It’s Friday October 13, 2017

13Oct

00:0000:00

President Donald Trump will lay out a more confrontational strategy toward Iran by the United States on Friday in a speech in which he is likely to strike a blow at an international Iran nuclear deal, complicating U.S. relations with European allies. U.S. officials said Trump was expected to announce that he will not certify the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, believing the agreement is not in the national interests of the United States. He had certified it twice before but aides said he was reluctant to do so a third time. Trump could have a last minute change of heart before he outlines his administration’s new approach toward Iran in a speech at the White House at 12:45 p.m. EDT Friday. The step would not withdraw the United States from the deal but would give the U.S. Congress 60 days to decide whether to reimpose the sanctions on Tehran that were suspended under an agreement that was negotiated by the United States and other world powers during the administration of former President Barack Obama. European allies are warning of a split with the United States on the issue. European officials have categorically ruled out renegotiating the deal, but have said they share Trump’s concerns over Iran’s destabilizing influence in the Middle East.

 

 

 

Northern California’s wildfires have now killed 31 people, making this the deadliest week of wildfires in state history. Sonoma County sheriff Robert Giordano said Thursday night that two more people have been confirmed dead there. That raises the statewide death total from 29 to 31. The Oakland Hills fire of 1991 killed 29 people by itself. While no one fire currently burning has killed that many, collectively this is the deadliest series of simultaneous fires in the state since records have been kept. The blazes, most of them in wine country, broke out almost all at once on Sunday night. On Thursday, Sonoma and Napa counties endured a fourth day of choking smoke while many residents fled to shelters or camped out on beaches to await word on their homes and loved ones. Meanwhile, a forecast for gusty winds and dry air threatened to fan the fires. Many of the flames still burned out of control, and the fires grew to more than 300 sq miles, an area as large as New York City. Officials said more than 8,000 firefighters were battling the blazes, and more manpower and equipment are pouring in from around the country and from as far away as Australia. Since igniting Sunday in spots across eight counties, the fires have transformed many neighborhoods into wastelands. At least 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed and an estimated 25,000 people forced to flee. Giordano said officials were still investigating hundreds of reports of missing people and that recovery teams would begin conducting “targeted searches” for specific residents at their last known addresses.

 

 

Vietnamese officials said Friday at least 54 people are now dead and 39 went missing as destructive floods battered northern and central Vietnam this week. The floods that hit Vietnam this week starting on Monday are the worst in years. Some 317 homes have collapsed in floods and landslides this week, while more than 34,000 other houses have been submerged or damaged. More than 54 thousand acres of rice has also been damaged and around 180,000 animals killed or washed away. Thai officials said floods have also affected seven of 77 provinces in Thailand, Vietnam’s neighbor to the west. More than 1.2 million acres of agricultural land in Thailand have been affected.

 

 

 

Two prison employees were killed and 10 others hospitalized with injuries after an attempted prison break in North Carolina. The North Carolina Department of Public Safety announced the fatalities Thursday evening, following the earlier announcement about the injuries. The incident occurred Thursday afternoon at the Pasquotank Correctional Institute in Elizabeth City. Around 3:30 p.m., an inmate set a fire in the sewing plant, which injured several employees, according to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. The prison currently houses 729 inmates, according to the department of public safety. Correction Enterprises, which works within the department, operates a sewing plant on site. The injuries to some of those involved are serious, according to Keith Acree, North Carolina Department of Public Safety spokesperson. He added that to his knowledge, no one escaped from the prison, and the situation is now under control.

 

 

 

Police detectives in New York City and London are taking a fresh look into sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein now that some 30 women have accused the Hollywood film producer of inappropriate conduct. New York Police Department spokesman Peter Donald said Thursday that investigators are reviewing police files to see if anyone else reported being assaulted or harassed by him. So far, no filed complaints have been found, he said, other than one well-known case that prompted an investigation in 2015, but authorities are encouraging anyone with information on Weinstein to contact the department. London police were also looking into a claim it had received from the Merseyside force in northwest England, British media reported Thursday. Merseyside police said the allegation was made a day earlier and concerned “an alleged sexual assault in the London area in the 1980s.” Some 30 women — including actresses Angelina Jolie, Ashley Judd and Gwyneth Paltrow — have spoken out recently to say Weinstein had sexually harassed or sexually assaulted them. Rose McGowan, who has long suggested that Weinstein sexually assaulted her, tweeted Thursday that “HW raped me.” The initials were an apparent reference to Weinstein, and The Hollywood Reporter said the actress confirmed to them that she was referring to the disgraced film mogul. The New York Times earlier reported that Weinstein paid a financial settlement of $100,000 to McGowan in 1997 over an incident in a hotel room at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. Weinstein was fired Sunday by The Weinstein Co., a studio he co-founded with his brother.

 

 

 

Russia has accused the U.S. of violating a peace treaty between Moscow and the Western military pact NATO after the Pentagon deployed a new force in the tense Baltic region. It's the latest of several Western moves seen as provocations by Russia, which has vowed to respond. The U.S. announced Thursday the arrival of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in a Polish NATO outpost located about 100 miles from Russia's militarized enclave of Kaliningrad. The troops are part of Washington's latest effort to bolster allied nation's against what they perceive to be a military threat from neighboring Russia. The Russian Defense Ministry weighed in Thursday, condemning the U.S. deployment and calling it a response to "unprecedented media hysteria" toward Moscow's massive Zapad-2017 military exercises held last month mostly in Belarus, Tass reported. A number of Western outlets speculated on how the large-scale Russian military mobilization may have permanent effects on the region, something Moscow denied. A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said it was the U.S. "preparing for the aggression" by stationing the 2nd Cavalry Regiment across Russia's border without removing the military equipment of U.S. forces previously posted there, a move he said violated the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act. The agreement was designed to end decades of Cold War animosity between the two sides and states that "NATO and Russia do not consider each other as adversaries."

