Apple, Samsung, and throng of other of large cell phone manufacturers are finally adding a "kill switch" option to their devices. A kill switch makes a phone inoperable if it's lost or stolen by letting owners remotely wipe data and prevent it from being reactivated. Carriers are able to help users reactivate and restore their devices (using the cloud) if found.
The voluntary move, planned by the cell-phone company trade group CTIA, was a preventative one, prompted by increasing pressure from several states and municipalities. Kill switches will appear as an opt-in function on most phones beginning July 2015. Since consumers spend more than $2.5 billion a year on insurance fees and replacement costs, the button seems like a no-brainer.
Google now knows how your shopping habits in the "real world" correspond with the ads you interact with online. The advertising giant is teaming up with credit and debit card companies to "match up in-store purchases with your online identity," CNN reports.
The credit card companies provide Google with encrypted information about purchases, which Google software then compares to Google profiles of people who viewed relevant ads. Google cannot actually see any of the encrypted data, so it does not have access to identifiable payment information, like the person's name or what they bought.
The matches are tallied up in aggregate to protect privacy. That means Google can tell a restaurant their ads resulted in 1,000 people going there to eat and how much they spent, but not share any personal information about individual diners. [CNN]
"The privacy implications of this are pretty massive, so Google needs to tread very carefully," San Diego State University marketing professor Miro Copic told the Los Angeles Times. The massive partnership between Google and the card companies will account for 70 percent of all debit or credit card purchases in the country.
You can get around Google tracking your IRL purchases, but it isn't exactly easy: You would have to either log out of your Google account before searching anything, or turn off your search history. CNN also suggests using "cash," like some sort of caveman, "to buy your frosty and fries." Jeva Lange
NATO is expected to symbolically join the international coalition against the Islamic State on Wednesday in a bid to earn to approval of President Trump, who is traveling to their headquarters in Brussels on Thursday, The Associated Press reports. Trump has slammed the alliance for being "obsolete" because it is not addressing "taking care of terror," although member nations have increased defense spending in recent years in response to Russian aggression.
"It's not fair that we're paying close to 4 percent and other countries that are more directly affected are paying 1 percent when they're supposed to be paying 2 percent," Trump has complained. The United States is among five members currently meeting spending targets in the alliance.
On Thursday, "an anti-terror coordinator may also be named, but most changes will be cosmetic, as NATO allies have no intention of going to war against [the Islamic State]," The Associated Press reports.
"It's totally out of the question for NATO to engage in any combat operations," said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Jeva Lange
Since President Trump left the U.S. for Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Europe on Friday, his Twitter feed has been uncommonly restrained and professionally political. Some observers explain this lull by pointing to what The Wall Street Journal referred to Friday as a Twitter "intervention" by White House aides worried the president was putting himself in legal jeopardy, while others speculate that Trump doesn't have access to the same cable news channels abroad that he watches and reacts to at home. Politico has another explanation:
For four straight days, President Donald Trump did not live-tweet the cable shows. He didn't mention his unlikely electoral win. And in visits to two countries where he was greeted with great fanfare, he never once complained about being treated unfairly. Trump's relatively successful swing through the Middle East was due to the fact that, for the most part, he didn't get in his own way. It was also the result of months of careful planning. A decision was made early on to visit a part of the world where Trump is venerated and feared, and to pack his schedule so that he mostly stayed on message and, according to one aide, "didn't have time to tweet." [Politico]
That may change now that he's in Europe, however. The Middle Eastern leg of the tour was carefully orchestrated by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, his deputy Dina Powell, and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner. The European leg has "not been tightly managed by Kushner, Powell, and McMaster," Politico says, and Trump will be greeted less warmly than in the Middle East. Peter Weber
The Montana special election race for the House seat vacated by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is "closer than it should be," said the Republican candidate, Greg Gianforte.
In what is turning out to be "a recurring nightmare" for Republicans, Democratic challenger Rob Quist is doing unexpectedly well in the deep red state, Politico writes. The special election will be held Thursday, and while Gianforte has led the polls, Quist recently cut the distance between them to single digits.
"The fact that we're talking about Montana — a super red seat — is amazing," said John Lapp, the former director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "It's also amazing how much money Republicans have to pour into these seats to defend them. It's still a steep climb in Montana, but we know that the reaction there means that there's a tremendous amount of Democratic energy across the country, a tremendous amount of fundraising that will then feed into races that are much fairer fights."
The state is an uncomfortable repeat of close, but ultimately Republican-won, special elections in Kansas and Georgia (in the latter, a second run-off, favorable to Republicans, will be held in late June). "Gianforte has an edge, but it's not going to be a slam dunk," a national GOP strategist told Politico.
