Category: New Posts

Why It Should Scare Living Bejeezus Out of YOU…

New software allows you to change, edit and remove words coming out of a person’s mouth on video by simply typing in the text.

New software allows you to change, edit and remove words coming out of a person’s mouth on video by simply typing in the text. YouTube/ Ohad Fried

I know what you’re thinking: I hope someday there will be a really scary and easy way to create fake videos and misinformation—in which it appears that people are saying words that they never originally said.

Rest assured, this Philip K. Dick dystopian nightmare… is now a reality.

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Scientists from Stanford University, the Max Planck Institute for Informatics, Princeton University and Adobe Research have developed a software that will allow you to edit and change what people are saying in videos—and pull it off to create a realistic-looking fake.


Glad this will never fall into the wrong hands and cause a major international incident.

Just when life wasn’t satisfying enough to have people catfish via Tinder or Twitter, now there’s a software that uses machine learning and 3D models of a target’s face to generate new footage which allows you to change, edit and remove words coming out of a person’s mouth on video—by simply typing in the text. And these changes appear to have a seamless audio-visual flow without jump cuts.

I could break down exactly how the software’s technology works, but there’s actual a video that does all of that for me.

Like I mentioned, there’s already an unlimited pool of ideas that could harness this technology for evil purposes. Let’s keep this far, far away from any super-villains. Right?

Remember how mad people got the other week when someone re-edited a video of Nancy Pelosi to make her appear drunk? Now, just imagine if someone used this software to make it appear as if Nancy Pelosi is swearing like a drunken sailor—or spewing racist rhetoric—and then that video is leaked out into the world.

Or imagine after the Charlottesville Unite the Right white supremacist rally, if someone took footage of Trump and manipulated it to make it appear like he was saying there were “very fine people on both sides…” Oh wait, he actually did say that… never mind. 

It seems like deepfake software is the equivalent of Christmas coming early for a Russian troll farm—now that the 2020 election season is underway. We already have revenge porn in the world; just imagine what words a jilted lover could put into his or her ex’s mouth before sending a deepfake video off to the ex’s family members. Ugh.

Since Adobe Research is involved in the development process, I’m sure it will only be a few years before we see this deepfake tool pop up in the latest update to Adobe’s video editing software Premiere Pro. How could this possibly go wrong?

The software research site is packed with huge disclaimers and paragraphs on ethical considerations:

We also believe that it is essential to obtain permission from the performers for any alteration before sharing a resulting video with a broad audience.


We acknowledge that bad actors might use such technologies to falsify personal statements and slander prominent individuals. We are concerned about such deception and misuse.

More and more, deepfakes seem to be popping up everywhere. Two artists, Bill Posters and Daniel Howe, collaborated with the advertising company Canny to create a video of Mark Zuckerberg sitting at a desk giving a sinister speech about Facebook’s power.

Deepfake Zuck was created using CannyAI’s video dialogue replacement (VDR) technology and matched with a September 2017 video of Zuckerberg giving an address about Russian election interference on Facebook. The video was posted to put Facebook’s content moderation policies to the test.

Joe Rogan was also given the deepfake treatment by the AI company Dessa, which recently released audio that distinctly sounds like the podcaster talking about chimp hockey.  

Good thing this is only going to be used for the purposes of good, right? No ‘bad actors’ have ever used a software for not good purposes.

Best Case Scenario: Great tool for fixing glitches in post-production when producing a documentary and for making funny Snapchats.

Worst Case Scenario: World War III

Why AI Deepfakes Should Scare the Living Bejeezus Out of You

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CEO Describes Tech Giants as Humble, Trustworthy…

CEO Describes Tech Giants as Humble, Trustworthy...

(Third column, 16th story, link)

Related stories:
India orders anti-trust probe of GOOGLE…
San Fran Weighs ‘IPO Tax’ to Spread Wealth…

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(Second column, 10th story, link)

Related stories:
Border Patrol releasing thousands who were exposed to diseases…
Criminal prosecution of entries dramatically slows…
Pentagon approves troops for babysitting duty…
Leader of border militia ordered jailed pending trial…

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Can virtual reality boost positive feelings in depressed patients?

