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posted by Fnord666 on Thursday April 07 2022, @11:11AM   Printer-friendly

Amazon, Google Busted Faking Small Business Opposition To Antitrust Reform:

For decades now, a favorite DC lobbying tactic has been to create bogus groups pretending to support something unpopular your company is doing. Like "environmentalists for big oil" or "Americans who really love telecom monopolies." These groups then help big companies create a sound-wall of illusory support for policies that generally aren't popular, or great for innovation or markets.

Case in point: this week both Politico and CNBC released stories showcasing how Amazon and Google had been funding a "small business alliance" that appears to be partially or entirely contrived. The group, the Connected Commerce Council, professes to represent small U.S. businesses, yet has been busy recently lobbying government to avoid antitrust reform (which would, generally, aid small businesses).

When Politico reached out to companies listed as members of the organization, most of them had mysteriously never heard of it, and were greatly annoyed their company names were being used for such a purpose:

The four-year-old group listed about 5,000 small businesses in its membership directory before it removed that document from its website late last month. When POLITICO contacted 70 of those businesses, 61 said they were not members of the group and many added that they were not familiar with the organization.

Google is not your friend!

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday April 06 2022, @03:54PM   Printer-friendly

House Committee Investigating Amazon's Labor Practices:

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform has opened an investigation into Amazon's labor practices during severe weather, according to a letter the members sent to Andy Jassy, ​​Amazon's chief executive.

"We are concerned about recent reports that Amazon may be endangering the health and safety of its workers, including requiring them to work in hazardous conditions during tornadoes, hurricanes, and other extreme weather conditions," indicates the letter, signed by the chair of the committee. [...]

The investigation will focus on the December tornado who hit amazon's delivery station in Edwardsville, Illinois, killing six people. Most employees at the facility were not direct Amazon employees. They were contracted delivery drivers, a complication that hampered the response when authorities could not easily determine how many people were at the scene.

[...] "Our goal remains to support our employees and partners, the families who have lost loved ones, the surrounding community, and everyone affected by the tornadoes," Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said Friday. "We will respond to this letter in due course."

What does YOUR workplace do in severe weather?

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Monday April 04 2022, @02:17PM   Printer-friendly

Europe's Biggest Lithium Mine Is Caught in a Political Maelstrom:

Only red-roofed houses interrupt the vast carpet of fields that surround the village of Gornje Nedeljice, in western Serbia. To resident Marijana Petković, this is the most beautiful place in the world. She's not against Europe's green transition, the plan to make the bloc's economy climate neutral by 2050. But she is among those who believe Serbia's fertile Jadar Valley—where locals grow raspberries and keep bees—is being asked to make huge sacrifices to enable other countries to build electric cars.

Around 300 meters away from Petković's house, according to the multinational mining giant Rio Tinto, there is enough lithium to create 1 million EV batteries, and the company wants to spend $2.4 billion to build Europe's biggest lithium mine here. But Petković and other locals oppose the project, arguing it will cause irreparable damage to the environment. When asked about that claim, a spokesperson for Rio Tinto told WIRED that throughout the project, the company has "recognized that Jadar will need to be developed to the highest environmental standards." Petković is not convinced. "I want the western countries to have the green transition and to live like people in Jadar," she says. "But that doesn't mean that we need to destroy our nature."

Officially, the Jadar mine is not happening. After months of protests against the project, the government conceded, and in January it was canceled. "As far as Project Jadar is concerned, this is an end," Serbian prime minister Ana Brnabić said on January 20, after Rio Tinto's lithium exploration licenses were revoked.

There is widespread suspicion, however, that the project was canceled to stop protests overshadowing the presidential and parliamentary elections on April 3, and could restart if the government is reelected. "This might have been a pre-election ploy," says Florian Bieber, a professor of southeast European history and politics at Austria's University of Graz. "I wouldn't be surprised if the government picks up this issue again once the elections are done, because they see the economic benefits." A Rio Tinto shareholder expressed a similar expectation to Reuters, adding they expect the mine to be renegotiated after the vote. Rio Tinto denies this is its intention and says it has not planned or implemented any activities contrary to the project's legal status.

