Kellogg Replaces Flynn Who Resigns as National Security Advisor

On February 13th, General Michael Flynn resigned as National Security Adviser to President Donald Trump over his phone talks with the Russian ambassador, according to the latest White House documents released. Media reports from leaked information accuse Flynn of allegedly discussing the U.S. sanctions with Russia before Donald Trump took office. He is said to have misled officials about his call with Russia’s ambassador before his own appointment, BBC reported.

Under the law, private citizens cannot conduct US diplomacy. It is an illegal activity, BBC reported, citing U.S. code for Private correspondence with foreign governments.

“Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both,” according to the law.

Initially, Flynn denied having discussed sanctions with Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. According to other media reports, the White House had been warned by the justice department about Flynn misleading senior officials and being vulnerable to Russian blackmail.

Flynn, in his letter of resignation, said he had “inadvertently briefed the vice-president-elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador.”

The White House announced that it has named Lt. Gen Joseph Keith Kellogg as Flynn’s interim replacement.

Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the Kremlin does not want to comment on Flynn’s resignation. “This is the internal affair of the Americans, the internal affair of the Trump administration,” Peskov said. “It’s nothing to do with us.”

However, some Russian lawmakers have defended Flynn. Senator Alexei Pushkov said on Twitter that Flynn had been “forced to resign not because of his mistake but because of a full-fledged aggressive campaign”. He tweeted that “Trump is the next target”.

Flynn advocated for a softer policy on Russia. He was criticized by democrats and questioned were raised for his perceived closeness to Moscow. Senior Democrat Adam Schiff said that Flynn’s departure would not end questions about contacts between Trump’s election win and Russia. Congressional democrats John Conyers and Elijah Cummings want the justice department and FBI to give a classified briefing to Congress on Flynn.

“We in Congress need to know who authorized his actions, permitted them, and continued to let him have access to our most sensitive national security information despite knowing these risks,” the democrats said in a statement.

Snapchat Parent Snap Files IPO Prospectus with SEC

Snapchat is looking to raise up to $3 billion through the offering of Class A common stock shares, according to the Form S filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on February 2. The company’s shares will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “SNAP.” Snap, the parent company of the fast-growing social network Snapchat, filed its request in a  public document of its initial public offering (IPO).

Snap is a camera company. Its flagship product is Snapchat, an image messaging and multimedia mobile application that allows people to communicate through short videos and images. Each of those short videos or images is called a Snap. On average, 158 million people use Snapchat daily, and more than 2.5 billion Snaps are created every day.

Snap generates substantially all of its revenue from advertising. “We help our advertising partners generate a return on their investment by creating engaging advertising products that reach our large and desirable audience,” according to the filing.

For the year ended December 31, 2016, the company reported revenue of $404.5 million, an increase from $58.7 million for the year ended December 31, 2015. The global average revenue per user was $1.05, compared to $0.31 for in 2015. The average revenue per user in North America was $2.15, versus $0.65 for the same period in 2015. The company posted a loss of $514.6 million, compared to a loss of $372.9 million for the year ended December 31, 2015. Adjusted EBITDA was a loss of $459.4 million, versus a loss of $292.9 million for the year ended December 31, 2015.

Snap said that it views daily active users (DAU) as a critical measure of its user engagement. The company had 158 million DAU on average in the quarter ended December 31, 2016.

The company said that mobile advertising is the fastest growing segment. Worldwide advertising spend is expected to grow from $652 billion last year to $767 billion in 2020. The mobile advertising is projected to grow nearly 3x from $66 billion in 2016 to $196 billion in 2020.

“We believe that one of the major factors driving this growth is the shift of people’s attention from their televisions to their mobile phones. This trend is particularly pronounced among the younger demographic, where our Daily Active Users tend to be concentrated,” according to the company.

People between the ages of 18 and 24 spent 35% less time watching traditional television in an average month during the second quarter of 2016 compared to the second quarter of 2010, according to research firm Nielsen.

