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 suspected Iranian drone struck a facility on a coalition base in northeast Syria on Thursday, the Pentagon said.
In a statement released late Thursday, 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 Revolutionary Guard. The Defense Department said the intelligence community had determined the unmanned aerial vehicle was of Iranian origin.
“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 Revolutionary Guard, 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.
Iran-backed militia groups and Syrian forces control the area, which also has seen suspected airstrikes by Israel in recent months allegedly targeting Iranian supply routes.
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.
N Korea says it simulated nuke attacks with drone, missiles
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea said Friday its cruise missile launches this week were part of nuclear attack simulations that also involved a detonation by a purported underwater drone as leader Kim Jong Un vowed to make his rivals “plunge into despair.”
North Korea has stepped up its weapons demonstrations in a tit-for-tat response to military exercises between the United States and its ally South Korea aimed at countering the North’s growing nuclear threat. The allies completed an 11-day exercise that included their biggest field training in years on Thursday, but North Korea is expected to continue its weapons tests as the United States reportedly plans to send an aircraft carrier in coming days for another round of joint drills with the South.
Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency said Kim supervised a three-day exercise that simulated nuclear counterattacks against enemy naval assets and ports that involved detonations of mock nuclear warheads. KCNA said the drills were aimed at alerting the United States and South Korea of a brewing “nuclear crisis” as they continue with their “intentional, persistent and provocative war drills” the North portrays as invasion rehearsals.
The report came hours before South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol pledged to make North Korea pay for its “reckless provocations” as he attended a remembrance service honoring dozens of South Korean troops killed during major clashes with the North near their western sea border in past years.
KCNA said the latest drills verified the operational reliability of an underwater nuclear attack drone the North has been developing since 2012. It said the drone was deployed off the North’s eastern coast on Tuesday, traveled underwater for nearly 60 hours and detonated a test warhead at a target standing for an enemy port.
Utah social media law means kids need approval from parents
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) —
Children and teens in Utah would lose access to social media apps such as TikTok if they don’t have parental consent and face other restrictions under a first-in-the-nation law designed to shield young people from the addictive platforms.
Two laws signed by Republican Gov. Spencer Cox Thursday 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 open the door to lawsuits on behalf of children claiming social media harmed them. Collectively, they seek to prevent children from being lured to apps by addictive features and from having ads promoted to them.
The companies are expected to sue before the laws take effect in March 2024.
The crusade against social media in Utah's Republican-supermajority Legislature is the latest reflection of how politicians’ perceptions of technology companies has changed, including among typically pro-business Republicans.
Informant didn't spy on Proud Boys defense, prosecutors say
WASHINGTON (AP) — As revelations that a defense witness was also an FBI informant roil the already contentious Capitol riot trial of members of the far-right Proud Boys group, prosecutors said Thursday that the informant was never told to gather information about the defendants or their lawyers.
The FBI ended its relationship with the informant this past January after it learned that the person had received a subpoena to testify, an agent said in an affidavit filed in court.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly said there's no clear evidence of wrongdoing by the government and allowed the trial to continue Friday, but is also set to hear additional arguments about how deeply enmeshed the informant was with the case.
The government only found out from the defense team that the informant had been communicating with the defense and had participated in “prayer meetings” with relatives of at least one of the Proud Boys on trial, prosecutors said. They called suggestions of government misconduct “baseless.”
The revelation came Wednesday when defense lawyer Carmen Hernandez said in court papers that the defense team was told by prosecutors that afternoon that the witness they were planning to call to the stand on the next day had been a government informant.
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.
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.
Nowell breaks NCAA assist record, KSU beats MSU 98-93 in OT
NEW YORK (AP) — Markquis Nowell walked the ball up the floor with the score tied in the final minute of overtime and exchanged animated hand signals with his coach, Jerome Tang.
Standing on the March Madness logo at Madison Square Garden, the 5-foot-8 Kansas State point guard who grew up in Harlem glanced at the basket for a split second and flicked a chest pass into the lane. Keyontae Johnson slipped behind the Michigan State defense, elevated with his back to the basket, grabbed the ball and slammed it down.
It was the signature play of a towering performance by the shortest player on the floor.
Nowell broke the NCAA Tournament record for assists in a game with 19, his last two on spectacular passes in the last minute of OT, and Kansas State beat Michigan State 98-93 on Thursday night in a Sweet 16 thriller.
“Today was a special one, man,” said Nowell, who fought through a second-half ankle injury. “I’ve got to give a lot to credit to my teammates for battling, for fighting through adversity when we was down. I can’t even explain how I’m feeling right now. I just know that I’m blessed and I’m grateful.”
The Associated Press