Axon body camera supplier will not use facial recognition in its products — for now

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San Francisco supervisors approved a ban on police using facial recognition technology, making it the first city in the U.S. with such a restriction. (May 14)
AP, AP

LOS ANGELES — A major supplier of body cameras to law enforcement agencies across the country has decided to forgo selling facial recognition technology with its products. 

Axon, which supplies 48 police departments in major cities with body cameras, made the decision after the company’s ethics board concluded the technology was not accurate enough to be implemented in the field and could potentially cause major trust issues between law enforcement and their communities. 

In a 42-page report, the ethics board detailed concerns with the inaccuracy of the software, saying results showed it was less accurate when identifying women, younger people, and “worsens when trying to identify people of color compared to white people, a troubling disparity that would only perpetuate or exacerbate the racial inequities that cut across the criminal justice system.”

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The board is composed of experts from different professions, including law enforcement, robotics and policy, and advises Axon on the potential effects its technology could have on society.

“Some police departments are sophisticated and would understand the limitations on (facial recognition) and would put their own guardrails in place around the use of that technology by their officers. But there are some police departments that would not take those same precautions and may not appreciate the implications of using a technology that’s not ready yet for prime-time,” said board member Jim Bueermann, who served as a police officer for over 30 years and is now president of the National Police Foundation.

Axon CEO Rick Smith said the company is “moving cautiously” because of these implications.

“There are companies out there actively promoting using facial recognition on body cameras,” said Smith. “From our perspective, we believe taking the time to do the ethical analysis up front in the product design process will have much better outcomes in the long haul.”

Smith says the company might reconsider incorporating the technology in their products in the future once the inaccuracies are solved, but must balance that with privacy and safety and put in “safeguards” to avoid misuse of facial recognition. 

“We don’t believe that the right answer is that the police should deploy face recognition with no controls and go wild with it, but similarly we don’t believe that it makes sense to say police should never use face-recognition technology because there’s many cases where it’s pretty universally known that it will be a good thing,” said Smith. 

Facial recognition has been a hot-button topic around the country as concerns of privacy and accuracy have made some cities skeptical about the technology, leading San Francisco to ban it altogether, with cities such as Oakland and Berkeley considering following suit. California might ban it state-wide if Gov. Gavin Newsom signs the Body Camera Accountability Act this summer. The Somerville City Council in Massachusetts banned facial recognition just this week.

While these cities are turning their backs to this technology, others are welcoming it. The Orlando Police Department is testing Amazon’s ‘Rekognition’ software, although not in public or for investigative use. According to the New York Times, Detroit signed a $1-million deal to set up facial recognition in the city’s surveillance cameras with broad rules on how law enforcement can utilize the footage.

Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, compares facial-recognition software to when law enforcement started using DNA testing as an investigative tool.

“There was a lot of concern then as well about ‘the government is going to have my DNA, they’re going to know all about me, how is this going to be used?’ and I think today those fears have generally gone by the wayside,” said Johnson.  

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Johnson says facial recognition can be utilized in the same way DNA testing is — to confirm identities, solve crimes and exonerate the innocent. 

“I don’t think it’s providing the government any more identification (information) than they already have,” said Johnson. “I think if people are concerned about surveillance, they’ve kind of missed the boat.”

Facial recognition is being used by more than law enforcement. The New York school district will be the first in the country to deploy the software for added security, including to identify potential school shooters and sex offenders.

“AI is so powerful, it is going to be either the greatest or the worst thing we as a human species has ever developed, and using such a powerful tool, I think the developers of that should have a mechanism of objective, interested people they can rely on to say, ‘Just because we can do this, should we?’” said Bueermann.

Follow Madeline Purdue on Twitter.

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Ankara warns Haftar over arrests as LNA says hit Turkish drone

Flights have resumed at the capital of Libya‘s only functioning civilian airport after it was hit by forces loyal to renegade General Khalifa Haftar, amid rising tensions between the eastern-based commander and Turkey.

Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), which has been waging an armed campaign to seize Tripoli from the United Nations-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), said on Sunday its air force destroyed a Turkish drone parked at Mitiga International Airport.

“Our fighter [jets] targeted and destroyed a Turkish Bayraktar aircraft as it was taking off,” the LNA said in a statement on Facebook. “The aircraft had been prepared to target our armed forces’ positions,” it said.

Earlier on Sunday, Turkey’s foreign ministry accused Haftar’s forces of arresting six of its citizens, and warned that the LNA would become a “legitimate target” if the Turks were not released immediately.

For its part, the LNA said it had arrested two Turks in the northeastern oil town of Ajdabiya.

