(UNITED NATIONS) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called President Donald Trump "deranged" and said in a statement carried by the state news agency that he will "pay dearly" for his threats.
Kim said that Trump is "unfit to hold the prerogative of supreme command of a country." He also described the president as "a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire."
"I will make the man holding the prerogative of the supreme command in the U.S. pay dearly for his speech calling for totally destroying the DPRK," said the statement carried by North's official Korean Central News Agency in a dispatch issued from Pyongyang on Friday morning.
DPRK is the abbreviation of the communist country's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The statement responded to Trump's combative speech at the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday where he mocked Kim as a "Rocket Man" on a "suicide mission," and said that if "forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea."
Kim characterized Trump's speech to the world body as "mentally deranged behavior."
He said Trump's remarks "have convinced me, rather than frightening or stopping me, that the path I chose is correct and that it is the one I have to follow to the last."
Kim said he is "thinking hard" about his response and that Trump "will face results beyond his expectation."
It is unusual for the North Korean leader to issue such a statement in his own name. It will further escalate the war of words between the adversaries as the North moves closer to perfecting a nuclear-tipped missile that could strike America.
In recent months, the North has launched a pair of intercontinental missiles believed capable of striking the continental United States and another pair that soared over Japanese territory. Earlier this month, North Koreaconducted its most powerful nuclear test to date drawing stiffer U.N. sanctions.
(MEXICO CITY) — As painstaking attempts to reach survivors in quake-ravaged buildings across Mexico City stretched into a third day Thursday, desperation mounted among loved ones who earlier had high hopes for quick rescues and some complained they were being kept in the dark about search efforts.
And what many had clung to as the unlikely triumph of life over death was revealed to be a case of some very high-profile misinformation: A top navy official announced there were no missing children at a collapsed Mexico City school where the purported plight of a girl trapped alive in the rubble had captivated people across the nation and abroad.
President Enrique Pena Nieto's office raised the death toll from Tuesday's magnitude 7.1 earthquake to 273, including 137 in the capital. In a statement, it said there were also 73 deaths in Morelos state, 43 in Puebla, 13 in the State of Mexico, six in Guerrero and one in Oaxaca.
More than 2,000 were injured and more than 50 people rescued in Mexico City alone, including two women and a man pulled alive from the wreckage of a building in the city's center Wednesday night.
Still, frustration was growing as the rescue effort stretched into Day 3.
Outside a collapsed office building in the trendy Roma Norte district, a list of those rescued was strung between two trees. Relatives of the missing compared it against their own list of those who were in the building when the quake struck — more than two dozen names — kept in a spiral notebook.
Patricia Fernandez's 27-year-old nephew, Ivan Colin Fernandez, worked as an accountant in the seven-story building, which pancaked to the ground taking part of the building next door with it.
She said the last time the family got an update was late yesterday, when officials said about 14 people were believed to be alive inside. Three people have been rescued from the building since the quake.
"They should keep us informed," Fernandez said as her sister, the man's mother, wept into her black fleece sweater. "Because I think what kills us most is the desperation of not knowing anything."
Referring to rumors that authorities intend to bring in heavy machinery that could risk bringing buildings down on anyone still alive inside, Fernandez said: "That seems unjust to us because there are still people alive inside and that's not OK."
"I think they should wait until they take the last one out," she said.
Seeking to dispel the rumors, National Civil Protection chief Luis Felipe Puente tweeted that heavy machinery "is NOT being used" in search-and-rescue efforts.
"The (hashtag)Search and Rescue is not being suspended anywhere it is believed that trapped people exist," Puente said in a separate tweet.
Since early Wednesday, the eyes of the nation had been focused on the Enrique Rebsaman school in southern Mexico City, where rescuers told reporters a girl, identified only as Frida Sofia, had signaled she was alive deep in the rubble by wiggling her fingers in response to rescuers' shouts.
