Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Google ‘faces record EU anti-trust fine’ — Google penalty could reach as much $9 billion, or ten percent of Google’s total revenue last year

June 16, 2017


© AFP/File | The European Commission launched an initial investigation into Google in 2010

BRUSSELS (AFP) – The EU’s powerful anti-trust regulator will decide a historic case against Google in the coming weeks that could see the Internet giant hit with a record fine, sources said on Friday.”We are heading towards a decision this summer,” one source close to the matter told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Led by hard-charging European Commission competition chief Margrethe Vestager, Google faces a massive penalty that could reach as much $9 billion, or ten percent of Google’s total revenue last year.

Brussels accuses Google of giving its own online shopping services top priority in search results to the detriment of other price comparison services.

The case is one of three against Google and of several against blockbuster US companies including Starbucks, Apple, Amazon and McDonalds.

The previous record for illegal monopoly practices is held by US firm Intel, which was fined 1.06 billion euros in 2009, about 3 percent of the company’s turnover.

“The commission’s radio silence in the past months means that it is approaching the decision,” another source close to the matter told AFP, who expected a hefty fine.

In August, Vestager shocked the world with a demand that Apple repay Ireland 13 billion euros in back taxes.

In the other cases, the EU is examining Google’s AdSense advertising service and its Android mobile phone software.

The potentially painful verdict against Google came after a long period in which the two sides tried unsuccessfully to settle the case amicably.

Instead, the cases have raised tensions between Brussels and Washington, which has accused the EU of unfairly targeting US giants.

The European Commission, which polices EU competition policy, launched an initial investigation into Google in 2010 following complaints from rivals such as Microsoft and Trip Advisor that it favoured its own shopping services when customers ran searches.

Claims that practices by Google Shopping harm competition “are wrong as a matter of fact, law, and economics,” Google’s general counsel Kent Walker wrote in his response to the EU last year.

Vestager’s predecessor, Joaquin Almunia, made three attempts to resolve the dispute but in each case intense pressure by national governments, rivals and privacy advocates scuppered the effort.

Facebook Boosts AI to Block Terrorist Propaganda

June 16, 2017

New software is tasked with identifying videos, photos, language and users that need to be removed, at times without human moderators.

The Facebook logo is displayed on their website in an illustration photo taken in Bordeaux, France, February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau


Updated June 15, 2017 3:57 p.m. ET

Under intense political pressure to better block terrorist propaganda on the internet, Facebook Inc. is leaning more on artificial intelligence.

The social-media firm said Thursday that it has expanded its use of A.I. in recent months to identify potential terrorist postings and accounts on its platform—and at times to delete or block them without review by a human.

In the past, Facebook and other tech giants relied mostly on users and human moderators to identify offensive content. Even when algorithms flagged content for removal, these firms generally turned to humans to make a final call.

Companies have sharply boosted the volume of content they have removed in the last two years, but these efforts haven’t proven effective enough to tamp down a groundswell of criticism from governments and advertisers. They have accused Facebook, Google parent Alphabet Inc. and others of complacency over the proliferation of inappropriate content — in particular, posts or videos deemed as extremist propaganda or communication — on their social networks.

In response, Facebook disclosed new software that it says it is using to better police its content. One tool, in use for several months now, combs the site for known terrorist imagery, like beheading videos, in order to stop them from being reposted, executives said Thursday. Another set of algorithms attempts to identify — and sometimes autonomously block — propagandists from opening new accounts after they have already been kicked off the platform. Another experimental tool uses A.I. that has been trained to identify language used by terrorist propagandists.

“When it comes to imagery related to terrorism, context is everything,” said Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management. “For us, technology is an important part of flagging it. People are invaluable in understanding that context.”

Facebook says that it sends all ambiguous removals to humans to review — and is hiring large numbers of new content moderators to go through it. But the firm’s new moves reflect a growing willingness to trust machines when it comes to thorny tasks like distinguishing inappropriate content from satire or news coverage — something firms resisted after a spate of attacks just two years ago as a potential threat to free speech.

One factor in the changed approach, executives say, has been the improved ability of algorithms to identify unambiguously terrorist content in some cases, while referring other content for human review.

“Our A.I. can know when it can make a definitive choice, and when it can’t make a definitive choice,” said Brian Fishman, lead policy manager for counterterrorism at Facebook. “That’s something new.”

Another factor in the fresh A.I. push: intense pressure from advertisers and governments, particularly in Europe. British Prime Minister Theresa May ratcheted up complaints this month in the wake of a series of deadly terror attacks in the U.K. Just days before a general election, meanwhile, the campaigns for both of Britain’s two main parties pulled political ads from Alphabet’s YouTube video-sharing site after being alerted those ads were appearing before extremist content.

Germany earlier this year proposed a bill that could fine firms up to EUR50 million ($56 million) for failing to remove fake news or hate speech — including terrorist content. The U.K. and France published a counterterrorism action plan this week that calls on tech giants to go beyond deleting content that is flagged, and instead identify it beforehand to prevent publication.

“There have been promises made. They are insufficient,” French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday.

Facebook has already rolled out software to identify other questionable content such as child pornography and fake news stories. Ahead of French and German elections this year, the company began tagging “disputed” stories when outside news organizations ruled them as false.

Social media firms including Facebook, Yahoo Inc. and Twitter Inc. are adamant that they want to stamp out terrorism on their platforms — and already do a lot to remove such content. Twitter says it is expanding its use of automated technology to combat terrorist content, too. From July through December last year, Twitter said internal tools flagged 74% of the 376,890 accounts it removed.

YouTube says it is collaborating with the other social media firms on a shared database of previously identified terrorist imagery, which allows the companies to more quickly identify posts that use them. But the company doesn’t use technology to screen new content for policy violations, saying computers lack the nuance to determine whether a previously uncategorized video is extremist.

“These are complicated and challenging problems, but we are committed to doing better and being part of a lasting solution,” a YouTube spokesman said.