Michelle Craske is asking patients to dive into coral reefs, ride on bullet trains rushing past pine trees, and cheer on soccer teams from the stands — at least virtually — in a bid to tackle a symptom long sidelined in depression treatment.

The University of California, Los Angeles, psychiatry researcher and her colleagues are testing whether virtual reality can curb anhedonia, a symptom of depression and other serious mental health conditions that’s marked by a lack of interest or ability to feel pleasure. They’re putting patients into pleasant scenarios — like a stroll through a sun-soaked forest while piano music plays — and coaching them to pay close attention to the positive parts.The idea is to help patients learn to plan positive activities, take part in them, and soak up the good feelings in the process.

It’s an unconventional strategy — not just for its use of virtual reality, but also for how it approaches a patient’s symptoms. Treatments for depression and other serious mental health conditions primarily target negative symptoms, like hopelessness, sadness, and anxiety — but they often don’t help with the lack of positive feelings that some patients experience.


“Most treatments, up until now, have done an OK job at reducing negative [symptoms of depression], but a very poor job at helping patients become more positive,” said Craske.

There aren’t data yet to determine whether virtual reality treatment can make a meaningful difference in anhedonia. But the technology is increasingly popular in mental health care. Other studies have suggested virtual reality can be useful in easing certain phobias, helping people with psychotic disorders experience less paranoia and anxiety in public settings, and reducing social anxiety.

“It goes to the heart of the very best of psychological therapy — going into environments that cause difficulties and learning different ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving,” said Dr. Daniel Freeman, a University of Oxford psychologist who is studying whether it’s possible to use virtual reality to automate therapy for certain conditions, such as a fear of heights. Researchers elsewhere are using virtual reality for everything from treating PTSD in people who’ve experienced sexual trauma to equipping service members with coping skills they’ll need in combat zones.

“Mental health and the environment are inseparable,” said Freeman. “The brilliant thing about virtual reality is that you can provide simulations in the environment and have people repeatedly go into them,” he added.

Anhedonia has proven to be a particularly stubborn symptom to treat. Even when a patient’s other symptoms improve with treatment, anhedonia often doesn’t.

“It’s only one part of many symptoms, but it’s a symptom that’s especially impairing,” said Dr. Erika Forbes, a University of Pittsburgh psychologist who studies anhedonia. Research suggests people who have anhedonia are more likely to have longer, more difficult to treat cases of depression.

Scientists don’t know the exact biology behind the symptom, but believe that it’s tied to problems with the brain’s reward circuitry. There aren’t treatments that specifically target the symptom, but a handful of research groups are working on possible interventions.

The foundation of Craske’s approach is an intervention developed by Craske and her colleagues known as positive affect therapy. The gist: put a person into a situation that might be pleasurable, talk to them about it in painstaking detail, repeat. That might look like going to a museum, taking in the art, and then talking with a therapist about everything from the vivid shades of red in a painting to the feeling of their shoulders relaxing while standing in front of it.

In a paper accepted earlier this year by the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Craske’s team found the treatment was more effective than cognitive behavioral therapy at boosting people’s positive feelings. Participants who went through the positive affect treatment also reported lower levels of depression, anxiety, and other negative symptoms than their peers in the standard treatment group.

But for some patients with severe anhedonia, depression, or other limitations, getting out into settings like museums or social gatherings isn’t a realistic first step. That’s where the virtual reality comes in.

“You bring the world to them,” Forbes said.

Craske is running two virtual reality studies on anhedonia. The first was a small pilot study of six patients with severe cases. The patients ventured into new environments using virtual reality, going through weeks of therapy designed to drill into positive emotions. The researchers also used functional MRI scans of the brain to see if the practice produced any changes in the brain, though they haven’t analyzed those scans yet.

