LBN – Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

*Promises, Promises – China Says Kim Jong Un Pledged to Denuclearize During Visit 

Kim Jong Un has promised to denuclearize North Korea, according to Chinese officials who he met during his first foreign trip as leader on Tuesday. The North Korean leader’s secret trip to Beijing to meet President Xi Jinping has been seen as a precursor to his much-anticipated summit with Donald Trump in the coming months. Although North Korea’s official statement about the trip made no mention of denuclearization, China’s foreign ministry released a lengthy statement containing what it claims are direct quotes from Kim Jong Un pledging to get rid of his nuclear weapons. “It is our consistent stand to be committed to denuclearization on the peninsula, in accordance with the will of late President Kim Il Sung and late General Secretary Kim Jong Il,” Kim Jong Un is quoted as saying. “The issue of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula can be resolved, if South Korea and the United States respond to our efforts with goodwill, create an atmosphere of peace and stability while taking progressive and synchronous measures for the realization of peace.” Trump welcomed the reports on Twitter early Wednesday morning.

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*Stormy Daniels’ Lawyer Seeks to Depose Donald Trump:

The lawyer for adult-film star Stormy Daniels has asked a federal judge for permission to depose President Trump and force him to face questioning under oath about what he knew about the agreement to pay Daniels “hush money” to keep quiet about their alleged affair. In a motion filed in federal court late Tuesday in Los Angeles, Daniels lawyer Michael J. Avenatti requested a deposition “of no greater than two hours” for Trump, and the same for the president’s lawyer and confidant Michael Cohen. If successful, Avenatti’s motion would set up an extraordinary scenario that would force the president to explain, under oath, exactly what he was told about a secrecy agreement involving a $130,000 payment to Daniels. The testimony could help determine whether campaign-finance laws were broken by the president, Cohen, or the Trump campaign. Responding to the request, Cohen spokesman David Schwartz described it as “a reckless use of the legal system in order to continue to inflate Michael Avenatti’s deflated ego and keep himself relevant.”

*Documents Reveal Arizona Governor and Uber Kept Self-Driving Cars ‘Secret’

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey encouraged Uber to test its self-driving cars in the state without informing the public and with “limited oversight from experts,” according to emails obtained by The Guardian. According to the newspaper, Uber began to “quietly” test autonomous vehicles in Phoenix in August 2016 with the company requesting from the governor’s office the contact information of someone “discreet” at a police station. Emails show that Uber and Ducey’s relationship started back in 2007. In 2015, Ducey issued an executive order allowing for the operation of self-driving cars on university campuses the same day that Uber donated $25,000 to a local university. Uber has admitted that it had “suggest[ed]” certain parts of the executive order. On Tuesday, Ducey suspended the startup’s right to operate self-driving vehicles in the state, 10 days after a woman was struck and killed by one of its autonomous cars. Two weeks before the crash, Ducey signed another executive order “explicitly allowing fully driverless vehicles on Arizona’s roads,” and around half of Uber’s 200 self-driving vehicles were in the state at the time of the accident.

*Report: Saudi Crown Prince to Meet With Oprah, Mike Pompeo on U.S. Tour

Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will meet with figures in American “politics, business, oil, entertainment and tech” during his U.S. tour, according to a leaked itinerary obtained by The Independent. Prince Mohammed is believed to have met with Henry Kissinger, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg on Tuesday in New York, the newspaper said. He’ll also meet with media leaders, current government figures like CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Jared Kushner, tech giants Bill Gates and Peter Thiel, and Oprah. Prince Mohammed arrived in Washington, D.C., on March 19 to meet with President Donald Trump and has since stopped by Boston and New York. He will soon travel to Houston, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles on his three-week trip. This comes after the Crown Prince sat down with CBS’s Norah O’Donnell in a 60 Minutes interview.

*Facebook Revamps Privacy Settings Amid Cambridge Analytica Storm

Facebook has announced a tweak of its privacy settings amid a company crisis over its handling of personal data. In a Facebook post, two senior officials said it’s “time to make our privacy tools easier to find” and introduced measures such as a new privacy shortcuts menu and tools to find, download, and delete your personal data. “Last week showed how much more work we need to do to enforce our policies and help people understand how Facebook works and the choices they have over their data,” said Erin Egan, chief privacy officer, and Ashlie Beringer, deputy general counsel. “We’ve heard loud and clear that privacy settings and other important tools are too hard to find and that we must do more to keep people informed.” The tinkering comes following the damning revelations that political data firm Cambridge Analytica had obtained information on about 50 million U.S. users via Facebook before the 2016 election.

