MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s communications providers on Thursday blocked access to the website of opposition leader Alexei Navalny on orders of the state communications watchdog.
Navalny announced the move via his Twitter account, which was still accessible. Users going to the website were told it could not be reached.
The agency, Roskomnadzor, had demanded that Navalny remove a video alleging that Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko received lavish hospitality from billionaire Oleg Deripaska.
Deripaska rejected the report and won a court ruling that ordered Navalny to remove the investigation as an unlawful intrusion into the tycoon’s privacy. Navalny refused, and appealed the ruling.
A statement Thursday from Deripaska’s Basic Element company said: “Mr. Deripaska’s claim is to protect his right to privacy, and has nothing to do with any political struggle between Mr. Navalny and his political opponents.”
Navalny’s investigation drew from the social media account of a woman who claims to have had an affair with Deripaska.
The woman, who calls herself Nastya Rybka, has written a book about her work as an escort and said on Russian television last year that she had been hired by a modeling agency to spend time at Deripaska’s yacht.
Instagram on Thursday had removed some of Rybka’s posts following Roskomnadzor’s request, but a YouTube video of Navalny’s investigation that has generated over 5 million views remained available.
Rybka posted several videos in 2016 showing Deripaska on his yacht talking with Prikhodko. In one snippet, Deripaska explains to the woman why relations between Russia and the United States are so bad.
Deripaska has been linked to U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who has been indicted in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
Navalny, the most vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, wanted to run against him in Russia’s March 18 presidential election, but was barred because of a fraud conviction in a case that many see as politically motivated.
NEW YORK (AP) — Hello, recruit. Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Learn about the elements of spying, its history, and find out what kind of spy you could be.
That’s the order of the day at SPYSCAPE, a new attraction opening Friday in Manhattan, where visitors can get a glimpse of spying’s past and present, from the code-breaking machines of World War II to the most famous names in espionage and their deeds of derring-do or in some cases, dastardly deception.
Visitors can also take a series of tests that gauge everything from their powers of observation to their willingness to take risks, to see what spy role they’d be suited for. (Don’t worry, there’s no secret agency recruiting station at the exit.)
“People are going to come here and find out spies are actually like we are,” said Shelby Prichard, chief of staff at SPYSCAPE. “They’re probably the closest thing you can get to superheroes in the real world but they’re people. With training, with tools, definitely intelligence, but I think at the end of the day we’ll all discover we each have our own kinds of spy skills and aptitudes.”
The exhibition space is divided into different galleries. They focus on specific areas — encryption, deception, hacking, cyberwarfare, intelligence, surveillance and special ops.
In each of the galleries, visitors can see artifacts related to that area, like an actual Enigma machine used by the Germans to encrypt messages during World War II, or masks worn by members of the global hacking group Anonymous with some signed with the code name of the person who wore it.
In the surveillance section, part of the exhibition showcases how tools used by governments can also be used by other organizations, by incorporating material from The Associated Press’ Pulitzer Prize-winning expose , “Seafood from Slaves.” The stories traced how fish caught by slave labor in Southeast Asia ended up on American plates.
Reporting it involved using satellite technology to track a cargo ship that was moving the seafood caught by the enslaved men, as well as surveillance of the fish as it was offloaded and moved to other facilities. The exhibit at SPYSCAPE features the tools of the trade like a reporter’s notebook and laptop, as well as video from the journalists involved.
“We’re really focused on showing how every person uses spy skills in everyday life,” Prichard said.
The exhibits don’t just focus on the past, either — there’s a segment talking about messaging programs like WhatsApp, and how long messages on it will remain encrypted, as well as an area offering tips on how to limit your cyber exposure. An art exhibit is made up of video cameras representing some of the most well-known and widely used social media sites, like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The interactive tests that visitors can take to build up their profiles are varied. In one section, they’re asked to answer logic puzzles to rate their IQ, while in the deception section they’re taught about different physical signs of lying and asked to determine whether someone being questioned is being truthful or not. In the surveillance section, they have a set amount of time to look at a range of screens and answer questions about what they’re seeing.
The most physical interactive is the Special Ops area, where people take a run through a laser beam maze, trying to hit targets along the way.
Several years in the making, SPYSCAPE’s advisers and consultants included former spies and members of intelligence agencies, as well as hackers-turned-security consultants.
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Mitt Romney is preparing to announce a bid for Utah’s Senate seat held by retiring Orrin Hatch, a position some hope the 2012 GOP presidential nominee will use to continue his biting criticism of President Donald Trump.
Romney, who once called Trump “a phony” who was unfit for office, is not expected to address the president in an announcement video he has prepared for release online, according to people with direct knowledge of his plans.
Romney had planned to release the video on Thursday, they said, but he tweeted Wednesday night that he would not make an announcement about Utah’s Senate race because of the deadly school shooting in Florida. It wasn’t clear when he would reschedule his announcement.
Expected to be a heavy favorite to win Hatch’s seat, Romney is planning a campaign with a laser-focus on Utah and will suggest that Washington has much to learn from the state the former Massachusetts governor now calls home, said those with knowledge of his plans.