Google’s Waymo Cars Driven 2.5m Autonomous Miles and Accelerating

Waymo, formerly the Google self-driving car project, has completed more than 2.5 million miles of autonomous driving on public roads in the past few years, Dmitri Dolgov, head of Waymo’s self-driving technology, said in a blog post.

He said that Waymo is accelerating the pace of testing on public roads and in simulation as part of its efforts to bring fully self-driving cars to more people. Citing this year’s California disengagement report, Dolgov added that the company has significantly improved its fully self-driving technology. The report shows that Waymo’s rate of safety-related disengages has dropped from 0.8 disengages per thousand miles in 2015 to 0.2 per thousand miles in 2016.

“Disengages are a natural part of the testing process and occur when a driver takes manual control of a vehicle while it is in autonomous mode. Testing, including disengages, allows our engineers to safely add to our software’s driving skills, expand hardware capabilities, and identify areas of improvement,” Dolgov said.

He noted that disengages are helping Waymo to further improve its technology.

“During testing our objective is not to minimize disengagements; rather, it is to gather, while operating safely, as much data as possible to enable us to improve our self-driving system. Therefore, we set disengagement thresholds conservatively, and each is carefully recorded. We have an evaluation process in which we identify disengagements that may have safety significance,” according to Waymo.

The report shows that Waymo operated its self-driving cars in autonomous mode for more than 2.3 million miles as of November 2016. Of those, 635,868 miles occurred on public roads in California, with the vast majority on surface streets in the typical suburban city environment of Mountain View, and neighboring communities. Though Waymo increased its driving by 50% in California, its total number of reportable disengages fell from 341 in 2015 to 124.

Further, Dolgov said that despite cars getting smarter and more advanced, road fatalities in the United States are on the rise. And human error is involved in 94% of all crashes. That is a reason for Waymo to work “harder than ever to bring self-driving cars that don’t get tired or distracted, to our roads.”

He noted that the drop in safety-related disengages shows the significant work Waymo has been doing to make its software and hardware more capable and mature.

“And because we’re creating a self-driving car that can take you from door to door, almost all our time has been spent on complex urban or suburban streets. This has given us valuable experience sharing the road safely with pedestrians and cyclists, and practicing advanced maneuvers such as making unprotected left turns and traversing multi-lane intersections,” Dolgov said.

Dolgov said that Waymo will continue to work harder to make its cars safer. With a hundred tragic road deaths every single day, Waymo is “motivated to work with governments and policymakers to deploy our technology safely and quickly.” He added that Waymo is very optimistic about bringing fully self-driving cars on the public roads.

Trump Meets Big Pharma, Signs Executive Order Reducing Regulations, Regulatory Costs

On January 31st, President Donald Trump met with major pharmaceutical company executives, and signed an executive order on reducing regulation and controlling regulatory costs, the White House said in a press statement.

The president had a meeting with executives from Merck, Johnson & Johnson, Celgene, Amgen, Eli Lilly, and the PhRMA trade group. The meeting was also attended by Greg Walden, chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Trump praised pharmaceutical firms’ efforts to cut drugs prices. But he also insisted that there is more work to be done in the pricing area. The president promised to continue reducing the burdensome regulations that raise the cost of doing business in the United States.

The president signed the executive action, titled Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Cost, during the last week. The main purpose of this order is “to manage the costs associated with the governmental imposition of private expenditures required to comply with Federal regulations.”

“It is the policy of the executive branch to be prudent and financially responsible in the expenditure of funds, from both public and private sources. In addition,… it is essential to manage the costs associated with the governmental imposition of private expenditures required to comply with Federal regulations,” the order states.

The order outlined two key changes. First, it requires that, for every one new regulation issued, at least two prior regulations must be identified for elimination, and that the “cost of planned regulations is prudently managed and controlled through a budgeting process.” There will be a cap on the cost of new regulations. The total incremental cost of all new regulations, including eliminated regulations, to be finalized this year should be $0.

