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  1. (Reuters) - New coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in record numbers swept through more U.S. states, including Florida and Texas, as most push ahead with reopening and President Donald Trump plans an indoor rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. People drink outside a bar during the reopening phase following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in the East Village neighborhood of New York City, New York, U.S., June 13,2020. Alabama, Florida and South Carolina reported a record number of new cases for the third day in a row on Saturday, which many state health officials partly attribute to gatherings over the Memorial Day holiday weekend in late May. Oklahoma reported record new cases for the second day in a row, and Alaska did so for the first time in weeks. Arizona and Nevada reported a near-record number of new cases. In Louisiana, which had been one of the earlier virus hotspots, new cases were again on the rise with over 1,200 - the most there since May 21. Nationally, there were over 25,000 new cases reported on Saturday, the highest tally for a Saturday since May 2, in part due to a significant increase in testing over the past six weeks. Perhaps more troubling for health officials is many of these states are also seeing record hospitalizations - a metric not affected by increased testing. Arkansas, North Carolina, Texas and Utah all had a record number of patients enter the hospital on Saturday. In South Carolina, 69% to 77% of hospital beds are occupied, depending on the region. While Utah’s governor announced last week that most of the state would pause its reopening, no state is talking about a second shutdown as they face budget shortfalls and double-digit unemployment. Many went ahead with reopenings before meeting government infection rate guidelines for doing so. Fears that a second wave of infections is happening - or that states failed to curb their first wave - prompted health officials to plead with the public to wear masks and avoid large gatherings. Trump still plans to hold his first campaign rally since early March on Saturday in Tulsa, although those attending will have to agree not to hold the campaign responsible if they contract COVID-19. About a third of the record new cases in the state came from Tulsa County, according to state data. The Tulsa Health Department on Friday said the outbreak was linked to indoor gatherings. Hospitalizations and the percent of tests coming back positive have been steady in the state. “I have concerns about large groups of people gathering indoors for prolonged lengths of time. It is imperative that anyone who chooses to host or attend a gathering take the steps to stay safe,” said Bruce Dart, the department’s executive director, in a statement that advised people at gatherings to wear masks. Trump has refused to wear a mask at a series of recent public events. Source
  2. A batch of CBD oil that was distributed nationwide in the US has been recalled after it tested positive for high levels of lead. The FDA warns that consuming this CBD oil could potentially result in lead poisoning, a serious condition that could, among other things, result in kidney damage and shock. There haven’t been any consumer complaints related to the CBD, however. The voluntary recall comes from Summit Labs for its Kore Organic CBD oil, specifically a batch of watermelon-flavored tincture from which a sample tested with 4.7ppm of lead. The high lead sample came from the recalled Batch #730 Lot#K018, which contained 30ml bottles of 15mg 450x products sold to consumers. The high level was detected in a random sample tested by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service. Summit Labs reports that it tested a sample from the same batch and found that the lead levels were within the legal limits at 0.5ppm. Despite that, the entire batch has been recalled based on the sample that tested with high levels. Assuming a consumer purchased a unit of the CBD oil that features high levels of lead, the FDA says it is possible that this could lead to high lead exposure and acute lead poisoning. Symptoms of this condition vary and may include things like nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, muscle weakness, paresthesia, low appetite, weight loss, a metallic taste in the mouth, and more. As expected, consumers are advised to stop using the recalled CBD oil and to return it to Summit Labs. The company is alerting customers and distributors about the recall using multiple methods, including personal visits and phone calls. Consumers can also attempt to return the product to the store where they bought it to get a full refund. Source
  3. The US CDC has published a new advisory revealing that two pet cats have been diagnosed with mild cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The cats are both located in New York, according to the CDC, which says these are the first pets in the nation to test positive for the virus. Experts expect both cats, which are located in different parts of the state, to recover. The announcement was made in conjunction with the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) on Wednesday. This statement joins select reports of other animals around the world that have tested positive for the virus. Both cats were identified as having mild respiratory illnesses; the first cat was tested by a vet after showing signs of the virus. In that case, none of the humans who lived in the household had been confirmed to have COVID-19. The second cat, meanwhile, also started showing symptoms of the virus and was tested. In this case, the cat’s owner had also tested positive for the disease before the cat started showing symptoms, indicating it may have passed from the owner to the pet. That particular household had two cats, but the second pet didn’t show any signs of the condition. Once the positive results were available from the veterinary lab, they were passed on to state and federal officials, prompting a confirmation testing from the NVSL. According to the CDC, there isn’t any evidence at this point that pets are spreading the virus within the US, but it’s unknown how different animals may be impacted by the virus. At this point in time, the agency is advising the public to keep their pets away from other people and animals who live outside of the household. As well, cats should ideally be kept indoors and dogs should be kept at a distance from other people and animals when outdoors. The CDC says that owners should also avoid dog parks at this time. source
  4. Twitter will not be able to reveal surveillance requests it received from the US government after a federal judge accepted government arguments that this was likely to harm national security after a near six-year long legal battle. The social media company had sued the US Department of Justice in 2014 to be allowed to reveal, as part of its "Draft Transparency Report", the surveillance requests it received. It argued its free-speech rights were being violated by not being allowed to reveal the details. US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers granted the government's request to dismiss Twitter's lawsuit in an eleven page order filed in the US District Court for Northern California. The judge ruled on Friday that granting Twitter's request "would be likely to lead to grave or imminent harm to the national security." "The Government's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED and Twitter's motion for summary judgment is DENIED", the judge said in her order. Twitter had sued the Justice Department in its battle with federal agencies as the internet industry's self-described champion of free speech seeking the right to reveal the extent of US government surveillance. The lawsuit had followed months of fruitless negotiations with the government and had marked an escalation in the internet industry's battle over government gag orders on the nature and number of requests for private user information. Tech companies were seeking to clarify their relationships with US law enforcement and spying agencies in the wake of revelations by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that outlined the depth of U.S. spying capabilities. Twitter's legal battle spanned the tenures of four US attorneys general - Eric Holder, Loretta Lynch, Jeff Sessions and William Barr. Through the use of confidential declarations, the Justice Department was able to show that revealing the exact number of national security letters from 2014, as requested by Twitter, posed a risk to national security, Friday's order said. Twitter did not immediately respond to Reuters' request for comment. SOURCE
