Facebook, Twitter, Alphabet to testify at U.S. House hearing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday to take testimony from Facebook Inc, Alphabet Inc’s YouTube unit and Twitter Inc on whether social media companies are filtering content for political reasons, the committee chairman said.

FILE PHOTO: A 3D plastic representation of the Facebook logo is seen in this illustration in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, May 13, 2015. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

Conservative Republicans in Congress have criticized social media companies for what they claim are politically motivated practices in removing some content, a charge the companies have rejected.

House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte said in a statement on Friday that he was pleased the companies will send experts “to answer questions on their content moderation practices and how they can be better stewards of free speech in the United States and abroad.”

Twitter declined to comment. Facebook on Friday confirmed they would participate but declined further comment. Alphabet did not immediately comment.

Facebook’s head of global policy management Monika Bickert, Youtube global head of public policy and government relations Juniper Downs and Twitter’s senior strategist Nick Pickles will testify, the committee said.

The committee held a hearing in April on the same topic after representatives of the companies skipped it.

FILE PHOTO: The Twitter application is seen on a phone screen August 3, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/File Photo

Republicans repeatedly suggested at the hearing that the companies are censoring or blocking content from conservatives, a charge the companies rejected.

Lawmakers from both parties agreed tech companies must remove illegal content like fraud, piracy and sex trafficking but differed on whether they should remove objectionable content.

Goodlatte said “while these companies may have legal, economic, and ideological reasons to manage their content like a traditional media outlet, we must nevertheless weigh as a nation whether the standards they apply endanger our free and open society and its culture of freedom of expression.”

Representative Jerrold Nadler, top Democrat on the committee, said in April “the notion that social media companies are filtering out conservative voices is a hoax, a tired narrative of imagined victimhood.”

Nadler added “conservative commentary, including conspiracy theories of a conservative bent, regularly rank among the most far-reaching posts on Facebook and elsewhere.”

Berin Szoka, president of TechFreedom, said at the hearing that “concerns about Facebook’s potential slant are best addressed through other measures, starting with transparency and user empowerment. Ultimately, the best check on Facebook’s power today is the threat of a new Facebook disrupting the company’s dominance.”

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg told Congress in April that he is “very committed to making sure that Facebook is a platform for all ideas.”

Reporting by David Shepardson, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Diane Craft

Iowa, Illinois investigating infections linked to McDonald’s salad

(Reuters) – The Iowa and Illinois health departments said on Thursday that they were investigating cyclospora infections linked to salads at McDonald Corp’s (MCD.N) restaurants.

McDonald’s shares fell 1.4 percent after-hours on Thursday.

The Illinois Department of Public Health said it had seen about 90 cases, and the Iowa Department of Public Health said it had recorded 15 cases.

In about one-fourth of the Illinois cases people reported eating salads from McDonald’s in the days before they became ill.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of a McDonald’s Corp restaurant is seen in Los Angeles, California, U.S. October 24, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

McDonald’s, the world’s largest restaurant chain, said in a statement that it had been in contact with public health authorities in both states.

It said that it had voluntarily stopped selling salads at the approximately 3,000 affected U.S. restaurants until it could switch to another lettuce blend supplier.

“We are closely monitoring this situation and cooperating with state and federal public health authorities as they further investigate,” the company said.

The parasite, cyclospora cayetanensis, infects the small intestine, typically causing watery diarrhea and frequent, sometimes explosive bowel movements. It is spread by ingesting food or water contaminated with feces and not directly from one person to another.

Several outbreaks have occurred in the United States in the past several years, especially during the summer months, that had been linked to imported fresh produce including raspberries, basil, snow peas, and lettuce.

Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru and Alana Wise in New York; Editing by Maju Samuel

Pedestrian killed, another loses a leg after being hit by a car in Burlington, Ont.

A woman was killed and part of a man’s leg was amputated after a driver slammed into pedestrians and crashed into a former restaurant patio in Burlington, Ont., on Saturday morning, Halton police said. 