The order also requires the director of the Office of Management and Budget to provide the heads of agencies with guidance on implementing this policy change.

For the fiscal year 2018, and for each fiscal year thereafter, the head of each agency will identify, for each regulation that increases incremental cost, the offsetting regulations and provide the agency’s best approximation of the total costs or savings associated with each new regulation or repealed regulation.

Moreover, no regulations exceeding the agency’s total incremental cost allowance will be allowed in that fiscal year, unless required by law or approved in writing by the director. The total incremental cost allowance may allow an increase or require a reduction in total regulatory cost.

The order does not include regulations issued with respect to a military, national security, or foreign affairs function of the United States; regulations related to agency organization, management, or personnel; or any other category of regulations exempted by the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Batteries: Longer Lasting with Increased Safety

Woburn, Massachusetts-based Ionic Materials claimed that it created the world’s first solid polymer electrolyte that could help make safe, longer lasting, and cost effective batteries. They say that “Significant improvements in battery safety, performance and cost are achievable with ionic conductivities that exceed those of traditional liquid systems over a wide range of temperatures.”

Conventional batteries use liquid electrolytes that are flammable, toxic and expensive. And those liquid electrolytes are main responsible for almost all of battery safety incidents.

Ionic Materials said that it built a solid state battery technology that eliminates the complicated and expensive process of making batteries with liquid electrolytes. Based on low-cost polymer processing techniques, the company’s technology eliminates toxic and flammable liquid electrolytes to make it possible to develop a true safe solid battery.

The company was able to create polymer electrolyte works at room temperature, resulting in improved battery safety and higher performance. Its polymer electrolyte is designed to enable next-generation rechargeable battery performance.

To allow a solid-state battery to function at room temperature and offer safe battery performance across a wide temperature range, the company built solid-state pouch cells with composite LCO and NCM cathodes. It replaced electrolyte and separator with an inherently safe, non-flammable polymer. Moreover, removing the liquid resulted in a more recyclable battery. The company’s batteries can be folded, cut, and damaged, but they do not ignite and continue to perform.

All previous attempts at solid electrolytes were unsuccessful, according to Ionic Materials. Other solid polymers only functioned at impractically high temperatures, while ceramic electrolytes struggled to overcome manufacturability, brittleness, stability, cost and other challenges.

Ionic Materials believes that its polymer electrolyte could replace the liquid electrolytes used in currently available batteries.

For the last four decades, scientists and engineers have tried to develop solid electrolytes for batteries. They have two main issues: polymers suffer from low conductivity at room temperature and lack of high voltage compatibility, while ceramics are brittle and they are associated with complex manufacturing. Also, ceramics have problems in scaling to high volumes.

Through lithium ion batteries are common and are being used in consumer electronics and electronic vehicles, they have a fundamental problem. In lithium ion batteries, liquid electrolytes become unstable when the temperature rises. Also, they are susceptible to shorts caused by dendrites and can catch fire and explode under certain circumstances. The company touts these benefits to consumers by saying “These improvements promise to speed the electrification of transportation and the transition to clean and renewable sources of energy, as well as enable safer and longer lasting consumer electronics devices.”

Meanwhile, Ionic Materials said that it received a $3 million Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The funding will be used by the company for the development of a polymer electrolyte and lithium/polymer interface to enable lithium cycling and development of solid intercalation cathodes. The program is scheduled to begin in the first half of 2017.

For more information please visit: http://ionicmaterials.com

President Trump Nominates Neil Gorsuch to Replace Scalia on Supreme Court

President Donald Trump on January 31 announced that Neil Gorsuch is his nominee for the Supreme Court. He has been selected for the position of Associate Justice to replace the late Justice Scalia.

Gorsuch is a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Denver, Colorado. He was appointed in 2006 to the 10th Circuit by then-President George W. Bush.

Gorsuch’s nomination was sent to the Senate on Feb. 1. If confirmed, he will replace Scalia who died last year. At 49, Gorsuch is the youngest Supreme Court nominees, and, if confirmed, he would be the youngest sitting Supreme Court justice since Clarence Thomas. Additionally, he would be the first Protestant on the court since John Paul Stevens’s retirement in 2010.

