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Technology

    Lin-Manuel Miranda, 'Game of Thrones' and a key figure in the #MeToo movement are among the winners of this year's Webby Awards. Miranda won the Webby for public service and social activism for his work raising money for charities assisting Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Susan Fowler, the former Uber employee whose harassment revelations helped lead to the ouster of the company's CEO and bolstered the #MeToo movement, was named Webbys person of the year. The awards, which honor internet excellence, were announced Tuesday and will be presented May 14 at a New York ceremony hosted by comedian Amber Ruffin. Winners from music include Jay-Z, Katy Perry and Lada Gaga. 'Game of Thrones' won for best overall online presence, and the video game phenomenon Fortnite won for best multiplayer competitive game.
  • The Senate on Tuesday confirmed President Donald Trump's pick to lead the National Security Agency and the U.S. Cyber Command. On a voice vote, the Senate approved Paul Nakasone for one of the nation's top intelligence posts. They also approved his military promotion to general. Nakasone, a longtime member of the cryptologic community, has a strong background in cyber issues. He is replacing the current director, Mike Rogers, who is retiring. During his confirmation hearing, Nakasone said China, Russia and other nations that launch cyberattacks against the United States aren't worried about retribution and see no reason to change their behavior. 'They don't fear us,' he said at the hearing, adding that the U.S. must impose costs on those adversaries to make them stop. Nakasone previously commanded the U.S. Army Cyber Command and held military intelligence positions in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Republic of Korea.
  • The new leader of one of Germany's governing parties said she supports a protest against working conditions at Amazon during CEO Jeff Bezos' visit to Berlin on Tuesday. Andrea Nahles, the chairwoman of the center-left Social Democrats, said she would take part in the demonstration held outside publisher Axel Springer's Berlin offices. Bezos was to be presented there with an award for his 'visionary entrepreneurship' in online business and digitalization strategy at The Washington Post. The Amazon CEO bought The Post in 2013. Nahles argued that Amazon's tax practices and working conditions aren't worthy of a prize. The company said in a statement Tuesday that it 'provides a safe and positive workplace for thousands of people across Germany with competitive pay and benefits from day one.' The statement added that public tours are given at Amazon's fulfillment centers 'so customers can see firsthand what happens after they click 'buy.'' Nahles is working to boost her party's profile after a disastrous election result last year and its decision to enter the new German government as conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel's junior partner.
  • The company formerly known as Yahoo is paying a $35 million fine to resolve federal regulators' charges that the online pioneer deceived investors by failing to disclose one of the biggest data breaches in internet history. The Securities and Exchange Commission announced the action Tuesday against the company, which is now called Altaba after its email and other digital services were sold to Verizon Communications for $4.48 billion last year. Yahoo, which is no longer publicly traded, neither admitted nor denied the allegations but did agree to refrain from further violations of securities laws. Personal data was stolen from hundreds of millions of Yahoo users in the December 2014 breach attributed to Russian hackers. The SEC alleged that, although Yahoo senior managers and attorneys were told about the breach, the company failed to fully investigate. The breach wasn't disclosed to the investing public until more than two years later, when Yahoo was working on closing Verizon's acquisition of its operating business in 2016, the SEC said. 'Yahoo's failure to have controls and procedures in place to assess its cyber disclosure obligations ended up leaving its investors totally in the dark about a massive data breach,' Jina Choi, director of the SEC's San Francisco regional office, said in a statement. Altaba spokesman Mike Pascale said the New York company declined to comment on the SEC settlement. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who urged the SEC in September 2016 to investigate whether Yahoo met its obligation to inform the public, said Tuesday that the company's failure to do so 'didn't pass the smell test.' 'Holding the company accountable is important, and I hope others will learn you can't sweep this kind of thing under the rug,' Warner, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, said in a tweet. Sunnyvale, California-based Yahoo eventually acknowledged that the 2014 hacking attack and a separate one in 2013 affected all 3 billion accounts on its service. Yahoo ended up having to give Verizon a $350 million discount on their deal, reflecting concerns that people might reduce their use of Yahoo email and other digital services because of the breach, decreasing opportunities to show ads. In scooping up Yahoo's digital services, Verizon's strategy was to meld the operations with its AOL division with an eye to becoming a bigger player in the growing market for digital ads. Yahoo's most valuable parts — investments in China's e-commerce leader Alibaba, and in Yahoo Japan — were left in Altaba. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, a former Google executive who led Yahoo for nearly five years, did not join Verizon and was out of a job. Prosecutors have said that two Russian intelligence agents, Dmitry Dokuchaev and Igor Sushchin, used information they stole from Yahoo to spy on Russian journalists, U.S. and Russian government officials and employees of financial services and other private businesses. In February 2017, they filed computer fraud and other charges against Dokuchaev, Sushchin and two other men — another Russian national, Alexsey Belan, and a Canadian named Karim Baratov. A U.S. judge in San Francisco on Tuesday pushed back a sentencing hearing for Baratov, who prosecutors say was hired by Dokuchaev to breach at least 80 email accounts obtained from the massive Yahoo hack. Baratov pleaded guilty in November to one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse and eight counts of aggravated identity theft. Judge Vince Chhabria questioned whether the sentence of seven years and 10 months that prosecutors were seeking for Baratov was longer than what other hackers had received for similar crimes. Baratov's attorneys have called for a sentence of three years and nine months. Chhabria stressed that Baratov was not behind the Yahoo hack. He continued the sentencing hearing to May 29. Authorities have described Baratov as an 'international hacker-for-hire' who hacked more than 11,000 webmail accounts from around 2010 until his March 2017 arrest and used the money he made — roughly $1.1 million at about $100 per hacking victim — to finance a $650,000 home and fancy cars, including a Lamborghini and Aston Martin. ___ Associated Press writer Sudhin Thanawala in San Francisco contributed to this report.
  • A regional planning committee has refused to sign off on a proposed solar project in Rutland amid concerns over its visual impact on a neighboring home. The Rutland Herald reports the commission refused to endorse one of the three 500-kilowatt projects proposed near Thomas Dairy after resident Eileen Coughlin complained because it would have a negative effect on the aesthetics of her nearby home. Rutland Regional Planning Commission executive director Ed Bove said Monday that Coughlin used photo simulations to make her case. Select Board Chairman Josh Terenzini said Monday the town was glad the regional commission 'had hit the pause button' on the project because of the visual impacts. Developer Triland Partners of New Hampshire has been invited to a Tuesday meeting to discuss the project.
  • Ireland says it will begin collecting more than 13 billion euros ($15.9 billion) of back taxes from Apple, 19 months after the European Commission ruled that a tax deal with the tech giant amounted to illegal state aid. The Commission ordered Ireland to collect back taxes for the years 2003-2014, which it estimated at 13 billion euros plus interest. Ireland disagreed, saying the ruling undermined the integrity of the country's tax system. But Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe says he will on Tuesday sign an agreement setting up the escrow account that will hold the payments while Apple and Ireland appeal. The payments should be completed by September. Donohoe says the government 'fundamentally disagrees with the ruling,' but 'Ireland is intent on complying with our binding legal obligations in this regard.
