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Former Hawaii governor says Tulsi Gabbard should resign

Top Stories - Tue, 12/24/2019 - 05:24

Neil Abercrombie said the Democrat's run for president is interfering with her job in Congress.

A major Jewish group slammed Rudy Giuliani for saying George Soros, who survived the Holocaust, is 'hardly a Jew'

Top Stories - Tue, 12/24/2019 - 05:03

The Anti-Defamation League said comments from Giuliani — Donald Trump's lawyer — about George Soros could serve as a dog-whistle to anti-Semites.

The Surveillance State Quietly Lost a Major Court Case

Top Stories - Tue, 12/24/2019 - 04:31

Republicans are publicly howling at the U.S. surveillance panopticon now that it ensnared Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. But it’s hard to believe they’ll do much to actually constrain it. When they controlled Congress, whatever Trump-prompted hesitancy Republicans had about the government’s broadest and most intrusive activities dissolved when it was time to renew the authorities underlying them for another five years. They joined congressional Democrats in resurrecting those authorities, continuing an act of genuine bipartisanship that ravenously eats away at Americans’ freedom.Relief may come instead from the courts. A little-noticed ruling earlier this month from a federal appellate court took a modest step toward curbing the FBI’s practice of searching—warrantless—for Americans’ data inside the National Security Agency’s dragnets ostensibly aimed at foreigners. Congress may be disinclined to close what’s known as the “backdoor search provision,” but there’s a renewed chance the courts might. In September 2011, authorities arrested Albanian citizen and Brooklyn resident Agron Hasbajrami at Kennedy Airport. Hasbajrami had a one-way ticket to Turkey and, prosecutors said, a plan to continue on to Pakistan to pursue jihad. Facing federal charges, Hasbajrami asked prosecutors if evidence against him derived from warrantless surveillance. In secret, they had collected Hasbajrami’s emails through surveillance resulting from Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which permits the NSA to collect massive amounts of internet communications and associated data, including from Americans’ international conversations, all without judicial approval or individual suspicion. Once obtained, the feds applied for a FISA warrant on Hasbajrami, thereby laundering their illicit surveillance for use in prosecuting him. Send The Daily Beast a TipThe government, following a practice of not revealing how such surveillance impacts criminal prosecutions, deceitfully neglected to tell Hasbajrami how they got his emails in the first place. As a result, Hasbajrami pleaded guilty in 2012 and began serving a 16-year sentence for material support to terrorism. But after the 2013 revelations of mass surveillance Edward Snowden provided to The Guardian and The Washington Post, the Justice Department revealed to Hasbajrami that it had lied to him. Hasbajrami argued that he had been denied critical information underlying his decision to plead guilty—as well as a shot at arguing his prosecution was unconstitutional—withdrew his plea, and sought to suppress the ill-gotten evidence. The case made its way to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which issued its ruling on Dec. 18. Judges in the case did not deal anything close to a death blow to Section 702. But, in a first for a federal appellate court, the judges found that warrantlessly searching through the NSA’s Section 702 databases, as the FBI and the CIA are permitted to do, “could violate the Fourth Amendment, and thus require the suppression of evidence.” Considering themselves without sufficient information to rule on the merits, they instructed the district court to investigate whether “such querying was reasonable.” That’s a far cry from stopping either the NSA’s warrantless mass collection of internet data or the FBI’s warrantless searches of what the NSA collects. It’s uncertain what the district court will ascertain. But the appellate-court ruling is a step toward judicially mandated constraints on, at least, the downstream effects of such surveillance, and those effects include locking people up, so civil libertarians took what they could get. “Critically, the court holds that the government does not have carte blanche to amass Americans’ emails and phone calls and search through them at will,” noted the ACLU’s Patrick Toomey, who submitted a brief in the case. The ruling comes after the secret spy panel known as the FISA Court ruled that the FBI’s use of the backdoor search provision is overbroad, abusive and illegal. On one single day in December 2017, according to the court, the FBI conducted 6,800 searches through NSA databases of ostensibly foreign information using Americans’ Social Security numbers. More broadly, the FBI’s searches, the court found, were not “reasonably designed” to find evidence of crime, but were instead fishing expeditions. The total number of Americans surveilled remains unknown. The revelation that the FBI abused the backdoor-search provision made no political impact, as it concerned millions of Americans not named Donald Trump and its major effects will be felt by Muslims. Along with the Hasbajrami ruling, it highlights how the erosion of Americans’ privacy, at scale, occurs with vastly fewer safeguards than the process to surveil Carter Page, a Trump campaign foreign-policy adviser who had been proximate to Russian intelligence for years.The FBI had to detail for the FISA Court why it believed Page was a legitimate target for foreign-agent surveillance and do so every 90 days for as long as it wished the surveillance to continue. In practice, Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz found, the applications to the FISA Court on Page contained material flaws, such as the omission of evidence that undercut the government’s basis for the surveillance. As egregious as the FBI’s manipulation of that process was in Page’s case, no such process applies for surveillance under Section 702, which affects orders of magnitude more people. The director of national intelligence and the attorney general merely submit annual guidelines to the FISA Court purporting to describe how the mass surveillance will unfold. The government needs neither probable cause nor reasonable suspicion that any of the millions of people caught in the NSA dragnet committed any wrongdoing—only confidence that the supposed “target” of the surveillance is reasonably believed to be a foreigner overseas. Nor does the FBI require any judicial approval for any of its searches for Americans’ data in the NSA digital storehouses. The appellate court in the Hasbajrami case called it “programmatic pre-clearance” for surveillance on a scale unthinkable even a generation ago. This sort of surveillance has proven a fixture of contemporary American life, however undetected it typically goes. Attempts at modifying it or abolishing it, launched by the civil-libertarian minorities of both parties, typically fall short. A recent effort at abolishing a highly abused domestic phone-data surveillance program wrapped into the PATRIOT Act was obviated by a Congressional budget deal that kept that and three other expiring PATRIOT provisions alive until March. One of the few consistent congressional opponents of overbroad surveillance is Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat on the intelligence committee who has fought the backdoor-search provision since its inception. “I’m glad some of my pro-surveillance colleagues are now interested in protecting Americans against unnecessary government surveillance. But anyone who has concerns about warrants overseen by a judge should be far more worried by backdoor searches of vast numbers of Americans’ communications—searches performed without any court order whatsoever,” Wyden told The Daily Beast. “When Sen. [Rand] Paul and I tried to reform this program last year, these same members voted against even modest reforms to protect Americans’ rights. Let’s be sure that protecting civil liberties applies to all Americans, not just Donald Trump and his cronies.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

