Posts tagged with "Microsoft"

Justice Department official to step down amid uproar over leaks inquiry

June 15, 2021

John Demers, the Trump-appointed head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, is expected to step down at the end of next week, according to a person familiar with the matter—a departure that was arranged months ago, but that now comes amid widespread backlash over DOJ investigations into leaks of classified information that began under the administration of the former president, The New York Times reports.

Demers is the longest-serving Senate-confirmed official from the Trump Administration to remain at the Justice Department during the Biden presidency.

John Carlin, the second in command in the deputy attorney general’s office—who, himself, left the agency in April—had before his own departure asked Demers to remain at the department, according to the person. Lisa O. Monaco had just been confirmed to serve as the deputy attorney general, and the three officials had a long history of working together on sensitive national security cases.

In response, Demers asked to leave by summer, and the two men eventually agreed that he would stay on through June 25, the Times’ source said.

But , the Times notes, Demers’s departure also comes as Democrats and First Amendment advocates have attacked the Justice Department following revelations that prosecutors supervised by Demers seized the records of reporters from The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN and of classified information.

The department’s inspector general announced an investigation on Friday into the matter.

While it is common for the Justice Department to try to find out who shared classified information with the media, it is highly unusual to secretly gather records from the press and lawmakers. The prosecutors also prevented the lawyers and executives of the Times and CNN from disclosing that records had been taken, even to their newsroom leaders, another highly aggressive step.

Such moves require signoff by the attorney general. But. Demers and his top counterintelligence deputies in the division would typically be briefed and updated on those efforts.

Much of the spotlight on national security cases during Demers’ three-year run focused instead on the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller, III, who ran the Russia investigation, the Justice Department’s highest profile and politically fraught national security matter.

But Demers’s ability to skirt controversy ended in recent weeks as the revelations about reporters’ record seizures and the gag orders came to light.

Justice Department officials say that all appropriate approvals were given for those orders, meaning that the attorney general at the time, not Demers, signed off.

Former Attorney General William P. Barr approved the decision to seize records from CNN and The Washington Post in 2020, people with knowledge of the leak investigations have said. But it is unclear who approved the request for email records from Google that belonged to Times reporters. The request was filed with a court days after Barr left,although he could have signed off on it before leaving.

A Justice Department spokeperson declined last week to identify whether Barr or his successor, former acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen, approved that move.

Leak investigators in 2018 also obtained data from Microsoft and Apple that belonged to Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, including Representatives Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, both of California. Mr. Schiff is now the panel’s chairman.

In those instances, the Justice Department also told the technology companies not to inform customers about the subpoenas until recently.

The data was collected and the gag orders were imposed on the tech companies weeks before Demers was confirmed to lead the National Security Division.

Still, some Democrats demanded answers about what he knew about the leak cases. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, called on Demers on Sunday, June 13,  to testify before Congress.

Research contact: @nytimes

Southern comfort: Biden Administration taps private sector to invest in Central America

May 28, 2021

On May 27, Vice President Kamala Harris was scheduled to unveil the agreements of 12 companies and organizations–among them, MasterCard and Microsoft—to invest in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador as part of the Administration’s efforts to deal with a surge of migrants from Central America at the U.S. southern border, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The Administration believes that aid to Central America will bolster economies south of the border—and that better conditions in that area will discourage surges in immigration to the USA.

Among the companies involved:

  • Microsoft  has agreed to expand Internet access to as many as three million people in the region by July 2022, as well as to establish community centers to provide digital skills to women and youths;
  • Mastercard will seek to bring five million people in the region who currently lack banking services into the financial system, and to give one million micro and small businesses access to electronic banking.
  • Chobani has agreed to bring its incubator program for local entrepreneurs to Guatemala; and
  • Nespresso, a unit of Nestlé SA, plans to begin buying some of its coffee from El Salvador and Honduras with a minimum regional investment of $150 million by 2025.

Democratic and Republican administrations have struggled to find long-term solutions to handling surges in migrants from Central America, many of whom say they are driven by poverty and violence in their home countries. The region was hit hard last year by two disastrous hurricanes.

According to the Journal, Biden Administration officials have said the aim in part is for greater private-sector involvement to outlast shifts in policy and government aid between administrations— reducing over time the motivations for migrants to make the often dangerous journey to the U.S. border.

The total number of illegal border crossings this year is on pace to hit a two-decade high; and a record number of unaccompanied minors crossed the border illegally in March, followed by a slight decline in April.

President Joe. Biden has delegated to Vice President Harris diplomatic efforts with Mexico and the three countries known as the Northern Triangle: El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. She is scheduled to make her first foreign trip to Mexico and Guatemala next month.

