Boeing Likely to Face New Questions After Another 737 Crash

Investigators rushed to the scene of a devastating plane crash in Ethiopia on Sunday, an accident that could renew safety questions about the newest version of Boeing’s popular 737 airliner.

The Boeing 737 Max 8 operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed shortly after taking off from the capital of Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people on board.

The plane was new. The weather was clear. Yet something was wrong, and the pilots tried to return to the airport. They never made it.

In those circumstances, the accident is eerily similar to an October crash in which a 737 Max 8 flown by Indonesia’s Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea minutes after takeoff, killing all 189 people on the plane.

Safety experts took note of the similarities but cautioned against quickly drawing too many parallels between the two crashes.

Alan Diehl, a former National Transportation Safety Board investigator, said the similarities included both crews encountering a problem shortly after takeoff, and reports of large variations in vertical speed during ascent, “clearly suggesting a potential controllability problem” with the Ethiopian jetliner.

But there are many possible explanations, Diehl said, including engine problems, pilot error, weight load, sabotage or bird strikes. He said Ethiopian has a good reputation, but investigators will look into the plane’s maintenance, especially since that may have been an issue in the Lion Air investigation.

By contrast, the Ethiopian Airlines CEO “stated there were no defects prior to the flight, so it is hard to see any parallels with the Lion Air crash yet,” said Harro Ranter, founder of the Aviation Safety Network, which compiles information about accidents worldwide.

“I do hope though that people will wait for the first results of the investigation instead of jumping to conclusions based on the very little facts that we know so far,” he said.

Boeing representatives did not immediately respond for comment. The company tweeted that it was “deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the passengers and crew” on the Ethiopian Airlines Max airplane.

The Chicago-based company said it would send a technical to the crash site to help Ethiopian and U.S. investigators.

A spokesman for the NTSB said the U.S. agency was sending a team of four to assist Ethiopian authorities. Boeing and the U.S. investigative agency are also involved in the Lion Air probe.

Indonesian investigators have not stated a cause for the Lion Air crash, but they are examining whether faulty readings from a sensor might have triggered an automatic nose-down command to the plane, which the Lion Air pilots fought unsuccessfully to overcome. The automated system kicks in if sensors indicate that a plane is about to lose lift, or go into an aerodynamic stall. Gaining speed by diving can prevent a stall.

The Lion Air plane’s flight data recorder showed problems with an airspeed indicator on four flights, although the airline initially said the problem was fixed.

Days after the Oct. 29 accident, Boeing sent a notice to airlines that faulty information from a sensor could cause the plane to automatically point the nose down. The notice reminded pilots of the procedure for handling such a situation, which is to disable the system causing the automatic nose-down movements.

Pilots at some airlines, however, including American and Southwest, protested that they were not fully informed about a new system that could automatically point the plane’s nose down based on sensor readings. Boeing Chairman and CEO Dennis Muilenburg said in December that the Max is a safe plane, and that Boeing did not withhold operating details from airlines and pilots.

Diehl, the former NTSB investigator, said the Ethiopian Airlines pilots should have been aware of that issue from press coverage of the Lion Air crash.

The 737 is the best-selling airliner in history, and the Max is the newest version of it, with more fuel-efficient engines. The Max is a central part of Boeing’s strategy to compete with European rival Airbus.

Boeing has delivered about 350 737 Max planes and has orders for more than 5,000. It is already in use by many airlines including American, United and Southwest.

The Lion Air incident does not seem to have harmed Boeing’s ability to sell the Max. Boeing’s stock fell nearly 7 percent on the day of the Lion Air crash. Since then it has soared 26 percent higher, compared with a 4 percent gain in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index.

AP Explains: What Facebook’s ‘Privacy Vision’ Really Means

Mark Zuckerberg’s abrupt Wednesday declaration of a new “privacy vision” for social networking was for many people a sort of Rorschach test.

Looked at one way, the manifesto read as an apology of sorts for Facebook’s history of privacy transgressions, and it suggested that the social network would de-emphasize its huge public social network in favor of private messaging between individuals and among small groups.

Looked at another way, it turned Facebook into a kind of privacy champion by embracing encrypted messaging that’s shielded from prying eyes — including those of Facebook itself.

Yet another reading suggested the whole thing was a public relations exercise designed to lull its users while Facebook entrenches its competitive position in messaging and uses it to develop new sources of user data to feed its voracious advertising machine.

