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EU

Kaspersky Halts Europol Partnership After Controversial EU Parliament Vote (bleepingcomputer.com) 104

An anonymous reader writes: Kaspersky Lab announced it was temporarily halting its cooperation with Europol following the voting of a controversial motion in the European Parliament. The Russian antivirus vendor will also stop working on the NoMoreRansom project that provided free ransomware decrypters for ransomware victims.

The company's decision comes after the EU Parliament voted a controversial motion that specifically mentions Kaspersky as a "confirmed as malicious" software and urges EU states to ban it as part of a joint EU cyber defense strategy. The EU did not present any evidence for its assessment that Kaspersky is malicious, but even answered user questions claiming it has no evidence. The motion is just a EU policy and has no legislative power, put it is still an official document. Kaspersky software has been previously banned from Government systems in the US, UK, Netherlands, and Lithuania.

Privacy

Comey, Who Investigated Hillary Clinton For Using Personal Email For Official Business, Used His Personal Email For Official Business (buzzfeed.com) 438

An anonymous reader shares a report: Former FBI Director James Comey, who led the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of personal email while secretary of state, also used his personal email to conduct official business, according to a report from the Justice Department on Thursday. The report also found that while Comey was "insubordinate" in his handling of the email investigation, political bias did not play a role in the FBI's decision to clear Clinton of any criminal wrongdoing.

The report from the office of the inspector general "identified numerous instances in which Comey used a personal email account (a Gmail account) to conduct FBI business." In three of the five examples, investigators said Comey sent drafts he had written from his FBI email to his personal account. In one instance, he sent a "proposed post-election message for all FBI employees that was entitled 'Midyear thoughts,'" the report states. In another instance, Comey again "sent multiple drafts of a proposed year-end message to FBI employees" from his FBI account to his personal email account.

United States

US Sanctions Russians Over Military, Intelligence Hacking (reuters.com) 159

The U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on three Russian individuals and five companies on Monday, saying they had worked with Moscow's military and intelligence services on ways to conduct cyber attacks against the United States and its allies. From a report: "The United States is engaged in an ongoing effort to counter malicious actors working at the behest of the Russian Federation and its military and intelligence units to increase Russiaâ(TM)s offensive cyber capabilities," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. "The entities designated today have directly contributed to improving Russia's cyber and underwater capabilities through their work with the FSB and therefore jeopardize the safety and security of the United States and our allies," Mnuchin said, using an acronym for Russia's Federal Security Service.
Government

In the Trump Administration, Science Is Unwelcome. So Is Advice. (nytimes.com) 708

Anonymous readers share a report: As President Trump prepares to meet Kim Jong-un of North Korea to negotiate denuclearization, a challenge that has bedeviled the world for years, he is doing so without the help of a White House science adviser or senior counselor trained in nuclear physics. Mr. Trump is the first president since 1941 not to name a science adviser, a position created during World War II to guide the Oval Office on technical matters ranging from nuclear warfare to global pandemics. As a businessman and president, Mr. Trump has proudly been guided by his instincts. Nevertheless, people who have participated in past nuclear negotiations say the absence of such high-level expertise could put him at a tactical disadvantage in one of the weightiest diplomatic matters of his presidency.

"You need to have an empowered senior science adviser at the table," said R. Nicholas Burns, who led negotiations with India over a civilian nuclear deal during the George W. Bush administration. "You can be sure the other side will have that." The lack of traditional scientific advisory leadership in the White House is one example of a significant change in the Trump administration: the marginalization of science in shaping United States policy. There is no chief scientist at the State Department, where science is central to foreign policy matters such as cybersecurity and global warming. Nor is there a chief scientist at the Department of Agriculture: Mr. Trump last year nominated Sam Clovis, a former talk-show host with no scientific background, to the position, but he withdrew his name and no new nomination has been made.