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*SCARY! – A Cyberattack Hobbles Atlanta, and Security Experts Shudder:  

The City of Atlanta’s 8,000 employees got the word on Tuesday that they had been waiting for: It was O.K. to turn their computers on. But as the city government’s desktops, hard drives and printers flickered back to life for the first time in five days, residents still could not pay their traffic tickets or water bills online, or report potholes or graffiti on a city website. Travelers at the world’s busiest airport still could not use the free Wi-Fi. Atlanta’s municipal government has been brought to its knees since Thursday morning by a ransomware attack — one of the most sustained and consequential cyberattacks ever mounted against a major American city. The digital extortion aimed at Atlanta, which security experts have linked to a shadowy hacking crew known for its careful selection of targets, laid bare once again the vulnerabilities of governments as they rely on computer networks for day-to-day operations. In a ransomware attack, malicious software cripples a victim’s computer or network and blocks access to important data until a ransom is paid to unlock it.

*David Hogg having trouble getting into college after high school:

Some state colleges in California are apparently not impressed by the Parkland high school shooting survivor who helped become a voice for a global gun control movement. David Hogg, 17, has so far been rejected by four University of California campuses — UCLA, UCSD, UCSB and UC Irvine, he told TMZ. According to the UC site, a minimum 3.4 GPA is required for non-California residents to get in. The Florida teen has a 4.2 GPA and an SAT score of 1270. He’s been accepted to Cal State San Marcos and Cal Poly, and in his home state, Florida Atlantic University — but he’s not yet sure what he’ll do after graduating, he said. “At this point, we’re already changing the world,” Hogg, a senior at Stoneman Douglas High School, told the outlet. “If colleges want to support us in that, great, if they don’t, it doesn’t matter, we’re still going to change the world.” “There’s a lot of amazing people that don’t get into college,” he added.

*CLEARED – Motion Picture Academy Finds No Merit to Accusations Against Its President:

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences concluded on Tuesday that an allegation of sexual harassment against its president had no merit, in the first test of new guidelines that the powerful Hollywood industry group enacted after a wave of accusations of inappropriate behavior rocked the entertainment industry. In a statement released after its regularly scheduled board meeting, the academy said that an internal investigation into allegations levied against John Bailey, who was elected as president of the group in August, had determined that “no further action was merited.” Mr. Bailey, a cinematographer with credits ranging from “Ordinary People” in 1980 to “How to Be a Latin Lover” last year, had no immediate comment. He had previously disputed the allegations. The investigation focused on a claim submitted on March 13 by a woman who said Mr. Bailey, 75, attempted to touch her inappropriately while riding in a van on a movie set roughly a decade ago. The academy has not released the woman’s name.

*LBN-HEALTH WATCH:   ***Medicare officials thought they had finally figured out how to do their part to fix the troubling problem of opioids being over-prescribed to the old and disabled: In 2016, a staggering one in three of 43.6 million beneficiaries of the federal health insurance program had been prescribed the painkillers. Medicare, they decided, would now refuse to pay for long-term, high-dose prescriptions; a rule to that effect is expected to be approved on April 2. Some medical experts have praised the regulation as a check on addiction. But the proposal has also drawn a broad and clamorous blowback from many people who would be directly affected by it, including patients with chronic pain, primary care doctors and experts in pain management and addiction medicine.

*LBN-BUSINESS INSIDER:   ***Amazon saw its stock take a more nearly 6 percent tumble on Wednesday after a report that President Donald Trump wants to “go after” the tech behemoth via antitrust laws or tax policies. According to an Axios report that cited unnamed sources, Trump is “obsessed” with Amazon and has broached the idea of changing the company’s tax status out of concern that the e-retail giant is putting the squeeze on brick-and-mortar retailers.

*Poll: Majority of Americans say they are not seeing change in paychecks due to tax cuts: 

A majority of Americans say they are not yet seeing President Trump’s tax cuts reflected in their paychecks, according to a new poll. A CNBC All-America Economic Survey finds 52 percent of respondents say they haven’t seen a change. Just 32 percent of respondents report taking home more money due to the tax cuts, which Trump signed into law late last year. Of those saying they are taking home more money, 38 percent say the extra pay they receive helps them a “great deal” or a “fair amount.”

