Category Archives: News

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Snapchat Tops Facebook as Teens’ No. 1 Choice for Social Media

American teens have crowned a new king of social media. According to a recent poll, Snapchat is the most popular app for teens, toppling even Facebook for their neck-bending attention. Arash Arabasadi reports from Washington.

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At G-7, Social Media Firms Pushed to Do More to Fight Terror

Technology firms have improved cooperation with the authorities in tackling online militant material but must act quicker to remove propaganda fueling a rise in homegrown extremism, acting U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke said Wednesday.

The United States and Britain will push social media firms at a meeting of G7 interior ministers this week to do more on the issue, Duke told reporters in London where she had been meeting British Home Secretary Amber Rudd.

Duke said there has been a change in the attitude of tech companies since a rally organized by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August turned deadly when a counter-protester was killed by a car driven into a crowd.

“There has been a shift and for us somewhat with the Charlottesville incident,” she said. “There are a lot of social pressures and they want do business so they really have to balance between keeping their user agreements and giving law enforcement what they need.

“The fact they are meeting with us at G7 is a positive sign. I think they’re seeing the evidence of it being real and not just hyperbole.”

Series of attacks

After a series of Islamist militant attacks this year, British Prime Minister Theresa May and her ministers such as Rudd have been demanding action from tech leaders such as Facebook, Google and Twitter to do more about extremist material on their sites.

British politicians have also called for access to encrypted messaging services like Facebook’s WhatsApp, a campaign that U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein gave his backing to after meeting Rudd and the head of the UK domestic spy agency MI5 last week.

Internet companies say they want to help governments remove extremist or criminal material but say they have to balance the demands of state security with civil liberties.

“We would like to have the ability to get encrypted data with the right legal processes,” Duke said.

Propaganda’s role

Asked what action governments might take if social media firms failed to act to improve their removal of extremist material, she said: “We will continue to push as far as we can go. I think that we have the cooperation of those companies and we just need to work on that.”

Authorities say propaganda from Islamic State has played a major part in radicalizing people in the West but despite its defeat in its capital Raqqa in Syria, Duke said the group’s online presence was likely to increase.

“I would surmise being able to put terrorist propaganda on the internet might become more imperative,” said Duke, who described the terrorist threat to the United States as being as high as it had been since pre-9/11.

She also warned that those who turned to violence by being radicalized by such material posed a bigger problem than the comparatively small number of fighters who had joined the militant group returning to United States.

“The number of foreign fighters we have returning is declining,” she said. “The number of home-grown violent extremists, most of them inspired by terrorist organizations, is increasing.”

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Senator Mccain Says Subpoena May Be Required to Get Answers on Niger Ambush

Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on Thursday that he may consider issuing a subpoena because the White House has not been forthcoming with details of an ambush in Niger in which four U.S. soldiers were killed.

The attack earlier this month, which U.S. officials suspect was carried out by a local Islamic State affiliate, has thrown a spotlight on the U.S. counter terrorism mission in the West African country, which has about 800 U.S. troops.

The U.S. military is investigating the incident to find out what went wrong and what, if any, changes need to be made.

“It may require a subpoena,” McCain said when asked what steps his committee might need to take to determine what happened to the four troops.

Asked what information the committee still needed, McCain said “everything.” When questioned if the White House had been forthcoming with the information needed by the committee, he added, “of course not”

He said he had a good conversation with President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, and hoped the White House would eventually provide the information needed by the committee.

From initial accounts, the 40-member patrol, which included a dozen U.S. troops, came under swift attack by militants riding in a dozen vehicles and on about 20 motorcycles.

The mission had been seen as a relatively lower-risk endeavor for America’s elite commandos and there was no armed air cover at the time that could carry out airstrikes if necessary.

Under heavy fire, U.S. troops called in French fighter jets for air support, but the firefight was at such close quarters that the planes could not engage and were instead left circling overhead.

U.S. officials have said French aircraft were overhead within 30 minutes.

The U.S. military’s Africa Command said the soldiers were in the area to establish relations with local leaders and deemed it unlikely that they would meet resistance.

A diplomat with knowledge of the incident said French officials were frustrated by the U.S. troops’ actions, because they had acted on only limited intelligence and without contingency plans in place.

U.S. forces do not have a direct combat mission in Niger, and instead provide assistance to its army that includes intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in their efforts to target violent extremist organizations.

