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Facebook says it is ready for violent unrest in the US election, and has plans to restrict the spread of inflammatory posts

Businessinsider - Tue, 09/22/2020 - 11:06
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg prepares to testify before a House Energy and Commerce Committee in Rayburn Building on the protection of user data on April 11, 2018.
  • Facebook is preparing in case violence erupts after the November US presidential election.
  • Nick Clegg, its head of global affairs, told The Financial Times the network has plans for scenarios like widespread civil unrest, or an unclear result if mail-in votes are counted slowly.
  • He declined to explain Facebook's specific plan, but said that the company may make strong moves to "restrict the circulation of content."
  • A source told the FT that Facebook is exploring how to respond to around 70 scenarios, and is working with military planners.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Facebook said Tuesday that it has a plan in case there is violent unrest in the wake of the US election, and that it would restrict content on its platform in such a scenario.

Nick Clegg, Facebook's head of global affairs, told The Financial Times in an interview that the company has plans in place in case of widespread chaos.

Clegg did not elaborate on exactly what measures Facebook is considering.

But he said that the company would make aggressive moves to "restrict the circulation of content" that it thought may further inflame the situation.

He said big decisions will fall executives like him and COO Sheryl Sandberg, and that CEO Mark Zuckerberg will be able to overrule decisions.

Nick Clegg.

Clegg said the company was ready for a range of situations, including widespread unrest.

Another scenario is a period of limbo after November 3, where in-person votes, counted quickly, signal one result which later changes when mail-in ballots are taken into account.

President Donald Trump too has been preparing for this scenario, painting mail-in voting — which experts consider to be safe — as an unreliable form of voting that Democrats could use to rig the election.

Facebook did not elaborate on its plans to the FT, claiming that knowledge of its plans could allow some people to work out how to overcome its restrictions.

The company is facing intense scrutiny over how it deals with election-related misinformation, and how it expects to manage this, and any election-related backlash, in November.

Clegg said Facebook has "acted aggressively in other parts of the world where we think that there is real civic instability" and said the company has previously elsewhere used "pretty exceptional measures to significantly restrict the circulation of content on our platform."

He said that Facebook "obviously" can do that again.

A source familiar with Facebook's workings told the FT that Facebook has used military scenario planners to decide how it should respond to around 70 different outcomes in the US.

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China is reportedly sending Tibetans to work in military-style labor training camps, echoing the persecution of Uighurs in Xinjiang

Businessinsider - Tue, 09/22/2020 - 11:02
The White Tower at Potala Palace Square in Lhasa, Tibet, in September 19, 2020.
  • China is rounding up Tibetan farmers, sending them to military-style camps, and putting them to work in industry, according to a Reuters report.
  • Workers are taught "discipline" and "gratitude" to reform "backward thinking," according to government documents seen by Reuters and a report from Adrian Zenz, a researcher at The Jamestown Foundation. 
  • The scheme started in 2016 but has accelerated in 2020, with 15% of the Tibetan population already passing through the facilities so far in 2020.
  • The program echoes that seen in Xinjiang, where Uighur Muslims are brainwashed and made to work on factory production lines.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

China is rounding up hundreds of thousands of rural Tibetans and sending them to harsh training centers similar to those used to detain Uighurs Muslims in Xinjiang, according to a Reuters investigation.

This year China accelerated a plan to train up and relocate Tibet's "rural surplus laborers" to parts of China or Tibet that need of increased manufacturing capacity. 

At the "military-style" training centers workers are taught "work discipline" and "gratitude" to reform "backward thinking," according to official Chinese and Tibetan government documents seen by Reuters and a report from Adrian Zenz, a researcher at The Jamestown Foundation. 

The first signs of the program appeared in 2005 and became a mainstay in 2016. Now, the scheme is racing ahead, with 15% of Tibet's population earmarked for the camps in 2020 alone, Reuters and Zenz found.

Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Chinese state media has covered the program in detail, with Beijing framing it as a way to eradicate poverty.

Between January and July this year, 543,000 Tibetans were sent to the labor training camps, Zenz said, adding that this was already over 90% of the region's annual goal.

Around 50,000 of these people were then sent from the training camps to work on various projects in Tibet, and 3,000 to other places in China, Zenz said.

"This is now, in my opinion, the strongest, most clear and targeted attack on traditional Tibetan livelihoods that we have seen almost since the Cultural Revolution," Zenz told Reuters.

One such facility identified by Zenz is the "Chamdo Golden Sunshine Vocational Training School" in Eluo Town, Tibet.

The program has been compared to that imposed on Uighur Muslims in China's western province of Xinjiang since 2016.

Protesters rally in support of Xinjiang Uighurs' human rights in Hong Kong on December 22, 2019.

Chen Quanguo, the man who led the project to surveil and detain Uighurs in Xinjiang in 2016, is also one of the masterminds of the scheme in Tibet, Reuters reported.

In Xinjiang, at least one million Uighurs and other ethnic groups are interned in as many as 500 camps where they are brainwashed, forced to work on production lines for little, and made to adopt Chinese culture.

China is also attempting to slash the Uighur birthrate, with former detainees and medical professionals in the region telling the media that forced sterilizations, abortions, and birth control treatments are commonplace.

Birth rates in Xinjiang plunged by nearly a third in 2018, but China claimed that it is not forcing sterilizations.

A perimeter fence around a detention camp in the Dabancheng district of Xinjiang, China.

Last week, the US banned the import of certain cotton products made in Xinjiang after accusations they were made using forced labor at the camps. In July 2019, the US blacklisted several Chinese companies based in Xinjiang over human-rights abuses. 

However, Zenz noted that the programs and facilities in Xinjiang and Tibet are not identical.

It appears that the scheme is Tibet is more voluntary, Zenz wrote, adding: "There is no evidence that the TAR's scheme is linked to extrajudicial internment," using an acronym for the Tibetan Autonomous Region, the area's official name.

"However, in a system where the transition between securitization and poverty alleviation is seamless, there is no telling where coercion stops and where genuinely voluntary local agency begins," he added.

"In the context of Beijing's increasingly assimilatory ethnic minority policy, it is likely that these policies will promote a long-term loss of linguistic, cultural and spiritual heritage."

What the camps have in common, Zenz wrote, is a "militarized training process that involves thought transformation, patriotic and legal education, and Chinese language teaching."

China invaded Tibet in 1949 and has since claimed ownership of the region. China's foreign ministry told Reuters that it denied claims of forced labor in Tibet.

"What these people with ulterior motives are calling 'forced labor' simply does not exist. We hope the international community will distinguish right from wrong, respect facts, and not be fooled by lies," the ministry said.