Politics

In a Blow To E-Voting Critics, Brazil Suspends Use of All Paper Ballots (arstechnica.com) 120

An anonymous reader shares a report: In a blow to electronic-voting critics, Brazil's Supreme Court has suspended the use of all paper ballots in this year's elections. The ruling means that only electronic ballot boxes will be used, and there will be no voter-verified paper trail that officials can use to check the accuracy of results. In an 8-2 majority, justices on Wednesday sided with government arguments that the paper trails posed a risk to ballot secrecy, Brazil's Folha De S.Paulo newspaper reported on Thursday. In so doing, the justices suspended a requirement that 5 percent of Brazil's ballot boxes this year use paper. That requirement, by Brazil's Supreme Electoral Court, already represented a major weakening of an election reform bill passed in 2015. Speaking in support of Wednesday's decision, Justice Gilmar Mendes equated proponents of voter-verified paper trails to conspiracy theorists. "After the statements made here [by those who defend paper votes], we have to believe that perhaps we did not actually reach the moon," Mendes was quoted as saying. "There are beliefs and even a religion around this theme."
China

Trump Strikes Deal With China's ZTE on Sanctions (usatoday.com) 145

The Trump administration struck a deal Thursday with a Chinese telecom that will allow it to do business with U.S. companies even though it violated sanctions. From a report: China's ZTE will pay a $1 billion penalty and will embed a U.S. appointed compliance team, terms that are similar to those President Trump discussed last month when he revealed that Chinese leaders had asked him to look into the matter. "At about 6 a.m. this morning, we executed a definitive agreement with ZTE," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC in an interview Thursday. "And that brings to a conclusion this phase of the development with them." Trump asked the Commerce Department to investigate the restrictions on ZTE in April following a request from Chinese President Xi Jinping. Commerce imposed a seven-year ban after the company sold American-made products to Iran, a violation of U.S. sanctions.
Advertising

Washington Sues Facebook, Google For Failure To Disclose Political Ad Spending (techcrunch.com) 97

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Facebook and Google were paid millions for political advertising purposes in Washington but failed for years to publish related information -- such as the advertiser's address -- as required by state law, alleges a lawsuit by the state's attorney general. Washington law requires that "political campaign and lobbying contributions and expenditures be fully disclosed to the public and that secrecy is to be avoided." Specifically, "documents and books of account" must be made available for public inspection during the campaign and for three years following; these must detail the candidate, name of advertiser, address, cost and method of payment, and description services rendered. Bob Ferguson, Washington's attorney general, filed a lawsuit yesterday alleging that both Facebook and Google "failed to obtain and maintain" this information.
United States

5 Years on, US Government Still Counting Snowden Leak Costs (apnews.com) 172

National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden blew the lid off U.S. government surveillance methods five years ago, but intelligence chiefs complain that revelations from the trove of classified documents he disclosed are still trickling out. From a report: That includes recent reporting on a mass surveillance program run by close U.S. ally Japan and on how the NSA targeted bitcoin users to gather intelligence to combat narcotics and money laundering. The Intercept, an investigative publication with access to Snowden documents, published stories on both subjects. The top U.S. counterintelligence official said journalists have released only about 1 percent taken by the 34-year-old American, now living in exile in Russia, "so we don't see this issue ending anytime soon." "This past year, we had more international, Snowden-related documents and breaches than ever," Bill Evanina, who directs the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said at a recent conference. "Since 2013, when Snowden left, there have been thousands of articles around the world with really sensitive stuff that's been leaked."
Power

Trump Orders a Lifeline For Struggling Coal and Nuclear Plants (nytimes.com) 286

According to The New York Times, President Trump has ordered Energy Secretary Rick Perry to "prepare immediate steps" to stop the closure of unprofitable coal and nuclear plants around the country. From the report: Under one proposal outlined in the memo, which was reported by Bloomberg, the Department of Energy would order grid operators to buy electricity from struggling coal and nuclear plants for two years, using emergency authority that is normally reserved for exceptional crises like natural disasters. That idea triggered immediate blowback from a broad alliance of energy companies, consumer groups and environmentalists. On Friday, oil and gas companies joined with wind and solar organizations in a joint statement condemning the plan, saying that it was "legally indefensible" and would force consumers to pay more for electricity.