 

 

 

President Trump will stop payments worth billions of dollars to health insurers to subsidize low-income Americans, the White House said on Thursday, a move health insurers have warned will cause chaos in insurance markets and a spike in premiums. The move to undermine President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law officially called the Affordable Care Act, drew criticism from Democrats and the threat of a lawsuit from state attorneys general. Trump has made the payments, guaranteed to insurers under Obamacare to help lower out-of-pocket medical expenses for low-income consumers, each month since taking office in January. But he has repeatedly threatened to cut them off and disparaged them as a “bailout” for insurance companies. The White House said late on Thursday that it cannot lawfully pay the subsidies to health insurance companies. A White House statement said that based on guidance from the Justice Department, “the Department of Health and Human Services has concluded that there is no appropriation for cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies under Obamacare.” The statement went on to say, “In light of this analysis, the Government cannot lawfully make the cost-sharing reduction payments." Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi derided the move in a joint statement, saying Trump would single-handedly push American’s healthcare premiums higher. New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said in a statement he was prepared to lead other attorneys general in a lawsuit.

 

 

 

The leaders of Mexico and Canada on Thursday pledged to work toward a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) even as talks taking place in the United States turned sour due to hard-line U.S. demands. Speaking in Mexico City as a fourth round of talks to rehash NAFTA was held near Washington, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said they were committed to a “win-win-win” deal. The talks in the US hit obstacles, with tensions increasing dramatically Thursday due to U.S. demands that include adding a so-called “sunset clause” to NAFTA that would force negotiations of the $1 trillion pact every five years. Two sources with direct knowledge of the talks in Arlington, Virginia described the atmosphere as “horrible” and highly charged. President Trump says NAFTA, originally signed in 1994, has been a disaster for the United States and he has frequently threatened to scrap it unless major changes are made. Besides the sunset clause, the United States also wants to modify dispute settlement mechanisms and boost the amount of U.S. content that autos must contain to qualify for tax-free status. Business leaders from all three countries have said the U.S. proposals could derail the talks.

 

 

 

Five years after they were seized by a terrorist network in the mountains of Afghanistan, an American woman, her Canadian husband and their children — all three born in captivity — are free after a dramatic rescue orchestrated by the U.S. and Pakistani governments, officials said Thursday. The U.S. said Pakistan accomplished the release of Caitlan Coleman of Stewartstown, Pennsylvania, and her husband, Canadian Joshua Boyle, who was abducted and held by the Haqqani network, which has ties to the Taliban. The operation, which came after years of U.S. pressure on Pakistan for assistance, unfolded quickly and ended with what some described a dangerous raid, a shootout and a captor’s final, terrifying threat to “kill the hostage.” His family said Boyle suffered only a shrapnel wound. “Today they are free,” President Donald Trump said in a statement, crediting the U.S.-Pakistani partnership for securing the release. Trump later praised Pakistan for its willingness to “do more to provide security in the region” and said the release suggests other “countries are starting to respect the United States of America once again.” The couple was kidnapped in October of 2012 while on a backpacking trip that took them to Russia, the countries of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan, and then to Afghanistan. The couple told U.S. officials and their families they wanted to fly home commercially to Canada.

 

 

 

Samsung Electronics chief executive Kwon Oh-Hyun has resigned citing an "unprecedented crisis". It is the latest management upheaval at the firm after the heir of the entire Samsung Group was imprisoned for corruption in August. Kwon is one of three co-chief executives of Samsung Electronics. Kwon, who also serves on the board of Samsung Electronics, said he had been thinking about his departure "for quite some time" and could "no longer put it off." He will remain on the board of Samsung Electronics until March 2018. Ryan Lim, founding partner of the Singapore technology consultancy firm QED said: "Samsung is in a leadership crisis situation". Lim said, "the current management structure seems to be a complicated web that does not clarify, but rather confuses". In response to the criticism, a spokesperson for Samsung told the BBC that a successor would be appointed "soon" but could not give a timeframe. Samsung Electronics is regarded as the jewel in the crown of the Samsung Group conglomerate, which is made up of 60 interlinked companies and is one of South Korea's massive family-run businesses. In August, the group's heir apparent Lee Jae-Yong was convicted of bribery and corruption and sentenced to five years in jail.

 

 

 

An asteroid the size of a school bus flew remarkably near Earth on Thursday, providing scientists with an opportunity to test the warning systems that would kick in if a space collision was coming. Asteroid 2012-TC4 came close -- passing Earth at a distance of only around 44,000 km (27,000 miles), which is nothing in Universe terms. There was no actual risk of a hit, although the asteroid did come well inside the orbit of the Moon and that of some human-made satellites. A spokesman for the European Space Agency said in a blog post on the agency’s website, "Basically, we pretended that this is a ‘critical’ object with a high risk of impacting Earth ... and exercised our communication channels and used telescopes and radar systems for observations.” Radar images showed the asteroid was about 10 to 12 meters (yards) wide, roughly the size of an asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013, leaving more than 1,000 people injured by flying glass and debris. The ESA said it now has to update its predictions for how close 2012-TC4 will come to Earth on its next flyby, which has so far been forecast for 2079.

It’s Thursday October 12, 2017

12Oct

00:0000:00

Fueled by the return of strong winds, wildfires tearing through California wine country exploded in size and number Wednesday as authorities ordered new evacuations and the death toll climbed to 23 — a figure expected to rise. There are now 22 separate wildfires burning in the region. Three days after the fires began, firefighters were still unable to gain control of the blazes that had turned entire Northern California neighborhoods to ash and destroyed at least 3,500 homes and businesses. Ken Pimlott, chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said, “We are literally looking at explosive vegetation. It is very dynamic. These fires are changing by the minute in many areas.” The entire historic town of Calistoga, population 5,000, was evacuated. In neighboring Sonoma County, authorities issued an evacuation advisory for part of the town of Sonoma and the community of Boyes Hot Springs. By that time, the streets were lined with cars packed with people fleeing. The wildfires are on their way to becoming the deadliest and most destructive in state history. And officials warned the worst was far from over. The fires have burned through a staggering 265 square miles (686 square kilometers) of urban and rural areas. High winds and low humidity made conditions ideal for a fire to ignite virtually anywhere on ground or brush. They said 8,000 firefighters and other personnel were battling the blazes and more resources were pouring in from Arizona, Nevada, Washington, and Oregon.