Gorsuch is a graduate of Columbia, Harvard, and Oxford. He served as the U.S. Department of Justice as the principal deputy associate attorney general in 2005. He assisted in managing major aspects of the agency’s work in areas such as constitutional law, counterterrorism, environmental regulation, and civil rights.

From 1995 to 2005, Gorsuch worked as an associate and partner at the law firm of Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel, PLLC. He also clerked for Justice Byron White and Justice Kennedy of Supreme Court of the United States and Judge David Sentelle of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Gorsuch attended Harvard Law School as a Harry Truman Scholar and graduated with honors in 1991. He graduated with honors from Columbia University in 1988, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. After law school, he attended Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar and received his Doctorate in Philosophy in 2004.

“Judges should instead strive, if humanly and so imperfectly, to apply the law as it is, focusing backward, not forward, and looking to text, structure, and history to decide what a reasonable reader at the time of the events in question would have understood the law to be,” Gorsuch said in his speech at Case Western Reserve University.

He also published a book titled The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia in 2006. He opposed assisted suicide, stating that “all human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”

In related news, Gorsuch criticized Trump’s tweet targeting federal district court judge James Robart. A spokesman of the Supreme Court nominee confirmed to The Guardian that Gorsuch called the president’s tweet “disheartening and demoralizing.” He criticized the president’s remark on the judiciary in a private meeting with Senator Richard Blumenthal, the spokesman said.

However, Trump said that reported comments from his Supreme Court nominee were misrepresented.

Protests at Berkeley Stop Conservative Speech from Milo

A talk by Milo Yiannopoulos scheduled on the 1st of February at UC Berkeley ended up in a protest by hundreds of students. A crowd of more than 1500 students gathered outside the UC Berkeley campus. Protesters were against Milo’s speech in UC Campus. They started breaking windows, throwing smoke bombs in campus and sparked bonfire outside the building. Due to safety concerns by the crowd gathered for the event, UC Berkeley canceled the event two hours before the event started.

Milo’s visit to UC Berkeley was sponsored by the campus Republican club. Mr. Yiannopoulos after the cancellation of an event told to Fox news, “obviously it’s a liberal campus so they hate any conservatives who dare to express an opinion on their campuses.” Further, Milo added, “They particularly don’t like me.”

Nicholas Dirks, UC Vice Chancellor gave his statement in Berkeley news, “What happened tonight was very unfortunate.”

Dirks added to his statement, “It was against the fundamental values of the university. We are and will remain in favor of free speech as essential to the educational mission and a vital component of the identity of the University of California.” For more information, see Berkeley’s statement here: http://news.berkeley.edu/2017/02/02/campus-condemns-violence-defends-free-speech/

Dan Moulof, the university spokesperson said, “They were a small group of Hijackers in black masks, who were breaking windows and throwing smoke bombs.”

Protest organizer Yvette Felarca described, “The actions of protestors were of self-defense. She said we have the right to save ourselves.”
She further added “Shutting down the Milo was necessary. And we can do anything to shut him down.”

Margo Bennet, Police chief UC Berkeley stated, “a small group of protestors started throwing smoke bombs and flares. These protestors were wearing black hooded sweatshirts.”

Bennet said “at some time they were unable to guarantee the security and canceled the event. The spokesperson was evacuated from the building”.

The protest prompted President Trump’s views on free speech. Mr. Trump wrote a tweet questioning the university on handling this incident. He also threatened to cut off school’s federal funds.

He tweeted “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”

A spokesman for the Berkeley College Republicans, Pieter Sittler said, “The Republican club off campus does not support everything that Milo says.”

Pieter further added, “Milo gives voice to the repressed conservative thought on American colleges.”

Pranav Jandhyala, a student eyewitnesses the incident and said, “It’s horrible; it’s disgusting what’s going on. It’s one thing to protect someone’s right to come here and speak, but it’s another thing to create this much amount of destruction and violence.”

