Nation & World News

Bloomberg Terminals Go Dark For Hours, Sending Ripples Through Markets

By Scott Neuman on April 17th, 2015 | Last updated: April 17, 2015 at 12:05 pm

Updated at 10:15 a.m. ET

If there’s one piece of hardware that can be found on nearly every trader’s desk, regardless of time zone, it’s the Bloomberg data terminal.

So when the terminals experienced a global outage lasting hours, it sent chaos through markets where the “screens” are relied upon to analyze and interpret financial data — and to exchange market gossip with traders around the world.

Zero Hedge, a financial news site, says the outage led to “widespread panic among traders mostly in Europe, who were flying blind and unable to chat with other, just as clueless colleagues (the one function used predominantly on the terminal is not charts, nor analytics, but plain old chat).”

The Wall Street Journal quoted Louis Gargour, the chief investment officer at London-based LNG Capital, as saying “We’re flying blind.”

“It’s scary how dependent we have become on our Bloomberg screens,” Anthony Peters, a strategist at London-based capital markets adviser SwissInvest, was quoted as saying by the Journal.

Reuters, which is a Bloomberg competitor, quoted Ioan Smith, managing director of KCG Europe, as saying that traders had to “catch up” on important market chatter “after the Bloomberg terminals came back online, and that’s when we saw the falls in Europe.”

The Associated Press adds that the problems “prompted the British government to postpone a planned 3 billion-pound ($4.4 billion) debt issue.” It notes:

“Users say the outage started as trading was getting in full swing around 8 a.m. in London, one of the world’s largest financial centers, particularly in foreign exchange and bond markets.”

CNBC says Bloomberg confirmed that the outage began about 8:20 a.m. London time and that service was restored to most users by 12:45 p.m. In a statement issued later, Bloomberg acknowledged the outage had affected “significant but not all parts” of its network and that “there is no indication at this point that this is anything other than an internal network issue.”

AP notes: “The disruption is likely to cause concern at Bloomberg. The company has become the world’s biggest financial information provider, overtaking rival Reuters. Bloomberg is privately held and is not obliged to divulge financial information, but it said in September that its revenue grew to more than $9 billion in 2014, with 320,000 subscribers globally.”

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Espresso In Orbit: SpaceX Craft Brings Coffee Machine To Space Station

By Bill Chappell on April 17th, 2015 | Last updated: April 17, 2015 at 3:04 pm

The coffee on the International Space Station is about to get much better. The SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule linked up with the station on Friday, bringing groceries, supplies — and a long-awaited espresso machine called the ISSpresso.

In a rendezvous that was streamed live online, astronauts inside the ISS extended a robotic arm and captured the SpaceX Dragon early Friday. NASA says the pair made contact 257 miles over the Pacific Ocean.

The robotic arm was operated by Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency. It was her compatriot Luca Parmitano who said in 2013 that espresso was the only thing he really missed when he served aboard the space station.

“The ISSpresso is a box about the size of a microwave,” NPR’s Geoff Brumfiel reported this week for The Salt. “You put in a pouch of water, add a little capsule of espresso and press the button marked ‘brew.'”

The shipment also includes zero-gravity cups — they were developed in Oregon, where our friends at Oregon Public Broadcasting say, “the 3D-printed cups that can simulate the act of pouring.”

Astronauts have been pining for a good strong coffee in orbit for years, but Italy’s space agency finally made it happen. The new machine is the result of collaborations between engineers from the country’s aerospace industry and the Lavazza coffee company.

A Lavazza vice president, Giuseppe Lavazza, promised that the ISSpresso machine would give the astronauts “a real coffee, that which one drinks in a café. Good, hot and steaming,” as Scott reported for The Two-Way last summer.

The Dragon craft is expected to return to Earth in five weeks, loaded with trash and cargo.

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Former IMF Head Rato Is Arrested Over Tax Fraud Allegations In Spain

By Bill Chappell on April 17th, 2015 | Last updated: April 17, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Rodrigo Rato, who led the International Monetary Fund from 2004-2007, was arrested in Spain last night over allegations of tax evasion and money laundering.

An influential figure in Spanish banking and politics, Rato was the predecessor of IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Khan, who left office under a cloud of legal troubles and allegations of sexual assault.

