У Дніпрі справу проти ватажків угруповання «ЛНР» – Ігоря Плотницького, Олександра Гурєєва й Андрія Патрушева – за збитий військовий літак Іл-76 з українськими військовослужбовцями на борту, знову не змогли розглянути через самовідвід судді. Засідання мало відбутись 31 січня в Красногвардійському райсуді міста, до якого повернули справу з апеляційного суду.

Один із членів колегії суддів заявив про самовідвід, пославшись на те, що раніше працював у Донецьку.

За інформацією з суду, тепер на справу очікує новий автоматичний розподіл. Після цього буде відома дата наступного засідання.

Це вже четвертий самовідвід судді в цій справі, розгляд якої в Дніпрі не можуть почати вже рік.

Прокуратура Дніпропетровської області в січні 2017 року повідомила, що передала до суду обвинувальний акт проти керівника угруповання «ЛНР» Ігоря Плотницького та двох командирів незаконних збройних формувань у справі збитого літака Іл-76.

Після цього процес не зміг початися спочатку в Бабушкінському районному суді Дніпра через самовідводи суддів, а потім і в Красногвардійському суді – також через самовідвід судді.

У кінці 2017 року справу передали в апеляційний суд області для визначення підсудності, але той знову повернув її до Красногвардійського райсуду. 3 січня цей суд не зміг почати розгляд справи через хворобу судді. Головуючий суддя пішов на лікарняний напередодні, коли мало відбутись засідання. 30 січня засідання знову відклали через погане самопочуття судді.

14 червня 2014 року на території Луганської області з переносного зенітно-ракетного комплексу був збитий літак Іл-76МД. Він загорівся і впав. На його борту перебували 40 військовослужбовців 25-ї окремої парашутно-десантної бригади і дев’ятеро членів екіпажу. Усі загинули.

2017 року Павлоградський міськрайонний суд на Дніпропетровщині визнав винним у справі про загибель 49 українських військовослужбовців у літаку Іл-76 генерал-майора Віктора Назарова, який на момент трагедії був начальником Штабу антитерористичної операції. Його визнали винним у недбалому ставленні до служби, вчиненому в бойовій обстановці, що призвело до тяжких наслідків. Суд присудив генералу сім років ув’язнення, однак він подав на апеляцію.

 


Святошинський районний суд Києва планує 13 січня допитати колишнього президента Грузії, лідера партії «Рух нових сил» Міхеїла Саакашвілі в провадженні щодо п’ятьох колишніх співробітників спецпідрозділу «Беркут», обвинувачених у розстрілі активістів Євромайдану у 2014 році в Києві, повідомив суддя Сергій Дячук на засіданні суду 31 січня.

Про допит Саакашвілі просила сторона обвинувачення. Прокуратура вважає, що політик може надати важливі свідчення про розстріл активістів Євромайдану.

«Наприкінці минулого року у суді було вирішено питання про допит двох громадян Грузії, які нібито повідомляли в італійському репортажі про факти вбивства на Майдані 20 лютого 2014 року. У зв’язку з цим Департаментом спецрозслідувань був допитаний колишній президент Грузії Саакашвілі щодо обставин цього італійського відео і взагалі щодо так званих грузинських снайперів, про яких заявляла сторона захисту», – сказав прокурор Яніс Сімонов.

За його словами, Саакашвілі погодився виступити в суді. 

10 січня політик заявляв, що інформація про грузинських снайперів, які нібито розстрілювали активістів Євромайдану, не відповідає дійсності.

У травні 2017 року Святошинський суд розпочав розгляд по суті справи проти п’яти колишніх беркутівців: Павла Аброськіна, Сергія Зінченка, Олександра Маринченка, Сергія Тамтури та Олега Янішевського. Їх обвинувачують у розстрілі активістів Майдану на вулиці Інститутській у Києві в лютому 2014 року. П’ятьом колишнім беркутівцям інкримінують перевищення службових повноважень, незаконне поводження зі зброєю, умисне вбивство та заподіяння тілесних ушкоджень активістам Майдану.

Колишні бійці спецпідрозділу «Беркут» не визнають власної вини за жодним із пунктів.

Усього, як повідомляв прокурор Генеральної прокуратури України Яніс Сімонов, вдалось ідентифікувати 25 правоохоронців, які стріляли на Інститутській. 20 із них зараз у розшуку.

