Didi suspends a carpooling service after passenger murder

Didi Chuxing is suspending one of its carpooling services in China for a week following the murder of a female passenger.

Didi said in a statement on Friday it was suspending Hitch — an app that allows people to share a ride with a registered driver — starting Saturday. It said it will review the service, its drivers and customer service.

Chinese state media reported Friday that the suspect in the murder of a young flight attendant is still on the run, and was seen fleeing from the scene and abandoning a car. Didi confirmed the woman was using Hitch.

Hitch is one of 13 services Didi offers in China. Didi said its other services will remain operational.

A spokesperson said Hitch accounts for a “small portion of Didi’s service.” Didi Express, its main service, accounts for 80% of the company’s business in terms of the number of rides.

The male suspect used his father’s Hitch account, breaching the service’s rules, according to Didi. The company said the father had passed the verification process and criminal background checks required by the company.

But Didi admitted faults in its safety processes, and said its “responsibilities in this case are undeniable.”

“Our original night safety mechanism was defective so that the night mode face recognition mechanism was not triggered before the driver took the order,” the company said in a statement.

Didi is best known for successfully driving Uber out of China in 2016. Since then, investors have pumped billions more into the company. Its latest funding round in December valued it at $56 billion.

The company is expanding internationally, buying an Uber rival in Brazil in January and launching its own service in Mexico in April.

Didi is reportedly considering an IPO by the end of this year, potentially putting it ahead of Uber, which plans to go public in 2019.

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Lindsey Vonn crashes as Shiffrin scores first downhill podium in Lake Louise

She had been expected to add to her Lake Louise legend, but Lindsey Vonn crashed on her World Cup downhill debut as Mikaela Shiffrin scored her first podium in the speed event Friday.

The 33-year-old Vonn has won 18 World Cup races at the Alberta resort, often nicknamed “Lake Lindsey” because of her prowess, but she caught an edge in the Claire’s Corner section while leading and careered into safety netting.

There was a lengthy delay as officials attended to her before Vonn was able to ski slowly down to the finish.

Afterwards she tweeted: “Well that hurt… had a nice lead the whole way down but caught my inside ski. That’s ski racing though! I’ll be sore tomorrow but will rest up tonight and barring anything major I will be racing. Can’t keep me down.”

Austrian Cornelia Huetter won the race in one minute 48.53 seconds with Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein second and slalom specialist Shiffrin third, three tenths of a second behind.

Vonn, the 2010 Olympic downhill champion, is trying to make history this season as she chases Ingemar Stenmark’s all-time record of 86 World Cup wins. She already holds the women’s record with 77.

The American has won 14 downhills and four super-G races at Lake Louise and will race again in Saturday’s second downhill. She will also compete in a super-G Sunday.

‘Best comeback’

Vonn was mirroring to some extent the return to full fitness this week of former boyfriend Tiger Woods after starting last season late following a broken arm and nerve damage in her hand, which hampered her remaining races.

In her first race this season, a giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, Vonn didn’t qualify for the second run.

For Huetter it was her first downhill victory in her first race back since injuring a knee in a training crash last December.

“It’s unbelievable,” Huetter said. “It’s the best comeback I’ve ever dreamed about.”

The 22-year-old Shiffrin won Olympic slalom gold in Sochi in 2014 and clinched the last three World Championships in the technical discipline. Of her 32 World Cup wins, 26 have come in slalom.

“I’m still not sure what my expectations are in downhill and today was an amazing day,” said Shiffrin, the World Cup overall champion.

“I’ve definitely made a lot of progress in my downhill. Super-G comes a little bit more naturally because there’s a little bit more turning. Downhill, I’m always surprised at how much time there is to make the turns. That’s something I’ve worked on a lot, being a little more patient.”



