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TECHNOLOGY HEADLINES
›  Head Of Uber's Self-Driving Car Effort Steps Down





Anthony Levandowski, the head of Uber’s self-driving car unit once described by CEO Travis Kalanick as his “brother from another mother,” is stepping down from his position for a different role at the company.


Levandowski’s new job will remain in Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, which researches self-driving technology. But he will no longer be involved in a key technology that allows autonomous vehicles to navigate, a company spokesperson told HuffPost. Eric Meyhofer, an Uber engineer and co-founder of Carnegie Robotics, will take over the division, Uber said.


The shift comes as a potentially devastating lawsuit against Uber involving Levandowski heads toward trial. The suit, filed by self-driving car rival Waymo, accuses former employee Levandowski of stealing trade secrets. 



Levandowski played a key role in Google’s self-driving car program, later spun off into Waymo. Central to the lawsuit is the design of a circuit board for an essential technology called LiDAR, which helps driverless cars map their surroundings.


Waymo claims Levandowski brought that circuit board design with him to Uber, giving the company a critical ? and illegal ? advantage. Uber has dismissed the claim.


In an email to his team on Thursday (read it below), Levandowski wrote that Uber’s technology was built “independently, from the ground up.”


A court hearing is scheduled for next week. The judge potentially could halt Uber’s self-driving program until the outcome of the trial.


Here’s Levandowski’s email to Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group announcing the leadership change, first obtained by Business Insider. Uber confirmed the email:



Team:


I want to let you know that Travis and I have decided that I will be recused from all LiDAR-related work and management at Uber, through the remainder of the Waymo litigation. This change means that Eric Meyhofer will be the head of ATG, reporting to Travis, and I will report to Eric. My other responsibilities will not change.


As you know, I currently don’t provide input on detailed LiDAR design choices. But making this organizational change means I will have absolutely no oversight over or input into our LiDAR work. Going forward, please make sure not to include me in meetings or email threads related to LiDAR, or ask me for advice on the topic.


We all know the hard work that Eric, James and the LiDAR team have put into independently developing our technology over the past few years.


We should all be proud that our self-driving technology has been built independently, from the ground up. With this move, I hope to keep the team focused on achieving the vision that brought us all here.


Thanks,


Anthony


-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

›  New Sci-Fi Novel Is Set In A World Where Hillary Clinton Actually Won

In the aftermath of last year’s presidential election ? which turned out differently than most media outlets predicted ? the questions on a lot of minds seemed to be “How?” and “Why?”


Today, William Gibson ? the American-Canadian science fiction novelist behind the 1984 cyberpunk classic Neuromancer, in which he coined the term “cyberspace”  ? is exploring another question in his forthcoming novel: What if?


What if instead of electing President Donald Trump, whose first 100 days in office have in many ways chipped away at the constitutional value of free expression, Hillary Clinton had won instead?


Gibson applied this question to a book he was already working on before last year’s results came in. In an interview with The New York Times, he explained why he didn’t alter his plot after Trump’s victory. “It was immediately obvious to me that there had been some fundamental shift and I would have to rebuild the whole thing,” he said.


The result is a book ? titled Agency and due out in January 2018 ? set on two different timelines: in present-day San Fransisco, but with Clinton as president, and in London 200 years from now, after 80 percent of the human population has been killed off. Those still alive are trying to communicate with 2017, in an attempt to change the past.


Gibson is celebrated for his ability to synthesize what’s happening around him ? especially technological developments ? and take a good guess at what may happen in the near future.


In a 2014 interview with HuffPost about his last novel, The Peripheral, he said, “A shaming crowd, on Twitter, for instance, can feel like something out of Orwell,” predicting, perhaps knowingly, that the platform lends itself to manipulative speech and “very pure crowd dynamics.”


Sound familiar?


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-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

›  Facebook Says It Will Ramp Up Fight Against Propaganda





Facebook Inc acknowledged on Thursday that it has become a battleground for governments seeking to manipulate public opinion in other countries and outlined new measures it is taking to combat what it calls “information operations” that go well beyond the phenomenon known as fake news.


In a report and summary of response plans on its website on Thursday, Facebook describes well-funded and subtle efforts by nations and other organizations to spread misleading information and falsehoods for geopolitical goals.


These initiatives go much further than posting fake news stories to include amplification - essentially widening the circulation of posts through a variety of means - carried out by government employees or paid professionals, often using fake accounts.


