Posts tagged with "Washington Post"

Trump bans TikTok, WeChat from app stores beginning September 20

September 21, 2020

In a move that will sharply raise tensions with Beijing from app—and infuriate about 100 million American active users—the Trump Administration has announced that it is banning China’s virally popular TikTok, as well as the less sought-after WeChat, from mobile app stores beginning September 20, The Washington Post reports.

On Sunday, the United States also will ban any provision of Internet hosting services that enables WeChat to be used for money transfers or mobile payments. The Administration will give TikTok until November 12 until further bans kick in.

Western companies and bankers still continue to wrangle with TikTok’s owner, the White House, and Chinese authorities to try to arrange a sale of some of TikTok’s business, the Post says. Indeed, TikTok’s partnership with a U.S. corporation— most likely Oracle—could save it in this country, but details about such decisions remain unclear.

“Today’s actions prove once again that President Trump will do everything in his power to guarantee our national security and protect Americans from the threats of the Chinese Communist Party,” U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement. “At the President’s direction, we have taken significant action to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data, while promoting our national values, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive enforcement of U.S. laws and regulations.”

Meanwhile, the Independent reports, TikTok denies that it has shared user data with the Chinese government, or that it would do so if asked. The company says it has not censored videos at the request of Chinese authorities and insists it is not a national-security threat.

“The President has provided until November 12 for the national security concerns posed by TikTok to be resolved. If they are, the prohibitions in this order may be lifted,” Commerce said in its statement.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

McConnell: Move to make Election Day a federal holiday is a ‘partisan power grab’ by Dems

February 1, 2019

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said on December 30 that a Democratic bill (HR.1) that would make Election Day a federal holiday is a “partisan power grab.”

In an online statement, McConnell said he would fight the bill because, “…when Washington politicians suddenly decide their top priority is grabbing unprecedented control over how they get elected and sent to Washington in the first place, alarm bells should start ringing all over the place. After all, Article I, Section IV of the Constitution clearly gives state legislatures primary responsibility for—quote—the ‘Times, Places, and Manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives.’

However, the Majority Leader failed to add that the same section of the Constitution grants that “Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Place of Chusing [sic] Senators.”

In his remarks, McConnell asserted that, with the highest turnouts ever in recent elections, this is not the time “in American history when it has come to that,”  adding, “…There is no objective basis for the sweeping federal takeover of elections that House Democrats have dreamed up. No emergency. It’s just a Washington D.C. power grab for its very own sake.”

According to a report by The Washington Post, the far-reaching legislation also would:

  • Prohibit the purging of voter rolls,
  • Require presidential and vice-presidential candidates to release their tax returns,
  • Compel states to adopt independent redistricting commissions, and
  • Create a matching system for small-dollar donations to congressional campaigns, among other changes.

In his Wednesday remarks, as well as in a Washington Post op-ed earlier this month, McConnell mocked the legislation as the “Democrat Politician Protection Act.”

“H.R. 1 would victimize every American taxpayer by pouring their money into expensive new subsidies that don’t even pass the laugh test,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

His remarks prompted a wave of criticism by Democrats, some of whom argued that McConnell was acknowledging that Republicans want to make it more difficult for Americans to vote.

Voting is a power grab. By citizens,” Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) posted in a tweet on Wednesday afternoon.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-New York) shared a link to a story about McConnell’s comments and tweeted, “Why are Republicans always afraid of making it easier for Americans to vote?”

Research contact: felicia.sonmez@washpost.comR.

Trump: ‘I don’t care’ if Putin conversation becomes public

January 16. 2019

Following media reports that he squelched access to transcripts of his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin—and welshed on any promises to share them with his top aides—President Donald Trump on January 12 said he would be willing to release the details of the leaders’ private conversation in Helsinki last summer, Politico has reported.

“I would. I don’t care,” Trump told Fox News host Jeanine Pirro in a phone interview. “I’m not keeping anything under wraps. I couldn’t care less.”

The president’s remarks came hours after a report by The Washington Post stating that Trump “has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal details” of his talks with Putin. The Post also reported that there is no detailed record of Trump’s interactions with Putin at five locations over the past two years, according to U.S. officials.

The president referred to his roughly two-hour meeting with Putin in Helsinki — at which only the leaders and their translators were present — as “a great conversation” that included discussions about “securing Israel and lots of other things,” Politico said.

