US removes Xiaomi’s designation as a Communist Chinese Military Company

Xiaomi, one of China’s high-profile tech firms that fell in the crosshairs of the Trump administration, has been removed from a U.S. government blacklist that designated it as a Communist Chinese Military Company.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has vacated the Department of Defence’s designation of Xiaomi as a CCMC in January, a document filed on May 25 shows.

In February, Xiaomi sued the U.S. government over its inclusion in the military blacklist. In March, the D.C. court granted Xiaomi a preliminary injunction against the DoD designation, which would have forbidden all U.S. persons from purchasing or possessing Xiaomi’s securities, saying the decision was “arbitrary and capricious.” The ruling was made to prevent “irreparable harm” to the Chinese phone maker.

Xiaomi has this to say about getting off the blacklist:

The Company is grateful for the trust and support of its global users, partners, employees and shareholders. The Company reiterates that it is an open, transparent, publicly traded, independently operated and managed corporation. The Company will continue to provide reliable consumer electronics products and services to users, and to relentlessly build amazing products with honest prices to let everyone in the world enjoy a better life through innovative technology.

Xiaomi’s domestic competitor Huawei is still struggling with its inclusion in the U.S. trade blacklist, which bans it from accessing critical U.S. technologies and has crippled its smartphone sales around the world.

#asia, #china, #gadgets, #government, #telecommunications, #trump-administration, #u-s-government, #united-states, #xiaomi

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Trump EPA sidelined its own scientists when rewriting fuel economy rules

A man in a suit adjusts his spectacles.

Enlarge / Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. (credit: Aaron P. Bernstein / Getty Images)

The Trump administration effectively muffled scientific staffers at the Environmental Protection Agency when it rewrote automobile pollution rules, the agency’s watchdog said.

When drafting fuel economy and greenhouse gas pollution rules for cars and light trucks, former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt decided to cede various EPA duties to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration in what is typically a collaborative process, the independent inspector general said in a report released yesterday. Though Pruitt signed the final report for the EPA, he allowed NHTSA staff to write a significant portion of the rule and to complete all modeling and analysis for both agencies.

The NHTSA’s modeling efforts did not use the EPA’s established tools that had been created to evaluate greenhouse gas emissions standards. Instead, the NHTSA hacked its own Corporate Average Fuel Economy models and sent EPA experts the results late in the process. “Technical personnel were unable to fully collaborate on rule development,” the report said.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#cafe-standards, #epa, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #policy, #science, #trump-administration

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Microsoft says China-backed hackers are exploiting Exchange zero-days

Microsoft is warning customers that a new China state-sponsored threat actor is exploiting four previously undisclosed security flaws in Exchange Server, an enterprise email product built by the software giant.

The technology company said Tuesday that it believes the hacking group, which it calls Hafnium, tries to steal information from a broad range of U.S.-based organizations, including law firms and defense contractors, but also infectious disease researchers and policy think tanks.

Microsoft said Hafnium used the four newly discovered security vulnerabilities to break into Exchange email servers running on company networks, granting the attackers to steal data from a victim’s organization — such as email accounts and address books — and the ability to plant malware. When used together, the four vulnerabilities create an attack chain that can compromise vulnerable servers running on-premise Exchange 2013 and later.

Hafnium operates out of China, but uses servers located in the U.S. to launch its attacks, the company said. Microsoft said that Hafnium was the only threat group it has detected using these four new vulnerabilities.

Microsoft declined to say how many successful attacks it had seen, but described the number as “limited.”

Patches to fix those four security vulnerabilities are now out, a week earlier than the company’s typical patching schedule, usually reserved for the second Tuesday in each month.

“Even though we’ve worked quickly to deploy an update for the Hafnium exploits, we know that many nation-state actors and criminal groups will move quickly to take advantage of any unpatched systems,” said Tom Burt, Microsoft’s vice president for customer security.

The company said it has also briefed U.S. government agencies on its findings, but that the Hafnium attacks are not related to the SolarWinds-related espionage campaign against U.S. federal agencies. In the last days of the Trump administration, the National Security Agency and the FBI said that the SolarWinds campaign was “likely Russian in origin.”

#china, #computer-security, #computing, #cryptography, #cyberattack, #cybercrime, #cyberwarfare, #defense-contractors, #federal-bureau-of-investigation, #internet-security, #law-firms, #microsoft, #national-security-agency, #security, #software, #solarwinds, #technology, #threat, #trump-administration, #u-s-government, #united-states, #vulnerability

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SolarWinds hackers targeted NASA, Federal Aviation Administration networks

Hackers are said to have broken into the networks of U.S. space agency NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration as part of a wider espionage campaign targeting U.S. government agencies and private companies.

The two agencies were named by the Washington Post on Tuesday, hours ahead of a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing tasked with investigating the widespread cyberattack, which the previous Trump administration said was “likely Russian in origin.”

Spokespeople for the agencies did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but did not deny the breach in remarks to the Post.

It’s believed NASA and the FAA are the two remaining unnamed agencies of the nine government agencies confirmed to have been breached by the attack. The other seven include the Departments of Commerce, Energy, Homeland Security, Justice, and State, the Treasury, and the National Institutes of Health, though it’s not believed the attackers breached their classified networks.

FireEye, Microsoft, and Malwarebytes were among a number of cybersecurity companies also breached as part of the attacks.

The Biden administration is reportedly preparing sanctions against Russia, in large part because of the hacking campaign, the Post also reported.

The attacks were discovered last year after FireEye raised the alarm about the hacking campaign after its own network was breached. Each victim was a customer of the U.S. software firm SolarWinds, whose network management tools are used across the federal government and Fortune 500 companies. The hackers broke into SolarWinds’ network, planted a backdoor in its software, and pushed the backdoor to customer networks with a tainted software update.

It wasn’t the only way in. The hackers are also said to have targeted other companies by breaking into other devices and appliances on their victims’ networks, as well as targeting Microsoft vendors to breach other customers’ networks.

Last week, Anne Neuberger, the former NSA cybersecurity director who last month was elevated to the White House’s National Security Council to serve as the deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology, said that the attack took “months to plan and execute,” and will “take us some time to uncover this layer by layer.”

#anne-neuberger, #biden-administration, #computer-security, #computing, #cyberattacks, #cybercrime, #cyberwarfare, #director, #federal-aviation-administration, #federal-government, #fireeye, #government, #information-technology, #malwarebytes, #microsoft, #russia, #security, #senate-intelligence-committee, #software, #solarwinds, #supply-chain-attack, #the-washington-post, #trump-administration, #u-s-government, #united-states

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SESO Labor is providing a way for migrant farmworkers to get legally protected work status in the U.S.

As the Biden Administration works to bring legislation to Congress to address the endemic problem of immigration reform in America, on the other side of the nation a small California startup called SESO Labor has raised $4.5 million to ensure that farms can have access to legal migrant labor.

SESO’s founder Mike Guirguis raised the round over the summer from investors including Founders Fund and NFX. Pete Flint, a founder of Trulia joined the company’s board. The company has 12 farms it’s working with and negotiating contracts with another 46.

Working within the existing regulatory framework that has existed since 1986, SESO has created a service that streamlines and manages the process of getting H-2A visas, which allow migrant agricultural workers to reside temporarily in the U.S. with legal protections.

At this point, SESO is automating the visa process, getting the paperwork in place for workers and smoothing the application process. The company charges about $1,000 per application, but eventually as it begins offering more services to workers themselves, Guirguis envisions several robust lines of revenue. Eventually, the company would like to offer integrated services for both farm owners and farm workers, Guirguis said.

SESO is currently expecting to bring in 1,000 workers over the course of 2021 and the company is, as of now, pre-revenue. The largest industry player handling worker visas today currently brings in 6,000 workers per year, so the competition, for SESO, is market share, Guirguis said.

America’s complicated history of immigration and agricultural labor

The H-2A program was set up to allow agricultural employers who anticipate shortages of domestic workers to bring in non-immigrant foreign workers to the U.S. to work on farms temporarily or seasonally. The workers are covered by U.S. wage laws, workers’ compensation and other standards, including access to healthcare under the Affordable Care Act.

Employers who use the the visa program to hire workers are required to pay inbound and outbound transportation, provide free or rental housing, and provide meals for workers (they’re allowed to deduct the costs from salaries).

H-2 visas were first created in 1952 as part of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which reinforced the national origins quota system that restricted immigration primarily to Northern Europe, but opened America’s borders to Asian immigrants for the first time since immigration laws were first codified in 1924. While immigration regulations were further opened in the sixties, the last major immigration reform package in 1986 served to restrict immigration and made it illegal for businesses to hire undocumented workers. It also created the H-2A visas as a way for farms to hire migrant workers without incurring the penalties associated with using illegal labor.

For some migrant workers, the H-2A visa represents a golden ticket, according to Guirguis, an honors graduate of Stanford who wrote his graduate thesis on labor policy.

“We are providing a staffing solution for farms and agribusiness and we want to be Gusto for agriculture and upsell farms on a comprehensive human resources solution,” says Guirguis of the company’s ultimate mission, referencing payroll provider Gusto.

As Guirguis notes, most workers in agriculture are undocumented. “These are people who have been taken advantage of [and] the H-2A is a visa to bring workers in legally. We’re able to help employers maintain workforce [and] we’re building software to help farmers maintain the farms.”

