Washington Post

America wants to believe China can’t innovate. Tech tells a different story.

This is part of a series examining the impact of China’s Great Firewall, a mechanism of Internet censorship and surveillance that affects nearly 700 million users.

The truth is that behind the Great Firewall — the system of censorship designed to block content that could challenge the Chinese Communist Party — China’s tech scene is flourishing in a parallel universe. Most of the country’s nearly 700 million users don’t have unfettered access to information — including information about the 1989 killings in Tiananmen Square — and are often stuck with painfully slow Web speeds. They are nonetheless powering a Web boom that last year saw four Chinese firms among the world’s top 10 by market capitalization, according to data website Statista. China is now the world leader in e-commerce. Morgan Stanley projects that by 2018 China will be conducting more online transactions than the rest of the world. Buoyed by that cash, China’s tech start-ups are experimenting with new models that have the potential to make real money — and influence people around the globe.

How the fall of the godfather of conservative media could save the GOP

[Commentary] Roger Ailes’ downfall is one of the most consequential events in years when it comes to the evolution of the conservative movement and even the fate of the Republican Party. This is the end of an era — and we might even look back and say that it was the best thing that’s happened to the GOP in a long time. So why is this so important? It’s because Fox News is the epicenter of the conservative media universe, and it in turn shapes the way every Republican from the loftiest elected official to the loneliest viewer sees the political world.

Ailes, who had been both a TV producer and a Republican media consultant before Murdoch tapped him to create the channel two decades ago, was an undeniably brilliant executive, fashioning a network that perfectly balanced two goals: Making gobs of money, and serving the interests of the Republican Party as he saw them. There is almost no one who has been more influential in the last two decades in shaping how Republicans see themselves, Democrats, and the world. But during the Obama era, some people have begun to question whether Fox’s undeniable power is really serving the movement in the way they thought it was. For many years, Fox was seen as a source of nothing but benefit for the right: It offered a megaphone to disseminate conservative arguments and talking points, a forum for Republican politicians to get exposure, a means of uniting the right around common ideas (instructing everyone on what to be angry about and what to celebrate), and a way of pressuring the mainstream media into adopting a more conservative-friendly outlook.

Trump speechwriter takes blame for Melania Trump ‘plagiarism’

After a tortured 24 hours in which Donald Trump’s campaign struggled to come up with a coherent explanation for how portions of a 2008 speech by Michelle Obama had reappeared in remarks delivered by Melania Trump at the Republican National Convention, a Trump staff writer said that she was responsible and apologized for the “confusion.” Meredith McIver said she was an “in-house staff writer” who had worked with Melania Trump on the speech. McIver took responsibility for including the passages from the first lady’s speech — though she said she had not revisited the earlier speech herself, only listened as Trump read parts of it that she liked to McIver over the phone. McIver said she had offered her resignation to Donald Trump and his family on July 19, but they declined to accept it. “Mr. Trump told me that people make innocent mistakes and that we learn and grow from these experiences,” she said.

Shortly before McIver’s statement was distributed by the campaign, Trump himself addressed the controversy on Twitter, though he did not weigh in on allegations that his wife had borrowed language from the first lady’s speech to the Democratic National Convention eight years ago. “Good news is Melania’s speech got more publicity than any in the history of politics especially if you believe that all press is good press!” he wrote in one message. And he attempted to shift blame onto his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, writing, “The media is spending more time doing a forensic analysis of Melania’s speech than the FBI spent on Hillary’s emails.”

Rep Mark Takai (D-HI), 49, dies after battle with pancreatic cancer

Rep Mark Takai (D-HI) died July 20 after a nine-month battle with pancreatic cancer, his office announced. Takai, 49, was elected to represent Hawaii’s Oahu-based first congressional district in 2014.

In late October, he announced he had been diagnosed with a small tumor on his pancreas after experiencing stomach pains. At that time, Takai referred to his prognosis as “very good thanks to early detection.” He underwent surgery to remove the tumor in November. On May 20, he announced he would serve out the rest of his term but not seek reelection because the cancer had spread. Prior to his election, Rep Takai served in the Hawaii House of Representatives from 1994 to 2014, including two years as vice speaker. He leaves behind his wife, Sami, and two children.

Why Amazon is taking aim at cable companies

Amazon.com says the cable industry's own proposal for how to shift Americans away from the set-top boxes they currently rent for hundreds of dollars a year is riddled with flaws. The online retail giant is arguing that the cable companies' vision for accessing TV content in the future — via apps embedded in smart TVs, phones and other devices — doesn't guarantee the copy protections that currently exist with set-top boxes. (Copy protection has emerged as a key issue in the ongoing fight to determine how cable viewers will someday get their shows and movies.) The cable-backed "app-based approach" to getting your programs is an alternative to what some federal regulators want instead: A system that forces cable companies to hand over all their programming so that any other company — including, perhaps, Amazon — could build and sell their own set-top boxes straight to consumers.

