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Stephen Colbert breaks down WTF happened at the White House on Wednesday

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What a morning.

On Wednesday, all eyes were on the White House, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused Donald Trump of throwing a “temper tantrum” and leaving a meeting with Democrats meant to discuss potential infrastructure legislation.

Then, the president called a press conference in the Rose Garden, firing back at Pelosi for saying he’s currently “engaged in a cover-up.” In the briefing, Trump said he won’t work with the Democrats while they’re investigating him.

It’s a lot. So on The Late Show, Stephen Colbert broke it all down.

“Trump has a clear stance on infrastructure: It’s my way or no highways,” said Colbert. It’s ten minutes but proves quite the highlight reel. Read more…

More about Donald Trump, White House, Stephen Colbert, Nancy Pelosi, and Trump Administration

U.S. slams Alibaba and its challenger Pinduoduo for selling fakes

China’s biggest ecommerce company Alibaba was again on the U.S. Trade Representative’s blacklist over suspected counterfeits sold on its popular Taobao marketplace that connects small merchants to consumers.

Nestling with Alibaba on the U.S.’s annual “notorious” list that reviews trading partners’ intellectual property practice is its fast-rising competitor Pinduoduo . Just this week, Pinduoduo founder Colin Huang, a former Google engineer, wrote in his first shareholder letter since listing the company that his startup is now China’s second-biggest ecommerce player by the number of “e-way bills”, or electronic records tracking the movement of goods. That officially unseats JD.com as the runner-up to Alibaba.

This is the third year in a row that Taobao has been called out by the U.S. government over IP theft, despite measures the company claims it has taken to root out fakes, including the arrest of 1,752 suspects and closure of 1,282 manufacturing and distribution centers.

“Although Alibaba has taken some steps to curb the offer and sale of infringing products, right holders, particularly SMEs, continue to report high volumes of infringing products and problems with using takedown procedures,” noted the USTR in its report.

In a statement provided to TechCrunch, Alibaba said it does “not agree with” the USTR’s decision. “Our results and practices have been acknowledged as best-in-class by leading industry associations, brands and SMEs in the United States and around the world. In fact, zero industry associations called for our inclusion in the report this year.”

Pinduoduo is a new addition to the annual blacklist. The Shanghai-based startup has over the course of three years rose to fame among China’s emerging online shoppers in smaller cities and rural regions, thanks to the flurry of super-cheap goods on its platform. While affluent consumers may disdain Pinduodou products’ low quality, price-sensitive users are hooked to bargains even when items are subpar.

“Many of these price-conscious shoppers are reportedly aware of the proliferation of counterfeit products on pinduoduo.com but are nevertheless attracted to the low-priced goods on the platform,” the USTR pointed out, adding that Pinduoduo’s measures to up the ante in anti-piracy technologies failed to fully address the issue.

Pinduoduo, too, rebutted the USTR’s decision. “We do not fully understand why we are listed on the USTR report, and we disagree with the report,” a Pinduoduo spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We will focus our energy to upgrade the e-shopping experience for our users. We have introduced strict penalties for counterfeit merchants, collaborated closely with law enforcement and employed technologies to proactively take down suspicious products.”

The attacks on two of China’s most promising ecommerce businesses came as China and the U.S. are embroiled in on-going trade negotiations, which have seen the Trump administration repeatedly accused China of IP theft. Tmall, which is Alibaba’s online retailer that brings branded goods to shoppers, was immune from the blacklist, and so was Tmall’s direct rival JD.com.

Taobao has spent over a decade trying to revive its old image of an online bazaar teeming with fakes and “shanzhai” items, which are not outright pirated goods but whose names or designs intimate those of legitimate brands. Pinduoduo is now asked to do the same after a few years of growth frenzy. On the one hand, listing publicly in the U.S. subjects the Chinese startup to more scrutiny. On the other, small-town users may soon demand higher quality as their purchasing power improves. And when the countryside market becomes saturated, Pinduoduo will need to more aggressively upgrade its product selection to court the more sophisticated consumers from Chinese megacities.

