Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired Lyft Expands Citi Bike in NYC, and Uber Is None too Happy

Hexbyte Tech News Wired Lyft Expands Citi Bike in NYC, and Uber Is None too Happy

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

Now that it owns America’s largest bike-share company, Lyft is expanding Citi Bike into NYC’s outer boroughs. Not everyone is happy to hear it.

Jeff Greenberg/Getty Images

American bike-share is growing—and getting way more contentious. On Thursday, Lyft announced it had completed its acquisition of North America’s largest bike-share operator, Motivate, after previewing the deal in July. Motivate operates the Bay Area’s Ford GoBike, Chicago’s Divvy, Washington, DC’s Capital Bikeshare, New York City’s Citi Bike, and five other US systems.

Citi Bike is already the biggest bike-share system in the country, and under Lyft’s ownership, it’s about to get bigger. In an announcement with New York City mayor Bill De Blasio, Lyft said it would pour $100 million into the system, expanding its reach into lower-income (and oft-neglected) outer boroughs, doubling its geographic footprint and tripling its number of bikes to 40,000 over the next five years.

“We’re expanding to more neighborhoods outside Manhattan to be able to achieve the equity goals of the system,” says Caroline Samponaro, who heads up bike, scooter, and pedestrian policy at Lyft. The company says it will pour its money not only into expanding bike-share infrastructure, but also into creating relationships with low-income communities to promote bike use and make it easier to cycle there.

That addresses a common criticism of these programs, that they cater to wealthy riders in downtown areas. Twenty-four percent of American bike-share systems have income-based subsidy programs, including Citi Bike. But while a Motivate spokesperson said the company didn’t have data on how many people have participated in its subsidy program, the company has admitted that its members skew whiter and richer than the city’s wider population.

Not everyone, though, is happy to hear about the expansion. Lyft’s move might hurt the prospects of Lime and Uber-owned Jump in one of the most cycling-friendly markets in the country, where bike-share fortunes might be made or dashed. Both of those companies are part of a city-run dockless bike-share pilot operating in the outer boroughs: Lime in Staten Island and the Rockaway section of Queens, where it has served more than 75,000 rides since June, and Jump in the Bronx and Staten Island, where it has completed more than 40,000 rides. (Citi Bike is also part of the pilot, operating dockless bikes in the Bronx.) That program was just extended by three additional months, in part to examine the viability of electric-scooter-share in the city, which is currently illegal. A spokesperson for New York City’s transportation department says Citi Bike’s expansion shouldn’t affect the pilot. But both Uber and Lime say they’ve been snubbed, and that they want to expand service to more lower income New Yorkers.

A mock-up of Lyft’s branded dockless bikes, which the company says it might deploy in cities all over the US.

Lyft

“The City should work with all parties to ensure access to everyone who wants to ride a bike to get around their communities—not one company which has long left outer borough New Yorkers stranded,” an Uber spokesperson said in a statement. The spokesperson said Jump was ready to deploy as many as 20,000 ebikes in the outer boroughs.

Lime indicated it would like the city’s permission to deploy more than the 600 bicycles it operates in the city. “New York’s transportation equity problem requires an immediate solution—and the best solution for New Yorkers is for multiple companies to compete, delivering the most options to every community,” Lime spokesperson Evan Thies said in a statement. “Lime stands ready to deliver for New Yorkers right now.”

Lyft’s investment also signals that the company has mostly committed to the docked form of bike-share, despite a recent explosion of dockless options. According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials, 44 percent of the more than 100,000 American bike-share bikes are dockless, but they represented just 4 percent of last year’s 35 million US bike-share rides.

And if Lyft has its way, New York City bike-share stations will soon be more than places for keeping bikes upright. The ride-hail company wants more than a thousand bicycle docks woven throughout the metro area. (There are currently 750.) “Docks are very important, and they’re only going to become more important as we get more electric bikes,” says Samponaro, who notes that the 200 electric Citi Bikes that currently exist in the system are ridden 14 times a day, twice the usage rate of the non-electrics. Docks will be crucial sites for charging and for rebalancing electric bikes throughout the system.

