Man charged with making death threats over Trump editorials

Chain said he would continue threatening the Globe until it stops its “treasonous and seditious” attacks on Trump. (Los Angeles Daily News/AP)
Updated 31 August 2018
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Man charged with making death threats over Trump editorials

  • Several times, Chain called Globe employees the “enemy of the people,” a characterization of journalists that Trump has used repeatedly

LOS ANGELES: A Los Angeles man upset about The Boston Globe’s coordinated editorial response to President Donald Trump’s attacks on the news media was arrested Thursday on charges he threatened to kill the newspaper’s journalists, who he called an “enemy of the people,” federal prosecutors said.
Robert Chain’s phone calls to the Boston newsroom started immediately after the Globe appealed to newspapers across the country to condemn what it called a “dirty war against the free press,” prosecutors said. He is accused of making 14 calls between Aug. 10 and Aug. 22.
On Aug. 16, the day scores of editorials were published , Chain, 68, of the Encino section of Los Angeles, told a Globe staffer that he was going to shoot employees in the head at 4 o’clock, according to court documents. That threat from a blocked phone number prompted a police response and increased security at the newspaper’s offices.
Chain said he would continue threatening the Globe until it stops its “treasonous and seditious” attacks on Trump, according to a court complaint.
Several times, he called Globe employees the “enemy of the people,” a characterization of journalists that Trump has used repeatedly, including in a tweet on Thursday before the charges were announced.
Newsrooms have received threats for years and rarely do they result in charges. However, sensitivity has been heightened since a gunman with a long-running grudge against the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, killed five employees there in June.
Federal officials pledged to continue to go after anyone who puts others in fear of their lives.
“In a time of increasing political polarization, and amid the increasing incidence of mass shootings, members of the public must police their own political rhetoric. Or we will,” Massachusetts US Attorney Andrew Lelling said.
Federal prosecutors asked that Chain be detained because of the seriousness of the threats combined with the fact that more than 20 guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition were seized from his house. Some guns were in plain sight, such as a shotgun by the front door, while others were hidden, Assistant US Attorney Matt Rosenbaum said.
Rosenbaum acknowledged there was no evidence Chain, who is retired from the international sales and trade business, had planned to go to Boston. A federal magistrate rejected claims that Chain, who has no criminal record, was a flight risk or a danger that required him to be held behind bars.
Magistrate Judge Paul Abrams said Chain could be freed after he and his wife, who is a lawyer, signed papers guaranteeing to pay $50,000 if he violates any terms of his release, which include surrendering his passport and any other guns.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to keep him in custody for a night,” Abrams said in rejecting a prosecutor’s request to stay his order so they could appeal to have him held.
Chain, who repeatedly pulled at his long, dark hair that was dyed magenta at the ends, thanked the judge in a deep gravely voice.
Chain was ordered to appear in a Boston courtroom by Sept. 24 to answer to charges of making threatening communications in interstate commerce, which calls for up to five years in prison.
Chain’s wife, Betty, wouldn’t comment before or after the court appearance.
Jane Bowman, a spokeswoman for the Globe, said the newspaper is grateful for law enforcement’s efforts to protect its staffers and track down the source of the threats.
“While it was unsettling for many of our staffers to be threatened in such a way, nobody — really, nobody — let it get in the way of the important work of this institution,” she said in an email.
A neighbor who lived across the street from Chain and only knew him as “Rob” said he had a bombastic personality and could frequently be heard yelling while watching television.
Tim McGowan said he knew nothing of Chain’s political leanings and assumed he was an old hippie because he wore his hair in a “man bun” and frequently walked around in just shorts.
McGowan said he couldn’t imagine Chain following through with violence, “but I could see him making the threats because he’s such a loudmouth.”
McGowan said he was startled awake by three loud bangs at 6 a.m. Thursday. When he looked outside, he saw about 30 heavily armed officers and a tank-like vehicle. Chain eventually emerged from the house in handcuffs, wearing only boxer shorts.
In 2013, Chain said he hadn’t worked in more than 20 years and suffered from “continuing health issues,” according to court documents filed in a civil case against him over unpaid student loans. Chain said at the time that he had a heart attack in 2005 and was receiving Social Security benefits.


Hamas media facing financial meltdown

Updated 20 February 2019
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Hamas media facing financial meltdown

  • Beirut-based Al-Quds TV faces corruption claims after closure warning
  • The channel has been experiencing a financial crisis for the past three years

GAZA CITY: The announcement by Palestinian television channel Al-Quds TV that it will stop broadcasting by the end of February if it does not receive desperately needed funding highlights the financial crisis facing Hamas’ media institutions.

Imad Ifranji, Al-Quds TV’s director, said on Tuesday that if funds failed to arrive by the end of this month, “it is inevitable that the channel will shut down.” 

The Beirut-based channel’s Gaza office has been unable to cover its costs for the past four months and 50 employees have not received salaries for almost a year.

Al-Quds TV had 350 staff when it was launched in 2008, but now has only 150.

The channel has been experiencing a financial crisis for the past three years, despite cutting costs and reducing staff, Ifranji said.

Hamas began building its media “empire” following its victory in the 2006 elections and the imposition of absolute control over the Gaza Strip in mid-2007.

The fundamentalist organization enjoyed years of financial prosperity thanks to Iranian support, internal fees and taxes, and the use of smuggling tunnels across the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.

Hamas’ financial crisis began with the decline of Iranian support in 2012 and escalated after the Egyptian Army overthrew Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Mursi in 2013, leading to growing tension tension between the group and Egypt.

Its extensive media network has also faced claims of corruption and mismanagement by current employees and former staff members.

A few months ago, Al-Quds TV was forced to lay off dozens of employees. The channel’s debts are believed to run into millions of dollars.

The Palestinian Information Center website, the oldest and largest Hamas news site in seven languages, closed its office in the Gaza Strip.

A senior employee of a Hamas media organization in Gaza, who declined to be named, said that websites affiliated with the Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, were also facing a financial crisis.

Some, such as the “8 o’clock” website were threatened with closure.

Saber Halima, an employee at Al-Quds TV’s Beirut headquarters, criticized the management of the channel, accusing senior employees of corruption and mismanagement. In a video posted on his Facebook page, Halima described the management’s treatment of employees during the crisis as “despicable and humiliating.”

Al-Aqsa TV, which broadcasts from Gaza, announced on Dec. 19 that it would stop broadcasting because of a lack of funding.

However, Wissam Afifah, the channel’s director general, told Arab News that it would continue to broadcast after paying its debts to the satellite channel Noorsat, estimated at $220,000.

Al-Aqsa TV, which is broadcasting from temporary offices after Israel bombed its main headquarters in Gaza in November, is required to pay a similar amount to the satellite to continue operating.

The channel’s management said it is unlikely the destroyed headquarters will be rebuilt with losses estimated at about $4 million. An employee of Al-Aqsa TV told Arab News that about 200 staff had not received full pay for more than a year.

The employee’s monthly salary was estimated at $800. He had received only $550 in the past four months — $400 two months ago and $150 a few days ago.

Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’ chief in Gaza, said the organization was considering closing small media institutions and merging other institutions to ease the financial crisis.

Analysts say the continuing Israeli and Palestinian National Authority restrictions on Gaza will only intensify the problems facing Hamas.

Hossam Al-Dajni, an academic close to Hamas, said: “The main reason behind the financial crisis is the developments in the region, such as Iraq, Syria and Yemen, and US pressure on Iran with regard to its nuclear program.”