Month: January 2020

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Why Is Mystery Russian Spacecraft Suddenly Stalking Secret U.S. Spy Satellite?


A mysterious Russian spacecraft has maneuvered into a new orbit around Earth right behind a secret U.S. spy satellite.

The unusual move by Russian Cosmos 2542 on Jan. 20 allows it to closely watch the American KH-11, a $4 billion orbital telescope staring down at Earth. And there’s not much that U.S. space operators can do about it.

For the Americans, getting tailed by the Russians in peacetime is annoying. During wartime, it could be a prelude to an attack.

Cosmos 2542 is what space operators call an “inspection satellite.” Fitted with sensors and thrusters, the mini-fridge-size satellite can maneuver close to other spacecraft and scan them. Some inspection-sats could double as weapons, tampering with or even destroying enemy spacecraft.

The inspection-sat launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome north of Moscow back in November. Riding atop a Soyuz rocket, Cosmos 2542 settled into orbit between 250 miles and 550 miles over Earth’s surface.

“The purpose of the experiment is to continue work on assessing the technical condition of domestic satellites,” the Russian defense ministry stated.

But it was apparent early on that an American satellite that trackers call USA 245 was the real target. Cosmos 2542’s original orbit allowed it to pass within a few hundred miles of the KH-11 every 11 or 12 days, noted Michael Thompson, an American graduate student who moonlights with a small space company and, in his spare time, tracks satellites.

It’s surprisingly easy to do. Amateur sat-trackers all over the world use telescopes and government data to keep track of many of the world’s roughly 2,200 active satellites, more than half of which are in low orbit between 100 and 1,200 miles above Earth.

Between November and January, Cosmos 2542 mostly stayed a respectful distance from the KH-11 as the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office satellite went about its business snapping high-resolution photographs of America’s rivals.

Then in mid-January, Cosmos 2542 passed close to the spy satellite—and made its move. Instead of drifting away like it usually did, Cosmos 2542 performed a series of maneuvers between Jan. 20 and Jan. 23 and essentially matched orbits with USA 245.

Sat-tracker Nico Janssen noticed the maneuver and fed data to Thompson, who performed his own analysis, then started tweeting. 

“Cosmos 2542 is loitering around USA 245 in consistent view,” Thomspon tweeted Thursday. “As I’m typing this, that offset distance shifts between 150 and 300 kilometers [93 and 186 miles] depending on the location in the orbit.”

At that range, Cosmos 2542 can probably take pretty detailed photos of KH-11. “The relative orbit is actually pretty cleverly designed,” Thompson tweeted. “Cosmos 2542 can observe one side of the KH-11 when both satellites first come into sunlight, and by the time they enter eclipse, it has migrated to the other side.”

It’s not clear how much Russia can learn from photographing the KH-11. “Personally, I think the intelligence value of observations of optical spy satellites like this one are probably marginal,” Thompson tweeted.

The NRO reportedly operates four KH-11s. They traditionally maintain orbits that dip as low as 160 miles and climb as high as 620 miles, allowing the satellites to modulate between viewing huge swathes of Earth at low resolution and much smaller sections of the planet at high resolution. 

By coordinating the orbits of the KH-11s, the NRO can maintain simultaneous wide and narrow surveillance. This is obvious to the world’s satellite-trackers. The NRO never comments on the KH-11s’ operations, but the shipping-container-size sats aren’t hard to see from the ground.

And since it’s public knowledge that the KH-11s use the same kind of lens that forms the basis of NASA’s Hubble space telescope, anyone with expertise in optics can estimate the KH-11s’ capabilities.

Spying on the spy satellite might not be the point. Russia has deployed several mysterious inspection satellites since 2014. China, Japan, Sweden, and the United States have launched their own inspection craft. The U.S. Air Force’s mysterious X-37B robotic mini-shuttle might be the most famous spacecraft with inspection capabilities.

All of these craft have had potential as weapons.

“You can probably equip them with lasers, maybe put some explosives on them,” Anatoly Zak, an independent expert on Russian spacecraft, told The Daily Beast in 2015. “If [one] comes very close to some military satellite, it probably can do some harm.”

In maneuvering Cosmos 2542 to closely tail an American spy satellite, Russia could be practicing for war.

KH-11s aren’t known to possess any defensive systems. Not that they would be useful during peacetime. Thompson said there’s not much the NRO’s satellite-operators can do about the Russian interloper “besides grumble at the U.N.” 



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WEEKEND: Gunslinger Mahomes targets Super Bowl glory…


Miami (AFP) – During a recent practice with the Kansas City Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes told team-mate Damien Williams to sprint downfield with his eyes shut and arms open.

