How a Turkish Airlines Jet Flew an Extra 800 Miles and Landed On Time

Most of the time, passengers on Turkish Airlines Flight 800, flying from Panama City to Istanbul, can look down on Puerto Rico just after takeoff, then the blue of the Atlantic Ocean for a few hours, then Southern France and Northern Italy before arcing south over Greece and touching down. But those who made the trip on Sunday got a view of a very different set of locales: Cuba, then the eastern coast of the United States and the southern tips of Greenland and Norway, finally reaching the Turkish city by way of Poland and Romania.

Compared to the “great circle distance” between the two airports (meaning the shortest path) of 6,739 miles, Flight 800 traveled 7,553 miles, according to aviation tracking site FlightRadar24. That’s an extra 814 miles. And while it takes two and a half hours to fly the same distance from New York City to Jacksonville, Florida, the Turkish Airlines Airbus A330 took just 27 minutes longer than average, and landed just 11 minutes after its scheduled arrival time, per By airline standards, that counts as officially on time.

Bananas, right? Not so much.

As Turkish Airlines Flight 800 caught the jet stream over the Labrador Sea, its speed surged to 600 knots (710 mph), way above the Airbus A330’s cruising altitude. The red dotted line shows the shortest path between Panama City, Panama, and Istanbul. Courtesy of FlightRadar24.

“From an air traffic control perspective, it’s not unusual,” says Sid McGuirk, chair of the Department of Applied Aviation Sciences at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Especially not once you take a look at the weather conditions at the time. When the Airbus A330 jet was getting ready to unglue from the tarmac in Panama, the jet stream over the Labrador Sea was blowing something fierce. As the plane tracked north along the Eastern Seaboard, it was flying around 540 mph, its standard cruising speed. When it caught the wind, however, its speed surged, peaking at 700 mph—without burning any more jet fuel than usual.

This map of wind speeds at the time of the flight (red means fast) seems to explain why the plane went so far out of its way, and how it managed to land on time. Courtesy of FlightRadar24.


“Sometimes we go way out of the way, for one reason or another,” says says Doug Moss, a commercial pilot and aviation consultant. Why? Because economics. Airlines operate on thin profit margins, so letting wind do the work usually done by expensive jet fuel is a no-brainer. And wind can do a lot of work: In January, a Norwegian Air 787 set a speed record for non-supersonic commercial aircraft thanks to a 202-mph tailwind, flying from New York’s JFK to London’s Gatwick in 5 hours and 13 minutes. But they also have to consider factors like overflight fees, the tolls set by countries for the right to zip through their airspace (in the US, it’s $60.07).

Of course, saving money on the flight only works if the plane doesn’t land so late, its passengers miss their connections, and the airline has to put everyone up in a hotel for the night. Keep doing it, and the carrier risks driving away future customers with poor on time performance. And while flying slowly saves fuel, it also means putting more time on the aircraft, and shortening the time before it has to be grounded for mandatory maintenance. (Turkish Airlines did not immediately reply to questions about this flight.)

“The computer goes through essentially a Monte Carlo simulation, and it looks at all the possible routes available,” Moss says. “It’ll run probably a thousand different scenarios, and it’ll pick the one that’s the cheapest.”

Such ever-changing conditions are the reason Singapore Airlines Flight 22, from New York to Singapore, can make the trip along one of three general routes: over the Pacific, over the Atlantic, or over the North Pole. And why Air India flies east from Delhi to San Francisco—and east from San Francisco to Delhi.

And while the folks flying on Turkish Airlines Flight 800 may have wondered why they could see Norwegian fjords on their trip from Panama to Istanbul, they probably stopped caring once they touched down, safely and on time.

More Great WIRED Stories

No U.S. User Growth At Facebook? No Problem – Facebook Still Has Strong Upside

With all the focus on Facebook’s (FB) slowing user growth and calls for the end of its dominance, I finally gave in and decided to look into it myself. After all, from a personal perspective, I’m not the best person to evaluate user interaction with Facebook. I might look at my Facebook page a couple of times a week but it’s usually just to see if anyone sent me a message – it takes me all of 10 seconds to do that. I don’t scroll through my news feed to see what everyone had for breakfast this morning – because I really don’t care. Nor have I experienced the eerie feeling of seeing an ad pop up on my Facebook app shortly after having visited a related site on my home computer. At least Facebook knows I’m not its advertisers’ target market.

