Digital Mission NYC 2014 – Company Lookbook



Digital Mission to New York 2014, organised by international tech trade experts Chinwag, ran 17-21 Feb 2014 to coincide with Social Media Week New York.

It was organised in conjunction with UK Trade & Investment New York and featured 15 of the UK's top tech startups and agencies taking part in a week-long programme of meetings, briefings, networking and pitch events.

Digital Mission trips are designed specifically for tech startups to understand the opportunities and challenges of entering or expanding into a new market and builds on over eight years of trips.

For more information see: http://digital-mission.org
Want some help planning a trade mission, drop a line to: help@chinwag.com

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How about that US isle wrecked by a hurricane, no power, comms… yes, we mean Puerto Rico


FCC commish wants more than one-page updates on recovery

How do you solve a problem like Hurricane Maria (pictured)

Jessica Rosenworcel, one of the commissioners at America’s broadband watchdog the FCC, has reiterated her call for hearings into what is happening with communications on the hurricane-stricken island of Puerto Rico.

In late September, Hurricane Maria smashed into the strangely neglected US territory, leaving it mostly without power and cellphone coverage amid a row over its energy supply contract.

“[It’s been] 54 days since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico,” she tweeted this morning. “Forty per cent of the cell sites remain out of service. This is an unprecedented loss of communications. It deserves an unprecedented response from the FCC. But to date no hearings, no report, no date by which service will be fully restored.”

The tweets follows similar messages she has sent each week for the past month, frequently pointing out that the federal regulator held hearings and issued a report with findings following other major hurricanes that hit the US including Katrina in 2005 and Sandy in 2012.

On November 6, she tweeted: “Let’s remember: Nearly 7 weeks since Maria hit Puerto Rico. Nearly half of island’s cell sites still out of service. This is unacceptable.”

And the same day she noted that while FCC staff and its chairman Ajit Pai had visited the island, it wasn’t enough: “FCC in Puerto Rico surveying Maria impact on communications. But time to do more: hold hearings, issue report like after Katrina, Sandy.”

She has also put out two formal statements on the issue, criticizing [PDF] the slow speed in which the FCC is acting to improve wireless emergency alerts on November 2, and issued a rebuke of the FCC’s efforts – and in particular Pai as FCC chair – in a statement [PDF] in September in which she noted, pointedly: “I know from my experience you learn more out on the ground than you do sitting on this dais. I hope this agency has the guts to do this. “

Impact

Rosenworcel is having an impact: soon after she started slamming her own agency for not doing enough, the FCC has been issuing daily status reports on Hurricane Maria, the most recent of which notes that 38.4 per cent of cell sites remain out of service and that 37 of Puerto Rico’s 78 counties have more than 50 per cent of their cell sites out of service.

FCC Puerto Rico

Extrapolating from FCC figures: Puerto Rico won’t be full online until nearly the end of the year.

The situation is improving steadily – but slowly – at a rate of roughly one per cent a day: something that points to it taking until 18 December for the island to be back to 100 per cent capacity (see our spreadsheet compiled using FCC data).

Despite the extremely slow recovery, so far the FCC and its chair Pai have resisted the calls for hearings.

It’s not entirely clear why but part of it may be that Puerto Rico has increasingly become the center of a political storm, particularly over the provision of contracts in which seemingly unqualified US companies have won huge deals for getting the infrastructure back up and working and have been criticized for charging far above even emergency rates for their services.

Meanwhile, US House reps Frank Pallone Jr (D-NJ) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) have demanded a probe into Pai. ®

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80-year-old cyclist killed in collision with Tesla Model S


An 80-year-old man has died in County Durham after being struck by a Tesla Model S.

The incident happened on the A177 near High Shincliffe, when the car collided with the unnamed man, who was cycling at the time.

After being struck by the Tesla at around 9.20am on November 10, the man was taken to James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough where he died, according to Durham Constabulary.

The A177 runs between Shincliffe and Bowburn and is predominantly a straight road with gentle inclines.

High Shincliffe, roughly three miles southeast of Durham. Click to enlarge or here for the Google Maps view

The Tesla Model S 90D, the model involved in the accident, was sold until earlier this year and cost around £70,000. It has since been superseded by the Model S 100D.

Tesla’s Autopilot suite of self-driving features includes automatic braking and collision warnings as standard, and can be upgraded to automatically change lanes, maintain speed and park.

It is unknown at this time if the Tesla driver was using any self-driving technology when the incident occurred.

We have asked Tesla for comment. ®

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You, Google. Get in here and explain all this personal data slurping – Missouri AG subpoena


Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley on Monday said his office is investigating Google’s business practices, adding fuel to the long smouldering antitrust fire that the Chocolate factory has been unable to extinguish.

The ad biz has been trying to smother the flames for almost a decade now, fanned at first by Microsoft’s unsuccessful efforts to block the DoubleClick acquisition in 2007 and Google’s now-defunct search deal with Yahoo! in 2008.

After a complaint by price comparison website Foundem in 2010, monopoly watchdogs started paying attention.

Google settled with America’s trade watchdog the FTC in 2013, and almost settled with European Union antitrust regulators regarding its search business in 2014, only to see Margrethe Vestager take over as EU competition chief and derail that deal. In June, Europe whacked a €2.42bn ($2.8bn) fine on Google’s parent company Alphabet, which has appealed the penalty, for abusing its dominant position in search and ads.

“There is strong reason to believe that Google has not been acting with the best interest of Missourians in mind,” the US state’s Attorney General said in a statement. “My office will not stand by and let private consumer information be jeopardized by industry giants, especially to pad their profits.”

In 2010, Greg Abbott, Texas Attorney General at the time, initiated a similar inquiry into Google’s business practices that has yet to amount to anything. In 2017, amid lawmakers’ withering criticism for Google and Facebook over the plague of misinformation spread through unvetted social media ads, the risks look greater for Google.

Google tracks what you spend offline to prove its online ads work. And privacy folks are furious

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Hawley said his office is looking into whether Google has violated Missouri consumer protection and antitrust laws, pointing to the EU fine and a complaint filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center in July with the FTC over Google’s online tracking of consumers.

Via Twitter, Hawley elaborated on the investigation. “No entity in the history of the world has collected as much information about you as Google,” he said. “My office wants to know what Google is doing with this information.”

Hawley claims there may be evidence that Google manipulates its search results to favor Google-affiliated websites over competitors’ websites. And if there is, he said, that may qualify as illegal anticompetitive behavior. For example, Google has a habit of bunging things like restaurant reviews and copies of song lyrics at the top of relevant search results, pushing out of the way links to rivals reviews and lyrics websites. Given the virtual monopoly Google holds in mobile search, and an 80 per cent market share on desktop, actions like this look a little anticompetitive in some people’s eyes.

Toward that end, Hawley’s office has issued an investigative subpoena to find out more.

“We have not yet received the subpoena, however, we have strong privacy protections in place for our users and continue to operate in a highly competitive and dynamic environment,” said Google spokesperson Patrick Lenihan in a statement provided to The Register. ®

PS: Billionaire VC Peter Thiel has donated about a third of a million bucks to Hawley over the past couple of years. Incidentally, Thiel, a right-leaning supporter of Donald Trump and an early investor in Google-rival Facebook, has a right bee in his bonnet with liberal-slanted Google. Essentially, Google’s monopoly on search, as Thiel describes it, threatens to crimp his own investments, it appears.

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Teensy weensy space shuttle flies and lands


‘Dream Chaser’ is signed up for ISS re-supply six missions

The Dream Chaser touches down at Edwards Air Force Base. Image: NASA

Sierra Nevada Corporation’s “Dream Chaser” automated spaceplane has successfully flown and landed.

The vehicle looks a lot like NASA’s Space Shuttle and like that vehicle can land on a runway. It’s rather smaller, however, and at just nine metres long is designed to fit atop lots of launch vehicles and to carry crew and cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), then back again.

Dream Chaser is a “lifting body” spaceplane, which means its body creates lift. That’s a useful quality for a craft like the Dream Chaser that is expected to survive fifteen or more re-entries, because if it can generate lift without needing large wings the resulting design is simpler and more robust.

The design also means that the Dream Chaser can return to terra firma while encountering just 1.5 times Earth gravity. That gentle ride, compared to other vehicles, mean that craft is a candidate for return of sensitive payloads like fragile experiments or injured crew.

The Register understands that the craft was released at 10,000 feet and Sierra Nevada promises more data about the flight on Monday, US time.

Sierra Nevada has a contract to fly half a dozen missions to and from the ISS before the year 2024, but the Dream Chaser hasn’t flown a test for four years. Hence the importance of Sunday’s drop from a helicopter and subsequent glide and landing.

NASA says the flight met “expected models for a future return from the International Space Station.” The Dream Chaser is therefore felt to be on track for a 2020 launch. ®

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Decolonize the Caribbean


Utuado, Puerto Rico, en octubre de 2017. Foto por U.S. Coast Guard Officer 3rd Class Eric D. Woodall.

María and Irma, 2017’s two most destructive hurricanes in the Caribbean basin, have exposed the trappings and inequalities of colonialism in the region. The hurricanes have blown away decades of legal and international maneuvers and ruses, local constitutions, and moves towards autonomy and integration and administrative reclassifications—leaving exposed a simple colonial truth.

Such reclassifications have deemed these islands everything from overseas territories (such as the United Kingdom’s British Virgin Islands) to unincorporated territories (like the United States’ Puerto Rico and American Virgin Islands) to overseas “departments” (like France’s Guadéloupe and Martinique) to overseas “collectivities” (like France’s Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy) to overseas “municipalities” (The Netherlands’ Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba). Yet the hurricanes have shown that the Caribbean islands, regardless of title, as all colonies throughout history, exist to serve the colonial masters, and not the other way around. Even sovereign island nations, like Dominica, seem to float in the same colonial stew of dependency and underdevelopment that paved the way to the destruction of human habitation in some of these islands after the hurricanes.

The hurricanes, most agree, are man-made catastrophes. Global warming has fueled super hurricanes that are more frequent and destructive than ever. Global warming is man-made. But so too is the fragile infrastructure of the islands, its energy, food, agricultural, tourism, land-tenure, finance, and debt regimes. All presented the perfect background to what we saw in the last two weeks of September of 2017.

Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis set the conditions for the degree of destruction Maria wrought. Much has been written about the vulture funds’ grip on the island’s economy, the billions owed in a national debt that decision-makers in Washington, D.C. have refused to audit, the unelected fiscal control board set up in the capital to extract money owed to Wall Street interests. That’s not to mention the austerity measures: the proposed cuts to the minimum wage and pension funds, the closing of schools, the neglected infrastructure. This neoliberal nightmare scenario meant the infrastructure and disaster preparedness necessary to mitigate a disaster like Maria were completely neglected.

Beyond recovery efforts, how do we think about this situation in ways that are not only theoretically relevant, but that allow the residents of Puerto Rico to develop a more secure, just, and equitable future? In short, how do we decolonize the Caribbean?

The truth is that talk of independence is a non-starter for many of the residents of the region. More than 500 years of European colonialism is a heavy tradition not easily disposed of. Scholar Yarimar Bonilla has wisely and skillfully avoided the at-times unproductive debate about independence for French overseas departments. Also, not even national independence or official post-colonial statuses helped island-nations escape fully their colonial grip—see Haiti, Dominica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and more. But post-coloniality and decolonization are two different things, and I argue we must achieve the latter.

Decolonize Sovereignty

We must decolonize the Caribbean. This requires us to envision a “non-sovereign” future, as Bonilla refers to it, requiring us to hack our understanding of what sovereignty means. Our understanding of the idea of sovereignty stems mostly from the French political theorist Jean Bodin, who in the late 1500s established that sovereign power is both indivisible and non-alienable. Under this understanding, talk about more than one sovereign in a single territory would be nonsensical. But we must hack our understanding of sovereignty. Instead of sovereignty, to decolonize the Caribbean, we must speak and write about sovereigntiesThe Caribbean is in need of food sovereignty, energy sovereignty, and land sovereignty. As it is today, decision-making about each of these key elements of life and livelihood has been determined from without.

Food sovereignty concerns establishing autonomy and equitable shares of food regimes, from agriculture to farming to fishing to imports and exports, that determine how and what we eat, and to whose benefit. A rapid glance at the diet of the average Puerto Rican, at the agricultural and food regime changes in Puerto Rico from Spanish to American colonial times, shows that basic decisions about food—what to grow, who to sell to, at what price, and what people eat—are not organic decisions, but planned regimes that must be critically assessed.

