Trump’s Three Week Trilogy: Ending Election Day, Nov. 6, Week Three, First Post

Make American Citizenship a Birthright!

Born in the USA

Keep America Great Now and in the Future.

Ray Myers

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Trump’s Three Week Trilogy: Ending Election Day, Nov. 7, Week Two, Third Post

Make America Family-friendly Again!

Where are the cameras now? Decline in news coverage.

Migrant children still separated from families!

Ray Myers

Did Facebook Learn Anything?

It’s been barely six months since Mark Zuckerberg appeared before Congress and promised lawmakers and the American public that he and Facebook, the company he founded and leads today, would do better. “This episode has clearly hurt us,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. “We have to do a lot of work about building trust back.”

The episode he was referring to was the revelation in March that Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm connected to the Trump campaign, had harvested the sensitive data of as many as 87 million Facebook users without their explicit permission. That scandal rocked Facebook, sending the company’s stock price spiraling. Mr. Zuckerberg himself lost nearly $11 billion.

Since Mr. Zuckerberg’s testimony, lawmakers have done little to nothing to better regulate technology platforms like Facebook and hold them more accountable for suspect practices. But there’s also little evidence that Facebook, and Mr. Zuckerberg, has taken his pledge to Congress as seriously as once hoped either: Facebook announced late last month the biggest data breach in its history, affecting nearly 50 million user accounts. In the same week, the news site Gizmodo published an investigation that found Facebook gave advertisers contact information harvested from the address books on their users’ cellphones.

Equally worrisome from Gizmodo’s report: Facebook is also giving advertisers phone numbers that users have provided solely for security reasons. Security experts generally advise users to add two-factor authentication to their accounts, which sometimes takes the form of providing a phone number to receive text messages containing log-in codes. It’s ironic — two-factor authentication is supposed to better safeguard privacy and security, but these phone numbers are wWhile the Cambridge Analytica scandal engulfed Facebook in a firestorm of controversy, this time the company effectively got a free pass from a nation fixated on Brett Kavanaugh and his turbulent Supreme Court confirmation. Still, with consequential midterms less than a month away, this latest string of Facebook privacy failures is a discouraging reminder of how much potential there is for things to go terribly wrong — again —  during those elections. It’s not just about user privacy, it’s a sign of how well Facebook is poised to handle sophisticated foreign disinformation campaigns, and where its priorities lie.

The seriousness of Facebook’s most recent data breach ranks it among one of the most egregious in the history of Silicon Valley. A weakness in Facebook’s code allowed hackers to gain access into other people’s accounts, and potentially control not only the Facebook profiles but any services that those users logged into using Facebook — Instagram, Spotify and Tinder, for example.

The breach originated from three bugs in Facebook’s code. At least one was introduced over a year ago; it’s still not clear when the other two became part of the code. Information security is a difficult problem: A company might do the right thing every time and still be successfully attacked. But one of the reasons Facebook’s breach is so concerning is the company’s footprint in the lives of so many people — 2.2 billion and counting. Facebook has sought to find ways into as many aspects of people’s lives as possible, becoming the recipient of a glut of data and the implicit trust of its users. The company has been careless with that trust — and is still being careless.

Speaking before Congress and in other public statements, Mr. Zuckerberg has been upfront about being caught unaware of the influence his company can have in ordinary people’s lives, whether that influence is in determining election outcomes or sparking real-life violence in places like Sri Lanka and Libya. And perhaps nobody fully understands that power — academics and experts are still piecing together the puzzle of how advertising systems honed on personal information can enable foreign propaganda campaigns, and to what extent this phenomenon affects democratic elections. It may be a long time before it all becomes clear. (In the meantime, falsehoods about Judge Kavanaugh’s accuser Christine Blasey Ford are going viral on Facebook). In response to such concerns, Facebook has set up a “war room” in its headquarters to monitor potential foreign influence campaigns during elections, winding up in the hands of advertisers.

But the latest disclosures are far from reassuring. In late September, the war room was still under construction. With less than a month to go before the American midterms, is Facebook really ready for its next big test?

(NYTImes editorial, 10/7/18)

Ray Myers

P.S. I will be taking a fall break and will blog again on Wednesday, 10/17)

Phoney Diplomacy, the “African Queen,” First Lady Shows Happy Side in Ghana

CAPE COAST, Ghana — With the unrelenting Ghanaian sun serving as her spotlight, Melania Trump has stepped out of her husband’s shadow, apparently showing the world what some 5,200 miles of breathing room away from her home city can do.

On Wednesday morning, on the second day of a four-nation African tour, the first lady looked more comfortable striding into a meeting with local leaders on the coast of Ghana than she has perhaps ever looked in Washington.

Given the bedlam of late in the American capital, that may be understandable. But as she makes her first big solo trip abroad, Mrs. Trump seems ready to show another side of herself: the happy one.

Mrs. Trump has offered simple acts of grace on behalf of an administration with a fraught diplomatic history with Africa. She has spent much of her time just expressing appreciation to her hosts.

“Thank you very much for having me,” she told the Ghanaian first lady, Rebecca Akufo-Addo, when the two met.

“Thank you for having me,” she said to a small cluster of Ghanaians before entering a palace hall.

“Thank you for your warm welcome,” she signed in the guest book of a stone fort through which thousands of enslaved people once passe

From the moment she touched down here on Tuesday, Mrs. Trump has done her best to soften the image of an administration known for its sharp elbows, and of a president who outraged many Africans with his disparaging remarks.

