If European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi appears slightly more downbeat at his regular news conference than before, it could foreshadow a possible move by the bank to trim its monetary policy stimulus. That's the conclusion of two Japanese researchers who have used artificial intelligence software to analyze split-second changes in Draghi's facial expressions at his news conferences following policy meetings. The findings follow a similar analysis by the same researchers of Draghi's Japanese counterpart, Haruhiko Kuroda, last year, which claimed to have identified a correlation between patterns in his facial expressions and subsequent policy changes. Yoshiyuki Suimon and Daichi Isami, the paper's authors, think that subtle changes in Draghi's facial expressions could reflect a sense of frustration Draghi might have been feeling before making policy adjustments. Their study covered Draghi's news conference from June 2016 to December 2017 and found signs of "sadness" preceding two recent major policy changes -- when the central bank announced a dovish tapering in December 2016 and another quantitative easing cutback in October last year.
NEW YORK – For a dozen students from Futaba Future High School in Fukushima Prefecture, a recent visit to the United Nations was a chance to share their plans to improve the lives of others by drawing from their catastrophic earthquake and tsunami experiences as a source of strength. Despite overcoming enormous hurdles in the aftermath of the March 11, 2011, disaster that took more than 19,000 lives, the surviving students have moved forward with aspirations of choosing future paths to benefit the global community. "Thanks to all my experiences like getting bullied, joining the drama club and studying at my high school, I think I could grow well," Satsuki Sekine told U.N. diplomats, staff and youth representatives who gathered to hear their presentation on the current situation in Fukushima early this month as part of a scheduled visit while in New York. The 17-year-old explained how drama can be used to portray the challenges of discrimination and conflict "not as an abstract concept but with specific and visual examples." Recounting how the tsunami rendered her home unlivable, she explained how her life in Tomioka as a normal 9-year-old was turned upside down.
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump will soon make it easier to export some types of lethal U.S.-made drones to potentially dozens more allies and partners -- including Japan -- according to people familiar with the plan. Trump is expected to ease rules for such foreign sales under a long-delayed new policy on unmanned military aircraft due to be rolled out as early as this month, the first phase of a broader overhaul of arms export regulations. U.S. drone manufacturers, facing growing competition overseas especially from Chinese and Israeli rivals who often sell under lighter restrictions, have lobbied hard for the rule changes. The White House is expected to tout the move as part of Trump's "Buy American" initiative to create jobs and reduce the U.S. trade deficit. Human rights and arms control advocates, however, warn it risks fueling violence and instability in regions such as the Middle East and South Asia.
LONDON – Britain is investigating whether Facebook did enough to protect data after a whistleblower said a London-based political consultancy hired by Donald Trump improperly accessed information on 50 million Facebook users to sway public opinion. Facebook shares closed down nearly 7 percent on Monday, wiping nearly $40 billion off its market value as investors worried that damage to the reputation of the world's largest social media network would deter users and advertisers. Elizabeth Denham, the head of Britain's Information Commission, is seeking a warrant to search the offices of consultancy Cambridge Analytica after a whistleblower revealed it had harvested the private information of millions of people to support Trump's 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. U.S. and European lawmakers have demanded an explanation of how the consulting firm gained access to the data in 2014 and why Facebook failed to inform its users, raising broader industry questions about consumer privacy. "We are looking at whether or not Facebook secured and safeguarded personal information on the platform and whether when they found out about the loss of the data they acted robustly and whether or not people were informed," Denham told BBC Radio.
Tokyo Stock Exchange operator Japan Exchange Group Inc. said Monday it has introduced artificial intelligence systems aimed at detecting market price manipulations and other misconduct. According to Japan Exchange Regulation, the group's self-regulatory body, the AI systems are designed to conduct preliminary surveillance to identify suspicious transactions. Surveillance personnel will analyze the results closely to determine whether the transactions should be reported to financial authorities. The AI systems are designed to help improve the quality of overall surveillance and speed up preliminary probes, giving staff more time to closely examine suspicious transactions, an executive of the self-regulatory body said. The group began research in August 2015 to see whether AI could be used for any of its operations, and later confirmed that systems developed by NEC Corp. and Hitachi Ltd. can detect unfair transactions with high accuracy.
TEMPE, ARIZONA/SAN FRANCISCO – A woman crossing a street was killed by an Uber self-driving sport utility vehicle in Arizona, police said on Monday, prompting the ride services company to suspend its autonomous vehicle program. The accident in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe dealt a potential blow not only to Uber's strategy but the eventual roll-out of robot cars on public roads. It was the first fatality from a self-driving vehicle, which are being tested around the globe in a high-profile race by global automakers and tech companies expecting that autonomous vehicles will transform transportation and the ride services business. The vehicle was in autonomous mode with an operator behind the wheel at the time of the accident, which occurred overnight Sunday to Monday, Tempe police said. "The vehicle was traveling northbound … when a female walking outside of the crosswalk crossed the road from west to east when she was struck by the Uber vehicle," police said in a statement.
Self-driving cars will rarely have to deal with a pack of drivers who think they are in a "Fast and Furious" movie, but training them to do so might just be what it takes to reach true autonomy. Nonetheless, sending driverless vehicles drifting around curves at high speeds isn't exactly practical or safe. That's why Ascent Robotics Inc. is building a virtual simulation that it believes will help create self-driving automobiles capable of handling any scenario, however unlikely. The Tokyo-based startup is raising ¥1.1 billion ($10 million) in its first funding round, led by SBI Investment Co. The total distance traveled by driverless vehicles on public roads has long been considered the main metric of progress in the industry.
WASHINGTON – Several U.S. Republican lawmakers expressed concern over privacy violations on Sunday after media reports that a political consultancy that worked on President Donald Trump's campaign gained inappropriate access to 50 million Facebook users' data. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said he believed some internet companies have grown too fast to digest their responsibilities and obligations. "So we'll learn more about this in the days to come. But yeah I'm disturbed by that," Rubio told NBC's "Meet the Press." Sen. Rand Paul was asked whether people can trust companies like Facebook in the wake of the report about Cambridge Analytica taking data.
Kunio Shimada, a professor of fluid mechanics and energy engineering at Fukushima University, has developed a special rubber that can generate electricity from solar and kinetic energy and save the power generated. The 53-year-old professor, who is from the city of Fukushima, says the rubber is the first of its kind in the world and is trying to patent it in Japan. His discovery could be used to develop artificial skin for robots or shock-resistant solar batteries. Robotics experts have already shown interest in Shimada's technology, which could become part of the prefecture's new initiative aimed at promoting robotics. Shimada has a track record in the field of conductive rubber.
LONDON – Stephen Hawking, Britain's most famous scientist, who dedicated his life to unlocking the secrets of the universe, has died at age 76. His children, Lucy, Robert and Tim, said in a statement carried by Britain's Press Association news agency on Wednesday: "We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today. "He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years." Born on Jan. 8, 1942 -- 300 years to the day after the death of the father of modern science, Galileo Galilei -- he believed science was his destiny. But fate also dealt Hawking a cruel hand.