Opening borders even as they remain closed

Farms need the help, if the latest numbers on labor shortages are believable, but it’s not necessarily a lack of H-2A visas that’s to blame, according to an article in Reuters.

In fact, the number of H-2A visas granted for agriculture equipment operators rose to 10,798 from October through March, according to the Reuters report. That’s up 49% from a year ago, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor cited by Reuters.

Instead of an inability to acquire the H-2A visa, it was an inability to travel to the U.S. that’s been causing problems. Tighter border controls, the persistent global pandemic and travel restrictions that were imposed to combat it have all played a role in keeping migrant workers in their home countries.

Still, Guirguis believes that with the right tools, more farms would be willing to use the H-2A visa, cutting down on illegal immigration and boosting the available labor pool for the tough farm jobs that American workers don’t seem to want.

Photo by Brent Stirton/Getty Images.

David Misener, the owner of an Oklahoma-based harvesting company called Green Acres Enterprises, is one employer who has struggled to find suitable replacements for the migrant workers he typically hires.

“They could not fathom doing it and making it work,” Misener told Retuers, speaking about the American workers he’d tried to hire.

“With H-2A, migrant workers make 10 times more than they would get paid at home,” said Guirguis. “They’re taking home the equivalent of $40 an hour. The H-2A is coveted.”

Guirguis thinks that with the right incentives and an easier onramp for farmers to manage the application and approval process, the number of employers that use H-2A visas could grow to be 30% to 50% of the farm workforce in the country. That means growing the number of potential jobs from 300,000 to 1.5 million for migrants who would be under many of the same legal protections that citizens enjoy, while they’re working on the visa.

Protecting agricultural workers through better paperwork

Interest in the farm labor nexus and issues surrounding it came to the first-time founder through Guirguis’ experience helping his cousin start her own farm. Spending several weekends a month helping her grow the farm with her husband, Guirguis heard his stories about coming to the U.S. as an undocumented worker.

Employers using the program avoid the liability associated with being caught employing illegal labor, something that crackdowns under the Trump Administration made more common.

Still, it’s hard to deny the program’s roots in the darker past of America’s immigration policy. And some immigration advocates argue that the H-2A system suffers from the same kinds of structural problems that plague the corollary H-1B visas for tech workers.

“The H-2A visa is a short-term temporary visa program that employers use to import workers into the agricultural fields … It’s part of a very antiquated immigration system that needs to change. The 11.5 million people who are here need to be given citizenship,” said Saket Soni, the founder of an organization called Resilience Force, which advocates for immigrant labor. “And then workers who come from other countries, if we need them, they have to be able to stay … H-2A workers don’t have a pathway to citizenship. Workers come to us afraid of blowing the whistle on labor issues. As much as the H-2A is a welcome gift for a worker it can also be abused.” 

Soni said the precarity of a worker’s situation — and their dependence on a single employer for their ability to remain in the country legally — means they are less likely to speak up about problems at work, since there’s nowhere for them to go if they are fired.

“We are big proponents that if you need people’s labor you have to welcome them as human beings,” Soni said. “Where there’s a labor shortage as people come, they should be allowed to stay … H-2A is an example of an outdated immigration tool.”

Guirguis clearly disagrees and said a platform like SESO’s will ultimately create more conveniences and better services for the workers who come in on these visas.

“We’re trying to put more money in the hands of these workers at the end of the day,” he said. “We’re going to be setting up remittance and banking services. Everything we do should be mutually beneficial for the employer and the worker who is trying to get into this program and know that they’re not getting taken advantage of.”

#america, #banking, #biden-administration, #california, #congress, #founder, #founders-fund, #funding, #fundings-exits, #healthcare, #immigration, #labor, #nfx, #oklahoma, #pete-flint, #stanford, #startups, #tc, #trulia, #trump-administration, #u-s-department-of-labor, #united-states

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Volta Energy Technologies raises over $90M of a targeted $150M fund to back energy storage startups

Volta Energy Technologies, the energy investment and advisory services firm backed by some of the biggest names in energy and energy storage materials, has closed on nearly $90 million of a targeted $150 million investment fund, according to people familiar with the group’s plans.

The venture investment vehicle compliments an $180 million existing commitment from Volta’s four corporate backers — Equinor, Albermarle, Epsilon, and Hanon Systems — and comes at a time when interest in energy storage technologies couldn’t be stronger. 

As the transition away from internal combustion engines and hydrocarbon fuels begins in earnest companies are scrambling to drive down costs and improve performance of battery technologies that will be necessary to power millions of electric cars and store massive amounts of renewable energy that still needs to be developed.

“Capital markets have noticed the enormity of the opportunity in transitioning away from carbon,” said Jeff Chamberlain, Volta’s founder and chief executive.

Born of an idea that that began in 2012 when Chamberlain began talking with the head of the Department of Energy under the Obama Administration back in 2014. What began when Chamberlain was at Argonne National Lab leading the development of JCESR, the lead lab in the US government’s battery research consortium, evolved into Volta Energy as Chamberlain pitched a private sector investment partner that could leverage the best research from National Laboratories and the work being done by private industry to find the best technology.

Support for the Volta project remained strong through both public and private institutions, according to Chamberlain. Even under the Trump Administration, Volta’s initiative was able to thrive and wrangle some of the biggest names in the chemicals, utility, oil and gas and industrial thermal management to invest in a $180 million fund that could be evergreen, Chamberlain said.

According to people with knowledge of the organizations plans, the new investment fund which is targeting $150 million but has hard cap of $225 million would compliment the existing investment vehicle to give the firm more firepower as additional capital floods into the battery industry.

Chamberlain declined to comment specifically on the fund, given restrictions, but did say that his firm had a mandate to invest in technology that is battery and storage related and that “enables the ubiquitous adoption of electric vehicles and the ubiquitous adoption of solar and wind.”

Back during the first cleantech boom the brains behind Volta witnessed a lot of good money getting poured into bad ideas and vaporware that would never amount to commercial success, said Chamberlain. Volta was formed to educate investors on the real opportunities that scientists were tracking in energy storage and back those companies with dollars.

“We knew that investors were throwing money into a dumpster fire. We knew it could have a negative impact on this transition to carbon,” Chamberlain said. “Our whole objective was to help guide individuals deploying massive amounts of their personal wealth and move it from putting money into an ongoing dumpster fire.”

That mission has become even more important as more money floods into the battery market, Chamberlain said.

The SPAC craze set off by Nikola’s public offering in electric vehicles and continuing through QuantumScape’s battery SPAC through a slew of other electric vehicle offerings and into EV charging and battery companies has made the stakes higher for everyone, he said.

Chamberlain thinks of Volta’s mission as finding the best emerging technologies that are coming to market across the battery and power management supply chain and ensure that as manufacturing capacity comes online, the technology is ready to meet growing demand.

“Investors who do not truly understand the energy storage ecosystem and its underlying technology challenges are at a distinct disadvantage,” said Goldman Sachs veteran and early Volta investor Randy Rochman, in a statement. “It has become abundantly clear to me that nothing happens in the world of energy storage without Volta’s knowledge. I can think of no better team to identify energy storage investment opportunities and avoid pitfalls.”  

The new fund from Volta has already backed a number of new energy storage and enabling technologies including: Natron, which develops high-power, fire-safe Sodium-ion batteries using Prussian blue chemistry for applications that demand a quick discharge of power; Smart Wires, which develops hardware that acts as a router for electricity to travel across underutilized power lines to optimize the integration of renewable power and energy storage on the grid; and Ionic Materials, which makes solid lithium batteries for both transportation and grid applications. Ionic Materials’ platform technology also enables breakthrough advancements in other growing markets, such as 5G mobile, and rechargeable alkaline batteries. 

 

#chemicals, #department-of-energy, #electric-car, #electric-vehicle, #energy, #energy-storage, #head, #lithium-ion-battery, #nikola, #oil-and-gas, #renewable-energy, #tc, #transport, #trump-administration, #united-states, #us-government

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Twitter says Trump is banned forever — even if he runs for president again

As the second impeachment trial of his presidency unfolds, there’s another bit of bad news for the former president. In a new interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Twitter Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal gave the decisive word on how the company would handle Trump’s Twitter account long-term.

Responding to a question about what would happen if Trump ran again and was elected to office, Segal didn’t mince words.

“The way our policies work, when you’re removed from the platform, you’re removed from the platform — whether you’re a commentator, you’re a CFO, or you are a former or current public official,” Segal said.

“Remember, our policies are designed to make sure that people are not inciting violence, and if anybody does that, we have to remove them from the service and our policies don’t allow people to come back.”

Twitter banned Trump from its platform one month ago citing concerns about the “risk of further incitement of violence.” Trump’s role in instigating the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol ultimately sealed his fate on his platform of choice, where he’d spent four years rallying his followers, amplifying conspiracies and lambasting his critics.

#social, #tc, #trump, #trump-administration, #twitter

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Facebook’s Oversight Board will review the decision to suspend Trump

Facebook announced Thursday that its newly established external policy review group will take on one of the company’s most consequential acts: The decision to suspend former President Trump.

On January 7, Facebook suspended Trump’s account indefinitely. That decision followed the president’s actions the day prior, when he incited a violent mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol, leaving American democracy on a razor’s edge and a nation already deep in crisis even more shaken.

Facebook VP of Global Affairs and Communications Nick Clegg called the circumstances around Trump’s suspension an “unprecedented set of events which called for unprecedented action” and explained why the Oversight Board would review the case.