“He said ‘Just hold your arms out and wait for the ball,'” Williams recalled this week.

Seconds later, Mahomes duly zipped a pass into Williams’ waiting arms with pinpoint accuracy.

“Pat’s always trying to see what he can do differently,” Williams says with a laugh.

It is a story that gives an insight into the kind of environment that has helped carry the 24-year-old Mahomes and the Chiefs into Sunday’s Super Bowl against San Francisco.

Under coach Andy Reid, Mahomes is given free rein to express the full range of his talents, from audacious no-look passes to his signature howitzer throws downfield.

Mahomes laughs when asked about Williams’ eyes-closed anecdote.

“We like to have fun,” Mahomes said. “It’s more about seeing what we can do and can’t do.”

A willingness to experiment with the unexpected has been a hallmark of Mahomes career from his earliest playing days.

The no-look passes were something he began to try during his college career, and that buccaneering style has been encouraged by Reid.

“(Reid) always says training camp is the time to throw interceptions,” Mahomes says.

“So that’s allowed me to have the confidence to do that stuff in the game. But it’s very risky — so you have to make sure you complete it when you do do it.”

Selected by the Chiefs with the 10th overall pick in the 2017 draft, Mahomes’ career took off the following year when he was promoted to starter.

An astonishing season saw him finish with 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns, only the second quarterback in history to post those numbers after Peyton Manning.

That stellar year, which culminated in an MVP award, also made him one of only eight quarterbacks to throw for more than 5,000 yards in a season.

– Baseball background –

Mahomes believes much of his prodigious arm strength and accuracy can be traced back to his days playing baseball.

He is the son of former Major League Baseball pitcher Pat Mahomes, and as a youngster would often accompany his father for throwing practice.

“Baseball helped me a ton, being able to throw accurately, off platform,” Mahomes says. “It has really helped.”

Mahomes also benefits from an ice-cold temperament in pressure situations. When the Chiefs trailed 24-0 to the Houston Texans in this season’s playoffs, there was no trace of panic from the young quarterback. The Chiefs ran out 51-31 winners.

Eric Bieniemy, the Chiefs offensive co-ordinator, says Mahomes’ leadership in the locker room had also impressed the coaching staff since his arrival.

“We knew the kid was special when we drafted him,” Bieniemy told AFP. “We knew we had a big arm. But the thing I love is his ability to lead.

“Players gravitate towards him. He’s not afraid to tell guys ‘Hey, get on my back, I’m going to take you to the Promised Land’.

“That’s the thing that stands out more than anything. His willingness to make himself vulnerable. The kid has a beautiful mind. Coaching him is a lot of fun.”

Mahomes meanwhile takes all the plaudits in his stride, revealing that he has always been determined to maintain a consistent personality throughout his life.

“I never wanted to change, never wanted to change my personality,” Mahomes told reporters.

“I always said I wanted to be the same person in middle school that I am now.”

That even temperament ought to ensure nerves are not a problem as he prepares to play in his first Super Bowl this weekend.

A victory would make him the second youngest quarterback to lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger in 2006.

“It’s not about nerves — it’s about having fun and going out and enjoying being with your teammates,” Mahomes said.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity that I hope I have many times in my life. I’m excited to go out there with my brothers to try and win.”



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Global digital tax talks to move forward…


A group of 137 countries and jurisdictions agreed to move ahead with negotiations to address tax challenges of the digital economy, according to a statement released Friday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The countries “affirm their commitment to reach an agreement on a consensus-based solution by the end of 2020,” the statement said. The statement followed talks among the countries this week in Paris that were overseen by the OECD.

The multilateral negotiations come as several European countries have been pursuing unilateral digital taxes that would primarily affect major U.S. tech companies such as Facebook, Amazon and Google. These countries are seeking to raise tax revenue from companies that have many users in their jurisdictions but pay little in taxes there.

However, U.S. policymakers oppose individual countries acting on their own to create digital taxes, arguing that the taxes unfairly target American tech companies, and think the best route would be an agreement on a framework at the OECD level.

After France enacted a digital tax last year, the U.S. trade representative proposed tariffs on $2.4 billion on French goods in response. The two countries earlier this month reached a truce under which France will postpone collecting its tax until the end of the year and the U.S. will postpone tariffs. Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinThe Hill’s Morning Report – Nearing witness vote, GOP rushes to acquit Trump On The Money: Trump takes victory lap with USMCA signing | Fed holds rates steady to open 2020 | Treasury rolls out new sanctions on Russia Trump administration rolls out new sanctions over Russian occupation of Crimea MORE has also warned the United Kingdom and Italy that they will face tariffs if they move forward with digital taxes.