China has been on a crusade to homogenize its language and culture for years, and has imposed policies that would effectively eradicate the heritage of other ethnic groups, like the Uighurs and Tibetans.

Last month China imposed a policy in Inner Mongolia, a Chinese region, that cut down on the number of Mongolian-language education in favor of more Mandarin Chinese classes. Local parents have protested by keeping their children from attending school.

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Stack Overflow CEO Prashanth Chandrasekar to speak at the Business Insider Global Trends Festival 2020

Businessinsider - Tue, 09/22/2020 - 10:59
Stack Overflow CEO Prashanth Chandrasekar Business Insider is proud to announce that Prashanth Chandrasekar will speak at the inaugural BI Global Trends Festival, a virtual event taking place October 19-23, 2020.

Stack Overflow, a site where developers can ask and answer questions, announced Chandrasekar as its new CEO in September 2019 to replace its previous CEO and cofounder, Joel Spolsky, who stepped down.

In July 2020, at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company raised $85 million. Chandrasekar told Business Insider India that the funds will be used to grow Stack Overflow for Teams, a paid product at the center of his strategy to make Stack Overflow a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company.

He said much of the growth plan, though not all of it, will focus on India.

"India is a big user base for us and it's untapped in the context of our Teams product," Chandrasekar said. He believes India will be "huge powerhouse for software development for companies in the West."

See Chandrasekar speak at the Business Insider Global Trends Festival. Get your tickets today.

Buy tickets >>Read the original article on Business Insider
Categories: English

China will be the 'most important marginal driver of global GDP,' ex-Goldman Sachs economist Jim O'Neill says

Businessinsider - Tue, 09/22/2020 - 10:31
Jim O'Neill
  • China's economy will erase all its 2020 losses next year and still record positive growth for this year, ex-Goldman Sachs economist Jim O'Neill told CNBC. 
  • He said: "China is well on the way to recovery. It is the country that really matters globally within the BRIC group."
  • O'Neill said other BRIC nations - Brazil, Russia and India - are "considerably behind" in their economic recovery. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Chinese GDP is set to end the year in positive territory and the economy will erase all its 2020 losses next year, ex-Goldman Sachs economist Jim O'Neill told CNBC. 

The economist who is famous for coining the term "BRIC" in the early 2000s, in reference to Brazil, Russia, India and China, said he believes China's economy will be the "most important marginal driver of global GDP."

Read more: Tony Greer made 5 times his money with an early investment in Apple. The macro investor and ex-Goldman Sachs trader provides an inside look into his trading tactics and shares his top 3 ideas right now.

"I suspect Chinese GDP growth could actually end 2020 as net positive still," he said.  "By end [of] 2021, Chinese GDP growth will have possibly even made up for, not only the losses, but the loss in the trend also." 

The world's second largest economy has been ahead of the game in containing the virus and bouncing back from it. It's economy expanded by 3.2% year-on-year in the second quarter of the year and by 11% compared to Q1, beating Reuters economists' predictions.

This came after a 6.8% drop in output in Q1, its first contraction since 1992. 

Chinese retail sales rose for the first time this year in August to 0.5% compared to July, while industrial production increased for a fifth straight month.

O'Neill said China is well "on its way to recovery". Even though China was the first to be hit by the pandemic through an outbreak in its Wuhan province, data from John Hopkins University shows it has suffered just over 90,000 infections and less than 5,000 deaths, compared with nearly 7 million infections and almost 200,000 deaths in the United States, the worst-affected country.

Read more: Morgan Stanley wealth management's head of market research told us a risk to longer-term assets that investors are most overlooking as the economy recovers — and recommends 3 portfolio shifts for sustained gains

"As I have said, China is well on the way to recovery. It is the country that really matters globally within the BRIC group," O'Neill said.

He told CNBC that Brazil, India and Russia, three most heavily hit countries after the US, are "considerably behind" in their road to economic recovery. 

India's GDP shrank by 23.9% in the April-June 2020 period.

"I suspect — with a lag — they [BRI countries] will share in the V-like immediate bounce back, partially in Q3, but especially in Q4 2020," he added. 

The OECD predicts all G20 countries apart from China will enter recession this year, but it expects global GDP to return to its pre-pandemic level by the third quarter of 2021. 

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European stocks recover after biggest daily loss in three months, but 'COVID-19 noise' spreads across the region

Businessinsider - Tue, 09/22/2020 - 10:12
Specialist Meric Greenbaum, left, and trader Fred DeMarco, center, work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
  • European stocks recovered with a fairly mild rebound following Monday's carnage, but renewed fears of virus-related lockdowns in the region crept into global stock markets.
  • However, shares in Deutsche Bank fell 0.5%, while HSBC fell 0.8%, extending the declines from the previous day that contributed to Monday's losses in major indexes.
  • The UK's chief scientific adviser warned the country could see 50,000 new cases every day until mid-October unless further measures are imposed.
  • US futures dipped slightly as the Dow 30S&P 500, and Nasdaq 100 fell 0.2%, suggesting a lower start to trading.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

European stocks recovered the previous day's sharp losses on Tuesday, but renewed fears of lockdown-related restrictions continue to depress investor sentiment and the banking sector remained under pressure. 

European indices got off to a more positive start to the day. The Euro Stoxx 50 was last up 0.4%, having fallen on Monday by 3% to its lowest since June. With new measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 looming in the UK, Britain's FTSE 100 was one of the region's worst performers, down 0.11%, along with Madrid's IBEX 35, which fell 0.5%, while Germany's DAX was up 0.6%. 

"Notably, the COVID-19 noise is increasing in the UK and Europe as summer partying has left case numbers surging, threatening more widespread lockdowns yet again," said Jeffrey Halley, a senior market analyst at OANDA.

Two of the worst performers on the FTSE were pub owner Whitbread and British Airways parent company IAG, both of which fell by around 4%.

The banking sector staged a modest recovery at the start of early trading, after Monday's aggressive sell-off following reports detailing over $2 trillion that some of the world's major financial institutions handled, despite marked as possible money laundering or criminal transactions.

Later in the morning, shares in Deutsche Bank fell 0.5%, while HSBC fell 0.8%, extending the declines from the previous day that contributed to Monday's losses in major indexes. Standard Chartered drifted higher around 0.3%.

Also on Monday, the UK's chief scientific adviser warned the country could face 50,000 new COVID-19 cases every day until mid-October unless further restrictive measures are implemented. On the same day, a further 4,368 daily cases were reported in the UK, up from 3,899.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control reported there were 14,389 new cases in Spain on Friday with 90 fatalities, while 13,498 new cases and 25 fatalities were reported in France on Sunday.

Read More: Tony Greer made 5 times his money with an early investment in Apple. The macro investor and ex-Goldman Sachs trader provides an inside look into his trading tactics and shares his top 3 ideas right now.

