U.S. Senator Seeks Probe into Russian “FaceApp” Due to Security Concerns

FaceApp is currently the most popular app in Google Plays store. The app allows users to edit their photos to make themselves appear older or younger. There are more than 100 million users after celebrities posted pictures, which used the app, on social media went viral.  However the app has raised concerns over user privacy.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for the FBI and the FTC, the US consumer protection body, to “look into the national security & privacy risks” The Russian developed app uploads users photos to their own servers raising questions as to the use the company could make to the vast amounts of data they are amassing.

“FaceApp’s location in Russia raises questions regarding how and when the company provides access to the data of U.S. citizens to third parties, including potentially foreign governments,” the New York senator said in a letter to the FBI.

“It would be deeply troubling if the sensitive personal information of US citizens was provided to a hostile foreign power actively engaged in cyber hostilities against the United States,” he added.

Read More: France 24

Things have gotten so bad in Congress that a priest prayed to ‘cast out all spirits of darkness’ on the House floor

WASHINGTON — It has been quite the week in Congress, with lawmakers battling over a forced impeachment resolution for President Donald Trump, partisan squabbling, and rampant infighting within the House Democratic Caucus.

Things have become so vexed in the Capitol that Rev. Patrick Conroy, the House of Representatives’ official chaplain and a Jesuit priest, prayed to “cast out all spirits of darkness” on the House floor Thursday morning during his opening prayer.

Read more:‘I abandon the chair’: A congressman presiding over the House got sick of partisan fighting and literally dropped the gavel and left

“This has been a difficult and contentious week in which darker spirits seem to have been at play in the people’s House,” Conroy said. “In your most holy name, I now cast out all spirits of darkness from this chamber. Spirits not from You.”

“I cast out the spirit of discouragement, which deadens the hope of those who are of good will,” he added. “I cast out the spirit of petty divisiveness, which clouds the sense and the desire to be of fruitful productivity in addressing the issues more appropriately before this House. I cast out any sadness brought on by the frustration of dealing with matters detrimental to the honorable work each member has been called to engage in.”

Conroy then prayed to God to “anoint your servants here in the House with a healing balm to comfort and renew the souls of all in this assembly.”

“May your spirit of wisdom and patience descend upon all so that any spirit of darkness might have no place in our midst,” he added.

Conroy typically leads the opening prayer on the House floor, while leaders of other religious groups will often take his place to perform as guests.

Read more: Reliable, friendly, and masters of one-way communication: Meet the dog mayors of America

The last time Conroy made headlines was in the spring of 2018, when then-House Speaker Paul Ryan attempted to fire him as House chaplain. According to several lawmakers at the time, Ryan became frustrated with one of Conroy’s prayers in which he called for a fair tax code while Republicans were pushing through their landmark Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Conroy ultimately rescinded the resignation that Ryan had requested after many members of Congress came to his defense. He then continued in his role as House chaplain, a position he has held since 2011.

 

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Foreign Purchases of American Homes Down 36% as Chinese Buyers Leave Market

There has been a 36% reduction in demand for U.S. homes by foreign buyers. The plunge is due partly to tighter currency controls by the Chinese government but also due to a slump in the housing market.

“A confluence of many factors — slower economic growth abroad, tighter capital controls in China, a stronger U.S. dollar and a low inventory of homes for sale — contributed to the pullback of foreign buyers,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “However, the magnitude of the decline is quite striking, implying less confidence in owning a property in the U.S.”

The Chinese were still the largest foreign buyers of US homes for the seventh year running. However there was a 56% decline in Chinese home buying in the US in the last 12 months. Although economic factors appear to be playing a part, some are asking if the current political climate between the US and China is also fuelling the decline.

Read More: CNBC

New York’s Upper West Side Rat Problem Getting Worse

New York City have removed 110 trash cans and now the city’s rat problem is worse than ever. Since 2014 the city has seen a 38% increase in rat complaints in the city, despite Mayor de Blasio spending $32 million to try and fix the problem.

The rodents are attracted to overflowing trash cans, as it is an easy food source. Campaigners say the problem will not improve until a better system for the city’s garbage is put in place.

Read More: USA today

Elon Musk’s Neuralink Reveals Plans For Implant to Read Your Thoughts

Elon Musk

Elon Musk’s start up Neuralink has been working on a “brain-machine interface” . This week the secretive start-up revealed it has been testing brain implants on animals, and that it has successfully placed an implant in a monkey brain allowing it to control a computer.

Musk hopes that the implant will be used initially on patients with serious brain injuries of diseases allowing them to communicate their thoughts. He plans to seek FDA approval to begin clinical trials as early as 2020.

Neuralink works by inserting thin strands into the brain, via a tiny robot controlled by a neurosurgeon. The stands then interface with the electrical activity of the brain.

Musk’s worry about the current threat AI poses to humanity is well know. And he hopes his new technology will allow humans and machines to work together in “symbiosis”, so humans will not be left behind in the AI revolution.

