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HeadlinesMarch 19, 2018

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Trump-Linked Firm Cambridge Analytica Harvested 50M Facebook Users’ Data

Mar 19, 2018

In a startling revelation about the 2016 U.S. election, it’s been revealed that a voter-profiling company named Cambridge Analytica harvested the data of more than 50 million Facebook users, without their permission, in efforts to sway voters to support President Donald Trump.

Cambridge Analytica was founded by billionaire Robert Mercer. Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon of Breitbart News was one of the company’s key strategists.

The Facebook data was first obtained by a Cambridge University academic named Aleksandr Kogan, whose company Global Science Research built an app that paid Facebook users to take a personality test and agree to have their data collected. The app also collected the data of these users’ friends, meaning it actually collected data from tens of millions of users without their knowledge.

Cambridge Analytica then bought this data in order to turn a voter-profiling company into a powerful psychological tool, which began launching targeted political ads aimed at carrying out Robert Mercer’s far-right political agenda. This is whistleblower Christopher Wylie, who worked with Aleksandr Kogan to obtain the data from Facebook.

Christopher Wylie: “It was a grossly unethical experiment, because you are playing with an entire country, the psychology of an entire country, without their consent or awareness. And not only are you like playing with the psychology of an entire nation, you’re playing with the psychology of an entire nation in the context of the democratic process.”

The London Observer, The Guardian and The New York Times all helped break the story.

The revelations of the massive data breach and its role in the 2016 election has caused widespread backlash from both U.S. and British lawmakers, who are now calling on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify. This firestorm comes after Facebook has already faced massive backlash over how the platform was used to spread Russian propaganda ahead of the election.

Trump Attacks Mueller for First Time by Name

Mar 19, 2018

President Trump attacked special counsel Robert Mueller for the first time by name on Twitter over the weekend. On Saturday, he wrote, “The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime.” On Sunday, he wrote, “Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added…does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!” Mueller is a longtime Republican and a former FBI director who was appointed by Republican President George W. Bush.

Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe Fired

Mar 19, 2018

Trump’s first attack on Mueller came only one day after Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe was fired late Friday. Trump had repeatedly attacked McCabe, who was fired after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rejected an appeal that would have let him retire this weekend, meaning McCabe would have received his full pension. McCabe was fired for “lack of candor” about a conversation he authorized between a journalist and FBI officials. McCabe denies these allegations and says his firing is aimed at discrediting Robert Mueller’s investigation, in which he is a potential witness. He also says he took extensive notes about his conversations with President Trump. A slew of Democratic lawmakers have offered to hire McCabe for two days in order to allow him to be eligible to receive his full pension.

Turkey Seizes Control of Syrian Kurdish City of Afrin

Mar 19, 2018

In Syria, Turkish soldiers and Turkish-backed Syrian fighters seized control of the Syrian Kurdish city of Afrin on Sunday, after a two-month Turkish assault on the city. The takeover expands Turkey’s territorial control in northern Syria and deals a blow to Kurdish efforts to achieve autonomy. Activists say hundreds of civilians have been killed in the offensive, which has also forced thousands to flee. On Sunday, dozens of Kurdish and leftist groups in Turkey demanded the international community pressure Turkey to withdraw from Afrin. This is Turkish lawmaker Berdan Öztürk.

Berdan Öztürk: “We call on the United Nations, the European Council, the European Parliament, international coalition forces, Islamic countries and the international community as a whole to take steps to immediately avert the tragedy in Afrin and get concrete results, including withdrawal of all armed forces who entered Afrin.”

Reports: 30 People Killed in Eastern Ghouta, as Assad Tours Front Lines

Mar 19, 2018

In more news from Syria, war monitors report at least 30 people were killed on Saturday amid the ongoing Syrian government’s bombing and ground offensive against Eastern Ghouta, outside the capital Damascus. Thousands of civilians have been fleeing the assault on the suburb, which is controlled by rebel groups. On Sunday, Syrian state TV broadcast video of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad visiting troops on the front lines in Eastern Ghouta.


Russian President Vladimir Putin Easily Wins Another 6-Year Term

Mar 19, 2018

In Russia, President Vladimir Putin has won another 6-year term. Official results show Putin won 76 percent of the vote. His main challenger, opposition leader Alexei Navalny, was barred from running. After the results were announced, Putin was questioned by reporters about whether he’d run again, six years from now.

President Vladimir Putin: “I believe that what you’re saying is a little funny. Let’s count. Will I be sitting here in power until I’m 100 years old? No! no!”


Officials from U.S., N. Korea & S. Korea to Meet in Finland to De-escalate Nuclear Threat

Mar 19, 2018

Officials from North Korea, South Korea and the United States are slated to meet in Finland this week to talk about reducing the threat of nuclear war. It’s not yet announced who will be attending the meeting, but Finnish officials say the U.S. representatives are non-government officials.

Elite Afghan Unit Kills 8 Farmers Irrigating Their Fields

Mar 19, 2018

In Afghanistan, at least eight civilians were killed before dawn on Saturday morning when elite members of the U.S.-backed Afghan intelligence agency opened fire from a helicopter on farmers irrigating the fields below. One of the victims’ brothers says they were killed still holding their shovels. The youngest victim was 14 years old. One local politician told The New York Times these types of raids are usually carried out with the assistance of the U.S.-led NATO coalition.

Kashmir: 5 Members of Same Family Killed by Cross-Border Shelling

Mar 19, 2018

In Kashmir, at least five members of the same family were killed on Sunday, as India and Pakistan both fired across the Line of Control that divides the disputed territory. The victims were a couple and their three children, who were gathering for breakfast when a mortar shell hit their home. The youngest victim was 8 years old. Meanwhile, a Kashmiri photojournalist named Kamran Yusuf has been released after being jailed for six months on charges of “waging war against India.” He was the first Kashmiri journalist to be arrested and held by India’s National Investigation Agency, which was formed in 2009 to fight terrorism.


Texas: 2 People Injured in 4th Package Explosion in Austin This Month

Mar 19, 2018

In Texas, two people were injured Sunday night when a package exploded in southwest Austin. It’s the fourth package explosion in Austin this month. The explosions have killed two members of prominent African-American families and seriously injured a third Latina woman. Authorities say the bombings may be hate crimes and that Sunday’s explosion is likely linked to the first three explosions.

Salvadoran Asylum Seeker Who Says She Was Sexually Assaulted in Detention Is Freed

Mar 19, 2018

In Texas, a 23-year-old Salvadoran asylum seeker named Laura Monterrosa has been freed from the T. Don Hutto detention facility, after a national campaign to win her freedom. Monterrosa says she was sexually assaulted by a guard while in detention and was then placed in solitary confinement in retaliation for speaking up. She fled El Salvador to escape sexual persecution as a lesbian and was detained for nine months.

Computer Hacker Adrián Lamo Dies at 37

Mar 19, 2018

And computer hacker Adrián Lamo has died at the age of 37. He is best known for hacking the computer networks of major corporations, including The New York Times, Yahoo and Microsoft, and for reporting U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning to authorities after the two became friends online. Lamo’s body was discovered in an apartment on Wednesday in Wichita, Kansas, and the cause of his death is unknown.

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