A Washington Ritual: Reading John Podesta’s Stolen Emails

Poring through thousands of private, stolen emails from Hillary Clinton’s confidants has become a daily ritual in Washington.

The hacked emails — some mundane, others laced with intrigue about election strategy, snarky barbs, whining about salaries or perceived slights — provide an inside, real-time view of the insecurities, sniping and self-promotion that churn beneath the surface of a heated presidential campaign.

Yet it’s also uncharted territory fraught with ethical dilemmas: Should a private individual’s stolen correspondence be read? How does someone respond publicly when they’re the subject of a private email? Have the emails been altered?

Nearly every morning since Oct. 7, WikiLeaks has tweeted out an alert that it was publishing on its website another couple thousand messages stolen from the email accounts of John Podesta, chairman of Clinton’s presidential campaign. As of Tuesday, it had published more than 31,000 of Podesta’s emails dating to 2008. WikiLeaks appears on track to continue releasing batches of Podesta’s emails right up until Election Day.

The Podesta emails follow a string of notable illicit caches released during the 2016 election campaign, including thousands of messages stolen from the Democratic National Committee and former Secretary of State Colin Powell. The FBI has opened a criminal investigation into the DNC thefts, but U.S. intelligence agencies are firmly pointing to the Russian government.

Donald Trump says he doubts the Russians are behind the cyberattacks. For weeks the Republican nominee has highlighted the contents of the hacked emails on Twitter and in his speeches, as his campaign issues multiple news releases a day.

Despite Trump’s bombast, no bombshell revelation has emerged to significantly alter the presidential race or prompt calls for the Democratic nominee to drop out — as happened with Trump following the leak of a decade-old video of him vulgarly bragging about groping women.

In a few instances, the messages have actually undercut Trump’s talking points. Rather than the well-oiled, octopus-tentacled cartel of international conspiracy painted by Trump, the Clinton Foundation in Podesta’s emails is riven by rumors, funding woes and internal feuds — among them a bitter rift between the candidate’s daughter, Chelsea Clinton, and a former aide of her father, former President Bill Clinton.

While the leaks do underscore the coziness between the Clintons and well-heeled donors, Trump’s reliance on the hacked emails has given even some in his own party pause, especially as he has continued to express admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“As our intelligence agencies have said, these leaks are an effort by a foreign government to interfere with our electoral process, and I will not indulge it,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who backs Trump, said recently in an interview with ABC News. “Further, I want to warn my fellow Republicans who may want to capitalize politically on these leaks: Today it is the Democrats. Tomorrow it could be us.”

The releases from WikiLeaks put journalists in the uncomfortable position of receiving and reviewing stolen property for its potential news value. There has undisputedly been some real news to emerge, such as Clinton’s secret Wall Street speech transcripts.

Emails obtained through public records requests or other official means often contain redactions, but not the WikiLeaks emails. They contain personal financial details, medical information, phone numbers and even an account of purported suicide threats made by a key staffer at the Clinton family foundation.

Still, media ethicists say, news organizations have little choice but to wade through the daily email dumps looking for news.

“Journalists must ask themselves, ‘To whom do you owe your primary loyalty?’ The answer is your audience, the American public,” said Kelly McBride, a media ethicist at the Poynter Institute, a journalism education foundation in St. Petersburg, Florida. “Ignore the emails and you fail to serve the American public, and play into the hands of the manipulative, destructive narrative that the media is on Hillary’s side.”

The stolen emails do provide an unvarnished and sometimes profane glimpse of the inner workings of a campaign that has a reputation for being guarded.

In a 2015 exchange with Podesta, liberal operative Neera Tanden wrote of Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig, “I f(asterisk)(asterisk)king hate that guy,” calling him a “smug,” ”pompous,” loathsome man whom a reasonable person might wish “to kick the s(asterisk)(asterisk)t out of on Twitter.”

Lessig, an advocate of campaign finance reform who launched a modest protest campaign for president, wrote on his blog that he got off an airliner after a flight to visit his father to find his email inbox flooded with messages about the hacked exchange.

“I can’t for the life of me see the public good in a leak like this — at least one that reveals no crime or violation of any important public policy,” Lessig wrote. “We all deserve privacy. The burdens of public service are insane enough without the perpetual threat that every thought shared with a friend becomes Twitter fodder.”


Associated Press writer Stephen Braun contributed to this story.


