The Messy Businesses of Andrew Intrater, Who Paid Michael Cohen Bigly and Took a Bite of Gawker, Too

Editor's note: This article has been updated since publication.

A businessman who allegedly funneled $500,000 to Trump lawyer Michael Cohens shell company through a company linked to a Russian oligarch has been involved in a number of eyebrow-raising business deals, including a major lawsuit in which his business was represented by Donald Trumps current lawyer, investments in Gawker and Napster, and a fraud scandal involving many millions of dollars worth of Chinese tilapia.

The money came in eight payments during 2017 through Columbus Nova, an investment company run by Andrew Intrater and tied to his cousin, Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg. Those payments went to the same LLC that Trump fixer Michael Cohen used to pay adult film-star Stormy Daniels $130,000 to remain quiet during the 2016 election about the affair she claims to have had with Donald Trump a decade earlier.

The payments were first disclosed by Daniels lawyer, Michael Avenatti, in a dossier he released this week, which was then confirmed by The Daily Beast. Columbus Nova said it had hired Michael Cohen as a business consultant regarding potential sources of capital and potential investments in real estate and other ventures.

In a previous statement to The Daily Beast, Columbus Novas lawyer claimed Vekselberg did not have an ownership interest in the company. The claim that Viktor Vekselberg was involved or provided any funding for Columbus Novas engagement of Michael Cohen is patently untrue, the company said on its website.

But Columbus Nova and the Renova Group, Intrater and Vekselberg are closely linked, information from the U.S. government and from Columbus Novas own website reveals.

Vekselberg is the founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Renova Group, the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement announcing sanctions on Vekselberg on April 6, 2018. Securities and Exchange Commission filings from three weeks earlier described Columbus Nova as the U.S.-based investment and operating arm of Mr. Vekselbergs Renova Group of companies. Columbus Nova and Renova are both linked to a number of similarly named operations, and SEC filings reveal that Columbus Nova Investments VIII Ltd renamed as Renova Media Enterprise Ltd.

Until Tuesday night, Columbus Nova had described itself on its website as the U.S. investment vehicle for the Renova Group. A spokesperson for Columbus Nova said the language was colloquial not technical, and that while Renova was a major Columbus Nova client it had no control or ownership over the company.

Vekselberg is the money and barely involved [in Columbus Novas investments], at least in modest deal[s], one source with an understanding of Intraters operations told The Daily Beast in an email. Though I was told that Andy/he had final sign-off on investment decisions.

That source also believed the furor around the payments was Cohen overblown. Intrater jumped at a chance of cheap influence with the new administration and then was blindsided by the Russia hysteria, the source said.

However, a source familiar with the matter had a decidedly different point of view. This source told The Daily Beast that Vekselberg used Intrater as a cut-out for his access to Cohen. After this storys publication, Columbus Nova disputed this characterization.

NPR reported Friday that the FBI had previously warnedin a 2014 column by Special Agent in Charge Lucia Ziobrothat a foundation controlled by Vekselberg may be a means for the Russian government to access our nations sensitive or classified research, development facilities and dual-use technologies with military and commercial applications.

The payments to Cohen wouldnt be Intraters first noteworthy business dealing. He and his companies have been involved in extensive litigation and opaque business operations.

In April 2011, Intrater was the chair of the audit committee and a non-executive director at HQ Sustainable Maritime Industries, a Seattle company that sold Chinese tilapia products. In press releases to investors, HQ boasted of soaring sales and stock prices. But an independent audit firm smelled something fishy when they started investigating HQs financials.

When the auditors asked HQs Chinese bank for financial statements, the bank gave auditors the runaround on an anti-fraud measure, according to a lawsuit that named Intrater as a defendant. A Chinese law firm hired to verify HQs Chinese tax documents found that the 5 VAT invoices are probably fake and did not exist in official records. HQ couldnt account for $5.5 million missing from its advertising budget. When questioned on missing funds, the companys chief financial officer reportedly blamed some of the trouble on his inability to speak Chinese.

As chair of the audit committee, Intrater was privy to the investigations troubling discoveries, like when auditors tried contacting supposed HQ customers on a list provided by HQ CEO Norbert Sporns.

We called customers from the updated list provided by Norbert, with no answer or numbers were not connected or not valid, auditors wrote Intrater in an email included in the lawsuit.

On April 6, 2011, Intrater suddenly resigned from HQ with a lengthy letter describing the various ways management had allegedly tried to interfere with the audit. I am compelled by conscience to resign, he wrote. The following day, the New York Stock Exchange delisted HQs stocks.

The companys stock prices, which had reportedly floated as high as $15, crashed to pennies on the share, and the company shuttered its offices. In his letter, Intrater blasted HQ execs for allegedly impeding the investigation, against Intraters best efforts.

But a lawsuit against Intrater, which was later rolled into a larger shareholder class action, accused him of utterly and consciously disregard[ing] his duties with respect to the Companys legal compliance and financial reporting requirements.

The lawsuit implicated Intrater in the companys alleged scheme to publish fake earnings in its press releases. The suit pointed to a 2009 Securities and Exchange Commission earnings form Intrater and other HQ directors had signed, which contained materially false and misleading numbers, the suit alleged. The larger class action lawsuit to which Intrater was later added as a defendant eventually reached a proposed settlement of $2.75 million, with no admission of fault from the HQ defendants.

Concurrent with the HQ suit, Intrater and Columbus Nova were embroiled in a lawsuit over an alleged fraud and embezzlement scheme. Fifth Third Bank accused Columbus Nova and another Renova-linked company of duping them into a $100 million loan based on phony documents. During the legal dispute, which stretched from 2010 to a 2017 settlement, Columbus Nova was represented by Kasowitz Benson Torres. Though the terms of the settlement do not appear public, a Columbus Nova spokesperson said Fifth Third ended up paying Columbus Nova.

The Kasowitz connection, first reported by ProPublica, is another link to Trumps circles. The firms lead attorney, Marc Kasowitz, is Trumps attorney in the ongoing investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election. And in February 2017, Michael Cohen worked out of Kasowitz Benson Torres Manhattan offices. The previous month, Cohens company had received the first of the eight payments from Columbus Nova. The payments reportedly ended in August.

A Kasowitz spokesperson told ProPublica that its ties to Columbus Nova and Trump were a coincidence.

That case also highlights Columbus Novas apparent use of a cluster of Caribbean-based shell companies. In the Kasowitz-represented case, Columbus Nova is listed as Columbus Nova Investments IV.

Columbus Nova Investments IV is one of a handful of similarly named entities (including Columbus Nova Investmentss I, II, III, and V) named in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists database on companies with holdings in the Caribbean. The first documented instance of a Columbus Nova Investments opening shop in the Caribbean was in 2000, the same year Columbus Nova was founded in New York, according to Bloomberg records. The series of Columbus Nova Investments were registered in Aruba, before moving to the Bahamas in 2004, the ICIJ records show. A Columbus Nova spokesperson said the registries were funds managed by the firm.

