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Machines, not stargazers, spot eighth planet in faraway solar system, matching ours

Japan Times >> News

CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA – A record-tying eighth planet has been found in a faraway solar system, matching our own in numbers. Even more amazing, machines and not humans made the discovery. NASA joined with Google on Thursday to announce the finding. This eighth planet orbits the star known as Kepler-90, some 2,545 light-years away. Like Earth, this new planet, Kepler-90i, is the third rock from its sun.


SoftBank's Son remains confident over Saudi investment in Vision Fund amid crackdown

Japan Times >> News

Billionaire Masayoshi Son may be getting closer to achieving his dream of making SoftBank Group Corp. the world's biggest investor in technologies, thanks in part to the main patron of Son's $100 billion (¥11.3 The Saudi prince has been the largest investor in the SoftBank Vision Fund, contributing almost half of the money Son has been raising to accelerate his dealmaking around the world. And since November, Salman has been at the center of an unprecedented purge of officials and political rivals in the oil-rich nation, leading to a consolidation of his power. A stronger Salman could mean steady flows of Saudi money into the fund, which allows SoftBank to make investments without adding to its heavy debt load and offering the potential for those investments to generate revenues to pay down the burden. At the same time, any unforeseen reversal in the prince's fortunes may raise questions about the sustainability of his investments.


Survey ranks Japanese kids' group problem-solving skills at No. 2, behind Singapore

Japan Times >> News

A 2015 survey of 52 countries and economies ranked Japan second behind Singapore in collaborative problem-solving skills among 15-year-old students, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Tuesday. The top four spots were occupied by those who participated from Asia, with Hong Kong and South Korea ranking third and fourth, respectively, while Canada and Estonia were tied for fifth. Among 32 OECD countries surveyed, Japan was best. According to the OECD, few efforts have been made to assess students' collective problem-solving skills despite the trait being much in demand in modern workplaces. The survey was the first-ever assessment in this area conducted as part of the Program for International Student Assessment, the OECD said.


U.S. claims several extremists killed in three drone strikes in Somalia

Japan Times >> News

MOGADISHU – U.S. forces say they have carried out three drone strikes within 24 hours in Somalia, stepping up their campaign against the Islamic extremist rebels of al-Shabab and the Islamic State group. The strikes by unmanned drones killed several extremist fighters, a spokeswoman for the U.S. military command in Africa told The Associated Press Sunday. With these three attacks, the U.S. has now carried out 26 attacks in Somalia against extremist targets in 2017, she said. The latest U.S. strikes were carried out in coordination with Somalia's government, she said. The first strike happened Saturday at approximately 4:30 p.m. local Somalia time and it killed one fighter for the extremists group, al-Shabab, said a U.S. Africa command statement.


'Flawless' Orbital launch sends spacecraft to ISS on supply, trash-retrieval mission

Japan Times >> News

WASHINGTON – An unmanned cargo ship packed with 7,400 pounds (3,350 kg) of food and supplies for the astronauts living at the International Space Station blasted off Sunday from Wallops Island, Virginia. Orbital ATK's barrel-shaped Cygnus cargo ship launched atop an Antares rocket at 7:19 a.m. "Five, four, three, two, one and we have ignition," said Orbital ATK's mission control operator, as the rocket's engines lit up the chilly, gray morning and cheers erupted from spectators near the launch site. The spacecraft reached orbit about nine minutes later. NASA commentator Rob Navias described the launch as "flawless."


That's Baaaa-rack Obama: Study finds sheep quick on facial-recognition uptake

Japan Times >> News

LONDON – A new study shows that sheep have the ability to recognize human faces from photographs on computer screens. The Cambridge University study published Wednesday also shows that sheep can recognize the faces of their human handlers without any prior training. It had been known that sheep can recognize familiar faces of other sheep and of humans. The researchers say this study of the ability of sheep to recognize faces may be useful in research into Huntington's disease and other human brain disorders that affect mental processing. Lead scientist professor Jenny Morton says sheep have advanced face-recognition abilities comparable to those of humans and monkeys.


Kenyan president declared winner of election boycotted by opposition, bagging 98% of the vote

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NAIROBI – BPresident Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday was declared the overwhelming winner of a rerun election boycotted by Kenya's main opposition leader, collecting 98 percent of the vote but also exposing the divisions roiling this East African country. While Kenyatta's backers celebrated his re-election, angry supporters of his rival, Raila Odinga, skirmished with police in Nairobi slums and burned tires in Kisumu, one of the opposition strongholds in western Kenya. Kenya's election commission said the turnout of registered voters in the Oct. 26 election was about 40 percent, compared with roughly twice that in August balloting that was nullified by the Supreme Court because of what it called "irregularities and illegalities." The rerun was marred by deadly clashes between police and Odinga supporters in the days that followed. Kenyatta said he expected Odinga followers to mount new legal challenges, indicating the long saga that has left many Kenyans weary of conflict and has hurt business in East Africa's economic hub is not over.



Trump camp plan to have face scans of all Americans flying abroad raises privacy worries

Japan Times >> News

Pilot projects are underway at six U.S. airports -- Boston, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, New York City and Washington, D.C. DHS aims to have high-volume U.S. international airports engaged beginning next year. Privacy advocates say making the scans mandatory for U.S. citizens pushes the nation toward a Big Brother future of pervasive surveillance where local and state police and federal agencies, and even foreign governments, could leverage citizens collected "digital faceprints" to track them wherever they go. In an October report, the Georgetown center estimated more than one in four U.S. state and local law enforcement agencies can run or request face recognition searches -- on their own or others' databases --and said federal agencies including the DEA, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the IRS have all had access to one or more state or local face recognition systems. Another DHS initiative worrying privacy advocates is TSA's Precheck, the voluntary program designed to speed enrollees through airport security with more than 5 million enrollees.


Drones bearing defibrillators show promise in responding to cases of cardiac arrest

Japan Times >> News

CHICAGO – It sounds futuristic: drones carrying heart defibrillators swooping in to help bystanders revive people stricken by cardiac arrest. Researchers tested the idea and found drones arrived at the scene of 18 cardiac arrests within about 5 minutes of launch. More than 350,000 Americans had a cardiac arrest in a nonmedical setting last year, the American Heart Association says. He plans a follow-up study to test drone-delivered defibrillators for bystanders to use in real-life cardiac arrests.