The US Government Shutdown Tops This Week's Internet News

Last week was nice and quiet. Well, nice and quiet if you ignore President Trump’s advisor Roger Stone being arrested and indicted, Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort being ordered to appear in court to face charges of lying to federal authorities, and everything going on in Venezuela. Oh, and Facebook making money off of kids and Twitter boss Jack Dorsey blaming Twitter users for not reporting Nazis enough. OK, so maybe it wasn’t a quiet week. It was so noisy, in fact, you may have missed a few things. Catch up here.

They Don’t Really Care About Us

What Happened: Despite all the hand-wringing, there’s a good chance many in power in the US government aren’t too sensitive to those affected by the government shutdown. Or, at least, that’s how it seemed based on some comments out of the Trump administration last week.

What Really Happened: The US spent most of last week still in the throes of a governmental shutdown fueled by an administration headed by people often considered too wealthy to understand the cost of living for most Americans. (Remember the time President Trump seemed to suggest that ID was required to buy groceries?) Last week, that out-of-touch-ness truly hit home.

Take Lara Trump’s comments early in the week, in which the wife of Eric Trump responded to the suggestion that the shutdown hurts federal workers by saying, “this so much bigger than any one person. It is a little bit of pain, but it’s going to be for the future of our country and their children and their grandchildren and generations after that will thank them for their sacrifice right now.”

To say that her comments weren’t wellreceived would be an understatement.

Later, Lara Trump would blame the media for misreporting her words. Still, surely this is a one-off thing and wouldn’t be repeated by another person connected to the administration this week or anything.

Ah yes, commerce secretary Wilbur Ross. Wonder what he had to say about the whole thing?

The comments were widely shared by the media. Democrats had some words for Ross, as well.

All told, things weren’t looking good for the administration on the messaging thing, with more and more people noticing just how unable those in charge seem to be with regards to understanding what most people have to deal with.

But wait, President Trump had something to add. Surely this could turn the whole thing around.

Oh. Never mind.

The Takeaway: Remember when President Obama was called elitist for talking about arugula? (No really, that was an actual thing.) Doesn’t old politics seem so quaint now?

The State of Disunity

What Happened: If President Trump learned anything this past week, it is surely not to call the bluff of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. If the president hasn’t learned that this week, then he really hasn’t been paying attention.

What Really Happened: One byproduct of the government shutdown was the State of the Union skirmish, which pitted Trump against Democrats in Congress. For those who might not have been paying attention, two weeks ago Pelosi told the president to reschedule the State of the Union address because of the shutdown, citing the costs of managing it. Trump responded by withdrawing use of military aircraft for a trip to a war zone that Pelosi had scheduled, and in the process made said trip public knowledge for the first time. Sure, it wasn’t a great response, but it was something.

Last week, the drama … intensified? Sure, let’s go with that.

Ohhhhh … snap?

There was one obvious flaw in the White House’s logic here. Namely, the possibility that Nancy Pelosi isn’t playing around.

OK, that’s pretty embarrassing for the president (and pretty great for Pelosi, let’s be honest), all things considered.

After having had his bluff called so publicly, there was some discussion over whether or not the president would have some further trick up his sleeve, and if there was a move that no one could see coming on the way. Alas.

Indeed, Trump officially postponed the State of the Union not long after Pelosi’s … is it rude to call it a shutdown of Trump’s gambit? Maybe just a little. Still, the same public address that the video above came from also featured President Trump’s new nickname for Speaker Pelosi. If it could really be called a nickname.

The Takeaway: So, is Nancy Pelosi actually Donald Trump’s kryptonite? Because it’s sure beginning to look like that.

Rhyme Time

What Happened: When it comes to expressing complex messages, is there any better form to do so than a rhyming couplet? Well, sure, perhaps a limerick, but we’re definitely not there just yet. Give it a week.

What Really Happened: It’s fair to say that the shutdown, which Trump said on Friday would end for three weeks, had almost the exact opposite outcome President Trump hoped for, considering that went on for more than a month with no border wall funding and the majority of Americans blaming him, which has driven his disapproval ratings to an all-time high. In the face of such troublesome reality, something had to be done. And this president is the man to do those things, as long as “those things” consist entirely of tweets.

As if to emphasize it was “the new theme,” Trump then repeated the phrase on a number of occasions over the next 24 hours.

Who could fail to be convinced by such a compelling rhyme? Especially considering how hard President Trump apparently worked on the slogan, as he (somewhat staggeringly) boasted in public comments.