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Vonn crashes as Shiffrin scores first downhill podium in Lake Louise

She had been expected to add to her Lake Louise legend, but Lindsey Vonn crashed in the women’s World Cup downhill opener as Mikaela Shiffrin scored her first podium in the speed event Friday.The 33-year-old Vonn has won 18 World Cup races at the Alber…

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Russian troll sites kept online by US companies

The use of American companies to push Russian propaganda goes beyond social media sites like Facebook. Russians also used American internet services to keep their websites up and hide their true owners, according to internet records and two executives at internet routing companies.

The firms routing these websites’ internet traffic include Cloudflare, a major Silicon Valley corporation, and a Ukrainian company’s subsidiary in Florida.

The websites are part of a network run by the Internet Research Agency, a troll army based in St. Petersburg, Russia, with ties to the Kremlin. The groups, with names like “Don’t Shoot Us” and “Black Matters,” posed as black American activists. They posted videos showing police brutality against African Americans and attempted to organize protests across the United States. But they need internet infrastructure to keep sites online.

The use of the routing companies shows how Russian trolls tried to mask their efforts that also used Facebook, Google, Instagram, Twitter, and other popular social media platforms.

CNN interviewed Sergey Kashyrin, an executive at the U.S. subsidiary of the Ukrainian company, outside his home on Staten Island on Monday evening. He acknowledged that his internet service, Orlando-based Green Floid, played a role in keeping these Russian websites up and running.

“We cannot look at all our clients. It is just not possible,” he said.

But Kashyrin said he’s willing to turn over all evidence in his company’s possession — revealing the identities of customers and PayPal payment information — to the FBI, congressional investigators and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s federal team looking into the Russian operation. He said government investigators have not yet reached out to him.

Internet records consistently point back to Kashyrin’s small firm, its parent company ITL in Ukraine, and ITL executive Dmitry Deineka. The records identify the two companies as running internet infrastructure that kept at least three Russian websites online, possibly as a hosting service.

If Kashyrin’s firm served as a host, it would have provided the computers that serve as a physical home to the digital site.

However, Kashyrin claimed instead that Russians quietly used his internet service as a proxy, and that the websites were hosted elsewhere. That would still mean his company provided computers that rerouted internet traffic to the true physical location hosting the site. Either way, Kashyrin’s firm kept the website online — even if it did so inadvertently.

Before and after the 2016 election, the Russian government maintained a classic Cold War-style “information war” on the United States, creating fake news and promoting protests in an attempt to meddle in American politics by stoking real tensions, according to public reports by American intelligence agencies and congressional investigators.

Russian agents used websites and social media campaigns, several of which have been identified by CNN and confirmed by entities with knowledge of these operations.

A mysterious group calling itself “Blacktivist” publicized black activist protests across the country and even sold Blacktivist T-shirts. DoNotShoot.us tracked police brutality against minorities. BlackMattersUs.com posed as a news site for African-Americans, but it peddled anti-Hillary Clinton content and called her “a candidate for the corporate elite.”

The digital trails for all of these websites lead back to Kashryin’s firm, Green Floid, and Deineka’s firm, ITL. Internet records track what computers and services are involved in keeping a website up.

Deineka is plainly listed as the point-of-contact for Blacktivist.info, likely because his firm was used as a proxy service.

Deineka, ITL and Green Floid registered the site sergy.uaservers.net, which points to the IP address — the same IP shared by both BlackMattersUs.com and BlackMattersUSA.com. Again, because these websites used their service.

Deineka runs another online service, Layer6.net, which plays a role in routing traffic to DntShoot.com — which shares the IP address with DoNotShoot.us. This too indicates that the Ukrainian firm was used.

CNN conducted this research using investigative software from DomainTools, a cybersecurity firm that maintains historical and current internet records.

The left-leaning news site ThinkProgress was the first to report on the connection between these websites, ITL and Green Floid. It was first discovered by Andrew Weisburd of the Alliance for Securing Democracy, an initiative by the public policy group German Marshall Fund.

On Tuesday morning, Deineka spoke to CNN from his office in Burgas, a Bulgarian port city on the coast of the Black Sea.

