Google ‘stole my video’, says film-maker Philip Bloom

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I wish mum’s phone was never invented

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Uber ends Arizona driverless car programme

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Trump barred from blocking Twitter users by judge

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Tesla Autopilot: Name deceptive, claim groups

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The gamers you can pay to help you win at Fortnite

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Steam store school-shooting game ‘appalling’

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Sony says PlayStation 4 is in ‘final phase’ of its life cycle

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BMW cars found to contain more than a dozen flaws

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FBI admits over-counting locked iPhones and other mobiles

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Category Archives: Politics

Brexit: UK’s ‘strong objections’ to Galileo sat-nav exclusion

Image copyright
ESA

Image caption

The Galileo system was conceived to give Europe an independent sat-nav capability

The UK has lodged a “strong objection” to EU negotiators over plans to limit its participation in the Galileo satellite programme after Brexit.

In a document seen by the BBC, UK officials warn EU counterparts the scheme could cost an extra €1bn (£876m) without their continuing involvement.

Excluding the UK from Galileo, it says, contravenes the phase-one withdrawal deal agreed by both sides in December.

It also warns it will hinder wider post-Brexit security co-operation.

The European Commission says Brexit means the UK will have to be excluded from the Public Regulated Service (PRS), a key element of the Galileo system, after its March 2019 departure.

A navigation and timing signal intended for use by government agencies, armed forces and “blue light” services, PRS is designed to be available and robust even in times of crisis.

Brussels says the UK cannot immediately have access to it when it leaves the European bloc because it will become a foreign entity and PRS is for EU member states only.

The UK has accepted that its officials should not be part of the administrative elements of the programme but is insisting British companies should be allowed to bid for contracts and that base stations should still be located in British overseas territories such as the Falklands.

‘Security ceiling’

A document given to EU officials during Brexit talks this week states “excluding industrial participation by UK industry in security-related areas risks delays of up to three years and additional costs of up to €1 billion”.

“It will not be straightforward to effectively fulfil all Galileo security work elsewhere,” it says.

“The UK therefore has a strong objection to its ongoing exclusion from security-related discussions and exchanges pertaining to the post-2019 development of Galileo and the PRS, which serves to limit UK assurance in the programme and discourage UK industrial participation.

“Current EU restrictions on UK participation will have implications for the ceiling placed on future UK-EU security cooperation.”

Separately, the UK has outlined the extent of existing law enforcement capabilities which would be lost if a bespoke security deal is not agreed after Brexit.

According to details of a presentation seen by the BBC, the UK says there will be “significant gaps” in a wide range of areas including prisoner transfers, asset recovery, sharing of financial intelligence, victim compensation and access to criminal records for child protection vetting.

Brexit deal cannot include return to hard border – Jeremy Corbyn

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Jeremy Corbyn last visited Northern Ireland in 2015 when he was a candidate in the Labour leadership race

Labour will not support any Brexit deal that includes a return to a hard border, Jeremy Corbyn will say later.

Mr Corbyn is making his first visit to Northern Ireland since he was elected as Labour leader three years ago.

He will make a speech at Queen’s University in Belfast to insist he will not tolerate a hard border between NI and the Republic of Ireland.

Potential disruption to cross-border trade is crucial to the overall state of the Brexit negotiations.

‘Symbol of peace’

The UK and EU have agreed that there will be no hard border, but are at odds on how to achieve that.

A major sticking point is what arrangement will be put in place if the border cannot be solved in an overall deal.

The two sides accept the need for a ‘backstop’ but differ on how it should work.

Mr Corbyn will suggest that Labour’s proposal for a new comprehensive EU-UK customs union has the potential to prevent communities in Northern Ireland being divided.

The Labour leader will also argue that maintaining an open border is not just about avoiding paperwork or tariffs, but serves as a symbol of peace.

‘Talking shop’

He also wants London and Dublin to revive the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference in an effort to break the deadlock at Stormont.

