LBN – Friday, January 12th, 2015

*LOOK MA, NO HANDS! –  GM Introduces Self-Driving Car That Has No Steering Wheel
General Motors’ self-driving division, Cruise Automation, has released a new autonomous vehicle that has no steering wheel or any other manual controls. Cruise hopes the modified Chevy Bolt will be tested and then serve in ride-hailing services. All other autonomous vehicles presented by major companies have still included manual controls, but Cruise has said there is no need for an accelerator, brake pedals, or steering wheel in their creation. Multiple screens throughout the vehicle will allow the passengers to communicate with it.
*Senator Insists Trump Used ‘Vile and Racist’ Language

President Trump on Friday offered a vague denial about the language he chose to use about immigrants during a private meeting with lawmakers at the White House on Thursday, when he reportedly referred to African nations as “shithole countries.” But Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, said on Friday that the president did use the term “shithole,” repeatedly, during the course of the meeting on immigration — which Mr. Durbin attended. The senator described Mr. Trump as saying “things which were hate-filled, vile and racist.” In a Twitter post on Friday, just hours before the president was scheduled to sign a proclamation to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is Monday, Mr. Trump appeared to parse the language he spoke about immigrants from different regions of the world. The president wrote that he never said of Haitians, “take them out.”

*Trump Is Expected to Stop Short of Reimposing Strict Sanctions on Iran: 

President Trump has again stopped short of reimposing draconian sanctions on Iran that could break up its nuclear deal with world powers, two people briefed on his decision said on Thursday, but he is expected to give Congress and European allies a deadline to improve the deal or the United States will pull out of it. He also approved targeted sanctions against several Iranian government officials for corruption and human rights abuses, some of it related to the antigovernment protests that have convulsed Iranian cities this month, these people said. Mr. Trump’s action, which the White House will announce on Friday, is the third time he has given a reprieve to the agreement brokered by President Barack Obama, despite having labeled it “the worst deal ever” and threatening repeatedly to rip it up.

*Facebook Overhauls News Feed to Focus on What Friends and Family Share:  

Facebook has introduced sweeping changes to the kinds of posts, videos and photos that its more than two billion members will see most often, saying on Thursday that it would prioritize what their friends and family share and comment on while de-emphasizing content from publishers and brands. The shift is the most significant overhaul in years to Facebook’s News Feed, the cascading screen of content that people see when they log into the social network. Over the next few weeks, users will begin seeing fewer viral videos and news articles shared by media companies. Instead, Facebook will highlight posts that friends have interacted with — for example, a photo of your dog or a status update that many of them have commented on or liked. The changes are intended to maximize the amount of content with “meaningful interaction” that people consume on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s chief executive, said in an interview. Facebook, he said, had closely studied what kinds of posts had stressed or harmed users. The social network wants to reduce what Mr. Zuckerberg called “passive content” — videos and articles that ask little more of the viewer than to sit back and watch or read — so that users’ time on the site was well spent.

*Trump: I Canceled London Visit Over ‘Bad Deal’ for U.S. Embassy

President Trump confirmed late Thursday that he’s canceled a planned visit to London, claiming he’d done so out of anger at the U.S. Embassy’s new location there, not out of fear of mass protests. “I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for ‘peanuts,’ only to build a new one in an off location for 1.2 billion dollars. Bad deal,” Trump tweeted. Several outlets pointed out that the decision to move the embassy was made in 2008, during President George W. Bush’s tenure—before Obama was even elected, but completed in 2009 for a price that hasn’t been disclosed. Trump’s comments came shortly after The Guardian reported the visit had been called off over the possibility of widespread protests. British Prime Minister Theresa May had initially invited Trump for a state visit, but amid pressure from members of Parliament, Trump was expected to do a “working visit.”


*Report: Russian Gov’t Hackers Prepped for U.S. Senate Attack

They’re back. The Russian government-linked hackers known as APT28—the same group that successfully hacked the Democratic National Committee—appear to have registered a slew of websites in preparation of an attack against the U.S. Senate, according to new research from cybersecurity firm Trend Micro. “Beginning in June 2017, phishing sites were set up mimicking the ADFS (Active Directory Federation Services) of the U.S. Senate,” senior threat researcher Feike Hacquebord wrote in a blog post published Friday. According to Trend Micro’s research, APT28, which is sometimes dubbed Pawn Storm or Fancy Bear, also targeted a slew of Winter Olympics organizations, including the European Ice Hockey Federation and the International Ski Federation. Back in 2016, the group hacked the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which late last year pushed the International Olympic Committee to ban the entire Russian team from next month’s Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. “With the Olympics and several significant global elections taking place in 2018, we can be sure Pawn Storm’s activities will continue,” Hacquebord adds.

