• Trump officials to Congress: Goal is deterring Iran, not war
    Politics
    Associated Press

    Trump officials to Congress: Goal is deterring Iran, not war

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Tamping down talk of war, top Trump administration officials told Congress on Tuesday that recent actions by the U.S. deterred attacks on American forces. But some lawmakers remained deeply skeptical of the White House approach in the Middle East.

  • Oklahoma reels, Missouri declares state of emergency from storm, floods
    News
    Reuters

    Oklahoma reels, Missouri declares state of emergency from storm, floods

    Rescue crews using boats pulled at least 50 people from rising water as heavy downpours inundated roads and homes, Oklahoma Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Keli Cain said, although there were no reports of deaths or serious injuries. Only the tops of cars engulfed by water were could be seen in video footage of roadways near Oklahoma City, and some houses were entirely surrounded by floods. "It's real dangerous," said Ross Reuter, a spokesman for Canadian County, where 10 people were rescued.

  • Tu-95 Bear: Meet the Old Russian Bomber U.S. F-22s Just Intercepted Near Alaska
    World
    The National Interest

    Tu-95 Bear: Meet the Old Russian Bomber U.S. F-22s Just Intercepted Near Alaska

    It’s old, it’s obvious and it has mechanical problems — facts hard to ignore while the Tu-95 plays a key role in a highly orchestrated and much exaggerated effort by the Kremlin to impress its foreign rivals.(This first appeared several years ago and is being reposted due to reader interest.) At first glance, the Russian Tu-95 Bear strategic bomber looks like a 59-year-old flying anachronism, a Cold War leftover that has outlived its usefulness in a century when stealth is king.The Bear is showing signs of its age. In recent months, two Tu-95 crashes led to the grounding of the entire fleet of more than 50 aircraft to resolve mechanical issues. Besides, there is nothing stealthy about the Bear.Even when the bomber is in top-notch shape, the turboprop-powered Tu-95 is loud … really loud. In fact, it’s so noisy that listening devices on submerged U.S. submarines can hear a Bear flying overhead.Furthermore, it has the radar signature of a flying big-box store. The plane is huge.Photos of lumbering Bear-H bombers intercepted by sleek U.S. or NATO warplanes as they flew toward protected airspace are some of the most recognizable images of the East-West nuclear stand-off during the 1970s and ’80s.

  • Latest migrant child death raises questions about U.S. detention practices
    News
    Yahoo News

    Latest migrant child death raises questions about U.S. detention practices

    The fifth Guatemalan child to die after illegally crossing the border since December, Carlos Vasquez’s death at a Border Patrol station raises new questions about the length of time minors are being detained, as well as the conditions provided to them while in custody.

  • Fears rise China could weaponise rare earths in US tech war
    Business
    AFP

    Fears rise China could weaponise rare earths in US tech war

    The US has hit China where it hurts by going after its telecom champion Huawei, but Beijing's control of the global supply of rare earths used in smartphones and electric cars gives it a powerful weapon in their escalating tech war. A seemingly routine visit by President Xi Jinping to a Chinese rare earths company this week is being widely read as an obvious threat that Beijing is standing ready for action. Xi's inspection tour "is no accident, this didn't happen by chance," said Li Mingjiang, China programme coordinator at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Singapore.

  • Trump administration considers blacklisting another major Chinese technology firm, further inflaming trade conflict
    Business
    The Independent

    Trump administration considers blacklisting another major Chinese technology firm, further inflaming trade conflict