(Jack Nicas contributed to this article.)

Uber Faces Deeper Turmoil at Top as CEO Travis Kalanick Weighs Leave of Absence

June 12, 2017

Top lieutenant Emil Michael also plans to resign as firm tries to weather investigation into workplace culture, federal probe and more


Updated June 12, 2017 2:40 a.m. ET

Uber Technologies Inc.’s leadership crisis intensified Sunday as the board of directors met to weigh issues including a possible leave of absence for Chief Executive Travis Kalanick and the potential departure of his closest lieutenant.

Sunday’s board meeting capped a difficult stretch for the ride-hailing company, which is trying to weather an investigation into its workplace culture, a lawsuit by Google parent Alphabet Inc. over…



SAN FRANCISCO — Facing accusations that Uber executives turned a blind eye to sexual harssment and other corporate misbehavior, the ride-hailing service’s board moved on Sunday to shake up the company’s leadership, ahead of the release this week of an investigation’s findings on its troubled culture.

Uber directors were weighing a three-month leave of absence for Travis Kalanick, the chief executive who built the start-up into a nearly $70 billion entity, according to three people with knowledge of the board’s agenda.

In addition, a representative for Uber’s board said the directors “unanimously voted” to adopt all of the recommendations made in a report by the former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr., who was retained to investigate the company’s culture. One of the recommendations included the departure of a top lieutenant to Mr. Kalanick, Emil Michael, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions were confidential.

The moves would scale back the involvement of Mr. Kalanick and strip him of an ally, a turnabout for a chief executive who had been hailed as an innovator and a role model. The changes would also further destabilize the leadership at Uber, which has upended the transportation industry worldwide, at a time when rivals are trying to capitalize on the company’s woes.

Mr. Kalanick, 40, proposed the idea of taking time off after a boating accident last month that killed his mother and sent his father to the hospital. Given those circumstances, Mr. Kalanick, who has worked nonstop since Uber’s founding in 2009, had told people he might need a break. Still, if he were to take leave, it could be perceived as a repudiation of the aggressiveness that he has brought to Uber.

Any reduction of his involvement in Uber — even if temporary — would be significant, given that he molded the ride-hailing service in his own brash image. Mr. Kalanick has faced particular scrutiny in recent months as Uber has worked to overcome scandals, including employees detailing sexual harassment and systematic attempts to evade law enforcement personnel in some cities.

The discussions by the nine-member board preceded a report from Mr. Holder’s investigation, scheduled to be released on Tuesday. In recent months, Uber has fired more than 20 employees for infractions including sexual harassment and discrimination.

“This starts at the very top,” said Micah Alpern, a principal at A. T. Kearney, a top management and consulting firm. “They need to start from scratch to create a new culture entirely.”

Uber declined to comment on the company discussions, which were held at the Los Angeles offices of Covington & Burling, the law firm where Mr. Holder works. Mr. Kalanick, through a spokesman, declined to comment. News of the discussions was previously reported by Reuters.

The internal drama at Uber has gripped the broader technology industry, as the ride-hailing company has come to symbolize how start-up culture can go awry. Yet even in Silicon Valley, where propriety can take a back seat to profits, the claims about Uber’s corporate culture have been startling, including widespread sexual harassment and the mishandling of the medical records of a woman raped by an Uber driver.

Uber’s current crisis stems from claims in February from a former engineer, Susan Fowler, that she had been routinely sexually harassed when she worked at the company and that the human resources department had done little to help her. An outpouring of other cases followed, and Uber retained at least two law firms — including Covington & Burling — to look into the matters.

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British Airways: Boss who outsourced 700 IT jobs to India may have to quit after computer failure hits 300,000 potential passengers — Airline could be liable for £150m compensation

May 29, 2017

No automatic alt text available.

  • BA boss Alex Cruz was blamed for IT meltdown that saw 1,000 flights disrupted 
  • Hundreds of skilled IT jobs at British Airways were outsourced to India last year 
  • Travellers queued out doors at Heathrow and Gatwick on Sunday to rebook trips 
  • Airline could be liable for £150m compensation – the largest ever such payment 

Alex Cruz (pictured) was appointed boss of British Airways last year

British Airways was accused of a ‘moronic’ cover-up last night after an IT meltdown brought misery to 300,000 passengers.

The systems failure caused mass flight cancellations over the weekend, ruining the half-term holiday plans of thousands of families and causing chaos at airports.

But the airline has kept travellers in the dark about its cause, denying a cyber attack and blaming only a ‘power failure’ at an undisclosed location.

Critics, however, blamed drastic cost-cutting – including a decision to axe 700 computer experts in the UK and contract out services to India.

There were calls last night for controversial BA chief executive Alex Cruz to resign amid condemnation of his ‘slash-and-burn’ approach to costs and service.

Yesterday, he sent a gagging email to staff in an unsuccessful attempt to stop them making public comments on the crisis. On a costly day for the airline:

  • There were chaotic scenes at Heathrow and Gatwick as families were forced to queue outside the terminal buildings;
  • Families condemned the ‘awful’ lack of communication from the airline;
  • Hotels near the airports were accused of cashing in on the crisis by hiking up their prices for desperate families;
  • BA’s compensation bill could reach a record £150 million;
  • MPs urged the airline to come clean about the cause of the IT failure;
  • Passengers were warned to brace themselves for further disruption this week.

Many families have lost their holidays, while others have been forced to sleep on the floor of Britain’s two biggest airports since the computer crash on Saturday.

Louise Wickham, who was travelling with her husband and two children, spoke for many. ‘There was no communication at all, it’s been a real shambles,’ she said.