“I think Mitt’s going to make it very clear that he’s not running for the Senate because of or in spite of anything to do with Donald Trump,” said Spencer Zwick, Romney’s former fundraising chief who now leads fundraising efforts for House Speaker Paul Ryan. “I think Mitt Romney would be running for the Senate whether Donald Trump was the president or Hillary Clinton was the president.”
Romney’s small team of longtime advisers plans to maintain a low profile. Having turned down repeated requests for national media appearances in recent days, Romney is carefully designing his campaign launch to avoid media questions about Trump.
Those with knowledge of his plans spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.
Romney, one of the most famous Mormons, is widely liked and respected in Utah, which is heavily Mormon. He attended Brigham Young University in Provo, helped turn around the scandal-plagued 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and made Utah his primary home after losing the 2012 presidential election.
In addition to his name recognition, Romney has a deep network of fundraisers and his own personal wealth to help carry him. Those close to him suggest he will not seek financial aid from any super PACs or Washington-based campaign committees.
If he becomes Utah’s next senator, some supporters hope that the one-time Trump critic could serve as a political and moral counterweight to a president they see as divisive, erratic and undignified.
Kirk Jowers, the former chairman and general counsel of Romney’s leadership PACs, said Romney “will always be a straight shooter” and will speak up and the support the president when he takes actions that are good for America.
“If President Trump says or does something that he finds offensive or divisive, unnecessarily divisive, then I think you will continue to hear Romney as the voice of reason and conscience in the Republican Party,” Jowers said.
Though he delivered a scathing speech denouncing Trump during the 2016 presidential election, Romney softened his stance after Trump won the presidency and put himself forward as a candidate for secretary of state. But he resumed his criticism last year, calling out the president for blaming “both sides” following a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Trump, in turn, has criticized Romney for his failed presidential bids in 2008 and 2012, saying he “choked like a dog.”
Any efforts by Trump to block Romney are unlikely to resonate in Utah, where the president received a lukewarm reception from Mormons who were repelled by his brash demeanor and degrading comments about women and minorities.
Former Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who resigned last summer and became a Fox News commentator, said Romney’s clashes with Trump won’t hurt him with Utah voters but that he does need to explain why he wants to be their senator.
“I do think people want to know he’s running not just to be an agitator to the president. I don’t think that’s going to win the hearts and minds, but I also don’t think he’s going to do that,” Chaffetz said. “Mitt Romney’s always been diplomatic. It’s why Donald Trump almost named him the secretary of state. He’s very deliberate and smart in what he does.”
Romney isn’t expected to face any serious challenges for the seat. Even Utah’s conservatives, who see him as too moderate and establishment for their liking, admit they respect him and are unlikely to block him.
However, some in the state see Romney as an outsider who is simply banking on his fame.
Utah Republican Party Chairman Rob Anderson told The Salt Lake Tribune that Romney is “keeping out candidates that I think would be a better fit for Utah because, let’s face it, Mitt Romney doesn’t live here, his kids weren’t born here, he doesn’t shop here.”
Anderson told The Associated Press that he was just repeating concerns and complaints he’d heard from others, but said he’s excited to see the interest that Romney is generating. He said he spoke with Romney after the Tribune article was published, and Romney told him he would travel all corners of Utah to hear people’s concerns.
Hatch, one of the longest-serving senators in U.S. history after more than four decades in office, began floating Romney’s name last year as his potential successor.
When Hatch won re-election in 2012, he pledged that his seventh term would be his last. He flirted with breaking that promise and suggested he might run again in 2018 with the encouragement of Trump, who sought to block Romney.
In the end, Hatch decided to stick with his promise, saying, “Every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves.”
Peoples reported from New York City.
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Latest on Republican Mitt Romney’s plans to run for a Senate seat in Utah (all times local):
Republican Mitt Romney says he’s postponing an announcement planned for Thursday about Utah’s Senate race because of the deadly school shooting in Florida.
People familiar with Romney’s plans tell The Associated Press that he is preparing a bid to replace retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch. Romney was expected to release a campaign video Thursday.
But Romney tweeted Wednesday night that, out of respect for the shooting victims and their families in Parkland, Florida, he will not make an announcement Thursday.
Republican Mitt Romney is preparing to announce his bid for Utah’s Senate seat held by retiring Orrin Hatch.
People familiar with Romney’s plans say the 2012 GOP presidential nominee will release an announcement video on Thursday. They discussed his plans on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to do so publicly.
While some hope Romney would use the position to continue his biting criticism of President Donald Trump, those close to Romney say he will focus instead on Utah. They say Romney will suggest that Washington has much to learn from the state the former Massachusetts governor now calls home.
Romney’s small team of longtime advisers plans to maintain a low profile. Romney is carefully designing his campaign launch to avoid media questions about Trump.
