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This op-ed was originally published in USA TODAY on July 12, 2018

The Senate Intelligence Committee issued a report last week concurring with the U.S. intelligence community’s unanimous assessment that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a massive influence campaign aimed at the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The attack included the targeting of election infrastructure, email hacks, weaponized leaks, overt propaganda and a covert, large-scale disinformation effort on social media feeds like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

In many ways, this threat is not new. The Kremlin has been conducting information warfare or “active measures” against the West for decades. What is new, however, are social media tools with the reach and power to magnify propaganda and false information with a scale and precision that would have been unimaginable back in the days of the Berlin Wall.

The Soviet Politburo could only have dreamed of the capability Russia now has to target voters directly in the U.S., Europe and other democracies with propaganda, misinformation and disinformation. Twenty-first century social media tools have the potential to further erode public confidence in western institutions and undermine the shared sense of facts that is supposed to be the foundation of honest political debate.

In 2016, we were taken by surprise. In 2018, there are no excuses. We must be ready.

Message to Russia as Trump meets Putin

That is why we are teaming up with legislators from Canada and Europe to sound the alarm. Following this week’s NATO summit, parliamentarians from across Europe and North America will meet Monday in Washington, D.C., the same day President Donald Trump and Putin meet in Helsinki.

Our goal must be to demonstrate to the world that the community of democratic nations does not intend to accede to Putin’s or any other authoritarian’s view of the world. We will resist Russia’s aggression. As legislators, we have a responsibility to address that threat — particularly on social media.

First, as elected officials, we have a duty to use our positions to shine a light on Russia’s actions and capabilities. Utilizing our investigative tools and public platforms, legislators must expose the full scale and scope of Russia’s schemes to weaken democracies.

The two of us are currently engaged in a bipartisan effort in the Senate Intelligence Committee to uncover Russia’s activities during the 2016 elections and publicly detail its array of asymmetric capabilities. Similarly, our colleagues in the British Parliament, led by Damian Collins, are conducting an inquiry on “fake news” and how it was used by both foreign and domestic actors to influence the Brexit vote.

But it is not enough simply to shine a bright light on Russian aggression. As legislators, we also are responsible for crafting and passing laws to protect our democracy while also preserving freedom of expression.

More: Donald Trump is right to question NATO

Don't call it 'meddling.' The Russians attacked our democracy.

Blame social media for making us more hasty and emotional. Can we fix this?

There is little doubt that our own government and our laws have not kept pace with technological change. The magnitude of this challenge is poised only to expand with improvements in artificial intelligence, machine learning and related advancements like “deep fake” video manipulation. This technology can literally put words in someone’s mouth, creating a false narrative that can spread across the globe in minutes.

As our committee’s work has helped to establish, a key goal of Russian disinformation is to fracture the ability of open societies to reach social and political consensus — an objective significantly furthered when Americans can no longer "their lying eyes." If we hope to stay resilient against these threats, we’re going to need laws that keep up.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has put forward several bipartisan proposals to improve election security and ensure that the intelligence community does a better job of tracking, sharing and responding to efforts by any foreign power to influence our elections, including through social media.These include making clear to adversaries that we consider attacking our election infrastructure a hostile act and will respond accordingly, and to states that they should replace outdated and vulnerable voting systems as quickly as possible.

As stewards of oversight, we also have a responsibility to ensure our respective governments are ready to track and attack the ongoing threat from influence operations. In the U.S., we are not convinced that the national security community is currently organized to adequately rise to this challenge. 

Informed public best defense against Russia

Finally, we have a responsibility as public officials to raise awareness and ensure that the voting public are fully informed of how our adversaries are trying to manipulate us. At the end of the day, there is really no better defense against Russian aggression on social media than an informed citizenry — a voting public that is fully aware of the Kremlin’s attempts to divide us from within and rejects them.

But social media companies also have a civic responsibility to prevent abuse from proliferating on their platforms and to inform users when they’ve been exposed to it.