While those without a booking were told not to come to the airports, that provided no relief for foreign passengers who found themselves stranded at the airport

While those without a booking were told not to come to the airports, that provided no relief for foreign passengers who found themselves stranded at the airport

Families who had dreamed of spending their bank holiday weekend away were instead left sleeping in a terminal building

Families who had dreamed of spending their bank holiday weekend away were instead left sleeping in a terminal building

‘We had no idea what was going on, there was no information, they just kept saying wait for the gate. We were trapped and kept against our will in conditions that were just awful.’ The airline and Mr Cruz have blamed the computer meltdown on a power failure. The vague explanation has been dismissed by aviation industry insiders as ‘moronic’. They said airlines made sure they survived power failures by using a system known as UPS – uninterruptible power supply. It means that if one mains power supply fails, the business switches automatically to a second supply.

Labour parliamentary candidate John Spellar called on BA and its boss to be honest with customers. ‘The failure to come clean on just where this problem occurred will fuel suspicions that it is linked to the decision to switch responsibility for computer systems to India,’ he said.

A letter, reportedly signed by a senior BA pilot, called on Mr Cruz to ‘take full responsibility for this calamitous day in BA’s history’. It adds: ‘Please stand aside and let the skilled staff of BA put some common sense back into our operation.’

Rival airline Ryanair poked fun at BA on Twitter by featuring an image from the BBC’s Little Britain comedy series with the caption ‘Computer says “No”.’

A 'power failure' with the airline's IT system at around 11am on Saturday caused all flights to be cancelled from both Gatwick and Heathrow (pictured on Sunday) for the rest of the day

A ‘power failure’ with the airline’s IT system at around 11am on Saturday caused all flights to be cancelled from both Gatwick and Heathrow (pictured on Sunday) for the rest of the day

At Gatwick (pictured) all scheduled flights departed on Sunday morning, though most were running with delays

At Gatwick (pictured) all scheduled flights departed on Sunday morning, though most were running with delays

Mr Cruz has refused to answer questions on the crisis. Instead he has been hiding behind video apologies issued on Twitter. Aviation workers, including BA staff, anonymously used a website called the Professional Pilots Rumour Network to vent their frustrations. Many were critical of Mr Cruz.

One wrote: ‘He is a slash-and-burn manager and his philosophy and aggressive cost-cutting has obviously been taken a step too far here and he has to go for the good of BA.’ Another said: ‘He is a rabid cost-cutter and frankly should be sacked.’

Industry analysts warned the computer failure will come with an enormous bill.

James Walker, chief executive of the Resolver claims website, said: ‘The average claim will be around £300. That’s £90 million – a monumental amount. But when you add in the cost of hotels the airline has to provide, the cost could top £150 million. It could be the biggest compensation payout ever.’

BA’s parent company IAG reported profits of £2.2 billion last year, and has said it expects an even higher figure this year.

The airline claimed flights out of Gatwick were returning to normal yesterday, albeit with long delays. Long-haul flights out of Heathrow were getting back on track, but short-haul flights to the Med were cancelled. A similar pattern is expected today.

Cost-cutting boss gags BA staff: Chief uses message to tell staff to refrain from ‘live commentary’ on the crisis

By Sean Poulter and James Burton

The beleaguered boss of British Airways tried to gag staff from commenting on the computer meltdown that has plunged hundreds of thousands of passengers into chaos.

Alex Cruz, who was brought in to cut costs at the airline, has so far refused to be publicly questioned on the crisis that has ruined families’ holidays.

Instead, the Spanish businessman has chosen to record a series of video messages issued via BA’s Twitter account.

Mr Cruz has been bombarded by messages from staff seeking an explanation for the chaos to pass on to passengers.

Mr Cruz’s email asking his workers not to comment

Alex Cruz pictured in a video on BA's internal social media system

Alex Cruz pictured in a video on BA’s internal social media system


either you are part of the team working to fix this or you aren’t. We are not in the mode of ‘debriefing on what happened’ but rather ‘let’s fix this mode’.

I have been answering some emails from colleagues (thank you for the support) and I just finished a video for media and another for all of us. I suppose you will have seen our Twitter account and

Now, your interest on today’s events is well noted. I am wondering if you would like to help out? Either LHR or LGW or anyone of our stations could use you, now. If you indeed can, drop me a message and I will connect you or go straight to the airport and make yourself available. I am sure they will appreciate your involvement.

In the meantime, if you do not want to get involved or cannot get involved, I would kindly ask you to refrain from live commentary, unless it is a message of support to the thousands of colleagues that love BA as much as you do.


People attempt to keep themselves occupied on phones and with a nap at Heathrow on Sunday as the BA travel chaos spilled over into a second day

People attempt to keep themselves occupied on phones and with a nap at Heathrow on Sunday as the BA travel chaos spilled over into a second day

But instead of coming clean, he issued an email for BA staff urging them not to speak publicly about the crisis.

In a message seen by many staff as a veiled threat, he wrote: ‘Guys, either you are part of the team trying to fix this or you aren’t. We are not in the mode of “debriefing on what happened”, but rather “let’s fix this mode”.’

He asked employees to volunteer to come in to work at Heathrow and Gatwick to tackle the backlog of flights and passengers but added: ‘If you don’t want to get involved or you cannot get involved, I would kindly ask you to refrain from live commentary.’

The airline has confirmed the email is genuine and said the intention is to encourage staff to volunteer to deal with the problems.

A source at BA said: ‘There was no intention to silence people. While we welcome open discussion our focus now is to help our customers and get our operation back to normal.’

Mr Cruz made a controversial decision last year to shut down the airline’s British computer department with the loss of 700 jobs around the country.

The £5billion Spanish merger

It is the UK’s flag carrier, and was once known as ‘the world’s favourite airline’.

But in 2010, British Airways joined forces with Spanish airline Iberia in a £5 billion merger to create IAG, Europe’s third largest scheduled airline.

British shareholders took 55 per cent of the business and the firm based its operational headquarters in London, although the parent company is officially registered in Madrid. Willie Walsh, who first went to BA as chief executive after turning around Aer Lingus, is chief executive of IAG and saw his salary rise from £735,000 to £825,000 following the merger.