  • Social media is a daily way of life for many Americans. Nearly half of Americans who use the internet say they use Facebook at least several times a day, making it easily the most popular social media site. And Facebook-owned Instagram comes in No. 2. So whether you're reaching for your phone before getting out of bed in the morning, or logging on to procrastinate during work, chances are you see the little blue 'F'' icon more often than you take a shower. A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that 12 percent of Americans who are online use Facebook 'almost constantly,' while 34 percent use it several times a day. About 15 percent use it once a day, and only 12 percent of Americans don't have a Facebook account at all. More women than men check Facebook more than once a day — 57 percent of women compared to 36 percent of men, according to the poll. Younger people are on Facebook more than older people. About 62 percent of adults under 30 check the site several times a day or more, while only 30 percent of adults 60 or over do. About 54 percent of adults 30 to 44 check multiple times a day, as do 43 percent of adults aged 45 to 59. Jim Mazzarese, 73, a retired airline manager from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, is one senior who checks Facebook on his phone several times a day when he gets notifications. He has a bit of a love-hate relationship with the site. 'It gets me crazy when I see opinions other than mine, it gets my blood pressure going up — but it's a lot of fun,' he said. He appreciates how Facebook has let him connect with people from when he was growing up '100 years ago.' What about the other social media sites? Seventeen percent of Americans say they check Instagram throughout the day, and 10 percent say that about Snapchat. For all of the attention that President Donald Trump gets for his tweets, only 7 percent of Americans say they use the micro-blogging site several times a day. Just 5 percent say they spend that much time on WhatsApp, and 4 percent say the same of Reddit. Is it actually healthy to check in with Facebook so much? In a blog post in December, Facebook acknowledged that users should be mindful of the issue. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology the same month found University of Michigan students randomly assigned to read Facebook for 10 minutes were in a worse mood at the end of the day than students assigned to post or talk to friends on the platform. Meanwhile, a study that Facebook research director David Ginsberg conducted with a Carnegie Mellon professor showed that sending or receiving direct messages or posts and comments on one's timeline tends to boost psychological well-being. Worldwide, Facebook has 1.4 billion daily active users out of 2.2 billion total, so most active Facebook users check in at least once a day. ___ The AP-NORC poll of 1,140 adults was conducted April 11-16 using a sample drawn from NORC's probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.0 percentage points. ___ Online: AP-NORC Center: http://www.apnorc.org/
  • House Democrats, frustrated by what they see as GOP inaction and with an eye on midterm elections, on Tuesday held the first of what they hope to be several interviews with witnesses who have not been interrogated in the Republican-led Russia investigations. Democrats on the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees interviewed former Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher Wylie, who sparked a global debate over electronic privacy in March when he revealed that a data-mining firm affiliated with President Donald Trump's campaign gathered millions of Facebook profiles to influence elections. Wylie's visit is part of a Democratic attempt to keep congressional focus on Russian meddling in the 2016 election and on whether Trump's campaign was involved. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee plan to meet with Wylie on Wednesday. Republicans were invited to both meetings but declined to attend. It was unclear if there were any new revelations in Tuesday's closed-door meeting, which lasted less than three hours and was attended by a handful of lawmakers. The Democrats said they would like to hold additional interviews, but it was unclear if any were scheduled. At least one House Democrat who attended signaled a larger strategy was at play. 'The Republicans aren't always going to be in the majority,' said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, a member of the Oversight panel, after he left the interview with Wylie. 'So I think we have to do our due diligence, we have to lay the groundwork for what we would actually want to do if we take back the House and we are operating in the majority in the committee.' The GOP-led House Intelligence Committee shut down its Russian meddling probe last month, concluding after dozens of interviews that they didn't see any evidence of collusion or coordination between Trump's campaign and Russia. Democrats were furious, arguing that Republicans hadn't subpoenaed many witnesses they considered essential. The Republican chairmen of the Judiciary and Oversight panels declined to investigate the election meddling at all, saying they would instead leave that to special counsel Robert Mueller. Still, Republicans on all three committees are investigating the Justice Department, looking into whether employees conspired against Trump in beginning its Russia investigation and whether the department's employees were biased in its investigation of Trump's 2016 opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton. In a joint statement after the Wylie interview, Democrats on the Judiciary and Oversight committees said he raised serious questions about security. 'We must do more to learn how foreign actors collect and weaponize our data against us, and what impact social media has on our democratic processes,' the lawmakers said in a joint statement. Wylie worked for the U.K.-based Cambridge Analytica from 2013 to 2015. In several interviews last month, he said the firm sought information on Facebook to build psychological profiles on a large portion of the U.S. electorate. He said the company was able to amass the database quickly with the help of an academic, Aleksander Kogan, who developed a Facebook app called 'This is Your Digital Life' that appeared to be a personality test. Wylie has said he fears that data may have been turned over to Russians who aimed to interfere with the U.S. election. Cambridge Analytica was backed by the conservative billionaire Robert Mercer, a hedge-fund manager who supported the Trump campaign. The firm's vice president at one point was Steve Bannon, who later became Trump's campaign chairman and White House adviser. Leaving the interview, Wylie declined to say what was discussed but said he hopes that Congress can investigate Cambridge Analytica and whether the firm's 'actions were compliant with American law.' 'I hope so,' he said. 'That's why I came.
  • The Supreme Court has upheld a challenged practice that is used to invalidate patents without the involvement of federal courts. The justices on Tuesday rejected a bid to strike down a process established by Congress in 2011 to speed up patent reviews. The justices voted 7-2 in favor of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's patent review process. It has been used to invalidate hundreds of patents since it was established in 2012. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Neil Gorsuch dissented.
  • Cambridge Analytica unleashed its counterattack against claims that it misused data from millions of Facebook accounts, saying Tuesday it is the victim of misunderstandings and inaccurate reporting that portrays the company as the evil villain in a James Bond movie. Clarence Mitchell, a high-profile publicist recently hired to represent the company, held Cambridge Analytica's first news conference since allegations surfaced that the Facebook data helped Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election. Christopher Wylie, a former employee of Cambridge Analytica's parent, also claims that the company has links to the successful campaign to take Britain out of the European Union. 'The company has been portrayed in some quarters as almost some Bond villain,' Mitchell said. 'Cambridge Analytica is no Bond villain.' Cambridge Analytica didn't use any of the Facebook data in the work it did for Trump's campaign and it never did any work on the Brexit campaign, Mitchell said. Furthermore, he said, the data was collected by another company that was contractually obligated to follow data protection rules and the information was deleted as soon as Facebook raised concerns.  Mitchell insists the company has not broken any laws, but acknowledged it had commissioned an independent investigation is being conducted. He insisted that the company had been victimized by 'wild speculation based on misinformation, misunderstanding, or in some cases, frankly, an overtly political position.' The comments come weeks after the scandal engulfed both the consultancy and Facebook, which has been embroiled in scandal since revelations that Cambridge Analytica misused personal information from as many as 87 million Facebook accounts. Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before the U.S. congressional committees and at one point the company lost some $50 billion in value for its shareholders. Details on the scandal continued to trickle out. On Tuesday, a Cambridge University academic said the suspended CEO of Cambridge Analytica lied to British lawmakers investigating fake news. Academic Aleksandr Kogan's company, Global Science Research, developed a Facebook app that vacuumed up data from people who signed up to use the app as well as information from their Facebook friends, even if those friends hadn't agreed to share their data. Cambridge Analytica allegedly used the data to profile U.S. voters and target them with ads during the 2016 election to help elect Donald Trump. It denies the charge. Kogan appeared before the House of Commons' media committee Tuesday and was asked whether Cambridge Analytica's suspended CEO, Alexander Nix, told the truth when he testified that none of the company's data came from Global Science Research. 'That's a fabrication,' Kogan told committee Chairman Damian Collins. Nix could not immediately be reached for comment. Kogan also cast doubt on many of Wylie's allegations, which have triggered a global debate about internet privacy protections. Wylie repeated his claims in a series of media interviews as well as an appearance before the committee. Wylie worked for SCL Group Ltd. in 2013 and 2014. 'Mr. Wylie has invented many things,' Kogan said, calling him 'duplicitous.' No matter what, though, Kogan insisted in his testimony that the data would not be that useful to election consultants. The idea was seized upon by Mitchell, who also denied that the company had worked on the effort to have Britain leave the EU. Mitchell said that the idea that political consultancies can use data alone to sway votes is 'frankly insulting to the electorates. Data science in modern campaigning helps those campaigns, but it is still and always will be the candidates who win the races.