Russia: U.S. Tech Giants Greed Helping To Kill & Imprison Dissent Voices

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

New internet laws in Russia — and US tech giants’ acquiescence — spell trouble for dissenting voices

Rally against online censorship in Kaliningrad, Russia. Sign reads: “Respect the Russian constitution.” Photo by Alexandr Podgorchuk, Klops.ru. (CC BY 4.0)

A 2017 law regulating online activity and anonymous speech went into effect in Russia at the beginning of this month.

The law “on information and information technology” stipulates what content search providers are legally allowed to show. Russia’s Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor, known as the “censorship ministry”) already maintains a registry of banned websites, created in 2012. The list of banned sites range from online gambling to extremist material and information on the use of narcotics. Search engines are now prohibited from showing these sites in their search results.

To facilitate the implementation of the registry, Russian agencies created the Federal State Information System to act as a bridge between the registry and search providers. These search providers are now legally mandated to connect to this system through an API so that banned websites will automatically be filtered out. Yandex, Russia’s largest search engine has connected to the API, but Google has so far not compliedwith these new requirements, which may leave it subject to a petty fine (by Google’s standards) of up to 700,000 rubles, or about USD $10,000.

The law also dictates when and how a user can anonymously use the internet, such as through VPN (Virtual Private Networks) software that allows users to mask the origin of their traffic through servers in other countries, thereby avoiding locally-based content restrictions and censorship.

Google has been censoring search results in Russia on the basis of local laws for quite some time. Links to popular Russian torrent sites disappeared over a year ago from both Yandex and Google as Roskomnadzor deemed the sites illegal. As RuNet Echo reported earlier, Google has also been accused of over-complying with censorship requests from the Russian government, such as removing YouTube videos posted by opposition figure Alexey Navalny, and most recently, blocking a controversial rapper’smusic video.

Several years ago, Google moved some of its servers to Russia in accordance with laws compelling companies to store their data on Russian citizens on Russian soil. With some servers now in Russia, the authorities have a more direct means of forcing the company to comply with local law.

Users have long suggested using VPNs to go around these types of measures, but the law’s provisions took this into account as well: VPN providers must block the sites, or face being blocked themselves. But this may be easier said than done. The Russian government banned Telegram earlier this year, but the app is still up and running and being used all across Russia without a VPN. Similar attempts to block VPN services could meet limited success, due to their decentralized infrastructure. This leaves the threat of a fine as the most salient option at Roskomnador’s disposal against VPNs and search providers that do not connect to the new federal system.

While the proposed fine may seem paltry from the perspective of massive tech companies like Google, sources close to Russian tech operations have said that amendments are in the works to drastically increase fines. Rather than capping the fines at 700,000 rubles, the new rules allegedly peg the fines at 1% of the company’s earnings.

While regular internet users don’t have to worry about such excessive fines, they too could soon face other repercussions for anonymously using the internet. Roskomnadzor has spearheaded new rules that require messaging apps to identify users based on their mobile provider. This in effect ties a user’s phone number to their personal identity.

Apps like Signal and Telegram pride themselves on allowing a user to communicate practically anonymously if they so wish. By obligating such apps to verify a user’s identity with their service provider, the Russian government is attempting to crack down on dissent and what they see as criminal activity. Telegram voluntarily registered with Roskomnadzor in 2017, which makes them liable under the new law. Signal does not keep servers in Russia and may run the risk of being banned there for non-compliance with the rule, but it also has a relatively small user base in Russia.

Aleksandr Zharov, head of Roskomnadzor, stated plainly:

The ability to communicate anonymously on messaging apps makes it difficult for law enforcement agencies to investigate crimes. The government’s current decree is a necessary step in creating a safe communication environment for both citizens and the state as a whole.

In many instances, the ability to post content online anonymously is a major draw for users. Being able to express an opinion or expose injustices without using one’s identity is now more important than ever, seeing as how people have been facing criminal chargers simply for posting memes.

And the consequences of de-anonymizing a user have been seen in various scenarios. After last month’s suicide attack at an FSB (Federal Security Service, Russia’s domestic intelligence agency) office, the administrator of an anonymous Telegram channel was arrested for spreading messages glorifying the attacker. It is unknown if Telegram cooperated with law enforcement to expose this user, but if messaging apps start to follow these new rules, more prosecutions can be expected along with an outright drop in dissenting voices online.

These new laws and rules, along with the plethora of other laws regulating the collection of online users’ data, make it difficult to use online platforms to voice discontent in Russia. At a time when both online and public spaces face increasing limitations on expression in Russia, further restrictions should worry Russians and non-Russians alike. Though individual users can take measures to protect their accounts, such as using two-factor verification, there is little they can do to protect themselves from backdoor transmission of their data to the authorities.

