new survey by the Pew Research Center found that 15 percent of prominent accounts on those seven platforms had previously been banished from others like Twitter and Facebook.

F.B.I. raid on Mar-a-Lago thrust his latest pronouncements into the eye of the political storm once again.

study of Truth Social by Media Matters for America, a left-leaning media monitoring group, examined how the platform had become a home for some of the most fringe conspiracy theories. Mr. Trump, who began posting on the platform in April, has increasingly amplified content from QAnon, the online conspiracy theory.

He has shared posts from QAnon accounts more than 130 times. QAnon believers promote a vast and complex conspiracy that centers on Mr. Trump as a leader battling a cabal of Democratic Party pedophiles. Echoes of such views reverberated through Republican election campaigns across the country during this year’s primaries.

Ms. Jankowicz, the disinformation expert, said the nation’s social and political divisions had churned the waves of disinformation.

The controversies over how best to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic deepened distrust of government and medical experts, especially among conservatives. Mr. Trump’s refusal to accept the outcome of the 2020 election led to, but did not end with, the Capitol Hill violence.

“They should have brought us together,” Ms. Jankowicz said, referring to the pandemic and the riots. “I thought perhaps they could be kind of this convening power, but they were not.”

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Ex-Cop Lane Gets 3 Years In Plea Deal For Role In George Floyd’s Death

By Associated Press
September 21, 2022

Judge Peter Cahill accepted the plea agreement, saying he would sentence Lane below the guidelines because he accepted responsibility.

A former Minneapolis police officer who pleaded guilty to a state charge of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd was sentenced Wednesday to three years.

Thomas Lane is already serving a 2 1/2-year federal sentence for violating Floyd’s civil rights. When it comes to the state’s case, prosecutors and Lane’s attorneys had agreed to a recommended sentence of three years — which is below the sentencing guidelines — and prosecutors agreed to allow him to serve that penalty at the same time as his federal sentence, and in a federal prison.

Judge Peter Cahill accepted the plea agreement, saying he would sentence Lane below the guidelines because he accepted responsibility.

“I think it was a very wise decision for you to accept responsibility and move on with your life,” Cahill said, while acknowledging that the Floyd family has not been able to move on with theirs.

Under Minnesota rules, it’s presumed Lane would serve two years of his state sentence in prison, and the rest on supervised release, commonly known as parole.

Floyd, 46, died in May 2020 after Officer Derek Chauvin, who is White, pinned him to the ground with a knee on Floyd’s neck as the Black man repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe. Lane, who is White, held down Floyd’s legs. J. Alexander Kueng, who is Black, knelt on Floyd’s back, and Tou Thao, who is Hmong American, kept bystanders from intervening during the 9 1/2-minute restraint.

The killing, captured on widely viewed bystander video, sparked protests in Minneapolis and around the globe as part of a reckoning over racial injustice.

Wednesday’s sentencing hearing was held remotely. Lane appeared via video from the Federal Correctional Institution Englewood, the low-security federal prison camp in Littleton, Colorado. He made no statement to the court prior to sentencing. But after the hearing was adjourned, Lane complained to his attorney that the judge had said he would have to register as a predatory offender “if required.”

“I gotta register as a predatory offender? What the (expletive) is that?” Lane said. And he added: “That’s what Chauvin has to do. If I have a minimal role, why the (expletive) do I have to do that?”

Gray told him he’d look into it.

Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter and was given a 22 1/2-year state sentence in 2021. He also pleaded guilty to a federal count of violating Floyd’s civil rights, and his state and federal sentences are being served at the same time.

Kueng and Thao were also convicted on federal civil rights charges and were sentenced to three and 3 1/2 years, respectively. They have not yet reported to federal prison, and are scheduled to go to trial on state charges of aiding and abetting both murder and manslaughter in October.

When Lane pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter earlier this year, he admitted that he intentionally helped restrain Floyd in a way that created an unreasonable risk and caused his death. As part of the plea agreement, a more serious count of aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder was dismissed.

In his plea agreement, Lane admitted that he knew from his training that restraining Floyd in that way created a serious risk of death, and that he heard Floyd say he couldn’t breathe, knew Floyd fell silent, had no pulse and appeared to have lost consciousness.

The plea agreement says Lane knew Floyd should have been rolled onto his side — and evidence shows he asked twice if that should be done — but he continued to assist in the restraint despite the risk. Lane agreed the restraint was “unreasonable under the circumstances and constituted an unlawful use of force.”

Source: newsy.com

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Kentucky School Shooter Parole Decision Delayed Until Monday

Michael Carneal is seeking to be freed from his life sentence for fatally shooting three students and wounding five more at Heath High School in 1997.

A Kentucky man who killed three students and wounded five more in a school shooting 25 years ago will have to wait another week to learn his fate in a high-stakes hearing that could see him released or denied the chance to ever leave prison.