 

 

 

Floods in Vietnam killed 37 people and another 40 were missing as a tropical depression caused heavy rain in northern and central provinces. Vietnam's disaster prevention agency said on Thursday that another 21 people were injured after rains caused landslides and flooding, prompting authorities to discharge water from dams. More than 17,000 households have been evacuated and more than 200 homes have collapsed, while nearly 18,000 other houses were submerged or damaged. The government said nearly 20 thousand acres of land used for growing rice crops were damaged and around 40,000 animals were killed or washed away. Vietnam often suffers from destructive storms and floods due to its long coastline. More than 200 people were killed in storms last year.

 

 

 

Three weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall, only 16 percent of Puerto Rico's residents have electricity, according to the Department of Defense. But the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority said the number is more like 10 percent after an outage at one nuclear plant. The Pentagon said power continues to be a No. 1 priority for Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. While electricity remains scarce, 64 percent of residents now have cellular services and drinking water, though the order to boil drinking water still remains in effect. The status of the U.S. territory's health care system continues to improve with 65 of 67 hospitals open; however, of those operational hospitals, only a little more than half are connected to the power grid while the rest are relying on generators. Approximately 13,600 Department of defense personnel is responding to hurricane relief efforts across Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

 

 

 

After a series of bombshell sexual assault allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said its board of governors will hold an emergency meeting this weekend to "discuss the allegations against Weinstein and any actions warranted by the Academy." The organization issued a statement saying, "The Academy finds the conduct described in the allegations against Harvey Weinstein to be repugnant, abhorrent, and antithetical to the high standards of the Academy and the creative community it represents." It was not immediately clear what punitive measures The Academy could take. The organization did not respond to multiple requests for additional information. The announcement follows a move by The British Academy of Film and Television Arts on Wednesday to suspend Weinstein's membership. Weinstein became the subject of public outrage after several shocking reports over the past few days that detailed decades worth of alleged sexual harassment and rape. A representative for Weinstein told news media outlets that the disgraced mogul is heading to rehab in Europe.

 

 

 

A former manager at the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington State was awarded $8.1 million after a jury ruled in her lawsuit that she had faced retaliation and discrimination on the job. The Benton County jury made the award to Julie Atwood, who resigned in 2013 from Mission Support Alliance, a U.S. Department of Energy contractor. The Tri-City Herald reported the ruling against the contractor and one of its vice presidents, Steve Young, who also is the mayor of Kennewick, Washington. Young and Mission Support Alliance did not comment on the verdict. The jury found that Mission Support Alliance retaliated and discriminated against Atwood, and Young aided the actions. The verdict includes $2.1 million in lost wages and benefits, $6 million for emotional harm.

 

 

 

Delta Air Lines Inc on Wednesday said it would refuse to pay a 300 percent U.S. tariff on Canadian-built Bombardier CSeries jets, raising doubts about its purchase of 75 of the new aircraft at a list price of more than $5 billion. Delta Chief Executive Ed Bastian said on the company’s third-quarter earnings call, “We’re not going to be forced to pay tariffs or anything of the ilk.” Delta is the only major U.S. carrier to buy the CSeries so far, and Bastian called the U.S. Commerce Department’s decision to impose anti-dumping duties on the jets “nonsensical.” He said Delta still expects to take delivery of the CSeries order, however. The U.S. tariff decision, sparked by rival planemaker Boeing, stems from a claim that Bombardier used Canadian government subsidies to bankroll the CSeries sale to Delta and dump the planes at “absurdly low” prices. The proposed duties would not take effect unless affirmed by the U.S. International Trade Commission early next year. How the extra costs of the planes would be covered remained unclear. Bombardier has also said it would not pick up the tab for the trade duties. The CSeries dispute has spiraled into a broader discussion of trade agreements between the US and Canada, as President Trump has warned he would terminate NAFTA, the tri-national North American Free Trade Agreement unless changes were made to address deficits within the trade pact.

 

 

 

The heir to South Korea’s Samsung Group appeared in a packed court on Thursday for the first day of arguments in the appeal of his five-year jail term for corruption. 49-year-old Jay Y. Lee was convicted by a lower court in August of bribing former South Korean President Park Geun-Hye to help strengthen his control of the crown jewel in the conglomerate, Samsung Electronics, one of the world’s biggest technology companies. The lower court in August had ruled that while Lee never asked for Park’s help directly, the fact that a 2015 merger of two Samsung affiliates did help cement Lee’s control over Samsung Electronics “implied” he was asking for the president’s help to strengthen his control of the firm. The defense strongly challenged the lower court’s logic that Lee’s actions “implied” solicitation for help from Park by providing financial support for the former president’s close friend and confidante Choi Soon-Sil. The prosecution, which has lodged a cross-appeal against the lower court ruling that found Lee innocent on some charges, said the court’s decision to not acknowledge explicit solicitation for Park’s help from Samsung despite the evidence found “did not make sense”. The appellate court hearing the appeal is likely to try to rule on the case by next February, according to legal experts. Whichever side loses could take the case to the Supreme Court, the final court of appeal in South Korea.

 

 

 

 

The judge in the bribery trial of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, and a wealthy friend, delayed ruling Wednesday on whether to grant the defense’s motion to dismiss the charges against them. But in doing so he appeared to indicate he has doubts about a legal concept at the heart of the government’s case. U.S. District Judge William Walls expressed reservations that prosecutors have shown direct links between alleged bribes by Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen and meetings and other interactions Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, had with government officials, allegedly to advance Melgen’s business interests. Prosecutors allege those were bribes under what is known as the stream of benefits theory, in which Melgen essentially kept Menendez on retainer and asked him for favors “as opportunities arose,” according to the indictment. Defense attorneys have argued that a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that reversed the conviction of former Republican Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell invalidated the stream of benefits theory, a claim prosecutors have denied. If the judge rules the stream of benefits theory can’t be applied to this case, it could cut out the heart of the 18-count indictment: the 12 bribery counts, six against each man; the top count, conspiracy to engage in honest services wire fraud, and possibly three others. The judge indicated he would leave intact one count of making false statements against Menendez for not declaring Melgen’s gifts on his Senate disclosure forms.

