Justice Department Narrows Request For Visitor Logs To Inauguration Protest Website

The Department of Justice has narrowed the scope of a warrant it served to web hosting company DreamHost. The government has demanded information about DisruptJ20.org, a website used to organize protests in Washington, D.C., during the Inauguration in January.

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The Justice Department is dropping the most controversial part of its demand for records relating to a website used to coordinate protests during the presidential inauguration.

In court filings submitted yesterday, ahead of a hearing Thursday in D.C. Superior Court, the government suggests modifications to the warrant it attained for files from web hosting company DreamHost, which hosted the website DisruptJ20.org.

The change in scope was made “in light of factual revelations since July,” the filings state.

“The government has no interest in records relating to the 1.3 million IP addresses that are mentioned in DreamHost’s numerous press releases and Opposition brief,” according to the filings, which were submitted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer Kerkhoff and John Borchert.

The Justice Department goes on to say:

“The government values and respects the First Amendment right of all Americans to participate in peaceful political protests and to read protected political expression online. This Warrant has nothing to do with that right. The Warrant is focused on evidence of the planning coordination and participation in a criminal act – that is, a premeditated riot. The First Amendment does not protect violent, criminal conduct such as this.”

Last week, DreamHost revealed that the Justice Department had delivered it a warrant asking for “all files” related to DisruptJ20.org, a site the government says was used to organize a riot in downtown Washington, D.C., during the Inauguration. The Justice Department is pursing felony riot charges against nearly 200 people; 19 others have already pleaded guilty.

“This is a tremendous win for DreamHost, its users and the public,” DreamHost counsel Raymond Aghaian said in a statement to NPR. “There remains, unfortunately, other privacy and First and Fourth Amendment issues with the search warrant, which we will address in a separate filing and at the hearing Thursday morning.”

The DreamHost matter is complex, and not only because it involves Constitutional issues as well as a lot of technical jargon for all parties to wade through.

Among the “particular things to be seized” from DreamHost in the original warrant: HTML, CSS, JavaScript, image files, or other files; HTTP request and error logs; SSH, FTP, or Telnet logs; MySQL, PostgreSQL, or other databases related to the website.

As New York Times reporter Charlie Savage pointed out, Judge Ronald Wertheim, who granted the warrant, is in his eighties. He has been retired since 1992 but still hears cases occasionally.

A different judge, Robert Morin, will oversee tomorrow’s hearing.

One of the challenges of criminal investigations involving electronic evidence, the government said, “is that some of the evidence – particularly the full scope of the evidence – will be hidden from the government’s view unless and until the government obtains a court order or search warrant.”

In its brief, the Justice Department says it simply didn’t realize the depth of the information that DreamHost has, which includes” visitor data maintained by DreamHost that extends beyond the government’s singular locus in this case of investigating the planning, organization, and participation in the January 20, 2017 riot.”

But in earlier filings, the government had been indifferent to DreamHost’s objections, when it explained the extent of its data holdings.

DreamHost attorney Raymond Aghaian told the Justice Department in a July 21 email that the warrant for “all files” related to Disruptj20.org “seems overbroad,” and would include “the IP addresses of over 1,000,000 visitors to the website.”

In a motion filed a week later, the government said Aghaian’s concern about the warrant’s breadth was “simply not a sufficient basis for DreamHost to refuse to comply with the warrant.”

Mark Rumold, senior staff attorney at Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is advising DreamHost, says the government’s new, narrower warrant is an improvement — but problems remain.

“The new warrant excludes most visitor logs from the demand, and it also withdraws the demand for unpublished content, like draft blog posts and photos,” Rumold says in an email to NPR. “This was a sensible response on DOJ’s part—both legally and politically.”

“But the new warrant is not without its flaws,” he adds. “Most critically, DOJ is still investigating a website that was dedicated to organizing and planning political dissent and protest. That kind of activity — whether online or off — is the cornerstone of the First Amendment, and DOJ’s ongoing investigation should be cause for alarm to anyone, no matter your political party or beliefs.”

DreamHost’s counsel provided NPR with the document below, showing the modifications to the warrant.

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#HappyBirthday: Quintessential Twitter Feature Turns 10

Ten years ago today Chris Messina posted the first hashtag on Twitter: How do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?

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Bethany Clarke/Getty Images

The hashtag is 10! Yes, the symbol that started out as the lowly “number sign” or “pound” on the telephone keypad and later morphed into something entirely different is 10 years old today. And it has accomplished quite a lot. In fact, it’s hard to imagine modern communication without it.

And you might think it was all by design. That the folks running Twitter needed a catchy little tool to help their new platform catch fire, and the hashtag is what they came up with.

But that’s not the way it happened.

Twitter didn’t even create the hashtag. The guy who did create it, Chris Messina, a former Google engineer, is adamant that he did not create it for Twitter. And Twitter wasn’t sure it even needed a hashtag.

Here’s how it happened: Ten years ago, Messina and his programmer friends were growing increasingly frustrated with the way communication worked on the Internet. As promising as Twitter seemed to be, it was a jumble. It lacked a way of organizing the many tweets that were coming in. Their solution: Start using tags.