Based on Facebook’s definition of Daily Active Users (DAU) and Monthly Active Users (MAU) I would categorize myself as an MAU and the “A” is a stretch. Nonetheless, that’s one of the key stats investors look for when evaluating Facebook’s future potential to provide attractive shareholder returns.

After 2Q results were announced, I didn’t understand the rationale for what the bears were saying. 42% year of year revenue growth? That was slower than the previous quarter’s 50% growth, but still not too shabby. It’s a slowdown in growth mathematically, but the pessimism didn’t make sense.

The overall growth figures were driven by 47% growth in Europe and Asia Pacific, with 43% growth in the Rest of World.

Source: Facebook SEC Filings

User Data

A look at specific user data sheds light on some of the pessimistic forward views for the company. Both daily and monthly worldwide active users grew 11% year-over-year, but more importantly, the daily and monthly user base in the US and Canada grew by just 1% for daily active users and 2% for monthly active users year-over-year – growth also remained flat from the previous quarter. This slowdown in the company’s most lucrative market? Now I see what the bears might be talking about.

However, user growth is coming from other regions. Specifically, Asia-Pacific users were up 21% year-over-year and 3% sequentially from the prior quarter. There are now 546 million daily active users and 894 million monthly active users in Asia-Pacific. To put the opportunity in perspective, Asia-Pac now has almost four times as many users as the US and Canada.

Source: Facebook SEC Filings

With a population of 4.5 billion, however, that means Facebook has only penetrated 12% of the population in the region, compared to 32% in the US and Canada, 38% in Europe, and 28% in the rest of the world (see chart below). I’m not saying it will get to the same penetration levels in Asia-Pac as it has reached in other regions, but there’s room to grow.

Source: Facebook SEC Filings, World Bank

Revenue Per User

The second growth driver is the amount of revenue the company generates per active user. With overall active users growing at 11%, it’s obvious that the 42% growth in revenue came from higher revenue per active user. On a worldwide basis, revenue per daily and monthly active users were up 28% YoY and 9% sequentially from the previous quarter.

Source: Facebook SEC Filings, World Bank

Growth in revenue per user was highest in the more developed regions such as US/Canada and Europe, which grew revenue per daily active user by 36% and 43%, respectively. In these markets, there’s still apparent upside to what advertisers are willing to pay, but we’re probably reaching a limit.

But once again, I believe the user growth story is in Asia-Pac, where revenue per daily active user is just $4.21, compared to $33.17 for the US/Canada and $11.64 for Europe. Only the Rest of the World, which includes Africa, Latin America and Middle East has a lower revenue per daily active user, and this is not surprising considering the GDP per capita of the Rest of the World region is around $3,000. Despite revenue/user growth of just 22% on a year-over-year basis in Asia-Pac, however, the growth rate is accelerating.

In Asia-Pac, where GDP/capital is closer to $10,000, the potential revenue per user figure has much longer to run. In fact, the revenue/GDP per capita in Rest of World is 0.10% quarterly. In Asia-Pac, that figure is just 0.04%, higher than Europe but still less than in the US.

Growth Projections

Even if Asia Pacific has no additional growth in users, an increase in revenue/GDP that’s more in line with that of the US will result in an additional $3.2 billion in revenues quarterly – that’s about 12% higher than current levels with no additional growth from any of the other regions. If we also increase penetration levels to just 20% – still below any of the other regions, the marginal increase in revenue from Asia-Pac alone could reach $5.3 billion!

And let’s not forget Europe. In Europe, we wouldn’t expect to have much more of an increase in penetration levels of daily active users. But the revenue per daily active user in Europe is just 0.03% of the GDP/capita of around $36k. With a boost to 0.06% – the same levels as those in the US – revenues would increase by $5.8 billion, all else equal.

These are two aggressive assumptions that would result in an additional $11.1 billion in quarterly revenues, and there are plenty of challenges that would prevent Facebook from reaching these revenue numbers – but the potential is there.

Our Take

According to my calculations, Facebook could boost revenues by $9 billion with no user growth at all – so data showing slower user growth shouldn’t lead to the conclusion that growth isn’t possible.

If it could continue to increase revenue/user then the growth story is still compelling – and the data shows that in some regions, there’s upside pricing potential that could drive that growth. Any user growth would just be icing on the cake – and we know that penetration levels in some regions still show a big market opportunity.

New product launches like Watch, Watch Party, Stories, Ads Animator, Ads in Stories, IGTV, and others, can continue boosting revenue per user as well, even in the US, where revenue per user already is $33.17. And we haven’t even mentioned the potential upside of WhatsApp, Instagram, and Oculus.

