Washington Post

Big Newspaper continues to wield its waning power in opposition to Donald Trump

Once upon a time, a newspaper endorsement for a political candidate was about as good as it got. In the era before the internet, newspaper editorial boards (not to be confused with the reporting arms) evaluated the pros and cons of the candidates and eventually offered down an endorsement that could make or break a candidacy. Big, important newspapers could shift the fortunes of people seeking the presidency. Nowadays, that's ... less of the case.

The 2016 election has been an aberration in a lot of ways, including in the world of editorial endorsements. We've noted before how many newspapers are breaking with long-standing tradition to come out in opposition to Donald Trump or, for the first time in decades, to support a Democratic candidate for the presidency. The overwhelming majority of newspapers, particularly in larger cities, have weighed in to oppose Donald Trump's candidacy. It fits neatly into Trump's overall campaign message: The establishment system wants to see him lose, and few things better encapsulate the stodgy establishment than newspaper editorial boards.

But it's not 1950. The Washington Post is an important institution that is worthy of your subscription, but I think we can accept that the endorsement of our editorial board doesn't carry the weight that it once may have. This, too, captures the moment well: Trump came along at a moment when traditional power systems were shifting or hobbled. Newspaper editorial boards aren't the most powerful example of that, but they're a good one. Like the stalwart graybeards of the Republican Party, it's not clear that their warnings and advice make any difference to the voters powering Trump's support.

McNewspapers are gobbling up small-town America

About 14 years ago, Leonard Downie Jr. and Robert Kaiser — then of The Post — warned about the corporatization of journalism in “The News About the News: American Journalism in Peril.” Profit motive, they argued, runs counter to the sorts of values needed to cover government and communities. “Profits do matter at the Washington Post — they pay for the increasing costs of producing good journalism — but it is news that matters most. This attitude is shared at some other newspapers, but too few,” wrote Downie and Kaiser. In the intervening years, newspapers have shrunk to the puny extremes of a national crisis. It’s a trend that words struggle to express.

Now comes a study from the University of North Carolina School of Media and Journalism highlighting the impact of chainification on local news. According to “The Rise of a New Media Baron and the Emerging Threat of News Deserts,” the last 12 years have seen a steady march of newspaper ownership among investment companies across the country. As of 2004, the report notes, the “three largest investment companies owned 352 newspapers in 27 states.” Now? The “seven largest investment companies owned [sic] 1,031 newspapers in 42 states.”

Justice Department asks court to review decision on Microsoft e-mails held in Ireland

The Justice Department asked the full appeals court for the Southern District of New York to review a decision that upheld Microsoft’s refusal to comply with a search warrant for an alleged drug trafficker’s e-mails held in a server in Ireland. The July ruling by a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in Manhattan was a win for Microsoft, which has argued that the court’s power to issue the warrant and the government’s authority to seize the data do not extend overseas. Microsoft, one of the world’s largest e-mail providers, received the warrant in December 2013. But what might ordinarily have been routine compliance with a federal law enforcement request has instead become a pitched battle over government access to digital data held overseas — one that might be headed to the Supreme Court.

The warrant came in the wake of disclosures that shed light on tech firms’ role in complying with US surveillance programs, damaging the burgeoning cloud computing industry. The law at issue is the Stored Communications Act, passed in 1986. “Congress did not intend the SCA’s warrant provisions to apply extraterritorially,” US Appeals Court Judge Susan Carney wrote in the opinion. “The focus of those provisions is protection of a user’s privacy interests.” Prosecutors argue that the panel erred. They say the law’s focus is disclosure, not privacy. There is “widespread recognition that the limit of privacy is reached where the warrant begins,” US Attorney Preet Bharara argued in the petition to the full appeals court.

A new digital divide has emerged — and conventional solutions won’t bridge the gap

[Commentary] Though the United States has made profound progress in making Internet access universally available, a new digital divide has emerged that defies conventional solutions. Since both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have promised to expand broadband opportunities if elected president, it’s crucial for future policy decisions that we understand who is still offline and why.