Numerous rescuers at the school site spoke of the girl, with some saying she had reported several other children alive in the same space, and the child became a symbol of hope amid a disaster that has shocked the country. But with TV cameras and journalists kept a block away from the precarious site, the only images broadcast live around-the-clock of the purported rescue showed long-distance shots of rescuers digging and no images of a child.
As the rescue effort continued into Thursday, no family members came forward to identify the girl, and some officials had begun to say the identity of the person trapped in the rubble was not clear.
Then on Thursday afternoon, Navy Assistant Secretary Enrique Sarmiento announced that while there were blood traces and other signs suggesting someone could be alive beneath the school, all its children had been accounted for.
"We have done an accounting with school officials and we are certain that all the children either died, unfortunately, are in hospitals or are safe at their homes," Sarmiento said.
He said 11 children had been rescued and 19 had died, along with six adults, including a school employee whose body was recovered about 5 a.m. Thursday.
"We want to emphasize that we have no knowledge about the report that emerged with the name of a girl," Sarmiento added. "We do not believe, we are sure, it was not a reality."
Alfredo Padilla, a volunteer rescuer at the school, downplayed the importance of the revelation that there was no trapped child.
"It was a confusion," Padilla said. "The important thing is there are signs of life and we are working on that."
Earlier in the day, rescuers removed dirt bucketful by bucketful and passed a scanner over the rubble every hour or so to search for heat signatures that could indicate trapped survivors. Shortly before dawn the pile shuddered ominously, prompting those working atop it to evacuate.
"With the shaking there has been, it is very unstable and taking any decision is dangerous," said Vladimir Navarro, a university employee who was exhausted after working all night.
The shaky wreckage was reinforced with massive iron beams, each requiring a dozen or more men to carry and lift into place. Stretchers were brought to the edge of the building, and a large crane was also on site.
Lourdes Huerta, 10, was on an upper floor of a part of the school that did not collapse and returned to the site Thursday with her mother as the rescue was under way.
When the quake struck, "it was like we were bouncing up and down," Huerta said, nervously fingering a stuffed animal. "When I left the classroom the whole school was moving and we couldn't go downstairs, so we went back into the classroom and huddled up against the walls."
She said she was terrified when a wall collapsed, but said if they had tried the stairs "we would have ended up being thrown about."
Her mother, Lourdes Prieto, said the school's director and many of its teachers were among the injured, complicating efforts to produce a reliable list of students. So parents were organizing among themselves to come up with one.
"What we need above all is for a census to be taken of those of us who are alive," said Prieto, torn between gratitude that her two children had survived and anguish over the missing and the dead.
Associated Press writer Mark Stevenson and videojournalist Alexis Triboulard contributed to this report from Mexico City.
President Donald Trump's political muscles are getting a workout in a Republican runoff election in Alabama that has an awkward dynamic: He's campaigning for the establishment-backed incumbent over an upstart beloved by many of his own most ardent supporters, including his former chief strategist Steve Bannon.
Motivated by personal loyalty and a sense that the race is newly competitive, Trump heads to Huntsville, Alabama, on Friday to campaign for Sen. Luther Strange, appointed in February to temporarily fill the seat that opened up when Jeff Sessions became attorney general. The winner of next Tuesday's runoff will be the GOP candidate in a December election to serve out the rest of Sessions' term, ending in January 2021.
Strange is locked in a tight race with former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, a jurist known for pushing unsuccessfully for the public display of the Ten Commandments and opposing gay marriage. A super political action committee tied to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who favors Strange, has pumped millions of dollars into the race, as Senate Republicans worry that Moore would be a disruptive figure in the chamber, or might even lose to Democrat Doug Jones.
Moore led Strange in the first round of GOP voting, but not by enough to avoid the runoff, which could stand as an early test of how much sway Trump has over his political base. Both Strange and Moore have emphasized their support for the president, who is popular in the deep red state.
GOP leaders worry about what a loss by Strange would say about the president's political strength going into a midterm election year, as well as their ability to advance his agenda in Congress. Republican strategist Rick Tyler said a Strange loss could signal a situation analogous to that of former President Barack Obama, who had a base that "will support him, like him, vote for him but won't necessarily be moved to act for him on behalf of others."
