Federal judge rules that the “terrorist watchlist” database violates U.S. citizens’ rights – gpgmail


A Federal judge appointed by President George W. Bush has ruled that the “terrorist watchlist” database compiled by Federal agencies and used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security violates the rights of American citizens who are on it.

The ruling, first reported by The New York Times, raises questions about the constitutionality of the practice, which was initiated in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The Terrorist Screening Database is used both domestically and internationally by law enforcement and other federal agencies and inclusion on the database can have negative consequences — including limiting the ability of citizens whose names are on the list to travel.

The U.S. government has identified more than 1 million people as “known or suspected terrorists” and included them on the watchlist, according to reporting from the Associated Press.

The ruling from U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga is the culmination of several years of hearings on the complaint, brought to court by roughly two dozen Muslim U.S. citizens with the support of Muslim civil-rights group, the Council on American Islamic Relations.

The methodology the government used to add names to the watch list was shrouded in secrecy and citizens placed on the list often had no way of knowing how or why they were on it. Indeed, much of the plaintiffs lawsuit hinged on the over-broad and error-prone ways in which the list was updated and maintained.

“The vagueness of the standard for inclusion in the TSDB, coupled with the lack of any meaningful restraint on what constitutes grounds for placement on the Watchlist, constitutes, in essence, the absence of any ascertainable standard for inclusion and exclusion, which is precisely what offends the Due Process Clause,” wrote Judge Trenga.

In court, lawyers for the FBI contended that any difficulties the 21 Muslim plaintiffs suffered were outweighed by the government’s need to combat terrorist threats.

Judge Trenga disagreed. Especially concerning for the judge were the potential risks to an individual’s reputation as a result of their inclusion on the watchlist. That’s because the list isn’t just distributed to federal law enforcement agencies, but also finds its way into the hands of over 18,000 state, local,  county, city,  university and college, and tribal and federal law enforcement agencies and another 533 private entities. The judge was concerned that mistaken inclusion on the watchlist could have negative implications in interactions with local law enforcement and potential employers or local government services.

“Every step of this case revealed new layers of government secrets, including that the government shares the watchlist with private companies and more than sixty foreign countries,” said CAIR Senior Litigation Attorney Gadeir Abbas. “CAIR will continue its fight until the full scope of the government’s shadowy watchlist activities is disclosed to the American public.”

Federal agencies have consistently expanded the number of names on the watchlist over the years. As of June 2017, 1.16 million people were included on the watchlist, according to government documents filed in the lawsuit and cited by the AP — with roughly 4,600 of those names belonging to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. In 2013, that number was 680,000, according to the AP.

“The fundamental principle of due process is notice and the opportunity to be heard,” said CAIR Trial Attorney Justin Sadowsky. “Today’s opinion provides that due process guarantee to all Americans affected by the watchlist.”


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Goldman backs Kobo360, Rwanda commits to EVs, Interswitch IPO update – gpgmail


Nigerian freight logistics startup Kobo360 raised a $20 million Series A round led by Goldman Sachs and $10 million in working capital financing from Nigerian commercial banks.

The company — with an Uber-like app that connects truckers and companies to delivery services — will use the funds to upgrade its platform and expand to 10 new countries beyond current operating markets of Nigeria, Togo, Ghana and Kenya.

Kobo360 looks to grow beyond its Nigeria roots to become a truly Pan-African company, co-founder Obi Ozor told gpgmail .  He co-founded the venture in 2017 with fellow Nigerian Ife Oyedele II.

Since its launch in Lagos, the startup has continued to grow its product offerings, VC backing and customer base. Kobo360 claims a fleet of more than 10,000 drivers and trucks operating on its app. Top clients include Honeywell, Olam, Unilever, Dangote and DHL.

Kobo360’s latest round is also notable for Goldman Sachs’ involvement. Goldman’s participation tracks a growing list of African venture investments made by the U.S. based finance firm.

Chinese mobile-phone and device maker Transsion will list in an IPO on Shanghai’s STAR Market, Transsion confirmed to gpgmail.