Lyft would also like docks to be destinations. “Docks have place-making benefits,” Samponaro says. “They can help tie together urban planning initiatives, whether those are parklets, or neckdowns.” Lyft, in other words, says it wants to help shape a future that includes more alternatives to cars, like walking and cycling. And if docks make for easy places to pick up and drop off ride-hail customers—well, all the better.


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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein Is Still Calling for an Encryption Backdoor

Hexbyte Tech News Wired Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein Is Still Calling for an Encryption Backdoor

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

NICHOLAS KAMM/Getty Images

Tension has existed for decades between law enforcement and privacy advocates over data encryption. The United States government has consistently lobbied for the creation of so-called backdoors in encryption schemes that would give law enforcement a way in to otherwise unreadable data. Meanwhile, cryptographers have universally decried the notion as unworkable. But at a cybercrime symposium at the Georgetown University Law School on Thursday, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein renewed the call.

“Some technology experts castigate colleagues who engage with law enforcement to address encryption and similar challenges,” Rosenstein said. “Just because people are quick to criticize you does not mean that you are doing the wrong thing. Take it from me.”

“There is nothing virtuous about refusing to help develop responsible encryption.”

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein

The reference to Rosenstein’s embattled tenure under Trump drew laughs. But privacy advocates and cryptographers say that the creation of a cryptographic “master key” would represent a dangerous point of failure in crucial user protections. The paper “Keys Under Doormats” laid out the technological infeasibility of backdoor schemes in 2015. If a backdoor mechanism were independently discovered by bad actors, or stolen from the government, entire data protection schemes would be instantly undermined.

That risk is all too real; it was just last year that WikiLeaks exposed a trove of CIA hacking secrets in its so-called Vault7 dump. And a leaked NSA spy tool called EternalBlue has caused devastating damage since it became public in 2017.

Even so, the government has in recent years tried to compel tech companies to weaken encryption, including in a high-profile legal case against Apple. The FBI eventually withdrew from the fight, finding their way into a suspect’s iPhone through other means.

Rosenstein Thursday did not provide much evidence to counter the longstanding arguments against encryption backdoors, instead praising earnest efforts to develop a technological compromise. The government has not proposed its own workable solution since the 90s, when its “Clipper chip” backdoor was roundly discredited. Rosenstein did, though, repeat past assertions that unyielding encryption blocks crucial investigative avenues, and potentially endangers public safety.

“There is nothing virtuous about refusing to help develop responsible encryption, or in shaming people who understand the dangers of creating any spaces—whether real-world or virtual—where people are free to victimize others without fear of getting caught or punished,” Rosenstein said.

It is not so certain, though, that encryption meaningfully hinders law enforcement to the degree that the government alleges. Large tech companies generally comply with warrants whenever technologically and legally feasible. Law enforcement agencies can often develop or purchase exploits that help them circumvent consumer data protections. And the FBI has in the past inflated the number of investigations that encryption actually hindered, both to Congress and the public. And the lack of solutions on the table likely stems less from attempted virtue than from technological implausibility.

“I do think some at least of the tension here comes from the shifting expectations involved with how fast technology is moving right now,” said Matthew Gardner, a cybersecurity attorney at Wiley Rein LLP, in a panel following Rosenstein’s address. “The Fourth Amendment is based on reasonable expectations of privacy. Our expectations of privacy over the last five or 10 years—it’s tough to say what that is in some instances. And so that creates a little bit of uncertainty.”

Justice Department officials remained adamant on Thursday, though, that the threat to law enforcement effectiveness and public safety is urgent. “We, as the deputy attorney general said, are very much in favor of encryption as a protector,” said deputy assistant attorney general Richard Downing. “But, unfortunately, it has been implemented in a way that is warrant-proof, it is ubiquitous—meaning that it is on by default in many products—and it is affecting both collection of evidence on devices, think cellphone, or when we obtain wiretap orders when it is encrypted end-to-end by default.”

Encryption undoubtedly makes law enforcement’s job more difficult in some ways. But privacy advocates argue that any attempt to undermine it would present an unreasonable threat to privacy, whether from the government itself or hackers who found a way to access the backdoor themselves. Rosenstein’s calls for weakened encryption are unlikely to change. But a feasible solution that all sides agree to seems just as unlikely to emerge.


