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Commentary - News

20 minutes ago
FBI agents on Tuesday paid visits to at least a dozen employees of Kaspersky Lab, a Russia-based cyber-security company, asking questions about that company's operations as part of a counter-intelligence inquiry, multiple sources familiar with the matter told NBC News. From a report: In a classic FBI investigative tactic, agents visited the homes of the employees at the end of the work day at multiple locations on both the east and west coasts, the sources said. There is no indication at this time that the inquiry is part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling and possible collusion. Kaspersky has long been of interest to the U.S. government. Its cyber-security software is widely used in the United States, and its billionaire owner, Eugene Kaspersky, has close ties to some Russian intelligence figures, according to U.S. officials.

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1 hour ago
The Washington Post, which has been critical of Donald Trump and his administration in its coverage, has become the latest victim in Trump's Twitter tirade. On Wednesday, he accused Amazon of not "paying internet taxes (which they should)," adding that the company is using The Washington Post "in a scheme to dodge" the taxes. Quick fact check: Amazon doesn't own The Washington Post, Jeff Bezos -- in his personal capacity -- does. At any rate, Trump's furious tweets come a day after The Washington Post reported that a fake issue of Time magazine with Trump on the cover was hanging in some of the president's golf clubs. The timing of this is also awkward because just last week the president met with Bezos and other top executives to discuss ways the White House can modernize government and aid the tech industry. But the two have a long history. As Recode reminds: Meanwhile, Amazon is about to embark on what could be a lengthy government antitrust review of its bid to buy Whole Foods. Already looming large over the roughly $14 billion deal are the president's own comments: He has previously attacked Bezos and claimed the Post is a tax-dodging scheme for Amazon. "He thinks I'll go after him for antitrust," Trump said at one point during his campaign. "Because he's got a huge antitrust problem, because he's controlling so much, Amazon is controlling so much of what they are doing." Months later, Trump charged: "Believe me, if I become president, oh, do they have problems, they are going to have such problems." Meanwhile, Bezos isn't one to shy about his anti-Trump views either. At one point during the election, Bezos tweeted that he'd save a seat for Trump on his Blue Origin spacecraft, with the hashtag "sendDonaldtospace."

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7 hours ago
Blue Origin has recently announced its plans to manufacture the company's new rocket engine, the BE-4, at a state-of-the-art facility in Huntsville, Alabama. According to The Verge, the benefits for Blue Origin are both practical and political. From the report: On the surface, it's a seemingly innocuous decision meant to capitalize on Huntsville's decades-long history of rocket development. The city is home to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, where the Saturn V rocket was developed and where NASA's future massive deep-space rocket, the Space Launch System, will also be worked on. Plus, many private space contractors are based in Huntsville, making spaceflight a key part of the city's economy and a huge jobs creator. It's why Huntsville has been nicknamed Rocket City. But the move is most likely motivated by politics as well, given Blue Origin's plans for the BE-4. The company ultimately hopes to use seven BE-4 engines to power its future massive rocket called the New Glenn, which is supposed to launch sometime before 2020. But that's not the only rocket that the BE-4 could fly on. The United Launch Alliance -- a company responsible for launching most of the satellites for the U.S. military -- is developing a new rocket called Vulcan, and it needs new U.S.-made engines for the vehicle. Blue Origin's move to Huntsville will supposedly generate 342 jobs at the new facility, with salaries averaging $75,000, reports The Verge. Given the city's history, the company should have no problem finding aerospace experts in the area. The only problem that could arise would be if ULA doesn't select the BE-4 as the Vulcan's main engine. "ULA is also considering a second option in case the BE-4 doesn't work out: an engine being developed by longtime manufacturer Aerojet Rocketdyne called the AR-1," reports The Verge. "Aerojet is only meant to be Plan B for ULA. But it has one advantage that Blue Origin didn't have until now: it's building its engine in Huntsville, Alabama -- and that comes with some very key political protection."

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1 day 15 hours ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: During his campaign and presidency, Donald Trump has used Twitter to circumvent traditional media broadcasters and speak directly to the masses. He is particularly known for one specific tweet construction: he sets up a situation that he feels should inspire anger or outrage, then punctuates it with "Sad!" New research from New York University suggests a reason why this style is so effective: a tweet containing moral and emotional language spreads farther among people with similar political persuasion. The study offered up "duty" as an example of a purely moral word, "fear" as a purely emotional one, and "hate" as word that combined the two categories. The research found that the use of purely moral or purely emotional language had a limited impact on the spread of a tweet, but the "presence of moral-emotional words in messages increased their diffusion by a factor of 20% for each additional word." The impact of this language cut both ways. Tweets with moral-emotional words spread further among those with a similar political outlook, and they spread less with those who held opposing views, according to the research published in the journal PNAS. The study looked at 563,312 tweets on the topics of gun control, same-sex marriage, and climate change, and rated their impact by the number of retweets each one received.