The administration has also discussed invoking the Defense Production Act of 1950, which allows the federal government to intervene in private industry in the name of national security. (Harry S. Truman used the law to impose price controls on the steel industry during the Korean War.) If the Trump administration were to invoke these two statutes, the move would almost certainly be challenged in federal court by natural gas and renewable energy companies, which could stand to lose market share.
Such an intervention could cost consumers between $311 million to $11.8 billion pear year, according to a preliminary estimate (PDF) by Robbie Orvis, director of energy policy design at Energy Innovation.
Google

Google Plans Not To Renew its Contract for Project Maven, a Controversial Drone AI Imaging Program (gizmodo.com) 59

Kate Konger, reporting for Gizmodo: Google will not seek another contract for its controversial work providing artificial intelligence to the U.S. Department of Defense for analyzing drone footage after its current contract expires. Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene announced the decision at a meeting with employees Friday morning, three sources told Gizmodo. The current contract expires in 2019 and there will not be a follow-up contract, Greene said. The meeting, dubbed Weather Report, is a weekly update on Google Cloud's business. Google would not choose to pursue Maven today because the backlash has been terrible for the company, Greene said, adding that the decision was made at a time when Google was more aggressively pursuing military work. The company plans to unveil new ethical principles about its use of AI next week.
Government

Signs of Sophisticated Cellphone Spying Found Near White House, US Officials Say (washingtonpost.com) 85

A federal study found signs that surveillance devices for intercepting cellphone calls and texts were operating near the White House and other sensitive locations in the Washington area last year. From a report: A Department of Homeland Security program discovered evidence of the surveillance devices, called IMSI catchers, as part of federal testing last year, according to a letter from DHS to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on May 22. The letter didn't specify what entity operated the devices and left open the possibility that there could be alternative explanations for the suspicious cellular signals collected by the federal testing program last year. The discovery bolsters years of independent research suggesting that foreign intelligence agencies use sophisticated interception technology to spy on officials working within the hub of federal power in the nation's capital. Experts in surveillance technology say that IMSI catchers -- sometimes known by one popular brand name, StingRay -- are a standard part of the tool kit for many foreign intelligence services, including for such geopolitical rivals as Russia and China.
China

Alibaba Co-founder Says Many Americans 'Want To Stop China' From Upgrading Its Tech (cnbc.com) 213

With the threat of Trump's ever-looming trade war with China and his administration's sanctions on Chinese companies like ZTE, it's hard to remember a more contentious period between the two countries in recent times. Adding fuel to the conversation, an Alibaba co-founder alleged that many Americans want to stop China from upgrading its technology and from becoming more innovative. From a report: Chinese media outlets have repeatedly asserted that American complaints about the tech sector are really just efforts to slow the country's rise as a global power. "There's nothing wrong with a country wanting to upgrade its own manufacturing sector, go higher tech, be more innovative," Tsai said. "But then, from the Chinese perspective, what we're seeing is there are a lot of people in America that want to stop China from doing that." After three decades of producing low-end manufacturing goods, Tsai said, China recognizes the need to develop better technology, upgrade its manufacturing sector and focus more on value-added areas like robotics, aeronautics and high-tech medical equipment.
Government

Kaspersky Suits Tossed, Fed Bans Will Continue (axios.com) 82

A Washington D.C. court has dismissed Kaspersky Lab's lawsuits against the U.S. government over two different rules banning Kaspersky products from federal systems. From a report: Both a federal law passed as part of last years National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA,) and a binding operational directive (BOD) issued by the Department of Homeland Security, prohibit federal agencies from using Kaspersky products. Both portrayed Kaspersky, a Moscow based company, as a national security risk. Kaspersky sued to prevent the two rules from coming into place, claiming the NDAA was a form of unlawful punishment against a specific company known as a bill of attainder. The judge reasoned that "The NDAA does not inflict 'punishment' on Kaspersky Lab. It eliminates a perceived risk to the Nation's cybersecurity and, in so doing, has the secondary effect of foreclosing one small source of revenue for a large multinational corporation." Because the NDAA ruling remains in effect, the judge ruled the BOD case was more or less a moot point. Further reading: Who's Afraid of Kaspersky?, and US Government Can't Get Controversial Kaspersky Lab Software Off Its Networks.
Australia

