Monthly Archives: June 2017

Could foreground stars make faraway quasars twinkle? – Astronomy Magazine

Posted: June 30, 2017 at 5:52 pm

Stars twinkle because were looking at them through Earths turbulent atmosphere. Quasars are not stars, but the massive disks around supermassive black holes sitting at the centers of faraway galaxies, gobbling up immense amounts of dust and gas. These objects show variability on a variety of timescales at different wavelengths, including variations in radio light. A recent study now suggests that some quasars might twinkle because of features around foreground stars when we peer at them from our vantage point on Earth.

The work, led by Mark Walker of Manly Astrophysics and published in the Astrophysical Journal, began with observations taken with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisations (CSIRO) Compact Array radio telescope in Australia. While studying the quasar PKS 1322110, it began twinkling violently, said Walker in a press release. When the team followed up with the 10-meter Keck telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, they noticed the quasar is very close on the sky to the hot star Spica, said collaborator Vikram Ravi of the California Institute of Technology.

That realization brought another twinkling quasar to mind: J1819+3845, which is close to the bright star Vega on the sky. Based on that knowledge, the team examined data of J1819+3845 and a third violently twinkling quasar, PKS 1257326, which is near the star Alhakim.

Could these alignments be pure chance? The researchers calculated that the likelihood of two twinkling quasars residing near hot stars on the sky was about one in ten million.

Based on their re-examination of data taken J1819+3845 and PKS 1257326, We have very detailed observations of these two sources, said co-author Hayley Bignall of CSIRO. They show that the twinkling is caused by long, thin structures.

These structures, the team thinks, are filaments of warm gas around hot stars, much like the filaments seen in the Helix Nebula. The Helix Nebula contains globules of hydrogen gas, which are stretched out into filaments by ultraviolet radiation from the central star. Although the Helix Nebula is home to an older star and the globules likely formed recently, the astronomers think similar structures might sit around younger stars.

They might date from when the stars formed, or even earlier, said Walker. Globules don’t emit much light, so they could be common yet have escaped notice so far.

If so, these globules and the filaments associated with them could be responsible for the twinkling of background quasars when they affect the focus of the radio signals traveling through them, rather than changes in emission from the quasars themselves. Determining the true reason for the twinkling will tell astronomers more about both the physics of distant quasars and the stars in our own galaxy.

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Could foreground stars make faraway quasars twinkle? – Astronomy Magazine

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July Astronomy: This Month and Next Are the Best Time of Year to Check Out Jupiter’s Moons and Saturn’s Rings – Coachella Valley Independent

Posted: at 5:52 pm

July finds bright Jupiter in the south-southwestern sky at dusk, and Saturn in the southeast, closing to 65 degrees apart by months end. Before dawn, Venus gleams in the east, against the attractive background of Taurus the Bull, with its two prominent star clusters and bright reddish star.

On some dates, the moon forms attractive pairings with four of the five naked-eye planets, and four of the five bright zodiacal stars.

In Julys evening twilight, bright Jupiter attracts attention in the southwest, with bluish Spica nearby to its left, and golden Arcturus high above them. Yellowish Saturn glows steadily in the southeast to south-southeast, in contrast to the vigorously twinkling reddish star Antares, heart of the Scorpion, to its right. The star reaches south in mid-twilight near months end. The Summer Triangle, topped by its brightest star, blue-white Vega, ascends in the eastern sky. The Triangles other members are Altair, its southern point, and Deneb, trailing Vega.

Mercury has a several-weeks-long but very low apparition in the west-northwest to west. It loses nearly three-quarters of its brightness during July, fading from magnitude -1.0 to +0.4, and passes close by fainter, departing Regulus (+1.4) on July 25.

In Julys morning twilight, Venus continues climbing higher until late in the month, despite its having reached its greatest angular distance from the sun, 46 degrees, in early June. Thats because in July, the sun-to-Venus line inclines at an ever-steeper angle to our morning twilight horizon. Before dawn brightens much, watch Venus, shifting a little more than one degree daily against background stars, pass 6 degrees south of the Pleiades star cluster on July 5, and within 3.5 degrees north of Aldebaran on July 14. If you observe each morning at the same time interval, Venus will appear almost stationary during July, while the starry background rises toward the upper right, behind Venus. Note Capella far to the north (left or upper left) of Venus. Before months end, Orions brightest stars, Betelgeuse and Rigel, will appear in the east (with his striking three-star belt, not plotted, midway between the two), and Geminis Pollux, with Castor 4.5 degrees above it, will emerge in the east-northeast. Before mid-August, the Dog stars, Procyon and Sirius, will follow Orion into the eastern sky, completing the Winter Triangle with Orions shoulder, Betelgeuse.

On July mornings, the Summer Triangle of Vega, Altair and Deneb is still well up in west, and Fomalhaut crosses south toward southwest.

