Trump bans transgenders from US military service ‘except under limited circumstances’

President Trump has signed a memorandum that disqualifies transgender individuals with a history of “gender dysphoria” from military service “except under certain limited circumstances.”

Under the new policy, presumably developed “through extensive study by senior uniformed and civilian leaders, including combat veterans,” those individuals “who may require substantial medical treatment, including through medical drugs or surgery,” are deemed unfit for service, Trump’s memorandum states.

However, the secretaries of defense and homeland security “may exercise their authority to implement any appropriate policies concerning military service by transgender individuals,” the memo added, according to Reuters.

“The Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security have concluded that the accession or retention of individuals with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria… presents considerable risk to military effectiveness and lethality,” the White House said in a statement.

“This new policy will enable the military to apply well-established mental and physical health standards—including those regarding the use of medical drugs—equally to all individuals who want to join and fight for the best military force the world has ever seen,” it added.


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Trèbes supermarket attack joins long list of ‘Islamist terrorist’ acts in France (GRAPHIC VIDEO)

The gunman who stormed a supermarket in the town of Trèbes, killing three people, had pledged allegiance to ISIS. The shooting joins a long list of attacks inspired or carried out in France by Islamist extremists.

France has been rocked by a number of deadly terrorist attacks over the last three years. Friday’s supermarket standoff, which resulted in the deaths of four people, including the shooter, and left 16 others injured, is the latest in a series of terror attacks claimed by Islamist militants.

READ MORE: Paris says supermarket attacker known only for petty crimes as ISIS claims responsibility

President Emmanuel Macron called the attack an act of “Islamist terrorism”, but said security services have yet to confirm whether the IS (Islamic State, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group was indeed responsible. retraces the recent instances when Islamic extremists and IS supporters brought violence to France.

January 7, 2015: Charlie Hebdo

Twelve people, including two police officers, are killed in an attack on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The killings caused outrage around the world and spawned the #JeSuisCharlie online movement.

A three-day manhunt ends in further bloodshed with two hostage situations claiming the lives of seven other people, including the three attackers, two of whom are brothers. Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen (AQAP) claimed responsibility for the attacks.

November 13, 2015: Coordinated terror in Paris

A series of coordinated terror attacks in the French capital claimed the lives of 130 people and injured hundreds more when attackers linked to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) unleashed violence on the city’s streets.

Three suicide bombers exploded their belts near the Stade de France, the blasts could be heard by the crowd gathered inside to watch the national team take on Germany. Separate bomb and shooting attacks took place at Paris cafes and restaurants. A mass shooting at the city’s iconic Bataclan music venue claimed the lives of 89 concert-goers. France declared three days of mourning as a result.

June 13, 2016: Police couple stabbed to death

Two married police officers were stabbed to death at their Magnanville home by an attacker who had pledged allegiance to to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). Larossi Abballa, who had previously spent time in prison for his jihadist links, was gunned down by police special forces.

July 14, 2016: Nice truck attack  

Perpetrated by Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the Bastille Day attack along Nice’s Promenade des Anglais claimed the lives of 86 people.

The incident saw the 31-year-old Tunisian, later found to have sought out ISIS terror material online, plough down the French city’s beachfront walkway in a truck. Lahouaiej Bouhlel drove for approximately two kilometers before he was shot dead by police. At least 100 people were also injured in the attack.

July 26, 2016: Normandy church attack

During a mass at a Saint Étienne du Rouvray church, two men identified as Adel Kermiche and Abdel Petitjean took six people hostage, eventually killing 84-year-old priest Jacques Hamel. Armed with knives, the attackers reportedly also carried a fake explosive belt. The two 19-year-olds were eventually shot dead by police after attempting to launch another attack.

April 20, 2017: Champs-Elysees shooting

One police officer was left dead and two others seriously injured when Karim Cheurfi, a French citizen, opened fire with an AK-47 on the Champs-Elysees, Paris. Cheurfi was subsequently killed in a shootout with police.

Addressing the nation following the attack, French President Francois Hollande confirmed a “terrorist nature” to the gunman’s plans.

October 1, 2017: Marseille knife attack  

Islamic State terrorists claimed responsibility for the knife attack outside Saint-Charles train station, which left two young women dead.

Some witnesses reported hearing the lone assailant shouting before he fatally stabbed the two women. The man, who was not on a terror watchlist and had seven fake identities, was reportedly from Tunisia. He was shot dead by police at the scene of the incident.

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Clashes in Barcelona as thousands protest over jailing of Catalan leaders (PHOTOS)

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Barcelona to protest against a Supreme Court decision to prosecute 13 Catalan independence leaders on rebellion charges and to jail five of them ahead of their trials.

