Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen gave explosive testimony before a Senate panel Tuesday, denouncing the social media giant for prioritizing “astronomical profits” over the safety of billions of users. Haugen’s testimony gave a rare glimpse into the secretive tech company, which she accused of harming children, sowing division by boosting hateful content, and undermining democracy. Haugen urged lawmakers to enact strict oversight over Facebook before it’s too late. This is Frances Haugen.
Frances Haugen: “Facebook wants you to believe that the problems we’re talking about are unsolvable. They want you to believe in false choices. They want you to believe that you must choose between a Facebook full of divisive and extreme content or losing one of the most important values our country was founded upon, free speech; that you must choose between public oversight of Facebook’s choices and your personal privacy; that to be able to share fun photos of your kids with old friends, you must also be inundated with anger-driven virality. They want you to believe that this is just part of the deal. I am here today to tell you that’s not true.”
Haugen’s testimony comes after she leaked tens of thousands of pages of internal Facebook documents.
The Senate is expected to vote on a procedural step that would bring a suspension of the debt ceiling to a floor vote, even as Republicans insist they will not support the move. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told President Biden earlier this week that Democrats would have to pass the bill through reconciliation even though Republicans could allow the measure to pass with a simple majority. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer blasted Republicans’ “irresponsibility” Tuesday.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer: “We can stop this Republican-manufactured debt ceiling crisis in its tracks, or Republicans can keep driving our country ever closer to the first default in American history.”
On Tuesday, President Biden said Democrats could move to reform filibuster rules to bypass the Republican blockade on the debt limit, though conservative Democrats Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin have previously voiced their opposition to filibuster changes.
According to research by ProPublica, the national debt rose by $7.8 trillion to $28 trillion, due in large part to Republicans’ and then-President Trump’s 2017 tax cuts for corporations and the ultra-rich.
Constituents of Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema are stepping up pressure on the corporate Democrat as she continues to threaten passage of the sweeping reconciliation package that would expand the nation’s social safety net and combat the climate crisis. On Monday, Karina Ruiz, head of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition and a former volunteer on the Sinema campaign, approached the senator on her flight to D.C. to ask her to support immigration reform as part of the legislation.
Karina Ruiz: “I just need to know if you can commit to passing a budget reconciliation that would include immigration and citizenship for people to be protected, like me and many others. Can you commit to that, Senator?”
Senator Sinema mostly ignored Ruiz, even as she went on to share about her father’s recent death. After her flight landed, Sinema was confronted by other constituents at the airport about what she wanted to cut from the Democrats’ Build Back Better Act.
Constituent: “Do you want to cut climate priorities? Is it elder care that you want to cut? Or is it child care?”
The state of Missouri executed Ernest Lee Johnson Tuesday, after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a petition to delay the killing and despite pleas from lawmakers, activists and even the Vatican to spare Johnson, an African-American man who had an intellectual disability. It was Missouri’s first execution in over a year and the seventh in the U.S. this year.
In international news, Taiwan’s defense minister says tensions with China are at their worst in 40 years, flagging the risk of an accidental strike after China sent a record number of military planes into Taiwanese airspace over the past four days. Taiwan said China would be able to mount a “full-scale” invasion of Taiwan by 2025.
President Biden said Tuesday he spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping and both leaders agreed to adhere to an ongoing agreement between Beijing and Washington amid the mounting tensions. The Taiwan Relations Act directs the U.S. to recognize Beijing, rather than Taipei, as its diplomatic partner. The U.S. provides weapons to Taiwan but does not take a position on its sovereignty.
Amnesty International says the Taliban killed at least 13 members of the Hazara ethnic group on August 30, shortly after the group took control of Afghanistan. Among the dead were 11 former government forces and a 17-year-old girl.
In other news from Afghanistan, The Wall Street Journal reports Kabul risks facing major blackouts over the winter because the new Taliban government has not paid its electricity suppliers. Afghanistan does not have a national power grid, and Kabul relies on imported electricity from Central Asian countries.
The U.N. Security Council is meeting today to discuss the crisis in Ethiopia and the recent expulsion of seven senior U.N. officials from Ethiopia amid the mounting humanitarian crisis in war-torn Tigray. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said last week he rejected the expulsion. This is Jens Laerke from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Jens Laerke: “It is critically important that the humanitarian operation continues. And it does. We have a very high number of people in very urgent need in Tigray. In fact, 5.2 million people over there are in urgent need of assistance.”
According to a CNN report, Ethiopia also used its flagship commercial airline to transport weapons during the war in Tigray.
Romania’s Parliament has ousted Prime Minister Florin Citu in a vote of no confidence after less than one year in power. Citu will remain as the caretaker prime minister, and it’s likely the previous ruling coalition will eventually replace his government. Romania has had a rapid succession of short-lived leaders over the past decade.
In France, union leaders led a nationwide strike Tuesday to protest low wages and planned reforms to pensions and unemployment benefits. Workers are hoping to put pressure on the government of Emmanuel Macron ahead of next year’s presidential election. This is a pensioner demonstrating Tuesday in Paris.
Josiane: “Everyone’s purchasing power is going down, that of pensioners, of workers, of those who are unemployed, of the disabled. It’s disgusting. Billions of euros are there. We just saw that tax evasion accounts for billions and billions of euros around the world. That could be enough to pay salaries in the hospitals, in the schools, a decent public service. I’m here because of all of that. I’m here for the future of humanity, too, because we can talk about the climate in a general way, but if we don’t change the system, it’s as useless as a fart under water.”
Back in the U.S., some 1,400 workers across all of Kellogg’s cereal plants went on strike Tuesday — as union negotiations have stalled for more than a year. The strike includes plants in Omaha, Nebraska; Battle Creek, Michigan; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Memphis, Tennessee. A union representative says Kellogg’s is threatening to outsource jobs to Mexico if workers don’t accept the company’s proposals, which include loss of premium healthcare, holiday and vacation pay, and reduced retirement benefits. Workers are also demanding better wages.
Here in New York, the head of the Sergeants Benevolent Association police union resigned Tuesday, hours after the FBI raided its Manhattan headquarters. The home of now-former union president Ed Mullins was also searched, though it’s unclear what the target of the federal investigation is.
The family of Henrietta Lacks, the African American patient whose cells were taken by Johns Hopkins University Hospital without her consent in 1951, is suing the pharmaceutical company Thermo Fisher Scientific and demanding reparations and the intellectual property of those cells. The lawsuit denounces a racist medical system and accuses the drug company of using what is known as the “HeLa” cell line without their consent while making billions of dollars in profit. Seven decades ago, it was discovered that Lacks’s cells could live forever, helping scientists produce remedies for several diseases, including the first polio vaccine.
The U.S. Postal Service has launched a pilot program to offer some banking services in four cities. Customers in Washington, D.C.; Falls Church, Virginia; Baltimore, Maryland; and the Bronx in New York City can now cash paychecks and other types of checks up to $500 for a fee that’s much lower than private cashing companies. The service, if expanded, could provide a government-run, more accessible option to the 14 million U.S. residents who are underbanked or unbanked.