As with many things Facebook, the truth lies somewhere in between. Facebook so far isn’t elaborating much on Zuckerberg’s manifesto. Here’s a guide to what we know at the moment about its plans.

What’s happening to Facebook?

In one sense, nothing. Its existing social network, with its news feeds and pages and 2.3 billion global users and $22 billion in 2018 profit, won’t change and will likely continue to grow. Although user growth has been stagnant in North America, Facebook’s global user base expanded 9 percent in the last quarter of 2018.

But Zuckerberg suggested that Facebook’s future growth will depend more on private messaging such as what it offers with its WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram Direct services. The Facebook CEO said private messaging between individuals and small groups is “by far” the fastest growing part of online communications.

Naturally, Facebook wants to be there in a big way.

What’s changing in messaging?

Its first step will be to make its three messaging services communicate better with each other. That would let you message a friend on WhatsApp from Facebook Messenger, which isn’t currently possible. It would also link your messaging accounts to your Facebook ID, so people can find you more easily.

Zuckerberg also promised to greatly increase the security of these messages. It will implement so-called end-to-end encryption for messaging, which would scramble them so that no one but the sender and recipients could read them. That would bar access by governments and Facebook. WhatsApp is already encrypted this way, but Messenger and Instagram Direct are not.

The first change users might notice is their address book, said Siva Vaidhyanathan, director of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia. While your Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp contacts might be quite different now, if the services combine to some degree, your contact lists will, too.

“As these services merge, we might end up basically having these huge combined address books from three messaging services,” he said.

​When will this happen?

You’re not likely to see any of these changes soon. In his blog post, Zuckerberg said the plan will be rolled out “over the next few years. … A lot of this work is in the early stages.”

And it’s subject to change. EMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson points out that previous Facebook visions of the future haven’t quite panned out. A few years ago, for instance, Zuckerberg predicted that video and augmented and virtual reality would be a much bigger part of Facebook than what materialized.

But it shows that Facebook is trying to adapt as people shift toward services like Instagram and WhatsApp over Facebook, which today has 15 million fewer U.S. users than in 2017, according to Edison Research. In his post, Zuckerberg said he expects Messenger and WhatsApp will eventually become the main ways people communicate on Facebook’s network.

“There’s not a sense that things will fundamentally change overnight, or even probably this year,” Williamson said, “But it signals Facebook is thinking more seriously about embracing the way people communicate today.”

What will it mean for privacy?

Encrypted messaging is in many ways a big plus for privacy. But the way Facebook collects information about you on its main service site isn’t changing, said Jen King, director of consumer privacy at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society

“This is limited to a very specific part of the platform and it doesn’t really address all the ways Facebook is still collecting data about you,” she said. So users should still be alert about privacy settings and careful about what they choose to share on Facebook.

Facebook is likely to collect data about your messaging — so-called metadata that, according to security experts, will let it know whom you communicate with, when and how often you text them, where you are when you do it and for how long. That can tell Facebook a lot about you even if it can’t read the contents of your messages.

​What about vanishing posts?

Though the timeline is hazy, Zuckerberg did outline other changes users will eventually see. He said the company is looking at ways to make messages less permanent, a la Snapchat or Instagram “Stories,” which disappear after 24 hours.

“Messages could be deleted after a month or a year by default,” Zuckerberg wrote. “This would reduce the risk of your messages resurfacing and embarrassing you later.” Zuckerberg said users will have the ability to change the time frame or turn off auto-deletion. “And we could also provide an option for you to set individual messages to expire after a few seconds or minutes if you wanted.”

What about payment procedures?

Facebook will likely also expand the way users can use its platform to pay for things, said Justin Brookman, director of consumer privacy and technology policy for Consumer Reports. Zuckerberg didn’t mention any new payment plans specifically but did bring up payments four times in his post.

Currently, Facebook lets its users pay friends or businesses digitally by linking a credit card or PayPal account, and that method is not likely to change soon. But as Facebook looks to emulate Chinese behemoth WeChat, it could let you reserve a table through Facebook instead of going through an outside app, or order an Uber.

“Ideally, Facebook will try to get a cut of all transactions,” Brookman said. A digital currency of Facebook’s own is also rumored to be in the works.

“Like many other companies, Facebook is exploring ways to leverage the power of blockchain technology,” Facebook said in a statement. “This new small team is exploring many different applications. We don’t have anything further to share.”

