Arif Gets Streisanded

The Daily Beast picks up my story about Turkish court-ordered takedown requests by Trump’s Bayrock business partner Tevfik Arif re: his 2010 arrest in prostitution sting

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Via “Trump’s Business Partner Tries to Erase his Prostitution Bust From Web” by Lachlan Markay, The Daily Beast, July 21, 2007:

A former Russian government official – and business partner of Donald Trump’s – is gaining new notoriety, as the federal investigation into alleged election meddling widens.

Meanwhile, this Kazakh-born real estate mogul, Tevfik Arif, is doing his best to clean up his past, trying to purge the web of references to his arrest in an underage prostitution bust. He was later acquitted in the matter.

Arif, a former Soviet trade minister whose company once prospected for the Trump Organization in Russia and Eastern Europe, has demanded the removal of allegedly defamatory information about that arrest from websites that have investigated or recapped controversies involving some of President Donald Trump’s past business associates.

Some of those associates are now of keen interest to Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller and his team of investigators probing Russian influence in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign’s knowledge of it. According to a Thursday report from Bloomberg, Mueller is examining the finances of a Trump project involving the investment firm Arif founded.

[…]

Since May, [Arif] has sent four takedown requests to Google and one to Automattic, the owner of popular web publishing platform WordPress, demanding that they remove content from websites hosted by their respective companies that Arif claims is defamatory. Each complaint contained documents from Turkish court orders requiring the removal of similar web content. The takedown requests were first reported by the blog Shooting the Messenger.

A January 2016 post on one of the WordPress-hosted websites at issue claims that Arif was “charged with smuggling underage girls into the country for prostitution” and “accused of being the organizer of an international ring involving young girls.” It does not note that the charges were dropped.

Automattic partially complied with the request and blocked access to the website in Turkey, the company told The Daily Beast. Paul Sieminski, Automattic’s general counsel, said it risked the country’s government blocking access to all Wordpress-hosted sites if it failed to comply.

“This is not a decision we take lightly, but in our experience, failing to comply with a court order of this kind results in the blocking of all of WordPress.com, in Turkey—which removes the site in question, plus the millions of other sites that we host,” Sieminski wrote in an emailed statement.

Google did not respond to requests for comment on the takedown notices, though the websites listed in Arif’s complaint are still accessible from a US IP address. Efforts to reach Arif were unsuccessful, and Bayrock did not respond to questions.

Read my original posts by clicking here and here.

The Trump Network: Caveat Emptor

A quick look at Trump’s failed new-age pyramid scheme

“At no time in recent history has our economy been in the state that is today. It’s a mess. The economic meltdown, greed, and ineptitude of the financial industry have sabotaged the dreams of millions of people. Americans need a new plan. They need a new dream” – Donald Trump, POTUS

No, that’s not Trump’s election pitch to the American people, but the pitch he gave to participants of The Trump Network, a new-age pyramid scheme that offered “millions of people new hope with an exciting plan to opt-out of the recession” and “develop your own financial independence.”

The Trump Network was born in 2009 when Trump licensed his name to Ideal Health, a multi-level marketing business founded in 1997 by Lou DeCaprio and brothers Scott and Todd Stanwood. Ideal Health invited independent salespeople to do their own marketing to sell a customised vitamin supplement package, which was determined by conducting urine hormone tests using the company’s signature product, the PrivaTest.

In a 2008 review article for Alternative Medicine Review, the test’s inventor, J. Alexander Bralley, claimed that urinary biomarkers “provide insight into diseases possibly caused or complicated by toxin accumulation and detoxification responses.”

But experts questioned the test’s medical value.

“Urine tests do not provide a legitimate basis for recommending that people take dietary supplements,” wrote Quackwatch founder and retired psychiatrist Stephen Barrett in 2003. Barrett later speculated that Ideal Health had acted illegally by falsely claiming that the PrivaTest could “improve” and “support” physical and mental health.

