Day: April 10, 2017

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Ashton on cheating rumors


Ashton Kutcher received an award back in his hometown of West Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, and he delivered an emotional thank you speech in which he discussed his divorce from Demi Moore and the rumors that surrounded it. He also teared up while talking about his twin brother, his parents, his wife Mila Kunis, and their kids.

Kutcher, 39, was the recipient of the Robert D. Ray Pilliar of Character Award, and he said he debated whether or not to accept the award. During his speech, he listed off some of the mistakes he’d made in his life, such as getting arrested when he was 18-years-old for attempting to break in to his high school and being pulled over by a police officer while high.

“I’m also probably the first person to get this award for character who had his name splashed across every gossip magazine as an adulterer like five years ago,” he told the crowd.

He later added, “Character comes when those magazines tear you apart for something you may or may not have done, and you’ve got to go out and perform tomorrow with everyone looking at you like you might be an adulterer.”

He said his split from Moore was a learning experience that he was fortunate to have.

“I had the great fortune to fail again, and again and again…. I had the great fortune of getting a divorce because I felt the impact of it and I felt how much loss is in there, and I felt how much love is in there… and I understood, finally, my parents’ divorce…”

Kutcher choked up while discussing his twin brother.

“My brother was born with cerebral palsy, and he taught me that… people aren’t actually all created equal. The constitution lies to us. We’re all created incredibly [unequal]… but we all have the equal capacity to love one another, and my brother taught me that.”

He then raved about his wife. He said Kunis “kicks my ass on character every day.”

The star wrapped up his speech, his voice unsteady, by discussing how he felt when he welcomed his two children into the world.

“The greatest lesson on character in my life are my kids,” he said. “That’s the real deal… [When we had them] my first response was I wanted to call my parents and say ‘I’m sorry because I never knew how much you love me.’”



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Amazon's third-party sellers hit by hackers – Officials: Hackers to blame for sounding tornado sirens


Hackers are targeting the growing population of third-party sellers on Amazon.com, using stolen credentials to post fake deals and steal cash. 

In recent weeks, attackers have changed the bank-deposit information on Amazon accounts of active sellers to steal tens of thousands of dollars from each, according to several sellers and advisers. Attackers also have hacked into the Amazon accounts of sellers who haven’t used them recently to post nonexistent merchandise for sale at steep discounts in an attempt to pocket the cash, those people say. 

The fraud stems largely from email and password credentials stolen from previously hacked accounts and then sold on what’s dubbed the “dark web, ” a network of anonymous internet servers where hackers communicate and trade illicit information. Such hacks previously have favored sites such as PayPal and eBay, but Amazon recently has become a target of choice, according to cybersecurity experts. 

“Hacking Amazon is becoming…increasingly a big deal,” said Juozas Kaziuk nas, chief executive of Marketplace Pulse, a business-intelligence firm focused on e-commerce. “The value to be gained is bigger as Amazon grows.” 

While the precise scope and financial impact of the Amazon attacks is unclear, some sellers say the hacks have shaken their confidence in Amazon’s security measures. Such third-party merchants are critical for Amazon’s retail business, with more than two million sellers on the site accounting for more than half of its sales, including more than 100,000 sellers who each now sell in excess of $100,000 annually. 

An Amazon spokesman said the company “is constantly innovating on behalf of customers and sellers to ensure their information is secure and that they can buy and sell with confidence.” The company withholds payment to sellers until it is confident customers have received their orders, and guarantees a full refund if a product doesn’t arrive or isn’t as advertised. Sellers who lost money will be made whole. “There have always been bad actors in the world who try to take advantage of consumers for financial gain; however, as fraudsters get smarter so do we,” the spokesman added. 

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CJ Rosenbaum, a New York-based lawyer who represents Amazon sellers, says that more than a dozen of his clients have recently called to tell him they were hacked, a number of whom lost about half of their monthly sales of $15,000 to $100,000. They are asking Amazon for their money back, Mr. Rosenbaum said. 

Lightning X Products Inc. had $60,000 evaporate from its Amazon account last month, said Andy Spivey, product manager of the Charlotte, N.C.-based bag maker. Mr. Spivey said Amazon notified him of suspicious activity, but by the time he logged in, the bank account info had been changed. 