The OECD said that the countries participating in the digital tax talks have agreed on an approach that will form the basis of negotiations on “Pillar One” rules about where taxes should be paid and how profits should be allocated.

Mnuchin proposed in December that Pillar One be a “safe-harbor regime,” which would mean that companies could choose whether to opt into it. 

The statement released by the OECD said that many other countries participating in the talks “express concerns that implementing Pillar One on a ‘safe harbour’ basis could raise major difficulties, increase uncertainty and fail to meet all of the policy objectives of the overall process.” The countries involved in the talks won’t make a decision about the safe-harbor issue until after other elements of an agreement have been reached, the OECD said.



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Some Saudis apprehensive over 'blistering' social change…


Riyadh (AFP) – Social changes sweeping Saudi Arabia have been embraced by many but Ibrahim, a middle-aged teacher, frowns as he rejects the “blistering and shocking” reforms that are breaking long-held taboos.

The kingdom’s ambitious de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has introduced multiple economic and social innovations in a kingdom where public life was once severely curtailed by uncompromising religious police.

Under the reform drive, women are allowed to take the wheel of cars after a decades-old driving ban was scrapped, and permitted to go to stadiums to watch sports and concerts.

Cinemas were reopened after many years of closures, noisy parties are permitted, and authorities turn a blind eye as shops remain open during prayers times — a grave offence in the past.

The metamorphosis has been widely welcomed in a country with a large youth population, and endorsed by clerics perceived to be pro-government.

But some conservative Saudis beg to differ, even if they do so quietly for fear of punishment.

“Loud musical parties, mixing of the sexes and easing restrictions on the female dress code — these were all unthinkable just a few years ago and are not permissible in the home of the two holy mosques,” said Ibrahim, a 55-year old Arabic teacher.

“Of course, there was hidden moral degeneration in the country like all other countries. Now it has become public,” the bearded father of five told AFP, declining to use his full name due to the sensitivity of the issue.

He shook his head as two women walked past, their billowing traditional abaya cloaks worn unfastened and revealing skinny jeans underneath.

Along the boulevards of Riyadh and on restaurant terraces, men and women can now be seen socialising together, reflecting a quiet end to the ban on the mixing of the genders.

Foreign women are now, in theory, allowed to venture out without the black abaya and some pioneering Saudi women are daring to do the same.

“My problem is not with freedom. My problem is that it is freedom without restrictions and guidelines,” Ibrahim said as he walked out of a mosque in central Riyadh.

“I asked religious scholars and they said we have to obey the Almighty, the Prophet and the rulers. Therefore I accept the reality as they — the rulers — are responsible for us,” he said.

– ‘Everything is possible’-

Given the reluctance to speak out against the crown prince’s vision for the country, which is aimed at bringing in investment and diversifying the oil-reliant economy, it is hard to know the extent of the pushback among ordinary people.

Even as the kingdom has forged ahead with the reforms, it has earned condemnation for a heavy-handed crackdown on dissidents including intellectuals, clerics and female activists.

A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to comment publicly, defended the reforms, saying they “are needed by the Saudis to feel they are leading a normal life.”

At the end of last year, Riyadh hosted the three-day MDL Beast, billed as the biggest party ever hosted by the conservative kingdom where hardliners have long opposed music shows.

Touted by some as Saudi Arabia’s Woodstock, international DJs blasted dance music as thousands partied in the open air for three days, including women — many of them unveiled and sporting glittery face paint.

“I refuse to allow my children to go to such parties. They asked me and I refused,” said one government employee, who declined to be named.

“I am not sure if they went without telling me. Everything has become possible these days,” said the father of four, including two girls.

“The problem is not with the change. The problem is that it has not happened gradually. It has taken place so suddenly,” said the 47-year old man as he drank coffee at a cafe outside Riyadh.

– Two sides collide? –

Even among some young women, the transformation has been head-spinning.

“The openness happened in an unpleasant and shocking way and without preparation,” said Manar Sultan, a 21-year-old student dressed in the traditional abaya.

“We have moved from the extreme right to the extreme left in the blink of an eye,” she said at an amusement park in Riyadh.

Local media have published reports in the past few months of cars owned by women being set ablaze in several Saudi cities — some of the victims accused unidentified men of acting in protest over the lifting of the driving ban.

In a gesture appeared to be aimed at alleviating the fears of conservatives, Saudi authorities last month held 200 people, including dozens of women, and penalised them for wearing improper dress and other “moral” violations.

“There has been a giant change but things remains fragile and extremely delicate,” said one diplomat who has lived in Riyadh for the past six years.

“Many people support it and many others oppose it. The problem is if the two sides collide.”