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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired Facebook and Six4Three’s Bikini App Lawsuit Is Getting Ugly

Hexbyte Tech News Wired Facebook and Six4Three’s Bikini App Lawsuit Is Getting Ugly

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that Facebook does not sell user data, but a lawsuit alleges that the company seriously considered it.

Xinhua News Agency/Ting Shen/Getty Images

An already head-spinning legal case between Facebook and the developer of a now-defunct app that searched for Facebook users’ bathing suit photos took another series of turns Wednesday. First, The Wall Street Journal reported on a previously redacted court filing, containing information that Facebook has fought for months to keep sealed, which alleges that Facebook had considered selling access to user data before 2014. Then, Facebook hit back against the company behind the lawsuit—Six4Three—arguing that it breached a court order to keep the documents sealed and then sought to destroy evidence just before British lawmakers seized some of those documents from Six4Three’s founder last week.

The court filing, which was drafted by Six4Three’s legal team in 2017, is based on internal Facebook documents obtained through discovery. Though the underlying documents aren’t included in the filing, they’re partially quoted throughout it and suggest that Facebook brokered special data deals with companies like the Royal Bank of Canada and Amazon, among others. In one email cited in the filing, a Facebook employee discussed shutting down apps that don’t spend “at least $250k a year to maintain access to the data.” The exposure of this sensitive information comes down to a simple technical glitch: The court documents were redacted improperly, leaving the underlying text exposed when it was uploaded to a text editor by a reporter at Ars Technica, which published the document in full Wednesday night.

“The documents Six4Three gathered for this baseless case are only part of the story and are presented in a way that is very misleading without additional context,” said Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, Facebook’s director of developer platforms and programs, in a statement.

The company had successfully fought to keep the documents sealed in California, where the lawsuit was filed. But last week, lawmakers in the United Kingdom seized at least some of them from Six4Three founder Ted Kramer while he was traveling to London on business and are planning on publishing them within a week. Facebook is now charging Six4Three with breaching the California court order and is demanding a discovery process of its own to find out how British regulators were able to obtain confidential documents that were never supposed to see the light of day.

The filing cuts to the heart of an increasingly nasty legal battle between Facebook and Six4Three, whose bikini-finder app Pikinis went out of business in 2015 after Facebook changed its API to cut off app developers from their users’ friends data. It did this ostensibly to protect users’ privacy. But the Pikinis app relied on that data, and after it shut down, Kramer sued Facebook, alleging that the company had been planning to cut off access to this data as early as 2012, at the same time it was luring new developers with it. He has since accused the company of trading access to user data in return for mobile advertising purchases from app developers beginning in 2012.

In a hearing in London this week, Facebook’s vice president of public policy said that the company considered a variety of business models, including privatizing its APIs, as it transitioned from a primarily desktop-based business to mobile. But in a subsequent statement provided by Papamiltiadis, the company stood by its assertion that it’s never sold data. “Our APIs have always been free of charge and we have never required developers to pay for using them, either directly or by buying advertising,” he said.

It’s an international he-said/he-said showdown where somehow every party looks bad. Facebook appears to have at least seriously considered something it has long promised it would never do, which is sell users’ data. Six4Three, meanwhile, is coming after Facebook for actually strengthening its protections of user data at a time when the world is rightly concerned about the lack of privacy online. The Pikinis app let people access strangers’ bikini photos, using the same feature that enabled a political firm called Cambridge Analytica to misappropriate the data of tens of millions of Americans without their knowledge. Then there are the UK lawmakers who, in their quest to hold Facebook accountable, have defied international norms by seizing documents that were ordered sealed in the US, setting a worrisome precedent.

Still, it’s Facebook that has the most to lose. Six4Three’s filing quotes from internal emails to allege that Facebook was operating a sort of concierge service with user data on behalf of major advertisers. According to the filing, in August 2013, the Royal Bank of Canada expressed concerns about continued access to user data. After Facebook employees “confirm the existence of a contract for a large advertising expenditure,” the filing states, they then “ask their legal department to release an Extended API Agreement to Royal Bank of Canada” and assure the bank that their data will not be impacted. A spokesperson for the bank told The Wall Street Journal that the company “never had a minimum marketing spend or target agreement with Facebook.”

