Power

White House Reportedly Exploring Wartime Rule To Help Coal, Nuclear (arstechnica.com) 262

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: According to reports from Bloomberg and E&E News, the Trump Administration has been exploring another way to help coal and nuclear generators: the Defense Production Act of 1950. The Act was passed under President Truman. Motivated by the Korean War, it allows the president broad authority to boost U.S. industries that are considered a priority for national security. On Thursday, E&E News cited sources that said "an interagency process is underway" at the White House to examine possible application of the act to the energy industry. The goal would be to give some form of preference to coal and nuclear plants that are struggling to compete with cheap natural gas.

If the DOE decides not to invoke Section 202(c), the president may turn to the Defense Production Act. According to a 2014 summary report (PDF) from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the act would allow the president to "demand priority for defense-related products," "provide incentives to develop, modernize, and expand defense productive capacity," and establish "a voluntary reserve of trained private sector executives available for emergency federal employment," among other powers. (Some even more permissive applications of the Act were terminated in 1957.) Using the Act to protect coal and nuclear facilities would almost certainly be more controversial, as the link between national defense and keeping uneconomic coal generators running is not well-established.
The Administration could apply the Act to "provide or guarantee loans to industry" for material-specific deliveries and production. "The president may also authorize the purchase of 'industrial items or technologies for installation in government or private industrial facilities,'" reports Ars.
Canada

Engineers Are Leaving America For Canada (bloomberg.com) 320

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via Bloomberg: The H-1B was created in 1990, part of an immigration overhaul signed into law by President George H.W. Bush that also created the EB-5 investor visa -- the subject of a fracas involving Kushner Cos. seeking Chinese investment -- and the diversity lottery, which Trump has attacked. Today, an estimated half a million H-1B holders live in the U.S. No one tracks exactly how many ditch their skilled visas for the permanent residency Canada offers, but during the first year of Trump's presidency, the number of tech professionals globally who got permanent residency in Canada ticked up almost 40 percent from 2016, to more than 11,000.

In 1967, Canada became the first country to adopt a points-based immigration system. The country regularly tweaks how it rates applicants based on national goals and research into what makes for successful integration: A job offer used to come with 600 points, but now it's worth just 200. Other factors like speaking fluent English or French -- or, even better, both -- have been given more weight over the years. Country of origin is irrelevant. In 2016, Canada increased national immigration levels to 300,000 new permanent residents annually. Last year, in consultation with trade groups, it created a program called the Global Skills Strategy to issue temporary work permits to people with job offers in certain categories, including senior software engineers, in as little as two weeks. Since the program started in June, more than 5,600 people have been granted permits, from the U.S., India, Pakistan, Brazil, and elsewhere.

United States

Democratic Party Files Suit Alleging Russia, the Trump Campaign, and WikiLeaks Conspired To Disrupt the 2016 Election (cnbc.com) 667

The Democratic Party is suing Russia, the Trump campaign and the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks for conspiring to disrupt the 2016 presidential election. From a report: The multi-million-dollar lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court says that "In the Trump campaign, Russia found a willing and active partner in this effort" to mount "a brazen attack on American Democracy," which included Russian infiltration of the Democratic Party computer network. The Trump campaign, according to the lawsuit, "gleefully welcomed Russia's help." The suit says that "preexisting relationships with Russia and Russian oligarchs" with Trump and Trump associates "provided fertile ground for [the] Russia-Trump conspiracy." The common purpose of the scheme, according to the Democratic National Committee, was to "bolster Trump and denigrate the Democratic Party nominee," Hillary Clinton, while boosting the candidacy of Trump, "whose policies would benefit the Kremlin." Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said the party's suit "is not partisan, it's patriotic."
Communications

Iran Bans State Bodies From Using Telegram App, Khamenei Shuts Account (reuters.com) 38

