Russia social media influence efforts ongoing, report says WASHINGTON (AP) — Russia’s sweeping political disinformation campaign on U.S. social media was more far-reaching than originally thought, with troll farms working to discourage black voters and…
Russia social media influence efforts ongoing, report says
WASHINGTON (AP) — Russia’s sweeping political disinformation campaign on U.S. social media was more far-reaching than originally thought, with troll farms working to discourage black voters and “blur the lines between reality and fiction” to help elect Donald Trump in 2016, according to reports released Monday by the Senate intelligence committee.
And the campaign didn’t end with Trump’s ascent to the White House. Troll farms are still working to stoke racial and political passions in America at a time of high political discord.
The two studies are the most comprehensive picture yet of the Russian interference campaigns on American social media. They add to the portrait investigators have been building since 2017 on Russia’s influence — though Trump has equivocated on whether the interference actually happened.
Facebook, Google and Twitter declined to comment on the specifics of the reports.
The reports were compiled by the cybersecurity firm New Knowledge and by the Computational Propaganda Research Project, a study by researchers at the University of Oxford and Graphika, a social media analysis firm.
Run-up to Flynn sentencing tinged with unexpected drama
WASHINGTON (AP) — Michael Flynn may have given extraordinary cooperation to prosecutors, but the run-up to his sentencing hearing Tuesday has exposed raw tensions over an FBI interview in which the former national security adviser lied about his Russian contacts.
Flynn’s lawyers have suggested that investigators discouraged him from having an attorney present during the January 2017 interview and never informed him it was a crime to lie. Prosecutors shot back, “He does not need to be warned it is a crime to lie to federal agents to know the importance of telling them the truth.”
The mere insinuation of underhanded tactics was startling given the seemingly productive relationship between the two sides, and it was especially striking since prosecutors with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office have praised Flynn’s cooperation and recommended against prison time. The defense arguments spurred speculation that Flynn may be trying to get sympathy from President Donald Trump or may be playing to a judge known for a zero-tolerance view of government misconduct.
“It’s an attempt, I think, to perhaps characterize Flynn as a victim or perhaps to make him look sympathetic in the eyes of a judge — and, at the same time, to portray the special counsel in a negative light,” said former federal prosecutor Jimmy Gurule, a University of Notre Dame law school professor.
Until the dueling memos were filed last week, the sentencing hearing for Flynn — who pleaded guilty to lying about conversations during the transition period with the then-Russian ambassador — was expected to be devoid of the drama characterizing other of Mueller’s cases.
CBS denies former CEO Les Moonves $120 million severance
NEW YORK (AP) — CBS announced Monday that former CEO Les Moonves will not receive his $120 million severance package after the board of directors concluded he violated company policy and was uncooperative with an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations.
The decision, which came after a five-month outside investigation, capped the downfall of one of television’s most influential figures, the biggest entertainment powerbroker to see his career derailed amid the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct.
A lawyer for Moonves said the board’s conclusion “are without merit” but did not say whether the former CEO would challenge it in arbitration.
Moonves was ousted in September after allegations from women who said he subjected them to mistreatment including forced oral sex, groping and retaliation if they resisted.
“This is an important reminder that harassment happens everywhere, and that in this moment, even someone who has been perceived as untouchable will be held accountable,” said Fatima Goss Graves, a co-founder of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which provides legal assistance to victims of assault, harassment or abuse. “I hope other corporations are learning that lesson.”
US sportswear traced to factory in China’s internment camps
HOTAN, China (AP) — Barbed wire and hundreds of cameras ring a massive compound of more than 30 dormitories, schools, warehouses and workshops in China’s far west. Dozens of armed officers and a growling Doberman stand guard outside.
Behind locked gates, men and women are sewing sportswear that can end up on U.S. college campuses and sports teams.
This is one of a growing number of internment camps in the Xinjiang region, where by some estimates 1 million Muslims are detained, forced to give up their language and their religion and subject to political indoctrination. Now, the Chinese government is also forcing some detainees to work in manufacturing and food industries. Some of them are within the internment camps; others are privately-owned, state-subsidized factories where detainees are sent once they are released.
The Associated Press has tracked recent, ongoing shipments from one such factory inside an internment camp to Badger Sportswear, a leading supplier in Statesville, North Carolina. The shipments show how difficult it is to stop products made with forced labor from getting into the global supply chain, even though such imports are illegal in the U.S. Badger CEO John Anton said Sunday that the company would source sportswear elsewhere while it investigates.
Chinese authorities say the camps, which they call training centers, offer free vocational training for Uighurs, Kazakhs and others, mostly Muslims, as part of a plan to bring minorities into “a modern civilized” world and eliminate poverty in Xinjiang. They say that people in the centers have signed agreements to receive vocational training.
GOP waits on Trump as clock ticks toward partial shutdown
WASHINGTON (AP) — The fight over President Donald Trump’s $5 billion wall funds deepened Monday, threatening a partial government shutdown in a standoff that has become increasingly common in Washington.
