Category Archives: Money

Charity In A Big Way 

By: Lorraine Chow of Eco News 

Norwegian businessman Kjell Inge Røkke is not someone usually admired for environmental stewardship. Described by Forbes as a “ruthless corporate raider,” Røkke made his billions as the majority stakeholder in shipping and offshore drilling conglomerate, Aker.

The twist to this story? Røkke has decided to give “the lion’s share” of his estimated $2.7 billion fortune towards building a 596-foot marine research vessel, the Research Expedition Vessel (REV), that’s also designed to scoop up a major oceanic threat—plastic pollution.

The REV, a collaboration with Norway’s World Wildlife Fund (WWF), will be able to suck up to 5 tons of plastic a day from the waters and melt it down, Norway’s Aftenposten newspaper reported.

“I want to give back to society the bulk of what I’ve earned,” Røkke told the publication. “This ship is a part of that.”

According to Business Insider, the mega-yacht—which will be the world’s largest once built—can carry 60 scientists and 40 crew. The REV will be equipped with modern laboratories, an auditorium, two helipads, a hangar for a remote operated vehicle, an autonomous underwater vehicle as a multifunctional cargo deck aft of the ship, and high-tech equipment for monitoring and surveying marine areas. It is also available for private charters for up to 36 guests and 54 crew, which will help generate extra funding for research.
Røkke, a former fisherman, said the oceans “have provided significant value for society” and directly to him and his family.

“However,” he noted, “the oceans are also under greater pressure than ever before from overfishing, coastal pollution, habitat destruction, climate change and ocean acidification, and one of the most pressing challenges of all, plasticization of the ocean. The need for knowledge and solutions is pressing.”

While onboard, the researchers will attempt to answer some of the most pressing questions facing our seas:

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A Cable Survey Shows Majority Of Americans Prefer Net Neutrality 

By: Joe Brodkin of Ars Technica

As US cable companies push to eliminate or change net neutrality rules, the industry’s primary lobby group today released the results of a survey that it says shows “strong bipartisan consensus that the government should let the Internet flourish without imposing burdensome regulations.”
But proponents of keeping the current rules can find plenty to like in the survey conducted by NCTA—The Internet & Television Association. A strong majority of the 2,194 registered American voters in the survey support the current net neutrality rules that prohibit ISPs from blocking, throttling, or prioritizing online content in exchange for payment. While most opposed price regulation, a majority supported an approach in which regulators take action against ISPs on a case-by-case basis when consumers are harmed—the exact same approach the Federal Communications Commission uses under its existing net neutrality regime.

About 61 percent of respondents either “strongly” or “somewhat” support net neutrality rules that say ISPs “cannot block, throttle, or prioritize certain content on the Internet.” Only 18 percent oppose net neutrality, as the rest don’t know what it is or had no opinion.

Technically, this doesn’t contradict the official position of major cable companies like Comcast and Charter. These companies say they support the core net neutrality rules, while merely opposing the FCC’s use of its common carrier authority under Title II of the Communications Act to enforce them. But the net neutrality rules imposed in 2015 depend on Title II because of a 2014 court decision that prevented the FCC from enforcing the rules without reclassifying ISPs as Title II common carriers.
Support for protecting consumers
The first slide in the NCTA survey results trumpets broad support for “light touch” regulation. But instead of signaling broad opposition to Title II, the wording of the question shows that Americans support an approach that’s consistent with the one taken by the FCC’s then-Democratic leadership in 2015 (and which the FCC’s current Republican leadership wants to overturn).
The survey asked, “When it comes to the role of the federal government in regulating access to the Internet, which of the following comes closest to your view, even if none are exactly right?” Just 12 percent answered that “the government should have the ability to set specific prices, terms, and conditions for Internet access,” while 53 percent said, “the government should have a light-touch approach to the Internet that allows regulators to monitor the marketplace and take action if consumers are harmed.” The only other option people could choose was, “the government should not regulate the Internet at all.”

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Is The NSA At fault For The WannaCry Ransom Ware?

By: Chris O’Brien 

A Microsoft executive sharply criticized a U.S. spy agency Sunday for its role in weaponizing a weakness in Windows and allowing it to be stolen by hackers and used to launch history’s largest ransomware attack.

“This attack provides yet another example of why the stockpiling of vulnerabilities by governments is such a problem,” Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer at Microsoft, wrote in the wake of the “WannaCry” computer virus attack, which crippled computers worldwide.

He compared it to the U.S. military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen. “And this most recent attack represents a completely unintended but disconcerting link between the two most serious forms of cybersecurity threats in the world today — nation-state action and organized criminal action,” he added.

Smith’s criticism comes as the virus continues to spread around the globe, despite the efforts of companies, governments and security experts. Europe’s leading police agency said Sunday that the computer virus had reached an “unprecedented level,” claiming 200,000 victims and spreading to at least 150 countries.

With employees returning to work Monday, there were fears that more infections will be discovered. And there were also reports that new variations of the virus were appearing.

In an interview with Britain’s ITV, Europol Director Rob Wainwright said a cross-border investigation would be necessary to track down the culprits.

“It is unlikely to be just be one person, I think,” he told ITV.

The fast-moving virus, which first hit Friday, exploits a vulnerability in the Windows operating system that had been discovered by the U.S. National Security Agency. That information was stolen by hackers and published online.
In his response, Smith highlighted the work Microsoft has done to improve the security of its products, long a target of criticism in the security community. He said the company now has 3,500 security engineers, many of whom now act as “first responders” in such cases.

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Grand Jury Subpoenas Issued To Associates Of Michael Flynn

By:  Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz and Pamela Brown, of CNN

Washington (CNN)Federal prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn seeking business records, as part of the ongoing probe of Russian meddling in last year’s election, according to people familiar with the matter. CNN learned of the subpoenas hours before President Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey.

The subpoenas represent the first sign of a significant escalation of activity in the FBI’s broader investigation begun last July into possible ties between Trump campaign associates and Russia.
The subpoenas issued in recent weeks by the US Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, Virginia, were received by associates who worked with Flynn on contracts after he was forced out as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014, according to the people familiar with the investigation.

Robert Kelner, an attorney for Flynn, declined to comment. The US Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, the Justice Department and the FBI also declined to comment.

Investigators have been looking into possible wrongdoing in how Flynn handled disclosures about payments from clients tied to foreign governments including Russia and Turkey, US officials briefed on the matter have told CNN.

The Flynn inquiry is one piece of the broader investigation, which FBI Director James Comey testified in a Senate hearing last week is led jointly by the Alexandria US Attorney’s Office and the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

Flynn was forced to resign as Trump’s national security advisor in February after failing to disclose the nature of phone discussions with Russia’s ambassador in Washington, Sergey Kislyak.

Congressional investigators have also accused Flynn of possibly breaking the law by not properly disclosing a $45,000 payment for an appearance he made at an event in Moscow to celebrate Russia Today. The Russian government-funded news outlet that US intelligence agencies say played a key role in disseminating stolen emails intended to damage the candidacy of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

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Asian Influenza Virus Has The Potential Of Being The Next Global Pandemic

By: The CDC ( Center Of Disease Control )

Human infections with an Asian lineage avian influenza A (H7N9) virus (“Asian H7N9”) were first reported in China in March 2013. Annual epidemics of sporadic human infections with Asian H7N9 viruses in China have been reported since that time. China is currently experiencing its 5th epidemic of Asian H7N9 human infections. This is the largest annual epidemic to date. As of May 1, 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported 623 human infections with Asian H7N9 virus during the 5th epidemic, making it the largest annual epidemic to date. This brings the total cumulative number of human infections with Asian lineage H7N9 reported by WHO to 1,421. Additional infections have been reported, but not yet publically announced by WHO. During epidemics one through four, about 40 percent of people confirmed with Asian H7N9 virus infection died.
Epidemiology
Most human infections with avian influenza viruses, including Asian H7N9 virus, have occurred after exposure to poultry; Asian H7N9 viruses continue to circulate in poultry in China. Most reported patients with H7N9 virus infection have had severe respiratory illness (e.g., pneumonia). Rare instances of limited person-to-person spread of this virus have been identified in China, but there is no evidence of sustained person-to-person spread. Some human infections with Asian H7N9 have been reported outside of mainland China, but most of these infections have occurred among people who had traveled to mainland China before becoming ill. Asian H7N9 viruses have not been detected in people or birds in the United States.
CDC Risk Assessment
While the current risk to the public’s health posed by Asian H7N9 virus is low, the pandemic potential of this virus is concerning. Influenza viruses constantly change and it is possible that this virus could gain the ability to spread easily and sustainably among people, triggering a global outbreak of disease (i.e., a pandemic). In fact, of the novel influenza A viruses that are of special concern to public health, Asian lineage H7N9 virus is rated by the Influenza Risk Assessment Tool (IRAT) as having the greatest potential to cause a pandemic, as well as potentially posing the greatest risk to severely impact public health.
It is likely that sporadic human infections with Asian H7N9 virus associated with poultry exposure will continue to occur in China. There is also a possibility of Asian H7N9 virus spreading to poultry in neighboring countries and human infections associated with poultry exposure may be detected in neighboring countries. Asian H7N9 infections may continue to be detected among travelers returning from countries where this virus is present. However, as long as there is no evidence of ongoing, sustained person-to-person spread, the public health risk assessment would not change substantially.

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Flint Threatening Over 8.000 With Foreclosure Over Unpaid Water Bills

By: BEN DANDRIDGE-LEMCO of The Fader

More than 8,000 homeowners in Flint, Michigan are at risk of foreclosure over unpaid water bills, a local NBC affiliate reports.

The City of Flint began issuing water shut off notices to residents with unpaid bills in March, and the tax lien warnings, sent out to homeowners who had not paid their water bill in six months or more, are the most recent measures by a local government strapped for revenue. If residents put on notice don’t pay, laws present in all 50 states allow city governments to move forward with foreclosure, as Huffington Post points out via the National Consumer Law Center.

“We have to have revenue coming in, so we can’t…give people water at the tap and not get revenue coming in to pay those bills,” Al Mooney, a spokesperson for Flint’s treasury department, told NBC 25 on Tuesday. Mooney said that recent shut offs have led to Flint collecting $3 million for water in April, up from March’s total of $2.1 million.

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Scientist Successfully Remove HIV From Lab Mice 

By:Mia De Graaf of Dailymail

Scientists have cured living animals of HIV using CRISPR gene-editing, a new study claims. 

The virus remains elusive due to the its ability to hide away in latent reservoirs. 

But now, in new research published this week, US scientists showed they could completely remove HIV DNA from human cells implanted into mice – preventing further infection.

It is the first time scientists have ever achieved complete elimination in animal models – paving the way to a human clinical trial.

Most exciting, the study by at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University and the University of Pittsburgh involved a ‘humanized’ model in which mice were transplanted with human immune cells and infected with the virus.  

The new work, led by Dr Wenhui Hu at LKSOM, builds on the same team’s previous research, in which they managed to delete HIV-1 from the genome of most tissues.

A year later, they have been able to eliminate the virus from every tissue.  

‘Our new study is more comprehensive,’ Dr. Hu said. 

‘We confirmed the data from our previous work and have improved the efficiency of our gene editing strategy. We also show that the strategy is effective in two additional mouse models, one representing acute infection in mouse cells and the other representing chronic, or latent, infection in human cells.’

The team tested three groups of mice.

In the first, they infected mice with HIV-1.

In the second, they infected mice with a severe case of EcoHIV (the mouse equivalent of human HIV-1).

The third used a ‘humanized’ mouse model, engrafted with human immune cells, that was infected with HIV-1.  

Treating the first group, they managed to genetically inactivate HIV-1, reducing the RNA expression of viral genes by up to 95 percent, confirming their earlier findings.

The second group has an added challenge: the virus is more prone to vociferously spread and multiply. 

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UK Police Have The Ability To Shut Down Your Phone Remotely If Deemed Necessary

By: Joseph Cox of Vice

UK police could acquire a new power. Last Friday, the Digital Economy Act became law, much of which focuses around restricting access to online pornography, and what sort of sexual acts can legally be included in porn.

But with the legislation’s passing, law enforcement agencies may soon be able to remotely disable or restrict a mobile phone if it is suspected of being used for drug dealing or related to it, and in some cases regardless of whether a crime has actually been committed, according to legal commentators.
“The ‘drug dealing telecoms restriction order’ contained within Section 80 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 is an entirely unprecedented and potentially draconian power allowing police to prevent the use of phones or other communications devices,” Myles Jackman, legal director for activist organisation Open Rights Group, told Motherboard in an email.

As for how this would likely work in practice, a police officer ranked superintendent or higher, or the Director General or Deputy Director General at the National Crime Agency, would apply for a court order that would then be presented to a communications provider—a telco company—ordering it to restrict the specified device or phone number.
Judging by recently published amendments, some of these orders could last indefinitely, and they seemingly could also be used against people who have not committed a crime, or who are not drug dealers themselves. Orders can apply if the user is “facilitating the commission by the user or another person of a drug dealing offense,” or “conduct of the user that is likely to facilitate the commission by the user or another person of a drug dealing offence (whether or not an offence is committed).”

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Axon To Offer Frew Body Cameras For All Police In America 

By: Jessica Anderson of The Baltimore Sun

Taser International, the company that manufactures stun guns and body cameras, announced this week that it was launching a program to provide free body cameras to “every police officer in America.”

The company, now called Axon, said it will also provide supporting hardware, software, data storage, training, and support to police departments free of cost for one year.

It’s unclear how the offer will affect the Baltimore City and Baltimore County police departments, which have already signed multimillion-dollar contracts with the company to equip their officers with body cameras.

“We are continuing to explore those options with Axon,” said Baltimore Police spokesman Detective Jeremy Silbert.

An Axon spokesman said the deal is available to all departments, including those with existing contracts with competitors and current Axon customers that might want to upgrade to newer cameras.

“This will apply to any and all agencies that want to test and evaluate,” spokesman Steve Tuttle wrote in an email.
For existing customers, such as Baltimore City and Baltimore County, Tuttle wrote, “we are also offering current customers to get sufficient discounts that are the equivalent or better to get a free year of Evidence.com [digital evidence management solution]. We knew this offer was coming and we made appropriate accommodations.”
Baltimore signed an $11.6 million contract with Taser to equip 2,500 officers with body cameras by January 2018. The city chose Taser after a pilot program in which the city tested body cameras on 150 officers from Taser, Atlantic Tactical Inc. and Brekford Corp. Nine others companies submitted proposals.

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Tesla Has Officially Been Deemed The Most Valuable Auto Maker In The U.S   

By: Robert Ferris of NBC

Tesla’s market capitalization is now bigger than General Motors’, making it the largest U.S. based automaker by that metric.

Investors are clearly betting on Tesla’s potential, and are undeterred by factors such as Tesla’s loss of $773 million in 2016, and the fact that it sells only a tiny fraction of the cars delivered annually by established competitors.

General Motors sold about 10 million cars in 2016 compared with Tesla’s roughly 76,000.

Tesla has only had two profitable quarters in its history as a public company, while GM earned a profit of more than $9 billion last year.

Tesla shares were up more than 3 percent to over $312 in midafternoon trading Monday, after receiving the highest price forecast ever issued for the stock by an analyst at a major firm.

On Monday, PiperJaffray analyst Alexander Potter published a note upgrading his rating on the stock from neutral to overweight and raising his price target from $223 to $368.

In his note, Potter said Tesla has a “captivating impact on consumers and shareholders alike” that will be difficult for competitors to replicate, and that although bears may have rational arguments against the stock, those “probably won’t matter.”

“In many ways, TSLA seems to play by its own rules,” Potter wrote. For instance, the company burns through cash at a rate “better-established companies would likely be crucified for,” devises “unreasonably fast” production timelines and “spurns industry norms,” by doing things such as choosing to sell directly to customers, rather than through dealers.

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