An ongoing lawsuit against Columbus Nova also describes the company as being based in the Caribbean. Columbus Nova is a company formed under the laws of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, reads the suit, brought by a Georgia company that accuses Columbus Nova of stiffing it on $700,000.

But Columbus Nova has a history of emerging from lawsuits unscathed. In 2016 the company found itself somewhat in the spotlight when it bought a minority share in Gawker Media, the blogging network that was then doing legal battle with pro wrestler Hulk Hogan who, in turn, was receiving funding from Silicon Valley billionaire and Trump promoter Peter Thiel.

The Gawker-Columbus Nova partnership was the subject of some public skepticism. Gawker, a brash blog that had previously avoided taking on outside funding, was characterized as a risky investment. Columbus Nova, with its ties to Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, was an unexpected ally to a blog known for badgering the powerful.

Vekselberg was removed from Gawkers dealings, appearing largely unfamiliar with the companys reputation, a person familiar with the partnership told The Daily Beast. The billionaire only questioned Gawkers operations when the site became involved in a controversy that reached Russian media, the person said.

Columbus Nova partner Jason Epstein, not Intrater, took the lead on the Gawker purchase, sources familiar with the deal said. Epstein was later awarded a seat on Gawkers board. But the structure of Columbus Novas deal meant the company could cash in on Gawker, regardless of whether the media company lost its lawsuit to Hogan. Columbus Nova became a secured creditor for Gawker, meaning it would get paid out first should Gawker declare bankruptcy.

And when Gawker lost it all and declared bankruptcy, Columbus Nova was able to retrieve its entire $15 million investment, plus equity.

Columbus Nova has invested in other companies in dire financial straits. In 2013, the company made an undisclosed but significant investment in Rhapsody, a music streaming service that was seeing increasing competition from services like Spotify. Even with the investment, Rhapsody reportedly laid off approximately 15 percent of its staff, and in 2016 confusingly rebranded as Napster, an older music streaming service it had previously acquired.

And in 2015, a small branch of Sony announced that Columbus Nova had acquired it. The branch, which makes video games like H1Z1 and Everquest, soon rebranded as Daybreak.

After Renova was sanctioned last month, the gaming blog Massively Overpowered reported its ties to Daybreak. Daybreak responded that it had never been purchased by Columbus Nova, which Massively OP disputed, linking to 2015 press releases in which Daybreak explicitly described its purchase by Columbus Nova.

Daybreak responded again, this time claiming their own 2015 press release about their purchase was incorrect. It was current executive chairman Jason Epstein, former senior managing partner of Columbus Nova that acquired Daybreak, not Columbus Nova itself. That distinction was never corrected in the past, so we are correcting that now, the company wrote in a statement.

Epstein purchased Daybreak (then SOE) from Sony Online Entertainment Inc. in February 2015, Daybreak told The Daily Beast in a statement. Mr. Epstein was a senior partner at Columbus Nova at the time he acquired the company. He left Columbus Nova in 2017 and remains the primary shareholder of Daybreak. Daybreak Game Company has no affiliation with Columbus Nova.

Meanwhile, Columbus Nova appears to be pulling something of a similar vanishing act on Intrater. Intraters bio has been scrubbed from the companys website, where it appeared as recently as May 9, the day news of its payments to Cohen broke.

with additional reporting by Noah Shachtman

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The Missing Princess of Dubai: Foiled Escape or Complete Fraud?

NICE, FranceThe saga of the mysterious young princess who escaped from Dubai only to disappearas she predicted ominously in an Instagram video that went viral last weekis heartbreaking, if it is true.

This could be the last video I make, 32-year-old Latifa al Maktoum said in a clip that detailed a life of abuse and misery under her evil fathers control prior to fleeing the emirate of Dubai, which the ruler, her father, has built into the metropolis it is today.

All my father cares about is his reputation. He will kill people to protect his reputation. This video could save my life. If youre watching this video that is not good. Either Im dead or in a very bad situation.

But Latifas story has some plot holes, according to sources close to the situation as well as one former U.S. intelligence operative who has studied the case.

Activists working on Latifas behalf say the princess fled Dubai but was ambushed at sea by forces working for her father and now has been forcibly disappearedprobably back to Dubai under armed guard. Theyve mounted an extraordinarily slickand convincingPR campaign ostensibly aimed at rescuing her.

Some of Latifas supporters, however, have serious grudges against the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is the most famous, in a region roiled by disinformation wars. Its been suggested that Qatar might be helping push the story to make the UAE look bad.

Either Im dead or in a very bad situation.
Latifa al Maktoum

Dubai is awash with intelligence [agents] from all over the world, said one former CIA agent who now works at a private security company that specializes in handling kidnapping and extortion cases. Its a very small place. Its highly implausible that this young woman from the royal family could have escaped as easily as she did with no one seeing her and equally implausible that no one has eyeballed her since if she was returned to Dubai. Everyone talks there.

On Feb. 24, the official story goes in a narrative that could be out of an old Charlies Angels episode, Latifa allegedly escaped the ruthless clutches of her father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, by crossing into Oman with another woman, her blonde Finnish skydiving partner.

A French martial arts instructor ferried them on jet skis to international waters where they were met by a former French spy master who spirited them onto his U.S.-registered boat Nostromo and set sail for Goa, India. Once there, Latifa planned to fly to the U.S. and ask for asylum.

What could go wrong?

Plenty. After eight days on the vast Indian Ocean, Latifa, her Finnish friend, the French spy, and three Filipino crew members allegedly were ambushed on March 4 by a joint United Arab Emirates-Indian military raid on the high seas complete with masked men, tear gas, pools of blood, five warships with cannons and missiles, two planes, and a helicopter. The raid allegedly was ordered by Latifas father.

Latifa, one of 30 children of the 68-year-old sheikh and one of three named Latifa, was last seen being dragged off the boat into a rubber dinghy. Calls for the UAE to come clean about her whereabouts have come from Human Rights Watch, prompted by a London-based, anti-UAE outfit called Detained in Dubai.

Among the partners of Detained in Dubai is an American convert to Islamic activism who served time for murder in Dubai and a lawyer and former investment banker who said he was imprisoned and tortured in Dubai for 22 months on false charges of fraud and embezzlement.

You cant make this stuff up. Or can you?

Depending on whom you ask, Latifa is either the victim of a sadistic, abusive dad who sent the military out to recapture heror she is a restless, privileged daughter who stage-managed her own escape in order to extort $3 million from her father, but planned it poorly.

The American ex-wife of 62-year-old Herve Jaubert (who calls himself a former secret agent and spy master with French intelligence), told The Daily Beast this week that Jaubert cooked up the scheme with Latifa and the head of Detained in Dubai, Radha Stirling.

Helene Jaubert, who was married to Herve for 18 years and told The Daily Beast she is still in contact with him, said Stirling and Jaubert have known each other for years. Princess Latifa had been in contact with Jaubert for five years and Stirling for part of that time, mulling over an escape and extortion plan.

Jaubert provided The Daily Beast with copies of some emails between Stirling and Jaubert dating back to 2010.