Deineka said he did not register Blacktivist.info in his name. As for the other websites, Deineka said ITL does not closely monitor all of its clients’ online content. This is a standard industry practice, although some hosting and proxy services are willing to cut off clients who violate laws or company policy.

Deineka said his company had spotted anti-Ukrainian Russian propaganda activity on its platforms in 2014, and it stopped providing online services — presumably forcing the Russians to find other internet infrastructure. His business partner in New York, Kashyrin, referenced that as well in his interview with CNN. Kashyrin said they stopped providing proxy services to keep the Russians out. However, CNN pointed out they actually continued service in 2015 and 2016, according to internet records. Kashyrin could not explain that.

Deineka and Kashyrin denied direct involvement with Russian online trolls. They both expressed moral disgust at the notion that Russia used their services to peddle propaganda meant to destabilize the West, citing what they said is their anti-Russian stance because of Russia’s military capture of Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

“I’m from Ukraine. I have colleagues who lost their homes, who relocated from Crimea,” Deineka said. “How can I support the Russian government?”

All three of these Russian websites are still up. BlackMattersUs.com and DoNotShoot.us are still online, but “Blacktivist” is a blank page. Internet records do not show what online service is hosting them. All of them are now hiding behind proxies that shield the identities of the website’s true operators.

These three Russian propaganda websites are tied to robust social media campaigns run by Russian trolls. Facebook and Twitter are starting to purge of this type of content, and they have taken down pages relating to these particular sites.

The names of those running the websites BlackMattersUS.com and DoNotShoot.us now remain hidden with the unwitting help of the San Francisco-based company Cloudflare.

Cloudflare provides protection from hackers, placing its computer servers between clients’ websites and the outside internet. This allows Cloudflare to absorb cyberattacks, such as Distributed Denial of Service attacks that flood a website and take it down.

But Cloudflare’s services can also be used as a mask, because the outside world can no longer identify who operates the website — or the location of its physical home.

That’s because Cloudflare serves as a guard that receives incoming internet traffic. It offers this service to legitimate companies, but in this case, it is also inadvertently assisting the Russian troll army’s operations.

Cloudflare its role as a proxy service when asked specifically about DoNotShoot.us earlier this month, but it said “terminating a customer wouldn’t actually remove the content from the internet.” Cutting off that customer would, however, stop the Russians from using that particular American firm as a shield.

Cloudflare also provided online services to the U.S.-based neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, until it decided to drop the site earlier this year.

The company’s CEO, Matthew Prince, made the decision to drop the site but later warned of the consequences of companies, like his, making such decisions.

“You win a lot of points for firing Nazis from using your service,” Prince said in August. “But it sets a dangerous precedent when a company that most of your viewers have never heard of is effectively deciding what can and cannot be on the internet.”

However, Cloudflare said it would not consider dropping these Russia-linked websites unless compelled to by a court order.

“Cloudflare does not view its role to pass judgment of content that runs on our infrastructure and our network,” the company’s general counsel, Doug Kramer, said Tuesday night. “An open internet and an opportunity for all voices is a good principle. If we try to regulate in any way with our resources and capabilities, we would do more harm than good.”

Cloudflare is, however, willing to pass along public complaints to the websites’ operators, Kramer said.

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A spate of deadly disasters for elderly

Recent wildfires in California and hurricanes in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico have put a spotlight on vulnerable seniors — including a number of deaths that authorities have said were preventable.

“The bulk of them are in their 70s and 80s, so there is that commonality,” Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano said of the first wildfire victims to be identified during a press conference Thursday.

The majority were found in their homes, reduced to “ashes and bones,” Giordano said. Several were identified using medical implants, such as a hip replacement, with unique serial numbers.

On Sunday, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office identified four more victims of the fires, all over the age of 70.

Over a dozen residents of a Florida nursing home died in the month after Hurricane Irma knocked out the facility’s air conditioning.

Just weeks later, after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September, some were trapped in homes and shelters, unable to get the crucial medical care they needed.

The elderly have died disproportionately in disasters around the world, including a 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, a 2003 heat wave across Europe and a 1995 earthquake in Japan, according to a United Nations report.