McConnell spoke with Trump recently and assured him that Strange was much more competitive than recent public polls suggested, according to a person with knowledge of the call who requested anonymity to discuss it.
Trump, who endorsed Strange last month, tweeted on Wednesday: "Alabama is sooo lucky to have a candidate like "Big" Luther Strange. Smart, tough on crime, borders & trade, loves Vets & Military. Tuesday!"
Challenger Moore, running on an anti-Washington platform, has backing from former Trump chief strategist Bannon and his conservative website Breitbart News, and the Great America Alliance, an advocacy group that supports Trump. A rally for Moore on Thursday night was to feature Trump allies including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former White House official Sebastian Gorka.
Trump's visit comes after some GOP encouragement. At the end of a White House meeting last week, he asked Sen. Bob Corker, of Tennessee, about Strange's chances and Corker said Trump needed to make the trip, said a person familiar with the conversation who was not authorized to speak publicly. Trump then got on the phone with GOP strategist Ward Baker, a Corker and McConnell ally who is working on the race for the Senate Leadership Fund, to talk through the campaign, according to a different person who also requested anonymity to disclose the private conversation.
The Washington Post first reported on Corker's involvement.
Trump allies stressed that the president was also motivated by Strange's loyalty and commitment to his agenda. Strange stresses his support from Trump in stump speeches and pamphlets.
Steven Law, who runs the Senate Leadership Fund, which supports Strange, said Trump's increased engagement appeared to be based on the "perception that the race is now competitive, that he could make a decisive difference, and that it was worth investing his political capital."
The Senate Leadership Fund is on pace to spend more than $9 million to keep Strange in the Senate. Law, a former McConnell chief of staff, said the race is very close and turnout will be a decisive factor.
"The best booster rocket that Luther Strange could have is Donald Trump coming in in the last few days," said Law.
Trump appears to be placing other factors over ideology as he pushes to keep Strange in the Senate over a candidate more in sync with the tone of his own 2016 campaign.
In 2010 and 2012, the GOP had a few disastrous Senate primaries where extreme candidates won and then lost winnable races to Democrats in the general election. Since then, McConnell has been determined not to let it happen again — and has succeeded in every instance.
But the pro-Moore forces have shown no signs of retreat. His conservative backers include Fox News' Sean Hannity and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Andy Surabian, a senior adviser to Great America Alliance, stressed said the efforts for Moore were not a knock on Trump.
"We all support the president and that will never change," Surabian said. But he added: "What does a change candidate breed? It breeds a movement."
Moore has stressed that the race could send a message.
"What's happening in Alabama is being watched in the halls of Congress and the Senate," Moore said at a rally over the weekend. "They know what is happening in Alabama. Mitch McConnell knows what is happening in Alabama. They know it is going to affect the future of elections of other senators in 2018 in other states."
The poll, conducted in the wake of a white nationalist protest in Charlottesville that left one woman dead, finds that 28% of people view race relations as "very bad," while 42% of responders say they are "fairly" bad. Only 26% of those polled say race relations are good in the U.S.
The current view of race relations nearly matches the poll's record low of 74%, found last year following numerous fatal police shootings of unarmed black men. That figure marked the lowest viewpoint of race relations in the history of the poll.
Of those surveyed, 25% said they approve of the way President Donald Trump has handled race relations in the U.S. Only 20% approved of Trump's response to Charlottesville, in which the president placed blame on both white supremacists and counter-protestors for the violence, saying there were "very fine people on both sides." Among black people, only 3% approved of the response.
The poll of 900 adults was conducted between Sept. 14 and Sept. 18. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.
As a Supreme Court justice, Sonia Sotomayor knows she shouldn't speak out on political issues. But at an event in Washington, D.C. Thursday, she hinted at her views on one of the topics that most divides politicians in the other two branches of government: immigration.
"It's a real issue," Sotomayor said at an event at the Newseum hosted by iCivics, a nonprofit founded by former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. "Why? Because some people feel at risk. If that is what is motivating them, whatever answer we find as a nation is going to have to deal with that. It's going to have to address it in some meaningful way that will give people some sense of greater security than what they're feeling."