Lightning X has gone through its emails and scanned its systems for an attack. “We’re not sure how they gained access to the account,” Mr. Spivey said. Amazon told him Friday the money will be returned, he said. 

Hacks of dormant Amazon seller accounts in particular have increased since mid-March, to more than 20 some days from the low single-digits earlier this year, according to Marketplace Pulse, which monitors seller activity on e-commerce sites. 

In many cases, criminals create thousands of new listings for electronics or other goods at half price and mark them for four-week shipping, hoping to collect payment before Amazon realizes. 

Margina Dennis, who rarely uses her seller account, discovered she had been hacked late last month when she started to receive notifications to ship Nintendo Switch videogame systems. She notified Amazon immediately that she hadn’t listed the device, but Amazon still tried to charge her for unreceived items, she said. 

“This has been a nightmare,” said the makeup artist, who said Sunday afternoon she was still waiting for resolution. 

Amazon declined to comment on individual sellers. 

Handmade jewelry seller Amy Jennings faced a similar plight when thousands of notifications for sales of fraudulent items ranging from gun holsters to Easter eggs pinged an app on her phone, draining the battery. She could see customer complaints, but hackers had locked her out of her account. Amazon told her it is investigating, she said. 

Cybersecurity experts say that in some cases the hackers have been buying account information from previous hacks of other companies. More than 2.6 billion email addresses and passwords have been stolen in total from companies including Adobe Systems Inc., Myspace, and LinkedIn Corp., according to warning website Haveibeenpwned.com. 

Those credentials typically sell for between $1 and $3 apiece, sometimes accompanied by hacking tutorials. 

Experts said protecting against such fraud is relatively simple. Sellers should be using unique passwords and enable two-step verification, which sends a telephone prompt before allowing a login, said Alex Holden, chief information security officer of Hold Security LLC, a firm that specializes in location stolen online credentials. 

Mr. Holden also advises sellers set Amazon notifications for email alerts anytime anything is changed on the account. In the new world, passwords are “the keys to your shop,” he said. “You don’t lose them, because you get burglarized.” 

Experts also suggest consumers beware if a popular item — such as the Nintendo Switch — seems priced too good to be true. Shoppers should watch out for suspiciously low prices, a high number of negative reviews and sellers that haven’t received a new review in months or even years, they said. 

Write to Laura Stevens at laura.stevens@wsj.com and Robert McMillan at Robert.Mcmillan@wsj.com



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Shocking 'zombies' discovery


Zombies are hardly a modern preoccupation. For centuries, people have been worried about corpses rising from their graves to torment the living. Now, archaeologists in England think they’ve found evidence of medieval methods to prevent the dead from walking.

The researchers revisited a pit of human remains that had been dug up at Wharram Percy, an abandoned village in North Yorkshire that dates back to nearly 1,000 years ago. The corpses had been burned and mutilated after death, and the archaeologists offered two possible explanations: either the condition of the corpses was due to cannibalism, or the bodies were dismembered to ensure they wouldn’t walk from their graves, according to the study published April 2 in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

Study leader Simon Mays, a human-skeletal biologist at Historic England, said the idea that the bones “are the remains of corpses burnt and dismembered to stop them walking from their graves seems to fit the evidence best.” [See Photos of the ‘Zombie’ Burial at Wharram Percy]

People at the time believed that reanimation could occur when individuals who had a strong life force committed evil deeds before death, or when individuals experienced a sudden or violent death, Mays and his colleagues wrote. To stop these corpses from haunting the living, English medieval texts suggest that bodies would be dug up and subjected to mutilation and burning.

When the jumbled bones were first excavated in the 1960s, they were originally interpreted as dating from earlier, perhaps Roman-era, burials that were inadvertently disturbed and reburied by villagers in the late Middle Ages. The bones were buried in unconsecrated ground, after all —near a house and not in the official cemetery.

However, radiocarbon dating showed that the bones were contemporary with the medieval town, and chemical analyses revealed that the bones came from people who were local to the region.

