Max Ufberg
Senior Editor, GEN by Medium. Previously: Pacific Standard, Wired

Please do not listen to the medical advice of Doja Cat

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Doja Cat at the MTV Video Music Awards. Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for RCA

This morning I received some crushing news: Van Morrison, the 75-year-old singer behind such classics as “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Moondance,” is an anti-lockdown idiot.

Morrison announced three new songs on Friday — “Born to Be Free,” “As I Walked Out,” and (in case you weren’t getting the message) “No More Lockdowns.” In an accompanying press release, Morrison snarkily said he was “not telling people what to do or think. The government is doing a great job of that already.”

But Van isn’t the only one: Here’s an arbitrary ranking of five celebrities who have let me down during the pandemic. …


TRUMP CORRUPTION INDEX

Trump donor Larry Ellison lands a big win with his company’s TikTok contract, and the president seeks the DOJ’s help in his case against E. Jean Carroll

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Photo illustration. Source: State Department

Is there enough graft, double-dealing, and self-interested chicanery in the Trump administration to publish this column every week? Only time — and Trump — will tell. (But we feel pretty confident.) Presenting this week’s installment of the Trump Corruption Index.

Woodward’s Covid bombshell

In a series of interviews earlier this year with journalist Bob Woodward, President Trump admitted to downplaying the threat of the coronavirus to the public. …


‘Polls are not prophesies’ and other things we refuse to learn

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Photo illustration; image source: Bettmann/Getty Images

For many, the shock of Donald Trump’s upset victory in 2016 still hangs over this presidential election. Though polls suggest Joe Biden has a decent lead over Trump, plenty of people question whether it’s wise to listen to such forecasting in the first place. …


TRUMP CORRUPTION INDEX

Trump’s using campaign donations to fund his legal expenses, and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s old company is cashing in on new Postal Service contracts

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Photo illustration. Source: State Department

Is there enough graft, double-dealing, and self-interested chicanery in the Trump administration to publish this column every week? Only time — and Trump — will tell. (But we feel pretty confident.) Presenting this week’s installment of the Trump Corruption Index.

Trump’s campaign-funded legal fund

President Trump has used campaign donations to fund at least $58.4 million in legal expenses since 2015, according to a blistering investigation published last week by the New York Times. That includes $1.5 million to a team of lawyers in New York to seek damages against a former campaign staffer who claimed she had been sexually harassed by another worker, $2.5 million to lawyers in Washington who worked with the president and his staff during investigations around Ukraine and Russia, and $1.8 million to a firm that sued to block a California law from forcing him to release his taxes if he ran for reelection. …


TRUMP CORRUPTION INDEX

An official’s ties to a Trump-branded property in Hawaii, subterfuge at the CDC, and more suspicious activity from William Barr

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Photo illustration. Source: State Department

Is there enough graft, double-dealing, and self-interested chicanery in the Trump administration to publish this column every week? Only time — and Trump — will tell. (But we feel pretty confident.) Presenting this week’s installment of the Trump Corruption Index.

Hawaii’s gold coast of compromised real estate

New documents published Tuesday by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) show that the Trump-appointed IRS commissioner, Charles Rettig, has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars while in office by renting out two properties in Trump International Hotel Waikiki and Tower. CREW’s analysis of personal financial disclosures from the past two years found that Rettig, who has famously refused to release Trump’s tax returns, makes between $100,000 and $200,000 per year from two units in which he owns a 50% stake.


TRUMP CORRUPTION INDEX

This week takes us from the attorney general’s pressure campaign against a Fox News personality to more weirdness with Trump’s wall

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Photo illustration. Source: State Department

Is there enough graft, double-dealing, and self-interested chicanery in the Trump administration to publish this column every week? Only time — and Trump — will tell. (But we feel pretty confident.) Presenting this week’s installment of the Trump Corruption Index.

The muzzler-in-chief

CNN correspondent Brian Stelter reports in his new book, Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth, that Attorney General William Barr met last year with Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch to ask that he “muzzle” Andrew Napolitano, the network’s senior judicial analyst and one of its most vocal critics of the Trump administration. …


TRUMP CORRUPTION INDEX

From (more) news on Russia’s 2016 election interference to a suspect Oracle settlement, it was another standout week of delinquency

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Photo illustration. Source: State Department

Is there enough graft, double-dealing, and self-interested chicanery in the Trump administration to publish this column every week? Only time — and Trump — will tell. (But we feel pretty confident.) Presenting this week’s installment of the Trump Corruption Index.