Supreme court judge Pablo Llarena ruled that 13 Catalan leaders be put on trial for their part in last year’s Catalonia independence referendum. He ordered that five of the 13 leaders be imprisoned up to their trials. Jordi Turull, the leading candidate to be the next president of Catalonia, was among the group Llarena sent to prison.

READ MORE: Catalonia’s rebels: The jailed, exiled & persecuted independence leaders

The decision sparked a wave of demonstrations in Barcelona and across Catalonia on Friday. Leading Catalan independence groups implored people to take to the streets and three major rallies took place outside government buildings, with perhaps the largest crowd massing in the Plaça de Catalunya.

Occasional clashes broke out between riot police and protesters as the large crowds pushed against police cordons, La Vanguardia reports. The Catalan police force took to Twitter to urge people to follow the instructions of law enforcement officers and not to cross police barriers.

As well as the 13 people facing rebellion and sedition charges, another 12 will be tried for alleged embezzlement or for disobeying the state, for their role in holding the independence referendum. Turull will be sent to the prison of Estremera, where two other Catalan leaders, Oriol Junqueras and Joaquim Forn, are already being held. A date for the trial has yet to be announced.

Judge Llarena also requested that 14 members of the previous Catalan regional government deposit €2.1 million ($ 2.59 million) in a bank account, to repay the money used to hold the referendum last October.

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UK investigators raid Cambridge Analytica offices in Facebook data mining probe

Investigators from the Information Commissioner’s Office have searched the London offices of Cambridge Analytica and seized files and servers. The raid forms part of an investigation into its Facebook data harvesting.

Around 20 officials wearing black jackets emblazoned with “ICO Enforcement” entered the offices on Friday, according to reports. A UK High Court judge had granted the Information Commissioner’s Office’s application for a warrant to search the London offices of Cambridge Analytica earlier on Friday evening. Judge Leonard told the court he will outline his reasons for granting the application next Tuesday.

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© TommL

“We are pleased with the decision of the Judge, and the warrant is now being executed,” ICO said in a statement late Friday. “This is just one part of a larger investigation into the use of personal data and analytics for political purposes. As you will expect, we will now need to collect, assess and consider the evidence before coming to any conclusions.”

UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham will use Cambridge Analytica’s files and servers as part of the investigation into how the firm harvested data on 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge. A whistleblower detailed how users’ data was illegally acquired and used to build profiles of American voters ahead of the 2016 US presidential election.

Meanwhile, evidence is mounting surrounding alleged links between the UK Conservative Party and the UK government with the scandal-hit firm. Theresa May was questioned in Parliament on Wednesday over reports that her party received more than £700,000 in donations from a director of the company.

In addition, it was revealed this week that Cambridge Analytica’s parent company SCL received nearly £200,000 for two Ministry of Defence projects which would have given it access to top secret files.

READ MORE: May ambushed in parliament over Tories’ extensive links to shady research firm Cambridge Analytica

Cambridge Analytica has said it is willing to cooperate with the ICO in the probe. The British consulting firm denies any wrongdoing, while Facebook admitted “mistakes” in mishandling data back in 2014, and promised tougher steps to restrict access to data.

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‘Ready to die for Syria’: What we know so far about gunman in southern France

The man who killed three people and injured 16 in southern France shouted he was ready to “die for Syria” as he took hostages, and had links to radical Islam, the Paris Prosecutor said. Here is what we know about the attacker.

The man, who on Friday opened fire in south-western French town of Carcassonne and took hostages in the nearby Trebes, has been identified as Morocco-born Radouane Lakdim. Lakdim lived in Carcassonne, the Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins, who is heading the investigation into the attack, said at a press conference.

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A general view shows gendarmes and police officers at a supermarket after a hostage situation in Trebes, France, March 23, 2018. © Jean-Paul Pelissier

Following the Friday shooting in Carcassonne, the 26-year-old stormed a Trebes supermarket “shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ and referring to himself as a “soldier of Islamic State [IS, former ISIS],” Molins said. Lakdim also said he was ready to die for Syria and demanded his “brother” be released, referring to Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving terrorist suspect behind the Paris attacks in 2015, who is now in prison awaiting trial.

Molins has confirmed that Lakdim was known to police since at least 2011, when he was detained for illicit possession of a weapon. In 2015, he was also arrested for drug trafficking.

Since at least 2014, Lakdim had been monitored by the French security services because of his ties to radical Islam, the Paris prosecutor said. Earlier on Friday, the French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said that the assailant was known only for “petty crimes.” Collomb added that the man was under surveillance for some time, but that French law enforcement found no signs of “radicalization” in his behavior.