We in the U.S. have much to learn about Russian tactics from our allies across the Atlantic who have been, and continue to be, on the front lines of Russian information operations. Vladimir Putin wants to divide us — both internally, here at home, and externally, from our transatlantic friends. Next week, legislators from across the NATO alliance will send him a strong and direct message that it won’t work.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., is vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is a member of the Intelligence and Foreign Relations committees. Follow them on Twitter: @MarkWarner and @marcorubio

Originally published in Politico

Sen. Mark Warner said he is “embarrassed” for the United States after President Donald Trump’s performance at the G-7 meeting and suggested the president set America’s standing in the world back decades.

“I was frankly embarrassed — embarrassed for our country,” Warner (D-Va.) said on the latest edition of the POLITICO Money podcast. “This is not the way America leads and the way America has led the world through Democratic and Republican administrations since the second World War.”

Warner, mentioned as a potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2020, also ripped into Trump’s summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, saying the president gave Kim much of what he wanted and got little to nothing in return.

“One thing we do know is that North Korea came out a real winner. North Korea, which has been aspiring to have a meeting with a U.S. president on an equal footing since the end of the Korean War, achieved its goal,” he said. “In terms of the United States and the West, I think the jury is out. The North Koreans made, I wouldn’t even call it an agreement, but they made vague promises similar to promises that have been made in prior agreements. Whether they will honor them or not, time will tell.”

Warner suggested Trump has a double standard between Iran, where he demands verifiable evidence of denuclearization, and North Korea, where he appears willing to take Kim’s word for now.

“What do you think the reaction of some of my Republican colleagues would have been if a Democratic president had met with the Grand Ayatollah and come out with a meeting where they got these kind of vague assurances but no commitments?” he said. 

Warner also chastised Trump for continually arguing that the U.S. has a trade deficit with Canada when the federal government’s own data show the opposite is true. “The president does not have much connection with factual reality, and the fact that he has created this norm where he can say anything even when it’s not factually true, I think that does long-term damage in terms of the president’s credibility with a lot of Americans and, obviously, his credibility with a lot of our allies.”

On a potential presidential run, Warner repeated his previous line that he does not have “the fire in the belly” at the moment to make a run. But he did not rule it out, and he articulated what could easily become the framework of a run. 

“What I want to do is finish this Russia investigation. I do want to make sure that we’ve got a national security agenda that protects American values,” he said. “And I’d like the Democratic candidate to articulate a forward-leaning economic agenda that’s pro-growth but also that realizes we need a new social contract and, frankly, that modern American capitalism isn’t working for enough people.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced $2,703,156 in federal funding to support nursing education at James Madison University over the next four years. The funding will be used to recruit, admit, and retain students interested in pursuing nursing and working in underserved primary care environments in Page County.

“At a time when Virginia faces a shortage in nurses, this grant will play an important role in supporting students interested in nursing and placing these qualified individuals at primary care facilities in underserved areas,” the Senators said. “We’re thrilled that the Department of Health and Human Services and JMU have shown a commitment to this important endeavor.”

“This collaboration is a great example of our university’s mission in action, as we seek to apply the knowledge and skills learned in the classroom to the real-world challenges of our community partners outside the classroom,” said Jonathan Alger, President of James Madison University.

“The School of Nursing at James Madison University is excited to work with our clinical partners in Page County to develop a nursing workforce prepared to meet the needs of rural and underserved individuals. Our BSN nursing students will greatly benefit from the opportunity to practice in rural, primary care settings in Page County while impacting the needs of the community as well,” said Julie Sanford, Director and Professor of James Madison University’s School of Nursing.

“The GO Virginia Council for Region 8, covering 16 communities in the Shenandoah Valley, including Page County, has been keenly aware of and concerned about the growing demand for a skilled nursing workforce to support the evolving health care sector of our regional economy.  Today’s announcement for James Madison University will reap benefits for the entire region as our federal, state, and local partners come together with our university-based assets to address this critical need,” said George Pace, GO Virginia Region 8 Council Chairman.