That didn’t stop Trump hawking branded PrivaTests on the now-defunct Trump Network website, where they sold for a whopping $139.95 per box.

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Speaking to STAT in 2016, executive president of The Trump Organization Alan Garten said that Trump “was endorsing the idea behind the business” but that his role “did not amount to an endorsement of the products” themselves.

However, in a “personal letter” published on the Trump Network site, Trump appeared to give his stamp of approval.

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To promote the company’s “cutting-edge,” “revolutionary” products and multi-level marketing concept, Trump even had planned an all-out publicity tour that was set to be “the biggest media campaign in the history of network marketing,” and “the legacy he leaves with all Americans.”

Trump would be seen “on the likes of Oprah, the Tonight Show, Larry King, the Today show, numerous press releases, online news broadcasts, major business magazines, and every daily newspaper in America – as well as newspaper business sections.”

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In reality, the job of promoting the company was largely left to independent marketers via “personal self-replicating” sites and other, more innovative methods.

Results varied.

In one misplaced attempt at viral marketing, a Trump Network recruit issued a press release as a Google Books review under items specifically relating to Trump.

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Curiously, the author of the release gave only modest ratings of Trump’s own books. One book, Trump: Think Like a Billionaire, received a meagre two stars.

And the fun doesn’t stop there.

In August 2009, Wikipedia deleted a page that was created for The Trump Network after it fell foul of the site’s abuse guidelines. The page, authored by a user named “Trumpwellness” and signed-off by “Donald J. Trump,” was deleted by admins because it contained “obvious advertising or promotional material.”

Rejected Trump Network Wikipedia entry (source)

Another innovative way marketers sought to enlist new recruits was by speaking to them directly using online forums. Going by some of the responses, this approach might have worked. But as the company fell into decline, pending lawsuits and accompanying PR disasters, it too failed to take.

In 2011, Trump’s licencing deal with Ideal Health expired and was not renewed. The assets were then sold to a “health and wellness” company named Bioceutica, which still sells the now-rebranded Trump Network vitamin packages and urine tests.

Last year it was revealed that between 1999-2004, the Federal Trade Commission received 56 complaints against Ideal Health. Marketing recruits complained that the company “made money off of marketers by misrepresenting what their marketing system can do” and placing “pressure on marketers to purchase all the companies tools in order to succeed.”

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A Complicated Deal

What were the details of Trump’s “complicated” real estate deal with South African fraudster Leslie Greyling?

In November 1993, Trump paid $1.6 million for 1094 S. Ocean Blvd, a 7,863 square-foot, marble-floored house adjacent his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

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Trump purchased the house for less than half the original asking price (it was listed for sale at $3.5 million) from Leslie Greyling, a real estate investor who in 1995 was convicted and later deported to his native South Africa for his involvement in a mafia-linked “pump and dump” scheme.

Leslie Greyling (source)

The details of Trump’s deal with Greyling leave some unresolved questions. For instance, why did Greyling, who built his reputation defrauding investors of his casino and gaming company, sell the house at a significantly reduced price?

It’s “complicated” – that’s according to Jeffrey A. Paine, a now-disbarred West Palm Beach attorney who represented 1094’s former owners, and who in 2001 pled guilty to conspiring to commit mail fraud.

“I don’t know whether he intends to make up some money in another deal or what,” Paine told the Miami Herald in 1993. “All I can say is that we sold our shares (to Greyling) for substantially more than $1.6 million.”

Greyling’s signed warranty deed form (source)

According to Trump’s local realtor at the time, Robert Weiner, who committed suicide in 2012 after Florida state regulators launched a probe into the disappearance of $250,000 from Weiner’s real estate Escrow accounts, Trump was “involved with a ‘South African company’ in some deals,” but didn’t elaborate about what they were.

It’s unclear if Trump had any other deals with Greyling, but public records show Trump still owns 1094. The house is currently valued at around $8,000,000.

The Felix Sater Files

Read the deleted websites of Trump’s racketeering Russian-American former business partner and senior advisor

Yesterday I blogged about Felix Sater, a Russian-American real estate mogul and convicted fraudster who was at one time a senior advisor to Trump.