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2 days 1 hour ago
An anonymous reader shares a report: Information technology services account for 9.5 percent of the India's gross domestic product, according to the India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), but now, after decades of boom, the future of the industry seems precarious. Since May, workers' groups have reported unusually numerous layoffs. The Forum for IT Employees (FITE) estimates that 60,000 workers have lost their jobs in the past few months (syndicated source). "Employees are being rated as poor performers so companies can get rid of them," said FITE's Chennai coordinator, Vinod A.J. IT companies and some government officials say the numbers have been exaggerated, but industry experts say the country's digital wunderkinds have much to fear. "For the first time, companies are touching middle management," said Kris Lakshmikanth, chief of a recruitment firm called Head Hunters India. Bias against Indians abroad is also compounding workers' fears of layoffs and downsizing at home. President Trump has stoked anxiety among Indian techies, who make up the majority of applicants for the H-1B visa program for highly skilled foreign workers. Trump has talked about sharply restricting H-1Bs, and this year the number of applications dropped a staggering 16 percent as companies prepared for Trump's immigration cutbacks. Instead, Indian outsourcing companies such as Infosys started recruiting Americans, bowing to Trump's calls for "America First." On Monday, India's Prime Minister Modi will meet Trump to talk about trade, visas and climate issues.

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2 days 2 hours ago
From a report: The U.S. Supreme Court partially revived President Donald Trump's travel ban and said the justices will hear arguments in the fall. The justices said the ban can apply for now only to people who don't have a "credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States." From a NYT report: Mr. Trump's revised executive order, issued in March, limited travel from six mostly Muslim countries for 90 days and suspended the nation's refugee program for 120 days. The time was needed, the order said, to address gaps in the government's screening and vetting procedures. [...] The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, recently blocked both the limits on travel and the suspension of the refugee program. It ruled on statutory rather than constitutional grounds, saying Mr. Trump had exceeded the authority granted him by Congress. The court agreed to review both cases, and said it would hear arguments in October, noting that the government had not asked it to act faster.

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5 days 18 hours ago
U.S. President Donald Trump offered support for emerging technologies including unmanned aerial vehicles and next-generation wireless networks in a meeting on Thursday with the chiefs of AT&T and General Electric and other business leaders. From a report: For the likes of AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, the public audience with Trump offered an opportunity to continue nudging the U.S. government -- including in a scheduled, private session with the leader of the Federal Communications Commission earlier Thursday -- to cut back on restrictions that make it difficult for AT&T and other telecom giants to grow their footprint and deploy the new technologies, such as 5G wireless. Speaking with Recode later Thursday, Marcelo Claure, the chief executive of Sprint, said that he and others in his industry had emphasized to Trump that the government must help them deploy new tools like small cells -- essentially, mini cell towers that improve wireless connectivity. Trump, for his part, promised Thursday to cut down on "too many years of excessive government regulation" to enable innovators and investments to offer new cutting-edge tools in health care, science, medicine and communication. "We have had regulation that's been so bad, so out of line that it's really hurt our country," he said.

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6 days 20 hours ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A proposed law in California would require Internet service providers to obtain customers' permission before they use, share, or sell the customers' Web browsing history. The California Broadband Internet Privacy Act, a bill introduced by Assembly member Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park) on Monday, is very similar to an Obama-era privacy rule that was scheduled to take effect across the US until President Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress eliminated it. If Chau's bill becomes law, ISPs in California would have to get subscribers' opt-in consent before using browsing history and other sensitive information in order to serve personalized advertisements. Consumers would have the right to revoke their consent at any time. The opt-in requirement in Chau's bill would apply to "Web browsing history, application usage history, content of communications, and origin and destination Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of all traffic." The requirement would also apply to geolocation data, IP addresses, financial and health information, information pertaining to minors, names and billing information, Social Security numbers, demographic information, and personal details such as physical addresses, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers.

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7 days 4 hours ago
New submitter threc shares a report from MIT Technology Review: The tech world descended on Washington, D.C. yesterday to attend a tech summit at the White House. According to MIT Technology Review associate editor Jamie Condliffe: "Trump suggested he might relax his stance on immigration as a way to get tech leaders to help his cause. 'You can get the people you want,' he told the assembled CEOs. That sweetener may be a response to a very vocal backlash in the tech world against the administration's recent travel bans. Trump may hope that his business-friendly stance will offer enough allure: if tech giants scratch his back, he may later deign to scratch theirs." The report continues: "'Our goal is to lead a sweeping transformation of the federal government's technology that will deliver dramatically better services for citizens,' said Trump at the start of his meeting with the CEOs, according to the Washington Post. 'We're embracing big change, bold thinking, and outsider perspectives.' The headline announcement from the event was Trump's promise to overhaul creaking government computing infrastructure. According to Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and advisor, there's much to be done: federal agencies have over 6,000 data centers that could be consolidated, for instance, while the 10 oldest networks in use by the government are all at least 39 years old. The upgrade, said Trump, could save the country $1 trillion over the next 10 years."