У лютому 2017 року суд об’єднав кримінальні провадження щодо Маринченка, Тамтури, Янішевського, обвинувачуваних у розстрілі 48 активістів Євромайдану, з провадженням щодо Зінченка і Аброськіна, яких обвинувачували в убивстві 39 майданівців 20 лютого 2014 року на вулиці Інститутській.

За даними Генпрокуратури, всього під час Євромайдану потерпіли 2,5 тисячі людей, 104 з них загинули. Згодом загиблих учасників акцій протесту почали називати Небесною сотнею.

За даними Міністерства внутрішніх справ, від 18 лютого по 2 березня 2014 року під час виконання службових обов’язків у центрі Києва загинули також 17 силовиків.


Головний редактор видання «Страна.ua» Ігор Гужва заявляє, що виїхав з України до Австрії і просить там політичного притулку. Відповідна заява оприлюднена на сайті видання 31 січня.

«Ми хочемо повідомити, що Ігор Гужва виїхав до Відня і попросив політичного притулку у влади Австрійської республіки, відповідно до прийнятої процедури. Підкреслимо, що Ігор Гужва виїхав до Австрії після того, як у нього закінчився термін запобіжного заходу, визначений судом, і він отримав законне право залишити Україну», – йдеться у зверненні редакції до президента України Петра Порошенка.

У виданні заявляють, що Гужва залишається головним редактором і керуватиме редакцією з-за кордону.

Редакція «Страна.UA» також звинуватила владу в тиску.

У прокуратурі України наприкінці грудня заявили, що кримінальне провадження стосовно головного редактора інтернет-видання «Страна.UA» Ігоря Гужви завершене.

У червні 2017 року Гужву затримали після обшуків у редакції видання «Страна.ua». Щодо нього відкрито кримінальне провадження за статтею 189 Кримінального кодексу України (вимагання). За даними правоохоронців, Гужва разом зі спільником Антоном Філіпковським вимагали від народного депутата від Радикальної партії Дмитра Лінька 20 тисяч доларів. Згодом суд обрав Гужві запобіжний захід у вигляді тримання під вартою з можливістю внесення застави. За Гужву внесли заставу, і він вийшов із СІЗО.

Гужва назвав висунуті йому звинувачення у вимаганні коштів «сфабрикованими».


This year’s flu season in the U.S. is the worst in 15 years and health officials predict there are weeks of sickness ahead. One company’s “smart thermometer” is tracking how the flu is spreading across the country in real time by gathering data every time someone takes a temperature. Michelle Quinn reports.


When a child feels sick, one of the first things a parent does is reach for a thermometer.

That common act intrigued Inder Singh, a long-time health policy expert.

What if the thermometer could be a communication device – connecting people with information about illnesses going around and gathering real time data on diseases as they spread? 

That’s the idea behind Singh’s firm Kinsa, a health data company based in San Francisco that sells “smart” thermometers.

Worst flu season in years

With the U.S. in the midst of its worst flu season in years, Kinsa has been on the forefront of tracking the spread and severity of flu-like symptoms by region.

The company says its data is a close match to flu data tracked by the U.S.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Whereas the CDC collects from state and regional reports, Kinsa can spot fever spikes in regions or even by cities, said Singh.

Fast and accurate information about how disease is spreading can make a difference during a health crisis.

“If you knew when and where a disease was starting, you could target the people who needed the treatment and potentially prevent pandemics and epidemics from occurring,” said Singh, founder and chief executive of Kinsa.

How it works

Kinsa thermometers, which range in price from $14.99 to $49.99, connect via Bluetooth to a smartphone app, which pose questions about a person’s symptoms. The customer’s personal information is private, the firm said.

With its thermometers in 500,000 households, Kinsa receives 25,000 temperature readings per day.

The company can’t diagnose illnesses or distinguish between different kinds of sicknesses. But from gathering information about individuals’ fevers and other symptoms, it can report where flu-like symptoms are peaking. In recent weeks, Missouri and Kansas have been the hardest hit, Kinsa said. 

Selling aggregated data 

Beyond selling thermometers and advertising on its app, Kinsa makes money by selling data – stripped of any personally identifiable information – to companies that want to know where and how illness is spreading – cough and cold companies, disinfectant manufacturers, orange juice sellers. Sales of toothbrushes spike during flu season, Singh says.

Companies “want to know when and where illness is striking on a general geolocation basis,” he said. Firms stock shelves with products and change marketing plans if they know how an illness is progressing.

