Posts tagged with "The Washington Post"

Rain check: The ClimaCell weather app alerts you to when it will rain in your town, down to the minute

August 14, 2019

Is a cloud about to burst in your immediate vicinity? Now there’s an easy and accurate way to find out.

ClimaCell, a four-year-old weather technology company based in Boston, “is on a mission to map all of the weather data in the world—and to become the “default microweather platform of the emerging technology.”

The firm—founded by a team of former military officers from the Harvard Business School and MIT Sloan—launched its weather app on August 12, offering meteorological notifications for exact locations in more than 50 countries.

It promises “street-by-street, minute-by-minute short-term forecasts, according to a report by The Washington Post.

But how does the company provide such on-target, on-time forecasts?

 ClimaCell has developed a global network of weather data that marries traditional observations of pressure, temperature, precipitation and wind with information drawn from wireless signals, satellites, connected cars, airplanes, street cameras, drones and other electronic sources, the Post reports. Millions of pieces of weather data can be derived from these technologies. It’s what the company describes as the “weather of things” (versus “the Internet of things).

This mix of data is fed into ClimaCell’s forecast models, operated in Boulder, Colorado The company created the NowCast model that gives highly specific, minute-by-minute forecasts out to six hours—as well as a longer-term model, known as CBAM, that produces forecasts out to six days.

These models are designed to provide forecasts to help businesses solve problems in which “extra accuracy” is needed, according to CE0 Shimon Elkabetz.

Many of the weather companies operating today, founded in the 1960s and 1970s, just take model forecasts from different governments, blend them, and use statistical techniques to try to make them better. But ClimaCell is creating its forecasts from scratch.

Elkabetz said early results on its accuracy are promising. Compared with government forecasts, “we’ve been able to improve almost every parameter in every time frame,” Elkabetz said.

ClimaCell has also created a software platform that allows its forecasts to be optimized and tuned to customers’ needs. Elkabetz said it can generate forecast output for any weather variable of interest, at any location and at different degrees of specificity.

The forecasts are updated or “refreshed” constantly, which is the “best way” to increase their accuracy, according to Daniel Rothenberg, ClimaCell’s chief scientist. “In our U.S. precipitation NowCast, we refresh [the forecast] end to end in under five minutes,” he told The Washington Post.

By comparison, the U.S. government model used for short-range precipitation prediction, known as the HRRR (high-resolution rapid refresh model) updates hourly.

To date, the company has worked with airlines, energy, and on-demand transportation companies, and even with the New England Patriots. JetBlue, initially a customer, was so impressed by the results that it became an investor.

“We’re trying to become the leading private company in the weather space,” Elkabetz said.

The app is available on the AppStore for iOS devices, and an Android version is to be launched in September. The app is free and does not contain advertisements, but ClimaCell does plan to charge for certain features, such as notifications for precipitation beyond a certain time.

Research contact: @ClimaCell

More than 200 U.S. mayors demand that Senate reconvene to pass background check bills

August 9, 2019

More than 200 U.S. mayors—including a half-dozen whose cities have experienced recent high-profile mass shootings—wrote a letter to Senate leaders on Thursday, August 8, urging Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) to reconvene he lawmakers in order to pass legislation strengthening background checks for gun buyers, The Washington Post reported.

On behalf of The United States Conference of Mayors, we urge you to immediately call the Senate back to Washington to take action on bipartisan gun safety legislation,” they said. The conference is the official non-partisan organization of American cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are 1,408 such cities nationwide—each of them represented by a mayor.

Those who signed include El Paso Mayor Dee Margo (R) and Dayton, Ohio, Mayor Nan Whaley (D). Separate shootings left 31 dead in their two cities over the weekend, the news outlet stated.

The mayors of several other cities that have experienced mass shootings in recent years were also on-board with the missive, including those of Annapolis, Orlando, Parkland, Florida, and Pittsburgh.

Specifically, the Post reported, the mayors are asking the Senate to return from August recess to pass two bills that were approved earlier this year by the Democratic-led House but that have not been advanced in the Republican-led Senate by McConnell, who has been nicknamed the Grim Reaper.

