U.S. sends message to Turkey, halts F-35 equipment shipments

The United States has halted delivery of equipment related to the stealthy F-35 fighter aircraft to Turkey, sources familiar with the situation said, marking the first concrete U.S. step to block delivery of the jet to the NATO ally in light of Ankara’s planned purchase of a Russian missile defense system.

In recent days, U.S. officials told their Turkish counterparts they will not receive further shipments of F-35 related equipment needed to prepare for the arrival of the stealthy jet, two sources familiar with the situation told Reuters. The aircraft is built by Lockheed Martin Corp.

The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the next shipment of training equipment, and all subsequent shipments of F-35 related material, have been canceled.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has refused to back down from Ankara’s planned purchase of a Russian S-400 missile defense system that the United States has said would compromise the security of F-35 aircraft. Turkey has said it will take delivery of the S-400s in July.

The disagreement over the F-35 is the latest of a series of diplomatic disputes between the United States and Turkey including Turkish demands that the United States extradite Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, differences over Middle East policy and the war in Syria, and sanctions on Iran.

A Pentagon official had told Reuters in March that the United States had a number of items it could withhold in order to send Turkey a signal that the United States was serious about Ankara dropping its ambition to own the S-400.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Turkish officials in Ankara were not immediately available for comment.

The U.S. decision on the F-35s was expected to complicate Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s planned visit to Washington this week for a NATO summit. The latest development in the F-35 dispute came a day after Erdogan suffered one of his biggest electoral losses in decades in local elections.

Reuters reported last week that Washington was exploring whether it could remove Turkey from production of the F-35. Turkey makes parts of the fuselage, landing gear and cockpit displays. Sources familiar with the F-35’s intricate worldwide production process and U.S. thinking on the issue last week said Turkey’s role can be replaced.

The United States and other NATO allies that own F-35s fear the radar on the Russian S-400 missile system will learn how to spot and track the jet, making it less able to evade Russian weapons in the future.

In an attempt to persuade Turkey to drop its plans to buy the S-400, the United States offered the pricier American-made Patriot anti-missile system in a discounted deal that expired at the end of March. Turkey has shown interest in the Patriot system, but not at the expense of abandoning the S-400.

Turkey has engaged with U.S. negotiators in recent days about buying the Patriot system, a person familiar with the matter said. The system is made by Raytheon Co.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-turkey-f35-exclusive/exclusive-u-s-sends-message-to-turkey-halts-f-35-equipment-shipments-sources-idUSKCN1RD316

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What Sony’s robot dog teaches us about biometric data privacy

The $2,900 pup is a companion robot, one Sony claims “learns its environment and develops relationships with people.” Aibo even enlists a camera in its nose to scan faces and determine who’s who so it can react to them differently.

Because of our office pet’s face-detecting capabilities, Sony doesn’t sell Aibo in Illinois. The state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) regulates the collection of biometric data, including face scans.

So Aibo’s out in the land of Lincoln, but the story doesn’t stop with Sony’s quirky robot. Illinois also limits access to facial recognition in home security cameras, a feature that’s becoming increasingly prevalent in the consumer security market. Let’s take a closer look at BIPA, the growth of biometric tech in consumer products — and how other states in the US treat your biometric info.

Illinois law

The Biometric Information Privacy Act was established in 2008 to regulate “the collection, use, safeguarding, handling, storage, retention, and destruction of biometric identifiers and information.” BIPA defines “biometric identifiers” as retina scans, iris scans, fingerprints, hand scans, face scans and voiceprints.

Basically, an individual or a company needs “informed written consent” to use another individual’s biometric info.

State senator Terry Link for Illinois’ 30th district introduced Senate Bill 2400 on Feb. 14, 2008 to protect the biometric privacy of Illinois residents. State senators Christine Radogno, Iris Y. Martinez, David Koehler and Heather Steans served as co-sponsors of the bill. It was approved as the Biometric Information Privacy Act on Oct. 3, 2008.

Senator Link filed an amendment to BIPAon May 26, 2016 to redefine “biometric identifier,” to make it easier to collect certain biometric data, but later withdrew the amendment.

A Sony support page titled “Why Is Aibo Not for Sale in Illinois?” simply says:

Due to state regulations and policies, the Aibo™ robotic companion is not for sale or use in Illinois.

