Blog Posts by Liz Goodwin, Yahoo News

  • Zuckerberg explains why he chose Newark schools for big gift

    AP071017188807Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg says he picked education as his first major foray into philanthropy thanks in part to the influence of his girlfriend, Priscilla, according to an interview with TechCrunch. He explains the thought process that led to his $100 million gift to Newark schools in the interview:

    I mean — so we've been dating for about seven years. When she graduated from school, she went and became a teacher. Now she's in medical school and she's studying to be a pediatrician. But this is just kind of a common thing that we've been really interested in — about education, kids. And, you know, the default path that we were on, we're just like, OK, a lot of other people wait until later on in their career to figure out how to give back. Then we decided — this is just like a year ago, maybe nine months ago, I said, Why should we wait? I mean, most people don't have this kind of success early on in life.

    Zuckerberg, who just officially announced the gift on Oprah Winfrey's talk show Friday, has battled some bad PR lately over complaints about the company's privacy policies and over the buzzed-about movie "The Social Network," which paints him as a socially awkward and overly ambitious genius.

    Some speculated that the gift was timed to the New York release of the film Friday, but the author of the Zuckerberg-approved Facebook book, David Kirkpatrick, writes in the Daily Beast that Zuckerberg did not want to time to Newark donation with the movie's release, as it would look "craven and obvious." (Meanwhile, a producer told New York magazine for a recent article that Kirkpatrick discussed being a consultant on the movie, but that Kirkpatrick was told that Zuckerberg wouldn't cooperate further on Kirkpatrick's book if the movie consultation proceeded.)

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  • Obama’s no-good, very bad week


    The woman who told President Obama she was "exhausted" of defending him on CNBC on Tuesday set the tone for what has turned into a pretty bad week for Obama and his restless base.

    "Quite frankly, I'm exhausted. Exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the man for change I voted for, and deeply disappointed with where we are right now," Velma Hart told the president in a televised question and answer session. "I've been told that I voted for a man who said he was going to change things in a meaningful way for the middle class. I'm one of those people and I'm waiting, sir, I'm waiting. I don't feel it yet."

    Obama answered the question deftly, defusing the tension with a few jokes and then touting some of the legislative changes that he says will help her and other middle-class families. But as Obama supporter Jesse Jackson told The Daily Beast, Hart looks like "canary in the mine" for Obama and his team, showing that even some of those who enthusiastically voted for him in 2008 are losing confidence, which may prevent them from going out and voting this November.

    You can watch a video of Hart's question after the jump.

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  • Powell to Clinton: Don’t blame ‘don’t ask’ on me

    AP100919027050Colin Powell is disputing President Clinton's claim that Powell "sold" him on a more lenient version of the military's ban on openly gay service members when he was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    The retired general and former secretary of state said in a statement to The Upshot that Clinton's remarks are "beside the point," since he stepped down as Joint Chiefs chairman a few months after the military adopted the policy -- and  Clinton remained commander in chief for another seven years:

    Former President Clinton is incorrect in saying I misrepresented to him how the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"  law of 1993 would be implemented by the military.  In any event, that is beside the point. I retired a few months after the law was passed. President Clinton was commander-in-chief for the next seven years and he and his military leaders were responsible for the procedures implementing the law and the policy.

    Clinton told CBS' Katie Couric this week that Powell characterized enforcement of the policy as more lax than it turned out to be.

    "Now, when Colin Powell sold me on 'don't ask, don't tell,' here's what he said it would be: Gay service members would never get in trouble for going to gay bars, marching in gay rights parades, as long as they weren't in uniform. That was what they were promised," Clinton said. "That's a very different 'don't ask, don't tell' than we got."

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  • Man at center of FBI terror sting may argue he was induced to commit crime

    AP100921134688The lawyer of a man nabbed in an FBI terror sting tells The Upshot he is considering arguing that his client was induced by federal agents to commit a crime he wouldn't otherwise have gotten involved in.