Northern Ireland has been without a government since January 2017, when power-sharing between the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin collapsed.

Convening the joint institution is favoured by nationalists, but opposed by the DUP and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) who regard it as a “talking shop”.

During Mr Corbyn’s two-day visit to Northern Ireland, he will also meet with business leaders in Belfast and Londonderry to discuss their concerns around Brexit.

A different NI awaits Labour leader

By Jayne McCormack, BBC News NI Politics Reporter

All eyes will be on Jeremy Corbyn when he touches down in Belfast later.

The last time he visited Northern Ireland, in 2015, he was still a candidate for the Labour leadership.

Since then, the political landscape has been turned on its head because of Brexit and the ongoing impasse at Stormont.

Now the leader of the opposition, Mr Corbyn will attempt to address both of those issues in his speech at Queen’s University, before fielding questions.

His decision to visit points to the importance of solving the Irish border issue.

His call for the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference to be revived puts the focus back on Theresa May’s government, which some Northern Ireland politicians criticised recently for not doing enough to help restore power-sharing.

Earlier this week, the Labour Party in Northern Ireland said it was disappointed that Mr Corbyn had not made plans to meet them during his visit.

A Labour source said the party was in communication with Labour NI and would “be in touch to arrange a future meeting”.

People in Northern Ireland have been allowed to join Labour since 2003, and they have had their own constituency branch since 2008.

Whether they can contest elections is currently subject to an internal review, which is understood to be in its final stages, but any decision to change the current policy would need to be taken by Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC).

Northern Ireland parties ‘should be locked in room until deal’

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Northern Ireland has been without a devolved government since January 2017

The government has been urged to bring the Northern Ireland parties together for talks and “lock the doors” until they reach a power-sharing deal.

The call was made by the Labour leader in the House of Lords, Baroness Smith of Basildon.

Lord Empey told peers Northern Ireland was in a “state of paralysis”.

Northern Ireland has been without a devolved government since January 2017, when a coalition led by the DUP and Sinn Féin collapsed.

Labour former Northern Ireland secretary Lord Peter Hain argued “the longer the assembly and the executive are down, the harder it is to get back up”.

He urged the government to draw on past lessons in overcoming obstacles in Northern Ireland and called for the prime minister Theresa May to convene a summit, along with Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar.

“Keep the parties at that summit… until there is an agreement,” Lord Hain added.

“I believe strongly that is the only solution in sight.”

‘State of paralysis’

Northern Ireland Minister Lord Duncan of Springbank said: “Nothing is off the table.”

Lord Duncan said the “the preferred option, the sensible option, the right option” was to have an executive at Stormont.

Former Ulster Unionist leader Lord Empey highlighted a recent Belfast High Court judgment which blocked an incinerator plant because a senior civil servant did not have the power to approve the planning application.

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Media captionLord Empey says NI is in ‘state of paralysis’

“As a consequence, all significant decisions that have hitherto been taken by senior civil servants have now stopped,” he said.

“How can the minister and the government honour the commitments to ensure the effective and efficient delivery of public services to the people of Northern Ireland with this state of paralysis that has now ensued?”

‘In cahoots’

Lord Duncan said the government was studying very carefully the judgment, which may be appealed.

“It is a reminder that we do need that restored executive because we cannot keep placing upon the shoulders of civil servants such a heavy and onerous burden,” he said.

Baroness Blood told the House that Northern Ireland now had “almost an invisible secretary of state,” referring to Karen Bradley who has faced criticism for her handling of talks aimed at restoring devolution.

She said: “The one question that is being asked on the streets of Northern Ireland today is ‘who is actually running Northern Ireland?’

Image caption

Baroness Blood said “people on the ground” in Northern Ireland wanted to know who was in charge

Lord Duncan repeated that devolved government must be restored at Stormont.

“We need to get the executive back up and running… at the moment the pilot light is on but no-one is twirling those knobs,” he said.

Independent Ulster Unionist peer Lord Maginnis of Drumglass claimed Mr Varadkar was “in cahoots” with Sinn Féin to block the restoration of devolved institutions.

