The Myth Of The Impala Mama

Originally published at Medium
By K. Daniel Glover

Finnish photographer Alison Buttigieg loves cats. The Internet loves cats. But these days Buttigieg hates the Internet because it’s lying about one of her cat photos.

It all started Feb. 11. Someone who knows her work as a wildlife photographer recognized a cheetah picture of hers online. That wasn’t necessarily a surprise — Buttigieg published the “remarkable” photo on her blog, Facebook and Instagram last November after it won an international award. But the flood of messages that started pouring in from strangers that day stunned her.

Titled “The Stranglehold,” this award-winning photo by Alison Buttigieg spawned a feel-good but phony Internet meme about a self-sacrificial impala. (Reprinted with permission)

An intellectual property thief had stolen her photo, invented a feel-good back-story for it, and engineered a viral sensation — one that wasn’t exactly flattering to Buttigieg. The tall tale portrayed the three cheetahs in the photo as heartless killers, their impala prey as a self-sacrificial mother and Buttigieg as a fragile soul who sank into depression after documenting a feline feast.

“In the beginning I thought it was absolutely hilarious, even the trolling,” she told me in an email interview six days after the hoax spread. “But then it was suddenly really overwhelming when I realized there wasn’t much I could do.”

A passion for wild animals and wild places
Buttigieg is an information technology consultant whose passion for animals and for wild places inspired a foray into photography. She has carried a camera on wildlife journeys around the world for 13 years and started taking the photographic aspect of her observations more seriously about four years ago.

“I see my photos as a means to spread awareness about wildlife and the need to protect them and their habitat,” she said.

Buttigieg has shot pictures on three continents — Africa, Asia and South America. Her favorite places include Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in Botswana and South Africa, and the Massai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya. In September 2013, she was near the latter location, at the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, when she saw a family of cheetahs trap a lone impala.

Cats of all kinds fascinate Buttigieg because of their beauty and expressive faces. Cheetahs stand out in the felidae species for their speed, quirks and sounds. The guides at the conservancy knew she loved cheetahs, and a mother and two adolescents were near the camp during her visit.

This is how the scene unfolded as soon as her party spotted the family:

The mother cheetah spotted the impala from a distance and practically walked straight up to it. The impala didn’t even try to run away, and it did not put up a fight. Impalas are social creatures, and this one was completely alone, so I suspect it was already sick or somewhat injured.

The mother cheetah held the poor impala by the neck to let her youngsters practice their hunting skills. The impala went into shock and stood motionless like a statue while the young cheetahs proceeded to play with it. They seemed to be quite clueless as to what their mother wanted them to do. After a few minutes the mother cheetah put the impala out of its misery, and all the family enjoyed a good meal.

This kind of training exercise is actually quite common, although usually the mother teaches the youngsters by bringing live antelope fawns for them, not adults. It is crucial for the young cats to hone their skills.

Read the rest of the article at Medium.

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Book Review: ‘Digital Assassination’

Originally published at The Washington Times
Ghostwritten by K. Daniel Glover

The Internet is a boundless universe of information and connections that fuels the economy, enhances world culture and fosters democracy. But it also is home to digital assassins who lurk undetected and lob verbal, visual and technological grenades to ruin reputations — and enlist others via social media to achieve their evil ends more quickly.

That’s the ugly reality of online life as painted by Richard Torrenzano and Mark Davis in their new book, “Digital Assassination: Protecting Your Reputation, Brand or Business Against Online Attacks.” It’s a largely accurate portrayal — one that brands, businesspeople and public officials must take seriously if they want to thrive in today’s digital age.

Torrenzano and Davis at times go overboard in their rhetoric, particularly when it comes to blogs and social media. They also give too much credit to journalists for having kept character assassination in check during the 20th century. The chapter on “truth remix,” for example, is based in part on the prejudicial and flawed premise that “traditional media has been replaced by a blogosphere that creates falsities out of truth in order to compete for ratings and clicks.”

But the authors are not Luddites. They repeatedly emphasize that we humans are the problem and that modern technology has merely increased our capacity for lies, deceit and uncommon cruelty motivated by greed, jealousy and other character flaws. They identify parallels between character attacks of the low-tech past and the high-tech present to prove the point.