Michael Carneal was a 14-year-old freshman on Dec. 1, 1997, when he fired a stolen pistol at a before-school prayer group in the lobby of Heath High School, near Paducah, Kentucky. School shootings were not yet a depressing part of the national consciousness, and Carneal was given the maximum sentence possible at the time for someone his age — life in prison but with the possibility of parole. A quarter century later, in the shadow of Uvalde and in a nation disgusted by the carnage of mass shootings, Carneal, now 39, is trying to convince the parole board he deserves to be freed.

At a hearing on Tuesday, a two-person panel of the Kentucky Parole Board said they had not reached a decision and were referring his case to the full board, which meets on Monday. Only the full board has the power to order Carneal to serve out his full sentence without another chance at parole.

Speaking on a videoconference from the Kentucky State Reformatory in La Grange, Carneal told the panel that at the time of the shooting, “I was hearing in my head to do certain things, but I should have known that stealing guns … was going to lead to something terrible.” He said that he has been receiving therapy and taking psychiatric medications in prison, however he admitted that he continues to hear voices. As recently as a couple of days ago, he heard voices telling him to jump off the stairs.

Parole Board Chair Ladeidra Jones told Carneal that his inmate file lists his mental health prognosis as “poor” and says that even with mental health services, he is still experiencing paranoid thoughts with violent imagery, she said.

Asked how the board could be assured that he would not act on those thoughts, he said that he has learned to ignore them and hasn’t acted on them for many years. Carneal said he would be able to do good in the world if he were released, but he did not offer any specific plans.

“It doesn’t have to be something grand,” he said. “Every little thing you do affects somebody. It could be listening to someone, carrying something. I would like to do something in the future that could contribute to society.”

Carneal said the shooting happened because of a combination of factors that included his mental health and immaturity, but he added that it was “not justified at all. There’s no excuse for it at all.”

His parole hearing began Monday with testimony from those injured and close family of those killed, several of whom had considered Carneal a friend.

Missy Jenkins Smith, who was paralyzed by one of Carneal’s bullets and uses a wheelchair, said there are too many “what ifs” to release him. What if he stops taking his medication? What if his medication stops working?

“Continuing his life in prison is the only way his victims can feel comfortable and safe,” she said.

Killed in the shooting were 14-year-old Nicole Hadley, 17-year-old Jessica James, and 15-year-old Kayce Steger. Jenkins Smith said it would be unfair to them and their loved ones for Carneal to be set free.

“They will forever be a 17 year old, a 14 year old, and a 15 year old — allowed only one full decade of life. A consequence of Michael’s choice,” she said.

Also testifying Monday was Christina Hadley Ellegood, whose younger sister Nicole was killed in the shooting. Ellegood has written about the pain of seeing her sister’s body and having to call their mom and tell her Nicole had been shot.

“I had no one to turn to who understood what I was going through,” she said Monday. “For me, it’s not fair for him to be able to roam around with freedom when we live in fear of where he might be.”

The two-person panel of the full parole board only has the option to release him or defer his next opportunity for parole for up to five years. Because they could not agree on those options, they sent the case to a meeting of the full board next Monday.

Hollan Holm, who was wounded that day, spoke Monday about lying on the floor of the high school lobby, bleeding from his head and believing he was going to die. But he said Carneal was too young to comprehend the full consequences of his actions and should have a chance at supervised release.

“When I think of Michael Carneal, I think of the child I rode the bus with every day,” he said. “I think of the child I shared a lunch table with in third grade. I think of what he could have become if, on that day, he had it somewhere in him to make a different choice or take a different path.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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How Pharmacy Work Stopped Being So Great

If any group of workers might have expected their pay to rise last year, it would arguably have been pharmacists. With many drugstores dispensing coronavirus tests and vaccines while filling hundreds of prescriptions each day, working as a pharmacist became a sleep-deprived, lunch-skipping frenzy — one in which ornery customers did not hesitate to vent their frustrations over the inevitable backups and bottlenecks.

“I was stressed all day long about giving immunizations,” said Amanda Poole, who left her job as a pharmacist at a CVS in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in June. “I’d look at patients and say to them, ‘I’d love to fill your prescriptions today, but there’s no way I can.’”

Yet pay for pharmacists, who typically spend six or seven years after high school working toward their professional degree, fell nearly 5 percent last year after adjusting for inflation. Dr. Poole said her pay, about $65 per hour, did not increase in more than four years — first at an independent pharmacy, then at CVS.

data collected by a team of economists at the University of California, Berkeley.

The gap is part of a long-term trend made worse by a slowdown in pay gains for middle- and upper-middle-income workers in the 2000s. “If you’re going to a hedge fund or investment bank or a tech company, you’ve done enormously well,” said Lawrence Katz, a labor economist at Harvard. Typical college graduates, he said, “have not done that great.”

The stagnation appears to have moved up the income ladder in the last few years, even touching those in the top 10 percent.

In some cases, the explanation may be a temporary factor, like inflation. But pharmacists illustrate how slow wage growth can point to a longer-term shift that renders once sought-after jobs less rewarding financially and emotionally.

wages in the profession surged as the country faced a pharmacist shortage driven by an aging population and a rise in chronic conditions.

typically take two or three years of college-level prerequisites before earning a four-year professional degree.)