Follow AP writer Michael Biesecker at Twitter.com/mbieseck

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/washington-ritual-reading-john-podestas-stolen-emails-43052454

Apple’s Quarterly Sales Fall, but Forecast Calls for Gains

After stumbling in 2016, Apple is betting on a better year ahead.

The Silicon Valley tech giant is forecasting a return to growth in iPhone sales this winter, after a rare slump that dropped a wet blanket on Apple’s revenue and stock performance over the last three quarters.

The company is also set to unveil new Mac computers later this week, hoping to boost lagging interest in a set of products that are symbolically significant even if they’re less financially important to the company than the iPhone.

Apple has been struggling with shrinking demand for its signature products at a time when analysts say it’s increasingly difficult for tech companies to come up with dramatically new features. Many consumers are holding onto their old smartphones and PCs for longer, seeing little reason to buy a new model that’s only slightly better.

One consequence: Apple sold 45.5 million iPhones in the quarter that ended in September. That was slightly more than the 45 million that Wall Street expected, but still 5 percent fewer than the 48 million iPhones it sold in the same period a year earlier.


Still, analysts say consumers are showing renewed interest in Apple’s latest iPhone models. Based on early sales, Apple Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri told The Associated Press, “We feel very good about the momentum of the 7 and 7 Plus.”

The 7 and 7 Plus models aren’t a radical change from the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, which were wildly popular when they were introduced two years ago. But analyst Patrick Moorhead said the new phones have enough improvements, including new camera systems, longer battery life and water resistance, to fare better than last year’s lackluster 6S and 6S Plus.

Apple could also benefit because many iPhone 6 owners may be ready to replace their two-year-old phones.

The company only started selling the new iPhone 7 models last month, which means it had less than two weeks of sales in the quarter. But Apple’s revenue forecast calls for sales of $76 billion to $78 billion in the December quarter. That’s higher than the Wall Street estimate, which was just under $75 billion.

Apple’s forecast also represents a modest increase over the $75.8 billion in sales that Apple reported for the December quarter last year, and it suggests the company expects to beat last year’s record of 74.8 million iPhones sold in that period, which is traditionally Apple’s biggest quarter for sales.

Maestri wouldn’t comment on how many iPhones Apple expects to sell in December quarter, but Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster estimated the company’s revenue forecast suggests it will sell 78.5 million iPhones.


Apple shares closed Tuesday at $118.25, but fell two percent in late trading. The stock had been gaining in recent weeks after wallowing below $100 for much of the spring and summer.

Reporting on its fiscal fourth quarter, which ended Sept. 24, Apple said revenue declined 9 percent to $46.8 billion, while profit fell 19 percent to $9 billion profit. Earnings amounted to $1.67 a share, compared with Wall Street estimates of $1.66 a share on revenue of $47 billion.

Apple ended its fiscal year with annual sales of $215.6 billion and profit of $45.7 billion. Most companies would be thrilled with those numbers. But some analysts warn Apple relies too heavily on a single product line, the iPhone, which contributed nearly two thirds of Apple’s revenue.

“Management hasn’t diversified the revenue stream,” said BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis, who noted that Apple faces a host of competitors in a global smartphone market that’s seeing slower growth overall. “Counting phones is a horrible way to live and die every quarter.”


Some of Apple’s growth in coming months may come at the expense of its biggest rival. South Korea’s Samsung was forced this month to recall its entire output of Galaxy Note 7 smartphones, which it introduced this fall to compete with Apple’s newest iPhones. As consumers look for alternatives, analysts say that could boost iPhone unit sales by 5 million or more in the coming year.

Apple had its own setbacks this year, though on a lesser scale. While notoriously tight-lipped about future plans, Apple is widely believed to be working on new products in areas like virtual reality and self-driving cars. But the company recently shifted gears on its automotive ambitions, deciding to focus on creating technology for autonomous vehicles, rather than take on the more daunting task of building an entirely new car. According to news reports, the shift led Apple to cut jobs and trim its auto division.


Another new product, the Apple Watch, has drawn lukewarm consumer interest since it launched in 2015. Apple doesn’t break out watch sales figures, but market researchers at IDC estimate the company shipped 1.1 million units in the last quarter. While that’s still more than any other smartwatch maker, it’s down significantly from IDC’s estimate that Apple shipped 3.9 million watches a year earlier.

Revenue in Apple’s “Other Products” category, which includes the Apple Watch and the iPod music player, fell 22 percent to $2.4 billion in the July-September quarter. Apple recently updated the watch and Maestri said he expects strong sales in coming months.