Folks: How Do We Personally Believe In The Independence Of OUR OWN: Supreme Court?

Folks: How Do We Personally Believe In The Independence Of OUR OWN: Supreme Court?

 

Well Folks, do We? This is a case where 1/3 of Our National Government is in the hands and minds of just 9 of Our own People. I personally would not want to have to be a judge, at any level. Not with all the sins that I know that I have  committed. I don’t want to have to have a job of being a Judge where what the 9 of you say, is final. Folks, that’s just like being one step away, or below, God! I am not saying that this Job can’t be done, but to be Truly Independent of the Other 2 Branches of Our Government, at every level is necessary. To me, and I know that I could be wrong, but I believe that in Our Country’s Supreme Court Job Description, that Job Description is to make sure that all Laws are Constitutional! Now again, do the Nine Folks we now have on The Nations Top Court realize the weight upon each of them to be in charge of 1/3 of Our Government? Personally, there is no way, no amount of money that could get me to want that Job. Think of the pressure on all 9 of these folks to be, Honest. Has Our Nations Supreme Court become nothing but pawns of Big Politics, and Big Money? Do you have the Intelligence, and the Morals, do you Mr. Kavanaugh? What are you walking into Mr. Kavanaugh, do you really know? Well folks, as a very dear friend of mine used to say once in a while, “we shall see what we shall see.” Fore without an independent Supreme Court, there is no Democracy and as little as 9 people holds in their hands the weight of 1/3 of the Constitutional Government. Their sort of like those “Super Delegates” the Democrats been hosting, aren’t they? Except if you can totally control one of these 3 Branches of our Government, 9 people could control our Country. How much weight is on Mr. Kavanaugh? How much weight is on all 9 of these people? As I said earlier, I wouldn’t want this job no matter what the pay. When we add in the reality that another 1/3 of Our Government is in the hands of just One Person. Folks this means that 2/3 of Our whole Government is the Hands of 10 people. That is too much power if those positions aren’t filled with quality persons, now who decides what “Quality” is. Now Folks, does this help you see why I would not want to ever have to be in the place of one of these nine Folks.

A New Discovery, A 9th Planet In Our Solar System?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NORTH CAROLINA NEWS AGENCY, THE VERGE)

 

A new discovery is strengthening the idea that a large, mysterious planet — known as Planet 9 or Planet X — may be lurking unseen at the Solar System’s edge. Astronomers say they have found a tiny object orbiting far out from the Sun that fits with the Planet X theory. In fact, the object may have even been pushed onto the path it takes now by this hidden planet’s gravity.

The tiny rock — eloquently named TG387 and nicknamed “The Goblin” — was spotted by astronomers at the Carnegie Institution of Science using a giant Japanese observatory in Hawaii called Subaru. The Carnegie team first spotted the object in 2015 and then followed it on its journey around the Sun for the last four years. Those observations revealed an incredibly distant target. TG387 takes a whopping 40,000 years to complete just one orbit around the Sun. And it’s on a very elliptical path far from the inner Solar System; the closest it ever gets to the Sun is 65 Astronomical Units (AU), or 65 times the distance between the Sun and the Earth. For reference, Pluto only gets as far as 49 AU’s from the Sun.

This orbit is particularly enticing since it puts TG387 in a select group of distant Solar System objects that all point to the possible existence of Planet X. Right now, there are 14 far-out space rocks that all share similar orbit patterns, suggesting that this planet is out there. Their paths are all super elongated, and they all cluster together in the same area when they approach the Sun. Plus, their orbits are all tilted alike, and they point in the same general direction, as if something big has pushed them into similar places. These objects are the strongest lines of evidence astronomers have for Planet X, and finding a new one that matches this pattern reinforces that idea that this planet is more than just a theory.

A graphic showing relative distances of the planets and the new Solar System object
 Image: Robert Molar Candanosa/Scott Sheppard/Carnegie Science Institution

Plus, each new find helps astronomers narrow down where to look for Planet X. “Each time we find another one of these smaller objects, it will lead us to constrain where the bigger planet could be,” Scott Sheppard, an astronomer at Carnegie Science and the lead author of a study in The Astronomical Journal detailing the discovery, tells The Verge. “They’re all on very similar orbits, but their orbits are all slightly different, which [limits] where the planet could be.”