The original call came in shortly after 10 a.m., police said. Multiple witnesses called saying they saw a man driving erratically on Fairview Street, said Insp. Derek Davis.

“Not staying in its lane, driving in an unexpected manner,” said Davis, who said the curious driving was first reported “well west” of the crash scene.

At one point, the driver reportedly left the roadway, drove onto the sidewalk and struck a 19-year-old male pedestrian. The man’s leg was amputated below the knee and he was airlifted to Hamilton Health Sciences Centre with life-threatening injuries, police said. 

The driver of the SUV was also taken to hospital with injuries after he crashed into the patio of a now-shuttered restaurant. (Michael Cole/CBC)

The driver then continued on Fairview Street before striking a 58-year-old woman, who was standing nearby in front of the now-closed restaurant, Chaps. The woman was pronounced dead at the scene. 

The vehicle came to a stop after the driver crashed into the former restaurant’s patio.

Driver believed to be in 70s

The driver is a man believed to be in his 70s. Police said he sustained head injuries and was transported to hospital by ambulance. 

“What caused the erratic behaviour is still under investigation,” said acting Sgt. Tom Zafiridis. “The driver may have suffered a medical episode, which may have contributed to the accident itself.” 

Earlier on Saturday, Davis said police are “open to all possibilities, whether it is impairment, whether it’s some sort of a crime in progress, a medical issue.”

“We don’t have a definitive answer at this time, but we’ve certainly not ruled any possibility out.”

Inspector Derek Davis says police are still investigating the cause of the collision. (CBC)

The 19-year-old victim is still in hospital in serious condition, said Zafiridis on Saturday afternoon. He said he believes the driver and two victims are all from Burlington. 

Police are still investigating how far the man had been driving and where, he said.

Fairview Street is currently closed between Woodview Road and Commerce Court. The road is expected to be closed for several hours during the investigation.

The Halton police traffic reconstruction unit is investigating the series of collisions.  

Anyone with potentially valuable information is asked to contact the Halton Regional Police Service or leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers. 

A 19-year-old’s leg was amputated below the knee and he was airlifted to hospital with life-threatening injuries, police said. (Andrew Collins/CBC)

‘Stars are aligning’ for Putin before Trump summit — indictments notwithstanding

Talk about timing.

With only three days to go before the U.S.-Russia presidential summit, the stunning indictments Friday of 12 Russian intelligence officers — charged with interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election — could easily have been enough to make the U.S. cancel it.

In any past U.S. presidency, that might have been the case. Not so for Trump, say Eurasia scholars and former diplomats familiar with Russian propaganda efforts.

The Kremlin, rushing out a statement Friday, slammed the announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice as an attempt to “spoil” the atmosphere ahead of President Donald Trump’s face-to-face with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

It needn’t have worried.

Following chaotic stops in Brussels and the U.K., where Trump’s criticisms of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and British Prime Minister Theresa May seemed to weaken a historic alliance, experts say the chief beneficiary of the turmoil is Putin.

“I’m sure Putin is thrilled. And [the indictments] won’t make a difference,” said Alexandra Vacroux, director of Harvard University’s Davis Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies.

U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, at a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, announces grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

“I think any other American president would cancel the summit and say, ‘No — with this evidence, it’s clear they did do something; and unless I have guarantees this will never happen again, we won’t meet.'”

Instead, Trump, who was briefed by his Justice Department about the indictments, will press ahead with Monday’s meeting with Putin in Helsinki.

Once in Finland, he will have the opportunity to confront Putin on Russia’s annexation of Crimea; to debate sanctions relief for Russia; to broker a New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) treaty expiring in 2021 between the nations to commit to mutual nuclear arms reduction; and to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to NATO.

In the U.K. on Friday, Trump told reporters he will “absolutely ask” Putin in person about Russian meddling as well. But Trump has also previously said he takes Putin at his word, believing his claim that the Kremlin played no role in hacking into the 2016 election.