Europe has big plans to phase out fossil-fuel cars. In July, the European Union proposed a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035. The bloc wants to replace those cars with electric vehicles, built with locally produced raw materials like lithium. The top lithium producers are currently Australia, Chile, and China. But Europe has ambitions to produce more of the materials it needs for electric cars at home. These materials "are extremely expensive to ship and are transported across the world several times over," says Emily Burlinghaus, a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Germany. "So it's much cheaper and much safer to have these operations close to battery manufacturing plants or auto manufacturing plants."

For Europeans it's also a security issue. "We cannot allow [the EU] to replace [its] current reliance on fossil fuels with dependency on critical raw materials," said Maroš Šefčovič, the commission vice president for inter-institutional relations, in 2020.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Friday April 01 2022, @02:18AM   Printer-friendly

Severe drought and mandatory water cuts are pitting communities against each other in Arizona:

As the climate crisis intensifies, battle lines are beginning to form over water. In Arizona -- amid a decades-long megadrought -- some communities are facing the very real possibility of losing access to the precious water that remains.

Outside the city limits of Scottsdale, where the asphalt ends and the dirt road begins, is the Rio Verde Foothills community. Hundreds of homes here get water trucked in from Scottsdale, but those deliveries will end on January 1, 2023.

That's because last summer, for the first time ever, drought conditions forced the federal government to declare a tier 1 water shortage in the Colorado River, reducing how much Arizona can use.

[...] "We are what I call the 'sacrificial lamb' for the bigger areas," Irwin told CNN. "In my opinion, look somewhere else -- we need to be able to sustain ourselves."

The scarcity of water in the state is pitting small towns against fast-growing metropolitan communities.

[...] Arizona's population growth and extreme drought have increased demand for water in limited supply. Kathleen Ferris, a senior research fellow with the Kyl Center for Water Policy in Arizona, says water scarcity in the state has resulted in the "haves" and the "have nots," and likened the coming water battles to the days of the Wild West. "Once you have your water rights, you defend it," Ferris said. "That's the way it works."

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Thursday March 31 2022, @12:32PM   Printer-friendly

Finland's Spy Service Warns of Russian Interference, Attacks:

Finland must brace for Russian interference and hybrid attacks as it weighs whether to join the NATO military alliance, the security services warned on Tuesday.

The Nordic nation shares a 1,340-kilometre (830-mile) border with Russia and has remained militarily non-aligned since the end of World War II to avoid provoking its eastern neighbour.

[...] "The whole of Finnish society must be vigilant towards Russian attempts to influence Finnish decision-making regarding the NATO question," Antti Pelttari, head of the Finnish security services Supo, said.

Releasing its updated terrorism threat report, Supo on Tuesday highlighted the danger of "widespread Russian interference and illegal surveillance," but kept the national terror threat at level two, or "elevated", on a scale of four.

[...] Finland has previously been subject to so-called hybrid tactics from Moscow, such as repeated airspace incursions, or the release in 2016 of 1,700 migrants across the Finnish border.

Earlier this month the transport authority Traficom said it had received "numerous" reports from aircraft of GPS interference in eastern Finland, but was unable to identify the source of the interference.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Monday March 28 2022, @09:04PM   Printer-friendly

U.S. charges 4 Russian government workers with hacking energy sector:

The U.S. Justice Department fired another legal salvo against Russia on Thursday, announcing indictments against four Russian government employees for an alleged hacking campaign targeting the energy sector that lasted for years and targeted computers in 135 countries.

An indictment in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia charges that Evgeny Viktorovich Gladkikh, who worked at a Russian Ministry of Defense research institute, conspired with others to damage critical infrastructure outside the United States, causing emergency shutdowns at one foreign facility. Thosecharged in the indictment, under seal since June 2021, also allegedly tried to hack the computers of a U.S. firm that managed similar facilities in the United States.

