All posts by Tom Jones

Helicopter carrying Jared and Ivanka experiences engine failure | New York Post

A helicopter carrying first daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, had to be rerouted after one of its engines failed, law enforcement officials told CNN. The senior White House aides were flying from Washington, DC, to New York on Thursday afternoon in a two-engine helicopter when one engine failed, sources told the network. The chopper had to return to Ronald Reagan National Airport, where the couple hopped on a commercial flight instead. It is unclear how far into the less than two-hour

Source: Helicopter carrying Jared and Ivanka experiences engine failure | New York Post

Congressman suggests Second Amendment as means of opposing Trump | New York Post

A Democratic congressman from Long Island implied that Americans should grab weapons and oppose President Trump by force, if the commander-in-chief doesn’t follow the Constitution.

Rep. Tom Suozzi made the remark to constituents at a town hall last week, saying that folks opposed to Trump might resort to the “Second Amendment.”

“It’s really a matter of putting public pressure on the president,” Suozzi said in a newly released video of the March 12 talk in Huntington. “This is where the Second Amendment comes in, quite frankly, because you know, what if the president was to ignore the courts? What would you do? What would we do?”

A listener then blurts out, “What’s the Second Amendment?”

The left-leaning Democrat says, “The Second Amendment is the right to bear arms.”

The spectators laughed — some nervously. Republicans were not amused.

“This video is incredibly disturbing. It’s surreal to watch a sitting member of Congress suggest that his constituents should take up arms against the president of the United States,” said National Republican Campaign Committee spokesman Chris Martin.

Suozzi political adviser Kim Devlin denied the pol was “advocating for an armed insurrection.”

But the Suozzi campaign at the same time seemed to double down on the comments, as they forwarded a line penned by Thomas Jefferson that called for armed resistance.

“What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms,” the quote said.

Suozzi’s comment seems to conflict with his recent push for gun control following the Parkland, Florida, school shooting.

Suozzi even participated in the March 14 student walkout for gun control outside the US Capitol — and called on the young people of his district to back tightened gun laws.

“I think we should engage the high school students of #NY03, and all of Long Island, to promote gun violence prevention legislation,” he said in a Feb. 21 tweet.

Trump himself has in the past used language similar to Suozzi’s. During the 2016 campaign, he told a crowd at a rally in North Carolina that if Hillary Clinton were elected and able to nominate a Supreme Court justice, there would be nothing that gun supporters could do. He then added: “Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”

The remark was widely seen as a veiled call for violence, though Trump denied that was his meaning.

Suozzi, a first-term congressman elected in 2016, is seeking re-election this fall. He formerly served as Nassau County executive.

He is expected to easily win the Democratic primary and face GOP challenger Dan Debono, a former US Navy SEAL, in the general election.Source: Congressman suggests Second Amendment as means of opposing Trump | New York Post

Dan Brown donates to digitize ancient texts – The Ritman Library

Novelist Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code) has donated € 300,000 to the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica to digitize and preserve part of its priceless collection, including Hermetica, alchemy, mysticism, Rosicrucians and Kabbala.Thanks to Brown’s donation, the public will be able to access the core collection of some 4,600 ancient books online in the near future. Brown is a great admirer of the library (widely known as The Ritman Library after its founder Joost R. Ritman) and visited on several occasions while writing his novels The Lost Symbol and Inferno. I consider it a great honor, the world-famous author said, “to play a role in this important preservation initiative that will make these texts available to the public.” The Dutch Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds is also contributing to the digitization project, to the amount of € 15,000.
The comprehensive digitization project will be carried out by Picturae, a company specializing in making Dutch cultural heritage digitally accessible. It is expected that the core collection of The Ritman Library will become available online in the spring of 2017.Source: Dan Brown donates to digitize anctient texts – The Ritman Library

Sean Penn’s novel calls for the assassination of a president | Daily Mail Online

Actor Sean Penn’s debut novel’s main character calls for the assassination of the president and dares the commander in chief to ‘Tweet me, b****’, can reveal.The two-time Oscar winner’s 176-page fiction, titled Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, is about a ‘modern American man, entrepreneur, and part-time assassin’.The main character, septic tank cleaner Bob Honey, tells tales of working with military contractors in Iraq, being employed by the government to kill the nation’s resource-draining elderly, and meeting an El Chapo-esque drug lord who had just escaped prison.Penn first released the gonzo journalism-style novel as an audiobook in 2016 under the pseudonym ‘Pappy Pariah’.