The whole plan was for Herve to help her escape and once he got her out the daughter was going to get to the dad and say I want $3 million or else Ill tell all to the media, Mrs. Jaubert said. Herve was just in it for the money. It was a con. Its a corrupt scheme gone haywire and they hired a corrupt French dude to try to pull it off. Latifas had a taste of Western life and she just wanted more.

Stirling, however, told The Daily Beast she never heard of the princess until Latifa emailed her from the getaway boat on the Indian Ocean in late February, three days before they allegedly were ambushed. She said she knew of Jaubert but had not been in touch with him for about 10 years.

Its a corrupt scheme gone haywire.
Helene Jaubert

Stirling said when she got the email from Latifa from the boat, four days before the ambush, she thought it was a hoax at first and didnt respond. I had never heard from her before, Stirling said.

Stirling could not explain why the princess hadnt reached out to her prior to making her escape if she knew about Radha and her organization. Stirling said Jaubert emailed her from the boat two days after Latifa did and explained the situation.

Then, Stirling said, Latifa phoned her from the boat in the middle of the ambush, saying she feared for her life and was hearing gunshots.

Stirling said she has screenshots of the call but apparently neither Latifa or her Finnish friend took any photos of themselves on the boat or during the ambush as proof. Latifa made the call via WhatsApp, although a satellite phone is normally needed to call from their alleged location in the Indian Ocean.

Stirling said that after speaking to Latifa she checked her out by an extraordinary vetting process and a long process of validation in part by contacting associates of Latifas, and decided she was legit.

The first story about Latifas case ran in the Daily Mail on March 9 with extensive information about Latifa provided by Detained in Dubai. The reporter also mentioned the strange case of her older sister who made the papers in the U.K. in 2001 when she allegedly tried to escape from her fathers home in Surrey, but was caught and taken back to Dubai. No pictures or evidence from that case ever surfaced.

Helene Jaubert lived with Herve in Dubai for part of their marriage when he moved there to make small submarines for the government. But he ran afoul of authorities who accused him of embezzlement and placed him under house arrest. Jaubert had to make his own break from Dubai. He said he escaped by disguising himself as a woman, donning a burka and swimming out to a boat that rescued him and took him to India.

Jaubert wrote a book called Escape from Dubai in 2010 that included photos of him in a burka.

Helene Jaubert said it was true that Herve had to escape from Dubai but said the burka-clad swim was bogus.

I took those pictures of him in a burka myself back in Florida, she said. He just wanted to sensationalize the story. Radha Stirling read the book and reached out to him back then. He did work for French intelligence but never as a spy. He was an engineer, a gadget guy.

In years past, Jaubert posted videos on YouTube featuring him as a Bond-esque secret agent set to tunes like the theme from Mission Impossible or The Prisoner and repeatedly using the phrase Escape from Dubai.

To complicate matters, the campaign to #FreeLatifa, as it is called all over social media, includes an elaborate website called Escape from Dubai which gives extremely detailed timelines and proof of Latifas alleged escape and recapture.

Stirlings main organization, Detained in Dubai, calls itself the international authority on UAE law. Mrs. Jaubert says Stirling has serious grudges against the UAE which is known for masking human rights abuses behind its gleaming, modern faade, major sporting events, and alliances with, among others, Queen Elizabeth, who shares the sheikhs passion for horses.

One of Stirlings partners in Detained in Dubai is Shahid Bolsen, 46, an American convert to Islam who was born Shannon Morris in Boulder, Colorado.In 2015, The New York Times described Bolsen as an Internet provocateur and the latest in a series of Westerners, including the American citizens Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, to turn up as propagandists for various forms of Islamist violence.

Bolsen has also been blogging and tweeting about Latifa, mainly as a pretext to accuse her father of being deeply unstable and unreliable. Bolsen served seven years in prison for manslaughter in the UAE, a strange case involving the murder by chloroform of a German national, and allegations of sex for sale.

Latifas story is most persuasively supported by her Finnish friend Tiina Jauhiainen, 41, who appeared at a press conference arranged by Detained in Dubai in London on April 12. Jaubert was also there.

Jauhiainen described Latifa as a kind, animal-loving vegan who shunned her familys wealth. She and Jauhiainen completed about 2000 skydives together. She described their capture aboard the boat as a terrifying ordeal during which one of the special forces threatened to shoot her brain out. She said Latifa tried to protect her before she was dragged off.

Latifa is probably the kindest person I know, Jauhiainen said. When she asked me to help her escape I didnt hesitate. She is like my family. She is the reason I was in Dubai for the last seven years.

Several attempts to reach Jauhiainen directly for comment, as well as through the Detained in Dubai group, were unsuccessful.

Jauhiainen, Jaubert, and the Filipino crew members were returned to the UAE, according to Detained in Dubai. They were all interrogated and threatened for more than a week and the men were beaten and tortured. They were all released on March 29 and warned that if they spoke publicly, they could be tracked down and kidnapped again.

Herve Jaubert, who has homes in France, Florida, and the Philippines, did not answer messages left on his phone or sent to his email address by The Daily Beast.

The person who answered the phone at the United Arab Emirates Embassy in London said he could not comment on the story and repeatedly transferred calls to a colleague who never picked up.

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The rise of Patreon the website that makes Jordan Peterson $80k a month

In five years, online membership service Patreon has attracted two million patrons supporting 100,000 creators to the tune of $350m including nearly $1m a year for rightwing psychologist Jordan Peterson. So whats the secret of its success?

The internet has transformed creative industries. Words, music, video, images and games can be distributed worldwide, instantly and for free, delivering a cornucopia of delights to your screens and mine. The problem is that, historically, its not been quite so good at ensuring those same creative industries get paid. Ad-supported media did the job quite well, until a couple of years ago, when it suddenly didnt. Streaming services seem to be making a lot of money for someone, but that someone is rarely the creators who exist on those platforms.

All of which goes some way to explaining the surprise (and jealousy?) that accompanied the news that Jordan B Peterson, the alt-rights favourite psychologist and dispenser of such advice as stand up straight, is making just under $1m a year online, thanks to the support of some 9,500 fans on the membership service Patreon.

In fact, Peterson is not even the most successful creator on the site; that honour goes to the leftwing American podcast Chapo Trap House, which pulls in just shy of $100,000 a month from 22,040 patrons.

Those success stories, at opposite ends of the political spectrum, highlight the quiet growth of Patreon from a last-ditch attempt on the part of a YouTube musician to earn a living, to the economic infrastructure underpinning a substantial chunk of the indie net.

The service was started in May 2013 by Jack Conte and his old college roommate Sam Yam. Conte was a fairly successful YouTube musician at the time. His solo YouTube channel had more than 150,000 subscribers, gathering a million views a month on his frequent releases, and as one half of the band Pomplamoose he had collaborated with the likes of Ben Folds and Nick Hornby. But despite that, he was taking home just $50 a month from the site. Were talking about a football-sized field of fans who love someones content, cant wait to see the next blog or make the next recipe, he told National Public Radio at the time. And the artist is making maybe $50 a month off of it. Its outrageous, and actually it doesnt add up at all.