A separate indictment filed in Kansas alleges that a hacking campaign launched by Russian's federal security service, or FSB, targeted computers at hundreds of energy-related entities around the world. That indictment was also filed under seal last summer.

The hacking activity took place between 2012 and 2018, U.S. officials said. The decision to reveal the indictments underscores the concern U.S. and European officials have about Russia unleashing a wave of cyberattacks on the West in response to a new wave of sanctions over Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said there is an "urgent ongoing need for American businesses to harden their defenses and remain vigilant." She said Russian state-sponsored hackers "pose a serious and persistent threat to critical infrastructure both in the United States and around the world."

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Monday March 28 2022, @10:03AM   Printer-friendly
from the risky dept.

Russia considers accepting Bitcoin for oil and gas:

Russia is considering accepting Bitcoin as payment for its oil and gas exports, according to a high-ranking lawmaker.> Pavel Zavalny says "friendly" countries could be allowed to pay in the crypto-currency or in their local currencies.

Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he wanted "unfriendly" countries to buy its gas with roubles.

The move is understood to be aimed at boosting the Russian currency, which has lost over 20% in value this year.

[...] However, Russia is still the world's biggest exporter of natural gas and the second largest supplier of oil.

Mr Zavalny, who heads Russia's State Duma committee on energy, said on Thursday that the country has been exploring alternative ways to receive payment for energy exports.

He said China and Turkey were among "friendly" countries which were "not involved in the sanctions pressure".

[...] Mr Putin's comments on making "unfriendly" countries pay in roubles drove the currency to a three-week high.

However, many existing gas contracts are agreed upon in euros and it is unclear if Russia can change them. The EU relies on Russia for 40% of its gas.

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Monday March 21 2022, @02:56AM   Printer-friendly
from the lol dept.

Proposed law in Minnesota would ban algorithms to protect the children:

Minnesota state lawmakers are trying to prohibit social media platforms from using algorithms to recommend content to anyone under age 18. The bill was approved Tuesday by the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee in a 15-1 vote. The potential state law goes next to the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee, which has put it on the docket for a hearing on March 22.

The algorithm ban applies to platforms with at least 1 million account holders and says those companies would be "prohibited from using a social media algorithm to target user-created content at an account holder under the age of 18." There are exemptions for content created by federal, state, or local governments and by public or private schools.

"This bill prohibits a social media platform like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, WhatsApp, TikTok, and others, from using algorithms to target children with specific types of content," the bill summary says. "The bill would require anyone operating a social media platform with more than one million users to require that algorithm functions be turned off for accounts owned by anyone under the age of 18." Social media companies would be "liable for damages and a civil penalty of $1,000 for each violation."

Tech-industry lobbyists say the bill would violate the First Amendment, prevent companies from recommending useful content, and require them to collect more data on the ages and locations of users.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday March 16 2022, @12:32PM   Printer-friendly

As China quietly joins sanctions against Russia, Xi might be too rational to risk arming Putin:

The protracted war in Ukraine has plainly caught China off guard and led to some confusion and mixed reports about the extent to which President Xi Jinping's regime supports Moscow's offensive. China continues to withhold explicit criticism of the Russian invasion and may still be working to formulate a coherent response. But beyond the rhetoric out of Beijing, the evidence suggests China is not acting to undermine the economic and financial sanctions on Russia and indeed has moved to support the drive to isolate Russia economically.

We believe this is the result of a cost-benefit calculation by Xi, who appears to be far more rational than Russia's President, Vladimir Putin.

Consider the following. From the outset of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, two major Chinese state-controlled banks have reportedly refused to provide US dollar-denominated letters of credit to finance imports from Russia. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, in which China is the largest shareholder, announced a suspension of any new lending to Russia. The New Development Bank (the so-called BRICS Bank), which is headquartered in Shanghai, made a similar announcement.

