The head of the U.S. military's Special Operations Command said Wednesday that Air Force gunships, needed to provide close air support for American commandos and U.S.-backed rebel fighters in Syria, were being "jammed" by "adversaries." Calling the electronic warfare environment in Syria "the most aggressive" on earth, Air Force Gen. Tony Thomas told an intelligence conference in Tampa that adversaries "are testing us every day, knocking our communications down, disabling our AC-130s, etc." Thomas' remarks, which were first reported by the website The Drive, come on the heels of reports that Russian forces are jamming U.S. surveillance drones flying over the war-torn nation. An Air Force AC-130 gunship was among the U.S. military aircraft used to kill dozens of Russian mercenaries in Syria in early February. The Pentagon said the mercenaries attacked an outpost manned by American commandos and U.S.-backed fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), comprising Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters. Wednesday was not the first time General Thomas has been so forthcoming about Syria in a public setting.
File photo: Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos laughs as he talks to the media while touring the new Amazon Spheres during the grand opening at Amazon's Seattle headquarters in Seattle, Washington, U.S., January 29, 2018. If a "top-secret" Amazon plan comes to fruition, the online retail giant's next big thing might be home robots. Citing unnamed sources familiar with the company's plans, Bloomberg reports that Amazon is getting serious about building a domestic robot. Think Alexa, but with the ability to move around your home autonomously. The project, codenamed "Vesta" after the Roman goddess of the hearth, home, and family, reportedly kicked off years ago, but has been gaining steam of late.
TOKYO – Major Japanese construction company Shimizu Corp. has developed robots that can weld, lift and bolt for use at building sites. The company on Monday demonstrated robots that can pick up a pile of boards and take them to an elevator. It says the Robo-Welder and Robo-Buddy, with twisting mechanical arms, will be deployed at construction sites later this year, though because of safety concerns they will be used during night shifts when most human workers are not around. The company said that most construction work is so delicate and complex that the robots can handle only about 1 percent of the work. Japan is undergoing a construction boom but lacks enough workers to do the jobs -- a problem seen in many regions of the world, including the U.S.
AGADEZ, Niger – On the scorching edge of the Sahara Desert, the U.S. Air Force is building a base for armed drones, the newest front in America's battle against the growing extremist threat in Africa's vast Sahel region. Niger Air Base 201 is expected to be functional early next year. The base, a few miles outside Agadez and built at the request of Niger's government, will eventually house fighter jets and MQ-9 drones transferred from the capital Niamey. The drones, with surveillance and added striking capabilities, will have a range enabling them to reach a number of West and North African countries. Few knew of the American military's presence in this desperately poor, remote West African country until October, when an ambush by Islamic State group-linked extremists killed four U.S. soldiers and five Nigeriens.
Facebook CEO says the social network didn't take a broad enough view of its responsibility. Social media can be an unforgiving place. When country star Carrie Underwood, for example, posted on Instagram about her recent injury that required 40-50 stitches to her face, some followers accused her of over-exaggeration and using the incident as a publicity stunt. With trolls everywhere, what if there was a way for users to block harmful attacks? At a recent Congressional hearing, Mark Zuckerberg noted how AI could possibly help eradicate hate speech and online abuse, but it was still 5-10 years away and in development.
Apple's HomePod is in trouble. Apple Stores have seen their inventories of the flagship smart speaker gather dust as demand has slowed, according to Bloomberg. The $349 home speaker -- which has Apple's Siri voice assistant built in and is meant to compete with Amazon's Alexa-powered Echo speakers -- has seen such bad sales that Apple has cut orders from its Chinese suppliers, according to Bloomberg. The HomePod, which was released in January, captured only 10 percent of the smart speaker market during its first 10 weeks in stores, according to market research firm Slice Intelligence, while Amazon's Alexa-powered Echo line captured 73 percent and the Google Home speaker took 14 percent. The report cited Apple Store workers who said some locations sell fewer than 10 HomePod speakers a day.
The Facebook crisis involving Cambridge Analytica's data breach leads many to question how Facebook treats their users' data; Reaction on'Outnumbered.' The man who revealed the Cambridge Analytica data-harvesting scandal said Sunday he believed the political consulting firm snatched information from more than the previously reported 87 million Facebook users. "I think that there is, you know, a genuine -- a genuine risk that this data has been accessed by quite a few people. And that it could be stored in various parts of the world, including Russia, given the fact that, you know, the professor who was managing the data harvesting process was going back and forward between the U.K. and to Russia," Christopher Wylie said on NBC News' "Meet the Press." Wylie was referring to Aleksandr Kogan, whose company, Global Science Research, harvested Facebook's data using a personality app, according to officials.
Tesla defended its Autopilot feature, saying that while it doesn't prevent all accidents, it makes them less likely to occur than vehicles without it. The Tesla vehicle involved in a fatal crash last month in Northern California was operating on Autopilot, the automaker has confirmed. But Tesla contends that the victim and a damaged freeway barrier share in the blame. The Model X SUV crashed in Mountain View, in California's Silicon Valley, on March 23, killing its driver, Apple engineer Walter Huang, 38. The electric car maker said in a company blog post that the driver did not have his hands on the steering wheel for six seconds before the crash, despite several warnings from the vehicle.
Q: Is there anything that I can do to stop the annoying robocalls promising me free cruises, vacations, and scams? A: It's hard to ignore a robocall because we are trained to respond to every single phone call. Sometimes we can ignore those calls; we don't recognize the number and we don't know anyone in, say, Kalamazoo. Other times, the number looks familiar, and we decide to pick up, walking into the robocaller's trap. Even if you never answer a robocall, the endless vibration in your pocket can drive you bonkers.
SpaceX is developing a reusable rocket-spaceship system called the BFR to help make Mars settlement economically feasible. Humanity's brutal and bellicose past provides ample justification for pursuing settlements on the moon and Mars, Elon Musk says. The billionaire entrepreneur has long stressed that he founded SpaceX in 2002 primarily to help make humanity a multiplanet species -- a giant leap that would render us much less vulnerable to extinction. Human civilization faces many grave threats over the long haul, from asteroid strikes and climate change to artificial intelligence run amok, Musk has said over the years. And he recently highlighted our well-documented inability to get along with each other as another frightening factor.