Former Obama CTO compliments Trump's tech initiatives - Axios
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Former Obama CTO compliments Trump's tech initiatives

Photo: Chuck Kennedy / Axios

Aneesh Chopra, the United States' first chief technology officer under the Obama administration, told Axios' Mike Allen this morning that he believes expanding tech literacy is a "wildly bipartisan" issue in government today. Chopra specifically cited the work of the Jared Kushner-headed Office of American Innovation as something that "mirrors very nicely" his Obama-era tech initiatives.

A big quote: "While you'll generally see those of us in the Obama world sort of fret all of those decisions [by the Trump administration], on this topic you'll see a lot of alignment and a lot of support."

More from Chopra's conversation at Axios' Future Shapers event:

  • He noted a disconnect between the "tech frontier" of cutting edge government research and the "laggard" daily, dated tech struggles of the everyday federal employee.
  • Social media is both a benefit and risk for our society, according to Chopra, as Americans have access to a new "wealth of information" but still choose to "self select and filter out news that they don't necessarily agree with."
  • Chopra cited India's "frictionless digital society" as a goal for the United States, calling it "infrastructure for a modern age" with nationwide biometric ID cards. Of the U.S., he asked, "We have large swaths of the country that don't have any communications capacity…How are we going to add economic opportunity if we don't have basic communications infrastructure?"
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Farenthold won't seek reelection after sexual harassment charges

Rep. Blake Farenthold at a town hall in 2015. Photo: Pat Sullivan / AP

Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) will not seek reelection following allegations of sexual harassment from multiple former staff members, Politico reports.

When accused of using public funds to settle sexual harssment charges, Farenthold originally claimed he had done nothing wrong. The House Ethics Committee recently initiated an investigation into the claims, and today CNN reported that a former senior aide planned to tell his damning account of Farenthold's misconduct.

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Trump still refuses to believe Russia interfered in the election

Photo: Evan Vucci / AP

Before he took office, President Trump was urged by his closest circle of advisors, including Jared Kushner and Reince Priebus, to publicly admit that U.S. intelligence agencies were right about Russia's attempts to influence the 2016 election, the Washington Post reported. Trump refused and still refuses, denying that anything other than his own campaigning tactics won him the presidency.

Why it matters: Trump's distrust of U.S. intel has led to zero White House initiatives in looking at how to prevent future cyberattacks. Sources told the Post that there has not been a single Cabinet-level meeting about Russia's election interference. There's been more effort into finding ways to roll back some of Obama's sanctions on Russia.

Key quote from the Post: "The result is without obvious parallel in U.S. history, a situation in which the personal insecurities of the president — and his refusal to accept what even many in his administration regard as objective reality — have impaired the government’s response to a national security threat. The repercussions radiate across the government."

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U.S. retail sales beat November expectations

A holiday sale display greets shoppers entering a JCPenney store. Photo: Elaine Thompson / AP

U.S. retail sales were higher than expected in November, the Commerce Department announced Thursday, signaling the growing strength of demand from American consumers this holiday shopping season.

Get smart: Overall sales were 0.5% higher than in October thanks to a strengthening jobs market, which helped boost demand. Bloomberg notes that "solid hiring, gains in stock prices and property values, and limited inflation" are also expected to sustain demand for the remainder of the year, after two quarters of seeing above-trend growth of around 3%.

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Tavis Smiley: PBS investigation "went too far"

Tavis Smiley says he plans to "fight back" at PBS. Photo: Rich Fury / Invision via AP

Late-night talk show host Tavis Smiley, who was suspended by PBS after an internal investigation led to several allegations of sexual misconduct, said he was shocked by the way PBS handled their investigation. "Variety knew [about my suspension] before I did," he said in a Facebook post.

His side of the story: "To be clear, I have never groped, coerced, or exposed myself inappropriately to any workplace colleague in my entire broadcast career ... PBS overreacted and conducted a biased and sloppy investigation, which led to a rush to judgment, and trampling on a reputation that I have spent an entire lifetime trying to establish. This has gone too far. And, I, for one, intend to fight back."

Smiley's full statement:

“On the eve of the 15th season and 3,000th episode of my nightly talk show, I was as shocked as anyone else by PBS’ announcement today. Variety knew before I did.

I have the utmost respect for women and celebrate the courage of those who have come forth to tell their truth. To be clear, I have never groped, coerced, or exposed myself inappropriately to any workplace colleague in my entire broadcast career, covering 6 networks over 30 years.

Never. Ever. Never.

PBS launched a so-called investigation of me without ever informing me. I learned of the investigation when former staffers started contacting me to share the uncomfortable experience of receiving a phone call from a stranger asking whether, I had ever done anything to make them uncomfortable, and if they could provide other names of persons to call. After 14 seasons, that’s how I learned of this inquiry, from the streets.

Only after being threatened with a lawsuit, did PBS investigators reluctantly agree to interview me for three hours.

If having a consensual relationship with a colleague years ago is the stuff that leads to this kind of public humiliation and personal destruction, heaven help us. The PBS investigators refused to review any of my personal documentation, refused to provide me the names of any accusers, refused to speak to my current staff, and refused to provide me any semblance of due process to defend myself against allegations from unknown sources. Their mind was made up. Almost immediately following the meeting, this story broke in Variety as an ‘exclusive.’ Indeed, I learned more about these allegations reading the Variety story than the PBS investigator shared with me, the accused, in our 3 hour face to face meeting.

