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Google VP grilled by senators over allegations of tech giant’s bias against conservatives

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DOJ, FTC may open antitrust investigations into big tech

Republican lawmakers on Tuesday criticized Google during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing over allegations of bias against and censorship of conservative groups on the tech giant’s platforms.

The hearing, which came on a busy day on Capitol Hill for Silicon Valley’s behemoths, was the second in recent of months in which tech companies were grilled over accusations of discrimination against conservative viewpoints and the suppression of free speech.

“Google’s control over what people hear, watch, read, and say is unprecedented,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the chair of  the Senate Judiciary Committee, said. “Google can, and often does, control our discourse.”

Cruz added: “The American people are subject to overt censorship and covert manipulation” by Google’s algorithm.

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Google’s vice president of global government affairs and public policy, Karan Bhatia, defended the tech giant – arguing that the company has no political bias and does not monitor content posted on its platforms. Bhatia noted that the company does censor or take down some content, but denied that there was any political motivation behind that.

“We work hard to fix our mistakes,” Bhatia said. “But these mistakes have affected both parties and are not a product of bias.”

He added: “We are not censoring speech on our platforms…We do have community guidelines against uploading, for example, videos that have violent imagery.”

Later in the hearing, Cruz criticized Google’s executives for their broad support of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election, saying that 88 executives at the company contributed to her campaign.

“You know how many contributed to Donald Trump?” Cruz asked. “Zero, goose egg.”

Cruz’s Democratic counterparts on the committee defended the tech giant against the bias accusations, but didn’t spare the company when it came to criticism that it does little to remove violent and disturbing imagery and videos from its platforms.

The Democrats criticism was bolstered by the appearance in the audience of Andy Parker, whose 24-year-old daughter, Alison, a television reporter in Virginia, was shot and killed on live TV in 2015. Parker has worked to press Google to remove all footage of his daughter’s murder from its platform, with Google informing him that he could flag the content for removal.

“Why should a father have to search for, flag, and watch videos of his daughter’s murder?” Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, the ranking Democrat on the committee, asked.

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Bhatia argued that the company is working to remove the videos but has so far been unable to take down every one.

Google’s appearance on Capitol Hill came hours after senators grilled Facebook on its plans to launch a new digital currency when it was still battling problems with privacy and other issues during a Senate Banking Committee panel.

Arizona Republican Sen. Martha McSally said she doesn’t trust Facebook because of repeated privacy violations and “repeated deceit.”

Facebook executive David Marcus argued the company wants to innovate on behalf of its users. He said if another country were to build a successful digital currency first, the system might be out of reach of U.S. regulations and sanctions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Trump rips New York Times over Kavanaugh piece, calls for resignation of anyone involved in ‘SMEAR story’

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Trump rips New York Times over Kavanaugh piece, calls for resignation of anyone involved in 'SMEAR story'

President Trump blasted The New York Times over its supposed bombshell report on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, calling on “everybody” involved in the “smear” to resign.

“I call for the Resignation of everybody at The New York Times involved in the Kavanaugh SMEAR story, and while you’re at it, the Russian Witch Hunt Hoax, which is just as phony!” Trump tweeted Monday evening.

“They’ve taken the Old Grey Lady and broken her down, destroyed her virtue and ruined her reputation… She can never recover, and will never return to Greatness, under current Management. The Times is DEAD, long live The New York Times!”

NEW YORK TIMES CRITICIZED FROM BOTH SIDES OVER NOW-REVISED KAVANAUGH ALLEGATIONS

Late Sunday, The New York Times walked back an explosive report about a resurfaced allegation of sexual assault by Kavanaugh from his college days. The piece by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, adapted from their forthcoming book, alleged there was corroboration of an incident in which Kavanaugh, as a college student at Yale, exposed himself to a female classmate at a party.

However, The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway — who reviewed an advance copy of the book – flagged an omission and the paper eventually revised the controversial story after being lampooned on social media over the gaffe.

The update included the significant detail that several friends of the alleged victim said she did not recall the purported sexual assault. The newspaper also stated for the first time that the alleged victim refused to be interviewed, and has made no other comment about the episode.

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Trump was asked about whether anyone from The Times should be “fired” over the controversy. He called it a “fair” question but didn’t directly give an answer.

