Top US Homeland Security Adviser Resigns

Tom Bossert, U.S. President Donald Trump’s top Homeland Security adviser, abruptly resigned Tuesday, the latest in a long line of senior officials to leave the Trump administration.

No reason was given for his resignation, but it came a day after staunch conservative John Bolton took over as Trump’s third national security adviser in the 15 months of his presidency. Both Bloomberg News and CNN reported that Bossert was quitting at Bolton’s request.

The 43-year-old Bossert had served in Trump’s White House since his inauguration, a key adviser to the president on cybersecurity, who also was a prominent official in handling the government’s response last year to devastating hurricanes in Texas, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Bossert appeared often on television news talk shows to represent the Trump administration’s view on terrorism threats. But he was passed over to become national security adviser in favor of Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, when Trump dismissed H.R. McMaster.

“The president is grateful for Tom’s commitment to the safety and security of our great country.” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said. “Tom led the White House’s efforts to protect the homeland from terrorist threats, strengthen our cyber defenses, and respond to an unprecedented series of natural disasters. President Trump thanks him for his patriotic service and wishes him well.”

Since the start of the year, Trump has ousted his secretary of state, changed national security advisers, dismissed his veterans affairs secretary, named a new CIA director and watched as other key White House advisers departed, including his top lawyer handling Trump’s response to the ongoing criminal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

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Top US Homeland Security Adviser Resigns

Tom Bossert, U.S. President Donald Trump’s top Homeland Security adviser, abruptly resigned Tuesday, the latest in a long line of senior officials to leave the Trump administration.

No reason was given for his resignation, but it came a day after staunch conservative John Bolton took over as Trump’s third national security adviser in the 15 months of his presidency. Both Bloomberg News and CNN reported that Bossert was quitting at Bolton’s request.

The 43-year-old Bossert had served in Trump’s White House since his inauguration, a key adviser to the president on cybersecurity, who also was a prominent official in handling the government’s response last year to devastating hurricanes in Texas, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Bossert appeared often on television news talk shows to represent the Trump administration’s view on terrorism threats. But he was passed over to become national security adviser in favor of Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, when Trump dismissed H.R. McMaster.

“The president is grateful for Tom’s commitment to the safety and security of our great country.” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said. “Tom led the White House’s efforts to protect the homeland from terrorist threats, strengthen our cyber defenses, and respond to an unprecedented series of natural disasters. President Trump thanks him for his patriotic service and wishes him well.”

Since the start of the year, Trump has ousted his secretary of state, changed national security advisers, dismissed his veterans affairs secretary, named a new CIA director and watched as other key White House advisers departed, including his top lawyer handling Trump’s response to the ongoing criminal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

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Sen. Bob Corker Donates to Republican Running to Succeed Him

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker says he is donating money to another Tennessee Republican’s campaign to succeed him.

News outlets report Corker tweeted his support Monday for U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn after the Tennessee Republican Party ended the primary over the weekend. Seven Senate candidates and one gubernatorial candidate were removed from the August ballot for lacking voting credentials to justify running as Republicans.

Blackburn thanked Corker in a statement and said her campaign will continue talks with people across Tennessee about getting the Senate to pass President Donald Trump’s agenda.

Corker announced last year that he was retiring and wouldn’t seek a third term.

The other senator from Tennessee, Republican Lamar Alexander, endorsed Blackburn last week. She is expected to run against former governor and former Nashville mayor Democrat Phil Bredesen in the November election.

This story was written by the Associated Press.

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Sen. Bob Corker Donates to Republican Running to Succeed Him

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker says he is donating money to another Tennessee Republican’s campaign to succeed him.

News outlets report Corker tweeted his support Monday for U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn after the Tennessee Republican Party ended the primary over the weekend. Seven Senate candidates and one gubernatorial candidate were removed from the August ballot for lacking voting credentials to justify running as Republicans.

Blackburn thanked Corker in a statement and said her campaign will continue talks with people across Tennessee about getting the Senate to pass President Donald Trump’s agenda.

Corker announced last year that he was retiring and wouldn’t seek a third term.

The other senator from Tennessee, Republican Lamar Alexander, endorsed Blackburn last week. She is expected to run against former governor and former Nashville mayor Democrat Phil Bredesen in the November election.

