Microsoft

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

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

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

Businesses

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

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

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

United States

Homeland Security Unveils New Cyber Security Strategy Amid Threats (reuters.com) 75

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday unveiled a new national strategy for addressing the growing number of cyber security risks as it works to assess them and reduce vulnerabilities. From a report: "The cyber threat landscape is shifting in real-time, and we have reached a historic turning point," DHS chief Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement. "It is clear that our cyber adversaries can now threaten the very fabric of our republic itself." The announcement comes amid concerns about the security of the 2018 U.S. midterm congressional elections and numerous high-profile hacking of U.S. companies.
Businesses

Apple CEO Says He Has Urged Trump To Address Legal Status of Immigrants; Also Told Him That Tariffs Are Wrong Approach To China (bloomberg.com) 376

Apple chief executive Tim Cook told Bloomberg Television that he has criticized Donald Trump's approach to trade with China in a recent White House meeting, while also urging the president to address the legal status of immigrants known as Dreamers. From the interview: Cook said his message to Trump focused on the importance of trade and how cooperation between two countries can boost the economy more than nations acting alone. Cook met with Trump in the Oval Office in late April amid a brewing trade war between the U.S. and China. The Trump administration instituted 25 percent tariffs on at least $50 billion worth of products from China, sparking retaliation. In the interview on "The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations," Cook acknowledged that previous trade policies were flawed but said Trump's move is also problematic. "It's true, undoubtedly true, that not everyone has been advantaged from that -- in either country -- and we've got to work on that," Cook said. "But I felt that tariffs were not the right approach there, and I showed him some more analytical kinds of things to demonstrate why."
Security

Kaspersky Lab Moving Core Infrastructure To Switzerland (securityweek.com) 78

wiredmikey writes: As part of its Global Transparency Initiative, Russia-based Kaspersky Lab today announced that it will adjust its infrastructure to move a number of "core processes" from Russia to Switzerland. The security firm has faced challenges after several governments have banned Kaspersky software over security concerns, despite no hard evidence that Kaspersky has ever colluded with the Russian government. As an extension to its transparency initiative, announced in October 2017, the firm is now going further by making plans for its processes and source code to be independently supervised by a qualified third-party. To this end, it is supporting the creation of a new, non-profit "Transparency Center" able to assume this responsibility not just for itself, but for other partners and members who wish to join. Noticeably, Kaspersky Lab does not link the move specifically to the effects of the U.S. ban, but sees wider issues of global trust emerging.
Google

Google Employees Resign in Protest Against Pentagon Contract (gizmodo.com) 469

Kate Conger, reporting for Gizmodo: It's been nearly three months since many Google employees -- and the public -- learned about the company's decision to provide artificial intelligence to a controversial military pilot program known as Project Maven, which aims to speed up analysis of drone footage by automatically classifying images of objects and people. Now, about a dozen Google employees are resigning in protest over the company's continued involvement in Maven.

The resigning employees' frustrations range from particular ethical concerns over the use of artificial intelligence in drone warfare to broader worries about Google's political decisions -- and the erosion of user trust that could result from these actions. Many of them have written accounts of their decisions to leave the company, and their stories have been gathered and shared in an internal document, the contents of which multiple sources have described to Gizmodo.

Government

North Korea Announces Plans To Dismantle Nuclear Test Site (npr.org) 216

The Associated Press is reporting North Korea has announced plans to dismantle its nuclear test site between May 23 and 25. The dismantling will occur before President Trump is scheduled to meet with Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12. NPR reports: Reuters reports that Punggye-ri nuclear test site has been the location of all of North Korea's six known nuclear tests. At the site, there's a system of tunnels under the mountain Mount Mantap. Journalists from the United States, South Korea, China, Russia and Britain will be invited to watch a special ceremony in which all of the tunnels at the testing ground will be destroyed and observation and research facilities and guard units will be taken down. The North Korean government will provide journalists with a charter flight from Beijing to Wosnan, North Korea. From there, a train will take them to the test site in the northeast part of the country.

The AP also reports that at a ruling party meeting last month, North Korea announced the plan to close the nuclear testing ground, along with a commitment to suspend all tests of nuclear devices and ICBMs. At that same meeting, however, North Korea said it has been performing a kind of nuclear test classified as "subcritical." The "subcritical" experiments give scientists an opportunity to test weapons without causing an actual nuclear chain reaction and explosion.

United States

US Congressmen Reveal Thousands of Facebook Ads Bought By Russian Trolls (mercurynews.com) 309

An anonymous reader writes: Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday released about 3,400 Facebook ads purchased by Russian agents around the 2016 presidential election on issues from immigration to gun control, a reminder of the complexity of the manipulation that Facebook is trying to contain ahead of the midterm elections. The ads, which span from mid-2015 to mid-2017, illustrate the extent to which Kremlin-aligned forces sought to stoke social, cultural and political unrest on one of the Web's most powerful platforms. With the help of Facebook's targeting tools, Russia's online army reached at least 146 million people on Facebook and Instagram, its photo-sharing service, with ads and other posts, including events promoting protests around the country...

