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Delta said it is letting customers change their Fourth of July weekend flights for free amid a massive summer of air travel disruption

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 2:45pm  |  Clusterstock
Delta Air Lines aircraft.
  • Delta is letting customers can change flights during July 1-4 for free, the company announced Tuesday. 
  • One restriction includes the rebooked flight has to be between the same cities and take place on or before July 8. 
  • The move comes amid drama and turmoil in US airports with flight cancellations and delays. 

With disruptions and delays on the rise in airports, Delta Air Lines is offering customers some wiggle room for trips during the upcoming Fourth of July holiday weekend. 

Customers can reschedule flights that take place July 1-4 with "with no fare difference or change fees," according to a Tuesday press release from the company. 

That means you won't have to pay a fee for changing your flight — or pay the difference if the new flight is more expensive than the one you originally purchased. This change is "systemwide," meaning it affects everywhere to which Delta flies. 

"This unique waiver is being issued to give Delta customers greater flexibility to plan around busy travel times, weather forecasts and other variables without worrying about a potential cost to do so," Delta's release said.

However, the move doesn't allow people to rebook their flights indefinitely into the future. You have to travel before or on July 8 on the rebooked flight — and make the change before or on July 8. 

Further, it has to be between the same origin and destination as well as the same cabin as the initial flight.

If a person wanted to rebook under this waiver, and the only open seat in the flight they wanted was in Premium Select, and their original ticket was Main Cabin, for example, they would have to pay more, Delta confirmed to Insider. 

The move comes as customers the world over have been stranded and stuck in airports – including some Delta passengers in Atlanta for over 24 hours, according to 11 Alive. 

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg met with airline CEOs to question them about cancellations, especially ahead of summer and holiday travel, Insider previously reported. Delta cancelled more flights on Memorial Day weekend than any other airline.

More recently, over 800 US flights were canceled on Sunday, due to increased demand and shortages of pilots and other airport staff. 

Delta added it "expected to carry customer volumes from Friday, July 1, through Monday, July 4, not seen since before the pandemic as people yearn to connect with the world."

It is "[hard] not to see this as anything other than Delta throwing in the towel that this weekend is going to be a nightmare," Kyle Potter, executive editor of Thrifty Traveler, tweeted

United and Southwest did not respond to requests for comment on whether they had similar plans in the works. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Bernie Sanders urges the Biden administration to fine airlines $27,500 fine per passenger for worsening flight delays

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 2:14pm  |  Clusterstock
Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, leaves the White House last July.
  • Sanders wants airline companies to hold up their end of the bargain or face steep fines.
  • He urged big financial penalties on airlines with persistent flight delays over two hours.
  • Other Democrats are growing concerned about a summer travel meltdown.

Many travelers in the US are growing frustrated with worsening flight delays in recent weeks. That's prompting Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont to try and ensure major airliners hold up their end of the bargain going into the busy summer travel season — or face steep fines if they leave passengers and employees stranded on the tarmac.

"Taxpayers bailed out the airline industry during their time of need," Sanders said in a letter sent Wednesday to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. "Now, it is the responsibility of the airline industry and the Department of Transportation to ensure, to the maximum extent possible, that the flying public and crew members are able to get to their destinations on time and without delay."

Sanders laid out some steps he wants the Biden administration to consider to penalize airlines for cancellations and delays:

  • A $27,500 fine per passenger for domestic flight delays over two hours and international delays over three hours
  • Compelling airlines to "promptly" refund all passengers for flights delayed over an hour
  • Levying a $55,000 per passenger fine on airlines "if they cancel flights that they know cannot be fully staffed"

Other Democrats are seeking penalties on the airline industry. John Fetterman, the Democratic Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, issued a similar call earlier on Tuesday, arguing the Obama administration took a similar action in 2009.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Ed Markey of Massachusetts also sent a letter on Wednesday to the 10 largest airline companies, which include Spirit Airlines, Delta Airlines, and United Airlines.

They demanded information on delays and other bottlenecks plaguing the industry, in addition to pressing them to provide timely ticket refunds to stranded passengers.

As part of the initial CARES Act in March 2020, Congress and President Trump approved roughly $50 billion bailout for major airline companies as the economy shut down and air travel halted from the pandemic. It came with some strings attached, such as barring airliners from laying off workers and stock buy-backs.

That money was largely meant to keep airline employees on the job. But the sector's workforce shrank due to voluntary buyouts in anticipation of a rebound that would take years. Now, they're struggling to keep pace with pent-up demand for travel.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Crypto exchange CoinFlex says Roger Ver - aka 'bitcoin Jesus' - is behind the underwater account that forced it to halt customer withdrawals

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 2:11pm  |  Clusterstock
Roger Ver
  • CoinFlex revealed that the investor running a $47 million debt with the exchange is Roger Ver.
  • Ver, aka 'bitcoin Jesus," denied rumors of his debt on social media, saying that CoinFlex actually owed him money.
  • CoinFlex CEO Mark Lamb later revealed Ver's identity as the account holder in a public tweet.

CoinFlex said that the high-profile investor running a negative balance with the crypto exchange is Roger Ver, a long-time bitcoin evangelist.

Ver, who is also known  as "bitcoin Jesus," has denied owing anything to the exchange, implying in a tweet yesterday that CoinFlex actually owes him money. Coinflex halted customer withdrawals due to liquidity issues stemming from a large account that was running a negative balance. 

"Recently some rumors have been spreading that I have defaulted on some debt to a counter-party," Ver wrote, shortly after CoinFlex announced it would issue recovery tokens — an attempt by the exchange to resume customer withdrawals after a "high integrity" investor ran into trouble. "Not only do I not have a debt to this counter-party, but this counter- party owes me a substantial sum of money, and I am currently seeking the return of my funds."

Rumors surrounding Ver began when a Twitter user claimed a "verified insider" disclosed the Ver was the owner of the indebted account, Ethereum World News reported.

Lamb tweeted a response less than an hour later, reiterating the identity of the account holder as Ver. "He is denying that the debt pertains to him and so we felt the need to clarify to the public that yes - the debt is 100% related to his account," Lamb said.

Ver has been a loud proponent of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general. He would be just one of many high profile holders to be impacted by the market's latest stumble, as cryptocurrency investors struggle to stay amid a long-running sell-off. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Biden praises Erdogan for doing a 'great job' after Turkey's president finally relented on Sweden and Finland joining NATO

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 1:59pm  |  Clusterstock
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan greets President Joe Biden at an earlier NATO summit in Brussels.
  • Biden heaped praise on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after he finally relented to NATO expansion.
  • Biden's affection comes despite Erdoğan's glaring human rights record.
  • The White House previously didn't invite Turkey to a major democracies summit last December.

