Russian Man Indicted for Hacking 117 Million LinkedIn Passwords
A federal grand jury indicted a Russian man this week in connection with hacking LinkedIn and stealing 117 million passwords.
Czech police arrested Yevgeniy Aleksandrovich Nikulin, 29, Wednesday in Prague. Nikulin allegedly hacked LinkedIn in March 2012. Prosecutors also alleged Nikulin hacked social media site Formspring and file sharing site Dropbox. He now faces nine criminal counts after his Thursday indictment.
In court papers, federal agents aren't clear about what exactly Nikulin stole -- or how he planned to profit from their sale online. But the government claims Nikulin worked with at least two others in the attempt to make the business deals.
His arrest is the latest chapter in growing cyber tensions between the U.S. and Russia. While there is no indication that these hacks were sanctioned by the Russian government, federal authorities have pinned other hacks on the Kremlin.
NFL Kicker Placed on Paid Leave After Abuse Revelation
Josh Brown, the New York Giants kicker who admitted to domestic abuse against his then-wife, has been placed on paid leave by the NFL.
While the league investigates these recent revelations, the NFL put Brown on the commissioner’s exempt list, ESPN reports. Brown cannot play or attend games but, with the team’s permission, he is allowed to work out and receive treatment at the team’s facility. A player may be on the exempt list indefinitely.
In a letter sent Friday, Adolpho Birch, a senior vice president for the NFL, told Brown the league will investigate documents released earlier this week from the King County Sheriff’s Office in Washington, which revealed a history of domestic violence and details surrounding a 2015 arrest.
In those documents, Brown referred to himself as a “physically, mentally, emotionally and verbally... repulsive man.” In one entry, he said that he viewed himself as “God” and his then-wife, Molly, as “my slave.”
Brown’s tenure with the Giants is likely over, and it’s unclear if any teams will sign him in the future. The Giants signed another kicker, Robbie Gould, to fill the current void left by Brown.
In the meantime, Giants head coach Ben McAdoo offered his support to Brown, saying Friday, “We’re not going to turn our back on Josh.”
Facebook says it’s relaxing its rules on explicit posts after feedback from our community and partners.
Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s vice president of global public policy, and Justin Osofsky, the company’s vice president of global operations and media partnerships, wrote in a blog post that in “the weeks ahead, we’re going to begin allowing more items that people find newsworthy, significant, or important to the public interest—even if they might otherwise violate our standards.”
The move follows two recent controversies about posts that Facebook pulled because they apparently violated its Community Standards. One of those posts was Nick Ut’s iconic, Pulitzer Prize-winning black-and-white photograph of a naked girl, wailing in pain in the aftermath of a napalm attack during the Vietnam War. Then this week, a video posted by the Swedish Cancer Society to promote breast-cancer awareness didn’t make it past Facebook’s censors. The company apologized and reversed itself in both cases.
Canada’s Prospects of a Trade Deal With the EU Appear Dead
Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s trade minister, walked out of talks Friday in Belgium, declaring the European Union incapable of ratifying a long-discussed trans-Atlantic free-trade deal.
All 28 EU governments support the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), but the agreement was held up because one of Belgium’s five subdivisions has not signed off. Without French-speaking Wallonia’s affirmation, Belgium cannot give assent to CETA. Walloon lawmakers are concerned that CETA, and a stalled plan for a similar deal with the United States, risk degrading consumer, labor, and environmental protections, while granting excessive power to multinational corporations. But supporters say the agreement could increase trade by 20 percent.
“Canada has worked, and I personally have worked, very hard,” Freeland, who was a visibly distraught after the talks, said. “But it is now evident to me, evident to Canada, that the European Union is incapable of reaching an agreement.”
CETA was set to be signed at an EU-Canada summit next Thursday in the presence of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
This issue could serve as an ominous forecast for future EU economic deals, including with the UK, which voted over the summer to leave the bloc and is still unsure about the shape of trade relations with it.
