Things Will Get Messy if We Don’t Start Wrangling Drones Now – TIM MOYNIHAN 01.30.16. 7:00 AM

Parker Gyokeres knows what he’s doing with a drone. A retired US Air Force photojournalist, Gyokeres now runs his own aerial photography business, and has flown photo and video missions for clients as varied as Wu-Tang Clan, the Department of Defense, and Nike.

But once in a while, Gyokeres’s DJI Inspire drone won’t take off. There’s nothing wrong with the UAV, and there’s nothing he can do about it. It’s the work of built-in geofencing software, invisible guardrails that stop pilots straying into restricted areas—mostly no-fly zones like airports, but also entire cities like Washington, DC, public areas like Tiananmen Square, and, apparently, decommissioned blimp bases.

“I went to a job in Massachusetts, and I went to arm the vehicle, and it wouldn’t arm because it was on the perimeter of an abandoned Navy airfield.” Gyokeres says. Naval Air Station South Weymouth in Abington, Massachusetts—a former Navy airfield that served as the home of blimp squadron ZP-11 during World War II—hasn’t been in operation since 1997. Still, the “No Fly Zone” feature in DJI’s A2 Flight Controller system had it tagged as off-limits. And because the system’s no-fly zones are hooked up to a geofencing system, Gyokeres’ mission was auto-grounded. That canceled flight is a good example of how drone geofencing systems work, and where they can cause problems.

In these early days of the drone craze, automated geofencing systems have been put in place by manufacturers including 3D Robotics, DJI, and Yuneec to curb reckless flying. In the most basic sense, geofencing can prevent a drone from taking off or entering restricted airspace based on its GPS coordinates. Geofencing is appealing because recent history shows drone pilots can’t be trusted to stay out of trouble. Drones have interfered with firefighting operations, been spotted by airline pilots around airports, and even crash-landed on the White House lawn. (That last one led to a blanket ban on flying drones in the nation’s capital.)

And with drones quickly filling our skies—the FAA predicted a million would be sold last holiday season alone, and the civilian UAV market could be worth nearly $4 billion in less than a decade—finding a way to make sure they all behave responsibly is increasingly important.

While it’s understandable that drone manufacturers and regulators want to err on the side of caution in terms of safety, these early geofencing systems are prone to errors and confusion. “These things aren’t necessarily bad, because the market isn’t mature at this point,” says Gartner research director Brian Blau. “The devices are only in their infancy, and we’re confident that over the years, some of these issues are going to get worked out—specifically around no-fly zones.”

That resolution may come very soon. In the next year or two, geofencing systems in many high-end drones will get more accurate, more dynamic, and more communicative. They’ll also start to work with lower-end drones—machines that don’t even have GPS. Down the line, geofencing systems could also help power safe autonomous flight, paving the way for those delivery drones Amazon and Google really want to deploy.

The Problems With Current Geofencing Systems

Most early systems, such as the DJI “No Fly Zone” feature that launched in 2013, were developed by the manufacturers themselves. And while it was relatively easy for these companies to hard-code no-fly zones into drone software based on areas that are always restricted (like airports and the White House), it’s harder to keep drones consistently updated with new and changing restrictions. The FAA is constantly setting up temporary no-go zones: airspace over live sporting events, wildfires, presidential motorcades, things like that. Not only did primitive geofencing systems spit out false positives like that old blimp base, they wouldn’t know anything about newly closed areas.

Another hiccup: Right now, geofencing systems are only found in higher-end “prosumer” drones, ones that require substantial skill (and money) to operate. Their pilots tend to be professionals, often with FAA permission to uses drones for commercial purposes like aerial photography, videography, and cinematography. These are the folks who tend to be most aware of airspace restrictions and the nuances of flying responsibly. Meanwhile, geofencing systems don’t come with cheaper, toy-like drones, whose controls are more likely to be in the hands of kids or inexperienced operators. In other words, these geofencing systems can limit the very pilots who are more likely to fly responsibly.

Article continues:

Rihanna’s Anti Might Be the Beginning of the End for the Big Pop Album – By Lindsay Zoladz January 29, 2016 10:11 a.m


Rihanna’s new album Anti is not here for you. This will come as a disappointment to some listeners, and it will even strike plenty as unfair — a breach of the pop-star-and-fan contract, in which our attention and adoration are rewarded with a predictable and easily digestible product — but if you’ve paid even fleeting attention to anything Rihanna’s done in the past four years, Anti’s unaccommodating attitude should come as no surprise. In the time since her last studio album, 2012’s murky, trap-pop prophesy Unapologetic, the 27-year-old Barbadian artist born Robyn Fenty has found plenty of non-musical places (Instagram, red carpets, secluded beaches) to polish her crown as the High Priestess of Not Giving a Fuck. Clothing optional, blunt dangling from her lips, middle finger to the Lord: Rihanna has become a modern master of the pop image — a kind of post-digital James Dean. She proved this once again this past Monday, a few days before any mere mortal had heard her new album, when she tweeted a picture of herself wearing gilded, Swarovski-crystal-encrusted headphones and captioned it, “Listening to Anti.” A “Stars! They’re Just Like Us” moment this was not, and yet Dolce & Gabbana still sold out of those $9,000 headphones in less than 24 hours. But just as important to this image as the accessory was her gaze: sharply inward-focused, utterly unperturbed. If this photo — or quite literally any picture taken of Rihanna in the past four years — were a Kendrick Lamar song, it would be “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe.”

