Briefing :- 19/05/17

Here is CurrentHow’s Briefing ™ for the 19th of May, 2017 :-

1. Swedish prosecutors drop rape probe against Assange, UK police to execute arrest warrant :-

Swedish prosecutors Friday dropped a seven-year rape investigation into Julian Assange, a legal victory for the WikiLeaks founder who has been holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London since 2012.

“Director of Public Prosecution, Marianne Ny, has today decided to discontinue the investigation regarding suspected rape by Julian Assange,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

Friday was the deadline for the public prosecutor’s office to either renew or lift Assange’s arrest warrant before a Stockholm court.

British police told Reuters separately that it was still under obligation to arrest Assange were he to leave the embassy.

“Westminster Magistrates’ Court issued a warrant for the arrest of Julian Assange following him failing to surrender to the court on the 29 June 2012,” British police told Reuters.

“The Metropolitan Police Service is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the Embassy,” the police added.

A British government source would not confirm or deny if the United States had made a request to extradite Assange until an arrest had been made.

Shortly after the decision, Assange posted a picture of himself smiling broadly, without comment.

Ny and Chief Prosecutor Ingrid Isgren are to brief reporters on the decision at 12:00pm (1000 GMT) on Friday.

The 45-year-old Australian has always denied the 2010 allegations, which he feared would see him extradited to the United States and tried over the leaking of hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents.

He has been living at the Ecuadoran embassy in London since 2012 and risks being arrested by British police if he steps out of the building.

British police have said they will arrest Assange as soon as he walks out of the embassy because he has broken his conditions for bail — a relatively minor offence under British law — by failing to surrender on June 29, 2012 for extradition to Sweden.

Assange’s Swedish lawyer last month filed a new motion demanding that the arrest warrant be lifted after US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in April that arresting Assange would be “a priority”.

“This implies that we can now demonstrate that the US has a will to take action… this is why we ask for the arrest warrant to be cancelled so that Julian Assange can fly to Ecuador and enjoy his political asylum,” lawyer Per Samuelsson told AFP at the time.

The accusation against Assange dated from August 2010 when the alleged victim, who says she met him at a WikiLeaks conference in Stockholm a few days earlier, filed a complaint.

She accused him of having sex with her as she slept without using a condom despite repeatedly having denied him unprotected sex.

“I am entirely innocent,” Assange wrote in a 19-page testimony released in December 2016.

He argues that the sex was consensual and has denounced the accusations as “politically motived”.

The investigation had suffered from multiple procedural complications since it began.

The statute of limitations on the rape allegation expires in August 2020.

In a letter sent to the Swedish government on May 8, Ecuador condemned “the obvious lack of progress” in the investigation despite Assange’s questioning in the presence of the Swedish prosecutor at the embassy in November 2016.

“It is extremely worrying that six months after the hearing at the Embassy of Ecuador in the United Kingdom, the Swedish prosecutor’s office has not yet decided on the judicial situation of Julian Assange,” the Ecuadoran Foreign Ministry said in the letter seen by AFP.

Swedish judges have refused to take into account the opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which in February 2016 said Assange was effectively “arbitrarily detained” by Sweden and Britain and called for the arrest warrant to be annulled.

A lawyer for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange welcomed the decision of Swedish prosecutors Friday to drop a seven-year rape investigation against him, saying it was the “end of his nightmare”.

“We have been waiting a long time for this decision,” Christophe Marchand, a member of Assange’s Brussels-based legal team, told AFP.

“Julian Assange has been a victim of a huge abuse of procedure. We are very pleased and very moved, as this marks the end of his nightmare.”

2. Landslide in Uttrakhand, 15,000 tourists stranded :-

Uttarakhand has been hit by a landslide, according to media reports. The landslide occurred near Vishnuprayag on Badrinath route with over 15,000 tourists stranded.

This is a developing story

3. FOX News founder Roger Ailes dies at 77 :-

Roger Ailes, who became one of the most powerful figures in both US politics and media by turning the Fox News network into a booming voice for conservatives before he was brought down by sexual harassment charges, has died at the age of 77.

Ailes worked as a media strategist for Republican Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush before launching Fox News in 1996.

His wife Elizabeth said in a statement on Thursday he was a patriot who was profoundly grateful for the opportunities his country gave him.

As founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Fox News, Ailes became one of the most influential figures in the Republican Party, and the network was integral to US President Donald Trump’s successful run for the White House in 2016.

From the start, Ailes had a clear conservative vision of what he wanted Fox to be as he took the network to the top of the cable news ratings and made it a major profit center for Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox Inc media empire.

But accusations of Ailes’ treatment of women would be his downfall.

In July 2016, Gretchen Carlson, a former Miss America who appeared on the popular “Fox and Friends” morning program before being given her own show, sued him. She said he had made sexual advances toward her and then hurt her career in retaliation after she rejected him.

Two weeks later, Ailes was ousted from the network with a $40 million severance package. His departure came during the Republican National Convention and at a time when the network was scoring record ratings. Shortly afterward, he began advising the Trump campaign.

Star cable host Bill O’Reilly himself left the network after he was accused of sexual harassment.

Ailes had run Fox News under the slogan “fair and balanced” and conservatives found it a much-needed antidote to the perceived liberal slant of traditional media. Critics denounced it as a cynical and polarizing right-wing propaganda machine.

“He helped market a brand of pseudo-journalism that revolves basically around hate, rhetoric, divisiveness, pitting people against each other,” Eric Boehlert, senior fellow at liberal media watchdog Media Matters for America, told Reuters. “That seeps into the culture and into politics.”