Now, the researchers are running a larger study with dozens of patients with anxiety and depression who have anhedonia. In a bid to make virtual reality treatment easier and more accessible, patients are equipped with VR gear that they can use with their smartphones at home. Over 13 virtual reality sessions, patients are immersed in a series of scenarios, such as gliding through the canals in Venice. They’re encouraged to observe their thoughts, feelings, and physical reactions, then jot those down in an online diary after each session. They’ll also hear a guided mindfulness recording after each session that’s intended to reinforce the idea that certain activities can be rewarding.

After each session, participants rate their mood on a scale. Their results will be compared to a control group of peers who aren’t receiving the virtual reality treatment, but will be offered the option to do it once the trial wraps up.

“It sounds like a creative and promising way to address [anhedonia],” Forbes said.

If the studies support the virtual reality treatment, there are still kinks to be worked out in the system, including giving the virtual reality scenarios an upgrade. Craske and her colleagues are planning to work with a virtual reality company to design an interactive program that adapts to a patient’s responses. If, for example, a patient smiles at a VR character who waves and says hello, that character might walk over and strike up a friendly conversation.

“That’s where I want to go with this — make it much more interactive,” she said.

Moving virtual reality into mental health care will take a collaborative effort. Freeman said that having a well-designed program and good hardware are critical for using VR in health care — and key to making sure it doesn’t cause any unpleasant side effects that some people experience with VR, like nausea.

As the technology is refined and studied, experts say it could become a useful tool in treating psychiatric conditions and other health issues. But researchers still need to pinpoint which conditions and patient groups might benefit from virtual reality, and which won’t.

“Mental health is complex. There is no one solution,” said Freeman. “There won’t be one tech solution either.”

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James Murdoch Denies Plans for Liberal News Site…

A representative for James Murdoch denied a report that he is planning to invest $1 billion in news outlets, including one that could lean left.

On Tuesday, The Financial Times reported that Rupert Murdoch’s more liberal-leaning son was looking to set himself apart from his father’s conservative media empire by investing in a “portfolio of media companies that could include a liberal-leaning news outlet.”

But a Murdoch representative told TheWrap that Murdoch “is not currently looking at any investments in news properties.”

The spokesperson also said that the FT did not speak with Murdoch or “anyone with insights into Mr. Murdoch’s current plans.” A rep for the FT did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rupert Murdoch and sons, James and Lachlan, each hauled in around $50 million in fiscal 2018, representing huge pay bumps from the prior year.

The Wall Street Journal reported that James, who served as chief executive of 21st Century Fox, will personally take in another $2.2 billion from the $71.3 billion sale of the company’s major entertainment assets to Walt Disney Co.

James, 46, has been known as one of the more liberal of Rupert Murdoch’s six children. Last month, he donated $2,800 to Democrat Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign, further distancing himself from his father’s empire.

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SCHULTZ: Election spoiler is far-left…

Schultz: “I think I can beat the system”

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who is considering an independent bid for president, said a far-left Democrat could alienate much of the country and help to re-elect President Trump. He pushed back against the common Democratic complaint that he would act as a spoiler if he entered the race.

“I really believe the spoiler in all of this is going to be a far-left Democratic candidate, if that’s who gets the nomination, who is walking the shoes of a socialist,” Schultz said in an interview on Friday. He said “lifelong Republicans who do not want to pull the lever for Donald Trump are not gonna pull the lever for someone” who promotes socialist policies.

Schultz called out Elizabeth Warren in particular, who on Friday introduced a proposal to break up big social media companies due to concerns about privacy and the proliferation of hate speech online.

“What we’re seeing right now is Democratic candidates [who] in order to stay relevant and to stay in the news basically issue a press release or a tweet that they all know is not possible. It’s fantasy,” Schultz said. “We need to discuss with the leaders of those companies, their responsibility to the American people, responsibility about privacy issues and have a conversation based on civility.”

Schultz also addressed former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision not to run in the Democratic primary. Bloomberg, who was formerly an independent, has expressed concern that an independent candidate could help re-elect Mr. Trump.

Schultz said he thinks it’s “interesting” that Bloomberg decided not to proceed — “someone who has been a great business person, a great mayor, who could not crack the code of how his position could be perceived positively in a Democratic party that is moving so far to the left.” He also said he would “welcome” former Vice President Joe Biden, who is considered more of a centrist, into the race.