My attorneys were sent a formal letter invoking a contractual provision to not distribute my programming, and that was it.

Put simply, PBS overreacted and conducted a biased and sloppy investigation, which led to a rush to judgment, and trampling on a reputation that I have spent an entire lifetime trying to establish.

This has gone too far. And, I, for one, intend to fight back.

It’s time for a real conversation in America, so men and women know how to engage in the workplace. I look forward to actively participating in that conversation.”

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Doug Jones' message to Roy Moore: "It's time to move on"

Doug Jones (left) beat Roy Moore in the Alabma senate race. Photos: AP

Senator-elect Doug Jones told NBC's Savannah Guthrie Thursday that he understands Roy Moore's frustration in losing in Alabama but it's time for him "to move on."

Key quote: "Every race is tough, it's bitter sometimes... the people of Alabama have now spoken... I think he would do well to go ahead and [say] let's get this behind us." Jones added that there's "no doubt" in his mind that he won, despite Moore's unwillingness to concede defeat.

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Omarosa denies being fired and escorted off White House grounds

Omarosa Manigault said she resigned from the White House. Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

Omarosa Manigault, who met Trump when she was a contestant on the first season of "The Apprentice," asserted Thursday that she resigned from the Trump administration. She called reports that she was fired for trying to break into the White House residence and escorted of the grounds "100% false."

"Certainly I had more access than most, and people had problems with that," Manigault told Good Morning America. "People had problems with my 14-year relationship with the president. I've always been loyal to him."

Manigault's version of events: She said she and chief of staff John Kelly sat down in the situation room and had "a very candid conversation" about her wanting to resign. Her resignation will take effect on January 20.

Her issues with her WH role:

  • "There were a lot of things that I observed during the last year that I was unhappy with, that I was uncomfortable with ... When I can tell my story, it is a profound story."
  • "As the only African-American woman in the White House I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, that has affected my community and my people."
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One-third of Puerto Rico still doesn't have power

In this Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017 photo, a woman left homeless by Hurricane Maria uses her cell phone at a school-turned-shelter that does not have electricity in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. Photo: Ramon Espinosa / AP

"Today, nearly three months after Hurricane Maria., more than one-third of Puerto Rico is still without power and thousands of businesses remain closed," Bloomberg Businessweek reports.

Why it matters: "For a decade, Puerto Rico has experienced a steady erosion of economic opportunity, and now there's a fear that the storm has convinced too many residents, a critical mass, to pursue new livelihoods elsewhere."

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Five years after Sandy Hook

A makeshift memorial with crosses for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting massacre. Photo: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

"Many relatives of the 26 children and educators killed five years ago [today] at Sandy Hook Elementary School [in Newtown, Conn.] have dedicated themselves to charity, activism and other efforts to channel their grief and, in many cases, to help prevent violence," AP's Pat Eaton-Robb writes.

More of their projects:

  • "Others have jumped into the policy fray to lobby for gun control or improved mental health care. In some cases, they have traveled the country, and even the world, as recognized experts in their fields, such as Jeremy Richman, a scientist whose Avielle Foundation for the study of brain health is named for his slain daughter.
  • "The Sandy Hook families have created a website to share each of their stories and information about the various projects they have started in memory of their family members."
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Pence delaying Israel visit

Photo: Scott Applewhite / AP

Vice President Mike Pence's visit to Israel, which was to begin on Sunday, will be postponed by two days because of next week's tax-reform vote, Israeli and U.S. officials say.

  • The reason: U.S. officials tell Axios that Pence is likely to remain in Washington until Tuesday in order to be present for final Senate passage of tax reform, which he has been intimately involved in.
  • The change: Pence originally was to leave Saturday night. He is likely to add one day at the end of the trip.

According to the current schedule, Israeli officials tell me:

  • Israeli officials say Pence is due to arrive from Cairo on Wednesday evening.
  • On Thursday morning, he will have a welcoming ceremony at the prime minister's office and a working meeting with Netanyahu.
  • Afterwards Pence will visit the Israeli parliament – the Knesset — and deliver a speech to the Israeli people.
  • In the evening Pence will arrive at the prime minister's residence for dinner with Netanyahu.
  • On Friday morning Pence will meet with Israeli president Rivlin and visit the Holocaust memorial site – Yad Vashem. He will leave Israel around noon on Friday.

U.S. officials say Pence is still likely to visit the Western Wall.

  • Palestinians refused to see Pence as a result of Trump's announcement on Jerusalem from last week.
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Slow rebuild after the Great Recession killed economic equality

Apple's new campus in September. Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

"Seattle is among a fistful of cities that have flourished in the 10 years since the Great Recession officially began in December 2007, even while most other large cities — and sizable swaths of rural America — have managed only modest recoveries," per AP Economics Writer Christopher Rugaber:

Why it matters: The rebound has "failed to narrow the country's deep regional economic disparities and in fact has worsened them."

More from the report:

  • "A few cities have grown much richer, thanks to their grip on an outsize share of lucrative tech jobs and soaring home prices. Others have thrived because of surging oil and gas production."
  • "In Las Vegas, half-finished housing developments, relics of the housing boom, pockmark the surrounding desert. Families there earn nearly 20 percent less, adjusted for inflation, than in 2007."
  • "[M]any Southern and Midwestern cities — from Greensboro, North Carolina, to Janesville, Wisconsin — have yet to recover from the loss of manufacturing jobs that have been automated out of existence or lost to competition from China."