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ASHLEY MADISON cyber-breach: 5 years later, users targeted with 'sextortion' scams…


Homepage of the Ashley Madison website on an iPad.

Chris Wattie | Reuters

Scammers have found a new way to wring money out of unsuspecting victims of the 2015 breach of the Ashley Madison affair-dating website, by using their stolen credentials in an amped-up version of the common “sextortion” scam.

Researchers at email security company Vade Secure found the new scam earlier this year, when they saw a small number of targeted emails with apparent information from Ashley Madison breach victims. The scam emails seemed to be well researched, with not just the users’ email addresses but information like when the victim signed up, their username, and their interests they entered on the site, said Adrien Gendre, chief product officer for Vade Secure.

The threats are a worrying evolution of the sextortion scam because they appear to incorporate real information.

In the most typical version of sextortion, fraudsters make dubious, fictional claims about you via email. They say they’ve recorded you in a compromising position through your computer or that they have pictures of an alleged affair you are having. In those cases, the criminals blast out thousands of similar-sounding emails in hopes of persuading just one person to fall for the trick and make a requested extortion payment. The recordings and affairs are almost always nonexistent.

But in the new Ashley Madison cases, Gendre said the scammers are using carefully selected information that appear to be from real Ashley Madison subscribers, and piecing that information into more precisely targeted emails to those individuals. The ransomers then demand around $1,000 in bitcoin to keep the information silent. The grain of truth to their pitch sets the scam apart.

Gendre said he’s particularly concerned because the Ashley Madison breach affected individuals with corporate and government email addresses, which could make them particularly susceptible to paying the bribe. Vade is not able to observe how many people have paid the attackers, Gendre said.

An unusually consequential breach

In July 2015, scammers calling themselves the “Impact Team” stole around 60 gigabytes of personal information from the website, which bills itself as a matchmaking service for married or committed individuals who want to have an affair. The information was later released publicly on the internet.

The scammers claimed they were stealing and releasing the data as retribution against Ashley Madison site owner Avid Life Media, based in Canada, for deceptively using bots to pose as real women on the dating website. An analysis by Gizmodo later revealed that only around 1% of the registered female accounts on Ashley Madison at the time of the breach belonged to active users.

The Ashley Madison breach was unusually psychologically harmful for a cyber-intrusion, given the nature of the site and the consequences to its users. At least three suicides were attributed to the leaked information, two in Canada and one in the United States.

In 2017, Ashley Madison’s new owners, Ruby Media, settled a class action lawsuit over the lost personal information for $11.2 million.

What you can do

If you were in any way affected by the Ashley Madison breach in 2015, first take a deep breath.

The vast majority of users, based on the gender disparity research, almost certainly never met someone with whom they had an affair. The site seems to have been used more as a lighthearted fantasy exercise. But if you are overly concerned about your use of it and how that information may still affect your life, seek the help of a professional. And if you ever have any thoughts of ending your life because of your participation in the site, please call the national suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Indeed, the new Ashley Madison scammers capitalize on these fears: “FOR ALL YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS?” one message reads. “Of all the private massages [SIC] you sent to members, the reply you sent on Sunday July 31, 2011 was the best. Perv!”

“For those who get the email, what they should do is never give in to the trick,” Gendre said. “Never pay, whatever the rate. First, because you are not even sure if they will spend the time to release the information. And then, because you may just become a victim again. It’s never worth it.”

You can also report any attempts at cyber-extortion to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (known as IC3) or to your police department.

Follow @CNBCtech on Twitter for the latest tech industry news.



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Voters' 2nd choices could be decisive in close Iowa caucuses…


DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Democratic presidential candidates seeking victory in next week’s Iowa caucuses are navigating a field that is so jumbled that voters’ second choice could matter almost as much as their first, adding fresh uncertainty and confusion to the final days of the race.

Lower-polling candidates including Amy Klobuchar, Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer have been approached by multiple campaigns in recent days eager to form an alliance that could reshape Monday’s election. Joe Biden’s team has been in communication with lower-polling rivals, according to several people familiar with the conversations who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal strategy.

The former vice president’s campaign dismisses such reports of potential deal-making as dramatized accounts of business as usual. But the delicate overtures are a test of the leading campaigns’ ability to assemble a winning coalition and the capacity of second-tier candidates to stay relevant. And it could be decisive in determining who leaves Iowa with the momentum that will be needed to sustain a long campaign ahead.

“The second-place phenomenon, at least in Iowa, is not a bad thing at all,” said Iowa state Sen. Zach Wahls, who supports Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

In contrast to a traditional election, the caucus system works like this: Voters gather at dozens of caucus locations across the state and start the night by pledging support for their preferred candidate. After the initial vote count is taken, voters backing candidates who earn less than 15% are free to shift to other candidates or go home.