Trump with Felix Sater (source)

Sater found fame during the 2016 election when Trump’s Russia connections became a focus for journalists. It was around this time that Sater, whose busy online presence rivalled Trump himself, deleted all of his sites and some of his social media accounts.

But as they say, nothing is ever truly deleted from the Internet.

Via the Wayback Machine, which archives the web, here’s a sample of Sater’s deleted sites and social media accounts, including:

• This site dedicated to Sater’s involvement in the development of one of his “most prized projects,” the Trump SoHo hotel in Lower Manhattan – recently the subject of a criminal investigation and a lawsuit.

www.felixsater.net

• This site consisting entirely of lengthy statements by Sater’s lawyer, Michael Beys, Esq., in response to news stories about Sater’s 1998 conviction for his involvement in a $40 million “pump and dump” scheme.

www.lawsuitinfo.net

• This site dedicated to Sater’s professed philanthropic endeavours.

felixsater.org

• Plus a whole bunch of social media accounts.

Twitter/myspace/Pinterest

If that didn’t sate your appetite, here’s an exhaustive list of Sater’s sites and social media accounts:

Websites and blogs

felixsater.com
www.felixsater.net

www.lawsuitinfo.net
felixsater.org
felixsater.info
www.felixsaterweb.com
felixsateronline.brandyourself.com
felixsaterweb.wordpress.com
• felixsater.weebly.com

Social media accounts

• Facebook
Twitter
• myspace
LinkedIn
• Reddit
Tumblr
Pinterest
Google Plus

Hub Pages
Behance
Gravatar
• Git Hub
Quora
Manta
• 500px
Roojoom
AngelList
• StockTwits


See also: Sater the Sockpuppeteer: Did Sater delete info about his criminal history from Trump’s Wikipedia page using a sockpuppet account?

Sater the Sockpuppeteer

Did former Trump advisor/Russian-American real estate mogul Felix Sater delete info about his criminal history from Trump’s Wikipedia page using a sockpuppet account?

When Trump’s Russia connections became a focus for journalists during the 2016 election, Felix Sater, a convicted racketeer and former government informant, was a key figure.

Felix Sater with Trump (source)

The Russian-born real estate mogul collaborated with Trump on a number of high-profile projects, and until recently was one of Trump’s senior advisors.

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In January this year, Sater even met with Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, to discuss a plan to lift sanctions against Russia.

Trump has denied having a close relationship with Sater. In 2013, he testified in a video deposition for a civil lawsuit that “if [Sater] were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn’t know what he looked like.”

Apparently, the feeling is mutual.

In 2016, it appears Sater was banned from Wikipedia for deleting unflattering facts about himself from Trump’s Wikipedia entry using a sockpuppet account.

Here’s the rundown.

In late 2015, a Wikipedia user named “591J” deleted from Wikipedia information about “Sater’s mafia and Russian criminal ties, as well as a 1998 racketeering conviction.”

August 25, 2015 edit of Trump’s Wikipedia entry by user 591J (source)

When that information was later restored by a different user, 591J deleted Sater’s name and substituted it for “ex-convict.”

December 6, 2015 edit of Trump’s Wikipedia entry by user 591J (source)

In February 2016, 591J created Sater’s current Wikipedia entry, which was originally flagged by admins because they suspected 591J of having “a close connection” with Sater.

April 2016 draft of Felix Sater Wikipedia entry (source)

In April 2016, 591J was “blocked indefinitely” after an investigation by admins determined 591J had “abusively used” multiple accounts to promote Sater and delete information about which 591J had an undisclosed conflict of interest.

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After conducting a mini investigation of my own I found this promotional photo of Sater that 591J had uploaded to Wikipedia:

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Under the now-deleted photo I found the following copyright information:

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Note that:

1. The source information says that the photo of Sater is their “Own work”;
2. The author of the photo is “591J.”

The Higher Education Police

UK’s Northumbria police department accuses me of abusing its complaints system for enquiring about student’s allegation of officer overreach

Last week I asked the department to comment on a threatening e-mail allegedly sent by one of its officers, PC Mohammed Khan, to Newcastle University student Jonaya English.

