Washington (AFP) - In a world suddenly fearful of touch, voice technology is getting a fresh look.Voice-activated systems such as Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple's Siri have seen strong growth in recent years, and the virus pandemic could accelerate that, analysts say.Voice assistants are not only answering queries and shopping, but also being used for smart home control and for a range of business and medical applications which could see increased interest as people seek to limit personal contact."Voice has already made significant inroads into the smart home space and voice control ...
Liz Cheney secretly organized key move to block Trump from using military to overturn election: report
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) was the organizer of an open letter by all living former Defense Secretaries against the military intervening in election disputes.
The revelation was made to Susan Glasser of The New Yorker by Eric Edelman, a friend of Cheney's who served as an advisor to her father.
"Cheney's rupture with the House Republican Conference has become all but final in recent days, but it has been months in the making. Edelman revealed that Cheney herself secretly orchestrated an unprecedented op-ed in the Washington Post by all ten living former Defense Secretaries, including her father, warning against Trump's efforts to politicize the military," Glasser reported.
"The congresswoman not only recruited her father but personally asked others, including Trump's first Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis, to participate. 'She was the one who generated it, because she was so worried about what Trump might do,' Edelman said. 'It speaks to the degree that she was concerned about the threat to our democracy that Trump represented.' The Post op-ed appeared on January 3rd, just three days before the insurrection at the Capitol," she reported.
It wasn't the only action she took.
"Little noticed at the time was another Cheney effort to combat Trump's post-election lies, a twenty-one-page memo written by Cheney and her husband, Phil Perry, an attorney, and circulated on January 3rd to the entire House Republican Conference. In it, Cheney debunked Trump's false claims about election fraud and warned her colleagues that voting to overturn the election results, as Trump was insisting, would 'set an exceptionally dangerous precedent.' But, of course, they did not listen. Even after the storming of the Capitol, a hundred and forty-seven Republican lawmakers voted against accepting the election results," Glaser wrote.
The joint letter was signed by Ashton Carter, Dick Cheney, William Cohen, Mark Esper, Robert Gates, Chuck Hagel, James Mattis, Leon Panetta, William Perry and Donald Rumsfeld.
American elections and the peaceful transfers of power that result are hallmarks of our democracy. With one singular and tragic exception that cost the lives of more Americans than all of our other wars combined, the United States has had an unbroken record of such transitions since 1789, including in times of partisan strife, war, epidemics and economic depression. This year should be no exception," the former defense secretaries wrote.
"Our elections have occurred. Recounts and audits have been conducted. Appropriate challenges have been addressed by the courts. Governors have certified the results. And the electoral college has voted. The time for questioning the results has passed; the time for the formal counting of the electoral college votes, as prescribed in the Constitution and statute, has arrived," they explained. "As senior Defense Department leaders have noted, 'there's no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of a U.S. election.' Efforts to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory. Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic."
A Maryland judge found that a real estate management company co-owned by Jared Kushner violated multiple consumer protection laws by improperly collecting debts, charging sham fees and misleading tenants.
Administrative Law Judge Emily Daneker wrote in a 252-page decision last week that Westminster Management and JK2 had committed "widespread and numerous" violations, in response to a lawsuit from Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh.
Kushner held a 50% stake in JK2, which is now called Westminster, as did his brother Joshua, according to the Baltimore Sun, which first reported the decision. Kushner, former President Donald Trump's son-in-law, stepped down as CEO of Kushner Companies when he joined the administration in 2017 but kept his stake in the apartment company.
Frosh filed the lawsuit against the companies and two dozen others in 2019, accusing them of having "victimized consumers, many of whom are financially vulnerable" and alleging "hundreds of thousands" of violations in Westminster's Baltimore apartment units. Frosh, a Democrat, accused the company of charging illegal fees and failing to address unhealthy conditions and rodent infestations.
Westminster alleged that Frosh's lawsuit was politically motivated, but Daneker rejected that assertion.
"The evidence does not establish differential treatment or selective enforcement based on any politically motivated basis, as opposed to motivation to protect Maryland consumers," she wrote in her decision.
Daneker found that Westminster misled tenants about apartment conditions by showing them model units but not allowing them to see their actual apartments they were renting until move-in day.
One man testified that he was shown a recently remodeled apartment but the apartment he actually rented in 2014 was dirty and smelly and his kitchen ceiling caved in the same day he moved in, according to the Sun. The company never repaired it, the man said.
A woman testified that in 2013 she was shown a newly renovated apartment, while the one she actually rented was infested with mice.
The judge said the companies had also charged illegal fees thousands of times over more than two years, and collected debts without obtaining required licenses. Maryland law allows landlords to charge up to $25 to process applications, but Westminster charged as much as twice that to more than 15,000 applicants. The companies also charged "agent fees" for costs they did not actually incur more than 28,000 times. The companies also charged $80 fees for court costs, when they only paid $50.
"This occurred a total of 2,642 times over the course of more than two years," Daneker wrote. "These circumstances do not support a finding that this was the result of isolated or inadvertent mistakes."
But Daneker said she disagreed with Frosh's claims that the companies had illegally misrepresented their ability to provide maintenance services and that the violations were committed during the entire time period cited in the lawsuit.
Both sides have 30 days to respond to Daneker's decision before the state's Consumer Protection Division issues a final order, which could include penalties or restitution. Frosh has estimated that Kushner's companies may be on the hook for millions in damages.
Kushner Companies, which recently announced it would sell half its apartments in the Baltimore area, including some mentioned in the lawsuit, framed Daneker's decision as a win.
"Kushner respects the thoughtful depth of the Judge's decision, which vindicates Westminster with respect to many of the Attorney General's overreaching allegations," Christopher Smith, an attorney for the company, told the Baltimore Sun.
Frosh has not commented on the decision. He said in 2019 that the companies put "consumers' health and well being" at risk and that tenants "have had to endure living in the units that are infested with rodents and vermin, plagued with water leaks that have caused mold and other issues, and, at times, lacking basic utilities."
Baltimore County, where most of the apartments are located, previously found in 2017 that the company had violated housing codes more than 200 times in just a 10-month span.
ProPublica published an in-depth investigation in 2017 finding that the company aggressively pursued tenants who failed to pay rent on time.
Dionne Mont, who faced numerous dubious fees after moving into a rodent-infested apartment badly in need of repairs, told ProPublica that she was "elated" by last week's decision.
"People were living in inhumane conditions," she said. "Deplorable conditions."
"The Daily Show" on Thursday covered the controversial audit of votes in Arizona by Republicans pushing Donald Trump's "Big Lie" about election fraud.
Host Trevor Noah explained his view on the legitimacy of the process.
"Now, you might think it's crazy to have election conspiracy theorists in charge of an election audits. But to me, this makes perfect sense. Because don't forget, this is the third audit they've done in Arizona. At this point, you aren't going through the effort of counting again unless you know the guys you're hiring are going to give you the result you want. This is just smart," he said, while pointing to his head.
The host lost composure when reporting on the bamboo ballots conspiracy theory.
"No, no, no, no I"m, sorry, no, America is not real. This dudes are searching the ballot for bamboo? Like a bunch of starving pandas? Like, who are these people? You know, sometimes -- sometimes I actually wish I was a conspiracy theorist because there's never a dull moment. They can turn a regular-ass Thursday into an Indiana Jones movie like this," he said, with a snap of his fingers.
Cyber ninjas. Bamboo ballots. Secret watermarks. Here’s how a bunch of conspiracy theorists in Arizona are trying… https://t.co/ZYGLJNf5JM— The Daily Show (@The Daily Show)1620352855.0
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