“Our decision to suspend then-President Trump’s access was taken in extraordinary circumstances: A U.S. president actively fomenting a violent insurrection designed to thwart the peaceful transition of power; five people killed; legislators fleeing the seat of democracy,” Clegg said in a blog post.

“This has never happened before — and we hope it will never happen again.”

In its own statement on taking the case, the Oversight Board explained that a five-member panel will evaluate the case soon with a decision planned within 90 days. Once that smaller group reaches its conclusions on how to handle Trump’s Facebook status — and, potentially, future cases involving world leaders — the decision will require approval from the majority of the board’s members. After that, the pace picks up a bit and Facebook will have one week to implement the board’s final decision.

Facebook likes to say that the board is independent, but in spite of having the autonomy to make “binding” case-by-case decisions, the board grew out of Facebook itself. The company appointed the board’s four original co-chairs and those members went on to expand the group into a 20-member body.

As we’ve previously reported, the mechanics of the board bias its activity toward Facebook content taken down — not the stuff that stays up, which generally creates larger headaches for the company and society at large. Facebook has responded to this critique, noting that while the board may initially focus on reviewing takedowns, content still up on the platforms will be part of the project’s scope “as quickly as possible.”

Given some of the criticism around the group, the Trump case is a big moment for how impactful the board’s decisions will really wind up being. If it were to overturn Facebook’s decision, that decision would likely kick up a new firestorm of interest around Trump’s Facebook account, even as the former president recedes from the public eye.

The most interesting bit about the process is that it will allow the former president’s account admins to appeal his own case. If they do so, the board will review a “user statement” arguing why Trump’s account should be reinstated.

Facebook’s external decision-making body is meant as a kind of “supreme court” for the company’s own policy making. It doesn’t really move quickly or respond in the moment, but instead seeks to establish precedents that can lend insight to future policy cases. While the per-case decisions are binding, whether the broader precedents it creates will impact Facebook’s future policy decisions remains to be seen.

#facebook, #social, #trump-administration

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The biggest step the Biden administration took on climate yesterday wasn’t rejoining the Paris Agreement

While the Biden Administration is being celebrated for its decision to rejoin the Paris Agreement in one of its first executive orders after President Joe Biden was sworn in, it wasn’t the biggest step the administration took to advance its climate agenda.

Instead it was a move to get to the basics of monitoring and accounting, of metrics and dashboards. While companies track their revenues and expenses and monitor for all sorts of risks, impacts from climate change and emissions aren’t tracked in the same way. Now, in the same way there are general principals for accounting for finance, there will be principals for accounting for the impact of climate through what’s called the social cost of carbon.

Among the flurry of paperwork coming from Biden’s desk were Executive Orders calling for a review of Trump era rule-making around the environment and the reinstitution of strict standards for fuel economy, methane emissions, appliance and building efficiency, and overall emissions. But even these steps are likely to pale in significance to the fifth section of the ninth executive order to be announced by the new White House.

That’s the section addressing the accounting for the benefits of reducing climate pollution. Until now, the U.S. government hasn’t had a framework for accounting for what it calls the “full costs of greenhouse gas emissions” by taking “global damages into account”.

All of this is part of a broad commitment to let data and science inform policymaking across government, according to the Biden Administration.

Biden writes:

“It is, therefore, the policy of my Administration to listen to the science; to improve public health and protect our environment; to ensure access to clean air and water; to limit exposure to dangerous chemicals and pesticides; to hold polluters accountable, including those who disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities; to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; to bolster resilience to the impacts of climate change; to restore and expand our national treasures and monuments; and to prioritize both environmental justice and the creation of the well-paying union jobs necessary to deliver on these goals.”

The specific section of the order addressing accounting and accountability calls for a working group to come up with three metrics: the social cost of carbon (SCC), the social cost of nitrous oxide (SCN) and the social cost of methane (SCM) that will be used to estimate the monetized damages associated with increases in greenhouse gas emissions.

As the executive order notes, “[an] accurate social cost is essential for agencies to accurately determine the social benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions when conducting cost-benefit analyses of regulatory and other actions.” What the Administration is doing is attempting to provide a financial figure for the damages wrought by greenhouse gas emissions in terms of rising interest rates, and the destroyed farmland and infrastructure caused by natural disasters linked to global climate change.

These kinds of benchmarks aren’t flashy, but they are concrete ways to determine accountability. That accountability will become critical as the country takes steps to meet the targets set in the Paris Agreement. It also gives companies looking to address their emissions footprints an economic framework to point to as they talk to their investors and the public.

The initiative will include top leadership like the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, the director of the Office of Management and Budget and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (a position that Biden elevated to a cabinet level post).

Representatives from each of the major federal agencies overseeing the economy, national health, and the environment will be members of the working group along with the representatives or the National Climate Advisor and the Director of the National Economic Council.

While the rule-making is proceeding at the federal level, some startups are already developing services to help businesses monitor their emissions output.

These are companies like CarbonChainPersefoni, and SINAI Technologies. And their work compliments non-profits like CDP, which works with companies to assess carbon emissions.

Biden’s plan will have the various agencies and departments working quickly. The administration expects an interim SCC, SCN, and SCM within the next 30 days, which agencies will use when monetizing the value of changes in greenhouse gas emissions resulting from regulations and agency actions. The President wants final metrics will be published by January of next year.

The executive order also restored protections to national parks and lands that had been opened to oil and gas exploration and commercial activity under the Trump Administration and blocked the development of the Keystone Pipeline, which would have brought oil from Canadian tar sands into and through the U.S.

“The Keystone XL pipeline disserves the U.S. national interest. The United States and the world face a climate crisis. That crisis must be met with action on a scale and at a speed commensurate with the need to avoid setting the world on a dangerous, potentially catastrophic, climate trajectory. At home, we will combat the crisis with an ambitious plan to build back better, designed to both reduce harmful emissions and create good clean-energy jobs,” according to the text of the Executive Order. “The United States must be in a position to exercise vigorous climate leadership in order to achieve a significant increase in global climate action and put the world on a sustainable climate pathway. Leaving the Key`12stone XL pipeline permit in place would not be consistent with my Administration’s economic and climate imperatives.”

#articles, #biden-administration, #carbonchain, #chair, #director, #executive, #greenhouse-gas, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #joe-biden, #office-of-management-and-budget, #oil, #persefoni, #president, #sinai-technologies, #tc, #trump, #trump-administration, #u-s-government, #united-states, #white-house

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Twitter permanently bans President Trump

President Trump was permanently suspended from Twitter Friday. In the announcement, the company cited “the risk of further incitement of violence” and the president’s past transgressions on the platform.

“In the context of horrific events this week, we made it clear on Wednesday that additional violations of the Twitter Rules would potentially result in this very course of action,” Twitter wrote in the announcement. “… We made it clear going back years that these accounts are not above our rules and cannot use Twitter to incite violence.”

On Wednesday Twitter suspended President Trump’s account until he deleted three tweets that the platform flagged as violating its rules. Trump’s account was set to reactivate 12 hours after those deletions, and he returned to the platform on Thursday night.

Trump crossed a line with Twitter when he failed to condemn a group of his supporters who staged a violent riot at the Capitol building while Congress met to certify the election results. In one tweet, Trump shared a video in which he gently encouraged the group to return home, while reassuring his agitated followers that he loved them and that they were “special.”

At that time, Twitter said that Trump’s tweets contained “repeated and severe violations” of its policy on civic integrity and threatened that any future violations would result in “permanent suspension” of the president’s account.

While Facebook took more drastic action against Trump’s account in the aftermath of Wednesday’s chaotic siege on Capitol Hill, Twitter has a longer history of friction with the outgoing president. In early 2020, Twitter’s decision to add a contextual label to a Trump tweet calling mail-in voting “fraudulent” prompted the president to craft a retaliatory though largely toothless executive order targeting social media companies.

Trump held the same grudge through the end of the year, trying to push a doomed repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — the law that protects online companies from liability for user-generated content — through Congress in increasingly unusual ways.

#government, #trump-administration, #twitter

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Trump returns to Twitter with what sounds like a concession speech

It’s been a long couple of days for the country, but President Trump only had to wait 12 hours before returning to his social network of choice.

In an uncharacteristically scripted three-ish minute speech, the president denounced the “heinous attack” on the Capitol. “The demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy,” Trump said, warning the individuals involved that they will “pay.”

The previous day, Trumped directed a crowd of his supporters to march to the Capitol. That event turned into a violent riot that disrupted lawmakers’ efforts to certify election results. As the chaos unfolded, Trump encouraged the rioters in a video posted to Twitter, telling them they were “special” and “we love you.”

After yesterday’s video, Twitter locked Trump’s account and required him to delete a handful of tweets before having his access restored. On Thursday, Facebook froze his account for the remainder of his time in office.

Noting that he had explored “every legal avenue” to stay in power, Trump appeared to throw in the towel Thursday in his undemocratic crusade to overturn the legitimate results of the American election.

In the video Trump concedes for the first time, claiming that he will willingly leave office on January 20. “My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power,” Trump said.

 

#social, #social-media, #trump-administration, #twitter

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Twitch disables Trump’s channel until end of his term to ‘minimize harm’ during transition

Following a slate of temporary and permanent bans from a number of the top online platforms, popular video streaming service Twitch today confirmed that it has disabled the President of the United States’ account. A spokesperson for the site told TechCrunch,

In light of yesterday’s shocking attack on the Capitol, we have disabled President Trump’s Twitch channel. Given the current extraordinary circumstances and the President’s incendiary rhetoric, we believe this is a necessary step to protect our community and prevent Twitch from being used to incite further violence.

