Day: January 15, 2020

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The Evil List…


Maybe it was fake news, Russian trolls, and Cambridge Analytica. Or Travis Kalanick’s conniption in an Uber. Or the unmasking of Theranos. Or all those Twitter Nazis, and racist Google results, and conspiracy theories on YouTube. Though activists, academics, reporters, and regulators had sent up warning flares for years, it wasn’t until quite recently that the era of enchantment with Silicon Valley ended. The list of scandals—over user privacy and security, over corporate surveillance and data collection, over fraud and foreign propaganda and algorithmic bias, to name a few—was as unending as your Instagram feed. There were hearings, resignations, investigations, major new regulations in Europe, and calls for new laws at home. There was an industry that insisted it now valued privacy and safety but still acted otherwise. There was WeWork, whatever that was.

The tech industry doesn’t intoxicate us like it did just a few years ago. Keeping up with its problems—and its fixes, and its fixes that cause new problems—is dizzying. Separating out the meaningful threats from the noise is hard. Is Facebook really the danger to democracy it looks like? Is Uber really worse than the system it replaced? Isn’t Amazon’s same-day delivery worth it? Which harms are real and which are hypothetical? Has the techlash gotten it right? And which of these companies is really the worst? Which ones might be, well, evil?

We don’t mean evil in the mustache-twirling, burn-the-world-from-a-secret-lair sense—well, we mostly don’t mean that—but rather in the way Googlers once swore to avoid mission drift, respect their users, and spurn short-term profiteering, even though the company now regularly faces scandals in which it has violated its users’ or workers’ trust. We mean ills that outweigh conveniences. We mean temptations and poison pills and unanticipated outcomes.

Which brings us to this list. Slate sent ballots to a wide range of journalists, scholars, advocates, and others who have been thinking critically about technology for years. We asked them to tell us which tech companies they are most concerned about, and we let them decide for themselves what counts as “concerning.” We told them to define the category of technology companies as narrowly or broadly as they liked, which is how, say, Exxon Mobil made the list. Each respondent ranked as many as 10 companies—subsidiaries counted as part of parent corporations—with more points going to the choices they placed at the top. Then we added up their votes and got this.

What did we find? While the major U.S. tech companies topped the vote—read on to find out which came in at No. 1—our respondents are deeply concerned about foreign companies dabbling in surveillance and A.I., as well as the domestic gunners that power the data-broker business. No one thinks Twitter is the worst thing that could happen to a planet, but a lot of people worry about it a little. Companies with the potential to do harm can be as distressing as those with long records of producing it. Privacy people care a lot about misinformation, but misinformation people might not be so worried about privacy. Almost everyone distrusts Peter Thiel. And some people don’t have a problem with Amazon or Apple or even Facebook at all—which is why we included dissents for many of the top companies on our list.

We hope you’ll argue over this attempt at finding consensus, make your own mental list, and decide which concerns expressed here are too mild, totally overblown, or exactly right. —Jonathan L. Fischer

Entries compiled by Jonathan L. Fischer and Aaron Mak

A figure spying.

Gwendal Le Bec

30

mSpy

Year founded: 2010

Founder: Andrei Shimanovich

What it is: A phone-spying software company that allows users to monitor another person’s messages, locations, social media, browsing histories, calls, and other digital activity. Marketed to parents, the product is essentially the ultimate cyberstalking tool.

One evil thing:

Our respondents say: “I am most troubled by the growth of cyberstalking apps (pitched as legitimate help for parents and employers and deployed by domestic abusers).” —Danielle Citron, Boston University School of Law

29

Cellebrite

Year founded: 1999

Co-CEOs: Yossi Carmil and Rob Serber

What it is: A forensics company based in Israel that breaks into personal devices (cost to unlock a phone: $1,500) on behalf of its clients, which are often law enforcement or other government entities.

One evil thing: In 2017, authorities in Myanmar arrested two Reuters journalists who were covering the genocide of Rohingya Muslims. A police officer who had apparently received training from Cellebrite used the company’s technology to infiltrate the journalists’ phones. The government then used the documents the officer found as evidence in its trial against the reporters, who were sentenced to seven years in prison. (Cellebrite has declined to comment on the incident and left the Myanmar market in 2018. The reporters were eventually released in 2019.)

28

Baidu

Year founded: 2000

Co-founder and CEO: Robin Li

What it is: The Chinese multinational is the second-largest search engine and smart-speaker vendor in the world.

One evil thing: Baidu, which controls two-thirds of China’s online search market, appears to have been active in suppressing information about the 2019 pro-democracy protests.

Our respondents say: “One of the things we’ve realized in the past two decades about tech is that it’s indisputably not neutral: platforms and products have cultural norms and biases built into them by the architects and policymakers. Baidu works in concert with the Chinese government to censor and surveil its users. As we move into the next decade, Baidu will unequivocally be one of the tools China uses to continue to control its own citizens and expand its reach.” —Kate Klonick, St. John’s University Law School

27

The Grid

Customers throughout the United States: 145 million

Infrastructural collapse.

Gwendal Le Bec

What it is: The loosely connected networks, composed of government utilities and private companies, that distribute electricity to homes and businesses across the country. The grid is a vital—yet distressingly fragile—touchstone of modern society.

One evil thing: National security officials have become increasingly concerned about the prospect of a foreign power, particularly Russia, disrupting the U.S. grid with a cyberattack. As it turns out, some of the country’s biggest power companies may not be prepared in such an event. The North American Electric Reliability Corp., a nonprofit regulatory organization, has fined some of the country’s largest power companies—such as PG&E, DTE Energy, and Duke Energy—in recent years for inadequate infrastructure protections. Duke Energy, a utility based in North Carolina that operates in seven states, agreed to a $10 million fine in February, the largest in NERC history. NERC reportedly found 127 violations of safety rules, including a system configuration error that would have left Duke unaware of certain types of hacks over a six-month period. Duke had also allegedly allowed employees and contractors without proper clearance to access critical digital records for more than four years and did not use multifactor authentication for some sensitive computer systems.

Our respondents say: “Aside from a nuclear weapon detonation in or near a populous area, it’s difficult to imagine a more disruptive event that could have long-term catastrophic effects on our economy and way of life than one that disrupts the flow of power on a large scale, and yet we simply do not have enough focus and expertise to reduce the complexity of the grid and ensure its safety and reliability. … It’s not clear whether many of these companies have the expertise and ability to tell the difference between an incident that has its roots in a cyberattack and one that is prompted by other causes (or a combination of the two).” —Brian Krebs, Krebsonsecurity.com.

26

Vigilant Solutions

Year founded: 2005

Founder and president: Shawn Smith

What it is: An artificial intelligence and analytics company that sells police departments surveillance tools, which can help them to skirt the Fourth Amendment.

One evil thing: Every month, the company uses automated readers to scan between 150 million and 200 million photos of license plates captured by cameras in malls, parking lots, and residential neighborhoods. In March, the ACLU sued Immigration and Customs Enforcement over its use of a license plate database maintained by Vigilant to track the cars of undocumented immigrants.

Our respondents say: “Vigilant has amassed billions of data points of location information. They contract with police departments across the country to add another layer of surveillance to the already expansive web of tracking powers available to law enforcement. Having the ability to trace people’s movements through space directly restricts our freedom of movement and association.” —Chris Gilliard, Macomb Community College

25

Megvii

Year founded: 2011

Co-founder and CEO: Qi Yin

What it is: A $4 billion deep-learning A.I. company focused on facial recognition that will soon debut on the Hong Kong stock market, and which the Trump administration blacklisted in October for allegedly abetting efforts to suppress Uighurs in Xinjiang. Megvii’s tech has been integrated as an ID verification feature in ride-sharing apps, payment systems, retail stores, photo retouching tools, office security infrastructure, and public transportation. The ubiquity of Face++ in the country has helped to make the population more comfortable with an authoritarian technology for the sake of convenience.

One evil thing: The Chinese government has used Face++ to track down criminals as part of its SkyNet system, which uses 170 million security cameras and was once able to locate a BBC reporter in seven minutes.

Our respondents say: “These technologies are the proof of concept for what Amazon has yet to achieve, and their rollout moves the world closer to universal facial recognition surveillance everywhere.” —Julie Cohen, Georgetown University Law Center

24

Airbnb

Year founded: 2008

Co-founder and CEO: Brian Chesky

People getting booted off of a cliff out of a structure.

Gwendal Le Bec

What it is: A lodging platform that makes it cheaper and easier to plan that weekend getaway, but also diminishes long-term housing options and causes rent hikes in neighborhoods around the world.

One evil thing: In 2018, the New Orleans housing rights group Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative released a study indicating that Airbnb was exacerbating the city’s shortage of long-term housing and displacing residents in its low-income neighborhoods. The report found that some investors were purchasing New Orleans properties, evicting their tenants, and converting them into short-term rental spaces, aka Airbnbs. In Bywater, a neighborhood with one of the highest concentrations of short-term rental properties in New Orleans, the median listing price to rent a three-bedroom home rose by 72 percent from 2009 to 2015.

23

Anduril Industries

Year founded: 2017

Co-founder: Palmer Luckey

Co-founder and CEO: Brian Schimpf

What it is: After selling his virtual reality startup Oculus to Facebook and then leaving the social giant under hazy circumstances (allegedly because of donations to a misogynistic, racist pro-Trump group), the then-24-year-old Palmer Luckey founded the A.I. defense firm Anduril, named for a mystical sword in Lord of the Rings and staffed with former Palantir (see: Evil List No. 4) executives.