Congress readies for Mueller report to be delivered on CDs

If there weren’t enough obstacles already standing between Congress and the results of the special counsel’s multiyear investigation, lawmakers are expecting to need an optical drive to read the document.

A Justice Department official told the Associated Press that a CD containing the Mueller report would be delivered to Congress tomorrow between 11 and noon Eastern. At some point after the CDs are delivered, the report is expected to be made available to the public on the special counsel’s website.

.@PaulaReidCBS reports the Mueller report will be delivered to the Hill on CDs tomorrow.

House Judiciary Committee staff was prepared for this possibility — among many — and checked they still have a computer with a working CD-ROM drive (they do).

— Rebecca Kaplan (@RebeccaRKaplan) April 17, 2019

Any Congressional offices running Macs will likely have to huddle up with colleagues who still have a CD-capable drive. Optical drives disappeared from Apple computers years ago. With people increasingly reliant on cloud storage over physical storage, they’re no longer as popular on Windows machines either.

Tomorrow’s version of the report is expected to come with a fair amount of detail redacted throughout, though a portion of Congress may receive a more complete version at a later date. The report’s release on Thursday will be preceded by a press conference hosted by Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. If you ask us, there’s little reason to tune into that event rather than waiting for substantive reporting on the actual contents of the report once it’s out in the wild. Better yet, hunker down and read some of the 400 pages yourself while you wait for thoughtful analyses to materialize.

Remember: No matter what sound bites start flying tomorrow morning, digesting a dense document like this takes time. Don’t trust anyone who claims to have synthesized the whole thing right off the bat. After all, America has waited this long for the Mueller report to materialize — letting the dust settle won’t do any harm.

New border wall bill draws on Palmer Luckey’s new defense company

 After being ousted from the VR empire he built, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey is wasting no time on his next project: building the wall. As CNN reports, Luckey’s newfound interest in defense is evident in the Secure Miles with All Resources and Technology (SMART) Act, proposed by Texas Representative Will Hurd. Hurd partnered with other Republican representatives from border states… Read More

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Vote now to eliminate your favorite government agency!

 For every bad idea, there’s a crowdsourcing campaign with a soapbox and a big-ass megaphone, ready to make it even worse. Interested? In case you missed it, it’s not too late to vote to shake up the executive branch — surely the number one priority of every red-blooded American in these mostly ho-hum, sleepy times. As the giant stack of paper behind Office of Management… Read More

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Jack Dorsey apologizes for Twitter glitch forcing some users to follow Trump’s @POTUS

jack dorsey alt angle code conference Twitter chief Jack Dorsey today apologized for what he says were technical problems causing some Twitter users to involuntarily follow the @POTUS account as it was handed over to Donald Trump. As Sarah Perez reported here yesterday, Twitter users were bewildered as to why they were forced to follow the Trump @POTUS account, and many accused Twitter of doing the new administration’s… Read More

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Jack Dorsey apologizes for Twitter glitch forcing some users to follow Trump’s @POTUS

jack dorsey alt angle code conference Twitter chief Jack Dorsey today apologized for what he says were technical problems causing some Twitter users to involuntarily follow the @POTUS account as it was handed over to Donald Trump. As Sarah Perez reported here yesterday, Twitter users were bewildered as to why they were forced to follow the Trump @POTUS account, and many accused Twitter of doing the new administration’s… Read More

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Jack Dorsey apologizes for Twitter glitch forcing some users to follow Trump’s @POTUS

jack dorsey alt angle code conference Twitter chief Jack Dorsey today apologized for what he says were technical problems causing some Twitter users to involuntarily follow the @POTUS account as it was handed over to Donald Trump. As Sarah Perez reported here yesterday, Twitter users were bewildered as to why they were forced to follow the Trump @POTUS account, and many accused Twitter of doing the new administration’s… Read More

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