Posts Tagged ‘oversight’

China Names New Internet Overseer

August 1, 2018

Zhuang Rongwen, seen as a Xi associate, is elevated to a post with censorship responsibilities and huge sway over tech companies

Zhuang Rongwen, here giving a speech in London in 2015, was promoted to director of the powerful Cyberspace Administration of China on Tuesday.
Zhuang Rongwen, here giving a speech in London in 2015, was promoted to director of the powerful Cyberspace Administration of China on Tuesday. PHOTO: ZHANG JIAWEI/ZUMA PRESS
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BEIJING—China appointed a new director for its powerful internet regulator, elevating an official seen as an associate of President Xi Jinping to a post with censorship responsibilities and huge sway over tech companies.

Zhuang Rongwen was named to head the Cyberspace Administration of China on Tuesday, the regulator said in a brief statement Wednesday. He had been a deputy director since 2015.

As top policy official for internet matters, Mr. Zhuang takes charge of implementing Mr. Xi’s plans for turning China into a cyberpower, as well as enforcing Communist Party internet controls. The regulator also sets industry guidelines related to technology, cybersecurity and censorship.

Mr. Zhuang succeeds Xu Lin, a propaganda official who had held the job since June 2016. Mr. Xu will be assigned other responsibilities, the regulator said, without elaborating. The South China Morning Post reported last week that he would take over as director of the State Council Information Office, the publicity arm for China’s cabinet.

Mr. Zhuang, 57 years old, spent his early career as an engineer and economic planner in the southeastern province of Fujian, where he had worked under Mr. Xi while the future president was a senior official there.

During Mr. Xi’s stint as Fujian’s deputy party chief from 1995 to 2002, Mr. Zhuang held senior posts in the provincial economic-planning committee. He later became director of Fujian’s science and technology bureau, before transferring in late 2010 to a central-government office that handles liaison work with overseas Chinese, according to state-media biographies.

Mr. Zhuang joined the Cyberspace Administration in 2015 and this year became a vice minister of the Communist Party’s propaganda department.

In state media reports about Mr. Zhuang’s appointment and on the Cyberspace Administration’s website, his official biography doesn’t specify when he held his past posts—an unusual omission for a senior official’s résumé. On the regulator’s website, the biographies of the three deputy directors include dates.

Write to Chun Han Wong at chunhan.wong@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-names-new-internet-overseer-1533102783

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Go deeper: Inside Facebook’s newest data privacy black eye

June 5, 2018

Facebook faces a raft of new criticisms in the wake of a New York Times story about the social network’s program of sharing user data with smartphone makers.

Why it matters: Critics of the company in Congress and the media are piling on Facebook and framing this story as “Cambridge Analytica II.” But industry insiders are questioning the import of the new revelations, since device makers are a unique and trusted class of “third party” data users — and also since there’s no evidence of actual misuse of data this time around.

Axios

Image result for mark zuckerberg photos

Be smart: Interoperability is what makes tech products and apps work. Facebook argues that the data access it afforded hardware partners allowed them to “recreate Facebook-like experiences” on their devices. In other words: This was simple software integration, not nefarious data poaching.

Yes, but: Facebook is already winding down the partner programs under which these data integration efforts operated — so they couldn’t have been that essential.

The FTC angle:

  • The Times story also suggested that Facebook’s data sharing with device makers may have violated the company’s 2011 consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission.
  • Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), ranking minority member of the House energy and commerce committee, has called on the FTC to review the question.
  • The agency is already reviewing Facebook’s actions in the Cambridge Analytica scandal after allegations that it violated the consent decree.

The bottom line: Everything Facebook does with data is now coming under a microscope, and instead of getting out ahead of this story, the company just allowed itself to take another black eye.

https://www.axios.com/inside-facebooks-latest-data-controversy-1528131306-52db09f6-17f4-4002-9bdb-0ad698def837.html

Related:

 (Did Zuckerberg Lie To Congress?) (New York Times)

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Facebook: New Accusations of Lies About Data Sharing Prompt Corporate Push Back

June 4, 2018
Company defends data-sharing pacts with device makers including Apple and Samsung

Image may contain: one or more people and phone

Hannah Kuchler in San Francisco and Tim Bradshaw in Los Angeles


Facebook has denied there were any privacy problems with sharing user data with partners including Apple, Amazon and Samsung, responding to a report that it exposed users’ personal information to more than 60 device makers.
The world’s largest social media network sought to defend itself against another potential privacy scandal after The New York Times reported on Sunday that data of users and their friends could be accessed by makers of smartphones and tablets under longstanding data-sharing partnerships with Facebook. This included information on religious and political leanings and data from users who had asked not to have it shared with third parties.