Trump’s suspension is indefinite at this time. “We are focused on minimizing harm leading up to the transition of government and will reassess his account after he leaves office,” a Twitch spokesperson told TechCrunch.
Twitch also temporarily suspended the President’s channel in June. At the time, it told TechCrunch, “Hateful conduct is not allowed on Twitch. In line with our policies, President Trump’s channel has been issued a temporary suspension from Twitch for comments made on stream, and the offending content has been removed.”
On Wednesday, the company removed the “PogChamp” emote featuring the face of gaming figure Ryan Gutierrez after he expressed support for pro-Trump rioters.

Twitch’s actions follow similar measures taken by Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, which over the course of the last day all placed new restrictions on the president’s account. Facebook also took the unprecedented step of suspending the president’s account for the remainder of his term, which ends on January 20.

The social platforms took action against the president’s accounts after he incited a group of his supporters in a riot at the Capitol. Trump encouraged a crowd to march toward Congress after a rally Wednesday in which the president again pushed false claims about a “stolen” election.

At the Capitol, the crowd swelled and easily overcame barriers in place by police, flooding into the building and looting lawmakers’ offices, resulting in a number of injuries and four deaths. Lawmakers were inside the building at the time and were forced to evacuate, later reconvening to certify the election results.

Developing…

#gaming, #government, #president-donald-trump, #tc, #trump-administration, #twitch

0

Facebook and Instagram block #StormTheCapitol, apply rules used for terrorists and hate groups

After removing a video in which President Trump praised a violent group of his supporters who broke into the U.S. Capitol building, Facebook is rolling out a new set of rules in response to the day’s shocking events.

Facebook says that the group of people who rushed into the Capitol Wednesday now fall under the company’s policies on “dangerous individuals and organizations” — a designation it uses to enforce rules against terrorists, mass murderers and violent hate groups. Last June, the company added the anti-government “boogaloo” movement, which encourages its adherents to take up arms and prepare for or incite a civil war, to the same list.

“The violent protests in the Capitol today are a disgrace,” a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch.

In a blog post, Facebook VP of Integrity Guy Rosen and VP of Global Policy Management Monika Bickert called Wednesday’s events an “emergency” for the platform:

“Let us speak for the leadership team in saying what so many of us are feeling. We are appalled by the violence at the Capitol today. We are treating these events as an emergency. Our Elections Operations Center has already been active in anticipation of the Georgia elections and the vote by Congress to certify the election, and we are monitoring activity on our platform in real time.”

Facebook says that it is in the process of removing content praising the Trump supporters who infiltrated the U.S. Capitol as well as any other “incitement or encouragement” of Wednesday’s events, including photos and videos from the individuals’ perspectives. “At this point they represent promotion of criminal activity which violates our policies,” Rosen and Bickert wrote.

The company will also crack down on anyone organizing any kind of protest that violates Washington D.C.’s newly implemented curfew, even peaceful gatherings. Any “attempts to restage violence” will also be removed.

Facebook says that it is also scouring the platform for any posts calling for people to bring weapons to a location “not just in Washington but anywhere in the US — including protests.”

Facebook also made a few tweaks to “emergency measures” it put in place for the U.S. election, including requiring additional admin review for group posts and auto-disabling comments on group posts that attract a “high rate” of hate speech or encouragement of violence.

Facebook’s blog post also mentions previous crackdowns on militias, the Proud Boys and the “violence-inducing” QAnon conspiracy. Each group connected and grew on Facebook before eventually eventually being booted from the platform and all three had a presence at Wednesday’s violent attempt to overthrow the U.S. election results.

#facebook, #social, #tc, #trump-administration

0

Facebook and YouTube remove Trump video calling extremists ‘special’

Facebook and YouTube have removed a video posted by President Trump telling rioters who stormed Congress “we love you.” The same video was left online but blocked from being shared by Twitter just minutes ago.

A great deal of video and content from the chaotic scene in Washington, D.C. can be found on social media, but Trump’s commentary was spare. His posts suggested the rioters “remain peaceful,” well after they had broken into the Capitol buildings and Congress had been evacuated.

At about 5 PM Eastern time, Trump posted a video in which he reiterated that the election was “stolen” but that “you have to go home now. Go home, we love you. You’re very special.”

On Twitter this was soon restricted, with a large warning that “this Tweet can’t be replied to, Retweeted, or liked due to a risk of violence.”

Guy Rosen, VP of Integrity at Facebook, wrote on Twitter that “this is an emergency situation and we are taking appropriate emergency measures, including removing President Trump’s video. We removed it because on balance we believe it contributes to rather than diminishes the risk of ongoing violence.”

At Facebook there is some precedent for one of Trump’s posts being removed. In August, the company took down a video in which Trump stated that children were “almost immune” to COVID-19, a dangerous and false claim not supported by science.

As Twitter and Facebook crafted bespoke policies to address threats to the election leading into November, YouTube mostly remained quiet. In early December, a month after the election, the company announced that it would begin removing content that made false claims that the U.S. election was affected by “widespread fraud or errors.” YouTube’s decision to remove president’s video on Wednesday aligned with that policy.

“We removed a video posted this afternoon to Donald Trump’s channel that violated our policies regarding content that alleges widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 U.S. Election,” a YouTube spokesperson told TechCrunch, noting that the video is allowed if accompanied by proper context for “educational” value.

This story is developing.

#donald-trump, #facebook, #tc, #trump-administration, #twitter

0

The NYSE will delist three Chinese telecoms after all

The New York Stock Exchange announced this morning that it will be delisting three major Chinese telecom companies, a move that it first announced last week before seeming to reverse course on Monday.

This is all happening in response to the Trump Administration’s broader order barring U.S. investment in companies that support the Chinese military. (Trump has been trying to ban TikTok through a separate order.)

Why the double reversal? To be fair to the NYSE, in its first reversal, the exchange had only said it would allow the telecoms to continue trading while it evaluates whether the executive order applies to them.

Now it seems that the further evaluation is complete. In today’s announcement, the NYSE said it’s making the decision after receiving “new specific guidance” confirming that yes, the executive order does apply to China Telecom, China Mobile and China Unicom.

As a result, trading of all three stocks will be suspended on the exchange as of 4am Eastern time on Monday, January 11. The move is seen as largely symbolic, since the telecoms’ trading volume via the NYSE only represents a small percentage of their total tradable shares.

#china-mobile, #china-telecom, #china-unicom, #new-york-stock-exchange, #policy, #trump-administration

0

Section 230 is threatened in new bill tying liability shield repeal to $2,000 checks

Tech got dragged into yet another irrelevant Congressional scuffle this week after President Trump agreed to sign a bipartisan pandemic relief package but continued to press for additional $2,000 checks that his party opposed during negotiations.

In tweets and other comments, Trump tied a push for the boosted relief payments to his entirely unrelated demand to repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a critical but previously obscure law that protects internet companies from legal liability for user-generated content.

The political situation was complicated further after Republicans in Georgia’s two extremely high stakes runoff races sided with Trump over the additional checks rather than the majority of Republicans in Congress.

In a move that’s more a political maneuver than a real stab at tech regulation,  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a new bill late Tuesday linking the $2,000 payments Republicans previously blocked to an outright repeal of Section 230 — a proposal that’s sure to be doomed in Congress.

McConnell’s bill humors the president’s eclectic cluster of demands while creating an opportunity for his party to look unified, sort of, in the face of the Georgia situation. The proposal also tosses in a study on voter fraud, not because it’s relevant but because it’s another pet issue that Trump dragged into the whole mess.

Over the course of 2020, Trump has repeatedly returned to the ideal of revoking Section 230 protections as a cudgel he can wield against tech companies, particularly Twitter when the platform’s rules result in his own tweets being downranked or paired with misinformation warnings.

 

If the latest development sounds confusing that’s because it is. Section 230 and the stimulus legislation have nothing at all to do with one another. And we were just talking about Section 230 in relation to another completely unrelated bit of legislation, a huge annual defense spending bill called the NDAA.

Last week Trump decided to veto that bill, which enjoyed broad bipartisan support because it funds the military and does other mostly uncontroversial stuff, on the grounds that it didn’t include his totally unrelated demand to strip tech companies of their Section 230 protections. Trump’s move was pretty much out of left field, but it opened the door for Democrats to leverage their cooperation in a two-thirds majority to override Trump’s veto for other stuff they want right now, namely those $2,000 stimulus checks for Americans. Sen. Bernie Sanders is attempting to do just that.

Unfortunately, McConnell’s move here is mostly a cynical one, to the detriment of Americans in financial turmoil. An outright repeal of Section 230 is a position without much if any support among Democrats. And while closely Trump-aligned Republicans have flirted with the idea of stripping online platforms of the legal shield altogether, some flavor of reform is what’s been on the table and what’s likely to get hashed out in 2021.

For lawmakers who understand the far-reaching implications of the law, reform rather than a straight up repeal was always a more likely outcome. In the extraordinarily unlikely event that Section 230 gets repealed through this week’s strange series of events, many of the websites, apps and online services that people rely on would be thrown into chaos. Without Section 230’s liability protections, websites from Yelp to Fox News would be legally responsible for any user-generated reviews and comments they host. If an end to comments sections doesn’t sound so bad, imagine an internet without Amazon reviews, tweets and many other byproducts of the social internet.