Kinsa has launched a program in schools, where it gives away thermometers, so parents can learn about illness trends locally. The company is also starting a new initiative with some U.S. firms, which buy Kinsa thermometers for their employees. When an employee shows a fever, Kinsa can inform the person about available company benefits.

At the moment, Kinsa thermometers are sold just in the U.S. But the company plans to go global.

“Imagine a living breathing map where you can see where and when disease is spreading,” Singh said. “That’s what we want.”


The AP is fact-checking prepared remarks from President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech. Here’s a look at some of the claims we’ve examined:

Tax cuts

Trump: “We enacted the biggest tax cuts and reform in American history.” — excerpt released by White House.

The Facts: No truer now than in the countless other times he has said the same. The December tax overhaul ranks behind Ronald Reagan’s in the early 1980s, post-World War Two tax cuts and at least several more.

An analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget in the fall put Trump’s package as the eighth biggest since 1918. As a percentage of the total economy, Reagan’s 1981 cut is the biggest followed by the 1945 rollback of taxes that financed World War Two.

Valued at $1.5 trillion over 10 years, the plan is indeed large and expensive. But it’s much smaller than originally intended. Back in the spring, it was shaping up as a $5.5 trillion package. Even then it would have only been the third largest since 1940 as a share of gross domestic product.

 

Worker bonuses

 

Trump: “Since we passed tax cuts, roughly 3 million workers have already gotten tax cut bonuses — many of them thousands of dollars per worker.” — excerpt of speech released by the White House.

The Facts: This appears to be true, but may not be as impressive as it sounds. According to a tally of public announcements by Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative group that supported the tax law, about 3 million workers have gotten bonuses, raises or larger payments to their retirement accounts since the tax law was signed.

That’s about 2 percent of the more than 154 million Americans with jobs. The Labor Department said before the tax package was signed into law that 38 percent of workers would likely get some form of bonus in 2017.

Few companies have granted across-the-board pay raises, which Trump and GOP leaders promised would result from the cut in corporate tax rates included in the overhaul. Many, such as Walmart and BB&T Bank, said they will raise their minimum wages. Walmart made similar announcements in 2015 and 2016.

 

Energy production

 

Trump: “We have ended the war on American energy — and we have ended the war on clean coal.” — excerpt of speech released by White House.

 

The Facts: Energy production was unleashed in past administrations, particularly Barack Obama’s, making accusations of a “war on energy” hard to sustain. Advances in hydraulic fracturing before Trump became president made it economical to tap vast reserves of natural gas. Oil production also greatly increased, reducing imports.

Before the 2016 presidential election, the U.S. for the first time in decades was getting more energy domestically than it imports. Before Obama, George W. Bush was no adversary of the energy industry.

One of Trump’s consequential actions as president on this front was to approve the Keystone XL pipeline — a source of foreign oil, from Canada.


Russia’s foreign spy chief, who is under U.S. sanctions, met last week outside Washington with U.S. intelligence officials, two U.S. sources said, confirming a disclosure that intensified political infighting over probes into Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

Sergey Naryshkin, head of the Russian service known by its acronym SVR, held talks with U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and other U.S. intelligence officials, the sources said. The sources did not reveal the topics discussed.

A Russian Embassy tweet disclosed Naryshkin’s visit. It cited a state-run ITAR-Tass news report that quoted Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, as telling Rossiya-1 television that Naryshkin and his U.S. counterparts discussed the “joint struggle against terrorism.”

Antonov did not identify the U.S. intelligence officials with whom he met.

The Central Intelligence Agency declined to comment. Coats’ office said that while it does not discuss U.S. intelligence officials’ schedules, “any interaction with foreign intelligence agencies would have been conducted in accordance with U.S. law and in consultation with appropriate departments and agencies.”

News of Naryshkin’s secret visit poured fresh fuel on the battles pitting the Trump administration and its Republican defenders against Democrats over investigations into Moscow’s alleged 2016 election interference.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer demanded that the administration “immediately come clean and answer questions — which U.S. officials did he meet with? Did any White House or National Security Council official meet with Naryshkin? What did they discuss?”

The key question, Schumer told reporters, is whether Naryshkin’s visit accounted for the administration’s decision on Monday not to slap new sanctions on Russia under a law passed last year to punish Moscow’s purported election meddling.

“Russia hacked our elections,” Schumer said. “We sanctioned the head of their foreign intelligence and then the Trump administration invites him to waltz through our front door.”

