Tuesday, 23 May 2017

U.S. Gov Says Fiat-Chrysler Cheated on Emissions

Volkswagen was in hot water for the same earlier this year.

The Justice Department filed suit against Fiat-Chrysler, alleging they used special software to get around the tests.

Fiat-Chrysler denies wrongdoing.

Trump's Statement on Manchester Attack Includes No Mention of 'Radical Islamic Terrorism'

Although during the campaign trail Trump used the term frequently, and criticized other politicians for never uttering it, he did not use the term or even make reference to "Islam" or "Muslim" while making his statement on the attack -- now confirmed by police to have been perpetrated by a Muslim extremist. Instead, he said he would refer to the perpetrators as "losers."

Trump also made no mention of his earlier favored phrase in his speech in Saudi Arabia or his tour of the Middle East, an omission noted by the mass media.

Statement on C-SPAN's YouTube

Philippines Declares Martial Law After Muslim Group Attacks City

President Duterte declared martial law in the south of the country on the island of Mindanao after Islamic extremists, long active in the country and now somewhat "allied" with ISIS, attacked the city of Marawi.

Several have been killed on both sides of the fight.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Explosions at Ariana Grande Concert in Manchester

Manchester Police Chief Ian Hopkins identified the suspected suicide bomber suspect as 22-year-old Salman Abed. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, although they do that with almost every attack.

Authorities have reported multiple fatalities and injuries.

Concert-goers were evacuated.

British authorities issued a serious threat level warning across the country, suspecting a possible second attack.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Microsoft Obtains Patent to Use for Detecting Pirated Content

The company was granted a patent for technology that scans items users have stored on the cloud when they are shared. 

Microsoft envisions using software based on the patent for services like Google Drive, Dropbox and other storage services, social networks, and pirate sites. 

A summary of how the patent is understood: "When objects are shared by one user with another user, prohibited content, if identified as such, can be blocked from being shared, while the remainder of the shared objects can be accessed by the other user."

Microsoft intends that people who share copyrighted content can be banned.

It is illegal to share copyrighted content, although not illegal to store it on the cloud. 

Trump Speech in Saudi Arabia: Islamic Extremism, Problematic Iran

At the Arab and Muslim leaders summit this weekend, attended 50 dignitaries, mostly Sunnis, Trump gave a speech in which he talked about common enemies: Islamic terrorism and Iran.

Trump recently completed a $350m (over the next 10 years) arms deal with Saudi Arabia, the biggest in U.S. history.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Robert E. Lee Statue Removed

The fourth monument to be taken down by the New Orleans city council and Mayor Mitch Landrieu was the Robert E. Lee statue which sat on a 70-foot perch downtown.

The previous 3 statues had been removed in the middle of the night without warning while workers wore masks to hide their identity and police and snipers were on duty to ensure orderly removal.

Opponents of the movement claim it is a rewriting or erasing of history, and the moves have been protested as well as supported.

Last week, the Louisiana statehouse passed HB71 to require a referendum before any memorial could be altered, removed, relocated or destroyed. Black members walked out to demonstrate their opposition to the law. The move was taken in order to prevent local governments like Landrieu's from removing more Confederate monuments.

Assange's Sex Charges Dropped

Julian Assange has been holed up in a room in London for years after being given refuge by Equador in their London embassy building. In 2010, he was charged with sex crimes in Sweden -- a couple of women he was involved with at the time made complaints not long after Wikileaks published video and other documents of American military activities in the Middle East -- and Assange fled to England. British courts in 2012 ruled Assange should be given up to Sweden, and Assange violated his bail to flee to the embassy.

He has lived indoors since then, only making public appearances from a balcony or via the internet.

The case has been repeatedly reviewed by Swedish courts, and now they have found that in the interests of proportionality it is not worth continuing. Essentially, authorities made the decision because all legal options had been exhausted and because the prosecutor wasn't working harder to pursue the matter.

The Swedish public prosecutor wrote in a statement, "In view of this, and that to continue with legal proceedings would require Julian Assange's personal appearance in court, there is no longer any reason to continue with the investigation."

The validity of the charges have always been questioned. There have been claims the charges were politically motivated because the U.S. government was very upset with the recent leaks.

The women in question are ones who each met Assange at conferences he was a speaker at and had consensual sex. Later on, the two women discussed Assange, and afterwards laid charges for forms of non-consensual sex (alleged to have happened in addition to the consensual sex). One of the charges was molestation, one was for unlawful coercion, and one was rape, according to Swedish law (the alleged acts had to do with not wearing condoms although the woman said he must and sex while the partner was sleeping). Originally, Swedish prosecutors didn't think there was evidence of rape and that the molestation charge would still go forward but it wasn't serious enough for a warrant. The lawyer for the 2 women made an appeal to a special department and after police interviewed Assange, the director of prosecution reopened the case for rape.