Iraqi protesters' ire at Iran extends to goods boycott

Top Stories - Tue, 12/24/2019 - 04:25

Anger over Iran's stranglehold on Baghdad's political system has helped propel an unprecedented protest movement -- and now Iraqi activists are hitting the Islamic Republic where it hurts, with a goods boycott. Tehran has held enormous sway over its neighbour since dictator Saddam Hussein was toppled by a US-led invasion in 2003. Using the slogan "let them rot", protesters who have taken to the streets since October 1 to demand wholesale political change are now shunning everything Iranian -- from fruit to sugary drinks.

Vietnam seizes two tonnes of ivory and pangolin scales

Top Stories - Tue, 12/24/2019 - 02:17

Vietnam seized more than two tonnes of ivory tusks and pangolin scales hidden inside wooden boxes shipped from Nigeria, state media reported Tuesday. The bust comes at the end of a year of big wildlife seizures destined for communist Vietnam, a hotbed of the illicit but lucrative trade in animal parts from elephants, pangolins, tigers and rhinos. Authorities in northern Hai Phong city found 330 kilograms (730 pounds) of ivory and 1.7 tonnes of pangolin scales after checking three container shipments from Nigeria, according to Hai Quan Online, the official mouthpiece of Vietnam's customs department.

A desperate kangaroo snuck into a family's pool in order to escape the bushfires raging through Australia

Top Stories - Tue, 12/24/2019 - 01:37

The video is a stark reminder of the intensifying bushfires currently razing through Australia's nature reserves and residential areas.

Behind the barricades: Hong Kong protesters share what happened during the violent clashes with police on university campuses

Top Stories - Tue, 12/24/2019 - 00:25

How the protests at Chinese University and Polytechnic University in Hong Kong played out, as told to Insider by protesters involved in the clashes.

Study Finds Immigration Will Shift Electoral College in Favor of Democrats

Top Stories - Tue, 12/24/2019 - 00:15

As the 2020 census approaches, the Center for Immigration Studies conducted the study to predict what the Electoral College map will look like after the counting is done.

How North Korea Sunk a Warship in 2010 (And Could Have Restarted the Korean War)

Top Stories - Tue, 12/24/2019 - 00:00

In 2010, North Korea sank a South Korean warship and 40 sailors died tragically. Tensions have risen again.