A spokesperson for McConnell did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the letter from the Post. Earlier this week, McConnell issued a statement saying Senate Republicans were prepared to “do our part” to address mass shootings, but the statement made no mention of the House-passed bills.

In the aftermath of the weekend shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) urged McConnell to call senators back to Washington.

“To @SenateMajLdr McConnell, we say #EnoughIsEnough. Stop blocking gun safety reforms over 90% of Americans support. Gavel the Senate into emergency session to take immediate action on the bipartisan, House-passed universal background checks legislation.”

Trump has threatened to veto the two bills, saying they do not sufficiently protect the Second Amendment rights of gun owners.

Since the weekend shootings, however, the Post reports, Trump has expressed a new openness to considering background checks. Speaking to reporters Wednesday, he said that there “was great appetite for background checks” and that he was “looking to do background checks.” He did not specifically mention the House-passed bills.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

GOP trashes Joaquin Castro for tweeting the names of top Trump donors

August 8, 2019

Now that their names are in the news, major GOP donors are not quite so confident that gun violence is not the issue. In fact, they say they have been “targeted” in the wake of last weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, The Washington Post reports.

The 44 names (see list)that Representative Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) tweeted out late on Monday, August 6, have at least two things in common, the Post notes: They’re all constituents in his district, and they all donated the maximum amount to President Donald Trump’s campaign this year.

The congressman and brother of presidential hopeful Julián Castro said the people liste — including retirees, business owners and other individuals whose names are public record — were “fueling a campaign of hate.”

“Sad to see so many San Antonians as 2019 maximum donors to Donald Trump—the owner of @BillMillerBarBQ, owner of the @HistoricPearl, realtor Phyllis Browning, etc.,” Castro wrote. “Their contributions are fueling a campaign of hate that labels Hispanic immigrants as invaders.”

Castro, who also serves as chairman for his brother’s presidential campaign, spent much of August 7 deflecting intense criticism from GOP lawmakers and others. They contended that Castro was “targeting” the listed donors by tweeting their names to his thousands of followers—a serious accusation in the aftermath of two mass shootings that left 31 people dead and many more wounded.

“This is grossly inappropriate, especially in the wake of recent tragic shootings,” replied Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas).This win-at-all-costs mentality, publicly targeting an opponent’s supporters, and encouraging retaliation is dangerous and not what Texans have a right to expect from their members of Congress.”

Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-California) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) took similar positions, and the latter accused Castro of “outing” his own constituents.

EVERYONE needs to tone the hateful partisan rhetoric way down,” Cruz tweeted., adding, “This is WRONG & Castro should retract it. In our constitutional Republic, the People rightly hold their representatives accountable; elected representatives should not be vilifying & doxxing their own constituents.”

To that, Castro replied, “No one was targeted or harassed in my post. You know that. All that info is routinely published. You’re trying to distract from the racism that has overtaken the GOP and the fact that President Trump spends donor money on thousands of ads about Hispanics “invading” America. “

He added, “My post was a lament-that so many people in my overwhelmingly Hispanic hometown would give money to a President who is using it to target Hispanics as ‘invaders.’ No one was doxxed-no private address or phone #s were shared.”

Tim Murtaugh, a Trump campaign spokesperson, said in a Tuesday evening tweet that Castro was “inviting harassment” of the private citizens listed. “At worst, he’s encouraging violence,” Murtaugh wrote. “This is a target list.”

In a separate statement to The Washington Post, Murtaugh said that “this naming of private citizens and their employers is reckless and irresponsible. He is endangering the safety of people he is supposed to be representing. No one should be targeted for exercising their First Amendment rights or for their political beliefs. He should delete the tweet, apologize, and his brother’s campaign should disavow it.”

However, Castro again pushed back, referring to recent reports that the Trump campaign had paid for thousands of ads on Facebook that use the word “invasion” in reference to immigration.

