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Emails Detail Arizona Governor’s Relationship With Uber

Emails released Wednesday between Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s staff and Uber executives shed new light on the relationship between the first-term Republican and the company whose autonomous vehicle recently was involved in a fatal crash. 

Accounts of the previously unseen emails released by the governor’s office were first reported by The Guardian newspaper. which had obtained them through public records requests. They indicate that Ducey’s staff worked closely with the company as it began experimenting with autonomous vehicles that the company began testing on public roads in August 2016 without informing the public. 

The governor’s staff pushed back, saying Ducey’s embrace of Uber and autonomous vehicles was one of his administration’s most visible and public initiatives and that there was no secret testing.

“Allegations that any company has secretly tested self-driving cars in Arizona is 100 percent false,” Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak said. “From the beginning we’ve been very public about the testing and operation of self-driving vehicles, and it has been anything but secret.”

The email exchanges fill in the gaps between what Ducey was saying publicly since taking office in early 2015 and what was happening behind the scenes as his administration helped Uber set up shop in the state and then launch its driverless car testing program. 

Frequent boosts

In the earliest days of his administration, Ducey ordered a state agency to stop citing Uber drivers for violating the state’s taxicab laws. He then pushed through a law legalizing ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, a move his Republican predecessor had vetoed the year before. He then issued an executive order in August 2015 encouraging and allowing self-driving vehicle testing with no reporting requirements.

Over the years since taking office, Ducey took frequent opportunities to boost Uber’s operations, tweeting about the company’s services and welcoming its officials after they pulled their self-driving cars from California in a dispute with that state’s regulators in December 2016 and shipped them to Arizona. 

“California may not want you, but Arizona does,” Ducey said when he took the first ride as a passenger in Uber’s self-driving cars in April 2017.

Behind the scenes, Ducey’s staff worked closely with Uber as he championed its regular service and its self-driving vehicles, allowing it to operate without permits and encouraging its testing and operation on public roads.

His staff set up meetings, helped steer Uber executives to Phoenix city officials as they tried to lift an airport ban, and got the governor’s office to tweet its suggested message about a new service called “Uber eats” when it rolled out. 

The emails show a top Ducey staffer was invited to use Uber offices for work while in San Francisco, but he didn’t take the company up on the offer.

The governor’s office said it provided the emails to the newspaper in September.

Ptak, Ducey’s spokesman, defended the tweet and other efforts to promote the company.

“We are proud to welcome innovation to Arizona,” he said. “We often promote news of the thousands of jobs and opportunities coming to Arizona. That’s nothing new.”

Democrats critical

The Arizona Democratic Party blasted Ducey after the email revelations. 

“Governor Doug Ducey violated the trust of hardworking Arizonans across the state,” the party’s executive director, Herschel Fink, said in a statement. “This bombshell report further exposes the mismanagement by Governor Ducey and his sheer priority to put business relationships ahead of Arizona.”

The governor suspended the company’s testing privileges Monday, citing safety concerns and “disturbing” dashcam footage of the March 18 crash in Tempe that killed a pedestrian as she walked her bike across a darkened road. Experts told The Associated Press that the technology on Uber’s car should have spotted the pedestrian and the failure revealed a serious flaw. 

Immediately after the crash, Uber voluntarily suspended its autonomous vehicle testing in Arizona, as well as California, Pittsburgh and Toronto. The company on Tuesday decided not to reapply for the California permit “with the understanding that our self-driving vehicles would not operate in the state in the immediate future.”

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US, Canada Differ on Quick NAFTA Resolution

The Trump administration is hopeful it can reach a deal on a new North American Free Trade Agreement before the July 1 presidential election in Mexico and U.S. midterm congressional elections in November.

“I’d say I’m hopeful — I think we are making progress. I think that all three parties want to move forward. We have a short window, because of elections and things beyond our control,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told CNBC television Wednesday.

But Canada’s chief negotiator was far less optimistic.