Read More: The Guardian 

The black woman who will be the next 007

Since Daniel Craig announced he was standing down as James Bond, debate has raged whether the next 007 should be a woman, or black.

Now The Mail on Sunday can reveal that she will be both – thanks to the intervention of feminist TV writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

In what’s been called a ‘popcorn-dropping moment’, British star Lashana Lynch, will be given Bond’s licence to kill in the 25th movie in the franchise, currently being shot in Italy and the UK.

Come in 007: British star Lashana Lynch walks in when the James Bond spy number is called

Come in 007: British star Lashana Lynch walks in when the James Bond spy number is called

Take a behind the scenes look at the Bond 25 filming in Jamaica
However, traditionalists can relax: she’s not the new Bond, but a new character who takes over his secret agent number after he leaves MI6.

The story begins with Bond retired in Jamaica. But spymaster M – played by Ralph Fiennes – calls him back in desperation to tackle a new global crisis.

A movie insider said: ‘There is a pivotal scene at the start of the film where M says ‘Come in 007’, and in walks Lashana who is black, beautiful and a woman.

‘It’s a popcorn-dropping moment. Bond is still Bond but he’s been replaced as 007 by this stunning woman.

‘Bond, of course, is sexually attracted to the new female 007 and tries his usual seduction tricks, but is baffled when they don’t work on a brilliant, young black woman who basically rolls her eyes at him and has no interest in jumping into his bed. Well, certainly not at the beginning.’

The source added that the phrase ‘Bond girls’ is now forbidden, saying: ‘We were all told that from now on they are to be addressed as ‘Bond women’.’

Waller-Bridge, who wrote the BBC comedy Fleabag and the female-led thriller Killing Eve, was recruited to ensure the 57-year-old franchise moved with the times. She said: ‘There’s been a lot of talk about whether or not Bond is relevant now because of who he is and the way he treats women.

British star Lashana Lynch is reportedly the new 007

007: Daniel Craig in action in the new movie which promises to be packed with humour

007: Daniel Craig in action in the new movie which promises to be packed with humour

‘I think that’s b******s. I think he’s absolutely relevant now. [The franchise] has just got to grow. It has just got to evolve, and the important thing is that the film treats the women properly. He doesn’t have to. He needs to be true to his character.’

Ms Lynch, 31, had a breakthrough role as the fighter pilot Maria Rambeau in Captain Marvel, released earlier this year.

Film-makers create avatar of Daniel Craig’s face for dangerous stunts

Daniel Craig’s desire to do all his own stunts on the new Bond film has been thwarted by injury.

But now producers have come up with a high-tech solution worthy of Q to make it look as if he’s in the thick of the action.

Special-effects wizards have created a computer avatar of the 51-year-old star, which will enable his face to be digitally superimposed on to the body of his stunt double – Frenchman Jean-Charles Rousseau, 31.

Craig was forced to change his stunt plans after injuring an ankle while filming a chase scene in Jamaica in May. In his 13 years as Bond, he has also smashed two teeth, dislocated a shoulder, sprained a knee and sliced the tip off one of his fingers.

A source said: ‘Daniel is in great shape but there are some scenes he can’t do because they are too physically challenging. Plus the insurance company won’t let him. So his face will be superimposed later.

Originally from Hammersmith, West London, she made her debut in the 2011 drama Fast Girls, has appeared in Silent Witness and Death In Paradise and was a regular cast member on the short-lived 2015 BBC show Crims. She also played Rosaline Capulet in the American period drama series Still Star-Crossed, set after the deaths of Romeo and Juliet.

The source said: ‘Lashana is absolutely brilliant and Phoebe’s script is as sharp and funny as you would expect. This Bond pays tribute to some of the earlier films with a lot of humour.’

Indeed, one photograph taken on set shows Ms Lynch in a safari suit similar to the one Roger Moore famously wore when he played 007.

‘This is a Bond for the modern era who will appeal to a younger generation while sticking true to what we all expect in a Bond film,’ the source added. ‘There are spectacular chase sequences and fights, and Bond is still Bond but he’s having to learn to deal with the world of #MeToo.’

So hopefully the script will be the least of the problems for a film that has already been hit by the replacement of original director Danny Boyle, injury to Craig, and a crew member getting hurt in an explosion on set.

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Con Ed warns more blackouts could be coming

Con Edison is still baffled over what caused the weekend’s major blackout — and warned on Monday that more outages could be coming with a heat wave on the way.

“We expect that there could be service outages — those things happen during heat waves,” the power company’s chief spokesman, Mike Clendenin, said during a morning appearance on PIX11.

Insisting that the company invests $2 billion every year to prepare for soaring electricity demands when the mercury rises, Clendenin claimed Con Ed will be “prepared.”

“We know it’s going to be intense,” he said of forecasts predicting temperatures reaching 100 degrees this week. “This heat wave coming up is something else and we’ve got to get ready for it.”

But he admitted that engineers still have no idea what caused Saturday’s outage that left 73,000 without power in Manhattan.

“We are very, very focused on examining exactly what transpired and caused that outage,” Clendenin told the station, saying they have no idea why breakers “did not isolate the problem” of a “significant” transmission disturbance.

“There’s a lot of patience and poise that New Yorkers displayed during the outage itself. The same kind of patience and diligence is gonna be needed as engineers and experts dive into the date and actually analyze how equipment tripped off, or what went wrong, that led to the large outage,” said Clendenin. “Unfortunately, with outages like this, it takes a little bit of time and understanding.”

Confirming that the blackout was not connected to heat or overusage, he said that “fortunately, there was no major or extensive damage” — conceding that that would have left the power out for even longer.

Clendenin tried to shake off criticism of the company — with Gov. Andrew Cuomo warning Con Ed “can be replaced” — by insisting that it provides “the absolute best grid that New Yorkers expect and deserve.”

“In fact, New York’s grid is probably better than any other grid you’ll find anywhere else in the United States,” he told PIX11, saying they were “open to anyone’s ideas” on becoming even better.

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The Manhattan blackout proved how fragile our infrastructure is

Midtown Manhattan was surreal Saturday night.

The center of our little island is supposed to be the center of the universe — yet I am writing this after eating a lukewarm peach for dinner by (hot) candlelight in 90-degree temperatures with the windows shut tight, racing against time to finish it before my computer runs out of its last moments of electricity.

Yes, we want to be the center of finance, tech and media, but we cannot even keep the lights on for a Saturday evening. Meanwhile, our fearless leader, Mayor Bill de Blasio, is radioing it all in from Iowa, where they have plenty of power.

Yesterday, at about 7 p.m., the lights in our apartment just west of Midtown flickered — hard.

We had seen this before. This past winter — Feb. 16, to be exact — as my husband and I were eating dinner, our lights went out, then went back on.

We looked at each other and then suddenly, boom! A manhole had exploded right outside our window. The next two manholes exploded in succession, each boom rattling the windows harder, and sending our next-door neighbor, two small dogs in tow, over to ask what she should do.

Our answer: nothing. The entire street in front of us was in raging flames; even the firefighters were standing well behind their trucks, which were well behind the fire, waiting for a good half-hour for Con Ed to turn off the power before they could put water on it. We couldn’t evacuate directly into a fire; we just stood, far from the windows … and the lights didn’t go out.

That incident took, maybe, half an hour, but it has caused months of chaos since then. Con Ed has spent the last five months digging up our street — 50th Street, just a five-minute walk west of the business capital of the nation — and refilling it, sometimes digging and refilling on the same day, trying to replace yards of burned-out infrastructure across two blocks while still allowing car and truck traffic to snake by. They work during the day; they startle us by waking us up in the middle of the night with klieg lights.

I have no idea if a Saturday night 49th Street substation “incident” — not far from our little one in February — has anything to do with the fact that Con Ed has been desperately digging up our street, one block north, for half a year.

I do know that our infrastructure is fragile — and our emergency response is inadequate. Walking around Midtown Saturday evening was an exercise in picking which dystopia you wanted to focus on.

Thousands of people spilled out of canceled theater performances — spilling into streets and avenues, where they were vulnerable to a wave of cars, buses and trucks moving past nonworking traffic signals, should this have been a terror attack.

Diesel generators kicked in at the World Wide Plaza office building on the West Side, spewing toxic fumes for more than an hour into the windows of nearby elderly tenement residents just a few hundred feet away

Their choice was to shelter in the heat or breathe in poison — this, 12 years after New York supposedly designed a “sustainable” plan for the environment.

Times Square was half-dark and half-light, depending on what venues had invested in generators that, long-term, make the island even hotter for people without air conditioning.

The MTA did a truly heroic job in getting trains stuck in tunnels to the next station so that people could clamber upstairs, but the power cut in Midtown meant that a dozen lines — traveling from Brooklyn to The Bronx — were paralyzed. You weren’t going anywhere if couldn’t go through Manhattan.

Original Article

New York City Has Power Restored After Massive Blackout

A large part of Manhattan, New York,  was plunged into blackness on   Saturday after a major transformer exploded.  More than 70,000 homes and businesses were left without power.

It is thought the power outage was caused by excessive load on  a transformer, causing an explosion and then a fire at the transformer. Firefighters were called to a fire at 7pm.

In the 1970s a blackout lead to extensive looting and rioting. However last night’s blackout passed without major incident.

Read More: France 24

Satanists Take Scottsdale to Court Over Right to Lead Prayers

Scottsdale will be in court next week over its decision to block Satanists from leading invocation at the start of  council meetings.

The Satanic Temple, an international Satanist group, has been asking councils across the country to lead their invocations.

Most councils have denied Satanists access to lead innovations by saying the calendar is already full, or by ending the tradition of opening with prayer. But Scottsdale council flatly refused. This has led to the lawsuit.

Read More: AZ Central

Random Events, Free Will, Pre-destiny or Something Darker ?