The funding was awarded through the Department of Health and Human Services Nurse Education, Practice, Quality and Retention (NEPGQR) Program. The purpose of this grant program is to recruit and train nursing students to practice in community-based primary care teams.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the below statement today on President Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong-un of North Korea:

“Diplomacy is the most viable option for pursuing the dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear program. But it’s clear that Kim Jong-un walked away from Singapore with exactly what he wanted – the pomp, circumstance and prestige of a meeting with the President of the United States – while making no specific commitments in return. Whether this will result in a verifiable agreement to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, America and the world will wait to find out.”

 

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WASHINGTON –U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, voted to advance the Helping to End Addiction and Lessen (HEAL) Substance Use Disorders Act of 2018. The bipartisan legislation includes four bills written by Sen. Warner to address the opioid crisis by expanding the use of telehealth services to provide substance abuse treatment, and by improving data sharing on substance use disorders for state Medicaid programs. The HEAL Actwas passed out of committee on a bipartisan 27-0 vote and now awaits full consideration on the Senate floor.

“Opioid overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in Virginia, surpassing car accidents and gun violence. One of the main drivers of the opioid crisis is that too many people lack access to quality substance use disorder treatment,” said Sen. Warner.  “Expanding access to telehealth services could not only save lives but equip rural and underserved communities with better tools to fight this epidemic. Since Leader McConnell has announced plans to keep the Senate in session through the month of August, there should be plenty of opportunity for the Senate to take up and pass this important bipartisan bill to help address the opioid crisis.”

Sen. Warner noted in his opening remarks before that Committee that Virginia has suffered greatly from the opioid and addiction epidemic. In 2016, there were 1,460 deaths from overdoses, a 38 percent increase over 2015. Eighty percent of these deaths involved opioid use. (To download video of Sen. Warner’s opening statement, click here.)

 

About Sen. Warner’s bills:

Telehealth is the provision of health care services via telecommunications technologies, such as live video interactions, that make it easier for healthcare providers to treat patients no matter where they live. However, in order for a Medicare patient to receive reimbursement for substance use disorder treatment, individuals are obligated to receive care from a Medicare approved location known as an originating site. Oftentimes individuals who need treatment live out of reach from the originating site or those centers may be filled at capacity. That is why Sen. Warner, along with Sens. John Thune (R-SD), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and John Cornyn (R-TX), introduced the Expanding Telehealth Response to Ensure Addiction Treatment (eTREAT) Act to reduce the existing barriers to expand telehealth services for substance use disorder treatment. The text is available here.

Virginia is a national leader in telemedicine. The University of Virginia (UVA) Center for Telehealth was launched in 1994 and has since grown into a national model for the health industry. Since then, UVA and its network of 152 telemedicine partners have enabled more than 51,000 patient encounters across more than 60 specialties, saving Virginians roughly 16 million miles of travel. While the center was selected as one of 14 regional telehealth resource centers by the federal government, it still faces barriers to delivering care because outdated federal laws restricts Medicare’s coverage of telehealth services.

"The University of Virginia Health System and our Center for Telehealth commend Senator Warner for his leadership in addressing barriers that prevent patients from getting needed substance abuse treatment in a timely way by eliminating burdensome geographic originating site restrictions in Medicare.  The Expanding Telehealth Response to Ensure Addiction Treatment (eTREAT) Act of 2018 will allow telehealth-- demonstrated to be an effective tool to deliver health care-- to provide such evaluation and treatment services to greater numbers of patients nationwide,” said Dr. Karen Rheuban, Director of the UVA Center for Telehealth.

In addition, Sen. Warner’s three other bills aimed at expanding the use of telehealth services for Medicaid patients receiving substance use disorder treatment are also included in the HEAL Act.