“We have yet to see exactly what the U.S. means by an agreement in principle,” Steve Verheul told reporters Wednesday in Ottawa. There are still “significant gaps,” Verheul said. “We can accomplish quite a bit between now and then, and we’ve made it clear to the U.S. that we will be prepared to negotiate at any time, any place, for as long as they are prepared to negotiate, but so far we haven’t really seen that process get going,” he said.

Officials from the U.S., Canada and Mexico are supposed to meet in the United States next month for the eighth round of talks, although Washington has not announced dates yet.

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Trump’s Pick for National Security Adviser Advocates Tough Response to Russia

President Donald Trump’s pick to be his new national security adviser, John Bolton, is known for his “hawkish” views on North Korea and Iran, but also has pushed for a tougher U.S. response to Russian aggression in the West and around the world.

Bolton has said the United States has been clear that it stands with its allies after the attack with Russian nerve gas on a former double agent and his daughter in Britain. Moscow denies responsibility for the poisoning.

“I think you saw a statement by the four leaders of Germany, France, the U.K. and the United States. I think that is a pretty good indication that the four countries see this the same way,” Bolton told a Sky News reporter last week, when asked if the U.S. and its allies should be tougher on Russia.

And during a discussion in February, before he was chosen by Trump to be one of his top advisers, Bolton outlined how he thought the U.S. should respond to Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.

“Whether [the Russians] were trying to collude with the Trump campaign or the Clinton campaign, their interference is unacceptable. It’s really an attack on the United States Constitution,” Bolton said at the Daniel Morgan Graduate School of National Security in Washington.

The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations called for an “overwhelming” response to Moscow.

“Whatever they did in the 2016 election, I think we should respond to in cyberspace and elsewhere,” Bolton said. “I don’t think the response should be proportionate. I think it should be very disproportionate. Because deterrence works when you convince your adversary that they will pay an enormous cost for imposing a cost on you.”

In an op-ed in the Daily Telegraph in July of last year, Bolton went even further, alleging that Russian President Vladimir Putin looked Trump in the eye and lied to him when he denied Russian government interference in the U.S. elections.

“It is in fact a casus belli, a true act of war, and one Washington will never tolerate. For Trump, it should be a highly salutary lesson about the character of Russia’s leadership to watch Putin lie to him,” Bolton wrote.

Putin has denied his government was behind the election attack, but has acknowledged individual Russians may have been involved.

‘Russia’s worst nightmare’

For his part, Trump repeatedly has downplayed Russian interference in the U.S. elections, noting results of the vote “were not impacted or changed by the Russians.”

Trump also has repeatedly called the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian election interference and possible coordination with the Trump campaign a “hoax” and a “witch-hunt.”

“Every time he [Putin] sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that.’ And I believe — I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” Trump told reporters last November when asked about Putin’s denial that Russia was behind the cyberattacks.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow tells VOA that Putin may need to adjust his expectations of a friendly relationship with Trump now that Bolton is joining the team.

“We now have John Bolton, who is very tough on Russia, coming into the White House next month, so hopefully Russia will draw some conclusions from this and look for ways to pursue a less confrontational policy with the West,” said Vershbow, an Atlantic Council distinguished fellow.

Harry Kazianis, with The Center for National Interest, agrees, saying Moscow should brace for changes from Washington.

“I think John Bolton is Russia’s worst nightmare. He has been a Russia hawk for all of his career, he has always advocated a tough stand on Moscow,” Kazianis said. “I can see Bolton recommending to the president quite a few changes on policy, one being further arms sales to Ukraine.”

‘No reservations’

Bolton does not need to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate and is set to begin working in the White House on April 9.

At the Pentagon Tuesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters he had “no reservations” and “no concerns at all” about working with Bolton and any divergent world views.

“I hope that there’s some different world views. That’s the normal thing you want unless you want groupthink,” Mattis said.

National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin and VOA Russia Service contributed to this report.

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Entrepreneur: ‘Anyone Can Play a Role’ in African Innovation

While working for a big consulting firm in Lagos, Nigeria, Afua Osei repeatedly encountered women who wanted to advance professionally but didn’t know how. They needed guidance and mentoring.

