Critic’s notebook: The Best New Social Thriller Is a Podcast

Fiction podcasts have always felt one step behind the culture. The audio drama’s great and unexpected resurgence in this decade, thanks to the rise of podcasting’s listen-whenever-and-wherever-you-like technology, has produced a cutting-edge genre that seems somehow suspended in time.

Maybe it’s because so many scripted podcasts have borrowed from old radio plays. Or maybe it’s because they’ve so often leaned into genre storytelling, leaving social reality behind to build fantasy worlds and unravel mysteries. The experimental sandbox of the new form has produced sharp plots and intriguing aural soundscapes but few stories that seem to access something bigger than themselves.

In absurdist landscape, we latch onto IA, an appealing loner voiced by Mr. Winter. In Episode 1 we follow him as he learns he has an operable brain tumor, falls through every loophole of the New American health care system, and discovers that the only way to finance the procedure and save his life is to get arrested and avail himself of the free services of the prison hospital. IA is black, so this should not be too hard, and yet it proves absurdly impossible: When he tries to persuade a police officer to pick him up for blatant shoplifting, the cop is insulted: “You telling me how to do my job?”

After serving 16 years in prison on trumped-up pot possession charges, Dolores returns broke and confused to the newly gentrified Washington Heights. All of the her neighborhood landmarks have been replaced by T-Mobiles and Citibanks, its once-friendly faces supplanted by green smoothie-drinking white girls in workout clothes who are free to smoke their boutique hydroponic weed without incident. The only thing left is the local joint Empanada Loca and its owner, Luis (Bobby Cannavale), who opens the shop’s doors and his weed stash to his old friend. Despite all the indignities visited upon Dolores — and all the crimes she’ll commit in her tragicomic descent into madness — the tale is built on that tender emotional core. Breathing all these elements to life is the voice of Daphne Rubin-Vega — the original Mimi in “Rent” — whose performance as Dolores slinks into the listener’s mind in a way that feels unrivaled in audio.

“Not being a straight white guy — being black, being biracial — you’re always inside and outside the world at once,” he added. “It’s exciting that we’re all getting a place where folks are beginning to appreciate that perspective.”

And “Dolores Roach” is a virtual co-creation with Ms. Rubin-Vega, who originated both the title character and all the others in the one-woman show, and weighed in on casting and scripting on the podcast adaptation. “Her imprint on this is enormous,” Ms. O’Donnell said.

Ms. Shippen and Ms. Tran have been conferring closely on scripts in Los Angeles, including working out how to build a Vietnamese-American character in audio, and they’re set to record this month in London in between Ms. Tran’s “Star Wars” shoots. It’s as exciting a collaboration as any on screen.

 

September 13, 2018

Sources: New York Times

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  • A Look Inside the Tactics of Definers, Facebook’s Attack Dog