Pacing among the crowd and giving hugs to questioners, Sotomayor, a member of the liberal wing of the court, also waded into college affordability. "I think there are many more programs that the government should be supporting and participating in," she said in response to a question from a Latina high school student about how government could be more inclusive. "The rising cost of college today is not just strangling people of color like us, but it strangles everybody. So government has to be looking at that."
As Sotomayor promoted civic engagement and encouraged people to respect those with opposing political views, she took a gentle swipe at television news. "Television is soundbites," she said, saying society has lost something when people get their news from cable rather than newspapers. "And soundbites have the danger of cutting off important discussions that require in-depth consideration of issues."
But she acknowledged that in today's heated climate, some people may not be open to productive dialogue. "If someone is a racist within their stomach, there may be nothing you can say that will change that," she said. "There are some conversations that won't change the problem, or for which you can't find a solution. What you have to do is try to find commonality with enough people so that person's voice won't win out."
Named for cosponsors Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, the Graham-Cassidy bill will not be scored by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office before the Senate faces an end-of-month deadline to pass it by a simple majority.
While the broad outlines of the bill are known, that means senators will have to make a decision to vote for or against the bill without knowing how many millions of Americans could lose insurance, how much money their state could gain or lose under it and what effects it might have on insurance premiums, according to their own scorekeeper.
Outside groups have made their own estimates, all of which say the bill will lead to millions fewer Americans having insurance. A recent report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities wagers that more than 32 million people could lose healthcare as a result of Graham-Cassidy, which could slash federal healthcare funding by nearly $300 billion over the next decade.
But for some Republicans, the details of the bill are not as important as the years-long promise they made to repeal Obamacare.
"You know, I could maybe give you 10 reasons why this bill shouldn't be considered," said Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa. "But Republicans campaigned on this so often that you have a responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign. That's pretty much as much of a reason as the substance of the bill."
Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas told Vox that the bill needed to be passed regardless of imperfections because of the problems of the Affordable Care Act.
“Look, we’re in the back seat of a convertible being driven by Thelma and Louise, and we’re headed toward the canyon,” he said. "That’s a movie that you’ve probably never seen. So we have to get out of the car, and you have to have a car to get into, and this is the only car there is.”
When the Affordable Care Act was being considered in 2010, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously said that lawmakers would have to “pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it." She meant that the "fog of controversy" over the famously tortuous legislative process behind the bill had clouded the actual benefits in it, but the quote was seized on by many conservatives over the years to criticize the Democratic law.
But the Affordable Care Act was debated after a rigorous congressional schedule that included hearings before multiple committees, changes to the bill designed to win Republican support and a painful month for Democrats of angry constituents arguing against the bill at town-hall meetings.
The Graham-Cassidy bill, by contrast, is the result of fast-tracked and largely backroom conversations between Senate Republicans. There will only be one day of Senate hearings on the bill next week. At a press conference this week, Senate Minority Leader denounced it as "a hastily constructed piece of legislation put together in back rooms by only one party."
“It’s quite unprecedented, and it’s very, very bad process on a lot of levels,” Alice Rivlin, the founding director of the Congressional Budget Office, director of the Office Management and Budget under the Clinton Administration and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told TIME. “To pass a major healthcare bill with the votes of only one party is a big mistake. They should wait for the CBO score. It’s bad PR, and it’s bad politics.”
The major impetus for the current push is a deadline to use a process known as reconciliation, which requires just a simple majority of 50 votes (with Vice President Mike Pence breaking the tie) to pass a bill. Earlier this month, the Senate parliamentarian set Sept. 30 as the deadline.
But earlier this week, the CBO issued a statement saying that it would only provide a "preliminary assessment" of Graham-Cassidy's impact before the end of the month. Specific estimates of the bill's impact on the deficit, the number of insured Americans, and the cost of insurance premiums would take "at least several weeks."