So, Osei and her colleague Yasmin Belo-Osagie started She Leads Africa, a digital media company offering advice, information, training and networking opportunities to help “young African women achieve their professional dreams,” according to the website.

Launched in 2014, it now has an online community of over 300,000 in at least 35 countries in Africa and throughout the diaspora.

“I didn’t plan to be an entrepreneur,” Osei said this month at South by Southwest (SXSW), an annual festival of music, film and tech innovation. 

Anyone can be an innovator, Osei said in an interview, after co-hosting a meetup on starting and investing in African businesses. “You don’t have to look a certain way. It’s not just for one type of person. Anybody can play a role, and there is so much work to be done.”

​Opportunities in Africa

The Ghana-born entrepreneur — who grew up in metropolitan Washington, D.C., and once worked for first lady Michelle Obama — has lived in Nigeria for roughly five years. From there, she sees “so many opportunities and potentials in Africa to innovate and help improve people’s lives.”

The continent has some fast-growing economies — including Nigeria, Ghana and Ethiopia — and the world’s fastest-growing population. With more than 1.2 billion people, it’s projected to top 2.2 billion by 2050. At least 26 African countries are likely to double their current populations by then, the United Nations reports. 

Africa also holds challenges for entrepreneurs, from finding funding to untangling bureaucratic red tape, Osei acknowledged. “Dealing with polices and governments can be hard. Also, distributions: How can I get a product that I made in Lagos out here to Austin?”

But, Osei insisted, “Every single challenge and opportunity also presents a space for an innovator and entrepreneur to solve that problem.”

Accelerator gives edge

She Leads Africa deals with problem-solving. In its first year, the company started the SLA Accelerator, a three-month development program to assist female-led startups in Nigeria. It gives entrepreneurs business training and opportunities to meet potential investors.

Entrepreneur Cherae Robinson won a spot in the accelerator program’s first year — and $10,000 in seed money to start a specialty travel company. Now called Tastemakers Africa, it has a mobile app to help users “find and buy hip experiences on the continent.”  

The mentorship “provided a wealth of knowledge I did not have,” said Robinson, a 33-year-old New York native living in Johannesburg, South Africa. “I was a few months into developing the model. She Leads Africa helped us not only refine the model, but it continues to be a source I can tap into. They continue to support the entrepreneurs in their network.”

She Leads Africa recently began working with a New York-based Ghanaian-German designer and fashion blogger who goes by the single name Kukua. She started africaboutik, an online store of modern African designs.

“At Africa-themed events in NYC [New York City], I see a lot of so-called ‘Made in Africa’ items that are 100 percent made in Beijing,” Kukua wrote in an Instagram post. With SLA’s help, she’s identifying new textiles and designers in Africa to change the fashion narrative.

​Navigating rules, regulations

At several SXSW Africa-focused events, Osei was asked how entrepreneurs could navigate complicated government regulations and licensing requirements. She suggested finding key government personnel who understand technology and want to help new businesses.  

“It is important for technology leaders to take the lead and be innovative in the way we communicate to government, because they [government staff] are learning as much as we are,” Osei told VOA.

Osei and Belo-Osagie are learning through She Leads Africa, and their efforts have drawn recognition. Forbes magazine named them among “the 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa” in 2014. 

They don’t plan to slow down, Osei said, noting their goal is at least 1 million subscribers for their website. As the site says, it’s for “the ladies who want to build million-dollar companies, lead corporate organizations and crush it as leaders.”

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Entrepreneur: ‘Anyone Can Play a Role’ in African Innovation

While working for a big consulting firm in Lagos, Nigeria, Afua Osei repeatedly encountered women who wanted to advance professionally but didn’t know how. They needed guidance and mentoring.

So, Osei and her colleague Yasmin Belo-Osagie started She Leads Africa, a digital media company offering advice, information, training and networking opportunities to help “young African women achieve their professional dreams,” according to the website.

Launched in 2014, it now has an online community of over 300,000 in at least 35 countries in Africa and throughout the diaspora.

“I didn’t plan to be an entrepreneur,” Osei said this month at South by Southwest (SXSW), an annual festival of music, film and tech innovation. 