Schultz is appearing at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, this weekend.

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Hits out at poor understanding of music…

As one of cinema’s greatest composers, he has written the music for hundreds of films, including classics such as A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, recreating the wild west of Sergio Leone’s imagination with a soundscape of haunting whistles and cracking whips.

But, after a lifetime’s career in both Hollywood and European cinema, Ennio Morricone is now settling scores of a different kind. In a book based on extensive interviews with the famously private man, he attacks film-makers who, he says, fail to understand the power of music to heighten emotions – and some fellow composers for enabling them to regard a soundtrack as merely “something that plays in the background”.

“There are times … when you get to the recording stage without having the slightest clue as to the director’s expectations,” he says in the book, Ennio Morricone: In His Own Words. Now 90, he recalls the US filmmaker and Halloween director John Carpenter commissioning him to write the score for The Thing: “He hardly said a word.” Don Siegel wanted Morricone’s music for the 1970 western Two Mules for Sister Sara, starring Shirley MacLaine and Clint Eastwood, but “we didn’t communicate much,” he says.

The composer remembers that his fellow Italian Franco Zeffirelli asked for music “devoid of themes, a music of moods and atmospheres”, but “when the music was ready … said, ‘You didn’t write any themes.’”

Roland Joffé, the British-French director behind The Killing Fields, also comes in for sharp criticism from Morricone, who wrote the score for The Mission, which starred Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons. “What makes it most difficult to compose a score are those directors who need to know and control every detail of their work, and therefore don’t let composers do their job,” he says. “In my career, I have met many of that kind … Joffé, one of the most peculiar under this profile. Relationships must be based on trust.”

Ennio Morricone collecting the Oscar for best original score in 2016 for Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight.

Ennio Morricone collecting the Oscar for best original score in 2016 for Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight. Photograph: Kurt Krieger/Getty Images

The composer, who has adapted his musical style to almost every conceivable movie genre and since 1960 has scored more than 450 films, is kinder to Leone, who, he says, “intentionally left space for the music to be listened to” and adapted his camera movements to its sounds. But he is critical of composers who, he argues, have been complicit in dumbing down their art. “Film composers have themselves underestimated their own contribution and, in so doing, they have made directors and producers accustomed to very fast working times – not the least by resorting to myriads of clichés,” he says.

John Williams, the acclaimed writer of the Star Wars scores, is “an exceptionally gifted composer whom I greatly respect”, but even he is criticised for making “a commercial choice” about the space epic franchise. It was, he says, “understandable, but still commercial. I could not have scored Star Wars in that way”.

He adds: “What seems hazardous to me is to associate a march, no matter how well written, to outer space. Oftentimes, solutions of this sort stem not so much from the lack of creativity or skills, but from mere commercial concerns – as consequences of the rules imposed by the film industry … Speaking both as a composer and a filmgoer, I believe that a rather simplistic standardisation of stylistic choices has made film music less interesting over the years, in terms of both conceptual depth and compositional methods.”

Ennio Morricone: In His Own Words, edited by the composer Alessandro De Rosa, is published by Oxford University Press next month.

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WIRE: Loss of newspapers contributes to polarization…

NEW YORK (AP) — The steady loss of local newspapers and journalists across the country contributes to the nation’s political polarization, a new study has found.

With fewer opportunities to find out about local politicians, citizens are more likely to turn to national sources like cable news and apply their feelings about national politics to people running for the town council or state legislature, according to research published in the Journal of Communication.

The result is much less “split ticket” voting, or people whose ballot includes votes for people of different parties. In 1992, 37 percent of states with Senate races elected a senator from a different party than the presidential candidate the state supported. In 2016, for the first time in a century, no state did that, the study found.

“The voting behavior was more polarized, less likely to include split ticket voting, if a newspaper had died in the community,” said Johanna Dunaway, a communications professor at Texas A&M University, who conducted the research with colleagues from Colorado State and Louisiana State universities.