Over time, the molestation and unlawful coersion charge was dropped because Swedish authorities ran out of time to question Assange, and the UN found Assange was being arbitrarily detained and should be compensated for "deprivation of liberty." The rape charge was the only one remaining until now, although Assange may still be found in contempt of court for violating his bail and fleeing.

British authorities have said Assange will be arrested if he leaves the embassy. The expectation is that he would then be extradited to the U.S.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Confederate General Statue Removed as Part of Monument Removal Program

In the middle of the night Wednesday morning in New Orleans cranes removed Gen. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard's statue. Police and snipers were in place during the operation to ensure no one interfered.

The city council and mayor plan to remove the statue of General Robert E. Lee next.

FCC Vote, 'One Step Closer to a Closed Internet' Says Mozilla

This week the FCC voted to move forward with repealing and replacing net neutrality protections enacted in 2015.

The issue is public access to an open, equal internet. The laws from 2015 placed providers (the companies that pipe internet into your house or phone) in a special category of communications. The laws made it so that internet providers couldn't increase or decrease internet speeds for whatever content, apps, or services they wanted to prioritize. Citizens feared this would lead to service providers throttling content and apps they didn't profit from while boosting stuff they could profit from.

While recent polling suggests the majority of Americans want net neutrality, the argument was given voice by Mozilla (who makes the Firefox browser). Mozilla summarized:

"Today’s FCC vote to repeal and replace net neutrality protections brings us one step closer to a closed internet.  Although it is sometimes hard to describe the 'real' impacts of these decisions, this one is easy: this decision leads to an internet that benefits Internet Service Providers (ISPs), not users, and erodes free speech, competition, innovation and user choice."

Mozilla blog

100 000

In the few weeks we've been keeping tabs on the world on this news journal, we've reached 100,000 reads. I suspect it will take a while, though, before people get used to how lo-fi and simple this website is, compared with the old The Speaker website. It looks like just a blog, after all.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Tesla’s Solar Roofs Cheaper Than Regular Roofs & Have 'Infinity Warranty - Elon Musk

Musk announced this week via Twitter that his solar roofs were now for sale globally, and Tesla would start delivering them probably at the end of this year in the States and overseas next year.

And on the Tesla website there was information about the warranty for the roof tiles: “Glass solar tiles are so durable they are warrantied for the lifetime of your house, or infinity, whichever comes first.”

Putin Vows Support for Islamic World

He sent a message to the third meeting of the Russia - Islamic World strategic world group in Grozny, Chechnya (held there for the first time), which was later published by the Kremlin website. The message included the following statement:

"Today, many Muslim countries are facing serious challenges, including terrorism and violent extremism, growing ethnic and religious contradictions, economic and social difficulties. I would like to stress that the Islamic World can fully count on Russia’s support and cooperation."

He also said Russia would help search for peaceful means of resolving crises. "I am confident that by joining our efforts, we can do much to strengthen global security and stability, as well as to build a fair and democratic world order, free of any kind of intolerance, discrimination and military dictate," he stated.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

NYT Says Trump Urged Comey to Drop Russia Investigation

The New York Times has reported that, according to James Comey, Trump tried to get a "pledge of loyalty" from the former FBI head, which Comey would not give, days before Trump fired Comey. There were questions flying around if the reason for the firing was Comey's refusal.

NYT reported that Comey became concerned about what was going on between the president and himself and kept memos of the conversations which he shared with associates. They reported that during a Feb. 14 private meeting, Trump expressed concern about leaks and suggested maybe they should throw a couple of reporters in jail to send a message. Trump also talked to Comey about Michael Flynn, who he fired earlier for his relations with Russia, and suggested Comey just let Flynn go, which Comey interpreted as dropping the investigation into Flynn's dealings, according to the Times.

The White House responded to the NYT article, stating it was "not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation."

White House Calls Trump Story False, Cites Things Not Related to News Story

White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster made a public statement in response to the Washington Post and other news organisations stories this week that Trump told Russian officials information he many say he shouldn't have, denying the news.

McMaster stated:

"The story that came out tonight, as reported, is false. The President and the Foreign Minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two counties, including threats to civil aviation.

"At no time - at no time - were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the President did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known. Two other senior officials who were present, including the Secretary of State, remember it being the same way and have said so. Their on-the-record accounts should outweigh those of anonymous sources. And I was in the room. It didn't happen."

