OK. Let’s get this right. Lawmakers and many Americans are angry about Facebook and how it handled 50 million users’ people’s data, but President Trump really hates Amazon.
First, it’s owned by Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, which Trump also hates.
Second, sources told Axios Trump has talked about changing Amazon’s tax treatment – using antitrust or competition law – because he’s worried about mom-and-pop businesses being run out of business.
Today, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters Trump is “always looking to create a level playing field for all businesses and this is no different.”
The site adds,
“Trump’s wealthy friends tell him Amazon is destroying their businesses. His real estate buddies tell him — and he agrees — that Amazon is killing shopping malls and brick-and-mortar retailers.”
An Axios reporter writes,
“Trump told Axios last year he doesn’t mind Facebook because it helps him reach his audience. He’s an old-school businessman who sees the world in terms of tangible assets: real estate, physical mail delivery, Main Street, grocery stores. It reminds me of the story (Axios co-founder and CEO) Jim (VandeHei) wrote a while back about Trump’s fixation with 1950s life. Amazon takes direct aim at some of the core components of mid-century business.”
One problem with the president’s thinking is Amazon abusing the U.S. Postal Service. On the contrary, one source says, “The post office actually makes a ton of money from Amazon” and it actually added delivery on Sunday in some cities because Amazon made it worthwhile.
Sounds good for some jobs – just not good for some stocks.
Axios also notes, “The ‘so-called FANG stocks have had a terrible week, losing a combined $168.6 billion in market value over the past five trading days.
— Facebook down 8.34 percent. $42.12 billion in lost market cap.
— Amazon down 8.74 percent. $66.3 billion in lost market cap.
— Netflix down 8.5 percent. $11.49 billion in lost market cap.
— Google down 6.52 percent. $48.67 billion in lost market cap.”
On the other hand, “Vice President Mike Pence is concerned about Facebook and Google,” according to a source. He argues those companies are dangerously powerful, and is worried about their influence on media coverage, as well as their control of the advertising industry and users’ personal info.
“When private discussions have turned to the idea of busting Facebook and Google, Pence has listened with keen interest and is open to the suggestion that these two companies need shaking up.”
Also being shaken up: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Tonight, President Trump announced he fired embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary, David Shulkin, and plans to replace him with Dr. Ronny L. Jackson, who is also a Navy admiral.
CBS News reports Shulkin had been under fire for blunders “including reported insurgencies inside his own department to complications surrounding his improper use of travel expenses.”
I’m not aware if Trump fired Secretary Shulkin on Twitter like he did former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
CBS noted Shulkin raised eyebrows last summer for traveling to Europe with his wife, at the VA’s expense. Also, “He was one of five Trump cabinet officials whose travel practices were scrutinized by internal watchdogs.”
Plus, “In a 97-page report released last month, the VA’s inspector general found that Shulkin made ‘misleading statements,’ ‘improperly accepted Wimbledon tickets’ and turned an aide into a ‘personal travel concierge’ to plan ‘high tea’ and ‘Roman baths’ at the request of Shulkin’s wife.”
Shulkin worked for the Obama administration. Trump elevated him to lead the department when he took office.
According to his nominated replacement Dr. Jackson’s Navy biography,
“In 2006, while still in Iraq, Jackson was selected as a White House physician. Since arriving at the White House, he has directed the Executive Health Care for the President’s Cabinet and Senior Staff, served as physician supervisor for the Camp David Presidential Retreat, held the position of physician to the White House and led the White House Medical Unit as its director. He has served as White House physician during the past three administrations and was the appointed physician to the president for President Barack Obama. He currently serves as the appointed physician to the president for President Donald J. Trump.”
Trump – the oldest president in American history – had been treated for decades by Dr. Harold Bornstein, who has an office on New York’s Upper East Side. During the campaign, he wrote a short letter declaring that Trump would be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency. Despite that, “He told STAT in December that he had not been asked to move to Washington.”
Today, CNBC reported how “Facebook unveiled a raft of measures aimed at making it easier for users to see and access the data the social network holds on them and make changes where needed.”
First, Facebook “said it redesigned the settings menu on mobile devices to make things easier to find. All the different sections under the settings tab will now be a in a single place.”
Second, it added a privacy shortcuts menu where users can add extra security when logging in, review and delete what was shared – from search history to friend requests – and manage profile information and who sees posts.
Third, according to CNBC, “Facebook is also introducing a tool called ‘Access Your Information’ to let you see the comments you’ve left or posts you’ve shared and delete them. The company also said it will make it easier for users to download their data, such as photos and contacts you’ve added to your account, and even move it to another service.”