In Puerto Rico, the absolute and unquestionable submersion of the island and its people within the financial control of the United States has created consumption habits and lifestyles that have not only fostered dependence but are also unsustainable. The same can be said of other islands in the region. That is why Puerto Rico and other islands must establish energy sovereignty, and rethink the energy regimes that determine how the islands power electric island-wide grids, dependence on fossil-fuel, the export and import regimes associated with it, and the development of renewable sources of energy.

Finally, the Caribbean must establish land sovereignty. This concerns the regimes that determine how we use and develop land, who owns the land, the possibilities of communal ownership, the decision-making processes related to land, and associated tax regimes. One central idea is to move beyond the current view, which holds that land must either be private or public. Instead, we must explore different alternative land-tenure and land-management regimes such as community land trusts, mutual housing associations, land cooperatives, land banks, intentional communities, conservation land trusts, among others. Land sovereignty is at the center of debates in the island of Barbuda, for example; but in Puerto Rico struggles for land sovereignty have questioned land policy around beaches as it relates to the tourism industry.

In the case of Puerto Rico —and other islands— we must also think and act towards trade sovereignty, meaning sovereignty over the commerce, finance, and cultural exchange regimes that determine trade conditions and who they benefit. Of course, the United States is particularly possessive of its exclusive prerogatives over trade. But, in the case of Puerto Rico, do they have a right to this monopolistic prerogative when their guarantee of color-blind citizenship and the right to determine economic bankruptcy are inoperative or arbitrarily denied?

Decolonize the Diaspora

Diasporas have a fundamental role to play in these processes. Our barrios and neighborhoods in the United States, and in New York City specifically have for years suffered the kinds of devastating consequences that we are likely to see now in Puerto Rico and other islands in the region. Communities of color, in particular Puerto Rican, Dominican and African-American, are the most affected by environmental injustices in New York City. Diasporas have for decades dealt with dynamics similar to those that the hurricanes now render so clear: second-class citizenship, the politics of neglect, conquest, displacement, vulnerability to vulture-developers, weak democratic representation, and lack of transparency.

There are important examples in the island of working-class communities organizing to fight against environmental injustice, gentrification, and displacement, among them the barrios of El Caño Martín Peña. All of these island-based and diaspora-based knowledges need to be leveraged and elevated.

The few success stories of neighborhood protection and resistance to environmental racism that we know about have been possible only through the intra-diasporic horizontal networks of solidarity and concern that the diverse diasporas have developed between each other. These horizontal networks of support, solidarity, and activism need to be replicated in the Caribbean. Our fragmentation is not accidental, and neither will we come together by accident. This is a political process that needs to be coordinated from the grassroots, with transparency, accountability, and democratic participation.

Decolonization will not be easy, but the diasporas here in the United States, and in every imperial metropolis (France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom) can and will play an important role. Conversely, a decolonization drive in the Caribbean will only heighten the possibilities of decolonization in our own exile communities. This struggle, the push towards achieving multiple sovereignties, is of the utmost urgency—the future of our communities, our neighborhoods, and our ancestral homelands lies in the balance.

*Publicado originalmente en NACLA y reproducido aquí con el permiso del autor.

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Parity's $280m Ethereum wallet freeze was no accident: It was a HACK, claims angry upstart


A crypto-currency collector who was locked out of his $1m Ethereum multi-signature wallet this week by a catastrophic bug in Parity’s software has claimed the blunder not an accident – it was “deliberate and fraudulent.”

On Tuesday, Parity confessed all of its multi-signature Ethereum wallets – which each require multiple people to sign-off transactions – created since July 20 were “accidentally” frozen, quite possibly permanently locking folks out of their cyber-cash collections. The digital money stores contained an estimated $280m of Ethereum; 1 ETH coin is worth about $304 right now. The wallet developer blamed a single user who, apparently, inadvertently triggered a software flaw that brought the shutters down on roughly 70 crypto-purses worldwide.

That user, known as devops199 on GitHub although has since deleted their account, claimed they created a buggy wallet and tried to delete it. Thanks to a programming blunder in Parity’s code, that act locked down all wallets created after July 20, when Parity updated the multi-signature wallet software following a $30m robbery.

Parity calamity! Wallet code bug destroys $280 MEEELLION in Ethereum

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One of those now-frozen Ethereum wallets belongs to Cappasity, a startup an online marketplace for AR and VR 3D models. It says it had 3,264 ETH in the knackered Parity money store, worth about $1m at current prices, and isn’t likely to get the funds back any time soon. Cappasity amassed the Ethereum from punters buying ARtokens, which can be exchanged for designs when the souk launches later this year. The biz still has access to the Bitcoins it received for ARtokens.

Now Cappasity has alleged the wallet freeze was no accident: someone deliberately triggered the mass lock down, we’re told, and there’s evidence to prove it. By studying devops199’s attempts to extract and change ownership of ARToken’s and Polkadot’s smart contracts, it appears the user was maliciously poking around, eventually triggering the catastrophic bug in Parity’s software

“Our internal investigation has demonstrated that the actions on the part of devops199 were deliberate,” said Cappasity’s founder Kosta Popov in a statement this week.

“When you are tracking all their transactions, you realize that they were deliberate… Therefore, we tend to think that it was not an accident. We suppose that this was a deliberate hacking. We believe that if the situation is not successfully resolved in the nearest future, contacting law enforcement agencies may be the right next step.”

This rather gives a lie to the idea that this was a one-off accident. Instead it looks as though devops199 was deliberately trying to break the multi-sig system and took a number of tries to do so.

While the Ethereum in the wallets is untouched, the Bitcoin alternative is not accessible. Parity has yet to issue an update on its progress to recover the currency, and did not reply to requests for comment today. That’s not making customers like Cappasity very happy. If someone calls the cops on this, quite how the police would handle the case is unclear, given the current levels of tech cluelessness displayed by law enforcement on matters technical. So don’t hold your breath on a speedy resolution. ®

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Health benefits of using Bitter Melon


Bitter melon as a Vegetable | Bitter melon as a Medicine | Bitter melon
excellent for Diabetic Patients | Bitter melon as Skin Toner | Bitter melon as a Conditioner

Bitter melon, also known as bitter gourd or ‘karela’ in Hindi, is a
vegetable found commonly in Asian countries. As the name suggests, it is
bitter in taste but serves a best remedy for diabetic patients. It burns
the fat present in the body thereby helps in weight loss. Few most common
health benefits of bitter melon are mentioned below:

  • Bitter melon improves the blood circulation in the body, prevents
    clotting and helps in healing the wound very quickly. 
  • It is helpful in treating many skin infections such as eczema,
    psoriasis and fungal infections like ringworm etc.
  • It has anti aging properties and helps to prevent wrinkles.
  • Regular consumption of bitter melon helps to purify blood and thus
    prevents acnes. It frees the skin from blemishes and keeps it glowing.
  • It is a very good remedy for many heart diseases and diabetes. It
    lowers the level of blood cholesterol in the body thereby reducing the
    risk of heart attack.
  • It keeps the liver and bladder healthy thus helping in curing kidney
    stone.
  • It is rich in fibre therefore it keeps the digestive system healthy and
    removes the toxins from the body.
  • It contains insulin like chemical which is helpful in reducing the
    blood sugar level. Bitter melon juice serves a homemade medicine for
    diabetic patients.
  • Fresh pods of bitter melon serve an excellent remedy for various
    respiratory disorders such as asthma, cough, cold etc.
  • Mix 3 teaspoons of bitter melon leaves in 1 glass buttermilk and
    consume this mixture every morning empty stomach. It is a good remedy
    for piles
    .
  • It contains an antioxidant named beta carotene which is helpful in
    improving vision.
  • In case of minor intestine infection, take two teaspoon juice of bitter melon leaves with two teaspoon white onion juice and one teaspoon lime
    juice regularly.
  • Mix 1 cup of fresh bitter melon juice with yoghurt and apply on your
    hair. Leave it for some time and then rinse with water. It serves a
    natural conditioner for your hair.
  • Prepare a hair pack by mixing bitter melon juice and cumin seeds and
    apply it to the scalp. It serves a good remedy for dandruff.
  • Applying fresh bitter melon juice in hair helps to remove split ends.
  • Mix bitter melon juice with a pinch of sugar and apply it on the hair.
    It serves a natural remedy for hair loss.
  • Applying bitter melon juice on hair is also helpful in preventing grey
    hair.

Caution:

Excessive consumption of bitter melon may lead to mild abdominal pain or
diarrhea. Therefore one should not consume more than 2 melons in a day.
Also pregnant women should avoid excessive use of bitter melon as it may
lead to premature labor.

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Scientists think they've found primordial goop whence life first sprang


It also makes for great fertiliser

Early life on Earth, like these single-cell bacteria, would have developed from diamidophosphate, or so a team of scientists believes

A speculative new study suggests that nucleic acids, proteins and cell membranes – precursors to life Earth – first grew from a single kickstarting molecule named diamidophosphate.

Its previous claim to fame was a 2008 barley fertilisiation experiment, published in Biologia Plantarum, which found ammonium diamidophosphate compounds had “nutritive value for plants”.

Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy, an origins-of-life scientist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, told The Register: “On a philosophical level, if we understand how we became, and where we came from, it may provide solutions to how we should move forward and where we can go.”

Scientists say there’s no way to really find out the precise chemistry of day zero, but they’ve been testing ideas in the lab all the same. The new study, appearing this week in Nature Chemistry, found that diamidophosphate in aqueous solution soups could simultaneously catalyse the growth of important biological building blocks called purine-nucleotides, phospholipids and oligopeptides.

Purine-nucleotides are found in DNA and RNA, phospholipids in cell membranes and oligopeptides are made of amino acids.

Researchers have brewed old-school nucleotides in desert-like conditions using a cocktail of phosphate (without carbon) and four other molecules. They’ve also created oligopeptides via dehydration in chemical reactions or phospholipids via acids and alcohols.

Krishnamurthy, who was senior author on the work led by Clémentine Gibard, said his group showed you could “do it all in the same locale (like what you find within a cell)” while “using the same type of chemistry”.

He said this would let different classes of molecule exist at the same time and hence evolve together.

However, the wider scientific community isn’t one to accept such studies as read.

“The ‘simplest’ ideas are typically the most desirably as they suggest pathways to life that are more plausible,” said Brian Cafferty, a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

He described the study as “highly appealing” although wanted to know how the reactions fared in complex mixtures of amino acids, nucleosides and fatty acids.

Henderson Cleaves, a researcher at Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan, said it is “hard to say how stable” the molecule is.

Takeshi Kakegawa, of Tokohu University in Sendai City, Japan, said diamidophosphate “is not perfect for origin of life” because it can’t make “structured” and “functioned” molecules such as double-helix RNA.

“Their experimental products are still far from life except cell-like structures,” he added.

“The biggest question is how to prepare [diamidophosphate] on the early Earth with enough quantity.” He doubts that meteoritic minerals, as the authors suggest as a possibility, could have done so.

Matthew Pasek, a researcher at University of South Florida in Tampa, said the diamidophosphate theory “is a good answer” to the grand origin question. Even if there might not be a way to prove it, some ideas “might end up to be more likely than others”.

“I think there’s a good route to making this out there, and that it will be shown that this compound can be made on the early Earth, but it hasn’t been shown yet.”

Krishnamurthy said the lab is hunting for the sources of diamidophosphate and similar molecules on early Earth, examining “the scope” of this chemistry and whether it will all work in a primitive cell-like structure. ®

Bootnote

The paper authors used the same acronym for diamidophosphate (N2H4PO2H) – DAP – as the common fertiliser, diammonium phosphate ((NH4)2HPO4). However, although diamidophosphate contains nitrogen atoms chemically bonded to phosphorous, the common fertiliser does not. So even though diamidophosphate has been investigated previously as a possible fertiliser, to avoid confusion we did not use the acronym.

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Apache OpenOffice: We're OK with not being super cool… PS: Watch out for that Mac bug


Interview Apache OpenOffice 4.1.4 finally shipped on October 19, five months later than intended, but the software is still a bit buggy.

The resource-starved open-source project had been looking to release the update around Apache Con in mid-May, but missed the target, not altogether surprising given persistent concerns about a lack of community enthusiasm and resources for the productivity suite.

Among those working on the project, there’s awareness things could be better. “I believe the 4.1.4 shows us, that we have to do a better job in QA,” observed AOO contributor Raphael Bircher in a developer mailing list post.