The moon and planets in July:On the evening of July 1, the gibbous moon appears several degrees north of Spica, with bright Jupiter just to their right; on July 5, the moon passes even more widely north of Antares. On the evening of July 6, the moon passes a few degrees north of Saturn. The moon is full two nights later, on Saturday, July 8. By that date, Mercury can be glimpsed very low in the west-northwestern evening twilight. Look to the lower right of Regulus,by 30 degrees on July 5, 15 degrees on July 14, 10 degrees on July 17, and shrinking to 5 degrees by July 21. Well return for another look at Mercury a few days later, after the moon has returned to the western early evening sky.

On July 8, we can catch the full moon rising in the east-southeast shortly before sunset; on the next evening, moonrise occurs within half an hour after sunset. Thereafter, the waning gibbous moon rises a little later and farther north each night. By July 14, the moon rises just before midnight, nearly due east. Instead of staying up late to wait for moonrise, get outdoors before sunrise, and follow the waning moon from July 9 through July 21 or 22. Venus, against a pretty background of the stars of Taurus, provides another reason to arise early, before the sky brightens much. Watch Venus go 6 degrees south of the Pleiades star cluster on July 5; just 3.5 degrees north of reddish-orange Aldebaran on July 14; a wide 7 degrees south of Elnath (Beta Tauri, tip of the Bulls northern horn) on July 25; and very close to third-magnitude Zeta Tauri, the southern horn, on July 27. (Use binoculars to see the faint star near brilliant Venus on the 27th.) The waning crescent moon adds special beauty to the scene on three mornings: On July 19, find the moon to the upper right of Venus, Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster. On July 20, the crescent moon will be just a few degrees to the south (lower right) of Venus. An hour before sunrise on July 21, the moon will be low in the east-northeast, well to the lower left of Venus, while Orions shoulder, Betelgeuse, will be rising widely to the lower right of the moon.

The moon rises at about the same time as Venus on July 20. Two days later, on July 22, binoculars may be required to spot the very old crescent.Look for the hairline 1 percent moon only 2 degrees up, one-half hour before sunrise, just 21-22 hours before new.

That new moon occurs on July 23, at 2:46 a.m.one lunar month before the Aug. 21 solar eclipse! (See the May column at CVIndependent.com for a list of resources regarding that very special event.) The first view of this months young crescent moon is expected on the evening of July 24, within a half-hour after sunset. The 4 percent illuminated moon will then be 8 degrees up, 10 degrees north of west, at an age of 41-42 hours after new. As the sky darkens a bit, but before the moon gets too low, look a few degrees to the upper left of the moon for bright (magnitude +0.1) Mercury, with the fainter star Regulus (+1.4) just to the planets upper left. By the next evening, July 25, the crescent moon will have skipped to the upper left of the Mercury-Regulus pair, then at their closest, within a degree. Brighter Mercury will appear to the south (lower left) of Regulus. The evening of July 26 finds the moon far to the upper left of the now-widening pair.

On the evening of July 28, bright Jupiter is closely to the lower right of the fat crescent moon; note Spica several degrees to the left of Jupiter. On the next evening, July 29, the fat crescent moon, half a day short of first quarter, appears to the upper left of Jupiter and Spica, while Mercury reaches greatest elongation, very low, just north of west, and 27 degrees from the sun (which is below the horizon while you can see Mercury).

Check the website of the Astronomical Society of the Desert at http://www.astrorx.org for a listing of and directions to our star parties at Sawmill Trailhead, our high-altitude site (elevation 4,000 feetwear warm clothes), starting at dusk on Saturday, July 22, Aug. 19, Sept. 23 and Oct. 14. Also, check out the Skys the Limit Observatory and Nature Center in Twentynine Palms, at skysthelimit29.org.

Robert C. Victor, formerly a staff astronomer at Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University, is now retired and enjoys providing sky watching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs. Robert D. Miller did graduate work in planetarium science, astronomy and computer science at Michigan State University, and remains active in research and public outreach in astronomy.

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Five podcasts to catch up on the latest trends in cloud computing – TechTarget

Posted: at 5:52 pm

Cloud is a dynamic technology, and enterprises need to be flexible to keep up.

But before they successfully adopt the latest trends in cloud computing — ranging from containers to continuous monitoring — enterprises first face a number of challenges. David Linthicum, a TechTarget contributor and SVP of Cloud Technology Partners, a cloud consultancy company in Boston, explores top cloud trends, their effect on enterprise IT teams and more in these five podcasts with cloud experts. Read on and tune in to know what to expect.

With the proliferation of cloud services, enterprises want to take advantage of new offerings and better prices at any time. Unfortunately, the more dependent an enterprise becomes on a particular cloud provider and its native services, the harder it is to move applications.

Lock-in risks are high in cloud — not just with vendors but also with models. With a private cloud, enterprises can be locked into their own design, and in public cloud, they can become dependent on add-on services. Any type of lock-in will result in high prices, according to Marten Mickos, CEO at HackerOne, a provider of vulnerability tracking software.

Many believe one of the latest trends in cloud computing — containers — could reduce these lock-in risks through the promise of portability. Containers continue to rise in popularity because they can make it easier to move applications from one cloud platform to another. But there’s a catch: Many of the cloud providers’ container management services, such as Azure Container Service, Google Container Engine and Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud Container Service, pose lock-in risks of their own.