  5. What is going on As you may have heard already, because of brexit, Google is moving UK citizens data from the Northern Ireland data controller to the US one (Google LLC). Leaving the EU, UK citizens are not protected anymore by GDPR, and while this may be unfair, Google is legally allowed to do it. The problem Even if I'm an Italian citizen and I live in Italy, a few days ago I received this email from them: What's wrong with it? The point is that I'm an Italian citizen, living in Italy. I have nothing to do with UK (even if I lived there for a few years in the past, my account was created from Italy). Why do they mention "UK leaving EU" to me, if I don't live in UK? I tried to contact them multiple times on their @Google account on Twitter, but I got no reply at all. I tried to search online and it looks like I'm not alone, they are doing this to many other people: https://support.google.com/accounts/thread/29317992?hl=en&authuser=1 Looking for help What should I do? Is this legally allowed? If there was an easy way to complain with them, I would have done it already, but I've tried to search on their website (even googling it... no pun intended) but I couldn't find a single contact form to report this issue and of course they are ignoring both Twitter and that forum I linked previously. Should I report them to the Privacy Authority? If yes, how? Full text of the email Here is the full text of the email I received: We’re improving our Terms of Service and making them easier for you to understand. The changes will take effect on 31 March 2020, and they won’t impact the way that you use Google services. And, because the United Kingdom (UK) is leaving the European Union (EU), Google LLC will now be the service provider and the data controller responsible for your information and for complying with applicable privacy laws for UK consumer users. For more details, we’ve provided a summary of the key changes and Frequently asked questions. And the next time that you visit Google, you’ll have the chance to review and accept the new Terms. At a glance, here’s what this update means for you: • Improved readability: While our Terms remain a legal document, we’ve done our best to make them easier to understand, including by adding links to useful information and providing definitions. • Better communication: We’ve clearly explained when we’ll make changes to our services (like adding or removing a feature) and when we’ll restrict or end a user’s access. And we’ll do more to notify you when a change negatively impacts your experience on our services. • Adding Google Chrome, Google Chrome OS and Google Drive to the Terms: Our improved Terms now cover Google Chrome, Google Chrome OS and Google Drive, which also have service-specific terms and policies to help you understand what’s unique to those services. • Your service provider and data controller is now Google LLC: Because the UK is leaving the EU, we’ve updated our Terms so that a United States-based company, Google LLC, is now your service provider instead of Google Ireland Limited. Google LLC will also become the data controller responsible for your information and complying with applicable privacy laws. We’re making similar changes to the Terms of Service for YouTube, YouTube Paid Services and Google Play. These changes to our Terms and privacy policy don’t affect your privacy settings or the way that we treat your information (see the privacy policy for details). As a reminder, you can always visit your Google Account to review your privacy settings and manage how your data is used. If you’re the guardian of a child under the age required to manage their own Google Account and you use Family Link to manage their use of Google services, please note that when you accept our new Terms, you do so on their behalf as well, and you may want to discuss these changes with them. And of course, if you don’t agree to our new Terms and what we can expect from each other as you use our services, you can find more information about your options in our Frequently asked questions. Thank you for using Google’s services. Your Google team Source
  6. The search giant already has a presence in 26 states. Google says the expansion will create thousands of jobs. Google continues to expand far beyond its headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, said Wednesday that the company will invest more than $10 billion in offices and data centers across the US in 2020. "These investments will create thousands of jobs -- including roles within Google, construction jobs in data centers and renewable energy facilities, and opportunities in local businesses in surrounding towns and communities," Pichai said in a blog post. The Mountain View, California-based search giant, which already has a presence in 26 states, said its new investments will focus on 11 states: Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and California. This includes opening Google's new Hudson Square campus in New York City, which the company says gives it the ability to double its local workforce by 2028. Google also said it's opening a new Google Operations Center in Mississippi to improve customer support for its users and partners. Source
  7. Ratcheting up its pressure campaign against Huawei and its affiliates, the Department of Justice and the FBI announced today that it has brought 16 charges against Huawei in a sprawling case with major geopolitical implications (you can read the full 56-page indictment here). Huawei is being charged with conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) statute. The DoJ alleges that Huawei and a number of its affiliates used confidential agreements with American companies over the past two decades to access the trade secrets of those companies, only to then misappropriate that intellectual property and use it to fund Huawei’s business. An example of this activity is provided in the indictment. Described as “Company 1,” Huawei is alleged to have stolen source code for Company 1’s routers, which it then used in its own products. Given the context, it is highly likely that Company 1 is Cisco, which in the indictment is summarized as “a U.S. technology company headquartered in the Northern District of California.” Huawei is also alleged to have engaged in more simple forms of industrial espionage. While at a trade show in Chicago, a Huawei-affiliated engineer “… was discovered in the middle of the night after the show had closed for the day in the booth of a technology company … removing the cover from a networking device and taking photographs of the circuitry inside. Individual-3 wore a badge listing his employer as ‘Weihua,’ HUAWEI spelled with its syllables reversed.” Huawei said that the individual in question did so in a personal capacity. In one case, a technology company looking for a partnership with Huawei sent over a presentation deck with confidential information about its business in order to generate commercial interest with Huawei. From the indictment: Immediately upon receipt of the slide deck, each page of which was marked ‘Proprietary and Confidential’ by Company 6, HUAWEI distributed the slide deck to HUAWEI engineers, including engineers in the subsidiary that was working on technology that directly competed with Company 6’s products and services. These engineers discussed developments by Company 6 that would have application to HUAWEI’s own prototypes then under design. Together, the indictment lists multiple examples of Huawei’s alleged conspiracy to pilfer U.S. intellectual property. According to the statement published by the Department of Justice, “As part of the scheme, Huawei allegedly launched a policy instituting a bonus program to reward employees who obtained confidential information from competitors. The policy made clear that employees who provided valuable information were to be financially rewarded.” Per the indictment: A ‘competition management group’ was tasked with reviewing the submissions and awarding monthly bonuses to the employees who provided the most valuable stolen information. In addition to conspiracy, Huawei and the defendants are charged with lying to federal investigators and obstructing the investigation into the company’s activity. Per the indictment: For example, an official HUAWEI manual labeled ‘Top Secret’ instructed certain individuals working for HUAWEI to conceal their employment with HUAWEI during encounters with foreign law enforcement officials. Furthermore, Huawei has been charged in connection with its activities in countries like Iran and North Korea. The DoJ’s statement alleges that Huawei used code words and carefully selected local partners to conceal its activities in these states in order to avoid international sanctions that are placed on the two countries. It also alleges that the company and its representatives lied to congressional investigators when asked about the company’s financial activities in the two countries. Among the defendants is Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Huawei who has been under house arrest in Canada while facing charges of fraud. The top two senators on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Richard Burr (R-NC) and Mark Warner (D-VA) said in a joint statement that “The indictment paints a damning portrait of an illegitimate organization that lacks any regard for the law.” Huawei, in response to the indictment, said in a corporate statement that “This new indictment is part of the Justice Department’s attempt to irrevocably damage Huawei’s reputation and its business for reasons related to competition rather than law enforcement. The ‘racketeering enterprise’ that the government charged today is nothing more than a contrived repackaging of a handful of civil allegations that are almost 20 years old and that have never been the basis of any significant monetary judgment against Huawei. The government will not prevail on these charges which we will prove to be both unfounded and unfair.“ The Trump administration has made targeting Huawei a major priority, attempting to block its access to Western markets. The administration’s efforts have mostly been fruitless thus far, with both the United Kingdom and Germany in recent weeks allowing the company’s technology products into their telecommunications networks. We have more coverage on these initiatives in an article TechCrunch published this morning: The full list of defendants include Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd.; Huawei Device Co., Ltd.; Huawei Device Usa Inc.; Futurewei Technologies, Inc.; Skycom Tech Co., Ltd.; and Wanzhou Meng. Huawei representatives didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Source