US inflation pressures raising expectations for rate hikes
WASHINGTON (AP) — Inflation pressures appear to be building in the U.S. economy, a prospect that is heightening anxiety about potentially higher borrowing rates that could slow economic growth. The latest source of concern was a report that showed a key measure of inflation rising in January by the sharpest rate in a year. Some economists cautioned, though, that some of those price increases are tied to temporary factors and might not signify sustained inflation.
Critics wary as Google’s Chrome begins an ad crackdown
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Starting Thursday, Google will start using its Chrome browser to reshape the web in its image. It will flag sites that use annoying ad formats, such as auto-playing video ads with sound, and will shut off all ads to the offending sites if they don’t reform themselves. While the move could clean up an increasingly cluttered web, critics say it leaves untouched similar ad formats that Google profits from and is a sign of its overwhelming power over the internet.
Trump shows willingness to raise fuel taxes
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is signaling his openness to a 25-cent fuel tax increase to help pay for his infrastructure proposal in a meeting with members of Congress. Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware says in a statement that Trump said he’d be willing to provide leadership on a 25-cent increase in the federal gas and diesel tax, which hasn’t been increased since 1993. Trump made the comments in a meeting with lawmakers on Wednesday to discuss his infrastructure plan.
Uber’s net loss widens to $4.5 billion for tumultuous 2017
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Ride-hailing giant Uber’s full-year net loss widened to $4.5 billion in 2017 as the company endured a tumultuous year that included multiple scandals and the replacement of its CEO. The results also showed that Uber cut its fourth-quarter net loss by 25 percent from the third quarter as its new CEO moves to make the company profitable before a planned public stock sale sometime next year.
China appeals to Trump to avoid disrupting trade
BEIJING (AP) — China has appealed to President Donald Trump to settle trade disputes over steel and aluminum through negotiation after Trump said he would soon decide whether to impose tariffs or quotas. The Chinese foreign ministry asked Trump to avoid possible disruption to trade and the global economic recovery.
Sam’s Club to offer free shipping for premium members
NEW YORK (AP) — Sam’s Club is offering free shipping for premium members and simplifying its membership tiers. The Walmart-owned warehouse club will give free shipping on online orders for Plus members on 95 percent of the items it sells. Free shipping and faster delivery have been key areas as retailers try to adapt to shoppers’ shift online. The company is also converting its three membership plans into two types.
Producer Ryan Murphy signs exclusive Netflix deal
LOS ANGELES (AP) — TV and movie producer Ryan Murphy is expanding his empire to Netflix. The streaming service says Murphy signed a deal to produce new series and films exclusively for it starting in July. Details of the multiyear deal were not disclosed.
Phillips 66 repurchases $3.3B in stock from Buffett’s firm
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Warren Buffett’s company is selling 35 million shares of its Phillips 66 stock back to the oil refiner for $3.3 billion. Berkshire Hathaway and Phillips 66 said this repurchase will let Buffett’s company to reduce its investment below the 10 percent level that triggers additional regulations. The transaction is expected to close Wednesday.
Fannie Mae loses $6.5 billion in 4Q on tax change
WASHINGTON (AP) — Sweeping changes to U.S. tax law led to a $6.5 billion loss at Fannie Mae last quarter, putting the government-controlled mortgage company in the position of seeking cash assistance from taxpayers for the first time since it emerged from the housing crisis six years ago. Fannie Mae says its net worth sank to a negative $3.7 billion after it had to “remeasure” its deferred tax assets to the tune of $9.9 billion as required by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 35.69 points, or 1.3 percent, to 2,698.63. The Dow Jones industrial average added 253.04 points, or 1 percent, to 24,893.49. The Nasdaq composite climbed 130.10 points, or 1.9 percent, to 7,143.62. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks rose 27.15 points, or 1.8 percent, to 1,522.10.
U.S. crude rose $1.41, or 2.4 percent, to $60.60 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained $1.64, or 2.6 percent, to $64.36 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline added 3 cents to $1.71 a gallon. Heating oil rose 5 cents to $1.88 a gallon. Natural gas lost 1 cent to $2.59 per 1,000 cubic feet.
NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks that moved substantially or traded heavily Wednesday:
Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., up $38.58 to $289.91
The Mexican food chain named the CEO of Taco Bell as its next CEO.
Netflix Inc., up $7.73 to $266
The streaming video company signed a deal with writer and producer Ryan Murphy to produce new series and films.
Fossil Group Inc., up $7.38 to $16.97
After years of declines, the watchmaker had a stronger fourth quarter than analysts expected.
Acco Brands Inc., up $1.80 to $12.95
The office supply company had a solid fourth quarter and said it will start paying a quarterly dividend of 6 cents.
Infinity Property and Casualty Corp., up $19 to $115.05
The auto insurer agreed to be bought by Kemper for $1.41 billion, or $129 a share.
Groupon Inc., down 49 cents to $4.71
Investors were disappointed with the online deals service’s forecasts for 2018.
Baidu Inc., up $10.29 to $235.89
The Chinese e-commerce company posted a bigger profit and more revenue than analysts expected.
Ventas Inc., down $1.10 to $49.62
Bond yields spiked Wednesday, and investors sold high-dividend stocks including real estate investment trusts.