*Revealed: British Crown Jewels Were Hidden From Nazis in a Cracker Tin

The most valuable gems from Britain’s crown jewels were prized from their settings and buried in a biscuit tin at Windsor Castle during the Second World War to ensure that they would not fall into Nazi hands in the event of an invasion, it was revealed Friday. The operation to hide the jewels was ordered by the present queen’s father, George VI, and was such a closely guarded secret that the queen only found out precisely what happened during the filming of a BBC documentary on the subject. The most precious jewels—the Black Prince’s Ruby and St. Edward’s Sapphire—were removed from the crown and hidden underground until the end of the war in an empty tin of Bath Oliver biscuits—an expensive cracker for cheese, synonymous with the upper echelons of British society.

*LBN-MEDIA INSIDER:   ***“Molly’s Game” star Jessica Chastain will host “Saturday Night Live” on January 20, with musical guest Troye Sivan. This will be Chastain’s first time as host on the SNL stage. SNL vet Will Ferrell returns for his fourth time as host on January 27, with musical guest Chris Stapleton.

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*LBN-NOTICED:   *** “Leonardo da Vinci” author Walter Isaacson at Michael’s in NYC.   ***Tina Fey seeing Amy Schumer in “Meteor Shower.”  ***Veteran film writer and director Peter Hankoff having dinner last night at Louise’s on Pico Blvd. in L.A.

*LBN-MUSIC INSIDER:  ***Britney Spears has reportedly signed a deal for a new Las Vegas residency in 2019 just weeks after completing her last run in the city. The 36-year-old pop star is said to be returning to the stage for a brand new residency at Las Vegas’ Park Theater, inside the Monte Carlo resort, shortly after Lady Gaga completes her residency there.   ***John Fogerty says he’s annoyed that Taraji P. Henson’s new film, “Proud Mary,” borrows from his popular song’s name without his involvement. Fogerty does not own the rights to his infamous song. In a statement released Thursday, he says “it irks me when people seek to capitalize on the popularity of my music” for their own financial gain. Henson plays a hit woman in “Proud Mary,” to be released on Friday. Its trailer uses Tina Turner’s version of Fogerty’s 1969 song.

*LBN-SPORTS INSIDER:   ***Tonya Harding’s comeback tour just took a nightstick to the knee over her own greed and denial. The disgraced figure skater was dumped by her own publicist/agent for demanding that journalists pay fines if they dare ask about the kneecapping Nancy Kerrigan suffered ahead of the 1994 Winter Olympics. Michael A. Rosenberg, who represented Harding during the “I, Tonya” promotional tour, revealed the demand in a Facebook post (via Twitter) on Thursday.

*LBN-COMMENTARY by David Brooks: Everybody agrees society is in a bad way, but what exactly is the main cause of the badness? Some people emphasize economic issues: The simultaneous concentration of wealth at the top and the stagnation in the middle has delegitimized the system. People like me emphasize cultural issues. If you have 60 years of radical individualism and ruthless meritocracy, you’re going to end up with a society that is atomized, distrustful and divided. But some emphasize the intellectual. The people who designed our liberal democratic system made fundamental errors, which are now coming home to roost. Notre Dame political scientist Patrick Deneen falls into this camp. His new book, “Why Liberalism Failed,” is a challenge to those of us who want to revive the liberal democratic order. It will attract a cult following among those who are losing faith in the whole project. Deneen argues that liberal democracy has betrayed its promises. It was supposed to foster equality, but it has led to great inequality and a new aristocracy. It was supposed to give average people control over government, but average people feel alienated from government. It was supposed to foster liberty, but it creates a degraded popular culture in which consumers become slave to their appetites. Many young people feel trapped in a system they have no faith in. Deneen quotes one of his students: “Because we view humanity — and thus its institutions — as corrupt and selfish, the only person we can rely upon is our self. The only way we can avoid failure, being let down, and ultimately succumbing to the chaotic world around us, therefore, is to have the means (financial security) to rely only upon ourselves.”

*LBN-COMMENTARY by Lloyd Grove: Christopher Ruddy, chief executive and controlling owner of the right-leaning print and television outlet Newsmax, wishes his friend, Donald Trump, would rein in his incendiary, personally abusive social media presence, and submit all of his tweets to White House staff review before pulling the trigger.  Ruddy also wishes the president would stop antagonizing foreign-born residents of the United States with demagogic insults and harsh policies, and instead adopt a more humanistic approach that allows the American-raised children of illegal aliens to remain here, and embraces comprehensive immigration reform. Ruddy reacted with bewilderment to Trump’s reported comment—in a private negotiating session Thursday with half a dozen senators—that he would rather welcome immigrants from countries like Norway instead of “shithole countries” in Africa and Latin America. Ruddy noted that the president has denied the reports. “If he did say it, it’s not appropriate… I don’t know completely what to make of it.”


*LBN-OVERHEARD:   ***Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has waded into the Hollywood sexual assault scandal – backing Catherine Deneuve’s view that men should be “free to hit on” women. Berlusconi,, said that French actress Deneuve “spoke blessed words.” He said: “It is natural women are happy that a man courts them. I don’t have much experience with this because it’s always women who try to seduce me.”

LBN E-Lert Edited By Dan Gaylord