Photo: Artwork by Ayatgali Tuleubek
In late November, the Justice Department unsealed indictments against eight people accused of fleecing advertisers of $36 million in two of the largest digital ad-fraud operations ever uncovered. Digital advertisers tend to want two things: people to look at their ads and “premium” websites — i.e., established and legitimate publications — on which to host them.
The two schemes at issue in the case, dubbed Methbot and 3ve by the security researchers who found them, faked both. Hucksters infected 1.7 million computers with malware that remotely directed traffic to “spoofed” websites — “empty websites designed for bot traffic” that served up a video ad purchased from one of the internet’s vast programmatic ad-exchanges, but that were designed, according to the indictments, “to fool advertisers into thinking that an impression of their ad was served on a premium publisher site,” like that of Vogue or The Economist. Views, meanwhile, were faked by malware-infected computers with marvelously sophisticated techniques to imitate humans: bots “faked clicks, mouse movements, and social network login information to masquerade as engaged human consumers.” Some were sent to browse the internet to gather tracking cookies from other websites, just as a human visitor would have done through regular behavior. Fake people with fake cookies and fake social-media accounts, fake-moving their fake cursors, fake-clicking on fake websites — the fraudsters had essentially created a simulacrum of the internet, where the only real things were the ads.
How much of the internet is fake? Studies generally suggest that, year after year, less than 60 percent of web traffic is human; some years, according to some researchers, a healthy majority of it is bot. For a period of time in 2013, the Times reported this year, a full half of YouTube traffic was “bots masquerading as people,” a portion so high that employees feared an inflection point after which YouTube’s systems for detecting fraudulent traffic would begin to regard bot traffic as real and human traffic as fake. They called this hypothetical event “the Inversion.”
In the future, when I look back from the high-tech gamer jail in which President PewDiePie will have imprisoned me, I will remember 2018 as the year the internet passed the Inversion, not in some strict numerical sense, since bots already outnumber humans online more years than not, but in the perceptual sense. The internet has always played host in its dark corners to schools of catfish and embassies of Nigerian princes, but that darkness now pervades its every aspect: Everything that once seemed definitively and unquestionably real now seems slightly fake; everything that once seemed slightly fake now has the power and presence of the real. The “fakeness” of the post-Inversion internet is less a calculable falsehood and more a particular quality of experience — the uncanny sense that what you encounter online is not “real” but is also undeniably not “fake,” and indeed may be both at once, or in succession, as you turn it over in your head.
Take something as seemingly simple as how we measure web traffic. Metrics should be the most real thing on the internet: They are countable, trackable, and verifiable, and their existence undergirds the advertising business that drives our biggest social and search platforms. Yet not even Facebook, the world’s greatest data–gathering organization, seems able to produce genuine figures. In October, small advertisers filed suit against the social-media giant, accusing it of covering up, for a year, its significant overstatements of the time users spent watching videos on the platform (by 60 to 80 percent, Facebook says; by 150 to 900 percent, the plaintiffs say). According to an exhaustive list at MarketingLand, over the past two years Facebook has admitted to misreporting the reach of posts on Facebook Pages (in two different ways), the rate at which viewers complete ad videos, the average time spent reading its “Instant Articles,” the amount of referral traffic from Facebook to external websites, the number of views that videos received via Facebook’s mobile site, and the number of video views in Instant Articles.
Can we still trust the metrics? After the Inversion, what’s the point? Even when we put our faith in their accuracy, there’s something not quite real about them: My favorite statistic this year was Facebook’s claim that 75 million people watched at least a minute of Facebook Watch videos every day — though, as Facebook admitted, the 60 seconds in that one minute didn’t need to be watched consecutively. Real videos, real people, fake minutes.
And maybe we shouldn’t even assume that the people are real. Over at YouTube, the business of buying and selling video views is “flourishing,” as the Times reminded readers with a lengthy investigation in August. The company says only “a tiny fraction” of its traffic is fake, but fake subscribers are enough of a problem that the site undertook a purge of “spam accounts” in mid-December. These days, the Times found, you can buy 5,000 YouTube views — 30 seconds of a video counts as a view — for as low as $15; oftentimes, customers are led to believe that the views they purchase come from real people. More likely, they come from bots. On some platforms, video views and app downloads can be forged in lucrative industrial counterfeiting operations. If you want a picture of what the Inversion looks like, find a video of a “click farm”: hundreds of individual smartphones, arranged in rows on shelves or racks in professional-looking offices, each watching the same video or downloading the same app.