What happened to the corpses after death could rival scenes from a gory zombie movie.

The bones from Wharram Percy came from at least 10 people between the ages of 2 and 50, according to the new study. Burning patterns from experiments with cadavers suggest that the bodies were set ablaze when the bones still had flesh on them. (A fleshed corpse was thought to be more threatening than a bare skeleton.) The scientists also found cut marks consistent with dismemberment, and chop marks that suggest the skeletons were decapitated after death.

“If we are right, then this is the first good archaeological evidence we have for this practice,” Mays said in a statement , referring to the zombie-safety precautions. “It shows us a dark side of medieval beliefs and provides a graphic reminder of how different the medieval view of the world was from our own.”

Stephen Gordon , a scholar of medieval and early-modern supernatural belief, who was not involved in the study, said he found the interpretation plausible. [7 Strange Ways Humans Act Like Vampires]

“Although, of course, one cannot discount the possibility that cannibalism was indeed a cause, I do think the evidence veers toward a local belief in the dangerous dead,” Gordon told Live Science in an email.

Gordon noted that several examples of revenants, or reanimated corpses , come from 12th-century northern English sources, so archaeological evidence from Yorkshire from around 1100 to 1300 is certainly to be expected.

There are still some mysteries concerning the bones, the authors of the study noted, such as how the human remains ended up together in this particular pit, especially since they span the 11th to 13th centuries. It’s also unclear why, if the corpses were feared, they would be reburied in a domestic context.

What’s more, revenants, at least according to written English sources, were commonly associated with males, but skeletons from both sexes and children were found in the pit. Gordon, however, doesn’t think this should invalidate the walking-dead argument.

“The written evidence in English chronicles and saints’ lives, which focus on male revenants, represents just a small (and highly constructed) snapshot of the realities of everyday belief,” Gordon said in the email.

A bishop of the Holy Roman Empire, Burchard of Worms, writing around A.D. 1000, “alludes to the fact that children who died before baptism, or women who died in childbirth, were believed to walk after death and needed to be ‘transfixed,'” Gordon said. He pointed to another case, from the 14th-century Bohemian chronicler Neplach of Opatovice, in which a female walking corpse had to be cremated. “As such, it is possible that female corpses were indeed believed to walk after death in England.”

The bones from Wharram Percy might not represent the very first revenant burial found in Europe. In several so-called ” vampire burials ” in a 17th-century Polish cemetery, the corpses have sickles around their necks. One interpretation is that the blades were meant to keep the dead from rising.

Original article on Live Science.



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Mama June hospitalized


June Shannon showed off her dramatic slim down from 460 pounds to a size four during Friday night’s finale of her WE reality show “Mama June: From Hot to Not.”

Shannon showed off her new figure at the best possible venue: Her ex-boyfriend Mike “Sugar Bear” Thompson’s wedding. Thompson married his new gal, Jennifer.

To achieve the weightloss, Shannon maintained a strict diet and exercise program. She underwent surgeries that included a gastric sleeve and skin removal. She had a boob job and lift.

But what price did the TV matriarch pay for the incredible weight loss?

Viewers saw a closing “bonus” scene that showed Shannon doubled over in pain.

“My stomach, I can’t even get up,” she told her daughters Alana “Honey Boo Boo” and Lauryn “Pumpkin.” “I should have gone to the hospital last night.”

Earlier in the show, doctors warned Shannon that her surgeries could be risky and result in blood clots or infection.

Shannon told the cameras the pain was worse than any of her three surgeries. “I really hope I haven’t pushed my body too far,” she said.

Shannon’s illness at episode’s end overshadowed how she triumphantly attended her ex’s wedding in a fiery red dress.

She found herself with no date for the wedding — and learned that the new wife, Jennifer, had dis-invited her after previously saying she could come with “Sugar Bear” and June’s daughter, Alana.

But after Alana told “Sugar Bear” she wouldn’t attend unless “Mama” was also invited, he relented.

June said she wanted to be at the Georgia wedding to support Alana as she walked her father down the aisle.

June, accompanied by Alana and her personal trainer Kenya, went back to the home she used to share with “Sugar Bear,” marveling at the fact that, “when I left this town I was 450 pounds.”