Apple’s also hoping to reverse a yearlong decline in sales of its Mac computers — its original product line — by unveiling updated Macbook and desktop iMacs later this week. Apple sold 4.9 million Macs in the three months ending Sept. 24, down 14 percent from a year earlier.

As in other recent quarters, Apple continued to show strength in its “Services” business, which includes iTunes, the App Store, Apple Pay and other digital services. Apple said revenue in that category rose 24 percent to $6.3 billion in the quarter.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/apples-quarterly-sales-fall-forecast-calls-gains-43054533

Google Fiber Halts Expansion Plans as Chief Steps Down

Google’s parent company is halting operations and laying off staff in a number of cities where it once hoped to bring high-speed internet access by installing new fiber-optic networks.

The company also announced that Craig Barratt, a veteran tech executive who led the ambitious — and expensive — Google Fiber program, is stepping down as CEO of Access, the division of Google corporate parent, Alphabet Inc., that operates the 5-year-old program.

In a statement, Barratt said Google Fiber will continue to provide service in a handful of cities where it’s already operating, including Atlanta; Austin, Texas; and Charlotte, North Carolina.

But it will put further plans on hold in at least eight more metropolitan areas where it’s been holding exploratory talks with local officials. Those include Dallas; Tampa and Jacksonville, Florida; Los Angeles; Oklahoma City; Phoenix; Portland, Oregon; and San Jose, California.

Barratt didn’t say how many jobs will be cut. His statement described the Access business as “solid,” but said it would make “changes to focus our business and product strategy” and incorporate new technology.

A recent report by tech news site The Information said the business was under pressure by Alphabet CEO Larry Page to cut costs after failing to meet financial goals, including a target of signing up 5 million subscribers.

Barratt said he’ll continue to serve as an adviser to Page.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/google-fiber-halts-expansion-plans-chief-steps-43058403

Court: US Agency Acted Reasonably to Protect Seals

An appeals court panel on Monday ruled that a federal agency acted reasonably in proposing to list a certain population of bearded seals threatened by sea ice loss.

The decision by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco reverses a lower court ruling that found the decision by the National Marine Fisheries Service was improper.

At issue was whether the fisheries service can protect species as threatened under the Endangered Species Act when it determines that a currently non-endangered species will lose habitat due to climate change in coming decades.

In 2014, a federal judge in Alaska found there was no discernible, quantified threat of extinction within the foreseeable future for the seals and determined the listing decision was arbitrary.

But the appeals court panel ruling issued Monday said the fisheries service relied on the best available scientific data and seriously considered the comments it received. The panel’s opinion also noted a high bar for overturning an agency action.

The service’s listing decision was challenged by the Alaska Oil and Gas Association and others, who argued, among other things, that the seal population appeared to be healthy and the service’s use of climate projections beyond 2050 were speculative.

Joshua Kindred, environmental counsel for the oil and gas association, cited concern with the level of research that contributed to the service’s finding, saying there was a “failure to engage in that critical mass of scientific research.”

He said the ruling was still being reviewed and a decision on any further steps had not been made yet.

The appeals court panel also rejected the state of Alaska’s argument that the service failed to address several of its substantive comments, saying the record indicates otherwise.

The service “adopted the position of the overwhelming majority of the world’s climate scientists and rejected Alaska’s argument that climate projections are ‘hypotheses’ that are not linked to observable data and that cannot provide reasonable estimates of future climate change-related phenomena,” the decision, written by Judge Richard Paez, states.

Kristen Monsell, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, hailed the decision.

“This is a huge victory for bearded seals and shows the vital importance of the Endangered Species Act in protecting species threatened by climate change,” she said in a release.

In a statement, the service, also known as NOAA Fisheries, said it appreciated the court’s decision and would continue working with the state and interested parties to address threats to bearded seals and their habitat and to promote their conservation.


This story has been corrected to note the court decision refers to a certain population of bearded seals, not certain populations

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/court-us-agency-acted-protect-seals-43026795

Washington’s Version of Silicon Valley Startup Founders

The Obama administration’s “18F” program to create its own version of a high-tech startup for government digital projects has foundered since its launch in 2014, losing nearly $32 million as its staff spent most of its time on unbillable work, according to a new inspector general report published Monday.

The comparisons to some Silicon Valley startups were stark: Senior 18F managers overestimated the amount of money their projects would recoup; increased hiring using special rules every three months since April 2014; and devoted less than half the program’s staff time on projects for which it could bill other federal agencies, the report said. It noted the 18F program has “struggled financially” and “has not developed a viable plan to achieve full cost recovery.”