I never tire of looking at videos of Chinese click farms. It's just so surreal to see hundreds of phones playing the same video for the purposes of fake engagment. pic.twitter.com/bHAGLqRqVb— Matthew Brennan (@mbrennanchina) December 10, 2018
This is obviously not real human traffic. But what would real human traffic look like? The Inversion gives rise to some odd philosophical quandaries: If a Russian troll using a Brazilian man’s photograph to masquerade as an American Trump supporter watches a video on Facebook, is that view “real”? Not only do we have bots masquerading as humans and humans masquerading as other humans, but also sometimes humans masquerading as bots, pretending to be “artificial-intelligence personal assistants,” like Facebook’s “M,” in order to help tech companies appear to possess cutting-edge AI. We even have whatever CGI Instagram influencer Lil Miquela is: a fake human with a real body, a fake face, and real influence. Even humans who aren’t masquerading can contort themselves through layers of diminishing reality: The Atlantic reports that non-CGI human influencers are posting fake sponsored content — that is, content meant to look like content that is meant to look authentic, for free — to attract attention from brand reps, who, they hope, will pay them real money.
The money is usually real. Not always — ask someone who enthusiastically got into cryptocurrency this time last year — but often enough to be an engine of the Inversion. If the money is real, why does anything else need to be? Earlier this year, the writer and artist Jenny Odell began to look into an Amazon reseller that had bought goods from other Amazon resellers and resold them, again on Amazon, at higher prices. Odell discovered an elaborate network of fake price-gouging and copyright-stealing businesses connected to the cultlike Evangelical church whose followers resurrected Newsweek in 2013 as a zombie search-engine-optimized spam farm. She visited a strange bookstore operated by the resellers in San Francisco and found a stunted concrete reproduction of the dazzlingly phony storefronts she’d encountered on Amazon, arranged haphazardly with best-selling books, plastic tchotchkes, and beauty products apparently bought from wholesalers. “At some point I began to feel like I was in a dream,” she wrote. “Or that I was half-awake, unable to distinguish the virtual from the real, the local from the global, a product from a Photoshop image, the sincere from the insincere.”
The only site that gives me that dizzying sensation of unreality as often as Amazon does is YouTube, which plays host to weeks’ worth of inverted, inhuman content. TV episodes that have been mirror-flipped to avoid copyright takedowns air next to huckster vloggers flogging merch who air next to anonymously produced videos that are ostensibly for children. An animated video of Spider-Man and Elsa from Frozen riding tractors is not, you know, not real: Some poor soul animated it and gave voice to its actors, and I have no doubt that some number (dozens? Hundreds? Millions? Sure, why not?) of kids have sat and watched it and found some mystifying, occult enjoyment in it. But it’s certainly not “official,” and it’s hard, watching it onscreen as an adult, to understand where it came from and what it means that the view count beneath it is continually ticking up.
These, at least, are mostly bootleg videos of popular fictional characters, i.e., counterfeit unreality. Counterfeit reality is still more difficult to find—for now. In January 2018, an anonymous Redditor created a relatively easy-to-use desktop-app implementation of “deepfakes,” the now-infamous technology that uses artificial-intelligence image processing to replace one face in a video with another — putting, say, a politician’s over a porn star’s. A recent academic paper from researchers at the graphics-card company Nvidia demonstrates a similar technique used to create images of computer-generated “human” faces that look shockingly like photographs of real people. (Next time Russians want to puppeteer a group of invented Americans on Facebook, they won’t even need to steal photos of real people.) Contrary to what you might expect, a world suffused with deepfakes and other artificially generated photographic images won’t be one in which “fake” images are routinely believed to be real, but one in which “real” images are routinely believed to be fake — simply because, in the wake of the Inversion, who’ll be able to tell the difference?
Such a loss of any anchoring “reality” only makes us pine for it more. Our politics have been inverted along with everything else, suffused with a Gnostic sense that we’re being scammed and defrauded and lied to but that a “real truth” still lurks somewhere. Adolescents are deeply engaged by YouTube videos that promise to show the hard reality beneath the “scams” of feminism and diversity — a process they call “red-pilling” after the scene in The Matrix when the computer simulation falls away and reality appears. Political arguments now involve trading accusations of “virtue signaling” — the idea that liberals are faking their politics for social reward — against charges of being Russian bots. The only thing anyone can agree on is that everyone online is lying and fake.
