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Communications

Hackers Take Over Unsecured Radio Transmitters, Play Anti-Trump Song (arstechnica.com) 99

Ars Technica is reporting that "a certain model of Low Power FM radio transmitter with known vulnerabilities has been targeted in a new wave of radio-station hacks this week." Hackers have taken advantage of an exploit that was known all the way back in April 2016 to take over terrestrial radio stations and broadcast the YG and Nipsey Hussle song "Fuck Donald Trump." From the report: News of the song's unexpected playback on radio stations began emerging shortly after Trump's inauguration on January 20, and the hack has continued to affect LPFM stations -- a type of smaller-radius radio station that began to roll out after the FCC approved the designation in 2000. Over a dozen stations experienced confirmed hacks in recent weeks, with more unconfirmed reports trickling in across the nation. Thus far, the stations' commonality isn't the states of operation or music formats; it's the transmitter. Specifically, hackers have targeted products in the Barix Exstreamer line, which can decode many audio file formats and send them along for LPFM transmission. As Barix told its products' owners in 2016, Exstreamer devices openly connected to the Internet are incredibly vulnerable to having their remote login passwords discovered and systems compromised. The company recommends using full, 24-character passwords and placing any live Internet connections behind firewalls or VPNs. Reports have yet to connect any dots on why the exploit has apparently focused on the YG and Nipsey Hussle song -- though it is fairly popular, having recently finished in the Top 15 of the Village Voice's 2016 Pazz and Jop music critics' poll. Plus, the uncensored lyrics and topical nature are certainly more likely to catch people's attention, especially when played on stations with formats like oldies, classic rock, and Tejano.
Republicans

Reddit Bans Far-Right Groups Altright and Alternativeright (theguardian.com) 899

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Social media site Reddit has banned two of the largest far-right "subreddits" groups it hosts, altright and alternativeright. The subreddits have been used in the organization of America's resurgent neofascist movement but the final straw for Reddit was the two groups' participation in what is known as "doxing": sharing private personal information without permission as a form of online harassment. The subreddits were specifically banned for breaking Reddit's content policy, according to a message posted by the site admins, "specifically, the proliferation of personal and confidential information." Reddit did not make it explicit which content infringed its rules, but it is believed to be attempts to dox the protestor who punched a white nationalist during a TV interview at Donald Trump's inauguration. Speaking to the Daily Beast, one Reddit moderator claimed that the ban was instead a result of its "record monthly traffic" (Reddit moderators, like the creators of individual subreddits, are all volunteers with no official relationship to the site's staff). "It's clear that Reddit banned us because we were becoming very popular and spreading inconvenient truths about who's ruining our country and robbing our children of a future," the moderator said.
Privacy

Secret Rules Make It Pretty Easy For the FBI To Spy On Journalists (theintercept.com) 189

schwit1 shares with us a report on a 11-part series led by The Intercept reporter Cora Currier: Secret FBI rules allow agents to obtain journalists' phone records with approval from two internal officials -- far less oversight than under normal judicial procedures. The classified rules dating from 2013, govern the FBI's use of national security letters, which allow the bureau to obtain information about journalists' calls without going to a judge or informing the news organization being targeted. They have previously been released only in heavily redacted form. Media advocates said the documents show that the FBI imposes few constraints on itself when it bypasses the requirement to go to court and obtain subpoenas or search warrants before accessing journalists' information. The rules stipulate that obtaining a journalist's records with a national security letter requires the signoff of the FBI's general counsel and the executive assistant director of the bureau's National Security Branch, in addition to the regular chain of approval. Generally speaking, there are a variety of FBI officials, including the agents in charge of field offices, who can sign off that an NSL is "relevant" to a national security investigation. There is an extra step under the rules if the NSL targets a journalist in order "to identify confidential news media sources." In that case, the general counsel and the executive assistant director must first consult with the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's National Security Division. But if the NSL is trying to identify a leaker by targeting the records of the potential source, and not the journalist, the Justice Department doesn't need to be involved. The guidelines also specify that the extra oversight layers do not apply if the journalist is believed to be a spy or is part of a news organization "associated with a foreign intelligence service" or "otherwise acting on behalf of a foreign power." Unless, again, the purpose is to identify a leak, in which case the general counsel and executive assistant director must approve the request.
Government