The company — which has a robust Africa sales network — could raise up to 3 billion yuan (or $426 million).

Transsion’s IPO prospectus is downloadable (in Chinese) and its STAR Market listing application available on the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s website.

STAR is the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s new Nasdaq-style board for tech stocks that also went live in July with some 25 companies going public.

Headquartered in Shenzhen — where African e-commerce unicorn Jumia also has a logistics supply-chain facility — Transsion is a top-seller of smartphones in Africa under its Tecno brand.

The company has a manufacturing facility in Ethiopia and recently expanded its presence in India.

Transsion plans to spend the bulk of its STAR Market raise (1.6 billion yuan or $227 million) on building more phone assembly hubs and around 430 million yuan ($62 million) on research and development, including a mobile phone R&D center in Shanghai, a company spokesperson said.

The government of Rwanda will soon issue national policy guidelines to eliminate gas motorcycles in its taxi sector in favor of e-motos, according to a preview of the plan by President Paul Kagame at a public-rally

The director general for the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority, Patrick Nyirishema, confirmed Kagame’s comments were ahead of a national e-mobility plan in the works for the East African nation.

“The president’s announcement is exactly the policy direction we’re in…it’s about converting to electric motos…The policy is prepared, it’s yet to be passed…and is going through the approval process,” Nyirishema told gpgmail on a call from Kigali.

Motorcycle taxis in Rwanda are a common mode of transit, with estimates of 20 to 30 thousand operating in the capital of Kigali.

Nyirishema explained that converting to e-motorcycles is part of a national strategy to move Rwanda’s entire mobility space to electric. The country will start with public transit operators, such as moto-taxis, and move to buses and automobiles.

Ampersand, a Kigali-based e-moto startup, has already begun to pilot EVs and charging systems in Rwanda and will work with the country’s government on the moto-taxi conversion.

In an ExtraCrunch feature, gpgmail delved into tech talent accelerator Andela — one of the most recognized and well funded startups operating in Africa.

In a byte, Andela is Series D stage startup ― backed by $180 million in VC ― that trains and connects African software developers to global companies for a fee.

CEO Jeremy Johnson dished on the company’s strategy toward profitability and responded to some of the criticism it receives ― namely a claim the startup is creating a second brain-drain when software developers leave Andela and Africa, to take positions with global companies.

Today Andela has offices in New York and five African countries: Nigeria, Kenya,  Rwanda, Uganda, and Egypt ― which largely align with the continent’s top tech VC markets.

Across this network the company recruits software developers, builds software engineers, and deploys teams of software engineers.

Johnson disclosed numbers on Andela’s expected new hires for the year, current developer staff, how many departures the company expects, and how many of those will likely leave their home countries―which actually amounts to a fairly small percentage.

gpgmail checked in with Nigerian fintech company Interswitch for the latest on its anticipated dual-listing London and Lagos stock exchanges.

A Bloomberg News story (based on background sourcing) revived speculation the IPO could happen this year for the company — which provides much of Nigeria’s digital banking infrastructure and has expanded its operations presence and payments products across Africa and globally.

Reports that Interswitch could be one of the earliest big tech companies out of Africa to go public trace back to 2016, when CEO and founder Mitchell Elegbe told gpgmail the company was considering a listing before the end of that year.

Last month, an Interswitch spokesperson would neither confirm or deny a pending IPO, per a gpgmail inquiry. So, it’s still tough to say if or when the company could list. But there are still several reasons why the business (and its possible IPO) are worth keeping an eye on, which we detailed in the update story.

 

One could be an eventual increase in venture funding to African startups, that could come from Interswitch. Another could be an Interswitch IPO adding another benchmark for global investors to gauge Africa’s tech sector beyond Jumia — the e-commerce company that became the first big tech firm operating in Africa to launch on a major exchange, the NYSE in April.

