Chinese bitcoin miners consider setting up in energy-rich Canada

The mounting pressure by Chinese authorities on the country’s cryptocurrency industry is forcing mining companies to look for alternatives, and Canada is one of the preferred hot spots.

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© Martin Poole / Global Look Press

Bitmain Technologies, the operator of some of the largest mining farms in China, is among several companies looking to expand overseas. The company’s spokesman, Nishant Sharma, told Reuters that it is eyeing bitcoin mining sites in Canada’s Québec province, which currently enjoys an energy surplus. He added that the company is in talks with regional power authorities in the province, and that it is also planning to expand in Switzerland.

Two Chinese miners said local authorities in China are increasingly unwilling to allow expansion and had started to shut down some mines in late 2017, as China clamped down on cryptocurrencies.

“We, and from what I understand many of our peers, are already making plans to go overseas,” said Li Wei, chief executive of ZQMiner, a Wuhan-based company which sells bitcoin mining equipment and has mines in three Chinese provinces.

According to public utility Hydro Québec, the energy surplus of the province is equivalent to up to 100 Terawatt hours over the course of ten years. One Terawatt hour powers about 60,000 homes in Québec during one year.

David Vincent, the director of business development at Hydro Québec distribution, said that “mining companies are eyeing operations from about 20 megawatts, the size of a data centre, to sites as large as 300 megawatts, about the size of a small aluminum smelter.”

Once a driving force behind cryptocurrency mining, China accounted for more than two-thirds of the world’s bitcoin-mining operations. However, recently, Chinese regulators started cracking down on virtual currencies, explaining it as a fight with capital outflow. They claimed the trade in cryptocurrencies was being used by Chinese citizens to move cash abroad. 

Last year, the regulators banned bitcoin trading and initial coin offerings (ICOs,) which forced all bitcoin exchanges and cryptocurrency trading platforms to immediately stop registering new users, and announce plans to stop virtual currency transaction services.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section

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Brit ‘increasingly anxious’ she’s facing jail in Dubai for witnessing punch-up in hotel bar

A British woman who witnessed a fight between her friends and a drunk Swedish man in Dubai is “increasingly anxious” charges against her will not be dropped. She is facing jail time.

Asa Hutchinson, 21, from Chelmsford, Essex, claims she was not even present when the fisticuffs broke out between her friends and the 50-year-old man, who was reportedly intoxicated. The group were leaving Dusty’s bar and restaurant in the Dubai International Financial Center when they saw the man had passed out on one of the couches.

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© Asa Hutchinson

Hutchinson’s pals started taking selfies of him, but as the man returned to his senses and found himself at the center of a photoshoot, he started throwing punches at them.

Hutchinson, who works as a key account manager for global transportation company Time & Motion, claims she only arrived at the scene of the fight once she heard the commotion.

Radha Stirling, founder of campaign group Detained for Dubai, a non-profit organization which is supporting Hutchinson’s case, told RT: “Asa and her family are becoming increasingly anxious that the charges against her have not been yet dropped.

“Asa was merely in the vicinity of an alleged incident and most certainly did not commit the alleged crime of ‘assault.’”

Stirling added that it is common in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for witnesses to be arrested and prosecuted “simply for being nearby.”

“Asa’s father, Ian, has appealed to the Swedish complainant in this matter to drop the charges against his daughter but his pleas have fallen on deaf ears,” Stirling added.

Hutchinson has been charged with assault and theft after the man, a technology company executive, reported his reading glasses had gone missing.

The group managed to get their passports back by paying cash deposits, and returned to the UK before being arrested.

But, because Hutchinson lives in the UAE, the victim decided to press the charges against her.

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© Robyn Killick

“We are in touch with the British embassy and hoping that they can persuade the complainant to drop the case against Asa,” Stirling added.

“In other cases, British citizens have been upset at the lack of support from the FCO and hope that they will start to intervene more in cases of obvious injustice.”

It comes after it was revealed British real estate agent Yaseen Killick, 29, was jailed in Dubai for sending a WhatsApp message to a dodgy car salesman after he was swindled out of £6,000 (US$ 8,200). He asked the car dealer “how do you sleep at night?”