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Facebook said it was unaware of any misuse of the data and that the vast majority was stored on people’s own phones, not on a company server. Ime Archibong, vice-president of product partnerships, said these partnerships were “very different” from the social media company’s relationships with third-party developers, where it has apologised for not properly policing how data were used.

He stressed that the data were used to help people access Facebook on their devices and that the company supervised the process. The partnerships were started in the days before the Facebook app was readily available on smartphones, when it was more difficult to access the social network on mobile devices.

“These partners signed agreements that prevented people’s Facebook information from being used for any other purpose than to recreate Facebook-like experiences. Partners could not integrate the user’s Facebook features with their devices without the user’s permission,” Mr Archibong said. “And our partnership and engineering teams approved the Facebook experiences these companies built.”

Sandy Parakilas, a former Facebook employee turned critic of the company, said on Twitter that the data partnerships appeared to directly contradict the testimony of Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, to Congress. Mr Zuckerberg had said that Facebook had stopped users being able to share their friends’ data in 2015, when it had stopped third-party developers from accessing data from users’ friends.

Facebook said the partnerships did not contradict Mr Zuckerberg’s testimony.

Image may contain: 8 people, crowd

Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, at a Senate hearing in April. The company gave at least 60 phone and other device makers access to large amounts of user data. Leah Millis/Reuters

The report could mark a setback for Facebook, which has been trying to prove itself a trustworthy custodian of user data since the revelations about a massive data leak to Cambridge Analytica. The data analytics group that worked for the Trump campaign was able to obtain data on up to 87m Facebook users from Aleksandr Kogan, a Cambridge professor, who collected it mainly from the friends of users who completed a survey.

Facebook is under scrutiny around the world. The US Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether the company has broken its privacy agreement with the regulator, and politicians including the UK parliament are pushing for the company to answer more questions on how it protects user data.

Facebook said it began shutting down the data-sharing partnerships in April, the month after the Cambridge Analytica revelations, as it reassessed how it was sharing user data across the board. But it said few people were making use of the feature because it is now so easy to access Facebook via an app from an Apple or Android app store. Some 22 of the 60 partnerships have been ended so far.

Apple said the data sharing was focused on items that users intended to post, such as a picture, and only after they gave their express consent. Apple added that Facebook was not able to download any data in bulk or beyond what the user gave permission for.

Amazon, Blackberry and Samsung did not respond to requests for comment.

https://www.ft.com/content/f67a891a-67b2-11e8-8cf3-0c230fa67aec

The New York Times Broke the Story:

 (Did Zuckerberg Lie To Congress?)

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A Broken FBI Promise — A week after the bureau promised cooperation, it’s back to obstruction.

April 7, 2018

Stonewalling….

Image result for J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building, photos

Just last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray released a statement saying he was unhappy with how the bureau was responding to “legitimate congressional requests” for information—and promised a “transparent and responsive” FBI. But already both the FBI and the Justice Department are back to their old tricks.

At issue is a memo related to the opening of a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties with Russia in 2016. Such information is crucial for Congress to get an accurate picture of how Justice and the FBI handled this investigation. House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R., Calif.) has written to both Director Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein asking for an unredacted version for all committee members to see. The bureau says it will not provide the material because it is too sensitive.

FBI Director Christopher Wray leaves the stage after speaking at the 2018 Boston Conference on Cyber Security at Boston College in Boston, March 7.
FBI Director Christopher Wray leaves the stage after speaking at the 2018 Boston Conference on Cyber Security at Boston College in Boston, March 7. PHOTO: FAITH NINIVAGGI/REUTERS
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Mr. Nunes notes this is ridiculous, given that the document “is not highly classified.” More to the point, if an Intelligence Committee made up of elected representatives of the American people is not qualified to see such material, no one is.