A followup comment by Patricia Shanahan touches on the scarcity of development talent available to the project. “I don’t like the idea of changes going out to millions of users having only been seriously examined by one programmer – even if I’m that programmer,” Shanahan wrote, adding that more active programmers are needed on the security team.

Version 4.1.4 did fix four security vulnerabilities, and that’s one less than the five that appear to be outstanding for the software, based on two reported in the November 2016 minutes of Apache Foundation Board of Directors’ meeting and three reported in the April 2017 minutes.

However, the math adds up once you remove one reported issue that turned out not to be a problem.

“Those numbers represent the total number of reports (valid and invalid) received for each project,” said Mark Thomas, a member of the Apache Software Foundation security team, in an email to The Register. “Not all reports are valid so it is expected that the number of issues announced is lower.”

The four fixes, published a week after the release announcement, were:

  • CVE-2017-3157: Arbitrary file disclosure in Calc and Writer
  • CVE-2017-9806: Out-of-Bounds Write in Writer’s WW8Fonts Constructor
  • CVE-2017-12607: Out-of-Bounds Write in Impress’ PPT Filter
  • CVE-2017-12608: Out-of-Bounds Write in Writer’s ImportOldFormatStyles

Asked whether the AOO has enough people looking at its code to keep it secure, Thomas said there’s nothing about the project that causes him grave concern.

“Open source projects always want more resources,” said Thomas during a phone interview. “They never have enough. From a board point of view, the criteria we look at are whether there are three or more active PMC [Project Management Committee] members, because that’s the minimum number to vote a release out the door.”

Thomas said that while AOO is not the most active Apache Software Foundation project, neither is it the least active. And he observed that the project has been recruiting more contributors. He considers the 4.1.4 release to be a sign that AOO can still deliver.

Despite being the subject of a deathwatch – perhaps mainly by fans of rival LibreOffice – AOO appears to be rather popular, with the 4.1.4 update racking up at least 1.6 million downloads.

But that also means a significant number of people – 77,000-plus, according to SourceForge stats – have downloaded the macOS version which contains a significant bug: if Apache OpenOffice is used to create a diagram in a Calc spreadsheet, the file becomes corrupted when saved.

The project developers have been discussing how to handle the issue for the past two weeks.

Concerns about the state of AOO appear to be what in August prompted Brett Porter, Apache Software Foundation chairman at the time, to ask whether it would be an option in a planned statement about the state of AOO to “discourage downloads”?

That’s not generally a goal among software developers unless things are very bad indeed.

Naysayers

Yet, according to Jim Jagielski, a member of the Apache OpenOffice Project Management Committee, things are better than naysayers suggest.

“There is renewed interest and involvement in the project,” he said in an email to The Register. “To be honest, part of the issue has been that many involved with the project have had to spend a lot of time and resources ‘fighting’ the ongoing FUD related to AOO, which meant limited time in doing development. As you can see, we are pushing 4.1.4 and are working on test builds of 4.2.0 for Linux, Windows and macOS.”

Jagielski said those working on the project hope to maintain support for older platform versions that have been abandoned by other office suites. “Of course, this also means maintaining older build systems and platforms,” he said. “But we think it is worth it.”

Beyond releasing 4.1.4, Jagielski said the project team is documenting its build environment and streamlining its release cycle.

Is it time to unplug frail OpenOffice’s life support? Apache Project asked to mull it over

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As for the macOS bug, it’s proving to be a challenge to fix.

“Unfortunately, the build-fix that addresses this regression caused another,” Jagielski explained. “Again, this is due to AOO trying to maintain backwards compatibility with very old versions of OS X (10.7!) and sometimes small variations in libraries can cause some weird interactions.”

While AOO and the ASF formulate a formal statement of direction for the project, Jagielski said more or less that all’s well.

“AOO is not, and isn’t designed to be, the ‘super coolest open source office suite with all the latest bells and whistles,'” Jagielski continued. “Our research shows that a ‘basic,’ functional office suite, which is streamlined with a ‘simple’ and uncluttered, uncomplicated UI, serves an incredible under-represented community.

“Other office suites are focusing on the ‘power user’ which is a valuable market, for sure, but the real power and range for an open-source office suite alternative is the vast majority which is the ‘rest of us. Sometimes we all forget how empowering open source is to the entire world.” ®

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Imagine the candles on its birthday cake: Astro-eggheads detect galaxy born in universe's first billion years


Earth-based ‘scope clocks one of this simulation’s first wonders

The Large Millimetre Telescope … Image Credit: UMass Amherst

A large international team of astronomers has detected one of the oldest galaxies in the universe we’ve seen to date – born within a billion years after the Big Bang.

That would make it one of the very first things to form in our fledgling universe.

The now-elderly galaxy, codenamed G09 83808, was first glimpsed during a scan of the heavens by the orbiting Herschel Space Observatory, and appeared as a blurry blob, making it difficult to analyze.

Now, researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the US, and the Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica y Electrónica in Mexico, have taken a closer look at the timeworn wonder using the Earth-based Large Millimeter Telescope (LMT) and studied it in more detail. Their findings were published in a Nature paper on Monday. The executive summary: G09 83808 was formed roughly 12.8 billion years ago.

Min Yun, coauthor of the paper and a professor at Amherst, said: “The Big Bang happened 13.7 billion years ago, and now we are seeing this galaxy from 12.8 billion years ago, so it was forming within the first billion years after the Big Bang.

“Seeing an object within the first billion years is remarkable because the universe was fully ionized, that is, it was too hot and too uniform to form anything for the first 400 million years. So our best guess is that the first stars and galaxies and black holes all formed within the first half a billion to one billion years. This new object is very close to being one of the first galaxies ever to form.”

Scientists use redshift to measure the distance of such faraway objects. The higher the value of redshift, the further away it is. G09 83808 is a rare find with a redshift of 6.027. Only two galaxies have been found with a redshift of more than 6 so far. The most far flung galaxy, SPT0311−58, was first reported in June with a redshift of 6.9, and the second most distant one has a redshift of 6.34.

Yun calls these high redshift, very distant objects “mythical beasts in astrophysics.” “We always knew there were some out there that are enormously large and bright, but they are invisible in visible light spectrum because they are so obscured by the thick dust clouds that surround their young stars,” he said.

Ancient

It’s difficult to study these bright ancient galaxies using optical telescopes like Hubble Space Telescope or the far infrared and sub-millimetre Herschel Space Observatory, because even though they are flying through the seemingly pure obsidian void, they can be shrouded by clouds of thick cosmic dust used to form new stars.

The LMT, meanwhile, is our planet’s largest single-dish radio telescope located at the top of Volcán Sierra Negra, an extinct volcano in Puebla, Mexico. It can trace carbon monoxide spectral lines used to calculate redshift.

The research team also used gravitational lensing, a phenomena that magnifies the light coming from distant galaxies as it closely passes massive objects, to make G09 83808 look about ten times brighter and closer than it is, making it easier to study.

The LMT is expected to be operate at a higher resolution and sensitivity in the next few months, which could help the eggheads find even more ancient galaxies.

“Now, it could be that there are a whole bunch of them out there and we haven’t been able to see them, but with the LMT we have the power to see them. Maybe they’ll start popping out,” Yun said.

“We are in the discovery field. Every time I reduce one of these data sets I’m full of anticipation. I’m always hoping that these things will pop out. You have to be a hopeless optimist to be doing this kind of work, and this time it absolutely paid off.” ®

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It's 2017 and you can still pwn Android gear with Wi-Fi packets – so get patching now


A security researcher has turned up new ways to silently hijack and infect Android devices via malicious Wi-Fi packets over the air.

Scotty Bauer, a Linux kernel developer, described in detail on Monday how he found a bunch of exploitable programming blunders in the qcacld Wi-Fi driver that supports Qualcomm Atheros chipsets. These chips and their associated driver are used in a number of Android phones, tablets, router, and other gizmos, including some Pixel and Nexus 5 handhelds, for wireless network access.

In an effort similar to Gal Beniamini’s work scrutinizing Broadcom’s insecure wireless technology, Bauer went looking for low-level remote-code-execution vulnerabilities in Google-powered gadgets, found them, and reported them so they can be addressed.

The result of that effort is some juicy security fixes that were released on Monday by Google. These need installing on vulnerable Android devices to protect them from attacks leveraging the bugs. Essentially, vulnerable gizmos can be secretly commandeered by hackers via Wi-Fi due to flaws in the aforementioned wireless driver code, originally developed by Qualcomm Atheros. So check for updates from Google, and install this month’s Android security updates as soon as they are available for your devices.

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Bauer explained that since Qualcomm uses a partial SoftMAC – that is, at least some of the MAC layer is implemented in software – “the source code for handling any sort of 802.11 management frames must be in the driver and is thus available to look at.” In other words, it is possible to study the code and figure out the right management frames to send to a nearby victim’s device to trigger the execution of malicious code, leading to crashes or the installation of spyware.

Bauer’s “first and best” bug in the mammoth driver – which is 691,000 lines of code – is in the dotllf.c file “tasked with parsing over-the-wire packets to a C-style structure.” This flaw, labeled CVE-2017-11013, is a classic buffer overrun, and a potential remote-code execution hole. It was fixed on Monday by Google.

Next on Bauer’s list of bugs is a pair of programming cockups that can cause the code to get stuck in an infinite loop, one of which hasn’t been publicly identified yet because there was an error in the patch for it, and “a new fix is in the works” to fully correct it. The other denial-of-service flaw that has been publicly disclosed, CVE-2017-9714, does have a patch available to correct it: it was released in October.

Another bug discovered by Bauer and fixed on Monday this week, CVE-2017-11014, is a cockup in how an access point’s neighbor identification broadcast packets are processed. It’s another buffer overrun: an attacker sending malicious APChannel data to a target can push 100 bytes into a buffer provisioned for eight bytes, triggering a crash or a potential execution of malicious code.

The last of Bauer’s disclosures this week, CVE-2017-11015, similarly lets an attacker gain remote code execution by exploiting a mistake in a vulnerable Android phone’s portable access point capability. Even if the user is smart and refuses to use WEP, the attacker can still push a challenge packet to the phone and the driver will parse it. A crafted packet can push 253 bytes into a challenge text memory space that’s just 128 bytes long. Again, a patch for this was released on Monday by Google.

Bauer promises another bunch of bug discoveries in December on his website, linked above. He’s also asked that the flaws he finds not be named or branded with a logo. ®

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Jillian ney presentation


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Desde la cocina, se urde una solidaridad distinta


A veces los lugares físicos se convierten en motores de la actividad solidaria, y ese es el caso de Cucina 135. Al entrar, se pueden ver letreros por todo el local. Desde listas de cotejo hasta mapas, itinerarios, listas de colectivos colaborando y sus ámbitos de acción, brigadas por zona y por grupos, listas de materiales esenciales para brigadear, papelones con las prioridades del día. Preguntas sin respuesta como: ¿A dónde puede ir un grupo de médicos voluntarios? ¿Qué necesita tu colectivo/esfuerzo?

En la entrada hay unos acuerdos de sana convivencia y espacios seguros, que promueven un espacio libre de agresiones. “Rechazamos cualquier tipo de agresión sexual, emocional, de raza, género, orientación sexual, nacionalidad, clase social, etnia, edad y/o diversidad funcional. Estos actos violentos van en contra de la visión del espacio”, dice el letrero escrito a mano. Y así estás alertada. Pasar el portón es aceptar los términos de un futuro inmediato que se vive desde el intercambio interpersonal.

Cucina 135 es un proyecto que impulsa Luis Calderón: una cocina industrial para pequeños y medianos negocios, que se alquila para cocinar, hacer catering, proyectos culinarios para personas o grupos que no cuentan con espacios de cocina que les permitan masificar su producto.

Eran las 4 de la tarde y llegué allí para conversar con la líder estudiantil Xiomara Caro Díaz, recordada por la huelga del 2010 en la UPR, y hoy día organizadora y directora de nuevas iniciativas organizativas del Center for Popular Democracy (Centro para la Democracia Popular). Nos citamos en Cucina para hablar de El Llamado, que es una de las iniciativas desde las cuales se convoca a trabajar en este espacio colectivo.

Luis es parte de El Llamado. Y tan pronto pasó el huracán María, ofreció su espacio. “Un día después del huracán Luis me llamó y me dijo ‘tengo luz y teléfono’ y yo dije, ‘pa’ ahí es que yo voy’. Y empezamos a buscarnos, gente que nos conocemos del movimiento, gente de Boricuá también”, explica Xiomara.

