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.”

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

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.”

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

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.”

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

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.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Wall Street’s Love of Tax Cuts Drives Dow to 25,000 Mark

Wall Street sure loves the tax bill, even if polls show most Americans don’t.

The Dow Jones industrial average surged past 25,000 Thursday, a strong signal of investor enthusiasm for President Donald Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut. The milestone comes less than a year after the Dow topped 20,000.

“We broke a very, very big barrier,” Trump said Thursday at the White House. “Every time you see that number go up on Wall Street it means jobs, it means success, it means 401(k)s that are flourishing.”

It’s easy to see why investors like the tax overhaul: Businesses will benefit from a steep cut in the corporate tax rate. They’ll also be able to fully deduct the cost of major purchases from their taxable income, reducing the amount they owe. And companies with large stockpiles of cash overseas can bring the money back to the United States at new, lower rates.

All told, Wall Street analysts estimate the tax package should boost earnings for companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index by roughly 8 percent this year. That’s much more generous than the average tax cut of 1.6 percent that middle-class families will receive, according to the Tax Policy Center.

“All else being equal, this should go straight to the bottom line,” said David Joy, chief market strategist for Ameriprise Financial, a financial services company based in Minneapolis. Improved corporate profits contributed to the market’s gains last year.

The public has been less enthusiastic about the tax law. A Monmouth University poll last month found that nearly half of Americans disapproved of it, with only 26 percent in support.

Where profits will go

Still, some workers have seen a benefit: So far, nearly 20 large companies have announced bonuses and higher minimum wages as a result of the tax cut. AT&T, Comcast, Bank of America, and American Airlines have all pledged to pay $1,000 bonuses to their employees.

Investors also appear less concerned than many politicians about how the additional profits will be used. The Trump administration says it expects companies will plow much of the extra profit back into their businesses, purchasing more software, machinery, and other equipment. Those investments will make workers more productive and provide a key boost to the economy’s long-run growth. They should also boost wages and salaries for employees.

Opponents of the tax law respond that companies are more likely to pass the windfall on to shareholders in the form of higher dividend payments and share buybacks, which raise the price of those shares still in investors’ hands. Previous cuts in corporate tax rates, in the U.S. and overseas, haven’t always led to higher wages.

For Wall Street, it’s all good, at least in the short run. Most analysts take the view that either way, companies and the economy will benefit. Whether businesses pass most of the extra money to workers or to shareholders, consumer spending should increase and lift economic growth.

Trump has repeatedly made highly optimistic claims about the impact of his tax cuts and other policies on the economy, speculating that they would lead to annual growth of 4 percent or higher.

Expectations

Last month, the Treasury Department estimated that the economy will expand at a 2.9 percent annual rate for the next decade.

Private economists, as well as the Federal Reserve, forecast a more modest impact. Most expect growth will be closer to 2.5 percent in 2018 and slower than that in subsequent years.

Some companies and sectors will likely benefit more than others, particularly if they derive most of their income from the United States. Analysts at Goldman Sachs estimate that large banks will see their earnings rise by 13 percent as a result of the corporate rate cut. Wells Fargo will likely see the biggest gain, at 18 percent.

Analysts at Stifel, an investment bank, project that some restaurant chains could see earnings boosts of 20 percent or more, including Chipotle, Wingstop and Domino’s Pizza.

Barclays, another bank, says that technology and pharmaceutical firms, which are already paying lower taxes because they have lots of cash overseas, will see much smaller increases of less than 4 percent.

The legislation’s corporate tax cut is not necessarily as dramatic as it seems, because most corporations don’t end up paying the full 35 percent rate. Barclays estimates that the “effective” tax rate — what companies actually pay — will drop from 26 percent to 20.1 percent.

Shareholders vs. investment

Joy and other analysts think that most of the money brought back from other countries will go to shareholders, rather than investment. That’s what happened in 2004, when companies were given a one-time low rate on repatriated cash as an inducement.

Opinions differ, however, when it comes to the additional profits that result from the tax cut. Many economists expect that most of those dollars will also be passed on to shareholders.

Glenn Hubbard, an economist at Columbia Business School and former top economist for President George W. Bush, says the corporate tax cut will eventually benefit workers through higher pay. That will also boost the economy and most businesses by lifting spending.