Reuters reviewed an advance copy of the 13-page report, which was written by two veteran security analysts who joined Facebook from cyber security firms FireEye Inc and Dell SecureWorks, along with Facebook’s chief security officer.


Facebook said its security team would now fight information operations, which it regards as a more complex problem than traditional hackers and scammers, by suspending or deleting false accounts after identifying them with a combination of machine learning and intelligence agency-level analysis.


The new efforts build on the company’s recently expanded campaigns to identify fake news and crack down on automated profile pages that post commercial or political spam. Facebook suspended 30,000 accounts in France ahead of last Sunday’s first-round presidential election.


In addressing the U.S. presidential election as a “case study,” the Facebook team said fake Facebook personas had spread stolen emails and other documents as part of a coordinated effort, which U.S. intelligence agencies have attributed to Russia. Other false personas pushed stories that expanded on that material.


“From there, organic proliferation of the messaging and data through authentic peer groups and networks was inevitable,” Facebook said. It said its data “does not contradict” the U.S. director of national intelligence’s conclusion that Russia was behind efforts to interfere with the U.S. election. The report does not name any other countries.


‘FALSE AMPLIFICATION’


Facebook has faced pressure to clamp down on fake news, and has begun warning about suspected hoax stories. In its latest report, Facebook focused on how it will fight “false amplification” and targeted data collection, carried out through methods such as imposter accounts and password-collection schemes.


Facebook employees said the information operations it had seen included techniques such as carefully crafted friend requests sent under the appropriated names of real people. If those requests are accepted, the false friends can glean more information about the target.


That information in turn can be used to send convincing web links leading to malicious software or to map the social networks of the targets for further spying.


Facebook said it would go after amplifier accounts based on behavioral analysis that shows signs of inauthenticity, such as sudden bursts of activity or repeated posting of the same material, without regard to the politics of the content.


Facebook said that other amplification techniques it had discovered include coordinated “likes” to boost the prominence of key postings, the creation of groups that camouflage propaganda by including legitimate items, and the spread of inflammatory and racist material.


Most of the false amplification is driven by people with local language skills and a basic knowledge of the relevant political situation, the study said.


Though the goals may often be to promote one cause or candidate or to denigrate another, another objective appears to be sowing distrust and confusion in general, the authors wrote.


In some cases, they said, the same fake accounts engaged with both sides of an issue “with the apparent intent of increasing tensions between supporters.”


Facebook’s new crackdown reflects a striking change in perspective from November, when Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg dismissed the argument that fake stories on Facebook could have influenced the U.S. presidential election “in any way” as “a pretty crazy idea.”


 


(Reporting by Joseph Menn; Editing by Bill Rigby and Grant McCool)

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

›  Lyft Successfully Capitalizing On Nice-Guy Image As Uber Stumbles





Uber may have the higher valuation, but Lyft is trouncing it in the PR game.


Starting May 1, Lyft riders will have the option of rounding up their fares to the nearest dollar and donating the proceeds to charity.


The ride-hailing company first announced the program last month, revealing Thursday that it will funnel its first month’s donations to the United Service Organization, a nonprofit that supports members of the U.S. armed forces.


A company spokesperson told HuffPost they selected the USO because 10 percent of Lyft drivers are veterans. May is also Military Appreciation Month.


Lyft says it will add more organizations in the future, enabling riders to pitch in and select causes from “climate change to the pursuit of equality.” The program will roll out on Android first, with iOS coming soon. Users will have to opt in by selecting “Round Up & Donate” under the “Settings” tab: 



Lyft’s PR wins ? coupled with Uber’s numerous missteps ? are turning into real-world gains for the company.


Documents obtained by Bloomberg show Lyft’s ridership more than doubled in the first quarter of this year, compared to the same period last year (though Lyft, like Uber, is still losing money).


And earlier this month, the company raised an additional $500 million in funding at a valuation of around $7 billion. At the same time, Uber’s far-larger valuation has reportedly tumbled from a high near $70 billion to a “mere” $50 billion.


Despite Lyft’s gains, however, Uber remains the undisputed ride-hailing champion. Based on Bloomberg’s first-quarter data, Lyft’s annual run rate sits at just over $3 billion ? Uber’s is more than six times that.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

›  NASA Just MacGyvered A Spacecraft To Fly Between Saturn And Its Rings





You can always count on NASA to jury-rig its way into a successful mission.