Researchers reached that conclusion by comparing voting data from 66 communities where newspapers have closed in the past two decades to 77 areas where local newspapers continue to operate, she said.

“We have this loss of engagement at the local level,” she said.

The struggling news industry has seen some 1,800 newspapers shut down since 2004, the vast majority of them community weeklies, said Penelope Muse Abernathy, a University of North Carolina professor who studies the contraction. Many larger daily newspapers that have remained open have effectively become ghosts, with much smaller staffs that are unable to offer the breadth of coverage they once did. About 7,100 newspapers remain.

Researchers are only beginning to measure the public impact of such losses. Among the other findings is less voter participation among news-deprived citizens in “off-year” elections where local offices are decided, Abernathy said. Another study suggested a link to increased government spending in communities where “watchdog” journalists have disappeared, she said.

Dunaway said voters in communities without newspapers are more likely to be influenced by national labels — if they like Republicans like President Donald Trump, for example, that approval will probably extend to Republicans lower on the ballot.

The diminished news sources also alter politicians’ strategies, Dunaway said.

“They have to rely on party ‘brand names’ and are less about ‘how I can do best for my district,’” she said.

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Tom Brady: I hope Kaepernick gets another chance in NFL

Tom Brady: I hope Kaepernick gets another chance in NFL

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FOXNEWS hosts on stage for president…

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. — Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro joined President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump pauses Missouri campaign rally after woman collapses Fox News hosts join Trump on stage at Missouri campaign rally Nate Silver in final midterm projections: ‘Democrats need a couple of things to go wrong’ to lose the House MORE onstage at his final campaign rally of the midterms, singing the president’s praises and urging attendees to vote Republican.

“I have a few people that are right out here, and they’re very special,” Trump said, teasing their appearances. “They’ve done an incredible job for us. They’ve been with us from the beginning, also.”

Trump, who has a well-known penchant for Fox News programming, proceeded to call Hannity onstage, even though the Fox News host tweeted earlier in the day that he “will not be on stage campaigning with the President.”

While Hannity and Pirro are vocal Trump supporters and frequently speak to him, it’s unusual for cable news anchors to give candidate-style speeches at campaign rallies. 

On stage, Hannity promptly decried the press in attendance as “fake news,” and echoed the president’s mantra of “promises made, promises kept.”

Shortly before taking the stage, Trump spoke with Hannity during his 9 p.m. show. The two men talked about Trump’s campaign efforts, and commiserated over the country’s immigration laws.

Hannity lamented that Trump missed his opening monologue while he was traveling, but the president reassured him that was not the case.

“I saw it on the plane,” Trump said. “I never miss your opening monologue. I would never do that.”

As Trump took the stage, Hannity high-fived White House communications director and former Fox News executive Bill Shine, who was observing the event from the wings of the arena.

Trump also called on his “friend,” Pirro, to take the stage, introducing her as “Justice Jeanine.”

“If you like the America that [Trump] is making now, you’ve got to make sure you get out there tomorrow if you haven’t voted yet,” Pirro, host of “Justice with Jeanine,” implored the crowd.

Another Fox News host, “Fox & Friends” host Brian Kilmeade, last month said he mistakenly donated roughly $600 to the Trump campaign. Keith Olbermann, an outspoken liberal, was suspended by MSNBC in 2010 for donating to Democratic candidates. 

Trump’s rally in Missouri was his last of three campaign stops on Monday as he sought to boost GOP Senate candidates prior to Election Day.

At each event, Trump introduced prominent surrogates who whipped the crowd into a frenzy.

Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpFox News hosts join Trump on stage at Missouri campaign rally Hillicon Valley: Supreme Court declines to hear net neutrality challenge | How the midterms will affect the cyber agenda | Facebook rejects controversial Trump ad | Gab back online Trump’s closing argument frames midterms as a referendum on his White House MORE, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayFox News hosts join Trump on stage at Missouri campaign rally Sanders, Conway appear at Trump rally Trump’s closing argument frames midterms as a referendum on his White House MORE appeared at multiple rallies, including in Missouri, and conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh also introduced the president in Missouri.

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