Eavesdropping on Rare Birds

In a technology that’s been heralded as a breakthrough in conservation, remote recording devices are ‘eavesdropping’ on one of the rarest birds in New Zealand to monitor how they are adjusting after being released into a protected reserve. Faith Lapidus reports.

Warren: Tech Giants Have `Too Much Power,’ Need Breakup

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren says the technology industry is too heavily concentrated among the biggest companies and she has a plan to address that.

The Massachusetts senator is proposing legislation targeting tech giants with annual revenue of $25 billion or more. It would limit their ability to expand and break up what she calls “anti-competitive mergers” — such as Facebook’s purchase of Instagram and Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods.

Warren says the biggest tech companies have “too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy.” She says they’ve “bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else.”

She’s releasing the plan before a visit to New York City, where Amazon recently scrapped a plan to open a new headquarters.

SpaceX Crew Capsule Leaves International Space Station

The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule has undocked from the International Space Station.

The Dragon pulled away from the station early Friday, and an Atlantic Ocean splashdown is expected Friday morning.

The Dragon brought supplies and equipment to the space station where it stayed five days as astronauts conducted tests and inspected the Dragon’s cabin.

The crew capsule did not have any humans aboard, just a test dummy named Ripley, a reference to the lead character in the “Alien” movies. Ripley was riddled with sensors to monitor how flight in the capsule would feel for humans.

The Dragon is the first American commercially built-and-operated crew spacecraft in eight years, since the end of the space shuttle program.

The U.S. relies on Russia to launch astronauts to the space station, at a cost of about $80 million per ticket.

NASA has awarded millions of dollars to SpaceX and Boeing to design and operate a capsule to launch astronauts into orbit from American soil beginning some time this year.

It is not immediately clear if that goal will be reached.

SpaceX is entrepreneur Elon Musk’s company. Musk is also the CEO of electric carmaker Tesla.

Facebook’s Vision of Future? Looks Like Chinese App WeChat

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is taking the social media company in a new direction by focusing on messaging. Chinese tech giant Tencent got there years ago with its app WeChat.

Zuckerberg outlined his vision to give people ways to communicate privately, by stitching together Facebook’s various services so users can contact each other across all of the apps.

That sounds strikingly similar to WeChat, which has become essential for daily life in China. WeChat, or Weixin as it’s known in Chinese, combines functions and services that in the West are done by a number of separate companies — think of Facebook and its Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram services combined with PayPal and Uber.

WeChat, launched in 2011, has the usual chat features — instant messaging and voice and video calling, though it doesn’t employ top-notch encryption like Facebook’s Whatsapp. Here’s a look at what else it does.

Mobile money

The WeChat Pay digital wallet is one big reason the app has become an indispensable part of life for people in China. By linking a credit card or bank account, users can pay for almost anything: movie tickets, food delivery orders, and subway and bus tickets.

You can split restaurant bills with your friends, pay your electricity bill, store digital coupons, and donate to charities. There’s a “quick pay” function that lets users scan a matrix barcode to pay instead of pulling out cash or a payment card.

You can also hail a ride from Didi Chuxing, China’s equivalent of Uber.

And in a uniquely Chinese touch, WeChat users can send each other virtual “hong bao” or “red packets,” money that is traditionally gifted in red envelopes during the Lunar New Year holiday.

Social

The app hosts group chats where users can discuss topics like sports, technology, social issues, investment ideas, celebrities, breaking news and beyond. WeChat Moments is a scrolling social media feed where users can write posts and share photos and videos.

The app rolled out a new feature this year, Time Capsule, that removes user videos after 24 hours, in an apparent attempt to mimic Facebook’s Stories feature.

Users can also send friends digital stickers, get access to online games and find out who’s nearby by shaking their phone.

Companies and organizations both inside and outside China can use the app for marketing by setting up an official account. Travel booking platform AirBnb, luxury goods company Chanel and Chinese tech giant Huawei are among brands with a presence on WeChat.

The Chinese model

WeChat and Weixin had nearly 1.1 billion users as of September, up 2.3 percent from the previous quarter and 10 percent from the previous year, according to its most recent quarterly earnings report.

It is wildly popular in mainland China and less so in other countries, which is unsurprising because the communist leaders in Beijing have blocked its citizens from accessing Facebook and other Silicon Valley services for years.

But there’s one thing that WeChat doesn’t let users do: Speak freely. Politically sensitive posts are regularly scrubbed from the service, illustrating how the app has become a key part of China’s censorship regime because of its huge user base and outsize social influence. Hong Kong University researchers found that about 11,000 articles were removed from WeChat last year, a number that doesn’t include posts blocked before publication by automatic keyword filters.

WeChat also lacks so-called end-to-end encryption, considered the gold standard for privacy and used by Facebook and other services like Signal and Apple’s iMessages.

Chinese dissidents and activists have long suspected that authorities are able to monitor what they’ve been saying on the app. The company, however, has denied it keeps a record of user chats.

Microsoft Says Iran-Linked Hackers Targeted Businesses

Microsoft has detected cyberattacks linked to Iranian hackers that targeted thousands of people at more than 200 companies over the past two years.

That’s according to a Wall Street Journal report Wednesday that the hacking campaign stole corporate secrets and wiped data from computers.

Microsoft told the Journal the cyberattacks affected oil-and-gas companies and makers of heavy machinery in several countries, including Saudi Arabia, Germany, the United Kingdom, India and the U.S., and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

Microsoft attributed the attacks to a group it calls Holmium, and which other security researchers call APT33. Microsoft says it detected Holmium targeting more than 2,200 people with phishing emails that can install malicious code.

Iran is denying involvement. Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for Iran’s mission to the United Nations, says the allegations are coming from a private company and such reports “are essentially ads, not independent or academic studies, and should be taken at face value.”

 

Facebook’s Vision of Future Looks a Lot Like China’s WeChat

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is taking the social media company in a new direction by focusing on messaging. Chinese tech giant Tencent got there years ago with its app WeChat.

Zuckerberg outlined his vision to give people ways to communicate privately, by stitching together Facebook’s various services so users can contact each other across all of the apps.

That sounds strikingly similar to Tencent Holdings’ WeChat, which has become essential for daily life in China. WeChat, or Weixin as it’s known in Chinese, combines functions and services that in the West are done separately by a number of separate companies — think of Facebook and its Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram services combined with PayPal and Uber.

WeChat, launched in 2011, has the usual chat features — instant messaging and voice and video calling. But there’s a lot more. Here’s a look at what else it does.

Mobile money

The WeChat Pay digital wallet is one big reason the app has become an indispensable part of life for people in China. By linking a credit card or bank account, users can pay for almost anything: movie tickets, food delivery orders and subway and bus tickets.

You can split restaurant bills with your friends, pay your electricity bill, store digital coupons, and donate to charities. There’s a “quick pay” function that lets users scan a matrix barcode to pay instead of pulling out cash or a payment card.

You can also hail a ride from Didi Chuxing, China’s equivalent of Uber.

And in a uniquely Chinese touch, WeChat users can send each other virtual “hong bao” or “red packets,” money that is traditionally gifted in red envelopes during the Lunar New Year holiday.

Social

The app hosts group chats where users can discuss topics like sports, technology, social issues, investment ideas, celebrities, breaking news and beyond. WeChat Moments is a scrolling social media feed where users can write posts and share photos and videos.

The app rolled out a new feature this year, Time Capsule, that removes user videos after 24 hours, in an apparent attempt to mimic Facebook’s Stories feature.

Users can also send friends digital stickers, get access to online games and find out who’s nearby by shaking their phone.

Companies and organizations both inside and outside China can use the app for marketing by setting up an official account. Travel booking platform AirBnb, luxury goods company Chanel and Chinese tech giant Huawei are among brands with a presence on WeChat.

The Chinese model

WeChat and Weixin had nearly 1.1 billion users as of September, up 2.3 percent from the previous quarter and 10 percent from the previous year, according to its most recent quarterly earnings report .

It is wildly popular in mainland China and less so in other countries, which is unsurprising because the communist leaders in Beijing have blocked its citizens from accessing Facebook and other Silicon Valley services for years.

But there’s one thing that WeChat doesn’t let users do: speak freely. Politically sensitive posts are regularly scrubbed from the service, illustrating how the app has become a key part of China’s censorship regime because of its huge user base and outsize social influence. Hong Kong University researchers found that about 11,000 articles were removed from WeChat last year, a number that doesn’t include posts blocked before publication by automatic keyword filters.

Chinese dissidents and activists have long suspected that authorities are able to monitor what they’ve been saying on the app. The company, however, has denied it keeps a record of user chats.