Facebook’s Zuckerberg Comes Under Fire From UK, US Lawmakers

Lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic criticized Facebook and its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, after reports surfaced that another company, Cambridge Analytica, improperly harvested information from 50 million Facebook users.

A British lawmaker accused Facebook on Sunday of misleading officials by downplaying the risk of users’ data being shared without their consent.

Conservative legislator Damian Collins, who heads the British Parliament’s media committee, said he would ask Zuckerberg or another Facebook executive to appear before his panel, which is investigating disinformation and “fake news.”

Collins said Facebook has “consistently understated” the risk of data leaks and gave misleading answers to the committee.

“Someone has to take responsibility for this,” he said. “It’s time for Mark Zuckerberg to stop hiding behind his Facebook page.”

Collins also accused the head of the U.K.-based data firm Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix, of lying. Nix told the committee last month that his firm had not received data from a researcher accused of obtaining millions of Facebook users’ personal information.

In Washington, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, said on Twitter that Zuckerberg “needs to testify before Senate Judiciary.”

“This is a major breach that must be investigated,” Klobuchar, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said. “It’s clear these platforms can’t police themselves.”

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, echoed Klobuchar’s complaint.

“This is more evidence that the online political advertising market is essentially the Wild West,” he said. “It’s clear that, left unregulated, this market will continue to be prone to deception and lacking in transparency.”

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said on Twitter that “Massachusetts residents deserve answers” and announced that her office will investigate.

The officials reacted to reports in The New York Times and The Guardian of London that Cambridge Analytica, which is best known for working on President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, had improperly obtained Facebook user data and retained it after claiming it had deleted the information.

Former Cambridge Analytica employee Chris Wylie said that the company obtained information from 50 million Facebook users, using it to build psychological profiles so voters could be targeted with ads and stories.

Wylie told Britain’s Channel 4 news that the company was able to amass a huge database very quickly from an app developed by an academic that vacuumed up data from Facebook users who agreed to fill out a survey, as well as their friends and contacts – a process of which most were unaware.

“Imagine I go and ask you: I say, ‘Hey, if I give you a dollar, two dollars, could you fill up this survey for me, just do it on this app’, and you say, ‘Fine,'” he said. “I don’t just capture what your responses are, I capture all of the information about you from Facebook. But also this app then crawls through your social network and captures all of that data also.”

Wylie said that allowed the company to get roughly “50 million plus” Facebook records in several months and he criticized Facebook for facilitating the process.

“Why Facebook didn’t make more inquiries when they started seeing that, you know, tens of millions of records were being pulled this way, I don’t know,” he said.

Lawmaker Collins said he would summon Nix to reappear before the Parliament committee.

“It seems clear that he has deliberately misled the committee and Parliament by giving false statements,” Collins said.

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

AP Exclusive: Kushner Cos. Filed False NYC Housing Ppaperwork

When the Kushner Cos. bought three apartment buildings in a gentrifying neighborhood of Queens in 2015, most of the tenants were protected by special rules that prevent developers from pushing them out, raising rents and turning a tidy profit.

But that’s exactly what the company then run by Jared Kushner did, and with remarkable speed. Two years later, it sold all three buildings for $60 million, nearly 50 percent more than it paid.

Now a clue has emerged as to how President Donald Trump’s son-in-law’s firm was able to move so fast: The Kushner Cos. routinely filed false paperwork with the city declaring it had zero rent-regulated tenants in dozens of buildings it owned across the city when, in fact, it had hundreds.

While none of the documents during a three-year period when Kushner was CEO bore his personal signature, they provide a window into the ethics of the business empire he ran before he went on to become one of the most trusted advisers to the president of the United States.

“It’s bare-faced greed,” said Aaron Carr, founder of Housing Rights Initiative, a tenants’ rights watchdog that compiled the work permit application documents and shared them with The Associated Press. “The fact that the company was falsifying all these applications with the government shows a sordid attempt to avert accountability and get a rapid return on its investment.”