Well funded … psychologist Jordan Peterson has attracted the support of 9,500 fans on Patreon. Photograph: Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Patreon was the answer. Rather than focusing on the millions who watched his videos, or even the hundreds of thousands who liked him enough to hit subscribe on YouTube itself, the goal was to convince just a few hundred of his biggest fans to open their wallets and hand over a small amount of cash, on a recurring basis, to fund his continued creative activities.

In the end, ironically, those fans ended up doing the opposite. By early 2014, when thousands of patrons were giving him more than $7,000 for each new video, it was clear that the site was something that could underpin a new sort of online economy and also something that was so big that running it wasnt compatible with being an indie musician.

And now its bigger still. On the date of its fifth anniversary, the company employs 140 people from its San Francisco offices, hosting 100,000 creators who are supported by two million patrons. Since its foundation, it has paid out more than $350m, and this year alone its on course to pay out well over $300m, according to a spokesperson; twice what it distributed in 2017.

(Keen readers will note the similarity to the membership model employed here at the Guardian, which Patreon executive Colin Sullivan, who heads the sites legal and trust and safety teams, hasnt missed: I think if nothing else, its a great validating feeling, to see other really established outlets switch over to this model, he says.)

Writer Laurie Penny is one of those receiving support from her fans on the site (625 patrons, giving $4,146 a month). She signed up in January 2017 although, she says, It took me about two years from first seriously considering it to giving it a go. I felt weird about openly asking for money in a way that may be cultural, that may be gendered, I dont know. But then I figured my audience has always been online, and the community I write for, it would be much better to be beholden to a wide range of people who like my work, rather than be beholden to the whim of an individual editor, or two or three.

What it has meant for me in the last year and a half is that Ive been able to do research and deep work that I had never considered before. Im wrapping up a book right now, which I certainly wouldnt have had time to do.

Penny is, by the standards of the site, quite an old-school user: her patrons are by and large supporting the work shes doing elsewhere, rather than paying for access to anything in particular. I had big, involved plans for writing for Patreon first, she says, but personal circumstances nixed those plans shortly after her campaign launched. I was honest with my community, and they were like, Were here to support your writing, its because we like what youre doing. Were not paying for a product, were paying to see what you can do with this. Which was, again, astonishing to me.

It felt weird about openly asking for money … writer Laurie Penny. Photograph: Hal Bergman/Getty Images

The tension between supporting and subscribing to creators has been ever present on Patreon, however. Kickstarter, another crowdfunding platform, had to accept that as it grew, not everyone wanted to hand money over to people they liked with few strings attached: some wanted to just buy stuff. Patreon has faced similar tussles, and recently changed how it describes itself from a crowdfunding platform to a membership one.

The thinking around it was that creators in general want to feel like theyre getting paid for putting something of value out into the world, says Sullivan. We noticed with the crowdfunding model sometimes it feels a little more like people were begging for money, and it doesnt feel great as a creator to be begging for money rather than asking to get paid for something of value that theyre putting out.

And so the switch to membership is acknowledging that fact, and that its not just asking for money, its receiving payment for something.

Of course, helping keep the lights on and the rent paid isnt the whole story. If it was, at least some of Petersons supporters may have hesitated before bumping his income by another $1m a year. The shift from a tip jar approach to one more focused on, as Sullivan says, a value exchange helps: Peterson offers direct Q&As for supporters, as well as a supporter-only mailing list. Similarly, even if it isnt a simple trade, an increasing number of people abide by a rough moral code online: if you like it, pay for it (even if you dont have to). Peterson ends some of his videos by asking his fans to support him on Patreon, and sure enough, some of his fans support him on Patreon.

Then there are the aspects that are unique to Petersons audience. Penny notes that the right today are extremely entrepreneurial. Its gig economy extremism If Jordan Peterson is winning, thats one in the eye for the social justice warriors and people like me.

As much as payment is, obviously, crucial, for many creators the site is just as important for allowing super-fans to identify themselves, and stand out from the crowd.Writer and journalist Zoe Margolis, who launched her Patreon earlier this year, describes it as a way of regaining some of the personal connections she used to have when writing her pseudonymous sex blog, Girl With a One Track Mind.

I think the stuff that Ive posted thats secret, that only people contributing can see, is more personal stuff how neurotic I am, how boring life might be. Basically, the daily blog-type stuff: the things people used to follow me for.

I mean obviously I used to write a sex blog but anyone who has read enough of my blog would know it wasnt just sex, it was neuroses and all the rest. Thats why people connected with it: because Im human, I have flaws, and thats what I put out on the page so honestly. Its very honest blogging. And that I wouldnt post out to the world.

That clubbish feeling may still be one of Patreons greatest strengths as its growth attracts competition. Kickstarter recently acquired a Patreon clone, Drip, while other companies are applying concepts of membership more loosely video game streaming site Twitch lets users sell subscriptions to their viewers, offering a similar sense of belonging. But, Sullivan notes, Theres something to be said for being independent. As a creator, you are often using multiple platforms: if you have to limit your activities to just one, its not very natural.

As Patreon grows, it will inevitably face new issues. Already, as the presence of Peterson suggests, its having to come to terms with the fact that creator has the sort of broad definition that can be applied to YouTube shock-jocks, porn game developers and camgirls, just as it can to musicians, artists and writers. We dont have an explicit boundary about what it takes to be a creator, Sullivan says. We dont want to, because then you start making decisions around what is art, what is creativity.

But it has probably already solved the hardest challenge it will ever face: simply getting people on the internet to open their wallets, enter their credit card details, and pay for content. Compared to that, everything else is small fry.

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‘People stared and laughed at me’

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media caption“I have achieved everything I was told I wouldn’t”

A young man who was bullied over his appearance is using his terrible experience to help others avoid it.

Rory McGuire’s birthmark saw him tormented and abused from an early age and despite surviving more than 20 operations, the abuse he has endured has been far more damaging and painful.

The 24-year-old is now fronting a campaign to encourage victims of abuse over facial differences to report these hate crimes to police.

He says any hate crime is unacceptable.

At the age of six, Rory felt he was “different”.

The vascular birthmark which covered his lip earned abuse from an early age.

Despite countless bouts of surgery to correct it, the abuse meant that at one point he hoped that he wouldn’t wake up from the operating table.

Image copyright Rory McGuire
Image caption Some of the abuse Rory McGuire was subjected to as a child

He had accepted that nothing would change.

He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Kaye Adams Programme: “It was at its worst point in my late teens, I said to myself: ‘This is it – this is how life is going to be and I just have to deal with it.’

“It was heartbreaking. I thought I would just have to deal with comments, stares and laughs for the rest of my life.

“My close friends didn’t realise the extent of it. My mum and dad saw it affecting my confidence but there were a lot of things I didn’t tell them.

“Anywhere I went in public I knew I was going to get stares or laughs or comments and I heard people turning to their friends and saying things and it was just constant.”

It was only after countless corrective surgeries and from blogging his experience of relentless abuse that Rory gained enough confidence to stand up and try to prevent anyone else from feeling the same.

Rory, from Ayr, supports the Changing Faces campaign for those with facial disfigurement to report abuse as a hate crime.

