Facebook, Michael Flynn, Mourinho: Your Wednesday Briefing

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Good morning.

Facebook’s latest data scandal, hacked European Union cables and the end of the Trump Foundation. Here’s the latest:

The social network gave more than 150 companies access to users’ personal data, effectively exempting them from its usual privacy rules. Some of those partners were able to conceal that they were asking for the information, making it impossible for Facebook users to disable sharing — nor were users informed by Facebook that their data had been shared. Companies like Spotify, Netflix and the Royal Bank of Canada were given extraordinary access, such as the ability to read, write and delete users’ private messages.

How we know: The Times obtained internal Facebook documents and interviewed about 50 former employees of Facebook and its corporate partners, which provided the most complete picture yet of the company’s data-sharing practices.

Why it matters: It is the latest example of how personal data has become the most prized commodity of the digital age. (Here are the five main takeaways from our investigation.) The details have also raised questions about whether Facebook ran afoul of a Federal Trade Commission agreement. Social media companies have had to adapt to stricter regulations in Europe, but the U.S. has no general consumer privacy law, giving tech companies free rein to monetize most personal data.

Taxing tech: President Emmanuel Macron of France accelerated plans for hefty taxes on Facebook and other U.S. tech companies. France has been working with other countries on a European Union-wide digital tax, but it said it would move ahead on its own if the bloc did not approve the proposal by March.

Hackers infiltrated the European Union’s diplomatic communications for years, stealing cables that reflected unease over the Trump administration’s unpredictability, Russian aggression, China’s rise and Iran’s nuclear program.

The hackers’ techniques resembled those long used by an elite unit of China’s People’s Liberation Army. Some of the cables dealt with obscure international negotiations, but others contained warnings from European diplomats as they struggled with political turmoil engulfing three continents.

WikiLeaks redux: The incident is reminiscent of when WikiLeaks published 250,000 State Department cables in 2010, though the trove of hacked E.U. documents is not as extensive.

Also on display: The remarkably poor level of protection for routine exchanges among E.U. officials, even after years of embarrassing government leaks around the world.


As President Trump’s legal problems proliferate, his charity — the Donald J. Trump Foundation — will close. New York’s attorney general had accused the Trump family of using its funds for personal and political gain.

The attorney general, Barbara Underwood, said the lawsuit filed by her office detailed “a shocking pattern of illegality,” including coordinating with Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and even spending $10,000 on a portrait of the president.

A lawyer for the foundation maintained that the organization itself had sought the closure, and that the attorney general had delayed it.

Speaking of legal trouble: A judge postponed the sentencing of Michael Flynn, the president’s first national security adviser, after expressing “disgust” at the retired general’s attempts to mislead federal investigators.


The theory of evolution has its origins in the Galápagos Islands, one of the places most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Our correspondent visited the islands, where the ocean is warming and threatening the creatures that Charles Darwin once observed.

Among the changes: Animals are devising new ways to hunt as food sources diminish. Breeding patterns shift, and invasive species take over.


Belgium: Prime Minister Charles Michel submitted his resignation in the face of a populist revolt over his migration policy, which opponents say threatens the country’s sovereignty.

Hungary: Under Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the country has become a place of two parallel realities. But rarely have those two bubbles seemed so far apart as during the past week of protests, our correspondent writes.

France: What’s next for the Yellow Vests? Our video team went to the French countryside to see where the protest movement began.

Allergan: Breast implants made by the company that have been linked to cancer are being taken off the market in Europe.

Ukraine: The International Monetary Fund agreed to a $3.9 billion lending commitment for the country, whose economy has struggled because of corruption and the conflict with Russia.

Markets: Oil prices fell to their lowest levels in more than a year after investors learned of higher-than-expected production in Russia and the U.S.

Huawei’s ‘wolf culture’: As the Chinese tech giant expanded around the globe, its employees were urged on by a culture that celebrated daring feats. Some may have gone too far.

José Mourinho: He was described by Manchester United as the “best manager in the world” when he was hired. But he struggled to justify that reputation, our columnist writes, and on Tuesday he was let go.

A Brit in Canada: Liam Kirk, 18, was the first hockey player born and trained in England to be selected in the N.H.L. draft. Adjusting to North American hockey has been “a little difficult,” he said.

‘Mary Poppins Returns’: This modest update to the 1964 film is a “largely charmless venture” bathed in nostalgia, our film critic writes.


Tips for a more fulfilling life.

Recipe of the day: Make our most popular recipe of the year: chicken francese.

Dress up for a night out (or in).

Master the art of booking a cruise.

China and the U.S. may have declared a truce in their trade war, but it’s far from over.

This gives us the opportunity for a language lesson.

The English word “trade” is Germanic, originally meaning “track” or “path.” Its modern usage evolved from a Dutch word referring to “means of living,” as in the carpentry trade. Over time, the trade of buying and selling goods came to be called simply “trade.”

In Mandarin Chinese, the word for trade is “màoyì” (“trade war” is “màoyì zhàn,” pronounced MAU-ee-jahn).

The character mào (贸) means “to trade,” while (易) means “to exchange.”

Yì also has the meaning “easy,” and the character appears in the Chinese word for “easy,” which is “róngyì” (容易).

Of course, these days trade between China and the U.S. is anything but easy.

Jennifer Jett, an editor in our Hong Kong office, wrote today’s Back Story.


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Source : Nytimes