Kushner Cos. responded in a statement that it outsources the preparation of such documents to third parties that are reviewed by independent counsel, and “if mistakes or violations are identified, corrective action is taken immediately.”

“Kushner would never deny any tenant their due-process rights,” it said, adding that the company “has renovated thousands of apartments and developments with minimal complaints over the past 30 years.”

For the three Queens buildings in the borough’s Astoria neighborhood, the Kushner Cos. checked a box on construction permit applications in 2015 that indicated the buildings had zero rent-regulated tenants. Tax records filed a few months later showed the company inherited as many as 94 rent-regulated units from the previous owner.

In all, Housing Rights Initiative found the Kushner Cos. filed at least 80 false applications for construction permits in 34 buildings across New York City from 2013 to 2016, all of them indicating there were no rent-regulated tenants. Instead, tax documents show there were more than 300 rent-regulated units. Nearly all the permit applications were signed by a Kushner employee, including sometimes the chief operating officer.

Had the Kushner Cos. disclosed those rent-regulated tenants, it could have triggered stricter oversight of construction crews by the city, including possibly unscheduled “sweeps” on site by inspectors to keep the company from harassing tenants and getting them to leave.

Instead, current and former tenants of the Queens buildings told the AP that they were subjected to extensive construction, with banging, drilling, dust and leaking water that they believe were part of targeted harassment to get them to leave and clear the way for higher-paying renters.

“It was noisy, there were complaints, I got mice,” said mailman Rudolph Romano, adding that he also bristled at a 60 percent rent increase, a hike the Kushner Cos. contends was initiated by the previous landord. “They cleaned the place out. I watched the whole building leave.”

Tax records show those rent-regulated units that numbered as many as 94 when Kushner took over fell to 25 by 2016.

In Kushner buildings across the city, records show frequent complaints about construction going on early in the morning or late at night against the rules, improper or illegal construction, and work without a permit.

At a six-story walk-up in Manhattan’s East Village that was once home to the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, the Kushner Cos. filed an application to begin construction in late 2013 that, again, listed zero rent-regulated tenants. Tax records a few months later showed seven rent-regulated units.

“All of a sudden, there was drilling, drilling. … You heard the drilling in the middle of night,” said one of the rent-regulated tenants, Mary Ann Siwek, 67, who lives on Social Security payments and odd jobs. “There were rats coming in from the abandoned building next door. The hallways were always filled with lumber and sawdust and plaster.”

A knock on the door came a few weeks later, and an offer of at least $10,000 if she agreed to leave the building.

“I know it’s pretty horrible, but we can help you get out,” Siwek recalls the man saying. “We can offer you money.”

Siwek turned down the cash and sued instead. She said she won a year’s worth of free rent and a new refrigerator.

New York City Council member Ritchie Torres, who plans to launch an investigation into permit applications, said: “The Kushners appear to be engaging in what I call the weaponization of construction.”

Rent stabilization is a fixture of New York City that can bedevil developers seeking to make money off buildings. To free themselves of its restrictions, landlords usually have to wait until the rent rises above $2,733 a month, something that can take years given the small increases allowed each year.

Submitting false documents to the city’s Department of Buildings for construction permits is a misdemeanor, which can carry fines of up to $25,000. But real estate experts say it is often flouted with little to no consequences. Landlords who do so get off with no more than a demand from the city, sometimes a year or more later, to file an “amended” form with the correct numbers.

Housing Rights Initiative found the Kushner Cos. filed dozens of amended forms for the buildings mentioned in the documents, most of them a year to two later.

“There is a lack of tools to go after landlords who harass tenants, and there is a lack of enforcement,” said Seth Miller, a real estate lawyer who used to work at a state housing agency overseeing rent regulations. Until officials inspect every construction site, “you’re going to have this incentive for landlords to make life uncomfortable for tenants.”