Image copyright Rory McGuire
Image caption Rory has had many corrective surgeries but is still subjected to bullying

He said: “I am happy to be the face of a campaign that is all about making a difference and stop other people having the experience I had when I was younger.

“If I can help as many people as I can then that is my goal.

“For me, none of it is acceptable and if someone is being put down to the point they just can’t cope with it any more then they should feel there is help out there.”

Rory tells heartbreaking stories of being frequently laughed at, mocked and stared at as a child and into his teens.

He says people thought it was okay to call him awful names and compare him to film and TV characters.

He recalls being cornered by a group of people who would compete to see who could call him the most offensive names.

He suffered the double whammy of being left out when other children didn’t want him to be a part of something and missing out because he was too shy to try to become involved with other children.

‘Motivated by malice’

Now he is encouraging everyone to stand up to hate crimes.

“It is absolutely unacceptable that people have to go through prejudice for reasons that are outwith their control. I want to promote the fact they can be reported and you can get help for them rather than bottling up these feelings which can be hard to deal with.”

Image copyright Rory McGuire
Image caption Rory after one of his surgeries

A survey by Changing Faces of 800 people with a disfigurement found that a third had been a victim of a hate crime because of how they look, but hardly any of them reported it to police.

The charity’s Rob Murray said: “We found out part of the reason was a lack of faith in the police, and resources. People see it as part of life.”

Insp Claire Miller from Police Scotland said: “Hate crime is any crime which is perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by malice and ill will towards a social group.

“It can be vandalism, anti-social behaviour or physical assault and none of those should be tolerated.

“We take hate crime very seriously. Victims or witnesses of hate crime should report it to us.”

Related Topics

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Trump praises controversial pundit Candace Owens as a ‘very smart thinker’

Owens has found herself in the spotlight after defending neo-Nazis and calling police killings of black men trivial on TMZ with Kanye West

Donald Trump tweeted praise for conservative YouTube star and TV pundit Candace Owens Wednesday morning, calling the controversial commentator part of an ever expanding group of very smart thinkers.

Candace Owens of Turning Point USA is having a big impact on politics in our Country, the president said. It is wonderful to watch and hear the dialogue going on … so good for our Country!

Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

Candace Owens of Turning Point USA is having a big impact on politics in our Country. She represents an ever expanding group of very smart thinkers, and it is wonderful to watch and hear the dialogue going on…so good for our Country!

May 9, 2018

In an increasingly-divisive debate at the intersection of race and politics, Owens has thrust herself into the political spotlight over the past several weeks after rapper Kanye West began speaking publicly about his support for Trump and citing Owens as having informed his opinions. The two seemed to become instant allies in ultra-conservative inflammatory language and style. Owens accompanied West in a now infamous TMZ interview special where the rapper said he thought 400 years of slavery was a choice for black Americans.

The inflammatory Owens used the TMZ appearance to come to the defense of neo-Nazis and call the police killings of black men a trivial issue. She insisted that Trump has neither proposed harmful policies nor made offensive remarks towards African Americans.

This, despite Trumps frequent ill-informed tweets and comments about inner city violence, his reported use of the the phrase shithole counties in speaking about immigrants from black and brown nations and a bizarre 2017 interaction with White House reporter April Ryan where he asked if the Congressional Black Caucus were friends of hers. Trump also inserted himself into the debate over sports stars kneeling during the national anthem as a protest against police violence and wider entrenched racial bias in society, started by football player Colin Kaepernick.

Owens comment also comes amid a slew of proposed budget cuts to entitlement and social spending programs which are disproportionately relied upon by black Americans, and regulatory rollbacks that studies show will affect poor black communities more than others.

On her YouTube channel Red Pill Black, Owens frequently chastises black Americans for what she calls a victim mentality and riffs on the popular black conservative meme of African Americans being controlled by the Democratic party plantation.

Victim mentality is not cool. I dont know why people like being oppressed. Its the weirdest thing I ever heard, Owens says in one episode.

In addition to her video blogging, Owens also serves as the communications director for Turning Point USA, a conservative youth-oriented not-for-profit organization that says it works to educate students about true free market values.

Owens credits West with helping her build the confidence to promote her conservative commentary platform. I tell every single person that everything that I have been inspired to do, was written in your music. I am my own biggest fan, because you made it okay. I need you to help wake up the black community, she tweeted at the rapper after he wrote: I love the way Candace Owens thinks.

In return, West, who has boasted in the past about the fact that he does not read, deferred to Owens as his policy advisor of sorts. Candace can give you the facts better than that, he said after explaining that Trump has done a lot of things to actually help business owners be able to go past all these fake laws and rules.

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Karley Sciortino: the sex blogger and Slutever presenter redefining sexuality

Sciortino a real-life Carrie Bradshaw uses humour, parody and satire to open up conversations about sex

In an early episode of Slutever, the new web series presented by 32-year-old Vogue columnist Karley Sciortino, viewers met sex doll engineer Matt, a goateed dude in cargo shorts who waxed soulful: I dont think the English language has enough words to describe love, enough words to describe affection, enough words to describe attraction. Its this humanity within so-called deviancy that delights and drives Sciortino, a woman whos building a small empire on the reclamation of the word slut. As she writes in her newly published book, also called Slutever (subtitle: Dispatches from a Sexually Autonomous Woman in a Post-Shame World): A slut is someone who has no moral obstacle between themselves and their desire to enjoy sex.

On the afternoon we meet, in the well-upholstered hush of Manhattans Ludlow House (annual membership $3,200), Sciortino, blonde and with a big, gorgeous gummy grin, is serving up the impervious polish of a Whit Stillman heroine pink satin mini-dress, black patent Mary Janes, a boxy cream jacket with gold buttons that may or may not be Chanel. Its a femmey aesthetic that feels undercut with pastiche. As she eyerolls in one opening sequence to her Viceland TV show: Ugh, life is so hard between meeting my blog deadlines and performing my gender I barely have time to get anything done. On set, she and her all-female team (excepting their token male cinematographer) called this pink fantasia of a boudoir the brain room which is not what it looks like, she admits. Its super labial, I offer. Yes, exactly, she laughs. Sex is such a tense subject so I think that humour and parody and satire and being able to make fun of yourself are really disarming when opening up that conversation.

The opening sequence, she says, was an opportunity to play into this parody of the dumb blonde slut, specifically, the one we understand to be the most indomitable in the room, if not exactly the smartest. Its an archetype that immediately summons Carrie Bradshaw and that endlessly parodied voiceover refrain It got me thinking In 2018, Sciortino has made Sex and the Citys central improbability a reality she actually does have a popular sex column, she actually does live in the West Village as a financially successful sex writer. In Breathless, her column for, where she interrogates familiar relationship themes like jealousy and dating apps, shes a virtuoso of the hair-twirling question (Would I fuck a Republican?) turned assertive (When a person votes Republican, theyre effectively voting against my right to be an openly sexual person while protecting my physical and mental well-being. Theyre voting against comprehensive sex education, against free access to contraception, against abortion, against gay rights, against sex work.) Its a winning mode, this slide from dumb to disquisitive.