From a valuation perspective, Facebook looks cheap. It currently trades at a price/free cash flow of 25.6. That’s well below the five-year average of 35.2.

Analyst price targets are at $204, which is a 35% gain from current levels. Free cash flow was $17.67B over the previous 12-month period on sales of $48B. If revenue increases by $9B whether with or without user growth, we could calculate an increase in free cash flow of about $3.31B, or $1.13 per share. At a more appropriate multiple of 30 (still below its recent five-year average), we arrive at a price target of $213.

The user growth story is wrong. Facebook is a strong buy.

To read more of my articles on Seeking Alpha, click HERE

Disclaimer: Please note, this article is meant to identify an idea for further research and analysis and should not be taken as a recommendation to invest. It is intended only to provide information to interested parties. Readers should carefully consider their own investment objectives, risk tolerance, time horizon, tax situation, liquidity needs, and concentration levels, or contact their advisor to determine if any ideas presented here are appropriate for their unique circumstances.

  • Past performance is not an indicator of future performance.
  • Investing in any security has risks and readers should ensure they understand these risks before investing.
  • Real Estate Investment Trusts are subject to decreases in value, adverse economic conditions, overbuilding, competition, fluctuations in rental income, and fluctuations in property taxes and operating expenses.
  • This post is illustrative and educational and is not a specific offer of products or services.
  • Information on this blog is not an offer to buy or sell, or a solicitation of any offer to buy or sell the securities mentioned herein, nor is the author compensated by any of the products mentioned.
  • Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date, but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the topics or subjects discussed.
  • Information presented is not believed to be exhaustive nor are all the risks associated with the topic of each article explicitly mentioned. Readers are cautioned to perform their own analysis or seek the advice of their financial advisor before making any investment decisions based on this information.
  • Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s own goals, time horizon, and tolerance for risk. Nothing in this content should be considered to be legal or tax advice and you are encouraged to consult your own lawyer, accountant, or other advisor before making any financial decision.
  • All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author, which does not assume any duty to update any of the information
  • Any positive comments made by others should not be construed as an endorsement of the author’s abilities to act as an investment advisor.

REITs, Opportunities, & Income (ROI): High potential ROI investment ideas for your portfolio

While much of our coverage is focused on REITs, we also provide in-depth research on small-cap growth stocks, macroeconomic analysis, and income growth opportunities. I also share details on a concentrated REIT portfolio designed to outperform the MSCI US REIT Index with lower volatility.

Try it free for two-weeks with no obligation

Start a free trial now and enjoy a 10% discount.

Disclosure: I am/we are long FB.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Apple Data Downloads, A Dating App for Trump Fans, and More Security News This Week

As has become an unwelcome tradition, as Friday wound down and the weekend was so close we could nearly taste it, breaking news hit. The biggest Friday night bombshell came in the form of an indictment of a Russian national engaged in a massive conspiracy to influence the upcoming midterm elections. With millions of dollars at her disposal, she and her co-conspirators have allegedly been engaging in a coordinated effort to use Americans’ weaknesses and divisions against us, to amp up racial discord, and generally sow chaos and discontent.

TGIF, amirite?

Of course, it wasn’t like the week had been drama free up until that point. The fun, if you can call it that, began last Saturday, when Robert Mueller expert Garrett Graff explained what he expected to see next from the investigation into Russia’s attack on the 2016 election. (Hint: A lot, and soon.) A startup called Helm came out of stealth mode on Tuesday to try to help you reclaim possession of your own data. A years-old Chinese malware made a mysterious return to the scene. And Facebook announced it wasn’t nation-state hackers who stole the data of 33 millions users; it was just spammers. We laid out all the terrible things spammers could do with that data. Earlier in the week, after facing criticism for its new video-chatting Portal’s spying potential, Facebook also showed off its War Room, from which it intends to protect the midterm elections from hackers. We hope those inside the War Room were reading Friday’s indictment with keen interest.

That’s not all. As always, we’ve rounded up all the news we didn’t break or cover in depth this week. Click on the headlines to read the full stories. And stay safe out there.