“This power of the new digital assassin to destroy is as powerful as YouTube but as old as civilization,” Torrenzano and Davis write. Their aim is to illustrate the depth, reach and speed of that amplified power and to teach people how to fight back.

Read the full review at The Washington Times.

The Impeached Former Judge

Originally published at NationalJournal.com
By K. Daniel Glover

To voters in Florida’s 23rd District, Democrat Alcee Hastings is simply their representative in the House. They first elected him by 59 percent of the vote in 1992 and subsequently have returned him to Congress in majorities ranging from 73 percent to 100 percent. He was just re-elected to an eighth term without opposition.

But to those outside Florida’s 23rd who’ve heard of him, and especially to bloggers, Hastings is “the only member of Congress ever to have been impeached and removed from office as a federal judge,” to quote from the “Almanac of American Politics.”

The “Almanac” goes on to say this about his past: “Hastings was charged with conspiring with a friend to take a $150,000 bribe and give two convicted swindlers light sentences. A Miami jury acquitted Hastings in 1983, but the friend was convicted. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals called for impeachment in 1987 and referred the case to Congress. Hastings was impeached by the House by a vote of 413-3 and convicted by the Senate, 69-26.”

Hastings’ history as a judge is significant now because he is being considered for the chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee. Jane Harman of California is the ranking Democrat on that panel, but in a departure from tradition, may not be automatically elevated to the committee’s top post in January.

That’s because Nancy Pelosi, the newly elected House Speaker for the new, majority-Democratic Congress, reportedly is not fond of Harman, and is not eager to elevate her fellow Californian to the Intelligence chairmanship. Despite his impeachment and removal from the judiciary, Hastings has the important backing of the Congressional Black Caucus for his promotion.

The prospect of Hastings becoming chairman has prompted plenty of complaints in the blogosphere, even among Democrats. Stephen Kaus proclaimed Hastings “Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!” at The Huffington Post, and Justin Rood of TPMMuckraker did some thorough background reporting on the Hastings bribery case (go here, here and here).

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Bloggers Proliferate On Campaign Payrolls

Originally published at National Journal, reprinted at MSNBC
By K. Daniel Glover

Bloggers paid by campaigns were a rarity two years ago — so rare that their work and their ethics, whether for Republicans or Democrats, became fodder for controversy. Bloggers on the campaign dime (and off) have been even more controversial this year, but that is at least in part because there are so many more of them.

With increasing frequency, candidates across the country are paying bloggers to write, develop Web sites, connect with energetic allies on the Internet, respond to online critics, and advise their employers about how to behave in the blogosphere. Others are paid to do more traditional campaign work like communications consulting and opposition research.

Their pay scales range from a few hundred dollars a month to a few thousand, with some of the bloggers earning top dollar for their expertise.

The best-known example is Jerome Armstrong of MyDD, the “blogfather” of Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas Zuniga. Armstrong and Moulitsas rose to Internet fame together during the 2004 presidential race. But with the exception of the book “Crashing The Gate” that they co-authored this year, they have pursued different professional routes since then.

Moulitsas focused his energies on blog publications, in sports as well as politics, while Armstrong chose to make his money in political consulting for Democrats. He has earned a nice wad of dough, too — more than $200,000 in less than two years.

Armstrong’s first gig via his company Political Technologies was with then-Sen. Jon Corzine of New Jersey, who was elected governor of the Garden State in 2005. State campaign records show that Armstrong earned $24,000 for “media time” and another $15,000 for “Web site fees.”

From February through November of last year, Corzine also paid Matt Stoller, now a lead contributor at Armstrong’s MyDD blog, nearly $31,000 for his work on the campaign’s blog, Corzine Connection. Stoller netted another one-time fee of about $240 for “media time.”

While working for Corzine, Armstrong was on the payroll of at least two other politicians: Rep. Sherrod Brown, who is now leading the Senate race in Ohio; and former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, who recently announced that he will not seek the presidency in 2008.