Mr. Nunes says he’s willing to go to federal court to enforce his subpoena. We are further told that the House leadership supports this and other efforts to compel cooperation from Justice and the FBI.

In a better world Mr. Wray and Mr. Rosenstein would have worked out a good faith solution. In the apparent absence of that good faith, we hope Congress is willing to use all its powers, including contempt and impeachment if necessary, to persuade Mr. Wray and Mr. Rosenstein it is in their interests to make good on the FBI’s promise of transparency and responsiveness.

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 https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-broken-fbi-promise-1523054019
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Tech Shares Tumble Again as Regulatory Risks Rattle Investors — “Unmasking” of Facebook Drains Trust From Technology Sector

March 28, 2018

Prospect of increased oversight fuels declines in sector’s big names and broader market

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook boss

Getty Images

Technology stocks are suffering one of their worst beatings in years, as investors reassess a sector that has been considered the growth engine of the global economy but now faces the prospect of greater regulatory scrutiny.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index fell 2.9% Tuesday. That selloff carried over to the broader market, where the S&P 500 index slumped 1.7%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.4%, giving back some of Monday’s 2.8% rebound.

U.S. Treasury yields also declined. Analysts said that reflected in part a move by some investors to reduce risk at the end of the quarter by selling stocks and putting that cash into bonds. Bond prices rise when yields fall.

But tech shares were hit the hardest, dragging down the broader market in the final hour of trading. A series of recent developments pointed to more government oversight of the industry.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg is planning to testify before Congress about the social-media company’s privacy and data-use standards, according to people familiar with the matter. The company’s shares fell 4.9% on Tuesday and are down 15% this month over concerns about its handling of user data, on track for its worst monthly decline since 2012.

The Federal Trade Commission, in a statement Monday, signaled that it is conducting a broad probe of Facebook, while 37 state attorneys general are also demanding explanations for its practices.

Other social-media stocks also suffered, including Twitter , which fell 12% Tuesday after short-selling research firm Citron Research said that the social network was the most vulnerable to privacy regulation and that it was shorting shares of Twitter.

In a tweet, Twitter said it is “public by its nature. Tweets are viewable and searchable by anyone.”

The S&P’s worst performer was chip maker Nvidia Corp. , which said it would temporarily halt testing of its driverless-car technology on public roads following the fatal crash of an Uber Technologies autonomous vehicle in Arizona. Nvidia shares fell 7.8%.

Moody’s Investors Service also downgraded Tesla Inc. on Tuesday, pushing the car maker’s debt deeper into junk territory as it bets heavily on ramping up production on its Model 3 sedan. The National Transportation Safety Board dispatched two investigators to examine last week’s fatal crash of a Tesla electric car in Northern California and determine whether the vehicle’s autopilot system was engaged. Tesla shares plunged 8.2%.

After powering the market higher in 2017, tech’s dominance continued into this year. Shares of Amazon Inc., Netflix Inc. and other tech heavyweights were major contributors to the S&P 500’s January run-up. Tech stocks swelled to 25% of the S&P 500 stock index at the end of February, the highest percentage since the months after the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, according to data provider Morningstar Inc.

Now, mounting troubles at Facebook and Uber are clouding the industry’s outlook. The entire group has come under scrutiny, especially after valuations have risen to their most expensive levels since just before the financial crisis last decade and volatility has increased. The Nasdaq’s 2.9% decline on Tuesday marked the fourth straight daily move of at least 2%, the longest such stretch since October 2011.

Shares of Facebook, Amazon, Apple Inc., Netflix and Google parent Alphabet Inc.,commonly known by the acronym FAANG, have lost more than $260 billion in total market value over the past week and a half, as investors worry about the potential ramifications of new, costly regulations on those companies and others in the tech sector.

“Washington has been itching to get more intimately involved with our friends on the West Coast”—the big tech firms, said Steven Chiavarone, assistant vice president and portfolio manager at Federated Investors. If tech companies “do stupid things and invite governments to regulate them more heavily, I won’t know what that company is worth, but it’ll be less.”

It is a sharp reversal for a corner of the market that only a couple of months ago had been a reliable generator of big returns and a key factor behind major stock indexes’ strong run last year.