On Saturday, Trump tweeted that the indictments “had nothing to do with the Trump administration.”

That’s in direct contradiction to Trump’s own intelligence community and the Justice Department.

Friday’s announcement revealed the indictments of a dozen Russians with the GRU military intelligence unit in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. It alleged the Russians hacked into the Democratic National Committee to undermine the election, and compromised the voting data of 500,000 Americans.

Putin is likely ‘thrilled’ by recent developments following Trump’s chaotic week at a NATO summit and visit to the U.K. (RIA Novosti/Reuters)

Chances are slim the Russian defendants will end up in U.S. court. Russia is highly unlikely to extradite them.

“For Putin, this is like the stars are aligning,” given how the last week has unfolded for Trump in Europe, said Brett Bruen, who led an inter-agency task force in the Obama administration to combat Russian propaganda.

He points to Trump’s thrashing of what he called “delinquent” NATO members and demands for the alliance to increase defence spending, lest the U.S. begin to roll back on its commitments.

“That diluted the standing of the most important strategic alliance for security in the world.”

And when the president left the NATO meetings in Brussels for the U.K., only to criticize British Prime Minister Theresa May’s handling of Brexit, Bruen said, “he diminished the stature of America’s most important strategic ally in the world.”

“If I was trying to write a script for how Putin could set up the summit with Trump for maximum impact on Russia’s strategic objectives, I don’t think I could have done a better job than what Trump has accomplished.”

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May and Trump walk away after holding a joint news conference at Chequers, the official country residence of the prime minister, near Aylesbury on Friday. (Hannah McKay/Reuters)

Experts warn that Trump has already hinted at possible concessions with Putin. He appeared reluctant last month to rule out recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea, responding to a question about whether the U.S. would drop its longstanding opposition to the annexation by saying: “We’re going to have to see.”

Legitimizing it would raise alarms in Baltic states like Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, about possible Russian incursions.

I’m not sure what it gets the U.S., apart from extreme anxiety about what happens in that room.– Alexandra Vacroux , Harvard University

Bruen is skeptical Trump will be able to achieve much, beyond hyping that the summit materialized and that Putin gave him a symbolic gesture of goodwill. But merely bringing up the topic of Russian election meddling sounds like a “weak way of checking a box without applying pressure,” he said.

“My fear is this is really our last opportunity, before we head into the congressional elections, to get Putin and his propagandists out of our electoral process. I have little confidence the president is going to grow a backbone overnight on this.”

If last month’s Singapore summit between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un was any indicator, he added, there’s reason to worry.

While the Trump-Kim summit was billed by the administration as a possible advancement toward denuclearization, satellite images suggest Pyongyang is continuing to develop a nuclear research site and missile facility.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, watches as Trump speaks to other leaders posing for the family photo at the Park of the Cinquantenaire during the NATO Summit in Brussels July 11. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Adding to the anxiety for next week’s Trump-Putin sessions is that the private sitdowns will be without note-takers or advisers present: only translators.

“It does look like this meeting has the potential to get Putin quite a lot,” Vacroux said. “I’m not sure what it gets the U.S., apart from extreme anxiety about what happens in that room.”

As far as Russian election tampering goes, she says the U.S. is missing a concrete geopolitical “grand strategy” to halt Russia’s interference in future U.S. elections, beyond “patching holes in cybersecurity.”

Unless the president delivers “a serious message with serious consequences,” Bruen said, he can expect the Russians to continue developing ways to undermine U.S. elections.

While Friday’s indictment didn’t allege any co-ordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, “timing seems like a notable fact,” observed Harry Sandick, a former federal prosecutor with the Southern District of New York, which his presently handling the case.

“The defendants made an after-hours attempt to hack into [Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton’s] emails, for the first time, on July 27, 2016,” he noted. “That’s the same date in which Trump said, ‘Russia, if you’re listening I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.'”

A six-metre-high cartoon baby blimp of Trump is flown as a protest against his visit, in Parliament Square in London Friday. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)

The new indictments are “the strongest evidence so far” of the Russian effort to tamper with the U.S. democratic system, Sandick said.

