Archive for the ‘Business’ Category
Kari Paul reports in Motherboard:
A law Spain passed in October 2014 charging online aggregators like Google News a fee for linked content has backfired, according to a new study.
The legislation, which went into effect January 1 of this year, requires aggregation sites to pay a fee to original publications when posting links or excerpts from them online. The law, which caused Google News to shut down in Spain, was pushed by the Association of Editors of Spanish Dailies as a means to protect the print industry. But the study commissioned by the Spanish Association of Publishers of Periodical Publications (AEEPP) found it has been harmful to Spanish media at large,
“The negative impact on the online press sector is also very clear, since a very important channel to attract readers disappears, resulting in lower revenues from advertising,” the study said.
The report found clear evidence news aggregators actually expand the market for original sources rather than diminish it. It also showed the law disproportionately hurt smaller publications that relied on Google News and similar aggregators for traffic.
In addition to Google News, other aggregators including Planeta Ludico, NiagaRank, InfoAliment, and Multifriki shut down for fear of legal and financial liability. Companies that don’t pay the tax could face fines of up to €600,000 or $654,480.
The shutdown of these sites, particularly NiagaRank, was a blow to innovation in Spain, the report stated. . .
Jon Scharz reports at The Intercept:
Former president Jimmy Carter said Tuesday on the nationally-syndicated radio show The Thom Hartmann Program that the United States is now an “oligarchy” in which “unlimited political bribery” has created “a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors.” Both Democrats and Republicans, Carter said, “look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves.”
Carter was responding to a question from Hartmann about recent Supreme Court decisions on campaign financing like Citizens United.
HARTMANN: Our Supreme Court has now said, “unlimited money in politics.” It seems like a violation of principles of democracy … your thoughts on that?
CARTER: It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congressmembers. So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over … The incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody’s who’s already in Congress has a lot more to sell to an avid contributor than somebody’s who’s just a challenger.
(Thanks to Sam Sacks for pointing this out.)
Sen. Lindsay Graham is running a pro-war campaign and his biggest contributors are military contractors
“You have to spend money to make money”: I imagine a lot of military contractors are saying this as they give checked to Sen. Graham’s campaign, counting on his promises to increase defense spending and go to war in more places. Lee Fang reports in The Intercept:
The Super PAC supporting the presidential campaign of Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., raised $2.9 million through the end of June, a significant portion of which came from defense contractors that stand to gain from Graham’s advocacy for greater military intervention around the world and increased defense spending.
As Graham tours the early primary states, he tells voters that he is running to boost U.S. defense spending. “My goal is to make sure the next president of the United States, the next generation of war fighters have the capability and capacity to do the job required to keep us free,” Graham said in South Carolina earlier this year.
Graham’s Super PAC, called “Security is Strength,” received $500,000 from billionaire Ron Perelman, whose company MacAndrews & Forbes owns AM General, the manufacturer of Humvees and other products for the military. In December of last year, AM General won a $245.6 million contract with the Army. . .
And of course the money buys votes. Jon Schwarz in The Intercept has a very interesting piece on politicians who admit that the money they receive shapes their votes:
One of the most embarrassing aspects of U.S. politics is politicians who deny that money has any impact on what they do. For instance, Tom Corbett, Pennsylvania’s notoriously fracking-friendly former governor, got $1.7 million from oil and gas companies but assured voters that “The contributions don’t affect my decisions.” If you’re trying to get people to vote for you, you can’t tell them that what they want doesn’t matter.
This pose is also popular with a certain prominent breed of pundits, who love to tell us “Don’t Follow the Money” (New York Times columnist David Brooks), or “Money does not buy elections” (Freakonomics co-author Stephen Dubner on public radio’s Marketplace), or “Money won’t buy you votes” (Yale Law School professor Peter H. Schuck in the Los Angeles Times).
Meanwhile, 85 percent of Americans say we need to either “completely rebuild” or make “fundamental changes” to the campaign finance system. Just 13 percent think “only minor changes are necessary,” less than the 18 percent of Americans who believe they’ve been in the presence of a ghost.
So we’ve decided that it would be useful to collect examples of actual politicians acknowledging the glaringly obvious reality. Here’s a start; I’m sure there must be many others, so if you have suggestions, please leave them in the comments or email me. I’d also love to speak directly to current or former politicians who have an opinion about it.
• “You have to go where the money is. Now where the money is, there’s almost always implicitly some string attached. … It’s awful hard to take a whole lot of money from a group you know has a particular position then you conclude they’re wrong [and] vote no.” — Vice President Joe Biden in 2015.
• “Lobbyists and career politicians today make up what I call the Washington Cartel. … [They] on a daily basis are conspiring against the American people. … [C]areer politicians’ ears and wallets are open to the highest bidder.” — Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in 2015.