 

 

 

Former president Barack Obama is set to return to the campaign trail next week for the first time since leaving the White House. The 44th U.S. president is scheduled to attend a rally on Oct. 19 for Virginia's Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam. A statement from Northam's campaign said the event will focus on "the need for the next governor to create economic opportunity for all Virginians." A swing state, Virginia is holding one of only two gubernatorial elections in the off-year cycle, with the other in New Jersey. Since leaving office, Obama has mostly remained out of politics — he admitted to crying after dropping daughter Malia off for her freshman year at Harvard University — but he hasn't shied away from criticizing President Donald Trump and Republicans when it comes to rollbacks of his signature policies. Last month, he called GOP efforts to dismantle Obamacare "aggravating" and he condemned Trump's decision to end DACA because "to target these young people is wrong — because they have done nothing wrong." Former vice president Joe Biden will also hit the trail for Northam, attending a roundtable discussion with the state's lieutenant governor Saturday.

 

 

 

In a historic policy shift, the Boy Scouts of America will let girls enroll in Cub Scouts, starting next year, and allow them to eventually earn the highest rank of Eagle Scout. Following the organization's statement Wednesday, the Girl Scouts issued a statement that did not mention the Boy Scouts or its move to include girls. It said, “Girl Scouts remains committed to and believes strongly in the importance of the all-girl, girl-led and girl-friendly environment that Girl Scouts provides, which creates a necessary safe space for girls to learn and thrive." The Washington Post reported in August that a top Girl Scout official accused the Boy Scouts of running a “covert campaign” to recruit girls to increase its declining membership. The program for girls older than Cub Scouts projected to begin in 2019 will allow them to earn the Eagle Scout rank, the highest achievement in the organization. The Boy Scouts decided in 2013 to allow openly gay members. And in January, the Boy Scouts also opted to allow transgender boys to join the organization.

 

 

 

Sales of Scotch whisky in the U.K. have declined after Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond hiked taxes on spirits. That's according to official figures that provoked calls to reverse the measure in next month’s budget. U.K. Government figures show the industry released 36.7 million bottles of Scotch for sale in the first six months of 2017, down from 37.7 million in the same period the previous year. The Scotch Whisky Association industry body wants Hammond to scrap his March announcement of a 3.9 percent increase in spirits duty. The hike means 80 percent of the cost of a bottle is now made up of taxes, according to the association, which said less tax revenue was being generated as a result of the higher duty.

It’s Wednesday October 11, 2017

11Oct

00:0000:00

Fast-moving wildfires still raging across Northern California’s wine country have killed 15 people, left some 150 missing and destroyed 1,500 homes, wineries, and other structures as of Tuesday afternoon. State fire officials said the flames from 17 major blazes have blackened more than 115 thousand acres since fires broke out on Sunday amid hot, dry conditions and high winds. The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said nine of the fatalities were in its jurisdiction, where 155 people were still missing, although 45 others had been found and some of those unaccounted for may be due to the confusion surrounding evacuations. The Napa County Sheriff's Department said the dead included 100-year-old Charles Rippey and his 98-year-old wife Sarah, caught in their home that burned. On Tuesday crews took advantage of cooler temperatures, lower winds, and coastal fog to make headway against the fires but cautioned that homes, wineries and other structures remained at risk. Meanwhile, a Southern California wildfire that destroyed 14 buildings — most of them homes — is now 40 percent contained just south of Los Angeles. Fire officials say winds that propelled the blaze across 12.5 square miles of northern Orange County have eased. Firefighters managed to stop the fire’s growth and a cooler layer of moist ocean air should help the fight. Thousands of people in Anaheim, Orange and Tustin were placed under evacuation orders after the blaze erupted Monday but by Tuesday evening virtually all the orders had been lifted.

 

 

A U.S. Navy destroyer sailed near islands claimed by China in the South China Sea on Tuesday, even as President Donald Trump’s administration seeks Chinese cooperation in dealing with North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs. The operation, according to three U.S. officials who spoke with Reuters, was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters. But it was not as provocative as previous ones carried out since Trump took office in January. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the USS Chafee, a guided-missile destroyer, carried out normal maneuvering operations that challenged “excessive maritime claims” near the Paracel Islands, among a string of islets, reefs, and shoals over which China has territorial disputes with its neighbors. The Pentagon did not comment directly on the operation but said the United States carried out regular freedom-of-navigation operations and would continue to do so. Next month, Trump makes his first visit to Asia as president, including a stop in China, which he has been pressuring to do more to rein in North Korea. China is North Korea’s neighbor and biggest trading partner.

 

 

The U.S. military flew two strategic bombers over the Korean peninsula in a show of force late on Tuesday, as President Donald Trump met with top defense officials to discuss how to respond to any threat from North Korea. The two U.S. Air Force B-1B bombers were accompanied by two F-15K fighters from the South Korean military after leaving their base in Guam, according to a statement from South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff on Wednesday. The release said after entering South Korean airspace, the two bombers carried out air-to-ground missile drills in waters off the east coast of South Korea, then flew over the South to waters between it and China to repeat the drill. The U.S. military said in a separate statement that Japanese fighters also joined the drill, making it the first night-time combined exercise for the U.S. bombers with fighters from Japan and South Korea. The U.S. bombers had taken off from the Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. In August, Pyongyang threatened to shoot intermediate-range missiles towards the vicinity of Guam, a target frequently subjected to saber-rattling from the North. According to the White House on Tuesday, Trump hosted a discussion on options to respond to any North Korean aggression or if necessary to prevent Pyongyang from threatening the United States and its allies with nuclear weapons. Trump was briefed by Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford at a meeting of members of his national security team, the statement said.

 

 

North Korean hackers allegedly stole classified military documents from a South Korean Defense Ministry database in September 2016, according to Rhee Cheol-hee, a member of South Korea's National Assembly. Rhee, who belongs to the ruling Democratic Party and sits on the Defense Committee, said he received information about the alleged hacking from the Defense Ministry. He said the documents stolen included the South Korea-US wartime operational plan and a document that includes procedures to "decapitate" the North Korean leadership. A spokesman for South Korea's Defense Ministry declined to comment, saying the information is classified. The Pentagon also declined to comment specifically on reports of the potential breach, but spokesman Col. Robert Manning said on Tuesday that the US is "confident in the security of our operations plans and our ability to deal with any threat from North Korea."

