Democratic congressman charged in political corruption case

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MH17: Russia blocks push to establish criminal tribunal at UN

The Russians are coming: AK-47 assault rifles could soon be American-made

Here is a sales pitch and scaring people at the same time

Published: Jan 24, 2015 9:44 a.m. ET

The U.S. importer of the famed Russian-made AK-47 assault rifle announced this week that it plans to set up a U.S.-based factory later this year to build the guns here. Sanctions imposed last summer by the Obama administration against the gun’s Russian manufacturer had effectively kept new AK-47s from reaching American buyers.

RWC Group, the licensed importer for the Kalashnikov company, revealed at the popular Las Vegas gun exposition known as SHOT Show this week that it would form a new company known as Kalashnikov USA to manufacture the weapon. The company is currently negotiating with three U.S. states to locate a production plant, with the rifles possibly rolling off the lines as early as the second quarter of this year, Jim Kelly, the new production manager of Kalashnikov USA, told the website

RWC (which stands for Russian Weapon Company), located in Tullytown, Pa., didn’t return phone or email messages seeking comment; voice-mail announcements indicated that most of its staff were at SHOT Show.

Kalashnikov’s Russian manufacturer, State Corporation of Russian Technologies, or Rostec, signed a two-year agreement in January 2014 with RWC Group at that year’s Las Vegas SHOT Show saying they hoped to sell 200,000 Kalashnikov products a year in the U.S. The U.S. market constituted about 90% of its export sales in 2013, according to Pavel Kolegov, Kalashnikov’s deputy chief executive for sales and marketing, in a statement at the time. As of last summer, Russian-manufactured AK-47s were selling in U.S. gun shops for between $800 and $1,050 each.

But last July, the U.S. slapped sanctions on Rostec, along with other Russian defense companies, in response to suspected Russian involvement in the shoot-down of a Malaysian passenger jetliner over Ukraine. The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said at the time that U.S. owners and dealers of the weapons could still own them and resell them at gun shows, so long as they or their dealers didn’t make any payments to the Russian parent company.

New transactions with the Kalashnikov company were prohibited after July 16, 2014. That was expected to hurt U.S. gun dealers, who wouldn’t be able to import any new Kalashnikov models (or models from the related Izhmash and Saiga brands). Only about 100,000 of the guns had been delivered to the U.S. at the time of the ban.

In a July 18 posting on its website, Rostec said that the U.S. market is one of “high demand” for the company and that “the sanctions of the United States government against Kalashnikov Concern go against the interest of American consumers.” On its own website, RWC said that it only had a “limited supply” of the weapons and that “there will be no more Saigas for the foreseeable future.”

Kalashnikov — named for Mikhail Kalashnikov, a World War II Red Army tank veteran who developed the “Avtomat Kalashnikova” rifle in 1947 — is the largest firearms producer in Russia. During Soviet times, the original plant in Izhevsk, two hours’ flight time east from Moscow, churned out 600,000 rifles a year for the military. Now, it’s down to a fraction of that, which made the U.S. deal a critical addition to the firm’s sales.

The AK-47, firing a powerful 7.62 mm round with a “distinctive sound,” was widely used by Soviet bloc countries during the Cold War and by aligned countries such as North Vietnam, Syria and Egypt. It has also been favored by insurgent and terrorist groups such as the Viet Cong, al Qaeda (Osama bin Laden’s own AK-47 now hangs in the CIA’s museum), Che Guevara’s ill-fated Bolivian revolutionaries and the Palestine Liberation Organization. More than 70 million have been produced, according to the Kalashnikov website. Mikhail Kalashnikov died in December 2013, at the age of 94.

Building a production line in the U.S. for the Soviet-era rifles could ease a shortage of the popular guns for American consumers. In July, after the sanctions were announced, Atlantic Firearms of Bishopville, Md., a dealer that exclusively trades in Kalashnikov-related weapons, noted on its website that “due to the recent Import Ban on Russian Based AK firearms we are experiencing heavy order volumes.” At the time a Russian-made AK-47 model listed for between $849 and $1,049 on the Atlantic Firearms site. At press time, none were available, though less-desired Polish, Romanian and other Eastern bloc–made copies of the Kalashnikov still are available for $649 to $839. On its Facebook page, Atlantic Firearms reported at the time that it sold over 400 weapons the day after the ban was announced.

A representative from Atlantic Firearms didn’t respond to email and phone messages; voice-mail prompts indicated their staff was also at the Las Vegas gun show.


AP Interview: Australia won’t pay to climate fund

Bravo Australia !!!

