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Playboy model who alleges affair with Trump says he compared her to Ivanka

March 22, 2018 - 10:04pm

Another woman has braved the prospect of a lawsuit in order to share her story of having an affair with President Trump, telling CNN she felt compelled to go public despite the attempts made to silence her.

Former Playboy model Karen McDougal spoke publicly for the first time Thursday night about a 10-month affair she said she had with Trump in 2006 and 2007, sparing few details in her interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. The experiences she shared echoed claims made by porn star Stormy Daniels about her alleged own affair with Trump, down to the timing. Daniels, who spoke publicly about the affair before signing a $130,000 nondisclosure agreement with Trump's personal attorney, has said her affair took place during an overlapping time period.

There were other similarities. Both women said Trump attempted to pay them for sex. Both women said they met Trump at least once at a private Beverly Hills Hotel bungalow. Both women said Trump didn’t use a condom during sex. And both women said Trump compared them to his daughter Ivanka (who McDougal said she met).

“He’s very proud of Ivanka, as he should be,” McDougal said. “He said I was beautiful like her, and, ‘You’re a smart girl.’ And there wasn’t a lot of comparing, but there was some. I heard a lot about her.”

Unlike Daniels, however, McDougal told Cooper that she was in love with Trump, and that Trump had said he loved her.

“All the time,” McDougal said. “He always told me he loved me. Of course.”

McDougal also said she accompanied Trump to a charity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, where Daniels — whose real name is Stephanie Clifford — said she first met Trump. Trump and McDougal never discussed whether she was his only mistress, McDougal said, though she assumed at the time that she was.

Cooper frequently asked McDougal about her feelings towards Melania Trump, which led McDougal to choke up. She said Trump once took her to the Trump Tower apartment he shared with Melania Trump, who at that point had just given birth to Trump’s son Barron.

“That just puts it a little stab in your heart and I just couldn’t wait to get out of the apartment,” McDougal said. That guilt led her to eventually end the alleged affair in April 2007. However, McDougal said she is a Republican and ultimately voted for Trump in the 2016 election.

McDougal’s CNN interview came just two days after her announcement that she’s launching a lawsuit against American Media, Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer and other tabloids. In her lawsuit, McDougal accuses American Media, Inc. of locking her into an invalid contract when she agreed to sell them the exclusive rights to her story of her affair with Trump in exchange for $150,000 and frequent media appearances as a health and fitness expert. McDougal also alleges that her lawyer for that contract was secretly in touch with Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen.

American Media, Inc. had allegedly threatened to go after McDougal in court if she spoke publicly about her affair with Trump. In a statement Tuesday, American Media, Inc. said that McDougal is free to answer press inquiries but that their contract with her remains valid.

“There could be a big lawsuit like against me. There could financial ruin,” McDougal told Cooper. “But I feel I had to protect myself. I had to stand up for myself.”

Congress might not know how to stop more Facebook data breaches, but states have a few ideas

March 22, 2018 - 9:43pm

As Congress grapples with how to respond to the scandal engulfing Facebook’s data sharing practices, state attorneys general are taking action, launching investigations and promising lawsuits against the company, if warranted.

At least four states have now asked Facebook to answer questions about the access it gave companies to users' data, an inquiry prompted after press reports revealed the voter targeting firm used by Donald Trump's 2016 campaign, Cambridge Analytica, harvested data from thousands of Facebook users without their permission. On Thursday, Facebook held a conference call with a handful of the state officials to answer their requests.

One state official, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, told VICE News after the call that the states are "just at the beginning stages of this" inquiry. He believes Facebook could have violated two state laws by allowing Cambridge Analytica access to users’ data, even if it was without the company’s explicit knowledge.

That's because Facebook has a responsibility to protect consumers in Pennsylvania, he said, "And if there was a breach — and it seems like there was a few years ago — there is a responsibility to notify the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and other states as well."

Shapiro said there needs to be tougher federal laws on the books when it comes to regulating companies like Facebook, but he is hopeful the pressure from the states — and the potential fines and negative publicity that go along with it — might be enough to encourage Facebook and other tech companies to focus more on protecting consumer privacy.

“Make no mistake — if we uncover the fact that Facebook failed to adequately protect your information and allowed… someone literally to go into the warehouse, take the information and leave, because they gave them the keys, there can be severe penalties on them,” he said.

This segment originally March 22, 2018, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.

Trump is replacing his national security adviser with John Bolton

March 22, 2018 - 6:27pm

John Bolton, a controversial former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, will replace Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser next month.

Bolton is known for his hawkish, hardline stances on would-be nuclear powers like North Korea and Iran — just last month, he wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed entitled “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First.” He’ll take office on April 9, just weeks before Trump is set to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

McMaster’s resignation had been in the works for weeks, White House officials told the New York Times, and his discussions with Trump about leaving were far more amicable than with former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was abruptly fired via tweet. Still, with McMaster and Tillerson both out, there are few left in Trump’s inner circle likely to advocate for a peaceful resolution to conflicts with Iran and North Korea. Mike Pompeo, the former head of the CIA who will replace Tillerson, is also known as a hawk.

“H.R. McMaster has served his country with distinction for more than 30 years,” Trump said in a statement. “He has won many battles and his bravery and toughness are legendy. General McMasters’ leadership of the National Security Council staff has helped my administration accomplish great things to bolster America’s national security.”

McMaster is just the latest casualty of the Trump White House’s record-breaking employee turnover. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned about a month into the job after allegedly lying to Vice President Mike Pence about conversations he had with Russian officials. Since then, dozens of major staffers have either resigned or been fired from the Trump administration, with at least eight people departing in the last two months alone.

In a statement, McMaster said he will also use his resignation as an opportunity to retire from the military.

“I am thankful to President Donald J. Trump for the opportunity to serve him and our nation as national security adviser,” McMaster said. “I am grateful for the friendship and support of the members of the National Security Council who worked together to provide the President with the best options to protect and advance our national interests.”

Cover image: NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - FEBRUARY 22: Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton speaks during CPAC 2018 February 22, 2018 in National Harbor, Maryland. The American Conservative Union hosted its annual Conservative Political Action Conference to discuss conservative agenda. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Stormy Daniels and other women accusing Trump are raising money for legal bills

March 22, 2018 - 4:54pm

Legal bills are mounting for Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal, and Summer Zervos, women who say they had affairs with or were sexually harassed by Donald Trump.

Porn star Stormy must pay $1 million every time she violates a non-disclosure agreement that blocks her from speaking about an affair she said she had with Trump in 2006, according to a copy of the NDA attached to a lawsuit Daniels filed against Trump earlier this month.

McDougal, a former Playboy model who also said she had an affair with Trump the same year, faces a $150,000 penalty every time she talks about the affair without the permission of American Media Inc., publisher of National Enquirer, which allegedly bought her story so no one else could. McDougal also sued American Media Tuesday.