The Medicaid Substance Use Disorder Treatment via Telehealth Act will make clear how federal Medicaid funds can be used for substance use disorder treatment through telehealth services. Specifically, the bill will require the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue guidance on the reimbursement options available to state Medicaid services and treatment of substance use disorder through telehealth. The text is available here.

In addition, the Telehealth for Children’s Access to Services and Treatment (TeleCAST) Act will help ensure children suffering from substance use disorder receive the assistance they need through telehealth services. The bill will require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to evaluate the population of children who utilize Medicaid treatment for substance use disorder. In addition, the bill requires that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) produce a report on reducing barriers to using telehealth services and remote patient monitoring for pediatric populations under Medicaid. The text is available here.

In 2003, then-Gov. Warner expanded Medicaid coverage for telemedicine statewide, including evaluation and management visits, a range of individual psychotherapies, the full range of consultations, and some clinical services, including in cardiology and obstetrics. Coverage was also expanded to include non-physician providers. Among other benefits, the telehealth expansion allowed individuals in medically underserved and remote areas of Virginia to access quality specialty care that isn’t always available at home.

The final bill, the Opioid Addiction Treatment Programs Enhancement Act, will improve data collection on substance use disorder among Medicaid recipients. The bill will require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to publish comprehensive data on the CMS website regarding the prevalence of substance use disorder within the Medicaid beneficiary population and the services provided for treatment of substance use disorders under Medicaid. By receiving the most up-to-date information, states will be better equipped to combat the growing opioid epidemic by targeting their efforts in communities that need it the most. The text is available here

In the Senate, Sen. Warner has been working on ways to combat the opioid crisis that has had a devastating effect for communities in rural Southwest Virginia. In March, Sen. Warner voted in favor of the omnibus bill that provided a total of $3.3 billion in increased funding to combat the opioid crisis, including an increase of $2.8 billion in treatment, prevention and research for programs under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to help communities across Virginia and the nation fight against the opioid epidemic. He has also passed into law bipartisan legislation to expand the use of federal telehealth services.

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) today introduced a congressional resolution congratulating the Washington Capitals for winning the 2018 Stanley Cup, the first championship in team history.  The House cosponsors are Representatives Don Beyer (D-VA), Anthony Brown (D-MD), Barbara Comstock (R-VA), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), John Delaney (D-MD), Andy Harris, M.D. (R-MD), Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Donald McEachin (D-VA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), Bobby Scott (D-VA), and Scott Taylor (R-VA). The Senate cosponsors are Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Mark Warner (D-VA).

The sponsors and cosponsors of the resolution released the following statement upon introduction:

“The Washington Capitals’ historic first Stanley Cup deserves the congratulations of the full House and Senate. Our players and coaches overcame challenge after challenge to deliver a season that Caps fans in D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and across the nation will never forget.  We look forward to welcoming and celebrating this outstanding team in the parade here in our nation’s capital.”

The full text of the resolution is below.

RESOLUTION

 

Congratulating the Washington Capitals for winning the 2018 Stanley Cup hockey championship.

Whereas, on June 7, 2018, the Washington Capitals won the 2018 Stanley Cup hockey championship;

Whereas the Capitals, in their 44th year playing in the National Hockey League, won their first Stanley Cup;

Whereas the Capitals defeated the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Finals in 5 games, clinching the series with 4 wins and 1 loss, including 4 wins in a row to close out the series;

Whereas the Capitals overcame 3 series deficits to 3 opponents en route to the Stanley Cup Finals, defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Tampa Bay Lightning to clinch the Eastern Conference title and win their second Prince of Wales Trophy;

Whereas the Capitals became the first team from Washington, DC, in the 4 major professional sports leagues in the United States to win a championship since 1992;

Whereas the Capitals overcame years of heartbreak to advance past the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 1998;