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According to screenshots published by English, Khan told English that he would ask the university to withdraw its offer of acceptance if she did not respond to his e-mails.

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The department at first denied my attempts to verify the authenticity of the e-mails. I then received a letter from Force Assessor Jon Keenan, who said he’d assessed my enquiries and considered them “to be an abuse of the complaints system, in that you have not been directly affected by the incident and have no right as a complainant.”

Why did Keenan accuse me of abusing his department’s complaints system when:

1. I did not file a complaint;
2. I merely asked a question via the section of the department’s website that invites members of the public to leave leave feedback and make enquiries?

I’ve asked the department for an explanation.

Arif Trumps WordPress

WordPress blocks critical blog about Trump’s inner circle after Turkish court order from Trump’s Bayrock business partner Tevfik Arif

Earlier this week I blogged about Bayrock Group CEO Tevfik Arif’s attempts to get news reports about his 2010 arrest for human trafficking removed from the Internet.

Arif, a former Soviet commerce official, is best known for his business partnership with Donald Trump: the two were partners on the troubled Trump SoHo hotel in Manhattan, recently the subject of a criminal investigation and a lawsuit; and the doomed Trump International Hotel & Tower in Fort Lauderdale, which was sold in 2012 after the developer defaulted on a $139 million construction loan.

Tevfik Arif (centre) with Trump and former Bayrock director Felix Sater at the launch of Trump SoHo (source)

According to the Lumen Database, which collects takedown requests of online content, Arif sent multiple Turkish court orders to Google and Automattic (WordPress’ parent company) demanding the removal of sites and blogs that reported about his arrest aboard Turkey’s presidential yacht, where he was attending a private party.

During a raid of the $57 million yacht, Turkish police reportedly found “nine young girls” from Russia and the Ukraine, “a huge amount of contraceptives and a file with escort girls’ pictures and hotel receipts.”

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Arif was charged and later acquitted of human trafficking, although four lesser-known businessmen were convicted.

While Google doesn’t appear to have honoured Arif’s demand, Automattic told Lumen it has taken “partial” action against a critical WordPress blog that reported about Trump’s dubious friendships and business relationships, including his partnership with Arif.

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When I asked Automattic to confirm and clarify what action it had taken against the offending blog, I received the following reply from Community Guardian Francis:

Hey Dean,

Thanks for reaching out. The site has been blocked in Turkey as a result of a decision of the Turkish Access Providers’ Union. We were forced to take that step in order to avoid WordPress.com (as a whole) from being blocked in the region.

Best,

Francis
Community Guardian
WordPress.com | Automattic

 

As I reported in October last year, WordPress recently updated its takedown policy to comply with Turkish censorship demands.

Bad Day at Bayrock

Trump’s Bayrock Group business partner Tevfik Arif demands takedown of news reports that he was arrested and charged with human trafficking

According to the Lumen Database, which collects and analyses takedown requests of online content, Arif recently sent Turkish court orders to Google and Automattic (WordPress’ parent company) demanding the removal of a number of sites and blogs – including The Huffington Post and The Guardian – that reported about his 2010 arrest aboard the MV Savarona, the presidential yacht of the Republic of Turkey.

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Arif was charged with human trafficking after Turkish police raided the $57 million yacht where he was attending a private party. According to news reports, they found “nine young girls” from Russia and the Ukraine, “a huge amount of contraceptives and a file with escort girls’ pictures and hotel receipts.”

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The charges against Arif were later dropped and court files sealed, although four lesser-known businessmen were convicted.

Arif, a former Soviet commerce official, is best known for his business partnership with Donald Trump. The two were partners on the troubled Trump SoHo hotel in Manhattan, recently the subject of a criminal investigation and a lawsuit; and the doomed Trump International Hotel & Tower in Fort Lauderdale, which was sold in 2012 after the developer defaulted on a $139 million construction loan.