But by the 2010s, the market for pharmacists was cooling thanks to some of the same factors that have weighed on other middle-class professions. Large chains such as Walgreens and CVS were buying up competitors and adjacent businesses like health insurers.

Consolidation among benefit managers gave them more leverage over pharmacies to drive prices lower. (CVS merged with a large benefits manager in 2007.)

Big drugstore chains often responded by trying to rein in labor costs, according to William Doucette, a professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Iowa. Several pharmacists who worked at Walgreens and CVS said the formulas their companies used to allocate labor resulted in low levels of staffing that were extremely difficult to increase.

According to documents provided by a former CVS pharmacist, managers are motivated by bonuses to stay within these aggressive targets. CVS said it made staffing decisions to ensure “the safe and accurate filling of prescriptions.”

The day that Dr. Poole began seriously reconsidering her CVS job in Tuscaloosa came in May 2021 when, nearly eight months pregnant, she fainted at work.

The loss of consciousness was nothing serious in itself — she and the baby were unharmed, and an adjustment to her blood-pressure medication solved the problem. Much more alarming to her was what the episode said about working conditions: Despite the additional responsibilities of the pandemic, like coronavirus vaccines and catering to Covid-19 patients, there was no co-worker around to notice that she had hit the deck.

contract signed in March by a union of Chicago-area Walgreens pharmacists reflected a similar approach. It provided maximum base pay of $64.50 per hour, the same as the previous contract, but lowered the starting wage from $58 per hour to $49.55 per hour by September. (Like many retail pharmacists, the union members also receive bonuses.)

CVS and Walgreens said they had made hiring pharmacists a priority during the pandemic — CVS said it employed nearly 6 percent more pharmacists today than it did in early 2020; Walgreens declined to provide a figure. CVS said its compensation was “very competitive” for pharmacists, and Walgreens cited “ongoing phased wage increases”; both chains have offered signing bonuses to recruit pharmacists. The Chicago union said Walgreens had recently offered to raise pay for about one-quarter of its lowest-paid members.

To explain the wage stagnation of upper-middle-class workers during the pandemic, some economists have suggested that affluent workers are willing to accept lower wage growth for the ability to work from home. Dr. Katz, of Harvard, said the wages of many affluent workers might simply be slower to adjust to inflation than the wages of lower-paid workers.

But Marshall Steinbaum, an economist at the University of Utah, said the fact that upper-middle-class workers were not able to claim a larger share of last year’s exceptionally high corporate profits “speaks to the disempowerment of workers at all levels of status.”

change in state regulations would allow pharmacy technicians to administer shots. “They expected the techs to transition into that role,” Dr. Knolhoff said.

Overall, the industry added more than 20,000 technicians — an increase of about 5 percent — from 2020 to 2021. In that time, prescription volume increased roughly the same percentage, according to data from Barclays.

The effective replacement of higher-paid workers with lower-paid workers has also occurred in other sectors, such as higher education. But at drugstores, where pharmacists must sign off on every prescription, this shift has left little margin for error.

In August 2020, Dr. Wommack, the Walgreens pharmacist in Missouri, got Covid. A colleague covered her first two days out but couldn’t cover the third, at which point the store simply closed because there was no backup plan.

Several pharmacists said they were especially concerned that understaffing had put patients at risk, given the potentially deadly consequences of mix-ups. “It was so mentally taxing,” said Dr. Poole, the Tuscaloosa pharmacist. “Every day, I was like: I hope I don’t kill anyone.”

Asked about safety and staffing, CVS and Walgreens said they had made changes, like automating routine tasks, to help pharmacists focus on the most important aspects of their jobs.

Many pharmacists contacted for this article quit rather than face this persistent dread, often taking lower-paying positions.

Still, none had regrets about the decision to leave. “I was 4,000 pounds lighter the moment I sent my resignation email in,” said Dr. Wommack, who left the company in May 2021 and now works at a small community hospital.

As for the medication she had taken for depression and anxiety while at Walgreens, she said, “Shortly after I stopped working there, I stopped taking those pills.”

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Putin Aims to Shape a New Generation of Supporters, Through Schools

Starting in first grade, students across Russia will soon sit through weekly classes featuring war movies and virtual tours through Crimea. They will be given a steady dose of lectures on topics like “the geopolitical situation” and “traditional values.” In addition to a regular flag-raising ceremony, they will be introduced to lessons celebrating Russia’s “rebirth” under President Vladimir V. Putin.

And, according to legislation signed into law by Mr. Putin on Thursday, all Russian children will be encouraged to join a new patriotic youth movement in the likeness of the Soviet Union’s red-cravatted “Pioneers” — presided over by the president himself.

Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian government’s attempts at imparting a state ideology to schoolchildren have proven unsuccessful, a senior Kremlin bureaucrat, Sergei Novikov, recently told thousands of Russian schoolteachers in an online workshop. But now, amid the war in Ukraine, Mr. Putin has made it clear that this needed to change, he said.

end 30 years of openness to the West.

even a hockey player with suspect loyalties.