That same year, the filing says, two Facebook employees exchanged emails about a deal pending with Amazon, with one employee asking if Facebook was going to grant Amazon the permissions “only if they give in on our asks.” According to the filing, the other employee responded, “Given we’re deprecating the majority of these permissions, we’ll need to either have a disappointing conversation with Amazon or a strategic conversation in the context of the broader deal discussions.” Six4Three’s filing argues that his reply suggests Facebook was continuing to set up deals contingent on data access, knowing full well that data access would soon be cut off.

The filing also alleges that Facebook negotiated deals with a number of developers, granting them extended access to data even after the API changed for good in May of 2015. Facebook has previously given Congress a list of 61 companies that received access beyond that date, but a number of the businesses mentioned in the filing don’t appear on the list. For instance, the filing mentions—but doesn’t quote from—an email from April 30, 2015, in which a Facebook employee confirms that a Chrysler/Fiat app was white-listed for extended access.

Another email concerns Facebook’s negotiations for a trademark held by the dating app Tinder. According to the filing, a Facebook employee asked for the trademark in return for access to two new APIs that would “effectively allow Tinder to maintain parity of the product in the new API world,” the email read. The filing alleges several other companies not mentioned in Facebook’s disclosure to Congress may have had special access to data, including Lyft, Airbnb, GoDaddy, and Netflix. GoDaddy says no such deal existed. Netflix and Airbnb also told WIRED that they did not receive an extension. Lyft did not immediately respond to WIRED’s request for comment, but Facebook says all of them transitioned to the new API by the end of May 2015.

Even as it faces a barrage of accusations, Facebook is lobbing plenty of its own. In a filing in San Mateo Superior Court on Wednesday, the company accused Kramer and his lawyers of breaching the court order to keep the documents sealed. Kramer told the court he traveled to London on business on November 19 and told only the British journalist Carole Cadwalladr where he was staying. Cadwalladr had previously suggested Kramer bring his case to Damian Collins, chair of the British Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which is investigating disinformation and fake news. While in London, Kramer began receiving notices from Collins asking that he turn over the documents. In one case, the sergeant-at-arms appeared at his hotel to deliver the notice. Kramer says he was subsequently informed he was under investigation by Parliament and faced imprisonment if he didn’t comply. Despite warnings from his legal team, he says he met with Collins and, “panicked,” shared the documents that were stored in a Dropbox account. A representative for Collins declined to comment on how the committee knew where Kramer was staying. Cadwalladr also declined to comment for this story.

Now, Facebook is demanding answers. For starters, it argues Six4Three shouldn’t have had a Dropbox account with the documents in the first place. Not only that, Kramer’s lawyers say that once they found the account existed, they tried to have the documents deleted so that Kramer couldn’t access them. “Mr. Kramer and his counsel explicitly admit they breached
this Court’s protective and sealing orders and destroyed evidence,” Facebook writes in its filing.

“The Dropbox cache would have been the only available record of what files Mr. Kramer accessed while he was meeting with the DCMS Committee, since Mr. Kramer claims he has no memory of what he copied for the DCMS Committee.”

Facebook notes that by Kramer’s own admission, he was in contact with Collins’ committee nearly two months before he turned the information over. What’s more, the filing points out that Kramer had earlier invited Collins to request the documents from Facebook at the suggestion of Cadwalladr. This is based on Kramer’s own statement to the court, which was reviewed by WIRED. The statement includes a series of emails between Kramer and Collins. In one, Kramer writes, “I have attached a document that should assist you and your committee as you approach Facebook for documentation and evidence … Carole recommended we send it to you.” In reply, Collins writes that he has spoken to Cadwalladr and, at her suggestion, requests a series of documents from Kramer related to the case. He goes on to say, “We are planning an international meeting of the select committee on 27th November and this could provide the perfect opportunity to explore the issues that you have been involved with.”

Facebook also expresses extreme skepticism in its filing about Kramer’s assertion that he went to Parliament last week with the intention of telling Collins he didn’t plan to comply with his orders, saying, “[Kramer] brought with him from his nearby hotel an untold number of confidential and highly confidential Facebook documents he should not even have had access to, along with a thumb drive for copying the documents.”