From Madrid, NPR’s Lauren Frayer reports:

“Tax and customs officials raided Rodrigo Rato’s Madrid home last night and took him away in a police car.

“He was released overnight. A judge is preparing to charge him with money laundering and tax fraud. He’s accused of hiding part of his personal fortune overseas illegally and also of mismanaging funds at Bankia, the big Spanish bank he headed before it went bankrupt and needed a bailout.

“Rato headed the IMF from 2004 to 2007. He’s also a top figure from Spain’s ruling conservative party. He served in the past as Spain’s vice president and economy minister. But he’s now become a symbol of corruption revealed when Spain’s economy collapsed.”

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WikiLeaks Makes It Easy To Access Hacked Sony Pictures Information

By Sam Sanders on April 16th, 2015 | Last updated: April 17, 2015 at 7:04 am

WikiLeaks has posted a searchable archive of more than 170,000 emails and 30,000 private documents belonging to Sony Pictures Entertainment. The movie conglomerate reacted angrily to the news on Thursday, saying that it condemned the indexing of stolen employee and other privileged information.

The data was hacked in November of last year, revealing multiple embarrassing e-mail exchanges between Sony executives and personal information from thousands of employees, including social security numbers.

U.S. officials believe the North Korean government was behind the hack, done in retaliation against the Sony Pictures film, The Interview, in which North Korean leader Kim Kim Jong Un is assassinated by two American journalists with help from the U.S. government.

The scandal surrounding the hack led to The Interview’s release being cancelled, then rolled out on a much smaller scale online and in independent movie theater chains. Theaters across the country refused to release the film after ominous threats were made against them, allegedly from the same group that hacked the data.

In announcing this week’s information cache, WikiLeaks said on their website that “the original archives, which were not searchable, were removed before the public and journalists were able to do more than scratch the surface.” It went on to say that the data offers “a rare insight into the inner workings of a large, secretive multinational corporation.

The email exchanges, WikiLeaks said, shows that behind the scenes the movie powerhouse is an influential corporation, with ties to the White House. (There are almost 100 U.S. government email addresses in the archive). It has “an ability to impact laws and policies, and with connections to the US military-industrial complex.”

WikiLeaks pointed to Sony’s ties to the Democratic Party and the Rand Corporation, as well as allegations of “collecting intelligence” on rival pictures.

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange said Sony is “at the centre of a geo-political conflict,” that the data belongs in the public domain, and that WikiLeaks will ensure it stays there.

Sony issued a statement in response to WikiLeaks posting of the data:

The cyber-attack on Sony Pictures was a malicious criminal act, and we strongly condemn the indexing of stolen employee and other private and privileged information on WikiLeaks. The attackers used the dissemination of stolen information to try to harm SPE and its employees, and now WikiLeaks regrettably is assisting them in that effort. We vehemently disagree with WikiLeaks’ assertion that this material belongs in the public domain and will continue to fight for the safety, security, and privacy of our company and its more than 6,000 employees.”

Sony has previously told media outlets that the hacked data is “stolen information” and said those who had it in their possession should destroy it.

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Florida Mailman Who Flew Gyrocopter Onto Capitol Lawn Charged

By Krishnadev Calamur on April 16th, 2015 | Last updated: April 16, 2015 at 7:03 pm

The 61-year-old Florida mailman who flew a gyrocopter onto the grounds of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday has been charged with violating registration requirements involving aircraft and with violation of national defense airspace, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

The registration charge is punishable by a maximum of three years in prison; the airspace charge up to a year. Douglas Mark Hughes of Ruskin, Fla., also faces financial penalties, the statement said.

As we reported Wednesday, Hughes had told the Tampa Bay Times that he intended to make the flight in order to deliver letters to members of Congress highlighting institutional graft and the need for campaign finance reform.

He made his initial appearance in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Thursday afternoon. He was released on personal recognizance, but with certain conditions:

“Hughes will be placed on home detention in Florida. He is barred from returning to the District of Columbia except for court appearances and meetings with his attorney. Any time that he is in the District of Columbia, Hughes must stay away from the Capitol, White House and nearby areas.”

The statement said he will also be barred from operating an aircraft while on release, and has been asked to surrender his passport.

