Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's ambitious plan to make the internet inescapable involves drones, infrared lasers, and tons of satellites. The company is working with scientists and aerospace engineers to create a lab that will develop ways to make the internet available to remote and underserved populations.
The "Facebook Connectivity Lab" will bring together NASA employees, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, and engineers from the British firm Ascenta, which builds solar-powered drones, to figure out ways to bring the internet to "every person in the world." The plan is to test drones over suburban areas, shoot up satellites over more rural locations, and use the laser beams to make long distance connections even faster, writes CNN.
If this plan sounds similar to Zuckerberg's previously announced Internet.org coalition, that's because it sort of is. But that project was meant to bring together more "traditional" firms, like Samsung and Nokia, to help deliver the 'net to far flung spots. So far, more than three million people in Paraguay and the Philippines have access to it. Jordan Valinsky
On Sunday night, an explosion of some kind injured two men in their 20s in southwest Austin, according to Austin-Travis County Emergency Management Services. In a short press briefing, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said it is not yet clear if the explosion is related to the three package bombs that killed two people and injuring another on March 2 and March 12 in eastern and northern Austin. The two people injured on Sunday night suffered "significant" but apparently "non-life-threatening" injuries, he added, and police and FBI agents are working to "clear" a suspicious backpack from the area. Manley urged residents within a half-mile of the blast to remain indoors until at least morning.
"Do not touch any packages or anything that looks like a package — do not even go near it at this time," Manley told residents. "Given the darkness we have not had an opportunity to really look at this blast site to determine what has happened." Earlier Sunday, Manley raised the reward for information leading to the arrest of the bomber to $115,000 from $50,000. He said investigators haven't ruled out any motive and don't yet have any clear idea of "what the ideology is behind this." Peter Weber
A Cirque du Soleil aerialist died Saturday after he fell 20 feet during a performance of the show Volta in Tampa, the company announced Sunday.
Yann Arnaud, 38, of France later died at the hospital. A husband and father of two, Arnaud had been performing with Cirque du Soleil for 15 years, and was one of the most experienced members. Daniel Lamarre, president and chief executive of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group, told Reuters he was "very surprised" by Arnaud's death, and he couldn't describe how badly everyone at Cirque du Soleil felt. "It's terrible," he said.
Authorities said Arnaud was performing an aerial strap act on the double rings, and fell after one of his hands slipped. In the 34-year history of the company, this is the third death of a Cirque performer. The incident is now under investigation by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Catherine Garcia
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), undergoing cancer treatment in Arizona, has been unable to appear on the Sunday news shows, but he still joined a thin chorus of Republicans on Sunday to defend Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling and possible collusion with President Trump's campaign. Over the weekend, Trump lashed out at Mueller by name on Twitter for the first time, raising concerns that he would fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions as a prelude to ordering Mueller's ouster.
Special Counsel Mueller has served our country with honesty and integrity. It’s critical he be allowed to complete a thorough investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election — unimpeded.
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) March 18, 2018
Trump's error-filled tweets prompted several top Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, to urge Congress to pass stalled bipartisan legislation to shield Mueller from political interference and Trump's wrath. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his top deputies have not commented on Trump attacking Mueller, and House Speaker Paul Ryan said through his spokeswoman simply that "Mueller and his team should be able to do their job."
Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Jeff Flake (R-N.M.), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) all voiced support for Mueller on Sunday, as did Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), but the GOP leaders of the House and Senate intelligence and judiciary committees have remained silent. One Trump lawyer, John Dowd, urged an end to the Mueller investigation on Saturday, but a second lawyer, Ty Cobb, said late Sunday that Trump "is not considering or discussing the firing of the special counsel, Robert Mueller." Trump can't fire Mueller directly, and the man who can (for cause), Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, said last week that Mueller "is not an unguided missile" and "I don't believe there is any justification at this point for terminating the special counsel." Peter Weber
When she leaves Washington, D.C., don't expect to see outgoing White House Communications Director Hope Hicks write a juicy memoir or run for office. "She doesn't particularly like politics," one person close to Hicks told New York's Olivia Nuzzi. "She's loyal to Mr. Trump." Nuzzi spoke with more than 30 current and former White House officials about Hicks, and among other things, she learned more about her terminated relationship with Rob Porter, the onetime White House staff secretary.