President Joe Biden on Wednesday heaped praise on Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after the Turkish president finally relented to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, approval that comes as Erdoğan increasingly amasses power in his country and amid widespread reports of human rights abuses there.

"I want to particularly thank you for what you did putting together the situation regarding Finland and Sweden," Biden told reporters before meeting with Erdoğan on the sidelines of a major NATO summit in Madrid.

Biden briefly flubbed his praise for Turkish support of Ukraine during Russia's invasion before adding, "You're doing a great job."

Erdoğan essentially held NATO hostage as it considered Finland and Sweden's historic applications to join the alliance after decades of neutrality. The Turkish leader relented on Tuesday after the two nations granted him some major concessions, particularly on Sweden and Finland's previous arms embargoes. NATO could not move forward on the nations' accession without Turkish approval, which granted Erdoğan significant leverage.

Biden's embrace comes as Erdoğan increasingly resembles a strongman. The situation is so apparent and dire that the White House did not invite Turkey, a NATO ally, to a major US-led summit of democracies last December. In 2021, 54 senators, a bipartisan majority, urged Biden to do more to get Turkey to improve its human rights record.

"We believe that the United States must hold allies and partners to a higher standard and speak frankly with them about issues of human rights and democratic backsliding," the senators wrote in February 2021. "We urge you to emphasize to President Erdogan and his administration that they should immediately end their crackdown on dissent at home and abroad, release political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, and reverse their authoritarian course."

One of the most infamous recent episodes in US-Turkish relations is when Erdoğan looked on as his bodyguards and supporters clashed with protestors in Washington, DC, when he visited the US during the Trump administration. 

It wasn't just protestors injured during the 2017 melee outside of the Turkish ambassador's residence. According to the Guardian, declassified State Department documents said six Secret Service officers were also injured.

Human Rights Watch says that Erdoğan's government has "set back Turkey's human rights record by decades."

History is replete with presidential embraces of leaders who don't fully share American or Western democratic values. The US is often criticized for practicing a foreign policy that favors leaders that align with US interests while treating their own people horribly, such as Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian leader who held power for nearly thirty years.

But Biden's newfound affection for Erdoğan and Saudi Arabia come after the president stressed that he would put human rights "at the center" of his foreign policy.

Read the original article on Business Insider

UK sanctions Russia's 'second richest' man, an oligarch known as 'Nickel King,' over Ukraine war

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 1:46pm  |  Clusterstock
Russian billionaire and businessman Vladimir Potanin.
  • The UK on Wednesday slapped sanctions on one of Russia's richest men — an oligarch known as "Nickel King."
  • Vladimir Potanin, a mining tycoon, was targeted in the UK's latest round of sanctions.
  • "Today's sanctions show that nothing and no one is off the table, including Putin's inner circle," the UK said.

The UK on Wednesday slapped sanctions on one of Russia's richest men — an oligarch known as "Nickel King" — over Moscow's more than four-month-long war with Ukraine

The UK's latest round of sanctions targeted billionaire Vladimir Potanin, whom the British government described as the "second richest man" in Russia.

Potanin, a mining tycoon and close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has a net worth of  $37.1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index

"As long as Putin continues his abhorrent assault on Ukraine, we will use sanctions to weaken the Russian war machine," a UK government spokesperson said in a statement. "Today's sanctions show that nothing and no one is off the table, including Putin's inner circle."

Potanin controls the major Russian conglomerate Interros, which has large stakes in industries including energy, metals, and mining. 

The "Nickel King" oligarch "continues to amass wealth as he supports Putin's regime, acquiring Rosbank, and shares in Tinkoff Bank in the period since Russia's invasion of Ukraine," the UK said. 

Additionally, the UK on Wednesday also sanctioned Anna Tsivileva, the president of the Russian coal mining company, JSC Kolmar Group, who is also Putin's first cousin. 

"Tsivileva's husband Sergey Tsivilev is governor of the coal rich Kemerovo region and the couple have significantly benefited from their relationship to Putin," the UK government said, adding that the mining company has also been sanctioned. 

The UK said it is working to implement new measures to prevent Russia from accessing UK trusts services.

Since Putin launched his unprovoked war on Ukraine on February 24, the UK has sanctioned more than 1,000 people and over 100 businesses. 

"Russian imports have dropped over 40% since the invasion and stockpiles of vital imported manufacturing components are likely to be depleted in the next three to six months," the UK government said. 

Meanwhile, the UK on Wednesday said it also sanctioned a group of Russian individuals and companies for supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The Jan. 6 panel is gathering evidence Trump may have broken these 4 federal laws

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 1:45pm  |  Clusterstock
Former President Donald Trump.
  • House panel is gathering evidence that Trump may have broken four federal laws.
  • But experts say Trump could mount a strong legal defense.
  • The committee is presenting evidence to support their claims that Trump tried to block the peaceful transfer of power.

When the House select committee began its 10-month investigation into the January 6 insurrection, lawmakers set out to uncover and present evidence from the first disruption of the peaceful transfer of power in American history.

Now, with the committee half-way through its hearings for June, another goal is coming into sharper focus: To painstakingly show why they believe former President Donald Trump violated several federal laws in the events leading up to the insurrection and its aftermath; a federal judge ruled in March that Trump "likely" committed a felony.

The committee explicitly stated that it has evidence to show that then-President Trump and his campaign staff carried out an "illegal" and "unconstitutional" attempt to obstruct Congress' election certifying Joe Biden's victory  and "engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States."

"President Trump's advisors knew what he was saying was false, and they told him so directly and repeatedly," Committee Vice-Chair Liz Cheney said during a video released by the committee on Wednesday before the third hearing.  

The committee does not have the authority to prosecute the former president. But it can make criminal referrals to the Justice Department, and it appears to be laying out a methodical case that could mar Trump's political standing and inform a future criminal case against him. 

Five legal experts told Insider how the Justice Department could build their case to issue charges against Trump, but noted the former president may have a strong legal defense. 

Lawmakers on the House January 6 committee will air the inquiry's findings during a public hearing Thursday.'Conspiracy to defraud the government'

The House select committee stated in a March 2 court filing that it has evidence that Trump and his campaign team violated one federal law by engaging in "a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States."

If the Justice Department, likely via the US attorney in Washington, DC, were to charge Trump with breaking this law, federal prosecutors would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the former president knowingly agreed with others to attempt to obstruct Congress's election certification process by deceit or dishonesty, said John Q. Barrett, a former associate independent counsel in the Iran-contra investigation.