Anyone can be an innovator, Osei said in an interview, after co-hosting a meetup on starting and investing in African businesses. “You don’t have to look a certain way. It’s not just for one type of person. Anybody can play a role, and there is so much work to be done.”

​Opportunities in Africa

The Ghana-born entrepreneur — who grew up in metropolitan Washington, D.C., and once worked for first lady Michelle Obama — has lived in Nigeria for roughly five years. From there, she sees “so many opportunities and potentials in Africa to innovate and help improve people’s lives.”

The continent has some fast-growing economies — including Nigeria, Ghana and Ethiopia — and the world’s fastest-growing population. With more than 1.2 billion people, it’s projected to top 2.2 billion by 2050. At least 26 African countries are likely to double their current populations by then, the United Nations reports. 

Africa also holds challenges for entrepreneurs, from finding funding to untangling bureaucratic red tape, Osei acknowledged. “Dealing with polices and governments can be hard. Also, distributions: How can I get a product that I made in Lagos out here to Austin?”

But, Osei insisted, “Every single challenge and opportunity also presents a space for an innovator and entrepreneur to solve that problem.”

Accelerator gives edge

She Leads Africa deals with problem-solving. In its first year, the company started the SLA Accelerator, a three-month development program to assist female-led startups in Nigeria. It gives entrepreneurs business training and opportunities to meet potential investors.

Entrepreneur Cherae Robinson won a spot in the accelerator program’s first year — and $10,000 in seed money to start a specialty travel company. Now called Tastemakers Africa, it has a mobile app to help users “find and buy hip experiences on the continent.”  

The mentorship “provided a wealth of knowledge I did not have,” said Robinson, a 33-year-old New York native living in Johannesburg, South Africa. “I was a few months into developing the model. She Leads Africa helped us not only refine the model, but it continues to be a source I can tap into. They continue to support the entrepreneurs in their network.”

She Leads Africa recently began working with a New York-based Ghanaian-German designer and fashion blogger who goes by the single name Kukua. She started africaboutik, an online store of modern African designs.

“At Africa-themed events in NYC [New York City], I see a lot of so-called ‘Made in Africa’ items that are 100 percent made in Beijing,” Kukua wrote in an Instagram post. With SLA’s help, she’s identifying new textiles and designers in Africa to change the fashion narrative.

​Navigating rules, regulations

At several SXSW Africa-focused events, Osei was asked how entrepreneurs could navigate complicated government regulations and licensing requirements. She suggested finding key government personnel who understand technology and want to help new businesses.  

“It is important for technology leaders to take the lead and be innovative in the way we communicate to government, because they [government staff] are learning as much as we are,” Osei told VOA.

Osei and Belo-Osagie are learning through She Leads Africa, and their efforts have drawn recognition. Forbes magazine named them among “the 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa” in 2014. 

They don’t plan to slow down, Osei said, noting their goal is at least 1 million subscribers for their website. As the site says, it’s for “the ladies who want to build million-dollar companies, lead corporate organizations and crush it as leaders.”

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Adobe New Service Aims to Follow Users Across Multiple Devices

Visiting Subway’s website on a personal computer might not seem to have anything to do with checking the NFL’s app on a phone. But these discrete activities are the foundation for a new service to help marketers follow you around.

Adobe, a company better known for Photoshop and PDF files, says the new initiative announced Wednesday will help companies offer more personalized experiences and make ads less annoying by filtering out products and services you have already bought or will never buy.

But it comes amid heightened privacy sensitivities after reports that Facebook allowed a political consulting firm to harvest data on millions of Facebook users to influence elections.

And Adobe’s initiative underscores the role data plays in helping companies make money. Many of the initial uses are for better ad targeting.

Adobe says no personal data is being exchanged among the 60 or so companies that have joined its Device Co-op initiative already. These include such well-known brands as Allstate, Lenovo, Intel, Barnes & Noble, Subaru, Subway, Sprint, the NFL and the Food Network. Adobe says the program links about 300 million consumers across nearly 2 billion devices in the U.S. and Canada.