Boricuá es una organización de agricultura ecológica que nació desde los 70′, mediante brigadas de apoyo mutuo. Los agricultores necesitaban trabajar en su finca y crearon esta organización para darse apoyo entre ellos, porque sabían que de otro modo no iban a encontrar el apoyo que necesitaban o que se esperaba -siendo agricultores a tiempo completo- de un Departamento de Agricultura local ni federal. Hoy en día es una organización con más de 150 miembros a través de toda la isla, casi todos agroecólogos o en vías de llegar a la agricultura sustentable. Plantean que el país necesita alcanzar su soberanía alimentaria.

Luis describe Cucina 135 como “un proyecto dedicado al área culinaria con un valor de autogestión y de compartir espacios para generar más proyectos individuales y colectivos, además de un espacio también cultural y político para que se encuentre la gente”. El espacio se alquila a personas que tienen sus proyectos de cocina y comedores sociales que también producen desde ahí. También hay gente que produce postres que se venden a “coffee shops”, por ejemplo. “Pero, obviamente, en este momento histórico esta es la prioridad, así que está en “stop” lo otro y estamos acá cocinando otra cosa”.

Esa “otra cosa” a la que Luis se refiere es una red de solidaridad posthuracanada que se ha ido urdiendo entre personas y grupos que tienen coincidencias.

¿Cómo se desarrolló este núcleo de personas de El Llamado? Xiomara se adentró en el asunto. Explicó que inicialmente, fue un llamado privado, tras bastidores, al que respondieron personas de diversas generaciones, incluyendo la más joven, producto de la huelga universitaria que recién ocurrió en 2016.

XC: Fue gente que yo conozco y nos venimos encontrando de distintos lugares, algunos del activismo y de grupos culturales -porque a mí me encanta bailar- y de ahí yo convoqué a personas particulares que yo entendía que usualmente jugamos esos roles de facilitación, de coordinación… En verdad fue un grupo de gente que estaba teniendo conversaciones en cafés, en filas, en lugares janguiando, que de momento la conversación era muy similar. Que necesitábamos más gente conectada al movimiento de justicia social, que los movimientos que existían estaban operando con pocos recursos y que no había un lugar físico. Algo tan básico como que a veces uno está en un colectivo y donde nos reunimos es en la casa de alguien… Y también parte de años de conversación con personas que han asumido un rol organizativo y que en el momento del embate más fuerte de la austeridad nos sentíamos como David vs Goliat. Y yo pensaba, pues ok, hace falta gente que nos tiremos a la calle ahora mismo, pero también ¿cómo le apostamos a la generación que va a construir el movimiento de ahora y del futuro? Y esa apuesta incluye pensar en ganar victorias, pero también pensar en construir una red de activistas que compartan cierta perspectiva, que no es homogénea, que tengan lugares para adquirir herramientas. “El Llamado”, hasta cierto punto, fue planteado como un cruce de camino. Yo puedo asumir un rol y ver a dónde le dedicamos tiempo, y pensé que fomentar la capacidad de otros y otras era algo que hacía falta.

Aquí hace falta un espacio de apoyo a los movimientos sociales que ayude a diseñar campañas, estrategias de comunicaciones y que capacite y le dé herramientas y recursos, para que los grupos que saben qué es lo que hay que hacer puedan hacer más y a otra escala. Y a eso se le llamó “El Llamado”. Estábamos a punto de lanzar la iniciativa en agosto y pasaron cosas que, pues, pasaron… El huracán lo cambió todo. Pero lo que no cambió fueron las cosas básicas. Sabíamos que a los movimientos les hacen falta espacios de encuentro.

Mira si no teníamos clara la magnitud de lo que iba a pasar, que [antes del huracán] habíamos quedado en coordinar una llamada al otro día. No había señal, entonces no había manera de conectarnos a la llamada. Sábado yo veo un inbox de Facebook diciendo que Luis Calderón está en Cucina, que tiene una línea directa… Y me dice mira sí, aquí estamos, vamos a ponernos de punto de encuentro aquí. Yo salí de mi casa lista como si no fuera a volver en una semana, [con] comida por cuatro días de lata en un bulto un poco exagerado, pero no, en realidad todavía pa’ brigadear la gente se está yendo en esas, y llegué y pasé por Buen Vecino, donde trabaja una de las compañeras de El Llamado, y ahí estaba trabajando mi amiga. Me encuentro con Ricardo Alcaraz y le dije “no sé qué vamos a hacer pero vamos a estar en este lugar” y ‘ah pues yo te sigo’. Ricardo llegó conmigo. Llegamos aquí y aquí estaba Giovanni Roberto. Vladi y yo nos logramos comunicar por la línea tradicional. Él también tiene una línea tradicional y yo había tirado el número por el chat y cuando la gente tenía un poco de señal le llegaba. Y él me dijo “estoy en Toa Alta, no sé cómo voy a bajar” y terminó bajando cogiendo pon, empezó a caminar con un galón de agua en la mano y llegó aquí con un “sign” que decía Hato Rey.

Encontrarse en Cucina se convirtió pues en la forma de comenzar a actuar. Más gente se fue enterando boca a boca.

XC: Cuando llegamos, yo creo que fue el primer o segundo día, con un papelote, [tuvimos] una conversación sobre cómo resolver. Y teníamos tres cosas. [Primero], recursos y apoyo para organizadoras y organizadores de sus proyectos, porque sabíamos que los proyectos políticos, sociales y culturales de un montón de gente que conocemos, ya estaban corriendo. Además, que alguien como Giovanni llegó aquí y me dijo “vamos a montar un Centro de Apoyo Mutuo en Caguas”, y se llevó todo lo que él tenía aquí de comida… O sea, que quedó bien claro, que como activistas yo creo que no estamos preparados para esto, pero estamos preparados para reaccionar… Para pensar qué necesitan para operar en estas condiciones.

Segundo, no había teléfono, pues aquí hay un teléfono de línea. Coordinación y comunicación local. Cómo se encuentra gente. Pues se iban a encontrar aquí en ese momento. Y cómo nosotros ayudamos, aunque sea deja un mensaje aquí pa’ fulano o fulana.

Y tercero la narrativa, la contranarrativa, o sea, la narrativa alterna. Que no era la del Centro de Convenciones. Era la narrativa de autogestión, de la gente organizándose sin pedir permiso. De la horizontalidad, de la conexión, pero de la independencia también de tú hacer lo tuyo y ver cómo conecta con lo de otro. En contraste total con la estrategia gubernamental de centralización, de querer controlar todas las decisiones desde un lugar, de homogeneizar todo. Y en función de eso empezamos a simplemente conectar los puntos.

No había un plan. Entonces la gente iba llegando y diciendo lo que estaba pasando. La primera semana no teníamos suministros, la diáspora nos enviaba cosas que se quedaban estancadas en un vuelo. Estábamos coordinando vasos vacíos. No estaban las cosas. Lo que había era gente, y la gente, obviamente, son recursos. La primera semana nosotros sacamos dinero de nuestras cuentas y compramos [suministros] porque sabemos que esta gente está empezando a montar y no tenemos nada que distribuir y entonces fuimos e hicimos una compra como de $600 pesos. Después de ahí empezaron a llegar cositas, en privado, en maletas.

Xiomara menciona que lo que dejó sobre la mesa el huracán María es que las medidas de austeridad de la administración de turno y de la Junta de Control Fiscal provocan que haya una ausencia total de la infraestructura para responder a algo tan básico como la lucha por la vida, o el agua.

Katia Avilés es miembro de la organización Boricuá y facilitadora de encuentros de organizaciones ambientales. Es científica agroecóloga, y su grupo, al igual que El Llamado, es uno de los muchos que ha estado operando desde Cucina a partir del huracán. Katia también se sentó a conversar.

KA: Todo lo que yo he visto acá en estas tres semanas, es precisamente que cada acción responde a la realidad del que entra por la puerta. Y para mí eso fue bien especial, porque permitió entonces una apertura a muchas otras comunidades que están entonces levantando bandera de que “yo tengo esta necesidad”, “esto es lo que está pasando”, “esto es lo que se necesita”, y eso es un punto de inflexión para mí clave en cómo tú trabajas con gente, que es bien distinto a lo que estamos viendo, que es “esto es lo que ustedes necesitan y cómo lo van a recibir” y “aquí está a lista y llenas el formulario”, etcétera. Aquí no. Aquí se responde a quién fue que entró por esa puerta, qué es lo que necesita, cómo está, etcétera. Gente, individuos que entraron que perdieron todo, y no saben dónde estar, y entran desorientados por esa puerta…

Katia explica que hay dos escalas de trabajo, la de los individuos y la de las comunidades. ¿Qué recursos tienen para esas dos escalas? ¿Cuál es la logística? ¿Cuáles son las limitaciones para trabajar?

KA: No hay un modus operandi. Yo diría que hemos estado respondiendo, tratando de tocar base en las mañanas, tocar base por las tardes antes de separarnos e irnos a nuestras casas, pero, o sea, los planes cambian de repente en par de horas. Ayer resultó que había una brigada para Aibonito, la persona que se supone que iba no podía, así que me tocó a mí montarme en la brigada para Aibonito… O sea, ese es el día a día, todavía respondiendo…

¿Cuál es el enfoque? ¿Distribución, comunicación? ¿Cuáles son las acciones que se organizan aquí o que salen de aquí o que se promueven de toda esa gente, esos recursos, que están viniendo aquí?

KA: Cómo yo capacito a ese líder comunitario, a ese organizador de esa región que encontró y está yendo a esa comunidad, que está abriendo paso, que está haciendo brigadas, cómo les damos los recursos para que estén bien o mejor en su condición o tengan las posibilidades de mejorar su condición.

Les damos desde filtros de agua, durante los primeros días ayudamos con la gasolina, lo de poder llegar al espacio, comida que ha llegado. Por ejemplo, yo trabajo mucho con agricultores y muchos han dicho que no tienen semillas para poder volver a empezar porque el huracán se lo llevó todo. Pues decimos manda las semillas para acá y nosotros las llevamos a todas las brigadas que vamos. En el caso de varias comunidades, que no tienen agua potable, que no tienen cómo acceder a agua, que están bebiendo agua del manantial, que sabemos que es el mismo manantial que está lleno de contaminantes… Pues llevamos filtros y enseñamos a recoger agua de lluvia y a poder filtrar. Se le dio un taller a una comunidad que vino y se llevaron talleres a otras comunidades. Ese es el tipo de cosa que se está haciendo ahora y obviamente, esos primeros días súper enfocados en la sobrevivencia. Estamos hablando de caminos, comida, agua y techos. Ahora es que estamos empezando en realidad a ver que la cosa está más clara. Esto no es que estamos estables. Pero la cosa está más clara en términos de qué es lo que la gente necesita. Y por ejemplo, empezar a eslabonar brigadas de construcción, empezar a eslabonar con los que ya son comunidades y esos líderes ya están haciendo. Por lo menos en mi experiencia esto ha sido lo que este espacio ha facilitado para mí y para los que están trabajando conmigo.

¿Y de dónde vienen los recursos para los almuerzos, para las sierras, para las semillas, los filtros? Xiomara explica que continuamente se acercan recursos de la diáspora, de la Red de Apoyo Mutuo de la Diáspora, y tienen una pared de “Oportunidades” donde si ella no puede agarrar algo que ofrecen, se pone allí para que otro lo pueda aprovechar.

XC: Lo otro es [por ejemplo], que una compañera se fue a Chicago porque tenía un viaje programado desde antes del huracán, y regresa con cosas. Compañeros de trabajo míos vinieron, y llegaron con nueve duffel bags llenos de cosas. Ahora están llegando cosas por el correo que ordenamos desde el 25 de septiembre, y han empezado a llegar cargamentos más grandes. Pero nosotros también hemos tenido claro que nuestro rol es fortalecer los proyectos que existían antes de María y potenciar los nuevos. Por ejemplo, en el barrio Mariana en Humacao, tienen el Festival de la Pana siempre, tienen un lugar que le dicen la loma, tiene una asociación reconocida, pero no tenían un comedor ocurriendo. Es cuando él baja a los doce días y llega aquí y lo veo le digo qué está pasando. Déjame enseñarte lo que está pasando en Caguas y entonces [la gente aprende] de qué es lo que se ve en los otros proyectos. Y este lunes empezamos allí un comedor que empezó alimentando 150 personas y ahora van por 275.

¿Y cuál es la relación de estas organizaciones o líderes de movimientos con el gobierno?