The idea that a giant planet is lurking beyond Neptune is an idea that astronomers have speculated for the last century. However, the hunt for this planet turned much more serious in 2012, when Sheppard and his team found a far-flung object that was truly unique. It was an object called VP113, and it currently holds the record for the most distant object orbiting the Sun. The closest it ever gets to the star is 80 AU’s, or 80 times the Earth-Sun distance. Sheppard noticed that this object also followed a path similar to those of a few other distant space rocks, as well as a far-off dwarf planet called Sedna. “They all have this clustering, and so that suggested that something was pushing them into similar types of orbits,” says Sheppard.

Then, in 2016, a pair of researchers from Cal Tech, Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin, did the math. Based on the orbits of six of these objects, they estimated that there’s a planet roughly 10 times the mass of Earth orbiting far beyond Neptune. Their calculations showed that it possibly takes 10,000 to 20,000 years to orbit the Sun. Brown and Batygin dubbed the phantom planet “Planet 9,” though others had been calling it Planet X years before.

The orbit of TG387, compared to those of Sedna and VP113
 Image: Robert Molar Candanosa/Scott Sheppard/Carnegie Science Institution

Since then, more and more objects have been found that fit this orbit pattern. The idea is that these objects are in just the right orbits needed to survive Planet X’s gravitational wrath. If they followed any other path, they would likely collide with the big planet or the planet’s gravity would send them hurtling out of the Solar System. However, all of these very distant extreme objects orbit in such a way that they never get close to Planet X when it crosses their orbits. “Whenever the planet is crossing the orbit of one of these objects, these objects are on the other side of the Solar System. So they never get close to each other,” says Sheppard.

But not all of these objects are as reliable narrators as they could be. “Among these 14 objects, some tell a more precise story than others,” Batygin, who was not involved with today’s study, tells The Verge. For one thing, some of the objects cross the orbit of Neptune, and that planet’s gravity might have some influence on the objects and warp their routes. “Neptune has the effect of muddying things up, even if you have an orbit carefully sculpted by Planet 9.” That makes it hard to know whether or not the object is truly pushed about by this unseen planet.

TG387 as it moves across the sky, as seen through the Subaru telescope
 Image: Scott Sheppard

But this new discovery, TG387, is special because its orbit is so distant. When it’s farthest from the Sun, the rock will be at an extreme 2,300 AU’s away. In fact, it’s remarkable that astronomers found it all since it’s about seven times smaller than Pluto and so far off. But because of its extreme distance, TG387 is not influenced in any way by the large objects in the inner Solar System. Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune don’t have any effect on its orbit. That means if this object was truly batted around by Planet X, it might hold more information about the planet’s orbit than other objects do. And when the team ran simulations of the Solar System with a Planet X in it, they found that this object’s orbit isn’t subject to change. “This one joins an elite group of six objects that are stable,” says Batygin.

Of course, Planet X is nowhere near a done deal. There are only 14 objects that potentially support its existence. That’s a super low number by statistical standards. “We don’t have tens of these objects,” Michele Bannister, an astronomer studying distant small bodies at Queen’s University Belfast, who was not involved with this research, tells The Verge. “I’d be very happy if we had tens, but there’s barely even a handful.” Additionally, Bannister says it’s important to remember that astronomers still don’t have a comprehensive snapshot of the distant Solar System. The time of year, the weather, and the part of the sky a telescope observes all influence the kind of objects that are discovered out there, adding bias to the sample.

Plus, the objects that we find are typically on their closest approaches to the Sun on their super distant orbits, and that skews our discoveries a bit. For instance, TG387 was found when it was around 80 AU’s away, not thousands of AU’s away. That means we may not have a good idea of what all is out there because we can’t see the objects that are super far out on their orbits. “Each of these objects we detect is the tip of an iceberg for a larger population,” says Bannister. For every new discovery made, there must be hundreds of thousands of more objects that astronomers can’t see. And those objects could tell a different story than the Planet X one.

However, Bannister, who predicted that an object like TG387 could exist in the Solar System, does say this discovery is instrumental in helping to shape our understanding of the distant Solar System. We still don’t understand why there are objects like this one that are completely detached from the rest of the planets. “They’ve made a great discovery,” she says. “These are exactly the objects we need to be finding to understand the formation and history of our Solar System.”

Meanwhile, our best hope in the search for Planet X is to find more objects that corroborate its existence. “We don’t expect every object we find to fit this pattern, though that is what is happening right now,” says Sheppard. Better yet, finding Planet X would be pretty convincing, too. The problem is that there’s a lot of sky to scour and our telescopes don’t cover that much area at a time. The Subaru telescope in Hawaii is perhaps the best tool since it can observe the area of about six full Moons at a time. But it’s still tough to pinpoint the exact location of such a faraway, faint planet. “It’s a lot like looking for your target with a sniper rifle,” says Batygin. “You have to know where to look.”