But nowhere are these ambitions clearer than in the Kremlin’s race to overhaul how children are taught at Russia’s 40,000 public schools.

militarize Russian society, building on officials’ ad hoc efforts after the invasion to convince young people that the war was justified.

“Patriotism should be the dominant value of our people,” another senior Kremlin official, Aleksandr Kharichev, said at last month’s workshop for teachers, which was hosted by the education ministry.

His presentation defined patriotism bluntly: “Readiness to give one’s life for the Motherland.”

Mr. Novikov, the head of the Kremlin’s “public projects” directorate, said that with the invasion of Ukraine in February, teachers faced “a rather urgent task”: to “carry out explanatory work” and answer students’ “difficult questions.”

“While everything is more or less controllable with the younger ones, the older students receive information through a wide variety of channels,” he said, acknowledging the government’s fears about the internet swaying young people’s views. A poll last month by the independent Levada Center found that 36 percent of Russians aged 18 to 24 opposed the war in Ukraine, compared with just 20 percent of all adults.

published by the education ministry last month shows that Mr. Putin’s two decades in power are set to be enshrined in the standard curriculum as a historical turning point, while the teaching of history itself will become more doctrinal.

The decree says that Russian history classes will be required to include several new topics like “the rebirth of Russia as a great power in the 21st century,” “reunification with Crimea,” and “the special military operation in Ukraine.”

And while Russia’s existing educational standard says students should be able to evaluate “various versions of history,” the new proposal says they should learn to “defend historical truth” and “uncover falsifications in the Fatherland’s history.”

As government employees, teachers generally have little choice but to comply with the new demands — though there are signs of grass-roots resistance. Mr. Ken says the Alliance of Teachers, his union, has provided legal guidance to dozens of teachers who have refused to teach this spring’s propaganda classes, noting that political agitation in schools is technically illegal under Russian law. In some cases, he says, principals have simply canceled the classes, knowing they were unpopular.

“You just need to find the moral strength not to facilitate evil,” Sergei Chernyshov, who runs a private high school in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk and has resisted promoting government propaganda, said in a phone interview. “If you can’t protest against it, at least don’t help it.”

Come September, such resistance could become more difficult, with schools directed to add an hour of class every Monday promoting the Kremlin’s version of patriotism. Virtual guest speakers in those classes will include Ramzan Kadyrov, the brutal strongman leader of the Chechnya region, and Patriarch Kirill I, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church who has called the invasion a righteous fight, according to a presentation at last month’s workshop.

schedule of the weekly classes posted by the education ministry. In October, fifth graders and up will have a session apparently meant to discourage emigration; its title: “Happiness is being happy at home.”

Also beginning in September is the Kremlin’s new youth movement, an idea endorsed by Mr. Putin in a televised meeting in April and enshrined in legislation he signed on Thursday.

A co-sponsor of the legislation, the lawmaker Artyom Metelev, said the creation of a new youth movement had long been in the works, but that the West’s online “information war” targeting young people amid the fighting in Ukraine made that measure more urgent.

“This would have also all appeared without the military operation,” Mr. Metelev, who is 28 and a member of Mr. Putin’s United Russia party, said in a phone interview. “It’s just that the military operation and those, let’s say, actions being carried out in relation to our country have accelerated it.”

Moscow’s propaganda infrastructure aimed at children remains far more limited than it was during the Soviet era — a time when young people actively sought out underground cultural exports smuggled in from the West. Mr. Chernyshov, the Novosibirsk school director, believes that the Kremlin’s attempts to sell its militarism to children will now also eventually run up against the young mind’s common sense.

“A 10-year-old child is much more of a humanist than the typical Russian citizen,” he said. “It’s simply impossible to explain to a child in plain language why, right now, some people are killing others.”

Alina Lobzina contributed reporting.

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How a Religious Sect Landed Google in a Lawsuit

OREGON HOUSE, Calif. — In a tiny town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, a religious organization called the Fellowship of Friends has established an elaborate, 1,200-acre compound full of art and ornate architecture.

More than 200 miles away from the Fellowship’s base in Oregon House, Calif., the religious sect, which believes a higher consciousness can be achieved by embracing fine arts and culture, has also gained a foothold inside a business unit at Google.

Even in Google’s freewheeling office culture, which encourages employees to speak their own minds and pursue their own projects, the Fellowship’s presence in the business unit was unusual. As many as 12 Fellowship members and close relatives worked for the Google Developer Studio, or GDS, which produces videos showcasing the company’s technologies, according to a lawsuit filed by Kevin Lloyd, a 34-year-old former Google video producer.

critically acclaimed winery; and collected art from across the world, including more than $11 million in Chinese antiques.

Revelations.” Mr. Burton described Apollo as the seed of a new civilization that would emerge after a global apocalypse.

sold its collection of Chinese antiques at auction. In 2015, after its chief winemaker left the organization, its winery ceased production. The Fellowship’s president, Greg Holman, declined to comment for this article.

