Trump arrested? Putin jailed? Fake AI images spread online
NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump getting gang-tackled by riot-gear-clad New York City police officers. Russian President Vladimir Putin in prison grays behind the bars of a dimly lit concrete cell.
The highly detailed, sensational images have inundated Twitter and other platforms in recent days, amid news that Trump faces possible criminal charges and the International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Putin.
But neither visual is remotely real. The images — and scores of variations littering social media — were produced using increasingly sophisticated and widely accessible image generators powered by artificial intelligence.
Misinformation experts warn the images are harbingers of a new reality: waves of fake photos and videos flooding social media after major news events and further muddying fact and fiction at crucial times for society.
“It does add noise during crisis events. It also increases the cynicism level,” said Jevin West, a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle who focuses on the spread of misinformation. “You start to lose trust in the system and the information that you are getting.”
Drone strike kills US contractor in Syria; US retaliates
WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. contractor was killed and five U.S. service members and one other U.S. contractor were wounded when a drone struck a facility on a coalition base in northeast Syria on Thursday, the Pentagon said.
In a statement released late Thursday, the Defense Department said the intelligence community had determined the unmanned aerial vehicle was of Iranian origin.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said U.S. Central Command forces retaliated with “precision airstrikes” against facilities in eastern Syria used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
“The airstrikes were conducted in response to today’s attack as well as a series of recent attacks against Coalition forces in Syria by groups affiliated with the IRGC," Austin said.
Overnight, videos on social media purported to show explosions in Syria’s Deir Ez-Zor, a strategic province that borders Iraq and contains oil fields.
Rioter charged in Pelosi laptop theft sentenced to prison
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Pennsylvania woman linked to a far-right extremist movement was sentenced on Thursday to three years in prison for storming the U.S. Capitol, where she invaded then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office with other rioters.
Riley June Williams, 23, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, was charged but not convicted of helping steal a laptop from Pelosi’s office suite during the riot on Jan. 6, 2021.
A federal jury convicted Williams in November of six charges, including a felony count of civil disorder, after a two-week trial. But it deadlocked on two other counts, including “aiding and abetting" the laptop's theft.
Jurors also deadlocked on a charge of obstructing an official proceeding, the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress for certifying President Joe Biden's 2020 electoral victory. Then-Vice President Mike Pence and members of Congress evacuated the House and Senate chambers when rioters attacked the Capitol.
Prosecutors had asked U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson to sentence Williams to seven years and three months in prison.
Track bans transgender athletes, tightens rules for Semenya
Track and field banned transgender athletes from international competition Thursday, while adopting new regulations that could keep Caster Semenya and other athletes with differences in sex development from competing.
In a pair of decisions expected to stoke outrage, the World Athletics Council adopted the same rules as swimming did last year in deciding to bar athletes who have transitioned from male to female and have gone through male puberty. No such athletes currently compete at the highest elite levels of track.
Another set of updates, for athletes with differences in sex development (DSD), could impact up to 13 current high-level runners, WA President Sebastian Coe said. They include Semenya, a two-time Olympic champion at 800 meters, who has been barred from that event since 2019.
Semenya and others had been able to compete without restrictions in events outside the range of 400 meters through one mile but now will have to undergo hormone-suppressing treatment for six months before competing to be eligible.
Coe conceded there are no easy answers on this topic, which has turned into a societal lightning rod involving advocates concerned with keeping a level playing field in women's sports and others who don't want to discriminate against transgender and DSD athletes.
Court blocks COVID-19 vaccine mandate for US gov't workers
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — President Joe Biden’s order that federal employees get vaccinated against COVID-19 was blocked Thursday by a federal appeals court.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans rejected arguments that Biden, as the nation’s chief executive, has the same authority as the CEO of a private corporation to require that employees be vaccinated.
The ruling from the full appeals court, 16 full-time judges at the time the case was argued, reversed an earlier ruling by a three-judge 5th Circuit panel that had upheld the vaccination requirement. Judge Andrew Oldham, nominated to the court by then-President Donald Trump, wrote the opinion for a 10-member majority.
The ruling maintains the status quo for federal employee vaccines. It upholds a preliminary injunction blocking the mandate issued by a federal judge in January 2022. At that point, the administration said nearly 98% of covered employees had been vaccinated.
And, Oldham noted, with the preliminary injunction arguments done, the case will return to that court for further arguments, when “both sides will have to grapple with the White House’s announcement that the COVID emergency will finally end on May 11, 2023.”
Utah social media law means kids need approval from parents
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) —
Children and teenagers in Utah would lose access to social media apps such as TikTok if they don’t have parental consent and would face other restrictions under a first-in-the-nation law designed to shield young people from the addictive apps.
The two bills Cox signed into law also prohibit kids under 18 from using social media between the hours of 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m., require age verification for anyone who wants to use social media in the state and seek to prevent tech companies from luring kids to their apps using addictive features.
The laws passed through Utah's Republican-supermajority Legislature are the latest reflection of how politicians’ perceptions of technology companies are changing — and that includes pro-business Republicans.