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While a dozen Democrats are still running for president, just four — Biden, Warren, Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg — have consistently polled above the 15% threshold in Iowa. Still, any of the four could see their support fall short, depending on who shows up to caucus.

As is the case with Biden and others, Warren sees an opportunity to draw significant support from Klobuchar, who has not reached the 15% threshold in polls to date, even as the Minnesota senator’s standing appears to have improved in recent weeks.

“It’s certainly no secret that Sen. Warren … has the highest favorables of anybody in the field within Democratic primary voters,” Wahls said. “I can tell you anecdotally that she is the second choice of a lot of Klobuchar supporters.”

Klobuchar’s team, aware that she’s viewed as a source of second-choice votes from several campaigns, downplayed the possibility of a potential deal when asked about conversations with rival campaigns.

“We’ve got no plans to cut any deals with anybody because we’re going to be viable,” Klobuchar campaign manager Justin Buoen told reporters on Thursday. “We’ve got no plans to tell our supporters what to do.”

Klobuchar’s Iowa adviser Norm Sterzenbach said the campaign was more focused on trying to win over supporters of other campaigns.

“Caucusgoers are going to go to their second choice because that’s who they like, not because of anything we tell them to do,” he said. “I just think it’s a waste of energy for us to focus our time on trying to make deals.”

To say the situation is fluid would be an understatement.

Just four days before the Iowa contest, polling suggests that more than half of the state’s likely Democratic voters are open to changing their minds.

Forty-five percent of all likely Democratic caucusgoers named a first choice but said they could be persuaded to support another candidate, and 13% did not indicate a first choice, according to the CNN/Des Moines Register poll conducted earlier this month.

At the same time, history holds few examples of final-days deals between rival campaigns that had a significant effect.

One may be in 2004, when North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich struck a deal to support each other. While Edwards was already surging at the time, the pact was more aimed at hurting former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

In the end, Edwards finished a strong second behind Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and Kucinich finished a distant fifth. Dean finished a disappointing third.

Should history repeat itself in 2020, top-tier campaigns see major opportunity in Klobuchar, who appears to be on the rise yet has struggled to hit the viability threshold. They’re also eyeing Tulsi Gabbard, Steyer and Yang, who have been mired in the single digits for months.

Yang acknowledged this week that multiple campaigns have reached out to his team about potential alliances.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, he said he’s not planning to urge his supporters to head to a specific second choice if he doesn’t make it past the first round of voting.

“Right now we have no guidance for our caucusgoers who don’t find us to be viable,” he said, downplaying his ability to direct his voters toward any specific candidate, even if he wanted to.

“The people that support my campaign are very diverse in their leanings,” he added. “I frankly think I’d have a hard time getting them to do anything that they weren’t naturally inclined to do.”

Yang conceded that Sanders, if anyone, might be best-positioned to inherit his support. And there was anecdotal evidence suggesting Yang was right.

Victor Cornejo, a 45-year-old engineer who attended a Sanders campaign event in Iowa City, said he was still deciding between businessman Yang and Sanders. He guessed he may get the chance to caucus for both if the proceedings go multiple rounds.

“I like Andrew Yang because he has a different approach, and he sees an economic approach to the future. I like the fact that he’s an outsider,” Cornejo said. “Bernie has been around for a while, and there’s some stability in that. And that actually brings some of the trust.”

A Biden aide, meanwhile, privately acknowledged regular conversations with other campaigns, but downplayed reports that Biden was actively trying to cut any deals.

The aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share internal strategy, expressed confidence in Biden’s ability to pull from other candidates and pointed to polls suggesting some overlap with Klobuchar and Buttigieg.

While Biden would not confirm his own campaign had conferred with the Yang or Klobuchar teams, he acknowledged that horse-trading is routine in the caucus process.

“Everybody’s looking and says, OK, if your guy doesn’t win or your person doesn’t win, who are you gonna go with?” Biden said in Iowa on Thursday.

Sanders’ state director Misty Rebik also de-emphasized efforts to woo rival campaigns.

“We are a movement of vote your conscience. We don’t have a strategy of telling people to ‘Go here. Go there,’” Rebik said. “And, in the off chance that that doesn’t work out for us, we expect our voters to do what they do, trust their gut and go for their second choice.”

___

Associated Press writers Hannah Fingerhut in Washington and Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.



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DOMINATE: AMAZON soars after huge earnings…


Amazon has surpassed a $1 trillion valuation after reporting blowout earnings for its fourth quarter on Thursday.