“Donald Trump has put a target on the back of millions,” Castro said in one response. “How about I stop mentioning Trump’s public campaign donors and he stops using their money for ads that fuel hate?”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Moscow Mitch denies he is aiding Kremlin

August 1, 2019

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) is angered by his new nickname, Moscow Mitch. On July 29, he strode to the Senate floor to defend his decision to block an election security bill and lashed out at critics who suggested he was helping Russia—complaining that they had engaged in “modern-day McCarthyism” to “smear” his record.

“The[y] … [don’t] let a little thing like reality get in their way,” said McConnell in a nearly 30-minute speech , according to a report by The Washington Post.

The Republican ringleader—who has blocked every bill passed by the Democratic House during this session—saw fit to say, “They [perceived] the perfect opportunity to distort and tell lies and fuel the flames of partisan hatred, and so they did.”

McConnell was responding primarily to an opinion column by The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, published July 26 under the headline, “Mitch McConnell is a Russian asset.”

The majority leader used what is usually a speech on the Senate’s upcoming workweek to issue an angry denunciation of the column and some liberal commentators on MSNBC—accusing Senate Democrats of helping fan the liberal flames, the news outlet reported.

Last week, former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified to Congress about Russian interference in the 2016 election and about whether President Trump had tried to obstruct the inquiry. Casting Russian sabotage as a serious threat to the United States, Mueller warned that interference efforts were happening “as we sit” in the hearing rooms.

Hours after Mueller’s testimony, Democrats tried to get the Senate to vote on bipartisan election security legislation. Republicans objected. The next day, Democrats tried to get a vote on a bill that would have authorized hundreds of millions of dollars to update voting equipment. McConnell objected, The Washington Post noted.

Fred Hiatt, The Post’s editorial page editor, defended Milbank’s column and criticized the GOP leader for invoking McCarthyism.  “Dana Milbank’s column was a legitimate exercise in commentary, making the argument that Senator McConnell’s blocking of elections-security legislation will harm the United States and work to Russia’s advantage. Of course it’s equally legitimate for Mr. McConnell to express a contrary view, but the Milbank argument has nothing to do with McCarthyism,” Hiatt said in a statement.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Mueller muddles through Judiciary Committee testimony

July 25, 2019

In more than three hours of testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning, July 24, former Special Counsel Robert Mueller refused to answer many questions, saying they were outside his purview; responded to others with only a “yes” or a “no;” refrained from reading relevant portions of his own report—and did not add any personal color to the story line on the president’s efforts to obstruct the investigation.

Overall, his performance did not deliver the dramatic narrative, or the television moment, that Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-New York) and his Democratic committee members had hoped would captivate the American audience.

However, the former special counsel did clarify a number of points—putting the kibosh on the president’s constant claims of “TOTAL EXONERATON. NO COLLUSION.”

Director Mueller,” Nadler asked, “the president has repeatedly claimed that your report found there was no obstruction and that it completely and totally exonerated him, but that is not what your report said, is it?”

“Correct,” Mueller replied. “That is not what the report said.”

“So the report did not conclude that he did not commit obstruction of justice, is that correct?” Nadler asked.

“That is correct,” Mueller replied.

“And what about total exoneration? Did you totally exonerate the president?” Nadler continued.

“No,” Mueller said.

“Does your report state there is sufficient factual and legal basis for further investigation of potential obstruction of justice by the president?” Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) later inquired.

“Yes,” Mueller replied.

What’s more, in a line of questioning by Representative Ted Lieu (D-California), the legislator got Mueller to agree that the reason he did not indict Trump for obstruction was that he deferred to the opinion of the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel that a sitting president cannot be indicted.

When asked, Mueller also confirmed that Russia was working on Donald Trump’s behalf during the 2020 presidential campaign.

“Did your investigation find that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from one of the candidates winning?” Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-California) entreated him.

“It did,”Mueller replied.

Lofgren then asked for specificity: “Which one?”

“Well,” Mueller said, “it would be Trump.”

In fact, Mueller went on to say, “During the course of my career I have seen a number of challenges to our democracy”—and noted that the Russian interference into the 2020 elections was “the worst.”