One evil thing: Anduril is earning millions of dollars by helping the Trump administration create a virtual border wall of solar-powered surveillance towers with A.I.-enabled sensors and cameras, which the immigrants’ rights group Mijente says is part of “a surveillance apparatus where algorithms are trained to implement racist and xenophobic policies.”

22

IBM

Year founded: 1911

President and CEO: Ginni Rometty

What it is: A multinational IT infrastructure company that was responsible for the invention of the ATM, the hard disk drive, and the Watson A.I. computer. (And yes, that infamously supplied the Third Reich with punch card technology that helped organize and facilitate the Holocaust.)

One evil thing: The city of Los Angeles alleges in an ongoing 2019 lawsuit that the Weather Co., a subsidiary of IBM, did not clearly notify users that it was collecting their private locations with the Weather Channel app. The app encouraged its 45 million active monthly users to grant it access to their locations to get more personalized local weather data and then allowed IBM’s Watson Advertising products to monetize the coordinates.
IBM says it made the appropriate disclosures and would defend its data-collection practices.

21

Cloudflare

Year founded: 2009

Co-founder and CEO: Matthew Prince

What it is: An internet infrastructure company that assists websites with content delivery and cybersecurity. Cloudflare’s services for blocking automated DDoS attacks are particularly crucial to the viability of any website; the New York Times has described CEO Matthew Prince as “one of several internet executives with control over the web’s most basic infrastructure.”

One evil thing: In late December, the New York Times reported that the operator of three websites containing more than 18,000 pornographic images of children had been using Cloudflare’s cyberattack-prevention services to conceal their internet addresses and thus avoid detection. Though Cloudflare claims it has cut ties to these and other such websites in the past, Canadian nonprofits dedicated to fighting child sex abuse have accused the company of being slow to take action even after being notified (the company responded at the time that it worked closely with the nonprofits and law enforcement to remove several websites). With a couple of notable exceptions like 8chan, Cloudflare has generally refused to accept responsibility for the websites it protects, which include forums for hateful and violent content.

Speaking of 8Chan …

20

8kun (formerly 8chan)

Year founded: 2013

Owner: Jim Watkins

What it is: The anything-awful-goes message board founded for users who felt they couldn’t fly their edgelord flags on the slightly less vile 4chan, 8chan was deplatformed by its service providers, including Cloudflare, in August following the massacre of 22 people in an El Paso, Texas, Walmart—marking the third time in 2019 that a shooter posted a racist manifesto to 8chan before setting out to kill. The site returned this past fall as 8kun after owner Jim Watkins apologized to his users for the inconvenience in a chilling, rambling video.

One evil thing: In addition to everything else, such manners!

Our respondents say: “It’s an object lesson in how sites that traffic in hatred for women will inevitably end up inciting other forms of violent bigotry.” —Mary Anne Franks, University of Miami School of Law

19

Oracle

Year founded: 1977

CEO: Safra Catz

What it is: A cloud computing and database management company that has captured 3.9 percent of the global market for enterprise cloud software.

One evil thing: Oracle acquired the Java programming language in 2010 and proceeded to sue Google for infringing on the copyrights. Google had previously rewritten Java APIs, which are lines of code that allow different programs to communicate with one another, so that coders could build Java apps that would be compatible with the Android operating system. If the Supreme Court agrees with Oracle’s claim that it owns the rights to the Java APIs, that precedent could make it harder for people to develop innovative software that functions across different platforms.

Our respondents say: “Oracle’s mission to copyright APIs is a terrifying example of the worst kind of tech issue: something totally boring and esoteric and simultaneously incredibly important. Oracle’s theory is bonkers, and has been propped up by a huge, expensive, shadowy astroturf campaign. It takes a lot to make me feel like Google is being victimized by a bully, but Oracle managed it.” —Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing and the Electronic Frontier Front

18

23andMe

Year founded: 2006

CEO: Anne Wojcicki

What it is: One of the largest consumer genetic testing companies, 23andMe has helped millions of people discover unexplored boughs of their family trees. The service has also created DNA databases that can identify (and help law enforcement identify) huge swaths of the population in the process. Similar databases have led to the capture of suspected serial killers. While 23andMe has resisted snooping from law enforcement, the courts may eventually force the company to provide access to its customers’ data. Given 23andMe’s reach, even people who have not signed up for the service would be forfeiting their genetic privacy in such an event.

One evil thing: At the Time 100 Health Summit in October, Wojcicki said of concerns about DNA privacy, “The reality is that, with a new technology, it just takes time for people to become comfortable with it.” The statement made headlines because it precisely articulated the gradual social acceptance of genetic genealogy that privacy advocates have been warning against.

Our respondents say: “Families delight in gifting each other these genetic tests and comparing their results. Meanwhile, the company is quickly building a huge genetic database, and in some cases, sharing that data with partners like GlaxoSmithKline for studies; in coming years, there’s no telling how individuals’ genetic data might be used, or worse yet, what could happen if that database is ever compromised.”  Jane Hu, Slate contributor

17

SpaceX

Year founded: 2002

CEO: Elon Musk

COO and President: Gwynne Shotwell

What it is: The other Elon Musk company (but not that one or that one), the pioneering SpaceX was the first private company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station and also the first private company whose founder borrowed its engineers for a pointless attempt to rescue the Thai boys’ soccer team trapped in a cave by using a custom-built submarine. For some reason, in 2018, SpaceX sent a Tesla Roadster into space, while at the same time the company has fallen behind on creating spacecraft to ferry actual U.S. astronauts. In other words, SpaceX isn’t immune to the whims of its owner, who wants to eventually colonize Mars.

One evil thing: As of this month, SpaceX has launched 180 Starlink satellites, which are intended to beam down internet access. Cool, right? Unfortunately, astronomers say the satellites are disrupting their work because they are not painted black. This isn’t exactly evil, but “in order to get detailed observations of distant cosmic objects, astronomers typically take long-exposure images of the night sky with ground-based telescopes,” the Verge recently reported. “Whenever a bright satellite passes through the telescope’s field of view, it creates a white streak through the picture, obscuring the result.” SpaceX is trying to correct for the problem but doesn’t know if its new darker coating will withstand space travel.

16

Verizon

Year founded: 1983

CEO: Hans Vestberg

What it is: A telecommunications giant that turned the phrase “Can you hear me now?” into a cultural phenomenon—and also waged a number of destructive and cynical campaigns against net neutrality, antitrust provisions, and consumer protections.

One evil thing:

An Ars Technica headline that says, "Verizon throttled fire department's 'unlimited' data during Calif. wildfire."

Our respondents say: “A ‘biggest telecoms’ slot is cheating, but Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile’s combined disdain for their customers’ privacy, anti-competitive maneuvering against net neutrality, ceaseless attempts to stymie competitors through relentless lobbying of everyone from town councils considering municipal broadband to Congress and the FCC make these companies a deeply venal portion of the ecosystem. You can see some variation in their shared patterns of shady practices: Verizon, for example, was marginally better behaved relative to its peers in the location-data-selling mess that started unfolding about a year ago (it claims to have stopped selling location data without consent first). But it also owns Oath, which agreed to settle the claim that it illegally tracked children last year. Verizon throttled the Santa Clara Fire Department and then coerced it into paying for a more expensive plan so that it could continue fighting fires. And it has a history of unethically tracking its customers. The Silicon Valley companies deserve all the scrutiny they’re getting and then some, but so do the companies that have been fleecing consumers since long before Mark Zuckerberg ever entered his first dorm room.” —Lindsey Barrett, Institute for Public Representation, Georgetown University Law Center

15

Disney

Year founded: 1923

CEO: Robert Iger

What it is: The wholesome entertainment conglomerate—and now streaming-video challenger—that has attracted the attention of antitrust enthusiasts because of its swallowing, over the past 30 years, of ABC, ESPN, Pixar, Lucasfilm, Marvel Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, and more.

One evil thing: Beloved films from the Twentieth Century Fox catalog that were popular among second-run movie theaters have been disappearing from circulation. Now that the famously restrictive Disney owns the studio, it’s pulled films like 1976’s The Omen and the 1986 remake of The Fly out of repertory, as New York magazine reported in October. Perhaps not super-evil, but also not cool.

Our respondents say: “The one surprise in my list may be Disney—though it obviously is like many other tech firms in aggressively pursuing copyrights. Two answers to this: First, as social media and streaming video take hold, Disney, like all other media firms, is finding itself forced to be a tech company. Second, Disney and other firms in the copyrighted content space have long had a great deal of influence over the trajectory of technology development: They nearly killed off the VCR, arguably did kill off peer-to-peer technology, and have enshrined into law numerous complications and complexities into technology development in order to protect their copyrights.” —Charles Duan, R Street Institute

14

Tesla

Year founded: 2003

CEO: Elon Musk

What it is: The industry-changing electric vehicle–maker may be mockable for having a fan base as toxic as Star Wars’, for its foible- and fine-prone CEO, and for whatever the Cybertruck is. But Tesla truly is worrisome because of its troubled record of worker safety and its dubious claims that it will soon offer “full self-driving” to customers who have already paid $7,000 for the promised add-on.

One evil thing: Tesla has been criticized for using the term “autopilot” to describe its vehicles’ less-than-autonomous driver-assist feature, since drivers may put too much faith in a feature that is not meant to do the work for them (to occasionally fatal results). It also sells that as-yet-nonfunctioning “full self-driving” mode even though the rest of the autonomous vehicle industry now concedes such a thing is years or decades away. And yet:

Cybertruck careening through crowd.