But TG387 does help point astronomers in a slightly better direction. Before this discovery, there were about 30 orbits that Sheppard and his team thought Planet X could be on. Now, there are only 25 or so, he says. And the astronomers will be back at Subaru in mid-October to pick up the search. “We’ve covered about 30 percent of the prime area, and we hope by the end of this year, we’ll have covered 60 to 70 percent of that prime area,” says Sheppard.

If Planet X is found, then a whole new crop of questions will arise. Perhaps the biggest one of all is where did it come from? Most don’t think it’s possible for this planet to have formed where it is now. It likely formed in the inner Solar System and got flung outward, perhaps by Jupiter or Saturn. “That would suggest a lot of big things formed in our Solar System, and it was a very chaotic place in the formation era,” says Sheppard.

But before those questions can be answered, Planet X must be found. And those on the hunt are sure it will happen. “I’m really quite confident — about a 99 percent level of confidence — that Planet 9 is really out there,” says Batygin. “It might take on the order of a decade to find, but I’m quite confident it’s there.”

Within Two Years China Will Be Ahead Of The U.S. In AI Technology

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE)

 

Race to develop artificial intelligence is one between Chinese authoritarianism and U.S. democracy

Monitors show facial recognition software in use at the headquarters of the artificial intelligence company Megvii, in Beijing, May 10, 2018. Beijing is putting billions of dollars behind facial recognition and other technologies to track and control its citizens.

Photo: Gilles Sabrie / New York Times
“In two years, China will be ahead of the United States in AI (artificial intelligence),” states Denis Barrier, CEO of global venture firm Cathay Innovation. Others say the same. If so, China will largely determine how this technology transforms the world. Today’s contest is more than a race for dominance in a new technology — it’s one between authoritarianism and democracy.
“AI is the world’s next big inflection point,” says Ajeet Singh, CEO of Thought Spot in Palo Alto. Artificial intelligence is machine learning, which self-learns programmed tasks, using data, and the more it gets, the more learned it becomes. It drives cars, recognizes individuals, diagnoses diseases and more. Like past informational technologies, artificial intelligence will convey advantages to the nation that leads its use — accelerating research, increasing productivity and enabling dominant military capabilities.
Hence, China’s race to dominate the technology.

In the United States, companies and agencies are pursuing artificial intelligence development in a decentralized manner. In China, the government has a focused national effort, following Google’s Deep Mind artificial intelligence defeating the world’s top Go players in 2016-17. That defeat was China’s “Sputnik moment,” (the moment that a technological achievement by a rival galvanized American political resolve to invest in space technology) — one the U.S. has yet to have with artificial intelligence. And, unlike the United States, China has a national strategy for artificial intelligence, setting milestones, accelerating China’s pursuit of the technology:
2020: Be equal to the United States
2025: Surpass the United States
2030: Lead the world as an artificial-intelligence innovation center

“Research institutes, universities, private companies and the government all working together … I haven’t seen anything like it,” said Steven White, an associate professor at Tsinghua University, China’s MIT. In the race for artificial intelligence dominance, “the U.S. will lose because they don’t have the resources,” said White.
But, needs are driving China, too. It’s artificial intelligence strategy addresses:
Its shrinking labor force — A “national crisis,” says the National Committee of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, which predicts China’s working population will drop from 631 million in 2020, to 523 million in 2035, and 424 million in 2050. China must also care for a growing elderly population. The United Nations estimates China’s over-65-age group will increase from about 160 million in 2020, to 360 million in 2050.
How to remain an economic power — China seeks to operate almost a million robots and produce 150,000 industrial ones in 2020.

Growing health care needs — China seeks a “rapid, accurate intelligent medical system,” including artificial intelligence-scanning imagery for cancer, robots providing medical references for doctors, and artificial intelligence-powered online consultations.
Military dominance of the East and South China seas, which allows access for China’s export-driven economy. China’s government seeks a civil-military fusion of artificial intelligence, enabling faster military decision-making, robotic submarines and large drone swarms that could overwhelm opposing forces.
Control by the Communist Party over China’s population. Internal unrest — coastal rich vs. interior poor; ethnically different regions like Tibet; an anxious middle class; and pro-democracy efforts — has long concerned authorities. China is using artificial intelligence to build an Orwellian state. Smart cities track peoples’ movements. China, netted with millions of cameras and facial and vehicle recognition systems, can rapidly identify individuals. Police wear facial recognition glasses that do the same. Bio-metric data provide even better identification. And people get social credit scores, which determine eligibility for loans, travel and more. This artificial-intelligence-enabled system enables political repression and strengthens autocratic rule.
Today, a divided America needs to “get [its] act together as a country” regarding artificial intelligence said former Alphabet CEO Eric Schmidt. If it doesn’t, America’s greatness will pass, and so will hope for a free world order.
Thomas C. Linn is a U.S. Naval War College professor, a U.S. Army War College instructor, author of “Think and Write for Your Life — or Be Replaced by a Robot” and a retired U.S. Marine. The views expressed are his own.