Last month, Porter's two ex-wives went public with abuse allegations, and one, Jennifer Willoughby, told Nuzzi that Porter asked her repeatedly to take down a blog post that detailed the accusations without naming Porter. She declined, and in late January he called again, demanding she take it down because someone "was unhappy with him" and going to alert the media. At first Willoughby thought it was former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, because Porter blocked him from sharing his "racist agenda," she said, but now she thinks it was actually Corey Lewandowski — Trump's former campaign manager.
Lewandowski and Hicks reportedly had an affair during the campaign, and one person told Nuzzi that Lewandowski "has, sort of, Single White Male characteristics." Not only did he dislike Porter, he also doesn't like White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who at first defended Porter after the abuse allegations became public (they were already known in the White House).
The person who tipped off the media about the abuse knew "this would be part of a larger story related to security clearances and John Kelly and others, seeking to sow chaos and dissension," Nuzzi was told. Kelly himself is no fan of Hicks, calling her "the high schooler" and "immature," because he "doesn't like a woman that potentially has some position of power over him," one person told Nuzzi. Read the entire, in-depth article at New York. Catherine Garcia
Three people who have spoken with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team or congressional committees investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election told Reuters that during their interviews, they contradicted the testimony of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who last November told the House Judiciary Committee he "pushed back" against a proposal in 2016 to have Trump campaign representatives meet with Russians.
The three witnesses were at the March 2016 meeting, where former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos suggested reaching out to the Russians, and while their accounts differed slightly, they all said that Sessions had no objections to Papadopoulos' idea. One told Reuters that Sessions was polite, and told Papadopoulos something similar to, "okay, interesting." Last November, a meeting attendee named J.D. Gordon said Sessions was opposed to the plan, and on Saturday he told Reuters he stood by his statement.
At the time, Sessions — who also failed last year to disclose to Congress he met with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak — was still a Republican senator from Alabama, and he was chairing the meeting as head of the campaign's foreign policy team. President Trump posted a photo of the meeting on his Instagram feed that showed Trump, Sessions, Papadopoulos, and other men sitting at a table. In October, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts, and he's now cooperating with Mueller. Catherine Garcia
After purchasing three apartment buildings in Astoria, Queens, in 2015, Kushner Cos. filed false paperwork with the city of New York, claiming that there were zero rent-regulated tenants in the buildings when there were as many as 94, The Associated Press reports.
President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner stepped down as CEO of his family business last year, after spending three years in the role. Aaron Carr, founder of the watchdog group Housing Rights Initiative, found that from 2013 to 2016, Kushner Cos. filed at least 80 false applications for construction permits in 34 buildings across New York City, and Carr passed along the paperwork to AP. All of the documents said there were no rent-regulated tenants in the buildings, despite tax documents showing there were more than 300. Nearly every document was signed by an employee of Kushner Cos., including in some cases the chief operating officer.
When there are rent-regulated tenants in a building, the city keeps an eye on construction crews to make sure they are not pressuring residents to move out so new tenants can come in and pay higher rents. Current and former residents of the three Queens buildings told AP they had to endure leaking water, drilling, and loud noises throughout the construction work in their buildings, and in some cases their rent was increased by 60 percent and they felt they were pushed out. In 2017, the buildings were sold for $60 million, nearly 50 percent more than Kushner Cos. paid.
Carr told AP it was "bare-faced greed," and "the fact that the company was falsifying all these applications with the government shows a sordid attempt to avert accountability and get a rapid return on its investment." In a statement to AP, Kushner Cos. said it outsources the preparation of documents to third parties and "if mistakes or violations are identified, corrective action is taken immediately." Catherine Garcia
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) on Fox News Sunday chastised President Trump's personal attorney, John Dowd, for saying Saturday it is time for Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation to end.
"If you look at the jurisdiction for Robert Mueller, first and foremost [it is] what did Russia do to this country in 2016. That is supremely important, and it has nothing to do with collusion," Gowdy said. "So to suggest that Mueller should shut down and that all he's looking at is collusion — if you have an innocent client, Mr. Dowd, act like it."
The GOP congressman also offered a warning to Trump himself. "When you are innocent ... act like it," Gowdy said to the president. "If you've done nothing wrong, you should want the investigation to be as fulsome and thorough as possible." Watch a clip of Gowdy's comments below. Bonnie Kristian
Trey Gowdy on Trump lawyer John Dowd calling for shutting down the Mueller probe: “When you are innocent… act like it.” (via Fox) pic.twitter.com/qIdueVe0FD
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) March 18, 2018