Facebook’s filing lays out a series of pressing questions that the tech giant hopes to get answers to through a discovery process and cross-examination of the people involved. Those questions include: What was the nature of Kramer’s interactions with Cadwalladr? How did this Dropbox account get set up? Who had access, and what documents did it include? Why did Six4Three’s lawyers delete it? Why did it take Kramer several days to tell his lawyers that he had handed over this confidential information? And perhaps most puzzling of all, why was Kramer apparently more afraid of the repercussions from Parliament than from a court in the United States?

Facebook is now demanding its own batch of internal documents from Six4Three, including emails between Kramer, his legal team, Cadwalladr, members of the DCMS committee, or any other third party. Facebook is also requesting the documents Kramer sent to Collins. And Facebook is calling for all logs related to the Dropbox account and a forensic investigation of Kramer’s laptop, the thumb drive, and the computers belonging to his legal team.

As all of this unfolds, the DCMS committee is preparing to release the underlying Facebook documents it seized from Kramer. The irony in all of this is that it hinges on a decision Facebook made to protect user privacy from apps just like Pikinis, which seized on weak data protections to pry into Facebook users’ personal photos. And yet, by pulling back the curtain on its decision-making process, Six4Three is trying to reveal the unsavory options Facebook considered en route to that decision. Facebook, in turn, is working overtime to cast Six4Three and all in its orbit as underhanded actors scheming in their own right, without regard for the law, in order to get their way. It’s unclear who, if anyone, will be vindicated if and when the documents are published in full. But if this week’s mudslinging is any indication, it’s unlikely anyone will emerge the hero.


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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired ‘Blade Runner’ Goes Anime, ‘Cowboy Bebop’ Goes Live-Action

Hexbyte Tech News Wired ‘Blade Runner’ Goes Anime, ‘Cowboy Bebop’ Goes Live-Action

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

The network will be airing 13 episodes of a 2032-set spinoff—just part of a broader cultural push toward anime.

Warner Bros.

It’s time once again to turn on The Monitor, WIRED’s roundup of the latest in the world of culture, from box-office news to release-date announcements. In today’s installment: Adult Swim dreams of electric sheep; Netflix’s anime push continues; Disney’s Artemis Fowl teaser soars; and Jordan Peele conjures up Candyman (Candyman, Cand … ice Bergen. Sorry, we still can’t bring ourselves to do it).

Back to the Future

Last year’s WIRED-beloved sci-fi sequel Blade Runner 2049 is being replicated in anime form: A new 13-episode series, Blade Runner-Black Lotus, is set to arrive on Adult Swim (and stream on Crunchyroll) at some unspecified point. Though it’s not clear which characters from the film will be appearing, Black Lotus will be set in 2032, and will involve Shinichiro Watanabe, who worked on a series of Blade anime prequels released last year. In the meantime, Blade Runner 2049 is streaming on HBO Now, and it’s really majestic and rad, so go rewatch that while you wait, K?

Netflix’s Next Moves

The streaming service announced a slew of new adaptations this week, starting with a live-action Cowboy Bebop, the adored future-set series. It’s the latest anime entry for Netflix, which is also adapting Avatar: The Last Airbender, and has set a Pacific Rim spinoff and a new Ultraman for next year (the mechs-and-match Ultraman trailer is below). The company also announced plans to create animated versions of several classic books by Roald Dahl, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG, and Matilda. What? No Danny, the Champion of the World? That’s a Matil-don’t.

An Unfortunate Moni-turn

WIRED would like to apologize for that last Matilda-adjacent pun. We promise to do better—at least matilda next time.

Playing Hooky

Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions will add to its creep-heavy development slate —which already includes Twilight Zone for CBS All Access, horror film Us, an HBO Lovecraft Country adaptation, and more—with a reboot of 1992 horror hit Candyman, about a hook-wielding killer who can be summoned by looking in the mirror and saying his name five times (or, presumably, by playing this song non-stop). Peele, who cowrote the script with Win Rosenfeld, will produce the film. Nia DaCosta, whose debut feature Little Woods has been a festival hit this year, will direct.