    The Trump administration is considering blacklisting another major Chinese technology company in a move that would broaden a US campaign to sever China’s access to American know-how and inflame a deepening trade conflict, according to an individual familiar with the debate.Although no final decision has yet been reached, the administration is preparing to move against Hikvision, the world’s largest maker of video surveillance technology, the person said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.The deliberations were first reported by The New York Times.The disclosure comes less than a week after the administration barred US companies from supplying Huawei, perhaps China’s most prominent manufacturer, without first obtaining a US government license.The administration earlier this week relaxed the ban, saying it would grant temporary 90-day waivers for US companies to help Huawei maintain its existing networks.US officials are said to be eyeing the same penalty for Hikvision, using a Commerce Department mechanism known as the “entity list”.Citing national security considerations, the US congress last year banned federal agencies from purchasing equipment made by Hikvision and four other Chinese technology companies: Huawei, ZTE, Hytera and Dahua.The measure was triggered by “classified information the committee reviewed in the course of our regular oversight activities”, according to Claude Chafin, a spokesman for the House Armed Services Committee.Hikvision supplies surveillance cameras that the Chinese government has deployed throughout the Muslim-majority Xinjiang region to combat what it describes as separatist terrorism.Randall Shriver, US assistant secretary of defence for Asia, said earlier this month that the Chinese government is detaining 3 million Uighur Muslims in re-education camps. The authorities in Beijing describe the facilities as vocational training centres.In an interview with Fox News on Tuesday, Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to the United States, denied reports of human rights abuses.“They are real training centres,” he said. “They are not camps. They have open gates. There’s no armed guards. People could go home over weekend.”Hikvision last month reported earning about $1.65bn (£1.3bn) on revenue of roughly $7.2bn (£5.7bn) in 2018.In its annual shareholder letter, the company said it had faced numerous challenges last year but remained “upbeat about growth in the domestic and overseas markets in the years ahead”.The administration’s intensifying campaign to limit China’s access to advanced US technologies comes as a year-long trade conflict defies hopes of an early settlement.Despite the president’s continued pursuit of a trade deal, the administration has been cracking down on China in other realms.The Justice Department in December indicted two hackers who allegedly worked with the Chinese Ministry of State Security, targeting companies holding advanced technologies with military applications.The Commerce Department is drawing up new regulations to restrict US exports of 14 advanced technologies including robotics and quantum computing, in a move motivated by concern over China’s access to American innovations.Some Trump administration officials want to disconnect American investors and companies from Chinese companies that help beef up the Chinese military, “Big Brother” surveillance networks or those that benefit from China’s alleged theft of US trade secrets.Last year, the Commerce Department banned state-backed ZTE from doing business with American suppliers after the company violated the terms of an earlier enforcement action.But the president reversed the ban, which would have crippled ZTE, after a personal plea from Chinese President Xi Jinping.The episode illustrates that any move to sever Chinese companies’ links to the United States might cause collateral damage to the US economy.ZTE spends about $2.6bn (£2.05bn) annually buying products from US companies such as Qualcomm and Intel. Huawei also relies heavily on American suppliers.Administration officials recognise that the greater the number and significance of Chinese companies sanctioned, the greater the pain for US companies and their workers.The Washington Post

  • The Air Force Loves the F-22 Raptor. So Why Not Build More of Them?
    Business
    The National Interest

    The Air Force Loves the F-22 Raptor. So Why Not Build More of Them?

    “Just as F-22 production would compete for fiscal and contractor resources with other Air Force programs, any F-22 export would compete with FMS customers' resources as well, including countries already committed to F-35 purchases. Most nations are not likely to have the resources available for procurement of an export F-22, which extremely limits the ability of FMS to reduce the costs associated with restarting production.”A 2017 Pentagon report to Congress detailing production retail costs for Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor show that reviving the powerful stealth air superiority fighter would be prohibitively expensive. Moreover, it would take so long to reconstitute the production line that it would not be until the mid to late 2020s before the first “new” F-22s would have flown. By that time, the F-22 would be increasingly challenged by enemy—Russian and Chinese—capabilities.(This first appeared last year.)

  • Bigger cuts expected: 23,000 more Ford layoffs needed, analysts say
    Business
    USA TODAY

    Bigger cuts expected: 23,000 more Ford layoffs needed, analysts say

    Ford CEO Jim Hackett plans for layoffs won't deliver savings the company has said it wants. An analyst says another 23,000 layoffs are needed.

  • Rain, flooding expected in U.S. Southern Plains after deadly storms
    News
    Reuters

    Rain, flooding expected in U.S. Southern Plains after deadly storms

    Weather forecasters on Wednesday expected drenching rains to roll into the storm-ravaged U.S. southern and central states, where thunderstorms and tornadoes killed at least three people and triggered widespread flooding. More than 30 tornadoes struck a swath from Texas to Iowa since Monday, according to the National Weather Service, and residents in at least three Oklahoma riverfront communities were urged to evacuate due to flooding. One person was killed and another was injured when a tornado struck the rural town of Adair, Iowa, about 50 miles (80 km)west of Des Moines, at about 1:30 a.m. local time, the weather service said.

