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SSE and NPower merger delayed over price cap

A merger between two of the so-called "big six" energy firms has been delayed after the regulator proposed a cap to default energy prices.

SSE, whose deal with Germany's Innogy – owner of NPower – would have created the second-biggest energy supplier behind Centrica-owned British Gas, said the "proposed combination would be delayed beyond Q1 of 2019".

It went on to say the "impact of some recent market developments mean that the commercial terms associated with the proposed combination will need to be reconsidered".

The industry has been under pressure to scrap controversial standard variable tariffs, which were described as a "rip-off" by the prime minister and which are often the most expensive.

The default rates are currently paid by almost half of UK households, despite a pick-up in switching rates.

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The energy regulator, Ofgem, said it wanted to cap the default electricity and gas bill at £1,136 a year. The cap will be in place by the end of the year. It should save households about £1bn.

SSE issued a profit warning in September, saying earnings at its household supply business will be significantly lower if Ofgem's cap is implemented.

Alistair Phillips-Davies, chief executive of SSE, said: "We continue to believe that creating a new, independent energy supplier has the potential to deliver real benefits for customers and the market as a whole, and that remains our objective.

"In assessing potential changes to the commercial terms of the proposed SSE Energy Services/npower combination, the interests of customers, employees and shareholders will be paramount."

SSE was expected to hold 65.6% of the stock on the new company that would be listed on the London Stock Exchange.

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Germany's Innogy owns Npower.

The announcement came after the close of trade on Thursday.

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China’s top security agency is accused of directing a wave of cyberattacks against Australia

  • Australian companies have been the target of a fresh wave of China-originated cyberattacks this year as part of a "constant, significant effort" to plunder corporate assets and intellectual property, according to a report released Tuesday.
  • Beijing has rejected the claims that China's top security agency planned and directed a surge in cyber attacks on Australian companies.
  • The report alleges the coordinated attacks also broke a personal agreement struck between China's Premier Li Keqiang and the former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that both countries would put a stop to the theft of each other’s commercial secrets.
  • A foreign ministry spokesperson provided China's stock responses to accusations of hacking: "groundless, speculative, unprofessional and irresponsible."

SYDNEY, Australia — China's foreign ministry has recorded its usual annoyance following an investigation into Chinese corporate hacking in Australia that comes only days after US Vice President Mike Pence pointed the finger at Beijing for its overwhelming "intellectual property theft".

China’s peak security agency has been overseeing a surge in cyberattacks on Australian companies over the past year, in an operation dubbed “Operation Cloud Hopper," and at the behest of China’s Ministry of State Security according to a report by Fairfax Media and broadcaster Channel Nine.

The Cloud Hopper cyber-espionage campaign was first uncovered by security researchers at PwC, BAE Systems, and the UK's National Cyber Security Centre.

Those researchers concluded in 2017 that the campaign was the work of the China-based, People's Liberation Army connected APT10 hacking group.

In 2016, US security firm Mandiant released the report "APT1 Exposing One of China's Espionage Units," describing the term as Advanced Persistent Threat 1, "a single organization of operators that has conducted a cyber-espionage campaign against a broad range of victims since at least 2006."

On Tuesday, unnamed senior Australian officials are cited in the Fairfax report as saying this recent surge of attacks targeting sectors across the Australian economy from "industry to corporate and military" were confirmed by the "Five Eyes" intelligence alliance.

Five Eyes is the name given to an intelligence-sharing network made up of the US, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, as part of the same campaign.

The senior Australian government source told Fairfax the activity was "a constant, significant effort to steal our intellectual property," and that China's Ministry of State Security was responsible for Operation Cloud Hopper.

Australian universities and network providers have attracted criticism for lax security measures.

The massive uptick in activity was also backed up by the vice president of the US cybersecurity company CrowdStrike, Mike Sentonas.

Following a deal struck between the Chinese premier and Australian prime minister earlier in 2017, Sentonas said that from the beginning of this year, he had "noticed a significant increase in attacks."

"The activity is mainly from China and it's targeting all sectors," he told Fairfax.

"There's no doubt the gloves are off."

Read more: Australia's top cyber spy says China's tech is too good to be allowed near key infrastructure

One senior Australian government source said China’s mission was “a constant, significant effort to steal our intellectual property.”

The cyber theft places intense pressure on Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to respond as the cyber security pact signed between the two countries only last year appears to be in question.

In response the Chinese foreign ministry rolled out its standard response to what is now a well-practiced routine.

Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told the regular press briefing in Beijing that the accusations were groundless or "without factual basis."

"The speculative report without factual basis is irresponsible and unprofessional," (没有事实根据的臆测报道是不负责任、不专业的), Geng said.