XC: Me atrevería a decir que muchos de estos proyectos quizás tengan algún apoyo local con el municipio. O sea, nosotros no hemos ido a un centro de acopio de la Cruz Roja a ir a buscar nada y tampoco pretendemos que este lugar le supla el 100% de las necesidades a estos proyectos.

¿Cómo se inserta Boricuá en este espacio de Cucina post-huracán? ¿Cómo este espacio sirve para apoyar los esfuerzos de la agroecología en estos momentos?

KA: Surgió un poquito justo después de María, no había comunicación y estuvimos mucho tiempo sin saber de nuestra base, de nuestra gente. ¿Dónde están nuestros agricultores? ¿Qué ha pasado en las áreas rurales? Y eso iba desde el tope de la montaña hasta los huertos en la costa, o sea, no teníamos idea de qué estaba pasando en ningún lugar y la necesidad de tocar base y ver cómo sobrevivió tu finca, que sabemos que va a ser tu ingreso por los próximos meses, y si se fue, no vas a tener ingresos por los próximos meses…

El discurso político que estábamos escuchando en la radio era que como Puerto Rico importa casi el 100% de lo que come no hay problema, porque si algo falta vamos y lo compramos, y esto fue en la única estación de radio que estaba funcionando y después hay dos [estaciones] y ¡lo escuchas en las dos!

Al otro día [del huracán] voy al Hormiguero [otra de las organizaciones que opera desde Cucina] buscando, voy a la brigada, y del Hormiguero vinimos para acá. Y cuando llego aquí me encuentro a un compañero que también es de Boricuá, que es el compañero Jesús Vázquez y de ahí rompimos a “mira no escuché de esta persona, tú has escuchado de este, cuándo se reportó, dónde se reportó, y entonces, como los dos representantes de la organización que tenían más acceso a comunicaciones en ese momento empezamos a buscar dónde estaba nuestra red, a activarlos. Vamos entonces al mercado de Ponce, el mercado de Rincón, el centro de la isla.

Y desde entonces hemos estado haciendo unos avalúos de cuáles son las necesidades que tienen estos agricultores y una de ellas es brigadas de construcción. Pues tenemos que llevarle una brigada de construcción. ¡Tenemos que apoyarlos para retomar su finca! Entonces ahora la organización, precisamente porque tenemos la posibilidad de ocupar este espacio y estamos relativamente menos afectados, podemos, por ejemplo, hacer un plan de brigadas para que la gente vaya saliendo.

¿Cuál sería la invitación a la gente?

KA: Mi invitación sería que busquen en su espacio. Si tú tienes un espacio desde el que tú te sientes cómodo de ir a buscar -como el muchacho que vino de Naranjito [diciendo] yo quiero hacer esto en mi barrio en mi comunidad, en mi vecindario-, pues vamos a empezar a maquinarlo y pues, llega acá y vamos a comenzar a hacer esas conexiones.

XC: Desde nosotros hay varios llamados. Uno es a tú encontrar propósito en tu propio espacio. Nosotros estamos apoyando iniciativas autogestionadas de comida, agua y apoyo local. So, si hay gente que quiere traernos comida no perecedera, filtros de agua, toldos (porque ya hemos decidido que no podemos esperar por los toldos de FEMA), pueden donar -particularmente comida no perecedera- y nosotros estamos enfocándonos en lugares que están cocinando para la comunidad. Y también nos estamos enfocando en gente que entendemos que va a estar haciendo esto por mucho tiempo.

No es el alivio inmediato -y no es nada más comer- es ayudar a proyectos que están creando espacios comunitarios fortaleciendo los que tenían, y ese es el lugar donde la gente se va a enterar de lo que está pasando en el país, donde la gente está encontrando médicos. Así que eso es lo segundo, si usted tiene una especialidad y quiere conectarse con un proyecto, puede contactarnos.

O sea, es no regresar a la normalidad porque no hay normalidad a la que regresar. Y dejar de desearla. El resto del país, la mayoría de la gente de este país, no está viviendo en ninguna normalidad porque no la tenían antes de María. Así que también yo creo que es un llamado a no quedarnos, no tratar de buscar regresar a dónde estábamos y en la urgencia, óyeme, reconocer que hay gente muriendo mientras estamos hablando.

Antes de María había mucha gente pasando hambre. Había un montón de gente que no tenía agua, había gente que no tenía casa dónde vivir, lo que pasa es que ahora lo tenemos mucho más cerca, de frente y es difícil negárselo al mundo.

El que ahora mismo está en algún nivel de comodidad, que no esté en riesgo su vida, ni su salud, ni su familia, tiene algo que contribuir. Y no tienes que esperar a que nadie te llame para hacer esto, ni tienes que esperar a que te toquen la puerta, ni tienes que ir a un municipio.

Hay un montón de gente que se ha organizado en su propia calle para hacer brigadas, no le están pidiendo permiso a nadie. Haga lo que usted quiera y entienda que puede contribuir, y si eso es contactarnos a nosotros, pues bienvenido sea.

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OpenSSL patches, Apple bug fixes, Hilton's $700k hack bill, Kim Dotcom raid settlement, Signal desktop app, and more


Happy weekend, everyone, except those of you on call, of course. Let us catch you up on all the IT security bits and pieces besides what’s been reported this week.

Down in New Zealand, Kim Dotcom, the bête noire of Hollywood, reached a settlement with the New Zealand authorities over a rather dramatic raid in 2012 on his home. Cops flew in with guns and dogs to arrest Dotcom and found him hiding in his panic room.

The terms of the settlement haven’t been announced, but Dotcom’s lawyers said the police have promised to review their tactics. Dotcom said he hopes to make his permanent home in New Zealand. Maybe Peter Thiel will be a neighbor?

Email ennui

As seems to be so often the case these days, emails became news items this week. First off, President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka came under the spotlight for using her personal email for US government business. This isn’t the first time she’s been warned on this, and details emerged from a freedom-of-information request that she was still using her personal inbox for conversations with treasury department officials.

However, it was Hillary Clinton’s emails that sparked the bigger headlines. An investigation into the hacking of the Democratic Party revealed some interesting snippets, notably that Guccifer 2.0 actually edited the contents before passing them on to WikiLeaks for dissemination.

The infiltration of the party’s computer systems began on March 10 last year, and at first weren’t that well targeted. The hacker, or hackers, impersonated Gmail’s technical support personal to trick party officials into handing over their account passwords, and, as we all know, it only takes one cockup for a hacking campaign to take hold.

But Hillary and the Democrats weren’t the only target of the hackers. Kremlin-linked miscreants also reportedly went after foreign journalists, US military contractors, and even the Pope’s personal envoy to the Ukraine.

In addition, Twitter announced it has identified 2,752 accounts [PDF] on its milliblogging platform that were fakes set up to cause mischief by Russia’s Internet Research Agency – aka Putin’s troll central. Some of the handles amassed thousands of followers, who are presumably feeling somewhat red-faced over being duped. Among them was Jenna Abrams, a master troll princess who duped journos and the rest of the world.

Fatal flaws

On the flaws front, it has been a busy week – thanks in part to the mobile phone version of the Pwn2Own competition run in Japan. Hackers fly in from around the world to win big money compromising gear by exploiting zero-day vulnerabilities, and weren’t disappointed – $515,000 was paid out in bug bounties.

Biggest Tor overhaul in a decade adds layers of security improvements

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The contest saw some innovative hacks, including the longest attack chain ever seen in the competition. MWR Labs linked together 11 bugs in six different apps to harvest data from a Samsung Galaxy S8, and several iPhones also fell to the infosec gurus. The good news is that all the exploited bugs have been reported privately to the affected software and hardware makers, so look out for patches coming soon for these leveraged holes.

Separately, Apple released a big pile of security updates for its shiny gear. In all, seven patches were released, fixing multiple issues with macOS, iOS, Safari and iTunes. You can review the whole list here – download and install them as usual.

Google had its own software cockups. A cunning hacker managed to find flaws in Google’s internal bug tracker, which it uses to manage issues and vulnerabilities with its vast sprawling empire of code. Security researcher Alex Birsan found out about the system and went digging. He not only found enough coding errors to allow him to get into the confidential database, but also to win him $15,600 in rewards from a grateful Google, which has traditionally been a strong supporter bounties.

(Speaking of Google, Pixel 2 XL handsets shipped with no operating system installed. Oops!)

OpenSSL also had its own issues this week. A moderate, but still important, flaw has been found in how the code handles encryption, to the extent that if it was applied an attacker with enough computing power, it could get some serious hacking done.

Hacking the home

The week began with the FBI warning of a new type of hacking that can earn the criminal scum big money and leave people with serious losses. The scammers are now targeting home buyers.

It works like this. The hacker gets onto the network of the realty agent selling a house – a profession not known for its IT prowess. When someone buys it, the hackers change the details of the payment account receiving the funds to one they control and then make their getaway, leaving everyone out of pocket.

Lovesense, the manufacturer of a mobile-phone operated vibrating butt plug, took issue with stories of how it can be hijacked and set off remotely because it’s so easy to hack. On a reconnaissance mission in Berlin, the hackers found an open device that could have been activated.

Now the manufacturer has hit back, saying that it’s almost impossible to hack into its devices. The company pointed out that it was Bluetooth at fault, not the device, the attacker would have to be within 30 meters of their target, and that if they had connected it to their phone then there was no chance of the device becoming a pain in the arse.

As for the consequences of hacking, Hilton Worldwide agreed to settle with the authorities for allowing not one but two hacking attacks to take place. The hotel group agreed to pay a total of $700,000 to New York State for allowing customer’s credit cards to be stolen, and for not reporting it in time.

Finally, good news for fans of the secure messaging service of choice for hackers and those that work in the field – Signal. The service had a brief outage last week, and this week announced that it has a desktop app now.

This is welcome news, but you do have to have the mobile app on your phone for it to work. That said, it’s the most secure messaging app out there and it’s run by people who won’t sell you out to the highest bidder. ®

PS: Don’t miss the Microsoft staffer who, during an Ignite presentation on Azure, stopped to install Google Chrome because Edge just wasn’t working properly with the Redmond cloud. Oops. It’s 37 minutes in from this vid below…

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Over a million Android users fooled by fake WhatsApp app in official Google Play Store


Once again Google’s Play Store has proved less than excellent at tackling malicious apps, after netizens found a fake version of WhatsApp that was good enough to fool over a million people into downloading it.

The rogue program was spotted by Redditors earlier today, and the software looks very much like the real deal. However, when opened, it appears to download and run the real WhatsApp Android client albeit with adverts wrapped around it, making a fast buck for whichever miscreant produced this dodgy imitation.

Fake on the left, legit on the right

“I’ve also installed the app and decompiled it,” reported DexterGenius.

“The app itself has minimal permissions (internet access) but it’s basically an ad-loaded wrapper which has some code to download a second apk, also called ‘whatsapp.apk.’ The app also tries to hide itself by not having a title and having a blank icon.”

The fake app, now removed from the official Play Store, appeared to be developed by WhatsApp Inc, the legit Facebook-owned maker of the messaging client. However, thanks to some Unicode trickery, a hidden space at end allowed this dodgy version to masquerade as a product of WhatsApp Inc, albeit with two bytes, 0xC2 0xA0, at the end forming an invisible space. In other words, it appeared to be a legit app from a real developer, but really it wasn’t.

Despite clearly being a counterfeit build of a highly popular application, Google’s software guardians failed to spot the scam; the program had over a million downloads.

Google told The Register it is looking into the matter, and it’s likely the writer of the fake version is going to be banned. The Chocolate Factory has been touting the benefits of machine intelligence in tracking down miscreants lurking in its store. Maybe some more human intelligence is needed, too. ®

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A mis compatriotas estadistas


joey guidone

Estos días noto cierta pesadumbre en mis amigos estadistas. No me sorprende: la imagen de Estados Unidos proyectada por Trump es poco halagadora. Empeora si añadimos los movimientos racistas, machistas, xenofóbicos, asociados con su presidencia. Del espectáculo de su visita a Puerto Rico, ni hablar. Aquí va un consejo no solicitado de un amigo independentista.

Les recuerdo algo que en 1943 Jesús Colón, un gran líder independentista y socialista puertorriqueño en Nueva York, resumió con la frase “hay dos Estados Unidos, como hay dos Puerto Rico”. A diferencia de lo que piensan los líderes del PNP (que muy poco conocen de la historia del país al que quieren unirse), Estados Unidos es más que el dólar, Wall Street o Casa Blanca.