Gwendal Le Bec

Our respondents say: “The very real social good that Tesla has done by creating safe, zero-emission vehicles does not justify misdeeds, like apparent ‘stealth recalls’ of defects that appear to violate safety laws or the 19 unresolved Clean Air Act violations at its paint shop. … Tesla’s approach to automated driving technology not only endangers its customers and the public more broadly, but the life-saving potential of the technology itself and those firms that are pursuing it responsibly.”  —Edward Niedermeyer, host of The Autonocast and author of Ludicrous: The Unvarnished Story of Tesla Motors

13

Tencent

Year founded: 1998

CEO and co-founder: Ma Huateng

What it is: A telecommunications, social media, and consumer electronics giant that is also the world’s largest video game publisher. Tencent operates WeChat, China’s most popular messaging app, which has more than 1.15 billion monthly users and has been accused of exercising censorship practices to toe the party line.

One evil thing:

The Verge: WeChat keeps banning Chinese Americans for talking about Hong Kong

Our respondents say: “Tencent is worrisome just by virtue of being an enormous pool of capital beholden to an authoritarian regime’s technological ambitions. I think that’s inherently dangerous. I also think it’s a good vision of what many American Silicon Valley capitalists wish they could get away with were they fortunate enough to live in a society without a free press.” —Sam Biddle, the Intercept

12

LiveRamp (formerly Acxiom)

Year founded: 1969

CEO: Scott Howe

What it is: One of the most formidable consumer data brokers, LiveRamp collects personal info like home values, credit card transactions, and health history from hundreds of millions of people in order to sustain the $100 billion online ad industry. Why do you keep seeing shoe ads all over the web, maybe even on this very page you’re reading, after browsing for loafers on Amazon? These guys.

One evil thing: In 2018, the disgraced political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica defended itself from accusations that it improperly collected Facebook user data to help Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign by claiming that said data turned out to be useless, and that it had actually built its voter-targeting operation on datasets purchased from Acxiom and other data brokers, not from Facebook. In other words, while the Cambridge Analytica scandal was alarming, the kind of intimate data collection that landed the firm in hot water was almost trifling compared with what companies like Acxiom engage in every day to target ads at consumers.

Our respondents say: “Data brokers epitomize the way ‘online’ and ‘offline’ behavior are being collapsed, even as there persists some sense that they are separate. Those companies are part of the broad ‘surveillance capitalism’ infrastructure that [fleshes] out a profile about our viability as a consumer. We don’t have much clear access to that profile (it is a secret held against us) and no due process with respect to correcting or abolishing it, yet it dictates the experiences we have in the commercial world (i.e., everywhere).” —Rob Horning, Real Life magazine

11

Huawei

Year founded: 1987

Founder and CEO: Ren Zhengfei

What it is: The world’s largest telecommunications equipment provider and second-largest smartphone manufacturer. National security experts have warned that the Chinese government could easily pressure Huawei to manipulate its supply chains to spy on the U.S. The company has also helped multiple governments, including China’s, to repress political dissidents.

One evil thing: In August, the Wall Street Journal found that Huawei had worked with governments from at least two African countries to spy on political opponents. Huawei technicians reportedly helped officials in Zambia access the phones and Facebook pages of bloggers who had been critical of its president, Edgar Lungu. The technicians even tracked the bloggers’ locations, leading to their arrest in early 2019. There has been no proof, though, that executives from Huawei’s headquarters in China were aware of these projects. Huawei denied the Journal’s reporting.

10

Exxon Mobil

Year merged: 1999

Chairman and CEO: Darren Woods

What it is: The world’s largest oil refiner, which has spent millions of dollars to cast doubt on climate science—oh, and which actually pitches itself as a technology company.

One evil thing: In the 1970s and 1980s, Exxon hired scientists to conduct internal studies on climate change well before it became a mainstream issue. Upon discovering that carbon emissions were affecting global temperatures, the company did not change course but rather worked to spread misinformation on climate science and lobbied to prevent the U.S. from joining international environmental treaties, like the 1998 Kyoto Protocol.

Our respondents say: “Not only do the emissions it’s responsible for contribute mightily to warming, but it has long sponsored organized and institutionalized efforts to spread denial about the root of the problem.” —Brian Merchant, OneZero

Read Siva Vaidhyanathan’s case against Exxon Mobil here.

9

ByteDance

Year founded: 2012

Founder and CEO: Zhang Yiming

What it is: A Beijing-based social media startup. In China, ByteDance operates an A.I.-curated news-reading app that has led to predictable censorship concerns. But the company has come under scrutiny in the U.S. because of its app TikTok, American teens’ favorite app for lip-synching, short-form nonsense, and becoming a brand.

Two dancers censoring each others mouths while performing a TikTok dance routine.

Gwendal Le Bec

One evil thing: Most major social media platforms have steered clear of deepfakes, since the technology can be abused to produce revenge porn and disinformation. But not ByteDance: In early January, a market-research startup discovered as-yet-released code inside TikTok and sister app Douyin that would allow users to make their own deepfakes. (ByteDance denied that it planned to introduce a deepfakes feature in TikTok.)

Our respondents say: Setting aside the geopolitical concerns, “TikTok is the closest that the world has ever come to ‘the Entertainment’ of Infinite Jest, an immersive experience that’s so addictive that its users forget to eat or drink or sleep. Just be thankful that your phone has finite battery life.” —Felix Salmon, Axios and Slate Money

8

Twitter

Year founded: 2006

Twitter bird scooping up person angrily.

Gwendal Le Bec

CEO: Jack Dorsey

What it is: The microblogging service shares many of the same problems that plague the larger social platforms like Facebook and YouTube—harassment, misinformation, fake accounts—but its power can be overstated due to its popularity (the love-hate kind) with journalists. It’s also a particularly attractive venue for entities that would try to tilt the news cycle, like bot campaigns and @realDonaldTrump.

One evil thing: Last month, Dorsey announced a high-flying idea to decentralize social networks that evoked the ideals of an older, purer internet. But some critics saw the proposal as a convenient way for Twitter to eventually offload responsibility for what its users do.

Our respondents say: “Twitter is being used by the president of the United States to threaten war crimes. But long before that, it (and Facebook and YouTube) contributed to the degradation of public discourse by rewarding people’s worst instincts: impulsivity, cruelty, insincerity, instant gratification, performativity.” —Mary Anne Franks

Dissent: “It’s not a global force. It makes no money. Its power is limited to its ability to reflect and refract messages that originate elsewhere or find greater amplification elsewhere.” —Siva Vaidhyanathan, University of Virginia

7

Microsoft

Year founded: 1975

CEO: Satya Nadella

What it is: The software startup that Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded in an Albuquerque garage has grown—after its antitrust spanking two decades ago—into a sprawling multinational technology corporation that has its hands in everything from cloud computing to video game consoles. In fiscal year 2019 alone, Microsoft spent $9.1 billion on 20 companies (including a $7.5 billion deal for GitHub).

Bill Gates riding a missile a la Dr. Strangelove.

Gwendal Le Bec

One evil thing: In April, the Financial Times found that Microsoft’s research branch in China had worked on three A.I. research papers with the country’s National University of Defense Technology, which is controlled by the military. The research topics included facial recognition, which critics in the U.S. said could help the Chinese government monitor and oppress its citizens, particularly the Uighurs in Xinjiang. This isn’t just a hypothetical concern. In 2016, the company created a public database of 10 million images of 100,000 writers, activists, policymakers, and other prominent figures without their consent. The Chinese companies SenseTime and Megvii, which develop the surveillance technologies that the country’s government uses to monitor Xinjiang, had tapped into this database to train their facial recognition systems. Facing scrutiny, Microsoft shut the database down this June.

Our respondents say: “Microsoft president Brad Smith’s recent book tour presented Microsoft as the kinder, friendlier, Big Tech giant. The reality is that with its investment in cloud services and its acquisitions of LinkedIn, Skype, GitHub, Minecraft, and other data-rich services, Microsoft is merely following Google’s playbook in building a business on surveillance and control.” —Mark Hurst, Creative Good

Dissent: “For many years, both Microsoft and Apple essentially tried to create closed, vertically integrated ecosystems and went to great pains to maintain control and keep competitors out. Today both strike me as changing: Microsoft is embracing both open source and cloud services, and Apple is making devices more interoperable with third-party products. Both of these are good for competition. This is not to say they are both there yet—I still have my issues with Apple’s walled-garden App Store—but the trends are definitely important.” —Charles Duan

6

Apple

Year founded: 1976

CEO: Tim Cook

What it is: The maker of beloved hardware products. Its critics say it takes too big a cut of App Store sales, pays too little in taxes to the U.S. government, and pays far too much deference to the Chinese Communist Party—more, even, than Facebook and Google, which don’t offer their core services in mainland China.

One evil thing:

Quartz: Apple bowed to China by removing a Hong Kong protests map from its app store.
Ritualistic worship of iPhone.