This wasn’t always the case, though. Given Anti’s innumerable delays and its lax production schedule, it’s easy to forget that until pretty recently, Rihanna’s name was synonymous with “almost superhumanly prolific.” Between 2005’s peppy debut Music of the Sun and Unapologetic, Rihanna released an astonishing seven albums in eight years — though in hindsight, that feels less like an artistic achievement than a waste of energy, because Rihanna has never been an album artist. Her best singles, sure, have not only defined but rerouted the decade in pop music (I’d name “Umbrella,” “We Found Love,” and “Pour It Up” as the three most influential), but over a long-player, she had a tendency to lose steam. Rihanna albums sagged, lacked cohesion, and when they did fumble for an overarching theme, they did so in cheesy, outworn pop-album clichés, like the horror-movie sample that opens 2009’s Rated Rand alerted us that this album was going to be “dark.” Still, historically, the single, not the album, has been pop music’s prime currency. The fact that Rihanna never made a great (or even very good) album did not make her a bad pop star, it just meant she was a pop star for whom the album wasn’t a sensible vehicle, or perhaps one for whom the album had become obsolete.

Article continues:


The Burundi Ultimatum – By Paul D. Williams January 28, 2016

The African Union Tests Its Right to Intervene

After rebel forces in Burundi coordinated a round of attacks on military facilities in Bujumbura on December 11, the government began rounding up suspected militants the following day and killing them execution-style on the streets. Dozens died, many of them civilians. The African Union’s Peace and Security Council held an emergency meeting several days later and emerged with an ultimatum for Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza: accept a 5,000-strong peacekeeping force or face more sanctions or even a forcible military intervention. He had 96 hours to decide.

The African Union was one of the guarantors of the 2000 Arusha Accords, a peace agreement that helped settle the country’s decades-long civil war. As such, the union faced a legal, political, and moral responsibility to intervene in Burundi after Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term as president, a move that dramatically raised the risk of returning the country to armed conflict. When Nkurunziza announced his candidacy in late April, breaching the two-term limit set forth by the accords, the country erupted in protest; demonstrators died in clashes with authorities and a rebel group attempted to overthrow Nkurunziza in May. But the violence in December surpassed those events, by far.

The African Union’s ultimatum, issued through a communiqué from its Peace and Security Council on December 17, comes after many previous attempts to resolve Burundi’s political crisis. The union’s earlier attempts failed, however, even though it has used nearly its full arsenal of conflict resolution tools. Even before the violence first

Article continues:

Everything you need to know about last night’s excruciating GOP debate – HEATHER DIGBY PARTON – JAN 29, 2016 02:40 PM PST

While Donald Trump stuck to his Fox boycott, the other GOP candidates got down to business. It was, in a word, bad

Everything you need to know about last night's excruciating GOP debate

Some good news came out of the GOP presidential debates last night. It dawned on everyone watching that in a week or so this field is going to be winnowed considerably and we will never have the thrill of seeing the seven dwarves — Grumpy Christie, Sneezy Cruz, Happy Kasich, Sleepy Carson, Dopey Rubio, Bashful Bush and Doc Paul — on a stage together again. (Snow White Trump was pouting across the street, upset over having to take questions from Megyn Kelly.)

Trump did manage to dominate the news all day as usual while the whole political world excitedly speculated as to whether he would sweep into the debate at the last minute like a diva high soprano or if his alternative rally would upstage the main event. Just as the debate was about to begin he invited CNN onto his luxurious private plane to explain that Fox had profusely apologized for their bad behavior (“they couldn’t have been nicer”) and had begged him to come to the debate. He wished he could but he’d promised to raise money for the veterans and couldn’t let them down.

Fox News has a different version of events, claiming that there was no apology and that Trump had shaken them down agreeing to appear with the hated Kelly but only if the network would promise to pay $5 million to his veterans charity. They refused to “negotiate” any further.

His event was a dull affair but the other networks covered it nonetheless. They always do. The bright spot of the night was when Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, both previous Iowa caucus winners, raced over from the kiddie table to lend their tacit support to Trump. The pundits saw this as a major development for some reason, as if their endorsement was a meaningful symbol of something, but nobody seemed sure of what it might be.