Ankara has supplied drones and trucks to forces allied to the GNA, while Haftar’s GNA has received backing from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, according to diplomats. Turkey says it is in Libya to support “regional peace and stability”. 

Gharyan loss

The LNA launched an offensive on April 4 to capture the capital but it has been pushed back by the Tripoli government’s forces.

Pro-GNA fighters this week retook the strategic town of Garyan, in a surprise attack and a major setback for Haftar.

Following the loss of Garyan during a GNA operation he accused Ankara of backing, Haftar ordered his forces to target Turkish companies, ban flights and arrest Turkish nationals in Libya, his spokesman said on Friday.

Ankara has warned that it is ready to retaliate against attacks.

Haftar’s Tripoli offensive has upended UN-led plans to stabilise Libya after years of conflict that have left the oil-producing country divided and caused living standards to plummet.

SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Protests escalate as Hong Kong marks anniversary of handover to China

Ken Moritsugu, Associated Press
Published 4:54 a.m. ET July 1, 2019

HONG KONG – Combative protesters tried to break into the Hong Kong legislature Monday as a crowd of thousands were marching in that direction on the 22nd anniversary of the former British colony’s return to China.

With a crowd of a hundred or so people around them, a small group of people repeatedly rammed a cargo cart and poles into a glass panel. After they managed to get the cart wedged into the damaged panel, police grabbed the cart away from them. They also posted a sign saying to the protesters, stop charging before we use force.

The unexpected disruption delayed the march, but the crowd of thousands soon began moving out of Victoria Park even as police asked the marchers to change their route or cancel the march.

Both the combative protesters and the marchers oppose a government attempt to change extradition laws to allow suspects to be sent to China to face trial. The proposal has increased fears of eroding freedoms in the territory that was returned to China in 1997.

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The embattled leader of Hong Kong pledged to be more responsive to public sentiment in a speech at a flag-raising ceremony. Carrie Lam has come under withering criticism for trying to push through the legislation. She said a series of protests and marches that have attracted hundreds of thousands of students and other participants in recent weeks have taught her that she needs to listen better to the youth and people in general.

“This has made me fully realize that I, as a politician, have to remind myself all the time of the need to grasp public sentiments accurately,” she said in a five-minute speech to the gathering in the city’s cavernous convention center.

She insisted her government has good intentions, but said “I will learn the lesson and ensure that the government’s future work will be closer and more responsive to the aspirations, sentiments and opinions of the community.”

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Security guards pushed pro-democracy lawmaker Helena Wong out of the room as she walked backward shouting at Lam to resign and withdraw the “evil” legislation. She later told reporters she was voicing the grievances and opinions of the protesters, who could not get into the event.

The annual march starting in the afternoon was expected to be larger than usual because the proposed extradition bill has awakened broader fears that China is eroding the freedoms and rights guaranteed to Hong Kong for 50 years under a “one country, two systems” framework. Two marches in June against the legislation drew more than a million people, according to organizer estimates.

The government has suspended debate on the bill indefinitely, but protest leaders want it formally withdrawn and Lam’s resignation. They also are demanding an independent inquiry into police actions during a June 12 protest, when officers used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters who blocked the legislature on the day debate on the bill had been scheduled to resume.

The police say the use of force was justified, but have largely since adopted softer tactics, even as protesters besieged police headquarters in recent days, pelting it with eggs and spray-painting slogans on its outer walls.

The area around Golden Bauhinia Square, where the flag-raising ceremony took place, was blocked off from Saturday to prevent protesters from gathering to disrupt it. Before the morning ceremony, protesters trying to gain access to the square were driven back by officers with plastic shields and batons, the retreating protesters pointing open umbrellas to ward off pepper spray.

“We are horrified, this is our obligation to do this, we are protecting our home,” said Jack, a 26-year-old office worker who would only give his first name. “I don’t know why the government is harming us. It’s harming the rule of law, the rule of law is the last firewall between us and the Chinese Communist Party.”

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Associated Press journalists Raf Wober, Alice Fung, Johnson Lai and Dake Kang contributed to this story.

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Wimbledon, new laws on California ammo sales and opioids: 5 things you need to know Monday

Editors, USA TODAY
Published 3:32 a.m. ET July 1, 2019 | Updated 3:32 a.m. ET July 1, 2019

Young guns may break through at Wimbledon

The most important tennis tournament of the year will begin Monday, as it always seems to, with a sense of inevitability. Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal – the three dominant names for the last 16 years in men’s tennis – will surely steal the Wimbledon spotlight. But is it finally time for a young star to emerge victorious? On the women’s side, Serena Williams – who just graced a Wheaties box for the first time in her career – isn’t the favorite to win it all (that would be Ash Barty), but she should never be counted out. “I know how to play tennis,” she said with a smile Saturday. 