Whereas tens of thousands of Capitals fans watched Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals outside of Capital One Arena in Washington, DC;

Whereas Ted Leonsis, chief executive officer of Monumental Sports and owner of the Washington Capitals since 1999, has built a culture of success and contributed greatly to the Washington, DC, community through philanthropy;

Whereas John Walton, radio announcer for the Capitals, is beloved by Capitals fans and prophetically asserted this playoffs, “It’s OK to believe.”;

Whereas Alexander Ovechkin, captain of the Washington Capitals since 2010 and the first overall pick in the 2004 National Hockey League draft, exhibited extraordinary leadership and delivered superstar-caliber play, leading all scorers in the Stanley Cup playoffs with 15 goals and receiving the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player for the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs;

Whereas during the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs, Braden Holtby recorded a remarkable 0.922 save percentage and 2 shutouts;

Whereas during the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs, Evgeny Kuznetsov recorded 32 points, including 12 goals and 20 assists, the second most points scored in a Stanley Cup playoff year since 1997, and was only the fifth player to record 30 or more points in a single Stanley Cup playoff year since 1997;

Whereas Barry Trotz, head coach of the Capitals, and the entire coaching staff kept the Capitals composed and organized, despite facing obstacles and adversity throughout the regular season and Stanley Cup playoffs; and

Whereas the entire Capitals roster banded together as one family to contribute to the Stanley Cup victory, including Nicklas Backstrom, Jay Beagle, Travis Boyd, Madison Bowey, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Alex Chiasson, Brett Connolly, Pheonix Copley, Christian Djoos, Lars Eller, Shane Gersich, Philipp Grubauer, Braden Holtby, Jakub Jerabek, Michal Kempny, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov, Brooks Orpik, T.J. Oshie, Alex Ovechkin, Devante Smith-Pelly, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Nathan Walker, and Tom Wilson: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the [House of Representatives/Senate]—

(1) congratulates the Washington Capitals and their dedicated fans for becoming the 2018 National Hockey League Stanley Cup champions; and

(2) respectfully directs the Secretary of the [House/Senate] to transmit an enrolled copy of this resolution to—

(A) the founder, chairman, majority owner, and chief executive officer of Monumental Sports and owner of the Washington Capitals, Ted Leonsis;

(B) the senior vice president and general manager of the Washington Capitals, Brian MacLellan; and

(C) the head coach of the Washington Capitals, Barry Trotz.

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Originally published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch: May 28, 2018

In WWII, the federal government encouraged farmers to grow hemp — a close but non-psychedelic cousin to marijuana. The war effort needed fiber for parachute rope and related purposes.

But hemp, which enjoyed a storied colonial history — both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew the plant for its many industrial uses — fell prey to another conflict: the war on drugs. Although it contains so little THC you would have to smoke a hemp joint the size of a telephone pole to feel any effect, hemp was outlawed because it looks like marijuana. Allowing hemp cultivation would make raiding pot farms more difficult.

This made minimal sense from the start. It makes even less sense now, when many states have legalized medical and even recreational marijuana, and a majority of the public supports decriminalization.

So it is good news that both of Virginia’s senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, have signed onto legislation to remove hemp from the list of controlled substances, so that it may again be cultivated as an agricultural commodity.

Hemp is highly versatile and good for much more than fiber; it can be found in a wide array of products, from shampoos and moisturizers to protein powder and dog treats. In a state hit hard by the decline of tobacco, hemp would offer farmers a valuable alternative with a minimum of disruption to their business model.

In its quintessentially incremental way, the Virginia General Assembly has authorized four small hemp research projects at state universities. This is lawmakers’ way of acknowledging reality without being taken for a bunch of shoeless hippies. But there’s no need to show such faintheartedness. Legalizing hemp doesn’t encourage drug use any more than legalizing root beer encourages drunkenness. Kudos to Warner and Kaine for doing the right thing for common sense and the state’s farming community.

