Chinese exec’s arrest comes at sensitive time, part of years-old clash with U.S. over tech giant

Business News  Chinese exec's arrest comes at sensitive time, part of years-old clash with U.S. over tech giant

VCG/VCG via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — American and Chinese leaders are now in an international showdown over the U.S.-orchestrated arrest of a top executive at Huawei Technologies, the Chinese telecom giant that has become the world’s biggest supplier of network equipment for phone and internet services.

The executive, Meng Wanzhou, was being detained in Canada after a court there delayed a decision Monday on a U.S. request that she be extradited.

But — even as the standoff comes at a particularly sensitive time for U.S.-China relations with the two countries battling over trade –- the latest row is hardly the first time that U.S. government concerns over Huawei have pitted American officials against their Chinese counterparts.

And it’s still unclear whether lingering concerns about Chinese espionage could have played a role in the U.S. government’s decision to file federal charges against the executive for financial-related crimes. A Justice Department spokesman declined to answer a question from ABC News about it, but top national security officials from Justice, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security are slated to testify Wednesday to the Senate Judiciary Committee about “China’s non-traditional espionage against the United States,” as the hearing is titled.

As far back as 2011, the House Intelligence Committee began investigating what it called “the counterintelligence and security threat posed” by Huawei and similar Chinese tech firms. At the time, the committee even sent a team of investigators to China to press Huawei executives about the matter.

“Based on available classified and unclassified information, Huawei … cannot be trusted to be free of foreign state influence and thus pose[s] a security threat to the United States and to our systems,” the House panel wrote in its final report.

Huawei “was unwilling to explain its relationship with the Chinese government or Chinese Communist Party, while credible evidence exists that Huawei fails to comply with U.S. laws,” the report concluded.

In the years since, the FBI has kept close tabs on Huawei, according to law enforcement sources. And just four months ago, U.S. prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York secretly filed fraud charges against 46-year-old Meng, Huawei’s chief financial officer and the daughter of its founder.

At the U.S. government’s behest, she was arrested earlier this month while traveling through Canada, where court documents say she and others “repeatedly lied” to international banks about Huawei’s ties to businesses in Iran.

In particular, Huawei used a Hong Kong-based company, Skycom, as a front for Huawei’s “operating” in Iran despite U.S. sanctions, and Meng falsely claimed to “numerous multinational financial institutions” that Skycom was not connected to Huawei so that those institutions would carry out hundreds of millions of dollars in otherwise prohibited transactions, according to court documents released in Canada.

In the United States alone, one major bank ended up improperly approving $100 million in transactions based on the lies, the court documents allege.

But after news of Meng’s arrest became public last week, officials in China warned of “grave consequences” if she is not released, calling her detention “unreasonable, unconscionable, and vile in nature.”

The official Xinhua News Agency said a top Chinese diplomat “lodged solemn representations and strong protests” with Canadian and U.S. authorities over the matter, demanding the United States drop the “extremely egregious” charges against Meng.

The Chinese government’s demands over Meng come as President Donald Trump and his administration are trying to hammer out a deal with China that would alleviate growing tensions over trade and possible tariffs. Those tensions have already rattled U.S. markets, contributing to a substantial drop in the stock markets last week.

On Sunday, the U.S. trade representative, Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, insisted the dispute over Meng’s arrest “shouldn’t really have much of an impact” on China’s willingness to negotiate a trade deal with the United States.

“I can understand from the Chinese perspective how they would see it that way,” but Meng’s arrest “is a criminal justice matter” that’s “unrelated” and “totally separate from” ongoing trade talks, Lighthizer told CBS News.

Nevertheless, Lighthizer added that any deal must include assurances from the Chinese government that it will stop trying to steal U.S. technology from American companies and others.

“China has a policy of theft of intellectual property from America,” he said. “It’s extremely important that China [stops] that.”