• “When you start to connect the actual access to money, and the access involves law enforcement officials, you have clearly crossed a line. What is going on is shocking, terrible.” – James E. Tierney, former attorney general of Maine, in 2014.
• “Allowing people and corporate interest groups and others to spend an unlimited amount of unidentified money has enabled certain individuals to swing any and all elections, whether they are congressional, federal, local, state … Unfortunately and rarely are these people having goals which are in line with those of the general public. History well shows that there is a very selfish game that’s going on and that our government has largely been put up for sale.” –John Dingell, 29-term Democratic congressman from Michigan, in 2014 just before he retired.
• “When some think tank comes up with the legislation and tells you not to fool with it, why are you even a legislator anymore? You just sit there and take votes and you’re kind of a feudal serf for folks with a lot of money.” — Dale Schultz, 32-year Republican state legislator in Wisconsin and former state Senate Majority Leader, in 2013 before retiring rather than face a primary challenger backed by Americans for Prosperity. . .
Continue reading. The list continues.
The Obama administration does not look good in this report by Lee Fang in The Intercept:
The Obama administration’s central strategy against strong encryption seems to be waging war on the companies that are providing and popularizing it: most notably Apple and Google.
The intimidation campaign got a boost Thursday when a blog that frequently promotes the interests of the national security establishment raised the prospect of Apple being found liable for providing material support to a terrorist.
Benjamin Wittes, editor-in-chief of the LawFare blog, suggested that Apple could in fact face that liability if it continued to provide encryption services to a suspected terrorist. He noted that the post was in response to an idea raised by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., in a hearing earlier this month.
“In the facts we considered,” wrote Wittes and his co-author, Harvard law student Zoe Bedell, “a court might — believe it or not — consider Apple as having violated the criminal prohibition against material support for terrorism.”
FBI Director James Comey and others have said that end-to-end encryption makes law enforcement harder because service providers don’t have access to the actual communications, and therefore cannot turn them over when served with a warrant.
Wittes and Bedell argue that Apple’s decision to “move aggressively to implement end-to-end encrypted systems, and indeed to boast about them” after being “publicly and repeatedly warned by law enforcement at the very highest levels that ISIS is recruiting Americans” — in part through the use of encrypted messaging apps — could make the company liable if “an ISIS recruit uses exactly this pattern to kill some Americans.”
The blog compares Apple’s actions to a bank sending money to a charity supporting Hamas — knowing that it was a listed foreign terrorist organization.
“The question ultimately turns on whether Apple’s conduct in providing encryption services could, under any circumstances, be construed as material support,” Wittes and Bedell write. The answer, they say, “may be unnerving to executives at Apple.”
One way to avoid such liability, Wittes and Bedell argue, would be to end encrypted services to suspected terrorists. But, they acknowledge, “Cutting off service may be the last thing investigators want, as it would tip off the suspect that his activity has been noticed.”
In a hearing on July 8 before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Justice Department officials insisted that companies need to be able to provide them with unencrypted, clear access to people’s communications if presented with a warrant.
The problem is that eliminating end-to-end encryption or providing law enforcement with some sort of special key would also create opportunities for hackers.
Within minutes of the Lawfare post going up, privacy advocates and technologists expressed outrage: Chris Soghoian, principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, called it a continuation in Wittes’ “brain-dead jihad against encryption,” while Jake Laperruque, a fellow at the Center for Democracy and Technology, wrote that Wittes’ post “equates selling a phone that’s secure from hackers with giving money to terrorists.”
If Apple and Google were to cave under the pressure of being likened to terrorist-helpers, and stop making end-to-end encryption, that could be the start of a “slippery slope” that ends the mainstream availability of strong encryption, said Amie Stepanovich, U.S policy manager for Access.
But even so, strong encryption will always exist, whether produced by small companies or foreign outlets. Terrorists can take their business elsewhere, while normal Americans will be left without a user-friendly, easily accessible way of protecting of their communications. “These tools are available and the government can’t get to all of them,” says Stepanovich. . .
Security apparently was not an issue or a consideration when many modern systems were designed and developed, and that now promises to be a serious problem. Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai reports in Motherboard:
When we think about cyberattacks against infrastructure, thanks to hyperbolic andunrealistic Hollywood flicks, we think of exploding nuclear plants or blacked out cities. But in reality, hackers could cause much more damage with subtler attacks, even without targeting critical infrastructure.
For example, a hacker might change the chemical composition of a popular medication drug during its preparation stage at a pharmaceutical plant—without anyone noticing—and kill thousands of people, according to Robert Lee, a security researcher and a PhD candidate researching cyber security at King’s College in London.
While that’s an unlikely, worst case kind of scenario, it’s theoretically possible because the backbone networks supporting thousands of industrial control systems around the world, think of water and electricity distribution facilities, automated bridges, oil rigs, and different types of factories, all have a common weak link: their network switches.