 

 

Israeli intelligence officials spying on Russian government hackers found they were using Kaspersky Lab antivirus software that is also used by 400 million people globally, including U.S. government agencies, according to media reports on Tuesday. The Israeli officials who had hacked into Kaspersky’s network over two years ago then warned their U.S. counterparts of the Russian intrusion, according to The New York Times, which first reported the story. That led to a decision in Washington just last month to order Kaspersky software removed from government computers. The Washington Post also reported on Tuesday that the Israeli spies had also found, in Kaspersky's network hacking, tools that could only have come from the National Security Agency. The Post article said that after an investigation, the NSA found that those tools were in possession of the Russian government. That access, it concluded, could help enable cyberattacks against U.S. government, commercial and industrial control networks, the Post reported. The New York Times said the Russian operation, according to multiple people briefed on the matter, is known to have stolen classified documents from a National Security Agency employee who had improperly stored them on his home computer, which had Kaspersky antivirus software installed on it. The Times said it is not yet publicly known what other U.S. secrets the Russian hackers may have discovered by turning the Kaspersky software into a sort of 'Google search' for sensitive information. Eugene Kaspersky, the company’s co-founder and chief executive, has repeatedly denied charges his company conducts espionage on behalf of the Russian government. The Times also said the NSA and the White House declined to comment, as did the Israeli Embassy, while the Russian Embassy did not respond to requests for comment.

 

 

Australia is considering new powers to protect critical infrastructure as it confronts concerns that foreign investment has left communications and energy assets vulnerable to terrorism and cyberattacks. The proposed legislative powers outlined Tuesday would be used as a last resort in an emergency and allow the government to issue a direction to an owner or operator of a critical infrastructure asset to address and mitigate a significant national-security risk, such as threats to a major power grid.They would also set up a register of who owns, controls and has access to sensitive infrastructure.The proposed laws come as a government report showed cyberattacks rose by 15% last year. In one of the most serious incidents, hackers who government cyber experts think are in China are believed to have carried out an attack on the computer system of an Australian defense contractor, stealing a significant amount of data. Concerned about security, Australia’s Defense Department moved sensitive military and intelligence files in June from a Sydney data center purchased by a Chinese consortium over worries about security.

 

 

The New Yorker reported on Tuesday that 13 women have claimed that movie producer Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them, including three who told the magazine they had been raped. Weinstein’s spokeswoman Sallie Hofmeister was quoted in the article saying, “Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein.” The New York City Police Department and Manhattan District Attorney’s office said in separate statements on Tuesday that Weinstein was investigated in 2015 over an allegation that he sexually abused one of the women, who was named in the article. The district attorney’s office said there was insufficient evidence to charge him. Separately, the New York Times reported on Tuesday that actress Gwyneth Paltrow said she was sexually harassed by Weinstein more than 20 years ago and that Angelina Jolie said she “had a bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth and as a result chose never to work with him again.” Weinstein, one of the most powerful men in Hollywood who produced and distributed movies like “Shakespeare in Love” and “Chicago,” was fired over the weekend from his job as co-chairman of The Weinstein Company. Weinstein’s wife of 10 years, Marchesa label fashion designer Georgina Chapman, said late on Tuesday that she was leaving him, according to a report in People magazine.

 

 

Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama said in a statement on Tuesday that they were “disgusted” to learn of the sexual harassment allegations against Weinstein. “Any man who demeans and degrades women in such fashion needs to be condemned and held accountable, regardless of wealth or status,” the Obamas said in a statement about Weinstein, who is a major Democratic donor. The Obamas’ daughter Malia worked as an intern for Weinstein’s production company. The Democratic National Committee and several Democratic politicians who received political contributions from Weinstein said they would reroute the money to women’s rights groups. On Tuesday Hillary Clinton said she was “shocked and appalled” at the reports about Weinstein. The former Democratic presidential candidate who received a $5,800 campaign contribution from Weinstein said “the behavior described ... cannot be tolerated.”

 

 

NFL team owners will consider requiring football players to stand for the U.S. national anthem after President Trump on Tuesday suggested using tax laws to penalize the league for players who kneel in protest of racial injustice. Trump, a Republican, escalated his feud with the National Football League in a Twitter post asking if the league should get tax breaks while some athletes kneel in protest when the “Star-Spangled Banner” is played at the start of each game. “Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag, and Country? Change tax law!” Trump wrote on Twitter. The world’s top-grossing sports league gave up its tax-free status two years ago. Its owners are preparing to address the anthem issue at their fall meeting in New York Oct. 17-18, according to NFL chief spokesman Joe Lockhart who said, “The commissioner and the owners do want the players to stand. We think it is an important part of the game.” The protests, in a league where African-Americans make up the majority of players, have continued through the season, with some players taking a knee when the anthem is played and others standing arm-in-arm in solidarity. Lockhart said current policy calls for players to stand for the anthem and face the flag, but no player has been disciplined for a protest. The NFL Players Association, when asked for a reaction to possible changes to anthem rules, said in an email “we do not have a response at this time.”

 

 

The United States men’s soccer team has failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup after a devastating loss at Trinidad on Tuesday night. In a shocking upset, Trinidad and Tobago beat the U.S. men’s national soccer team 2-1, knocking the Americans out of next summer’s games in Russia. The loss is devastating to the United States and the entirety of its men's soccer program, which had not missed a World Cup since 1986. But chances are there are some executives at Fox Sports who are just as upset with the result as Bruce Arena and his players. In order to win a bidding war with ESPN, Fox agreed to pay $400 million for the English-broadcast rights to the World Cup in 2018 and 2022. With the Americans eliminated from 2018 contention, chances are those broadcasts are significantly less valuable than previously imagined. Now Fox will have to dig a bit deeper to find compelling storylines for American fans to root for in the biggest sports tournament in the world.