    A Look Inside the Tactics of Definers, Facebook’s Attack Dog

    perating officer, testified to Congress in September, Definers set its sights on a different target: the senators about to question Ms. Sandberg.</p><p>In one document circulated to reporters, Definers tallied what software the 15 members of the Senate Intelligence Committee used to track visitors to their Senate websites. Another document detailed how much each senator spent on Facebook ads and how much they had received in campaign donations from Facebook or other big tech companies.</p><p>Known in the political business as opposition research, the documents pushed out by Definers neatly provided reporters with the ammunition they would need to suggest the senators grilling Ms. Sandberg were hypocrites for criticizing Facebook.</p><p>While senators are no strangers to opposition research — they use it all the time against political rivals — they take a dimmer view when it used against them outside of election season. That is especially true when the research is being paid for and shoveled to reporters on behalf of a company that is saying it wants to work with lawmakers, not against them.</p><p>And companies facing scrutiny in Washington usually avoid doing anything that could antagonize lawmakers.</p><p>“At the same time that Facebook was publicly professing their desire to work with the committee to address these issues, they were paying a political opposition research firm to privately attempt to undermine that same committee’s credibility,” Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the panel, said in a statement. “It’s very concerning.”</p><p>“I understand that a lot of D.C.-type firms might do this kind of work. When I learned about it I decided that we don’t want to be doing it,” Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, said on Thursday during a call with reporters.</p><p>Colin Reed, managing director of Definers, said in an email that his firm simply compiled public information and what Definers did was “standard operating procedure” for public affairs outfits. “It shouldn’t be surprising to reporters at The New York Times that a P.R. firm would be providing context for reporters ahead of a client’s testimony on Capitol Hill,” he wrote.</p><p>Facebook initially hired Definers to monitor news about the social network. It expanded its relationship with the firm in October 2017 when scrutiny of Facebook was increasing over how Russian agents had used the site to sow discord before the 2016 United States election.</p><p>Definers began doing some general communications work, such as running conference calls for Facebook. It also undertook more covert efforts to spread the blame for the rise of the Russian disinformation, pointing fingers at other companies like Google.</p><p>A key part of Definers’ strategy was NTK Network, a website that appeared to be a run-of-the-mill news aggregator with a right-wing slant. In fact, many of NTK Network’s stories were written by employees at Definers and America Rising, a sister firm, to criticize rivals of their clients, according to one former employee not allowed to speak about it publicly. The three outfits share some staff and offices in Arlington, Va.</p><p>Before Ms. Sandberg’s Senate testimony, Facebook lobbyists pushed lawmakers to refrain from questioning her about privacy, censorship and other issues, and to stick to election interference. The committee’s chairman, Senator Richard Burr, Republican of North Carolina, was swayed and warned members to stick to the hearing’s planned topic, The Times reported Wednesday.</p><p>Facebook had also lobbied for the hearing to include a Google emissary of similar rank to Ms. Sandberg. Mr. Burr invited Larry Page, a Google co-founder, but he did not show up. Instead, Ms. Sandberg sat alongside an empty chair behind a placard for Google.</p><p>In an email days before the hearing, a Definers employee pressed a Times reporter to write that Facebook was taking the senators’ concerns seriously while Google was irresponsible for skipping the hearing.</p><p>Like the documents on the senators, Definers distributed other memos that sought to lay out evidence for angles that it wanted reporters to pursue. The memos were typically based on public information like press clippings and social media posts.</p><p>Definers urged reporters to explore the financial ties between Mr. Soros and Freedom From Facebook, a coalition of groups that had criticized the company. The idea was to persuade reporters that the coalition was not a sincere movement of like-minded groups but rather an orchestrated campaign by a rich, partisan opponent.</p><p>A two-page document that Definers distributed about Freedom From Facebook noted that “at least four of the groups in the coalition receive funding or are aligned with George Soros, who has publicly criticized Facebook.” The four groups named in the document do appear to have received funding from Mr. Soros’s Open Society Foundations.</p><p>A second, 12-page document sought to link Freedom From Facebook to Mr. Soros and to David Brock, a Democratic operative who is widely portrayed in conservative circles as a master of political dirty tricks. While pushing the connection to Mr. Soros, the document highlighted that protesters from Freedom From Facebook held up signs with images reminiscent of old, anti-Semitic propaganda.</p><p>Definers said in a statement that the document was “entirely factual and based on public records.”</p><p>Eddie Vale, a Freedom From Facebook spokesman, said the coalition’s primary funder was the computer scientist David Magerman but he declined to disclose other funders. Mr. Vale said the coalition did not receive money from corporations. Open Society Foundations said it did not fund the coalition.</p><p>Laura Silber, a spokeswoman for Open Society Foundations, said the philanthropy’s president spoke with Ms. Sandberg on Thursday and requested that Facebook commission an independent review of the company’s relationship with Definers, with results made public within three months.</p><p>Jack Nicas reported from San Francisco, and Matthew Rosenberg from Washington. Daisuke Wakabayashi contributed reporting from San Francisco.</p>