And while Gianforte, a multimillionaire, has vowed to "work with Donald Trump to drain the swamp and make America great again," his rival has campaigned in recent days with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). "We're already eating ramen in a 500-square-foot family housing apartment, the four of us," one Quist supporter, Mychiel Rauch, 27, told The New York Times. "Gianforte doesn't represent me at all."
"Special elections shouldn't be taken in a vacuum," writes Paul Blest at The Week. "These elections help build the framework of a progressive movement in places long ignored by the national party, are a litmus test for the power of the base, and can be an indicator of where efforts should be focused for the next general election." Jeva Lange
On Wednesday, British Home Secretary Amber Rudd said that Salman Abedi, the 22-year-old man who is believed to have exploded a suicide bomb at an Ariana Grande concert on Monday night, was known to British intelligence and security agencies "up to a point." The bombing, which killed 22 people, including children, and wounded dozens of others, "was more sophisticated than some of the attacks we've seen before, and it seems likely — possible — that he wasn't doing this on his own," she added. Police in Manchester said they have arrested three more men in south Manchester in connection with the attack, in addition to the 23-year-old they arrested on Tuesday.
"The intelligence services know a lot of people, and I'm sure we will find out more what level they knew about him in due course," Rudd told reporters, referring to Abedi, "but at the moment all they have confirmed is that they did know about him. And as I say, we will find out more when the operation is complete." She also expressed annoyance at U.S. intelligence leaks about the ongoing investigation. The operation includes sending military personnel out to the streets, beginning with 400 to 800 troops but up to 3,800.
Britain has raised its terrorism alert level to critical, its highest level, which indicates that another attack may be imminent. The Islamic State has said on social media that a "soldier of the caliphate" was able to "plant explosive devices" at the arena Monday night, but there is no known connection between ISIS and Abedi, a Briton of Libyan descent. In Manchester on Tuesday, hundreds gathered for a vigil outside City Hall to mourn the victims and pledge to fight hate with love. You can learn more in the Associated Press report below. Peter Weber
On Wednesday, Taiwan's Constitutional Court recognized a legal right to same-sex marriage, ruling that the parts of the civil code that prohibit such unions violate the country's constitution. The justices gave lawmakers two years to change the laws to permit same-sex marriage, or they will become de facto legal. Both main political parties, President Tsai Ing-Wen, and a majority of the public support same-sex marriage, so amending the law shouldn't be too heavy a lift.
Still, "it's still unclear how far parliament will go," says BBC News Taipei correspondent Cindy Sui. There is also significant opposition from religious and traditionalist voters to making Taiwan the first Asian nation to permit same-sex marriage, and the legislature could give gay couples full rights, civil unions, limited marriage rights, or take no action at all. Peter Weber
On Tuesday, the White House released President Trump's first budget, titled "A New Foundation for American Greatness." That's "slightly grandiose for a financial document," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. "That's like calling a grocery list 'A Bold Vision for Yogurt and Dog Food.'" And the foundation? he said. Trump is apparently building it "out of the ground-up bones of poor people."
The budget calls for slashing funding for food stamps (SNAP) and a children's health insurance plan (CHIP), for example. "So he's cutting SNAP and CHIP, to which America's children replied, 'Stop' and 'Help,'" Colbert said. "I know this is an unpopular position these days, but I believe children should go to the doctor and eat. Where do I find the courage?" But the budget isn't just aimed at children and the poor, it's also "filled with brutal, senseless cuts to medical research," including 19 percent from the National Cancer Institute, Colbert said, as the crowed booed. "Listen, Trump said we'd be sick of winning, and he is ready to deliver on the first half of that sentence."
"Speaking of things that keep spreading, the Russia investigation is only getting worse for the president," Colbert said, mentioning Monday's revelations that Trump apparently also asked the NSA chief and director of national intelligence to quash the Russia investigation, and translating former CIA chief John Brennan's very boring testimony to a House committee on Tuesday: "Basically, he's saying he knows that Russia tried to recruit members of the Trump campaign, he's not sure if they did. That's like saying: 'We know the mob tried to cut your brake cables, we just don't know if they succeeded — here are the keys, have a great drive!'"
"While he's been overseas, the president has not been tweeting as much," Colbert noted. "I assume it's because he's too cheap to pay for data roaming." But it also might be because last week, Trump's aides reportedly staged a Twitter "intervention." Colbert was mock-horrified: "You can't take Twitter away from Trump! That's like taking the nudity away from Game of Thrones — it's the reason why we watch the show." Apparently, this particular Twittervention "included White House staff only, but there are plenty of us who have been deeply affected by President Trump's tweets," Colbert said, "so I just want to take a second to speak to President Trump personally." You can hear his intervention below. Peter Weber