A January 2017 U.S. intelligence report concluded that Russia conducted an influence campaign of hacking and other measures aimed at swinging the 2016 presidential vote to Trump over his Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton.

Last week, the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant reported that the Netherlands intelligence concluded that some of the Russians running a hacking operation, known as “Cozy Bear,” against Democratic organizations were SVR agents.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo told the BBC in an interview last weekend that he had not “seen a significant decrease” in Russian attempts at subversion in Europe and the United States, and he expects Moscow to meddle in November’s U.S. mid-term elections.

Congressional panels and Special Counsel Robert Mueller are investigating Russia’s alleged interference and possible collusion between Moscow and Trump’s election campaign. Russia denies it meddled and Trump dismissed the allegations of collusion as a political witch hunt.

Naryshkin’s visit coincided with other serious disputes in U.S.-Russian relations. They include Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea and its interference in Ukraine and Russia’s military intervention on the government’s side in the Syrian civil war.

Washington and Moscow cooperate in some areas, including the fight against Islamic militant groups, officials said.

For example, a month ago the United States provided advance warning to Russia that allowed it to thwart a terrorist plot in St. Petersburg, the White House said.

Naryshkin, who was appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin to head the SVR in September 2016, was sanctioned by the Obama administration in March 2014 as part of the U.S. response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. At the time, he was speaker of the lower house of the Russian parliament.

He was banned from entering the United States, but sanctions experts said there are processes for providing people under sanction permission to enter for official business. Meetings between foreign intelligence chiefs, even from rival nations, mostly are kept secret but are not unusual.


Virtual reality, neural feedback and digital therapy were among five ideas to help solve the U.S. opioid crisis that won a global technology challenge on Tuesday.

Winners were selected from hundreds of ideas submitted by researchers, caregivers, service providers and individuals from Ohio, other states and nine countries. The winning entrants will receive $10,000 each to take their ideas to the next phase.

The $8 million Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge was modeled after the Head Health competition launched by the National Football League, Under Armour and General Electric to address traumatic brain injuries suffered playing football. It’s part of a two-pronged strategy Ohio is pursuing to fight the deadly epidemic tied to prescription painkillers; the state has also awarded $10 million in research-and-development grants.

Besides the top prizes awarded to ideas with the highest likelihood of success, 40 runners-up — 20 laypeople and 20 technical professionals or experts — will be entered into a drawing to win $500 cash prizes.

The efforts, spearheaded by Republican Governor John Kasich, came in a state among the hardest hit by the deadly opioid epidemic. There were 4,050 overdose deaths in Ohio in 2016, many linked to heroin and synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

The winners were:

— Judson Brewer (Worcester, Massachusetts): For a digital therapy centered on the psychological theory of mindfulness, which will extend ideas contained in his nationally known Craving to Quit program to opioid addiction.

— Kinametechs LLC (Cincinnati, Ohio): For an augmented reality-based interactive coaching system resembling glasses proposed by Yong Pei and the Kinametechs team that would use motion tracking to customize a surgical patient’s physical rehabilitation routine once he arrives home from the hospital, reducing demand for opioid painkillers. “It’s like an expert sitting right in the glasses,” Pei said in an interview.

— Lee Barrus (Oren, Utah): For an opioid risk assessment screening app suggested by Barrus and the team at InteraSolutions to identify patients with risk factors for opioid abuse. The idea is to enable medical professionals to flag at-risk patients earlier and direct them to alternatives to opioids for fighting pain.

— The Edification Project (Boston, Massachusetts): For a use of virtual reality technology focused on preventing addiction in teens and young adults, framing attitudes early to prevent opioid abuse.

— The University of Dayton Research Institute (Dayton, Ohio): For a neurofeedback application developed by software engineer Kelly Cashion that uses sensors to provide real-time information to patients about their brain activity, allowing them to take back control by better understanding the effects of addiction on their brains. “Some people like to play video games, or look at the sunrise. By making them do these other tasks, anything to help them distract, and by constantly measuring it, you can see what works, reinforcing it and taking back control,” said Nilesh Powar, a senior research engineer who worked with Cashion on the project.

The second stage of the challenge begins in late February and runs through July. It will seek expertise from within the business and innovation community to help advance winning ideas into solutions. The third phase will fund the most promising ideas into products for use in the marketplace.


Президент України Петро Порошенко обговорив із міністром закордонних справ і міжнародної співпраці Італії, чинним головою ОБСЄ Анджеліно Альфано ситуацію з правами людини в анексованому Росією Криму.

