The Big Story \nNew information lends credibility to Tucker Carlson’s claim that he was spied on by U.S. intelligence agencies. Axios’ Jonathan Swan reported last night that prior to making his allegations, Carlson was in the process of attempting to arrange an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Fox News host had reportedly been in contact with Russian officials in the United States who were assisting his efforts. According to Swan’s sources, the U.S. government learned about Carlson’s outreach to Putin, and Carlson then learned that his plans had been exposed, despite the fact that he had not shared that information with anyone in the government—prompting him to go public with his claims about the government spying on his communications. In a statement, Carlson maintains that “the NSA read my emails and then leaked their contents.” The new Axios report says nothing about leaks but notes that “the NSA is denying the targeting of Carlson but is not denying that his communications were incidentally collected.” The implication here is that the NSA, which cannot legally spy on U.S. citizens directly, might have intercepted Carlson’s communications while spying on one of the foreign officials with whom he was in contact.\n\nRead it here: https://www.axios.com/tucker-carlson-putin-interview-surveillance-c9952d7c-33d7-45e9-be68-2ba4c3817f98.html\n\nToday’s Back Pages: An Interview with @K_AminThaabet\nThe RestA joint investigation by The American Prospect and The Intercept, both left-wing publications with strong records of reporting on influence peddling in U.S. politics, details how a little-known boutique consulting firm called WestExec Advisors has quietly built up a major power base in the Biden administration. Founded in 2017, WestExec now counts 15 people associated with the firm in senior positions in the White House. That list includes Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who cofounded WestExec before leaving in 2020. It also includes Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, who worked with WestExec from October 2017 to July 2020 before joining the Biden transition team and subsequently having her name removed from the firm’s website.\nRead it here: https://prospect.org/power/meet-the-consulting-firm-staffing-biden-administration-westexec/\n\nHaiti’s police chief announced yesterday that security forces had killed four of the “foreign mercenaries” who assassinated Haitian President Jovenel Moïse inside his home and wounded his wife on Tuesday night. Two other suspects were reportedly captured after police blocked their attempt to escape. Haiti is now under martial law and under the temporary leadership of the prime minister, Claude Joseph. Moïse had become a deeply unpopular figure in Haiti after refusing to vacate the presidency when his term ended in February. He had many enemies, but it’s not yet clear which of them was involved in his murder.\n\nGoogle is being sued again in an antitrust case—the fourth one that it has faced in the past year—brought by 37 states claiming that the Google Play app store operates as a monopoly, exploiting its market position to keep competitors out.\n\nAt midnight last night, the search-and-rescue operation in Surfside, which began after the partial collapse of a residential condo building, officially came to an end. As of now, there are 60 people confirmed dead and another 80 unaccounted for. Recovery work at the building will go on, and workers will continue to look for remains, but they are no longer looking for survivors.\n\nInterested in the truth about why the Palestinian Authority turned down Israel’s offer to deliver hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 vaccines? Read this thread from Yair Rosenberg, who has an article up today at Tablet that gives the real story.My latest: Last month, Israel's new government announced it would transfer 1.2 million vaccines to the Palestinian Authority. Yesterday, 700,000 of those doses landed in South Korea instead. I wrote about how this deal fell apart, and why it matters: https://t.co/Flq0Y1kXyc\n\n— Yair Rosenberg (@Yair_Rosenberg) July 8, 2021GET THE SCROLL DELIVERED DAILY Robert Downey Sr., who helped to birth American independent filmmaking with his 1969 picture Putney Swope, a brilliant, madcap satire about race, power, and advertising, has died at 85. Downey also helped to birth a well-known son, the actor Robert Downey Jr.\n\nOne of the most popular prenatal tests in the world, sold by the Chinese company BGI, was developed in partnership with the Chinese military and secretly used to collect genetic data on millions of women around the world, according to an investigation by Reuters. The data was being used to conduct large-scale analysis of how genetic makeup impacts different human populations—information that could be used to unlock “genomic secrets.” In March, a panel from the U.S. National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence led by former Google Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt warned that China’s advances in biotechnology and artificial intelligence were a national security risk to the United States.\n\nHunter Biden, the troubled but very wealthy son of President Biden, is following the path of many strung-out trust fund kids by having an art show this fall. For anyone wondering what happened to the claims that the younger Biden was the target of a nefarious Russian disinformation campaign, the answer is this: His father won the presidential election, and everyone stopped pretending that the laptop filled with details of his lucrative business dealings and photos of his private debaucheries was planted by Russians when it clearly belonged to the president’s son. I’m no art critic, but photos of Biden’s paintings evoke an aesthetic of cheap “healing energy crystals” and expensive rehabs.