Chemical Spill at Kansas Food Plant Sends 54 to Hospital
Updated at 4:06 p.m. ET
A chemical spill Friday at an Atchison, Kansas, food-processing plant sent a thick fog into the air and a chlorine-like smell, spurring evacuations and warnings from emergency officials.
Fifty-four people have been admitted to Atchison Hospital for upper-respiratory discomfort, including one into the intensive-care unit, TC Roberts, the hospital’s marketing and public relations director, said in an interview. Two of the women were pregnant and being monitored, Roberts said. The hospital was following poison-control protocol.
The spill occurred at 8:02 a.m. at MGP Ingredients, a food-and-alcohol plant, Atchison City Manager Trey Cocking said. Citing city officials, the Kansas CIty Star reports the reaction was caused after two chemicals were inadvertently mixed together.
The Kansas Department of Transportation confirmed that the two chemicals were sodium hypochlorite—a salt-based chemical mainly used for bleaching—and sulphuric acid, according to public-affairs manager, Kimberly Qualls. Exposure to sodium hypochlorite can cause upper respiratory issues due to the corrosive effects of chlorine. The city would not confirm which chemicals were mixed.
Atchison city officials said shortly before 11 a.m. that the situation was under control and all-clear was being given.
Shortly after the spill, Atchison County emergency officials urged people to stay out of town.
Residents of Atchison who live north of the plant were being told to stay inside with their doors and windows shut.
Atchison is located in northeast Kansas, about 40 miles from Kansas City.
Images from social media showed a thick gray plume clouding the air.
The European Space Agency (ESA) said Friday its experimental Mars lander, Schiaparelli, may have exploded in a crash landing on the planet’s surface.
“Estimates are that Schiaparelli dropped from a height of between 2 and 4 kilometres, therefore impacting at a considerable speed, greater than 300 km/h,” the ESA said in a statement. “It is also possible that the lander exploded on impact, as its thruster propellant tanks were likely still full. These preliminary interpretations will be refined following further analysis.”
As my colleague Marina Koren previously reported, Schiaparelli was scheduled to touch down on the red planet Wednesday after a seven-month journey. The mission, conducted jointly between the ESA and Russian space agency Roscosmos, lost contact with the lander shortly after it began its descent. Now, the ESA believes the lander suffered issues during the last 50 seconds of its descent through Mars’s atmosphere, prompting the possible crash.
As I told you earlier this week, we have begun an extensive review of operations as part of a broader transformation program. There will be, unfortunately, an impact on news department staff in this process. In order to limit the number of involuntary layoffs, we will be offering all news employees around the world - management and non-management - the option to elect to take an enhanced voluntary severance benefit. The terms are described in the attached FAQ.
We are seeking a substantial number of employees to elect this benefit, but we reserve the right to reject a volunteer based on business considerations. Employees will be required to sign a separation agreement and release of claims in a form provided by the Company in exchange for the accompanying severance benefits.
I regret of course the need for such a move and I appreciate deeply the dedication all of you continue to show through challenging times. Thanks to your hard work, the news department continues to produce world-class journalism every day and I'm confident this process is the right one to set us on the right footing for renewed growth in the years ahead.
Sydney Ember, The New York Times’s media reporter, pointed out on Twitter that the FAQ section of the memo says “there are no current plans for future buyouts.”
Earlier this week, the newspaper reported that Dow Jones & Co., the Journal’s parent company, “launched a broader review of operations to cut costs in response to a significant decline in print advertising.” More:
The memo didn’t lay out specifics, but people familiar with the situation said one element of the plan involves combining the “Business & Tech” and “Money & Investing” sections. That would be aimed at reducing production costs, and wouldn’t signal a cutback in coverage in those core areas, one of the people said.
The newspaper’s report quoted unnamed sources as saying the revamp “could include a reduction of head count.”
Looks like whoever launched this morning’s attack on the internet is at it again, shutting down access to Twitter, Reddit, Netflix, and other sites. Around noon ET, domain name server company Dyn said hackers had once again targeted them with a distributed denial of service attack, flooding their servers with nonsense and hampering their ability to properly direct internet traffic.