Molins, however, revealed that Lakdim had known links to the ultra-conservative Islamic Salafist movement. He added that the gunman “had been effectively monitored by intelligence services in 2016 and 2017,” and it “did not reveal any apparent signs that could lead [the law enforcement agencies] to foresee [that] he would act.”

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A general view shows gendarmes and police officers at a supermarket after a hostage situation in Trebes, France, March 23, 2018 © Regis Duvignau

During the press conference, Molins also revealed that a female accomplice of the attacker has been detained and placed in custody. He added that she is a relative of the assailant, without disclosing any details.

Lakdim opened fire on four police officers in Carcassonne on Friday morning and then took people hostage in a supermarket in the neighboring town of Trebes. He is also suspected of killing the driver of a car in Carcassonne and stealing his vehicle before the hostage-taking. Elite French units stormed the supermarket, after they heard gunshots being fired inside, and killed the gunman.

Four people, including the attacker himself, were killed and 16 others injured in the two attacks, according to the French authorities. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack without providing any evidence, and French investigators are now checking if this claim holds water.

Failed job of security services?

The attacks in southern France are largely a result of the French intelligence services’ failure, Charles Shoebridge, security analyst and former UK Army officer, told RT.

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© Philippe Huguen

“If your intelligence systems fail to [such an] extent that a terrorist suspect is able to get through to his targets … there is very little that can be done to physically prevent that attack,” Shoebridge said, commenting on the attacks in Carcassonne and Trebes.

“If this person was known to police and intelligence services and was on some kind of watch list, questions should be asked about the decision-making processes” of these bodies, he added. At the same time, he pointed out that increased security measures taken by France following previous terrorist attacks carried out on its soil might, in fact, be ineffective against this kind of threat.

The state of emergency introduced in France following the November 2015 Paris attacks saw “a lot of military, a lot of police deployed to the streets,” Shoebridge noted. Even though it had a certain positive impact on the security of some particular “key points” considered to be potential terrorist targets, such as train stations or concert venues, what it really did was just make terrorists choose other targets, Shoebridge explained, adding that terrorists then focused on smaller towns where there were fewer security forces.

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Remember when Trump was anti-Iraq War? Bolton hire just tip of iceberg in policy U-turn

Despite being elected on an anti-interventionist program, Donald Trump has now surrounded himself with foreign policy hawks and Iraq war apologists. The new National Security Adviser, John Bolton, is just one of the wild bunch.

Back in his pre-election days Trump was a vocal critic of American military adventurism. Notably in 2013, he outright said on Twitter “All former Bush administration officials should have zero standing on Syria. Iraq was a waste of blood & treasure.”

Fast forward to 2018, and Trump is picking the likes of John Bolton – an Iraq war apologist and an advocate for starting more wars of the kind – to his team of advisers. While Bolton is known as extremely hawkish even by neocon standards, he is not the sole example in the cabinet. Both Trump’s security and foreign policy teams are now full of people who backed the Iraq disaster and are now in favor of military action against Iran and North Korea.

The man who pushed Berlin into the Iraq War

At the time that the US was gearing up to invade Iraq, the new Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats was serving in the Bush administration as Ambassador to Germany. Then-Chancellor Gerhard Schroder was opposed to the US’ plans, so Coats did his job and pressured Berlin, claiming the European nation was risking isolation within the EU. The German government’s skepticism was partially motivated by the experience of the 1999 Kosovo War.

More recently Coats, when serving as a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, vocally opposed the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. He called it “fatally flawed” and branded Iran “another rogue regime” similar to North Korea.

The three Iraq War generals

Trump’s selection of nominees for top positions sparked quite a few jokes about how he was turning his administration over to the 1st Marine Division, which played a major role in the Iraq War. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, now head of the Pentagon, commanded the unit. His assistant John Kelly, Trump’s Homeland Secretary turned Chief-of-Staff, was the first Marine Corps colonel to receive a battlefield promotion to general since the Korean War. Welcoming them into the Washington DC power circles was their fellow division officer Joseph “Fighting Joe” Dunford, who was appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Obama and survived Trump’s purges.

Generals usually don’t criticize decisions that resulted in them fighting wars even after retirement, although exceptions exist. Of the three on Team Trump, Mattis reportedly called the 2003 invasion “a strategic mistake” during a 2015 closed-door conference. In contrast, Kelly tends to reject any criticism of the military unless it comes from the military.