Finally, the Terms of Service. New ones are proposed. Facebook says it’ll be updating its data policy to “better spell out what data we collect and how we use it.” The technology firm said that most of the updates “have been in the works for some time,” but the recent events “underscore their importance.”
“Facebook also owns two other highly popular applications: Instagram, with more than 800 million monthly users as of September and WhatsApp, with more than 1.5 billion monthly users as of January.
“The company didn’t mention any changes to those apps today, and did not immediately respond to a question about whether the company was planning to update their privacy settings.
“And these apps can collect plenty of information, too.”
Click here for details on Terms of Service for Instagram and WhatsApp.
Also, Mark Zuckerberg has decided he will testify before Congress. Facebook sources told CNN, “The 33-year-old CEO has come to terms with the fact that he will have to testify before Congress within a matter of weeks, and Facebook is currently planning the strategy for his testimony.” This is how he apologized and what he said about that, last week.
There has been a lot of pressure from lawmakers, the media and the public after the British data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed the data of 50 million Facebook users at a time political campaigns were increasingly looking to sway voters on popular digital platforms. In 2016, it was the Trump campaign. Politico reported “nobody is certain how much” help it was.
Zuckerberg blamed apps that may be leaking user data to third parties and pledged to crack down on them, plus identify them to us.
As I wrote in my last post, Zuckerberg’s testimony will be before the Senate Judiciary Committee. CNN reported its Facebook sources “believe Zuckerberg’s willingness to testify will also put pressure on Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to do the same. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has officially invited all three CEOs to a hearing on data privacy on April 10.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who’s on that committee, had said in a statement she wanted to know “what Facebook knew about misusing data from 50 million Americans in order to target political advertising and manipulate voters.”
But The Huffington Post reports she’s not satisfied and wants Cambridge Analytica on the stand next. Plus, it says the House Energy and Commerce Committee also wanted Zuckerberg and sent him a letter, Friday, saying
“The hearing will examine the harvesting and sale of personal information from more than 50 million Facebook users, potentially without their notice or consent and in violation of Facebook policy,” it continued. “The hearing will also explore broader questions about Facebook’s policies at the time Facebook Platform was launched, today, and in the future regarding both Facebook’s use of user information and the access to user information Facebook provides to others.”
Don’t forget, Facebook and other technology companies rely on the tremendous amount of data they gather from billions of their users. That information makes money for their products, services and – most importantly – advertising sales based on user information.
Also today, Zuckerberg turned down a request from British lawmakers to answer questions on the social network’s privacy practices. He’ll send two deputies instead.
And Monday, the Federal Trade Commission confirmed the existence of a non-public investigation into the company’s user privacy practices.
“The FTC is firmly and fully committed to using all of its tools to protect the privacy of consumers. Foremost among these tools is enforcement action against companies that fail to honor their privacy promises… [T]he FTC takes very seriously recent press reports raising substantial concerns about the privacy practices of Facebook. Today, the FTC is confirming that it has an open non-public investigation into these practices.”
Last week, Facebook shut down a Palestinian news agency’s page for violating the anti-incitement policy by calling murderous terrorists “martyrs.” It reportedly happened after a meeting between Israel’s Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and a Facebook representative. Safa’s staff claims it’s a legitimate news organization with 1.3 million followers, and the site’s social media manager said it “has not incited to violence and has followed all of Facebook’s guidelines for making posts.”
But World Israel News reports it recently praised the killer of Rabbi Raziel Shevach in a drive-by shooting in January as a “hero.” According to Palestinian activists quoted in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, some 500 Facebook pages of Palestinians have been taken down since the start of the year.
This comes a week after President Trump signed the Taylor Force Act as part of the $1.3 trillion spending bill. That part of the law – named for a 28-year-old former U.S. serviceman who was stabbed and killed while visiting Israel in March 2016 – cuts financial aid to the Palestinian Authority unless it ends its payments to terrorists and their families.
Meanwhile, Apple CEO Tim Cook is one of Mark Zuckerberg’s biggest critics. Today on MSNBC, he took his most direct shots, questioning Zuckerberg’s leadership.
Meanwhile, for Apple, Cook wants what Axios calls, “a major new location to house technical support staff, among other workers.”
So is Amazon, you may be thinking, but Cook said it won’t be a second headquarters.
He did say:
Of course, Axios points out,
“It’s not like Apple is averse to getting tax incentives when it opens new facilities. Apple is currently the world’s most valuable company and is on its way to a trillion dollar valuation, but Amazon is following close on its tail.”