Whats that saying when you cover your vegetables in sugar? she says, moving from peppermint tea to a Bloody Mary. Its like forcing people to rethink something with a cultural stigma around it, where theres this default negative assumption.

For her new show she and her team sought out topics and people that we can really find joy and levity in. These human stories include the curious intimacy between Mistress Lucy Sweetkill, a professional dominatrix, and Pain Puppy, her lifestyle slave. After witnessing a particularly intense dungeon session between them, Sciortino speaks to camera, visibly moved: I realise its counterintuitive to leave a scene where someones being beaten until they bleed and say it was a sweet moment, but it did feel that way.

Sciortino is one of those glamorous faces photographed regularly on the downtown Manhattan party scene and she tends to be described online as a New York Cool Girl a millennial upgrade on It girl. Sexual anecdotes, after all, are good social currency. Her book brims with braggy, often very funny sexploits, but the most honest passages deal with the uncertainty of what sex is. One chapter, in fact, is titled Wait What Is Sex, Even? another valid question dressed up in a ditzy outfit. When Im out in the world, she writes, everyone perceives me as a straight girl with a low IQ. But then she falls in love with Alice and, with this first proper lesbian relationship, I felt like I was being shown new possibilities for what my life could look like. Those new possibilities included sex, of course. As Sciortino explains, Alice was gender queer and didnt like to be touched and penetrated, which I think is common for a lot of women who fall on the masculine end of the gender spectrum. My idea of sex is constantly expanding.

We are becoming increasingly moralistic around certain aspects of sexuality: Karley Sciortino at home in New York. Photograph: Caroll Taveras for the Observer

Sciortino grew up in a conservative Catholic family in a small upstate New York town. Theres two ways that upbringing can go, she says. One is you follow the model of repression and have a lot of shame around your sexuality. Or you use that shame as a tool to just be sort of a maniac. In case this isnt obvious, she went for option two. At the age of 21 she was living in London in a squat, doing a lot of drugs and having a lot of sex. Back then sex was, a tool of provocation for me, truly just a form of transgressive rebellion. She started a blog, Slutever, and quickly amassed a following. Her mothers major fear was that her daughter would come to regret having written about the orgies of her 20s but Sciortino rejects the idea that promiscuity is something you grow out of, or that its an obligational regret.

When I would write about sex it would be in this word-vomity way, but I wasnt woke, she says. And, true story, someone in an early interview I did about my blog asked me if I considered myself a feminist, and I didnt really know that much about feminism. People were like, Oh your writing is feminist! and I was like, I should probably read the feminism Wikipedia page.

Shes since embraced a feminism beyond the rudiments of a Wiki entry in her book she namechecks Nora Ephron, quotes from contemporary academic Feona Attwood and engages with Camille Paglias writing on sex work. Nonetheless, Sciortinos attitudes dont necessarily align with prevailing orthodoxies. For example: I do think that identity politics and the endless desire to be offended by everything prevent us from having important conversations a lot of the time. And: I dont think sexual fragility is useful. I think it gets very muddy when we assume men are predatory and that women are victims. Men need to be educated on the nuances of consent, but this cant just be labelled a male problem. We also have to think about female sexual responsibility and the ways in which women can and should protect themselves.

Among the sorry cavalcade of powerful men accused of sexual harassment post-Weinstein were several high-ranking Vice executives. Sciortino, whos been employed by Vice for almost a decade, is sanguine. I think its important to remember that Vice employs tens of thousands of people across the world. Im not saying its justified, but Im saying that no matter what the company is, people are people and there is going to be misconduct in interpersonal relationships in a company that large. Vice finds itself, then, broadcasting a sex show as it deals with the highly unsexy fallout of a worldwide reckoning. This, of course, is not Sciortinos fault: why cant her show just be what it is a funny, sexy pleasure where the progressive politics are incidental?

As Sciortino sees it: Were in this time where we can talk about sex more than ever and the double standard is starting to fade, and yet we are becoming increasingly moralistic around certain aspects of sexuality. She cites regressive conversations about consent on campuses as an example: Women are asking for more protection and identifying more as damsels in distress who cant take sexual responsibility for themselves.

The most regressive forces of all, however, are surely those emanating from the White House. When a man accused of multiple counts of sexual harassment became the 45th President of the United States, Sciortino, like everyone else, did some re-evaluation. I think its made me feel: OK, focus more on the thing youre good at and do that. In this era of the Womens March its affirmed for me that talking about female sexual autonomy is important. Not everyones time is best spent marching. Simply, emphatically, she adds: Do what you do.

Slutever premieres Wednesday 2nd May, 10pm on VICE (Sky Channel 183, Talk Talk Channel 338)

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Unlike Hillary Clinton, I have never wanted to be someones wife

After writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie grilled the former US presidential candidate about why the first word on her Twitter bio is wife, Clinton said she would think about changing it. Why do women still let their domestic roles define them?

Hillary Clinton: Wife, mom, grandma, women+kids advocate, Flotus, senator, SecState, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, 2016 presidential candidate. To be clear, this is not how Wide Awoke would describe Clinton. Its her own Twitter biography and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writer, Nigerian, feminist, woman screw it, lets just go with writer, like Martin Amis does is not happy that the first woman in history to have had a shot at the US top job is leading with wife.

I have to confess that I felt just a little bit upset, Adichie admitted during an interview with Clinton at the PEN World Voices festival. And then I looked at your husbands Twitter account, and the first word was not husband. Of course, it wasnt. His bio is: Founder, Clinton Foundation and 42nd president of the United States. Because thats who he is and how he is valued. We live in a world where presidents are men and their wives are first ladies: a job so inherently sexist it demands the women sorry, ladies who acquire it to abandon professions and opinions of their own in order to further their husbands careers.

There is nothing wrong with being a wife or mother. Some of the greatest joys of being alive come from your relationships, with partners and children as opposed to, you know, acing it at an appraisal. But I have never wanted to be anyones wife. I am civilly partnered to a woman, and the mother of two children. Neither my partner nor I would dream of calling each other wife any more than we would call each other husband (to be fair, I cant stand that word). These roles define my life but they dont define me. I dont mind belonging to other people (as long as they belong to me too), but I dont want it to constitute my identity or worth.

Describing women as wives and mothers is often used as lazy, misogynistic shorthand to diminish their other achievements. Who can forget when the Associated Press referred to Amal Clooney as an actors wife instead of a world-class human rights lawyer? Consider how often the prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, is called upon to provide a running commentary on her uterus. And notice, always, the double standard: while society insists on reducing women to their domestic roles, how little are we genuinely valued in the daily performing of them?

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MSNBC’s Joy Reid sorry for ‘hateful’ blogs she does not believe she wrote

Regarding blogposts from when she was covering Florida politics, TV host says hired experts have not proved she was hacked

The MSNBC host Joy Reid, under fire for allegedly using homophobic language in old blogposts, apologized on Saturday for any comments that belittled or mocked the LGBT community and said she had not been able to verify her claim her account was hacked.

Reid opened her weekend show AM Joy by acknowledging she had said dumb and hurtful things. The person I am now is not the person I was then, she said.