In order to mimic the behavior of an actual pet, an Aibo device will learn to behave differently around familiar people. To enable this recognition, Aibo conducts a facial analysis of those it observes through its cameras. This facial-recognition data may constitute “biometric information” under the law of Illinois, which places specific obligations on parties collecting biometric information. Thus, we decided to prohibit purchase and use of Aibo by residents of Illinois.

While Sony simply opted out of selling the face-detecting Aibo in Illinois, other companies, like Nest, sell their facial recognition-enabled cams in Illinois, with the facial recognition feature disabled.

A quick visit to the Nest Cam IQ Indoorpage says “Familiar face alerts require a Nest Aware subscription. Not available on Nest Cams used in Illinois.”

The Nest Cam IQ Indoor has an optional feature called familiar face alerts that you pay a monthly (or yearly) fee to access via the Nest Aware service. Like many other home security cameras with facial recognition, the IQ Indoor allows you to create a database with the faces of friends, family members, caregivers and any other people that regularly visit your home. That way, when you get a motion alert, the Nest app tells you it sees “Molly” or “Tyler.”

That feature won’t work in Illinois, even if you pay for Nest Aware. Google disables Nest’s facial recognition capabilities in the state: “We use a variety of factors to determine a user’s location, including IP address of their devices and the physical address associated with their account,” a Google spokesperson told me over email.

Privacy talk

Although BIPA remains the strictest state privacy law, Texas and Washington also regulate biometric information. A Texas law, established in 2009, similarly defines biometric identifiers as “a retina or iris scan, fingerprint, voiceprint, or record of hand or face geometry.”

A section of the law states: “A person may not capture a biometric identifier of an individual for a commercial purpose unless the person: informs the individual before capturing the biometric identifier; and receives the individual’s consent to capture the biometric identifier.”

Washington’s 2017 House Bill 493 doesn’t specifically reference face or hand scans in its definition of biometric identifier. The definition also doesn’t include “a physical or digital photograph, video or audio recording or data generated therefrom, or information collected, used, or stored for health care treatment, payment, or operations under the federal health insurance portability and accountability act of 1996.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy group for digital privacy, supports state regulation of biometric data.

“When you start to capture biometrics from people it turns a corner to where we think that shouldn’t be happening without the consent of the person who’s biometrics are being taken,” EFF senior staff attorney Adam Schwartz says during a phone interview while referencing Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act.

“What it says [BIPA] is that, one private person can’t take biometrics from another private person without their consent. And that’s where we [the EFF] would draw the line,” Schwartz adds.

The facial recognition landscape

At the same time that states are implementing biometric privacy laws, we’re seeing more consumer devices with facial recognition. Here’s a list of home security cameras you can buy today with facial recognition capabilities.

Not only is facial recognition more prevalent, we’re also seeing more products that enlist fingerprints or hand scans. The iPhone and other smartphoneshave fingerprint-scanning capabilities so you can quickly unlock your phone. I saw a smart lock at CES 2019 called the Elecpro US:E that relies on a face scan and a hand scan to unlock.

Airports are increasingly adding tech that scans faces or fingerprints to determine who you are, too. Schwartz refers to the growing popularity of biometric tech as a “normalization of biometrics,” something the EFF finds concerning, he says.

“If you start using biometrics to board your airplane because it’s convenient, other forms of biometrics seem more normal. We’re very concerned about that,” explains Schwartz.

Whether or not you’re personally concerned about your biometric data, expect to see more regulations around it in the coming years. Alaska, Michigan, Montana and New Hampshire are already working on their own biometric laws. And, given the influx of devices that use biometric information both for consumer and commercial purposes, more are probably on the way.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://www.cnet.com/news/what-sonys-robot-dog-teaches-us-about-biometric-data-privacy/

New York State Budget: Congestion Pricing Coming To Manhattan

It has worked in cities like London and Singapore and state lawmakers are hoping congestion pricing will decrease traffic in New York City, too.

CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez found out what Sunday’s historic news means for drivers.

Big Apple subway and buses will soon be getting some much-needed improvements at the expense of drivers heading into Manhattan.

“I think it’s a good idea,” one New Yorker said Sunday. “Every day it’s very, very (bad) traffic, so I think it can be better.”

Motorists entering Midtown Manhattan below 60th Street will be charged a toll, which is anticipated to raise more than $1 billion a year for the city’s ailing public transit system. A panel of experts will set the surcharges by the end of 2020, but sources told CBS2 drivers in cars will pay around $11.50 and truck drivers around $25.