China Shows Military Muscle In Warning Too It’s Neighbors

(This article is courtesy of the Shanghai Daily News)

China: Air Force Channel Flight

CHINESE bombers, fighters and early warning and aerial refueling aircraft yesterday flew through the Bashi Channel that separates Taiwan and the Philippines heading for exercises in the Western Pacific.

The air force described the exercises as part of normal, annual, planned drills.

“This move is to raise the air force’s abilities via training, to meet the needs to maintaining national sovereignty, protecting national security and guaranteeing peaceful development.”

The air force will organize regular exercises that fly past the “first island chain,” it said, referring to an area that includes Japan’s Ryukyu Islands and Taiwan.

It Is The Communist Government Of China That Is “Confused” Not The Whole World

(This article is courtesy of the Reuters News Agency)

China says Japan trying to ‘confuse’ South China Sea situation

China on Monday accused Japan of trying to “confuse” the situation in the South China Sea, after its neighbor said it would step up activity in the contested waters, through joint training patrols with the United States.

Ties between Asia’s two largest economies have long been overshadowed by arguments over their painful wartime history and a territorial spat in the East China Sea, among other issues.

China has repeatedly denounced what it views as interference by the United States and its ally Japan in the South China Sea.

Japan will also help build the capacity of coastal states in the busy waterway, its defense minister said last week during a visit to Washington.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said countries in the region had reached a consensus that the South China Sea issue should be resolved through talks between the parties directly involved, and that China and Southeast Asian countries should jointly maintain peace and stability there.

“Let’s have a look at the results of Japan’s throwing things into disorder over this same time period … trying to confuse the South China Sea situation under the pretense of (acting for) the international community,” Lu told a daily news briefing, when asked about Japan’s announcement.

Japan’s actions have simply pushed other countries away from it, and it has failed to compel other nations to see its point of view, he added.

“China is resolute in its determination to protect its sovereignty and maritime interests,” Lu said.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea, through which ships carrying about $5 trillion in trade pass every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims in the sea, which is also believed to be rich in energy resources and fish stocks.

In July, an arbitration court in the Hague said China’s claims to the waterway were invalid, after a case was brought by the Philippines. Beijing has refused to recognize the ruling.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Elon Musk Just Revealed Who The First Civilian To Fly Around The Moon Is

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BUSINESS INSIDER)

 

Elon Musk just revealed who will fly to the moon on SpaceX’s new rocket ship

yusaku maezawa
Yusaku Maezawa
 SpaceX
  • Elon Musk and his rocket company, SpaceX, plan to launch a private passenger named Yusaku Maezawa around the moon.
  • Yusaku Maezawa is a Japanese entrepreneur and art collector. If all goes according to plan, Maezawa will take a lunar voyage on the Big Falcon Rocket, or BFR: a launch system that SpaceX is developing to colonize Mars.

  • Maezawa purchased all seats on the spaceship, and plans to select six to eight artists from a variety of disciplines to take the lunar journey with him in 2023.

  • The mission won’t land on the surface of the moon but will ferry Maezawa and his artist crewmates around Earth’s natural satellite.

HAWTHORNE, California — Elon Musk and his rocket company, SpaceX, have revealed who will fly their spaceship around the moon for the first time: a Japanese entrepreneur and billionaire named Yusaku Maezawa.

“Finally I can tell you that I choose to go to the moon!” Maezawa said during an announcement Monday evening.

Maezawa also revealed that he has purchased all seats on the first crewed flight of SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket— anew launch system that’s being designed to colonize Mars. Besides himself, Maezawa plans to select six to eight artists to accompany him on his journey around the moon. The artists have not yet been chosen, but part of the project will involve them creating work inspired by their lunar journey after they return to Earth.

“If you should hear from me, please say yes and accept my invitation. Please don’t say no,” Maezawa said.

SpaceX did not reveal how much Maezawa paid for the lunar flight, but said it was a significant sum and that he already made a down payment.

