Clinton: False Stories on Facebook Helped Trump Win Election

Hillary Clinton on Wednesday said hoaxes and false news stories on Facebook contributed to her loss in last year’s U.S. presidential election, adding to a list of factors she blames for her defeat.

The former Democratic candidate said earlier this month that interference by Russian hackers and then-FBI director James Comey helped tip the election to Republican President Donald Trump.

Speaking at a technology conference near Los Angeles, Clinton on Wednesday mentioned Facebook by name and said that fake stories spread on the social network influenced the information that people relied on.

“The other side was using content that was just flat-out false and delivering it in a very personalized way, both sort of above the radar screen and below,” Clinton said during an on-stage interview at the Code conference.

A representative for Facebook could not immediately be reached for comment.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said just after the November election that it was “crazy” to think that fake news on the site had influenced the election in any way.

In December, though, Facebook said it would introduce tools to prevent fake news stories from spreading. It also said it would work with organizations such as fact-checking website Snopes and ABC News to check the authenticity of stories.

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European Commission Chief Upbraids Trump on Climate Stance

The European Commission president on Wednesday said that it was the “duty of Europe” to stand up to the U.S. if President Donald Trump decided to pull his country out of the Paris climate change accord.

Jean-Claude Juncker said that “the Americans can’t just get out of the agreement,” adding that “it takes three to four years” to pull out.

Juncker went on to say that the Group of Seven leaders “tried to explain this in clear, simple sentences to Mr. Trump” at a recent summit in Italy. He said that even though “it looks like that attempt failed” … the “law is the law.”

In a gibe at the U.S. administration, Juncker told the audience at an event of the Confederation of German Employers in Berlin that “not everything that is written in international agreements is fake news.”

Juncker said: “If the U.S. president pulls out of the Paris agreement, and he will in the next days or hours, then it is Europe’s duty to say that that is not how it works.”

A White House official said earlier in the day that Trump was planning to pull out of the Paris deal, although a final decision hadn’t been made.

Trump on Wednesday declared that abandoning the Paris climate agreement would be a victory for the American economy.

The European Union and China, meanwhile, will reaffirm their commitment to the climate accord this week regardless of whether the U.S. pulls out of the pact, a senior EU official said.

Talks on Friday

The official told reporters that the EU and China will also “spell out” how they plan to meet their commitments to the landmark international accord to fight global warming at talks in Brussels on Friday.

The official is involved in preparing the meeting between EU Council President Donald Tusk, Juncker and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, but can’t speak on the record because their meeting statement wasn’t finalized. Li and a major Chinese delegation are due to arrive in Brussels late Thursday following talks in Berlin.

“The EU and China are joining forces to forge ahead on the implementation of the Paris Agreement and accelerate the global transition to clean energy,” EU climate commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said about the upcoming EU-China summit, stressing they remain committed to Paris.

A White House official said Wednesday that there could be “caveats in the language” announcing a withdrawal, leaving open the possibility that Trump’s decision isn’t final.

That possibility was met with derisive howls from EU lawmakers when a session of the European Parliament was informed about it.

“Climate change is not a fairy tale. It is a tough reality which affects people’s daily lives,” European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said in a statement. “People die or are obliged to leave their homes because of desertification, lack of water, exposure to disease, extreme weather conditions. If we don’t act swiftly and boldly, the huge human and economic cost will continue to increase.”

Tajani suggested that Washington’s withdrawal should be a signal for Europe to step up its efforts — and reap the benefits.

“Our climate action strategy represents an opportunity to attract investment, innovation and develop new green technologies,” he said. “We have got the talent and the will to make this possible in all sectors.”

Offsetting action

Tajani said earlier he would confer with Tusk and Juncker about “joint initiatives to be adopted together as a European Union” to offset the decision.

The EU official involved in organizing the EU-China meeting said it would  “send important signals for the multinational system,” as Trump moves to alter or abandon some of the international trade agreements the U.S. has signed.

Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists advocacy group, said, “I don’t think any other countries will follow the U.S. out of Paris, so if he does leave, Trump will be in splendid isolation with the leaders of Syria and Nicaragua.”

In Madrid, the leaders of India and Spain expressed their commitment to fighting climate change and reiterated their support for implanting the Kyoto and Paris accords.

In a joint statement issued following talks in the Spanish capital between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy, the two countries said taking action on climate change was a priority for both nations.

On Tuesday, Modi said in Berlin that it would be a “crime” to spoil the environment for future generations as the world awaits a decision on U.S. climate policy.

Rajoy and Modi agreed to boost bilateral cooperation in combating climate change.

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A Guide to Global Warming, Paris Pact and the US Role

If President Donald Trump pulls the United States out of the international agreement to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, what could that mean for the Earth?

Here’s a guide to what’s in the Paris agreement, what’s going on with global warming, and what might happen if the rest of the world keeps fighting man-made climate change and the U.S. stays partially or completely on the sidelines.

What is the Paris Agreement trying to do?

The 2015 agreement aims to prevent the Earth from heating up by 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since the start of the industrial age.

But the world has already warmed about 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) since the Industrial Revolution, so this is more about preventing an additional 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit of warming.

How?

Each nation submitted its own goals for curbing heat-trapping emissions. Those pledges added up to preventing 117 billion tons of carbon dioxide from being put into the air by 2030, analysts calculate.

The U.S. set a target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 at 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels — or about 1.6 billion tons of annual emissions. A study last year in the journal Nature Climate Change said America will probably only reach four-fifths of that goal.

For China, the No. 1 polluter, having overtaken the United States, the goal was for emissions to peak by 2030 and then start dropping, reducing the amount of carbon pollution per person to about 60 percent of 2005 levels. Some recent signs show that Chinese carbon emissions may have already flattened out, a decade earlier than expected. China accounts for nearly one-third of the pledged reductions.

The Paris accord was agreed upon by 197 countries and has been ratified by 147 parties, which includes the European Union. That put the deal in effect.

The goals are voluntary. There is no climate court. All that’s required is a plan and reporting on progress toward the plan.

What are the U.S. options?

The U.S. could stay in the agreement and work toward fulfilling its pledges. It could stay in the accord and not hit its goals. It could stay in the pact and change its target, probably by lowering it. Or it could pull out of the agreement altogether.

It takes at least a year for a nation to withdraw from the pact.

No matter what the U.S. does, the Paris Agreement remains in effect.

The science

The world is warming, with the last three years the hottest on record. This year is on track to be the second-warmest, behind 2016.

Sea levels are rising. Sea ice in the Arctic is at record low levels. Glaciers worldwide are melting, as are parts of Antarctica. Plants and animals are changing in their growing and migration habits because of shorter and milder winters. Extreme weather in many places has increased.

All but a very few scientists say the overwhelming majority of warming is man-made, as do dozens of scientific academies and professional societies. Scientists have known since the 19th century that burning coal, oil and gas spews carbon dioxide into the air, which then acts like a blanket to trap heat on Earth.

Carbon dioxide stays in the air for 100 years, and about one-fifth of what has accumulated in the atmosphere came from the U.S., more than any other country.

What will happen without U.S. cooperation?

The Associated Press interviewed dozens of scientists and consulted computer simulations, and they say without the U.S. pledges, the dangerous 2-degree rise is nearly inescapable.

But they also say that even with the U.S. doing its share, preventing that warming is going to be unlikely and will require even more cuts than contained in the Paris agreement.

University of Oklahoma meteorology professor Jason Furtado said blowing past the 2-degree mark would be a potential “tipping point” that would lead to “a new and irreversible state in the climate system.”

One computer simulation — one that many other scientists say is too much of a worst-case scenario — calculates that if the U.S. increases carbon dioxide emissions and the rest of the world hits its targets, America’s added carbon pollution will be responsible for about half a degree of warming (0.3 degrees Celsius).

Other scientists look at market forces and see the United States still cutting emissions because the nation is already shifting toward cleaner fuels such as cheaper natural gas, solar and wind. Solar power employs more people in the U.S. than coal.

“The U.S. pulling out of Paris will not stop the fight against global warming, since almost all other countries are committed to it,” said German climate scientist Stefan Rahmstorf. “But it could delay it and any delay could be detrimental, as stopping global warming before critical tipping points are crossed is a race against the clock.”

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Vietnam to Sign Deals for Up to $17B in US Goods, Services

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said Tuesday that he would sign deals for U.S. goods and services worth $15 billion to $17 billion during his visit to Washington, mainly for high-technology products and for services.

“Vietnam will increase the import of high technologies and services from the United States, and on the occasion of this visit, many important deals will be made,” Phuc told a U.S. Chamber of Commerce dinner.

Phuc, who is due to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday at the end of a three-day visit to the United States, did not provide further details of the transactions.

GE Power Chief Executive Officer Steve Bolze told the dinner that General Electric Co. would sign deals worth about $6 billion with Vietnam, but also offered no details.

Phuc’s comments came after U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer expressed concern about the rapid growth of the U.S. trade deficit with Vietnam, saying this was a new challenge for the two countries and that he was looking to Phuc to help address it.

“Over the last decade, our bilateral trade deficit has risen from about $7 billion to nearly $32 billion,” Lighthizer said. “This concerning growth in our trade deficit presents new challenges and shows us that there is considerable potential to improve further our important trade relationship.”

Reducing deficits

Lighthizer and other Trump administration trade officials have pledged to work to reduce U.S. bilateral deficits with major trading partners. The $32 billion deficit with Vietnam last year — the sixth-largest U.S. trade deficit — reflects growing imports of Vietnamese semiconductors and other electronics products in addition to more traditional sectors such as footwear, apparel and furniture.

The trade issue has become a potential irritant in a relationship where Washington and Hanoi have stepped up security cooperation in recent years, given shared concerns about China’s increasingly assertive behavior in East Asia.

Phuc’s meeting with Trump makes him the first Southeast Asian leader to visit the White House under the new administration.

It reflected calls, letters, diplomatic contacts and lower-level visits that started long before Trump took office in Washington, where Vietnam retains a lobbyist at $30,000 a month.

Vietnam was disappointed when Trump ditched the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, in which Hanoi was expected to be one of the main beneficiaries, and focused U.S. trade policy on reducing deficits.

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Mexico to Review Rules of Origin to Help NAFTA Renegotiation

Mexico’s foreign minister says the country is “inevitably” set to review rules of origin when renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, giving a boost to President Donald Trump’s manufacturing push.

Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Videgaray said Tuesday at an event in Miami that NAFTA has allowed Mexican industry to enter the U.S. market with lax rules of origin. The rules dictate how much U.S. content a product assembled in Mexico must have in order to escape tariffs when being imported into the United States. Currently set at 62.5 percent for the auto industry, that number could increase.

“One part that must inevitably be reviewed is the chapter on rules of origin,” Videgaray said at the University of Miami. “Over time, the free trade agreement has sometimes been used — not always, of course, but sometimes — as a way to access the U.S. market perhaps with laxity in some ways of rules of origin.”

The Trump administration told Congress this month there would be 90 days of consultations on the renegotiation of the 23-year-old pact before beginning talks with Canada and Mexico. Annual trade of goods between Mexico and the U.S. was worth $525 billion in 2016, with the U.S. running a trade deficit of more than $63 billion.

The foreign minister said Mexico won’t entertain any talks on building a wall along the border. Videgaray maintained it is seen as an unfriendly sign and questioned its efficiency. Trump’s budget seeks $2.6 billion for border security technology, including money to design and build a wall along the southern border. Trump repeatedly promised voters during the campaign that Mexico would pay for a wall.

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Man Probing Ivanka Trump Brands in China Arrested; Two Others Missing

A man investigating working conditions at a Chinese company that produces Ivanka Trump-brand shoes has been arrested and two others are missing, the arrested man’s wife and an advocacy group said Tuesday.

Hua Haifeng was accused of illegal surveillance, according to his wife, Deng Guilian, who said the police called her Tuesday afternoon. Deng said the caller told her she didn’t need to know the details, only that she would not be able to see, speak with or receive money from her husband, the family’s breadwinner.

China Labor Watch Executive Director Li Qiang said he lost contact with Hua Haifeng and the other two men, Li Zhao and Su Heng, over the weekend. By Tuesday, after dozens of unanswered calls, he had concluded: “They must be held either by the factory or the police to be unreachable.”

China Labor Watch, a New York-based nonprofit, was planning to publish a report next month alleging low pay, excessive overtime and the possible misuse of student interns. It is unclear whether the undercover investigative methods used by the advocacy group are legal in China.

For 17 years, China Labor Watch has investigated working conditions at suppliers to some of the world’s best-known companies, but Li said his work has never before attracted this level of scrutiny from China’s state security apparatus.

“Our plan was to investigate the factory to improve the labor situation,” Li said. “But now it has become more political.”

Disney decision

Walt Disney Co. stopped working with a toy maker in Shenzhen last year after the group exposed labor violations. China Labor Watch has also published reports on child labor at Samsung suppliers and spent years investigating Apple Inc.’s China factories. In the past, the worst thing Li feared was having investigators kicked out of a factory or face a short police detention.

That has changed.

The arrest and disappearances came amid a crackdown on perceived threats to the stability of China’s ruling Communist Party, particularly from sources with foreign ties such as China Labor Watch. Faced with rising labor unrest and a slowing economy, Beijing has also taken a stern approach to activism in southern China’s manufacturing belt and to human rights advocates generally, sparking a wave of critical reports about disappearances, public confessions, forced repatriation and torture in custody.

Another difference is the target of China Labor Watch’s investigation: a brand owned by the daughter of the president of the United States.

White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks referred questions to Ivanka Trump’s brand. The Ivanka Trump brand declined to comment for this story.

Abigail Klem, who took over day-to-day management when the first daughter took on a White House role as presidential adviser, has said that the brand requires licensees and their manufacturers to “comply with all applicable laws and to maintain acceptable working conditions.”

No reply from police

Li said China Labor Watch asked police about the three missing investigators on Monday but received no reply. Li added that a friend had tried to file a missing-person report on Li Zhao in Jiangxi, where the factory is located, but was told he had to do so in the man’s hometown.

AP was unable to reach the other investigators’ families. China’s Ministry of Public Security and police in Ganzhou city and Jiangxi province could not be reached for comment Tuesday, which was a national holiday in China.

All three men were investigating Ganzhou Huajian International Shoe City Co.’s factory in Jiangxi province, just north of Guangdong province. Su Heng had been working undercover at the factory since April, Li said. The parent company is known as Huajian Group.

In January, Liu Shiyuan, then spokesman for the Huajian Group, told AP the company makes 10,000 to 20,000 pairs of shoes a year for Ivanka Trump’s brand — a small fraction of the 20 million pairs the company produces a year. A current spokeswoman for the company, Long Shan, did not reply to questions Tuesday. “I told you I could not check until tomorrow,” she said. “If your official letter contains a stamp and signature, we can confirm whether the media is real or not.”

Li said investigators had seen Ivanka Trump-brand shoes in the factory, as well as production orders for Ivanka Trump, Marc Fisher, Nine West and Easy Spirit merchandise.

“We were unaware of the allegations and will look into them immediately,” a spokeswoman for Marc Fisher, which manufactures Ivanka Trump, Easy Spirit and its own branded shoes, said in an email. Nine West did not respond to requests for comment.

Li Zhao and Hua Haifeng were blocked from leaving mainland China for Hong Kong in April and May — something that had never happened to his colleagues before, Li said. Hua Haifeng was stopped at the border Thursday and later questioned by police, Li said. During their final phone conversation on Saturday, Hua told Li that police had asked him to stop investigating the Huajian factory — another turn of events that Li said was unprecedented.

Excessive overtime, low wages

Li said the men had documented excessive overtime, with working days sometimes stretching longer than 18 hours, and a base salary below minimum wage. They were working to confirm evidence suggesting that student interns, some of whom allegedly quit in protest, were putting in excessive hours on work unrelated to their field of study, in violation of Chinese law, Li said.

The use of student workers in China is legal, but meant to be strictly regulated. Rights groups and journalists have documented widespread abuse of the system over the years.

“It is the role of the police to prevent that kind of independent investigation,” said Nicholas Bequelin, East Asia director for Amnesty International. “The threshold is much lower today than it was one year ago, two years ago, and if this is something that has a foreign diplomacy dimension, that would make national security personnel even more willing to stop it.”

Hua’s wife, Deng, meanwhile, has yet to tell the couple’s children, ages 3 and 7, about their father’s plight. But they seem to know anyway, she said.

“My son suddenly burst into tears. He said he missed Papa,” Deng said by phone from her home in central China’s Hubei province. “I said Papa would come home soon and buy you toys.”

She said the child looked at her and answered: “Papa was taken away by a monster.”

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