Trump's Next Immigration Move To Affect H-1B Visas; Require Tech Companies To Try To Hire Americans First: Bloomberg (bloomberg.com) 834

AdamnSelene writes: A report in Bloomberg describes a draft executive order that will hit the tech industry hard and potentially change the way those companies recruit workers from abroad. The H-1B, L-1, E-2, and B1 work visa programs would be targeted by requiring companies to prioritize higher-paid immigrant workers over lower-paid workers. In addition, the order will impose statistical reporting requirements on tech companies who sponsor workers under these programs. The order is expected to impact STEM workers from India the most. Penguinisto adds: If (perhaps when) the president follows through, his next move could limit or at least seriously alter the way H-1B visas are distributed, putting U.S. citizens at a higher priority, and possibly restricting H1-B visas tighter. From the article: "If implemented, the reforms could shift the way American companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Apple recruit talent and force wholesale changes at Indian companies such as Infosys and Wipro. Businesses would have to try to hire Americans first and if they recruit foreign workers, priority would be given to the most highly paid. "Our country's immigration policies should be designed and implemented to serve, first and foremost, the U.S. national interest," the draft proposal reads, according to a copy reviewed by Bloomberg. "Visa programs for foreign workers should be administered in a manner that protects the civil rights of American workers and current lawful residents, and that prioritizes the protection of American workers -- our forgotten working people -- and the jobs they hold."
United States

Trump's Executive Order Eliminates Privacy Act Protections For Foreigners (whitehouse.gov) 952

Long-time Slashdot reader Kernel Kurtz writes : January 28 is supposed to be Data Privacy Day, so it seems fitting in an alternative sort of way that U.S. President Trump just signed an executive order that eliminates Privacy Act protections for foreigners. As a non-American, I find it curious that the person who says he wants to bring jobs to America is simply confirming the post-Snowden belief that America is not a safe place to do business.
The Privacy Act has been in place since 1974. But now section 14 of Trump's "Enhancing Public Safety" executive order directs federal agencies to "ensure that their privacy policies exclude persons who are not United States citizens or lawful permanent residents from the protections of the Privacy Act regarding personally identifiable information" to the extent consistent with applicable law.
Businesses

Tesla CEO Elon Musk Joins President Trump's New Manufacturing Council (electrek.co) 137

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Electrek: Tesla CEO Elon Musk was already on President Trump's Strategic and Policy Forum, but the White House announced today that he will also be joining the administration's new manufacturing council, a private sector group that advises the U.S. secretary of commerce. He headed a meeting on Monday at the White House. Musk was present along with several other industry leaders who are now also formally joining the manufacturing council. CNBC reports: "The group of business leaders includes Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk and chief executives of large American companies like Ford, Dow Chemical, General Electric, Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Richard Trumka, president of the labor federation AFL-CIO, will also give advice." As we recently reported, while Musk's mission to accelerate the advent of renewable energy might seem at odd with Trump's plan to unlock fossil fuel reserve, but Musk is betting that job creation is more important to the new President than simply satisfying the oil industry. If Trump wants to be the champion of job creation and Tesla shows that renewables create a lot of jobs, then their interests are aligned. Tesla currently employs over 30,000 people, more than 25,000 of which are in the U.S. The company wants to add over 3,000 manufacturing jobs at its factory in Fremont, California, 1,000 at its solar panel factory in Buffalo, New York, and over to 6,500 at the Gigafactory in Nevada.
Government

Trump's FCC Chairman Pick Ajit Pai Vows To Close Broadband 'Digital Divide' (arstechnica.com) 292