  • 14 Garage Organization Ideas That'll Give You Back Your Parking Spot
    Lifestyle
    Car and Driver

    14 Garage Organization Ideas That'll Give You Back Your Parking Spot

    It's so strangely soothing to see everything this organized in the garage.From Car and Driver

  • ‘India Wins,’ Modi Says as He Surges to Decisive Victory
    World
    Bloomberg

    ‘India Wins,’ Modi Says as He Surges to Decisive Victory

    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has surged to a majority on his own in India’s general election, with his Bharatiya Janata Party establishing a commanding lead in vote counting. "India wins yet again," Modi said in a tweet. BJP supporters have begun celebrating in the streets as the party extended its lead in more than 299 seats -- easily ahead of the 272 seats needed to form government and more than the 282 the party won in 2014.

  • Man who threatened to kill ‘as many girls as I see’ because he was repeatedly rejected set to be spared jail
    News
    The Independent

    Man who threatened to kill ‘as many girls as I see’ because he was repeatedly rejected set to be spared jail

    A man who threatened to murder “as many girls” as he could see may escape a jail sentence, despite pleading guilty to a charge of attempted threat of terrorism.Christopher Cleary wrote a detailed Facebook post about how he planned to become “the next mass shooter” in January 2019.The 27-year-old described himself as a virgin who had never had a girlfriend.He also said he wanted to make the fact that so many women had turned him down “right” by going on a shooting spree, according to documents filed by Provo Police.Cleary was arrested on 19 January after publishing the Facebook post.Cleary then struck a deal with Utah prosecutors, pleading guilty to a reduced criminal charge.Attempted threat of terrorism is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.But Utah prosecutors agreed to recommend him for probation, despite his extensive criminal record.A judge will decide whether or not to accept the deal at a hearing on Thursday.The 27-year-old has been accused of stalking multiple times, with at least eight alleged victims contacting the authorities about his behaviour since 2012, according to police and court records.He was on probation following a marijuana conviction in 2016 when he was charged with stalking two teenagers he had met online.Cleary was put on probation for the stalking cases but in 2017 was charged with stalking and harassing his case worker.In 2018 judges in Jefferson County, Colorado sentenced him, once again, to probation for all three stalking cases.In one of the cases a 19-year-old woman said she lived with Cleary for a fortnight in a hotel room. She said that he strangled and urinated on her during that time, court records show.Cleary was out on probation for the three cases when he was arrested in a McDonald's in January, after publishing his Facebook post.Pam Russell, a spokeswoman for the Utah’s county prosecutor’s office, said once the case was concluded Cleary would be returned to Colorado.Prosecutors in Denver will seek to revoke his probation and send him to prison in relation for the stalking and harassment cases, she added.“All I wanted to be was loved,” Cleary wrote in his Facebook post.“Yet no one cares about me, I’m 27 years old and I’ve never had a girlfriend before and I’m still a virgin, this is why I’m planning on shooting up a public place soon and being the next mass shooter cause I’m ready to die.”It is unclear how truthful the Facebook post was, as at least two of Cleary’s accusers have said they had a sexual relationship with him.Some news reports have speculated that Cleary could be part of the “incel movement”, which promotes the misogynistic idea that men are entitled to have sex with women.But a Colorado police detective, who investigated two accusations against the 27-year-old, said there as no evidence he was part of the movement.“I truly think he’s just wired differently,” he said. Additional reporting by agencies

  • RV suspect in custody after leading police on wild chase through California
    U.S.
    WPVI – Philadelphia

    RV suspect in custody after leading police on wild chase through California

    A dangerous pursuit through the San Fernando Valley ended after the suspect, who was driving with two dogs in the vehicle, crashed near a home in California on Tuesday night.

  • U.S. eases curbs on Huawei; founder says clampdown underestimates Chinese firm
    Business
    Reuters

    U.S. eases curbs on Huawei; founder says clampdown underestimates Chinese firm

    The U.S. Commerce Department blocked Huawei Technologies Co Ltd from buying U.S. goods last week, a major escalation in the trade war between the world's two top economies, saying the firm was involved in activities contrary to national security. The two countries increased import tariffs on each other's goods over the past two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump said China had reneged on earlier commitments made during months of negotiations. On Monday, the Commerce Department granted Huawei a license to buy U.S. goods until Aug. 19 to maintain existing telecoms networks and provide software updates to Huawei smartphones, a move intended to give telecom operators that rely on Huawei time to make other arrangements.

