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Cambridge Analytica suspends CEO Alexander Nix

Man at centre of allegations about Facebook data breach is suspended pending full independent investigation

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Alexander Nix, Cambridge Analytica CEO, suspended after data scandal” was written by Ruth McKee, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 20th March 2018 21.51 UTC

Alexander Nix, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica, the firm at the heart of the data-mining scandal, has been suspended.

The company said in a statement: “The board of Cambridge Analytica has announced today that it has suspended CEO Alexander Nix with immediate effect pending a full, independent investigation.

“In the view of the board, Mr Nix’s recent comments secretly recorded by Channel 4 and other allegations do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation.”

Name

Alexander James Ashburner Nix

Age

42

Education

Eton, then Manchester University, where he studied history of art

Career

Nix worked as a financial analyst in Mexico and the UK before joining SCL, a strategic communications firm, in 2003. From 2007 he took over the company’s elections division, and claims to have worked on more than 40 campaigns globally. Many of SCL’s projects are secret, so that may be a low estimate. He set up Cambridge Analytica to work in America, with investment from US hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer. He has been both hailed as a visionary – featuring on Wired’s list of “25 Geniuses who are creating the future of business” – and derided as a snake oil salesman.

Controversies

Cambridge Analytica has come under scrutiny for its role in elections on both sides of the Atlantic, working on Brexit and Donald Trump’s election team. It is a key subject in two inquiries in the UK – by the Electoral Commission, into the firm’s possible role in the EU referendum, and the Information Commissioner’s Office, into data analytics for political purposes – and one in the US, as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Trump-Russia collusion. The Observer revealed this week that the company had harvested millions of Facebook profiles of US voters, in one of the tech giant’s biggest ever data breaches, and used them to build a powerful software program to predict and influence choices at the ballot box. Emma Graham-Harrison

Cambridge Analytica said its chief data officer, Alexander Tayler, had been appointed acting chief executive while an investigation was carried out by Julian Malins QC, whose findings they would “share publicly in due course”.

“The board will be monitoring the situation closely, working closely with Dr Tayler, to ensure that Cambridge Analytica, in all of its operations, represents the firm’s values and delivers the highest-quality service to its clients.”

Arriving at Cambridge Analytica’s offices in New Oxford Street, London, on Tuesday, Nix told reporters “appearances can be deceptive” when asked about the Channel 4 News filming. Asked if the company would abandon its political work Nix gave no reply but firmly denied he had misled parliament when he gave evidence over its use of data, saying: “Absolutely not.”

He was seen leaving the office at 6.30pm through a fire exit door and did not answer questions as he got into a waiting black Mercedes.

In a series of secret recordings broadcast on Channel 4 News Nix claimed credit for the election of Donald Trump. He told an undercover reporter: “We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting. We ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign and our data informed all the strategy.”

Revealing the firm’s system of erasing any digital footprint, he said they used a self-destruct email server.

He added: “No one knows we have it, and secondly we set our … emails with a self-destruct timer … So you send them and after they’ve been read, two hours later, they disappear. There’s no evidence, there’s no paper trail, there’s nothing.”

He was also recorded explaining how Cambridge Analytica set up proxy organisations to feed untraceable messages on to social media. And he mocked an investigation by the US House intelligence committee, to which he gave evidence in 2017. In the footage, he claimed Republican members asked just three questions. “After five minutes – done.”

He added: “They’re politicians, they’re not technical. They don’t understand how it works.” He claimed that Democrats on the committee were motivated by “sour grapes”.

He further boasted that the firm could avoid any US investigation into its foreign clients, saying: “I’m absolutely convinced that they have no jurisdiction … We’ll say none of your business.”

Nix added that the election candidates were never told what was going on, agreeing that they were “puppets” in the hands of their campaign teams.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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US Supreme Court Upholds Abortion Clinic Protest Zone Limits In Chicago, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday left in place policies in Chicago and Pennsylvania’s capital Harrisburg that place limits on anti-abortion activists gathered outside abortion clinics.

The justices declined to hear two appeals by anti-abortion groups and individual activists of lower court rulings upholding the cities’ ordinances.

The Chicago policy bars activists from coming within eight feet (2.4 meters) of someone within 50 feet (15 meters) of any healthcare facility without their consent if they intend to protest, offer counseling or hand out leaflets. The Harrisburg measure bars people from congregating or demonstrating within 20 feet (6 meters) of a healthcare facility’s entrance or exit.