The Art of the Steal

Did Trump plagiarise content from CNN and other major news networks on defunct Trump University blog?

Since taking office in January, the Trump administration has repeatedly accused the news media, particularly U.S. network CNN, of reporting so-called “fake news.”

However, it appears that from 2006-2010 Trump plagiarised content from around a dozen major news publishers, including CNN, USA Today, and the New York Times on his now-defunct Trump University blog (later re-named the Trump Initiative), a weekly column in which the former real estate mogul gave advice and opinions to budding entrepreneurs.

Here are a few of the most conspicuous examples (a full list is available by clicking here).


1a. From “Honestly, All of Us Are Liars” by Jocelyn Voo, CNN, January 21, 2008:

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
Expert: Two kinds of lies – to help yourself, to protect others’ feelings
• People often tell little lies every day
Expert: Most white lies are told to strangers
Serious lies most often told to protect relationship

Admit it: At some point, you’ve lied. Maybe it was the time you told your aunt that her hand-knit holiday sweater was “exactly what you wanted.” Or when you explained to human resources that you’d missed the big company meeting because your grandmother died … again.

Take heart, though; you’re not Machiavellian. You’re just normal.

[…]

Most white lies (for instance, a person trying to present himself as more knowledgeable) are told to strangers.

Serious lies, she found, overwhelmingly are told to or by people close to the teller (such as a parent lying to her child about how sick a grandparent is), most often to protect that relationship.

[…]

Lying is not exactly extraordinary. In 2004, DePaulo asked college students at the University of Santa Barbara and members of the surrounding community to record every lie they told in one week. The results, published in “The Social Psychology of Good and Evil,” showed that college students lied at least once to 38 percent of the people they interacted with. Community members lied to 30 percent.

[…]

“In the abstract, it’s very easy to say, ‘Oh, we value honesty, and you should never lie,’” says DePaulo. But “sometimes in our real lives, our valuing of honesty clashes with something else we also value, like wanting to be gracious or kind or compassionate.”

In these ways, it’s unrealistic to be a completely Honest Abe.

1b. From “Honestly, All of Us Are Liars” by Donald Trump, Trump University, February 18, 2008:

Admit it. At some point it your life, you’ve lied. Maybe you tell white lies on a daily basis. Maybe you tell some all-out doozies. Whatever the case, don’t worry about it too much. You’re normal.

Experts say there are two kinds of lies – the lies that you tell to help yourself and the lies you tell to protect other people’s feelings, like when you tell someone they look good in that terrible pink-and-green tie.

Serious lies are most often told to protect relationships. That’s when people lie about cheating, for example. Obviously, they don’t want to get caught and they want to keep their marriages intact. Most white lies, however, are told to strangers.

Lying is not exactly extraordinary. During a recent study, people were asked to record every single lie they told in one week. The results showed that college students lied at least once to nearly 40 percent of the people they interacted with. The rest of the people lied to nearly one-third of the people. It’s amazing that lying is so second-nature to people.

So, I think it’s nice to say, “Don’t lie,” but it’s just not realistic. We do it to save other people’s feelings. We do it to protect ourselves. We do it to get what we want.

And sometimes it works.

2a. From “CEOs vouch for Waiter Rule: Watch how people treat staff” by Del Jones, USA Today, April 14, 2006:

You can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she treats the waiter.

[…]

And beware of anyone who pulls out the power card to say something like, “I could buy this place and fire you,” or “I know the owner and I could have you fired.” Those who say such things have revealed more about their character than about their wealth and power.

[…]

People view waiters as their temporary personal employees. Therefore, how executives treat waiters probably demonstrates how they treat their actual employees, says Sara Lee CEO Brenda Barnes, a former waitress and postal clerk, who says she is a demanding boss but never shouts at or demeans an employee.