Russia’s 2016 election interference: The final chapter

A report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election by the Senate Intelligence Committee released Tuesday confirms there was a sprawling web of contacts between Trump’s campaign advisers and Russian officials who were connected to the Kremlin. Among the nearly 1,000-page report’s findings: Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was in cahoots with a Russian intelligence officer “on narratives that sought to undermine evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election,” and a Russian lawyer who met with Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., and Jared Kushner had “significant connections to Russian government.” …


The opening night of the DNC showcased Republicans and socialists and dire warnings about Trump. Whatever happened to inspiring voters?

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In this screenshot from the livestream of the 2020 Democratic National Convention, actress and activist Eva Longoria introduces former first lady Michelle Obama to address the virtual convention on August 17, 2020. Photo: Handout/DNCC via Getty Images

The 2020 Democratic National Convention that got underway Monday night featured socialists and Republicans, former Donald Trump voters and Black Lives Matter activists, small-business people and CEOs. There was one of the chief architects of the Green New Deal—and a recovering climate skeptic. There were speeches delivered on a lectern and speeches recorded in living rooms. The vision for the Democratic Party under Joe Biden’s leadership offered at Monday night’s kickoff of the 2020 DNC was, for better or worse, one of far-reaching ideological inclusivity.

Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Rep. Susan Molinari, former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, and Quibi CEO and one-time Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman weighed in from the GOP side of the aisle. All of their speeches, to some degree, explained their switch to support a Democrat in 2020; all cited their abhorrence of our 45th president. “The stakes in this election are greater than any in modern times,” said Kasich. “We’re being taken down the wrong road by a president who has pitted one against the other.” …


Trump Corruption Index

From Susan Pompeo’s taxpayer-funded escapades to the unraveling Postal Service, it was another week filled with self-dealing

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Photo illustration. Source: State Department

Is there enough graft, double-dealing, and self-interested chicanery in the Trump administration to publish this column every week? Only time — and Trump — will tell. (But we feel pretty confident.) Presenting this week’s installment of the Trump Corruption Index.

Mailing it in

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced in a memo on Friday that he was overhauling the U.S. Postal Service, reassigning the top two agency executives responsible for day-to-day operations, along with 23 other postal executives. The shake-up ensures that DeJoy, a former Trump donor who also owned tens of millions in assets in USPS competitors or contractors, will amass even more power within the USPS and threatens to undermine its ability to function during an election-season pandemic. …


The Minnesota congresswoman faces a well-funded challenger in her primary on Tuesday

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Rep. Ilhan Omar. Photo illustration; source: Stephen Maturen

On August 3, President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign launched a new 30-second attack ad against the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden. …


TRUMP CORRUPTION INDEX

This week, the saga of Trump’s tax returns continues, as do allegations of foul play in the White House’s coronavirus task force

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Photo illustration. Source: State Department

Is there enough graft, double-dealing, and self-interested chicanery in the Trump administration to publish this column every week? Only time — and Trump — will tell. (But we feel pretty confident.) Presenting this week’s installment of the Trump Corruption Index.

Letting the virus run wild to own the libs

Vanity Fair reported last week that a Kushner-led task force scrapped its coronavirus testing and supply strategy in order to take a political shot at blue-state governors. …


A team of Miami Herald reporters who spent years tracking shady behavior at Trump’s Palm Beach property describe a ‘nightmare scenario’

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Photo illustration. Source: Davidoff Studios Photography/Getty Images

From the 24-karat-gold-plated walls to the antique furniture, Mar-a-Lago has for 93 years been the shimmering jewel of Palm Beach architecture. In 1985, Donald Trump bought the 20-acre estate and turned it into an exclusive members-only club. …


TRUMP CORRUPTION INDEX

From mayhem in the Rose City to country club shenanigans, it was a week to remember

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Photo illustration. Source: State Department

Is there enough graft, double-dealing, and self-interested chicanery in the Trump administration to publish this column every week? Only time — and Trump — will tell. (But we feel pretty confident.) Presenting this week’s installment of the Trump Corruption Index.

