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Nation & World Briefs


Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Facebook: We’re better at policing nudity than hate speech

SAN FRANCISCO — Getting rid of racist, sexist and other hateful remarks on Facebook is more challenging than weeding out other types of unacceptable posts because computer programs still stumble over the nuances of human language, the company revealed Tuesday.

Facebook’s self-assessment showed its policing system is far better at scrubbing graphic violence, gratuitous nudity and terrorist propaganda. Automated tools detected 86 percent to 99.5 percent of the violations Facebook identified in those categories.

For hate speech, Facebook’s human reviewers and computer algorithms identified just 38 percent of the violations. The rest came after Facebook users flagged the offending content for review.

Facebook also disclosed that it disabled nearly 1.3 billion fake accounts in the six months ending in March. Had the company failed to do so, its user base would have swelled beyond its current 2.2 billion. Fake accounts have gotten more attention in recent months after it was revealed that Russian agents used them to buy ads to try to influence the 2016 elections.

Even after all that disabling, though, Facebook has said that 3 percent to 4 percent of its active monthly users are fake, meaning up to 88 million fake accounts slip through.

CIA nominee toughens interrogation stance, picks up support

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee appeared to be on a path toward confirmation as she picked up support from key Democrats Tuesday and toughened her public stance against harsh interrogation.

“With the benefit of hindsight and my experience as a senior agency leader, the enhanced interrogation program is not one the CIA should have undertaken,” Gina Haspel said in written answers to more than 60 questions released by the Senate intelligence committee.

Haspel, who was involved in supervising a secret CIA detention site in Thailand, wrote that she had learned “hard lessons since 9/11.” In comments aimed at clarifying her position on now-banned torture techniques, Haspel said that she would “refuse to undertake any proposed activity that is contrary to my moral and ethical values.”

“I do not support use of enhanced interrogation techniques for any purpose,” Haspel wrote.

The Senate intelligence committee is expected to vote Wednesday to recommend that the full Senate confirm her.

Judge: Special counsel had authority to prosecute Manafort

WASHINGTON — A federal judge in Washington ruled Tuesday that special counsel Robert Mueller was working within his authority when he brought charges against President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman.

The decision was a setback for Paul Manafort in his defense against charges of money-laundering conspiracy, false statements and acting as an unregistered foreign agent. Manafort had argued that Mueller had exceeded his authority because the case was unrelated to Russian election interference.

But U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson disagreed, siding with prosecutors who had produced an August 2017 memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The memo shows Rosenstein authorized Mueller to investigate Manafort’s Ukrainian work and related financial crimes.

Jackson had previously thrown out a civil case Manafort brought challenging Mueller’s authority.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for the special counsel’s office, declined to comment.

Will he or won’t he? Presence of Markle’s father in doubt

LONDON — Thomas Markle spent a career in Hollywood, but nothing prepared him for this.

The father of royal bride-to-be Meghan Markle has been quoted as saying he will not attend his daughter’s wedding to Prince Harry this week after suffering a reported heart attack amid the intense media interest around the nuptials.

The retired television cinematographer was expected due to walk his actress daughter down the aisle Saturday at Windsor Castle’s St. George’s Chapel. But celebrity news website TMZ reported Tuesday that Markle would undergo heart surgery and miss the wedding, the latest story in the site’s fluid coverage of whether he would or would not make it.

Kensington Palace on Monday issued a statement calling for “understanding and respect to be extended to Mr. Markle in this difficult situation.” The palace did not say whether wedding plans had actually changed.

The palace issued the statement hours after TMZ first reported Monday that the elder Markle decided to stay away from the event. The website said his decision was due to tongue-clucking over the mocked up wedding-preparation photographs he posed for at the invitation of a paparazzi agency.

Remembering author Tom Wolfe, ‘a magician’ with words

NEW YORK — You only had to look at him — in his white suits and two-tone shoes — or read such books as “The Bonfire of the Vanities” and “The Right Stuff” to know that Tom Wolfe was like no other.

“He was a magician,” Wolfe’s friend and fellow “New Journalist” Gay Talese told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “He would take a sentence and work that sentence in loops and do all kinds of things with words. He’d take you out for a spin and after a while you’d wonder if he knew where he was headed. But he always knew exactly where he was headed.”

Wolfe, who died Monday at age 88, was a rule breaker and traditionalist and a man of other contradictions. He mingled happily with hippies and published in Rolling Stone, but was a supporter of Ronald Reagan and otherwise old-fashioned in his tastes. He mocked the insular nature of American fiction, but was gracious in person, making a point before literary luncheons of reading the works of his fellow guests.

In recent years, he was badly stooped, but still stylish as he moved about with the help of a high cane with a wolf’s head on top. Ever curious and energetic, he had figured out the world long before.

Whether sending up the New York art scene or hanging out with acid heads, Wolfe inevitably presented man as a status-seeking animal, concerned above all about the opinion of his peers. Wolfe himself dressed for company — his trademark a pale three-piece suit, two-tone shoes and a silk tie.

From Associated Press