[Donald Daters Got Donald-Data-Leaked] (

It’s hard to find love nowadays, what with all the ideological divisions separating us and the many confusing apps we have to navigate to get a date. That’s where Donald Daters was supposed to come in. It’s a dating app specifically for Donald Trump supporters to find each other. If you’re a Trump supporter and you don’t want to risk falling in love with with a cute Bernie Bro or Hillary Hawk (I just made that “hawk” thing up, but it’s kind of cute, so you’re welcome, future Hillary campaign staff), the app offers a safe space. Its tagline: “Make America Date Again.” Before it even launched, 1,600 users signed up.

Unfortunately for those lovelorn enlistees, when the app did launch on Monday, it leaked all of their data. According to ZDNet, a French security researcher was able to find and download the complete list of Donald Daters from the app, including their names, private messages, and an access token with which he could take over their entire accounts. In response, the app took the private messaging feature offline. Word to the wise, Donald Daters: It’s not enough for an app to ensure you a certain level of political homogeneity. It needs to ensure some data protection, too.

North Korean Hackers Stole Millions in Bitcoin

The cyrptocurrency market might look like it’s imploding, but experts told WIRED this weekend that it’s just beginning to grow into its potential. That’s great news for people who want to get rich by stealing other people’s bitcoins. Case in point: The North Korean crew who allegedly stole more than $571 million in cryptocurrency in just five hacks. The crew, known as “Lazarus,” is responsible for more than half of the cryptocurrency stolen since 2017, according to a new report.

Major League Baseball Says Surveillance Is Not Spying

An employee of the Houston Astros was caught filing the dugout of the Cleveland Indians during a post-season game. The Indians filed a complaint, saying the Astros were trying to cheat by spying on their competitors. The Astros contended that rather than spying, they were conducting surveillance to monitor the Indians to make sure they weren’t breaking rules. Not to nitpick, but … is surveillance not spying? The line between monitoring and spying and surveillance seems murky, if it exists at all. Security experts might scratch their heads, but the MLB sided with the Astros.

NY AG Looking Deeper at Fake FCC Comments

The New York Attorney General is taking a closer look at those fake comments left on the FCC’s website pretending to be from people who opposed net neutrality. According to The Wall Street Journal, a dozen or more advocacy groups and lobbying firms have been subpoenaed in connection to the millions of false statements, which made it look erroneously like there was popular support for repealing net neutrality laws when, in fact, the overwhelming majority of the public supported net neutrality. One of the groups being investigated is supported by AT&T, a company with a vested monetary interest in repealing net neutrality.

Tumblr Fixed a Bug That It Says Was No Biggie Anyway

Nothing to see here, folks. Tumblr on Wednesday said it patched a vulnerability that would have allowed hackers to access user information, including email and IP addresses, self-reported locations, and passwords. Tumblr emphasized in a blog post that it had found no evidence that anyone had ever taken advantage of the vulnerability, or that any of the data had ever actually been exposed.

Good News Alert: Apple Will Finally Let You Download Your Data

Better late than never. You can already download your Facebook and Google data, but as of Wednesday Apple is allowing you to do the same–just in time to comply with Europe’s General Data Protections Rule. Apple users in Europe have been able to access their data since May, when the GDPR first went into effect. You can access your data via Apple’s Data and Privacy page, after signing in with your Apple ID.

More Great WIRED Stories

This 9-Year-Old Girl Scout Just Displayed Warren Buffett's Best Advice to Entrepreneurs. (It Worked Perfectly)

Keep that start in mind as we share the story of a 9-year-old Canadian Girl Scout (actually, they call them Girl Guides in Canada). Because she managed to sell an entire stock of Girl Scout cookies in 45 minutes recently, in a way that displays Buffett’s key advice to entrepreneurs.

Reporter Emily Fitzpatrick from the CBC found the girl, named Elina Childs, as she towed her wagon full of cookies down a line of people waiting to buy newly legal Canadian marijuana, at a store called Nova Cannabis.

The nine-year-old Girl Guide and her father … sold all 30 boxes in less than 45 minutes, earning $120 for Girl Guides.

“It amazed me how quickly they went,” said her dad, Seann Childs. “Even people in cars driving on the avenue there would stop and roll down their window and ask for cookies.” 

Which brings us back to Buffett. His best advice for entrepreneurs? (It differs from his top advice from investors, of course.)

“If there’s one thing to remember: Delight your customer,” Buffett told interviewer Dina Habib Powell at a Goldman Sachs event in 2016.

Regardless of whether Elina Childs actually knows about Buffett, his advice describes exactly what she did here. She found an audience that would be delighted by her product, rather than trying to force it onto other people.