Source: Sean Penn’s novel calls for the assassination of a president | Daily Mail Online

Nikki Haley warns: Russia could use chemical weapons in New York

New York City could be the next site of a chemical assassination attempt if world leaders fail to punish Russia for its alleged role in poising of a former spy in the United Kingdom, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley warned Wednesday.

“If we don’t take immediate concrete measures to address this now, Salisbury will not be the last place we see chemical weapons used,” Haley told the United Nations Security Council. “They could be used here in New York, or in cities of any country that sits on this Council. This is a defining moment.”

Haley raised the specter of new attacks during an emergency council meeting, held at the request of British officials who have accused Russia of using “a military-grade nerve agent” to target a former military intelligence officer who committed treason. Russian diplomats have denied responsibility for the incident, but British investigators say they have identified the poison as a chemical weapon produced by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

“Time and time again, member-states say they oppose the use of chemical weapons under any circumstance,” Haley said. “Now one member stands accused of using chemical weapons on the sovereign soil of another member. The credibility of this council will not survive if we fail to hold Russia accountable.”

Russia has denied responsibility for the March 4 incident, which left former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia hospitalized, and warned British Prime Minister Theresa May against considering a cyber-attack or other aggressive retaliation.

“A hysterical atmosphere is being created by London,” Russian Ambassador Visaly Nebenzia told the Security Council. “We would like to warn that this will not remain without reaction on our part.”

Russia faulted the United Kingdom for taking action before submitting to a formal investigation brokered by Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. “Those experts will not be convinced by their argument,” he predicted.

The British representative at the meeting countered that the United Kingdom has invited the OPCW to conduct an independent test, while faulting Russia for ignoring May’s demand for an explanation earlier this week.

“We have received no meaningful response,” deputy ambassador Jonathan Allen said during the meeting. “This council should not fall for their attempt to muddy the waters.”

Haley, for her part, compared the Skripal attack to North Korea’s use of a nerve agent to assassinate the half-brother of dictator Kim Jong-un — a murder that resulted in the designation of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. She linked the Salisbury incident to the increasingly-regular use of chemical weapons, especially in Syria, and urged Russia to “come clean” about the assassination attempt.

“The Russians complained recently that we criticize them too much,” she said. “If the Russian government stopped using chemical weapons to assassinate its enemies; and if the Russian government stopped helping its Syrian ally to use chemical weapons to kill Syrian children; and if Russia cooperated with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons by turning over all information related to this nerve agent, we would stop talking about them. We take no pleasure in having to constantly criticize Russia, but we need Russia to stop giving us so many reasons to do so.”

Nebenzia argued Russia had no reason to try to kill Skripal. He described the former double agent as “a perfect victim” for a plot to frame Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government in the run-up to the March 18 presidential elections.

“[T]he most probable source origin for this chemical are the countries which have since the end of the 90s been carrying out intensive research on these kinds of weapons, including the UK,” Nebenzia told the Security Council. “If the UK is so firmly convinced this is a [Soviet-era] Novichok gas, then that means that they have the samples of this and they have the formula for this and they are capable of manufacturing it.”

Allen replied by citing Putin’s past pledge to punish Russian traitors.

“Let me quote the Russian president, when we think about who benefits,” Allen said. “In 2010, [Putin] said, ‘Traitors will kick the bucket, believe me. Those other folks betrayed their friends, their brothers-in-arms. Whatever they got in exchange for it, those 30 pieces of silver they were given, they will choke on it.”Source: Nikki Haley warns: Russia could use chemical weapons in New York

Billionaire signs up to be killed, have brain digitally preserved | New York Post

A Silicon Valley billionaire is paying the ultimate price for immortality: death.

Well, that, and a spare ten grand.

Entrepreneur Sam Altman is one of 25 people who has splashed the cash to join a waiting list at Nectome – a startup that promises to upload your brain into a computer to grant you eternal life.