There are, of course, some people who were less enthused about, say, the fact that it’s not actually a true statement. Something that the president himself has kind of talked about in a very roundabout way.

Actually, while we’re talking about statements that are technically untrue, it should be noted that the president’s tweet announcing the slogan was not exactly correct, either.

There was also this take:

Still, at least some people got into the spirit of things. Admittedly, not the spirit the president was wanting them to get into.

Such treatment did get people talking about “the new theme,” but mostly in the context of how stupid and easily parodied it was. Still, all publicity is good publicity, right?

The Takeaway: Perhaps thoughts of how truthful the slogan is might be looking at things the wrong way.

National Emergency

What Happened: When all else fails, go back to the Discarded Strategies pile.

What Really Happened: On Thursday, two bills to reopen the government finally made it to the Senate floor; one from the Republicans that would offer the president full funding for a wall at US southern border, and one from Democrats that wouldn’t. Both failed to pass, but—as many noted—the Democratic solution came closer to success than the president’s plan, with six Republicans voting to approve it. Whether it was that embarrassment, the fact that the shutdown was seemingly dragging on with no end in sight while provoking federal workers to protest, or the fact that even Trump’s base was increasingly blaming him for this mess, Thursday night saw the revival of a discarded plan to bring the longest government shutdown in American history to a close.

Even though Trump relented to a three-week reprieve on Friday, the situation is still one in which the president might declare a national emergency, which would allow him to redirect funds already earmarked for use elsewhere by the federal government to build the wall. With the wall technically “funded,” Trump would then re-open the federal government for good, having “won.” There you have it.

It was not a particularly well-liked move outside of the White House.

If all of this is sounding a little familiar, it should; this was a route anticipated weeks ago that Trump ended up backing away from. That he’s returned to the idea two weeks later demonstrates two things: Firstly, that he’s run out of all other options. Secondly, that it’s really not a national emergency after all, considering. That said, maybe the wall isn’t the point here at all.

The Takeaway: You have to wonder what folks in Mexico, which was originally supposed to be paying for the wall, are wondering about all of this right now, don’t you?

Shhhhh…

What Happened: President Trump temporarily convinced his former lawyer Michael Cohen to shut up. Probably.

What Really Happened: The shutdown and related matters weren’t the only issues plaguing Trump last week, of course. There are also the ongoing legal worries he has over the Russia investigation. At the beginning of last week, there were two weeks to go before Trump’s former attorney was slated to appear before Congress. Many expected Cohen’s appearance to be filled with interesting information, especially in light of a (admittedly disputed) report that Cohen had previously been directed to lie to Congress by the president. But then, this happened:

Admittedly, that sounds pretty serious. But it’s not as if it’s a legal ma—what’s that?

Maybe that’s making a mountain out of a molehill. After all, what kind of threats are we talking about?

OK, so that sounds very serious indeed, and sure enough, the delay made plenty of headlines, as should be expected considering the context. After all, this is directly accusing the President of the United States of witness intimidation—and also noting that it’s working. For those wondering, Congress wasn’t particularly happy about this turn of events.

In fact, it issued a subpoena to ensure that Cohen couldn’t back out of testifying. That worked; he’s back on the schedule for late February. In addition, Cohen’s lawyer asked Congress to censure the president for his behavior to date.

But what does Trump have to say about all this, anyway?

But, you know, it’s not about him. Maybe the threats are really coming from other people who aren’t the person at the center of this investigation who has already been told to cool it with the threats.

Somewhere, Sean Hannity is either terrified that he’s going to be at the center of this story as it continues to unfold, or he’s delighted to be relevant again. It’s hard to know which just yet.

The Takeaway: Actually, there’s one thing particularly interesting about this whole ordeal. Maybe there’s a specific reason Trump keeps talking about Michael Cohen’s father-in-law beyond simply trying to get people to stop talking about him….


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Uber Wants Self-Driving Scooters and More Car News This Week

Yeah, WIRED Transportation loves new car tech. But this week, we were all about alternatives to driving around on four wheels. We thought about what might make public transit more comfortable for more than half of the population—you know, women. We pondered the feasibility of self-riding bikes and scooters. (Uber is really working on them!) We wondered what might happen to the nation’s aviation system now that the federal government is open again—and came away depressed. And we took a close look at Amazon’s delivery robots. Why leave your house at all?

It’s been a week—let’s get you caught up.