“He’s paying a lot of money that would help with the ship and its booster,” Musk said on Monday. “He’s ultimately paying for the average citizen to travel to other planets.”

yusaku maezawa
Yusaku Maezawa
 SpaceX

Maezawa was a skateboarder and drummer in his youth, and founded the custom fashion company Zozo 20 years ago. The billionaire made news last year when he spent $110 million on a 1982 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat. He said that he was inspired to bring a group of renowned artists with him around the moon after thinking of the masterpieces Basquiat would have created had he flown through space.

If all goes according to plan, Maezawa and his artist crew may become the first-ever private lunar tourists in history. The mission is slated to launch as soon as 2023, though Musk said he can’t be sure about that timeline yet.

Musk described Maezawa as incredibly brave.

“This is going to be dangerous. This is no walk in the park,” Musk said.

spacex moon mission big falcon rocket spaceship bfr bfs illustration
SpaceX’s rendering of a Big Falcon Rocket spaceship carrying a passenger around the moon.
SpaceX/Twitter

Musk also revealed some major design changes to the BFR. Instead of standing 347 feet tall, it will be 387 feet tall. It will have front actuator fins, as well as three back wings that will function as its landing pads.

The system’s spaceship, which will ride atop a rocket booster, is expected to carry up to 100 people and 150 tons of supplies.

SpaceX is currently prototyping the spaceship and other BFR hardware inside a 20,000-square-foot tent at the Port of Los Angeles — at least until a much bigger permanent facility is completed. The first portion of the system has already been built, Musk said.

The project is incredibly ambitious and expensive — the total development costs for BFR are somewhere between $2 billion and $10 billion, Musk said.

“It’s hard to say what the development cost is,” he said. “I think it’s roughly $5 billion”

Prior to Monday’s announcement, Musk last publicly described the BFR and showed renderings of the system at the 2017 International Aeronautical Congress.

Although the design for the exterior has been altered since then, Musk said on Monday that SpaceX still only has “some concepts” for the interior of the ship.

“What is the most fun you can have in zero G?” Musk said when asked about the interior design. “We’ll do that”

Aerospace experts who follow Musk and SpaceX’s activities suggest that there could likely be more iterations of the BFR design before the company’s first lunar voyage lifts off the launch pad.

“I think it is really healthy to see this iterative change happening, because I believe we can assume it is based on actual development and simulation going on,” Greg Autry, the director of the Southern California Spaceflight Initiative, told Business Insider in an email before Musk’s announcement.

But Musk said “this is the final iteration in terms of broad architectural design.”

spacex big falcon rocket bfr spaceship booster launch bfs bfb rendering illustration elon musk twitter
A Sept. 2018 rendering of SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket launching through the cloud tops and toward space.
Elon Musk/SpaceX via Twitter

He added that SpaceX plans to shift a majority of the company’s engineering efforts towards BFR by the end of next year, and welcomes the growing competition in the private space race.

“Why is it 2018 and there’s no damn base on the moon?” Musk said. “We should have one and go there. A lot.”

This story is developing. Please refresh this page for updates.

Dana Varinsky contributed reporting to this post.

SEE ALSO: Elon Musk is building a spaceship that’s so ambitious that some experts are calling it ‘science fiction.’ Here’s what SpaceX and its engineers are up against.

DON’T MISS: Astronauts explain why nobody has visited the moon in more than 45 years — and the reasons are depressing

Amazon facial recognition mistakenly confused 28 Congressmen with known criminals

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNET NEWS)

(WHAT, ONLY 28?)

Amazon facial recognition mistakenly confused 28 Congressmen with known criminals

The ACLU says it’s evidence that Congress should step in. Amazon says the ACLU didn’t test properly.

BY 

amazon-cloud-cam-2
Chris Monroe/CNET

Amazon is trying to sell its Rekognition facial recognition technology to law enforcment, but the American Civil Liberties Union doesn’t think that’s a very good idea. And today, the ACLU provided some seemingly compelling evidence — by using Amazon’s own tool to compare 2,500 criminal mugshots to members of Congress.