The thing is, it’s not going to happen. McConnell doesn’t want Americans to receive the additional $2,000 checks and Democrats aren’t going to be willing to secure the funds by agreeing to a totally unrelated last-minute proposal to throw out the rules of the internet, particularly with regulatory pressure on tech mounting and more serious 230 reform efforts still underway. The proposed bill is also not even guaranteed to come up for a vote in the waning days of this Congressional session.

The end result will be that McConnell humors the president by offering him what he wanted, kind of, Democrats look bad for suddenly opposing much-needed additional stimulus money and Americans in the midst of a deadly and financially devastating crisis probably don’t end up with more money in their pockets. Not great.

#government, #section-230, #section-230-of-the-communications-decency-act, #senate, #tc, #the-battle-over-big-tech, #trump-administration

0

Snoop Dogg’s Casa Verde Capital closes on $100 million as the cannabis industry bounces back

Casa Verde Capital, the investment fund co-founded by cannabis connoisseur Snoop Dogg (also known as Calvin Broadus), has closed on $100 million for its second investment fund, according to documents filed with the SEC.

The fund, whose managing director, Karan Wadhera declined to comment for this article, has managed to raise more cash just as the market for cannabis-related products seems poised for another period of expansion.

“What happened to the public perception of the cannabis industry is not too dissimilar to the dotcom bubble of the late ’90s, where there was a lot of hype — a lot of it driven by public companies — and a lot of speculative trading and valuations that weren’t really founded in reality. [We’re talking about] projections multiple years out into the future, and then crazy revenue multiples on top of that,” Wadhera said of the last bust when he spoke to TechCrunch in July. “Things just got really frothy, and that eventually burst, and last April or May was sort of the apex of that moment. It’s when things started to trade off. And it’s been those names, the public names in particular, that have been hit particularly hard.”

Since then, the industry has come roaring back.

“Sitting here today, four-plus months into COVID, cannabis has really proved itself to be a non-cyclical industry. Cannabis has been deemed an essential business everywhere across the U.S. We had record sales in March, April and May, and the trend has continued,” Wadhera said in July. “And now that we are getting into an environment where governments are going to be looking for additional sources of tax revenue, the potential urgency around cannabis legalization is going to be there, which is going to be massively positive for the industry.”

There’s no indication of the target for the new venture capital fund, but with the new fundraising, Casa Verde more than doubles the size of its initial investment vehicle.

Since Broadus, Wadhera and a third partner and the founder of Cashmere Agency and Stampede Management Ted Chung launched their debut fund in 2018, weed businesses have endured a roller-coaster business cycle of boom and bust.

In spite of those market vagaries, Casa Verde has managed to build a portfolio that is now worth at least $200 million, according to people with knowledge of the firm. That money has come through several special purpose vehicles and other fundraising mechanisms raised alongside the flagship fund.

The overall market for cannabis and cannabinoid derivatives is expected to hit $34 billion by 2025 according to an analyst report seen by TechCrunch from the investment bank Cowen.

With Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota all passing adult-use cannabis legalization measures in their states, the investment bank predicted roughly 30 percent growth to their total addressable market estimates.

For its part, Casa Verde has always taken a broad view on the potential addressable market that cannabis and its chemical compounds could capture.

Nowhere is that more on view than in the firm’s latest investment in the sleep company, Proper.

 

“[Cannabis] is an input as well and its use case will go beyond how people think of cannabis stigmatically,” Wadhera said. “At its core, [Proper] is a company that’s helping us target this sleep epidemic. We think CBD and cannabis at large can play a big role in addressing that in a way that traditional products haven’t been able to.”

And what’s true for sleep is true for a number of other different applications as well, Wadhera has said in the past.

Casa Verde has already invested heavily across the pure-play opportunities in cannabis, with investments spanning delivery, supply chain logistics, brands, and retail.

But the health benefits that cannabinoids could have for all kinds of ailments open up a much larger market — as do the broad consumer opportunities should Congress accede to the wishes of more than 60 percent of the American electorate and legalize recreational cannabis use nationally.

And, as Wadhera told us in July, a Biden administration presents a potentially much more positive regulatory environment for the industry than the previous Trump administration did.

“I think Biden will be very helpful. He has laid out many of the things that he wants, and [while] he isn’t taking it as far as full-scale legalization, he’s certainly in favor of full-scale decriminalization, [meaning] letting states have full authority over what happens with their businesses, and also the rescheduling of cannabis down from the current Schedule 1 level,” Wadhera had said. “So all of that will be incredibly helpful and will bring a lot more players who will feel comfortable investing in the space and, potentially, acquiring some of these businesses, too.”

 

#analyst, #arizona, #biden, #biden-administration, #calvin, #casa-verde-capital, #congress, #cowen, #karan-wadhera, #montana, #musicians, #new-jersey, #proper, #retail, #securities-and-exchange-commission, #snoop-dogg, #tc, #ted-chung, #trump-administration, #united-states, #venture-capital

0

Trump’s odd new attack on Section 230 is probably doomed

Trump’s crusade against a key internet law known as Section 230 tends to pop up in unlikely places. His Twitter feed on Thanksgiving, for one. Or at times you’d think the nation would be hearing from its leader on the matter at hand: a worsening pandemic that’s killed nearly 270,000 people in the United States.

His latest threat to the law, which is widely regarded as the foundation for the modern internet, is unlikelier still. Now, Trump wants to veto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a bill that allocates military funds each year, if it doesn’t somehow “terminate” Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

In a tweet, Trump mysteriously called the law a “serious threat to our National Security & Election Integrity” and claimed that only big tech companies benefit from it, which is not true. Big tech’s lobbying group made the opposite argument in response to the president’s new threat.

“Repealing Section 230 is itself a threat to national security,” Internet Association Interim President and CEO Jon Berroya said in a statement. “The law empowers online platforms to remove harmful and dangerous content, including terrorist content and misinformation.”

Section 230, which protects internet companies from liability for the content they host, is currently at the center of a complex bipartisan reform effort — one that’s nowhere near a consensus, much less an agreement that Section 230 should be scrapped outright.

President Trump’s threat to block the NDAA stakes out a deeply unpopular position. The sweeping defense budget bill includes all kinds of funding for popular programs that benefit U.S. troops and veterans, making a veto of the bill if the terms of a totally unrelated demand aren’t met a strange gamble indeed. The fact that Trump’s latest anti-230 tactic comes during a lame duck session gives his threat even less bite.

In light of that, most of Congress has gone about business as usual so far. But close Trump ally Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) did signal his support for Trump’s position on Wednesday. “The NDAA does NOT contain any reform to Section 230 but DOES contain Elizabeth Warren’s social engineering amendment to unilaterally rename bases & war memorials w/ no public input or process,” Hawley tweeted. “I cannot support it.”

If history is any lesson, Trump isn’t afraid to make an empty threat, eventually pivoting to something else that catches his attention. But Section 230 — previously a fairly arcane piece of legislation that attracted little mainstream attention — has rankled Trump for the better part of the year, even inspiring an executive order back in May.

That executive order gets at the real reason behind Trump’s ire: He believes that social media companies, Twitter in particular, have unfairly censored him. While Twitter has continued to allow Trump to remain on its platform even as he flaunts the rules, the company now limits the reach of his most dangerous or misleading tweets — false claims about the election results, for example — and pairs them with warning labels.

Paradoxically, if Trump got his way, an outright repeal of Section 230 would open online platforms up to an insurmountable level of legal liability, either sinking social media companies outright or forcing them to severely restrict their users’ speech.

It’s possible that the president could dig his heels in, pushing the defense spending bill into President-elect Biden’s term. But it’s more likely that Trump will back off of his unusual demand, which so far has yet to attract much support or even acknowledgement from his own party. At the moment, Congress is preoccupied with work on a second pandemic stimulus bill that would offer more financial support to the country.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who co-authored Section 230, remains unworried that a repeal could get stuffed into the multi-hundred billion dollar defense bill in the eleventh hour.

“I’d like to start for the Blazers, but it’s not going to happen either,” Wyden told TechCrunch. “It is pathetic that Trump refuses to help unemployed workers, while he spends his time tweeting unhinged election conspiracies and demanding Congress repeal the foundation of free speech online.”

#government, #section-230, #section-230-of-the-communications-decency-act, #tc, #trump-administration

0

Trump didn’t concede, but he will move Biden’s transition forward

With an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots, election results took a bit longer this year than usual. But if Americans were expecting an election week, November stretched on into a month of election drama, with President Trump mounting an unprecedented effort to undermine election results and stall the transition process, even as states certified Biden’s win.

President Trump at last appeared to accept the election results Monday, but not in so many words. It certainly wasn’t a concession speech, but it was probably the closest thing yet.

“… In the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same,” Trump tweeted, seeming to contradict a fresh claim made by GSA Administrator Emily Murphy that the White House did not influence her decision to block the transition. The General Services Administration (GSA) plays a role in making election results official and moving the transition forward on the federal level.

 

President-elect Biden’s transition work proceeded in spite of the roadblocks, with the incoming leader introducing aspects of his plan to get COVID-19 under control and working out the names of officials he plans to appoint. But with the head of the GSA refusing to release $6.3 million in federal funds for the transition, Biden’s hands were tied in some important ways. Murphy’s extremely unusual refusal to recognize the election results also blocked the president-elect’s ability to access secure government devices and receive briefings from federal agencies, including those involved in the pandemic response.