Headlines

Stories you might have missed from WIRED this week

Out-of-Left-Field Hero of the Week

When was the last time New York’s LaGuardia Airport did something nice for you? The airport, which is consistently ranked among the worst in the country and was famously likened by former Vice President Joe Biden to a “third world country”, may have played an instrumental role in the conclusion of the nation’s longer federal shutdown. On Friday, the airport had to halt all traffic due to “staffing issues” at a nearby air traffic control center. Just hours later, President Donald Trump said he and congressional leaders had reached an agreement to open the government for three weeks. Thanks, LaGuardia? (Also, the air traffic controllers.)

Stat of the Week

30.5%

According to a new study by UCLA medical researchers, nearly a third of the 249 electric-scooter-related injuries that brought people to two LA-area hospitals in between September 2017 and September 2018 were fractures—mostly arm, shoulder, and leg fractures. Other top injuries included head injuries (40.2 percent) and contusions and sprains (26.9 percent). Five patients were admitted to emergency hospitals with intracranial hemorrhaging.

Required Reading

News from elsewhere on the internet

In the Rearview

Essential stories from WIRED’s canon
From last year: Why use a car when you can ride a bike at 184 mph?

China's Fujian Jinhua to file complaint to be taken off U.S. export control list

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Chinese chipmaker Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Co Ltd said on Friday it has notified the Unites States that it plans to file a complaint to be taken off the export control list, according to a statement on social media.

The firm added that it does not pose any security risk to the United States.

Earlier this month, the company said it had pleaded not guilty to U.S government charges that it stole trade secrets.

The U.S Justice Department had last year launched an indictment against Fujian Jinhua and United Microelectronics Corp (2303.TW), alleging they attempted to steal trade secrets from memory chip maker Micron Technology Inc (MU.O).

The U.S. Commerce Department had put Fujian Jinhua on a list of entities that cannot buy components, software and technology goods from U.S. firms.

Reporting by Josh Horwitz; Editing by Himani Sarkar

China's Huawei books record sales in its smartphone business

BEIJING/HONG KONG (Reuters) – China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd said on Thursday its consumer business sales exceeded a record $52 billion in 2018, on strong demand for its premium smartphones, even as it continued to face heightened global scrutiny of its activities.

The head of Huawei’s consumer business group, Richard Yu, speaks during a presentation in Beijing, China, January 24, 2019.REUTERS/Thomas Peter

The jump of around 50 percent in the technology giant’s consumer business revenue saw that unit replace its carrier business as its largest segment by sales, Richard Yu, the head of the consumer division, said in Beijing.

Huawei last month flagged that total revenue in 2018 rose 21 percent to $109 billion without providing a breakdown of segment performance.

Huawei on Thursday also unveiled its first 5G base station chipset called Tiangang as well as its 5G modem Balong 5000, which it described as the most powerful 5G modem in the world.

Yu said it was the world’s first 5G modem that fully supports both Non-Standalone (NSA) and Standalone (SA) 5G network architecture.

The firm has been using its chipsets in its high-end phones and server products, though it has said it has no intention to become a standalone semiconductor vendor that competes against the likes of Intel Corp and Qualcomm Inc.

Huawei, the world’s biggest producer of telecommunications equipment, has been facing intense scrutiny in the past year over its relationship with China’s government and U.S.-led allegations that its devices could be used by Beijing for spying. The firm has repeatedly denied the accusations.

Some countries such as the United States and its allies, including Australia and New Zealand, have restricted Huawei’s access to their markets.

The firm’s finance chief Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, also daughter of its founder, was arrested in Canada last month at the behest of the United States.

She has been released on bail but is still in Canada as the United States pursues her extradition on allegations she defrauded banks with Iran-related sanctions. Huawei has denied wrongdoing.

Reporting by Sijia Jiang in HONG KONG and Cate Cadell in BEIJING; Editing by Christopher Cushing

Google, Facebook spend big on U.S. lobbying amid policy battles

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google disclosed in a quarterly filing on Tuesday that it spent a company-record $21.2 million on lobbying the U.S. government in 2018, topping its previous high of $18.22 million in 2012, as the search engine operator fights wide-ranging scrutiny into its practices.

FILE PHOTO – The outside of the Google offices is seen in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., January 18, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Segar

In its filing to Congress on Tuesday, Facebook Inc disclosed that it also spent more on government lobbying in 2018 than it ever had before at $12.62 million. That was up from $11.51 million a year ago, according to tracking by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Google’s spent $18.04 million on lobbying in 2017, according to the center’s data.