In September, a man was detained for flipping the bird to another driver, while in October a man was jailed for accidentally touching another man’s hip in a bar. That was followed in November by a British woman being jailed for witnessing a punch-up, and another man being imprisoned for having smoked marijuana – before he had even arrived in Dubai.

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Mayors in 10 US states push back against Trump’s anti-cannabis crackdown

City mayors in 10 US states are pushing back against the Trump administration’s new war on marijuana legalization.

Mayors from Colorado and Washington – the first two states to legalize recreational marijuana back in 2012 – are the lead authors of a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions in response to the crackdown announced last week.

READ MORE: Weed war: Sessions announces marijuana crackdown

Also named in the letter addressed to Sessions, who is coming after marijuana legalization by unleashing federal law enforcement, were mayors from New York, California, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Wisconsin, Arizona and Indiana.

Last week Sessions rescinded Obama-era guidelines that allowed states to legalize cannabis without the interference of the federal government as long as the drug was not marketed to minors, trafficked by cartels, sold across state lines, or cultivated on federal land.

READ MORE: Vermont to become 1st state to legalize marijuana via legislature

Under the new legislation, Sessions said federal prosecutors will be allowed “to use previously established prosecutorial principles that provide them all the necessary tools to disrupt criminal organizations, tackle the growing drug crisis, and thwart violent crime across our country.”

In the letter, the city mayors urged the president to focus on the opioid crisis, which they say is “at an all-time high throughout this country” instead of wasting “law enforcement resources and taxpayer money on prosecuting legal activity.”

Reversing course now is a misguided legal overreach and an attack on cities where legal, safe, and highly regulated recreational sale and use occurs,” wrote the mayors.

The legalization of marijuana has been extremely beneficial for city economies. Washington is predicted to take in $ 730 million in combined revenue from sales in 2017 and 2018, according to Reuters. While Colorado has seen over $ 500 million in tax revenue since 2014.

California became the latest – and largest – state to legalize recreational marijuana on January 1. Vermont is set to become the first state to legalize the drug without a voter ballot.

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The West? Trolling foreign states for over a decade – former MI5 agent

Western countries have been running so-called troll farms against other states for a long time and may now be only seeking to expand operations by developing new software, says former MI5 intelligence officer Annie Machon.

The US army is looking for help to access and respond to foreign social media platforms. The software needs to interpret the sentiment within a social media post, and distinguish between negative and positive.

Arabic, Farsi, Russian and Korean are among the languages targeted. It must translate from them, and back to them. The request came from the US Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM).

RT:What’s the need for such software?

Annie Machon: The most obvious interpretation would be that this is a pushback against the allegations that have been made consistently for the last 18 months about so-called “Russian troll farms” influencing elections across the west. It is interesting to see the languages that they are advertising for – the language of Iran, of course, North Korea and Russia. So that will be a sort of giveaway about which countries they want to be targeting.

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© Bob Strong

Having said that though, the timing to me is interesting, because for sure the West has been running so-called troll farms against the other countries as well for a long time. So are they just trying to expand their operations by developing this new software? Or they are trying to disingenuously suggest to people that they haven’t done it before? ‘Only the big bad Russians, only the big bad Chinese have run troll farms’. And they’re beginning to develop this software…

I would say as well, personally the first time I became aware of the concept of troll farms and astroturfing, which is creating fake grassroots movements commenting online, was over a decade ago. And that was coming out of Israel. All our countries do this.  

RT:Would such software be a threat, or would it be just used for snooping?

AM: I think it is one to try and influence people’s attitudes, certain issues. So that can potentially be a threat. That is what America has been saying about the so-called Russian hacking of the American election last year. Yes, it can be used for snooping too. Interestingly, it was only a couple of weeks ago I think, that WikiLeaks revealed a program from GCHQ, which is the UK Government Communications Headquarters, our listening post, which was doing the same sort of trolling and developing the same sort of software between the years 2009-2010. So Britain certainly has been doing exactly the same thing for almost a decade as well.

RT:The US Army Intelligence and Security Command collect intelligence for combat operations. So how would this new software be useful?