Apart from getting Biden’s transition on track, Trump’s words and GSA’s belated cooperation could help the nation move on in another important way. For weeks, election conspiracies have roiled the internet, inspiring a number of Trump supporters to denounce mainstream social networks, which reminded users of the election results and cracked down on some forms of misinformation. Those conspiracy theories were often spread right from the top, with President Trump promoting baseless claims of fraud involving mail-in ballots and voting machines as he refused to concede.

The president’s online supporters may not move on from the election quickly, but they’re likely to follow his lead — and for now at least, it looks like Trump will signal defeat.

#2020-election, #government, #joe-biden, #tc, #trump-administration

0

Trump adviser tells Michigan to “rise up” against COVID restrictions

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer about to speak at an event in Southfield, Michigan, on October 16, 2020.

Enlarge / Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer about to speak at an event in Southfield, Michigan, on October 16, 2020. (credit: Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images)

One of the Trump administration’s top coronavirus advisers called for Michigan residents to “rise up” against their state government to resist temporary coronavirus mitigation measures—barely one month after several men were arrested for conspiring to kidnap and assassinate the state’s governor.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration on Sunday issued a new emergency order putting a “pause” on several nonessential businesses and activities for the next three weeks. The order closes casinos and movie theaters, halts in-person dining in bars and restaurants, and requires colleges and high schools to return to all-virtual education, among other limitations. Childcare and schools up through eighth grade can remain open, as can gyms and pools, retail locations, and personal care services such as hair salons. Gatherings of up to 25 people are also permitted outdoors.

“Right now, there are thousands of cases a day, and hundreds of deaths a week in Michigan, and the number is growing,” Whitmer said when announcing the order. “If we don’t act now, thousands more will die, and our hospitals will continue to be overwhelmed. We can get through this together by listening to health experts once again and taking action right now to slow the spread of this deadly virus.”

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#coronavirus, #covid-19, #gretchen-whitmer, #policy, #scott-atlas, #trump-administration

0

Trump admin puts a hold on TikTok ban it seems to have forgotten about

TikTok logo next to inverted US flag.

Enlarge / TikTok’s US fate is up in the air, but at least you can still download and patch it. (credit: SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images)

The Department of Commerce has put a stay on enforcing an executive order that would have forced popular short-form video app TikTok to suspend all US operations as of midnight tonight. This is a tacit admission that the proposed ban isn’t actually particularly important to the administration any longer.

Commerce said the orders against TikTok are on hold “pending further legal developments” in multiple lawsuits, The Wall Street Journal reports.

President Donald Trump earlier this year signed two executive orders relating to TikTok. The first, on August 7, declared the app to be a national emergency. A second (PDF), issued one week later, gave ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, 90 days to divest the app to a US owner.

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#bytedance, #department-of-commerce, #lawsuits, #policy, #tiktok, #trump-administration

0

‘Free speech’ social network Parler tops app store rankings following Biden’s election win

Chafing at new misinformation safeguards and a lost election, dejected Trump supporters flocked to the alternative social network Parler over the weekend.  Parler’s homepage promises that users can “Speak freely and express yourself openly, without fear of being ‘deplatformed’ for your views.”

Parler shot up the charts across Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store in the days following official election results. An Android app called “Parlor” was also trending Monday, likely due to misspelled searches for Parler.

Joe Biden prevailed on Saturday, picking up the critical state of Pennsylvania to become president-elect. Biden’s win followed a tense five days of vote tallying, as Trump repeatedly attacked the U.S. election process.

Parler sat at #7 in the App Store on Saturday, November 7, according to mobile app market analysis from Sensor Tower. By the next day, it shot up to #1 — a first for the app. It remains in the top slot now, in contrast to its position a week ago as the 1023th most downloaded app.

The story is similar in Google’s own app marketplace, where Parler climbed from #51 on Saturday to #5 on Sunday, topping out in the #1 slot today. The Fox News competitor Newsmax TV and the self-described “next-gen social network” MeWe also sat in Google’s top 5.

Parler’s ascent is notable but not totally new. Accounts anticipating a ban have been pointing their followers toward Parler and other far-right havens with every new platform policy change that Twitter and Facebook make. Gab, which describes itself as “the free speech social network” is also vying for Trump loyalists.

“It’s crazy to believe that only a handful of Silicon Valley companies will have complete control over the flow of information, communication, and news forever,” Gab CEO Andrew Torba wrote in a blog post Sunday.  Torba was booted from Y Combinator’s alumni network for threatening comments and harassment shortly after the 2016 election.

But in spite of calls for a mass exodus, many prominent conservative figures accusing Twitter and Facebook of censorship have maintained their presences on the platforms, knowing that their reach would be dramatically limited on the alternative social networks.

Fox News contributor and Trump enthusiast Dan Bongino called for his own supporters to move to Parler last week, warning that “Fakebook” might act against his page. On Facebook, Bongino’s content regularly ranks in the top performing posts on the platform and his page has nearly four million followers. Notably, Bongino announced an ownership stake in Parler earlier this year.

Over on Parler, the Trump campaign is raising donations for an “election defense task force,” but according to the fine print half of every donation will go toward existing debt. The campaign doesn’t appear to have made much original content on the niche social network lately, instead reposting very similar messages over and over.

For the many Trump supporters pushing dangerous false claims about the election, the writing was on the wall. Facebook made a rapid-fire series of policy changes in the months preceding the election, banning QAnon, cracking down on violent militias and introducing new tools to slow the spread of misinformation, which metastasized on the social network over the last four years.

As it became clear that Trump’s effort to delegitimize the election was picking up steam, Facebook cracked down. The company began hiding search results for the #StopTheSteal hashtag and removed one of its popular groups over “calls for violence” made by some members.

In spite of his loss, President Trump has refused to concede the election. But by Monday, Biden’s transition team had already kicked into high gear, announcing members of a coronavirus task force that will seek to rein in the deadly virus where Trump has failed.

With election results settled, the vast machinery of the U.S. government moved steadily toward January’s transfer of power, as it has in every other election.

#2020-election, #censorship, #social, #tc, #trump-administration

0

Twitter restricts Trump’s tweet raising fears that foes would ‘steal’ the election

With key wins notched in a few states, Trump didn’t declare victory prematurely on election night as social media companies feared — but he did baselessly raise the specter of voter fraud.

“We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election,” Trump tweeted. “We will never let them do it. Votes cannot be cast after the Polls are closed!”

Twitter took action against the tweet quickly, placing it behind a warning and adding a misinformation label. The company explained its actions in a tweet, stating that the president’s message contained a “potentially misleading claim about an election.”

While Trump’s wording is left a bit ambiguous, the president again appears to be attacking the integrity of vote-by-mail ballots. With mail-in ballots expected to come in slowly in some states, lagging votes may play a big part in the election outcome. That scenario was expected and does not raise any concerns over the integrity of vote tallying.

Social media companies began crafting new policies for the unusual circumstances of the 2020 election and its worrisome misinformation ecosystem in the months leading up to November. Due to a huge spike in mail-in voting related to the pandemic, results were expected to be more ambiguous on election night in 2020 than in past years and so far that’s proven true.

Twitter also said in a September policy announcement that it would remove or label any tweets that incite unlawful activity in order to “prevent a peaceful transfer of power or orderly succession.”

While tweets that Twitter restricts remain online, they’re placed behind a warning message that users must first click through in order to view their content. Restricted tweets also have their retweets, likes and comments disabled, reducing their reach.

On Facebook, where much of Trump’s Twitter content is reposted, the message earned a label reminding users that election night results and final results may differ as more ballots are counted.

Facebook said it will label any posts claiming premature victory with an informational message pointing users to official election results. The company attached a similar label to another late night Trump post declaring “I will be making a statement tonight. A big WIN!”

#2020-election, #donald-trump, #facebook, #government, #policy, #president-donald-trump, #tc, #trump-administration, #twitter

0

Twitter hides Trump tweet attacking Supreme Court’s decision on Pennsylvania ballots

In an election eve preview of what to expect in the coming days, President Trump pushed the limits on Twitter’s election-specific policies Monday night.

In a tweet, Trump railed against the Supreme Court’s decision to allow Pennsylvania officials to count ballots postmarked by Election Day. The Republican party has waged a brazen legal onslaught against voting rights throughout key states in recent weeks, a cynical effort designed to better the sitting president’s reelection chances.

Twitter pushed back on the president’s false claim about Pennsylvania mail-in ballots, hiding it behind a misinformation warning that calls the tweet “disputed.” Twitter also disabled non-quote retweets, likes and replies for the hidden tweet, which remains viewable but restricted.

Image Credits: Twitter

“The Supreme Court decision on voting in Pennsylvania is a VERY dangerous one,” Trump tweeted. “It will allow rampant and unchecked cheating and will undermine our entire systems of laws. It will also induce violence in the streets. Something must be done!”

Facebook did not remove the reposted message, but did add a label emphasizing the trustworthiness of voting systems. Three hours after it was published, Trump’s Facebook post had collected 63,000 likes and 13,000 comments.

#2020-election, #donald-trump, #facebook, #policy, #social-media, #tc, #trump-administration, #twitter

0

TikTok stars got a judge to block Trump’s TikTok ban

TikTok has won another battle in its fight against the Trump administration’s ban of its video-sharing app in the U.S. — or, more accurately in this case, the TikTok community won a battle. On Friday, a federal judge in Pennsylvania has issued an injunction that blocked the restrictions that would have otherwise blocked TikTok from operating in the U.S. on November 12.