Which, well. Everywhere I went online this year, I was asked to prove I’m a human. Can you retype this distorted word? Can you transcribe this house number? Can you select the images that contain a motorcycle? I found myself prostrate daily at the feet of robot bouncers, frantically showing off my highly developed pattern-matching skills — does a Vespa count as a motorcycle, even? — so I could get into nightclubs I’m not even sure I want to enter. Once inside, I was directed by dopamine-feedback loops to scroll well past any healthy point, manipulated by emotionally charged headlines and posts to click on things I didn’t care about, and harried and hectored and sweet-talked into arguments and purchases and relationships so algorithmically determined it was hard to describe them as real.
Where does that leave us? I’m not sure the solution is to seek out some pre-Inversion authenticity — to red-pill ourselves back to “reality.” What’s gone from the internet, after all, isn’t “truth,” but trust: the sense that the people and things we encounter are what they represent themselves to be. Years of metrics-driven growth, lucrative manipulative systems, and unregulated platform marketplaces, have created an environment where it makes more sense to be fake online — to be disingenuous and cynical, to lie and cheat, to misrepresent and distort — than it does to be real. Fixing that would require cultural and political reform in Silicon Valley and around the world, but it’s our only choice. Otherwise we’ll all end up on the bot internet of fake people, fake clicks, fake sites, and fake computers, where the only real thing is the ads.
*A version of this article appears in the December 24, 2018, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!How Much of the Internet Is Fake?
6 mins ago
A momentous day for NYC workers approaches
More than two years after Governor Andrew Cuomo declared victory in the Fight for $15 campaign, an initial group of New York City’s lowest paid workers will finally see the promised figure reflected in their paychecks.
Starting on December 31st, employees at New York City businesses with more than 10 workers will be the first to reach the full $15 minimum wage, which is being implemented in phases throughout the state. The city’s smaller businesses still have another year to offer the hourly wage, while all employers on Long Island and in Westchester get until 2021. The remainder of workers in the state will see the wage floor lifted to $12.50 in two years, at which point the minimum wage will increase at a schedule to be determined by the state, until it hits $15…eventually.10:02 a.m.
Does it matter that some conservatives seem receptive to a carbon tax?
From this Wall Street Journal piece touting a carbon tax: “Meanwhile, conservatives have begun to notice a thing or two. A carbon tax is better than many of the taxes we have, which punish work, saving and investment. Had a carbon tax been on the table during the Bush and Trump tax-cut debates, those cuts could have been deeper and (importantly) made permanent for budget-scoring purposes. Hmmm.”
I’m skeptical. But “hey, this gives us an excuse to replace revenue from progressive income taxes with a flat, regressive consumption tax” is probably the most viable argument on this to offer the right
yeah, it’s amazing conservatives have not tried this strategy
imagine if they used carbon taxes as an offset and put it in the tax reform, told Democrats “it’s this or nothing – you say climate change is an emergency, do you care enough about it to accept lower corporate tax rates in return?”
my presumption is too many powerful forces in the coalition are as opposed to taxes that affirm the reality of climate change as they are to any other kind. Also, that kind of proposal would have made the lives of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents easier (Joe Manchin certainly wouldn’t have had a harder time opposing tax reform if it was a new front in the war on coal)
right, manchin would have gone from no to hell no, but I bet a lot of other dems would have had tough decisions
I think the GOP refusal to accept climate change is only partly explained by fossil fuel $
the simple social dynamics probably matter a lot. they have people in their movement who devoted their lives to denying climate science. and by custom, everybody defers to those people on their issue. The sheer social dynamics of breaking ranks would be fairly traumatic.
You can probably imagine some rough equivalent on the left – you know somebody who is really into one issue, how pissed is that person going to be if you sell them out?
yeah, I get that. But at the same time, we’re only 10 years or so removed from a significant faction of the party (including its 2008 nominee) accepting the reality, and it isn’t that hard to pivot from the posture of *skepticism* to “I have now determined the wait of the evidence suggests a sufficient probability to merit this minor shift in the tax code.”
These numbers are off the top of my head but I think they are right: the IPCC suggested a tax as high as $5,000 a ton and growing as high as $27,000/ton was necessary. There are carbon capture models today reducing carbon at a price of $90-$250 a ton. The math seems pretty straightforward even before you get to the fact that most countries in the world with carbon taxes are still growing emissions.