Fowl Play

Finally, Disney released its first look at next year’s Artemis Fowl, the delightful story of a wayward chicken who … sorry, I’m being told Fowl is actually an adaptation of the beloved multi-volume fantasy series by Eoin Colfer. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, the long-awaited epic stars newcomer Ferdia Shaw as the titular young criminal mastermind taking on a race of fairies. Opening next August, the movie features Judi Dench, Josh Gad, and Hong Chau.


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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired Mueller: Cohen Lied About Trump Organization’s Moscow Project

Hexbyte Tech News Wired Mueller: Cohen Lied About Trump Organization’s Moscow Project

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Just a little over two hours separated President Trump angrily tweeting “Did you ever see an investigation more in search of a crime?” and special counsel Robert Mueller announcing his latest evidence of new crimes Thursday morning. Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the status of the real estate developer’s hotel deal in Moscow.

The new guilty plea firmly—and dramatically—shifts the narrative and timeline of the Russia investigation, establishing that while pursuing the White House, Donald Trump was also pursuing personal business deals with a foreign adversary that, according to Mueller’s earlier indictments, engaged in a multifaceted, complex, expensive, and long-running criminal conspiracy to help deliver Trump to the presidency. Trump denied Cohen’s assertions Thursday morning, calling his former lawyer a “weak person.”

The guilty plea—which, like every step of the Mueller investigation took even close watchers by surprise with its timing and rich level of detail—draws a direct connection between Donald Trump’s business deals and Russian president Vladimir Putin. You can read it in its entirety below.

Mueller’s office lays out how, in January 2016, Cohen contacted Putin’s longtime adviser and press secretary Dmitry Peskov, identified in court documents as “Russian Official 1,” for help with what the court filing calls the “Moscow Project.”

Cohen ended up speaking on the phone with Peskov’s personal assistant, referred to as “Assistant 1” in the documents, for 20 minutes. According to the court filing, “Cohen requested assistance in moving the project forward, both in securing land to build the proposed tower and financing the construction. Assistant 1 asked detailed questions and took notes, stating that she would follow up with others in Russia.”

Mueller is steadily moving even more information about the Trump Organization’s business dealings with Russia into public view.

Notably, Mueller says in the document that the talks continued into June 2016—the same month as the infamous and mysterious meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, and a number of Russians promising help to the campaign. Moreover, talks about the project continued for some time, long past the January 2016 end date that Cohen had told congressional investigators in August 2017.

The move by Mueller on Thursday marks the first significant development in the case since the appointment by Trump earlier this month of Matt Whitaker as the acting US attorney general; Whitaker has been a vocal critic of Mueller’s work, and his selection led to fears that Mueller might be shut down or stymied.

Thursday’s development provides another illuminating building block in what is turning out to be Mueller’s methodical legal strategy. Lying to Congress, while certainly a crime, is rarely prosecuted, and the guilty plea by Cohen, who had already pleaded guilty to eight other charges of tax fraud and campaign finance violations, will likely matter little to whatever punishment or prison sentence he may someday face.

Thus, Mueller’s decision to prosecute Cohen for it—the first time the special counsel himself has targeted Cohen, since the earlier case was handled by federal prosecutors in Manhattan and the Justice Department’s Southern District of New York—is meant clearly to send another, multipronged message:

First, lying to Congress about Russian matters is within Mueller’s purview, a potentially bad sign for the dozens of other witnesses who have appeared before the House and Senate over the last two years.

Second, Mueller is steadily moving even more information about the Trump Organization’s business dealings with Russia into public view. The plea agreement and court filing, like everything from Mueller, is more detailed than it needs to be, serving the purpose of what’s known as a “speaking indictment,” publicizing relevant facts for public debate and discussion above and beyond what’s strictly necessary for criminal prosecution.

Third, Donald Trump himself and his family face legal jeopardy. Cohen makes clear that he kept what the court filing calls “Individual 1”—Donald Trump himself—aware of the ongoing “Moscow Project” conversations. Cohen also says that he filled in family members, presumably some combination of Donald Jr. and Eric Trump—both of whom had key roles in the Trump Organization—or son-in-law Jared Kushner, who participated in many conversations and meetings over the course of 2016. If any of their previous testimony contradicts Cohen’s statement of facts, they could themselves be prosecuted for lying to Congress.