According to U.S. officials, there is one tool in particular that Chinese authorities may be able to exploit to steal intellectual property: Huawei.

In fact, a top Homeland Security official, Jeanette Manfra, recently told a congressional panel the U.S. intelligence community is “concerned about” laws inside China that compel companies like Huawei to take certain actions. And a telecommunication company is “particularly problematic because [it] gives a government the capability to have access to communications that are global,” Michael Brown, the former CEO of global cyber-firm Symantec, said at a House Intelligence Committee hearing in July.

“So this represents a particular danger,” he added.

Meanwhile, a top member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, recently described Huawei and other Chinese telecom companies as “arms of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Now –- with the U.S. economy and U.S. national security at stake — the Chinese government is demanding the release of Huawei’s chief financial officer.

The U.S. government, meanwhile, has yet to unseal the charges against Meng, which for four months left U.S. prosecutors waiting for Meng to travel internationally so she could be arrested.

“The only documents released thus far are from the Canadian courts,” and the U.S. government has yet to release any information about the case, a Justice Department spokesman noted to ABC News.

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Google says it didn’t use resources to target Latino voters in 2016

Business News  Google says it didn't use resources to target Latino voters in 2016

tupungato/iStock(WASHINGTON) — In a testy exchange in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai refuted allegations that the company targeted Latino voters during the 2016 U.S. elections.

During a hearing on Google’s data collection and filtering practices, Ohio Republican Jim Jordan alleged that in 2016, the company engaged in partisan behavior to target Latino voters in key states, citing a leaked email written by Google’s head of multicultural marketing, Eliana Murillo.

According the email, Pichai “gave the effort a shout out and comment in Spanish, which was really special.” The four-page email goes on to note “we pushed to get out the Latino vote with our features in key states,” pointing out “we supported partners like Voto Latino to pay for rides to the polls in key states.”

Pichai denied the allegations, saying that Google “found no evidence to substantiate those claims.”

In her email, Murillo described the 2016 election as “devastating for our democratic Latino community.”

“We as a company didn’t have any effort to push out votes for any particular demographic, that would be against our principals. We participate in the civic process in a non-partisan way,” Pichai said.

“So she just made it up out of thin air the day after the election, wrote this email to your top executives, and it’s not true?” Jordan asked.

Punting the question, Pichai said that he was “happy to follow up,” noting that “employees do their own activities.”

Jordan retorted that he didn’t want a follow-up. “I want the real answer right here in the committee,” he said.

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Google Plus will shut down in April

Business News  Google Plus will shut down in April

Erikona/iStock(NEW YORK) — Google is planning a shutdown for Google Plus after revealing a new bug in the software compromised the data of more than 50 million users.

Watch the video below for more:

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Delta bans emotional support animals on long-haul flights

Business News  Delta bans emotional support animals on long-haul flights

Boarding1Now/iStock(NEW YORK) — Delta Airlines will soon enforce new restrictions for customers who are traveling with service and emotional support animals.

Emotional support animals will no longer be allowed on flights that are longer than eight hours, the airline announced Monday.

The new policy will also prevent passengers from traveling with service and support animals that are less than 4 months old, regardless of flight length, the airline said.

Customers who purchased tickets before Dec. 18, and requested to travel with a support animal, will still be allowed to travel as planned, according to the airline. The restrictions will take effect on Feb. 1, regardless of when tickets are purchased.

“We will continue to review and enhance our policies and procedures as health and safety are core values at Delta,” John Laughter, senior vice president or corporate safety, security and compliance, said in a statement. “These updates support Delta’s commitment to safety and also protect the rights of customers with documented needs – such as veterans with disabilities – to travel with trained service and support animals.”

Customers will be contacted by an airline representative to adjust their reservations if the new policy effects their travel plans, according to Delta.

Delta first cracked down on its emotional support animal policy in July, stating that each customer could only travel with one animal. The airline also announced it would no longer accept pit bull breeds as service or support animals.