Consider the more traditional methods lots of parents encourage their daughters to use to sell Girl Scout cookies, and how this compares.

  • Sell them door to door? Super inefficient. Who knows who’s even home? 
  • Stand outside a shopping center? Maybe, if you’re allowed to. But you’re probably trying to sell cookies to people on their way to or from a big store with a much bigger selection. Plus you’re competing with other girl scouts.
  • Bug your parents’ coworkers? This is a common strategy. I’m not sure how much it’s about delighting customers though, as opposed to pressuring them.

Instead, the 9-year-old Childs and her dad took the cookies to an audience that they could be sure would be delighted by the idea of buying cookies. 

(One thing that I haven’t understood, not having a lot of experience with this myself: Don’t you get the munchies after using marijuana, not before?)

Regardless, even if it’s been done before, it’s a smart way to find people who love your product: and a brilliant execution of Warren Buffett’s best advice.

Holiday Shopping 2018 to Hit $134 Billion; Amazon's Conversion Rates 3-5X Higher Than Walmart, Macy's, Target, eBay

Last year Amazon achieved holiday shopping conversion rates of 5.6% on mobile and 17.8% on desktop, massively outperforming rivals such as Walmart, Target, eBay, and others.

This year, the company appears poised to do it again.

The holiday Thanksgiving weekend is one of the biggest shopping events of the year, and Amazon leads all retailers in both mobile and desktop shopping, according to a new report from Lotame and Jumpshot. Retail searches jumped 182% after Halloween, according to the companies, and that led to a 75% increase in traffic to deal sites and other retail outlets.

But conversion is where it’s at, and there Amazon excels, peaking two weeks before Christmas, with these conversion rates on mobile:

  • Black Friday: 5.2%
  • Cyber Monday: 5.6%
  • December 11 week: 6.4%

On desktop, as you’d expect, the rates are significantly higher:

  • Black Friday: 16.1%
  • Cyber Monday: 17.8%
  • December 11 week: 20%

Those rates compare to an average of 1.3% mobile conversion at other e-commerce sites, including Walmart, Target, Macy’s, and eBay, and 7.3% on desktop.

“Shopping is a mobile-first industry,” says Ryan Rolf, VP of Data Solutions at Lotame. “With more and more mobile devices pushing e-commerce visits, retailers that neglect to take a mobile-first approach will lose out in 2018.”

That’s not necessarily entirely true. The conversion rates on desktop, for instance, are multiples of the conversion rates on mobile … so desktop does matter. Where mobile is key is in the discovery phase and the price check phase. Mobile is the “three-foot” device: never more than three feet from your body.

That means it’s usually the first device you turn to. 

Consumers often then turn to a desktop to complete the purchase with a bigger screen and keyboard, something I call “taps, clicks, bricks.” The upshot is then that retailers’ in-store experience, mobile experience, and desktop experience all matter.

Of course, that’s U.S. data.

Chinese or Indian data would show something quite different, since mobile is not just the default but the only computing platform available to the vast majority of people. And that may happen in the North American and European markets over time as well, as mobile continues to grow.

All is not lost for other retailers, however.

“Though consumer data shows Amazon dominates e-commerce, they’re not the only place people buy online, especially during the holiday shopping season,” said Deren Baker, CEO of Jumpshot. “It’s vital that marketers understand how consumer habits shift depending on how and where they discover and buy products.”

Walmart in particular has taken on Amazon’s challenge and invested heavily in e-commerce while also taking advantage of its large physical-store footprint … and working with Google to make all its products shoppable by voice via Google Home and Google Assistant.

It remains to be seen who the long-term winner will be.

Netflix needs lower prices to woo India

BANGALORE (Reuters) – Netflix Inc’s (NFLX.O) Indian operation drew attention in a surge of international subscribers in the third quarter, but it faces fierce competition and a difficult cultural conundrum to make inroads with the country’s more than one billion TV viewers.

FILE PHOTO: Traffic moves on a road past hoardings of Netflix’s new television series “Sacred Games” in Mumbai, India, July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

In a few short months, the world leader in video streaming has launched a blockbuster Mumbai-based crime thriller, been sued over comments about a former Indian Prime Minister and seen the future of two of its hit shows threatened by the #MeToo movement in India.

Helped by a roster that includes top-grossing movie franchise “Baahubali”, it has won fans among a young, tech savvy middle class and Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings has said India could deliver the service’s next 100 million subscribers.