“I work in Manhattan a lot and I don’t mind paying for it to get in there and if it helps congestion, even better,” Long Island resident Ed Crescimanni said.

Congestion pricing will be an added hardship for Charles Alvarez, who lives in the toll zone but needs to visit his mother in a Queens nursing home.

“That’s crazy. I can’t imagine doing that. But I have to see my mother and it’s something that would greatly impact me,” Alvarez said.

MORE: Gov. Cuomo Proud Of State Budget, Calling It “Probably The Strongest Progressive Statement That We’ve Made”

Traffic expert Sam Schwartz told CBS2 he thinks the system will make difference.

“The bottom line is the city is a competitive city. It is a world city. We can’t have a world city if our transit system is running 65 percent on time and our traffic is moving at 4.7 mph. This will get us back in the ball game to be a world-class city.”

It’s important to note that drivers will not be charged the toll more than once per day and the FDR and West Side highways will not be included.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2019/03/31/nys-budget-deal-passes-congestion-pricing/

Democrats to prepare subpoenas for full Mueller report

The House Judiciary Committee will prepare subpoenas this week seeking special counsel Robert Mueller’s full Russia report as the Justice Department appears likely to miss an April 2 deadline set by Democrats for the report’s release.

The Judiciary panel plans to vote on subpoenas Wednesday, a day after the deadline. The chairmen of several House committees asked for the full report last week after Attorney General William Barr released a four-page summary laying out the report’s “principal conclusions.” Barr said in a letter to the House and Senate Judiciary committees on Friday that a redacted version of the full 300 page report would be released by mid-April, “if not sooner.”

The planned committee vote, announced Monday morning, would not automatically issue subpoenas but authorize House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., to send them.

The panel will also vote to authorize subpoenas related to a number of President Donald Trump’s former top advisers, including strategist Steve Bannon, Communications Director Hope Hicks, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, White House Counsel Donald McGahn and counsel Ann Donaldson. Donaldson served as McGahn’s chief of staff before both left the administration.

The five were probably key witnesses in Mueller’s probe of possible obstruction of justice. The meeting notice says they “may have received documents from the White House relevant to the special counsel investigation, or their outside counsel may have, waiving applicable privileges under the law.” The subpoenas would be related to documents where executive privilege was waived “and related matters,” the notice says.

The former White House advisers were included in a massive document request the committee made last month. Nadler sent requests to 81 people connected to Trump’s political and personal dealings as he launched a wide-ranging investigation into possible obstruction of justice, public corruption and abuses of power.

Democrats have said they will not accept a redacted version of the report, which is what Barr is preparing. Barr said in the letter Friday that he is scrubbing the report to avoid disclosing any grand jury information or classified material, in addition to portions of the report that pertain to ongoing investigations or that “would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.”

Democrats want all of that information, even if some of it can’t be disclosed to the public. They are citing precedents from previous investigations involving presidents and also information disclosed about the Russia investigation to Republicans last year when they held the House majority.

Barr wrote in his summary that the special counsel did not find that Trump’s campaign “conspired or coordinated” with the Russian government to influence the 2016 presidential election. He said Mueller reached no conclusion on whether Trump obstructed the federal investigation, instead setting out “evidence on both sides” of the question.

Barr himself went further than Mueller in his summary letter, declaring that Mueller’s evidence was insufficient to prove in court that Trump had committed obstruction of justice to hamper the probe.

Democrats say they want to know much more about both conclusions and they want to see the evidence unfiltered by Barr.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://www.apnews.com/92c7fbd47c88463ba308ecd573de4b55

Official: Trump team overruled 25 security clearance denials

A career official in the White House security office says dozens of people in President Donald Trump’s administration were granted security clearances despite “disqualifying issues” in their backgrounds, such as concerns about foreign influence, drug use and criminal conduct.

Tricia Newbold, an 18-year government employee who oversees the issuance of clearances for some senior White House aides, says she compiled a list of at least 25 officials who were initially denied security clearances last year because of their backgrounds. But she says senior Trump aides overturned those decisions, moves that she said weren’t made “in the best interest of national security.”

Newbold’s allegations were detailed in a letter and memo released Monday by Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform committee. Cummings panel has been investigating security clearances issued to senior officials including Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and former White House aide Rob Porter.

The documents don’t identify the officials on Newbold’s list but they note that two are “current senior White House officials.”