“Docker and container management and orchestration solutions have made portability vastly easier, but as soon as you start availing yourself to the special services of whatever platform you’re on, you’re hooked,” Linthicum says.

As public cloud adoption continues to rise, some enterprises question whether private cloud is dead. Others, however, believe that private cloud is alive and well, as certain compliance, cost and security requirements still fuel deployments.

Compliance is tricky, and certain requirements and standards restrict some enterprises to a private cloud. Others are reluctant to migrate to public cloud because of potentially higher costs and previous investments in an on-premises data center. In addition, there can be high costs associated with training and hiring staff to maintain a public cloud deployment.

“There is no magic button on the side of the server that you press that makes it suddenly cloud-capable. It’s going to require software infrastructure, hardware infrastructure [and] operational skills,” says Bernard Golden, CEO of Navica, a cloud consulting firm.

Before you make your final decision about migration — either public or private — review what applications you currently run and what you want to run in the future. If compliance is still an issue, consider hybrid or multicloud models.

Hacking is a growing threat and large businesses, such as Target and Home Depot, have been victims of malicious attacks. It is time for enterprises to go on the offensive and adopt ongoing monitoring and testing practices to ensure their data is secure.

“Hacking is a business now,” says Zohar Alon, CEO and co-founder of Dome9 Security Ltd., a provider of cloud management as a service. “When the other side can benefit from it financially, [and] quite easily now with bitcoin, it’s not surprising to see those [hacking businesses] emerge [and see] ransomware all over the place.”

In addition, one of the latest trends in cloud computing is serverless architectures, which bring new security risks. Because of a serverless application’s design, enterprises can’t secure it with the same encryption or identity access management practices they are used to. To reduce risk, they should also ensures serverless functions don’t have more permissions than they need, Alon says.

Once an enterprise runs applications in the cloud, they generally want those apps to keep running — which is where backup and recovery come in. But some of the latest trends in cloud computing, such as the internet of things, increase the amount of data floating around. This has some IT teams rethinking their backup and recovery strategies to maintain availability in case of an outage.

For example, some enterprises have replaced strongly consistent databases, such as MySQL, with eventually consistent databases, such as Apache Cassandra, says Tarun Thakur, co-founder and CEO at Datos IO, a data protection software provider. These databases are more distributed in nature and can offer more scale.

Airlines such as Delta, JetBlue and United, experienced data center outages that affected operations. It is important to have a backup and recovery plan in place to prevent major disruptions as one system fails over to another. IT teams should learn from these high-profile outages — namely, that, even as they adopt cloud and other new services, they shouldn’t “compromise what is needed to keep … applications and business running all the time,” Thakur says.

Some of the latest trends in cloud computing — such as hybrid and multicloud models — have forced vendors to reevaluate their services and ask whether they meet enterprise needs. In many cases, the easiest way for them to fill out their portfolios is to partner with or acquire other companies.

A notable example of this is Amazon Web Services (AWS) and VMware, whose partnership enables VMware’s software-defined data center software to run on AWS. Enterprises benefit from these deals because of simplified integration, but often in these situations, one vendor makes out better than the other.

“AWS gets to sit back and watch the meter go higher and lock in to more VMware install base and, perhaps, put in an advantage over what Microsoft can offer,” says Dana Gardner, president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

In 2013, IBM acquired SoftLayer to strengthen its cloud platform. To differentiate itself from the top public cloud providers, IBM continues to focus its efforts on hybrid cloud, as well as machine learning, artificial intelligence and other higher-level services. With more cloud models and technologies, Linthicum and Gardner agree that we will continue to see more partnerships and acquisitions in the future.

Artificial intelligence services expand in public cloud

Consider Azure Functions for your serverless needs

Are enterprises ready for machine learning in cloud?

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Cloud computing challenges today: Planning, process and people – TechTarget

Posted: at 5:52 pm

With its promises of lowering costs and fostering a more agile IT, cloud computing holds an almost magical allure for many companies today: They think moving an application or two to the cloud will solve all their problems, said Ed Featherston, vice president and principal architect at Cloud Technology Partners.

“Then they get the bill at the end of the month and go, ‘Oh my God, what happened?'” Featherston said at the recent Cloud Expo in New York. “The magic doesn’t happen by itself. You actually need to plan.”

In this SearchCIO video, filmed on the concourse of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, Featherston and two other cloud watchers discuss the biggest cloud computing challenges IT execs are dealing with today.

Sumit Sarkar sees another type of struggle. He’s a data evangelist at Progress, a vendor of data integration and data interoperability services. As organizations build cloud architecture, plugging in new technologies and services, “data is getting somewhat more abstracted,” or not immediately and easily available to analytics professionals, who need to slice and dice it.

“If I build these microservices, my data is behind these different APIs. What if I have a data science practice team? How do I make sure they have access to data to really bring business value?” Sarkar says. IT executives and their business counterparts have to keep that in mind as they’re “rearchitecting and refactoring all of their systems.”

Greg Bledsoe, managing consultant at Accenture, says companies moving to the cloud need to adopt new ways of working. Bledsoe helps companies make the transition to DevOps, the software development process that emphasizes frequent interaction and communication between development and operations teams.