Local industry players, however, say Netflix’s strategy of pricing close to rates it charges in developed markets will see it struggle against domestic competitors like 21st Century Fox-backed Hotstar and one of the country’s top satellite TV providers, Tata Sky – a joint venture between the Tata Group and 21st Century Fox.

Amazon, with a trove of original Indian content like crime drama “Breathe”, offers movies and shows free to members of its Prime service.

Slideshow (2 Images)

“With the existing model that we have, the prices that we’re at, we’ve got a long runway still ahead of us,” Netflix chief product officer, Greg Peters, said in a video interview after Tuesday’s third-quarter results.

“Now we’ll experiment with other pricing models, not only for India, but around the world that will allow us to broaden access by providing a pricing tier that sits below our current lowest tier. We’ll see how that does in terms of being able to accelerate our growth.”

The streaming giant arrived in India at the beginning of last year. It has a library of local content comparable to rivals and scored a big hit in July with the release of “Sacred Games”, a hard-boiled thriller built around action star Saif Ali Khan.

Like other U.S. entertainment companies, it has identified the need to create local content as important in winning viewers in the big emerging markets likely to dominate growth over the next decade.

But it has run into trouble, however, with the Bollywood studio that produced “Sacred Games” disbanding earlier this month in a cloud of sexual harassment allegations against one of its partners, and the show’s lead writer, Varun Grover.

Grover has publicly denied here these claims and rather than renewing for a second series, Netflix said earlier this week it was evaluating its options on the show.

At a time when India’s average per capita income is one tenth of the United States’, the service’s monthly fees are almost identical – 500 rupees ($6.80) for a basic plan, 650 ($8.85) for a standard plan and 800 rupees ($11) for premium.

Hotstar in comparison offers its premium streaming service, including “Game of Thrones” and English Premier League soccer, at 999 rupees for the whole year.

None of the companies mentioned in this report provide subscriber numbers for the Indian market, but media executives say Netflix’s numbers are probably still less than a million.

One analyst asked Hastings on Tuesday how much will Netflix have to tweak the model to achieve success.

“We’ll go from expanding from English to Hindi to many more languages to more pricing options, more bundling, all of those things are possible,” he said.

“There are over 300 million … households and almost twice that in mobile phone subs. We’ll take it a million at a time and figure out how to expand the market as we grow.”

Reporting by Sonam Rai and Vibhuti Sharma in Bengaluru; Sankalp Phartiyal and Shilpa Jamkhandikar in Mumbai; writing by Patrick Graham; Editing by Bernard Orr

Exclusive: Russian high tech project flounders after U.S. sanctions

MOSCOW (Reuters) – U.S. sanctions targeting Russia’s nascent high tech industry have caused a Russian microchip company significant financial woes and delayed the launch of an initiative meant to produce substitutes for Western products, the firm’s owner said.

FILE PHOTO: Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visits a plant of Russian microchip company Angstrem-T in Zelenograd near Moscow, Russia August 3, 2016. Sputnik/Dmitry Astakhov/Pool via REUTERS

President Vladimir Putin has stressed the need to develop Russia’s domestic tech industry to make it less dependent on Western equipment. But Moscow’s efforts to manufacture Russian microchips and other high tech products have been thwarted by U.S. sanctions against a string of Russian tech companies.

Angstrem-T, which makes semi-conductors, has accumulated significant debts and is set to be taken over by state development bank VEB after failing to reimburse an 815-million-euro ($944.75 million) loan dating back to 2008, said Leonid Reiman, chairman of the company’s board of directors.

Reiman, Russia’s former minister of communications and information technologies, said the company’s inability to reimburse its debt was in part tied to U.S. restrictions on the import of dual-use technologies and its addition to U.S. Treasury sanctions in 2016.

The U.S. moves were prompted by Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 and its support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. It has imposed further sanctions against Russia since 2016 over other issues.

Prior to the sanctions Angstrem-T purchased most of its equipment from U.S. multinational firm Advanced Micro Devices and bought a license from IBM to produce chips.

The company is heavily reliant on U.S. products, but the sanctions now bar it from doing business with U.S. firms.

“Although we initially received the (U.S.) State Department’s consent for this project and the delivery of the technology here, the sanctions caused the deadlines for its completion to be drawn out,” Reiman told Reuters.

“The factory is working, the products are being produced, but the question of procurement remains.”