“I found out this bastard was cheating on me and one of the women was Jennifer,” she told Kenya about baby daddy, “Sugar Bear,” whom she never actually wed.

When they arrived at the house and “Sugar Bear” saw his ex, he told the WE cameras, “I’m speechless. She looks like a total complete different person.

“I’m kind of glad she lost all that weight. That way she can kind of be healthy. But on the other hand, I’m not in love with her any more. I’ve got a new woman. But hey, if she feels good about herself, I feel good, too,” he said.

“Sugar Bear” invited her in the home, which turned ugly when Jennifer came in and asked what she was doing there.

“I didn’t invite you in. It’s my day,” the bride fumed. “You’ve always been a b-tch…that’s why you don’t have him anymore,” Jennifer said. “Get out of my house!”

June took the high road, wishing them a happy life together and leaving.

Although everyone feared problems at the wedding itself, slim June made a grand entrance and enjoyed watching Alana walking down the aisle with her dad.

“Sugar Bear” and Jennifer recited their vows while June thought, “He’s your problem, now.”

Later that night, June built a campfire in the woods so her daughters could burn her old extra-large clothing.

Unfortunately, the next day, reality TV’s famed “Mama” was rushed to the hospital.
 



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ED cure available in Europe?


A common kidney stone treatment may actually help improve erectile dysfunction (ED) — though the treatment is not yet approved in the United States.

That treatment, shockwave therapy, has been used since the 1980s to treat kidney stones, Dr. Kevin Campbell, a physician with The Urology Group in Cincinnati, told Fox News. For the procedure, a machine generates a pressure wave strong enough to break or fragment a kidney stone, he explained.

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A modified, low-intensity version of shockwave therapy has also been shown, in some trials, to help with ED — but doctors aren’t entirely sure how it works yet.

They have some ideas: Campbell explained that, during a normal erection, the penis fills with blood. However, illnesses like diabetes or other blood vessel diseases can often lead to a buildup of scar tissue that decreases blood supply to the area. However, shockwave therapy may help increase the flow of blood to the penis, possibly by promoting the growth of stem cells, which can proliferate into different types of cells such as blood vessels, Campbell said.

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“It’s certainly promising,” Campbell said of the treatment, but noted that before he would suggest it to patients, he would want answers to a number of questions — including how shockwave therapy works and the best way to administer the shocks of pressure. (So far, there’s no consensus on how many treatments should be administered, how high the intensity level of the shocks should be, and the exact placement required for the shocks.)

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One crucial, potential benefit of shockwave therapy? Unlike oral medications such as Viagra, Campbell explained, shockwave therapy could actually treat the cause of the problem — not just its symptoms.

If eventually approved, the treatment could help the 30 million American men the National Institutes of Health estimates suffer from ED. Now, that’s something to get excited about.



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'Waltons' star: I regret it


When “The Waltons” premiered on September 14, 1972, Michael Learned thought a TV drama about a Depression-era family living in Virginia’s rural Blue Ridge Mountains wouldn’t survive past season one. However, not only did the show survive for nine seasons until 1981, but in September 2016, the now 77-year-old actress, who starred as beloved matriarch Olivia Walton, reunited with her former cast-mates to celebrate its 45th anniversary. The series lives on in syndication. She spoke with Fox News about her career and her big regrets. 

Fox News: What initially drew you to the role of Olivia?
Michael Learned: Oh, I didn’t want to do it. I wasn’t drawn to it at all! I had finished doing ‘Private Lives,’ which Francis Coppola directed, and I played Cleopatra that same season at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. I wasn’t ready to play a 40-year-old farmer’s wife. I didn’t want to do it. But I was going through a divorce, and I had three kids to support. I wasn’t getting any alimony at that point. And of course in retrospect, it was a gift from God. It saved my life.

I’m very grateful. At the time, they offered $1,200 a week, and I thought at the time, ‘I’ll never be able to figure out how to spend all that money…’ I was staying in a little dump for 12 bucks a night…so I went [for the audition]. It put my kids through private school… it was a joy, but a grind. I didn’t care for the 14-hour days. You know, people who are in an hour show, they earn their money. You really don’t have a life. You need to do it when you’re young and save your money.