But both women came forward anyway, prepared to suffer the blows to their bank accounts. Now, women’s rights advocates and the women’s attorneys are trying to convince people to help pay for the legal fees and penalties they might incur by going up against the president.

Read: Stormy Daniels is doing what ever it takes to talk about Trump on 60 Minutes

In a Monday tweet thread about McDougal’s lawsuit, civil rights attorney Lisa Bloom called for a “rich patriot” to pledge to pay for the Trump accusers’ legal fees.

“There are a number of women who are afraid to come and speak out against high-profile men because they’ve signed confidentiality agreements and those agreements have massive penalties attached to them,” said Bloom, who said she’s been been contacted by women who want to come forward with complaints against Trump. “Not everybody has the courage that Stormy and Karen have, and I don’t believe that women should suffer any penalties if they choose to stand up and speak out about the president of the United States.”

The simple act of even filing a lawsuit may mean that both women already owe money for breaching their NDAs: Both agreements require them to resolve any differences in private arbitration, rather than duking it out in a public courtroom.

Read: Stormy Daniels' lawsuit could prove Trump broke election laws

Daniels, at least, has already been threatened with steep fees for breaking her NDA. Last week, lawyers for Trump and his attorney Michael Cohen filed paperwork accusing Daniels of breaking her NDA at least 20 times.

“She’s going to be liable for $20 million and Michael Cohen is going to collect every single penny of that money,” David Schwartz, a friend and lawyer for Cohen, told Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti on CNN on Tuesday. “I hope you have a good malpractice policy, because when she owes $20 million, she should go after you to collect the money.”

“The last time an attorney pointed at me like this and made threats at me like this, I tagged him for $450 million,” Avenatti shot back.

Read: It just got easier to sue Donald Trump

Bloom told VICE News that she had yet to hear from anybody willing to help pay back any fees and penalties Trump’s accusers may incur. Avenatti, however, told CNN that “at least 10 individuals in the last three days” have offered to pay Daniels $1 million so that she can speak out about her relationship with Trump. And the crowdfunding campaign Daniels launched last week to pay for her legal fees has so far garnered more than $280,000, though it will remain active for at least another 20 days.

Summer Zervos, whose defamation lawsuit against Trump was allowed to move forward on Tuesday, has also set up a fund where people can donate to legal fees. But her attorney Gloria Allred revealed in December that while people had donated just under $30,000 in order to help Zervos fight her court case, the case will likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. (Allred, who didn’t immediately respond to a VICE News request for comment, is taking on the case pro bono.)

In any case, both Daniels and McDougal appear set to violate their NDAs even more: McDougal is scheduled to speak on CNN Thursday night, while Daniels’ interview with "60 Minutes" will air on Sunday.

Cover image: Stormy Daniels in her interview with Anderson Cooper to be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday, March 25 (7:0-8:00PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Image is a frame grab. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

Kenyans face a fake news epidemic.

March 22, 2018 - 2:37pm

The week before Kenya’s highly contentious national election in August, Facebook did something extraordinary for a typically apolitical mega corporation: It took out full-page ads in local papers warning of the spread of fake news and released a tool designed to help people spot it.

Fake news had grown so pervasive in Kenyan politics and on social media that human rights monitors worried it might factor in stirring the sort of widespread tribal violence that had marred previous elections, where thousands of Kenyans died and thousands more were displaced. A survey of 2,000 Kenyans conducted a month before the tightly contested election found that 90 percent of respondents had come across fake news, with half of the respondents saying they got their news on social media.

“In Kenya,” the researchers wrote, “social media is fundamentally reshaping how citizens communicate and how brands and campaigners get their message across.”

This week it was revealed that executives from Cambridge Analytica, the data analytics firm linked to the Trump campaign and now at the center of a global scandal, were caught on tape boasting about having influenced over 200 elections around the world through a mixture of fake news, bribes, and entrapment, including Kenya's elections in 2013 and 2017.

Now, analysts, political opponents, and human rights monitors are asking just how much influence Cambridge Analytica had on last August’s election and the explosive growth of fake news, how much Facebook user data was used in their effort, and what if anything was done to stop it. Lawyers for the opposition NASA party are currently weighing possible legal action against the British data firm.

Specifically, the firm’s managing director of politics, Mark Turnbull, was filmed claiming his team ran incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta’s campaign: “We have rebranded the entire party twice, written their manifesto, done two rounds of 50,000 surveys,” Turnbull said in the undercover video. “Then we’d write all the speeches and we’d stage the whole thing. So just about every element of his campaign.”

The claims surfaced just as the U.S. embassy in Nairobi unveiled a new strategy to contain the country’s exploding fake news crisis, ironically ensnaring President Kenyatta in a worldwide election meddling conspiracy, which features — you guessed it — fake news.

Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party has grudgingly acknowledged employing Cambridge Analytica, but downplayed Turnbull’s claims and the firm’s role in the campaign. “They were basically branding and all that, but not directly,” Jubilee Party Vice Chairman David Murathe said in the party’s first public comment on the situation.

But observers and opponents aren’t convinced, and they warn that fake news will have lasting effects on Kenya’s democracy.

Cambridge Analytica "planted seeds of discord that will take generations to heal," Norman Magaya, CEO of NASA, Kenya’s largest opposition coalition, told VICE News.

“American political theater”

The extent of Cambridge Anaytica’s role in Kenyatta’s re-election campaign remains unclear beyond Turnbull’s boasts. But its website gives some clues: Cambridge Analytica used its site to play up the kind of influence it carried in major elections around the world. Specifically, it boasted about its success in Kenya, where the firm claimed to have surveyed more than 47,000 people at one point, in order to harvest user data around "key national and local political issues, levels of trust in key politicians, voting behaviours/intentions,” which they then deployed through an "online social media campaign to generate a hugely active online following."

Though the site didn’t mention for which political party they applied their services, thanks to an ongoing investigation from U.K.-based outlet Channel 4, we now know it to be Kenyatta’s Jubilee campaign.

In his first comments to Western media on the matter, Raphael Tuju, secretary general of Jubilee Party, rejected the idea his party played a role in the spread of fake news and other tactics CA executives boasted about.

“We’re not in the business of fake news, we’re not in the business of lying, making stuff up, and we’re not in the business of entrapment,” Tuju told VICE News. “There are companies that do this, but to me that crosses a line.”

Tuju said the current conversation surrounding his party’s ties to the British firm amounted to “American political theater,” which “Jubilee Party does not want to be a part of.”

“We don’t think Facebook or data psychoanalysis can win an election. Those who think so, let them try,” Tuju added.

"We did not promote any fabricated news"

A spokesperson for Cambridge Analytica acknowledged the firm had played a role in the election but rejected “allegations made in media reports that it conducted a negative media campaign in the recent Kenyan election or that it was in any way responsible for aggravating ethnic tensions relating to that election.”