[…]

Holtzman grew up in the coal-mining town of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and in the 1950s saw opportunity as a waiter 90 miles away in the Catskill Mountains, where customers did not tip until the end of the week. When they tipped poorly, he would say: “Sir, will you and your wife be tipping separately?”

2b. From “The Waiter Rule” by Donald Trump, Trump University, April 28, 2006:

Occasionally in the business world, I’ve heard people refer to something called “The Waiter Rule.” Simply put, how you treat a waiter or a waitress reveals a lot about your character. It may sound insignificant, but over the years I’ve found respect to play a significant role in wealth creation.

You would be amazed at how poorly some people treat waiters and waitresses. They yell at them if they forget an order or spill a drink. They threaten to have them fired, or even demand to speak to a supervisor. Their actions speak volumes and reveal more about their character than anything they could say or do in the most impressive business meetings or boardrooms.

[…]

How you treat a waiter demonstrates how you would most likely treat your actual employees. It shows the true makeup of your personality and your true disposition. You might be a demanding boss, but it doesn’t mean you have to be a demeaning and nasty one.

So think twice the next time you sit down at a table and get ready to order. And don’t forget to leave a big tip.

3a. From “One ‘Bad Apple’ Does Spoil the Whole Workplace” by JoAnne Allen, Reuters, February 12, 2007:

One “bad apple” can spread negative behavior like a virus to bring down officemates or destroy a good team, according to a new study examining conflict in the workplace.

Negative behavior outweighs positive behavior, so a bad apple can spoil the whole barrel, but one or two good workers can’t “unspoil” it, researchers at the University of Washington said in the current issue of the journal Research in Organizational Behavior.

“Companies need to move quickly to deal with such problems because the negativity of just one individual is pervasive and destructive and can spread quickly,” said co-author Terence Mitchell, a professor of management and organization.

If a bad apple slips through screening in the hiring process, he or she should be placed to work alone as much as possible, the study’s lead author, William Felps, said.

3b. From “One Bad Apple” by Donald Trump, Trump University, February 25, 2007:

In nearly every workplace, there’s “one bad apple” – someone whose negative attitude is so apparent that it’s a deterrent to everyone else in the office.

It turns out that the old adage is true. One bad apple can truly spoil the whole barrel. A person with a negative attitude can spread those negative feelings like a dangerous virus, bringing down the rest of the office and destroying an otherwise healthy and well-functioning team.

A new study from researchers at the University of Washington examined conflict in the workplace. It found that negative behavior has much more of an impact than positive behavior. So while negative people can spoil an entire office environment, a couple of positive good workers can’t “unspoil” it.

“Companies need to move quickly to deal with such problems because the negativity of just one individual is pervasive and destructive and can spread quickly,” said co-author Terence Mitchell, a professor of management and organization.

[…]

Ideally, bad apples shouldn’t be hired in the first place. When you’re hiring, avoid people who in general appear combative or disagreeable. It’s a sure omen of negativity in the future.

But if it’s too late and there’s already a negative person in place in your organization, the best you can do is keep him or her working alone as much as possible. The less interaction those negative people have with the rest of your team, the better. That way, their toxic attitudes won’t spread.

4a. From “Italy Posts Income Details on Web,” BBC News, May 1, 2008:

There has been outrage in Italy after the outgoing government published every Italian’s declared earnings and tax contributions on the internet.

The tax authority’s website was inundated by people curious to know how much their neighbours, celebrities or sports stars were making.

The Italian treasury suspended the website after a formal complaint from the country’s privacy watchdog.

The information was put on the site with no warning for nearly 24 hours.

[…]

But it was also hugely popular, and within hours the site was overwhelmed and impossible to access.

The finance ministry described the move as a bid to improve transparency.

Deputy Economic Minister Vincenzo Visco said he could not understand what all the fuss was about.

4b. From “Italy Posts Salaries Online” by Donald Trump, Trump University, June 16, 2008:

There was a lot of outrage in Italy recently after the government published every citizen’s income on the Internet. The tax authority’s website was swamped with people snooping to see how much their neighbors and co-workers and celebrities earned.