More Africa-related stories @gpgmail

African tech around the ‘net

 


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Apple products under pricing pressure as new 15% tariffs drop Sunday – gpgmail


A new 15% tariff on Chinese imports will go in effect just after midnight Sunday, placing levies on hundreds of household goods and consumer tech, including a bevy of Apple products.

The tariffs, put in place by President Donald Trump as part of an escalating tit-for-tat trade war with China, were entered into the Federal Register on Friday.

Apple, the largest U.S. technology company by market cap, has its products assembled in China by Foxconn and then ships them to consumers all over the world. The Apple Airpods, Apple Watch and accompanying Apple Watch bands and the Apple Homepod are all products subject to the higher tariffs beginning Sunday. The iPhone doesn’t appear to be impacted this round, but could be subject to tariffs that begin Dec. 15.

Apple is hardly the only electronics company — most of which have final assembly in China — to be affected by the tariffs. TVs, speakers, digital cameras, lithium-ion batteries and flash drives are just a few of consumer electronics that will be subjected to a 15% tariff beginning Sunday. But the higher tariffs do threaten to give rival Samsung an edge.

The new higher tariffs come just a few weeks since Apple CEO Tim Cook met with Trump to argue that such a move would benefit its No. 1 competitor Samsung.

The 15% tariff will affect about $112 billion of Chinese goods, lower than the original list of $300 billion imports. Last week, the U.S. Trade Representative office modified the original list, either delaying tariffs on some products until December 15 or removing some goods altogether.

Despite the lower number, the impact is still expected to pinch companies importing products from China. The complete list of products affected by the 15% tariffs is 122 pages long. And eventually, that pain — aka higher prices — will be passed onto consumers.

Apple has not said whether it will increase prices of its products. Analysts from JP Morgan expect Apple to absorb the costs.

Tariffs have already had a cost, according to the Consumer Tech Association. Since July 2018, Section 301 tariffs on China have cost the consumer tech industry over $10 billion, including $1 billion on 5G-related products, the CTA said.

In total, American taxpayers have paid over $27 billion in extra import tariffs from the beginning of the trade war in 2018 through June of this year, most of which can be attributed to the U.S.-China trade war, according to U.S. Census information provided by the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI).

Another 30% tariff on about $250 billion of goods is expected to begin October 1.


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Rwanda to phase out gas motorcycle-taxis for e-motos – gpgmail


The government of Rwanda will soon issue national policy-guidelines to eliminate gas motorcycles in its taxi sector in favor of e-motos.

The country’s president Paul Kagame previewed the plan last week. “We will find a way to replace the ones you have now. We urge taxi-moto operators to help us when the phase-out process comes,” he said speaking at a youth forum.

The Director General for the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority Patrick Nyirishema confirmed Kagame’s comments were ahead of a national e-mobility plan in the works for the East African nation.

“The president’s announcement is exactly the policy direction we’re in…it’s about converting to electric motos…The policy is prepared, it’s yet to be passed..and is going through the approval process,” Nyirishema told gpgmail on a call from Kigali.

Motorcycle taxis in Rwanda are a common mode of transit, with estimates of 20 to 30 thousand operating in the capital of Kigali. The country has come a long way since the 1990s, becoming a test-bed for drone-delivery and prioritizing initiatives to become an African tech hub.

Rwanda motorcycle taxisNyirishema explained that converting to e-motorcycles is part of a national strategy to move Rwanda’s entire mobility space to electric. The country will start with public transit operators, such as moto-taxis, and move to buses and automobiles.

“Once the policy is out, we’ll no longer permit any motorcycle that is not electric to be added to a fleet,”  Nyirishema said, adding that the country’s regulators will need to create an appropriate transition period and program for taxi operators to move to e-motos.

The news comes as Africa’s motorcycle taxi markets — worth an estimated $4 billion — have seen a flurry of tech investment and expansion. Uber and Bolt got into the motorcycle taxi business in Africa in 2018.

Norwegian (and Chinese backed) browser service Opera’s recent $50 million backed West Africa product expansion included linking its new payment app to ORide, a motorcycle ride-hail venture it launched in Nigeria.