Shares of Amazon hit a new all-time intraday high Friday, climbing more than 9.2% in early trading. The surge propelled Amazon’s market cap to hit roughly $1.02 trillion at the open.

Amazon saw its market cap gain almost $96 billion from Thursday’s close, which is bigger than the market value of UPS and 3M. In order for Amazon’s market cap to rise $100 billion on Friday, the stock will need climb above $2,063.99.

By mid-morning on Friday, nearly $16 billion worth of Amazon stock had changed hands, which is about triple the average volume for the stock. In comparison, Apple saw $17.6 billion of its stock change hands during the entire session on Wednesday, the day after its fiscal first quarter earnings report. 

The stock opened at $2,051.47 and it’s now on pace for its best day in more than a year, since Dec. 26, 2018. Amazon’s stock needed a price of $2,008.80 to reach the $1 trillion mark at the start of trading, based on an outstanding count of 497,810,444 shares in the company’s latest 10-K filing.

In crossing the threshold, Amazon joins Apple, Alphabet and Microsoft, all of which have hit the key milestone. Amazon reached a $1 trillion market cap for the first time in September 2018. However, it surpassed the $1 trillion threshold intraday and wasn’t able to hold onto those gains after the market close.

Amazon’s fourth-quarter results proved its investments in one-day shipping are paying off, as it pushed consumers to purchase more products during the holiday shopping season. The company posted fourth-quarter earnings of $6.47 per share, which crushed estimates of $4.03 per share.

Amazon also gave upbeat guidance for the first quarter and provided updated figures on Prime subscribers, saying it now counts more than 150 million paying members in the program.



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How $98 trillion of household wealth in America is distributed…


The gap between rich and poor in America is the worst it’s been in more than a half century. It’s a concern cited by every leading Democratic presidential candidate in the 2020 election, but many may not realize what it actually means.

If a pie represented the estimated $98 trillion of household wealth in the United States, nine pieces, or 90% of the pie, would go to the wealthiest 20% in the country, according to a National Bureau Of Economic Research study of household wealth trends in the united states from 1962 to 2016. Out of those nine slices, four would go to just the top 1%.

The upper middle class and the middle class would share one piece, or about 10%, and the lower middle class would get .3% of the pie. The poorest Americans, people in the bottom 20%, wouldn’t get any. On average, they are more than $6,000 dollars in debt.

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CBS News


People presented with this image of the country’s wealth distribution were surprised.

Beberlee Maldonado said it wasn’t what she expected and called it “disturbing.”

“It’s very sad. It’s very depressing,” Jessica Ortiz told “CBS This Morning” co-host Tony Dokoupil, adding that she grew up in the poorest category.

In the 2020 election cycle, Democratic candidates Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have promised to redistribute the pie with a special tax on fortunes $50 million and up.

“The wealthiest people in this country will start paying their fair share of taxes,” Sanders said on the campaign trail in May.  

Income inequality: $0.01 for average American family is $11,700 for Jeff Bezos

Polls show most Americans support the idea. Asked if she thinks there should be an extra tax on the super wealthy, Maldonado, “Why not? They could afford it.”

“They should,” said another woman, Adriane Huff. “Will it happen? Probably not.”

Not everyone is on board with the tax.

“That’s against sorta the American way,” said John Sheffield at the New York Boat Show. “It would be a total disaster … And I’d actually like for them to continue to promote it because they won’t get elected in that way.”

Sheffield and Mark Tedford run an investment firm in Connecticut.

“Wealth redistribution is always popular amongst the masses who don’t have the wealth and not popular amongst the 1% that do,” Tedford said. “But it doesn’t make economic sense to me.”

Asked to explain why, Tedford said, “I guess the alternative is, do we need a socialist economy where everyone has the same? That doesn’t make sense either. A lot of people who have a lot have earned it and made it.

“They’ve started their own companies, they’ve grown businesses, they’ve worked hard, they’ve gotten good degrees, they’ve gone to school. They may have had more opportunity than others, but there’s a lot of people who just haven’t done that.”



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Dead man left lying in street…


THIS is the chilling moment a cyclist casually rides past the body of a pensioner who dropped dead in the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.

Police and medics in hazmat suits were later seen inspecting the corpse on a deserted pavement in crisis-hit Wuhan.

 A man wearing a face mask cycles past the body of a man who collapsed and died

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A man wearing a face mask cycles past the body of a man who collapsed and diedCredit: AFP or licensors
 A medic in a hazmat suit with the body of the mask-wearing man in Wuhan

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A medic in a hazmat suit with the body of the mask-wearing man in WuhanCredit: AFP or licensors

Although it’s not known if the grey-haired man died of the killer bug, it is clear from these pictures the authorities were taking no chances.