  8. Malwarebytes said it found malware pre-installed on Unimax U673c handsets, sold by Assurance Wireless (Virgin Mobile) in the US. Low-end smartphones sold to Americans with low-income via a government-subsidized program contain unremovable malware, security firm Malware bytes said today in a report. The smartphone model is Unimax (UMX) U686CL, a low-end Android-based smartphone made in China and sold by Assurance Wireless, a cell phone service provider part of the Virgin Mobile group. The telco sells cell phones part of Lifeline, a government program that subsidizes phone service for low-income Americans. "In late 2019, we saw several complaints in our support system from users with a government-issued phone reporting that some of its pre-installed apps were malicious," Malwarebytes said in a report published today. The company said it purchased a UMX U686CL smartphone and analyzed it to confirm the reports it was receiving. Adups backdoor For starters, Malwarebytes said it found that one of the phone's components, an app named Wireless Update, contained the Adups malware. The Adups malware was discovered in 2017 by Kryptowire, and it's a malicious firmware component created by a Chinese company of the same name. Adups provides the component as a firmware-over-the-air (FOTA) update system to various smartphone makers and firmware vendors. The component is supposed to allow firmware vendors a way to update their code, but in 2017 the Kryptowire team discovered that Adups (the company) also had the ability to ship updates to users' phones, bypassing smartphone vendors and users alike. Malwarebytes says that this component was currently in use on UMX devices, and was being used to install apps without the user's knowledge. By who remains unclear. "From the moment you log into the mobile device [the UMX U686CL], Wireless Update starts auto-installing apps," the Malwarebytes team said. "To repeat: There is no user consent collected to do so, no buttons to click to accept the installs, it just installs apps on its own. "While the apps it installs are initially clean and free of malware, it's important to note that these apps are added to the device with zero notification or permission required from the user. This opens the potential for malware to unknowingly be installed in a future update to any of the apps added by Wireless Update at any time." Dropper leads to adware But Malwarebytes said there is a second dangerous component included on these phones. Researchers said they also found suspicious code in the phone's Settings app. The app, Malwarebytes says, was tainted with what appeared to be a strain of heavily-obfuscated malware, believed to be of Chinese origin, due to the heavy use of Chinese characters as variable names. Security researchers said this malware was coded to work as a dropper for a second-stage malware payload, a well-known adware strain known as HiddenAds. "Although we have yet to reproduce the dropping of additional malware ourselves, our users have reported that indeed a variant of HiddenAds suddenly installs on their UMX mobile device," Malwarebytes said. Unremovable Malwarebytes researchers said they couldn't confirm that Unimax was the party that added the malware to the devices. This might be another case where malware was added to devices by third-parties involved in a smartphone's supply chain -- while the devices travel from the phone maker to a buyer. Malwarebytes said that while the device "is not a bad phone," the presence of the two malware-infected apps make the smartphone worthless and even dangerous to its users. Making matters worse, the two malicious apps are unremovable. While users could disable and uninstall the Wireless Update app, this would result in the phone missing out critical security updates for its firmware components -- which effectively makes the app unremovable, at least if you want to keep your device up to date. On the other hand, the Settings app is unremovable in the real meaning of the word, as there is no way to remove the app, and even if you did, you wouldn't be able to manage your phone afterward. Malwarebytes says it informed Assurance Wireless of its findings but never heard back from the company. A request for comment sent by ZDNet two days ago was also not returned. Source
  9. Taiwan government blocks majority of 30 million monthly cyberattacks on its website TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan and the US kicked off the first joint Cyber Offensive and Defensive Exercises (CODE) on Monday (Nov. 4) to learn how to prevent cyberattacks, including from North Korea, over a five-day period. The exercises were co-organized by the government's National Center for Cyber Security Technology (NCCST) and the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) to test Taiwan's defense capabilities against cyberattacks. Officials from both countries attended the opening ceremony, including AIT Deputy Director Raymond Greene and Taiwan's National Security Council Advisor Lee Der-tsai (李德財). Greene said that the US government was proud to co-host the historic cyberwarfare exercises with Taiwan and that he hopes the collaboration can be extended to other areas as well. Greene stressed that currently, the biggest threat is countries hiring cyber warriors to spread misleading information and steal sensitive, valuable data as well as operation secrets, reported CNA. Chien Hung-wei (簡宏偉), director of NCCST, said Taiwan's government websites face 30 million cyberattacks each month on average. He noted that only 262 cyberattacks were successful last year and that only six of these were considered critical, giving Taiwan's cyber defense system a 99.99% effectiveness rate, reported UDN. Chien added that China is the major source of cyberattacks against Taiwan, adding that the number of attacks usually increased before government elections. Ten other countries, including Indonesia, Japan, the Czech Republic, and Australia, also joined the exercises and are expected to participate in a simulated cyberwar. Source
  10. Porsche will begin selling its vehicles online in the U.S. for the first time, the company announced on Monday. To begin with, the company is proceeding with a pilot program that will be offered with 25 of its U.S.-based dealer partners, but the automaker says it could expand to cover the U.S. market more broadly across a larger group of the 191 independent Porsche dealers that currently operate in the U.S. The pilot project will let Porsche buyers pick out and submit an order for both new and used in-stock vehicles, but the process isn’t entirely online — buyers will still have to show up at a dealership to sign the final paperwork and to take delivery of their new car. All the heavy lifting is handled online, however, including things like financing and payment calculators, as well as credit approvals and any insurance options that a buyer chooses to append to their purchase. U.S. online shoppers will be able to do all of this through new sections integrated into the websites of the dealers participating into the program. Meanwhile, at the same time in Germany, Porsche is introducing online vehicle sales centralized through their own “www.porsche.de” website, which itself is a pilot designed to test the waters for a broader European roll-out. Online auto sales are not new, but they still aren’t really a widespread thing in most markets, especially in the U.S., where the existing independent dealership system persists. Tesla leaned heavily into online vehicle sales, however, due in part to its unwillingness to work with independent dealer partners, and to the inflexibility of state laws that protect that system. The automaker’s investment in automotive e-commerce has clearly inspired others to follow suit, however, and I don’t expect Porsche will be the last to dip its toes in these waters. Source
  11. Alphabet -owned drone delivery spin-out Wing is starting to service U.S. customers, after becoming the first drone delivery company to get the federal go-ahead to do so earlier this year. The Collvers are receiving their package in Christianburg, Va., which is where Wing and Walgreens will run this inaugural pilot of the drone delivery service. Walgreens gets a noteworthy credit in the bargain, becoming the first U.S. retailer to do a store-to-customer doorstep delivery via drone, while FedEx will be the first logistics provider to deliver an e-commerce drone delivery with a separate shipment. Wing is also working with Virginia’s Sugar Magnolia, a retailer local to the state, and that part of the equation is focused on proving out how Wing and drone delivery can service last-mile e-commerce customers at their homes. Sugar Magnolia customers can get small items, including chocolates and paper goods, delivered directly to them via drone through the new pilot. Wing was able to do this with a new Air Carrier Certificate from the FAA that clears it for expanded service, specifically allowing Wing’s pilots to manage multiple aircraft flying without any human pilot on board at the same time, while providing service to the public. It’s a big milestone when it comes to U.S.-based drone delivery, and another sign that people should get ready for these services to start to be a more regular fixture. Earlier this month, UPS also secured FAA approval to operate a commercial drone delivery service, so the trials will probably come fast and furious at this point — though widespread service is probably still quite a ways off as both regulators and operators look to learn from their first limited deployments. Source
  12. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Wednesday requesting the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to look into the China-based owner of TikTok's 2017 acquisition of Musical.ly. Rubio claimed there is "growing evidence" that TikTok's U.S. platform is censoring content. Rubio's request comes as the NBA is grappling with controversy over its ties to China. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., will ask U.S. authorities to investigate the 2017 acquisition of Musical.ly by TikTok, accusing the China-based app of censorship. Rubio announced his plans in a tweet on Wednesday, and letter sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin requesting the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to look into "national security implications" of the deal. "These Chinese-owned apps are increasingly being used to censor content and silence open discussion on topics deemed sensitive by the Chinese Government and Communist Party," Rubio wrote in his letter to Mnuchin. "There continues to be ample and growing evidence that TikTok's platform for Western markets, including the U.S., is censoring content that is not in line with the Chinese Government and Communist Party directives." Rubio claimed TikTok suppresses speech on sensitive topics to Chinese officials, like Tiananmen Square, Hong Kong and Tawiwan. In a tweet Tuesday, Rubio he said he also asked the Trump administration "to fully enforce anti-boycott laws that prohibit any U.S. person — including U.S. subsidiaries of Chinese companies from complying with foreign boycotts seeking to coerce U.S. companies to conform with #China's government views." In a statement, a TikTok spokesperson said, "TikTok US is localized, adheres to US laws, and stores all US user data in the US. Our content and moderation policies are led by our US-based team and are not influenced by any foreign government. The Chinese government does not request that TikTok censor content, and would not have jurisdiction regardless, as TikTok does not operate there." The letter comes as the relationship between China and U.S. corporations is under a microscope. The National Basketball Association became embroiled in an international dispute after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted a message in support of anti-Chinese government protests in Hong Kong over the weekend. While the NBA initially released a statement saying it had "great respect for the history and culture of China," commissioner Adam Silver later said the NBA is not in the place to "adjudicate" between different viewpoints. As of Wednesday, 11 of 13 Chinese businesses listed as official partners on the NBA China website have distanced themselves from the NBA, CNBC reported. TikTok has quickly become one of the most popular social media apps worldwide, especially among Gen Z users. The app, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, features user-generated videos set to a variety of songs accessible through the app. Unlike other popular social media apps like Facebook-owned Instagram, TikTok's feed of videos is not based on users following specific accounts, but rather relies more heavily on its algorithm to learn user interests. The app was molded from ByteDance's 2017 acquisition of Musical.ly, a lip-syncing app developed in China that also had a large following in the U.S. At the time, TechCrunch reported that the deal was worth up to $1 billion. ByteDance ultimately folded Musical.ly's brand into TikTok to reflect its wider range of content. TikTok is not the only Chinese app that has gained traction among U.S. users. Apps developed by Chinese companies or those with large Chinese investors brought in revenues of $674.8 million in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2019, according to data previously compiled by Sensor Tower for CNBC. "PUBG Mobile" and "Clash of Clans," two games made respectively by Chinese company Tencent and one of its subsdiaries, have also gained a large U.S. following. TikTok recently announced it would not allow paid political ads on its platform, saying it did not fit into its overall experience. A U.S. investigation would add to government scrutiny from the U.K. which launched an investigation into whether TIkTok violated Europe's General Data Protection Regulation. Source
  13. Judge rules A Canadian man alleged to have conned an Oregonian woman out of $230,000 worth of Bitcoin BTC is being held in prison so that he doesn’t flee the US to Canada. US Attorney Quinn Harrington said they were concerned that the perpetrator would flee and then fight extradition. The accused, Karanjit Singh Khatkar, purportedly made two phone calls to his brother advising him to stay out of the US to avoid arrest, Oregon Live reports. “[The] defendant told his brother to stay in Canada because he knows he can delay or avoid justice there,” Harrington said to the court. In one of the phone calls, Khatkar reportedly told his brother to hold off coming to the United States; “it’s not going to be that bad, as long as you don’t come right now.” That said, he did later advise his brother to come should he receive a summons. Given that indiscretion, it doesn’t look good for the brothers. Khatkar and his sibling are accused of stealing 23 Bitcoin, according to the report this was worth $140,000 at the time and could be worth over $250,000 today. They stole the funds from a 60-year-old woman from Oregon by creating a fake Twitter account that impersonated a Bitcoin exchange. The victim was apparently tricked into contacting the fake Twitter account when seeking help to access her account. The perpetrators then used her email address to gain access to her cryptocurrency account on the exchange they were impersonating. According to the report, the court heard that the defendant shared the proceeds of the crime with his brother, who is now a co-defendant in the investigation. Thing is, the defendant has family in Sacramento so could remain in the US pending trial. What’s more, he’s surrendered his travel documents so couldn’t legally enter Canada. Khatkar is allegedly also willing to pay a $50,000 bail bond to secure his release before his trial. But alas, it was not granted and the defendant must remain in custody until trial next year in late January. Despite the charges, Khatkar has pleaded not guilty. The brothers’ scam is not particularly unique. Cryptocurrency scammers have been using Twitter to impersonate legitimate firms for years now. Source
  14. DEMOCRATIC CORNERSTONE the US government has revealed plans to rip out Huawei kit from facilities nationwide as the ongoing battle between it and China continues. Huawei is getting its petals ripped out Proposals announced this week will see a 'pot' of up to $1bn to pay for stripping out network kit installed by telcos before Huawei was added to the US 'entity list' in May. The fund will also cover equipment from other Chinese companies on the list. The move will put pay to concerns that smaller-scale telcos could be financially crippled in order to comply with the law. The House of Representatives' Communications and Technology Subcommittee said it would assist "small and rural wireless providers root-out suspect network equipment and replace it with more secure equipment". Under the current ban, use of Huawei equipment, as well as that of its subsidiary companies (and there are a lot of them), is considered a risk to national security. If the proposals are formalised, the $1bn pot will be handed over to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to administer, with telcos invited to apply for a share based on financial need. It would also formally ban government funds being used to purchase equipment considered to be a risk, from manufacturers on the entity list. Huawei has always denied any wrong-doing and recently offered to sell off its 5G equipment to local companies, in order to give them better control over it, and remove the potential for Huawei to interfere. Last week, Huawei launched its latest flagship phone, the Huawei Mate 30 range, without Google apps, which have also been blocked by the trade ban. Source
  15. The Chinese telecom giant didn't provide evidence to support these allegations. Huawei on Tuesday accused the US government of using "unscrupulous" tactics to disrupt the normal business operations of the Chinese telecom giant and its partners. This comes after the Department of Justice reportedly launched new probes into alleged technology theft by Huawei. In a press released on Tuesday, Huawei said the US was using "every tool at its disposal" to discredit the company and obstruct its business, including "launching cyber attacks" and "sending FBI agents to the homes of Huawei employees" to pressure them to collect information on the company. Huawei also accused the US of instructing law enforcement to threaten and menace its employees, as well as "conspiring" with rival businesses to bring "unsubstantiated accusations against the company." Huawei didn't provide specific evidence to support these allegations. The company didn't immediately respond to a request for additional comment. Huawei also denied that it stole smartphone camera technology and said false allegations shouldn't be considered "rational justification for a criminal investigation by the US Department of Justice." Over the course of 2019, there's been an upswing in scrutiny of Huawei, with a number of countries banning the use of its networking equipment. In January, the Justice Department unsealed indictments against Huawei that included 23 counts pertaining to the alleged theft of intellectual property, obstruction of justice and fraud related to its alleged evasion of US sanctions against Iran. The Justice Department didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Source
  16. Dorian is shaping up to be a major threat to the Southeastern United States Current forecast calls for a Category 3 hurricane to hit near Kennedy Space Center. Enlarge / A NOAA satellite image from 11am ET shows the position of Tropical Storm Dorian near Puerto Rico. NOAA Tropical Storm Dorian appears to pose an increasing threat to the Southeastern United States, potentially including significant landmarks such as Disney World and the Kennedy Space Center. As of Wednesday morning, Dorian was nearing hurricane strength, with sustained winds of 70mph. The storm's center should pass just to the east of Puerto Rico today and then have as much as four days to strengthen over open ocean before approaching the Florida coast. The National Hurricane Center has ratcheted up its intensity forecast for Dorian, such that it is now predicted to come ashore as a Category 3 hurricane on Monday morning, near Kennedy Space Center on Florida's Atlantic coast. The intensity forecast has really ramped up for a couple of reasons. First of all, the storm is no longer expected to interact with the mountainous terrain of Hispaniola. Its movement is also slower, meaning it will have several days over the very warm waters near the Bahamas, with moderate wind shear. Finally, the upper-atmosphere pattern is very favorable to intensification. Enlarge / The GFS forecast model ensemble predictions for Dorian show a range of possibilities for the track into Florida, and beyond. Weathernerds.org In terms of forecast track, there are some questions about the overall flow pattern in the upper atmosphere, so the landfall location carries more uncertainty than usual. A final landfall remains possible from north of Miami to Jacksonville. There are also questions about where the hurricane moves after it crosses the Florida peninsula. Dorian now seems more likely than not to reemerge in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and eventually turn north, perhaps making a second landfall anywhere from the Florida Panhandle to Southeastern Louisiana. Effects The immediate concern is heavy rainfall over Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, which could lead to flash flooding. Longer-term, the Florida coast faces the potential for storm surge and strong winds. Both of these will depend heavily on the intensity that Dorian reaches, and where the storm makes landfall, as effects are more significant to the right of the center. As it now appears that Dorian will make a landfall at nearly a 90-degree angle to the Florida coast, storm surge effects will be amplified as the counter-clockwise motion of the storm's winds push water directly onshore. Enlarge / Very early precipitation accumulation forecast for the next seven days. Pivotal Weather In terms of winds, for now, Dorian is a relatively compact storm, so its worst winds may remain confined to within 50 or 75 miles (80-120km) of its center. Wherever the center crosses the Florida peninsula, it will have the potential to cause significant damage. A final concern is heavy rainfall. The steering currents by this weekend, and into early next week, are not overly pronounced. A slower-moving storm means that some areas of the Southeastern United States—Florida, Georgia, Alabama, or the Carolinas—would see a large amount of precipitation and flooding. It is impossible to say at this time where the worst of this inland flooding will occur, but it likely will be somewhere to the right side of the storm's track, although not necessarily particularly close to the center. Source: Dorian is shaping up to be a major threat to the Southeastern United States (Ars Technica)
