Daily Archives: January 19, 2018

FBI investigating the NRA for Russian collusion

The lobbyist organization for the merchants of death, the National Rifle Association, is under investigation by the FBI to determine whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the NRA to help Donald Trump win the presidency. McClatchy News reports, FBI investigating whether Russian money went to NRA to help Trump:

The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency, two sources familiar with the matter have told McClatchy.

FBI counterintelligence investigators have focused on the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA, the sources said.

It is illegal to use foreign money to influence federal elections.

It’s unclear how long the Torshin inquiry has been ongoing, but the news comes as Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s sweeping investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including whether the Kremlin colluded with Trump’s campaign, has been heating up.

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Disclosure of the Torshin investigation signals a new dimension in the 18-month-old FBI probe of Russia’s interference. McClatchy reported a year ago that a multi-agency U.S. law enforcement and counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s intervention, begun even before the start of the 2016 general election campaign, initially included a focus on whether the Kremlin secretly helped fund efforts to boost Trump, but little has been said about that possibility in recent months.

The extent to which the FBI has evidence of money flowing from Torshin to the NRA, or of the NRA’s participation in the transfer of funds, could not be learned.

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Election challenges filed in CD 8 special election primary

Democratic activist Lynda Vescio has filed an election challenge to the petitions filed by Democrats Brianna Westbrook and Gene Scharer. Two of Three Democrats in Arizona Special Election Face Lawsuit:

CD 8 boundaries

Lawsuits were filed against two Democrats running in Arizona’s 8th District’s special election on Thursday challenging the number of signatures on their petitions to get on the ballot.

Brianna Westbrook and Gene Scharer are both running in the special election to replace Rep. Trent Franks, who resigned last month after reports he offered a staffer money to carry his child.

The lawsuits said the two did not have enough petition signatures to be on the ballot. [Westbrook submitted 800 signatures, and Scharer submitted 666 signatures.]

But some of the ballots for the primary, which will be held on February 27, have already been mailed to military and overseas voters, ABC15 reported. The general election is scheduled for April 24.

Lynda Vescio did not file an election challenge to the petitions of Dr. Hiral Tipirneni, the third Democrat in the special eelction primary, who submitted 2,048 signatures, more than enough to qualify.

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2nd Annual Women’s March this weekend (updated)

The 2018 Women’s March in Washington will move forward as planned on Saturday despite a pending government shutdown. Women’s March Will Go On, Shutdown or Not:

An estimated 5,500 marchers will gather at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool at 11 a.m. for a series of speeches before winding their way east down Constitution Avenue and north to the White House gates to advocate for women’s inclusion in the political process.

The Reflecting Pool, which runs down the western end of the National Mall, is maintained by the National Park Service.

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A shutdown would furlough roughly 87 percent of the nearly 25,000 National Park Service employees until Congress can pass a spending measure to put them back to work.

All over the country, parks and monuments under NPS jurisdiction would be closed to visitors until Congress reaches a spending deal.

But the bureau has issued a “special provision … for first amendment activities in the National Mall and Memorial Parks” to carry on during a shutdown, according to a “contingency plan” outlined last September.

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2018 UA Science lectures: “Humans, Data & Machines”

UA Science _ 2018 Lecture Series

Humans, Data and Machines

 Lectures will be held at Centennial Hall on the campus of the University of Arizona.  Mondays, 7 pm  (Jan. 22 to Feb. 26, 2018), 1020 E. University Blvd. Tucson

“In our automated lives, we generate and interact with unprecedented amounts of data. This sea of information is constantly searched, catalogued, analyzed and referenced by machines with the ability to uncover patterns unseen by their human creators. These new insights have far reaching implications for our society. From our everyday presence online, to scientists sequencing billions of genes or cataloging billions of stars, to cars that drive themselves – this series of six lectures will explore how the confluence of humans, data and machines extends beyond science – raising new philosophical and ethical questions.

For a mobile friendly version of this site visit uascience.org

Live Streaming, TV Broadcast and Digital Viewing Options
Each lecture is streamed live by Arizona Public Media On Demand. Each lecture will also air on television after a one-week delay on Mondays more information to follow when available.

Each lecture is also uploaded to YouTube 1-2 weeks after the lecture date. Links will be posted when available.

Jan 22 2018
Problem Solving with Algorithms

Stephen Kobourov, Professor of Computer Science, University of Arizona
The idea of computation and algorithms is old, but modern day computers are a relatively new phenomenon. Even more recent are the notions of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and big data.  While it is difficult to clearly define AI and ML it is evident that progress in these fields, combined with access to large datasets, has a significant impact on all aspects of our lives. This raises new mathematical and engineering challenges (can we solve previously unsolvable problems?), but also philosophical questions (can machines think?), and considerations in ethics and law (can machines be more objective than humans?).