On Tuesday, MPs on the Northern Ireland Affairs Commitee urged Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley to “redouble” her efforts to restart talks aimed at restoring devolution.

The Northern Ireland Office said restoring the executive was a top priority.

Brexit: Ex-Vote Leave director Cummings warns of ‘train wreck’

Brexit is destined to be a “train wreck” and Tory MPs should get rid of Theresa May to have any hope of staying in power, Dominic Cummings has claimed.

The former Vote Leave director said the civil service had made “no real preparations” for leaving the EU as most officials wanted the UK to remain.

Unless MPs “changed the political landscape”, the Tories risked losing the next election to Labour, he said.

Mrs May has indicated she wants to fight the next election as leader.

Some MPs are believed to harbour reservations about this after Mrs May lost the Conservatives’ majority in the 2017 election and had to strike a deal with the DUP.

In an open letter to Tory MPs and donors on his blog, Mr Cummings – an influential but controversial figure in shaping Vote Leave’s campaign message – said the government had “irretrievably botched” the Brexit process since the June 2016 referendum vote, failing to take the “basic steps” needed for life outside the EU.

None of the infrastructure required to manage trade as a third country had been built, he claimed.

He suggested ministers who sought to make practical preparations were being “blocked” by officials whose priority was the “maintenance of this broken system and keeping Britain as closely tied to the EU as possible”.

“Whitehall’s real preparations are for the continuation of EU law and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice,” he wrote.

“The expectation is that MPs will end up accepting the terrible agreement as voting it down would be to invite chaos.

“In short, the state has made no preparations to leave and plans to make no preparations to leave even after leaving.”

Mr Cummings warned that Labour, under Jeremy Corbyn, was more popular than the Tories believed and the party was only doing so well in the polls because UKIP voters were “waiting until they see how Brexit turns out”.

He urged MPs to act well before the date of the next election, scheduled to take place in 2022.

“There are things you can do to mitigate the train wreck,” he concluded.

“For example, it requires using the period summer 2019 to autumn 2021 to change the political landscape, which is incompatible with the continuation of the May-Hammond brand of stagnation punctuated by rubbish crisis management.

“If you go into the 2022 campaign after five years of this and the contest is Tory promises versus Corbyn promises, you will be maximising the odds of Corbyn as prime minister.”

Jeremy Corbyn insists new Labour peers back scrapping the Lords

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PA

Jeremy Corbyn will not appoint any Labour peers that do not support abolishing the House of Lords, his spokesman has said.

The party’s newest peers – ex general secretary Iain McNicol, campaigner Martha Osamor and writer Pauline Bryan – have all signed up to the principle.

The Labour leader would expect them to vote to abolish the Lords if they get the opportunity.

Labour supports a democratically-elected second chamber.

Mr Corbyn’s spokesman said: “It’s absurd that we still have this undemocratic anachronism in the 21st century and when Labour is elected we will carry through that pledge.

“The commitment is clear and anyone who is appointed to the House of Lords under the existing rules from the Labour party is required to support that policy.”

Mr Corbyn is thought to be the first Labour leader in recent times to make such a stipulation.

Before announcing the party’s three new peers on Friday, he had only nominated one person, Shami Chakrabarti, for a peerage since becoming leader in 2016.

Prime Minister Theresa May told MPs at Prime Minster’s Questions she had overseen a reduction in the size of the Lords, which with more than 800, is one of the biggest legislative chambers in the world.

But the SNP’s Pete Wishart said the nine new Tory peers she had recently appointed, including former MPs and ministers, was a “complete fix” following Tory rebellions on Brexit votes.

Police Federation – a tough audience for any politician

How did the new Home Secretary Sajid Javid get on an the annual conference, compared with his predecessors?

UK military fears robots learning war from video games

Image copyright
Blizzard

Image caption

Starcraft is a fast-moving strategy game played in real time

Robots that train themselves in battle tactics by playing video games could be used to mount cyber-attacks, the UK military fears.