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: On his first full day as Federal Communications Commission Chairman, Republican Ajit Pai yesterday spoke to FCC staff and said one of his top priorities will be bringing broadband to all Americans. "One of the most significant things that I've seen during my time here is that there is a digital divide in this country -- between those who can use cutting-edge communications services and those who do not," Pai said (transcript). "I believe one of our core priorities going forward should be to close that divide -- to do what's necessary to help the private sector build networks, send signals, and distribute information to American consumers, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or anything else. We must work to bring the benefits of the digital age to all Americans." Pai promised to "hear all points of view -- to approach every issue with a literal open door and a figurative open mind," as the FCC "confronts this and many other challenges." Pai didn't offer any specific initiatives for closing the digital divide yesterday, but in September 2016 he outlined a "digital empowerment agenda." The plan included "remov[ing] regulatory barriers to broadband deployment," changes to pole attachment rules, and "dig once" policies that install broadband conduit when roads are dug up during any road and highway construction project. He also proposed setting aside 10 percent of spectrum auction proceeds for deployment of mobile broadband in rural areas. Pai suggested requiring mobile carriers to build out service to 95 percent of the population in areas where they have spectrum licenses; he noted that some licenses only required service for 66 percent or 75 percent of residents, a problem in sparsely populated rural areas. At the same time, he proposed extending initial spectrum license terms from 10 years to 15 years to give the carriers more time to complete the construction. Pai also proposed creating "gigabit opportunity zones" in areas where average household income is below 75 percent of the national median. In these areas, state and local lawmakers would have to "adopt streamlined, broadband deployment-friendly policies," and there would be tax incentives and tax credits for companies building high-speed networks.
Government

USDA Scrambles To Ease Concerns After Researchers Were Ordered To Stop Publishing Publicly Funded Science (popsci.com) 372

Layzej writes: Popular Science reports that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is now barred from communicating with the public. [And early this morning, BuzzFeed revealed that] The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has banned scientists and other employees from sharing the results of its taxpayer-funded research with the broader public. From the report: "The memo outlining these new rules has not been made public, but the ban reportedly includes everything from summaries of scientific papers to USDA-branded tweets. Scientists are still able to publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals, but they are unable to talk about that research without prior consent from their agency. This is not the first time that public science has been hamstrung by a gag order. To this day, the quantity of oil spewed into the ocean during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil spill remains something of a mystery. Many of the scientists who worked on the spill were hired by BP and barred from speaking on it. But gag orders -- while always troublesome -- have usually been limited to one specific issue. Right now, the EPA and USDA have been forbidden to speak about all of their scientific research. It means that many of the kinds of stories we now cover will never see the light of day." UPDATE 1/24/17: The USDA has disavowed the memo sent to employees at its Agricultural Research Service unit. USDA's deputy administrator, Michael Young, clarified that the gag order specifically applies to policy-related statements in press releases and interviews, which need to be vetted with the secretary of agriculture. He told The Washington Post that peer-reviewed scientific papers from the unit should not be blocked, nor should food safety announcements. The Washington Post notes that "the memo's shortness and terse language seems to have exacerbated the confusion: 'Starting immediately and until further notice, ARS will not release any public-facing documents. This includes, but is not limited to, news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content,' wrote ARS chief Sharon Drumm in an email to employees."
Government

Ask Slashdot: Can US Citizens Trust Government Data? (msn.com) 460

mmell writes: An editorial in the Washington Post and made publicly available via an MSN news feed has asked the question: "In the Trump administration era of 'alternative facts,' what happens to government data?" Given that Slashdot members (and readers) may represent a somewhat more in-the-know crowd on matters concerning data integrity and trustworthiness, I thought this would be a good place to ask: can we trust (or has anyone ever really trusted) government data? One might think government data would all be cut 'n' dried and not subject to manipulation, but I personally remember when government data back early in the Reagan presidency went from reporting nearly 15% unemployment nationwide to well under 6% by redefining what "unemployed" meant. So . . . has government data ever been trustworthy, and is it still so?
Power

