Category Archives: News

worldwide news

Twitter Says Accounts of World Leaders Have Special Status

Social media giant Twitter has reiterated its stance that accounts belonging to world leaders have special status, pushing back against calls from some users for the company to ban U.S. President Donald Trump. 

In a blog post Friday, Twitter said it would not block the accounts of world leaders even if their statements were “controversial” because of a need to promote discussions about public policy. 

​“Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial tweets would hide important information people should be able to see and debate,” Twitter said.

It said such a move would also not silence a world leader, but it “would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions.”

“Twitter is here to serve and help advance the global, public conversation. Elected world leaders play a critical role in that conversation because of their outsized impact on our society,” the post said. 

The company has previously said that it considers whether a post is newsworthy and of public interest before deciding whether to remove it. 

Twitter did not specifically mention Trump in its statement. The debate over Trump’s tweets grew on Wednesday, when he tweeted that he had a “much bigger” nuclear button than North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Critics said the tweet violated Twitter’s ban against threats of violence. 

Last month, Twitter began enforcing new rules to remove “hateful” content on the network, including posts that promote violence. 

The company said Friday that it reviews all tweets, including those of world leaders. “We review tweets by leaders within the political context that defines them, and enforce our rules accordingly,” the statement said.

A White House spokeswoman said she did not expect there to be any White House comment on the Twitter statement. 

Pete Heinlein at the White House contributed to this report.

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Businesses Delay Patch, Fear Fix Will Be Worse Than Chip Flaw

Chances that a fix to a major microchip security flaw may slow down or crash some computer systems are leading some businesses to hold off installing software patches, fearing the cure may be worse than the original problem.

Researchers this week revealed security problems with chips from Intel Corp and many of its rivals, sending businesses, governments and consumers scrambling to understand the extent of the threat and the cost of fixes.

Rather than rushing to put on patches, a costly and time-intensive endeavor for major systems, some businesses are testing the fix, leaving their machines vulnerable.

“If you start applying patches across your whole fleet without doing proper testing, you could cause systems to crash, essentially putting all of your employees out of work,” said Ben Johnson, co-founder of cyber-security startup Obsidian.

Flaws not ‘critical’

Banks and other financial institutions spent much of the week studying the vulnerabilities, said Greg Temm, chief information risk officer with the Financial Services Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center, an industry group that shares data on emerging cyber threats.

The flaws affect virtually all computers and mobile devices, but are not considered “critical” because there is no evidence that hackers have figured out how to exploit them, said Temm, whose group works with many of the world’s largest banks.

“It’s like getting a diagnosis of high blood pressure, but not having a cardiac arrest,” Temm said. “We’re taking it seriously, but it’s not something that is killing us.”

Testing the patches

Banks are testing the patches to see if they slow operations and, if so, what changes need to be made, Temm said. For instance, computers could be added to networks to make up for the lack of processor speed in individual machines, he added.

Some popular antivirus software programs are incompatible with the software updates, causing desktop and laptop computers to freeze up and show a “blue screen of death,” researcher Johnson said.

Antivirus software makers responded by rolling out fixes to make their products compatible with the updated operating systems, he said. In a blog posting Friday, Microsoft Corp said it would only offer security patches to Windows customers whose antivirus software suppliers had confirmed with Microsoft that the patch would not crash the customer’s machine.

“If you have not been offered the security update, you may be running incompatible antivirus software, and you should consult the software vendor,” Microsoft advised in the blog post.

Government agencies also are watching. The Ohio Attorney General’s office is monitoring the situation, a spokesman said by email.

“Intel continues to believe that the performance impact of these updates is highly workload-dependent and, for the average computer user, should not be significant and will be mitigated over time,” the world’s No. 1 chipmaker said on Thursday in a release.

​No significant patch impact

It cited Amazon.com Inc, Apple Inc, Alphabet Inc’s and Microsoft as saying that most users had seen no significant impact on performance after installing the patches.

The cloud vendors are among a group of firms that quickly patched their technology to mitigate against the threat from one of those vulnerabilities, dubbed Meltdown, which only affects machines running Intel chips.

Major software makers have not issued patches to protect against the second vulnerability, dubbed Spectre, which affects nearly all computer chips made in the last decade, including those from Intel, Advanced Micro Devices Inc, and ARM-architecture manufacturers, including Qualcomm Inc. 