Within hours of the site going up, it was so overwhelmed that it was nearly impossible to access.

But the site stayed up for nearly 24 hours until it was suspended after a formal complaint was filed. Although critics complained that it was an outrageous breach of privacy, some government officials said they didn’t understand what all the fuss was about.

5a. From “Poll Finds Growing Majority of Americans Avoiding Housing Market,” The New York Times, April 14, 2008:

A growing majority of Americans say they will not buy a home anytime soon, the latest sign of increasing pessimism about the country’s housing crisis, a poll showed Monday.

In a vivid sketch of how the sputtering real estate market is causing distress throughout the country, the Associated Press-AOL Money & Finance poll found that more than a quarter of homeowners worry that their home will lose value over the next two years.

Fully one in seven mortgage holders fear they will not be able to make their monthly payments on time over the next six months.

[…]

The growing reluctance to dip into the housing market seems to stem partly from worry that housing prices will continue falling – good if you are buying a house but bad if you have to sell one.

[…]

Gus Faucher, director of macroeconomics for Moody’s Economy.com, a consulting firm, estimated that nine million homeowners owe more on a home than it is worth. He said his company believed home sales were at or near bottom and home values would continue to fall until early next year.

5b. From “Afraid to Buy” by Donald Trump, Trump University, May 12, 2008:

It’s hardly a surprise but in the midst of today’s terrible economy and the nation’s housing crisis, the majority of Americans say they don’t plan to buy a home anytime soon.

In fact, more than a quarter of homeowners worry that their home will lose value over the next couple of years, and one in seven mortgage holders are afraid that they won’t be able to make their monthly payments in time over the next six months.

People are worried that housing prices will continue to fall which is good news if you want to buy but obviously terrible if you have a house to sell.

In addition, we have record-high foreclosure rates and an estimated 9 million homeowners actually owe more on their homes than they are actually worth. If you’re in that situation, the best thing you can do is to sit tight if you can and try to weather out the storm.

A different version of this item appeared on this blog on March 25, 2017.

Gay Panic, Poe’s Law, and the Strange Cult of Julian Assange

How my corrections story about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange ended up on a bunch of fringe conspiracy websites

I recently blogged about The Sun, a popular British tabloid newspaper owned by Aussie media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

In March, the paper falsely reported that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was accused of raping two men during a 2010 visit to Sweden.

source

On my request, the paper corrected the error and added this note to the enclosing article: “A previous version of this story said that Assange had sex with two men who later accused him of rape. In actual fact they were women. The story was corrected on 10th March.”

source

Shortly after the correction was published, the article was heavily revised and the original reporter’s name replaced with the name “Eileen Weybridge.”

source

However, when I called the Sun’s personnel department I was told they had no records of anyone with that name.

After failing to get answers from the editor who made the correction, in May I blogged the story with the sub-heading, “Did The Sun newspaper create a fake reporter?” which I then sent to Assange with a request for comment.

Although Assange didn’t respond directly, he tweeted this…

source

…after which the story was picked up by the libertarian Free Thought Project and shared by a number of fringe conspiracy sites including that of the British conspiracy theorist David Icke, who claims that the Queen is a shape-shifting lizard.

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One YouTuber, speculating about the Sun’s initial reporting error, said he believed the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency had planted the male rape claim to smear Assange.

Ironically, in March I’d joked that British authorities had planted the false claim to coax Assange out of self-imposed exile because if he were convicted of raping two women it would end any rumours about his sexuality.

source

The Takeaway

1. Fake bylines are a bad idea.
2. A simple corrections request can get very 
complicated.
3. Assange’s fanbase includes vocal conspiracy theorists.
4. Gay panic is still a thing.
5. Never underestimate Poe’s Law.*

To read more about how this strange story developed, click here, here, and here.

*Poe’s Law: An internet adage which states that, without a clear indicator of the author’s intent, it’s impossible to distinguish satire from the real thing.