Nigerian motorcycle taxi and delivery startup MAX.ng raised a $7 million Series A round with participation from Yamaha. The company is using the funding to pilot e-motorcycles in Africa powered by renewable energy.

Another local moto-taxi ventureUganda’s SafeBoda—received outside capital in a Series B round co-led by the venture arms of Germany’s Allianz and Indonesia’s Go-Jek. 

The Director General for  Rwanda’s Utilities Regulatory Authority Patrick Nyirishema prepared to confirm partners for the country’s e-moto conversion.

One startup that says it will be involved is Ampersand, a Kigali based venture that has already begun to pilot EVs and charging systems in Rwanda.

The company has worked with a feasibility study for implementing electric vehicles across Rwanda since last year, according to CEO Josh Whale. “We’ve also got a grant from the government…and it’s been tied in really well with the feasibility study,” he told gpgmail.

Copy of Bike Rebero Ampersand eveningAmpersand has shaped its own e-motorcycle model, building the batteries and fitting them into new motorcycle chassis imported from Asia. To keep the taxi-moto riders consistently moving—vs. delayed while recharging—the startup has developed a battery swapping system and station.

One motorcycle ride-hail startup that’s been testing an Ampersand e-moto is Cango. Founded in 2015, the company has app-based, on-demand taxi-moto fleets in Rwanda and Congo.

“We intend to be among the first to switch our fleet, as the [Ampersand] bikes are ready,” Cango co-founder Barrett Nash told gpgmail in a message from Kinshasa.

Ampersand CEO Josh Wale sees electricity changing the micro-economics of motorcycle taxi markets. He estimates taxi riders in Rwanda spend $2000 a year on fuel and oil-charges for their gas machines.

“Looking at it from a driver point of view, from day one they are paying less for the bike and the battery by going electric,” he said.

 

 

 


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U.S. border officials are increasingly denying entry to travelers over others’ social media – gpgmail


Travelers are increasingly being denied entry to the United States as border officials hold them accountable for messages, images and video on their devices sent by other people.

It’s a bizarre set of circumstances that has seen countless number of foreign nationals rejected from the U.S. after friends, family, or even strangers send messages, images, or videos over social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp, which are then downloaded to the traveler’s phone.

The latest case saw a Lebanese national and would-be Harvard freshman denied entry to the U.S. just before the start of the school year.

Immigration officers at Boston Logan International Airport are said to have questioned Ismail Ajjawi, 17, for his religion and religious practices, he told the school newspaper The Harvard Crimson. The officers who searched his phone and computer reportedly took issue with his friends’ social media activity.

Ajjawi’s visa was canceled and he was summarily deported — for someone else’s views.

The United States border is a bizarre space where U.S. law exists largely to benefit the immigration officials who decide whether or not to admit or deny entry to travelers, and few protect the travelers themselves. Both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals alike are subject to unwarranted searches and few rights to free speech, and many have limited access to legal counsel.

That has given U.S. border officials a far wider surface area to deny entry to travelers — sometimes for arbitrary reasons.

On a typical day, U.S. Customs & Border Protection processes 1.13 million passengers by plane, sea and land and deny entry to over 760 people. Sometimes a denial is clear, such as a past criminal conviction or the wrong documentation. But all too often, no specific reasons are given, and there are no grounds to appeal.

A U.S. immigration form describing why a traveler was denied entry to the U.S. (Image: Abed Ayoub/Twitter)

CBP also claims to have what critics say is broadly unconstitutional powers to search travelers’ phones — including those of U.S. citizens — at the border without needing a warrant. Last year, CBP searched 30,000 travelers’ devices — close to four times the number from three years prior — without any need for reasonable suspicion.

Complicating matters, the Trump administration in June began to demand that foreigners who apply for U.S. visas disclose their social media handles and profiles. Some 15 million are expected to fall under the new rule.

Summer Lopez, senior director of free expression programs at PEN America, a human rights nonprofit, said in a statement that the immigration policy on social media “demonstrates all too well the damage these ill-conceived policies can do.”