Back in May, Wired magazine rounded up Messina and a few others who were present at the creation to relive the moment.

Chris Messina: Ten years ago we were at South by Southwest in Austin when Twitter was really blowing up. But there were a lot of people back in San Francisco frustrated that their Twitter feeds were full of stories from Austin that were not relevant to them. There was no way of organizing tweets so you knew what to pay attention to and what to ignore.”

Messina said he sought inspiration from Internet Relay Chat, or IRC, a service techies often used to facilitate online communities:

I’d been an active user on IRC for a while, and they had this concept of channels, which you named with the pound symbol and a word. So one day, in August 2007, I went to Twitter’s headquarters in South Park, in San Francisco. I didn’t really know anybody, but I walked up to Biz Stone and was like, ‘Hey, we’ve been talking about this problem with groups on Twitter. What do you think about using pound symbols to tag posts?’

Biz Stone (Twitter Co-founder): I don’t think he was proposing an actual system by which we would search or display the tags. He was just saying people should use tags. I said, ‘OK, but what do you want me to do about that? Go ahead and do it.’ “

And that’s what they did. A few months later hashtags would start to catch fire because people wanted to find out more about, well, a fire.

This account is from Wednesday’s Irish Times:

“October of that year (2007) the first big hashtag campaign took off. Nate Ridder was trying to collate reporting about fires that had broken out in southern California into manageable streams. He did so with the hashtag #sandiegofire, and over dozens of posts his reader base came to know and understand the meaning and utility of that odd, little slanted grid.”

Two years later, hashtags had become so popular that Twitter arranged a formal adoption, and the rest, shall we say, is hashtag history.

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'Good Time' Filmmakers Wanted To Make A Movie That 'Actually Feels Dangerous'

Brothers Josh (left) and Benny Safdie are the directors of the new action thriller Good Time.

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Despite a title which might lead you to believe otherwise, Good Time is not an easy-going, popcorn flick; the gritty, pulp thriller falls into a genre that could be described as “movies about very, very bad nights.”

Robert Pattinson plays Connie Nikas, a small-time criminal trying to get his brother Nick out of jail after a bank robbery gone wrong.

Brotherhood frames the movie, both on-screen and behind the scenes — Benny Safdie, who plays the character of Nick, directed the movie with his brother, Josh Safdie. But the directors insist that the movie’s fraternal themes weren’t entirely conscious.

“This fraternal element was something that we don’t even have to think about,” Josh Safdie says. “We just kind of bring it to the movie.”

Interview Highlights

On casting the character of the brother Nick, who has an intellectual disability

Josh Safdie: We were looking into casting actors with real disabilities and we were very far along in that process and we were interviewing a lot of people … but we ended up … looking at our schedule, which was very aggressive, and a lot of scenes that called for intricate blocking and action set pieces — because this is, in the end, an action movie … we realized that [the actor] wouldn’t have much agency in those scenes, we’d be pushing them around and manipulating, and that morally crossed a line for us.

Benny Safdie: The last thing we wanted to do was have that character be taken advantage of from behind the camera.

Robert Pattinson (left) and Benny Safdie star as brothers Connie and Nick Nikas.


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On fraternal themes in the film

Josh Safdie: It was almost like we accidentally cut our hand and our blood kind of went all over the film … we didn’t realize we were putting in this element of brotherhood into the performances … and once we saw it, we were like: Wow this is really apparent.

On the movie — like many pulp films — being full of female victims

Benny Safdie: This [character, Connie,] is somebody who takes advantage of people. He’s more or less a scumbag. … I think that he can survey a landscape and see how to basically use it to his advantage. … Women, and people of color, and Jewish people — nobody is safe in this world. He’s not safe as well, and he gets what’s coming to him.

But I do think that he is a mentally ill person himself … that’s the psychopathic element to his character — he’s going to surround himself with people like him. His love interest, Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character … [her] character’s based on someone who we know, and when I was developing the character with her, she understood it. She said: These are two people who are connected to one another because they’re both damaged and they feel like they can complete one another.

On why the film isn’t lighter

Benny Safdie: There’s probably three or four instances of violence and, yes, we treat them very bluntly. But we went out of our way to not include any guns in the movie … we’re introducing these elements of violence within something that feels very real. …

We wanted to deliver a piece of pulp that actually felt dangerous. … Certain people will be able to see the humor in the scenarios, but I think a big part of the movie-going experience is to know: Hey, this world is dangerous, and it actually feels dangerous, and there aren’t moments of glee.

James Delahoussaye and Jolie Myers produced and edited the audio of this interview. Beth Novey adapted it for the Web.

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Charlottesville Shrouds Its Robert E. Lee And Stonewall Jackson Statues

City workers drape a tarp over the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Emancipation park in Charlottesville, Va., on Wednesday. The city council voted to cover the statues to symbolize the city’s mourning of Heather Heyer, killed while protesting a white nationalist rally earlier this month.

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Steve Helber/AP

The city of Charlottesville has shrouded two of its Confederate monuments in a show of mourning for the woman killed in the violent white nationalist protest there earlier this month.