The Google Developer Studio is run by Peter Lubbers, a longtime member of the Fellowship of Friends. A July 2019 Fellowship directory, obtained by The Times, lists him as a member. Former members confirm that he joined the Fellowship after moving to the United States from the Netherlands.

At Google, he is a director, a role that is usually a rung below vice president in Google management and usually receives annual compensation in the high six figures or low seven figures.

Previously, Mr. Lubbers worked for the staffing company Kelly Services. M. Catherine Jones, Mr. Lloyd’s lawyer, won a similar suit against Kelly Services in 2008 on behalf of Lynn Noyes, who claimed that the company had failed to promote her because she was not a member of the Fellowship. A California court awarded Ms. Noyes $6.5 million in damages.

Ms. Noyes said in an interview that Mr. Lubbers was among a large contingent of Fellowship members from the Netherlands who worked for the company in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

At Kelly Services, Mr. Lubbers worked as a software developer before a stint at Oracle, the Silicon Valley software giant, according to his LinkedIn profile, which was recently deleted. He joined Google in 2012, initially working on a team that promoted Google technology to outside software developers. In 2014, he helped create G.D.S., which produced videos promoting Google developer tools.

Kelly Services declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Under Mr. Lubbers, the group brought in several other members of the Fellowship, including a video producer named Gabe Pannell. A 2015 photo posted to the internet by Mr. Pannell’s father shows Mr. Lubbers and Mr. Pannell with Mr. Burton, who is known as “The Teacher” or “Our Beloved Teacher” within the Fellowship. A caption on the photo, which was also recently deleted, calls Mr. Pannell a “new student.”

Echoing claims made in the lawsuit, Erik Johanson, a senior video producer who has worked for the Google Developer Studio since 2015 through ASG, said the team’s leadership abused the hiring system that brought workers in as contractors.

“They were able to further their own aims very rapidly because they could hire people with far less scrutiny and a far less rigorous on-boarding process than if these people were brought on as full-time employees,” he said. “It meant that no one was looking very closely when all these people were brought on from the foothills of the Sierras.”

Mr. Lloyd said that after applying for his job he had interviewed with Mr. Pannell twice, and that he had reported directly to Mr. Pannell when he joined a 25-person Bay Area video production team inside GDS in 2017. He soon noticed that nearly half this team, including Mr. Lubbers and Mr. Pannell, came from Oregon House.

Google paid to have a state-of-the-art sound system installed in the Oregon House home of one Fellowship member who worked for the team as a sound designer, according to the suit. Mr. Lubbers disputed this claim in a phone interview, saying the equipment was old and would have been thrown out if the team had not sent it to the home.

The sound designer’s daughter also worked for the team as a set designer. Additional Fellowship members and their relatives were hired to staff Google events, including a photographer, a masseuse, Mr. Lubbers’s wife and his son, who worked as a DJ at company parties.

The company frequently served wine from Grant Marie, a winery in Oregon House run by a Fellowship member who previously managed the Fellowship’s winery, according to the suit and a person familiar with the matter, who declined to be identified for fear of reprisal.

“My personal religious beliefs are a deeply held private matter,” Mr. Lubbers said. “In all my years in tech, they have never played a role in hiring. I have always performed my role by bringing in the right talent for the situation — bringing in the right vendors for the jobs.”

He said ASG, not Google, hired contractors for the GDS team, adding that it was fine for him to “encourage people to apply for those roles.” And he said that in recent years, the team has grown to more than 250 people, including part-time employees.

Mr. Pannell said in a phone interview that the team brought in workers from “a circle of trusted friends and families with extremely qualified backgrounds,” including graduates of the University of California, Berkeley.

In 2017 and 2018, according to the suit, Mr. Pannell attended video shoots intoxicated and occasionally threw things at the presenter when he was unhappy with a performance. Mr. Pannell said that he did not remember the incidents and that they did not sound like something he would do. He also acknowledged that he’d had problems with alcohol and had sought help.

After seven months at Google, Mr. Pannell was made a full-time employee, according to the suit. He was later promoted to senior producer and then executive producer, according to his LinkedIn profile, which has also been deleted.

Mr. Lloyd brought much of this to the attention of a manager inside the team, he said. But he was repeatedly told not to pursue the matter because Mr. Lubbers was a powerful figure at Google and because Mr. Lloyd could lose his job, according to his lawsuit. He said he was fired in February 2021 and was not given a reason. Google, Mr. Lubbers and Mr. Pannell said he had been fired for performance issues.

Ms. Jones, Mr. Lloyd’s lawyer, argued that Google’s relationship with ASG allowed members of the Fellowship to join the company without being properly vetted. “This is one of the methods the Fellowship used in the Kelly case,” she said. “They can get through the door without the normal scrutiny.”

Mr. Lloyd is seeking damages for wrongful termination, retaliation, failure to prevent discrimination and the intentional infliction of emotion distress. But he said he worries that, by doing so much business with its members, Google fed money into the Fellowship of Friends.