Google and Facebook declined to comment beyond their filings.

U.S. lawmakers and regulators have weighed new privacy and antitrust rules to rein in the power of large internet service providers such as Google, Facebook and Amazon.com Inc. Regulatory backlash in the United States, as well as Europe and Asia, is near the top of the list of concerns for technology investors, according to financial analysts.

Microsoft Corp spent $9.52 million on lobbying in 2018, according to its disclosure on Tuesday, up from $8.5 million in 2017 but below its $10.5 million tab in 2013.

Apple Inc spent $6.62 million last year, compared to its record of $7.15 million in 2017, according to center data going back to 1998.

Apple and Microsoft did not respond to requests to comment. A filing from Amazon was expected later on Tuesday.

Google disclosed that new discussion topics with regulators in the fourth quarter included its search technology, criminal justice reform and international tax reform. The company is perennially among the top spenders on lobbying in Washington along with a few cable operators, defense contractors and healthcare firms.

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai, who testified in December before a U.S. House of Representatives panel for the first time, has said the company backs the idea of national privacy legislation. But he has contested accusations of the company having a political bias in its search results and of stifling competition.

Susan Molinari, Google’s top U.S. public policy official, stepped down to take on an advisory role this month.

Facebook said discussing “election integrity” with national security officials was among its new lobbying areas in the fourth quarter. The filing said the company continued to lobby the Federal Trade Commission, which is investigating its data security practices.

Reporting by Paresh Dave; Additional reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Sonya Hepinstall

Google Is Paying Employees for Six Months of Charity Work

Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org, has launched a new program that will pay its employees to do pro bono work for nonprofit groups for up to six months.

Google announced the new program, called the Google.org Fellowship, on Tuesday. The purpose is to let Google employees take on full-time pro bono work for the organization’s nonprofit partners, which include groups like the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Girls Who Code, and Amnesty International.

The company aims to achieve 50,000 hours of pro bono work this year.

The fellowship extends Google’s community service outreach and adds to a growing list of volunteer-based initiatives offered by tech companies. It also helps Google accomplish two goals: aid the community with the company’s expertise—as well as motivate employees and help them sharpen their skills, according to the company’s blog.

The launch of Google’s fellowship came after the company piloted a six-month program in which it sent five Googlers to work with Thorn, a nonprofit founded by Ashton Kutcher that develops technology to protect children from sexual abuse. Through the partnership, Google employees helped build tools to find patterns in data that would assist law enforcement in identifying and locating child victims faster.

Since then, seven Google.org fellows, including software engineers and data scientists, started working with Goodwill Industries International, to which Google.org gave $10 million in 2017. Googlers will help the organization get better insight about what works best in their job training programs.

Prior to this program, Google had already offered employees volunteer hours, though a much smaller number, for community service projects.

Google launched GoogleServe in 2008, aiming to encourage employees to participate in community service projects for a day in June. The program also helps match employees’ skillsets to nonprofits’ needs and allows them to spend up to 20 hours of work time volunteering. Last year, more than 5,000 employees volunteered more than 50,000 hours across 400 project, according to Google’s website.

Along the same lines, Salesforce.org, the philanthropic arm of business software company Salesforce, has a Pro Bono Program that offers employees 56 hours of paid volunteer time annually. Between the program’s debut in 2014 and October 2017, Salesforce employees had volunteered 166,000 pro bono hours with 5,700 organizations.

Twitter also offers a community service day. The #TwitterForGood Day, a biannual event at the company, gives employees the chance to do community service at partnering organizations.

Apple premiered its employee volunteer program in 2015. The Apple Global Volunteer Program helps employees organize and support organizations and events in their communities. The program offers training and tools to help them create and promote volunteer events.

An Astonishing 773 Million Records Exposed in Monster Breach

There are breaches, and there are megabreaches, and there’s Equifax. But a newly revealed trove of leaked data tops them all for sheer volume: 772,904,991 unique email addresses, over 21 million unique passwords, all recently posted to a hacking forum.

The data set was first reported by security researcher Troy Hunt, who maintains Have I Been Pwned, a way to search whether your own email or password has been compromised by a breach at any point. (Trick question: It has.) The so-called Collection #1 is the largest breach in Hunt’s menagerie, and it’s not particularly close.

The Hack

If anything, the above numbers belie the real volume of the breach, as they reflect Hunt’s effort to clean up the data set to account for duplicates and to strip out unusable bits. In raw form, it comprises 2.7 billion rows of email addresses and passwords, including over a billion unique combinations of email addresses and passwords.

