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Google's Schmidt Touches Down in North Korea

Google's Schmidt Touches Down in North Korea

Today in international tech news: Google's Eric Schmidt touches down in North Korea while Arizona's John McCain mocks him from Washington. Also: A suspected rumormonger is arrested in Venezuela after tweeting about Hugo Chavez's health, a Chinese man tries to curb video game use by putting a hit on his son's avatar, and an unprecedented industrial software piracy case draws a guilty plea.

By David Vranicar
01/08/13 7:56 AM PT

Flanked by former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Google chairman Eric Schmidt arrived Monday in North Korea.

Richardson, who also is a former UN ambassador, has characterized the trip as a "private humanitarian mission" -- a far more hospitable description than ones coming from the U.S. State Department (which said the jaunt was "not particularly helpful") and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who described the delegation as "useful idiots."

It is not clear what the duo hopes to achieve in North Korea, although CNet reports that Richardson will inquire about a Korean-American who was detained last month in North Korea. The Google exec was not treating it as a business trip, but instead was genuinely interested in foreign policy, said Richardson, who invited Schmidt on the trek.

The State Department's rebuke of the trip was echoed by McCain, who scoffed at Richardson and Schmidt by invoking, of all people, former Communist leader Vladimir Lenin. McCain tweeted, "Richardson and Schmidt arrive in North Korea today - Lenin used to call them 'useful idiots'".

The delegation consists of Richardson, Schmidt, Schmidt's daughter and Google executive Jared Cohen, according to Reuters.

House of Twitter Rumormonger Raided in Venezuela

Intelligence officials in Venezuela raided the home of a Twitter user they believed was spreading rumors about the health of Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president who was re-elected in October and whose inauguration is scheduled for this week.

The Twitter user in question, Federico Medina Ravell, is the cousin of a prominent opposition figure, according to The Guardian. Authorities were reportedly concerned that the tweets could escalate an "information war" ahead of a potential power vacuum caused by Chavez's ailing health.

Even if Medina ran afoul of Venezuelan authorities, there is no doubt that Chavez is indeed sick. He was recently taken to Cuba for emergency cancer surgery that ultimately led to a severe infection. Reports Tuesday suggested that he is expected to miss being sworn in.

The authorities who raided Medina's home seized several computers, according to domestic reports. Medina, who was not home at the time of the raid, stands accused of instigating terrorism.

The offending Twitter account, @LucioQuincioC, is still active. The Guardian reports that the account is a collaborative effort between nearly two dozen bloggers in eight international cities.

Chinese Man Puts Hit on Son's Avatar

A Chinese man ordered a hit on his son's online videogame avatar, according to Kotaku.

The man, who paid other gamers to take out the avatar, was apparently worried that his son, 23 and unemployed, was spending too much time online, and believed that offing his son's avatar would help curb the amount of time he spent playing games.

China is well-known to have zealous online gamers.

Chinese Man Pleads Guilty to Selling Stolen Software

A Chinese businessman, Xiang Li, pleaded guilty Monday to selling stolen American software used for, among other things, defense and space technology, according to Reuters.

Prosecutors said that the software, which has a retail value of more than US$100 million, was stolen from an estimated 200 American manufacturers and then sold to more than 300 black-market buyers in 61 countries between 2008 and 2011.

Microsoft, Oracle, Rockwell automation, Siemens, Agilent Technologies and others were among the corporate victims, Reuters reported, citing a government spokesperson.

The case reportedly represents the first time that a businessman involved in pirating industrial software was lured from China by undercover agents, according to Reuters. Xiang was arrested in June 2011 in a Department of Homeland Security sting on the Pacific island of Saipan, a U.S. territory close to Guam.


David Vranicar is a freelance journalist and author of The Lost Graduation: Stepping off campus and into a crisis. You can check out his ECT News archive here, and you can email him at david[dot]vranicar[at]newsroom[dot]ectnews[dot]com.


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