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To Get a Ride, Uber Says Take a Walk

The latest variation of an Uber ride will require a short walk.

In eight U.S. cities, the ride-hailing company is rolling out a service called “Express Pool,” which links riders in the same area who want to travel to similar destinations. Once linked, riders would need to walk a couple of blocks to be picked up at a common location. They also would be dropped off at a site that would be a short walk from their final destinations.

Depending on time of day and metro area, Express Pool could cost up to 75 percent less than a regular Uber ride and up to half the cost of Uber’s current shared-ride service called Pool, said Ethan Stock, the company’s product director for shared rides.

Pool, which will remain in use, doesn’t require any walking. Instead it takes an often circuitous route to pick up riders at their location and drops them at their destination. But that can take longer than Express, which travels a more direct route.

Uber has been testing the service since November in San Francisco and Boston and has found enough ridership to support running it 24 hours per day. Within the next two days, the around-the-clock service will start running in Los Angeles; Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; Miami, San Diego and Denver. More cities will follow, Uber said.

The new service could spell competition for mass transit, but just how much depends on how well it works and how good the mass transit is, said Mark Hallenbeck, director of the Washington State Transportation Center at the University of Washington. If buses or subways are overcrowded and Uber can provide service for a similar price, that will help with mobility.

“If, however, you are cannibalizing transit that’s not over-subscribed, then that becomes a bad thing,” Hallenbeck said.

Also, if the ride-sharing service pulls people off mass transit and creates more automobile traffic, that will add to congestion, he said.

The service could complement Uber X, the company’s door-to-door taxi service — or draw passengers away from it.

Stock said the system should work well with public transit, providing first-mile and last-mile service for transit riders and by providing service to low passenger volume areas where it’s not cost effective for public transit to serve. He also says it will reduce congestion by cutting the number of personal vehicle trips.

Express already has ride-sharing competitors such as Via, which operates in New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

Express Pool will have normal-sized cars, at least initially, and optimally will carry a maximum of three passengers so riders aren’t crammed into the vehicles. It could be expanded to six-passenger vehicles, Stock said.

It will take one to two minutes for Uber’s computers to match a rider to a driver and other riders and select a pick-up point, Stock said.

The lower cost of the service should help Uber grow, Stock said. “More riders can afford to take more trips for more reasons,” he said. Already Uber Pool accounts for 20 percent of Uber trips in the cities where it’s available.

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S. Korea official: GM 0ffers $2.8B Investment in S.Korea Over 10 Years

General Motors has proposed $2.8 billion of fresh investment into its South Korean operations over the 10 years as part of its plan to restructure the embattled unit, a South Korean senior government official said on Wednesday.

The offer comes as the Detroit carmaker and the South Korean government discuss restructuring options at loss-making GM Korea, one of GM’s largest offshore operations.

The official with direct knowledge of the matter said GM had also asked South Korea to inject funds into GM Korea in which the country’s state bank also holds a stake. However, the official added that a close look into GM’s proposal was necessary to determine whether the investment plan was sufficient to rescue the unit, which directly employs some 16,000 workers.

“We need to have a closer look through the audit,” the official said.

South Korea’s trade minister said the government has also asked for an audit into GM’s “opaque” management in the country.

“By opaque we mean the high rate of profits to raw material costs, interest payments regarding loans and unfair financial support made to GM’s headquarters,” said Minister Paik Un-gyu told lawmakers in parliament.

Last week, the U.S. automaker announced it would shut down a factory in Gunsan, southwest of Seoul, and said it was mulling the fate of its three remaining plants in South Korea.

A South Korean lawmaker said earlier that GM had put forward a proposal including the investment plan and a debt to equity swap of the Korea unit’s borrowings to the parent company.

In return, GM requested South Korea to take part in financing the investment and raising capital, according to a statement by Jung You-sub, the lawmaker from Bupyeong where GM runs its biggest factory in South Korea.

Jung’s office was not immediately available for comment.

On Tuesday, Reuters reported GM had offered to convert debt of around $2.2 billion owed by its ailing South Korean operation into equity in exchange for financial support and tax benefits from Seoul, four sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.