Both cases pitted the free speech rights of anti-abortion protesters against public safety concerns raised by women’s healthcare providers regarding demonstrations outside clinics. There is a history of violent acts committed against abortion providers.

At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the ordinances violate free speech rights protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

The Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year upheld the Chicago ordinance, which was introduced in 2009. The Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Harrisburg in 2019. That measure was enacted in response to disruptions by protesters outside two abortion clinics in the city.

The cases did not directly implicate abortion rights. In a major ruling on Monday, the struck down a Louisiana law placing restrictions on doctors that perform abortions.

Also on Thursday, the court directed a lower court to reconsider the legality of two Indiana abortion restrictions – one that would require women to undergo an ultrasound procedure at least 18 hours before terminating a pregnancy and another that would expand parental notification when a minor seeks an abortion. The lower court had struck down both measures.

Abortion remains a divisive issue in the United States. The Supreme Court in its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalized abortion nationwide, finding that women have a constitutional right to the procedure. In recent years, numerous Republican-governed states have sought to impose a series of restrictions on abortion.

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Federal Judge Reverses Trump Asylum Policy Due To Government Failing To Abide By Administrative Procedure Act

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(Law & Crime) — A federal judge appointed by President Donald Trump on Tuesday evening overturned the Trump Administration’s second and most restrictive asylum policy, all because the government failed to abide by the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the judge reasoned.

In a 52-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly of Washington, D.C. held that in enacting the rule, which required immigrants to seek asylum in any country they passed through before they could claim asylum in the U.S., the Trump administration “unlawfully dispensed” with mandatory procedural requirements allowing the public to weigh in on proposed rule changes.

Kelly, who was appointed to the court in 2017, rejected the Trump administration’s assertion that the asylum rule fell within exceptions to the APA permitting the government to disregard the notice-and-comment requirement if there’s “good cause” such commentary is unnecessary or if the rule involves a military or foreign affairs function.

“[The court] also holds that Defendants unlawfully promulgated the rule without complying with the APA’s notice-and-comment requirements, because neither the ‘good cause’ nor the ‘foreign affairs function’ exceptions are satisfied on the record here,” Kelly wrote. “Despite their potentially broad sweep, the D.C. Circuit has instructed that these exceptions must be ‘narrowly construed’ and ‘reluctantly countenanced.’ The Circuit has also emphasized that the broader a rule’s reach, ‘the greater the necessity for public comment.’ With these baseline principles in mind, the Court considers whether either the good cause or foreign affairs function exception applies here. Neither does.”

According to Kelly, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) generally allows any person physically in the U.S. seeking refuge to apply for asylum — with some exceptions for immigrants who have committed certain crimes or who had previously been “firmly resettled” prior to arriving in the U.S.

“The Court reiterates that there are many circumstances in which courts appropriately defer to the national security judgments of the Executive. But determining the scope of an APA exception is not one of them,” Kelly wrote. “As noted above, if engaging in notice-and-comment rulemaking before implementing the rule would have harmed ongoing international negotiations, Defendants could have argued that these effects gave them good cause to forgo these procedures. And they could have provided an adequate factual record to support those predictive judgments to which the Court could defer. But they did not do so.”

Claudia Cubas, the Litigation Director at CAIR Coalition, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, praised the decision as removing an “unjust barrier to protection” for those in need.

“By striking down this rule, Judge Kelly reaffirmed two fundamental principles. The protection of asylum seekers fleeing for safety is intertwined with our national values and that the United States is a country where the rule of law cannot be tossed aside for political whims,” Cubas said.

Read the full opinion below:

Asylum Ban Decision by Law&Crime on Scribd

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US Supreme Court Rules Public Funds Allowed For Religious Schools In State Tax Credit Program

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USA Today writes:

The Supreme Court delivered a major victory Tuesday to parents seeking state aid for their children’s religious school education. The court’s conservative majority ruled that states offering scholarships to students in private schools cannot exclude religious schools from such programs.

The decision was written by Chief Justice John Roberts, who has joined the liberal justices in three other major rulings this month. It was a decision long sought by proponents of school choice and vehemently opposed by teachers’ unions, who fear it could drain needed tax dollars from struggling public schools.

Read the US Supreme Court ruling here or below.

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