Electronic Voting To Enter Australian House of Representatives 42

The federal government has announced electronic voting will be introduced into the Parliament of Australia, with Leader of the House of Representatives Christopher Pyne confirming it will be implemented in the lower house next year. From a report: "The implementation of electronic voting will reduce significantly the time required for each vote in the chamber," Pyne said. "Voting outcomes will be transparent, accurate, and known immediately, freeing up more time for important parliamentary business to be conducted each day the house sits. Electronic voting will also provide an electronic solution for recording division voting and improve online accessibility to division process and results," he added. While the details are scarce at this stage, Pyne said the Department of Parliamentary Services will shortly call for tenders for the project, also giving "innovative" businesses and individuals an opportunity to contribute.
China

White House Announces Tech Tariffs, Investment Restrictions on China (axios.com) 248

The White House announced this morning a plan to levy a 25% tariff on $50 billion worth of Chinese tech goods -- with the exact list to be announced next month -- as well as tech investment limits for Chinese nationals and entities. From a report: It also plans to pursue litigation at the World Trade Organization relating to Chinese intellectual property abuses. The big picture: It's a show of force that has surprised some sources close to the White House who believed Trump would defer any aggression towards China until after the North Korea summit. A source close to the White House who has a keen understanding of the internal dynamics on China told me that this is an "initial move in a long negotiation that shows the Chinese Trump is very serious -- and a move to balance the criticism that he was soft on ZTE."
United States

Ask Slashdot: Did Baby Boomers Break America? (time.com) 609

"Automation taking jobs is only one symptom of a larger problem," argues an anonymous Slashdot reader, sharing a link to this excerpt from Steven Brill's new book Tailspin, which seeks to identify "the people and forces behind America's fifty-year fall -- and those fighting to reverse it." The excerpt has this intriguing title: "How Baby Boomers Broke America." As my generation of achievers graduated from elite universities and moved into the professional world, their personal successes often had serious societal consequences. They upended corporate America and Wall Street with inventions in law and finance that created an economy built on deals that moved assets around instead of building new ones. They created exotic, and risky, financial instruments, including derivatives and credit default swaps, that produced sugar highs of immediate profits but separated those taking the risk from those who would bear the consequences. They organized hedge funds that turned owning stock into a minute-by-minute bet rather than a long-term investment... Regulatory agencies were overwhelmed by battalions of lawyers who brilliantly weaponized the bedrock American value of due process so that, for example, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule protecting workers from a deadly chemical could be challenged and delayed for more than a decade and end up being hundreds of pages long. Lawyers then contested the meaning of every clause while racking up fees of hundreds of dollars per hour from clients who were saving millions of dollars on every clause they could water down...

As government was disabled from delivering on vital issues, the protected were able to protect themselves still more. For them, it was all about building their own moats. Their money, their power, their lobbyists, their lawyers, their drive overwhelmed the institutions that were supposed to hold them accountable -- government agencies, Congress, the courts... That, rather than a split between Democrats and Republicans, is the real polarization that has broken America since the 1960s. It's the protected vs. the unprotected, the common good vs. maximizing and protecting the elite winners' winnings... [I]n a way unprecedented in history, they were able to consolidate their winnings, outsmart and co-opt the forces that might have reined them in, and pull up the ladder so more could not share in their success or challenge their primacy.

Brill argues that the unprotected need things like "a realistic shot at justice in the courts," writing that instead "the First Amendment became a tool for the wealthy to put a thumb on the scales of democracy." And he shares these statistics about the rest of America today:
  • For adults in their 30s, the chance of earning more than their parents dropped to 50% from 90% just two generations earlier.
  • In 2017, household debt had grown higher than the peak reached in 2008 before the crash, with student and automobile loans staking growing claims on family paychecks.
  • Although the U.S. remains the world's richest country, it has the third-highest poverty rate among the 35 nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development...

Has he identified the source of a societal malaise? Leave your own thoughts in the comments.

