”I’m really sorry this happened.” That’s what the Facebook CEO said during a CNN interview following days of public silence since reports that a third-party client with ties to President Donald Trump used user data for campaigning. Zuckerberg also said he would be willing to testify before Congress on the issue. He expressed support for regulation of ads, more restrictions on developer’s access to data and promised to review thousands of apps for abuse. Legislators from both the U.S. and U.K. have called for investigations into the use of personal data by Facebook.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Authorities say 23-year-old college dropout Mark Anthony Conditt, believed to be responsible for a string of mail bombs in the Texas capital, has died after detonating a device in his car as police chased him. The series of parcel bombs killed two people and sparked an FBI and ATF manhunt for the still-unidentified bomber. The two most recent devices, both mailed from Austin, were found at FedEx facilities yesterday. Police say they haven’t identified a motive yet and have warned that Conditt may have planted more bombs before his death.
Thanks to a “strengthened” economic outlook, the Federal Reserve today raised the interest rate for the first time in 2018 by one-quarter of a percentage point, to a range between 1.5 and 1.75 percent. During Jerome Powell’s first policy meeting as chair, the central bank also said it foresees up to three more rate hikes this year — a sign of growing confidence in the U.S. economy, which could expand by 2.7 percent in 2018 and by another 2.4 percent next year. Meanwhile, unemployment could fall to 3.6 percent by 2019.
Despite a note in his briefing material stating “DO NOT CONGRATULATE,” President Trump did just that Tuesday in a call to his Russian counterpart. Later Trump said he and President Vladimir Putin will likely have a meeting “in the not-too-distant future.” Meanwhile, Trump struggled on other fronts: A judge ruled that presidential immunity doesn’t apply in a suit from a former Apprentice contestant who says he groped her, and two women are suing to escape agreements that they say were meant to silence them about affairs with Trump.
A vehicle convoy today reportedly returned 76 of the 110 young women who were kidnapped last month by Boko Haram militants. Reports indicate that five of the girls, who were taken from their school in the town of Dapchi, may have died. Meanwhile, an Amnesty International report alleges that police and military officials were negligent in the lead-up to the kidnapping, having received several warning calls before the Feb. 19 attack. Nigeria has promised to bolster school security with 2,000 armed officers at hundreds of schools in the country’s northeast.
No news is bad news. As local papers go under, medical researchers say they’re losing a major source for data on infectious diseases. In the past, small-town newspapers were critical for identifying and tracking outbreaks like the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, alerting researchers as diseases spread regionally. Getting access to official data can be time-consuming, and health agencies don’t always archive their records. As press-free communities become more common, epidemiologists will have to rely more on social media, which they say is less specific and less accurate.
They’re in the doghouse. The embattled airline announced it’s temporarily suspending cargo shipments of pets, a week after one dog died in an overhead bin and another was accidentally shipped to Japan instead of Wichita. United says it’s not accepting new reservations while it puts its PetSafe program under “thorough and systematic review,” which is expected to be completed by May 1. Pets can still travel in the main cabin. Transportation officials say 18 animals died on United flights last year — by far the highest of any U.S. airline.
More than 200,000 have been killed in the last decade of Mexico’s bloody drug war, and now leftist presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador is suggesting granting amnesty to cartel members in a bid for lasting peace. Opponents have mocked him and voters appear deeply divided, but a truce isn’t without precedent: In Colombia, 100,000 people associated with the drug trade reentered society after a peace pact with rebels last year. With Obrador still in the lead, amnesty has become a hot topic in debates leading up to July’s election.
They’re taking a pop at diplomacy. For the first time in nearly 15 years, a group of South Korean performers will travel to the Hermit Kingdom to stage two concerts next month. The thaw between the countries, which have technically been at war since 1950, began with last month’s Winter Olympics. South Korea’s 160-member delegation hopes the neighbors will be “moved” by the cultural exchange. Still, Seoul is holding joint military exercises with the United States at the same time, raising questions over how much power pop wields.
Are you ready for even more football? Vince McMahon’s XFL isn’t the only spin-off in the works: The Alliance of American Football, announced yesterday, will debut Feb. 9, 2019. The new league will ditch extra points and kick-offs, having players start on the 25-yard line, and will show 60 percent fewer commercials. Founder Charlie Ebersol described it as more of a feeder league than an NFL rival: Ten-week seasons will end in April and players won’t have long-term contracts. The AAF’s eight teams will be announced next month.