US futures on the Dow 30S&P 500, and Nasdaq 100 fell 0.3%, suggesting a lower start to trading, after four straight days of losses.

A rise in the US dollar index to $93.80 overnight, and a fall in US treasury yields to 0.66% "hints that there is more than a little safe-haven positioning going on now," Halley said.

Oil prices were about flat, with international benchmark Brent crude and US benchmark West Texas Intermediate trading at $41 and $39 respectively, after sliding as much as 5% the previous day on reports of a supply glut and lower demand heading into the fall.

"Naturally, restrictions and lockdowns don't sit well with oil traders and crude prices are taking another kicking," said Craig Erlam, a senior market analyst at OANDA. "One thing they have working in the other direction that they lacked in March was an organized OPEC+, which should prevent a repeat performance."

While TikTok might have got the White House greenlight for an American tie-up with Oracle and Walmart, China's Global Times editor said that Beijing wouldn't approve ByteDance's TikTok deal.

"Given the level of press freedom in China, one assumes that by default, the editor's comments wouldn't have been made unless it was the actual government stance," Halley said.

Asian indexes finished lower with China's Shanghai Composite down 1.2%, Hong Kong's Hang Seng down 1%, while Japan's Nikkei was closed for a holiday.

Read More: Morgan Stanley wealth management's head of market research told us a risk to longer-term assets that investors are most overlooking as the economy recovers — and recommends 3 portfolio shifts for sustained gains

Read the original article on Business Insider
Categories: English

TikTok removed nearly 105 million videos for nudity and other policy violations in the first half of 2020

Businessinsider - Tue, 09/22/2020 - 10:00
  • TikTok has released its latest global transparency report, saying it removed almost 105 million videos in the first half of 2020 for policy violations.
  • These included videos depicting nudity, or that endangered minors, among other policy breaches.
  • Business Insider also learned that TikTok conducted an internal investigation following the spread of a video showing a man's death by suicide.
  • TikTok says it wants to work with other Big Tech firms on a 'hashbank' of graphic content to prevent it spreading across platforms.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

TikTok removed nearly 105 million videos for violating its rules in the first half of 2020, the company's latest transparency report reveals.

The number is double what the app removed in the final six months of 2019, but still accounts for less than one percent of the videos posted on the app — indicating the growth of the platform in the last year worldwide.

Like YouTube, which recently admitted its computer-driven video moderation system was producing too many false positives, TikTok "relied more heavily on technology" to monitor, flag and remove videos during the coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly 97% of the videos were removed proactively by TikTok, with 90.32% of them removed before receiving any views. Three in 10 of the offending videos were removed for containing adult nudity or sexual activities — a higher proportion than the previous six months — while a further 22.3% endangered the safety of minors.

Not included in the latest transparency report was the video of a 33-year-old man, Ronnie McNutt, dying by suicide, which spread across the app earlier this month. TikTok users rushed to warn each other about the content of the video to try and prevent its spread.

Business Insider has exclusively learned the outcome of an internal investigation into how the video went viral on the platform.

The video was first posted to the app shortly after McNutt's death was livestreamed on Facebook at the end of August, with a small number of videos receiving a limited number of views.

On the night of September 6, TikTok saw a massive spike in the number of videos showing McNutt's death posted on the app — the result of an organized campaign believed to be planned on the dark web. The attackers are also believed to have launched similar attacks on other platforms.

"This is an industry-wide challenge, which is why we have proposed to peers across the industry that we work together on creating a 'hashbank' for such violent, graphic content and warn each other when such content is discovered so that we can all better protect our users, no matter the app they use," said Theo Bertram, TikTok's director of government relations and public policy for Europe, who prefaced his comments by offering his deepest sympathies to the family and friends of McNutt.

To respond to the issue, TikTok's US interim chief executive Vanessa Pappas,today sent a letter to the heads of nine tech giants proposing a memorandum of understanding "that will allow us to quickly notify one another of such content."

Business Insider understands more than 10,000 versions of the video were posted to TikTok in a short period of time — far fewer than the 1.5 million versions of a video depicting the mass murder of Muslims at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, that was spread widely on Facebook.

TikTok banned the accounts that posted versions of the video, many of which signed up specifically to upload it.

The idea that this was a "shallow but broad" attack, where many videos with a low number of views are posted to try and gain maximum exposure without tipping off the app's monitoring system, chimes with the thinking of a source with knowledge of ByteDance's moderation policies. They spoke in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

"If multiple accounts upload different edited versions of the video, it's hard to deal with," the person explained in early September. "A large number of videos with a small number of views accumulate a larger number of views."

Those trying to repost the video used a number of tools, including TikTok's filters and splicing tools, to bypass the app's algorithmic detection of the video.

Business Insider understands from the same person that videos are added to a deduplication library, which cross-checks videos posted to the app, removing matches.

At the same time, Business Insider understands many of the videos were viewed after users actively sought out the footage through the app's search tool and by clicking on specific profiles, rather than being served the video through TikTok's For You page.

This was an indication that some users actively wanted to find the footage after hearing about it, or that those wanting to disseminate the video knew that engagement with the video was more likely to surface the app to a wider number of users.

"Following an internal review, we found evidence of a coordinated effort by bad actors to spread this video across the internet and platforms, including TikTok," said Bertram.

"We detected and removed these clips for violating our policies against content that displays, praises, glorifies, or promotes suicide. We also took swift action including by banning accounts that were uploading this content."

In response to the spread of the suicide video, Business Insider understands TikTok has changed the triggers for its machine learning moderation algorithm, as well as changing processes.

According to TikTok's transparency report, more than 37 million videos were removed in India, from which the app is currently banned after a late June decision by the government to bar access to apps of Chinese origin.

India also had far and away the most requests for removals of content due to legal reasons, with 79% of the 1,206 requests acceded to.

In the US, where TikTok has faced a month of legal and political wrangling over the app's future, 9.8 million videos were removed for violating the app's terms. There, 290 legal requests to remove content were received, of which 85% were deemed legitimate.

TikTok does not operate in China. Rather, its parent firm ByteDance operates a similar app called Douyin, so TikTok did not receive any requests for removal of content from China.

The app also received requests from governments across the globe to remove content in accordance with local laws. Here, Russia dominated, with 296 pieces of content removed or receiving restricted access across 259 separate accounts.

TikTok has recently been criticised for moderating its content to local norms, with the result that some LGBTQ+ friendly hashtags in languages like Russian were effectively shadowbanned on the app.

More than 10,600 pieces of copyrighted content were flagged for removal, and nine in 10 were taken down by TikTok – nearly 10 times the number of notices received in the second half of 2019.