**In 2013 a foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei made the same observation at his regular press briefing when asked to comment on a report then released by the US security company Mandiant, that singled out the People's Liberation Army (PLA) for conducting cyber espionage against Western countries for years. "The speculative report without factual basis and groundless criticism is irresponsible and unprofessional." he said.

Two years earlier Lei called a very blunt report on China's role foreign cyber spying submitted to the US Congress in November, 2011, as speculative and both unprofessional and irresponsible."

And remember when North Korea successfully Sony Pictures in 2014?

"This kind of speculative report without factual basis is irresponsible and unprofessional," then foreign ministry spokesmen Hua Chunying said.**

China has a rich legacy of infuriating Western governments that have routinely accused it of plundering industrial, corporate and military secrets.

Last year, sensitive data about Australia's F-35 stealth fighter and P-8 surveillance aircraft programmes were stolen when a defence subcontractor was hacked with a tool widely used by Chinese cyber criminals.

The Australian Federal Police and Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) have reportedly intensified their cooperation to respond to the threat.

However, a senior police source said in the report that they are many months behind the US.

Without enforcement, there was no effective deterrence, the report said, citing one national security source.

The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) the country's top cyber enforcement agency has detected attacks against several Western businesses, although the names of the affected firms have not been made public.

Meanwhile, the systems of Australian defense contractor Austal were also breached last month as part of a subsequent extortion attempt.

The source of the attack has not yet been confirmed, but officials say that this time the attack may have came out of the Middle East with Iran the most likely culprit, according to the Australian Cyber Security Centre.

SEE ALSO: Australia's top cyber spy says China's tech is too good to be allowed near key infrastructure

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‘Saudi Arabia First, not America First:’ Even top GOP allies of Trump are railing against his defense of Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi’s brutal murder

  • Several GOP officials on Tuesday offered scathing responses to President Donald Trump's statement outlining his administration's position on Saudi Arabia over the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
  • The president's forceful defense of Saudi Arabia follows recent reports suggesting the CIA's "high confidence" that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman directly ordered Khashoggi's killing.
  • The statement has been widely bashed by officials and groups across the political spectrum.
  • "I’m pretty sure this statement is Saudi Arabia First, not America First," Sen. Rand Paul wrote on Twitter.
  • "I never thought I’d see the day a White House would moonlight as a public relations firm for the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia," Sen. Bob Corker tweeted.
  • Saudi Arabia continues to distance its crown prince from the murder, but it may be too late.

Several GOP officials on Tuesday offered scathing responses to President Donald Trump's statement which appeared to side with Saudi Arabia over the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Several of Trump's top GOP allies, including Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham, criticised the president's forceful defense of Saudi Arabia in light of recent reports suggesting the CIA has concluded with "high confidence" that the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman directly ordered Khashoggi's killing.

Trump on Tuesday released a lengthy statement in which he recycled unsubstantiated Saudi attacks on Khashoggi's character and suggested it was possible the crown prince didn't know about the plot to murder Khashoggi despite the alleged CIA assessment saying otherwise.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who emerged this summer as one of the president's biggest allies on issues relating to Russia, slammed Trump's defense of Saudi Arabia.

"I’m pretty sure this statement is Saudi Arabia First, not America First," he wrote on Twitter Tuesday. "I’m also pretty sure John Bolton wrote it."

"The President indicates that Saudi Arabia is the lesser of two evils compared to Iran and so the US won’t punish Saudi Arabia for the brutal killing and dismemberment of a dissident journalist in their consulate. I disagree." He also pledged to push for legislation to stop Saudi arms sales and the ongoing war with Yemen.

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who previously led a group of US officials urging for sanctions against Saudis connected Khashoggi's disappearance, said congress will "consider all of the tools at our disposal" to prosecute those involved.

"I never thought I’d see the day a White House would moonlight as a public relations firm for the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia," Corker tweeted. He also touted the possibility of requiring a definitive clarification on Prince Mohammed's purported role in the killing.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who has recently transformed into an icon of the right, called for "serious sanctions" against Saudi Arabia, including members of the royal family.

"I firmly believe there will be strong bipartisan support for serious sanctions against Saudi Arabia, including appropriate members of the royal family, for this barbaric act which defied all civilized norms," he tweeted.

"While Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally, the behavior of the Crown Prince – in multiple ways – has shown disrespect for the relationship and made him, in my view, beyond toxic," he added. "I fully realize we have to deal with bad actors and imperfect situations on the international stage. However, when we lose our moral voice, we lose our strongest asset."

Trump has been widely bashed for siding with the Saudis

TRUMP SAUDI arabia

Trump has been widely bashed for what appears to signal his siding with Saudi Arabia over numerous US intelligence agencies and officials in their assessment of Khashoggi's murder on October 2.

