March 23, 2017 Last Updated 9:47 am

With overwhelming news choices, editors tend to go with local angle; TIME and Vanity Fair look at the issue of truth

Morning Brief: Google’s problems with advertisers continues to grow due to its habit of placing client ads next to controversial, often hateful, editorial content

Where to begin? That has to be the problem of every news editor these days. What is the lead story? What exactly is a lead story? Is the thing that one feels will be ultimately the most important news of the cycle, or the newest?

This morning I assumed that when I reviewed the various front pages of papers across America I would see the attack outside Parliament leading the news, but I was wrong. In fact, there is tremendous variety in this morning front pages, far more than I would have imagined – and this actually makes me feel good, editors are using their own judgement rather than walking in lock step.

The lead story in many papers today is the expected vote in the House on Trumpcare, and how the new bill might effect the readers of the local newspaper. This is especially true in many southern newspapers, papers that did not choose feature the FBI director’s statement earlier this week that there is an ongoing investigation into Russian involvement in last year’s election. The reason: though the new health care bill might be a national story, its consequences will be felt locally.

In general, both Congressional Republicans and Republican governors are looking to find ways to deny health care to many citizens, which is an odd thing to even right.As the governor of Alabama sees it, if work requirements were added to the bill, many would choose to forego health care to avoid work.

The Washington Post, Mike DeBonis:

What the Freedom Caucus wants in the GOP health-care bill, and why it’s not getting it

The Republican health-care bill stood in a legislative Catch-22 late Wednesday, held hostage to demands that the White House and Republican leaders wish that they could grant but insist that they cannot.

The captors in this instance are the members of the House Freedom Caucus, the group of roughly three dozen conservative hard-liners who have tried to bend the GOP bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act toward the right and have now coalesced around one major demand — that the American Health Care Act, as the GOP bill is titled, must repeal more of the ACA’s insurance mandates to truly lower premiums…

…Democrats argue that without the requirements, many Americans would be forced to buy bare-bones plans that would leave huge gaps in coverage and expose them to severe financial risk. But most Republicans say that requiring insurers to cover all those benefits is a major factor in driving up premiums — and that if consumers want to buy bare-bones plans, they should be able to buy bare-bones plans.

Montgomery Advertiser, Brian Lyman:

Gov. Robert Bentley supports AHCA – with conditions

Gov. Robert Bentley said Wednesday he would back the Republican-supported health care bill going through Congress – if it includes certain features.

Those would include giving Alabama the power to impose new requirements on those in the state Medicaid program, the vast majority of whom are elderly, disabled or children, including co-pays for participants or parents of qualifying children; and a work requirement for Medicaid recipients. The governor said he also wanted Alabama to have the ability to move people with chronic conditions off private insurance and into high-risk insurance pools…

…More than 1 million Alabamians – about 22 percent of the population – are eligible for Medicaid, despite strict requirements. Childless adults almost never qualify for benefits, and parents of qualifying children receive Medicaid only if they make 18 percent of the poverty level or less – about $2,923 a year for a family of two, and $3,643 a year for a family of three.

Those strict requirements, said Jim Carnes, policy director of Alabama Arise, a group that works on poverty issues, make a work requirement effectively a way to remove people from the Medicaid rolls.



For at least two major magazines, the focus remains on the new president and the issue of truth.

Today, TIME Magazine is featuring a new issue with a simple cover: Is Truth Dead? Michael Scherer pens the cover story which takes a critical look at one of the president’s most obvious traits, his inability to tell the truth, even when presented with the facts. Scherer conducted a phone interview with the president and wrote his cover story, with the entire interview available online.

Daniel Dale, the fine Washington correspondent for the Toronto Star, read the cover story and quickly fact-checked the transcript of the interview with the president. He found that the president “made 14 false claims in his Time interview on the subject of whether he makes false claims.”

Earlier, yesterday afternoon, Vanity Fair’s editor, Graydon Carter (also a Canadian, by the way), penned a column that was scathing.

TIME, Michael Scherer:

Can President Trump Handle the Truth?

The more the conversation continued, the more the binary distinctions between truth and falsehood blurred, the telltale sign of a veteran and strategic misleader who knows enough to leave himself an escape route when he tosses a bomb. Rather than assert things outright, he often couches provocative statements as “beliefs,” or attributes them to unnamed “very smart people.” During the campaign, he claimed falsely that Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s father had consorted with the assassin who killed John F. Kennedy. Now as President, Trump argued that he had done nothing wrong by spreading the fiction, since it had been printed in the National Enquirer, a tabloid famous for its unconventional editorial standards.