Як повідомляє прес-служба президента України, Порошенко і Альфано зустрілися 30 січня в Києві.

«Голова української держави привітав Італію з початком головування в ОБСЄ і подякував за внесення питання про врегулювання ситуації на Донбасі до пріоритетів їхньої роботи. Окремо увагу привернули до подальшого погіршення ситуації з правами людини на території окупованого Криму», – йдеться в повідомленні прес-служби президента. Подробиць у повідомленні не наведено.

Водночас міністр закордонних справ України Павло Клімкін під час зустрічі з Альфано висловив сподівання, що Італія продовжить тиск на Росію з метою звільнення українських політичних в’язнів і заручників.

23 січня Парламентська асамблея Ради Європи ухвалила резолюцію, в якій закликала Росію гарантувати повагу прав людини і безпеку всіх людей, що живуть в анексованому Криму, зняти заборону на Меджліс кримськотатарського народу і заборону на в’їзд кримськотатарським лідерам, звільнити всіх українських в’язнів, гарантувати доступ міжнародним організаціям у Крим.

Перед цим міжнародна правозахисна організація Human Rights Watch у своєму звіті про стан з правами людини в світі заявила, що в анексованому Криму російська влада «переслідує проукраїнських активістів і кримськотатарську громаду за їх мирну протидію окупації півострова». Правозахисники закликали Росію припинити таку практику.

Протягом 2018 року в ОБСЄ головує Італія, організацію очолив міністр закордонних справ цієї країни Анджеліно Альфано.


Міністр закордонних справ України Павло Клімкін запропонував створити українсько-італійську слідчу групу для розслідування справи заарештованого в Італії військовослужбовця Національної гвардії України Віталія Марківа.

За словами Клімкіна, на час слідства він не має права розголошувати його деталі.

«Я впевнений, що юридично буде доведена стовідсоткова невинуватість Марківа. Звичайно, ми намагаємось надати слідству всю необхідну допомогу, в тому числі юридичну. По-друге, ми вважаємо, і ми до цього готові, що це розслідування має здійснюватися спільно. Ми надаємо всі необхідні данні і доказ», – сказав міністр 30 січня після зустрічі з італійським колегою Анджеліно Альфано.

Альфано підтримав ініціативу Клімкіна. «Я думаю, що в інтересах усіх шукати правду, і я повністю упевнений, що судові органи Італії приймуть Україну в розслідування, і це буде двосторонній розгляд справи. І буде група слідчих з обох країн», – сказав італійський міністр.

30 червня 2017 року в Італії затримали українського військовослужбовця Марківа за підозрою в убивстві італійського фотожурналіста Андреа Роккеллі поблизу міста Слов’янська Донецької області в травні 2014 року. Українець перебуває в італійському місті Павіа. За даними Генпрокуратури України, Марків має, крім українського, також італійське громадянство.

За даними українського слідства, загибель Андреа Роккеллі та його колеги сталася внаслідок артобстрілу з боку підтримуваних Росією бойовиків. Заступник генерального прокурора України Євген Єнін заявив, що італійський фотожурналіст був убитий, коли перебував на непідконтрольній українській владі на той момент території між позиціями збройних формувань і угруповань бойовиків. При цьому він відвідав «сіру зону» без погодження з офіційною владою України. Заступник генпрокурора розповів, що українське слідство не встановило осіб, які могли б бути причетні до загибелі Роккеллі. При цьому українська сторона не отримувала від італійських правоохоронців клопотань про міжнародну правову допомогу в справі про вбивство Роккеллі.

Генеральна прокуратура також не отримувала запитів від італійської сторони на проведення слідчих дій на території України. Адвокат Марківа запропонував прокурорам і представникам італійської поліції разом поїхати в Україну для проведення серії експертиз на горі Карачун Донецької області.

16 листопада Арсен Аваков звернувся до міністра закордонних справ Італії Анджеліно Альфано з листом у зв’язку з відхиленням клопотання Марківа із закликом звернути увагу на справу, щоб уникнути спекуляцій.

 


Зустріч керівників МЗС країн «нормандської четвірки» запланована на 16 лютого у Мюнхені під час роботи міжнародної безпекової конференції, повідомив міністр закордонних справ України Павло Клімкін після зустрічі з італійським колегою Анджеліно Альфано.

За словами Клімкіна, на зустрічі сторони, зокрема, мають обговорити питання, пов’язані з гуманітарними проблемами на окупованій частині Донбасу і звільненням українських заручників.