Gwendal Le Bec

Our respondents say:  “Apple’s adherents still consider themselves an oppressed ethnic minority, and the company’s public stance against commercial surveillance gets them more credit than they’re due: Apple won’t spy on you for ads, but they’ll help the Chinese government spy on its citizens to keep its supply chain intact.” —Cory Doctorow

Dissent: “Yes, Apple fights ‘right to repair’ movements and doesn’t want you to open up the gadgets you own yourself. Yes, it transparently sided with China in removing an app Hong Kong democracy protests were relying on to avoid police brutality. Yes, its supply chain still has major issues, not the least of which is the continued exploitation of assembly workers at manufacturing plants. But compared with its competitors, these are, believe it or not, lesser sins. Its devices have good encryption, and Apple makes security and privacy a genuine priority. It is serious about renewable energy, and meets its net electricity demands entirely with clean power. It is less aggressive in seeking defense contracts than Google and Microsoft, and is generally a better political actor. Generally. This is not to entirely damn it with faint praise—its phones are still pretty damn good, too.” —Brian Merchant

Read Doctorow’s full-throated case against the cult of Apple here.

5

Uber

Year founded: 2009

CEO: Dara Khosrowshahi

What it is: A “mobility” company that has peddled 1) a highly influential labor model that treats non-employee workers like customers; 2) a highly influential growth model that uses sharp elbows to conquer local markets; 3) a highly influential—and toxic—internal tech-bro culture; 4) an indelible Silicon Valley villain in ousted CEO Travis Kalanick; 5) and app-based taxi-hailing, which is very convenient. (Plus food delivery, “micromobility” options like electric bikes and scooters, helicopters, and a net loss in the third quarter of 2019 of $1.16 billion.)

One evil thing: Uber trains its lobbying muscle on major legislative threats like California’s gig economy law AB5, but a more obscure scuffle with policymakers in the Golden State highlights Uber’s continued reticence to hand over any power to local officials, as well as how a company that once spied on journalists using a “God View” tool tends to cloak itself as a privacy champion whenever it’s convenient. Since summer 2018, Los Angeles has collected detailed, anonymized data on electric scooter trips in the city so that transportation planners can better understand how all those Birds and Limes are moving around. Now L.A. wants to do the same with ride-hail data. Privacy advocates have raised some good—though not disqualifying—concerns about the collection of all that rider information, a chorus to which Uber has added its voice. Two problems: Uber has made a stink about potential privacy issues before, even when cities have asked for much less precise data, because it doesn’t seem to like handing over any information that could be thought of as a trade secret or could enable more oversight. And it’s also going over Los Angeles’ head, asking California and other states to restrain cities from collecting certain kinds of rider data—a tactic that mirrors how Uber once pushed states around the country to tamp down on pesky, city-level regulations. Sure, the new Uber isn’t generating the embarrassing own goals of the Kalanick era. But when it comes to the boring stuff—the stuff that matters to local streets and economies—the company hasn’t changed much at all.

Our respondents say: “It’s hard to think of a company that has shown more disdain for governmental authority, or for the safety and welfare of its drivers, riders, and employees.” —Lindsey Barrett

4

Palantir Technologies

Year founded: 2003

CEO: Alex Karp

Police car w surveillance camera.

Gwendal Le Bec

What it is: Co-founded by Peter Thiel, the Gawker-killing, Trump-boosting cyber-libertarian boogeyman, and named for a corrupted spying device from Lord of the Rings, Palantir collects and analyzes data for government agencies, hedge funds, and pharma giants—data, you may not be surprised to learn, that is not always used for good.

One evil thing: Google pulled out of its Project Maven contract with the U.S. government in 2018 after workers argued that the artificial intelligence program could allow the Pentagon to better target drone strikes. Palantir—whose CEO has repeatedly stressed that “we’re proud that we’re working with the U.S. government“ and that lofty decisions about the limits of surveillance tech should be made on Capitol Hill, not in Silicon Valley—happily snapped up the job.

Our respondents say:  “I list Palantir primarily because of the company’s unapologetic technical support of menacing deportation practices by the Trump administration.” —Ryan Calo, University of Washington School of Law

3

Alphabet

Year founded (as Google): 1998

CEO: Sundar Pichai

What it is: An internet giant that dropped its famous slogan in 2015 for a reason. If that didn’t end the era of Google exceptionalism, then the recent abdication of slowly disappearing co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin did. Like its peers at the top of the tech industry, Alphabet only seems to walk back from its more worrisome activities when someone—the press or its own employees—calls it out. Its workers derailed plans for a Pentagon drone A.I. program and a censored Chinese search engine—the kind of mercenary lines of business that might have seemed incompatible with Google’s do-gooder image a decade ago. Google has vast influence over the information economy, the media, advertising, and the mobile phone market, where its Android operating system makes it far more dominant than Apple. It knows more about us than Facebook, and it’s moving into more and more areas we depend on, like public health and urban planning, areas where it will always be incentivized to bring its chief business model to bear: selling our habits to advertisers. At the same time, it’s tamping down on that famous, self-criticizing internal culture at the very moment its workers have more vocally tried to act as its conscience.

One evil thing: One consistent venue where Google workers could let executives hear it—and act as a proxy for many users’ concerns—was a weekly TGIF town hall. No longer. CEO Sundar Pichai recently scaled back the meetings to once a month and insisted they only focus on “business and strategy.”

Yellow logo people get run over by an automated car.

Gwendal Le Bec

Our respondents say: “Alphabet belongs on the list because of the huge amount of influence it has on public life through its subsidiaries, whether it is the domination of online advertising, which Google has branded as the sharing of knowledge, or the spread of street surveillance technologies through partnerships like Link NYC, or the ramping up of Google Health. Unless we have strong privacy protections in place, Google can use our personal data to build advanced technological systems, which, if they are built using datasets with in-built bias, will have a discriminatory impact on traditionally marginalized groups.” —Mutale Nkonde, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University

Dissent: “Tech sector workers in Silicon Valley fear that autonomous test vehicles from companies like Alphabet’s Waymo could endanger the public. Ironically, these companies have far more responsible approaches to both the technology and testing practices (using professional test drivers instead of pushing ‘beta’ features to untrained customers) than Tesla, which avoids scrutiny due to the fact that it looks like a ‘normal’ car. As happens so often, the strange and unfamiliar attracts more concern than the actual threat.”—Edward Niedermeyer

2

Facebook

Year founded: 2004

Co-founder and CEO: Mark Zuckerberg

Blue thumbs hike up a mountain.

Gwendal Le Bec

What it does: A social network with immense power over social and political discourse in nearly every country on Earth. Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook further tamped down on the user data it allows third parties to extract from the platform, announced a new emphasis on the kind of encrypted communication its WhatsApp subsidiary specializes in, and invested billions into policing disinformation and other abuses of the social network and its holdings, which also include Instagram and Messenger. But its refusal to meaningfully alter the political advertising system that both President Donald Trump and Russian trolls used to their advantage in 2016 suggests that once again one of the main arenas of an ugly election will be Facebook.

One evil thing: You could attribute many of Facebook’s problems—the yearslong looseness with user data, the expansion into countries where it had no staffers who spoke the language to disastrous effect, the unwillingness to ever offend conservative critics—to its obsession with growing its user base and revenue first and dealing with harms whenever. Untold scandals later, according to a damning BuzzFeed report, growth, not safety, is still how much of the company’s work is primarily judged—and for many product managers, it is directly tied to their compensation.

Our respondents say: “It’s far more powerful than any government. Its products are so varied and far-reaching that neither its users nor founders can keep track of its prying sprawl or purpose. And despite a constant flow of data breaches and upsetting privacy scandals, it has resisted regulation and protected its irresponsible leaders. Most frighteningly of all, the corporation is controlled by a single unelected man who is determined to dodge any kind of ideological stance in the name of higher revenues” — Alyssa Bereznak, the Ringer

Dissent: “Google and Facebook are at least aware of the harms they are causing and trying to address them.” —Ryan Calo

1

Amazon

Year founded: 1994

CEO: Jeff Bezos

What it is: It’s everything. The online bookseller has evolved into a giant of retail, resale, meal delivery, video streaming, cloud computing, fancy produce, original entertainment, cheap human labor, smart home tech, surveillance tech, and surveillance tech for smart homes. The company is sophisticated enough in learning our habits to produce countless AmazonBasics knockoffs of popular products and sloppy enough about policing its platform to allow in tons of actual knockoffs. The company’s “last mile” shipping operation has led to burnout, injuries, and deaths, all connected to a warehouse operation that, while paying a decent minimum wage, is so efficient in part because it treats its human workers like robots who sometimes get bathroom breaks. (To say nothing of the carbon footprint, the negative tax bill, the debasing HQ2 reality show, and a huge chunk of the web’s reliance on Amazon Web Services.) As the anti-monopoly crowd has criticized Amazon ever more loudly for its dominance of online retail, the company has pointed out that it still has a smaller share of total retail than Walmart. But Walmart is becoming more and more like Amazon. And so is the entire economy.

Amazon box monsters.

Gwendal Le Bec

One evil thing: Even after Amazon’s HQ2 contest ended with the company abandoning one of the two winning sites amid blowback from New Yorkers who were upset at the deal’s $1.7 billion price tag—dealing a rare blow to the far-too-common practice of generous government subsidies for corporate expansions—Amazon is still at it. While it will open a new New York City office in 2021 sans handouts, in early January the Atlanta Journal-Constitution uncovered a $19.7 million taxpayer-funded deal to open a warehouse in Gwinnett County, Georgia.*

Our respondents say: “While other companies may be guilty of some of these, Amazon has: 1) contributed to the death of local stores, services, journalism, music, community, etc. around the world; 2) focused on precarious and deskilled labor, with reportedly terrible working conditions; 3) supported police surveillance with its Ring doorbells and surveillance more generally with Alexa devices; 4) racked up a massive carbon footprint with rapid shipping as well as AWS cloud-based computing; 5) contributed tech to military and intelligence agencies with dubious human rights records, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection operations separating families at our own border; 5) failed to moderate what is on its platform, resulting in a glut of dangerous fakes such as easily broken counterfeit car seats for children; 6) has a famously hostile workplace culture, which has been shown to contribute to harassment of women and minorities; and 7) evaded taxation with shady categorization of assets and offshore tax havens.” —Morgan G. Ames, University of California–Berkeley

Read Jordan Weissmann’s dissent and more in his debate with Ashley Feinberg over who’s worse: Amazon or Facebook?