“That should not be the price of entrance to the U.S., let alone that one’s friends should have to censor themselves as well,” said Lopez.

But Ajjawi’s denied entry is not an isolated case.

Abed Ayoub, legal and policy director at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said device searches and subsequent denials of entry had become the “new normal” over the past year.

“We hear about this happening to Arab students and Muslim students coming into the U.S. today,” he told gpgmail. Although all travelers are subject to having their devices searched, Ayoub said the government was “holding [the Arab and Muslim] community to a different level” than other backgrounds.

Ayoub said he’s had clients that have been turned away at the border for content found in their WhatsApp messages.

“It’s probably the most popular app in the Middle East,” he said. Because WhatsApp automatically downloads received images and videos to a user’s phone, any questionable content — even sent unsolicitedly — under a border official’s search could be enough to deny the traveler entry.

In one tweet, Ayoub posted a photo of an expedited removal form from one of his clients — also a student with U.S. visa — who was denied entry for an image he received in a WhatsApp group. The student strenuously denied any personal connection to the images and argued it had been automatically saved to his phone. The border official wrote that as a result of the device search the student was “inadmissible” to the U.S. The student was only a couple of semesters away from graduating, but a rejection meant the student can no longer return to the U.S.

“This is part of the backdoor ‘Muslim ban’,” Ayoub said, referring to a controversial executive order signed by President Trump in January 2017, which barred citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries entry to the U.S.

“We don’t hear of other other individuals being denied because of WhatsApp or because of what’s on the social media,” he said.




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The new Disney+ streaming service is oriented around fans and families – gpgmail


You can tell a lot about a service by what it prioritizes on its home screen. With the new Disney + service the focus is initially organized by fan base, with different silos for the company’s various studios and the fans that follow them.

As the company gets the service off the ground — and casts about for content to stuff it with — curation is increasingly important. Over the course of my conversation with the Ricky Strauss, who’s overseeing Disney’s streaming service, “quality over quantity” was the mantra.

I spent some time reviewing the app and its features at the D23 expo and it seems the emphasis of quality over quantity in content didn’t necessarily extend to the app itself. The user interface and controls — at least on the AppleTV version that was used in my demonstration — were a little clunky.

While there’s going to be a rich content library of old and new titles — Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars classics and a mix of Fox content (chiefly “The Simpsons”) featured prominently on the home screen — other content is going to be a little bit more difficult to find.

Navigation over to the sidebar is required to find the new Disney+ original series (including the acquisitions like the “Diary of a Female President” series that Disney ordered earlier in the year. And don’t even bother trying to find any media from Hulu — or Hulu itself.  There are no plans to integrate any Hulu content or Fox properties that now fall under the auspices of Disney or its underlying studios (that includes the mutant corner of the Marvel Comics world that now fall under Disney’s purview after the Fox deal).

Family friendly fare for Disney means that the service (as previously reported) won’t have any media that would warrant a rating above PG-13. There won’t be a whiff of anything remotely as bloody or graphic as “Deadpool” on Disney’s streams.

While there aren’t a number of robust parental controls (since the content is designed to be more family friendly than the average streaming service) there is a kids’ mode designed for ages seven and below.

In the kids mode shows are organized by character, because that’s the way children (many of whom are pre-literate) relate to the medium. The screen for kids is also brighter and in kids accounts, the autoplay feature is turned off (the default for the streaming services is that autoplay is on for adults).

Initially the service will be available in several languages at launch through subtitles and dubbing with plans to be as inclusive as possible when the service rolls out in each of the countries it will be operating in. And eventually Disney wants the streaming service to be available everywhere.

The $7-a-month price tag will enable families to get four simultaneous streams, all the videos will be in 4K, UHD and HDR with an ability for a family to set up seven different user profiles. As CNet noted, this is in sharp contrast to Netflix, which only allows for five profiles and enables simultaneous streaming only at a higher price point.