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Fox News: You were told that ‘The Waltons’ wouldn’t survive past season one. 
Learned: We thought it was a CBS tax write-off, if there is such a thing with big networks. But none of us thought the season intended to run… We were absolutely amazed at the reception and it was the media that kept us alive. The critics were so sweet and kind about it. They were raving about it, saying, ‘Please don’t let this show die.’ I think they kept it alive long enough for the audience to find it.

Fox News: What’s the relationship like with your former cast-mates?
Learned: We’re still so close. We love each other, and we can’t wait to be together. It’s like time hasn’t passed. We were close at the time, and we’re even closer today… They’re like my second family.

Fox News: You left ‘The Waltons’ in 1979, which was before the show came to an end in 1981. Do you regret that decision?
Learned: Yes, there’s been times when I’ve regretted it only in that it probably would have been better to complete the whole show. But frankly, when John-Boy came back with a new face and a new voice, it was like something happened. I just couldn’t do it anymore… and also, I felt a lot of the times I was sitting around for 14 hours saying, ‘More coffee John.’ The fact is, I was bored. And I thought I had enough money, which wasn’t true.

Fox News: You’re still performing on stage and on the web series ‘Life Interrupted,’ which also stars Alison Arngrim and Dawn Wells. What’s keeping you motivated?
Learned: It’s what I do. When I’m not working professionally, I’m home cleaning the kitchen and that’s so boring. I’ve been doing that since I was 17. I always can’t wait to go to work and get out of the house! What am I going to do? Sit around and clean the refrigerator? That is even more boring than pouring coffee on Waltons mountain… I try to have fun now. I’m old and I don’t want to do anything that’s going to make me unhappy.

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Fox News: Earlier this year, you opened up to Closer Weekly and revealed how you overcame domestic violence. What inspired you to share this personal experience?
Learned: I haven’t talked about it that much and I’m not sure if I should have brought it up because people do work on themselves and change and move on. But I have seen a lot of people who are still in [abusive relationships] and are suffering. I wanted people to know you can get out of it. It’s not something you have to endure… He has moved on and so have I. My life is terrific today and I hope his is, too. But, we don’t stay in contact.

Fox News: How did it feel to tell your story?
Learned: At the time, it was OK. Now I’m regretting it a little bit. I don’t want it to be my big drama in an interview, if you know what I mean. It’s not like I’m hiding anything. It’s just I don’t want it to be what I’m all about. I’m much more than that.

Fox News: What message would you share to other women who may be going through a similar issue?
Learned: At the time, for me there was no help available, really. There was no place to go. Also, what tends to happen to people in that situation is you make excuses for your abuser. There are no excuses… There are no excuses. Maybe that’s the message.



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US vs Japan: Giant robot duel


Forget Samsung’s Galaxy S8 vs. the tenth-anniversary iPhone! Who cares about a nuanced discussion comparing the necessity for big data-driven surveillance and the importance of privacy and strong encryption? What kind of puny, pencil-necked geek spends time pondering the relative pros and cons of logic-based artificial intelligence and statistical AI?

If you’re a red-blooded, testosterone-pumping tech fan who likes your gear served up with a thick-crusted slice of pro wrestling pageantry, the only confrontation that matters this year is the one pitting Californian robotics company MegaBots against Japanese robotics company Suidobashi in a totally awesome robot duel that’s been years in the making.

Set to finally take place this August (an announcement made this week), the date is the culmination of thousands of hours both companies have spent building giant human-driven mech robots — you know, like those things out of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing.

Now they’re going to do what any self-respecting big kid would do when playing with kickass action figures: bash them against each other until a clear victor has emerged. In short, Megabots and Suidobashi’s creators are here to kick ass, chew bubblegum, and do some wicked engineering. And they’re both all out of bubble gum.

“In 2015, we challenged Suidobashi Heavy Industries to a Giant Robot Duel between our existing Mark II robot and their KURATAS robot,” Gui Cavalcanti, CEO and co-founder of MegaBots told Digital Trends. “They accepted the challenge, and upped the ante to include hand-to-hand combat. We tested the Mark II to see if it would survive in combat. The robot would but we, the pilots, wouldn’t.”