The warning is in a Ministry of Defence report on artificial intelligence.

Researchers in Silicon Valley are using strategy games, such as Starcraft II, to teach systems how to solve complex problems on their own.

But artificial intelligence (AI) programs can then “be readily adapted” to wage cyber-warfare, the MoD says.

Officials are particularly concerned about the ability of rogue states and terrorists to mount advanced persistent threat attacks, which can disable critical infrastructure and steal sensitive information.

“Not only will AI increase the variety and tempo of cyber-attacks, it will also decrease the cost and increase the variety of actors able to undertake this activity,” the report says.

“As the requirement for skilled specialists involved in the attack diminishes, the limitation will become access to the AI algorithms needed to conduct such an attack.

“In other words, any actor with the financial resources to buy, or steal, an AI APT (advanced persistent threat) system could gain access to tremendous offensive cyber-capability, even if that actor is relatively ignorant of internet security technology.

“Given that the cost of replicating software can be nearly zero, that may hardly present any constraint at all. This is likely to be a live issue by 2020 or soon thereafter.

“For example, the state-of-the-art AI is being trained in tactical reasoning by playing computer strategy games.

“AIs like this could then be readily adapted to drive APT cyber-attack tactics, where the AI is competing against human or non-adaptive automated cyber-defenders.”

The report cites Google’s DeepMind artificial intelligence research project, which is using Starcraft II – a real-time strategy game for PC and Mac users, launched in 2010 – to train programs to think for themselves.

London-based DeepMind, which says it is committed to making the world a “better place” through artificial intelligence, by solving complex problems such as climate change, has also used Atari and Go games to train its systems.

But, like other artificial intelligence researchers, those at DeepMind were attracted to the complexity and fast-moving nature of Starcraft, which involves a three-way conflict between humans, the insectoid Zerg and Protoss aliens.

Image copyright
YONHAP/ Reuters

Image caption

Go player Lee Sedol pits his wits against Google’s AI programme AlphaGo

DeepMind said testing its artificial intelligence “agents” in games “that are not specifically designed for artificial intelligence research, and where humans play well” was “crucial” to their development.

Starcraft players build bases to gather resources that help make combat units to seek out and destroy opponents.

Other technology companies, including Facebook, have now developed artificial intelligence bots to play the game after makers, Blizzard Entertainment, released tools to enable them to do so.

Human players trounced artificial intelligence bots made by Facebook, DeepMind and other companies in a Starcraft tournament in November, suggesting there is still some way to go before the robots take over.

Steven Murdoch, an information security research fellow at University College London, said artificial intelligence bots with the ability to carry out sophisticated cyber-attacks on their own were “fairly far away”.

Even those that could play games, such as Go and Starcraft, against humans were “not very creative” and relied on following “a simple set of rules”.

“As technology advances, more automation will be available, particularly for the delivery of malicious software, but the preparation of attacks and development of tactics will still require human expertise for the foreseeable future,” he told BBC News.

AI programs could be stolen and misused, as the MoD says in its report, but current systems “are quite specific to a particular task and it takes considerable skill and expertise to adapt a system to a new application area,” he added.

The MoD report says the private sector is leading the way in artificial intelligence research – and the technology industry’s reluctance to appear too close to defence or security agencies is creating a skills shortage in the military.

“Some Western commercial entities have publicly declared policies stating they will not contract with defence or security agencies, which may compound the challenges facing the MoD,” says the report.

“This is in stark contrast to other states, which have enshrined access rights to expertise, technology and data in their national legislation.”

The report proposes setting up a register “of security cleared UK nationals with AI and robotics skills” to be called on in times of emergency.

Brexit: Technology-based customs system ‘could cost £20bn’

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Getty Images

The post-Brexit customs system favoured by Boris Johnson and other leading Brexiteers could cost businesses up to £20bn, officials have suggested.