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia will continue to directly pay for climate change adaptation in vulnerable South Pacific island nations through its aid budget rather than donate to a U.N. Green Climate Fund designed for the same purpose, the foreign minister said Friday ahead of traveling to climate talks in Peru.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said governments should judge for themselves whether bilateral action to reduce the impact of climate change on developing countries was a more efficient use of aid money than donating through the U.N.

“The Green Climate Fund is about supporting developing countries build resilience to climate change. Australia is already doing that through our aid program,” Bishop told The Associated Press before leading the Australian delegation to Lima for a U.N climate summit.

“From my experience, bilateral work is able to customize responses when we’re working directly with another partner country,” she said.

Rich countries have pledged about $10 billion to the recently launched Green Climate Fund, which is meant to become a key source of finance to help developing countries deal with rising seas, higher temperatures and extreme weather events.

Australia has been accused of setting a poor example for other countries by failing to contribute to the fund. Bishop’s government has also been criticized for abolishing Australia’s carbon tax that was levied on the country’s worst greenhouse gas polluters until July.

It replaced the tax with a 2.55 billion Australian dollars ($2.14 billion) government fund to pay polluters incentives to operate more cleanly.

Bishop said Australia was on track to achieve its target of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to 12 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

But she said the Australian delegation would not give the Lima meeting any proposed Australian emission-cutting targets beyond 2020.

“The message that I will be presenting on Australia’s behalf is that the new agreement should establish a common playing field for all countries to take climate action from 2020 and seek commitments from all the major economies to reducing emissions,” she said.

Delegates from more than 190 countries are in Lima trying to lay the groundwork for a global emissions pact they hope will be adopted in Paris next year.

Bishop said that without legally binding commitments in Paris to reduce global emissions beyond 2020, any agreement would amount to nothing more than aspirations.

She said Australia wants to see the details of a U.S.-China emissions deal that was struck last month.

“China has already said that it will continue business as usual until 2030. We want to know whether there’s some sort of binding commitment,” Bishop said.

Chinese delegate Su Wei said China would present a detailed pledge sometime in the first half of next year, and criticized Australia for not contributing to the climate fund.

“It’s not good news that Australia, if it’s true, refuses to provide any money into the GCF,” he said. “I think that’s a legal obligation for all developed country parties to make their contributions.”

New targets for fossil fuel use were announced ahead of the climate conference by the European Union, U.S. and China, the first Asian nation to make such a pledge. This has injected optimism into negotiations that are supposed to climax in Paris with the adoption of a long-awaited climate pact.

But Australia, India, Russia and Japan have yet to commit to new limits. Scientists say much sharper emissions cuts are needed in coming decades to keep global warming within 2 degrees C (3.6 F) of pre-industrial times, the overall goal of the U.N. talks.


Associated Press writer Karl Ritter in Lima, Peru, contributed to this report.


Will Copyright Law Stop You From Working On Your Car In The Near Future?

Swiss voters reject gold initiative, immigration proposal

BERN, Switzerland (AP) – Voters in Switzerland on Sunday overwhelmingly rejected plans to protect the country’s wealth by investing in gold and to drastically limit immigration or to eliminate a special tax that draws rich foreigners, according to polling firm gfs.bern.

A proposal to require the Swiss central bank to hold a fifth of its reserves in gold was opposed by 78 percent of voters and supported by 22 percent, projections based on tallies provided by selected voting districts indicated. At last count, the measure – which had drawn attention worldwide and required the backing of a majority of voters and cantons (states) – was rejected in 22 of 26 cantons.

The plan would have forced the Swiss National Bank to buy massive amounts of gold within five years and likely causing the global price for the valuable metal to jump.

“After this clear decision by the people, there are no further grounds to pursue another similar initiative,” one of the three parliamentarians behind the proposal, Luzi Stamm, told Swiss broadcaster SRF of its defeat. But he said the campaign had at least raised awareness of the central bank’s shortcomings.

The proposal to limit immigration to 0.2 percent of Switzerland’s population – about 16,000 immigrants a year for a country of 8 million – received the backing of 26 percent of voters, while 74 percent opposed it. Currently, immigration is estimated at around 80,000 a year.

The “Ecopop” initiative would also have forced Switzerland to devote a large chunk of its foreign aid to programs aimed at reducing population growth in poor countries.

As with the gold initiative, government and business leaders warned voters the measure could do more harm than good and further inflame tensions with the European Union. Andreas Thommen, a Green Party member who oversaw the campaign, told SRF it had been “a David and Goliath battle” against the establishment, and Switzerland “missed the opportunity to set the course for a sustainable future.”