The release of the information comes about a month after The New York Times reported that Trump ordered officials to grant Kushner a clearance over the objections of national security officials and after Newbold spoke out to NBC News and other news outlets about her concerns. It also sets the stage for another fight between the White House and the Democratic-controlled House. Cummings said he will move this week to authorize his first subpoena in the probe.

Cummings said the subpoena will be for the deposition of Carl Kline, who served as the White House personnel security director and supervised Newbold. He has since left the White House for the Defense Department.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

Rep. Jim Jordan, the committee’s ranking Republican, said in a statement that Cummings’ probe is a “partisan attack” and an “excuse to go fishing” through personnel files. He also said that one person on Newbold’s list is a GSA custodian.

Newbold laid out her experience in the White House during a March 23 interview with bipartisan committee staff. Portions of that interview were in the memo released by Cummings.

According to the memo, Newbold’s list of overturned security clearance denials included “two current senior White House officials, as well as contractors and individuals throughout different components of the Executive Office of the President.”

“According to Ms. Newbold, these individuals had a wide range of serious disqualifying issues involving foreign influence, conflicts of interest, concerning personal conduct, financial problems, drug use, and criminal conduct,” the memo says.

Newbold said she raised her concerns up the chain of command in the White House to no avail. Instead, she said, the White House retaliated, suspending her in January for 14 days without pay for not following a new policy requiring that documents be scanned as separate PDF files rather than one single PDF file.

Newbold said that when she returned to work in February, she was cut out of the security clearance process and removed from a supervisory responsibility.

The committee has previously singled out Flynn, Porter and Kushner as it sought records from the White House about how their clearances were handled.

Flynn maintained his clearance even after the White House learned he lied to the FBI about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador and that he was under federal investigation by the Justice Department for his previous foreign work.

Kushner failed to initially disclose numerous foreign meetings on security clearance forms, and according to the Times, career officials recommended against granting him one before Trump personally overruled them.

Porter had high-level access with an interim security clearance even though the FBI repeatedly told the White House of past allegations of domestic violence lodged against him by two ex-wives.

Porter resigned after the allegations becoming public.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://apnews.com/1759ac2858ee4aafb041f91cbd6d86e9

Biden says he never meant to make women feel uncomfortable

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday defended his interactions with women, saying he doesn’t believe he’s ever acted inappropriately. But a Nevada politician’s assertion that Biden’s kiss on the back of her head made her feel uncomfortable prompted some Democrats to question whether the 76-year-old is too out of step with his own party to run a successful 2020 presidential campaign.

The episode, recounted by Democrat Lucy Flores , highlighted an aspect of Biden’s persona that has been publicly known for years: the affectionate whispers, hugs and shoulder squeezes he has long doled out to women, often on camera and at high-profile public events. In a moment of national reckoning over sexual harassment and the treatment of women by powerful men, some Democrats said Biden’s actions have taken on a new light.

“It looks different in 2019,” said Maria Cardona, a Democratic strategist. Cardona said that while Biden’s behavior is not automatically disqualifying for the presidency, “it all depends on how he continues to respond to this. He has to acknowledge that his behavior made some women uncomfortable.”

In a statement on Sunday, Biden said it was never his intention to make women feel discomfort and if he did so, “I will listen respectfully.”

Several women who worked for Biden stepped forward over the weekend to vouch for his character. And Stephanie Carter, the wife of former Defense Secretary Ash Carter, disputed characterizations of her interactions with Biden during her husband’s swearing-in ceremony. Pictures of the then-vice president whispering in Carter’s ear and placing his hands on her shoulders ricocheted across the internet at the time.

“The Joe Biden in my picture is a close friend helping someone get through a big day, for which I will always be grateful,” Carter wrote in a post on the website Medium.

Flores’ account of the 2014 incident comes at a crucial moment for Biden. He’s been wrestling for months with a final decision on whether to run for president, blowing through several self-imposed deadlines. Advisers are now eyeing an announcement later in April.

But the Democratic primary has sped on without him, with more than a dozen candidates in the race, including a record number of women and minorities. Veterans like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have shown surprising strength, while newer White House hopefuls like California Sen. Kamala Harris and Texan Beto O’Rourke have drawn big crowds and displayed early fundraising prowess.

Biden still leads most early polls, buoyed by broad name recognition and the goodwill he generated during eight years as President Barack Obama’s No. 2. Given his experience and appeal with white working-class voters in Midwestern battleground states, he’s also seen by some Democrats as the best-positioned candidate to defeat President Donald Trump.