There’s just one (huge) catch: It has to kill you first.

The process, as described in the MIT Technology Review, involves embalming your brain for it to potentially be simulated later in a computer.

The living customer would be hooked up to a machine and then pumped full of Nectome’s custom embalming chemicals.

The method is “100 percent fatal,” claims the company.

“The user experience will be identical to physician-assisted suicide,” Nectome’s co-founder Robert McIntyre revealed to the publication.

“Our mission is to preserve your brain well enough to keep all its memories intact: from that great chapter of your favorite book to the feeling of cold winter air, baking an apple pie, or having dinner with your friends and family,” writes Nectome on its site.

“We believe that within the current century it will be feasible to digitize this information and use it to recreate your consciousness.”

How delightful.

The reality, however, is that physician-assisted suicide is currently only legal in five out of 50 US states, and individuals seeking it must have a terminal illness, as well as a prognosis of six months or less to live.

As crazy as it sounds, the idea of uploading our consciousness into a computer is gaining ground among techies and scientists.

Futurologist Dr. Ian Pearson previously told The Sun that in 50 years time we’ll be able to transfer our brains to the cloud (tech speak for online storage).

That way you’ll be able to “use any android that you feel like to inhabit the real world”, he said.

Altman, whose company Y Combinator funds startups, is best buds with fellow Silicon Valley billionaire (and PayPal co-founder) Peter Thiel.

The two were recently lampooned when Altman let slip that they were planning to escape a potential apocalypse by hiding in the bunker in Thiel’s home in New Zealand.

But, if you’re living in a computer, do you even have to worry about the end of days?Source: Billionaire signs up to be killed, have brain digitally preserved | New York Post

United Express Flight 5449: Woman restrained after trying to open airplane cabin door during flight – CBS News

WASHINGTON — Passengers onboard United Express Flight 5449 restrained a Boise, Idaho, woman who was ranting about being God. Video posted online purportedly shows a passenger working to tie up the woman’s feet as another man holds her down in the aisle. “I am God, I am God, I am God,” she was heard screaming in the video. Moments earlier she’d tried to open the aircraft cabin door while the plane was in flight which was traveling from San Francisco to Boise earlier Monday. The plane landed safely and Bo

Source: United Express Flight 5449: Woman restrained after trying to open airplane cabin door during flight – CBS News

FAKE NEWS? Lookout- Fake videos are on the rise. As they become more realistic, seeing shouldn’t always be believing