“Any way you slice it, it’s good for companies,” Hubbard said.

For much of last year, the stock market’s gains were helped by a synchronized global recovery, with economies from Europe to Asia to Latin America expanding simultaneously for the first time in a decade.

Since November, investors’ anticipation of a tax cut has pushed markets higher, said Keith Parker, an analyst at UBS.

Still, the market’s outsize return only benefits a narrow slice of the population. According to research by Edward Wolff, an economist at New York University, just 10 percent of the population owns 84 percent of the stock market’s value.

“That benefit won’t accrue to everybody, certainly,” Joy said.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

YouTube Star Logan Paul Steps Away From Posting After Outcry

YouTube star Logan Paul has stepped away from posting videos following an outcry when he uploaded images of what appeared to be the body of someone who killed themselves in a Japanese forest.

Paul took to Twitter on Wednesday to say he was suspending his video blog “for now” and “taking time to reflect.”

A petition on Change.org that demands his YouTube channel be deleted had been signed by more than 125,000 people by Thursday morning.

Paul created a furor when he posted a video of him in a forest near Mount Fuji showing what seemed to be a body hanging from a tree.

The video was viewed some 6 million times before being removed from Paul’s YouTube channel, a verified account with more than 15 million subscribers.

A storm of criticism followed despite two apologies, with commenters saying Paul seemed disrespectful and that his initial apology was inadequate.

In Paul’s initial apology, he said he had wanted to raise awareness about suicide and possibly save lives, and he denied his goal was to drive clicks to his social media content.

“I thought I could make a positive ripple on the internet, not cause a monsoon of negativity,” he said in his Twitter post.

“I don’t expect to be forgiven. I’m simply here to apologize,” he said on the more somber video apology uploaded on YouTube and Twitter late Tuesday. “None of us knew how to react or how to feel.”

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

New Year, New Start? Not in President Trump’s Washington

So much for a new year, new start.

For Donald Trump, that energy-sapping 2017 cocktail of blistering presidential tweets, salacious White House infighting and jaw-dropping feuds with foreign adversaries has given way to, well, more of the same.

“We are off and running,” said Josh Holmes, a longtime adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “It’s amazing that the pace that we set in 2017 has continued with equal vigor.”

Indeed, the first three days of 2018 – yes, just three days – brought a new array of targets for the president and the return of some familiar foes. As part of a 17-tweet barrage on Tuesday, Trump picked a fight with the “deep state” within his own government that he believes is trying to undermine his presidency, and he raised the specter of war with North Korea by asserting that his “Nuclear Button” was bigger than that of Pyongyang’s leader Kim Jong Un.

By Wednesday, Trump had turned on his former top adviser Steve Bannon, accusing him of having “lost his mind.” The scathing attack, issued with the formality of an official White House statement, followed the publication of excerpts from an unflattering book in which Bannon accuses the president’s namesake son of holding a “treasonous” meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign.

Across Washington, holiday cheer was suddenly a distant memory.

“I feel exhausted,” said Rick Tyler, a Republican strategist who advised Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in his campaign against Trump in the 2016 GOP presidential primary. “I feel like the year has got to be over by now.”

Trump rattled Washington in his first year in office by blowing past the guardrails that have traditionally governed what a president does and doesn’t say and by frequently picking fights that seem far less consequential than the weighty issues that land on a commander in chief’s desk. He needled friendly foreign leaders like Britain’s Theresa May, accused former President Barack Obama of wiretapping his New York skyscraper and spread rumors about media personalities he deemed overly critical.

To be sure, no one in Washington expected Trump to be a different man when he returned from Christmas vacation at his estate in Palm Beach, Florida. By now, Washington has largely come to grips with the reality of a president who often starts and ends his day with tweets on topics that are a mystery to even his closest aides until they pop up on their smartphones. And while some Trump advisers have grown beleaguered by the president’s seemingly insatiable appetite for a feud, few expect that to change or put much effort into trying to hold him back.

Yet there was still a hope, both in the White House and on Capitol Hill, that the president might return to Washington eager to build on the passage of a sweeping Republican overhaul of the tax code in the waning days of December. The bill passed with only Republican votes, and polling shows the complicated legislation is deeply unpopular with Americans, leaving the president and his party with a tall task if they hope to ride the tax overhaul to electoral victories in the midterm elections.