In one case, 18F hired a full-time head of state and local government practice at an annual salary of $152,780, even though at the time, 18F was not authorized to work directly for state and local governments.

The program, named after its Washington street address, was intended to create an elite branch of the General Services Administration with creative, tech-savvy employees who could quickly re-engineer any government agency’s website or improve other digital projects. At a time when federal departments were cutting budgets, it was funded under a model that envisioned it would earn back more money than it cost to run. The 18F unit was informally related to the administration’s new U.S. Digital Service, which helps manage government technology projects.

In internal discussions, some senior 18F managers appeared cavalier about recouping costs, the report said.

It cited an exchange with the 18F director of operations, who told a GSA regional administrator, “To be frank, there are some of us that don’t give rip about the losses.” The administrator, identified as Andrew McMahon, responded, “Sure, in the end, I could care less.” McMahon declined to comment.

18F’s acting executive director, Dave Zvenyach, said in a statement that like any startup, 18F grew quickly and is learning how to scale. In his comments defending the organization’s work, Zvenyach cited examples that appeared hard to tangibly account for since they dealt with government practices and culture.

Zvenyach said 18F has worked on 250 projects with 37 federal government agencies — for example, helping the Treasury Department increase transparency on federal spending. He said the organization is working to address the report’s findings and has brought in an independent third party to review its financial processes and controls, and added more controls on unbillable work.

The 10-month investigation by the GSA’s inspector general found that 52 percent of 18F’s work was unbillable and included an internal project to change its logo by altering its font, alignment and background color. In all, 727 staff hours, or $140,104, were spent on developing the brand, including that logo change.

Staff spent 13,989 hours, worth $2.34 million, promoting their work through blog posts, websites, social media and speaking events.

The program also spent $235,950 on its internal timekeeping system. The report found that in half of 202 projects it reviewed, the staff frequently started work before the creation of a required agreement, which is supposed to ensure that taxpayers aren’t overcharged for work that could be more easily or cheaply provided by a private vendor and that the office is actually reimbursed for its work.

The report said 18F spent about 20 hours or $4,148 on two customized “bots” for Slack, an online messaging application. One of the automated programs would monitor users’ messages for the words “guys,” ”guyz” and “dudes,” which could have been perceived as being not inclusive for women. It prompted users to consider replacing those words with 21 options that included buds, compatriots, fellow humans, posse, team, mateys, persons of any kind, organic carbon-based life-forms living on the third planet from the sun, comrades and cats.


Follow Tami Abdollah at https://twitter.com/latams.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/washingtons-version-silicon-valley-startup-founders-43028811

How Your Internet-Enabled Device Could Be Hijacked for Cyber-Attacks

Your internet-linked baby monitor may be participating in a major cyber-attack, and you don’t even know it.

While experts have been warning for some time that the proliferation of devices that make up the Internet of Things (IoT) — like web-connected baby monitors, cars, smart speakers, DVRs and even cars — posed a new threat in cyberspace, a major cyber-attack on Friday has given new impetus to calls to bolster the security of the devices, which are more popular than ever.

For several hours on Friday, a number of marquee internet brands, including Twitter, Reddit and Spotify, were rendered inaccessible by what security professionals believe is a newly emerging kind of cyber-attack that employs an army of infected home devices that can be used by cyber-criminals to launch attacks on the internet.

“Before Friday, there might have been a debate about whether or not IoT security is important,” Neil Daswani, Chief Information Security Officer at LifeLock, told ABC News today at a National Cyber Security Alliance conference that was dedicated to the issue.

“But after Friday, it’s pretty clear — we need to focus on IoT security now,” Daswani said.

Officials at Dyn, the company that came under attack at least twice on Friday, said that they believe cyber-criminals used malicious software called “Mirai” to attack the company’s servers, which were providing a service that helped consumers’ browsers connect to the popular sites.

Mirai, according to security experts, is used by cyber-criminals to infect devices with malicious code in order to build and control “botnets” — armies of infected devices, which can be instructed by the criminals to launch attacks on targets of their choosing.

Upon instruction, each device — which to the casual observer may appear to be working normally — begins sending seemingly innocuous requests to a target.

While each device’s request would otherwise be insignificant, when large botnets — made up of thousands or even millions of devices — begin making simultaneous requests, it can overwhelm the target in what is called a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.

Nick Weaver, a senior researcher at the International Computer Science Institute at University of California, Berkeley, explained it with a metaphor.