Federal Election Commission records show that Armstrong netted more than $100,000 in his work for Brown from April 2005 through this July. The payments were primarily for Web design, hosting and services. Forward Together, the political action committee that Warner created as he pondered a presidential bid, had paid Armstrong $65,000 for “computer consulting services” through September, the last figures available.

In addition to making the most money for his Internet-related services, Armstrong arguably has been the focus of the most controversy. His work for Warner and connections to Moulitsas sparked a rush of critical commentary in both the traditional media and on blogs this summer.

On the right side of the blogosphere, Patrick Hynes of Ankle Biting Pundits, who blogged at the now-defunct Crush Kerry in the 2004 presidential race, has done quite well as a new media consultant. His most notable job is with Straight Talk America, the political action committee of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who is considered a leading GOP presidential contender in 2008.

Hynes’ fees so far, according to FEC records, total $31,500 to his company, New Media Strategics. The latest $5,000 payment was made Sept. 1. After catching grief for not telling his readers of his work for McCain, even while penning friendly blog entries about the senator, Hynes also disclosed that he has provided consulting for the seniors’ group AARP.

At least two other PACs of presidential contenders have blog experts on their payroll.

The HILLPAC of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., has retained both Jesse Berney and Peter Daou. Berney earns more than $1,300 a month, according to the PAC’s finance records, and Daou, who still writes The Daou Report for the online magazine Salon, is paid $1,250 a month. Both joined HILLPAC a few months ago.

In September, Daou helped organized a luncheon between former President Bill Clinton and liberal bloggers. Although the gathering generated criticism for various reasons, Daou promised that it was the first of more to come.

Volunteer PAC, which is affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., also has a new-media whiz on staff. Stephen Smith’s salary from the PAC is about $1,870 a month.

He did not blog before joining VOLPAC but said in an e-mail interview that based on Frist’s “real willingness to engage aggressively with the blogosphere and to harness new means of communications and activism, I jumped at the opportunity to assist him.” His projects for Frist have included creating a blog aimed at confirming John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations and recruiting “iFrist volunteers” to work on behalf of the Republican agenda.

Democratic Senate nominee Ned Lamont in Connecticut hired two “netroots” experts fairly early in his campaign and added two more in the fall. The aides are Aldon Hynes, Charles Monaco, David Sirota and Tim Tagaris. (Hynes’ wife, Kimberly, also is a paid scheduler for the campaign.)

Tagaris, the Internet director, earned nearly $21,000 from late July through Sept. 29, according to Lamont’s October quarterly report. That ranks him among the campaign’s highest-paid aides. Before joining the Lamont campaign, Tagaris blogged for the Democratic National Committee and for Sherrod Brown in Ohio. Brown paid him nearly $17,000 over four months in 2005.

Earlier this year, Tagaris told “Beltway Blogroll” that he eventually plans to run for office in Ohio.

High-profile bloggers like Armstrong, Patrick Hynes and Tagaris are just the tip of the emerging political Internet. While identifying blog experts can be a daunting task for multiple reasons, including the lack of electronic searches for many campaign finance records and the disparate approaches to disclosure taken by bloggers, it can be done.

Here are some of the paid campaign bloggers and new media advisers that have been identified:

Dan Gerstein of the now-dormant LieberDem. He was a senior adviser to Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., for years before opening his own consulting shop. After he stopped blogging at LieberDem, Gerstein recently rejoined Lieberman’s campaign as a paid staffer. He received payments of $7,000 and $14,000 in September.

Jon Henke of QandO. He was hired by the campaign of Sen. George Allen, R-Va., after a string of verbal gaffes by the candidate. Henke was paid about $2,300 on Sept. 15.

Abraham (Josh) Chernila and Lowell Feld of Raising Kaine. This summer, they began working for Senate candidate James Webb, D-Va., as grassroots coordinator and netroots coordinator. The latest FEC report shows disbursements of about $7,700 to Chernila and nearly $3,600 to Feld.

Scott Shields. He has been on hiatus from MyDD since May to work as the Internet director for Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. Shields’ starting monthly wage was $2,562; it was bumped up to $2,905 in September.