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FILE PHOTO Supporters of Iran's moderate presidential candidate Mirhossein Mousavi set fire to a dumpster and a motorcycle on the road during post-election unrest in Tehran June 13, 2009 © Reuters

AM: We know that America has this kill list that is signed off by the American President every Tuesday morning, where they can go out and target so-called terrorist suspects across the North Africa, across Central Asia, across the Middle East and take them out with drone strikes. There is no due process, there is no rule of law in this – it is just what the intelligence agencies assessed to be problematic people who might well be involved in terrorist attacks in the future. And they are assassinated. We’ve seen this drone program take out whole villages, village councils, wedding parties right across great swathes of the planet. So if they are beginning to use this new algorithmic software in this way that can potentially target people, I think people need to become very much even more frightened.  

RT:The US has continually accused Russia of using bots and troll factories to influence US social media… Isn’t this an attempt to do the same? Isn’t it double standards here?

AM: Of course it is double standards. As I said, they are probably just expanding a pre-existing program. So if GCHQ in the UK has been doing this since at least 2009, there is no doubt that the NSA (National Security Agency) in America will have been doing the same sort of thing. So they might just be trying to recruit and expand an existing program. Or they might be disingenuously trying to indicate that of course they have never done it before, but they are having to do it now in response to the so-called Russian troll farms and Israeli troll farms or whatever. It is interesting timing and particularly after WikiLeaks revealing what GCHQ has been getting up to.   

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Uber used secret program to block office computers and thwart police raids – report

Apart from evading law enforcement and flouting local laws and bans, ride-hailing company Uber allegedly used special technology to remotely lock down equipment in order to protect files from police raids.

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© Tyrone Siu

From spring 2015 until late 2016, the firm’s employees in San Francisco regularly deployed the secret tool to shut off computers in Uber foreign offices to hide any incriminating data from local authorities, according to Bloomberg. The equipment, called ‘Ripley’ after the female hero in the ‘Alien’ movie franchise, was used at least two dozen times, people with knowledge of the matter told the agency.

The company reportedly used its Ripley tool during government raids in Amsterdam, Brussels, Hong Kong and Paris. The sources said that the panic button was developed by the Uber’s security in cooperation with the company’s legal departments.

The agency mentions an instance that occurred in Montreal in May 2015, when 10 tax investigators raided Uber’s office with a warrant to search for evidence of an alleged violation. The company’s employees in Montreal were able to send a secret signal to a special team at Uber’s headquarters in San Francisco. After that, Ripley could be deployed to log off all the computers in the Montreal office, blocking the officers from getting access to any records.

“Like every company with offices around the world, we have security procedures in place to protect corporate and customer data. When it comes to government investigations, it’s our policy to cooperate with all valid searches and requests for data,” Uber said in a statement.

Ripley is one of many codenamed software tools that have been allegedly invented by Uber. Last year, the FBI reportedly opened a criminal probe into the taxi-service company over its ‘Hell’ program, which was used to track drivers attached to its rival, Lyft, from 2014 to 2016.

In May, the US Justice Department launched an investigation into the firm over its alleged use of the ‘Greyball’ software that facilitated the evasion of local regulators in towns where Uber wasn’t licensed to operate.

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Britain’s hilarious reaction as Trump shuns London… including a lookalike statue

President Donald Trump may have shunned London by canceling his upcoming visit to open the US embassy – but anyone passing by the £1 billion building today will have seen The Donald outside.

Quick thinkers at Madame Tussauds joined Britons’ hilarious reaction to the news by sending in their waxwork of the 45th president on Friday.

A life-sized Trump statue was positioned outside the new embassy in Nine Elms, London, before being surrounded by reporters.

Trump canceled his February visit early on Friday morning, confirming on Twitter he would not take Prime Minister Theresa May’s offer to come over for a working visit.

Despite suggestions he feared mass protests and security issues, Trump said he had decided to stay in the US because he could not open the embassy as he does not like it.