"I would say it's either never happened or it's extraordinarily unusual for legislation to be considered without a full CBO score, particularly under reconciliation," Frederick Isasi, executive director of Families USA, the nonprofit health advocacy organization, tells TIME. "Many Republicans pride themselves on being fiscally conservative, so it’s difficult to understand how they would be comfortable voting on sweeping legislation that will impact at least 90 million Americans without a full accounting from the CBO of all financial and coverage impacts."
This hasn't stopped Senate Republicans from moving ahead. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell intends to "consider Graham-Cassidy on the floor next week," his spokesman David Popp confirmed to TIME on Wednesday. When asked about the lack of a CBO score at a press conference, Senator Graham, the bill's eponymous co-sponsor, deflected, saying only that "the CBO has told us that they'll have a score for us, and it'll be on the cash aspect of it, so we'll have a chance to look at that."
But it may yet stop the bill. Republicans can afford only two defections in the Senate to keep the bill from failing, and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has already made it clear that he won't vote for Graham-Cassidy. Three Republicans who voted against the last repeal attempt remain on the fence: Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
In his dramatic late-night speech against that attempt, McCain complained that the bill wasn't going through the regular legislative process, and Collins has raised similar concerns this time around about Graham-Cassidy.
"I am still looking at it, but I have major reservations," Collins told reporters this week. "We don't have a CBO score."
(BOSTON ) — Aaron Hernandez's lawyer says the former New England Patriots tight end's brain showed severe signs of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
In a news conference at his offices, attorney Jose Baez says testing showed that Hernandez had a severe case of the disease.
CTE can be caused by repeated head trauma and leads to symptoms like violent mood swings, depression and other cognitive difficulties. Hernandez killed himself in April in the jail cell where he was serving a life-without-parole sentence for a 2013 murder. His death came just hours before the Patriots visited the White House to celebrate their latest Super Bowl victory.
CTE can only be diagnosed in an autopsy. A recent study found evidence of the disease in 110 of 111 former NFL players whose brains were examined.
Zuckerberg's announcement comes after the social network said earlier this month that nearly 500 accounts likely originating in Russia bought $100,000 worth of Facebook ads during the election. Facebook said it had previously shared the information with U.S. officials investigating Russian interference leading up to Election Day.
On Thursday, Zuckerberg revealed a nine-step plan to stop states from interfering in one another's elections via Facebook, noting that the amount of "problematic content" found so far is "relatively small."
"I wish I could tell you we're going to be able to stop all interference, but that wouldn't be realistic," Zuckerberg said on Facebook. "There will always be bad people in the world, and we can't prevent all governments from all interference. But we can make it harder. We can make it a lot harder. And that's what we're going to do."
Read Zuckerberg's full statement below.
I just went live a minute ago. Here’s what I said:
Today is my first day back in the office after taking parental leave. It was really special to be with Priscilla and August after she was born, and to get to spend some more time with Max.
While I was out on leave, I spent a lot of time with our teams on the question of Russian interference in the US elections. I made some decisions on the next steps we're taking, and I want to share those with you now.
First, let me say this. I care deeply about the democratic process and protecting its integrity. Facebook's mission is all about giving people a voice and bringing people closer together. Those are deeply democratic values and we're proud of them. I don't want anyone to use our tools to undermine democracy. That's not what we stand for.
The integrity of our elections is fundamental to democracy around the world. That's why we've built teams dedicated to working on election integrity and preventing governments from interfering in the elections of other nations. And as we've shared before, our teams have found and shut down thousands of fake accounts that could be attempting to influence elections in many countries, including recently in the French elections.
Now, I wish I could tell you we're going to be able to stop all interference, but that wouldn't be realistic. There will always be bad people in the world, and we can't prevent all governments from all interference. But we can make it harder. We can make it a lot harder. And that's what we're going to do.