It’s Tuesday October 10, 2017

10Oct

00:0000:00

Wildfires whipped by powerful winds swept through northern and southern California Monday. In the northern wine country, the fires have killed at least 10 people, injured more than 100, destroyed more than 1,500 homes and businesses and sent thousands fleeing as flames raged unchecked through high-end resorts, grocery stores, and tree-lined neighborhoods. Two hospitals in Santa Rosa, the largest city in the region with 175,000 people, were forced to evacuate patients from the facility. Authorities imposed a sunset-to-sunrise curfew in the city saying they were on the lookout for looters. Some of the largest of the 14 blazes burning over a 200-mile region were in Napa and Sonoma counties, home to dozens of wineries that attract tourists from around the world. They sent smoke as far south as San Francisco, about 60 miles away. The causes of the northern fires remain unknown. Meanwhile, in southern California several homes were destroyed, more than 1,000 more residences were evacuated and 5,000 structures were threatened with 24 destroyed as of Monday night in a brush fire that broke out along the Riverside Freeway in Anaheim Hills. The fire was estimated to be around 6,000 acres as of Monday night. More than 1,000 firefighters are battling the flames, along with 10 choppers and 12 planes during daylight. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in the fire affected counties.

 

 

Police apprehended a 19-year-old student accused of fatally shooting a Texas Tech University police officer at the campus police station Monday night. The university identified the suspect as Hollis Daniels - a freshman at the school. University spokesman Chris Cook said that campus police made a student welfare check Monday evening and — upon entering the room — found evidence of drugs and drug paraphernalia. Officers then brought the suspect to the police station for standard debriefing. During this time, Cook says the suspect pulled out a gun and shot an officer in the head, killing him. The suspect then fled on foot before being apprehended a short time later. Texas Tech officials initially issued a lockdown alert to students on social media, urging those on campus “to take shelter in a safe location.” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statement about the shooting late Monday, saying “hearts go out to the family of the police officer killed.” Abbott also said he had mobilized state law enforcement resources to aid in the investigation. The name of the campus officer who was killed has not been released.

 

 

Las Vegas authorities now say a hotel security guard was shot by the Las Vegas mass shooting’s gunman before he opened fire on concert-goers. It was not immediately clear why the timeline of the shooting changed a week later and what the impact could be on the investigation. On Monday, Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said security guard Jesus Campos was in a hallway of the Mandalay Bay hotel responding to a report of an open door when he heard drilling from Stephen Paddock’s room. Lombardo said Paddock, who had installed three cameras to monitor the approach to his suite, opened fire through the door, spraying 200 shots down the hall and wounding the guard, who alerted other security officials. Lombardo said a few minutes later, Paddock began a 10-minute killing spree that killed 58 people. Lombardo said Paddock had power tools and was attempting to drill a hole in an adjacent wall, perhaps to mount another camera or to point a rifle through, but he never completed the work. He also drilled holes and bolted a metal bar to try to prevent the opening of an emergency exit stairwell door near the door of his room. Lombardo again expressed frustration with the pace of the investigation, but not with the investigators who have yet to pinpoint the motive behind the shooter’s decision to fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino on a Las Vegas Strip concert crowd of 22,000 on Oct. 1. Lombardo said there is still no evidence Paddock was motivated by ideology, or that there was another shooter.

 

 

The estranged half-brother of North Korea’s leader had about 1.4 times the lethal dosage of VX nerve agent on his face after he was attacked at a Malaysian airport terminal. That was the testimony from a government chemist who returned to the stand Tuesday. Chemist Raja Subramaniam said pure VX was on Kim Jong Nam’s body, in his eye, and in his blood plasma. He was under cross-examination by the defense at the murder trial of two women accused of smearing the chemical weapon on Kim in a brazen assassination in February. VX was also detected on the clothes both women wore the day of the attack. The chemist's earlier testimony about finding VX on the women’s clothing was the first evidence linking VX to the two suspects. Prosecutors have also said they will present airport security videos this week that show the two women carrying out the attack and indicate they knew they were handling poison. VX is banned by an international treaty as a weapon of mass destruction but is believed to be part of North Korea’s chemical weapons arsenal. Defense attorneys have said the women were duped by suspected North Korean agents into believing they were playing a harmless prank for a hidden camera TV show. The two defendants pleaded not guilty at the start of the trial last week to charges of murder that carry a mandatory death sentence if they are convicted.

 

 

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen vowed to defend her island’s freedom and democracy in a speech to mark National Day on Tuesday, her second since taking office in May 2016 and said Taiwan would not bow to pressure. Cross-straits relations with mainland China have cooled significantly since Tsai took office, with China cutting off official channels to pressure Tsai and her party into recognizing the “one China” principle agreed on by the previous Nationalist government. China considers Taiwan a renegade province to be taken back by force, if necessary.

 

 

Hackers are joining forces with U.S. governors and academics in a new group aimed at preventing the manipulation of voter machines and computer systems to sway the outcome of future U.S. elections. A source familiar with the project said the anti-hacking coalition’s members include organizers of last summer’s Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas, the National Governors Association and the Center for Internet Security. The coalition will be unveiled as Def Con organizers release a report describing vulnerabilities in voting machines and related technology that were uncovered in July.Hackers pulled apart voting machines and election computers at the three-day event, uncovering security bugs that organizers said could be exploited by people trying to manipulate election results. Concerns about election hacking have surged in the United States since late last year. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has said that Russian hackers targeted 21 U.S. state election systems in the 2016 presidential race and a small number were breached, although some states have disputed they were hacked. There was no evidence that any votes had been manipulated. Several congressional committees are investigating and special counsel Robert Mueller is leading a separate probe into the Russia matter, including whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow. Russia has denied the accusations.