“I had a conversation like every president does,” Trump told Pirro. “You sit with the president of various countries. I do it with all countries.”

House Republicans in July blocked an attempt by Democratic lawmakers to subpoena Trump’s interpreter in Helsinki. Politico previously had reported that Putin raised the subjects of nuclear arms controls and weapons prohibitions in space during the one-on-one conference, according to a Russian document.

Asked by Pirro if he’d ever worked on behalf of Russia, Trump did not directly answer the question, calling a New York Times report of an FBI counterintelligence investigation on him “insulting.”

Trump also evaded a question on whether the administration was seeking to keep special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report on the Russia probe from the public, saying only that the investigation was a “hoax.”

Research contact: @QuintForgey

Ready, aim … This Taser tells police as soon as it’s fired

November 26, 2018

When a victim is blindsided by an attack or a melee, the fight-or-flight instinct kicks in—and dialing 911 may not be top-of-mind. That’s exactly what customers told Arizona-based Axon when the company—which makes Tasers for self-defense and law enforcement—asked for feedback about its products.

Its solution: A new Taser that automatically alerts authorities as soon as the weapon is fired, the Washington Post reported on November 21.

“When you’re under stress and your focus narrows to getting away from someone, then small details like picking up the phone and calling 911 can escape you,” said Annie Pratt, Axon’s director of consumer products, in a recent interview. “We wanted to create a device that doesn’t require people to be in the physical mental state to remember that last step.”

To make that possible, Axon has partnered with St. Louis-based Noonlight, a company that has created an app that automatically connects users with emergency services when the Taser is activated.

When the trigger on the Taser Pulse+—a new pairing of the weapon and the app—is pulled, a beacon on the device communicates with the app, which alerts authorities that a likely emergency is unfolding. Using information from the app, including GPS, responding authorities have access to the user’s identification and location, even when someone is fleeing the scene of the incident.

“Everything happens in real-time,” Nick Droege, the co-founder of Noonlight, told the Post. “[As] we dispatch emergency services, … the user is getting a text message and a phone call from us so they can explain what’s happened, and 911 dispatchers are also seeing this information.”

“We might also have their health information, which includes information about allergies and medication use, and their picture from their profile information,” he added.

If a Taser owner presses the device’s trigger while the safety is on, Pratt told the news outlet, police aren’t alerted. If customers don’t need assistance from authorities after firing the weapon — or if someone has pulled the trigger by mistake—a user can cancel an active alarm by sharing a four-digit code after he or she receives a text from the company’s dispatchers asking them whether they need help.

The Taser Pulse+ has a 15-foot range and is designed to incapacitate someone for 30 seconds, Pratt said. The device, which includes access to Noonlight, costs about $470, according to Axon.

The company declined to reveal how many individuals have purchased its Tasers and what percentage of its customer base are individual owners vs. law enforcement agencies.

Droege said his long-term goal is to create technology that completely removes the burden of contacting authorities when someone finds themselves in an emergency situation. To get there, he said, Noonlight will partner with companies that create wearable devices and medical technology that can sense when someone is in physical distress.

Research contact: peter.holley@washpost.com

Federal judge blocks President Trump’s ‘caravan’ asylum ban

November 21, 2018

President Donald Trump deployed more than 5,200 military troops to the southern border before the midterm elections in an attempt to stop a “caravan” of Latin Americans from seeking asylum in the United States. Now, a federal judge has temporarily blocked enforcement of that policy, saying that the president violated a “clear command” from Congress to allow them to apply, according to a November 20 report by the Washington Post.

In a November 19 ruling against plaintiff(s) Donald J. Trump, et. al., in a case brought by the Berkeley, California-based East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, et. al., Judge Jon S. Tigar of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a temporary nationwide restraining order barring enforcement of the policy.

Whatever the scope of the president’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” the judge wrote in his opinion, noting, “Also, plaintiffs and the immigrants they represent will suffer irreparable injury if the rules going into effect pending resolution of this case. Asylum seekers will be put at increased risk of violence and other harms at the border, and many will be deprived of meritorious asylum claims.”

According to the Post’s report, President Trump and his allies spread fear about the caravan which, “as he asserted without evidence in one pre-election tweet,” included “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners.”

As a result of Judge Tigar’s restraining order, migrants may once again seek asylum either at legal entry points or after crossing illegally onto U.S. soil.