"The challenge for prosecutors, of course, is to prove each element of the crime. And one element of these various charges is the criminal intent, the mental state, and the culpable mind of the defendant," said Barrett, a law professor at St. John's University in New York City.

If federal prosecutors were to get evidence that Trump privately acknowledged to a confidant or in a written statement that he lost the election fairly, it would strengthen a case. 

Legal experts told Insider that the Justice Department's biggest challenge in prosecuting Trump would be dispelling the notion that he honestly believed that election fraud occurred during the 2020 presidential election, claims that officials and aides are testifying they'd told Trump were baseless and "bullshit." If the prosecutors cannot prove that there was an  "intent to defraud" beyond a reasonable doubt then their case will not hold up.

The committee has tried to illustrate that Trump broke this law by playing video testimonies of former Trump advisers who told the president not to prematurely declare victory, as he did, and that there was no evidence of election fraud. The committee has not revealed any evidence that Trump may not have believed the conspiracies he was pushing.

Even without that evidence, a case could rely on the concept of "willful blindness," which can be used against a defendant who tries to avoid or ignore facts that may implicate them. This approach has been suggested by former US attorney Barbara McQuade.

Vice President Mike Pence certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election.'Obstructing an official proceeding'

The House select committee also argued that Trump violated another law by allegedly trying to "obstruct, influence, or impede an official proceeding of the United States."

Prosecutors could make a case that he broke this law by pressuring his then-Vice President Mike Pence to stop Congress's election certification process or for telling his followers the election was "criminal" and to march on the Capitol where the certification was about to start. Prosecutors can also use evidence of how Trump tried to pressure Georgia election officials to overturn the election results to claim that he broke this law and another Georgia state law by engaging in "criminal solicitation to commit election fraud."

This is the strongest legal argument they can make against Trump compared to the other charges because they have amassed a lot of evidence, Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, told Insider. 

"The committee has presented a lot of evidence that Donald Trump was told that there was no election fraud, and that he lost fair and square, but he chose to reject that," he said. "And it's well established that the January 6 vote count was an official proceeding."

Federal prosecutors have charged many rioters with violating this law, making it likely Trump would face this charge should he eventually be indicted, the legal experts told Insider.

Since the January 6 insurrection, federal authorities have apprehended more than 800 individuals in connection to the attack on the Capitol. Of them, more than 280 have been charged with "corruptly obstructing, influencing, or impeding an official proceeding" as of June 8, according to the Justice Department

Lawmakers listen as an image of a Trump campaign donation banner is shown behind them during a House January 6 committee hearing.'Wire Fraud'

During a hearing held on June 13, the House select committee revealed that Trump's campaign raised more than $250 million from his support base and claimed that he would use the money to create a legal fund to challenge the 2020 presidential election result. The committee revealed that the fund never was made, and money was directed toward a new political action committee called "Save America." The PAC then sent the money Trump's campaign raised to several pro-Trump organizations.

Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, a member of the panel, said during the third hearing that "the Big Lie was also a big rip-off."

Some legal experts have hinted this evidence could be used to make a case that Trump committed the crime of wire fraud by participating in a scheme to defraud individuals of money. Under federal law, wire fraud is committed when an individual has devised or intends to devise a plan to defraud or obtain money through false or fraudulent pretenses and carries out the scheme by a telephone call or electronic communication.

The Justice Department has not traditionally prosecuted campaign solicitations as wire fraud in the past, said Mariotti.

"The issue I would say is, it's going to be hard to find victims to come forward," Mariotti said, "because the people that have donated the money felt so strongly about Trump that they're not going to necessarily support the government prosecuting Trump."

Stephen Saltzburg, a former deputy attorney general with the Justice Department and an associate independent counsel during the Iran-Contra investigation, said it could be hard for prosecutors to make a case on these grounds.

"I don't think we have enough information about it," Saltzburg, a law professor at George Washington University, said.

Salzburg added that Trump's defense attorneys could argue that these advertisement and campaign fundraising emails did not explicitly promise his supporters that they would set up a separate account to legally challenge the 2020 elections.

One attorney close to Trump told Insider that at most these emails could be evidence that leads to a campaign finance violation, rather than a federal charge. 

"There's a lot of other things in this world to worry about. That's not one of them," Robert Ray, a former prosecutor who defended Trump in his first Senate impeachment trial, said in an interview.

Under campaign finance laws, the Federal Election Commission, a regulatory agency that enforces campaign finance law, limits how much an individual can donate to a political campaign. But there are no limitations on donations that go to legal defense funds because it falls outside of typical campaign finance. 

Insider previously reported that it is unlikely for the former president to be charged with fraud even if his campaign sent misleading emails to its donors. Legal experts told Insider that there are still a lot of details that remain unknown about the Trump campaign's fundraising for the legal defense fund.

"You need to prove to the jury that somebody authorized solicitations that said the money was going to be spent on election contests knowing that was false," Adav Noti, vice president and legal director at the Campaign Legal Center who previously served as the Federal Election Commission's associate general counsel for policy, recently told Insider in an interview. "You need to find the individuals, it wouldn't be enough for criminal purposes to say, 'Here's what happened.'"

Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson.'Witness tampering'

On June 28, the House panel offered new evidence that unnamed associates of Trump may have engaged in witness tampering in an attempt to withhold truthful information that may be damaging or incriminating.

The committee withheld the names of the witnesses and callers. Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, vice-chair on the committee, presented two messages that witnesses received before their testimony.

Cheney read a description of a witness who recalled phone calls they received: "What they said to me is, as long as I continue to be a team player, they know that I'm on the team, I'm doing the right thing, I'm protecting who I need to protect, you know, I'll continue to stay in good graces in Trump World."

—January 6th Committee (@January6thCmte) June 28, 2022

Cheney said a second witness also received a phone call before they were expected to testify. The caller told them: "[A person] let me know you have your deposition tomorrow. He wants me to let you know that he's thinking about you. He knows you're loyal, and you're going to do the right thing when you go in for your deposition." 

Cheney's remarks on Tuesday came after the public testimony of former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who delivered damning testimony against Trump, including that the then-president had dismissed concerns that some of the protesters on Jan. 6 may be armed. Past witnesses include several prominent Republican state officials, election workers, and former Justice Department officials.

If prosecutors were to charge Trump or his associates with witness tampering, they would have to prove that they attempted to threaten or intimidate a witness to "influence, delay, or prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding."

This is very hard to prove because you need to establish the intent of why someone would do this, said Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor in the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

Richman, who has tried witness tampering cases in the past, said prosecutors would need to gather evidence of who made these calls, their timing, and look at the circumstantial evidence of why they'd made them.

