Mon 3.19

Self-driving Uber car kills Arizona pedestrian
NY Times
— A woman in Tempe, Ariz., died after being hit by a self-driving car operated by Uber, in what appears to be the first known death of a pedestrian struck by an autonomous vehicle on public roads.
— The Uber vehicle was in autonomous mode with a human safety driver at the wheel when it struck the woman, who was crossing the street outside of a crosswalk, the Tempe police said in a statement. The episode occurred overnight, although the authorities did not specify whether it was late Sunday or early Monday. The woman was not publicly identified.
— An Uber spokeswoman said the company was “fully cooperating” with the local authorities. The company said it had suspended testing of its self-driving cars in Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.
>>>>Leader of top self-driving lab: we need to pull back
“Companies need to take a deep breath. The technology is not there yet.”

Cambridge Analytica’s weapons: prostitutes, bribes, spies, to sway politicians
— Executives at Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm that worked on digital ads for President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign, were caught on camera suggesting that the firm could use sex workers, bribes, ex-spies and fake news to help candidates win votes around the world, a new investigation has revealed.
— Britain’s Channel 4 News carried out an undercover sting of the company and caught top executives suggesting the tactics.

“Send some girls around to the candidate’s house, we have lots of history of things,” CEO Alexander Nix said. “We could bring some Ukrainians in on holiday with us, you know what I’m saying.”

On the horizon…
The potential of “differential privacy” online
— Differential privacy makes it possible for tech companies to collect and share aggregate information about user habits, while maintaining the privacy of individual users.
— For example, say you wanted to show the most popular routes people take walking through a park. You track the routes of 100 people who regularly walk through the park, and whether they walk on the path or through the grass.
–But instead of sharing the specific people taking each route, you share the aggregate data collected over time. People viewing your results might know that 60 out of 100 people prefer to take a short-cut through the grass, but not which 60 people.

dog-pony-sepiacroppedTrump calls for death penalty for drug dealers. Yawn.
> Has Mexico paid for The Wall yet?
> Has Trump “hired the best people”? and if so why has he fired 76 of them?
> Has he Repealed Obamacare?
> Destroyed ISIS?
So, don’t count on seeing any drug dealers on Death Row.

Austin “trip-wire” bomb adds new dimension
as 4th blast injures two people

Austin Statesman
— Investigators are more certain Monday morning that the explosive device that detonated in Southwest Austin was activated by a trip wire made to blend in with surroundings, a law enforcement official told the American-Statesman.
— They are investigating whether the blast, which injured two men, was the result of a copy cat or the same person responsible for three previous explosions that killed two people and seriously wounded a 75-year-old woman. That determination likely won’t be made until officials can more closely review the kind of shrapnel that was used in the explosive device.
>>> Cops: Man held in SXSW threat ruled out as bomb suspect

Panicked criminals trying to cash out of bitcoin
Vice News
— These dark web vendors were among the early investors in bitcoin, and, arguably, the drivers of its initial value when no one else was interested. Now, those holding virtual millions are stuck in limbo.

Poll finds most Americans believe “deep state” runs US
Most also believe US spies on its own citizens
— The majority of the country believes a group of unelected government and military officials secretly manipulate national policy, according to a new Monmouth Pollreleased Monday.
— Of those polled, 27 percent says the unelected group — known as the deep state — definitely exists and another 47 percent probably exists. Sixteen percent says it probably does not exists and 5 percent says it definitely does not exists.

That helicopter was “out-of-network”
Boy falls, fractures skull. Family faces $32,000 bill for air ambulance
Albany (Missouri) Democrat Herald

Ben Millheim fully recovered after fracturing his skull. Here he’s on a trampoline at his home in early March.

— What the family didn’t know at the time of the accident was that the air ambulance was out of network. Now they are on the hook for more than $32,000.
— “Patients are exposed to enormous financial risks if they need an air ambulance transport,” said Erin C. Fuse Brown, a health law expert at Georgia State University. “There is no way to tell whether the ambulance is in-network, no requirement that insurers have air ambulances within their network, and no way to anticipate or avoid a devastating balance bill if the air ambulance turns out to be out of network.”

— The air ambulance company says: The majority of patients they transport have government-sponsored health plans such as Medicaid or Medicare, or are uninsured. … the company relies more heavily on private insurance to make up for what it doesn’t earn on Medicaid or Medicare patients.

NYT Headline:
Newly Emboldened, Trump Says What He Really Feels
Note to NYT: Perhaps you were absent on the first day of journalism 101, but nobody knows what another person “really feels.”

Handshake on Brexit sets target date: December, 2020
— The UK and EU have agreed on a “large part” of the agreement that will lead to the “orderly withdrawal” of the UK.
— Brexit negotiators Michel Barnier and David Davis said they had agreed terms for a transition period, calling the announcement a “decisive step”.
— But issues still to be resolved include the Northern Ireland border.
— The transitional period is set to last from 29 March, 2019 to December 2020, and is intended to smooth the path to a future permanent relationship.

How to defeat toxic algae in waterways: Hydrogen peroxide?
Eureka Alert
— Moves to adopt use of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) as an effective treatment against toxic algae are already underway following the results of new research by a team from the John Innes Centre and the University of East Anglia (UEA.)
— Successful trials last summer showed that H2O2 was effective against the golden algae, Prymnesium parvum. This is responsible for millions of fish kills worldwide each year and a threat to the £550m economy of the Broads National Park where trials are taking place.
— Now follow up lab tests have demonstrated that controlled doses of the versatile chemical compound could be even more effective in dealing with cyanobacteria commonly known as blue green algae – a major public health hazard and potentially fatal to dogs and livestock.

NASA’s developing spacecraft that would give
“nuclear nudge” to dangerous asteroids
Space Daily
— Unlike popular portrayals of a nuclear deflection mission – like the movie “Armageddon” – the nuclear deflection approach would consist of detonating a nuclear explosive some distance from the asteroid. This would flood one side of the asteroid with X-rays, vaporizing a layer of the surface, which would create rocket-like propulsion as vaporized material is ejected from the object. Unlike a kinetic impactor, the amount of energy deposited into an asteroid with a nuclear device could be tuned by adjusting how far it is from the asteroid when detonated.

Mice change their appearance after exposure to humans
Eureka Alert
— “The mice gradually lost their fear and developed signs of domestication. This happened without any human selection, solely as a result of being exposed to us regularly,” says Anna Lindholm. The evolutionary biologist has been studying the mice that live in the empty barn for about 15 years. These animals are regularly provided with food and water, and investigated by the researchers.

Canadian company taking orders for first electric snowmobiles
— The young company behind the TS2, Taiga Motors, said it has built six machines as prototypes for testing and demoing, and is planning to get 20 production candidates out to beta-testing partners next winter. It opened pre-ordering up earlier this month with the aim of delivering most of the orders in time for winter of 2019–2020. The company has already collected a few hundred preorders, according to Bruneau, with hopes to get to 1,000 by the end of the summer. The retail price is $15,000—about the cost of a high-end gasoline snowmobile.

Google makes bid for piece of  online purchases
… teaming up with retailers including Target Corp, Walmart Inc, Home Depot Inc, Costco Wholesale Corp and Ulta Beauty Inc.
— Under a new program, retailers can list their products on Google Search, as well as on the Google Express shopping service, and Google Assistant on mobile phones and voice devices.
— In exchange for Google listings and linking to retailer loyalty programs, the retailers pay Google a piece of each purchase, which is different from payments that retailers make to place ads on Google platforms.
— Google’s pitch to retailers is a better chance to influence shoppers’ purchasing decisions, a move that is likely to help them compete with Amazon. Google hopes the program helps retailers capture more purchases on desktop, cell phones and smart home devices with voice search – the next frontier for e-commerce.


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