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Donald Trump with Minister Theresa May during the U.N. General Assembly in New York, U.S., September 20, 2017. © Kevin Lamarque

He tweeted: “Reason I canceled my trip to London is that I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for ‘peanuts,’ only to build a new one in an off location for 1.2 billion dollars. Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!”

When the statue was unveiled in 2016, Madame Tussauds revealed yak hair and squirrel hair were used to replicate Trump’s standout style. The statue is also wearing a trademark red tie, US flag pin and navy suit.

“Since Mr Trump was announced as the victorious candidate in what was a nail-biting and hard-fought campaign for both parties, our studio team have been frantically busy matching his infamous glowing tan and trademark hairstyle in time for the start of his presidential reign,” Edward Fuller, general manager of Madame Tussauds, explained.

“Our guests will now find him standing imperiously in the Oval Office section within the attraction where he’ll reside for the remainder of his presidency.”

And it went down a treat.

Channel 5’s Andy Bell wrote: “Hats off to @madamtussauds – alarmingly good #Trump.”

Another woman said: “Madame Tussauds have placed his waxwork outside the new building. Makes you proud to be British.”

Trump was at the center of a hilarious reaction from Brits today who took aim at the White House. The hashtag #ICancelledMyTripToLondon began trending hours after Trump’s announcement.

One man said: “Because I found out that Clinton has a card shop there. #ICancelledMyTripToLondon.”

A woman joked: “#ICancelledMyTripToLondon because Hadrian hasn’t finished building that wall. Shoddy.”

While another said: “#ICancelledMyTripToLondon because the cabs are black.”

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'You won't hear them coming' Maine skiers warned of attack from above

Officials at a Maine outdoor center have warned skiers about an “aggressive dive-bombing owl” which silently attacks people who enter its territory.

Pineland Farms took to Facebook to alert “winter outdoor enthusiasts” of an owl (most likely a Barred or Great Horned owl) that attacked a man and cut his head while skiing in the campus loop area.

These owls become particularly aggressive during their mating and nesting period of January to March, according to the post, and skiers are advised to stay away from nesting areas whenever possible “until the young are old enough to fly.”

READ MORE: Owlcapone strikes again! Oregon attack owl returns with a new target – gov’t workers

Owls are silent when they strike, so you will not hear it coming,” according to the warning which also read like the plot of a terrifying forest-based novel. “Owls have been known to strike people,” they added.

If you must walk past a nest, wave your arms slowly overhead to keep the birds at a distance and wear a hat (or helmet) or carry an umbrella,” the center advised.

In 2015, around this time of year, owl attacks became so frequent in the City of Salem, Oregon, that park operators began posting signs warning pedestrians of the swooping assailant.

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French language 'police' launch crusade against ‘smartphone’

The official guardians of the French language are urging native speakers to stop saying “smartphone” and instead opt for “mobile multifonction,” as part of their ongoing war against English tech terms.

The Commission d’enrichissement de la langue française, which works alongside the Academie Française, is attempting to banish “smartphone,” and other modern terms, from their vocabulary by suggesting French alternatives.

READ MORE: Macron vows to tighten media control because ‘fake news threatens democracy’

The language authority has tried to oust “smartphone” before; they previously suggested “terminal de poche” and “ordiphone” with little to no success. It’s hoped this new reclamation will have more of an impact as the commission is allowing speakers to use the shortened version “mobile” if they so choose.

The list of recommendations for French speakers was published in the Journal Officiel on Thursday. Other modern terms the body has tried to remove include “email”, “hashtag”, “fake news” and “dark web.

The public may not take the recommendations on board so easily, though. Some French speakers have taken to Twitter to poke fun at the language group’s suggestions.

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Facebook stock plunges on news feed overhaul

Shares in Facebook dropped by more than 4 percent ahead of Friday’s opening bell after the CEO announced changes to the platform’s centerpiece news feed, which he said would hit user engagement in the near term.

The company is planning to change the filter for its news feed to prioritize what friends and family share, while reducing the amount of non-advertising content from publishers and brands. The measure is a part of a wider program aimed at prioritizing “meaningful social interactions” against “relevant content.”

“We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s wellbeing,” Zuckerberg said in a post on his Facebook page.