“To the contrary, our marketing was based on positive and inclusive core campaign messages. We did not promote any fabricated news stories or any negative content,” the spokesperson added.

Kenya’s leading opposition coalition isn’t so sure that’s true.

Muhammad Nyamwanda, director of digital media for the NASA coalition, pointed to a glut of viral attack videos that seemed to pollute Facebook overnight, spreading fear of violence, destitution and tribal tensions in the lead-up to the vote. His team first began to notice something strange back in January, when they started seeing videos on WhatsApp and other social media that portrayed an apocalyptic vision of the future if opposition leader Raila Odinga got elected. And what struck them most about these videos was their professionalism.

“Normally when it is propaganda, it is done by amateurs, but with these videos, we were surprised by the finishing of the product. They were making very, very clean stuff, though the content was repugnant and incendiary.”

"That's a lot of views.”

According to Nyamwanda, it was in March 2017, as if overnight, that Jubilee’s campaign kicked up a notch, and started rapidly spreading divisive messages on Google, Facebook and Twitter.

On Facebook, Harris Media LLC, a right-wing Western media firm based in Austin, Texas, opened the Real Raila page in March, and quickly gained 100,000 followers, before eventually doubling to more than 200,000. “Those are definitely followers who were bought,” Nyamwanda said. “You cannot grow organically like that.”

Some of the videos on the page had more than 500,000 views, a remarkable figure given the number of people following the page, and in a country where there are roughly 5 million Facebook users in total.

"That's a lot of views," Nyamwanda said.

Nyamwanda told VICE News that his campaign had contacted Facebook about the videos but it didn’t respond. He also said he mobilized the party’s supporters to report the videos on the site over 100,000 times, but nothing happened. Facebook did not respond to VICE News’ inquiry regarding this claim.

A Facebook spokesperson told VICE News that the company was “in contact with all political parties in Kenya during the election period” but that it “did not provide any support for campaigns run by Cambridge Analytica in Kenya.”

But one source with intimate knowledge of Cambridge Analytica's operations in Kenya ahead of the election told VICE News the company's executives are "massive bullshitters," and urged us not to believe all the hype around the scale of its operation there.

The source, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said the firm’s team in Nairobi consisted of two consultants on the ground, and one project manager. The team's main role was to run the media campaign, including analyzing the domestic press, training up the local comms team and coming up with the messaging that was to be used.

"It was a really boring, straightforward plugging-in, tidying, and polishing exercise on that campaign," the source said. (Privacy International researcher Claire Lauterbach was also able to confirm that at least three Cambridge Analytica employees had access to the Jubilee Party website during the campaign.)

They also collaborated on speechwriting for Kenyatta, but denied outright that they had anything to do with the slickly produced fake news site “Real Raila”, which Privacy International says was masterminded by Harris Media.

There is no concrete link between Harris Media and Cambridge Analytica, though both have worked on the Ted Cruz and Donald Trump campaigns, as well as the Kenyatta campaign. And multiple sources speaking to VICE News pointed to a general belief in Nairobi that Western firms like both of them took on a collaborative effort to cast fear over the entire the democratic process in Kenya. Nyamwanda’s NASA coalition also employed Western firms throughout the campaign, though did not enjoy the sort of robust resources their opponents employed.

Cambridge Analytica didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment on whether it has a relationship with Harris Media.

“Untested ground fraught with great risk”

The extent of Cambridge Analytica’s influence is also obscured by the simple fact that Kenya doesn’t have any data protection laws, Privacy International policy officer Lucy Purdon said.

In that environment, there is no way of verifying just how much information may have been collected or shared by either Facebook and other platforms, or data analytics firms working in Kenya during the elections.

“As Kenya has no data protection laws, it could be anything,” Purdon told VICE News. “The potential data-gathering could be extremely intrusive, including sensitive personal data such as a person's ethnicity. In a country like Kenya, where there is history of ethnic tensions resulting in political violence, campaigning based on data analytics and profiling is untested ground fraught with great risk.”

“If Cambridge Analytica was responsible for this, then a great injustice has been done to Kenya, a big, huge, massive injustice was done to the people of Kenya.”

The problem is that firms like Cambridge Analytica are well-versed in the skills needed to hide their presence in these campaigns. “We’re used to operating through different vehicles, in the shadows,” Nix told Channel 4’s undercover reporters. Speaking about a unique self-destructing email system they employ, Nix added: “There’s no evidence, there’s no paper trail, there’s nothing.”

Though observers couldn’t pin Cambridge Analytica to specific examples of the sort of toxic fake news that was in abundance during the election season, they did point out stark changes in how Jubilee ran its campaign, and the sort of effect that ended up having on the democratic process.

Edwin Sifuna, the secretary general of the Orange Democratic Movement, echoed Kegoro’s observations, saying the country was already deeply divided along tribal lines, making Cambridge Analytica and Harris Media’s campaign efforts all the more threatening.

"During the campaign, we saw some extremely divisive messaging from the Jubilee Party," Sifuna told VICE News.

"When you spread tribal animosity and fear, it not only serves to bring your opponent down, it also galvanized the turnout of the tribes that have been mobilized. It creates a siege mentality among that tribe." (Dozens of Kenyans died in election-related violence during the 2017 vote.)

George Kegoro, executive director of Kenya Human Rights Commission, said it was impossible to know the true extent of Cambridge Analytica’s influence because the firm had left “no smoking gun,” but highlighted similarly dark characteristics that he said were unique to the 2017 election cycle.

“What we know is that they had a role in the election. What we know also is that this election was run on a deliberate narrative of fear,” Kegoro said. “Fear was created in the population that there would be violence in the election, and that was a big factor in how everything was run. If Cambridge Analytica was responsible for this, then a great injustice has been done to Kenya, a big, huge, massive injustice was done to the people of Kenya.”

Julia Steers contributed to this report from Nairobi, Kenya.

Cover image: Supporters of Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga gesture during a commemoration of the lives of Odinga supporters killed during confrontations with the security forces over the election period, in Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya, November 28, 2017. (REUTERS/Baz Ratner)

The Trump administration keeps deleting information about LGBTQ people from its websites

March 22, 2018 - 1:45pm

The Trump administration has a nasty habit of deleting information from government websites. And the latest cuts focused on the health of the LGBTQ community.

Information about LGBT health was removed from the Department of Health and Human Services website, watchdog group the Sunlight Foundation discovered on Wednesday. In fact, no health topic pages specifically relate to LGBT health on the site anymore. Since taking office, the Trump administration has removed at least three other in-depth mentions of LGBT issues from government websites.

In fall 2017, HHS’ Office of Women’s Health, which is responsible for working to advance women’s health issues, removed its webpage with extensive information about the health of lesbian and bisexual women, according to the Sunlight Foundation. The office is one of the health department’s most-trafficked websites, with about 700,000 visits last month, according to The Hill.

The page focused on issues relating to lesbian and bisexual women, and included questions like "What factors put lesbians' and bisexual women's health at risk?” and “What challenges do lesbian and bisexual women face in the healthcare system?”

Now, only a PDF document, last updated in 2009, answers these questions on HHS’ website. And it’s not linked to throughout the website nor easily accessible without searching the site specifically, according to the Sunlight Foundation.

The Sunlight Foundation also found that “bisexual and lesbian health” was removed from the website’s A-Z health topics.

An HHS spokesperson told Politico that the lesbian and bisexual health pages were outdated and removed during a routine update. The spokesperson also said the information is still available elsewhere on the website. HHS did not immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment.

But the removal is far from the first time the government has deleted or avoided LGBT issues from their sites and plans since President Trump took office:

  • In January 2017, the State Department removed nearly every mention of LGBT issues.
  • In March 2017, the Census Bureau concluded they no longer needed to ask about sexual orientation and gender identity on their survey, which helps determine how to distribute hundreds of billions of federal dollars.
  • In June 2017, HHS stopped including a question on sexuality on its federal survey, but the question was restored after an outcry from LGBT advocates.
  • In October 2017, HHS removed all mentions of the LGBT population and their health needs in their Strategic Plan for fiscal years 2018-2022.

Since Trump took office, the administration has routinely deleted other information that conflicts with the views of its officials, as well. The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy have systematically scrubbed their websites of words like “climate change” and “global warming.” The administration also removed information on the crisis after the hurricanes in Puerto Rico, making access to information much more difficult for bilingual people.

Cover image: New York City Heritage of Pride March filled Fifth Avenue for hours with groups from the LGBT community and its supporters. Marchers carry a banner reading "Make America gay again," a dig at President Trump's campaign slogan. (Ed Lefkowicz / VWPics via AP Images)

Kellyanne Conway wants you to say no to fentanyl, yes to fries and ice cream

March 22, 2018 - 1:30pm

Just say no to street drugs, and yes to French fries and ice cream.

That was basically Kellyanne Conway’s advice to a group of students at a youth forum hosted at the White House on Wednesday. Trump’s opioid chief told the teens to worry less about junk food and more about buying fentanyl-laced narcotics that can cause overdose deaths.

“On our college campuses, your folks are reading the labels, they won't put any sugar in their body, they don't eat carbs anymore, and they're very, very fastidious about what goes into their body,” Conway said. “And then you buy a street drug for $5 or $10, it's laced with fentanyl, and that's it,” she said, referencing the synthetic that can be up to 100 times more potent than morphine and many times more than heroin.

She summed up her advice to the group short and sweet: “As somebody double your age: Eat the ice cream, have the French fry, don't buy the street drug. Believe me, it all works out."

Conway started overseeing the White House’s efforts to combat the opioids epidemic last year, after working as a political adviser for Trump and a Republican pollster — and now she’s being considered for White House communications director. Opioids have become a public health crisis, killing more than 42,000 people in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — that’s more opioid related deaths in one year than during the entire Vietnam War. The Trump administration has responded to the worsening crisis by pushing a “just say no” campaign and, according to Politico, relying heavily on political staff instead of any drug policy professionals.

Her comments come a week after President Trump unveiled a three-pronged approach to the opioid epidemic that includes “spending a lot of money” on commercials, and mandating the Justice Department to pursue the death penalty for drug dealers.

Why Preet Bharara showed up at Grandpa’s Cheesebarn in Ohio

March 22, 2018 - 1:00pm

Since President Donald Trump abruptly fired him last March, former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has been wary of getting involved directly in politics. But his Twitter feed and podcast “Stay Tuned with Preet” have made him a minor celebrity in Democratic circles. Last weekend he made his first post-firing campaign appearances at Grandpa’s Cheesbarn in Ashland, Ohio, and a pair of fundraisers in Cleveland and Columbus.

Despite his star power among Democrats, these weren’t fundraisers for a House member, senator, or governor but an Ohio state attorney general candidate: fellow former U.S. Attorney Steve Dettelbach.

State attorneys general races usually get only a fraction of the coverage and attention that even a single congressional seat does (remember Jon Ossoff?). But there’s a bruising, money-soaked fight taking place nationwide for the 35 state attorneys general seats potentially up for grabs in the 2018 midterm elections, including one in Washington, D.C.

“They're not glamorous, but they really matter in people's lives,” Dettelbach said along with Bharara in an interview. “And in a kitchen table way, these are races that affect people's futures.”

“There are things that an attorney general's office can do that federal prosecutors can't, and the local DAs can't,” Bharara said.

The Trump administration’s approach to law enforcement, with attacks on the FBI and the Justice Department, have made jobs like state attorney general particularly important at this moment, Bharara argues.

“It's easy and commonplace and somewhat fashionable to attack the credibility of the people who are involved in these issues,” Bharara said of the recent criticisms of those involved in law enforcement. “What is worrisome is that there are a lot of people who maybe don't have faith in the outcome because they don't have faith in the players.”

With Democrats out of power in Congress and the White House, the party’s 22 state attorneys general — down from 32 in 2010 — have become their own check on the Trump administration. That began the first week of Trump’s presidency, when Democratic state attorneys general successfully brought lawsuits against his travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries.

"They're not glamorous, but they really matter in people's lives."

Since then, nineteen Democratic state attorneys general have sued the administration to protect Obamacare subsidies. Sixteen have gone to court to prevent a rollback of environmental regulations. And 20 have filed lawsuits to protect undocumented immigrants brought here as children who were previously protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

National Democrats want to expand that legal pushback by winning as many state attorneys general seats in 2018. The Democratic Attorneys General Association has gone from a sleepy organization based in Colorado last election to a D.C. professional political operation.

The Ohio attorney general seat is one of the group’s top targets this year, with a likely matchup between Dettelbach and Republican Dave Yost. Both have been stockpiling campaign donations for what’s expect to be a serious fight. Yost has over $2 million on hand, and Dettelbach has more than $1.5 million, according to the last finance report.

In some way, Democrats are playing catch up to their Republican counterparts who began funnelling resources to state attorneys general during the Obama era. With lawsuit after lawsuit opposing Democrats on everything from Obamacare to environmental regulations, Republican state attorneys general became national stars for the party — like now EPA administrator Scott Pruitt who was Oklahoma’s attorney general.

There is a risk, however, that the Republican and Democratic efforts in 2018 and beyond could end up further politicizing and undermining public trust in these law enforcement positions.

Bharara said that’s one reason he supports Dettelbach. The former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio and a former federal prosecutor, Dettelbach doesn’t want to throw red meat to the crowd. “It's not my job to get involved in all sorts of partisan fights,” Dettelbach said. “It’s just noise.”