[...] Of course, tracking the full extent of this economic disengagement can be difficult, since Chinese firms are usually reluctant to make public statements. A Russian official responsible for maintaining airplane safety disclosed that China has refused to provide spare parts to Russia's commercial airline fleet (Boeing and Airbus had already announced a suspension of parts sales to Russia); the official has since been fired for his public statements about China. These parts almost certainly would have come from local inventories of China's major state-owned airlines.

Moreover, some noncompliant Chinese actions might be successfully concealed. But the actions noted above indicate that at least some Chinese companies and leaders are risk-averse and that China may be unlikely to provide military assistance to Russia, as some news accounts indicate, if only because the United States is likely to respond with a round of tough sanctions on China itself.

To be sure, China's global geopolitical objectives may in part align with Russia's. Moscow and Beijing share the view that the US is weakened economically and that its behaviour poses a security threat.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday February 08 2022, @05:47AM   Printer-friendly

The Battle for the World's Most Powerful Cyberweapon [Ed's Comment: If paywalled try]

In June 2019, three Israeli computer engineers arrived at a New Jersey building used by the F.B.I. They unpacked dozens of computer servers, arranging them on tall racks in an isolated room. As they set up the equipment, the engineers made a series of calls to their bosses in Herzliya, a Tel Aviv suburb, at the headquarters for NSO Group, the world's most notorious maker of spyware. Then, with their equipment in place, they began testing.

The F.B.I. had bought a version of Pegasus, NSO's premier spying tool. For nearly a decade, the Israeli firm had been selling its surveillance software on a subscription basis to law-enforcement and intelligence agencies around the world, promising that it could do what no one else — not a private company, not even a state intelligence service — could do: consistently and reliably crack the encrypted communications of any iPhone or Android smartphone.

[...] As part of their training, F.B.I. employees bought new smartphones at local stores and set them up with dummy accounts, using SIM cards from other countries — Pegasus was designed to be unable to hack into American numbers. Then the Pegasus engineers, as they had in previous demonstrations around the world, opened their interface, entered the number of the phone and began an attack.

[...] Ever since the 2013 revelations by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, about U.S. government surveillance of American citizens, few debates in this country have been more fraught than those over the proper scope of domestic spying. Questions about the balance between privacy and security took on new urgency with the parallel development of smartphones and spyware that could be used to scoop up the terabytes of information those phones generate every day. Israel, wary of angering Americans by abetting the efforts of other countries to spy on the United States, had required NSO to program Pegasus so it was incapable of targeting U.S. numbers. This prevented its foreign clients from spying on Americans. But it also prevented Americans from spying on Americans.

NSO had recently offered the F.B.I. a workaround. During a presentation to officials in Washington, the company demonstrated a new system, called Phantom, that could hack any number in the United States that the F.B.I. decided to target. Israel had granted a special license to NSO, one that permitted its Phantom system to attack U.S. numbers. The license allowed for only one type of client: U.S. government agencies. A slick brochure put together for potential customers by NSO's U.S. subsidiary, first published by Vice, says that Phantom allows American law enforcement and spy agencies to get intelligence "by extracting and monitoring crucial data from mobile devices." It is an "independent solution" that requires no cooperation from AT&T, Verizon, Apple or Google. The system, it says, will "turn your target's smartphone into an intelligence gold mine."

[...] The discussions at the Justice Department and the F.B.I. continued until last summer, when the F.B.I. finally decided not to deploy the NSO weapons. It was around this time that a consortium of news organizations called Forbidden Stories brought forward new revelations about NSO cyberweapons and their use against journalists and political dissidents. The Pegasus system currently lies dormant at the facility in New Jersey.

[...] In November, the United States announced what appeared — at least to those who knew about its previous dealings — to be a complete about-face on NSO. The Commerce Department was adding the Israeli firm to its "entity list" for activities "contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States." The list, originally designed to prevent U.S. companies from selling to nations or other entities that might be in the business of manufacturing weapons of mass destruction, had in recent years come to include several cyberweapons companies. NSO could no longer buy critical supplies from American firms.

Previously on SN:

Original Submission