«Під час цієї зустрічі – якщо, звісно, Росія на неї погодиться – я буду концентрувати увагу саме на питаннях безпеки, звільнення наших заручників і політичних в’язнів, а також доведенню до Росії думки, що не існує жодної альтернативи реальній миротворчій місії на території окупованого Донбасу», – наголосив Кілмкін.

«Нормандським» називають створений іще 2014 року формат переговорів про врегулювання на окупованій частині сходу України у складі представників чотирьох держав: України, Росії, Німеччини і Франції.


The annual Washington Auto Show is not the biggest or the most important convention of the year, but it still attracts a lot of attention, from enthusiasts and potential customers to automotive industry professionals.  Self-driving cars are still some time off, so the focus this year continues to be on fuel efficiency. VOA’s George Putic has more.


The controversy over information gathered from GPS-enabled fitness devices and published online – in some cases highlighting possible activity at U.S. military bases in places like Syria and Afghanistan – could be just the start of an ever-growing problem in a world where more people and devices are connected to the internet.

Already, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has ordered a review of security protocols following concerns that a so-called Heatmap published by the fitness app company Strava showed locations and movement patterns of troops serving overseas.

“We take matters like these very seriously and are reviewing the situation to determine if any additional training or guidance is required,” the Pentagon said in a statement Monday.

“Recent data releases emphasize the need for situational awareness when members of the military share personal information,” the statement continued, further noting that annual training for all military personnel, “recommends limiting public profiles on the internet, including personal social media accounts.”

Yet the concern about the impact is not new. 

“Digital dust”

Numerous sensitive U.S. military and intelligence offices and installations ban the use of so-called smart devices on their premises, including smart phones and the GPS-enabled fitness trackers from companies like Fitbit, Garmin and Polar, which helped Strava create its global Heatmap, highlighting the most popular routes for walking, running and biking this past February.

And U.S. intelligence officials have been warning for years about the impact of what they call “digital dust,” information that by itself seems to have little relevance and that users have posted to social media.

The U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center cautions member of the U.S. intelligence community they could be targeted by adversaries who have, “Collected information on you from social media postings.” 

And a pamphlet from the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence warns employees to, “Maintain direct positive control of, or leave at home, electronic devices during travel, especially when traveling out of the U.S.”

Still, the potential consequences of sharing information with a fitness tracking app seemed to have escaped notice until Nathan Russer, a student at the Australian National University in Canberra, tweeted about the Strava Heatmap this past Saturday.

It was not just the United States, though. Russer also identified the routes of Turkish forces and Russian activity in Syria, as well.

Strava says it excluded activities that users marked as private or ones that took place in areas people did not want to make public. Even so, the map included 1 billion activities between 2015 and September 2017.

And in places like Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, where activities show up bright against otherwise dark terrain, combining the Strava data with information from other maps available online could have far reaching consequences.

“This is pattern analysis,” according to Michael Pregent, a former U.S. intelligence officer now with the Hudson Institute. “This [Strava] map is a tool that most intelligence analysts seek out.”

And, it is a tool that can be exploited by a wide range of actors.

“This allows an enemy to pinpoint their fire,” Pregent said, noting this type of information could have been used to great effect by Shia militias who had been targeting U.S. bases during the Iraq War.

Now, he said, it could guide new attacks by the Taliban or even the Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan.

“Several of the [Strava] graphics are our bases in Afghanistan and you can see the most trafficked areas,” he said.

So far, there is no evidence that groups like the Taliban, IS or al-Qaida have managed to make use of the type of information provided in the Strava Heatmap. Still, the possibility has gotten their attention.

“All I’ve seen is Jihadi groups sharing the Strava news, consuming it just like us,” Raphael Gluck, an independent researcher, told VOA. “Maybe there’s some wishful thinking on their part, but so far [I’ve] not seen anyone talking further than that.” 

And the information may only be so useful to an untrained eye.

Interpreting the data

“The map alone is sometimes inadequate to provide useful analysis,” Aric Toler, a lead researcher for the investigative journalism website Bellingcat wrote on his blog. 

Toler told VOA activity in Strava can be falsified. For example, he found Strava activity in the Atlantic Ocean, south of Ghana – likely a spoof or an error. But he said in less obvious cases, without understanding the context, it can be difficult to know what the data means.

Still, he warned,”obvious that there can be danger in this.”