But in the Trump era, partisan fights often seem unavoidable for state attorneys general. For instance, Dettelbach said he would have joined the legal challenges to Trump’s immigration ban.

But at a time when politicians of both parties are desperately trying to appear “anti-establishment” and “populist,” Bharara said he is focused on helping those people attempting to restore order.

“I'm not here because there is some sort of, you know, conspiracy to resist,” he said.

Cover image: Former New York state attorney general Preet Bharara and Ohio state attorney general candidate Steve Dettelbach stop off at Grandpa’s Cheesebarn in Ashland, Ohio. (Photo courtesy of the Dettelbach campaign)

Police muted their body cameras after fatally shooting unarmed black man

March 22, 2018 - 11:25am

Several minutes after Sacramento police fatally shot an unarmed black man in his own backyard on Sunday night, they muted their body cameras, body camera footage released on Wednesday by the department shows.

The officers, however, kept talking to each other and other bystanders for at least two minutes.

The Sacramento Police Department released the footage just days after two of its officers shot and killed the man, identified as 22-year-old Stephon Clark by the Sacramento Bee, on Sunday. Initially, police thought the man had a gun. Then, the department said he had a “toolbar.” But he was only carrying a cell phone, according to a final clarification the department released on Tuesday.

The body camera footage released on Thursday reveals the officers did initially consider the suspect armed and shot him within seconds of pursuing him into his grandparents’ backyard, where he also lived. The officers also appeared to mute their audio of their body cameras.

“There are a variety of reasons why officers have the opportunity to mute their body worn cameras,” Sacramento police spokesman Sgt. Vance Chandler told the Sacramento Bee. The department did not immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment.

The officers have not yet been identified and have been placed on paid administrative leave.

In addition to footage from two body cameras, the department also released helicopter footage and two audio recordings, including a 911 call and dispatch audio.

911 call

A neighbor called 911 on Sunday night when he saw what he described as a six-foot tall, thin man wearing a hoodie breaking car windows, including the caller’s truck windows. The police department sent officers and a Sacramento Sheriff’s Department helicopter to investigate. The caller did not identify the suspect’s race.

Body camera footage

The body camera footage starts when the two officers are driving to the location of the 911 call. About 7 minutes, 30 seconds in, the officers begin chasing a suspect. At the time, he was running into the backyard of a home he shared with his grandparents and some of his siblings.

As the officer takes cover behind a wall, one yells, “Show me your hands! Gun!” One of the officers yells again, “Show me your hands! Gun, gun gun!” and then an officer immediately shoots multiple rounds.

On the body camera footage, it’s difficult to see the suspect being shot in the dark. But video footage from the helicopter shows the suspect hitting the ground after the first few shots. The officers continued shooting him while he was laying on his stomach, until both officers shot a combined 20 rounds, the police department told the Sacramento Bee.

“You alright, you hit?” one officer asked on the body camera footage.

“Yeah I’m good,” the other officer responded.

“He was still pointing when I saw again …. You alright dude?”

“Yeah, I’m alright. I don’t think I’m hit or anything.”

They reloaded their guns.

Shortly after backup arrives, one officer says “hey, mute.” Before the audio on their body cameras is turned off, he said “hey, you guys good?” The audio then stops, but the video continues for about two more minutes. The officers can be seen speaking to each other and at least one civilian before the video ends.

The department has more videos from other responding officers that will also be released soon, the Sacramento Bee reports.

Cover image: Screenshot from body camera footage at 10 minutes, 34 seconds, provided by the Sacramento Police Department.

Trump's head lawyer in the Russia probe is quitting

March 22, 2018 - 10:45am

President Trump’s lead lawyer in the special counsel’s investigation of his campaign’s ties to Russia is quitting, the lawyer told NBC.

The attorney, John Dowd, joined the president’s legal team in June 2017. Dowd and Trump have frequently disagreed, most significantly about whether Trump should agree to an in person interview with special counsel Robert Mueller, according to the New York Times. Two people briefed on the matter told the Times that Dowd has already resigned.

“I love this president and wish him very well,” Dowd told NBC on Thursday.

Dowd is a Washington D.C. lawyer with a long history of representing politicians in federal investigations. Some questioned his strategy on the Russia special counsel investigation when he drafted a tweet for the president in December 2017 insinuating that Trump knew that former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had lied to the FBI when he fired Flynn, potentially complicating Trump’s defense.

Speaking on behalf of the president last Saturday, Dowd called for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to end the special counsel’s investigation. He later walked that back and said he was speaking in a personal capacity.

Dowd’s departure is the latest in a series of shake-ups for Trump’s legal team. Trump added a former U.S. Attorney, Joseph diGenova, to his team on Monday. The president has reportedly been talking to Emmet Flood, who represented Bill Clinton during the impeachment process, about coming on board as well.

It’s not immediately clear who will take over as head of Trump’s legal team in the matter.

Cover image: Attorney John Dowd walks in New York on April 29, 2011. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

FEMA is buying homes in this Alaskan town because climate change

March 22, 2018 - 10:44am

The village of Newtok, Alaska, is trying to escape catastrophic coastal erosion. Its residents have even been called America’s first climate refugees. But because traditional FEMA disaster funding doesn’t cover climate-related threats, they’ve struggled for years to find funding to relocate to a new location 9 miles away, called Mertarvik.

But this week things started to look a little better for the community, when FEMA and Alaska’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management approved a $1.7 million grant package. The grant will buy out seven households, allowing a total of more than 50 of the community’s 400 residents to move. Another $3.84 million was allocated by the Denali Commission for the community to build 13 homes on a new site.

VICE News Tonight visited Newtok in October 2017. In just four days, a winter storm tore away 10 feet of the community’s shoreline, bringing the water just a few feet from the nearest home. In Alaska’s coastal villages, erosion of that scale isn’t supposed to happen, but the arctic is warming faster than any other part of the planet.

Read: Climate change is killing this Alaskan village

Much warmer winters mean soils don’t freeze, and easily crumble into the sea. Romy Cadiente, Newtok’s relocation coordinator, said the problem keeps getting worse: “This winter, the water didn’t freeze until the end of January and damage to the shoreline was crazy.”

A full relocation isn’t cheap. Newtok’s move will cost an estimated $130 million, and so far it’s fallen far short of raising enough money. According to Cadiente, these new grants came at the right time: “This actually saved people”, he said to VICE News.

Cover image: Della Carl was born and raised in Newtok. She is now helping build a new village for residents to relocate to. (Photo: Jika Gonzalez/VICE News)

Austin bomber was probably self-taught, and that's scaring law enforcement

March 22, 2018 - 10:07am

Investigators are still trying to piece together what motivated Mark Anthony Conditt, a 23-year-old white male from an Austin suburb, to embark on his bombing spree, but one thing we do know: He was a remarkably skilled bomb maker.

