In their first Russia hearing, tech giants try to placate Congress (with mixed results)


On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee kicked off the first of three hearings this week examining the relationship between social media and Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The hearings mark the first time that lawmakers will hear testimony from Google, Facebook and Twitter around how their platforms were and are manipulated as part of Russian political disinformation campaigns targeting U.S. voters.

“This is really a critical hearing,” Committee Chair Lindsey Graham declared in his opening remarks. “It marks the first time we will have heard from the three agencies about exactly what is going on and what exactly they are prepared to do to stop it.”

Graham struck a friendly note early on, informing the panel that “the purpose of this hearing is to figure out how we can help you.”

Predictably, the tech representatives weren’t fooled by a group of lawmakers that appears increasingly eager to regulate their ad operations.

As Tuesday’s hearing was the first of three, the big question is just how cooperative the three companies would be. All three elected to send their general counsel rather than top executives to the hearing, a move that signaled they’d prefer to remain tight lipped and well within the comfort zones they’re used to in friendlier territory. They mostly succeeded, even when things got a bit awkward for a trio of companies far too accustomed to exercising near total control of the narrative around their products.

None of these tech giants are used to having their feet held to the fire, and some members of the committee, particularly Louisiana Senator John Kennedy and Minnesota Senator Al Franken, proved eager to do so. When Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch, who bore the brunt of the committee’s ire, responded tepidly to his line of questioning about the company’s responsibility, Franken rebuked the panel explosively.

“You put billions of data points together all the time… you can’t put together rubles and a political ad? How did you not connect those two dots?”

Kennedy picked up a line of questioning threaded early on by Graham, turning to exactly the kind of rapid fire questions that the tech companies dispatched their legal reps to dodge.

Kennedy: “Did China run ads in the last election cycle to try to impact our election? Did Turkmenistan?”

Stretch: “Not that I’m aware of”

Kennedy: “How can you be aware? You’ve got five million advertisers and you’re gonna tell me that you can trace the origin of all of those advertisers?”

Stretch: “No sir, I cannot”

Kennedy: “That’s your testimony under oath?”

On the issue of banning foreign currency in political ads — and many other issues, including how they’ll deal with shell companies — the trio was non-committal. They refused to endorse Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s bipartisan Honest Ads Act when pressed, gesturing that they would be willing to cooperate on legislation but they’d really prefer to self-govern (since that’s gone so well). Klobuchar took that opportunity to skewer the regulation-phobic companies. “There wouldn’t be an outside enforcer of any of your policies, is that right?,” she demanded. They reluctantly admitted she was right and surely took notes for how to handle tomorrow’s likely continuation of questioning around that legislation.

That sheepish admission and others were about the only candid moments that the hearing produced, as it swung from Russian intelligence operations to Islamic extremists and even to a predictably useless interlude from Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who squandered his time with a distracting line of questioning that accused the companies of partisanship.

The exchanges set a tone for tomorrow’s intelligence committee hearings, which are likely to be meatier and more aggressive, particularly in the Senate. In round one, Google, Facebook and Twitter cooperated, but they weren’t particularly helpful, opting to mostly cover their asses with pre-planned statements and platform reports designed to appease lawmakers and stave off regulation. All three were eager to tout their own home remedies for political disinformation campaigns — hire actual humans, build AI, et cetera — but remained unwilling to conduct the kind of deep self examination necessary to inoculate themselves outright.

Featured Image: Richard Sharrocks/Getty Images

First-Time Father Adorably Tries to Comfort His Newborn Son as He Receives His First Shots

On the same day he learned his father passed away, a new dad did his best to comfort his two-month-old son as he received his first vaccinations.

Antwon Lee of Warrenton, Georgia, took his newborn son, Debias King, to the pediatrician on October 26 to get his immunization shots. But Lee says he was incredibly nervous about the appointment because he knew his little man was not going to be happy.