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California set to require background check for ammo sales

A new California law that will require almost all buyers to go through background checks before being able to buy bullets goes into effect Monday, potentially increasing the amount of time and money it takes to make purchases. As it is, California has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation — the state bans most assault weapons and restricts the sale and possession of large capacity magazines. There’s also a 10-day waiting period prior to the sale or transfer of a firearm, among other restrictions. The new law is meant to protect the public by keeping ammunition from getting into dangerous hands, the state says. Advocates, though, remain convinced that the inconvenience to law-abiding gun owners is necessary for the public good. 

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In Singapore, the punishment for having a gun is to be beaten with canes with no less than six strokes.
USA TODAY

E-cigarettes get much more expensive in Vermont 

With vaping on the rise among teenagers and adults alike, a 92% tax on e-cigarettes is set to go into effect Monday in Vermont. Wholesale dealers and consumers must abide by rule changes around the 92% excise tax — a “Tobacco Products Tax” — starting July 1. Items included in the legislation include e-cigarettes, vaping liquid, vaping liquid cartridges and more. Consumers purchasing products named in the legislation will abide by taxes already in effect for “other tobacco products” — meaning they must pay a sales tax on top of the Tobacco Products Tax. 

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Twice as many high school students used nicotine-tinged electronic cigarettes this year compared with last year, an unprecedented jump in a large annual survey of teen smoking, drinking and drug use. (Dec. 17)
AP

Distracted drivers targeted by new law in Tennessee 

Tennessee’s newest driving law, which takes effect Monday will target motorists who are holding their cellphones while driving. No more watching, recording or broadcasting videos while driving. No more holding your phone as you use turn-by-turn directions. The new “Hands Free Law” allows drivers to push one button to accept or end a phone call, but that’s it, Tennessee Highway Patrol Lt. Don Boshears said. There were over 24,600 crashes in Tennessee involving distracted drivers, roughly 67 crashes a day, in 2018, according to Hands Free Tennessee, and the state  had the highest rate of distracting driving deaths, according to a recent study.

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Laws restricting opioids go live in three states

New state laws in Michigan, Florida and Tennessee will greatly limit the amount of opioids that doctors are allowed to prescribe patients. Beginning July 1, Michigan doctors will be prohibited from prescribing more than a seven-day supply of opioid medication for patients in acute pain. The law is aimed at making prescription opioids less accessible. The idea behind the law: Fewer opioids will mean fewer chances to abuse them. Fewer chances for abuse will mean fewer overdose deaths. But some pain patients who have become dependent on opioids feel scapegoated as more doctors scrutinize the use of medications.

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This is a compilation of stories from across the USA TODAY Network. 

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Patrick Beverley to Re-Sign with Clippers on 3-Year, $40M Contract

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 02: Patrick Beverley #21 of the LA Clippers participates in the announcement of a major gift to renovate nearly 350 public basketball courts in the city at Jim Gilliam Recreation Center on April 02, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)

Adam Pantozzi/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Clippers and guard Patrick Beverley agreed to a three-year, $40 million contract, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Beverley’s agent, Kevin Bradbury, told Wojnarowski the news. Beverley also confirmed it himself with a tweet.

The 30-year-old spent the last two seasons with the Clippers. He averaged 7.6 points and 3.8 assists in 2018-19 after being limited to 11 games in 2017-18 because of microfracture surgery.

“I like to go out there, put my game on the line and that’s more than just talking,” Beverley said in August, per Tomer Azarly of ClutchPoints. “I’m feeling really, really strong, I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in my life and we’re going to see soon.”

The 2017 All-Defensive team member was among the Clippers’ vocal leaders in their surprise postseason appearance last season:

“We are the best team in L.A. I know Lawrence Frank didn’t give you guys exactly what you wanted to hear but I’ll tell y’all right now, we are the best team in L.A. for sure. We are going to give our best effort every night and we are making the playoffs. The makeup of our team, the depth of our team, we are fortunate to be playing for a great city like L.A.”

Beverley spent his first five NBA seasons with the Houston Rockets, developing a reputation as a defensive menace. He’s also improved his game every year offensively and turned into an underrated three-point shooter. His 38.0 career three-point percentage is above league average, though his scoring has dipped a bit this season.

Microfracture surgery is a big concern. We’ve seen careers be completely derailed and guys come back as lesser versions of themselves after the procedure. He is still not fully himself despite staying mostly healthy this season.