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Trump Nearly Certain Senate Republicans Have Enough Votes to Pass Budget Bill

U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday he is nearly certain Senate Republican leaders have secured enough support to pass a budget bill that would help them approve tax legislation.

“Republicans are going for the big Budget approval today, first step toward massive tax cuts. I think we have the votes, but who knows?,” Trump tweeted.

Later Thursday, Trump told reporters at the White House, “I think we have the votes for the budget, which will be phase one of our massive tax cuts and reform.”

The Senate is scheduled to vote Thursday on a resolution to establish a federal budget framework for fiscal year 2018. The measure contains a legislative tool that would enable the 100-seat Senate, which Republicans control by a 52 to 48 margin, to approve a tax bill with a simple majority vote instead of the generally required 60 votes.

Unless there are Republican defections, the measure could be approved without Democratic support.

After failing to pass a Trump-supported effort to dismantle the nation’s health care law, commonly known as Obamacare, Senate Republicans are under pressure to approve the tax cut bill that is under consideration. The tax bill would clear the path for tax legislation that could add up to $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade to pay for tax cuts.

The Senate and the House of Representatives must agree on a budget resolution for the next fiscal year in order for Republicans reach their goal of enacting a tax bill that would be submitted to Trump for his signature by the end of this year.

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Twitter, Facebook Lawyers to Testify Before Congress on Russia Election Meddling

Lawyers for the social media companies Twitter and Facebook will testify next month at hearings before congressional committees investigating what, if any, effect Russian trolls may have had on the 2016 election.

Google also will send a representative to the hearings, though it has not yet said who would represent the company. Facebook and Twitter will send their general counsels, Colin Stretch and Sean Edgett, respectively.

The lawyers will testify before the Senate and House intelligence committees — two of the congressional panels searching for evidence that Russia sought to interfere in the U.S. election or potentially colluded with the Donald Trump campaign.

Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion with the Russians, and to date, no evidence has emerged to suggest there was collusion. U.S. officials also have said Russia’s alleged meddling didn’t go so far as to change any votes in the election.

Facebook revealed last month that a group with alleged ties to the Russian government ran $100,000 worth of ads on the platform promoting “divisive” causes like Black Lives Matter. U.S. media reports also indicate Russians purchased similar ads on Google.

Facebook has turned the alleged Russian ads over to Congress, and last week, the company’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said she “absolutely” supports the public release of the advertisements.

In releasing the ads to Congress, Sandberg said, “It’s important that [the investigators] get the whole picture and explain that to the American people.”

In response to the Russian ad buys, Sandberg said Facebook is hiring 4,000 new employees to oversee ads and content. She said the company also is using “machine learning and automation” to target fake accounts that spread fake news.

In addition, Twitter has taken action against suspected Russian troll accounts, suspending 22 accounts that corresponded with fake accounts used on Facebook.

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Iridium to Rely on Used SpaceX Boosters for Next 2 Launches

Iridium Communications says its next two launches of new-generation satellites will use refurbished SpaceX Falcon 9 first-stage boosters that have flown previously.

The announcement Thursday is another step in SpaceX’s effort to reduce launch costs.

 

The company has launched a few used boosters and is trying to expand acceptance of reusability across the industry.

Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX has had successful landings of Falcon 9 first stages after launches from both coasts.

Iridium is in the midst of seven launches to replace its satellite fleet that provides global mobile voice and data communications.

The McLean, Virginia, company says insurers confirmed there is no increase in premiums for “flight-proven” rocket use.

Thirty new satellites are in orbit and the fourth launch is scheduled for Dec. 22 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

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Workers at iPhone Supplier in China Protest Unpaid Bonuses

Hundreds of workers streamed through dark streets, blocking an entrance to an Apple iPhone supplier’s factory in eastern China to protest unpaid bonuses and factory reassignments, two witnesses and China Labor Watch, a New York based non-profit group, said Thursday.

The protest Wednesday night at Jabil Inc.’s Green Point factory in Wuxi city prompted Apple to launch an investigation and vow to redress the payment discrepancies. “We are requiring Jabil to send a comprehensive employee survey to ascertain where gaps exist in payment and they must create an action plan that ensures all employees are paid for the promised bonus immediately,” Apple said Thursday in an email to China Labor Watch.