Delta, however, is not the only major air carrier to adjust its policies for service and support animals. Earlier this year, United, American, JetBlue and Southwest separately announced new restrictions following a string of emotional support animal incidents, including a 70-pound dog that reportedly attacked a Delta passenger. In January, a woman was denied boarding because her emotional support peacock failed to meet United’s guidelines.

All support and service animals are required to be trained to behave in public and must stay near their owners at all times, according to Delta. Any animal that displays disruptive behavior may be denied boarding.

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New app reunites missing pets with owners by using facial recognition

Business News  New app reunites missing pets with owners by using facial recognition

Finding Rover(NEW YORK) — A new app that uses innovative, facial recognition is now being used to reunite people with their missing pets.

Pet owners can upload a photo of their missing dog or cat and click “lost” on the free app. After typing in some basic information, the app, known as “Finding Rover,” will scan a database of more than a million rescued or found animals that could be a match.

Kevin Villicana said he found his dog Sergeant thanks to the app.

“I was excited,” Villicana told ABC News’ Good Morning America. “I ran into my parents’ door and told them, ‘I found Sergeant.'”

Finding Rover has an accuracy rate of 98 percent, according to the app’s founder, John Polimeno. The app’s database scans for fur color and texture, snout length and space between the eyes, among other traits.

“Through the Finding Rover app, we’ve reunited over 15,000 pets with their owners,” said Polimeno.

“If they can identify people using facial recognition, wouldn’t it be cool if they can identify dogs and cats?” he added.

GMA entered a dog named Lucy into the app’s database and marked her as lost. After a quick scan, Lucy’s exact photo popped up in seconds.

Debra Rahl, a director of special projects at Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter in Maryland, said the app has been a saving grace.

“We struggle with the lost and found here until we’ve started to use this tool,” Rahl told GMA.

So far, the service had partnered with nearly 600 shelters in the U.S., Canada and Australia.

“It gives everybody the opportunity to save a lost pet by just taking a photo of it,” said Polimeno. “You don’t need to own one to save one.”

The app is not meant for being a replacement for microchipping your pet. But it’s an added layer of protection should they go missing.

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Instagram gift guide pairs products with hashtags

Business News  Instagram gift guide pairs products with hashtags

bigtunaonline/iStock(NEW YORK) — This holiday season, Instagram is introducing something special — its first #InstaGiftGuide, which pairs six popular hashtag trends with gifts produced by more than 30 brands.

You can get the purr-fect gift for your #CATSOFINSTAGRAM loving friends, hilarious #ISEEFACES-worthy gifts, stylish gifts for those friends who love the #FINGERBOARDING hashtag, #TUTTING gifts for the dancers in your life, #ODDLYSATISFYING gifts for everyone in your life and music-related gifts for those people in your life who are nostalgic for the 80’s and 90’s and follow the #VAPORWAVE hashtag.

The #InstaGiftGuide adds to the company’s shopping portfolio as the social media platform revolutionizes the way that we shop. The shopping channel on Explore, saving products to your own personal Shopping Collection and finding out about new brands by following your favorite Instagram influencers, are all ways that the platform has made it easier for consumers to make sure their #ootd is on point.

The company says the gift guide “is both a celebration of interest communities on Instagram and a one-stop shop for all of your holiday shopping needs.”

Instagram is also making the gift guide reflective of the holiday spirit of giving by donating all of the items featured to Bottomless Closet, a non-profit that helps disadvantaged women transition from unemployment to the workforce.

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10-year-old collects over 1,000 toys for charity

Business News  10-year-old collects over 1,000 toys for charity

neoblues/iStock(PITTSBURGH) — While other children across the U.S. are busy making their holiday wish lists, one Pennsylvania boy has made it his mission to make sure other kids get toys this season.