The trove appeared briefly on MEGA, the cloud service, and persisted on what Hunt refers to as “a popular hacking forum.” It sat in a folder called Collection #1, which contained over 12,000 files that weigh in at over 87 gigabytes. While it’s difficult to confirm exactly where all that info came from, it appears to be something of a breach of breaches; that is to say, it claims to aggregate over 2,000 leaked databases that contain passwords whose protective hashing has been cracked.

“It just looks like a completely random collection of sites purely to maximize the number of credentials available to hackers,” Hunt tells WIRED. “There’s no obvious patterns, just maximum exposure.”

That sort of Voltron breach has happened before, but never on this scale. In fact, not only is this the largest breach to become public, it’s second only to Yahoo’s pair of incidents—which affected 1 billion and 3 billion users, respectively—in size. Fortunately, the stolen Yahoo data hasn’t surfaced. Yet.

Who’s Affected?

The accumulated lists seem designed for use in so-called credential-stuffing attacks, in which hackers throw email and password combinations at a given site or service. These are typically automated processes that prey especially on people who reuse passwords across the whole wide internet.

The silver lining in Collection #1 going public is that you can definitively find out if your email and password were among the impacted accounts. Hunt has already loaded them into Have I Been Pwned; just type in your email address and keep those fingers crossed. While you’re there you can also find out how many previous breaches you’ve been a victim of. Whatever password you’re using on those accounts, change it.

Have I Been Pwned also introduced a password-search feature a year and a half ago; you can just type in whatever passwords go with your most sensitive accounts to see if they’re out in the open. If they are, change them.

And while you’re at it, get a password manager. It’s well past time.

How Serious Is This?

Pretty darn serious! While it doesn’t appear to include more sensitive information, like credit card or Social Security numbers, Collection #1 is historic for scale alone. A few elements also make it especially unnerving. First, around 140 million email accounts and over 10 million unique passwords in Collection #1 are new to Hunt’s database, meaning they’re not just duplicates from prior megabreaches.

Then there’s the way in which those passwords are saved in Collection #1. “These are all plain text passwords. If we take a breach like Dropbox, there may have been 68 million unique email addresses in there, but the passwords were cryptographically hashes making them very difficult to use,” says Hunt. Instead, the only technical prowess someone with access to the folders needs to break into your accounts is the ability to scroll and click.

And lastly, Hunt also notes that all of these records were sitting not in some dark web backwater, but on one of the most popular cloud storage sites—until it got taken down—and then on a public hacking site. They weren’t even for sale; they were just available for anyone to take.

The usual advice for protecting yourself applies. Never reuse passwords across multiple sites; it increases your exposure by orders of magnitude. Get a password manager. Have I Been Pwned integrates directly into 1Password—automatically checking all of your passwords against its database—but you’ve got no shortage of good options. Enable app-based two-factor authentication on as many accounts as you can, so that a password isn’t your only line of defense. And if you do find your email address or one of your passwords in Have I Been Pwned, at least know that you’re in good company.


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Verizon deepens ties with Apple, offers free Apple Music to some U.S. customers

FILE PHOTO: An Apple company logo is seen behind tree branches outside an Apple store in Beijing, China December 14, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

(Reuters) – Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) said on Tuesday it will include free Apple Music subscriptions in some of its top-tier U.S. data plans, deepening its ties with the iPhone maker.

Apple Inc (AAPL.O) is increasingly turning for growth to its services segment, which includes businesses such as iCloud storage, Apple Music and the App Store, and has been partnering with rivals in recent months. Two weeks ago, it cut its revenue forecast, blaming iPhone sales in China.

Verizon customers opting for its “Beyond Unlimited” and “Above Unlimited” plans will also get access to free Apple Music from Jan. 17, the U.S. wireless carrier said in a statement vz.to/2RtAiYk.

Last year, Verizon and Apple announced a partnership, giving some customers six months of Apple Music streaming service along with their data plan. The Verizon “Go Unlimited” plan will continue to get a six-month free trial of Apple Music.

Apple in the last few months has made its iTunes service available on some of Samsung Electronics Co Ltd’s (005930.KS) newer smart televisions and has made Apple Music available on Amazon.com Inc’s (AMZN.O) Echo smart speakers.

The Cupertino-based firm is facing a saturated global smart phone market and many users are hanging on to their old iPhones longer than ever.

Reporting by Subrat Patnaik and Supriya Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker