Wednesday, November 6, 2019

 

US GOVERNMENT OPENS NATIONAL SECURITY REVIEW OF TIKTOK: REPORT

The U.S. government has opened a national security review into the video-based app TikTok over Chinese data collection concerns. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States is reviewing the Chinese deal that led to the creation of the app popular among teenagers after lawmakers raised national security concerns. Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) requested in October that intelligence officials investigate. “With over 110 million downloads in the U.S. alone, TikTok is a potential counterintelligence threat we cannot ignore,” the senators wrote in a letter to Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence. “Given these concerns, we ask that the Intelligence Community conduct an assessment of the national security risks posed by TikTok and other China-based content platforms operating in the U.S. and brief Congress on these findings.” TikTok is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance. In 2017, ByteDance acquired Musical.ly, an app to make homemade karaoke videos. ByteDance then merged Musical.ly with its app called TikTok. Lawmakers have been skeptical of ByteDance claims that TikTok does not operate in China and stores United States user data in the United States. Bipartisan pols voiced concerns that Chinese law could compel the company to cooperate with intelligence work for the Chinese Communist Party. (New York Times)

RUSSIA INTERNET: LAW INTRODUCING NEW CONTROLS COMES INTO FORCE

A law introducing new controls on the internet has come into force in Russia amid concerns it may be used by the government to silence its critics. In theory, the “sovereign internet” law gives officials wide-ranging powers to restrict traffic on the Russian web. It gives the Kremlin the possibility to switch off connections within Russia or completely to the worldwide web “in an emergency”. It is up to the government to decide what constitutes a threat and what actions should be taken. The Kremlin has said the law will improve cyber security. The law requires internet service providers to install network equipment – known as deep packet inspection (DPI) – capable of identifying the source of traffic and filter content. In practice, this will allow the country’s telecommunications watchdog Roskomnadzor to be more effective at blocking sites. A spokesman said users would not notice any change. Critics fear the Kremlin will try to create an internet firewall similar to that in China. Experts say it is unclear how the powers of the controversial law might be used, or how effectively they can be implemented given the technology challenges and high costs. (BBC)

MAN FIGHTING TO WEAR PASTA STRAINER IN DRIVER’S LICENSE PHOTO CLAIMS RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION

An Cincinnati, Ohio man claiming religious discrimination in a fight for him to wear a colander on his head as part of his driver’s license photo has a national organization fighting on his behalf. He went to several Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles locations last year in an attempt to find a one that would take his photo wearing the pasta strainer but was unsuccessful. He said the colander he’s attempting to wear in the photo is a religious symbol of the satirical Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. He said “Every other religion, they’re allowed, so why shouldn’t I be?” He has started a Facebook group for other Pastafarians in Cincinnati, which has nearly 200 members. The American Humanist Association is fighting on his behalf, claiming the Ohio  Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ denial is unconstitutional and discriminatory. However, in a letter dated October 11th, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles contends the pasta strainer could only be considered proper religious head wear for license photo purposes as “a head covering used in conjunction with a recognized religious purpose but only if usually and customarily worn whenever the person appears in public.” (The Columbus Dispatch)

TABLE FOR ONE, PLEASE

More than half of Americans don’t take a lunch break. For those who do, it is far more likely that lunch will be spent solo, fork in hand on the internet rather than heading out for a business lunch. Many employers try to discourage that or have even banned desktop dining altogether. Instead, companies are capitalizing on lunch as an opportunity to “lunch and learn” or play “lunchtime roulette,” a version of office blind-dating. Employees often feel guilty for not networking over lunch but also feel stressed or even “dirty” if they do. If you are someone who frequently finds yourself lunching alone, take solace. Eating lunch alone, or at your desk, may not be such a bad thing after all. Workers who feel obliged to join a company-sponsored lunch are more drained by the end of the day than those who are able to choose how, and with whom to spend their lunch period, shows research by the Rottman School of Management. Enjoying a true lunch break, versus mandatory socializing or working through lunch, leaves employees feeling more relaxed. (The Wall Street Journal)

WHY SOME PEOPLE CAN’T FIND WORK

People across the U.S. are struggling to find work despite the low unemployment rate. Many are not captured by the traditional unemployment metric, which sits at 3.6%. A broader measure capturing underemployed people and those no longer looking stands at 6.9%. One issue is that people may not have the skills needed for work in their region. Also, companies are less willing to hire the long-term unemployed. (Gallup)

WOMAN SOLD FAKE DOCTOR’S NOTES TO HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS WHO WANTED TO SKIP SCHOOL

A 52-year-old female teacher of Evans, Louisiana, was charged with filing or maintaining false public records. According to the Vernon Parish Sheriff’s Department, the former medical clinic employee got arrested after police said she created fake doctor’s notes for students who wanted to skip school for $20 each. It was reportedly common knowledge at Evans High School that she would fabricate notes for students so they could have excused school absences. School board members began calling the doctor’s offices about the notes written by someone at their office, raising doctor’s suspicions. The physician had never written the excuses, nor did anyone else at his office. Investigators from the Vernon Parish Sheriff’s Office found 14 notes that she wrote. Her bond was set at $15,000 and remains in the Vernon Parish Sheriff’s Office jail. She could face up to five years in prison if convicted, according to reports. (KPLC)

SAME-SEX LOVE SCENES TO BE RESTORED ON DELTA IN-FLIGHT MOVIES

Delta Airlines is showing love for same sex romance by restoring steamy scenes the company had previously edited out of movies shown on its flights, including Olivia Wilde’s “Booksmart.” The airline is putting a new process in place to manage the content on its in-flight entertainment systems after the director griped on Twitter about censorship of her acclaimed movie. She initially responded to an October 27th tweet complaining that a scene in which the main character hooks up with a woman had been cut. “Like not even a KISS was allowed!” the post by a woman said. The director initially called the editing “truly a bummer,” noting there was no nudity in the scene. Three days later, the director posted a long thread examining the airline’s film service and the edited version of the movie. “Turns out some airlines work with a third-party company that edits the movie based on what they deem inappropriate. Which, in our case, is … female sexuality?” she wrote. To choose the movie on the in-flight service, a viewer had to agree to a “parental advisory” warning the viewer discretion is advised. The edited version muted or cut the words “vagina,” and “genitals,” eliminated half of an animated sequence featuring naked dolls, and removed a scene where the two main characters play porn through the speakers of an Uber. But they didn’t cut out any cursing. Delta they will restore the cuts to both “Booksmart” and the Elton John biopic “Rocketman,” which also had same-sex love scenes cut, generating criticism on social media. The airline said it has titles including same-sex romances “Gentleman Jack,” “Imagine Me and You” and “Moonlight” on its flights. (New York Post)

NEARLY 500 PRISONERS FREED ON A SINGLE DAY

Earlier this week across Oklahoma, 462 inmates doing time for drug possession or similar nonviolent crimes had their sentences commuted as the first step in an effort by state officials to shed the title of the nation’s incarceration capital. Last Friday (11/1), the pardon and parole board recommended immediately commuting the sentences of 527 prisoners under that law, or about 2 percent of the state’s prison population of just under 26,000 inmates. Oklahoma governor ordered the commutations, and all but 65 of the 527 inmates walked out of prison on Monday (11/4) while the remainder were being detained because of issues with their immigration status or because they face charges in other states, according to Oklahoma officials. For more than a decade, legislators in several states have sought to send fewer nonviolent, low-level offenders to prison, in an effort to save money on incarceration and reserve resources for going after more serious criminals. Voters forced the hand of Oklahoma lawmakers in 2016 when, by a wide margin, they approved a plan to shrink prison rolls by downgrading many felonies to misdemeanors, including simple drug possession and minor property crimes. (ABC News)

AT&T WILL PAY $60 MILLION TO SETTLE THE GOVERNMENT’S ALLEGATION THAT IT MISLED CUSTOMERS OF UNLIMITED-DATA PLANS BY SLOWING DOWN SERVICE FOR HEAVY USERS

The Federal Trade Commission said yesterday (11/5) that AT&T will automatically provide partial refunds to customers who signed up for unlimited wireless plans before 2011. The FTC sued AT&T in 2014 for not clearly letting customers know that if they used up a certain amount of data, AT&T would slow their speeds so much that web browsing was almost impossible. It said then that AT&T had throttled at least 3.5 million customers. The agency says AT&T is required to say prominently if data speeds or amounts are restricted. Now, AT&T’s website says it may slow speeds of unlimited plans after a certain amount of data is used. (NBC DFW)

WEDNESDAY IS WHACKED OUT BECAUSE IT’S:

  • International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict
  • Button Day
  • International Stress Awareness Day (First Wednesday)
  • Marijuana Recreational Legalization Day (Colorado & Washington)
  • National Block It Out Day (First Wednesday)
  • National Nachos Day
  • Saxophone Day
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