Shut it down
June 21, 2019

President Trump has clearly never heard of the 22nd amendment.

On Friday, Trump tweeted out an animated version of an old Time magazine cover that's clearly not something Time created. It's essentially Trumpian fan art, in which the president appears in front of campaign signs dating up until the year 90000. That's a solid 21,996 more election cycles, which could be the most exhausting number known to man.

The video was originally posted last October by a Trump-loving "memesmith" who goes by @CarpeDonktum on Twitter, and was a spin on that week's Time magazine cover. Trump has tweeted out several @CarpeDonktum videos in the past, including a video montage of Democrats rolling their eyes at the State of the Union that was taken down for a copyright violation. Kathryn Krawczyk

April 1, 2019

Democrats are firmly united on one improbable idea.

A slew of 2020 contenders have jumpstarted another push to abolish the Electoral College, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) denouncing the system in mid-March and other candidates saying they'd consider scrapping it. Now, that idea has spread to the Senate, where Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) is planning to introduce a constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College on Tuesday, The Daily Beast first reported via a Schatz spokesperson.

Of course, introducing this proposal as a constitutional amendment — which requires approval from two-thirds of Congress and three-fourths of all states — means it's pretty much doomed to fail. Republicans who hold the Senate are almost certain to strike it down, and most Democrats haven't even come out in support of abolishing the system. But as Schatz acknowledged by retweeting NBC News' reporting on his upcoming proposal, an amendment against the Electoral College will just help keep the conversations around it going.

The Daily Beast's report adds another 2020 Democrat, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), to the anti-Electoral College mix. Gillibrand, along with Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), are among senators slated to support Schatz's amendment. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) also recently introduced an anti-Electoral College bill loaded with other electoral system changes. His bill and Schatz's proposal won't be merged, but do highlight continued concerns over how President Trump easily won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote in 2016. Kathryn Krawczyk

February 25, 2019

An open letter from 23 former GOP lawmakers published Monday urges Republicans currently in Congress to block President Trump's national emergency, which he declared earlier this month to obtain funding for border wall construction.

With signatories including former Defense Secretary and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), the letter "offer[s] two arguments against allowing a president — any president, regardless of party — to circumvent congressional authority." One is the Constitution's investiture of lawmaking power, including the power of the purse, in Congress, not the presidency. To permit the president to usurp that authority, the letter says, is to undermine "true representative government."

The second argument appeals to its readers' self-interest as much as to principles of good governance, warning that Trump's emergency declaration will backfire for the very Republicans who support it now.

"[W]hat will you do when a president of another party uses the precedent you are establishing to impose policies to which you are unalterably opposed?" the letter asks. "There is no way around this difficulty: What powers are ceded to a president whose policies you support may also be used by presidents whose policies you abhor."

The letter closes with an appeal to oppose Trump's declaration; a vote is scheduled in the House on Tuesday and the Senate is expected to take up the issue soon. Trump, meanwhile, issued an opposite plea on Twitter Monday, telling GOP senators to be "strong and smart" and "don't get led down the path of weak and ineffective Border Security." Bonnie Kristian

February 23, 2019

A group of nearly 100 Microsoft workers signed a petition Friday calling on their employer to cancel a $480 million contract with the U.S. Army and to stop developing "any and all weapons technologies."

Microsoft has agreed to sell the military its HoloLens headset, which allows users to see a virtually augmented version of reality. Contract bidding documents indicate the Army intends to use the gear as part of its Integrated Visual Augmentation System for both training and battlefield situations to improve soldiers' "lethality, mobility, and situational awareness."

"We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used," says the employee petition, arguing that when the HoloLens headset is "deployed on the battlefield," it will turn "warfare into a simulated 'video game,' further distancing soldiers from the grim stakes of war and the reality of bloodshed."

In a response statement Friday, Microsoft said it appreciated workers' input but will continue working with the military.