Republicans have criticized Harris over the Administration’s overall handling of immigration and have chided her for not yet visiting the border. White House officials have said her role is limited to diplomatic efforts, with departments such as Homeland Security and Health and Human Services in charge of dealing with migrants crossing into the United States.

While leading a recent GOP delegation to visit the border, Representative James Comer (R-Kentucky) said more government investments in the region wouldn’t deter migrants from making the journey to the U.S. “We’ve been giving foreign aid to a lot of those countries for decades, and it’s only gotten worse,” he said.

However, Harris has said that private-sector investment along with help from nonprofits and the United Nations could speed up progress in the Northern Triangle. “We must think beyond government,” she said in a speech earlier this month to the Council of the Americas, a business group that focuses on economic and social development in the Western Hemisphere.

She was expected to call on other companies and organizations on Thursday to invest in public health access, food security, financial inclusion, clean energy, education, and workforce development in the region, working through the State Department.

Research contact: @WSJ

Melinda Gates’ petition for divorce says marriage to Bill is ‘irretrievably broken’

May 5, 2021

It was a marriage made at Microsoft that produced three children, a philanthropic foundation—and now, after 27 years, a separation contract. Indeed, Melinda Gates says her marriage to Bill Gates is “irretrievably broken,” according to court documents obtained Tuesday by NBC News.

In her petition for divorce, filed Monday in King County, Washington, she said “spousal support is not needed” and a separation contract will determine property divisions.

“We ask the court to dissolve our marriage and find that our marital community ended on the date stated in our separation contract,” according to the document. It is not clear from the petition when the couple separated or if they had a prenuptial agreement.

Bill, 65, and Melinda Gates, 56, first announced their divorce on Monday, May 3,  in a joint statement. The pair, who married on New Year’s Day in Hawaii in 1994, said that they no longer “believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.”

“After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage,” they said in the statement, according to NBC. “Over the last 27 years, we have raised three incredible children and built a foundation that works all over the world to enable all people to lead healthy, productive lives.”

Jennifer Katharine Gates, 25, the oldest of their offspring, wrote in a statement that it has “been a challenging stretch of time for our whole family.”

“I’m still learning how to best support my own process and emotions as well as family members at this time,” she wrote.

The couple in 2000 founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a private philanthropic organization which funds research and advocacy work across the globe, including in some of the world’s most impoverished nations.

The foundation has given billions to support issues like global healthdevelopment and education, as well as combating climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bill Gates, who co-founded Microsoft in 1975 and served as its chief executive until 2000, stepped down from the company’s board last year and has since focused the majority of his efforts on philanthropy.

He still owns roughly 1.3% of Microsoft’s shares. His net worth is roughly $130 billion, according to Forbes—making him the fourth-richest person in the world.

The Gates Foundation’s assets are nearly $50 billion, according to its financial statements, and it’s been considered the world’s largest private philanthropic organization for the past 20 years. It issued about $5 billion in grants annually during 2018 and 2019.

In their statement announcing their split, the couple—who are co-chairs of the foundation—said they would continue to work together in the philanthropic mission.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Parler reappears with help from Russian-owned security service

January 20, 2021

Parler—a social network similar to Twitter to which then-President Donald Trump fled after he was tossed off his @realDonaldTrump feed for bad behavior—has reappeared.

Early in January, Parler also was taken down—by big tech companies Apple, Google, and Amazon after it was used by members to send messages inciting violence at the U.S. Capitol. However, its website is back  up—powered by a hosting service from DDoS-Guard, a Web security service that is owned by two Russians, according to a report by The Boston Globe.

“Our return is inevitable due to hard work and persistence against all odds,” CEO John Matze wrote in a new post—the latest since Amazon Web Services stopped hosting the site and it was banned from Apple and Google’s app stores. “Despite the threats and harassment not one Parler employee has quit. We are becoming closer and stronger as a team.”

According to the Globe, public data associated with the Parler.com domain name shows that one of the Internet servers it directs visitors to is routed via DDoS-Guard. Another server, specifically for routing Parler.com e-mail but not website content, is an Outlook.com address, operated by Microsoft.

A spokesperson for DDoS-Guard said the company was not hosting Parler and declined to comment on what services it was providing to the social media app. It confirmed it did store customer data as part of its offering.

On Sunday, January 17, Apple CEO Tim Cook defended Apple’s decision to delist the Parler app despite complaints from critics that the move impinges on free speech.

“We looked at the incitement to violence that was on there,” Cook said on Fox News Sunday, adding, ”We don’t consider that free speech and incitement to violence has an intersection.”

Parler’s domain name is now registered with Epik, a website services company based in Sammamish, Washington, according to public records made available by Internet regulator Icann. Epik is also the domain registrar for Gab, another less restrictive social networking site popular with the far right.

Most of the features on Parler.com appeared to remain down early Tuesday, the Globe reports—besides statements from Matze and other employees. Members are unable to log in or post messages and the app is still unavailable in the Apple or Google Play stores.