Jan 29 2018

The Minds of Machines

Mihai Surdeanu, Associate Professor of Computer Science, University of Arizona
We are inundated daily with news about artificial intelligence (AI) achieving tremendous results, e.g., defeating human champions at Go, driving better than us, etc. But does this mean that we are approaching the technical singularity where artificial intelligence far surpasses the human one? Does this mean that machines truly think? In this talk we will analyze these questions and illustrate that AI does not think that way we think: machines do not have a good way to represent and reason with world knowledge, and, of course, they are not self aware. Instead, AI is designed to automate and scale up pattern recognition for specific tasks.  Because of this different goal, AI does perform better than humans at certain tasks. I will review a series of problems where AI outperforms humans, including specific applications of natural language understanding, precision medicine, identifying planetary objects, and other problems, many of which implemented here at University of Arizona.

Feb 5 2018

Working Alongside Thinking Machines

Nirav Merchant, Director Data Science Institute, Data7, University of Arizona
Machine learning (ML) based systems are rapidly becoming pervasive, powering many applications from recommending music, movies and merchandise to driving our cars to assisting in medical diagnoses.  Our daily interactions, behavior, and choices, whether we are aware of them or not, are the sources of data for training these systems.  But how are these ML based platforms built and utilized ?.  While ML based platforms create amazing opportunities, especially when coupled with advances in cloud computing, reliance on these platforms comes with ethical, security, and technical concerns.  How do we strike a balance for enabling pragmatic and productive use of these capabilities? ML powered platforms are gaining proficiency and becoming deeply integrated into existing and emerging automation across many domains of science and society, causing a shift in opportunities impacting many professions. What are the new learning and training opportunities that allow us to stay relevant and lead the way for future innovations

Feb 12 2018

What Humans do that Machines Cannot

Luis von Ahn, CEO and Co-Founder, Duolingo, Professor of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University
This talk is about harnessing human time and energy to address problems that computers cannot yet solve. Although computers have advanced dramatically in many respects over the last 50 years, they still do not possess the basic conceptual intelligence or perceptual capabilities   that most humans take for granted. By leveraging human skills and abilities in a novel way, I want to solve large-scale computational problems and collect training data to teach computers many of the basic human talents. To this end, I treat human brains as processors in a distributed system, each performing a small part of a massive computation

Feb 19 2018

Machine Influencers and Decision Makers

Jane Bambauer, Professor of Law, University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law
Machine learning is shaping human lives in both obvious and subtle ways. Important economic and legal decisions about credit, employment, and criminal justice are already made with the aid of complex algorithms, raising difficult questions about whether machines can make decisions that are accurate and fair. Machine learners can become biased when the programmed objectives or the training data used to teach the algorithm are flawed. On the other hand, machines have some advantages over humans since they do not apply pre-existing assumptions and can more quickly recognize unexpected patterns. Machine learning also affects the human experience by creating advertising, suggestions, chat-bots, and even auto-generated news articles tailored to the individual. The government has some power to constrain artificial intelligence, but there are practical and constitutional limits to legal interventions.

Feb 26 2018

There is No Such Thing as Big Data

Vincent J. Del Casino Jr., Vice President, Academic Initiatives and Student Success, Professor, School of Geography and Development, University of Arizona
This talk challenges the notion that “big data” are what people believe they are – large, singular inanimate manifestations of our proxy selves – and argues that there is no “big data” really, just millions of small bits and pieces brought together through a series of algorithmic possibilities. But, big data analytics and the robotic futures that they engender are clearly producing anxieties for everyday social life and institutions, such as the university, have to manage these anxieties as they rethink themselves in relation to big data analytics and their concomitant robotic futures. As a result, universities have to double-down on investments in a broad education by asking how big data are represented in society, how human life is being organized in relation to big data, and how an interdisciplinary future can help manage the rapid changes produced by advances in robots and robotic technologies.”

 

The ‘shit-show’ shutdown is because of Donald Trump’s racist white nationalism

House GOP leaders found enough votes to pass a short-term CR over Democratic opposition after a deal was reached with conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus, who had threatened to oppose the bill throughout Thursday. House approves spending bill, shifting shutdown drama to Senate:

The group’s chairman, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), secured an agreement with GOP leaders to consider military spending within 10 legislative days.

Most GOP defense hawks said they would vote to avert a shutdown, despite their frustration with repeated short-term bills to fund the military.

Nearly all Democrats refused to support the legislation, which would extend funding through Feb. 16, in the absence of a solution to protect young immigrants known as “Dreamers.”

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The final vote was 230-197, with six Democrats voting for the measure and 11 Republicans voting against it.

The 11 Republicans who voted against the stopgap were mostly members of the Freedom Caucus, but included two Florida centrists — Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen — who, like Democrats, are demanding a solution for immigrants brought to country as children.

Six Democrats defected to support the bill: Reps. Salud Carbajal (Calif.), Jim Costa (Calif.), Henry Cuellar (Texas), Vicente González (Texas), Josh Gottheimer (N.J.) and Collin Peterson (Minn.).

The Senate is expected to vote on a procedural motion Thursday to take up the House bill. The procedural vote is expected to be approved, but a follow-up procedural motion to move the bill to a final up-or-down vote is expected to fail and may not even clinch a simple majority as several Republicans have already voiced opposition.

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