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said lawmakers would continue probing Russia's online disinformation efforts. In February, Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russia and the 2016 election, indicted individuals tied to the IRA for trying to interfere in the presidential race. "They sought to harness Americans' very real frustrations and anger over sensitive political matters in order to influence American thinking, voting and behavior," Schiff said in a statement. "The only way we can begin to inoculate ourselves against a future attack is to see first-hand the types of messages, themes and imagery the Russians used to divide us...."

The documents released Thursday also reflect that Russian agents continued advertising on Facebook well after the presidential election... They marketed a page called Born Liberal to likely supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the data show, an ad that had more than 49,000 impressions into 2017. Together, the ads affirmed the fears of some lawmakers, including Republicans, that Russian agents have continued to try to influence U.S. politics even after the 2016 election. Russian agents also had created thousands of accounts on Twitter, and in January, the company revealed that it discovered more than 50,000 automated accounts, or bots, with links to Russia.

Democrats

Senate Democrats Force a Vote To Restore Net Neutrality (theverge.com) 144

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and 32 other Democrats have submitted a new discharge petition under the Congressional Review Act, setting the stage for a full congressional vote to restore net neutrality. Because of the unique CRA process, the petition has the power to force a Senate vote on the resolution, which leaders say is expected next week. The Congressional Review Act allows Congress to roll back regulations within 60 legislative days of introduction, a process that today's resolution would apply to the internet rules introduced by FCC chairman Ajit Pai in December. Pai's rules reversed the 2015 Open Internet Order, which had explicitly banned blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization by internet providers. To successfully undo the Pai order and restore the 2015 rules, today's resolution would need a bare majority in both the Senate and the House, as well as the president's signature.
EU

Trump Withdraws US From Iran Nuclear Deal (nytimes.com) 900

President Trump on Tuesday announced he is withdrawing the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, a historic accord signed in 2015 that aims to limit Tehran's nuclear ability for more than a decade in return for lifting international oil and financial sanctions against the country. "This was a horrible one-sided deal that should never, ever been made," Mr. Trump said at the White House in announcing his decision. "It didn't bring calm, it didn't bring peace, and it never will." The New York Times reports: Mr. Trump's announcement, while long anticipated and widely telegraphed, plunges America's relations with European allies into deep uncertainty. They have committed to staying in the deal, raising the prospect of a diplomatic and economic clash as the United States reimposes stringent sanctions on Iran. It also raises the prospect of increasing tensions with Russia and China, which also are parties to the agreement.

One person familiar with negotiations to keep the accord in place said the talks collapsed over Mr. Trump's insistence that sharp limits be kept on Iran's nuclear fuel production after 2030. The deal currently lifts those limits. As a result, the United States is now preparing to reinstate all sanctions it had waived as part of the nuclear accord -- and impose additional economic penalties as well, according to another person briefed on Mr. Trump's decision.
Despite Trump's decision, President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran would remain committed to a multinational nuclear deal. "If we achieve the deal's goals in cooperation with other members of the deal, it will remain in place. [...] By exiting the deal, America has officially undermined its commitment to an international treaty," Rouhani said in a televised speech. "I have ordered the foreign ministry to negotiate with the European countries, China and Russia in coming weeks. If at the end of this short period we conclude that we can fully benefit from the JCPOA with the cooperation of all countries, the deal would remain," he added.
Advertising

Placing Election Ads On Google Will Require a Government ID (gizmodo.com) 227

Google announced new policies Friday that will require advertisers to prove they are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident when buying election ads. "Under the new guidelines, Google will ask advertisers -- be they individuals, organizations, or political action committees -- to prove they are who they claim to be," reports Gizmodo. "It will also require the ads to include a clear disclosure of who is paying for it." From the report: The change comes after Google and other social media companies revealed their advertising platforms were abused by foreign actors, including the Russian government-backed troll farm Internet Research Agency, during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. It also places Google's policies in line with U.S. laws for traditional media that restrict foreign entities from running election ads. Where Google's effort falls short, at least in its current iteration, is the new policies only cover ads featuring candidates running for office. So-called "issue ads" that advocate a certain point of view on hot-button topics are not covered in Google's policies.
Canada

Tech Conferences Moving North as Trump Policies Turn Off Attendees (financialpost.com) 340

The Collision Conference, one of North America's most influential technology gatherings, tweeted on Tuesday: "We've got some news. It's about Toronto. But we'll let Justin Trudeau tell you about it." What followed was a video in which the prime minister announced that Collision, which typically boasts 25,000 attendees, will be coming to Canada in 2019. From a report: "I'm happy you chose Toronto to host North America's fastest growing tech conference for the next three years, but I have to say, I'm not completely surprised," Trudeau said. "Toronto is a key global tech hub and an example of the diversity that is our strength." And Collision is not alone in coming north. At least two other major technology conferences have recently made the decision to relocate to Canada, lured in part by Toronto's burgeoning tech sector, but also driven by travel restrictions imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump, policies that have left organizers scrambling to accommodate those who can't visit the United States.