Trump has tweeted a handful of messages in 2018 about the tax bill. But he generated far more attention with his missives taking aim at the media and his unfounded claim of credit for the fact that no commercial airlines crashed in 2017.

Some Republicans cringed. Tyler said that in the early days of 2018, the White House had already “lost the communications war over what tax policy is designed to do.” And he put the blame squarely on Trump, saying the president “cannot be trusted with his own message.”

On Capitol Hill, where the Senate returned to work, most GOP lawmakers girded themselves for another year of what has become their familiar ritual: carefully critiquing Trump’s most sensational comments without criticizing the president himself. Asked about Trump’s North Korea button bluster, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said simply: “It’s probably better not to tweet about such things.”

Just 361 days to go until the calendar flips again.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Dow Breaks 25,000 Barrier for First Time

The Dow Jones Industrial Average broke through the 25,000-threshold for the first time Thursday, and notched another 1,000-point milestone. The index of blue-chip stocks is studded with industrial heavyweights such as Boeing and Caterpillar.

Among the biggest gainers were technology companies and banks. Wells Fargo jumped 1.9 percent and Microsoft rose 0.7 percent.

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday morning, “Dow just crashes through 25,000. Congrats! Big cuts in unnecessary regulations continuing.”

 

The Dow increased 118 points, or 0.5 percent, to 25,037. The Nasdaq edged up 16 points to 7,081.

This latest record came in early trading Thursday — only five weeks after closing above 24,000 points for the first time.

Other major indexes also rose to new levels, driven by a strong report on private jobs.

The recent rally has been spurred by faster economic gains around the world, along with a more optimistic outlook from businesses and consumers.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Trump to Push Immigration Plan in Meeting With Republican Senators

Immigration is the focus for President Donald Trump’s meeting with some Republican senators as he pushes his overhaul plan.

Trump wants to shift from a family-based immigration system to one based on merit, as part of any deal to extend legal status for young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program last year. He set a March deadline for Congress to act.

A White House spokesman, Hogan Gidley, says an updated approach to immigration should “serve the needs of American workers, families and taxpayers.”

The senators expected at Thursday’s meeting are John Cornyn of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, James Lankford of Oklahoma and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.

 

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

US, South Korea Delay Military Drills Until After Winter Olympics

The United States and South Korea have decided to delay joint military exercises until after the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics next month, according to officials from both countries.

South Korea’s Blue House (executive office) said the decision came during a phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and President Moon Jae-in earlier on Thursday.

A White House statement said both leaders “agreed to de-conflict the Olympics and our military exercises so that [the] United States and Republic of Korea forces can focus on ensuring the security of the games.”

Earlier on Thursday, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Robert Manning said, “The Department of Defense supports the president’s decision and what is in the best interest of the ROK (Republic of Korea) — U.S. Alliance.”

The annual joint military exercises known as Foal Eagle are usually held between February and April and are one of the world’s largest such drills.

The exercises combine ground, air, naval and special operations to increase readiness to defend South Korea and the region. North Korea routinely objects to the exercises.

During Thursday’s phone call, the White House said President Trump and President Moon “agreed to continue the campaign of maximum pressure against North Korea and to not repeat mistakes of the past.”

Earlier, Trump tweeted his “firm” and “strong” leadership was the impetus for a scheduled resumption of talks between North and South Korea.

On Wednesday, North and South Korea reopened a cross-border hotline that had been shut down since 2016 after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un offered to send a team to the Winter Olympic Games hosted by the South next month. After the reopening, South Korea confirmed that officials from both countries talked for 20 minutes, according to the Associated Press.

Seoul also responded to Kim’s overture by proposing high-level talks next Tuesday to discuss matters of mutual interest, including the North’s possible participation in the Winter Olympic Games the South is hosting in February.

North Korea has drawn increased scrutiny from the international community in recent months because of a number of missile launches and its sixth and most powerful nuclear test.

Pyongyang has dismissed new sanctions and tough talk from the Trump administration as it continues to develop its weapons program, which North Korea has said is being developed to defend against U.S. aggression.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!