New York City’s Department of Buildings did not comment in general about the false filings by the Kushner Cos., but said it disciplined a contractor who filed false documents while working on two of the Queens buildings, which are currently under investigation by a tenant-harassment task force. It added that the department is also ramping up its monitoring of construction, hiring 72 new inspectors under city laws recently passed to crack down on tenant harassment.

“We won’t tolerate landlords who use construction to harass tenants – no matter who they are,” spokesman Joseph Soldevere said.

Exactly how much money the Kushner Cos. earned from the buildings mentioned in the documents is unclear. Of those 34 buildings, only the three in Queens and a fourth in Brooklyn appear to have been sold. The company also likely made money by reducing the number of rent-regulated tenants and bringing in those who would pay more.

Jared Kushner, who stepped down as CEO of the Kushner Cos. last year before taking on his advisory role at the White House, sold off part of his real estate holdings as required under government ethics rules. But he retained stakes in many properties, including Westminster Management, the Kushner Cos. subsidiary that oversees its residential properties. A financial disclosure last year showed he still owns a stake in Westminster and earned $1.6 million from the holding.

Back in Queens, the mailman Romano was one of the few rent-regulated tenants who fought back.

He hired a lawyer who found out he was protected from the 60-percent rent hike by law, something Romano did not know at the time. And he said his rent, which was set to increase to $3,750, was restored to $2,350.

Romano is still in the building where he has lived for nine years, with his wife, four children and his guests from the construction days – the mice.

“I still haven’t gotten rid of them.”

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

Путін про речовину, якою отруїли Скрипаля: у Росії немає таких засобів

Президент Росії Володимир Путін заперечив причетність його країни до отруєння колишнього російського шпигуна Сергія Скрипаля і його дочки.

«Що стосується тієї трагедії, я дізнався про неї зі ЗМІ й перше, що спадає на думку – якби це була бойова отруйна речовина, люди, звичайно, загинули б на місці, це очевидний факт… У Росії немає таких засобів, ми всю нашу хімічну зброю знищили під контролем міжнародних спостерігачів», – сказав Путін.

Екс-розвідника Сергія Скрипаля і його дочку Юлію виявили 4 березня непритомними на лавці в парку міста Солсбері на півдні країни. Пізніше британські слідчі встановили, що їх отруїли нервово-паралітичною речовиною «Новачок», яку розробили в Росії. 66-річний Сергій Скрипаль і його 33-річна дочка Юлія перебувають у лікарні в «критичному, але стабільному» стані.

14 березня прем’єр-міністр Великої Британії Тереза Мей звинуватила Росію в отруєнні Скрипаля і його дочки й оголосила про вислання 23 російських дипломатів. Цей захід підтримали в адміністрації президента США. Про розробку подібних санкцій також оголосив президент Франції.

17 березня Росія оголосила про вислання 23 британських дипломатів, скасувала відкриття генконсульства Великобританії в Санкт-Петербурзі, а також заявила про припинення діяльності Британської Ради.

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

Путін про обмеження доступу до російських дипустанов в Україні: це неподобство

Президент Росії Володимир Путін назвав «неподобством» обмеження доступу до російських дипломатичних установ в Україні 18 березня, у день виборів президента Росії.

«Це неподобство, це порушення всіх загальновизнаних міжнародних норм… Ми не будемо відповідати яким-небудь обмеженнями, а, навпаки, зробимо все, щоб українці почували себе в Росії як вдома», – сказав Путін у своєму штабі.

18 березня в Росії відбулися вибори президента. За попередніми даними, на них у першому турі переміг чинний глава держави, отримавши понад 70% голосів.

16 березня Міністерство внутрішніх справ України заявило, що в день проведення в Росії президентських виборів на територію російських дипломатичних представництв в Україні (посольства в Києві, генеральних консульств у Львові, Одесі і Харкові) громадяни Росії допускатися не будуть, за винятком осіб із дипломатичним статусом.