With its roots in the pioneers of commercial flight soon after the First World War, British Airways came from a merger of British European Airways and BOAC in 1974.

He is thought to have been paid £830,000 last year.

The tasks of designing and managing the firm’s IT systems were contracted out to the Indian firm Tata Consultancy Services.

One of those made redundant said yesterday: ‘The failure of their website doesn’t surprise me at all.

‘When I was still working there, all the BA-employed IT people still had some pride in what they did.’

The comments echo those of the GMB union’s national aviation officer, Mick Rix, who said: ‘This could have all been avoided. BA in 2016 made hundreds of dedicated and loyal IT staff redundant and outsourced the work to India.’

Mr Cruz, 51, has long had a reputation for ruthlessness. As boss of the no-frills airline Vuelling, he outlawed colour printing, banned paper towels from washrooms and offered visitors to business meetings only tap water.

The married father-of-four’s penny-pinching talents were rewarded with the top job at British Airways 18 months ago. Out went free meals on every flight and in came extra seats to cram more passengers on to flights, severely reducing legroom.

Such moves provoked a backlash from customers who felt the airline – which once claimed to be the world’s favourite – was selling its elegant image for swift profits.

But Mr Cruz breezily denied there was a problem. ‘Consumers value what they get from BA,’ he said in February. ‘If they didn’t, you wouldn’t have customers or see the numbers growing.’

Mr Cruz was born in Spain but went to university in Michigan and Ohio in the US before joining American Airlines in 1990.

The businessman, who is thought to live in London, went on to become the founding chief executive of start-up budget airline Clickair and took over rival Vueling when the two firms merged.

There was steady growth during his time in charge, delighting the board at parent firm International Airlines Group, which also owns BA.

While British Airways IT systems are now running again, the airline has not said how long disruption will last for (pictured, people asleep on the floor at Heathrow on Sunday)

While British Airways IT systems are now running again, the airline has not said how long disruption will last for (pictured, people asleep on the floor at Heathrow on Sunday)


People checking in for flights at Heathrow also faced long queues on Sunday, as more flights were cancelled and delayed

People checking in for flights at Heathrow also faced long queues on Sunday, as more flights were cancelled and delayed

But his tenure was marred by customer complaints, with embittered travellers even launching a Facebook page. In an interview soon after taking over at BA, Mr Cruz scornfully dismissed BA’s heritage as ‘legacy practices’.

He said the company was ‘very slow’ and it was time to ‘take decisions quickly and take them to market quickly’.

He was obsessed with technology, frequently citing Google, Facebook and Uber, and stressed that he thought airlines could thrive only if they mastered IT.

‘We’re prisoners, in a way, of really old technology which is very difficult to change,’ he said.

Mr Cruz initially promised he was going to introduce new computer systems that would speed everything up – words that might be coming back to haunt him.

‘There’s new technology coming in that makes operations safer and faster,’ he said. ‘Lots of customers want to use this sort of technology to access the plane.’

Stranded passengers’ fury as hotels hike their prices 

By George Odling

Stranded BA passengers have spoken of their anger after hotels cashed in on their desperation by massively inflating room rates.

The only room available near Heathrow from its Hotel Reservations desk yesterday was a £600 double at the Park Inn hotel.

A member of staff said the rooms were normally priced between £100 and £150 but the huge demand had driven prices up. The only room available at the airport’s Sofitel Hotel was a luxury suite for £495.

Christophe Hurault, 37, had spent Saturday night sleeping on the airport floor with his wife and three children – aged between nine and 11 – after the family’s flight to Paris was cancelled.

The airline was unable to rebook flights yesterday after all of its IT systems went down, meaning the work had to be started afresh on Sunday (pictured, people asleep at Heathrow)

The airline was unable to rebook flights yesterday after all of its IT systems went down, meaning the work had to be started afresh on Sunday (pictured, people asleep at Heathrow)

Mr Hurault, who works for the French interior ministry, said: ‘When we tried to book a room on Saturday night we were told the only one available was at the Hyatt and it would cost £1,500. So no chance.

Mr Hurault and his family have been told they could fly to Barcelona last night and then to Paris this morning.

New Yorker Jose Duran, 37, also spent the night on the airport floor when his flight to Greece was cancelled on Saturday.

‘They said they could reimburse us £100 each for a hotel room,’ he said. ‘But I gave up checking because there was no chance of getting a room for anywhere near that price.’

Brazilian banker Eric Nakamura, 37, said he stopped at a guest house in Hounslow on Saturday after his flight home was cancelled and was told a room would cost £2,000.

He said: ‘Eventually we paid about £200 to stay in the Tower Hotel in London.

‘I think it’s awful that the hotels nearby were taking advantage when people were desperate.’

‘Trapped against our will in awful conditions’

The Wickham and Carleton families spent 12 hours at Heathrow on Saturday after their flight to Greece was cancelled.

Liz and Mark Carleton, their two children, Mrs Carleton’s parents, James and Cathy, and friends Louise and Steve Wickham and their two children, had paid £14,000 for a week-long Neilson holiday.

They arrived at the airport at 9.30am for their 1.45pm flight, passed through security, and were repeatedly told their flight was simply delayed. When they were eventually told it had been cancelled they were unable to leave for four hours, as they were stuck in a queue of thousands and had to have their passports checked again.

The families had to leave their luggage overnight and travel home to Guildford, Surrey, in two taxis, costing £50 each.

Liz Carleton, 41, James Carleton, 71 Steve Wickham, 44, Cathy Carleton, 71, Mark Carleton, 42 and kids Olive, Sam, James and Jack

Liz Carleton, 41, James Carleton, 71 Steve Wickham, 44, Cathy Carleton, 71, Mark Carleton, 42 and kids Olive, Sam, James and Jack

They returned at 9.30am yesterday, only to be told they were not allowed into Terminal 5 until 90 minutes before their 1.45pm flight. Mrs Wickham, 40, said: ‘There was no BA staff anywhere; all the information we got was from Twitter or the news … We were trapped and kept against our will in conditions that were just awful. I think they intentionally kept the BA staff away because people would have been screaming at them. It’s been a real shambles … there were people in tears in there yesterday.’