The judge’s order will remain in effect until December 19, at which point the court will consider arguments for a permanent order. The administration offered no immediate comment, the news outlet said,;but has routinely appealed adverse decisions.

More than half of Americans (54%) see the immigrant caravan as some kind of threat, according to a poll this week by USA Today but a majority (70%) say the same immigrants should be able to qualify for asylum in the USA.

Research contact: @isaacstanbecker

Florida recount: Judge defeats efforts to ‘throw shade’ at 4,000 Sunshine State voters

November 16, 2018

Efforts in The Sunshine State to “throw some shade” on voters who sent their ballots through the mail—many of them, members of the military—or who cast their ballots provisionally, or with questionable signatures, were defeated by Judge Mark Walker of the U.S. District Court of Tallahassee on November 15, the Washington Post reported.

Deprive The decision to provide two more days to count at least 4,000 more ballots came hours ahead of the Thursday afternoon deadline for elections officials to complete a machine recount—against which President Donald Trump and Florida’s Republican candidates already had been chafing.

Indeed, Trump tweeted early on November 12 that the races should be called immediately: “The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott [running against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson for the U.S. Senate] and Ron DeSantis [running against Tallahassee Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum for Florida governor] in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged. An honest vote count is no longer possible—ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!”

It was not clear how the judge’s decision would affect the timing of the recount, which was expected to move to a manual canvass today in the too-close-to-call Senate race, in which Scott leads Nelson by fewer than 13,000 votes (0.15 percentage points).

Unofficial results in the gubernatorial race showed Republican former Congressman Ron DeSantis leading Andrew Gillum by nearly 34,000 votes—or roughly 0.4 percentage points.

According to the Post, while the ruling gave Nelson an opportunity to close the numbers gap, it fell short of the more sweeping decision his lawyers sought. In a blow to the campaign, Judge Walker declined Nelson’s request to count all ballots with mismatched signatures, sight unseen.

But, in his ruling, Judge Walker was very clear about the “irreparable injury” that had been inflicted on the constitutional rights of citizens “to cast their ballots and have them counted.”

He noted, “the precise issue in this case is whether Florida’s law that allows county election officials to reject vote-by-mail and provisional ballots for mismatched signatures–with no standards, an illusory process to cure, and no process to challenge the rejection—passes constitutional muster. The answer is simple. It does not.”

Specifically, the Post reported, Judge Walker noted that while the deadline to submit a mail-in ballot was 7 p.m. Election Day, the deadline to “cure” a mismatched signature was 5 p.m. Monday, the day before — meaning those voters not notified, or notified too late, had no recourse.

In his ruling, Walker said the plaintiffs, the Florida Democratic Party and the Nelson campaign, had established “irreparable injury” to the constitutional right of citizens “to cast their ballots and have them counted.” Specifically, Walker noted that while the deadline to submit a mail-in ballot was 7 p.m. Election Day, the deadline to “cure” a mismatched signature was 5 p.m. Monday, the day before — meaning those voters not notified, or notified too late, had no recourse.

State law requires canvassing boards to notify voters “immediately” if they determine that a mail-in ballot contains a signature inconsistent with the one on file.

“Here, potentially thousands of voters have been deprived of the right to cast a legal vote — and have that vote counted — by an untrained canvassing board member based on an arbitrary determination that their respective signatures did not match,” wrote the judge “Such a violation of the right to vote cannot be undone.”

He concluded, “This Court … is NOT ordering county canvassing boards to count every mismatched vote, sight unseen. Rather, the county supervisors are directed to allow those voters who should have had an opportunity to cure their ballots in the first place to cure their votes-by-mail and provisional ballots now,” he wrote.

Marc Elias, Nelson’s lead recount attorney, praised the ruling. “We look forward to ensuring that those voters who cast lawful ballots have them counted,” he said in an email to the DC-based news outlet.

Scott’s campaign said it was appealing the decision. “We are confident we will prevail,” said campaign spokesperson Lauren Schenone in a statement.

As recounts continue, the Post pointed out that the stakes are high: The Florida Senate race will determine the size of the GOP’s majority in 2019 and shape the power structure in the nation’s largest swing state. Together, the two sides have racked up at least 10 lawsuits trying to gain a legal advantage in the recount.