However, none of the news stories had anything to do with the things McMaster said the president didn't say -- the reports were that Trump revealed highly classified intel to an American adversary. Later, when asked, McMaster did not deny that, but said he doubted whether the president "wasn't even aware of where this information came from. He wasn't briefed on the source or method of the information either."

Microsoft Releases Large Update After WannaCry Event

Microsoft issued a large Windows update days after the WannaCry malware pandemic infected thousands of computers and led to a huge wave of Windows users updating their OSs to close the SMBv1 exploit left open by Windows until March when a leak of NSA intel made the vulnerability, as well as the NSAs exploit tool, public.

The update was unusually large, taking over an hour on some computers.

Most noticeable changes after the update: Microsoft adds a mail icon to the toolbar (currently, more people use Google for mail); OneDrive is added to the tools menu; Windows Defender Security Center also added to toolbar. In "Apps & Features," Microsoft OneConnect (paid Wi-Fi cellular) is added." Techies have recommended the removal of OneConnect, which has been part of Windows "Pre-Installed Apps" for a while.

It also "installs" apps that you already have installed, so it is more difficult to find what things Microsoft actually added when you update. However, Windows installed a lot of new apps (their own) in this update.

Microsoft removed the option to set the program to open types of files with. Now, it only opens automatically with Windows new file viewing apps. (This can be corrected by going to "Default Apps" in Start Menu and selecting apps for media types.)

Monday, 15 May 2017

Microsoft Blaming NSA for WannaCry Malware Pandemic

Microsoft President Brad Smith complained that various governments "stockpile vulnerabilities."

In other words, governments and agencies find weaknesses in technology and then keep that information to themselves in case they want to use it.

Smith said the current WannaCry malware event was a very rare one, combining a piece of very sophisticated software (to do the exploit) with a simpler piece (to do the ransom), conducted by a criminal organization.

To accusations Microsoft didn't do enough to alert people about the danger, Smith said, "Microsoft has the first responsibility." He called it a "wake-up call for us," and that "we should all learn from this."

In response to questions about whether the NSA told Microsoft they had a tool that exploited the vulnerability, Smith said, "I don't want to go into the specifics about how we learned this particular problem, or by whom or when. It is a public record that we provided a patch in March. There wasn't a public statement until April.

"But what I think is also important: We need the global community to come together."

U.S. Accuses Syria of Mass Executions

The message delivered from the White House through Stuart Jones, acting assistant secretary for Near East affairs, was:

"The regime is responsible for killing as many as 50 detainees per day at Saydnaya. Credible sources have believed that many of the bodies have been disposed in mass graves.  We now believe that the Syrian regime has installed a crematorium in the Saydnaya complex which could dispose of detainees remains with little evidence."

The U.S. government last month accused Assad of using chemical weapons against his people before imposing sanctions on Syria. Assad denied that he did so, and called the story a "fabrication."

Trump Revealed Classified Info to Russian Ambassador and Foreign Minister, WP Reports

The reports are being denied by the White House, but The Washington Post broke the story today that in a meeting the president told the Russians highly classified security information about ISIS (something about airline safety and laptops).

Among the questions being raised is how this will effect the relationship with the unnamed U.S. partner (later reported by the New York Times to be Israel, although this was not confirmed) from which the U.S. received the information.

The Washington Posts sources for the story are "current and former U.S. officials." They withheld most of the details of the information, but to quote their original piece:

"In his meeting with Lavrov, Trump seemed to be boasting about his inside knowledge of the looming threat. 'I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day,' the president said, according to an official with knowledge of the exchange.

"Trump went on to discuss aspects of the threat that the United States learned only through the espionage capabilities of a key partner. He did not reveal the specific intelligence-gathering method, but he described how the Islamic State was pursuing elements of a specific plot and how much harm such an attack could cause under varying circumstances. Most alarmingly, officials said, Trump revealed the city in the Islamic State’s territory where the U.S. intelligence partner detected the threat."

The White House struck details of the meeting from the official transcripts for a "sort of memo summary" to be used in-house, and controlled dissemination of the transcripts for the wider public as well as immediately contacting the CIA and NSA.

Fragment of Massive Diamond Sold for $17.5m

A piece of the world's second-largest diamond, found 2 years ago by Vancouver’s Lucara Diamond company, just sold for $17.5m.

The big rock in question is the 1,109-carat “Lesedi La Rona." They wanted $70m for it at the auction, but no one bid higher than $60m so they still have it.

The $17.5m diamond is a smaller piece that broke off of the "Lesedi."

U.S. Gov Says Fiat-Chrysler Cheated on Emissions

Volkswagen was in hot water for the same earlier this year. The Justice Department filed suit against Fiat-Chrysler, alleging they used sp...