John and Zoe Attwood, both 60, were forced to cancel a trip to Corfu. They spent more than ten hours at the airport yesterday after arriving for a 5.50am flight. At 12.30pm they were told it was cancelled and there would not be another until Tuesday.

Mr Attwood, who works in the air freight industry, said: ‘It is so disorganised, it’s just disgusting. There are no BA staff around at all, no one explaining anything to us.’

Dozens more BA flights were cancelled from Heathrow on Sunday morning, adding to the passenger blacklog

Dozens more BA flights were cancelled from Heathrow on Sunday morning, adding to the passenger blacklog

The couple from Hounslow, west London, had rented a £2,000 villa they planned to share with others for ten days. Mr Attwood added: ‘We’ve been here since the early hours and no one has offered us an apology, just a leaflet about how to get compensation … What a shambles.’

American singer Patrick Schwarz had an audition in New York today but will be unable to attend after his flight was cancelled. The 26-year-old spent eight hours at Heathrow on Saturday and was turned away from Terminal 5 yesterday. He said: ‘They are saying to book with another airline, but it’s about £1,000 and I just can’t afford that.’

Herman and Catharina Rierink, both 64, slept on the airport floor on Saturday night and planned to do so yesterday after their flight to Amsterdam was cancelled. The Dutch couple found out via the BBC website, rather than updates at the airport.

Mr Rierink said: ‘We were told they would reimburse us up to £200 for a hotel but all the hotels nearby were either full or more than £300. We had to sleep on the floor … It’s incredibly uncomfortable. It was terrible.’


What should airlines offer travellers who are delayed?

If the delay is more than two hours, the airline should provide food and drink, usually through a voucher.

If the delay is overnight, the airline should provide hotel accommodation, and fund the cost of transport to and from the hotel.

Where the airline does not provide accommodation, travellers can arrange their own and reclaim the cost. The hotel costs must be ‘reasonable’.

Customers are urged to keep any food, transport or hotel receipts and can claim through the BA Customer Relations team.

What are the rights to compensation for a delayed or cancelled flight?

The EU Denied Boarding Regulation includes rights to compensation for delayed or cancelled services that depart within the EU or are operated by a European airline.

A delay of more than three hours for short-haul flights (up to 1,500km or 930 miles) equates to compensation of €250 (£219). The figure is €400 (£350) for medium-haul trips (1,500km to 3,500km).

For long-haul flights (more than 3,500km), delays of between three and four hours means compensation of €300 (£262). For delays longer than four hours the figure is €600 (£524).

Each traveller will be entitled to the compensation set out above. Consequently, a family of four travelling to the US who have been delayed more than four hours would be entitled to a full refund plus £2,096.

How to claim compensation?

BA says affected customers can claim a full refund or rebook to a future date up until the end of November 2017. It is legally required to compensate people whose flights have been delayed or cancelled.

However, the airline said it will deal with these on a ‘case by case’ basis, which means people will have to make a claim.

Advice and template letters to do this are provided by the consumer group Which? at

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Palestinian prisoners in Israel jails end hunger strike

May 27, 2017


© AFP/File | Palestinian women hold portraits of relatives imprisoned in Israeli jails during a protest in front of the Red Cross offices in east Jerusalem, on May 25, 2017


Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails on hunger strike since April 17 have ended their protest, Palestinian and Israeli sources said on Saturday.

Palestinian Prisoners Club chief Qaddura Fares said an agreement had been reached between the strikers and Israeli authorities on improving their conditions.

An Israel Prisons Service spokeswoman confirmed the hunger strike was over.

Israeli authorities conceded to one of the prisoners’ main demands — that they should have two family visits a month instead of the one they were entitled to before the strike, the spokeswoman said.

The resolution of the strike came hours before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

A number of the strikers had been in sharply declining health.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas had urged US counterpart Donald Trump to raise the issue with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to the region earlier this week.

Demonstrations in support of the prisoners had been held across the occupied West Bank leading to repeated bloody clashes with Israeli security forces.

© AFP/File / by Hossam Ezzedine | The leader of hundreds of Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli jails, Marwan Barghouti, who has received his first Red Cross visit since the strike began, flashes the victory sign after a court hearing in 2003

WannaCry Malware Has Strong Links to Group Tied to North Korea, Symantec Says

May 23, 2017

Symantec’s analysis showed substantial commonalities with prior Lazarus attacks and WannaCry’s tools and techniques

The WannaCry attack ultimately infected more than 200,000 computers in more than 100 countries.

The WannaCry attack ultimately infected more than 200,000 computers in more than 100 countries. PHOTO: RITCHIE B. TONGO/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

May 23, 2017 1:57 a.m. ET

A group linked to North Korea is highly likely behind this month’s global ransomware assault, and the attack more closely resembles the behavior of a crime ring rather than a government-orchestrated campaign, a cybersecurity researcher said.

In a blog post late Monday, Symantec Corp., a cybersecurity firm, said the WannaCry ransomware carried “strong links” to Lazarus, a group security experts suspect was behind the theft of $81 million last year from the Bangladesh central bank and a 2014 hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment. U.S. officials have said they believe North Korea orchestrated the Sony SNE +0.45% attack—which North Korea has denied—and federal prosecutors are building cases that would accuse Pyongyang of involvement in the Bangladesh heist.

Cybersecurity researchers, including Alphabet Inc.’s GOOGL +0.87% Google unit, Kaspersky Lab ZAO and Comae Technologies, had previously drawn parallels between a variant of WannaCry and code used in previous attacks attributed to Lazarus. But those initial reports were cautious about drawing deeper conclusions about how the digital clues related to Lazarus or North Korea.