Cloud computing, he says, makes experimenting cheap. “If it doesn’t work, throw it away. But companies are still managing their cloud infrastructure as if it were physical infrastructure.”

So someone on the business side might request a new tech project from IT, gets it, tries it out, but then it’s not quite right.

“Throw something back over the wall and have somebody hoist it back over the wall to you. This makes no sense for cloud,” Bledsoe says. “It’s totally a legacy artifact of our past management strategies that is completely unnecessary.”

What cloud computing challenges plague IT execs today?

Ed Featherston: The biggest struggle I’ve seen with clients in cloud is fully understanding what it is and what it isn’t for them — and what it’s going to provide them. The classic of, ‘If I go to the cloud, it’s going to solve all my problems.’

One of my favorite mantras is ‘No technology negates the need for good design and planning.’ Cloud is no exception. And the biggest challenge I see people having with cloud is if they don’t do that first. If they just say, ‘Oh, I’m just going to take this workload, I’m going to drop it in AWS [Amazon Web Services], I just log into the console, fire up a couple instances — boom, I’m off to the races.’ Then they get the bill at the end of the month and go, ‘Oh my God, what happened?’

The magic doesn’t happen by itself. You actually need to plan. You need to understand ‘What am I going to get out of it? Am I going to the cloud for cost savings?’ Then you better look really closely at it when you do that.

I was talking with somebody earlier about the fact that — you move your first application over and you say, ‘OK, why am I not saving any money?’ Well, because the servers that application was on still have five other applications on them. I still have to maintain them. I still have to pay for them. So, I’m paying for those servers still. Plus, now I’m paying Amazon or [Microsoft] Azure for that cloud instance that I just created, so I’m actually spending more money. You actually have to think that out if you’re going for the agility and being able to move faster. Do your development processes and operations processes support that capability? Yes, cloud can make you very agile — if you have the processes in place to do it. If you’re still a standard, Waterfall development type of shop that has no concept of what development and operations are and tying them together, the cloud’s not going to make it go faster for you. If anything, it’s probably going to make it go slower if you’re not ready for that.

So those are the kinds of challenges I see clients having out there. It’s getting those expectations set. It’s part of why I enjoy being where I am at our company, because it’s one of the things we push really hard with the clients — of No, we’re not going to start with, Go to the cloud. We’re going to start with, What do you want from it? Let’s look at what you’ve got, let’s understand how we’re going to get there and what the stumbling blocks are — then, we start moving to the cloud.

Sumit Sarkar: What we’re seeing is there’s a lot of people who start — I don’t know if they’re buzzwords, but at the show in the morning we had a kickoff about cloud-native architectures, and there’s 12 attributes of them. And then there’s something — I think I heard the term cloud washed: You take an application, you stick it in the cloud, and you rebrand it as cloud.

But the thing is, in between, there’s a big mix of different levels. I think with the innovation that’s happening is that between a cloud-native architecture and something that’s cloud-washed, for example, there’s a whole lot of things happening in innovation. So I’ve heard different people who are taking maybe some NoSQL technologies to supplement an ERP system. Some people are building out some microservices on top of existing databases if you have a distributed data architecture.

So, what’s happening is data is getting somewhat more abstracted as we have this spectrum of cloud-native and, let’s say, untraditional or the monoliths. So they decompose these things, data gets moved around, make it scalable. So, what’s happening is it’s causing a challenge for the analytics professionals. So, if you think about the people doing operations intelligence, that is the last thing sometimes people think about. I encourage folks, the CxO people, to think about analytics as they’re rearchitecting and refactoring all of their systems. Think about it: If I build these microservices, my data is behind these different APIs. What if I have a data science practice team? How do I make sure they have access to data to really bring business value? Or I have this data engineering team who can really build these nice data repositories to get 360-degree intelligence. How do I make it easy for them to get the data?

So that’s what we’re seeing in the connectivity space is, How do you provide connectivity for those professionals to still access data as you’re refactoring these things in that big spectrum? So the CxO folks, they have these initiatives, and that’s something to really think about is, Don’t forget the data integration for analytics.

Greg Bledsoe: Because we’ve come from this legacy of managing physical infrastructure, and we’re used to managing physical infrastructure in a very tightly controlled way to protect our investment and control cost, we bring that same mindset to cloud.

This mindset does not really apply to cloud. You don’t have to pay for things when you’re not using them. The whole power of cloud and the reason that cloud empowers DevOps is because you’ve cheapened experimentation. It has become dirt-cheap to try something, and if it doesn’t work, throw it away.

But companies are still managing their cloud infrastructure as if it were physical infrastructure. And you have a DevOps team or someone that sets up cloud infrastructure for you, you put in a request, you put in ticket, and someone builds something, and a few days later you get a response with some things that are built. And then you start trying to use those and it’s not quite right; you do this again. Throw something back over the wall and have somebody hoist it back over the wall to you. This makes no sense for cloud. It’s totally a legacy artifact of our past management strategies that is completely unnecessary. So there are mechanisms that you can use to protect your cost and investment without having to centrally manage these architectures — which is essentially the exact opposite of DevOps. It’s a DevOps team that’s another silo that doesn’t really collaborate to solve the problem. It just becomes another source of wait time, another source of wheel spinning and another source of invisibility to the other teams.

