An aquatic mammal may be Russia's latest spy. In late April, Norwegian fishermen discovered a beluga whale gliding through the water with a GoPro fastened to its neck. The Russians became prime suspects after a label reading "Property of St. Petersburg," was found attached to the whale's harness. Martin Niuw, from the Institute of Marine Research, says there is "great reason to believe," it belongs to the Russian Navy. This wouldn't be Russia's first aquatic agent either. During the height of the Cold War, the Soviets reportedly trained a number of sea animals—including beluga whales and dolphins—to detect mines. Despite speculation, Russia denied the existence of marine mammal intelligence programs.
Did President Trump violate the Constitution? After the president leased luxury condos at Trump Towers to seven foreign diplomats without Congress' consent, legal experts worry just that. Critics say Trump's actions violate the US emoluments clause, which forbids government officials from accepting gifts or payments without Congress' permission. This review process is intended to weed out potential conflicts of interests and other Constitutional violations. In a letter to Reuters, Trump Organization attorney Alan Garten argued that Trump received no payment because the hotel is owned by a third-party. The rentals date back to Trump's first months in office, adding to concerns about his business with foreign nations. The controversy also questions the power of the clause over a president's personal affairs.
In India, a man elected to chop off his own finger after accidentally voting for the wrong political party. On April 18, during India's general election, Pawan Kumar became confused by the symbols at the polls and was horrified to discover had made a mistake on his ballot. Left only with an indelible ink mark on his finger, meant to prevent double-voting, Kumar took a knife to his guilty appendage, unable to bear the reminder of his folly. The mutilation occurred on the second day of India's marathon election, which ran from April 11 to May 19.
Big Brother is watching, and her name is Alexa. Whether it's a grocery list, a song request, or a personal conversation, Amazon's artificial intelligence software hears it all—and records it too. Some critics condemn the privacy invasion citing judges who have subpoenaed the recordings and once case where a family accidentally sent their personal conversation to numerous random phone contacts. No one likes to be snooped on in their own home, and once recordings are stored, they could be subject to theft or misuse. Although Amazon argues that the recordings are used to improve the software, Bloomberg discovered Amazon employees listening to recordings to teach the artificial intelligence.
Source: Washington Post
As Spain pushes paid paternity leave, families are having fewer children, according to economists. Beginning in 2007, the time off for new fathers has steadily expanded to five weeks with another extension on the horizon. As expected, parents returning to work were more involved in childcare and more likely to remain in the workforce. More interesting, however, was the Journal of Public Economics study suggesting that families who were eligible for paid family leave benefits were 7 to 15 percent less likely to have another child than parents who missed the cut off. Researcher Libertard Gonzalez suggests that the policy reinforces the sometimes-harsh realities of caring for a newborn, effectively discouraging repeat fatherhood.
Source: Quartz at Work
Facebook inadvertently celebrated the black jihadist flags, anti-Semitic plaques, and other extremist content in an automatically generated animation for the user that calls himself "Abdel-Rahim Moussa, the Caliphate." While Facebook boasts its ability to censor such content, a confidential report to the Securities and Exchange Commission revealed that the social media giant often accidentally aids networking between militant extremists. In March, it took the company nearly an hour to take down a video capturing the bloody massacre of 51 people in a New Zealand mosque. By the time they did, the video had already spread across the internet. Mike Schroepfer, Facebook's chief technology officer, is developing artificial intelligence capable of eliminating such hateful posts.
Source: Associated Press, New York Times
With marijuana safely in the Congressional rearview since January 2014, Dever lawmakers garnered national attention by voting to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms. On May 7, the Colorado city hosted the first ever US proposition on the matter, with Oregon and California looking to vote on the same issue in 2020. The measure narrowly passed with 50.6 percent of the votes. Some critics claim that the law causes more problems than it solves while others praise the mind-expanding possibilities of the psychedelic fungus.
Source: Denver Post, Washington Post
In May, US officials dished about an advanced missile, nicknamed the "ninja bomb" or the "flying ginsu," that they've been using for some time in hyper-targeted air strikes. Instead of exploding, the bladed missile is capable of rocketing 100 pounds of explosive metal through building and cars with deadly precision. Although the CIA and Pentagon have carried out missions with the meticulous missiles in the past, this weapon is still a well-guarded asset. The weapon is one of many lethal devices used in the war on terror, hoping to keep innocent casualties as low as possible.
Source: Wall Street Journal
—Compiled by Max Freebern