Facebook on the Hot Seat, Zuckerberg in Hiding | Mar 21 2018

Where’s Zuck? Facebook CEO silent as data harvesting scandal unfolds

|| The Guardian UK

Amid calls for investigation and a #DeleteFacebook campaign, company releases an official statement but its figurehead keeps quiet

“The chief executive of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, has remained silent over the more than 48 hours since the Observer revealed the harvesting of 50 million users’ personal data, even as his company is buffeted by mounting calls for investigation and regulation, falling stock prices and a social media campaign to #DeleteFacebook.

Facebook’s shares slid 6.77% on Monday following the news, knocking $36bn off the company’s valuation as investors worried about the consequences of the revelations. Zuckerberg owns 16% of the company and personally saw his fortune fall $5.5bn to $69bn, according to Forbes’ live tracker of the world’s wealthiest people.

The embattled social media company announced on Monday that it will engage a digital forensics firm to conduct an audit of Cambridge Analytica to determine whether or not the firm still has copies of the data in question.

The Observer reported this weekend that a company called Global Science Research (GSR) harvested tens of millions of Facebook profiles and sold the data to Cambridge Analytica. The New York Times reported on Saturday that Cambridge Analytica still possesses “most or all” of the harvested data. Cambridge Analytica has denied knowing that the data was obtained improperly.

“If this data still exists, it would be a grave violation of Facebook’s policies and an unacceptable violation of trust and the commitments these groups made,” Facebook said in a statement.

The engagement of the digital forensics firm Stroz Friedberg is unlikely to assuage officials in the US or UK, where lawmakers have issued calls for Zuckerberg to testify about the data breach. Representatives of Stroz Friedberg were at Cambridge Analytica’s office in London on Monday evening when the UK Information Commissioner’s Office asked them to leave so the authorities could pursue its own investigation, Facebook said hours after the first announcement.

On Monday, the US senator Ron Wyden sent Zuckerberg a detailed list of questions related to the breach, with a demand for answers by 13 April. Two members of the Senate judiciary committee, Democrat Amy Klobuchar and Republican John Kennedy, called for hearings with the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Google.

“It’s time for Mark Zuckerberg to stop hiding behind his Facebook page,” said the Conservative MP Damian Collins, chair of the digital, culture, media and sport select committee.

Referencing the government’s request for Facebook’s auditors to leave Cambridge Analytica’s offices, Collins tweeted: “These investigations need to be undertaken by the proper authorities.”

The three social media companies testified in Washington last fall, following the revelation that their platforms had been used by foreign agents seeking to illegally influence the US presidential election. All three companies sent their general counsels, a move that was criticized at the time. It is unlikely that Zuckerberg will be able to avoid congressional questioning a second time.

Experts have long criticized Facebook’s privacy practices, but their warnings have done little to dissuade users – now numbering more than 2 billion around the world – from signing up for the platform.

Whether the scandal will result in actual change in user trust of the company remains to be seen, but the hashtag #DeleteFacebook trended on Twitter on Monday as users shared their intention to log off the social network for good. Others tweeted #WheresZuck, in reference to the executive’s silence.

Also on Monday, the New York Times reported that Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, would be leaving the company following disagreements with other executives over the handling of the investigation into the Russian influence operation.”

….Continue reading more @ The Guardian

Mitch McConnell and the Communist China Connection | Mar 18 2018

How McConnell and Chao used political power to make their family rich

|| New York Post

Peter Schweizer, who delved into the Clinton Foundation’s dealings in 2016’s “Clinton Cash,” has turned his sights to the money-making machinations of DC’s political elite.

His new book, “Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends,” — due out Tuesday from Harper Collins — exposes how politicians engage in “corruption by proxy” by exploiting family and business ties to enrich themselves and their relatives.

Here, The Post’s Larry Getlen details the book’s revelations on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, ex-Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and others:

In 2004, current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his wife, current US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, had an average net worth of $3.1 million. Ten years later, that number had increased to somewhere between $9.2 million and $36.5 million.

One source of the windfall, according to a new book from Peter Schweizer, was a 2008 gift from Chao’s father, James Chao, for somewhere between $5 million and $25 million. But this gift could be seen as more than just a gift. It may have been acquired, according to Schweizer, thanks to the couple’s fealty to China, the source of the Chao family fortune. And that fealty may have occurred at the expense of the nation they had pledged to serve.

“Secret Empires,” the new book from the “Clinton Cash” and “Throw Them All Out” author, details myriad examples of corruption from members of both major political parties. Rather than focusing on direct forms of corruption, such as bribes, Schweizer hones in on the more indirect graft of the modern era.

Rather than risk their careers taking bribes for potentially minuscule rewards, Schweizer points out how today’s politicians are savvier, engaging in what he calls “corruption by proxy.”

While politicians and their spouses are often subject to rigid regulations on what gifts they can accept and what sort of business they can conduct, others around them — like their friends or children have no such obstacles. So while a politician could theoretically wind up in prison for accepting $10,000 for doling out favors, establishing overseas connections that could land your children multi-million-dollar deals is harder to detect, and often legal.