Despite the recent declines, many investors continue to like the FAANG stocks and the broader tech industry. The sector is one of just two—the other being consumer discretionary stocks, which includes shopper favorites like Macy’s Inc. and Best Buy Co. —to eke out a small gain so far this year. Investors also continue to move massive sums of money into those stocks, lending some support. They put roughly $1.4 billion into technology exchange-traded funds so far in March, according to Morningstar.

Investor activity in the options market also indicated that some investors may be positioning for an eventual tech rebound. An options gauge that measures the cost to protect against declines in PowerShares QQQ Trust, a tech-heavy exchange-traded fund, remains at low levels, Trade Alert data show. That suggests investors may not be paying up to hedge against tech declines.

The ratio of bearish options to bullish contracts on QQQ also remained below average Tuesday, Trade Alert data show.

“We haven’t eliminated any of our bets,” said Darren Bagwell, director of equity research and portfolio manager at Thrivent Financial. “We continue to have significant exposure to the FAANG stocks, and we continue to feel like those are the best relative values in the market.”

Still, even investors like Mr. Bagwell admit the nearer-term outlook is murkier, likely stirring anxiety among those investors who bought shares of Facebook, Alphabet and others before the recent pullbacks.

Flows into the biggest tech ETF showed signs of cracking, as investors pulled $1.2 billion from the Technology Select Sector SPDR exchange-traded fund during the February selloff, its heaviest month of outflows since October 2014, according to Morningstar.

The fund has 31% of its portfolio in shares of Apple, Facebook and Alphabet. Apple is its largest holding, at 14%. The fund has seen $288 million in outflows in the past week, according to FactSet.

“We’re very nervous about what those stocks are going to do over the next six months,” Mr. Bagwell said. “These have been easy trades for a long time. This makes it very difficult to trade those names.”

Write to Michael Wursthorn at Michael.Wursthorn@wsj.com and Gunjan Banerji at Gunjan.Banerji@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/tech-shares-tumble-again-as-regulatory-risks-rattle-investors-1522194268

See also:

Nvidia suspends self-driving car tests in wake of Uber crash

https://www.theverge.com/2018/3/27/17168606/nvidia-suspends-self-driving-test-uber

 

Nunes’s Russia-Trump memo: What’s in it (and what’s missing)

February 3, 2018

AFP and The Associated Press

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© Mark Wilson, Getty Images |President Donald Trump approved the release of a controversial Republican memo this week.

Video by Philip CROWTHER

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2018-02-03

After more than a week of partisan bickering and social media-fueled buildup, the #releasethememo crowd got their wish.

President Donald Trump declassified it. The GOP majority of the House intelligence committee released it. And the public dissection of the four-page, GOP-authored document began.

Here are a few key takeaways:

What’s the gist?

The memo makes a series of allegations of misconduct on the part of the FBI and the Justice Department in obtaining a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, to monitor former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page.

Specifically, it takes aim at the FBI’s use of information from a former British spy, Christopher Steele, who compiled a collection of memos containing several allegations of ties between Trump, his associates and Russia.

The memo says the FBI and the Justice Department didn’t tell the FISA court enough about Steele’s role in an opposition research effort. The research was funded by Democrat Hillary Clinton through a Washington law firm.

The document also takes aim at several senior FBI and Justice Department officials. Among them is former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, who it says knew of Steele’s anti-Trump leanings and whose wife worked at the firm behind the opposition research effort.

What’s new?

The memo provides the first formal government confirmation of the secret FISA warrant and that Page was the person being monitored.

Information like that is ordinarily considered among the most tightly held national security information, and it almost never gets released to the public.

Though the memo takes issue with the FBI’s methods, it also confirms that the FBI and Justice Department believed there was probable cause that Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power and a judge agreed – four times over.

The memo fills in the timeline of the Russia investigation, showing that Page was under surveillance for months.

According to the memo, the Justice Department and FBI obtained the FISA warrant on Page on Oct. 21, 2016, and then had it reauthorized three additional times.

Given that FISA warrants must be renewed every 90 days, the memo indicates that the government monitored Page’s communications for nearly a year.

Republican Matthew Gaetz talks to reporers after a six-page memo alleging misconduct by senior FBI officials investigating President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign was released to the public February 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. © Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

It started with Papadopoulos

The whole Russia investigation, that is.