State Secretary-to-be who equates Iran to ISIS

Pompeo is leaving the office of CIA head for that of America’s top diplomat, and supposedly the final resort before the guns take over the talking. When the Bush administration was preparing to take down Saddam, Pompeo was a businessman, managing investments from the Koch brothers’ network. He seems to have succeeded, considering his subsequent career as a Koch-sponsored legislator.

A long-time critic of the nuclear deal, he branded Iran a “pernicious empire” and “the world’s largest state-sponsor of terrorism” and outright compared it to the jihadist group Islamic State. His attempts to link Iran with ISIS, some would argue, are not unlike what the Bush administration did when they falsely accused Saddam of having ties with Al-Qaeda.

Pompeo is openly hawkish on other issues too. For instance North Koreans, he said, “are lovely people and would love to see [the nation’s leader Kim Jong-un] go” just like America would. With attitudes like these, he would probably subscribe to Zhou Enlai’s paraphrase of Von Clausewitz, which said that “all diplomacy is continuation of war by other means.”

Trump not being consistent in his position should not surprise anyone. After all, he had to learn on the job how the US military help America’s global dominance. But the fact that a man nicknamed “Mad Dog” now seems to be the sobering voice on war-making decisions in the White House is quite chilling.

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Russia 0-3 Brazil: Hosts routed as Samba Boys run riot in Moscow

Russia suffered a heavy defeat to Brazil in Moscow as the two teams continued their preparations for this summer’s World Cup, although the night was not without its bright spots for the hosts.

After an evenly contested first-half which saw Russia content to let Brazil have much of the possession, the Brazilians finally broke the deadlock on 53 minutes when Miranda turned home from close range following Igor Akinfeev’s save from Thiago Silva’s header.
Coutinho doubled the Brazilians’ lead soon after, when he converted a penalty after Alexander Golovin bundled over Paulinho. Minutes later, Barcelona man Paulinho scored Brazil’s third when he headed home unmarked at the back post from Willian’s cross.

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Luzhniki Stadium. © Serguei Fomine

Russia didn’t let their heads drop and came close to giving their fans something to cheer on a cold Moscow night, but substitute Anton Zabolotny somehow failed to convert a header from 2 yards out after the ball ricocheted off the upright when Paulinho cleared off the line.

The scoreline was comfortable for Brazil but Russia will be disappointed after keeping the five-time World Cup winners comfortably at bay for most of the first half.
Shorn of his first-choice central defenders Viktor Vasin and Georgy Dzhikiya – both of whom will most likely miss this summer’s World Cup with long-term injuries – head coach Stanislav Cherchesov lined up with Rostov’s Fyodor Kudryashev and Vladimir Granat, alongside Ilya Kutepov of Spartak Moscow, in a new look Russian defense.
They largely restricted Brazil to half-chances during the opening stages, although Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev was called on to save from Gabriel Jesus and also Willian.

Russia went close themselves as their young attacking midfielders Golovin and Alexey Miranchuk linked up well before Roman Zobnin volleyed wide from the edge of the box.
Miranchuk then spurned perhaps the best chance of the half when he fired over when one on one with Brazil keeper Alisson.

READ MORE: Samba in the snow: Russia beat Brazil 6-0…in fan friendly game before Moscow international

Brazil came to life in the second half and three goals in 15 minutes from Miranda, Coutinho and Paulinho ended any hopes Russia had of causing an upset. Ultimately, Russia were left without a win in two games at the new Luzhniki Stadium, while Brazil continue their promising form into the World Cup under Tite.

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Hong Kong’s massive cash giveaway: 2.8 million citizens to get $510 each

The government of Hong Kong has announced its decision to share the city’s record $ 18 billion surplus with more than one-third of its residents.

“[We are] trying to cover more people who may not directly benefit from the budget,” said Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po at a press conference on Friday.

According to him, the handout was meant for Hong Kong residents who are 18 years old and over; who do not own a property; do not receive any government allowances; and will not pay income tax for the financial year ending next week.

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Residents walk in an alley in Dharavi, one of Asia's largest slums, in Mumbai © Danish Siddiqui

Those who meet the above criteria but have to pay income tax can still get some cash, he said. If the tax concession they receive is under $ 500, they will receive the difference between the two amounts.

The finance chief singled out the “small number of people” who pay no tax but live in properties they own. If they receive less than $ 500 in rates waivers announced in the budget, they will get the difference between the amount waived and the cash handout.

The handouts would cost the government an extra $ 1.4 billion, Chan said, explaining that they were in response to views that Hong Kong lawmakers and people had expressed “loud and clear.”

While some have welcomed the cash-handout decision, others have criticized the government for failing to explain why $ 500 was the right amount.