A similar intra-company conflict at Google last year over technology used for drone strikes resulted in the resignation of about a dozen employees and protest from some 4,600 more. Google ultimately did not renew the defense contract at issue, saying it clashed with company values. Bonnie Kristian

February 13, 2019

Apple CEO Tim Cook says the company will "take a look" at a controversial app in Saudi Arabia that allows Saudi men to track their wives and daughters, reports NPR.

Absher, an app which was created by a subset of the Saudi Ministry of Interior, has been distributed on both Apple and Google app stores, with more than one million downloads on the latter platform, per Vice News.

The app says users "can safely browse your profile or your family members, or [laborers] working for you, and perform a wide range of eServices online," NPR reports. App users can also receive a notification whenever one of the people they are tracking attempts to use a passport. All women in Saudi Arabia are required to have a male guardian and need permission to travel, per Vice News.

Human rights groups have taken issue with the app, and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) called on Apple and Google earlier this week to remove the app. "It is hardly news that the Saudi monarchy seeks to restrict and repress Saudi women," wrote Wyden in a letter to the companies, "but American companies should not enable or facilitate the Saudi government's patriarchy."

Cook told NPR he had not heard about the controversy before being asked about it during an interview on Monday. The app has remained available on both platforms as of Wednesday. Marianne Dodson

December 4, 2018

The United States has been involved in conflict in Afghanistan for long enough, Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters in India Monday.

"In Afghanistan, it's gone on now — it's approaching 40 years. Forty years is enough, and it's time for everyone to get on board, support the United Nations, support [Indian] Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi, support [Afghan] President [Ashraf] Ghani, and all those who are trying to maintain peace and make for a better world here," Mattis said. "So, we are on that track."

The United States has been actively at war in Afghanistan for 17 years, but was also involved in proxy fights against the Soviet Union beginning in 1979. U.S. intervention in Afghanistan continued through the 1980s and 1990s.

While Mattis has repeatedly spoken of ending the war in Afghanistan, highlighting the need for a diplomatic solution, other recent comments suggest his vision of an end to the war does not include U.S. troop withdrawal. "We are going to stand with the 41 nations, largest wartime coalition in history, who are still committed to this effort," he said at a defense forum in California Saturday. Bonnie Kristian

August 1, 2018

Facebook and Instagram want to take up less of your time. Yes, really.

As counterintuitive as it may sound, the two platforms will soon debut a feature that clocks how long users spend on their apps, Recode reports. It's all part of Mark Zuckerberg's 2018 push to make sure time spent on Facebook and Instagram is "time well spent."

Users got a first look at the "time well spent" features when screenshots were leaked in June, per The Verge. "Your Activity" on Instagram and "Your Time on Facebook" display a graph of users' average time spent on the apps. Users can then set an alarm for when they've reached their daily average. To get even more disconnected, users can also mute Instagram and Facebook notifications for minutes or hours.

The two platforms profit off the time users spend scrolling, making the new features pretty ironic. But Ameet Ranadive, Instagram's product director of well-being, said at a press event that this is a trade Facebook is willing to make. It's in line with Zuckerberg's "responsibility" mantra, which led to a revamped algorithm prioritizing friends' content over pages'. These newest developments will similarly give users "power and control over how and when they want to engage," Ranadive said, per BuzzFeed News.

With Facebook's credibility — and stocks — falling, the company needs all the people-first features it can get. Read more at Recode. Kathryn Krawczyk

July 24, 2018

North Korea appears to be shutting down its primary satellite launch location, the North Korea-focused analysis site 38 North reports, citing satellite imagery taken this month.

Among the facilities being dismantled, 38 North says, are "the rail-mounted processing building — where space launch vehicles are prepared before moving them to the launch pad — and the nearby rocket engine test stand used to develop liquid-fuel engines for ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles."

This equipment is thought to have been crucial to the Kim Jong Un regime's development of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). However, some analysts caution against overstating the import of this deconstruction: North Korea has not permitted outside experts to verify the shutdown, and this change will have no effect on the regime's current stockpile of long-range missiles. Bonnie Kristian

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