“I felt kind of scared a little bit, I knew he was going to go through some pain,” Lee, 29, tells PEOPLE. “I had to figure out a way to comfort him, and the day before, I talked to him and said if he needed to cry, go ahead and cry. That morning when we got there, and I let him know again it was okay to cry.”

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Debias Lee

As the nurse gave Debias his shots, Lee was so concentrated on comforting his son that he didn’t notice his girlfriend, Shamekia Harris, was recording him on her smartphone. Her video, which was uploaded to Facebook that same day, shows Lee telling Debias to “stay strong,” even though it seems he is just as anguished about seeing his son cry. 

I felt the pain he was going through!” Lee says of the ordeal. “Aat that moment, there was pressure, but at the same time, it was beautiful.”

Once the vaccinations were completed, the video shows Lee sweetly picking up his son and consoling him—amazingly, Debias stops crying within moments. The video of the immunizations has gone viral, garnering more than 12 million views and 35,000 comments on Facebook.

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What viewers might not know is that on that same day, Lee found out that his father, Anthony Lee, 57, died from complications from drinking.

“I was very emotional. I was the baby son, I was very close to him,” Lee says of his relationship with his father. “But I don’t deal with good or bad days, I deal with peaceful days. I deal with peaceful days so I know my dad is in a peaceful place.”

That night, with the preciousness of life on his mind, Lee says he spoke with his two-month-old son about what he hopes for his future.

“I talked to him like a grown up. I let him know there will be a day I’m going to have to die, I’m going to have to leave this world,” he says. “I told him, before I leave, want to see him succeed. I want to see him succeed before I die, that’s all I want.”

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He says he hopes the video reminds other men of the importance—and beauty—of fatherhood.

“I want them to take care of their kids, because when you sign up for something, you have to stick with it, you gotta go,” he says. “My son is here, I’m signed up for it, and I have a beautiful mom for my child, and I’m going to be with him to the day I die.”

Justin Bieber Was Always Selena Gomez’s ‘One True Love’

Selena Gomez is back on the market after splitting from boyfriend The Weeknd, and multiple sources are exclusively telling Us Weekly that her ex-boyfriend, Justin Bieber, wants to get back together. Nonetheless, sources say that Gomez and The Weeknd shared something special.

“Since things ended with Justin for good, any other guys that Selena dated were placeholders,” a source close to the “Wolves” singer, 25, exclusively told Us Weekly of the pair, who ended their rocky on-and-off again romance in 2014. “All the other guys were just flings. Justin always had her heart and attention. He was always her soulmate and her one true love.”

However, the source added that Gomez and The Weeknd shared something special that differed from her relationship with Bieber. “She met The Weeknd and all that changed — she [could] see a future with him and [felt] different about him than the other flings,” the source said of the couple, who recently called it quits after 10 months of dating. “She [had] been happy with him but Justin always has the biggest piece of her heart. The situation is a heart string type of thing. She has to figure out what she wants.”

As for Bieber? “Justin really wants to get back with Selena,” the insider told Us. “He has been texting her nonstop and hangs out with her whenever he can.”

Selena Gomez Justin Bieber
Selena Gomez and singer Justin Bieber arrive at the 2011 American Music Awards held at Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE on November 20, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Steve Granitz/WireImage.com

The former flames made headlines last week after they were spotted together at Gomez’s Studio City home. Although a source close to The Weeknd claimed that “The Hills” singer didn’t mind that his then-girlfriend was spending time with Bieber, a source close to Bieber countered, “Selena insisted that they were friends and The Weeknd had nothing to worry about, but she can’t deny that she still loves Justin. He had such a big piece of her heart and was such a huge part of her life for so long. She can’t let him go.”

Sources recently told Us that the “Love Yourself” songster and the 13 Reasons Why producer reunited shortly after she underwent surgery for a kidney transplant. “They started hanging out as he was concerned about her as a friend/checking ion her,” another source said.