The incident highlights the complexity of overseeing global supply chains that can involve hundreds of manufacturers and subcontractors, as well as third-party labor brokers — and their subcontractors — that are tasked with recruiting workers for those factories. Companies differ in the amount of responsibility they are willing to take on. Apple stepped up oversight and disclosure following a spate of negative reports about worker suicides and injuries at suppliers.

After Tim Cook took over as chief executive, in 2011, Apple began publicly identifying top suppliers. It also publishes annual audits detailing labor and human rights performance throughout its global web of suppliers. Apple said it did comprehensive audits of 705 sites last year and documented significant improvements in compliance with its supplier code of conduct.

“About 600 workers went protesting for failing to get their bonus,” a worker who asked that only his family name, Zhang, be published for fear of retribution, said Thursday. He said that like many of his colleagues, he was promised a bonus of up to 7,000 yuan ($1,056) if he stayed for 45 days when he signed up for the job through a labor broker. “It has already been over three months but I still haven’t got the money,” he said.

Tu Changli, a security guard at Jabil’s Green Point factory, said a labor broker promised him 2,000 yuan ($302) if he stayed for two months. “I didn’t get it at all,” he said. He also said he saw hundreds of workers protesting. The company he said he works for, Wu Tai Security Co., declined comment.

A spokeswoman for U.S.-based Jabil, Lydia Huang, disputed those accounts, saying only 20 to 40 employees were actually protesting and the rest were night-shift workers trying to enter the factory. “As long as they can present evidence of promises by brokers we will help them to get paid,” she said.

Jabil, in a statement late Thursday, said it was “committed to ensuring every employee is paid fairly and on time.”

Tensions had been running high at Jabil’s Green Point factory. Tu, the security guard, said he saw a worker talked down from the edge of a rooftop in late September. And Zhang said that on Sept. 30, he saw a security guard hit a worker with a wooden stick so hard the stick broke.

Apple in its email to China Labor Watch said both incidents had to do with disputes with security guards, not underpayment, and added that it was working with Jabil “to make sure their security guards are properly trained to avoid and de-escalate situations.”

The current iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 plus had a 2 percent share of the iOS device market nearly a month after their launch, significantly lagging the 5 percent share grabbed by the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 plus at a similar point last year, according to Localytics, a mobile engagement platform that analyzes iPhone adoption rates. Analysts attribute iPhone 8 sluggishness to the pending release of the iPhone X.

 

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Missouri Proposes Innovation Corridor for Amazon’s 2nd Home

Missouri officials were submitting a bid Thursday for Amazon’s second headquarters that would involve an innovation corridor between Kansas City and St. Louis rather than a single location in one of the state’s major metropolitan areas.

 

That’s proposal is in addition to individual applications submitted by Kansas City and St. Louis, two of a number of North American metropolitan areas vying to become the company’s second home. Amazon in September opened the search for a second headquarters and promised to spend more than $5 billion on the site. The Seattle-based company says it would bring up to 50,000 jobs.

 

Missouri Chief Operating Officer Drew Erdmann said the state’s bid could be aided if it succeeds in landing a high-speed Hyperloop track connecting the cities.

 

 

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US Unemployment Claims Fall to 222,000, Lowest in 44 Years

The number of Americans collecting unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level since Richard Nixon was president.

THE NUMBERS: The Labor Department said Thursday that claims for jobless aid dropped by 22,000 to 222,000, fewest since March 1973. The less volatile four-week average slid by 9,500 to 248,250, lowest since late August.

 

The overall number of Americans collecting unemployment checks dropped to 1.89 million, lowest since December 1973 and down nearly 9 percent from a year ago.

 

THE TAKEAWAY: Unemployment claims are a proxy for layoffs. The low level suggests that employers are confident enough in the economy to hold onto workers.

 

The unemployment rate last month hit a 16-year low 4.2 percent. Employers cut 33,000 jobs in September — the first monthly drop in nearly seven years — but only because Hurricanes Harvey and Irma rattled the economies of Texas and Florida; hiring is expected to bounce back.

 

KEY DRIVERS: The economic impact of Harvey and Irma is fading; claims dropped in Texas and Florida as more people returned to work. But the Labor Department said that Hurricanes Irma and Maria have disrupted the ability of people to file claims in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

 

 

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