All it takes is a single selfie.From that static image, an algorithm can quickly create a moving, lifelike avatar: a video not recorded, but fabricated from whole cloth by software.With more time, Pinscreen, the Los Angeles start-up behind the technology, believes its renderings will become so accurate they will defy reality.”You won’t be able to tell,” said Hao Li, a leading researcher on computer-generated video at USC who founded Pinscreen in 2015. “With further deep-learning advancements, especially on mobile devices, we’ll be able to produce completely photoreal avatars in real time.”The technology is a triumph of computer science that highlights the gains researchers have made in deep neural networks, complex algorithms that loosely mimic the thinking of the human brain.Similar breakthroughs in artificial intelligence allowed University of Washington researchers to move President Obama’s mouth to match a made-up script and the chipmaker Nvidia to train computers to imagine what roads would look like in different weather.What used to take a sophisticated Hollywood production company weeks could soon be accomplished in seconds by anyone with a smartphone.Not available for a video chat? Use your lifelike avatar as a stand-in. Want to insert yourself into a virtual reality game? Upload your picture and have the game render your character.Those are the benign applications.
Now imagine a phony video of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un announcing a missile strike. The White House would have mere minutes to determine whether the clip was genuine and whether it warranted a retaliatory strike.
What about video of a presidential candidate admitting to taking foreign cash? Even if the footage proved fake, the damage could prove irreversible.
In some corners of the internet, people are using open-source software to swap celebrities’ faces into pornographic videos, a phenomenon called Deep Fakes.
It’s not hard to imagine a world in which social media is awash with doctored videos targeting ordinary people to exact revenge, extort or to simply troll.
In that scenario, where Twitter and Facebook are algorithmically flooded with hoaxes, no one could fully believe what they see. Truth, already diminished by Russia’s misinformation campaign and President Trump’s proclivity to label uncomplimentary journalism “fake news,” would be more subjective than ever.
The danger there is not just believing hoaxes, but also dismissing what’s real.
“If anything can be real, nothing is real,” said a Reddit user in a manifesto defending the Deep Fakes forum, which has since been banned for producing porn without consent from the people whose faces were used.
The consequences could be devastating for the notion of evidentiary video, long considered the paradigm of proof given the sophistication required to manipulate it.
“This goes far beyond ‘fake news’ because you are dealing with a medium, video, that we traditionally put a tremendous amount of weight on and trust in,” said David Ryan Polgar, a writer and self-described tech ethicist. “If you look back at what can now be considered the first viral video, it was the witnessing of Rodney King being assaulted that dramatically impacted public opinion. A video is visceral. It is also a medium that seems objective.”
To stop the spread of fake videos, Facebook, Google and Twitter would need to show they can make good on recent promises to police their platforms.
Last week’s indictment of more than a dozen Russian operatives and three Russian companies by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III showed how easily bad actors can exploit the tech companies that dominate our access to information. Silicon Valley was blindsided by the spread of trolls, bots and propaganda — a problem that persists today.
Tech companies have a financial incentive to promote sensational content. And as platforms rather than media companies, they’ve fiercely defended their right to shirk editorial judgment.
Critics question whether Facebook, Google and Twitter are prepared to detect an onslaught of new technology like machine-generated video.
“Platforms are starting to take 2016-style misinformation seriously at some levels,” said Aviv Ovadya, chief technologist at the Center for Social Media Responsibility. “But doing things that scale is much harder.”
Fake video “will need to be addressed at a deeper technical infrastructure layer, which is a whole different type of ballgame,” Ovadya said.
(Facebook and Twitter did not respond to interview requests. Google declined to comment.)
The problem today is that there isn’t much in the way of safeguards.
Hany Farid, a digital forensics expert at Dartmouth College who often consults for law enforcement, said watching for blood flow in the face can sometimes determine whether footage is real. Slight imperfections on a pixel level can also reveal whether a clip is genuine.
Over time, though, Farid thinks artificial intelligence will undermine these clues, perpetuating a cat-and-mouse game between algorithms and investigators.
“I’ve been working in this space for two decades and have known about the issue of manipulated video, but it’s never risen to the level where everyone panics,” Farid said. “But this machine-learning-generated video has come out of nowhere and has taken a lot of us by surprise.”
That includes researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The U.S. military’s high-tech research lab, better known as DARPA, meets regularly with experts in media forensics like Farid and Li from Pinscreen. Discussion at a recent get-together in Menlo Park turned to Deep Fakes and ways to detect ultra-realistic fake video. The consensus was bleak.
“There’s basically not much anyone can do right now,” Li said about automated detection tools.
The same conundrum faced the software company Adobe years ago when it became clear that its photo-editing program, Photoshop, was also being used for trickery. The company looked into including tools that could detect if an image had been doctored. But Adobe ultimately abandoned the idea, determining fraudsters could exploit the tool just as easily, said Kevin Connor, a former Adobe executive who now works with Farid.
“I think Photoshop is an overwhelmingly good thing,” Connor said. “But that doesn’t mean a good thing can’t be used for bad.”
Proponents of artificial video say fake imagery is an old problem that’s regularly debunked. Consider the doctored photo that emerged in 2004 of then-presidential candidate John Kerry with Jane Fonda at an anti-Vietnam War rally. Even an 1860 portrait of Abraham Lincoln turned out to be manipulated. The president’s body was replaced with a more heroic-looking John Calhoun.
The chances of stopping technology like computer-generated video from advancing is highly unlikely, experts say.
That means the onus is on those who read the news and those who report it to verify footage the best they can. Students at a young age also need to be taught how to wade through news sources critically, said Nonny de la Pena, an early practitioner of immersive journalism, which often leans on virtual reality.
“To shy away from technology because of fears it can be dangerous is a huge mistake,” she said. “Technology is scary. You’re going to have negative consequences. But the positive potential far outweighs the bad.”
Computer-generated avatars could bolster communication by bringing the subtleties of body language into digital conversation, said Pinscreen’s Li.
“It’s not our purpose to create a technology that people can use for evil,” said Li, who also teaches and conducts research at USC.
Pinscreen’s photo-realistic avatar technology isn’t publicly available yet. The company, which operates out of a Wilshire Boulevard high-rise, is primarily focused on an app that turns ordinary selfies into animated 3-D avatars.
Li, 37, had a hand in developing the technology Apple used to make animojis. The cartoon creature avatars use augmented reality sensors in the iPhone X’s camera to move in tandem with a user’s face.
Li said he’s received overtures from large tech companies about acquiring Pinscreen, but turned them down. He envisions building his own social media app where users can communicate with their playful avatars in computer-generated backdrops.
“The main difference between what we do and Instagram and Snapchat or Facebook is they basically track your face and add things to it,” Li said of the apps’ augmented reality filters. “Our aim is to build an entire CG world.”

