Google reportedly will scrap controversial AI project with Pentagon after employees revolt

US military drone


Google decided not to renew a controversial AI contract with the Pentagon after receiving backlash from its employees, reports say. The company’s staff earlier said they didn’t want the product to be used for war.

Diane Greene, the CEO of Google Cloud, said the tech giant won’t renew its contract with the Pentagon, Gizmodo and the New York Times report citing sources.

According to the information, during a weekly staff meeting, Greene explicitly cited the backlash among Google employees over ties with the US Defense Department, as many of them said the policy runs counter to the company’s ‘Don’t Be Evil’ principle. The phrase served as the company’s motto from its founding days but was dropped from the official code of conduct in 2015, following Google’s reorganization, with Alphabet Inc. created as its parent company.

The contract in question, which expires in 2019, deals with Project Maven. It was officially launched last year by the US Department of Defense Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team. The project’s goal is to create an AI program that will improve the targeting of drone strikes. The program would analyze video footage from drones, track the objects on the ground, and study their movement, applying the techniques of machine learning. Anti-drone campaigners and human rights activists complain that Maven will pave the way for AIs to determine targets on their own, without the help of human operators.

Internal emails, reviewed by Gizmodo, suggest that Google’s leadership was initially very enthusiastic about the project, as it could lead to more military contracts in the future. The company’s staff, on the other hand, rallied against the idea of company research being used to develop warfare technology.

Dozens of employees reportedly resigned in protest, and more than 3,000 employees signed a petition demanding the contract be canceled and a clear policy preventing involvement with the military be implemented. According to the reports, Google’s leadership agreed to roll out a new policy next week.

Leaked internal emails also revealed that Google tried to conceal the scope of its dealings with the Pentagon. The head of company’s cloud division once told employees that the budget for Project Maven was “only” $9 million, when it was soon to be increased to $15 million. The emails also showed plans of eventually expanding revenue from Maven and similar projects to $250 million.

Google was worried it could get negative press because of Maven, and that the company’s involvement with the project would taint its reputation, the leaked emails suggest. “This is red meat to the media to find all ways to damage Google,” one scientist from the cloud division wrote in 2017.

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Saudi Arabia reportedly threatens ‘military action’ if Qatar purchases Russian S-400 systems

Russian S-400 system


Saudi Arabia has reportedly threatened “military action” against Qatar should its neighbor acquire Russian S-400 missile defense systems, according to Le Monde, citing a letter from King Salman to the French presidency.

In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, and Egypt, among other Gulf states, cut off diplomatic relations with Qatar, accusing it of supporting and funding terrorism. Doha was also accused of “meddling” in the internal affairs of its neighbors and of expressing support for Saudi Arabia’s historic rival Iran.

Now Riyadh is reportedly worried that Doha’s planned acquisition of Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile units will jeopardize the “national security” of its Persian Gulf neighbors. According to information obtained by Le Monde, King Salman has recently sent a letter to the French presidency, where he expressed his “deep concern” vis-à-vis the ongoing S-400 negotiations between Doha and Moscow.

If the deal goes ahead “the Kingdom would be ready to take all necessary measures to eliminate this defense system, including military action,” the letter, addressed to President Emmanuel Macron, reportedly warns, asking Paris to apply diplomatic pressure on Doha.

The Qatari Ambassador to Russia in January noted that the countries are at an “advanced stage” of negotiating the purchase of the sophisticated S-400 air-defense system. At the time, Fahad bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah noted that a military cooperation agreement, signed in October 2017 during the visit of Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu to the Arab state, “opened a path for Russia and Qatar to interact in [the] defense sphere, including deliveries of hardware, training of soldiers and officers, maintenance of weapons and, of course, cooperation of special services.”

The S-400 Triumf, also known under NATO disambiguation as ‘Growler,’ can detect and intercept almost anything that flies: From strategic bombers to radar and electronic warfare planes, to tactical attack jets, to cruise and ballistic missiles of all sizes and shapes. With this multi-functionality in mind, its only competitor is the tried-and-tested American Patriot, which, however, boasts much more modest specifications.