Trump has long maintained in public comments that he has “ZERO investments” in Russia. But in court Thursday, Cohen intimated that he lied to Congress in part to be consistent with Trump’s political messaging, although there’s no indication in the court filings that Trump knew or encouraged Cohen to lie.

Cohen’s deep integration and central role in Trump’s world makes clear how damaging his testimony and knowledge will be in the hands of the special counsel. Donald Trump himself was named in Cohen’s earlier guilty plea, as “Individual 1,” as ordering Cohen to commit the campaign finance violations involving hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels. For the second time now, Trump himself appears in court filings related to Cohen.

Fourth, Cohen’s plea—like many of Mueller’s court filings—offers intriguing, undeveloped bread crumbs, which appear to be significant and are signs of more detail to come. In Thursday’s 10-page document, Mueller points out that Cohen was actively involved in planning a trip to Russia to discuss, among other topics, the real estate project and that the trip was abruptly canceled on June 14, 2016. That date, presented without comment in Mueller’s filing, is significant given that it comes the week after the Trump Tower meeting with Russians and is the very day that the hack of the Democratic National Committee was first announced—an attack we now know was carried out by elements of Russian military intelligence. On that day, Cohen evidently met with developer Felix Sater—an enigmatic figure who has appeared on the periphery of the Russia investigation for months—in the lobby of the Trump Organization and told Sater the trip was off.

Cohen has apparently spent perhaps as much as 70 hours meeting with and testifying to Mueller’s team and prosecutors since his August plea agreement. Thursday’s court appearance marked the first public evidence from those conversations.

But it surely won’t be the last.


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Garrett M. Graff (@vermontgmg) is a contributing editor for WIRED and the coauthor of Dawn of the Code War: America’s Battle Against Russia, China, and the Rising Global Cyber Threat. He can be reached at garrett.graff@gmail.com.

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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired The Hoberman Sphere Maker Toys With Origami Structures

Hexbyte Tech News Wired The Hoberman Sphere Maker Toys With Origami Structures

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

Remember that Saturday Night Live bit from last year when “Steve Bannon” (someone in a Skeletor-faced Death costume) sent “President Trump” (Alec Baldwin) to a smaller kids’ desk in the Oval Office? the name may not have been on the tip of your tongue then, but the toy that Trump/Baldwin begins to play with is called a Hoberman Sphere—and its creator has made scores of other contraptions just as mathematically complex.

Like what? Well, for one Chuck Hoberman also worked on a 4,000-square-foot expanding video screen for U2’s 360° Tour and consulted on the iris-like opening of the roof at Mercedez-Benz Stadium. But after years of making geometrically-complex objects using joints and hinges, the artist-turned-engineer is pivoting to a different form of inspiration: origami.

“Up until about 20 years ago, origami was a craft and an art,” Hoberman says the latest episode of WIRED’s Obsessed. “Now it’s a topic of math, engineering, robotics, structures. It’s being studied in all of its full glory.”

To find out what he can do with large-scale origami, Hoberman cuts various pieces out of plastic and assembles them to see if they work together to make viable structures. Mathematics, he says, has shows “a flat sheet can be folded into any shape at all,” and those shapes could be very beneficial to engineers.

The thing that ties Hoberman’s well-known sphere to his new work is what he calls “transformative design.” “Most designed objects are static through their lifetime and eventually disposed of,” he says. “I’m looking for a different angle on it, which is: What if those objects were dynamic and alive and in movement around us?” In other words, his career has come full-circle.


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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired The Infinite Lifespan of Memes

Hexbyte Tech News Wired The Infinite Lifespan of Memes

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

As has become convention for our accelerated times, I first got word of Young Busco’s death on Twitter. “Lmao bruh was legit hella funny RIP,” @ChillyANT wrote in a tweet that included a minute-long compilation video showcasing Busco’s routine antics: publicizing his deceased grandmother’s Safeway card; pretending to be store security only to reveal he’d shoplifted items too. To say the 31-year-old Berkley, California native was a product of his environment is to give only half the narrative, though. A comic primed for the social media age, Busco (born Brandon Moore) lived a quotidian life that took on prodigious proportions online, regularly broadcasting moments of mundanity and side-splitting farce to his 50,000 Instagram followers.

In 2015 Moore struck viral gold. Outside the Ashby Bay Area Rapid Transit station as one friend was being arrested for public drinking, he proceeded to mock the sartorial choices of a police officer. “I got one question for you,” Moore began, steadying the camera on the officer’s face before quickly tiling it toward his shoes. He then exclaimed: “What are thooose?!?!” The playful clip, posted to Instagram on June 15, was undercut with an air of razor seriousness; its caption read: “Free Myesha fast.”

At the time, Vine remained wildly influential, and the catchphrase was all but tailor-fit for the app’s signature brand of micro-entertainment. Four days later, Moore’s infamous exchange was uploaded to the platform and amassed 20 million loops, or views, over the course of two weeks. It was a unicorn sensation. Later, in an interview with Noisey, Moore admitted that he never expected the video to proliferate so commandingly, explaining how the phrase was just a standard wisecrack he and his friends “grew up saying to each other.”

Of course, social media being the unceasing incubator that it is, the clip took on a life of its own. On Vine, the bit was remixed, autotuned, and appropriated a hundred times over. One of the more famous reworks—with over 50 million loops—features one young Vine user volleying the question to his grandmother, to which she deadpans: “They are my Crocs.” In February of this year, the meme reached peak zeitgeist when the line was featured in Black Panther. In one early scene, future-tech genius Shuri (Letitia Wright) jokes with her brother T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) about the time-honored footwear he’s wearing to impress Wakanda’s tribal leaders, laying into him with, “What are thooose?!?!”

Though Brandon Moore is gone, his meme endures. The afterlife of a meme, like most entities on the web, is infinite.

Even as the phrase snowballed online and off—accruing a rare amount of social permanence—Moore remained steadfast that he was “bigger” than its cultural impact. Still, he could not entirely outpace the promise of the modern age: The currency of digital life scarcely carries over into the real world for POC creators (the story of Peaches Monroee, originator of “on fleek,” is one such cautionary tale). It has become an all too familiar narrative, one often sowed with the empty poetry of viral fame. On the other side of the camera, Moore, like a considerable portion of black men, was met with bargained propositions: a father of nine, he faced police harassment and jail time. On Instagram, however, he chose not to offer a romanticized veneer, and instead fed users a hilariously raw accounting: Life had taken from him so he would take from it to frame, sharpen, and share his comedy.

Though Moore is gone, the afterlife of a meme, like most entities on the web, is infinite. In recent years, scholars have questioned such lifespans. “Memes catch on when we need them most and retreat when they are no longer attuned to public sentiment,” Lauren Michelle Jackson theorized in The Atlantic. “When a meme does die, it doesn’t go quickly or mercifully,” Kyle Chaka put forward in 2014. “It rots from within.” The belief is that a meme is typically hindered by its inability “to evolve to the next creative iteration of itself,” as Jackson suggested.

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The WIRED Guide to Memes

It is also possible, perhaps even more so, that memes never fully perish. Maybe they lose hold in popular discourse, but their lifeforce—the cultural resonance we recognize and can grab for when needed—persists elsewhere, threaded into our everyday, awaiting use. It’s the reason a catchphrase found renewed currency in 2018, in a Marvel blockbuster of all places, despite its genesis three years earlier.

There was a clear, unmistakable reason for its resurgence, though. As I’ve noted before, memes are our most forward-facing cultural markers on the internet. They are, as I’ve come to understand them, one of the more evolved languages born of the social media age—coded by community, shared experience, race, and gender, among a flood of other circumstances. So it’s not surprising that a meme which originated in black culture was included in a black film by a black director that featured an all-black cast. That is how language works among community. It speaks. It announces itself. Welcomed into familiar corridors, it becomes its own kind of slang. Memes, too, are a corresponding mode: Though they may go dormant from time to time, they ever linger, just as the tongue does, waiting to be called upon for their moment of utterance.


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