Iran banned government bodies on Wednesday from using the popular Telegram instant messaging app as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's office said his account would shut down to protect national security, Iranian media reported. From a report: ISNA news agency did not give a reason for the government ban on the service which lets people send encrypted messages and has an estimated 40 million users in the Islamic Republic. The order came days after Russia -- Iran's ally in the Syrian war -- started blocking the app in its territory following the company's repeated refusal to give Russian state security services access to users' secret messages. Iran's government banned "all state bodies from using the foreign messaging app," according to ISNA.
Communications

France is Building Its Own Encrypted Messaging Service To Ease Fears That Foreign Entities Could Spy on Private Conversations (reuters.com) 87

The French government is building its own encrypted messenger service to ease fears that foreign entities could spy on private conversations between top officials, the digital ministry said on Monday. From a report: None of the world's major encrypted messaging apps, including Facebook's WhatsApp and Telegram -- a favorite of President Emmanuel Macron -- are based in France, raising the risk of data breaches at servers outside the country.

About 20 officials and top civil servants are testing the new app which a state-employed developer has designed, a ministry spokeswoman said, with the aim that its use will become mandatory for the whole government by the summer. "We need to find a way to have an encrypted messaging service that is not encrypted by the United States or Russia," the spokeswoman said. "You start thinking about the potential breaches that could happen, as we saw with Facebook, so we should take the lead."

United Kingdom

State-Sponsored Russian Hackers Actively Seeking To Hijack Essential Internet Hardware, US and UK Intelligence Agencies Say (bbc.com) 170

State-sponsored Russian hackers are actively seeking to hijack essential internet hardware, US and UK intelligence agencies say. BBC reports: The UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the FBI and the US Department of Homeland Security issued a joint alert warning of a global campaign. The alert details methods used to take over essential network hardware. The attacks could be an attempt by Russia to gain a foothold for use in a future offensive, it said. "Russia is our most capable hostile adversary in cyber-space, so dealing with their attacks is a major priority for the National Cyber Security Centre and our US allies," said Ciaran Martin, head of the NCSC in a statement. The alert said attacks were aimed at routers and switches that directed traffic around the net. Compromised devices were used to look at data passing through them, so Russia could scoop up valuable intellectual property, business information and other intelligence.
United States

US Bans American Companies From Selling To Chinese Electronics Maker ZTE (reuters.com) 73

An anonymous reader shares a report: The U.S. Department of Commerce is banning American companies from selling components to leading Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE Corp for seven years for violating the terms of a sanctions violation case, U.S. officials said on Monday. The Chinese company, which sells smartphones in the United States, pleaded guilty last year in federal court in Texas for conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions by illegally shipping U.S. goods and technology to Iran. It paid $890 million in fines and penalties, with an additional penalty of $300 million that could be imposed. As part of the agreement, Shenzhen-based ZTE Corp promised to dismiss four senior employees and discipline 35 others by either reducing their bonuses or reprimanding them, senior Commerce Department officials told Reuters. Update: The UK's cyber security watchdog has warned the UK telecoms sector not to use network equipment or services from Chinese supplier ZTE as it would have a "long term negative effect on the security of the UK."
United States

Trump Proposes Rejoining Trans-Pacific Partnership (nytimes.com) 314

According to The New York Times, "President Trump told a gathering of farm state lawmakers and governors on Thursday morning that he was directing his advisers to look into rejoining the multicountry trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source)." The TPP was a contentious issue during the 2016 presidential election as both Democrats and Republicans attacked it. After signaling during the election that he would pull out of the trade deal "on day one" of his presidency, Trump followed through with his plans. From the report: Rejoining the 11-country pact could be a significant change in fortune for many American industries that stood to benefit from the trade agreement's favorable terms and Republican lawmakers who supported the pact. The deal, which was negotiated by the Obama administration, was largely viewed as a tool to prod China into making the type of economic reforms that the United States and others have long wanted. Both Democrats and Republicans attacked the deal during the president campaign, but many business leaders were disappointed when Mr. Trump withdrew from the agreement, arguing that the United States would end up with less favorable terms attempting to broker an array of individual trade pacts and that scrapping the deal would empower China.