Históricamente, Estados Unidos no es solo los founding fathers que al proclamar la independencia y redactar la constitución se les pasó el detalle de abolir la esclavitud: también es la lucha de los abolicionistas, desde William Lloyd Garrison (que consideraba a la alabada constitución un pacto con el diablo) a John Brown, ejecutado por organizar la rebelión anti-esclavista de Harper’s Ferry, pasando por Wendell Phillips que combinaba la lucha contra la esclavitud con la de los trabajadores y por la igualdad de la mujer. Lo mismo puede decirse del ex-esclavo y gran tribuno abolicionista Fredrick Douglass.

Estados Unidos no es solo el KKK y los herederos de los esclavistas que impusieron la segregación en el Sur después de la Guerra civil: también es Thaddeus Stevens y los demás republicanos radicales que pretendían reconstruir, revolucionar el Sur de arriba abajo, garantizando los derechos civiles y la participación en el gobierno de los negros y repartiendo la tierra para quebrar el poder de la oligarquía sureña. (Lograron parte de su empeño durante la reconstrucción radical hasta 1876, antes de que la reacción, a sangre y fuego, revirtiera sus avances).

Tampoco se reduce Estados Unidos a los linchadores y aterrorizadores de la población negra. También es la obra de Ida B. Wells y de W.E.B. Dubois y muchísimos otros, que protestaron contra la segregación, afirmaron la humanidad del negro y recuperaron la historia de su participación en la Reconstruccion radical.

Estados Unidos es más que los grandes magnates, los robber barons de los ferrocarriles, el acero, el carbón o las finanzas que pactaron con los oligarcas del Sur y despojaron a granjeros y trabajadores nativos e inmigrantes: es también las luchas obreras por la jornada de ocho horas, es el motín de Haymarket y la ejecución de los mártires de Chicago, que hasta hoy se recuerda cada 1ro de mayo, día internacional de los trabajadores. Es la lucha de Eugene Debs y los trabajadores del ferrocarril en la huelga Pullman de 1894 y de la Industrial Workers of the World, fundada en 1905, en los talleres textiles de Nueva Inglaterra y los campos, bosques, minas y company towns del oeste y medio oeste (y su lucha por la libertad de reunión, los free speech fights, en decenas de ciudades en las que ese derecho solo existía en el papel). Es la gran huelga, “la rebelión de las 20 mil”, de la industria de la aguja en Nueva York en 1909 y la gran huelga del acero en 1919, entre otras batallas laborales, incluyendo la huelga general de Seattle ese año. Es John Reed, cronista de las revoluciones mexicana y rusa y también las memorables campañas presidenciales del mismo Debs, encarcelado por su oposición a la Primera Guerra Mundial. Y es también la lucha de las mujeres por el sufragio, desde la convención de Seneca Falls en 1848 hasta 1920.

Estados Unidos no es solo el imperialista Teodoro Roosevelt, sino también el anti-imperialista Mark Twain, entre muchos otros. No es solo el Senador Tydings que en 1936 quiso castigar a Puerto Rico si optaba por la independencia. Es también el congresista del American Labor Party Vito Marcantonio, quien quiso reconocer nuestros derechos y garantizar una compensación adecuada por los efectos del colonialismo. No es solo el juez Cooper que encarceló al liderato nacionalista. Es también el artista Rockwell Kent que fue testigo y denunció la manipulación del jurado (y luego coló un mensaje sobre Puerto Rico ¡en inuit para tratar de burlar la censura! en un mural en el correo de Washington D.C.)

Estados Unidos no es solo las empresas petroleras, asesinas del ambiente. Es también la contribución de Rachel Carson y Barry Commoner al nacimiento de la conciencia ecológica.

Son algunos ejemplos, grandes y pequeños, y podría dar muchos más: las grandes huelgas de 1934 en San Francisco, Minneapolis y Toledo, que abrieron paso al ascenso del CIO que luego, através de militantes huelgas y ocupaciones de fábricas (los sit-ins), sindicalizó a los trabajadores del caucho, del automóvil, del acero, de la industria eléctrica, liberándolos de condiciones aterradoras (y que fueron clave en luchas como la huelga de los muelles de 1938 en Puerto Rico). Y no he mencionado a A. Philip Randolph y la organización de los camareros de los trenes y su mezcla de anti-racismo y lucha obrera, a los voluntarios de la Brigada Abraham Lincoln en la guerra civil española, las huelgas de los mineros del carbón desafiando patronos y gobierno durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial, o el movimiento de los derechos civiles después de la guerra, a Rosa Parks rehusándose a ceder su asiento y el boicot de autobuses en Montgomery, a Martin Luther King, a Malcolm X, al extraordinario movimiento contra la guerra de Vietman…  Y por cada uno de estos nombres hay cientos de agitadores y organizadores menos conocidos y miles de militantes anónimos.

Cuando hablo de estas cosas alguna gente se sorprende y dice ¿pero que hace un independentista tan metido en la historia de Estados Unidos? Lo que pasa es que además de ser independendentista soy socialista. Es decir, en dos palabras, aspiro a que las fuentes de riqueza se conviertan en propiedad común y a que se administren democráticamente para el bien común. Tal perspectiva es necesariamente internacionalista: no puede realizarse solitariamente sino enlazando a todos los pueblos y enlazando sus luchas desde el presente. Por eso me siento hermano de todas las luchas por la justicia en todas partes del mundo, incluyendo a Estados Unidos: sin su avance, junto a nuestras luchas, es imposible el mundo a que yo aspiro. Ese socialismo al que aspiro, te repito, es radicalmente democrático. Por eso, y para añadir otro ejemplo, me gusta recordar el gesto del filósofo John Dewey, que, desafiando a la crítica de no pocos “progresistas” de su época, colaboró con Trotsky para repudiar las calumnias y crímenes de Stalin (aún más terribles, si cabe, en la medida que se cometían a nombre del socialismo). Entonces, por extraño que pueda parecerle a algunas personas, desde joven me interesó la historia de Estados Unidos precisamente según me hice socialista.

Ya lo decía uno de los fundadores del marxismo latinoamericano, el peruano José Carlos Mariátegui, en 1925: “La nueva generación de hispano-americanos debe definir neta y exactamente el sentido de su oposición a los Estados Unidos. Debe declararse adversaria del imperio de Dawes y de Morgan; no del pueblo ni del hombre norteamericanos… Los Estados Unidos son la patria de Pierpont Morgan y de Henry Ford; pero son también la patria de Ralph Waldo Emerson, de William James y de Walt Whitman.” Otro admirador de Emerson y Whitman, el cubano José Martí, ya lo resumía en 1889: “amamos a la patria de Lincoln, tanto como tememos a la patria de Cutting.”

En fin, como te decía, hay mucho más en Estados Unidos que Trump o los racistas de Charlottesville o la herencia maldita del despojo de los pueblos originarios, de la esclavitud, la segregación y la Confederación sureña o de los abusos de corporaciones y bancos, que son muchos y continúan hasta el presente. Puedes defender con orgullo ese otro Estados Unidos que he querido recordarte. Yo también lo hago, sin dejar de ser independentista.

Pero en ese caso, para ser consecuente, tendrías que defender en Puerto Rico esa misma perspectiva sindicalista, activista, radicalmente democrática y rebelde que es lo mejor que tiene cualquier país del mundo, incluyendo Estados Unidos. Tendrías que plantearte, no solo un cambio de status, sino la transformación radical de la sociedad puertorriqueña a partir de la lucha de sus trabajadores y trabajadoras, de las comunidades pobres, de las mujeres y los estudiantes. Tendrías que abrazar la idea subversiva de que los desposeídos pueden rehacer el mundo. Yo quisiera, por supuesto, que esa perspectiva te llevara a también defender la independencia, como yo la defiendo, como el medio más lógico para que los habitantes de Puerto Rico nos autogobernemos democráticamente en colaboración y solidaridad con otros pueblos. Pero aun sin dar ese salto ya sería mucho en lo que tendríamos en común, si adoptas la perspectiva indicada: mucho lo que podríamos hacer juntos ahora, sin que tú dejes de ser estadista, ni yo independentista. Aunque sí tendrías que salir de ese partido estadista que para nada se identifica con lo que acabo de indicarte.

Deseo salud y seguridad a tí y tu familia en este momento difícil y amargo que pasamos.

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Tesla share crash amid Republican bid to kill off electric car tax break


Tesla’s share price took a dive Thursday morning as Republicans in Congress revealed they were planning to kill off a US federal tax credit for electric vehicles.

The proposed House tax bill calls for an immediate repeal of the $7,500-per-vehicle credit: something that would have an immediate knock-on impact for Tesla given that it only produces electric cars.

Its share price fell more than seven per cent to about $296 apiece from Wednesday’s $321. The draft law emerged as the Elon-Musk-led automaker announced its worst-ever quarter, recording a $671m loss and admitting it had not met its production target for its new Model 3 car, producing just 220 of them against its 1,500 target.

Click to enlarge … Source: Google Finance

Economists believe that the tax credit is a key driver for electric car sales, and cite the example of when the state of Georgia cut its $5,000 tax credit and saw sales of electric cars slump from 1,400 a month to just 100 a month in response.

As an indication of how the $7,500 helps Tesla sell more of its vehicles, it even incorporates the figure into its pricing on its website, noting that the total vehicle cost is reduced thanks to the break – although you would still pay full price for the car and then would need to claim the credit back on your tax forms.

Blueprint

The bill itself – which still has to go through Congress and is seen as a blueprint for the Trump administration’s tax shakeup – would kill off the electric vehicle break on the final day of this year.

Scrapping the leccy car deal will increase US tax revenues by $4bn, it is estimated. That’s a good saving seeing as the Republicans are desperate to balance America’s books while cutting the corporate tax rate.

Tesla hits Model 3 production speed bumps, slides to loss

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Under the process the Republicans intend to use to pass their tax reform bill, it is necessary for the country’s figures to balance – any cuts have to be met with additional tax income. So far, the plan is expected to cost the Land of the Free $1.5tr over 10 years.

As such, those behind the plan either have to find additional income, reduce their planned cuts, or take a different tack altogether, while bagging sufficient support from the Democrats to get the whole shebang approved. In short, anything in the current plan that increase tax revenue is unlikely to pulled out.

It’s not just Tesla that will be hard hit by the removal of the federal tax credit: General Motors has been pushing its Chevy Bolt electric car, and under California state law, it is required to sell a certain percentage of electric cars each year or effectively pay for not doing so by purchasing green credits.

GM said in a statement following the news: “Tax credits are an important customer benefit that can help accelerate the acceptance of electric vehicles. Because General Motors believes in an all-electric future, we will work with Congress to explore ways to maintain this incentive.”

Tesla has yet to respond – even though the markets have already spoken. ®

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¿Qué normalidad?


foto por Carolyn Cole / via getty images

Me revienta ya la palabra. Desde su uso histórico, y su asociación con la medición de una supuesta “inteligencia” humana –de donde viene el insulto “anormal”– hasta su repetido uso en estos días para evocar ese tiempo añorado de duchas calientes, habitaciones frías y consumo limitado únicamente por las preferencias y el presupuesto. Como debe ser, la norma.

Ciertamente, considero que tener agua corriente, luz eléctrica y señal de internet en el hogar debería ser un derecho humano, si no lo es ya, pero no puedo evitar pensar que todas son condiciones del último siglo, o las pasadas dos décadas en el caso del internet. Lo “normal” de los años 30 no es lo “normal” de ahora. Y el estado “normal” al que podremos aspirar, cuando vuelva a haber energía eléctrica y agua corriente en casi todos los hogares, va a ser bastante diferente de lo “normal” que hubo antes de Irma y María, y sobre todo de lo que había antes del cierre gubernamental del 2006, cuando inició más de una década de contracción económica, que los huracanes de septiembre solo aceleraron.

El año pasado, cuando Andrés Jiménez grabó “Como lo hacíamos antes”, no sé si se habrá imaginado cuan profética sería su letra: ya es común que la gente diga que María nos hizo retroceder varias décadas, a aquel tiempo en que la mayoría de las familias puertorriqueñas no tenía agua corriente ni energía eléctrica en sus casas. También se observa a menudo cómo han resurgido las relaciones sociales entre vecinos y familiares, que compartimos más, precisamente como dice la canción de El Jíbaro. Menos frecuente es que se reconozca la íntima conexión entre las dos cosas: retomamos las relaciones comunitarias en estos días porque las necesitamos, o porque ya no tenemos las formas de entretenimiento que preferimos. Esa misma necesidad de ayuda mutua es la que la modernidad eliminó casi completamente (o dio la ilusión de haber eliminado), al proporcionar la autosuficiencia que da el automóvil, la casa con luz y agua, y la conexión al internet con su mundo de posibilidades de entretenimiento, y de conexión con quien queramos… y no con quien tenemos al lado.