New Wyoming Bill Penalizes Utilities Using Renewable Energy (csmonitor.com) 502

An anonymous reader quotes a Christian Science Monitor report on "a bill that would essentially ban large-scale renewable energy" in Wyoming. The new Wyoming bill would forbid utilities from using solar or wind sources for their electricity by 2019, according to Inside Climate News... The bill would require utilities to use "eligible resources" to meet 95 percent of Wyoming's electricity needs in 2018, and all of its electricity needs in 2019. Those "eligible resources" are defined solely as coal, hydroelectric, natural gas, nuclear, oil, and individual net metering... Utility-scale wind and solar farms are not included in the bill's list of "eligible resources," making it illegal for Wyoming utilities to use them in any way if the legislation passes. The bill calls for a fine of $10 per megawatt-hour of electricity from a renewable source to be slapped on Wyoming utilities that provide power from unapproved sources to in-state customers.
The bill also prohibits utilities from raising rates to cover the cost of those penalties, though utilities wouldn't be penalized if they exported that energy to other states. But one local activist described it as 'talking-point' legislation, and even the bill's sponsor gives it only a 50% chance of passing.
Democrats

Donald Trump Is Sworn In As the 45th US President (reuters.com) 1560

Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Friday, succeeding Barack Obama and taking control of a divided country in a transition of power that he has declared will lead to "America First" policies at home and abroad. Reuters reports: As scattered protests erupted elsewhere in Washington, Trump raised his right hand and put his left on a Bible used by Abraham Lincoln and repeated a 35-word oath of office from the U.S. Constitution, with U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts presiding.
Android

Trump Trades in Android Phone For Secret Service-Approved Device (cnet.com) 206

Who's got two thumbs and a Secret Service-approved phone to tweet from? On arriving in Washington on Thursday ahead of his inauguration, Donald Trump has handed in his Android device in exchange for an unidentified locked-down phone, according to Associated Press. From a report: The phone comes with a new number that is known only to a limited number of people. This marks a big change for Trump, who's frequently on the line with friends, business contacts, reporters, foreign leaders and politicians. Barack Obama was the first president to use a mobile device approved by security agencies because of hacking concerns. Initially he had a heavily modified BlackBerry and later switched to another phone that had most features totally disabled. He was not known to use it for making or receiving calls, but it was one of few devices that had access to the @POTUS Twitter account.
Republicans

Tech Firm Creates Trump Monitor For Stock Markets (reuters.com) 203

randomErr quotes a report from Reuters: London-based fintech firm Trading.co.uk is launching an app that will generate trading alerts for shares based on Donald Trump social media comments. Keeping one eye on the U.S. President-elect's personal Twitter feed has become a regular pastime for the fund managers and traders. Trump knocked several billion off the value of pharmaceutical stocks a week ago by saying they were "getting away with murder" with their prices. Comments earlier this week on China moved the dollar and a pair of December tweets sent the share prices of Lockheed Martin and Boeing spiraling lower. That plays to the growing group of technology startups that use computing power to process millions of messages posted online every day and generate early warnings on when shares are likely to move. Trading.co.uk chief Gareth Mann said the Trump signal generator used artificial intelligence technology to differentiate between tweets or other messages that, for example, just mention Boeing and those liable to move markets.
Government

Julian Assange Will Not Hand Himself In Because Chelsea Manning's Release Won't Happen Immediately, Lawyer Says (independent.co.uk) 564

President Obama commuted Chelsea Manning's prison sentence yesterday, reducing her time required to serve behind bars from 35 years to just over seven years. Prior to the commutation, WikiLeaks' Julian Assange pledged to surrender himself to U.S. authorities if Manning was pardoned. Roughly 24 hours have passed since the news broke and it appears that Assange will not hand himself in to the Department of Justice. The Independent reports: Mr Assange's lawyers initially seemed to suggest that promise would be carried through -- telling reporters that he stood by his earlier comments -- but it appears now that Mr Assange will stay inside the embassy. The commitment to accept extradition to the U.S. was based on Ms Manning being released immediately, Mr Assange's lawyer told The Hill. Ms Manning won't actually be released until May -- to allow for a standard 120-day transition period, which gives people time to prepare and find somewhere to live, an official told The New York Times for its original report about Ms Manning's clemency. "Mr. Assange welcomes the announcement that Ms. Manning's sentence will be reduced and she will be released in May, but this is well short of what he sought," Barry Pollack, Assange's U.S.-based attorney, told the site. "Mr. Assange had called for Chelsea Manning to receive clemency and be released immediately."
Government

CIA Releases 13M Pages of Declassified Documents Online (bbc.com) 88

About 13 million pages of declassified documents from the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have been released online. The records include UFO sightings and psychic experiments from the Stargate programme, which has long been of interest to conspiracy theorists. From a report on BBC: The move came after lengthy efforts from freedom of information advocates and a lawsuit against the CIA. The full archive is made up of almost 800,000 files. They had previously only been accessible at the National Archives in Maryland. The trove includes the papers of Henry Kissinger, who served as secretary of state under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, as well as several hundred thousand pages of intelligence analysis and science research and development.
United States

Russia Extends Edward Snowden's Asylum To 2020, To Offer Citizenship Next Year (cnn.com) 278

Whistleblower and former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden has been allowed to remain in Russia for another three years and will next year qualify to apply for Russian citizenship. From a report on CNN: Edward Snowden's leave to remain in Russia has been extended until 2020, Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has confirmed to CNN. Snowden, a former US National Security Agency contractor, sought asylum in Russia in June 2013 after leaking volumes of information on American intelligence and surveillance operations to the media. On Tuesday, Zakharova announced an extension of a "couple of years" in a Facebook post that criticized former CIA acting director Michael Morell for an opinion piece he wrote suggesting that Russian President Vladimir Putin should consider returning Snowden to the United States as "the perfect inauguration gift" to President-elect Donald Trump. Snowden settled in Moscow after initially traveling to Hong Kong following his 2013 public disclosure of classified information. The Russian government granted him asylum soon after. In August 2014, Snowden received a three-year extension to his leave to remain in Russia. That extension was due to expire this year.
United States

Congress Will Consider Proposal To Raise H-1B Minimum Wage To $100,000 (arstechnica.com) 540

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: President-elect Donald Trump is just a week away from taking office. From the start of his campaign, he has promised big changes to the US immigration system. For both Trump's advisers and members of Congress, the H-1B visa program, which allows many foreign workers to fill technology jobs, is a particular focus. One major change to that system is already under discussion: making it harder for companies to use H-1B workers to replace Americans by simply giving the foreign workers a raise. The "Protect and Grow American Jobs Act," introduced last week by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. and Scott Peters, D-Calif., would significantly raise the wages of workers who get H-1B visas. If the bill becomes law, the minimum wage paid to H-1B workers would rise to at least $100,000 annually, and be adjusted it for inflation. Right now, the minimum is $60,000. The sponsors say that would go a long way toward fixing some of the abuses of the H-1B program, which critics say is currently used to simply replace American workers with cheaper, foreign workers. In 2013, the top nine companies acquiring H-1B visas were technology outsourcing firms, according to an analysis by a critic of the H-1B program. (The 10th is Microsoft.) The thinking goes that if minimum H-1B salaries are brought closer to what high-skilled tech employment really pays, the economic incentive to use it as a worker-replacement program will drop off. "We need to ensure we can retain the world's best and brightest talent," said Issa in a statement about the bill. "At the same time, we also need to make sure programs are not abused to allow companies to outsource and hire cheap foreign labor from abroad to replace American workers." The H-1B program offers 65,000 visas each fiscal year, with an additional 20,000 reserved for foreign workers who have advanced degrees from US colleges and universities. The visas are awarded by lottery each year. Last year, the government received more than 236,000 applications for those visas.
Republicans

Trump's Cyber Security Advisor Rudy Giuliani Runs Ancient, Utterly Hackable Website (theregister.co.uk) 280

mask.of.sanity writes from a report via The Register: U.S. president-elect Donald Trump's freshly minted cyber tsar Rudy Giuliani runs a website so insecure that its content management system is five years out of date, unpatched and is utterly hackable. Giulianisecurity.com, the website for Giuliani's eponymous infosec consultancy firm, runs Joomla! version 3.0, released in 2012, and since found to carry 15 separate vulnerabilities. More bugs and poor secure controls abound. The Register report adds: "Some of those bugs can be potentially exploited by miscreants using basic SQL injection techniques to compromise the server. This seemingly insecure system also has a surprising number of network ports open -- from MySQL and anonymous LDAP to a very out-of-date OpenSSH 4.7 that was released in 2007. It also runs a rather old version of FreeBSD. 'You can probably break into Giuliani's server,' said Robert Graham of Errata Security. 'I know this because other FreeBSD servers in the same data center have already been broken into, tagged by hackers, or are now serving viruses. 'But that doesn't matter. There's nothing on Giuliani's server worth hacking.'"
Education

What's Happening As The University of California Tries To Outsource IT Jobs To India (pressreader.com) 483

Long-time Slashdot reader Nova Express shares an epic column by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael Hiltzik. It details what's happening now as the University of California tries to outsources dozens of IT jobs -- about 20% of their IT workforce -- by February 28th. Some of the highlights:
  • The CEO of UCSF's Medical Center says he expects their security to be at least as good as it is now, but acknowledges "there are no guarantees."
  • Nine workers have filed a complaint with the state's Department of Fair Employment and Housing arguing they're facing discrimination.
  • California Senator Feinstein is already complaining that the university is tapping $8.5 billion in federal funding "to replace Californian IT workers with foreign workers or labor performed abroad."
  • Representative Zoe Lofgren (from a district in Silicon Valley) is arguing that the university "is training software engineers at the same time they're outsourcing their own software engineers. What message are they sending their own students?"
  • 57-year-old sys-admin Kurt Ho says his replacement spent just two days with him, then "told me he would go back to India and train his team, and would be sending me emails with questions."
  • The university's actions will ultimately lower their annual $5.83 billion budget by just 0.1%.

Government

US Releases Declassified Report On Russian Hacking, Concludes That Putin 'Developed a Clear Preference' For Trump (theverge.com) 734

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has released its unclassified report on Russian hacking operations in the United States. "We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election," according to the report. "Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump." The report, titled "Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections," details the successful hack of the Democratic National Committee. "The Kremlin's campaign aimed at the U.S. election featured disclosures of data obtained through Russian cyber operations; intrusions into U.S. state and local electoral boards; and overt propaganda," according to the report. The report states that Russian intelligence services made cyber-attacks against "both major U.S. political parties" to influence the 2016 election. The report also publicly names Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks.com, two sources of stolen information released to the public, as Russian operatives working on behalf of the country's military intelligence unit, the GRU. Officials from the organization were recently the target of U.S. sanctions. WikiLeaks is also cited as a recipient of stolen information. The report also notes that the U.S. has determined Russia "accessed elements of multiple state or local electoral boards," though no vote-tallying processes were tampered with. The FBI and CIA have "high confidence" the election tampering was ordered by Putin to help then-candidate Trump, according to the report. NSA has "moderate confidence" in the assessment. bongey writes: The declassified DNI report offers no direct evidence of Russia hacking DNC or Podesta emails. Exactly half of the report (subtract blank and TOC) 9 of 18 is just devoted to going after RT.com by claiming they have close ties to Russia and therefore a propaganda arm, trying to imply that rt.com is related to the hacking. "Many of the key judgments in this assessment rely on a body of reporting from multiple sources that are consistent with our understanding of Russian behavior. Insights into Russian efforts -- including specific cyber operations -- and Russian views of key U.S. players derive from multiple corroborating sources. Some of our judgments about Kremlin preferences and intent are drawn from the behavior of Kremlin loyal political figures, state media, and pro-Kremlin social media actors, all of whom the Kremlin either directly uses to convey messages or who are answerable to the Kremlin." UPDATE 1/6/17: President-elect Donald Trump met with U.S. intelligence officials Friday, calling the meeting "constructive" and offering praise for intel officials. "While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election, including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines," Trump said in a statement after the meeting.

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