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Boris Johnson's government tells people to work from home just weeks after warning home-workers they risk the sack

Businessinsider - Tue, 09/22/2020 - 09:59
  • Boris Johnson's government tells workers to stay at home if they can.
  • This follows weeks of his government urging people in England to return to offices.
  • Prime Minister Johnson will announce the new guidance to MPs on Tuesday afternoon.
  • His government will also introduce a 10pm curfew for pubs, bars, and restaurants.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Boris Johnson will today urge people to work from home if they can in order to stop a spike in coronavirus infections, just weeks after launching a back to work drive.

The UK prime minister will address the House of Commons on Tuesday where he will confirm that the government has scrapped its push for more people in England to return to their workplaces.

The guidance represents a dramatic shift in government policy.

The UK prime minister in July said "I do want people to start to go back to work now if you can" and a month later Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, urged people in London to "do our bit" and return to offices to help the economy.

A Telegraph newspaper front page briefed by government sources last month warned Brits to "go back to work or risk losing your job."

However, Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, on Tuesday said that the government was now encouraging people to work from home where possible.

Gove told Sky News: "There is going to be a shift in emphasis and one of the things we are going to emphasise is that if it is possible for people to work from home, then we'd encourage them to do so."

He said: "Now, it's important to stress that there are many, many, many roles which can't be performed from home.

"There are people in manufacturing, in construction, in retail, and other roles where we recognise that is simply impossible and that's why we have worked to make sure you can have Covid-secure workplaces.

"We need to balance, obviously, the need to to ensure that people can continue to work and indeed critically ensure that people can go to school and benefit from education against taking steps to try to reduce the virus is why if we can limit of appropriately restrain social contact, that's what we are trying to do."

The U-turn will be among a series of measures announced by Johnson when he addresses members of Parliament about the government's response to the recent resurgence of the virus at Tuesday lunch time.

He has been under pressure to tighten social distancing rules with the number of new infections growing exponentially and his scientific advisers yesterday warning that it could reach 50,000 new cases a day by mid-October. There were 4,368 new cases of virus on Monday.

Johnson's government announced on Monday evening that from Thursday there would be a 10pm curfew on pubs, bars, restaurants, and other hospitality settings across as England as part of initial efforts to abate the spread of the coronavirus. Hospitality businesses will also be required by law to stick to table service.

However, the UK government's new measures do not go as as far as those introduced In Northern Ireland, where First Minister Arlene Foster has announced a ban on different households mixing indoors. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is expected to go further than the Westminster government when she announces new measures on Tuesday.

The Times of London newspaper reports that Johnson was tempted to announce harsher measures but took the side of Chancellor Sunak who was concerned that locking down the hospitality sector would have dire economic consequences. The same report says that scientists on SAGE, the group advising the government, wanted the UK prime minister to take stronger action.

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FinCEN: Why gold in your phone could be funding drug gangs

BBC News - World - Tue, 09/22/2020 - 09:33
Gold from a refiner used by criminals to launder drug money has entered supply chains for smartphones and cars.
Categories: English

Isolation and closed borders: Here's how ten Pacific Island nations are COVID-19-free, and the costs that come with it

Businessinsider - Tue, 09/22/2020 - 08:16
Ruth Nafow (R) cooks corn to sell at a local farmer's market on December 06, 2019 in Tanna, Vanuatu. Asked about climate change, she said, 'It's a really big concern. This will affect our crops in one way or another.'
  • Globally, there are now more than 31,200,000 COVID-19 cases, but there’s no COVID-19 in Samoa, Tonga, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Vanuatu, Micronesia, and the Solomon Islands.
  • The reason for this is these small island nations promptly closed their borders early this year, after realizing their health systems were under-equipped to deal with an outbreak, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
  • Australia Pacific Security College public health epidemiologist told the Herald the small island nations’ decision to close their borders was the right one.
  • But there have been drawbacks to the closed borders. A number of these nations rely on tourism and it’s no longer happening.
  • Even so, Vanuatu’s director of public health Dr. Len Tarivonda told the BBC despite the tourism losses many people still didn’t want borders to open.
  • “If you talk to them the majority say keep the border closed for as long as possible. They say: ‘We don’t want the sickness — otherwise we’re doomed, basically,’” he said.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Along with paradisical warm waters and golden sand, 10 Pacific Island nations are still completely COVID-19 free due to closed border and geographical isolation, but it has come at a cost.

Samoa, Tonga, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Vanuatu, Micronesia, and the Solomon Islands, are all COVID-19 free, according to the Sydney Morning Herald

These small island nations — that are also dealing with the daily impacts of climate change — managed to keep the coronavirus out by promptly closing their borders after conceding early on this year that their health systems were under-equipped to deal with an outbreak of the coronavirus.

Australia Pacific Security College public health epidemiologist told the Herald six months on the small island nation's decision to close their borders was the right one.

"There is no doubt that the border closures have been critical in preventing COVID-19 taking hold in the Pacific," he said.

"The key now is balancing when and how to open up, and ensuring that agencies working on the front line of borders, such as customs and immigration officials, are as well prepared as possible."

Kids play at Eton Beach on November 30, 2019 in Efate, Vanuatu. Satellite data show sea level has risen about 6mm per year around Vanuatu since 1993, a rate nearly twice the global average, while temperatures have been increasing since 1950. 25 percent of Vanuatu’s 276,000 citizens lost their homes in 2015 when Cyclone Pam, a category 5 storm, devastated the South Pacific archipelago of 83 islands while wiping out two-thirds of its GDP. Scientists have forecast that the strength of South Pacific cyclones will increase because of global warming. Vanuatu’s government is considering suing the world’s major pollution emitters in a radical effort to confront global warming challenges and curb global emissions, to which it is a very small contributor.

There have been drawbacks to the closed borders — a number of these nations rely on tourism that's no longer happening.

For instance, Palau, a nation of less than 20,000, relies on tourism for 40% of its GDP, according to the BBC.

The Marshall Islands are expected to lose more than 700 jobs, according to the BBC, its biggest loss since 1997, with 258 of them being hotel and restaurant jobs.

But some of the Pacific nations are wary of opening up too soon after French Polynesia opened in July to help its ailing tourism sector, which resulted in swift outbreaks of COVID-19, according to The Guardian.  

Vanuatu's director of public health Dr. Len Tarivonda told the BBC many people didn't want borders to reopen despite the drawbacks.

"If you talk to them the majority say keep the border closed for as long as possible. They say: 'We don't want the sickness – otherwise we're doomed, basically,'" he said.

Tarivonda said Vanuatu at least wouldn't rush to reopen after watching cases rise in Papua New Guinea, many of those traced back to the US military presence on the island, according to The Guardian. 