“Once you become aware of this, you become responsible,” Mr. Lloyd said. “You can’t look away.”

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Google Sidelines Engineer Who Claims Its A.I. Is Sentient

SAN FRANCISCO — Google placed an engineer on paid leave recently after dismissing his claim that its artificial intelligence is sentient, surfacing yet another fracas about the company’s most advanced technology.

Blake Lemoine, a senior software engineer in Google’s Responsible A.I. organization, said in an interview that he was put on leave Monday. The company’s human resources department said he had violated Google’s confidentiality policy. The day before his suspension, Mr. Lemoine said, he handed over documents to a U.S. senator’s office, claiming they provided evidence that Google and its technology engaged in religious discrimination.

Google said that its systems imitated conversational exchanges and could riff on different topics, but did not have consciousness. “Our team — including ethicists and technologists — has reviewed Blake’s concerns per our A.I. Principles and have informed him that the evidence does not support his claims,” Brian Gabriel, a Google spokesman, said in a statement. “Some in the broader A.I. community are considering the long-term possibility of sentient or general A.I., but it doesn’t make sense to do so by anthropomorphizing today’s conversational models, which are not sentient.” The Washington Post first reported Mr. Lemoine’s suspension.

fired a researcher who had sought to publicly disagree with two of his colleagues’ published work. And the dismissals of two A.I. ethics researchers, Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell, after they criticized Google language models, have continued to cast a shadow on the group.

neural network, which is a mathematical system that learns skills by analyzing large amounts of data. By pinpointing patterns in thousands of cat photos, for example, it can learn to recognize a cat.

Over the past several years, Google and other leading companies have designed neural networks that learned from enormous amounts of prose, including unpublished books and Wikipedia articles by the thousands. These “large language models” can be applied to many tasks. They can summarize articles, answer questions, generate tweets and even write blog posts.

But they are extremely flawed. Sometimes they generate perfect prose. Sometimes they generate nonsense. The systems are very good at recreating patterns they have seen in the past, but they cannot reason like a human.

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The Lies Putin Tells to Justify Russia’s War on Ukraine

In the tense weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Russian officials denied that it planned anything of the sort, denouncing the United States and its NATO allies for stoking panic and anti-Russian hatred. When it did invade, the officials denied it was at war.

Since then, the Kremlin has cycled through a torrent of lies to explain why it had to wage a “special military operation” against a sovereign neighbor. Drug-addled neo-Nazis. Genocide. American biological weapons factories. Birds and reptiles trained to carry pathogens into Russia. Ukrainian forces bombing their own cities, including theaters sheltering children.

Disinformation in wartime is as old as war itself, but today war unfolds in the age of social media and digital diplomacy. That has given Russia — and its allies in China and elsewhere — powerful means to prop up the claim that the invasion is justified, exploiting disinformation to rally its citizens at home and to discredit its enemies abroad. Truth has simply become another front in Russia’s war.

Using a barrage of increasingly outlandish falsehoods, President Vladimir V. Putin has created an alternative reality, one in which Russia is at war not with Ukraine but with a larger, more pernicious enemy in the West. Even since the war began, the lies have gotten more and more bizarre, transforming from claims that “true sovereignty” for Ukraine was possible only under Russia, made before the attacks, to those about migratory birds carrying bioweapons.

reaching audiences that were once harder to reach.

“Previously, if you were sitting in Moscow and you wanted to reach audiences sitting in, say, Idaho, you would have to work really hard doing that,” said Elise Thomas, a researcher in Australia for the Institute of Strategic Dialogue, referring to disinformation campaigns dating to the Soviet Union. “It would take you time to set up the systems, whereas now you can do it with the press of a button.”

The power of Russia’s claim that the invasion is justified comes not from the veracity of any individual falsehood meant to support it but from the broader argument. Individual lies about bioweapons labs or crisis actors are advanced by Russia as swiftly as they are debunked, with little consistency or logic between them. But supporters stubbornly cling to the overarching belief that something is wrong in Ukraine and Russia will fix it. Those connections prove harder to shake, even as new evidence is introduced.

That mythology, and its resilience in the face of fact-checking and criticism, reflects “the ability of autocrats and malign actors to completely brainwash us to the point where we don’t see what’s in front of us,” said Laura Thornton, the director and senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund’s Alliance for Securing Democracy.

The Kremlin’s narratives today feed on pre-existing views of the war’s root causes, which Mr. Putin has nurtured for years — and restated in increasingly strident language last week.

President Volodymyr Zelensky himself, whose video messages to Ukrainians and the world have combined bravery with the stage presence of the television performer he once was.

Russia, though, has more tools and reach, and it has the upper hand with weaponry. The strategy has been to overwhelm the information space, especially at home, which “is really where their focus is,” said Peter Pomerantsev, a scholar at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University who has written extensively about Russian propaganda.

Russia’s propaganda machine plays into suspicion of the West and NATO, which have been vilified on state television for years, deeply embedding distrust in Russian society. State media has also more recently echoed beliefs advanced by the QAnon movement, which ascribes the world’s problems largely to global elites and sex traffickers.