In a nutshell, cable companies are saying new regulations could disrupt the copy-protection regime that undergirds the economics of TV. Amazon's saying the cable industry's counterproposal isn't worth its salt, in part because Amazon potentially stands to gain from a more stringent set of requirements on cable companies.

The Supreme Court’s new definition of corruption is out of step with what Americans think

[Commentary] In June, the Supreme Court overturned former Virginia governor Robert McDonnell’s conviction for corruption in a unanimous decision. McDonnell had been convicted of corruption for allegedly using the governor’s office to enrich himself by personally hosting events promoting a friend’s business ventures in exchange for more than $165,000 in gifts and loans. The court ruled that his actions were not corrupt because they were not official acts. In effect, the court has defined corruption in a way that requires prosecutors to prove an explicit quid pro quo agreement. This narrow definition is out of line with both public opinion and scholarly research on corruption.

I have argued that looking for bright-line distinctions between corrupt and non-corrupt acts is futile: Rules, roles, and conceptions of justice keep changing, because they are inherently controversial — and so are constantly being revised in further political struggles. First one side defines corruption in a particular way; then another group makes efforts to pull the definition closer to what it thinks. We have seen this shift in our lifetimes. Such controversies over the limits of power are healthy for democracy. In fact, it is less remarkable that the justices have defined corruption in narrow ways than that we expected them to resolve the question in the first place.

[Michael Johnston is the Charles A. Dana professor of political science emeritus at Colgate University.]

‘This is preposterous,’ says the media about the media’s convention overkill

[Commentary] The balloons have already been stuffed into the rafters. The nominee is already known. The story lines are few. Yet 15,000 journalists — six for every one of the 2,500 delegates here — have encamped for the Republican National Convention.

Despite the news media’s exhaustively chronicled (by the news media) financial problems, there seems to be no slowdown in the intensity and investment by media companies in covering Donald Trump’s now-inevitable coronation as the party’s standard-bearer. The central media corridor, a kind of wonk Woodstock (with better food), is an arcade along East Fourth Street, adjacent to Quicken Loans Arena. The question is: Why are so many gathered for what is largely a scripted and preordained event? Barring unforeseen developments — and political conventions are engineered to avert unforeseen developments — the political conventions may be the least efficient news events that the media covers.

As Yahoo sale nears, do women in tech get pushed more onto the ‘glass cliff’?

For Yahoo, it's nearly all over but the shouting. Final bids are expected July 18 in the protracted sale of the core Internet business at Yahoo and it likely won't be long before we know the fate of both the faded Internet company and its embattled CEO, Marissa Mayer. When the shouting does come, it's likely to include even more analysis about Mayer's tenure -- what her time at the helm will say about women in technology, what she could have done differently, how she might spend the $55 million in severance she could receive in the event of a change in control.

Many will fault some of her big decisions: Big bets that didn't pay off, such as the $1.1 billion acquisition of the blogging service Tumblr, and key hires who didn't pan out. She promised the web browser Mozilla a lucrative change-in-control deal that could cost bidders more than $1 billion. But others will say that Mayer, like other women before her in technology, was dealt a tough hand in the first place, accepting a particularly precarious leadership role often known as the "glass cliff." Research has shown that women disproportionately receive opportunities to lead at difficult times, and the tech sector would seem to have a preponderance of examples.

Why some in Silicon Valley don’t like Trump’s VP pick, Mike Pence

Many in the tech industry are already none too pleased with the idea of a President Trump. But Trump's selection of Gov Mike Pence (R-IN) may drive them even further from the Republican ticket.

For starters, Gov Pence is at odds with one of the wealthiest, most popular companies on the planet: Apple. He and the company's chief executive, Tim Cook, faced off in 2015 over a bill that let business owners and workers cite religious objections as a reason not to serve customers. The result, said Cook, would lead to unjust discrimination against consumers based on their physical appearance or sexual orientation. The bill was widely criticized by execs across Silicon Valley, including from Twitter, Yelp, Lyft and LinkedIn.

Both Trump and Clinton stiff-arm the media. Only one is a genuine threat to it.

[Commentary] The Post fact-checking team has a fun look at more than a year of statements by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. You’ll be startled to hear that they concluded that Trump lies a lot more often than Clinton does — and a lot more outrageously, too. Out of 52 statements by Trump, nearly two thirds were deserving of Four Pinnochios, which is to say that they were absurdly outrageous lies. Out of 35 statements by Clinton, a much smaller percentage qualified for that distinction.

However, they also made a point that I have not seen made anywhere else, one that sheds light on an important ongoing debate over how Trump and Clinton treat the press. They noted an important qualitative difference in the process of adjudication that goes on between each of their campaigns and the media. Even if you think Clinton's motives for stiff-arming the media are absurd, it should be acknowledged that her attitude towards it it simply has no equivalence to Trump’s total contempt for the basic functional role of the news media in our democracy. His entire campaign is functionally an exercise in trying to get it to wither away and drop off of our body politic, like a gangrenous limb or frostbitten finger.