And fitting for the bottom of this column: The porn star and the president.
Stormy Daniels wants to make President Trump answer questions under oath. He may consider it sadomasochism but this morning, her lawyer
“Michael Avenatti asked a federal judge for permission to depose the president and his private attorney Michael Cohen for a period ‘of no greater than two hours’ about a non-disclosure agreement she signed just 11 days before the 2016 election,” as CBS News described it. CBS explained, “The aim of the deposition is to determine if the president had a role in the $130,000 payment from Cohen to Daniels.”
Avenatti appeared on CBS This Morning shortly after filing this 31-page motion you can scroll through, saying it relies on U.S. Supreme Court precedent.
He noted, in the case of Bill Clinton v. Paula Jones, the majority concluded the
“Constitution does not offer a sitting President significant protections from potentially distracting civil litigation.”
“It is well founded, it was well thought out, it’s incredibly documented,” Avenatti told CBS. “It’s well supported by the law and we’re confident” once they “get to the bottom of this,” they will prove America has been told “a bucket of lies.”
“We want to know the truth about what the president knew, when he knew it and what he did about it as it relates to this agreement. We’re gonna test the veracity or the truthfulness of Mr. Cohen’s, his attorney’s, statements,” he said.
The motion also references a meeting one week ago between lawyers, during which Avenatti said Trump’s lawyer was unable to answer whether Trump was a party to the nondisclosure agreement. Mark your calendar for a hearing April 30. That’s a Monday.
According to The Washington Post, “About 22.1 million of us settled in during Sunday night’s family hour to watch 60 Minutes and hear what Stephanie Clifford, a.k.a. Stormy Daniels, had to say about her alleged affair with Donald Trump.”
Here is some of Anderson Cooper’s interview, in case you missed it (and don’t say I didn’t warn the target audience that the newsmagazine was starting late!).
This story contains clips, including the parts about Daniels claiming she was threatened with her infant daughter, her lawyer saying Trump’s lawyer threatening to sue her was to intimidate her, and her explaining she lied in the nondisclosure agreement by denying an affair with Trump because of fear.
And watch what Anderson Cooper said he thinks will happen next:
The Washington Post published a Kathleen Parker column that says in part,
“While children may have been diverted elsewhere, it is a given that most school-aged youngsters by now have likely heard of the adult-film actress, just as children a generation ago learned about oral sex from a previous president. … This reminds us that indecency is not new to the White House.”
I’ve written how Fox shelved the Diana Falzone story, “in October, 2016, a month before the presidential election in which Trump won. It could’ve been a major scoop and possibly changed the election results.” Two weeks ago, Falzone settled a lawsuit with Fox News and left the company.
Instead, it was this month that NBC News reported:
— President “Trump’s personal attorney used his Trump Organization email while arranging to transfer money into an account at a Manhattan bank before he wired $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels to buy her silence,”
— “The lawyer, Michael Cohen, also regularly used the same email account during 2016 negotiations with the actress … before she signed a nondisclosure agreement,” and
— “Clifford’s attorney at the time addressed correspondence to Cohen in his capacity at the Trump Organization and as ‘Special Counsel to Donald J. Trump.’”
The adult film star claimed she had a one-time sexual encounter with Trump in 2006 – a year after Donald and Melania Trump were married – and was paid to keep quiet about it.
Clifford/Daniels alleges the nondisclosure agreement “she signed when receiving the funds is null due to the lack of president’s signature” and offered to return the $130,000 in exchange to speak freely about her interactions with Trump.
Trump lawyer Cohen (absolutely no relation) has said Trump “vehemently denies” any affair.
Also from The Washington Post:
Click here for the billionaire behind the ads you’ve probably seen about impeaching the president.
Click here for how the administration’s decision to add a question about citizenship in the 2020 Census is being met with fierce pushback from critics, mostly in Democratic states.
Click here to see how a GOP congressman from Philadelphia’s outer suburbs just demonstrated how much of a headache retirements will be for Republicans in 2018’s midterm elections.
P.S. It may not feel like spring everywhere but America’s Pastime returns tomorrow, and get this: Every Major League Baseball team will play. CBS Sports called it “the return of a true Opening Day” and “that hasn’t happened since way back yonder in 1968,” when the schedule was announced, last September.
The Phillies will open against the Braves in Atlanta at 4:10pm, and then play a second away series against the New York Mets. Their home opener won’t be until April 5 at 3:05pm against the Miami Marlins.
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