Colin Duke, another student said “I just came to see if I could get into the Milo event. I support free speech. And it just got canceled by a bunch of people in black clothes.”

Floods in California Forced Evacuations

Successive winter storms unleashed heavy rains in Southern California over the weekend flooding roads, freeways and homes, trapping people in swamped vehicles, mudslides and bringing down trees in the region.  It made evacuation of stranded residents in several affected areas unavoidable.

The storm rained heavily for several hours with damaging effect. The frightening weekend storm added plenty of precipitation, which suddenly had its arrival in the State after years of withering drought.

The National Weather Service says the system is gaining strength Sunday and could be the strongest in at least seven years. Evacuations are ordered near wildfire burn areas in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and Orange counties. Officials say potential debris flows could limit access for emergency responders.

Coastal areas of Los Angeles County were among the worst hit with Long Beach Airport setting a new all-time rainfall record, 3.87 inches.

The heavy downpour was too much for the local roads. Both the 110 Freeway in Carson and the 710 Freeway in Long Beach were shut down on Sunday afternoon due to extreme flooding that left cars stranded like islands in a lake.

Heavy snow in the Sierra Nevada triggered an avalanche that shut down a highway just west of Lake Tahoe. Schools were cancelled in northern Nevada after it witnessed nearly half-foot of snow fall near Reno. Several intersections in Long Beach and surrounding communities were flooded and residents reported that their parked cars were damaged due to rising rain water. Several people were rescued from their cars and thousands lost power. It is reported that the storm dumped as much as four inches of rain at some places.

Rockslides blocked the roads in Malibu and other coastal mountain areas. According to close sources, about 15 to 20 residents of ocean-front apartment units had been evacuated.

Heavy rains can cause mudslides in the burn areas caused by wildfire last year. Evacuation orders have been issued for burn areas in Glendora, Duarte, Silverado Canyon in Orange County and parts of Santa Barbara County. However, some residents in the burn areas chose to stay in their homes in order to protect their homes in case things run out of their hands.

Brett Albright, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s office in San Diego, said the storm dumped as much as four inches of rain in some places.

The State has deployed extra emergency crews to help, including a bulldozer operator and two additional swift-water rescue teams. The epic rains wreaked something unusual in Disneyland Sunday characterised by a quiet day with small crowds. Although thunderstorm conditions were expected to come down slightly, rainfall is expected to pour until Tuesday.

The storm has caused heavy rainfall over the days along with mudslides and snow blocked major roads including Interstate 80. U.S 395 and Highway 17 the main freeway linking Silicon Valley with Santa Cruz. According to NWS (National Weather Service) the incessant storm and rainfall has seen a record-breaking wave height for the Monterey Bay of measuring 34.12 feet.

Bill Wolcott, a California State Parks public safety superintendent said, “We’ve seen very large surf, with very little break in between, and it’s that repeated beating down by the ocean that seems to be having the biggest effect on the ship this year.”

Apple Sues Chip Maker Qualcomm for $1B

The tech giant Apple (APPL) has filed a lawsuit to the tune of $ 1 billion on Friday, 22 January 2017 against Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM) in the federal district court in the Southern District of California by accusing the latter of overcharging for its wireless chips and engaging in monopolistic tactics.

Apple said in the “Form many years Qualcomm has unfairly insisted on charging royalties for technologies that they have nothing to do with.” According the iPhone maker, the more money the Company innovates with unique features such as TouchID, advanced displays, and cameras, to name just a few, the more money Qualcomm collects for no reason and the more expensive it becomes for Apple to fund these innovations.

According to Apple, Qualcomm, the chipmaker company and the maker of the iPhone’s baseband processor, is leveraging its monopoly position in baseband chips and overcharging for the chips and refusing to pay some $ 1 billion in promised rebate for chip purchases.