“I think The New York Times made another terrible mistake,” Trump said. “It’s a shame that a thing like that could happen… They used to have a thing called fact-checking. They don’t have fact-checking anymore.”

Fox News’ Brian Flood and Gregg Re contributed to this report.

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With New Mexico rally, Trump seeks to flip state won by Clinton in 2016

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With New Mexico rally, Trump seeks to flip state won by Clinton in 2016

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump will hold one of his signature rallies on Monday night in New Mexico, a longtime Democratic stronghold his campaign has added to the list of states it hopes to win in the November 2020 election.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, U.S., September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

The last time New Mexico supported a Republican in a presidential race was 2004. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton beat Trump there by 8 percentage points three years ago.

Trump’s campaign sees an opening in the state with Latinos, who it believes will swing his way despite tough immigration policies, including a crackdown on migrants from Central America and a push to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Democrats have criticized those efforts. But a Trump campaign aide said the Republican president could win over Latinos who came to the United States legally and believe others should, too.

“Big crowd expected in New Mexico tonight, where we will WIN. Your Border Wall is getting stronger each and every day — see you in a few hours!” Trump tweeted ahead of his trip.

The campaign also views Trump’s support for the fossil fuel industry as a plus in the state, which is rich in oil and natural gas, said the campaign aide, who declined to be named. Trump is likely to discuss energy on Monday night.

Trump won the White House in 2016 with electoral votes from traditional Republican-leaning states and some surprise Democratic-leaning ones.

The Trump campaign says it wants New Mexico’s five electoral votes to augment the 306 electoral votes the president received in his first election, not create a separate path for victory. A candidate must get 270 electoral votes nationally to win.

Democrats, who did well in New Mexico during the 2018 mid-term elections, are skeptical.

“Last cycle, Democrats crushed Republicans in New Mexico because voters are fed up with President Trump’s toxic healthcare agenda and broken promises,” said David Bergstein, a communications director for the Democratic National Committee focused on battleground states.

“We take nothing for granted, but this GOP strategy looks like they’re concerned about a realistic pathway to 270 electoral votes,” he added.

Trump won electoral-vote-rich swing states such as Ohio and Florida in 2016, while also picking up Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania from Democrats.

The campaign says it is eyeing more pickups in 2020, including Colorado, New Hampshire, Minnesota and Nevada.

Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Tom Brown

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California adds Iowa to ‘travel ban’ over refusal to fund gender transitions

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California adds Iowa to 'travel ban' over refusal to fund gender transitions

California announced Monday that it has added Iowa to the list of states on its ever-expanding “travel ban” list because of that state’s new prohibition against funding gender-transition surgeries under Medicaid.

The announcement by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra means that as of Oct. 4, California will no longer offer taxpayer-funded trips to Iowa for any public employee or student at a state-run university.

Becerra’s authority came from a 2016 California law signed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown that bars state-funded travel to other states that undercut LGBT rights. The list already included Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma and Mississippi.

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Conservatives have called the law ineffective, inconveniencing, possibly unconstitutional and hypocritical. The state’s sports teams have turned to private funding to get around the restrictions, according to The Los Angeles Times.

A homeless woman smokes as she waits for city crews to clean the area near Los Angeles City Hall Monday, July 1, 2019. California is overrun with homeless individuals. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

A homeless woman smokes as she waits for city crews to clean the area near Los Angeles City Hall Monday, July 1, 2019. California is overrun with homeless individuals. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

“The Iowa Legislature has reversed course on what was settled law under the Iowa Civil Rights Act, repealing protections for those seeking gender-affirming health care,” Becerra said in a statement. “California has taken an unambiguous stand against discrimination and government actions that would enable it.”

The brouhaha began after the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in March that taxpayers could be forced to pay for gender reassignment surgery. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a law effectively overriding that ruling two months later.

At the federal level, the Trump administration has disputed the idea that sex-based discrimination prohibitions under law include protections for gender identity. The Health and Human Services Department, in May, angered progressive advocates with rules that both allowed doctors not to perform certain operations and stated that “gender identity” was not protected under sex discrimination law in health care.

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Fox News’ Sam Dorman contributed to this report.

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