This time, the U.S. reports of outages appear more closely centered on the northeast states, with sizable gridlock also seen in Japan, the U.K., and France, according to downdetector.com.
Hundreds of police officers marched in Paris and other French cities Thursday for the fourth night of protests against their working conditions, Agence France-Presse reports.
The officers, who say they are ill-equipped to defend themselves on the job, protested against an increasing workload, bureaucracy, and outdated equipment. They also called on the government to implement fixed minimum sentences for attacks against officers. The demonstrations follow several attacks on police in recent months, including a Molotov cocktail thrown on a patrol car and the killing of a French officer and his partner in June by a man who pledged allegiance to ISIS .
The demonstrations come amid a nationwide state of emergency—which has been in place since last November’s attacks—and will likely play a role in the country’s presidential election in six months. Many of the presidential candidates have used the opportunity to criticize President François Hollande, including Alain Juppé, the center-right candidate, and Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate.
In a statement to police Friday, Bernard Cazeneuve, the French interior minister, said: “You are asking for respect, we owe you that. You are asking for resources, we’ll give you them. You are asking for support, you’ve earned it.”
There Is Nothing Funny About Exploding Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Sticky Bombs
It seems Samsung has little sense of humor when it comes to its combustible Galaxy Note 7 cellphone. The company recalled the Note 7 last month because its lithium-ion batteries can burst into flames. It’s banned by some airlines, and become the butt of a presidential wisecrack. But the joke Samsung didn’t find funny was made this week by video-game enthusiasts.
A gamer who uses the screen name HitmanNiko wrote a code that players can download—called a “mod”—for Grand Theft Auto V that replaces sticky bombs with Samsung’s pyrotechnics-friendly cellphone. Gamers then posted videos to YouTube of their digital character using the phone to blow up people, cars, and helicopters.
Some owners of those YouTube accounts then received copyright-infringement notices, and their videos were removed. One U.S. gamer, who goes by the screen name DoctorGTA, said in a YouTube video his livestream account was suspended after he got an infringement notice from Samsung Electronics America Inc.
So far, Samsung has done a bad job of damage control. This latest move to silence jibes from gamers seems only to have raised more notice that Samsung produced millions of phones that can potentially catch fire.
Here's an example of the sticky-bomb Samsung videos (fast forward to 45 seconds):
America’s Latest Whiskey Rebellion May Be Coming to an End
Jim Beam workers in Kentucky, on strike for the past six days to protest long work hours, were offered a new contract Thursday that includes a company pledge to hire more workers, according to the Associated Press.
About 250 union workers are scheduled to vote on the new contract Friday, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union said.
Workers walked out last Saturday from distilleries at Clermont and Boston, Kentucky, over working hours. Jim Beam workers said they were often forced to work 60-80 hours per week in order to meet the demands of the global bourbon boom.
Clarkson Hine, a company spokesman, said Thursday the company was encouraged by the tentative deal reached with union leaders.
Bourbon, Kentucky’s golden commodity, is a $3 billion a year industry. Ninety-five percent of the world’s bourbon is produced in the state.
Jim Beam is owned by Suntory Holdings Ltd., the Japanese beverage giant. Suntory bought the classic American whisky brand for $16 billion in 2014. In the first six months of 2016, Suntory’s alcohol profits rose 24 percent due to the popularity of its American spirit sales.
ISIS fighters attacked the Iraqi city of Kirkuk Friday, killing at least 19 people, even as Iraqi forces were closing in on Mosul, the group’s last major stronghold in Iraq.
The battle in Kirkuk appears to be ongoing, and there are various versions of what’s exactly happening there. The BBC reported that ISIS fighters attacked government buildings, killing at least six police officers. They also targeted a power station that’s under construction and killed 13 workers. Twelve ISIS fighters were also reportedly killed. Images on social media posted by a Kurdish news site showed Kirkuk residents had hanged at least one suspected ISIS fighter.
The attack is a reminder that while ISIS is losing territory in Iraq and neighboring Syria, it still remains a force to be reckoned with in the region. The attack in Kirkuk comes as Iraqi forces, Kurdish Peshmerga, and their allies—backed by U.S. airstrikes—are trying to retake Mosul, which is about 100 miles northwest of Kirkuk.