“Suppose you’re a company with a bank of 50 phones, and somebody instructs 10,000 devices to all dial your phone number at the same time,” Weaver told ABC News. “It just overwhelms with traffic.”

While DDoS attacks are nothing new, the attacks on Friday mark the first time a headline-grabbing attack was perpetrated using botnets made up of internet-connected “things,” rather than computers.

Attacks like the one on Friday could just be the beginning, experts say.

Growing Threat

A report from market research firm Gartner at the end of 2015 forecast that 6.4 billion “connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016,” which marks a 30 percent jump from 2015. Looking ahead to 2020, the firm estimates there could be as many as 20.8 billion devices hooked up to the internet.

“You’ve got this whole new vector — whole new way of attacking,” Eric Hodge, director of consulting at IDT911, a cyber-security consulting firm, told ABC News at today’s conference. “You can use these devices that are almost completely unsecured … and turn those into something that can anonymously attack.”

Writing on his website on Oct. 1, respected cyber-security expert Brian Krebs reported that the code for Mirai had be released onto the web by a pseudo-anonymous hacker for anyone to use, “virtually guaranteeing that the Internet will soon be flooded with attacks from any new botnets powered by insecure routers, IP cameras, digital video recorders and other easily hackable devices.”

With all of these unsecure devices hitting the market, the ability to launch new, larger attacks is showing up.

While the size of the data stream that was used in the attacks on Friday hasn’t been officially released, Andy Ellis, Chief Security Officer for Akamai Technologies, told ABC News that “we’re in this new era of attacks where the terabit attack shows up.”

He explained that five or 10 years ago, professionals worried about “gigabit attacks.” Today, they worry about attacks that are one thousand times larger.

‘Market Failure’

But despite the threat, security experts seem to be pessimistic about the chances that anything will be fixed in the short term.

“I’m skeptical that [a solution] is going to arise organically,” Ellis said in a phone interview. “When you look at the economics of it, the people who pay the cost to get the IoT into service or into production — the manufacturer, the purchaser, and their internet service provider — that’s very different than those that pay the costs of weak security in IoT, which is the targets of these attacks.”

“This is a case of market failure,” said Weaver, the expert at U.C. Berkeley. “The economic incentives in the current market actually favors insecure devices.”

In other words, because those who buy and make the insecure devices (consumers and manufacturers) do not bear the costs of lax security (as the companies on Friday did), there are no direct incentives to bolster security in IoT devices.

“You can think of it kind of like any environmental disaster,” Andrew Lee, CEO of cyber-security firm ESET North America, told ABC News at today’s conference. “There’s a lot of other people affected by something that probably should have been secured in the first place. You can have this sort of collateral damage that’s happened.”

In an essay entitled The Democratization of Censorship, about how cyber-attacks could be used to silence speech, Krebs writes that to solve the problem of proliferating unsecure internet devices, “we probably need an industry security association, with published standards that all members adhere to and are audited against periodically.”

He pointed to the certification that Underwriters Laboratories (UL) gave electronic devices, and said that “wholesalers and retailers of these devices might then be encouraged to shift their focus toward buying and promoting connected devices which have this industry security association seal of approval.”

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/internet-enabled-device-hijacked-launch-cyber-attacks/story?id=43020121

AT&T’s $85.4B Deal for Time Warner: A New Bet on Synergy

ATT’s $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner represents a new bet on synergy between companies that distribute information and entertainment to consumers and those that produce it.

The acquisition would combine a telecom giant that owns a leading cellphone business, DirecTV and an internet service with the company behind HBO, CNN, and some of the world’s most popular entertainment, including “Game of Thrones,” the “Harry Potter” franchise and professional basketball. It’s the latest big media acquisition by a major cable or phone company — such as Comcast’s 2011 purchase of NBC Universal — and aimed at shoring up businesses upended by the internet.

Regulators would have to sign off on the deal, no certain thing. The prospect of another media giant on the horizon has already drawn fire on the campaign trail. Speaking in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump vowed to kill it if elected because it concentrates too much “power in the hands of too few.”

Sen. Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, said the deal “raises some immediate flags about consolidation in the media market” and said he would press for more information on how the deal will affect consumers.


Network-owning companies like ATT are investing in media to find new revenue sources and ensure they don’t get relegated to being just “dumb pipes.” In addition to the Comcast-NBC Universal deal, Verizon bought AOL last year and has now proposed a deal for Yahoo to build a digital-ad business.