In mid-April, Creative Commons, an international non-profit dedicated to the legal sharing of digital content, held their global summit in Toronto for the second year in a row. "The political climate in the U.S., specifically the open hostility from the current administration towards many international communities, and the anxiety from those we work with about how they might be treated was definitely a deciding factor," said Ryan Merkley, CEO of Creative Commons. "What's most unfortunate is that this approach is so inconsistent with the views of the many collaborative communities we work with every day in the U.S."

At Access Now, a non-profit that organizes the RightsCon digital rights conference, Trump's travel ban on seven predominantly Muslim countries hit close to home. "One of our interns at the time was an Iranian citizen with a U.S. green card, and she wasn't able to leave the country to go to Brussels to help us organize the (2017) event," RightsCon director Nick Dagostino said. For years, RightsCon has alternated between San Francisco and a series of global venues, and after last year's event in Brussels, heading back to California would have been the natural choice. But then, people started telling Access Now that if the event happened in the U.S., they wouldn't show up.

Communications

FCC Commissioner Broke the Law By Advocating for Trump, Officials Find (theverge.com) 324

A newly released letter from government officials finds that Republican FCC commissioner Michael O'Reilly broke a federal law preventing officials from advocating for political candidates when he told a crowd that one way to avoid policy changes was to "make sure that President Trump gets reelected." The Verge reports: After he made the comments, the watchdog group American Oversight filed a letter with the Office of Special Counsel, which handles Hatch Act complaints. In response to the group's letter, the Office of Special Counsel said today that O'Rielly did, in fact, violate the Hatch Act. The letter said O'Rielly responded that he was only trying to provide an explanatory answer to how those changes in policy could be stopped, but the office rejected that reasoning. The office said it has sent a warning letter to O'Rielly this time, but will consider other infractions "a willful and knowing violation of the law" that could lead to legal action.
United States

White House Considers Restricting Chinese Researchers Over Espionage Fears (nytimes.com) 179

An anonymous reader shares a report: It sounds like something out of a science fiction movie: In April, China is said to have tested an invisibility cloak that would allow ordinary fighter jets to suddenly vanish from radar screens. This advancement, which could prove to be a critical intelligence breakthrough, is one that American officials fear China may have gained in part from a Chinese researcher who roused suspicions while working on a similar technology at a Duke University laboratory in 2008. The researcher, who was investigated by the F.B.I. but never charged with a crime, ultimately returned to China, became a billionaire and opened a thriving research institute that worked on some projects related to those he studied at Duke.

The Trump administration, concerned about China's growing technological prowess, is considering strict measures to block Chinese citizens from performing sensitive research at American universities and research institutes over fears they may be acquiring intellectual secrets, according to people familiar with the deliberations. The White House is discussing whether to limit the access of Chinese citizens to the United States, including restricting certain types of visas available to them and greatly expanding rules pertaining to Chinese researchers who work on projects with military or intelligence value at American companies and universities. The exact types of projects that would be subject to restrictions are unclear, but the measures could clamp down on collaboration in advanced materials, software and other technologies at the heart of Beijing's plan to dominate cutting-edge technologies like advanced microchips, artificial intelligence and electric cars, known as Made in China 2025.

Communications

Senate Democrats Plan To Force Vote On Net Neutrality (engadget.com) 167

Senator Edward J. Markey tweeted earlier today that Democrats will force a floor vote to restore net neutrality rules on May 9th. "[Democrats] had the signatures in favor of restoring the rules since January, along with a companion House bill (with 80 co-sponsors)," reports Engadget. "Senator Edward J. Markey also introduced a formal Congressional Review Act 'resolution of disapproval' in February." From the report: Of course, this last-ditch attempt to save net neutrality can only help congressional supporters of as they move into mid-term elections. "We're in the homestretch in the fight to save net neutrality," Senator Chuck Schumer said in a statement. "Soon, the American people will know which side their member of Congress is on: fighting for big corporations and ISPs or defending small business owners, entrepreneurs, middle-class families and every-day consumers." Still, even if the Senate passes the Democrat's proposal, notes Politico, it's unlikely it would get through the House or avoid a Trump veto. Also taking place on May 9, net neutrality activists and websites like Etsy, Tumblr, Postmates, Foursquare and Twilio will post "red alerts" to protest the FCC's effort to roll back net neutrality protections.

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