Given the broader functionality, it’d be more apt to compare Disney+ to Netflix’s premium $15.99 per month service, rather than its basic $8.99 price point. Disney+’s content library and family friendly pitch also make it a compelling offering for families with young children.

Each profile can be designated with the Disney avatar of your choice. The service also won’t be dropping its original episodes all at once, preferring to serialize the entertainment — more like a traditional network.

For Disney, which owns Marvel, LucasFilm, as well as its own catalog of live action and animated shows through the now 36-year-old Disney Channel, and the film libraries of Pixar and the Walt Disney Co. the successful launch of Disney+ is nothing less than the future of the company.

At D23, the company’s fan service expo, that was incredibly apparent.


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Trump adds tariffs to $550 billion of Chinese imports in trade war reprisal – gpgmail


President Trump announced Friday on Twitter that tariffs on Chinese imports will increase 5 percentage points in a tit-for-tat response to China’s own plans to place new duties on U.S. goods.

About $250 billion of goods produced by China and imported into the U.S. already have a 25% tariff. This newest increase will push tariffs to 30% beginning October 1, 2019. Trump also increased “List 4” tariffs from 10% to 15%. The List 4 tariff, which affects the remaining $300 billion of Chinese imports, will go into effect September 1 and December 15.

The increase in tariffs on Chinese imports follows news earlier Friday that China will impose $75 billion worth of duties on U.S. goods, beginning Sept. 1 and December 15. China’s foreign ministry said that it would resume tariffs on U.S. imports of automobiles and auto parts and place an additional 5% or 10% tariff on agricultural and food products like soybeans, coffee, whiskey and seafood.

U.S. automakers Ford, GM, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Tesla all saw shares fall in response to China’s new tariffs. Agricultural product companies, the textile industry as well as automakers that build vehicles in the U.S. for export to China will take the brunt of China’s newest tariffs. The move could force these companies to raise prices, which could further dampen sales.

The president’s initial response on Twitter to China’s decision sent the market into a tailspin. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fall by as much as 700 points before closing the day slightly down only 623 points at 25,628.60. The S&P 500 Index fell 75.84 points to end the day at 2,847.11 and the Nasdaq dropped 239.62 points to close at 7,751.77.

Trump’s tariffs announcement came after markets closed Friday.

 




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Artificial intelligence can contribute to a safer world – gpgmail


We all see the headlines nearly every day. A drone disrupting the airspace in one of the world’s busiest airports, putting aircraft at risk (and inconveniencing hundreds of thousands of passengers) or attacks on critical infrastructure. Or a shooting in a place of worship, a school, a courthouse. Whether primitive (gunpowder) or cutting-edge (unmanned aerial vehicles) in the wrong hands, technology can empower bad actors and put our society at risk, creating a sense of helplessness and frustration.

Current approaches to protecting our public venues are not up to the task, and, frankly appear to meet Einstein’s definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” It is time to look past traditional defense technologies and see if newer approaches can tilt the pendulum back in the defender’s favor. Artificial Intelligence (AI) can play a critical role here, helping to identify, classify and promulgate counteractions on potential threats faster than any security personnel.

Using technology to prevent violence, specifically by searching for concealed weapons has a long history. Alexander Graham Bell invented the first metal detector in 1881 in an unsuccessful attempt to locate the fatal slug as President James Garfield lay dying of an assassin’s bullet. The first commercial metal detectors were developed in the 1960s. Most of us are familiar with their use in airports, courthouses and other public venues to screen for guns, knives and bombs.

However, metal detectors are slow and full of false positives – they cannot distinguish between a Smith & Wesson and an iPhone. It is not enough to simply identify a piece of metal; it is critical to determine whether it is a threat. Thus, the physical security industry has developed newer approaches, including full-body scanners – which are now deployed on a limited basis. While effective to a point, the systems in use today all have significant drawbacks. One is speed. Full body scanners, for example, can process only about 250 people per hour, not much faster than a metal detector. While that might be okay for low volume courthouses, it’s a significant problem for larger venues like a sporting arena.