$90-$250 per ton is still the *most expensive* form of existing carbon capture
@davidwallacewells are you saying that requiring the adoption of carbon capture is a more politically viable demand than a carbon tax big enough to be sufficient? Or something else?
Political viability aside, it appears to be much, much, much cheaper
or that a carbon tax would incentivize carbon capture?
presumably it would create a market for people to deploy carbon capture, right?
assuming the tax could go negative
Depending on how the tax was designed and how emissions were monitored…
if you could remove carbon for $100 a ton and taxed it at $1000 a ton, pretty soon you’d have people installing carbon suckers in their back yards
or the government could just do the cleanup work with that money itself, directly.
doing so would presumably require even a lower carbon tax.
Another topsy-turvy day ahead on Wall Street?
Just three minutes into the trading session, Dow Jones down about 300 points after yesterday’s nearly 1,100 point gain.#DowJones #StockMarket #WallStreet —@jdurso82
The stock market may be volatile, but other measures of the economy are humming
U.S. filings for unemployment benefits decreased for the third time in four weeks, hovering near an almost five- decade low that reflects a robust job market.
Jobless claims fell by 1,000 to 216,000 in the week ended Dec. 22, matching the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists and following a revised reading of 217,000 for the prior week, Labor Department figures showed Thursday. The four-week average, a less-volatile measure, fell to a six-week low.
A New Yorker piece about Trump and “The Apprentice” addresses those rumors about racial slurs
Neither Putnam nor Edwards would comment on whether M-G-M possesses tapes in which Trump says something offensive; nor would they say how much, if any, of the archive has been reviewed. Over the fourteen seasons hosted by Trump, nearly two hundred hours of “The Apprentice” aired on NBC. If Burnett indeed shot three hundred hours of footage for each episode, there could be some sixty thousand hours of outtakes to sift through.
Most of the former “Apprentice” staffers I spoke to recalled hearing Trump speak coarsely about women. “He wasn’t going around saying ‘pussy, pussy, pussy’ all the time,” Walker said. But he regularly made comments about the bodies of female contestants and female staffers. One “Apprentice” employee told me, “He’d say, ‘How about those boobs? Wouldn’t you like to fuck her?’ ”
Even so, Braun said he doubted that there was any “Apprentice” tape in which Trump uses the N-word. “I was the supervising editor on the first six seasons,” he said. “I didn’t watch every frame, but in everything I saw I didn’t hear him saying anything so horrible.
In the Trump Era, Who Needs Moderates Anyway?
By Ed Kilgore
Research shows running to the center didn’t help candidates in 2018. That could convince progressives that moderates have outlived their usefulness.
After the death of eight-year-old Felipe Gómez Alonzo — the second migrant child to die in Border Patrol custody this month — the Department of Homeland Security announced changes to how the agency will handle children crossing the border
DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Wednesday said the agency will adopt a “series of extraordinary protective measures,” including having the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigate an uptick in “sick children” crossing the border.
“At my direction, all children in Border Patrol custody have been given a thorough medical screening,” Nielsen said. “Moving forward, all children will receive a more thorough hands-on assessment at the earliest possible time post apprehension — whether or not the accompanying adult has asked for one.”
CBP officials did not respond to questions about what those medical checks will entail, or what kind of care children in agency custody currently receive.
Poetic justice for the gubernatorial candidate who ran on the slogan of a ‘deportation bus’
State senator and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Michael Williams turned himself into Hall County jail Wednesday, days after news broke that he had been indicted on charges that included insurance fraud.
The charges against the Forsyth County Republican, who will likely remain in office until mid-January, stem from a May incident in which Williams reported his Gainesville campaign office was burglarized. At the time, Williams’ campaign manager said $300,000 worth of computer servers that were being used to mine cryptocurrency had been taken from the building.
Williams is accused of lying to a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent when he said he was at home in Forsyth County, not in the Gainesville area at the time of the purported burglary. The indictment, which doesn’t say what allegedly actually happened to the servers, accuses Williams of making a false insurance claim related to the servers.12/26/2018
the national interest
the national interest
Trump Accidentally Exposes the Location, Identities of U.S. Navy Seal Team 5
By Matt Stieb
In his first visit to a combat zone, the commander-in-chief botched a basic tenet of op-sec.