Workers draped statues of both Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson Wednesday following a city council vote earlier this week. The gesture was to memorialize 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was killed when a white nationalist rammed his car into pedestrians following the Aug. 12 rally.

Sandy Hausman of member station WVTF tells our newscast unit that “it took eight men with ropes and poles, a truck and a cherry picker to lift and drop black tarps over” the nearly 30-foot monuments.

Hausman goes on to report that supporters of this decision include the city’s vice mayor Wes Bellamy.

“Some individuals are going to be upset, and that is okay, but progression must be at the forefront of everything we do – creating equity in all of our public spaces.This allows us to move one step further in the right direction,” Bellamy told Hausman in an interview.

Charlottesville city council vote unanimously to cover the statues early Tuesday. At the same meeting, however, residents and activists expressed anger, turning it into an hours-long town hall over the city’s handling of the rally.

Charlottesville’s Daily Progress described the meeting as “a total takeover” with audience members demanding Mayor Mike Signer’s removal:

“A woman said her daughter was supposed to start her fourth year at the University of Virginia this week. She won’t be attending the first day of class because of her injuries, the mother said.

“Another man said he’s suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“He said he can still see the bodies that went flying after the car struck the crowd several hours after the Unite the Right rally was shut down because of rampant street-fighting outside Emancipation Park, the location where white nationalists and white supremacists gathered on Aug. 12 for their Unite the Right rally.”

The paper also reports crowd members claimed that three people were arrested and that “the entire City Council, the city attorney, the city manager and council clerk all retreated into a backroom.”

There it goes #Charlottesvillepic.twitter.com/GwqUh5YPqz

— Lauren Berg (@laurenbergk) August 23, 2017

Reuters adds that the council had voted earlier this year to take down the Lee statue, but has been prevented from doing so because of a legal challenge.

A Virginia law also prevents local authorities from removing war memorials.

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Say Goodbye To The Pizza Time Players: Chuck E. Cheese Retires Its Band

Chuck E. Cheese’s recently renovated San Antonio restaurant. The chain has plans to update its look inside and out — and will retire its (animatronic) house band.

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Darren Abate/AP

First, it was The Supremes, then The Beatles, then The Police. Now there is news that another enduring band is breaking up: Chuck E. Cheese’s The Pizza Time Players.

Chuck E. Cheese — a large rat puppet with a New York accent — along with his fellow animatronic pals sing and shake their mechanical limbs to cover tunes in about 500 pizza restaurants nationwide.

Tom Leverton, the CEO of the company that runs Chuck E. Cheese and its sister restaurants, Peter Piper Pizza, says the animatronic characters have been in the restaurants since 1977.

“Back then, kids’ expectations of technology were much, much lower,” he says. “A child today has such high expectations for entertainment that the animatronics, even at their absolute best, can’t live up to those expectations.”

Now, in case you’ve never been to one, children flock to Chuck E. Cheese restaurants to fill up on pizza, french fries and soft drinks — and then burn off all that pent-up energy playing video games and dancing to the Pizza Time Players.

The animatronic characters are equal parts charming and creepy. In some older Chuck E. Cheese locations, it’s hard to hear the music over the creaking and clacking sounds made by the mechanical gizmos inside the puppets. One YouTube video celebrates the 10 best Chuck E. Cheese animatronic malfunctions.


But many parents who have an appreciation for things that don’t age well still have a warm spot for Chuck E. Cheese and his friends. The problem is, says Leverton, “what we need to focus on is creating that magic for the new generation of kids that are coming in for the first time.”

If you’re worried you might have missed a farewell performance of Chuck E. and friends, fear not. The mechanical bands will be gradually phased out over a few years — and a Pizza Time Players “reunion” concert may be closer than you think. Leverton says some Chuck E. Cheese fans have “purchased or found a lot of our old animatronics and built the full band in their garage and they programmed the animatronics to play with their music. It’s exciting to see that as someone who grew up with the concept.”

So Chuck E. Cheese, we raise a slice of pizza to you. Rock on.

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Episode 652: The Hydrox Resurrection

A classic cookie comes back from the beyond.

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Note: This episode originally ran in 2015.

A trademark is a funny kind of property. It’s different from a patent, it’s different from owning the rights to a song. A trademark can be a single word, a slogan, a logo. It isn’t owning the business, it’s owning the things that make the business distinct and recognizable, what sets it apart. Trademarks serves two purposes: To prevent confusion for consumers, and to discourage knock-offs. You can think of it as a relationship between a company and its customers. It’s a signal that tells people buying a product: We made this, and it’s legit.

But when a company stops using a trademark, it no longer serves that purpose. The trademark is deemed abandoned. When that happens, anyone can reclaim it.

Today on the show: A man tries to build a nostalgia-fueled empire of iconic-but-forgotten brands. His biggest prize yet is the once-famous Hydrox cookie. He wants to bring it back. But first, he’ll have to take the Hydrox name from the hands of a big-time company—and figure out how to recreate the taste.

Music: “The Great Northwest.” Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

Subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts or PocketCast.

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