Little is known about Lazarus, though cybersecurity researchers say the group has been active since 2009. Its initial efforts were focused on Asia, but the group has begun targeting global banks.

Symantec’s new analysis showed “substantial commonalities” with prior Lazarus attacks and WannaCry’s tools and techniques, as well as network infrastructure used in the attack. That makes it “highly likely that Lazarus was behind the spread of WannaCry,” Symantec said. There was also a series of smaller attacks using the WannaCry software in February, March and April, before a widespread assault this month that hit computer networks around the world.

Symantec didn’t address whether North Korea was directly involved with the latest WannaCry assault. Cybersecurity experts have said other hackers could have copied the code in question, meaning the WannaCry malware could have originated from groups other than Lazarus. But even if Lazarus were the culprit, the group could have unleashed the malware without North Korean orders, they say. It is unclear who leads or funds Lazarus.

North Korea’s official state media on Monday denied that Pyongyang had a hand in the WannaCry attack, lambasting South Korean press reports suggesting North Korean involvement as “misinformation” and a “dirty and despicable smear campaign.”

The WannaCry attack, which began on May 12, ultimately infected more than 200,000 computers in more than 100 countries. The malware worm exploited vulnerabilities inMicrosoft Corp.’s Windows systems, attacking machines that didn’t have up-to-date security patches.

The previous versions of WannaCry were used in smaller, targeted attacks, dating as far back as Feb. 10, Symantec said, when a single company and 100 computers were infected. Subsequently, the malware targeted a handful of organizations in March and April. Symantec didn’t identify the affected firms.

But the May attack rippled across the globe because of a bug in the Windows operating system that allowed hackers to take WannaCry global, Symantec said. The prior WannaCry versions required more steps to be spread, such as stealing credentials or copying the malware computer to computer, Symantec said.

That Windows exploit, called EternalBlue, was made public in April, when a shadowy hacking group released documents and hacking tools it says it stole from the U.S. National Security Agency. That leak of the Windows vulnerability “was what allowed the attackers to turn WannaCry into a far more potent threat,” Symantec said. Microsoft had issued a patch for the vulnerability on March 14 but not all computers had the update.

Security researchers say nation-state cyberattacks tend to target foreign intelligence, though North Korea has been suspected of a growing number of attacks targeting banks. The WannaCry attack demanded around $300 payments in bitcoin—with few victims ponying up—pointing more toward low-level crime rings than one organized by a nation-state hacker, cybersecurity experts say.

Ford to Replace CEO Mark Fields With Jim Hackett Amid Pressure on Profit

May 22, 2017

Move comes amid a significant decline in share-price value during CEO’s three-year tenure

Jim Hackett, currently chairman of Ford subsidiary Ford Smart Mobility, is set to take on the CEO post at the auto maker.

Jim Hackett, currently chairman of Ford subsidiary Ford Smart Mobility, is set to take on the CEO post at the auto maker. PHOTO:/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Updated May 22, 2017 4:34 a.m. ET

Ford Motor Co. will replace Chief Executive Mark Fields with Jim Hackett, the former head of office-furniture maker Steelcase Inc. who joined the auto maker in 2016, according to people familiar with the matter.

The move comes amid a significant decline in share-price value during Mr. Fields ’ three-year tenure, and recent pressure on profits and market share. The Wall Street Journal reported on the board’s deliberations on a management shake-up Sunday evening.

A Ford spokeswoman declined to comment on the move. Messrs. Fields and Hackett couldn’t immediately be reached.

Jim Farley, recruited by Ford from Toyota last decade, will also be given a new prominent role and work directly under Mr. Hackett. A group of other executives will be reassigned.

Ford’s board began discussing changes to the leadership team recently as the share price hovered around $11 a share, or nearly 40% lower than the summer of 2014 when Mr. Fields took over. Ford’s market cap was surpassed by automotive upstart Tesla Inc.’s in April, a development that underscored how far behind Ford is perceived to be in the race to develop new technology.

The move comes as Ford is looking to reimagine the way people get from point A to point B. It has turned to an unusual pick to lead the charge, as Mr. Hackett is an industry outsider and will be leading a company full of senior executives widely seen as capable of succeeding Mr. Fields.

Before his elevation to CEO, Mr. Hackett chaired Ford Smart Mobility LLC, a subsidiary formed last year by Mr. Fields to explore new ventures in ride hailing, car sharing and self-driving vehicles.

One of several auto-industry outsiders recruited by Ford, Mr. Hackett was installed to be instrumental in helping Ford moves into transportation-related services at a time of changing attitudes toward car ownership and emerging Silicon Valley rivals such as Uber Technologies Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google.

Over 30 years at Steelcase, Mr. Hackett, reshaped the company’s workplace offerings, dispensing with cubicles and embracing open offices. Later, as interim athletic director for the University of Michigan, Mr. Hackett famously recruited NFL coach Jim Harbaugh to lead Michigan’s football program.​

Mr. Fields leaves after a 28-year career​at Ford, including a prominent tenure as the head of the company’s North American operation. He restructured the company’s core unit while working under Chief Executive Bill Ford in the middle of last decade and then continued the revamp when Alan Mulally took the helm in 2006.

Mr. Fields was also prominent in restructuring Ford of Europe and Mazda Motor Corp. , in which Ford long held a significant stake.

Write to John D. Stoll at and Christina Rogers at

Will Theresa May Advocate Government Control of the Internet? — Restrictions on what people can post, share and publish online — Going the way of China?

May 21, 2017


The Independet
Sunday, May 21, 2017

Theresa May to create new internet that would be controlled and regulated by government

The proposals come soon after the government won the right to collect everyone’s browsing history



Theresa May is planning to introduce huge regulations on the way the internet works, allowing the government to decide what is said online.

Particular focus has been drawn to the end of the manifesto, which makes clear that the Tories want to introduce huge changes to the way the internet works.