American newlyweds are 'progressing' from volcano burns

Top Stories - Mon, 12/23/2019 - 23:23

The families of American newlyweds who were badly injured during a volcanic eruption in New Zealand said Tuesday the two are progressing as well as could be hoped for given the extent of their injuries. The couple, Lauren Urey, 32, and Matt Urey, 36, from Richmond, Virginia, remain hospitalized in New Zealand. Police Superintendent Andy McGregor said extensive shoreline and aerial searches had not turned up anything new.

Outgoing Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin is facing backlash for pardoning over 600 people, but criminal justice reform advocates say the anger is misplaced

Top Stories - Mon, 12/23/2019 - 23:16

Outgoing Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin's pardoning decisions drew ire from the victims' families and prosecutors who worked the cases alike.

South Korea, Japan, China leaders to promote North Korea-U.S. dialogue

Top Stories - Mon, 12/23/2019 - 22:56

China, Japan and South Korea have agreed to work together to promote dialogue between the United States and North Korea, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Tuesday following a summit between the three countries in China. North Korea has set a year-end deadline for the United States to change what it says is a policy of hostility amid a stalemate in efforts to make progress on their pledge to end the North's nuclear program and establish lasting peace.

Hong Kong police fire tear gas to break up Christmas Eve protest chaos

Top Stories - Mon, 12/23/2019 - 22:35

Hong Kong riot police fired rounds of tear gas at thousands of protesters, many wearing masks and reindeer horns, after scuffles in shopping malls and in a prime tourist district as pro-democracy rallies escalated into Christmas Eve chaos. Protesters inside the malls threw umbrellas and other objects at police who responded by beating some demonstrators with batons, with one pointing his gun at the crowd, but not firing. Some demonstrators occupied the main roads and blocked traffic outside the malls and nearby luxury hotels in the Tsim Sha Tsui tourist district of Kowloon.