Colby Jeffrey, 10, collected over 1,000 toys this past Saturday for Toy for Tots in Washington, Pennsylvania, according to ABC affiliate WTAE-TV. Toys for Tots is organized by the U.S. Marine Corps, and aims to collect and give away toys to children at Christmastime.

“Every year we provide the donation boxes for him. But he does everything else himself with the help of his mom,” Michael Pallesco, a coordinator for Toys for Tots, told ABC News. “Everything from the social media to making the signs. It’s very impressive because a lot of kids his age are asking for toys, but instead he is out collecting them and getting involved.”

This is Colby’s fifth year collecting toys for the organization, according to WTAE-TV.

“They knew that it was for the other kids, and they knew I cared, and I’m just so happy that they’ll do that,” Colby told WTAE-TV.

“I know the feeling of getting toys, and some of those kids might not be able to, and I’m trying to help out with that so that they can have the feeling that I have every year,” Colby told WTAE-TV.

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Kind stranger gives up first class seat to mom and baby on flight

Business News  Kind stranger gives up first class seat to mom and baby on flight

ABC News(NEW YORK) — In a random act of kindness, a man gave up his airplane seat for a mom and baby flying to a children’s hospital.

On Dec. 6, Kelsey Zwick was traveling from Orlando to Philadelphia with her 11-month-old daughter Lucy when the stranger, later revealed to be Jason Kunselman, offered his first class seat to them.

Zwick said that she knew the flight with an infant, who was born premature and uses an oxygen machine, was not going to be easy.

“I have a baby, a roller, a diaper bag, then I have an oxygen concentrator that she needs while we travel,” Zwick told Fox affiliate WTXF-TV.

As she settled into her economy seat, a flight attended informed her that a first class passenger wanted to switch seats so she and Lucy could have more room.

“I’m just standing there looking at him, crying just saying, ‘thank you,'” Zwick told WTXF. “He just quietly was smiling so big and was like, ‘you’re welcome.'”

But when the flight landed, Zwick was unable to find Kunselman at the gate.

She posted a message to Facebook, which garnered over 415,000 shares, thanking “the man in 2D.”

“Not able to hold back tears, I cried my way up the aisle while my daughter Lucy laughed!” Zwick wrote on the same day of the flight. “She felt it in her bones too… real, pure, goodness. I smiled and thanked you as we switched but didn’t get to thank you properly.”

Zwick said American Airlines got word of her post and connected her with Kunselman.

“She came up [in line to board] and had the normal roller board luggage and also which I found out later, was an oxygen concentrator,” Kunselman told “GMA.” “I went up and asked the flight attendant if she thought she would be more comfortable sitting up in my seat and I would take the one in the back.”

Kunselman went on, “The next thing I know she came walking up crying and said thank you and I said you’re welcome and headed back towards the back of the plane. It just seemed like the right thing to do.”

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How DNA, genetic genealogy made 2018 the year to crack cold cases

ktsimage/iStock(NEW YORK) — Christine Franke was a 25-year-old college student when she was shot dead in her Orlando apartment on Oct. 21, 2001.

Though DNA was left behind at the crime scene, years went by without an arrest.

The killing and the wait for justice devastated her mother and relatives.

“It’s a terrible thing not knowing,” said her mother, Tina Franke. “I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.”

But all that changed in November when a suspect was arrested after police say he was identified through genetic genealogy.

“After all this time, I wasn’t sure we would ever find out,” Tina Franke told ABC News weeks after the arrest. “They had DNA all along and just nobody ever matched up. I thought, you know, possibly he would be dead. How can you live 17 years under the radar?”

A new law enforcement tool arrives on the scene

Genetic genealogy only got on the public radar in April after the first public arrest through this DNA-and-family-tracing technique.

Since then, genetic genealogy has helped lead to 24 other suspect identification, according to genetic genealogy expert CeCe Moore.

Moore is a chief genetic genealogist with Parabon NanoLabs, the company that’s worked on the majority of the cold cases cracked through genetic genealogy this year.