"If the virus comes, it will probably be like wildfire – and what we are seeing in Papua New Guinea is a reflection of why we are worried," he said.

"Given our [health care] limitations, the context we have in the Pacific, the best bet is to keep the virus out for as long as possible."

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10 things in tech you need to know today

Businessinsider - Tue, 09/22/2020 - 07:58

Good morning! This is the tech news you need to know this Tuesday. Sign up here to get this email in your inbox every morning.

  1. Oracle has thrown fresh confusion on its deal to buy part of TikTok after saying that owner ByteDance will have no ownership stake in the new TikTok Global. In a statement on Monday, Oracle announced that its new TikTok venture will be entirely divested from ByteDance, contradicting previous reports of the agreed deal between the two companies, per The Verge. 
  2. Microsoft bought the massive video-game publisher behind game franchises like 'Doom,' 'Fallout,' and 'The Elder Scrolls' in a major coup that cost $7.5 billion. The announcement came one day before preorders open for Microsoft's next-gen Xbox consoles, the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S.
  3. Chinese leaders are split over the potential release of a blacklist of US companies. Officials in Beijing are wary of targeting US tech firms until after November's presidential election, the Wall Street Journal reported.
  4. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked in an interview how top Facebook employees can 'look themselves in the mirror' because they 'make money off poison.' House Speaker Pelosi has criticized Facebook in the past, particularly after the company last year refused to take down a doctored video that made her appear drunk. 
  5. Quibi is reportedly exploring strategic options including a possible sale. Quibi, which launched in April, has struggled to attract subscribers with its short-form, mobile-focused originals in the increasingly crowded streaming space.
  6. The US Justice Department is poised to brief states on its pending antitrust lawsuit against Google. The renewed spotlight comes as tech giants more broadly face a reckoning over their scale and influence, the Washington Post reported. 
  7. Nikola founder Trevor Milton resigned from the company's board following fraud allegations. Hindenburg Research, a short-seller, published a lengthy report accusing the electric truck maker Nikola of fraud on September 10.
  8. A new startup is recruiting gig workers to help landlords evict people from their homes, describing itself as the fastest-growing moneymaking gig because of COVID-19. The CDC is imposing a moratorium on all evictions across the US, but Civvl's terms appear to pass on responsibility to landlords to ensure that evictions carried out through the startup are legal.
  9. Arm's cofounder Hermann Hauser warned that Donald Trump would take the 'opportunity to screw China' with the $40 billion Nvidia deal. The sale of Arm to Nvidia has provoked controversy in the UK amid fears Arm could become a pawn in US President Donald Trump's trade war with China.
  10. Twitter is investigating after users found its picture-cropping tool favored white faces. Users began to notice that the algorithm behind Twitter's automatic cropping tool appeared to be systematically favoring white faces.

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LAPD officers reportedly used facial recognition 30,000 times in the past decade, contradicting the department's previous denials

Businessinsider - Tue, 09/22/2020 - 07:23
The LAPD has repeatedly misled reporters and public records requesters about the extent to which it uses facial recognition technology.
  • The Los Angeles Police Department has used facial recognition technology 29,817 times since 2009 and hundreds of officers have access to the software, according to records obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
  • The records contradict the LAPD's repeated claims that it doesn't use or have certain documents concerning its use of the technology.
  • "FRT has been a vital tool that has been utilized to assist in developing criminal leads. FRT does not identify suspects and FRT results alone do not determine who the police arrest," LAPD spokesperson Josh Rubenstein told Business Insider.
  • The technology has become controversial in recent years amid growing evidence of racial and gender bias, and several cities have banned law enforcement from using it.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

 

The Los Angeles Police Department has on numerous occasions over the years downplayed its use of facial recognition technology, publicly claimed that the department doesn't use it at all, and denied the existence of related documents that, if they exist, the public is legally entitled to see.

But new records obtained by the Los Angeles Times revealed that the department has used the technology widely for more than a decade: 29,817 times between November 6, 2009, and September 11 of this year — including 3,750 instances since February.

While the LAPD doesn't have its own facial recognition software, 330 people within the department currently have access to the Los Angeles County Regional Identification System (LACRIS), a platform operated by LA county that relies on technology from DataWorks Plus, according to the LA Times.

The extent to which the LAPD uses facial recognition, according to these new records, contradicts what the department has said publicly, both when questioned by reporters and when asked to turn over documents via public records requests.

"FRT has been a vital tool that has been utilized to assist in developing criminal leads," LAPD spokesperson Josh Rubenstein told Business Insider in a statement. "FRT does not identify suspects and FRT results alone do not determine who the police arrest."

Yet records obtained by the LA Times showed that the department arrested one suspect in June after facial recognition software helped identify him, which reported that civil liberties advocates are troubled by the LAPD's "long pattern of deception" on the topic.

"We actually do not use facial recognition in the Department," Rubenstein told the LA Times in 2019, adding an exception of "a few limited instances" where outside agencies used it during joint investigations.

Rubenstein told Business Insider in a statement that he was referring at the time to a specific bill concerning the use of facial recognition in body cameras, and that he "was making the point that the LAPD does not utilize FRT  in conjunction with body-worn video cameras, or video surveillance cameras for crowd scanning or crowd scanning purposes."

However, according to the LA Times, Rubenstein "did not specify that distinction at the time, and the request for information from The Times had not specified body-camera usage."

In a 2016 report, the Center for Privacy and Technology found: "The Los Angeles Police Department has repeatedly announced new face recognition initiatives — including a 'smart car' equipped with face recognition and real-time face recognition cameras — yet the agency claimed to have 'no records responsive' to our document request."

"The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) may have the most advanced face recognition system in the country — yet refused to comply with our public records request," CPT concluded.

"The duty of law enforcement is to not only arrest perpetrators of crime, but more importantly to give the victims the opportunity for justice," Rubenstein told Business Insider. "The LACRIS FRT system is one of the investigational tools that assists investigators in conducting thorough and competent investigations into criminal activity."

But there is growing evidence that facial recognition itself may not be producing as thorough or competent results as its proponents claim.

Multiple studies have shown that the software and algorithms behind such systems, including the one used by the LAPD, are more likely to misidentify people based on their skin color and gender, and at least one person has been wrongfully arrested after being misidentified.

In response to concerns about racial and gender bias as well as potential civil liberties violations that have come into focus during racial justice protests over the past several months, several cities including San FranciscoOakland, and Boston have banned government agencies from using facial recognition. Portland, Oregon, recently went a step further in also banning private entities from using it in public spaces such as restaurants, convenience stores, and ridesharing vehicles.