“Foreign governments and oligarchs like this form of corruption because it gives them private and unfettered gateways to the corridors of Washington power,” Schweizer writes. “Foreign entities cannot legally make campaign contributions, so using this approach creates an alternative way to curry favor and influence America’s political leaders. Simply camouflaging these transactions as business agreements provides another shield of plausible deniability.”

As Schweizer tells it, the Chao family fortune derives from the Foremost Group, a shipping company that Chinese native James Chao, a classmate of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin at Jiao Tong University, founded in New York in 1964. Chao remains Foremost’s chairman today, and his daughters Angela and Christine are the company’s deputy chairwoman and general counsel, respectively. Elaine Chao worked there in the 1970s, and has been quoted as saying, “Shipping is our family tradition.”

The success of Foremost is largely due to its close ties to the Chinese government, in particular the China State Shipbuilding Corp. (CSSC), a corporation with which Foremost has done “large volumes of business.”

The CSSC, Schweizer writes, is “a state-owned defense conglomerate … at the heart of the Chinese government’s military-industrial complex.” The main goal of the CSSC is to strengthen the Chinese military. James and Angela Chao have both sat on the board of a CSSC offshoot.

While Foremost is an American company, “their ships have been constructed by Chinese government shipyards, and some of their construction financed by the Chinese government.” In addition, writes Schweizer, “their crews are largely Chinese,” despite US Transportation Secretary and company founder’s daughter Elaine Chao having once said that “ships crewed by Americans are ‘a vital part of our national security.’”

Given all this, it’s worth noting how both McConnell and Chao, in their roles as high-ranking US officials, have personally interacted with, and then gone considerably soft on, China since their 1993 wedding.

When Senator McConnell — who took hardline positions against China prior to his marriage — met with high-ranking Chinese officials in 1994, it was not in his capacity as senator, but via a personal invitation from the CSSC arranged by James Chao. McConnell met with Zemin, then the country’s president, and vice-premiere Li Lanqing. After this meeting, McConnell “would increasingly avoid public criticism of China.” More meetings like it would follow in the years to come.

“As the Chaos and the Chinese government went into business together, the Chaos-McConnells tied their economic fate to the good fortunes of Beijing,” Schweizer writes. “Were McConnell to critique Beijing aggressively or support policies damaging to Chinese interests, Beijing could severely damage the family’s economic fortunes.”

In the ensuing years, McConnell has loudly defended China in its actions against Hong Kong and Taiwan, even claiming that “the United States needed to be ‘ambiguous’ as to whether we would come to the defense of Taiwan if attacked by China.” When Sen. Jesse Helms introduced the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act, pledging support for Taiwanese independence, in 1999, it had “twenty-one co-sponsors and heavy Republican support. But McConnell was not on the list.”

When Congress required China to document annual progress on human rights in order to maintain its trade status in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre, ditching the requirement became a priority for the country. In 2000, “McConnell cosponsored S.2277, which would do just that.”

McConnell also fought attempts to punish China for vigorously undervaluing its currency, a tactic that led Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to invoke the nuclear option, changing Senate rules on voting. The bill passed, 63-35, with McConnell voting against.

Chao has also done her part to support her ancestral home.

When she served as Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush, her department resisted efforts to “call out the Chinese government over its workers rights practices.” When a petition was filed against China on the subject of worker’s rights based on the US Trade Act of 1974, Chao opposed it.

After a bipartisan congressional report citing Chinese espionage against the US circulated in 2000, Chao “was critical of the report,” making clear she “in no way” agreed with its findings, and, Schweizer writes, “dismiss[ing] the idea that China could pose any threat to the United States.”

…..Continue reading more @ NY Post

 

Kevin De Leon Appoints Illegal Alien to California State Commission | Mar 15 2018

Mexican lawyer appointed to California government job may be first illegal immigrant in US history to hold state post

|| Washington Examiner

“California may be the first state in the country to appoint a person illegally in the U.S. to a position in state government following the Senate Rules Committee’s decision to approve Lizbeth Mateo, a Mexican-born woman, for a statewide post.

Mateo, a 33-year-old attorney, was appointed Wednesday to the California Student Opportunity and Access Program and will advise the Student Aid Commission.

California Senate Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon’s office confirmed to the Washington Examiner on Thursday Mateo is the first illegal immigrant to be given a state-appointed job and said it was not aware of any other state to have done so.

Multiple officials at immigration organizations also told the Examinerthey were unaware of any other states that had made similar appointments, making the Wednesday vote a historic one.

Mateo came to the U.S. with her parents when she was 14 years old. In California, where illegal immigrants gained the legal right to practice law in 2014, she attended Santa Clara University School of Law and passed the California state bar exam last year.

“While undocumented students have become more visible in our state, they remain underrepresented in places where decisions that affect them are being made,” Mateo said in a statement.

