AP News in Brief at 6:04 a.m. EST - NEWS 95.7
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AP News in Brief at 6:04 a.m. EST

Last Updated Feb 7, 2018 at 7:20 am ADT

Russian hackers hunt hi-tech secrets, exploiting US weakness

WASHINGTON (AP) — Russian cyberspies pursuing the secrets of military drones and other sensitive U.S. defence technology tricked key contract workers into exposing their email to theft, an Associated Press investigation has found.

What ultimately may have been stolen is uncertain, but the hackers clearly exploited a national vulnerability in cybersecurity: poorly protected email and barely any direct notification to victims.

The hackers known as Fancy Bear, who also intruded in the U.S. election, went after at least 87 people working on militarized drones, missiles, rockets, stealth fighter jets, cloud-computing platforms or other sensitive activities, the AP found.

Employees at both small companies and defence giants like Lockheed Martin Corp., Raytheon Co., Boeing Co., Airbus Group and General Atomics were targeted by the hackers. A handful of people in Fancy Bear’s sights also worked for trade groups, contractors in U.S.-allied countries or on corporate boards.

“The programs that they appear to target and the people who work on those programs are some of the most forward-leaning, advanced technologies,” said Charles Sowell, a former senior adviser to the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, who reviewed the list of names for the AP. “And if those programs are compromised in any way, then our competitive advantage and our defence is compromised.”

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Trump continues to paint immigrants as criminals

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is continuing his habit of painting immigrants as criminals, highlighting gang connections, calling family reunification a national security threat and bemoaning the death of a pro football player involved in a car accident with a man living in the country illegally.

Speaking to law enforcement officials at the White House on Tuesday, Trump singled out the MS-13 gang, which is believed to be behind 25 killings on New York’s Long Island in the past two years, and has become a prime target of the Trump administration.

“We’ve really never seen anything quite like this, the level of ferocity, the level of violence, and the reforms we need from Congress to defeat it,” Trump told law enforcement officials and lawmakers, eventually threatening another federal government shutdown if Democrats don’t agree to pass an immigration package he said would help keep gang members out.

“If we don’t get rid of these loopholes where killers are allowed to come into our country and continue to kill … if we don’t change it, let’s have a shutdown,” Trump suggested. “I’d love to see a shutdown if we don’t get this stuff taken care of.”

Trump’s latest threat is part of a pressure campaign he has been waging to try to get Democrats to sign onto a sweeping immigration plan that they’ve rejected. The president wants billions for a southern border wall, major cuts to legal immigration, and more money for interior enforcement and other changes in exchange for granting a pathway to citizenship for up to 1.8 million young immigrants living in the country illegally.

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Sister of North Korean leader to come to South for Olympics

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, an increasingly prominent figure in the country’s leadership, will be part of the North’s delegation to the South Korean Winter Olympics, officials said Wednesday.

Kim Yo Jong, believed to be around 30, will be the first member of North Korea’s ruling family to visit South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. Analysts say her inclusion in the Olympic delegation shows North Korea’s ambition to use the Olympics to break out from diplomatic isolation by improving relations with the South, which it could use as a bridge for approaching the United States.

By sending a youthful, photogenic person who will undoubtedly attract international attention during the Olympics, North Korea is also trying to construct a fresher and warmer public image and defuse potential U.S. efforts to use the Pyeongchang Games to highlight the North’s brutal human rights record, experts say.

Kim Jong Un might also have seen that U.S. President Donald Trump was sending his daughter, Ivanka, to the Olympics ceremony and decided to match the move by sending his sister, said Hong Min, an analyst at Seoul’s Korea Institute for National Unification.

By sending a relative, “Kim Jong Un may be trying to present himself as an equal to Donald Trump,” Hong said.

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AP Essay: Against tense global backdrop, let the Games begin

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — On the one hand: The world gathers for a scripted, globalized spectacle of competition and unity. North Korean athletes and performers stream into the rival South for a display of co-operation that maybe, just maybe, could ease anxiety about possible nuclear war. The North’s head of state announces plans to visit the South for the first time. The U.S. vice-president is stopping by, too.