About 5,000 ISIS fighters are reportedly still in Mosul, the group’s last major stronghold in Iraq, along with 1.5 million people.
Double-Oh No: Pierce Brosnan Wants Out of Indian Ad Campaign
Pierce Brosnan, the former James Bond star, endorsed what he thought was breath-freshening, tooth-whitening mint. He appeared in Indian newspapers, with his lush beard and arched eyebrow, holding a tin of Pan Bahar. A minute-long TV commercial shows the former 007 cooly waltzing into a fancy hotel, disarming men, women, and a pack of ninjas with his good looks—and a can of Pan Bahar.
But Brosnan is upset now because Pan Bahar is associated in India with addictive forms of chewing tobacco. Those products, which are made from a mixture of nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, and tobacco, are used by millions of Indians and have been linked to cancer. Pan Bahar’s manufacturer, Ashok & Co., told the BBC the public has misconceived their product and there’s neither nicotine or tobacco in it.
In a statement to People magazine, Brosnan said: “As a man who has spent decades championing women’s healthcare and environmental protection, I was distressed to learn of Pan Bahar’s unauthorized and deceptive use of my image to endorse their range of pan masala products. I would never have entered into an agreement to promote a product in India that is dangerous to one’s health.”
Brosnan demanded the company remove his image from all of the company’s products. Here’s a video of the commercial:
Update 9:45 a.m. ET: Dyn, a large domain name service company, reports that it was attacked by a distributed denial-of-service attack around 7 a.m. ET, shutting down access to a number of popular internet sites. As of 9:20 a.m. ET, it had restored service to normal.
Dyn is one of several companies that essentially maintains a master list of websites, translating “CNN.com” into the string of numbers that actually directs readers to the news network’s servers. It appears they were flooded with targeted traffic by an unknown party with the intention of shutting down access to these sites.
Our original post below:
If your internet connection seems slow this morning—especially if you live in the U.S. Northeast—you’re not imagining it. Internet-monitoring service downrightnow.com says Twitter is experiencing a serious outage, and crowd-sourced downdetector.com reports trouble at a slew of popular sites, including CNN, Amazon, Netflix, and Reddit.
Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, and Donald Trump, her GOP rival, paused their contentious campaign for the presidency for an evening of what was supposed to be light-hearted ribbing and self-effacing humor.
But as my colleague Megan Garber noted, the evening at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner was going according to plan “until Trump decided it was time to tease his opponent a little more sharply.” Trump’s remarks, she said, “went full stream-of-consciousness [and] on the attack.” The crowd, at various points in the night, gasped, booed, booed some more, and then some.
South Africa Says It's Leaving the International Criminal Court
South Africa said Friday it notified the UN on October 19 that it is leaving The Hague-based International Criminal Court.
Michael Masutha, the justice minister, said at a news conference South Africa didn’t want to carry out the ICC’s arrest warrants, which would lead to “regime change.” Masutha said the government would introduce legislation in parliament to withdraw the country from the ICC.
Last year, the government didn’t arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who was in the country despite an ICC warrant against him for his alleged actions in the Darfur region. A South African court criticized the government for that failure.
Human-rights groups condemned Friday’s announcement, and experts predict it will trigger similar decisions by other African nations, many of which believe the ICC is biased against African leaders. The UN declined to comment.
At 3 a.m. I’m jolted awake. The room is dark and still. I grab my phone and scan sports scores and Twitter. Still awake. A faceless physician whispers in my mind: To overcome middle-of-the-night insomnia, experts say you ought to get out of bed … I get out of bed. I pour a glass of water and drink it. I go back to bed. Still awake. Perhaps you know the feeling. Like millions of Americans and hundreds of millions of people around the world, I suffer from so-called mid-sleep awakenings that can keep me up for hours.