After its attempt to buy wireless competitor T-Mobile was scrapped in 2011 following opposition from regulators, ATT doubled down on television by purchasing satellite-TV company DirecTV for $48.5 billion. ATT is expected to offer a streaming TV package, DirecTV Now, by the end of the year, aimed at people who have dropped their cable subscriptions or never had one.

The venerable phone company has to contend with slowing growth in wireless services, given that most Americans already have smartphones. And it faces new competitors for that business from cable companies. Comcast plans to launch a cellphone service for its customers next year.

ATT CEO Randall Stephenson, who will run the combined company, said on a conference call that the deal will allow ATT to offer unique services, particularly on mobile, though he didn’t provide details. Jeff Bewkes, the Time Warner CEO who will stay with the company for an undefined transition period, added that more money will help fund production of additional programming and films.

Both men stressed that it will be easier to “innovate” when the companies are joined and don’t have to negotiate usage rights at arm’s length. (ATT, of course, will still have to strike such deals with entertainment conglomerates it doesn’t own.) The combined company is also likely to lean more heavily on advertisements targeted at individuals based on their interests and personal details.

Buying Time Warner may be “a good defensive move” against Comcast as the cable giant continues stretching into new businesses, New Street Research analyst Jonathan Chaplin said in a Friday note. Comcast also bought movie studio DreamWorks Animation in August.


Even if the ATT deal overcomes opposition in Washington, it’s possible that regulators might saddle the combined company with so many conditions that the deal no longer makes sense.

“It’s not hard to imagine what you can do on paper. They would keep HBO exclusive for only DirecTV subscribers, or only make TNT or TBS available over ATT Wireless,” said analyst Craig Moffett of research firm MoffettNathanson, referring to Time Warner networks. “But as a practical matter, those kinds of strategies are expressly prohibited by the FCC and antitrust law.”

Then there is the $85 billion that ATT is handing over to Time Warner, almost 40 percent more than investors thought the company was worth a week ago.

“Count me as a skeptic that there is real value to be created,” Moffett said.

Amy Yong, an analyst at Macquarie Capital, recalled many celebrated media deals of the past have turned into duds — in particular, Time Warner’s disastrous acquisition by AOL in 2001. “If you look at history, it’s still an unproven” that big deals make sense, she said. ATT, she noted, was paying “a huge price.”

Still, Yong said that ATT and other phone companies feel they have to act because the threats to their business seem to be coming from every direction. “At the end of the day, these companies are trying to compete with Google and Facebook and Amazon, not just traditional competitors,” she said. “You see Google pivoting into wireless.”

John Bergmayer of the public-interest group Public Knowledge, which often criticizes media consolidation, warned of harm to consumers from the ATT deal. He said, for example, ATT might let wireless customers watch TV and movies from Time Warner without counting it against their data caps, which would make video from other providers less attractive.


Shares of ATT, as is typical of acquirers in large deals, fell on reports of a deal in the works on Friday, ending the day down 3 percent. But the prospect of more media acquisitions sent several stocks soaring Friday. Netflix and Discovery Communications each jumped more than 3 percent.

Time Warner rose nearly 8 percent on Friday, and is now up 38 percent since the start of the year.

The company has moved aggressively to counter the threat that sliding cable subscriptions poses to its business. Among other things, it launched a streaming version of HBO for cord-cutters and, alongside an investment in internet TV provider Hulu, added its networks to Hulu’s live-TV service that’s expected next year.

The deal would make Time Warner the target of the two largest media-company acquisitions on record, according to Dealogic. The highest was AOL’s $94 billion acquisition of Time Warner at the end of the dot-com boom.

In that last deal, AOL paid entirely in its own stock, which then proceeded to crater. This time, Time Warner is playing it safer. It’s getting half of the deal in ATT stock and half in cash.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/atts-854b-deal-time-warner-bet-synergy-42994358

Space Station Accepts 1st Virginia Delivery in 2 Years

The International Space Station received its first shipment from Virginia in more than two years Sunday following a sensational nighttime launch observed 250 miles up and down the East Coast.

Orbital ATK’s cargo ship pulled up at the space station bearing 5,000 pounds of food, equipment and research.

“What a beautiful vehicle,” said Japanese astronaut Takuya Onishi, who used the station’s big robot arm to grab the vessel. The capture occurred as the spacecraft soared 250 miles above Kyrgyzstan; Onishi likened it to the last 195 meters of a marathon.

Last Monday’s liftoff from Wallops Island was the first by an Antares rocket since a 2014 launch explosion. Orbital ATK redesigned its Antares rocket and rebuilt the pad. While the Antares was grounded, Virginia-based Orbital ATK kept the NASA supply chain open with deliveries from Cape Canaveral, Florida, using another company’s rocket.

