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San Diego County Board of Supervisors votes to support sanctuary state lawsuit against California – 10News.com KGTV-TV San Diego

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego County Board of Supervisors has voted to support the Trump administration’s lawsuit against California’s sanctuary laws.

The board voted 3-1 Tuesday afternoon to support the lawsuit.

The board directed that the County’s attorney to file an amicus brief supporting the federal lawsuit.

The deadline to file a brief passed, so Chairwoman Kristin Gaspar said the earliest the county can file a brief is if the ruling is appealed to a higher court.

Supervisor Greg Cox was the only one opposed to supporting the lawsuit. Supervisor Ron Roberts wasn’t present for the vote.

Among the laws targeted by the legal action is SB 54, which limits cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob led public opposition to the laws and said she agrees with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that they are unconstitutional and undermine public safety.

“This is a politically super-charged issue as you might imagine,” Gaspar told Fox News. “We’re talking about hundreds of emails pouring in from all sides. But let us not forget, let’s take the emotion out of this. We’re talking about following the constitutional laws of our land.”

Two supervisors indicated they’re opposed to joining the suit: Greg Cox, who said sheriff’s deputies “should not be forced to carry out immigration duties,” and Ron Roberts. But Roberts will not be at Tuesday’s meeting due to a “long-planned trip.”

“Had I attended, I would have urged my colleagues to stay out of this issue,” Roberts said.

Local governments in recent weeks have taken varying approaches to weighing in on the sanctuary state case, from resolutions to voting to file lawsuits themselves.

The city council in San Juan Capistrano, for instance, recently passed a resolution against SB 54. Resolutions are largely symbolic statements of a government’s stance.

Aliso Viejo, Escondido and Mission Viejo are among the cities whose leaders have voted to file amicus briefs in support of the Trump administration’s position. Such briefs are often submitted by those who have an interest in a court case but are not parties in the lawsuit.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors voted last month to join the lawsuit, while the Huntington Beach City Council voted recently to file its own suit.

The Los Alamitos City Council voted to “exempt” the city from the sanctuary laws.

“We want to do something more than a resolution, or at least I personally do, because that’s seemingly meaningless,” Gaspar said. “We’ll be working in closed session with our legal team to really explore any and all options that we have as a county to provide meaningful input into this lawsuit.”

The San Diego Organizing Project released the following statement after the decision:

“Today’s harmful decision during a closed session shows that our Board of Supervisors is out of touch with the citizens of San Diego County. SB 54 is a crucial bill to protect all San Diego residents, both immigrants and citizens of all cultural backgrounds, from unwarranted interrogations, detainments and deportations. Our faith community will work tirelessly to elect true representatives who understand that we are better and stronger together.”

Congressman Duncan Hunter also released a statement after the board voted:

“Today’s action was the very definition of leadership. In standing up against the irresponsible actions by the State of California, our County Supervisors who supported this action clearly demonstrated that their priorities are protecting those of us in San Diego County and not about politics. The fact of the matter is, when state and local law enforcement agencies outright refuse to share information to federal officials regarding criminal activity, our communities are unsafe and the rule of law is undermined. It’s not complicated. I have always been, and will continue to be, an advocate for state’s rights, but that’s not the issue. The U.S. Constitution clearly places border policy and our immigration laws within the purview of the federal government. State or local governments cannot just choose to ignore federal statutes because of a political agenda, especially when doing so places its citizens at risk by leaving criminals eligible for deportation in our communities. Our San Diego County Supervisors who took action today deserve our thanks and we need to hold every elected official accountable who does not demonstrate the same the type of leadership.”

Source: San Diego County Board of Supervisors votes to support sanctuary state lawsuit against California – 10News.com KGTV-TV San Diego

Inside New York’s silent sex trafficking epidemic

Through interviews with top law-enforcement officials, prosecutors, advocates and victims from around the five boroughs, The Post has pieced together a picture of New York’s sex-slavery underbelly — and the struggle to end it.

“People are shocked to hear that it actually exists in New York City,” says Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.

“This is not a case where you have super-high-priced fancy sex businesses — this is really disgusting, forced, cruel, cold. Taking kids who are in need of help, preying upon that need, developing a relationship and then turning against them and turning them into kids who are making money for them on the street — those are the cases that we get.”

Thanks to Hollywood films such as “Taken,” people who hear the term “sex trafficking” often think of a sorority girl kidnapped and chained to a radiator by men with foreign accents.

But the average victim is a vulnerable girl from a troubled home who has already been sexually abused and is first sold for sex as young as 12.

The girls often aren’t detained at gunpoint — not at first, anyway — but are instead manipulated into “the life” by smooth-talking pimps promising a better life.

Some are even dazzled by glamorized portrayals of prostitutes in songs, movies and books — like a 14-year-old girl who told Queens prosecutors she had been inspired to turn tricks by the 2005 Snoop Dogg film “Boss’n Up.”

SEE ALSO
Sex traffickers are using social media to target children
Sex traffickers are using social media to target children
“Her aspiration was for [her pimp] to fall in love with her if she made enough money,” says Queens Assistant District Attorney Jessica Melton, chief of the Human Trafficking Unit.

Many local victims come from in or around the city, but others are bused into the Big Apple from upstate or nearby states such as Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

There also are the women and girls brought here from overseas and forced to work in an estimated 700 illicit “massage” parlors across the city.

Of course, there are adults who choose to become escorts. But police say they’re the minority.

“I can confidently say the majority — the overwhelming majority — of people engaging in sex for money are doing it against their will,” says Klein, who has run the vice unit for the last two years.

‘There’s no cookie-cutter pimp,” Klein says.

Some are gang members or drug dealers hunting new revenue streams. Others are just teenagers themselves and from a family of traffickers. They’re men and women, white, black, Asian and Hispanic.

But all traffickers have made the same sick calculation.

“You can sell a gun once, right? You could sell a kilo of coke once . . . But once it’s gone, it’s gone,” Klein says. “But a woman or a person, that’s 15 times a day every day . . . for as many years as you possibly get out of that person. That’s a never-ending cycle.”

Modal Trigger
Interior of a homeless shelter were the sex trafficking enterprise operated in Harlem.
The pimps often sweet-talk the girls into joining them, but once their victims realize the glamorous life they were promised is anything but, that’s when things turn violent.

“One guy kept [a girl] in a dog cage because she wasn’t cooperating,” Klein says.

A 17-year-old girl trafficked by convicted Queens pimp Ricardi “Dirty” Dumervil escaped only to be kidnapped again, burned with cigarettes and bashed with a gun before being dragged to Atlantic City to keep working, according to Melton.

This is not a case where you have super-high-priced fancy sex businesses — this is really disgusting, forced, cruel, cold. Taking kids who are in need of help, preying upon that need, developing a relationship and then turning against them.
– Cyrus Vance Jr.
And the 14-year-old who watched the Snoop Dogg film? She was found locked in a closet surrounded by pots of urine.

These thugs aren’t just operating out of decrepit buildings in the worst parts of town, and their victims aren’t necessarily kept locked up.

“It happens right under our noses . . . This is something that could be happening right in our neighborhoods,” says Juanito Vargas, vice president of the victim-assistance nonprofit Safe Horizon.

“You go to the deli in your neighborhood and are served your morning coffee by someone, and you don’t know if that person is being trafficked,” he says.

There was the Prospect Heights apartment where those two 16-year-olds were allegedly forced to turn tricks in fear for their lives by a trio of 20-somethings.

There was a Bronx homeless shelter just blocks from Yankee Stadium where convicted sex trafficker Maria Soly Almonte repeatedly prostituted out three of her sisters and a 13-year-old girl.

When she wasn’t turning tricks, the 13-year-old attended eighth grade at PS 29 — where the school nurse figured out what was going on when the girl came in weekly requesting STD and pregnancy tests.

At a Howard Johnson hotel in Brownsville, Brooklyn, a couple allegedly forced two 14-year-old runaways to have sex with man after man and give up all their earnings.

And at a Manhattan youth shelter, kids escaping broken homes were lured into a life of prostitution with offers of booze, cash and a warm bed — lured by ads posted openly on Craigslist.

“Are you a female that wants to stop living in Covenant House?” it read, alongside photos of tequila and hundred-dollar bills.

When the 14-year-old Snoop Dogg fan was rescued from the closet, she first told police and prosecutors that she wanted to be in there, Melton says.

It’s a prime example of why it’s so hard for police to catch and convict traffickers: The women and girls often don’t see themselves as victims.

Making matters worse, antiquated state laws don’t recognize underage prostitutes as victims of trafficking, either, unless there is clear force or coercion, so their cooperation is often crucial.

SEE ALSO
Backpage.com shuts down after reports of FBI raid
Backpage.com shuts down after reports of FBI raid
With limited resources for survivors, it’s a tough sell.

“We’ve had girls say, ‘At least I have a place to sleep — yeah, he beats me, but at least . . . I’m not sleeping in the gutter,’ ” says David Weiss, a senior assistant district attorney in Brooklyn.

Meanwhile, immigrants working in massage parlors often also fear deportation and are typically trafficked by members of their own communities.

“They are so hard to crack,” says Assistant District Attorney Laura Edidin, head of the Brooklyn prosecutor’s Human Trafficking Unit. “Both because the way in which money is moved out of massage parlors is sophisticated and because women who are being exploited in those massage parlors are very unlikely to come forward.”

And most NYPD cops simply aren’t trained to deal with the survivors, critics say.

“I had to stand in a hospital with a rape victim and nearly got myself arrested with these huge cops towering over her, demanding answers,” says Rachel Lloyd, founder of the anti-trafficking organization GEMS and a survivor of trafficking herself.

Just recently, glaring staffing and training issues with the NYPD’s Special Victims Division — whose cops sometimes have first contact with trafficking victims — were exposed in a scathing report by the city’s Department of Investigation.

Still, police and prosecutors say they’ve made huge strides in recent years against sex trafficking.

District attorneys now have dedicated units for tackling trafficking, more citizens are calling the NYPD tip line, and law enforcement is actively working with nonprofits to find and help the victims.

Last year, the NYPD announced that it had added 25 detectives to the vice unit and formed a joint task force with the FBI.

The department has also shifted its focus to busting pimps and johns rather than prostitutes.

“It is an overwhelming problem; it can feel that way,” says Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Carolina Holderness, chief of the borough’s Human Trafficking Response Unit. “We’re just trying to hit it with everything we have.”

Lloyd adds, “When you take a long view, there’s been significant progress.”

Still, she says, “when you take the immediate view, good grief, there are so many gaps and so many ways we are failing our kids.”Source: Inside New York’s silent sex trafficking epidemic

Pope Francis: ‘There Is No Hell’

In another interview with his longtime atheist friend, Eugenio Scalfari, Pope Francis claims that Hell does not exist and that condemned souls just “disappear.” This is a denial of the 2,000-year-old teaching of the Catholic Church about the reality of Hell and the eternal existence of the soul.

The interview between Scalfari and the Pope was published March 28, 2018 in La Repubblica. The relevant section on Hell was translated by the highly respected web log, Rorate Caeli.

The interview is headlined, “The Pope: It is an honor to be called revolutionary.” (Il Papa: “È un onore essere chiamato rivoluzionario.”)

Scalfari says to the Pope, “Your Holiness, in our previous meeting you told me that our species will disappear in a certain moment and that God, still out of his creative force, will create new species. You have never spoken to me about the souls who died in sin and will go to hell to suffer it for eternity. You have however spoken to me of good souls, admitted to the contemplation of God. But what about bad souls? Where are they punished?”

Pope Francis says, “They are not punished, those who repent obtain the forgiveness of God and enter the rank of souls who contemplate him, but those who do not repent and cannot therefore be forgiven disappear. There is no hell, there is the disappearance of sinful souls.”

Painting of Jesus rejecting the Devil’s
temptations in the desert.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, ‘eternal fire.’ The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.” (1035)

The Catechism further states, “The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: ‘Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.’

“Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where ‘men will weep and gnash their teeth.'”

Source: Pope Francis: ‘There Is No Hell’

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****’, DailyMail.com 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’