This story was written by the Associated Press.

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Zuckerberg Apologizes for Data Breach Before Congressional Testimony

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is set to testify publicly Tuesday before a group of U.S. senators after apologizing for the way his company handled data for millions of users.

He is due to appear before a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Commerce Committee, and on Wednesday will go before House lawmakers.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said users “deserve to know how their information is shared and secure,” and that he wants to explore with Zuckerberg ways to balance safety with innovation.

Zuckerberg met privately with lawmakers in Washington on Monday and released written testimony saying the social media network should have done more to prevent itself and the data of its members from being misused.

“We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry,” Zuckerberg said.Zuckerberg was called to testify after news broke last month that personal data of millions of Facebook users had been harvested without their knowledge by Cambridge Analytica, a British voter profiling company that U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign hired to target likely supporters in 2016.

WATCH:  Video report on Facebook Data Breach

Cambridge Analytica connection

Prior to 2016, Facebook allowed a British researcher to create an app on Facebook on which about 200,000 users divulged personal information that was subsequently shared with Cambridge Analytica. The number of affected Facebook users multiplied exponentially because the app also collected data about friends, relatives and acquaintances of everyone who installed it.

 

Cambridge Analytica said it had data for 30 million of Facebook’s 2.2 billion users.

On Capitol Hill, U.S. lawmakers signaled they want action, not just contrition, from social media executives.

 

“If we don’t rein in the misuse of social media, none of us are going to have any privacy anymore,” the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, Bill Nelson of Florida, told reporters after meeting privately with Zuckerberg Monday.

 

Meanwhile, Facebook announced it is starting to notify tens of millions of users, most of them in the United States, whose personal data may have been harvested by Cambridge Analytica.

New cyber firewalls

The social media giant is also empowering all its users to shut off third-party access to their apps and is setting up cyber “firewalls” to ensure that users’ data is not unwittingly transmitted by others in their social network.

 

For years, Congress took a largely “hands-off” approach to regulating the internet. Some analysts believe that is about to change after the Facebook data breach, as well as a cascade of revelations about Russian cyber-meddling.

 

“At this point in time, it’s really up to Congress and the federal agencies to step up and take some responsibility for protecting privacy, for regulating Facebook as a commercial service which it clearly is,” Marc Rotenberg, president of the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center, told VOA. “We’ve gone for many years in the United States believing that self-regulation could work — that Facebook and the other tech giants could police themselves, but I think very few people still believe that.”

 

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Zuckerberg Apologizes for Data Breach Before Congressional Testimony

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is set to testify publicly Tuesday before a group of U.S. senators after apologizing for the way his company handled data for millions of users.

He is due to appear before a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Commerce Committee, and on Wednesday will go before House lawmakers.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said users “deserve to know how their information is shared and secure,” and that he wants to explore with Zuckerberg ways to balance safety with innovation.

Zuckerberg met privately with lawmakers in Washington on Monday and released written testimony saying the social media network should have done more to prevent itself and the data of its members from being misused.

“We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry,” Zuckerberg said.Zuckerberg was called to testify after news broke last month that personal data of millions of Facebook users had been harvested without their knowledge by Cambridge Analytica, a British voter profiling company that U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign hired to target likely supporters in 2016.

WATCH:  Video report on Facebook Data Breach

Cambridge Analytica connection

Prior to 2016, Facebook allowed a British researcher to create an app on Facebook on which about 200,000 users divulged personal information that was subsequently shared with Cambridge Analytica. The number of affected Facebook users multiplied exponentially because the app also collected data about friends, relatives and acquaintances of everyone who installed it.

 

Cambridge Analytica said it had data for 30 million of Facebook’s 2.2 billion users.

On Capitol Hill, U.S. lawmakers signaled they want action, not just contrition, from social media executives.

 

“If we don’t rein in the misuse of social media, none of us are going to have any privacy anymore,” the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, Bill Nelson of Florida, told reporters after meeting privately with Zuckerberg Monday.

 

Meanwhile, Facebook announced it is starting to notify tens of millions of users, most of them in the United States, whose personal data may have been harvested by Cambridge Analytica.