Esa fue la “normalidad” que la tormenta se llevó: esa libertad de pensamiento y de movimiento impensable hace un par de siglos, y la atrofia de relaciones familiares y vecinales que son producto de la modernización. Se puede ir más lejos: si le hacemos caso al virtual consenso científico en torno a la realidad del cambio climático antropogénico, encontramos que la serie de desastres “naturales” que ha experimentado el mundo en la pasada década tiene raíces en esa misma modernidad. O sea, la realización del sueño, de hace tres siglos ya, de un progreso beneficioso para toda la humanidad, producto del ingenio humano, libre de las trabas de la tradición y el oscurantismo, nos ha traído la contaminación ambiental y su secuela de cambio climático, y con él, los fenómenos atmosféricos que nos azotaron en septiembre.

Repito, la luz, el agua y el internet son, o deberían ser, derechos humanos, igual que la educación y la atención médica, productos del mismo movimiento histórico que creó la idea misma de “derechos humanos”. Yo afirmo plenamente todos aquellos valores de la Ilustración europea; sigo participando de ese idealismo, con sus nociones aún subversivas sobre igualdad y democracia. Pero la nueva crisis del antropoceno —esta nueva era geológica marcada por la huella del ser humano en la composición mineral y atmosférica del planeta— nos obliga a confrontar el hecho de que esa “normalidad” tan cómoda, que todo Puerto Rico añora en estos días, se basó en un consumo energético que nunca fue sostenible sino para una pequeña minoría de la población humana, y que ahora amenaza con socavar los mismos cimientos de la propia “civilización” que la creó. También nos había hecho olvidar lo que significa ser vecinos y, en algunos casos, parientes.

Participar en esa modernidad fue lo que el general Nelson Miles prometió al pueblo puertorriqueño, cuando llegó con sus tropas en julio del 1898. Las comodidades más ansiadas tardaron medio siglo, pero cuando se nos concedió el ELA y pasamos de tener una economía colonial agrícola a una economía colonial industrial, y luego una economía colonial de servicios, nuestro pueblo se lanzó de pecho a conseguirlas. Entendimos que se nos prometía la liberación, si no del yugo colonial, por lo menos de la pobreza y la ignorancia, y de tener que vivir toda una vida en un barrio como Collores… por lindo que fuera al recordar cuando salimos de ahí.

No nos ocupamos de leer las letras chiquitas, por supuesto: esa libertad, entendida como poder de consumo, vino con un precio elevado, no solo de nuestras relaciones sociales y esa serenidad que Muñoz trató en vano de promover, sino en dinero, contante y sonante. Nuestro anhelo de más carne en el plato, más frío en el cuarto, más canales en la televisión y más viajes a otros países, tuvo su contraparte en el deseo de nuestros gobernantes criollos por construir nuevas “obras” que llenaran las arcas de sus partidos y sus donantes. Así como el consumismo llevó a familias a comprar y botar, en vez de mantener y arreglar, la administración pública por décadas privilegió la construcción de facilidades nuevas sobre el mantenimiento de las existentes. Para individuos y para el gobierno, el endeudamiento fue la alternativa principal para mantener la “normalidad” del consumo, y en el caso del gobierno, ya vimos a dónde nos llevó ese empeño. Así fue que la Autoridad de Energía Eléctrica, aquel otrora motor de transformación económica y social, llegó a servir para engrosar los caudales de partidos políticos, gerentes y suplidores corruptos, y luego se desangró para pagarle a los bonistas. Y cuando vino la tormenta, todo ese andamio de torres y cables que sostuvo nuestro consumo, colapsó sin que hubiera la fuerza de trabajo ni los materiales requeridos para reconstruirla.

Tenemos derecho a que se reconstruya, por supuesto. Y mientras más podamos aportar a esa reconstrucción —que ya hemos aportado muchísimo de septiembre para acá, en esfuerzo no remunerado y en paciencia al resistir— más podremos reclamar. Pero debe quedar claro que la “normalidad” que podemos esperar luego de estabilizarse la provisión de energía eléctrica en nuestras 100 x 35 millas no va a ser la misma que hubo antes. Tampoco creo que debamos desear que sea la misma.

Recordemos que la “normalidad” de nuestro gobierno (sea rojo o azul) es la repartición de jugosos contratos y cómodos empleos de confianza a amigos del alma, y que mucho antes de tener tan siquiera la mitad del país conectado a la red eléctrica, la AEE otorgó un contrato por más de un cuarto de millón de dólares para relaciones públicas. Para convencernos, claro está, de que “la normalidad” está a la vuelta de la esquina, gracias a todos los gringos que también se han contratado por sumas leoninas.

En una colonia, después de todo, lo normal es que los problemas sean resueltos por la metrópoli.
Pero nuestra experiencia “anormal” de estas pasadas semanas ha sido precisamente que la metrópoli aún no ha resuelto los problemas más básicos y apremiantes, y por más que nos traten de echar la culpa —la de haber elegido una sucesión de gobiernos liderados por gente miope, mediocre o sencillamente corrupta— en la crisis quienes único nos pudieron ayudar fueron las personas que viven alrededor nuestro, que tan poco caso les habíamos hecho.

¿A qué “normalidad” podemos realmente aspirar? ¿Cuándo, y cómo, saldremos de la depresión económica y política en la que nos encontramos? ¿Estaremos destinadxs, en efecto, a ser un “paraíso fiscal” con una población diezmada, que se dedica principalmente a complacer los deseos de los multimillonarios extranjeros residentes aquí parte del año? O ¿podrá el proceso de recuperación de los huracanes —ayuda suficiente desde el gobierno federal y organizaciones no gubernamentales, impulsada por la organización política de comunidades puertorriqueñas dentro y fuera de la isla— dar el ímpetu para la reconstrucción de la economía boricua? Lo segundo no deja de ser una posibilidad real, aunque todos los topos estén cargados a favor de lo primero.

Por eso, y a pesar de todas las incomodidades, no quisiera estar en ningún otro lugar del mundo ahora. Estamos viviendo un momento clave en nuestra historia, un momento terrible pero que nos invita a reconocer cómo la normalidad anterior era, en muchos sentidos, dañina. Estamos en una de esas raras coyunturas históricas en las que el futuro inmediato se vuelve muy opaco, y lo que hagamos —sobre todo si logramos actuar colectivamente— puede tener un impacto decisivo sobre la dirección de los eventos en el futuro.

Precisamente por lo fluida que es esta situación, no es el momento de marcar un compás de espera. Si lo hacemos, solo podemos esperar la reimposición de la “normalidad” del poder colonial: aún mayor concentración de riquezas –y eso, que la riqueza total del país ha bajado estrepitosamente con los estragos de María— en manos de intereses metropolitanos y sus socios en la élite criolla. Contratos y sueldos jugosos para quienes estén en el tope de la pirámide del poder, ahora adornada con una esplendorosa cúpula de extranjeros y extranjeras; cada vez menos migajas para lxs de abajo.

Este es el momento de reclamar nuestros derechos como seres humanos, y sí, como ciudadanos y ciudadanas del imperio que aún puede jactarse de ser el más poderoso del mundo. Pero no podemos depender de EE.UU. para “levantarnos”. A fin de cuentas, no es que lo que nos suceda le sea del todo indiferente al gobierno norteamericano, porque un desastre humanitario aquí les causaría –y les ha causado— muchísimos problemas, pero tampoco les importamos tanto como para ayudarnos a reconstruir nuestra economía de forma sustentable para nuestro pueblo y nuestra tierra. La única fuerza que puede hacer eso es la nuestra propia, con la cual hemos sobrevivido hasta hoy y que tenemos que desarrollar más.

No sea que volvamos a caer en esa “normalidad” que por tantas décadas nos aisló de nuestra propia gente, empobreció nuestra vida como pueblo, y sigue destruyendo ese delicado balance ecológico que permite que especies como la humana puedan subsistir sobre la faz de la tierra. Nadie, salvo esa minoría que se beneficia de ella, quiere que siga el patrón de corrupción y favoritismo que ha marcado administración tras administración en este país, en todos los niveles del gobierno. Pero para que suceda algo diferente, tendremos que movilizar esa solidaridad y ese espíritu comunitario que —mucho más que cualquier ayuda de afuera— nos permitió sobrevivir estas pasadas semanas. Si nos quitamos de la lucha porque nos llegó la luz, perdemos. Tenemos que reclamar transparencia en el manejo de la recuperación, y participación en la reconstrucción de la red energética y la economía que de ella depende.

Esto no se le puede dejar a los sindicatos y los grupos de izquierda. Tenemos que movilizar nuestras iglesias, clubes cívicos y asociaciones profesionales, y exigir participar en la conversación sobre cómo va a ser Puerto Rico, o como TIENE que ser Puerto Rico para que realmente podamos decir que “nos levantamos”. Si no, vamos a terminar en una “normalidad” mucho peor que la que hemos vivido hasta ahora.

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Dan bennett presentation


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Algorithms, Henry VIII powers, dodgy 1-man-firms: <i>Reg</i> strokes claw over Data Protection Bill


The House of Lords will today start poring over the UK’s Data Protection Bill, line by line, as it enters committee stage.

The peers have to agree to every one of the 194 clauses in the bill and debate 32 pages’ worth of amendments, so it’s no surprise this stage can often take more than seven days to complete.

The bill, introduced last month, aims to put the EU General Data Protection Regulation into UK legislation.

And, although some parts of the bill should be a straightforward lift-and-shift of the rules, there are additional sections for the exemptions member states are allowed to define themselves, while other sections focus on national security and intelligence.

The result is a complex, often confusing, piece of legislation that Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho described as being “incredibly hard to read and even harder to understand”.

When it was introduced, the focus was on the creation of new criminal offences in the UK, including for re-identification of de-identified personal data.

Aside from the fact the language used doesn’t map well onto more commonplace terms of pseudonymised and anonymised data, this section raised eyebrows because it failed to offer an explicit exemption for security researchers.

Alan Woodward, a security researcher at the University of Surrey, told The Reg at the time that this could catch people out, and likened it to laws that make reverse-engineering of software products illegal.

Calls for an amendment to explicitly exempt them have not been granted, but two peers – Lord McNally and Lord Clement-Jones – have said they intend to oppose that clause remaining in the bill, so it should at least get the discussion going.

However, since its introduction, a more significant cause for concern has been spotted in the bill text that has caused an outcry from privacy and civil liberty campaigners, including MedConfidential.

This is a broad exemption that would remove a person’s rights as a data subject – their ability to access information or ask how it is being used – if satisfying them would prejudice “effective immigration control”, but this is not specifically defined.

This is concerning because it isn’t clear what the government wants to use this exemption for. It’s not in either of the two preceding Data Protection Acts – which have been around for the past 35 years – and there are already exemptions for cases of crime, national security, public safety and protection of sources in both the GDPR and elsewhere in domestic law.

As Liberty said, the clause could “strip migrants of the right to have their personal information processed lawfully, fairly and transparently when it is being processed for immigration control purposes, regardless of their immigration status”.

Data protection expert Chris Pounder noted that the clause could prevent asylum seekers gaining the information they need to appeal a Home Office decision on whether they have the right to remain – 13 per cent of such appeals are successful, he said in a blogpost.

Given the existing exemptions available to the government, he said there is a “distinct possibility” that the powers granted here could “become an administrative device to disadvantage data subjects using the immigration appeals process”.

Four peers have lodged an amendment that would scrap this paragraph.

Statutory what now?

Meanwhile, the government is once again being accused of giving itself too much future power, with Henry VIII and delegated powers that effectively allow it to amend the primary legislation without asking parliament.

They’re an increasingly common feature in legislation as government tries to future-proof laws as it tries to deal with Brexit, and this bill is littered with them, for instance to add new bases for processing sensitive personal data and exemptions for classes of data controllers.

The House of Lords Constitution Committee’s report on the bill pulls the government up on this, saying: “We draw attention to the number and breadth of the delegated powers in this Bill. This is an increasingly common feature of legislation, which, as we have repeatedly stated, causes considerable concern.”