Finally, as Republicans tried to make points, frequently shouting, Representative Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) attempted to establish that Mueller had been “conflicted” in carrying out the investigation because he had interviewed with Trump the day before for the position of FBI director.

 “Not as a candidate,” Mueller replied. He noted that he met with Trump on May 16, 2017, to discuss the then-vacant FBI director position, a position that he once had held— but not because he was a candidate for the job. He said he merely outlined what it would take to do the job.

Indeed, as The Washington Post’s Devlin Barrett tweeted, Mueller is barred by law from holding the FBI director position again. Barrett’s sources did say that White House staffers raised the possibility of changing that law, but that doesn’t comport with Trump’s presentation of Mueller as having gotten “turned down” in seeking the position.

Mueller was due to appear before the House Intelligence Committee during the afternoon session—where hopes that he would tell a colorful narrative on Russian interference that would shift public opinion still were high.

Research contact: @HouseJudiciary

Going south? Trump’s Miami resort in mix to host G7 summit

July 23, 2019

The Trump administration, which next year will host the leaders of the world’s seven most powerful industrialized economies for the G7 summit, is down to its final few choices after completing site surveys of possible locations —and Trump National Doral, the president’s 800-acre golf club in Miami, is among the finalists, Axios reported on July 22.

The G7 comprises the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Canada—traditionally, this country’s closest allies; although President Trump has shown a preference for other nation states during his time in office.

Trump loves showing off and promoting his properties with no qualms about criticism for mixing state and personal business, and his interest in hosting the G7 at Doral was first mentioned by The Washington Post last month.

The Post also reported, on May 15, that the Doral was “in steep decline, according to [Trump Organization] documents,” with operating income down 69% since 2015.

The downturn at this Trump property “is especially significant,” the Post said, “because the resort had seemed better insulated from political backlash than other Trump properties, protected by its place in golf’s history, by its recent renovations, and by its location in a booming state that won Trump won in 2016.” It wasn’t.

Thus, the G7 would provide opportunities for extra conference bookings and worldwide publicity for the underperforming property.

This would be the first G7 summit since 2012 to be held in the United States. At that time, former President Barack Obama invited leaders to Camp David.

Research contact: @Axios

Russian roulette: FaceApp has gone viral, but is it a new case of Russkie (and risky) skullduggery?

July 19, 2019

Maybe cheese and wine get better with age, but people? Not so much. The human face and body tend to sag, wrinkle, and discolor as the years go on—no matter how good the bone structure.

So why is everyone on social media so excited about a new smartphone app that allows users to upload selfies and see their future faces, replete with jowls and graying hair?

Celebrities such as Drake, LeBron James, and the Jonas Brothers all have used the instant aging app, much to fans’ delight.

In fact, according to a report by The Washington Post, FaceApp has altered photos for more than 80 million users since its 2017 release; and allows smartphone users to change a facial photo’s age, gender, or hairstyle—often with convincing results. The app uses artificial-intelligence software to automatically alter the photos in seconds, much like similar features offered by Instagram and Snapchat.

But there is one major catch, we are just finding out: On July 17, the  Democratic National Committee warned presidential campaigns against using the viral face-transforming FaceApp, citing the software’s Russian developers. It urged campaign staff to “delete the app immediately.”

 “This novelty is not without risk: FaceApp was developed by Russians,” DNC Security Chief Bob Lord wrote in the alert to campaigns, which was first reported by CNN. “It’s not clear at this point what the privacy risks are, but what is clear is that the benefits of avoiding the app outweigh the risks.

Founder and CEO Yaroslav Goncharov told The Washington Post that FaceApp’s research-and-development team is based in Russia but that no user data is transferred into the country, and “most images” are deleted from company servers within 48 hours.

However, the app’s terms of service say users grant the company a “perpetual, irrevocable . . . [and] worldwide” license to use a user’s photos, name or likeness in practically any way it sees fit, the Post points out.

If a user deletes content from the app, FaceApp can still store and use it, the terms say. FaceApp also says it can’t guarantee that users’ data or information is secure and that the company can share user information with other companies and third-party advertisers, which aren’t disclosed in the privacy terms.

Goncharov said that users who want to remove their data from FaceApp can make the request through the app by clicking “Settings,” then “Support,” then “Report a bug” with “privacy” in the subject line. “Our support team is currently overloaded, but these requests have our priority,” a company statement read.

FaceApp’s terms of service say it can share information with a government agency if a subpoena, court order or search warrant is issued and the company has “a good faith belief that the law requires” it to do so. This information can also be shared with any country that FaceApp maintains facilities in, including Russia.

According to the Post, people who use the app also “consent to the processing, transfer and storage of information about you in and to the United States and other countries, where you may not have the same rights and protections as you do under local law.”

Kate O’Neill, a tech consultant, told the news outlet that FaceApp’s privacy terms are still murky, despite the company’s clarification. “People should be savvy about when apps and memes and games are encouraging everyone to engage in the same way,” she said. “It puts the data in a vulnerable state that becomes something that can train facial recognition and other kinds of systems that may not be intended the way people are using it.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

House showdown on impeachment could be imminent

July 18, 2019

Following  President Donald Trump’s racists tweets and rants this week against the four progressive congresswomen of color who have been dubbed The Squad, Representative Al Green (D-Texas) introduced articles of impeachment on July 16, forcing a vote—and setting up a potential showdown—in the Democratic-controlled House.

Under House rules, The Huffington Post reported, Green can force the chamber to act on his resolution within two legislative days. He has called for an up-or-down vote. House leadership could vote to table it or refer it to the Judiciary Committee for action.

The vote was predicted to take place as soon as Wednesday night, July 17. The Texas lawmaker read the articles aloud on the House floor on Tuesday night, citing the president’s “go back” to other countries rant against Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York), Ilhan Omar (Minnesota), Ayanna Pressley (Massachusetts), and Rashida Tlaib (Michigan).

Green said, ″Donald John Trump, by causing such harm to the society of the United States, is unfit to be president and warrants impeachment, trial and removal from office”

Further, Green accused the president of bringing “contempt, ridicule, disgrace, and disrepute” to the office, The Huffington Post reported.

Although House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) has so far defied calls for impeachment—fearful that her party members could face political jeopardy in 2020, if they go forward—according to The Washington Post, 86 House Democrats say they support at least opening an impeachment inquiry.

Green’s resolution came hours after the House voted to condemn as racist Trump’s attacks on the four freshmen.

“To condemn a racist President is not enough, we must impeach him,” Green said in a statement Tuesday about his decision to introduce articles of impeachment against Trump. “This will be a defining vote. The world is watching, and history will judge us all.”

Research contact: @RepAlGreen

Editor’s note:  NBC News reported that the House voted on Wednesday to table Green’s resolution to impeach the president. Led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) the vote came in at 332-95, effectively killing the measure.

Speaker Pelosi tells ‘The Squad’ not to knock heads with more moderate House Democrats

July 12, 2019

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) laid down the law to House Democrats on July 10. The elder statesperson and party leader said that in-fighting among caucus members could not be countenanced—either on Twitter or in media interviews—because it would jeopardize their majority vote.

Without naming names, her target was clear: the four liberal freshmen known as “The Squad,” The Washington Post reported.

“You got a complaint? You come and talk to me about it. But do not tweet about our members and expect us to think that that is just okay,” Pelosi told Democrats.

But “The Squad”—Representatives. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York.), Ilhan Omar (Minnesota), Rashida Tlaib (Michigan) and Ayanna Pressley (Massachusetts)—said she was speaking from a bully pulpit and that they didn’t appreciate her tactics of intimidation.

The four are struggling with the speaker’s moves to isolate them in recent weeks, according to the Post’s interviews with the lawmakers, congressional aides and allies.

According to the news outlet, Pelosi has made at least half a dozen remarks dismissing the group or their far-left proposals on the environment and health care. More recently she scorned their lonely opposition to the party’s emergency border bill last month.

And, the Post reported, she defended those comments Wednesday, saying, “I have no regrets about anything. Regrets is not what I do,” doubling down on her claim that the group has little power in the House.