New cyber firewalls

The social media giant is also empowering all its users to shut off third-party access to their apps and is setting up cyber “firewalls” to ensure that users’ data is not unwittingly transmitted by others in their social network.

 

For years, Congress took a largely “hands-off” approach to regulating the internet. Some analysts believe that is about to change after the Facebook data breach, as well as a cascade of revelations about Russian cyber-meddling.

 

“At this point in time, it’s really up to Congress and the federal agencies to step up and take some responsibility for protecting privacy, for regulating Facebook as a commercial service which it clearly is,” Marc Rotenberg, president of the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center, told VOA. “We’ve gone for many years in the United States believing that self-regulation could work — that Facebook and the other tech giants could police themselves, but I think very few people still believe that.”

 

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Heavy Facebook Use Exposed Southeast Asia to Breaches of Personal Data

Facebook users in Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines, were especially exposed to recent data privacy breaches due to high user numbers and the popularity of an app at the core of the problem, analysts believe.

According to Facebook figures, the data of 1.175 million users in the Philippines may have been “improperly shared” with London-based voter profiling firm Cambridge Analytica. That estimate is the second highest, single-country total after the United States. Indonesia ranks third at around 1.1 million people exposed to data breaches. Vietnam was ninth with 427,000.

Filipinos had also enjoyed a personality quiz app that spread fast due to the sharing of results, said Renato Reyes, secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabaya alliance of social causes in Manila. The app is suspected as a source of Cambridge Analytica data.

In Vietnam, where the media outlet VnExpress International estimates 64 million of the country’s 92 million people use Facebook, younger people like the outlet to show off, technology specialists say. Indonesians use it to communicate for free across their 13,000 islands, some impoverished.

The Silicon Valley social media giant said that beginning April 9 it would add a News Feed link for users to see what information they have shared on which apps.

“I think we are in a position to demand an explanation directly from the officials at Facebook considering that we are the second highest country in net exposure,” Reyes said.

Why Southeast Asia?

Data from about 87 million users worldwide may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica, Facebook says.

Southeast Asia faced exposure because a rise in the number of “affordable” mobile phones has expanded consumption of news on social media, said Athina Karatzogianni, associate professor in media, communication and sociology at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom.

Total smartphone shipments in emerging Southeast Asia came to about 100 million last year, according to the market research firm IDC.

In parts of the subcontinent, people rely on Facebook as an easy, free means to share news and images with family or friends across long distances, said Lam Nguyen, country manager with IDC.

App sharing in the Philippines

Filipinos worry that Cambridge Analytica’s parent company crunched the results of the personality quiz app to grasp voter psychology for targeted advertising on behalf of political campaigns, Reyes said. It may have taken the Philippine 2016 election as a “laboratory” for the U.S. presidential race later that year, he said.

Cambridge Analytica says independent research contractor GSR “licensed data” from no more than 30 million users and that no information was used for the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The organization took legal action against GSR.

“The use of personal data in order to influence the outcome of elections is really a cause for concern,” Reyes said.

The Philippine National Privacy Commission has required Facebook to give updates on controlling against any further risk, the commission said Friday. Any data leaked would have arisen from use of University of Cambridge academic psychologist Aleksandr Kogan’s personality quiz app, it said.

Facebook rage in Vietnam

In Vietnam, Facebook took off about 11 years ago along with emerging wealth, including access to other foreign goods and services.

A lot of people use Facebook to show off travel photos, said Phuong Hong, communications director with an app developer in Ho Chi Minh City. Such elaborate public posting exposes users to information harvesting, she said.

“In Vietnam, people (are) more open and they don’t as much realize the impact if they publish all their information on social channels,” she said.

“Just some highly well educated people who already know about the after effects will try to limit it by themselves, but most of young, from 14 to 25, and even older people 25 to 40, they just go to that site, create an account and just follow to what Facebook asks for to fill in the information,” she added.

Facebook users in Vietnam may remember a breach four years ago that let phone numbers and e-mails find their way to marketers, Nguyen said.

“When the (Cambridge Analytica) story came to light, I think a lot of Facebook users here in Vietnam were kind of like ah, OK, so now it comes to light, but we already know our personal data have been breached a couple of years ago already,” he said.