Source: Fake videos are on the rise. As they become more realistic, seeing shouldn’t always be believing

Hungarian leader calls Christianity ‘Europe’s last hope’

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary’s prime minister says that “Christianity is Europe’s last hope” and that politicians in Brussels, Berlin and Paris favoring migration have “opened the way to the decline of Christian culture and the advance of Islam.”

Viktor Orban said Sunday during his 20th annual state of the nation speech that his government will oppose efforts by the United Nations or the European Union to make migration acceptable to the world.

He conjured the image of a Western Europe overtaken by Muslims, saying that “born Germans are being forced back from most large German cities, as migrants always occupy big cities first.”

Orban claimed that Islam would soon “knock on Central Europe’s door” from the west as well as the south.

Orban will seek a third consecutive term in an April election.Source: Hungarian leader calls Christianity ‘Europe’s last hope’

#MeToo inspires voodoo-themed show at NYFW | Page Six

A voodoo ceremony set to take place at an upcoming Fashion Week show has raised some issues — flummoxing producers more used to managing clothing racks than constructing “voodoo poles” and the raising questions about the legality of acquiring a machete in New York City.

Designers XULY.Bët, Mimi Prober and Hogan McLaughin are combining their shows on Thursday and conducting the paean to two voodoo spirits, Ezili Dantor and Ezili Freda who, we’re told, together represent the “perfect feminine whole” in the religion.

The group — which includes XULY.Bët designer Lamine Kouyate, who was born in Mali — has been inspired by the #MeToo movement and anger about Donald Trump’s “s—hole countries” remark.

New Orleans voodoo priestess Sallie Ann Glassman has flown in (presumably on a plane, but who knows) for the occasion at Industria and a group of Haitian spiritual drummers will be lead by Atibon Legba.

It was put together by People’s Revolution founder, TV personality and amateur witch Kelly Cutrone, who told us she consulted her lawyer before sourcing the machete traditionally carried by Ezili Dantor.

“[The lawyer] replied, ‘I have represented clients with brass knuckles, gravity knives, hunting knives, guns, automatic weapons and even a musket but never a machete — let’s keep it that way.’”

Cutrone told us, “We’re a group of pagans, Jews, witches and voodoo practioners trying to do something for feminism and the retail business.”
Source: #MeToo inspires voodoo-themed show at NYFW | Page Six

How much the market would have to drop to wipe out the Trump rally

President Donald Trump has repeatedly touted the strong stock market performance since his election victory as proof of his success.

Detractors may point to the Dow Jones industrial average’s recent stumbles, but the benchmark index has much further to fall before Trump’s postelection gains are gone.

The Dow declined by 1,175 points, or down 4.6 percent on Monday.

From its high on Jan. 26 at 26,616.71, the benchmark index has declined nearly 2,300 points or 8.5 percent through Monday’s close at 24,345.75.

Trump still has a big cushion. The Dow closed at 18,332.74 on Election Day, Nov. 8, 2016, which means it has 6,013 points to go before the Trump rally gains disappear.

After Monday’s market close, the White House said Trump is focused on the country’s “long-term economic fundamentals, which remain exceptionally strong.”