Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A stock market-economy disconnect, warns OECD; CIA snoops via TVs, says Wikileaks; Poachers kill rhino for horn in Paris zoo

1 A stock market-economy disconnect, warns OECD (San Francisco Chronicle) There appears to be a disconnect between the recent surge in stock markets and the global economy's underlying strength, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has warned.

Many indexes, particularly in the US, have rallied over the winter to hit record highs. The OECD noted, however, that expectations for company earnings in the US and Europe have not been revised up on the whole. And growth in consumption and investment is still lagging.

The OECD predicts that global economic growth this year will be 3.3 percent and rise to around 3.6 percent in 2018. However, it warned that the "projected modest upturn" could be derailed by a number of factors, including the possibility of a downturn in markets, greater barriers to trade set up by governments, and uncertainties about the path of interest rates around the world.

It said the global economy remains beset by sub-par growth and high inequality following the financial crisis.

2 CIA snoops via TVs, says Wikileaks (Leo Kelion & Gordon Corera on BBC) Wikileaks has published details of what it says are wide-ranging hacking tools used by the CIA. The alleged cyber-weapons are said to include malware that targets Windows, Android, iOS, OSX and Linux computers as well as internet routers.

Some of the software is reported to have been developed in-house, but the UK's MI5 agency is said to have helped build a spyware attack for Samsung TVs. A spokesman for the CIA would not confirm the details.

Wikileaks said that its source had shared the details with it to prompt a debate into whether the CIA's hacking capabilities had exceeded its mandated powers. These latest leaks - which appear to give details of highly sensitive technical methods - will be a huge problem for the CIA. There is the embarrassment factor - that an agency whose job is to steal other people's secrets has not been able to keep their own.

Then there will be the fear of a loss of intelligence coverage against their targets who may change their behaviour because they now know what the spies can do. And then there will be the questions over whether the CIA's technical capabilities were too expansive and too secret.

Because many of the initial documents point to capabilities targeting consumer devices, the hardest questions may revolve around what is known as the "equities" problem. The NSA has already faced questions when many of its secrets were revealed by Edward Snowden, and now it may be the CIA's turn.

The effort to compromise Samsung's F8000 range of smart TVs was codenamed Weeping Angel, according to documents dated June 2014. They describe the creation of a "fake-off" mode, designed to fool users into believing that their screens had been switched off.

Instead, the documents indicate, infected sets were made to covertly record audio, which would later be transferred over the internet to CIA computer servers once the TVs were fully switched back on, allowing their wi-fi links to re-establish. Samsung has not commented on the allegations.

3 Poachers kill rhino, take horn in Paris (Kim Willsher in The Guardian) Poachers have broken into a French zoo, killing a four-year-old white rhinoceros and sawing off its horn. Keepers found the dead animal, named Vince, in the African enclosure of the zoo at Thoiry, west of Paris, on Tuesday morning. It had been shot in the head and its large horn removed with a chainsaw.

The poachers fled before they could remove the animal’s second horn, either because they were disturbed or because their equipment failed, police said. Authorities described the incident as the first of its kind in Europe.

Park director Thierry Duguet said the attack was “unbelievable” and that Vince had been one of the most popular attractions at the zoo. “An act of such extreme violence has never happened before in Europe.”

A rhinoceros horn has an estimated value of between €30,000 and €40,000. Detectives say there is an established trade network in illegally poached horn between France and Asia. The white rhino is an endangered species, with an estimated 21,000 remaining in the wild across the world, mainly in South Africa and Uganda.

Their horns are sought after in Asia, where they are valued for their supposed aphrodisiac qualities. In Zimbabwe last autumn, the authorities announced they would remove the horns of 700 adult rhinoceros to dissuade attacks from poachers.

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