By Senator Mark R. Warner

Originally published in the Tidewater News

We all know the stock market is booming. The economic recovery that began at the end of President Obama’s term has continued to gain steam under President Trump. In cities like Washington, D.C., it is almost like the great recession never happened.

But when you get outside the beltway, to rural communities across Virginia, you get a different picture.

The truth is, rural America continues to feel the lingering symptoms of the financial crisis.

Many rural banks have closed or consolidated. That means farm loans and mortgages are harder to come by. That means it’s harder for entrepreneurs to open a business in their home town.

A big part of the problem is excessive regulations — intended for the largest banks — are making it too expensive, too time consuming for small banks and credit unions to serve consumers, farmers, and small businesses.

That’s why I introduced bipartisan legislation (S.2155) earlier this year, with Sen. Tim Kaine and a bipartisan group of senators, to cut red tape for small community banks and credit unions, create new consumer protections, and help jumpstart Virginia’s economy.

This week, the House of Representatives passed our bill. It now heads to President Trump’s desk for his signature.

While our bill passed both the House and the Senate this year with strong bipartisan majorities, the effort to reform our banking laws to protect main street America’s access to credit has been years in the making.

I was elected to the Senate in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis, at a time when our system needed major reform. As a member of the Banking Committee, I helped write key portions of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill that cracked down on Wall Street’s excesses and reined in the big banks. I’m proud of my vote to pass Dodd-Frank, and I believe our system is safer as a result.

But Congress never gets major legislation 100 percent right the first time.

Eight years later, we know that parts of Dodd-Frank intended to prevent banks from becoming “too-big-to-fail” have actually made some community banks and credit unions “too-small-to-succeed.”

In Virginia, we only lost one community bank and four credit unions during the financial crisis. We’ve lost over a quarter of our community banks and over a third of our credit unions since the passage of Dodd-Frank.

Small community banks and credit unions don’t have big teams of lawyers and accountants to help them comply with government regulations like the big banks do. Some of the community banks I’ve heard from only have one or maybe two loan officers.

Despite their size, community banks and credit unions are at the heart of our economy. According to a 2015 Harvard study, community banks provide over three-quarters of all agricultural loans in our country and half of all private small business loans. They’re the ones who help entrepreneurs open or expand their businesses, help farmers buy new equipment, or help you buy that new car or new house.

The fact is Virginia’s community banks and credit unions didn’t cause the financial crisis, and they didn’t get big taxpayer bailouts either. They shouldn’t be saddled with regulations intended for the biggest banks.

When small community banks and credit unions are spending their time on government paperwork, they’re not issuing mortgages, they’re not making loans to small businesses, and they’re not helping grow our economy.

Our bill begins to fix this, by tailoring regulations so that small banks and credit unions are better able to compete.

What our bill does not do is reduce oversight on the big banks or any foreign financial institutions, but it does include the biggest expansion of consumer protections in quite some time. Here are just a few examples:

For the millions of Americans hit by data breaches like the Equifax hack, it guarantees free credit freezes and unfreezes and year-long fraud alerts.

For active duty service members, it provides free credit monitoring services.

For renters, it provides new protections against unfair evictions.

And for veterans, it prevents credit bureaus from harming their credit scores because of payments delayed by the VA.

While these consumer protections will make a big difference for many Americans, ultimately the changes in our bill are relatively modest. We leave the vast majority of Dodd-Frank in place — and that’s a good thing.

But for main street consumers who depend on their local bank or credit union, and for anyone who believes Congress should put aside partisan politics to get things done, the bill is a big win.

SEN. MARK WARNER, a Democrat, represents Virginia in the United States Senate. He serves on the Senate Banking, Finance, Budget and Rules committees, as well as the Senate Intelligence Committee, where he is vice chairman.

CBS This Morning
March 12, 2018

Alec Baldwin is to some a perfect stand-in for President Trump. But in a digitally-altered video online, the president's face has been digitally stamped onto Baldwin's performance.