Sure enough, Amazon’s tool thought 28 different members of Congress looked like people who’ve been arrested.

false-matches-graphic-1
ACLU

Here’s the full list, according to the ACLU:

Senate

  • Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia)
  • Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts)
  • Pat Roberts (R-Kansas)

House

  • Sanford Bishop (D-Georgia)
  • G. K. Butterfield (D-North Carolina)
  • Lacy Clay (D-Missouri)
  • Mark DeSaulnier (D-California)
  • Adriano Espaillat (D-New York)
  • Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona)
  • Tom Garrett (R-Virginia)
  • Greg Gianforte (R-Montana)
  • Jimmy Gomez (D-California)
  • Raúl Grijalva (D-Arizona)
  • Luis Gutiérrez (D-Illinois)
  • Steve Knight (R-California)
  • Leonard Lance (R-New Jersey)
  • John Lewis (D-Georgia)
  • Frank LoBiondo (R-New Jersey)
  • Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa)
  • David McKinley (R-West Virginia)
  • John Moolenaar (R-Michigan)
  • Tom Reed (R-New York)
  • Bobby Rush (D-Illinois)
  • Norma Torres (D-California)
  • Marc Veasey (D-Texas)
  • Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio)
  • Steve Womack (R-Arkansas)
  • Lee Zeldin (R-New York)

That’s a lot of Congresspeople who may soon have some very valid questions about facial recognition and its potential to be abused — particularly since Amazon thinks the ACLU didn’t use it properly to begin with!

Rep. Jimmy Gomez

@RepJimmyGomez

Did you see this? @amazon face surveillance technology FALSELY matched me w/ someone else’s mugshot. I’m outraged & worried by the impact this tool will have on when put in the hands of law enforcement! @JeffBezos: We need to talk ASAP. https://www.aclu.org/blog/privacy-technology/surveillance-technologies/amazons-face-recognition-falsely-matched-28 

Amazon’s Face Recognition Falsely Matched 28 Members of Congress With Mugshots

Amazon’s face surveillance technology is the target of growing opposition nationwide, and today, there are 28 more causes for concern. In a test the ACLU recently conducted of the facial recognition…

aclu.org

It turns out that the ACLU got its mugshot matches by using the Rekognition software at its default 80-percent confidence threshold setting, rather than the 95-percent plus confidence level that Amazon recommends for law enforcement agencies.

“While 80 percent confidence is an acceptable threshold for photos of hot dogs, chairs, animals, or other social media use cases, it wouldn’t be appropriate for identifying individuals with a reasonable level of certainty. When using facial recognition for law enforcement activities, we guide customers to set a threshold of at least 95 percent or higher,” an Amazon spokesperson told CNET by email.

But an ACLU lawyer tells CNET that Amazon doesn’t necessarily steer law enforcement agencies toward that higher threshold — if a police department uses the software, it’ll be set to the same 80-percent threshold by default and won’t ask them to change it even if they intend to use it to identify criminals. “Amazon makes no effort to ask users what they are using Rekognition for,” says ACLU attorney Jacob Snow.

employee-verification
The ACLU says that even when it comes to facial recognition for security purposes, Amazon’s website suggests that the 80-percent confidence threshold is sufficent.

Screenshot by ACLU

A source close to the matter tells CNET that when Amazon works with law enforcment agencies directly, like the Orlando Police Department, it teaches them how to reduce false positives and avoid human bias. But there’s nothing to necessarily keep other agencies from simply using the tool the same way the ACLU did, instead of developing a relationship with Amazon.

It’s worth noting that false positives are (currently!) an accepted part of facial recognition technology. Nobody — including the ACLU — is saying police would arrest someone based on a false match alone. Facial recognition narrows down the list of suspects, and then humans take over. Recently, facial recognition helped ID the Russian assassins who poisoned a spy in the UK, as well as the Capital Gazette shooter.

And Amazon didn’t actually create that many false positives even at the 80 percent confidence ratio, compared to, say, the UK Metropolitan Police’s facial recognition tech.

But the ACLU worries that Amazon’s false positives might bias a police officer or government agent to search, question or potentially draw a weapon when they shouldn’t — and we’ve all seen how those encounters can turn deadly. And the ACLU notes that Amazon’s tech seems to have over-represented people of color.

The ACLU also provided CNET this statement:

Amazon seems to have missed, or refuses to acknowledge, the broader point: facial recognition technology in the hands of government is primed for abuse and raises significant civil rights concerns. It could allow – and in some cases has already enabled – police to determine who attends protests, ICE to continuously monitor immigrants, and cities to routinely track their own residents, whether they have reason to suspect criminal activity or not. Changing the threshold from 80 to 95 percent doesn’t change that. In fact, it could exacerbate it.

Should Congress regulate facial recognition? Microsoft thinks so, and now 28 members of Congress have some very personal food for thought — 95-percent confidence threshold or no.

In the hours since the ACLU’s test was brought to light, five Congressmen have sent letters to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos asking for answers and an immediate meeting. You can read the letters here.

Update, 12:44 a.m. PT: Added that five Congressmen have sent Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos letters with questions about the facial recognition tech. Also added that Amazon’s tech appears to have over-represented people of color, according to the ACLU.

