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President Trump, whose last formal press conference was in February, takes a wide array of questions from the press pool at his Bedminster golf club in two televised sessions that ratchet up tensions with North Korea and the Senate Majority Leader, among others. Federal judge says New York Times editorial page editor will have to testify before he rules whether Sarah Palin defamation suit over a corrected editorial should move forward. Pro-Trump commentator Jeffery Lord finds CNN’s red line—a tweeted Nazi salute—and gets fired. Google cancels company-wide diversity meeting citing staff concerns about harassment online after questions and questioners’ names leaked. – Dru Menaker, Chief Operating Officer


The most pressing threats and notable goings-on in free expression today


Trump Had a Lot to Say on Thursday. Here Are the Highlights.
Trump doubled down on his threats to North Korea, shrugged off Russia’s ejections of American embassy staff, defended his abrupt decision on transgender troops, and claimed he had never considered firing the special counsel—directly contradicting his own private statements to aides and friends.

New York Times Editorial Writer Must Testify in Sarah Palin Lawsuit
Ms. Palin contends that The Times “violated the law and its own policies” when it linked her in an editorial to a mass shooting in 2011. The Times filed a motion last month seeking to dismiss the case, and the judge said the testimony was necessary to help him determine whether to grant that motion.

CNN severs ties with Jeffrey Lord
Lord, a columnist for The American Spectator and CNN commentator, has been harshly critical of Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters for America. Media Matters has repeatedly condemned Lord (and CNN for employing him), and has been promoting an ad boycott against Fox News host Sean Hannity, a friend of Lord’s.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai canceled an all-hands meeting about gender controversy due to employee worries of online harassment
Employees were targeted online after their questions and names were published on a variety of largely alt-right sites. In addition, in a move that many Googlers found disturbing, James Damore, who wrote the controversial memo, did his first major interview with alt-right YouTube personality Stefan Molyneux.

Sundar Pichai Should Resign as Google’s CEO
Uncertainty about morality, meaning, and life in general is producing intense anxiety. Some embrace moral absolutism in a desperate effort to find solid ground, feeling a rare and comforting certainty when they are purging an evil person who has violated one of their sacred taboos. We are at a moment when mobs on the left and the right ignore evidence and destroy scapegoats. That’s when we need good leaders most.

How we communicate is changing. So should the way we think about free speech.
A culture of respect for open discourse and tolerance for disagreeable opinions won’t be built through insults, hand-wringing, pressure from alumni, or even the mandates proposed in some state legislatures. Those concerned about defending academic freedom and fostering intellectual diversity would do well to grasp the factors that are fueling the impulse some have to try to silence speech they consider harmful.


Russian Journalist Sentenced To Prison On Extremism Charges
A journalist has been sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison on extremism charges in a case denounced by rights activists and scores of fellow journalists. Investigators accused Sokolov and 3 co-defendants of continuing the work of a hard-line nationalist group called the People’s Will Army after it was banned by authorities in 2010.

Hong Kong Activist Says Chinese Agents Stapled His Legs Over Messi Photo
Howard Lam said he was abducted and tortured after he got the soccer star Lionel Messi to send a photo for the dissident Liu Xiaobo. The bizarre episode has heightened concerns about the erosion of the rule of law in Hong Kong as mainland authorities try to exert greater control over the city’s freewheeling politics.

RFI programmes resume in Congo after lengthy government shutdown
Radio France Internationale has resumed services in Democratic Republic of Congo after a 10-month shutdown. RFI was jammed in November hours before a banned oppposition rally protesting President Joseph Kabila’s plan to stay in power beyond the end of his mandate in December.

Palestinian leader curbs social media expression in decree
President Mahmoud Abbas has clamped down on social media and news websites with a vaguely worded decree that allows his government to jail anyone on charges of harming “national unity” or the “social fabric.” Rights activists say the edict, issued without prior public debate last month, is perhaps the most significant step yet by Abbas’ government to restrict freedom of expression.

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