A third source noted that Gomez is focusing on her health for the time being and is not prioritizing her romantic life. “She has no intentions of going right into another relationship,” the insider shared. “She’s really happy right now and in a good place. But of course, Justin and Selena have a special place in each other’s hearts.”



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‘Act of Terror’ in New York City: What We Know Now

At 3:05 p.m., as throngs of people were beginning to make their daily commute home for Halloween night in Lower Manhattan, a man drove a Home Depot rental truck into pedestrians, killing eight and wounding at least 11.

The bike path was just blocks away from the World Trade Center memorial site, and officials have called the incident an act of terror.

Here’s what we know about the attack so far:

• Eight people were killed and at least 11 were injured when a truck plowed into pedestrians and then hit a school bus on a bike path Tuesday afternoon, very close to the World Trade Center memorial site.

• Mayor Bill de Blasio said the incident was an “act of terror.”

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Martin Speechley/NYPD/AP

• The suspect has been identified as Sayfullo Saipov, 29, from Tampa, Florida. He drove a rented Home Depot truck and upon exiting, shouted, “Allahu Akbar.” He was non-fatally shot by police in the stomach and is currently in custody at the hospital.

• Despite earlier reports of an active shooter, the suspect only had a paintball gun and a pellet gun when he exited the truck.

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Bebeto Matthews/AP

• Officials say there’s no evidence that the attack was part of a larger plot.

• The attack occurred at 3:05 p.m., when the driver headed south on West Side Street and entered a bike path at Houston Street.

• When the driver approached Chambers Street, the driver collided with a school bus. There were two adults and two students on the bus. Nobody on the bus was killed.

Jeremy Piven Accused of Sexual Assault by Ariane Bellamar

Jeremy Piven is being accused of sexual assault by actress and former reality star Ariane Bellamar. In a series of tweets, Bellamar explained her alleged encounters with Piven on the set of Entourage and at the Playboy Mansion.

“Hey @jeremypiven! ‘Member when you cornered me in your trailer on the #Entourage set? ‘Member grabbing my boobies on the [couch emoji] without asking??” the former Beverly Hills Nannies star tweeted on Monday, October 30. “‘Member when I tried to leave; you grabbed me by the ass, looked at yourself in the mirror, & said what a ‘beautiful couple’ we made? #MeToo.”

Channing Tatum, Laura Dern, Jane Fonda and More Speak Out Against Harvey Weinstein Amid Sexual Misconduct Scandal >>>

In a third tweet, Bellamar added: “Jeremy Piven, on two occasions, cornered me & forcefully fondled my breasts & bum. Once at the mansion & once on set. #MeToo @AriMelber @CNN.”

Lindsay Lohan, Mel Gibson and More Stars Who Have Found Themselves Locked Up Behind Bars >>>

It is unclear if Bellamar is referring to the Entourage series, which ran on HBO from 2004 to 2011, or the Entourage movie, which was released in 2015. She is not listed on IMDb for either projects.

In a second string of tweets, Bellamar said the actor also sent her “abusive, explicit texts.”

“And, don’t try to deny it, sir. @HBO has us on [tape emoji] together, & I’m sure @sprint has electronic back-ups of your abusive, explicit text. #MeToo,” she wrote. “Sprint seems to be willing to help me find those explicit text mails you sent to me, @jeremypiven. Enough is ENOUGH with this ‘ish.”

CBS told Us in statement, “We are aware of the media reports and are looking into the matter.” Piven is currently starring in the CBS drama Wisdom of the Crowd.

Biggest Celebrity Cheating Scandals Ever! >>>

Bellamar’s allegations against the Entourage star come after a movement started on social media to speak up against sexual assault with the hashtag “#MeToo” in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

Us Weekly has reached out to Piven’s rep for comment.