Under the initiative, Adobe can tell you’re the same person on a home PC, a work laptop, a phone and a tablet by analyzing past sign-ins with member companies. With that knowledge, Sprint would know Bob is already a customer when he visits from a new device. Bob wouldn’t get a promotion to switch from another carrier, but might get instead a phone upgrade offer. Or if Mary has declared herself a Giants fan on the NFL’s app, she might see ads with Giants banners when visiting NFL.com from a laptop for the first time.

All this might feel creepy, but such cross-device tracking is already commonly done by matching attributes such as devices that from the same internet location, or IP address. Consumers typically have little control over it.

Adobe says it will give consumers a chance to opt out of such tracking. And it’s breaking industry practices in a few ways. Adobe says it will honor opt-out requests for all participating companies and for all devices at once. It’s more typical for such setups to require people do so one by one. All companies in the initiative are listed on Adobe’s website, a break from some companies’ practice of referring only to unspecified partners.

“We’re doing everything we can not letting brands hide themselves,” Adobe executive Amit Ahuja said.

But in taking an opt-out approach, which is common in the industry, Adobe assumes that users consent. And it places the burden on consumers to learn about this initiative and to figure out how they can opt out of it.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Adobe New Service Aims to Follow Users Across Multiple Devices

Visiting Subway’s website on a personal computer might not seem to have anything to do with checking the NFL’s app on a phone. But these discrete activities are the foundation for a new service to help marketers follow you around.

Adobe, a company better known for Photoshop and PDF files, says the new initiative announced Wednesday will help companies offer more personalized experiences and make ads less annoying by filtering out products and services you have already bought or will never buy.

But it comes amid heightened privacy sensitivities after reports that Facebook allowed a political consulting firm to harvest data on millions of Facebook users to influence elections.

And Adobe’s initiative underscores the role data plays in helping companies make money. Many of the initial uses are for better ad targeting.

Adobe says no personal data is being exchanged among the 60 or so companies that have joined its Device Co-op initiative already. These include such well-known brands as Allstate, Lenovo, Intel, Barnes & Noble, Subaru, Subway, Sprint, the NFL and the Food Network. Adobe says the program links about 300 million consumers across nearly 2 billion devices in the U.S. and Canada.

Under the initiative, Adobe can tell you’re the same person on a home PC, a work laptop, a phone and a tablet by analyzing past sign-ins with member companies. With that knowledge, Sprint would know Bob is already a customer when he visits from a new device. Bob wouldn’t get a promotion to switch from another carrier, but might get instead a phone upgrade offer. Or if Mary has declared herself a Giants fan on the NFL’s app, she might see ads with Giants banners when visiting NFL.com from a laptop for the first time.

All this might feel creepy, but such cross-device tracking is already commonly done by matching attributes such as devices that from the same internet location, or IP address. Consumers typically have little control over it.

Adobe says it will give consumers a chance to opt out of such tracking. And it’s breaking industry practices in a few ways. Adobe says it will honor opt-out requests for all participating companies and for all devices at once. It’s more typical for such setups to require people do so one by one. All companies in the initiative are listed on Adobe’s website, a break from some companies’ practice of referring only to unspecified partners.

“We’re doing everything we can not letting brands hide themselves,” Adobe executive Amit Ahuja said.

But in taking an opt-out approach, which is common in the industry, Adobe assumes that users consent. And it places the burden on consumers to learn about this initiative and to figure out how they can opt out of it.

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3 Facebook Messenger App Users File Lawsuit Over Privacy

Three Facebook Messenger app users have filed a lawsuit claiming the social network violated their privacy by collecting logs of their phone calls and text messages.

The suit, filed Tuesday in federal court in northern California, comes as Facebook faces scrutiny over privacy concerns.

Facebook acknowledged on Sunday that it began uploading call and text logs from phones running Google’s Android system in 2015. Facebook added that only users who gave appropriate permission were affected, that it didn’t collect the contents of messages or calls, and that users can opt out of the data collection and have the stored logs deleted by changing their app settings.

The suit seeks class-action status.

A message seeking comment from Facebook on Wednesday was not immediately returned.

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