On the other: Angry South Koreans bump up against riot police to protest the arrivals. The North’s government immediately calls the demonstration a “spasm of psychopaths.” The president of the United States insists that America must become “great again” — and goads the North Korean leader on Twitter.

And outward from there it ripples, across a planet riven by uncertainty and anger.

That the world is a contradictory and quarrelsome place is hardly breaking news. But on the week that the 2018 Winter Olympics begin, tucked away in chilly mountains that loom over one of the planet’s most contentious patches of earth, it somehow seems more so at this moment.

When the torch is lit during the opening ceremonies in Pyeongchang’s Olympic stadium on Friday night, it will become one of many flames being fanned around the world. Few others are anywhere near as uplifting.

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6 dead, 88 missing after strong quake hits Taiwan

HUALIEN, Taiwan (AP) — Rescuers were working Wednesday to try to reach people who were trapped after a strong earthquake near Taiwan’s east coast caused several buildings to cave in and tilt dangerously. At least six people were killed and 88 missing in the quake.

Video footage and photos showed several midsized buildings in worst-hit Hualien county leaning at sharp angles, their lowest floors crushed into mangled heaps of concrete, shattered glass, bent iron beams and other debris. Firefighters could be seen climbing ladders hoisted against windows as they sought to reach residents inside apartments.

The shallow, magnitude 6.4 quake that struck late Tuesday night caused at least four buildings to cave in and tilt dangerously.

A maintenance worker who was rescued after being trapped in the basement of the Marshal Hotel, whose ground floor had caved in, said the force of the earthquake was unusual.

“At first it wasn’t that big … we get this sort of thing all the time and it’s really nothing. But then it got really terrifying,” the worker, Chen Ming-hui, told Taiwan’s official Central News Agency after he was reunited with his son and grandson following the quake. “It was really scary.”

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House and Senate pursue spending deals as shutdown looms

WASHINGTON (AP) — Buoyed by the sudden likelihood of a budget pact, lawmakers are on track to avoid a repeat of last month’s government shutdown — though President Donald Trump unexpectedly raised the possibility of closing things down again if he can’t have his way on immigration.

“I’d love to see a shutdown if we can’t get this stuff taken care of,” Trump declared Tuesday, repeating the sentiment for emphasis.

Trump’s comments were strikingly disconnected from the progress on Capitol Hill, where the House passed a short-term spending measure Tuesday night and Senate leaders were closing in on a larger, long-term pact after of a Thursday night deadline. The broader agreement would award whopping spending increases to both the Pentagon and domestic federal programs, as well as approve overdue disaster relief money and, perhaps, crucial legislation to increase the government’s borrowing limit and avoid possible default.

Democratic leaders have dropped their strategy of using the funding fight to extract concessions on immigration, specifically on seeking extended protections for the “Dreamer” immigrants who have lived in the country illegally since they were children. Instead, the Democrats prepared to cut a deal that would reap tens of billions of dollars for other priorities — including combatting opioids — while taking their chances on solving the immigration impasse later.

Tuesday night’s 245-182 House vote, mostly along party lines, set the machinery in motion. The six-week stopgap spending bill contains increases for the military that long have been demanded by Trump and his GOP allies. But the measure appears increasingly likely to be rewritten by the Senate to include legislation implementing the brewing broader budget pact.

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Pence says US to unveil ‘toughest’ sanctions on N. Korea

TOKYO (AP) — Vice-President Mike Pence said the U.S. is preparing to announce the “toughest and most aggressive” economic sanctions against North Korea in the coming days, boosting pressure on the bellicose government during the Winter Olympics.

Pence, who is set to lead the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremonies Friday, made the announcement in Japan Wednesday, following meetings with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“The United States of America will soon unveil the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever – and we will continue to isolate North Korea until it abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile programs once and for all,” Pence said.