Those beliefs make people feel “scared and uncertain and alienated,” said Sophia Moskalenko, a social psychologist at Georgia State University. “As a result of manipulating their emotions, they will be more likely to embrace conspiracy theories.”

Mr. Putin’s public remarks, which dominate state media, have become increasingly strident. He has warned that nationalist sentiment in Ukraine is a threat to Russia itself, as is NATO expansion.

swiftly to silence dissenting points of view that could cut through the fog of war and discourage the Russian population.

For now, the campaign appears to have rallied public opinion behind Mr. Putin, according to most surveys in Russia, though not as high as might be expected for a country at war.

“My impression is that many people in Russia are buying the government’s narrative,” said Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center. “They have doctored images on state-controlled media. Private media don’t cover the war, fearing 15 years in prison. Same goes for people on the social media. Russia has lost information warfare globally, but the regime is quite successful at home.”

appeared in the information fortress the Kremlin is building.

A week after the invasion began, when it was already clear the war was going badly for Russian troops, Mr. Putin rushed to enact a law that punishes “fake news” with up to 15 years in prison. Media regulators warned broadcasters not to refer to the war as a war. They also forced off the air two flagships of independent media — Ekho Moskvy, a liberal radio station, and Dozhd, a television station — that gave voice to the Kremlin’s opponents.

Access to Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and most recently Instagram has also been severed inside Russia — all platforms the country’s diplomats have continued to use outside to misinform. Once spread, disinformation can be tenacious, even in places with a free press and open debate, like the United States, where polls suggest that more than 40 percent of the population believes the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald J. Trump.

“Why are people so surprised that this kind of widespread disinformation can be so effective in Russia when it was so effective here?” Ms. Thornton of the German Marshall Fund said.

As the war in Ukraine drags on, however, casualties are mounting, confronting families in Russia with the loss of fathers and sons. That could test how persuasive the Kremlin’s information campaign truly is.

The Soviet Union sought to keep a similar veil of silence around its decade-long quagmire in Afghanistan in the 1980s, but the truth seeped into public consciousness anyway, eroding the foundation of the entire system. Two years after the last troops pulled out in 1989, the Soviet Union itself collapsed.

Claire Fu contributed research.

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Reporters in Afghanistan Face an Intolerant Regime: ‘Everything Changed Overnight’

Beloved shows removed from the airwaves. A television station cutting from a news report a story about a pregnant police officer who was reportedly fatally shot by the Taliban. A radio editor telling his colleagues to edit out anti-Taliban cheers from coverage of demonstrations in the capital.

Afghanistan’s vibrant free press and media industry, once celebrated as a success story and labeled one of the country’s most important achievements of the past two decades, has abruptly been transformed after the Taliban takeover of the country. Now, its survival is threatened by physical assaults, self-censorship and a dwindling journalist population less than a month after the Taliban seized control of Kabul, the capital, and began enforcing their hard-line Islamist policies.

The Taliban’s crackdown on the free press was even more evident on Wednesday after two Afghan journalists were detained and violently assaulted for covering a protest in Kabul. Photos showed the backsides of both reporters covered with bruises and gashes from being whipped repeatedly with cables, sparking an international outcry.

“The situation of free media is very critical,” said Neda, an anchor for a local television station in Kabul, identified by her nickname to protect her identity. “No one dares to ask the Taliban about their past wrongdoings and the atrocities they have committed.”

the Taliban rounded up scores of demonstrators around Kabul and journalists covering the protests, subjecting them to abuse in overcrowded jails, according to journalists who were present. The crackdown on the demonstrations and the ensuing coverage followed a Taliban announcement Tuesday that protests would not be allowed without government approval. At least 19 journalists were detained on Tuesday and Wednesday, the United Nations said.

“You’re lucky you have not been beheaded,” Taliban guards told one detained journalist as they kicked him in the head, Ravina Shamdasdani, a spokeswoman for the United Nations human rights office in Geneva, told reporters.

Reporters with Etilaat e Roz described being detained at the protests, then brought to a nearby police station where they were tied up and beaten with cables.

Taqi Daryabi, one of the reporters, said about a half-dozen Taliban members handcuffed him behind his back when he was on the ground on his stomach, then began kicking and hitting him until he lost consciousness.

“They beat so much that I couldn’t resist or move,” he said. “They forced me to the ground on my stomach, flogging me on my buttocks and back, and the ones who were in the front were kicking me in the face.”

Reporters working for Tolo News, Ariana News, Pajhwok News Agency and several freelance journalists have also been detained and beaten by the Taliban in the past three weeks, according to local media reports.

“The Taliban is quickly proving that earlier promises to allow Afghanistan’s independent media to continue operating freely and safely are worthless,” Steven Butler, Asia program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a statement Wednesday. “We urge the Taliban to live up to those earlier promises, to stop beating and detaining reporters doing their job.”

