October 6, 2017 Last Updated 8:35 am

Major exposés from NYT, WSJ, BuzzFeed, Politico; Canadian House passes own Magnitsky bill

Morning Brief: Spanish and Catalan officials may finally be looking to walk back from the ledge as the decisive meeting of the Catalan parliament has been delayed, and Madrid has begun to soften its approach to the region

This may be the darkest days in politics for many western democracies, but it is a golden age for muckraking journalism. Yesterday, for instance, The New York Times and other media outlet published investigative pieces and each would have dominated the news were it not for the daily news bombs that drop (such as the president’s “calm before the storm” remark).

Something is going on beyond just good journalism, though one certainly can be glad for that. It might be a willingness on the part of those involved to talk now to reporters. Or, it could simply be that we are living in a time when people of power feel they can get away with anything, and there are those still around who think they shouldn’t.

The New York Times, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey:

Decades of Sexual Harassment Accusations Against Harvey Weinstein

An investigation by The New York Times found previously undisclosed allegations against Mr. Weinstein stretching over nearly three decades, documented through interviews with current and former employees and film industry workers, as well as legal records, emails and internal documents from the businesses he has run, Miramax and the Weinstein Company.

During that time, after being confronted with allegations including sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact, Mr. Weinstein has reached at least eight settlements with women, according to two company officials speaking on the condition of anonymity. Among the recipients, The Times found, were a young assistant in New York in 1990, an actress in 1997, an assistant in London in 1998, an Italian model in 2015 and Ms. O’Connor shortly after, according to records and those familiar with the agreements.

Los Angeles Times: Another man behaving badly in Hollywood — this time, Harvey Weinstein. What a shocker

Reuters: Harvey Weinstein Talks Bar Mitzvah And Quotes Jay-Z In Rambling Pseudo-Apology

NY Daily News: Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer allegedly donated $10G to Manhattan DA who declined to pursue sexual assault charges in 2015

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday (hard paywall) that Russian government-backed hackers stole highly classified information from the National Security Agency, and once again at the center of the story is Kaspersky Lab, the Moscow-based antivirus software company.

Another story involving Russia, that many might have missed unless one follows Canadian media, is that the House of Commons in Ottawa passed a bill similar to the US’s own Magnitsky bill, giving the Canadian government the power to sanction human-rights abusers around the world.

The US bill was inspired byRussian whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky, who was beaten to death in a Moscow jail in 2009 after claiming that Russian officials had engaged in massive tax-fraud. The passage of that bill eventually led to the Russians stopping adoptions of Russian babies by Americans, and may have been another motivation for the Kremlin to assist Donald Trump in last year’s election.

Reuters, Dustin Volz and Joseph Menn:

Russian hackers stole U.S. cyber secrets from NSA: media reports

Russian government officials could have used flaws in Kaspersky software to hack into the machine in question, security experts told Reuters. They could also have intercepted traffic from the machine to Kaspersky computers.

Kaspersky said in a statement on Thursday that it found itself caught in the middle of a geopolitical fight.

“Kaspersky Lab has not been provided any evidence substantiating the company’s involvement in the alleged incident reported by the Wall Street Journal,” it said. “It is unfortunate that news coverage of unproven claims continue to perpetuate accusations about the company.”

The Globe and Mail, Michelle Zilio:

Russia vows reprisal as House passes Magnitsky bill targeting human-rights abusers

The House unanimously voted in favour of the bill Wednesday night, sending it to the Senate for final approval over the coming weeks. Although the legislation is named after Russian whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky, who accused Russian officials of a massive tax-fraud regime before being beaten to death in a Moscow jail in 2009, it is meant to sanction human-rights abusers around the world. After months of threats in response to the legislation, Russia made its retaliation plan clear on Wednesday.

“We warn again that in case the pressure of the sanctions put on us increases … we will widen likewise the list of Canadian officials banned from entering Russia,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in an Interfax news agency report.

“To a large extent, [the bill] simply copies the odious American ‘Magnitsky Act’ and is set to further undermine Russian-Canadian relations.”

Politico: John Kelly’s personal cellphone was compromised, White House believes

CNN: Mueller’s team met with Russia dossier author

Hopefully you did not miss BuzzFeed’s exposé on Breitbart News.

The key paragraph is this one:

…Breitbart does more than tolerate the most hate-filled, racist voices of the alt-right. It thrives on them, fueling and being fueled by some of the most toxic beliefs on the political spectrum — and clearing the way for them to enter the American mainstream.

The thing to remember, though, is that one thing by itself cannot change a nation, but when a coordinated effort is made, it can. That many of the same players that paid for Facebook ads, created fake Twitter accounts, and hacked DNC servers, are also aligned with far-right wing players in the US, one can see that anything is possible, even the election of a reality show host.

After weeks of tough talk from Madrid, the Spanish government’s willingness to soften its tone may signal that it is willing to talk to Catalan leaders before a fateful decision is made concerning independence.

Both Madrid and Barcelona are trapped in a corner: one is being urged to act strong and suppress Catalunya, while the other side had promised to declare independence 48 hours after the referendum last Sunday.

Catalan’s president of the Generalitat Carles Puigdemont may have blinked first when he announced that the parliament would meet on Monday (now moved to Tuesday). That allowed several days for things either to cool down and talks to begin… or, conversely, for Madrid to organize a police or military response. It may have decided on talks, but we will see.

Reuters, Sam Edwards and Raquel Castillo:

Spain apologizes, tone softens in Catalonia independence crisis

Spain apologized on Friday for a violent police crackdown on Catalonia’s independence referendum, in a conciliatory gesture as both sides looked for a way out of the nation’s worst political crisis since it became a democracy four decades ago.

Spain’s representative in northeast Catalonia, which accounts for a fifth of the national economy, made the apology just as Catalonia’s secessionist leader appeared to inch away from a plan to declare independence as early as Monday.

“When I see these images, and more so when I know people have been hit, pushed and even one person who was hospitalized, I can’t help but regret it and apologize on behalf of the officers that intervened,” Enric Millo said in a television interview.

Catalan News, ACN:

Catalan police chief released after being questioned for sedition

The Catalan police chief, Josep Lluís Trapero, and the leaders of the ANC and Òmnium pro-independence civic groups, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, have been unconditionally released after being questioned as part of an investigation for sedition linked to September 20 and 21 demonstrations in Barcelona.

The Catalan police officer, Teresa Laplana, was also called to testify. She could not travel to Madrid due to health reasons and testified by videoconference. Trapero and Laplana responded to all questions, but two pro-independence civil society groups leaders refused to testify. When the hearing was over, no precautionary measures were taken against defendants.

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