Nancy Bobo, an Iowa activist who was among Obama’s earliest supporters in the state, shares that view. She fears the episode with Flores suggests Democrats may try to tear down their most-qualified candidate.

“I can just see what’s coming at him,” Bobo said. “And it’s going to come at him from the Democrats.”

None of Biden’s potential rivals defended him following Flores’ allegations. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she believed Flores and that Biden “needs to give an answer” about what occurred. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said, “Lucy Flores felt demeaned, and that is never okay. If Vice President Biden becomes a candidate, this is a topic he’ll have to engage on further.” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said, “I believe it’s important to listen and take seriously any incident like this.”

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Flores was “quite bold” to “go up against the highest levels of her political party” with the allegations and suggested that Biden should consider apologizing to Flores. Conway deflected questions about the numerous women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct, allegations he denies.

Flores, a former Nevada state representative and the 2014 Democratic nominee for Nevada lieutenant governor, told The Associated Press on Sunday that she had been mulling coming forward for years. She said she approached New York Magazine about publishing her story and that the magazine had fact-checked her piece after she submitted it.

According to Flores, the incident with Biden occurred in 2014 as the two were waiting to take the stage during a rally in Las Vegas.

“I felt two hands on my shoulders. I froze. ‘Why is the vice president of the United States touching me?’” she wrote. “He proceeded to plant a big slow kiss on the back of my head.”

Biden spokesman Bill Russo said the former vice president doesn’t remember kissing Flores.

The AP tried to contact several advisers and aides from Flores’ 2014 campaign but was unable to obtain any independent verification of her account.

Flores, who endorsed Sanders in the 2016 campaign, said Biden’s team has not been in touch with her since her story was published. She said she would be satisfied if Biden simply acknowledged the discomfort the episode caused her.

Biden has been warned by advisers that his past statements and actions, including his long history of hugging and showing affection to women, would face fresh scrutiny in the 2020 campaign. In some cases, Biden’s policy positions, such as his support for the 1994 crime bill that is blamed for mass incarcerations of minorities, are out of step with a party that has shifted to the left. But at other moments, like when he touts his ability to forge compromises with Republicans, he can appear to be speaking about a political era that many Democrats believe no longer exists.

Karen Finney, a Democratic strategist who worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, said Biden’s team needs to answer a key question before launching a White House bid: “Do they feel confident in their ability to understand this electorate and campaign in 2020, which is already different than 2016?”

Even before Flores made her allegations, some Democrats were wondering whether Biden was meant for this moment. His team was widely panned following reports that they were considering tapping a younger Democrat or a minority like 2018 Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams as a running mate early in the primary in an attempt to counteract questions about Biden’s age.

While Biden’s team denied that he was considering that step, Biden did float the idea to Abrams over a recent lunch, according to a Democrat with knowledge of the discussion. The Democrat was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and insisted on anonymity.

Democratic strategist Rebecca Katz said that while Flores’ descriptions may feel familiar to those who have watched Biden hug and hold hands with women for years, she put the focus on the women who were on the receiving end of his affections.

“What Lucy Flores so bravely did is say, ‘This is the way he made me feel,’” Katz said. “No one has ever done that before with Joe Biden.”

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://apnews.com/a2a11e7e88fb42738773321a1485d2c0

Poll: Two Thirds Of Democrats Refuse To Believe No Collusion

A Washington Post poll has revealed that almost two thirds of registered Democrats are refusing to believe the findings of the Mueller report, that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

The survey, released on Saturday, found that only 31 percent of Democrats accept Mueller’s conclusion that there was no evidence that “members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

A majority of 62 percent rejected the findings, despite the fact that the investigation was ongoing for over two years.

Even some Republicans are not convinced, with 18 percent saying they reject the collusion conclusion. 79 percent of Republicans say they accept the report’s conclusion.

The poll noted a split of 52-40 percent in favor of accepting Mueller’s conclusion among Independents.

The findings cement the fact that Democrats and Trump opposition fanatics continue to refuse to accept that the President won the election by fair means.

On Sunday, the President tweeted that it is important to document how the “fraudulent investigation of the No Collusion, No Obstruction Trump Campaign began.”

“This Hoax should never be allowed to happen to another President or Administration again!” Trump urged

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://www.infowars.com/poll-two-thirds-of-democrats-refuse-to-believe-no-collusion/