Parabon has made 23 successful DNA identifications this year — including in the Christine Franke killing. Two other cases not connected to Parabon were also publicly solved this year through genetic genealogy, Moore said.

Through genetic genealogy, an unknown killer’s DNA from a crime scene can be identified through his or her family members, who voluntarily submit their DNA to a genealogy database. This allows police to create a much larger family tree than using law enforcement databases like the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, in which an exact match is needed in most states, CeCe Moore said.

“In a genetic genealogy database we can reverse engineer the [suspect’s family] tree from their distant” relatives who have submitted DNA, Moore told ABC News. “So it doesn’t matter that they haven’t had their DNA tested through another arrest or crime scene, we don’t need their DNA. We need somebody from their family to have tested in order to resolve these cases.”

Parabon’s cracked cases range from the 1986 rape and murder of a 12-year-old Washington state girl to the 1988 killing of an 8-year-old girl in Indiana, where the unsolved slaying had “haunted the community” for 30 years, according to the prosecutor.

But Moore called solving Christine Franke’s 2001 killing the longest genetic genealogy case she has worked on, citing the suspect’s large family and difficult-to-trace family tree.

Michael Fields, a detective with the Orlando Police Department who worked the Franke case, partnered with Moore this summer.

Fields said they began with two relatives of Christine Franke’s unknown killer who had voluntarily submitted their DNA to GEDmatch — a third-party genealogy database that permits people to upload their DNA — to find other family members.

From there, tracing the massive family tree began, Fields told ABC News.

Eventually, Fields said he interviewed family members of the unknown suspect and zeroed in on one woman who had two sons in Orlando.

The woman voluntarily gave her DNA to police — and that sample confirmed she was the mother of Franke’s suspected killer, Fields said.

Investigators then narrowed the search down to one of the two sons — Benjamin Holmes.

Police placed Holmes under surveillance and took a sample of his DNA from a discarded cigar butt, Fields said. The DNA on that cigar matched the DNA left behind by the suspected killer at the Christine Franke scene, Fields said.

The moment Fields learned of the match “was a feeling that I thought I would never have,” he said.

And sharing the news with Christine Franke’s mother was “more emotional than learning for myself,” Fields added.

For Tina Franke, the news brought an overwhelming wave of relief.

“I couldn’t believe it finally happened,” she said.

When Holmes was taken into custody in November, he “denied having any knowledge or being near the crime scene,” Orlando police said.

Holmes entered a plea of not guilty. His public defender, Robert Wesley, told ABC News, “We don’t discuss clients or their cases without explicit consent and directions to do so from the client.”

‘Golden State Killer’ opens the floodgates

The moment Fields realized genetic genealogy was the potential key to solving the Christine Franke killing was when he saw the April arrest of the suspected “Golden State Killer,” he said.

The “Golden State Killer” case was the first public arrest this year linked to genetic genealogy, Moore said, though Parabon was not involved in the investigation.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the “Golden State Killer” was believed to have committed over a dozen murders and multiple rapes in Northern and Southern California, instilling fear in families, young women and suburban neighborhoods.

As the years went by, his crimes seemingly stopped — but police kept investigating.

In the early 2000s, authorities obtained the unknown killer’s DNA at one crime scene: the 1980 double murder of Lyman and Charlene Smith, who were bludgeoned to death at their Ventura County home.

Investigators then started reviewing rape kits — which contained DNA samples from victims — in other counties, said Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert.

This year, investigators plugged the mystery killer’s DNA into the genealogy website GEDmatch.

Based on the pool of people on GEDmatch, investigators built a family tree of the unknown killer’s relatives who had submitted their DNA to the database on their own.

Authorities narrowed the search based on age, location and other characteristics, leading them to 72-year-old former police officer Joseph DeAngelo.

