Category Archives: News

worldwide news

Google to Showcase AI Advances at Its Big Conference

Google is likely to again put artificial intelligence in the spotlight at its annual developers conference Thursday.

 

The company’s digital concierge, known only as the Google Assistant, could gain new abilities to handle tasks such as making restaurant reservations without human hand-holding.

 

Google may also unveil updates to its Android mobile operating system, enable better AI-powered navigation suggestions in Google Maps, and push further into augmented reality technology, which overlays a view of the real world with digital images.

 

The search giant aims to make its assistant so useful that people can’t live without it — or the search results that drive its advertising business. But it also wants to play up the social benefits of AI, and plans to showcase how it’s being used to improve health care, preserve the environment and make scientific discoveries.

 

CEO Sundar Pichai probably won’t emphasize privacy or data security concerns, which have put companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google in the crosshairs of regulators. But Google could also give parents new tools to manage how children access video and other material on different devices.

 

The company is also expected to unveil a new app for news that combines elements of its Google Play Newsstand app and YouTube.

 

It’s too early in the year for Google to showcase any new hardware, which it tends to do ahead of the Christmas shopping season. Last week, however, it said its partner Lenovo will sell a $400 stand-alone virtual reality headset that doesn’t require inserting a smartphone. (Facebook last week announced a competing $199 device called the Oculus Go.)

 

Google also last week updated actions that its assistant can perform on smartwatches powered by its Wear OS software. For instance, it can tell you about your day if you’re wearing headphones instead of making you read your calendar.

 

 

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Google to Showcase AI Advances at Its Big Conference

Google is likely to again put artificial intelligence in the spotlight at its annual developers conference Thursday.

 

The company’s digital concierge, known only as the Google Assistant, could gain new abilities to handle tasks such as making restaurant reservations without human hand-holding.

 

Google may also unveil updates to its Android mobile operating system, enable better AI-powered navigation suggestions in Google Maps, and push further into augmented reality technology, which overlays a view of the real world with digital images.

 

The search giant aims to make its assistant so useful that people can’t live without it — or the search results that drive its advertising business. But it also wants to play up the social benefits of AI, and plans to showcase how it’s being used to improve health care, preserve the environment and make scientific discoveries.

 

CEO Sundar Pichai probably won’t emphasize privacy or data security concerns, which have put companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google in the crosshairs of regulators. But Google could also give parents new tools to manage how children access video and other material on different devices.

 

The company is also expected to unveil a new app for news that combines elements of its Google Play Newsstand app and YouTube.

 

It’s too early in the year for Google to showcase any new hardware, which it tends to do ahead of the Christmas shopping season. Last week, however, it said its partner Lenovo will sell a $400 stand-alone virtual reality headset that doesn’t require inserting a smartphone. (Facebook last week announced a competing $199 device called the Oculus Go.)

 

Google also last week updated actions that its assistant can perform on smartwatches powered by its Wear OS software. For instance, it can tell you about your day if you’re wearing headphones instead of making you read your calendar.

 

 

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New York Attorney General Resigns After Assault Allegations

The attorney general of the U.S. state of New York resigned late Monday after four women accused him of physical abuse.

Democrat Eric Schneiderman had been in office since 2010 and was running for re-election.

The New Yorker magazine published an article Monday with the accounts of the four women who said Schneiderman subjected them to non-consensual physical violence during romantic encounters.

Schneiderman issued several statements denying he assaulted anyone or took part in non-consensual sex. His resignation announcement said the allegations will effectively prevent him from carrying out his office’s work.

He has been a vocal proponent of the #MeToo movement against sexual assault and harassment, including filing a lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein, one of the many high-profile men in politics, entertainment and business accused of assaulting women.

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New York Attorney General Resigns After Assault Allegations

The attorney general of the U.S. state of New York resigned late Monday after four women accused him of physical abuse.

Democrat Eric Schneiderman had been in office since 2010 and was running for re-election.

The New Yorker magazine published an article Monday with the accounts of the four women who said Schneiderman subjected them to non-consensual physical violence during romantic encounters.

Schneiderman issued several statements denying he assaulted anyone or took part in non-consensual sex. His resignation announcement said the allegations will effectively prevent him from carrying out his office’s work.

He has been a vocal proponent of the #MeToo movement against sexual assault and harassment, including filing a lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein, one of the many high-profile men in politics, entertainment and business accused of assaulting women.

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White House, Rights Groups Spar Over Nominee to Head CIA

Ahead of her confirmation hearing Wednesday, the White House is defending acting Central Intelligence Agency director Gina Haspel as the best person for the job.

“She is 100 percent committed to going through this confirmation process and being confirmed as the next leader of the CIA,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Monday. 