But she was unable to explain blogposts from a decade ago that mocked gay people and individuals who were allegedly gay. Reid has denied posting the remarks but said she had hired security experts found no proof she had been hacked.

I genuinely do not believe I wrote those hateful things because they are completely alien to me, she said. But I can definitely understand, based on things I have tweeted and have written in the past, why some people dont believe me.

I have not been exempt for being dumb or cruel or hurtful to the very people I want to advocate for. I own that. I get it. And for that I am truly, truly sorry.

The posts that came to light in December were written for The Reid Report, Reids blog when she was covering Florida politics a decade ago. In posts, she refers to the then Florida governor Charlie Crist as Miss Charlie and suggests he was ogling the male waiters on his honeymoon after marrying his wife, whom he has since divorced.

Reid questioned whether the Crist marriage was a sham by a gay man who thought it would help him politically.

Reid apologized, saying her remarks were insensitive, tone deaf and dumb. On Saturday, she apologized also to the conservative commentator Ann Coulter for using transgender stereotypes to describe her.

This week, Mediaite revealed a set of other supposed blogposts. In one, Reid supposedly notes that most straight people cringe at the sight of two men kissing and writes that she could not see the movie Brokeback Mountain because she did not want to watch two male characters having sex.

Another supposed post says that a lot of heterosexuals find the idea of homosexual sex to be gross and that there are concerns that gay men tend to be attracted to young, post-pubescent types and want to bring them into the lifestyle.

Reid has said the posts were fabricated and run counter to my personal beliefs and ideology. She reiterated that on Saturday but acknowledged she has made hateful comments and has hopefully grown as a person.

I look back today at some of the ways Ive talked casually about people and gender identity and sexual orientation, and I wonder who that even was, she said. But the reality, like a lot of people in this country, that person was me.

After reading her five-minute statement, Reid then led a panel discussion on gender stereotypes and issues facing the LGBT community.

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Ethiopia is now Africa’s fastest growing economy

(CNN)Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populated country, is forecast to be the fastest growing economy in Sub-Saharan Africa this year, according to new data from the IMF.

To boost the economy, the country is pursuing a number of large-scale infrastructure projects, including the Grand Renaissance Dam and a railway network.
“(Ethiopia) has had a very high growth rate and I think that’s a result in large part of a very concentrated effort by the government to boost industrial production and manufacturing,” said Vijaya Ramachandran, an economist at the American think tank Center for Global Development (CGD).
    Ramachandran, along with three academics, released a report suggesting Ethiopia can follow in China’s footsteps, and become a destination for low-wage manufacturing jobs.
    However, despite sustained economic growth, in the past few years Ethiopia has experienced increasing unrest from Oromo groups in the Oromiya region. According to human rights groups, the government has suppressed basic rights and freedoms.
    New Prime Minister Abiye Ahmed was sworn at the beginning of April, signaling an intent to ease tensions.

    Economic growth

    Ivory Coast is expected to be the second fastest growing economy in the region at 7.4%. Rwanda’s estimated economic growth is 7.2%, and the West African country Senegal is projected to have 7% growth.
    The data reveals that Ghana, which was previously forecast as the fastest growing economy in Sub-Saharan Africa in October 2017, at 8.9%, slowed in its predicted growth to 6.4%. Last year, a reported surge in oil and gas production helped propel the country’s economy.
    Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, is predicted to grow by 2.1%, an increase from 1.9% forecast in October 2017.
    “They’ve updated it to 2.1%. However, they have emphasized the risks. The falling commodity prices and imbalances that are to arise because of the elections,” Bismarck Rewane, a Nigerian economist, told CNN.
    South Africa’s predicted growth stands at 1.5%.
    Long term, according to a report from the World Bank in 2016, the proportion of the African population in extreme poverty has declined, but the overall number has increased as the continent’s population expands.
    Growth across the whole region is forecast to average 3.4%, below the total world growth figure of 3.9%.

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    Claims by Joy Reids Cybersecurity Expert Fall Apart

    MSNBC host Joy Reid claims that recently unearthed homophobic articles attributed to her are fakes. And she says a cybersecurity consultant has proof that her old blog has been hacked.

    But that consultant, Jonathan Nichols, had trouble producing the promised evidence. And what he did produce failed to withstand scrutiny, according to a Daily Beast analysis. Blog posts that Nichols claimed do not appear on the Internet Archive are, in fact, there. The indicators of hacked posts dont bear out.

    Last year, the AM Joy host apologized for a 2007 blog post in which she had mocked Floridas then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist by referring to him as Miss Charlie and suggested that while on honeymoon with his wife, he secretly wanted to sleep with men.

    Reid apologized on-air, suggesting she had evolved over a decade from those insensitive, tone-deaf and dumb remarks.

    But Monday, media-news site Mediaite publishedusing screenshots taken from The Wayback Machines cached versions of Reids blogmore homophobic blog posts from the late aughts. In them, Reid appeared to crassly mock gay celebrities like Anderson Cooper and Clay Aiken, defend homophobia as intrinsic to straight people, declare that she wouldnt see Brokeback Mountain because of the gay sex scenes, and imply that gay advocacy groups prey upon impressionable teens. On Thursday, the Washington Free Beacon followed up by revealing another set of homophobic posts not previously reported by Mediaite.

    Reida Daily Beast columnistdid not apologize this time around. Instead, she released a statement saying that In December I learned that an unknown, external party accessed and manipulated material from my now-defunct blog to include offensive and hateful references that are fabricated and run counter to my personal beliefs and ideology.

    On Wednesday evening, Reids attorney announced that the FBI had opened an investigation into potential criminal activities surrounding several online accounts, including personal email and blog accounts, belonging to Joy-Ann Reid.

    Reid said she hired Nichols, the cyber-security consultant, to investigate the alleged hacking of her compromised old blog. In a letter distributed by MSNBC, Nichols claimed he found significant evidence that a hacker breached Reids blog and planted the offensive posts. Some of the posts in question were made while Ms. Reid was on the radio hosting her show, Nichols wrote. Text and visual styling was inconsistent with her original entries. Additionally, he claimed that at least some of the screenshots distributed by the @Jamie_Maz Twitter account, where the posts were first surfaced this week, had been faked and never appeared on the blog at allsuggesting a two-pronged attack on Reids reputation.

    We have both evidence of fraudulent posts and evidence of screenshot manipulation, Nichols told The Daily Beast on Wednesday.

    Except, that wasnt quite so.

    To support the screenshot forgery allegation, Nichols pointed to six images in the @Jamie_Maz Twitter timeline that he said were definitely not written by Reid nor posted by a hacker, but instead were outright fabricated images of posts that never appeared on the site. "The most obvious one was an instance whereits an easy one, it'll stick in your head [@Jamie_Maz] says Joy made statements about Eddie Murphy. It's obviously false, she never made that claim."

    Nichols said those six posts are nowhere to be found in the Internet Archive. But that is not true.

    Further searching on the Internet Archive turned up the posts for all six of the screenshots Nichols described as fakes, including the one about Eddie Murphy. The Internet Archives records indicate they were retrieved and stored between 2006 and 2009. And all six are exactly as they appear in the screenshots. A random check of other screenshots attributed to the blog produced the same result: none of the images are faked or doctored.