Google Bars Using Artificial Intelligence Tech in Weapons, Unreasonable Surveillance

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Google Bars Using Artificial Intelligence Tech in Weapons, Unreasonable Surveillance

Friday, 8 June, 2018 – 09:45
FILE PHOTO: Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks on stage during the annual Google I/O developers conference in Mountain View, California, U.S., May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam/File Photo
Asharq Al-Awsat
Google announced Thursday it would not allow its artificial intelligence software to be used in weapons or unreasonable surveillance efforts under new standards for its business decisions in the nascent field.

The Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) unit said the restriction could help Google management defuse months of protest by thousands of employees against the company’s work with the US military to identify objects in drone video.

Chief Executive Sundar Pichai said in a blog post: “We want to be clear that while we are not developing AI for use in weapons, we will continue our work with governments and the military in many other areas,” such as cybersecurity, training, or search and rescue.

Pichai set out seven principles for Google’s application of artificial intelligence, or advanced computing that can simulate intelligent human behavior.

He said Google is using AI “to help people tackle urgent problems” such as prediction of wildfires, helping farmers, diagnosing disease or preventing blindness, AFP reported.

“We recognize that such powerful technology raises equally powerful questions about its use,” Pichai said in the blog.

“How AI is developed and used will have a significant impact on society for many years to come. As a leader in AI, we feel a deep responsibility to get this right.”

He added that the principles also called for AI applications to be “built and tested for safety,” to be “accountable to people” and to “incorporate privacy design principles.”

The move came after potential of AI systems to pinpoint drone strikes better than military specialists or identify dissidents from mass collection of online communications has sparked concerns among academic ethicists and Google employees, according to Reuters.

Several technology firms have already agreed to the general principles of using artificial intelligence for good, but Google appeared to offer a more precise set of standards.

Asteroid on Course to Earth Was Spotted Just Hours Before It Hit The Atmosphere

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

Asteroid on Course to Earth Was Spotted Just Hours Before It Hit The Atmosphere

Surprise!

ALEX HORTON, THE WASHINGTON POST
5 JUN 2018

Witnesses reported a fireball streaking across the sky above Botswana on Saturday night.

The asteroid hurtling toward Earth at 10 miles (16 km) a second looked like it could be the harbinger of catastrophe. A webcam in a rural area west of Johannesburg captured it, showing a luminous orb igniting the sky in a bright flash.

NASA had only discovered the asteroid on Saturday and determined it was on a collision course for the planet, charted for entry in a vast expanse from Southern Africa and across the Indian Ocean to New Guinea and given the name 2018 LA.

The reality of the asteroid’s fiery end was less dramatic than the video shows. The asteroid was estimated at just six feet (1.8 metres) across, otherwise known as boulder-sized, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement.

It burned up “several miles” above the Earth’s surface.

NASA and space enthusiasts do not get many opportunities like this. Asteroid 2018 LA was only the third asteroid discovered on an impact trajectory, the agency said, and just the second time a high probability of impact was determined ahead of time.

The last predicted impact was asteroid 2014 AA, and it too was discovered only hours before it entered the atmosphere over the Atlantic Ocean on New Year’s Day in 2014, NASA said.

“[T]his real-world event allows us to exercise our capabilities and gives some confidence our impact prediction models are adequate to respond to the potential impact of a larger object,” said Lindley Johnson, an official at NASA’s Planetary Defense team, which tracks and warns of asteroids that may pose a threat to the planet.

KFDLE7J3A4ZMJHHOSXVO67EJUAThe discovery observations of Asteroid 2018 LA. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/CSS-Univ. of Arizona)

Asteroids are small remnants of violent collisions in the solar system’s history and formed around 4.5 billion years ago.

They are typically composed of rock-forming minerals like olivine and pyroxene but often contain iron and nickel, NASA said.

The Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter contains hundreds of thousands of asteroids more than half a mile in size or more, with millions of smaller objects tumbling in space.

Asteroid 2018 LA was first discovered by the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey operated by the University of Arizona, the agency said. NASA linked to the video in its statement, and the publisher said on YouTube the video is from his father’s South African farm.

NASA relies on a patchwork of observers to track what it calls near-Earth asteroids, the agency explained in a video.

Constantly scanning telescopes capture images of the sky and movement through photos over time triggers a comparison of known objects in a database.

If the object is unknown, the agency will review the object and expedite the analysis if experts determine it will streak close to the Earth. Astronomers from NASA, other space agencies and even amateur enthusiasts then join in to refine the trajectory.

2018 © The Washington Post

This article was originally published by The Washington Post.

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