Will New York have legal weed as early as March 2019?
New York officials are moving ahead with efforts to legalize recreational marijuana use, but they are running into a barrage of complicated issues that must be resolved if their end-of-March timetable to act is to be realized.
Among just a handful of lingering questions to be answered: how much will the state tax the sales and where does the money go; who gets to grow, distribute and sell the drug; will homegrown pot be legal; will it be available in a variety of forms, including things like candy bars; how many people will have their marijuana arrest and conviction records expunged and what will the state do to deter a rise in driving while impaired situations?
In a speech outlining his top priorities for the first 100 days of the 2019 session that starts next month, Cuomo put marijuana legalization on the list, saying it should be made legal “once and for all.” It’s a sharp turn from only a year or so ago when he talked against legalization of marijuana because it was a potentially dangerous “gateway drug.”
Some involved in the discussions believe Cuomo will try to take a more measured approach, unlike when California legalized marijuana in what some in New York call the Wild West approach to legalization. It is a route he took when he ended his opposition to medical marijuana products and approved such use, but under what at the time was the nation’s strictest medical pot laws.
Showing a lot of confidence in Republicans’ chances to get a wall out of the shutdown
Trump said he wants to go to the border for a wall “ground breaking” before the State of the Union, per pool reporter@ByBrianBennett
who’s traveling with Trump on trip to Iraq.—@Acosta 12/26/2018
the stock market
the stock market
Stocks Bounce Back From Christmas Eve Dive With Record One-Day Rise
By Ed Kilgore
The Dow rose 1,086 points on Wednesday, in part because the White House assured investors Trump isn’t firing everyone in sight.
A comprehensive look at how the Trump administration has swiftly dismantled years of climate regulation
Since Mr. Trump took office, his approach on the environment has been to neutralize the most rigorous Obama-era restrictions, nearly 80 of which have been blocked, delayed or targeted for repeal, according to an analysis of data by The New York Times.
With this running start, Mr. Trump is already on track to leave an indelible mark on the American landscape, even with a decline in some major pollutants from the ever-shrinking coal industry. While Washington has been consumed by scandals surrounding the president’s top officials on environmental policy — both the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior secretary have been driven from his cabinet — Mr. Trump’s vision is taking root in places as diverse as rural California, urban Texas, West Virginian coal country and North Dakota’s energy corridor.
While the Obama administration sought to tackle pollution problems in all four states and nationally, Mr. Trump’s regulatory ambitions extend beyond Republican distaste for what they considered unitaleral overreach by his Democratic predecessor; pursuing them in full force, Mr. Trump would shift the debate about the environment sharply in the direction of industry interests, further unraveling what had been, before the Obama administration, a loose bipartisan consensus dating in part to the Nixon administration.
American Colin O’Brady completes the first-ever solo, unaided trek across Antarctica, a distance of 932 miles
“I just woke up on Christmas morning, just thinking about it, and I was like, all right, I have three more days left, how many hours is that of moving? People run 100 miles all the time.”—Colin O’Brady
Trump, who caused the shutdown, cites the shutdown as a reason for delaying a court case determining if he violated the Constitution’s emoluments clause
Lawyers for President Donald Trump are invoking the government shutdown to seek a delay in a court case over claims that Trump is illegally profiting from business his Washington hotel does with foreign countries.
A short time after the government filed the request, the court agreed to put the case on hold indefinitely.
The Justice Department lawyers [representing Trump] appear to be asking the appeals court not only to lift the deadlines in the case, but also to extend them by the duration of the shutdown once Congress and the president put new funding in place.
Trump to American troops in Iraq, in his first visit to a combat zone: “We’re no longer the suckers, folks.”
Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
Unearthing Big Sugar’s suppression of science
To drill down to what seemed to be the root cause — how the sugar industry grew so powerful and ubiquitous in the first place — [Cristin Kearns] hung up her dental coat to become a unique blend of investigative journalist, historian, and health researcher. She now crosses the country in search of libraries with formerly confidential archives from now-defunct sugar manufacturers, trade groups, scientists, consultants, and executives. By combing through thousands of pages of internal documents, Kearns and her team have gained unprecedented clarity into the machinations of the sugar industry during the mid-20th century.