У Росії у відповідь звинуватили Україну в «порушенні міжнародних зобов’язань і міжнародного права» і навіть у «втручанні у внутрішні справи Росії».

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

ЦВК Росії опрацювала 40% бюлетенів, Путін лідирує із 74% голосів

Центральна виборча комісія Росії опрацювала 40,01% бюлетенів на виборах президента.

За попередніми даними, чинний президент Росії Володимир Путін набирає 74,22% голосів. Другим іде кандидат від Комуністичної партії Павло Грудінін (14,03%), третім – лідер ЛДПР Володимир Жириновський (6,51%), а четвертою – кандидатка від партії «Громадянська ініціатива» Ксенія Собчак (1,41%).

Путін уже виступив перед своїми прихильниками на Манежній площі в Москві й подякував їм за підтримку. Він заявив, що на Росію «чекає успіх».

65-річний Володимир Путін фактично керує Росією з 31 грудня 1999-го, коли подав у відставку попередній президент Борис Єльцин. У 2008-2012 роках президентом був обраний Дмитро Медведєв. Сам Путін не балотувався на виборах через законодавчі обмеження. У цей період він обіймав посаду прем’єр-міністра.

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

New York Starts Construction of Morphing Art Stage

Artists and their audiences in New York City will soon have access to a giant stage that can morph into different shapes. “The Shed,” being built on Manhattan’s West Side, will invite visual and performance artists to experiment with a transformable space in which they can present their art. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

In California, Men Can Get Their Blood Pressure Checked in Barbershops

Visiting the doctor to get your blood pressure checked might be stressful and time consuming, but what if you could get a check-up at your regular barbershop instead? That’s the idea behind a recent study in Los Angeles, where pharmacists are working with 52 barbershops to try to help African-American men, who have higher rates of high blood pressure than other ethnic groups. Faiza Elmasry has the story, narrated by Faith Lapidus.

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

Women ‘Weed Warriors’ Leading the Way in US Pot Revolution

The pot revolution is alive and well in the state of Colorado where recreational cannabis has been legal since 2014. While the full impact of legal marijuana in Colorado has yet to be determined, what is clear is that cannabis has become a giant moneymaker for the state. And as Paula Vargas reports from Denver, women entrepreneurs — weed warriors, as some have called them — are leading the way.

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

Північна Корея і Швеція завершили переговори у Стокгольмі

Міністри закордонних справ Північної Кореї і Швеції, яка представляє перед Пхеньяном інтереси США, завершили триденні переговори у шведській столиці Стокгольмі про ситуацію з безпекою на Корейському півострові, повідомило Міністерство закордонних справ Швецію.

Міністри Рі Йон Хо і Марґот Вальстрем «обговорили можливості і виклики щодо тривалих дипломатичних зусиль із метою досягти мирного вирішення конфлікту», мовиться в повідомленні.

Швеція, посольство якої у Пхеньяні представляє перед Північною Кореєю інтереси США, закликала Північну Корею відмовитися від ядерної зброї і від ракетної програми, відповідно до резолюцій Ради безпеки ООН, повідомило шведське МЗС.

Як додав речник Вальстрем, голова шведської дипломатії після цієї зустрічі вже 19 березня зустрінеться у Брюсселі з головою МЗС Південної Кореї.

Візит чільного північнокорейського дипломата до Стокгольма став першим значним дипломатичним кроком Пхеньяна від часу, коли президент США Дональд Трамп заявив раніше цього місяця, що хотів би зустрітися з керівником Північної Кореї Кім Чен Ином.

Північна Корея досі офіційно не коментувала можливості особистої зустрічі двох керівників, відколи Трамп прийняв запрошення Кіма з приводу такої зустрічі, яке йому усно передала делегація Південної Кореї.

Швецію вважають одним із можливих місць для такої зустрічі, якщо вона відбудеться.

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.