One day, I was researching my nocturnal issues when I discovered a cottage industry of writers and sleep hackers who claim that sleep is a nightmare because of the industrial revolution, of all things. Essays in The Guardian, CNN, The New York Times, and The New York Times Magazine recommended an old fix for restlessness called “segmented sleep.” In premodern Europe, and perhaps centuries earlier, people routinely went to sleep around nightfall and woke up around midnight—only to go back to sleep a few hours later, until morning. They slept sort of like I do, but they were Zen about it. Then, the hackers claim, modernity came along and ruined everything by pressuring everybody to sleep in one big chunk.
Russia-Ukraine is becoming a trial of strength between different parts of the conservative universe.
Night after night, the host of the top-rated show on Fox News repeats Vladimir Putin’s talking points justifying aggression against Ukraine and opposing U.S. aid to that threatened sovereign country. Tucker Carlson’s influence is felt across right-wing social media, where it is amplified by figures such as Steve Bannon, Mike Cernovich, Glenn Greenwald, and Mollie Hemingway. A highly visiblecoterie of socially conservative intellectuals also argues the case against helping Ukraine.
In attempting to succeed in the Trump-era Republican Party, some politicians are masquerading as what they imagine voters want, with results that ring almost comically false.
In 2013, Bobby Jindal, then the governor of Louisiana and a presidential hopeful, delivered some tough love to the Republican National Committee: “We must stop being the stupid party.” Specifically, he continued, “we must stop insulting the intelligence of voters. We need to trust the smarts of the American people. We have to stop dumbing down our ideas and stop reducing everything to mindless slogans and taglines for 30-second ads.”
Even in the pre-Trump GOP, this was a bracing message, but Jindal was the person to make it: Known for his wonkish mien, Jindal had graduated from Brown at 20, scored a Rhodes Scholarship, become the youngest president of the University of Louisiana system, and then won the governorship.
Pour one out for Delta, the SARS-CoV-2 variant that Season 3 of the pandemic seems intent on killing off. After holding star billing through the summer and fall of 2021, Delta’s spent the past several weeks getting absolutely walloped by its feistier cousin Omicron—a virus that’s adept at both blitzing in and out of airways and dodging the antibodies that vaccines and other variants raise. In late November, Delta made up essentially all the SARS-CoV-2 infections that researchers were sequencing in the United States. Now it’s a measly 0.1 percent. As for the rest? It’s an Omicron show.
The global portrait’s a bit patchier, but by and large, “Delta won’t be able to compete,” Karthik Gangavarapu, a computational biologist at UCLA, told me. “My suspicion is that Omicron will take over.” It’s a fair shift from the tune many experts were singing just weeks ago, when they wonderedwhether Delta and Omicron might co-circulate in a vicious variant one-two punch. Katia Koelle, an evolutionary virologist at Emory University, told me she used to worry about that possibility when the world knew little about Omicron’s competitive edge, but “less so now.” Katie Gostic, an infectious-disease modeler at the University of Chicago, agrees that Delta’s doom is probably nigh. And if so, “good riddance,” she told me.
Choosing what to read is both a small decision and one of utmost importance. For students, that choice is crucial in getting kids to read at all. Some books feel like magic, world-making and unforgettable. Some feel dangerous, upsetting. Many inspire both feelings, especially in young people. Reading is meant to be challenging, and literature should serve as a way to explore ideas that feel unthinkable, unfamiliar, and even illicit. So it is a matter of tremendous concern to witness government officials blatantly interfering with a free exchange of ideas within school libraries.
Matt Krause, a Republican in the Texas House of Representatives, has gone hunting in public-school libraries for any books that might generate “discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of [a student’s] race or sex.” In October, he distributed a watch list of 850 books. The Texas governor, Greg Abbott, has in parallel called for a criminal investigation into the availability of “pornographic” books in public schools. What we’re witnessing is plainly a shakedown. And this week, a San Antonio school district pulled 414 books from its libraries in response to the ongoing pressure from Texas lawmakers and a vocal segment of angry parents to limit what children can choose to read.
Districts should rethink imposing on millions of children an intervention that provides little discernible benefit.