The voters: Morgan G. Ames, University of California–Berkeley; S.A. Applin, Centre for Social Anthropology and Computing; Lindsey Barrett, Institute for Public Representation, Georgetown University Law Center; Karissa Bell, Mashable; Alyssa Bereznak, the Ringer; Sam Biddle, the Intercept; Meredith Broussard, New York University; Ryan Calo, University of Washington School of Law; Corinne Cath-Speth, Oxford Internet Institute; Danielle Citron, Boston University School of Law; Julie Cohen, Georgetown University Law Center; Noam Cohen, Wired; Jade E. Davis, Columbia University; Renee DiResta, Stanford Internet Observatory; Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing and the Electronic Frontier Foundation; Charles Duan, R Street Institute; Veena Dubal, University of California, Hastings College of the Law; Ashley Feinberg, Slate; Mary Anne Franks, University of Miami Law School; Chris Gillard, Macomb Community College and hypervisible.com; David Golumbia, Virginia Commonwealth University; Megan Graham, University of California, Berkeley School of Law; Sydette Harry, University of Southern California Annenberg Innovation Lab; Rob Horning, Real Life; Jane Hu, Slate contributor; Mark Hurst, Creative Good; Kate Klonick, St. Johns University School of Law; Brian Krebs, Krebsonsecurity.com; Sarah Lamdan, CUNY School of Law; Tiffany C. Li, Boston University School of Law; Brian Merchant, OneZero; Edward Niedermeyer, The Autonocast; Mutale Nkonde, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University; Andrea O’Sullivan, Mercatus Center; Whitney Phillips, Syracuse University; Felix Salmon, Axios and Slate Money; Matthew Stoller, Open Markets Institute; Siva Vaidhyanathan, University of Virginia; Jordan Weissmann, Slate; Harlan Yu, Upturn.

Correction, Jan. 15, 2020: This article originally misidentified the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as the Atlantic Journal-Constitution.



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NC Election Board threatens to call cops on members for reciting Pledge of Allegiance…


By Charlotte Smith

The Bladen County Board of Elections held a regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, January 14, 2019 at the local office located at 301 S. Cypress Street in Elizabethtown. The meeting ended with threats of law enforcement being called to the next meeting.

Once the meeting was called to order and Commissioner Arthur Bullock gave the invocation Election Board member Emory White asked for the Pledge of Allegiance to be added to the agenda.
Chairperson Louella P. Thompson, Patsy Sheppard, and Deborah Belle voted against the Pledge of Allegiance being added to the agenda. Board members Michael Aycock and Emory White, both Veterans of the United States military voted for the pledge to be added to the agenda.

When Chairperson Thompson was asked why she would vote against the Pledge of Allegiance by a fellow board member she did not respond. When she was asked the same question again by BladenOnline.com staff she responded by saying, “That’s my right and I exercise it.”

After the approval of the minutes Chairperson Thompson asked for individuals wishing to address the board to speak. After some passionate objections from members in the audience about the board voting against placing the pledge to the flag, Dwight Sheppard, husband of board member Patsy Sheppard rose to his feet and voiced his opinion on why the board should not add the pledge to the agenda.

As Sheppard stood he said, “…That is every single State board in the State of North Carolina does not say the Pledge of Allegiance before their meetings it is not allowed in State meetings.” He closed in reference to the pledge in State board meetings saying, “Never, never, never quoted.”  (Mr. Sheppard, sued Bladen Community College some years ago. Mr. Sheppard also made threats to sue  Bladen County in October, 2019 when the Bladen County Board of Commissioners voted not to pay for his wife, Patsy Sheppard’s attorney. The request for the county to pay for Mrs. Sheppard’s attorney stemmed from a formal complaint filed against her with the North Carolina Board of Elections.)

After Sheppard spoke, Bladen County resident and business owner, Daine Smith stood to address the board.  Smith explained he was unaffiliated and the issue did not have to do with party affiliation, but about respect for the flag and others’ rights. Smith then announced he would be citing the pledge if anyone would like to join him. As the majority in attendance stood and recited the pledge, the three democratic board members: Chairperson Thompson, Sheppard and Ms. Bell remained seated.

After the pledge was said Smith was reprimanded by Chairperson Thompson and then Sheppard called for a short recess. After the board returned the agenda items were addressed.

The action items on the agenda; approval of One-Stop Workers and approval of Election Day Workers were both approved after some discussion.

Director of the Bladen County Board of Elections gave dates for upcoming trainings and the board went into closed session citing personnel matters as the reason.

When the board reconvened Chairperson Thompson announced, “There are some personnel issues and there is a position we will be advertising for and we also discussed the disruption of the meeting.” She added, “At the next meeting if that happens again law enforcement will be called, so because it is against the law to disrupt a meeting that is going on and that is what happened today with the reciting of the pledge.”

The meeting was then adjourned.

The Bladen County Board of Elections meetings are held the second Tuesday of each month at 5:00 p.m. at 301 S. Cypress Street in Elizabethtown.

Related video and articles:

Serving Our Country Is Not a Right, It Is a Privilege

Bladen County Board of Commissioners battle over legal matter

Update on flag and pledge issue with the Bladen County Board of Elections

 

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VA gov declares state of emergency, imposes Capitol gun ban ahead of gun rights rally…


RICHMOND, Va. (AP/WWBT) – Fearing a repeat of the deadly violence that engulfed Charlottesville more than two years ago, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a temporary emergency Wednesday banning all weapons, including guns, from Capitol Square ahead of a massive rally planned next week over gun rights.



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SCHIFF: New evidence 'likely to emerge'…




Adam Schiff, Val Demings, Zoe Lofgren standing next to a person in a suit and tie: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announces the impeachment managers for US President Donald Trump's trail in the Senate on Capitol Hill January 15, 2020, in Washington, DC. - House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff will lead the prosecution of President Donald Trump at his impeachment trial in the Senate, House speaker Nancy Pelosi announced January 15, 2020. Schiff, a Democratic lawmaker from California, would be the House "lead manager" at Trump's Senate trial expected to begin on Tuesday, Pelosi said. Schiff led the House investigation that resulted in Trump's December 18 impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.


© BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images North America/TNS
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announces the impeachment managers for US President Donald Trump’s trail in the Senate on Capitol Hill January 15, 2020, in Washington, DC. – House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff will lead the prosecution of President Donald Trump at his impeachment trial in the Senate, House speaker Nancy Pelosi announced January 15, 2020. Schiff, a Democratic lawmaker from California, would be the House “lead manager” at Trump’s Senate trial expected to begin on Tuesday, Pelosi said. Schiff led the House investigation that resulted in Trump’s December 18 impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

WASHINGTON — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff expects new evidence to come out during the course of the Senate impeachment trial, adding a possible element of surprise to the proceeding and potentially complicating Republican efforts to reach a speedy conclusion.

“There’s going to be new evidence coming out all the time. And if this is conducted like a fair trial, then that new evidence should be admitted. If it’s relevant, if it’s probative, if it sheds light on the guilt or innocence of the president, then it should be admitted,” said Schiff, who was appointed Wednesday the lead House manager prosecuting the case against President Donald Trump.



Hakeem Jeffries, Sylvia Garcia, Jerrold Nadler, Val Demings, Zoe Lofgren standing in front of a crowd: A reporter asks a question to US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) flanked by impeachment managers  at a press conference on Capitol Hill January 15, 2020, in Washington, DC. - House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff will lead the prosecution of President Donald Trump at his impeachment trial in the Senate, House speaker Nancy Pelosi announced January 15, 2020. Schiff, a Democratic lawmaker from California, would be the House "lead manager" at Trump's Senate trial expected to begin on Tuesday, Pelosi said. Schiff led the House investigation that resulted in Trump's December 18 impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.


© OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty Images North America/TNS
A reporter asks a question to US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) flanked by impeachment managers at a press conference on Capitol Hill January 15, 2020, in Washington, DC. – House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff will lead the prosecution of President Donald Trump at his impeachment trial in the Senate, House speaker Nancy Pelosi announced January 15, 2020. Schiff, a Democratic lawmaker from California, would be the House “lead manager” at Trump’s Senate trial expected to begin on Tuesday, Pelosi said. Schiff led the House investigation that resulted in Trump’s December 18 impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Schiff, D-Calif., spoke to the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday as the House voted largely along party lines to approve Schiff and six other representatives, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., as managers in the trial.

The vote cleared the way for the impeachment articles to be forwarded to the Senate, where pretrial proceedings are expected to start Thursday.

Some Senate Republicans have indicated they think the scope of evidence weighed by the Senate should be limited to the evidence gathered during the House investigation. But Schiff predicted that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would run into difficulty if he attempted to block information.



a close up of a person: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks at a press conference to announce the impeachment managers on Capitol Hill January 15, 2020, in Washington, DC. - House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff will lead the prosecution of President Donald Trump at his impeachment trial in the Senate, House speaker Nancy Pelosi announced January 15, 2020. Schiff, a Democratic lawmaker from California, would be the House "lead manager" at Trump's Senate trial expected to begin on Tuesday, Pelosi said. Schiff led the House investigation that resulted in Trump's December 18 impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.


© OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty Images North America/TNS
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks at a press conference to announce the impeachment managers on Capitol Hill January 15, 2020, in Washington, DC. – House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff will lead the prosecution of President Donald Trump at his impeachment trial in the Senate, House speaker Nancy Pelosi announced January 15, 2020. Schiff, a Democratic lawmaker from California, would be the House “lead manager” at Trump’s Senate trial expected to begin on Tuesday, Pelosi said. Schiff led the House investigation that resulted in Trump’s December 18 impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

“It will be hard, I think, for the senators to ignore new and probative evidence,” Schiff said. “What are they gonna say? ‘We’re not going to look at that. We don’t want to see it. We’re going to close our eyes and close our ears and just pretend it didn’t happen or (that) we didn’t learn this fact’?

“So there are limits I think to the ability of Sen. McConnell to prevent meaningful evidence from being considered,” he said.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced earlier Wednesday her choice of Nadler, Schiff, Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries of New York, and Democratic Reps. Zoe Lofgren of California, Jason Crow of Colorado, Val Demings of Florida and Sylvia Garcia of Texas. Schiff, a former prosecutor, was tapped to lead the group.

“The emphasis is on litigation. The emphasis is on comfort level in the courtroom,” Pelosi said in describing the legal experience her choices brought to the proceedings.

The so-called House managers will give opening and closing statements, lay out the facts collected in the House investigation, and will cross-examine witnesses if they are allowed.

“The task before us is a grave one, but one demanded by our oath,” Schiff said on the House floor before the vote. “The House managers will take the case to the Senate and to the American people.”

The managers were confirmed 228-193. Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota was the only Democrat to vote against the resolution.

Pelosi was said to be aiming for a more diverse group than the 13 white men who acted as House managers during the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton in 1999.

It’s a role that can make or break careers, and there was lobbying behind the scenes as members jostled for one of the plum positions. Pelosi got to decide how many managers to choose. After the Clinton trial, some of the Republican House managers faced a backlash; at least one lost his reelection bid — in an odd twist of fate, he lost to Schiff.

Later Wednesday, the managers will march across the Capitol building to notify the Senate that the articles of impeachment passed by the House in December are ready to be delivered. The Senate is tasked with weighing whether to remove Trump from office. It must vote before the articles can be officially presented. Once that vote occurs, Schiff and the other managers will march across the Capitol again, likely on Thursday, and read the articles to the gathered senators.

It is just the third time in U.S. history the Senate has been asked to decide whether allegations against a president warrant conviction and removal.

“President Trump has done nothing wrong. He looks forward to having the due-process rights in the Senate that Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats denied to him, and expects to be fully exonerated,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.

The articles, charging obstruction of Congress and abuse of power, were brought following an investigation into Trump’s attempt to get the president of Ukraine to open investigations into his political rivals at the same time he was withholding nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine. Trump said that there was nothing improper about his conversations with the president or his handling of the aid.

The initial procedural motions of the Senate trial, including the swearing in of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. to preside over the trial and of senators to a special oath as jurors, are expected to occur Thursday. Opening arguments from the House managers and the White House lawyers are expected to begin Tuesday.

Republicans control the Senate, and with 67 votes needed to remove a president from office, it is all but certain Trump will be acquitted.

———

©2020 Los Angeles Times

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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US troops in Middle East receive menacing social media messages, WiFi on lockdown…


The 82nd Airborne Division is briefing family members of deployed paratroopers to double-check their social media settings and report any strange messages they may receive after some malevolent ones were reported to the command.

The division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team deployed to Kuwait in early January as part of an emergency response to the region over heightened tensions with Iran.

“Families have reported instances where they have received unsolicited contact with some menacing messaging,” said Lt. Col. Mike Burns, a division spokesman.

“We have done several things to inform our paratroopers and families of these risks and ways that they can protect themselves,” Burns added. “I also personally spoke to the brigade [Familiy Readiness Group] leaders today.”

The 82nd has told family members to be vigilant and practice smart behavior online. Family members should check their social media settings and reference the U.S. Army’s social media handbook, Burns said. In addition to distributing social media pamphlets, the division has held information forums for families. Burns could not comment on the reports that WiFi access was suspended for brigade paratroopers in Kuwait.

Separately, two U.S. sources with direct knowledge of the situation told Military Times the WiFi access was suspended over fears of a potential hacking and leak of sensitive contact information. One defense source said the MWR network was compromised, that contacts were pulled from service member’s devices and family members have been getting threats and disturbing messages from hackers. A U.S. defense official said that deployed 82nd troops have been hacked and that messages were sent to family members to scare them.

The defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record, said family members stateside have been getting threats and disturbing messages.

One of the messages obtained by Military Times appears to be a typical psychological operations-styled warning. It references Iran, but there is no indication it is actually a state-sponsored message.

“If you like your life and you want to see your family again, pack up your stuff right now and leave the Middle East. Go back to your country. You and your terrorist clown president brought nothing but terrorism,” the message reads. “You fools underestimate the power of Iran. The recent attack on your [expletive] bases was just a little taste of our power. By killing our general, you dug your own grave. Before having more dead bodies, just leave the region for good and never look back.”

The message was sent over Instagram by an account that used deceased Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani’s portrait as a profile picture. Soleimani was killed by a U.S. airstrike on Jan. 3 in Baghdad, Iraq.

Paratroopers and equipment assigned to 82nd Airborne Division load aircraft bound for the U.S. Central Command area of operations from Fort Bragg, N.C., on Jan. 4. (Spc. Hubert D. Delany III/Army)

Other messages included fake scenarios about kidnappings intended to scare family members. A separate official noted that some messages appear to look more like phishing attempts.

The extent of the possible compromise is unknown. One defense official said it’s unknown at this time when and where the potential hacking may have taken place.

But the Department of Homeland Security has warned that “Iran maintains a robust cyber program” and “is capable, at a minimum, of carrying out attacks with temporary disruptive effects.”

U.S. Central Command and Operation Inherent Resolve have yet to respond to requests for comment.

Roughly a brigade of 82nd Airborne troops deployed to Kuwait in early January as tensions with Iran mounted over rocket attacks in Iraq by Tehran’s proxies and attempts by Iran-backed Shia militias and their supporters to storm the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

The brigade took various security precautions before deploying by telling the paratroopers to leave behind personal communications devices, phones and laptops.

“Anything considered a personal electronic device. All those things,” Burns previously told Army Times. “But banned is a harsh word. The decision was made so soldiers weren’t put at risk.”

The decision was intended to both ensure that sensitive information pertaining to the deployment and mission was not shared outside official channels, and also to prevent any potential cyberattacks against the soldiers.



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Weinstein avoids disabled ramp; Struggles on stairs 'to exercise back'…


Harvey Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to charges of assaulting two women in New York. 

More than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct dating back decades but he only faces five criminal counts in New York – two counts of rape, one count of criminal sexual act and two counts of predatory sexual assault. 

He faces life in prison if convicted on the most serious charge, predatory sexual assault.  

One of the women Weinstein was charged with assaulting, former production assistant Mimi Haleyi, has said that Weinstein sexually assaulted her in 2006. Prosecutors say Weinstein raped the second woman, who has not been publicly identified, in 2013. 

Harvey Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to charges of assaulting two women in New York. More than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct dating back decades but he only faces five criminal counts

Harvey Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to charges of assaulting two women in New York. More than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct dating back decades but he only faces five criminal counts

Jury selection began January 7 but finding impartial New York City jurors amid the media frenzy surrounding the Weinstein case will be a challenge for both legal teams, experts said.

Lawyers will likely question potential jurors about their knowledge and opinion of the case, their work history and whether they have been victims of sexual misconduct.

The trial is expected to last for around six weeks.  

Los Angeles prosecutors have also charged Weinstein with sexually assaulting two women there on successive nights during Oscar week in 2013.

Lawyers for Weinstein had no immediate comment on the new charges, though he has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. 

Weinstein faces up to 28 years in state prison if he is convicted of the charges filed in LA of forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by use of force and sexual battery by restraint. 

His arraignment has not yet been scheduled and prosecutors will recommend $5 million bail. Weinstein is expected to appear in court in California after his trial in New York is finished.   

Here is what to expect from the trial:

WHO ARE THE ACCUSERS?

One of the women Weinstein was charged with assaulting, former production assistant Mimi Haleyi, pictured in 2017, has said that Weinstein sexually assaulted her in 2006

One of the women Weinstein was charged with assaulting, former production assistant Mimi Haleyi, pictured in 2017, has said that Weinstein sexually assaulted her in 2006

More than 80 women have publicly accused Weinstein, 67, of sexual misconduct, helping to fuel the #MeToo movement over the last two years. The criminal charges against him refer to just three accusers.

Mimi Haleyi, a former production assistant on a Weinstein Company television show, has said that Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in his Manhattan home in July 2006.

Actress Annabella Sciorra, best known for her role on HBO’s The Sopranos, has said Weinstein raped her in her Manhattan apartment in 1993.

Prosecutors have accused Weinstein of raping another woman in March 2013 in Manhattan. She has not been publicly identified.

Weinstein has said that any sexual encounters he had were consensual.

WHAT ARE THE CHARGES?

Weinstein is charged with a criminal sexual act in the first degree against Haleyi, and with rape for the 2013 allegation. He is charged with predatory sexual assault over both allegations.