It's part of a wave of doctored audio and video now spreading online.

"The idea that someone could put another person's face on an individual's body, that would be like a homerun for anyone who wants to interfere in a political process," said Virginia Senator Mark Warner. He believes manipulated video could be a game-changer in global politics.

"This is now going to be the new reality, surely by 2020, but potentially even as early as this year," he said.

"Derpfakes" is the anonymous YouTuber who has made fake videos of President Trump, Hillary Clinton and Vladimir Putin, based off of performances by the cast of "Saturday Night Live.

In a message to CBS News, he said he does it for "fun." And though he sees the potential for fake news, he adds: "People will have to adapt as the tech is here to stay."

Hany Farid runs a lab at Dartmouth College aimed at exposing digital fakes.

Correspondent Tony Dokoupil asked Farid, "Are we ready for this?"

"No. We are absolutely not ready for this. We are absolutely not ready for it," Farid replied. "On so many different levels, we're not ready for it."

For starters, Dokoupil asked Farid to make a fake video. "I want to replace your face with Nicholas Cage's," he said.

Why Nick Cage? "Just because it's awesome," Farid laughed. "No other reason."

The result:  "You can look at that all day long, and that, I tell you, is a pretty compelling fake," Farid said.

The method, recently published online by an anonymous developer, is one of several that Farid is tracking. This program demonstrated in the video below can change facial expressions in real-time.

And there is an Adobe program that can create new audio from written text.

"Right out of the gate, that's terrifying," Farid said. "I mean, that is just terrifying. Now I can create the president of the United States saying just about anything."

Adobe calls this an "early-stage research project." While the company acknowledges the potential for "objectionable use," it believes "the positive impact of technology will always overshadow the negative."

All these methods have legitimate uses in digital video and design. But Farid worries they'll be weaponized, too.

"I think the nightmare situation is a fake video of a politician saying, 'I have launched nuclear weapons against a country.' The other country reacts within minutes, seconds, and we have a global nuclear war," Farid said.

His lab is developing tools to quickly identify fakes. But Farid suspects this is just the beginning of a longer struggle.

"We have a 'fake news' phenomenon that is not going away," he said. "And so add to that fake images, fake audio, fake video, and you have an explosion of what I would call an information war."

Sen. Warner said, "There is no Democrat or a Republican that would be safe from this kind of manipulation. But, boy oh boy, we need as a country to get our act together."

Warner is asking the major tech companies to work with Congress to rein in false news, and now also false video.

CBS News reached out to a number of tech companies for comment and heard back from Reddit and Facebook. Both companies are aware of this false video phenomenon and are looking for ways to regulate it.

Editorial Board
Roanoke Times


To understand the current congressional debate over banking regulations, we turn to some of our favorite political commentators, the Southern rock band the Drive-By Truckers.

They may not be talking heads on your favorite cable propaganda channel of choice, but they get to the heart of the matter with their song about American politics, “What It Means.” Specifically the lines:

We want our truths all fair and balanced

As long as our notions lie within it

That’s a pretty good all-purpose set of lines to explain that we want things simple and predictable — which makes it hard to have a conversation about anything complicated that might challenge political orthodoxy on either side.

Such as, say, banking regulations.

After the financial collapse of 2008, Congress responded in 2010 by passing The Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, named after its two sponsors, then-Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Connecticut, and then-Rep. Barney Frank, D-Massachusetts.

The law, which runs 2,300 pages, sets up 243 different rules to regulate the banking industry and guard against the problem of banks being “too big to fail.” Good news: We won’t be dealing with all of those 2,300 pages today. But we will be citing the Drive-By Truckers again.

Consumer groups thought the Dodd-Frank law was a much-need reform; banks not so much, and ever since they have pushed to have the act repealed or at least revised.