This particular lawsuit was not led by TikTok itself, but rather a group of TikTok creators who use the app to engage with their million-plus followers.

According to the court documents, plaintiff Douglas Marland has 2.7 million followers on the app; Alec Chambers has 1.8 million followers; and Cosette Rinab has 2.3 million followers. The creators argued – successfully as it turns out — that they would lose access to their followers in the event of a ban, as well as the “professional opportunities afforded by TikTok.” In other words, they’d lose their brand sponsorships — meaning, their income.

This is not the first time that the U.S. courts have sided with TikTok to block the Trump administration’s proposed ban over the Chinese-owned video sharing app. Last month, a D.C. judge blocked the ban that would have removed the app from being listed in U.S. app stores run by Apple and Google.

That ruling had not, however, stopped the Nov. 12 ban that would have blocked companies from providing internet hosting services that would have allowed TikTok to continue to operate in the U.S.

The Trump administration had moved to block the TikTok app from operating in the U.S. due to its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, claiming it was a national security threat. The core argument from the judge in this ruling was the “Government’s own descriptions of the national security threat posed by the TikTok app are phrased in the hypothetical.”

That hypothetical risk was unable to be stated by the Government, the Judge argued, to be such a risk that it outweighed the public interest. The interest, in this case, was the over 100 million users of TikTok and the creators like Marland, Chambers and Rinab that utilized it to spread “informational materials,” which allowed the Judge to rule that the ban would shut down a platform for expressive activity.

“We are deeply moved by the outpouring of support from our creators, who have worked to protect their rights to expression, their careers, and to help small businesses, particularly during the pandemic,” said Vanessa Pappas, Interim Global Head of TikTok, in a statement. “We stand behind our community as they share their voices, and we are committed to continuing to provide a home for them to do so,” she added.

The TikTok community coming to the rescue on this one aspect of the overall TikTok picture just elevates this whole story. Though the company has been relatively quiet through this whole process, Pappas has thanked the community several times for its outpouring of support. Though there were some initial waves of ‘grief’ on the app with creators frantically recommending people follow them on other platforms, that has morphed over time into more of a ‘let’s band together’ vibe. This activity coalesced around a big swell in voting advocacy on the platform, where many creators are too young to actually participate but view voting messaging as their way to participate.

TikTok has remained active in the product department through the whole mess, shipping elections guides and trying to ban Qanon conspiracy spread. Even as Pakistan banned and then un-banned the app.

 

 

 

#apple, #bytedance, #google, #mobile-applications, #pennsylvania, #software, #tc, #tiktok, #trump-administration, #united-states, #vanessa-pappas

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Judge: Trump Admin‘s TikTok ban would cause “irreparable harm” to creators

Visitors visit the booth of Douyin (TikTok) at the 2019 smart expo in Hangzhou, China, Oct. 18, 2019.

Enlarge / Visitors visit the booth of Douyin (TikTok) at the 2019 smart expo in Hangzhou, China, Oct. 18, 2019. (credit: Costfoto | Barcroft Media | Getty Images)

A federal judge in Pennsylvania has blocked a Trump administration order that would have banned TikTok from operating inside the United States as of November 12, finding that content creators who use the short-form video platform to make a living would suffer “irreparable harm” if the ban were to go through.

The “significant and unrecoverable economic loss caused by the shutdown of the TikTok platform” was grounds for granting an injunction, Judge Wendy Beetlestone of the US District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania wrote in a ruling (PDF) today.

President Donald Trump in August issued an executive order declaring TikTok (as well as another China-based app, WeChat) to be a national emergency. That order gave the Department of Commerce 45 days to put a list of banned actions into place. Commerce did so, prohibiting new TikTok downloads after September 20 and banning nearly every other TikTok feature after November 12.

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#bytedance, #china, #commerce-department, #lawsuits, #policy, #politics, #tiktok, #trump-administration

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Decrypted: How Twitter was hacked, GitHub DMCA backfires

One week to the U.S. presidential election and things are getting spicy.

It’s not just the rhetoric — hackers are actively working to disrupt the election, officials have said, and last week they came with a concrete example and an unusually quick pointing of blame.

On Wednesday night, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe blamed Iran for an email operation designed to intimidate voters in Florida into voting for President Trump “or else.” Ratcliffe, who didn’t take any questions from reporters and has been accused of politicizing the typically impartial office, said Iran had used voter registration data — which is largely public in the U.S. — to send emails that looked like they came from the far-right group the Proud Boys. Google security researchers also linked the campaign to Iran, which denied claims of its involvement. It’s estimated about 2,500 emails went through in the end, with the rest getting caught in spam filters.

The announcement was lackluster in detail. But experts like John Hultquist, who heads intelligence analysis at FireEye-owned security firm Mandiant, said the incident is “clearly aimed at undermining voter confidence,” just as the Russians attempted during the 2016 election.

 


THE BIG PICTURE

Twitter was hacked using a fake VPN portal, New York investigation finds

The hackers who broke into Twitter’s network used a fake VPN page to steal the credentials — and two-factor authentication code — of an employee, an investigation by New York’s Department of Financial Affairs found. The state tax division got involved after the hackers then hijacked user accounts using an internal “admin tool” to spread a cryptocurrency scam.

In a report published last week, the department said the hackers called several Twitter employees and used social engineering to trick one employee into entering their username and password on a site that looked like the company’s VPN portal, which most employees use to access the network from home during the pandemic.

“As the employee entered their credentials into the phishing website, the hackers would simultaneously enter the information into the real Twitter website. This false log-in generated a [two-factor authentication] notification requesting that the employees authenticate themselves, which some of the employees did,” wrote the report. Once onto the network using the employee’s VPN credentials, the hackers used that access to investigate how to access the company’s internal tools.

Twitter said in September that its employees would receive hardware security keys, which would make it far more difficult for a repeat phishing attack to be successful.

Open-source YouTube download tool hit by DMCA takedown, but backfires

#android, #computer-security, #decrypted, #encryption, #github, #iphone, #iran, #law-enforcement, #mandiant, #president, #security, #social, #social-engineering, #startups, #team8, #trump-administration, #united-states

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How the Trump admin devastated the CDC—and continues to cripple it

A serious man in a business suit grimaces.

Enlarge / CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield. (credit: Getty | Alex Edelman)

The CDC has been neutered, shamed, and blamed amid the novel coronavirus pandemic and global crisis. From internal missteps that bungled the country’s rollout of diagnostic testing to blatant political interference and strong-arming on critical public health guidance, the CDC has gone from the world’s premier public health agency to a silenced, overridden, distrusted afterthought in the US response—an agency stripped of its ability to collect even basic health data from hospitals during a raging pandemic.

The heavy blows to the agency’s reputation and role have been well documented throughout the pandemic. President Trump and his administration have openly undermined the agency and, behind the scenes, attacked it while overriding expert public health advice on testing, school reopening, and the handling of outbreaks on cruise ships, among other things.

But while the broad strokes of the agency’s undoing were noted in real time, a set of new investigations and reports offers new details. In a sweeping investigative report by ProPublica, three journalists retraced a number of events, digging up emails, heated exchanges, and alarm within the agency. For instance, it provides fresh insight into how a single CDC researcher valiantly worked to develop diagnostic tests for the novel coronavirus, only to fumble, producing tests contaminated with genetic sequences of the virus. That contamination produced false positive results in public health labs around the country, rendering the tests useless and losing precious time to get ahead of the disease’s spread.

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#birx, #cdc, #covid-19, #pandemic, #public-health, #redfield, #science, #trump-administration

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White House informally endorses letting pandemic spread unchecked

Image of the White House.

Enlarge / Nobody from the White House went on record as supporting herd immunity. (credit: Congressional Budget Offic)

On Monday, the White House hosted a pandemic-focused call for the press “on background”—intended to provide a window into the administration’s thinking, but not to provide quotes that could be attributed to any government official. During the call, the unspecified White House officials touted a document supporting the idea of herd immunity as a plan to control the pandemic, saying it reflected the administration’s thinking.

The document, called the Great Barrington Declaration, was prepared by a libertarian think tank with the assistance of a handful of scientists who have been pushing the idea that COVID-19 isn’t much of a threat. And it has attracted enough attention that the World Health Organization decided to address it. The result severely undercut whatever the White House intended to accomplish.

“Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic,” the WHO’s Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “It’s scientifically and ethically problematic.”

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#cdc, #covid-19, #pandemic, #policy, #sars-cov-2, #science, #trump, #trump-administration, #white-house, #who

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Trump is already breaking platform rules again with false claim that COVID-19 is ‘far less lethal’ than the flu

Facebook and Twitter took action against a post from President Trump Tuesday that claimed that COVID-19 is “far less lethal” than the flu. Trump made the tweet and posted the same message to Facebook just hours after arriving back at the White House following a multi-day stay at Walter Reed medical center, where the president was treated after testing positive for COVID-19.

Facebook took down Trump’s post outright Tuesday, stating that it “[removes] incorrect information about the severity of COVID-19, and have now removed this post.” Twitter hid the tweet behind a warning saying that it broke the platform’s rules about spreading misleading or harmful COVID-19 misinformation.