FILE PHOTO: Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visits a plant of Russian microchip company Angstrem-T in Zelenograd near Moscow, Russia August 3, 2016. Sputnik/Dmitry Astakhov/Pool via REUTERS

VEB, which Reiman said could become the majority owner of Angstrem-T by the end of the year, declined to comment.


When Angstrem-T began producing its first chips in 2016 after nearly a decade of false starts and delays, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev depicted the initiative as a way Russia could surmount already existing U.S. sanctions.

“It’s good that we are starting to produce these ourselves,” Medvedev said at the factory’s opening, a month before Angstrem-T itself was targeted by the U.S. sanctions. “It’s a question of import substitution.”

Reiman would not disclose the magnitude of Angstrem-T’s debt. According to a Russian database that aggregates company data, the firm had 87.4 billion roubles ($1.34 billion) in debt last year. During the same period it recorded revenues of 101 million roubles.

A source in the field of microelectronics in Russia said the sanctions and repeated delays in the project had caused Angstrem-T’s products to become outdated.

The market for the 90 and 130-nanometre microchips it produces has significantly shrunk in recent years, according to the source.

A draft Russian government roadmap for the development of the microchip industry seen by Reuters says that once VEB’s takeover is complete, Angstrem-T should shift its production to the more modern 28-nanometre chips.

Such chips are used in products made by companies like Apple, Samsung and Sony.

The ministry has for several years lobbied for Russia to build a modern microchip plant, but to no avail.

Reporting by Maria Kolomychenko; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Gareth Jones

Facebook Has a New Plan For Fighting Voter Suppression Tactics—And For Once It Involves Deleting Lies

Facebook‘s ongoing crusade against election-related abuse of its platform will involve the removal of some (but not all) disinformation that’s designed to suppress voting.

The company told Reuters that it would ban false information about voting requirements. It will also flag for moderation reports that may aim to keep people away from polling stations by alleging violence or long queues—if the reports are shown to be false, they will be suppressed in people’s news feeds, but they won’t be deleted.

Facebook (fb) generally does not remove falsehoods, even if they are demonstrated, so nixing false information about voting requirements is a notable step. It banned lies about voting locations a couple years back, but this latest move involves exaggerations about voter identification requirements.

In the wake of the mass disinformation campaigns that accompanied the 2016 election, Facebook has come under a great deal of pressure over its role in combatting the problem. It has partnered with think tanks in an attempt to better spot propaganda; it has removed “inauthentic” profiles that were aiming to spread misinformation; and it has sponsored research on the overall problem.

But, while the company is willing to suppress certain kinds of “fake news,” it won’t delete the vast majority of it.

“We don’t believe we should remove things from Facebook that are shared by authentic people if they don’t violate those community standards, even if they are false,” News Feed product manager Tessa Lyons told Reuters.

Facebook’s cybersecurity policy chief, Nathaniel Gleicher, also told the news service that the company is considering banning posts that linked to hacked material, as Twitter (twtr) recently did. As shown with the hacking of the Democratic National Committee in 2016 by Russian operatives, this technique can form part of a coordinated effort to sway elections. However, the dissemination of some hacked materials is in the public interest, making this a tricky tightrope for social media firms to negotiate.

Artificial Intelligence Is the Wave of the Future (And It Always Will Be)

Here’s what I’m reading today:

It’s been a challenging year for Florida: Hurricane Irma in 2017, then red tide and green algae, and now the devastating, still unfolding story of Hurricane Michael.

The human toll and wide-spread damage from Michael are most pressing (18 confirmed dead, and thousands still not accounted for). But, Floridians are growing concerned about a longer-term test  that could affect its crucial tourism industry–a $112 billion a year business, that’s responsible for about 1.4 million jobs.

It’s not just the rebuilding effort in places like the Gulf Coast, or the perception sunbirds might have the Florida isn’t ready for them. It’s also an issue of timing.

“At the right time, we can let the country and the world know they can come back to those areas,” Ken Lawson, CEO of Visit Florida, told USA Today. Translation: soon–but not so soon that visitors will flock to a Florida where they might find “dead fish all over the beach.”