This is exactly how to do DevOps wrong. And a lot of people are trying to implement it this way because it fits in with what they understand. It fits in with what they know. Because they haven’t really understood yet that DevOps is a completely different way to manage everything from the infrastructure to the people.

Mekhala Roy filmed this video.

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Microsoft Signs Cloud Computing Partnership with Box – Cloud … – CIO Today

Posted: at 5:52 pm

Microsoft and file-storage startup Box have signed a deal to sell each other’s products, the latest blurring of the lines between friends and rivals in the growing business of cloud-computing.

Box builds web-based file storage and management tools, services that compete head-to-head with Microsoft’s own OneDrive and Sharepoint.

Despite that rivalry, the companies have agreed to jointly sell Box services and elements of Microsoft’s Azure cloud-computing platform, they said on Tuesday.

The companies say their engineering teams are also working on building more links between their products, including adding Azure the Box Zones program. That effort lets Box customers opt to store their content in specific areas of Azure’s massive global network of data centers. (Box Zones already includes Azure rivals Amazon Web Services and IBM).

Cloud-computing has made some partnerships that would have seemed bizarre in the world of out-of-the-box business software of a generation ago. Microsoft during its dominance of the personal computer heyday developed a reputation for pushing customers to use its range of products at all costs, and shunning those developed by others.

But as the company prioritizes growth in its Azure cloud-computing platform, which enables other companies to build services on Microsoft’s network of data centers and rented software services, the Redmond firm has abandoned some of its scorched earth tactics. The company, analysts say, is betting that customers who plug into the cloud will demand that the products they use work well with those of other technology vendors.

Box, based in Redwood City, Calif., began as a startup founded by a pair of college students in Mercer Island. The company is among a slate of startups born in the cloud era that has thrived by building on-demand, web-based tools that replicate or improve on programs companies used to run from their own servers. Box held an initial public offering in 2015, and had sales of $425 million during the most recent 12-month period.

2017 Seattle Times syndicated under contract with NewsEdge/Acquire Media. All rights reserved.

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Microsoft confirms latest addition to its cloud computing service Azure – Blasting News

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Software giant #Microsoft is adding another firm to its growing portfolio of cloud and analytics assets for its #cloud computing service, Microsoft #Azure. The software company this week confirmed the acquisition of Cloudyn, an Israeli-based cloud monitoring, and analytics startup. Microsoft made the big announcement on a recent company’s blog post.

The deal is said to be part of Microsofts ongoing multi-cloud strategy. The Cloudyn deal will give the software company a cloud billing and management solution platform that provides it with a competitive advantage over its rivals in the hotly contested cloud computing market.

According to TechCrunch, it was in April when the world first hears the news about Microsofts planned acquisition of Cloudyn, which provides tools that help customers manage their cloud billing and costs across multiple cloud platform. That deal has taken a while to work through the terms, but this week, the software giant is making it official. Cloudyn is now part of the tech behemoth. The Redmond-based software company reportedly paid between $50 million to $70 million for the tiny Israeli cloud analytics specialist, the TechCrunch reported.

Founded in 2012 and based in Tel Aviv, Israel, Cloudyn provides companies the ability to monitor their cloud costs through the cloud-based analytics and optimization tools, while at the same time providing companies access to real-time data across various operational metrics.

Before its deal with Microsoft, Cloudyn has already raised more than $20 million, including an $11 million that being raised in 2015 funding round. Cloudyns big-name customers include Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Ticketmaster.

Like many of the software giants recent acquisitions and deals, Cloudyn is no longer new to Microsofts software and cloud technology, the two have already worked as technology partners with Microsofts Azure cloud computing service. In addition to Microsoft Azure, Cloudyns technology also works across other major cloud computing platforms, these include Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google.

Since taking over as CEO of Microsoft in 2014, the India-born Satya Nadella has led a massive push in the cloud computing arena. The 49-years-old Indian-American business executive was a former head of the software giants cloud and enterprise division before rising to CEO position, thats why this cloud refocused mission has no longer come as a big surprise to everyone.

Microsoft is no longer stranger when it comes to Israel tech space. The software giant has already acquired several small, laser-focused Israeli-based companies, and most of them in the enterprise security space. These include Israeli-based security specialists Adallom, Aorato and Secure Islands. Earlier this month, it acquired another security specialist, the security intelligence firm Hexadite for $100 million.

Unfortunately, Microsoft isnt alone in boosting its cloud computing business through strategic acquisitions and partnerships. Rival companies, like IBM and Google, are also on the hunt. In 2015, IBM made some huge acquisitions, acquiring private cloud provider Bluebox and cloud management firm Gravitant.

Last year, archrival Google acquired an API management and predictive analytics Apegee for its Google Cloud Platform. And earlier this year, it acquired the San Franciso-based data science firm Kaggle.