David All. The “spokesblogger” to Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., All currently is on leave and working for Senate candidate Mike Bouchard, R-Mich. In September, All was paid $6,468 for “communications consulting.” The Bouchard campaign also spent more than $9,600 on Web development in August and September, presumably for its revamped, blog-based site. (All earned more than $49,000 while working for Kingston from July 2005 through January 2006, according to data at LegiStorm.)

Laura Packard. Her duties as Internet communications director for the campaign of Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., include writing at the campaign blog. Her salary is nearly $3,700 a month. Aaron Hofman also posts entries to Stabenow’s blog, and he earns about $2,200 a month.

Michael Brodkorb of Minnesota Democrats Exposed. The Senate campaign of Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn., has paid Brodkorb nearly $4,600 a month for press consulting since May, he said in a telephone interview. He also received one-time payments of $5,500 each this year from GOP House candidate Michele Bachmann and the National Republican Congressional Committee. He offered press advice to Bachmann and did opposition research for the NRCC.

Julie Fanselow, the freelance writer behind Red State Rebels in Idaho. Since May, she has been the “blog manager” for Democrat Larry Grant at a rate of $1,300 a month. Despite Idaho’s Republican leanings, Grant suddenly is a strong competitor for the open seat, arguably in part because of support from the blogosphere. Fanselow also disclosed that she did paid consulting work for another candidate in April.

Aaron Silverstein of HeadingLeft. The campaign payroll for House candidate Bill Winters, D-Colo., includes $850 a month for Silverstein’s services. Silverstein also was hired this year as the get-out-the-vote coordinator for Jefferson County Democrats in Colorado.

Jesse Taylor. He quit blogging at Pandagon last year to blog instead for Ohio gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland and has been earning slightly more than $2,050 a month. Strickland, a Democrat, appears likely to defeat Republican Ken Blackwell.

Mindy Finn. As the director of new media and political technology for Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., she is one of the contributors to the campaign blog. Her salary is about $4,400 a month. Luke Bernstein ($4,300 a month) and Stanley Olshefski ($2,300 a month) also post entries. Jon Jones, the blogger for Santorum challenger Bob Casey Jr., earns some $2,800 a month.

Andrew Tweeten. He earns about $2,600 a month as the blogger for Democrat Jon Tester in Montana, who currently is in a good position to oust Republican Sen. Conrad Burns.

Alex Armour. As the political director for Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., he writes at SchaBLOGsky, one of the earlier candidate blogs. Armour’s salary is about $3,200 a month.

Interior Conspiracies

Originally published at NationalJournal.com
By K. Daniel Glover

A few months ago, Mark Nickolas of Bluegrass Report worked himself and fellow Democratic bloggers into a tizzy about a blog ban aimed at state employees in Kentucky. Nickolas smelled a conspiracy engineered by his political nemesis, Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher, and sued to overturn an Internet-filtering policy that Fletcher’s administration had applied not just to blogs but to numerous categories of content.

Now there is fresh conspiratorial talk about a blog ban — only this time it’s at the federal level, and bloggers on the right are the ones crying foul.

The rumors surfaced last week, thanks to a self-described Interior Department employee who clearly has too much spare time at work. Upon realizing that employee access to certain Web sites had been restricted, the employee compiled a list of inaccessible blogs and contacted Gates of Vienna.

“Please, please get the word out about this,” the employee said. “It not only royally sucks that I can’t read stuff during down times at work, but they are being so blatantly biased as to what is being blocked.” The worker’s list of banned sites included Captain’s Quarters, Little Green Footballs, Michelle Malkin, Power Line, Protein Wisdom and Wizbang. The list of still-accessible blogs included Americablog, Daily Kos and Talking Points Memo.

Gates of Vienna dutifully spread the word online, and before long, the online legend of the Interior Department blog ban had taken firm root. Atlas Shrugs, Bird of Paradise, Boker tov, Boulder, Brendan Loy, Little Green Footballs and The Retread Ranger Station were among the blogs to post entries about Interior’s actions.

Loy penned this taunt: “I’d love to see the department higher-ups try and explain the selection of banned sites — although I’m guessing this is probably the idiotic decision of some mid-level IT muckety-muck who thought (stupidly) that no one would notice, so I’m sure if the question is asked loudly enough, the policy will change.”