Democratic Party Chairman Wu Chi-wai said there was still a “gap” between the sweeteners given to the better-off and those left out of Chan’s original budget.

“I think as government officials we need to have the capacity to step back and reflect the various views expressed and see how we may be able to better serve our people. So this scheme… is an effort to try to respond to the needs of the community in a proactive manner,” said Chan. He described the handout amount as a “balanced figure.”

“Over the past few weeks, you have heard suggestions from different political parties on different amounts. On balance, we do think the current proposed amount of $ 500 is the right amount.”

Some lawmakers urged the government to dole out a universal cash handout, suggesting they might veto the budget in the Legislative Council if it did not do so. The minister, however, said that distributing cash to all was not part of the administration’s fiscal strategy.

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Cambridge Analytica: How the Royal family became embroiled in a data harvesting scandal

The extended Royal family has become embroiled in the Cambridge Analytica (CA) scandal. As journalists investigate the shady deals of the consultancy firm, it has been exposed that ties to the data company go right to the top.

As the week progressed, more and more links between CA and the establishment have been revealed. Board members for parent company SCL Group include a Lords member, Tory donors, ex-British army officers and defense contractors… there’s even a direct descendant of a queen in there for good measure.

CA is one arm of SCL group, formerly known as Strategic Communication Laboratories. The Observer article, which initially broke the CA scandal, said “for all intents and purposes, SCL/Cambridge Analytica are one and the same.”

SCL’s board is a who’s who of the British establishment, with minor royals rubbing shoulders with Conservative Party donors and the military top brass. 

Board member Roger Gabb is a successful wine merchant well known for his significant donations to the Conservative Party – half a million pounds, to be exact, in 2006. Whilethe Chief Executive of SCL is Nigel Oakes, an Etonian, who was infamously the ex-lover of Lady Helen Windsor. Rumor has it that Lady Helen reportedly smuggled him into her parents’ grace-and-favor home in St James’s Palace. He was at Lady Helen’s 21st birthday (hosted by the Queen) when he was arrested… there had been a warrant in his name for driving without insurance. He was also once rumored to be an MI5 spy.

The company’s upper echelons have links to the military establishment too; another listed director is Rear Admiral John Tolhurst. Tolhurst, as well as being an aide de camp to the Queen, is a former MoD assistant director of naval warfare at the Ministry of Defence.

There are closer links to her majesty, though, in the form of Ivar Mountbatten. He’s the third cousin once removed of Queen Elizabeth II and shares a direct line with none other than Queen Victoria.

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Mark Zuckerberg  © Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Such deep connections to politics and the establishment raise questions over SCA’s winning of contracts with the UK Ministry of Defence, the US State Department and NATO as well as their reported involvement in the Tory Party

The London-based political consultancy has been at the center of a storm this week, after a whistleblower said the company had paid an academic to harvest the data of 50 million Facebook users, to build profiles of American voters before the 2016 U.S. election.

Following this, a Channel 4 News undercover sting revealed that the company’s [now suspended] CEO Alexander Nix offered to use dirty tricks, which included bribery and the hiring of ‘Ukrainian women,’ to entrap politicians and subvert elections.

Nix is the current (but now suspended) CEO of CA and the director of SCL. He’s also recently found himself at the helm of a new venture called Emerdata. Nix’s new company’s board members are Rebekah and Jennifer Mercer, daughters of hedge fund tycoon Robert Mercer, whose father funneled his riches into the Trump election campaign.

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Senate committee wants to grill Zuckerberg over Facebook data scandal

A US Senate committee wants Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify on the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which revealed how Facebook users’ data was used by the consulting firm to influence the 2016 US Presidential election.

Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the chairman and ranking member of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, made the demand in a joint statement on Friday. 

The bipartisan duo said the committee needs to understand “how the company plans to restore lost trust, safeguard users’ data, and end a troubling series of belated responses to serious problems.”

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FILE PHOTO © Kevin Lamarque

House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders have also formally invited the Facebook founder and CEO to testify in response to the “disturbing allegations,” in a letter on Friday.

The requests follow revelations that Cambridge Analytica (CA) obtained data on 50 million Facebook users, without the users’ knowledge, which CA allegedly then used as part of President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. The firm was reportedly paid $ 5 million by the Trump campaign for their efforts.

This week, Facebook stock dropped by tens of billions of dollars in the wake of the scandal. 

Other Capitol Hill committees may yet request Zuckerberg’s testimony, and lawmakers in other countries are also seeking answers. In Britain, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee, wrote a letter on Tuesday to Zuckerberg, requesting an oral testimony to the committee. 

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