  • US billionaire's gift to graduates fuels student debt debate
    News
    AFP

    US billionaire's gift to graduates fuels student debt debate

    When the American billionaire Robert Smith announced to students graduating from historically black Morehouse College that he would pay off their student loans, he put himself at the center of one of the 2020 US election's key issues. While the cost of Smith's surprise gift announced on Saturday to Morehouse's 396-strong class of 2019 is not yet known, the body's student debt is thought to reach $40 million. "Can a billionaire pledge to pay off my student loan debt?

  • 'Nowhere for the water to go': Tornadoes, floods hit central US day after 20 tornadoes
    News
    USA TODAY

    'Nowhere for the water to go': Tornadoes, floods hit central US day after 20 tornadoes

    A tornado tore through a neighborhood near Tulsa International Airport on Tuesday as a powerful storm triggered flash flooding and washed out roads across parts of Oklahoma.

  • AG Barr says nationwide rulings are hampering Trump's agenda
    Business
    Associated Press

    AG Barr says nationwide rulings are hampering Trump's agenda

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General William Barr is taking on another item from President Donald Trump's agenda, railing against judges who issue rulings blocking nationwide policies.

  • Business
    Reuters

    U.S. judge approves PG&E $105 million wildfire assistance fund

    PG&E Corp may set up a $105 million housing fund for victims of 2017 and 2018 wildfires in California, which set records for devastation and were blamed on the utility's equipment, the judge overseeing the investor-owned power producer's bankruptcy ruled on Wednesday. Creditors, which include wildfire victims, are fighting for funds as PG&E navigates bankruptcy stemming from the blazes and as the state plans for increasingly long and dangerous fire seasons its officials attribute to climate change. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali at a hearing approved a motion by PG&E seeking permission to establish the fund for people who lost homes in the fires and were uninsured or have used up or will exhaust their insurance.

  • Missouri: destructive tornado leaves three people dead and severe damage
    News
    The Guardian

    Missouri: destructive tornado leaves three people dead and severe damage

    Series of devastating storms led to multiple tornadoes, leaving people injured and trapped in homes as torrid weather pummels parts of midwestA large and violent tornado has left at least three people dead in Missouri as torrid weather continues to pummel parts of America’s midwest.A series of devastating storms hit the area on Wednesday night leading to multiple tornadoes. The region has already endured days of torrential rain and flooding.The National Weather Service confirmed that the deadly tornado moved over Missouri’s capital Jefferson City shortly before midnight.“Across the state, Missouri’s first responders once again responded quickly and with strong coordination as much of the state dealt with extremely dangerous conditions that left people injured, trapped in homes, and tragically led to the death of three people,” governor Mike Parson said.Authorities said the three were killed in the Golden City area of Barton county, near Missouri’s south-west corner, as the severe weather moved in from Oklahoma, where rescuers struggled to pull people from high water. The tornado hit during a week that has seen several days of tornadoes and torrential rains in parts of the Southern Plains and midwest.No deaths were reported in the capital, but city police officials said about 20 people were rescued by emergency personnel as the tornado caused damage to multiple buildings.The weather service reported that a “confirmed, large and destructive tornado” was observed over Jefferson City at 11.43pm local time on Wednesday, moving northeast at 40mph . The capital city has a population of about 40,000 and is located about 130 miles west of St Louis.“It’s a chaotic situation right now,” said Jefferson Citypolice lieutenant David Williams.A car is trapped under the fallen metal roof of the Break Time gas station and convenience store in Jefferson City, Missouri. Photograph: David A Lieb/APThe tornado was described as a “wedge”, meaning it was wider than it was tall. According to reports it moved at 40mph at some points, and dispersed debris 13,000ft into the air, including overturning vehicles.The weather service said it had received 22 reports of tornadoes by late Wednesday; some could be duplicate reporting of the same twister.One tornado skirted just a few miles north of Joplin, Missouri, on the eighth anniversary of a catastrophic tornado that killed 161 people in the city. The tornado caused some damage in the town of Carl Junction, about 4 miles north of the Joplin airport, where several injuries were reported.Storms and torrential rains have ravaged the midwest, from Texas through Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Illinois. Authorities urged residents of several small towns in Oklahoma and Kansas to leave their homes as rivers and streams rose.Deaths from this week’s storms include a 74-year-old woman found early Wednesday morning in Iowa. Officials there say she was killed by a possible tornado that damaged a farmstead in Adair county. Missouri authorities said heavy rain was a contributing factor in the deaths of two people in a traffic accident Tuesday near Springfield.A fourth weather-related death may have occurred in Oklahoma, where the Highway Patrol said a woman apparently drowned after driving around a barricade Tuesday near Perkins, about 45 miles northeast of Oklahoma City. The unidentified woman’s body was sent to the state medical examiner’s office to confirm the cause of death. Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Keli Cain said she isn’t yet listed as what would be the state’s first storm-related death. Catastrophic flooding in the area even swept some homes into a river.

  • Surprise: The ‘AI bot’ people talk to on Google Duplex calls is sometimes actually a person
    Business
    BGR News

    Surprise: The ‘AI bot’ people talk to on Google Duplex calls is sometimes actually a person

    When Google unveiled Google Duplex last year at I/O 2018, the brand new Assistant feature looked terrific. It was the kind of futuristic technology nobody else had. With a simple voice command, you could instruct the Assistant to make restaurant reservations for you by placing a phone call using an AI bot. But soon after that keynote, it became clear that Duplex is somewhat creepy, as Google failed to identify the robocall to the other person. It was also kind of disingenuous, since the entire demo wasn't live.Google dealt with those issues at the time and Google Duplex deployment continued, culminating with this year's I/O announcement that the feature will be available in 44 states. Also, Google said that Duplex is getting similar functionality for booking reservations on the web. But a brand new report reveals additional details that were previously not known about Duplex, which brings the creepy back. It turns out that Google employees are actively involved in making many of these Duplex calls.A report from The New York Times reveals that about 25% of calls placed through Duplex started with a human. Beyond that, 15% of calls that started off with the Duplex AI bot had a human intervene at some point.The whole point of using the Assistant to make restaurant reservation is to eliminate the human side of things. That's why Google Duplex appeared to be so amazing in the first place. Having humans involved in the whole thing is where things get strange. Yes, maybe Duplex needs human oversight and the best way to train AI is by having it work with a lot of examples to learn from. But Google never really mentioned this human aspect of Google Duplex, which sort of ruins the magic of it all. Yet again, it's somewhat disingenuous.Also, there's user privacy to take into account. A human interacting with a restaurant on your behalf is different from a computer doing it, as the human is also let in on the booking information. It may seem trivial, but where does one agree to involve a Googler in setting up one's dinner plans?Google does say on its support pages that Duplex calls are recorded for quality assurance, which means someone may listen to your reservations: If the customer wants to book an appointment, the Assistant will confirm specific details like the customer's preferred time, type of service, or size of party. Once this information is confirmed, the Assistant will try to book an appointment with your business by using an online booking partner (if available) or by calling your business using the automated voice-calling technology Duplex (calls are recorded for quality assurance).Also, Google has a tiny note that a manual operator might start calls in the frequently asked questions section, although it's hardly enough (emphasis ours): At the start of the call, you'll hear the reason for the call and that the call is from Google. You can expect the call to come from an automated system or, in some cases, a manual operator.Google Duplex is clearly a far less polished product that Google led us to believe a year ago. Also, considering its renewed interest in protecting the user's privacy, Google should do a much better job explaining what goes on behind the scenes of a Google Duplex call when it comes to your privacy. The full Times report, complete with examples that explain what a human-made Google Duplex call looks like, is available at this link.

  • Ford presents home-delivery robot
    Technology
    AFP Relax News

    Ford presents home-delivery robot

    The American automaker Ford has unveiled "Digit," a two-legged, almost human-like robot capable of making home deliveries. Designed in collaboration with Agility Robotics, Digit can walk, go up and down stairs, and carry packages of up to 40 pounds (just over 18kg), like a human. Ford's technology, research and development department is full of surprises.