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7 days 22 hours ago
Behind the scenes at the White House tech CEO meeting, Apple CEO Tim Cook told President Donald Trump that technology employees are "nervous" about the administration's approach to immigration, CNBC reports, citing a source familiar with the exchange. From the report: The source said the president told the CEOs on Monday that the Senate's health-care bill needs "more heart." That would be a second known instance of the president criticizing the GOP plan in private meetings. To that, the source said, Cook replied that the immigration approach by the administration also "needs more heart." Cook cited the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which is under review by the Trump administration. He also said people in tech and their co-workers were nervous about their status, and added that it "would be great" if the president could "send them a signal." Here's what executives of Amazon, Google, and Microsoft said.

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9 days 2 hours ago
Political data gathered on more than 198 million US citizens was exposed this month after a marketing firm contracted by the Republican National Committee stored internal documents on a publicly accessible Amazon server, reports say. From a ZDNet article: It's believed to be the largest ever known exposure of voter information to date. The various databases containing 198 million records on American voters from all political parties were found stored on an open Amazon S3 storage server owned by a Republican data analytics firm, Deep Root Analytics. UpGuard cyber risk analyst Chris Vickery, who found the exposed server, verified the data. Through his responsible disclosure, the server was secured late last week, and prior to publication. This leak shines a spotlight on the Republicans' multi-million dollar effort to better target potential voters by utilizing big data. The move largely a response to the successes of the Barack Obama campaign in 2008, thought to have been the first data-driven campaign. Further reading: Republican Data-Mining Firm Exposed Personal Information for Virtually Every American Voter - The Intercept; The RNC Files: Inside the Largest US Voter Data Leak - Upguard; Data on 198M voters exposed by GOP contractor Data On 198M Voters Exposed By GOP Contractor - The Hill.

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12 days 1 hour ago
An anonymous reader writes: Russian president Vladimir Putin (who denies any Russian part in the hacking) claims the Obama administration ignored a proposal in 2015 that might have avoided all of this. His administration suggested working out a cyber treaty with the US but was ignored by Obama officials, Putin told film director Oliver Stone in Showtime's four-part series broadcast this week. "A year and a half ago, in fall 2015, we made proposal to our American partners that we work through these issues and conclude a treaty on the rules of behavior in this sphere," he said in Stone's documentary The Putin Interviews. "The American side was silent, they didn't reply to us."

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12 days 14 hours ago
The federal government will finally stop preparing for the Y2K bug, seventeen years after it came and went. Yes, you read that right. Bloomberg reports: The Trump administration announced Thursday that it would eliminate dozens of paperwork requirements for federal agencies, including an obscure rule that requires them to continue providing updates on their preparedness for a bug that afflicted some computers at the turn of the century. As another example, the Pentagon will be freed from a requirement that it file a report every time a small business vendor is paid, a task that consumed some 1,200 man-hours every year. Seven of the more than 50 paperwork requirements the White House eliminated on Thursday dealt with the Y2K bug, according to a memo OMB released. Officials at the agency estimate the changes could save tens of thousands of man-hours across the federal government. The agency didn't provide an estimate of how much time is currently spent on Y2K paperwork, but Linda Springer, an OMB senior adviser, acknowledged that it isn't a lot since those requirements are already often ignored in practice.

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13 days 3 hours ago
In a wide-ranging interview with Bloomberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook talked about his experience of working with Donald Trump. He said: I feel a great responsibility as an American, as a CEO, to try to influence things in areas where we have a level of expertise. I've pushed hard on immigration. We clearly have a very different view on things in that area. I've pushed on climate. We have a different view there. There are clearly areas where we're not nearly on the same page. We're dramatically different. I hope there's some areas where we're not. His focus on jobs is good. So we'll see. Pulling out of the Paris climate accord was very disappointing. I felt a responsibility to do every single thing I could for it not to happen. I think it's the wrong decision. If I see another opening on the Paris thing, I'm going to bring it up again. At the end of the day, I'm not a person who's going to walk away and say, "If you don't do what I want, I leave." I'm not on a council, so I don't have those kind of decisions. But I care deeply about America. I want America to do well. America's more important than bloody politics from my point of view. Let me give you an example of this. Veterans Affairs has struggled in providing health care to veterans. We have an expertise in some of the things at the base level that they're struggling with. So we're going to work with them. I could give a crap about the politics of it. I want to help veterans. My dad's a veteran. My brother served. We have so many military folks in Apple. These folks deserve great health care. So we're going to keep helping.

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