So today I want to share the steps we're taking to protect election integrity and make sure that Facebook is a force for good in democracy. While the amount of problematic content we've found so far remains relatively small, any attempted interference is a serious issue. Here are 9 things we'll be working on over the next few months:
1. We are actively working with the US government on its ongoing investigations into Russian interference. We have been investigating this for many months, and for a while we had found no evidence of fake accounts linked to Russia running ads. When we recently uncovered this activity, we provided that information to the special counsel. We also briefed Congress - and this morning I directed our team to provide the ads we've found to Congress as well. As a general rule, we are limited in what we can discuss publicly about law enforcement investigations, so we may not always be able to share our findings publicly. But we support Congress in deciding how to best use this information to inform the public, and we expect the government to publish its findings when their investigation is complete.
2. We will continue our investigation into what happened on Facebook in this election. We may find more, and if we do, we will continue to work with the government. We are looking into foreign actors, including additional Russian groups and other former Soviet states, as well as organizations like the campaigns, to further our understanding of how they used our tools. These investigations will take some time, but we will continue our thorough review.
3. Going forward - and perhaps the most important step we're taking - we're going to make political advertising more transparent. When someone buys political ads on TV or other media, they're required by law to disclose who paid for them. But you still don't know if you're seeing the same messages as everyone else. So we're going to bring Facebook to an even higher standard of transparency. Not only will you have to disclose which page paid for an ad, but we will also make it so you can visit an advertiser's page and see the ads they're currently running to any audience on Facebook. We will roll this out over the coming months, and we will work with others to create a new standard for transparency in online political ads.
4. We will strengthen our ad review process for political ads. To be clear, it has always been against our policies to use any of our tools in a way that breaks the law - and we already have many controls in place to prevent this. But we can do more. Most ads are bought programmatically through our apps and website without the advertiser ever speaking to anyone at Facebook. That's what happened here. But even without our employees involved in the sales, we can do better.
Now, I'm not going to sit here and tell you we're going to catch all bad content in our system. We don't check what people say before they say it, and frankly, I don't think our society shouldn't want us to. Freedom means you don't have to ask permission first, and that by default you can say what you want. If you break our community standards or the law, then you're going to face consequences afterwards. We won't catch everyone immediately, but we can make it harder to try to interfere.
5. We are increasing our investment in security and specifically election integrity. In the next year, we will more than double the team working on election integrity. In total, we'll add more than 250 people across all our teams focused on security and safety for our community.
6. We will expand our partnerships with election commissions around the world. We already work with electoral commissions in many countries to help people register to vote and learn about the issues. We'll keep doing that, and now we're also going to establish a channel to inform election commissions of the online risks we've identified in their specific elections.
7. We will increase sharing of threat information with other tech and security companies. We already share information on bad actors on the internet through programs like ThreatExchange, and now we're exploring ways we can share more information about anyone attempting to interfere with elections. It is important that tech companies collaborate on this because it's almost certain that any actor trying to misuse Facebook will also be trying to abuse other internet platforms too.
8. We are working proactively to strengthen the democratic process. Beyond pushing back against threats, we will also create more services to protect our community while engaging in political discourse. For example, we're looking at adapting our anti-bullying systems to protect against political harassment as well, and we're scaling our ballot information tools to help more people understand the issues.
9. We have been working to ensure the integrity of the German elections this weekend, from taking actions against thousands of fake accounts, to partnering with public authorities like the Federal Office for Information Security, to sharing security practices with the candidates and parties. We're also examining the activity of accounts we've removed and have not yet found a similar type of effort in Germany. This is incredibly important and we have been focused on this for a while.
At the same time, it's important not to lose sight of the more straightforward and larger ways Facebook plays a role in elections - and these effects operate at much larger scales of 100x or 1000x bigger than what we're discussing here.
In 2016, people had billions of interactions and open discussions on Facebook that may never have happened offline. Candidates had direct channels to communicate with tens of millions of citizens. Campaigns spent tens of millions organizing and advertising online to get their messages out further. And we organized "get out the vote" efforts that helped as many as 2 million people register to vote who might not have voted otherwise. Many of these dynamics were new in this election, or at much larger scale than ever before in history, and at much larger scale than the interference we've found.