The step is seen as a deep concern for publishers, as the feed is a massive source of traffic and revenue. If the pre-market declines in shares hold, Facebook will lose nearly $ 23 billion from its market capitalization on Friday as a result of the move, Reuters reports.

According to Zuckerberg, the time spent on Facebook will go down, but “will be more valuable.

Shares in the social networking service have gained 48 percent over the last year, and could grow another 18 percent to $ 213 per share, according to analysts polled by Bloomberg. The company is set to report earnings on January 31.

According to some analysts, the measure won’t drag Facebook down due to its strong monetization, formed by a monthly active user (MAU) base of more than 2 billion.

“Facebook will continue to grow its massive global installed base in our opinion while importantly monetizing users especially on the Instagram side of the house, which remains the ‘core 1-2 punch’ that underlies our bullish thesis on the name,” said Daniel Ives, head of technology research at GBH Insights, as quoted by CNBC. According to the expert, the company’s stock may grow up to $ 225.

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‘No light at the end of the tunnel’ for US-Russia relations – senior Moscow senator

US reports on new anti-Russian sanctions are first and foremost designed to appease lawmakers in Washington, the head of Russia’s upper house Committee for International Relations, Konstantin Kosachev, has stated.

“Alas, there is nothing new in this report. The law [on Russian sanctions] has already been adopted, the process has been gaining momentum, and the relations driven into a deadlock with no signs of light at the end of the tunnel,” the senator told RIA Novosti.

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© Jason Reed

The US Treasury Department is currently finishing its first official list of the business elite supposedly close to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government, Bloomberg reported on Friday. It quoted a spokesman as saying that the Treasury’s terrorism and financial intelligence unit is working with the State Department and Office of National Intelligence to complete the report, set to be released before January 29.

“It should be released in the near future,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin reportedly said at a White House briefing. “It’s something we’re very focused on.”

The US administration is burning the midnight oil trying to finish and submit to Congress the so-called ‘Kremlin report’ – a list of high-ranking Russian officials and businessmen allegedly close to the government, reports Kommersant daily.

This type of step is required by the ‘Countering American Adversaries Through Sanctions Act’ that Donald Trump signed in August of last year. The US president said the bill “represents the will of the American people to see Russia take steps to improve relations with the United States.” The sanctions targeted a range of entities and individuals – including Russia’s energy sector, banks and weapons manufacturers, as well as those the US accuses of interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

According to Kosachev, the upcoming sanctions list is meant to push Trump toward more action, because the US president’s opponents are using any pretext to accuse him of failing to comply with the Sanctions Act, and therefore of “indulging Russia, [that is] aggressive and posing a threat to US security.”

Details of the report have not yet been disclosed, but according to Kommersant sources in Washington, the new sanctions list could involve more than 50 individuals (in the worst case scenario, up to 300 people, including the targeted persons’ family members). A source in the US State Department told the newspaper that the document would be prepared “on time.”

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© Sputnik

On Wednesday, US members of Congress released a 200-page report on the Kremlin’s “asymmetric attacks” on democracy and their alleged consequences for the United States.

Russians are everywhere, and everything they do is an existential threat to democracy and the American way of life, according to the report published by Senate Democrats on behalf of one of the most outspoken Russia hawks.

The report, compiled by Democratic staffers of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, was commissioned “shortly after the 2016 election” by ranking member Senator Ben Cardin (D-Maryland). Many of its sources are individuals and media outlets with a known anti-Russian bias.

Entitled ‘Putin’s asymmetric assault on democracy in Russia and Europe: Implications for US national security’, the report alleged that there has been a “20-year” campaign to undermine democracy led by the Russian president personally.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that Moscow would adequately respond to any possible new sanctions from the US. He stressed that the Russian reaction will be based on the principle of reciprocity. The countermeasures will reflect what “best meets our interests,” he said.

“There is no doubt about it, and, of course, the decision will be taken by the Russian president,” Peskov added.

Putin’s spokesman also noted that a number of different lists have been previously published by the media, “but they all turn out to be fake,” adding that the best thing to do is to wait for the document to be presented by the US State Department.

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