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The Online Curse Of Incumbency

Originally published at NationalJournal.com
By K. Daniel Glover

Bloggers of all political persuasions hate “the establishment.” If that wasn’t clear before last Tuesday’s primaries, it certainly is now. Voters in Connecticut, Georgia and Michigan handed electoral pink slips to three members of Congress, and blogs were a factor in all three upsets.

The Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut, where netroots hero Ned Lamont defeated Sen. Joe Lieberman 52 percent to 48 percent, generated the most attention. If blogs were published in newsprint instead of online, the Internet activists who fret about global warming would have consumed enough paper in writing about the Connecticut battle to destroy a rain forest.

But the role of blogs in defeating Lieberman went far beyond just ranting against him for his support of the Iraq war and other initiatives of President Bush. Bloggers were involved in the race from start to finish, as detailed by writer Ari Melber at The Huffington Post and the The Nation.

Lamont met with at least one key blogger (Matt Stoller of MyDD) early in his campaign, later hired another (Tim Tagaris) away from the Democratic National Committee, and used a third (Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake) as a volunteer production editor for his first video blog. Bloggers helped raise more than $300,000 for him online. They also followed his campaign across Connecticut and swarmed his headquarters on Election Night.

Before the votes were counted, some top bloggers tried to downplay their role in aiding Lamont. And when Hamsher embarrassed the campaign by painting Lieberman in blackface, Lamont unconvincingly claimed, “I don’t know anything about the blogs.” Now that Lamont has won, though, bloggers are beginning to boast of their newfound power within the Democratic structure.

“[B]logs are now vital parts of the party, displacing the lobbyist-lawyers-operatives whose organs were the New Republic and the Washington Post editorial page, and whose power flowed through their alliances with insular state machines and bigwig journalists,” Stoller wrote Wednesday.

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Trying To Trump The Competition

Originally published at NationalJournal.com
By K. Daniel Glover

Two years ago this fall, Raj Bhakta made a splash on the reality TV show “The Apprentice.” His wardrobe (bow ties) and antics (jogging in his boxers after losing a bet) helped make him the standout personality among 17 other candidates.

But in the end, Bhakta didn’t make the cut. Donald Trump fired him in the ninth episode, costing Bhakta the chance at a $250,000-a-year job with one of America’s most famous entrepreneurs.

Bhakta is in another competition this fall. He is trying to parlay his “Apprentice” fame and entrepreneurial experience into a lower-paying ($165,200) but higher-profile job as a congressman, and in his bid to unseat Democrat Allyson Schwartz in Pennsylvania’s 13th District, he is using the blogosphere to generate buzz and bucks.

The most obvious element of Bhakta’s effort is his campaign blog. “Team Raj” typically posts multiple entries a day, and the candidate himself makes an occasional appearance. On Friday, for instance, Bhakta penned a critical response to a speech about violent crime by Philadelphia Mayor John Street, whose city is in the 13th District.

The blog also includes a “donate” button in the shape of a bow tie. It takes visitors to a page that features the “Joe Biden 7/11 Challenge.” The fundraising gimmick calls attention to a wisecrack in early July from Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., about not being able to “go into a 7-Eleven or into a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.”

Bhakta, who is of Indian ancestry, seized on the quote as an opening to invite donations of $7.11, $70.11 or $700.11. “I hope you’ll show the senator what a silly thing he said,” Bhakta said in an audio statement explaining the challenge. The challenge, which was promoted by some bloggers, yielded several thousand dollars, Bhakta said in a telephone interview.

That’s just one example of Bhakta’s outreach. The candidate granted an interview to The Real Ugly American that in turn generated links to Pennsylvania and national blogs. “We don’t have to beg [the media] for an interview,” a worker for Bhakta wrote. “This campaign and the blogs can communicate directly with the people.”

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The Master Of Eminent Domain

Originally published at NationalJournal.com
By K. Daniel Glover

On June 22, the Pacific Legal Foundation entered the blogosphere. The launch of the group’s blog, PLF on Eminent Domain, was the perfect end to a year marked by keen public interest in a legal doctrine that guarantees governments the right to “take” private property for public use.