Sciorra’s allegation is too old to be the basis of a separate charge, but is a crucial part of the predatory sexual assault charges, which require prosecutors to establish a pattern of serious sex crimes against multiple women.

Predatory sexual assault is the most serious charge against Weinstein, carrying a maximum sentence of life in prison.

WHO WILL TESTIFY AGAINST WEINSTEIN?

Haleyi, Sciorra and the 2013 accuser are almost certain to testify in a trial that is expected to last up to eight weeks.

Prosecutors may also call three other women to testify about encounters with Weinstein, even though he is not formally charged with crimes against them. Their testimony is intended to bolster the charges by showing that Weinstein had a consistent pattern of behavior.

Prosecutors have also said that they expect to call Barbara Ziv, a professor at Temple University in Pennsylvania, to testify as an expert on the trauma resulting from sexual assault.

WHAT IS WEINSTEIN’S DEFENSE?

While criminal defendants and their lawyers typically avoid revealing their strategy before trial, Weinstein has dropped some hints.

Weinstein’s lead lawyer, Donna Rotunno, told Reuters that Weinstein had a ‘slew of witnesses ready to go.’ She has said the defense would be introducing emails and text messages to prove that Weinstein’s accusers maintained relationships with him after his alleged assaults.

His lawyers have also said they plan to call psychologist Deborah Davis, of the University of Nevada, Reno, to testify as an expert on memory, suggesting that Weinstein may try to call his accusers’ recollections into question.

Harvey Weinstein was pictured smiling as he arrived at a New York court on January 6 as his lawyers and a judge handle the final preparation for his trial on charges of rape and sexual assault

Harvey Weinstein was pictured smiling as he arrived at a New York court on January 6 as his lawyers and a judge handle the final preparation for his trial on charges of rape and sexual assault

WHAT OTHER LEGAL RISKS DOES WEINSTEIN FACE?

Even if he is acquitted in Manhattan, Weinstein faces separate criminal charges announced on Monday by prosecutors in Los Angeles. Lawyer Rotunno declined immediate comment on those charges.

Weinstein was charged with sexually assaulting two unidentified women in 2013, said Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey. He was charged with raping one woman and sexually assaulting the other.  

Lacey said the timing of the charges was unrelated to the New York trial.

But there is some connection between the cases. One of the Los Angeles accusers is expected to testify in the New York case to help prosecutors establish what they say was Weinstein’s pattern of forcing himself on young actresses and women trying to break into Hollywood.

Weinstein is expected to appear in court in California after his New York trial, Lacey said.

The Hollywood mogul stumbled up the stairs as he arrived at a Manhattan courthouse on January 8

The Hollywood mogul stumbled up the stairs as he arrived at a Manhattan courthouse on January 8



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Trump confirms July 4 fireworks at Mt. Rushmore, brushing aside environmental concerns…


In May 2019, South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem initially announced that the state and the Department of Interior had struck a deal to have the fireworks return to Mt. Rushmore beginning with the 2020 Independence Day celebration. The fireworks had been discontinued in 2009 due to concerns of a wildfire hazard in forests adjacent to the monument. Noem said advancements in pyrotechnics and a strengthened forest led to the decision to have the fireworks return to the site.

Pine beetle infestations in nearby forests were the cause of concern when the fireworks were discontinued. These infestations can kill trees, which increases their flammability risk and, in turn, poses a potential wildfire hazard. Fireworks increased the risk that a fire would ignite.

Some studies suggest that climate change is causing some types of pine beetles to reproduce more rapidly and influencing their growth and development to make them more lethal.
Trump signs first stage of trade deal with China

Brushing aside what he said were dubious environmental concerns that had previously prevented fireworks at the South Dakota landmark, Trump said he’d secured this year’s show easily.

“What can burn? It’s stone. Nobody knew why,” Trump said of the concerns over the environment.

A recent US Geological Survey report cited past fireworks displays at the monument as the probable cause for elevated concentrations of contaminants in groundwater near the monument.

“I called up our people and in 15 minutes got it approved and we will have the first fireworks display at Mount Rushmore, and I will try and get out there if I can,” Trump said on Wednesday, amid a signing ceremony for an initial US-China trade deal.

The President has worked to host several large events highlighting American patriotism on US holidays like the 4th of July and Veterans Day.

In 2018, Trump unsuccessfully pursued holding a military parade on Veterans Day in Washington in honor of the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the First World War. The Defense Department postponed the parade, which was supposed to involve US troops in period uniforms as well as US military aircraft but no heavy vehicles like tanks in order to prevent damage to infrastructure.
And last 4th of July, the President threw an Independence Day celebration in Washington, complete with military flyovers, fireworks and military tanks on display.



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Catholic Church, School Among Buildings Vandalized With MS-13 Graffiti…


NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The NYPD is looking into whether the MS-13 gang is making its mark on a Queens neighborhood after graffiti was found scrawled across homes and businesses in Bayside.

A Catholic church and school were also among the targets, CBS2’s Jessica Layton reports.

When Monsignor Thomas Machalski heard his church was vandalized Sunday, he was not prepared to see the name of a notorious gang tied to countless killings.

“When I came down and saw the MS-13 painted on the stone of the front entrance of the church … It is very frightening,” Machalski said.

The NYPD is looking into whether the MS-13 gang is making its mark on a Queens neighborhood after graffiti was found scrawled across homes and businesses in Bayside. (Credit: Currents News/NET-TV)

Surveillance video at Sacred Heard of Jesus Academy across the street caught the masked suspect in the act, leaving MS-13 spray-painted on the doors by the entrance to the school. It prompted a police presence outside ever since and a conversation with nervous kids.

“We just told them that some individuals made some bad choices and did some bad things,” Machalski said.

Several homeowners woke up to find their homes and white fences were hit, along with the corner pharmacy.

“MS-13, same as they wrote on the fences or the homes down the block and the church,” pharmacy owner Chris Tsatsaronis said. “For what reason, I don’t know.”

A parishioner washed the graffiti off the church and nearby school, but that doesn’t erase the fear some people initially felt when they saw MS-13 painted on their property.

The NYPD is looking into whether the MS-13 gang is making its mark on a Queens neighborhood after graffiti was found scrawled across homes and businesses in Bayside. (Credit: Sacred Heart of Jesus/Facebook)

Police won’t say yet if this is a warning from an actual gang member or just someone causing problems in the neighborhood.

“Honestly, I just think it’s an idiot,” Tsatsaronis said.

“Could you not have found something more constructive to do with your time and energy?” Machalski said.

Now neighbors are putting their energy into helping police make an arrest.



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Good Economy = Bad Flu Season?


Americans are urged to get flu shots every year, but there may be another factor that could sway them toward immunization: The country’s rising employment rate. 

Because the U.S. is close to full employment, workplaces are more crowded, allowing the flu virus to spread more easily, according to an economist. In fact, each 1-percentage point increase in the employment rate correlates with a 16% bump in flu-related doctors’ visits, Erik Nesson, an associate professor of economics at Ball State University in Indiana, said.

“It seems to be a place where higher economic activity is detrimental to people’s health,” Nesson said in an interview Wednesday.

His study, published last year in the Economics & Human Biology journal, relies on the employment rate, which shows the percentage of working-age adults who hold jobs. By comparison, the jobless rate has a narrower focus, showing the percentage of workers who are out of a job but actively looking.

The employment rate has been rising steadily since reaching a post-recession low in 2011 of about 66.3%. In November, it reached 71.7%, almost on par with its pre-recession peak of slightly more than 72%, according to the latest available data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. 

The increase in employment combined with an already deadly 2019-2020 flu season should prompt employers to re-examine their sick day policies, Nesson said.

“Our study suggests that companies should be cognizant that if someone comes to work when sick, even if it saves the company in one aspect, it might cost them money in another area, in that someone who comes to work sick could get other people sick,” he said. “Companies should take this into account when designing whatever sick day policies they have.”

Low-wage workers in retail and food industry jobs often don’t receive paid sick days, which critics say encourages workers to show up to work while sick, spreading illnesses to co-workers and customers. While some states have instituted laws that mandate paid sick days, the federal government doesn’t require employers to offer it.

Flu activity remains high in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It estimates there have been at least 9.7 million flu illnesses, 87,000 hospitalizations and 4,800 deaths from flu so far this season. It estimates there’s a 15% chance the flu will peak in late January and 25% chance it will peak in February. 

Service industries such as health care and retail are especially likely to spread the virus because workers in those industries interact with many members of the public. “If our economy continues to shift to more service-oriented employment, the results presented here suggest there is greater potential for flu spread in the future,” Nesson added.



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Bolton to Dish on Ukraine in Book…


John Bolton will speak in his book, if not at the Senate trial.

The Senate is still discussing whether it will hear witness testimony from John Bolton, the former national security adviser, who has said he would comply with a subpoena during the impeachment trial. But he’s planning to reveal some of what he saw regarding the Ukraine matter in his upcoming book, according to people familiar with the plan.

Mr. Bolton’s book, due to be published by Simon and Schuster, is almost finished, according to people familiar with his plans, and is set to be on sale well ahead of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions this summer. The book is going to describe Mr. Bolton’s time in the Trump White House and expand on at least some of what he saw regarding Mr. Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukrainian officials into announcing an investigation into Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden.