Indeed, his devices were so brutally effective that profilers looking at the case suspected he’d had some sort of military or paramilitary training. In a 25-minute video confession recorded on his cell phone, Conditt described in detail how he built the six bombs with different detonation mechanisms, smokeless gunpowder, and batteries from Asia.

But according to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Conditt did not have a military background or training. He was homeschooled, apparently unemployed, and had previously worked in sales and as a computer technician. Family members have described him as a “deep thinker” and “low-key and peaceful.”

“You don’t get to that record of reliability of devices exploding without a lot of practice”

None of that rules out some kind of paramilitary training, but it seems likely that Conditt acquired an impressive array of skills on his own, aided by the abundance of training materials and how-tos online, and that's concerning to law enforcement around the country.

“You don’t get to that record of reliability of devices exploding without a lot of practice,” said Scott Stewart, a former U.S. State Department special agent who now supervises terrorism and security issues for Stratfor, a global intelligence firm.

Read: Austin bomber's confession video is the "outcry of a very challenged young man"

In his three-week reign of terror around Austin, Conditt used bombs with three types of detonation devices: three package bombs detonated when opened, one bomb detonated by a trip wire, and two others sent by mail via Fedex. (He killed himself with a seventh bomb.)

Experts said it is rare for a bomb-maker to become that proficient without extensive practice and training. The tripwire bomb, for example, would have to be done in broad daylight, at dusk or shortly after, on a residential street in plain view.

He would have had to place it, stretch the wire across the path, attach it to the “For Sale” sign that he’d stolen, and then activate it by removing a pin. Overall, that should take anywhere between two to five minutes, depending on the bomber’s skill level and composure. Tripwires can be tricky even for experts, and it’s not unusual for those types of devices to malfunction.

“Four successful detonations is also very telling,” Stewart said. “It’s showing us that he’s got a fairly broad background in his understanding of explosives or booby traps. He’s able to shift in short order from one type to another.”

“It took the unabomber seven years to get deadly”

Stewart also pointed out what he called Conditt’s “operational tempo,” which in this case was very high. Law enforcement likes to benchmark unabomber Ted Kaczynski, a domestic terrorist who killed three people and injured 23 others with bombs between 1978 and 1996.

“It took the unabomber seven years to get deadly,” Stewart said.

Read: Everything we know about the death of the Austin bomber

Conditt, by comparison, worked very quickly and was prolific.

“The operational tempo here — to go in and attack this week, even after the attention last week — tells us he feels very competent and secure in his capabilities,” Stewart said.

In the past, bombers left telltale signatures with their devices because they typically only knew how to build one type. Prior to the internet, many bombers learned their trade from the 1971 “The Anarchist Cookbook,” distributed during the counterculture era amid anti-Vietnam war protests.

Michael Bouchard, president of the ATF Association who supervised the ATF investigation of the Pentagon 9/11 attack, and said that because of the internet, aspiring bomb makers have been able to broaden their skills, which has made it tougher for investigators.

“Years ago before there was so much on the internet, bomb makers typically stuck to the style they were comfortable with,” said Bouchard. “They wouldn’t want to take the risk of detonating themselves.”

And yet access to instructions and even videos doesn’t fully explain how Conditt got proficient. Stewart stressed that even if Conditt had access to detailed tutorials, it’s impossible to become a good bomber overnight. It would have taken time and dedication.

“The most critical component here would have been time,” he said. “The time to tinker with circuits, device construction, how to successfully put things into a box, and then test those circuits without hurting yourself.”

“I can watch YouTube videos on how to play the cello,” he continued. “But if I actually pick up a cello, it’s going to take some time to master the scale, the fingering, and the bowing.”

What’s left to learn is Conditt’s motive, and whether he had any help in carrying out the attacks that left two dead and six injured and spread terror in the typically laid-back Texan city for three weeks. Experts said that when it comes to investigations into serial bombers or serial killers, the most important thing you can do is keep an open mind.

“It can be dangerous if people get tunnel vision,” said Bouchard. “I was one of the three lead people on the Beltway Sniper case [a series of coordinated attacks in the D.C. area in 2002 that left 10 dead]. We had all these high-profile experts saying it just had to be a trained military sniper.”

In the end, it was two people: one in his early 40s who had served in the military as a mechanic and metalworker, and did not have training as a sniper, and the other a 17-year-old.

Cover image: Law enforcement personnel investigate the scene where the Texas bombing suspect blew himself up on the side of a highway north of Austin in Round Rock, Texas, U.S., March 21, 2018. (REUTERS/Loren Elliott)

Donald Trump and Joe Biden are fantasizing about beating the hell out of each other

March 22, 2018 - 7:21am

Donald Trump tweeted Thursday that Joe Biden would “go down fast and hard, crying all the way” should the pair of septuagenarians get into a fight.

“Crazy Joe Biden is trying to act like a tough guy. Actually, he is weak, both mentally and physically, and yet he threatens me, for the second time, with physical assault,” the president posted.

“He doesn’t know me, but he would go down fast and hard, crying all the way.”

The “modern-day presidential” outburst came in response to comments from Biden at a rally Tuesday, the former Veep claiming he would “beat the hell out of” Trump if they were in high school over his misogynistic remarks about women.

“They asked me would I like to debate this gentleman, and I said no. I said, ‘If we were in high school, I'd take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him,’” Biden boasted to the audience at the University of Miami.

The 75-year-old continued to talk himself up, saying: “I've been in a lot of locker rooms my whole life. I'm a pretty damn good athlete.” Referencing Trump’s infamous “Access Hollywood” comments, he said: “Any guy that talked that way was usually the fattest, ugliest S.O.B. in the room.”

The grade school threats reflect a longstanding acrimony between the grandfathers, who seem to genuinely hate each other. During the 2016 campaign, Biden also spoke of his wish to “take [Trump] behind the gym”; last month, he told an interviewer Trump was “a joke.”

Trump’s latest Biden beef came hours after a flurry of tweets over the mammoth “omnibus” spending bill unveiled by congressional leaders Wednesday night.

Trump boasted on Twitter that he had $1.6 billion of taxpayer funds for the start of his signature border wall project – contrary to his campaign pledge that Mexico would pay for it.

Congress needs to approve the $1.3 trillion spending bill by midnight Friday to avoid a third government shutdown in as many months.

Cover image: U.S. President Donald Trump pumps his fists as they walk to the White House from Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on August 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Jim Lo Scalzo - Pool/Getty Images)

Meet the comedy duo who got sued for pranking the news

March 22, 2018 - 7:15am

When they infiltrated three morning news programs by passing themselves off as a hilariously unathletic strongman duo, Brooklyn comedians Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett were not the first people to prank TV News.