Image via Getty Images

Fortunately, new AI technologies are enabling major advances in physical security capabilities. These new systems not only deploy advanced sensors to screen for guns, knives and bombs, they get smarter with each screen, creating an increasingly large database of known and emerging threats while segmenting off alarms for common, non-threatening objects (keys, change, iPads, etc.)

As part of a new industrial revolution in physical security, engineers have developed a welcomed approach to expediting security screenings for threats through machine learning algorithms, facial recognition, and advanced millimeter wave and other RF sensors to non-intrusively screen people as they walk through scanning devices. It’s like walking through sensors at the door at Nordstrom, the opposite of the prison-like experience of metal detectors with which we are all too familiar. These systems produce an analysis of what someone may be carrying in about a hundredth of a second, far faster than full body scanners. What’s more, people do not need to empty their pockets during the process, further adding speed. Even so, these solutions can screen for firearms, explosives, suicide vests or belts at a rate of about 900 people per hour through one lane.

Using AI, advanced screening systems enable people to walk through quickly and provide an automated decision but without creating a bottleneck. This volume greatly improves traffic flow while also improving the accuracy of detection and makes this technology suitable for additional facilities such as stadiums and other public venues such as Lincoln Center in New York City and the Oakland airport.

Apollo Shield’s anti-drone system.

So much for the land, what about the air?   Increasingly drones are being used as weapons. Famously, this was seen in a drone attack last year against Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro. An airport drone incident drew widespread attention when a drone shut down Gatwick Airport in late 2018 inconveniency stranded tens of thousands of people.

People are rightly concerned about how easy it is to get a gun. Drones are also easy to acquire and operate, and quite difficult to monitor and to defend against. AI is now being deployed to prevent drone attacks, whether at airports, stadiums, or critical infrastructure. For example, new AI-powered radar technology is being used to detect, classify, monitor and safely capture drones identified as dangerous.

Additionally, these systems use can rapidly develop a map of the airspace and effectively create a security “dome” around specific venues or areas. These systems have an integration component to coordinate with on-the-ground security teams and first responders. Some even have a capture drone to incarcerate a suspicious drone. When a threatening drone is detected and classified by the system as dangerous, the capture drone is dispatched and nets the invading drone. The hunter then tows the targeted drone to a safe zone for the threat to be evaluated and if needed, destroyed.

While there is much dialogue about the potential risk of AI affecting our society, there is also a positive side to these technologies. Coupled with our best physical security approaches, AI can help prevent violent incidents.


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Tech companies get a reprieve thanks to a reversal from the President on tariffs – gpgmail


President Donald Trump and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative have issued technology companies some temporary tariff relief.

Citing an unwillingness to hit consumers with higher prices on things like computers, mobile phones, laptops, video game consoles, computer monitors, clothes and shoes before the holidays, the President and his trade reps are holding off on slapping additional tariffs on those products coming from China.

The President could also have been motivated by growing concerns that the ongoing trade war could trigger a global recession and hurt his chances for re-election in 2020.

Whatever the reason, the news sparked a stock market rally on Tuesday with investors ignoring the rising prices that 10% tariffs on imports that don’t include consumer goods would cause.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 indices were both up 1.4% on the day, while the Nasdaq rose 1.9% — thanks in large part to a surge of Apple stock. The company’s stock rose $8.49 or over 4.2% to close at $208.97.

At the beginning of the month, President Trump said he would slap a 10% tariff on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods, which sent markets tumbling. An ensuing slight devaluation of the Chinese currency further pushed markets into a tailspin before they began to recover.

The news on Tuesday all but erased those earlier losses.

These market whipsaws between fear and trembling and irrational exuberance won’t end until the U.S. and China come to some sort of agreement in the trade war.

Earlier in the day, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer spoke with their Chinese counterparts Vice Premier Liu He and Commerce Minister Zhong Shan about the ongoing trade battle. The two Chinese officials issued a protest against the duties that were set to take effect in September. The two trade representatives have a called scheduled for another two weeks.