NASA is paying Orbital ATK and SpaceX to stock the station, but now SpaceX is grounded. The California company is investigating why one of its Falcon rockets exploded in a massive fireball during launch pad testing on Sept. 1.

Following liftoff, Orbital ATK’s Cygnus capsule orbited solo for twice the usual amount of time. NASA wanted the Cygnus — named after the swan constellation — to wait for three astronauts to launch from Kazakhstan. They arrived Friday, doubling the size of the crew. Besides Onishi, the crew includes two Americans and three Russians.

Helping Onishi with the Cygnus on Sunday morning was NASA astronaut Kate Rubins. Their four-month mission will end next weekend.

This particular Cygnus, meanwhile, is officially known as the S.S. Alan Poindexter. Orbital ATK named it after a former space shuttle commander who helped to build the station. He was killed in a jet ski accident in 2012.

Once the Cygnus is unloaded, it will be filled with trash and set loose to burn up in the atmosphere in mid-November.


Online: http://www.nasa.gov/mission—pages/station/main/index.html

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/space-station-accepts-1st-virginia-delivery-years-42996042

A Merged AT&T-Time Warner May Not Do Consumers Much Good

ATT and Time Warner are playing up how their $85.4 billion merger will lead to innovative new experiences for customers. But analysts, public-interest groups and some politicians are far from convinced.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said it should be killed. Tim Kaine, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, said less concentration in media “is generally helpful.” And the Republican chairman and Democratic ranking member of the Senate’s antitrust subcommittee said that the deal would “potentially raise significant antitrust issues.”

The potential harm to consumers from this deal could be subtle — far more so than if ATT were simply acquiring a direct competitor like a big wireless or home broadband company. Time Warner makes TV shows and movies; ATT gets that video to customers’ computers, phones and TVs. But the concern is that anything ATT might do to make its broadband service stand out by tying it to Time Warner’s programs and films could hurt consumers overall.


The company certainly wants to do that. “With great content we believe you can build a truly differentiated service,” said ATT CEO Randall Stephenson. “In particular, mobile.”

Here’s how that would work. Because of Time Warner’s world-famous shows and movies — “Game of Thrones,” the “Harry Potter” films, professional basketball — and ATT’s ability to gather information about its tens of millions of customers, ATT thinks it could do a better job tailoring ads and video to user preferences. It could then create more attractive subscription packages suited for phones, where people are increasingly watching video.

But many consumers already consider ads that know everything about them creepy or invasive, and digital-rights groups complain that any preferential deal ATT could offer with, say, HBO would hurt competition.

Say ATT reserved HBO for its customers only. That would cut HBO’s reach and hurt its value.

“This creates massive strategic tensions that are almost impossible to resolve,” wrote Jackdaw Research’s Jan Dawson in a note. ATT can either disadvantage Time Warner by restricting who can watch its stuff or limit benefits for its own customers so much that they barely rate attention, he suggested.


There’s another way ATT could favor its own media offerings. The company currently lets many of its wireless customers stream from the DirecTV app on their phones without counting it against their data caps, a practice known as “zero rating.” ATT has suggested it may also zero-rate its upcoming live-streaming DirecTV Now service, which doesn’t require customers to install a dish on their homes.

If ATT did that with, say, HBO shows and TNT’s basketball games, it could upset other video providers, who could reasonably worry that customers might shun their streaming services to avoid exceeding their monthly data limit and possibly suffering slower data speeds as a result.

The companies also say that relying more on targeted ads could help lower the cost of making appealing shows and films. Even if that’s the case, the savings might not get passed on to consumers.

Rich Greenfield, a BTIG analyst, noted there’s no evidence that Comcast’s 2011 acquisition of NBC led to lower prices. In fact, prices have been increasing broadly, although Greenfield said there’s no way to know whether the deal contributed to that trend.

“There may not be dramatic harm, but it’s certainly hard to find clear benefit,” Greenfield said.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/merged-att-time-warner-consumers-good-43003015

Major California River Adding Key Ingredient: Water

A decade ago, environmentalists and the federal government agreed to revive a 150-mile stretch of California’s second-longest river, an ambitious effort aimed at allowing salmon again to swim up to the Sierra Nevada foothills to spawn.

A major milestone is expected by the end of the month, when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation says the stretch of the San Joaquin River will be flowing year-round for the first time in more than 60 years.