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Donald Trump just went bull-in-a-china-shop on health care – CNN

Posted: at 5:51 pm

That’s why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, after insisting that the vote had to happen before the July 4 recess, postponed the vote earlier this week. The votes weren’t there — or even close to there.

McConnell has spent the 72 hours since announcing the unscheduled delay trying to craft a series of tweaks that would simultaneously win support from conservatives who think the bill doesn’t go far enough to repeal Obamacare and centrists who worry the bill leaves too many people uninsured. This is delicate and painstaking work, trying to find the exact right balance to lose only two Republican senators and pass the bill while dealing with the very real possibility that no such “right balance” exists.”

Here’s how to think about what Trump’s tweet does to McConnell and his ongoing negotiations: You and a big group of friends (9 or so) are going out to dinner. They are picky people. You’ve finally narrowed down your restaurant choices to two. Then, just as you are on the verge of deciding, some other dude you only sort of know comes in and says “Have you guys thought of this other place we could eat?”

It would be a giant pain in the butt right? (I have been in this situation before. It’s the worst.) Well, that’s what Trump just did.

Now, even as McConnell tries to button-hole his Republican colleagues to make hard political choices, there’s an escape hatch offered by the president. And, when you have options you really don’t like, anything else sounds great.

In short: It’s not a good situation for Mitch McConnell. But Donald Trump just made it even tougher.

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Donald Trump just went bull-in-a-china-shop on health care – CNN

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Donald Trump is not well – Washington Post

Posted: at 5:51 pm

President Trump launched personal attacks against us Thursday, but our concerns about his unmoored behavior go far beyond the personal. Americas leaders and allies are asking themselves yet again whether this man is fit to be president. We have our doubts, but we are both certain that the man is not mentally equipped to continue watching our show, Morning Joe.

The presidents unhealthy obsession with our show has been in the public record for months, and we are seldom surprised by his posting nasty tweets about us. During the campaign, the Republican nominee called Mika neurotic and promised to attack us personally after the campaign ended. This year, top White House staff members warned that the National Enquirer was planning to publish a negative article about us unless we begged the president to have the story spiked. We ignored their desperate pleas.

(Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

The presidents unhealthy obsession with Morning Joe does not serve the best interests of either his mental state or the country he runs. Despite his constant claims that he no longer watches the show, the presidents closest advisers tell us otherwise. That is unfortunate. We believe it would be better for America and the rest of the world if he would keep his 60-inch-plus flat-screen TV tuned to Fox & Friends.

For those lucky enough to miss Thursdays West Wing temper tantrum, the president continued a year-long habit of lashing out at Morning Joe while claiming to never watch it. During his early-morning tirade, Mr. Trump spit out schoolyard insults about low I.Q. Crazy Mika, Psycho Joe and much worse. He also fit a flurry of falsehoods in his two-part tweetstorm.

Mr. Trump claims that we asked to join him at Mar-a-Lago three nights in a row. That is false. He also claimed that he refused to see us. That is laughable.

The president-elect invited us both to dinner on Dec. 30. Joe attended because Mika did not want to go. After listening to the president-elect talk about his foreign policy plans, Joe was asked by a disappointed Mr. Trump the next day if Mika could also visit Mar-a-Lago that night. She reluctantly agreed to go. After we arrived, the president-elect pulled us into his familys living quarters with his wife, Melania, where we had a pleasant conversation. We politely declined his repeated invitations to attend a New Years Eve party, and we were back in our car within 15 minutes.

Mr. Trump also claims that Mika was bleeding badly from a face-lift. That is also a lie.

Putting aside Mr. Trumps never-ending obsession with womens blood, Mika and her face were perfectly intact, as pictures from that night reveal. And though it is no ones business, the presidents petulant personal attack against yet another womans looks compels us to report that Mika has never had a face-lift. If she had, it would be evident to anyone watching Morning Joe on their high-definition TV. She did have a little skin under her chin tweaked, but this was hardly a state secret. Her mother suggested she do so, and all those around her were aware of this mundane fact.

More significant is Mr. Trumps continued mistreatment of women. It is disturbing that the president of the United States keeps up his unrelenting assault on women. From his menstruation musings about Megyn Kelly, to his fat-shaming treatment of a former Miss Universe, to his braggadocio claims about grabbing womens genitalia, the 45th president is setting the poorest of standards for our children. We were heartened to hear a number of Republican lawmakers call out Mr. Trump for his offensive words and can only hope that the women who are closest to him will follow their examples. It would be the height of hypocrisy to claim the mantle of womens empowerment while allowing a family member to continue such abusive conduct.

(Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

We have known Mr. Trump for more than a decade and have some fond memories of our relationship together. But that hasnt stopped us from criticizing his abhorrent behavior or worrying about his fitness. During the height of the 2016 presidential campaign, Joe often listened to Trump staff members complain about their bosss erratic behavior, including a top campaign official who was as close to the Republican candidate as anyone.

We, too, have noticed a change in his behavior over the past few years. Perhaps that is why we were neither shocked nor insulted by the presidents personal attack. The Donald Trump we knew before the campaign was a flawed character but one who still seemed capable of keeping his worst instincts in check.