What's more, Trump could not be charged with this crime without evidence he knew the call would be made and what the conversation would be about.

Former President Donald Trump speaks on May 28, 2022 in Casper, Wyoming.Trump's possible defense

Mariotti told Insider that Trump could claim he is not guilty of attempting to obstruct or impede a US official proceeding and was just following the advice of his legal adviser John Eastman, who repeatedly pushed Pence to reject electors from some states Trump had lost to throw the election.

"It's hard to convince a jury that somebody who was following the lawyer's advice was acting corruptly," he said.

Some legal experts have hinted that Trump could possibly plead not guilty by reason of insanity in order to avoid being prosecuted if he is charged. Former Attorney General William Barr testified to the committee that Trump had become "detached from reality," referring to Trump's belief that there was voter fraud despite his advisers telling him there wasn't. But other legal experts caution this would be extremely unlikely.

"I don't think it's very likely that assuming an indictment and a trial that Donald Trump would defend himself as insane or mentally deranged and thus not criminally culpable," Barrett said. "I think Trump would largely defend himself the way he has conducted himself. He would say I won. It was a steal. You know, bad things happen to prevent my inauguration."

The House select committee has interviewed more than a 1,000 people, including members of Trump's family like his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner. It also has issued several subpoenas and reviewed thousands of documents related to the January 6 insurrection. Legal experts told Insider that these public hearings could put more pressure on the Justice Department to decide whether to indict Trump. 

Earlier this week, Attorney General Merrick Garland told reporters that he and the federal prosecutors working on the January 6 investigation were watching the congressional public hearings.

Shannon Wu, a former federal prosecutor in Washington DC, told Insider that there are most likely concerns within the Justice Department that possibly charging the former president could exacerbate America's deepening political tensions.

"I think he's really worried that such an explosive, unprecedented case might open the DOJ to charges of being political," Wu said.

But Wu added that not charging the former president could have far worse consequences. 

"If you don't try to hold Trump accountable," Wu added, "then you're really endangering the whole foundation of the country and the justice system." 

Brent D. Griffiths and Dave Levinthal contributed to this report.

 

Read the original article on Business Insider

It's a terrible time to become a house flipper

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 1:39pm  |  Clusterstock
While home sales by investors soared to a 22 year-high in the first quarter of 2022, their profit margins declined to a 13-year low.
  • The share of US homes sold by fix-and-flip investors soared to a 22 year-high in the first quarter of 2022.
  • But their profit margins declined to a 13-year low. 
  •  As competition wanes due to a lack of affordability, these investors are losing out on money. 

Pandemic-era mortgage rates didn't only entice families eager to purchase their dream homes —  they also lured fix-and-flip investors hoping to cash in on the American dream of homeownership. 

But as rising mortgage rates put a lid on the US home buying frenzy, investors' luck may be running thin. 

US home investors were responsible for 9.6% of all homes sold in the first quarter of 2022, representing the highest level since at least 2000, financial services company ATTOM Data Solutions said in its June home flipping report

But while home sales by investors soared to a 22 year-high, their profit margins declined to a 13-year low. 

"The good news for fix-and-flip investors is that demand remains strong from prospective homebuyers," Rick Sharga, executive vice president of market intelligence at ATTOM, said in a statement, referring to the process of purchasing, renovating, and selling a home within 12 months for a profit. "The bad news is that rising mortgage interest rates are beginning to slow down home price appreciation rates, and buyers have become more selective – and less willing to outbid other buyers for properties they're interested in."

Data from ATTOM shows that out of every ten homes sold in Q1, at least one was a flip. Despite the increase in investor activity, the amount of gross profit that fix-and-flip investors made on transactions decreased to the lowest point since 2009, a time when the real estate market was still reeling from the Great Recession.

"Rising mortgage rates have had a major impact on affordability, and appear to be having an immediate effect on both demand and actual home sales," Sharga said, adding that it's having a predictable impact on investor profit margins.

While historically low mortgage rates persuaded millions of Americans to purchase homes over the last two years, pandemic-era deals are over and buyer demand is waning. As competition eases, the white-hot housing market that house flippers helped overheat is now cooling. With home price appreciation slowing and buyers becoming more choosy —  house flipper's could see even more declines in their profits.

"Gross profits, and overall ROI are still relatively healthy for investors who don't overpay for homes, and who are good at managing repair costs, but if demand weakens further and prices begin to decline, returns for investors could definitely be impacted," Sharga told Insider. 

ATTOM's data shows that the typical gross-flipping profit — the median purchase price paid by an investor subtracted from the median resale price to a buyer — amounted to just $67,000 in Q1. While this translates into a 25.8% return on investment and is up 5.5% from Q4 of 2021, it's 4.3% less than the $70,000 level recorded during the same time period in 2021. 

"Investors are ultimately in business to make money, so smaller returns have a pretty dramatic and meaningful impact on their business," Sharga said. "This can result in changes to their business model —  how much and what kind of repair work they do on properties they're going to flip, or whether they hire fewer people to work on these properties or exit the business entirely."

Shifting market dynamics are impacting how fix-and-flip-investors make their money. If mortgage rates continue to rise, they're likely to slow buyer demand further  — and that could mean investors will have to change how they do business.  

"Fix-and-flip investors do best in markets characterized by strong demand and rising prices, so the opposite of those conditions will make it more difficult for these investors to make the kinds of margins they need to stay in business," Sharga said. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Meet the CEO tapping machine translation to make the world more accessible to people with hearing loss

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 1:27pm  |  Clusterstock

Sign-Speak CEO and cofounder Yamillet Payano.
  • Sign-Speak aims to use machine learning to make communicating through sign language easier.
  • Cofounder Nikolas Kelly's own challenges communicating while deaf prompted the idea.
  • The software translates between English and sign language and is now in some zoos and restaurants.
  • This article is part of Innovation Leaders, a series examining how business leaders view their role in driving tech innovation.

When Nikolas Kelly got a potential cofounder — Yamillet Payano — on a video call to hear out his startup idea, the circumstances of their meeting alone turned out to be enough of a sales pitch.

Kelly, who is deaf, had an idea to create software that would translate sign language for non-speakers in real time with machine learning. When the two met virtually, Payano and Kelly had difficultly communicating since she didn't know sign language, and Zoom's caption service didn't offer American Sign Language, or ASL, translation. Payano eventually asked if there was an easier and more accessible way to chat virtually. There wasn't, and that was Kelly's point.

"You find that thing that you know you're supposed to do, and you get this epiphany moment of, 'I need to do something about this problem,'" Payano told Insider. "That's what happened to me."