How well it will work remains to be seen.

Marie-Franz Fordjoe, a journalist, said it might take more than a visit from Mrs. Trump to heal the bruised feelings. The visit, she said, is “insignificant, as we are very much aware of President Trump’s isolationist foreign policy and his overt aversion to people of color.”

There, as the waves of the Gulf of Guinea crashed against the shore, the first lady wandered the passageways, poking her head into hatches that offered a view into the depths of ancient dungeons where slaves were kept in hellish conditions until they were sent abroad. (When Mr. Obama visited, he said the castle “reminds us of the capacity of human beings to commit great evil.”)

Mrs. Trump spent a few minutes in a dungeon that once housed male slaves before they were dragged across the threshold of the “door of no return” and to waiting ships. She paused at the archway — and then stepped through.

Mrs. Trump generally avoids journalists, but at the castle on Wednesdaykk, she fielded their questions. Her tone was sober.

“I will never forget the incredible experience and the stories that I heard,” she said. “The dungeons that I saw — it’s really something that people should see and experience what happened so many years ago. It’s really a tragedy.”

Mrs. Trump’s visit has so far lacked much fanfare.

In Cape Coast, a group of men at the palace strung up a large welcome sign in the courtyard in which it appeared that her first name had initially been misspelled. In Accra, the Ghanaian capital, the usual buzz associated with a visiting high-profile personality seemed to be missing.

Nana Amba Eyiaba, queen mother of Cape Coast, said Ghanaians had anticipated Mrs. Trump’s visit with a mixture of excitement and anxiety.

Katie Rogers, NYTimes, Oct. 6, 1018

Ray Myers

Challenge to Designers: Keep Drivers Focused – Too Many Distractions, Technology Apps Too

By Eric A. Taub

Sept. 27, 2018, NY Times

The large rubber strip that I was speeding toward on the Ventura Freeway near. Los Angeles looked easy enough to avoid. I swerved, but not enough.

That strip was actually metal, however, and it ripped through my right front tire, which went spinning across four lanes of the freeway. Moments later, I was driving 80 miles an hour with one bare metal wheel, sparks flying. I pulled onto a median to await a tow truck, worried for our safety as cars screamed past.

I had been looking at my wife for about four seconds before glancing back at the road. Had I just become a victim of distracted driving? The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration would probably say yes.

Drivers should never take their eyes off the road for more than two seconds at a time, the agency says. The Auto Alliance, a manufacturers’ trade group, agrees. “The odds of a crash double if your eyes are off the road for more than two seconds,” said Wade Newton, a spokesman.

(Excerpt from NYTimes article)

Ray Myers

Google Chief Executive Will Testify to Congress

WASHINGTON — Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, toured the nation’s capital this week trying to assuage concerns from both parties about the company’s size and influence, and whether its search results have political bias.

Mr. Pichai, who had largely avoided meeting with lawmakers, will be coming back.

Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, who organized a meeting with Mr. Pichai on Friday, said he expected him to attend a congressional hearing later this year. The hearing will address questions of political bias, as well as Google’s potential plans to re-enter the Chinese market, said Mr. McCarthy, the House majority leader.

Mr. Pichai confirmed in a statement that he would testify in “due course.”

In addition, he has agreed to participate in a discussion with other tech industry leaders and President Trump, said Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council.

Google had declined to send Mr. Pichai to testify this month at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about foreign manipulation of social media. The absence upset many lawmakers, leading to his visit this week.

Mr. McCarthy has been one of the most vocal critics of Google, raising accusations that the search engine purposely suppresses conservative views in its results. He has accused Twitter and Facebook of similar bias, joined by other Republican lawmakers who point to the liberal leanings of Silicon Valley as motivation to skew the discovery of information.

The meeting on Friday with Mr. Pichai, which Mr. McCarthy and eight other Republican lawmakers attended, seemed to smooth over relations. But suspicions of political bias remained.

“I see a hearing right now looking at bias, looking at all the issues we talked about, from privacy to China,” Mr. McCarthy said after the meeting. He does not expect the hearing to focus on antitrust concerns and whether Google should be broken up, he added.

After avoiding much of the scrutiny heaped upon its internet rivals over the last year, Google has been thrust into the harsh spotlight in recent weeks. Conservatives have accused the company of using its dominance of online search to provide results slanted against Republicans — a charge the company denies.

Mr. Pichai’s no-show at the hearing this month — captured by images of an empty seat alongside executives from Facebook and Twitter — added to the rancor. Leaks of employee emails discussing ways to counter President Trump’s immigration policy, and video of a companywide meeting that showed executives lamenting his election victory, have also fueled the allegations of bias.

Mr. McCarthy said Mr. Pichai had explained how search worked and how Google’s algorithm, which the company keeps secret, changes over time. In the past, Google has said political ideology is not a factor in any aspect of its search results. It does not, according to the company, collect information about whether a user is conservative or liberal, or categorize web pages by political leanings.

On Thursday and Friday, Mr. Pichai also had meetings with Democratic lawmakers, including one with Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader.

Mr. Pichai, in the statement, said the discussions over the two days “with a wide range of congressional leaders were constructive and informative.”

Cecilia Kang reported from Washington, and Daisuke Wakabayashi from San Francisco. (NYTImes,9/19/18)

Ray Myers