Monthly Archives: December 2018

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Internet custodians approve vast expansion in domain names, biggest change since the mid-80s

SINGAPORE – Internet minders voted Monday to allow virtually unlimited new domain names based on themes as varied as company brands, entertainment and political causes, in the system’s biggest shake-up since it started 26 years ago.

Groups able to pay the $185,000 application can petition next year for new updates to “杭州龙凤” and “杭州龙凤” with website suffixes using nearly any word in any language, including in Arabic, Chinese and other scripts, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers decided at a meeting in Singapore.

“This is the start of a whole new phase for the Internet,” said Peter Dengate Thrush, chairman of ICANN’s board of directors. “Unless there is a good reason to restrain it, innovation should be allowed to run free.”

ICANN’s decision culminates six years of negotiations and is the biggest change to the system since “杭州龙凤” made its debut in 1984. The expansion plan had been delayed largely because of concerns that new suffixes could infringe on trademarks and copyrights.

High-profile entertainment, consumer goods and financial services companies will likely be among the first to apply for their own domain name in a bid to protect their brands, experts said.

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“It will allow corporations to better take control of their brands,” said Theo Hnarakis, chief executive of Melbourne IT, which manages online brands for clients such as Volvo, LEGO and GlaxoSmithKline. “For example, .apple or .ipad would take customers right to those products.”

The surge in domains should help alleviate some of the overlap of names in the most popular suffixes, especially “杭州龙凤”, which has 94 million sites registered.

More than 300 suffixes are available today, the bulk of them country-specific codes, such as “.jp” for Japan and “.fr” for France. Those are typically restricted to groups or individuals with a presence in the countries. Only a handful are open for general use worldwide.

In March, ICANN approved “.xxx” for pornography, but some porn sites have declined to adopt the suffix, fearing it will make it easier for governments to ban them. Conservative groups opposed the “.xxx” name too, arguing it could attract children to adult sites.

Analysts said they expect between 500 to 1,000 new domain names, mostly companies and products, but also cities and generic names such as “.bank” or “.hotel.” Groups have formed to back “.sport” for sporting sites, and two conservationist groups separately are seeking the right to operate an “.eco” suffix.

ICANN plans to auction off domains if multiple parties have legitimate claims. However, it expects companies will likely strike deals among themselves to avoid a public auction.

“I think we’ll see much more of that going on than see auctions generating circuses,” Dengate Thrush said. “But there is that prospect that there will be a couple of identical applicants and applications.”

The application process is arduous – the fee is $185,000 and the guidebook is 360 pages – and meant to prevent scammers from grabbing valuable domain names. ICANN will receive applications for new domains for 90 days beginning Jan. 12.

“It’s a significant undertaking. We’re calling it the Olympic bid,” said Adrian Kinderis, chief executive of AusRegistry International, which helps companies to register domains and manages names such as “.au” for Australia.

“But it’s worth it for corporations that have suffered from things like trademark infringement, and can now carve out a niche on the internet,” Kinderis said.

ICANN said it has set aside up to $2 million to assist applicants from developing countries.

“The board’s very enthusiastic about providing support for applicants from developing areas where the evaluation fee or access to technical expertise might be somewhat of a bar,” ICANN senior vice-president Kurt Pritz told reporters after the meeting.

ICANN said in a statement that it will mount a global publicity campaign to raise awareness of the opportunities of new domain names.


Associated Press writer Heather Tan in Singapore contributed to this story.

India’s foreign minister heads to Myanmar to boost bilateral trade, security ties

NEW DELHI – India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna headed to Myanmar on Monday as New Delhi reaffirmed its commitment to bilateral and strategic co-operation with Yangon’s newly elected nominally civilian government.

Krishna will be the first high level official from India to visit Myanmar since the elected government replaced the previous junta in March.

India and Myanmar have developed deep economic and security ties over the past decade. New Delhi has said it believes talking quietly is a better approach in dealing with Yangon’s military-backed rulers rather than sanctions.

Despite Western criticism, India shifted its policy from supporting Myanmar’s democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to engaging the junta’s generals.

On Monday, Krishna ducked a question on whether he would be meeting Suu Kyi during his three day visit.

“I don’t know if I will get a chance to interact with other leaders during my brief stay in Yangon,” he said.

India is also wary of China’s growing influence in Myanmar, and is in competition with its regional rival for access to the country’s large natural gas resources.

Krishna’s discussions with his Myanmarese counterpart would include security issues and co-operation in the fields of information technology, industry and infrastructure development in the isolated South Asian country.