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Khloe Kardashian Wears Stomach-Baring Game of Thrones Halloween Costume

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Khloe Kardasian/Instagram

Khloé Kardashian’s Halloween costume this year was easy: Mother … of dragons!

The pregnant star posted her full Halloween costume reveal on Instagram alongside boyfriend Tristan Thompson. The parents-to-be channeled Game of Thrones for a Halloween party Monday night with Kardashian dressing up as the Mother of Dragons Daenerys Targaryen and Thompson going as Khal Drogo, which seems to be a subtle confirmation to the pregnancy of their first child.

The duo revealed quick peeks at their looks Monday night on Instagram story, but revealed the full custom-made medieval outfits designed by Bryan Hearns on Tuesday.

In a photo the star shared of the couple kissing in their costumes, Kardashian called her boyfriend of over a year the “moon of my life,” after she captioned a shirtless photo of the NBA star with “That’s daddy,” Monday night on social media.

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Kardashian posed strategically in each of the photos she shared (especially the few which could potentially reveal her bump), by placing belts and a fur shawl over her stomach.

RELATED PHOTOS: See All of Kim Kardashian’s Sexy, Music Legend-Inspired Halloween Costumes from the Weekend

Up until now, Kardashian’s kept her stomach covered (like her sister Kylie Jenner, who’s also pregnant) by having her sisters stand in front of her in photos, wearing lots of black and oversize sweatshirts. But perhaps the 33-year-old star is ready to start showing more skin and taking some maternity dressing advice from her older sister Kourtney, who recently told us, “Don’t feel like you have to hide your bump and just dress for your body. Just embrace it!”

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Khloe Kardasian/Instagram

Last month, multiple sources confirmed to PEOPLE that Kardashian is expecting her first child, a baby boy, with Thompson.

“Yes, Khloé and Tristan are expecting and they are absolutely thrilled,” one source told PEOPLE of the couple.

“This is something Khloé has wanted for years and years and yet it’s more than that: She didn’t want it unless she was in the right relationship for it,” the source added. “This is such a wonderful moment for her: not only is she going to be a mother, she is going to be raising a child with a man she truly loves. Everyone is over the moon for them both.”

What do you think of Khloé and Tristan’s costume? Sound off in the comments below. 

NYPD Takes Suspect Into Custody After Violent Event in Lower Manhattan – WWD


NEW YORK — New York Police Department officials are still investigating an incident in lower Manhattan involving a vehicle that left several pedestrians and cyclists dead and injured.

The NYPD’s Twitter feed confirmed there is one individual in custody. “All information is preliminary as the investigation is ongoing.”

The NYPD account detailed Tuesday afternoon’s events that started when a vehicle entered the West Street pedestrian and bike path a few blocks north of Chambers Street. The vehicle struck several people on the path, resulting in several fatalities and injuries, according to the NYPD. The vehicle then continued south, striking another vehicle. The suspect exited the vehicle displaying imitation firearms and was shot by NYPD, the Twitter feed continued. Pedestrians and drivers in the area were advised to avoid the area of Chambers Street/West Street due to the police activity. “Expect many emergency personnel in the area,” the NYPD posted.

A video post shows a battered white truck and a few people and bicycles lying on a bike path which is reportedly near Stuyvesant High School. Police and emergency responders responded to the scene and traffic in the area was knotted.

Numerous fashion and media businesses are housed in the area, including Time Inc. and Condé Nast. Shortly before 4:15 p.m., Time sent an emergency notification to all employees working at 225 Liberty Street asking them to respond whether they are OK or need assistance. Advised that Global Security was monitoring the status of all employees, recipients received confirmation of the shooting at Chambers and West Street.

About 25 minutes prior to that, Time’s Greg Giangrande e-mailed staff to say “the NYPD has reported that they have apprehended the suspect and there is no active threat. There are reports of casualties. We’re looking into this further. As a precaution, our security is on heightened alert and we continue to be in close contact with the NYPD.”

