Nearly 200,000 Salvadorans Anxiously Await Decision on TPS Future

Nearly 200,000 Salvadoran beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, anxiously wait as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security weighs a decision whether to end the designated security program. Given precedent with beneficiaries from Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan, TPS holders from El Salvador worry they may be next on Trump’s chopping block, despite a 16-year history of integration across multigeneration households. VOA spoke with one mixed-status family at their home in Virginia.

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‘Fire and Fury’ Author Defends Book’s Accuracy Against White House Pushback

‘Fire and Fury,’ a new tell-all book about intrigue in the Trump White House, is the talk of political Washington. VOA White House correspondent Peter Heinlein reports that President Donald Trump is said to be furious with former adviser Steve Bannon, who is quoted as making some damning comments about the president and his family.

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As Trump Administration Expresses Support for Iran Protests, Nuclear Deal Deadline Looms

The Trump administration this week has not shied away from expressing support for the thousands of Iranians who have taken to the streets to protest government corruption and economic hardship. And while U.S. officials have threatened targeted sanctions against those who crack down on demonstrators, President Donald Trump is facing a Jan. 13 deadline on whether to reimpose economic sanctions against Iran that were suspended under the 2015 nuclear deal. VOA’s Aru Pande has more from Washington.

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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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