As our Newscast unit is reporting, some members of Congress are saying the landing on the West Lawn of the Capitol has exposed a serious security gap.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Hughes “literally flew under the radar” but added it was too soon to tell whether changes were needed to security procedures.

At the White House, spokesman Josh Earnest said the matter is being taken seriously.

“Our security professionals at the Secret Service are constantly re-evaluating security postures, trying to learn lessons every day — from additional steps that can be taken to make the White House and the U.S. Capitol and the entire National Capital Region even more safe,” he said.

Earnest said the low-speed, low-altitude flight made it difficult to detect the small gyrocopter on radar.

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We Might Welcome Robot Lawn Mowers, But Astronomers Aren’t So Happy

By Krishnadev Calamur on April 16th, 2015 | Last updated: April 16, 2015 at 6:04 pm

What could a robot lawn mower possibly have to do with astronomy? A lot, apparently.

iRobot, which makes Roomba, the wireless vacuum cleaner, appears to be developing a robot lawn mower – one that would work using a wireless beacon system. That’s according to a waiver filing in February with the Federal Communications Commission.

Wired, where we spotted this story, has the details:

“The problem with grass-cutting bots, according to iRobot’s filing, is the only way to get them to work is to dig a trench along the perimeter of a lawn and install a wire that creates the electronic fence needed to ensure the automaton don’t wander beyond the property line.

“As a less arduous solution, iRobot proposes using stakes, driven into the ground, to act as beacons. The beacons will talk to the lawnbot, helping it map the area and stay within the designated boundaries. A typical user with a typical lawn (a quarter to a third of an acre) might need between four and nine beacons.”

But it turns out that the frequency range in which this lawn mower would work was also used by astronomers for spectral line observations. That’s why iRobot applied for a waiver. The filing says:

“Because this use is location specific, there is little risk of interference as homeowners will not be operating the RLMs near observatories, especially those located in desert or mountainous regions. As well, the above ground attenuation of the RLM, ground clutter, and the curvature of the earth will combine to protect RAS. iRobot will commit to placing a notice in the user manual and on the robot that states: “Consumer use only; use must be limited to residential areas.” This should ensure that the RLMs are not operated near highways, where DSRC operations will occur, or near observatories, where there is RAS use of the spectrum.”

As the robotics website IEEE Spectrum, which first reported on this controversy, noted the range that iRobot wants its robot lawn mower to operate in, 6650-6675.2 MHz, is used by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory to spot the spectral signature of methanol in space.

The NRAO, as you might imagine, was not persuaded by iRobot’s argument, and filed comments with the FCC on the waiver request. It said:

“iRobot’s [robot lawn mowers] can certainly operate over most of this country without interfering with radio astronomy operations but they equally certainly must be prevented from operating across the protected methanol band when this will cause interference, especially within the [national radio quiet zone].”

It said that the lawn mowers should not be allowed to operate within 89 kilometers (about 55 miles) of a radio telescope – an area called the exclusion zone.

In its response to the NRAO response, iRobot said: “As a realistic matter, iRobot’s proposed operations will have an infinitesimal likelihood of impacting any radio astronomy measurements in the band.” It said the robot lawn mowers “will not be operating in close proximity to radio astronomy sites” and added that NRAO was “significantly” overstating its exclusion zone, and that the zone should be more than 19.3 km (about 12 miles). And it said:

“The NRAO observatories for the most part are not closely surrounded by residential areas, at least no residential areas with lawns. A review of the observatory locations on Google maps also shows that many are surrounded by desert or forests, not environments where residential lawn equipment is used.”

In response to that claim, NRAO, in a second response, said: “This claim is most charitably characterized as silly.”

Harvey Liszt, spectrum manager with the NRAO, tells Wired the “”NRAO is not trying to stop this, NRAO just wants people to respect where its telescopes are.”

The FCC will make a final decision.

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Yoda? Is It Thou? Figure In 14th-Century Manuscript Looks Familiar

By Bill Chappell on April 16th, 2015 | Last updated: April 16, 2015 at 4:03 pm

A long time ago, in a place far away, a manuscript was created with an enigmatic figure who looks a great deal like a certain little — and yet powerful — green guy from the Star Wars films. It’s an unlikely connection between a religious tome and science fiction.