A bill to do just that — the revision part — is now moving through Congress. Last week, it cleared a procedural vote in the Senate and seems set for passage later this week. Then it moves on to the House of Representatives. The bill has prompted a lot of teeth-gnashing among some of those left of center, who wonder why so many Democrats are backing this bill.

“Why Are Democrats Helping Trump Dismantle Dodd-Frank?” asked an opinion piece in The New York Times.

The website Vox was more blunt: “The 17 Democrats selling out on bank regulation is worse than it looks.” To accompany the story, it ran a photo of one of those 17 Democrats — Virginia’s Tim Kaine. Both he and Virginia’s other U.S. senator — fellow Democrat Mark Warner — are among the co-sponsors.

To some, this is — or ought to be — a clear-cut liberal versus conservative, Democrat versus Republican, consumers versus big banks sort of issue.

So why isn’t it?

First of all, the bill runs 68 pages and we can’t begin to vouch for everything in it. Like many bills, there probably are things in here that aren’t so great. We’d be naïve to think otherwise. The bill would, for instance, reduce the number of banks subject to the toughest regulations. That’s why Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, tweeted out the names of the Democrats backing a revision and complained that thanks to them, “the Senate just voted to increase the chances your money will be used to bail out big banks again.” However, the main reason so many Democrats — including Kaine and Warner — have signed onto the revisions is their concern about small banks, what we often call “community banks.”

It’s a fine, fine thing to rail against the big banks. But it’s no accident that the 17 Democrats backing the bill all come from states with a lot of rural areas — which is where community banks tend to be. There are unintended consequences for these small banks under one-size-fits-all regulations that are aimed at making sure the big banks don’t collapse in a heap so that taxpayers have to them bail out.

“Virginia only lost one community bank during the financial crisis,” Warner says. “We’ve lost 21 since Dodd-Frank passed. Regulations should keep Wall Street in check, not run small community banks out of business.” Nationwide, about one-fourth of community banks have disappeared. “I think a primary reason for that is regulatory fatigue,” says Lyn Hayth, president and CEO of the Bank of Botetourt.

So why should we care about community banks? If they can’t keep up with all the regulations, maybe their disappearance is really a good thing?

Here’s why we should care: Rural areas have a unique interest in community banks for one simple reason. The big banks often don’t have much presence in rural communities. They’re simply too small to make a difference to the global bottom line. If we want to build a new economy in rural America, that means – well, lots of things. But surely one thing is to encourage small business, particularly those that might grow into bigger businesses. Those are often the entrepreneurs who turn to community banks. Their proposals may not fit into whatever lending formula a big bank might use. A community banker, though, might actually know the applicant, and have a better understanding of whether their business is likely to succeed or fail in that community’s market.

However, between 2008 and 2016, small business lending has declined 13 percent while lending to large firms has increased 49 percent, according to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire. The demise of community banks probably has something to do with that. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, has explained his support for the Dodd-Frank revisions this way: “This has everything to do with access to capital in rural America.”

The New York Times disputes that community banks are in trouble, pointing out that their profits in 2017 were up 9.4 percent over the year before. That may be so, but some of that profit has been achieved by small banks merging — which means that post-merger, they are less of a community bank than before. And the number of new community banks formed in Virginia is zero — not exactly a sign of economic growth in rural areas.

We hate to make this political, but any proposed piece of legislation is inherently political. Part of the problem here is a lot of Democrats simply don’t understand rural America, and this debate provides a good example. Warren doesn’t have many rural localities in Massachusetts to look out for; Warner and Kaine have vast swaths of Southwest and Southside Virginia. Those places may not count for many votes anymore (especially for Democrats) yet they’re there, nonetheless. And if we’re going to build a new economy there, we need community banks. Is this bill perfect? Likely not. But can the Democrats voting against it tell us how we keep those remaining community banks — plus grow new ones? Or, to paraphrase the Drive-By Truckers, is that a notion that doesn’t fit within their truth?