 

 

While Democrats and immigration advocates recoiled at hard-line immigration proposals unveiled this week by the White House, they see a chance to force Republicans’ hand on legislation to help young “Dreamers” brought to the country illegally as children. Their focus? A spending bill that Congress will need to pass in December in order to keep the U.S. government open. Republicans, who control both houses of Congress, may need Democratic votes to approve the legislation because of divisions within their party over fiscal restraint. Democrats are considering insisting on help for the Dreamers as their price for providing the votes that may be required to prevent a government shutdown. President Trump ended the Obama-era DACA program last month that protected the Dreamers and gave Congress six months to find a solution. House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi told the Washington Post on Monday she did not rule out withholding Democratic support for the spending bill if needed to obtain a deal to protect the nearly 800,000 Dreamers in the United States.

 

 

Ten million Australians, or 62.5 percent of eligible voters, have cast their votes so far in a postal ballot on whether same-sex marriage should be legalized. Australia's Bureau of Statistics said on Tuesday that was up from an estimate of 9.2 million made a week ago. Australians began voting last month in the non-binding poll to inform the government on whether voters wanted Australia to become the 25th nation to permit same-sex marriage. The results will be announced on Nov. 15. The response rate already surpasses the 60.5 percent reached in Ireland’s same-sex marriage referendum in 2015.

 

 

Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz on Tuesday will debut the second season of the coffee chain’s inspirational video series “Upstanders” on Amazon Prime, and the outspoken executive said he would not run for president, despite persistent speculation. “I have no plans to run for office. I am very consistent on that,” said Schultz, who in April fueled talk he was preparing for a presidential run by resigning as Starbucks’ chief executive. Despite his repeated denials, the New York Times recently included Schultz in an opinion piece titled “Who Can Beat Trump in 2020?” Schultz, a Democrat who has taken national stands on immigration, gun control, and other controversial topics, said “Upstanders” was part of an effort to redefine the roles and responsibilities of public companies in U.S. society. The new season of “Upstanders” chronicles the journeys of everyday people who, among other things, have successfully reached across ideological divides to find consensus on divisive issues such as refugee resettlement, climate change to needle-exchange programs. Upstanders launched last year on the Starbucks app, which has 19 million active users, and the chain’s in-store wireless network.

 

 

Microsoft appears to have abandoned its smartphone operating system ambitions. The company's Windows 10 chief has tweeted that developing new features and hardware for the Mobile version of the OS was no longer a "focus".  Joe Belfiore added that he had also switched to Android himself. Windows 10 Mobile tried to attract users by letting them run the same "universal apps" on both their PCs and handsets, but the concept failed to catch on. The OS accounted for just 0.03% of the global market - based on smartphone shipments - between April and June, according to research company IDC. IDC spokesman Francisco Jeronimo said "There wasn't a wide range of devices running Windows 10 Mobile, so it wasn't attractive to retailers or operators. And from a consumer perspective, the operating system didn't provide as good an experience as Android or iOS."

 

 

Maybe that's the reason for this next story. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has revealed he uses an Android-powered smartphone, rather than a Windows one. Speaking on "Fox News Sunday" Gates said, "Recently, I actually did switch to an Android phone." Microsoft's own Windows-powered phones have failed to make a significant impact on the smartphone market, which is dominated by devices running Google's Android operating system. However, Gates said he had installed lots of Microsoft apps on his phone. When asked whether he also had an iPhone, perhaps as a secondary device, he replied: "No, no iPhone." Gates did not reveal which particular Android smartphone he currently uses.

 

 

A Navajo code talker who used the Navajo language to outsmart the Japanese in World War II has died in New Mexico. Navajo Nation officials said David Patterson Sr. died Sunday in Rio Rancho at age 94 from pneumonia and complications from a subdural hematoma. Although Patterson didn’t talk much about his service, one of his sons said his father was proud of being a Navajo Code Talker. Pat Patterson said, “He attended as many Code Talker events as he could. It was only when his health started to decline that he didn’t attend as many.” Patterson served in the Marine Corps from 1943 to 1945 and was the recipient of the Silver Congressional Medal of Honor in 2001. After his military service, Patterson became a social worker and worked for the tribe’s Division of Social Services until retiring in 1987. He raised his family in Oklahoma, California and Shiprock, New Mexico, and is survived by six children. Patterson will be laid to rest in Shiprock Cemetery on Thursday with full military honors.

Breaking News for Monday October 9, 2017

9Oct

00:0000:00

One week after it happened the FBI started returning thousands of purses, phones and other property left behind by concertgoers in Las Vegas fleeing the mass shooting that happened last Sunday night. And one week later investigators still lack a clear reason why 64-year-old Stephen Paddock unleashed a torrent of gunfire into a crowd of 22,000 at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival. The suspect shot himself to death before police stormed his 32nd-floor suite in the Mandalay Bay Casino and Resort, high above the concert where 58 people died and nearly 500 were injured. To honor the victims, marquee lights along the Las Vegas Strip dimmed for 11 minutes from 10:05 until 10:16 p.m Sunday night, the exact time and duration of the gunfire one week ago. On Sunday, teams of counselors fanned out across the city, attending church services and gathering at a family assistance center set up at the Las Vegas Convention Center as the Red Cross set out to find those in need of comfort. Spiritual and legal advisers were also available. Authorities began returning vehicles left at the concert grounds to their owners last week. Authorities said the process of returning the personal items left behind by those who fled in the chaos could take weeks.

 

 

Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association said on Sunday it would oppose an outright ban on bump-stock devices that the Las Vegas killer used to turn rifles into automatic weapons and strafe a crowd with bursts of sustained gunfire. The NRA, which has seldom embraced new firearms-control measures, stunned gun control advocates last week when it issued a statement voicing a willingness to support a restriction on bump stocks. On Sunday, the organization said it was open to regulation but opposed any legislation banning the devices. Chris Cox, the NRA’s chief lobbyist, said on “Fox News Sunday, "What we have said has been very clear - that if something transfers a semiautomatic to function like a fully automatic, then it ought to be regulated differently.” Several Republican lawmakers suggested last week that they were receptive to legislation to curb the use of bump stocks, but House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a Republican who himself was nearly killed by a gunman earlier this year while at a baseball practice, was cautious on Sunday about potential new legislation, telling NBC's "Meet The Press": “I do think it’s a little bit early for people to say they know what to do to fix this problem"

 

 

The U.S. mission in Turkey and subsequently the Turkish mission in Washington mutually scaled back visa services after a U.S. consulate employee was arrested in Turkey, in the latest sign of fraying diplomatic relations between the NATO allies. Last week, the U.S. mission employee in Istanbul was arrested on charges of links to a cleric blamed for last year’s failed coup, a move condemned by Washington as baseless. “Recent events have forced the United States government to reassess the commitment of the government of Turkey to the security of U.S. mission and personnel,” according to a statement from the mission in Ankara. It went on to say, “In order to minimise the number of visitors to our embassy and consulates while this assessment proceeds, effective immediately we have suspended all non-immigrant visa services at all U.S. diplomatic facilities in Turkey.” The Turkish embassy in Washington followed suit, and made virtually the same statement, only replacing the country names.