The story of Fox News was the story of Ailes. His conservative red-white-and-blue beliefs set the narrative for the network’s stories, and critics said it was difficult to determine where Ailes’ agenda ended and Republican Party talking points began. No potential Republican presidential candidate stood much of a chance without Ailes’ blessing.

“I want to elect the next president,” he told Fox executives at a 2010 meeting, according to the 2014 biography “The Loudest Voice in the Room” by Gabriel Sherman, a writer for New York magazine.

“Ailes’ power and ruthlessness … allowed him to take over the Republican Party and mold it to fit his paranoid world view,” Sherman told the Washington Post in 2016.

In addition to its king-making power, Ailes wanted the Fox News network to be entertaining and have sex appeal.

“From the very beginning, Roger wanted attractive women, translucent desks,” a former staffer told the Los Angeles Times.

“‘I want to see her legs,'” the source quoted Ailes as saying of an anchorwoman. “‘I want the viewers to see their legs. I want people to watch Fox News even if the sound is turned down.'”

Ailes built a reputation as intimidating, profane, egotistical, according to reports, and was so paranoid that Rolling Stone said he was convinced al Qaeda wanted to kill him. Sherman reported that Ailes spent millions of the network’s dollars to hire private investigators to follow unfriendly journalists, including him.

After Carlson’s lawsuit, other female employees, including Fox star Megyn Kelly, came forward to accuse Ailes of making inappropriate jokes, ogling them, commenting on their bodies, groping, kissing and propositioning them for sex in return for career advancement.

“It became common knowledge that women did not want to be alone with him,” the former Fox staffer told the L.A. Times. “They would bring other men with them when they had to meet him. It became a locker room, towel-snapping environment.”

A second suit was filed in August 2016 by Andrea Tantaros, another former Fox anchor who claimed that Ailes, who was married to former television executive Elizabeth Tilson, had also harassed her.

Behind the scenes, according to the lawsuit, Fox News was “a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency and misogyny.”

Ailes teamed up with Murdoch to put Fox News on the air on Oct. 7, 1996, and it gained traction with coverage of President Bill Clinton’s sex scandal involving White House intern Monica Lewinsky in 1998. By 2002 Fox had overtaken long-established CNN in the ratings.

As the network lashed Clinton and later Democratic President Barack Obama, flame-throwing commentators such as O’Reilly, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity became household names. And when Republican politicians such as Newt Gingrich, John Kasich, Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin were not in office, Ailes put them on the air as pundits.

O’Reilly left Fox News in April following his own sexual harassment scandal that had led to more than 50 advertisers pulling commercials from his program, “The O’Reilly Factor.”

Ailes was born in Warren, Ohio, on May 15, 1940. One of his first jobs after leaving Ohio University was a low-level position on “The Mike Douglas Show,” a daytime variety and talk show that initially aired in Cleveland.

He quickly worked his way up to executive producer and in 1967 had a life-changing conversation with Nixon, one of the show’s guests, and convinced the future president of the importance of television.

Nixon hired the 28-year-old Ailes to serve as executive producer for television on his successful presidential campaign a year later. Ailes was credited with crafting television events that let the candidate take his message directly to the public, rather than go through other media.

Ailes’ role was chronicled in the best-selling book “The Selling of the President 1968,” but after he described Nixon as “a funny-looking” guy who was seen as “a bore, a pain in the ass” he lost his White House job.

Ailes then worked in New York as consultant in both entertainment and politics, playing a role in successful campaigns by Reagan and Bush in the 1980s. He showed a special flair for attack ads.

Ailes married Tilson in 1998, and she became publisher of the Putnam County News & Recorder near their home outside New York City after he purchased the newspaper in 2008. They had one son.

4. Android O : Google teases next version of its operating system :-

The upcoming version of Android, referred to simply as “O” for the time being, will have boosted artificial intelligence features along with enhanced security, executives showed at Google’s annual developers conference, Google IO.

Google is also crafting a lighter version of Android, referred to as “Go,” designed for maximum performance on low-cost, entry-level smartphones in developing countries where internet bandwidth is lean or expensive.

Google said that while it is happy with the momentum of its Daydream virtual reality platform based on using smartphone as screens in headsets, it is working with partners on stand-alone virtual reality gear.

Partners in the endeavor include Vive-maker HTC and Lenovo, according to Google virtual reality team vice president Clay Bavor.

The gathering, which attracted some 7,000 developers on site and had thousands more watching online, focused on software with little mention of hardware, noted analyst Blau.

“There is a continuing trend where devices are becoming devalued and what is on the screen is becoming more valuable,” Blau said. “With AI, all the apps are getting upgraded so they don’t need new hardware.”

Google announced that more than two billion devices powered by Android software are used monthly in a freshly passed milestone.

5. Zomato says 17 million user accounts hacked :-

Marred by a security breach, food delivery service Zomato has issued a security notice admitting that accounts of its 17 millions users have been stolen from the database. As the company says, the stolen information includes usernames and hashed passwords.

While the passwords are encrypted, it is not difficult for hackers to crack them. But you are still advised to immediately change your Zomato password .

“The hashed password cannot be converted or decrypted back to plain text – so the sanctity of your password is intact in case you use the same password for other services. But if you are paranoid about security like us, we encourage you to change your password for any other services where you are using the same password,” says Zomato in a blog post.

“Since we have reset the passwords for all affected users and logged them out of the app and website, your zomato account is secure,” adds Zomato.

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