However, Beverley is still a thorn in the side of opponents, and he will help round out the Clippers’ starting lineup.

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Analysis: Warriors’ loss of Kevin Durant will hurt for years to come

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SportsPulse: Kevin Durant is headed to Brooklyn and may have just created the new super team. As Jeff Zillgitt explains, despite Durant likely missing all of next season the Nets are in prime position for years.
USA TODAY

For the Golden State Warriors, Kevin Durant’s departure for the Brooklyn Nets is even more devastating than the site of Durant going down with a ruptured Achilles during the NBA Finals.

Chances are, Durant will recover from the injury.

Chances are, the Warriors will not recover from the loss of Durant — “recover’’ being measured by their five-year status as a juggernaut in the NBA Finals, winning three titles during their run as Western Conference favorites.

Signing Klay Thompson to a five-year, $189.6 million max deal is an important step forward in securing the Splash Brothers. Thompson and Steph Curry likely will remain together for at least another three years, with Curry entering the third year of a five-year, $201 million deal. But on Sunday that felt like a consolation prize after Durant agreed to a max deal with the Nets.

TRACKER: Analysis, numbers on all the big names and big deals

Yes, Curry and Thompson remain arguably the best shooting backcourt in NBA history. On top of that, Draymond Green, the Warriors’ All-Star forward, has gone from good to great. And the Warriors’ bench is deep and talented. 

The Warriors also could lose DeMarcus Cousins, who at times looked formidable during the NBA Finals, to free agency. And Thompson, who is recovering from a torn ACL suffered during the NBA Finals, is expected to be sidelined at least until December. But those are minor issues compared to Durant’s departure.

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During the NBA Finals, the Toronto Raptors exposed how Durant’s absence weakens the Warriors. And with the Los Angeles Lakers having added Anthony Davis to pair with LeBron James and still in the hunt for Kawhi Leonard, the Warriors will need to work some magic to remain title-worthy.

Their first move in attempting to do that was reaching a deal to acquire 23-year-old All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell via a sign-and-trade. Of course the deal, which is slated to pay Russell $117 million over four years, also resulted in another loss: key cog Andre Iguodala will be shipped to the Memphis Grizzlies along with future picks. 

The 2016 free agency period was perhaps the most glorious for the Warriors. They landed Durant. And so the 2019 free agency period will be remembered as one of the most painful.

They are headed for a new arena in San Francisco without their two-time NBA Finals MVP. The only good news: The Warriors will avoid paying a massive luxury tax.

Follow Josh Peter on Twitter @joshlpeter11

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Explosion hits Kabul’s diplomatic district: Media reports

The Taliban has claimed responsibilty for a powerful explosion that rocked Kabul’s downtown area near the ministry of defence and a follow up attack that has killed at least 10 people and sent dozens to the hospital.

The bomb went off during morning rush hour in the capital when the streets were filled with people. 

Mohammad Karim, a police official in the area of the attack, said a car bomb exploded outside a defence ministry building.

At least three fighters then ran into a nearby high-rise located near the ministry’s engineering and logistics department, a government security official said.

“Gunmen have entered a building and they are clashing with the Afghan forces after the powerful blast,” said interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi.

Ongoing fighting

Police and special Afghan security forces cordoned off the area. Sporadic gunfire could be heard.

The heavily-secured neighbourhood is home to some military and government buildings, including one shared by Afghanistan’s intelligence agency and defence ministry, as well as the Afghan Football Federation and the Afghan Cricket Board.

“Some of our colleagues are trapped inside, we have reports of some injuries. We don’t know if the attackers have entered the building,” Shams Amini, a football federation spokesman said.

At least 68 people including nine children were taken to hospitals, health ministry spokesman Wahidullah Mayar said.

Kabul in Afghanistan

The explosion rocked Kabul’s Police District 16 early on Monday [Facebook]

No group immediately claimed responsibility, and police said they did not yet know the target or nature of the blast.

Both the Taliban and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL, ISIS) are active in Kabul.

The attack comes two days after the Taliban and the United States began a seventh round of talks in Qatar, where the armed group maintains a political office.

The negotiations have so far centred on four issues — counterterrorism, the foreign troop presence, an intra-Afghan dialogue and a permanent ceasefire.

A potential deal would see the US agree to withdraw its troops after nearly 18 years in Afghanistan, igniting deep concerns among many Afghans who fear the fighters will return to some semblance of power.

In return the Taliban would guarantee the country would never again become a safe haven for violent groups, as happened with Al-Qaeda before the September 11, 2001 attacks.

SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies

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