 

 

President Donald Trump, who pledged to help protect young people known as “Dreamers” brought illegally to the United States as children, called on Sunday for money to fund a border wall to be part of any immigration deal. In a list of “principles” laid out in documents released by the White House, the Trump administration also pressed for a crackdown on unaccompanied minors who enter the United States, many of them from Central America. The plan, which was delivered to leaders in Congress on Sunday night, drew a swift rebuke from Democrats, who are seeking a legislative fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that Trump ended last month. House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said, “The administration can’t be serious about compromise or helping the Dreamers if they begin with a list that is anathema to the Dreamers, to the immigrant community and to the vast majority of Americans." The Trump administration wants the wish list to guide immigration reform in Congress and accompany a bill to replace DACA, the Obama-era program that protected nearly 800,000 “Dreamers” from deportation and allowed them to secure work permits. If enacted, the White House priorities could result in the deportation of Dreamers’ parents.

 

 

President Trump issued a new volley in his war of words with North Korea with a cryptic pair of tweets posted over the weekend. Trump wrote: "Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid haven't worked, agreements violated before the ink was dry, makings fools of U.S. negotiators. Sorry, but only one thing will work!" Trump did not specify what "one thing" he meant, though as with past tweeted threats, many observers have assumed it to be war. Trump reiterated the 25-year point in an interview with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on TBN adding, "The truth is, Mike, I was handed a mess."

 

 

Hurricane Nate weakened to a tropical depression on Sunday after coming ashore in Mississippi, flooding roads and buildings but sparing the state from catastrophic damages. Maximum sustained winds from Nate, the fourth major storm to hit the United States in less than two months, dropped to 35 miles per hour as it moved through Alabama and into Tennessee. It is forecast to bring gusty winds and up to 4 inches of rain to parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York State on Monday. The storm made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane, and Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant told reporters there had been no deaths or reports of catastrophic damage. Nate killed at least 30 people in Central America before entering the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and bearing down on the U.S. South. It has also shut down most oil and gas production in the Gulf. Nate follows hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, which have devastated areas of the Caribbean and the southern United States.

 

 

The Weinstein Co said it has fired co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein, effective immediately, following reports of sexual harassment allegations against the executive, who was one of Hollywood’s biggest power brokers. The film production company said the departure leaves Weinstein’s brother Bob, a co-chairman, as well as chief operating officer David Glasser at the helm of the company. In a statement released Sunday, the board of directors said it made the decision, “in light of new information about misconduct by Harvey Weinstein that has emerged in the past few days.” A spokeswoman for Harvey Weinstein did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On Friday the company said the 65-year-old was taking an indefinite leave of absence after the New York Times reported that he had made eight settlements with women who had accused him of unwanted physical contact and sexual harassment over three decades. Weinstein has produced or distributed Oscar-winning movies including “Shakespeare in Love” and “Chicago.” He was a prominent donor to Democrats during the 2016 general election campaign. The company also said it was conducting its own internal investigation.

 

 

The White House said it's finalizing an executive order that would expand health plans offered by associations to allow individuals to pool together and buy insurance outside their states, a unilateral move that follows failed efforts by Congress to overhaul the health care system. President Trump has long asserted that selling insurance across state lines would trigger competition that brings down premiums for people buying their own policies. Experts say that’s not guaranteed, partly because health insurance reflects local medical costs, which vary widely around the country. The order was being drafted as Trump expressed his willingness to work with Democrats on health care after Republicans were unable to approve legislation that would have repealed and replaced “Obamacare.” While nearly 9 million consumers who receive tax credits under the Obama-era law are protected from higher premiums, about 6.7 million other customers with individual coverage get no subsidies and will bear the full brunt of cost increases that reach well into the double digits in many states.

 

 

The World Solar Challenge began on Sunday with 42 solar cars crossing Australia’s tropical north to its southern shores, a grueling 3,000 km race through the outback. The race from the northern city of Darwin to the southern city of Adelaide is expected to take a week for most cars, with speeds of 90-100 kmh powered only by the sun. The fastest time was achieved by Japan’s Tokai University in 2009, completing the transcontinental race in only 29 hours and 49 minutes. Belgian team Punch Powertrain started first on Sunday, hitting an average speed of 83.4 kmh. But reigning 2015 champions Nuon from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands believes it has a good chance of retaining the prize. The biennial event has attracted teams from more than 40 countries including the United States, Japan, Germany, Chile, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Belgium, Sweden, Iran, South Korea, India, Hong Kong, South Africa, Poland, Thailand, Turkey, Canada, Taiwan and Australia.

 

 

Once upon a time, AOL was the entry ramp to the internet super-highway, and its instant-messaging system, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), became the first popular instant messaging (IM) system. Now, Verizon, AOL's owner, said it's closing down Instant Messinger. For a decade, 1997 to 2007, AIM became the IM client of choice. But AOL didn't make a dime from AIM. Indeed, the company hated AIM and never really tried to monetize it. That was because, as a free program with a free service, it didn't fit into AOL's subscription business model. The AIM layoffs started in 2002. By 2012, AOL stopped putting any engineering dollars in AIM and it was only a matter of time until AOL would kill it. According to Statista, in January 2017, the top five IM services were WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, QQ Mobile, WeChat, and Skype. It's worth noting that four of those five use IM as the foundation for their business. So in the 20th year since it took off, we say goodbye to AIM. It is shutting down December 15, 2017.

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »