Bus to tell Brexiteers that we’ve now left the EU, nation hopes they fall for it again

A message on the side of a bus will inform Brexiteers that Britain has now left the EU while the rest of the country hopes they fall for it again.

The original Brexit bus claimed that Britain sent £350 million a week to the EU, money we would be able to spend on the NHS instead. While that message was a load of old…

Group with consumer-friendly vibe pushes drugmakers’ message

In this June 15, 2018 photo, pharmaceuticals are seen in North Andover, Mass. As Congress and the Trump administration aim to curb spiraling drug costs, outside groups like the Alliance for Patient Access are raising their voices as they seek to sway the outcome. But not all of these organizations are clear about who they actually represent. Their names can obscure the source of the message and they’re cagey about where all of their money comes from. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) –The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — As ominous music plays in the background, the narrator of a radio ad echoes objections from drugmakers by warning that a Trump administration proposal to apply international pricing to certain Medicare drugs would be a nightmare for seniors.

The one-minute spot is the handiwork of the Alliance for Patient Access, a nonprofit group that gives off a consumer-friendly vibe yet is bankrolled by the powerful pharmaceutical industry. It’s also closely aligned with a Washington lobbying and public relations firm, Woodberry Associates, whose president, Brian Kennedy, is the nonprofit’s executive director.

As Congress and the Trump administration aim to lower prescription drug costs, outside groups like the Alliance for Patient Access are seeking to sway the outcome. But not all of these organizations are clear about who they actually represent. Their names can obscure the source of the message and they’re cagey about where they get their funding.

Yet even a small degree of separation can be valuable for pharmaceutical companies at a time when the industry faces stiff political headwinds. Drug prices may provide a rare bipartisan issue on which Congress and the White House could collaborate on legislation ahead of the 2020 elections. In a prelude of sorts, the Senate Finance Committee last month grilled drug company executives over the cost of their products.

Anger is bubbling up from their constituents. A February poll by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found nearly one in four Americans taking prescription drugs have difficultly affording their medications. Although majorities of the public trust pharmaceutical companies to develop new and effective drugs, only 25 percent trust them to price their products fairly — down from 41 percent in 2008.

Susan Hepworth, a spokeswoman for the Alliance and Woodberry, described the nonprofit as “a national network of physicians that advocates for patient access to the medicines they prescribe.”

Through the Alliance, she said, doctors “can share their perspectives about the benefits of respecting the physician-patient relationship, clinical decision making and personalized, patient-centered health care.” It’s no surprise, Hepworth said, that the group’s backers include companies that manufacture medicines.

She declined to answer questions about the radio ad. The one-minute spot singles out for criticism a Trump administration proposal to gradually shift Medicare payments for drugs administered in doctors’ offices to a level based on international prices.

Prices in other countries are lower because governments directly negotiate with manufacturers. But drugmakers have assailed the Trump plan, arguing it smacks of government price-setting and would lead to socialized health care.

The Alliance’s radio spot makes the same argument, using nearly identical language. Under the Trump…

Why Super Bowl Ads (Mostly) Dodged Political Messages This Year

Whether it was a spot from Budweiser reminding viewers about the company’s own immigrant roots or an emotional 90-second ad from 84 Lumber depicting an immigrant family’s journey to a border wall, brands rushed to the national stage with political purpose in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election in 2017.

Two years later, corporations have largely backed away from political messages that might be interpreted as divisive, instead opting for the tried-and-true tactics of humor or uplifting messages with a broad appeal.

Christopher Lehmann, the managing director of the San Francisco office of the brand consulting firm Landor, said many brands are settling back into a combination of old-school advertising tactics targeting men or pushing brand messages that could universally be deemed as positive.

“Historically, Super Bowl ads have been mostly focused on the sophomoric guy appeal—fast cars, pretty girls, drinking beers with your buds,” Lehmann said. “A few years ago, some brands wanted to rise above, and you saw ad spots with a political vein in them, or brands that had a social purpose— talking about the things we all believe in. When you look at this year, it mostly feels like they are coalescing back somewhere in the middle.”

That’s not to say all of the brands in this year’s Super Bowl broadcast shied away from politics entirely. Hulu, for instance, made reference to the iconic Ronald Reagan re-election ad “Morning in America” to promote the third season of its dystopian thriller The Handmaid’s Tale. Another ad from the Washington Post paid tribute to slain reporters and promoted the importance of a free…

Trump’s message on Christmas Day: ‘It’s a disgrace’

Trump sets completion date for border wall

(CNN)In President Donald Trump’s Christmas Day telling, the drugs are flowing over the border, the Federal Reserve is imperiling the economy and the Democrats are preparing to harass him with oversight requests.

“It’s a disgrace, what’s happening in our country,” Trump fumed, seated behind the Resolute Desk on Tuesday, after decrying Democrats as hypocrites and recalling — unprompted — his firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

“But other than that,” he said, his hands gesturing outward, “I wish everybody a very merry Christmas.”

If most Americans were taking a break from their workplace woes on Christmas morning, the President was wallowing in them, even as he worked to project a festive demeanor amid a partial government shutdown and troubling economic news.

Celebrating the holiday at the White House instead of his Palm Beach estate, Trump used a phone call session with American troops to advance his case for a border wall, his isolationist foreign policy views and his insistence that his campaign did not collude with Russia.

Trump acknowledged the standoff with Democrats over funding for his long-promised border wall has no foreseeable end date.

“I can’t tell you when the government is going to be open. I can tell you it’s not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they would like to call it,” he said.

As uniformed servicemen were beamed into the Oval Office via satellite from US bases in Alaska, Bahrain, Guam and Qatar — but not war zones like Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria — Trump said he was pleased to see rich nations like Qatar — “There are many, many ways of pronouncing it,” Trump observed of the Gulf nation — chipping in for regional security efforts.

“It will be nice when we can ask for a lot less money for our military,” Trump said, without referring specifically to recent decisions to draw down troops in Syria and Afghanistan. “We’re, right now, the policemen of the world and we’re paying for it. And we can be the policemen of the world, but other countries have to help us.”

And though he expressed…

In case you missed it, “It’s almost time to start panicking.” was this week’s message from 831 top experts.

Cliche or not, it might be too late by the time enough people wake up to make a difference.

Things are going to go down the drain faster than most people believe is possible, and the problem is genuinely bigger than anything anyone alive (or deceased) has ever seen before.

Edit: and yet we are individually powerful. Yes, you can do something. What should you do? Something bigger than yourself. Bigger than individually recycling, bigger than eating less meat, than conserving food and water and energy. We all must do these things.

But we also need to be waking each other up. Stirring the pot. Causing revolutions, peaceful ones, internally and politically. Not apologizing to anyone for the facts. Standing our ground. Waking each other up, alienating nobody.

We’re all on everyone’s side on this one. Sincerely. Even if they are violent toward us. Greed has got to go.

What can you do? Fight against greed. Fight for life on Earth. Advocate for a revolution. Tell people the Earth is dying. They will hate you, they won’t believe you, but they…

Text messages suggest Kavanaugh wanted to refute accuser’s claim before it became public

WASHINGTON — In the days leading up to a public allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh exposed himself to a college classmate, the judge and his team were communicating behind the scenes with friends to refute the claim, according to text messages obtained by NBC News.

Kerry Berchem, who was at Yale with both Kavanaugh and his accuser, Deborah Ramirez, has tried to get those messages to the FBI for its newly reopened investigation into the matter but says she has yet to be contacted by the bureau.

The texts between Berchem and Karen Yarasavage, both friends of Kavanaugh, suggest that the nominee was personally talking with former classmates about Ramirez’s story in advance of the New Yorker article that made her allegation public. In one message, Yarasavage said Kavanaugh asked her to go on the record in his defense. Two other messages show communication between Kavanaugh’s team and former classmates in advance of the story.

The texts also demonstrate that Kavanaugh and Ramirez were more socially connected than previously understood and that Ramirez was uncomfortable around Kavanaugh when they saw each other at a wedding 10 years after they graduated. Berchem’s efforts also show that some potential witnesses have been unable to get important information to the FBI.

On Monday, a senior U.S. official confirmed that the White House has authorized the FBI to expand its initially limited investigation by interviewing anyone it deems necessary as long as the review is finished by the end of the week. The New York Times first reported the change in scope.

NBC News reached out to Berchem for comment after obtaining a copy of a memo she wrote about the text messages. In a statement to NBC News, Berchem, a partner in the law firm Akin Gump, said: “I understand that President Trump and the U.S. Senate have ordered an FBI investigation into certain allegations of sexual misconduct by the nominee Brett Kavanaugh. I have no direct or indirect knowledge about any of the allegations against him. However, I am in receipt of text messages from a mutual friend of both Debbie and mine that raise questions related to the allegations. I have not drawn any conclusions as to what the texts may mean or may not mean but I do believe they merit investigation by the FBI and the Senate.”

On Sunday, Berchem emailed FBI agent J.C. McDonough her memo. After getting no response, she resent the summary on Monday morning along with screenshots of certain texts that she thinks raise questions that should be investigated. “I’m sure he’s really busy and expect that he’ll get back to me,” said Berchem.

Berchem’s memo outlining her correspondence with Yarasavage shows there’s a circle of Kavanaugh friends who may have pertinent information and evidence relevant to the inquiry who may not be interviewed. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already set in motion a vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination on the Senate floor for later this week.

Kavanaugh has strongly denied the…

Bharara: Trump’s political allies ‘clearly getting a message’ with presidential pardons

Bharara: D'Souza not treated unfairly
Bharara: D’Souza not treated unfairly 01:15

Washington (CNN)Former US Attorney Preet Bharara said President Donald Trump’s political allies are clearly receiving a message from his presidential pardons.

“I don’t know if he is trying to send a message, but they are clearly getting a message,” Bharara, who is a CNN legal analyst, said Sunday in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Bharara added, “He’s making it very clear he is prepared to pardon anyone for any reason without any review. It was suggested that he reviewed the case; I don’t think Donald Trump did anything of the sort.”

The former New York federal prosecutor said that there’s a specific process presidents should follow for presidential pardons “so people understand that that power is being exercised fairly and on the merits and not because of whim or spite or…

Never Mind the News Media: Politicians Test Direct-to-Voter Messaging

Senator Bernie Sanders greeted audience members at his live-streamed town hall meeting on Iran this month.

WASHINGTON — Senator Bernie Sanders seemed nervous. In just two hours, he would conduct a live-streamed town hall event on the Iran nuclear deal, and he still hadn’t nailed his opening.

“Did you mention to somebody doing a history of U.S.-Iranian relations?” he asked aides who had gathered in his Senate office to help him prepare. “What do you think about starting with that?” Then he wanted to say something about Saudi Arabia. Then Israel.

In another room, staff members rushed to finalize last-minute details. “We convert into a small production company,” one aide joked.

The town hall meeting in mid-May came off seamlessly, before a modest live audience at the Capitol Visitor Center. Mr. Sanders scripted the evening’s event, interviewed panelists and directed the conversation. There were no nettlesome questions from television or newspaper reporters. And over the next two weeks the real target audience — online viewers — would show up in droves, with some 800,000 people watching it.

The event provided a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the grass-roots efforts Mr. Sanders has become known for, as his team revved up its campaign engine: A week later, Mr. Sanders would announce his bid for re-election to the Senate. The democratic socialist from Vermont is also widely believed to be considering another run for president in 2020.

But the Iran discussion also reflected the kind of direct-to-voter messaging strategy that has become increasingly common among politicians — both as a way to shape information about their goals and to avoid difficult questions from the news media, particularly in the midst of scandal or controversy. From Washington to Texas to California, politicians are road-testing their political messaging strategies, searching for the best way to reach voters in ways that often bypass the traditional media gatekeepers.

The Iran town hall event would be the third Mr. Sanders has held this year; more than one million people viewed the first, on health care, and roughly 2.5 million watched the second, on inequality, according to Mr. Sanders’s team.

Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Representative Sean Duffy of Wisconsin, both running this year, have started podcasts, with humanizing names like “Canarycast” and “Plaidcast.” Representative Devin Nunes of California has his own local news site, The California Republican, which is paid for by his campaign committee. Representative Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat making a long-shot bid to unseat Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, is streaming his entire campaign live on Facebook. And many other politicians are now routinely Instagramming and Facebooking, tweeting and Snapchatting.

Mr. Sanders, center, held his third town hall event this year, drawing a sizable audience online and demonstrating one way that politicians are trying to deliver their talking points directly to voters.

These media methods have obvious appeal: Politicians can appear accessible but remain insulated from the press. They are also not altogether new. President Trump eschewed traditional television advertising during the 2016 campaign and can now overshadow even his own party’s message at the drop of a tweet. And many politicians have long made a practice of…

Digital ads, social media hide political campaign messaging

Digital ads, social media hide political campaign messaging

The main events in a political campaign used to happen in the open: a debate, the release of a major TV ad or a public event where candidates tried to earn a spot on the evening news or the next day’s front page.

That was before the explosion of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as political platforms. Now some of a campaign’s most pivotal efforts happen in the often-murky world of social media, where ads can be targeted to ever-narrower slices of the electorate and run continuously with no disclosure of who is paying for them. Reporters cannot easily discern what voters are seeing, and hoaxes and forgeries spread instantaneously.

Journalists trying to hold candidates accountable have a hard time keeping up.

“There’s a whole dark area of campaigns out there when, if you’re not part of the target group, you don’t know anything about them,” said Larry Noble of the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, which seeks greater transparency in political spending. “And if reporters don’t know about it, they can’t ask questions about it.”

The problem came to widespread attention during the 2016 presidential race, when Donald Trump’s campaign invested heavily in digital advertising, and the term “fake news” emerged to describe pro-Trump propaganda masquerading as online news. Russian interference in the campaign included covert ads on social media and phony Facebook groups pumping out falsehoods.

The misinformation shows no sign of abating. The U.S. Senate election in Alabama in December was rife with fake online reports in support of Republican Roy Moore, who eventually lost to Democrat Doug Jones amid allegations that Moore had sexual contact with teenagers when he was a prosecutor in his 30s. Moore denied the accusations.

Politicians also try to create their own news operations. U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes’ campaign funded a purported news site called The California Republican, and the executive director of Maine’s Republican party last month acknowledged that he runs an anonymous website that is critical of Democrats.

Phony allegations are nothing new in politics. But they used to circulate in automated phone calls, mailers that were often tossed in the trash or, as far back as the 1800s, in partisan newspapers that published just once a day, noted Garlin Gilchrist, executive director of the Center for Social Media Responsibility at the University of Michigan.

The difference now is how quickly false information…