Together, with help from Kelly's friend Nicholas Wilkins — who was working as a software engineer for Google at the time — they started Sign-Speak. 

According to the World Health Organization, there are nearly 430 million people globally who are deaf or have disabling hearing loss. Despite this, Payano said that a lack of sign-language datasets is just one of the reasons why translation products like theirs haven't reached the mainstream. Now, Sign-Speak is building its own dataset of ASL signs to power its translation. The software — which is designed to work with any camera-enabled device — currently only supports English, but the company has plans to expand to other languages. 

"Think of us as like Siri for deaf people," Payano explained.

Sign-Speak ran a beta test in late 2021 at a pizza restaurant in Washington, DC, to assist customers with ordering. Tablets with Sign-Speak's software provided spoken translation as customers signed orders to enable them to easily interact back and forth.

Earlier this year, Sign-Speak also tested the product at a zoo in Rochester, New York, to help guide visitors. At both locations, Payano said an average of 90 people a day used the software, allowing businesses to better serve a community they hadn't considered before. The tests have both ended, but Sign-Speak hopes to launch with some enterprises and small businesses sometime this year.

"They didn't have to write back and forth. They didn't have to beg, plead. They didn't have to come overly prepared," Payano said. "Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals felt seen for the first time."

Having to be overly prepared, according to Payano, means that deaf and hard-of-hearing people understand certain businesses are not designed to serve them. She cited banks as an example of businesses that deaf and hard-of-hearing clients feel do not accommodate for them. In 2011, Wells Fargo settled an Americans with Disability Act, also known as ADA, complaint from the US Department of Justice alleging that the bank refused to do business with deaf clients. Payano envisions a future where Sign-Speak could deploy its software in banks to help ease transactions with deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals.

Currently, many deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals rely on translators, lip reading, and writing notes on paper to engage with different businesses. Having translators and interpreters can be cost-prohibitive, Payano said. Still, Sign-Speak says it doesn't want to replace translators and interpreters, but rather serve deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in more accessible ways. Above all, Payano said the company has a responsibility to the community it serves. 

This also means expanding the technology so that people can use sign-language translation anywhere. Payano talked about a future where two people — one deaf or hard-of-hearing, and one not — will be able to communicate on a train platform using an app. 

As any company grows, Payano says it's important to remember the intent around a product and who that product is serving.

"We believe in building with the deaf community, not for the deaf community," she said. "And we have a long way to go."

Read the original article on Business Insider

Tesla is tracking office attendance and sending emails to employees who haven't 'badged in' often enough

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 1:25pm  |  Clusterstock
Elon Musk.
  • Tesla is tracking office attendance by monitoring how often workers use their badges to sign in.
  • The carmaker sent emails to employees who haven't 'badged in' enough, Insider confirmed.
  • On May 31, Elon Musk told staff to return to the office for 40 hours a week or quit, reports said.

Tesla is monitoring employees' office attendance, said a Tesla employee and posts on the professional network app Blind.

On Tuesday, a Tesla employee posted a screenshot to Blind of an automated email from Tesla. The email notified the person that they hadn't used their badge to enter a Tesla facility on at least 16 days over the past month. A Tesla employee confirmed to Insider the authenticity of the email.

A Tesla spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment from Insider.

"This is an automated notification," the email read. "You are receiving this email because there is no record of you using your badge to enter a Tesla facility on at least 16 days over the 30-day period ending on June 28. As a reminder, all employees are expected to be back in the office, fulltime. We realize that there are various reasons why you may not have badged in, including illness, vacation or traveling for business. Whatever the case, please clear the reason for you absence with your manager by email, with a copy also sent to absence@tesla.com."

Another Blind post about Tesla said the new policy could be a deterrent for workers. 

"This feels wrong," the person wrote. "I can't quite put it into words why it bothers me, it feels like it's an overstep. It's controlling. It's disrespectful."

Blind is an anonymous forum for verified employees to discuss company issues. The platform verifies users' identities via their company emails. Neither Blind user responded to a request for comment in time for publication.

On May 31, Elon Musk, Tesla's CEO, issued an ultimatum to Tesla staff, calling for them to return to the office for a minimum of 40 hours a week or quit, reports said. The billionaire has said the move is part of an effort to promote equality between factory workers — who were  required to work in person throughout the pandemic — and executives.  

On Monday, The Information reported that Tesla employees were having difficulty finding desk space and parking spots at Tesla's Fremont factory amid Musk's bid for Tesla's almost 100,000-person workforce to fully return to the office. The publication reported that some managers told workers to come in fewer than five days a week because of the lack of space — a direct conflict to Musk's mandate.

Tesla is not the first to start tracking employee sign-ins. In April, Insider was the first to report that JPMorgan had begun tracking office attendance using "dashboards" and "reports." The company used the data to enforce return-to-office quotas, including through calls and emails from managers to staffers who were not meeting JPMorgan's return-to-office expectations, Insider previously reported.

At the time, multiple employees told Insider the new policy had led them to search for jobs elsewhere.

Tesla staffers could have a similar response. Earlier this month, recruiters at major companies, including Amazon and Microsoft, began targeting Tesla employees on LinkedIn who could be averse to Musk's return-to-office edict. 

Tesla's new policy comes after Musk said he plans to eliminate about 10% of salaried workers because of concerns regarding the future of the US economy. Insider previously reported that the layoffs have already begun.

Do you work for Tesla or have a tip? Reach out to the reporter from a nonwork email at gkay@insider.com.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Biden's top student-loan official says he's 'pushing hard' to give public servants more time to apply for debt relief

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 1:11pm  |  Clusterstock
FSA head Richard Cordray
  • FSA head Richard Cordray said he's looking into an extension of the PSLF waiver.
  • The waiver would allow public servants with previously ineligible payments to count them toward student-loan relief.
  • But it's currently expiring on October 31, and some worry that's too soon for everyone to benefit.

President Joe Biden's top student-loan official suggested relief might be extended for government and nonprofit workers.

In October, the Education Department announced reforms to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which is intended to forgive student debt for public servants after ten years of qualifying payments. Included in those reforms was a limited-time waiver through October 31, 2022 that would allow previously ineligible payments to qualify for the program, and the department estimated the waiver alone would bring 550,000 borrowers closer to relief. 

But October 31 is just over four months away, and head of Federal Student Aid Richard Cordray said during a National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) conference this week that he is worried the waiver will expire before all eligible borrowers can make use of it. 

"We are pushing hard to get approval if we can get it extended," Cordray said.