Trump raised millions from himself and some other millionaires and smaller donors for the veterans, “who he loves.” Curiously, the money all went to, a website set up that morning which routes the money to the Donald Trump Foundation. One assumes he means to send it on to veterans groups but as of last night, the press was unable to confirm that he had contacted any of them. Anti-Trump right wingers are up in arms that this foundation has donated to the Clinton Foundation in the past which apparently means this is a nefarious deed of some sort.

Truth be told, it was little different than the rallies he puts on every day. The master showman was apparently unable to put together an entertaining spectacle on such short notice. But that is not to say the rival event was any more exciting. The seven dwarves dully sparred over the course of a couple of hours but the usual energy was lacking. Cruz started off strong with a carefully prepared funny:

“I’m a maniac, everyone on this stage is stupid, fat and ugly. And Ben, you’re a terrible surgeon. Now that we’ve gotten the Donald Trump portion out of the way…”

He does try to have a sense of humor. But he was unable to keep his poise as his frontrunner status made him the target of his fellow candidates as well as the moderators. Taking a page from his CNBC debate complaint book he said, “I would note that the last four questions have been: Rand, please attack Ted. Marco, please attack Ted. Chris, please attack Ted,” to which Chris Wallace dryly retorted,”It is a debate, sir.” Cruz managed to recover with a brittle little joke: “If you guys ask one more mean question, I may have to leave the stage.” Unfortunately for him, if Twitter is any example,a great many people cannot tell when Ted’s cracking wise and they thought he was being serious.

Jeb Bush, on the other hand, was on fire. Well, he had a nice little glow about him anyway. Freed from the burden of having to fend off Trump’s insults, he was able to sound almost … confident. He started off with a clever little jab at his fellow candidates:

“I kinda miss Donald Trump. He was always a little teddy bear to me. We always had such a loving relationship… Everyone else was in the witness protection program when I went after him.”

I’m not sure saying he had a “loving relationship “with Donald Trump was such a hot idea, even in jest. It’s just weird. But that’s Jeb! He also droned on about his “proven record” over and over again and tried to sound as hawkish as the rest of the bloodthirsty crowd with a startling comment: “Get the lawyers off the damn backs of the military once and for all,” which can only be interpreted to mean that as president he would authorize war crimes. He’s a real Bush, after all.

All in all, it was Jeb’s best debate. It might even boost him up to 5th place.

Many of the pundits seemed to think that it was also a good night for an oddly rosy cheeked Marco Rubio, who appeared to have guzzled a couple of double espressos before he took the stage and breathlessly answered every question with his patented rapid-fire machine gun delivery. And he was excessively pious, mentioning his faith more often than the Pope did during his recent U.S. visit. But he was also the most bellicose of the group insisting that ISIS is one of the greatest threats in human history and any fighters he captures alive in the U.S. will immediately be shipped off to Guantanamo. It’s hard to know what issues he feels most passionately about because he gives every answer with exactly the same frantic emphasis. One can’t help but worry he’ll end up having a heart attack as president if he doesn’t mellow out a little bit.

Bernie Sanders might have an electability problem – By STEVEN SHEPARD 01/29/16 06:42 PM EST

His campaign says he would expand the map of battleground states, but pollsters suggest he’s misreading the data.

The Clinton campaign believes that Bernie Sanders would fair worse than he's currently polling during the general election. | AP Photo

The Clinton campaign believes that Bernie Sanders would fair worse than he’s currently polling during the general election. | AP Photo

Hillary Clinton’s chief argument walking into Iowa is that Bernie Sanders cannot beat a Republican in the general election. The polls say she’s wrong.

According to survey after survey, Sanders runs equal to or better than Clinton in general-election matchups with the top Republican presidential candidates.

“Not only is Bernie Sanders electable in the general election,” insisted Sanders senior adviser Tad Devine, “he’s a stronger candidate than Hillary Clinton in the general election.”

Indeed, public pollsters who’ve conducted surveys in both Iowa and New Hampshire caution that the Sanders team might be misreading the data the campaign is relying on to make its case that Sanders would broaden the Democratic electorate and make more states competitive by luring young, more independently minded voters.

Patrick Murray, who runs the Monmouth University Polling Institute in New Jersey, said the independent voters who are backing Sanders in the primary are more liberal in orientation and would be likely to vote for the Democrat in November anyway.

“It’s a big leap of faith to take primary poll data and jump to the general,” added Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, which has conducted recent polls for NBC News and The Wall Street Journal. “You do ask the questions, and it tells you something: Hillary has a problem with independents, and Bernie doesn’t. Fast forward to September, October and November. The campaigns will change, and that dynamic will be different.”

