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Vietnam restricted access to Facebook during Obama visit: activists

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The Vietnamese government restricted access to Facebook Inc inside Vietnam for several days this week as part of a broader crackdown on human rights and political dissidents during a visit by President Barack Obama, two activist organizations said on Thursday.

Officials of Access Now, a digital rights organization, and Viet Tan, a Vietnamese pro-democracy group, said the social media site was restricted and at times blocked inside Vietnam from Sunday to Wednesday, citing reports from people inside the country on Twitter and to Access Now’s digital security help service.

The move coincides with a trend toward restrictions on Facebook in countries including China, Uganda and Turkey during politically sensitive times as the 1.6 billion-person social network grows more powerful.

Obama’s three-day visit to Vietnam ended on Wednesday. Obama largely focused on normalizing relations with Vietnam. But he also promoted human rights and chided Vietnam about restrictions on political freedoms after critics of its communist-run government were prevented from meeting him.

The Facebook shutdown was part of a stepped-up campaign by the Vietnamese government to limit use of the social network for political protests, activists said in phone interviews.

Facebook was blocked several times earlier this month as street protests erupted over an environmental disaster that resulted in mass fish deaths, the two groups said.

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The social media site was also unavailable inside Vietnam ahead of parliamentary elections on Sunday as pro-democracy activists called for a boycott, members of the two groups said.

Facebook declined to comment. Vietnamese government officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment submitted via a government website.

Uganda’s government blocked Facebook and Twitter Inc in February during presidential elections. In March, after a deadly bombing in Turkey, an Ankara court ordered a ban on access to Facebook and Twitter.

And during the 2011 Arab Spring in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, social networks were repeatedly shut down.

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Facebook is often shut down in Vietnam during politically sensitive times, Angelina Huynh, advocacy director for Viet Tan, which has members around the world, including in Vietnam, said in a phone interview.

“People were using Facebook to call for protests. They did not want people to take to the streets,” Huynh said.

(Reporting By Yasmeen Abutaleb; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
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Trump biographer mocks president for humiliating foreign policy ‘triple fail’

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Trump biographer Timothy O'Brien on Monday published a column for Bloomberg in which he mocked the president for suffering a humiliating foreign policy "triple fail" that exposed his presidency's biggest weaknesses.

In his column, O'Brien pointed out that Trump's threats of major actions against Mexico and Iran never amounted to anything, while also noting that the president backed off his plans to begin the mass deportations of undocumented immigrants.

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Trump star vandal arrested for Marilyn statue theft in Hollywood

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A man convicted of vandalizing President Donald Trump's sidewalk star in Hollywood last summer has been arrested for stealing a statue of Marilyn Monroe from a nearby monument.

Austin Clay, 25, was identified by police from video surveillance footage.

Having discovered that he was on parole after a conviction for damaging Trump's star on the famous Hollywood "Walk of Fame," investigators searched his home Friday.

According to local media reports, they found evidence linking him to the theft of the statue.

The statue itself -- showing Monroe in her famous flying skirt pose from "The Seven Year Itch" (1955) -- has not been found.

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How the New York Times creates credibility for Trump

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There’s a good reason why the Times decided against running on its front page news of the latest woman to accuse the president of rape. The Times still does journalism the way it always has. It gives people in power the never-ending benefit of the doubt.

When you are willing to give people in power the benefit of the doubt no matter how many times they have proven they are unworthy of that benefit, it’s not all that important when the 16th person comes forward credibly to accuse Donald Trump of anything, even if, in the case of columnist E. Jean Carroll, the allegation is rape.

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