In her new role, Mateo will help low-income and under-served communities learn more about how to apply for college.

It’s not clear if Mateo is a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which would give her legal protections from deportation and work authorization.”

…Continue reading more @ Washington Examiner

 

Note: The California State Constitution would appear to make such an appointment unconstitutional:

CALIFORNIA CONSTITUTION

ARTICLE I DECLARATION OF RIGHTS [SECTION 1 – SEC. 32]

  ( Article 1 adopted 1879. )

SEC. 31.  

(a) The State shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”

What is the basis for her appointment? The fact that she is a foreign national, illegally in the country. How is that not a preference based on national origin?

 

Sessions Goes After California’s ‘Sanctuary State’ Policies | Mar 07 2018

Justice Department sues California over sanctuary laws

||  SF Chronicle

“After struggling in court for the last year to strip federal funds from California and sanctuary cities like San Francisco for refusing to aid federal immigration agents, the Trump administration filed suit Tuesday accusing the state of unconstitutionally interfering with immigration enforcement.

Three state laws enacted in 2017 “reflect a deliberate effort by California to obstruct the United States’ enforcement of federal immigration laws,” the Justice Department said in a lawsuit in federal court in Sacramento. The suit seeks to overturn all three laws.

In remarks prepared for delivery Wednesday to a law enforcement gathering in Sacramento, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Trump administration would “fight these unjust, unfair and unconstitutional policies that have been imposed on you.”

So far, though, his arguments have made little headway in federal court, where judges in San Francisco and elsewhere have rejected efforts to strip federal funds from sanctuary jurisdictions that refuse to comply with Justice Department edicts.

The suits by California, San Francisco and other sanctuary jurisdictions challenge conditions the department has sought to attach to federal funding, while the Justice Department’s suit directly challenges the California laws. But the central issue in all of them appears to be whether sanctuary laws are a proper exercise of state and local government’s authority over law enforcement or an unconstitutional intrusion by those governments into federal immigration law.

Sessions’ suit, though filed in a different court, could be consolidated with the California suit and transferred to San Francisco if the judge in that case decides the issues are the same.

Gov. Jerry Brown, a defendant in the new lawsuit, said in a statement, “At a time of unprecedented political turmoil, Jeff Sessions has come to California to further divide and polarize America. Jeff, these political stunts may be the norm in Washington, but they won’t work here.”

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra, also a defendant in the suit, responded with his own overture to law enforcement. “We’ll continue to stand up for our police and sheriffs whose funding has been threatened by the Trump administration” in the federal grants, he told reporters.

Besides targeting sanctuary laws, Sessions and others in the administration have denounced local officials like Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who publicly warned the immigrant community Feb. 24 of an impending Bay Area raid by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Acting ICE director Thomas Homan, who previously threatened pro-sanctuary politicians with criminal prosecution, compared Schaaf to “a gang lookout.” President Trump’s press secretary said the Justice Department was looking into Schaaf’s actions.”

…..Continue reading more @ SF Chronicle

Sessions Punches Back: DOJ to Sue California to Strike Down ‘Sanctuary’ Laws as Unconstitutional

|| Breitbart

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions will speak Wednesday about his Department of Justice’s (DOJ) first-of-its-kind lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of three of California’s “sanctuary” laws, Breitbart News has learned.

Relying on both federal statutes and the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, DOJ will ask the U.S. District Court for the District of Eastern California to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement of these laws intended to protect illegal aliens by preventing cooperation with federal immigration enforcement. DOJ will also seek declaratory judgement that these laws are unconstitutional – “preempted” by federal immigration law – when it files late Tuesday night.

“The Department of Justice and the Trump administration are going to fight these unjust, unfair, and unconstitutional policies that have been imposed on you,” Attorney General Sessions is expected to tell a gathering of California police officers Wednesday in Sacramento. “We are fighting to make your jobs safer and to help you reduce crime in America. And I believe that we are going to win.”

…Continue reading more @ Breitbart

Obama and Comey Had a Secret Meeting? | Mar 02 2018


FBI Denies Secret Comey-Obama Meeting Raises Integrity and Public Trust Issues

|| Daily Caller

“The FBI states it will not expedite the release of documents about secret meetings between FBI Director James Comey and former President Barack Obama, according to a letter the bureau sent to The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Such information is not “a matter of widespread and exceptional media interest in which there exists possible questions about the government’s integrity which affects public confidence,” David Hardy, the Section Chief for the bureau’s Record/Information Dissemination Section, told TheDCNF in a Feb. 26 letter.

TheDCNF, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), requested records of all meetings between Comey and Obama and sought an “expedited process” as provided under the act when issues are of great interest to the media and the records address issues pertaining to government integrity. TheDCNF FOIA request was filed Feb. 16, 2018.

The issue prompting the FOIA request was the disclosure Comey held a secret Oval Office meeting with Obama on Jan. 5, 2017. Comey never divulged the meeting to Congress.”

….Continue reading more @ Daily Caller