After being inspected the body was eventually zipped into a medical bag and carried into a van before the street was thoroughly disinfected.

Those who examined him were also sprayed down by colleagues after removing their protective suits.

One onlooker said she believed the local had died from an illness caused by the killer virus.


What we know about coronavirus so far…


“It’s terrible,” she said. “These days many people have died.”

The man collapsed just one block from the Wuhan Number Six Hospital, one of the main medical centres for treating those with virus symptoms.

The Sun Online has already told how Wuhan has been dubbed zombieland amid reports locals had been dropping in the streets.

In one disturbing image, one victim seen lying unresponsive on the ground while medics wearing masks tried to revive him.

 After the corpse was removed the streets were thoroughly disinfected

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After the corpse was removed the streets were thoroughly disinfectedCredit: AFP or licensors
 The crisis-hit Chinese city has been dubbed zombieland by locals

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The crisis-hit Chinese city has been dubbed zombieland by localsCredit: AFP or licensors

According to reports, he was waiting in line for paperwork when he lost consciousness and slumped to the ground.

Another horrifying picture showed a man reportedly dead on the ground with blood pouring from his head.

Wuhan is the centre of the outbreak of the outbreak, which is said to have jumped to humans from wild animals sold at a city food market .

The virus, which emerged late last year, has  already infected thousands in China and has cost around 160 lives in Wuhan in the alone.

 Medics in Wuhan with an individual who collapsed in the streets

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Medics in Wuhan with an individual who collapsed in the streetsCredit: Instagram
 Another victim lies dead in the street after falling and cracking his head open

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Another victim lies dead in the street after falling and cracking his head open

The global death toll for the virus has now hit 213 with more than 9,000 people affected by the outbreak.

The news comes as The World health Organisation’s (WHO) emergency committee declared an international public health emergency over the coronavirus outbreak.

Wuhan is currently a ghost town, with many staying indoors as experts warned the deadly bug will become a worldwide pandemic if governments do not impose heavy global travel bans.

The UK Government has advised against “all but essential” travel to mainland China due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Tests on nine of the first infected Chinese patients revealed the disease spread to humans from an animal sold at Wuhan’s Huanan seafood market.

China’s market watchdog, agricultural ministry and forestry bureau announced a nationwide temporary ban on the wildlife trade last week.

Any places that breed wildlife should be isolated, and the transportation of wildlife should be banned, said the statement.

Coronavirus leaves China a ‘zombieland’ with ‘dead lying in deserted streets and medics patrolling in hazmat suits’



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CLAIM: CHINA SECRETLY BURNING BODIES…


World health officials, back from a visit to Beijing, expressed great concern that a dangerous new virus was spreading between people outside of China, even as the number of illnesses continue to grow dramatically inside that Asian nation.

The new virus has now infected more people in China than were sickened during the 2002-2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak. On Wednesday, the number of cases jumped to 5974, surpassing the 5327 people diagnosed with SARS.

The death toll, which stood at 132 on Wednesday, is lower than the 348 people who died in China from SARS.

Doubts have been raised about the official death toll, however, with claims Chinese authorities have been cremating bodies in secret.

Chinese-language news outlet Initium interviewed people working at local cremation centres in Wuhan, who said bodies were being sent directly from hospitals without being properly identified and added to the official record.

“So there are reasons to remain sceptical about what China has been sharing with the world because while they have been more transparent about certain things related to the virus, they continue to be sketchy and unreliable in other aspects,” said DW News East Asia correspondent William Yang.

Scientists say there are still many questions to be answered about the new virus, including just how easily it spreads and how severe it is.

The World Health Organisation’s emergencies chief told reporters that China was taking “extraordinary measures in the face of an extraordinary challenge” posed by the outbreak.

Dr Michael Ryan spoke at a news conference after returning from a trip to Beijing to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other senior government leaders.

He said the epidemic remained centred in the city of Wuhan and in Hubei province, but “information is being updated and is changing by the hour”.

Chinese and Hong Kong residents are wearing masks in a bid to prevent themselves from picking up the deadly coronavirus. Photo / AP
Chinese and Hong Kong residents are wearing masks in a bid to prevent themselves from picking up the deadly coronavirus. Photo / AP

Dr Ryan said the few cases of human-to-human spread of the virus outside China – in Japan, Germany and Vietnam – were part of the reason the UN health agency’s director-general has reconvened an expert committee to meet on Thursday.

It will assess whether the outbreak should be declared a global emergency. To date, about 99 per cent of the nearly 6000 cases are in China.