    Lebanese citizen Sami Samir Hassoun is charged with plotting to detonate a weapon of mass destruction outside of Wrigley Field in Chicago after a Dave Matthews Band concert. The undercover agents gave him a fake bomb that he believed could cause casualties when he dropped it into a trash can, according to the criminal complaint (PDF) against him. A federal judge has denied Hassoun bail, on the grounds that he may be dangerous.

    The fake bomb was the culmination of a lengthy sting operation. The FBI asked a cooperating witness to befriend the 22-year-old Hassoun after the bureau began to regard him as a possible terrorism suspect in the spring of 2009. (The FBI hasn't yet disclosed what the basis for such suspicions may have been.) Authorities say that Hassoun told the witness about a bizarre and sinister desire to unseat Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley via the use of  fake bombs and similarly unfocused schemes — like poisoning Lake Michigan — and then the informant introduced him to two undercover FBI agents in July.

    The agents paid him $2,700 so Hassoun could quit his job and focus on planning attacks. He scouted out potential bomb sites with an FBI-owned camera. When one of the undercover agents said Hassoun's attack would send a message about how America treats Arab people, Hassoun said he didn't agree, that he just wanted to wrest political power from Daley through attacks that would terrify Chicagoans. He said he didn't know how exactly the attacks would translate into political power.

    "He's not a terrorist," argues Hassoun's lawyer, Myron Auerbach. "He doesn't have the training, he doesn't have the ideology, he doesn't have the skills."

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  • Facebook founder times big schools gift with unflattering movie release

    mark zuckerbergAP070205058830

    Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg--who placed as the 35th richest person on the just-released Forbes 400 list-- is giving troubled schools in Newark, N.J., an enormous $100 million gift on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" on Friday. As it happens, that's the same day an unflattering and much-buzzed-about movie premieres in which he's portrayed as a power-hungry and socially awkward genius.

    "The Social Network" premieres Friday at the New York Film Festival, and is already being compared to "Citizen Kane" and "The Godfather," two iconic portraits of powerful men felled by their own ambition.

    [Facebook execs' efforts against upcoming movie]

    The 26-year-old hasn't engaged in much high-profile philanthropy so far -- unlike fellow tech billionaire and education reformer Bill Gates -- which makes his Oprah appearance and $100 million gift more notable. Zuckerberg will announce the donation alongside Newark Mayor Cory Booker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, according to the New York Times' scoop. The money represents an eighth of the city's total education budget. Zuckerberg's net worth skyrocketed by 245 percent in the past year as Facebook's market valuation topped $23 billion.

    [Status update: 7 surprising secrets about Zuckerberg]

    Zuckerberg, described as a "wary and private" person in a recent New Yorker profile, has been forced to tear down some of the barriers between his life and the public. This new plunge into civic-minded activity seems designed in part to fend off bad publicity generated by the film and accusations that as a student, he hacked into private emails and stole the original idea for the site from fellow students. The movie is loosely based on an equally unflattering book by Ben Mezrich, who used a burned former Facebook investor (and former Harvard colleague of Zuckerberg) as his primary source.

    [Photos: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg]

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  • PARTING SHOTS: GOP rolls out ‘Pledge to America,’ Obama to resume touting health care law

    Here is our roster of stories that managed to evade the full-on blog treatment today:

    • The GOP will release its platform tomorrow called "Pledge to America," highlighting tax cuts, a freeze on most government hires, and domestic spending caps, while playing down social issues such as abortion and gay rights. (Politico)

    • A Florida appeals court struck down a state law banning gay and lesbian couples from adopting. (CNN)

    • Arizona GOP  Sen. John McCain accused Dept. of Homeland Security head Janet Napolitano of flip-flopping on border security — prompting her to defend her record. (Fox News)

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  • DoJ ramps up investigations of land discrimination against Muslims

    Thomas PerezAP090429047401The assistant civil rights attorney general at the Justice Department has identified what he calls a troubling surge of suspected land discrimination against Muslims in the country, Talking Points Memo reports.