On top of the dangerous environment, the flow of information from the government has slowed and become very limited. There used to be dozens of government spokesmen; now there are only a handful speaking for the new Taliban government, and they are less responsive than during the group’s insurgency.

In the late 1990s, the Taliban imposed strict restrictions on the media, banning television and using the state-owned radio and newspapers as propaganda platforms. But the group promised greater openness toward freedom of expression once it seized power last month.

“We will respect freedom of the press, because media reporting will be useful to society and will be able to help correct the leaders’ errors,” Zabihullah Mujahid, the acting deputy information and culture minister, told Reporters Without Borders last week. “We declare to the world that we recognize the importance of the role of the media.”

Many Afghan journalists said those promises are just “words” by Taliban’s leaders, citing recent assaults on reporters in Kabul and elsewhere.

“Press freedom is dead in Afghanistan,” said Mr. Quraishi, the media advocate. “And the society without a free press dies.”

Jim Huylebroek contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan. Nick Bruce contributed from Geneva.

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Tokyo Olympics Highlight the Barriers Japan’s Girls Face in Sports

TOKYO — Kurumi Mochizuki is the kind of skilled soccer player who can roll a ball from between her shoulder blades to the top of her head and onto her right foot, keeping it aloft for more than a dozen kicks. She makes it look so easy.

Yet when she practices with her local club team in southeastern Tokyo, her coaches sometimes advise her to take longer breaks than her teammates, and warn her not to pick up heavy bags of balls when clearing equipment from the field.

All because she is a girl.

Kurumi, 13, is the only girl on her team. She plays with boys because there are no girls’ club teams near her neighborhood and no girls’ team at her middle school. Finding a team in high school will be difficult, too. Only one of the 14 schools in Kurumi’s area offers a girls’ team. Her older brother, who plays soccer at his high school, has had no such trouble — almost all the high schools in the district have boys’ soccer teams.

Tokyo Olympics, which open next month, offer an opportunity to anoint another crop of champions to inspire girls with athletic aspirations. But after the Olympic spotlight dims, those like Kurumi will still face powerful obstacles.

Japan has no law like Title IX, the American statute that requires schools receiving public funding to offer equal opportunities to boys and girls, and there is no public data on how much schools spend on extracurricular sports or how it breaks down on gender lines.

Female athletes who persevere often have to push past stereotypes that they are doing something unladylike, jeopardizing their chances of attracting boys and later becoming wives and mothers. Even their coaches view their participation through this lens, in some cases giving them etiquette lessons to ensure they are ready for domestic life.

2011 Women’s World Cup and claimed the silver medal at the London Olympics in 2012.

She followed her brother into soccer when she was 6. “When I was little, I never thought about it,” she said of being the sole girl on her team. “But once I got a bit older, I was much more aware of it.”

The extracurricular soccer team at her public middle school is technically coed, although not one of the team’s 40 players is a girl. Kurumi decided to stick to the club team she had played with since elementary school rather than try to break into a new group at school.

“There is a difference in strength and aggressiveness between boys and girls,” said Shigeki Komatsu, the middle school’s vice principal, standing on the sidelines as the boys scrimmaged on a gravel pitch, their cleats kicking up puffs of dust.

hopes that the situation would improve for female athletes in Japan.

Before that victory, girls in the United States had flocked to suburban soccer clubs after the U.S. women won the World Cup on American soil in 1999.

Koshien, that is more than 100 years old. Just after New Year’s, huge audiences tune in to watch the Hakone Ekiden, a college-level marathon relay that is restricted to male runners.

There are few vocal advocates for female athletes, and most of their coaches are men who often do not provide support for the physical changes that girls undergo in adolescence.

Hanae Ito, a swimmer who represented Japan at the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008, said coaches along the way had told her she was “mentally weak” when she gained weight or suffered menstruation-related mood changes as a teenage athlete.

“I thought it was a problem with me or that it was my fault,” she said. “But I think that this all ties back to Japan being a patriarchal society. Even women’s sports is seen from a male gaze.”

The idea that female athletes need to worry about their future prospects with men is deeply rooted.

After Hideko Maehata, an Olympic swimmer, became the first woman to win a gold medal for Japan, The Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan’s largest newspapers, heralded her victory at the 1936 Berlin Summer Games with the headline: “Next Up Is Marriage.”

Such attitudes persist today. Yuki Suzuki, who played in Japan’s Nadeshiko women’s professional soccer league and taught the sport until she gave birth to her son, is frustrated by the rigid gender definitions.

“Girls are often told ‘be feminine, be feminine,’” said Ms. Suzuki, now 34. “I think we have to change the fundamental culture of Japan when it comes to women.”

Even when girls get the chance to play, a bias toward boys emerges in small ways. At the middle school Kurumi attends, the boys’ volleyball and basketball teams get the gym three days a week for practice, while the girls use it the other two days.

Kurumi said she tried not to worry about the unequal treatment. She does not hold it against her coaches, she said, for barring her from carrying heavy equipment during practice.

“I am sure the coaches just care about me,” she said. “But personally, I know I could carry it.”

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