Sears files for bankruptcy

Early this morning, Sears Holding Corp., the current iteration of an iconic retail brand that traces its history back at least 132 years, filed for bankruptcy. Stores will close and people will lose jobs, but it’s a brand that lost so much cachet that you’re forgiven for wondering if people will really notice. (Bill Murphy Jr.,

The death of Bill Coors

The heir to the Coors beer company was highly controversial for his politics. But before that, he took his family’s regional beer brand and built it into a national powerhouse. (David Henry, Bloomberg)

Emergency childcare as an employee benefit

In case you missed this one, Starbucks unveiled a new benefit for its 180,000 employees: emergency discount child care that can be used up to 10 days per year. It’s a perk offered at only 4 percent of U.S. companies. (Bill Murphy Jr.,

Here’s why you’re suddenly seeing a lot more ads for brand new brands

This year the floodgates are opening, with more small, new brands putting together big, effective ad campaigns ahead of the holidays. Facebook, Instagram, Snap, and even podcasts are making big pushes to bring in smaller brands, and the brands are reacting. (Sara Fischer and Marisa Fernandez, Axios)

Why AI won’t do your hiring for you

The recent revelation that Amazon tried to use artificial intelligence to recruit engineers, only to discover that its machine learning wound up discriminating against women has people wondering whether AI will fulfil its promise in recruiting, or if people will start saying about it what wags say about soccer: “the sport of the future, and it always will be.” (Jena McGregor, The Washington Post)

Robert Mueller Has Already Told You Everything You Need To Know

With the exception of President Trump’s legal team, no one has been watching the Mueller investigation more closely than Garrett Graff. Graff, a historian and journalist, wrote the book on Robert Mueller (literally), has interviewed him probably more than any other journalist, and covers the investigation for WIRED. He sat down with WIRED features editor Mark Robinson at the four-day WIRED25 anniversary event in San Francisco to decode the Russia probe and answer the question: What happens next?

A lot. As even a casual follower of the Russia investigation knows, questions have swirled over whether Donald Trump and his campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election by hacking the DNC and launching a massive disinformation campaign. Though numerous indictments of Trump associates have already come out of the investigation, Mueller has yet to finish it, or release a conclusive report.

A more hotly anticipated government report there may never have been. As Trump’s legal teams prepare their defenses—arguing as recently as last week that it was perfectly legal for the campaign to use materials stolen by Russia to further Trump’s chances—the nation waits.

“Everyone is so focused on ‘When is Mueller going to release the Mueller Report?’, and I think that what people miss is that Robert Mueller has been writing the Mueller Report in public through all of these court filings,” Graff said.

In the short year and a half that Mueller has been investigating Russia’s attack on the 2016 election and the Trump campaign’s ties to it, he has indicted some of Trump’s most senior campaign officials. In each of those court filings he has included far more information than he needed to, notes Graff. For example, when Mueller indicted officers of Russia’s military intelligence GRU agency for hacking, he noted in the criminal filing that the night that Donald Trump went on live TV and invited Russia to hack Hillary Clinton and find her missing emails, the GRU “returned to the office and attacked Hillary Clinton’s personal email server for the first time,” Graff says, emphasizing that last phrase.

“Mueller uses that phrase ‘for the first time’ in the indictment, which is totally unnecessary, unless Mueller wants us to know that further down the road,” he says. “Mueller is making claims that I think point to breadcrumbs he is leaving us for where this is going to go.”

Graff says that once you factor in the information hidden in plain sight in the indictments, as well as what is pointedly left out of them, you begin to see that Mueller is carving out the negative space where the heart of the investigation lies. “He is staying very, very focused,” Graff explains, “And anything that he’s finding that is not directly related to Russia he is handing off to other prosecutors in a really interesting way because it gives us almost a negative relief of how to view Mueller’s investigation.”

That blank space can tell us where the investigation is going. And where is that? Straight toward Roger Stone, Graff surmises, pointing out that no one is more implicated by the information in the indictments that have already come out of the investigation. Short of that, Graff is hesitant to make predictions.

Garrett Graff is the author of The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller’s FBI and the War on Global Terror.

Amy Lombard

Normally, he says, as a reporter you always expect a story to end up being less weird than you are originally told. “You get these weird tips as a reporter, and it’s never that good. It ends up being like 75 to 80 percent as weird as the tip. That’s not true about any part of this story. Every single thing ends up being about 140 percent as weird as the original reporting,” he says.

A few weird things he thinks Mueller is particularly interested in, that linger in that negative space carved out by the public indictments so far: A Trump campaign meeting with Betsy Devos’ brother Erik Prince in the Seychelles in 2016, the role of the nation of Qatar in Russia’s disinformation campaign, the Trump tower meeting, the Trump money trail, and “weirder questions about money,” says Graff.

“I think almost certainly the bombshell—if there is a bombshell—is about money,” he says.

More Great WIRED Stories