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Donald Trump is not well – Washington Post

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How Donald Trump Decides to Fire Someone – New York Magazine

Posted: at 5:51 pm

U.S. President Donald Trump mouths the words, Youre fired, during a signing ceremony for the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Donald Trump think about how he talks, a senior White House official told me recently. This person then mimicked the presidents manner of speaking: How do you think Mike Pence is doing as vice-president? Is Mike Pence doing a good job? Let me ask you this: Did I make the right call on Pence?

The official continued: Okay, this is the vice-president of the United States. Think about what he did to Nikki Haley at that lunch: You guys like Haley? Should I keep her? Tell me if shes doing a good job, or Ill get rid of her. He asks everyday. It takes a while to understand how he talks.

This was an attempt to explain why, despite so much media speculation that there will be a wide-scale shakeup among the presidents inner circle, it hasnt yet come to pass. The question of Donald Trumps psychology when it comes to firing federal employees is of acute interest right now to anyone concerned by recent reports that he is, or was, seriously considering an action that would likely spark a Constitutional crisis dispatching Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

By appearances, Muellers tenure and whatever is left of the countrys sense of political normalcy depend entirely on whether the president, lately in a dark and unsettled mood, succumbs to the impulse to make a perceived antagonist go away, no matter the larger cost. Thats how it seems, anyway.But close observers of Trumps thinking have discerned some method to his apparent madness: He likes to hear a lot of advice, he likes to think out loud, he likes to prevaricate, and contrary to his image, he does not, in fact, like to fire someone unless forced to by somebody else.

One source close to the president who has been a part of his decision-making process put it this way: He plays his cards close to the vest. Lets say youre trying to give him advice and youre trying to get him to do something: youll make your case to him, and he doesnt agree with you or he doesnt disagree with you. He just says, Uh huh, uh huh, alright, uh huh, okay. Sometimes youre not sure whether he absorbed it or not. But you dont really know what hes gonna decide until he pops it out.

The senior White House official remarked that it wasnt uncommon for the president to speculate about the state of a given persons employment even while that individual was within earshot. He asks it in front of me, with people there! Literally, we will be sitting there having dinner, and hell just say, Hows he doing? Is he getting killed? The first couple of times, youre like, What the fuck? But you get used to it. Thats just how he talks. And hes done this forever, and thats the thing.

This phenomenon, the official said, often results in people around the president hearing snippets of his internal monologue and taking it as gospel. Trump is prone to thinking out loud even when those thoughts suggest plans that are potentially damaging to the credibility of his office and by extension the country. And he likes to hear from a wide variety of advisers and random passersby before he makes a decision. Recall, for instance, the time he polled Mar-a-Lago guests about who he should pick as secretary of State.

Observing Trump in the midst of a prolonged debate is like watching arguments in court and then being surprised by the verdict, the senior official said. When an insider draws an impression of where things stand based on a glimpse of the deliberation, that can lead to a narrative bleeding into the press.

The official cited the example of the Paris accord discussions as a parallel to the question of staff firings. People kept saying this during Paris, the official said. When someone would attempt to influence Trumps thinking, Hed listen, and hed ask a lot of questions. If you walked out of the room at the time, you might think, Wow, it got through to him! But until the decision comes down, its not final.

The speculation about Trump firing Mueller began when Christopher Ruddy, the head of Newsmax Media and personal friend of Trumps, suggested it was on the presidents mind a few hours after hed visited the White House earlier this month. The White House officially denied the claim and denied that Ruddy had even discussed the matter with Trump. But around the same time two other associates, Roger Stone and Newt Gingrich, publicly emerged with their own doubts about Mueller with Stone outright calling on Trump to dismiss him and Gingrich going on Sean Hannitys Fox News show to label him, the tip of the deep-state spear. The president retweeted a promotion for that episode of Hannity, a sign that, coupled with his own agitated tweets about the investigation being a witch hunt, the rumors might be true that is, if we are to take the president thinking aloud seriously.

As of press time, Mueller still has a job. Then again, so do Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, Sean Spicer, Kellyanne Conway, Jeff Sessions, and a half dozen other staffers and appointees whom Trump was reportedly on the verge of firing at various points in his short White House tenure.

Certainly hes shown a willingness to oust administration officials who directly threaten his presidency (e.g., Michael Flynn) or whom he views as antagonistic (Sally Yates and James Comey). But this key fact remains: Setting aside Flynn as a special case, not a single member of the presidents inner circle has been removed despite the fact that the White House is in chaos and his approval ratings are on par with Richard Nixons in July of 1973, when he was refusing to turn over tapes to the committee investigating Watergate.

Although Trump once tried and failed to trademark the words, Youre fired! his catchphrase from The Apprentice it seems that he doesnt actually enjoy repealing and replacing the loyalists that surround him. Like so much with the president, its shtick designed to make him look tough. At the end of the day, hes a natural-born salesman and he likes people to like him, a second senior administration official said. Hes a conflict-avoider. He hates firing people. He knows hes gotta fire every one of them but he cant bring himself to do it. Hes a gemini. Do you know what a gemini is? Those are two people in one body. Theres always two faces with Trump.

