."

That isn't enough for Gibson, at least. "I can't remember a time in my life when anybody called me either one of those things," she told the Herald, adding that any apology is "meaningless."

"It's just the most disrespect I've ever encountered." Jeva Lange

September 7, 2016

Donald Trump has raised concerns about Hillary Clinton's alleged participation in pay-to-play schemes, but his own suspiciously timed campaign donation to the Florida attorney general has some questioning if it is possible Trump himself or the attorney general broke bribery law. Now The Huffington Post reports that in addition to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi deciding against joining a New York State lawsuit against Trump University after reportedly "personally solicit[ing]" a $25,000 campaign donation, Trump shortly thereafter loaned out his Mar-a-Lago resort for a $3,000-per-person fundraiser for Bondi:

All this money created the appearance that Donald Trump was thanking Bondi for halting any further investigation into his failed seminar programs. Trump's efforts to boost her politically came during and after a period when Bondi was under pressure to pursue allegations that those seminars were defrauding consumers.

The use of Mar-a-Lago alone was a donation of some value. Space at the resort is expensive to rent, and Trump has charged his own presidential campaign roughly $140,000 per event for use of the mansion.

In contrast, the Republican Party of Florida paid only $4,855.65 for the Bondi fundraiser, cutting a check on March 25, 2014. [The Huffington Post]

"All we had to do is stroke a check to the committee to re-elect [the state attorney general] and all the problems went away," one anonymous individual who was formerly employed by Trump University told The Huffington Post. Trump, for his part, has said he only supported Bondi politically.

Still, one former Trump University student, Kenneth Lafrate, who had complained to the Florida office also called the familiarity between Trump and Bondi concerning. "She's not going to do anything because she's kind of in with [Trump]," he recalled thinking. Read more about the allegations leveled at Trump and Bondi over Mar-a-Lago and more at The Huffington Post and The New York Times. Jeva Lange

June 30, 2016

President Obama's former senior adviser David Axelrod slammed Bill Clinton and Attorney General Loretta Lynch over their meeting earlier this week, claiming that while he took them "at their word" that it was "primarily social," the "optics" certainly looked bad.

The meeting, which Lynch said was primarily a discussion about grandchildren, raised concerns due to the federal investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while acting as secretary of state.

"[Lynch's] agents and lawyers, more than 100 of them, are engaged in two serious criminal investigations of Bill Clinton's wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton. It is inconceivable that she would permit herself to have any kind of contact with the husband of the target of a criminal investigation. The appearance of impropriety is so profound, no one could accept that she is now neutral in this case," Judge Andrew Napolitano, Fox News' senior judicial analyst, said. Jeva Lange

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