Apple said in the lawsuit “We are extremely disappointed in the way Qualcomm is conducting its business with us and unfortunately after years of disagreement over what constitutes a fair and reasonable royalty we have no choice left but to turn to the courts.”

The Apple’s lawsuit followed the US Federal Trade Commission’s lawsuit against Qualcomm filed on 17 January 2017. FTC filed the lawsuit against Qualcomm saying that the San Diego-based company used its dominant position as a supplier of certain phone chips to impose “onerous” supply and licensing terms on cell phone manufacturers.

Patrick Moorhead, president of market-research firm Moor Insights & Strategy, said the legal dispute with Apple will help determine ‘what is fair pricing for patents that Qualcomm invested heavily to develop’.

The iPhone has been hugely profitable for Apple and accounts for three-fourth of Apple’s gross profit. The lawsuit says that by making its chip supply contingent on paying patent licenses, Qualcomm managed to secure royalty terms which are not otherwise acceptable to the manufacturers.

For instance, Apple charges about $549 for an iPhone 6s with a 4.7-inch display and $649 for a iPhone 6s Plus with a 5.5-inch display. Even if the higher price is related to the larger display, and not Qualcomm’s chip, Qualcomm collects the same royalty percentage over the total selling price of the iPhone. Qualcomm also require Apple to exclusively use it chips in iPhones from at least 2011 to 2016. Apple also claims that Qualcomm’s practices deterred Apple from switching to chips made by competitors like Intel Corp.

In a counter statement, Qualcomm General Counsel Don Rosenberg called Apple’s claims “baseless” and has put blame on Apple for “actively encouraging regulatory attacks on Qualcomm’s business in various jurisdictions around the world, as reflected in the recent KFTC decision and FTC complaint, by misrepresenting facts and withholding information.”

President Trump’s Executive Order on Healthcare

Day one Donald J. Trump, the 45th President, signed his first executive order on January 20, 2017 to roll back certain aspects of the existing Affordable Care Act (ACA), popularly known as Obamacare, a national health care initiative. The executive order aims at ‘minimising the economic burden’ of the Obamacare law ‘pending its repeal’, which Mr. Trump vowed during his campaign trail.

The order says “It is the policy of my administration to seek the prompt repeal” of the law. The Trump administration is preparing to replace it with an effective plan that they say would allow ‘insurance for all’.

The order on the Affordable Care Act directs departments and agencies related to the healthcare and health insurance sector to ease the burden of Obamacare during the period of transition of its repeal and replacement.

The administration has said they are working at creating a freer and more open healthcare market in the country. To achieve the goal, they ordered federal departments and agencies to take actions consistent with law to reduce the unwarranted economic and regulatory burdens of the ACA and gives the states with more flexibility and control to his effect.

By signing the executive order on day one in the White House, Mr. Trump takes actions to dismantle the healthcare law that covers some 20 million Americans and was the signature healthcare program of his predecessor President Barack Obama.

Section 2 of the Executive order instructs the secretary of HHS (Health and Human Services) to “exercise all authority and discretion available to them to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay” parts of the law that would place a fiscal or regulatory burden on states, individuals or health-care providers.

The President with his team decided to replace and repeal the Obamacare laws with new a new healthcare system that will allow patients to buy health insurance across state lines using health savings accounts and have interstate health insurance sales and high-risk pools at the state level to take care of people who have pre-existing conditions.

The executive order is not going to affect Medicare, the federal healthcare insurance program for older people at 65 years or above and people with disabilities. Considering the time it will take Republicans to fashion a replacement, the federal and state insurance exchanges are likely to function at least through 2018.

The Affordable Care Act marketplaces are still active before open enrollment ends Jan. 31 for 2017 coverage. Advocates for the ACA will be interested in seeing how many companies and individuals decide to take part this year and next.

The new administration says features found in Obamacare, like the provision that continues young adults’ coverage under their parents’ insurance, will not be affected.

For more information see the executive order here: “Executive Order Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal” https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/2/executive-order-minimizing-economic-burden-patient-protection-and