According to the memo, information about former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos “triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016.”

That’s significant because Trump and his allies in the GOP have tried to undermine the Russia investigation by saying it all stems from the Steele dossier.

The memo doesn’t provide further details about the information the FBI received about Papadopoulos. But it appears to confirm in part reporting by The New York Times late last year that FBI concerns about Papadopoulos started the investigation.

Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI last year. Court papers show he had several contacts with people representing themselves as being tied to the Russian government starting in the spring of 2016.

Court papers show that Papadopoulos learned the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails” prior to that information becoming public.

The FBI did use information from Steele, though

The memo says Steele’s collection of reports “formed an essential part” of the FISA application for Page, but it doesn’t specify exactly what information was used or how much.

It also says that the FISA application relied on a September 2016 Yahoo News article, and claims that the information in the article also came from Steele.

The document quotes former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe as telling the House intelligence committee in December that “no surveillance warrant would have been sought” from the FISA court “without the Steele dossier information.”

According to the memo, the application also included “Steele’s past record of credible reporting on other unrelated matters.”

No underlying information released

The accuracy of the memo is hard to assess because the majority of the underlying contents are classified or confidential.

The memo cites an initial FISA warrant application – a document which usually has dozens of pages – as well as three additional renewals by the court. None of those documents are public.

The same is true of the transcripts of the committee’s closed-door interviews with McCabe and other senior FBI officials who had contact with Steele.

On Friday, the committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, took issue with the memo’s characterization of McCabe’s comments, saying the former FBI deputy director was speaking generally about how any FISA application relies on “each and every component” included.

But the committee’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, said late Friday on Fox News the description of McCabe’s comments is “a summation of a long interview and that’s definitely what he said.” He noted that other witnesses have said “similar things.”

‘Minimally corroborated’

It’s been a burning question ever since the dossier was published by Buzzfeed News last year: How much did the FBI corroborate?

According to the memo, not much at the time the FBI obtained the FISA warrant on Page. The memo cites FBI Assistant Director Bill Priestap as saying FBI corroboration of the dossier was in its “infancy” when the court authorized the first FISA warrant.

It also says an “independent unit” in the FBI conducted a “source validation report” on Steele’s memo and found it “only minimally corroborated.”

But without the underlying documents or transcripts of Priestap’s testimony, it’s hard to judge the accuracy of the memo’s description.

(AP)

Related:

Thank Progressives for the Nunes Memo

February 3, 2018

House Republicans released a secret memo on Friday that alleges that F.B.I. and Justice Department officials misused their authority in conducting surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page. It also claims the officials abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act process by citing dubious information in their application for a warrant to wiretap Mr. Page.

The move is nakedly partisan, and it certainly seems as if Republicans are trying to discredit the investigation into Russia’s 2016 election meddling. The Republicans, members of the House Intelligence Committee, refused to share the memo with their Senate counterparts. And they also rejected a bid to to release a Democratic rebuttal at the same time as the memo.

The memo is a shame. But those on the left denouncing its release should realize that it was progressive and privacy advocates over the past several decades who laid the groundwork for the Nunes memo — not Republicans. That’s because the progressive narrative has focused on an assumption of bad faith on the part of the people who participate in the FISA process, not the process itself.

In 1978, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act after hearings exposed the F.B.I.’s egregious practice of illegally spying on civil rights leaders, black nationalists, Communists and Vietnam War protesters. The Supreme Court has left open the possibility of a narrow “foreign intelligence exception” to the warrant requirement for the executive branch. Nonetheless, FISA requires law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before conducting foreign intelligence surveillance on Americans. The act also created a special court where federal judges would vet petitions for surveillance warrants.

This makes the FISA process unique because it involves all three branches of government. For example, Congress has created its own rules to oversee electronic surveillance and judges approve or deny the requests for warrants. These are in addition to the internal oversight tools that the executive branch has. The checks and balances for FISA are quite robust compared to the ones that exist for other presidential national security powers like the authority to approve drone strikes.

I know firsthand that it’s difficult to get a FISA warrant. From 2002 to 2005, when I was an F.B.I. agent conducting counterintelligence investigations in New York, my FISA applications went through many layers of approval and required very strong evidence. It was clear to me that the process was set up to protect against abuses of power.