    A closer look at the archived blog by The Daily Beast revealed an error in Nichols methodology. Nichols examined the content tags visible in the screenshots and compared them to an archived list of all the labels that were actually used on the blog. He found that the tags Gallup, gay and lesbian and Dan Abrams in three of the six screenshots did not appear in the catalog of labels.

    Based on that evidence, Nichols had concluded that the screenshots could not be genuine. But in fact the tags in question were not labels, but rather tags linking to, a long-defunct blog-tracking site completely external to Reids blog publishing host site. Reid made an apples-to-oranges comparison and concluded that because the apples were not oranges, they must be fake.

    Presented with that information on Thursday, Nichols acknowledged his error. Yeah I've become aware of some methodology issues, he wrote in an online chat. We are looking to resolve the discrepancy.

    If, as it appears, the approximately 50 newly surfaced posts indeed appeared on Reids blog, that leaves Reids claim that they were posted by an imposter. To that point, Nichols said passwords used by Reid had been found in the wild on the dark web, where a hacker with a grudge against the MSNBC host might have found them.

    A search on the breach-notification site Have I Been Pwned confirmed this: Reids email address, like millions of others, has turned up in batches of hacked and phished accounts over the yearseight batches in all, some of which contain user passwords. While six of the leaks postdate the disputed blog posts, the remaining two are of uncertain origin and timing. If Reid used the same password on Blogger and one of the websites that suffered a password leak, its conceivable that someone found it and used it to log into her blog back in 2005.

    But Nichols could not provide any evidence suggesting this had occurred.

    As described by Nichols, the conclusion that a hacker was posting on Reids blog rests primarily on two types of forensic clues within the disputed posts. First, he said, some of the allegedly planted posts contain punctuation choices and markup sharply different from Reids other posts. The Daily Beast compared scores of disputed and undisputed posts and could not discern any such anomalies. Pressed for specificswhich posts, which artifactsNichols said Wednesday that he did not have ready access to that information, but would provide it. Reached again on Thursday, he said he did not have any details to offer. I thought I did, he said We're kind of reevaluating as of yesterday."

    The second giveaway, Nichols said, was in the date and time stamps of some of the posts. They indicated that the entries were posted in the middle of Reids live radio show. No one writes long soliloquies while they're on the radio, he said . It just doesn't happen." Reids lawyer made the same claim in a letter written last December that was made public this week. It would have been physically impossible for Ms. Reid to have made many of the posts. Some have dates and times when Ms. Reid was doing her radio show and could not have been blogging.

    The Daily Beast asked Nichols to provide those posts on Wednesday, and the cyber-security consultant replied: I dont have that on hand. On Thursday Nichols passed on what he now says is the only example he has available. Dated Thursday, August 30, 2007, the post titled Is you is, or is you ain't gonna impeach? reads in its entirety: John Conyers talks a good game in front of a hometown crowd, but is he serious about keeping impeachment on the table?

    The timestamp indicates the entry was posted at 7:14 a.m. Eastern time. The Daily Beast confirmed that the radio show Reid co-hosted in 2006 and 2007, Wake Up South Florida, aired weekdays from 6:00 to 10:00 a.m. No archive of the shows broadcasts from that era could be found online.

    The contested post was followed by a longer blog post titled that went up at 8:10 a.m., also during the shows normal airing time. That posttitled The next war?contains 330 words of original writing discussing the prospect of war with Iran. Neither Reid, Nichols nor Reids attorney have so far contested its authenticity.

    The presence of the second post seems to admit only two possibilities: the blog was hacked by someone with a well-considered view on US conflict with Iran, or Reid, whether on the air or not, was able to blog that morning.

    Reid declined to comment for this story.

    The only other specific evidence offered by Reids team came from attorney John Reichmann. In letters sent to Google and the Internet Archive last December, which MSNBC distributed to journalists this week, Reichmann claimed that the timestamps on many of the posts on Reids blog are too close together to be the work of a single blogger. The letters provide as the only example Reids 2006 live blogging of Samuel Alitos Supreme Court confirmation hearing, noting that Reid pushed short updates to the post at 10:18 a.m., 11:34 a.m. and 11:41 a.m.

    The Blog, however, also shows a lengthy, fraudulent entry, 'Things people say when they're on the Fox News Channel,' supposedly posted right in the midst of this, at 11:28 a.m., wrote Reichmann. Ms. Reid did not have the superhuman blogging skills needed to do all of these posts simultaneously."

    But the lengthy, fraudulent entry about Fox News Reichmann is referring to consisted of just two lines of original text, plus a copy-pasted quote. A check of CSPANs archive also shows that the post was made shortly after a fifteen-minute break in the hearing.

    If there was a hack, it would have taken place years ago. The Internet Archives records show the disputed posts were mirrored by the Wayback Machine no later than 2009, and many of them were archived much earlier, some within hours of appearing on Reids blog. Reichmann, Reids attorney, explored the possibility last year that the posts were crafted more recently, and that someone inserted them into the Internet Archive with false dates. Reichmann contacted the non-profit in December to "demand that you provide us with the information needed to determine how the fraudulent posts came to be included in the archived posts.

    But at least one of the entries was contemporaneously referenced on a completely different website. A February 6, 2007 post containing the line most straight guys (and women) do react with winces at the sight of two men kissing on the lips drew a comment on the Democratic Underground forum the same day: Oh, Reidblog… why, why why

    Today Nichols says Reid and her team no longer believe the archive was hacked, and the Internet Archive has denied any such manipulation could have occurred. We found nothing to indicate tampering or hacking of the Wayback Machine versions, an archiver for the site said in a statement.

    That means the supposed hacker was posting alongside Reid for years. According to Reichmann, that even included inserting updates in Reids live blog of the Alito hearing in January 2006. Reichmann claimed that the hacker was responsible for two consecutive updates sandwiched between Reids legitimate ones. The updates report that Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch was using his questioning time to metaphorically fellate the judge. Oh, look, Orrin Hatch is putting on his Supreme Court knee pads to save Alito, one line read. The posts title, which Reichmann says the hacker changed, was Brokeback Committee Room, another reference to the film about gay lovers. All the contested material in the post is present in the earliest archived copy, which was captured the day after the hearing.

    All of this alleged hacking apparently went unnoticed at the time by Reid.

    Thats an extraordinary claim, and so far the bits and pieces of evidence offered for it have not stood up to scrutiny when theyve been specific enough to test. If she wasnt hacked, it doesn't necessarily follow that Reid is lying. Her decision to hire a security consultant to investigate the posts, and a lawyer to demand the access logs for her blog account, suggests she genuinely believes at least some of the posts were planted. After twelve years and tens of thousands of written words, Reid simply may not remember.

    Its possible that in the end Reid will discover her adversary isnt a determined hacker, but a far more dogged foe: The Joy-Ann Reid of years past, writing in a voice she can no longer recognize as her own.

    with additional reporting by Andrew Kirell and Maxwell Tani.

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