Mr. Trump's decision to reconsider the deal comes as the White House tries to find ways to protect the agriculture sector, which could be badly damaged by the president's trade approach. The risk of an escalating trade war with China has panicked American farmers and ranchers, who send many of their products abroad. China has responded to Mr. Trump's threat of tariffs on as much as $150 billion worth of Chinese goods by placing its own tariffs on American pork, and threatening taxes on soybeans, sorghum, corn and beef. Many American agriculturalists maintain that the easiest way to help them is to avoid a trade war with China in the first place. And many economists say the best way to combat a rising China and pressure it to open its market is through multilateral trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which create favorable trading terms for participants.

United States

Trump Signs Law Weakening Shield For Online Services (vice.com) 188

President Donald Trump has signed a new law aimed at curbing sex trafficking. From a report: The bill -- a mashup of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), which is commonly referred to as the latter -- passed Congress in March. It makes websites liable for what users say and do on their platforms, and many advocacy groups have come out against the bill, saying that it undermines essential internet freedoms.

It could be months -- or as late as January 2019 -- before FOSTA is enacted and anyone could be charged under the law. But even in the days immediately after the bill passed in Congress, platforms started scrambling to proactively shut down forums or whole sites where sex trafficking could feasibly happen. Fringe dating websites, sex trade and advertising forums, and even portions of Craigslist were taken down in the weeks following, while companies like Google started strictly enforcing terms of service around sexual speech.
Commenting on the development, EFF said, "As we've already seen, this bill silences online speech by forcing Internet platforms to censor their users."
Democrats

Democratic Senators Propose 'Privacy Bill of Rights' To Prevent Websites From Sharing Or Selling Sensitive Info Without Opt-In Consent (arstechnica.com) 136

Democratic Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) today proposed a "privacy bill of rights" that would prevent Facebook and other websites from sharing or selling sensitive information without a customer's opt-in consent. The proposed law would protect customers' web browsing and application usage history, private messages, and any sensitive personal data such as financial and health information. Ars Technica reports: Markey teamed with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) to propose the Customer Online Notification for Stopping Edge-provider Network Transgressions (CONSENT) Act. You can read the full legislation here. "Edge providers" refers to websites and other online services that distribute content over consumer broadband networks. Facebook and Google are the dominant edge providers when it comes to advertising and the use of customer data to serve targeted ads. No current law requires edge providers to seek customers' permission before using their browsing histories to serve personalized ads. The online advertising industry uses self-regulatory mechanisms in which websites let visitors opt out of personalized advertising based on browsing history, and websites can be punished by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) if they break their privacy promises.

The Markey/Blumenthal bill's stricter opt-in standard would require edge providers to "obtain opt-in consent from a customer to use, share, or sell the sensitive customer proprietary information of the customer." Edge providers would not be allowed to impose "take-it-or-leave-it" offers that require customers to consent in order to use the service. The FTC and state attorneys general would be empowered to enforce the new opt-in requirements. The bill would require edge providers to notify users about all collection, use, and sharing of their information. The bill also requires edge providers "to develop reasonable data security practices" and to notify customers about data breaches that affect them.

China

China Removes Four News Apps From Smartphone Stores To Tighten Control (scmp.com) 52

The mobile apps for four popular news apps in China, including the most popular aggregator, Jinri Toutiao, were removed from a number of Chinese smartphone app stores following reports of a crackdown by the country's media watchdog, local media reported on Monday. From the report: Toutiao, with about 120 million daily active users, was not available on the app stores of smartphone manufacturers Xiaomi and Meizu on Monday afternoon. The apps for Tiantian Kuaibao, Netease News and Ifeng News were also not found on Xiaomi. China's authorities have asked several of the country's smartphone app stores to remove the four apps by 3pm on Monday as part of efforts to "regulate order in the broadcasting environment," according to Chinese news portal Sohu.com. The apps will be removed for between three days to three weeks, with Toutiao being offline for the longest period, according to the Sohu report. [...] China has shut down more than 13,000 websites in the last three years as Beijing sought to tighten its grip on the internet.
Facebook