In the panicked spring of 2020, as health officials scrambled to keep communities safe, they recommended various restrictions and interventions, sometimes in the absence of rigorous science supporting them. That was understandable at the time. Now, however, two years into this pandemic, keeping unproven measures in place is no longer justifiable. Although no district is likely to roll back COVID policies in the middle of the Omicron surge, at the top of the list of policies we should rethink once the wave recedes is mandatory masks for kids at school.
The CDC guidance on school masking is far-reaching, recommending “universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K–12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.” In contrast, many countries—the U.K., Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and others—have not taken the U.S.’s approach, and instead follow World Health Organization guidelines, which recommend against masking children ages 5 and younger, because this age group is at low risk of illness, because masks are not “in the overall interest of the child,” and because many children are unable to wear masks properly. Even for children ages 6 to 11, the WHO does not routinelyrecommend masks, because of the “potential impact of wearing a mask on learning and psychosocial development.” The WHO also explicitly counsels against masking children during physical activities, including running and jumping at the playground, so as not to compromise breathing.
People seeking to obtain an exemption from the shot have found that some clergy see no theological foundation for an excusal.
Religious texts such as the Bible, the Torah, and the Quran don’t say anything about vaccines—of course, all three texts predate them by hundreds of years. So when faith leaders face questions about immunizations, they generally offer their own interpretations of the scriptures. Such questions, particularly about the applicability of religious exemptions, have become more urgent during the pandemic, forcing clergy to take hard stances for or against excusals.
Even though the Supreme Court recently struck down a federal vaccine-or-test mandate for businesses with more than 100 employees, many Americans still must receive a COVID-19 vaccine in order to resume in-person work. Some people are seeking ways to skirt the obligation, and religious exemptions, which stipulate that a person’s spiritual beliefs can free them from a medical requirement, present one way to do so. In private Facebook groups, for instance, people swap tips on how to convince employers that they don’t need a shot, while others are hiring consulting services for help obtaining an exemption. Many people requesting exemptions have tried to strengthen their case with a written statement from a religious leader, but to some clergy, agreeing to support a person’s claim feels unjustifiable. Instead, faith leaders I spoke with are trying to assuage congregants’ misgivings about the vaccines, and are pushing back against attempts to circumvent public-health measures with scripture.
Old songs now represent 70 percent of the U.S. music market. Even worse: The new-music market is actually shrinking.
Old songs now represent 70 percent of the U.S. music market, according to the latest numbers from MRC Data, a music-analytics firm. Those who make a living from new music—especially that endangered species known as the working musician—should look at these figures with fear and trembling. But the news gets worse: The new-music market is actually shrinking. All the growth in the market is coming from old songs.
The 200 most popular new tracks now regularly account for less than 5 percent of total streams. That rate was twice as high just three years ago. The mix of songs actually purchased by consumers is even more tilted toward older music. The current list of most-downloaded tracks on iTunes is filled with the names of bands from the previous century, such as Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Police.
The Bowlin family knew they had a history of malformations in the brain. But they had no idea how far back it went.
Of the three Bowlin sisters, Margaret, the middle one, was the first to show signs. She began having seizures as a toddler. Then the eldest, Bettina, had a brief and mysterious episode of weakness in her right hand. In 1986, as an adult, she had a two-week migraine that got so bad, she couldn’t hold food in her mouth or money in her right hand. The youngest, Susan, felt fine, but her parents still took her for an exam in 1989, when she was 19. A brain scan found abnormal clusters of blood vessels that, as it turned out, were in her sisters’ brains too. These malformations in the brain can be silent. But they can also leak or, worse, burst without warning, causing the seizures, migraines, and strokelike symptoms Bettina and Margaret experienced. If the bleeding in the brain gets bad enough, it can be deadly.
A collection of recent images showing people and animals both surviving and enjoying frigid midwinter conditions.
As we near the halfway mark between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, much of the Northern Hemisphere is beginning to emerge from the coldest time of the year. Gathered below, a collection of recent images show people and animals both surviving and enjoying the frigid conditions, from the Russian Far East, to China, Greece, England, Canada, and more.