*LBN-MEDIA INSIDER:   ***The revival of “Roseanne” made a massive impact in its return on Tuesday night in the Nielsen overnight ratings. ABC aired back-to-back episodes of the show from 8-9 p.m., with the show generating a staggering 5.1 rating in adults 18-49 and 18.2 million viewers for the hour. For comparison, NBC’s revival of “Will & Grace” at the beginning of this season drew a 3.0 and 10.2 million viewers in its premiere, while the launch of “Big Bang Theory” prequel “Young Sheldon” drew a 3.8 and 17.2 million. The Conner family’s return after 20 years no doubt drew plenty of nostalgia viewers, while others were surely motivated to watch to see how series creator Roseanne Barr’s support of President Trump would play out onscreen.

*LBN-VIDEO LINK:  Who Sounds Gay? | Op-Docs | The New York Times —

*LBN-R.I.P.:   ****Philip Kerr, a Scottish-born writer whose popular novels feature a Nazi-era detective named Bernie Gunther, whose hard-boiled style made him literary kin to Philip Marlowe, Raymond Chandler’s classic private eye, died on Friday in London. He was 62. The cause was bladder cancer, according to his publisher, G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

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*LBN-COMMENTARY by Thomas L. Friedman: There is so much news these days that it’s hard to distinguish one big story from another. But for me the most consequential story of late was that a self-driving car operated by Uber — with an emergency backup driver behind the wheel — struck and tragically killed a woman on a street in Tempe, Ariz. I could only look at that deeply unsettling story and say: Welcome to the second inning — the second inning of one of the world’s great technological leaps, the implications of which we’re just beginning to understand. But first, let’s acknowledge one thing: The first inning was amazing. It was an inning full of promise, discovery and marvel. In the early 2000s, a set of technologies came together into platforms, social networks and software that made connectivity and solving complex problems fast, virtually free, easy for you, ubiquitous and invisible. Suddenly, more individuals could compete, connect, collaborate and create with more other people, in more ways, from more places, for less money and with greater ease than ever before. And we sure did!


Unlocking Power of the Unfocused Mind –

*LBN-COMMENTARY by Isabelle Robinson: My first interaction with Nikolas Cruz happened when I was in seventh grade. I was eating lunch with my friends, most likely discussing One Direction or Ed Sheeran, when I felt a sudden pain in my lower back. The force of the blow knocked the wind out of my 90-pound body; tears stung my eyes. I turned around and saw him, smirking. I had never seen this boy before, but I would never forget his face. His eyes were lit up with a sick, twisted joy as he watched me cry. The apple that he had thrown at my back rolled slowly along the tiled floor. A cafeteria aide rushed over to ask me if I was O.K. I don’t remember if Mr. Cruz was confronted over his actions, but in my 12-year-old naïveté, I trusted that the adults around me would take care of the situation. Five years later, hiding in a dark closet inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, I would discover just how wrong I was. I am not writing this piece to malign Nikolas Cruz any more than he already has been. I have faith that history will condemn him for his crimes. I am writing this because of the disturbing number of comments I’ve read that go something like this: Maybe if Mr. Cruz’s classmates and peers had been a little nicer to him, the shooting at Stoneman Douglas would never have occurred.

*LBN-HISTORICAL COMMENTARY by Oscar Wilde (The Picture of Dorian Gray): The curves of your lips rewrite history.


*LBN-OVERHEARD:   ***“Suits” returns Wednesday night at 9 p.m. — with all eyes on co-stars Meghan Markle and Patrick J. Adams, both leaving the USA series after seven seasons. Markle, of course, will marry Prince Harry  on May 19 at Windsor Castle. She plays “Suits” lawyer Rachel Zane, who’s engaged to Mike Ross (Adams), the brilliant legal mind and onetime faux attorney who’s now legit, splitting his time between the firm and pro bono work. “Having them both leave at the same time has allowed us to give them a happy ending,” says series creator Aaron Korsh. “Had one [actor] left before the other, we might not have been able to do that.”   ***Topshop heiress Chloe Green and Jeremy Meeks, aka the “Hot Felon,” have a baby on the way, Us Weekly reports. Meeks, who gained fame when his 2014 mug shot went viral, has one son with his ex-wife, Melissa, whom he left for Green, the daughter of British retail billionaire Philip Green. Melissa filed for separation in June 2017 after photos emerged of him kissing the socialite on a yacht. They divorced in October 2017.   ***“Today” show anchor Savannah Guthrie is apologizingWednesday after she was caught saying “s–t” on a microphone she apparently didn’t realize was picking her up.

LBN E-Lert Edited By Dan Gaylord