When he does fire someone in his personal orbit, it comes with reluctance and many stages of deliberation. History would also suggest that it requires someone else close to him forcing the action. During the campaign, for instance, where there was high turnover, this was consistently the case: Sam Nunberg was pushed out by Corey Lewandowski who was pushed out by Paul Manafort who was pushed out by Jared Kushner.

Nunberg was the first casualty of the campaign. By July 2015, hed been fired twice by Trump. And the inner circle had recently expanded to include newcomers, making things feel like The Apprentice was being filmed on Nazino Island. While Trump was visiting Scotland, Nunbergs Facebook posts from 2007, in which hed used a racist term to describe Al Sharptons daughter, were published by Business Insider. Nunberg immediately suspected the story had been planted by Lewandowski, the increasingly influential campaign manager with whom hed clashed, and the two began fighting. Nunberg told him, By the time Im done with you, your family will be eating out of the garbage (he rejects the characterization of this statement as a threat).

Both men then repeatedly called Trump to shit-talk each other, but Trump was uninterested: He just wanted to play golf. Over the following 24 hours, surrounded by his children and other Trump Organization employees and calling campaign staff back home, he decided who to believe and what to do. When he finally called Nunberg to give him the news early Sunday afternoon, he was apologetic promising to write him a recommendation for a new job and to handle his exit quietly (though Lewandowski would ensure that wasnt the case, ultimately immediately alerting Bloomberg, the New York Times, and Business Insider).

Looking back on his own experience, Nunberg said, A lot of people always say, Well, Trump fired so many people during his campaign. But those were weird circumstances. You had somebody like me, who Id worked for him for four and a half years. I was blown out by somebody who was brought in. And people wanted revenge, and people were gonna return the favor.

Of course, a campaign is more fluid than a presidential administration. Its easier to replace staff, and less destructive to do so. Still, paranoia pulses through the West Wing. Each day, it seems, new stories emerge pushed by officials or sources close to the president about how things are about to fundamentally change. But is that speculation a reflection of the presidents thinking, or an attempt to influence his thinking by expressing their opinion in the press, where hes likely to see it? The answer is probably C. All of the above.

The chaos of the questions themselves have become a permanent feature of Trumps Washington. Thus reporting on potential firings continues to be exponentially more common than actual firings. And in fairness, the president is unpredictable and difficult to read. Everyone close to him might say one thing on Monday, another on Tuesday, and by Friday its back to Mondays story and then on Sunday its changed again. During an interview with Slate, Maggie Haberman of the New York Times explained it this way: He talks on tape the same way that he talks off the record, which is in this really discursive style. She added, The key is figuring out when hes actually thinking about making a change or not, and very rarely are you gonna know until after its done.

So while Trump might seem like an open book, the pages of that book are contradictory, and to assume you know what Trump will do before he does it is to fail to grasp this. The senior White House official admitted that usually with Trump, the answer is maybe. Oftentimes, there are days when hes upset about something. There are stories that hes upset about. This can affect how he discusses his staff or what he intends to do. When things go wrong, as they often have, staffers are an outlet for his rage, and so he might lash out, calling someone a fuck-up and asking others if he should get rid of them. That tends to quickly pass.

But heres the twist: With Trump feeling as though hes under siege from all sides, even the people he perceives to be fucking things up are earning points for fucking them up in an attempt to help him. He looks at Spicer and he sees, like, the coroner from the Wizard of Oz. Remember when the fucking witch got hit in the head with the house? the senior administration official said. So, he feels bad for the guy and he knows the guys trying really hard. He has a soft spot for the guy. His friends call him up and tell him hes a loser, and hes like, Oh, I feel bad for the guy.

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How Donald Trump Decides to Fire Someone – New York Magazine

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Trump scolds press during disorderly photo op – ABC News

Posted: at 5:51 pm

President Donald Trump invited media into the Oval Office to observe a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in this morning, but while the leaders wished to talk about trade negotiations and North Korea, the photo opportunity began in a frenzy as a lamp was nearly knocked off a table, which clearly did not amuse the U.S. president.

The scrum was larger than normal in order to accommodate a large contingency of foreign reporters — many of whom were unfamiliar with news gathering at the White House.

As members of the White House and foreign press corps jostled for position in the Oval Office, the crush of journalists appeared to slide a couch into an end table next to the president. The collision caused a lamp to wobble, and Keith Schiller, the presidents director of Oval Office operations, can be seen in video catching the lamp before it falls into the presidents lap.

Trumps patience seemed to quickly wear thin, and he attempted to restore order.

Easy, fellas, the president said, appearing quite annoyed by the hysteria. Hey, fellas, easy! Fellas, easy!

You guys are getting worse, Trump mulled. They knocked the table down.

Then Trump told Moon, It’s actually a very friendly press. Don’t let that get you. Although we just lost a table.

Finally, the excitement settled down and the presidents each proceeded to deliver remarks, with Trump expressing optimism on trade and revealing that the duo would discuss a range of options to counter the growing menace posed by a nuclear North Korea.

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Trump scolds press during disorderly photo op – ABC News

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