Microsoft didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Epik said in a sprawling statement on its website from JanIuary 11 that it’s had “no contact or discussions with Parler in any form.” The statement also addressed propaganda, breakdowns in civil society, and editorial malfeasance on the part of “major media owners.”

Before its ban, Parler—which has less restrictive terms dictating what members can post and was endorsed by some Republican lawmakers and media figures—had seen a surge in users as Twitter and Facebook banished outgoing President Trump along with users and groups that supported the violence.

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

 

More than 170 top U.S. business leaders urge Congress to certify Biden’s Electoral College win

January 6, 2021

More than 170 American business leaders signed a letter on January 4 urging Congress to certify the result of the presidential election without delay, Business Insider reports.

Signatories included Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO David Solomon; Microsoft President Brad Smith;  BlackRock CEO Laurence Fink; Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla; James Zelter, a co-president of Apollo Global Management; and Lyft CEO Logan Green.

Congress is scheduled to certify the result on Wednesday, January 6—thereby confirming President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. President Donald Trump has so far refused to acknowledge that he lost the election.

The Partnership for New York City, a nonprofit organization and major business advocacy group, published the letter on Monday. “This presidential election has been decided and it is time for the country to move forward,” the letter said. “President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have won the Electoral College and the courts have rejected challenges to the electoral process.”

According to Business Insider, the leaders added that “attempts to thwart or delay this process run counter to the essential tenets of our democracy.”

Biden and Harris deserve respect and bipartisan support as America faces “the worst health and economic crises in modern history,” they said.

The letter said that Congress should certify the electoral vote and that “there should be no further delay in the orderly transfer of power.”

But at least 140 Republican House members are planning to vote against certification, two representatives told CNN last week.

Trump and other Republicans have tried to overturn the result of the election, pushing false claims of voter fraud.

Over the weekend, Trump pleaded with Georgia’s secretary of state in an hourlong phone call to “find” additional votes to overturn Biden’s victory in the state.

Biden won the 2020 presidential election with 306 electoral votes, flipping five states that voted for Trump in 2016.

Research contact: @businessinsider

Google will extend employee work-from-home policy until Summer 2021

July 28, 2020

We doubt that there will be much pushback from employees, now that Google has once again pushed back the date when its offices will reopen—this time, to Summer 2021., The Wall Street Journal reports.

Previously, the search engine platform had said that employees would return to the office on July 6 of this year; then, had postponed reopening to September. The latest change of plans reflects the current COVID-19 landscape—with more than 4.2 million cases nationwide and deaths mounting—which has grown immeasurable more dangerous just since May.

Indeed, the Journal reports, Google CEO Sundar Pichai made the decision partly to help employees with children who may be facing a partly or mostly remote school year.

“To give employees the ability to plan ahead, we are extending our global voluntary work from home option through June 30, 2021 for roles that don’t need to be in the office,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in an email to employees obtained by the Journal. “I hope this will offer the flexibility you need to balance work with taking care of yourselves and your loved ones over the next 12 months.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Rob Copeland first reported that Google would announce as early as Monday, July 27, that it had pushed its return-to-office date back to July 2021 for nearly all of its 200,000 employees and contract workers.

Google closed its offices in March as the coronavirus hit the San Francisco Bay Area. Management is now looking at the situation in California with an abundance of caution; although Pichai said in his memo to employees that Googlers had returned to the office “with robust health and safety protocols in place” in 42 countries where conditions have improved.

Google is one of several tech companies mulling how and when to reopen offices. Microsoft has said employees will work from home through at least October, while Amazon has said employees will work remotely until January. Both companies are based in Seattle, where coronavirus cases are still on the rise.

Twitter, based in San Francisco, announced in May that employees could work from home forever if they wanted. For Facebook, which appears to have sent some employees back to the office in July, as many as half of all employees will most likely work from home permanently, CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently said.

Research contact: @WSJ

Corporate America races to respond to a crisis that routs the usual 9-5 routine

March 11, 2020

Employers are implementing contingency plans—from dividing teams across locations, to limiting visitors, to allowing employees to telecommute—as the spread of the novel coronavirus is starting to topple basic expectations about the safety and sustainability of office-based work, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The moves, designed to minimize disruption to businesses while protecting workers, range from advising colleagues to stand at least six feet apart, to requiring that people register their personal travel plans with their employers. While some companies have done emergency planning, the virus’s breadth and speed are posing challenges still hard to anticipate, executives said.

On Monday, the Journal notes, Bank of America began splitting up some employees on its Equities and Fixed-Income teams between New York and Connecticut—creating redundancies, so that if an employee gets sick and a whole team has to self-quarantine, a backup team can keep functioning in its place. More than 100 employees will work from Connecticut, while the majority will remain in New York.