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Competition among alternative protein players gets hot as companies beef up with new deals – gpgmail


The competition for control of the burgeoning market for burger replacements (and other alternatives to animal proteins) continues to heat up.

Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods the two leading contenders for top purveyor of plant-based patties (and other formulations) have spent most of the typically sleepy summer months jockeying for the position as top supplier to a food industry suddenly ravenous for alternatives to traditional meat product.s

As soon as the first Impossible Whoppers came off the flame broilers at Burger King, Beyond Meat was announcing a new fast food chain supply deal of its own with Subway.

Through that agreement the publicly traded provider of plant-based products will be grinding up meatless meatballs for Subway’s new vegetarian option to the classic meatball sub.

Subway will roll out meatless meatballs in 685 of its franchise locations in the U.S. and Canada starting in September.

Not to be outdone, Impossible Foods came swinging back with some a new partnership with the institutional food prep giant Sodexo. At roughly 1,500 Sodexo locations food slingers at healthcare facilities and corporate and university cafeterias will unveil new options like Impossible Foods-based sausage muffin sandwiches, sausage gravy and biscuits, steakhouse burgers and creole burgers.

Image courtesy of Sodexo

“Sodexo is committed to providing customers with more plant-forward and sustainable options as part of their diet,” said Rob Morasco, senior director culinary development, Sodexo, in a statement. “We are excited to expand our menu to include the Impossible Burger’s flavorful blend, which will be featured in several new products this fall.”

Set against this meatless horserace for national food service dominance, other plant-based providers have launched to take the startup direct-to-consumer approach to satisfy vegetarian cravings for other types of food substitutes.

It was partially in response to this furor over the vegetarian market that the world was introduced to Nuggs. Ben Pasternak, the company’s young founder, first came to fame as the teenage entrepreneur behind the social media app Monkey.

When Monkey was sold to a Chinese company in 2017, Pasternak turned his attention to food. He’s been cooking up the idea for Nuggs since that time. In 2018 the core team assembled with Pasternak bringing on Liam Mullen, a former pastry chef and self-trained molecular gastronomist who was working for the high-end New York restaurant Daniel at the age of 16.

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Image courtesy of Nuggs

Unlike Impossible Foods, which has faced supply chain woes thanks to its initial strategy of building its own manufacturing facilities, Nuggs is manufactured by McCain Foods, a food prep giant that also led the company’s $7 million round. Other investors include Rainfall Ventures; Greylock Discovery Fund; Maven Ventures; NOMO Ventures; M Ventures; ACME Capital; Founder of MTV and CEO of iHeartMedia, Bob Pittman; Casper Founder & COO, Neil Parikh; and Former President of Tumblr, John Maloney.

While Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have grabbed most of the headlines as the first generation of protein substitutes to really make a dent with consumers, Just (the company formerly known as Hampton Creek) has also nabbed some major deals with big fast food chains for its big product — egg replacements.

Launched in 2018, the egg replacement from Just inked a major deal in late July with Tim Hortons, the Canadian coffee, donut, and sandwich chain. Much as Beyond Meat has found a home for its meatless sausages at Dunkin Donuts in the U.S., Just has seen Tim Hortons take its eggless egg replacement to a Canadian consumers (Hortons also has a sandwich using Beyond Meat).

Some companies are going beyond plant-based protein replacements to lab-grown versions of the real thing. That’s been the story behind Perfect Day, which sold out of their $20-per-pint ice cream in a matter of hours. Like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, the company intends to sell through ice cream manufacturers rather than going direct to consumers with its own product, according to a CNBC report.

The three protein replacement companies have grabbed investor attention and heralded a surge of venture capital investment into plant based protein products. In all, Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, and Just have snagged over $1 billion in funding.

For investors in Beyond Meat, the $122 million in capital will yield billions in returns. The company’s market capitalization is up to a meaty $13.4 billion from $1.5 billion when its stock first began public trading. Analysts at Barclays predict the market for alternative proteins could hit $140 billion by 2029.


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