They’ve found, for example, that a trade group knew as early as the 1950s that sugar caused tooth decay. But when the group went on to work closely with the federal government on a program about strategies to fight decay, it downplayed the most obvious, cutting out sugar. Another time, the group funded research that inadvertently linked sugar with bladder cancer, then killed the research. Then there was a 1967 paper — secretly funded by that same trade group — that blamed fat and cholesterol for causing heart disease, but minimized data showing sugar’s risks.
Boosted by online shopping, U.S. holiday sales grow 5.1 percent to $850 billion
The 5.1 percent sales growth included in-store and online sales between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24. The National Retail Federation had forecast U.S. holiday retail sales to rise between 4.3 percent and 4.8 percent in November and December.
Online sales posted strong gains, rising 19.1 percent, according to the SpendingPulse retail report, published by Mastercard’s analytics arm.
In contrast, sales at department stores fell 1.3 percent after two years of modest growth, largely due to store closures.
Shutdown D.C. doing its best New York City impersonation
Photo: Win McNamee/Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Image
The Trump administration will appeal the district court ruling that blocks the president’s asylum ban
According to a court filing, the administration told the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals it plans to appeal federal District Judge Jon Tigar’s December 19 order, which extended an initial block on the new rules.
President Donald Trump signed a presidential proclamation last month that would bar migrants who illegally cross into the United States over the southern border from seeking asylum outside of official ports of entry.
And on Friday, the Supreme Court let stand Judge Tigar’s original order temporarily blocking the Trump administration’s new asylum restrictions in a 5-4 ruling in which Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the four liberal justices.
Trump has continually railed against the 9th Circuit as “very unfair.” Last month when the ban was first blocked, the President criticized the San Francisco-based appeals court, leading Roberts to issue a rare statement emphasizing the independence of the judiciary.
FEMA is failing, again
The agency’s force strength — the number of personnel it employs to respond to events — has risen to 12,592, up from 10,683 in August 2017. But that is below 13,004, its target for the 2018 fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30. It’s even further from the staffing levels that FEMA thinks it ultimately needs: 16,305.
The portion of the agency’s staff deemed “qualified” for their jobs — based on FEMA’s review of their employment experience, training and performance — is just 62 percent, up from 56 percent before the 2017 hurricane season but far below its fiscal 2018 target of 88 percent.
And the goals themselves may be outdated: They are based off a 2015 internal force structure review that preceded the major disaster year of 2017.
Trump Makes Surprise Trip to Iraq, One Spot Where He Isn’t Withdrawing Troops
By Ed Kilgore
Amid the uproar over his decision to pull troops from Afghanistan and Syria, President Trump made his first appearance in a combat zone.
No end in sight
House members have been told there will be NO VOTES on Thursday, so the partial government shutdown will extend into at least Friday, barring a breakthrough.—@frankthorp
Emails Shed Light on Amazon’s Cozy Relationship With the U.S. Government
By Brian Feldman
An Amazon executive advised the federal government on a lucrative online marketplace before the passage of a law that created it.
Coast Guard medics are headed to the border following the death of a second migrant child in the past three weeks
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is deploying the U.S. Coast Guard’s medical corps to the southern border to screen immigrants following the deaths of two young children from Guatemala who were in federal custody. …
Nielsen has also asked the Centers for Disease Control to investigate the source of what officials called an increase in sick migrants taken into custody. “Dozens” have been taken to border hospitals with flu-like and other symptoms in recent days, officials said, raising the question of whether illness may be spreading in migrant shelters in Mexico.
The Trumps are in Iraq
BREAKING: President Donald Trump in Iraq for unannounced first visit with American troops serving in a troubled region.—@AP
the top line
Trump’s Attacks on Jerome Powell Show He Doesn’t Know How the Fed Works
By Josh Barro
Trump has been fantasizing about firing Powell because he’s upset about interest rates going up – but the Fed chair doesn’t unilaterally set rates.
Hannity’s ratings are hurting
His show averaged 2.76 million viewers since the election through Dec. 17, down 19 percent compared to the previous month, the Nielsen company said. Among the 25-to-54-year-old demo most coveted by advertisers, he’s down 30 percent. Competitors Rachel Maddow on MSNBC and Chris Cuomo on CNN are up in each measurement.
Maddow has been beating Hannity outright in December, a turnaround from October. During that month, when Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation drama dominated the news, Hannity’s audience routinely exceeded Maddow’s by about a million people each night, Nielsen said.