    1 November 16, 2018
  • Neo-Nazi Harassment Not Protected by First Amendment, Judge Rules

    Neo-Nazi Harassment Not Protected by First Amendment, Judge Rules

    ly Stormer of coordinating a “terror campaign” of online harassment against a Jewish real estate agent cannot be dismissed on First Amendment grounds, a federal judge in Montana ruled this week.</p><p>The events that spurred the lawsuit began in the fall of 2016, when The Daily Stormer published a series of articles attacking Ms. Gersh, of Whitefish, Mont., for her interactions with Sherry Spencer, the mother of the white supremacist leader Richard Spencer.</p><p>Ms. Spencer owned a building in Whitefish and Ms. Gersh had talked to her about its potential sale after word circulated that residents were considering a protest there against white supremacy.</p><p>Then Ms. Spencer reversed course, and published a blog post on Medium, charging that Ms. Gersh had tried to threaten and extort her to sell the building and break with her son. Mr. Anglin then began writing and publishing his own articles calling for “a troll storm” against Ms. Gersh.</p><p>“Tell them you are sickened by their Jew agenda to attack and harm the mother of someone whom they disagree with,” he wrote, according to the suit.</p><p>In the months that followed, the site published over 30 related posts — and the phone numbers, email addresses and social media profiles of Ms. Gersh, her husband and 12-year-old son, as well as friends and colleagues, the suit states.</p><p>By the spring of 2017, the family had received more than 700 vulgar and hateful messages, including death threats, many referencing the Holocaust. Some phone messages consisted solely of the sound of gunshots.</p><p>The Southern Poverty Law Center filed the lawsuit on Ms. Gersh’s behalf in April 2017. Mr. Anglin sought to have it dismissed, and a magistrate judge, Jeremiah C. Lynch, ruled against him in May. Mr. Anglin filed objections to that ruling, which sent the case to Judge Christensen for additional review.</p><p>David Dinielli, a lawyer for the law center, said in a statement that Judge Christensen’s ruling on Wednesday “underscores what both we and our client have said from the beginning of this case — that online campaigns of hate, threats, and intimidation have no place in a civil society, and enjoy no protection under our Constitution.”</p><p>In a phone interview, Mr. Dinielli said that the Gersh family had notified law enforcement of the harassment, but there have been no criminal charges.</p><p>His lawyer, Marc Randazza, said that Judge Christensen’s decision was dangerous for free speech.</p><p>“The rule we lay down for the Nazi applies equally to the civil rights activist,” Mr. Randazza said in a statement. “And that ruling, if it stands, is not going to be good for anyone who engages in common outrage culture. Maybe that’s a good thing, but I think not.”</p><p>Mr. Anglin never responded, and Mr. Obeidallah said his lawyers were preparing to file paperwork for a default judgment.</p><p>“I don’t expect us to collect any money,” he said by email. “But if we did collect any money from Anglin I would donate it all to organizations that fight bigotry and racism.”</p><p>“He should be assured that if we end up with a judgment, we will go to the ends of the earth to collect, so that he doesn’t do this again and can no longer publish,” Mr. Dinielli said.</p>

    1 November 16, 2018
  • ‘No Morals’: Advertisers React to Facebook Report

    ‘No Morals’: Advertisers React to Facebook Report

    ely the relationship had gotten rocky.</p><p>The revelations may be “the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” said Rishad Tobaccowala, chief growth officer for the Publicis Groupe, one of the world’s biggest ad companies. “Now we know Facebook will do whatever it takes to make money. They have absolutely no morals.”</p><p>And while ad agencies or their holding companies, like Publicis, place money on behalf of brands, it is up to the brands to decide whether to advertise on Facebook.</p><p>“Agencies can make recommendations, but marketers need to decide at what point is this going to be a liability for them,” said Marla Kaplowitz, chief executive of the 4A’s, an industry trade group.</p><p>So far, very few have been willing to leave the platform.</p><p>Mr. Norman said Facebook should establish an ombudsman role to assess its societal risks, with reports in its regular financial filings. He compared the work to an accounting firm’s audit of a corporation’s finances.</p><p>“The business should be obliged to report its risk to society versus just financial risks to the business,” Mr. Norman said.</p><p>Almost all of Facebook’s revenue — which climbed to just over $40 billion last year — comes from advertisers, which range from local businesses to global brands. Along with Google, Facebook dominates the digital advertising market, and even as user growth has slowed, its revenue has risen quarter after quarter. But marketing is built on trust between sellers and buyers, and the revelations this week are a jolt for some in the industry.</p><p>“Up to now, whatever you said about Facebook, you couldn’t say it was a two-faced company,” Mr. Tobaccowala said. “It says one thing to you and does something completely different. This is very hard if you are a marketer.”</p><p>He added: “I’m not anti-Facebook. But I have always believed that marketers need people who recognize their dollars, and that they should drive and control their brands and they should control their data, and I think this will probably give them additional gumption to stand up and be heard.”</p><p>Dave Morgan, the founder and chief executive of Simulmedia, which works with advertisers on targeted television ads, said the reports about Facebook’s behavior “are driving a lot of pretty intense conversations in the ad industry these days.”</p><p>“What I hear most are brands saying that time for just talking is over: ‘It’s no longer about what Facebook says, it’s about what they do and what they stop doing,’” he said.</p><p>Unilever did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.</p><p>“So far, the track record basically has been that regardless of what Facebook does, they keep getting more money,” Mr. Tobaccowala said. “The question simply is, will this make people wake up?”</p>