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YouTube told content moderators to 'trust in God' and and take 'illegal drugs,' says a former moderator who sued the company after she developed PTSD symptoms and depression on the job

Businessinsider - Tue, 09/22/2020 - 07:06
Silhouettes of mobile device users are seen next to a screen projection of Youtube logo in this picture illustration
  • A former YouTube content moderator is suing the company over what she says were its "failure to provide a safe workplace for the thousands of contractors that scrub YouTube's platform of disturbing content."
  • In the lawsuit, which was filed Monday, the ex-moderator claimed YouTube's negligence played a role in her developing PTSD symptoms and depression while on the job.
  • She also claimed YouTube ignored its own workplace safety best practices and that "underqualified and undertrained" wellness coaches told moderators to "trust in God" and "take illegal drugs."
  • The lawsuit places YouTube back under the spotlight after The Verge detailed moderators' oppressive working conditions and resulting mental health conditions in a report last year, as well as Facebook's $52 million settlement over a similar issue in May.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

A former YouTube moderator is suing the company over allegations that it violated California law by failing to provide a safe workplace and protect moderators' mental health, which she said caused her to develop "severe psychological trauma including depression and symptoms associated with anxiety and PTSD."

In a proposed class-action lawsuit filed Monday, the ex-moderator claimed that YouTube, which is owned by Google, "failed to implement the workplace safety standards it helped create" and required moderators "to work under conditions it knows cause and exacerbate psychological trauma."

The ex-moderator, who is not named in the suit, worked as a YouTube contractor via a staffing agency called Collabera from January 2018 to August 2019. She's seeking to force YouTube to implement stronger safety guidelines as well as create and pay into a fund to cover the medical costs required to diagnose and treat her and other moderators who may have developed mental health conditions.

YouTube and Collabera did not respond to requests for comment.

Thousands of YouTube moderators spend hours each day reviewing hours of videos containing disturbing content such as rape, torture, murder, suicide, bestiality — anywhere between 100 and 300 videos per day with an error rate of 5% or less, according to the lawsuit.

YouTube has long acknowledged the mental health risks to which it exposes moderators — and even helped develop best practices for reducing them.

Despite that, the ex-moderator said YouTube: downplayed those risks during training and on the job; required moderators to work longer hours because of demanding quotas, high turnover, and the company being "chronically understaffed"; and tried to silence moderators who raised concerns through non-disclosure agreements.

She said in the suit that prospective hires are told they "might be required to review graphic content," but aren't given examples, told they'll have to review such content daily, or that doing so "can have negative mental health impacts."

She alleged that YouTube repeatedly refused to implement product features requested by moderators that could have made reviewing content less traumatic. In one case, she said, YouTube rejected a proposed change that would have taken just a few hours to create — and even reprimanded a moderator for raising the issue again following widespread ethnic violence in Myanmar.

Her complaint also raised issues with the "wellness coaches" YouTube provided for psychological support, which allegedly weren't available at all to moderators working the evening shift. Even those who did have access "did not receive any on-site medical care because Wellness Coaches are not medical doctors and cannot diagnose or treat mental health disorders," she said, calling them "underqualified and undertrained."

When she met with one coach in 2018, the coach allegedly recommended that she "take illegal drugs" to cope. In another instance, her coworker said a different coach had advised them to "'trust in God,' advice that was unhelpful."

At the same time moderators feared their conversations with wellness coaches were being reported back to management, they also couldn't voice concerns externally due to YouTube's "sweeping" NDAs and requirements that contract agencies like Collabera instruct moderators "not to speak about the content or workplace conditions to anyone outside of their review team, including therapists, psychiatrists, or psychologists," her complaint alleged.

Because they would lose healthcare coverage if they quit, she said moderators were faced with a dilemma: "quit and lose access to an income and medical insurance or continue to suffer in silence to keep their job."

The lawsuit brings fresh scrutiny to YouTube's treatment of moderators, which received major attention last December when The Verge reported extensive details about the grueling conditions endured by moderators in Texas.

A former Facebook moderator brought a similar lawsuit in 2018, which the company settled in May by agreeing to pay a total of $52 million to current and former moderators who developed mental health conditions on the job. Third-party staffing agencies are also increasingly being swept up in the spotlight. Cognizant, a major firm used by Facebook and other tech platforms, ended its contract with the social media giant last year following reporting on working conditions from The Verge and Tampa Bay Times.

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Top Republicans appear to give Trump just enough support to confirm a replacement for Justice Ginsburg

Businessinsider - Tue, 09/22/2020 - 06:48
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
  • Republican Sens. Charles E. Grassley and Cory Gardner have reversed course and say they will confirm a Supreme Court nominee during an election year.
  • President Donald Trump has yet to pick a nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Friday, but a short-list of potential nominees was released. 
  • In 2016, both Grassley and Gardner refused to confirm a nominee because it was a presidential election year. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Republicans in the Senate appear to have given President Donald Trump the support he would need to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Supreme Court seat. However, even with this support, there are only 43 days before the November election — and even fewer days when the Senate is in session.

Justice Ginsburg died on Friday at the age of 87 due to complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer. 

The Senate is made up of 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats, and two Independents who caucus with Democrats, and while some Republicans said they opposed considering a nominee before the election, The New York Times reported that two of the three senators who could have posed hurdles to filling the position prior to the election said they would vote to confirm.

Republican Sens. Charles E. Grassley and Cory Gardner plan to vote on a replacement, despite refusing to consider a nomination in 2016, another election year, by then-President Barack Obama. 

In July of this year, Grassley said: "If I were chairman of the committee and this vacancy occurred, I would not have a hearing on it because that's what I promised the people in 2016."

However, on Monday, he walked back on that statement. 

—Jeremy Diamond (@JDiamond1) September 21, 2020

 

"I have and will continue to support judicial nominees who will protect our Constitution, not legislate from the bench, and uphold the law," Gardner said in a statement. "Should a qualified nominee who meets this criteria be put forward, I will vote to confirm."

In 2016, however, Gardener said it would not be right to have Obama fill a vacancy, several months before the election. 

"Our next election is too soon and the stakes are too high," Gardner said eight months before the 2016 election. "[T]he American people deserve a role in this process as the next Supreme Court nominee will influence the direction of this country for years to come."

On Fox News on Monday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said his committee had the votes to move forward — even before Trump announced his nominee.

"We've got the votes to confirm Justice Ginsburg's replacement before the election, we're going to move forward in the committee, we're going to report the nomination out of the committee to the floor of the United States Senate so we can vote before the election," Senator Lindsey Graham said in a Fox News interview

—Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) September 22, 2020

 

A shortlist of potential candidates has been released but no official nominee has been announced. According to the Times, Trump plans to announce his pick by either Friday or Saturday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell previously said a nominee "will receive a vote on the floor of the Senate."

McConnell set the precedent for opposing nominating a new justice during an election year in 2016 — blocking Obama's nominee along with Grassley.