 

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S. Korea official: GM 0ffers $2.8B Investment in S.Korea Over 10 Years

General Motors has proposed $2.8 billion of fresh investment into its South Korean operations over the 10 years as part of its plan to restructure the embattled unit, a South Korean senior government official said on Wednesday.

The offer comes as the Detroit carmaker and the South Korean government discuss restructuring options at loss-making GM Korea, one of GM’s largest offshore operations.

The official with direct knowledge of the matter said GM had also asked South Korea to inject funds into GM Korea in which the country’s state bank also holds a stake. However, the official added that a close look into GM’s proposal was necessary to determine whether the investment plan was sufficient to rescue the unit, which directly employs some 16,000 workers.

“We need to have a closer look through the audit,” the official said.

South Korea’s trade minister said the government has also asked for an audit into GM’s “opaque” management in the country.

“By opaque we mean the high rate of profits to raw material costs, interest payments regarding loans and unfair financial support made to GM’s headquarters,” said Minister Paik Un-gyu told lawmakers in parliament.

Last week, the U.S. automaker announced it would shut down a factory in Gunsan, southwest of Seoul, and said it was mulling the fate of its three remaining plants in South Korea.

A South Korean lawmaker said earlier that GM had put forward a proposal including the investment plan and a debt to equity swap of the Korea unit’s borrowings to the parent company.

In return, GM requested South Korea to take part in financing the investment and raising capital, according to a statement by Jung You-sub, the lawmaker from Bupyeong where GM runs its biggest factory in South Korea.

Jung’s office was not immediately available for comment.

On Tuesday, Reuters reported GM had offered to convert debt of around $2.2 billion owed by its ailing South Korean operation into equity in exchange for financial support and tax benefits from Seoul, four sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.

 

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WH: New Security Clearance Policy Will Not Affect Kushner’s Work

The White House says new restrictions on top security clearances set to go into effect Friday will not affect the work of senior White House adviser Jared Kushner.

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law has been operating for more than a year with an interim clearance, and his position has given him access to some of the most sensitive information, including the president’s daily security briefing.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly announced last week the new policy that would strip interim clearances from those who currently have access at the top levels of the security classification system.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Tuesday the change will not impact Kushner’s work.

“Nothing that has taken place will affect the valuable work that Jared is doing. He continues, and will continue, to be a valued member of the team,” Sanders said.

Kushner’s duties have been wide-ranging, from the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to making the federal government run more efficiently, as well as work on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“As I told Jared days ago, I have full confidence in his ability to continue performing his duties in his foreign policy portfolio including overseeing our Israeli-Palestinian peace effort and serving as an integral part of our relationship with Mexico,” Kelly said in a statement.

U.S. government employees must submit a form extensively detailing background information such as prior jobs and addresses, relatives, foreign contacts, foreign business activities and criminal record. The information is the basis for investigators to determine whether the person should be trusted to receive any relevant security clearances.

Kushner has amended his submission multiple times, delaying his clearance process.

When asked if Trump would use his executive authority to grant Kushner a clearance, Sanders said Tuesday she had not spoken with the president “about whether or not that would be necessary.”

The new White House policy is set to affect several dozen employees, according to administration officials, though most do not need the top level clearances to do their jobs.

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S. Korea’s Cryptocurrency Industry Welcomes Regulator’s Dramatic Change of Heart

South Korea’s cryptocurrency industry is anticipating much better times as the market regulator changes tack from its tough stance on the virtual coin trade, promising instead to help promote blockchain technology.

The regulator said Tuesday that it hopes to see South Korea — which has become a hub for cryptocurrency trade — normalize the virtual coin business in a self-regulatory environment.

“The whole world is now framing the outline [for cryptocurrency] and therefore [the government] should rather work more on normalization than increasing regulation,” Choe Heung-sik, chief of South Korea’s Finance Supervisory Service (FSS), told reporters.

FSS has been leading the government’s regulation of cryptocurrency trading as part of a task force.

Cryptocurrency operators have drawn a new optimism from Choe’s comments, seeing them clearly indicating the government’s cooperation in their plans for self-regulation.

“Though the government and the industry have not yet reached a full agreement, the fact that the regulator himself made clear the government’s stance on cooperation is a positive sign for the markets,” said Kim Haw-joon of the Korea Blockchain Association.

Wednesday’s news is a stark reversal of the justice minister’s warnings in January that the government was considering shutting down local cryptocurrency exchanges, throwing the market into turmoil.

Instead, South Korea banned the use of anonymous bank accounts for virtual coin trading as of January 30 to stop cryptocurrencies being used in money laundering and other crimes.

Bitcoin, the world’s most heavily traded cryptocurrency, is now changing hands at a three-week high of $11,086 on the Luxembourg-based Biststamp exchange after falling as low as $5,920.72 in early February.

South Korean electronics giant Samsung has already started production of cryptocurrency mining technologies, local media reported in January.

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S. Korea’s Cryptocurrency Industry Welcomes Regulator’s Dramatic Change of Heart

South Korea’s cryptocurrency industry is anticipating much better times as the market regulator changes tack from its tough stance on the virtual coin trade, promising instead to help promote blockchain technology.

The regulator said Tuesday that it hopes to see South Korea — which has become a hub for cryptocurrency trade — normalize the virtual coin business in a self-regulatory environment.

“The whole world is now framing the outline [for cryptocurrency] and therefore [the government] should rather work more on normalization than increasing regulation,” Choe Heung-sik, chief of South Korea’s Finance Supervisory Service (FSS), told reporters.

FSS has been leading the government’s regulation of cryptocurrency trading as part of a task force.

Cryptocurrency operators have drawn a new optimism from Choe’s comments, seeing them clearly indicating the government’s cooperation in their plans for self-regulation.

“Though the government and the industry have not yet reached a full agreement, the fact that the regulator himself made clear the government’s stance on cooperation is a positive sign for the markets,” said Kim Haw-joon of the Korea Blockchain Association.

Wednesday’s news is a stark reversal of the justice minister’s warnings in January that the government was considering shutting down local cryptocurrency exchanges, throwing the market into turmoil.

Instead, South Korea banned the use of anonymous bank accounts for virtual coin trading as of January 30 to stop cryptocurrencies being used in money laundering and other crimes.

Bitcoin, the world’s most heavily traded cryptocurrency, is now changing hands at a three-week high of $11,086 on the Luxembourg-based Biststamp exchange after falling as low as $5,920.72 in early February.

South Korean electronics giant Samsung has already started production of cryptocurrency mining technologies, local media reported in January.

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Artificial Intelligence Poses Risks of Misuse by Hackers, Researchers Say

Rapid advances in artificial intelligence are raising risks that malicious users will soon exploit the technology to mount automated hacking attacks, cause driverless car crashes or turn commercial drones into targeted weapons, a new report warns.

The study, published on Wednesday by 25 technical and public policy researchers from Cambridge, Oxford and Yale universities along with privacy and military experts, sounded the alarm for the potential misuse of AI by rogue states, criminals and lone-wolf attackers.

The researchers said the malicious use of AI poses imminent threats to digital, physical and political security by allowing for large-scale, finely targeted, highly efficient attacks. The study focuses on plausible developments within five years.

“We all agree there are a lot of positive applications of AI,” Miles Brundage, a research fellow at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute. “There was a gap in the literature around the issue of malicious use.”

Artificial intelligence, or AI, involves using computers to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as making decisions or recognizing text, speech or visual images.

It is considered a powerful force for unlocking all manner of technical possibilities but has become a focus of strident debate over whether the massive automation it enables could result in widespread unemployment and other social dislocations.

The 98-page paper cautions that the cost of attacks may be lowered by the use of AI to complete tasks that would otherwise require human labor and expertise. New attacks may arise that would be impractical for humans alone to develop or which exploit the vulnerabilities of AI systems themselves.

It reviews a growing body of academic research about the security risks posed by AI and calls on governments and policy and technical experts to collaborate and defuse these dangers.

The researchers detail the power of AI to generate synthetic images, text and audio to impersonate others online, in order to sway public opinion, noting the threat that authoritarian regimes could deploy such technology.

The report makes a series of recommendations including regulating AI as a dual-use military/commercial technology.

It also asks questions about whether academics and others should rein in what they publish or disclose about new developments in AI until other experts in the field have a chance to study and react to potential dangers they might pose.

“We ultimately ended up with a lot more questions than answers,” Brundage said.

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Illicit Financial Flows Outpace Development in Africa, OECD Says

Through medication and narcotics smuggling, ivory and people trafficking, oil theft and piracy, Africa is, by conservative estimates, losing about $50 billion a year in illicit financial flows — more, in fact, than it receives in official development assistance. 

A report by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development offers a bigger look at the illegal economy behind the losses and how African and richer nations can fight it.

The OECD report zooms in on West Africa, and one sector in particular stands out. Catherine Anderson, who heads governance issues as the OECD, said 80 percent of illicit financial flows from West Africa are generated from the theft of natural resouces, principally oil.

But West African countries aren’t the only ones losing out from illicit flows, Anderson said. So are developed nations. Migrant trafficking, a hot-button issue in Europe, is a case in point.

“One of our case studies is on al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which is benefiting from the kidnap-for-ransom activities,” she said. “They are interdicting the trade and passage of goods across the Sahel, levying protection fees and revenues from the population. These have significant implications, not just for West African populations but for OECD countries, for Europe, in terms of insecurity and instability.”

She said illegal resource flows need to be tackled holistically — not only by the countries of origin, but also by those where the finances are transiting, and those where they finally end up, including developed countries. Doing so can be particularly tricky in West Africa, where a huge informal economy blurs the boundary of what is legal and what isn’t.

Ambassador Según Apata of Nigeria is a member of a U.N. high-level panel looking into illicit financial flows from Africa. He said some African governments are beginning to tackle the problem, but they don’t always have the capacity to do so.

“We have not made giant strides yet,” Apata said. “We are still at the elementary, at the mundane level of implementation.”

Apata said that if the $50 billion in losses from illegal activities were channeled into development in West Africa, it could help check the illegal migration that European countries worry about.

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Illicit Financial Flows Outpace Development in Africa, OECD Says

Through medication and narcotics smuggling, ivory and people trafficking, oil theft and piracy, Africa is, by conservative estimates, losing about $50 billion a year in illicit financial flows — more, in fact, than it receives in official development assistance. 

A report by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development offers a bigger look at the illegal economy behind the losses and how African and richer nations can fight it.

The OECD report zooms in on West Africa, and one sector in particular stands out. Catherine Anderson, who heads governance issues as the OECD, said 80 percent of illicit financial flows from West Africa are generated from the theft of natural resouces, principally oil.

But West African countries aren’t the only ones losing out from illicit flows, Anderson said. So are developed nations. Migrant trafficking, a hot-button issue in Europe, is a case in point.

“One of our case studies is on al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which is benefiting from the kidnap-for-ransom activities,” she said. “They are interdicting the trade and passage of goods across the Sahel, levying protection fees and revenues from the population. These have significant implications, not just for West African populations but for OECD countries, for Europe, in terms of insecurity and instability.”

She said illegal resource flows need to be tackled holistically — not only by the countries of origin, but also by those where the finances are transiting, and those where they finally end up, including developed countries. Doing so can be particularly tricky in West Africa, where a huge informal economy blurs the boundary of what is legal and what isn’t.

Ambassador Según Apata of Nigeria is a member of a U.N. high-level panel looking into illicit financial flows from Africa. He said some African governments are beginning to tackle the problem, but they don’t always have the capacity to do so.

“We have not made giant strides yet,” Apata said. “We are still at the elementary, at the mundane level of implementation.”

Apata said that if the $50 billion in losses from illegal activities were channeled into development in West Africa, it could help check the illegal migration that European countries worry about.

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