But the goal of restoring native salmon remains far out of reach.

The original plan was to complete the task in 2012. Now, federal officials expect it will occur in 2022. And the government’s original estimate of $800 million has ballooned to about $1.7 billion.

“I think we all had hoped we’d be further along,” said Doug Obegi, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, which led the lawsuit that produced the deal with the government to bring back salmon. “Restoring the state’s second-largest river was never to be a cakewalk.”

James Nickel is among the farmers in the fertile San Joaquin Valley region around Fresno questioning whether the project should go forward.

California is enduring a fifth year of drought, and many farmers have experienced sharp curtailments in water allotments from the government, leaving some fields fallow.

Nickel, a fifth-generation farmer to work land along the river, doubts the wisdom of spending money on an intricate system of passages to get salmon around the river’s many dams and siphoning off more water from agriculture.

“Most practical folks would look at it and say, ‘Impossible,’” Nickel said. “It seemed like a waste.”

Scientists say salmon are a keystone species for the region. For thousands of years, salmon spawned and died, their decomposing bodies feeding nutrients into the valley soil, helping make it one of the nation’s most prosperous farming regions.

The San Joaquin River spans 366 miles and is among the state’s most dammed rivers. It starts as snowmelt high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, cascades down through granite canyons and fills a reservoir at Friant Dam east of Fresno.

A few miles below Friant, the river has been running dry for much of the year. At Mendota, a community about 40 miles west of Fresno, the river resumes flowing with the help of various tributaries and eventually feeds into San Francisco Bay.

Before the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation opened Friant Dam in 1949, the river teemed with up to a half-million salmon a year and was deep enough that paddleboats transporting cargo could navigate far into to the San Joaquin Valley.

The dam gave farmers irrigation water that dramatically expanded agriculture but ended the salmon migration.

The Natural Resources Defense Council in 1988 set out to revive the river, filing a lawsuit that claimed the government’s dam and irrigation channels favored commerce at the native salmon’s expense.

The battle ended in a 2006 settlement that requires farmers to give up roughly 18 percent of the water captured behind Friant Dam. It also set an aggressive schedule to bring back natural salmon runs by 2012.

“It was a longshot, to say the least, that everything would be executed on that timeline,” said Jason Phillips, who led early efforts by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to restore the river.

Today, he’s CEO of the Friant Water Authority, which provides water primarily from the dam to growers irrigating 1 million acres of farmland. He calls it an “open question” whether the San Joaquin can be revived as envisioned under the settlement.

He said water for farms has become even scarcer since the settlement was reached with tightening regulations. And forecasts of climate change’s impact on California’s water supply weren’t calculated into the deal, he said.

Adding complexity, officials say, in a 2012 attempt to flow the river, water seeped onto a farmer’s field, destroying his tomato crop, a broad issue that has plagued the project.

Construction has not yet begun on passages for migrating salmon to swim around two dams on a lower stretch of the river that distribute water to farmers. Design for one abruptly halted in 2013, when engineers found the ground was sinking at an alarming pace — the result of farmers pumping groundwater to irrigate.

Meantime, state wildlife officials are raising salmon in tanks on the riverbank in small numbers and trucking them past obstacles to spawn. Plans call for reviving a migration of roughly 40,000 a year once the obstacles are cleared, allowing salmon to swim on their own from the Pacific up to the base of Friant Dam.

Money is another question. The project is to be paid for through state and federal sources. Much of the federal funding, however, needs Congress’ approval each year, creating a degree of uncertainty, said Alicia Forsythe, current manager of the San Joaquin River Restoration Program for the Bureau of Reclamation.

Forsythe defended the project’s slow pace, saying officials have spent time collaborating with farmers along the river rather than simply forcing the project on them.

Rene Henery, California science director for Trout Unlimited, a party to the lawsuit, said the state lost sight of the river’s essential role in its rush to develop a vast system of dams, reservoirs and canals that spawned a thriving farm economy.

He noted other large government projects — bridges, airports and mass transit systems — often run over budget and past deadlines, but the benefits outweigh the costs in this restoration project.

The San Joaquin will help recharge the valley’s depleted groundwater supplies that have caused the land to sink and will open recreation opportunities, spurring their own economic vitality, he said.

Most importantly, he said, salmon will again migrate from the Pacific hundreds of miles inland forming a critical link between the land and sea.

“Water is the most important element for life on this planet,” Henery said. “Our rivers, they’re the vascular system of our landscape and of our societies.”

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/major-california-river-adding-key-ingredient-water-42987348