While Washington has yet to comment on the anticipated purchase of S-400s by Qatar, the US has recently locked horns with Ankara over its decision to secure its airspace using Russian systems. The US continues to insist that Turkey should only be using NATO-compatible systems and buying them from “allies.” Raising the stakes, US lawmakers introduced a bill which seeks to ban F-35 deliveries to Turkey, referring to the country as “increasingly hostile.”

US lawmakers also warned India that procurement of Russian advanced military systems may jeopardize defense cooperation and technology-sharing between Washington and New Delhi, urging the country to reconsider the purchase

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Mystery 'Wolf-Like' Animal Reportedly Shot In Montana, Baffles Wildlife Officials

Montana wildlife officials are puzzled by the carcass of wolflike animal they say a rancher shot and killed on his property near the town of Denton.

“The animal came within several hundred yards of the rancher’s livestock,” the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks said Thursday. “He shot it and reported it as required by law. The animal was a young, non-lactating female and a canid, a member of the dog family, which includes dogs, foxes, coyotes and wolves.”

The animal did not appear to fit the profile of either a wolf or a domestic dog. In a video posted to social media, a spokesman said authorities suspect the animal is a wolf-dog hybrid, but can’t be sure yet.

The department has sent DNA samples out for testing at an Oregon lab, but it could be weeks to months before results come back.

“We have no idea what this was until we get a DNA report back,” department spokesman Bruce Auchly told the Great Falls Tribune.

On Saturday, enigmatic performance artist Zardulu retweeted a story about the creature. Zardulu has previously claimed responsibility for numerous viral videos and news stories, including a “toilet iguana” in Miami, a three-eyed fish found in Brooklyn and New York’s infamous “pizza rat.”

HuffPost asked Zardulu via Twitter if she had anything to do with the wolflike animal in Montana.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try try again,” she replied in a direct message, followed by a winky face.

The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department did not immediately reply to a query on whether the creature could be a hoax.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

Related Video: Wyoming Approves First Grizzly Bear Hunt in Decades

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NATO troops reportedly killed in Donbass, war provocations suspected

Donbass Ukraine soldier


Over the past two days, a number of important developments have taken place in Donbass and Ukraine.

Firstly, on May 17th, a group of NATO troops from the US and Canada stepped into a minefield near Avdeevka, a move which ended in explosions and, according to DPR reports, deaths and woundings. This news was published by Russia’s leading news agencies, which is in itself an important development, since earlier such resources had been very cautious in speaking of NATO involvement in the war in Donbass. Most significantly of all, Rossiiskaiia Gazeta, the official organ of the Government of the Russian Federation, shared the news.

To briefly recap, Avdeekva is a small satellite town of Donetsk. Since the very beginning of the conflict, the town has been occupied by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Avdeekva is known as an industrial giant, whose coke-chemical plant has worked throughout all four years of the war and been a major source of contention between oligarchs. The overwhelming majority of Avdeevka’s residents support the DPR, and one of Donetsk’s lines of defense runs right in front of the city. It is in this very city that Ukrainian troops and OSCE observers have been spotted collaborating during military operations.

Allow me to draw the reader’s attention to the fact that the DPR’s military intelligence reported at least two days before the minefield incident that the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ command is preparing a provocation involving NATO troops. It seems that they were deliberately sent into the minefield to blame Western troop deaths on DPR military sabotage. Such information was shared with journalists on May 15th by the speaker of the Donetsk People’s Republic’s army, Eduard Basurin.

But this story has another side. NATO troops, who are officially not supposed to be in Donbass, are undeniably, directly involved in the armed conflict. The US and EU’s constant accusations that Moscow is militarily and technologically aiding the Donbass Republics can now be rebutted by Russia’s foreign ministry. Moscow could now present evidence that the US and NATO are directly participating in the war.

The next piece of news is that also near Avdeevka, on May 17th, the commander of the DPR’s Pyatnashka international brigade, Oleg Mamiev, was killed. The backbone of Pyatnashka was made up of 15 fighters from Abkhazia, and the name “Interbrigada” was meant as a direct allusion to the international volunteer brigades from the Spanish Civil War. The unit was subsequently joined by many volunteers from North and South Ossetia, like Mamiev himself, who proved to be one of the most famous and authoritative Donbass commanders, a person who is spoken of with only the utmost respect. Mamiev was killed in the trenches alongside his soldiers.

In addition to these incidents, a number of events have taken place which would be difficult to fit into one article, but their significance can be expressed with one short word: war.

Ukraine is continuing to accumulate manpower and military vehicles and bring ammunitions up to the frontline. Kiev has essentially discarded its pretending to comply with the Minsk Agreements, and Avdeevka, Gorlovka, and the Svetlodarsk arch (near Debaltsevo) have been particularly “hot” as of late. Overall, things have been “hotter” in the DPR than in the LPR. Hence the differing assessments of the prospects of war from the two republics which I have shared in a number of articles for Fort Russ News.

Some of my friends in Donbass believe that the Americans and, as follows, the Ukrainians expect to play a long-term game. In other words, they want to wage a war of attrition. There is merit to this theory, but I nonetheless do not believe that the Ukrainians are capable of maintaining the status-quo for any significant period of time. Their resources and especially their patience are severely limited. Therefore, there are evermore grounds to believe that the war in Donbass will “wake up” again sooner or later.

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Cuba Plane Crash Reportedly Kills Over 100

A Boeing 737 airliner crashed shortly after taking off from Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport on Friday, killing more than 100 people, according to Cuban state media.

Officials said 104 passengers were on board, Agence France Presse reported. Cuban media reported that the crew of the flight was foreign, but gave no information on the nationalities of the passengers. 

The cause of the crash was not immediately apparent. 

Photos from the scene show crowds of people gathered around pieces of the plane as smoke rises from the wreckage. Rescuers and emergency services rushed to the area, and video showed at least one person being taken away on a stretcher. The nation’s media reported that three people survived the crash.

An official from Havana’s Calixto Garcia hospital told Reuters that the three survivors, all women, were in serious condition. One person from the flight died in the hospital following the crash.

Cuban President Manuel Diaz-Canel also traveled to the site, where he addressed national media.

“There has been an unfortunate aviation accident. The news is not very promising, it seems that there is a high number of victims,” said Diaz-Canel, who became president in April.

Local media reported that the plane was en route to the city of Holguin, which is on the eastern part of the island. It crashed in the area around the small town of Santiago de Las Vegas, just south of the airport.

Cuba has a history of air disasters, including a crash in 2010 that killed all 68 people aboard. A military plane crashed into a hillside last month, killing eight people.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

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China Reportedly Holding Thousands of Muslims in Internment Camps

China Reportedly Holding Thousands of Muslims in Internment Camps

May 18th, 2018

Via: AP:

Since last spring, Chinese authorities in the heavily Muslim region of Xinjiang have ensnared tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of Muslim Chinese — and even foreign citizens — in mass internment camps. This detention campaign has swept across Xinjiang, a territory half the area of India, leading to what a U.S. commission on China last month said is “the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today.�

Chinese officials have largely avoided comment on the camps, but some are quoted in state media as saying that ideological changes are needed to fight separatism and Islamic extremism. Radical Muslim Uighurs have killed hundreds in recent years, and China considers the region a threat to peace in a country where the majority is Han Chinese.

The internment program aims to rewire the political thinking of detainees, erase their Islamic beliefs and reshape their very identities. The camps have expanded rapidly over the past year, with almost no judicial process or legal paperwork. Detainees who most vigorously criticize the people and things they love are rewarded, and those who refuse to do so are punished with solitary confinement, beatings and food deprivation.




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Amazon is reportedly scanning people’s bodies so it can sell you clothes

Amazon knows your name, your address, your credit-card details, and what milk you like in your coffee — now it wants to know the shape of your body.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Amazon is inviting people to a New York office to have the shape and size of their bodies scanned. Participants are asked to complete an online survey that determines how much their weight and fitness have fluctuated in the past year, and whether they have plans to lose weight, the Journal reported.

According to the invite, those who are chosen will need to be scanned every two weeks for 30 minutes.

“We are interested in understanding how bodies change shape over time,” the survey says.

A spokesperson for Amazon told Business Insider that she would not comment on the speculation.

According to the Journal, the invite comes from Amazon’s new 3D body-scanning unit, which was developed after Amazon bought New York-based startup Body Labs in October.

Body Labs makes a software that captures the body’s shape and motion in three dimensions. This can be used not only for gaming technology but also for fashion, its website previously stated.

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