Khashoggi's editor at The Washington Post, Karen Attiah, said Trump's statement represents "a new low."

Former CIA director John Brennan tweeted that Trump "excels in dishonesty," and called on members of Congress to declassify CIA findings on Khashoggi's death.

Daniel Balson, an official at Amnesty International, warned that the Trump administration could be sending out a powerful message about killing journalists and critics without consequence in its handling of Khashoggi's case.

And Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said "It's now 100% clear the Saudis own our President."

Saudi Arabia keeps trying to distance its crown prince, but it may be too late

Mohammed bin Salman

On Tuesday, Saudi foreign minister Adel Jubeir said allegations linking the crown prince to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi are false.

"We in the kingdom know that such allegations about the crown prince have no basis in truth and we categorically reject them," al-Jubeir was quoted as saying in Saudi-owned Al Sharq Al Awsat newspaper.

Several news outlets reported over the weekend that the CIA has determined that the crown prince ordered Khashoggi's assassination. The CIA's conclusion is reportedly based on several pieces of intelligence, including a call from Saudi ambassador Khalid bin Salman — Mohammed's brother — to Khashoggi, and audio recordings of the killing that have been circulating around global intelligence agencies.

A former CIA officer and intelligence analyst also claimed the Trump administration is helping the crown prince cover up the October 2 murder.

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly and vehemently denied that its crown prince had any role in Khashoggi's death, though its version of the events surrounding Khashoggi's murder have shifted several times over the last several weeks.

SEE ALSO: ‘POTUS sided with a brutal dictator over CIA? Shocking’: Trump widely bashed for siding with Saudi Arabia over Jamal Khashoggi’s killing

DON'T MISS: Even if Mohammed bin Salman is behind Jamal Khashoggi's murder, experts say sanctions against Riyadh could still backfire

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Jamal Khashoggi was barred from writing in Saudi Arabia after he criticized Trump, then left his native country

  • Jamal Khashoggi was barred from writing and making public appearances by the Saudi royal family after he criticized President Donald Trump in late 2016.
  • Khashoggi went into self-imposed exile not long after the ban so he could continue reporting.
  • Khashoggi became a US resident and wrote for The Washington Post, continuing to criticize the kingdom's policies from afar.
  • Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
  • Trump on Tuesday issued a forceful defense of the Saudis over Khashoggi's killing, sparking widespread condemnation.

Since Jamal Khashoggi was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in early October, he has been widely characterized as a dissident.

Khashoggi considered himself a patriot, rejecting the term dissident, but he was often critical of the Saudi government in his reporting. But Saudi Arabia's government actually barred him from appearing in media there after he criticized President Donald Trump in late 2016, according to the US State Department.

Khashoggi had criticized Trump's stance and rhetoric on the Middle East in an appearance at a Washington, DC, think tank.

"The expectation that 'Trump as president' will be starkly different from 'Trump as candidate' is a false hope at best," Khashoggi said at the time.

Khashoggi left his native country roughly six months after the ban in June 2017, which also prohibited him from making TV appearances and attending conferences. He became a US resident — splitting time between Virginia, Istanbul, and London — and wrote columns for The Washington Post.

From a 2017 State Department report on Saudi Arabia human rights:

"Well-known Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi said he moved to the United States in 'self-exile' and 'could face arrest upon returning home' due to his writing. He claimed his column in Saudi newspaper al-Hayat had been cancelled under political pressure. In 2016 authorities purportedly banned him from writing, appearing on television, and attending conferences as the result of remarks he made that were interpreted as criticizing the president of the United States, according to multiple media sources. Earlier, in July, authorities reportedly lifted the writing ban against him."

In a conversation with Columbia Journalism Review in March 2018, Khashoggi reflected on the ban.

"I'm a believer in free journalism, despite all the limitations we had. I always pushed the envelope, I always wanted to have more space," he said.

Khashoggi added: "I was so insulted when the royal court called me and told me that I am not allowed to write. … In America, you take freedom for granted."

The Saudi journalist's killing has threatened to upend the historic US-Saudi relationship.

The CIA reportedly concluded with "high confidence" that Khashoggi's killing was ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the kingdom. Riyadh has shifted its narrative on what happened to Khashoggi multiple times amid global condemnation, but has insisted Prince Mohammed was not involved.

Meanwhile, bipartisan outrage has erupted in Congress over Khashoggi's killing and the gruesome details that have emerged about his fate.

But President Donald Trump has stood by Prince Mohammed and repeatedly touted the purported economic and strategic benefits of the US-Saudi relationship.

