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Zuckerberg Defends Company in Friday Meeting With Employees

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Mark Zuckerberg fiercely defended Facebook in a question-and-answer session with employees on Friday afternoon, pushing back against criticism of the company in the wake of a New York Times investigation into how it reacted to Russian influence operations.

In an hourlong videoconference broadcast to Facebook offices around the world, Mr. Zuckerberg responded to questions from employees on a range of topics, from Facebook’s behavior over the past 18 months to how it should handle leaks to the media, according to three people familiar with the discussion but not willing to discuss it publicly because it was a private meeting.

The idea that Facebook tried to “cover up anything” was dead wrong, an impassioned Mr. Zuckerberg said, using an expletive in his response, according to these people. Some employees responded with muted applause and cheers.

The session came at a fraught time for the social network, as executives mobilized to deal with a torrent of criticism of the company. A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment on the Friday meeting.
On Wednesday, The Times reported about a struggle at the top ranks of Facebook with how to respond to Russian disinformation operations and revelations of weak data privacy protections. In particular, there was considerable tension between Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, and Alex Stamos, the company’s former chief security officer.

“Yup, Sheryl Sandberg yelled at me,” Mr. Stamos said in an opinion piece published in The Washington Post on Saturday. “I had no confidence that we’d found out everything the Russians were up to, and it was quite possible that things would get worse before we built the teams and invented the technology necessary to stop it. Sheryl — as reported in this past week’s New York Times investigation — felt blindsided by this. (She later apologized.)”

The company had also hired Definers Public Affairs, a Washington, D.C. consulting firm, to seed opposition research on Facebook critics. Definers also linked George Soros, the liberal financier, to anti-Facebook groups. Facebook cut ties with the firm after The Times investigation was published.

In a conference call with reporters on Thursday, Mr. Zuckerberg criticized what Definers had done on behalf of his company and said he and Ms. Sandberg were not aware of the specific work the outside firm was doing. He added that someone on the company’s communications staff probably hired Definers, although he later complimented the communications staff for their “hard work.”

“In general, we need to go through all of our relationships and evaluate what might be more typical D.C. relationships and decide if we want to continue with them,” Mr. Zuckerberg said on the call.
Mr. Zuckerberg said much of the criticism of his company over the past 18 months — specifically regarding election security, content moderation and disinformation — had been fair and important.

Ms. Sandberg, who also attended the session, added that “I fully accept responsibility for Definers,” according to two people familiar with the conversation. “That was on me.”

But Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg said The Times’s investigation was “completely unfair” and at times “simply not true.”

Much of the discussion centered on boosting employee morale. Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s former vice president of global communications and public policy, returned to the company for the meeting on Friday.

Mr. Schrage said that Facebook was in a difficult news cycle, and that things would eventually calm down, and he urged workers to keep trying to do their best and work on the company’s tough problems.

Some Facebook employees indicated that they believe The Times and other news outlets are unfairly targeting the company because of its outsize influence — a sentiment shared in the session on Friday when employees asked executives what would happen to employees who leak information to the press.

Mr. Zuckerberg made it clear that Facebook would not hesitate to fire employees who spoke to The New York Times or other publications. But after an employee asked whether the company should issue a report about how many leakers Facebook had found and fired, Mr. Zuckerberg played down the idea.

Leaks, he said, are usually caused by “issues with morale.”

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/17/technology/facebook-mark-zuckerberg.html

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9-year-old genius to graduate university

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Laurent Simons

(CNN) – A child prodigy from Belgium is on course to gain a bachelor’s degree at the tender age of 9.

Laurent Simons is studying electrical engineering at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE) — a tough course even for students of an average graduate age.

Described by staff as “simply extraordinary,” Laurent is on course to finish his degree in December.

He then plans to embark on a PhD program in electrical engineering while also studying for a medicine degree, his father told CNN.

His parents, Lydia and Alexander Simons, said they thought Laurent’s grandparents were exaggerating when they said he had a gift, but his teachers soon concurred.

“They noticed something very special about Laurent,” said Lydia.

Laurent was given test after test as teachers tried to work out the extent of his talents. “They told us he is like a sponge,” said Alexander.

While Laurent comes from a family of doctors, his parents have so far not received any explanation as to why their child prodigy is capable of learning so quickly.

But Lydia has her own theory.

“I ate a lot of fish during the pregnancy,” she joked.

The TUE has allowed Laurent to complete his course faster than other students.

“That is not unusual,” said Sjoerd Hulshof, education director of the TUE bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, in a statement.

“Special students that have good reasons for doing so can arrange an adjusted schedule. In much the same way we help students who participate in top sport.”

Hulshof said Laurent is “simply extraordinary” and praised the youngster.

“Laurent is the fastest student we have ever had here,” he said. “Not only is he hyper intelligent but also a very sympathetic boy.”

Laurent told CNN his favorite subject is electrical engineering and he’s also “going to study a bit of medicine.”

His progress has not gone unnoticed and he is already being sought out by prestigious universities around the world, although Laurent’s family wouldn’t be drawn on naming which of them he is considering for his PhD.

“The absorption of information is no problem for Laurent,” said his father.

“I think the focus will be on research and applying the knowledge to discover new things.”

While Laurent is evidently able to learn faster than most, his parents are being careful to let him enjoy himself too.

“We don’t want him to get too serious. He does whatever he likes,” said Alexander. “We need to find a balance between being a child and his talents.”

Laurent said he enjoys playing with his dog Sammy and playing on his phone, like many young people.

However, unlike most 9-year-olds, he has already worked out what he wants to do with his life: develop artificial organs.

In the meantime, Laurent has to finish his bachelor’s degree and choose which academic institution will play host to the next stage in his remarkable journey.

Before that, he plans on taking a vacation to Japan for an undoubtedly well-deserved break.

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New award to honor arts and activism named after Lena Horne

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Gang members slam BMW into rival and his 8-year-old son in Harlem

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Gang members slam BMW into rival and his 8-year-old son in Harlem

Two gangbangers aimed their BMW like a missile at a father and his 8-year-old son on a Harlem sidewalk in a horrifying incident captured by video distributed by police Thursday.

The BMW — driven by a man police believe is a member of the Gorilla Stone Bloods Gang — was zeroed in on the father, a rival gang member, said cops.

Around 3:45 p.m. Nov. 6, the boy and his father were walking on W. 112th St. by Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. when the BMW jumped the sidewalk and slammed into them both, said cops.

Father and son were both knocked through a gate.

The BMW driver then backed up — and its driver and passenger, also believed to be a gang member, jumped out of the car and ran toward the father and the son.

One of the attackers slashed the father, identified by sources as 32-year-old Brian McIntosh, who’s served prison time for robbery and bail jumping.

McIntosh and his son went to Harlem Hospital. Miraculously, the boy escaped serious harm.

McIntosh was so adamant about refusing to help police catch his attackers that the young boy’s mother had to file a police report alleging he was the victim of a crime, police sources said.

Cops released video of the attack, and ask anyone with information about the suspects to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS.

Source nydailynews.com/

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