The 61-year-old veteran agency operative offered to withdraw from consideration for the permanent position amid concerns about her involvement in previous harsh interrogation programs, but President Donald Trump — according to administration officials — has encouraged her to hold firm.

“She wants to do everything she can to make sure the integrity of the CIA remains intact, isn’t unnecessarily attacked. And if she felt that her nomination would have been a problem for that and for the agency, then she wanted to do what she could to protect the agency,” explained Sanders. 

The CIA on Monday delivered “a set of classified documents to the Senate today so that every senator could review acting director Haspel’s actual and outstanding record,” according to an agency spokesperson. “These documents cover the entirety of her career, including her time in the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center in the years after 9/11. We encourage every senator to take the time to read the entire set of documents.”

White House officials reportedly quickly went to see Haspel at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia, last Friday to convince her not to withdraw from consideration. 

Trump on Monday asserted Haspel “has come under fire because she was too tough on Terrorists.”

Trump tweeted: “Think of that, in these very dangerous times, we have the most qualified person, a woman, who Democrats want OUT because she is too tough on terror. Win Gina!” Trump said.

Tuesday morning the president reiterated his support in another tweet.

Haspel will appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee in a partly open hearing on Wednesday. If confirmed, she would be the first woman to lead the agency, which was created by President Harry Truman in 1947. She will succeed Mike Pompeo, who was recently confirmed as Secretary of State. 

A 33-year veteran of the intelligence agency, Haspel previously ran CIA posts in four different countries and studied Russian and Turkish during her career. Most of the specifics of her background, including in which specific countries she operated undercover over the years, remain classified. 

Thailand detention center

Civil libertarians, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, and many Democrats said Haspel should be disqualified because among the known items on her resume is supervision of a secret CIA detention center in Thailand. In 2002, two Islamic terror suspects were waterboarded there — a practice that simulates drowning and critics call torture.

Haspel authored a cable three years later calling for the destruction of nearly 100 videotapes of the waterboarding (now an illegal practice) and other interrogations. 

The ACLU is calling for senators to demand that her “torture records” be declassified. 

One Republican senator, Rand Paul, who is from Haspel’s home state of Kentucky, also opposes her nomination because of her involvement in the waterboarding of detainees and has vowed to block her confirmation. 

Another Republican, Sen. Tom Cotton of the state of Arkansas, declares opposing Haspel’s nomination for political reasons “puts our national security at risk.” 

Haspel has been meeting with senators ahead of her hearing and has reportedly assured them, if confirmed, she would oppose a revival of brutal interrogation techniques. That is something she is expected to explicitly declare during Wednesday’s hearing. 

“Through the confirmation process, the American public will get to know her for the first time. When they do, we are confident America will be proud to have the deputy director as the next CIA director,” a CIA spokesperson told VOA. “She’s a tested and respected leader who will lead consistent with our mission, expertise, values, and the law.”

VOA’s Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.

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White House, Rights Groups Spar Over Nominee to Head CIA

Ahead of her confirmation hearing Wednesday, the White House is defending acting Central Intelligence Agency director Gina Haspel as the best person for the job.

“She is 100 percent committed to going through this confirmation process and being confirmed as the next leader of the CIA,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Monday. 

The 61-year-old veteran agency operative offered to withdraw from consideration for the permanent position amid concerns about her involvement in previous harsh interrogation programs, but President Donald Trump — according to administration officials — has encouraged her to hold firm.

“She wants to do everything she can to make sure the integrity of the CIA remains intact, isn’t unnecessarily attacked. And if she felt that her nomination would have been a problem for that and for the agency, then she wanted to do what she could to protect the agency,” explained Sanders. 

The CIA on Monday delivered “a set of classified documents to the Senate today so that every senator could review acting director Haspel’s actual and outstanding record,” according to an agency spokesperson. “These documents cover the entirety of her career, including her time in the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center in the years after 9/11. We encourage every senator to take the time to read the entire set of documents.”

White House officials reportedly quickly went to see Haspel at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia, last Friday to convince her not to withdraw from consideration. 

Trump on Monday asserted Haspel “has come under fire because she was too tough on Terrorists.”

Trump tweeted: “Think of that, in these very dangerous times, we have the most qualified person, a woman, who Democrats want OUT because she is too tough on terror. Win Gina!” Trump said.

Tuesday morning the president reiterated his support in another tweet.

Haspel will appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee in a partly open hearing on Wednesday. If confirmed, she would be the first woman to lead the agency, which was created by President Harry Truman in 1947. She will succeed Mike Pompeo, who was recently confirmed as Secretary of State. 

A 33-year veteran of the intelligence agency, Haspel previously ran CIA posts in four different countries and studied Russian and Turkish during her career. Most of the specifics of her background, including in which specific countries she operated undercover over the years, remain classified. 