Trump on Tuesday said the US "intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia" despite Khashoggi's killing, and he's been broadly accused of once again undermining the US intelligence community as well as the US government's commitment to human rights.

The president's ongoing support of the Saudis throughout this crisis has led many critics to question whether his business ties in the country are influencing his foreign policy.

READ MORE:

  • Here's everything we know about the troubling disappearance of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi
  • Trump is placing his trust in someone who is either lying or can't stop his henchmen from brutally killing journalists
  • Top Senate Democrat slams Trump's response to Khashoggi killing, says president is making US look 'weaker' than ever by kowtowing to Saudis
  • Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance is an 'embarrassing' 'crisis' for Trump and 'one of the roughest foreign-policy challenges' he's faced yet, experts say
  • Missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi had a complicated past involving interviews with Osama bin Laden and close ties to the Saudi royal family
  • Lindsey Graham says 'toxic' Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had Khashoggi 'murdered' and can 'never be a world leader'
  • 'Maybe he did and maybe he didn't': Trump defiantly stands with Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed before release of CIA report on Jamal Khashoggi's killing
  • 'POTUS sided with a brutal dictator over CIA? Shocking': Trump widely bashed for siding with Saudi Arabia over Jamal Khashoggi’s killing

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Apple’s App Store and Apple Music went down for 32 minutes, just days before Black Friday (AAPL)

  • The Apple App Store and Apple Music went down for many users on Tuesday night.
  • Apple says that everything should be fixed, and it was only down for 32 minutes.

The Apple App Store went down for iPhone users on Tuesday night, just days before the Black Friday shopping event. Apple Music was also impacted by the problems.

On its system status dashboard, Apple acknowledged the problem, saying that the issues began at 5:20 P.M. PST and were fixed at 5:52 P.M. PST.

It's not clear what caused the problems, or how they were fixed.

"Users experienced a problem with the App Store," says the status dashboard. Similarly, the dashboard acknowledges that Apple Music "users may have been unable to access multiple services or make purchases."

We've reached out to Apple for more information.

It's been a big week for big tech service outages: Facebook and Microsoft have had big system outages of their own this week.

iPhone users got this error message when they tried to access the App Store:

apple app store down

One Business Insider editor got this message when trying to play music stored in the iTunes cloud on an iPhone while the problems were ongoing:

apple itunes canceled

SEE ALSO: Facebook's ad platform has crashed — causing chaos just days before Black Friday

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US Homeland Security reportedly infiltrating WhatsApp groups and using paid undercover informants to monitor migrant caravan

  • The Department of Homeland Security is reportedly using paid undercover informants to gather intelligence on the migrant caravan nearing the US-Mexico border.
  • Homeland Security officials were said to be monitoring the migrants through the WhatsApp text messaging app, which is being used as a communication tool for the roughly 4,000 migrants.
  • The exact cost of the program was unclear, but one Defense Department source estimated the cost of paying informants and analyzing their intelligence to be thousands of dollars.

The Department of Homeland Security is reportedly using paid undercover informants to gather intelligence on the migrant caravan nearing the US-Mexico border, according to multiple news reports.

Homeland Security is also monitoring the migrants through the WhatsApp text messaging app, which is being used as a communication tool for the roughly 4,000 migrants, two department officials told NBC News. Officials are said to have joined the migrants' WhatsApp groups to monitor communications, many of them from Honduras and seeking asylum.

Through their intelligence-gathering efforts, officials received word that a group of migrants may be bolting through car lanes near the San Diego border in California. The Customs and Border Protection agency reportedly shut down an entire section of lanes at the border crossing between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m., but the crossing never occurred.

migrant caravan

It was unclear whether the agency's measures affected the migrant group's purported plans.

The exact cost of the program was unclear, but one Defense Department source estimated the cost of paying informants and analyzing their intelligence to be thousands of dollars, according to Newsweek.

In a statement, Homeland Security spokeswoman Katie Waldman cited security concerns and did not discuss specific methods of gathering intelligence.

"While not commenting on sources or methods, it would be malpractice for the United States to be ignorant about the migrants — including many criminals — attempting to enter our country," Waldman said, according to NBC News. "We have an obligation to ensure we know who is crossing our borders to protect against threats to the Homeland and any indication to the contrary is misinformed."

On Monday, a federal judge blocked President Donald Trump's move to curb the number of asylum-seeking migrants who cross the US-Mexico border at ports of entry. White House and Homeland Security officials have warned that hundreds of people from the caravan pose a national security threat, a description that was previously contradicted by the Defense Department's own risk assessment.

SEE ALSO: The first group of caravan migrants has reached the US border while thousands of others lag behind — here's what awaits them when they arrive

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