And is Brill's thesis correct? Did baby boomers break America?


Businesses

US Reaches Deal To Keep Chinese Telecom ZTE in Business (reuters.com) 104

The Trump administration told lawmakers the U.S. government has reached a deal to put Chinese telecommunications company ZTE Corp back in business, a senior congressional aide said on Friday. From a report: The deal, communicated to officials on Capitol Hill by the Commerce Department, requires ZTE to pay a substantial fine, place U.S. compliance officers at the company and change its management team, the aide said. The Commerce Department would then lift an order preventing ZTE from buying U.S. products.

ZTE was banned in April from buying U.S. technology components for seven years for breaking an agreement reached after it violated U.S. sanctions against Iran and North Korea. The Commerce Department decision would allow it to resume business with U.S. companies, including chipmaker Qualcomm Inc.

Government

Trump Cancels Singapore Summit With North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un (cnbc.com) 504

President Donald Trump has cancelled his much anticipated meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that was scheduled to take place in Singapore on June 12, he announced moments ago. In a letter to Kim, the president said; "I was very much looking forward to being there with you. Sadly, based on the tremendous anger an open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time to have this long-planned meeting. Therefore, please let this letter to serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place." He added, "You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used."
Microsoft

Bill Gates Shares His Memories of Donald Trump (cnn.com) 490

MSNBC recently published a video of Bill Gates telling his staff at the Gates Foundation that he had two meetings with Donald Trump since the president was elected. In the video, Gates says Trump doesn't know the difference between two sexually transmitted diseases -- human papillomavirus (HPV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) -- and that it was "scary" how much Trump knew about Gates' daughter's appearance. Gates also said he urged Trump to support innovation and technology during those meetings. CNN reports: Taking audience questions about his interactions with Trump at a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation meeting, the former Microsoft honcho said he first met Trump in December 2016. He told the audience that Trump had previously come across his daughter, Jennifer, at a horse show in Florida. "And then about 20 minutes later he flew in on a helicopter to the same place," Gates said, according to video of the event broadcast by MSNBC late Thursday. "So clearly he had been driven away but he wanted to make a grand entrance in a helicopter. "Anyway, so when I first talked to him, it was actually kind of scary how much he knew about my daughter's appearance. Melinda (Gates' wife) didn't like that too well."

Gates also said he discussed science with Trump on two separate occasions, where he says the President questioned him on the difference between HIV and HPV. "In both of those two meetings, he asked me if vaccines weren't a bad thing because he was considering a commission to look into ill-effects of vaccines and somebody -- I think it was Robert Kennedy Jr. -- was advising him that vaccines were causing bad things. And I said no, that's a dead end, that would be a bad thing, don't do that. "Both times he wanted to know if there was a difference between HIV and HPV so I was able to explain that those are rarely confused with each other," Gates said.

Businesses

Trump Personally Pushed Postmaster General To Double Rates on Amazon, Other Firms: Report (washingtonpost.com) 352

President Trump personally urged the leader of the U.S. Postal Service to double the rates the agency charges Amazon and other firms for delivery packages in several private conversations in 2017 and 2018, The Washington Post reported Friday (alternative source). From the report: Postmaster General Megan Brennan has so far resisted Trump's demand, explaining in multiple conversations occurring this year and last that these arrangements are bound by contracts and must be reviewed by a regulatory commission, the three people said. She has told the president that the Amazon relationship is beneficial for the Postal Service and gave him a set of slides that showed the variety of companies, in addition to Amazon, that also partner for deliveries.

Despite these presentations, Trump has continued to level criticism at Amazon. And last month, his critiques culminated in the signing of an executive order mandating a government review of the financially strapped Postal Service that could lead to major changes in the way it charges Amazon and others for package delivery. Few U.S. companies have drawn Trump's ire as much as Amazon, which has rapidly grown to be the second-largest U.S. company in terms of market capitalization. For more than three years, Trump has fumed publicly and privately about the giant commerce and services company and its founder Jeffrey P. Bezos, who is also the owner of The Washington Post.

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