Experts continue to grapple with how best to protect the elderly, who face difficulties evacuating from disasters, more health issues on average and perhaps even a greater share of the psychological impact.

“You can’t always predict an emergency event,” making preparedness key for seniors, said Ashley Chambers, communications director for the Florida Department of Elder Affairs.

To evacuate or not

Many adults can’t easily evacuate — some because they don’t drive, others because they are physically unable, according to research.

And some people refuse to evacuate in the first place.

“Some seniors don’t want to leave a home that they’ve been in all their lives, because the future may be uncertain,” said Vicki Eichstaedt, a spokesperson for the American Red Cross.

Others feel they might be better off remaining in a facility that has the means to take care of them.

“This is a very nice, sturdy concrete building,” Herbert Dreisbach, a 94-year-old resident of a nursing home in Jacksonville, Florida, told CNN before Hurricane Irma. “It’s still better than being at a facility that would not be properly prepared to take care of us.”

“Not all residents … should be evacuated,” Lisa Brown, a psychology professor and director of the Trauma Program at Palo Alto University, previously told CNN.

Brown, who is also Dreisbach’s daughter, showed in past research that nursing home residents with dementia had an increased risk of death in the months following a 2008 hurricane if they had evacuated.

“Those who can safely shelter in place may fare much better than those who are physically evacuated,” Brown said. “There’s not a one-size-fits-all, is the main point.”

Eichstaedt, who called from the Sonoma County Fairgrounds where there is a makeshift shelter, said that many seniors refuse to evacuate because they have pets, which may be their only companions.

“It may be the only connection they have to their old life,” Eichstaedt said.

The fairgrounds were equipped with a pet-friendly shelter, with veterinarians to take care of sick and aging pets, too. “That’s been a blessing for many seniors,” she said.

A matter of health

In emergency situations, once-manageable health conditions, like diabetes or an infection, can quickly spiral out of control.

CNN previously told the story of Josefina Alvarez, 62, who escaped to a shelter outside of San Juan before Hurricane Maria. She remained stuck there for nearly two weeks before doctors were finally able to treat an abscess that could have turned into a life-threatening infection.

“Nobody is taking care of us,” Alvarez said at the time.

About three out of every four Americans 65 and older have multiple chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure and obesity, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, nearly half of those who died were 75 or older — despite making up less than 6% of the state’s population, according to one study. While most of these deaths were drownings or injuries, 11% were caused by heart conditions.

Before Hurricane Irma, nursing homes in Florida stocked up on supplies, and pharmacies issued early refills of medications for people in evacuation zones.

The Florida Health Care Association, which represents 81% of the state’s nursing centers, instructed each facility to prepare seven to 10 days of medication, oxygen and other medical necessities for each resident, according to spokesperson Kristen Knapp. The association does not represent the Hollywood facility where multiple residents died last month.

Even without a health issue, age can take its toll on the body.

An average healthy person can survive 100 hours without water if they’re not becoming dehydrated because of injury or temperatures, according to Dr. Paul Auerbach, a professor of emergency medicine at Stanford University who worked with rescue teams after earthquakes in Nepal and Haiti. They can even survive two or three weeks without food.

But for the elderly and infants, that time period can be much shorter, he previously told CNN.

Older adults are also more sensitive to extreme temperatures, making them more susceptible to heat stress and hypothermia, according to the CDC.

The exact causes of death of the Florida nursing home residents have not been announced, but a number of the 141 residents who were evacuated were treated for heat-related issues.

In Sonoma, Eichstaedt said that seniors with difficulties breathing or respiratory problems have been affected by “smoke and ash in the air.” Even younger and healthier people are wearing masks to avoid the worst air pollution on record for Northern California.

“It’s a big concern,” said Eichstaedt.

In the aftermath

For many people, a disaster often continues long after the fires have been put out or the flooding has receded.