Investigators placed DeAngelo under surveillance and eventually collected his DNA from a tissue left in a trash. They then plugged his discarded DNA back into the genealogy database and found a match, linking DeAngelo’s DNA to the DNA gathered at multiple “Golden State Killer” crime scenes, Schubert said.

DeAngelo, accused of 13 murders and other charges, is awaiting trial in Sacramento County. He has yet to enter a plea.

His public defender declined to comment to ABC News about the genetic genealogy component of the case.

Privacy concerns

As genetic genealogy cracks more and more cases, its use is also drawing criticism from some civil liberties advocates who say it unfairly gives up the privacy of law-abiding people because of their family members.

“Our DNA is essentially like a blueprint to ourselves,” said Vera Eidelman, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). “DNA can tell us about hereditary diseases potentially, our ancestry… there are already attempts to tie genetic information to personality traits, to mental health, to other predictors of life outcomes. So giving that deeply detailed information over to government investigators is troubling in that it just exposes so much information about ourselves.”

Eidelman said the use of genetic genealogy by law enforcement “compounds the privacy harms and concerns in terms of one person’s genetic material actually disclosing information about so many others — including people who are no longer alive, people who have yet to be alive.”

“It’s a frustrating position to be in, because we should be able to enjoy the benefits of technology … without having to fear that that information will then go into the hands of the government or others,” Eidelman said.

Eidelman said setting guidelines now for what is acceptable is imperative as the use of genetic genealogy by law enforcement increases.

“It may end up being the case when you’re thinking you’re sharing information for only one purpose, the reality may be that that information gets used for very different things than what you intended to share it for.”

But Moore stressed that direct-to-consumer DNA companies, including AncestryDNA and 23AndMe, do not allow their DNA samples to be searched by authorities.

Those companies, however, do allow users to download their raw data. And third-party genealogy databases like GEDmatch permit people to upload their DNA information, making the samples widely available for searches — and that’s how genetic genealogists have been cracking these cold cases.

“The only way your DNA can be used for our purposes is if you go through the steps of downloading it and uploading it to GED Match,” Moore stressed. “We’re not using your DNA unless you’ve gone through that process.”

“People give their permission when they go on our site,” added GEDmatch co-founder Curtis Rogers. “We make it very clear to them that law enforcement is involved and if you have any concerns, do not put your information on our site.”

“Privacy is not lost by anyone on GEDmatch. No DNA is visible on GEDmatch,” Rogers told ABC News. “The people who would have their privacy lost would be someone who is a direct family member.”

He said he’s received emails from family members of criminals — including the daughter of a serial killer — who want their DNA included on GEDmatch to potentially help solve cold cases.

Moore agreed.

“A lot of people are uploading to GEDmatch for the expressed purpose of helping us resolve more of these cold cases,” Moore said. “I understand the privacy concerns, but I think in this particular argument the good to society, to individuals, far outweighs the risks.”

“For me, it’s all about the families,” Moore said. “We can’t fix the damage … we can only help give some answers and peace.”

Tina Franke, the mother of slain Orlando student Christine Franke, said she’s “all for” law enforcement’s use of genetic genealogy. “Maybe it’s not fair to invade privacy, but he invaded my whole life,” Tina Franke said of her daughter’s suspected killer. “He changed my life in the blink of an eye. And if it can help catch a criminal, that’s more important to me than anything.”

‘It’s going to be a game changer’

Now that genetic genealogy is in the hands of authorities, Fields, who called it “an unbelievable tool,” predicts “it’s going to be a game changer in how we do business.”

But the Orlando detective added, “Not everyone is going to have the opportunity to use it, because it’s expensive, time-consuming and it can be really difficult.”

“I just hope that people use it and can solve as many cases as they can,” he said.

To Tina Franke, genetic genealogy’s biggest strength is its ability to give answers, and possibly closure.

“I hope it helps another family who is struggling with similar circumstances,” Franke said. “I would want the same relief for them as we felt.”

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