NYPD Takes Suspect Into Custody After ‘Act of Terror’ in Lower Manhattan That Left Eight People Dead, and Injured at Least Twelve – WWD


NEW YORK — In what is being described as an act of terror, New York Police Department officials are still investigating an incident in lower Manhattan involving a vehicle that left eight people dead and injured more than a dozen.

In a press conference with NYPD and FBI officials, as well as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio described the incident as “an act of terror and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians going about their lives who had no idea what was about to hit them.”

The mayor continued, “We know that this act was intended to break our spirit but we also know that New Yorkers are strong, New Yorkers are resilient and our spirit will never be moved by an act of violence, an act meant to intimidate us. We have been tested before as a city very narthex site of today’s tragedy and New Yorkers do not give in in the face of these kids of actions. We will respond as we always do. We will be undeterred.”

The NYPD’s Twitter feed confirmed there is one individual in custody. “All information is preliminary as the investigation is ongoing.”

The NYPD account detailed Tuesday afternoon’s events that started when a vehicle entered the West Street pedestrian and bike path a few blocks north of Chambers Street. The vehicle struck several people on the path, resulting in several fatalities and injuries, according to the NYPD. The vehicle then continued south, striking another vehicle. The suspect exited the vehicle displaying imitation firearms and was shot by NYPD, the Twitter feed continued. Pedestrians and drivers in the area were advised to avoid the area of Chambers Street/West Street due to the police activity. “Expect many emergency personnel in the area,” the NYPD posted.

A video post shows a battered white truck and a few people and bicycles lying on a bike path which is reportedly near Stuyvesant High School. Police and emergency responders responded to the scene and traffic in the area was knotted.

Numerous fashion and media businesses are housed in the area, including Time Inc. and Condé Nast. Shortly before 4:15 p.m., Time sent an emergency notification to all employees working at 225 Liberty Street asking them to respond whether they are OK or need assistance. Advised that Global Security was monitoring the status of all employees, recipients received confirmation of the shooting at Chambers and West Street.

About 25 minutes prior to that, Time’s Greg Giangrande e-mailed staff to say “the NYPD has reported that they have apprehended the suspect and there is no active threat. There are reports of casualties. We’re looking into this further. As a precaution, our security is on heightened alert and we continue to be in close contact with the NYPD.”

Hollywood Pastor Inspired Justin Bieber, Ashley Benson Tattoos

Chad Veach has been a mentor to Hollywood’s hottest stars, and now the Los Angeles-based pastor is opening up about the support he has received over the years while facing a heartbreaking disease with his young daughter.

“I feel like so much of life is not allowing your situation to define you. It’s the only way to come out on top,” Veach — whose 5-year-old daughter Georgia suffers from the rare brain disorder lissencephaly — tells PEOPLE. “What we have gone through with our daughter has only increased my faith that God is real … my family would not be intact and my home would not be filled with joy right now if we didn’t have a greater hope.”

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, symptoms of lissencephaly include unusual facial appearance, difficulty swallowing, muscle spasms, seizures and more. There is currently no cure for the disease, but children can show progress in their development over time.

Celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Hailey Baldwin, Ashley Benson and more have rallied around Veach and his family by getting inked with “g” tattoos.

In 2015, Bieber revealed his “G” tattoo on Instagram, writing that it was “for the strongest couple I know” and their “incredible” daughter.

“It’s pretty amazing to experience the support we’ve received,” says Veach, whose second book Faith Forward Future is out Nov. 28 (and available for pre-order here). “So many people have been drawn to Georgia, and I think it speaks to how we are always drawn to rally around those that are hurting. I never could have imagined this kind of support — hundreds of people going out to get this tattoo for Georgia. It’s incredible.”

Veach’s daughter is currently “doing the best that she’s ever done,” he shares. Georgia is going to school five days a week and is “thriving and defying the odds.”

Says the pastor: “We are truly so thankful for that.”