Parscale’s wager

A complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission Tuesday by the Campaign Legal Center alleges the Trump campaign and its fundraising committee has disregarded campaign finance law by funneling more than $170 million through shell firms headed by Brad Parscale, Trump’s former campaign manager. The Campaign Legal Center claims that these companies would then “disburse the funds to the campaign’s ultimate vendors, thereby concealing the campaign’s transactions with those vendors,” potentially allowing the Trump team to shield indirect payments to its own staffers and their associates.


TRUMP CORRUPTION INDEX

From a series of shady payments between the Trump campaign and the Trump Organization to potential PPP impropriety by Stephen Miller’s parents, it was another wild week

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Photo illustration. Source: State Department

Is there enough graft, double-dealing, and self-interested chicanery in the Trump administration to publish this column every week? Only time — and Trump — will tell. (But we feel pretty confident.) Presenting this week’s installment of the Trump Corruption Index.

Cohen Gets Booked

Michael Cohen’s lawyers filed a petition this week seeking his immediate release from prison, charging that the Bureau of Prisons and Attorney General William Barr only ordered Cohen—Trump’s former personal attorney, who pled guilty to tax fraud, lying to Congress, and providing hush money payments on Trump’s behalf, and was released from prison on account of the coronavirus threat — back behind bars as retaliation for the tell-all book he’s writing about the decade he spent working for Trump. …


UN human rights expert Philip Alston breaks down why we’re failing to meet the goal of ending global poverty by 2030

A photo of a homeless person on the street against a blue background with grey spray paint effect.
A photo of a homeless person on the street against a blue background with grey spray paint effect.
Photo illustration; Image source: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

The world is losing its war on poverty. A new report by Philip Alston, the outgoing UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, says that politicians and philanthropists who boast of an impending victory over poverty are in fact relying on the World Bank’s flawed poverty line, and thus aren’t giving us a real sense of our global impoverishment. …


Trump Corruption Index

From giving PPP dollars to companies with White House ties to more Sharpiegate drama, this was yet another standout week

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Photo illustration. Source: State Department

Is there enough graft, double-dealing, and self-interested chicanery in the Trump administration to publish this column every week? Only time — and Trump — will tell. (But we feel pretty confident.) Presenting this week’s installment of the Trump Corruption Index.

The White House’s Personal Paycheck Program

Federal data released this week showed that businesses with ties to the Trump family stand to get $21 million in federal aid through the Paycheck Protection Program, which grants funds to businesses to pay up to eight weeks of payroll costs. …


Trump Corruption Index

From trying to secure a lesser sentence for Roger Stone to Michael Flynn’s freedom, this was a standout week

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Photo illustration. Source: State Department

Is there enough graft, double-dealing, and self-interested chicanery in the Trump administration to publish this column every week? Only time — and Trump — will tell. (But we feel pretty confident.) Introducing the Trump Corruption Index.

The Hill’s big shill

Politico reports that after Jimmy Finkelstein, the owner of the political news site The Hill, helped land his wife a gig advising Melania Trump from August 2017 to February 2018, his publication’s readers were never told of the conflict of interest in any of of the several dozen articles published about the first lady during that time span.

  • Corrupt-o-meter (out of a possible 5 emojis)…


Who’s going to want to spend the day holding meetings and typing inside a coffee shop now?

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Photos: filipphoto, pjohnson1, Martin Barraud, Eric Anthony Johnson/Getty Images

There was a time, not too very long ago, when a place like Ox Coffee, a small café in Philadelphia’s Queen Village neighborhood, wouldn’t have been the object of nostalgia. In those days, Ox Coffee was just somewhere to go if you wanted to read a book, catch up with a friend, or maybe see some live jazz. “We wanted it to be a social environment,” Ox’s co-owner, Will Gross, recalled of the seven-year-old café. “It started having almost a Cheers dynamic, where we became very close with our customer base.”