However, Google, Firefox and Microsoft have implemented measures in most web browsers to stop hackers from launching remote attacks using Spectre.

Governments and security experts say they have seen no cyber attacks seeking to exploit either vulnerability, though they expect attempts by hackers as they digest technical data about the security flaws.

One key risk is that hackers will develop code that can infect the personal computers of people visiting malicious websites, said Chris Wysopal, chief technology officer of cyber security firm Veracode.

He advised PC owners to install the patches to protect against such potential attacks. Computer servers at large enterprises are less at risk, he said, because those systems are not used to surf the web and can only be infected in a Meltdown attack if a hacker has breached that network.

Operating system protection

Microsoft has issued a patch for its Windows operating system, and Apple desktop users with the most recent operating system are protected. Google has said most of its Chromebook laptops are already protected and that the rest would be soon.

Apple said it planned to release a patch to its Safari web browser within coming days to protect Mac and iOS users from Spectre.

While third-party browsers from Google and others can protect Mac users from Spectre, all major web browsers for Apple’s iOS devices depend on receiving a patch from Apple.

Until then, hundreds of millions of iPhone and iPad users will be exposed to potential Spectre attacks while browsing the web.

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Brits Call for ‘Latte Levy’ to Reduce Cup Waste

Britain should charge a 25-pence ($0.34) levy on disposable coffee cups to cut down waste and use the money to improve recycling facilities, a committee of lawmakers said Friday.

Chains Pret A Manger, Costa Coffee, Caffe Nero and Greggs alongside U.S. firm Starbucks are among the biggest coffee-sellers in Britain, rapidly expanding in the last 10 years to meet increasing demand.

Although some outlets give a discount to customers using their own cup, only 1-2 percent of buyers take up the offer, according to parliament’s environmental audit committee, which said a “latte levy” was needed instead.

2.5 billion cups a year

“The UK throws away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year; enough to circle the planet 5½ times,” said chair of the committee, Mary Creagh.

“We’re calling for action to reduce the number of single-use cups, promote reusable cups over disposable cups and to recycle all coffee cups by 2023,” she said.

The committee said that if the recycling target is not met then disposable coffee cups should be banned.

Bag levy success

In October 2015, Britain introduced a charge of 5-pence on all single-use plastic bags provided by large shops, which led to an 83 percent reduction in UK plastic bags used in the first year.

On Friday the environment ministry said the government was working closely with the sector and had made progress in increasing recycling rates.

“We are encouraged by industry action to increase the recycling of paper cups with some major retail chains now offering discounts to customers with reusable cups,” said a spokeswoman.

“We will carefully consider the committee’s recommendations and respond shortly,” she said.

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Report: Trump Tried to Keep Sessions at Helm of Russian Inquiry

President Donald Trump directed his White House counsel to tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions to not recuse himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The conversation between Don McGahn, the president’s White House counsel, and Sessions took place on the president’s orders and occurred just before the attorney general announced that he would step aside from the ongoing inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, according to a person with knowledge of the interaction. Two other people confirmed details of the conversation between McGahn and Sessions.

All three people spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press to avoid publicly discussing an ongoing investigation.

​Mueller aware of conversation

The episode is known to special counsel Robert Mueller and his team of prosecutors and is likely of interest to them as they look into whether Trump’s actions as president, including the May firing of FBI Director James Comey, amount to improper efforts to obstruct the Russia investigation. Investigators recently concluded a round of interviews with current and former White House officials, including McGahn.

The New York Times first reported that Trump had McGahn lobby Sessions against a recusal.

Sessions announced on March 2 that he would recuse himself from that probe. He said at the time that he should not oversee an investigation into a campaign for which he was an active and vocal supporter. The recusal also followed the revelation that he had had two previously undisclosed interactions during the 2016 campaign with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

​McGahn speaks with Sessions 

But soon before the announcement, McGahn spoke to Sessions by phone and urged him against recusing himself from the investigation.

During the conversation, according to people familiar with the matter, McGahn argued to Sessions that there was no reason or basis at that time for him to recuse. One person said McGahn also told him that recusal would do nothing to resolve concerns over whether Sessions had given a misleading answer at his confirmation hearing weeks earlier when he said he had not had any contacts with Russians.