  17. Hawaii, Oregon and Washington are among the states included in the expansion. Target's same-day Drive Up service is now available across all 50 states in the US. If you've never used Drive Up before, the service allows you to order items through the retailer's mobile app and then pick them up at a designated parking spot at your local Target store. Once you're at the store, a Target employee will bring your order to your car. With today's expansion, Drive Up is available at 1,750 Target retail locations nationwide, including at stores in states where the service was previously unavailable: Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. As part of the expansion, Target is promising first-time Drive Up customers free product samples as a way to encourage people to try out the service. After a pilot in Minneapolis and St. Paul in 2017, Target officially launched Drive Up in 2018. Since then, the footprint of the service has grown dramatically, with the company's most recent expansion before today making Drive Up available at 1,550 stores nationwide. Additionally, what started as a two-hour delivery service now promises to complete orders within an hour. Drive Up has been so successful that Amazon has felt pressure to match Target. In June, the company announced a partnership with Rite Aid that will offer Amazon customers free in-store pickup at 1,500 Rite Aid drug stores across the US before the end of the year. By then, Target plans to roll out Drive Up to the majority of the 1,855 stores the company operates across the US. Source
  18. “We’re embarrassed”: US is close to losing measles-elimination status Health experts blame vaccine misinformation—and themselves. Paramount/CBS There’s a “reasonable chance” that the US will soon lose its status as a country that has eliminated measles. That’s according to Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The World Health Organization considers a disease eliminated from a country or region if it has gone at least 12 months without continuous spread of said disease. (This is different from disease eradication, which is when a disease is completely stamped out globally. Humans have only managed to eradicate two diseases: smallpox and rinderpest, which infects cattle and other ruminants.) The US triumphantly declared measles eliminated in 2000—after spending decades tenaciously working to promote widespread vaccination. (The CDC had originally hoped to have it eliminated by 1982.) And in 2016, the WHO declared measles eliminated from the Americas altogether. WHO’s Regional Office for the Americas (PAHO) celebrated the news with announcements titled, in part, “Bye, bye measles!” But now—after a global resurgence of the highly infectious viral illness, spurred partly by misinformation and vocal anti-vaccine advocates—both of those achievements are close to being undone. Massive outbreaks of measles ignited late last September in New York. The disease has continued to spread in flare-ups around the country, sickening a total of 1,215 people since the start of 2019. This week, the CDC reported 12 new cases from the week before. Experts expect the weekly case counts will rise with the start of school—and they’re bracing for a stinging defeat. "We're embarrassed. We're chagrined," infectious disease experts Dr. William Schaffner from Vanderbilt University told CNN. Messonnier echoed the feeling, telling CNN: "It certainly is incredibly frustrating and upsetting to the public health community that we may lose measles elimination status, because we do have a safe and effective vaccine.” The US wouldn’t be alone in its humiliating defeat. Earlier this month, the WHO determined that the UK had lost its measles-elimination status, which it had won only in 2017. “Losing our ‘measles-free’ status is a stark reminder of how important it is that every eligible person gets vaccinated,” Dr. Mary Ramsay, head of immunization at Public Health England, said in a tweeted statement. Schaffner and others in the public health community blame vaccine misinformation as well as themselves for the losses, saying that they were not fast and effective enough to protect the public. "I think this was not our finest hour," Schaffner said. In a statement released today, Wednesday, August 28, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus addressed the problem of vaccine misinformation directly. “Misinformation about vaccines is as contagious and dangerous as the diseases it helps to spread,” he said in the statement. While he urged governments to strengthen health services, he called upon social media platforms and the private sector in general to help in the fight. “I call upon them to do more to filter out misinformation and inaccuracies that prevent people from achieving health and well-being.” In April, the World Health Organization reported that worldwide cases of measles in the first three months of 2019 were 300% higher than those in the first three months of 2018. In 2017, the most recent year for which there’s complete data, measles caused close to 11,000 deaths. Source: “We’re embarrassed”: US is close to losing measles-elimination status (Ars Technica)
  19. Wind power prices now lower than the cost of natural gas In the US, it's cheaper to build and operate wind farms than buy fossil fuels. Enlarge NREL This week, the US Department of Energy released a report that looks back on the state of wind power in the US by running the numbers on 2018. The analysis shows that wind hardware prices are dropping, even as new turbine designs are increasing the typical power generated by each turbine. As a result, recent wind farms have gotten so cheap that you can build and operate them for less than the expected cost of buying fuel for an equivalent natural gas plant. Wind is even cheaper at the moment because of a tax credit given to renewable energy generation. But that credit is in the process of fading out, leading to long term uncertainty in a power market where demand is generally stable or dropping. A lot of GigaWatts 2018 saw about 7.6 GigaWatts of new wind capacity added to the grid, accounting for just over 20 percent of the US' capacity additions. This puts it in third place behind natural gas and solar power. That's less impressive than it might sound, however, given that things like coal and nuclear are essentially at a standstill. Because the best winds aren't evenly distributed in the US, there are areas, like parts of the Great Plains, where wind installations were more than half of the new power capacity installed. Overall, that brings the US' installed capacity up to nearly 100GW. That leaves only China ahead of the US, although the gap is substantial with China having more than double the US' installed capacity. It still leaves wind supplying only 6.5 percent of the US' total electricity in 2018, though, which places it behind a dozen other countries. Four of them—Denmark, Germany, Ireland, and Portugal—get over 20 percent of their total electric needs supplied by wind, with Denmark at over 40 percent. That figure is notable, as having over 30 percent of your power supplied by an intermittent source is a challenge for many existing grids. But there are a number of states that have now cleared the 30 percent threshold: Kansas, Iowa, and Oklahoma, with the two Dakotas not far behind. The Southwest Power Pool, which serves two of those states plus wind giant Texas, is currently getting a quarter of its electricity from wind. (Texas leads the US with 25GW of installed wind capacity.) Enlarge / Despite having a lot of wind installed, the US uses far more power from other sources. US DOE So while wind remains a small factor in the total electricity market in the US, there are parts of the country where it's a major factor in the generating mix. And, given the prices, those parts are likely to expand. Plummeting prices In the US, the prices for wind power had risen up until 2009, when power purchase agreements for wind-generated electricity peaked at about $70 per MegaWatt-hour. Since then, there's been a very steady decline, and 2018 saw the national average fall below $20/MW-hr for the first time. Again, there's regional variation with the Great Plains seeing the lowest prices, in some cases reaching the mid-teens. That puts wind in an incredibly competitive position. The report uses an estimate of future natural gas prices that show an extremely gradual rise of about $10/MW-hr out to 2050. But natural gas—on its own, without considering the cost of a planet to burn it for electricity—is already over $20/MW-hr. That means wind sited in the center of the US is already cheaper than fueling a natural gas plant, and wind sited elsewhere is roughly equal. Enlarge / Those black bars are the price of gas. Blue circles are wind, while yellow are solar. US DOE The report notes that photovoltaics have reached prices that are roughly