According to NASFAA, Cordray added that further extending the waiver could face challenges due to limits in executive authority, but it's unclear what those limits are. As of June 1, the Education Department has approved $8.1 billion in loan forgiveness for 145,000 borrowers under the PSLF reforms, but as Insider has previously reported, some borrowers are still continuing to face hurdles accessing relief through the program due to administrative errors and obstacles from federal laws around student debt. 

For example, a recent analysis from advocacy group Student Borrower Protection Center found that while 9 million public servants are eligible for student-loan forgiveness, only 2% of them have actually gotten their debt wiped out — and fewer than 15% have filed paperwork to track their PSLF progress.

And for a particular subset of student-loan borrowers — those who combined their debt balances with a spouse — law currently prohibits them from separating their loans into ones that would be eligible for PSLF, meaning Congress has 4 months to change the law or those borrowers who are public servants will not get relief.

Democratic Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Jeff Merkley of Oregon introduced a bill earlier this month that would reduce the number of qualifying payments to PSLF to 60 payments over five years and allow any prior student-loan payment to qualify toward forgiveness progress, and advocates have pushed for the waiver to be extended to make up for years of flaws with PSLF that have blocked those eligible from student-loan forgiveness.

"This is not the time to cut corners in getting that relief to as many people as possible, which is why President Biden must extend the limited PSLF waiver and support us in helping our members access PSLF," American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said in a recent statement.

The Education Department has not commented on the likelihood of a waiver extension, and in the meantime, it said it's prepared to implement whatever decision Biden makes on broad student-loan forgiveness, likely to be announced in July or August.

Read the original article on Business Insider

An artist raised $14,000 for abortion rights by selling an image of Tucker Carlson appearing with an unintentionally 'pro-choice' message on Fox News

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 2:47am  |  Clusterstock
Fox News host Tucker Carlson has railed against abortion rights following the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade last week.
  • An artist has raised thousands for abortion rights by selling an NFT of Tucker Carlson on his show.
  • The NFT comprised an image of Carlson appearing next to a seemingly "pro-choice" message.
  • The message read: "Making an informed choice regarding your own body shouldn't be controversial."

Fox News host Tucker Carlson unintentionally became the subject of a fundraising effort for abortion rights after a screengrab from an episode of "Tucker Carlson Tonight" was minted into a non-fungible token. 

The NFT was created by artist Jenny Holzer and auctioned off Saturday to raise money for three reproductive rights organizations. 

The image was a screenshot of a tweet that included a screengrab of a Fox News episode featuring Carlson and Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson that aired in May 2021.

The NFT also contains an unintentionally pro-choice message displayed on the Fox News chyron during the show: "Making an informed choice regarding your own body shouldn't be controversial." Also shown was the phrase "Standing Up For What's Right."

While Carlson and Johnson had been discussing COVID-19 vaccines and arguing that people should have to right to decide whether to take them, Holzer had a different interpretation of the scene in the screengrab.

"The chyron on Tucker Carlson Tonight on May 11, 2021, proclaimed that MAKING AN INFORMED CHOICE REGARDING YOUR OWN BODY SHOULDN'T BE CONTROVERSIAL," Holzer wrote in an Instagram post. "The chyron was meant to be read as an anti-vaccine pronouncement, but the words could be a pro-choice statement." 

In her post, Holzer said the "contradictions" between Carlson's previous statements on the vaccines and his current stance on abortion rights made her think of her earlier work on the "anxiety, humor, banality, tragedy, and urgency of modern life," hence the NFT. 

The NFT, titled "BODY," was sold for 12.1 Ethereum  — which at press time was worth approximately $14,000 — on Saturday to an unnamed buyer who also owns several other NFTs. 

"Social health is the goal. We must protect the rights of the individual that protect the health of society," Holzer wrote, announcing the auction, and saying it would benefit Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the PAI, a safe abortion advocacy organization.

According to The Washington Post, the NFT went up for auction on Friday after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade

Gillian Branstetter, who sent out the original tweet in May 2021, told The Post she would donate her proceeds cut to the DC Abortion Fund. 

"I will confess a lot of ignorance about NFTs generally, but was happy to give permission for this work to help raise some much-needed funds for abortion access," Branstetter said to The Post. 

Carlson has railed against abortion rights after the SCOTUS ruling on Roe v. Wade. Last week, he claimed that corporations were helping employees get abortions out-of-state because people "without families are much cheaper for the company." 

Read the original article on Business Insider

More and more people are using deepfakes to apply for remote tech jobs, FBI says

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 1:44am  |  Clusterstock
The FBI said on Tuesday that more people were using deepfake videos during job interviews. In this image, a person views a deepfake video on January 25, 2019, manipulated with artificial intelligence to potentially deceive viewers.
  • People are using deepfake technology to pose as someone else in job interviews, the FBI said.
  • They seem to focus on IT roles that would grant them access to sensitive data, the agency said.
  • Anti-deepfake technologies are still not foolproof, but there are simple ways to detect deepfakes.

More and more people are using deepfake technology to pose as someone else in interviews for remote jobs, the FBI said on Tuesday.

In its public announcement, the FBI said it has received an uptick in complaints about people superimposing videos, images, or audio recordings of another person onto themselves during live job interviews. The complaints were tied to remote tech roles that would have granted successful candidates access to sensitive data, including "customer PII (Personally Identifiable Information), financial data, corporate IT databases and/or proprietary information," the agency said.

Deepfake videos could be used for entertaining purposes, but they could also be extremely harmful. In March, Meta said it removed a deepfake video that claimed to show Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy demanding Ukrainian forces to lay down their arms amid Russia's invasion.

Equally concerning is the harm that private individuals could face from being targeted by deepfakes, as in the cases highlighted by the FBI on Tuesday. "The use of the technology to harass or harm private individuals who do not command public attention and cannot command resources necessary to refute falsehoods should be concerning," the Department of Home Security warned in a 2019 report about deepfake technology. 

Fraudulent applicants for tech jobs are nothing new. In a November 2020 LinkedIn post, one recruiter wrote that some candidates hire external help to assist them during the interviews in real time, and that the trend seems to have gotten worse during the pandemic. In May, recruiters found that North Korean scammers were posing as American job interviewees for crypto and Web3 startups.

What's new in the FBI's Tuesday announcement is the use of AI-powered deepfake technology to help people get hired. The FBI did not say how many incidents it has recorded.

Anti-deepfake technologies are far from perfect

In 2020, the number of known online deepfake videos reached 145,227, nine times more than a year earlier, according to a 2020 report by Sentinel, an Estonian threat-intelligence agency.

Technologies and processes that weed out deepfake videos are far from foolproof. A report from Sensity, a threat-intelligence company based in Amsterdam, found that 86% of the time, anti-deepfake technologies accepted deepfakes videos as real.

However, there are some telltale signs of deepfakes, including abnormal blinking, an unnaturally soft focus around skin or hair, and unusual lighting.

In its announcement, the FBI also offered a tip for spotting voice deepfake technology. "In these interviews, the actions and lip movement of the person seen interviewed on-camera do not completely coordinate with the audio of the person speaking. At times, actions such as coughing, sneezing, or other auditory actions are not aligned with what is presented visually," the agency wrote.

The FBI said people or companies who have identified deepfake attempts should report it the cases to its complaint website.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Boris Johnson said Putin wouldn't have started the war in Ukraine if he were a woman

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 1:03am  |  Clusterstock
Boris Johnson made the comments while speaking about gender equality among world leaders in an interview with German outlet ZDF.
  • Boris Johnson described Russia's invasion of Ukraine as a "crazy, macho war."
  • He said that Russian leader Vladimir Putin wouldn't have started the war if he were a woman.
  • Johnson added that more women should be in power around the world.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed on Tuesday that the Ukraine war might not have happened if Russian President Vladimir Putin had been a woman, condemning the invasion as an act of "toxic masculinity."

Johnson had been speaking on gender equality among world leaders during an interview with German news outlet ZDF, and said there should be more women in power.

"If Putin was a woman, which he obviously isn't, if he were, I really don't think he would have embarked on a crazy, macho war of invasion and violence in the way that he has," Johnson said, per the outlet.

"If you want a perfect example of toxic masculinity, it's what he's doing in Ukraine," he told ZDF.

Johnson also threw cold water on those hoping the war would end soon, telling ZDF that there is "no possible deal" between Moscow and Kyiv in sight.

He spoke to ZDF just after the G7 summit in southern Germany, where the agenda included providing more support for Kyiv and introducing heavier sanctions to punish Russia's leadership.

A video of the summit on Monday showed Johnson joking to his fellow leaders that they should undress to "show that we're tougher than Putin," in a mocking reference to the Russian leader's 2009 photo of him riding shirtless on a horse.

"Jackets on? Jackets off?" the UK leader said as the press photographed them and the rest of the table laughed.

"We've got to show them our pecs," he said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Stephanie Grisham shared texts that appear to show how Melania Trump refused to condemn violence during the Capitol riot

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 12:41am  |  Clusterstock
Since leaving the White House, Stephanie Grisham has become a vocal critic of her former bosses, Donald and Melania Trump.
  • Stephanie Grisham shared texts that suggest Melania Trump refused to condemn the January 6 violence.
  • In Grisham's texts, a person named "MT" shot down a suggestion to disavow the violence on Twitter.
  • Grisham told the Washington Examiner that "MT" was Melania Trump.

Former Trump press secretary Stephanie Grisham shared a text exchange on Tuesday that appeared to show Melania Trump shooting down her request to condemn the violence during the Capitol riot. 

Grisham tweeted after Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to ex-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, testified before the January 6 committee.

In her tweet, Grisham included what appeared to be a screengrab of a text exchange with an individual named "MT." 

"Do you want to tweet that peaceful protests are the right of every American, but there is no place for lawlessness & violence?" read the message. 

"No," the person replied. 

—Stephanie Grisham (@OMGrisham) June 28, 2022

 

Grisham later told the Washington Examiner that "MT" was Melania Trump. 

"I resigned immediately after her response," Grisham said. The former Trump press secretary did indeed resign on January 6, 2021, and was the first Trump official to step down after the Capitol riot. 

Grisham also spoke up for Hutchinson on Twitter and weighed in on what the January 6 panel alleged was an attempt by Trumpworld operatives to tamper with witness testimonies

"The potential witness tampering is no surprise. Trump world is vicious in their smears & well aware that MAGA extremists threaten violence to those who speak out," Grisham tweeted. "Proud of Cassidy & all who have chosen to stand up for the truth despite the personal implications."

After her stint in the Trump administration, Grisham became a vocal critic of her former bosses, Donald and Melania Trump, even saying that she needed to be "deprogrammed" after leaving the White House. In January, Grisham joined dozens of former Trump officials who were, at the time, formulating plans to thwart their former boss during the upcoming 2022 midterm elections, and in 2024

In June, she suggested that Trump aides who refuse to cooperate with the January 6 panel should be charged.

Grisham has also dished out behind-the-scenes exposés of what it was like to work for Trump, commenting on how Trump held secret meetings before the Capitol riot and how the former president "gleefully" watched the Capitol riot unfold on TV. She has also exposed what she described as Trump's admiration for Putin's ability to murder critics.

Representatives for Melania Trump at Trump's post-presidential press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Cars in Singapore cost on average 5 times more than they do in the US. Here's a breakdown of what 5 popular cars would set you back in each country.

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 12:37am  |  Clusterstock
Tesla Model 3.
  • Singapore is the most expensive country in the world to buy cars.
  • On average, cars in the city-state cost five times more than they do in the US.
  • While a Tesla Model 3 retails for $59,940 in the US, it costs over $20,000 more in Singapore without COE.
In 2021, Singapore was the world's second-most expensive city to live in. It's also the most expensive country in the world to buy a car in.The residence overlooks Singapore's Marina Bay area.

Owning a compact sedan in the city-state costs, on average, around 125,000 Singapore dollars ($90,430), according to local financial website Value Champion. A car in Singapore can cost five times the amount it retails for in the US, per local financial website Budget Direct

In addition to the base cost of a car, there are also additional fees to account for in Singapore, including a Certificate of Entitlement (COE). COE is a license that allows an individual to own and operate a vehicle in Singapore for 10 years. As of June 2022, the average cost of COE for a basic car is S$74,000 ($53,407), according to the Land Transport Authority.

Cars are also subject to excise duty and goods and services tax, an additional registration fee, and a price rebate and surcharge that depends on the vehicle's carbon emissions.

Insider has compiled a US-to-Singapore price comparison for five popular car models. All car prices are sourced from the manufacturers' official websites in each country. All Singapore car prices in this article, except for Tesla, include COE; the Tesla car price does not include COE.

1. Tesla Model 3Tesla Model 3.

Cost in the US: $59,490

Cost in Singapore: S$114,455 ($82,604), without COE

Unlike most car manufacturers in Singapore, Tesla does not include COE in its prices. Instead, it bids for the COE on the buyer's behalf when the vehicle is ready for registration.

On average, Singapore is the most expensive country in the world to buy a Tesla, according to an index by InsideEVs. The US is the cheapest place to purchase the electric vehicle, per InsideEVs' index.

Cars sold in North America are manufactured in Fremont, California, and Austin, Texas. In Singapore, the cars are shipped to the city-state from Tesla's overseas factories around Asia.

2. Toyota Corolla StandardThe 2020 Toyota Corolla.

Cost in the US: $20,425

Cost in Singapore: S$134,888 ($97,369)

Toyota is the best-selling car manufacturer in the US and Singapore. But prices in the city-state are four times more expensive than in the US, with a Corolla costing over $70,000 more in Singapore.

3. Audi A8Audi A8.

Cost in the US: $86,500

Cost in Singapore: S$516,777 ($373,033)

The flagship Audi vehicle costs four times more in Singapore than it does in the US. The high prices don't seem to deter Singapore buyers: The German luxury car manufacturer was the seventh-most popular by sales in the city-state in 2021. 

4. Honda Odyssey (8-seater)Honda Odyssey minivan.

Cost in the US: $37,340

Cost in Singapore: S$226,999 ($163,801) 

The Odyssey was the best-selling minivan in the US in 2021. Honda is also a best-seller in Singapore — it was the fourth-most popular car brand by registration in the city-state in 2021. 

But there's a huge gap in the prices of Honda vehicles, with the minivan retailing for more than four times more in Singapore than in the US.

5. Mercedes-AMG E53Mercedes-AMG E53 2022.

Cost in the US: $75,000

Cost in Singapore: S$510,888 ($368,652)

The German luxury car manufacturer was the third-most popular brand in Singapore by sales in 2021. In the US, Mercedes finished second to Tesla as the most popular luxury car manufacturer by registration in 2021.

The E35 costs almost five times more in Singapore than it does in the US. In Singapore, luxury brands like Mercedes are subject to a 220% tax of a car's open market value exceeding S$80,000 ($57,760).

Read the original article on Business Insider

Russians are searching for pirated Microsoft products and switching to Linux as the Western corporate exodus hits software updates and services: report

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 12:06am  |  Clusterstock
Many foreign tech firms are ending software updates and services in Russia.
  • Russia-based web searches for pirated Microsoft software have surged after it halted sales in March.
  • Some Russians are turning to Linux from Microsoft's Windows operating system.
  • Russia is reliant is foreign software to power manufacturing and engineering systems.

Russians are searching for pirated Microsoft software online after the US tech giant halted sales in the country over its invasion of Ukraine, the Kommersant newspaper reported on Monday.

Russia-based web searches for pirated Microsoft software have surged by as much as 250% after the company suspended new sales on March 4, according to Kommersant. In June so far, there's been a 650% surge in searches for Excel downloads, the media outlet added.

Microsoft said earlier this month it's significantly scaling down business in Russia, joining a long list of companies winding down businesses in the country amid sweeping sanctions over the war in Ukraine. The move hits Russia hard because the country relies on foreign software to power many of its manufacturing and engineering tech systems, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.

Russian government agencies, too, are switching from Microsoft's Windows to the Linux operating system, the Moscow Times reported last Friday. Developers of Russian systems based on the Linux open source operating system are also seeing more demand, Kommersant reported.

Not all sectors are able to swap out their systems easily.

In the case of industries, software is generally embedded into machinery and providers typically don't give clients access to the code, Sergey Dunaev, the chief information officer of steel giant Severstal, told Bloomberg.

"All industries are facing the same problems," Dunaev told the news outlet. "Many processes in modern units are controlled by software."

There are few alternatives available in the short term.

"Russian analogues in this area are much weaker and the need is high," Elena Semenovskaya, a Russia-focused analyst at IDC told Bloomberg. "But for now the approach is to rely on piracy and outdated copies, which is a dead-end and not sustainable."

Read the original article on Business Insider

John Eastman, a former Trump lawyer who helped design the plan to overturn the 2020 election, drops lawsuit blocking his phone records from Jan. 6 committee

Tue, 06/28/2022 - 11:42pm  |  Clusterstock
John Eastman testifies before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013.
  • John Eastman dropped a lawsuit he filed to prevent the Jan. 6 committee from accessing his phone records.
  • The former Trump lawyer's phone was seized by federal agents on June 22. 
  • In the court document, Eastman's lawyer said he'd sought to protect privileged conversations.  

In a late Tuesday filing, John Eastman dropped a lawsuit he'd filed to prevent the Jan. 6 committee from accessing his phone records.

"Plaintiff brought this lawsuit primarily to protect the content of his communications, many of which are privileged," the latest filing read. "The Congressional Defendants represented in their motion to dismiss that they were not seeking the content of any of Plaintiff's communications via the subpoena they had issued to Defendant Verizon."

The former Trump lawyer's phone was seized by federal agents on June 22, according to a separate suit he filed on Monday, seeking the return of his property. Of interest to investigators are call logs from Eastman's personal device, and the search warrant indicates investigators will not review any additional content from his phone without a court order. 

Eastman, who wrote a memo to then-Vice President Mike Pence urging him to delay or block the certification of the 2020 election results, has previously refused to comply with subpoenas from Congress to testify about his involvement in the insurrection, pleading his 5th amendment right against self-incrimination. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

LIVE RESULTS: Mike Flood and Patty Pansing Brooks face off in Nebraska 1st District special election

Tue, 06/28/2022 - 11:02pm  |  Clusterstock
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska in 2012.

Nebraska held a special election in its 1st Congressional District on Tuesday. Polls closed at 8 p.m. local time. 

 

The race and stakes: 

Republican Mike Flood defeated Democrat Patty Pansing Brooks in the special election for Nebraska's 1st Congressional District, a sprawling seat that encompasses most of the eastern part of the state except Omaha. 

Flood will fill out the final months of former Rep. Jeff Fortenberry's term after he was forced out following his conviction for lying to the FBI.

Flood must run again in November but do so with added bonus of being an incumbent. Flood and Pansing Brooks are also their parties' respective nominees for the regular general election.

Flood was widely expected to win in the overwhelmingly Republican district that then-President Donald Trump carried by roughly 15 percentage points in 2020.

Unlike the competitive Omaha-based 2nd District, the 1st District race is not.

Flood's campaign reported just over $32,000 on hand on his pre-special election report, having brought in over $1.1 million through the entire cycle. Pansing Brooks had roughly $365,000 on hand, having raised just over $765,000 this cycle. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy swung through for a fundraiser in early June.

As for Fortenberry, he avoided prison time when US District Judge Stanley Blumenfeld Jr. sentenced him on Tuesday to two years probation, 320 hours of community service, and a $25,000 fine.

Read the original article on Business Insider


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