ByteDance Weighs TikTok Stake Sale Over U.S. Concerns

Top Stories - Mon, 12/23/2019 - 22:05

(Bloomberg) -- China’s ByteDance Inc. created one of the country’s rare global hits with the addictive video app TikTok. Now the U.S. government is threatening that success as officials in Washington warn the service presents a security threat.The Beijing-based company, led by Chief Executive Officer Yiming Zhang, is weighing a range of options to address those concerns, according to people familiar with the matter. Advisors are pitching everything from an aggressive legal defense and operational separation for TikTok to sale of a majority stake, said the people, asking not to be named because the discussions are private. Selling more than half the business could raise substantially more than $10 billion, one person said.ByteDance would prefer to maintain full control of the business if possible, given its soaring popularity and profit potential. It may argue that TikTok presents no security threat or that the U.S. has no legal standing over the business.ByteDance has considered selling a chunk of TikTok if necessary to protect the value of the business, the people said. The most likely sale scenario would be for the company to sell a majority stake to financial investors, one person said. Earlier investors include SoftBank Group Corp., Sequoia Capital and Susquehanna International Group.Talks about TikTok’s future are preliminary and no formal decision has been made, the people said. A representative for the company said there have been no discussions about any partial or full sale of TikTok. “These rumors are completely meritless,” the representative said.ByteDance has emerged as the world’s most valuable startup on the explosive popularity of TikTok, where more than a billion, largely young, users share short clips of lip-syncing and dance videos. But with escalating tensions between China and the U.S., American politicians have warned the app represents a national security threat and urged an investigation. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., better known as CFIUS, has begun a review of ByteDance’s 2017 purchase of the business that became TikTok, Bloomberg News reported in November.“I remain deeply concerned that any platform or application that has Chinese ownership or direct links to China, such as TikTok, can be used as a tool by the Chinese Communist Party to extend its authoritarian censorship of information outside China’s borders and amass data on millions of unsuspecting users,” Senator Marco Rubio wrote in a letter to the Treasury Department, which chairs CFIUS.TikTok has said it strives to create a safe and positive online environment. “We are not influenced by any foreign government, including the Chinese government; TikTok does not operate in China, nor do we have any intention of doing so in the future,” the company said in October.It’s not clear whether U.S. regulators have authority in the case. CFIUS historically has reviewed foreign companies’ investments in the U.S., including acquisitions, for national security concerns, but Musical.ly, the app that would become TikTok, was a Shanghai-headquartered business when ByteDance purchased it two years ago for about $800 million. ByteDance didn’t seek CFIUS approval at the time, perhaps because it was a deal between two Chinese companies, even though the app had a substantial following in the U.S.ByteDance may have a legal argument that the U.S. committee doesn’t have legal standing to force a divestiture, like it did in the case of the gay dating app Grindr. Beijing Kunlun Tech Co. acquired the U.S. app in January 2018, but in May CFIUS required the company to sell off the service no later than June 2020 because it could give foreigners access to sensitive data. ByteDance may also be able to argue that its data is less sensitive or that all operations and data could be quarantined in a separate U.S. subsidiary. The Trump administration broadened CFIUS’ powers last year.The advantage to selling a stake quickly would be to reap profits from TikTok’s success now, rather than risk a deterioration in value if the U.S. takes punitive measures. ByteDance prefers financial backers rather than strategic investors, like a music or media company, to avoid conflicts in the future, one person said.Though ByteDance has become synonymous with TikTok, its business goes well beyond the music-oriented video app. Zhang founded the business in 2012 as a laboratory for the country’s leading artificial intelligence engineers to come up with innovative products. His first hit was a news app called Jinri Toutiao, or Today’s Headlines, which spawned dozens of copycats from rivals.In China, Zhang is the rare entrepreneur who has kept his independence from the country’s twin giants, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. Indeed, he built a reputation for raiding China’s established tech giants for talent, paying premium compensation of $1 million or more a year.Toutiao became a model for how ByteDance could generate profit, creating a mobile experience that’s a cross between Google and Facebook for would-be advertisers. The startup reached a valuation of $75 billion last year, according to CB Insights.TikTok was one of the most popular apps in the world last year with 656 million installs, according to Sensor Tower. It’s on track to surpass that total this year, the research firm said. The U.S. has had about 124 million downloads.In October, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas wrote to the acting director of National Intelligence, referring to TikTok as a “potential counterintelligence threat we cannot ignore.” They said their concerns include the safety of data on the platform and possible foreign influence campaigns in the U.S.“A company compromised by the Chinese Communist Party knows where your children are, knows what they look like, what their voices sound like, what they’re watching and what they share with each other,” Senator Josh Hawley said during a hearing in November. “All it takes is one knock on the door of their parent company, based in China, from a Communist Party official, for that data to be transferred to the Chinese government’s hands whenever they need it.”Even Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg called out TikTok, citing privacy and freedom of speech concerns after the Chinese firm allegedly scrubbed its platform of politically sensitive content, such as videos of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. TikTok, which has denied those allegations, announced in October it has formed a team that includes two former U.S. lawmakers to review its content moderation policy. It also said U.S. data is beyond the reach of China’s government.“We store all TikTok US user data in the United States, with backup redundancy in Singapore,” it said in the October post. “Our data centers are located entirely outside of China, and none of our data is subject to Chinese law.”ByteDance has been building TikTok’s operations in the U.S., hiring hundreds and establishing American data centers to quarantine local information. It has also begun bringing on lobbyists in Washington, seeking to hire a U.S. policy chief and retaining the public affairs and lobbying firm Monument Advocacy, Bloomberg News reported last month.Zhang has hoped ByteDance would be able to retain full control of TikTok by splitting off the U.S. business operationally, one person said. But it’s not clear whether that will be enough given the continued political pressure.“While it tried to run its overseas operation independently from its China operation, given that the overseas operation is eventually held by the same entity that owns the China operation, it is hard to say that it is completely out of influence from the Chinese government,” said Ke Yan, a Singapore-based analyst with Aequitas Research.A TikTok stake sale would likely push back any initial public offering for ByteDance. The company has considered an IPO in the U.S. or Hong Kong as soon as next year, but still needs to beef up its international operations and hire a chief financial officer. Selling equity in TikTok would provide the parent company with more cash and delay the need for a capital fundraising.Zhang and his investors would likely see benefits in buying more time for an IPO, given the U.S.-China trade war and recent stumbles by high profile startups such as WeWork and Uber Technologies Inc. SoftBank is a backer of all three companies and just engineered a bailout for WeWork.\--With assistance from Manuel Baigorri.To contact the reporters on this story: Zheping Huang in Hong Kong at zhuang245@bloomberg.net;Lulu Yilun Chen in Hong Kong at ychen447@bloomberg.net;Peter Elstrom in Tokyo at pelstrom@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Edwin Chan at echan273@bloomberg.net, Colum MurphyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


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