This process has been in place for 40 years and the Republican Party has never meaningfully objected to it — until now. It’s important to realize that it’s not the FISA system itself that Republicans believe is the problem, but the people involved. That’s a complaint they share with progressives.

In criticizing the FISA process, the left has not focused so much on fixing procedural loopholes that officials in the executive branch might exploit to maximize their legal authority. Progressives are not asking courts to raise the probable cause standard, or petitioning Congress to add more reporting requirements for the F.B.I. Instead, progressives complain that law enforcement officials, along with judges, will always act in bad faith and try to circumvent the law altogether — and that’s why the FISA process can’t be trusted.

Bitcoin Futures Plan Criticized by Brokers for Overlooking Risks — Futures Industry Association alerts Commodity Futures Trading Commission

December 7, 2017

Bloomberg

By Sam Mamudi

  • Futures Industry Association writes critical letter to CFTC
  • Two major U.S. bourses will debut bitcoin contracts this month

Some of the world’s biggest derivatives brokerages criticized plans to offer bitcoin futures and options on U.S. exchanges, telling regulators that the contracts have been rushed to market without proper consideration of the risks.

The Futures Industry Association, whose members include Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc., detailed its concerns in a letter to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission on Wednesday. The association said there should have been more discussion about margin levels, trading limits, stress tests and clearing before the contracts were given a green light.

CME Group Inc. and Cboe Global Markets Inc. were the first bourses to approve bitcoin derivatives, paving the way for mainstream investors to participate in a volatile and largely unregulated market that some have called a bubble. Cboe will start trading futures on Dec. 10, while CME’s contracts are set to debut on Dec. 18. The exchanges were allowed to offer the products after pledging to regulators that they comply with the law, and the contracts will be subject to CFTC oversight.

“A more thorough and considered process would have allowed for a robust public discussion among clearing member firms, exchanges and clearinghouses,” the FIA said in its letter, signed by the organization’s Chief Executive Officer Walt Lukken. “The recent volatility in these markets has underscored the importance of setting these levels and processes appropriately and conservatively.”

Bitcoin has surged more than 1,400 percent this year, partly on expectations that new derivatives products will boost demand. But the cryptocurrency has also seen some dramatic swings, plunging nearly 20 percent in less than 90 minutes on Nov. 29. Some of the venues on which it trades have suffered outages and hacks.

“We remain apprehensive with the lack of transparency and regulation of the underlying reference products on which these futures contracts are based and whether exchanges have the proper oversight to ensure the reference products are not susceptible to manipulation, fraud, and operational risk,” the FIA said.

Clearing members are not obliged to offer services for bitcoin products, regardless of the exchange’s actions.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-07/bitcoin-futures-plan-criticized-by-brokers-for-overlooking-risks

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Coinbase employees lining up for free food in the gaming room of the company’s office in San Francisco. Credit Jason Henry for The New York Times
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See also:
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Coinbase: The Heart of the Bitcoin Frenzy
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/06/technology/coinbase-bitcoin.html

Planned Parenthood spends millions on six-figure salaries, ‘blowout’ parties, first-class travel, and Manhattan real estate, new congressional report reveals

October 1, 2015

  • The congressional report was published by Rep Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee
  • Planned Parenthood is under investigation by Congress, after a string of sting videos showing employees discussing the sale of aborted fetal tissue
  • In the report published Tuesday,  it was revealed that Planned Parenthood spent $5.1million on travel in 2013 – or $14,000 a day
  • The group also spent $622,706 on ‘blowout’ parties in 2012 and 2013 
  • Some 40 executives were paid salaries of $200,000 or higher from 2009 to 2013
  • Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards maintains that the group makes no profit from government funds 

As the president of Planned Parenthood testified before Congress on Tuesday, a new report was released by a Republican congressman criticizing the non-profit’s spending.

The woman’s reproductive health group is currently under investigation by Congress following the release of several sting videos which show employees of the non-profit discussing the sale of aborted fetal tissue.

House Republicans want to strip the group of government funding over the videos, and sought to win that battle this week by claiming that Planned Parenthood can make a profit without taxpayer money.