According to the most recent findings of the Pew Research Center, 13 percent of Americans still do not use the Internet. Of that group, the most telling variable is no longer race, sex or even income. It’s age. Over 40 percent of seniors are offline, compared with 1 percent of millennials. Two other groups stand out as digital holdouts — rural Americans (22 percent) and those with less than a high school education (34 percent). This is our new digital divide. And closing the inclusion gap demands a significant change in strategy. The new digital divide can only be bridged by making digital life more relevant. And there’s a relatively simple way to do it.

Older, rural, and less-educated Americans share one important characteristic — they are all heavy users of government services. Migrating entitlements to easy-to-use applications, and providing training through community-based groups, will make the Internet essential, if not irresistible, to those still disconnected.

[Downes is a project director at the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy. Levin is a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. In 2009, he oversaw development of the Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Plan.]

Sen Thune wanted Donald Trump gone. Now it looks like he’ll vote for him.

On October 8, Sen John Thune (R-SD), the Senate Commerce Committee Chairman, was the highest-ranking Republican to call for Donald Trump to quit the presidential race. On Oct 11, Sen Thune said he'll probably vote for him.

A reasonable reading of this situation is that Trump has managed to stop the bleeding among Republicans tempted to ditch him — whether by a stronger-than-expected debate performance, or by making life hard for Republicans who did bail. There could be a few reasons high-profile Republicans such as Sen Thune have reversed their decision to jump ship. The first is obvious: the ticking clock. Sen Thune still thinks Trump should go, he told Steva, but said it may be too late.

We’re finally starting to see what Trump’s stance on tech might look like

Trump's transition team has tapped Jeffrey Eisenach, a visiting scholar at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute, for advice on tech and telecom policy. A closer look at Eisenach's policy papers signals how Trump might try to shape the digital economy of the future, should he be elected as president.

Eisenach thinks there may be legitimate concerns about Internet providers wielding their "market power", but he doesn't believe network neutrality rules are the right way to address them. In fact, he views net neutrality more as a regulatory gift to online businesses who lobbied hard for the rules. "It is best understood as an effort by one set of private interests [the tech industry] to enrich itself by using the power of the state to obtain free services from another [Internet providers]," Eisenach told a Senate committee in 2014, "a classic example of what economists term 'rent seeking.'" Eisenach and Trump are both pointing to a system that, in a sometimes flawed manner, allows businesses and wealthy individuals to extract gains by outmaneuvering their fellow peers in the policy arena. This view basically holds that so long as the system is set up this way, it is perfectly legitimate to seek out advantages within it; the government just shouldn't grant any new ones. On net neutrality, for example, Eisenach's preferred approach is to forgo any proactive regulation, letting companies and regulatory agencies duke out their disputes with big lawsuits. This should also please Trump, a businessman who has not been shy about litigation.

Facebook is talking to the White House about giving you ‘free’ Internet. Here’s why that may be controversial.

Apparently, Facebook has been in talks for months with US government officials and wireless carriers with an eye toward unveiling an American version of an app that has caused controversy abroad.

The company is trying to determine how to roll out its program, known as Free Basics, in the United States without triggering the regulatory scrutiny that effectively killed a version of the app in India earlier in 2016. If Facebook succeeds with its US agenda for Free Basics — which has not been previously reported — it would mark a major victory for the company as it seeks to connect millions more to the Web, and to its own platform. The US version of Free Basics would target low-income and rural Americans who cannot afford reliable, high-speed Internet at home or on smartphones. The app does not directly pay for users' mobile data. Rather, it allows users to stretch their data plans by offering, in partnership with wireless carriers, free Internet access to resources such as online news, health information and job leads. Exactly what specific services would be offered in the US app has not been determined.

But the idea to bring Free Basics to the United States is likely to rekindle a long-running debate about the future of the Internet. On one side are those who view services such as Facebook's as a critical tool in connecting underserved populations to the Internet, in some cases for the first time. On the other side are those who argue that exempting services from data caps creates a multitiered playing field that favors businesses with the expertise and budgets to participate in such programs. The fight over this tactic, known as “zero-rating,” has largely taken place overseas where local start-ups are mixing with globally established firms in still-nascent Internet economies. But a launch of Free Basics would bring the discussion to US shores in a major way.

NSA contractor arrested for stealing top secret data

A federal contractor suspected of leaking powerful National Security Agency hacking tools has been arrested and charged with stealing classified information from the US government, according to court records and a law enforcement official familiar with the case. Harold Thomas Martin III, 51, who worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, was charged with theft of government property and unauthorized removal and retention of classified materials, authorities said. He was arrested in August after investigators searched his home in Glen Burnie (MD) and found documents and digital information stored on various devices that contained highly classified information, authorities said.

The breadth of the damage Martin is alleged to have caused was not immediately clear, though officials alleged some of the documents he took home “could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States.” Investigators are probing whether Martin was responsible for an apparent leak that led to a cache of NSA hacking tools appearing online in August, according to an official familiar with the case. Those tools included “exploits” that take advantage of unknown flaws in firewalls, for instance, allowing the government to control a network.

Washington’s ‘governing elite’ think Americans are morons

Recently, Johns Hopkins University political scientists Jennifer Bachner and Benjamin Ginsberg conducted a study of the unglamorous DC bureaucrat. These are the people who keep the federal government humming — the Hill staffers, the project managers and all those desk workers who vaguely describe themselves as “analysts.” As Bachner and Ginsberg argue, civil servants exercise real power over how the government operates. They write and enforce rules and regulations. They might not decide what becomes law, but they have a hand in how laws are drawn up and how laws are implemented. For all their influence, though, nearly all of these technocrats are unelected, and they spend most of their time with people who are just like them — other highly educated folk who jog conspicuously in college tees and own a collection of NPR totes.

In their new book, which is part ethnography and part polemic, Bachner and Ginsberg argue that Washington’s bureaucrats have grown too dismissive of the people they are supposed to serve. Bachner and Ginsberg recently sent around an informal survey to selected members of this technocratic class, and the results, they say, were shocking. “Many civil servants expressed utter contempt for the citizens they served,” they write in their book, “What Washington Gets Wrong.” “Further, we found a wide gulf between the life experiences of ordinary Americans and the denizens of official Washington. We were left deeply worried about the health and future of popular government in the United States.”

Europe’s love/hate relationship with Silicon Valley — and what that means for US tech firms

While European business leaders envy the American tech industry’s success and innovation and consumers are eager to try the latest gadget or service, European authorities are chafing at the tech firms' perceived indifference to their countries’ laws and culture. German CEOs have even taken to adopting some of the more famous habits of so-called digital disrupters. When Daimler’s Dieter Zetsche discussed the future with Uber CEO Travis Kalanick at a tech event in Berlin this spring, he wore blue jeans and sneakers. Axel-Springer’s Döpfner sent three of his top executives to live together in a house in the tech mecca of Palo Alto, Calif., for a year. In a corporate video about this experiment, Döpfner is seen wearing a hoodie. The Palo Alto house became a key part of Axel-Springer’s pitch to investors as a digital leader. Old-school European corporations are willing to pay top dollar to hire tech people with Silicon Valley experience. Last November, for example, Volkswagen hired Johann Jungwirth, who had worked for Apple in Cupertino, Calif., to “reinforce” digitalization. For Volkswagen, Jungwirth is the perfect poster boy for tech disruption expertise. He introduces himself as “JJ,” praises the merits of his Tesla (which he has since traded in for a VW E-Golf) and cites Steve Jobs. Meanwhile, European regulators don’t seem as convinced that Facebook and other US tech companies are worth emulating.