Left-leaning activists The Yes Men famously infiltrated BBC, and right-wing provocateur James O'Keefe unsuccessfully attempted to plant a false story in the Washington Post. But Prueher and Pickett, who run the Found Footage Festival, have no overt political agenda and are happy to simply interrupt news programming with the absurd or profane.

Out of embarrassment or pragmatism, media companies generally avoid legal retaliation after getting pranked. Yet when Prueher and Pickett pranked Gray Television, the company sued, kicking off a battle over free speech, comedy, and how easy it can be get past TV bookers.

Gray owns or operates over 100 local television stations across the country, and it had been previously fooled by two other fake characters created by Prueher and Pickett. But after the comedians appeared as the strongmen "Chop and Steele" on "Hello Wisconsin" in 2016, Gray decided to sue.

The charges? Gray accused Prueher and Pickett of copyright infringement over clips of the broadcast Prueher and Pickett used in a montage posted online. But the more serious charges were “fraud” and “conspiracy to commit fraud.”

Almost a year after the charges were filed, as VICE News was reporting this story, there was a sudden twist: the two sides came to an unexpected settlement. Watch the story to see why both sides are claiming a legal victory, in what Prueher described as “a really stupid first amendment battle.”

Candidate put Connecticut governor's mansion on Airbnb

March 22, 2018 - 7:00am

Political candidates make a lot of lofty promises, but Mark Stewart, one of about 30 people in the race for Connecticut governor, has been promising a very special kind of access: rooms in the governor's mansion.

Stewart, a Democrat, had advertised rooms at the 19-room Hartford estate on Airbnb for $200 a night as a contingent listing for several weeks, until the site flagged the posting and removed it Tuesday.

“Cheery, with an air of elegance,” read the description. “Very good for entertaining others. One BR in shared elegant home that Connecticut’s prospective governor (an Airbnb host since 2015) wants to make available to respectful guests.”

Stewart, who lives alone and within walking distance of the Capitol in Hartford, defended the listing in the name of his campaign, noting the space would be both a waste for him and an opportunity to make money for the state. He did not reply to VICE News’ request for comment by press time.

Earlier this week, an Airbnb spokesman made a statement once the nature of the listing was flagged. "While we appreciate Mr. Stewart's support for home sharing, contingency listings like this do not meet our community standards,” an Airbnb spokesman said. “We are in the process of suspending this listing."

Either way, a couple hundred a night wouldn't substantially address the shortfall of millions projected for the state budget. Plus, Stewart would need to beat out the couple dozen other candidates in the race, including a Republican who says he’ll list the residence for sale, if elected.

Nearly all states have official mansions for their governors, with only few states, including neighboring Rhode Island and Massachusetts, being exceptions. The State of Connecticut acquired the four-acre property in 1943, which includes nine bathrooms, nine fireplaces, and a pool. The mansion was originally made for a Hartford doctor and industrialist in 1909.

Stewart will need at least 15 percent of the state Democratic delegate vote in the upcoming May primary to qualify for November’s ballot, but he’s already got a backup plan in case he doesn’t: collecting signatures to form a new party he would name Americans for Minimal Government-- AMiGo for short.

Beyond the Airbnb listing, Stewart’s platform includes the return of the NHL Whalers team to Hartford, a complete nix of public welfare, and a tracking-device alternative to the current road toll system that would charge cars for distance traveled.

Cover image: Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy delivers his budget address to the Senate and House inside the Hall of the House at the State Capitol, Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, in Hartford, Connecticut. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

China is ready to throw down if Trump starts a trade war

March 22, 2018 - 6:45am

Beijing reminded Donald Trump on Thursday that it would retaliate if the president imposed the anticipated tariffs worth billions of dollars on Chinese goods.

“China will certainly take all necessary measures to resolutely defend its legitimate rights and interests,” China’s Ministry of Commerce said Thursday, stoking fears of a trade war.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Beijing would seek talks to find a mutually beneficial solution, but would not shy away from a fight.

“China does not want to fight a trade war with anyone. But if anyone forces us to fight one, we will neither be scared nor hide.”

Hua blamed U.S. export restrictions for the $375 billion trade surplus with the United States, a figure that’s drawn Trump’s ire, saying it was unfair to criticize the surplus given that U.S. export controls blocked the sale of certain high-tech American-made goods that China wanted.

“It's unrealistic and unreasonable to demand complete equality in trade,” she said.

“How many soybeans should China buy that are equal to one Boeing aircraft? Or, if China buys a certain number of Boeing aircraft should the U.S. buy an equal number of C919s?” she said, referring to a Chinese-made passenger plane.

The White House has said Trump will sign a presidential memorandum “targeting China’s economic aggression” at 12:30 p.m. ET Thursday, raising the prospect of a trade war between the world’s leading economic powers. It follows other recent trade measures from the administration including hefty tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, which affect China along with allies in Europe and Asia.

Trump has regularly railed against the U.S.’s trading relationship with China, accusing Beijing of currency manipulation and stealing U.S. intellectual property. One study has estimated the cost to the U.S. of Chinese counterfeit goods, software piracy and theft of trade secrets at as much as $600 billion.

U.S. agriculture, such as soybean or sorghum exports, will be a likely target if Beijing retaliates to new U.S. tariffs.

Cover image: U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands at a joint news conference held after their meeting in Beijing on Nov. 9, 2017. (Kyodo News via Getty Images)

Facebook’s Southeast Asia boss doesn't want regulation to fight fake news

March 22, 2018 - 6:44am

Alvin Tan didn’t get the memo. Hours after Mark Zuckerberg admitted Wednesday Facebook needs more regulation, the company’s head of public policy in Southeast Asia told lawmakers in Singapore that legislation is not a good way to counter fake news.

Mixed messages across the Pacific are yet another facet of Facebook’s struggle to address the current crisis that has wiped tens of billions of dollars off the company’s value in recent days.

Tan was speaking in front of a parliamentary committee Thursday that is considering how to combat the spread of fake news.

The Singaporean government claims the phenomenon threatens national security, but critics say further regulation would curb free speech. Singapore is currently ranked 151 out of 180 in the World Press Freedom Index, a survey that tracks freedom of information compiled by the non-profit Reporters Without Borders group.

“We do not believe that legislation is the best approach to addressing the issue. Singapore already has a variety of existing laws and regulations which address hate speech, defamation and the spreading of false news,” Tan said.

In the U.S. Tan’s boss was doing a round of interviews apologizing for willingly handing over data on its users to companies such as Cambridge Analytica. When asked whether more legislation would help, Zuckerberg told CNN:

“Actually, I’m not sure we shouldn’t be regulated. I actually think the question is more ‘what is the right regulation?’ rather than ‘yes or no, should it be regulated?’”

Zuckerberg went further, saying he would welcome more transparency around advertising, particularly political advertising, the type that is at the center of the current controversy. “If you look at how much regulation there is around advertising on TV, in print, you know, it's just not clear why there should be less on the internet.”