“Some people say that it is not for government to regulate when it comes to technology and the internet,” it states. “We disagree.”

Großbritannien Premierministerin Theresa May in London (Reuters/T. Melville)

Senior Tories confirmed to BuzzFeed News that the phrasing indicates that the government intends to introduce huge restrictions on what people can post, share and publish online.

The plans will allow Britain to become “the global leader in the regulation of the use of personal data and the internet”, the manifesto claims.

It comes just soon after the Investigatory Powers Act came into law. That legislation allowed the government to force internet companies to keep records on their customers’ browsing histories, as well as giving ministers the power to break apps like WhatsApp so that messages can be read.

The manifesto makes reference to those increased powers, saying that the government will work even harder to ensure there is no “safe space for terrorists to be able to communicate online”. That is apparently a reference in part to its work to encourage technology companies to build backdoors into their encrypted messaging services – which gives the government the ability to read terrorists’ messages, but also weakens the security of everyone else’s messages, technology companies have warned.

The government now appears to be launching a similarly radical change in the way that social networks and internet companies work. While much of the internet is currently controlled by private businesses like Google and Facebook, Theresa May intends to allow government to decide what is and isn’t published, the manifesto suggests.

The new rules would include laws that make it harder than ever to access pornographic and other websites. The government will be able to place restrictions on seeing adult content and any exceptions would have to be justified to ministers, the manifesto suggests.

The manifesto even suggests that the government might stop search engines like Google from directing people to pornographic websites. “We will put a responsibility on industry not to direct users – even unintentionally – to hate speech, pornography, or other sources of harm,” the Conservatives write.

The laws would also force technology companies to delete anything that a person posted when they were under 18.

But perhaps most unusually they would be forced to help controversial government schemes like its Prevent strategy, by promoting counter-extremist narratives.

“In harnessing the digital revolution, we must take steps to protect the vulnerable and give people confidence to use the internet without fear of abuse, criminality or exposure to horrific content”, the manifesto claims in a section called ‘the safest place to be online’.

The plans are in keeping with the Tories’ commitment that the online world must be regulated as strongly as the offline one, and that the same rules should apply in both.

“Our starting point is that online rules should reflect those that govern our lives offline,” the Conservatives’ manifesto says, explaining this justification for a new level of regulation.

“It should be as unacceptable to bully online as it is in the playground, as difficult to groom a young child on the internet as it is in a community, as hard for children to access violent and degrading pornography online as it is in the high street, and as difficult to commit a crime digitally as it is physically.”

The manifesto also proposes that internet companies will have to pay a levy, like the one currently paid by gambling firms. Just like with gambling, that money will be used to pay for advertising schemes to tell people about the dangers of the internet, in particular being used to “support awareness and preventative activity to counter internet harms”, according to the manifesto.

The Conservatives will also seek to regulate the kind of news that is posted online and how companies are paid for it. If elected, Theresa May will “take steps to protect the reliability and objectivity of information that is essential to our democracy” – and crack down on Facebook and Google to ensure that news companies get enough advertising money.

If internet companies refuse to comply with the rulings – a suggestion that some have already made about the powers in the Investigatory Powers Act – then there will be a strict and strong set of ways to punish them.

“We will introduce a sanctions regime to ensure compliance, giving regulators the ability to fine or prosecute those companies that fail in their legal duties, and to order the removal of content where it clearly breaches UK law,” the manifesto reads.

In laying out its plan for increased regulation, the Tories anticipate and reject potential criticism that such rules could put people at risk.

“While we cannot create this framework alone, it is for government, not private companies, to protect the security of people and ensure the fairness of the rules by which people and businesses abide,” the document reads. “Nor do we agree that the risks of such an approach outweigh the potential benefits.”

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U.S., Saudi Arabia Expect Deals, Investments Worth $300 Billion

May 20, 2017

Some of the announcements reaffirmed previous commitments or involved incremental steps in projects that companies had already signaled they would pursue

President Donald J. Trump receives the Order of Abdulaziz al-Saud medal from Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud during a welcome ceremony at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Saturday.

President Donald J. Trump receives the Order of Abdulaziz al-Saud medal from Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud during a welcome ceremony at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Saturday. PHOTO: SAUDI PRESS AGENCY HANDOUT/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY


Updated May 20, 2017 1:52 p.m. ET

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia—Saudi Arabia and the U.S. are expected to agree to business deals and potential investments worth $300 billion over the course of U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to Riyadh, solidifying the U.S.-Saudi commercial relationship as the kingdom’s economy cracks open.

The deals, ranging from defense to health care, coincided with the arrival Saturday of Mr. Trump in the capital, Riyadh. Mr. Trump, a real-estate developer turned politician, has sought to make business deals and job creation a central feature of his presidency and U.S.-Saudi ties.

“Tremendous investments in the United States,” said Mr. Trump, commenting on the business deals as he met with Saudi officials on Saturday, the first of a two-day stop. “Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs.”

On Saturday, General Electric Co. announced agreements in Saudi Arabia, including a partnership with the country’s ministry of energy and a government program to develop industries for joint ventures worth an estimated $12 billion in sectors such as power generation, aviation, digitization technologies, mining, oil and gas.

Some of the announcements reaffirmed previous commitments or involved incremental steps in projects that companies had already signaled they would pursue. Exxon Mobil Corp. and Saudi Basic Industries Corp., for example, announced in April they had made a final investment decision to build a $10 billion petrochemical plant at a site near Corpus Christi, Texas.

On Saturday, Exxon and SABIC, the Saudi chemicals giant, signed an agreement in Riyadh to proceed with engineering and design work for the project, a step required at the outset of major energy and chemicals construction projects.

For Exxon, the investment is part of its “Growing the Gulf” plan to spend $20 billion in the next 10 on the U.S. Gulf Coast. When Exxon in March announced the initiative—which included a number of previously announced projects—President Trump tweeted his congratulations to the company.