    1 November 16, 2018
  •  Super-Earth discovered orbiting red dwarf known as Barnard's Star

    Super-Earth discovered orbiting red dwarf known as Barnard's Star

    huge, icy, dimly-lit "super-Earth" -- 3.2 times the size of our planet -- and it's just six light-years away, according to a new report published this week in the journal Nature. </p><p> Barnard's Star is a so-called red dwarf star, one of the nearest stars to our solar system's sun. </p><p> “However, we’ll continue to observe this fast-moving star to exclude possible, but improbable, natural variations of the stellar brightness which could masquerade as a planet.” </p><p> The super-Earth, which orbits Barnard's Star in about 233 days, is inhospitable to humans. </p><p> “This freezing, shadowy world could have a temperature of 170 [degrees Celsius], making it inhospitable for life as we know it,” read the statement. </p><p> Previous efforts to identify a a planet orbiting Barnard's Star have been unsuccessful, but this time around, astrophysicists combined measurements from a number of highly precise instruments mounted on telescopes all over the world, according to a statement from the European Southern Observatory, whose High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) spectrograph was a key player in the pursuit of the presumed super-Earth. </p><p> A spectrograph is an instrument that separates light by its wavelengths and records the data. </p><p> “HARPS played a vital part in this project," said Guillem Anglada Escudé of Queen Mary University of London and the co-lead scientist on the team, said in the statement. </p><p> "We combined archival data from other teams with new, overlapping, measurements of Barnard’s star from different facilities. The combination of instruments was key to allowing us to cross-check our result.” </p><p> A light-year is the distance light travels in one year. So any visible light from the super-Earth is light that is 6 years old.</p>

    1 November 15, 2018
  • At War: Are Killer Robots the Future of War? Parsing the Facts on Autonomous Weapons

    At War: Are Killer Robots the Future of War? Parsing the Facts on Autonomous Weapons