    According to Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, the department has launched investigations into eight cases of alleged discrimination against Muslims since May 2010 under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which protects religious groups' right to build houses of worship.

    Overall, Justice has investigated just 18 cases of alleged land discrimination against Muslims over the past decade — which means the past five months have accounted for almost half of the total cases.

    "For members of our nation's Arab-American and Muslim-American communities, who have been subjected to an unjustified backlash — a backlash that continues today, nearly a decade after 9/11, as we've seen in recent weeks in communities across the country — our nation's promise has not yet been fulfilled," Perez said last week.

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  • Clinton says Powell ‘sold’ him on more lenient ‘don’t ask’ policy

    AP091207014340Former President Bill Clinton defended signing "don't ask, don't tell" policy into law in an interview with CBS's Katie Couric on Tuesday, saying that Colin Powell, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, told him the policy would be more lax than it turned out to be.

    "Now, when Colin Powell sold me on 'don't ask, don't tell,' here's what he said it would be: Gay service members would never get in trouble for going to gay bars, marching in gay rights parades, as long as they weren't in uniform. That was what they were promised. That's a very different 'don't ask, don't tell' than we got," he said.

    Clinton also said he agreed to the policy because otherwise Congress would have passed an absolute ban on gays in the military.

    He said once Powell resigned his post, the policy was enforced in a more draconian way. Nearly 14,000 service members have been discharged since 1994 under the ban.

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  • McCain gets testy with reporters after ‘don’t ask’ vote

    AP100921129456After leading Republicans in blocking the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" Tuesday, Sen. John McCain became testy with two reporters who pushed him on some of the more controversial features of the military's ban on openly gay service.

    Reporter Kerry Eleveld of the Advocate, a gay magazine, asked McCain about troops' private emails being searched by the military to prove they were gay. "We do not go out and seek. Regulations are, we do not go out and seek to find out if someone's sexual orientation. We do not," McCain shot back. When she began to press him further on the issue, McCain raised his voice.

    MCCAIN: That is the fact. That is the fact. Now, ma'am, I know the military very well, and I know what's being done. And what is being done is that they are not seeking out people who are gay. And I don't care what you say, I know it's a fact.

    ELEVELD: It's not what I say.

    MCCAIN: I don't care what you say. And I don't care what others say. I've seen it in action. I've seen it in action. I have sons in the military, I know the military very well. So they're not telling you the truth.

    He then began repeating "It's not the policy," again and again, as the reporters brought up the case of Air Force Maj. Mike Almy, who was discharged after his emails were searched. Here's the video of the exchange:

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  • How Democrats lost ‘don’t ask’ repeal

    AP100826041202The Senate shot down a proposal to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" ban on gay service Tuesday in a party-line test vote -- dashing the hopes of gay activists who thought this was their best shot to repeal the 17-year-old law, which is unpopular with most Americans.

    Now that the move has failed, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's decision to tack on the measure to the annual $726 billion defense authorization bill has come under scrutiny. Republican senators -- and two Democratic ones, Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln -- who are skittish in the heated runup to the midterms may have voted differently after November.

    Reid probably reasoned that Republicans didn't have enough votes to strip the "don't ask" amendment out of the bill, and wouldn't filibuster the entire defense bill for fear of being accused of hijacking military funding for political reasons. But Republicans turned that logic on its head, arguing that Democrats were the ones who were playing politics by not allowing them to add amendments to the bill.

    Even Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who voted for the repeal in committee in May, decided to join the filibuster. The vote was 56-43, four votes shy of the 60-vote super-majority necessary to advance the bill.

    [Video: Lady Gaga protests "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"]

    Democratic Sen. Carl Levin said in a news conference that this was the first time senators had filibustered a defense bill -- legislation that historically brings together Democrats and Republicans. (Levin also said the DREAM Act, a controversial immigration proposal, would again be added as an amendment when senators try to pass the defense bill after the elections.)

    Here's a rundown of what went wrong:

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