It wasn’t always like this, with Congress and the White House at a crisis over government funding. The House and Senate used to pass annual appropriation bills, and the president signed them into law. But in recent years the shutdown scenario has become so routine that it raises the question: Have shutdowns as a negotiating tool lost their punch?
Monday brought few signs of progress. A partial shutdown that could occur at midnight Friday risks disrupting government operations and leaving hundreds of thousands of federal employees furloughed or working without pay over the holiday season. Costs would be likely in the billions of dollars.
Trump was meeting with his team and getting regular updates, said White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Trump was also tweeting Monday to keep up the pressure.
Exiting a Senate Republican leadership meeting late Monday, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota said, “It looks like it probably is going to have to build for a few days here before there’s a solution.”
Silicon Valley East: Google plans $1B expansion in New York
Silicon Valley is becoming Silicon Nation.
Google announced Monday it will spend more than $1 billion to build a new office complex in New York City that will allow the internet search giant to double the number of people it employs there.
It is the tech industry’s latest major expansion beyond the Seattle-San Francisco Bay corridor. It follows recent steps by Amazon and Apple to set up large operations well outside their home turf.
Tech companies are “coming to the realization that the Bay Area, which has traditionally been the major center of tech activity in the U.S., is getting expensive and crowded,” said Andrew Bartels, principal analyst at Forrester Research.
“A lot of vendors are coming to the realization that ‘We can probably find top talent elsewhere at a more affordable costs, and perhaps a better style of life for employees who may be struggling to make ends meet.'”
Vatican urged to reveal status of ousted US archbishop
VATICAN CITY (AP) — A prominent U.S. archbishop is asking the Vatican for answers about the status of an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct by his predecessor, who was forced to resign in 2015.
St. Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda wrote a remarkable letter to his flock Friday in which he revealed he sent the Vatican in 2016 a new allegation of improprieties with minors against retired Archbishop John Nienstedt.
It was not immediately clear if the alleged incident in Germany was ever investigated. Nienstedt has denied the allegation.
County prosecutors informed Hebda of the allegation in 2016. It accused Nienstedt of inviting two minors to his hotel room in 2005 at a Vatican-organized youth rally in Germany to change out of wet clothes, the archbishop wrote.
Hebda said Nienstedt “then proceeded to undress in front of them and invited them to do the same.” He noted that Nienstedt denied the allegation.
May says postponed Brexit vote to be held week of Jan 14
LONDON (AP) — Prime Minister Theresa May said Monday that the postponed vote in Parliament on Britain’s Brexit agreement with the European Union will be held the week of Jan. 14 — more than a month after it was originally scheduled and just 10 weeks before Britain leaves the EU.
But even as May insisted she could salvage her unpopular divorce deal, pressure was mounting for dramatic action — a new referendum or a vote among lawmakers — to find a way out of Britain’s Brexit impasse and prevent the economic damage of a messy exit from the EU on March 29 with no agreement in place.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said he would submit a motion of no-confidence in the prime minister over her delays. Losing the vote on such a motion would increase the pressure on May, but unlike a no-confidence vote in the government as a whole it wouldn’t trigger a process leading to the fall of the government and an early election.
No date was immediately set for the confidence vote.
The British government and the EU sealed a divorce deal last month, but May postponed a parliamentary vote intended to ratify the agreement last week when it became clear legislators would overwhelmingly reject it.
‘Tonight Show’ to air episode in Puerto Rico with ‘Hamilton’
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show” will air an episode next year from Puerto Rico including an exclusive performance with Lin-Manuel Miranda reprising his role in “Hamilton.”
NBC announced Monday evening that Miranda and the new touring cast will appear in the episode Jan. 15. The telecast will focus on Puerto Rico’s recovery efforts to rebuild and raise awareness after Hurricane Maria massively struck the island in 2017.
The episode will delve into how the deadly hurricane devastated Puerto Rico through widespread damage, but also celebrate the “great spirit and culture” of the people.
Miranda will reprise his lead role in “Hamilton” at the University of Puerto Rico from Jan. 8 to 27. The performances look to raise money for the Flamboyan Arts Fund to benefit the art, artists and arts institutions.
NEW YORK (AP) — Plunking an opponent paid off for CC Sabathia.
The New York Yankees gave Sabathia a $500,000 performance bonus, even though the 38-year-old left-hander was ejected from his final regular-season start six outs shy of the 155 innings specified in his contract for the payment.
Sabathia hit Tampa Bay’s Jesus Sucre starting the sixth inning on Sept. 27 with his 55th pitch of the night, retaliation for Andrew Kittredge throwing a pitch behind Austin Romine in the top half.
“We thought it was a very nice gesture by the Yankees,” Sabathia’s agent, Kyle Thousand of Roc Nation Sports, told The Associated Press on Monday. “CC was very appreciative and is really excited to come back next year and, hopefully, win a championship.”
Neither side announced the decision, which became evident when the $500,000 was included in the Yankees’ final luxury tax payroll.