Research contact: @WaPoSean

Trump rails against recounts in Florida

November 13, 2018

Even as word came in early on November 12 that Democrat Kyrsten Sinema had taken 49.6% of the Arizona vote in the race for U.S. Senate against the GOP’s Martha McSally (48.1%), President Donald Trump railed against the continuing recounts in Florida—the results of which could change the balance of power in Washington, D.C.

The president alleged, without any solid evidence, that many ballots in the Senate and gubernatorial races were “missing and forged” and that a valid tally  would not be possible, according to a same-day report by the Washington Post.

“An honest vote count is no longer possible—ballots massively infected,” the president tweeted at 7:44 a.m. (ET).

Instead of a recount, Trump suggested that the results from the night of the November 6 midterm election should stand, handing victories to fellow Republicans Rick Scott, the governor, in the Senate race and Ron DeSantis, a former congressman, in the gubernatorial contest.

Must go with Election Night!” the POTUS said.

However, the recounts continue. Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties began retabulating the vote on November 10, while Broward started on November 11. The recounts are happening in accordance with Florida law because of the tight margins in the votes, the Post said.

Notwithstanding those recounts, Trump is not alone . On November 11, Scott went on national television to accuse Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, whom  still is hoping to unseat, of trying to “commit fraud to try to win this election,”  the Post reported, noting, “His campaign said it had filed lawsuits against Brenda Snipes and Susan Bucher, the election supervisors in Broward and Palm Beach counties, two Democratic strongholds. Democrats called it desperation by a candidate sitting on a precarious vote lead.”

Scott made his comments in an interview on “Fox News Sunday” after his lead shrank to fewer than 13,000 votes in a race with national stakes. In a separate Fox News television appearance Monday, Scott called Nelson a “sore loser” and alleged that “he’s just here to steal this election.”

Nelson fired back on Twitter on Monday, the Post reported, writing that there is “zero evidence backing up claims by Republican extremists that Democrats are trying to steal the election.”

In the Senate contest, Scott’s lead over Nelson has narrowed to 12,562 votes out of more than 8 million ballots cast, the news outlet said—or a margin of 0.15%, according to an unofficial tally Saturday from the state. State law mandates a machine recount if the margin is half a percentage point or less.

The governor’s race also has tightened, with DeSantis ahead by a mere 0.41%. If that margin holds, it would fall short of the 0.25% threshold for a more involved manual recount.

The election results are slated to be certified on November 20. Newly elected senators are expected to report to Washington, D.C., this week for orientation. Scott said he has not decided his schedule yet. The Senate will swear in new members in January.

Research contact: sean.sullivan@washpost.com

In effort to intimidate voters, Trump and Sessions warn of fraud at polls

November 7, 2018

On the day before the midterm elections, November 5, President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued strong warnings about the threat of voter fraud —echoing what the Washington Post characterized as “the president’s baseless claims that massive voter fraud marred his 2016 election and prompting accusations that his administration is trying to intimidate voters.

In a tweet early Monday, Trump said that law enforcement has been “strongly notified” to watch for “ILLEGAL VOTING.” He promised that anyone caught voting improperly would be subjected to “Maximum Criminal Penalties.”

Sessions, in a statement laying out the Justice Department’s plans to monitor ballot access on Election Day, said “fraud in the voting process will not be tolerated. Fraud also corrupts the integrity of the ballot.

In remarks to reporters on his way to a campaign rally in Cleveland, Trump also falsely claimed that voter fraud is commonplace, the Washington Post said.

“Just take a look,” he said. “All you have to do is go around, take a look at what’s happened over the years, and you’ll see. There are a lot of people—a lot of people—my opinion, and based on proof—that try and get in illegally and actually vote illegally. So we just want to let them know that there will be prosecutions at the highest level.”

There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the United States, the Post reported, noting that the president had formed a commission to study the issue shortly after he took office that was disbanded without finding evidence of fraud after states refused to turn over voter data.

Voting rights advocates denounced Trump’s remarks as a blatant attempt to intimidate voters on the eve of Election Day—and part of a pattern among Republicans, they said, to curtail voting access with strict rules that disproportionately affect voters of color who tend to vote Democratic.

“I find this kind of conduct incredibly anti-patriotic,” Kristen Clarke, who leads the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a voting rights group that has successfully challenged several new voting restrictions across the country this year, told the Post. “At a time when we need our White House and Justice Department speaking out against the relentless campaign of voter suppression in this election cycle, it defies reason.”