The similarity to Jedi Grand Master Yoda was recently highlighted by British Library curator Julian Harrison, who runs the Medieval Manuscripts blog. Harrison mentioned the drawing when he spoke to The Guardian about his job and the new popularity of illuminated manuscripts on the Web. It’s an interesting interview — but we couldn’t stop wondering: What about that Yoda guy?

“The Yoda image comes from a 14th-century manuscript known as the Smithfield Decretals,” Harrison said, after we reached out to the British Library.

“I’d love to say that it really was Yoda, or was drawn by a medieval time traveler,” Harrison continued. “It’s actually an illustration to the biblical story of Samson — the artist clearly had a vivid imagination!”

The volume is also known as “The Decretals of Gregory IX with gloss of Bernard of Parma,” and it was created in southern France between 1300 and 1340. Decretals, we learned today, are collections of papal letters that compiled decisions (decrees) on church law and doctrine.

We’re not suggesting that this decretal might be one of the anthropological antecedents (or to the layman, “sources”) that Star Wars creator George Lucas used to enrich his stories of a galaxy far, far away. But the resemblance is striking — those ears! And after all, Yoda was supposed to be around 900 years old.

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In Posthumous Riposte, Editor Of ‘Charlie Hebdo’ Targets ‘Islamophobia’

By Krishnadev Calamur on April 16th, 2015 | Last updated: April 16, 2015 at 5:03 pm

Stephane Charbonnier, the editor of Charlie Hebdo who was killed in the Jan. 7 attack by two radical Islamists on the satirical magazine, is having the last word.

In a new book completed just two days before the attack that killed 12 people, Charbonnier, who was commonly known as “Charb,” says the fight against Islamophobia protects Islam more than it does Muslims. The title of the 88-page book, published Thursday, translates to Letters to the Swindlers of Islamophobia who play into the Hands of Racists.

The Associated Press adds:

“In an opening poem that targets preconceived notions, Charb writes that his intended audience includes those who ‘think it’s written in the Quran that drawing the Prophet Muhammad is forbidden … think caricaturing a jihadist in a ridiculous position insults Islam … think a drawing is more dangerous than an American drone.’ ”

Charb also asks why the term “Islamophobia” is used to describe racism against Muslims when it could be taken to mean “fear of Islam.” He attributes it to lazy journalists because “any scandal that contains the word ‘Islam’ in its title sells.”

“A terrorist is scary, but if you add that he’s an Islamist, everyone wets themselves,” he writes.

He says a better word would be “Muslim-o-phobia” — an irrational fear of a people. Charb also criticizes anti-Muslim attitudes in France.

“If one day all Muslims in France converted to Catholicism … these foreigners or French of foreign origin would still be seen as responsible for all ills,” he writes.

He uses the book to defend Charlie Hebdo, long criticized by Muslims, Christians and Jews for its depiction of figures the religions consider sacred. It was the paper’s depiction of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad that apparently angered the gunmen who attacked the magazine. Many Muslims regard any depiction of their prophet — even positive ones — as offensive.

“One day, for a laugh, I will have to publish all the threats I received at Charlie Hebdo, from Catholic fascists and Muslim fascists” alike, Charb writes in the book, excerpts of which were published in French media.

France 24 adds:

“He defended Charlie Hebdo’s controversial depictions of the prophet over the years, which have been criticized as Islamophobic.

” ‘By what twisted logic is humor less compatible with Islam than with any other religion? … If we let it be understood that we can laugh at everything except certain aspects of Islam because Muslims are much more susceptible than the rest of the population, isn’t that discrimination?

” ‘It’s time to end this disgusting paternalism of the white, bourgeois, intellectual “left” who seek to exist among the “unfortunate, under-educated poor,” ‘ he wrote.”

And, he writes: “To be afraid of Islam is without a doubt moronic, absurd and many other things as well, but it’s not an offense. The problem isn’t the Quran, nor the Bible, [two] badly written, incoherent and soporific novels, but the believer who reads the Quran or the Bible like one reads an instruction manual on how to assemble an Ikea shelf.”