Alleged Russian cyberattacks against the DNC notwithstanding, Trump already signalled how much he wants this meeting with Putin. Despite Russia’s standing as an adversary, he has arguably treated the Russian strongman more amicably than he has actual European allies in recent days.

Ahead of his flight to what turned out to be a tense NATO summit and a fraught visit to the U.K., Trump made a prediction to reporters about the sensitive meetings ahead.

“Frankly,” he said, “Putin may be the easiest of them all.”

Thailand cave rescue inspires cartoons around the globe

The rescue mission that captured hearts around the world over the last two weeks might be over, but cartoons of hope and support are still flooding the internet.

When 12 boys and their 25-year-old coach became trapped in the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai, Thailand, a rescue mission involving over 1,000 people began. CBC News spoke to some of the cartoonists and artists who created these pieces.

Aruni Aunhawarakorn and Jantima Manasviyoungkul shared their cartoon on their Facebook page, Sisidea, Sunday night, once the rescue was complete. Several days later, the photo has generated hundreds of thousands of shares and reshares.

In an interview, the two sisters, who hail from Bangkok, said they were inspired by the “tons of kindness flowing from many countries and specialists’ teams.” 

The graphic depicts 13 wild boars, each symbolizing the stranded members of the Wild Boars soccer team, swimming out of the Tham Luang cave alongside a plethora of other animals, which represent the countries involved in the rescue and a little Iron Man, who represents Tesla CEO Elon Musk. 

(Aruni Aunhawarakorn and Jantima Manasviyoungkul/Sisidea, Sandy Peppler/CBC)A Canadian contribution came from Bruce MacKinnon of the Chronicle Herald in Halifax.

MacKinnon has been a cartoonist for the Chronicle Herald since 1985, drawing weekly cartoons, and joined the newspaper as an editorial cartoonist full-time in 1986.

In an interview, MacKinnon said the idea came to him when he noticed that he and his wife were constantly checking up on the status of the boys, despite the mission taking place during the World Cup.

“Everyone was kind of on the edges of their seats the whole time, including us,” said MacKinnon of his cartoon, which took around five hours to create. “I just wanted to bring it back home that this is what we really should be celebrating.” 

(Bruce MacKinnon/Halifax Chronicle Herald)

The work of Pazut Wutigornsombatkul, who draws under the name TuagomStudio, went viral on June 27 after he began drawing cartoons of the rescue mission. 

The Bangkok native’s artist pseudonym, Tuagom, translates as a very circular, big-headed boy, reflected in his cartoons. “It’s a cute style,” said Wutigornsombatkul. “I want to make people smile and happy when they saw my cartoon.” 

After seeing the news on social media, Wutigornsombatkul said he began drawing to help calm viewers across the globe and show his gratitude to all those who participated in the boys’ rescue. Wutigornsombatkul said the feedback and support for his illustrations, which each took somewhere between two and three hours to make, were “the best things” he could have received. 

Here is another piece in his signature style. (Pazut Wutigornsombatkul/TuagomStudio)

Here are some other cartoons, made by artists inspired by the rescue mission: 

Jiraporn Mai Jacknight, Thailand

(Jiraporn Mai Jacknight) (Jiraporn Mai Jacknight)

Quinho Ravelli, Brazil

(Quinho Ravelli/Quinho Cartum)

Trump golfs, faces protests in Scotland ahead of Putin talks

Two days before a high-stakes summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.S. President Donald Trump played golf and tweeted Saturday from one of his namesake resorts, blaming his predecessor for Russian election meddling and lashing out at the free press from foreign soil.

Aides had said Trump would spend the weekend preparing to meet Putin on Monday in Helsinki, but the tweets showed other topics were on his mind.

“I have arrived in Scotland and will be at Trump Turnberry for two days of meetings, calls and hopefully, some golf — my primary form of exercise!” he tweeted early Saturday, referencing his seaside golf resort. “The weather is beautiful, and this place is incredible! Tomorrow I go to Helsinki for a Monday meeting with Vladimir Putin.”