“When these comments first started, I kind of thought that she was keeping the progressive flank at more of an arm’s distance in order to protect more moderate members, which I understood,” Ocasio-Cortez told The Washington Post. “But the persistent singling out . . . it got to a point where it was just outright disrespectful . . . the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color.”

The four women are trying to figure out how to respond, texting one another and weighing whether to confront Pelosi to ask her to stop. But for now, they are focused on their congressional duties, even as they defend their votes in the House that have drawn Pelosi’s ire.

“Thank God my mother gave me broad shoulders and a strong back. I can handle it. I’m not worried about me,” said Pressley, who called Pelosi’s comments “demoralizing.” “I am worried about the signal that it sends to people I speak to and for, who sent me here with a mandate, and how it affects them.”

However, their ability to work together—or refusal to—will have major implications for Democrats as they seek to oust President Trump and retain their majority in next year’s election.

“A majority is a fragile thing,” Pelosi said, according to two people present for the remarks, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private meeting, adding that members should show “some level of respect and sensitivity” to more moderate colleagues: “You make me the target, but don’t make our [moderates] the target in all of this, because we have important fish to fry.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

‘Tanks for the memories,’ President Trump, on July 4

July 4, 2019

For a military school graduate who never served as a combatant, the July 4 Salute to America celebration on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., could be the closest President Donald Trump ever gets to the accoutrements of armored warfare.

The event will feature displays of military hardware; flyovers by an array of jets, including Air Force One, the deployment of tanks on the Mall; and an extended pyrotechnics show.

Even more unusual for the nationwide nonpartisan celebration will be a presidential address at the Lincoln Memorial that Democrats fear will ramble across political lines into Trump’s usual campaign rally palaver.

And the expense for all of this, plus the usual concert and parade—and any repairs necessitated afterwards by damage to local roads from the tanks—will be higher than ever before.

The National Park Service is diverting nearly $2.5 million in entrance and recreation fees primarily intended to improve parks across the country to cover costs associated with President Trump’s Independence Day celebration, The Washington Post reported on July 2..

The diverted park fees represent just a fraction of the extra costs the government faces as a result of the event. By comparison, former Park Service deputy director Denis P. Galvin told the Post, the entire Fourth of July celebration on the Mall typically costs the agency about $2 million.

For Trump’s planned speech at the Lincoln Memorial, the White House is distributing VIP tickets to Republican donors and political appointees, the news outlet reported—prompting objections from Democratic lawmakers, who argue that the president has turned the annual celebration into a campaign-like event.

The Republican National Committee and Trump’s reelection campaign confirmed Tuesday that they had received passes they were handing out for the event.

 “We’ve never seen anything like this,” Senator Tom Udall (New Mexico), the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the interior, environment and related agencies, said in a phone interview with the Post. “No ticketed political event should be paid for with taxpayer dollars.”

Udall said Interior Secretary David Bernhardt had yet to respond to a request he and two other Senate Democrats made two weeks ago for a full accounting of how the event would be conducted and what it would cost.

The White House referred questions about the celebration to the Interior Department, which declined to comment.

Brendan Fischer, federal reform director for the Campaign Legal Center, said in an interview with the newspaper that while it may not violate federal ethics law to distribute limited tickets to the president’s speech to party contributors, “it certainly looks bad.”

Since federal appropriations law prohibits using public money for political purposes, Fischer noted, the issue will depend on what Trump says in his speech. If he refers to some of the 2020 presidential hopefuls, or polling related to the race, Trump’s reelection campaign may be required to reimburse the U.S. Treasury.

“The content of the event, and the nature of the event, is probably the determining factor,” as opposed to donors getting to see Trump up close, he said.

The  Salute to America marks the culmination of Trump’s two-year quest to mount a military-style extravaganza inspired by his visit to a Bastille Day celebration in Paris in 2017, The Washington Post reported. His previous efforts to stage a Veterans Day military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in 2018 were scuttled after estimated costs ballooned to the tens of millions of dollars.

Research contact: @washingtonpost