Like a Rocky training montage, Cavalcanti and his team went back to the drawing board for a rethink, and emerged with the Mark III robot.

This wasn’t always straightforward. As it turns out, bringing a giant mech to heaving, servo-assisted life isn’t as easy as you might imagine.

“Our biggest challenges have been suppliers, systems integration, and logistics,” Cavalcanti continued. “The Mk. III includes about $800,000 worth of off-the-shelf and custom parts, that we often order in gigantic bulk orders. Simply getting high-quality parts in the door reliably has been a huge issue for us. Integrating all those parts into a cohesive system has been really challenging. We have about 3,000 wires on the robot, around 300 hydraulic hoses, 26 of the fastest hydraulic valves in the world, and a 430 horsepower gas engine that wants to be in a car and not a robot. Getting all of those to play nice has been a long process.”

There was also that boring old stuff about logistics that turns out to be totally important, too. It’s a bit like those old road stories with professional wrestler Andre the Giant where body slamming fools wasn’t half as challenging as finding a hotel bathroom that could accommodate his 6’11, 500 pound frame.

“Simply moving the robot around nationally and internationally has been a huge challenge,” Gui explained. “The robot has to break down into parts that fit inside a shipping container, for example, and be easy to re-assemble on-site. More than anything else, we’ve had to change our designs in fundamental ways to allow them to be shipped nationally and internationally.”

Still, the results have been worth it — since the team’s Mark III robot is a seismic upgrade over its predecessor. As far as tales of the tape go, it weighs 12 tons instead of six, and towers in at 16 feet instead of 15. In short, Cavalcanti said it was, “designed for hand-to-hand combat from the ground up.”

So onto the final question, then, which is why — with so many astonishing advances in robotics — should this all be settled in a duel?

“Because there’s a 50-year-long tradition in most world cultures of science fiction depicting giant robots fighting,” Cavalcanti said. “When we show our robot to people who haven’t heard of us, the reaction is always ‘Oh! I saw that in’ and then they list any of 60 or 70 different video games, movies, [or] animated shows that feature giant robots fighting. We’re trying to bring the fantasies of sci-fi fans around the world to life.”

You can’t say fairer than that! We just hope Suidobashi is ready…



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Philippine court affirms conviction of US Marine


A Philippines appeals court on Monday affirmed a regional trial court’s conviction of a U.S. Marine and his sentence of up to 10 years in jail for killing a transgender Filipino, whose heirs he was also ordered to compensate.

The Court of Appeals decision seen Monday did not accept Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton’s claim of self-defense in killing Jennifer Laude inside a motel room in northwestern Olongapo city after they met in a disco bar in October 2014.

The killing sparked anger in the Philippines and reignited calls by left-wing groups and nationalists for an end to U.S. military presence in the country.

Pemberton had claimed Laude molested him in the motel room by pretending to be a woman and he had to defend his dignity, but that he had no intention to kill her. He said Laude slapped him when he confronted her for pretending to be a woman.

But the decision penned by Associate Justice Marlene Gonzales-Sison said physical evidence contradicts Pemberton’s claim.

“As proven by the prosecution, Pemberton did not leave Laude merely unconscious, but ensured his death by submerging his head inside the toilet bowl,” it said. “Clearly, Pemberton intended the natural consequence of his wrongful act.”

The court also upheld, with slight modification, the order for Pemberton to pay Laude’s heirs more than $90,000 for loss of Laude’s income, civil indemnity, moral damages and actual damages.

Rep. Harry Roque, who served as the Laude family’s private lawyer, welcomed the court’s decision, saying that “the fact that a member of the U.S. Marines was found guilty for breach of our criminal laws for the very first time is an affirmation of Philippine sovereignty.”

Pemberton, an anti-tank missile operator from New Bedford, Massachusetts, was one of thousands of American and Philippine military personnel who participated in joint exercises in the country in 2014. He and a group of other Marines were on leave after the exercises and met Laude and her friends at a bar in Olongapo, a city known for its nightlife outside Subic Bay, a former U.S. Navy base. At least two witnesses testified that Laude was a sex worker.