But we are in a new world. It is a new challenge for internet communities to deal with nation states attempting to subvert elections. But if that's what we must do, we are committed to rising to the occasion. Our sophistication in handling these threats is growing and improving quickly. We will continue working with the government to understand the full extent of Russian interference, and we will do our part not only to ensure the integrity of free and fair elections around the world, but also to give everyone a voice and to be a force for good in democracy everywhere.
Thanks for tuning in, and we'll keep you updated with more soon.
(NEW YORK) — Facebook says the company will provide the contents of 3,000 ads bought by a Russian agency to congressional investigators.
The move Thursday comes as the company has faced growing pressure from members of Congress to release the content of the ads. Facebook had already released the ads to federal authorities investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee have been seeking to bring Facebook executives before their committee since the company first revealed the existence of the ads two weeks ago.
But critics say Facebook should go further. They say the company should tell its users how they might have been influenced by outside meddlers.
The Trump Administration is considering limiting U.S. ties with Myanmar’s military in response to its recent violence against the country’s Rohingya Muslims, a White House official tells TIME.
In the past three weeks, more than 420,000 Rohingya Muslims, an ethnic minority group, have fled their homes in Myanmar, also known as Burma, in what the United Nations human rights chief has called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
“Until Burma’s security forces act in accordance with the rule of law and stop the violence and displacement, moving forward with such engagement will be difficult,” a National Security Council spokesperson tells TIME.
The conflict in Myanmar erupted on Aug. 25, after a militant Muslim group attacked army security posts in the country’s west coast state of Rakhine. Myanmar’s army responded in apparent retaliation, and refugees have told aid workers that the military had set fire to their homes and planted land mines along their escape routes.
The White House and the State Department have called for Myanmar’s security forces to end the violence against civilians. They have also asked for the government and the army to facilitate humanitarian aid for displaced persons.
The de facto leader of the country’s civilian government, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, claims military operations in Rakhine ended on Sept. 5. Human rights groups say they are ongoing. The NSC spokesperson also suggested that the violence is continuing. “We will continue to call for the Burmese security forces to immediately end the violence against civilians,” the spokesperson told TIME on Sept. 19.
Myanmar’s army wields enormous power in the country, despite recent democratic reforms after the military rule the country for half a century. Myanmar’s constitution guarantees the army 25% of seats the parliament and veto power over any constitutional change. The army also controls three key ministries: Defense, Home Affairs and Border Affairs.
Formal assistance to Myanmar’s military remains illegal in the U.S., including the sale of U.S. military equipment and participation in the U.S. International Military Education and Training program.
But prior to this crisis, U.S. and Myanmar military-to-military engagement has been “nascent,” the NSC spokesperson says.
The Obama Administration explored limited military-to-military engagement with Myanmar to support the country’s transition toward civilian rule. Last year, Obama’s deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes said U.S. military to military engagement with Myanmar included things like exchanges, professionalization and observation of disaster relief efforts. It also included visits by senior officials, workshops that focused on international human rights, the law or armed conflict and rules of engagement, Rhodes said at the time.
“Any such engagement now, particularly at a high level, would be just terrible in terms of the message it sends,” says Tom Malinowski, former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor under Obama.
The U.S. Congress is also reevaluating its relationship with Myanmar's military and with Suu Kyi’s government. Last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee struck language from the National Defense Authorization Act that would have increased military-to-military engagement with Myanmar. “The Burmese government and military are moving in the wrong direction and I hope this action sends a strong message to Naypidaw,” said Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, who supported the decision.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, wants to go even farther. “At the very least, the leaders who planned and executed this campaign of ethnic cleansing should be sanctioned, all military-to-military contact should be suspended and preferential trade benefits with Burma should be ended,” Feinstein says.
Some human rights leaders also want the increased action against Myanmar’s army. “If you say, what would it take to stop the Burmese military, it would be some set of targeted sanctions, whether that is targeting their business interests, targeting senior members of the military, baring them from travel, seizing their bank accounts, stopping arms flows to Burma,” says Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.