Vietnam’s national defense and diplomatic officials met last week to discuss “internet security” with an eye toward Facebook, VnExpress International said.

Indonesia, Facebook discuss ‘abuse’

In Indonesia, the communications minister met the Indonesian Facebook public policy head April 5 to discuss any “abuse” of user data, the Ministry of Communication and Informatics said on its website.

The number of Indonesian Facebook users had reached 130 million in January, 6 percent of the world total.

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China’s Xi Pledges to Cut Auto Tariffs, Press Ahead With Reforms

China’s President Xi Jinping did not mention U.S. President Donald Trump by name or speak directly about rising trade frictions with Washington during a closely watched speech at the Boao Forum — China’s version of Davos for Asia.

But the pledges Xi made to press forward with economic reforms had everything to do with the trade dispute and President Trump’s threats to levy heavy tariffs on Chinese goods.

In his speech, Xi mentioned the phrase “opening up” 42 times. One of the key messages of his speech was that China was open for business. It was also an effort, one analyst said, to highlight a contrast between Beijing’s approach and Washington.

“I want to clearly tell everyone, China’s door for opening will not close, but will only open wider,” Xi said. “Cold war mentality and zero sum game are more and more old-fashioned and outdated. Isolationism will only hit walls.”

Car imports

In his speech, Xi said China would launch a number of landmark measures this year, including cutting tariffs on car imports, one key trade barrier President Trump has mentioned repeatedly. China places a 25 percent tariff on automobile imports, while Chinese vehicles exported to the United States are taxed by two and half percent.

Xi re-stated a pledge to open up China’s financial sector — easing restrictions — and accelerate the opening up of the insurance industry.

He also said China would restructure its State Intellectual Property Office this year to step up law enforcement, raise fines for violations and strengthen legal protections.

Xi did not give a specific timeframe, but said the reforms would take place “sooner rather than later, faster rather than slower.”

Some analysts said the pledges were nothing new and unlikely to amount to the type of concessions that the Trump administration is expecting. Others, however, said there might be enough there to at least help the two move toward sitting down to talk.

“President Xi gave the outline and the many details and the concrete measures we are still waiting to see what policies will come up in the following days,” said Zhang Yifan, an associate professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “But he mentioned balanced trade, that means that they will address the trade surplus issue, not just with the U.S., but with all other countries.”

The United States has proposed placing tariffs on about 1,300 Chinese imports, which amounts to about $50 billion in trade. Late last week, even as he disagreed with the characterization of the dispute as a trade war, President Trump upped the stakes by asking for $100 billion more in tariffs.

China has responded with a list of its own, some 106 products that target among other things agricultural production in areas where political support for Trump was strong in the 2016 elections.

Beijing has already put a 25 percent tariff in place on pork products, in response to Trump’s earlier tariffs on steel and aluminum. And if Beijing’s recently announced tariffs go forward, soybean imports from the United States could also face a 25 percent tariff.

The impact that could have on American farmers is already raising concerns. So much so that the White House announced Monday it is drafting up a plan to protect farmers and make sure they don’t bear the brunt of Chinese retaliation.

That is why it is hard to predict just how far Xi’s remarks may go in helping the two sides resolve their differences, said Oliver Rui, a professor of international finance and accounting at the China Europe International Business School.

“The issue is very complicated. It is not just the trade imbalances between the two countries, it is also related to political issues. The mid-term elections will definitely play a role here, the attitude of the EU will also play a role here,” Rui said.

Several days ago the White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow said that the Trump administration is building a “coalition of the willing” to jointly take on China over its trade practices. Kudlow has not yet said which countries might be a part of that grouping, but the European Union is one likely partner.

Concern about trade practices

The United States is not the only country concerned about China’s trade practices and increasingly analysts who have been arguing against tariffs have noted that working with other countries could have an even stronger impact.

That is something that President Xi appeared to be hinting at in his speech and that might be a point of concern for Beijing.

“We should pursue the path of dialogue, not conflict, building partnerships and not alliances as we forge new paths in relations between countries,” Xi said.

This story was written by VOA’s William Ide in Beijing. Joyce Huang contributed.

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