But life is not a sitcom. Thanks to the coronavirus, Ox Coffee — like all the other cafés in Philadelphia, along with cafés in dozens of other states — remains closed for sit-down customers. Ox only opened up for take-out a little more than two weeks ago, as Gross had been reluctant to put his staff and customers’ health at risk. During the nearly three months the space was shuttered, Ox sold its coffee beans to grocers and restaurants, as well as directly to customers through an online store. But that didn’t come anywhere near covering the loss of the café space income, which Gross estimates had been about $1,000 per day before the pandemic hit. “Things were heading in a really good direction, which makes this even worse,” he said. “We had to lay everyone off — the staff is hovering around 10 people — with the understanding that once things are safer they’d be brought back.” …


We talked to a former Obama Justice Department official on what needs to be done

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People march through the streets of Detroit, Michigan, for a second night on May 30, 2020, protesting the killing of George Floyd. Photo: Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images

The long-standing problems of police violence and racism have only grown starker under President Donald Trump. …


The problems facing Native American communities during this pandemic were decades in the making

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A mobile home on the Navajo reservation in Cameron, Arizona. Photo: Gina Ferazzi/Getty Images

In the beginning, said Evelyna Cleveland-Gray, there was confusion on the reservation. “The whole community was scrambling,” said Cleveland-Gray, manager of the Chilchinbeto chapter of the Navajo Nation, located in the northeast corner of Arizona. “We didn’t know what we were supposed to do.”

It was here, doctors say, where two months ago a man who had been away at a basketball tournament came back and brought the virus with him. The Navajo Nation has been utterly decimated by Covid-19: As of Tuesday, there have been more than 3,100 confirmed cases and 100 deaths on the reservation of about 175,000 people. That infection rate — 18 cases per 1,000 people — means the Navajo Nation has a higher per capita rate of confirmed cases than any U.S. …


Luis Elizondo helped release Navy videos of unidentified aerial phenomena. Last month, the Pentagon confirmed they were real.

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Photo illustration. Sources: To the Stars Academy, U.S. Department of Defense

If we find out one day that aliens really do exist, there’s a good chance we’ll have Luis Elizondo to thank. Elizondo works as the director of government programs with To The Stars Academy (TTSA), an aerospace and science company founded in 2017 by a physicist for the Department of Defense, a former CIA operations officer, and Blink-182 guitarist Tom DeLonge.

TTSA specializes in research around unidentified aerial phenomena — military-speak for any unexplained presence in the atmosphere. …


They may have more in common with the conservative congressman, but Republicans looking to oust Trump are all in on Joe Biden

Rep. Justin Amash is seen on the House steps of the Capitol before the House passed a $2 trillion coronavirus aid package.
Rep. Justin Amash is seen on the House steps of the Capitol before the House passed a $2 trillion coronavirus aid package.
Rep. Justin Amash on the House steps of the Capitol before the House passed the Coronavirus aid package on March 27, 2020. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

Jennifer Horn, former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party and a co-founder of the Lincoln Project PAC, is an old-school Republican: She values limited government and personal freedom. It would be a fair question, then, to ask whether she would be supporting Rep. Justin Amash, the former Republican from Michigan who announced last week he will seek the Libertarian Party’s nomination for president.

On paper, at least, the Lincoln Project and Amash would seem like a good fit. The Lincoln Project was created in late 2019 as a way to both hold Trump-supporting Republicans accountable and antagonize the president. …


Room Rater is the latest and maybe best piece of flamethrowing from an anti-Trump Twitter provocateur

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Photo illustration

A former travel photographer and White House staffer under Bill Clinton, Claude Taylor is now best known as one of Twitter’s foremost Trump antagonists. Taylor regularly rails against the president, relying on a patchwork network of unconventional (and sometimes faulty) sources to deliver scathing anti-Trump rants. He also created Mad Dog PAC, an anti-Trump group that has garnered attention for its inflammatory billboards.

Earlier this month, Taylor launched a new Twitter campaign: Room Rater. With so many pundits and politicians recording on-air news segments from the confines of their homes, Taylor and his girlfriend, Jessie Bahrey, offer biting criticisms of their interior decor: Madeleine Albright’s oversaturated library, for example, earned just a four out of 10 (“She won the Balkan War. …


After a family member fell ill with Covid-19, a horse in Pennsylvania became my new best friend

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Meet Ron, named after the ’80s supergroup Asia. Photo illustration. Source photo courtesy of the author.

“Where the hell is Alfie’s cancer medication?” my girlfriend asked, frantically searching through her bag as our car sped along the highway. …


Coronavirus-inspired protests have raised awareness around the dangers workers for companies like Amazon and Instacart face

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Photo illustration. Image source: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Tonya Ramsey’s first year and a half working as ship dock associate at an Amazon warehouse near Detroit was, all things considered, a good experience. …

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