Microsoft has instructed thousands of its workers in Seattle and the Bay Area area to work from home if they are able, and recommended that employees still needed in open office spaces stay six feet away from others. The company also asked its staff to try to limit prolonged interaction with other people.

Apple CEO Tim Cook sent a company email, encouraging staff in California and areas around the world with a high concentration of infections to work from home if possible over the coming week. The note represented an escalation in the company’s caution to staff. It last week had encouraged its 25,000 workers across Silicon Valley to work from home.

Meanwhile, the news outlet reports, Harvard informed students this week that they should not return from Spring Break; all classes will be held online. In addition, several colleges, including Texas A&M and MIT, have started asking employees and students to register their personal travel plans, so that administrators can keep track as coronavirus spreads—and MIT says, “Classes with more than 150 students will begin meeting virtually [this week]…; numerous MIT events have been postponed or modified.”

Stripe a San Francisco-area financial-technology company, has switched to videoconferencing for job interviews in place of on-site meetings. Becton Dickinson ,a medical-supplies company based in New Jersey, told employees to limit client meetings off-site.

Facebook, which on Thursday recommended that thousands of its employees in the San Francisco-area start working from home, is further encouraging people to stay away from the campus by canceling shuttle-bus operations for the coming week.

San Francisco-based cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase last week asked several types of workers—including people with compromised immune systems, those who are “at risk because of age,” or people for whom getting sick would be especially problematic—to start working from home, according to Philip Martin, the company’s chief information security officer. He estimates that 200 out of 1,000 employees globally fell into groups that Coinbase asked to work remotely, including single parents and pregnant employees. The company on Friday suggested all employees begin working from home if they can starting this week.

However, The Wall Street Journal notes, working from home doesn’t work for swaths of the employee universe, from food-service and hotel staffers to nurses. Nearly four in 10 workers in the United States (or 37%) say it isn’t possible at all for them to do their job by working from home for a period of several weeks, according to a new Wall Street Journal/SurveyMonkey poll.

Companies say they are looking to federal and local authorities for guidance, but they are also closely watching how their peers respond, often not wanting to be first to implement a drastic protocol, said Lars Schmidt, the founder of Amplify, an HR consulting and executive-search firm.

“There’s a bit of a cascading impact,” he said. “Companies are holding out to see what others are doing.”

Research contact: @WSJ

Everything old is new again: Microsoft returns to smartphones with the Surface Duo

October 3, 2019

It now appears that pigs do fly— because on October 2, Microsoft officially announced the launch date for its new smartphone, the Surface Duo, according to a report by Business Insider.

Although the company sunsetted the Windows 10 Mobile operating system in 2018, techies have been hoping that the decision wasn’t etched in stone. .

The new market entry is a dual-screen, foldable phone running the Android operating system that Microsoft says is designed for productivity and made to integrate with Windows, Business Insider noted after the Redmond, Washington-based company hosted a reveal event for the media on Wednesday..

“Make no mistake, this product is a Surface,” Microsoft’s Chief Product Officer Panos Panay said at the briefing.

The bad news is that it’s not coming out until the 2020 holiday season, so we’ll all have o wait just a little bit longer.

The reason for the delay, Panay indicated on stage, is to help developers optimize their apps for the new two-screen interface. Notably, it’s a little different from existing foldable smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Fold—there’s a clear seam between the two screens, making it more about multi-tasking than having a single, large display.

Research contact: @businessinsider

Anonymous survey finds Netflix pays more than other tech companies

December 5, 2017

Recently, Blind—the anonymous chat app that is being used surreptitiously by thousands of employees nationwide—asked followers who work at tech companies a sensitive question, Business Insider reports: Do you think you are paid fairly?

The answers, from over 4,000 respondents, were somewhat unexpected. For example, the tech workers who are happiest with their compensation are not employed at tech giants Google or Facebook; they are at Netflix, followed by Dropbox, NerdWallet, Twitch and Snapchat.

Conversely, based on the survey findings, the employees who are least happy with their earnings work at Walmart Labs. And 40% or more of employees polled at PayPal, Spotify and Twitter said they weren’t happy with their remuneration, either. In fact, 49% of all respondents were not satisfied with their salaries; leaving 51% who were.

As  to which companies had the most employees in this poll who were dreaming of leaving for the day and not returning? Groupon, HPE and Oracle each came in at around 90%.

Among the ten hottest tech companies today, Microsoft has the least loyal employees in this survey—with about 75% of its staff who responded that they are looking to leave.

Amazon also scored at the top of corporations that were not good at retaining staff, with about 60% of the company’s respondents on their way out the door.

Finally, it is little surprise that the most steadfast employees worked at Netflix, where respondents said they were happiest with their pay.

Research contact: blindapp@teamblind.com