Tech giants like Facebook and Google have enjoyed unbridled growth for over a decade, but amid concerns over user privacy, hate speech, misinformation and harmful effects on teens’ mental health, lawmakers have begun trying to rein them in. Utah’s law was signed on the same day TikTok’s CEO testified before Congress about, among other things, TikTok’s effects on teenagers’ mental health.
DeSantis walks back 'territorial dispute' remark on Ukraine
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is walking back his characterization of Russia’s war in Ukraine as a “territorial dispute,” following criticism from a number of fellow Republicans who expressed concern about the potential 2024 presidential candidate’s dismissive description of the conflict.
In excerpts of an interview with Piers Morgan set to air Thursday on Fox Nation, DeSantis said his earlier comments referenced ongoing fighting in the eastern Donbas region, as well as Russia's 2014 seizure of Crimea. Ukraine’s borders are internationally recognized, including by the United Nations.
“What I’m referring to is where the fighting is going on now, which is that eastern border region Donbas, and then Crimea, and you have a situation where Russia has had that. I don’t think legitimately, but they had," DeSantis said, according to excerpts. "There’s a lot of ethnic Russians there. So, that’s some difficult fighting, and that’s what I was referring to, and so it wasn’t that I thought Russia had a right to that, and so if I should have made that more clear, I could have done it."
DeSantis made his initial comments last week in a written response to questions sent to declared and potential GOP presidential candidates by Fox News host Tucker Carlson. The Florida governor, seen as a top rival to former President Donald Trump for the 2024 GOP nomination, said that defending Ukraine wasn’t a national security priority for the U.S., and he downplayed the Russian invasion.
“While the U.S. has many vital national interests — securing our borders, addressing the crisis of readiness within our military, achieving energy security and independence, and checking the economic, cultural, and military power of the Chinese Communist Party — becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them,” DeSantis wrote, echoing how Russia has characterized its ongoing invasion.
Los Angeles school strike ends, but no deal announced
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A three-day strike by workers in the Los Angeles Unified School District ended Thursday, but it wasn't immediately clear if any progress was made in negotiations for higher pay for teachers’ aides, bus drivers, custodians and other support staff in the nation's second-largest school system.
Teachers joined the picket lines in solidarity, shutting down instruction for the district’s half-million students during the walkout by members of Local 99 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents about 30,000 of the lowest-paid school workers. Support staffers earn, on average, about $25,000 a year in Los Angeles, barely enough to get by in one of the most expensive cities in America.
Mayor Karen Bass stepped in as mediator Wednesday after district Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho accused the union of refusing to negotiate.
Max Arias, executive director of SEIU Local 99, said the union was grateful that Bass was helping “find a path out of our current impasse.” There was no indication Thursday how the arbitration was going.
“Education workers have always been eager to negotiate as long as we are treated with respect and bargained with fairly, and with the mayor’s leadership we believe that is possible,” Arias said.
Artwork that secretly honored Hong Kong dissidents removed
HONG KONG (AP) — A Hong Kong department store took down a digital artwork that contained hidden references to jailed dissidents, in an incident the artist says is evidence of erosion of free speech in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.
It was unclear whether the government played a role in the decision to remove the artwork, it came just days after a slasher film featuring Winnie the Pooh, a figure often used in playful taunts of China’s President Xi Jinping, was pulled from local cinemas.
Patrick Amadon’s “No Rioters” was put on display on a billboard at the SOGO Causeway Bay Store for an exhibition that started last Friday, as the city was promoting its return as a vibrant cultural hub following years of pandemic travel restrictions. Art Basel Hong Kong, a prominent art fair in Asia, began this week, alongside other art events.
Hong Kong is a former British colony that returned to China’s rule in 1997, promising to retain its Western-style freedoms. The city was rocked by a massive pro-democracy protest movement in 2019, which ended after China imposed a “National Security Law” that criminalized much dissent. The city's government has since jailed and silenced many activists.
Amadon said he had followed the protests in Hong Kong closely, and he wanted his work to show solidarity with the protesters and remind people about the new reality of the city.
Violent French pension protests erupt as 1M demonstrate
PARIS (AP) — More than 1 million people demonstrated across France on Thursday against unpopular pension reforms, and violence erupted in some places as unions called for new nationwide strikes and protests next week, coinciding with King Charles III's planned visit to France.
The Interior Ministry said the march in Paris — marred by violence, as were numerous marches elsewhere — drew 119,000 people, which was a record for the capital during the pension protests. Polls say most French oppose President Emmanuel Macron's bill to increase the retirement age from 62 to 64, which he says is necessary to keep the system afloat.
Building on the strong turnout, unions swiftly called for new protests and strikes on Tuesday when the British king is scheduled to visit Bordeaux on the second day of his trip to France. The heavy wooden door of the elegant Bordeaux City Hall was set afire and quickly destroyed Thursday evening by a members of an unauthorized demonstration, the Sud Ouest newspaper said.
Nationwide, more than a million people joined protest marches held in cities and towns around the country Thursday, the ministry said.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, visiting police headquarters Thursday night as fires still burned in some Paris neighborhoods, gave assurance that security “poses no problem” and the British monarch will be “welcomed and welcomed well.”
The Associated Press