Research contact: amy.gardner@washpost.com

Behind closed doors: Closing bedroom doors saves lives

October 18, 2018

You probably brush your teeth, wash up, and put on something comfortable before getting into bed—but there is another essential task that you should tack on to that nightly routine. Closing the bedroom door could save your life, in the event of a house fire, Good Houskeeping magazine warned on October 10.

Nearly 60% of people sleep with the bedroom door open, according to a recent survey conducted by the safety certification organization Underwriters Laboratories (UL). However, it turns out that leaving the door ajar is not so smart: A closed door can slow the spread of flames, reduce toxic smoke, improve oxygen levels, and decrease temperatures when a blaze breaks out…

UL says that 30 years ago, you had up to 17 minutes to escape from a house fire, but today’s homes burn more quickly. Why? Open floor plans provide oxygen and don’t provide barriers. And synthetic building materials and furnishings burn at a much faster rate than the natural products used decades ago.

In fact, today, UL says, the average time to escape a home fire has dwindled to just three minutes or less . And during a fire, a closed door can mean the difference between 1,000 degrees and 100 degrees.

“You want to have an escape plan and practice it regularly because there is a limited time window to act,” said Stephen Kerber, director of UL’s Firefighter Safety Research Institute, told The Washington Post last year. “We can’t emphasize enough: If you can get out, get out.”

The Institute is promoting an effort, called CloseYourDoor.org, to spread the word about fire safety. Kerber hopes that ‘the campaign finds the same cultural ubiquity for fire safety awareness as “Stop, Drop & Roll” has for years.

 “What we need is a modern message,” says Kerber. “If ‘Stop, Drop & Roll’ is for when your clothes are on fire, ‘Close Your Door’ is for when your house is on fire and you cannot get out. It’s the modern version of what needs to be done.”

Research contact: @carolinepicard_

‘Swipe right to sue’: Now you can file lawsuits using a smartphone app

October 18, 2018

A new legal-services app enables users to sue just about anyone with their smartphones and to claim awards from class-action lawsuits, much in the same way they would select a match on Tinder —with a quick “swipe right to sue,” the Washington Post reported on October 16.

The app, dubbed DoNotPay, launched this week and already has been downloaded more than 10,000 times, according to creator and founder Joshua Browder—a 21-year-old senior at Stanford University who has been labeled the “Robin Hood of the Internet” by the BBC.

As an 18-year-old, Browder first created a chatbot— a computer program that conducts a conversation via auditory or textual method—that helped drivers to challenge parking tickets in New York, London, and Seattle.

Following that successful trial, he developed another bot to help people sue consumer credit reporting agency Equifax last year, after a data breach left 143 million American consumers vulnerable to identity theft.

He told the Post this week that he came up with the idea for his latest project—available and working in all 50 states —after a number of people used DoNotPay to recoup as much as $11,000 from Equifax, even after the credit reporting agency appealed the suit.

The updates to the “robot lawyer app’ introduced this week allow users to sue a defendant for up to $25,000, the Post reports.

“I think people are really upset with how the legal system works,” Browder said in an interview with the news outlet “Lawyers say this app isn’t necessary, but if your issue is below $10,000, no lawyer is going to help, and if they do they’re going to take 50 percent of what you make.”

“The most popular claims so far involve a merchant breaching a contract, such as United Airlines kicking someone off a flight,” Browder noted. “There [are] a large number of negligence suits, which is very interesting.”

How exactly does the app work?

Once opened, the app tells users they can sue anyone by pressing a button. The app then asks several questions about the nature of the filing, as well as users’ name and location, before asking the user to fill in the amount for which they plan to sue.

After directing the claim into one of 15 separate legal lanes —from automobile accident to recovering personal property—DoNotPay provides the documents necessary to file the suit—among them, a demand letter, county filing documents, and even a strategic script to read in court. Users print out the documents and mail them to the relevant courthouse, setting the lawsuit in motion.

The app can also analyze a user’s receipts and email, and display all the class-action lawsuit settlements they’re eligible for, Browder told the Post.

“In true millennial fashion, the user can then swipe right on lawsuits that interest them (or left if not) and DoNotPay will instantly claim the funds,” he added.

The app is free, and users are allowed to keep any money they recoup. However, if the app offers more specialized services in the future, Browder said, it is possible that they will come with a price tag.

Research contact: Browder@stanford.edu