    and Russia. Soldiers from the two nations are on routine border patrol, each side accompanied by an autonomous weapon system, a tracked robot armed with a machine gun and an optical system that can identify threats, like people or vehicles. As the patrols converge on uneven ground, an Estonian soldier trips and accidentally discharges his assault rifle. The Russian robot records the gunshots and instantaneously determines the appropriate response to what it interprets as an attack. In less than a second, both the Estonian and Russian robots, commanded by algorithms, turn their weapons on the human targets and fire. When the shooting stops, a dozen dead or injured soldiers lie scattered around their companion machines, leaving both nations to sift through the wreckage — or blame the other side for the attack.</p><p>The hypothetical scenario seems fantastical, but those battlefield robots already exist today in an early form. Milrem Robotics, a company based in Estonia, has developed a robot called THeMIS (Tracked Hybrid Modular Infantry System), which consists of a mobile body mounted on small tank treads, topped with a remote-weapon turret that can be equipped with small or large-caliber machine guns. It also includes cameras and target-tracking software, so the turret can pursue people or objects as programmed. This is a human-controlled system for now (and Milrem, for its part, insists that it will remain that way), but the components are there for a robot that can interpret what it sees, identify likely combatants and target them, all on its own. “The possible uses for the THeMIS,” the robot’s builders gush on the website, “are almost limitless.”</p><p>Under what circumstances can and should militaries delegate the decision to take a human life to machines? It’s a moral leap that has raised fundamental questions about the nature of warfare and that military planners, human rights organizations, defense officials, research analysts and ethicists have yet to reach a consensus on.</p><p>The most advanced automated American weaponry has focused on defensive applications. When rocket and mortar attacks threatened large American bases in Iraq in 2003, the Army developed the Counter-Rocket, Artillery and Mortar system (C-RAM) — a rapid-fire 20 mm cannon that can identify an incoming airborne threat, alert a human operator and — with the operator’s press of a button — track and destroy it with a burst of special ammunition that self-destructs in midair to minimize damage to friendly personnel or civilians below.</p><p>Those weapons were based on a naval gun system, the Phalanx, that’s considered a last line of defense against antiship missiles. The Phalanx was just one of the Navy’s automated answers to late Cold War pressures: Soviet naval doctrine relied on overwhelming enemy ship squadrons with as many as 60 cruise missiles at a time. “When large salvos come in, it’s impossible for humans to be able to say, ‘O.K., you’ve got to take this missile out first,’” says Robert Work, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington. “There was no way for humans in the combat information center to be able to keep up with that.” So American planners developed Phalanx and the Aegis Combat System, which links sensors on fleet ships and aircraft to identify airborne threats and, with operator input, automatically attack them with shipboard missiles. It was programmed, Work says, “to have a totally automatic setting, and literally the human at some point pushes the button and the machine makes all the decisions.”</p><p>It depends on how autonomous they are. “There’s a type of fire-and-forget weapon where the weapon itself decides, ‘O.K., this is what I see happening in the battlefield, and I think I’m going to have to take out this particular tank because I think this tank is the command tank,’” says Work. This is his definition of a true lethal autonomous weapon system: an independent weapon that decides everything about who and what it destroys once a human has unleashed it.</p><p>Darpa (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has a program called CODE, or Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment, to design sophisticated software that will allow groups of drones to work in closely coordinated teams, even in places where the enemy has been able to deny American forces access to GPS and other satellite-based communications. CODE “is not intended to create autonomous weapons,” says Paul Scharre, author of “Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War,” but rather adapting to “a world where we’ll have groups of robots operating collaboratively together under one person in supervisory control. The program manager has compared it to wolves hunting in coordinated packs.”</p><p>CODE’s human operators monitor the swarm without micromanaging it, and the autonomy of the drones means that they are programmed to improvise and adjust as they pursue their preset mission. “The idea here is that CODE is going after mobile or rapidly relocatable targets, so the target locations cannot be specified precisely in advance by humans,” Scharre says. “It’s not like a Tomahawk cruise missile, where you just program in the coordinates and then the missile goes and strikes it. The drones have to be able to search an area and find targets on the move.”</p><p>A simpler autonomous system is the loitering munition: a drone that can fly for some time on its own, looking for specific signals, before finding a target and crashing into it with an explosive payload. Israel produces a loitering munition, dubbed the “Harpy,” which is designed to hunt out and destroy enemy radar stations and which became a sticking point in U.S.-Israeli relations when some were sold to China in the late 1990s. Companies in several nations, including Slovakia and the United States, have also produced loitering munitions.</p><p>“Imagine that we are fighting in a city and we have a foe that is using human life indiscriminately as a human shield,” says Tony Cerri, who until recently oversaw data science, models and simulations at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. “It’s constantly in your face as you’re out walking in the street. You can’t deal with every situation. You are going to make a mistake.”</p><p>Autonomous weapons, he suggests, are much less likely to make such mistakes: “A robot, operating with milliseconds, looking at data that you can’t even begin to conceive, is going to say this is the right time to use this kind of weapon to limit collateral damage.” This argument parallels the controversial case for self-driving cars. In both instances, sensor-rich machines navigate a complex environment without the fatigue, distractions and other human fallibilities that can lead to fatal mistakes. Yet both arguments discount the emergent behaviors that can come from increasingly intelligent machines interpreting the world differently from humans.</p><p>Even advocates concede that autonomous military robots could behave in new and unforeseen ways, inducing new errors — the way trading algorithms unleashed on the stock market can cause flash crashes or a pair of dueling book resellers’ algorithms on Amazon could end up pricing a $70 biology text at $23 million, which happened in 2011. Those possibilities — and the danger that lethal machine errors could precipitate bloodier conflicts — will require close cooperative measures between robot-armed nations. Delegations to the United Nations have begun discussions on regulating lethal autonomous weapon systems under an existing Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which governs things ranging from booby traps to blinding lasers.</p><p>In August, a United Nations working group set down principles that could be used to guide future international regulations on lethal autonomy. Chief among them is the idea of ensuring human responsibility for any weapon throughout its life cycle, which could create new liabilities for arms manufacturers. The United Nations group is set to release a formal report, with recommendations for future action, this month. Besides governments, the group’s meetings attract their share of activists, like Mary Wareham of Human Rights Watch, who is the global coordinator for the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, an initiative launched in 2013 with the explicit mission of keeping humans in charge of lethal decisions in war.</p><p>“We’ve focused on two things that we want to see remain under meaningful, or appropriate, or adequate, or necessary human control,” Wareham says. “That’s the identification and selection of targets and then the use of force against them, lethal or otherwise.” Those are the key decision points, critics say, where only a human’s judgment — capable of discriminating between enemies and civilians, and keeping a sense of proportionality in responding — can be accountable and satisfy the conventions of war.</p><p>The way in which we tend to justify war or condemn certain acts “has to do with the fact that human beings are making decisions that are either moral or immoral,” says Pauline Shanks Kaurin, a professor specializing in military ethics at the U.S. Naval War College. “If humans aren’t making those decisions, if it’s literally machines against machines, then it seems like then it’s something else, right?”</p><p>For Work, the question of morality might come down to America’s adversaries. “There may be a place and time in the future where we’re up against an opponent who is less worried about delegating lethal authority to a machine,” he says. “But that’s a long way off, and we have a lot of time to think about that and a lot of time to take action and make sure that we can still control all the weapons.”</p><p>Kelsey D. Atherton is a defense technology journalist based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and a staff writer at C4ISRNET.</p>

    1 November 15, 2018
  • Facebook Said to Cut Ties With Definers Public Affairs

    Facebook Said to Cut Ties With Definers Public Affairs

    a Washington-based consulting firm, Definers Public Affairs, which spread disparaging information about the social network’s critics and competitors, according to a person familiar with the decision.</p><p>Late Wednesday, Facebook decided to terminate its relationship with Definers after the publication of the Times article prompted an outcry, said the person familiar with the matter, who was not authorized to speak publicly. Top Facebook executives including Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg were not aware of the specific work being done by Definers, the person said.</p><p>In a statement, Facebook said it had not hidden its ties to Definers and disputed that it had asked the firm to spread false information.</p><p>“It is wrong to suggest that we have ever asked Definers to pay for or write articles on Facebook’s behalf, or communicate anything untrue,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in the statement.</p><p>“The relationship with Facebook was well known by the media — not least because they have on several occasions sent out invitations to hundreds of journalists about important press calls on our behalf,” the spokeswoman added.</p><p>Facebook initially hired Definers to monitor news about the social network. It expanded its relationship with the firm in October 2017 when scrutiny of Facebook was increasing over how Russian agents had used the social media site to sow discord before the 2016 United States presidential election.</p><p>The Times reported on Wednesday that earlier this year, a conservative website called NTK Network began publishing stories defending Facebook and criticizing Facebook rivals like Google. NTK is an affiliate of Definers.</p><p>In addition, Definers circulated a research document this summer casting Mr. Soros, the billionaire liberal donor, as the unacknowledged force behind what appeared to be a broad anti-Facebook movement. Definers pressed reporters to explore the financial connections between Mr. Soros and groups that had criticized Facebook, including a progressive group founded by Mr. Soros’s son and Color of Change, an online racial justice organization.</p><p>An official at Mr. Soros’s Open Society Foundations said the philanthropy had supported both member groups, but that no grants had been made to support campaigns against Facebook.</p><p>“We are proud to have partnered with Facebook over the past year on a range of public affairs services. All of our work is based on publicly available documents and information,” a Definers spokesman said in a statement.</p><p>He added, “The document referenced in the Times story regarding the anti-Facebook organization’s potential funding sources was entirely factual and based on public records.”</p><p>After the Times article, other organizations also began re-evaluating their relationship with Definers. One of those was Crooked Media, which runs the popular political podcast Pod Save America. Mr. Miller is a frequent contributor to the podcast.</p>

    1 November 15, 2018
  • Minister in Charge of Japan’s Cybersecurity Says He Has Never Used a Computer

    Minister in Charge of Japan’s Cybersecurity Says He Has Never Used a Computer

    them aren’t in charge of a nation’s cybersecurity.</p><p>But one is. Japanese lawmakers were aghast on Wednesday when Yoshitaka Sakurada, 68, who heads the government’s cybersecurity office, said during questioning in Parliament that he had no need for the devices, and appeared confused when asked basic technology questions.</p><p>“I have been independently running my own business since I was 25 years old,” he said. When computer use is necessary, he said, “I order my employees or secretaries” to do it.</p><p>Asked by a lawmaker if nuclear power plants allowed the use of USB drives, a common technology widely considered to be a security risk, Mr. Sakurada did not seem to understand what they were.</p><p>“I don’t know details well,” he said. “So how about having an expert answer your question if necessary, how’s that?”</p><p>“I can’t believe that a person who never used a computer is in charge of cybersecurity measures,” said Masato Imai, an opposition lawmaker.</p><p>His responses to questions about Olympic preparations “showed a stunning lack of understanding of basic issues concerning the event,” the newspaper wrote.</p><p>He fumbled questions about how much the event would cost and whether North Korean officials would be attending, frequently turning to his aides for help, according to the newspaper. He said he had stumbled because he did not know the questions ahead of time.</p><p>The Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, gave Mr. Sakurada oversight of cybersecurity and the Olympics last month in a cabinet shake-up.</p>

    1 November 15, 2018
  • Amazon's 'Alexa' may have witnessed New Hampshire double slayings, cops say

    Amazon's 'Alexa' may have witnessed New Hampshire double slayings, cops say

    ritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes. </p><p>A judge has ordered Amazon to hand over recordings from an Echo smart device that could provide crucial details in a 2017 New Hampshire double homicide. Authorities in Arkansas have made a similar request</p><p>Judge Steven Houran, in a court&#xA0;order, wrote the device&#xA0;-- which features the artificial intelligent voice Alexa -- may have captured key audio of one of the killings. The Echo was in the kitchen of Farmington home where the killing occurred.</p><p>&#x201C;The court finds there is probable cause to believe the server[s] and/or records maintained for or by Amazon.com contain recordings made by the Echo smart speaker from the period of January 27, 2017 to January 29, 2017,&#xA0;and that such information contains evidence of crimes committed against Ms. Sullivan, including the attack and possible removal of the body from the kitchen,&#x201D;&#xA0;Houran&#xA0;wrote.</p><p>Timothy Verrill, 36, has pleaded not guilty to the fatal stabbings.</p><p>In a statement to the Post, an Amazon spokesperson said the company &#x201C;will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us. Amazon objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course.&#x201D;</p><p>Authorities admitted that they do not know for sure if the killings were captured on the Echo device.</p><p>Any recording on the device is stored on an Amazon server.</p><p>This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes.</p>

    1 November 15, 2018
  • Japan’s minister of cybersecurity has never used a computer

    Japan’s minister of cybersecurity has never used a computer

    sion.</p><p>TOKYO — Japan&#8217;s minister in charge of cybersecurity is in the spotlight for acknowledging he has never used a computer and making comments showing he has no idea what a USB port might be.</p><p>Ruling party lawmaker Yoshitaka Sakurada, also in charge of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, was replying Wednesday to questions from independent and opposition legislators.</p><p>&#8220;I give instructions to my aide and so I don&#8217;t punch into a computer myself,&#8221; he said. &#8220;But I am confident our work is flawless.&#8221;</p><p>When asked about the power grid and malware, Sakurada said USB was &#8220;basically never used&#8221; in the utility systems, appearing to not know what it might be.</p><p>Lawmakers laughed incredulously at his replies, which were highlighted in Japanese media. Ministers in Japan get parliamentary questions in advance.</p><p> News Corp. is a network of leading companies in the world of diversified media, news, and information services. </p>

    1 November 15, 2018
  •  Transit riders, drivers brace for influx of Amazon employees

    Transit riders, drivers brace for influx of Amazon employees

    ty, Queens, location, allowing some senior executives to get through rush hour in style. Still, it won't be every day. Amazon had to agree to limit landings to 120 per year.</p><p> An expansion of that scope in a major city such as New York — where the regional subway, bus and commuter lines move more than 8 million people every day — sounds like something a transit system should be able to absorb.</p><p> "Congestion will get worse. Buses will probably get a little bit slower. There are going to be more people traveling at a specific time of day to a specific place," said Eric Guerra, assistant professor of city and regional planning at the University of Pennsylvania. "But at the same time, they will create a lot of jobs where people are."</p><p> Long Island City, the New York City neighborhood Amazon chose for one of its two East Coast headquarters, sits across the river from the busy world of midtown Manhattan. The growing neighborhood is crisscrossed by subways and buses and surrounded by residential neighborhoods. Amazon's other headquarters will be in the Washington suburb of Arlington in northern Virginia, a part of the country known for its mind-numbing traffic.</p><p> There's time. Amazon said hiring at the two headquarters will start next year, but it could take a decade or more to build out its offices.</p><p> "For the city and state to greenlight a helipad for the wealthiest man in the world and one of the richest corporations in the world is a slap in the face to all New Yorkers, but particularly the people in Queens who have to fight to get on the 7 train in the morning," said City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, a Democrat who represents Long Island City. "And furthermore, if there were 25-to-30,000 Amazon employees in Long Island City, that fight to get onto the train is going to get a lot more intense."</p><p> Frustration levels already are high among the New York City's subway riders. More than a quarter of New York City residents spend more than an hour getting to work, and 57 percent ride public transit to commute, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.</p><p> A key subway line that runs through Long Island City has been often criticized for delays, though long-awaited upgrades to allow trains to run more frequently are on track to finish as soon as this month, and a new ferry connection to Manhattan opened in August. Still, Van Bramer insisted the area is not sufficiently well served, and there are complaints about noise pollution from helicopters and sea planes.</p><p> "The entire city is in a mass transit crisis and nothing that I've seen about this deal makes me think it will help," New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said at a press conference Wednesday. "Western Queens transit infrastructure is already strained and the 7 train in particular is a mess every morning, so this definitely adds to existing transportation concerns."</p><p> New York City commuters have been clamoring for subway improvements for years, and some on Wednesday tweeted photos of packed subway stations near Amazon's proposed new office and reported having let several overcrowded trains go by before they were finally able to squeeze into one.</p><p> Some see the dire warnings about New York's transit system as premature.</p><p> "Even as stressed as our system is right now, an investment in growth of this magnitude doesn't overwhelm the transportation network because it's such a robust and large system," said Tom Wright, president and CEO of the Regional Plan Association, an urban research and advocacy organization.</p><p> Washington, D.C.'s subway system, which will serve Amazon's headquarters in Arlington's Crystal City, is at capacity on many lines and has serious maintenance problems, said Tom Rubin, a transportation consultant based in Oakland, California. Repair work to the subway station closest to Amazon's new office resulted in a disastrous commute last week as people missed flights and stood in long lines for buses that never arrived, said Thomas Cooke, professor of business law at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business.</p><p> In fact, fires have broken out so many times in Washington D.C.'s Metro system that a developer created a Twitter account to automatically tweet suspected fires in stations.</p><p> "We have an embarrassing metro system here that I hope will benefit by this relocation," Cooke said, adding that taxpayers will be footing the bill for the transit improvements that Virginia agreed to in its deal with Amazon.</p><p> Development along major highways in Northern Virginia and Washington have led to "unreasonable traffic delays on a daily basis" in the past few years, with drive times that used to take 40 minutes ballooning to up to 90 minutes, Cooke said.</p><p> In the nation's capital, more than a third of commuters ride public transit and most commuters spend at least a half-hour getting to work, according to the Census Bureau. Commuters in the suburbs surrounding Washington face even longer commute times.</p><p> Elsewhere, companies use van pools and private buses to entice talented employees who want to live in hipper neighborhoods away from their offices. Google and Yahoo began running private buses from downtown San Francisco and elsewhere to their headquarters in Silicon Valley more than a decade ago. In the Los Angeles area, Disney, Nickelodeon and Warner Bros. run shuttle buses to carry employees from public transit stations to their Burbank studios, said Keith Millhouse, a transportation consultant and principal at Millhouse Strategies.</p><p> Some hoped Amazon would invest in transit upgrades as part of the deal. But it's hard to imagine Amazon volunteering to chip in for transit improvements with so many cities competing for the company's second headquarters, Guerra said.</p><p> "If anything, they're getting benefits out of it," Guerra said. "They're unlikely to be paying for new services."</p><p> AP Writer Jennifer Peltz in New York and Economics Writer Josh Boak in Washington contributed to this report. Follow Cathy Bussewitz on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cbussewitz </p>

    1 November 15, 2018

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