Earlier this year, Swiss voters narrowly backed a proposal by the nationalist People’s Party to reintroduce quotas for immigrants. The outcome has proved to be a political headache for the Swiss government as it now needs to renegotiate bilateral treaties with the EU, of which it isn’t a member.

A third national referendum, which would have abolished special tax discounts for rich foreigners living in Switzerland, was also defeated, according to gfs.bern. The pollsters predicted 60 percent voted against the measure, while 40 percent were in favor of it, and only one of the country’s 26 cantons said yes to getting rid of a flat tax rate that helps attract the super wealthy.

Official results are expected to be published later Sunday.


Israeli cyber-security researchers remotely hack a car

Zubie, An Aftermarket Device, Left Vehicle Vulnerable

Posted Nov 8th 2014 8:50AM

Former members of an Israeli intelligence unit dedicated to thwarting cyber crimes announced Friday they had remotely hacked into a vehicle that contained an aftermarket device with a big security hole.

Once they exploited the vulnerability in the device, called a Zubie, they controlled vehicle functions, like unlocking doors and manipulating instrument-cluster readings. The researchers, now founders of Argus Cyber Security, say they could have also controlled the vehicle’s engine, brakes and steering components.

The remote breakthrough is a big one in an auto industry that has only recently started to take the threat of cyber attacks more seriously.

Industry officials have downplayed the possibility of someone with nefarious intent launching a remote attack. Previously, cyber-security researchers have hacked cars and controlled essential functions either via a physical connection to the vehicle or remotely from a short distance. In this case, the Argus team says the security flaw would have allowed them to remotely commandeer the car from “anywhere in the world.”

The flaw existed, ironically, in the Zubie, an aftermarket device that intends to make cars safer.

Drivers can plug a Zubie into the OBD-II port beneath their steering wheels on vehicles that date back as far as 1996 and receive data on their driving habits, car performance and trip information. Devices like the Zubie are gaining popularity with drivers and car insurance companies, because they offer information on driving habits and promote good behavior behind the wheel. Some insurers offer motorists discounts for good driving based on this data.

The device transmits the information via a Cloud-based connection that in this case, it turns out, was not secured.

Argus researchers, who previously belonged to Israel’s Intelligence Unit 8200, say they accessed the Zubie’s code via a laptop and then learned communications between the device and its Cloud-based server took place via a non-secured HTTP protocol. By mimicking the server, they sent a malicious file in an over-the-air update to the OBD-II port, which in turn gave them access to the Controller Area Network, a bus bar that connects the dozens of microcomputers that run vehicle functions.

Once they reached the CAN, they could do anything they wanted.

“The case we brought here is just one out of potentially many, and there will always be new vulnerabilities out there,” wrote Yaron Galula, chief technology officer of Argus. “This is especially true today, as car connectivity is on the rise, there is a real need to bridge the gap between its tremendous inherent benefits and its potential hazards.”

Beyond the immediate and obvious threat of a hacker remotely commandeering a car, the Argus researchers say they also could breach the privacy of motorists. They were able to track the vehicle’s location and driving behaviors. Had they wanted, they could have transmitted that data to a third party.

Argus notified executives at Zubie’s Charleston, S.C. headquarters of the holes in their security last month, and the companies collaborated on a fix for the problems before making the announcement Friday. In a written statement, Tim Kelly, Zubie’s CEO, says he has no evidence that any current customers’ vehicles had been compromised other than the one afflicted by Argus.

“Since learning about the reports from Argus, we took swift action and made the appropriate changes to our development process in order to further strengthen our overall security practices,” he said.

As other researchers have agreed, Argus noted that the more advanced a vehicle, the more of its systems are controlled by electronic control units that are, thus, easier to hack. In 2010, researchers from the University of Washington and Cal-San Diego became the first to breach these computers.

They found it was possible to hack a car either via physical or wireless access by targeting certain components that sought external signals. In their experiments, they conducted the remote hacks on roads adjacent to the targeted vehicles.

Limited range meant limited potential for harm. Now that Argus has demonstrated a malicious code can be injected from anywhere, the cyber threat for automobiles may take on added urgency.

The Zubie research also illustrates another complication for automakers. Even as they work to fortify their cars, an aftermarket product over which they have no control ultimately provided the gateway that allowed for the hack of critical components.

“Up till now awareness to cyber security issues in the automotive industry has been limited and definitely did not receive the same attention cyber security has received in other industry sectors,” Galula wrote. “… This is why we believe the industry should adopt a proactive approach towards cyber security.”