Dr Ryan estimated the death rate of the new virus at 2 per cent but said the figure was very preliminary. With fluctuating numbers of cases and deaths, scientists are only able to produce a rough estimate of the fatality rate, and it’s likely many milder cases of the virus are being missed.

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In comparison, the SARS virus killed about 10 per cent of people who caught it. The new virus is from the coronavirus family, which includes those that can cause the common cold as well as more serious illnesses such as SARS and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

Dr Ryan noted there were several aspects of the new virus outbreak that were extremely worrying, citing the recent rapid spike in cases in China. He said that while scientists believe the outbreak was sparked by an animal virus, it’s unclear if there are other factors driving the epidemic.

“Without understanding that, it’s very hard to put into context the current transmission dynamics,” he said.

Meanwhile, countries began evacuating their citizens from the Chinese city hardest hit by the virus.

Chartered planes carrying about 200 evacuees each arrived in Japan and the United States early on Wednesday as other countries planned similar evacuations from the city of Wuhan, which authorities have shut down to try to contain the virus.

The first cases in the Middle East were confirmed on Wednesday, a family of four from Wuhan that was visiting the United Arab Emirates. Airlines around the world announced they were cutting flights to China, and Hong Kong was suspending rail travel to and from the mainland at midnight.

The number of cases in China rose 1459 from the previous day, a smaller increase than the 1771 new cases reported on Tuesday.

Australia and Singapore were among those reporting new cases, as the number outside China topped 70. The vast majority are people who came from Wuhan.

Four passengers on the evacuation flight to Japan had coughs and fevers, and two were diagnosed with pneumonia.

It wasn’t clear whether they were infected with the new virus, which first appeared in Wuhan in December. Its symptoms, including cough and fever and in severe cases pneumonia, are similar to many other illnesses.

Takeo Aoyama, an employee at Nippon Steel Corp’s subsidiary in Wuhan, told reporters he was relieved to be able to return home.

“We were feeling increasingly uneasy as the situation developed so rapidly and we were still in the city,” Mr Aoyama said, his voice muffled by a white surgical mask.

Medical staff wearing protective clothing arrive with a patient at the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan on January 25. Photo / Getty
Medical staff wearing protective clothing arrive with a patient at the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan on January 25. Photo / Getty

A US plane from the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak arrived in California after a refuelling stop in Alaska. All 201 passengers, who included diplomats from the US Consulate in Wuhan, passed health screenings in China and Anchorage.

Australia, New Zealand and Britain were among the latest countries to announce they are planning evacuations.

British health secretary Matt Hancock tweeted that “anyone who returns from Wuhan will be safely isolated for 14 days, with all necessary medical attention”.

The measures are a step up from those during the devastating 2014-16 ebola outbreak when returning travellers from West Africa were asked to monitor themselves for symptoms.

Mark Woolhouse, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, said the steps were justified to prevent the introduction of the virus and its spread.

“There’s always a balance between the draconian measures of public health and what people might want to do, and obviously it’s regrettable if people who turn out not to have the virus are quarantined unnecessarily,” he said.

The outbreak has affected international sporting events. The International Hockey Federation postponed Pro League games in China, and soccer, basketball and boxing qualifiers for the Tokyo Olympics in February have been moved outside of the country.

In China’s Hubei province, 17 cities including Wuhan have been locked down, trapping more than 50 million people in the most far-reaching disease control measures ever imposed.

Sara Platto, an Italian animal behaviour researcher and veterinarian, said there were 25 Italians stuck in Wuhan who stay in touch online for material and emotional support.

“My son turned 12 on January 23, the first day of the lockdown in Wuhan. So he couldn’t invite his friends over. We had a remote birthday celebration, with people ‘visiting’ him over WeChat,” Ms Platto said, referring to a Chinese messaging app. “We called it the epidemic birthday.”

The source of the new virus and the full extent of its spread are still unknown. However, the World Health Organisation said most cases reported to date “have been milder, with around 20 per cent of those infected experiencing severe illness”.

Scientists expect many crucial questions about the virus’ behaviour will be answered in the coming weeks as the outbreak evolves and it becomes clearer how people are infected.

Although the Chinese health minister and others have suggested the virus is spreading before people get symptoms, data to confirm that has not yet been shared widely beyond China.

“It’s still unclear whether that takes place,” said Malik Peiris, chair in virology at the University of Hong Kong.

If it does, that might explain why China has already exceeded the case numbers for SARS.

“The fortunate thing about SARS, if there was anything fortunate, was that transmission did not take place before symptoms,” he said.

Mr Peiris said if it turned out that the new coronavirus could indeed be spread by people who didn’t show any symptoms, “a pandemic is a scenario that we have to consider”.

– AP



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