\n\nThe American Automobile Association is forecasting that gas prices in the United States will continue to rise. Currently, crude oil prices are at a seven-year high, and the average cost of gas in the United States is $3.14 per gallon—up from $2.18 this time last year—but AAA is predicting that prices at the pump will increase by as much as another 20 cents by the end of August.\nRead it here: https://jalopnik.com/gas-prices-are-expected-to-keep-shooting-up-1847240127\n\nAre master’s programs an updated form of debt peonage that lure in students with unfulfilled promises and leave graduates crippled by loans they are unable to pay off? That is certainly the impression given by an article in today’s Wall Street Journal that cites, among other facts about the graduate school industry, that “at least 43% of the people who recently took out loans for master’s degrees at elite private universities hadn’t paid down any of their original debt or were behind on payments.”\nRead it here: https://www.wsj.com/articles/financially-hobbled-for-life-the-elite-masters-degrees-that-dont-pay-off-11625752773The Back PagesAn Interview with @K_AminThaabet\nI can’t remember exactly when it was that the Twitter account calling itself "Kamel Amin Thaabet" (@K_AminThaabet) first came to my attention, but it stuck out immediately for the mix of acerbic wit and genuine insight captured in tweets like this one:Progressives be like “Antisemitism is an unacceptable response to the actions of the Apartheid colonial-settler blood drinking Christ killer hook nosed criminal Zionists”\n\n— Kamel Amin Thaabet (@K_AminThaabet) May 23, 2021The account takes its name from the alias assumed by the Egyptian-born Israeli spy who infiltrated the Syrian government before being discovered and executed. The Twitter account @K_AminThaabet provides a running meta-commentary on the discourse around Israel and the American Jewish establishment. I wanted to talk to this person for two reasons: One, as institutional expertise collapses in the United States, it is more important than ever to recognize insight wherever it shows itself—maybe especially among pseudonymous internet weirdos. And two, because while the person behind the account is not a spy like their namesake, Twitter is the definitive arena for the kind of information and narrative operations that were once carried out by governments and militaries.\n\nWhat’s it like being a pseudonymous commentator on Twitter weighing in on wars and world affairs while also mocking pompous pundits and gullible social media activists?\n\n@K_AminThaabet: It’s a little bit of a double-edged sword because what you see pretty frequently is people under some kind of a pseudonym can be completely unbridled and sort of dispense with any and all human decency and just behave in a way that’s animalistic. I really try not to do that. I’ve tried to proceed with [the] philosophy that if my identity became public, I wouldn’t have anything that caused me any particular shame. I try to be a decent person on Twitter, even if I attempt to skewer people whose views I find to be repulsive.\n\nI don’t mean to suggest that facts and reason are unimportant, but it seems to me that what you’re doing has less in common with traditional debate than a kind of meta-commentary. You’re skewering the pretensions and ideological constructions of people in the media and certain notable personalities to reveal an underlying fraudulence or double standard. That doesn't mean that the facts are irrelevant or unimportant, but it does mean that you take for granted that everyone involved in the discourse already has a narrative framework. The point, then, is to tell them what is faulty about their framework, what’s wrong about the sources of information, and what they’re missing. Does that sound right?\n\n@K_AminThaabet: What you have with social media is a de-massification of communication and decentralization of how information is disseminated. That’s been going on for a number of years, but I think increasingly the battle of narratives is fought over social media. And I think it’s important not to cede the field. If you don’t have people out there basically putting the truth forward and shining a light on a lot of the poor arguments that are marshaled against Israel and a lot of the hypocrisy that’s out there, you’re just going to yield to a bad narrative that ultimately will persuade people.\n\nYou’re never going to reach the haters, and I think it’s pointless, like if someone has as their profile photo on Twitter the Dome of the Rock with crossed swords. But for people who are basically people of goodwill and who are trying to do the right thing—which, by the way, I think is where the majority of people are—you actually can have a persuasive effect and educate a little bit. There’s also an element here where, uh, it is for my own amusement.\n\nHow do you understand the portrayal of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in the social media space?\n\n@K_AminThaabet: I don’t view the conflict as being like a Manichaean battle between absolute good and absolute evil. I think the truth is complicated. There is an Israeli narrative. But there’s an asymmetry in the conflict because it’s taken as a given that there should be a Palestinian state and that having Palestinian nationalism is okay. What’s under assault is whether Israeli or Jewish nationalism is okay. It’s people trying to keep refighting 1948, essentially. So there’s an asymmetry there, but there’s a spectrum. On one side you have the absolute true believers who will say Kaddish for Hamas and are putting olives on the Passover seder plate and basically transmuting the Exodus narrative into a story about Palestinian liberation.\n\nAnd then on either side of the spectrum, you can find ostensibly pro-Israel accounts that take the view that Jordan is Palestine and that there’s no such thing as a Palestinian people. On both sides, it’s people who are pretty much just engaged in a circle jerk— to use a term of art.\n\nThe accounts that I think are persuasive are ones that reckon with the truth and are not just engaged in outright propaganda. They’re actually engaging with facts and being relatively decent in their rhetoric.