Pemberton has been detained at a compound guarded by Philippine and American security personnel, at the main military camp in metropolitan Manila.



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Robot ‘sees’ around corners


Anyone who has ever worked as part of a team (which, in today’s hyperconnected world, is virtually everyone) will know that things work better when people talk with one another. This way knowledge gets shared, collaborations become possible, and individual successes or mistakes are collectively learned from.

Why would you think that things would be any different in the world of robotics?

That’s exactly what the folks at Locus Robotics have been proving with a major new software update for their factory robot LocusBots. LocusBots are autonomous warehouse robots, capable of moving autonomously through a space and then transporting items from where they’re picked off shelves to the place they’re packaged into boxes and shipped out. Previously this was done individually, with each robot working in isolation. Thanks to the new LRAN system — short for Locus Robotics Advanced Navigation — it’s now a team effort.

“It’s like a real-time indoor Waze for robots,” Locus president Mike Johnson told Digital Trends. “With this technology, robots can literally see around the corner.”

Johnson’s not referring to new X-ray abilities for the company’s factory bots (although that does give us a good idea for a future startup). Instead, he’s talking about a way that LocusBots can share data with one another to help make them collectively smarter. This is where the Waze comparison comes in, referring to the smartphone app which enables drivers to alert one another of road conditions as they drive.

“The challenge we’re responding to is that the facilities these robots are working at are huge,” Johnson continued. “We call them unstructured environments because they have a lot of equipment, a lot of people, and they change quickly. There are products coming in and products going out all the time. Our goal is to make things simple for operators. We want them to bring in robots and immediately see an increase in performance. The big change we’ve made to achieve this is giving robots the ability to collaborate. Rather than robots that just follow paths, these robots talk among one another, sharing information about the environment they’re in, and doing this in real time.”

The new system debuted at this week’s industry trade show ProMat in Chicago. At the show, six LocusBots were shown navigating the floor, avoiding bumping into each other or any humans that happen to get in their way. It’s an impressive demonstration of real-time route planning and crowdsourced information — and Johnson said it works as well with 50 or 100 robots as it does with six.

It’s also a nifty example of how robots can become more efficient, even without having to be physically retooled.

“While we have improved the hardware over time, this is all about the software,” he said. “The great thing about software today — including the software that we use — is that it can be pushed out, and within minutes all of our robots have it. It’s like a Tesla, where suddenly they have this new navigation system that lets them operate better.”

So will robot collaboration one day go beyond this so that, for instance, multiple robots could help one another perform impromptu tasks on the warehouse floor as and when needed?

“I think that will be there,” Johnson concluded. “Right now, robotics is on the early part of the adoption curve. We’re seeing a lot of interest, and a lot of fascinating work done with sensors. I do think that we’ll see some more interplay as these robots collaborate in new and different ways.”



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Trump Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland tapped as Singapore envoy


A top national security adviser to President Donald Trump is the latest official heading out in an ongoing shuffle within the National Security Council.

K.T. McFarland came into the White House as a deputy to Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Flynn was asked to resign in February amid revelations that he misled senior administration officials about his contacts with Russian government officials.

McFarland’s impending move was confirmed Sunday by a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official announcement hasn’t been made. The post requires Senate confirmation.

Flynn’s replacement, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, has been allowed to make changes to the national security structure. McMaster immediately expressed a desire to run a less hierarchical organization and be more accessible to his staff.

Last week, the White House confirmed the removal of Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, from the National Security Council, reversing an earlier, controversial decision to give Bannon access to the group’s highest-level meetings.

A senior White House official said Wednesday that Bannon was initially placed on the National Security Council during Flynn’s tenure as a measure to ensure implementation of the president’s vision, including efforts to downsize and streamline operations at the NSC.

Another White House official, Dina Powell, was recently named deputy national security adviser for strategy and has been present in the recent high level meetings with delegations from Egypt, Jordan and China.

McFarland worked as a Fox News analyst before joining Trump’s national security team. She previously worked for three Republican presidents — Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan.



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