As for why it appears so many U.S. military personnel in war zones like Afghanistan and Syria allowed their devices to keep sending data to Strava, some experts say it’s just human nature.

“These aren’t necessarily the special operators out there killing ISIS or helping our partners on the ground,” said Hudson Pregent. “The majority of these forces are back at bases where they try to normalize life.” 

“We’ve seen everyone from police officers to members of the military, members of the foreign service — people in sensitive positions — oversharing online, whether it be Facebook or Twitter,” said Stratfor Threat Lens Senior Analyst Ben West. “I see this, the Strava map, as an extension of this.”

And Strava is just one of hundreds of apps and devices that make it easy to expose this vulnerability.

“Wherever these things are located and are operating, they are collecting information on our daily routines which can be used to anticipate our behavior and bad guys can exploit that,” West said. 

 

 


Amazon.com on Monday opened a rainforest-like office space in Seattle that it hopes will spark new ideas for employees.

While cities across North America are seeking to host Seattle-based Amazon’s second headquarters, the world’s largest online retailer is still expanding its main campus. Company office towers and high-end eateries have taken the place of warehouses and parking lots in Seattle’s South Lake Union district. The Spheres complex, officially open to workers Tuesday, is the pinnacle of a decade of development here.

The Spheres’ three glass domes house some 40,000 plants of 400 species. Amazon, famous for its demanding work culture, hopes the Spheres’ lush environs will let employees reflect and have chance encounters, spawning new products or plans.

The space is more like a greenhouse than a typical office. Instead of enclosed conference rooms or desks, there are walkways and unconventional meeting spaces with chairs.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s billionaire founder, officially opened the project in a ceremony with Amazon executives, elected officials and members of the media — by voice command.

“Alexa, open the Spheres,” Bezos said, as a circle in the Spheres’ ceiling turned blue just like Amazon’s speech-controlled devices, whose voice assistant is named Alexa.

Amazon has invested $3.7 billion on buildings and infrastructure in Seattle from 2010 to summer 2017, a figure that has public officials competing for its “HQ2” salivating. Amazon has said it expects to invest more than $5 billion in construction of HQ2 and to create as many as 50,000 jobs.

“We wanted to create something really special, something iconic for our campus and for the city of Seattle,” said John Schoettler, Amazon’s vice president of global real estate and facilities.

Earlier this month, the online retailer narrowed 238 applications for its second headquarters to 20. The finalists, from Boston and New York to Austin, Texas, largely fit the bill of being big metropolises that can attract highly educated tech talent.

Amazon started the frenzied HQ2 contest last summer and plans to pick a winner later this year.

At the Spheres’ opening, Governor Jay Inslee said the project now ranked along with Seattle’s Space Needle as icons of Washington State.

The Spheres, designed by architecture firm NBBJ, will become part of Amazon’s guided campus tours. Members of the public can also visit an exhibit at the Spheres by appointment starting Tuesday.


U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade chief on Monday dismissed Canadian proposals for unblocking NAFTA modernization talks but pledged to stay at the table, easing concerns about a potentially imminent U.S. withdrawal from the trilateral pact.

Trump, who described the 1994 pact as a disaster that has drained manufacturing jobs to Mexico, has frequently threatened abandon it unless it can be renegotiated to bring back jobs to the United States.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said after a sixth round of NAFTA modernization talks in Montreal that Trump’s views on the pact are unchanged, and cautioned that talks are still moving too slowly on U.S. priorities.

“We finally began to discuss the core issues, so this round was a step forward,” Lighthizer said. “But we are progressing very slowly. We owe it to our citizens, who are operating in a state of uncertainty, to move much faster.”

But Lighthizer’s Mexican and Canadian counterparts said that enough progress was made in Montreal to be optimistic about concluding the pact “soon,” with nine days of talks in Mexico City scheduled to start Feb. 26.

“For the next round, we will still have substantial challenges to overcome. Yet the progress made so far puts us on the right track to create landing zones to conclude the negotiation soon,” said Mexico’s Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo.

Officials are now openly speculating that the bid to salvage the $1.2-trillion free trade pact will continue well beyond an end-March deadline set to avoid Mexican presidential elections.

Canadian proposals dismissed

Heading into Montreal last week, some officials had feared the United States might be prepared to pull the plug on the pact amid frustration over slow progress.

The mood lightened after Canada presented a series of suggested compromises to address U.S. demands for reform.