Following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016, McConnell said: "The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President."

Senator Mitt Romney of Utah is the only Senator left who appears to be undecided, but even without him, Republicans still have at least 50 senators willing to vote in favor. In this scenario, Vice President Mike Pence would be the tiebreaker. 

Republicans such as Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, who is facing a tough reelection fight, said they thought the seat should not be filled until after the election.

The election is in 43 days, but The Times reported that since 1975, no Supreme Court Justice confirmation took less than 62 days to move through confirmation.

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Trump falsely claims that for young people COVID-19 'affects virtually nobody,' though in March he told Bob Woodward 'plenty of young people' are impacted by the virus

Businessinsider - Tue, 09/22/2020 - 06:31
  • President Donald Trump again falsely claimed that for the young the coronavirus "affects virtually nobody."
  • The president made the misleading claim at a campaign rally in Swanton, Ohio, on Monday.
  • "[The coronavirus] affects elderly people, elderly people with heart problems and other problems, if they have other problems that's what it really affects, that's it," Trump said at the rally.
  • "In some states, thousands of people, nobody young, below the age of 18," Trump continued. "They have a strong immune system. Who knows? Take your hat off to the young because they have a hell of an immune system. But it affects virtually nobody. It's an amazing thing."
  • While the coronavirus is more likely to be fatal to older individuals and those with underlying conditions, the virus has still taken a toll on younger people who were infected — and some even died from COVID-19.
  • Additionally, according to the World Health Organization, even if they are not as impacted, young people are emerging a the primary spreaders of the disease, making it more likely that it can be transmitted to those who are more at risk.
  • The coronavirus has infected nearly 7 million people in the US, and nearly 200,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 as of Monday.
  • The number of global coronavirus cases surpassed 30 million, and the death toll surpassed 938,000.
  • Trump's non-alarmist attitude toward the coronavirus largely contradicts his private views of the virus in February, when he told journalist Bob Woodward earlier this year that the virus is a "killer" and said it was "more deadly than even your strenuous flus."
  • On March 7, Trump told Woodward that "Just today and yesterday, some startling facts came out. It’s not just old, older. Young people too — plenty of young people.”
  • A week after declaring a national emergency in March in light of the COVID-19 outbreaks, Trump told Woodward that he "wanted to always" downplay the pandemic, the veteran journalist wrote in his book.
  • "I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic," Trump said on March 19.
  • However, Trump's downplaying of the coronavirus has prompted some anti-science backlash, as some Americans refuse to adhere to health safety guidelines from infectious disease experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

 

—Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 22, 2020

 

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Trump sidesteps question about poisoning of Putin critic Alexei Navalny: 'We'll talk about that at another time'

Businessinsider - Tue, 09/22/2020 - 04:02
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny pays respect to founder of Russia’s oldest human rights group and Sakharov Prize winner Lyudmila Alexeyeva in Moscow, Russia December 11, 2018.
  • President Donald Trump dodged a White House reporter's question on the poisoning of Russian President Vladimir Putin critic Alexei Navalny, saying "we'll talk about that at another time."
  • Navalny, an anti-corruption activist and prominent critic of Putin, was poisoned on a flight from Siberia in late August and has been recovering in a German hospital.
  • At the hospital, the nerve agent Novichok was found in his system, which has been used to poison other Russian dissidents.
  • In his first public message since the incident, Navalny posted on Instagram last week. He intends to return to Russia upon his full recovery, according to his press secretary.
  • "Hi, this is Navalny," Navalny said in Russian in the caption, which was translated by CNN. "I miss you. I still can hardly do anything, but yesterday I was able to breathe on my own for the whole day. Just myself. I did not use any outside help, not even the simplest valve in my throat."
  • World leaders condemned Russia in the week following the incident. Former Vice President Joe Biden also slammed the Kremlin, blaming the Russian government for Navalny's poisoning.
  • "Once again, the Kremlin has used a favorite weapon – an agent from the Novichok class of chemicals – in an effort to silence a political opponent," Biden said.
  • The president has since largely stayed silent with regard to the incident.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

 

—Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 21, 2020

 

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Betsy DeVos is under investigation for potentially violating the Hatch Act when she slammed Joe Biden in a Fox News interview

Businessinsider - Tue, 09/22/2020 - 03:34
US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks as Vice President Mike Pence listens during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at the US Department of Education July 8, 2020 in Washington, DC.
  • Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos is being investigated under the Hatch Act, Politico reported. 
  • The investigation is into comments she made on a Fox News interview slamming Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. 
  • The Hatch Act bars top-level government officials, excluding the president and vice-president, from partaking in political activity.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is being investigated by the Office of the Special Counsel for potentially violating the Hatch Act when she slammed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden during an interview with Fox News, Politico reported. 

The Hatch Act is a federal law that bars top-level government employees, excluding the president and vice-president, from partaking in political activity.

Politico reported that OSC Hatch Act attorney Eric Johnson told Scott Peterson, the head of investigative watchdog blog Checks and Balances about the investigation during an interview. 

In an interview with Fox News, DeVos criticized Biden for saying he would roll back her school choice policies. 

"Today he's turned his back on the kids that we're talking about and he's turned his face in favor of the teachers union and what they have to say and what they have to demand and it's really shameful," DeVos said. 

Politico reported that the Department of Education also sent out the Fox News clip in an email distribution under the heading "From the Desk of The Secretary."

The Department of Education did not respond to Business Insider's request for comment at the time of publication but a spokesperson told Politico: "The Secretary was asked to respond to oft-repeated criticism of her and her policies, and she defended her policies, including discussing the history of that criticism. The Hatch Act does not prohibit that kind of exchange with a journalist. Case closed. Of course, we will cooperate with OSC, should they choose to open an investigation of this frivolous complaint."

DeVos is not the first official in President Donald Trump's administration to be investigated under the Hatch Act. 

Multiple events at the Republican National Convention were criticized for violating the ethics law, including when Cabinet officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting Department of Homeland Security chief Chad Wolf, made appearances and speeches. 

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Former Mueller prosecutor says the special counsel let down the public and describes Trump as 'an animal' in new book

Businessinsider - Tue, 09/22/2020 - 02:12
Former Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller arrives to testify before Congress on July 24, 2019, in Washington, DC.
  • Andrew Weissmann, a former prosecutor on the special counsel Robert Mueller's team, offered a scathing review of Mueller's handling of the probe and the actions of President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr in an upcoming tell-all.
  • Trump is "like an animal, clawing at the world with no concept of right and wrong," Weissmann wrote in his book, according to The Atlantic.
  • Barr, meanwhile, "betrayed both friend and country" by deeply mischaracterizing Mueller's findings before his report was released to the public last year.
  • But Weissmann leveled some of his most damning criticisms toward Mueller, saying the special counsel's fear of Trump stopped his team from investigating Trump's shady business dealings with Russia and gaining leverage over the president.
  • Asked whether Mueller had let down the American public, Weissmann told The Atlantic: "Absolutely, yep."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Andrew Weissmann, a prosecutor who worked on the former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, offers a scathing account of Mueller's handling of the probe, President Donald Trump, and Attorney General William Barr.