Its Cassini spacecraft just gave Earth another first in space exploration: It passed through the narrow gap between Saturn and its rings on Wednesday, then relayed stunning photographs of the planet’s atmosphere and invaluable data back to Terra.


But you can’t safely navigate an unexplored, potentially hazardous region of space without channeling MacGyver.


The gap between Saturn’s rings and the top of its atmosphere is only 1,500 miles wide, and Cassini was hurtling through at 77,000 miles-per-hour relative to the planet, according to NASA. Models suggested that Saturn’s ring particles still exist in that gap ? they would be small, “on the scale of smoke particles,” but it wouldn’t take much to wreak havoc on sensitive technology that’s zipping along at Cassini’s speed.


So the space agency decided to use its high-gain antenna ? a 13-foot-wide dish that Cassini uses to communicate with Earth ? as a shield, turning it away from our planet as it protected the vessel. That meant that Cassini wouldn’t be able to make contact during a 20-hour window, while flying through uncharted space, using its only form of communication as a plow.


Of course it worked. Bad ass.



“No spacecraft has ever been this close to Saturn before. We could only rely on predictions, based on our experience with Saturn’s other rings, of what we thought this gap between the rings and Saturn would be like,” said Cassini Project Manager Earl Maize of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “I am delighted to report that Cassini shot through the gap just as we planned and has come out the other side in excellent shape.”


NASA’s Deep Space Network Goldstone Complex in California started receiving mission data from Cassini just after midnight Thursday morning. Cassini and its little buddy, the Huygens probe, has already gathered a laundry list of critical data from Saturn and its largest moon, Titan, which is “one of the most Earth-like worlds we’ve ever encountered,” NASA reports.


Eventually, NASA plans to dump Cassini in Saturn’s clouds before it collides with one of the planet’s 53 moons. Enceladus and Titan are thought to have a higher chance of supporting microbial life, and a collision with Cassini could pose contamination risks.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

›  Bill O'Reilly: 'People Are Trying To Kill Me Right Now'





Bill O’Reilly made a thinly veiled reference to the sexual harassment scandal that cost him his job at Fox News by comparing his situation to that of his father, who served in World War II


On his podcast Wednesday, O’Reilly read a message from a fan who complimented his book, “Killing the Rising Sun.”


“I really like the way you wrapped it up, Bill, the last bit about your father caught me off-guard, but it was a really nice twist,” O’Reilly quoted. 


He then talked about how his father was a naval officer en route to Japan “and would have been killed in the invasion had the atom bombs not been dropped.” 


O’Reilly said he wouldn’t be here if his father had been killed in the war. 


And a lot of people are trying to kill me right now, as you know,” O’Reilly said. “But we’re going to tough that one out.”


He then recommended his book as “a great Father’s Day/Mother’s Day gift.”


O’Reilly also said the next book in his “Killing” series will be released in September. 

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

›  FCC Chairman To Propose Reversing 'Net Neutrality' Rules

By David Shepardson


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday proposed overturning the landmark 2015 Obama-era net neutrality rules that prohibit broadband providers from giving or selling access to certain internet services over others.


A plan to reverse the rules approved by the FCC under Democratic President Barack Obama is expected to set off a fight over the future of the internet regulation.


Ajit Pai, who was named chair of the FCC by President Donald Trump in January, said at a speech in Washington he was aiming to reverse rules that gave the government greater regulatory powers over internet service providers, arguing they cost jobs and depressed investment.


“Do we want the government to control the Internet? Or do we want to embrace the light-touch approach” in place since 1996 until revised in 2015, he asked.


The rules approved by the FCC in 2015 prohibit broadband providers from giving or selling access to speedy internet, essentially a “fast lane,” to certain internet services over others.


The 2015 FCC rules reclassified internet service providers much like utilities, a decision that could open the door to eventual rate regulation. A federal appeals court upheld the rules last year.


Pai said his proposal will face an initial vote on May 18 but he would not seek to finalize a reversal of the Obama rules until the FCC takes public comment, which could take several months.


The Obama administration rules require broadband providers to treat all data equally, rather than give or sell access to a Web “fast lane.”


Republican FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly said on Wednesday, “The previous FCC took internet policy down into a dark and horrible abyss.” He said the FCC will “expunge net neutrality regulations from the Internet.”