Scroll down for video 

House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, published a report criticizing Planned Parenthood's spending on Tuesday - the day he held a hearing for the organization's president  

House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, published a report criticizing Planned Parenthood’s spending on Tuesday – the day he held a hearing for the organization’s president

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards maintained that the group does not make a profit on the 41 per cent of funding they receive from the government when she testified before Congress on Tuesday 

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards maintained that the group does not make a profit on the 41 per cent of funding they receive from the government when she testified before Congress on Tuesday

Rep Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, published a report on Tuesday claiming that Planned Parenthood spends millions on ‘blowout’ parties, first-travel, ‘lucrative’ salaries and real estate in expensive zip codes.

‘If they’re going to pay those people that much money and pay for first-class travel and have all of these exorbitant parties, and send money overseas, then they don’t need funding from the American taxpayers,’ Chaffetz told Fox News of his report.

If they’re going to pay those people that much money and pay for first-class travel and have all oft these exorbitant parties, and send money overseas, then they don’t need funding from the American taxpayers.
Rep Jeff Chaffetz, R-Utah (Chairman of the House Oversight Committee)
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Save the Mother, sell the fetus, no mater law or morality….

In contention is the 41 per cent of Planned Parenthood’s $1.3billion revenue that comes from the government. While the majority of this money is reimbursements for Medicaid, about $60million is awarded through Title X funding, otherwise known as the National Family Planning Program, and that’s the money that Republicans are trying to take away.

As always, when Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards testified before Congress on Tuesday, she maintained that the the group does not make any profit off money they receive from the government.

The report references Planned Parenthood’s tax records, which show that the group spent $5.1million on travel in 2013 – which boils down to a surprising $14,000  a day. The group also is said to book ‘first-class and charter travel’.

When questioned about her travel expenses on Tuesday, Richards said she personally does not travel in style and that the reason why the group spends so much on travel is because they operate centers in all 50 states and around the world – including Africa and South America.

Tax records also showed that Planned Parenthood spent $622,706 on ‘blowout’ parties in 2012 and 2013, for events like the group’s annual gala which often features performances by famous musicians and speeches from supportive politicians such as President Barack Obama.

Chaffetz also took aim on local Planned Parenthood groups who have spent money on their own fundraisers with themes like ‘Gathering of Goddesses and Gods’ and murder mystery nights.

One of the other spending issues the report takes issue with is the spending of millions on expensive real estate – such as the $34.8million building the group bought in 2011 to be their corporate office, located just steps from Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Planned Parenthood chief: I’m proud of our doctors’ work

Above, Planned Parenthood's corporate headquarters in Manhattan which the organization purchased for $34.8million in 2011 

Above, Planned Parenthood’s corporate headquarters in Manhattan which the organization purchased for $34.8million in 2011

The Republican lawmaker was also obviously critical of the fact that $22million in grants over five years have been given to their political action committee, which is able to lobby for the group. Additionally, campaign finance records obtained by the Center for Reponsive Politics shows that donations to the PAC go almost exclusively to fund Democratic candidates.

Finally, Chaffetz called out the six-figure salaries of the groups executives. According to the report, 40 Planned Parenthood executives earned salaries of $200,000 or more between 2009 and 2013, and Richards confirmed that her own salary is $520,000.

Democratic Rep Carolyn Maloney, from New York, chastised Chaffetz over the questions about Richards’ salary, saying he was ‘beating up a woman…for making good money’.

Following the congressional hearing on Tuesday, House Democrats again came to the defense of the group saying that Republicans were wasting ‘taxpayer time and money to conduct a wasteful investigation into baseless allegations.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3255415/Planned-Parenthood-spends-millions-six-figure-salaries-blowout-parties-class-travel-Manhattan-real-estate-new-congressional-report-reveals.html#ixzz3nJtDaZ3t
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State Department Lacked Top Watchdog During Hillary Clinton Tenure

March 25, 2015

The agency had no permanent inspector general during her time as secretary

Harold Geisel, right, speaks during a congressional hearing in November 2010 while he was the State Department’s acting inspector general.  
Harold Geisel, right, speaks during a congressional hearing in November 2010 while he was the State Department’s acting inspector general. Photo: Getty Images
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By Peter Nicholas and Byron Tau
The Wall Street Journal
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The State Department had no permanent inspector general—the lead watchdog charged with uncovering misconduct and waste—during Hillary Clinton’s entire tenure as secretary, leaving in place an acting inspector who had close ties to State Department leadership.