India and Myanmar have expanded co-operation between their security forces since the mid-1990s with both countries fighting armed insurgencies along their shared border.

India says separatist rebels in its northeastern states often slip across the 1,000-mile- (1,600-kilometre-) long porous border with Myanmar and take shelter in jungle bases there.


Libya opposition leader to visit China, further boosting Beijing’s engagement in the civil war

BEIJING, China – China said Monday that Libya’s opposition leader would visit this week, further boosting Beijing’s engagement in the North African country’s civil war and dealing another setback to Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

China’s Foreign Ministry said in a one-sentence statement posted on its website that Mahmoud Jibril would be in China on Tuesday and Wednesday. No other details were immediately available.

Jibril chairs the executive board of the Transitional National Council, the umbrella organization of rebel groups trying to unseat Gadhafi.

China stayed on the sidelines for the first few months after the revolt against Gadhafi’s government erupted in mid-February, but it has recently stepped up efforts to persuade the two sides to seek a settlement.

Chinese diplomats in Qatar met with the rebel council chairman, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, earlier this month, and Libyan Foreign Minister Abdul-Ati al-Obeidi was dispatched to Beijing days later in an apparent attempt to reassert the Libyan government’s influence.

Beijing has pointedly avoided joining international calls for Gadhafi to step down, saying that is for the Libyan people to decide. It also abstained in the U.N. Security Council vote authorizing the use of force against Libyan government loyalists and has repeatedly criticized the NATO bombing campaign in support of the rebels.

When fighting erupted in Libya, China dispatched military transport planes and arranged chartered boats to evacuate an estimated 30,000 Chinese working there, mostly in the construction and oil industries, comprising one of the largest blocs of foreign labourers.


No action yet from Obama on guns despite call for steps

WASHINGTON – More than five months after Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head, the White House has yet to take any new steps on gun violence, even though that’s what President Barack Obama called for in the wake of the shooting.

The silence from the administration is drawing criticism from gun control activists and even some of Obama’s Democratic allies. Sen. Frank Lautenberg told the president in a letter last week that the administration “has not shown the leadership to combat gun violence.”

It’s in keeping with Obama’s general stance on gun issues since taking office: outspoken earlier in his political career in favour of tougher gun measures, he’s treaded carefully since becoming president, almost never raising the topic except when asked and offering, at-most, tepid support for legislation he once embraced, such as re-enacting a ban on assault weapons.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz said in a statement that the Justice Department is “consulting with the key stakeholders to identify common-sense measures that would improve American safety and security while fully respecting Second Amendment rights.”

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Schultz declined to comment further, but whatever the administration produces is likely to fall well short of the steps activists would like to see, such as legislation banning the kind of high-capacity ammunition clips used in the Giffords shooting. Any significant change of that kind would require legislation, but with Congress hostile toward any gun-control bills, the administration sees that avenue as closed.

Firearm ownership is a American tradition dating back more than two centuries to the run-up to the American Revolution, which was initially fought by local militias relying on their own weapons.

The U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment says that “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

It has been interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court as protecting personal firearm ownership and self-defence within the home.

A U.S. government official involved in the gun control talks said that suggestions currently under consideration include ways to improve the background check system dealers use to avoid selling guns to criminals, which activists say is ineffective and riddled with loopholes. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private deliberations.

Some improvements could be made administratively, such as by providing states clearer guidelines on how to provide criminal information to the federal government for the background check database. Although such steps are not nearly as bold as activist groups, including the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, would like to see, they still hope to see something – and soon.

“We’re coming on the six-month mark since the shooting and still nothing from the administration,” said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign. “It’s time for some action.”

The Justice Department deliberations began in March, after the president broke his usual silence on guns in an opinion piece in Giffords’ hometown newspaper, the Arizona Daily Star. In it, he called for “a new discussion on how we can keep America safe for all our people.”

Even then Obama steered clear of ambitious declarations, timelines or goals, but he did call for “sound and effective steps” to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, including strengthening background checks. Obama said that “if we’re serious about keeping guns away from someone who’s made up his mind to kill, then we can’t allow a situation where a responsible seller denies him a weapon at one store, but he effortlessly buys the same gun someplace else.”

Helmke and others interpreted that as support for closing what’s called the “gun-show loophole,” which allows private sellers to sell firearms at gun shows and elsewhere without conducting background checks. Activist groups say that some 40 per cent of gun sales are conducted without background checks.

But doing that would require legislation, and the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun groups are adamantly opposed. The NRA has not been involved in the Justice Department talks, but the National Shooting Sports Foundation has, and a spokesman said that when they met at the Justice Department, gun-control measures didn’t even come up.

“The topics discussed at the meeting were limited strictly to improving and enhancing the current background check system,” said spokesman Ted Novin, explaining that closing the gun-show loophole would amount to expanding the system, not improving it, and his group doesn’t support an expansion. “No gun-control measures of any kind were discussed during the meeting, nor would this organization support any such proposals that would curtail the lawful commerce of firearms or the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens,” Novin said.

With that kind of opposition from gun-rights groups, an election year approaching and attention focused on the economy, prospects for congressional action are dim. And the Obama administration, in turn, appears unlikely even to try to do anything more than make modest changes that don’t fundamentally alter the nation’s gun policies.

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s mother, Charlotte Bloomberg, dies at age 102

Charlotte Bloomberg, whose only son grew up to be a billionaire media mogul and then the mayor of New York City, died Sunday. She was 102.

She was a petite woman but a huge presence in the life of her son, Michael Bloomberg, who gave away millions of dollars in her name and set aside time from his harried schedule to call her every day. She died at her home in Medford, in the same house where the future mayor and his sister, Marjorie Tiven, were raised.

The mayor announced her death Sunday evening and said that for him and his sister, their mother had been the centre of their family.

“Our mother’s unimpeachable integrity, fierce independence, and constant love were gifts that profoundly shaped our lives and the lives of so many who knew her,” he said in a statement.

Charlotte Bloomberg was a local celebrity in Medford, where she served as co-president of Temple Shalom well into her 90s. Friends said she was animated, smart and a natural leader, like her son.

Rabbi Tami Crystal once told The Boston Globe that she was “the most beloved member” of the temple.

“Everybody adores Charlotte,” Crystal said. “She’s a ball of fire.”

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She was grandmother to Michael Bloomberg’s two grown daughters and Tiven’s three children. Tiven also works for the city as head of the Commission for the United Nations.

Those who knew Charlotte Bloomberg said she had the energy and sharp mind of someone years younger.

“She’s not just a little old lady to sit down and have tea with,” said Roy Belson, a friend who was also school superintendent in Medford.

She stood with her son on the steps of City Hall as he took his oaths of office in 2002 and 2006, although her health kept her from his third swearing in last year. During his first two runs, she was along for the ride on the campaign trail. During his 2005 campaign, she was a speaker at a Women for Bloomberg rally.

The proud mom told supporters that day that her son “knows which things are right, which things are good, which things he ought to do.”

The mayor often mentioned her, and it was one of his favourite ways to dismiss speculation that he planned to run for president, saying playfully that he had no interest in it but that his mother would be tickled to hear that anyone considered him a contender.

In his 1997 autobiography, he described her as “a woman of liberal views and independent mind” who taught him the value of hard work, intellectual curiosity and ambition to achieve his goals. He remembers the importance she placed on the family dining together each night, and that she set the table with linens, nice serving dishes and proper silverware each night.

“She did for us what my friends’ mothers did only for guests,” he wrote. The message, he added, was: “We’ve got to take care of each other.”

Charlotte Bloomberg graduated from high school at age 16 and completed her schooling at New York University. After marrying, she stayed home to raise her children while her husband, William Bloomberg, worked as a bookkeeper at a dairy. He had a weak heart and died when Michael Bloomberg was in college, so she became the family breadwinner.

“She taught me you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, and to do it without complaining,” Bloomberg wrote.

After he founded the financial information company that bears his name, and began to amass his multibillion-dollar fortune, Charlotte Bloomberg was proud but didn’t flaunt the relation.

“Sometimes, when people say to her, ‘Are you related to THE Bloomberg,’ she’ll say ‘No,’ just to avoid the conversation,” he wrote.

She once told a reporter that she is most proud of what doesn’t make headlines.

“The best things he does are the things that nobody knows about,” she said.

Her wealthy son made many donations in his mother’s name, including a reported $1 million gift to renovate Temple Shalom’s community centre, which was subsequently renamed The William and Charlotte Bloomberg Jewish Community Center.

In 2003, he travelled with her to Israel to dedicate a maternity and pediatric centre at Hadassah Hospital in her name. To mark her 100th birthday, the family funded a children’s centre in her name at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Michael Bloomberg has also endowed Charlotte Bloomberg funds for various other Jewish causes, and he created a Charlotte Bloomberg professorship in the study of art history at his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University.

The subject, he said, “was something she’s interested in and the school needed. To this day, she gets great pleasure knowing the Charlotte Bloomberg Professor is teaching, researching and enhancing our culture.”