Internet providers such as AT&T Inc <T.N>, Verizon Communications Inc <VZ.N> and Comcast Corp <CMCSA.O> have argued that net neutrality rules make it harder for internet service providers to manage traffic and has made investment in additional capacity less likely.


Comcast Chairman and Chief Executive Brian Roberts said reclassification of internet services as a utility should be reversed. He said Pai’s proposal “creates an environment where we can have a fresh constructive dialogue.”


Democratic Senator Edward Markey predicted Pai would face a “tsunami of resistance” to overturning the rules.


The Internet Association, a group representing Facebook Inc <FB.O>, Alphabet Inc <GOOGL.O> and others, said the current FCC net neutrality rules are working and should not be changed. Reversing the rules “will result in a worse internet for consumers and less innovation online,” they said.


 


(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Tom Brown and Diane Craft)

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

›  Bureau Of Prisons Seeks Software To Predict Post-Release Outcomes

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is hoping to find as-yet unrecognized patterns of adaptation and recidivism — which the agency terms “inmate reintegration into the community — by asking software developers to provide information about commercially available software capable of aggregating the various types of data the agency already collects.


A request published by the agency on March 15 asks for submission of information on off-the-shelf products that can aggregate and interpret data to identify hidden patterns and links that would provide information useful for internal security, public safety, intelligence-gathering and other administrative purposes.


Since the information to be studied and stored includes petabytes of data, and could be simultaneously accessed by numerous users, BOP wants solutions using an open architecture capable of handling that scale of data without being slowed down.


The agency’s ambitions don’t end there, however. Its request for information adds that BOP wants to create a system that can accommodate a case management component, so that it can use link and trend analysis to improve the agency’s understanding of such subjects as “interpersonal relationships” and “illicit financial and communications transactions,” and develop forensic-quality evidence and make agency decisions on security-related issues both faster and more reliable.


As examples of the variety of data types BOP plans to have its new system correlate, the agency’s request for information mentions such diverse items as telephone logs, computer IP logs, text messages, emails, data from mobile applications, and financial transactions. Social networks are another area of interest named by BOP; it says it wants a system able to analyze social networks and identify their key individuals and intra-network relationships.


On April 19, BOP updated its information request by publishing a list of answers to questions it had received on its inquiry. Though very brief, some of the agency’s answers to some of these questions are intriguing, either because they add new facts or raise further questions.


For example, asked how the agency currently tracks the type of information it’s looking to find better, more integrated ways to follow, BOP notes it presently uses an internally developed system. The agency also says it expects the case management component of a new integrated system will be capable of monitoring 200,000 inmates as well as 20,000 released former inmates.


A response to another question reveals BOP expects about 350 people will be able to access any new integrated post-release data system it sets up, and adds that all but 100 of those will be within the agency, but does not further identify who or where they might be. The agency does say, however, it is looking for products capable of supporting access using English, Spanish and Arabic. The request for information asks submissions be emailed to BOP by May 9.


In recent months, the BOP has been fairly active in soliciting information for its analytic tools, having also issued public information requests related to ways to improve health care services for older inmates, and for managing its resources more efficiently and reducing its costs. We noted that in an April 13 article which can be found here.


Christopher Zoukis is the author of Federal Prison Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Surviving the Federal Bureau of Prisons, College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Co., 2014) and Prison Education Guide (Prison Legal News Publishing, 2016). He can be found online at ChristopherZoukis.com and PrisonerResource.com.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

›  Drunk Man Arrested For Tackling Parking Lot Security Robot





The battle for the future of humanity escalated last week, thanks to a drunk man who tackled a security robot in a Silicon Valley parking lot.


Next stop: “The Matrix,” if we’re lucky. Otherwise? Probably “The Terminator.”


Jason Sylvain, 41, attacked the crime-fighting K5 droid in the parking lot of robot manufacturer Knightscope the evening of April 19, Mountain View Police Department spokeswoman Katie Nelson told HuffPost. She said an employee for Knightscope detained Sylvain before officers got to the scene.


“When we arrived, we met with Sylvain, and as we were speaking with him, he appeared confused, had red, glassy eyes and a strong odor of alcohol emitted from him,” Nelson said.


Here’s a video of the K5 droid, which is reportedly back in action after the scuffle:






Locals weren’t eager to defend a fellow human for standing up to our robot overlords.