Trump is "like an animal, clawing at the world with no concept of right and wrong," Weissmann wrote in his book, "Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation." That's according to The Atlantic, which obtained an early copy of the book.

He went on to describe Trump as a "lawless" president and portrayed Barr as a partisan Trump lackey who "betrayed both friend and country." Weissmann was likely referring to Barr's longstanding friendship with Mueller before he took over as attorney general. That relationship soured when Barr released a four-page letter last year that deeply mischaracterized Mueller's findings in the Russia probe before the special counsel's report was released to the public.

Mueller's report said prosecutors did not find sufficient evidence to establish a conspiracy between members of the Trump campaign and the Russian government during the 2016 election.

It also said Mueller's team declined to make a "traditional prosecutorial judgment" on whether or not Trump obstructed justice in the course of the investigation. The report cited a longstanding Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memo that says a sitting president cannot be indicted. It noted, however, that if prosecutors "had confidence" that Trump had not committed a crime, they would have said so.

Barr's letter describing Mueller's findings said the special counsel found "no collusion" between Trump and Russia — a non-legal term that Trump and his allies often amplified. The attorney general also cleared Trump of obstruction of justice, even though Mueller's office declined to make a judgment in the matter.

Weissmann told The Washington Post that he decided to write his book after reading Barr's letter.

"I wrote it very much so there would be a public record from somebody, at least one viewpoint, from the inside as opposed to the story being told in maybe a less accurate way by people from the outside," he told the Post.

But the former prosecutor, who is now a professor at New York University and an MSNBC legal analyst, leveled most of his frustration over the investigation at the former special counsel himself.

When asked if Mueller had let down the American public, Weissmann told The Atlantic, "Absolutely, yep." He added: "I wouldn't phrase it as just Mueller. I would say 'the office.' There are a lot of things we did well, and a lot of things we could have done better, to be diplomatic about it."

"There's no question I was frustrated at the time," he told the outlet. "There was more that could be done that we didn't do." He added that the Senate Intelligence Committee did a better job reaching concrete conclusions in its recent report detailing the panel's own investigation into Russian election meddling.

"Even with 1,000 pages, it was better," he said. "It made judgments and calls, instead of saying, 'You could say this and you could say that.'"

Overall, he wrote in his book that the Russia probe was hampered by its own internal strife and a special counsel who held back out of fear that Trump would shut down the office altogether and pardon associates who were charged.

"Like Congress, we were guilty of not pressing as hard as we could" for evidence, he wrote, according to The Atlantic. "Part of the reason the president and his enablers were able to spin the report was that we had left the playing field open for them to do so."

Elsewhere in the book, Weissmann wrote that Mueller's team pulled back from investigating Trump's financial ties to the Russian government and oligarchs, according to The Post. "We do not know whether he paid bribes to foreign officials to secure favorable treatment for his business interests, a potential violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act that would provide leverage against the president. We do not know if he had other Russian business deals in the works at the time he was running for president, how they might have aided or constrained his campaign, or even if they are continuing to influence his presidency."

Mueller declined to provide comment to both The Post and The Atlantic.

Weissmann's words are partially corroborated in the explosive tell-all that the former FBI agent Peter Strzok, who was fired from Mueller's team in 2017, released earlier this month. Mueller ousted Strzok from the investigation following the revelation of anti-Trump texts that he exchanged with Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer he was having an extramarital affair with at the time. Strzok was fired from the FBI in 2018 over the text messages.

In his book, "Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump," Strzok referenced Trump's finances and said he believes the president is compromised by Russia because of his business dealings, controversial transactions at his now-defunct charity, illegal hush-money payments to women, and most of all, his "lies about his Russia dealings."

Ultimately, Weissmann wrote that Mueller's team was hamstrung by the special counsel's decision not to probe Trump's finances after the president warned that doing so would be crossing a "red line." They were also stymied by the president's public praise of associates who did not cooperate with Mueller's team and repeated assertions that he has the "absolute" to grant pardons to whomever he wished. That, Weissmann wrote, stopped prosecutors from pushing the president's associates as hard as possible, according to The Atlantic.

"This sword of Damocles affected our investigative decisions, leading us at certain times to act less forcefully and more defensively than we might have," Weissmann wrote, according to The Post. "It led us to delay or ultimately forgo entire lines of inquiry, particularly regarding the president's financial ties to Russia."

The book described several other investigative avenues that Mueller and his top deputy, Aaron Zebley, shut down out of fear of Trump's retaliation, including:

  • Subpoenaing Donald Trump Jr. over his participation in an infamous June 2016 meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer at Trump Tower to discuss information that would "incriminate Hillary [Clinton] and her dealings with Russia." The meeting was pitched to Trump Jr. as being "part of Russia and its government's support" for the Trump campaign.
  • Bringing Ivanka Trump, the president's eldest daughter, in for an interview with prosecutors. Ivanka Trump pushed the president's then-lawyer, Michael Cohen, to meet with a Russian athlete who could help secure a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. She also attended a planning meeting during which Donald Trump Jr. mentioned the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, according to witness testimony.
    • Mueller "feared that hauling her in for an interview would play badly to the already antagonistic right-wing press ... and risk enraging Trump, provoking him to shut down the Special Counsel's Office once and for all," Weissmann wrote, according to The Atlantic.

He also said he was "flummoxed" by Mueller's thought process in the obstruction investigation. Mueller was "making his own, freelance judgments about what was appropriate and not delivering on what he was tasked with doing," Weissmann told The Atlantic.

He also told The Post that he wished Congress had done more with the final report but declined to comment on whether or not Trump should have been impeached.

"That's not my call," he said.

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Ava Max: 'I need to make it, no matter what'

BBC News - World - Tue, 09/22/2020 - 01:10
The pop star talks about her 14-year quest for fame, and the determination that kept her going.
Categories: English

How Mali's coup affects the fight against jihadists

BBC News - World - Tue, 09/22/2020 - 01:07
Thousands of UN, French and regional soldiers are in Mali fighting Islamist militants - what difference will the coup make?
Categories: English

Bollywood bets on the small screen as Covid shuts cinemas

BBC News - World - Tue, 09/22/2020 - 01:05
The pandemic has shaken the film industry, forcing it to think outside of the box office.
Categories: English