U.S. officials declined to detail the expected sanctions beyond Pence’s comments, citing concerns that any additional information could be used by those trying to skirt the new measures. They are expected to be implemented before the conclusion of the games.

On a six-day trip to Japan and South Korea, Pence is seeking to reassure and refocus American allies on the growing nuclear threat from North Korea.

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Saudi anti-corruption purge winds down, but questions emerge

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal headed outdoors to Saudi Arabia’s terracotta-colored sand dunes over the weekend, after being interrogated, investigated and detained for nearly three months in the kingdom’s extraordinary anti-corruption campaign.

The wealthy Saudi investor and royal shared photos of himself riding horses with his grandchildren and relaxing on Persian-style rugs, two hawks perched obediently before him on wooden stilts. More than a dozen men, some there to greet him and others there to serve him, are seen seated or standing around the prince as he looks out onto the desert.

The photos on Twitter project the image of a man who still reigns supreme over his own fiefdom, a man who can still hold a “majlis” — a reception in which people line up to request favours and assistance.

But the prince’s more than 80-day detention exposes a new hierarchy in the kingdom and brings into sharp focus just how little power even the wealthiest royals wield in the face of Saudi Arabia’s young potentate-in-waiting.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the king’s 32-year-old son and heir, oversaw the unprecedented shakedown of at least 11 princes and dozens of business moguls and officials, who together symbolized the elite structure encircling the ruling Al Saud family and its vast patronage networks. But now there are questions whether the prince succeeded in his effort to centralize power and eradicate corruption.

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Casino mogul Steve Wynn resigns amid sex misconduct claims

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Casino mogul Steve Wynn resigned Tuesday as chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts amid sexual misconduct allegations.

The Las Vegas-based company in a statement said Wynn’s resignation was effective immediately. It came less than two weeks after the Wall Street Journal reported that a number of women said Wynn harassed or assaulted them and that one case led to a $7.5 million settlement.

“In the last couple of weeks, I have found myself the focus of an avalanche of negative publicity,” Wynn said in a written statement. “As I have reflected upon the environment this has created — one in which a rush to judgment takes precedence over everything else, including the facts — I have reached the conclusion I cannot continue to be effective in my current roles.”

The billionaire has vehemently denied the report’s allegations, which he attributes to a campaign led by his ex-wife. An attorney for Elaine Wynn has denied that she instigated the news report.

Wynn now faces investigations by gambling regulators in Nevada and Massachusetts, where the company is building a roughly $2.4 billion casino just outside Boston. The company earlier said a committee of independent directors would investigate the allegations that surfaced Jan. 26.

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More Americans hold stocks, for better or for worse

NEW YORK (AP) — A plunge in stock prices always stings, but this recent one dug deeper because more Americans are participating in the market, particularly older ones.

Slightly more than half of all U.S. families own stocks in some way, from workers who got automatically enrolled into their 401(k) retirement accounts to day-traders working their personal accounts. The rate of stock ownership is the highest since the dawn of the Great Recession in 2007.

On the whole, higher stock ownership can be a good thing: It means more Americans, not just the wealthiest, have benefited from the record-setting returns that stocks have delivered since the current bull market started in early 2009. But there can be a downside: Many Americans are also keeping bigger portions of their portfolios in stocks than experts recommend, led by baby boomers, which accentuates the impact of each swing in the market. Even Americans aged 75 and over are more likely to own stocks than at any time since the 1980s, according to data from the Federal Reserve.

Some investors may have been blissfully unaware that stocks were growing to an ever-larger portion of their portfolio as stock prices swelled in recent years. Others bought even more stocks because they were afraid of missing out on the amazingly big and smooth gains that the market had been delivering before Monday’s loss, the worst day in more than six years.

Either way, nearly 23 per cent of savers with a 401(k) at Fidelity had a bigger percentage of their account in stocks than the investment giant recommends, according to the company’s most recent data from this past autumn.

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