Small companies can handle lots of data

When it comes to the amendments, the most damaging is broadly agreed to be the one that says “this Act does not apply to any organisation employing five employees or fewer”, tabled by Lord Arbuthnot and Baronness Neville-Rolfe – a former digital minister who should almost certainly know better.

“If the intention of the amendment about small business really is to exclude organisations with less than five employees from data protection altogether, I think it is the single most harmful thing a person could suggest. I’m bloody furious about it,” said data protection consultant Tim Turner.

“A company with two or three employees can process data about millions of people. There are many examples of this – The Consulting Association was an organisation that ran harmful blacklists about construction workers for years. It had one employee.”

Jon Baines, chair of NADPO – the National Association of Data Protection and FOI Officers – added that such an exclusion would be “open to abuse by miscreant companies that structure themselves so as to avoid being subject to the Act”.

UK Data Protection Bill lands: Oh dear, security researchers – where’s your exemption?

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There’s also an amendment that would change the status of colleges, schools and universities, meaning they weren’t classed as public authorities. The effect? That they wouldn’t be required to appoint a data protection officer and would probably be able to process data based on their legitimate interests, which they can’t do at the moment.

Baines said he didn’t “see the case” for such an exemption, but Turner said it could help universities carry out some of their core functions.

“The fact that public authorities can’t use legitimate interests is a real problem for things like fundraising and alumni work,” Turner said. But, he added it would be “foolish” to exempt them from data protection officers as they process data from large numbers of people for a huge range of purposes.

Overall, he said: “It’s a blunt instrument, but it is in response to a genuine problem. I think with some extra detail, it would be reasonable to explore these implications. I’d certainly support universities not being public authorities but still being required to appoint DPOs.”

But some amendments have garnered more support. Three peers tabled one that would adopt an article of the GDPR – which is not required to be transmitted into member state’s law – into the Data Protection Bill, which allows certain not-for-profit bodies to complain to a regulator without an individual instructing them to.

“This would improve consumer rights in two ways,” the Open Rights Group said. “Firstly, it will protect the most vulnerable members of society such as children and the elderly. Secondly, it will move data protection to the same status as other consumer rights frameworks like competition or finance.”

Computer says no?

The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, are making an effort to tighten up rules on automated decision-making and the right for people to understand how machines are affecting their lives.

This includes a new clause that would grant someone the right to information about individual decisions made by public bodies based on algorithmic profiling.

Moreover, this would extend to both public authorities and contractors performing government functions – this last is one to watch, given that the Information Commissioner’s Office has been pushing for contractors to be subject to Freedom of Information laws.

There are also crucial efforts to make this a right people can actually make user of, as existing rules in this vein are rarely used and have come under fire from academics.

For instance, at the moment, someone would have to demonstrate that there was a “significant effect” on them as an individual – tough for situations like racist advertising that is more likely to damage a group than a single person. An amendment aims to add a line to say information should be handed over for “a group sharing a protected characteristic…to which the data subject belongs”.

There is also an amendment that says that a decision is “based solely on automated processing” if there is “no meaningful input by a natural person” – a definition that has been lacking in previous rules.

Many of these amendments are based on research carried out by Lilian Edwards and Michael Veale of University College London.

“High-stakes public sector decisions really changes people’s lives, and we have to make sure they are well investigated,” Veale told The Register.

“Explanations can be useful, but no one has the energy to investigate every aspect of their life — we’ve seen online that over-burdening the user with choices is often overwhelming and unhelpful.” ®

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Hewlett-Packard history lost to Santa Rosa fires


Founders’ correspondence and documents weren’t yet digitised

HP’s foundational garage. Documents from the company’s early days have been lost in the Santa Rosa wildfire

One of Silicon Valley’s most important historic archives, that of the Hewlett-Packard company, has been destroyed in the Santa Rosa wildfires.

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat blames the loss of the archives on a decision to remove them from vaults that used to house them.

The paper archives, which hadn’t yet been digitised, included more than 100 boxes of correspondence and speeches between William Hewlett and David Packard. They were in the care of Keysight Technologies, which was spun out of HP spinoff Agilent.

Hewlett-Packard was founded in 1939, a year after its founders started working on audio test equipment in the now-famous Palo Alto garage. Their early customers were Hollywood (Walt Disney was among their fist, buying their HP200A oscillators to qualify movie sound systems for the release of Fantasia).

The importance of the company’s test equipment can’t be overstated, since Hewlett-Packard kit enabled the development of the hardware created by Silicon Valley.

The fires, which killed at least 23 Santa Rosa residents and destroyed 6,800 homes, left most of Keysight’s campus with minor damage, but the modular buildings that housed the archives were completely destroyed.

More than 300 Keysight staff are working in other locations, and former HP facilities in Rohnert Park’s Somo Village could be used to house 900 personnel by next week, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat says.

The newspaper says the documents were once housed in a fire-protected, but Keysight spokesperson Jeff Weber responded that the “most destructive firestorm in state history” made it impossible to protect some of the Hewlett-Packard collection. ®

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Space rock from another galaxy screams through Solar System


Astro-boffins have waited decades to see something with such an odd orbit

Artist’s impression of something that wasn’t spotted this week

Astronomers have spotted an object passing through the Solar System that they believe came from another galaxy.

The 400-meter-wide object – dubbed A/2017 U1 – was first spotted on October 19 after it slingshotted around the Sun. Analysis of its trajectory suggest it passed beneath Earth’s orbit by about 24 million km on October 14. Whatever it is, it’s moving: boffins have clocked it at 44 kilometers per second.

Dr Karen Meech, an astronomer with the University of Hawaii, told The Register the object’s orbit suggests it is not of this galaxy. Astro-boffins assign a perfectly circular orbit around the Sun an eccentricity of eccentricity of zero, while an extreme parabolic orbit has a value of one.

This object has been given an eccentricity score of 1.2 – by far the largest ever seen – suggesting it isn’t in heliocentric orbit at all but is instead just passing through. Some more perspective: we’ve only ever seen five five objects with an eccentricity value of more, and the best of those was rated 1.05.

A/2017 U1 also came in on a very unusual path, arriving from well above the plane of the ecliptic and making a very sharp turn as it passed under the Sun.

“We have been waiting for this day for decades,” said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies.

“It’s long been theorized that such objects exist – asteroids or comets moving around between the stars and occasionally passing through our solar system – but this is the first such detection. So far, everything indicates this is likely an interstellar object, but more data would help to confirm it.”

asteroid

Can’t stop, places to go, things to do

“Everyone is now scrambling to get telescope time to observe this object,” Dr Meech said. “We have a three or four week window in which it’s bright enough to do real science on this.”

asteroid

Did you know? Today is International Asteroid Day! Wouldn’t it be amazing if one were to…

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The problem is that A/2017 U1 isn’t particularly big or bright, and the further it moves away from the Sun the harder it will be to see. If Hawaii’s Thirty Meter Telescope was complete it would be ideal but construction has been held up after locals objected to the construction of another telescope on Big Island.

The object is now heading out of our Solar System and zooming off in the direction of the constellation Pegasus. Sadly for those hoping it’s an alien probe, it’s showing no signs of stopping for a chat. ®

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Cisco removes probe from place the SAN don't shine in new FC switch


Flash arrays have singed SANs, so Cisco’s turned on the data tap to help you burn bottlenecks

Cisco’s new MDS 9123t 32G fibre channel switch

Cisco’s decided to save the world from all-flash arrays by giving it a new 32G Fabric Switch, an upgraded Nexus 93180 and data galore.

Switchzilla’s motive for the new products is the splendidly high I/O that flash arrays can already handle, and the even stronger torrents of data to come once NVMe and 3D Xpoint become prevalent. Hence the new MDS 9132T fabric switch, depicted above*, a 1U beast capable of packing 32×32-Gbps FC ports..

The machine can ship with eight or 16 ports, with a 16-port “expansion module” offering … erm .. expansion.

The switch also spits out verbose telemetry, to help users figure out where things might be going awry.

“We had some kind of telemery data in the past,” Adarsh Viswanathan, Cisco’s senior manager for data centre product management, told The Register, “but the Fibre Channel industry did not capture header information. That was not there from Cisco.”

“Now IOPs are up, so you need granular metrics.” Viswanathan said those metrics have in the past been gathered by hardware probes, but that appetite for extra widgets in the data centre is declining. Hence the new fashionably probe-free telemetry.

Another device capable of dumping that data is the Cisco Nexus 9300-FX, now imbued with 16G Fibre Channel NPV alongside its Ethernet and FcoE capabilities. Viswanathan thinks users will appreciate all those options in one box.

The 9300 can also offer a telemetry feed and Cisco’s found someone to consume it: SAN performance analysis specialist Virtual Instruments has made sure its wares can grok the data Cisco’s new machines sends its way.

Most array vendors now offer the chance to share performance data anonymously, so that they can run a cloud service that analyses performance across many customers in order to help with proactive analysis of problems. Viswanathan said Cisco’s SAN team are contemplating using the new switches’ telemetry to power such a service, but it’s not yet on an official roadmap. ®

*Or here for m.reg readers. T-rex used because switches are boring to look at and it’s Friday afternoon. We’re in no way suggesting that Cisco, or SANs, or Fibre Channel, are pre-historic or extinct.

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What just banked $7bn in pay dirt, is stroking its big growth, and rhymes with cold sweat?


Google parent Alphabet announced on Thursday a better-than-expected quarter, driving up its share price.

Its stock jumped to $1,036 apiece in after-hours trading before settling down slightly into the low four figures, up three per cent. Analysts had been expecting earnings per share to be around $8.33, but Alphabet smashed this with an EPS of $9.57 – and revenues of $27.8bn in the three months to September 30, up 24 per cent on the year-ago quarter.

Alphabet takes Euro antitrust fine in stride, spooks investors with rising Google ad costs

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CEO Sundar Pichai announced he was well satisfied with the results, in particular the strong growth in Asia and promising signs from the Other Bets division of Alphabet, covering Nest, Waymo and the many other long-term investments the biz is making in future technology. The key results are as follows:

  • Revenues hit $27.8bn, up 24 per cent over Q3 2016 and above analyst estimates of $27.2bn. Google, as is traditional, brought in the lion’s share of this – $27.4bn – but the Other Bets grew to $302m, up from $197m in the same quarter last year.
  • Net income for the quarter was $6.7bn, up 31 per cent from $5.1bn this time last year. It’s also much better than the $3.5bn in the previous sequential quarter, although that was a duff three months thanks to Google shelling out a $2.7bn antitrust settlement with the EU.
  • Non-GAAP earnings per share of $9.57, more than a dollar ahead of estimates. It was this strong showing the proved so enticing to the world’s stock markets.
  • Other reveunes, including Google Cloud and Play and hardware, brought in $3.4bn, up 42 per cent from $2.4bn in Q3 2016. CFO Ruth Porat said the new hardware Google launched earlier this month is expected to bring serious revenue benefits in the fourth quarter of the year as buyers gear up for Christmas.
  • Other Bets the group that includes Nest and Waymo, are still loss-making ventures at the moment, losing $812m this quarter. That’s better than the year ago’s $861m loss, and worse than the previous sequential quarter’s loss of $722m, however, Nest in particularly has been putting out a slew of new products that came with ancillary costs.
  • Headcount rose to 78,101 employees in the quarter, up from 69,953 a year ago. The bulk of these hires were in engineering and product managers, although the tech giant is also investing heavily in sales staff for its cloud products.
  • Taxes and cash were a rosy spot for Alphabet. The biz paid an effective tax rate of 15.6 per cent in the third quarter of the year. The firm is sitting on $100.1bn in cash and negotiable securities for the quarter, around 65 per cent of which is held overseas. Porat said the goliath has no plans to repatriate foreign earnings, although one suspects that may change under Trump’s new tax plans.
  • Regional growth differed sharply around the world. Slowest was Alphabet’s home market of the US which saw growth of 21 per cent, followed by Europe and the Middle East at 23 per cent. The rest of the Americas saw the strongest growth, up 33 per cent, while Asian and Pacific markets were up 29 per cent.
  • Traffic acquisition costs rose 32 per cent year-on-year, with Alphabet spending $5.5bn. Porat said the rise was because of growth in mobile and programmatic advertising, which are more expensive areas of the business where TAC is concerned.

“It has been another great quarter and I’ve been really proud of our progress,” concluded Pichai in a conference call with analysts.

“It has been particularly exciting to see our early investment in AI pay off, and move from a project to something helping millions of people. It’s a new paradigm.” ®

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