Sessions ultimately declined the urging, and McGahn accepted the conclusion of officials who believed that Sessions should recuse.

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Apple to Issue Fix for iPhones, Macs at Risk From Chip Flaw

Apple Inc. will release a patch for the Safari web browser on its iPhones, iPads and Macs within days, it said Thursday, after major chipmakers disclosed flaws that leave nearly every modern computing device vulnerable to hackers.

On Wednesday, Alphabet Inc.’s Google and other security researchers disclosed two major chip flaws, one called Meltdown affecting only Intel Corp. chips and one called Spectre affecting nearly all computer chips made in the last decade. The news sparked a sell-off in Intel’s stock as investors tried to gauge the costs to the chipmaker.

In a statement on its website, Apple said all Mac and iOS devices were affected by both Meltdown and Spectre. But the most recent operating system updates for Mac computers, Apple TVs, iPhones and iPads protect users against the Meltdown attack and do not slow down the devices, it added. Meltdown does not affect the Apple Watch.

Macs and iOS devices are vulnerable to Spectre attacks through code that can run in web browsers. Apple said it would issue a patch to its Safari web browser for those devices “in the coming days.”

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Who Is Michael Wolff?

Michael Wolff, an American author, essayist and journalist, has written Fire and Fury, a book that portrays a chaotic initial year for the presidency of Donald Trump. What’s his background?

Michael Wolff

Age: 64

Early life: Wolff was born in New Jersey to a father who worked in advertising and a mother who was a newspaper reporter. He attended Columbia University in New York and worked as a copy boy at The New York Times while in school. 

The journalist: Wolff published his first book of essays, White Kids, in 1979. He was most recently a media critic and columnist for USA Today, Hollywood Reporter, New York Magazine and, before that, Vanity Fair and Newser. 

In 2011, he briefly was at the helm of AdWeek magazine, but left after less than a year. 

The author: In 1997, he wrote the bestseller Burn Rate, about his early dotcom company Wolff New Media.

In 2004 he published Autumn of the Moguls, about the decline of mainstream media that would occur later in the decade.

He was perhaps best known for his 2009 biography of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, The Man Who Owns the News.

Accolades: Wolff has won two National Magazine Awards, which recognize excellence in the magazine industry in both print and digital mediums.

One of the awards was for a series of columns he wrote from the Middle East at the start of the Iraq War in 2003. 

Controversies: Wolff’s work has often drawn criticism from his fellow journalists as well as his subjects. Just before the publication of The Man Who Owns the News, Murdoch took issue with several parts of the book, just as U.S. President Donald Trump has over Wolff’s latest work. 

In a 2004 cover story for The New Republic, reporter Michelle Cottle characterized Wolff’s writing by saying that “even Wolff acknowledges that conventional reporting is not his bag.” Rather, she said, “he absorbs the atmosphere and gossip swirling around him at cocktail parties, on the street, and especially during those long lunches.”

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Investors Skittish, but Marijuana Growers, Sellers to Stay the Course

Marijuana-related stocks plummeted, cannabis boosters worried about the industry’s future and defiant growers and sellers vowed to keep operating after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions signaled a tougher approach Thursday to federal pot enforcement.

The plunging stock prices reversed a weekslong rally driven by optimism for legal recreational sales that started Monday in California. Several marijuana stocks saw double-digit losses in the hours after Sessions’ announcement, including the largest pot-producing company that is publicly traded.

Canopy Growth, a Canada-based company with the ticker symbol WEED, lost $3.58 a share, or 10 percent, to close at $32.32 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Shares of garden-supply company Scotts Miracle-Gro also skidded Thursday, following a steady rise last year after it added fertilizer, lights and other products to serve marijuana growers. The company’s share price fell by as much as 7 percent before closing down 2.3 percent, or $2.49, to $106.17 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Investors spooked

“Jeff Sessions’ decision to rescind the Cole memoranda puts the marijuana industry and marijuana legalization efforts in a precarious position,” said Aaron Herzberg, a California lawyer and founder of the cannabis investment company CalCann Holding, referring to an Obama-era memo that limited U.S. crackdowns on pot in states where it’s legal.

Brent Kenyon, a consultant who helps advise and establish recreational marijuana businesses in Oregon, said his phone had been ringing all Thursday with calls from worried clients. Investors, including some who are involved in his businesses, are spooked, he said.

“I’m just telling people to hold off. We need more information, we need to see what the president is going to say about this,” he said by phone from a cannabis conference in Hawaii.

Andy Williams, CEO of the Medicine Man Denver dispensary, is taking a wait-and-see approach to the new policy but pointed out the economic impact of legal pot.

“This industry around the United States has attracted a lot of investment. Billions of dollars in investment,” he said. “Just talking about what Sessions wants to do today has dropped the market.”

​’Business as usual’

Steve DeAngelo, owner of California’s largest marijuana retailer, said it will be “business as usual” at his Harborside dispensary in Oakland.

“I think the main impact of this is really going to be on investors, more than anything else,” he said. “Some investors might get a bit nervous about putting more money into the cannabis industry until the situation resolves itself.”

Another of California’s largest marijuana operators said it also plans no changes in response to Sessions’ announcement.

“For this industry and for this community, we are really based on resilience, going against the tide. This is no different,” said Michael Steinmetz, CEO of Flow Kana, which distributes cannabis products from small, outdoor farmers. “From my perspective, things don’t change.”

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Intel Shares Fall as Investors Worry About Costs of Chip Flaw

Intel Corp shares fell nearly 2 percent Thursday as investors worried about the potential financial liability and reputational hit from recently disclosed security flaws in its widely used microprocessors.

The largest chipmaker had confirmed Wednesday that flaws reported by researchers could allow hackers to steal sensitive information from computers, phones and other devices. Apple Inc, Microsoft Corp and other software makers have issued patches to protect against the vulnerabilities.

Intel may be on the hook for costs stemming from lawsuits claiming that the patches would slow computers and effectively force consumers to buy new hardware, and big customers will likely seek compensation from Intel for any software or hardware fixes they make, security experts said.

“The potential liability is big for Intel,” said Eric Johnson, dean of Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management. “Everybody will be scrambling over the next few days to figure out just how big it is.”

Intel has said that the patches for the bugs would slow its chips down somewhat but that most users will not notice.

Amazon Web Services (AWS), the largest seller of cloud computing services, said in a statement it does not “expect meaningful performance impact for most customer workloads.”

Microsoft and Alphabet Inc’s Google both said in statements on their websites that they expect few performance problems for most of their cloud computing customers.

Financial repercussions

But the incident is likely to spur cloud companies to press Intel for lower prices on chips in future talks, said Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh, which owns shares in Intel.

“What [Intel’s cloud customers] are going to say is, ‘You wronged us, we hate you, but if we can get a discount, we’ll still buy from you,'” Forrest said.

Forrest also expects Intel will have to increase its chip development spending to focus on security.

Government agencies and security experts said they knew of no cyberattacks that had exploited the vulnerabilities.

Financial services firms were studying information on the vulnerabilities to determine how to best respond, said the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center, a global industry group known as FS-ISAC that shares data on cyberthreats.

Banks and other firms are trying to understand what it will cost to respond to the issue, FS-ISAC said in an emailed statement.

“In addition to the security considerations raised by this design flaw, performance degradation is expected, which could require more processing power for affected systems to compensate and maintain current baseline performance,” FS-ISAC said. “There will need to be consideration and balance between fixing the potential security threat vs. the performance and other possible impact to systems.”

Lawsuit filed

Lawyers filed a lawsuit in San Jose, California, federal court on Wednesday that sought class-action status and compensation for people who had bought vulnerable Intel chips or computers that came with them already installed.

Intel did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday about the lawsuit.

While more lawsuits are expected, Intel’s biggest customers are likely to quietly seek compensation for any harm caused by the vulnerabilities, including costs to patch machines or replace microprocessors, Johnson said.

Legal experts said that consumers would have to prove concrete damages and harm to proceed with claims.

Intel shares fell 1.8 percent, following a 3.4 percent decline Wednesday.

Shares in rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc climbed 4.9 percent as investors speculated the No. 2 maker of microprocessors would woo customers away from Intel.

Still, researchers had said some of AMD’s chips had one of the two vulnerabilities disclosed on Wednesday, as do processors from ARM Holdings.

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