“Why do you say that I have to apologize?” he asked. “I am just quoting the newspaper.” He appeared to do it again, when he repeated the accusation of a Fox News contributor, Andrew Napolitano, who claimed his network was told by three former intelligence officials that Obama had asked the British to surveil Trump’s campaign. Fox News repudiated the claim, the pundit vanished from the airwaves, the British called the accusation “ridiculous,” and the head of the U.S. National Security Agency said it would not have happened under his watch. And yet Trump did not back down. “I have a lot of respect for Judge Napolitano,” he said. “I don’t know where he has gone with it since then.”

…Through it all, he has presented himself as the last honest man, and among his fervent supporters, he hits notes that harmonize with the facts of their lives as they deeply feel them. To beat a polygraph, it’s said you should make some part of your brain believe what you are saying. Friends of Trump report that the President would pass with flying colors. He tells them privately that he believes the things he tweets in public. Despite the luxury and ease of his own life, he seems genuine in his belief that the system is rigged, and that life is a zero-sum game: no one wins without someone else losing. Reality, for the reality-show mogul, is something to be invented episode by episode.

Vanity Fair, Graydon Carter:

The Trump Presidency Is Already a Joke

It can reasonably be said that our dear leader is now the most ridiculed man on the planet. In fact, he may well be the most ridiculed man in history. For a preening narcissist who takes himself terribly seriously, being the butt of the joke heard round the world has got to hurt. The handpicked assortment of craven nitwits and supplicants that he has surrounded himself with have valiantly tried to insulate him from the derision. But they’re only human. Your heart has to go out to the ones doing the heavy lifting: banty Sean Spicer, the M. C. Escher of the English language, and Kellyanne Conway, the president’s temperament fluffer. (Look away from CNN, Mr. President. There’s something shiny and bright over there!) Engaging as it is to watch these overworked mouthpieces, I fear their days must be numbered. Comments about microwaves that turn into spy cameras and what should be understood when the president puts words in quotation marks are having minimal effect in reducing the scorn heaped upon their boss. Hats off to them for their tenacity, but no amount of spin is going to change the fact that the Trump White House, like the company its inhabitant has run for the past four decades, continues to be a shambolic mess.



Meanwhile, the AP keeps rolling out more information on Paul Manafort, who if there are to be arrests in this scandal, would now look to be the first. Yesterday, the AP revealed that Manafort had solicited contracts with the Russians more than a decade ago, promising not only to promote the interests of Vladimir Putin, but to “influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States.”

Today, the AP reports that the U.S. Treasury Department is looking at Manafort’s offshore financial transactions. In other words, they are following the money.

Associated Press, Jack Gillum, Menelaos Hadjicostis and Eric Tucker:

AP Exclusive: US probes banking of ex-Trump campaign chief

As part of their investigation, U.S. officials were expected to look into millions of dollars’ worth of wire transfers to Manafort. In one case, the AP found that a Manafort-linked company received a $1 million payment in October 2009 from a mysterious firm through the Bank of Cyprus. The $1 million payment left the account the same day — split in two, roughly $500,000 disbursements to accounts with no obvious owner.

There is nothing inherently illicit about using multiple companies as Manafort was doing. But it was unclear why he would have been involved with companies in Cyprus, known for its history of money laundering before joining the European Union, with unclear sources of the money flowing in to them and with such secrecy surrounding the firms’ connections to Manafort.



While all this is going on, it is not as if nothing is happening in media. Both tronc and Time Inc. may be announcing sales (or not), and Google’s ad problems are growing in size.

The NY Post today is saying that Google’s problems with advertisers could cost it up to $1 billion.

One might easily dismiss this as typical Post hysteria, but one must remember that much of the ad world is located in NYC, and reading the tabs on the subway, while not as common as it once was due to smartphones (one reason the tabloids are leaking single copy readers), it is still a big thing.

Here is some evidence that this will be a big thing: Reuters this morning reported that Johnson & Johnson pulled its ads from Google, joining the accounts mentioned below. (Imagine being the rep on the account.)

NY Post, Claire Atkinson:

Google’s ‘hate’ video crisis could become a $1 billion problem

AT&T, Verizon, pharma giant GSK and the Enterprise car-rental company all said Wednesday they were pulling their ads from a variety of Google platforms including the YouTube video-sharing site until they are satisfied their brands aren’t popping up next to internet garbage.

A Times of London report on Wednesday showed that Verizon ads were displayed next to a radical Egyptian cleric who is banned from the US. Google had disabled UK advertisers but US advertisers continued to show up there.

AT&T’s ads, meanwhile, were found on a website featuring Al Qaeda operatives…

…“Google’s stated solution was late and woeful,” Wieser said. “Given numerous opportunities to nip it in the bud, they’ve seemingly made it worse.”

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