In Singapore, the government claimed in January that many of the examples of fake news seen on platforms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter came from abroad.

Cover image: This photo illustration taken on March 22, 2018 shows apps for Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp and other social networks on a smartphone in Chennai. (ARUN SANKAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Teachers aren’t that worried about school shootings after Parkland, Gallup poll finds

March 22, 2018 - 6:30am

Just weeks after a gunman killed 17 people at a school in Parkland, Florida, the possibility of another school shooting hasn’t created much worry among teachers, a new poll found.

A national survey of 497 K-12 teachers conducted by Gallup in early March found that, though few teachers felt well protected from a gunman entering their school or prepared in the event one does, the majority aren’t terribly worried about a shooting taking place where they work.

Sixty-four percent of the teachers surveyed said they were either “not too worried” or “not worried at all” about the possibility of becoming a school shooting victim. And they reported their students felt similarly: 55 percent said students are “not too worried” or “not worried at all.”

In fact, teachers and students haven’t spoken much about the possibility of a shooting at their school. Fifty-seven percent of teachers surveyed said they’ve spoken “a little/none at all” about a shooting taking place and reported 64 percent of their students have done the same.

Despite the lack of discussion, only 9 percent of teachers survey said they felt their school was “very protected” from a shooter entering, and 40 percent said their school was either “not too protected” or “not protected at all.” The same percentage said their school wouldn’t be well protected should a shooter get inside.

What’s more, there doesn’t seem to be much correlation between whether teachers feel their schools are protected from a shooter and how much they worry about shootings. Even among those teachers who felt their schools are poorly protected, most don’t worry much about a shooting taking place.

Asked how best to prevent school shootings, more the teachers surveyed mentioned gun control more frequently than they did beefing up school security measures. In response to an open-ended question about how best to prevent school shootings in the U.S., 33 percent of respondents mentioned stricter restrictions on gun purchases, and 22 percent mentioned a ban on assault weapons or certain types of guns.

Only 15 percent mentioned additional security at schools, and 7 percent brought up arming teachers.

Cover image: Gabriel Constantino(C) and Nikki Healey (R) from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School stand together at a memorial after walking out of school to honor the memories of 17 classmates and teachers that were killed during a mass shooting at the school on March 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

EXCLUSIVE: Mark Zuckerberg confirms 2018 meddling efforts as he grants exclusives to four outlets in one night

March 21, 2018 - 10:41pm

Mark Zuckerberg is really sorry for creating a situation where Facebook willingly handed over data on its users to companies like Cambridge Analytica, but in a rare media blitz Wednesday night, the CEO also looked forward to another scandal brewing: efforts to meddle in the 2018 elections.

"I'm sure someone's trying," Zuckerberg told CNN's Laurie Segall, when asked whether Facebook had seen any efforts to interfere in the elections. "I'm sure that there's V2, version two, of whatever the Russian effort was in 2016, I'm sure they're working on that. And there are going to be some new tactics that we need to make sure that we observe and get in front of."

In Wednesday interviews to CNN, the New York Times, Wired, and Recode — most of which described their access as "exclusive" — Zuckerberg apologized repeatedly for Facebook’s decision to keep quiet in 2015 about the fact that a Cambridge researcher had sold more than 50 million Facebook users’ data to the Trump-linked political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. The interviews mainly focused on the fallout of that decision, but reporters also took the time to ask the media-shy Zuckerberg about data privacy and Facebook’s role in election interference.

Zuckerberg acknowledged that Facebook has concerns about “bad actors,” including Russian meddling and fake news, and deployed tools throughout 2017 to minimize their impact. But he declined to speculate on whether Facebook could have swayed the 2016 election.

“I think that it is it’s really hard to me to have a full assessment of that,” he told CNN. “There are so many different forces at play.”

Zuckerberg also indicated that he was open to the possibility of placing government regulations on Facebook, telling Wired that the question was not about whether Facebook should be regulated, but how. Specifically, Zuckerberg said Facebook was prepared to implement controls to ensure transparency in advertising.

He was less certain, however, about what role artificial intelligence would play in these regulations.

“Now that companies increasingly over the next five to 10 years, as AI tools get better and better, will be able to proactively determine what might be offensive content or violate some rules, what therefore is the responsibility and legal responsibility of companies to do that?” Zuckerberg said. “That, I think, is probably one of the most interesting intellectual and social debates around how you regulate this.”

Zuckerberg was clearly contrite in the interviews, admitting that Facebook had made a mistake, both by allowing researcher Aleksandr Kogan to have access to so many people’s data, and by keeping silent about breach. Going forward, Zuckerberg said, Facebook will investigate what he said are potentially thousands of apps that have access to users’ information in an effort to ensure that there are no other Cambridge Analytica scandals waiting to happen. He also promised to notify every user whose data may have been compromised by Cambridge Analytica. But Zuckerberg refused to confirm that he’d testify in front of Congress about the controversy.

Asked on CNN if he would testify to lawmakers, which he has never done, Zuckerberg said, “The short answer is I’m happy to if it’s the right thing to do.”

The long answer, however, suggested that time may never come. “We just want to make sure that we send whoever is best informed to do that,” the founder and face of Facebook added.

Cover image: Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., speaks during the Oculus Connect 4 product launch event in San Jose, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. Facebook unveiled a cheaper virtual-reality headset that works without being tethered to a computer, rounding out its plan for pushing the emerging technology to the masses. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Human driver of self-driving car wasn’t watching the road

March 21, 2018 - 7:45pm

Arizona police released footage Wednesday evening showing an Uber self-driving car striking and killing a woman. The incident, which took place Sunday night in Tempe, Arizona, is believed to be the first known death of a pedestrian caused by an autonomous car.

Though the self-driving car was operating in autonomous mode, the automobile also contained a human driver. From the footage, however, it appears that the driver — identified by Jalopnik as Rafaela Vasquez — repeatedly looked away from the road in the seconds before the car struck the pedestrian, 49-year-old Elaine Hertzberg.

A spokesperson for Tempe Police Department declined to comment directly on the footage, but confirmed that it would be considered as part of the police investigation into the incident. Hertzberg appears to have been wheeling a bicycle across the street when she was struck.

In a statement, an Uber spokesperson said, “The video is disturbing and heartbreaking to watch, and our thoughts continue to be with Elaine’s loved ones. Our cars remain grounded, and we're assisting local, state and federal authorities in any way we can.”

Uber temporarily took its self-driving cars off the road in Tempe, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and Toronto, the Wall Street Journal reported.

More than 60 cities around the world already have self-driving technology operating in their streets, while dozens more are studying the possibility of doing so. Still, this isn’t the first time that Uber has struggled with its autonomous cars: A self-driving car was involved in a three-vehicle pileup in Tempe in March, leading Uber to pull the cars off the streets while it investigated what happened there.