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Homeless Shelter Opts To Close Instead Of Accepting People On Drugs, Alcohol

By Bill Chappell on April 16th, 2015 | Last updated: April 16, 2015 at 4:03 pm

Faced with a state rule that links funding to the admission of people who are actively using drugs or alcohol, a group that runs a homeless shelter in Manchester, Conn., is choosing to close the 40-bed facility. More than half of the shelter’s budget reportedly comes from the state.

The Manchester Area Conference of Churches made the decision to turn away $174,000 from the state Department of Housing, the group’s executive director, Beth Stafford, tells The Hartford Courant.

The Courant reports:

“Other than in periods of extreme cold or heat, the longtime policy at the Manchester shelter has been to deny admission to people who are drinking and using drugs. MACC Charities and other ‘dry’ shelters use Breathalyzer tests to screen people.

“The organization lacks the staff and funding to supervise active alcohol- and drug-abusers overnight, Stafford said, and there are concerns about the safety of the two people — a staff member and a volunteer — who manage the place each night.”

Emergency shelters that have policies against receiving guests who have been using drugs or alcohol could face similar funding dilemmas elsewhere in Connecticut and the U.S.

“It is estimated that nearly half of all individuals experiencing homelessness, and 70 percent of Veterans experiencing homelessness, suffer from substance abuse disorders,” according to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.

On The Courant’s Facebook page, the top-rated comment is:

“Many of these people have mental illnesses and are self-medicating because they can’t get the help they need. They have no medical care and their families can’t or don’t know how to deal with them. This is just plain sad. This is not the fault or failure of the shelter, it’s a systematic failure in how we deal with homelessness.”

Other comments praised the shelter’s organizers for making sure their workers and volunteers are safe, even as concerns were raised about the fates of those who would be turned away.

The MACC website says, “Our shelter is not a long term shelter. It is meant to be a place where guests can come to rest, recover and begin their journey back to wellness … The average stay is roughly 15 days and guests are expected to be working on a recovery plan while using our shelter.”

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Putin Defends Missile Deal With Iran, Says No Russian Troops In Ukraine

By Krishnadev Calamur on April 16th, 2015 | Last updated: April 16, 2015 at 6:03 pm

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday defended his decision to sell a long-range air-defense missile system to Iran, criticized the West for its treatment of Moscow, called “tragic” the killing of an opposition figure and said Ukraine was not living up to commitments made in a recent peace deal.

His comments were part of a four-hour call-in TV show that has become an annual tradition.

Putin said Russia was selling the S-300 missiles to Iran because the Islamic republic has shown “a great degree of flexibility and a desire to reach compromise” in talks with six world powers, including Russia, over its nuclear program. He said the missiles did not pose a threat to Israel, adding it served as “a deterrent factor” to the situation in Yemen, where a Saudi-led campaign is targeting an Iran-backed Shiite militia.

Putin also discussed the situation in Ukraine, where Moscow-backed separatist rebels are fighting the government in Kiev.

“There are no Russian troops in Ukraine,” he said in response to a question.

There have been reports of Russians fighting among the rebels and Russian military systems inside rebel territory.

And when he was asked if a war between the two countries was likely, he said “a war … is impossible.”

Putin described Ukraine as a “brotherly nation,” adding: “I make no difference between Ukrainians and Russians in general. I think this is basically the same nation, ethnically.” But he accused Ukraine of violating its commitments to February’s peace deal by maintaining an economic blockade on rebel-held areas.

The Russian economy, which has struggled with low oil prices and the impact of Western sanctions because of Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, dominated the questions. Putin acknowledged sanctions had had an impact but said the economy was improving.

“Regardless of any sanctions the economy correction was unavoidable,” he said. “Those sanctions actually helped the government and the central bank. They could say: ‘We do what we do because of the sanctions.’ Not just because of them. We have to correct our economic policy in a more professional and vigorous manner.”

Relations with the West are at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War, and Putin said that “our partners should at least try to seek compromise rather than put pressure on us.”

“The U.S. doesn’t need allies, it needs vassals,” he said. “Russia cannot exist in such a system of relations.”

Putin was also asked about the killing of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. He called the assassination of the critic of the Kremlin on Feb. 27 “tragic and shameful.” Five people have been arrested in connection with the killing.

The translation of Putin’s comments was provided by Russia’s state-run Russia Today.

You can watch the full show here.

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