The increasing competitiveness of the presidential race has left many Democrats to consider how a Sanders nomination would affect their party’s chances at keeping the White House, and it’s become a frequent talking point on the campaign trail as Clinton and Sanders’ make their final pitches to voters in both early states.

The Clinton campaign insists the former secretary of state is the strongest potential candidate in the fall, and Clinton allies are warning that picking Sanders would jeopardize not only Democrats’ hold on the presidency, but also damage the party’s prospects to win back the Senate and make inroads on Republicans’ wide House majority.

National polls of general-election matchups are unreliable measures at this stage of the campaign, and they render an inconclusive verdict on which Democrat is more electable. Estimations by the website HuffPollster show both candidates running similarly against the three top GOP candidates: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

The Clinton campaign, along with much of the Democratic establishment, believes those numbers would change in a general election. Republicans would attack Sanders as a tax-raising socialist they say.

“Socialist” could be a one-word silver bullet against Sanders: A Pew Research Center poll in late 2011 found a majority of Americans, 60 percent, had an unfavorable opinion of socialism, compared to 31 percent who had a favorable opinion.

“It’s very clear who Republicans want to run against in November,” said Justin Barasky, communications director for the pro-Clinton super PAC Priorities USA. “That’s why they have spent roughly $6 million against Hillary Clinton. That’s why there’s a Republican super PAC pretending to go negative against Bernie Sanders.”

Article continues:

Facebook To Prohibit Private Firearm Transactions – by Reuters JANUARY 29, 2016, 8:17 PM EST

Critics said that gun buyers used the social network to circumvent background checks.

Critics said that gun buyers used the social network to circumvent background checks.

(Reuters) – Facebook prohibited global users from coordinating person-to-person private sales of firearms on its online social network and its Instagram photo-sharing service on Friday, countering concerns that it was increasingly being used to circumvent background checks on gun purchases.

The move comes as the United States debates the issue of access to guns after a string of mass shootings. U.S. President Barack Obama has urged social media companies to clamp down on gun sales organized on their platforms.

It updates Facebook’s regulated goods policy, introduced in March 2014, that banned people from selling marijuana, pharmaceuticals and illegal drugs.

Facebook FB 2.68% already prohibited private firearms sellers from advertising “no background check required,” or offering transactions across U.S. state lines without a licensed dealer because the company said such posts indicated a willingness to evade the law.

Licensed retailers will still be able to advertise firearms on Facebook that lead to transactions outside of Facebook’s service, the spokeswoman said.

Article continues:

Facebook To Prohibit Private Firearm Transactions

Obama is taking new actions to try to close the gender wage gap – Updated by Emily Crockett on January 29, 2016, 1:30 p.m. ET

President Obama stands with Lilly Ledbetter on the seventh anniversary of the equal pay bill named after her. -- Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Obama stands with Lilly Ledbetter on the seventh anniversary of the equal pay bill named after her. — Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The first bill President Obama ever signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — a basic but crucial protection for women who have been paid less than their male colleagues for years but didn’t know it.

Seven years later, Obama knows better than to expect this Congress to advance women’s equality, so he’s continuing to do what he can through executive orders and federal agencies. On Friday he announced that the government is going to start collecting data on employee demographics and salaries from all large employers, not just federal contractors.

The new move is going to expand one of Obama’s two April 2014 executive actions to promote equal pay.

One of those actions prohibited federal contractors from punishing employees who discuss their salaries with each other. The other required federal contractors to submit data on what they pay their employees, sorted by race, gender, and ethnicity. The latter rule is being expanded to include all businesses with more than 100 employees, not just federal contractors. The first report will be due September 2017, and the data is expected to cover about 63 million workers.

Businesses will report the data to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on a demographics form they already submit annually. Businesses won’t have to submit salary data for every individual employee, but they will have to submit demographic information across 10 job categories and 12 pay bands. Then the data will be used either to look for patterns of discrimination or to support the wage discrimination cases of employees who come forward with complaints.

Also on Friday, Obama urged Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act (good luck with that), and announced that he will hold a White House summit on “the United State of Women” in May.

The Paycheck Fairness Act, supporters say, would strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by requiring that any difference in pay for employees of different genders be based on a “bona fide factor,” like education or experience, that serves a legitimate business interest. It would also prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who discuss their salaries, a rule that already applies to federal contract workers thanks to Obama’s other executive order.

The gender wage gap isn’t a myth, it’s just complicated

On average, women who work full time and year-round in the United States earn 79 cents on the dollar compared with white men. It’s a lot less for women of color — 64 cents for African-American women and 54 cents for Latina women.

Critics of this figure either say it’s an exaggeration or an outright lie. They say that the gap basically disappears once you control for demographic information and the fact that women tend to choose lower-paying and more flexible fields because of child care responsibilities or personal preference for something like the humanities.

Article continues: