Facebook Launches Job Search Feature for Low-Skilled Workers

Facebook wants to make it easier for people to find low-skilled jobs online.

After testing the new software in U.S. and Canada since last year, Facebook added job postings Wednesday in another 40 countries across Europe and elsewhere.

The software works with both Apple and PC operating systems.

Users can find openings using the Jobs dashboard on Facebook’s web sidebar or its mobile app’s More section. The search can be filtered according to area and type of industry, as well as between full-time and part-time jobs.

Users can automatically fill out applications with information from their Facebook profile, submit the applications and schedule interviews.

Businesses can post job openings using the Jobs tab on their page, and include advertisements.

Separately, Facebook announced the introduction of a face recognition software that helps users quickly find photos they’re in, but haven’t been tagged in. The new software will help users protect themselves against unauthorized use of their photos, as well as allow visually impaired users learn who is in their photos and videos.


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Moon to Get Its Own Mobile Network

Several high-tech companies are teaming up on a plan to put a mobile phone network on the moon next year.

Vodaphone Germany, Nokia, and Audi are working on a mobile network and robotic vehicles that are part of a private expedition to the moon, timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary year of the first manned lunar landing.

The project with PTScientists in Germany would use a 4G network to send high-definition information from rovers back to a lunar lander, which would then be able to communicate it back to Earth. 

Project scientists say the system uses less energy than having rovers speak directly to Earth, leaving more power for scientific activities. 

They plan to launch the vehicles from Cape Canaveral next year on a Space X Falcon 9 rocket. 


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Facebook: No New Evidence Russia Interfered in Brexit Vote

Facebook Inc has told a British parliamentary committee that further investigations have found no new evidence that Russia used social media to interfere in the June 2016 referendum in which Britain voted to leave the European Union.

Facebook UK policy director Simon Milner in a letter Wednesday told the House of Commons Committee on Digital, Culture Media and Sport that the latest investigation the company undertook in mid-January to try to “identify clusters of coordinated Russian activity around the Brexit referendum that were not identified previously” had been unproductive.

Using the same methodology that Facebook used to identify U.S. election-related social media activity conducted by a Russian propaganda outfit called the Internet Research Agency, Milner said the social network had reviewed both Facebook accounts and “the activity of many thousands of advertisers in the campaign period” leading up to the June 23, 2016 referendum.

He said they had “found no additional coordinated Russian-linked accounts or Pages delivering ads to the UK regarding the EU Referendum during the relevant period, beyond the minimal activity we previously disclosed.”

At a hearing on social media political activity that the parliamentary committee held in Washington earlier in February, Milner had promised the panel it would disclose more results of its latest investigation by the end of February.

At the same hearing, Juniper Downs, YouTube’s global head of public policy, said that her company had “conducted a thorough investigation around the Brexit referendum and found no evidence of Russian interference.”

In his letter to the committee, Facebook’s Milner acknowledged that the minimal results in the company’s Brexit review contrasted with the results of Facebook inquiries into alleged Russian interference in U.S. politics. The company’s U.S. investigation results, Milner said, “comport with the recent indictments” Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller issued against Russian individuals and entities.

Following its Washington hearing, committee chairman Damian Collins MP said his committee expected to finish a report on its inquiry into Social Media and Fake News in late March and that the report is likely to include recommendations for new British laws or regulations regarding social media content.

These could include measures to clarify the companies’ legal liability for material they distribute and their obligations to address social problems the companies’ content could engender, he said.


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ISS Astronauts Will Soon Get a Personal Assistant

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station will soon get a personal assistant, similar to Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, but so smart that astronauts prefer to call it a “colleague.”

Its official name is CIMON, short for Crew Interactive Mobile Companion, and it will partially live in a five-kilogram ball built by Airbus. It has a video screen with rudimentary face features, cameras with face recognition, microphones and speakers.

CIMON will move freely within the space station; however, its brain will be on Earth in IBM’s supercomputer, named Watson, loaded with a huge amount of scientific knowledge.

CIMON’s main human companion will be German astronaut Alexander Gerst, who will bring it onboard ISS in June. The two are currently training together, as CIMON will have to be able to recognize Gerst’s voice and face, and also to navigate within the complicated interior of the spacecraft.

For starters, Gerst and CIMON will cooperate in experiments with crystals, a complex medical experiment, and also try to solve the Rubik’s magic cube using only videos.

A larger experiment will be the interaction between human and artificial intelligence, especially in view of future deep-space missions.

CIMON’s developers would like to see whether an intelligent interactive assistant will help reduce astronauts’ stress during long flights and improve their efficiency.


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Could Winning Super Bowl Play Be Winning Marketing Ploy?

A company’s value is often tied to the message it portrays to customers. But what happens when other companies try to take advantage of your brand?

Take the Philadelphia Eagles, for instance. The American football team wants to exclusively own the phrase: “Philly Special.” That was the trick play that helped them win the Super Bowl, and the Philly Special is, by far, the most talked-about play of the Super Bowl.

Watch the play here:

It is a gutsy move. In football-speak, it is a direct-snap reverse pass to quarterback Nick Foles, who usually throws the ball. But the coach gives the OK, and Foles tells his teammates the plan in the huddle.

The team lines up, Foles runs up the field. Tight end Trey Burton throws the football, and Foles catches it in the end zone for a touchdown.

“Play of the century”

Now, the phrase, ‘Philly Special,’ has turned into a city-wide phenomena. Bakeries are making Philly Special pastries. Some people are getting the words or even a sketch of the play tattooed on themselves.

And stores, like Ashley Peel’s Philadelphia Independents, cannot keep enough Philly Special T-shirts in stock.

“It’s the ‘Nick Foles play of the century,’ as I’m dubbing it from the Super Bowl,” Peel said. “It has a layout of the [specifics] from the play. We just got it in and we’re almost already sold out of it. It’s definitely moving well.”

It’s moving well, even as several entrepreneurs are competing to be awarded a trademark — in other words, exclusive rights — to the phrase.  Many of the businesses filed their own trademark applications ahead of the Eagles.

“I do have a client that’s applied for the mark, ‘Philly Special,’” said Philadelphia-based lawyer Nancy Rubner Frandsen.

She filed a trademark application on behalf of a company called Whalehead Associates. She can’t comment too much about the application without violating attorney-client privilege, but admits the phrase goes beyond a football play.

“Obviously it brings everyone together, it was our Super Bowl championship that brought it all about,” she said. “It’s got the term ‘Philly’ in it — from the trademark standpoint, it would be deemed to be descriptive. But then you combine it with the term, ‘Special,’ and it could make a very unique trademark.”

Some of the other businesses that want to trademark the term include a sandwich maker, a gift shop manufacturer … and the Philadelphia Eagles. The team was actually the last to file a trademark application. Even so, experts say, it’s likely the rights will be awarded to the Eagles.

Newsjacking

“This particular term, ideally, should belong to the Eagles,” said Dr. Jay Sinha, an associate marketing professor at Temple University in Philadelphia.

He added the phenomenon around ‘Philly Special’ is not the first time there’s been a rush to trademark a term after a big event, like the Super Bowl. And it’s even got a name: ‘newsjacking.’

“The term, newsjacking, means where a company rides or takes advantage of some event happening in current affairs and uses it for their own commercial purposes, especially for marketing in branding,” Sinha said.

For example, think of famous movie lines, like: ‘May the force be with you,’ from “Stars Wars.” When sequels are released, other companies often try to take advantage of the film’s popularity for marketing purposes, like an ice cream shop that posts a sign reading, ‘May the swirl be with you.’

“If there’s anything which is relevant in popular culture as well as the news, companies like to ride on it,” Sinah said.

In this case, it likely will be several months before the U.S. Patent Office announces who will be awarded the rights to the now famous phrase. By then, though, another Super Bowl will be approaching and the excitement of the Philly Special could be fading.


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Artificial Intelligence Poses Big Threat to Society, Warn Leading Scientists

Artificial Intelligence is on the cusp of transforming our world in ways many of us can barely imagine. While there’s much excitement about emerging technologies, a new report by 26 of the world’s leading AI researchers warns of the potential dangers that could emerge over the coming decade, as AI systems begin to surpass levels of human performance.

Automated hacking is identified as one of the most imminent applications of AI, especially so-called “phishing” attacks.

“That part used to take a lot of human effort – you had to study your target, make a profile of them, craft a particular message – that’s known as phishing. We are now getting to the point where we can train computers to do the same thing. So you can model someone’s topics of interest or preferences, their writing style, the writing style of a close friend, and have a machine automatically create a message that looks a lot like something they would click on,” says report co-author Shahar Avin of the Center for the Study of Existential Risk at Britain’s University of Cambridge.

In an era of so-called “fake news,” the implications of AI for media and journalism are also profound.

Programmers from the University of Washington last year built an AI algorithm to create a video of Barack Obama, allowing them to program the “fake” former president to say anything they wished. It’s just the start, says Avin.

“You create videos and audio recordings that are pixel to pixel indistinguishable from real videos and real audio of people. We will need new technical measures. Maybe some kind of digital signatures, to be able to verify sources.”

There is much excitement over technology such as self-driving AI cars, with big tech companies alongside giant car makers vying to be the first to market. The systems, however, are only as secure as the environments in which they operate.

“You can have a car that is as good and better at navigating the world than your average driver. But you put some stickers on a ‘Stop’ sign and it thinks it’s ‘Go at 55 miles per hour.’ As long as we haven’t fixed that problem, we might have systems that are very safe, but are not secure. We could have a world filled with robotic systems that are very useful and very safe, but are also open to an attack by a malicious actor who knows what they are doing,” adds Avin.

The report warns that the proliferation of drones and other robotic systems could allow attackers “to deploy or re-purpose such systems for harmful ends, such as crashing fleets of autonomous vehicles, turning commercial drones into face-targeting missiles or holding critical infrastructure to ransom.”

He says AI use in warfare is widely seen as one of the most disturbing possibilities, with so-called ‘killer robots’ and decision-making taken out of the hands of humans.

“You want to have an edge over your opponent by deploying lots and lots of sensors, lots and lots of small robotic systems, all of them giving you terabytes of information about what’s happening on the battlefield. And no human would be in a position to aggregate that information, so you would start having decision recommendation systems. At this point, do you still have meaningful human control?”

There is also the danger of AI being used in mass surveillance, especially by oppressive regimes.

The researchers stress the many positive applications of AI; however, they note that it is a dual-use technology, and assert that AI researchers and engineers should be proactive about the potential for its misuse.

The authors say AI itself will likely provide many of the solutions to the problems they identify.

 


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Giant Retailer Dick’s Sporting Goods Ends Sales of Assault-Style Weapons

Dick’s Sporting Goods, one of the largest sports retailers in the U.S., will immediately end the sale of assault-style rifles in its stores and stop selling guns of any type to anyone under age 21.

The company made the announcement Wednesday, precisely two weeks after a school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

“We deeply believe that this country’s most precious gift is our children. They are our future. We must keep them safe. Beginning today, DICK’S Sporting Goods is committed to the following: http://d.sg/RTC,” the company said in a post on Twitter.

“We need to make a statement,” chairman and CEO Edward Stack said in an interview Wednesday on CNN. “We don’t want to be part of this story any longer.”

Stack said the Florida shooting suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, legally purchased an AR-15 assault rifle from Dick’s in November, but it was not the one used to kill 14 students and 3 staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Stack, who said he remains a strong advocate of the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment, asserted the nation’s gun laws do not prevent dangerous people from buying guns and that lawmakers must act to strengthen those laws.

The executive called on elected officials to ban assault-style firearms, high-capacity magazines and “bump stocks,” which are devices that enable semi-automatic rifles to fire hundreds of rounds per minute. Stack also proposed raising the minimum age to buy guns to 21.

He said Dick’s, which also stopped selling high-capacity magazines, is prepared for any backlash but will not change its policies on gun sales. “We’re comfortable with our decision,” he said, adding that Dick’s will continue to sell an array of hunting and sport firearms.

The announcement is one of the strongest positions taken by a major U.S. corporation since the massacre, which has reignited the national gun debate and sparked a wave of gun-control rallies across the country.

More than a dozen U.S. corporations have ended partnerships with the National Rifle Association since the mass shooting, including Delta Airlines and United Continental Holdings, Inc., which owns United Airlines.

NRA ties

Other companies that have cut ties with the NRA include Avis, Best Western International, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Metlife, the Hertz Corporation, and Wyndham Worldwide Corporation.

The NRA is one of the country’s most powerful lobbying groups for gun rights and claims 5 million members. In the 2016 elections, the NRA gave $54 million in political donations, much of that during the presidential race.

It is not unusual for some members of Congress to have individually received hundreds of thousands of dollars — even millions — from the NRA. While some Democrats are also recipients of NRA financial support, the top benefactors are currently members of the Republican Party.

NRA reaction

Last week, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre told the Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington that those advocating for stricter gun control were exploiting the Florida shooting.

Gun control advocates have noted that many teenagers in America can legally purchase assault rifles before they’re eligible to vote or drink alcohol. Twenty-eight of the 50 states have no minimum age requirement for owning a rifle.

Another giant U.S. retail seller of guns, Walmart, Inc., stopped selling AR-15 rifles and other semi-automatic weapons in 2015.


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Indexes Point to Cooling Growth in China This Year 

Growth in China’s manufacturing sector in February cooled to the weakest in more than 11/2 years, raising concerns of a sharper-than-expected slowdown in the world’s second biggest economy this year as regulators tighten the screws on financial risks.

The weakness was driven by disruption to business activity by the Lunar New Year holidays and curbs to factory output from tougher pollution rules, but there are worries of a bigger loss in momentum.

“Although a recovery looks possible in the short-run as the anti-pollution campaign winds down, the risk is still that the economy fares worse this year than is generally expected,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China Economist at Capital Economics.

Index raises concern

The official Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) released Wednesday fell to 50.3 in February, from 51.3 in January. But it remained above the 50-point mark that separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis, the 19th straight month of expansion.

The drop may raise some concerns for China’s leaders as they prepare for the start of the National People’s Congress (NPC) next week where Beijing will unveil its economic targets for this year.

Globally, solid demand has kept many export-reliant economies humming over the past year or so, though a move toward tighter policy in advanced nations could cut into growth this year.

The latest PMI’s subindex of new export orders fell to 49.0, the lowest in at least a year, as the yuan currency appreciated against the dollar.

Chen Zhongtao, an official with China Logistics Information Center (CLIC), said that “13.6 percent of firms reported concerns over the appreciating Chinese currency and greater currency fluctuations,” the highest number of companies to do so since March 2017.

CLIC said in a statement that export sluggishness is expected to continue this year as steel firms are more reluctant to ship goods in the face of rising global protectionism.

Lunar New Year effect

The index for output stood at 50.7, down from 53.5 in January as the Lunar New Year holidays disrupted factory activities, the statistics bureau said. Total new orders also expanded much slower in February.

Raw material input prices fell for the second consecutive month to the lowest since July 2017, indicating cost pressure from price rises on manufacturing firms is easing.

“I think besides the Lunar New Year factor, the stricter pollution measures in the north before the National People’s Congress might have weighed on activities as well,” said Betty Wang, Senior China Economist at ANZ.

Wang expects momentum to pick up in the months ahead as the pollution crackdown tapers off.

Still, there are signs that China may continue with the pollution crackdown, with top steelmaking city of Tangshan proposing new restrictions on production once the current curbs expire in March.

The weeklong Lunar New Year holidays, which fell in February this year but January in 2017, tend to distort data early in the year.

Many factories and offices start to scale back operations ahead of time before shutting for the entire holiday or longer, while some manufacturers front-load shipments or replenish inventories ahead of the break.

Moderating growth in 2018

Boosted by government infrastructure spending, a resilient property market and unexpected strength in exports, China’s manufacturing and industrial firms helped the economy post better-than-expected growth of 6.9 percent in 2017.

A sister survey showed activity in China’s service sector slowed to lowest since October last year in February. The official non-manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 54.4 from 55.3 in January.

The services sector accounts for more than half of China’s economy, with rising wages giving Chinese consumers more spending clout.

Chinese policymakers are counting on growth in services and consumption to rebalance their economic growth model from its heavy reliance on investment and exports.

Economists polled by Reuters expected China’s economic growth will moderate to around 6.5 percent this year as the property market cools and as authorities press ahead with a clamp down on riskier financial activity that is driving up borrowing costs.

Analysts and financial markets are widely expecting the government to announce a 2018 growth target of around 6.5 percent at the NPC, the same as last year.

A composite PMI covering both the manufacturing and services activity stood at 52.9 in February, down from January’s reading of 54.6.

“Looking ahead, we think growth is likely to fall short of expectations this year, with many underestimating the headwinds from slower credit growth and a cooling property sector,” Capital Economics’ Evans-Pritchard said.


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US Proposes Anti-dumping Duties on Chinese Aluminum Foil

The U.S. Commerce Department on Tuesday recommended raising import duties on Chinese-made aluminum foil it said is being sold at unfairly low prices due to improper subsidies to producers.

 

The ruling was praised by the Aluminum Association, a trade group that pressed the case and said cheap imports were threatening thousands of jobs.

 

Beijing faces complaints from the United States, European Union and other trading partners that a flood of Chinese aluminum, steel and other exports are being sold at unfairly low prices, threatening jobs abroad.

 

The Commerce Department said it concluded Chinese exporters were selling aluminum foil at 49 to 106 percent below fair value and were receiving unfair subsidies of 17 to 81 percent of the goods’ value.

 

Importers will have to post cash bonds to pay potentially higher duties while the recommendation goes to the U.S. International Trade Commission for a final decision, said a Commerce statement.

 

China’s Ministry of Commerce complained Washington was harming Chinese exporters and said Beijing was ready to take unspecified “necessary measures” to defend its interests.

 

Beijing has accused Trump’s government of disrupting global trade regulation by taking action under U.S. law instead of through the World Trade Organization.

 

“China will take necessary measures to defend its interests in response to the wrong practice of the United States,” said a Commerce Ministry official, Wang Hejun, in a statement.

 

The Trump administration earlier raised duties on Chinese-made washing machines, solar modules and some aluminum and steel products to offset what it said were improper subsidies.

 

The American Chamber of Commerce in China says Chinese officials have warned of possible unspecified retaliation if Washington took excessive steps in trade disputes.


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Plan to Privatize US Air Traffic Control Lacks Support, Lawmaker Says

The chairman of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said Tuesday that there was not enough support in Congress to move forward with a plan backed by President Donald Trump to privatize the air traffic control system.

Republican Representative Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania said in a statement that the “air traffic control reform provisions did not reach the obvious level of support needed to pass Congress.”

But Shuster vowed to work with the Senate to move forward with legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration, which expires at the end of March. Without authorization, the FAA would not be able to collect aviation taxes, and many of its employees would have to be laid off.

In June, Trump unveiled a plan to privatize air traffic control, saying it would modernize the system and lower flying costs.

Democrats contended it would hand control of a key asset to special interests and big airlines, and some Republicans opposed it.

On Tuesday, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, nearly 250 general aviation organizations, state and local aviation officials, labor unions, consumer groups and airports said they had sent a letter to congressional leaders vowing to oppose any effort to privatize air traffic control.

United Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, all represented by the Airlines for America lobbying group, backed the plan.

Under the proposal, air traffic control would be spun off from the FAA and put under the oversight of a nonprofit corporation.

The FAA spends nearly $10 billion a year on air traffic control funded largely through passenger user fees, and has spent more than $7.5 billion on next-generation air traffic control reforms in recent years.

Trump has said current air traffic reform efforts have failed and were a “total waste of money.”

Opponents said the U.S. system is so large that privatization would not save money, would drive up ticket costs and could create a national security risk. Opponents also said technology upgrades would be sidetracked while the private entity was set up, potentially adding years to awarding contracts.


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