These switches, which tunnel data around in several industrial processes, are often overlooked when thinking about potential cyberattacks against infrastructure. But they are a critical point of failure.
“If you own the network switch you don’t have to even go after other devices,” Lee told Motherboard in a phone interview. “An adversary that can get on the switch and own the switch, can own everything on that network and do anything they’d like with it.”
As it turns out, popular network switches made by Siemens, GE, Garrettcom and Opengear, have flaws that make them easy to hack, according to new research by Colin Cassidy, Eireann Leverett, and Lee himself. The three plan to show their findings at the security and hacking conferences Black Hat and Def Con in Las Vegas next week.
If malicious hackers can break into a switch, for example by phishing someone who’s on the same network, then the hackers can steal data, manipulate it, or just study the industrial process to learn how to sabotage it at a later stage, Cassidy, a security consultant for IOActive, told Motherboard.
At that point, pretty much everything is possible, depending on what’s the system these switches help control, Cassidy said.
In an electrical substation, for example, a hacker could . . .
See this report by David Dayen:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren publicly challenged presidential candidates two weeks ago to support a bill intended to limit the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street.
The Financial Services Conflict of Interest Act would prohibit government officials from accepting “golden parachutes” from their former employers for entering public service.
Within days, Democratic candidate Martin O’Malley endorsed the legislation, and Sen. Bernie Sanders became a co-sponsor. But presumed Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has not said where she stands.
One possible explanation for Clinton’s lack of interest in banning golden parachutes is that she tolerated them when she ran the State Department — for two of her top aides. Robert Hormats and Thomas Nides previously worked as executives for financial firms Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, respectively. Both received benefits tied to their Wall Street employment contracts for entering public service.
Hormats, who served as undersecretary for economics, energy and agricultural affairs from 2009 to 2013, was a managing director for Goldman Sachs for over 25 years. As he wrote in his 2009 letter to the Office of Government Ethics, “Before I assume the duties of the position of Under Secretary, Goldman Sachs will accelerate and pay out my restricted stock units, pursuant to written company policy.” Those unvested restricted stock units, which would have been forfeited had Hormats left Goldman for another Wall Street firm, are valued at between $250,000 and $500,000 on Hormats’ disclosure form.
Nides, a six-figure bundler in Clinton’s past and present presidential campaigns, worked for Fannie Mae, Credit Suisse and as a top executive at Morgan Stanley from 2005 to 2010. He became deputy secretary of state for management and resources in January 2011, replacing Jack Lew, who had himself received a golden parachute from Citigroup for entering government service. Nides received a payout on Morgan Stanley restricted stock units worth between $5 million and $25 million, according to his financial disclosure. His Morgan Stanley compensation plan “allows for acceleration of payout … if employee is required to divest of interest in order to comply with federal, state or local government conflict of interest requirements.”
Nides and Hormats are not alone in what has become a depressingly standard practicein recent years. But Clinton’s unusual control over staffing at the State Department makes her directly responsible for these particular golden parachutes, at a time when she wants to gain control over staffing of the entire executive branch.
“I would say these are textbook examples,” said Michael Smallberg of the Project on Government Oversight, which has closely followed this issue. “I would raise concerns on how these payments affect the officials’ views, not only toward their former employers but the industry more broadly.” . . .
Jordan Pearson reports at Motherboard:
At a luxury hotel in Maui, representatives from the 12 countries participating in the highly controversial and secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal are negotiatingbehind closed doors. Thanks to a secret letter from a 2013 meeting, released today by WikiLeaks, we now have a clearer idea of what they’re discussing.
Unsurprisingly, based on what we know about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, so far, the letter is mostly about limiting the power of government in favour of private commercial development.
The TPP is a massive free trade deal that is set to impact everything from the cost of medicine in Australia, to milk production in Canada, to internet governance the world over. The letter was drafted for a ministerial meeting of the TPP countries in early December, 2013, and seeks guidance on key topics relating to the negotiations. Namely, how state-owned enterprises (SOEs) should be treated under the trade deal.
According to the letter, “the majority of TPP countries” support obligations for these companies—which can include public utilities, telecommunication providers, mining companies, and state-run investment firms—that “go beyond existing obligations” laid out in existing free trade agreements and by the World Trade Organization.
Such agreed-upon obligations would require SOEs to “act on the basis of commercial considerations,” the letter states, and governments should regulate both state-owned businesses and private enterprises with impartiality. State-owned businesses would also not be allowed to discriminate against private companies when purchasing or selling goods, the letter suggests.
“SOEs are almost always state-owned because they have functions other than those that are merely commercial,” Jane Kelsey, a law professor at the University of Auckland, wrote in an analysis that accompanied the document, “such as guaranteed access to important services, or because social, cultural, development and commercial functions are inextricably intertwined.” . . .