The shelter in Sonoma is only a temporary fix, Eichstaedt said. Many displaced seniors will need assistance getting back home — if they still have a home to go back to.

Seniors may also be more susceptible to scams that happen after a disaster, said Chambers, including unlicensed contractors or people posing as assistance organizations.

“Our senior population is very trusting, and we want to make sure they know what to watch out for,” she said.

Even years after a disaster, some research has suggested that senior survivors are more likely to develop PTSD and other mental health problems — shown in a study of survivors of a 2008 earthquake in China.

“One of the things that we notice is the emotional frailty of many seniors,” Eichstaedt said, “particularly when they face the unknown.”

The prevalence of PTSD in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi rose from 15% a few months after Katrina to 21% a year later, found a 2008 study. In that study, however, the highest increases were seen among those aged 40 to 59.

In addition, older adults face a number of stresses that healthy, able-bodied people might not, such as fear of losing their independence or financial stability, according to FEMA.

For seniors who are also low-income, it’s an “extra level of concern,” said Lisa Marsh Ryerson, president of American Association of Retired Persons Foundation.

Many seniors also deal with social isolation, which has long been flagged as a risk factor for mortality.

Marsh Ryerson, whose foundation launched an initiative last year to combat loneliness and isolation among seniors, said that people don’t always think to reach out to elders in their communities while they’re rushing to prepare for an upcoming disaster.

“Check on your neighbors,” she said. “In times of disasters, or often in everyday living, older adults who are vulnerable can often be invisible, and they may not always ask for the help that they need.”

Vendetta Craig, whose 87-year-old mother was among the survivors of the Florida nursing home, had some choice words about how the deaths at Hollywood Hills reflected society’s treatment of seniors.

“We throw away our elderly,” she said at a press conference in September. “That’s my mother.”

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Kobe Steel scandal: What we know so far

It’s the latest big scandal to rock corporate Japan.

Kobe Steel, a century-old industrial giant, has admitted to falsifying data on products sold to top customers like Boeing and Toyota.

It says as many as 500 companies could be affected, including manufacturers of Japan’s famous bullet trains.

Here’s the lowdown on the crisis that’s rippling through major industries around the globe:

What happened?

Essentially, Kobe employees faked reports to make it look as though products met the specifications requested by customers when in fact they didn’t.

The scandal initially concerned copper and aluminum parts, but has spread to steel products, too. It has raised doubts about thousands of tons of material shipped over a period of more than 10 years.

For the aluminum and copper parts, false data was given about their strength and durability.

Which industries?

Kobe steel sells metal to all kinds of different businesses. Some of the main industries to which it has supplied the suspect products include aviation, automobiles, railways and nuclear power.

Who’s affected?

In the aerospace industry, Boeing and Japan’s Mitsubishi both used Kobe parts made with falsified data in their aircraft. But the two companies insisted they don’t believe the parts present a safety concern.

Japanese automakers Toyota, Honda and Nissan acknowledged they had used affected Kobe materials but were still assessing the consequences for their vehicles.

Ford has said it found aluminum parts in the hood of its Mondeo model in China, but can’t confirm if they were sourced during the affected period.

Other big companies — including GM, Mazda and plane-maker Airbus — said they haven’t found any suspect parts so far but are combing their supply chains regardless.

What happens next?

The future of Kobe Steel is unclear, but it looks bleak right now. Its stock has nosedived 40% since the revelations first emerged.

Some analysts have warned the company could go bust, and others have suggested it could be broken up and sold off to rivals.

Kobe hasn’t put a number on the likely size of the financial hit from the scandal. The firm’s CEO has said it will bear the costs of any product recalls by its customers. He is also leading an internal probe into what happened.

Doesn’t this sound familiar?

Japan Inc has amassed a growing pile of embarrassing scandals in recent years.

They include Takata’s deadly airbags, Mitsubishi Motors’ fudged fuel-efficiency tests and Toshiba’s damaging debacles over its accounting and nuclear power business.

— Sherisse Pham, Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo, and Jon Ostrower in Seattle contributed to this article.

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