President Barack Obama didn’t put forward a nominee to lead the inspector general’s office while Mrs. Clinton led the State Department, making it the only agency with a presidentially appointed inspector general that had neither a confirmed nor nominated head watchdog during that full time period.

Five months after Mrs. Clinton left office, Mr. Obama nominated a permanent inspector general, who was confirmed by the Senate three months later.

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The lack of a confirmed inspector general raises questions about oversight of the department under Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton. The department has been criticized for its failure to gather and archive the email records of Mrs. Clinton and other officials and for responses to public-record requests that lawmakers and advocacy groups say were insufficient, including its response to requests for information from a congressional panel investigating the 2012 terror attack in Benghazi, Libya.

The vacancy in the top watchdog spot left the State Department with no confirmed inspector general for more than five years, the longest gap since the position was created in 1957, according to department records. While other agencies have had no permanent inspectors general at various points in recent years, some of those vacancies were due to a lack of confirmation by the Senate on nominees put forward by Mr. Obama.

Is isn’t clear whether Mrs. Clinton had any role in the lack of a nomination.

The acting inspector general, Harold Geisel, had served in a variety of roles, including U.S. ambassador to Mauritius in Bill Clinton’s administration and in a State Department job under Richard Nixon. Because he was a longtime foreign-service officer, Mr. Geisel was banned by law from becoming permanent inspector general, a prohibition that Congress put in place to ensure that oversight is conducted by people who don’t have ties to the departments they investigate.

Hillary Clinton tries to explain her use of private email while she was Secretary of State. Reuters photo

“It’s a convenient way to prevent oversight,” said Matthew Harris, a University of Maryland University College professor who has worked in law enforcement and researches inspectors general. Acting inspectors general “don’t feel empowered; they don’t have the backing of their people. They’re in a position where they could be removed at any moment,” Mr. Harris said.

Rep. Ed Royce (R., Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Mr. Geisel’s role as a Clinton administration ambassador undercut his status as a watchdog.

“We did not believe he could be truly independent. We raised the issue that the lack of a permanent IG was a problem,” Mr. Royce said. He said an independent inspector would likely have uncovered and raised objections to Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email account and computer server for official correspondence.

“A permanent IG would have objected to her efforts to circumvent congressional oversight by keeping her emails off the books,” Mr. Royce said.

A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, Nick Merrill, said Mr. Geisel “was a career official spanning Republican and Democratic administrations alike, independent and hard-hitting. As it should be.” A spokesman for the State Department said Mr. Geisel led a team that “conducted more investigations between 2007 and 2012 than the IG had under his predecessor.”

The White House declined to elaborate on reason for the lack of an appointment. A White House spokesman said the inspector general’s office issued more than 450 reports while there was no permanent head in place.

Mr. Geisel, assuming his tenure would be short-lived, said he did little to decorate his office. “I never even put up a picture,” he said in an interview. After his five-year stint as watchdog, the State Department gave him a paid temporary assignment reviewing staffing conditions at outposts in Egypt and Nairobi, Mr. Geisel said.

Designed to be isolated from political pressure, inspectors general are tasked with uncovering waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement of federal agencies. The State Department office has a large staff that conducts audits and investigations.

During Mr. Geisel’s tenure, members of Congress and independent watchdog groups raised questions about his distance from top leadership at the State Department.

The nonpartisan Project On Government Oversight said Mr. Geisel had an unduly close relationship with Patrick F. Kennedy, the department’s undersecretary for management, a top post. In a 2010 letter to the White House, the group cited friendly emails between the two as evidence of a close relationship, as well as the fact that Mr. Geisel recused himself from an investigation into a situation involving Mr. Kennedy at one point during his tenure.

Asked whether he believed he was compromised in his ability to do his job, Mr. Geisel said: “My work absolutely speaks for itself.” He described his mission as “telling the truth that needs to be told, which may not be the truth that people want to hear.”

One person who worked in the office from 2009 to 2013, Evelyn Klemstine, spoke highly of Mr. Geisel. “I personally never felt that he inhibited any of the audits that we did,” she said.

Write to Peter Nicholas at peter.nicholas@wsj.com