Facebook Donated To 46 of 55 Members On Committee That Will Question Zuckerberg (usatoday.com) 160

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will be questioned about user privacy protections next week by members of the House and Senate committees, but as USA Today notes, many of these members were also "some of the biggest recipients of campaign contributions from Facebook employees directly and the political action committee funded by employees." An anonymous reader shares the report: The congressional panel that got the most Facebook contributions is the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which announced Wednesday morning it would question Zuckerberg on April 11. Members of the committee, whose jurisdiction gives it regulatory power over Internet companies, received nearly $381,000 in contributions tied to Facebook since 2007, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The center is a non-partisan, non-profit group that compiles and analyzes disclosures made to the Federal Election Commission.

The second-highest total, $369,000, went to members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which announced later that it would have a joint hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee to question Zuckerberg on Tuesday. Judiciary Committee members have received $235,000 in Facebook contributions. On the House committee, Republicans got roughly twice as much as Democrats, counter to the broader trend in Facebook campaign gifts. Of the $7 million in contributions to all federal candidates tied to the Menlo Park, Calif.-based social network, Democrats got 65% to Republicans' 33%. Of the 55 members on the Energy and Commerce Committee this year, all but nine have received Facebook contributions in the past decade. The average Republican got $6,800, while the average Democrat got $6,750.

Communications

Russia Files Lawsuit To Block Telegram Messaging App (reuters.com) 70

Russia's state communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor, has filed a lawsuit to block Telegram in the country because the instant messaging company has refused to hand over the encryption keys that would allow Russian authorities to read messages sent using the service. From a report: Ranked as the world's ninth most popular mobile messaging app, Telegram is widely used in countries across the former Soviet Union and Middle East. Active users of the app reached 200 million in March. As part of its services, Telegram allows users to communicate via encrypted messages which cannot be read by third parties, including government authorities. But Russia's FSB Federal Security service has said it needs access to some messages for its work, including guarding against terrorist attacks. Telegram has refused to comply with its demands, citing respect for user privacy.
Canada

Canada Has Pulled Off a Brain Heist (axios.com) 351

An anonymous reader writes: Seoul-born Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, a professor at Brown University known for her work on fake news, is moving to Canada. So is Alan Aspuru-Guzik, a Harvard chemistry professor working on quantum computing and artificial intelligence. They are among 24 top academic minds around the world wooed to Canada by an aggressive recruitment effort offering ultra-attractive sinecures, seven-year funding arrangements -- and, Chun and Aspuru-Guzik said in separate interviews with Axios, a different political environment from the U.S. The "Canada 150 Research Chairs Program" is spending $117 million on seven-year grants of either $350,000 a year or $1 million a year. It's part of a campaign by numerous countries to attract scholars unhappy with Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, and other political trends, sweetened with unusually generous research conditions.
United States

US Suspects Listening Devices in Washington (apnews.com) 137

For the first time, the U.S. government has publicly acknowledged the existence in Washington of what appear to be rogue devices that foreign spies and criminal could be using to track individual cellphones and intercept calls and messages. From a report: The use of what are known as cellphone-site simulators by foreign powers has long been a concern, but American intelligence and law enforcement agencies -- which use such eavesdropping equipment themselves -- have been silent on the issue until now. In a March 26 letter to Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that last year it identified suspected unauthorized cell-site simulators in the nation's capital. The agency said it had not determined the type of devices in use or who might have been operating them. Nor did it say how many it detected or where.

The agency's response, obtained by The Associated Press from Wyden's office, suggests little has been done about such equipment, known popularly as Stingrays after a brand common among U.S. police departments. The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the nation's airwaves, formed a task force on the subject four years ago, but it never produced a report and no longer meets regularly. The devices work by tricking mobile devices into locking onto them instead of legitimate cell towers, revealing the exact location of a particular cellphone. More sophisticated versions can eavesdrop on calls by forcing phones to step down to older, unencrypted 2G wireless technology. Some attempt to plant malware.

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