But Lighthizer criticized Canadian proposals to meet U.S. demands for higher North American content in autos, saying it would in fact reduce regional autos jobs and allow more Chinese-made parts into vehicles made in the region.

He also dismissed a suggestion on settling disputes between investors and member states as “unacceptable” and “a poison pill” and said a recent Canadian challenge against U.S. trade practices at the World Trade Organization “constitutes a massive attack on all of our trade laws.”

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, who stood stony faced as Lighthizer made his remarks, later told reporters that “the negotiating process is … always dramatic.”

A Canadian government source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, noted Lighthizer had not speculated about withdrawal and said the U.S. official had been more positive in private than during previous rounds.

Officials said the negotiating teams had closed a chapter on anti-corruption measures and were close to wrapping up sections on telecommunications, sanitary measures for the agriculture industry and technical barriers to trade.

Challenging demands

But the three sides are still far apart over U.S. demands to boost regional auto content requirements to 85 percent from the current 62.5 percent and require 50 percent U.S. content in North American-built vehicles.

Other challenges are Washington’s demands that NAFTA largely eliminate trade and investment dispute-settlement systems and contain a “sunset” clause to force renegotiations every five years.

Critical comments by Trump, Lighthizer and others have unsettled markets that fret about the potential damage to a highly integrated North American economy if the United States gives six months’ notice it is leaving.

The Mexican round next month is an extra set of talks that officials added to help tackle the many remaining challenges.

Negotiators are supposed to finish in Washington in March with the eighth and final round.

Although some officials have privately speculated about freezing the talks at the start of April, Guajardo told reporters that “we cannot afford to suspend this process.”


Brushing aside opposition from the Department of Justice, Republicans on the House intelligence committee voted Monday to release a classified memo that purports to show improper use of surveillance by the FBI and the Justice Department in the Russia investigation.

 

The memo has become a political flashpoint, with President Donald Trump and many Republicans pushing for its release and suggesting that some in the Justice Department and FBI have conspired against the president.

 

Privately, Trump has been fuming over the Justice Department’s opposition to releasing the memo, according to an administration official not authorized to discuss private conversations and speaking on condition of anonymity.

 

At the behest of Trump, White House chief of staff John Kelly and other White House officials have been in contact with Justice Department officials in the past week to convey the president’s displeasure with the department’s leadership on the issue specifically, the official said. In a series of calls last week, Kelly urged the Justice officials to do more within the bounds of the law to get the memo out, the official said.

 

In the hours before Monday’s vote, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders underscored the administration’s position, saying Trump favors “full transparency.”

 

Trump now has five days to decide whether he wants the information released. The panel could release the information five days after the vote if Trump doesn’t object.

 

Democrats are livid about the memo, which they say omits crucial facts and should not be selectively released. They have pushed back on Republican criticism of the FBI, saying it is an attempt to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether Trump’s campaign was involved. The probe has already resulted in charges against four of Trump’s former campaign advisers and has recently moved closer to Trump’s inner circle.

 

The top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, California Rep. Adam Schiff, said last week that Democrats on the panel had put together their own memo.

 

On Monday, the committee voted to make the Democratic memo available to all House members — but not the public. Texas Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas, who’s leading the House’s Russia investigation, said he was open to making it public after House members have a chance to review it.

 

While Trump’s White House signaled he would likely support the memo’s release, his Justice Department has voiced concerns. In a letter to House intelligence committee Chairman Devin Nunes last week, Justice officials said releasing the classified memo could be “extraordinarily reckless” and asked to review it.

 

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote Nunes that given the panel’s role in overseeing the nation’s intelligence community, “you well understand the damaging impact that the release of classified material could have on our national security and our ability to share and receive sensitive information from friendly foreign governments.”

 

Some senators have expressed concern about the release as well. But John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican and a member of that chamber’s intelligence committee, said last week that Nunes and the Justice Department need to work out their differences. On Sunday, Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina both said they don’t think the memo should be released.

 

“No, I don’t want it released yet,” Graham said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I don’t. I want somebody who is without a political bias to come in and look at the allegations that I have seen.”

 

The fate of the memo is the latest flashpoint in the contentious relationship between Trump and the Justice Department.

 

Trump has frequently raged at the head of the department, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself from the Russia probe, a move the president believes led to the appointment of Mueller. Trump has bemoaned, both privately and publicly, that Sessions and his department have not shown him the “loyalty” that former attorneys general Eric Holder and Robert Kennedy showed their presidents.