U.S. President Donald Trump waits on the 4th tee at Turnberry golf course, Scotland, on Saturday. (Peter Morrison/Associated Press)

Trump was later seen playing the Turnberry links, several holes of which are visible from a nearby beach, where dozens of people staged a protest picnic Saturday. He was videotaped waving at protesters as they shouted “No Trump, no KKK, no racist USA!” before resuming his game. He was also seen posing for photos.

A line of police, some on horseback, stood between the course and protesters. Snipers perched atop a nearby tower overlooking the vast property.

10,000 march in Edinburgh

The protesters were among the thousands who came out in Scotland and England in opposition to the U.S. president’s visit to both countries.

Some 10,000 people marched Saturday through the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, while police searched for a paraglider who breached a no-fly zone and flew a protest banner over the resort in western Scotland where Trump and his wife, Melania, are staying through Sunday.

Demonstrators march to protest against the visit of U.S. President Donald Trump, in Edinburgh, Scotland, on Saturday. (Andrew Yates/Reuters)

The glider carried a banner that said “Trump: Well Below Par” over the resort Friday night to protest his environmental and immigration policies.

In Edinburgh, anti-fascist groups and political activists joined those who said they’d never protested before, weaving through the capital’s streets waving an array of makeshift anti-Trump banners. A choir, a bagpiper, a tambourine band and poetry readings added to the carnival spirit.

A Greenpeace protester paraglided over the golf resort on Friday in Turnberry, South Ayrshire, Scotland, with a banner reading ‘Trump: Well Below Par,’ shortly after the U.S. president arrived at the hotel. Trump bought the resort in 2014. (John Linton/Press Association via AP)

“Donald Trump is not welcome here,” Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard told the crowd. “The horrific scenes at the Mexican border are just the latest example of his repudiation of decent human values.”

Protesters also launched a six-metre blimp depicting Trump as an angry baby that had flown over anti-Trump protests in London on Friday.

The baby is back. A blimp resembling the U.S. president became airborne in Edinburgh on Saturday. It floated over Parliament Square in London on Friday. (Andrew Yates/Reuters)

Trump has spent the weeklong trip wreaking havoc in Europe, first at a NATO summit in Brussels where he questioned the value of the decades-old alliance, and later in Britain, where he faced fallout from a stunning newspaper interview in which he undermined British Prime Minister Theresa May at an especially vulnerable time.

But Trump was also keeping tabs on domestic issues, including the investigations into Russian election meddling.

In Saturday’s tweets, Trump tried to blame former President Barack Obama for failing to stop the Russians from working to help him win the 2016 election.

“The stories you heard about the 12 Russians yesterday took place during the Obama Administration, not the Trump Administration,” Trump tweeted, asking why they didn’t “do something about it, especially when it was reported that President Obama was informed by the FBI in September, before the Election?”

Trump tweets about indictments 

It was Trump’s first response to indictments announced Friday in Washington against 12 Russian military intelligence officers who allegedly hacked into the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic rival, and the Democratic Party, and released tens of thousands of emails in a sweeping Kremlin conspiracy to help Trump.

Trump denies that he or any campaign aides were involved with the Russian campaign and repeatedly dismisses the ongoing investigation that produced Friday’s indictments as a “witch hunt.”

Trump told reporters he plans to raise election meddling with Putin but said he doesn’t expect Putin to ever accept blame.

“I will absolutely bring that up. I don’t think you’ll have any ‘Gee, I did it. I did it. You got me,”‘ Trump said Friday, referring to Putin.

Leading Democratic senators asked Trump in a letter Saturday to scrap the summit if he was not prepared “to make Russia’s attack on our election the top issue you will discuss.” And John McCain, a leading Republican senator and Trump critic, said Trump must hold Putin accountable or not proceed with the meeting.

But Trump’s chief diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, told journalists travelling with him that he was confident the meeting would “put America in a better place.”

Trump’s tweets also targeted CNN, mocking the American cable channel’s president, Jeff Zucker, as “Little Jeff Z” and knocking its election coverage following the president’s spat with a CNN correspondent at a news conference Friday in England.

“So funny! I just checked out Fake News CNN, for the first time in a long time (they are dying in the ratings), to see if they covered my takedown yesterday of Jim Acosta (actually a nice guy). They didn’t!” Acosta had objected to Trump dismissing the news outlet as “fake news.”

In fact, CNN reported on the exchange of words and interviewed Acosta on air about what happened. Acosta also replied to Trump on Twitter.

“Takedown? I don’t think so. Perhaps we should even the playing field next time and you can take my question. (You’re right about one thing.. I am a nice guy),” Acosta said Saturday.

Trump’s repeated attacks on the news media while overseas — he also lashed out at NBC News and The Sun newspaper during Friday’s news conference — has alarmed free speech advocates, especially as Trump is set to hold a joint press availability Monday with Putin, whose country is known for being deeply hostile to a free press.

White House Correspondents’ Association President Margaret Talev said in a statement that “saying a news organization isn’t real doesn’t change the facts and won’t stop us from doing our jobs.”

Trump’s decision to stay yet again at a property he owns — and has repeatedly advertised during the trip — caught the attention of ethics experts, who say Trump should not profit off the presidency.

Here is video from Trump’s 2016 visit to Scotland, before he was U.S. president:

Father of bullying victim Rehtaeh Parsons calls Ford’s sex-ed repeal ‘infuriating’

The father of a girl who died after a suicide attempt that followed months of bullying and an alleged sexual assault says the Ontario government’s decision to repeal the province’s sex education curriculum will put more teens in danger.

On Wednesday, the newly elected Progressive Conservative government of Premier Doug Ford announced the sex-ed curriculum to be taught to children in the coming school year will be an older version — not the controversial updated program brought in by the previous government.

The curriculum will revert back to the version taught in 1998, excluding recently added topics such as same-sex marriage, masturbation, online bullying and sexting.

“It’s infuriating to see them do this,” Glen Canning told CBC Radio’s The House on Friday, adding that teaching consent in schools might have made all the difference for his daughter, Rehtaeh Parsons.

In November 2011, the Nova Scotia teen attended a party where she said she was sexually assaulted.

An explicit photo was taken during the incident — one that would be spread among the kids at her school and lead to months of online bullying.

Seventeen-year-old Rehtaeh was taken off life support in April 2013 after attempting suicide.

Canning said he believes that if Ontario’s modernized — and soon to be replaced — sex-ed curriculum had been in place in Nova Scotia at the time, his daughter might still be alive.

“I think I’d still have my daughter with me right now.”

Education and prevention

Canning said repealing the curriculum means children and teens in Ontario won’t learn about topics that can help them feel safer in school — like consent, LGBT issues and sexual violence.

He accused Ford of scrapping the curriculum to appease his party’s socially conservative voters.

Ford’s new education minister, Lisa Thompson, said the government is planning to consult with parents on a new curriculum to replace the one adopted in 2015.

But Canning said too many parents are failing to teach their kids the facts about sex, sexual exploitation and bullying now. If schools and parents fail to address these topics properly, he said, more teens will suffer the way his daughter did.

“What happened to my daughter was preventable … it was preventable with a good sex education program.”

Papa John’s Marketing Disasters Pile Up Over Chairman’s Behavior

Since that news came out, the University of Louisville wants to rename its football venue from Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium to Cardinal Stadium (although a contract between the school and Schnatter makes that a matter of negotiation). It also will remove Schnatter’s name from the John H. Schnatter Institute for the Study of Free Enterprise, which he helped endow in 2005. A number of professional sports teams, including the New York Yankees, the Atlanta Falcons, Kansas City Royals, and the Baltimore Orioles, have suspended promotions with the company. Olson Engage, a PR firm, ended its contract with the pizza company.