equivalent to wind, but those got there from a starting point of about $150/MW-hr in 2009. Thus, unless natural gas prices reverse the expected trend and get cheaper, wind and solar will remain the cheapest sources of new electricity in the US. The levelized cost of electricity, which eliminates the impact of incentives and subsidies on the final prices, places wind below $40/MW-hr in 2018. The cheapest form of natural gas generation was roughly $10 more per MegaWatt-hour. Note that, as recently as 2015, the US' Energy Information Agency was predicting that wind's levelized cost in 2020 would be $74/MW-hr. Built on better tech Why has wind gotten much cheaper than expected? Part of it is in improved technology. The report notes that in 2008, there were no turbines installed in the US with rotors above 100 meters in diameter. In 2018, 99 percent of them were over 100m, and the average size was 116m. In general, the turbine's generator grew in parallel. The average capacity for 2018 installs was 2.4MW, which is up five percent from the year previous. The area swept by the blades goes up with the square of their length. Thus, even though blade length and rated generating capacity are going up in parallel, the actual potential energy input from the blades is growing much faster. This has the effect of lowering what's called the specific power of the wind turbine. These lower specific power turbines work better in areas where the wind isn't as strong or consistent. On the truly windy days, they'll saturate the ability of the generator to extract power, while on a more typical day when the winds are lighter or erratic, they'll get more out of them. So even though more turbines are being built at sites without the best wind resources, we're generating more power per turbine. The capacity factor—the amount of power generated relative to the size of the generator—for projects built in the previous four years has now hit 42 percent, a figure that would once have required offshore wind. That's dragged the capacity factor of the entire US wind industry up to over 35 percent for the first time last year. Enlarge / Each year, the capacity factor of newly installed projects is typically higher than that of the years prior. US DOE The economics of these low-wind designs are so good that 23 existing sites were "repowered," with new, larger rotors replacing older hardware on existing towers. One thing that may be encouraging this is that older plants (those a decade old or more) seem to see a small dip in capacity factor over time. But the reason for this isn't clear at this point, so it's something that will have to be tracked in the future. Better grid management also helped the economics of wind. At times, strong winds can cause wind farms to produce an excess of power relative to demand, causing a farm's output to be reduced. This process, called curtailment, remained a small factor, with only two percent of the potential generation lost this way. Put differently, if the curtailed electricity had been used, it would have only raised the average capacity factor by 0.7 percentage points. Overall, given these economics, it's clear that the economic case for wind energy will remain solid as the tax credits for the construction of renewable energy fade out over the next few years. But the vanishing credits are causing lots of developers to start projects sooner rather than later, so we may see a bubble in construction for the next couple of years, followed by a dramatic drop off. Source: Wind power prices now lower than the cost of natural gas (Ars Technica)
  20. The University of Alaska Fairbanks teamed up with the FAA for the test pilot. The University of Alaska Fairbanks has successfully conducted the first beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) drone flight in the US that's been approved by the FAA. At this point in time, drone flights are required to remain within their operators' line of sight, so they can look out for aircraft and other objects on the way. That means this particular test is a big step towards making drone deliveries a reality in the country, something retailers like Amazon are planning to deploy to keep up with consumer demand for high-speed deliveries. University of Alaska's test flight, according to Drone Life, used a hybrid electric drone to inspect a four-mile section of the Trans-Alaska pipeline. Since the test's objective was to fly the drone for the inspection's whole duration with no human involvement, the team had to load it with an on-board technology by Iris Automation called the Casia system. It's a sense-and-avoid technology that can detect other aircraft and make intelligent decisions on what kind of threat they pose to the drone. The Casia system worked with the eight ground-based radars the team installed along the route. Cathy Cahill, the director of the university's drone program, told Reuters that BVLOS flights are important for Alaska due to the lack of roads in remote areas. The test is a milestone for the drone industry as a whole, though. As FAA acting Administrator Dan Elwell said, it advances the industry toward the reliable integration of drones into the airspace. Source
  21. WASHINGTON (AP) — The Department of Homeland Security issued a security alert Tuesday for small planes, warning that modern flight systems are vulnerable to hacking if someone manages to gain physical access to the aircraft. An alert from the DHS critical infrastructure computer emergency response team recommends that plane owners ensure they restrict unauthorized physical access to their aircraft until the industry develops safeguards to address the issue, which was discovered by a Boston-based cybersecurity company and reported to the federal government. Most airports have security in place to restrict unauthorized access and there is no evidence that anyone has exploited the vulnerability. But a DHS official told The Associated Press that the agency independently confirmed the security flaw with outside partners and a national research laboratory, and decided it was necessary to issue the warning. The cybersecurity firm, Rapid7, found that an attacker could potentially disrupt electronic messages transmitted across a small plane’s network, for example by attaching a small device to its wiring, that would affect aircraft systems. Engine readings, compass data, altitude and other readings “could all be manipulated to provide false measurements to the pilot,” according to the DHS alert. The warning reflects the fact that aircraft systems are increasingly reliant on networked communications systems, much like modern cars. The auto industry has already taken steps to address similar concerns after researchers exposed vulnerabilities. The Rapid7 report focused only on small aircraft because their systems are easier for researchers to acquire. Large aircraft frequently use more complex systems and must meet additional security requirements. The DHS alert does not apply to older small planes with mechanical control systems. But Patrick Kiley, Rapid7′s lead researcher on the issue, said an attacker could exploit the vulnerability with access to a plane or by bypassing airport security. “Someone with five minutes and a set of lock picks can gain access (or) there’s easily access through the engine compartment,” Kiley said. Jeffrey Troy, president of the Aviation Information Sharing and Analysis Center, an industry organization for cybersecurity information, said there is a need to improve the security in networked operating systems but emphasized that the hack depends on bypassing physical security controls mandated by law. With access, “you have hundreds of possibilities to disrupt any system or part of an aircraft,” Troy said. The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement that a scenario where someone has unrestricted physical access is unlikely, but the report is also “an important reminder to remain vigilant” about physical and cybersecurity aircraft procedures. Aviation cybersecurity has been an issue of growing concern around the world. In March, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s inspector general found that the FAA had “not completed a comprehensive, strategy policy framework to identify and mitigate cybersecurity risks.” The FAA agreed and said it would look to have a plan in place by the end of September. The UN’s body for aviation proposed its first strategy for securing civil aviation from hackers that’s expected to go before the General Assembly in September, said Pete Cooper, an ex-Royal Air Force fast jet pilot and cyber operations officer who advises the aviation industry. The vulnerability disclosure report is the product of nearly two years of work by Rapid7. After their researchers assessed the flaw, the company alerted DHS. Tuesday’s DHS alert recommends manufacturers review how they implement these open electronics systems known as “the CAN bus” to limit a hacker’s ability to perform such an attack. The CAN bus functions like a small plane’s central nervous system. Targeting it could allow an attacker to stealthily hijack a pilot’s instrument readings or even take control of the plane, according to the Rapid7 report obtained by The AP. “CAN bus is completely insecure,” said Chris King, a cybersecurity expert who has worked on vulnerability analysis of large-scale systems. “It was never designed to be in an adversarial environment, (so there’s) no validation” that what the system is being told to do is coming from a legitimate source. Only a few years ago, most auto manufacturers used the open CAN bus system in their cars. But after researchers publicly demonstrated how they could be hacked, auto manufacturers added on layers of security, like putting critical functions on separate networks that are harder to access externally. The disclosure highlights issues in the automotive and aviation industries about whether a software vulnerability should be treated like a safety defect — with its potential for costly manufacturer recalls and implied liability — and what responsibility manufacturers should have in ensuring their products are hardened against such attacks. The vulnerability also highlights the reality that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to separate cybersecurity from security overall. “A lot of aviation folks don’t see the overlap between information security, cybersecurity, of an aircraft, and safety,” said Beau Woods, a cyber safety innovation fellow with the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank. “They see them as distinct things.” The CAN bus networking scheme was developed in the 1980s and is extremely popular for use in boats, drones, spacecraft, planes and cars — all areas where there’s more noise interference and it’s advantageous to have less wiring. It’s actually increasingly used in airplanes today due to the ease and cost of implementation, Kiley said. Given that airplanes have a longer manufacturing cycle, “what we’re trying to do is get out ahead of this.” The report didn’t name the vendors Rapid7 tested, but the company alerted them over a year ago, the report states. Source
  22. WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A month after President Donald Trump said he would allow U.S. companies to resume selling to blacklisted Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, his administration has done little to clarify what sales will be permitted. The lack of clarity on what U.S. firms can supply to the world’s top producer of telecommunications equipment as long as it’s on a so-called “entity list” is likely to cast a shadow over this week’s U.S.-China trade negotiations in Shanghai. Trump had pledged to allow the sales as a goodwill gesture to President Xi Jinping when the two met last month and agreed to restart talks to try to resolve their year-long trade war. China, for its part, agreed to restart large-scale agricultural purchases. U.S. chipmakers cheered Trump’s announcement, which administration officials clarified afterwards meant the government would issue export licenses in cases where there is no national security risk and where the items are “non-sensitive” and readily replaced by rivals. But the department has yet to respond to any of a total of around 50 license requests from about 35 companies, sowing uncertainty in the industry and in Beijing. “At this stage, there is mass confusion,” said William Reinsch, a former Commerce official, adding that the plan for case-by-case decisions “maximizes the uncertainty.” The governments of the world’s two largest economies have imposed billions of dollars of tariffs on each other’s goods, slowing global growth and roiling markets. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will meet with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He starting on Tuesday, the first face-to-face meeting since the two leaders met. Many people close to the talks expect the topic of Huawei to dominate, along with the failure of Chinese agricultural purchases to meet expectations, taking time and attention away from the many deeper, longer term issues. Trump hosted a meeting of seven technology CEOs last week to discuss Huawei and other topics, at which the executives expressed frustration at Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for not providing clear guidelines, Reuters reported. “By making the meeting public, the U.S. was trying to send a signal, ‘we’re moving on Huawei, we need you to move on agriculture’,” said Wendy Cutler, a former U.S. trade negotiator and Vice President of the Asia Society Policy Institute. PAR FOR THE COURSE Many companies have halted sales to Huawei since the company was put on the entity list on May 16, while some have chosen to resume selling items made abroad. Some, including Intel Corp (INTC.O) and Qualcomm (QCOM.O), began pressing Commerce for carve-outs soon after. Some companies have taken advantage of a narrow “temporary general license” provided by the Commerce Department which allows for transactions such as software updates for Huawei. Last week, Intel and Xilinx Inc (XLNX.O) said they had applied for licenses to resume sales of some products to Huawei. The companies also said they had resumed sales of some products they had independently determined were not subject to the ban. Secretary Ross has said responses to requests for licenses are coming in a matter of weeks. “It’s par for the course for this administration,” said trade lawyer Doug Jacobson. “They are making up policy as they go along based on the president’s direction.” The uncertainty continues to roil global industry. Last month San Jose, California-based Broadcom forecast that the U.S.-China trade tensions and the Huawei ban would knock $2 billion off its sales this year. CEO Hock Tan said there was no obvious substitution for Huawei, which accounted for about $900 million or 4 percent of its sales last year. Fedex Corp (FDX.N) last week said “unclear” Commerce department policy on Huawei “resulted in considerable complexity for our operations,” to explain why it held back more than 100 Huawei packages, which is now under investigation by Chinese authorities. The May blacklisting represented a significant escalation in Washington’s campaign against Huawei, which it says steals U.S. intellectual property and violates Iran sanctions. CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada on a U.S. warrant on charges she misled global banks about Huawei’s relationship with a company in Iran. Meng, who is also the Huawei CEO’s daughter, maintains her innocence and is fighting extradition. Washington has also launched a lobbying effort to convince U.S. allies to keep Huawei out of next-generation 5G telecommunications infrastructure, citing concerns the company could spy on customers. Huawei has denied the allegations. Judith Alison Lee, a trade attorney at Gibson Dunn, said her clients have received requests from Commerce for more information related to their license applications but no approvals so far. “There is a real sense of uncertainty at the department about where the administration is going on Huawei,” she said. “Every day that goes by it creates more damage to Huawei and the Chinese, and that makes the trade talks that much more difficult.” Source
  23. What can brown fly for you? UPS announced it has submitted an application to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate commercial delivery drones in the US, through a new subsidiary called UPS Flight Forward. The company has been working closely with the FAA over the last year; in 2018, the agency launched a program to test out drones in a range of autonomous flying situations, and UPS was one of the accepted applicants. It’s been couriering lab samples around the WakeMed hospital campus in Raleigh, North Carolina, in partnership with the drone startup Matternet. Bala Ganesh, head of UPS’s advanced technology group, says that once the FAA has certified the new company, it plans to build upon the work it’s been doing in healthcare deliveries. “The time for storyboarding and testing is over,” Ganesh said. “We are now moving into the deployment phase.” UPS won’t be the first drone company to be given what’s called air-carrier certification, allowing it to operate commercially in the US. That honor went to Wing, a subsidiary of Google parent Alphabet, which got its FAA approval in April. UPS is hoping to get its certification later this year, at which point Ganesh says the company will expand its drone activities in three ways. First, it wants to replicate the work it’s done at WakeMed at other large medical facilities that need lab work ferried around as quickly as possible. It then wants to begin flying farther, using autonomous drones to potentially fly between five and ten miles from their point of origin. (Right now, most drone operations in the US need to be conducted within the line of sight of a pilot.) After that’s been mastered, UPS wants to fly its drones at night. Ganesh says much of this work shouldn’t require many changes to the hardware UPS has been using to date, but it needs to work with its partners and the FAA to determine how its drones should operate in these new situations. Nothing like this has really been done at scale before—Wing is still very much in a testing phase, and most other autonomous drone operations are either very small or tend not to fly near people. “It’s like we’re designing the airplane and flying it at the same time too,” Ganesh says. UPS doesn’t plan, at least for the near future, to offer drone deliveries to regular customers, so don’t expect to be getting your next online order delivered to your house by drone. For now, it’s concentrating on small payloads for healthcare. But Ganesh says other “urgent point-to-point needs” are being looked into. It really comes down to cost: right now, flying these drones isn’t cheap, and there are few customers that will pay for immediate deliveries at these prices outside of the healthcare industry. But as drone technology proliferates, UPS will likely look at delivering wherever it’s profitable to do so. Source
  24. Cyber threats from the U.S. and Russia are now focusing on civilian infrastructure Targeting civilian infrastructure opens a dangerous new front in cyber hostilities between the U.S. Cyber-confrontation between the U.S. and Russia is increasingly turning to critical civilian infrastructure, particularly power grids, judging from recent press reports. The typically furtive conflict went public last month, when The New York Times reported U.S. Cyber Command’s shift to a more offensive and aggressive approach in targeting Russia’s electric power grid. The report drew skepticism from some experts and a denial from the administration, but the revelation led Moscow to warn that such activity presented a “direct challenge” that demanded a response. WIRED magazine the same day published an article detailing growing cyber-reconnaissance on U.S. grids by sophisticated malware emanating from a Russian research institution, the same malware that abruptly halted operations at a Saudi Arabian oil refinery in 2017 during what WIRED called “one of the most reckless cyberattacks in history.” Although both sides have been targeting each other’s infrastructure since at least 2012, according to the Times article, the aggression and scope of these operations now seems unprecedented. Washington and Moscow share several similarities related to cyber-deterrence. Both, for instance, view the other as a highly capable adversary. U.S. officials fret about Moscow’s ability to wield its authoritarian power to corral Russian academia, the private sector, and criminal networks to boost its cyber-capacity while insulating state-backed hackers from direct attribution. Moscow sees an unwavering cyber-omnipotence in the U.S., capable of crafting uniquely sophisticated malware like the ‘Stuxnet’ virus, all while using digital operations to orchestrate regional upheaval, such as the Arab Spring in 2011. At least some officials on both sides, apparently, view civilian infrastructure as an appropriate and perhaps necessary lever to deter the other. Image courtesy of TechCrunch/Bryce Durbin Whatever their similarities in cyber-targeting, Moscow and Washington faced different paths in developing capabilities and policies for cyberwarfare, due in large part to the two sides’ vastly different interpretations of global events and the amount of resources at their disposal. A gulf in both the will to use cyber-operations and the capacity to launch them separated the two for almost 20 years. While the U.S. military built up the latter, the issue of when and where the U.S. should use cyber-operations failed to keep pace with new capabilities. Inversely, Russia’s capacity, particularly within its military, was outpaced by its will to use cyber-operations against perceived adversaries. Nonetheless, events since 2016 reflect a convergence of the two factors. While the U.S. has displayed a growing willingness to launch operations against Russia, Moscow has somewhat bolstered its military cyber-capacity by expanding recruiting initiatives and malware development. The danger in both sides’ cyber-deterrence, however, lies not so much in their converging will and capacity as much as it is rooted in mutual misunderstanding. The Kremlin’s cyber-authorities, for instance, hold an almost immutable view that the U.S. seeks to undermine Russia’s global position at every turn along the digital front, pointing to U.S. cyber-operations behind global incidents that are unfavorable to Moscow’s foreign policy goals. A declared expansion in targeting Russian power grids could ensure that future disruptions, which can occur spontaneously, are seen by Moscow as an unmistakable act of U.S. cyber-aggression. In Washington, it seems too little effort is dedicated to understanding the complexity of Russia’s view of cyber-warfare and deterrence. The notion that Russia’s 2016 effort to affect the U.S. presidential election was a “Cyber” or “Political” Pearl Harbor is an appropriate comparison only in the sense that U.S. officials were blindsided by Moscow’s distinct approach to cyberwarfare: an almost seamless blend of psychological and technical operations that differs from most Western concepts. Russian military operators conducted what should be considered a more aggressive cyber-campaign a year before their presidential election-meddling, when they posed as ‘CyberCaliphate,’ an online branch of ISIS, and attacked U.S. media outlets and threatened the safety of U.S. military spouses. For their part, the Russians made a different historical comparison to their 2016 activity. Andrey Krutskikh, the Kremlin’s bombastic point-man on cyber-diplomacy issues, likened Russia’s development of cyber-capabilities that year to the Soviet Union’s first successful atomic bomb test in 1949. Image courtesy of Getty Images/BeeBright Western analysts, fixated on untangling the now-defunct concept of the ‘Gerasimov Doctrine,’ devoted far less attention to the Russian military’s actual cyber-experts, who starting in 2008 wrote a series of articles about the consequences of Washington’s perceived militarization of cyberspace, including a mid-2016 finale that discussed Russia’s need to pursue cyber-peace with the U.S. by demonstrating an equal ‘information potential’. Despite Cyber Command’s new authorities, Moscow’s hackers are comparatively unfettered by legal or normative boundaries and have a far wider menu of means and methods in competing with the U.S. short of all-out war. Russian military hackers, for example, have gone after everything from the Orthodox Church to U.S. think tanks, and they launched what the Trump administration called the most costly cyber-attack in history. In the awkward space between war and peace, Russian cyber-operations certainly benefit from the highly permissive, extralegal mandate granted by an authoritarian state, one that Washington would likely be loath (with good reason) to replicate out of frustration. By no means should the Kremlin’s activity go unanswered. But a leap from disabling internet access for Russia’s ‘Troll Farm’ to threatening to blackout swaths of Russia could jeopardize the few fragile norms existing in this bilateral cyber-competition, perhaps leading to expanded targeting of nuclear facilities. The U.S. is arriving late to a showdown that many officials in Russian defense circles saw coming a long time ago, when U.S. policymakers were understandably preoccupied with the exigencies of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency. Washington could follow Moscow’s lead in realizing that this is a long-term struggle that requires innovative and thoughtful solutions as opposed to reflexive ones. Increasing the diplomatic costs of Russian cyber-aggression, shoring-up cyber-defenses, or even fostering military-to-military or working-level diplomatic channels to discuss cyber redlines, however discretely and unofficially, could present better choices than apparently gambling with the safety of civilians that both sides’ forces are sworn to protect. Source: Cyber threats from the U.S. and Russia are now focusing on civilian infrastructure
  25. Trump administration freezing fuel efficiency penalties WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration said late on Friday it was issuing final rules to suspend a 2016 Obama administration regulation that more than doubled penalties for automakers failing to meet fuel efficiency requirements. FILE PHOTO: Traffic is pictured at twilight along 42nd St. in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri Congress in 2015 ordered federal agencies to adjust a wide range of civil penalties to account for inflation and, in response, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) under President Barack Obama issued rules to eventually raise fines to $14 from $5.50 for every 0.1 mile per gallon of fuel that new cars and trucks consume in excess of the required standards. Automakers protested the hike, saying it could increase industry compliance costs by $1 billion annually. After a group of states and environmental groups filed suit, the Trump administration began the process of formally undoing the Obama regulation and first proposed the freeze in 2018. In a statement late on Friday, NHTSA said it was faithfully following the intent of Congress to ensure the penalty rate was set at the level required by statute. It expected this final rule to significantly cut the future burden on industry and consumers by up to $1 billion a year, it added. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group representing General Motors Co (GM.N), Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE), Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T), Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCHA.MI) and others, had said it could increase industry compliance costs by $1 billion annually. Late on Friday, Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the group, praised the decision, saying NHTSA’s “own model clearly shows the significant economic harm that such a dramatic and unjustified increase in penalties would have on auto manufacturers, workers, and ultimately consumers.” The prior administration had “failed to take into account the significant economic harm that would result,” she added. Automakers argued the increases would dramatically raise costs, since they would also boost the value of fuel economy credits that are used to meet requirements. In September 2017, three environmental groups and some U.S. states including New York and California sued NHTSA for putting the Obama rules on hold. Last year, the states said, “If the penalty is not sufficiently high, automakers lack a vital incentive to manufacture fuel-efficient vehicles.” Some automakers historically have paid fines instead of meeting fuel efficiency requirements - including some luxury automakers like Jaguar Land Rover, owned by India’s Tata Motors (TAMO.NS), and Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE). In February, Fiat Chrysler told Reuters it paid $77 million in U.S. civil penalties in 2018 for failing to meet 2016 model year fuel economy requirements. Fiat Chrysler welcomed the decision. It “enables us to continue our significant investment plans in both our U.S. manufacturing footprint and new technologies required to maintain our trajectory of improved fuel-efficiency,” the carmaker said in a statement late on Friday. Environmental groups urge the administration to retain the increase, noting U.S. fuel economy fines have lost nearly 75% of their original value because the fines have only been increased once — from $5 to $5.50 in 1997 — in more than four decades. The move comes as NHTSA and the Environmental Protection Agency are working to finalize a rewrite of the Obama administration’s fuel efficiency requirements through 2026 in the coming months. In August 2018, the administration proposed freezing fuel efficiency requirements and stripping California of the right to set its own vehicle-emissions rules. The final regulation faces a multi-year legal battle that could leave automakers in limbo about future emissions and fuel-efficiency requirements. The Obama-era rules called for a fleetwide fuel-efficiency average of 46.7 miles per gallon by 2026, compared with 37 mpg under the Trump administration’s preferred option. Last month, 17 major automakers urged a compromise “midway” between the Obama-era standards that require annual decreases of about 5% in emissions and the Trump administration’s proposal. Reuters reported in April that officials expect the final rule will include a small increase in yearly fuel-efficiency requirements. Source: Trump administration freezing fuel efficiency penalties
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