“I think this is a pretty pathetic incident,” Mountain View resident Eamonn Callon told ABC7. “It shows how spineless the drunk guys in Silicon Valley really are because they attack a victim who doesn’t even have any arms.”


“I don’t think this is a fair fight. Really, totally unacceptable,” Callon added.


But make no mistake, it’s truly a battle for the future of our species. Last year, a Knightscope droid fired the first shot and ran over a toddler in the Stanford Shopping Center parking lot. The child suffered minor injuries to his leg and foot.


In Sylvain’s defense, Knightscope’s K5 also strongly resembles another droid built explicitly to be tackled:





Sylvain faces charges of prowling and being drunk in public, Nelson told HuffPost.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

›  Amazon Sells A Robot That Judges How You Look, As if You Needed That





Do you need more judgment in your life? Don’t feel like your family, colleagues and roommates are giving you enough flak day-to-day?


Now you can pay for a robot to do that.


On Wednesday, Amazon unveiled Echo Look, a camera meant to “help you look your best.” According to Amazon, the device can take full-length photos of you and, among other features, it can give you a “second opinion” on how your outfits look.



Mom, is that you in there?


The Echo gives feedback using Style Check, an app that uses an algorithm to compare and rate your outfit options.


We haven’t tried out the Echo Look ourselves, but honestly we’re a little concerned about getting fashion advice from robots. Historically, they haven’t exactly been known as snappy dressers.





The app will also recommend styles and clothing options to the users, leading to what TechCrunch calls a “pretty clear revenue stream for the company after the hardware has been sold.”


Right now, the Echo Look is only available by invitation. Those interested in having a robot help dress them can request an invite on the device’s Amazon page.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

›  Astronaut Demonstrates How He Makes A PB&J Sandwich In Space





It’s always nice to have a taste of home ? even when you’re 220 miles above Earth.


So it’s natural that NASA astronaut Robert Kimbrough might get a hankering for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while orbiting around the planet on the International Space Station.


But as he demonstrates in the video above, making a sandwich in microgravity presents some challenges, such as those pesky floating jars of peanut butter.


Luckily, a little velcro goes a long way.


-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

›  Father Kills Toddler On Facebook Live





For the second time in roughly a week, a brutal killing has been uploaded to Facebook.


According to police, a 20-year-old man on Monday used Facebook Live to stream the hanging of his 11-month-old daughter. The video, which was filmed at an abandoned hotel in Phuket, Thailand, showed the man tie a noose around the child’s neck before dropping her over the side of the building.


The child’s relatives, including his mother, reportedly saw the video and contacted police.


“The mother of the child was crying and was very sad,” Thai police Col. Jirasak Siemsak told The Associated Press. “I am also very sad ... they were still very young.”



Authorities found the man’s body hanging next to his daughters. His death has been ruled a suicide. BBC News has since identified him as Wuttisan Wongtalay.


“He was having paranoia about his wife leaving him and not loving him,” Thai police officer Jullaus Suvannin told Reuters.


The four-minute video, which reportedly remained online 24 hours before it was removed, was viewed more than 200,000 times.


“This is an appalling incident and our hearts go out to the family of the victim,” a Facebook spokesperson told HuffPost in an email. “There is absolutely no place for acts of this kind on Facebook and the footage has now been removed.”


This latest chilling video comes just eight days after authorities in Cleveland, Ohio, say 37-year-old Steve Stephens uploaded a video to Facebook that showed him shoot and kill 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr. on Easter Sunday.







Officials said there was no apparent link between Stephens and Godwin. Two days after the killing, Stephens was found dead in Erie, Pennsylvania, from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said.


The gruesome video of Godwin’s slaying was on Facebook for roughly two hours before it was removed by the company. Mark Zuckerberg addressed the incident during an April 18 Facebook developers conference.


“We have a lot more to do here,” Zuckerberg said. “We’re reminded of this this week by the tragedy in Cleveland. Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Robert Godwin Sr. We have a lot of work and we will keep doing all we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening.”







The Cleveland and Thai videos are just the latest in a growing list of disturbing videos that have been shared on Facebook in the past year. Those videos include the January suicide of a 14-year-old girl and the March sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl.


David Lohr covers crime and missing persons. Tips? Feedback? Send an email or follow him on Twitter.


This story has been update with comments from a Facebook spokesperson.


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