Even though some of the projects had been previously discussed, the broad commitments from such an array of global companies served as a reminder of Saudi Arabia’s economic expansion and modernization plan, as well as the president’s interest in alliances with countries that can create jobs in the U.S., experts said.

The Saudi economic plans mark “a new chapter in the kingdom’s economic history, and its implications promise to be far-reaching,” said Charles Hallab, the head of law firm Mayer Brown’s Middle East practice.

Saudi Arabia also has a $6 billion deal with Lockheed Martin Corp. to assemble 150 Black Hawk helicopters in the kingdom. Riyadh, one of the world’s biggest defense buyers, wants half of the money it allocates to military equipment to be spent locally by 2030. The agreement was reached at a business forum in Riyadh, which released details of the new deals on behalf of the Saudi government.

Over all, during Mr. Trump’s visit the U.S. and Saudi Arabia signed new arms deals worth $109 billion and the two governments are agreeing to commit to a further $350 billion over a decade.

Saudi Arabia wants to broaden its commercial partnership with the U.S. as it seeks to diversify its economy beyond oil. For that plan to succeed, the kingdom needs to attract private investment in new industries.

But Saturday’s deals also underscore how much the kingdom remains dependent on the oil industry to attract outside investment.

On Saturday, U.S. energy companies announced potential deals with the Saudi Arabian Oil Company, better known as Aramco, worth a total of around $22 billion. They include a $3.8 billion agreement between the Saudi energy giant and Honeywell and a separate $2.8 billion deal with McDermott both intended for unspecified goods and services.

Combined, the investments could create some 10,000 new jobs in the kingdom, the statement on the deals says, a priority for the government as it struggles to lower youth unemployment.

In turn, Motiva Enterprises LLC—a 600,000-barrels-a-day facility in Port Arthur, Texas, owned by Aramco—pledged investments in the U.S. worth $12 billion by 2023. The statement added that a further $18 billion investment was likely, and that the deal could create thousands of American jobs.

In finance, too, American firms see a bright future in Saudi Arabia. J.P. Morgan & Chase CEO and Chairman James Dimon said his bank has raised around $27 billion for the Saudi government. He declined to comment on the bank’s role in assisting Aramco in its coming initial public offering.

The planned sale of up to 5% of the company next year is a central part of Saudi Arabia’s economic overhaul is the initial public offering of Aramco. It could raise tens of billions of dollars—possibly more. The kingdom’s sovereign-wealth fund would use the capital for non-oil investments at home and abroad.

“In 2004-2005 we had one employee,” Mr. Dimon attending a business forum in Saudi Arabia, said of J.P. Morgan’s workforce there. “Now, we have 80 employees, of which 80% are Saudi nationals…My guess is that in 10 years we will have a couple of hundred people here; we will be doing more business with more Saudi companies both here and as they expand around the world.”

Write to Margherita Stancati at

Researchers Identify Clue Connecting Ransomware Assault to Group Tied to North Korea

May 16, 2017

Link involves version of software used in latest attack and uploaded to archive

Employees watch an electronic board to monitor possible ransomware cyberattacks at the Korea Internet and Security Agency in Seoul, South Korea.

Employees watch an electronic board to monitor possible ransomware cyberattacks at the Korea Internet and Security Agency in Seoul, South Korea. PHOTO: YONHAP/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY


Updated May 15, 2017 9:57 p.m. ET

Cybersecurity researchers identified a digital clue connecting the global ransomware assault to previous cyberattacks by a group linked to North Korea.

The link involves a version of the software used in the latest attack, known as WannaCry, that was detected earlier this year and uploaded to an archive for security researchers.

Neel Mehta, a security researcher at Alphabet Inc.’s GOOGL 0.43% Google unit, on Monday pointed out similarities between that earlier WannaCry variant and code used in a series of attacks that security specialists have attributed to the Lazarus group. Security experts say that hacking group carried out a series of multimillion-dollar online banking thefts as well as the 2014 cyberattacks on Sony Entertainment —attacks they believe North Korea orchestrated.

Representatives from three major cybersecurity firms— Symantec Corp.SYMC 3.19% , Kaspersky Lab ZAO and Comae Technologies—later on Monday said they found the same the link.

Image result for sony pictures, photos

A Google spokesman had no comment on the findings. Mr. Mehta didn’t immediately respond to a request for further comment. The North Korean mission to the United Nations couldn’t be reached for comment.

The findings don’t necessarily demonstrate that Lazarus or North Korea was involved in the WannaCry attack, researchers said. The culprits in the latest attack, who haven’t been identified, could have copied the code in question, for example.

“Similarities of code are only one component of what goes into attribution,” said Robert M. Lee, chief executive of cybersecurity company Dragos Inc.

“We have looked into the Lazarus theory. At this time, the similarities we see between malware linked to that group and WannaCry are not unique enough to be strongly suggestive of a common operator. However, we are continuing to investigate all possible attribution scenarios,” said John Miller, manager of analysis at FireEye Inc.

The Lazarus-linked code was eventually removed from the WannaCry ransomware and isn’t part of the software that infected more than 200,000 computers world-wide over the past few days, security experts said.

The connection found in the old version lies in software that both programs use to securely connect to other systems over the internet, said Kurt Baumgartner, a Kaspersky Lab researcher. The earlier WannaCry version and the Lazarus software appear to have been built by someone with access to the same source code, which is used by software developers to write their programs, but not generally accessible to others.

“We certainly need a lot more data at this point, but it’s a very interesting find,” Mr. Baumgartner said.

The WannaCry code that’s been linked to Lazarus was uploaded into a code analysis database called VirusTotal in February. It was likely a test version of the code, developed months before the ransomware software began infecting hundreds of thousands of machines world-wide, Mr. Baumgartner said.

It was found on a small number of systems, some of which were also infected with other tools used by the Lazarus group, said Vikram Thakur, a technical director at Symantec.

Write to Robert McMillan at


 Image result for NSA, photos