Thailand detention center

Civil libertarians, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, and many Democrats said Haspel should be disqualified because among the known items on her resume is supervision of a secret CIA detention center in Thailand. In 2002, two Islamic terror suspects were waterboarded there — a practice that simulates drowning and critics call torture.

Haspel authored a cable three years later calling for the destruction of nearly 100 videotapes of the waterboarding (now an illegal practice) and other interrogations. 

The ACLU is calling for senators to demand that her “torture records” be declassified. 

One Republican senator, Rand Paul, who is from Haspel’s home state of Kentucky, also opposes her nomination because of her involvement in the waterboarding of detainees and has vowed to block her confirmation. 

Another Republican, Sen. Tom Cotton of the state of Arkansas, declares opposing Haspel’s nomination for political reasons “puts our national security at risk.” 

Haspel has been meeting with senators ahead of her hearing and has reportedly assured them, if confirmed, she would oppose a revival of brutal interrogation techniques. That is something she is expected to explicitly declare during Wednesday’s hearing. 

“Through the confirmation process, the American public will get to know her for the first time. When they do, we are confident America will be proud to have the deputy director as the next CIA director,” a CIA spokesperson told VOA. “She’s a tested and respected leader who will lead consistent with our mission, expertise, values, and the law.”

VOA’s Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.

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Countries Race Towards Technological Dominance Knowing Benefits and Risks

With technology developing at an exponential rate, experts say the world is experiencing a fourth industrial revolution – one that will be driven by artificial intelligence and machines that can analyze huge amounts of data from connected devices. But experts warn that aside from the benefits, the revolution also has the potential to harm societies. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee has this report from the Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles.

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Countries Race Towards Technological Dominance Knowing Benefits and Risks

With technology developing at an exponential rate, experts say the world is experiencing a fourth industrial revolution – one that will be driven by artificial intelligence and machines that can analyze huge amounts of data from connected devices. But experts warn that aside from the benefits, the revolution also has the potential to harm societies. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee has this report from the Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles.

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Groups to Sue HUD Secretary Over Delay of Anti-Segregation Rule

A group of advocacy organizations plans to sue the Department of Housing and Urban Development and its secretary, Ben Carson, over his decision to delay an Obama-era rule intended to ensure that communities confront and address racial segregation.

A draft of the lawsuit argues that Carson illegally suspended the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Act when he abruptly announced earlier this year that cities and counties receiving federal funds won’t be required to analyze housing data and submit plans to HUD for addressing segregation until after 2020.

The lawsuit was expected to be filed Tuesday by the National Fair Housing Alliance, Texas Appleseed and Texas Low Income Housing Information Service. HUD did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment Monday.

Finalized in 2015, the rule for the first time required more than 1,200 jurisdictions receiving HUD block grants and housing aid to analyze its housing stock and come up with a plan for addressing patterns of segregation and discrimination. If HUD determined that the plan, called a Fair Housing Assessment, wasn’t sufficient, the city or county would have to rework it or risk losing funding. 

HUD said in January that it would immediately stop reviewing plans that had been submitted but not yet accepted, and that jurisdictions won’t have to comply with the rule until after 2020. The agency said the postponement was in response to complaints from communities that had struggled to complete assessments and produce plans meeting HUD’s standards; of the 49 submissions HUD received in 2017, roughly a third were sent back.

“What we heard convinced us that the Assessment of Fair Housing tool for local governments wasn’t working well,” HUD said in a statement. “In fact, more than a third of our early submitters failed to produce an acceptable assessment-not for lack of trying but because the tool designed to help them to succeed wasn’t helpful.”

Carson in an editorial in 2015 criticized the rule as being a form of “social engineering.”

But a draft of the suit says the fact that submissions are failing to meet the requirements “reaffirms, rather than calls into question, why HUD thought the rule necessary.”

Attorney Michael Allen said Carson’s action “tells every opponent of integration, every opponent of affordable housing and good neighborhoods, whether they’re individuals or elected officials or local governments, that nobody will put pressure on them at the HUD level for the foreseeable future.”

He said, “That means they’ll keep doing what they’re doing, which is perpetuating segregation.”

A federal judge late last year blocked Carson from suspending another Obama-era regulation intended to more accurately estimate appropriate dollar amounts for housing vouchers by basing them on ZIP codes rather than on metropolitan areas.

The plaintiffs are hoping a judge will make a similar finding in this case.

“The rule that was put into place was adopted after careful thought and consideration, and expensive input from the public, and time after time we are seeing this administration violate the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, whose firm is involved in the suit. “Secretary Ben Carson is abdicating his responsibility to fulfill HUD’s mission.”

Claudia Monterrosa, director of public policy and planning at the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department, said that although the process proved to be a tremendous amount of work, it was immeasurably valuable for the city’s progress.

“The biggest takeaway for our city is, we had a chance to have an honest conversation about race, poverty concentration and investment, addressing the affordable housing crisis through a fair housing lens,” Monterrosa said. HUD suspended the rule one day before Los Angeles expected its plan to be approved, she said.

Paul Chrystie, a spokesman for Philadelphia’s Division of Housing and Community Development, said the city’s examination of segregation extended far beyond housing to include its education and transportation systems. “It helped us think outside of our bubble,” he said.

Among the plans HUD sent back was one from Hidalgo County, Texas. Historically, the county has ignored the needs of poor communities living in colonias, rural communities within the U.S.-Mexico border region that lack basic infrastructure such as electricity and running water. 

With the suspension of the rule, Hidalgo County is no longer required to continue working on its plan.

“We’re reverting to where we were before,” said Christina Rosales, communications director for the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

“It’s using federal dollars to further segregation,” she said, “to encouraging two separate and unequal societies.”

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Groups to Sue HUD Secretary Over Delay of Anti-Segregation Rule

A group of advocacy organizations plans to sue the Department of Housing and Urban Development and its secretary, Ben Carson, over his decision to delay an Obama-era rule intended to ensure that communities confront and address racial segregation.

A draft of the lawsuit argues that Carson illegally suspended the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Act when he abruptly announced earlier this year that cities and counties receiving federal funds won’t be required to analyze housing data and submit plans to HUD for addressing segregation until after 2020.

The lawsuit was expected to be filed Tuesday by the National Fair Housing Alliance, Texas Appleseed and Texas Low Income Housing Information Service. HUD did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment Monday.

Finalized in 2015, the rule for the first time required more than 1,200 jurisdictions receiving HUD block grants and housing aid to analyze its housing stock and come up with a plan for addressing patterns of segregation and discrimination. If HUD determined that the plan, called a Fair Housing Assessment, wasn’t sufficient, the city or county would have to rework it or risk losing funding. 

HUD said in January that it would immediately stop reviewing plans that had been submitted but not yet accepted, and that jurisdictions won’t have to comply with the rule until after 2020. The agency said the postponement was in response to complaints from communities that had struggled to complete assessments and produce plans meeting HUD’s standards; of the 49 submissions HUD received in 2017, roughly a third were sent back.

“What we heard convinced us that the Assessment of Fair Housing tool for local governments wasn’t working well,” HUD said in a statement. “In fact, more than a third of our early submitters failed to produce an acceptable assessment-not for lack of trying but because the tool designed to help them to succeed wasn’t helpful.”

Carson in an editorial in 2015 criticized the rule as being a form of “social engineering.”

But a draft of the suit says the fact that submissions are failing to meet the requirements “reaffirms, rather than calls into question, why HUD thought the rule necessary.”

Attorney Michael Allen said Carson’s action “tells every opponent of integration, every opponent of affordable housing and good neighborhoods, whether they’re individuals or elected officials or local governments, that nobody will put pressure on them at the HUD level for the foreseeable future.”

He said, “That means they’ll keep doing what they’re doing, which is perpetuating segregation.”

A federal judge late last year blocked Carson from suspending another Obama-era regulation intended to more accurately estimate appropriate dollar amounts for housing vouchers by basing them on ZIP codes rather than on metropolitan areas.

The plaintiffs are hoping a judge will make a similar finding in this case.

“The rule that was put into place was adopted after careful thought and consideration, and expensive input from the public, and time after time we are seeing this administration violate the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, whose firm is involved in the suit. “Secretary Ben Carson is abdicating his responsibility to fulfill HUD’s mission.”

Claudia Monterrosa, director of public policy and planning at the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department, said that although the process proved to be a tremendous amount of work, it was immeasurably valuable for the city’s progress.

“The biggest takeaway for our city is, we had a chance to have an honest conversation about race, poverty concentration and investment, addressing the affordable housing crisis through a fair housing lens,” Monterrosa said. HUD suspended the rule one day before Los Angeles expected its plan to be approved, she said.

Paul Chrystie, a spokesman for Philadelphia’s Division of Housing and Community Development, said the city’s examination of segregation extended far beyond housing to include its education and transportation systems. “It helped us think outside of our bubble,” he said.

Among the plans HUD sent back was one from Hidalgo County, Texas. Historically, the county has ignored the needs of poor communities living in colonias, rural communities within the U.S.-Mexico border region that lack basic infrastructure such as electricity and running water. 

With the suspension of the rule, Hidalgo County is no longer required to continue working on its plan.

“We’re reverting to where we were before,” said Christina Rosales, communications director for the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

“It’s using federal dollars to further segregation,” she said, “to encouraging two separate and unequal societies.”

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