The book will describe other global controversies related to Russia and Venezuela, and Mr. Bolton plans to detail his interactions with key figures in Mr. Trump’s administration. Some officials do not come off particularly well, according to the people familiar with the plan. They include the former United States ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, who held the job Mr. Bolton did during President George W. Bush’s administration, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff. A spokesman for Simon and Schuster did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Senators won’t be able to check their iPhones or talk among themselves during the trial.

Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

The top Republican and Democratic senators on Wednesday jointly announced new restrictions on movement and behavior by lawmakers, staff and members of the public inside the Capitol during President Trump’s impeachment trial.

The restrictions on reporters, which was revealed on Tuesday, drew intense criticism from journalists who said they would impede their ability to interact with lawmakers as they carry out one of the most important constitutional duties.

But the letter from Senators Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, and Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, made clear that even their own colleagues will have to change their usual routines during the impeachment trial.

Among those: “During the impeachment proceedings, standing will not be permitted on the floor and this requirement will be strictly enforced. Accordingly, all senators are requested to remain in their seats at all times they are on the Senate floor during the impeachment proceedings.”

That is a big change for senators, who are used to standing in the chamber to talk to each other just about any time they want.

The letter from Mr. McConnell and Mr. Schumer also indicates that access to the Senate floor by senators’ staff — who are usually allowed to come and go as they please — will be “severely restricted.”

Senators who have become addicted to checking their Twitter feeds on their iPhones will have to temporarily kick that habit — they will not be allowed to take electronic devices into the chamber during the trial. But perhaps the biggest change for senators? They are not supposed to talk.

“Senators will only have the opportunity for limited speech at the trial,” says a “Decorum Guidelines” document sent along with the letter. “Members should refrain from speaking to neighboring senators while the case is being presented.”

The articles will be finalized at an ‘engrossment ceremony’ later Wednesday.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized President Trump as she introduced the impeachment managers for the Senate trial. They are Representatives Adam B. Schiff, Jerrold Nadler, Zoe Lofgren, Hakeem Jeffries, Val B. Demings, Jason Crow and Sylvia R. Garcia.Image by Hilary Swift for The New York Times

Get out your congressional glossary, this is a tricky one. Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House will finalize its impeachment articles Wednesday at 5 p.m. in an “engrossment ceremony,” a term little used even among students of Congress.

An engrossed resolution is an official, final copy of something passed by the House, in this case the articles of impeachment. It must be signed by the speaker and certified by Cheryl L. Johnson, the House clerk, and includes any minor technical changes. The ceremony Wednesday is basically a television-friendly way to do that.

Ms. Pelosi and her managers will gather in the Capitol’s stately Rayburn Room, under a portrait of George Washington, to put their signatures on the articles to be sent over to the Senate.

The Congressional Research Service says that engrossed bills are to be printed on blue paper in the House, as opposed to white paper in the Senate or parchment for bills agreed to by both chambers that will become law. But it is unclear whether that is still the case if the resolution is in fact articles of impeachment. In this case, the speaker may have discretion over what type of paper or parchment the articles appear on.

Pelosi emphasized ‘comfort’ in the courtroom in her choices for impeachment managers.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Speaker Nancy Pelosi had held off on appointing the impeachment managers, she told reporters, in order to get a feel for the “arena” those lawmakers would have to present in. Ultimately, she decided, “the emphasis is on litigators.”

“The emphasis is on comfort level in the courtroom,” Ms. Pelosi said at her morning news conference. “The emphasis is making the strongest possible case to protect and defend our constitution, to seek the truth for the American people.”

Four of the seven managers have direct experience in a courtroom: Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the leader of the group, was a federal prosecutor for six years in Los Angeles, while Representative Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat of New York, was a litigator in private practice. And both freshmen chosen for the role have litigation experience. Representative Jason Crow, Democrat of Colorado, was a private litigator, and Representative Sylvia Garcia, Democrat of Texas, was presiding judge of the Houston municipal system.

White House accused Pelosi of lying for describing the impeachment inquiry as ‘vital to national security.’

Stephanie Grisham, the president’s press secretary, echoed past statements from President Trump and the White House, calling the impeachment a “sham” and “illegitimate” and accusing Speaker Nancy Pelosi of lying:

“The only thing Speaker Pelosi has achieved with this sham, illegitimate impeachment process, is to prove she is focused on politics instead of the American people. The Speaker lied when she claimed this was urgent and vital to national security because when the articles passed, she held them for an entire month in an egregious effort to garner political support. She failed and the naming of these managers does not change a single thing. President Trump has done nothing wrong. He looks forward to having the due process rights in the Senate that Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats denied to him, and expects to be fully exonerated. In the meantime, after President Trump signs the historic China Trade Deal greatly benefiting the people of this country, he will continue working and winning for all Americans, while the Democrats will continue only working against the President.”

After Ms. Pelosi’s news conference, Mr. Trump posted a single tweet.

“Here we go again, another Con Job by the Do Nothing Democrats,” he wrote. “All of this work was supposed to be done by the House, not the Senate!”

Mr. Trump is expected to sign a trade deal with China later Wednesday.

The impeachment managers were revealed.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California on Wednesday named seven House Democrats to serve as managers of the impeachment case against President Trump, selecting a diverse team to prosecute the case for his removal in the Senate.

As expected, the most prominent leaders of the impeachment investigation, Representatives Adam B. Schiff of California, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and Jerrold Nadler of New York, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, will be part of the group.

Ms. Pelosi also named Representatives Zoe Lofgren of California, Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Val B. Demings of Florida, Jason Crow of Colorado and Sylvia R. Garcia of Texas. Mr. Crow and Ms. Garcia are both first-term members.

The group will serve as the public face of the impeachment process starting immediately. They are expected to carry the two articles of impeachment over to the Senate chamber late Wednesday afternoon. Once the Senate signals it is ready to proceed with the trial, as early as Thursday, the managers will once again cross the Capitol, entering the Senate well to read aloud the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. And they will be the ones to make opening arguments in the case against the president at the start of the trial — only the third of its kind in American history — most likely beginning next week.

First, House leaders have set an early afternoon vote to formally appoint the managers and transmit the articles to the Senate.

The team, announced by Ms. Pelosi at a morning news conference, is smaller and far more diverse than the 13 white men chosen by Republicans in 1998 to prosecute President Bill Clinton during his Senate impeachment trial.

Documents from a Giuliani associate put new pressure on Republicans to hear evidence and testimony.

Documents released Tuesday by the House reveal new details about President Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine, increasing calls on Senate Republicans to subpoena additional documents and witnesses on the eve of the impeachment trial.

The documents were delivered to the House by Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer. They include letters, notes and text messages that link Mr. Trump more closely to the efforts to get Ukraine to announce investigations into the president’s political rivals.

And there are more revelations to come from Mr. Parnas. An official working on the impeachment inquiry said Tuesday that the House anticipated releasing additional tranches of material produced by Mr. Parnas.

Among the items disclosed Tuesday were notes scrawled on a sheet of paper from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Vienna saying: “Get Zelensky to announce that the Biden case will be investigated,” a reference to the effort to convince President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to announce an investigation of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter.

The documents also include a May 2019 letter from Mr. Giuliani that is the first public document to indicate that Mr. Trump was aware of his lawyer’s efforts. In the letter, Mr. Giuliani writes: “In my capacity as personal counsel to President Trump and with his knowledge and consent, I request a meeting with you.”

The documents also reveal that Mr. Parnas had been communicating with another man who appeared to be monitoring the movements of Marie L. Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, before the president ousted her from her post. In a series of cryptic text messages exchanged on WhatsApp, Mr. Parnas communicated with Robert F. Hyde, a supporter of Mr. Trump who is now running for Congress in Connecticut. The messages suggested that Mr. Hyde was in touch with people in Ukraine who were watching Ms. Yovanovitch.

“They are willing to help if we/you would like a price,” one message from Mr. Hyde to Mr. Parnas read.

According to the documents released Tuesday, Mr. Parnas was also in communication with Yuriy Lutsenko, a prosecutor in Ukraine who was helping Mr. Giuliani unearth damaging information about the Bidens. In one of the exchanges, Mr. Lutsenko messaged Mr. Parnas to complain that the administration had not yet removed Ms. Yovanovitch from her post.

“And here you can’t even get rid of one [female] fool,” Mr. Lutsenko wrote in an apparent reference to Ms. Yovanovitch. He also inserted a frowning emoji.

Pelosi criticized Trump and McConnell over evidence the Senate might not hear.

On the day that she plans to send articles of impeachment to the Senate, Speaker Nancy Pelosi began the morning with a pair of early-morning Twitter posts criticizing President Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, for keeping witnesses and documents from Congress.

“There can be no full & fair trial in the Senate if Leader McConnell blocks the Senate from hearing witnesses and obtaining documents President Trump is covering up,” Ms. Pelosi wrote, adding: #DefendOurDemocracy.

The speaker’s tweets come just hours after the House released additional evidence from an associate to Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, of Mr. Trump’s involvement in pressuring Ukraine for investigations of his political rivals.

Dozens of pages of text messages, notes and other documents from Lev Parnas, Mr. Giuliani’s associate, adds more details to back up the House allegations that Mr. Trump and his aides orchestrated a blatant effort to solicit foreign help in the 2020 election.

Democrats said the new information puts additional pressure on Mr. McConnell and the president’s Republican allies for the Senate to subpoena additional witnesses and documents before making a decision about the president’s guilt.

“The President has fought tooth-and-nail to keep thousands of documents away from the public,” Ms. Pelosi said in one of her tweets. “And no wonder — each time new pieces come out, they show President Trump right at the center of the effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.”



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