“We placed a public interest notice on this Tweet for violating our COVID-19 Misleading Information Policy by making misleading health claims about COVID-19,” a Twitter spokesperson said.

Taking down one of the president’s posts is rare but it wasn’t a first for Facebook. In August, Facebook removed a video Trump shared in which he claimed that children are “almost immune” to COVID-19. The clip originally aired on Fox News.

On twitter, Trump’s tweet will have “significantly limited” engagement, meaning that it can’t be retweeted without quoting, liked or replied to, but it will remain up because it’s in the public interest. By the time Twitter took action on the tweet it had more than 59,000 retweets and 186,000 likes.

Facebook and Twitter both created new policies to address the spread of pandemic-related misinformation earlier this year. In the pandemic’s earlier days, the false claim that COVID is comparable to the flu was a common refrain from Trump and his allies, who wished to downplay the severity of the virus.  But after months of the virus raging through communities around the U.S., the claim that COVID-19 is like the flu is an even more glaring lie.

While much remains not understood about the virus, it can follow an aggressive and unpredictable trajectory in patients, attacking vital organs beyond the lungs and leaving people who contracted it with long-lasting health effects that are not yet thoroughly studied or understood. Trump’s own physician has said the president “may not be out of the woods yet” in his own fight with the virus.

In recent months, the president’s social media falsehoods had shifted more toward lies about the safety of vote-by-mail, the system many Americans will rely on to cast votes as the pandemic rages on.

But less than a day out of a multi-day stay at the hospital where he was given supplemental oxygen and three experimental treatments, it’s clear Trump’s own diagnosis with the virus doesn’t mean he intends to treat the health threat that’s upended the economy and claimed more than 200,000 lives with any seriousness at all.

Instead, Trump is poised to continue waging a political war against platforms like Twitter and Facebook — if the results of the election give him the chance. Trump has already expressed interest in dismantling Section 230, a key legal provision that protects platforms from liability for user-generated content. He tweeted “REPEAL SECTION 230!!!” Tuesday after Twitter and Facebook took action against his posts saying the flu is worse than COVID-19.

#2020-election, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #donald-trump, #facebook, #misinformation, #pandemic, #tc, #trump-administration, #twitter

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Trump administration’s TikTok ban has been delayed

A U.S. federal court has said a ban on TikTok will not go into effect on Monday as scheduled.

The move to delay the anticipated ban will allow Americans to continue using the app while the court considers the ban’s legality and whether the app poses a risk to national security as the Trump administration claims.

For weeks since President Donald Trump signed two executive orders in early August, the government has threatened to shut down the viral video sharing app over fears that its parent company ByteDance, headquartered in Beijing, could be forced to turn over user data to the Chinese government. TikTok, which has 100 million users in the United States alone, has long rejected the claims.

TikTok first filed a lawsuit against the administration on September 18, and on Thursday this week filed a last minute injunction in an effort to stop the ban going into effect Sunday night. On Friday, the government asked the court to reject the injunction in a sealed motion, which the government later refiled as a public motion with some redactions. A public hearing on the injunction was set for Sunday morning. The case is being heard in DC District Court presided by judge Carl J. Nichols.

In its ruling on Sunday, the court gave just its decision, with the formal opinion handed over privately to just the two opposing parties. Due to sensitive material included in the government’s motion, the parties have until Monday to ask for any redactions before the final opinion will be published.

The decision is just the latest episode in the continuing saga of the sprawling fight over the future of the fastest-growing social app in America. A deal reached between ByteDance and the U.S. government last weekend was believed to have resolved the standoff between the two parties, but the deal has frayed over disputed details between buyer Oracle and ByteDance.

The administration first launched an action against TikTok on August 6, with President Trump arguing in an executive order that the app posed an unreasonable national security risk for American citizens. That order mirrored a similar one published the same day that put restrictions on the popular Mandarin-language messenger app WeChat, which is owned by China-based Tencent.

Last weekend, a federal magistrate judge in San Francisco put in place an injunction on the Commerce Department’s ban on WeChat, pending further court deliberations. TikTok, whose arguments mirror those in the WeChat lawsuit, was hoping for a similar outcome in its own legal proceedings.

One difference between the two lawsuits is the plaintiffs. In WeChat’s case, a group of WeChat users filed a lawsuit arguing that a ban would hurt their expression of speech. TikTok is representing itself in its own fight with the government.

The court case is TikTok Inc. et al v. Trump et al (1:2020-cv-02658).

#bytedance, #department-of-commerce, #donald-trump, #government, #oracle, #security, #tiktok, #trump-administration

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Anduril among companies tapped to build the Air Force’s ‘internet of things’ for war

Palmer Luckey’s young defense company has been selected by the Air Force for work on a cutting-edge, multibillion dollar nervous system for war. Luckey announced the news that Anduril was one of the selected vendors for the project, known as the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS), on his Twitter account Thursday.

Over the last four months, the Air Force named more than 50 different vendors who would work on developing the system, giving each the chance to receive from $1,000 to $950 million over the next five years. Amazon Web Services was also selected in the fresh round vendors, along with 16 other lesser known companies.

The vendor list includes a number of companies that aren’t the usual suspects in Department of Defense work, reflecting the “innovative acquisition strategy” intended to accelerate the timeline for the ambitious system.

As a three-year-old startup founded by the controversial Trump-booster who created Oculus, ushered in the dawn of consumer VR, and was eventually fired from Facebook, Anduril fits the bill.

“The goal of ABMS is to enable the Air Force and Space Force to operate together and as part of a joint team – connecting sensors, decision makers and weapons through a secure data network enabling rapid decision making and all-domain command and control,” according to an Air Force press release.

Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Will Roper previously said that the ABMS competition would bring in “fresh blood,” particularly commercially-focused companies “that know a lot about data, that know a lot about machine learning and [artificial intelligence] and know a lot about analytics.”

Anduril has already picked up a surprising amount of federal work in its short lifespan. In June the Trump administration awarded Anduril with a contract to build a so-called virtual border wall comprised of its drones, sensor towers and AI software system — an opportunity that the company seemed custom-built for from its launch.

The ABMS project will ultimately fit into the Defense Department’s work on a system known as Joint All-Domain Command & Control or JADC2, a kind of meta software platform for warfare that connects all humans, devices, and equipment across the domains of air, land, sea, space and cyber and even the electromagnetic spectrum.

Per Luckey’s tweet, Anduril’s new contract is “for the maturation, demonstration and proliferation of capability across platforms and domains, leveraging open systems design, modern software and algorithm development in order to enable Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2).”

“It aims to link every ship, soldier, and jet, so that ground, air, sea, space, and cyber assets can share the exact same data and can be used almost interchangeably to take out targets, even in environments where communication is being heavily jammed or where adversaries have advanced air defenses,” Defense One explained in a piece on the project.

Working with the Department of Defense has been Anduril’s endgame from day one. The company opened that door through key hires, picking up contracts with Customs and Border Protection and the Marine Corps, and building out its small-scale proof of concept: a modular web of hardware and software that could talk to itself and operate autonomously.

Just months after launching in 2017, TechCrunch reported that Anduril was interested in “real-time battlefield awareness for soldiers on the ground and headquarters alike,” which sounds quite a bit like the company’s exploratory new defense work.

 

#air-force, #anduril, #department-of-defense, #tc, #trump-administration

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Judge gives Trump admin. Friday deadline to delay or defend TikTok ban

A stand of TikTok (Douyin) at The First International Artificial Products Expo Hangzhou on October 18, 2019, in Hangzhou, China.

Enlarge / A stand of TikTok (Douyin) at The First International Artificial Products Expo Hangzhou on October 18, 2019, in Hangzhou, China. (credit: Long Wei | VCG | Getty Images)

A federal judge today gave the Trump administration until Friday to either defend its planned ban of short-form-video app TikTok in court or hold off on it, adding one more wrinkle to the seemingly endless on-again, off-again saga.

If the government doesn’t voluntarily postpone the planned TikTok ban by 2:30pm (EDT) on Friday, then it will have to show up for a hearing on Sunday morning, where he will rule on TikTok’s request for an injunction on the ban, Judge Carl Nichols of the US District Court for DC said today.

Nichols said that the ban, if it takes effect, could prevent potentially hundreds of thousands of new users per day from signing up for TikTok. “I don’t think [a ban] merely preserves the status quo,” he said, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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#bans, #courts, #policy, #tiktok, #trump-administration, #white-house

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CDC removes updated guidelines around COVID-19 aerosol transmission, but this expert explains why it should reverse the reversal

Last week at TechCrunch Disrupt 2020, I got the chance to speak to Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and health economists who is a Senior Fellow of the Federation of American Scientists. Dr. Feigl-Ding has been a frequent and vocal critic of some of the most profound missteps of regulators, public health organizations and the current White House administration, and we discussed specifically the topic of aerosol transmission and its notable absence from existing guidance in the U.S.

At the time, neither of us knew that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) would publish updated guidance on its website over this past weekend that provided descriptions of aerosol transmission, and a concession that it’s likely a primary vector for passing on the virus that leads to COVID-19 – or that the CDC would subsequently revert said guidance, removing this updated information about aerosol transmission that’s more in line with the current state of widely accepted COVID research. The CDC cited essentially an issue where someone at the organization pushed a draft version of guidelines to production – but the facts it had shared in the update lined up very closely with what Dr. Feigl-Ding had been calling for.

“The fact that we haven’t highlighted aerosol transmission as much, u