The year started June 23, 2005, when the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling in Kelo v. New London. The case pitted the city of New London, Conn., against homeowner Susette Kelo and her neighbors. The city used the power of eminent domain to condemn and then buy their properties in order to redevelop them, and the Supreme Court concluded that the seizure was constitutional.

The decision triggered a wave of public outrage that manifested itself in opinion polls, media commentary, legal analysis, and online rants.

Kelo has been in the news again lately, as President Bush in June signed an executive order on eminent domain. Critics of the ruling also marked its anniversary with protests and continue to ponder their next steps to protect their private property. Blogs are part of that equation.

It took the Kelo decision to really get bloggers engaged on the issue. Eminent Domain Watch was created before then, but founder Alan Krigman said he never found either other blogs or conventional Web sites dedicated to eminent domain until Kelo.

“We started [in 2004] at the time that the Michigan Supreme Court reversed itself on the Poletown decision,” Krigman said. “It was my intuition that this would start the dominoes falling. Had Kelo not been heard by the [Supreme Court], I believe the Michigan reversal would have triggered at least some action.”

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Welcome To The Mainstream, Bloggers

Originally published at NationalJournal.com
By K. Daniel Glover

When the history of the online media revolution is written, 2006 should merit special mention as a turning point for the blogosphere. This is the year, for better or for worse, when bloggers earned their first official media stripes.

Bloggers have considered themselves media almost since the beginning of their brief existence. They proudly claim the “citizen media” mantle and call their work by names like “grassroots journalism,” “participatory journalism” and “public journalism.” But self-proclamation doesn’t carry the same weight as official recognition — something bloggers have only just begun to win.

The first significant victory came in March, when the Federal Election Commission largely exempted blogs from campaign finance rules on the grounds that they are media. They applied to blogs the same exemption that governs newspapers, broadcasters and other traditional outlets.

The commission had hinted at such a decision in a November advisory opinion that said the costs incurred by one blog publisher “in covering or carrying news stories, commentary, or editorials on its Web sites are encompassed by the press exception.”

The later rules, which the agency approved unanimously, recognized “the Internet as a unique and evolving mode of mass communication and political speech that is distinct from other media in a manner that warrants a restrained regulatory approach.”

More recently, bloggers have scored wins in the state judicial and legislative branches, including a ruling for independent journalists who had been sued in California by Apple Computer.

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The Quest For Online Integrity

Originally published at NationalJournal.com
By K. Daniel Glover

Old Mr. Webster defines integrity as “the quality or state of being of sound moral principle; uprightness, honesty, and sincerity.” That seems simple enough. But in the bitterly partisan, shoot-from-the-hip realm that is the blogosphere, defining integrity is anything but simple.

Just ask Josh Trevino. He is the motivating force behind a blog called Online Integrity, which bills itself as “a nonpartisan, non-ideological commitment to basic decency.” The project generated both enthusiasm and endorsements for a few days in early May. But its call for bloggers to respect people’s privacy on the Internet quickly deteriorated into the kind of partisan, virtual shouting match that is endemic to the blogosphere.

Though more than 200 bloggers have signed the “statement of principles” at the site, the quest for a nonpartisan consensus about virtue among bloggers is all but dead. There have been no posts at Online Integrity or the related Yahoo group in weeks, and much of the commentary since the initial wave of praise has been critical. The project even spawned a satire blog.

“A very frustrating and informative exercise in coalition-building,” Trevino lamented of his efforts.

Trevino, a co-founder of RedState, had high expectations at the outset of the project. Having witnessed personal attacks against some of his blogger friends on the right and the outcry on the left over the decision by Michelle Malkin to post the contact information of anti-war protestors, Trevino thought the time was ripe for an ethical consensus.

Four bloggers, two each from the right’s RedState and Daily Kos on the left, supported Trevino’s plan for a “code of practice.” About a dozen other bloggers — more from the left than the right, Trevino said — were invited to help draft the understanding.

“With the exception of Oliver Willis, who sent a rather petulant e-mail charging us with covering for Michelle Malkin … and Georgia10 of [Daily Kos], who remained silent, all the invitees agreed to participate,” Trevino said.

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