The chief executive of HM Revenue and Customs told MPs firms would have to pay £32.50 for each customs declaration under the so-called “max fac” solution.

John Thompson said any new system could take up to five years to fully work.

A “functioning border” was possible by the end of the transition period but he said it would not be “fully optimal”.

The UK is leaving the EU in March 2019, which is currently expected to be followed by a 21 month transition phase before the longer term post-Brexit system kicks in.

Ministers are currently considering two options to replace the existing customs union with the EU, which involves minimal checks, and which the government is committed to leaving.

Brexiteers are sceptical about what is believed to be Theresa May’s preferred option of a “customs partnership”, under which the UK would collect tariffs set by the EU customs union on goods coming into the country.

Rules of origin

Their proposed alternative “maximum facilitation” proposal would rely on technology and advance verification to minimise, rather than remove, customs checks.

The EU has expressed doubts about whether either option would work.

During questioning by the Treasury Select Committee, Mr Thompson said that if ministers opted for the “max fac” solution this could cost business between £17bn and £20bn, reflecting the cost of customs declarations and complying with rules of origin requirements.

He said there were about 200 million exports to the EU each year that could require customs declarations – and a similar number of imports.

It would, he said, take between three to five years to fully implement any new system after Brexit but he suggested no new customs infrastructure would be needed in Northern Ireland.

Mr Thomson declined to answer when it was suggested it would be easier if the UK just remained in the customs union – a solution favoured by business but rejected by ministers.

PMQs: Corbyn and May on health service privatisation numbers

Labour has “scaremongered” at every election about Conservatives wanting to cut health funding and privatise the NHS, the prime minster had claimed, but her party had protected it and put more money in.

Theresa May was responding to Jeremy Corbyn’s claims, at Prime Minister’s Questions, that the government wanted to “tear up the founding principles” of the NHS and put “private profit before public service”.

Prime Minister’s Questions: The verdict

Iain Duncan Smith had ‘issues’ with Troubled Families scheme

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House of Commons

Former Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith had “issues” with the government’s flagship Troubled Families programme, he has told MPs.

Mr Duncan Smith said he thought it was “a distraction” and that other ministers shared his concerns at the time.

Most of its targets were “slightly nebulous” and should be more “focused”, he said.

The scheme focuses on families with multiple problems.

It was set up by former Prime Minister David Cameron following the 2011 riots in English cities.

The government pays councils up to £4,000 to work with each of the hardest-to-help families, on a payment-by-results basis, including cutting truancy and school exclusion rates and offending rates, as well as at least one adult getting into work.

Initially, £448m was spent targeting 120,000 families, and in 2015, £920m was set aside for a further 400,000 up to 2020.

The government says it has led to “significant improvements” in people’s lives, although a 2016 report said it had had no “significant impact”.

Mr Duncan Smith, who praised the scheme when he was the work and pensions secretary, told a committee of MPs: “I had issues with the Troubled Families programme, because I thought it was a distraction personally.

“There were a couple of us that thought actually we might have focused it slightly differently.”

‘Serious debates’

He suggested the resources could be better spent on support for Universal Credit claimants, which does “much of what it tries to do”.

“One of the targets that can actually be measured is whether someone went back to work,” he said.

“You can argue that other areas are slightly nebulous.”

Saying he did not want to “rake over those old coals”, he added: “I know there were genuine and serious debates about whether the Troubled Families programme should have been extended in quite the degree that it did.”

Mr Duncan Smith – who was in charge of welfare between 2010 and 2016 – was the architect of the Universal Credit system, the controversial merger of six working-age benefits into a single payment which is now being rolled out across the country.

Grilled by the Work and Pensions Select Committee on the scheme, he said £2bn cut from its budget by former Chancellor George Osborne should be put back in, and accused some councils of “not engaging” in providing support for claimants.

Also giving evidence to the committee was Emma Revie of food banks charity the Trussell Trust, who said that while it would be “great” if the level of support described by Mr Duncan Smith was the reality, this was not “the experience on the ground”.